Episode 75: Healing Wounds from Sexual Shame

Uncategorized Jun 20, 2022

This week’s topic is one that I address all the time in my coaching work with clients, in my emails, and right here on the podcast. It’s something I’ve brought up over and over again, and it’s a subject worth repeating and talking about in various ways. 

So many people are hurting, wounded, and suffering in silence from sexual shame. More and more people seem to be having a difficult time quitting viewing pornography and generally coming to terms with their sexuality, whether it be having sexual experiences with their spouse, or experiencing an urge while they’re out and about. Instead of this being normalized, too often, we’re told we need to be fearful of potentially slipping up.

These wounds are painful and harmful, and they aren’t necessary. If this is you, know that you deserve healing from that. In this week’s episode, I’m showing you how to become aware of the stories that are fueling your sexual shame, and how to start healing your relationship with your sexuality. 

If you’re ready to do this work and start practicing unconditional commitment towards quitting your porn habit, sign up to work with me! 

What You'll Learn from this Episode: 

  • Why there seems to be more people struggling with pornography in conservative religions. 
  • The most common sexual shame stories I hear. 
  • Why consistent sexual shame often leads to trauma responses. 
  • What sexual shame trauma can look like, and how it manifests in your body. 
  • How to start healing wounds from sexual shame. 


Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 75, Healing Wounds From Sexual Shame.

Welcome to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast, the show that will teach you how to stop viewing pornography and never go back to it. If you want to learn how to train your brain out of a pornography habit, completely shame-free, then this is the show for you. I’m your host Sara Brewer, a certified life and faith-based coach.

Hey, you guys, welcome to the podcast episode this week. I have had a couple conversations this week around this topic that I'm going to talk to you about today, sexual shame and healing wounds from it. It came up quite a few times and I was just reminded how prevalent this still is for so many people.

And sometimes when I talk about things a lot I think, oh, well, I've already said that a lot. And then I realize no, I say it a lot to my clients, I say it in my emails, and I say on my podcast, but it needs to be said over and over and over again and talked about over and over and over again. And talked about differently over and over and over again.

Yeah, there are just a lot of people hurting and wounded from shame techniques and fear techniques, especially around sexuality. And so if that is you, this podcast is dedicated to you. And if you can think of someone in your life who might benefit from hearing this, I would encourage you to send it to them.

Many people are suffering in silence from sexual shame and trauma from sexual shame. So we're going to talk about what that means and what that looks like. But here's something that came to my mind, especially, it seems like especially in more conservative religions more people seem to struggle with pornography. At least you hear about it more, right? More people are trying to quit, and more people are having a more difficult time quitting.

And the reason for that isn't because we have a bunch of people who are over sexualized. The reason for that is that we have a bunch of people who have trauma from fear and shame techniques around sexuality. Fear and shame techniques tend to lead to more compulsive porn use.

And I've talked about that in depth and why that is and the shame cycle and the shame spiral. And I mean, we have so much evidence from that and research around that. And I mean, Brené Brown, the queen of shame, that's what she's introduced to the world these last, how long has her work been around? Five years or so?

We have a lot more awareness now than we ever did before. And so as the world is changing and our communities are changing and we're getting rid of the shame techniques, yes, it's getting better. But there's still a lot of pain for people who grew up with a lot of fear and shame techniques.

So I do want to just tell you a story, this is like a common story that I hear. And many people have this story and I want to specifically talk about this story because a lot of people think that they're alone in this, but you're not, okay? So, many people, especially many of my clients, and many people I talk to, they start viewing porn and masturbating and they just feel so, so, so horrible about it. They feel so bad about it, and they try really hard not to.

What might have happened is you're 11 or 12 years old, you saw something, you had a sexual experience because guess what, that's normal when you're 11 or 12 years old and I know no one told you that. I know no one told you that, but that is very normal. When you start maturing and your body grows, it's a normal experience.

But what happens instead of that being normalized, people are told by parents or by religious leaders or whoever over and over and over again that this is a very dangerous thing, this is a very bad thing. And then specifically with porn, right, porn is going to ruin your life. Sexual sin is next to murder. This is something, the sexuality is something that is uncontrollable.

Your sexuality is something to be afraid of so you have to avoid everything, you should be very fearful of slipping up with your sexuality. This is a slippery slope if you – Oh my gosh. And I'm laughing but it's also, like have you seen that TikTok where people are like – First off, isn’t it so funny that I always quote TikToks in my podcast? Oh my gosh.

But have you seen the TikTok sound that's like people laughing and they're like, “Ha, ha, ha, yeah, but no, it's actually quite serious.” Like we’re laughing about this but it's actually kind of serious.

People who say if you masturbate you're going to cheat on your wife. Masturbation always leads to cheating on your wife. Porn always leads to broken marriages. It's this slippery slope mentality, right? Many stories of people who, you know, they do have a sexual experience by masturbating or looking at porn and then they go to church a couple of weeks later and they have a lesson on it and how bad of a thing it is.

And they're like, “Oh, I didn't know. Oh no, have I messed up? Oh no, I've ruined everything.” A lot of fear having leaders wear and pass out porn kills love T-shirts and seeing that being very shamed by it. These are all common things that many people grew up hearing.

And what happens sometimes is that years later there are still wounds from these experiences and something triggers it and it's painful and harmful. And these wounds really show that they're still there. That might be having panic attacks leading to panic. It could be leading to thoughts like God is going to reject me because of my past use with porn or my current use with porn. Everyone's going to find out. I'm the only one. If people knew, they would think I was horrible.

These wounds could just be lots of fear around your sexuality and maybe your sex life. You know, you grow up, you get married and you're still very fearful of that part of you and it affects the way that you connect with your spouse. And just a lot of fear in general around sexuality where maybe you see a picture and you have an urge, you immediately think there's something wrong with you and feel very afraid.

Sometimes it's those small things that trigger it, that trigger these wounds. Like seeing an underwear model, or having an urge when you're out and about, or getting married and having sexual experiences with your person. Those things can trigger these responses in your body.

One of the conversations I had this week was, my dad was there, and my dad is a YSA a bishop. So for those of you who don't know what that means, it means he's a leader of a congregation of young adults, so like ages 18 to 30. And it's an assignment for three or four years and he leads meetings and then he's just like in charge of helping these young adults in his congregation.

Part of the conversation we were having, people were talking about their experiences and hearing experiences of really harmful things that have been said to them about sexuality from church leaders. And one thing my dad said, he said, “Yeah, we can do a lot of harm, unintentional harm, and intentional harm both, right? We can do a lot of harm in that Bishop's chair.”

And he said, “My biggest mantra is do no harm.” I love that. And it's the therapist code of ethics too. Something I try to live by too is do no harm. That's what he tries to do. And jeez, what lucky kids they are to have him as their congregation leader.

You know, not everyone has great experiences around, you know, sexuality seems to be one of the harder experiences that people have who grow up in conservative religions. And as I say that, I hope that no one feels attacked, but it's important for me to say.

And so if that's you, if you've experienced harm from that, I'm really sorry and that's not fair. And you deserve healing from that. Because if you've had leaders and experiences of fear and shame around your sexuality growing up, that is something that has created wounds in you probably. That's probably why you're listening to this podcast, and you deserve to heal from that.

I mean, the examples are endless that I hear of these fear and shame techniques. And we're becoming a lot more aware of them. But that doesn't make the pain less. We have to be careful that when we say, “Oh, well, we're doing better than we were,” that we're not gaslighting people who have experienced trauma and pain from this.

Some examples of these things are, you know, someone's Bishop saying, “Hey, if you masturbate that week, don't shake my hand when you see me in the halls at church. But if you didn't masturbate that week, come, and shake my hand.”

Or just really shaming conversations in offices about it. Being denied opportunities because of slip ups and that you can't get married or do certain things if you have slip ups. Messages over and over and over again that if you slip up you're going to ruin everything in your life.

And I share these because I want you to know that you're not alone. I want you to know that you're not the only one who struggled with this. That's one thing I was telling one other person I had this conversation with this last week was just over and over and over again he kept saying, “I’m the only one, I'm the only one who has gone through this. I'm so afraid everyone is going to find out.” And I just was like, “Dude, you are not the only one. I'm sure of that.”

And not to, I mean, this is painful, and this is really difficult but many, many, many, many people, especially many men experience this. But this can be trauma too. Okay, we're going to talk about what that means.

So trauma is this dysregulation in your body and it's a high emotional response. If you've heard fight or flight, freeze, fawn, all these things where maybe you feel panicky, maybe you get numb, it's when your nervous system acts out and is in distress over things. And like I said, you can experience this with many things, not just those big T trauma events.

So examples of what that might look like is you have a sexual urge, and your body goes into panic and fear. And even though in your mind, right, you're like, I know this isn't a big thing to worry about, you question it. And you're like, maybe it is, maybe I'm wrong. There's something wrong with me. Panic, panic, panic. And it makes sense. It makes sense why your body would have these responses if you grew up with those shame and fear techniques for years and years when you were a teenager, right?

Another example is I was coaching a client recently who was telling me that he was applying for different government jobs and part of the application process is going through a polygraph test, it's like a lie detector test. And one of the questions that they ask, I'm not sure exactly what the specific question is but it's about illegal sexual activity. And so they probably ask about things like child pornography, right?

And he said to me, he said, “I've never done anything like that. I've never, ever touched anything illegal like that. But when they ask me about it I get so scared and so nervous that I question myself and I'm like, have I done something wrong? Have I done something that would keep me from being worthy of this job?”

And he says ever since, you know, he just spent many of his younger years answering to authority about his sexuality and whether or not he was masturbating or looking at pornography. And that was always such a high stress thing with a lot of fear and shame.

And so even now, as an adult, it's been years and years and years since those teen experiences. But even now as an adult this experience of answering to authority about sexuality puts his body in this high emotional response to a point where he cannot pass this polygraph test because when he gets to that question his body freaks out. Isn’t that fascinating?

So he failed that polygraph test because of this section, because of the high emotional response. And he says that it's so crazy because I know that I haven't done anything wrong. I know that I haven't done anything that would be illegal.

I've struggled with porn off and on and I'm working on it. But I haven't done anything that most men haven't done, and maybe even men in this job aren’t doing. Just like occasional slip ups without anything that would be illegal. And I'm working on it and I'm trying to change. But you can hear in his voice how he's trying to justify it and be like, “See, right, I'm okay, right?”

So that is an example of trauma too. And so what we want to do is we want to take the time to really heal these parts and you deserve that. You deserve to heal these parts so that you are not in always fight or flight, or freeze, or fawn, and questioning am I good enough? Am I really okay? Am I going to be okay? You know, panicky, so that you have a healed relationship with your sexuality and you're not so afraid of it.

So many of us are taught to look at sexuality like a necessary evil where it's not good, but if we have to do it we'll do it in this specific way. We want to try to change that narrative. Maybe sexuality isn't a necessary evil. Maybe it's not evil at all. Maybe it's a really beautiful thing and we don't have to be afraid of it. And we can learn to get to know this part of ourselves and control this part of ourselves and not be afraid of it.

Changing that narrative from, oh, it's a slippery slope. If you have an urge, if you masturbate, it's all downhill from there. That's just not true, that's so harmful. You can heal that part of you that's like, wait, am I going to go to hell? Right? Or am I going to get to be with my family forever because of this? Many of you question that.

In fact, one of the conversations I was having this last week was someone who was saying I am just like haunted with this idea I'm not going to get to be with my wife forever because of my past porn use. And this conversation with him was especially fascinating because there wasn't any current porn use and hadn't been for a long time.

What I'm talking about, what happened is there was so much fear and shame in his adolescent hood that something triggered it and it's all this trauma and all this pain and all these wounds showing themselves. That's what's happening here. I had to remind them over and over and over again, because you're feeling this and the reason this is coming up isn't because there's something wrong with you. The reason this is all coming up is because there are wounds here that we need to heal.

And this is all deep inner work that I want you to experience. So how? How do we do that? How do we start healing this wound, these wounds from sexual shame? First is awareness, awareness, awareness. And that's what I've spent most of this podcast episode talking about so far. It’s what I really wanted to dig into here.

When you're aware of what's going on, it decreases shame, and it helps you see what's really happening. It's like when I say don't believe everything you think. So many of us just believe everything we think. We're like, oh, I had a thought that there's something wrong with me, so that's true. Or oh, I had this thought that I really did do something horrible when I know I didn't.

Just awareness of what's going on in your brain, awareness of what's going on in your body, awareness that what might be happening here are some trauma responses when you're panicky, when you're in fight or flight, when you feel totally dysregulated. And to bring awareness to make sense of why that especially if you are someone who experienced a lot of fear and shame techniques, it makes sense that you would be experiencing that now.

Okay, so that's the first thing we do to heal it. We also want to see it for what it really is. Like I just said, see it as something that needs to be healed, not as evidence that there's something wrong with you. If it helps you to call it trauma, see it as trauma and something that needs to be healed. Nothing is wrong with you, and you aren't the only one who's experiencing this.

We also need to learn how to regulate emotions. So when your body is in this dysregulated state, how can we regulate that? How can we help our body move through that? You can do exercise, there's tapping meditations, you can punch it out, movement, running, maybe meditation.

I did a training recently with Tiffany Roe, who is a therapist, and she has a big Instagram platform. And she said potent and novel movement helps us move through trauma. Potent and novel, what that means basically is like different kind of weird movement, something that is novel. So dancing, or like big punches, that can help you.

We also want to make sure that you have someone to talk it out with, to validate you and see you in your pain and remind you that you're okay and there's nothing wrong with you. So if you have someone safe in your life that you can talk through with it and you feel safe to do that, do it.

Shame thrives in the dark and shame hides in the light. That's why sharing with safe people helps us heal our shame. And Julie Hanks says often that sharing your story is a very important part of healing your trauma. And so being able to share that hurt in a safe place with people who get it and who will validate you.

Learning how to rewrite your story. Learning how to process through this trauma, learning how to, I mean, a big part of this is going to be to start trusting yourself with your sexuality again. Learning all the things we've talked about on the podcast, all the things that we go over in the program.

Learning about urges, learning about emotions, and buffering. Learning about your identity and how to change the beliefs that you have about yourself. Learning how to build your relationship with yourself so that you trust yourself.

And then lastly, how we heal this part of you is you love that part of you. So really thinking when we think of this in terms of woundedness, it helps us rephrase it and it helps us heal it. Looking at this part of you as a wounded part of you. You might have heard of inner child work, it's like looking at this part of you that is a wounded child that needs to be re-parented and needs to be calmed down.

So you have this part of you that is very afraid of sexuality and very wounded, hearing a lot of fear and a lot of shame around sexuality. You can look at that part of you and almost see it as that young teenager, or as that young person who if we were to sit down with and talk to, what would we say to him?

We would give him hugs. We would grab him by the face and say you're okay. You are okay. You're going to be okay. Don't worry. Don't worry. And you heal, and you love that part, and you re-parent that part and you reassure them over and over and over again. Okay, and it's doable. You can heal this part of you, absolutely.

If you want extra support with this, we have some available for you through our private coaching. All the coaches, so there are three of us in there right now, we've all finished some trauma informed certification and have a lot of experience working with clients exactly like what I've talked about in this episode, like over and over and over and over again. So much experience there.

What that looks like is six months of working one on one. And you can do longer than six months, but it starts out with six months. But six months or longer of working one on one and doing that deep inner healing with someone. It's one of the most effective things that you can do. And we'll teach you all these things, how to regulate your emotions, how to heal yourself, all these things I've talked about, right?

Okay, who this wouldn't be for is anyone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts and suicidality. If that is you, please, please, please go and find someone to help you. There's always the suicide hotline that is available to you and there is a lot of support out there. We want you to get the help that you need. Okay?

This also probably wouldn't be a good fit for you if you have a big T trauma event that you haven't talked to or processed through with a therapist before. So if you've experienced abuse, or sexual abuse or any big T trauma that you've never talked about and haven't worked through and haven't started to work through that with, we have clients who like to work in the coaching program and with a therapist side by side. But if there's something like that that needs to be worked through, a therapist is a better place to start.

If you have a diagnosis like PTSD, or bipolar, long term therapy might be a better fit for you. And depending on what your therapist says too, the coaching program might be a good side by side fit for you too. So you can talk to them. And if you have any questions, specific questions about that, feel free to reach out to us.

Who this is for, who this would be a great fit for is if you love my approach and if you connect with it. If you hear this podcast and you hear me talking and you're starting to see yourself making changes and like your soul feels drawn here. I hear that a lot from my clients, like I was just so drawn here, and I felt like something inspired me to come here. If that's you, this is for you. And private coaching will be an amazing opportunity and an amazing experience for you.

If you're able to function and live a mostly normal life, this is a great fit for you if you want extra support. And maybe you find yourself panicky and confused and full of shame, we can help you with that. We can help with that sexual shame and help you learn how to get out of those difficult moments in your body.

And, of course, we'll work on all the porn and all the mindfulness and all the identity stuff too. You can see all the details at sarabrewer.com/workwithme.

But I want to make sure that I let you know that's available to you, to those of you who are like yes, I'm hearing this podcast episode, that is me. I have that, I have that stress, I have that trauma. This sounds exactly like me, and I want to heal from that. I want to heal from that. Come and sign up for private coaching, it's the best way for us to help you dive in and do all of that healing work.

All right, you guys, have a great week and we'll talk to you next week, bye bye.

I want to invite you to come and listen to my free training called How to Quit Viewing Pornography Even if You've Tried in the Past. If you like the podcast, you will love this free training. We talk about, number one, how to not rely on willpower or phone filters so that you can actually stop wanting pornography.

Number two, how to guarantee that you won't fail no matter how many times you've tried in the past. And number three, how to feel good about yourself while becoming someone who doesn't struggle with pornography. You can access this training at sarabrewer.com/masterclass.

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