Welcome to this month’s blogspot where Integrative Psychotherapist Alan McPherson shares a professional and personal reflection of the therapeutic space and explores a common client question – is there anything I’m not allowed to talk about in therapy?
I love the therapeutic space I have with my psychotherapist, knowing that I have a whole hour of confidential time to talk about anything I want: my hopes, dreams. My fears. knowing that my therapist will be present and holding, and that nothing I may bring is banned, out of bounds or not allowed. Or is it? I wonder to myself, perhaps some areas are actually taboo. Maybe there are some subjects that my psychotherapist doesn’t want to actually listen to. What if there are specific areas of my life which are not for ‘public consumption’.
If you are like me, growing up in the last century, I am from a time when children were still ‘seen but not heard’. The legacy of Victorian Britain still influencing my cultural heritage. I was encouraged to suppress my natural instincts as a child to be free, exploring and curious of my universe, to be the ‘good boy’, and thus reassuring my parents I could be taken anywhere and I wouldn’t embarrass them. I learned that some things should not be talked about. However, this curiosity still lived within me and the exploration moved to a different place, of teenagers giggling behind bike sheds and nervous fumblings in the night.
I’m talking about sex.
I believe that a health connection to and understanding of our sexual self is fundamental to our existence as a human being. However, this is more than the physical expression of sex and sexuality, but an understanding of how to form healthy relationships, of intimacy and identity, of self-worth, self-expression and understanding. It’s about how I see my body and how I imagine other people see me.
The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT), UK’s leading organisation for therapists specialising in sexual and relationship issues, state that people often feel upset and ashamed if they don’t think they fit into the ‘normal’, whilst the truth is that there is no ‘normal’. Everyone is different, individual and unique. Our society is littered with myths about sex and sexuality, about what is normal, safe and acceptable. Yet the ability to talk openly about sex and sexuality is often stunted by historical moral perspectives of what is right and proper, along which comes a thick slice of shame and guilt. For many of us, our education about healthy sexual relationships has come from peers, the media or the internet.
In reality, nothing is taboo to a well-trained therapist. As is the case with my therapy space, I believe that nothing is out-of-bounds. It is a place to explore the connection we have with the different parts of ourselves, with the sense of the sexual self and with sexuality. It is an opportunity to explore whether this relationship is open and flowing, or has been distorted by the inappropriate, immoral or illegal actions of others. It is a safe, confidential space to unpick the shame and guilt which might be being carried for our actions or the actions of others. Whilst talking about sex and sexuality is not an easy subject for most people, the rewards from doing so could be life changing.