“The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine N. Aron
“The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine N. Aron
Sexual frustration is as much an unavoidable, universally experienced difficult feeling in men as sadness or anger. Those bearing a “highly sensitive” nervous system are more likely to experience these feelings even more intensely. Just as it is with sadness, anger, and all other negative emotions, it is very tempting to fix, control, get rid of, or escape the difficult feeling of sexual frustration right away. But it is exactly these immediately gratifying control mechanisms that set us men up for failure in the long run, especially in our relationships.
As painful as it is, the best thing to do in the long run is to NOT do anything when the difficult feeling of sexual frustration comes.
When boys first experience the difficult feeling of sexual frustration, many of them are left to figure out on their own how to deal with it. This often is the case because there are too many fathers who are either embarrassed to talk with their children about sex or they themselves have very little wisdom or knowledge in the area to pass down. Boys will then discover that the easiest, most accessible way out of this difficult feeling is through masturbation.
Although masturbation might be effective in alleviating the discomfort that comes with sexual frustration, this temporary state of relief comes at a cost. This technique as an escape method robs people of their opportunity to learn how to be ok with this difficult feeling. Those who never allow this difficult feeling to simply take its natural journey in and out of their system through mindful acceptance will find that their sexual frustration in their adult years is as intense as their sexual frustration from their youth. It is through our continuous exposure to discomfort that we build a greater tolerance for it and require less of a quick and easy way out.
Take, for example, the difficult emotion of “stage fright.” When we first experience it, it may be incredibly frightening. Fortunately, many school systems are designed to push children from an early age to continuously face this initially overwhelming feeling. Through “show and tell,” school plays and talent nights, speech competitions, and group presentations, schools incrementally increase children’s exposure to the discomfort of being in front of people, whether the children like it or not. This is why adults are likely to feel less afraid than children to speak in front of an audience.
But unlike my example above, when it comes to sexual frustration, the availability of quick and easy ways out is much too high in today’s world, making it even more difficult for men to resist their control techniques. All it takes now for men to find immediate relief from their sexual frustration is to open up their internet browser. Yes, I am talking about online pornography. Online pornography has all the qualities to make it one of the most highly addictive control mechanisms for men: it is plentifully available, it is low-cost, it is easily accessible, and activity on it can easily be untraced.
Sometimes, though, men do get found out by their romantic partner. The romantic partner may then express his or her hurt (if your romantic partner gets upset by this, something very right is actually happening within his or her conscience). Men who have spent most of their sexual lives controlling their inner sexual experiences in this manner may then justify their behaviour with the response, “All guys do it.” But as I mentioned before, regardless of how many other guys do it, dependence on such an activity as a reaction to sexual frustration is a sign of weakness.
While I am still on the topic of pornography, let me just take this time to further rip it apart. If it means anything to you to have a wonderful sex life within a loving relationship, stay away from pornography. Pornography will ruin your sex life in a loving relationship. Pornography will cause you to shift your focus onto performance and high stimulation and away from intimacy. Your romantic partner will be left feeling inadequate even though making love should never be about trying to be good enough. Pornography will also keep you imprisoned in your sexual frustration. In fact, it will increase it. It will also cause you to objectify people. I could go on and on about the many consequences of pornography, but I should get back to my original topic.
Actual sex is also much more available than it used to be in the past. Watch this very interesting video on “The Economics of Sex” to learn more about this change in the availability of sex:
So as you can see, there are just way too many instantly gratifying, easy options for sexually frustrated men.
So what exactly is the point of putting oneself through the suffering of doing nothing about sexual frustration?
When you have tamed the beast inside of you through mindful acceptance, it no longer controls you. You no longer NEED something to fix it, control it, get rid of it, or escape it. You prevent yourself from developing sexual addictions. When you have sex with your loved one, you can actually give yourself to them as a whole person rather than use them to correct your inner frustrations. Rather than feeling entitled to sex from your loved one, you treasure every intimate moment with them. When other people outside of your committed relationship make a pass at you, you have the self-control to walk away and be loyal to your partner. All in all, you set yourself up for a greater sex life with your loved one in the long run by going through the pain of not doing anything when you feel sexually frustrated.
Here’s a great article on “Sex and Our Psychological Needs“
“I don’t feel good enough as a person because I don’t HAVE what I need to feel good enough about myself. If only I HAD…”
“I feel lonely because I don’t HAVE someone who intimately knows me. If only I HAD…”
When we do not feel “good” emotionally, many of us, highly sensitive people or not, are quick to think in this manner. We think that our negative emotions have to do with something outside of ourselves that is not quite right. As we look outside, we identify possible external problems and work hard on trying to fix or control them. This is our natural human tendency, a built-in survival mechanism that arises no matter what negative emotions we get struck by. One of those negative emotions that all people experience in some point in their life is the feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents.
The feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents is an entire emotion of its own out of the many that make up the whole human inner experience.
Just as sadness is an unavoidable negative emotion that all humans are bound to experience in some point in life, no matter how “perfect” life is, the feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents is also an unavoidable negative emotion. This emotion says, “I am not equipped enough to be independent in this area of my life because you (parents) weren’t there for me,” “Where were you when I needed you?” “I have to be my own parent and look out for myself.”
Like the examples listed at the beginning of this blogpost, many people look outside of themselves as they experience this difficult emotion. So who ends up getting the blame? Most often the parents do. Parents make the easiest target for the root cause of this difficult emotion that is within every human being.
Upset children will do a variety of different things to cope with this difficult feeling. Many people use psychological strategies to make themselves feel better: “I guess I have it better than that other family does,” “At least I was not sexually abused by my parents,” “Considering the rough life my parents have had, I guess it’s only inevitable that they’d raise me the way that they did,” “Well, considering they didn’t have Google back then, I guess I can’t blame them for not knowing what to do.” Although these excuses that people make for their parents deliver momentary comfort, they cause other problems down the line. As you continue to invalidate your own real feelings, you will most likely feel that others, including your own children, are not allowed to struggle with these feelings either. In their times of darkness in this area, you will most likely lack empathy. It is exactly this lack of empathy which causes many parents to shut their children up and put them in their place when they express this “forbidden” emotion. If you respond to your children in this way, you may also be teaching them to carry guilt in possessing an emotion that simply is a part of every human being. Deep inside of you, you will also develop an expectation to be excused in the same manner once you become a parent. This expectation will most likely be passed down to your own children.
Some people try to fix their parents (I am guilty of this one). I criticized my parents’ parenting techniques. I tried to teach my stoic parents how to be there for my emotional needs. Hopeless, I tell you. In the end, I just got so frustrated with them. Frustration is the inevitable end result for all of those who try to fix their parents.
When this difficult emotion of feeling abandoned by one’s own parents is not dealt with in a healthy manner, resentment is very likely to develop. Highly sensitive people who feel their emotions very intensely are at a much higher risk of developing this kind resentment towards their parents.
So how do you handle this difficult emotion in a healthy manner?
Like I suggest in every one of my self-help blogposts about handling difficult emotions, go ahead and FEEL it. Do not run from it. Next, meditate on positive thoughts: “I will be ok,” “Though I may not be equipped enough to be independent in this area of my life right now, I will manage, I will learn.” Then, perhaps most importantly, forgive your parents in your heart. Do not keep track of how they have failed you but continue to wipe their slate clean again and again. If you have already built up a lot of resentment towards your parents, start forgiving them now. As much as you forgive your own parents, you will be able to forgive yourself for all your imperfections as a parent.
Lastly, for those who may be interested in a more spiritual explanation, I will also share my religious beliefs. I believe that, just like the emotions of joy and intimacy, our human heart was designed with the capacity to feel the wonderful sensation of having a perfect parent-figure. The Church happens to call this feeling “sonship” or “daughtership.” But when we attempt to find that joy, that intimacy, that wonderful sensation of having a perfect parent-figure in imperfect things, like our parents, we are likely to end up feeling disappointed and cheated. So I try to place my faith in something perfect (God) for those things and release my earthly parents from the burden of having to provide me with that emotion that I crave so much.
SO WHAT NOW?
So what will you do if your child expresses his or her emotional pain in this area? Will you let your ego shut your child up, put your child in his or her place, make your child feel guilty for possessing such emotions, and then leave your child alone to find rest in psychological strategies? What will you do?
It was only this morning that all of these things that I have written above were revealed to me. Before this morning, I was unable to fully grasp this difficult, confusing emotion. As soon as I figured that the root problem was not my parents, I immediately apologized to them for being so unforgiving and hard on them for so many years.
It has been a really long time since I last wrote on my blog. Why? Shortly after my last blog post, after I was freed up from my all-consuming epic year-end project, I fell madly in love with someone in a way that I have never fallen in love with anyone before. And like all things that I become passionate about, I hyper-focused on this new love, forgetting that an entire world exists outside of it.
When emotionally intense highly sensitive people fall in love, they fall VERY deeply in love.
I thought to myself, “Why did it take me so long to feel this way for another person? What was different about this time?” Of course it has to do with Kimberley-Rae, my now-girlfriend, being one of a kind – one does not simply come across someone as beautiful and amazing as her. But the intensity of the romantic feelings that I experienced also had much to do with the emotional freedom that I broke into after having successfully gone through a great deal of emotional healing and fear conquering over the past recent years.
Although emotionally sensitive people are designed to experience intense romantic feelings that are unattainable by most of the world, many of them, including my old self, have difficulty reaching those emotions because of their many areas of emotional anxiety. Emotional anxiety, the fear of difficult emotions, causes people to be very controlled in what kind of emotions they allow themselves to feel. All of this control gives people the illusion that their emotional experience will waver within the “safe zone.” The unfortunate side-effect, however, is that the underlying fear that never gets dealt with robs people of their ability to experience super high “highs.” In order for me to fall deeply in love as I did, I first had to bring myself to a place where I felt unconditionally safe to experience the whole spectrum of emotions. This place can only be reached after allowing oneself to feel anger, sadness, regret, loneliness, shame, guilt, heart break, etc.
Feeling the intense emotions of being in love for the first time was not so easy for me. I became obsessive. I clicked through every single one of her photos. Rather than simply “feeling” my emotions, my mind took over and I began thinking way too much. I fantasized about a nice future with her. I replayed our first date in my mind over and over again. Although I attended many Christmas parties, my mind could not be distracted away from thoughts of her. My conversations with my friends centered around her. As I meditated on her, my emotions followed and I fell even more deeply in love. I fell so deep that I began to think, “there is no possible way that she feels the same way for me.” This thought was so depressing. My romantic emotions then turned into love sickness. I could not sleep. I could not eat. I was a total mess. I finally understood how those famous sixteenth century poets must have felt in their epic poems about unrequited love. There was no doubt in my mind – I wanted her. For our second date, I was determined to eradicate all ideas of platonic friendship from her mind (if she had any). I did not let mystery have any place in our second date: I came with flowers, held her hand, and kissed her that night. It was one of the happiest moments of my life haha.
Now looking back, I realize that I could have saved myself from my emotional rollercoaster ride had I handled the emotion of being in love differently. I could have used mindfulness techniques to simply feel my emotions instead of letting my mind take over. I could have lived in the present moment rather than live in the past (replaying our first date in my mind) or the future (fantasizing about our future together). In the end, I know I still would have fallen for Kim. After having gone through this experience, I feel like I can be there for my future children when they fall in love and have no clue how to handle themselves.
For the next three months, Kim will be modeling in Tokyo. Please show my lovely girlfriend support by liking her Facebook page and following her on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr blog. Thanks!