How to include your sexuality/sexual fantasies and sexual identities in either therapy/counselling, or your own journey of Self-discovery
“Sex lies at the root of life and we can never learn to reverence life until we know how to understand sex.” Henry Havelock Ellis
In a book called Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life (2011), Stanley Siegel, a Psychotherapist and author, suggests that it is unlikely for anyone growing out of childhood, not to have some form of conflict or unmet need. For most of us there is, to varying degrees, pain and unhappiness around these conflicts. Although they may not preoccupy our current thoughts and feelings, they do become part of our inner world and our individual psychology. They also set the stage for how we interact with the world.
At some point during the heightened sexuality of adolescence, we unconsciously tend to eroticise these unmet needs or unresolved conflicts from childhood in a complicated attempt to heal ourselves – we turn early painful experiences into pleasurable ones.
As we grow older, these same conflicts, now loaded with sexual themes and codes, become the root of our sexual fantasies, desires and behaviours. Through our sexuality (including those who evolve an asexual identity), we find the route to gaining mastery over feelings of powerlessness, shame, guilt, fear and loneliness that we otherwise may feel will eventually defeat us.
Most Psychologists agree that sexual desire forms during early adolescence and tends to solidify by young adulthood. People’s attractions are far more varied and original than anybody would really like to admit. The details of these attractions are based on each individual’s unique psychology and family history.
Most people’s erotic desires are part of their hard wiring – and rather than trying to ‘fix’ these issues that may have evolved from early childhood, as many therapists or counsellors would try to do, I believe that these desires won’t fundamentally change after such resolution.
Its much more helpful for people to understand the meaning and purpose of their true desires and identities and honour them rather than suppress them – our (a)sexuality is an integral aspect of our true identity which needs just as much exploration and resolution from earlier wounds, as any other aspect of our sense of self.
Sexuality also stretches back throughout time and history into a communal and collective human unconscious that contains many mythical, archetypal, spiritual and collective human experiences.
This aspect of your journey into self takes a lot of courage and commitment – the path can be rocky and full of intense feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and powerlessness – but the thresholds crossed in this type of self exploration and acceptance act like rites-of-passage and initiation processes into a closer and more authentic integration of our inner and outer worlds. They also act as a framework for finding and living the authentic lives we are meant to live, in total right relation with the people we are meant to be with.
“Sexual attraction is not at all a purely physical event. The Soul is always in search of whatever will complete its desire and our physical eyes are never separate from the eyes of the soul” – Thomas Moore
Below you will find 10 questions to be used as a way of focusing your thoughts on your sexuality/sexual identity and/or any issues/problems/struggles you may have with them (for sexual you can also use asexual for some of the questions, if it works better for you).
Write your answers down for each question. You can either just use it for your own personal self-exploration and understanding, or you could take it to your therapist/counsellor, if you have one, (or someone else who can help you explore these discoveries professionally, safely and ethically with), and ask if you could discuss your sexuality and identity using the information you have uncovered here.
You can provide as much or as little information to each of the questions as you feel you want to/can right now. But if you feel unable or uncomfortable answering any of them, it is useful to note which ones and why they made you feel this way:
- How would you describe your sexual history and identity? What was your first sexual experience, how has this changed or evolved over time and how important is sex to you?
- What is your sexual health history and practice?
- How many sexual or intimate partners do you have currently? What about in the last 12 months? What’s your thoughts/feelings around monogamy/open relationships?
- Do you have sex (or fantasise about having sex) with male, female, transgender or gender fluid partners? What age do they tend to be?
- What sexual fantasies tend to be more prominent for you at present? How do you feel about these fantasies?
- If, in your core fantasies, there is/has been a consistent ‘story’ or ‘personas’ that you find you, or your fantasy partners in, what might be involved?
- What do you feel are the biggest obstacles or conflicts that you have, or that interfere with the authentic and full expression of your deepest sexual desires, fetishes, fantasies or kinks? (all that apply)
- lack of confidence
- fear of discovery
- family, social, moral, religious judgment
- concern of others knowing
- partner(s) doesn’t/do not share my desires
- other, please specify
- What role, if any, do the following play in your sexual life and what are your thoughts/feelings around this?
- social media/dating apps
- Drugs or any other mind-altering substances
- Who do you consider ‘family’ (blood family ‘and/or’ heart family) and who helps you/do you talk with around making (sexual/mental) health decisions?
- Is there anything else you want to mention about your sexual identity or practices, so that you can be as honest and authentic with yourself as you can be, if you are starting this type of journey of discovery?
Sexual fantasies and desires are windows into the deepest levels of our psyche and our sense of ‘self’. It should be at the centre of our discovery of self because it illuminates who we are and who we can become.
If we treat and celebrate sex with the same openness, honesty and respect as we would any other aspect of ourself, we can transfer pain into pleasure, loneliness into connection and fear into joy.
It will be a good guide for you to see how your therapist/counsellor responds to this ‘breaking the ice’ around sexuality, as to whether they are comfortable and honouring enough in their own sexuality to be the right person to help you unpack and explore yours.
Galen Fous: Personal Erotic Myth Survey (PEM Research Survey)
Stanley Siegel (2011): Your Brain on Sex:How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life. Sourcebooks Casablanca (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Brain-Sex-Smarter-Change/dp/1402253923)
Tashra.org: The Clinicians Guide to care of Kinky Patients (http://www.tashra.org/provider-education-)