Increasing Our Sex Powers Of Resistance
( Originally Published 1940 )
WE RAVE just discussed in the last chapter what influences we should avoid, in order that our sexuality should not be needlessly excited. But it is not always possible to avoid every source of excitement; the normal sexual life itself still remains as the fundamental exciting cause that cannot be avoided.
No evasions are any good here, we must seek our strength in ourselves. When the time comes we must be inflexible, not to yield. We must arm ourselves with an increased power of resistance. Just as we must be able to defy heat and cold, we must be able to resist the sexual excitement by our own strength.
And we can accomplish much in this respect by a strict and natural mode of life, by roughing it and training, by energetic occupation, sport and cold water, by plenty of muscular exercise (best of all in the open air), long country tramps or cycle rides, preferably with companions of both sexes. Our life should be well filled, full of change and interest, as energetic as possible, then this one kind of excitant would not master us entirely, for there would be a good counterpoise for it. The higher we fix our life's aims, the more inflexible we shall be.
Still, even when we are armed to the teeth, it always remains a hard struggle. As this excellent mode of life improves our health enormously, it ensures at the same time a normal, i.e., a strong sexual urge. And then if one tries, as in cases I have seen, to avoid this last danger by diminishing one's food, by self-denial and asceticism until one is thin and pale and wasted away, unfortunately one finds that this does not attain the desired result. The sexual impulse may be kept within certain bounds for a while, but it is the last of all impulses to die within us. And before one has been brought so low, all one's higher powers of resistance will long have been exhausted. It is of the greatest importance that we should be aware of the extent of our power in this respect, so that we may save ourselves from endless disappointments, tortures of conscience and despair.
Even if we seek only a moderate degree of success in this struggle, our power of resistance must be encouraged and exercised from our earliest years. The system in vogue in many families "to give way to children as far as possible" leads in maturer years to the principle "we should yield as much as possible to sexuality." This is a reaction against the principle which was formerly too frequently acted on, "give way to children and to sexuality as little as possible." Both extremes are highly fatal.
We must learn from the beginning to control our reflexes by simple and regular rules of living. First of all our secretory reflexes. That is the second, the educational reason for my having gone at such length into the question of the control of the two other secretory functions. This is indeed the most rational and natural method, to teach the child from the beginning regularity, diligence and forethought in all his behaviour, as though it were second nature.
Little children often find it hard to properly govern their urinary secretion; later one can never finish learning the control of one's intestinal function; then finally one moves up into a higher class, in which the same system of self-control must be extended to the sexual province; always noticing attentively the connection between cause and effect in order to become master of the situation in this respect also.
The more we can govern this sexual world as we grow up, the more do broader perspectives open out before us, and quite other ideals than only the control of a physiological function. For only then do we fully realise how greatly all our life's happiness depends upon it. It is no longer sufficient for us to increase our power of resistance so that we shall not fall in the fight, for this after all is only the negative aspect of the problem, but it is indispensable to direct our sexual life into the proper paths, so that it may become more beautiful. Every increase of blood-pressure should spur us on to better endeavours.
We have seen in Chapter 21 that erection is an impulse to procreation and in Chapter 29 why we should not seek solitary satisfaction. It is the manly erection that wakes us from our childish slumber, so that we may seek a full sexual life. Henceforth all our energies must be strained to this end, and not only to the avoidance of evil. We want to fight for a good position in the world, so that one day we may found a family in a warm little nest of our own. And we hope, long before that, to fall in love and become engaged, charmed by the prospect of this great happiness.
And now all the spectres of the psychic and vaso-motor exciting causes which have so long tortured us and robbed us of our sleep, fade away of themselves. Now we feel these exciting causes as a foretaste of the subsequent fulfillment of our ideals. All these influences which we have so greatly feared are now metamorphosed into useful motives, as stimulants to our energy, to help us to reach our great aim. Empty wit and stupid jokes, everything which ridicules what now is sexually sacred to us, we find simply unbearable. They wound our ideals. Questionable books and plays and pictures all disgust us, bore us, for we have something better in mind. We no longer avoid friendly relations with the opposite sex, but prefer it, and always as respectable as possible, because that harmonises with our beautiful ideal. To approach our new ideal is our highest aim; no effort is too great for us to make, and we have now no time for sexual dreaming; the sexual reality is beckoning us forward. And if unfortunately our lot is not such a happy one and there is no prospect before us of the fulfillment of our ideal, that should not hinder us; on the contrary, every sexual impulse and every sexual congestion should be a warning to us not to rest until all the many obstacles in our modern society against pure and happy sexual life have been cleared away. Why should so many persons be condemned to wither all their lives, without ever having blossomed? We should all strive for a better organisation, and especially for a better sexual organisation.
In conclusion I would like to resume what I have said. Just as in fighting infectious diseases, safety in the sexual province has been sought hygienically and educationally in isolation. That was in the middle ages with its morbid and exaggerated asceticism. In our new era, however, we prefer to try immunisation. Spiritually we shall best succeed in this if we not only fight against our lower instincts, but above all strive for our high ideals.