The Arousal Plan

“Once you find your optimum level of arousal, your performance will be both flawless and enjoyable.”
- PsychologyToday.com

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Are you having a hard time sticking to a diet, rekindling your sex life, reaching your goals, getting the most out of life? Fact is, you can try all you want, but if you lack one thing, you’re going to continue to fail. And that one thing is Arousal. As scientific research has shown, without optimized levels of Arousal, organisms lack the energy and motivation they need to focus, move, and pursue objectives. If you find yourself wanting so much but constantly falling short in obtaining it, what you need is the Arousal Plan.

The Arousal Plan is a daily 10-week program to help you optimize your Arousal and achieve your goals. Created by Sarah White, The Naked Therapist, and based on her session experiences with over 1,000 clients, the Arousal Plan consists of 70 daily inspirations, exercises, and assignments, each around a different theme. In the first week, Sarah shows that Arousal is not only rooted in our sexual energies, but that it has its basis in the Three A’s: physical Activity, mental Alertness, and emotional Availability. To optimize your Arousal, you must optimize the Three A’s. For weeks 2 – 9, Sarah goes through the Eight Pillars around which the plan operates: Food, Exercise, Clothing, Living Space, Sex & Love, Work & Money, Culture, and Power Project. In each Pillar she looks at how you can improve your overall life by optimizing the Three A’s within that Pillar.

Every day includes an inspiration (thoughts from Sarah on the day’s topic), exercises (via online Arousal Assessment Forms), and assignments (Arousal-enhancing, real-life tasks). In the closing week, Sarah gives you what you need to implement all you’ve learned for an Arousal-optimized future. As Dr. Donald Pfaff, Head of the Laboratory of Neurology and Behavior at Rockefeller University, says, “Arousal provides the fundamental force that makes animals and humans active and responsive” (2006). As Sarah says, “Arousal is about having a balanced baseline of excitement and motivation that influences you positively in all areas of your life. Until you achieve more Arousal, you will be forever frustrated in your efforts. In the realm of human achievement, Arousal is All.”

The Arousal Plan includes for free over 100 pages of online Arousal Assessment Forms (AAFs). From a hyperlink inside each day of the plan, you can go online, log into your private online Arousal File, and answer questions, write down thoughts and organize you Arousal activities, all of which are specifically relevant to each day’s topic. A copy of each day’s AAF is then auto-emailed to you upon submission. This Arousal File both serves as a daily motivator, an interactive module of deeper reflection, and a record of your Arousal Journey.

Not Your Average Plan

To best describe what the Arousal Plan IS, let’s start with what it’s NOT.

The Arousal Plan is NOT a “lose weight diet” (though you WILL lose weight!).

The Arousal Plan is NOT a “self-help method” (though you WILL help your self!).

The Arousal Plan is NOT a “better sex and love plan” (though you WILL have more sex and love!)

The Arousal Plan is NOT these extremely common self-improvement concepts because The Arousal Plan is MORE than all of them. In essence, The Arousal Plan gives you what you need to succeed at any diet, method or plan because it gives you access to your Arousal System, and once you have access to THAT, anything is possible.

The Arousal System

As discovered by Dr. Donald Pfaff, Head of the Laboratory of Neurology and Behavior at Rockefeller University, the Arousal System is:

- “primitive neuronal system [that] throbs in our brainstem, activating our brains and behaviors.”

- “fundamental to all cognition and temperament.”

- “at the base of all emotional life.”

- “an ‘energy source’ for all behavior.”

- “necessary to explain the initiation, strength, and persistence of behavioral responses.”

In other words, The Arousal System is the part of your brain that is responsible for excitement, motivation and action. All other diets, methods and plans TRY to get you excited, motivated and active, but no matter how detailed and developed a diet, method or plan is, you have to be AROUSED by that diet, method or plan in order for it to work for you, which means it needs to connect to your Arousal System. That’s why BEFORE you do any other diet, method or plan, you FIRST need to get in touch with your Arousal System, and THEN anything is possible.

That’s why we call the Arousal Plan the “Ur-Plan.” Ur means first, and that’s what the Arousal Plan is – the first plan you should do if you want to do anything. Because the Arousal Plan gives you the Arousal you need to succeed.

The Three A’s: Alert, Active, Available

Now, you might be saying, “Okay, sounds good, but what exactly do you mean by Arousal, anyway?” While Arousal can be hard to define, Dr. Pfaff does an excellent job when he says: Arousal is “higher in an animal or human being who is: more alert to sensory stimuli of all sorts, and more motorically active, and more reactive emotionally.” This means that Arousal is linked to being more alert, more physically active, and more emotionally available. The more Arousal you feel, the more active, alert and available you are, and the more active, alert and available you are, the more Arousal you feel, in an incredibly positive feedback loop.

These three aspects – Alert, Active, and Available – make up the Three A’s of the Arousal Plan. Alert means you’re super aware of your surroundings, eager to take in more information, conscious and full of choice. Active means you’re moving your body, you’re getting up and going, you’re engaged with the world in a willful way. And Available means you’re open to feeling and experience things – lots of things – in relation to those in your life. Arousal gets you more alert, more active, and more available so you can live more richly and purposefully.

But the importance of Arousal to human motivation, emotion and action is not only based on the discoveries of numerous scientists, psychologists and neurologists like Dr. Pfaff and others (click “The Science” tab above), it’s also based on the clinical experience of Sarah White, the plan’s founder. Through her Naked Therapy practice, Sarah’s found that Arousal is an extremely effective – and underutilized – therapeutic tool that can lead to unique insights, inspire motivation, and make a person feel more alive. And these clinical findings – generated from 1000s of clients and therapy hours – are distilled into the Ten Weeks of the Arousal Plan.

How the Arousal Plan Works

The Arousal Plan is available as a Kindle or print book. When you do the Arousal Plan, you’ll start immediately getting in touch with your Arousal. On Day 1 you immediately begin learning about Arousal and filling out your Arousal Forms, followed by one every day after that for ten weeks. The Arousal Plan will guide you day by day through the Arousal Discovery Process, and at the end of it all, you will be in touch with and more able to optimize your Arousal.

The Arousal Plan is built on The 8 Pillars, each of which is covered during one week of the plan:

Pillar 1: Food

Pillar 2: Exercise

Pillar 3: Clothing

Pillar 4: Living Space

Pillar 5: Sex & Love

Pillar 6: Work & Money

Pillar 7: Culture

Pillar 8: Power Project

By bringing Arousal into each of these life areas, you’ll gain Arousal overall and be better able to achieve your goals because you will be AROUSED to achieve them.

Here’s a breakdown of the Ten Week Daily Arousal Discovery Process that will help you achieve this balanced increase in Arousal:

Week 1 (Days 1 – 7) – Getting Ready

Like every week after it, Week 1 will contain Arousing Inspirations and Arousing Adventures as well as links and tips from our More Arousal webpage. In Week 1 you’ll read about:

- The many meanings of Arousal and their relevance to your potential for achievement - The story of how Sarah White came up with the Arousal Plan - A description of the Eight Pillars of Arousal - Stories of four people (two men and two women) whose lives have been changed by getting in touch with their Arousal - Detailed suggestions as to how to succeed at the Arousal Plan - The theoretical and scientific underpinnings of the importance of the Arousal System to your overall well-being - A multitude of links and tips that will support your attempts to bring more Arousal into your life on a daily basis.

Adventures for this first week will include filling out an Arousal Assessment Form as well as other Arousal-informative worksheets.

Week 2 (Days 8 – 14) – The First Pillar: Food

There are a million diets out there, and some of them may work for you, but what none of them addresses is this: AROUSAL is the key to a healthy, satisfying diet that leads to weight loss and weight control. Why? That’s what you’ll discover this week. Every day you’ll be provided with inspirations and adventures that will get you in touch with a deeper, smarter, more satisfying relationship to eating that replaces your boring food habits with AROUSING food CHOICES and puts you on the path to a leaner self.

Week 3 (Days 15 – 21) – The Second Pillar: Exercise You’re never going to exercise regularly if you’re not AROUSED by the kind of exercise you’re doing, the kind of people who do that exercise, the thought of yourself doing that exercise, the thought of what that exercise will get you, etc. That’s what this week is about – linking your AROUSAL SYSTEM to your EXERCISE REGIMEN.

Week 4 (Days 22 – 28) – The Third Pillar: Clothing

In many ways, you are what you wear. Your clothes can emit energy, confidence and style (which comes in many forms), or they can emit…well…not so much. Fortunately, clothing is one area in which it’s relatively easy (and cheap) to get out of a rut. And that’s what happens this week. A series of inspirations and adventures will guide you toward changing your OUTLOOK so you can change HOW YOU LOOK. The secret? Getting in touch with what AROUSES you about what you (and others) put on their bodies.

Week 5 (Days 29 – 35) – The Fourth Pillar: Living Space

Often the path to a happier inside is a happier outside. To that end, Week 5 concentrates on making your living space MORE AROUSING. Too often our spaces are utilitarian, slapdash, and disconnected from all we want to be. Enough! All you need to do is figure out how you can connect your space with your Arousal so that it can rejuvenate, re-energize, and revitalize you. You’ll be amazed at how much a little change in your environment can bring about a HUGE change in your Arousal and your life!

Week 6 (Days 36 – 42) – The Fifth Pillar: Sex & Love

Everybody wants more sex and love, but it’s hard, and the solutions out there – advice, counseling, “spice it up” kits, etc. – rarely achieve lasting results. But that’s because they’re all missing one thing. Whether you’re in a relationship that’s gone stale or you’re a frustrated serial dater or you have difficulties even meeting someone, the issue is AROUSAL. To get the sex and love you need, you must first know: what arouses you, where to find your arousal, how to express your arousal, how to share your arousal, etc. That’s what you discover this week.

Week 7 (Days 43 – 49) – The Sixth Pillar: Work & Money

Everyone has a different situation with their work world, and everyone’s in a different place when it comes to possibly bringing more money in, but one thing can be stated universally: being aroused by your job and your money-making prospects is A LOT better than NOT being aroused. And there are a lot of things we can do together to bring more Arousal into this part of your life. Such will be our adventures for this week.

Week 8 (Days 50 – 56) – The Seventh Pillar: Culture

This pillar focuses on the extremely important goal of rethinking what you watch, listen to, browse and read so that it can be more arousing to you and bring more arousal into your life. Instead of giving specific recommendations, I’ll provide you with questions, anecdotes, and worksheets that will help you figure out how to change your cultural intake so that you get the maximum amount of Arousal out of it, much of which will involve the exciting possibilities inherent in engaging others in (and meeting others through) whatever kind of “kultcha” turns you on!

Week 9 (Days 57 – 63) – The Eighth Pillar: Power Project

In this final week before our concluding Celebration Week, we concentrate on finding what I call your Power Project. After years of conducting therapy sessions, I’ve found one thing to be extremely true: if you don’t have a Power Project, you won’t feel powerful. What’s a Power Project? A Power Project is simply something you care passionately about, that you engage in “for the love of it,” that gets you actively involved in improving the world (if only by improving yourself), i.e. it makes you feel powerful. You might think of a Power Project as “walking the walk, not just talking the talk.” It gets you going. It gets you into something. It turns you on. And by turning you on, it brings major Arousal into your life. During this week I’ll help you find your Power Project.

Week 10 (Days 64 – 70) – Celebration!

You’ve worked hard, day after day, to bring more Arousal into your life, and that’s why the last week of the Arousal Plan is all about celebration. We’ll reflect on what you’ve heard, thought and done. We’ll assess our challenges and our victories. We’ll set new and exciting goals. But most of all, we’ll talk about and get involved in making sure our lives stay SUPER AROUSING after the Ten Week Journey to Arousal we’ve been on. It’s gonna be great!

sarahsstory

Photo by Francesco Sapienza

So, here it is: The story of how I came to develop the Arousal Plan! It’s the story of my discovering the incredible Power of Arousal by helping my therapy clients turn their lives around by getting in touch with their Arousal. I tell it to you in the hopes of inspiring you to do the same.

In the summer of 2010, working as a waitress and sometime model in NYC, and having a college background in biology and psychology, I came up with the idea of becoming a Naked Therapist and offering my services via webcam. Yes, it was a wild and crazy notion, but that was exactly what I needed in my life at the time – something to arouse me.

When I opened my practice that October, I admittedly didn’t fully know what I was doing. As word spread in the press, I was booking clients steadily, and more importantly, they were incredibly positive about the experience. And as my practice grew, I came to realize I was actually onto something. I was seeing the same clients regularly, they were reporting great improvements, and I was starting to see that there was an actual need in the world for men to be engage their arousal in a therapeutic context. In short, the Arousal men experienced in Naked Therapy served as a kind of “truth serum” – it brought them unique insights and increased motivation.

From working with all these men I came to learn a great deal about men AND women. Primarily, I realized that far too many of us live our lives utterly detached from our Arousal. We go through the motions – we even go through some very intense motions, like having sex, succeeding at our jobs, pursuing major goals – yet when we take a step back and think about it, so little of what we’re doing actually AROUSES us or makes us truly happy. Our lives are not governed by it as much as they should be, there are blockages inside and outside us to increasing our Arousal, and most of what we do falls flat because we never take the time to attach it to the one thing that actually matters to us – being TURNED ON!!!

Yet, while I had come to sense that Arousal was the key to my clients discovering truths about themselves and living more fulfilling lives, I lacked a real scientific basis for what I was finding in my sessions. I’d done some writing about what I called “The Arousal Brain,” and I’d even compared it to the unconscious of Freud, but my hypotheses were only based on what I was seeing in my practice, not on broader empirical evidence. Then, on the recommendation of a colleague, I read Brain and Arousal Information by Dr. Donald W. Pfaff. And there it was: my EUREKA! moment. Everything I’d been sensing and speculating about and even practicing with my clients was laid out in rigorous detail by a major neurologist at Rockefeller University.

In that book, Dr. Pfaff presents his theory of The Arousal System, “a primitive neuronal system [that] throbs in our brainstem, activating our brains and behaviors.” This system, which lies beneath our mental functions and emotional dispositions, “governs arousal.” How important is arousal to what we do, are, and hope to become? As Dr. Pfaff says, Arousal is “fundamental to all cognition and temperament;” it is “at the base of all emotional life…an energy source for all behavior;” it explains “the initiation and persistence of motivated behaviors” and it “provides the fundamental force that makes animals and humans active and responsive so they will perform instinctive behaviors or learned behaviors directed toward goal objects.”

Okay, so Arousal is extremely important, but what is it exactly? Dr. Pfaff does an excellent job of defining it when he says: Arousal is “higher in an animal or human being who is: more alert to sensory stimuli of all sorts, and more motorically active, and more reactive emotionally.”

This means that an increase in Arousal is positively correlated to an increase in being more alert, more physically active, and more emotionally available. In other words, you’re more alive! These three aspects – Alert, Active, and Available – make up the Triple A Objectives of the Arousal Plan. Alert means you’re super aware of your surroundings, eager to take in more information, conscious and full of choice. Active means you’re moving your body, you’re getting up and going, you’re engaged with the world in a willful way. And Available means you’re open to feeling and experience things – lots of things – in relation to the world. Arousal gets you more alert, more active, and more emotionally available so you can live more richly and purposefully.

In short, Dr. Pfaff’s findings provided me with the Arousal I needed to begin formulating and inevitably launch my Arousal Plan – a daily arousing system that excites, inspires, and motivates by getting you in touch with your Arousal System so you can achieve your goals. I want Arousal to do for you what it has done for my clients. I want you to find your Arousal and live your life in sync with it because I KNOW it is the key to getting what you want, succeeding at your ambitions, and achieving true happiness.

That’s the story of the Arousal Plan. Now let’s get AROUSED!

If you’ve ever tried to do something you don’t really want to do, you know what it’s like to lack Arousal. To be aroused is to be motivated, excited and inspired. In fact, numerous scientists have recognized Arousal as a vital element in ALL human functioning. It has been called:

Dr. Debra Loftus

Dr. Debra Loftus

- “an energy source for all behavior” (Pfaff, D., 2005) - “the driving force behind the behaviour of all organisms” (Valdes et al., 2006). - “a fundamental requirement for high cognitive and emotional functioning” (Miron, Parkinson & Brehm, 2007).

Linking arousal to increased focus, performance and motivation, it has been said that:

Dr. Roberg Weinberg

Dr. Robert Weinberg

- “Heightened arousal leads to a focusing of attention” (Orehek, E., 2007) - “The more aroused an athlete is the higher quality of his performance” (Weinberg & Gould, 2007) - “You cannot be motivated without being aroused” (Wikiversity.org, Motivation/Arousal).

Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne

Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne

Indeed, as Revelle and Loftus (1990) point out, “it is difficult to find an area of psychology where the construct of arousal has not played an important role.”

What is Arousal?

According to Pfaff (2005), Arousal is “higher in an animal or human being who is: more alert to sensory stimuli of all sorts, and more motorically active, and more reactive emotionally.”

Dr. Julia Ross

Dr. Julia Ross

Alert – When someone is aroused, they are more aware of their surroundings, more attentive to details, and more focused on goals.

Active – When someone is aroused, they are more physically active, more full of energy, and more spacially engaged.

Available – When someone is aroused, they are more emotionally reactive, more experientially brave, and more open to novelty.

Where does Arousal come from?

Dr. Edward Orehek

Dr. Edward Orehek

Arousal emerges from The Arousal System, a “primitive neuronal system [that] throbs in our brainstem, activating our brains and behaviors.” This system, which lies beneath our mental functions and emotional dispositions, “governs arousal.” (Pfaff, D., 2005).

Dr. Monica Recabarren

Dr. Monica Recabarren

The Arousal System is made up of the reticular activating system, the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system, all pouring out the vital chemicals – the natural drugs – we need to think, feel and act: acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These chemicals – called “the happiness neurotransmitters” by psychologist Julia Ross – provide us with sensory alertness, mobility, and a readiness to respond.

How is Arousal linked to performance?

There are two theories as to how Arousal and Performance are linked.

The Drive Theory

 

The Drive Theory states that increased arousal will improve performance (Movahedi, et al. 2007). However, it has been found that achieving the optimal level of Arousal is important, since both over and underarousal can be problematic. This is known as the Inverted U Hypothesis, which states that there are different levels of arousal, and that performance is affected accordingly (Yerkes, R. M., & Dodson, J. D., 1908). Underarousal has been linked to antisocial and criminal behavior as well as conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder (Verschuere et al., 2006). And overarousal has been found to cause symptoms of stress (Moodie & Finnigan, 2005; Bradley, Miccoli, Escrig & Lang, 2008).

The Inverted U Theory

 

In the end, it’s important for humans to find the optimal level of Arousal for themselves, at which point “performance will be both flawless and enjoyable” (Krauss Whitbourne, S., 2011).

The Arousal Plan seeks to increase and optimize your Arousal Balance so you can achieve your goals.