Defence Mechanisms & Sexual Intimacy

sexual intimacy

A recent survey commissioned by Netflix and conducted by YouGov found that just over one in 10 Australians rate themselves as great lovers. While being a “great lover” will mean something different to every person, those carrying negative patterns from childhood may find that their sexual experiences are especially lacking.

Sexuality is about being able to follow your attraction and allow yourself to be activated so you can respond physically to the other person, embrace your own libido, and merge with the other. Though your aim might be to feel fully present and connected during lovemaking, unresolved shame or defence mechanisms may be getting in the way of true intimacy. Learn what these defence mechanisms are and how to help love flow again.

Common Defence Mechanisms

Defence mechanisms are strategies that we unconsciously use to protect ourselves from anxiety, threats to our self-esteem, and troubling thoughts or emotions. German psychoanalyst Karen Horney came up with ten “neurotic needs” to describe the defence mechanisms or coping strategies that drive our behaviour in interpersonal relationships. These defence mechanisms can be classified into the following broad categories:

  • Moving away from others (withdraw): This behaviour causes individuals to evade their partner, become lost in fantasy, or even become disassociated from their own body. They may prefer solo sex to sex with another because it is less confronting.
  • Moving toward others (accommodate/please): This behaviour describes the people pleasers, those individuals who are overly concerned with their partner’s pleasure and not their own. They may place all their attention on the other and have difficulties being in their body or communicating their likes or dislikes.
  • Moving against others (overpower): This behaviour causes individuals to always be in charge. They have trouble surrendering to the other and may have difficulty receiving unless they’re in control, causing a power struggle between partners.

Many individuals use one or two dominantly, but it’s likely that everyone has used these defence mechanisms at one point or another in their relationships. Your aim is to be fully present during sex, to understand the give and take of intimacy, and accept that everyone has different needs at different times. But you cannot accomplish your aim if you don’t take the time to reflect on how your defense mechanisms impact your sexual intimacy and be willing to trace these behaviours back to their origin.

The Origin of Your Defence Mechanisms

Like other patterns, defence mechanisms are guided by your role in the family system. Sex is merely a mirror for the personality structure that already exists outside of the bedroom. By zooming out from behavioural patterns as participants do during the Hoffman Process, you can examine where you learned your inclination to withdraw, please, or control. Here are the other ways you can learn to step back from defence mechanisms and repair sexual intimacy during the Process:

  • Talk about the shame issues that hold you back
  • Be a benevolent witness to another person’s shame and fears
  • Use mindfulness to be present in the body and more connected with those around you
  • Receive feedback without shutting down
  • Give feedback in a kind and compassionate manner

Find out more about how the Hoffman Process can help you examine your defence mechanisms and improve sexual intimacy in your life.

This article was contributed by Erica Garza. Follow @ericadgarza on Instagram


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