NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Sexual Wellness: Are You Distracted By Negative Thoughts About Yourself When You're Having Sex?

The sex researchers, Masters and Johnson, did groundbreaking work on the human sexual response.  As part of their work, they developed a term called "spectatoring" in the 1970s to describe the experience of self consciously watching yourself while having sex. 

Sexual Wellness: Are You Distracted By Negative Thoughts in Bed?

When you're spectatoring, instead of being present with your partner, you're both a participant and a spectator of the experience.   

Spectatoring often occurs when there is performance anxiety, which is a sexual inhibitor.  It gets in the way of being fully present and sexually aroused.  It can also turn sex into a performance rather than an intimate experience (see my article: What is Performative Sex?).

Spectatoring often comes with an anxious, self conscious, critical voice.  It's the opposite of being present with your partner.  It can include critical comments about your body image: "I wonder if my partner thinks I look fat" or negative thoughts about how you're interacting sexually: "Does my partner like how I'm touching her?" (see my article: Overcoming the Internal Critic).

Instead of being attuned to your partner's and your own sexual experience, you're making negative comments about yourself in your mind as if you're someone else. 

You might also be distracted by unresolved issues in your relationship or unresolved trauma (see my articles: How Trauma Affects Intimate Relationships and What is a Trauma Therapist?).

If you're spectatoring, you're distracted, so chances are very good you're not enjoying your experience.  Also, your partner probably realizes that you're not present, so the experience is less satisfying for him or her too.

How to Stop Spectatoring Using Mindfulness
One way to overcome spectatoring is to use mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice where you focus on what you're feeling and sensing in the moment without judgment or interpretation.  

Not only does it help you to focus, it also helps you to relax (see my article: The Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation).

Before you use mindfulness during sex, I recommend that you practice mindfulness daily during everyday activities, like when you're walking, savoring a meal, smelling flowers, taking a shower or any other similar activity.  

You can also practice mindfulness during solo pleasuring (masturbation) to enhance your experience, get to know what you like sexually and be able to communicate this to your partner (see my articles: Women's Sexuality: Tips on Sexual Self Discovery and How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex).

By practicing mindfulness, you can develop the skill of being mindfully present in bed with your partner, which will make sex more pleasurable.

Getting Help in Therapy
Asking for help can be challenging, but struggling with unresolved problems is even harder (see my article: Overcoming Your Discomfort With Asking For Help in Therapy).

Everyone needs help at some point, so if you're feeling stuck, you're not alone.

A skilled therapist can help you to overcome the obstacles that are keeping you from living a fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

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