Looking up pornography, arranging an affair or hookup; these things cut you off from you. Unwanted sexual behaviors are an escape mechanism and their gift is dissociation.
When you don’t know how to deal with the hardships in your life, dissociating through distraction can feel like an easy way out. But the further deep you are in your sexual sin, the farther you are walking away from you.
This leaves you operating in this world with mere fragments of you.
God made you body, mind, heart and soul. You can start reconnecting the fragments. This is key in having a healthy sexual relationship with your spouse or future spouse.
Learning how and why to face patterns of dissociation is an important first step towards becoming whole.
Let’s get started.
“Dissociation seduces us out of the present moment and into the meaningless world of distraction.” – Jay Stringer
We learn to run to sexual activity to dissociate from the difficult things in life.
Sex within marriage is meant to be a time of deep, intimacy and connection not a time of dissociation.
Let’s practice being present to the emotions we feel. Grounding is a way to bridge the gap between brain and body and heart. Practice Grounding in good feelings and bad feelings. Allow your body to feel the emotions as opposed to shutting them down.
- Practice belly breathing–place one hand on your stomach, and the other on your chest. Breathe slowly and deeply into your belly, trying to raise your hand like you are filling up a balloon or beach ball with air. Try to keep the hand on your chest still, breathing only into your stomach. Slowly breathe out, feeling the hand on your stomach lower like the balloon or ball is deflating. Notice how your breathing changes with the emotion.
- 5 Senses – What do you see? What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste? Slow down and take notice of your senses during a time when you feel panic, fear or sadness.
“Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing” by Jay Stringer
For more on this topic, check our latest article Be Curious About What You Feel
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
He said today I want to talk about something that’s a little bit more sensitive, but really, really important, especially for those of you who have been wrestling with unwanted sexual behaviors. Or if you are married to someone who has been wrestling with unwanted sexual behaviors. One of the elements that’s involved in when we’ve when we’ve created a habit of going to those sexual behaviors is that we are, in essence, trying to dissociate from pain and difficulty in our lives. Whether it’s feelings of inadequacy, stress about work being overwhelmed, deep sense of shame, for this reason, or that reason, a feeling that we just can’t measure up that we’re not good enough. an inability to deal with anger, whether it’s somebody else’s anger, our own anger, all these, we learn to disassociate from these feelings if we don’t know how to reckon with them in a healthy, holy way. I don’t know how to deal with the times that I’m feeling overwhelmed if I don’t know how to deal with anger, if I don’t know how to feel sadness, and walk through grief. For a lot of us we can learn then to disassociate from those things dissociate from those things. So when I was a kid, I watched a lot of TV, not more than a ton of other kids. But I watched a lot. And I think I learned early on that was a place that I could go to unplug from the day. So when I had somebody bullying me at school, or I was feeling overwhelmed about a project, or I was just feeling lost in friendships or afraid of girls, or whatever it might be. TV was a refuge, it was a place I could run to. And to this day, when when I’m out with friends at a restaurant that has TVs in it, I’m no good I like I just I start to disconnect from them because I My eyes are drawn to the TV. And I’m learning my way out of that habit. But it’s it’s an old habit, the dies heart, I learned to dissociate from the pain and difficulty of my life as a kid. It was a refuge for me. And a lot of us did, especially if we didn’t have somebody who was attuning to us who was there for us when we got home from school, who would recognize that there’s something going on for us who would want to connect with us who would draw out the emotions that were feeling and he knew how to hold those emotions themselves without running away from them or wanting to medicate them. Now, if you came home from school and you’re feeling really upset about something and your mom listened and then pushed, you know, apple pie or ice cream at you, in essence, she may have been inviting you to dissociate through just stuffing your face and dealing with the fear, anger, whatever you’re feeling through putting food in your mouth. So lots of different ways to dissociate. Jay stringer, in his book writes this about dissociation. He says dissociative dis dissociation is a psychological term used to describe disconnecting from full engagement with your body and the relationships around you. For many individuals, the distractions of technology have been more consistent than a deep, loving engagement with meaningful relationships. dissociation seduces us out of the present moment and into a meaningless world of distraction. So for those who have taken that dissociation to their sexual lives, to their sexual to sexual activity, pornography is an incredible place to dissociate from the world sexual content online. Whether it’s movies, images, you name it, sexual chat, what happens for a lot of people is then this dissociative pattern continues on in their marriages. And so their sexual life with their spouse is not a time of connecting, it is a time of dissociation. And this can be incredibly damaging for marriages. So if you’re a single person, and you’re trying to work through your own unwanted sexual behaviors, or you’re dating person, or you’re, you’re dating someone right now, and you’re wrestling with your sexual issues with your boyfriend, or girlfriend, or you’re a married person, who is has a habit of unwanted sexual behaviors in your life, just pay attention to and I want to alert you to this fact that dissociation can be a significant component of what’s happening. As you experience sexual arousal, we learn to run to sexual activity, sexual titillation, as a means to dissociate from the difficulty in life. So it may be that for a long time, you felt like temptation to act out sexually appears out of nowhere, when really it’s that learned experience that learned movement to dissociate from the difficulty, the pain in life. So if you want a healthy sexual relationship with your spouse or future spouse, if you marry one day, it’s going to be important that you begin to address this pattern of dissociation because sex within marriage is meant to be, first of all, sex is meant for marriage. God designed it that way. And sex within marriage is meant to be a time of deep intimacy and connection, not a time of dissociation. So where do you go from here?
If you are, if you’re married, you may notice that there’s a There are ways that you that your sex life with your spouse isn’t something that’s deeply intimate. It’s really kind of like she’s having her sexual experience. He’s having his sexual experience, but they’re not really experiencing each other. Some of you have heard who’ve listened to podcasts for Well, a while I’ve heard me talk about how I have a problem with the language we use around sex culturally that we talk about, quote, unquote, having sex, as though there’s this kind of third entity in the marriage relationship. And I really want to encourage couples to rethink how you’re thinking and conceiving of sex between between husband and wife. So that it’s not something that you, you have kind of where you’re using each other’s bodies. But it actually is just the two of you. There’s no third entity in the marriage, but it’s, it’s you together, being intimate together, intimate, physically, emotionally relationally, whatever other ways you can be intimate. So rather than slipping into that old pattern of disconnecting from yourself and from each other, where can you go? First, I just mentioned that you have to start learning to reconnect with yourself, you have to start learning to attune to what’s going on for you throughout the day, especially when they’re difficult emotions. This means another way to think about this, this means making your mind up to be a friend to your heart, working on bridging the gap between brain and body, and heart, you know, so you’re so you’re you allow your your body to feel the emotions that you feel, as opposed to just trying to shut them down. I think a lot of us, this is true for me in a lot of areas of my life, even to this day, that when certain emotions come up, I kind of have this knee jerk response to want to shut them down, or to find relief from them. And so in other in some ways, I’m telling them to go to go away. If we’re going to attune and connect intimately in a sexual relationship with our spouses, we need to begin practicing being present to the emotions that we feel, what are they? How do they feel in our bodies, and, and learning to, to befriend them as opposed to vilify them and push them away or try to get rid of them. And as you do this, you’ll also then be able to begin practicing attuning to and being with other people in your life. And if you’re married, especially with your spouse, to attune to his or her heart, to his or her emotions, to be able to sit with them. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to feel the same things. It doesn’t even mean you have to understand all the reasons that your spouse or another person is feeling the way he or she is. But it does mean that you are now becoming open to being with them. Bringing your heart Your Mind your body to be with them in whatever it is they’re going through and experiencing in their emotional life. This will transfer to the marriage bed as well. So if you’ve learned if you’re learning to be with yourself and what you’re feeling, I know that might sound even strange, but it just it just be you know, the word integrity means being whole. It means being one. Some of you heard me say this before, too. I think that part of the reason for the greatest command Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul and strength. Why didn’t God just say love the Lord your God, period. While I think I think we recognize in Scripture, God recognizes our fallen condition means our mind, our heart, our soul and our body have been splintered. We don’t always live as a unified whole, our movement towards integrity, including sexual integrity is to become a whole person. And so that’s a different way of thinking about what I’m saying. Like you befriend your heart, you befriend your emotions, you pay attention to what they’re doing, not because you want to be ruled by them, but because you want to be whole, and that wholeness now allows you to begin being whole with another person. And then in the marriage bed, it allows you to more fully be intimate with your spouse to be one with him or her rather than splintered off from yourself and splintered off from him or her in your marriage bed. Now, there’s also practical things you can do in your sexual relationship with your spouse. If you have a pattern of dissociation in your sexual acting in your sexual acting out in your sex relationship, then make it a point to begin practicing emotional connection before sex.
So often couples who have learned to dissociate using sex will begin being sexually quote unquote intimate because they’re trying to escape the day before they’re emotionally relationally intimate. Some couples actually haven’t even learned the difference. They their their relational intimacy, or their when they’re starting to connect it very quickly goes into sexual intimacy and I want to just suggest slow that down a bit and slow it down a bit. Make sure that you’re connecting emotionally before you’re trying to connect sexually. Especially if you got that habit of leaving your emotions out of the out of the bedroom. The reason you want to connect emotionally is because now you’re you can be more fully present to each other. Now watch what happens here, watch. And this is this is really cool if you’ve been dissociating from your emotions, through sexual acting out, and that’s transferred to your marriage bed. So now you’re dissociating from your own heart and your spouse’s heart in the marriage bed. Then what happens there is sex between husband and wife becomes a departure from your hearts. But if you’re connected to your heart and connected your spouse’s heart, if you’re paying attention emotionally to what’s happening for you, and aware of what’s happening emotionally for your, for your spouse, now, your sexual relationship, your physical intimacy, can become a place where you’re actively giving each other comfort. So it’s not escaping the emotions, it’s comforting one another, physically offering comfort to the other through your sexual relationship. If there’s joy happening, if there’s thrill, emotional thrill happening in your life, and you’re aware of what’s happening and attuned to your spouse’s emotional thrill. Now, your marriage bed becomes a place of mutual celebration, together. If there’s fear or stress in your spouse’s life, and you’re attuned to that, now you can offer them your strength, and your sexual relationship, or you can offer them a home, away from the stress and embracing the whole person, including the stress of the fear they’re feeling, making a home a space of strength and Union for them. Isn’t that a beautiful picture, I mean, I hope you understand just kind of catch a little bit of a glimpse of the difference between those two. And why emotional intimacy is so important for better and better and more holistic sexual intimacy, so that we’re bringing an integrate itself into the marriage bed and our marriage and becomes an integrated relationship, where we’re not leaving things out, we’re bringing them and and making a space for them, in that union, between husband and wife, and that my friends, more accurately expresses how we bear God’s image. In the in our marriage, relationships, husband and wife were that one flesh union more accurately represents the union that God desires for us, in his, in his becoming one spirit with us now because that relationship with God as a sexual relationship, but that spiritual relationship is one where we’re not leaving out our pain. We’re not leaving out suffering. We’re not leaving out our fear. We’re not leaving out our joy. We’re not leaving out our excitement. God embraces the full scope of who we are. He makes a home for us. He gives us his strength. He gives us his comfort. he celebrates with us, he delights in us, he sees us fully and accepts us and embraces us fully. His love embraces us, he doesn’t leave those things out. And that is something we all need because we all deeply desire to be deeply seen and known and loved and held as we are, even as we continue to grow and change. Brothers and sisters, I hope this is encouraging you today. We’d love to hear your your questions or comments about this because there’s so much more we could say about it. But but be encouraged, Lord Jesus would you lead us deeper into be being integrated in ourselves, not cut off but being one, spirit, soul, body and mind. And Lord, for those of us who are married or aspire to marriage, may do this so that we can also be more fully attuned to and integrated in an emotional, relational, and physical way with our spouse. And Lord, for my single brothers and sisters, I pray that you would continue to grow them up, that they would be integrated in them in themselves that they could more fully offer themselves to others in whole relationships that are non sexual and able to attune to them and others in ways that really make your body your whole church body. One, not leaving parts of us outside but one fully known fully loved. Lord Jesus make it so for for our sake for the sake of the world of your glory. Amen.
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