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Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma Paperback – November 28, 2007
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"What a terrific book! Every survivor needs this encouraging, down to earth guide--and the joy of freely-chosen, healthy sexual pleasure." --Ellen Bass, author of The Courage to Heal
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As stated by others, the material in this book may be advanced if you are just starting the healing process and/or your trauma is very recent. If you had recently broken your leg, you would not start training for a marathon; you must heal somewhat from the primary wound before you optimize your legs and body for an event of exceptional nature. Recovery from sexual trauma is no different - the wounds must be stabilized before this book will be of the most use.
That said, this book is absolutely wonderful for individuals who are stabilized enough to pursue a healthy, authentic, fulfilling sexuality after enduring trauma (and by that statement I'm not suggesting that people who are not ready for the book "don't want" to re-enter life, they just need more time to heal, like the soon-to-be marathon runner who has a brand-new cast on their leg). Staci Haines absolutely "gets it" and has a very concrete path of healing with specific exercises and activities to help you divest your sexuality of lingering shame from something that happened to you well beyond your own control, and embrace your life force in a way that is appropriate to YOU.
THERE WILL BE TRIGGERS:
It doesn't matter how much processing you've done regarding a violent event, when you re-open those wounds, even for the happy and optimistic purpose of living a more fulfilling life, you're going to have some angst, re-lived trauma, and possibly flashbacks. But you are in control. When the work triggers too much trauma for me, I stop reading/working and go take out the angst on some dirty dishes or laundry, or do something comforting for my soul. You are in control, so take control and be prepared for the 99.9% likelihood of some angst with this important work. I like Pete Walker's book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A GUIDE AND MAP FOR RECOVERING FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMAhttp://a.co/eCDh36M) as it put a name and a solution on what I used to call my mental "runaways."
Sexual violence is the most intimate injury there is, and given our society's ways of (not) dealing with issues of this sort, it is quite possibly the most difficult injury to heal. You need some allies (as Haines suggests in the book) and a contingency plan (give Walker a read) to attempt your own psychic surgery for wounds that run this deep. Having a therapist or support group available would be great, as you may need an outside, non-judgmental source of support. Your most well-meaning friends may overflow with an abundance of love for you, but they are probably not trained for the proper responses to working through trauma, and when you're at your most vulnerable, an oddly-phrased remark can feel like a slap in the face. Please equip yourself properly for this endeavor.
I empathize with the readers of this book who have opened the pages with tremendous hope, only to find themselves feeling overwhelmed at the content (some of whom left reviews). We cannot minimize the impact of their violence. It's likely they've had that violence minimized their entire life, offering a false sense of readiness to tackle the issue, only to discover within a few pages of the book that their violence took on its naturally gigantic proportions.
I don't feel the book should suffer in its review when the issue is more likely the lack of an accurate description, which can be improved by Amazon, or an appropriate fit to the reader, which is a more intangible factor.
Sometimes family members and loved ones are much more ready for you to jump out of grieving waters into the healing waters, and that might be an instance where a book like this is completely inappropriate at a specific time.
Survivors must come to this kind of work from their own volition. In my opinion, this book is absolutely five out of five stars in achieving what it seeks to achieve; the fact that it was the wrong book for purchasers shouldn't detract from its competence.
YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK:
Seems silly to say this, but the work in this book is not unlike the exercise machine in your bedroom under all those clothes - if you don't do the work, you won't get the benefit. Making "mental" lists instead of writing out the information on paper or on your computer is like watching an exercise video while you eat popcorn on the couch. Visualizing yourself doing the physical activities isn't the same as actually doing them. There is therapeutic value in writing out your thoughts and acting out the exercises; if you put in the most effort, you'll see the most reward.
AWESOMENESS OF THIS BOOK:
What I absolutely love about Haines' style of therapy is that she recognizes and addresses the fact that often abuse doesn't happen in a vacuum (especially abuse within the family). She recognizes the victim in the context of a larger family system and depending on what other self-work you've recently engaged in, you might find corollaries between the development of self and the development of your healthy sensual self as guided by Haines. Some of the activities intended to resurrect and restore a healthy sexuality could be easily translated into activities of a non-sexual nature to sort out other accompanying issues of identity. I will update my review as I get through that work and try some "translations."
One of the early exercises is determining what you "like," which might seem basic and maybe a little bit silly for most healthy individuals, but is an incredibly huge issue for victims. In the past, what I have "liked" was to stay mostly mentally present during intimate moments with my mind NOT completely leaving the planet, as it was so well-trained to do from years of abuse. The notion that I might "like" something beyond "not completely freaking out" is exciting and liberating. This seems like an exercise that will help outside the bedroom with my newly developing self as well, as I've divested of the narcissists around whom I orbited for a lifetime, and seek to fill my life with what brings joy to me instead of constantly reacting to others. Once again, it may seem silly to healthy individuals, but when Ms. Pac Man no longer has someone(s) running the joystick, where does she go if she doesn't want to get gobbled up by ghosts?
THUMBS UP ON SPECIFICS!
In dealing with adult fallout from childhood family issues, I've read more than my fair share of books on narcissism and codependency that spent 99% of their pages describing pathology and resulting manifestations in others, but when it came to what I needed the most - proactively treating the effects that I've wrestled with for a lifetime - the books spend the last 1% offering pithy comments without specific actions. Thank goodness, there's none of that silliness going on here! Staci Haines gives very specific criteria to identify issues and very specific steps to recovering, but her ratio is an inverse of the other books, with the bulk of the pages committed to recovery activities.
BUFFET OF PLEASURE:
Yes, as others have mentioned, Haines offers all sorts of alternatives that may or may not be your cup of tea. You certainly don't have to adopt every option presented to you. There's not a test at the end to earn a grade, so don't feel like you have to drop a Ben Franklin on toys you don't want at the Adam and Eve website to earn your "A+" in the class. What Haines does is offer a non-judgmental description of (completely legal in all 50 states!) activities that bring pleasure that you may or may not enjoy, while separating sensual joy from any of the residual emotions from the damage of violence. Likewise, let's revisit that notion that she sees the individual in a greater context of family and community, so there's absolutely room for you to not "like" something if it conflicts with your religious or personal beliefs, and absolutely no judgment implied.
The tone is kind, caring, and compassionate, perfect for a book of such a sensitive nature intended for an audience made fragile by the actions of others. America is rife with hangups relative to sex, but there's no "teeheehee" factor here, nor is there vulgarity. Haines views sex as an integral part of both physical and spiritual health without pushing any specific agenda other than her support for your path to health.
I wish I had found this book sooner for the sheer positive nature of it, as I have traversed some very dark roads to come to this place where I can approach perhaps the most important work of all - the path to intimacy.
Haines has given us an excellent road map for achieving intimacy when it seems against all odds. I encourage others to buy this book to make that journey as well. It is never too late to be happy (or more happy).
1. Clear relatable language that helps survivors make sense of their sexual impulses and reactions post-assault.
2. Provides concrete sexual exercises attuned to the needs of this kind of recovery.
3. Powerfully rooted in somatic therapy which can accelerate progress in talk therapy.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a tough read given the subject. But it's well written.Read more