Sublimate your Sex Drive, Don’t Suffocate It
One of the few times Freud was in agreement with his 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.
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 satisfying other needs that hitchhike on the sexual desire — our needs to release tension, to feel more 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 feel younger, to be charmed, 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 bark and bite of the sex drive will start wagging its tail like a little puppy. The sex drive has been compared to a dog that needs to be fenced in for protection, but which also needs to be tamed, fed, loved, and trained to prevent biting its master.
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 of this trap. They 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 meet some of the needs mentioned in the fourth paragraph above. If you are still tempted, you can turn from your lover entirely and express by yourself or with other people those same needs, summarized and remembered this way:
- C — Creativity — express yourself in music, dance, art, writing, etc.
- A — Affection—with family, friends, hugs, sweet nothings, and “I-love-you’s”.
- G — Giving — do something nice for others to give them joy.
- E — Energize through Exercise — competitive play can help here too.
- S — Spirituality — go into nature for a relaxing escape, or practice your religious faith.
Just as the brain is “higher” than the genitals, as human endeavors are higher than animal instinct, as people on earth are inspired by a higher calling from God, 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.