I don’t know why I get so turned on by the thing that I do — it’s so weird I am not even going to say what it is. I have the same fantasies over and over again. In fact, I can’t even get turned on at all when I block my mind from thinking of this fantasy. Then I just feel nothing. I am so embarrassed I would never tell my partner about it. What should I do? I am trapped by my own sexual fantasies.
Thanks for asking this important question. First thing to know is that everyone has sexual fantasies. Even people who have no consciousness about their sexuality and are completely cut off from their fantasies do in fact have them. Many of us are mystified by our sexuality and your situation is not as unusual as it seems to you. In our culture it is the norm for people to be uncomfortable with the strong sexual fantasies that drive their arousal and desire. This is why the first question people ask a sex therapist is often, “Am I Normal?” Many people are so overwhelmed, ashamed or afraid of their erotic selves that they repress their fantasy life entirely.
This repression represents a tragic loss of who we are; understanding our sexual fantasies in relationship to our whole life experience provides a window into the deepest levels of healing in our psyche… Our sexuality and our sexual fantasies have been wrongly considered as our most base and primitive instinct. To the contrary, our human sexuality is actually an expression of our most complex human needs and healing drive towards experiencing pleasure. As children we all suffer with some form of emotional wounding and unresolved conflicts. As we mature into our sexuality, throughout our adolescence and teen years, our subconscious brain eroticizes our pain and conflicts into fantasy stories that allow us to convert our painful past into a pleasurable experience. This is a revolutionary perspective which demonstrates the potential healing that our sexual fantasies hold for all of us.
In a recent interview with psychotherapist Stanley Siegel who wrote the book on this topic, called Your Brain on Sex, I was amazed at how much sense this thinking has brought to the question of sexual fantasy. Siegel, who has been in psychotherapy practice for over 35 years said “that almost every issue he has worked through with his patients had a sexual root.” Over the many years of his practice, he came to understand the transformative and deeply healing nature of working with our sexual fantasies as a window into our deepest pain. He developed a process that he calls Intelligent Lust which is s process of developing an emotional intelligence and language about your childhood traumas as well as being able to look at and identify your strongest sexual fantasies. When his patients were able to connect the dots between those two strong emotional experiences, both were healed.
Not surprisingly many of us share both sexual fantasy themes as well as common emotional injuries. Some of the most common emotional injuries like guilt, shame and insecurity can actually be eroticized into very different sexual fantasies which might include everything from getting paid to have sex, make porn to fantasies of random sexual acts or forced, submissive sex. How the brain makes pleasure out of our painful past is a unique and mysterious process, yet learning the tools to understand the links between them are universally healing.
Here is an example that makes this easy to understand: a woman grows up in a extremely religious family in which sin and pleasure are understood to be the same. Years later she wants to have forced sex dressed up like a nun and her husband as a priest. It is easy to understand how her subconscious would eroticize those painful limits into their opposite. As this couple plays out her fantasy with her having made the conscious connection to her past, the emotional trauma has less and less hold on her. It also simultaneously grows the commitment and intimacy between the couple. Most couples don’t realize how much they give up of themselves and their intimacy by suppressing their sexuality with their partners.
Having the courage to explore our erotic selves is the space within us where passion is born and evolves. Without it, our sexuality lives dormant, repressed and inevitably will rear its power in ways that can inflict pain instead of pleasure. I urge you to read this book or listen to the interview.