Do you have a pattern of being attracted to people that leads into unhealthy relationships? Are you comfortable with interacting with people that you’re not so invested in, but when it’s someone you care for or are attracted to, you always seem to screw it up in some way? Or are you keeping people at a distance even if you’re longing for connection? These are some of the issues which a Sex and Intimacy Coach can assist with, and it starts with learning to be intimate with yourself.
How Can Sex and Intimacy Coaches Can Support You
Sex and Intimacy Coaches support people in a wide range of situations, including intimacy issues for singles and for couples in existing relationships, tools to help us connect intimately with other people, improving sexual skills, and support with communication around sex and intimacy.
Intimacy coaching on an individual level is about coming into deeper connection with ourselves and daring to be fully present in our body. Many of us escape from the body by living in our heads, or even go ‘out of body’ and become very disconnected from our physicality. This is because, on some level, we don’t feel safe or comfortable to feel and experience our physical body or emotions; however, being fully in touch with our feelings and physical body is the foundation of feeling pleasure in life, especially during sex, and of healthy relationships.
In this article, I’ll be sharing a personal story about how I disconnected from myself when I was a teenager, and how this continued into adult life, until I learned some tools about how to reconnect intimately with myself again.
Intimacy Patterns from Childhood
Our personal patterns around intimacy are often formed during childhood, and this is where difficulties begin for many people. We developed those patterns to create secure connections with our parents or caregivers, and to make sure they cared for us. We may have unconsciously picked up on some of their patterns, and this can often shape how we relate intimately with ourselves and other people in adult life.
You probably have some personal experience of this, for example, how you might react to someone raising their voice, or touching you in a certain way when you don’t feel like it. These old conditioned patterns can also lead to arguments in everyday-life, including during love-making.
Also, research shows that babies and young children who grow up without a regular caregiver, for example, some children in social care or long-stay hospital patients, can have difficulty with forming and maintaining significant intimate relationships in later life.
Sex and Intimacy Coaches can help you to bring old conditioned patterns into conscious awareness, and support you to alter unhealthy ways of relating. These patterns may have helped you to survive while growing up, but they often don’t serve you as an adult.
Intimacy and Emotional Expression Growing Up: A Personal Story
As a child, I didn’t feel safe or held enough to express my emotions, so I learnt to keep my anger, sadness, and grief inside. I remember my grandfather dying when I was a teenager. I loved him and we had a beautiful connection. When he passed, I cried a lot silently, with tears going one by one down my face, and a burning pain in my throat. I remember feeling angry and disgusted with myself for having snot coming out of my nose. It was a painful time, because I didn’t know what to do with these feelings – I didn’t have any words for them. It was frustrating and painful, and I wanted them to stop.
I pushed the feelings and many other emotions away, and decided to stop thinking about him. I thought I’d be fine. However, whenever I said his name, one, five or even ten years later, my throat would get the same burning pain again, and I’d stiffen my face to keep the tears away. It was still so frustrating.
It wasn’t until I actually learned some intimacy tools that I finally understood what the pain in my throat was; it was a need to scream the pain out. I could then allow myself to let the feelings come out of my whole body, including through my eyes and nose, and feel them fully. After that, I could talk about my grandfather in a relaxed state, and with a smile. Some tears came, or there would be a pain in my throat, but I knew what was happening. I can now understand it and welcome my emotions, and give myself love instead of being angry and beating myself up for just being human.
The wider impact of this personal story is that it affected both my intimate and sexual relationships later in life. I developed ways to avoid feeling any difficult emotions. My preferred avoidance strategies included going on social media and watching TV. Another favorite was to always keep myself busy and exhausted, then there was no space for feelings either. What I didn’t realize at the time was that by not allowing myself to feel the ‘bad’ and painful emotions, I was restricting myself from feeling happy, joyful emotions. If you’re numbing yourself out, your numbing everything else, including pleasure.
Changing old patterns around intimacy
I know I’m not alone with these types of patterns and avoidance strategies, and I still have them in my life. However, they’re not unconscious anymore, and I’m able to choose between diving into a movie, or going consciously into my feelings without hiding
By deciding to become more intimate with myself, and understanding and accepting who I really am, I’m now feeling much more of my physical body and emotions. This big step towards vulnerability is also healing old wounds and traumas in my body that were affecting my intimate and sexual relationships.
I can now speak a lot more openly with my parents, and I feel and trust in their support, which I never really did in the past. My capacity to be intimate with partners has improved immensely, because I now read the signs that my body is giving me, for example, when I feel safe and relaxed, or when I’m putting myself in a situation that doesn’t feel comfortable, either emotionally or physically.
What research shows us
Research by courage, vulnerability and shame expert, Dr. Brené Brown, has shown that people who allow themselves to open up to their feelings and be vulnerable, live a life more aligned with themselves. She also explains how to find a way out of shame spirals. I highly recommend checking out her videos on YouTube and Netflix.
Dr. Peter Levine, a leading researcher in the field of trauma, discovered how emotional and physical traumas can be stored in the cellular memory of the body, which is what happened to me after my grandfather died.
Sex and Intimacy Coaches are professionally trained to help you to connect with deep, unprocessed emotions, and to help you release them so you can enjoy more fulfilling intimacy, sex, and personal relationships.
Two Approaches in Sex and Intimacy Coaching
There are two main approaches in Sex and Intimacy Coaching: talk-based coaching, and experiential coaching, which includes both conversation and hands-on ‘somatic’ practices. The somatic approach can help clients to reach and release stored emotions and traumas in the body, not just in the mind. Therapeutic tantric massage can also be used alongside coaching sessions, as it focuses on releasing blockages, and brings people more fully into their physical body through healing bodywork.
Clients are guided to explore mental and emotional blockages, such as shame, fear, guilt, neediness, and expectations. Sessions can also explore topics around sexuality, sexual identity, sexual orientation, dating, sexual abuse, sex and aging, and sexual addiction. Through conversion, listening, and guidance, talk-based coaches will help you set goals, give you homework, and then support you to create real change in your life.
Experiential ‘Somatic’ Coaching
Experiential coaching includes tools from talk-based coaching, and then adds physical tools and exercises which are explored with the coach. It’s based on the principal that it’s really hard to learn how to dance by reading a book. So how can you know what something feels like without experiencing it? This approach is often called Somatic Sex Coaching, and it can help clients to get a deeper understanding about themselves, including intimacy and sexual issues, and how to resolve them in a practical way.
Find a Sex and Intimacy Coach for Yourself
We recommend finding a coach with professional qualifications and extensive experience to support you. You can visit the Sex and Intimacy Coaching section of the Tantralize Directory to find a practitioner in your local area.
Read their profile and website in detail, including reviews from clients. Also, arrange an initial conversation to decide if they are the right person to work with, as coaches often specialize in different areas of sexuality and intimacy. They may also have additional therapy qualifications to support you. Please note that coaching is different from Sex Therapy, which uses a more clinical-based approach.
If you’re seeking additional support with coming into deeper connection with your body and emotions, then you could also consider Tantric Massage Therapy approach.