One of my favorite psychology writers is Martin Seligman. He has become very popular over the past years for his work on happiness and optimism. While many therapists and psychologists are focusing on what’s wrong, sick, and pathological about people, Martin Seligman wants to help people focus on their strengths, and build happiness and joy in their lives. If this sounds of interest to you, I suggest you look this author up on Amazon. He has several wonderful books on how to build happiness and optimism, and even a book for parents to help children develop these qualities.
As an aside (totally not related to the main topic of this post, which is forthcoming, but quite relevant to Martin Seligman’s emphasis on positive emotions), Revelations 21:8 lists the “fearful and unbelieving” as those who will taste of “the second death.” We live in a time of great fear where “men’s hearts (are) failing them for fear” (Luke 21:26). If we are starting to feel fear creeping into our lives, or possibly even hijacking progress in our lives, we would be well to recognize this quickly, and to work on rooting out that fear. Perhaps I’ll write a future blog post more on the *how* of rooting out fear.
Now, to work towards actually approaching the topic of this post! I brought up Martin Seligman because he has also written a wonderful chapter about the 5 layers of sexuality in his book “What You Can Change and What You Can’t.” I want to share with you his 5 layers of sexuality. My hope in doing so is that having this information can help you sort out where you are in each layer, and also find a little more acceptance for those things that are outside of your powers of change, as well as a little more motivation to work on those things that are within your grasp to heal, update, and improve.
Dr. Seligman states that at the deepest, most fundamental level is the first layer of sexuality: your (1)sexual identity. This identity is where one feels either maleness or femaleness as their experience of gender. The next layer up is ones (2)sexual orientation, meaning whether you are sexually attracted to males, females, etc. Next is ones (3)sexual preference, which refers to what can be arousing to the individual — which parts of the body, what images, and what situations are arousing. Layer four is ones (4)sex role, meaning whether the daily tasks the person performs are culturally associated with being more “male” or more “female” (truck driver, nurse, etc.) And the last layer is (5)sexual performance — which can implicate a medical or emotional issue that can sometimes be blocking a person from fully enjoying sex.
The reason I like this layers theory (and it is a theory, as is all of the babbling and conjectures of us humans….only God has the full truth and divine perspective) is that it separates out the different aspects of our sexual experience. Sometimes it all seems to run together, but that is not so, as different parts can have different answers and different help available. Martin Seligman elaborates further on his layering theory:
“I have ordered your erotic life into five layers for one basic purpose—to answer the questions of what changes and how easily it changes. Lack of change, I believe, corresponds to depth; the deeper the layer, the harder it is to change. My theory of sex is that transsexuality is a problem at the identity level and simply will not change; sexual orientation, the next deepest layer, very strongly resists change; sexual preference, once acquired, is strong, but some change can be wrought; sex role can change quite a bit, but change is by no means as easy as feminist ideologues contend, nor as difficult as antifeminists would like; correcting sexual performance is painful, but because performance problems are at the surface layer, you should be very hopeful that they will change.”
As a big proponent of self-acceptance, I highlight this theory in the hopes that it will facilitate some self acceptance on those things that may be beyond change for now, and also a courageous, hopeful willingness to work with God to improve those things that we can in this life. Melvin J. Ballard speaks of the importance of overcoming all that we are capable of in this life when he stated the following:
“It is my judgment that any man or woman can do more to conform to the laws of God in one year in this life than they could do in ten years when they are dead. The spirit only can repent and change,and then the battle has to go forward with the flesh afterwards. It is much easier to overcome and serve the Lord when both flesh and spirit are combined as one. This is the time when men are more pliable and susceptible. We will find when we are dead every desire, every feeling will be greatly intensified. When clay is pliable it is much easier to change than when it gets hard and sets.”
It is my prayer that all of us (very much including myself here), can have God’s help to judge what parts of ourselves we can accept (and thank God for allowing us the Abrahamic test), and then what parts of ourselves we can plead with God for power to change. It is this wisdom to know the difference that will require great guidance from above. It is a great part of our test in life. It is a noble journey. Respect yourself as you struggle with your dilemmas; respect others as they struggle with theirs.