As always when I run my Sacred Sexuality course, I was blown away by the vulnerability and honesty on the forum on this last round. Where else do we share our deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings around sexuality, the ones we think we’re the only ones having, the ones that cause shame to fester in the dark, damp corners of psyche because they never expose themselves to the healing light of normalization that occurs when we share with others? There are many problems with the Internet, but one of the gifts – especially on private, secure, moderated forums – is that it offers a safe arena where people can begin to tell their stories. And there are few areas of story that need to be told more than around sexuality.
When I read the following post, I felt enlivened and enlightened by the vulnerability. The course member shared her deepest thoughts and her brilliant revelations, and while I know that these are archetypal, universal experiences because I’m privy daily to the inner world of cross-cultural psyches, the response from other members confirmed my knowing.
Whatever you’re thinking, feeling, or experiencing around your sexuality, you are not alone.
Whatever fears or insecurities you struggle with in this most sacred yet traumatized area, you are not alone.
Whether you struggle alone or in a partnership, you are not alone.
Let’s wade into these waters together, guided by the wise words of this course member. (Shared with very grateful permission.)
A New Definition of Desire
“I’m a bit late to this thread but as all of these ideas have been slowly percolating in me over the past few weeks, I was thinking about the idea of “desire”, or the myth of desire, or I guess what I’ve long absorbed from the culture of what desire should look and feel like. This is such a deeply engrained “should” that it’s hard to even dismantle it the tiniest bit, but I think that all of this information and work in the course allowed a tiny crack for me to see it in a slightly different way, and also see how I then use this to make myself feel bad, abnormal, not enough, cut off from myself and my partner.
“As portrayed in the culture/media, I’ve absorbed this idea that desire means a lustful, overwhelming urge to grab and take what you want. The kind of ripping-clothes-off hot sex that happens naturally and instantaneously. Well, I’ve never really felt that. And I’ve spend A LOT of time banging my head against the wall, feeling ashamed and like there must be something wrong with me if I can’t access that, which feeds right into my fears of being an imposter/a fraud, that I’m not really feeling what I should be feeling – which then REALLY feeds my gay spike.
“I have a story in my mind that if I accepted my true sexuality then I would feel the kind of desire I’ve been missing (since I do feel lust with same-sex fantasy, though I’ve never really experienced or wanted to experience it in real life). And then the next part of the story is that I’m afraid to let myself feel good, feel turned on, feel out of control, which is certainly true, but it’s also true that my anxiety doesn’t allow me to experience those things in the present moment, which is another way of keeping them out of reach.
“That is all a long-winded way to get to my new thought about desire. What if it is NOT what I imagine – something that is maybe only truly accessible in fantasy(?) – and instead, healthy/real sexual desire is more akin to how I feel and express desire in other parts of my life. I feel desire to write and create, which I’ve learned to honor more and more, leading me to pursue a career as a writer. I feel desire to tell stories that are deep and heartening. I feel desire to connect with and care for others. I feel desire to be out in nature, among trees and water. I feel desire to eat delicious foods. I feel desire to hike and do yoga. I feel desire to stay openhearted and to love, which can be challenging for me, but I’ve been learning more and more how to work with my periods of shutdown/closed-heartedness.
“I guess what I’m trying to express here is that these are all genuine, healthy desires I have that come from a soulful, body-based place in me. They are not overwhelming or lustful, they are not me grabbing and taking what I want. They are sweet and loving expressions of connection with myself, with a divine source, with others. They are give and take, reciprocity, flow. Could it follow then that true sexual desire may follow a similar roadmap? That it may be less intense/overpowering/automatic than I imagine it is for people who are “doing it right” or are “in touch with their true sexuality”, and more of a human and humble attempt for connection and for love?
“Desire has long been a spiky word for me. When it comes up, I immediately think to myself that I have no desire, that I don’t know what I desire, that I’m afraid to find out what I desire. Which in effect completely cuts off desire. Shutdown accomplished. Instead, I want to honor the longing that is there when I reach for my partner’s touch, when I feel held by his arms, when I feel calm and connected to his essence.
“Maybe a better definition for desire could be a “longing for life, connection and belonging.” Or an expression towards those things. Not this disembodied hypersexual myth that I’ve been treating as truth for far too long.”
There you have it. Are you smiling as big as I am? This is about as brave, juicy, alive, and real as it gets, and it speaks directly to the content that I cover in the course. This is the work. This is what unfolds and reveals itself when you begin to shine light on the long-hidden topic of sexuality. If you’d like to gather with the next group of passionate and brave learners as we gently wade together into the pools of sexuality and explode the myths, expectations, and “shoulds” that keep you stuck in an outdated paradigm of sexuality, please join my next round of Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day course to heal body shame and ignite desire. The course begins on Saturday, January 12, 2019, and I very much look forward to meeting you there.
Wow wow wow I love this so much!!!!
Isn’t it fantastic! True wisdom pouring through.
I connect with this so much. My partner and I don’t have a high sex drive. We do not adhere to the “few times a week or else you are not having ‘enough’ sex” message our culture sends out. Yet we connect every day. A snuggle, a kiss, laughter, sharing stories. We desire each other’s love and company- all of that, aside from sex, is true intimacy.
Yes, yes, Lins. And snuggles and kisses are sex in my definition ;).
I feel really sad and anxious reading this, Sheryl, because it feels like we are so lonely in our perspective. I wish people like you could teach in schools. I thrust myself into this work whole heartedly and I tried to take my ex along with me, but he ultimately rejected it. How do we cope with this? This growth is so painful; digging deep, patiently and excruciatingly at times waiting out the storm, re-wiring everything we’ve ever learned about love and sex and then, sometimes our partners leave us anyway. The partners we worked so hard to connect to because we thought we were in our final relationships. I feel so so wary of this work at the moment because it makes me so vulnerable to loss, yet nothing has ever chimed with me like your work in all the years I’ve struggled. I’m stuck. What do we do if WE learn to untangle all these myths of our partners at some point turn around and say “No sorry, I’m no longer attracted to you.”. I’m terrified that I’ll become so counter-culteral in my views that it will completely alienate me and I’ll never find anyone on my wavelength.
It’s good to hear from you, Agnes. There’s a lot here, and I’ll offer what I can.
1. There’s a cognitive distortion that needs clearing up: It’s not the work that makes you vulnerable to loss; it’s life and love that make you vulnerable to loss. Doing this work makes you aware of this vulnerability, but it doesn’t create it. And committing to healing and inner work gives you the tools that help you handle loss and address the fear of loss, but we have to practice these tools diligently and daily. Nobody can do them for us.
2. I’m so sorry that you’re suffering in the aftermath of a breakup. Of course you are. It’s a profound opportunity to tend to your pain and heartbreak, and the powerlessness over others’ choices. But I don’t think that doing your inner work led to the breakup (at least from what I understand of your relationship). Perhaps I’m wrong, but if you were to access your most loving, wise self and say why your partner left, what would that part of you say?
3. Another cognitive distortion (and a common one): “If I continue to grow I’ll become so alien that I won’t meet a partner or friends and I’ll end up alone.” The truth is that you’ll eventually meet people who are also on a similar path and with whom you can have these kinds of conversations and level of connection that you’re seeking. I know it’s a scary choice to make – to leave behind the mainstream – but I also know that you likely never felt like you fit into the mainstream to begin with, and if you did it was because you had to contort yourself to make yourself fit. This can be a lonely path at times, but ultimately it’s one that lands you with yourself first, and from that place of more fullness and aliveness you’ll meet others who resonate with a similar mindset.
Bless you, for such a long response! I feel I don’t deserve it because I have expressed my ‘scepticism’ on the forum following my break up, but I knew deep down that what that translated to is ‘please help me restore my faith, do it for me’. I have a very angry and immature part of me that has a tendency to lash out, even at those who have helped me tremendously. I’m sorry about that. I want to be here in this community, it (you) keeps me sane and buoyant, but I somehow I totally kidded myself that we were invincible as a couple because I had all this knowledge. I have to watch myself because I do have a bad habit of putting everything you say through my black and white filter. The idea of leaving behind the mainstream could very easily be morphed into ‘Oops no, don’t do watch/enjoy/do that, that’s the mainstream and it’s not right/good for us’ without me even realising what’s happening! You are absolutely right, I never did fit into the mainstream and I have tried to contort myself. I feel a daily inner conflict over who I wish I was and who I might truly be. I am absolutely terrified of who’s under there. I told my counsellor last week that I’m scared my true self is either bad or boring. I keep telling myself that I don’t need to be anything for anyone, but there’s this secret hope that in not caring what others think, I’ll attract more people. I’ve been having weird fantasies of being famous lately and feeling absolutely in awe of and a bit obsessed with men and women in my life whom I admire. At the core of this, I know there is a deep longing for respect and acceptance. I’m working on this with my therapist.
Sorry, this is so long, but if I were to use my wise inner voice and say why he left…it’s because he wasn’t able to dig deep and do his own inner work in order to be with me. He was absolutely intolerant of small irritations and didn’t have the tools or the willingness to take the rough with the smooth in our relationship. I need someone who shares my capacity to wade through the shit times, holding my hand.
I must share this with you too! I’ve never quite got the concept of body wisdom but my therapist helped me understand that it’s more of a sense than a feeling. I explained that a feeling or sensation to me is like heartache, or a tummy gurgle, or a shooting pain; so I’m not sure what I was expecting body wisdom to be. I’ve deciphered that it’s not a thought or a feeling, but somewhere in between. Something barely tangible and that takes huge confidence to trust. For example, we were talking about my anger and she asked if I could describe it in any way. I told her that it was in my tummy and my arms, but I didn’t FEEL it, I sensed it…as in, something pointed my attention towards my tummy and arms rather than say, my legs or chest. She asked me about its form and I had an image in my mind of a large, pink, oval shape…almost like a tongue. I was too embarrassed to tell her this, so I just said I couldn’t grasp it. There have been so many times over the years since finding your work that I’ve had these senses and completely dismissed them as nothing. I’ve told myself that I’m lying, delusional or just being ridiculous. Does this sound like body wisdom to you? If I’m not quite there yet, please tell me! I’m thinking January might be a good time for me to go over the Trust Yourself material again.
Thanks again for the response xx
Agnes, YES! This is body wisdom. It’s subtle and often arrives through imagery or colors, and that’s exactly what you’re describing. I’m delighted to hear that you’re working regularly with a counselor. It sounds like a fruitful relationship. Keep going!
There’s your wisdom about why your partner left: he couldn’t tolerate the muck. I love the way you expressed it: “I need someone who shares my capacity to wade through the shit times, holding my hand.” That’s it right there. There’s a lot of crappy times in life, and if someone is only interested in the happy face, it’s not going to work.
Yes, Trust Yourself again, and also a Break Free From Relationship Anxiety review would be beneficial. As you know, that’s my foundational course and the sections on projection and responsibility would likely be helpful for you right now. It would be interesting for you to go through the course through your own filter as opposed to the filter of being in a relationship. I think you’ll have lightbulb moments that may not have been available to you before this point.
Sending love. x
Thank you, that’s good to know. Some progress in my understanding, finally. 🙂
You were right when you told me ages ago that I’d see an acceleration in my growth once I started working with a local therapist.
I know this is a childlike question and I know you’re not psychic, but do you think my ex will go on to repeat these patterns in the future? I can’t help but want him to look back and think ‘Oh, I had a good one all along’.
Nobody can say what the future holds for your ex, but unless he commits to his inner work he will likely repeat these patterns.
Hi Sheryl,I just wanted you to know that this post means everything to me right now. It makes absolutely clear that we live in a culture that acts on feelings more than anything else. I don’t even think it can be called desire anymore, just plain old arousal. Desire is so much deeper. Such a eureka moment for me (which I think my wise self has known all along). Thank you for this gift.
I’m so glad it was helpful, Elizabeth. Those eureka moments are invaluable and move us strides ahead in our personal growth.
You are the best- thank you for posting this. And thank you to the course member who shared it.
Yes, such a brave post. I’m very grateful for her willingness to share it here.
Thank you, this was a really nice post.
I’m glad it was helpful, Eleonora :).
Hi, Sheryl – Thanks so much for posting. This came at the best time, as your weekly posts seem to do 🙂 I’ve taken the RA anxiety course and cannot thank you enough for how much it has helped me look deeper into myself and address the real causes of my pain and anxiety, instead of feeding into projections and intrusive thoughts. I’ve been struggling with desire lately, but I know it is most definitely related to my health – I just finished a round of cancer treatment for a recurrence (I’ve been diagnosed for 4 years), and we won’t be sure if the treatment worked for another two weeks when we do scans. I’ve felt more disconnected to life, excitement, and that genuine “fire” I used to have when I was healthy – so, it’s not surprising that my desire has waned, too. My question is this – Do you have any articles on, or plan to explore, ways folks living with chronic illness or uncertainty in health can still find connection, love, and desire for life during times of instability? I’ve experienced a great loss of self before and during treatment with things that I am no longer physically able to do or enjoy, and I am doing my best to tend to the emotional wounds and vulnerabilities cancer has created – but I still feel I am unable to experience the love, joy, and excitement for life that would also fuel my love and excitement for my relationship, too. I have a history of sexual trauma, so that also complicates my relationship with my body and sex. I am only 27, so I fear deeply that this is just how life will be from now on, and that it will be a long road ahead of physical limitations (and emotional/mental pain). I can make peace with the physical limitations – but I am struggling to care for the rest. If you have any articles on health and uncertainty – I would be so grateful! Your work has been a tremendous help <3
Dear Lauren: Thank you for your comment, and I’m so glad the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course was helpful. As far as articles on health and uncertainty, yes, I have several as I launched a new course a few months ago called “Grace Through Uncertainty.” I won’t be offering that course again until next August or September, but you can read the articles related to the course by typing “conscious-transitions + uncertainty” or “conscious-transitions + health anxiety” into the Google search bar.
Of course, what you’re describing is slightly different from traditional health anxiety as I typically talk about it because you have a real health issue – not a “what if” issue – but the principles that I teach in my Grace course are really about how to navigate uncertainty no matter the circumstances, and the articles speak to that. In the meantime, you may want to consider my Sacred Sexuality course as it will help you reconnect to your aliveness and address your sexual history in a gentle way.
Sending love and prayers that the treatment worked. You’re being asked to address our greatest fears as humans at a very young age, and I don’t think it’s possible to do so without a daily and meaningful spiritual practice. As scary as that is it’s also rich with possibilities for growth. Not for the feint of heart, to be sure.
Hi Lauren – I just wanted to say: Me Too. I found your story so familiar which always helps me, so thought I’d share in case it helps at all.
I finished active treatment for a breast cancer recurrence in March of this year, and I’m 35. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, my ‘desire’ vanished over the course of about a year. It really threw me as I’ve always been a really sexual person. I was referred to a psycho sexual therapist by my cancer team, and speaking with her really helped.
Turns out the medication I’m in has not only put me into induced early menopause, but also dropped my estrogen level to ZERO. Even a woman in menopause has some estrogen, so there has been an actual physical change in my ability to feel desire. She did say all Hope was not lost – only a portion of desire comes from physical hormones, so there is still a portion we can control ourselves. Ie why you’d want to kiss your partner and not some random unattractive bloke on the street 🙂
Things have got better since then although by no means back to normal. Crazy because we are dealing with so much SHIT and this feels like the cherry on top. Almost too much to handle. And everyone handles things differently- there’s no real roadmap which is frustrating.
Wishing you all the best and I’m here for a chat if you ever need xoxo
Thank you for your incredibly compassionate and generous comment, SpinningTop. If Lauren doesn’t respond here I’ll reach out to her directly to make sure she sees your comment and your offer to connect. There are few things as nourishing, validating, and healing as connecting with someone going through a similar experience, and many friends have been made through this site for exactly this reason. It’s one of the blessings of the internet. Sending you love. xo
I love how this site defies the “never read the comments” rule of the internet. I get so much from the stories people post as well as the articles themselves. Thank you for fostering this lovely community!
Yes! The level of courageous vulnerable that shows up on the comment is a gift. Thank you for this refection and for being part of this community :).
My boyfriend and I got engaged a week ago, and in the days following, I felt my anxiety rise up and my heart shut down. I am so grateful for the blog as what I’ve learned here and in the courses helped me not to fall into a world of what ifs and anxiety fueled by anxiety, which has stopped connection and growth for what feels like ages before. Reading this post has been one of the most eye-opening, heart-lightening moments! I connect with it so deeply and feel so supported by the other responses saying the same – we’re not alone! The message here has helped me so much in stepping out of my anxiety and cleared a mental and emotional path for me to keep doing my heart work and enjoy being engaged a bit more! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
You’re most welcome :). It sounds like the courses – especially the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course – gave you the tools not only to handle your anxiety in daily life but also when it spikes around transitions like an engagement. I’m so glad this article was helpful!