The Unconscious Contract that Makes for Bad (or No) Sex

The Unconscious Contract that Makes for Bad (or No) Sex

“Ronnie, I’d like to talk with you about our sexual experience.”

“Okay, Jan,” says Ronnie. Ronnie says this even though, inside, Ronnie is quaking. This is not good news for Ronnie’s nervous system. Conversations about sex are painful and never end well for Ronnie.

“Well,” says Jan, “I was wondering if you would touch me differently. I’d like to be able to tell you what I like while we’re having sex, and sometimes I’d like intensity, and sometimes I’d like softness, and sometimes I’d like you to stop what you are doing, and sometimes I would like more.”

“Sure,” says Ronnie. “You can tell me.”

But after this conversation, Ronnie stops initiating sex. It’s too painful to even open the door to the possibility that there might be something that a partner perceives as “wrong.” When Ronnie thinks about sex with Jan, there is desire, but the shame that comes over Ronnie’s body is paralyzing. There is no more reaching out.

And Ronnie can sometimes respond when Jan reaches out, but when Jan does ask for something, Ronnie’s body, without Ronnie’s will even being engaged, stops participating in the sexual experience.

What is happening for this person? Ronnie really wants to be a responsive and tender partner, who is fluid and sensual, but it’s like the sensuality tap has been turned off.

When this happens for us as Ronnie, it’s important to consider whether there might be some unconscious contracts at play. There might be unconscious agreements with the self which are so essential, so connected to Ronnie’s integrity, that they stop Ronnie’s body in its tracks.

The first contract to look for is a contract to do everything right the first time. It might sound something like this: “I, Ronnie, solemnly swear to my own self that I will get things right without having to be told, in order to save myself from the excruciating experience of self-abandonment when I ‘make a mistake,’ no matter the cost to myself or my partner.”

This is an intense and wide-reaching agreement which saves Ronnie from shame, humiliation and the lightless horror of the split from the self, but which makes sex, with its need for constant feedback to be given and received, almost impossible.

And there is another possible contract which makes sex extremely difficult and not very fun, and that is the vow to obliterate ourselves if we ever cause harm to another being, particularly our partner, in any way, shape or form, including the tiniest bit of discomfort, which means that if our partner says, “Ouch!” our entire nervous shuts down and sex is over.

What can we as Ronnie do if we discover that we have this type of agreement with ourselves?  The good news is that since we have actually made these contracts with our own selves, we can release these contracts and revoke these vows.

Ronnie can say:

  • “Ronnie, I release you from this contract and I revoke this vow. You have my blessing to explore your partner and make mistakes, and learn from feedback what your partner most likes. You have my blessing to ask questions and remember and forget and learn gradually, and sometimes cause discomfort, and then make a correction and sometimes experience great pleasure.
  • Hands of Ronnie, you have my blessing to explore various levels of pressure and kinds of touch, and not to worry too much about if you do it in a way that your partner doesn’t enjoy for a little minute until you receive the feedback that they would like it to be different.
  • Body of Ronnie, you have my blessing to stay engaged and connected and present. Please know that you are welcome and wanted, and that it matters the way that you are touched, too.”

There is a very great freedom and openness that comes on the other side of releasing the contracts we have made with ourselves, most often as little ones who were trying to negotiate the world alone and to do it with the least amount of pain possible. The human brain is made to tie itself in knots to try to cope with being alone, and as we begin to accompany ourselves, we can start to disentangle these agreements, as they become no longer needed.

But How Do We Find Unconscious Contracts? 

We can often find unconscious contracts most easily when we think about confusing self-sabotaging behaviors… those places where we want to do one thing, but we find ourselves consistently, reactively doing another thing altogether.

Here are 5 key places where self-sabotaging behaviors appear that can indicate unconscious contracts:

  1. Your Relationship with Self (for instance, you frequently criticize or bag yourself to be “better”, or you easily access compassion for others but cannot summon even an iota for yourself.)
  2. Your Relationship with Change: (for instance, do you find it hard to celebrate the ways you have grown and continue to grow, instead focusing on all the ways you’re still unhappy? or do you spend so much time trying to make everything happen that you never slow down to evaluate the whole and create more efficient patterns?)
  3. Your Relationship with Self-Care, Play and Joy: (for instance, do you deny yourself until you can’t hold back any longer, then you end up going off the deep end into the thing you’ve been restricting? Or do you find it’s hard to play, even though you’d love to? do you avoid dancing or singing because you are terrified of embarrassment?)
  4. Your Relationship with Procrastination: (for instance, do you never start anything because it will never end up the way you wish it would? or do you create all or nothing rules, for example, “I won’t do the bookkeeping until I have enough time to get it all done at once.”?)
  5. Your Relationship to Intimate Relationships: (for instance, when you receive feedback, do you become defensive, stonewall or dissociate? And instead of encouraging the people closest to you, do you find yourself being persistently negative and critical?)

If you find yourself enacting self-sabotaging or painful behaviors in the bedroom and elsewhere, and are longing to work with them, you can begin working with Sacred Vows using this hand-out < click here >, or learn more about the neurobiology of unconscious contracts and how to work with them in this podcast < click here >.

If you’re longing for more structured support and learning around self-sabotage and unconscious contracts, I invite you to consider joining this 2019 6-session, online course which will meet from January 9th – February 13th, 2019. Learn More by clicking < here >.

Comments ( 3 )

  • Hazel Douglas

    Very interesting article, Sarah. Thank you. Hazel

  • Abigail

    Thank you for naming common unconscious contracts and linking them to other relevant information! I appreciate it.

  • Lindsay

    So timely for me, thank you Sarah!

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