Sex and Anxiety: Why Do I Hold Back – Part 1

shutterstock_131108333Many people have the ambition to prevent bad things from happening. This is their definition of control. For controllers, life is grim and pessimistic. Controllers have an unnecessarily difficult time in coping with the disappointments of everyday life. They blame themselves for failing to prevent them, as if that were their responsibility. These sufferers have a particularly difficult time in managing their emotional responses. Suzanne is a case in point.

Suzanne: “I have a very embarrassing problem. I think there is something wrong with me sexually.”

Therapist: “How so?”

Suzanne: “Well, I read so much about women getting all this gratification out of sex, but I just can’t seem to let go when I’m intimate with my husband, if you know what I mean.”


Therapist: “Instead of letting go, you have a tendency to hang on, to hold back. Do you have any ideas why.”

Suzanne: “Well, it may have something to do with the losses I’ve endured with men. My father died when I was thirteen. My fiancee died when I was twenty-two. I think there is a connection, but I’m not sure how.”

Therapist: “Tell me, what did these two losses teach you about men, about yourself, and about life?”

Suzanne: “I don’t know what you mean, specifically, but I know that it has been awfully hard for me to trust men ever since, even my husband.”

Therapist: “Perhaps you learned that you cannot trust men, they don’t stay with you, they die and break your heart. Your husband shares many characteristics with your father and your fiancee: he is male, he loves you, and he is mortal. On a unconscious level, it is possible you might expect the same thing to happen to your husband. You cannot trust him to be there for you.”

Suzanne: “You’re right. I do have this feeling that something awful is going to happen. But why do I hold back?”

Therapist: “Because you love him.”

Suzanne: “I’m confused.”

Therapist: “I suspect that the loss of your two loved ones taught you that ‘everything I love dies’, did it not?”

Suzanne: “Yes, I do feel that way sometimes. I know it isn’t true intellectually, but it’s a terrible feeling when it comes.”

Therapist: “Tell me, what is the most terrible part of that feeling when you have it?”

Suzanne: “I hadn’t really thought about it, but now that you mention it, I guess it does seem to feel like it was somehow my fault that they died. But that can’t be true.”

Therapist: “Of course it isn’t true. We know that intellectually, but emotionally we have this feeling that there is one common denominator, you. This is how superstitions are born. As a child, it seemed to you that everything that happened to your little world was somehow your fault. This is called narcissism. You have carried that feeling into your adulthood where it interferes with your functioning to this day.”

Suzanne: “I never thought of it like that.”

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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