Sex, Lies & Trauma

Straight Talk about Sexual Compulsivity

Monthly Meditations to Invite Eroticism (November)

Sexual stigma. Drama. Rage. Sexual safety.

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, excerpted from the upcoming book “Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence”. 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 -- SEXUAL STIGMA

“There is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror.” ~ William Somerset Maugham

A stigma is a mark of disgrace. Its Latin plural, stigmata, refers to Christ’s crucifixion wounds, suggesting that there may be a spiritual value to being disgraced by society.

Two problems attend any psychobiological issue, particularly sexual dysfunction: the inherent problem, and the problem about the problem—the stigma. What a tragic irony that the mere shame of having a problem can prevent its solution! Internalized stigmas about arousal issues, rapid ejaculation, sex addiction, jealousy, negative body image or other difficulties can compound the inherent problem by keeping the sufferer from relating them to a partner. Stigmas not only block our ability to enjoy sex, they block our ability to function freely in the world.

There are personal wounds and there are societal wounds. Sexuality and sexual activity have always been prime targets of stigmatization. Cultures the world over—even ours—intimidate and persecute vilified segments of the population. Great strides have been made healing social stigmas surrounding homosexuality, divorce, mixed-race couples, and unwed mothers. But damage has been done. And not just to denigrated individuals, but to the society that has traumatized them. Social acceptance of a previously stigmatized class is not the same as reparation. It's said that in the repair stage, a verbally-abused child needs to hear any positive statement of encouragement ten times a day in order to heal each injury. Similarly, to counter the debilitation caused by social and internal stigmas, we need to show ten times the love and empathy we think it will take—just to begin.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts

  • Reflect on how sexual and social stigmas touch your personal life. What direct or indirect wounds do you bear as a result of such judgment? Take one positive step to liberate your sexual and psychological health from undeserved stigma.
  • How are you triggered by sexual stigmas? If specific sexual phrases, ideas, or images ever paralyze you, investigate the root cause. Recall all previous experiences of your sexual paralysis, until you locate the source of your stigmatized feelings.
  • Envision a world without prejudice and repression, where the only message we've all ever received is to love and accept one another. Show ten times as much love and compassion to others today.

Meditation for Week 2—DRAMA

"It took me years to figure out that upset was upset, and tumultuousness was not the same thing as passion. Love isn't drama." ~ Deb Caletti

Almost everyone loves exciting “human interest” displays, whether in art, fashion, music, or food. The dramatic flourish piques our thirst for novelty like nothing else. Unexpected events like meeting a new person, getting a new job, falling in love, travelling to an exotic land, or adopting a baby create heightened moments that make us feel life is worth living. And let's not forget the play of Mother Nature's dramatic glory in any sunset, the hummingbird in your backyard, or the vast blue sky.

When we're cut off from the magnificence of what sits before us every minute of every day, we tend to create drama through exaggerated, overemotional behavior. If you grew up in a chaotic household where people's needs had to be magnified to garner attention, you may have a propensity to do the same. Sensationalizing every move you make or every wrong incurred against you will get you the attention you may be craving. But it will never fill what's missing inside of you. Often those who are most melodramatic feel empty internally and need constant attention in order to feel valued and love. And if creating our own drama isn't enough, our tabloid culture is at the ready, giving us a ringside seat to celebrity lives. Like voyeurs, we gawk from out of our own inadequacy, imagining what it would be like to be other persons, to look like them, to be their friend, to have a stake in their life.

But these thoughts are delusional, because real life brings us (and even celebrities!) only fleeting excitement, not a steady string of amazing events keeping us in a forever-heightened state. Like the real drama of a great theatrical play, the ebb and flow of events makes life rich, textured, and varied, and leaves us with genuine curiosity for whatever's next.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts

  • Do you create unnecessary drama in your life? If so, what do you know about why you do that? What can you do to change?
  • Do you create drama in your love relationship? Talk to your partner about what underlies this tendency and what you really need.
  • Are you someone who dampens down your flare for the dramatic? If so, find a creative expression for the excited and emotional parts of yourself.

 Meditation for Week 3—RAGE

"It looked as if a night of dark intent was coming, and not only a night, an age. Someone had better be prepared for rage." ~ Robert Frost

The violent, uncontrollable anger known as rage signals danger. The very word telegraphs an unstoppable superhuman power destroying anything in its path—a ”raging” hurricane or epidemic. Like a force of nature, human beings can erupt in rage, sending everyone around them running for safety. The human brain is wired for war and, just as in any other mammal, attacks when enraged. Angered, we “see red" because the primitive part of the brain is so activated that it paralyzes its slower but more accurate operating system. When that thinking part of the brain is "hijacked" or impaired, our lower, more animalistic part takes over and we behave in beastly ways. So chronic rage is a mental dysfunction because one part of the brain cannot be regulated by the other.

Rage stems from a combination of anxiety, pain and shame. But expressing these emotions makes us feel vulnerable and we fear being seen as weak--a terrifying proposition for anyone who grew up with a rageful parent. With years of feeling unsafe, and without any model for trusting others or talking about emotions, many abused children now living in adult bodies armor themselves against the world with a shield of anger. Activated by the smallest incident, their rage is out of control. Trying to console them in that state is hopeless and sometimes hazardous.

But this isn't the case with everyone. In other cases, rage—when used appropriately—can be the force that motivates us to greatness. Rather than "getting even" with destructive energy, a righteous indignation can power noble ambition and generous dreams. Throughout history, wise men like the Dalai Lama have met great injustices, and strong women like Indira Gandhi have moved mountains, when fury fueled right action.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts

  • If you suffer from explosive bouts of rage that terrify your loved ones, take action today and seek help.
  • Notice the impulses that catapult you toward the feeling of rage. What activates you? Can you do something different to calm yourself down or take a time-out?
  • If possible, use any rageful impulses today to accomplish something productive.

Meditation for Week 4 - SEXUAL SAFETY

“There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be.” ~ Norman Mailer

In the animal kingdom, birds, bees, and beasts instinctively know how to reproduce and rear young. They even know to digest specific herbs, shells, bones, and barks to cure disease or rid themselves of parasites, without any veterinarian’s prescription. But human beings must be initiated into sexual life and taught how to keep ourselves safe and healthy. As young people, we learn the mechanics of sexual intercourse mainly by description (often provoking considerable surprise!). And we must study safety. In fact, the evolving social complexity of our species distances us increasingly from our natural instincts. Ironically, our reliance on experienced others for survival rules creates a novel risk, since caregivers may teach the negative, fearful thinking or self-destructive tendencies they learned, and thus lay the groundwork for children’s retraumatization as adults.

Such harm occurs so often that many people don't feel safe in safety. It isn't familiar. What's familiar is having the rug pulled out from under them. Their experience demonstrates why transparency, recovery, and accountability are so important. Only once we've learned how to be safe with ourselves—once we're not unconsciously trying to kill ourselves—can we be, and feel, safe with others. For example, some may see unprotected sex as symbolic of intimacy, freedom, and honesty. But in reality it can be a cold, disconnecting act to ignore personal safety and peace of mind. If someone sees sex as only something that happens between body parts, then, sure, anything less than bare skin can’t satisfy. But when we learn to value our entire body and well-being, healthy sex includes caring for our safety and the safety of others. More explosively intimate than a part touching a part is a heart touching a heart. This sacred vulnerability necessitates the safety of sober love.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts

  • How safe is your sex? Can you distinguish healthy risks from flirting with disaster? On a piece of paper, draw two columns marked "SAFE" and "UNSAFE," and list your actual and potential sexual and romantic activities in the column that fits.
  • Fire Drill Kits are healthy tools to use when triggered. These include phone numbers of your therapist, sponsor, or supportive friends; a plan of action when actions don't go as planned; places you can go for help; self-regulating exercises to restore emotional sobriety; and inspirational readings to remind you of your integrity. Assemble a fire drill kit today and keep it close.

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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