Eric Maisel
Source: Eric Maisel

The following interview is part of a “future of mental health” interview series that will be running for 100+ days. This series presents different points of view about what helps a person in distress. I’ve aimed to be ecumenical and included many points of view different from my own. I hope you enjoy it. As with every service and resource in the mental health field, please do your due diligence. If you’d like to learn more about these philosophies, services, and organizations mentioned, follow the links provided.

Interview with Eva Weaver

EM: One source of emotional and mental distress is a lack of intimacy, lack of sexual contact, and relationship difficulties related to sex and intimacy. I know this is an area of special interest to you. What are some of your top suggestions for folks encountering these sorts of difficulties? 

EW: First of all: don’t give up- sex is too important! 

Sex is one of the most potent life forces and, like creativity, sexuality is our birthright! Sex can make us feel alive, energized and connected—to ourselves, to one another, to life. Sex can be expansive, joyful, even ecstatic, it can still our skin-hunger and satisfy our need for closeness, help us de-stress and release tension, make us feel cherished, loved and nourished- and it’s good for the immune system too.

But few of us had good sex education or learned to openly talk about sex or communicate clearly what we want sexually or even know what we desire. And many have experienced circumstances that made them shut down sexually—hence it can feel incredibly daunting to address obstacles to sex and intimacy; but life is precious and sex is such an important source of intimacy, pleasure and wellbeing—so, I’d say have courage and reach out for support.

Often there is a lot of ballast attached to difficulties with sex such as shame, guilt, confusion or hopelessness, feeling frustrated, disconnected, or even broken—but no obstacle is too big, too unique or insurmountable. Talking in confidence with someone can bust shame and dissolve a sense of isolation, which I think is a first important step to reclaim and reconnect with our sexuality. There are many fantastic practitioners available to help find ways forward with any challenges you might face, support you to find your sexual voice and feel empowered.

So start somewhere, anywhere, but do start! 

To open (again) to pleasure and erotic possibility can be challenging and scary, but equally an incredibly rewarding path—so be gentle and kind with yourself. 

To create change and heal we need to prioritize our sexuality, commit to give it space and time and give ourselves permission: to explore, to grow, to play, to give sex and our sexuality importance in our lives.

I believe a good place to begin is often with oneself—getting to know yourself better erotically and sexually, to get educated about your body, your anatomy, finding out about your desires. This doesn’t exclude also seeking support with a partner, but is a good starting point. 

EM: You work in both conventional ways, for example, as an art therapist and a creativity coach, and in more esoteric ways for example, employing breath work, shamanism, mask-work and fire walking. Can you tell us a bit about the different “modalities” you employ and your rationale for using them?

EW: Coaching in the area of sex or creativity helps us identify inner and outer obstacles, plan clear and manageable steps to overcome them and commit to take action. Using creative and expressive tools such as drawing, collage, movement and free-writing in the process ‘back to sex’, gives us additional tools to explore what lies underneath our more rational surface and might have been previously hidden.

Through such creative excavation work different aspects can become visible, be expressed, listened to, and if we want to, witnessed by another. This can be in itself cathartic and useful in getting to know ourselves better. Mask-work and exploring archetypes are also wonderful creative tools to explore different aspects, including our erotic selves, in a safe, embodied way and help us feel more empowered.

And breath work! It’s a powerful tool to help us feel more embodied, as it engages us on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It can help us gain insight into the deeper roots of our difficulties, release tension and emotional baggage, feel energized and connected—sometimes even ecstatic. 

The journey to reclaim our sexual power often requires many small and gentle steps, yet there are times when we need a big blast of energy to transform obstacles and move forward. At such times powerful tools such as arrow breaking, glass walking or fire-walking can be amazing catalysts to release outlived patterns and help us affirm a life in which we commit to express our full erotic and creative potential. 

Imagine if you can walk or dance across hot embers, what else can you do in your life? 

EM: You offer (and have offered) healing and helping workshops of various sorts. What does a person get from attending a workshop? What are some reasons for attending a healing or helping workshop?

EW: When we experience sexual obstacles, we might feel that we have a problem so unique or hideous that no one can understand us or relate to us--difficulties might seem so huge or shameful that we just want to hide and forget about it all. ‘I’ve tried everything, there’s no point; I’ve given up on sex; I’ve learned to live without it … ”

Safely held workshops can be confidential containers in which participants can explore, feel heard and seen and can grow. It can feel daunting to attend a workshop, but often a sense of isolation might lessen quickly and although we might face individual challenges, a lot of the underlying feelings—of isolation, failure, feeling broken or hopeless—can be similar amongst participants.

Someone in the group might voice what I haven’t been able to or even been aware of. If I am shy, I can initially just listen to others if I want, or other group members can function as supportive mirrors, mirroring back different aspects and facets of myself. Specific challenges will need different creative ways of addressing them and groups can help pool ideas and resources, dissolve isolation and foster a sense of hope, bonding and even belonging. 

Besides individual sex coaching, for me a lot of reclaiming my own sexuality has happened through workshops and I believe that a combination of group work and individual support with tailor-made tools is one of the most effective ways to overcome obstacles and move forward. ‘Back to Sex’ works in such a way. 

EM: What are your thoughts on the current, dominant paradigm of “diagnosing and treating mental disorders” and the use of so-called “psychiatric medication” to “treat mental disorders” in children, teens and adults?

EW: I believe there are times when specific medication can be helpful or even life saving, such as during acute phases of severe depression or a psychotic episode. However, medication is overprescribed and as a sole remedy is far from being effective to bring long-term change, especially when underlying causes are not explored in other ways. It is concerning how quickly psychiatric medication is prescribed, while access to psychological support has to be fought for despite the evidence base that many interventions such as counselling and psychotherapy, Art Therapy, CBT and other modalities have shown to be very effective.   

EM: If you had a loved one in emotional or mental distress, what would you suggest that he or she do or try?

EW: Checking in regularly with trusted friends and/or family members and possibly working with a counselor or therapist can counteract a sense of isolation. Good nutrition, sleep and also investigating possible physical causes, such as hormonal changes, are important.

I would encourage the loved one to try ways of expressing their feelings through a creative and/or physical outlet--writing, drawing, singing, moving, dancing all can lift the mood and be cathartic. As an Art Therapist I have often experienced the sheer live-saving effect that creative expression can have for someone in acute distress. 

Depending on the severity of the distress, it can be helpful to create a circle of support as it is sometimes hard for a single person to take the sole supporting role and often works better when more people--friends, relatives, or professionals--can step in if and when needed. Crucial is to create a space of non-judgment, trust, acceptance, love and nurturing for the person.

Also nature can be a great support and even healer--to get out as much as possible for walks, consciously connecting with the earth, trees, the sea, all can have a beneficial effect. And breathe! When we are anxious or depressed we tend to breathe less and less deeply and breath work can be an amazing tool to make us feel more grounded and connected again. 

**

Eva Weaver is an author, coach, art therapist, breathworker & firewalk instructor with many years experience of leading groups for personal development, creativity &  empowerment. She is also a graduate of Barbara Carrellas’s Urban Tantra® professional training course and has worked with various international practitioners of conscious sexuality. Eva believes passionately in sexuality and creativity as our birthright and supporting people to feel more empowered in these areas lies at the core of all her work. She is based in Brighton UK, coaches via Skype & face-to-face and runs courses and retreats to support people on their journey ‘back to sex’.  Eva can be reached at evaweaver@talk21.com or

www.backtosex.com

www.evaweaver.com

**

Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of 40+ books, among them The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Van Gogh Blues. Write Dr. Maisel at ericmaisel@hotmail.com, visit him at http://www.ericmaisel.com, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at http://www.thefutureofmentalhealth.com

To learn more about and/or to purchase The Future of Mental Health visit here

To see the complete roster of 100 interview guests, please visit here:

http://ericmaisel.com/interview-series/

About the Author

Eric Maisel, Ph.D.

Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of forty books, among them Rethinking Depression.

You are reading

Rethinking Mental Health

How Can Parents Help?

An interview with Gail Hornstein

Three Parents Speak

Interviews with Wendy Shackley, Laurie Goldstein and Suzanne Beachy