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Chapter Three: Mental Health Is Sexual Health

Let me say right at the beginning of this section that my views on mental health and mental illness are contrary to much of the conventional wisdom on the topic. In a nutshell I don't believe there is such a thing as mental illness in the sense that a person can have something wrong with their mind that needs to be fixed through talk therapy. Don't get me wrong; I am fully aware that many people suffer from "mental illness" as a result of hormonal or chemical imbalances in their body. In addition, Ingesting certain chemicals can contribute to a decline in mental health as well. There are a lot of things out there that are mind and mood altering - including some common over the counter medicines. I even know a man who says smoking tobacco makes him depressed. But these situations are substantially different than a so called sickness of the mind. Indeed, the things we've just touched on situation nothing to do with mental illness but are physiologically conditions that affects a person's mental process.

I believe our "mental health" (I'm going to stop use the quotations because it's a pain in the neck; you get the idea) is all about self-control. I talked about habits in an earlier section and I'm going to repeat those principles here as they apply to your mental health.

The fact is, we learn to think certain ways in certain situations through life experience and by watching the example of others. It doesn't take very long for us to develop predictable habits. For instance, a person may develop the habit of thinking negatively when things don't go their way or when life throws some kind of problem at them. This negative thinking, this depression, is not mental illness but wrong thinking. Again, there are people who suffer from depression because they have hormonal issues but - again - that isn't really a mental health issue but a physical health issue.

What I want you to understand is that you are the master of your own life. I firmly believe we have a natural duty to govern ourselves. I'm not talking about social anarchy I'm talking about taking responsibility for your own behavior. And unless you have some kind of a physical problem that is affecting your mental process you have no one but yourself to blame for your cognitive abnormalities.

Our mental process has a tremendous impact on our sexual health and our sexual performance. If we are anxious because of something that is going on at the job or with the family, it is going to cripple our performance in the bedroom. Rather then claim we have anxiety issues, we need to take the bull by the horns and admit we are not dealing with life's problems properly.

Now I know this isn't easy. We develop habits that become second nature. In fact, I would say they become first nature. It is our "go to" thinking pattern or behavior whenever we are confronted with trigger events. So when there is stress on the job or stress in family relationships or whatever, we become anxious rather than stop and think about the issue and choose to react in a fashion that is going to decrease our anxiety. One of the things you can do to push back on anxiety is to carefully consider what it is that is causing you to be anxious. Outline an approach to dealing with that situation and either get started on taking care of it or if the time isn't right, commit to doing something about it at the earliest possible opportunity. For instance, if you have an issue at work that is causing anxiety perhaps you will need to sit down and talk to that coworker or your boss or whoever it is that is bringing this pressure to bear. If that doesn't alleviate the problem you need to make the decision to live above that problem until the chance arises to fix it.

I think most of us know people who are like this. They seem to be a rock in the midst of a storm. They are peaceful no matter what they are going through in life. That's the kind of person you need to be. Obviously, this is much more than a way for you to be a tiger in bed. It is a whole life issue. But because it is a whole life issue, it impacts your sexual health as well.

For instance, one of the biggest obstacles to sexual pleasure is unforgiveness. If you are cultivating bitterness - whether it be toward your spouse or someone else - you will find that it saps your vitality. That's going to show up in the bedroom. It has been my experience in counseling over the last thirty years that there are a lot of men and women who hold some kind of grudge against their spouse. It might be over something that happened before they were married. Maybe there was promiscuity in the past that bothers you. And by the way, this is one of the most common issues I have run across when counseling and teaching men. In fact, it is probably the most common thing I ran into when working as a case manager and counselor in a prison.1

In any case, holding unforgiveness toward your lover because of past actions does nothing but destroy your present and future. You can't change the past and so you need to learn to forgive and move on. It is likewise true that you can't change events that have taken place while you been in the relationship. If your spouse has done something to hurt you while you've been together you need to forgive that as well.

Forgiveness is not about feelings it's simply the decision to not bring that event up ever again. In this way it is truly forgiving and forgetting. When I say you don't bring it up, I mean you don't bring it up to the other party nor do you bring it up to yourself. In other words you don't think about. How do you do that? You decide you're going to stop bringing it up. That's it. You make that decision. And then you act on it. You act on it by redirecting your thoughts any time the issue comes to mind. In time that issue will fade from your memory and will no longer trouble you. That's what mental health is all about.

This principle must be applied across the board. If you want to have mental health (almost put quotations around it again) you need to control your thought life.

I know this is probably new to you; in this modern age we've been told that mental health is all about working with an expert to sort out past issues and come to wholeness through the process of talk therapy. I'm not saying it's a waste of time to talk about past issues; that may be necessary in order to pinpoint what it is you need to deal with. But when you boil it down to the fundamentals, mental health is simply making a decision to do the right thing and then moving forward in light of that decision.

One of the most common problems in our country today is depression. Mental health counselors identify all kinds of depression ranging from feeling down to what they call clinical depression. But this is just another area of life we need to man up and deal with.

Men who are depressed often express that downcast feeling through anger. Women will often reveal depression by being teary-eyed and somber. Although the expression of the emotional state called depression can be very different in men and women, the solution remains the same. Take hold of your thoughts and exercise self-control.

I think one of the underlying causes of the epidemic of mental illness in this country is people's unrealistic expectations of life. Most people don't really know how to deal with problems and that in itself is a big problem because life is full of hardship. The fact, is, it would be an unusual if someone encountered nothing but sweetness and light during their lifetime. In my experience, that sort of thing doesn't even exist.

Another thing you should know is, the psychoanalysts out there who are making a ton of money off of depressed, angry and anxious people really have no special knowledge whatsoever.2 Studies have shown you can expect as much relief from your mental illness by talking to a trusted friend and thinking through your problem (to the point of arriving at reasonable solutions) as you will from talking to a therapist.

One area of mental illness rarely addressed by the "professionals" is the problem of fantasy. The truth is, fantasy is a good example of what I'm talking about. A lot of folks don't see anything wrong with letting their mind run down a far-fetched imaginative path but the truth is a person who indulges in fantasy is a person who has an undisciplined mind. I'm speaking here specifically about sexual fantasy. After all, this is a book about sex. The reality is, most fantasy (at least in men) is sexual in nature. And if you can control and eliminate fantasy in your life I guarantee you, all your other mental irregularities can be taken care of as well.

A person learns to stop fantasizing by first making a decision to live in the real world. When a sexual fantasy comes to mind, simply stop that process and decide to think about something else. It isn't going to be easy but it is something you can do. And if you want to have a good love life then you will need to stop fantasizing about having sex with somebody other than your spouse. This is why porn is so destructive to sexual relationships. Research (and common sense) seems to show that the man who uses porn will find it increasingly difficult to become aroused by their real-life sexual partner. They become so calloused by their constant use of porn and the fantasy that goes with it, they are unable to relate in a normal sexual fashion.3

Again, you need to make a decision to stop fantasizing and take steps to see that decision realized. If you want to have the best sex of your life with your spouse you need to take control of your thought life.

A sound mental condition is grounded in the real world and is characterized by gratitude and love. A grateful person counts their blessings. A grateful person sees good things all around them. A person with a sound mind does not focus on the slights of coworkers or family and friends. They do not see the cup as half empty but as half full. A person of sound mind does not ignore the problems in this world but understands that hard times come and the mindful person will meet those challenges and deal with them. Some things in life cannot be changed and a person of sound mind will recognize that fact and learn to live with hardship. This doesn't mean they resign themselves to a degraded existence. Instead, it means they learn to work around those things in life that cannot be changed and find joy in doing so.

The person of sound mind who also be a person who loves. This means they will act in ways that show they intend to do what most benefits the other person. This is someone who has good mental health. They are realistic but they are optimistic. They are strong enough to face life's problems and wise enough to find ways to overcome those problems or work around them. They are mindful enough to examine their own thought patterns and make corrections where needed. They don't allow their thoughts or emotions to move down a harmful path but make daily decisions to think and act in ways that enrich their own life and the lives of others.

This person will find great joy and satisfaction in their sex life. They will approach their sexual relationship with an attitude of thankfulness and love. They will be thinking about the other person first and foremost and take delight in the opportunity to enter a place of tremendous physical pleasure and oneness with their spouse. They will not allow the world and its problems to intrude.

As you can see, when we talk about mental health this way we are talking about emotional health as well. Your sex life will improve as you cultivate a caring and giving attitude. Your sexual performance will bump up several notches as you realize that life is what you make it and your happiness depends upon you rather then your circumstances. One of the things you should be happy about is the fact that you have someone to love and someone who loves you.

One of the emotions you want to cultivate is compassion. You want to learn to put yourself in the other person's shoes. I'm not suggesting you use sex to soothe a person's hurt feelings or whatever - although that very well might be the case from time to time. What I am saying is that if you are able to have empathy for a person you will find yourself much less likely to judge them negatively than you might otherwise do.

To be mentally and emotionally healthy is to realize there is nothing wrong with depending upon another person to a certain extent. I'm not saying you should use anyone as a crutch but it is true that no man is an island. A man who isolates himself is unwise and I have found that many people live isolated lives even in the midst of a full time job, family relationships and so on. Again, this is a mental and emotional thing. It is a matter of deciding you will be engaged with people beyond the surface courtesies that allow you to get through life without any real attachment.

Furthermore, you should make it a goal to enjoy life to the fullest. One of the things you will need to do in order to find that ultimate level of emotional health is to keep everything in perspective. You need to understand that life is not all about you but is lived fully when you love others, doing what most benefits the other person.

A Man's Guide To Great Sex Starting Today

Chapter One: The Foundation Of Good Sex
Chapter Two: Physical Health Is Sexual Health
Chapter Three: Mental Health Is Sexual Health
Chapter Four: The Act Of Making Love
Chapter Five: Keeping It Real Fresh And Satisfying
Closing Thoughts

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