Sexual Healing Through Mindfully Being | Mindfulness Rewrites

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sexual Healing Through Mindfully Being


  • Do you often feel repressed emotionally or physically, and unable to find a way to release pent-up emotions?
  • Are you unable to savor the present moment when trying to connect with your significant other? Do you feel helpless in expressing yourself or incapable of helping others open up to you?
  • Have you found yourself unable to connect sexually and meaningfully in your relationships?



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THE TOXICITY OF REPRESSION

In his novella On Chesil Beach, award-winning author Ian McEwan introduces us to a young virgin couple—Edward and Florence—who are staying at a beachside hotel on the night of their honeymoon. The author transports us back to 1962 (ironically enough, on the chronological cusp of America’s sexual revolution). Within the pages of this book, he explores the communication problems, missed opportunities, and the inability of this couple to express and discuss their sexual issues and needs. Though “well-suited” for each other, the two of them suffer from an inability to effectively communicate their emotions, fears, and needs.

As a result, their wedding night turns into a travesty due to deep misunderstanding, painful past conditioning, and ensuing defensiveness. Florence, sexually abused by her father as a child, has a post-traumatic experience when attempting sex with her husband; Edward, anxious to consummate the marriage, prematurely ejaculates. Both are flooded with shame, and they each deal with it by blaming one other caustically. They have no language to discuss their sexual history, differences, or desires. Worse, they have no words to work through their conflict. As a result, they dissolve their marriage quickly, not even able to express their ultimate regret...

“On Chesil beach he could have called out for Florence, he could have gone after her. He did not know, or would not have cared to know, that as she ran away from him, certain in her distress that she was about to lose him, she had never loved him more, or more hopelessly, and that the sound of his voice would have been a deliverance, and she would have turned back. Instead he stood in cold and righteous silence in the summer’s dusk, watching her hurry along the shore, the sound of her difficult progress lost in the breaking of small waves, until she was a blurred, receding point against the immense straight road of shingle gleaming in the pallid light.”

“Life is precious, and mindfulness gives us the tools to live deeply, to connect authentically, and to open our hearts fully.” –Meena Srinivasan

NOW

There’s a saying that sex is only 10% of a good relationship and 90% of a bad one. The fact that you’ve probably heard this phrase—or something like it—or could easily Google it online right now is not coincidental. A few decades ago, a sexual revolution—a time period which, in the U.S., is perceived to have begun in the 1960s—erupted within society, challenging old myths and mindsets of the why, what, and how of sex and sexuality. And while our society has indeed come a long way in its willingness and capability to acknowledge, discuss, and appreciate this most vulnerable, intimate, complex, and essential element in a healthy romantic relationship, there is still much misunderstanding and miscommunication around the issue.

Mindfulness helps us discuss the nature of our darker side; we learn to shine a light on unresolved conflicts and to lay our cards on the table. In this way, it can greatly help in dealing with sexual feelings, repression, fears, and desires. Walking through the acronym NOW, we discover how the process unfolds:

  • Notice. In On Chesil Beach, Edward and Florence could have saved themselves so much heartache if they’d only noticed their conflicting emotions—before, during, or even after the catastrophic beginning of their honeymoon. If they’d been aware of these feelings and had acknowledged them, they’d have the chance to discuss them and could have cultivated mutual understanding and compassion.
  • Opportunities. This was an opportunity where both partners could bare their souls and really get to know one another. They’d be vulnerable, honest, and accepting—and, in doing so, more powerful and loving and lovable than ever before. They could have been each other’s loving witnesses to hurts, fears, and inner turmoil.
  • Within. If they could have developed the ability to explore their thoughts and hearts, and become aware of the defenses and unresolved hurts that they’d accumulated inside of them, they would not have felt the need to attack each other. They would have realized that their hurtful defensiveness would have been a faulty mechanism to get rid their toxic shame—and they would have had the opportunity to choose another way.


THE PATH TO MINDFULNESS

Edward and Florence’s experience is not, unfortunately, contained in fiction. The struggle is real and more common than you might have imagined. Yet as catastrophically as their story unravels, the solution to their issues is straightforward. If either of them could have noted their conflictual emotions and brought them to light, if they could have practiced mindfulness and compassion instead of defensiveness and fear, and if they could have responded to their conflict in a way that made them better instead of bitter, they could have saved and strengthened their relationship. Mindfulness is the practice that promotes self-compassion and empathy for others. Regarding the issue of sex—intensely personal and fraught with possibilities for misunderstand—mindfulness can provide a tremendous breakthrough to create and maintain and loving, lasting union.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet explores the power of words; the term “poison in the ear” refers to the capability of language to wound. We all carry emotional and mental baggage within us, consciously and subconsciously, and it’s essential to examine the source of our thoughts and emotions instead of mindlessly flinging our luggage upon our significant others. Communicating mindfully is the antidote to that “poison.”

“His anger stirred her own and she suddenly thought she understood their problem: they were too polite, too constrained, too timorous, they went around each other on tiptoes, murmuring, whispering, deferring, agreeing. They barely knew each other and never could because of the blanket of companionable near-silence that smothered their differences and blinded them as much as it bound them.” –On Chesil Beach

PRACTICE

As a family and marriage therapist, I recommend a practice called Sensate Focus. Originally recommended by Masters and Johnson, this term refers to a set of specific sexual exercises that are used to cultivate intimacy and compassion between couples. Participants are encouraged to focus on their own personal experiences—tuning in to all their physical senses—and increasing their awareness of their own and their partner’s needs and desires. The focus is on an exchange of affection and connection; the objective is not to orgasm as much as it is to intimately and physically connect with the other person in the moment.

Typically, the couple is instructed to pleasure one another in a mindful way, avoiding intercourse so as to focus on the sensual awareness of their partner’s skin and mindfully connect in the present moment. As a result, the sex itself generally and significantly improves, as the act is now based upon newfound trust, appreciation, connection, and purpose. Had Edward and Florence taken the time to really get to know each other, appreciating and understanding and respecting one another, their love and empathy would have freed them from shame and blame.

They could have created a meaningful connection through—quite literally—sexual healing.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” –Lao Tzu
Discover more about mindfulness in "Change Your Story: Change Your Brain." 

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