Love your body; just say no to cultural conditioning

Love your body; just say no to cultural conditioning

      By Lisa Meuser     I came across this article today and it got me thinking about the work I’ve done with clients and myself regarding body images- how we see our own body as well as other bodies. In the article, the author asks the question: “Does geography influence the body types we idealize and are attracted to?” The author goes on to talk about the research done, and the results.  First, the research: “There’s a lot written about the effects of culture and media on the bodily standards we uphold. But the International Body Project, a survey of 7,434 people worldwide, aimed to investigate whether there were more base-level factors motivating our ideal body types, too.”  Then the results: 
The researchers found that places with low socioeconomic status tended to value heavier female body types, while places with high socioeconomic status tended to favor thinner bodies—possibly because body fat acts as an indicator of status when resources are scarce. And the effect of media shouldn’t be underestimated: “Our results show that body dissatisfaction and desire for thinness is commonplace in high-SES (socioeconomic status) settings across world regions, highlighting the need for international attention to this problem,” the researchers write. I happened to be reading something[1] that further suggests that geography influences how we see our body, but contradicts the above study. In studying an Amazonian jungle tribe, Daniel Everett learned that those with body fat were viewed as lazy and untrustworthy (“fat means corruption”), because hard work and a strict work ethic were very much a part of their cultural norms. So even though there was a low socioeconomic status, they valued thinner body types, but for different reasons. There are many variables that lead people to consider certain bodies as attractive, and others as unattractive, but it seems clear: geography and the cultural norms of the area are directly linked to body image. The ideas related to body image are passed down generationally, and literally become part of the culture and are taken as “truth”. If I look to my own familial norms and beliefs, as well as the culture I associate myself with, I notice that how I view my own body (as well as other bodies) is tainted with biases and viewpoints expressed by my parents, relatives and the culture I most connect with. Here comes the value of inquiry: if not examined, those biases will continue to hold “true”, and I will judge myself and others accordingly. Body image is literally the way I imagine or remember my body to look like. If you have ever done inquiry, if you’ve ever looked at images coming from the mind, you will know that all images...

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Sex Isn’t Bad, Bad Sex is Bad

Sex Isn’t Bad, Bad Sex is Bad

        By Scott Kiloby    Ken Wilber stated in one of his books, “Sex isn’t bad, only bad sex is bad,” as a way to speak to how some spiritual/religious traditions and other therapeutic models make sweeping statements that condemn sex as a whole. Sex is made into a dirty and wrongful act.  This is a topic worth discussing when it comes to sex addiction/recovery and how our personal and cultural views play into it. In my years of working with men and women on sex addiction, I’ve noticed that most of the addictive or compulsive behaviors around sex have to do with stories of deficiencies such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m unlovable,” “I’m unsafe,” or “I’m not man enough.”  These stories have a way of making people feel bad about themselves and then look to sexual behavior as a way to medicate the negative thoughts and feelings that come with these stories.  In addition, there are general beliefs around sex as being bad, wrong, dirty or perverted that seem to fuel addictive behavior. I’ve noticed that many who come to work with me at the Kiloby Center on sex addiction take an extreme view around sex generally, judging or resisting the sexual impulse itself, whenever it arises.  They have a desire to extinguish all sexual impulses instead of limiting their inquiry only to addictive and compulsive behaviors that are fueled by the beliefs above.  Even non-addictive or non-compulsive sexual attraction is deemed “wrong” or “problematic.”  This view, I think, is not healthy for us.  It takes the spiritual/therapeutic quest too far and creates unneeded turmoil and self-judgment in our lives.  When I see a preacher or pastor on TV condemning sex, I think it actually creates a cultural taboo around the topic, which has the effect of fueling sexually addictive or risky behavior.  Sex becomes the forbidden fruit.  And we all know that fruit that is forbidden is even more tempting and tasty! How do we find a healthy balance with sex?  How do we discern the difference between healthy sexual impulses and sex addiction?  Let’s start with my definition of addiction:  Addiction is using a substance or engaging in an activity, repetitively or compulsively, for the purpose of avoiding having to feel emotion or sensation, and in a manner that is not necessary for physical survival. Procreative sex is needed for our survival as a species.  Does this make all sex outside of procreation wrong, as some religions state?  Does it mean that all non-procreative sex is addictive by nature?  No.  Addiction involves engaging in activities in order to avoid or medicate certain uncomfortable emotions or sensations.  Not all sex is about avoiding...

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