Sex, Lies & Trauma

Straight Talk about Sexual Compulsivity

Monthly Meditations to Invite Eroticism (December)

Loneliness. Sexual Confusion. Consent. Adequacy. (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, 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 — LONELINESS

"The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself." ~ Mark Twain

We always hear that getting love begins with loving our self. Depending on others to ease our pain or erase our loneliness eventually weakens us and, therefore, proves dangerous. If our self is weak and needs other people to prop it up, it can become unable to function and can keep us from attaining emotional self-reliance. This form of weakness keeps us in toxic relationships where mutual using marks the drumbeats of the codependent dance. On the other hand, the absence of family, community and friendship can lead to isolation and depression. Lack of companionship, while seemingly the opposite of emotional dependency, withers our soul equally.

When loneliness is a constant state of being, it harkens back to a childhood wherein neglect and abandonment were the landscape of life. Without consistent, caring contact with adults, a young person will be left with emptiness, uncertainty about personal identity, and a fear of being alone. As is natural for such a child, either using other people to feel better or isolating into an inner world will be the "go to" survival options. But both these choices fail to allow them, as adults, to reach out to others for love, comfort, and companionship as a healthy way of validating and meeting their needs.

Both using people and isolating from them pale in effectiveness compared to seeking genuine human relatedness. If you had to use either of these maladaptive options and now live with loneliness, choosing to fill that void is a herculean feat requiring courage and diligence. Start now. Set the intention to change your pattern, then take one small step to connect sincerely with one other person or with a community. That’s all it takes to begin your ascent out of loneliness. When two people gather with honesty, magic can happen.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts

  • Take a moment to think about your closest relationships. Are they a two-way street? Do they strengthen and nurture both of you, or are you taking advantage?
  • Do you know the difference between loneliness and being alone? Being alone and enjoying your own company is a sign of mental health. When you are alone, do you always have the TV or music on for distraction? Can you tolerate silence or does it raise your anxiety? Challenge yourself to a silent experiment this week and turn off all distractions. Are you alone or lonely?

Meditation for Week 2 — SEXUAL CONFUSION

"No creature can learn that which his heart has no shape to hold." ~ Cormac McCarthy

It’s perfectly healthy to be sexually confused. Confusion abounds in relationships—about appropriate boundaries, whether sex is satisfying for one's partner or even oneself, and reading a lover’s signs and intentions. In fact, the wonderment of why we're attracted to certain people and how others are attracted to us is infinitely confusing. Healthy confusion inspires healthy curiosity.

But when sexual confusion paralyzes our capacity for erotic relationship, it requires attention. Sexual confusion caused by repression or negative conditioning often feels empty or triggers our anger. Fear of asking questions about sex—or denial that we have any questions—can block our sensual maturation. Our first step is to overcome our emptiness, anger, and blockage by allowing room for questions--a step which sounds simple but is very hard if early programming never let us even admit we had questions.

Difficulty asking questions is one of the best reasons to seek out competent, and perhaps professional, points of view. We each work only with the information we've been given, so it's hard enough to find our psychological blocks, much less to learn how to let the light shine through them. One function of any professional is to relay the most up-to-date information, which gives us access to many points of view through one person. Free 12-Step meetings like Codependency Anonymous (CoDA), Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (S.L.A.A.), and Recovering Couples Anonymous (RCA) as well as numerous therapeutic or spiritual support groups also function as sources for diverse viewpoints, and may shed light on issues we couldn’t even have known we had. Sexual confusion doesn't just go away. The only way to find freedom from confusing feelings is to process them, which--as signaled by the word--invites us into the process of asking, and answering, our self.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts

  • Say aloud in a safe space: "I'm sexually confused." Notice any shame, resistance, denial, or other feelings as you contemplate the mere possibility of sexual confusion.
  • Recall that sexuality includes sexual attraction, orientation, behaviors, and feelings. Then, right now, write out all the unanswered questions that come to mind about your own and others’ sexuality.
  • Reach out to another today to resolve one question that’s caused you sexual confusion. Call a trusted friend, 12-Step phone meeting, or a professional, and share honestly the level of anxiety or inner struggle it takes to bring light into this part of your life.

Meditation for Week 3 — CONSENT

"Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday humor, and like enough to consent." ~ William Shakespeare

Healthy sex requires consent, without exception. In new relationships, partners usually seek out each others’ full and free participation. But as time progresses, explicit statements of consent get reduced to shorthand signals, and it's all too easy to ignore a partner's true wishes or even to override them through coercion. True relationship, of course, requires continuing attentiveness to a partner’s concerns, including unspoken ones. But asking consent, as well as giving it, assumes the person’s autonomy. And those who grew up in controlling environments where their autonomy wasn't respected might have difficulty both seeking consent and bestowing it. Intimacy, of course, is impossible without the consent of both parties. Forced emotional intimacy—a contradiction in terms—is found whenever one party claims to nurture an emotionally honest relationship while actually disrespecting the other's boundaries. It is nothing less than psychological hostage-taking.

Sadly, during much of history consensual sex was the exception rather than the rule, and the horrors of human trafficking and child brides remain in too many parts of the world. But in our society, having a legal age of consent asserts that no sexual activity involving a minor is ever consensual, regardless of the circumstances. A child does not have the capacity to make mature, informed decisions nor to understand the social stigma and long-term psychological consequences of sexual acts. But even in our culture, definitions of consent can vary. In a 2005 sexual assault research survey, over 25% of respondents blamed a woman for being raped if she was drunk, wore revealing clothing, or acted flirtatious beforehand. These appalling statistics reveal a society-wide deficit of autonomy, because public attitudes reflect personal struggles. And until we can be sympathetic to our own right and need for wholehearted and unforced assent, we cannot show more than token concern for another's consent.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts

  • How do you confirm a partner’s consent? Have you ever felt that someone owed you sexual favors? Assess your ability to assert your autonomy while honoring the autonomy of others.
  • If you've ever committed any kind of sexual assault, seek help through a therapist, 12-Step program, or spiritual practice. Your inner world will become a safer place for you once you do. Make amends for misdeeds, and volunteer your time or money to a women's shelter or charity fighting domestic violence.
  • Today, seek others’ consent in all your interactions. Avoid unilateral decisions, ask for input, and listen with respect and care.

Meditation for Week 4 — ADEQUACY

"We can only be who we are, and at some point that has to be good enough." ~ Panache Desai

We exalt the exemplary, but the rare thrill of perfection pales next to the dependable pleasure of adequacy. To feel loved and accepted for ourselves, regardless of what we achieve, creates a sense of warmth and safety that no honor or title can bestow. In youth and beyond, we sometimes despair of anyone’s ever staying with us, given all our faults. Yet we stay with ourselves and face our flaws day and night, and most of the time we reconcile ourselves to our shortcomings. We're all adequate for this world, or we wouldn't be here. Even if we permit certain thoughts of inadequacy to define us, they're just thoughts, a tiny percentage of our reality.

But the loop of psychological inflation and deflation can seduce us into the superlative world of compare-and-despair where, as it's said, we're each the worst piece of crap that the world revolves around. Of all the infinite words and ideas to which we've been exposed, why do we cling to the ones that tell us we're not good enough? For, make no mistake, no one has the power or vantage point to define us by our true worth, least of all ourselves--and we're the witnesses of our whole lives.

Adequacy derives from the Latin adaequatus—to make equal. Adequacy balances the polar extremes of grandeur and depravity, and lives in the interstice of reality and fantasy. We need our heroes and superstars to inspire us to exceed what's accepted as possible. But this ambition makes a poor base for our central identity. Any attempt to express the best emotions or the most successful thoughts is as quixotic as trying to locate the strongest wave in the ocean. Go with your natural flow as a human in the act of being, by honoring your sacred adequacy.

Daily Healthy Sex Acts

  • Notice today the language of superlatives around you, constantly rating objects and events as best or worst, and any feelings that accompany such judgments.
  • Affirm the adequacy of each moment in your life. Your experience may have been less than ideal, but something carried you to this moment—whether good-enough caregivers, passable life instruction, or sufficient opportunity.
  • In your heart, extend the appreciation of personal adequacy beyond your own experience to hold everyone you know. Leave off value judgments that isolate you from loving others and bask in the beauty of shared humility, of shared humanity.

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.

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