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Open-hearted, Non-sexual Intimacy and it's importance in Clearing the Air Between Women & Men and Beyond
By Gordon Clay

1. "What a ridiculous rule."
2. "I should be able to express my whole self at all times."
3. "I run sexual energy all of the time. You're asking me to shut it down."
4. "I can see not being sexual in the workshop, but why not afterwards."

Sex can be a wonderful way of getting close to another human being. It can be an expression of love and caring, an experience of safety and intimacy. It can make life richer, warmer, easier. It can help a person remember the truly benign nature of human beings. Sex can be a place where each partner can show themselves more fully than usual and experience being accepted and loved deeply. Sex can be fun.

Unfortunately, most people do not experience sex in this way very often, if ever. In order to experience even some of the benefits of sex, people will endure many difficulties, overlook many unsolved problems.

It appears that almost everyone has been badly hurt in the area of sex. ("Abusers" are simply people who were badly abused as children themselves.)

Sex is not as important as it is made to seem. However, capitalist societies manipulate people to keep them preoccupied with sex, to keep them feeling bad about themselves, and to keep them buying products they wouldn't want otherwise.

Human beings need closeness, touching, and loving. In present societies people are taught that sex is the only acceptable way to fully meet these needs. However, these needs can be met without sex. Many graduate's experience has been that as they become able to snuggle , touch, and be close, often with many people in their lives, preoccupation with sex diminishes or disappears. Thus sex loses much of its false "importance."

Difficulties with sex are also an indication of unhealed hurts. These hurts often impose severe limitations on other areas of our functioning. Hurts in the area of sex can affect our sense of power, well-being, confidence, trust, creativity, and physical mobility along with our ability to choose, to desire, to think clearly, to set up good relationships, to be close. Thus full recovery of one's complete humanness requires discharging the distresses which have become attached to sex.

Any time a person experiences sexual arousal without first having decided to, it is almost certainly a restimulation of an old distress which contained sexual feelings. These physical responses are attached to recordings of emotional distress, which can seem "negative" or "positive" in flavor. Most people rely on knowing how to restimulate sexual arousal in themselves and others in "socially acceptable" ways when they engage in sex. ("If you speak in this tone of voice, if the room is lit in this way, if we walk on a beautiful beach, etc., I will become sexually aroused." Without distress, two people who love each other very much, can snuggle and hold each other close, skin to skin, without sexual feelings, unless they decide otherwise.

An Aware Choice

We can ultimately have control over sexual feelings. Meanwhile, we can decide whether or not to act on any sexual feelings we may have. An aware choice can be made about whether a particular relationship is a "right" relationship in which to add sex. For many people, this brings to mind a cumbersome process of many sessions, consultations, list-making of pros and cons, and so on, before deciding to have sex. This might not be a bad idea for a while, but people can eventually develop good judgment which they can learn to call upon quickly and easily.

It seems that without distress, human beings experience a relaxed desire for sex in some situations. (Sex can be an elegant way of being close to someone you care about when everything else makes sense.)

There seems to be an instinctive survival drive towards sex inherited from our pre-intelligent forebears, which exists after adolescence. (There is also an instinctive high-priority survival drive in our human heritage attached to eating, which operates from birth onwards.) As with all inherited instinctive drives for humans, these come under the control and management of our intelligence unless distress patterns become attached to them. In our societies distress patterns are almost systematically attached to these instincts about sex and food through the operation of the patterned cultures.

Most societies have made it very difficult for people to distinguish between a desire for love, touching, and closeness and a desire for sex. Needs for love, touching, and closeness are very real and large, yet most people have been taught that these needs can only be met through sex. Judging what makes sense in a given situation is much easier if you can tell whether you are actually interested in sex or if it is love and closeness which you want.

This explains a phenomenon which many people are familiar with - deciding to have sex, and then feeling both good and bad "in the morning." Good because needs for touching and closeness, and maybe love as well, were met. Bad because meeting those needs involved rehearsing distresses related to sex one more time.

These real needs for love, touching, and closeness have become "frozen." Until the recorded feeling of need is discharged, a person may never feel sufficiently loved, for instance, regardless of the actual situation. Most people also have blocks on their ability to love, be close and intimate aware touching. The rational need to express love and to initiate aware closeness and touching seems to be greater than the rational need to receive them; thus, contrary to the way people often feel, there need be no actual shortage of love and closeness in the world.

Sex can function as the best contradiction to isolation for some people. During sex, people can notice that they are not alone, often discharging deep hurts, which may be an unusual occurrence otherwise. Whether they realize it or not, they may seek out opportunities for sex as a form of needed reassurance and a way to keep their lives going well. The behavior may be combined with compulsions, but compulsive sexual behavior by itself does not offer any helpful contradictions. Without seeking closeness through other means, however, such sexual behavior may inadvertently reinforce the isolation it seeks to end.

Sexual "Compulsions"

Sexual "compulsions," or addictive compulsive sexual behaviors, have often required great persistence and sharp counseling to overcome. As with food and eating, the process of trying to fill rational human needs, in this case for closeness and affection, can serve to solidify the distresses attached to them. Eating and sex also have physiological aspects which become additional parts of any distress recordings, further complicating the recovery process.

For most people overcoming sexual compulsions requires a combination of decision, solid work on early sexual memories, and sexual fantasies, and reaching for real human closeness in the present. A key element is a decision to stop the addictive behavior, and to discharge whatever feelings come up in the absence of acting out the compulsion or in the attempt to stop acting it out. At the same time, consistent work on early sexual memories drains the restimulation's feeling the compulsion, and assists one to distinguish the present from the past.

In addition to efforts at ending isolation generally, people with compulsive sexual behavior need to reach for real human connections as a specific contradiction when the distress recordings try to take over.

It is important in the process of working on a sexual compulsion to discharge any feelings of shame for not having already overcome the addiction or for failing in repeated tries to overcome it. These feelings of shame will only increase the pull to repeat the compulsion. Also, a common mistake is to assume that the best contradiction to the shame is to celebrate and repeat the addiction.

This is not an intellectual concept. Full recovery of one's complete humanness requires releasing the unhealthy behaviors which have become attached to sex by developing a clear reference point within the body of non-sexual intimacy.

Sex is not essential to our well-being, closeness is.

* How Stan Dale spelled intimacy - in-2-me-u-c.


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All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience. Henry Miller

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