Life Architecture- How to Build a Life.

Life Architecture- How to Build a Life.

Sometimes I get a bit lost. Days bleed into each other, energy is scarce, I forget what is really important for my growth, caught up in responsibilities and admin. And then, along comes this little fragment of consciousness, dressed up like a leprechaun, with a cheeky, wise glint in his eye and he says (in a caricatured Irish accent) ” Jimmy my lad, what the fewk are ya up to?! What are you tryin’ to do with this precious life of yours? It’s then that I stop and do an ‘audit’ of my life.
One of the great teachers I have found when doing a ‘life audit’ is James Hollis…he has the extraordinary ability to make the work of Carl Jung meaningfully applicable to everyday life -and this genius is apparent in Creating a Life: Finding your Individual Path.

The book takes you on a journey into living an examined life, a journey towards consciousness. But Hollis warns this journey will not solve all your problems or heal your pain, it will simply make your life more interesting to you. And who doesn’t want to feel that they are really living; that life is an exciting, meaningful journey as opposed to a boring sequence of mishaps and misadventures?

The book is divided into three parts and has twenty-eight short chapters.
Part one of the book, has six chapters which take you on a journey of self discovery, providing a new frame of reference through which to look at your personal history, understand your life choices, examine your core complexes, uncover your wounding. The chapters move through the necessity of finding a personal myth, understanding your core complexes, the necessary fictions that make up your life and the problem of spiritual authority. And in each chapter, Hollis gently guides the journey by providing literary examples and insightful, thought provoking questions:
What is urgent in our lives?
What owns us?
What do we seek to transcend?
What myth are we living?
Are we living out our parent’s unlived lives, compensating for their fears?
Are we in thrall to the values of the herd, which may offend the soul but keeps one complaint company?
What kind of play has our life been, in service too what, or to whom?
Do we like what we see, if we look honestly, and whose fault is it then?

By taking your time and savouring what Hollis has to offer, you arrive at the end of the first part of the book with a new consciousness, an awareness of how your wounding is living in the world, a sense of where you are stuck.

Part two of the book is divided into twenty chapters which explore the attitudes and practices necessary for the second half of life. These chapters begin with Jung’s concept of individuation and the necessity of loving one’s fate.
The recognition that it is here, in this time, in this place that you are called to live your life, not the life envisioned by your ego or your parents or by societal expectations but your life!

Jung asserted that the greatest burden a child must carry is the unlived lives of their parents and in the following chapter Redeeming Ancestors, Hollis explores four ways in which you can heal the family history that is operating autonomously in you.

Crisis come at critical points in a life and Hollis includes a chapter on crises and their meaning in your life, which inevitably leads to the need for mentors, teachers, gurus and sages who can provide you with all the answers. But Hollis asserts, nobody can find your path but you, nobody knows more about your history, your struggles, your challenges than you. In this chapter Hollis explores Jung’s concept of the Self, the carrier of your soul and your very own inner guru and it is through connection with the Self that you can find meaning, purpose and a general sense of the rightness of your life. Hollis description of the Self fires the imaginations and creates a longing for this connection.

The following chapters explore the necessity of accepting your failings and limitations, the necessary mess of things, leaving ambition behind and the necessity of getting over your wounds by attending to your soul.

In the chapter on The Complexity of Relationships, Hollis illustrates how relationships provide mirrors through which you encounter yourself, your patterns. your wounding. It is through encounters with others that you meet your core perceptions. Perceptions formed in childhood about how valuable you are, how trustworthy other people are and how the world will meet you. And it is through this meeting with the other, this forced confrontation with yourself, that growth occurs.

Part three of the book is concludes with two chapters, which explore the necessity of feeling grateful for the journey of life and importance of images, of the imagination in creating your life.
For anyone seeking greater consciousness, for anyone wanting to live an examined life, this book provides a rich resource of reflections, a guiding compass with which to navigate the journey of life. Through the many poems and excerpts from the works of many modern writers, including John Fowles, Rilke, D.H. Lawrence, Thoreau, Pascal and Kierkegaard you get a feeling that your journey is undertaken in good company and you are not alone.

I find myself returning to this book time and time again and with each reading I find myself excited, interested in my journey, in the life I am creating. I discover new trails I want to explore. I discover new ways of getting myself unstuck and moving forward. I find myself creating my life, finding my individual path.
If however, you are looking for a how to manual or a set of guidelines to help you create a life or find your individual path, this book will leave you unfulfilled. It is not a new age cure all. Hollis ask more questions than he answers and the questions he does ask need a lifetime of deep reflection to answer. And yet, if your journey is to be truly individual, you must find your own path, you must create your own life.

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In Praise of Imperfections.

In Praise of Imperfections.

No longer do I fantasize about bikini clad, airbrushed women with shiny hair and gleaming teeth…
Give me a woman with honest hips and an open heart.

Gone are the days of envying rich men with expensive colognes and practiced smiles,
Too often I see beneath their Emporer’s clothes to the aching depths beneath.

No longer do I pimp and preen like a young cock of yore,
Now rather, I prefer to peer with loving curiousity at the cracks we all try to conceal.

I smile as I stand in the shopping queue, reading the covers of glossy magazines that promise multiple orgasms and eternal youth, we buy their lies in a vain attempt to nurse our inadequacies, creating chronic disappointment with our unique reflections.

As I grow up, I begin to understand and welcome that I am more flawed and human than I ever imagined,
I am more than the size of my penis, or how much money I have, or the make of the car I drive.

I am becoming more comfortable with my skinny calves and my slightly skew teeth, more accepting of not being the smartest, nor the most witty at a party.

I can handle rejection and heartbreak with more wisdom, although it still hurts,
I can mourn my losses with more courage and begin to own my shit, but I don’t have to like it. I’ll practise letting go of guilt
And forgiving myself…and others.

I am no longer addicted to comfort or to my own importance, I can handle the fact that I’ll never be a rock star, or painfully hip.

I’ll slurp my soup and risk a little fart while no one’s around.

My dance moves are still lame, but I kinda like them, they remind me of a time where I didn’t take it all too seriously and my biggest concern was whether the girl wearing the red blouse would think I was cool.

Now I am more interested in weaving words on a page, or in learning the names of trees and how to cook, than in trying to impress an other with someone who is not my imperfect self.

We are who we are, for better or worse and more often than not, that’s more than enough.

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Brain Candy
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Brain Candy

Today’s selection — from The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin. The human brain consumes more energy than any other part of the body…

“The entire brain weighs three pounds (1.4 kg) and so is only a small percentage of an adult’s total body weight, typically 2%. But it consumes 20% of all the energy the body uses. Why? The perhaps oversimplified answer is that time is energy.

“Neural communication is very rapid — it has to be — reaching speeds of over 300 miles per hour and with neurons communicating with one another hundreds of times per second. The voltage output of a single resting neuron is 70 millivolts, about the same as the line output of an iPod. If you could hook up a neuron to a pair of earbuds, you could actually hear its rhythmic output as a series of clicks. …

“Neurochemicals that control communication between neurons are manufactured in the brain itself. These include some relatively well-known ones such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and epinephrine, as well as acetylcholine, GABA, glutamate, and endocannabinoids. Chemicals are released in very specific locations and they act on specific synapses to change the flow of information in the brain. Manufacturing these chemicals, and dispersing them to regulate and modulate brain activity, requires energy — neurons are living cells with a metabolism, and they get that energy from glucose. No other tissue in the body relies solely on glucose for energy except the testes. (This is why men occasionally experience a battle for resources between their brains and their glands.)

“A number of studies have shown that eating or drinking glucose improves performance on mentally demanding tasks. For example, experimental participants are given a difficult problem to solve, and half of them are given a sugary treat and half of them are not. The ones who get the sugary treat perform better and more quickly because they are supplying the body with glucose that goes right to the brain to help feed the neural circuits that are doing the problem solving. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy armloads of candy — for one thing, the brain can draw on vast reserves of glucose already held in the body when it needs them. For another, chronic ingestion of sugars — these experiments looked only at short-term ingestion — can damage other systems and lead to diabetes and sugar crash, the sudden exhaustion that many people feel later when the sugar high wears off.

“But regardless of where it comes from, the brain burns glucose, as a car burns gasoline, to fuel mental operations. Just how much energy does the brain use? In an hour of relaxing or daydreaming, it uses eleven calories or fifteen watts — about the same as one of those new energy-efficient light-bulbs. Using the central executive for reading for an hour takes about forty-two calories. Sitting in class, by comparison, takes sixty-five calories — not from fidgeting in your seat (that’s not factored in) but from the additional mental energy of absorbing new information. Most brain energy is used in synaptic transmission, that is, in connecting neurons to one another and, in turn, connecting thoughts and ideas to one another.”

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

Author: Daniel J. Levitin
Publisher: Dutton a division of Penguin Group
Copyright 2014 by Daniel J. Levitin

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I’ve never really been invested in generating personal wealth, possibly because I’ve always been more interested in building and exploring experiences, adventures that put me in unfamiliar situations. I have been hungering for adventure since doing the Camino last year.
Each time I remove myself from routine, I learn. Journeys often teach us what we already know deep inside, but tend to forget through the hypnotic pulse of familiarity.

As soon as I finished work I began to explore the mechanics of disburdenment.
It’s hard to make ashes of the mind and to still the body.

How foolish the preparation for travelling to Indonesia now seems… we pored over maps, charted our route, geared up… camera, backpacks, hats, ibuprofen- forgetting the meaning of simply going.

The first couple of days are an assault to the known- the shape of faces, enticing aromas, indecipherable language, silver light dancing between alien plants, all so different, my senses are slapped awake.

Time slows, I observe everything with a child’s wonder.

Circulation begins to return to the numbed parts of my mind.

When we reach a tiny, palm drenched island off Lombok, I am forced to run an internal diagnostic. Renting my mind out, hour after hour, month after month, without a nourishing solid rest has bruised my mind. Many clients carry sharp objects that need to be handled with care in order to avoid needle-stick injuries.
Sometimes I get pricked.

Here, with room to roam, I feel the shape of my ferocious spirit stir again.

I have come here to sniff out “shizen”- the Japanese word for a spontaneous, self-renewing, inherently sacred connection to the natural world of which humans are an inextricable part. I want to see how and where holiness reveals itself, to search for those ” thin spots” on the ground where divinity rises as if spirituality were a function of the landscape itself.
In Bali, temples are scattered around like litter, bathing locals in a soft glow of faith. This faith insulates and illuminates them, standing next to its warmth, I feel strangely empty, hungry for a connection to the Divine.

I begin to understand how spiritually emaciated we have become in the West.

I befriend a Balinese man with a deep, serene smile. We roam for hours, sharing the rings of being alive, seasons of famine and fortune. I ask him a multitude of questions about his faith and culture, so happy to finally connect with a local who is willing to take the time to offer me more than what’s on a tourist brochure.

I ask, ” do many Balinese suffer from depression?”

He answers ” what’s that? Depression?”

“You know…when people become low…sad, when they can’t cope with the world”

“Why would they want to feel like that?” He asks confused…he explains,
“In Bali…even a poor family who has one plate of rice to share between them are grateful and offer thanks, even if they do not know where their next meal will come from. If they have nothing they will not starve, or if they have nowhere to put their heads, because their neighbors will look after them. We look after each other, you people in the West are always focussing on yourselves…me, me, me. It makes you sick.”

The simple, humble truth of what he was saying, the deep gratitude these people feel and the thanks they offer to the divine struck me to my core.
I have been exposed to enough facile self help literature to know about the benefits of ‘gratitude journals’ and ‘counting one’s blessings”, but the way he spoke about gratitude, as if it were a living, breathing entity made me feel as if I’d stumbled upon a universal truth for the first time.

He went on, ” in Bali we have a sacred trinity,
mans’ relationship with his (or her) God,
mans’ relationship with other people and
mans’ relationship with the environment.”

I mused about this for a while, is it possible that the multi-billion personal development industry (of which I am an integral part), promotes relentless ‘navel-gazing’ and ego augmentation at the cost of engendering a much deeper connection to spirituality, to other people and to our natural environment?
Is this relentless pursuit of individualism above all else, not a contributing factor to our growing isolation from each other, to our relentless plundering of the environment to serve our needs and to a burgeoning narcissism fueled by the ‘Cult of the Self?’

I’ve returned home pensive, replenished and with a fervent desire to expand the way I work with and serve others. I must admit though, I have a bad case of the ‘Bali Blues’, it feels as if I caught a glimpse of what it could be like to live in harmony with all other beings on this planet, a more enlightened world view which made so much sense to me. I miss it, but I won’t forget.

Now, anyone got any ideas about how to cope with this bloody jet-lag?

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Creating Joy

Donna Rockwell

I want to feel joy for joy’s sake
Not wanting to earn it
Or reach it
Or arrive finally at its door
After working
And seeking
After years of wracking pursuit, falling at the threshold
Begging for mercy and entry and somewhere to rest and sleep in peace.
I want to awaken there
Dancing on the head of that pin
Smiling in my sleep
And rising to a peppy dawn
I want to jump up in inspiration for the new day
I want to take pen to paper
And explode upon the page,
my existence on this planet
At this time, at this place, in this body, with this mind, and countenance, and spirit and soul
With these eyeballs, and ears, and fingers, and taste buds, and ability to experience aromas, exotic and sublime, miraculously breathing in and out, and in and out again.
I want my moments of being alive to be a celebration of the moments I get to be alive
Love the people I get to love
Feel the love of those whose energy, flow, willingness for interbeing, makes me somehow feel loved, too.
I want to bathe in child-like wonder
For innocent experience, naked awareness, clear seeing
Present a truer reality
A realization longstanding
A wisdom
Transcendent of deluded mind, frightened mind, ego mind, hurt-child mind
To original mind, mirror-like
and free
I stand, reflecting awe, embracing mystery, curious, openhearted, immersed in the now and loving the opportunity to be in love with this very life.

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The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

An excerpt from Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K Randall. The effects of sleep deprivation.

“In the 1980s, researchers at the University of Chicago decided to find out what happens when an animal is deprived of sleep for a long period of time. In but one of the many odd tests you will find in the history of sleep research, these scientists forced rats to stay awake by placing them on a tiny platform suspended over cold water. The plat­form was balanced so that it would remain level only if a rat kept moving. If a rat fell asleep, it would tumble into the water and be forced to swim back to safety (or drown, an option that the researchers seemed strangely blase about).

“Fast-forward to two weeks later. All of the rats were dead. This confused the researchers, though they had a few hints that something bad was going to happen. As the rats went longer and longer without sleep, their bodies began to self-destruct. They developed strange spots and festering sores that didn’t heal, their fur started to fall out in large clumps, and they lost weight no matter how much food they ate. So the researchers decided to perform autopsies, and lo and behold they found nothing wrong with the animals’ organs that would lead them to fail­ing so suddenly. This mystery gnawed at scientists so much that twenty years later, another team decided to do the exact same experiment, but with better instruments. This time, they thought, they will find out what happens inside of a rat’s body during sleep deprivation that ultimately leads to its death. Again the rats stayed awake for more than two weeks, and again they died after developing gnarly sores. But just like their peers in Chicago years earlier, the research team could find no clear reason why the rats were keeling over. The lack of sleep itself looked to be the killer. The best guess was that staying awake for so long drained the animal’s system and made it lose the ability to regulate its body temperature.

“Humans who are kept awake for too long start to show some of the same signs as those hapless rats. … Within the first twenty-four hours of sleep deprivation, the blood pressure starts to increase. Not long afterward, the metabolism levels go haywire, giving a person an uncontrollable craving for carbo­hydrates. The body temperature drops and the immune system gets weaker. If this goes on for too long, there is a good chance that the mind will turn against itself, making a person experi­ence visions and hear phantom sounds akin to a bad acid trip. At the same time, the ability to make simple decisions or recall obvious facts drops off severely. It is a bizarre downward spi­ral that is all the more peculiar because it can be stopped com­pletely, and all of its effects will vanish, simply by sleeping for a couple of hours.”

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep
Author: David K. Randall
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Copyright 2012 by David K. Randall
Pages 32-36

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Paradise Found

Paradise Found

I have a beaten up copy of The Norton Anthology of Poetry which I treasure, it must be about 20 years old and I have found reliable refuge between its well thumbed pages during numerous dark nights. In Miltons epic poem Paradise Lost, we encounter Adam and Eve’s traumatic expulsion from the Nirvanic garden of Eden. It occurred to me, while re-reading it recently, that the ultimate rejection of the lovers from this idyllic paradise may in fact have been a quite a good thing. Let me elaborate…

There are few things as distressing to humans as entering into what often feels like mortal combat with those we love. It never ceases to amaze me how someone we have shared our deepest secrets or most pinnacle life experiences with, can instantly transform into a raging, fanged, horned beast who , at times, can appear to threaten our very selfhood. During these raging conflicts, our antiquated defenses rush to our aid and very often, in an attempt to protect the ego, inflict grievous injuries not only on our partners but ultimately, on ourselves.

Barbed words are expertly wielded to penetrate through the toughest defenses our lover can muster in an effort to make them feel the pain we too are experiencing. A predictably destructive spiral of recrimination ensues, during which both parties lose. So, what I hear you say, could possibly be the upside to this agonizing exit from the Edenic state many of us aspire to in relationship?

Perhaps this expulsion, this separation from the intimate, tranquil, resonant space, echoes the separations we have all encountered in various ways, the progressive separation from the Cosmic Soul, from our mothers, our parents, our home, our friends, jobs, lovers…eventually we are forced to separate out from life itself… as everyone before us has had to. Perhaps these ruptures in the relational field are merely practice, a reminder that while we constantly seek Union, essentially we are here on our own…and that’s ok.

Not only do separations teach us to be more than that we project onto others, they teach us to cultivate our own resources, to trust that we will survive in a bewildering world and finally, they offer us an opportunity to connect with our core essence in a very profound way, which ultimately enlarges our capacity for true, loving Union.

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Creative Myth-Busting

Creative Myth-Busting

Today’s selection — in his marvelous book Daily Rituals, Mason Currey provides a brief glimpse of the work habits of 161 famous writers, painters, scientists, mathematicians and philosophers. While the details vary greatly and are filled with humorous and surprising quirks, one thing is constant for the vast majority of them. They work hard. And they work hard almost every day, belying the myth that creativity is the province of sudden inspiration rather than of commitment and a deeply-seated work ethic. We have included the vignettes regarding George Gershwin, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse below:

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

” ‘Basically, I enjoy everything: I am never bored,’ Matisse told a visitor in 1941, during a tour of his studio in the south of France. After showing his guest his working space, his cages full of exotic birds, and his conservatory stocked with tropical plants, giant pumpkins, and Chinese statuettes, Matisse talked about his work habits.

Do you understand now why I am never bored? For over fifty years I have not stopped working for an instant. From nine o’clock to noon, first sitting. I have lunch. Then I have a little nap and take up my brushes again at two in the afternoon until the evening. You won’t believe me. On Sundays, I have to tell all sorts of tales to the models. I promise them that it’s the last time I will ever beg them to come and pose on that day. Naturally I pay them double. Finally, when I sense that they are not convinced, I promise them a day off during the week. ‘But Monsieur Matisse,’ one of them answered me, ‘this has been going on for months and I have never had one afternoon off.’ Poor things! They don’t understand. Nevertheless I can’t sacrifice my Sundays for them merely because they have boyfriends.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

“In 1911, Picasso moved from the Bateau Lavoir, a conglomeration of low-rent studios in Paris’s Montmartre district, to a much more respectable apartment on the boulevard de Clichy in Montparnasse. The new situation suited his growing fame as a painter, as well as his lifelong bourgeois aspirations. As the biographer John Richardson has written, ‘After the shabby gentility of his boyhood and the deprivations of his early days in Paris, Picasso wanted a lifestyle which would permit him to work in peace without material worries — “like a pauper,” he used to say, “but with lots of money.” ‘ The Montparnasse apartment was not without its bohemianism, however. Picasso took over its large, airy studio, forbade anyone from entering without his permission, and surrounded himself with his painting supplies, piles of miscellaneous junk, and a menagerie of pets, including a dog, three Siamese cats, and a monkey named Monina.

“Throughout his life, Picasso went to bed late and got up late. At the boulevard de Clichy, he would shut himself in the studio by 2:00 P.M. and work there until at least dusk. Meanwhile, his girlfriend of seven years, Fernande, was left alone to her own devices, hanging around the apartment, waiting for Picasso to finish his work and join her for dinner. When he finally emerged from his studio, however, he was hardly good company. ‘He rarely spoke during meals; sometimes he would not utter a word from beginning to end,’ Fernande recalled. ‘He seemed to be bored, when he was in fact absorbed.’ She blamed his chronic bad mood on diet — the hypochondriacal Picasso had recently resolved to drink nothing but mineral water or milk and eat only vegetables, fish, rice pudding, and grapes.

“Picasso would make more of an effort to be sociable if guests were present, as they frequently were. He had mixed feelings about entertaining. He liked to be amused between intense periods of work, but he also hated too much distraction. At Fernande’s suggestion, they designated Sunday as ‘at-home’ day (an idea borrowed from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas), ‘and in this way managed to dispose of the obligations of friendship in a single afternoon.’ Still, Richardson writes, ‘the artist veered between anti-social sulking and gregariousness.’ Painting, on the other hand, never bored or tired him. Picasso claimed that, even after three or four hours standing in front of a canvas, he did not feel the slightest fatigue.

” ‘That’s why painters live so long,’ he said. ‘While I work I leave my body outside the door, the way Moslems take off their shoes before entering the mosque.’

George Gershwin (1898·1937)

” ‘To me George was a little sad all the time because he had this compulsion to work,’ Ira Gershwin said of his brother. ‘He never relaxed.’ Indeed, Gershwin typically worked for twelve hours or more a day, beginning in the late morning and going until past midnight. He started the day with a breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, and orange juice, then immediately began composing, sitting at the piano in his pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers. He would take breaks for a mid-afternoon lunch, a late-afternoon walk, and supper at about 8:00. If Gershwin had a party to attend in the evening, it was not unusual for him to return home after midnight and plunge back into work until dawn. He was dismissive of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse he would compose at most three songs a year. It was better to work every day. ‘Like the pugilist,’ Gershwin said, ‘the songwriter must always keep in training.’ ”

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Author: Mason Currey
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright 2013 by Mason Currey
Pages 45-47, 94-96, 133

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The Big Reveal.

The Big Reveal.

The upside of revealing yourself and making yourself vulnerable…and speaking your truth about your own fears, insecurities and problems, will always yield a greater good than it does a backlash…

An obvious truth when you come down to it, is that we’re all in the same fucking boat- so many people experience fear and insecurity, lack of discipline, dark thoughts, self loathing- you name it, we all got it. When you raise your hand and talk about your own insecurities and problems- what you usually see is a lot of people out there nodding their heads saying ” oh my God! I’m so happy to hear someone say that- that’s what I’m feeling!

And that is ultimately the purpose of this blog, to make us all feel, just a little less alone.

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How to Think More about Sex.

How to Think More about Sex.

Having just reread Alain de Botton’s ” How to Think More about Sex”, I thought it prudent to share some of his insights with you. He maintains that it is rare to get through this life without feeling- generally with a degree of secret agony, perhaps at the end of a relationship, or as we lie in bed frustrated next to our partner, unable to go to sleep-that we are somehow a bit odd about sex. It is an area in which most of us have a painful impression , in our heart of hearts, that we are quite unusual. In truth, however, few of us are remotely normal sexually. We are almost all haunted by guilt and neuroses, by phobias and disruptive desires, by indifference and disgust. None of us approaches sex as we are meant to, with the cheerful sporting, non-obsessive, constant, well-adjusted outlook that we torture ourselves by believing other people are endowed with. We are universally deviant- but only in relation to some highly distorted ideals of normality.

Many clients reluctantly drag the realities of their sexual life into the therapy space. It appears that most of what we are sexually remains impossible to communicate with anyone whom we would want to think well of us. The silence that surrounds our relationship with sex is often amplified by our comparison with others. Men often compare their performance, or penis size with porn stars, or with the guy who could tie his penis in a knot in matric, women similarly suffer from the virus of comparison battered into feelings of inadequacy with regards to breast or bum size, both sexes relentlessly pursue orgasm as if it were the Holy Grail. “Was that good for you?” is laced with a deep fear that we are not satisfying, not adequate, not ‘enough’ for our partners, or we feign indifference, or worse still, we don’t care.

Whatever discomfort we feel about sex is commonly aggravated by the idea that we are living in a liberated age- and ought by now to be finding sex a straightforward and untroubling matter.
The standard narrative goes something like this: for thousands of years across the globe, due to a devilish combination of religious bigotry and myopic social custom, people were afflicted by confusion and guilt around sex. They thought their hands would fall off if they masturbated. They believed they would burn in Hell if they ogled someone’s ankle. They had no clue about erections or clitorises. Our beliefs were, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Then, sometime between Freud and the launch of Sputnik, things changed for the better. Finally, people started wearing bikinis, admitted to masturbating, grew able to mention cunnilingus in social contexts, started to watch porn and became more comfortable with a topic that had been the source of needless neurotic frustration for most of human history.

Despite our best efforts, sex refuses to be tamed by our curiosity. It refuses to sit obediently on top of love, as it should. Tame it though we may try, sex has a peculiar tendency to wreak havoc across our lives: it leads us to destroy our relationships, threatens our productivity and compels us to stay up too late in nightclubs talking to people whom we don’t particularly like, but whose exposed midriffs we nevertheless strongly wish to touch.

Sex remains in absurd, and perhaps irreconcilable, conflict with some of our higher commitments and values. Unsurprisingly, we appear to have no option but to repress its demands most of the time. According to Boton, “we should accept that sex is inherently rather weird instead of blaming ourselves for not responding in more normal ways to its confusing impulses”. This is not to say that we cannot take steps to grow wiser about sex. We should simply realize that we will never entirely surmount the difficulties it throws our way.
Our best hope should be for a respectful accommodation with an anarchic and restless power.

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