Creating a Safe Container
The sexual healing session is the container in which the client’s fears and vulnerabilities are revealed, triggered, and worked with so that these release their hold on the client’s ability to feel “whole” and empowered. Fears range in a broad spectrum, which can include: fears of inadequacy and failure, naïveté and poor performance, not being able to feel, fearing connection and touch, distrust, feeling detached or fragmented—as well as having an inability for intimacy or being present with what is happening within them and with their lover during sex.
For many clients their healing involves taking back their power and sense of wholeness after sexual abuse, assault, and molestation experiences. Initial sessions are often about releasing anger, emotional pain, and shame which makes room for empowered embodiment of their sensual energy.
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Illustrating the confusion, crossed boundaries, and hazard clients can be subjected to is this experience that was publicly shared with consent:
“I was touched in a sexual and inappropriate way by a so-called healer and leader in our community whose music I love. First he played his didgeridoo on my yoni without asking me. Then he had me on the table for Reiki, he did some Reiki stuff, and he placed my hand on my yoni area and then he placed his larger hand on top of mine. I told him that I felt uncomfortable with that and that it was too sexual a touch for my healing session. He told me I was projecting my unhealed sexual wounding on him and I was overreacting and that he was doing healing work on me. We ended up agreeing to disagree and the rest of the session was very awkward. He also did an astrology reading for me beforehand and all he could talk about was my powerful sexual energy that I need to use and heal to empower myself…”
Female clients, friends, and colleagues have expressed to me personally, and in public forums, that they are feeling assaulted by men claiming to be doing sexual healing. These violations often seem to stem from the healing facilitator not making sure the client is fully informed of what type of treatment will take place in the session and what that treatment involves—as well as not having clear consent to proceed.
This may seem to be obvious, but sexual healers need to have consent from the healing client to interact, ignite and run sexual energy as well as for intimate touch—especially the areas of the breasts, buttocks, and genitals. Sexual healers need to maintain this consent formally known as informed consent every step of the way—particularly with a new client or one who is new to sexual healing.
Getting consent is a demonstration of consideration and respect and should be sought in any circumstance where a healer interacts with a client physically or even energetically. Additionally, those who are adept at working with subtle energies can cause confusion and harm if they don’t get consent before working with a client’s energy or aura. Sexual healers especially, must be aware of their energy level and its emanation and how it is interacting with the client—for example, energy can be sent from the energy center of the heart or brow (3rd eye) or from the sex centers. The difference in the quality and character emanating from different Chakras has an effect on the client, and if there is an ulterior interaction happening, it can create confusion or possibly subconsciously cause harm for the client. For sexual energy to be beneficially utilized in a sexual healing session and not harm the client, it must be consciously and consensually engaged and activated.
Clients may not understand what is happening to them when their sexual energy is ignited, or when a sexual healer is running sexual energy—which can be very confusing and potentially cause emotional trauma, psychological fragmentation, and/or dissociation. During a session a conscientious sexual healer will seek and affirm consent while presencing important shifts in treatment to help a client feel empowered, collaborative, and at ease.
The reason for this pervasive consent standard is that the healing facilitator is responsible for maintaining therapeutic boundaries and is usually way more comfortable with the presence of activated sexual energy in a healing environment than the client is. A therapeutic container requires that you both be clear about your roles in the healing alliance and what is occurring during the healing session. Only by clear, informed consent with expressed consent to proceed is a client equitably represented in the healing alliance. Without this clearly expressed consent, to continue to touch or run energy with your client would constitute assault or abuse.
It’s also possible for a healing facilitator to slip into enacting patterns of personal intimacy, or unconscious sex rituals—losing perspective as guide and witness. In so doing, the healer drops into participating in the session on a personal level that surreptitiously attempts to satisfy emotional-sexual desires or fantasies. If this loss of objectivity and right-relationship happens, it leaves the client vulnerable to being emotionally and sexually assaulted.
Frequent check-ins to find out the client’s emotional condition and to get consent to proceed will help to presence what is happening at every step of the way. Doing so will provide an opportunity for both the healing facilitator and the client to understand, process and integrate what is happening and be able to proceed with clear consent. For the healing facilitator, it provides an opportunity to know how clear of a healing channel he/she is being and release whatever might otherwise encumber the session. For the client, consent provides the opportunity to consider and affirm that she is a “yes” to the experience.
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Making “Tantra” and Sexual Healing Workshops Safe
There are many Tantra training schools and workshops offering participants enhanced understanding and experience with sexual energy. In these workshops the principles of sexual healing are often part of the program since clearing blocks to personal sexual expression is part of sexual liberation and autonomy. However, the unintended result has been to encourage people to become healers for each other without much in-depth training. The information gained in Tantra workshops and trainings is good for an individual to begin his/her personal process of self-discovery and awareness, but is often lacking in comprehensiveness to be competently utilized to help other people with healing sexual trauma and wounds. Tantrikas do well to get more comprehensive training and take the time necessary to process and understand their own issues with help from qualified counselors and therapists before attempting to be a sexual healer for another person.
In most cases, unintentional harm results from not knowing what to do or not conceiving the possibility of harm happening; such as with the example of the well-meaning goddess retreat that failed to realize the impact the sequence of deep shadow work, Tantra, and sexual healing modules would have on the attendees. By the fifth day of seven, three women had to leave; one went to the hospital seeking medical care for her anxiety, another sought help from a counselor and the third woman got help from her family—who threatened to sue. None of the volunteers staffing the event were trained to respond to emotional shock or fragmentation and no one had considered the emotional triggers that might fire off with virtually no integration time built into the schedule and no buddy safety net for the early warning of problems and acute emotional support.
Tantra and sexual healing workshops provide an additional exposure to possible emotional and psychological harm of participants if appropriate precautions and preparations are not made. These types of workshops often expose participants to shadow aspects of their psyche and emotional/psychological wounds. When the workshop curriculum includes invasive, internal work (penetration of the vagina or anus—i.e. internal pelvic release, female ejaculation, and prostate work or other pelvic integration procedures) without adequate preparation, participants are likely to experience the triggering of psychological/emotional wounds. Leading unprepared participants into experiences that can cause them to become overwhelmed, fragmented, and/or experience emotional/psychological shock is reckless, irresponsible, and potentially harmful to the participants.
The sequence of workshop modules and their emotional weightiness contributes to a participant’s ability to absorb and integrate the material being presented and the experiences provided. Workshop facilitators are responsible for the wellbeing and safety of their workshop participants. It is unethical and irresponsible to disregard psychological and emotional vulnerability that workshop participants are exposed to.
To create a safe and harmless workshop experience, some basic precautions will go a long way to ensure participants are adequately protected:
- Adequate staffing of trained assistants familiar with helping people process and integrate difficult emotions and triggered wounds.
- Facilitator and assistants trained in spotting signs of, and know how to handle, acute stress, anxiety, psychological trauma, fragmentation—shock and acute stress response.
- Allow adequate time during the workshop for processing and integration with support.
- Especially when invasive techniques are being taught (vaginal, anal)
- Awareness and planning for the psychological impact of the workshop and the impact that the sequence of workshop modules is likely to produce.
- Due consideration for emotional and energetic safety (from voyeur – leech energy) while vulnerable when doing the exercises or training during the workshop.
- Application screening with questions regarding:
- Are you under the care of a physician or therapist and on any psychiatric medications?
- Who/what is your backup safety net system should you need additional support?
- Use of “buddy system” during event, with frequent check-ins.
Signs of acute stress, anxiety, and psychological shock can include any of the following:
- A subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness.
- A reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g., “being in a daze”).
- Dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma).
- Persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic occurrence via: recurrent images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or a sense of reliving the experience; or distress on exposure to reminders of the traumatic event.
- Anger, irritability, mood swings.
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating.
- Feeling disconnected or numb.
- Feeling Overwhelmed or fragmented.
- Tension, cramping, tingling, “pins and needles” feeling, shortness of breath, anxiety, nervousness, sense of doom.
A survivor of sexual abuse or trauma has a daunting journey to undertake to heal and reach wholeness again. It can be challenging and requires determination and persistence but returns great rewards when accomplished. Despite the many challenges facing sexual healing survivors there is hope. Capable, understanding, and safe sexual healers are ready to help you to process and release your wounds and return to a sense of safety and wellbeing, autonomy, and empowerment. It takes great courage and fortitude to take on, and complete, your healing process—and with qualified healing facilitators you can do it!