Dear Dr. Jennifer,
I receive your Dares of the Month, but I’ve never been “able” to do one because of nervousness and insecurity. There is just so much woundedness in my background. Every month when I get your dare email – I sort of have this conversation with God over the course of the month of how I want to do the Dare – but then I get afraid and can’t. And then I beat myself up. I do talk to God about sex all the time. Will I ever be able to do the Dares?
Yes, you will be able to do the Dares some day, and probably sooner than you think. How do I know that? Because you are interested enough to contact me for additional help and, more importantly, you are interested enough to talk to God about your sex life. Whenever we get God involved, progress happens more quickly.
Please don’t beat yourself up over the fear you are experiencing. I have heard from numerous wives about how much they want to try one but are overwhelmed with anxiety. The Dares are supposed to be fun, so if you would suffer less by not receiving them, then please unsubscribe. You can always sign up again at a later time.
You mentioned woundedness in your background. I highly encourage you to seek professional counseling with someone who has experience in working with traumatized individuals. If you have unprocessed traumatic memories, they can be inadvertently triggered by physical intimacy with your husband. Even if you don’t have visual flashbacks of specific abuse situations, you may be experiencing “emotional flashbacks” where you feel the same fear/shame/disgust/etc. that you felt during the original situation. The traumatic memories may be sexual in nature, but they might not be. Any traumatic memories that involve abuse, whether it’s verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, or sexual abuse, can cause problems with emotional and physical intimacy.
No one knows exactly how trauma is stored in the brain, but the general thinking is that traumatic memories can be stored with any combination of four elements: images, cognitions (thoughts), emotions, and bodily sensations. Usually the younger you are when the trauma happened, the more likely you are to store it as emotions/bodily sensations (because you don’t have the language capacity and higher order thinking that adults have).
Your sensory system includes your muscles, nervous system, and viscera. Your sensory system reacts strongly in dangerous/life-threatening situations. When traumatic memories are triggered, you are likely to experience the same sensory system effects as when you were originally traumatized which can include any of the following:
- increased heart rate
- elevated blood pressure
- increased skin temperature
- faster breathing rate/difficulty breathing
- a damp brow or palms
- a queasy or achy feeling in your stomach
- tightness or a lump in your throat
- dry mouth
- quivering lips
- tingling in hand/feet/legs
- a sudden stiffness in your neck/back/joints
- welling of tears
- pain/numbness/difficulty moving in parts of your body
- thoughts going blank
- heightening or dulling of your senses: sound, smell, visual recognition, taste, or touch.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy) can be helpful in accessing and processing traumatic memories. It can be intense and draining, so you need to be in a fairly stable place in life before you begin EMDR. You can search for certified EMDR clinicians in your area by going to www.emdr.com. It’s important that you only receive EMDR from a counselor who has undergone Parts 1 and 2 of the EMDR training made available by the EMDR Institute.
Note: The above reader contacted me again several months after she and I had corresponded. She’s working with an EMDR therapist, reading books, and making progress! Below is her update:
As hard as it is to work through things and change and heal…I do think it’s worth it. I mean – what’s the alternative? Stay the same? Get worse and worse? Pass this stuff on to my kids? I think not…I’m a fighter.
I finished reading Boundaries, and now I’m doing a Search for Significance bible study.
And… I believe that I’m GETTING BETTER It’s slow but steady, and I think my husband would say the same thing. I’ve also been listening to “The Peasant Princess” by pastor Marc Driscoll. It is THE best teaching on the Song of Solomon…I have learned so much. It’s available free on iTunes.
Anyway – I just wanted to tell you this month when I got the Dare of the Month and felt afraid and began my usual conversation with God – I felt like God whispered in my ear…”Ask your husband to help you.”
What a breath of fresh air those words were. I can do the Dare if I can tell my husband I’m nervous, and he can encourage me through it.
God is amazing.
I am sooooooo proud of this reader! She’s working hard to achieve sexual wholeness and has shared helpful ideas and resources. In the Reply section below, please respond to this question: What helps you to do the Dares? What ideas or resources do you find helpful in healing sexual brokenness?