(TRIGGER WARNING - This article discusses themes of sexual trauma)
Debunking sexual shame and taking steps towards sexual healing with Lisa Welsh.
Over lockdown, Smile Makers had the pleasure to run an online workshop with sexual healing coach Lisa Welsh. Lisa has worked in this field for many years and has helped her clients understand their trauma and build compassion with themselves. Her work focuses on shame and how intertwined it is with our traumas. Lisa recounts her experiences with sexuality from a young age. Shame played a huge part in her sexual journey and fed into a lack of boundaries. She recounts,
“My body was a currency”.
A relatable experience for many women growing up in a hyper-sexualised and patriarchal society. Lisa’s trauma left her feeling ashamed for many years and prevented her from feeling sexual pleasure the way she wanted to feel it - the way vulva owners are capable of feeling it, until she took the steps to liberate herself through sexual healing. She became a master at it and today works to liberate many women like her that have suffered early trauma and experience immense guilt and shame because of it.
Lisa focuses on five main mantras when discussing trauma with her clients.
- You are not broken.
- You are perfect at your core.
- You have created barriers to protect that perfection.
- You do not need to be fixed or altered.
- These barriers are preventing you from experiencing the fullness of life and of pleasure that you are worthy of.
These empowering and validating words remind us that our barriers have been put in place as a safety mechanism, yet we are shamed for them. It’s important to work with those barriers, instead of fighting them. Lisa talks about two healing strands she aims for with her clients, feeling safe and feeling strong. This harmony can allow us to feel safe enough to be vulnerable while strong enough to respect our boundaries and expand our healing journey.
What Exactly Is Trauma, And How Does Shame Feed into It?
A trauma is often a separation of a part of us, a loss of feeling. We often try to condemn our trauma; we carry guilt from it and we don’t want to accept that part of us. As Lisa says, “the more things you have locked in boxes, the less free you can become”. The goal is to incorporate all the parts of ourselves, even the parts we feel ashamed of, because we must remember that at our core we are perfect. Lisa explains how we can feel pelvic trauma as well as psychological trauma. This could take the form of sexual abuse and sexual debuts, but also a medical procedure, pregnancy, period pain, PCOS, endometriosis, STIs etc..
We have been conditioned from a young age to act and look a certain way in order to seem attractive to society’s male gaze. We are taught to be ashamed of our natural sexual behaviours, like masturbation or fantasies – especially for women. These feed into a rhetoric of sexual shame which can follow us into our adult life and seriously harm the way we navigate sexuality.
Yet, sexual shame is not our natural state, shame is a learnt behaviour. Lisa continues to explain that sexual shame
“is a clever way of (...) keeping us fixated on the things we should change and avoiding fulfilling our ambitions and liberate other women around us”.
There is a way to get out of this paradigm and Lisa explains that this is through self-love. “Self-love is tough love” (more that running a bubble bath) but it can allow us to overcome trauma.
Lisa’s Five Stages of Sexual Healing
1. Identify the root issue on a superficial level.
Where is the trauma and shame coming from, without digging too deeply? You could write a timeline of your sexual journey with the core idea to understand where the shame started. Forgive yourself for it. Repeat “I do not feel bad for this”.
2. Notice the sensations (from the heart) that come up
Feel where the shame is in your body. Is it a physical feeling? Give yourself love and compassion when you feel shame coming up. Knowing what shame feels like, you can notice what triggers it and work through those emotions.
3. Notice the feelings (from the mind) that come up
When you feel shame. Allow yourself to feel them and give yourself the love you might have neglected in the past. Welcome any emotions that come up and be mindful of your inner dialogue.
4. Connect your body to your sexuality.
This could look like conscious masturbating (i.e looking in a mirror at all places of ourselves). Become your own most caring and tender lover before you let anyone else in. Notice the feelings and emotions that arise when masturbating - perhaps it’s rage or grief. Let them come up, every part of your body needs to accepted.
5. Sexual expression with a partner.
It takes a very long time to feel strong enough to set boundaries. Women’s boundaries are disrespected everyday - such as not being ready for penetration, not asking for a foreplay, not stopping when sex become uncomfortable, faking orgasms etc... “Your body needs to know that you’ve got its back”.
Lisa continued the workshop by also giving five powerful tools that can support your sexual healing journey. They include, a body scan meditation, shaking the body, conscious masturbation, yoni eggs to build connection with the pelvic floor and journaling These are short acts of self-love survivors can do to progress in healing. These tools can help us when we are triggered or anxious, although, Lisa reminds us that other people are on their own healing journey and will project their pain onto those around them. We can also try to hold space in a non-judgmental way for those who want to heal but are not sure how to explore that route.
Lisa closed the workshop with a very powerful guided meditation. Take some time to listen below or add to your watchlist on YouTube!
Article written by Julia Spence"