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, 10 May 2013

What Might Happen If We Weren't So Scared of Sex?

What is sex when we strip away the sometimes confusing beliefs and emotions which surround it? It can be a reproductive activity, but that is only in the minority of instances. If we only had sex to produce offspring it would be something which occurred no more than a handful of times for most of us and never for others. But sex is also a form of pleasure usually generated by the rubbing of one or more erogenous zones. More often than not the source of pleasure is the genitals. Sometimes this involves the penetration of an orifice by a part of the body, sometimes, but not always, the male genitals. If we leave aside the pleasure which may be experienced, this is no different from picking our nose or receiving a rectal exam from a doctor. There isn't anything inherently serious on a physical level about any of this, unless it results in pregnancy or disease. Of course it is possible to do damage through sexual activity by trying to put something too big into an orifice which isn't big enough to accommodate it. But the physical element of sex, in and of itself, is not serious in the way that violence is serious. Stroke someone's genitals and it is unlikely to do much long-standing physical damage.

So if sex has a special mystique for us, it is not an obvious part of the physical act itself. Which leads to the question – Why do we treat genital pleasure differently from oral pleasure? We get oral pleasure from eating chocolates. Why is it socially acceptable to talk about enjoying a delicious chocolate, but not about enjoying an orgasm? If one of our friends gave another a box of chocolates for his birthday we would think it appropriate. If they gave him a hand job we might not. Sex can carry the risk of spreading disease, but so can eating contaminated food. And sex can lead to an unwanted pregnancy. But there are forms of erotic activity, such as mutual masturbation, which are completely safe, and yet we still act as if there is something about these activities which makes them essentially more serious than a hug or a kiss on the cheek.

One difference is that sex is not always equal and consensual. Coercion or force can be involved. But coercion and force are themselves a problem. If someone were running around grabbing people and ramming their mouths full of chocolate we wouldn't view the chocolate as the problem.

Sexual behaviour and sexual desire can also be a currency for the ego. Some think in terms of sexual conquests" or knots on the belt" rather than loving encounters with other equal and complete human beings. And some use their ability to attract the sexual interest of others as a power trip.

What are the consequences of viewing sex as something more than a physically trivial way of giving ourselves or others pleasure?

We live in a society where a man who makes children laugh by exposing his genitals to them may be viewed as a monster but we have no legal way to protect a child from the lifelong trauma which can result from being told by a parent that he might burn in hell for eternity if he masturbates or if he grows up to be a homosexual.

I recently discovered that a friend of mine has lived with crippling shame and fear of the judgement of others for about 25 years as a result of the response of his psychiatrist to a confession that he had engaged in acts of mutual masturbation with a male work colleague and had experimented by hiring a couple of adult male prostitutes. The psychiatrist told him he had done something very very bad. He said that, if his work colleagues knew that he had seen male prostitutes they would ostracise him. And he said, apparently out of the blue, that if my friend had sex with a fifteen-year-old boy he would be put in jail for life and that the other inmates might force him to eat his own faeces. As a result of this event twenty-five years ago, my friend was afraid to tell me about the incident lest I responded angrily like his psychiatrist.

Perhaps the area where our irrational attitude to sex does the most damage is in the area of rape and child sexual abuse. Unpleasant experiences which end when they end in a physical sense are usually not hard to recover from as long as we don't suffer permanent physical damage. Traumatic events are traumatic because, in some way, they put a rent in our relationship with our self or between ourselves and others.

Non-judgemental communication is love, and love heals. This idea is at the heart of the psychotherapeutic relationship and also the institution of the confessional in the Catholic Church. If something happens to us which causes us emotional suffering or leaves us with desperately confused feelings, it is talking about it honestly and openly with sympathetic people which allows us to recover. But because we treat sex, whether pleasurable or abusive, as something embarrassing if not shameful, and because the consequences of talking about sexual offences can lead to traumatic trials for survivors and a harsher punishment than they may want for perpetrators, especially if the perpetrator is a family member, there is a tendency for them to lie or remain silent about what happened. I think it is the lies and the silence and inability to receive the loving comfort that would come from openness, which is the major factor in the trauma. Without this element, the effects of the event would probably disappear fairly quickly. And this must be particularly true where an individual has mixed feelings about the event, such as the case of an adolescent who may have taken sexual pleasure and emotional comfort from an inappropriate relationship with an adult. If other adults try to deny such an adolescent's experience and insisted that they view the incident exclusively as an act of abuse, then they may be doing more harm than good. Healing requires that our experience by listened to without demands.

Sexual self-control and sexual repression are not the same thing. Sexual repression does not require that we act on our sexual desires, only that we accept them and enjoy them. We might not actually have sex with anyone other than a chosen partner, but, if we are emotionally healthy, we will feel sexual feelings for many other people. To be unrepressed is to allow ourselves to feel such exciting feelings fully. And if we are masturbating we can feel free to fantasise about any kind of act with any individual. There are no consequences in the imagination. If we feel sexual feelings which it would be problematic to act on then we can have a really good time by getting off to fantasies about them in our imagination. There can be a tendency, because of our cultural fear of sex, to think that indulging in taboo fantasies during masturbation will lead to us losing our ability to behave appropriately in real life. The opposite is true. If a man has truly depraved desires, such as having sex with his mother-in-law, he will find that, if he indulges these fantasies during masturbation, his relationship with his mother-in-law will improve because he will not be weighed down by the anxiety generated by trying to hold such desires in when in her presence.

Fear of the erotic can undermine our ability to enjoy non-sexual pleasures as well. Anyone who has ever gone for a walk on the beach or eaten a delicious meal after having an orgasm knows that sexual release opens up the full treasure chest of pleasures in the world around us.

When we think of the bonobos, those most sexually uninhibited of primates, and their happy, healthy and peaceful existence, one wonders if the root of our aggression, our mental illness and vulnerability to physical illness does not come down to pleasure deprivation. If our lives were more filled with pleasure would we build up the level of frustration which overflows into violence. One of the defining features of mental illness is living more in our head than in our body. And it stands to reason that a body which feels good will work more efficiently to heal.

Now I'm not suggesting that we need to participate in orgies. Only that we take a more common-sense, practical approach to sex, that we be less afraid and more tolerant, and that we create an environment in which sexual experiences, loving or abusive, can be more easily talked about rather than becoming a potential source of life-long trauma.

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