Perhaps I should become a Buddhist monk and leave the situation.
June 17, 2006 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Wow. My sexuality is really messed up.

I was abused by my mother as a child. In addition to physical and emotional abuse, I was abused sexually to a degree. We never had sex or anything, but there was definitely a degree of touching and kisssing that is inappropriate for a mother/child relationship. This is in addition to all of the inappropriate other things she would do - walk around the house partially clothed, show me movies that were inappropriate for my age, and make various comments about sex that you would never want to hear from your mother. She was what my psychologist refers to as a "seductive mother."

Once I reached puberty, I started to get the feeling that the touching between my mother and myself was gross and wrong. I drew away from her, and didn't want to be touched at all - not even hugged. She would not accept this, and insisted on touching me anyway. Whenever I would object, she would make fun of me and tease me for it.

As a result, I developed a serious fear of intimacy. I've never been able to have normal relationships with women. I'm in my late 20s, and the longest relationship I've ever had was 4 months. I've probably had sex less than 25 times in my life. To be honest, I don't even really enjoy sex or being touched. The only way I've ever been able to have sex is to spend the whole time thinking about my sexual fantasies, which inevitably tend towards the BDSM end of things. I've had a number of problems that most likely relate to this, everything from substance abuse to OCD.

So, what to do?

I've been seeing a psychologist, and he's made some suggestions that I'm really skeptical about. He has suggested that I start visiting a massage parlor to become accustomed to being touched. He came close to suggesting that I go to a "happy ending" massage parlor, except that I objected strenuously before he could finish. He also suggested that I see a sexual surrogate. This is something that I object to, but I really don't know why. I guess it's not unethical to see a sexual surrogate. It's just gross, in my opinion.

Is my shrink giving me bad advice? Should I see a different one? Does anyone else have experience overcoming sexual abuse (that they want to talk about)?

I should also mention that I've suffered from interstitial cystitis for most of my life. I'm currently taking elmiron for it, which has helped drastically (I was this guy). For the first time in my life, I'm physically capable of having a sexual relationship, but I'm too neurotic to actually handle sex. Also, due to my condition, I can't drink alcohol, and after I have an orgasm, I must spend at least a half hour doing stretches. Has anyone here managed to find a healthy and fulfilling sex/dating life in spite of IC?
posted by Jake Apathy to Human Relations (32 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

well, this all seems to be about sex, which is the wrong way of thinking about it to my mind

I'd concentrate on finding a soulmate and let the sex take care of itself, which it will.
posted by unSane at 11:54 AM on June 17, 2006

I don't think your shrink is wrong, but it never hurts to get a second opinion if you can afford it.

I agree with unSane's first statement, that you should work to separate the sex and touching from the abuse and mental problems. This is, of course, difficult.

Have you found your way to indulging your BDSM fantasies? Perhaps that would help you clarify the relationship of your abuse and your sexuality. There is absolutely no shortage of people very much into BDSM and doing it well. This does, for most people, involve a heavy dose of trust for which you'd need to develop a relationship first, which may be your problem if you've found such people.

How are you forming your relationships? Is it an immediately gratified infatuation or do you know someone for a long time and then date them? I suspect the former, in which case you should develop friendships and trust before you move onto romance and fucking.
posted by Captaintripps at 12:13 PM on June 17, 2006

Huh?! As far as we have come in understanding how sexual contact by a parent is devastating to the child in his/her adult sex life... a soulmate? First, it's simplistic and second, what kind of person hangs around someone who is averse to touching and sex long enough to become a "soulmate?"

That advice reminds me of the decades when I suffered from crippling depression and many attempted suicides, and a friend suggested I "cheer up."

My feeling is YES, your therapist is wrong in suggesting full release massage. You already HAVE creepy feelings around sex, so sending you to a massage parlor is just giving you MORE creepy sex experiences. You should get a new therapist.

And, give it time. You just entered therapy, don't start trying to have successful sex yet. I know you're young and a guy, but you need more time in undoing the damage your mother has done. You have fixed a physical problem, (IC) that's good, but the mind needs more time. Again, yes, new therapist. The current one sounds like a clod.

One thing I might suggest is a female therapist. I had spent years with women therapists because of my own similar problems with men. At a certain point, I decided that maybe having a male psychologist would help me resolve many of my fears and hatred of men. It was terrifying to make that leap, but I did it. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done for myself. A huge part of therapy is working out your problems with your therapist replacing the bad parent. You learn to trust, and you get a new model for what you missed or what was perverted for you. I learned that men can be friends, advocates, sensitive and SAFE. It opened up my whole world.

Good luck. Hang in there.
posted by generic230 at 12:17 PM on June 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

To me it seems like you were warped more by specific ideas about "inappropriateness" and grossness then by any actual inappropriateness.

Also, I would really think the "interstitial cystitis" would have a far greater effect on your sexuality then whatever your mother did. I mean, if sex was always associated with physical pain then obviously you're going to bothered by sex, while at the same time sexualizing pain (thus the BDSM stuff).

I've taken several psych classes, but I'm obviously not a psychologist.

Also, rather then a massage parlor what about taking dance classes? I took salsa classes last semester and aside from being a lot of fun you have to touch other people, specifically girls. It's really not awkward at all (although it might be for you) and it's totally non-sexual (well, far removed from sexuality). I think that would be better then a massage, because a massage is just for enjoyment, while the dancing is like, you have to do it in order to learn how to dance, so it's part of a task rather then an ends in and of itself.

What you need is to desensitize yourself to touch which you consider 'gross' the same way a nurse needs to desensitize themselves from all those fluids and bodily emissions that most people would find disgusting.

That's what I think, anyway.


BTW: did you always have interstitial cystitis, or is that something that developed after sexual maturity?
posted by delmoi at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2006

I have absolutely no idea how to address most of your problem. But I think it's pretty universally agreed upon that if you're not comfortable with your current therapist, there's absolutely nothing wrong with trying another one.
posted by lampoil at 12:29 PM on June 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers thus far.

First off, I should correct myself a bit - my psychologist didn't necessarily suggest that I go for a full release massage. He seemed to be hinting at it, and I pretty much said, "No." However, he did suggest that I go to a traditional masseuse and allow myself to become erect. I thought this was creepy. If I were a masseuse, and my client had an obvious hard-on, I'd be a little squicked.

Captaintripps- I've thought about indulging my BDSM desires. However, I'm a male bottom, and we really are a dime a dozen. From my experience, women in general are not into submissive guys. If they are kinky at all, they are far more likely to be bottoms themselves, and would be seeking out a top. Unfortunately, there are far, far more male bottoms then there are female tops. Also, my psychologist has told me that my BDSM desires are harmful to me, but he may be wrong about this.

As far as forming relationships go - this is a big problem for me. On the outside, I'm a winner - I'm smart, reasonably attractive, financially secure, even funny on occasion. However, whenever I'm on a date, I feel uneasy and become stiff and self-deprecating. I've pretty much given up on dating. I've had too many unreturned and unreplied emails. I feel like it just isn't worth it anymore.

generic230 - Interesting idea, seeing a female psychologist. I've considered this before. Maybe I'll give this idea a second look.

delmoi - To me it seems like you were warped more by specific ideas about "inappropriateness" and grossness then by any actual inappropriateness.

Thank you for your help, but you are wrong. I don't want to go into detail here about what happened between my mother and I, but it was very inappropriate.
posted by Jake Apathy at 12:51 PM on June 17, 2006

Response by poster: ("unreturned and unreplied emails" should read "unreturned calls and unreplied emails.")
posted by Jake Apathy at 12:52 PM on June 17, 2006

I don't feel qualified to address all your concerns, but for what it's worth, many men do get erections during massages; it's considered pretty normal and not something a trained masseuse should get upset about (assuming that both of you are keeping professional boundaries; if you start making sexual comments at that point, *then* she might get squicked out).

More info.

This is not to say that what your therapist is suggesting is necessarily best for you, just that one of your concerns is common and generally not a big deal for the masseuse.
posted by occhiblu at 1:02 PM on June 17, 2006

I just wanted to say, I think delmoi's idea is brilliant. Dancing is a great way to get comfortable with your own body. Something that I think would be good for you. Also, a class is structured, and you have to follow instructions as to how and where to hold and move, removing the sweatiness of spontaneity. Yeah. Delmoi has something there.
posted by generic230 at 1:15 PM on June 17, 2006

I'd definitely talk to at least one other therapist and just ask what they think about what your therapist advised. IANAP and I have no specific experience with this stuff, but telling you to get a massage and let yourself get an erection seems odd. Therapists vary widely.
posted by callmejay at 1:25 PM on June 17, 2006

It's been danced around but hasn't been said explicitly in this thread, so here it is: Trust is a key element in starting the sexual recovery process. And it's completely missing from your current therapist's advice.

If you're concerned about getting an erection in front of a masseuse, then you don't trust them enough to fully benefit from their touch. You need to put yourself in a situation where you feel safe enough to let your reactions happen naturally. That's when progress will start.

I'm a female, and I recovered from deep-rooted sexuality issues that were physically and psychologically intertwined like yours are. I found a urologist in San Francisco who could help me with my medical issues, and who had a massage therapist and physical therapist on staff. The staff helped me become accustomed to physical contact, and I was never embarrassed about my physical reactions because I never had to explain them -- the team had seen it all before.

Clarification: they never gave me or other patients orgasms, and there was plenty of "homework", but they effectively guided my progress through a combination of advice and physical therapies.

If you're in SF I'll gladly refer you, but if you're not, my advice is to find someone you know and trust to help you out. And if nobody clearly fits that description, then I would recommend trying to cultivate that kind of relationship.
posted by nadise at 1:51 PM on June 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thank you for your help, but you are wrong. I don't want to go into detail here about what happened between my mother and I, but it was very inappropriate.

Well, the bigger problem is probably that she continued to do it after you asked her to stop.

Captaintripps- I've thought about indulging my BDSM desires. However, I'm a male bottom, and we really are a dime a dozen. From my experience, women in general are not into submissive guys.

Hmm, I tried to look it up and found this old ask which seems to agree with you. I also found this which managed to avoid that most obvious question but according to it:
36. Have you ever sought out counseling specifically to help you cope with your BDSM/fetish needs?

Yes 93%...

36b. Was the counselor sympathetic to your sexual identity?

Definetly yes: 68%
Somewhat: 15%

Maybe your guy would fall into "somewhat" but it seems like he's not in the majority.
posted by delmoi at 2:35 PM on June 17, 2006

Does your current therapist believe that all BDSM is harmful, or has he specified that yours is harmful to you for some clearly stated reason? Is this carefully targeted counseling advice, or knee-jerk small-mindedness?

If you do seek a new therapist, you might consider a kink-aware professional in your area.
posted by Elsa at 2:52 PM on June 17, 2006

Ummm, Delmoi, that's 93% no to the "have you sought counselling" question:
36. Have you ever sought out counseling specifically to help you cope with your BDSM/fetish needs?
No 6532 93%
Yes 461 7%

In fact, most people in the lifestyle are quite adamant that most degrees of sexuality are OK, not something to be in therapy over.

JA, do you want to have sex because you are dealing with frustrated sexual desire, or because you find it "normal?" It could make a difference in the best way to deal with the problem. Also, if you want to indulge your sub self without being able to find a domme local to you, you may be able to find a domme online who'll work with you (I know several who are happy to work with several male subs online though very, very cautious in person). Such women usually (IME) have ads on several lifestyle personals sites (mainly, the ones in the AskMe Delmoi mentioned).
posted by Cricket at 3:04 PM on June 17, 2006

It sounds like your therapist is pushing some inappropriate boundaries, but probably with good intentions. Of course, we're just hearing your interpretation of things, but, nevertheless, a therapist that you don't trust is useless. The opposite sex therapist idea might be really good, too.

The most important thing about a therapist is feeling comfortable to talk about anything, and that includes meta conversions about your own relationship to the therapist. In fact, in my pop psychology understandings of things, it's the relationship to the therapist that's essential, since it lets you reenact your childhood relationships but in a safe, judgement-free, properly boundaried way.
posted by Skwirl at 3:25 PM on June 17, 2006

Response by poster: delmoi - Well, the bigger problem is probably that she continued to do it after you asked her to stop.

Spot on.

Elsa - Does your current therapist believe that all BDSM is harmful, or has he specified that yours is harmful to you for some clearly stated reason?

That's a good question. I think he finds my submissive urges to be harmful to me because they don't help me build a "strong" sexual identity. Instead, I'm seeing myself as "weak," which prevents me from feeling sexually confident. Also, by nurturing fantasies that make me less attractive to women, I'm decreasing my chances of actually having sex. If I see this therapist again, I should probably ask him for clarification.

Cricket - JA, do you want to have sex because you are dealing with frustrated sexual desire, or because you find it "normal?" .... Also, if you want to indulge your sub self without being able to find a domme local to you, you may be able to find a domme online who'll work with you

After a lifetime of more-or-less solo sexual experiences, I'm ready to have a real, live relationship with a real, live woman. In other words, I'm ready to take the internet out of my sex life.

While I would really like to find a woman who would indulge my sub desires, I don't think this is a realistic expectation. I've considered trying various BDSM personals, but that's not an option as I'm not willing to put my picture online and possibly have it discovered by people who know me.
posted by Jake Apathy at 3:59 PM on June 17, 2006

Ummm, Delmoi, that's 93% no to the "have you sought counselling" question:

*blink* Woah, that's quite an error on my part.
posted by delmoi at 4:12 PM on June 17, 2006

Hmmm, you have BDSM fantasies but you're not trying to actually do anything about them? What if you think your sexuality is messed up, but really it's just that you want something you don't believe you can actually have? IANAP, nor a BDSM practicioner, so this may be terrible advice, but I wonder if having sex in the style you fantasize of having it could either help you address some of these issues, or hey, just find a sexual practice that works for you. There may be more bottoms than tops, but they top someone, right? Isn't it Taoism that says the easiest way to change the way you feel is to give into it fully? I would think that being with someone who accepted you and your desire to be "weak" might feel good. BDSM or otherwise.

From the tiny bit I know, I don't like this therapist. It sounds like he's trying to make you change and mistrust yourself. Some therapists help you understand and accept yourself, so you can use that self-knowledge and -acceptance to find strategies for living that make you happier.

Oh, and I lived with a woman going through massage therapy school. She was taught about erections; apparently, it's common for guys to get them during massage. (IIRC) she even learned some leg muscle to squeeze to make them subside if the guy seemed embarrassed. The massage therapists I've known have seemed really accepting of all aspects of the human body.
posted by salvia at 4:29 PM on June 17, 2006

I've got no opinions on most of what you ask. I will relate a massage experience, though:

Up until a few weeks ago I'd never been to a massage therapist. The very idea of having a perfect stranger getting all sorts of intimate with my skin and muscles gives me the heebie-jeebies. Hellza, it still kinda weirds me out.

But I gotta admit: a massage from a professional is awesome. Even if it doesn't make a huge difference to overcoming your problems, I can heartily recommend giving it a shot. You'll feel so relaxed afterward. Money and time well spent.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:56 PM on June 17, 2006

Go to a new therapist!

You say: I've been seeing a psychologist, and he's made some suggestions that I'm really skeptical about.

This means RUN. I've seen various therapists over the years. Some are great. But some were attracted to the field of therapy because they themselves are crazier than a duck's butt. Your gut will tell you which is which. Don't believe that just because you needed to seek therapy in the first place that your judgement is somehow untrustworthy. You can trust your own judgement.

Your judgement told you that what you're mother was doing was inappropriate, and you were right then. If you feel strange about what your therapist is suggesting now, respect what your gut is telling you.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:16 PM on June 17, 2006

IANAP, nor even trained in the matter, just guessing, really. But to me it sounds like your therapist thinks a) you couple all touch with emotional intimacy, and b) though you crave intimacy you also distrust it deeply and assume that it is deceptive, hiding indifference or cruelty towards you.

I believe that your therapist was thinking like this:

1) Receiving a professional massage will be a way for you to experience pleasant, calming, relaxing, and therapeutic touch in an atmosphere that is neither emotionally threatening nor intimate. The massage therapist is a professional and wants what is best for you as a person, but has utterly no intention of connecting emotional intimacy with this touch.

2) You may not yet be capable of handling BDSM.

Here I have to stop and explain my opinion, before I further parse my interpretation of your therapist.

I think your desire to sub and have a woman dom you is actually a really straightforward and smart response to thinking I'm calling b). What I think you are most afraid of is repeating anything like the betrayal of trust and deceptive intimacy that was involved in your abuse. I think BDSM appeals to you because it reverses that in a way - what appears to be abuse is actually explicitly chosen by both parties, and relies on mutual trust. To put it more bluntly, the "abuse" disguises a kind of real trust, where as in your childhood "normal" intimacy disguised real abuse.

Okay so that is my opinion.

Now, as to why your therapist might have thought it would be harmful to you, in particular to seek out BDSM. Your therapist may not see the healthy reversal I described above as being your way of thinking. Instead he may believe that for you BDSM (these desires to be humiliated and/or hurt) is about punishing yourself for your previous abuse by reenacting a similar role, or about reaffirming negative thoughts about yourself, like: that you don't deserve non-abusive intimacy.

As I said, I don't really buy that argument, but if I am correct about your therapist, he's not such a bad guy and you talk to him about these issues.

Again, IANAP, and have no training in these matters at all.
posted by jann at 8:38 PM on June 17, 2006

Sorry for dropping words right and left. I meant, "you should talk to him." Everyone here wants to think your therapist is wack and out of line. I'm saying give him at least enough benefit of doubt to talk to him about why you found his suggestions scary/unhelpful and what he was thinking in making them.
posted by jann at 8:44 PM on June 17, 2006

I think the massage idea is kind of creepy too.

But I also really really like demoi's idea of taking up dancing. It's more physically intimate than most things one does outside of a sexual relationship, but it's not necessarily sexual. (But sometimes it is sexual. And both situations are perfectly appropriate, depending on the partner: this is one way in which I think dancing differs hugely from the massage idea.) Dancing involves physical contact, and physical trust (especially in more vigorous dances), and it's a good way to meet people. And, I should mention, once you get over learning the basics of a dance, it's really, really fun.

The social customs that exist around partner dancing are also, I think, quite good at avoiding opportunities for emotional abuse. I mean, it's basically evolved as a safe way to flirt and to be comfortable in company.

You could do something like contradancing or Scottish country dancing, which is less partnerish and more cerebral. Or something like swing dance, which I did for a number of years a while ago, and I was rather awkward and touch-averse when I started but I ended up loving it. Or you could go for something like Argentine tango.
posted by hattifattener at 9:15 PM on June 17, 2006

I can't believe I'm saying this, but it does seem to me that in your particular situation a professional might be a better thing for you than a relationship right now.

You have all this anxiety over relationships with women, and all these sexual issues also -- which are separate things. Your sexual issues you have a good handle on -- you've identified the issues, where they came from, and are starting to work them out. Going to a massuese, a sex surrogate, a pro-dom might be an emotionally easier way for you to get more comfortable with your sexuality. The fact there is no emotional connection lowers the stakes, and you can just concentrate on your side of the interaction without worrying about the other person's good time, or the quality of sharing. IANAMasseuse, etc., but within the bounds of whatever mutually agreed upon service you are paying for, I don't think anyone's going to get squicked -- it's their job, and you sound like a considerate guy, not some kind of drooling predator. If anything, you sound like you over-think your sexual reactions, and I imagine that a competent professional would find that endearing and want to encourage you to be comfortable to react more freely.

A relationship, on the other hand -- you might be bringing more stuff to the table than many women would know how to handle. If you were unaware of your issues, and just going for it -- the average woman might very well write you off pretty fast. But paradoxically, I think, since you are actively working through this stuff, your girlfriend would be likely to feel your comfort level with her was at least partly about her, personally. You don't want that.

If some guy I was dating told me he had ever been to a sex professional, I'd be squicked, yes. But if he gave me a history remotely like yours, I would think he had made a rational and courageous choice.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:39 PM on June 17, 2006

IANAP but I've seen the damage that they can do if they are not skillful, and/or have more problems than their clients. So, if your vibe-o-meter is going off, listen to it big time.

It seems to me that alot of what you are going through is re-association - that emotional intimacy with a woman is safe - and physical intimacy is wonderful in and of itself rather than bringing up the negative memories and emotions associated with your mother.

The suggestion that you get a female therapist seems an excellent one - I'm sure that the sexual abuse was accompanied by lots of emotional manipulation and forming a new archetypical relationship with a woman seems like a really good idea. A friend of mine who had been sexually abused by his uncle found it very helpful to go to Orr Hot Springs (in Ukiah CA) which is a clothing optional hot springs where everyone minds their own business. He felt it was one of the first time he had experienced adults behaving appropriately while naked and he found that hugely helpful.

Something else you may find helpful is to consult a behavioral therapist. Let me explain. My mom has OCD and this resulted in all kinds of complusive behaviors that were about trying to reestablish order in her world. The behavioral therapist was able to create excercises with her that helped her get through her fear (which was very real - our whole family suffered for 10 years as a result of her OCD). I don't mean massage parlors or anything inappropriate, but more helping you build really intimate relationships with women which gradually (hopefully!) lead to physically intimate ones.

Just to address the IC issue, it sounds like there is a lot you may want to get used to and comfortable with and have tons of joy from before you worry about having intercourse - holding hands, sitting on the couch under the same blanket while watching a movie or tv, or lying with your head on someones lap or having someone's head in your lap, or being part of a massage circle. It seems like we were always cuddling up like puppies when we were in college and even when I had roommates after college.

Also, maybe going into a group living situation where you have female roommates would also be helpful. Even guys without abuse issues get cringy when they live with women and find the tampon boxes and it wouldn't hurt to get used to ordinary boringness of living with normal boring women.
posted by zia at 9:47 PM on June 17, 2006

On preview, one thing I would be very careful about if I were in your shoes would not to compound any problems. The idea of going to professional leaves me with an icky feeling - mostly because IMHO it adds to the baggage that you are dealing with, by adding the notion that one gets professionals involved, and I think in our society there is a lot of weird stuff anytime sex professionals are involved (I know for my friends - only 2, but still - who have worked it strip clubs it really messed with their heads and with their relationships with men).
posted by zia at 9:54 PM on June 17, 2006

I also vote shop for a new shrink. I don't know how feasible it is, but one who specializes in sex issues would obviously be best. But at the least someone who respects your need to work at your own pace and work on actual intimacy in contexts that you are comfortable about. And it just sounds like yours is oversimplifying your issues to me.

I also think there's something to unSane's advice; in the end I suspect sexual happiness for you will require an informed, understanding partner who will care enough to work this out with you. Obviously you can't just magically produce that person but, you know, be open to it as they say. Don't just give up in finding someone until you've "solved" your problem, you'll end up waiting forever. But clearly you need to find new approaches to looking, if you start looking. Which is a whole other thread.

Finally I wonder if your situation might benefit by some sort of work in a group with other adult victims. It sounds like you might really be helped by being able to talk with people who really know what you went through. You could probably get a referral through your mental health care provider. If not, again, maybe you need a different provider which is attuned to your problem.
posted by nanojath at 11:19 PM on June 17, 2006

If you're still uncomfortable with sex, I don't understand why your therapist would even suggest going to a "happy ending" massage parlor at this stage in your therapy.

Part of therapy is sometimes pushing patients to confront their fears and helping them move beyond their comfort zones, but this is taking it a bit far in my opinion. I think that if you were actually ready for this kind of contact, you wouldn't find the idea so immediately objectionable.

The fact that he suggested something you disagree with is a strong indication that he isn't on the same page as you at this point, and that's a bad thing. You should really listen to your feelings and at least get a second opinion. If I were you, though, I'd probably also look for a therapist who is a better fit.
posted by i feel possessed at 11:42 PM on June 17, 2006

Is it possible he suggested the massage parlor as a way of provoking you or eliciting a reaction? Or does he really think you ought to go to one?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:54 AM on June 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who left comments. This is a difficult subject, but you all handled it really well. I would like to mark a "best answer," but I think I would rather appreciate the thread as a whole.
posted by Jake Apathy at 10:33 PM on June 18, 2006

One last thing, upon further reflection - you might want to look at the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn if you haven't already done so.

The practice of zen is to see the world with a clear and focused mind Zen is about learning to clear all the noise in your head out so you can experience the world very very directly. The reason I suggest this for you is that it sounds like your childhood has left a lot of noise in your head. And that noise in interfering with your enjoyment of your life.

One analogy that is commonly used is that your mind is like a mirrror. When you are a baby, you have no words for things, no concepts, and you experiene them very directly. As you get older, you layer interpretation into everything - this person is fat so they are lazy, this person is skinny so they are hard working, this person is black, that person is white, that person is a woman and will harm me, this person is a man and will not, and so on. And so, the mirror is clouded with all your anxiety and fears and worries. The more you come to live in the present moment, the more you realize that the past is over and the future is not yet come, why are you worrying?

Sports, movies, and other intense activities give you a taste of living in zen world because when you are having an intense activity you live in the present moment and you enjoy only that moment. You don't worry about the past - what happened at work yesterday or whether you embarrased yourself at the grocery store, and you don't worry about the future - whehter you will make that deadline or whether the person you find attractive, instead you have to be in the present moment because you will crash your bike or hit a tree (if you are skiing or something).

Zen is about clearing the mirror and taking away all the interpretation. Its about living in mindfulness every moment and appreciating and living it fully. Usually it begins with mindful breathing. Alot of the Thich Nhat Hahn (he is a zen master from Vietnam) stuff is very accessible because he begins with walking meditation rather than sitting meditation (which tends to be hard on inflexible, restless westerners).

If this appeals, I would suggest the following books:
Stepping into Freedom; Present Moment, Wonderful Moment; Peace in Every Step and the famous ten oxherding pictures (I really really like this version).
posted by zia at 7:55 AM on June 19, 2006

Response by poster: I've just realized that I never really "closed" this thread. I should probably let you all know that, yes, I did stop my sessions with the creepy psychologist.

As I've mentioned in another thread, I've had a very difficult time finding a good psychologist, and have pretty much given up for now. I'm sure that I'll try again eventually.
posted by Jake Apathy at 8:28 AM on October 22, 2006

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