emotional disconnection, sex and loneliness

Extreme fatigue makes me very thin-skinned. I become even more indecisive and I second-guess myself terribly. I revert to my deep programming, which makes me profoundly critical of everything and everyone (including myself), and I tend to become unable to see anything positive, whether that’s noticing beauty around me or remembering anything I’ve learned on my journey into sex positivity. I don’t much like myself while this is going on, but at least when this happened the other day due to the rigours of travel I was still aware that once I recovered I’d probably feel better emotionally. And I that’s what happened. Luckily, Jaime has the patience of a saint.

Despite the epiphany I had about sexual shame almost 5 years ago now, and the subsequent realisation that I also have difficulty with trust, I find I’m still struggling with a lot of the same sexual issues that I did before the epiphany.

Confession time: I’ve not had partnered sex in a year, and not because of lack of opportunity. Although things heated up for a while after the shame epiphany, I haven’t been able to sustain that. My libido is low, I don’t get turned on, and my only strategy to address this issue is to continue to read any book I come across that seems relevant. I know that it’s possible to enjoy and want and seek sex but I haven’t figured out how to make that happen for me.

This is, to put it mildly, deeply frustrating. As a child I was taught to be self-critical. I’ve been frustrated about my sexuality not being what I wanted (or what thought it should be, which is different) for pretty much my entire adult life, and it’s very easy for me to interpret this as meaning that there’s something wrong with me, which makes me frustrated with myself.

I haven’t known how to deal with that so I’ve either simply said the no that I felt (a more recent approach), or pushed myself to do the thing (my default). But I see now that, for my issues, pushing myself doesn’t work. In fact, I think it actively causes me harm. It’s comparable to the way that men are typically taught to keep pushing things forward (through a woman’s “I don’t really want this but I can live with it”) until they hear a no, but in my case both Wolf and Jaime are keen to give me pleasure (whatever that actually looks like for me) and I’m putting all the pressure on myself. If I don’t respect my own no, I’m vitiating my own consent. In other words, I am to some extent victimising myself — a sobering thought.

A few months ago I listened to a podcast about procrastination as a writing issue and one point stuck with me: shitting on yourself for perceived problematic behaviour not only doesn’t stop the behaviour, it can actually reinforce the very habit you’re trying to change. This is the harm of perfectionism. So to change the habit I need to be kind and generous to myself, which I find challenging. I also need to spend time figuring out what I like and what I want because, honestly, I don’t really know. (I do have a strategy for this but I haven’t done much work on it yet.)

The other day with Jaime I discovered a new factor that I’d never been aware of before. During a spanking he checked in with me from time to time to ask how I was feeling and what I was experiencing emotionally. He was asking for information but this was also a cue to be mindful of my emotions, which I found really useful. I told him I was experiencing the spanking physically but I wasn’t aware of any emotions that went with any of what he was doing and I felt completely disconnected from his feeling of being loving toward me, taking care of me, being invested in my pleasure, or anything else of that nature.

The next day, he was giving me oral, and when I checked in with myself regarding my emotions I found that I was experiencing it in an exclusively physical way as well. On top of that, I also felt the profound vulnerability that I feel with sex. Jaime takes good care of me and I know he’s seriously invested in pleasing me but I couldn’t perceive it. I just felt disconnected and lonely.

Why? My first belief about sex was that it’s a man taking something from a woman, and despite everything I’ve learned or taught myself, remnants of this view are still entrenched deep in my psyche. The mind has a tendency to use all evidence to confirm its deeply held beliefs (aka self-image or self-schema), and if any evidence can only be understood as contradicting that paradigm, it’s typically ignored.

In addition to this incorrect paradigm, I also have some sub-optimal general emotional wiring: my parents didn’t connect with me in a healthy and loving emotional way as I was growing up, and I’ve recently realised that I’ve always felt emotionally orphaned and fundamentally lonely. (If that rings any bells for you, you might be interested to read Jonice Webb, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.) In the context of sex, it feels as though I lack the emotional sensors to detect warmth and caring and love.

As often happens for me, I wasn’t really aware of the intensity of my feelings during the encounter until I started thinking about them consciously, and in this case discussing them with Jaime (and weeping throughout — this shit is fucking difficult). I let him know about the isolation I was feeling and asked him to try to create an emotional connection with me verbally.

And you know, it actually seemed to work. Hearing explicitly that I am loved made me feel it in a way that physical affection has never been able to successfully communicate because of those generally incorrect messages about what being physical and sexual with another person actually means. And I enjoyed myself more, which from a rational perspective is unsurprising, but to actually feel it as an experience felt a little bit like magic.

The vulnerable feeling generated by that first sexual encounter felt similar to the thin-skinned feeling from fatigue in the way it brought my deep programming to the surface. But what if it doesn’t just bring up the ugly? What if the whole package of programming is summoned up to the surface and can be communicated with directly instead of through the layers of learning and rationality that usually muffle it? If so, this could represent a shortcut in the process from knowing something intellectually to actually feeling it. Our initial experiment suggests that this might be true.

Sex for me is still fraught and likely will continue to be for some time. The epiphany about sexual shame and the realisation that I have difficulty trusting are both essential elements but the fact that I’m still having the same kind of difficulties as before proves that they aren’t the whole story. I feel like I’ve just stumbled upon another key and I’m feeling optimistic again, for the first time in a long time.

16 thoughts on “emotional disconnection, sex and loneliness

  1. I relate to many of the issues here. I tend towards dissociation when feeling vulnerable as a defence mechanism. I also completely understand the ‘thin skinned’ feeling. Sending best wishes for your continued journey.

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    1. For me the disconnect isn’t a defence mechanism in the sense of something that I developed on my own as a reaction to something harmful, but rather something I learned from earliest childhood because of my parents’ disconnect from their own emotions. I’m as sure as I can be that early trauma seriously interfered with my mom’s emotional development. My dad experienced trauma in mid-adolescence, which I suspect affected him less profoundly than my mom’s experience. I didn’t have any trauma directly but they passed their coping mechanisms on to me.

      I’m sorry you can relate, but it is nice to know I’m not the only one. It’s validating, like getting a diagnosis that says this is a legitimate, known thing. Thanks for the good wishes, and I wish the same for you.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “I let him know about the isolation I was feeling and asked him to try to create an emotional connection with me …”

      This is so key and I really related even for everyday moments being in relationship (doesn’t have to be sex moments). 🖤 Thoughtful post. I’m glad I’ve read it.

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  2. Oh I relate on so many things you’ve said here. Perfectionism being chief. I think that is a big block for me, but don’t always know how to stop it. It causes a lot of self-sabotage. I hope you continue to grow from this

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    1. Thank you. Perfectionism is tough. I always like to know where things come from, and my perfectionism is no exception. I’ve traced the bulk of it to my dad’s influence and I’ve started to see where he got his from, which makes it easier for me to detach from his opinions about me and say no, I know myself better than he does. It helps a lot that Wolf and Jaime love me and support me, and if I’m having a hard time with it I tell them and let them help me. And try really hard to absorb what they say, but it’s not exactly easy. I often call myself a recovering perfectionist 🙂 I hope Michael’s helping you with this, as I’m sure he would want to.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this expressive and vulnerable post – it’s beautiful in its specificity and clarity. I relate to SO MUCH of this and I appreciate the book recommendation. As Cara said above, I hope you continue to grow, and heal. These scars from childhood are so real and so pervasive. I’m beaming you strength and patience for yourself, should you need it. Be well, and thank you again for this post.

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Violet. I can use all the strength and patience I can get 🙂 I’m sure my parents tried their best but, frankly, a lot of what they gave me was garbage, and it’s difficult to even accept the truth of that.

      As I said to eye, I’m sorry you can relate, but it’s good to be able to support each other on our journeys. When I first started blogging, the one thing that made me think it was worthwhile to say this stuff out loud was the idea that it might help someone else who’d had similar experiences. I’m glad we’re able to connect 🙂

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  4. I also experience emotional disconnection at times. I think it stems from having a very changeable childhood, as I emigrated with my family on four occasions at various points between the ages of 7 and 17. Thank you for sharing your insight and how your partners help by asking you for your feelings and giving their affirmations of their care. This is all really important, and I am trying to ensure I always validate my own daughter’s feelings so that she grows up to have emotional intelligence.

    Hope you are able to tap into your own feelings more as you grow in your relationships, and wishing you positive thoughts.

    xxx

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    1. It’s tough, isn’t it? Good for you for your awareness and conscious efforts to teach and support your daughter as best you can. Thank you, and best of luck in your growth too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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