There is no magic moment at which we can proclaim to ourselves or to the world that we have “arrived at psychosexual integration or maturity.

In the area of sexuality, on-going integration may frequently take the form of doing “back up” work in areas of our lives that were either skipped over, neglected, or simply not dealt with. There may be some days when we feel permanently fixated at some primordial form of immaturity. We feel uneasy with our bodies, disappointed with our ability to communicate our feelings, overanxious about our health.

It may feel at times that we are regressing instead of progressing with our ability to relate to people. We may be embarrassed by the realization that we have been engaging in adolescent form of behaviour – flirting inappropriately, playing emotional games, crossing boundaries in expressing affection, becoming distracted or infatuated with someone at work, erupting in displays of jealousy or suspicion, etc.

Unless behaviours form a persistent pattern, they are not irrevocable signs that we are twisted, inept human beings. More likely, they are simply reminders that we are on unmapped, sometimes confusing road toward human wholeness.

Psychosexual integration, therefore involves a fluid and dynamic progression of growth along a wide continuum of behaviours and characteristics. It is expressed in all aspects of our lives including the creativity with which we approach our work or ministry, the quality of our prayer and play, the buoyancy with which we face adversity and the life-enhancing nature of our relationships.

How can we know we are moving toward a reasonable level of psychosexual integration? What are some signs?

Two different groups of signs are put forth by Fran Ferder & John Heagle in Your Sexual Self (pp. 108-110):

Level I: Basic Characteristics of Psychosexual Maturity:

  • Deepening personal awareness and good self-knowledge.
  • Body comfort and a sense of being at home in our skin. Despite the exploitative propaganda of the media and advertising, we don’t have to be young or have striking good looks to achieve a healthy sense of body image.
  • Sustained and consistent involvement in close personal relationships and the capacity for intimacy. Such relationships are further characterized by:

*        honesty and trust

*        fidelity

*        awareness and openness about one’s expectations

*        self-disclosure that is appropriate to the level of the relationship

*        open communication of feelings

*        physical expressiveness that fits with the level of commitment and closeness in the relationship

*        avoidance of control, manipulation, and abuse

  • Faithfulness to primary commitments.
  • Adequate knowledge of sexual anatomy and physiology, as well as current information on sexual issues and concerns.
  • Comfort using sexual words and talking about sexual realities in appropriate settings.
  • Not “over spiritualizing” sexual realities or engaging in emotional/psychic denial in relationship to them.
  • Ability to make appropriate decisions and commitments involving sexuality.
  • Taking responsibility for one’s sexual expressions and behaviour.
  • Awareness of past hurts or traumas around sexuality and the willingness to take steps toward healing.

Level II: Signs of Deepening Psychosexual Integration

  • A growing congruence between our personal behaviour and our public, social commitments; a sense of integrity about our lives.
  • The ability to name and articulate our sexual story in an appropriate setting (e.g., with a spouse, close friend, spiritual director, counsellor, therapist, support group) and to understand how it has influenced our lives and relationships.
  • A psychic and emotional balance between our sexual life and other aspects of living; neither being preoccupied with sexuality nor denying its place in our lives.
  • Growing integration between the human and the holy, between our sexual energy and our spirituality. For example, when a married couple can experience as much closeness watching a sunset or praying together as they do sharing physical love.
  • An attitude of compassion vs. self-righteousness in relationship to other people’s sexual behaviour.
  • A deepening sense of generativity, i.e., the experiential knowledge that our presence to and with other people is life-giving and nurturing.
  • Inclusivity in our relationships, whereby the beloved in our lives become companions in reaching out to a wider circle of persons without diminishing the depth of our primary commitments.

–         Prepared by Fr. Bhyju cmf