This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, iBooks in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 576 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Taboos and Fixations

We are sensual beings capable of many forms of bodily pleasure. The giving and receiving of such pleasure is one of the ways in which we can express love. There is no need for our desire or capacity for giving and receiving of such pleasure and affection to be specifically limited to interactions with the opposite sex. If our earliest proto-human ancestors lived in a similar way to our closest living relatives, the bonobos, which seems fairly likely, then their erotic exchanges were not limited according to gender, age or, in most cases, kinship. These erotic exchanges, or genital-genital rubbings, amongst bonobos are not related to mating. Similarly in our own individual history, we began life, according to Freud, with an unbounded capacity for sensual enjoyment in all parts of our body and a tendency to desire sensual contact with others regardless of gender. He referred to this as polymorphous perversity. This is actually not a very good term, as perversity is defined as a deliberate deviation from that which is good. It was actually from this state that we deviated, but Freud began with adult behaviour which was viewed as deviant and tried to explain it as a regression to one aspect of our original state. When we reach puberty we develop a bias towards the genitals in our search for pleasure. Before this happens we are liable to also start developing a bias towards sensual, and later sexual, contact with one gender or the other.

Since erotic contact is an expression of love we come to principally seek it from those with whom we feel the greatest need to bond. Since our historic neurosis has left us with a split psyche in which one part of our nature is lived out and the other repressed, we are most likely to feel an erotic attraction to members of the opposite sex, since it is usually, but not always, the masculine which is repressed in the female and the feminine which is repressed in the male. Judging by the behaviour of the bonobos, this was not the case prior to our neurosis. At that point we were most likely unrestrainedly bisexual. It should also be explained that, in the neurotic state, the sexual behaviour of males can tend to become an expression of aggressive feelings toward the feminine. Sex between men and women is not always a case of affectionately sharing a capacity for bodily pleasure. A desire for conquest or domination can also sometimes be expressed in the sexual behaviour of men or women, but as long as this is consensual it can be part of the therapeutic nature of the erotic. It can be viewed as a cathartic form of psychodrama.

This explains why most of us have a principally heterosexual orientation and it explains why bisexual behaviour would be reasonably common, especially among those who are least repressed. But what of exclusive homosexuality? Here we don't have a case of opposites attracting in the hopes of forming a whole.

This is where it is important to examine the nature of taboos. A neurotic society brings with it the establishment of taboos, some for practical reasons and some having their basis in neurotic insecurity. An incest taboo serves the useful function of impeding inbreeding. But many sexual taboos originate in the neurotic's fear of the anarchic potential of unchannelled erotic desires. Such is the case with the taboos which grew up around same-sex erotic exchanges. These most likely began when the neurosis of males reached such a level that we were compelled to institute the oppression of women and the establishment of a patriarchal society. There have been some patriarchal societies, such as ancient Greece, where there was no taboo against homosexuality, but in many it has been particularly strong. Since our basic nature is to be bisexual, the neurotic heterosexual adult male is prone to fear of his repressed homosexual side and to feeling hostility towards those who express this potential. This can also be the case for the neurotic female, though the problem is generally less severe. Men are less likely to be troubled by homosexual behaviour amongst women, but may feel that it is a threat to their control over them. Women whose neurosis has led them to look to patriarchal males for a sense of security may feel the urge to mock homosexual men.

Taboos tend to contribute to the formation of fixations. A fixation is a response to an inability to accept something about ourselves. More often than not this is a learned response. We perceive that someone else doesn't accept something about us, and so our attention focusses on that thing in the same way that our tongue keeps going back to a sore tooth. A simple way of understanding this is to look at the situation of a young boy who is caught by his parents experimenting by dressing himself in his sister's dress. If they are shocked and punish him, then he may feel that they don't accept that part of him which led him to try out female attire. If this becomes a fixation he may, in adult life, be a transvestite, someone who gets a special satisfaction in dressing up in female clothes and spending time with those who accept this behaviour. This isn't the only thing which can lead to transvestism. Some boys are dressed up by one of their parents in girl's clothes against their wishes and end up becoming transvestites. The only thing which is needed for a fixation to form is for there to be a sense of not being accepted for what we are. The behaviour arising from the fixation can take the form of defiance of the lack of acceptance or an obsessive need to seek acceptance through submission. The boy caught in a dress is following the first path and the one forced to wear a dress is following the second.

Given that our state during childhood was one in which sensual enjoyment and attraction was unbounded, any kind of sexual or sensual desire is liable to pop into our mind. If we accept it, then our mind will just flow on to something else unless it seems to be a desire which is practical to act upon. But if we don't accept such a desire, either because we have been taught that it is taboo, or because we tried it once and were punished, then we may become fixated on it.

Fixations can take two forms. We may develop an obsessive fear that we will act on the desire. This is a common form of obsessive compulsive disorder and may lead us to avoid situations in which this would be possible. On the other hand we may feel compelled to act on the desire as an expression of defiance of those who have told us that it is a part of us that is unacceptable. So a fixation can be either passive or active. And if it is active, it can take a dominant or submissive form. The transvestite who wears a dress in defiance of his parent's lack of acceptance is being dominant, which the transvestite who wears a dress in an attempt to retrospectively earn the acceptance of a parent is being submissive.

The behaviour of an infant is clearly not sexual behaviour, but this is an age when we often are taught that aspects of our behaviour are unacceptable. We might eat our own shit, we might piss on somebody, we might fiddle with the genitals of the family pet... If the lesson leaves us feeling strongly rejected rather than simply corrected, then we may develop a fixation. When we reach adulthood and become fully sexual beings the fixation can become an erotic one. Thus some adults have a sexual desire to eat their lover's faeces, to urinate on each other or to have sex with animals. There are also various things which give us comfort when we are infants. If we feel generally unaccepted we may fixate on something which we associate with a time when we were accepted. The second transvestite is an example of this. Other such elements of infancy which can be fixated upon and eroticised during adulthood include : shoes (since our mother's shoes accompanied us when we crawled around on the floor), breast-feeding, diapering, spanking, and being tightly held (which in adulthood can take the form of a fondness for bondage).

To get back to exclusive homosexuality. In a society which has a taboo against same sex erotic activities, a fixation on such activities is bound to occur very commonly. This is not to belittle exclusive homosexual relationships. Sex is therapy and the sharing of sexual pleasure and the healing that comes from it is love in practice. The only disadvantage of having a sexual fixation is if it leads us to engage in destructive or self-destructive behaviour or if the practicalities of satisfying it undermine the potential for a healing relationship with one's sexual partner. While, as Woody Allen pointed out, bisexuality doubles one's chances of a date on a Saturday night, homosexuality, of all the potential fixations other than exclusive heterosexuality, holds the greatest potential for a healthy loving relationship.

If this thesis is correct then the irony is that homophobia gave birth to homosexuality rather than the other way around.

But this theory about the relationship between taboos and fixations holds serious implications for one of our most serious social problems, that of child sexual abuse.

Sexual attraction of an adult to an infant (nepiophilia), a pre-pubescent child (pedophilia) or a pubescent child (hebephilia) and the acts which sometimes arise from such attractions is perhaps the most severe taboo of our society. A fixation on such feelings can have disastrous results. And anything which causes harm to children naturally is a source of strong condemnation. But if a lack of acceptance of a thought or a desire is the cause for it becoming a fixation, then here we have a very dangerous potential for a negative feedback loop in which the horror with which society views this phenomena makes it more likely that we will develop a fixation on any thought or desire of this kind which our mind throws up. And this seems to be happening. Everyday we hear of another child porn ring being cracked and large numbers of respected individuals being exposed as child molesters. We also have seen a change in how these issues are viewed. When Stanley Kubrick made his film of Lolita in 1962 it was considered controversial but it was generally accepted and a popular success. When Adrian Lyne's Lolita came out in 1997 it had trouble finding a distributor and was held up from release in Australia for 2 years due to claims that it was pro-pedophile propaganda. Similarly, while nude photos of children or adolescent girls were common on the covers of record albums, etc. in the 1970s, in Australia in 2008 an installation of decidedly non-sexual nude photos of adolescent girls by Bill Henson led to a hysterical response from many community figures including then Prime Minster Kevin Rudd who referred to them as absolutely revolting". We have gone from a time when the issue of pedophilia could be artistically examined to a time when the unclothed beauty of young bodies can no longer be celebrated for fear that this might turn us into child molesters. This social phenomenon is often referred to as moral panic".

If a fixation of this kind is acted upon it can, once again, be in one of two possible forms. In the submissive form, the adult seduces the child. This is a plea for the child to accept those desires of which he himself is ashamed. The dominant form is rape, in which the man angrily attacks the object of the desire which has robbed him of the ability to accept himself.

So what is the answer? It seems to me that the negative feedback loop could be broken if we were to treat child sexual abuse the same way that we do murder. We have a no tolerance policy on murder. Murderers are jailed. But most of us are happy to admit that at some time we have felt like committing murder. We read books full of descriptions of murders and we watch movies in which murders are simulated in gruesome detail. Because we accept thoughts about murder and even the admission of sometimes having the desire to commit it, the incidence of individuals so fixated on the act that they have an addiction to committing it (i.e. serial killers) is thankfully relatively rare. The problem with our taboos about pedophilia isn't that we condemn the action, but that we also condemn the desire to commit the action. We don't allow ourselves the possibility of simply having the desire and realising that it would not be a good idea to act upon it. Like with so many evils, the fight against it is the driving force behind its very growth. Two things could reverse the trend. One is to understand the psychology of fixation, and the other is to stop teaching children to obey authority. A child who has been trained to do what their parents and teachers tell them, rather than to make decisions for themselves based on the information and suggestions provided by adults, is liable to also obey the authority of a child molester, especially if that individual is a teacher or their parent.

You can also find this post on the How to Be Free forum here. You may find further discussion of it there.

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