You Can’t Know Where You’re Going Until You Know Where You’ve Been

This post is brought to you today by our guest and friend, Aimee Heffernan, Marriage and Family Therapist.  Aimee has a professional blog as well as posts regularly for Modern Mormon Men with a unique and refreshing perspectives on sexuality, spirituality and emotional health.  Aimee has a private practice up in the Seattle area.

You Can’t Know Where You’re Going Until You Know Where You’ve Been

By Aimee Heffernan, LMFTA

One of the last scheduled classes in my marriage and family therapy program was a course on Family Therapy Human Sexuality. I had been looking forward to this class for several reasons; I had heard fantastic things from previous graduates, it was a subject in which I was interested in specializing, and the teacher was and still is one of my favorite humans. As part of the class we were required to write an autobiography of our sexuality from childhood to the present. My sexual history was to include how my parents talked about sex, the culture of sexuality in our home, how sex/intimacy was talked about in my church culture, sexual abuse, masturbation, shaming experiences around sexuality, teenage sexuality, positive sexual experience, negative sexual experience, the loss of my virginity, and the meaning of sex in my marriage — amongst many other very personal issues on the subject.

The purpose in having us do this type of writing was to understand the context in which our sexuality shaped who we were and to be able to see the influences, legacy, beliefs, and values we have regarding this very important piece of ourselves. Basically the notion that understanding your past can inform so much of your present and future.

This was like no other paper I had written for any class!

The experience of processing about my own history and committing it to paper was complicated. My teacher was going to read it. It made me feel so vulnerable. Some of these questions were so personal and private. I really wanted to have an honest, authentic experience but I was distracted by the thoughts of what others might think if they read my words. Once I decided to turn all those worries down and just be totally raw in writing my history, I had a powerful time rewinding the narrative of my life regarding the evolution of my sexuality. My paper ended up being over twenty pages and when it was over it felt like I had really discovered important truths in my story. Understanding my history helped me to be more solid in my today and will hopefully help my tomorrow.

Fast forward a few years and now I am a individual and marriage therapist with my own couch. It disheartens me to say that I see so much more sexual dysfunction rather than positive sexual health. This saddens me! I have clients that have a lot of pain, shame, and loneliness related to their sexuality. I often have them do this process of analyzing their sexual histories too. I don’t ask them to turn it into me for a pass/fail grade (although if they wanted to I would welcome a formal paper!) but I ask them to really look at these parts of themselves and search for deeper meaning in the experiences that have shaped their core beliefs and feelings about who they are as a sexual person. I see relationships healed as they individually process their history.

You can imagine how happy I was to read chapter four in Real Intimacy. The book lays out the same questions from my course that you can answer alone, or with your partner to generate conversation that might tease out stories that need to be told together to help understand yourself and your partner. If you are at all interested in this process, read this chapter and find space to talk about it with your spouse. Hopefully it will open doors, heal any wounds that might be present between you, and get you in a healthier intimate space with each other. Of course, if you are needing extra facilitating find a therapist that can help you.

We’d also like to give note to Aimee’s “favorite human”, Tina Shermer Sellers.  In Tina’s words from her blog: Tina Schermer Sellers is a recognized scholar in the integration of spirituality into a multitude of areas represented in family and career life. As a behavioral scientist, licensed family therapist, medical family therapist, and certified sex therapist, she specializes in helping to craft relationships, organizations and lives that flourish. In the area of sexuality, Tina has spent a career helping people discover what culture has failed to teach them about their bodies, their hearts, their capacity for intimacy and their erotic potential.

BOTH TINA AND AIMEE HAVE BEEN BIG SUPPORTS FOR THIS BOOK AND PROJECT AND OFFERED MUCH INFLUENCE WITH CHAPTER 4, UNDERSTANDING YOUR SEXUAL HISTORY.

Missed our post yesterday?  Remember, virgins have a sexual history too.

 

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