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Why We Sexualize Emotions And How To Desexualize Them

May 20, 2024 Drew Boa
Why We Sexualize Emotions And How To Desexualize Them
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Husband Material
Why We Sexualize Emotions And How To Desexualize Them
May 20, 2024
Drew Boa

Why do we sexualize emotions, and how can we desexualize them? In this episode, I explain what it looks like to "right-size" sexual energy through processing emotions and releasing trauma.

Free tools to process emotions:


Ready to release some trauma?

"Before the retreat, I was plagued with an overwhelming sense of sadness that I could ignore for a while but never escape. During the retreat, I was able to access my suppressed, righteous anger, experience it, and direct it for good." —Scott

Take the Husband Material Journey...

Thanks for listening!


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Why do we sexualize emotions, and how can we desexualize them? In this episode, I explain what it looks like to "right-size" sexual energy through processing emotions and releasing trauma.

Free tools to process emotions:


Ready to release some trauma?

"Before the retreat, I was plagued with an overwhelming sense of sadness that I could ignore for a while but never escape. During the retreat, I was able to access my suppressed, righteous anger, experience it, and direct it for good." —Scott

Take the Husband Material Journey...

Thanks for listening!


Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Husband Material podcast, where we help Christian men outgrow porn. Why? So you can change your brain, heal your heart and save your relationship. My name is Drew Boa and I'm here to show you how let's go. Today I have a new microphone, which is pretty exciting. I hope the audio quality is better for you all.

Speaker 1:

Today we're talking about how to sexualize and desexualize your emotions. What does that mean? Why would I want to sexualize my emotions, and can I really desexualize them? In this episode, you'll find out how sexualizing happens, why we sexualize our emotions and how to desexualize them. First, what does it mean to sexualize an emotion? Well, it really means converting emotional energy into erotic energy, and guys those of us who often feel very strong sexual urges are doing this all the time automatically, without knowing it. It's an automatic process. It's not something we consciously think about, but it happens. Let me tell you how it happens.

Speaker 1:

Have you ever noticed what happens when you're super stressed out, constantly under pressure, at home, at work, maybe even at church? You're anxious, you're on edge, you know that things are not right. You're not sure what's going to happen. You know that things are not right. You're not sure what's going to happen. That fear can often become sexualized. What we think of as a strong sexual urge might actually be an emotion that I'm not aware of or that I'm not allowing myself to feel. So that's sexualized fear.

Speaker 1:

What about shame when you're feeling so bad about yourself that you just want to hide and push people away and push God away? Try to be as emotionally unaffected by your life as possible. Those emotions have no place to go. When there is no physical, relational, emotional release, what happens to that energy trapped in our body? What happens to that energy trapped in our body? Or what happens when you lose a place that you really loved or one of your best friends and you're no longer close anymore? What happens when you lose a job? What happens when you lose someone close to you, when you lose something or someone that you deeply love? But then you proceed as if nothing happened. But then you proceed as if nothing happened. The sorrow will skyrocket your sexual energy unless you process it, unless you grieve, mourn, lament, release the energy trapped in your body.

Speaker 1:

Over and over again, with my clients, with my fellow leaders and within my own life, I see a very consistent pattern Emotions will get released one way or another. Emotions will get processed one way or another. With porn, or with people with an orgasm, or with an outlet that actually allows you to digest what's happening in your life, allows you to digest what's happening in your life. We need to process our emotions, or else they will almost always become sexualized or go in some other direction to distract ourselves from them. For many people, unprocessed emotions fuel a different kind of urge Maybe the urge to incessantly check your phone, or the urge to eat more food than you really want to eat. Any kind of unwanted behavior is often the result of unprocessed emotions. Here's a little thought experiment for you If you were always able to process your emotions fully, would you ever sexually act out? Hmm, interesting thought, right? I'm not going to answer that question for you. I hope you can come to your own thoughtful answer.

Speaker 1:

Regardless, the three great sexualizers are fear, shame and loss. Some of you might be wondering what about anger? Often anger is a secondary emotion and underneath that anger is something that I'm afraid of happening fear or something that already happened that is devastating to me. So loss, or sometimes, underneath our anger at someone else, is actually shame about ourselves. So anger is often secondary to fear, shame and loss. Anger is often secondary to fear, shame and loss. Another emotion that can often be sexualized, too, is joy. When we don't allow ourselves to celebrate, to rejoice, I mean oftentimes a really good day and something wonderful happening can also be a trigger to sexually act out when we don't allow ourselves to fully embrace joy, because joy is vulnerable.

Speaker 1:

There are all kinds of reasons why we sexualize our emotions. Here are some of the ones that I find to be most common. Many of us sexualize our emotions because we learned to do that in our family of origin. Maybe you grew up in a family where there was no space for emotions, or at the very least, there was no space for your emotions, or at the very least, there was no space for your emotions. Maybe it was your job to care for other people's emotions and yours were neglected. Or maybe you were emotionally abused. In fact, patrick Carnes' research shows that 97% of sex addicts have experienced emotional abuse, which is essentially saying don't feel that, stop feeling that, stop feeling that, don't cry, I'll give you something to cry about. I mean, not having space for our emotions is part and parcel of developing an addiction or developing an attachment to porn.

Speaker 1:

Research by Peggy Orenstein found that girls in general grow up disconnected from their bodies, while boys, in general, grow up disconnected from their emotions, from their heart, from their deep feelings. Why, well, society has certain rules or expectations for what it means to be a man, and some of those are really toxic, like don't cry, be strong all the time, never show your weakness, don't be vulnerable, and so, for a lot of us, we feel like it's not okay to not be okay. We need to unlearn that, and that's one of the wonderful things about husband material is that, instead of stuffing our emotions, we welcome our emotions and our sexual thoughts and feelings too, and that's part of what it means to be a healthy, mature man to allow ourselves to feel. A lot of us have trouble with this due to alexithymia. Alexithymia is a fancy word that just means I don't know what I'm feeling. Alexithymia Alexithymia is a fancy word that just means I don't know what I'm feeling. So it can be very helpful to use a tool like the Feeling Wheel or the Feelings and Needs Inventory that I'm going to put in the description for this episode to help you, first of all, identify what you're feeling and then also process what you're feeling, because for so many of us. We just don't even know.

Speaker 1:

Personally, I experience alexithymia a lot. In fact, I don't often know when I'm feeling something really strongly until sexual temptation feels way more powerful. And then I'm like, oh my gosh, what am I really feeling? Oh, I didn't realize that there was this fear or shame or loss or a combination of all of it, underneath what I just thought was a lot of sexual urges or some stronger fantasies, or maybe spending a lot more time on my phone. Oftentimes, without even realizing it, we are distracting ourselves from the truth of how we really feel.

Speaker 1:

So far, I've shared a few different reasons why we sexualize our emotions, including how we grew up in our family of origin, society's rules for what it means to be a man, alexithymia, and also isolation. When you are isolated or you feel like you can't really count on anyone to be there for you or to handle your emotions, naturally those emotions will not have a place to go, a place to land, a place to be known, a place to be loved. We need community. A big reason for that is so that we process our emotions instead of sexualizing them. Another reason why we sexualize our emotions is pride Saying to ourselves and other people. I'm fine, I don't need anything, it's okay. Yeah, life is really hard but I'll be all right. I mean, if you are trying to do it all to please everyone or to achieve everything as a super version of yourself, sooner or later sexual thoughts and feelings will seduce your heart and maybe sexually acting out can actually destroy your pride in a good way and help you realize. You know what. I'm not fine. I do have needs. I have big emotions and they need a place to go Whenever I deprive myself of what I really need emotionally, relationally, physically and spiritually.

Speaker 1:

When those streams dry up in my heart, it's so much easier to settle for a, and that's how sexualizing happens. Instead of realizing what we really need, we settle for a symbolic version of it through a sexual fantasy or a type of porn or masturbation, or all of them combined. We don't want to feel them. Sometimes the part of me that wants to watch porn or that wants to masturbate is actually protesting against the way that I've been treating myself, against the way that I've been depriving myself or against the way that I have been continuing to proceed without really showing kindness to myself or my own heart or allowing myself to be known or loved Guys, whatever you and I don't want to feel will often become sexualized. Now, I'm not saying that all sexual energy is emotional. Not all sexual energy is sexualized. It can be normal. Sexual pleasure is wonderful, especially when what arouses you lines up with what you desire. Arousal is amazing and at the same time, when you have unwanted arousal or the urge to use porn, that feels overwhelming, you know that you're dealing with some emotions underneath that that have become sexualized.

Speaker 1:

We're talking about boys and how boys' brains work, and whenever we're talking about childhood needs and childhood experiences, I often find inspiration and wisdom in the words of Fred Rogers, also known as Mr Rogers. I watched a documentary about Fred Rogers and this is what he said at one point in the documentary that just stopped me in my tracks when a young child wishes for something that he or she doesn't have, that child will often create it by imagining it. That is exactly what happens when we sexualize our wishes, our desires, our needs, our emotions. It's a brilliant survival strategy for kids that gives them a version of what they want without actually getting what they want or risking getting what they want or choosing other, riskier, more destructive behaviors, and by sexualizing our trauma. I actually think we set ourselves up for healing later in life.

Speaker 1:

Sexualizing is a brilliant survival strategy that allows boys to get a version of whatever they really need emotionally without actually getting it in real life, and these needs are incredibly important. So for a boy to at least have some shred of what his heart truly longs for can help him keep going. It can help keep a boy safe from other potentially riskier behaviors and it also keeps those deep emotional needs alive. I am in awe of how God designed our brains to have this capability, because when a boy sexualizes his emotions and the needs that he's not even aware of, those emotions and those needs stay alive in a sexual form until years later. As a man entering the process of healing, he can access those emotions, he can access those deeper needs, and the sexual temptations and fantasies are just a portal to his heart that he gets to rediscover as an adult. And guys, that's the journey we're going on in Outgrowing porn Finding out what were those deeper needs, emotions and desires that were preserved in the sexual form, and now what does it look like to desexualize them.

Speaker 1:

Much of recovery depends on revealing your true needs and meeting those needs in a healthy way Processing emotions and learning how to do this as an adult, because we didn't really learn how to do it as boys without a sexualized solution. The assumption here is that oftentimes underneath our sexual thoughts and feelings are emotions, that the core of attachment to porn is not sexual, it's emotional. So when we create space for our feelings and process them in a healthy way, that energy that was once going toward fantasy and orgasm can now go towards a different kind of release. Here's the question we've been building up to in this entire episode how do you desexualize your emotions? How do you desexualize your emotions? Desexualizing means reconverting erotic energy back into its original emotional core. This does not happen automatically. It takes conscious thought, intentionality, effort. Often it happens in relationships with other people on the same recovery journey.

Speaker 1:

Desexualizing is almost like translating what we're thinking and feeling sexually. If you've seen my main teaching on how to outgrow porn, which you can get at outgrowporncom, then you've probably heard me talk about Google Translate and hacking our sexual fantasies and translating what we see on the surface level to what's really going on underneath. And I think that's what desexualizing is all about. It's almost like having a little switch in my head where, when I have that sexual temptation or those thoughts and those fantasies that just feel so strong toward porn or some other unwanted sexual behavior, I do a little translation and I ask myself, hmm, where is this coming from? What am I really feeling? What is underneath this? There's a little translate so that when I'm experiencing this overwhelming, out-of-control sexual attraction or urge, I'm now thinking, hmm, what's the emotional pain underneath this? Why is this so powerful for me right now? Emotional pain underneath this, why is this so powerful for me right now?

Speaker 1:

Here are some examples of what it might look like to desexualize emotions that have been converted into erotic energy. Let's say you are feeling this pull towards kissing, maybe towards watching people kissing in porn or towards hooking up with somebody, and kissing is really promising something to your heart. Maybe you do a little, hmm, translate. Why, what is the kissing all about? Maybe it's all about intimacy. Maybe intimacy is the desire beneath that arousal. Okay, why? Why am I desiring intimacy? Because I feel alone. Wow, now I have found the emotional core underneath that sexualized solution.

Speaker 1:

Let's think about nudity, whether it's voyeurism, watching other people who are naked, or exhibitionism and wanting to flaunt your own body. Okay, what is underneath that? Let's do a little translate. Why nudity? Maybe it's this desire to be seen. Hmm, why would I want to be seen? Maybe because I feel invisible, because nobody understands me, because nobody really knows me, there's no vulnerability. Oh, that makes so much sense. Or maybe, for you, nudity is about being welcomed in. Maybe nudity is about being invited in why? Maybe underneath that there's a feeling of being shut out and excluded.

Speaker 1:

I'll give one more example Tickling. Maybe tickling is a part of porn or the fantasies that you have. Let me do a little translate. What is behind that, what is underneath that? Maybe it's delight, maybe it's pleasure, maybe it's playfulness. Why, why would that be so powerful for me? Because I feel dull on a daily basis, because I feel dead inside, because I feel like life is so serious and heavy and the tickling is a lightness, it's a freedom. Okay, now we have accessed the emotions. Okay, now we have accessed the emotions.

Speaker 1:

Underneath the sexual pleasure that porn promises, we often find emotional pain points and it just takes a little bit of translation and a little bit of digging to discover what am I really feeling? And once you realize how you're actually feeling and allow yourself to feel those things like feeling alone, invisible, shut out, feeling dull, dead or heavy whatever the emotions are fear, shame, loss then now you have an opportunity to meet those emotional needs, to satisfy your deeper desires. And when you do that, sexual thoughts and feelings are a lot less magical and a lot more manageable, because they're no longer mixed up with the emotional pain. They no longer have to pacify your pain. Your sexuality becomes a gift instead of a curse. You can just be a sexual person and not have to give in to the cravings all the time, because your sexuality no longer bears the burden of trying to help you feel better. That's a beautiful thing Feel it to heal it.

Speaker 1:

My friends, this can happen through the small habits of processing your emotions, by calling a friend going out to exercise. Maybe you can process your emotions through journaling or through a group or coaching or counseling and that's a regular part of your life. Beyond the processing of everyday emotions, there are some emotions and some traumatic experiences that need more than just talking with a friend or going for a run, because those emotions are not adult emotions, they're the emotions of a little boy. When emotions feel really, really big, often they're rooted in trauma and you can release that trauma and release those emotions through internal healing experiences that we often do in one-on-one coaching or through redemptive experiences in a group or at a retreat or just in life. When you reverse the curse of your story, you can experience some pretty big breakthroughs that don't take away your emotions and they don't take away your sexual feelings, but they help them become right-sized. So instead of having a disproportionate intolerable emotion like fear, shame or loss, or having a disproportionate, irresistible sexual pleasure or fantasy, they become more manageable. Disproportionate, irresistible sexual pleasure or fantasy. They become more manageable. They become a lot easier to deal with.

Speaker 1:

I want to give you an example of this from my life. At the most recent husband material leaders retreat, I brought something that I wanted to work on Shame about money and about losing things. Because when I was a little boy with undiagnosed ADHD, I lost so many things and in this process with the leaders at our retreat, I closed my eyes and I asked them to bring out a backpack, a phone keys, a wallet, books, clothes, all of the things that I used to lose as a kid, the things that I felt so much shame over because my parents got really angry at me and they humiliated me and over and over again. I began to believe that I was stupid, that I didn't love my parents because otherwise I wouldn't keep losing things. I believed that I would probably never have a real job or never be able to have a family. I think people in my family actually told me that they were like I don't know how you're ever going to get a real job because you keep losing things. And I just felt like such a burden, like I was always costing them money.

Speaker 1:

And as all these objects were placed around me in my imagination, they felt so big and I let out this guttural agonizing scream. The emotions, the trauma started to release from my body. Through this scream, the anger, the shame, the loss, it all started coming out and I went on like that for a couple minutes and when I was done and I opened my eyes, I looked down at the ground and all these objects looked so much smaller. It was amazing. It was as if I had gone from a little boy, surrounded by these huge, scary things that were torturing me, to being an adult and seeing how, wow, my parents made this a really big deal, but it's actually kind of a small deal.

Speaker 1:

Since that experience, my shame about money and about losing things has been a lot smaller. The emotion is more right-sized and when someone recently criticized me for a financial decision that I made that could have been a lot better I shrugged it off. It didn't devastate me, it didn't trigger me the same way as it used to, because I've been able to release that shame Physically in my body. I even had an experience earlier today where I was feeling so frustrated by trying to get a new driver's license and driving for an hour and didn't get the new license. After that failed attempt to get a new driver's license, I thought about going back to work, but I realized you know what. I really need a break. So I drove to my favorite trail here in Colorado, the Manitou Incline, and I hiked the trail. All of that energy got released through my body, the emotions were processed and when I came home I felt a lot better.

Speaker 1:

Guys, we need to give ourselves grace and space to feel our emotions, to release the stress that's trapped in us, to give ourselves good things. And again, this can happen through small habits, like choosing to go for a hike when I'm really not okay, and it can happen through big breakthroughs, like what I talked about at the leaders retreat and releasing that scream and finding my emotions a lot more right-sized afterward At Husband Material. We can help you do both On an ongoing basis. We are processing our emotions in our Husband Material community, in our academy, and we are releasing trauma. We are healing the boy who feels some of those emotions that we still have as adults. And one of the most amazing places we do that is at our annual retreat. This year it's in Colorado and the deadline to get $100 off of your registration is June 8th and you can sign up now by going to husbandmaterialcom slash retreat. That is a place where we give ourselves space to feel, to play, to rejoice and also to grieve and to weep and to scream and do whatever we need to do in order to be integrated, healthy, mature men.

Speaker 1:

If you've never been to one of these retreats, I would strongly recommend taking the risk to come and see what God might want to do.

Speaker 1:

Strongly recommend taking the risk to come and see what God might want to do. You might find that deep-seated sexual thoughts and feelings and emotions can lose a lot of their power over you as a result of the work we do at this retreat. The retreat is a place where you can be filled up, where you can process what's still unprocessed in your life and come home a lot more like yourself, my friend. Through the regular habit of processing your emotions and through the redemptive experience of releasing your trauma, you can get to the emotional core of what it is that you really long for, underneath attachment to porn and any other unwanted sexual behaviors. I am so excited for you because you listened to this whole episode and I hope you got a lot out of it. And if you want to come to the Husband Material Retreat, I would love to see you there and do this deeper processing together in person. Always remember, my friend, you are God's beloved son. In you he is well-placed.

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