THE PSYCHIC FUNCTION OF EROTIC AROUSAL:
TOWARD A NEW THEORY OF SEXUALITY
© Danute Kuncas
All rights reserved
This thesis delineates a set of propositions and assumptions that constitute a theory of sexuality in which the sexual instinct is attributed a pivotal, primary organizing function for the ego. The model’s central proposition is that erotic response is aimed at the individual's ongoing ego development through the use of the body as a vehicle for sensing life's events and for organizing our responses to them.
Sexual instinct uses arousal to makes us notice, in symbolic form, things that we rarely recognize or don't want to look at about our intrapersonal, transpersonal, and interpersonal issues. While we are engaged in sexual interaction or erotic fantasy, we are working through metaphor and imagination to make new sense of our most pressing psychic issues that, just like in dreams, are as yet unclear and barely conscious in us. By taking the pro-symptom position towards sexual arousal, erotic fantasy and even the so-called perversions, this thesis seeks to show how human sexuality induces contact with unconscious psychic material in order to promote the surmounting of developmental hurdles, support the processing of buried complexes, and foster the creative unfolding of latent capacities.
All creativity is fueled by the libidinal drive, which spurs evolution in the biological as well as psychic spheres of life. Libido drives creative exploration through an arousal mechanism that operates at a psychosomatic level. Whereas arousal conveys to our body the presence of archetypal influences, erotic arousal heralds the proximity of symbols of transcendence: symbols that point to ways we might explore our issues to transcend our viewpoint. Each sexually arousing symbol --maybe a breast, perhaps a fetish, sometimes just an idea--brings opportunities for psychic transformation because of certain archetypal recollections or patterns they stir up in us. Many archetypal dichotomies have been reviewed by mankind since the beginning of time. New interpretations or manifestation of ancient archetypes forever continue to unfold through our human activities, but most fundamentally and consistently through symbols and the symbolic play of creative eroticism.
Archetypal symbols are more than mere image. Jung described symbol as the best possible representation of something that is not known, and perhaps can never be fully known. In the depth psychological tradition, symbols are never explicable on a literal level, but a symbol or an archetype can suggest metaphoric possibilities for new integrated perspectives that transcends our present understanding of predicaments with which we struggle. The uniquely human ability to manipulate symbols allows us to explore the relationships between ideas, things, concepts, and qualities. This is the very nature and function of dreams, as well as of art and even of child’s play. During erotic arousal, the body’s propensities for arousal are engaged with this very same task applied to undifferentiated psychic content. In this way libidinal energy (or vitality, enthusiastic energy, creative drive) is what drives any undertaking that has captivated the imagination and interest of a particular individual or of a group of people.
Erotic arousal is the most central and fundamental aim of libidinal energy. Erotic arousal engenders the most direct possible somatic experience of symbolic exploration, which begins with bodily sensations best explored through sex. However, libidinal energy radiates through every stratum of human experience. Libido incites us to relationship beyond the desire to copulate. Libido urges us to become emotionally engaged through relationship -be it with a person, a task, or even a major project.
The ego’s primary organization of sensory input from birth onwards occurs on a transverbal basis. This means that perception initially bypasses language altogether and utilizes symbolic metaphor to make sense of sensory stimulus to the body. The manipulation of symbols and metaphors through bodily movement, activity, and particularly through sex further spurs the organization of perception, while stimulating growth and transformation. Exploring the dynamic elements of an archetypal (as yet unknowable) situation is accomplished through the somatic experiencing of erotic symbols, initially circumventing the cognitive faculties entirely. Erotic arousal, in this model, is a consistent, persistent, immediate, potent and, highly effective adaptation mechanism for responding to new, incompletely or incorrectly deciphered sensory input. In this way, the human erotic response comprises a pre-verbal, pre-cognitive, symbolic level of apperception wherein psychic organization continues takes place during the entire life process on an ongoing basis.