Sexuality, guilt and anxiety
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Simon Parritt C.Psychol, AFBPsS, MSc, BSc(Hon), MBACP
1st June, 20140 Comments
“If sexuality is one dimension of our ability to live passionately in the world then in cutting off our sexual feelings we diminish our overall power to feel, know and value deeply.” Judith Plaskow.
We live in confusing times. Sex and sexualisation surrounds us. But many of us still find it difficult to come to terms with our own sexuality and sexual interests, let alone other people's. This gives rise to problems with guilt, anxiety and worry and this applies as much to those in long term relationships as those who are not.
What ‘turns us on’ and what we find erotic is one of the most personal and private aspects of what defines us as individuals as well as what makes us human beings. It is powerful and for most people, an ever present part of our lives. Whilst hormones play a part, it is far from all about hormones. Life experiences, beliefs and attitudes all contribute to the complex and uniqueness of each person and their sexuality. Our health and physical state play a part just as our age does, though perhaps less than many assume.
However unique we are, we share with one another so much of the basic physiological drives. It never ceases to amaze and fascinate me how this core, and essentially enjoyable and exciting part of ourselves, can cause so much embarrassment, guilt, fear and shame, not to mention disappointment, distress, conflict and worry. This is never more evident as when we begin to share our sexual, emotional and physical desires with others.
Misconceptions and prejudices
As a counselling psychologist and psychosexual therapist, it is my desire to help people become more comfortable with their feelings, and to examine and question some of the misconceptions and prejudices that have shaped their beliefs -not just about the actual physiology of human sexuality and behaviour, but also about their own sexuality and sexual preferences as well as their partners. Occasionally terrible events in the past or early moral teachings and parental messages have changed and damaged how people relate to their own and others’ bodies, sexuality and identity.
Emotional or psychological hurt or damage should never be a part of the way we experience, express or behave towards ourselves or others in the pursuit of our desires. The truth is however, that sexuality in its many forms and expressions, has the possibility of delivering some of the most powerful positive and life enhancing experiences a person can enjoy. This isn’t just, or even necessarily, about intercourse or being in the perfect or traditional relationship. It is nearly always also in spite of age, disability, gender or identity. It is universal and can be enjoyed with others or alone or in just ‘being’.
“Our basic relationship to sex mirrors our whole relationship to life.” Swami Dhyan Giten.
Past events and present conflicts
So why does sexuality cause such distress, conflict and sadness? I ask myself this so often when a client walks in the door and declares their worries, fears or shares some aspect of their sexuality. For me, having worked in this field for over 30 years, almost nothing surprises me. So often, redundant or past relationship problems prevent us being able to celebrate and enjoy ourselves as full and rounded individuals.
Being able to experience our sexual identity, enjoy and share our desires with others as an acceptable and important part of our lives can underpin self-esteem and the enjoyment of living. It should not be hidden in shame or distress and should not be unfulfilled and associated with negativity, disappointment or unwanted pain.
Why psychosexual therapy?
Psychosexual therapy is no panacea and is not for all but it is not just ‘relationship therapy’ though this is sometimes a strong element. It is, in those qualified specifically in this area, so much more. It is one option whether you are in a relationship or not, where you can feel safe and free to explore and examine critically and confidentially with someone experienced and knowledgeable. This is not just about the emotional and psychological aspects of how you feel, but also talking with someone who understands the physiological aspects of sexuality and desire across the lifespan, across different gender identities, sexual preferences, choices and lifestyles.
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