When Patsy contacted me, she was the youngest private client I had ever had. At 23, she was ready to heal from the sexual abuse history that had impacted her life in more ways than she could see. She wanted to become sexually empowered and to improve her relationship with her partner who she cared about deeply. She signed on to work with me for a year right out of the gate, in a commitment to deep growth and expansion and I was often impressed by her thoughtfulness, maturity and depth.
“My father sexually abused me from the ages of three to nine years old, at which point he confessed and went to prison. Over the years, I have experienced so many different emotions about this. Grief, shame, confusion, rage. My mother collapsed emotionally and spent the next decade of my life trying, with limited success, to heal. It was just the two of us, so as she battled with depression, anxiety, and a soul-crushing guilt, my emotional needs often went unmet. I tried to take care of her so she could take care of me–I learned to censor myself, to never say anything that could possibly be hurtful, to do nice things to make amends when I, inevitably, couldn’t make her happy.
“When I began having romantic and then sexual relationships, these patterns played out again and again. I had no idea how to ask for what I wanted, how to speak up when I was unhappy, how to be with someone else’s unhappiness instead of running for the hills. I experienced a lot of anxiety around consent and boundary setting–my attempts at both were confusing and fragile. And, for the most part, these challenges were reinforced by cultural norms. Most of us are not taught how to handle conflict in healthy ways. Most of us are not taught how to communicate our sexual needs–or, for women, even value that we HAVE sexual needs. I was under the impression that my partner should know what I wanted and give it to me–and when they turned out to be incapable of reading my mind, I felt incapable of reaching out. I actually broke up with my first boyfriend by simply refusing to speak for hours until he gave up and left!
“I did a lot of work exploring my history and the ways it plays out in my present. I needed to identify patterns before I could release them. Possibly the biggest breakthrough for me was learning to honor my behavior as it was. So many of my worst habits came from a desire to be good–ways of not upsetting anyone, of making others happy, of getting my needs met however I could. When I honored that I am and always have been DOING THE BEST THAT I CAN, instead of beating myself up for not being perfect, I found I had some space to relax. In that space, I began to love myself.
“I started this work on my sexuality because I was miserable about sex, both doing it and thinking about it. As the work progressed, I realized that all the upsetting emotions, all the negative patterns I had in sex also played out in the rest of my life. It all really came down to not valuing myself–not asking for what I wanted, not bringing up what upset me, not feeling like I could say no. These things all played out subtly in all of my relationships–from my partner, to friends, to professional relationships. Sex was where they boiled over because sex was the one place where I didn’t feel like I could turn to anyone else for support or advice.
“To change my emotional patterns around sex (and everything else), I had to admit how much of my power I gave away. It was so easy to feel like a victim–it was much easier to blame others for not meeting my needs than it was to acknowledge that I was actually preventing myself and others from meeting them. Stepping into my own power has been uncomfortable. My fear has fought me every step of the way, crying out that I am asking too much, that I will be hated, abandoned, alone. Yet every step has proven this false. That fear still exists in me, and I still have more power to reclaim, but the work I’ve done so far has drastically improved my quality of life. I can easily give voice to things that would have eaten me alive in silence a few years ago, all because I have faith that my needs are worth meeting.
“After a lot of time and energy put into releasing my old ways of being, I feel more like my true self than ever. It’s like shedding old layers of skin, getting closer and closer to being my deep core self at all times. And that self is wonderful. I truly believe that each of us IS self-actualized, deep deep down. That shining, brilliant, TRUE self is buried under old scars and open wounds, under pollution and muck and other people’s old junk, under layers of protection we feel we need, under masks and costumes and elaborate charades. Doing the work to clean all that up and come into my own power started by realizing that I was capable of making my life a safe space to be my Whole Self. And from there it’s been about putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, and being kind to myself when I pause to rest.”
Find out more about Patsy’s story and other stories in my book Woman on Fire: 9 Elements to Wake Up Your Erotic Energy, Personal Power and Sexual Intelligence.