I am a certified therapist who helps expats facing difficulties in everyday life abroad. I graduated...
How guilt, shame and fear poison sexuality31 March 2014, by Somesh Valentino Curti
Sexuality is a very important part of our lives: it is the core of our energy, a source of creativity and a mirror of who we are and how we relate to each other.
If we suffer in this area, it also affects the rest of our life and leads us towards dissatisfaction and frustration.
As I have seen in my experience as psychologist and sex counsellor in Amsterdam, there are three elements at the heart of sexual problems: guilt, shame and fear. These are the real "poisons" that make us feel bad, blocked and unhappy.
When we are born we are completely open and natural, our sexuality is not yet conditioned. The sources of our conditioning are the education we receive, the cultural system in which we grow up and the emotional atmosphere in our family.
Every time a person receives a repressing opinion as part of their education or experiences a trauma, a "negative" conditioning is born. It produces guilt, shame and fear: the real poisons that infect the person emotionally and leaves him/her suffering, feeling miserable and blocked.
The people who perpetrate this negative conditioning once were themselves victims of it; over time they have adapted themselves and have identified with it.
Gay or not gay? An example
Here is an example of a client of mine who was trapped in the net of guilt, shame and fear and how he escaped. I hope it can be a stimulus for anyone who is "infected" by these poisons, whatever their situation.
This person came to me because he started to have doubts about his sexuality. He had always considered himself homosexual, but at the threshold of becoming 35 years old, he was wondering if he really was gay.
The root of his doubt arose from the fact that he felt like a fish out of water both in his family and in the gay community of which he wanted to be a part. His religious family considered his homosexuality a disease to be cured; and the gay community did not understand why he was not behaving like them but more like a heterosexual. In short, no one accepted him for who he was.
Consequently, he felt guilty for his sexual choices and was ashamed to live his sexuality openly. He was hiding from himself, was afraid of others’ judgments and of revealing himself.
His doubt about his sexuality can be summarised in this sentence: "If I am not how my family and "normal" society define me, and I am not like how the gay community wants me to be: Who am I? Am I gay or not?"
Bread vs Rice
To explain to him the kind of conditioning he had received from both the religious and gay communities, I offered this example: "Imagine that someone starts a new religion now, based on the dogma that eating bread is right and eating rice is wrong.
Imagine if he could have a large network of "believers" and could indoctrinate them so well that they would all spread the message. Imagine if he could pass it on from generation to generation.
Probably, after centuries, there would be someone like you who would feel terribly guilty for liking rice and not bread. Who is ashamed to even think about rice and is afraid to express his preference for it.
And maybe there would be a counter-current movement that supported eating rice and not bread, and that would ratify new dogmas about eating behaviour."
Rejection & Self-discovery
The heart of my clients’ therapeutic process was to root himself in what he felt himself to be and not in what others told him to be. In fact, there was no need for him to define himself as gay or not.
Everyone is free to live his/her sexuality as he/she wishes, to experiment and to change his/her mind when he/she wants to. What is actually important is to be true to what we feel inside, and to be consistent with this feeling.
I used to tell him: "If you wake up one morning and see a beautiful woman, to whom you feel attracted, approach her. If you see a handsome man, to whom you feel attracted, approach him. Be true with what you feel and be spontaneous: never define yourself."
Appreciation & Acceptance
My clients’ story reveals how scared we are of not receiving love and appreciation and of hurting those we love: "I need love and appreciation, but in order not to be rejected by my family and my peers, and not to hurt them, I am willing to compromise in being myself."
This way of thinking is more or less conscious and affects us heavily. It must be left behind, because more important than external appreciation is inner appreciation: to accept ourselves for who we are and to be true to that.
How can we, in fact, expect others to accept ourselves if we are not willing to do it in the first place? And can we still call "love" a feeling that we receive only if we fulfil others’ expectations?
The level of acceptance of what we are has to be deep and total. The freedom and integrity of an individual are worth being defended, even at the risk of being rejected and excluded by others.
The antidotes to guilt, shame and fear are being real, showing ourselves for what we are and following our deepest needs. They help us overcoming our fear of being rejected by society.
We must not suppress our needs, or conversely impose them on others, and neither must we live our lives as slaves to our anger at being rejected.
It is important to recognise what really matters in our life, to live according to our individual values and never import them from outside ourselves.