This post is another oldie but goodie. A bit psychoanalytic in nature, but well worth the read. Unresolved emotions often play havoc on our body, specifically on our sexuality. In this post, I will elaborate a little more about the ways that intense emotions, specifically unresolved rage can show themselves through the body and negatively affect sexual performance.

First, we need to understand how feelings are experienced. Feelings can be understood in three distinct ways- cognitively (“I know I am angry”); physically  (“I feel a burning sensation in my temples”); and through an action/impulse (“I feel like punching this person”).  Often individuals may find themselves dissociated from one or more, or even all three areas. For example, they may deny to themselves that they feel angry, but find themselves experiencing somatic problems such as headaches and stomachaches that cannot be medically accounted for.  These individuals may somatize their emotions. In this way the anger may make itself felt in the body, without the individual recognizing the link.

Sometimes, the person may recognize that he or she feels anger, but may feel totally numb in the body.  These individuals may have easy access to their cognitive functioning, and may engage in obsessive ruminations, but may be totally removed from experiencing physical embodiment.

I will elaborate on these various channels of emotional discharge in other postings, but for now I will focus on the role of the body in experiencing emotions. I propose that internal anger and rage may often only be accessed through the body by some individuals through activities designed to produce somatic experience.  These may include body worship (compulsive working out and idealization of one’s body) as well as sexual experience.  The experience of pain, for example, appears to be a large aspect of bodybuilding subculture, with phrases often used such as “no pain, no gain”, and an emphasis on intensive, overloading workouts designed to “tear down, then build up” the muscles. This also describes the painful intensity often used symbolically in various iron man competitions and cross fit training programs.

Sexual experience may often have a similar function in allowing the individual to experience embodied sensations and emotions that may not be accessible otherwise. Various psychoanalysts such as Stoller and Khan have proposed that “paraphilic disorders” are simply manifestations of eroticized rage; I believe there is a strong aspect of aggression in sexual arousal, and I have spoken about this before in Germany. However, I would like to propose the idea that this type of sexual expression described by the psychoanalysts is not an expression of rage, but actually a defense against rage.  In other words, by experiencing rage sexually, it actually diffuses it into the sexual organs, and hides the actual origins of the rage.

In this way, somatizing or eroticizing rage is actually a defense against truly facing the emotion of rage head on and being able to experience it fully in its original context, with an understanding of the origins and object(s) of the rage.  Focusing the rage on the body is a kind of displacement, preventing the individual from coming to terms with the primary trauma which created the rage in the first place.

In future posts, I will go into much further detail into how rage is often a key underlying component of sexual difficulties.