Step Back and Disentangle From Unhelpful Sexual Thoughts and Feelings

observing_self
Dr Rich Blonna - Your Guide To Less Stress and Better Sex

Written By Dr. Rich

For more than 30 years, I have devoted myself, both professionally and personally, to helping people just like you stress less, have better sex, and enjoy life more.

Learn more about Dr. Rich

I am a university professor, author, and a world-renowned expert in how the mind and body work together in creating and managing stress. I’m proud to be one of the creators of Acceptance and Commitment (AC) Coaching, an exciting form of cognitive psychology that combines mindfulness, acceptance, and commitment to help people stress less and enjoy better sex and a more fulfilling life. I’m certified in Naikan and Morita, two forms of Japanese psychology that emphasize mindfulness and acceptance training respectively. I’m also a Board Certified Coach (BCC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). My eclectic approach combines the best practices from all of these disciplines. I’ve helped thousands of people from the United States, Europe, South Africa, and Asia through my books, audios, and adult training courses. My home is in Marco Island, Florida where I live with Heidi, my wife of 48 years. I love writing, tennis, running, kayaking, swimming, biking, weight training, meditation on the beach, and anything that gets me outdoors in the sun.

July 9, 2022

 

In a recent post I discussed how to get unstuck using the six components of psychological flexibility.

  • Contact with the Present Moment (mindfulness).
  • Acceptance (acceptance).
  • Valued living (defining valued directions).  
  • Committed Action (commitment).
  • Observing Self (self-as-context).
  • Disentanglement (cognitive defusion) (Anstiss & Blonna, 2014).

These same six processes are used to get unstuck from unhelpful sexual thinking that is keeping you from having the kind of sex life and relationships you want and deserve.

In this post I want to focus on the Observing Self and Disentanglement since they go hand-in-hand.

The Observing self  is that silent, quiet part of yourself that persists through time, observing and noticing change in the world, containing all the changes that go on inside your head without getting caught up in those changes (Anstiss & Blonna, 2014).

The self is not a single thing. The self can be sensed or viewed from different perspectives including the narrative or biographical self (self-as-content) as well as the observing self (self as context).

 

 

When you take a self-as-content view and see the world from the perspective of your narrative self. In this view  you see yourself as merely a collection of your thoughts and feelings. In other words, you see yourself as the same thing as your thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, stories and images. Much of this view is unhelpful, outdated, and does not match up to reality.

A perfect sexual example of this is in your narrative self view of your body image, a key component of your sexual identity.  If you are like most of my  clients, what your mind tells you  about your body is probably very different from what others think about it. I’ve had countless clients who by all objective measures (height, weight, body shape and composition etc.) have an average or even attractive body.

They do not have grotesque, obese, deformed, or unattractive bodies yet when you ask them to describe themselves you would not think they are looking at the same body as you are. They describe themselves as fat, heavy, lumpy,  or too thin, not athletic-looking or use a million different other unattractive adjectives to describe themselves.  What their minds are telling them about their bodies differs from the objective reality of their bodies as measured by the commonly-accepted standards described previously.

 

 

If you are stuck in a sexual rut there is a good chance that your mind is telling you things about your body or your  masculinity or femininity that are keeping you from unleashing your inner sexual power and enjoying sex more. If your mind is telling you that you are too short, too tall, too heavy or too thin, too small-breasted or too large-breasted, that your penis is too small or too large, or a million other unhelpful things about your body, it is hard to relax and enjoy your body when having sex. It is hard to be proud of your body and share it unabashedly during sex with another person when your mind is telling you a million unhelpful things about it.

When you encounter a truly sexy person you notice how he or she radiates an aura of comfort and assuredness about his or her body, whatever shape of size it is. It isn’t the body that creates the sexiness, it is the way it is carried, presented, and shared with others that makes it sexy.

On the other hand I’m sure you know an extremely handsome or beautiful man or woman who comes off as cold and unsexy despite his or her attractiveness and perfect body. Despite their attractiveness, their negative thinking about their sexiness makes them come off as unappealing and not very sexy.

In addition to being stuck on body image issues, you can attach to an outdated personal script.  A script becomes outmoded or outdated when it is no longer helpful in  meeting your sexual or relationship goals and staying true to your values. For example, one of my clients reported that his first sexual experience was awkward, embarrassing, and not very sexually enjoyable. His first fumbled attempts at sexual intercourse and the personal scripts and mental images these encounters created are still there, tucked away in the deeper recesses of his mind.

One of the things his narrative self (self-as-content) view had attached to was that of  being an incompetent, fumbling lover. Even though this was no longer true, and he has become a capable and competent lover, when I met him, the mental images that his mind conjured up at times made it difficult for him to enjoy sex and strengthen his relationship with his partner. At times, he would get stuck or attached to that one aspect of his conceptualized self.

 

 

The observing self view allows you to step back and become an impartial observer of your mind’s version of things. Observing your thoughts and feelings from the safe distance of the observing self allows you to see that your mental activity is just that, things going on in your mind. It also helps you observe whether or not this mental activity is accurate, helpful, or contributes to reaching your sexual and relationship goals.

The way you do that is by using Disentanglement (Cognitive Defusion). Disentanglement techniques give you several different ways to step back and take an observing-self view. Many Disentanglement techniques such as The White Board,  actually use physical distance to separate you from the contents of your mind (you write that down on the actual white board). By stepping back and reading what is on the board, you distance yourself from it. This allows you to become an impartial observer and assess whether what is going on in your mind is helping you or creating a barrier between you and your sexual and relationship goals.

Here is a simple Disentanglement activity called, My Mind is Telling Me, to help you when you get stuck in a sexual rut.

 

observing_self

observing self

 

Disentanglement Exercise: My Mind is telling Me

Instructions: The next time you are stuck on a sexual issue, tell yourself the following four things:

  1. “I must remember that my thoughts about this sexual issue are based in part on past thoughts, personal scripts, emotions, and mental images that might not be an accurate reflection of what actually happened in the past.”
  2. “I need to examine how this information from the past matches up to my present values and competencies as a sexual person.”
  3. “It is ok to dismiss unhelpful things my mind is telling me about the future.”
  4. “I can co-exist with these unhelpful thoughts and feelings as I take action and create new, more helpful, sexual relational frames.”

If you use this simple activity on a regular basis, it will make it easier in the future to assess the helpfulness of what your mind is telling you about your prior sexual learning. This will make it easier for you to accept what your mind is telling you as you move forward in exploring your sexuality.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

Click Here for Information About My Great Sex From the Inside Out Course

 

References:

Antiss, T., Blonna, R. (2014). Acceptance and Commitment Coaching.  in Passmore, J. Ed. (2014). Mastery in Coaching :A Complete Psychological Toolkit for Advanced Coaching. London: Kogan Page Publishing.

 

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