How much can you give yourself permission for pleasure?

When it comes to sex, a lot of our thoughts, feelings and desires get edited out. So of what gets edited out is due to how we imagine our desires may be judged by others. We may feel uncomfortable in letting our partner know that we want to try something new or even experimental. It can be all too easy to think that our partner would never allow this or accept that desire within us. Their non-acceptance of our desires may lead us to feel shame or rejection.

However much we may like to put the responsibility for that sense of rejection on the other, it is ultimately our own relationship with our desires on which we need to work. Our reticence at sharing these thoughts comes from our own self-judgment and non-acceptance of our own impulses. Ultimately any relationship is a mirror of our feelings about our self. If we can accept our selves, then that will be mirrored back by those around us, including our loved ones. If we still feel shame or guilt a bout our sexuality then that is what will be mirrored back.

In a sense the whole experience of external reality is a projection of our own beliefs about life and our place in it. We see in others everything which is within us and I would suggest that when we met non-acceptance of our sexual self in others, it is to our own belief systems that we need to turn to resolve the dynamic.

Look at the places within yourself where you are not yet able to accept our sexual self? What acts or desires can you embrace and what do you judge as “wrong” or “dirty” or feel shame around? It is equally important to understand that any negative feelings about your sexuality arise in the first instance not from within but from what we learnt, usually as children.

Sexuality is, in essence, innocence. The sexual energy is our life force energy and is simply an impulse that yearns to be expressed. In childhood, we begin to express our sexual selves, either by exploring our bodies with natural, healthy curiosity or exploring the bodies of others (of around the same age) with the same attitude of enquiry. This is the most natural thing in the world. Problems arise when we experience the judgments of others (usually adults). “Good girls don’t do that”, “It’s not nice to touch yourself there!” and so on. Each of these comments, however well meant is a blow to our sexual freedom of expression and therefore to our sense of self.

To heal our sexual self and become whole once more, we need to regain our sense of innocence and to give ourselves permission to explore our sexuality once more with that childlike sense of curiosity and wonder that so easily gets lost. Once we can do this, we will heal the wounds of our sexuality which in turn allows us to integrate and express more of ourselves.

The miracle of life is that the more deeply we heal those wounds within ourselves, the more this is mirrored back from our partners and friends. Self-acceptance is the key is sexual freedom.

What is the hidden contract in your relationship?

All relationships are based on open and hidden dynamics. Part of why you are together is probably obvious to you – physical attraction, stability or excitement, making each other laugh and so on.  Most people have some sense of what it is about the other person which is attractive to them and why they chose to be with them. We could call this the Explicit Contract – it’s out in the explicit because both parties know it exists. There are many forms, but it might look something like this: “I’m with you because you make me laugh and I enjoy your company and in return, I will tell you how funny you are and that makes you feel good”. Another example could be physical attraction – “You’re hot and it makes me feel good to be with someone who is physically attractive or whom I find sexy. I tell you this and this makes you feel good”. Both people understand this is part of what the relationship is about and make an unspoken contract to abide by it.

However, what is more interesting is what lies deeper. It is these aspects, which I call Hidden Contracts that show up in abnormal situations and which can reveal a lot about the unseen dynamics within a relationship.

Let’s take an example to show you what I mean. A Hidden Contract might emerge when your man gets sick. If he is really ill, and unable to operate normally, the Explicit Contract might not be able to function normally – it’s not easy to be funny or sexy if you’re feeling at death’s door.

So what could happen to the relational dynamics in such a case? Maybe your man stops being “the provider” or “the strong one” and instead becomes a needy child, looking for his mother to take care of him. It’s probable that this was part of the relationship dynamic all along but other things could have masked it. When normal patterns of relating get disrupted is when these Hidden Contacts will pop up.

What if you man is no longer able to tell you how sexy you look or he is not able to make love to you? If part of your Hidden Contract is that you get your sexual sense of self-worth from you man telling you how hot you are and suddenly he is not able to do that because of illness, how does that feel? What if he isn’t well enough to have sex with you? What happens to your sexual needs then? If part of your Hidden Contract is that you relied on him to make sex happen or to make you feel good about yourself by these means, you may start to feel bad about yourself. You may blame him and get angry with him for getting sick.

However, when these hidden patterns show up, don’t despair. This is a beautiful opportunity to grow in your relationship and in yourself. Instead of relying on him to make you feel sexy, find the sexiness within yourself. Wear underwear that makes you feel good, maybe go and buy a new sex toy or explore erotic literature or other materials. Find the place within yourself that makes you feel good, and don’t rely on your partner for that sense of self-worth.

So, even though these Hidden Contracts can be uncomfortable when they are revealed, they are beautiful windows into a deeper way of relating. Explore them and you will move to even deeper ways of being with one another.

Inherited emotions and trauma

Have you ever wondered why it may be so hard to be happy? Why it can be so difficult to have a fulfilling relationship? It may be that part of the answer lies in our family history. Could it be that feelings of shame, insecurity or rage are inherited from our ancestors?

There is growing evidence that not only are biological traits such as eye colour inherited, but other less concrete characteristics are too. A recent study by the University of Zurich (April 2014) showed that early trauma in mice is carried to the following generations. Other studies in Israel on the effects of trauma (from a people whose history often contains the intensity of the Holocaust) have reached the same conclusion.

What if it was not just trauma which was passed on but a pre-disposition to any emotional state? My clinical work with family systems regularly shows that women who believe, for example, that “you can’t rely on anyone else” and develop an overly-strong sense of independence which creates barriers to relationship, often come from a long line of women who held similar beliefs, representing an accumulated ancestral energy.

I believe that we are in a unique position within our lineage to discharge those beliefs. Consider this – life up until, say, 100 years ago was hard. Most people struggled to make a living and to feed themselves. Survival was more a consideration than the luxury of emotion. It has only been in the late twentieth century that a standard of living enabled us to have the space to reflect on our emotions. As my grandmother used to say “we managed perfectly well without emotions in my day”. Now, no longer challenged with threats to our daily survival, we can instead explore less concrete pursuits.

When we are concerned with survival we will suppress emotions to get through what is. Thousands of years of suppressed emotion may have been handed to us at our birth. Since we are blessed to live in a culture which allows emotion, we may be the generations who are blessed – or cursed, depending on how you look at it, to release the trauma of millennia.

I believe that releasing emotion is an evolutionary phase. Until now our ancestors did not have the time or capacity to allow this. Nor did they have the tools. It was only in the late 19th century that from Freud onwards we had an understanding, outside of spiritual communities, of the nature of the unconscious and the therapeutic mechanisms to release emotions.

Current developments in therapy are leaning towards a more integrated body-mind approach which recognises the importance of the nervous system and the body in holding and releasing emotion. I believe this is also an evolutionary step.

Once we have released our emotional inherent baggage, we may then be able to move into a less emotionally volatile and more energetically sensitive state of being, which I believe is the next evolutionary step of humankind.

Wherever humanity goes next, we, in the current living generations, have been given the luxury of the time, the space and the tools to release our inherited emotional blocks. Use them wisely. If we release these it may just allow us to improve our quality of life and how we have relationships.

Own your desire

The majority of my work with women as a sex therapist is helping them give themselves permission to be the fully sexual beings that they naturally are. I believe that this is one of the most important pieces of work I can do with someone who has sexual issues and it arises from the suppressive nature of our male dominated society.

Our culture still tells us repeatedly and in subtle and not so subtle ways that women are allowed to be “sexy” – that is that they are permitted to evoke sexual desire (usually by looking a certain way which conforms with our society’s idea of idealised youth-centric beauty. Meanwhile, men are given permission to be “sexual” – that is to act out their sexual impulses and to express them. This is seen so clearly not only in pornography but in the media imagery around women and their bodies.

The sad thing is that men have done such a great job of suppressing female sexuality that most women have internalised the belief themselves. What, you may cry, not I! But ask yourself, do you really allow yourself to access your full desires? Do you dare to admit to yourself what you truly long for?

This denial of female sexuality means that both men and women suffer. When a women disowns her sexuality it is all too common to project that out onto others. Sexually active women become sluts and men become “only interested in one thing” or labeled as lewd, base, sex obsessed perverts or, at worst, potential abusers.

One of the reasons for the success of 50 Shades is, I suspect, that it gives women permission to get in touch with some of those long suppressed desires. It is only a relatively recent myth that men want sex more than women. Until 200 years ago, it was believed that women needed to orgasm in order to get pregnant. Sadly modern science in the 19th century disapproved that wonderful idea and with it the importance of female sexual pleasure declined and women’s pleasure assumed a less important role.

My experience is that when a woman truly gets in touch with her desire, it is stronger than in most men. As a man, unless you’re trained in Taoist or tantric practices of retaining your ejaculation (or you’re 20 years old) once guys have cum that’s usually them done for a bit. Women on the other hand, have the potential to have as many orgasms as they can handle.

This high libido caused men to fear the infidelity of their women and hence encourage the suppression of female sexuality. Most women have bought into this by believing that suppressing their desires to fit in a monogamous relationship is a fair trade for the supposed security it offers. Yet studies show that the numbers of women cheating in relationships is roughly the same as men.
The idea that women want emotional connection and men want physical sex is also a myth.
Women want sex for the sake of sex just as much as men, its just that they mostly don’t allow themselves to admit it. When they do, both men and women will be able to be more honest with one another and enjoy sex more!