Sex and The Critical Inner Voice
“Turn down the lights, turn down the bed. Turn down these voices inside my head.”
I Can’t Make You Love Me, Bonnie Raitt
When we are sexually intimate — experiencing our loving feelings on both a physical and emotional level — we are making the closest contact possible with another person. It is during these times, when we are the most open and vulnerable, that the critical inner voice is especially active and aggressive. When it comes to attacking our sexuality, the critical inner voice knows no bounds. The attacks begin before the sexual encounter, continue during it and even persist afterward.
The critical inner voice attacks both you and your partner. It focuses on every aspect of your sexual relationship: criticizing you and your partner’s performances, bodies, feelings, responses, actions. It is unrelenting in its efforts to interfere with your sharing a close, loving, passionate sexual experience with your mate.
The voice attacks usually start out as annoying little thoughts that escalate to irritating criticisms and warnings and before you know it, they have become full-scale rantings that dominate your thoughts. You are so preoccupied and distracted by the diatribe in your head that you are no longer “in the moment” with your partner. Your preoccupation distracts you from being loving, passionate and close. The emotional distance creates tension in both of you and your partner. The critical voice has successfully interrupted the natural flow of lovemaking.
You struggle to “carry on” but with the intrusion of this critical observer, you no longer feel free and unselfconscious. You have stopped experiencing sex as a spontaneous extension of feelings of affection and attraction. It has become a performance that is being judged and you are now more focused on the technical aspects of sex.
What can you do to stop this destructive internal process? You can identify your specific critical inner voice attacks and then you can learn how to go about challenging them. You will be able to turn down these voices inside your head so that you can share an intimate and passionate relationship with your partner.
Challenging the voices that interfere with lovemaking
Challenging the voices that interfere with lovemaking involves a two-step process: (1) identifying the critical voice attacks on your sexuality and (2) then challenging those attacks during lovemaking.
Step 1: Identifying the critical inner voice attacks on your sexuality
To identify the attacks that are interfering with your being able to enjoy a close and satisfying sexual experience, set aside some time to think about yourself. During this time, think about the attacks that you have toward both you and your partner. What are the attacks that occur before being sexual, while being sexual and after being sexual? Write down you attacks.
WRITE THEM IN THE SECOND PERSON.
Do not write them in the first person because they are not representative of your point of view. They come from an alien part of you; an enemy within you that wants to prevent you from having a gratifying intimate relationship.
Go into detail about how your voice criticizes particular parts of your body and your partner’s body, and specific aspects of your and your partner’s behavior. Below is a list of attacks that people have reported having that may help you in identifying your attacks. The more comprehensive your list, the more thorough your expose of the critical inner voice. In effect, you are bringing the voice out into the open so you will be able to confront and challenge it directly. Review your list so that you can be aware of what your critical inner voice is telling you.
Examples of attacks before being sexual:
Do you really think he/she is attracted to you? You are so unattractive/ boring/ unintelligent/ unexciting/ etc.
Are you really attracted to him/her? He/she seems so unattractive/ boring/ unintelligent/ unexciting/ etc.
Why even bother? You know how these things always end up for you. You just aren’t attractive.
Watch out, he/she is only using you. He/she isn’t really interested in you.
He/she doesn’t really mean what they are saying. He/she is only trying to get you into bed.
Where is this going to go? It’s obvious he/she isn’t interested in any kind of long-term relationship.
How do you know if he/she doesn’t have herpes or aids or some other disease? Even if you ask, he/she could be lying!
How do you know she is using birth control? Even if she says she is, how do you know she is telling the truth?
Examples of attacks while being sexual:
He/she is going to see what’s wrong with your body!
He/she is going to be turned off by you.
You don’t know how to make a man/woman feel good.
He/she doesn’t seem to be very excited
You are not excited enough.
You are going to come too soon
He’s going to come too soon
You won’t be able to finish
He won’t be able to finish
You won’t be able to have an orgasm
You won’t be able to make her have an orgasm
You want to do that? You are really twisted!
He/she wants to do that? What kind of a pervert are you with?
Examples of voice attacks after being sexual:
You didn’t feel enough
He/she didn’t seem to like being with you that much
You were too excited. He/she probably thinks you’re oversexed
You liked that? You are a pervert!!
You felt good? Yeah, but what about next time? You won’t be able to repeat your performance!
Step 2: Challenging the critical inner voice attacks during lovemaking
Talking with your partner about your critical inner voice attacks
Tell your partner that you would like to have a conversation about some thoughts you have been having about yourself and your sexuality. In your conversation, explain that you have become aware of a habitual way of thinking that interferes with your feeling as much as you could when you are sexually intimate.
Explain how the critical inner voice operates to keep you isolated, defended and guarded against wanting anything from anyone else. Describe how it actively interferes with your wanting external satisfaction and gratification in a sexual relationship. Inform your partner that your critical inner voice attacks you before, during and after a sexual encounter. When it does, it is hard to stay in contact and not be distracted by these internal attacks. Explain that you want to “break your silence” by taking your attacks out of your head and revealing them to him/her.
When you discuss your critical inner voice with your partner, talk openly about your attacks on yourself. The process of sharing these attacks with another person puts criticisms that are humiliating and devastating in private into perspective. Most likely, your partner will be amazed by the absurdity of some of your attacks and both of you will be amused by others.
When it comes to discussing the attacks your critical inner voice makes on your partner, do so with sensitivity. Just as your critical inner voice is vicious toward you, it is vicious toward your partner. Make it clear to your partner that these attacks do not express your point of view but are part of a hostile attack to destroy your intimate relationship. It is likely that your voice attacks against your partner will fit into your partner’s own voice attacks against him/herself. Therefore, be mindful of your partner’s feelings as you reveal your attacks. Your goal is for both of you to be on the same side, aligned against this internal enemy, so that you can challenge it and enjoy a close sexual relationship.
Talking with your partner during sex
Before you and your partner make love, ask if he/she would be willing to help you challenge the critical inner voices that attack you during sex. Explain that when the critical inner voice starts attacking a person during lovemaking, if the person mentions this to their partner at the time, it defuses the attacks. Ask if you could mention to your partner when you start attacking yourself during sex.
When you and your partner make love, make every effort to stay be in touch during the encounter. Be alert and attentive; don’t be groggy and “out-of-it.” Be present. Being affectionate and making eye contact will help you stay close with your partner.
If you do begin to attack yourself, stop for a moment and say, “I am starting to attack myself; it is starting to distract me.” It may not be necessary to discuss the specific attacks; just exposing the process is often enough to stop it. However, if the attacks persist, reveal what your critical inner voice is saying to you. It is vitally important that you express these attacks in the second person. Your critical inner voice speaks in the second person; you speak in the first person. Again be sensitive to your partner if your critical inner voice is attacking him/her. You do not want to fuel his/her voice attacks.
During your conversation about your voice attacks, it is crucial to remain close by being affectionate and making eye contact. Do not disengage when discussing your voice attacks. Remember: your critical inner voice may have control of your thoughts but you have control of your actions. If you stay in contact and continue to make love with your partner while you are discussing your self-attacks, you will weaken the impact of your critical inner voice on you and your sexuality.
Encouraging your partner to talk to you about his/her critical inner voice attacks about sex
As you reveal your critical inner voice, your partner may begin to think about the critical inner voice in relation to him/herself. Your partner may wonder how its attacks affect him/her as a sexual person. Introduce your partner to PsychAlive and show him/her how to identify the specific attacks of the critical inner voice. Once he/she has identified these attacks, encourage your partner to discuss them with you. Offer your support for him/her telling you about his/her voices when you are being sexual.
It is important that you not take your partner’s voice attacks personally. In truth, you are a third party witness to an internal dialogue between him/her and his/her critical inner voice. There is no need for you to enter into the conversation other than to remind him/her to say his/her attacks in the second person. As you listen, you will have feeling for your partner and gain a deeper understanding of him/her.
Communicating with each other about your voice attacks during lovemaking will bring you and your partner much closer together. Interrupting the critical inner voice will allow for a more passionate and intimate sexual experience. The compassion and empathy that you both will feel will enrich and deepen your love for each other.
Watch a Whiteboard Video on The Critical Inner Voice
|Fear of Intimacy|
Tags: confidence, critical inner voice, intimacy, relationship, self-esteem, self-hatred, sex, sex and the critical inner voice, sexuality
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