It is my felt understanding within my own body, that sexual trauma and sexual abuse are two different somatic experiences.
There was a period of time in my early life when I experienced sexual abuse.
There have been many times in my life that I have experienced sexual trauma.
I believe if we can separate the two, then we can have a greater understanding of what our mind, our body, our emotional and inner self are needing to return to place of healing and wholeness.
Sexual abuse is very clearly what it says. It is a non-consensual sexual violation to our body caused by another.
Sexual trauma however can arise at many stages of our lifetime.
For instance in my personal life my sexual well-being has been effected after traumatic childbirth to my son, divorce, grief, menopause, financial struggle, the transition of my children leaving home…
I believe that sexual trauma is caused by an external experience that is having an affect on how we are feeling. And how we are feeling, has an affect on how we show up in the world, that includes our sexual well-being.
Defining Sexual Trauma.
To support this felt difference between trauma and abuse, I will share some stories, of those I have had the honour to work with. (Names have been changed)
I will share the sexual trauma that initiated each person to contact me, which in each case is always the symptom, the icing on the cake, what is visible to us.
And the trauma response and stored beliefs/ emotions, the ingredients of the cake, the unseen. The cause of the symptom.
Bob came to see me suffering from erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. He said his situation was effecting his self-esteem and this was having an overall affect on his home and work life.
Listening to Bob’s body, I felt a sense of guilt at the back of his heart space and his shoulders.
It took courage after Bob’s body session, for him to tell me, he had had an affair. Not only had this caused much heartache to his wife, it was against the catholic upbringing he had had. Bob’s body was reacting to an event and responding to his guilt.
Pete came to see me with much trepidation. He had been experiencing long-term erectile dysfunction and it was preventing him from having the courage to engage in his longing for a romantic relationship.
Through listening to the energies of Pete’s body, I felt shame stored way down in his pelvic bones. I saw an image of him as an boy that felt unloved.
After Pete’s body session we spoke. He shared he had grown up in Ireland with a very religious mother, of whom he never felt he could appease.
His desires were conflicted with the religious teachings that these desires were a sin and would not please God. His desires would also disappoint his mother and turn her further away from the love and affection he desperately wanted from her.
Shame was restricting Pete’s sexual self being fully online and able to initiate or enter loving intimate relationships. Not being able to have an erection, made his desires more unattainable and fed his childhood beliefs that his desires were sinful and so this was punishment.
Justin came to work with me, with his concerns of premature ejaculation. We spoke of his lifestyle, which he said was very stressful.
He was in a highly demanding job in the city and returned home to an already sleeping wife and child.
He was aware he was stressed and spoke openly of it. Yet could not see that stress was traumatising his sexual self. If anything, this felt to him an addition to his stress, that he didn’t have time for.
And this was the belief in his body. That he was running out of time and had to hurry to get to the next task. His body was not being given the time to adjust from fast pace to slow pace and so he was ejaculating almost instantly.
There were many other self critiquing beliefs Justins body was holding. Most powerfully a belief he was not good enough. Premature ejaculation was affirming “not good enough” to him on repeat.
David visited me as an older man. He said his life was dry of pleasure and he was no longer able to sustain an erection.
He said he was not willing to except this was related to his age. His wife had died and he felt ready to explore companionships.
David’s focus was so intent on moving forward from his wife’s death and keeping busy with his mission to love life, that he had skimmed over his loss and it was his loss that was sitting dormant and unattended to in his body. In his heart space and his throat, I felt his loneliness and his fear of the vulnerability of grieving.
Mark didn’t really want to see me but said he was on the verge of losing his wife, whom he loved very much. He explained he had a lack of libido and this meant that all tenderness had stopped between them.
Within Marks body, I felt a sense of him being lost and hopeless.
We spoke of this and he said he didn’t feel inspired anymore.
His life was not what he had imagined it would be.
This lack of joy in Marks life, also meant all drive and desire for passion and pleasure was diminished.
Sally had not had a relationship for almost 20 years. She was heavily overweight and knew for herself, that this was purposely created to make her unattractive to the opposite sex.
The catch was this made her feel unloving towards herself as well as unlovable.
Her physical and mental health was suffering.
Sally explained that towards the end of her last relationship she was diagnosed with vaginismus and nothing the doctors had prescribed had worked. She felt there was no point in a relationship if she could not share herself fully and engage as a sexual partner.
When I held Sally’s body it felt tense in fear. It took time for her to trust my hands. Fear gradually unravelled into other beliefs, including what I sensed as her running and hiding from the world.
After the session we spoke of this image of fear I had sensed in her body. She said her last partner verbally and emotionally abused her and one day she had just packed, left her home and driven miles away but never felt quite at ease.
The tension of fear in Sally’s body was the cause of her symptoms.
Claire and her husband were drifting apart. Claire said she felt no sexual desire at all and her husband’s encouragement, requests and persuasions were becoming unbearable to her and affecting their marriage. She said she loved him dearly but just did not feel sexy or that she could ever satisfy his sexual appetite.
Claire’s body held many beliefs around her sexuality. The initial and loud belief I was drawn to was of unworthiness.
It felt old from her childhood and was energetically sitting in her pelvis and womb space.
I shared this with her after her body session. She said she understood. That everything she did, did not feel good enough. How could she ever match up to the expectations of others?
Claire’s beliefs of unworthiness had diminished her sense of self and her sense of value in life and her relationship.
Fear of Change:
Emma came to me experiencing painful sex. She was moving through the transition of the menopause.
Her body spoke of much. Her hurts not only of what she believed the menopause meant as a woman but also the transitions of motherhood. Her Children were older now and her body spoke of her vulnerability of no longer being needed by anyone. There was a fear of being alone and resistance to her body changing and her role as a mother.
She believed she was dried up and useless.
Tension, fear of change, grieving what was and not being able to see any joy in the new was the root cause of Emma’s challenges with lubrication.
Katie came to see me at the end of her tether. She felt useless as a lover. Katie said no toys, no partner and no amount of positions had ever taken her to orgasm.
She seemed to be suffering terribly with the idea she could not and never would have an orgasm.
Orgasms is a huge subject, which we can explore another time. But what is important here is that orgasms are not something we achieve, or push towards or can be done to us.
After listening to Katie’s body. I felt she was living her life from a place of harshness towards herself to do well and to be the best.
Her body was stuck in overdrive and urgency.
It felt a long lived competitive thread.
We spoke of this after her body session. Emma said her father favoured her brothers and so she “manned up” and constantly pushed herself to do better.
She feared not being in control and failing and in doing so was holding herself away from the consuming experience of orgasm.
These journeys of others I have shared, offer how a belief we hold or a feeling we experience because of a current or past life situation that is traumatic and overwhelming for our system, restricts our overall well being and as a whole being, we need to accept that includes our sexuality.
The journey to sexual trauma healing.
The journey to healing begins with our willingness to look deeper within our self and acknowledge that our symptoms are the intelligence of our body asking for support and a new way.
Ease comes when we attend to the underlying cause in our life, our reactions, responses, emotions that are on replay and our attachments to an external situation.
This perspective reliefs us from the intensity and drive to be fixed, softening the pressure we place upon ourselves and giving our sex space to return to fullness and no longer a seperate part to our whole well being.
Our sexual relationships with our self and others may need to be reviewed and change. There may be unhealthy habits, attitudes and beliefs that are not supportive. A new sexual approach may look and feel different to what you have always known, simply because the old way no longer works
We unlearn … and learn a new, to meet our self, sex and body with kindness, respect and compassion as we would any other human being and be willing to listen to the held trauma response in our body.