Sublimate your Sex Drive, Don’t Suffocate It
One of the few times Freud was in agreement with Victorian culture was when he taught the usefulness of sublimating the sex drive before marriage. (His biographies all suggest he had to work hard at practicing what he preached on this score.) The word sublimate comes from the same root words as sublime. It suggests lifting something up over the threshold so it can get out and be free. The urge to be creative in love (eros to the Greeks) can be set loose on a much higher and wider scale if not confined to sex.
In chemistry, sublimation means evaporating a solid or liquid for the purpose of releasing it from its impurities, after which it is allowed to settle back down into a newly purified and tangible state. This is a beautiful picture of how sexual urges can be temporarily channeled into other outlets until they can be expressed in a purer and less diluted “sublime” form within a substantial marriage covenant.[i]
Even in the physical dimension, sexual energy can be released by various forms of exercise, including working, jogging, sports and body-building. (Just remember Satan has a membership at the fitness center too, to infect you with lust of the eyes!) Sexual energy can also be channeled away from achieving orgasm through pursuing any number of loving, creative, productive, humanitarian, religious, self‑improving, intimate, exciting and affirming outlets. Use your imagination!
Just as a beam of light is revealed by a prism to contain many different colors, the sex drive is a complex impulse, and the urge for intercourse is only part of it. Most sexual energy derives from the hope of satisfying other needs that hitchhike on the sexual desire‑‑the need to release tension, to feel attractive, to express love, to feel self‑esteem, to get a spiritual high, to feel powerful and free, to get energized and excited, to feel close and intimate, to share affection, to understand each other’s bodies, to make someone else happy, and to shut out the world for a while, to name a few. If we find other ways to take care of these needs, the roar of the sex drive will become less ferocious and will start purring like a little kitten. The sex drive has been compared to a tiger which needs to be fenced in, but which also needs to be fed, loved, and tamed to prevent its unruly behavior.[ii]
I have found a simple way to remember some of these ideas. Imagine yourself caught in a “love cage” and you want out. There is the trap door of sexual fantasy and behavior which takes you down into further craving and dependency. But there are six escape hatches in the ceiling that can take you up and out into freedom, which can be remembered by the phrase “Love CAGES.” Each door opens to set free a higher drive that has been caged up, and needs an outlet. You do best in each situation to take the ways that offer the most fulfilling and immediate enjoyment:
- Love–show you care for your beloved in ways that aren’t stimulating or romantic. If you are still
tempted, turn from your lover entirely and express:
- C–Creativity–express yourself in music, dance, art, writing, etc.
- A-Affection—with family, friends, as we all need hugs and “I-love-you’s”.
- G–Giving–do something nice for others to give them joy.
- E–Energize through Exercise–competitive play can help too.
- S–Spirituality–go out into nature for a relaxing escape, and go up into prayer and worship for
intimacy with God.
Just as the brain is “higher” than the genitals, as human endeavors are phylogenetically higher than animal instinct, as God in heaven above inspires his people on earth, and as activities that affect many people over a long time require one to rise above the here and now to understand, so loving and creative urges can be lifted up and out of their sexual boundaries to find a much higher and wider expression. –
Dr. Paul Schmidt
[i] Albert Hsu, Singles at the Crossroads (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), p. 156-8
[ii] Ray Short, Sex, Love, or Infatuation: How Can I Really Know? (Minneapolis: Augsburg, l978), p. 103.