Addison Bell is a local Tantric Practitioner, Experiential Sex Coach, and Body-Image Expert based in Plano, Texas. She has a Master’s in Counseling and has training/certifications in sexuality, body-image, Reiki, and has other areas of knowledge. Now she dedicates herself to helping people enjoy their lives more fully and to let go of shame. I took the chance to e-mail her and she kindly answered back quickly.
You are a tantric practitioner & experiential sex coach, and help others develop a positive body image. You also hold a master’s degree in counseling. What does all that mean and what is the reoccurring desire of those who seek your expertise?
Addison: So basically, that all means I like books and school. No, it means that I came to Tantra and Sex Coaching from a psychology background. I have always believed that although processing through talk therapy can be great sometimes it simply is not enough. So, it means that I help my clients through both a psychological mindset but also help them process through a variety of issues through more hands on holistic means.
I get a variety of people seeking my services for a wide variety of struggles. If I was to boil them all down to the main desire I would say it would be to live a more full, joyful, and pleasurable existence in which they are able to connect with not only others but also themselves.
Dealing with one’s body image is a silent, albeit, universal struggle we all have in common with each other at some point. In your opinion where does this seed of doubt come from, how is it planted, and how does one begin the process of uprooting this mind set?
Addison: Body-image is a huge issue and there has always been controversy about its origins. My belief based upon my experience with clients, friends, and also all my studies have shown me that body-image is about self-worth. In our society, we are constantly seeing and hearing how our worth is based upon our looks. We as Americans are exposed to an average of 3000-5000 advertisements per day and most of those ads are photoshopped. No one can live up to those standards. This makes it very easy for young children to use body-image as a measuring stick to see if they are worthy as humans. Plus, then we have social influences with family, friends, teachers, etc. and the older generations put a lot of focus on how a person looked which has trickled down to the current generations with a fierceness and level of shame we have never seen.
Our bodies are easy victims to take our feelings out on and not have to deal with the internal. It’s tangible.
How does body image issues impact 2 people in a relationship who both have unresolved body image issues?
Addison: Usually it will impact all levels of intimacy. If each person does not have a strong connection with their own bodies and thus themselves then it is going to be hard to truly connect with another person. When someone says they don’t like their body they are telling me they don’t like themselves. It especially impacts our sex lives. Instead of being present in the moment and adoring all the yummy feelings your body is giving off you are too focused on the perceived negatives. If both partners, or even one partner, is in this struggle then it’s like a brick wall to the energetic connection [that could be generated between these two persons].
All that being said and I don’t think negative body-image is a death sentence for a relationship but just simply an issue that needs to be addressed on a person level. It’s about learning to be more mindful, in the moment, and also getting vulnerable about these struggles which are filled with shame. This vulnerability can create a stronger bond.
What parallels do you see, if any, as it relates to the acceptance of our now pervasive hook up culture and the number of people bleeding internally from emotional trauma that has gone untreated. How does body image issues contribute to that trauma?
Addison: So, I don’t think “hooking up” necessarily has to cause emotional trauma but really any type of sex has emotional risks. I think hookup culture has disconnected us from our bodies and when we are disconnected from our bodies then this can create havoc in our lives, bodies, and emotions. I have written articles and always speak to my clients about how we “become” who we have sex with because we are taking some of their energy on whether we want to or not. I think our society in general is starving for real love and connection.
As far as the body-image aspect goes I think hookup culture makes us always have to look our best and so again validates our constant obsession with our appearance.
You have arguably seen and heard it all… are you concerned about any new trends such as the increased consumption of porn, the lack of well-rounded conversations about sex education, body image and the bullying associated with it. Are there any concerns regarding the ease with which people jump from relationship to relationship without taking time to allow the healing process to be completed after being connected emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially to another soul for however long a period of time?
Addison: This is a hard question to answer on paper. Yes, believe me I have seen and heard it all!
I think porn shows our lack of connection and our ‘quick fix’ Western culture. I, unlike some sex educators don’t think porn is the devil. I think it can be used in a healthy way but the fact is most people don’t use it in this way. Usually when people are using porn they are disconnected from the sensations in their own body and hyper-focused on the end game of climax. Opposed to experiencing the orgasmic waves that are present in the body. I think the more we demonize porn the more we are creating shame around sex. We, as a society, need to gain a better understanding of why we are using the porn and to deal with how it is disconnecting us from ourselves… and address why we feel it’s necessary to disconnect during sexual experiences.
I don’t think not talking about sex is a new trend. I think it’s a very old trend and one that has gotten us to the point we are where we have skewed views on what sex is, should be, could be, and the intense shame many people have around the topic. I think in some ways our society is opening up to different sexual practices (i.e. BDSM and 50 Shades phenomenon) but yet we don’t REALLY talk about it and this creates more shame. This is why so many women are disinterested and so many men are looking for the quick ‘get off”. (Obviously putting genders in stereotyped buckets here)
I am always amazed when I get a woman who is being fully present in her sexuality and at how different she looks. Passionate, about not just sex but life. Desiring sex and usually more so than her male counterpart. And truly living the life she wants and owning who she is as a Goddess. I see a similar magnitude of change in my men but just in different ways. Good sex changes us!
I think the above is a fallacy, that assumption that everyone is jumping relationship to relationship. I think this is true for some but is not true for all. I think the problem comes in not with a person having different relationships but actually not being willing to look at the lessons that relationship was supposed to teach. All our relationships are simply a mirror but too many people are stuck in Ego and unwilling to look in that mirror. Also, the problem comes in when we are unwilling to share and get vulnerable about what is happening in our relationships and so it ends up piling up. It’s not about timing… it’s about unwillingness.
At the same time, it’s also about people looking at where they are at and if they need to take time for healing because sometimes that is the right path. It’s all very individualized.
How does one’s views on sexuality impact how one sees their self as it relates to one’s body image?
Addison: So, prior to my own growth into the field of tantra I was very interested in people with eating disorders. These people usually have an unparalleled level of self-destruction towards themselves. Not surprisingly they usually have the biggest problems with sexuality.
When you think that sex is wrong/dirty or have some other negative feelings about sex then you can’t like your body. We are sexual beings, first and foremost, and so to hate your sexuality is to hate yourself in its entirety. When we can’t own our sexuality we can’t fully embrace ourselves. The same goes for not fully embrace our bodies, then we are not going to be able to fully embrace our sexuality and all the feelings/sensations our bodies give off.
Unfortunately, this is how most people walk around.
How would you explain what tantra is to someone who has heard it mentioned in passing but never took the time to really understand its origin, purpose, and the benefits?
Addison: Tantra means ‘to weave”. It is not about sex. It is about living our lives, experiencing all sensation/feelings, a greater openness, and energy. That being said sexuality is one of the ways we open more to ourselves and the Universe. It’s a way of living and building greater connection with EVERYTHING in life. This includes one’s self, partner, nature, and life’s meaning.
What seems to be the big deal with nudity in the U.S. with compared to how other parts of the world view nudity?
Addison: We have a lot of old programs still hanging around about what nudity means. We are a nation grown from puritans and steep religious convictions. Many people equate nakedness with sex. So, by shaming nakedness we shame sex and at a base level who we are.