Archive for September 2009

Sex, Needs, and Self-fulfillment

September 15, 2009

There is something really wacky about the nature of attraction.  It’s like a big confused muddle between all these different types and reasons for it.  There’s physical attraction (the secondary biological need for sex), loneliness (the psychological need for attention, because we don’t know how to fulfill ourselves), and the occasional attraction to people for who they are as a person.

But attraction based on the quality of character is not sexual attraction.  It can enhance sexual attraction (probably through our need for attention, by the value it creates) but it is essentially non-sexual.  It can occur between any two people (friends, family, strangers) and even between species (like between someone and their dog).

I have a theory that if we fail at fulfilling ourselves, then we will not usually be attracted to, nor be attractive to, someone who is self-fulfilling.  We will be afraid of or emotionally blocked toward self-fulfilled people, because we can sense that they don’t have a need for us.  Thus the fear of being left alone, unfulfilled.  And even if we have the courage to like them, they won’t be attracted to us because they can sense our neediness.

We will be attracted to those with needs more equal to our own, not wanting someone who will always give-in to us, nor someone who could leave at the drop of a hat.  We have this crazy need to get emotional fulfillment not through ourselves, but through someone or something else.  And as long as we look outside ourselves for our fulfillment, we’ll be unsatisfied over and over and over.

As a side note, I think that’s the trick to how Jesus “saves” people (for those that really do grow into better people).  He plays into people’s need for something external, but the further you get into it, the more you find you really have to do things on your own.  He doesn’t show up in person, and lives don’t magically become full and abundant overnight.  It seems like a mysterious supernatural process.  But there’s no mystery to me, because the Christians who do the deepest praying and soul searching are the ones who reap the benefit.  The ones who just go through the motions are interchangeable with everyone else.

So we’ll get involved with all kinds of crap out of our need for attention.  And like I said, the people we admire the most for their character, are the ones who are the most self-fulfilled, therefore don’t have a need for us, and aren’t attracted to us…  Unless we are both relatively self-fulfilled.  Then there can be a genuine appreciation for each other.  Genuine friendship and emotional sharing.  That’s the most important thing.

This just doesn’t seem to happen very often between people that want to have sex with each other.  It doesn’t matter.  Sex is only a secondary biological need.  Emotional sharing is more like a primary spiritual need.

For example, the boost I get from sharing my feelings with a friend who is totally open and real is far better than going out and getting laid.  Not only is there no risk for STD’s  🙂  but it will always remain a positive experience, no matter what happens. It’s like a good emotional scar, always there as positive emotional reinforcement.  Whereas, there’s nothing eternally good or praiseworthy about getting laid, no matter how great it may feel at the time.  Not that getting laid is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just more of a temporary appeasement of emotional and physical needs than it is anything real and genuine and lasting.

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Transforming Lead to Gold

September 10, 2009

There was an interesting interview on the NPR show TELL ME MORE on Sunday night.  The author Stephanie Covington Armstrong spoke about her battle with bulimia nervosa.  She traces the root of her condition back to when she was 12 years old and was sexually assaulted by her uncle.

During the incident she pretended she was asleep, telling herself it wasn’t happening, until she felt emotionally separated from herself.  Later she started stuffing herself as a relief from the feelings of pain and isolation.  But, not wanting  others to discover her pain by seeing her gain weight, she became bulimic.

She was using the eating and purging as a way to run from her feelings, and it worked… until the feelings came back.  Eventually, she couldn’t stay ahead of her feelings.  She’d throw up and the feelings would come right back, all the low self-esteem and shame from being sexually abused.  Her coping mechanism was requiring more and more to provide less and less relief.  In fact, it was killing her and she knew it.

After bottoming out she started going to support groups and gradually learned to accept herself and to find more effective coping mechanisms like turning to people for support, journaling, and helping others.  It was a gradual process, and she didn’t stop overnight.  As she puts it, she was learning how to be good to herself, how to love herself.

Now she’s gotten to the point where if she finds herself reaching for something to eat, and she’s not hungry, she immediately starts an internal dialogue:  I’m not hungry, so what’s going on?  Maybe she discovers it’s a deadline she feels overwhelmed by due to a fear of failure, or of being found incompetent.  Whatever the cause, once it’s identified the urge to eat just goes away.  My theory here is that once we see what’s real, the unreal can’t survive.

So she learned how to take this tremendously self-destructive condition and turn it into a positive.  Instead of living with that overwhelmed feeling, missing a deadline, and confirming her fears, she gets an advance warning.  No longer being controlled and manipulated by her condition, she now uses it to serve her.  She uses the unhealthy urges to eat as a warning signal that something is wrong in her life and needs to be dealt with.

If only we all had such a direct link to our deeper self… But we do.  We all have feelings; we just either ignore and suppress them, or don’t know what to do about them when we do feel them.  The question is how bad do things have to get before we start tuning in?

I can’t prove it, but I have faith, that all negatives can be turned to positives.  It’s quite simple and elegant actually.  And it extends to everything which is negative.  We don’t have to wait for a condition to bring us to our knees (though that seems to be often what it takes to wake us up).

Anytime we feel even a slightly negative sensation, that’s our warning light.  Something is wrong.  Something.  And part of the process of learning how to be good to ourselves is the process of first listening to these warnings, then figuring out why we don’t feel good, and what we can do about it.  The solution may be a long and hard road, but if we don’t heed the warning signals, we’ll never be able to transform our pain into something good.