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 593 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Untying the Sexual Knot

How did something as natural and enjoyable as sex become something about which we may feel shame and even something we may use to express hostility to others?

To examine this question it seems best to consider my own experience.

My mother once told me that I used to masturbate when I was a baby. Of course I don't remember that, but this comment did perhaps make some sense of a fleeting thought I had when I first rediscovered masturbation at about the age of thirteen. "This feels like being a baby again," I thought, but I didn't know why.

But in the years before I rediscovered masturbation I had a strong interest and attraction to the opposite sex. I remember at the age of about ten enjoying seeing a scantily clad woman on television, and while taking a swimming lesson I felt an ecstatic feeling of excitement when I bumped into my busty young teacher and felt her soft breasts pressed against me.

I liked to play games with my sister and brother or my sister's school friends which involved taking our clothes off. And I enjoyed acting out fantasies about accidentally on-purpose revealing my body.

At some point I bought a cartoon magazine with risque jokes and pictures of sexy women. My mother told me it was O.K. for me to look at something like this as long as I didn't hide the fact that I was. For me this would later be a dilemma as, when I got old enough to buy Playboy, I wanted to but didn't because I was too embarrassed to look at it openly.

When I rediscovered masturbation I enjoyed it immensely, but then for a while I began to feel a deep sense of shame about it. For about six months I didn't do it. Eventually I spoke to my parents and was reassured by them that masturbation was normal and healthy. Once I went back to masturbating I did it a lot. I would watch television at night masturbating the whole time, always hoping to see girls in bikinis or preferably naked.

My first two years of high school were spent at a Catholic school. My fellow pupils would often bring soft porn magazines to school and would delight in holding up the centrefolds for me to see. I think they hoped to embarrass me. I was embarrassed and so I didn't respond, but I loved it. I wished I had the courage to flaunt authority and look at porn magazines at school. But the teachers came down hard on this kind of thing. I remember one of them warning that we should be aware of how easy it is for someone to spread their addiction to this kind of material to others.

By year 11 I was in a different school, a secular one this time. Some of my friends would read sex novels and one day one of them was caught in English class writing an erotic story about a family who engage in incestuous orgies. He was told by his teacher that he should not only not write something like that, but that he shouldn't even think it.

I never developed any relationships with girls. I felt a strong attraction to them, but was too timid to act upon it.

As I moved into adulthood my sexuality was exclusively directed towards masturbating to sexy images and fantasies. And I continued to feel shame about how much time I spent on this activity which seemed to be a social taboo.

So where did the sense of shame come from? Not, presumably, from the home environment, as my parents were fairly relaxed and accepting about these things. But what I noticed in the school environment was that people had strong sexual desires like my own, but they were ashamed of them. The boys would joke about masturbation, but nobody would acknowledge that they did it. And the teachers often seemed frightened by the sexual, which could only be the case if their own desires were frighteningly strong.

It is helpful to put aside all our prejudices and look simply at what happens as our sexuality develops.

We are born unconditionally loving and uninhibitedly sensual beings. We are affectionate and like touching and being touched, and we bond closely with our family.

At puberty genital functioning is added to the mix. We start to have sexual feelings. Our strongest initial sexual attraction is liable to be to members of our own family. We have no taboos. Taboos have to be learned. And we live intimately with our family.

Our parents, however, do have a taboo against incest. As our bodies develop, they may feel sexual attraction to us, but they recognise that this needs to be curtailed, and also that our expression of our innocent sexuality needs to be curtailed lest it lead to problems in a society characterised by sexual repression and armouring. The degree of sensitivity with which this curtailing of our original innocent sexuality is managed may determine the level of our own repression, our own armouring, during adulthood. It is important to remember that the young person's incestuous desires are an expression of love. Love is open spontaneous honest communication. If we feel sexual attraction towards someone then affectionately expressing those feelings is a part of love in practice. It is important that a curtailing of innocent sexuality is not interpreted by a young person as a rejection of their love.

When we are a child we take a lot of mistreatment from adults and we are very resilient to this, but what eventually wounds us so deeply is the rejection of our love by adults. All of us are God when we are born, we come into this world like Jesus did, wanting to love away the problems of the world, but at some point it will become too much for us. We will be spiritually crucified by a world of adult's who refuse to believe that they deserve our love. Our sexuality develops within this context.

In my case, at about the age of 16, I developed an obsession with the idea that I might gouge out my own eyes. In looking back and wondering why, it occurs to me that when someone is ashamed of something, they won't look us in the eyes. If a sense was growing in me that my fellow students and my teachers were ashamed of themselves, and particularly ashamed of their sexual feelings, perhaps I started to think, on some level : "If you are so ashamed for me to see you, perhaps it would be easier for you if I were to tear out my own eyes."

This is similar to what can happen to adolescent girls and boys who become troubled by the fact that some adults are suddenly too ashamed to look at their bodies, and so they, too, become ashamed of their bodies and punish them with starvation or cutting.

If we are to manage sexuality in a way which does not leave such scars, we need to distinguish between innocent sexuality and armoured sexuality, that is the form of sexuality which grows out of the sense of shame with which our elders may contaminate us.

It is innocent to enjoy sensual pleasures. It is innocent to enjoy genital pleasures. It is innocent to want to be naked. It is innocent to want to see other people naked. It is innocent to be curious about other's sexual behaviour. It is innocent to feel sexually attracted to our own relatives. It is innocent to be sexually attracted to adolescents.

Armoured sexuality grows out of the fear of any of these feelings either in ourselves or in others. The passive extreme of armoured sexuality is frigidity or impotence, where sexual feelings are entirely deadened. The active extreme is aggressive sexuality driven by the need to attack innocence. This is what we term "lust" and is considered a sin because it is a form of selfishness not a form of love.

We cannot truly love others as long as our sexuality is armoured. Such armouring is antagonistic to openness, spontaneity and honesty. When we open up to love erotic feelings become stronger and repressed taboo desires rise to the surface. But there is no need to fear such feelings as they do not require being acted upon unless to do so seems appropriate to us.

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


  1. Before I became a mum I did worry a bit about any incestuous love I might feel towards my child. Not much, I think there is a continuum of love, physical and spiritual, which blenda over sometimes in the sexual but I supposed (rightly!) that it wouldn't be that difficult to put a stopper in before affection for my child became something that serviced my adult wishes not her childish needs.
    Nowadays I know I needn't have ever feared it. I never feel the least bit sexual about my child, even when we are in the bath together or sleeping snugged up in bed. Paedophilia isn't what I'm interested in and although I think I ought to understand it, I just put it in the box marked: must read up on that although probably thinking about it will not help me realise why other people feel it.
    What I do struggle with is providing my child with some armour against the attentions of the world at large. I'm not keen on the sociological term scopic violence but in my own life I've become aware how much I'm affected by people looking at me. All the Bloody Time! And slowly I've realised that my kid is sometimes uneasy about her body although she's still very young, because she's aware of people looking.
    She's a very pretty and healthy child. Recently we had an argument because I said she could go across the stepping stones on the river below the castle if she wore her swimming costume in case she fell in. She desperately wanted to walk across the stepping stones but she refused to put on her costume because she said no other child was wearing one (there were only about three of them around anyway!). After a while I said to her, People will look at you whatever you wear. You're a beautiful child and they like to see children who are pretty and healthy like you are. You are going to have to get used to it.
    As we grow into adolescence, we sometimes pass through little periods of luminescent beauty while we are anxious and underconfident about ourselves. There are of course lots of other reasons why we come to feel constrained in the expression of ourselves and our sexuality but recently I've been thinking a lot about how that lack of confidence and anxiety under what is an admiring gaze but feels intrusive affects us. I think part of the trouble can be if we're not sure how to tell who to trust with that precious joy of our sexuality, then we might just shut down to everyone. In my research on sex and relationships education I've come to realise that parents, teachers, friends, whoever, we are rubbish at teaching our lovely young people how to tell who is going to behave to them with respect and love and not to wait about anxiously for someone - anyone - to pick them up and screw them, instead be confident in their beauty and actively go out seeking to enjoy sex with people they like.

  2. In my earlier post "Taboos and Fixations" I discussed how fixations occur through lack of acceptance of some feeling, especially when that lack of acceptance takes the form of fear. You give a very good description of the healthy process of responding to a child. You were aware that we are all sexual beings and that there is a potential for an erotic attraction of any individual to another, but in your relationship with your child that became immaterial because such a relationship was not something from which either of you had anything to gain. Love is expressed sensually through physical contact, but not genitally. But if a person is less open and flexible in their thinking then an erotic feeling towards their child may occur, an unimportant fleeting experience, but instead of accepting it as a fleeting experience of little relevance in the totality of their healthy relationship with their child, they respond with fear and then they may fixate on that idea and come to identify themselves as a person who wants to have sex with their child. At first this might manifest itself simply as a nervousness around the child, a lack of self-trust. But, in some cases, it may get to the point of feeling condemned by the world for having such desires and feeling the need to defy that imagined condemnation by actually molesting the child. And adult's who have been molested themselves as children sometimes have a higher likelihood of falling into this trap, because our sexuality, if it becomes fixated, becomes fixated around something we find hard to accept in ourselves and someone who was molested is likely to have difficulty accepting that aspect of their experience. This is what the term emotional trauma means. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a fixation on an unpleasant experience because we are not yet able to accept it.

    There is no doubt that staring is an aggressive act. I have a problem with the term "male gaze" which feminists often use, because to me gazing is affectionate. Staring is not affectionate. We stare for a number of reasons. Sometimes we stare as a deliberate way of intimidating someone. Sometimes we stare at what we fear. Sometimes we stare because we are not seeing what we are looking at but rather something which that person or thing represents to us. For instance we might look at a child and our gaze may become a stare because we are seeing in the child a representation of our own lost youth. We are in a revery, but to the child it might seem that we are looking at them strangely. Because we know what a big problem pedophilia is I think many of us don't look at children in a comfortable way. A friend of mine once pointed out that as little as a couple of decades ago if a little child was running around naked at the beach everyone would look and say, "How cute", but now he would look away for fear of being thought a pedophile. My observation has been though that many adults and adolescents seem uncomfortable if I look at them for very long, while most young children love to have the audience of an adult who looks at them with an indulgent smile. So I think that a child's nervousness about attracting attention probably has less to do with an inherent dislike of being the centre of attention and more to do with a fear that some of those paying attention may not be friendly.

  3. I think in a sense it is easy to know who we can trust and in a sense it is not easy at all. It is all a case of if we see what is directly in front of our eyes or if we filter what we see through a complex web of prejudices and needs and fixations. How often does someone get caught up in a sexual relationship with someone which goes badly and only afterwards do they face up to the fact that it was they themselves who were desperately explaining away mistreatment and blowing perceived virtues out of all proportion, that all along we were not seeing the person for who they where but for who we wanted them to be. (I haven't experienced that in a sexual relationship, but I have in another kind of relationship.) I think that one of the things which makes adolescent sexuality so difficult is that we are anxious to give some form of expression to this powerful source of excitement within us and so we are liable to be less fussy than we should be. I think this is one reason why it is important that adolescents should not be discouraged from expressing their sexuality through masturbation and reading and writing of erotic stories as these are safe ways of expressing and enjoying sexuality, and they take off some of the pressure which can lead to bad decisions. And I think it is also important to teach both young people and older people how to forgive themselves for any bad decisions which they do make. Bad decisions bring us suffering for a limited amount of time, but if we can't forgive ourselves for making a bad decision the suffering can extend throughout the rest of our life, in fact we can find ourselves re-enacting it as a kind of self-punishment as many women do who move from one abusive relationship to another.

  4. As you know, I am totally with you on the encouraging young people to explore safely through reading and looking at erotica!
    On the getting into bad relationships, I am unfortunately a real expert. I finally realised that if we have grown up in bad family relationships (which I did although I know you didn't), these come to be the ones we feel comfortable with. Horribly, we feel anxious and uncertain in situations which are actually respectful and loving but at ease in the familiarity of unkindness and exploitation. I got out of this at last by picking out someone to be with in a cold thoughtful way, instead of relying on my useless hormonal reactions. I did have a choice between several people including one drop-dead sexy guy whom anyone but me could have immediately seen was going to make a mess of my life. Finally I did see it! and picked the one who was a steady bloke, had always behaved to me with consideration, was interesting to talk to and clearly in a good financial position. That sounds calculating but I figured that a man who has a good handle on his finances is probably reasonably well sorted out in his life generally. We have our ups and downs of course, but I have been with him for 10 years now and he has been supportive, fair and lots of fun. And solvent, which may not be sexy but is important when you have to buy four pairs of shoes for a small child twice a year. This is compared to previous psychopaths who stripped me of any money I had and left me suicidal with confusion about why they then left me! it has sometimes taken months before I realise I should be eternally grateful not to have them in my life any more.
    I used to think if I could have good friendships I should be able to translate that into sexual relationships but it doesn't seem to work quite like that, as I have some wonderful friendships, some of them decades old. In spite of the great value I place on sexuality, friends have become more important to me, they are the family I chose and I feel deeply proud to be someone they chose to like.
    I keep meaning to write a blogpost on the politics of the scopic, I'll do it soon!

  5. I think the situation you describe of feeling anxious and uncertain in a respectful relationship is probably a fear of freedom, which is a very common phenomenon. Eric Fromm wrote a lot about it, although I haven't read any of his books. But I did read a book by Rollo May which described anxiety as "the dizziness of freedom". I think that if we haven't learned to feel trusting of ourselves, then we may feel more comfortable if we are not in control of our lives.

    One of the advantages of recognising that love is a form of communication is that it reinforces the wisdom of choosing a life partner on the basis of practical considerations, because the potential for love and passionate feelings of attraction are not determined by some essential aspect of the other individual's nature but on how openly we can communicate with them and how vulnerable we can safely allow ourselves to be with them.