Who Shaped Your Sexual Self-Image?

Sally grew up in rural England amongst people who appear from the outside to be excessively polite. This in contrast to the story Sally shares with me: Since she was a young girl, she was molested by her grandfather who was a primary carer in her life. Her grandfather in turn was molested by his father, who was molested by his father… and so the pattern goes back for generations. What each victim of sexual abuse had in common was that they were sworn to silence. All that happened was never spoken about – and silently passed on to the next generation.

This story is perhaps extreme, but it also archetypal. In the many years I have worked with survivors of sexual abuse, the themes are so often similar: Family members or friends of family are the perpetrators, and the victims are almost always sworn to silence at the threat of being shamed and being blamed as the one who caused the incident. And sometimes it’s not so much that anything terrible happened, but more that the response of family members to a child’s innocent sexual exploration (kissing or touching) was so severe that it traumatized the child for life. Such responses from family members are usually because of their own sexual awkwardness and inability to speak about their own difficulties.

When working with sexual abuse as a theme, I find the victim triangle helpful. There are three positions in this triangle: The victim, the perpetrator and the rescuer. The principle of the triangle is that someone who is identified with one of the positions in the triangle, are likely to unconsciously also step into the other two positions. Thus, those who have been victimized, often become the rescuers of others – and unfortunately also the perpetrators. Perpetration doesn’t only look like becoming a molester yourself – it can have much more societally acceptable faces such as becoming controlling or shaming of oneself or others in sexual relating.

 While the number of people who have experienced sexual abuse is shockingly high, this is of course not everyone’s experience. At the same time, I could say that every person whom I have ever worked with has been significantly impacted by their social environment in the shaping of their perception of themselves as a sexual being.

This is why in my course Awakening your Feminine Sexual Essence (which starts 20 October) I have a whole module focused on mapping out the groups and tribes that shaped our sexual identity. This in itself is so revealing. And then we engage in the even more powerful practice of re-mapping our sexual identity. There is a famous saying that the map is not the territory. Thus, we can change the map and thus profoundly alter the way we relate to the territory. But we have no chance of doing this before we are conscious of the map we have created and are living by. For me, processes like my Awakening your Feminine Sexual Essence course create essential opportunities to become conscious of the obstacles to our sexual flowering, and to get the guidance and social support to start creating the lives we really want.

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