NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, April 17, 2022

What is Your Erotic Blueprint? Part 1

In her book, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, relationship expert and sex therapist, Dr. Esther Perel discusses erotic blueprints, which is the focus of this article (see my articles: What Does Sex Positive Mean? and The Paradox of Love and Desire in a Committed Relationship).

Erotic Blueprints

What is an Erotic Blueprint?
Chapter 7 of Dr. Perel's book is called "Erotic Blueprints - Tell Me How You Were Loved, and I'll Tell You How You Make Love" (see my article: Sexual Pleasure and the Erotic Self).

According to Dr. Perel, the psychology of your sexual desire is based on your childhood relationships with your caregivers.  

Often, what gives you sexual pleasure and how you learned to love is derived from the impact of your relationship with your caregivers, including:
  • How did you learn to experience pleasure (or not)?
  • Did you learn to trust others?
  • Did you parents monitor your emotional needs or were you expected to monitor theirs?
  • Were you able to turn to your parents for protection or did you have to flee from them to protect yourself?
  • Were you rejected?
  • Were you humiliated?
  • Were you abandoned?
  • Were you held, rocked and soothed by your parents?
  • Did you learn not to expect too much from your parents?
  • Did you learn to hide when you were upset?
  • Did you learn it's okay to thrive when others might be hurt by your thriving?
  • How did you learn to feel about your body?
  • How did you learn to feel about your sexuality?
  • How did you learn to feel about your gender?
  • What did you learn about opening up (or shutting down) emotionally?
  • What did you learn about being daring or being afraid?
All of these experiences shape your beliefs about yourself and others.  They also affect what you expect from others, including what you expect in romantic relationships.  

You might already be aware of some of the experiences that shaped you.  For instance, if you're aware that your parents discouraged physical touch and didn't like to give hugs, you might know this is what makes it difficult for you to be physically affectionate with your partner. 

Another example is that if your father abandoned your family when you were young, you might see the connection to the problems you have getting into romantic relationships or, if you do get into one, you might have problems trusting your partner.

But what about all the childhood experiences you might not be connecting to the relationship difficulties you're having now?  These connections are often made in therapy with a therapist who is knowledgeable about erotic blueprints.

To illustrate how early experiences affect adult sexual relationships, Dr. Perel gives many clinical examples from her 20+ years of experience of working with couples in couples therapy.  

In one example, a client named Dylan, who is in his 20s, has a lot of difficulty with feeling emotionally secure with people--with or without sexual excitement (see my article: Are You Afraid to Show Your Emotional Vulnerability in Your Relationship?).

Dylan's childhood history includes the death of his mother, who was the "emotional lynchpin of the family," when he was 12.  During the mother's funeral, Dylan's father felt so uncomfortable with Dylan's tears that he warned Dylan not to fall apart emotionally.  

To stay close to his father, Dylan learned at an early age to suppress his emotions because emotions were a sign of weakness to his father (see my article: Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Going to Therapy Means You're "Weak").

As an adult, whenever Dylan has feelings for anyone, he is filled with self loathing and tries to control his emotional vulnerability.  

To deal with these uncomfortable feelings, Dylan goes to clubs and picks up men for anonymous sex where he can have emotionless sex.

During these emotionless encounters, he feels protected from repeating the humiliation he felt as a child when his father shamed him for having emotions.  At the same time, Dylan also experiences the thrill of being desired by many people.

According to Dr. Perel, these early experiences also affect what becomes sexually exciting to you as an adult.  More about this in my next article: What is Your Erotic Blueprint? Part 2.

Getting Help in Therapy
Sexual problems are often related to unresolved traumatic childhood experiences.

A skilled psychotherapist who is knowledgeable about trauma and erotic blueprints can help you to understand and overcome these problems (see my articles: What is a Trauma Therapist? and What is Sex Therapy?).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help in therapy.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT Somatic Experiencing therapist and Sex Therapy.

I work with individuals 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.