When Mitchell reconnected with the music that meant so much to him, he had a restorative association between pleasure and self-esteem. The music and Mitchell's authentic self became congruent; they fit together as part of a force greater than him.
Mitchell is a short, slight man in his early thirties who has an intense manner. His jaw is locked, his eyes stern, and his speech clipped. On the rare occasion when Mitchell smiles, he appears controlled and distant. It is as if there is something going on in his head that is distracting him, something that is more important or interesting.
"So, Mitchell," I ask, "how did your tasks around self-nurturing go this week?"
"I didn't do them," he says, unabashed.
"Why is that?" I ask.
He looks up at me, annoyed, without responding.
This type of resistance is typical in early recovery. It is important not to shame the client for not following though; instead, he must figure out what the resistance is all about.
"I think it's stupid," Mitchell says.
"Well, I can understand whit it can feel trivial, but there are reasons it is important."
Male resistance to self-nurturing is a universal pattern. I remember when I gave a talk on healthy sexuality to a group of twenty recovering sex addicts. I was describing the gifts of self-nurturing, such as stimulating the senses by lightening incense or scented candles, when a large, burly man flew out of his chair.
"You've got to be kidding me," he said without even waiting for me to call on him. "There is no way in hell I am going to be lighting scented candles or incense. What are the guys going to think when they come over? The only smell I like is the smell of propane!"
Of course, he got a good laugh. He was expressing what we explored in Chapter 9 - High-Profile Cases in Congress and the Church: the cultural bias and homophobia that are rampant in our culture. Being sensitive, nurturing, or sensuous with yourself is not about threatening your sexual orientation or masculinity; it is about being in touch with your body and learning to pleasure in non-genital ways.
Let's go back to our model for sexualized anger.
In our addiction, we learned to fill our shame core from the outside: how much sex we scored, how many secrets we could get away with, how large our porn collection got, how great we looked, how much attention we could solicit. These were all delusional ways we temporarily filled our void.
In recovery, we learn how to fill ourselves from the inside out. This is done through the arts of self-nurturing and self-care. Each time we honor ourselves by listening or supportively reacting to our internal cues, we are healing the shame core. This is the foundation of sexual health.