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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Overcoming Ambivalence

I'm continuing to focus on the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism in this article, based on the book, The Erotic Mind by Dr. Jack Morin, sex therapist and researcher (see my article: What is Eroticism?).

Also see my articles:

Searching For Power

A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Overcoming Ambivalence

The Four Cornerstones of Eroticism
First, to recap:  As I mentioned in my first article on this topic, Dr. Morin identifies the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism as follows:
Why is Overcoming Ambivalence a Cornerstone of Eroticism?
With regard to eroticism, ambivalence includes: 
  • Wanting and Not Wanting
  • Liking and Not Liking
  • Being Attracted To and Being Repulsed
At first glance, ambivalence probably doesn't come to your mind as being associated with eroticism, but let's take a closer look at how overcoming ambivalence can intensify eroticism.

From Ambivalence to Sexual Passion
According to Dr. Morin, overcoming ambivalence is an internal form of the Erotic Equation because it contains both attraction and obstacles, which lead to sexual excitement, within the same person.

Ambivalence by itself isn't a sexual turn on.  The sexual turn on is the overcoming of ambivalence as ambivalence transforms into sexual desire when reluctance gives way to passion.

Ambivalent Sexual Attractions
  • Clinical Vignette: JudyOne night when Judy went out with her friends for drinks, she met Lenny, who came onto her with a pickup line that disgusted her.  She hated when men came onto her in this way, and her initial inclination was to turn away from him.  At the same time she felt repulsed by him, she couldn't help noticing his sexual magnetism (being attracted towards and being repulsed) .  A part of her wanted to walk away, but another part of her was sexually attracted to him (liking and not liking).  The more she wanted to resist him, the more she felt sexually drawn to him.  As they continued to talk, she felt her initial reluctance to talk to him giving way as she noticed that, despite his pickup line, he was also a little shy. She found his shyness appealing, so when he asked, she gave him her phone number (the overcoming of ambivalence). 
  • Clinical Vignette: Joe: When Joe met Betty, he was aware that she was in a non-monogamous relationship with Tina and her relationship with Tina was her primary relationship. At first, he didn't mind that he and Betty weren't primary.  But as time went on and his romantic and sexual feelings for Betty developed, he found it increasingly difficult to know that Betty prioritized her relationship with Tina.  Seeing Betty once a week wasn't enough for him--he wanted more.  After he spoke to Betty about it, he was disappointed that she didn't want to change the nature of her relationship with him.  This made him so angry and hurt that when he wasn't with her, he thought about ending the relationship.  But when they saw each other again, they were both so excited and the sex was so passionate that all thoughts of ending the relationship dissolved--until he began missing her again a few days later.  Then, his anger and hurt would resurface (wanting and not wanting).  He remained caught on this emotional roller coaster where he hoped that, eventually, Betty would choose to be with him exclusively--even though, when he could be objective about it, he knew this probably wasn't going to happen.  At times, he would break it off with Betty, but he would soon regret it and beg her to take him back (liking and not liking) Also, see my article: The Heartbreak of the On Again, Off Again Relationship.
    • Overcoming of Ambivalence for Joe: Joe's ambivalence would be temporarily assuaged when he and Betty reconnected after being apart.  At that point, the buildup of anger and hurt actually added to his passion for her (more about how certain emotions, like anger, increase eroticism in a future article). Because he continued to want more from Betty, Joe's ambivalence was only temporarily overcome when they saw each other again.
  • The Character Diane Chambers on the TV program, "Cheers:" Here's another example of ambivalence transforming into sexual desire:  If you watched the TV program, "Cheers," you're probably familiar with the characters, Diane Chambers and Sam Malone. You might remember that Diane had highly ambivalent feelings for Sam, especially in the beginning.  She considered herself to be a feminist and an intellectual so, initially, she looked down on Sam.  But Sam was also very good looking, which drew Diane to him. He was also a womanizer, which she really disliked.  Over time, despite her initial repulsion, she accepted her sexual attraction to him (liking and not liking, wanting and not wanting and being attracted to and being repulsed).  Similar to the first vignette, the more she tried to resist him, the more she was drawn to him.  Over time, she came to see that, despite the aspects of him she found unappealing, she also experienced him as irresistible.  As a result, she eventually got romantically and sexually involved with him (i.e, she overcame her ambivalence).
    • Overcoming Ambivalence for Diane:  Although Diane overcame her initial ambivalence for Sam, they had a stormy relationship. The storminess of their relationship was due, in part, to both of them having ambivalent feelings for each other, which made their relationship both passionate and unstable. 
In the examples above, the ambivalence transforms, even if it's just temporarily, from negative feelings to sexual attraction.  Note how attraction and obstacles, which are part of Dr. Morin's Erotic Equation, are operative in these examples.

How Prevalent Are the Four Cornerstones in Peak Sexual Experiences?
According to Dr. Morin, none of the cornerstones are required for two people to experience sexual arousal for each other.

A strong attraction and sensual feelings are often enough for two people to be sexually turned on to each other (see my articles: Discovering Your Peak Sexual ExperiencesReviving Your Sex Life By Exploring Your Peak Sexual Experiences - Part 1 and Part 2).

However, Dr. Morin indicates he discovered in his research that most participants in his study had at least one cornerstone as part of their memories of peak sexual experiences.  

Forty percent of the participants mentioned they experienced two or more cornerstones as part of their peak sexual experiences.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you find you're struggling with an unresolved problem, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional.

The decision to seek help in therapy can be challenging, but it's often the first step to living a more fulfilling life.

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

I am a sex positive therapist who works 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.