Sexuality is fundamental to what we are as human beings.
As Freud and many others have understood, sexual energy is central to our life force. Many of our psychological hang-ups are in some way connected to our sexuality, and many of our problems manifest themselves in our sexual experiences.
Having an understanding of our sexuality can help us map out some of our underlying psychic wounds.
The main criticism of Freud is that he put far too much emphasis on the pleasure principle and sexual desire, and I agree with that criticism. I draw a line between sexuality and physical intimacy. To me, sexuality has more do to with the basic energetic charge of the body than sexual desire.
Still, connecting with this basic energetic charge and understanding how it expresses itself through the sexual act is immensely important for getting a better handle on who we are and what we need to be our best selves.
I have been reading Bioenergetics by Alexander Lowen, a psychologist who studied under Freud’s star pupil and founding father of modern physiology, Wilhelm Reich. The book is about understanding and harnessing the fundamental energy of our being through connecting the mind and the body. Here, he makes the vital distinction between sexuality and the sexual act.
“Reich had come to the conclusion that emotional health was related to the capacity for full surrender in the sexual act or what he called orgiastic potency. It is important to understand that Reich saw orgasm as different from ejaculation or a climax. It represented the involuntary movement of the total body, manifested in rhythmic, convulsive movements. The same type of movement can occur when the breathing is completely free and the person surrenders to the body.”
In other words, sexuality is more than just “getting off.” It’s about letting go. If we are unable to let go, it’s a sign that something deep within us is preventing that release and must be attended to.
One of the least talked about epidemics of modern times is the sheer volume of people who have serious sexual inhibitions. I believe this shows that something is missing in our relationships with our bodies. It seems like we’re these big heads walking around, dragging the inconvenience of our bodies behind us. We’re absolutely petrified of being seen naked, God forbid. The repressive nature of modern culture, which is driven primarily by the ego, scares us away from the body (bodies get sick and die) and removes us from the energetic pulse of our consciousness—thereby stripping us of our connection with what fundamentally makes us alive.
No wonder we have so many sexual problems.
I think the challenges are slightly different for women and men. Men have been conditioned to be the active participant in sex—the chaser, the performer—and this creates anxiety about not being able to follow through.
For women, the problem is inverted. Women are conditioned to be more sexually passive and are often looked upon as instruments of male pleasure, and because of this they tend to detach themselves sexually. Many women in my life have confirmed this. They describe it as a kind of out-of-body experience, in the worst possible way. Like part of them is present and the other part is completely removed from the situation, looking down upon the act as a third party. Something is restricting her from feeling the fullness of her sexuality and the rapture of being in total accordance with the body.
This overwhelming feeling of detachment makes it incredibly difficult to let ourselves go and release our pent-up energy.
There are many factors in bringing about these sexual and energetic blockages. Cultural pressure is definitely one of them. Sexual abuse and early childhood trauma are others. Modern society’s fixation on the head as opposed to the body, for sure. There are probably too many factors to name, which is why I like to focus more on the potential solutions than the exact root of the problem.
I’d like to live in a world where people are more comfortable talking about their sexuality openly.
I truly believe emotional and bodily healing starts by verbally expressing the truth of our experience. We must ask ourselves, “Why are we so terrified of our body?” Secondly, engaging in practices that connect us with the body, like meditation and breath-work, bring us closer to our sexuality and give us a better sense of where our issues may lie.
For instance, I sit in front of a mirror for my meditation practice, watching the subtle oscillations of my body with each breath and allowing the body to breathe naturally. I let my thoughts roam through my head without force, knowing myself as the observer beneath the movement of thought. My mind becomes still and my body is calm. Obscure memories may project themselves in my head, and I watch them as one watches a film. Over the course of the meditation, I feel more in tune with my body and less identified with my ego. Energy is increased. A glow of clarity comes through the fog. My soul is shining through the clouds of my conditioning.
That’s one exercise among many. We have our work cut out for us, both individually and collectively, but surely the tools are available to overcome our personal hang-ups and heal ourselves.
Our essential nature is beautiful. All we have to do is find ways to connect with that natural beauty, using the vessel of the body and the sails of the mind.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Trung Bui/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron