All of us draw on social mores when it comes to our interpersonal behavior. In regards to sexual behavior, the rules become more complicated and more emotionally difficult. We are sexual beings from the time of our birth. Our families, our religions, and our society at large begin piling expectations, judgments, experiences and often abuse onto our experience of sexuality. These ideas and ideals about sexuality and sexual behavior become our sexual baggage before we have even begun to engage in intimate sexual relationships.
Some children are fortunate: they are raised in homes where bodies and sexuality are seen as normal, healthy parts of human life. Unfortunately, that is not the most common experience for most of us. We grow up in cultures and in families that shame sexuality and bodies. We’re taught at a young age that touching ourselves beyond necessary washing is sinful and something to be avoided. Many religious groups preach that masturbation is a terrible sin. Likewise, premarital sexuality or any sexual act outside of heterosexual married love is condemned. Children and teens hear this often growing up. It may not be on a daily basis and it may not be explicit, but these messages are made clear to us as children.
The damage of these messages we receive about sexuality as youth is greatly understated in our society. I’d argue that any religion that tries to dictate sexual behavior in its members is venturing into territory where it has potential to do a great deal of psychological harm. However, religions are allowed to define the appropriate sexual behavior of their members though most would judge that to be something a cult would do if the idea was taken out of context. These moral dictates of often conservative religions end up being very damaging for many of their members even once they begin to participate in sanctioned sexually intimate relationships.
Much of this damage doesn’t end up being discussed in our society. Sexual baggage is loaded with shame, and most of us shove it under our metaphorical rugs. We don’t want others to know our dirty secrets. We blame ourselves for having done things that our religions preach against even if we don’t agree with the religious perspective. We don’t have an objective view about our own sexuality because of the baggage we carry. When we get into relationships with others, even if they are heterosexual marriages blessed by our churches, we still bring our sexual baggage with us into the relationships. We’ve been told all our lives that our bodies and our sexuality is wrong, but now that we have a piece of paper and a blessing from a clergy member, suddenly we are supposed to be able to have healthy sexual relationships with our religiously sanctioned partners. Yet all that sexual shame we carry doesn’t magically go away during the marriage ceremony. It joins us on the honeymoon and beyond, one of the unwanted parts of our psychological dowries.
I speak from experience on this: I saw sexual baggage create major rifts in my former relationship for almost the entirety of the 22 years I was with my ex-husband. Midway through the relationship, I began to realize how much baggage I had, and I began working on it myself without the luxury of a therapist or coach to guide me. I made tremendous progress on my own, and when I began working on the issues with a therapist in later years, I found even more healing. The problem arose when my sexual healing enormously outpaced my ex-husband’s. Once we were in very different places with regard to our sexual baggage, our sexual relationship began to shatter, slowly but surely, ultimately contributing to the demise of our relationship.
The problem with sexual baggage is that it is so insidious. We are ashamed of it, and we hide it away deeply in our bodies. We avoid talking about it for fear that we will receive more judgment from those we turn to for help. Healing sexual traumas and burdens is not an easy path. However, once one is able to let go of that sexual baggage, one can find great happiness and pleasure in ways one never previously dreamed possible. Through Green Heart Guidance, I help clients release some of this sexual trauma, however and whenever they accumulated it. I work from a place of compassion having been a victim of sexual abuse and sexual harassment and someone who was raised in a conservative church that preached against natural sexual behavior. I know how hard it is to heal these wounds. I work from a place of non-judgment, encouraging clients to be themselves no matter whom that is. To promote healing, I often use energetic flower remedies, essential oils and crystals to help clients release the energy of sexual trauma that creates this baggage. When that stored energy is released, it can be much easier to work through the damage of the sexual traumas most of us have, and from there, healing is much closer than we ever believed possible. The work I do with clients can’t undo the past, but it can make for a much brighter future.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC