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How was I to deal with these thoughts and feelings I could not condemn or “reason” away with science? (Thursday, July 23rd, 2020)

1. Simply Being Aware of Thoughts, Feelings, and Desires

Have you ever asked yourself (weird as this question may seem to some of you) “do I REALLY think what I THINK I think?

Haha. By the way– does that make any sense to you?  

More concretely (or at least as sort of concrete as one can be when discussing something as abstract as psychological processes, cognition)… for example… I THINK that I think I want to have romantic and sexual relationships with more than one woman.

In other words…I claim to myself to FEEL a specific DESIRE. I believe I’ve IDENTIFIED a desire “WITHIN” me.  

Okay. Well, I desire a lot of things. Most of us do, right? We often tend to be like…a library of desires? A zoo of desires? An aquarium of desires? Maybe not so much the library analogy. Haha.

Like a zoo or aquarium in the sense that the plethora of desires exist within us and have in some cases the capacity to try and roam free… but for the designed entrapment…or caging, or… (see, I don’t want to be utterly cynical about zoos and aquariums. On the one hand they are not living in “the wild” 1)see how well this analogy might play out? where many of their kind do… say, the lion, the tiger, the shark, et cetera. Moreover, to the extent that, if left to the motions of their wills, they would indeed “roam free” beyond the hypothetical zoo/aquarium… is that “unkind?” Unethical? 2)I’m nearly vegan on moral/ethical grounds. I don’t think it’s right to kill animals and eat them. I bring that context up hoping by “unkind” you don’t suppose I’m trying to be “cute.” An aquarium or zoo animal is not necessarily beckoning to be “given” a “home.” Without consciously “keeping” them in these “homes” how would they move about?).

But for the conscious containing of a consciously noted, acknowledged desire, it may very well compel us to do this or that. You would agree that I am describing the inner-experience in a relatable way? (I’m not “ignoring” the research and science…I just haven’t gotten to the regions of thought where they reside and make more of what I’m saying right now.)

So, one notes a desire. Okay. What does one then MAKE of that desire? What does one THINK about it? Example: Desireà I want coffee. –à well…I’ve already had two cups this morning and I can recall from many past experiences that I am sensitive to caffeine.-à Desire may not enter beyond this place in consciousness.

Desire: I want to punch that son of a __*****__  X.   I should not because I don’t have the right.

Desire: I want to eat. It’s been six hours and one needs food to sustain one’s life. Naturally I should eat.

My point is that many desires are simple enough. Some of a slightly higher order, like what one wants to read (and don’t get me started on that because it’s often NOT so “simple” for me to determine what to read next when there are so many competing books I want to read…but…it is not quite the moral dilemma one might believe to find one’s self in when contemplating prospective sex acts), and some desires are of a slightly lower order, like I want to wash my hands after throwing out the garbage in the dumpster.   

At what juncture, cross-road, nexus (played with thesaurus) do desires start to “mess with our heads?” What occurs within consciousness that results in someone asking one’s self—do I REALLY even feel that? Or think that? Want that? Et cetera.

2. Passing thoughts as opposed to those that we keep because they resonate with us

We return, then, to the example of the alleged desire to engage in multiple romantic/sexual relations. And let us add to the example that our hypothetical person has identified three people she or he would love to make love to. Or…has identified three people that turn him or her on. Get the blood flowing down below. Get’s the fantasies surging. Makes one horny. And so on. FIRST OF ALL, I hope it is obvious that just because one wants to have sex with a given person, in of itself, doesn’t mean we will, must, can, et cetera. The soul of that other person…it’s an entirely separate dimension of psychology, biology, neurology, spirituality, ethics, et cetera. Next order of business: true, we are all different; some people are homosexual, bisexual, asexual, heterosexual (and I’ll eventually get deeper into the orientation concept…it was my plan to start with it, but I believe heavily in context)—even so…even with a given orientation (which for some may be on a spectrum)…sometimes thoughts simply occur. Maybe it isn’t the case for everyone but I have had thoughts that utterly contradict my soul, convictions, leanings. Back in my sophomore year of college, having smoked a lot of pot, I entertained “gay thoughts.” I remember how weird it was…imagining another male nude or sexual…well…I’ll go even further back.

For whatever reason I always thought Barry Gibb was a fine looking lad. That’s when I was a teenager. Not just in a dry, detached sense of recognizing him to match what society suggests the average woman might find attractive. He just had, in my view, a certain embodiment of whatever it was “masculinity” meant to me at the time. I should be clear…the feeling was actually not “sexual.” It was more so aesthetic. Why could not a heterosexual man have a notion in his mind of what he believes “male beauty” or … what he’d like to look like, at a given time, if he could recreate his features. Heterosexual women seem to be, in our culture, more comfortable with this. I hear heterosexual women say, all the time, “she’s soooo pretty!” “She’s beautiful” “she has a great body.” Rarely have I heard straight lads talk in such a manner. Jack Kerouac, who was maybe bisexual though, or had mild bisexual leanings (if one reads his most intimate poetry he actually seems predominately heterosexual. If anything, his passion for women causes him a slight Catholic guilt.). Jack Kerouac would remark here and there of a man’s handsomeness if I recall. The only other instance I can recall of finding a male to have an appearance that seemed to possess some power to it: Alex Band, from “The Calling.” (Do you remember them?!?)

If I could have looked like any guy I would have wanted to look like him. He had, in my processing of his appearance, the most fascinating mix of that slight “ruggedness” that perhaps a number of us associate with a conventional “masculinity” and yet he also possessed a certain… “boyishness.” He didn’t look like…stoical…like say, former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Or… Arnold Schwarzenegger? Denzel Washington. The Notorious B.I.G. He had…what I perceived then to be what most women wanted in a man…a mix of hardness and softness, stoic yet vulnerable, not a doormat but not a jerk. I thought…one could not dismiss this happenstance appearance of a man.

But I didn’t feel any sexual reaction. And the same during my sophomore year. The imagery of a homosexual act might occur within my mind but I didn’t “like” it… I don’t mean to suggest it made me feel bigoted, by the way. As my grandmother used to say: “different strokes for different folks.”

3. To make it even more complicated: what do we think and feel about what we THINK that we think and feel?

I’m mentioning this because I want establish as clearly as I can this frame of mind where one can have a wide variety of thoughts and feelings without supposing that this feeling or that thought defines or even hints at a pure or deep desire. Moreover, even before we get into that part of thought process that consists of moral/ethical evaluation, contemplation, or simply, should I or should I not, there’s that even more fundamental question of what one thinks and feels about what one thinks and feels. (Isn’t it so weird how we possess the capacity to do that?)

An entirely different but not unrelated example: have you ever thought about killing yourself? Have you ever thought you might even want to? I’ve been there and done that but in the “grand scheme of things” I cannot say I “wanted” to. The… “feeling” was tepid but intense enough to be distressing, actually. But tepid.

What about when we feel anger. We say something we regret in the heat of the moment. Or we hold an irrational and unfair grudge. To the extent that a feeling can be “true” to one’s self, how much so do we think that the anger is either… a defining aspect or something we hold on to as a “thread of identity” or…like a key lifestyle interest?

Tell me…is any of this making sense to you? Resonating with you?

In the context of, say, a consciously and desired monogamous relationship, a large number of people will admit to some degree of lust, attraction, and fantasies of others. And for many, such thoughts and feelings are easily dismissed as nothing more than a passing cloud… as opposed to a physical element of one’s sky-ness… to use some figurative imagery here. (And it’s not mine, by the way. Andy Puddicomb of the HeadSpace app uses this analogy when discussing meditation, thought noting…)

But a question that struck me very intensely… since I was at least 19… what is one to make of the experience of those passing clouds of non-monogamous desire…attraction, lust, falling in love? Even here, I am willing to imagine for a number of people the intensity is just intensity. Not something to pursue. For some people, there is no desire to chase that subordinate desire.

What, then, might it mean if you WANT to pursue that desire?

For me, the settled upon belief in response to that exact experience was that there was clearly something WRONG with me. I was a pervert. I was a wannabe fuckboy man-whore. A slut. Immoral. Sick. Mean. Unfaithful. Disloyal. Psychologically not put together. I just couldn’t control my thoughts and my BAD feelings.

4. A notion of sexual paradise that I felt very ashamed of

One of the most intense examples I recall is when I heard my neighbors having sex. Loudly and with such vehemence that I could not help but think or want to think that it was very much so on purpose. The things I heard that woman yell…I found it so erotic and so hot that I felt redefined! The nature of my personal and private fantasies changed. The things she moaned and the tone in which she moaned those fiery hot words— “make my fucking cunt cum, make my fucking cunt cum”—I found her… or my idea of her… so almost painfully THRILLING. I felt as though she had taken me out of my own mind. And as if she’d put a spell on me, as if she made her slave, I masturbated to the sound of her and I wanted to believe she knew. (How could she have been so loud as to not know she could be heard? That would be either illogical or…or she just didn’t care or think about it… of course. But in my mind, in my wishes, in my fantasy, she knew very well that she was inciting me.

And she RULED my fantasies this way for numerous several months and it so enraptured and so shook my concepts of sexuality, in such a way that it felt, actually, eerily, uncannily too aligned with my fantasies. That is to say, maybe I made the whole thing up in my mind, projecting on to this nice lady my own wildest fantasies, kept locked inside of me for many, many years.

She was something more than or other than “hot.” I remember the first time I saw her. She was in short white pajama shorts. From then on I’d felt sexually “hot and bothered” by her. But when I thought I heard her fucking and moaning and when I thought she wanted me to hear and enjoy…when I went so far as to wish she would find some way to end up outside at the same time I was… and in her own brilliant way (because I am not smooth and I don’t know anything about this sort of seduction) find a subtle excuse to lead us both to her place or mind and some other subtle excuse to find our way into fucking…

I questioned my sanity. Afterall, this was around the time I had quit drinking “cold turkey” and the initial withdrawal was so brutal that it wouldn’t have been beyond reason if I experienced auditory hallucinations. The best case scenario was that she was playing with me…a crazy sexual game (torturing me, by the way, because never talking to me); the worst case scenario was that I was a little fucking crazy and not handling my withdrawal well.

And what was I going to do about it? I didn’t have the means to see a therapist at the time. I was not going to explain to my wife in vivid details the elaborate extent of this experience.

Because that was yet a whole other LAYER.

G

U

I

L

T

!

Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt. Not only might I have been insane. But I was unfaithful to my wife. And though I felt guilty through the entire ordeal how could I put an end to something so seemingly beautiful?

 I felt psychologically tortured. Miserable in many ways. Had I discovered about myself that I had latent, suppressed desires to swing? Was I helplessly doomed to non-monogamy? This was probably the first time I’d thought so intensely about the theoretical ethics/morality of monogamy and non-monogamy since I’d written a philosophy paper on the topic back in 2008 (so this all occurred…winter of 2018—January-ish… into some of the spring).  So…not in roughly a decade.

Eventually this all did subside and in fact I may never know what might have been real and what might have been the product of so palpable an imagination that I convinced myself it was really happening.

My thoughts on the topic didn’t disappear but at least cooled down.

A year later they emerged again.

5. What the hell was WRONG with me? It would have been one thing if this was all about SEX but clearly this was more complicated than that because this woman gives me chills

To protect the identity of the woman I will remain quite ambiguous. I mean, I won’t say where I met her, who she was, or anything specific about her personality.

Here is what I will tell you: unlike the year prior, when I first saw this woman, it was not so greatly concentrated on sexual feeling. And this disturbed me more than if it had been! It’s one thing to have even wild sexual fantasies. Whatever the ethics might or might not have been, I was well aware that people engaged in a wide variety of consensual sexual acts that may never be for me. If I felt only sexual about this woman I met more recently I could have simply blamed my dirty, dirty, naughty mind.

But I thought she was so beautiful. I wish I could describe in more detail. What can I say? She presented herself, in my interpretation, anyway, with the most elaborate mix of graceful elegance (as if she might be the type who earned enough income to spend lavishly on clothes—so ALMOST with a slight aristocratic feel or fanciness) and… a flare of “New Age” ? A mix of somewhat reserved and yet helplessly sexy. Not prudish. Not uptight. Not so easy either. High standards. Appreciates “looks” but requires more than anything else a very intellectual connection.

I felt uncomfortable around her because I felt a sort of crush on her. If only it had been mere titillation. No. What I felt…they were CHILLS. As Bob Dylan put it:

“she looked at him and he felt a spark

Tingle to his bones”

I wanted to grow more acquainted but I knew I could not because my intuition informed me—despite being deeply in love with some one I will forever remain in love with—I could fall in love with this woman too. I had sexual fantasies but not…how do I put it…it felt romantic is what I mean. When I imagined her I imagined a mix of raw fucking and sweet kissing. I felt…an inexplicable CARE for her. I wanted to kiss her more than I wanted to sleep with her. I wanted to know her and kiss her in specifically that context.

I could barely compose myself around her. Or maybe I didn’t compose myself. Maybe she saw me gaze at her. And I regret that because I would never have wanted to cause her any discomfort. But I thought she was just that exceptionally gorgeous. Not superficially, either. HER SOUL struck me as gorgeous. Her clothes, to me, they were the abstract painting of her strongest thoughts and feelings and I was taken by her in a most holistic fashion.

What was wrong with me? It would not make sense to feel this way? Temptations to cheat…when you’re so clearly in love…I thought that was mostly just sexual.

I tried to get her out of my mind and eventually managed to. Nonetheless, a problem still lingered. It was blatantly clear to me that either I was cursed because of my sex freak father (the sex addict gene? Extreme insecurity) to have compulsive infatuations with women and a very bad monogamous lover or… might I be polyamorous?

By this point in my life I came to the opinion that polyamory was something I could not relate to but did not think was immoral. The “topic” started interesting me in an intellectual way. As if I were a sexologist, I wanted to learn more about this polyamory thing. In so doing, I believed maybe it would help me shed my unfaithful and far too sexual, far too women-obsessed mind.

6. Let us dare ourselves to explore what the science says and meditate on it…

You see, I had me an actual hypothesis. I would read up as much as I could on the topic, and I would discover that polyamorous people deep down were miserable masochists constantly lying to themselves about how unhappy they were. Couldn’t I see it in their faces?

The empirical evidence, despite my biased hope, suggested the opposite. And this took me from merely supposing I had a psychological problem to a terrifying and unpleasant moral dilemma. How was I to deal with these thoughts and feelings I could not condemn or “reason” away?

References   [ + ]

1. see how well this analogy might play out?
2. I’m nearly vegan on moral/ethical grounds. I don’t think it’s right to kill animals and eat them. I bring that context up hoping by “unkind” you don’t suppose I’m trying to be “cute.”

By Sean O'Connor

Hi, I'm Sean O'Connor, a poet and writer pursuing my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at William Paterson University, where I also work as a learning generalist and where I received my BA in Liberal Studies.

Currently. I also work as a writing tutor at Raritan Valley Community College and Mercer County Community College.

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