In this final episode of our series on sexual health, Jackie and Rachel talk more specifically about how to to develop erotic intelligence. What does sexual health looks like and how one can work on developing sexual health for ourselves and our relationship?
TRANSCRIPT: How to Improve Sexual Health
Hi everyone, welcome to Thanks for Sharing. I’m your host, Jackie Pack. I’ve got on my episode today Rachel Allen, who as you know, she’s been on the last 4 episodes, and this is our last episode. We’re wrapping up this series that we’ve been doing on sexual health. I had a client talk to me this week about this series. He said that he’s been enjoying the series, but one of the things he was saying is we’ve talked a lot about what not to do. When are we going to get to the here’s how to do it differently or here’s what to do. So I told him it’s coming. We’re gonna get there. So this is that episode where we’re really going to wrap everything up that we’ve been talking about and really talk about going forward what do we do differently or what are the to-dos instead of the not-to-dos.
I wanted to start with a quote by Patrick Carnes, and this is for those of you who aren’t familiar with Patrick Carnes, I’ve mentioned him before. He is the international expert on sex addiction, and this is out of his book “The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships”. He says, “Unless we learn how to handle betrayal and the torturous obsessional relationships that evolve out of treachery, we add to the betrayal of the planet. Trust is restored when we learn to trust ourselves and build trust with others. There is no other way.” So today we’re gonna talk about what does healthy sexuality require of us, and how does that show up in the moment in a way that is not restoring trust in ourselves or with another person?
So after that long introduction, welcome back Rachel. Glad to be here. We’ve made it to this episode talking about healthy sexuality. I’m glad that we’re kind of bookending, well maybe not even bookending, but wrapping up this series with this because I thin kit’s kind of we’ve been building to this for 4 episodes now, and I’m excited to talk about what it actually looks like in practice.
So some of what we’re gonna be talking about we’re taking from Patrick Carnes’ book “Don’t Call it Love” which came out in 1991, and then also it shows up in Alex Katehakis’ book “Erotic Intelligence” which came out in 2010. So this is kind of this list of what healthy sex looks like and what we have to let go of or what needs to change in order to be healthy sexually.
Yeah, so the first point is that unhealthy sex kind of originates from a shame-based sexuality, and the healthy part of that is healthy sex should deepen a sense of self and embrace one’s erotic / animal nature. It shouldn’t be as controlled. It shouldn’t be as shame-based. It should be leaning in. Right, and I think just for most people who are sexual beings alive today at this point in history, most of us have been touched by some shame around our sexuality or another, whether it was in the family we grew up in, maybe sex just wasn’t talked about, and so one of the subtle messages that you may have interned at a deep level is that sex must be bad because what we don’t talk about obviously must be a bad thing or something that’s wrong. And so I think to look at that, like how do I deepen a sense of myself and even embrace those parts of myself that are a little bit more erotic or a little bit more like you were saying, less controlled and less like part of myself that shows up at the dinner party that knows my manners and knows how to behave and is very polite and all of that stuff.
We almost treat our animal nature as something bad. I remember looking at… like even in Disney movies growing up, that idea of being posh or polished all the time was there, and yet there’s something that really draws us to like the nature of things. It draws us to being more simplistic and just going with our gut and going with our feelings, and I think that we need safety to do that. Yeah, and for those of you who are maybe developing that sense of healthy sexuality, there is gonna be a part of you that maybe, when you let go and let that more carnal, more erotic, more animalistic come forward, the next day or an hour later, you may be like, well that was kind of embarrassing. Like you were saying, we kind of try to repress that, like I’ve evolved beyond my animalistic instincts, and I think that’s ok like if you’re talking that out with a partner and saying, hey that was kind of embarrassing to me, like now that I’m thinking about it with the lights on and going about my day, I’m thinking back to sounds I made or things that I said or ways that my body moved and I’m like what? And I think just hopefully you have a healthy partner who’s like that’s ok, and I felt that way too, and moving through the shame to really embrace all of the parts of yourself.
Which kind of moves into the next point—healthy sex should be mutually respectful and honoring. And the flip side of that is to take advantage of others or to manipulate and control the sex, but if sex is mutually respectful and honoring and we’re kind of leaning into this animalistic space or more emotional space or more impulsive space, however you want to describe that, there is some letting go of that control and respecting each other and honoring each other in that space while you’re still trying to figure out yourself. Which goes with the next one because unhealthy sex really kind of compromises one’s integrity, whereas healthy sexuality reinforces this congruent sense of self. If you’re maybe shifting some things or trying to do things different or learn about healthy sexuality, a lot of the things that you’ve been taught about your integrity or what you need to do to have integrity is gonna move back to those shame-based messages you got about sexuality, so a lot of these things are going to play off of each other and build with each other, and being in this relationship that we’ve talked about, which is respectful and honoring, that does not compromise your integrity, and embracing those parts of yourself that maybe don’t get out to play very often also does not compromise your integrity.
Right, I think the other piece for me in that whole thing is like, I mean we could talk about the value of integrity forever, but a lot of times we’re taught that integrity is being like honest with the world, which really integrity is actually being honest with the self. It’s living in congruency with ourselves, and so I just love that idea of when we lose some of that integrity with ourselves, when we lose some of that idea of living in congruency with ourselves, we’ve talked about and really touched on before sexuality is an integral part of our core self. It’s part of who we are at a core level, at a very base of who we are, and so when we compromise that, we really miss some of those great senses of what is very unique to us in sex, and I think that healthy sex allows us to do that.
Well and I often talk about like confidence or self-esteem, I’ll say really that is a knowing and an accepting of the self, and that can show up hopefully both outside of the bedroom or outside of where I’m sexual and also in my sexual encounters, in my sexual experiences, and so if I have this sense of self that’s congruent and I know who I am, I’m comfortable with who I am, I can embrace who I am, then that’s going to give me a sense of confidence or that will add to my self-esteem because I know who I am and I’m ok with that. Yeah, absolutely.
And one of the things I think moving into the next point, this is the fourth point, is that healthy sexuality recognizes vulnerability as the road to intimacy and eroticism. So whereas the flip side of that is oftentimes people confuse intensity for intimacy. So in healthy sexuality, there is going to be this vulnerability that leads to this intimacy, and I tell people a lot, like when somebody sees us at our best, we don’t have a problem with intimacy, and often that’s what we want with intimacy. I want people to know all the great things about me, but real intimacy is also like they know my areas of development that I still am working on. They know the parts of me that I might feel a little bit uncomfortable with or I’m not quite sure about myself. They know the challenges that I’m dealing with. All of that is really that vulnerability and intimacy, and I think that we’ve talked about this in other episodes, that’s kind of the area that’s going to lead to that eroticism or that novelty or that arousal because we see this person continuing to develop and grow.
I love that idea. And this really goes back to… We use a tool called the courtship inventory, which I’ve used a lot in therapy, and you and I have talked about how I’ve used it a lot in therapy, but I love the fact that that breaks down like there’s a buildup to physical sex, and it is about going from not being vulnerable at all to being very vulnerable, and there are steps and levels to that, and I think oftentimes in unhealthy sex we will use the act of sex itself to create vulnerability and intimacy, which is that intensity piece, like we’ll fix a fight with sex or if something’s off, we’ll kind of demand that that take place so that it creates a Band-Aid, but the other side of that that idea of the more vulnerable we’re able to get, the more intimacy and eroticism shows up, and that is extremely powerful. It’s literally like you’re taking the layers off from the day. What you defend with with the world, you step into this space where you don’t have to defend or you don’t have to be ready for a fight or you don’t have to worry about what happens when you’re seen, and that develops from there.
Yeah, which I think for all of us who have this sexual shame where we grew up with some messages about sexuality that have gotten in the way of having healthy sexual attitudes and healthy sexual experiences. I think healthy sexuality allows for that exploration. It allows for this sexual meaning making, that I can make meaning out of my sexuality, and I can actually re-wire the brain. There’s been some great research done where people who identify as sex addiction or pornography addiction, as they move more into healthy sexuality, there is a re-wiring of the brain and how the brain uses and approaches sexuality.
Yeah, I mean I think that… Well and you know I’m a person that uses growth analogies all the time, but I think about plants and how when they’re growing and changing and developing, they will actually shift their root system to find water, or like if a soil is bad, they will try to shift away from the soil and re-root themselves, and I often think of the neurons in our brain kind of like that root system. The more that we reinforce really positive and beautiful and structured things, we get that re-wiring. We’ll move away from the negative or the things that are harmful or damaging, and I think that the more we can lean into that exploration and really like vulnerable connection and it be good and positive, the less likely we are to kind of fall into that shame cycle of sex being damaging and harmful and scary.
Right, or we also know that sometimes this unhealthy sexuality can be a reenactment of trauma, and not just sexual trauma. Obviously that’s more obvious that sexual behaviors can reenact sexual trauma, but it can also reenact other types of trauma that are not necessarily sexual in nature, and we’ll talk about this in a minute. It gets to the power and control issues or the helplessness and the lack of power somebody felt that… you know sex can be really powerful, so when you’re approaching sex from this wounded place, often what ends up happening is it doesn’t actually heal the previous trauma. It’s just kind of a flip side of the trauma and we’re just reenacting it either from the same perspective, kind of trying to get a different outcome, or from the other side of what happened to us, but really what’s happening is it’s just kind of cementing these arousal patterns in the brain and reinforcing this idea that sexuality is not safe.
Right, well and I think you… I’m 99% sure I have listened to a previous episode of yours where you talk about trauma reenacted in the brain and how that shows up, and that’s no different for sexuality. That’s a huge piece in that, and so when we’re starting to recognize what is trauma reenactment, we recognize what is healthy and vulnerable vs. some kind of trauma play, then our brain starts to also heal that trauma that shows up for us, which I think is incredibly powerful. That’s powerful medicine, right?
Yeah, I think when we’re in this trauma state where we don’t have a feeling of safety and security around sexuality, what happens is there’s going to be a level of unhealthy disassociation vs. healthy sexuality. Healthy sexuality requires a person to experience the feelings in their body and show up. I have to be present with what’s going on, and otherwise I’m kind of disassociated and I’m going through things but I’m not fully present and I really couldn’t tell you what was happening in my body.
Right, and I mean you and I both experience this so many times where like clients will talk about checking out and just not even being in their body when sex is happening or going to fantasy or really maneuvering. Clients who create lists of what needs to be done the next day while they’re having sex or like the anxiety of what they could be doing if they weren’t taking this time. That is such a huge piece of unhealthy sexuality that we see a lot, and there really is a lot to say about being able to stay present with your partner, not going to fantasy, stay in your body and feel what you’re needing to feel. Also I think that’s where we learn what we like and what we don’t like and what feels good to us, what we can lean into. I think that also really adds to that sense of self and being able to kind of give to the eroticism or the animal nature that we were talking about at first. You can’t live in that space if you’re not there to do that, and I think keeping people in their body around sex is a huge part of what we do in trying to get healthy sexuality going.
The other thing is if I’m disassociated, if I’m not staying in my body, I can’t show up relationally, and I think healthy sex demands that we experience the present like we’ve talked about, and that we stay relational. I’ve had clients before where sometimes when they’re describing how they approach sexuality, I mean and I can be pretty direct in therapy sessions. I know you can be pretty direct in therapy sessions. Yes. So for the listeners who don’t necessarily know us in our sessions, we also spend a lot of time developing this trusting, safe relationship with clients so that we can be pretty direct and we can ask some pretty vulnerable questions without putting them in a shame cycle or damaging this therapeutic relationship. So one of the questions I’ll sometimes ask clients when they’re talking about how they approach sex or what sex looks like or means to them, I’ll say to them, help me understand why another person is necessary for this. How does another person change what you just described to me? Because what I’m hearing from you… maybe it’s nice to have another person there or that’s your preference, but they’re not necessarily part of this for you, and I think healthy sexuality really demands that we are relational.
Yeah, and there’s such a huge piece of that for me that like… because the flip side of that is people check out of sexuality so much that’s the anorexia piece. They don’t need it at all. They’ve toned it down and disassociated so much to the point that they just don’t need sex. But they really do. That is a really connecting and meaningful part of bigger relationships, but they don’t know how to turn that on or get that back or whatever, so I do a lot of work with clients around meditation actually. I think meditation is huge and paying attention to the feelings in the body and the experiences in the body, which I feel like that’s one of those really mundane tools that literally you can plug and play everywhere. If you need to get in touch with your body, do some meditation.
I do think we have this sense in our society, and maybe it’s always been there, where we avoid feelings at all costs. Yes. And healthy sexuality requires us to feel deeply. Yes. And I can’t just feel deeply sexually if I’m not feeling in the rest of my life, so yeah, I’m going to have to feel things at a deep level in order for that sexual part of myself to be developed. We talked about before I hit record the quote that Patrick Carnes, I don’t know, I couldn’t find it in one of his books I think, but he says this in the trainings or different things like that I’ve heard him say that sexuality is the deepest expression of the self. Not the most important. He doesn’t think that, but it’s the deepest expression of the self, and so when we’re talking about sexual anorexia, that’s a bigger issue than just the sexual. I’m going to be sexually anorexic, there’s part of this that I’m going to avoid a lot of feelings because my feelings may lead to some sexual feelings. I might feel aroused. I might feel connected. I might feel things deeply, and healthy sexuality requires us to do that.
Right, and that really… I was trying to think too even as we were talking because we did talk about that quote earlier, I know I’ve heard him talk about that in trainings, so it’s something that he has said. I don’t know if he’s actually written it down because Patrick Carnes has said a lot of things that he says he’s gonna write down. He has a lot of books written in his head. In his head, yeah. They’re not on paper yet. So yeah, I think that’s… but I think that’s such a beautiful idea that it’s the deepest expression of self. There’s a lot of stuff that we kind of layer on top of that because I think that human beings are incredibly complex and we’re not just our sex drive. We’re not just our sexuality, but I think that when you are really in touch with your sexuality and you know who you are and you’re in a healthy place, that is a very vulnerable, very true piece of who you are. I mean that’s such a beautiful thing. It also plays into what Brené Brown says about her research is that we can’t selectively numb, that if we numb one emotion or one feeling, we’re numbing everything, so if you’re trying to numb the bad, if you’re trying to numb the pain, if you’re trying to numb the sadness or the grief or whatever, you’re also numbing joy and exhilaration and happiness, and both of those, the darker emotions, heavier sort of emotions and the ones that are lighter and more content play into who we are as sexual beings, and so if we’re numbing that, you can’t be a fully healthy sexual being and be emotionally numb.
Right, which I think also goes to another one of the points that Patrick and Alex make talking about healthy sexuality is that it relies on self-love and self-nurturance. One of the things I hear for so many women, sex addicts or partners or just women who are coming in to work on other issues, is this self-loathing that they feel about themselves, about the body. I hear it differently from my male clients, but it’s also there, this self-loathing or this feeling of themselves being self-destructive instead of them embracing their power. They feel like they’re destructive with their power, so sexual health really comes from this place of self-love and acceptance and nurturing. Yeah, and even in that, like I don’t know that we’re a culture that does a lot of self-love and nurturance. Well no because we’re always chasing this will make me better or thinner or prettier or firming or toner, right? I mean, we’re always chasing something to make ourselves look better, so there’s not really this place of acceptance or self-love, and how do I nurture that?
Right, I mean it’s one of those things where I don’t know that you can have a society build on consumerism that is literally built on you need this because really we don’t need as much as we think we do, and the things that we do think we need, we usually abandon for the thing… I mean the things that we actually need, we usually abandon for the things we think we need, which is connection and friendships and community and all of that, which we are really good at avoiding with screens honestly and other things.
One of the things I want to talk about because this client I was talking to, one of his questions was, and he’s male, so he said like, I have question about how this works for females. He’s like, I’m gonna ask you because I feel safe asking you as a female, and so he said like, you know there’s this idea of like patriarchal, what the expectations are for women and beauty, so he said to me, I wear makeup, and he’s like, you dress fashionably and you wear makeup. I’m assuming you don’t do that for others, right? There’s part of you that does that for yourself, but like how does that look or where is that? What is appropriate or what’s kind of that patriarchal appropriation for females vs. what’s normal? And I did tell him, I said, I’ve thought about this, and I mean, sometimes there’s things that I’ve thought about this where I don’t know because I grew up in a patriarchal culture, so I don’t know, but I did tell him, I said, right, I don’t know that for women to love themselves or to be nurturing and accepting of who they are that that means they don’t wear makeup or they don’t necessarily… I mean, female fashion tends to show our bodies a little bit more than males, although that’s somewhat moving a little bit. I said I don’t… I think a lot of this has to do with the relationship or the experience we have with ourselves, so it doesn’t mean I need to be that granola-looking. It doesn’t mean that’s not acceptable. I think that is determined on what’s going on inside and the relationship that the person has with themselves.
Right, and I would say that… I mean this is a hard line for me to kind of walk to, and I have struggled with that because I do have some really granola kind of friends. They call themselves granolas so I don’t feel like that’s insulating. But they’re very natural. They don’t wear makeup. They don’t try to live in society norms for women’s beauty, which I think is super cool, but we’ve had conversations where there can be some shaming because I do, and then… but there’s this other extreme of people that I know that like literally alter so much of their body, they don’t even look like the person they were born either in order to fit the societal norms, and I don’t know where the line… I think that line of healthy really falls for the person and you’ve got to figure that out for yourself because regardless of the flaws of society, it is the society we live in. It is the society that we are washed in. It is the society that we breed. Do I think it could completely change? Absolutely. Do I think other cultures look completely different? Absolutely. But I also think you gotta figure out what feels comfortable for you and that’s some of that sense of self, right? Because there’s the other extreme. I don’t think sex is binary, and I have friends who identify as gender queer, and watching them in this process, they wear makeup and they’re males or they wear trucker clothes and they’re females, and there’s some of this like mixing of the genders that happens with them specifically that they have created their own sort of comfortable. I don’t know that… think it’s bad to shift up the binary that we have had or that we’d like to believe that we have. So I’m trying to think about what this would mean in terms of like self-love and nurturance because that’s really kind of where we started with this, and truthfully, I don’t feel great about myself if I don’t get up and get ready every day, and I don’t know if that’s just a part of my routine and I’m used to that and it feels comfortable and I like the world to see me in a certain way. That’s just part of the self-care that I’ve built in, like if I had a different version of self-care, if I had a different version of getting ready, that would probably be different for me.
Yeah, well and I remember, I was probably 14 years old and we were camping as a family, and I remember getting up one day, and I brushed my teeth that morning and I had gotten dressed and whatever, and I came out and was helping my mom cook breakfast, and my mom said to me, “How come you didn’t put on makeup?” And I was like, “I didn’t even bring makeup.” And she was like, “Why wouldn’t you bring makeup?” And I was like, “Umm because I’m camping. I’m also not washing my hair.” I was just like, “Because I’m camping.” And she was like, “I brought my makeup.” My mom put on makeup every day of her life, and I was a little like, yeah, no, I can go without makeup. I can go to the store without makeup. My professional, put-together self usually has makeup, and on Saturdays I have some variation of makeup even, but I can go without it, and I think each generation of females is moving a little bit more toward maybe a balance or kind of more of an internal decision-making process instead of this eternal, here’s the expectations and you need to look a certain way to be acceptable.
Yeah. I remember one time… my mom was the same way. She always wore makeup, and honestly I… my society growing up, it might… the culture of women in the South was very much like you’re strong, but you’re also put-together. Women weren’t really allowed to unravel, and if we did, we did that in the safety of women. We didn’t do that around men. And I remember, and I cannot remember if it was my mother or my aunt, but I remember them referring to makeup as “war paint.” It is the armor we put on every morning so that we can hold it together. I actually think that was around a funeral to be honest. But like I remember that very distinctly, and I don’t remember who said it or where it came from, but I remember that like this is what we do. This is our armor. And I think that going back to the vulnerability and taking the layers off so your partner can see you, that’s some of it for women. I think especially if you’re used to having makeup on all the time, can your partner see you without makeup? Can you move into that space? Can you take off that layer?
Right, because healthy sexuality does demand, again this truth and authenticity like we’ve been talking about, right? Right, yeah. Which again is… I mean culturally right now we have a song like “I woke up like this.” And I think Beyoncé sings it, and it’s kind of a joke, right? Because no one wakes up like that. Even Beyoncé doesn’t wake up like Beyoncé. It takes a minute for her to get it pulled together, but that is kind of a thing. This is just my natural way that I look. This is the natural way that I get up. Maybe if you’re sleeping on needles and not rolling over in the night. Or I mean, I’ve had clients who are the generation older than I am, and they got up like an hour before their husband and went to bed after. They’d get in the bed with makeup, hair done, everything, then they’d get up after he’d fallen asleep, kind of get themselves comfortable, and then get up before him so that he did think that’s the way that you woke up. That’s the way you always look. You go to bed looking like that. You get up looking like that. Yeah, there’s actually an episode of Grace and Frankie where Jane Fonda’s character does that. She gets up and puts on false eyelashes and brushes her teeth, and I was just like that’s a lot of work. I like to sleep in in the morning! Right. Yeah. I do nothing before coffee.
So I think the other thing about sexual health is it’s joyous. It celebrates life. It celebrates partnership and really gets us into that spirituality part of ourselves, right? Not necessarily the religious part of ourselves, but the spiritual part of ourselves where I’m showing up and I’m allowing another person to see the soul and the spirit of who I am. I’m kind of restrained or unstructured. Well, and I love the idea of sexuality and spirituality being wrapped up and even sexuality being a form of spirituality because most religions in their inception held that, like when we look at Judaism and really like ancient Hebrew belief systems, and even early Christianity, sex was a sacred act of worship. Now I think that looks very different now, like our very puritanical sacred act of worship looks very different than it did and all of that was patriarchal structures and probably not super healthy either, but that idea of giving something that you wouldn’t normally give, bringing something to the table that opens you up, that is expansive, that allows whatever your higher self is or higher whatever in, not in a creepy way because I think that can get super creepy, but even if it’s just the higher version of yourself, the better parts of who you are and letting that shift and move and teach you, I think that’s beautiful, right? Some of the most spiritual experiences that I have that are non-sexual are usually like after a really nice hike when… and I didn’t grow up around mountains like the Rockies where we live now, and there is something about coming around the bend and just seeing all of the valley below you and that being the precipice of your hike. That’s an experience that gets you connected, and I think that’s what spirituality is ultimately, it’s connecting with something.
Yes, well and I think also spirituality gives live meaning. I think that’s the essence of spirituality is it’s this meaning-making thing, and when I ask clients like, what meaning do you make of your sexual experiences or how does you sexual side open up this pathway to your spirituality? I’ve had several male clients who were like, “I don’t even know that question. I don’t even know what you’re saying.” I had one client who was like, “I don’t know what you’re saying. I like what you’re saying, but I don’t even think I’m capable of understanding it,” and I was like, “Ok, well let’s talk about that. Let’s get it so that you are able to look at your sexuality from that perspective instead of just looking at it from what the porn industry has decided to sell you. Right, which again is that like consumerism kind of drive, right? If we always need something more to fulfill us, we can’t be satisfied with self, and I love… so I’m gonna merge two authors right now. Rob Bell talks about everything is spiritual, and he has people on his podcast from like yogis to artists to writers to scientists, and he always breaks down the spiritual component of that and what that looks like even if it’s kind of minute, like sometimes he doesn’t focus on the spiritual much at all, but taking that concept and what Mary Roach says in the book “Bonk”, which if you haven’t read that book, it’s great. I love Mary Roach. You said Bonk? B-O-N-K? Bonk, yeah. It’s the science of human coupling, and one of the things… it’s like, I can’t remember if it’s a footnote or a side note. She does a lot of random notes in the book, but one of the things that she says is there’s actually no reason for humans to have sex biologically because we have created capacity for our world and other animals will stop breeding if they’re at capacity. They kind of know that so they’ll just kind of take a pause or figure that out. We don’t do that, and she basically is saying if that’s true, then there has to be another component to sex, and it has to be pleasure. It has to be spiritual. It has to be about the connecting relationship piece that we don’t necessarily find in most other species of animals, which I think is fascinating, right?
I love that whole term “conscious coupling” because it is about this… I think so often the way sex shows up in society is either kind of in this binary, right? It’s either bad and we don’t talk about it or it’s kind of in your face, but not really conscious. It’s not really meaningful. It’s not necessarily deep or anything, right? So this conscious coupling, like getting into relationships and all that entails and doing so consciously. Why am I in this relationship? Why do I continue to be in this relationship?
Yeah, I mean, and that’s… there’s just so much of that. I love just the science behind why we couple, why we choose who we choose, why we stay together for long periods of time. There’s really some beautiful things that come out of that are incredible. But you have to be connected to yourself and be trying to grow and confront yourself. Otherwise the relationship reaches a point in which you can’t go past that, right? I mean, that might be 2 years into the relationship, and then we’re like, oh, like, human beings aren’t meant to be monogamous, right? One person can’t meet all of my needs. I think that has a lot more to do with you as a person being uncomfortable with your own needs and allowing another person to see those… you know, not being able to be monogamous.
I think that also goes to the healthy sexuality piece of like you have to demand truth and authenticity in yourself. You have to be authentic. You have to show up authentically. You have to know what is congruent in yourself, and you have to be able to kind of balance this idea of being kind and being aware of the other person and take risk and put yourself out there and living in kind of that congruency of growing and developing and struggling and being willing to do that with a partner, and I think that… I mean I tell people all the time, we’re organic beings. If we’re not growing we’re dying because that’s just how the world works. We watch that in animals. We watch that in plants. We watch that in literally everything around us, and if we are not growing and developing and providing fruit, then we’re dying, then we’re in a stage in which we are cutting things off and pulling things in, and sometimes that stage lasts for decades, and it shouldn’t.
Well and I love some of the research, I never can say this author’s name. He wrote “Flow”, the book “Flow.” Oh yeah, I can’t say it unless I’m looking at it, so… Right, and other research is kind of saying this idea of aging that we’ve had is actually not accurate and that for people in their, let’s say their late-30s, early 40s, we kind of hit a flow in life in which I don’t necessarily… like I’m not maybe climbing my career ladder. Maybe I’ve arrived. I’m not necessarily going to school to better myself. I don’t, I rarely go barefoot on uneven textures. If we do go barefoot, it’s maybe in our house, which that flooring is very purposeful, and so all of this idea of you use it or lose it, that they’re saying aging actually happens because we hit a comfortable place in our life kind of in our 40s or we’re comfortable enough that I stop using things and I stop losing those things, I start to lose those things.
That reminds me of the woman who’s like 105 and still a gymnast or dancer or whatever. She’s never stopped, and everyone’s so amazed, but really that’s what you’re talking about. She never stopped. She never gave up on those things. She’s continued to learn new skills. She’s continued to learn new dances, and there’s a lot… I mean we talk about synaptic pruning in college. In psychology we talk about that that our brain starts to go through synaptic pruning at like 11 or 12 where all the stuff we learn in childhood that it decides we just don’t need, it lops off. Why wouldn’t our brain continue to do that? We defrag our computers. We have to make space for new things in our houses, in our lives. Why wouldn’t our brain need to do that? I think there is a lot around that risk-taking or trying to figure life out and continuing to grow and push and question. Now that is my default setting. I’m coming to understand that’s a lot harder for other people because if I get comfortable or if I get in a flow, I am quickly trying to get out of it. I need to… I have to know more. I have to read another book or I have to take on a new skill. I try to learn something new or do something new that I’ve never done before every year. A couple of years ago, that was golfing. I was terrible at it, but it was a lot of fun because I’d never done it. But I think… that’s the other thing that kind of shows up. I think it’s actually one of the unhealthy traits. I’m actually reading through it. Yeah, like it’s rigid or routine. Unhealthy sexuality is rigid or routine. If you’re not exploring sexually, you should be. You can fall into a rut around your sexuality. That’s not healthy. Right, and that’s some of that like putting yourself out there and trying different things, initiating when you don’t usually, which is also around the risk taking and being vulnerable and willingness to feel deeply. You’re gonna have to reach to your partner. If your partner is always the one that reaches and is like, “Hey, we need to have sex” or “I want to have sex” or “I want to connect with you” and you’re scared to do that, that speaks to you not being willing to be vulnerable with your partner, and I get that that’s scary.
Well and I think a lot of women leave that to the man, and I get that it has a lot of the messaging, like if they aren’t pursuing sex or if they’re saying, hey I have this sexual desire, what does that say about them as a female? But again, you’re not risk taking, and healthy sexuality does involve some risk taking, right? Not compromising safety risks, but doing things differently, exploring, being vulnerable, saying something, letting a need be shown that you usually kind of tuck away. Those are all risk taking that increases sexual health.
Right, and maybe even when we… I’m talking about this from kind of a moving into a healthy sexuality space, so when we have created some of that safety, maybe sharing our fantasies, right? I think being able to be seen by the things that do turn you on or are gratifying to you, where you go when you’re by yourself. Sharing that with a partner can be powerful and incredibly connecting and very vulnerable.
Yeah, ok so anything else before we wrap up? I have a couple of maybe this is what… if you’re like ok that sounds good, where do I even start? I think you gotta talk to somebody, so even if that’s in, like talking to your partner or a therapist or a trusted friend of how do I… this is new to me and super scary and I don’t know how to even start, maybe… And let’s be honest, not all therapists are comfortable going here with their clients. Yeah, and I would say that too. I get that a lot from clients who have seen other therapists before of like their therapist would never even talk about this. Yeah, or I brought up one piece of it and the therapist didn’t pick it up, so I never brought it up again. Yeah. So again, creating some kind of safety and like putting some feelers out there of like how do I talk about this? When do I talk about this? What does that look like? I would definitely say in terms of getting in touch with your body, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, those kinds of things are very practical. They’re also very pop culture right now. You can find videos on YouTube on how to meditate and how to do yoga and mindfulness exercises, so I think those things are very simplistic in nature, but they do help us come back to our body. Talking to your partner in sex I think can be huge, like how does this feel? Is this ok? Are you good? Laughing in sex I think can be a big thing, and so there’s some of that like just putting some of those little things into practice that can make a big impact, but I would say like if this is a place that you’re trying to go and you’re kind of spinning your wheels, I would do some therapist interviews and see who is willing to go there. How do we do this? Where do we go? What does that look like? Yeah, so those are kind of my off-the-top-of-my-head, if you’re trying to figure out, okay, yeah, these all sound good, where do I go now? I like that, and I think they’re going to be these small, incremental steps that actually, when you look back, you’re like, wow, I’m in a different place with my sexual feelings, my sexual attitudes, and my sexual experiences. Yeah, I would also.. I mean there’s a couple of books that we mentioned today that I would definitely kind of lean into, like the “Erotic Intelligence,” which is more written for addicts, but I think that… moving into healthy sexuality, but if… Well, and that, I mean, that author, Alex Katehakis, she’s a colleague of ours, she also has a book called “Mirror of Intimacy”, which is so good. Yeah, I think it’s so good for couples to do. It’s kind of a daily thing that you read. It may take 10 minutes and it kind of bookends your day so you have some things to do in the evening. Part of that is talking about these things. So that’s great. It’s on Amazon. “Mirror of Intimacy.” That’s a great resource for both males and females in a relationship together. Yeah, and also the book is just beautiful. If you buy the actual physical copy, it’s just a beautiful book, and I love beautiful books, so that’s a thing. But like yeah, I have clients read the descriptor in the morning and then take the day to really think about it and kind of flush that out and talk about the questions and things at night, which I think is kind of a beautiful, intentional way to get into this, and she really does… it’s 365 excerpts or readings and things, so she covers way more than we’ve covered in our podcasts. I love that book. I think it’s beautiful. I also think that Brené Brown’s work, if you’re willing to take it to a sexual space and look at sexual change specifically, around some of her writings are really, really powerful, and so I would even go there. So those are the couple that I would start with. Yeah, I think those are some great resources. Yeah, okay. Alright, well this was fun! We should do this again. It was fun.
At the end of this episode, I want to remind you that your story matters. Remember there’s something meaningful in every chapter. Don’t wait to share your story until it’s finished. Until next time, Jackie.