Sex scandals are us. The news is replete with what seems an endless account of seemingly good people whose sexuality has literally transformed them into a criminal. The stories of childhood sexual abuse are deeply troubling and extend into the millions when you consider the many youths sold into the global sex trade. Yet, stories of coaches and kids in locker rooms hit an even deeper nerve because they make us question, at the deepest level, our own sexual urges. We are all caught in the conundrum of longing to experience our sexual depths, while simultaneously being terrified of whether our fantasies are normal or worse still, make us dangerous.
I would venture to say that for the majority of people, the most troubled relationship that we carry around inside of ourselves is with our erotic selves. Human sexuality is one of the most primary aspects of our nature and the gateway to our deepest psyches. Our erotic self and the sexual needs that it drives are secondary only to our other survival needs of eating, drinking and sleeping. The power that our sexuality exerts in our life is generally misunderstood and shadowed with shame. Worse still, our lack of understanding about who we are erotically often leads to the widely held belief that sexuality is to be feared and can easily slip out of our control.
Wrongly, we interpret our erotic urges as our most base and primitive instincts and instead of trying to learn from their mysterious language we use our sexual energies to suppress them. The tragedy in this is that our sexual fantasies are actually a window into our most complex human needs. This repression represents a tragic loss of who we are.
Witnessed in the whole context of our lives, our sexual fantasies actually provide the most profound window into our subconscious drive towards healing and experiencing pleasure. To the degree that we suppress the fantasies that live deeply in us, we lose not only our access to deep pleasure, but the wealth of information that it holds for our own healing.
As children we all suffer with some form of emotional wounding and unresolved conflicts. It turns out that as we mature sexually, throughout our adolescence and teen years, our subconscious brain, which is always trying to heal us, eroticizes our pain and conflicts into fantasy stories that allow us to convert our painful past into a pleasurable experience. This is a revolutionary insight, which demonstrates the potential healing that our sexual fantasies hold for all of us.
I learned about this in a recent interview with psychotherapist Stanley Siegel who wrote a book on this topic called Your Brain on Sex. I was, and remain, deeply amazed at how much sense his thinking has brought to the question of sexual fantasy. Siegel, who has been in psychotherapy practice for more than 35 years said that almost every issue he has worked through with his patients, had a sexual root. Over the many years of his practice, he came to understand the transformative and deeply healing nature of working with our sexual fantasies as a window into our deepest pain. He developed a process that called Intelligent Lust, which simultaneously develops an emotional intelligence and language about your childhood traumas, as well as the ability to identify your strongest sexual fantasies. When his patients were able to connect the dots between those two strong emotional experiences, both were healed.
I myself was deeply enlightened by this new perspective on thinking about the sexual fantasies that I only began to look at within the last decade. In part, I came to this because I realized how much sexual energy I used to suppress the fantasies that surfaced while aroused, but even more because I became really curious about what I had been so afraid to look at. Two things happened – my ability to respond to my sexuality became passionately charged and I was also stunned and ashamed at the fantasy life that emerged from me. The shame was so intense that I couldn’t even speak of the fantasies that had just played out in my sex life with my husband. It felt like some bizarre double that I was leading even as my ability to experiment with and expand my sexual boundaries exploded the passion in our sex life.
After speaking with Stanley and studying his book about how our subconscious tries to heal our troubled past, I felt like my whole life came into focus. The understanding has again transformed both my sexual response, but also I now have the language to express it. Truly, our sexuality is a locked box that holds the keys to our deepest healing. The keys are living in you as your sexual fantasies, just turn them on and see for yourself.
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