Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Healthy Recovery

In her book The Intimacy Factor, Pia Mellody explains that self-esteem is built through self-nurturing, or the attunement of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and wants. By attuning and pleasuring yourself at this level, you create connection -- a connection that was severed long ago.

As trauma survivors, we learned to disconnect not only from our feelings, but also from our bodies. This was how we survived. Coming home to our bodies, or being present, can feel awkward or uncomfortable. It can also generate a great deal of fear: the fear of the unknown, the fear of triggered memories, or actual physical discomfort or pain.

This is why recovery is a process, a gradual building of self-attunement and awareness. We allow ourselves to build on each step to avoid overwhelming or flooding our systems with too much change, confusion, or information. We learn to live in the moderation of recovery, as opposed to the extremes of addiction.

"So what is the reward of lighting scented candles?" Mitchell asks snidely.
"It isn't about the candles," I say. "It's about learning what you like and integrating that into your everyday life."
"And this helps how?"

Mitchell will come to learn that, by habitually catering to his sense of pleasure, he will reawaken his sensitivity to pleasure and discover that pleasure does not accompany fear, intensity, powerlessness, and shame.  He will learn that pleasure is not the reward of manipulation and control; it is something he deserves, in and of itself.

It is not a usual part of my therapy to philosophize with clients about how, at the deepest level of our being, we are vitalized and made spiritual by our erotic energy. However, as "the holder of the shame," I know that my own creativity, based in my own recovery of sexual, spiritual energy, makes me an appropriate trustee of my clients' secrets. I draw my healing power from my belief that the liberation of sexual energy is a return to the authentic self and to the Eros, which is our sexual energy.

In those modern times, sexuality has become overwhelmingly associated with genital stimulation. But is important to understand that there is an ancient and respected tradition in which sexuality -- what the Greeks called "Eros" -- was a divine energy at the center of creation.

In Plato's Symposium, Eros is the longing inherent in the human being for the Original Source, the Creator. It is is the "sexual instinct," or spirit, that drives us from the earthly realm to seek transcendent union. This erotic theme is expressed in art, dance, literature, and mysticism. The philosopher Paul Tillich described Eros as "the driving force in all cultural creativity and in all mysticism."

One commentator on the Hebrew wisdom of the Torah said:

We moderns have an almost desperate need to be in control. The rugged individualist who is captain of his fate and master of his destiny is our cultural spiritual model. And yet we know in some deeper place we cannot always, nor is it desirable for us, to always maintain control.

The Eros of sex is the place were we learn to give up control. And a great truth is revealed to us. In the act of letting go -- of giving ourselves up -- in the la petite mort (the little death) or orgasm, we find ourselves as well. At the very moment when the self is lost, it is rediscovered in a higher more brilliant form. Sexual Eros models for us a  moving beyond old contradictions. Self-control is not the sole cauldron in which self is forged. Losing control with holy intentionality becomes the place where finding higher self is a genuine possibility.

To surrender to this force of another to another is true eroticism, and it is, in my opinion, holy. I believe that Eros in our intimate relationships models the surrender to a higher power. But the sex addicts, who are so damaged that they have lost sight of the preciousness of their own being, true eroticism has become impossible. 

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