Sex and Your Own Natural Expertise
He slid his athletic body subtly across the soft suede couch as he watched her out of the corners of his eyes. Staring into the magic one-eyed Cyclops during a noisy soap commercial, she steadily consumed cocktail pretzels. He had been waiting for several hours for this precise moment. Calculating. Everything was perfect, even his timing. The movie they had come together to see on her cable TV had ended several minutes ago. And he noted with excitement that she had already made herself comfortable in her apartment by exchanging her denim pants for a robe. Without hesitation, he gently placed his hand on her shoulder, paused five seconds to wait for a cue. Then assuming her lack of response was her signal for him to continue, he kissed her lightly on the neck, letting his hands explore her breasts. With great bravado, he expertly worked his way down to her waist. Faded old movie images of Errol Flynn making it in the Casbah.
Then it occurred to him – the realization that he had just started a sexual passage for the amusement of only one person. It was as if he was massaging a cadaver. Nothing moved, not one part of her body was active except her mouth. The chopping action of her teeth munching pretzels and the weight of his own breathing were the only sounds competing with the commercial. The sweat in his palms began to dry and grow stale. The passion drained from his hands. “Maybe later,” he assured himself. “Maybe now is not the time.” As casually as he could, he removed one hand from the inside of her bathrobe and the other from the top of her thigh. And he waited.
An hour passed, then another. He decided now was the time to try again. Decisively and aggressively, he made his move. This time she responded, but without the life and passion he was expecting. Even as they settled into the deep pile of her area rug, he could feel that his emotional pitch was much higher and more intense than hers. He was continually distracted by her suggesting he move just a little to the right, then a little to the left. It didn’t seem possible there could be so many uncomfortable positions for her.
Her hands tracked a repetitious circular motion on his back as if they were battery operated. He could feel the perspiration pouring from his body onto her cool, dry flesh. Anger began to swell inside him. The more he tried to involve her, the more aware he became of her lack of enthusiasm or participation. He almost wanted to scream at her to put some life into it. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t even ask why. The fury just continued to build in his chest as he lost his capacity to continue. Once he realized what was happening, he panicked.
Jumping to his feet, he announced that he had a sudden pain in his chest. Very apologetically, he began to dress furiously, clutching his hand to the left side of his chest. She wanted to call a doctor but he flatly refused. He insisted he would be okay … he just needed to get home and take some pills. As he hurried to the door fully dressed, he looked at her standing there nude in the clarity of the hall light. She no longer seemed attractive. “Maybe that was it,” he frantically told himself as he began to dismiss her from his mind. They said their good-byes, and he raced down the corridor.
Out on the street, he paused for a moment, trying to catch his breath. Now that he had left the source of his discomfort behind, he could think. He began to laugh as he considered the cleverness of his exit line. Thinking on his feet. He liked that.
Now he confronted himself. That was not just an isolated evening. It had happened many times, which had resulted in his feeling asexual.
It was as if he had convinced himself that he really didn’t care and had little or no desire for sex. Most of the time he pursued it because he believed he should. And besides, this girl really was unattractive he reassured himself. Certainly, this would affect his virility. But did that explain it sufficiently? Even he couldn’t deny the obvious. His loss of potency was an all-too-frequent occurrence. The thought triggered a rush of pain in his stomach. When it passed, he decided it would be more productive for him to think about something else.
Sex can be beautiful or extremely problematic. It can be the extension of love or hate … a gentle or a violent act. When I flow with my sexuality, it enriches me. When I don’t, it preoccupies my thoughts and precipitates all sorts of discomfort.
What is sex? What is its nature? On a physiological plane, sex is frequently interpreted to be the act of and all secondary acts leading to copulation. The more liberal definition would include any erotic stimulation whether self-induced or initiated by another. Sexual activity has many varieties … it can be performed alone, in pairs, in groups, with members of the same or the opposite sex.
It is as romantic and mysterious as I choose to make it. It has no consistent and absolute properties beyond its physical aspects.
The aggressive usually goes marching in determinedly. The timid moves quietly, with much hesitation. The guilty, perhaps, never turns on the light. The fragile does it very elegantly, like sipping fine wine from delicate crystal. The free-thinking jump in enthusiastically, ever anxious to experiment. The uncomfortable carry their discomfort in their underwear. The drifter coasts right over the experience as if it never occurred. The angry move in with a heavy assault, crashing their units right into the beach. The nervous and the giddy laugh at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. The alcoholic does it drunk, the pot-head does it high and the speed-freak races through it at a thousand miles an hour. The connoisseur sets it up perfectly, the sheets in place. The celibate monk never does it.
My sexuality is no different from any other manifestation of who I am. I bring to my sexual contact the same vision and consciousness I bring to any other activity. Just as I might use happiness in motivation and creating expectations, in turning wants into needs in other activities, so I utilize it in my sexual relationship. And conversely, when I allow myself to flow from my own nature, happily and freely, I also bring that acceptance and permissiveness to my sexual contacts.
Unfortunately for us participants, sex has been distorted and dramatized by a culture uptight and uncomfortable about its sexuality. The subject has been inflated, twisted, warped and made special in such a questionable fashion that it has become one of the major epidemic areas for unhappiness. Our concepts of sex are filled with shoulds and should nots. They are subjected to explicit and implicit taboos. Sex is the Mt. Everest of our expectations. And yet, amid all this difficulty, there is no such thing as a sexual problem. It is a question of beliefs, not sex.
Perhaps uncovering and exploring the lessons of others will best portray our sexuality. Their experiences can be mirrors … mirrors through which we can observe, not just as voyeurs, but to gain perspective and insight into unraveling, clarifying and changing our own beliefs. Many of the judgments and expectations operative in our love relationships are the same ones we trip over before, during and after our sexual encounters.
A child experiences his sexuality even as an infant. Many well-meaning parents tell their sons and daughters not to touch and play with their genitals … communicating a primal restriction. Many children hardly ever see or experience themselves or their private parts before the age of three or four because of all the years closed and sealed and pinned into diapers. What are they to think about their sexuality? Already, they have absorbed attitudes from their parents. Certainly, the prohibition against exploring themselves is the first explicit taboo.
Later, these same children (was it you and me?) grow up and play “doctor” behind closed bathroom doors and in paneled basements. Their beliefs about their experiments are reflected in their secretiveness and embarrassment about being caught by disapproving parents. Initially, they confine their exploration to members of the same sex. As time passes, they become bolder and decide to move into the expanded arena of heterosexuality. They talk their parents into inviting playmates of the opposite sex. Off and running.
At this juncture, several dramatic events may occur. Often, children are discovered playing “hospital” and are reprimanded in tones of anger and disappointment. Although this, of course, is not the only response, it is often the reaction of a well-meaning parent confused about how to proceed in such a situation. Later, the children might be lectured about “good” girls and “bad” girls, “good” boys and “bad” boys. Although they have felt the spirit and delights of their own sexuality, they are suddenly confronted with many emphatically stated taboos. Parents, religious institutions and schools tend to support the concepts of “don’t touch” until later (whenever that is).
In adults’ attempts to caution their children, a diverse cluster of beliefs and superstitions are dramatically invoked. Fears of pain, of frustration, of loss of respect, of rejection, of disease, even of insanity (in cases of masturbation taboos) and of guilt proliferate.
The growing adolescent is caught in a cross fire of confusing thoughts and feelings. Even some of the more free-thinking adults, in their efforts to counterbalance the taboos, tend to color sexuality and the sex act with the vivid hues of Hollywood romance. Ultimately, this creates a world of improbable expectations for young people to try to match.
Before I embarked on my own first adolescent sexual experience, my head was permeated with rules, images and fantasies. My desires were intertwined with a collection of diverse beliefs, most of which had been taught to me supposedly for my own protection. So my early sexual problems were the result of self-defeating beliefs.
Unless we move with absolute freedom from judgments and come from our own nature, beliefs will always lurk beneath our sexuality. But the beauty is, a belief can be changed, altered or discarded … which, in turn, can result in increased, or even absolute, comfort and ease with our sexual acts.
An eighteen-year-old girl, who later became an Option Process student, permitted herself to discuss a milestone in her life. She had been spending a warm summer evening on the beach with her boyfriend. They had both repeatedly discussed having sexual intercourse. She insisted emphatically, that if he loved her, he wouldn’t continually push her. She told him she would do “IT” in her own time. Nevertheless, he argued that he had the perfect right to express himself, explaining that in loving her, he wanted everything … everything. He promised she would love it and there would be no pain. He promised he would be very gentle. As the night wore on, their games of tossing and turning on the blanket became more serious. Her desire to be caressed and touched increased. Their gentle kissing grew more intense as their passions swelled. The hot breathing triggered a crisscross response. Each of them became more aggressive and daring in their exploration and involvement, thirsting to love more … to be loved more.
Realizing they were about to make contact, she, almost automatically, said “no,” but really meant “yes.” Her boyfriend intuitively recognized her assent and continued. She opened herself and within less than a minute, they had bridged the gap and were moving together. Within twenty seconds he ejaculated. She felt nothing but pain and discomfort. He abruptly withdrew, rolled over and looked away in his embarrassment at having finished so soon. He left her panting to the discords of her own music.
Alone. She lay there bewildered and tearful as the thin layer of heated perspiration covering her body began to cool in the night air. She had saved herself, kept her virginity intact because it had meant so much. Yet, this definitely was not what she had anticipated. Where was the joy and ease? Where was the music and the euphoria? What about the promised tenderness?
Sexual intercourse was “supposed to” be an intimate sharing that brought people closer together, but she felt distant and incomplete. Her expectations had definitely not been met. In fact, she recalled her first sexual interlude as abrasive and frustrating. Anger possessed her. Judging her boyfriend harshly because he was inexperienced and did not fulfill his promise (he told her she would enjoy it), she concluded he did not really love her. After all, she reasoned, the least he could have done is not turn away. She was unaware his movement said nothing about his love and caring … he was now acting out of his own discomfort and self-consciousness. She drifted further into herself.
As she explored her awareness and beliefs, she realized that during the entire period of foreplay, she had been hypersensitive to the possibility of getting caught. Fearing exposure and rejection if anyone knew, she had had difficulty concentrating and allowing herself to enjoy. Originally, the taboo against premarital sex had been used to help her keep her distance from it. Though she had now changed her mind and desired sexual contact, the same belief still blocked her. Anticipating the negative judgments of others restrained her from participating freely. She also began to understand how she used her expectations as an enticement … yet those visions and prejudgments brought their own pressures and unhappy conclusions. Because sex was “supposed to” be a beautiful dreamlike experience, she used the fantasy as a yardstick for judgment, against which her reality on the beach could never compare.
Beliefs, expectations and judgments dramatically influenced her first sexual encounter.
Her reasons for unhappiness existed before, during and after the sex act. All the taboos she had heard since childhood still haunted her because she continued to believe them. All the frustration over broken promises was operative because she had expectations. In taking her beliefs to the beach, she brought with her an underlying network of cables controlling the tone, feelings and intensity of her sexual behavior. Her beliefs did not disappear in the heat of passion. They surfaced only to sabotage her flow. But now, as she explored and uncovered them, she created an opportunity to discard or change them.
Another student viewed his own sexual philosophy with anxiety and discomfort. He had created a rule that he “had to” make it with a woman at least three times a week. This figure was determined from various surveys he had taken at his Thursday night backgammon game. If he missed, he believed that meant he was failing as a man. He presumed his masculinity was provable through sex – that having an affair with a woman reaffirmed his sexuality, his manliness. In many ways, the sex act for him had nothing to do with sex.
When he began his artful buildup, when he carefully manipulated the other person toward his goal, when he climaxed, it had little or nothing to do with anything other than his own unhappiness and beliefs about himself. It was his style of confirming the opposite of what he feared. His statement was, “This proves I’m not inadequate.”
But as he talked about how hollow and exposed he felt after intercourse, he realized his goal was, in fact, unfulfilled. It only served to heighten his awareness of his discomfort … pushing him compulsively toward the next sexual encounter in search of solace. He knew he had proved nothing.
The more he explored his erroneous beliefs about proofs, the more he realized the self-defeating nature of his behavior. As he discarded that single belief, he found he no longer needed to “score” even once a week … he no longer needed to “score” at all. He was free to have sex when he wanted or to pass. Uncovering other beliefs about himself and his concepts of self-worth became an exciting prospect. He was enthusiastic about having the opportunity to choose to change his beliefs. Even at this point, as he discarded his belief about sex being a proof of manhood, he knew his feelings and behavior toward women had dramatically changed. The pressure was removed, in part, from those relationships. It was a beautiful beginning.
A housewife, whose marriage had disintegrated, defined her dilemma as a sexual problem. After sixteen years of marriage, bedding down with her husband had become an infrequent and dull experience. Although she valued their relationship and admittedly loved her husband, she felt incomplete and unattractive. Yet, she believed her body, her technique and her enthusiasm were still intact. Perhaps, she reasoned, he was having difficulties. In any case, she envisioned a discussion on the subject with her partner as directly threatening to the sanctity and continuity of her marriage. On one occasion, after working up courage for almost a year, she opened the door to a conversation on the subject, but her husband declared there was no problem and refused to discuss it further. Intimidated and angry, she elected to go outside her marriage to satisfy this one unfulfilled desire. Initially, it began with a single brief affair. Then she explored her sexuality with many different men until finally settling for one steady relationship. She constantly boasted about the quality of her marriage. Privately, she assured herself that her marriage was fine, except for this “slight” sexual difficulty. In order to reinforce her proposed belief, she told each man she ever bedded with that she could not get emotionally involved because she still loved her husband. As years followed years, her life-style became a set pattern as did the guilt and discomfort accompanying it.
Initially, she insisted emphatically that her marriage was excellent. Yet, as she investigated her boredom and sexual incompatibility, she began to uncover the many beliefs and judgments she held in regard to her husband’s performances and caring. She even came to understand that his aversion to approaching this subject could easily have come from his own fears about questioning his masculinity and pride.
Doing the best she could at the time, and rather than face the unspeakable (problems in marriage that lead to fighting and divorce), she settled to live with what she envisioned as the lesser threat (infidelity). Unfortunately, her alternative approach also had its liabilities. The meetings and interludes required creating an extensive network of lies. She was constantly pressured by her fear of exposure. Eventually, she realized how her escapades had drawn her attention and focus from her marriage and how the guilt and discomforts had actually resulted in an even wider gap between her and her husband. Now, she watched her marriage crumble.
Sitting on the hard bench of a divorce court, she avoided her husband’s eyes … embarrassed, yet simultaneously furious at his lack of awareness and concern. If he had loved her, she assumed, he would not have let this happen. The years of separation and silence created a communication barrier neither partner, each for their own reason, could surmount … for their fears as well as their anger prohibited them from even trying.
A multitude of beliefs were uncovered. But essentially, the fear of aging and the fear of divorce precipitated this woman’s predicament. And those fears were chained to other unhappy beliefs. In the process of attending to her discomforts, she had not only contributed to undermining her sexual relationship, but also her entire marriage. As she exposed and discarded many beliefs, her ability to accept herself improved dramatically. This, ultimately, had ramifications in all sectors of her life. Sex problems were just a sign of her unhappiness. It was her beliefs that had short-circuited her flow.
It was not any different for the divorced multi-millionaire just approaching the watershed of fifty, astounded that he was middle-aged. Believing himself to be “over the hill” and imagining the quick descent into a wooden box, he contemplated his old age with fear and disdain. He saw impotence as an inevitability. Using the energy of this unhappiness, he decided on a procedure to test and verify his virility … to recapture the fervor of his youth.
He began to date younger women, not just five or ten years younger, but twenty years younger. He would slip beneath the sheets with almost anyone under twenty-five who gave him the chance. He gloated over having broken his “youth” record when he spent the evening with a girl younger than his own daughter. But this support of his self-image had to be continually fed, an appetite incapable of being satiated.
The pressure built in his life and his sexual relations. Scoring became all important. What mattered was making it, staying young. His fears were his fuel. Yet, be hated himself in the early morning light and was angry each evening even though he was not alone. He was uncomfortable with his sexuality despite his efforts and indulgence. As he realized he was buying his youth, not living it, he resented himself further for having to do this charade in order to sustain his good feelings. Stripped of a sense of dignity, his act to mask the pain and the anger brought more pain and anger.
Each tumble onto the mattress of intimacy brings with it different experiences – experiences determined by the beliefs of the parties involved. Although the examples cited seem to derive from unhappy places, this is not because sex is unhappy. I only begin here as I had once begun with myself. It was only after I explored and uncovered my beliefs which short-circuited my own sexuality that I created myself the opportunity to change … to change dramatically and irrevocably. As I chose to discard certain self-defeating beliefs, I began to stop stopping myself. The process was one of undoing. And then it became just a matter of allowing, giving myself permission to follow my wants and good feelings.
Far from being unhappy or difficult, sex in an allowing and nonjudgmental context is a beautiful and intimate experience. Even sex manifested in the name of just expressing a physical inclination can still contain qualities of beauty … beauty in sharing, beauty in passion, beauty in touching, beauty in doing what I want. When it moves smoothly with great ease and tenderness, it feels good before, during and after. When it’s physically delightful and fulfilling, then the attitudes of the participants are much like the Option attitude: To love is to be happy with. And to be happy is to love.
In loving my partner without judgments or expectations, I am also loving and accepting myself. No matter what turn of events takes place, if we are happy with each other and aware that each of us is doing the best we can, then certainly our experience of being together and sharing will be soft and easy … flowing and consistent to our nature.
When it’s good, I notice I’m happy and when I’m happy, I notice it’s good. How I am and see life is how I am and see myself sexually. Only my unhappiness short-circuits my sexuality and sex acts. The unhappiness operating in illness, in love relationships, in guilt, in fear of the unknown, operates in this arena too. Cardinal beliefs: If you loved me, you would … and I am responsible for another’s unhappiness continue to be sustained. Every sexual problem discussed is an excellent illustration of how expectations affect our lives. Fear of failure and rejection and the belief that something is wrong with me infiltrates many sexual experiences.
My body, how it moves, its sexuality and spirit is not separate and unrelated to who I am. My sexuality is a function of my totality … my beliefs and the subsequent feelings.
The following overview of the searching of one Option student details how when we unravel the beliefs, we create real opportunities for change. Her major difficulty, as she assessed it, was her unhappiness about her sexuality and her sexual experiences. Why was she unhappy? Because her mate did not seem to be interested and when he was, he responded mechanically. What about that made her unhappy? She felt that her partner’s lack of enthusiasm was her fault … there must be something wrong with her. Otherwise, she believed he would always be wanting to jump in bed with her. She also decided his lack of pursuit of her was a sign she did not do it well. What did she mean? Somehow, no matter how she tried, no matter how good she was in her fantasies or dreams, when lying on the bed with a real partner, she suddenly had two left hands and her mind went blank. She felt awkward and super-uncomfortable. Why did this happen? Because she was afraid. Afraid of what? She was concerned that if she was free, the aggressor and initiator, it would mean something “bad” about her. She was afraid her advances and uninhibited involvement would be misconstrued and actually chase her partner away. Her fear of being rejected had been intense.
Why should she be unhappy if she was rejected? That would be proof she was no good, that her failure here signified failure everywhere in sex. Did she really believe that? No, she did not as she said it. The more she reviewed that belief, the more she decided that it was unfounded. What was she afraid would happen if she did not worry about failing? That she might then do what she did in her fantasies and then be rejected. So in her way, she was really protecting herself … at the time, it was the best way she knew how to be in order not to be rejected.
Ironically, in exploring her unhappiness, she realized that her being afraid brought about the exact opposite of what she had wanted. Protecting herself from her fear had also rendered her incapable of acting freely and moving affectionately in accordance with her inclinations (which she only expressed in her fantasies). In fact, her vision of her mate as mechanical, although possibly accurate, was also a description of herself. By attending to her fears and notwants, she lost touch with her wanting.
Her belief that she was responsible for her partner’s enjoyment set up another series of concepts … With corresponding pressures. She felt she “had to” perform with a certain expertise and lived with the anxiety of being judged and rejected after each sexual encounter. Since, in her recent relationship, the responses of her lover were unenthusiastic, she used it to support other beliefs that she was sexually inept (again, something was wrong with her … Her face, her body, her talent).
She came to understand that, as she reacts in bed from her own fears as well as comforts, so does her partner. Therefore, he, like she, reacted from his own set of beliefs. His enjoyment or view about their sex act was his … derived from his own frame of reference. If he chose to like it or dislike it, that was his choice coming from his reasons … he was the one who set his own stage, saw and interpreted the experience as he wanted. As she began to realize that she wasn’t responsible … that another person’s unhappiness or lack of enthusiasm was theirs, she discarded that belief. And like a wall of falling dominos, many other beliefs fell to the side. She tasted a new sense of freedom.
Yet, she still did not permit herself to feel absolutely comfortable. What concerned her was failure. But if she was not responsible, if she did not “have to” do this or that, then she could not have failed … because how her partner decided to view his side of the affair had nothing to do with who she was. In fact, she could have been the “great” lover of all time, but be viewed as aggressive and crude by a frightened and uncomfortable person. As she became aware of these realities, as she started to understand and digest her involvement with a new clarity, she realized that she would no longer have to protect herself or worry about failing. Removing her self-defeating beliefs in a series of Option dialogues freed her to be and do more of what she wanted. It was not even a question of “daring”; it was simply the act of doing.
What about her “ineptitude”? She still wasn’t sure she had dispensed with that hobbling belief. As she reviewed herself in her fantasies, she noticed that she really seemed to know what to do … that she wasn’t really “incapable.” She had just stopped her natural flow with fears and had actually gone against herself. Since she no longer believed there was anything to be afraid of, she began to trust herself. If her partner became uncomfortable during relations, she could try to help him, to comfort him, to even play to his wishes. Yet, how he viewed what occurred was his personal, private vision.
A new excitement dawned on her. If she couldn’t fail, if nothing was wrong with her, if she knew “how” to do it, if her partner’s lack of enjoyment was his own thing from his beliefs, if she was only responsible for her … well, then she felt relieved and much freer to move with her inclinations instead of against them. Moreover, she now decided, she could even ask him to do what pleased her if he forgot or missed. If he did not comply, she would understand he was coming from his beliefs and it would mean nothing about her or their relationship. Once those fears were dispelled, it was easy for her to stay much more in touch with her wants.
As the unhappiness infiltrating her sexuality disappeared, she found herself happier and excited about her sexual encounters.
Her sexual experiences were more satisfying as she became more permissive of her own desires and more accepting of her partner. She reported that since she was more active and more allowing of his inactivity and mechanical performance, he seemed more willing to participate actively and more spontaneously. Her accepting attitude and nonjudgmental approach had provided an environment where he felt more comfortable with himself in accordance with his beliefs and fears. In this arena of no conditions and expectations, her partner became more desirous of exploring his wants and his not-wants. It all began with her changing one belief and that is the beginning of changing everything.
Another Option student also described himself as having a severe sexual “hang-up.” All he wanted and thought about was sex. In fact, having a sexual encounter was all he did when be had the opportunity. Yet with all the pillow play, he felt empty and unloved. Each time he jumped between the sheets, he scored in accord with what he believed be wanted. He would consummate a union and climax. But at the end of each evening, alone with himself, he became aware of that hollow feeling. He called his problem a sexual one … it was the cause of his current melancholy. Why? What was he unhappy about? He believed sex did not satisfy him. What did he mean? That although the women he slept with were desirable and enthusiastic, he felt there “should” be more than just a physical thrust. He then unhappily deduced that when he went to bed with someone, it was just the mechanics that counted. He remembered sleeping with one specific woman who performed all sorts of new and innovative acts. He assumed this meant he really turned her on. Later, he found out she did those very same things with just about everyone. Suddenly, he became upset and judged her a cold mechanic.
Why did that make him uncomfortable? Because then sex was still just a mechanical activity. Although he insisted that making it sexually was important to his virility, he found it uncomfortable for other reasons.
What was he saying? He did not feel loved. What does he mean? That sex was cold and callous; he wanted to be loved. If he was not loved, it meant he was no good (had little worth in his own eyes). Ironically, this was the reason he had had all these encounters in the first place … he wanted to feel good about himself. But the very activity he engaged in made him feel more uncomfortable and unhappy. Why? Because he had used unhappiness to fight unhappiness. Because he had expectations of what the sexual act “should” be and mean. Fearing sex would not be what he anticipated, he continually looked for evidence that it was bad … and he always found it (for it was through his fears and judgments that he gathered and interpreted his data). This provided additional proof that something was wrong with him. In fact, it confirmed he was unlovable. Why? Because women did not really care about him and he always ended up alone. But as he explored it, one fact became clear to him. His proof was really not a proof, just a judgment based on his beliefs. And his implicit disapproval of his partners, his reacting from unhappiness during and after intercourse had to put even more distance between him and his lover … and it was his distance. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Wasn’t he also saying … love me even though I don’t love myself?
Like the girl who believed she could not do it right, he shared with her the belief that he was responsible. This belief resulted in his using expectations and standards of proof as criteria for judgments. His sexual problems were not problems of sex as much as they were problems of loneliness and self-criticism. He also discovered he was using unhappiness as a tool to maximize his skill – he promised himself that if he did not get what he wanted in sex, he would be unhappy. Ultimately, he obliged and fulfilled his threat. But once he realized what he was doing and believing, he removed the promises and the threats, freeing himself from his own vicious judgments and incriminations. Once he gave up his expectations, he participated more easily.
Another student located her “real” problem as a sexual one she was having with her living companion. She did not seem interested in sex any longer … in fact, their sexual relations were so infrequent that she believed they were a classic case of sexual incomparability. They both used “infrequency” and their mutual “lack of enthusiasm” as proof. Even as they discussed it together and reaffirmed their love for each other, they openly admitted and agreed that they had ONLY this one specific problem: sex. Unwilling to dig for the beliefs which resulted in their “problem,” they each separately, without telling the other, decided to go outside their relationship for sexual gratification. Everything progressed well, until she realized that they had become very distant and cool to each other. She was now even concerned she might lose the very thing she had wanted, her lover.
The crisis revolved about her belief that she did not know what to do now. What was she unhappy about? That her lover did not desire her. What did she mean? Well, he never responded as if he was involved and he never touched her first. Why did that make her uncomfortable? Because if he loved me, he would be more aggressive and excited. What she was saying is that sex and, in particular, her specific image of “good sex” was a proof of love. Another version of the cardinal belief: If you loved me, you would desire me sexually.
As she investigated her belief and interaction, she remembered they had always had problems from the very beginning … shared fears about attachment, an unwanted pregnancy, the abortion and the guilt. She realized that sex always suggested another pregnancy, which they both feared and desperately wanted to avoid. She began to uncover other beliefs feeding her judgments and finally understood that resistance to sexual contact and poor sexual performance said nothing about their loving, but everything about their fears and difficulties.
She discovered her proof was not a proof, but only a belief substantiating itself. Ironic how she was never willing to discuss the matter with her partner in depth because she feared she would discover she did not find him desirable any longer and maybe did not love him. Now, the relationship she sought to protect was on the verge of ending just because of her defense and her fear of losing.
As she began to discard many of those beliefs, she considered another question. What did she want to do? Salvage the love if possible, create a beautiful and happy relationship. But she was frightened. Why was she anxious if that’s what she wanted? Because she was afraid to try … really try and then fail. To be rejected. Again, the pendulum swings back to her own belief: sex was merely the stadium in which some of her beliefs were played out, proved and disapproved. For her, this awareness became a sign and the first step in discarding self-consuming and self-defeating beliefs.
Viewing himself as incurably timid, one student was frustrated by his hesitancy and difficulties in making advances toward women. Often he felt repulsed by them. Subsequently, he concluded he had a major sexual hang-up. What was he unhappy about? That he didn’t have enough sex … for long periods of time, months and months and months, he did not have sex at all. Why did that make him unhappy? Because he was lonely and believed he was undesirable. What did he mean? Well, if people did not want to sleep with him, then he must be unattractive, unlovable, repulsive. Why would he be unhappy if he were unlovable? Because he might end up alone, and if it’s because something was irreparably wrong with him, he suspected the situation would last forever.
Did he believe that? Yes and no. No, nothing is forever …even when he did not have relations for months, he always managed to score again. What he feared was that the hiatus could last a long time if he allowed it. What did he mean? If he didn’t hustle on solving this problem, he would end up alone.
An important note is that he did not mean alone … he meant lonely. Lonely is unhappy about being alone. Why would he be unhappy if he were alone? It would be okay for awhile, but not for an extended period. Why not? Because it might last forever. How would that happen? If he allowed it. Why would he allow it? He guessed he really wouldn’t. As a shadow lifted from his face, he stopped himself. The question: What was he afraid would happen if he were NOT unhappy about being alone? That he would have remained alone. So he was believing if he was not unhappy, he might not take care of himself and pursue his wants. When he explored that belief, he realized he could do what was best for him without being unhappy.
Suddenly, he became excited. Yes, that’s it … just as he had been using fear and unhappiness to protect himself from loneliness, he decided he could take care of himself without being miserable. In fact, he found his focus altered as he, for the first time, permitted himself to clearly concentrate on what he wanted.
Great, but he was still concerned about being rejected by all those women. What did he mean? When he made advances, the woman in question usually said she wasn’t interested now, and sometimes suggested: “Later.” But there was never a “Later.” As he considered his discomfort, he realized he felt so intimidated by the first refusal or lack of enthusiastic response, he never tried again in the same evening (or week) for what he wanted. Why did the refusal make him so uncomfortable? It meant he would not get what he wanted … he would not have sex. Why did that make him unhappy? Because that meant that he was no good, that something was wrong with him. He believed he “should” be able to motivate his companions to want sexual relations with him.
Each time he said “should,” his face tightened. He then became aware that because he believed he “should” be able to move her, he felt pressured by an almost unbearable burden.
The interplay here is with beliefs of responsibility and expectations. As a result of believing he needed to score in order to be happy, he found himself stopping his wanting. In fact, sometimes it seemed as if he did not care anymore. The meaning and ramifications of not getting, after he had tried, were so intensely disturbing that they actually extinguished his original desires and diverted his attention. They left him in a place which was exactly opposite of where he wanted to be.
Again, even the cardinal belief was operative here: If she loved me, she would want to have sex with me. The beliefs of being responsible for her lack of interest provided a base for feelings of rejection as well as the judgment that something is wrong with me. The using of unhappiness as a motivator and reinforcer was rampant.
As he freed himself from those beliefs and lifted the shackles of unhappiness, he immediately stayed with his wanting. Understanding that rejection of one person by another is only a comment about themselves and their beliefs, he felt freer to make advances and explore. As a result, without using unhappiness to solve his problem, he became more sensitive to a new relationship he had just formed and more cognizant of his own desires and pleasures as well as hers.
Since he saw himself as having nothing to lose, he made no judgments and created no expectations. He just found himself wanting more … and getting more. He was aware the happier he became, the more alive and sexual he was.
Sex is again the arena; unhappiness is the cause of the short circuit … and only we are the cause of our own unhappiness!
One woman who was extremely overweight was transformed dramatically by exploring her beliefs. Her fear centered on being thin. She was afraid to lose weight because she might then have sex all the time … yet, she desperately wanted to lose weight. By exploring the beliefs surrounding her fatness, she concluded her dilemma was sexual. She now realized that her fatness, as she stated, made her undesirable and therefore, kept her from becoming “bad.” She reinforced this concept by rejecting all advances while she was heavy, dismissing suitors as lacking good taste.
What was she unhappy about? Being fat. Why? Because she did not like the image in the mirror, because she felt ugly. What did she mean? She believed that in being fat she was truly undesirable, which was what she might have wanted at first, but now she had definitely changed her mind. She wanted to be thin; she “must” be thin but she was scared. About what? That if she was thin she would have too much sex. Why would that make her unhappy? Because she would be “bad.” What about having “too much” sex would be bad? Well, she’d be easy, an easy mark … she would only be wanted for her body. Why would that make her unhappy? Because then she would not be having sex or be loved for the right reasons.
Those who love her now while she is fat really love her because they are with her despite her fatness. If she were thin, she also suspects that if she were rejected, it would then be because of her, and not her fatness. Why would she be unhappy about that? That would prove that something is really wrong with her, that she is unlovable. Does she believe that? Yes, she guesses, in a way … that’s why she has so much trouble with sex. But then, she doesn’t believe it; she kind of knows she is okay. What is she afraid would happen if she wasn’t unhappy about having too much sex? That she would have it. Her unhappiness, her fatness, were her way of protecting herself from what she believed she wanted which was no good to want. These were her ways of dealing with her guilt, not for the way she acted, but for the way she thought she might act if she were thin.
As she became more and more focused on how she used her unhappiness to keep her where she was for protection against some mythical wrongdoing, she decided she could look out for herself without being unhappy. She could dispense with those beliefs and fears … nothing was wrong with her; even having all the sex she could imagine seemed okay.
Great, but this still left her fat. She then decided to deal with her fear of not losing weight now that she wanted. Once she accepted her current fatness, her fears and pressure disappeared. Slowly, she began to lose weight. She concentrated daily on her wants (thinness and health), rather than on her not-wants. Thus, her energy was not concentrated on not eating or a diet, but on thinness and comfort. The result was that she began to move with herself (with her wants) instead of against her fears, which is a much more difficult battle.
Once she became thinner, her sexual activity increased just as she had predicted (self-fulfilling prophecy). Although she was feeling much better about having sexual relations, there was still an unresolved uneasiness for her.
As she pursued herself further, she realized she still harbored another belief she had acquired in early adolescence: if he loved you, he wouldn’t have sex with you and make you a bad girl. Instead of feeling loved, she began to feel more unloved. While she operated from that belief, she gave it power and substance. She had even forgotten the circumstances or the individual who first presented it to her. But those aspects were not important. What was significant was the now of her life and in the now, that belief was operative and it belonged to her. She laughed as she verbalized the belief, amused such a concept actually molded her behavior and generated all sorts of unhappy feelings.
What she had created was the double bind of unhappiness … whichever way she moved, she’d always decide the result was bad for her. “If he did have sex with me, then he really didn’t care (he violated me).” “If he did not have sex with me, then he did not find me attractive and also didn’t care!” Either way, she was caught in unhappiness. Her belief supported a negative judgment no matter which way it went.
Later, when she discarded it, she began to find herself enjoying sex much more and feeling good about herself. Now that contact and copulation were not threatening, the danger was over. She felt freer with herself and her wants, no longer preoccupied by her judgments or her partner’s judgments. All this enabled her to explore her sexuality as aspects of physical sensation, sharing, communicating, participating, loving and being happy with.
There are three seemingly dissimilar situations that derive some of their input from a common dynamic and belief. The woman who cannot reach a climax, the man who ejaculates prematurely and the man who often finds himself incapable of an erection. They are all believing their behavior is “bad’ … that they “should” be able to perform “correctly” and therefore they are always fearing they won’t.
The man who is impotent concentrates on his fear of impotence, diverting his attention from the sexuality of the moment and suddenly finds himself limp. The woman who always has difficulty reaching a climax concentrates on the fear that she won’t. Rather than trying to reach orgasm and failing (since she believes she will not succeed), she often gives up. Or, she pushes herself, NEEDING to reach a climax, and in the tight anxiety of fearing she will not have it, her unhappiness gets directly in the way. The result: a short circuit. She brings about what she had dreaded.
The man who ejaculates very quickly takes a first occurrence and uses that as evidence that something is wrong with him. He concentrates on his fears of ejaculating early and actually brings about that reality so that he can at least stop the anxiety.
Fears often become their own self-fulfilling prophecies. The dynamic of getting what you fear most goes something like this … I become so unhappy or anxious fearing it, that if it actually happens, it couldn’t be any worse. So rather than drown in this discomfort, I’ll let it or make it happen; at least when I get it over there is no more need to worry about it happening. The intensity of the fear is more painful than the event.
If each of these individuals knew nothing was wrong with them, if they knew they were okay whether or not they performed to the expectations of another, it would help free them from their bind.
Of course, I am not suggesting that the solution to such problems is always so one-noted or the manifestation of a single belief. Often, other beliefs also underlie the behavior. The significant aspect here is when I need it to happen and fear it won’t, I fuel the not-want. That dynamic of thinking is usually very common and influential in the situations discussed.
A view of multiple beliefs tied to a single problem can be seen through the example of the woman who had difficulty reaching orgasm because she feared not reaching it. She also might have been believing, at the very same moment, that if she does reach a climax, it means she is a “dirty” and “vulgar” person for enjoying sex and “letting herself go.” Also, she might believe that her partner facilitates her orgasm …if she really enjoys it, she might come to need him for it, which she dreads. So, she withholds for many reasons. In the same situation, the sable brush of expectations, which paints images of orgasm tied to one special love relationship, can create a barrier. Beliefs, beliefs and more beliefs. They short-circuited and sabotaged her flow – but the beauty is that she can change all of it if she wants. There are no dead ends here, just opportunities.
One student, who had “come out” and moved to center stage with his homosexuality, viewed himself as reasonably “together” … yet wanted to shed what he called the last remnants of discomfort. But first, he decided to try to reconstruct, from an Option perspective, the development of some of those beliefs which affected his sexuality.
When he was a youngster, his father, a strong and self-reliant man, had always counseled him to “be a man … don’t be weak.” The implications and transmitted beliefs exerted a strong pressure on his development and behavior. “Crying is weak.” “Softness is weak and unmanly.” Each time he would either withdraw from a situation or respond meekly, his character would be questioned. “What’s the matter with you? Don’t act like a sissy.” “No son of mine would have run away.” Even his athletic talents were scrutinized. “Can’t you catch a ball? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of it?”
Eventually, he began to see these questions as accusations and indictments. He permitted his father’s continual commentary to erode his own beliefs about his strength and manliness. As he began to envision his feelings and responses as inept and inappropriate (acquiring the unstated, yet communicated, beliefs of his father), he reflected, “Maybe something is wrong with me. I’m afraid I’m really different … It’s true, I am afraid I’ll get hit by a baseball and often I do feel like crying. But only girls cry.” The adopted beliefs, also supported by the comment of his peers, flooded him with fears and anxieties.
His mother, a very “possessive,” “protective” and “competitive” parent, helped support his self-image of weakness. Although she played a distinctly feminine and subordinate role with her husband, her domineering relationship with her son reinforced his beliefs about his frailty and femininity. Although she would applaud his sensitivity, he suspected it was yet another sign of his growing “differentness.” “I know what I usually want to do, but I’m afraid … which means I must be soft, which further suggests I am not a man.”
Now the fear of being different gave birth to a self-consciousness and heightened sensitivity to being different. In effect, he began continually to search for signs that would confirm his fears and substantiate his beliefs. “What I am afraid of being is softhearted, like a woman … a sissy.” Each judgment compounded the impact of the next. As he became older, he began to sense an equation between his role and the role of a woman. One day, when he found himself admiring a male body, he presumed his attraction was another indication that he was different, woman-like and, perhaps homosexual (his worst fear).
The pressure mounted. The more fearful he became about what the evidence seemed to suggest, the more he used fear as a dynamic to prevent himself from becoming what he feared most. “I must be afraid of being a homosexual or I will become one.” These convictions were compounded and actually reinforced by another dynamic of his beliefs. He became aware of a growing displeasure and discomfort with women that led to avoidance of the opposite sex. He could not possibly embrace what he feared most in himself (womanliness). But that belief created further unhappiness and self-defeating behavior. Ultimately, the discomfort became so intolerable, he decided to engage in a homosexual act as a way to relieve the “unbearable” strain of his fear. Then, he speculated, at least the constant anxiety would be over.
After his flat encounter, he viewed the evidence as conclusive. He was now, by his own definition and standards, a homosexual. His fears were replaced by guilt. He wanted to hide the fact of his different sexual preference … for he, like the society in which he was rooted, believed “something was wrong with him.” He had effectively utilized one incident as a binding confirmation of his fears. His beliefs about homosexuality and his own vulnerability to it had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
He laughed as he quoted what he called the classic homosexual line: “Boy, was I drunk last night.” His own first homosexual affair was clouded by alcohol. Yet, he knew even then, he had done what he had wanted, although his major preoccupation was responding to his fears.
After many years, he began to resent himself and the community at large for his predicament and for the secrecy. Based on these thoughts and the nagging concern of possible exposure, he decided to confront the world, saying, “Yes, damn you, I am different (as if he was); I am a homosexual and it’s beautiful to be a homosexual.” His statement was made with anger and fury. In declaring his homosexuality, he relieved himself of the guilt and fear of being unmasked.
Although he might have tended toward homosexuality from unhappiness, he now felt generally comfortable and enthusiastic with his choice. To him, it was a moot point whether or not he would have been homosexual given a different set of circumstances. Perhaps, he contemplated, his vision of his parents, his fears and his frantic search for evidence were merely the tools by which he came to allow himself to express some of his desires. The question was not to judge his actions, but to explore why they were shrouded in fear and anxiety – why, even today, did he still feel a nagging discomfort?
One great contradiction did exist in his sexual declaration … Why did he “have to” announce it? Why is it that people who love people of the opposite sex don’t go around announcing they’re heterosexuals? Since they believe their inclinations are perfectly natural, they have no questions to ask or statements to make. In contrast, the affirmation, “I am a homosexual,” is not merely a descriptive pronouncement … in our time, in our vocabulary, it is a judgment.
So when this student called himself a homosexual, he, too, was accepting the implicit and emphatic bias that he was “different” and, conceivably, “bad.” Even though he insisted his sexuality was positive, he realized he still had many beliefs about his separateness and unacceptability … in essence, these were the very reasons for the declaration. He was angry, resentful, guilty and wanted to relieve himself. By his own admission, he knew his announcement, in part, was a disguised confession.
In addition, he had hoped to gain acceptance by exposing himself. “If I can convince them to accept me, to know I am not strange or perverse, then maybe I can more easily believe it myself.” The more he explored his feelings, the more aware he was of his own continued prejudices. Beneath his assured and confident manner, he still harbored many notions about being special and less than normal. These were the beliefs he now chose to review and discard. As he became increasingly happier and more accepting of himself, his aversion to women completely dissolved. He also stopped identifying himself as a homosexual and started calling himself a human being.
This man’s situation, his beliefs and his conclusions were his own … not an abstracted or easily generalized set of circumstances. We each create ourselves for our own reasons and in response to our own beliefs.
To varying degrees, everyone is attracted to members of both sexes. We can admire the body, skill and athletic movement of a major sports personality, irrespective of their sex. We can be fans of both male and female entertainers without creating an identity crisis in terms of our own sexuality. We can be male and be enthralled by the physical prowess of an actor. We can be female and be mesmerized by the sensuality of a female dancer. These attractions are at a distance and “safe.” Yet even those involving acquaintances and close friends do not necessarily lead to questions and doubts about our own sexuality or “normalcy.”
Nevertheless, in order to suit the society In which we live, we focus on the acceptable attraction, which, in effect, presupposes an “unacceptable” attraction. The effects of these beliefs can be traced through daily occurrences in which a man might freely embrace and kiss a female friend while only shaking hands with male friends … he keeps an appropriate distance, as if he did not trust himself. It is assumed we don’t hug or kiss members of the same sex, unless, of course, we are strange and perverse.
In other cultures, with different beliefs, physical expressions of friendship among those of the same sex are freely given and accepted without the undercurrent of judgments and disapproval.
In the context of our culture (and its constellation of generally accepted beliefs), the homosexual is a person, who through his fear and the judgment of others becomes something which does not exist … a fictitious character, i.e., one who is attracted solely to members of his own sex. He is no different from the staunch heterosexual, who often emphatically affirms his one-sided attraction and ridicules any deviations.
To be disgusted, afraid or “turned-off” to members of the opposite sex or those of our own sex is to be reacting to discomforts. In not allowing ourselves to be comfortable with one sexual group, we are functioning from our fears and from unhappiness as well as from the beliefs which support them. The question to ask: Is our sexuality generated by our wants or is it a response to our not-wants?
If we are just people loving other people (be they of the same sex or the opposite sex), we then move with our own inclinations . . . coming from our happiness and wanting. We would not need to avoid members of one sex in order to justify or support our preference. This does not mean if we are happy, we would want to engage in sexual relations with members of the same sex or the reverse. Nor does it mean we will change our sexual preference or become bisexual. We would each do what seems to be natural to us.
In effect, if we were comfortable with ourselves, there would be no such judgmental label as homosexual … or heterosexual. There would be no homosexuals or heterosexuals. Those of us who use these terms participate, if only by default, in making implicit statements about the “differentness” and “unacceptability” of certain people and activities. Our culture, reflected in our language, creates separatism and disapproval with beliefs of “It’s bad to be … homosexual, weak, poor, ugly, etc.” Perhaps in our communal fears, we help create and reinforce the realities which we believe we “should” avert.
A sexual problem is, again, not sex alone. It is the fear of unhappiness working in the sexual arena.
Discard the beliefs behind the unhappiness and the problem disappears. The anxiety or fear or discomfort is in service to the superstitious belief that something bad is going to happen or is happening. Sexual behavior, like other behavior and its accompanying emotions, is infiltrated by judgments. If I disconnect self-defeating beliefs, I then can allow myself to flow. If I find through these examples of others just one belief that I too uphold and I too want to change, then I have begun unloading some of the excess baggage collected in my head. It is not hard to choose to dump beliefs when I realize how destructive and unfounded some of them can be. And once I do that, I notice all sorts of exciting and beautiful changes. Ownership and responsibility is not a burden, but, in fact, the wire cutters which help release me from the bondage of all those beliefs I’ve been taught over all those years.
Sex is a beautiful and simple human procedure. It is a function of being and loving. It is communion and our stab at eternity. Sex is everything we want it to be by simply allowing it to be.
As in any other area of life, there is no right or wrong way, no good or bad, no should or should not. The tags and labels we put on sex are our way of remembering how to behave because we believe without the labels we would not know how to handle situations. Yet such beliefs, which originate from unhappiness (distrust and distaste), actually short-circuit the pleasure and freedom we could allow ourselves in our sexual relations.
If we always stay in touch with the awareness, we are doing the best we can and so are our partners, that we are not responsible for their fears or enjoyments (only our own), that we can want our wants without worrying about not getting … then the possibilities of our sexual horizons will be more expansive and enjoyable. In addition, we would be significantly clearer in identifying the situations we would want to avoid.
The “how-to” uprightness and awkwardness usually is the direct result of moving away from ourselves (like the child, who comesnot to know because he believes being himself is bad). In search for rules or cues, sex seems confusing and difficult. An appropriate example is the girl who believed she wasn’t good in real life, but was superb in her fantasies. She was short-circuiting her natural flow with fears and unhappiness. In her daydreams, she knew exactly what to do to arouse and enjoy.
The books and movies of instruction are all manifestations of our self-doubt. Certainly, if we feel we could use them to be more sexually proficient, then we can do what we know to do. But perhaps a more direct way is to go with ourselves. Consult our own natural expertise. Beneath any unhappiness, there is a knowing, natural expert.
If I cannot be rejected, if what the other person sees and interprets is from his or her beliefs, if I am responsible for only my own behavior and feelings, if nothing is wrong with me, if I am doing the best I can in accordance with my current beliefs, even when I stop myself – then, I can do anything I want, try anything I want. My happiness would no longer be hanging in the balance.
If I listen carefully and comfortably, I will learn to hear the voice within me. This doesn’t mean that I would want to go out and have sex on every street corner. I’ll know what I want. Allowing could mean a better sexual relationship with a boyfriend, a wife, a husband or an acquaintance. It could mean giving myself permission to explore and experiment.
If the Option attitude – to love is to be happy with – is adopted while engaging in sex, then there would be no judgments, no conditions and no expectations. And if that were so, whatever would happen would be okay. Each of us could then allow ourselves and our lovers the space in which to ask and try for what we wanted.
A note on the taboos of sex. Some of us were told masturbation would make us blind and crazy. Many were instructed that if we let a boy in our bedroom, we were bad, bad, bad. Still others heard that we could contract incurable diseases while indulging in sex. Many more were lectured that sex was “dirty” and we only do it out of sacrifice (grin and bear it). And there were those who informed us that we were not supposed to enjoy it. These are beliefs, given power by the people who act on them and transmit them.
Before I ever had the opportunity to explore and investigate my sexuality, I was bombarded by a truckload of self-defeating concepts. Sex became the garbage pail for many of my unhappy beliefs.
The first time I “dared” to touch, my arms almost collapsed under the tonnage of well-indoctrinated discomforts. But once I choose to discard my self-defeating beliefs about sex and decide to trust myself by going with my inclinations, I become more spontaneous and accepting … which doesn’t mean I would be bad for myself. I could still know precisely how to take care of myself, to protect and check myself against disease, to practice contraception, to say no when it was not in my wanting. Oringinally, I was taught the fears and taboos in order to guide me to do what was “best.” Unfortunately, they were couched in unhappiness (fears and distrust) and superstition which created liabilities and short-circuits. The lessons behind some of the beliefs remain. Yet, I can unlearn (choose to discard) what I know is no longer useful and wise.
Free to confront and change my beliefs, I am also as free to retain them. Each of us is the weathervane of our universe. As the wind is inseparable from the air and is part of the same movement, my sexuality is inseparable from me and is part of my movement. If I choose to consent to my own nature, then my body, my thoughts, my happiness and my sexuality become one.
The Think Page
Questions to ask yourself
- How do you feel about your body? Are you comfortable with it?
- Do you approach your sexuality and sexual relations with expectations?
- Does the sex act have “shoulds” and “musts” in order to be considered good?
- Are you great, good, average or poor at sex? How do you know? What are your beliefs about your skill?
- Do you judge your partner’s skill in sex? If so, why?
- Do you say no when you mean yes? Or, the reverse?
Option concepts to consider
- How we view sex is how we view the world and how we view the world is how we view sex.
- People enjoy sex to the extent they are happy.
- Poor sexual performance says nothing about loving, but everything about fear and unhappiness.
- Sexually, we do the best we can and so does our partner.
- We are all naturals at sex if we allow it.
Beliefs to consider discarding
- Sex is bad.
- Sexual prowess is a sign of manliness.
- Ineptitude at sex proves something is wrong with me.
- Love and sex are the same thing.
- If you loved me, you would desire me sexually.
- The only thing that counts is orgasm.
Dialogue … sex
Q. What are you unhappy about?
A. That i never reach a climax. God knows how i’ve tried.
Q. Why does that make you unhappy?
A. A million reasons. First of all, i’m happily married, at least i think i am. But if i can’t reach a climax, maybe it means something must be wrong with our relationship.
A. Because if we were compatible, i would have a climax.
Q. Why do you believe that?
A. Well, i don’t know if i believe that … Its just such a damn problem. Each time we go to bed, i feel so tight inside. I always keep thinking, am i going to make it this time? Will it finally happen? And it never does. Sometimes, when i’m just dressing in the morning, i start anticipating having sex that night or the night after. Even then, fourteen hours or a day before, i can feel my stomach tighten. When that happens, my mind goes blank.
Q. Why are you so “tight” about it?
A. Because i want it to happen. I’ll do anything at this point.
Q. Sure, but wanting it to happen and becoming upset about it not happening are two distinctly different things. I understand that you want to reach an orgasm. Why are you upset and unhappy about not reaching a climax?
A. Wouldn’t you be?
Q. Maybe, but i have my own reasons, you would have yours. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be unhappy, but merely asking for the reasons “why” you feel that way.
A. Okay, i’m afraid it won’t happen.
Q. Why would you be unhappy if it didn’t?
A. Because then i won’t be a good lover and partner … Maybe my husband will become dissatisfied. I don’t know. Maybe i’ll go someplace else for sex. That would really be awful!
Q. If you decided to go someplace else, why would that be upsetting?
A. Because i don’t want to. I love my husband. Our marriage is not one of those made-in-heaven fantasies. We both worked at our relationship. There were many difficult years. We pulled through a lot. Now, we really enjoy each other and respect each other. This is my only big problem and i don’t want it to ruin what we’ve worked so hard to achieve. I don’t want to be unfaithful.
Q. Then why would you be unfaithful?
A. Because i want to reach a climax. It’s like a completely separate obsession. Although i love my husband, i feel i’m missing a lot!
Q. What do you mean?
A. If sex is good, then both partners should reach orgasm.
Q. Why do you believe that?
A. Isn’t that true?
Q. What’s true for one person is not necessarily true for another. Why do you believe that’s, true?
A. I don’t know. When i really think about it, i sometimes lose all perspective on what sex is all about. Maybe someone told me climaxes were a must. Maybe it’s from my past and i don’t remember any more why i believe it.
Q. Sure, that’s certainly possible. But since you’re still believing it now, why?
A. I don’t really have an answer.
Q. What are you afraid would happen if you didn’t believe it?
A. I wouldn’t try to reach a climax. If it’s not that important, not a must … Then who would care. Oh, but that’s silly, whether good sex is defined with or without orgasm, i’d still want it.
Q. If that’s so, that you could still want it although it is not a “must,” then do you still believe that “orgasm” is necessary for good sex?
A. No, i guess i really don’t. And if i don’t, maybe it’s not such a crisis after all. At least, maybe it doesn’t have all the implications i thought it did in terms of marriage. Maybe it is manageable. But i am still unhappy about it.
Q. Why are you unhappy about it?
A. Because i still want it, even if my marriage would be great without it. My husband has been understanding and tries to be helpful, but that doesn’t solve it.
Q. What about not having a climax makes you unhappy?
A. Maybe it means something is wrong with me; i’m not a complete woman or something. Maybe there is something strange about me.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Most of my friends don’t have any trouble. We’ve talked. (laughing) yet, sometimes, i wonder whether they told me the truth. It’s really hard to face, no less admit it to someone else. But if they were honest about not having any trouble, why should i have such a problem?
Q. Why do you think?
A. Somehow, i always think if i just let myself go and i really want to, i’ll become a nymphomaniac. Really, i’m not kidding. I know it sounds crazy. Every time that i have reached an orgasm, and that’s been only several times in my whole life, i feel so high like i could just have sex day in and day out. And that really scares me.
Q. Why does it scare you?
A. Because i might exhaust my husband and ruin my marriage. And maybe i’d want it so much that i would start sleeping with anybody. That would be awful.
Q. Why would you be unhappy if you decided to sleep with “anybody”?
A. Because i don’t want to.
Q. Then, why do you believe you would?
A. Because my sex drive will increase so much that it will be beyond my control.
Q. How do you know that?
A. I don’t.
Q. But, somehow, as you say, you act as if you do and become unhappy about it. It you wanted sex all the time, why would that be unpleasant?
A. It wouldn’t … But if i ruined my life, that’s not what i want.
Q. Okay, if that’s not what you want, if you know that much to take care of yourself, why do you believe you’d be bad for yourself?
A. I really wouldn’t be bad for myself. I guess i’d just cut it off.
Q. Cut what off?
A. My sex drive.
Q. Oh, if you are in control of your sex drive, then why are you afraid it would get out of hand?
A. Oh (long pause).
Q. What are you thinking?
A. It really wouldn’t get out of hand. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I know when i said i’d “cut it off” it was the first time i really knew that it was me in control. If i could turn it off, then i could turn it on. Somehow, i had always wanted to believe this had nothing to do with me. Blame it on my organs. Blame it on my husband and my lovers before him. It seemed too “unapproachable” to be responsible for.
Q. And now?
A. It’s really okay.
Q. How do you feel?
A. Better, but not finished.
Q. What do you mean?
A. I see now that i held myself back. If i wasn’t afraid of becoming a “bad” person or nymphomaniac, then i could let myself go. My uprightness really was part of my holding back. Somehow, now it seems like i feel phobic about it. If i haven’t allowed it to happen for so long, how can i do it now.
Q. What do you want?
A. To enjoy sex and allow myself to reach orgasms. But, i’m feeling uneasy.
Q. What are you afraid is going to happen?
A. That i’m still going to worry about it, not because of the other fears, but just simply worry that it’s not going to happen now that i want it.
Q. Why would you worry about it?
A. Because i want it to happen.
Q. I know, but why does worry go along with wanting it to happen?
A. I don’t know.
Q. What are you afraid would happen if you weren’t worried?
A. It wouldn’t matter to me and then maybe i won’t have it. Oh, but that doesn’t make any sense. I really could want it without being worried. I guess my worrying, oddly enough, stops me from having it. Without the pressure, i’d be much looser and probably have it. Maybe the question for me is will it be okay for me not to have it since that’s what i’m scared about?
Q. Do you want to answer that?
A. Yes. If i can’t reach an orgasm now, after working through my beliefs and fears, then it will somehow say that it’s beyond my control.
Q. Why do you believe that?
A. If i worked it out, then i should reach a climax.
Q. Why “should” you?
A. There it is again. I’m putting pressure on myself. I’ll end up in the same place for a different reason. It’s crazy what i do to myself. As long as i “must” reach an orgasm, i tie myself up.
Q. What do you mean?
A. It’s like a test. You tell yourself you have to get a good mark and usually become so upset and anxious, you can’t even concentrate. You mess it all up, which is exactly the opposite of what you wanted.
Q. Let’s take your metaphor and bring it back to here and now. For you, right now, even though you think you’ve worked it out, do you believe you “must” reach a climax?
A. No. Of course not. But if i say it’s under my control, and all the doctors said i was physically perfect, then what does it mean if i still don’t make it?
Q. What do you think?
A. I don’t know.
Q. If you guessed at it, what do you think?
A. Well, maybe there are other beliefs that i haven’t worked through or changed … Maybe that’s what would still be holding me back. Maybe i’d still have other reasons to hold myself back.
Q. And how do you feel about that?
A. It would be okay now. I know i rid myself of some really heavy beliefs. If there’s more, i can work it out. I know that now. (smiling) i feel a whole lot better … Much more accepting of me.