Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Healing Sexual Pain and Fear

When I started going on long silent meditation retreats, and felt safe enough to notice, I became aware of an enormous dark tower of sexual pain that seemed so vast I wondered would it ever be possible to dismantle. Thankfully, the vipassana meditation I was practising was not delivered in a goal orientated way, but in a way that encouraged moment by moment determination and a steady liberation from such pain. So I persevered, fiercely and compassionately... I felt deeply into the pain, and day by day, year by year, that tower crumbled.

If I had stayed in that level of intensive retreat, or dedicated myself to a life of monastic meditation, I probably wouldn't have begun building the tower again, but I didn't. As I settled into a lay life, self-employed teaching meditation, I sunk into a trap that many people conditioned into codependency do, I forgot myself and the value of the wonderful gift I had been given, and put far too much focus on helping others.

I knew that the tower could never grow as big as it was before, but I had forgotten just how much even an inkling of a foundation of it affected every part of my life, how its destructive power seeped into every relationship, every encounter, and even my everyday sense of self.

So, what is sexual pain? For me sexual pain expresses itself as sexual feelings that arise in reaction to disgust and fear. Because I was raped repeatedly as a child, and felt revulsion and terror alongside sexual feelings, there have been solidified body-memories inside me of sex activated by violence and aversion.

It was clear since my first retreat that my job was to feel and release these unpleasant and joyless feelings - to melt them away. I knew that acting upon them would spiral me into the hell of my father's mind, and that was never an option. No matter how bad things have gotten for me I have always loved myself and wanted to bring more love into the world, not more corruption.

A coping mechanism to deal with such pain, a short-term help but not a long term solution, is to 'manage' the pain through introducing new thoughts and/or feelings. In a sense to talk yourself out of it. But this strategy never actually made the pain go away, and I knew from my years of intensive retreat that it could go away completely.

Some personal examples of when this crushing sexual pain was activated were: when something went wrong with work, my home, food or clothing. If something was disgusting - if washed clothes hadn't dried properly and smelled bad, or food had gone off, if I had a big spot on my face or put on weight, or if one of my dogs or cats smelled bad. If something brought up fear - if I ran out of logs or oil to heat my home, if my bank account was low, or if fear of my family-of-origin 'coming to get me' was activated.

These personal experiences of sexual pain were unpleasant, but because I experienced them in the safety of my own home I was aware enough to deal with them meditatively. The relational ones were much more destructive, because codependency and fear combined meant that my awareness was virtually non-existent. 

When yet another man I thought I was being clearly a 'platonic friend' with got it into his head that something romantic was happening between us, I decided to really investigate my own bodily sensations and signals.

Before I continue, I am in no way saying that sexual predators who dismiss clear verbal or physical signals from the people they are pursuing are innocent. I am stating my own experience in order to share how I have healed this particular pattern in my life, through self-empowerment and awareness.

So, these men... of which there have been many, and a couple of lesbians too, I have hated and been so so disgusted by that it has been a real challenge to muster compassion for them, something I always do for difficult people because I want destructive patterns gone from my life.

When I meditatively investigated the memory of encounters with these people I began to realise that my poor wee body was picking up on their sexual interest, reacting with disgust and sexual pain, then my 'management' coping mechanism was kicking in to pretend it wasn't happening, and my resulting behaviour was to be extra careful to be platonic in how I was relating.

But the big insight that dawned was... that non of that mattered. It didn't matter what I was doing or saying. They were picking up on 'Sex'. They were getting, 'Red Light - go ahead'. They weren't thinking, 'Oh poor Aoife is a victim of childhood sexual abuse and is actually sexually repulsed by me and only having sexual feelings because she is afraid I'm going to force myself on her, and she will be so frozen by fear that she will be powerless to stop it.' No, they were thinking, 'She likes me too'.

I wonder how many people have been so overwhelmed by such dynamics that they ended up in relationships and even marriages with people they were disgusted by and afraid of. 

I don't know what is going on for people who are attracted to people like me who are repulsed by them, but I do know that it is a thing, because there have been so many of them throughout the years. I would also like to point out that I have had many boyfriends who I loved and fancied the pants off, mutually, so this has nothing to do with me being broken and unable to feel natural, joyful and blissful sexual feelings. All that is intact. Sexual pain and fear is a separate issue.

Sexual pain is a real thing, and I imagine there are thousands of women and men recovering from sexual violence who have similar boundary issues to what I am describing here. My reason for exploring such issues in this blog is to shed light on the pain so we can heal it and let it go.

One practice I have found invaluable in healing sexual pain and fear, as it gets activated in relation to others, is the Taoist Micro Orbit exercise...

It is a very simple visualisation to move the stuck sexual energy and let it be recycled and healed as it energises and moves through the rest of the body. 

To begin, become fully aware of the sexual energy in the pubic area, then imagine moving it under the lower part of the trunk to the base of the spine, then up the spine, up the back of the neck, over the top of the head, down over the nose, and making sure your tongue is touching the top of your mouth, down through the tongue and the neck, through the chest and belly, and on down to the pubic bone, and round again, and again...

It can be helpful to move up the back with the in-breath and then down the front with the out-breath, but eventually it can happen even quicker than the breath. It's a circle of energy, or light, circulating of its own momentum.

Don't try too hard, relax into it. Let yourself tune into your body's natural intelligence.

All that is needed for the darkness to go away is for us to turn on the light. I am so enjoying not being afraid or confused by sexual pain any more. From a distance I saw a man yesterday that I had a particularly unpleasant miscommunication with last year. I felt compassion along with a tinge of disgust, but no sexual feelings. I am sure the disgust will subside too and the next time I will just see a fellow human being - someone doing their best, who I can wish well... from a distance.

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