Sex Therapy Calgary: Naked and Shameless Part #1: Understanding Sexual Fantasy

Sex Therapy Calgary: Naked and Shameless Part #1: Understanding Sexual Fantasy

Sex Therapy Calgary: Naked and Shameless Part #1: Understanding Sexual Fantasy

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Sex Therapy Calgary: A few months ago, I was in a session with a young wife struggling deeply in her sexual relationship with her husband. About halfway through the session, she got reticent and then began to weep.

When I asked what was happening in those tears, her entire demeanour suddenly shifted towards a defiant shame-based rage that seemed to give her courage as she practically snarled out what she regarded as her darkest sexual secret:

“You don’t know me and, if you did, you wouldn’t be able to stand being in the same room with me. Don’t you get it? I’m not who you think I am; I’m sick! When [husband] gently kisses me and tells me he loves me, I wish he would slam me against the wall and grope me. How can you not see it? I want to be hurt.”

sex therapy calgary bdsm toys on leatherShe then went on to describe in vivid detail her fantasy of an extremely aggressive and rough quasi-rape situation with a coldly detached and ruthless stranger who cared not at all for her discomfort, much less her pleasure. The fantasy that had plagued her since she was in her early teens involved non-consent, the infliction of severe pain and contained pervasive elements of humiliation and sexual degradation.

She then hid her face and broke down into deep sobbing, stating, “I’m a pervert!” adding, “And, I despise men like that, but it’s the only way I can get off [climax].”

Welcome to the conflicted and confusing world of sexual fantasy. A place where the media, our childhood parts that never grew up, our upbringings/parenting, sexual damage from our pasts, our personalities and the religious controls of our families merge with our inner tensions, unmet needs and deepest longings – sometimes with startling results.

Those fantasies emerge into the world of general society, where, though experienced by more people than not, they are usually regarded as fringe and kinky. They are evaluated by the “high-priests” of psychology (who generally pathologize those fantasies, falsely treating them as evidence of unresolved issues or abuse) and then driven underground by the harsh and relentless judgments of religion. Any expression of them is deemed societally corrosive and usually silenced because, well, “Think about the children!”

The irony of research on said children demonstrating more exposure and greater comfort with sexual fantasies than their elders is completely lost on them, as is the repeated finding that the maintenance of taboos directly drives even more extreme fantasies and behaviours. Because our taboos drive our sexual fantasies and our sexual preferences are little more than our fantasies enacted in the real world, the taboos we create directly move our world’s norms in the exact direction of our prohibitions. The truth is that we have created a culture of such shame around human sexuality that large portions of it have become confined to prostitution or infidelity – which are already deemed shameful and thus safe for sexual passions.

Then, we wonder why infidelity is so common and marital sex seems so dull, if it even works at all…

Sex Therapy Calgary: Naked and Shameless:

Understanding Sexual Fantasy

The Genesis narrative of Adam and Eve starts with the declaration that they were both naked and unashamed. It’s been a long time since those words could even remotely describe most of Christendom’s approach to sexuality. The belief was that if the area is flooded with shame, guilt, fear, and lots of boundaries, rules, and prohibitions, society will avoid any sexual excesses that would undermine the home and family’s stability. Not only has that approach failed miserably, it’s also been a critical driver in the increasing cultural irrelevance of the faith. We need to reclaim naked and unashamed, especially on a level far deeper than the removal of clothing.

However, if we’re going to take back the ground which has been stolen, we first need to understand the childhood roots of fantasy itself, for we are so much more likely to feel shame over elements of ourselves we can not understand.

Sex Therapy Calgary: Uncovering the roots of sexual fantasy:

pregnant woman in white lace dress carrying childNone of us like to feel out of control, yet sexuality is one area of our lives in which the majority of what shapes it is far outside of our conscious awareness. From the moment of our birth, we are all continually scanning our environments, reading subtle cues and filtering a vast array of interpersonal content as we strive to produce an appropriate response that will get our needs met.

While the learning process may initially be conscious, successful interactions that result in our needs being met rapidly shape our unconscious world. Our unconscious world generates mostly automatic responses allowing us to rapidly interact with insurmountably vast amounts of information and create a response in the blink of an eye. To the degree that our experiences are healthy, those automatic responses are life-giving and effective at meeting our longings.

Our childhood longings are deeply rooted in two elementary needs every child has:

  1. A need for security – which includes both physical safety and security in love.
  2. A need for significance – mattering and having an impact on our world.

Every child’s primary focus is the business of managing attachment. All of the other needs we have are expendable compared to our need to stay safe in the love of our parents, and we unconsciously do whatever it takes to avoid a breakdown in such. Because the home environment is the only world a child knows, the child assumes it represents how the world works and what he or she must adapt to get those needs met. When the home is unhealthy, parts of the child begin to be silenced and destroyed to survive.

By the time a child reaches puberty, they have internalized a consistent set of understandings about who they are and the degree to which they can expect their world to meet their needs. By then, they also understand which needs must be suppressed and the lies they need to tell themselves to make sense of that suppression.

All of us are quite willing to lie to ourselves about who we are, what we deserve and even what we want to protect our relationship with our parents. When we lie to ourselves in this way, it helps us feel like we can make sense of the world, but it comes at the cost of repressing our hearts’ deep longings to be safely held and respected. We only have three tools available to suppress those needs: Shame, guilt and fear. Needs that are buried are needs that remain unmet.

How childhood needs create fantasy:

teen girl in yellow crew neck t shirt and blue denim shorts sitting on green grass fieldWhile the rush of hormones that is puberty transforms nearly everything for an adolescent, they most powerfully sexualize any needs that remain unmet. As those unmet needs are sexualized, so also are the tools of shame, guilt and fear-based repression we have used to suppress them.

As we then move into early adulthood, unmet childhood needs shape our developing sense of self and our beliefs about a desirable person. The cues and subliminal messages we learned to read define where and by whom those needs can be met. The same thoughts and behaviours we used to suppress those needs persist in our adult intimate relationships and become a definition of how they can be met and the internal and external games we need to play to meet them. And, by then, all of this is so automatic that we never stop to think about it.

All we feel is a fantasy-based desire for a person or experience, or the absence of that desire.

When applied to the area of sexual desire and attraction, the entire above section is simply defined as “Chemistry.” Chemistry is a form of sexual intuition that draws on subtle cues of appearance, mannerisms and other subliminal information. Almost without any conscious thought, we read those cues, searching for evidence that someone’s sexual key will fit our lock and satisfy our deepest longings.

Fantasy as a countermeasure against our shattered inner world:

A modern fighter aircraft is arrayed with as much in the way of weapons as electronic and other countermeasures that serve to deter and neutralize attacks. In the same way, our souls develop countermeasures against the false beliefs from our childhoods.

four fighter aircraft in formation.jpgIn adolescence, those unmet needs and shame, fear or guilt-based tools combine to form nearly an endless set of broken beliefs about ourselves and others. Ideas like: “Good girls DON’T!” “No one will ever desire me.” “I don’t deserve pleasure.” “All women hate sex.” “Sex is something I take from another, like scoring points.” “Men are pigs and only want one thing.” “Sex is dirty and defiling.” “All women are sluts and can never be trusted.” “I can only be loved if I become whatever s/he wants me to be.” “I’ll always be left and alone.” “It’s not my fault if I feel pleasure with a man/woman who forces me.”

By themselves, those beliefs would simply kill our ability to function. However, within every human soul, there is something that longs for more and seeks to overcome those lies – the countermeasures we use to accomplish that are called fantasies.

Most of the world and even many Calgary psychologists would describe the BDSM-related fantasy described at the top of this article as the sexualization of shame and guilt or past intimate trauma, but that is simply not true. Guilt, shame, anxiety, rejection, self-centred contempt and helplessness are actually the foundation of sexual inhibition. Trauma is equally unlikely as a cause. The belief that “It’s not my fault if I feel pleasure with a man/woman who forces me.” is relatively unlikely to be held by a rape victim.

What is actually being sexualized in a BDSM fantasy are our internal countermeasures against that shame, guilt etc. For example, a woman raised by a distant and relationally avoidant father and a fragile, mentally ill mother who killed all pleasure in the home will often grow up to believe that her very presence is damaging or overwhelming to those she loves. She will then shrink herself down into something small based on her guilt for being too passionate, too full of life and entirely too much to be loved. The healthy selfishness, abandon, and ruthless pursuit of pleasure needed to reach orgasm will become impossible if she still fears that she will harm a man she sees as fragile or weak. But, if she creates a fantasy of a narcissistic and uncaring sexual predator who is too strong for her even to touch, much less hurt, she has created a safe place for herself to be small enough to surrender to passion. In that space, she is released from guilt over the harm she imagines would be caused by her ruthless pursuit of pleasure.

While BDSM-related fantasy is a clear and vivid example, the above principle is hardly restricted to those sorts of extreme ideas. Fantasy of every type is, at its root, a response to some kind of internal tension. It is an adult expression of the inner longings we silenced, plus the guilt/shame/fear that has merged with a sexualized version of the childhood fantasy. Our fantasies weave together messages from culture, historical pain and guilt, self-centred contempt and our wild hopes into a fantasy-based means of neutralizing our fears. We use those fantasies to explain away our false beliefs, bypass our inhibitions and make us feel secure enough to risk going after the love we want.

How our need for attachment augments and merges different parts of fantasy:

The above is mostly focused on the countermeasure we employ to fight against internal tension, but fighting is far from the only response possible – even within the same person. Children may try to destroy parts of themselves to survive one part of an unhealthy environment while, at the same time, powerfully identifying with some other part of one or both parents.

kissing woman and man in bathing suits on boat near rocksNearly every child wants to be just like mom or dad in their early years. Healthy development always includes periods (The terrible two’s, teen rebellion etc.) where children break away from that intense identification and seek to discover an identity for themselves. The more unhealthy the home, the more difficult that necessary separation becomes and the higher the likelihood that healthy development will go off the rails.

Identification is a crucial part of all healthy sexual intimacy where we drop our boundaries and merge with another person. We seek oneness with our partner, find exquisite pleasure in seeing ourselves in the other and vibrating with the same sexual energy. It blinds us to our partner’s flaws and awakens our dreams of how the other’s virtues will please us. What is happening is a sort of sexual empathy necessary for us to trust another enough to surrender ourselves to the enjoyment of the healthy selfishness and aggressiveness of another’s passion. In the most simple terms, we call this “becoming intimate.”

Identification, however, also has a dark side that many Calgary psychologists would simply describe as transference. Transference happens when long-standing feelings and perceptions of our parental figures begin to be shifted onto our present partners and relationships. Obviously, we all, to some degree, live out of our pasts in the present. However, when we begin to twist and distort superficial similarities in our partners to fit with some childhood narrative, we inhibit our ability to experience deep sexual intimacy.

Fantasy is again the countermeasure of choice we deploy in our attempt to resolve identification-related issues of transference. For example, if we struggled not to be pulled into the depression of our parents, we may relieve that through fantasies of being sexual with happy and youthful innocence. If we spent our childhood chasing the love of an aloof and unavailable parent, we find comfort in fantasies of extreme belongingness and nurturance or even ownership.

professional male christian psychologist calgary talking to upset crying woman session pictureThe most extreme and offensive example of this merged/augmented set of fantasies is seen when a therapist becomes sexual with a client. One part of the therapist’s fantasy is usually a simple countermeasure against guilt for doing something glaringly unethical. It generally orbits the idea that, by becoming sexual with a client, the therapist is not destroying the client’s safety but, instead, offering him or her some sort of a boost in confidence.

But the other half of the fantasy is most often rooted in a messiah fantasy of rescuing the client by offering the ultimate sexual healing. Of course, that fantasy of healing has almost nothing to do with the client and mostly serves to mitigate the therapist’s feelings of powerlessness. But, as the guilt is erased and the act becomes endowed with the identification-based rosy glow of imagined salvation and redemption, nearly anything can be rationalized.

Then what should we make of fantasy?

If you want to wreak someone’s golf game, all you need to do is look at the person at the first hole and ask, “When you make a long drive, do you inhale, exhale or hold your breath?” I guarantee that by hole #3, the other person will be seriously off his or her game, likely contemplating breaking a club over your head as a reward for your psychological sabotage.

When we make the sexual unconscious conscious, it also creates turmoil. And just like a golf pro will use the disruption that results from that question to make the person’s game better, it is also possible to use the turmoil that results from an awareness of sexual fantasy to heal and free us from our pasts.

Woman Sitting in Shadows by the Wall with Face HiddenOur clothing doesn’t conceal anything, for we all can easily picture what the naked form beneath looks like. Clothing reveals and communicates to others far more than it hides and, when we remove it, we remain far from naked.

Fantasy was never designed to be a hidden private thing, nor was it supposed to be an end in itself. When we reveal our fantasies to another, we also reveal the childhood lacks that required the deployment of the countermeasure that fantasy is. In that joint revelation, we experience all of the shame, fear, and guilt associated with those events.

That’s real nakedness, and it goes far beyond the simple removal of clothing.

That degree of self-revelation does create tremendous turmoil, but out of that turmoil can also flow incredible healing. When another welcomes those sensitive and private places of the heart with acceptance, understanding and freedom instead of rules, religion and punishment, mystery is stripped away, needs are met and healing can begin.

Sex therapy Calgary: Building a naked and shameless couple relationship.

grayscale photo of women in sexual passion experiencing face being caressed with multiple handsA large portion of each of our personhood is sexual in nature and difficult to access by any other means than fantasy. While society has mocked or avoided it and religion has condemned it, the best couples therapy Calgary has to offer will always help couples walk into the center of those fantasies and hold each other’s hearts with the kind of gentleness and understanding that heals. So, if you’ve spent years trapped in an endless loop of a fantasy that never changes and just won’t go away, then reach out today.

Sex Therapy Calgary – your fantasies can heal your heart and set you free to love as never before.

Fantasy is an integral part of most sex therapy exercises. Part #2 of this article focuses on taking back the ground of fantasy from the world of exploitation and returning it to the central place it deserves as a divinely designed vehicle for healing hearts, creating the most intense passion and experiencing the most incredible sex ever.

Please like, bookmark, favourite follow or otherwise stay connected with this page or social media feed to be sure you don’t miss the next part: Liberating passionate love!

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