Sex, Lies & Trauma

Straight Talk about Sexual Compulsivity

Monthly Meditations to Invite Eroticism (October)

Love Addiction. Availability. Preference. Differentiation. (4 themes.)

At Center for Healthy Sex, we find inspiration from many sources to treat sex addiction, love addiction, and sexual dysfunction. Meditation and affirmations are helpful tools that build esteem, create procedural memories, reduce anxiety, slow the heart rate, and increase blood flow to the brain.

Attachment theory is a component of our philosophy -- behavioral patterns imparted in infancy affect the way we grow up to live our lives. Because this early programming becomes so ingrained, it takes consistent and sustained effort to rewire the neural pathways.

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These monthly meditations are similar to the affirmations we use with clients. They are intended to provoke deep thought about core beliefs and inspire open communication with a partner. (You may sign up for our free daily meditations here.)

Meditation for Week 1 -- LOVE ADDICTION

"Addiction starts in the most primitive parts of the brain. In our lizard brains, that drink or that drug or that date feels like survival. To the love addict, love really is like oxygen." ~ Ethlie Ann Vare

Love has been called a motivation system rather than a feeling--a cascade of chemicals, especially dopamine, that drives us toward mating. The love addict seeks romantic love, while seeking lust is the domain of the sex addict or love avoidant. Romantic love is what love addicts live and die for. Starved for affection as children or emotionally abandoned by the opposite-sex parent, they abdicate all self-care once in the relationship of their fantasy. Many love addicts avoid calm, mundane experiences, preferring to stay liquored up on the dopamine high that makes them feel alive. Obsessive by definition, they will be unable to eat or sleep, will feel love-sick, and may even want to die when they don't get the response they believe they need from the object of their desire.

When they do find a partner (usually as incapable of intimacy as they are), they dedicate themselves irrationally to that person, worshiping him or her even after they are, inevitably, disappointed or abused. The fantasy romance they've constructed lets them lose themselves in dependency and, in return, they expect to be loved unconditionally--the remnant of a childhood need that no partner can meet. Jealousy naturally ensues because love addicts demand an unhealthy total bond and thereby guarantee the rejection that replicates their earliest abandonment.

Ironically and tragically, when love addicts actually attain the intimacy they desperately chase, they become terrified of the feelings accompanying real connection, and they run. Real relationship brings up the twin faces of their terror--abandonment and intimacy--and the jig is up.

Healing from love addiction is formidable work. The love addict can enter recovery only in withdrawal, an agony so great it's described as physical pain. If not in enough pain, love addicts will tough it out, set their hearts on another object, and begin the cycle again.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts:

  • Have you hit an emotional bottom in your current relationship? Is it time to get help? Can you commit to acting on your behalf today? If so, whom can you ask to help you?
  • Describe the behaviors you want to stop: drinking or smoking pot; chasing after unavailable people; having indiscriminate sex.
  • Ask yourself whether you reside in reality or fantasy. Taking action to attend a 12-Step meeting or to call a therapist is a declaration of living in reality.

Meditation for Week 2 -- AVAILABILITY

"I do not trust people who don't love themselves and yet tell me, 'I love you.' There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” ~ Maya Angelou

When we dote on friends and lovers who don't love us back, although it’s counter-intuitive, we are the ones who are emotionally unavailable. It's easy to blame the love-avoidant, whose selfishness is obvious: they don't return messages; don't show up when they say; don't communicate any change of plans; and even in person they’re evasive and non-committal. But love addicts or codependents appear as the very picture of availability, weighing every possible impact of their actions on the love object.

But that’s precisely the problem--human relatedness has become objectified. They aren't interacting with a real person; they’re pinning their hopes on a fantasy. In a tragic paradox, the more they seek to make everything right, the less right it becomes. Forced intimacy, which includes compulsive disclosure, is the hallmark of love addiction and codependency. To be truly available means to tolerate another’s unique reality without trying to force closeness, and even to accept rejection while still affirming loving-kindness.

People-pleasing prevents availability because to be genuinely available to others we must first be available to ourselves by practicing authenticity and self-care. When our mind clamors for our attention with endless mental chatter, it’s often a sign that we're not available within. If you are held hostage by your mental and emotional states, you will probably find yourself held hostage by others’ drama, and you may be holding others hostage as well. Outer states reflect inner states. When you can find peace in the moment as it unfolds, you become available to your greater self.

Become available to your own thoughts and emotions, and ask what they want from you. Gently avail yourself within, and you will gradually lose patience for unavailable people and attract those who are truly present.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts:

  • What does it mean to you to be available? Some people confuse availability with servitude--having to fulfill another’s every material, emotional and sexual need, any time of day or night. When are you available to others? When are you un-available?
  • Be available to yourself today. Be present with your thoughts and feelings. Everything will work out, and is unfolding exactly as need be. As you self-soothe with self-love, enlarge the circle by inviting others into your inner availability.

Meditation for Week 3 -- PREFERENCE

"To set up what you like against what you don't like--this is the disease of the mind." ~ Jianzhi Sengcan

On a deep level, our souls yearn for connection with all souls. There are people we think we prefer and others we don't, but half the time that's a lie: We tell ourselves the fairy tale of our hatreds out of fear, but we revisit that tale as it suits us. Deep down, we'd love to love and be loved by all.

We also have personal preferences in material objects and acts--clothes, flavors, habits. These partialities result from inborn tendencies or from affirmative encounters we had when expressing preferences brought us positive experiences and taught us to share our truth gently and without fear. But when we let preferences dictate our lives and associations, we disconnect from the vast diversity of life and humanity.

Unfortunately, psychological or spiritual abuse perpetuates trauma through misinformation, distorted thinking and discriminatory beliefs. Such abuse creates a neurotic, reactive mindset that uses personal preferences as an inner armor against intimacy and connectedness. This learned trauma lies at the root of xenophobia, the fear of foreign experiences.

No one's preferences are inherently better than another's, although learning from those we respect can shape our perspectives and our preferences in turn. It's important in all relationships to compare and contrast--to enjoy the similarities and respect the differences. Indeed, true connection is possible only through an open mind that allows others their boundaries and what works for them without jumping to the warped conclusion that their choices and values violate ours. There is nothing like love to show one the world from another's eyes, and this exposure can transmute negative judgments. Transmutation doesn't necessarily transform the lead of negativity into the gold of positivity, but it can let one see into lead so deeply one sees the gold.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts:

  • What do you secretly like about the people you don't like? When you flash on their image, is there any quality that might be attractive in anyone else? Our preferences don't have to be all-or-nothing. Today, look for, and love, the value in the grey areas.
  • Take a chance and explore your preferences. If you favor certain flavors, textures or looks and ignore others, try to experiment beyond your bias. Notice what exactly you find disagreeable in anything you dislike. Imagine a treasured lover bringing each new sample to you as a shared experience.

Meditation for Week 4 - DIFFERENTIATION

“One moves from an innocent wholeness, in which the inner world and the outer world are united, to a separation and differentiation between the inner and outer worlds with an accompanying sense of life's duality, and then, hopefully, at last to sartori or enlightenment--a conscious reconciliation of the inner and outer once again in harmonious wholeness." ~ Robert A. Johnson

Human beings have a paradoxical need to be affiliated with others while simultaneously maintaining a sense of independence. Knowing who we are in a relationship means, in part, that we give a partner the space and respect to do the same. We call this process differentiation: the ability not to overreact to our partner's upset and to operate autonomously even though our partner may want things his or her way. The challenge is to hearken to our partner's needs and requests while tolerating the tension inherent in every healthy relationship. We all have to learn to live with the give-and-take that accompanies being with someone and loving that person deeply. Differentiation demands that we know our own patterns and are willing to work with and on them--to combat our self-centeredness or shame rather than to be an emotional victim or perpetrator.

Seeking differentiation in a love relationship reminds us that the first step towards intimacy is intimacy with ourselves. To love ourselves with another requires that we grow up, because only then can the real work of intimacy begin. Your partner can love and support you, but you have to change your fundamental patterned responses that don't work. Creating a healthy relationship means you nurture your differentiated self while connecting closely with the one you love to create a healthy interdependency. Choosing this balance gives you space for an honest exploration of sexuality with each other to the depth of your hearts and spirits, because part of differentiation is speaking your truth. Intimacy reveals new ways to know your partner, share your struggles, request your needs be met, stay open to change, and keep dreams alive.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts:

  • Inventory your relationship behaviors to determine whether you’re taking a more differentiated or a more codependent stance.
  • Check your inventory to see if you’re on the side of mature love--supporting your partner’s potential, which may mean his or her starting a job requiring travel, returning to school, or taking an exciting trip with friends. Perhaps you fall more on the immature side of love--restricting options for you both by being possessive, engaging in power plays, pitying yourself, or controlling the relationship and your partner. Once you locate your love, take it in the direction you both want it to go.

Sign up here to receive free Daily Meditations by email written by Alexandra Katehakis and Tom Bliss of Center for Healthy Sex to help you develop sexual and emotional intimacy.

 

Alexandra Katehakis, M.F.T., is the Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles. more...

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