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Esther Perel Tag

I’ll Be Good

I'll be good picWe’ve coveted our neighbour’s wife for eons. Like moths to the flame we slip into stolen moments, discover in the fire of a clandestine tryst the erotic élan of novelty.

 

Secrecy, danger, novelty and forbidden fruit make our hearts race and flood our brains and bodies with an intoxicating cocktail of sweetest taboo. Greek myths are steamy stories of infidelity, trickery and connivance. Handsome youths seduced, innocent maidens abducted. The kind of sex that makes Fifty Shades seem more like Enid Blyton’s Playful Pets.leda and the swan

 

Lipstick on the collar has now gone digital. Where once we secreted our love letters in padlocked boxes, we now have passwords and browsing histories to delete. Some of the fallout from the Ashley Madison “affair” is a mushroom shaped cloud of moralistic condemnation sprinkled with a dusting of judgement which says more about the judge than those being judged. As Hackers, presumably with their own agendas, smoke out the “sinners”, there’s a lot of talk about affairs and the destruction of so-called family life but not much intelligent inquiry as to the Why we want what we can’t have and do what we do to get it. And yet, in this age of instant gratification and increasingly sophisticated digital technology driven by a porn industry that caters for all preferences, Why not? What we once termed aberrations and perversions, thankfully have now become “normalised” though there’s is still an odorous smell to the word adultery. And in some places in the world sex outside marriage is punishable by death.

 

love and desireLove and Desire are two completely different things. So says sex therapist and author of Mating in Captivity Esther Perel. Astrologers agree. Mars and Venus in their healthy expression move us to want, to take and to own. Author Thomas Moore writes, “Mars when he is honoured, gives a deep red hue to everything we do, quickening our lives with intensity passion forcefulness and courage… It is important then to revere the Martian spirit and to let the soul burst into life in creativity individuality iconoclasm and imagination.”

Eros is not the chubby diaper-wearing infant we see on Valentine’s cards. He takes us to the beating heart of our own “red light district”, he brings us back to life. He’s an antidote to the terror of ageing, the annihilation of death.

Eros and Thanatos are the provocative invitation on the now infamous Ashley Madison website: Life is Short – Have an Affair!

As author and teacher, Joanna Watters writes The Astrology Blog this week, “The most obvious retrograde Venus story in the news at the moment is the hacking of website Ashley Madison. This company has built up a membership of a staggering 37 million people around the world, and continues to sign up new members at the rate of 35,000 a day. Noel Biderman, the CEO of the company, is born 1 January 1971. Unfortunately there is no other birth data but you don’t really need to look any further than the date as he’s born on a triple conjunction of Venus and Mars (the love and sex planets) and Jupiter (expansion) all in Scorpio (the sign of sex, secrecy and all that is taboo)”taboo

 

Our comfort-seeking astrological Moon craves security and safety and dependability and permanence. Paradoxically, good connection, good intimacy does not guarantee good sex. Routine, predictability, too much closeness and familiarity are a cold shower to an erotic charge. Spontaneity in long term relationships is a myth. “There is no neediness or caretaking in desire,” says Esther Perel.
red rose and bum

“Sex is a place we go to,” says Perel. “A space we enter inside ourselves with another or others”. For some it may be a place for aggression or playfulness, for others it is a place of surrender and relinquishing control, for others it is a templum for transcendence and dissolution, poetically described by the planets and their aspects in astrology. Eros resides in the imaginal realm. And says Perel, “the erotic mind is not politically correct.”

She adds also that few of us know how to bring our self-hood to our partner. Or how to stay connected to ourselves in the presence of the Other. Few of us know the landscape of our bodies in relationship with the Other.  Committed sex is premeditated sex. It is willful, focused, and present. And foreplay starts at the end of the previous orgasm.

The poetics of our erotic life transforms sexuality by our own imagination. But what when fur-lined cuffs, leather whips, slivers of silky underwear, or a romantic getaway without the kids fails to alleviate the tedium of sex gone stale? The answer lies within when we ask ourselves is – “I shut down my desire for my partner when…”

Our responses will be as unique as our birth charts. For some, the answer may be, “I shut down my desire when I work late at night, for others when I am overweight and feel unattractive, for others still, when we fight over the in-laws or the kids … and for some, I shut down my desire when I feel responsible, when I don’t feel I have a right to want, when I don’t feel I have the right to receive, or to take, sensual pleasure…”

For most of us, growing up, reclaiming Eros, is hard to do. And in our adolescent culture where we objectify each other and Mother Earth, where phallus-shaped guns are given to young children and wars and violence continue to continue, until we are Collectively ready to Imagine another way of being in relationship to one another there will be affairs and heartbreak. And also the opportunity to re-pair and heal and rebuild our ravaged relationships and invite Eros and Aphrodite back into our bodies and our  lives.red rose

Astrology workshops London

Lust, Love, Loss and Longing

Saturday 31 October & Sunday 1 November
10am-5pm
£85.00 per day, or £150.00 for both
Venue – The Astrological Lodge of London, 50 Gloucester Place W1U 8EA

Suitable for all levels.

The two days are completely different but are designed to complement one another. So you can choose to do either day, or both. Venus and Mars in your birth chart with Ingrid Hoffman – astrologer and Imago Practitioner, founder of Trueheartwork, and a magical day of traditional horoscopy and  synastry between two individuals with author and astrologer Joanna Watters.
Please contact Joanna directly and come and join us in London.

joannaw@otenet.gr

 

 

Jaymes Young – I’ll Be Good

 

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Damn You

damn you picWe  talk glibly about someone being “a narcissist.” We detonate the word like a Catherine wheel on Hallowe’en; toss it over our left shoulder like a pinch of salt, and like the origins of Hallowe’en or the ritual of tossing salt over our left shoulder, we’re unaware of the moist kernel of meaning beneath the brittle husk. It’s a label that sticks tenaciously in the Victim Perpetrator model of relationships, and in a culture of self-aggrandisement that puts Self above all other sentient beings. It multiplies like an algal bloom in a culture where we consume other people’s ideas, gobble down advertisers’ enticements. We’re plugged in, eyes down, thumbs moving. Tuned out to silence.
In a particular brand of blame and shame psychology that has lodged unquestioned, unexamined in mainstream consciousness, a narcissist is our boss, our ex, a friend who has offended us in some way. They’re the ones who are utterly self-absorbed, aggressive, and abusive. They’re the cause of our divorce or our unhappiness at work. Despite  popular  assumption, a narcissist does not truly love herself. She doesn’t even know who she is . In her self-absorbed flaunting, in his amplified bravado, in her need to stand apart in her frenzied desire to need to be seen, is an emptiness, an isolation, that echoes pitifully across the babble of voices that tweet and twitter and stare into the glazed eyes of a masturbatory Selfie.
As human populations flourish across the surface of the earth, millions of souls jostle for space, air,work and food in Gotham Cities all over the world. We contract our energy, seal our body space, tune out the noise, the smells, avoid the eyes, the bodies, as we weave and glide over dirty streets, plugged into our I Pods, eyes down, caressing the smooth surfaces of our Tablets.

Therapist Esther Perel suggests that the merge model of relationship is challenging to the Millennials. I would suggest it is challenging to so many who ascribe to The Cult of the Individual. Working in collaboration with someone requires compromise, empathy, and an ability to accept that being “needy or weak or vulnerable” is part of our humanness.

Solitary bliss has an elusive, dreamy quality that advertisers have crafted into a make-believe bubble of desirability, perhaps even mandatory if we are to be normal well adjusted, differentiated human beings. The pursuit of Happiness has become a full-time occupation in the affluent Western World, the belief that we are worth it, that we have the right to have something more.untitled

According to authors of  The Narcissism Epidemic,  Keith Campbell and Jean Twenge, we are living in an age of entitlement. “The symptoms of the disease range from the extreme (hiring fake paparazzi to follow you around for a weekend) to the more ubiquitous, garden-variety solipsism (Twittering what you ate for lunch or hiring a professional photographer to take your Facebook photo). Translated into the realm of romantic relationships, the message comes across as: I’m great, and you’d better be, too.”
Esther Perel elaborates, “the culture of narcissism is about your personal happiness coming first and your partner coming second,” says Esther Perel. She adds, though, “Narcissism is actually a clinical personality disorder affecting 1 to 3 percent of the population, not an occasional attitude.”

We pay lip service to self-esteem with Botoxed lips and smooth shiny foreheads. We still look outside ourselves for validation and approval. And if we don’t get it, well then, damn you! To find ourselves has become the Holy Grail. We meditate, go to therapy, do yoga, with the same zealous application our great grandmothers used to bleach stained linen. We invest time, money and energy into ourselves. Why would we want to share our Obsession with someone else? We follow our bliss with the same single minded blinkered zeal that our forefathers used to hack down the great forests, alter the courses of rivers, decimate, or convert the indigenous inhabitants. Yet in the frenetic rush to get somewhere, be someone, there is no time, no silence to be still and go within.

narcissisFor me, myths and fairy tales are repositories of wisdom. These age-old stories carry the unperturbed truths that ripple through our lives today. They teach us that nothing has changed, nothing is “trending”. And that all our neurosis is just a minute piece in the large tapestry of evolution and transformation. The story of the beautiful youth, Narcissus, is a tale of self-absorption, spurned lovers, arid intellectualism without conversation with the moist wetness of our soul. So the story begins, as so many good stories do, with a concerned mother of an extremely beautiful young boy. She asks the blind prophet Tiresias “will he live to an old age?” to which wise Tiresias replied, “as long as he does not know himself.” So she hides all the mirrors in their home and her precious boy Narcissus grows up to be extraordinarily handsome, adored by all who meet him. Because he has never seen his own face, he depends on the reactions of others to tell him how beautiful and desirable he is.

Positive self-delusion has resulted in evolutionary leaps in technology, science, medicine and commerce. The bleached bones of many narcissists lie loosely in graveyards decorated with flags marked with marble tombstones. Today narcissism is a me-first Ivy-league requirement for Alpha males and females who deftly play the corporate chess game. It’s a must for those who hanker after their fifteen minutes (or more) of fame or infamy.

google glass“A reality shaped around your own desires — there is something sociopathic in that ambition,” writes Zadie Smith in her superbly crafted essay Find Your Beach. Our self-absorbed ambition pushes impatiently through the crowds. Our desires Tweet and Like. Don’t  question.

In doorways and under bridges of our metropolises  the homeless are unseen and unheard. I was struck by the poignancy of a plaque placed on an unremarkable cement bench along the river in Nashville today. I wondered about the woman who chose this name for her baby and the little girl who grew to be Tara Denise Cole, homeless on the streets of this American city. I wondered, did she live and die unseen, unheard, un-reflected in the shimmering green waters of the Cumberland River.a tribute to the homeless

Lana Del Rey – Damn You

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The Look of Love

body paintingLove is an act of the imagination. We daub our lover with our oldest longing. We paint his lips with our most noble and generous magnificence. Love photoshops her imperfections. Love ennobles his good qualities, assigns them with mythical powers.  In our lover’s vow we talk, we touch, we seal our dreams with a kiss. We know that we are beautiful. In the warm nascence of Love we touch our holy longing. In the Mystery of barely knowing him we travel the world, design our new home, merge in our anticipation of something new, something more. As the sun rises we bask in possibility.

Yet according to research on neurobiology, the potent alchemy of attraction is spiked with dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Our intense emotional and physical fusion is only possible with someone we do not yet really know.

We are as changeable as chameleons, as contrary as Mary.  In order to feel fully alive we need a sprinkling of mystery. We require a dash of  novelty. We need a splash of  change, blended with just enough safety and  continuity to ground us. Risk and Fear. Safety and Adventure. We fluctuate like clouds that shape shift across a summer sky.

When we commit to each other, marry or cohabit, our brains produce the bonding chemicals, oxytocin and vasopressin.  We want togetherness – and difference to keep things interesting.  Yet in the otherness of our partner we so often respond with judgement. Or we set the bar high for an athletic leap of great expectations which breaks the legs of spiritual growth and sprains our soul’s warm desire.

Our heightened dependence on just one person makes us vulnerable. So we stack up the sandbags against the rising waters of uncertainty. We construct a prison of predictability in our relationships, and choose to stay behind narrow bars of bland neutrality.

Our script of staid of assumptions goes something like this: “I always know what you’re thinking” or “he doesn’t talk about emotions.”  It may sound like “he’s my rock” or “she would never have an affair”.  It might be the stolidly dependable “she always takes care of all our finances.”

So we dis-own our passion and vitality, clutch at things we feel we can control. We blinker our eyes and stop being curious.

Risk and Fear are the Guardians at the gate of Love. We cannot be truly intimate or sexually playful when we are vigilant or fearful. We cannot be truly intimate or sexually adventurous when we do not take a risk.

images45AR3A8POur relationships work, for a while, within a bounded space, enclosed by children and pets, in-laws, work, social responsibility. Until they don’t.  Until something happens to shatter the thin veneer of compromise. Until a raging torrent rushes through the aridity of our sexuality. Until the brittle sacrifices implode in a shower of dust. It may be a death, a health-scare, an affair, the loss of a business, our child leaving home. The comfort of fireside companionship, the tangible solidity of the things we own, and the cadence of routine now does not feed our hunger. We go online and gorge, like starving anorexics feasting on chocolate sundae. Or in the seductive gaze of our work colleague or the children’s tennis coach, we swallow the sweetness we have denied ourselves for decades. And in the rapturous delusion we  transcend the mundane and we soar above the clouds sprinkled golden with sunbeams. We become alive again.

images6YU9IO9DLove is a creative act of the Imagination. Its realm is rarefied, intangible, briefly captured like an exquisite butterfly where it flutters to the sound of music, poetry, the wind whispering through the trees.

Intimacy waits patiently for Love’s transient rapture to disperse. Intimacy requires time, repetition and the ability to choose each other, again and again. Intimacy is a practiced dance where two dancers move across the floor, present and focused, moving as one, yet firm in our own foot work.  The dance of Intimacy requires tenderness and some acceptance. It requires routine and a sense of safety. It requires trust and an ability to create an emotional connection. Yet so often as we spin our soft cocoon of companionable safety, Eros feels swaddled. He becomes a pudgy Cupid, not a virile Lover.

Sex therapist David Schnarch writes, “We’ve reduced adults to infants and infants to a frail ghost of their resilience, reduced marriage to providing safety, security, and compensation for childhood disappointments. We remove our essential drives for autonomy and freedom.”

Psychologist Esther Perel suggests that too much closeness restricts the sense of freedom and autonomy we need for sexual pleasure. “When intimacy collapses into fusion it is not lack of closeness but too much closeness that impedes desire.” She maintains that intimacy only sometimes begets sexuality and that our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. With too much distance there can be no connection and with too much fusion (the soul mate theory) there is no one to connect with.  “Increased emotional stability ironically what makes for  good intimacy, does not make for good sex.

Anais Nin wrote so poignantly, “Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we do not know how to replenish its source.” So how do we replenish Love’s source? In The Passionate Marriage – David Schnarch writes pragmatically,  love and desire are “not a matter of peeling away the layers but of developing them—growing ourselves up to be mature and resourceful adults who can solve our current problems.”

images6RA72WW7It requires an artist’s eye, a poet’s sensibility, a gourmet’s palate. The willingness to be curious, to engage in the mystery, to re-ignite the flame of Eros with the spark of our human imagination. Perhaps in the break-down of all we know is safe and sure, we discover that it is our partner who has been taking care of our marriage after all. In stretching out of our familiar roles, seeing each other with new eyes we can rebuild a relationship that has collapsed under the heavy weight of our control.

Proust wrote “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” In the shift of perception, the releasing of our illusions, we see our partner with new eyes. Remember the Na’vi greeting in the movie Avatar? Remember those eyes that said “I see you.”

When we dare to see our partner, extend rather than contract, engage and offer rather than stay stuck in a one-dimensional sitcom, we can risk sharing ourselves more deeply, more honestly, and revel in our aliveness once more.  When we balance with skill and reverence the two basic life forces: individuality and togetherness we can look at our own reflection and ask Who do I want to be?imagesLRZ6JLZG

The Look of Love  Dusty Springfield

 

 

 

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