“Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” ~ Prentis Hemphill
How do you feel in your skin, right now, at this moment?
Let it out.
Notice the sensations.
Let yourself be curious.
What do you notice?
I notice I still need a shower. I’ve been stewing in my creative juices since yesterday.
Dragging my fingers through a tangle of curls, I make contact with my scalp. It is sensitive. My shoulders are tense. And, at this moment, I have a mild headache. For me, this is either a sign of extreme stress, dissociation, or integration.
How do I make the distinction?
Well, recently I had an intense session with my counselor that concluded with us landing in some old, dense psychosomatic terrain.
I’m reorganizing the way I hold a certain energy: responsibility, specifically, in regards to intimacy. I tend to take on more than is my share, and it impacts my body, as well as how I communicate.
Intimacy is about more than how we relate with others. It is, primarily, how we relate with ourselves. That sets the tone for all of our relationships.
For some time, I have been dabbling with a man who bestirs every possible human feeling in my wild witch’s heart. Hopes for domestic bliss, hunger for his flesh, endless fascination with his mind. Devotion to his soul.
Oh, and—utter f*cking terror.
Why the fear?
For someone whose erotic responses have been deeply fused with traumatic reactivity, intimacy is scary. Feeling turned on and excited can also, at times, feel completely unsafe.
It’s not just that I am navigating my side of an intense intimate connection. Erotic distortion is showing up in other areas of my life as well.
An ad I created for my business profile on Facebook has drawn an inordinate amount of undesired attention. I’ve gotten loads of private messages requesting my relationship status, asking for photos—and someone even sent a d*ck pic.
Though I did pull down the post (I’m just not into fielding the endless skeez at the moment), in the past I may also have shut myself down, perceiving this form of unwanted attention to somehow be my fault. It’s not, but I have had a tendency to over personalize (and internalize) other people’s behavior. It’s something I am working through.
A sense of confusion about self versus other is a common occurrence with people who experience abuse. In other words: as we mature, we may have a hard time telling what we are actually responsible for.
It has taken me years to unravel the layers of numbness, hyper arousal, and hyper sensitivity that enmeshed my nervous system as a child.
Inappropriate sexual contact (usually from an adult), prior to the age of consent is, regrettably, the experience of millions, if not billions, of people all around the world. Statistics say: 93 percent of abuse happens from someone the child knows (family, friend, caregiver, neighbor) and 70 percent of reported abuse occurs before the age of 17.
Boundaries are physical, emotional, psychic, internal, and external. We cannot exist, healthily, without clarity in all these realms unless we know where you and I begin and end.
I would estimate that at least 70 percent of the people who wind up in my intuitive counseling practice have had some kind of physical sexual violation as a child. And if we look at emotional or psychic violations, that number is much higher.
Just this week, I was speaking with a client who was trying to unravel her own erotic impulses from the way she was programmed through her childhood to respond to sexual stimulation. (She was serially abused by her father.) This can be deeply confusing territory because our bodies will respond to stimulation that is pleasurable even when the context of it is inappropriate. This kind of behavior is also often the origin of a trauma bond.
Even without early developmental disruption to our erotic connection with ourselves, familial, cultural, and religious conditioning often distort the delightful innocence that is innate when we are naturally connected with our bodies.
As children, we are often forced into activities that violate our tender senses and sense of self.
We are encouraged to stifle our instincts in exchange for acceptance. After a time, we cease to notice those sensations in the same way. Eventually, we become either hyper aroused, numb, or a combination of both.
Humans are erotic beings at every age and that has nothing to do with any form of sexual indoctrination. Early eroticism is simply an effect of us being naturally sensual beings.
In regards to an innocent expression of eroticism, it is simply about recognizing that our nervous systems—at any age—are wired for connection and pleasure.
Sensuality does not equate sexuality and neither does eros, although the Greek god, Eros, is associated with passionate love. And, in modern psychology, eros has come to be equated with vital energy.
“In Freudian psychology, eros, not to be confused with libido, is not exclusively the sex drive, but our life force, the will to live. It is the desire to create life, and favors productivity and construction.”
It is also proposed by this same school of thought that neuroses have their roots in the disruption and distortion of our life-force.
Now, if we consider that all life (human, mammalian, avian, reptilian, even botanical) requires male and female components (and some sort of sexual interaction) to reproduce, we can factually, poetically, and biologically say that eros (the erotic) is truly at the heart of life.
We can also, many of us, agree that life without passion is not a life well-lived.
And, no, I’m not speaking merely of sexual passion. I’m talking about the creative impulse—the hum, crackle, and thrum of life that beats our hearts and vibrates our bones.
Now that is erotic!
So I’ll invite you, once again, to return to your breath…
Feel the movement, the fire in your belly, the space in your pelvic bowl. Listen to the blood singing through your veins.
Feel the air caress your skin, your eyes widen as you take yourself and even more of life in.
Allow life to penetrate you—and then return the favor!
Are you blushing yet?
This is it…this is the moment that you, now, can begin to come back to yourself. Back to that innocent connection with your own eros, no matter what has happened to you or how far you may have drifted.
Is it a little scary?
Does it feel risky?
Are you still numb?
All of that, or any other response to this invitation, is perfectly okay.
And it is an open-ended invitation.
At any moment, you can begin to notice just how deliciously alive you really are.
Oh, my! Whatever might happen next?