Ciao, Phil Zimbardo here. Rosemary Sword and I are doing a multipart series on how your time perspective can influence your sex life. I'm writing the first part about men, and Rose will write the next part about women and then summarize everything we've discussed. We hope you enjoy these columns and think more about how time perspective influences various parts of your life. To read more about time perspective basics, click here http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-time-cure/201303/want-better-sex..., www.timecure.com. Let's get started.
For better or worse, your time perspective can dominate how you prioritize, even when it comes to sex. If you're not getting what you want from your sex life your time perspective could be holding you back from more fulfilling experiences. Each of us has developed personal ways of breaking up the flow of our experiences into time zones, automatically and non-consciously. The obvious big three are Past, Present and Future, but each of these can be subdivided into: Past Positive and Past Negative, Present Hedonism and Present Fatalism, and finally, Future (goal focused) and Future Transcendental (life begins after the body dies). All of us have these dimensions to a greater or lesser extent, so where we are on their spectrum depends on the degree to which we regularly engage them. The key is keeping your time perspectives in harmony, knowing when to turn up the volume on one while turning down the volume of another. Problems in our life can arise when any one of them takes over, prevailing over the others in a biased, rather than a balanced fashion. And nowhere does that bias have a greater impact on our behavior than in the sexual arena.
Let’s figure out where your time perspectives are now and see what you can do to create an ideal Sex Time Perspective.
Past Negative people may have been abused, neglected, had partners who cheated or betrayed them or have cheated or betrayed their partners, had a strict religious upbringing, parents who were poor models of a healthy relationship, narcissistic parents, divorced parents, the list goes on. For whatever reason, these people hold themselves back in some way. Depending on the severity of whatever caused their past negative perspective, they may not, or are incapable of feeling pleasure or derive enjoyment from sex and/or intimate relationships. If they do have relationships, they often choose unhealthy, emotionally damaged partners because a healthy relationship is too threatening - they are afraid of being nurtured. Men who have a Past Negative time perspective often keep their partner at a distance emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Bad Boys, Momma’s Boys, Perfectionists, Control Freaks, and the Peter Pan types all fit into this category. Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Do you feel like you deserve to be loved? Do relationships make you feel anxious? Do you think something bad will happen if you feel pleasure or "let go"? Are you uncomfortable sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with your partner? Are you very critical of new partners and find no one can meet your standards? Finally, do you have to be under the influence of drugs/ alcohol to have sex?
Past Positive people have many pleasant memories from the past, either from growing up or previous relationships. They may feel they’ve been lucky with love. Men in this category may be a widower that had a great relationship with their partner and is optimistic about finding love again. Some divorced men are Past Positive depending on the nature of their separation. Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Are you afraid you won't find another special connection with someone since your partner passed away? Do you feel like being with someone new would betray the memory of what you had, some guilt over moving on to the new and leaving the old? Do you feel shy about putting yourself out there?
Present Hedonist folks live for novel sensations, seeking pleasure in all they do. While living for momentary highs, they rarely think about the future consequences of their actions. They live more in their bodies than in their minds. Many of them just want a brief hook-up or a one-night stand with no obligations beyond satisfying their needs. Often they grow up in an environment where no one was setting and enforcing proper boundaries; maybe they were the youngest child and everyone else was always taking care of things. They usually don't want the responsibility or aren't mature enough to handle long-term relationships, thus they back away from commitment and don't set lasting romantic goals. Men in this category can be serial monogamists where the passion heats up quickly and then fizzles just as fast. College students and frat guys can be in this category as well, since many feel it is a unique time in their life to experiment and have no-strings-attached relationships.
Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Do you have trouble "reading" people or understanding what others want from you? Are you afraid of being taken advantage of? Do you purposely choose partners who are not on your level so it will be easy to walk away? Do you believe passion and relationships are not compatible?
Many Present Hedonist guys (mainly Millenials and Gen Xers) are becoming caught up in porn traps, now able to access an infinite variety of porn sex freely available on line 24/7/365. This solitary excess creates a new kind of arousal that is addictive and totally distorts any healthy or realistic perspective on sexual experience. Porn use also thwarts the motivation to seek a romantic, intimate, loving relationship in the future. Guys not only get a false sense of what ordinary woman want sexually, but also an unrealistic view of male sexual performance. Questions for these guys: Do you suffer from performance anxiety? Do you have arousal problems? Do you get bored of partners easily? Have you given up on sex with real world, off-line partners? This alarming disaster-in-process was the subject of one of my TED talks, titled The Demise of Guys [HYPERLINK http://www.ted.com/talks/zimchallenge.html], which then led to an expanded TED eBook which you can view at www.amazon.com, search The Demise of Guys that I wrote with my colleague, Nikita Duncan.
Present Fatalist people believe that whatever is meant to happen will happen. In relationships this means that these people will not be an active participant in their love life. They think that if they're meant to find the one that it will magically happen or that person will find them. Sometimes they let great partners pass through their lives and remark that "it wasn't the right timing." They do not like the chase. Like the Present Hedonists, Present Fatalists shrug responsibility in various aspects of relationships to mask an underlying fear of commitment. In this category you’ll find passive men, the betas rather than the alphas.
Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Do you have difficulty being decisive with partners? What would you lose by taking responsibility for your fate and putting more effort into finding the right person?
Future Oriented people often lose their virginity later than those in the other categories, and are often more mindful about having protected sex. Most likely they grew up with parents who modeled pleasant, but perhaps more formal and less affectionate interactions. People who fit this category often find healthy and long-lasting intimate relationships, though the flip side is that they often put relationships and sexual experiences off in favor of other goals. Workaholics and financially successful middle-aged men who wake up one day feeling their life is “empty” fit into this category.
Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Are you able to relax and enjoy romantic and intimate moments? Have you put off finding love because of a career? When was the last time you gave and/or received a really satisfying orgasm?
Future Transcendental people dismiss earthly desires in favor of rewards in the afterlife. Monks fit this category. We have no reflective questions for this group since this is a way of life they have mindfully chosen, and therefore is not relevant to them.
What's An Ideal Sex Time Perspective?
Being stuck in any one of these categories suggests an extreme personality type, which is why it’s easy to find stereotypical examples for each. But most people are a combination of perspectives. Whether you are wondering which time perspective you are or if you've already figured it out, you probably want to know what an ideal Sex Time Perspective is. Assuming you want to have or eventually have a long-term relationship, it would be a blend of Future Oriented and Present Hedonist, with a dash of Past Positive. If you strongly resonated with the Past Negative or Present Fatalist perspectives, you may want to analyze the impact it’s had on your love life, how you can remove the perspectives’ limits, and consider how to filter potential partners. Assuming nothing about what you want relationship-wise, the path of least resistance is to be with someone who has the same time perspective or blend of perspectives as you.
To get out of a Past Negative or Present Fatalistic rut, you must get a better understanding of what is causing your negative or fatalistic associations with relationships. Was it because of a traumatic childhood experience, poor role models, a destructive relationship you witnessed or partook in, or something else altogether? Talk to a trustworthy friend or therapist about it. Find out what your triggers are, if there are similarities in past unsuccessful relationships, times when you feel at a disadvantage, and make yourself aware of situations where this has happened or could happen in relationships so you can prepare for them when you’re not in the heat of the moment.
For best results, take your time to reflect on and answer the questions that pertain to the perspectives you identify with. The further you go with the answers the more in-depth you can be with re-writing your perspectives and ultimately your love life.
Take the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory at www.thetimeparadox.com to discover your personal time perspective.
Visit our website, HYPERLINK "http://www.timecure.com/" \t "_blank" www.timecure.com, to view a free 20 minute video - The River of Time; you’ll learn self-soothing techniques as well as how to let go of past negatives, work towards a brighter future, and live in a more compassionate present.
See The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective HYPERLINK "http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/psychotherapy" \o "Psychology Today looks at Psychotherapy" Therapy (Zimbardo, Sword & Sword, 2012, Wiley Publishing); for strategies to reduce stress and improve communication, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.timecure.com/" \o "www.timecure.com" \t "_blank" www.timecure.com and HYPERLINK "http://www.lifehut.com/" \o "www.lifehut.com" \t "_blank" www.lifehut.com.
The Demise of Guys: Why Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan, 2012. Kindle edition; www.amazon.com, search The Demise of Guys
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