Sex & Intimacy Issues
If you’ve grown up in a typical Western social environment, it is probable that you were brought up with a lot of sexual woundedness and shame. In some cases this may arise from sexual or physical abuse, in others feelings of hurt and shame can be evoked through the cumulative effect of seemingly innocuous everyday experiences.
Relationships, whether with lovers, family or friends, can be healing or wounding at different times. What you may then experience is:
• Difficulties with or lack of intimate relationships
• Challenges around experiencing orgasm
• Other sexual problems – e.g. not enjoying sex, having painful penetration
• Loss of libido
• Emotional difficulties
• Low self-esteem, poor body image
• Disconnection from your body during sex
• Saying “yes” when you really mean “no”
Female sexual problems, what the medical model calls “Female Sexual Dysfunction”, are incredibly common. Many of them can be resolved through my unique combination of talk therapy and hands-on bodywork.
My model arises from the belief that sexual issues arise from a combination of physiological and psychological causes. Some issues require medical attention, such as hormone treatment or surgery, but the majority of women who visit me can resolve their problems with my natural, non-invasive approach.
Here are some of the most common issues which I treat regularly. I have put common terminology first, followed by the clinical medical description in brackets. Where appropriate you may be referred to a medical practitioner or other therapist for treatment.
Loss of Desire (Inhibited Sexual Desire)
Low sex drive is something which affects most women at some time (for example, during pregnancy or when highly stressed) but for some women the problem lasts for a long period of time and may cause issues in relationship. Psychological and societal factors may contribute to this. Our society still has an unbalanced perspective on female sexuality – either subjugating it or objectifying it through pornography and advertising. Once a woman reclaims her power she can rediscover her own sexual pleasure for herself, not for the benefit of others. With ISD you may suffer from little or no interest in sex, inability to fantasise, pain during intercourse (due to dryness), lack of sensation in genitals or problems experiencing orgasm.
“I felt I was ‘dead from the neck down’, but working with Mike has made me feel alive again!” (Sarah, 43)
Lack of Arousal (Female Sexual Arousal Disorder)
Whilst sexual desire is the psychological wish for intimacy and pleasure, arousal is the body’s physiological response. This manifests as lubrication in the vagina, “erotic” sensations in the body and increased blood flow, especially in the genitals and breasts. Problems arising from lack of arousal may include reduced lubrication, pain during penetration, lack of sensation in genitals or lack of orgasmic response.
“It was a wonderful experience and since then I’ve felt happier, more relaxed and more comfortable in myself” (Clare, 37)
Vaginal Pain or Tightness (Vaginismus, Vulvodynia, Vestibulitis, Dyspareunia)
Painful sex may arise from lack of lubrication, loss of desire or arousal, a tightening of the vaginal muscles (Vaginismus). In other cases there may be a painful or burning sensation at the entrance of the vagina (Vulvodynia or Vestibulitis) or pain within the vagina (Dyspareunia). All of these are physiological responses but they may be caused by psychological issues. For example, if at some point you have experienced sexual trauma, you may later experience vaginal tightness which makes penetration painful or impossible, even if consciously you desire it. Becoming aware of the unconscious messages of the body, and releasing the physical memory of past experiences opens the way to a natural sexual response and pleasurable sensations.
“I could not have dealt with my pain without you. You have set me free” (Moira, 42)
These are terms for lack of orgasmic response. The medical model uses the term Anorgasmia (without orgasm), whereas I prefer to use Pre-orgasmia because it is my belief that every woman can become multi-orgasmic. Pre-orgasmia means that you are simply in a phase of your life where you have not yet experienced orgasm. It is also important to realise that orgasm is not a goal to be reached, it is not something to be “achieved” – it is simply an experience, like any other sexual experience. By reframing orgasm in these terms, women can give themselves permission to stop trying so hard to “get there” and simply allow their orgasmic response to arise naturally within their body. Your body knows how to orgasm. It is the mind which blocks this natural response. Through my combination of talk and bodywork you can overcome these blocks quickly and effectively.
“In my first session I had my first orgasm. Ever. And it was fabulous!” (Alice, 50)
As well as working with physical issues, I also support women to reclaim their power and express themselves fully as the mature sexual individuals that they are. Female sexuality has been suppressed or treated unequally with male sexuality and all too often women unconsciously accept this as a given. By guiding you through your own inner belief systems I support clients to step into their power as women.
Creating Clear Boundaries
It can be all too easy to say Yes when we mean No or simply to remain silent when our body is screaming No to us. Women can feel pressured into situations and actions which they don’t feel right, but which they may feel powerless to stop.
In each session you will be encouraged to reclaim your power. This is done in part by being able to define your own boundaries. Through processes which will connect you with what feels right for you in each moment, you will be able to clearly define and state your boundaries – and know that they will be respected. This simple exercise allows women to reclaim their power in being able to say NO! This increases self-confidence and in itself can heal wounds which may have been inflicted by men.
Learning what feels right and when to say No can be an important part of learning to become sexual. Only when we truly trust our No can we say Yes completely. Only when we do that can we surrender to the bliss of sexual pleasure.
“I learnt to say No! Now I feel so much more confident” (Lisa, 38)
Many women avoid intimacy or relationship because they have been hurt in the past, either through deliberate abuse, sexual trauma, or simply lack of compassionate loving by partners or parents. Intimacy means allowing the other to see the whole of you – and this can mean becoming vulnerable. It is only when we feel sufficiently safe that we can allow intimacy. Working with a quick and powerful technique of talk therapy you can become aware of what limits you from allowing love, intimacy and connection into your life. The effects of this work can be life changing.
“After only one session I was able to open my heart and, unbelievably, I have met a soul mate. The bodywork with you enabled me to move forward and begin again with someone new and special” Laura, 45)
This subject is a hot topic at present. The female prostate gland, responsible for female ejaculation, was finally formally acknowledged to exist by the Federative International Committee on Anatomical Terminology (FICAT) in 2001. Although some mystery remains about the source and nature of female ejaculate, the many scientific studies consistently show that female ejaculate is NOT urine. Emotionally when clients ejaculate it feels as though an emotional dam has broken and that old protective layers have been cast off and there is room for greater growth, softening and opening. Although not yet scientifically demonstrated, I believe that learning to ejaculate has a profoundly restorative and healing quality to it.
“Like shedding old skins that had held me back, I feel so free now” (Abby, 29)
Increased Sensitivity and Pleasure
Sometimes we find it harder than we like to think to be in our bodies – especially when they’re experiencing sexual pleasure. The mind can run stories, fantasies or simply get distracted by mundane thoughts. For some women this looks like detaching from the body, for others it presents as a lack of sensitivity to touch. Through conscious practice I can support you to engage more fully with your body, to re-awaken your sensuality and tune in to the pleasure your body can experience, without shame, guilt or fear.
“Within 30 seconds I was in a state of bliss” (Naomi Wolf, Sunday Times article, September 2010)
Society tells us to look after ourselves physically with exercise and healthy nutrition – but it often ignores nurturing our sexual selves. Re-connecting with our sexuality has multiple benefits; reducing levels of stress, decreasing chance of cancer and heart attack, increasing pain thresholds, increasing longevity and actually slowing the aging process – all of which has been demonstrated in scientific studies. When we connect with our sexuality, we may also become more creative and feel more alive. Our sexuality is an important part of us and until we learn to integrate it healthily into our lives, there will always be a split which stops us from feeling whole and complete.
“Thanks Mike. I feel grace and courage, feminine, protected, strength, clarity, focused…..a serene smile on my face” (Susan, 48)