You Know You Want It!
The Sexual-Spiritual (Love) Split
One of the most significant blocks to more fulfilling sober sex is the “sexual-spiritual split.” After facilitating countless workshops with thousands of people in recovery, one thing is certain. The healing of the internalized schism between our sexual and spiritual (love) energies is the most provocative topic, and the most intimidating (apparently, but not necessarily) task we can address. I have yet to meet one recovering person who does not highlight this as one of their foremost challenges.
A deeply ingrained and culturally-induced rift between sexual intimacy and real love haunts us. (I don’t necessarily mean those possible special encounters; it’s when bonding occurs that the rift becomes mysteriously blatant). Yet, these two human forces are two sides of the same coin. At its most fundamental, spirituality is the opening of the heart – the love space; it is also defined as the embodiment of “transcendent beauty.” When two people come together with open hearts, sex is a sacred act, joining them in body and spirit.
All too often, this is clearly not the case. Opening the heart and keeping it open can be challenging, particularly for those whose sexuality is connected to psychic and spiritual wounds inflicted by early experience and outdated cultural conditioning. What I call the “sexual-spiritual split” arises out of early religious and cultural training, which teaches that God, love, and family are good while, sex, even by its wordless energetic expression, is bad. Many find that when they try to talk about this problem, it just serves to compound and confuse. It all transmits the message that sex is dirty, bad, and perverse. As a result, we find it difficult to honor our commitment to a “higher power” while at the same time acknowledging this human need to express, satisfy, and celebrate our sexuality.
The Power of Fantasy
One of the sources of energy that fuels “great sober sex” is fantasy. Few of our “juicy” sexual fantasies would seem to fall into the category of respectful spiritual relationship building, but ironically, harnessing these same weird cravings can insure the survival of a good, respectful relationship by triggering the kind of passion that becomes the “glue” for erotic connections that fulfill relationships and offer contentment. Though the process can be awkward at first, it is essential to learn to communicate about our needs, desires, and fantasies. “Reclaiming adolescent awkwardness,” is a phrase I use, giving people permission to go to the uncomfortable places often necessary in healing the sexual-spiritual split; a requirement to form authentically intimate relationships.
In sexual counseling, many are curious about where their fantasies come from, often feeling shame for having them. I tell my clients good fantasies are like rainbows, mysterious and beautiful, sometimes fleeting, and they are to be respected, never judged. If they be illegal, we can also respect the need to exit reality once in a while. The juice is in the fantasy – acting them out is another choice; yet, the energy is alive to enrich any erotic engagement.
Fantasy arises from abuses early in life to Freudian perceptions, or from recollections of pleasure from our past. Sometimes they mysteriously come from no conscious recollection whatsoever. Perhaps they connect from an energetic archetype we mysteriously resonate with. Who cares? If the fantasy has juice, that energy is very valuable. Ritual can filter the shame out of our fantasies and show us how to fall more deeply in love with ourselves. Self-love is essential to grow in sacred sexuality and Erotic Ritual. Having fantasies doesn’t mean we’re bad or that something is wrong with us, as we don’t have to act on them. Only shame is spiritless. Removing the shame from our fantasies transforms them, and that can even contribute to keeping a long-term relationship sexually vibrant.
Many of us are afraid of letting our wild, primordial natures be exposed, thinking it could hurt someone, or ourselves, hence the importance of behaving responsibly. As I’ve heard now from many: “If there is a strong, deep energetic connection between people, then love allows you to go totally wild, while at the same time remaining sensitive enough to stay playful without hurting each other.” When we transform erotic shame, it’s as if a true alchemy occurs, you learn how to turn the base metal of your own energy into pure gold.”
Different Strokes From Different Folklore
Several years ago, when my partner Elias and I were in Naples, Italy, we went to the Archeological Museum, where we were fortunate enough to get a private guided tour of “the secret cabinet.” Only recently opened to the public, this section of the museum houses erotic art that The Vatican has been furtively collecting for centuries but keeping under lock and key. The woman, who was very knowledgeable about erotic art, pointed out an ancient vase graphically decorated with an image of a satyr having sexual relations with a goat. In her non-plussed way, she clarified that at the time the vase was painted this act was considered perfectly natural. There were no judgments or laws inhibiting one’s erotic pursuits. On further exploration I learned that the archetype of the goat is youthful, vigorous, powerful, and deeply connected to the earth. The goat lives in the moment, experiencing instinctively focused satisfying physical desire. Pan, the god of nature and sexuality, is depicted as part human, part goat. Unfortunately, due to horns and cloven hooves, images of the devil became associated with this god during the Middle Ages, a further expression of the growing sexual-spiritual split that still plagues western society.
Somehow, the word “kinky” has made its way into our sexual vocabulary. I love the word, as it means out of the norm. What is normal when we have so many primal animalistic energies running through us? It is important to explore what comes naturally to us. Often we may find ourselves gradually stretching some of the edges of these existing realities, but we can’t presume to break down resistance barriers of others while experimenting with our own. If you explore my book, Ritual as Resource, it will be beneficial to negotiate with any resistance you feel concerning thoughts you regard as “kinky.” Even if it involves goats! To help in finding a new context for erotic play and enrichment, I encourage the acronym S.E.X. (Soul Energy eXchange).
Whatever you choose to do with another or yourself you have a spiritual right to hold as private. You can share with others, if you want, but be careful not to lose the sanctity of your experience. Be discerning in your sharing. A secret is by nature imbued with shame and covertness. To the contrary, when you hold something private, it becomes part of your personal and spiritual identity, with no shame attached to it. There is a humble pride and gratitude that is all yours and that can make you—and your relationships—strong.