The first thing many individuals do when facing a sexual issue is seek treatment from a medical doctor. While this is a wise choice to ensure that there are no physical concerns, it usually leaves the individual with more questions than answers and faced with the realization that it is not the body that is liable, but the mind.
In my practice as a Clinical Sexologist, I know firsthand the tremendous influence that the mind has on our sexuality, both good and bad.
Our mind can have such control over us that past traumas, childhood absorption of parental beliefs and even misunderstandings can quickly or slowly lead to issues such as low libido, orgasm concerns, body-image issues, pain during sexual activity, performance anxiety, low sexual self-esteem, sexual shutdown (numbness with or about sex), erectile concerns, ejaculatory control issues, inability to communicate sexual needs with a partner, just to name a few.
Three parts create our erotic mind. The sea, the ship, and the captain. All play a role in the voyage of our sexuality, and all must be considered when addressing concerns. Our emotions are the sea of our sexual existence. Just as the ocean itself, our sea can be peaceful, welcoming and gentle; it can also be turbulent, changeable, and at times stormy and destructive.
Our sea has great influence over our sexuality because our emotions shape how we perceive our experiences—good or bad, thrilling or fearful, bringers of pain or pleasure. Emotions such as peace, love, joy, a feeling of safety, or inner turmoil and confusion will dictate our sexual behavior and how we understand and remember a sexual encounter.
Lucy, a thirty-eight-year-old married woman with two young children, came into my office complaining of no sex drive. She stated she had been married to the love of her life for the last twelve years. They had two healthy children, a beautiful home, traveled often, and her husband was supportive, a good provider, a fantastic father, and a loving husband—the sort of man that many women could only dream of having.
Although she was sexual earlier in their marriage, over the years her drive vanished. Lucy was convinced that something was terribly wrong with her. This was a problem that was growing worse. She lived in fear that Jeff would leave her one day because of the lack of intimacy between them.
I began by taking a full sexual history and discovered that before her marriage to Jeff, she had been in numerous relationships that were extremely toxic. Each partner was selfish and had used her for sex. She also stated she never dared to leave the bad relationships, fearing she would never find another; she was always the one who was left.
It began to become very clear that the waters in Lucy’s sea were rough. She was angry, and her ship was being beaten to death from the treacherous waves. Due to this, her sexual voyage had become a nightmare. We began exploring, and in time and with the proper tools, Lucy was able to recognize her entrenched anger toward men and began to let it go.
By choosing her husband, Lucy had already moved on from her earlier destructive pattern but had not yet understood or internalized the change. With help, her captain was able to take back control of the wheel of the ship and steer her back into calm, safe waters where her sex drive returned higher than ever.
Our unconscious is the ship of our sex life. It is the aspect of the mind that embraces our memories both known and forgotten, thought processes, interests, and motivations. It carries our baggage such as repressed feelings and hidden phobias and desires. It is also where our dreams and many of our habits come from. The ship significantly impacts sexual behavior.
Matt was thirty-one and had been living with his girlfriend for the past ten years. He came to my office complaining of erectile dysfunction, which had recently developed. He stated that he and his girlfriend had been best friends with many wonderful experiences together, but for the past year they had been constantly fighting, and each was questioning if they should remain together.
After his sexual history, I began to explore his childhood, especially his relationships with his parents. Sadly, at the age of seven, Matt’s mother killed herself. This apparently had been too much for his father to bear, so Matt and his younger brother were left with a grandmother who cared for them. In the years that followed, his father bounced in and out of his life but was never emotionally present for him.
Matt’s ship was in dangerous waters. The memories of his parents each leaving him were buried deep within the baggage compartment of his ship. He clearly had felt abandoned by both his parents and admitted to fear of a repeat.
He began to make the connection that his erectile dysfunction was a means for him to emotionally pull away from his girlfriend – as questions of marriage and children arose – to keep from experiencing pain. His captain was able to take back the wheel of the ship and steer him back into calm, safe waters where his erectile dysfunction was a thing of the past.
The conscious mind is the captain of our ship. At any time, he or she can take control of the wheel. Our conscious mind is the awareness of our sexual existence, sensations, thoughts, and environment.
It is responsible for our arousal and responsiveness to intimacy. The conscious mind is also what allows us to remain in the present moment.
The “now” is essential to our sexuality. If we permit our minds to escape during sex, we lose out on intimacy. If we allow our conscious mind total control, it will provide us with our juicy sexual fantasies and desires and the permission to explore them.
Along with our lifetime sexual journey, we must recognize the value of our sea, our ship, and our captain and rest in the knowledge that with correct navigation, our captain will guide us through an erotic passage that will bring us ecstasy.
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