04/28/2014 10:49 am ET Updated Jun 24, 2014

Psychology of Sex -- Sensuality & Eroticism 2

We focused last week on the difference between sensuality and eroticism, as well as a healthy place for each. Now we turn to the psychology of sex to explore how this healthy sensuality and eroticism can be encouraged or can go awry.

Psychological exploration, especially throughout the last hundred years since Freud, has increasingly demonstrated the importance of early familial relationships to the health of later relationships. This includes sexual relationships.

Although an infant is not sexual in the same way that a child who recognizes their gender is sexual or the way that an adolescent having undergone puberty is sexual, an infant still has a sensual excitability that can be considered an early sexuality or precursor to sexuality. How a young human's early sensual excitability is related to, first by it's mother and then by it's father, plays is a crucial role in their relationship to their later sexuality. Appropriate acknowledgment and celebration of a child's sensual self, as opposed to rejection or dismissal or inappropriate invasion, lays the foundation for a healthy relationship to one's body, sensuality, and later developing sexuality.

Biologically the purpose of sexuality is procreation. Experientially the purpose of sexuality is closeness, pleasure and fusion with the other. Early appropriate experiences of positivity and celebration of one sensual self lay a healthy foundation for these. Later as the child begins to become gender identified, positive and appropriate relations with the opposite sex parent lay a further foundation for more polarized sexual relations with potential partners as the child enters adolescence and adulthood.

As the child's mind develops, becoming more mental, and hence erotic in potential, a further pleasure of sexual contact becomes the ability to identify with the partner of the opposite sex and experience their pleasure. From this human mental ability to identify with others, every human being has a certain erotic or mental bisexuality, at least as a potential.

From an erotic or mental perspective, sexual pleasure also always involves an aspect of transgression. Kernberg, perhaps the world's most prominent psychoanalyst, elaborates these transgressions as a transcendence of Oedipal prohibitions, transgression of the desired sexual object, and a transgression of one's own self boundaries.

All of these promote and allow for the pleasure of fusion with the other. Oedipal relations are relations with the opposite sex parent that have a polarized "sexual" flavor. This template is later projected onto future romantic partners, but each person has to deal with the underlying fact that the template was originally based in relation to a parent. Transgressing Oedipal prohibitions means either repressing the fact that this template was originally based on a parental relationship or, in a more healthy version, abandoning the Oedipal aspect of the template altogether, in which case it simply becomes a precursor to learning how to relate to the opposite sex. Because we use a primarily spiritual approach with the goal of dissolving self-other templates, simply turning them into skills, our approach is very different from the general psychological approach, including Kernberg's, where repression is considered the norm.

Transgressing the boundaries of the other or the boundaries of oneself simply translates as overcoming one's own and the others conditioning, or relationship blueprint, for the purpose of union. This can, of course, be done seductively and appropriately or inappropriately. If there was intense aggression in the original parental relationships with the child, it's much more likely that aggression will dominate over love in this "transgressing" of boundaries. This is contrasted with an appropriate strength and assertiveness in overcoming one's own fears and one's partner's fears in relation to union and sexual fusion. Again, we take the approach of dissolving the boundaries of the self other template as preferable to "transgressions" is preferable. In other words, the relationship blueprint with all of it's past identifications, does not dominate, but has evolved to a skill set. Our identity resides in our presence vs. a mental representation.

If aggression or neglect dominate in early mother child relationships and even later father child relationships these qualities can characterize later self-other relationships including romantic/sexual relationships. For example, sexual inhibition is common if the opposite sex parent is discouraging of the child's sexuality, or if either parent is punitive of that child's sexuality. Castration anxiety is an example of this where the child feels so fearful of the polarized relationship with the opposite sex parent that they inhibit all or most sexual feeling. The Oedipal blueprint is distorted and never transcended.

The variations and complexities are endless. The point is that early mother infant and later interactions with both parents relative to the child's sensuality, gender and later sexuality are imperative in later healthy sexual functioning. Ideally the pre-Oedipal and Oedipal relationship blueprints develop in a healthy, appropriate manner and are later transcended, by losing their historical significance. In which case they simply become precursors to later romantic and sexual skills. From there further romantic and sexual skills can be developed, extended orgasm for example.