Visitors to this website often send me emails with comments and questions about their personal issues and struggles. I answer as many of them as I can. Sometimes I can only offer encouragement and a bit of advice. Here are some of these questions, edited to remove details that could identify the individuals, along with my replies (in italics). This set of questions deals with sexual and relationship issues.
Hello. I stumbled upon your site while trying to research any connection that exists between masochism and depression. I am trying to find out whether it is better to indulge sexual masochistic tendencies or to fight against them. I have had masochistic fantasies ever since I was a young girl, and they are usually the only thing that turns me on.
Only recently (after turning 30) did I find someone who is a sadist, and we started an SM relationship. However, I also have a history of depression. I’ve been dealing with an episode over the past few months, and it has cost me the SM relationship (due to my lack of interest in sex while depressed.) I want to keep my sadist boyfriend, and have felt more sexually fulfilled by him than anyone before due to the freedom of exploring my masochistic fantasies.
I have felt an intimacy with him that I never felt before. But I also am concerned whether indulging in these tendencies (and therefore encouraging submissiveness) will hinder my recover from depression (which seems to require strong self-empowerment).
Am I wrong to see these two facets of my psyche as conflicting? Is there any way that exploring sexual masochism can lead to self-empowerment? I don’t know who to ask about this and have found little help on the web. After perusing your website it seems you might be of help.
It’s likely that you will continue to be troubled by depression as long as you continue to be enchanted by sexual masochism. This sexual masochism is related to an unhealthy passivity that operates in your psyche. On this inner level, you are, through this inner passivity, receptive to abuse (self-aggression in the form of criticism, harassment, and sarcasm) from your inner critic. The more of this inner abuse you absorb, the more prone you’ll be to depression.
The sexual masochism in which you engage is a symptom of the abuse you absorb from your inner critic. In being a sexual masochist, you are actually playing the role of inner passivity which is on the receiving end in your psyche of the inner critic’s aggression.
Your resistance to giving up your sexual masochism reflects your determination to hold on to a familiar sense of self which is passive and prone to emotional suffering. The solution is to deepen your awareness of the conflict between your inner passivity and your inner critic. As you see the conflict more clearly, you’ll likely want to begin to stand up for yourself on the inner level and stop being bullied by your inner critic. If you are making headway on an inner level, you’ll likely begin to lose interest in sexual masochism and be able to develop a more satisfying sexual experience. Your boyfriend might be able to grow with you in the process.
Hello. I was impressed by your article on overcoming fear of intimacy. I have been dating a man whom I believe is suffering from this. He backs off from becoming close to me emotionally and physically. We had a talk and he keeps saying it’s me, that I have a problem. He did say he doesn’t want to be this way. He wants a good relationship but finds it very difficult.
We talked the other night about staying just friends. I fear him feeling rejected and abandoned again if I tell him that’s what I want. While I support him, I want him to figure things out for himself. How does he start to address the negative side that always seems to dominate the love side of his life?
You might consider telling him that he’s afraid of love. When men are inwardly passive, they can be afraid of love and intimacy because they feel they’ll be overwhelmed by it and lose their sense of self. It’s their weak sense of self in the first place that produces that impression.
Keep talking to him and encouraging him to understand his passive side. With emotional strength, he gets the best of both worlds—a better relationship with himself and a loving relationship with you. He’ll likely keep telling you how difficult it is for him to do that, as indeed it is. However, if he loves you at all and if he can believe in himself, he can do it. He probably needs good psychotherapy or he needs, at least, to do some serious reading in depth psychology.
Hello. I’m stuck in a vicious cycle of wanting to secretly video my adult step-daughter (28 years old) who lives with my wife and me. I find myself planning ways to record a video with my smartphone. This is very dangerous and I find it’s almost impossible to control the urge. In the process of considering the deed my pulse and heart rate increase. The only thing keeping me from doing this is the knowledge that it would destroy my stepdaughter’s relationship with me and fear that it would destroy the life I have built here.
I’m looking into getting financial help to do therapy, but no appointment has yet been set. I’m reasonably intelligent (have a college degree) and am able to parse the various issues involved with this. Having been reared as a devout Christian fundamentalist, I fight the issue of whether this is programming from my childhood or demonic influence (I am serious in this). I was raised to view the body as absolutely shameful, and modesty was rigidly enforced. Father kept nudist-camp magazines in his suitcase, and I developed a deep and abiding belief that sexual pleasure came from magazines. Now the poison is on the internet.
I have peeped in windows a couple of times a very long time ago and twice recently to view my adult daughter. I do not want intercourse with her, as I don’t particularly like her personality. Arousal is impossible with my wife without the visual stimulus of pornography.
It appears that you can’t resist the urge to peep at what is forbidden. This is all related to inner passivity, meaning you are tempted to experience yourself through the feeling of weakness. Like your father with his hidden nudist magazines, you’re inclined to do what is forbidden (by social mores, common decency, and fundamentalist beliefs) because that accentuates the wanton thrill of the forbidden and your sense of being powerless and helpless to your urges and desires.
Feeling passive in this way is an emotional attachment and a conflict: You want to feel strong yet, being conflicted, you are unconsciously ready and willing to experience yourself through the old familiar sense of weakness. The passivity is libidinized (made pleasurable), and that is experienced by you as the sexual yearning to see your step-daughter naked.
Try to recognize this aspect in yourself. It’s not about you being a good or a bad person. It’s about your unconscious willingness—specifically, your emotional attachment to inner passivity—to feel yourself on the verge of being out of control. Keep reading the material on my website.
Hi. I have been diagnosed with major depression but never seemed to get the proper counseling (I’ve never been shown how to “break through” and change and feel completely stuck) I’m also aware I need to be on medication—the right meds—because, being off, I’m now experiencing another severe episode.
I’m not sure I have a personality disorder but having depression does make it seem so. As far as holding down a job, well, I made some bad choices and am in the sex industry (I’ve had many jobs and I’ve tried to start businesses but, along with relationships, everything has failed) I’m probably too messed up and not “healthy” enough. I have so many self-help books but am isolated somewhat, so I know I need the support of someone I can actually speak to. I may have said too much. I just really need help. I’m so tired of life or just tired of being me. Not sure if you can help.
I recommend you go to counseling or psychotherapy. If money is tight, many places offer free or reduced-cost services. Find or ask to speak to an experienced therapist. In the meantime, I recommend you keep reading the posts at my website and consider buying some of the books. This content does deeper than what you’ll find in typical self-help books, and that might make a difference for you. You’ve got to keep believing in yourself. If you are pursuing some program of self-development, that signifies your intention to get stronger and healthier.