Updated: Jan 2
I am part of the problem of how culture handles problems of intimacy and sexuality. So while problems, of intimacy and sexuality, are common, traditionally they have been set apart from other human activities. As if they could not be resolved. This is despite the recent advances in how culture represents intimacy and sexuality. I too have avoided talking about, the existence and resolution of problems with intimacy and sexuality. My experience is unsurprisingly personal and emotional. My mistakes of intimacy, and sexuality, have included avoidance, betrayal, intrusion and holding other people responsible for my feelings. The best apology, I can provide, is not to repeat my mistakes.
My feelings, whilst writing this blog, included anxiety about the consequences for me, and for others, of sharing my history of these problems. Relief that I now practise healthy human intimacy and sexuality and sadness in remembering my mistakes. Feelings that communicated the importance, to me, of healthy intimacy, and sexuality. Also that it was necessary for me to be part of a change. So this article ends my avoidance, be limited to my experiences and takes responsibility for my actions. I begin with the mistakes, of intimacy and sexuality, we can make when our emotions feel unbearable.
What do we do when our emotions feel unbearable?
How much of our emotion we can bear seems to affect how much of another person's emotion we can bear. This ability is significant. Intimacy, and sexuality, can create healthy or unhealthy containers for our excess emotions. In other words effective or problematic, ways to regulate our emotions. Emotions which may not feel entirely containable by ourselves, language, conflict or other objects. So if we can tolerate enough of our emotions, we will not have to retreat into fantasy, or acting out, with another person during experiences of intimacy and sexuality.
At different times, in my life, I felt too happy, anxious, sad and/or angry. Feelings which I experienced as unbearable. One mistake I made in these situations was to intrude into someone else's experience with my experience. When someone puts too much of their unregulated emotion on someone else it can be distressing for the recipient. As Oscar Wilde said ‘Everything is about sex apart from sex. Sex is about power.’ Highlighting the potential for causing distress in others, through our use of intimacy, and sexuality, to manage our emotions. Similar mistakes, of intimacy and sexuality, can also occur when we disconnect too much from our and/or other peoples emotions.
What do we do when we disconnect from our and/or other people’s emotions?
'Who has done that? Why did I do that? Why didn't I do that?'
These questions occurred to me when I made mistakes, of intimacy and sexuality, without it seeming a conscious decision. My actions can be understood as, partially, the result of a dissociation. Dissociation is when we disconnect from part of our immediate environment. In this way dissociation can provide an escape, when it feels like there is no other escape. Dissociation may be driven by a desire to escape from feelings or memories. Feelings, or memories, we may not want to identify with. One example, for me, was when I felt helpless. With reflection, feeling this way seemed to lead me to act in ways, intimately and sexually, that normally I did not want to. However sometimes I still did so, perhaps to stop feeling so helpless.
Another way we can make mistakes, in matters of intimacy and sexuality, is by separating of our attachments to people, from our sexuality. Perhaps, to preserve an attachment we are scared of losing. In this situation, neither our attachments nor our experiences of sexuality may feel sufficient. Our attachments and sexuality stop interacting with each other. So requiring more, and more, attachments, or sexual experiences, to feel sufficient to us. I have learnt to be are aware of both histories within me. This allows me to consistently act as I normally wish.
Through further reflection, psychological therapy and relationships I have learnt that healthy intimacy and sexuality, can occur through play, talking and restraint. Marking a safe enough relationship by negotiating boundaries. Reflecting on the fear of excess emotion together. Being present without overwhelming each other. Acknowledging, and apologising for, inevitable small mistakes which come from the temporary overwhelming of our mind by experience. In summary, with thought and practice, we can provide ways for each other to tolerate seemingly unbearable feelings, through intimacy and sexuality, without violating each others boundaries.
Reflecting on my experience of intimacy and sexuality was both difficult and rewarding for me. I hope I have provided a useful insight into, one person's experience in, handling these tasks of maturation. It has been my experience that reflecting upon and talking about, these issues thoughtfully, can allow us to behave in ways which are more healthy for both parties. Enabling a move towards an integration of our intimate/non intimate and sexual/nonsexual experiences. Thank you for sharing my experience and I am curious about yours?
Benjamin, J., (2017). 'Another take on the riddle of sex,' in Beyond the doer and the done too., (chp 4,) Routeledge.