Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Body As A Bodyguard to Intimacy

Have you ever wanted to get close to someone and then realized that your body won't let you do it?
You get a weird feeling, feel sick or shut down. You like everything you see and hear but your body doesn't go there with you. Something else is calling you away from the person in front of you.

Of course, for the most part it's good to listen to these instincts. When we learn to listen, our bodies can show us truths we might not want to hear with our conscious mind. But what if your body is simply defending itself based on old patterns and beliefs? What if the body is putting up its defenses and you don't need or want it to anymore?

This often happens when we've been through past traumatic events or if something makes it hard for us to get close to people. A client recently admitted that although consciously he says he's thrilled to be in relationship with his current partner, his body's repeated inability to sustain an erection seems to be saying something else. As we move into exploring the body's message for him, we realize that his past history--and a particularly damaging and abusive former relationship--means part of him may feel he needs protection every time he lets his guard down. As he begins to open up emotionally, his body has put up a different kind of road block for him.

From the standpoint of the body relationship, what do we do if our conscious mind and our body don't seem to be on the same page? We get curious. As Joe and I work with his experience, we realize that he needs to let his body know somehow that it's safe for him to be vulnerable and aroused; that he's now capable of taking care of himself emotionally and that he chooses to be present and open in his current relationship, even if that openness was unwarranted in the past.

I suggest that perhaps Joe write a letter to his body, letting it know how he feels and that it's okay to take away the sexual obstacles to intimacy. (Of course I also suggest that Joe get a medical check-up to see if there's anything else going on!) He's mature enough to handle what's happening and he appreciates the body's attempts to keep him safe by avoiding sexual intimacy. I then suggest that Joe let his body know how he'd like to be experiencing sex and create a vision of himself being able to have sex with his partner and enjoy it, fully embracing both the power and vulnerability of that act, giving his body a map of what he'd prefer to be experiencing instead.

The same process is important for any disconnect we go through with our bodies, but I think it's particularly poignant with sexual issues. Our body is the boundary with which we meet the world, and it is possible for it to react to protect us if it doesn't know it's okay not to. Even if we think we're 'over' something and ready to handle the intensity of sexual intimacy, our body may be holding on, not believing us, thinking it needs to take charge.

Ask yourself if this is true for you anywhere in your sexual experience. Are there places where your body holds back that you might let it know that it's okay to trust instead? On the other hand, are there any truths your body is trying to tell you that you ignore, but that keep showing up in sexual side effects or shut down? What would happen if you listened instead and tried to discern what's being said?

I'm always amazed at how little most of us use our body as a resource or move through physical challenges without dialogue. If you are struggling with blocks in your body around sexual intimacy, ask yourself if there's anything your body might need to know from you in order to let down its guard. How could you kindly thank it for doing what it thought it needed to do and let it know it can stop and move toward greater openness and receptivity?

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