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No bad sex Parts

Sexuality is a complex realm of human experience that can bring some of life’s greatest joys, as well as the deepest wells of shame and pain.

When things are going well, our sexual lives can seem easy, natural and fun. When things are not going so well, such as when we feel conflicted about our own sexual behavior, when our desires are frustrated or absent, or when we are not living up to our own or another’s expectations, our sexual lives can feel heavy, confusing, and full of activated Parts.

I was already a sex therapist when I discovered IFS. I was craving an additional way to work with people that was spacious enough to allow for the many varied dimensions of people’s sexuality to be addressed, yet which was specific enough to offer meaningful intervention. I wanted an approach that got people out of their heads and more connected with their bodies, and that allowed for a larger sense of meaning, as well as resolution of the “presenting problem.” As I delved into IFS, I found it offered all of these things and more.

Using IFS, I was able to guide clients into a compassionate inner exploration. This journey illuminated their internal sexual landscapes and opened sacred space around what had often become a dark, constricted, avoided realm. As the Parts related to sexuality were discovered and befriended, their many roles and burdens in the sexual system were able to be appreciated.

These Parts could be held in the light of Self and healed. Even Parts that initially seemed highly problematic like fierce inner critics, compulsive sexual seekers, and dissociating Parts revealed their positive intentions for the system. They were relieved to come back into connection once they felt it was safe to do so.

The benefits of healing in this way are many. Relieving sexual shame and feelings of brokenness profoundly change how people feel in their bodies and relate intimately with themselves and others. Creativity can emerge and sexual communication can become clearer. Fun and joy increase, improving mood and outlook. Even those who are not particularly interested in evolving their sexual lives often find that they are holding exiles and burdens on their pelvic floors, which I think of as the basement of the body, where Parts can easily hide or be hidden since little conscious awareness is typically brought to this region.

In a Self-led sexual system, erotic feelings can rise and fall in an organic way, with less inner conflict and agenda, and more room for delight. Parts can have permission to blend so that their deepest desires can be known fully, their passions expressed, and their fantasies safely played with. Parts with sexual burdens such as shame or unwanted erotic energy can unburden these, sometimes during Self-led sexual activity, in ways that are healing and respectful and embodied. As the internal sexual system is beheld and healed, it becomes a resource that can be consulted regarding sexual choices. These choices can guide sexual exploration, and open a portal to the deepest forms of connectedness with our own essence, with partners, and with expanded states of pleasure and consciousness.

This all may sound, in some ways, ethereal, I know. But through the processes of IFS, additionally informed by insights from the study of human sexuality, healing and transformation can flow in a gradual and organic way. So many people I have worked with report very tangible and specific changes in their sexual attitudes, behavior, communication, and sense of fulfillment. IFS is well-suited for the exploration of sexuality, since both involve internal subjective journeys and the need for awareness of many layers of external systems as well.

While my training as a sex therapist prepares me to work at a deep level with clients in this sensitive area, I believe that all therapists should have basic comfort and ability to hold Self Energy in the realm of sexuality, whilst also knowing how to remain within their scope of practice and make appropriate referrals when needed. However, I have found that many therapists, IFS therapists included, feel ill-prepared to address this vitally important aspect of human experience. Many struggle to welcome sexual Parts from a Self-led place, and wind-up exiling sexuality from the therapeutic context.

In response, I found I needed to develop an integrative training model for Self-led sexuality. To complement this training I also run a virtual small group program I have called BLISS, that invites IFS professionals to turn toward their own internal sexual landscapes. I am passionate about helping the helpers to do this work. It is hard to take others where we have not been ourselves. Also, if there is the possibility that knowing more about Self-led sexuality can support a therapist’s own sexual wellness, then it is right that those of us who do this demanding work of helping others can reap the benefits of this resource personally. With much respect for protectors and a structured format that allows for inner exploration and consent based external sharing, participants in BLISS groups journey through their sexual landscape guided by a “Six S’s” framework. This is a curriculum I have created organized around what I have identified as the Six S’s of sexual Self energy, qualities of Self that may emerge in the context of sexuality. These are:

  • Safe
  • Sensual
  • Spacious
  • Sensitive
  • Steamy
  • Satisfied

To date, over 100 IFS therapists and practitioners have participated in a group with me. They have reported both personal and professional growth, including:

  • feeling significantly more comfortable communicating about sexuality
  • accessing more Self energy with clients when sexual topics are addressed
  • improvements in their own sexual lives, alone and with partners
  • further resolution of their sexual traumas
  • more appreciation of the importance of pleasure and ability to access it
  • deeper understanding of IFS

I find these outcomes highly satisfying for my intention to support therapists in their work with clients. It is intended for themselves, as mentioned above, but especially for when a client’s sexual Parts emerge and need an attuned response from the therapist’s Self, not a Part-led reaction.

I invite you to pause a moment to notice what Parts are here as you finish reading this article. This pause can be a hard thing to take. It is one of the first skills that I teach those who would like to feel more Self-led in the realm of sexuality, because with that pause we open more awareness and opportunity to choose. It can be hard to slow the momentum of the bulldozer that may be our sexual drive, compulsive avoiders or automatically compliant Parts.

Perhaps right now you can notice some thoughts, body sensations, reactions, or distractions? Do you sense curiosity about this topic, about your own sexual system, or how this may be helpful to others? If so, I encourage you to find out more. We all deserve the healing, pleasure and empowerment that a Self-led sexual system can bring.

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