Bioenergetics and a Paradoxical View of Sexuality

By Diana Guest, MFT, CBT

This is an excerpt from the following article:
Bioenergetics and a Paradoxical View of Sexuality: How Characterological Development is related to current erotic life!

Sexual health is one of the main priorities of Bioenergetic Analysis. This article explores and introduces a useful adjunct to bioenergetic therapy by blending a new paradigm of sexual erotic development with traditional characterological and bioenergetic perspectives. The author shares her discoveries regarding the relationship between core erotic themes and characterological issues.

(from page 87 of the article):
I find in my practice more and more people coming to me concerned about their sexual behavior or that of their partner. This may be because I am known in the community as specializing in sexual compulsivity but I also think this is a trend as more and more people are using the internet as a sexual outlet. In my work with clients who experience problematic sexual behavior and especially those with compulsive behavior, I have found that using a paradigm that sees sexual behaviors as a way to work through childhood traumas and deficits extremely helpful. Doing so helps me frame the erotic character development of the client more readily by not hastily moving into a judgment about it being normal or pathological. I want to share this approach of incorporating a new paradigm within our more traditional bioenergetic model as an additional component of treatment on the pathway to sexual health. I also hope to invite a dialogue about the integrating of this paradoxical model with our understanding of character structure. Can this theoretical construct with clinical implications directly inform our work with clients and assist us in promoting a sex-positive model of health?

(from pages 90/91 of the article):
Jack Morin’s (1995) paradoxical theory views sex as intricate, mysterious, complicated, contradictory and unpredictable. Erotic experiences are viewed as potentially dangerous, joyous, troublesome and life-giving. This model links current compelling turn-ons with crucial challenges and difficulties from our past. Each of our individual “erotic maps” contains “core erotic themes” which determine what each of us find erotic or “turn-ons”. Sexuality is viewed as a journey of self-discovery. Core erotic themes, also called sexual preferences and lovemaps, are moderately resilient and stable over time and therefore not easily modifiable (Bader, 2002; Money, 1999). These can be seen as a way to honor what one had to do to hold onto one’s sexual being, a part of one’s psychic and somatic character structure, what one had to do to survive his/her environment.

Reich (1971) writes about his work with client’s sexual fantasies and how this informed his development of his orgasm theory. He also writes about the importance of bringing the fantasies into consciousness because if they are not permitted into the conscious they remain disturbing and part of the psychic armoring. He goes on to talk about a “genuine transference” where the original object of the fantasy is transferred to the partner and “if the partner corresponds in his essential traits to the object of the phantasy, he can replace the object of the phantasy” (p. 86). It is my understanding of this that Reich also found working with arousal patterns and fantasy to be a useful component of understanding and working with his clients’ internal sexual conflicts and wounding. This seems compatible with Morin’s research.

Morin’s paradoxical perspective is exemplified by what he calls the erotic equation:

This equation illustrates the power of resistance, contradiction and the push-pull of opposing forces involved in sexuality and erotic experience. This can be seen as part of Reich’s tension, charge, discharge, relaxation paradigm. Obstacles often intensify arousal, give a unique shape to each individual’s erotic map, and can deepen “meaning and richness” in one’s erotic experience. Some examples that illustrate this concept are two people that are attracted to each other but are geographically undesirable, of the wrong religion or race, etc. Obstacles that create or enhance arousal are often discovered through the exploration of one’s first sexual feelings, early sexual fantasies, thoughts and experiences.

Morin’s research has identified what he calls the “four cornerstones of eroticism” which inhabit most individuals erotic and fantasy lives. They include: