Back a few weeks ago, before a bunch of family stuff and getting triggered and another round of venlafaxine withdrawal derailed me, I was venturing into the treacherous but oh-so-important territory of sex. I’d had several therapy sessions with E, in which I explained to her that I couldn’t stay present during sex with my husband.
Now that all the other stuff has calmed down, at least for the moment, I feel ready to go back into Sex Territory, including visiting the caves with all their bat shit. I want to, actually. It’s time for all this work in therapy to make itself felt in my real life. I want a life in which I can be fully present with the man I love, including and perhaps especially in our most physically intimate moments.
So that’s the intention I bring into Monday’s therapy session. We end up revisiting some of what we have talked about before. I find it mildly less embarrassing than the first time.
We go over the ways in which this part that takes over for me when I’m having sex has served me:
- she protects me from the shame that I associate with arousal
- she keeps me from having to admit and take responsibility for what I do and don’t want sexually
- she allows me to keep having a sexual relationship with my husband, despite all the emotional conflicts going on
E encourages me to recognize and appreciate that help. She says, “Maybe you can tell her she’s done a lot for you, and now you’d like to see if she can step back a little, take a break from her work for you, and let you be present instead.”
We toss that idea around a little, but there’s something about it that feels off to me. I feel like it’s not right to tell her to go away. She’s part of me, too. What is she supposed to do? Play solitaire or watch TV all the time?
I also feel she is very remote, this part of me. I only know her through her sexual role (and wasn’t all that aware of her for a long time). I don’t know what she wants or needs. I can’t remember when she first showed up.
E asks if I could write her a letter, from my wise woman self. It could be a letter of introduction: here I am, the wise core self, the one who is growing stronger and healthier. I recognize you have been of assistance to me. I want to thank you for that, and I want to work with you in a new way. I’m not sure what that would look like, but could we try that?
I think about this some more. I wonder if instead of asking this part to step aside and make more room for me, could we merge? Can it work that way? E doesn’t know.
We talk some more about this part, and some outlines of her start to emerge. She is young, maybe a teen part. She is passive, receptive, agreeable. She does not make choices about sex, but simply goes along with “whatever.” She sees herself as available, which at times translates into cheap, dirty, disgusting. She does not have opinions or any kind of independent agency.
This kind of thinking awakens something in my wise woman self. Suppose I were to meet a teen girl who was passive, agreeable, and therefore promiscuous. Suppose she had no opinions and let things just happen to her. What would I want to do? I’d want to protect her, help her out, let her know that she is more than an object for others to play with.
This is my line of thinking when I head home. From there, I realize, I want to give her the sex ed class she should have had. The sex ed class I should have had. The one that my current, wisest self would want to give a daughter, if I had one. What if it wasn’t a short and embarrassing class about pregnancy and the risk of STDs. What if it was a class that included the topics of consent and rights, emotional and spiritual components of sexuality. What if it included a study of passion and pleasure? This starts to sound fun. I might end up learning something.
I tell my husband about this idea (without talking about the part that takes over, just about creating and doing a sort of sex ed for grown-ups class). I ask him if he wants to do the class with me. He thinks that’s a great idea. He says we can be lab partners and do our homework together.