“Sex lies at the root of life, and we can never learn to reverence life until we know how to understand sex.”
If you are like most of us, the subject of sex makes you at least a little uneasy, if not completely uncomfortable. Sex is shrouded in so much mystery and secrecy and considered so personal that it’s a wonder we can ever have an honest conversation about it. But if we could talk freely and openly with each other, we would discover that sex means something different to everyone, often something far from the ideas that Hollywood and Madison Avenue teach us.
Some of us think of sex as a simple act of physical pleasure, while for others it’s a way of communicating deep feelings and still others, see sex as a spiritual experience. The definition of sexual activity also differs from person to person. It can be kissing, touching, intercourse, bondage, oral, conversational, punishing, dominating, wrapped in leather, romantic, observing, disciplining and much, more. It is as varied as our individual personalities.
But what usually doesn’t come to mind when we think about sex is what is actually happening when we engage in it with a real person. Sex creates a moment of extreme intensity in which our entire inner life – our history and imagination, is expressed in actions. It is state of consciousness in which the past and the present, body, mind and spirit, all merge to form a new reality unlike any other experience in our lives.
Because sex is so compelling at all these level, it is frequently in our thoughts. As a psychotherapist for over forty years, I have counseled innumerable patients. In nearly every case, regardless of the problem that led someone to seek therapy, the conversation has inevitably turned to sex.
Some patients express disappointment over the amount of sex in their lives, some are frustrated by a partner’s lack of interest in sexual experimentation, some are concerned about sexual performance, some look in the wrong places to fulfill their desire and still others are simply curious about their sexual fantasies and desires.
No matter what the issue, sex is more than any of these topics. It is a doorway into our deepest psyches and highest consciousness. By discovering our true sexual desires, as well as uncovering their origin and purpose, sex can be much more than just great. More importantly, sex can help heal our lives. It can be life-changing
Why? Because true sexual fulfillment is based on self-knowledge and authenticity–not just the sexual act itself. When our mind, body, and consciousness are in full alignment through sex, it unites our human and divine experience healing that duality and awakening feelings of wholeness. We are one with source – all light and energy joined in a moment of absolute awareness.
To understand this, we first need to unravel the origin and meaning of our individual sexual desires. This requires learning how those desires became a conditioned as part of our human experience. In the process of this discovery, we also gain awareness of what our sexual desires are helping us to achieve regarding our life purpose. Unlike tantric sex or meditation, the path to enlightenment is not attained by focusing on the present moment alone, but instead by consciously aligning with the past, manifesting the healing properties of our erotic narrative in the present sexual experience.
How Our Sexual Desires are Conditioned.
No one experiences childhood without some conflict or unmet need. The resolution of these conflicts accelerate our destiny, that is, the purpose for which we have come into the world. For most of us, the pain or unhappiness associated with these conflicts does not preoccupy our present thoughts and feelings but has become part of our individual psychology, setting the stage for how we attach and interact in relationships throughout our lives.
As human beings, we are naturally driven towards self-healing, whether it’s a small cut on our skin or a deep psychological trauma. Self-recovery enhances our chances of physical and emotional survival from difficult life conditions, and therefore our capacity to discover and fulfill our purpose. We are designed to do whatever we can to lessen the pain.
At some point during the heightened sexuality of adolescence, we subconsciously eroticize these unmet needs or unresolved conflicts from childhood in a complicated attempt to heal ourselves from them. In other words, we turn early painful experiences into pleasurable ones by sexualizing them in order to counteract the pain, anger or shame associated with them. As human beings, we are driven toward reconciliation and healing, as spiritual beings we are driven toward alignment of emotions, our physical being, thoughts, and spirit.
As we grow into adults, these same conflicts, which have now been firmly sexualized, become coded in the narratives of our fantasies and desires, and in some cases, our sexual behavior. Through our sexuality, we attempt to gain mastering over feelings of powerlessness, shame, guilt, fear, and loneliness associated with these conflicts that might have otherwise derailed us.
To help clarify this idea here’s an example from one of my patients; thirty-eight-year-old Sarah, the only child of unhappily married parents. Sarah’s father, a warm and affable man, had failed in business as a contractor because, out of kindness, he often underestimated the cost of jobs, giving his clients bargains he couldn’t afford. Carrying forward his family of origin’s tradition of scarcity, he developed a secret habit of gambling on weekends with the hope of rescuing his finances. Instead, over the course of a few years, he lost all of the family savings and dug the family deep in debt. Frustrated and powerless, Abby, Sarah’s mother, never let her husband or Sarah forget this; Sarah was constantly compared to her father for her weaknesses and inability to assert herself in the world. Over the years, Abby’s anger grew increasingly more furious.
Sarah secretly wished that her father would stand up to Abby’s attacks and protect her–and himself. Instead, he withdrew from the family by sitting in front of the television for endless hours. Sarah felt abandoned by her father as he slowly faded from her life.
During adolescence, Sarah daydreamed about sailors and sea captains and devoured romance novels with these themes. By the time she reached her late teenage years, like most boys and girls, she was flooded by confusing sexual feelings. Soon she was having sexual fantasies in which she was kidnapped by pirates, only to be later rescued by a strong and handsome sea captain. In her fantasies, she subconsciously found an erotic solution to her childhood feelings of helplessness and abandonment by inventing a story in which she was held captive and finally rescued.
By sexualizing unmet needs and childhood conflicts, we convert the pain associated with these experience into pleasurable events. Our true sexual desires, such as Sarah’s rescue fantasy, emerge out of a subconscious attempt to work through deep-seated feelings. Not only are they enormously enjoyable, but they can counteract feelings of powerlessness, guilt, shame, fear, or loneliness, and, remarkably, heal old and deep wounds.
For many of us, our true desires (and their meaning) remain hidden from our awareness. When we are conscious of them, they are often shadowed by shame; we tend to think of them as “deviant,” “perverse,” or “sinful” because we do not understand their significance and instead internalize how powerful institutions such as religion and psychology have defined them. We police our erotic lives, deny, suppress, or keep them secret. Some of us subjugate their narrative because we view them as “noise” that interrupts the attainment of enlightenment. In the process, we disown an important part of who we are and who we could become.
The consequences of this denial can be enormous. If we do not understand our true desires, we can easily be lost in the dark, losing the opportunity to attain genuine alignment. We may well choose the wrong partners. Or, if we act on lust alone without understanding the nature of how our desire serves us, we may mistakenly become attached to someone simply because we have a moment of great sex with him/her.
Likewise, if we choose a mate solely on the basis of personality, family background or for spiritual compatibility alone, while we may attain stability. companionship or security, sex can feel boring, empty or, in time, entirely disappear from the relationship. If we are not sharing our deepest desires and fantasies, we miss the opportunity to widen our vision and fully engage our complete selves.
On the other hand, if we set out to identify our true sexual desires and the unmet needs or conflicts they serve to counteract, we take a giant step closer to wholeness. We lift our attention upward and create an experience of life, based on self-knowledge and self-acceptance. And, from this position of strength, we can choose a partner with whom we create a sexual and emotional bond that satisfies our deepest human and spiritual needs.