Heal the Madonna/Whore Split

mindset reclamation relationships self improvement sensuality women's health

For several years now, my soul has whispered, Eros is what will restore our fragmented world. And the world starts with you, Kelly.

Eros, to my mind, is embodied life-force energy. It is the expression of a divine impulse through the sensory technology of our physical vessel. Eros is born of pleasure and the desire to create what would not otherwise be created by the mechanics of control and force-based power.

Eros moves up from mother earth, through the energetic channels of the body, heart, crown, and back down to her in what is often referred to as a microcosmic orbit. This flow is within us, between us, and weaves us into the fabric of nature. Eros is the inner yes (and the inner no) that our childself offers as guidance toward expanded experiences of love, harmony, and order. It is self-propagating and regenerating—a cup of love that pours ever forth.

Eros is therefore not available to those who have chosen to represent the polarity energies of domination, deception, and parasitism. Through this lens, we can see an anti-human polarity thriving on the disconnect of the human soul from the human body via the manipulation of the human mind; one which seeks to capture, distort, and otherwise manipulate Eros, generating the conditions for sexual abuse and trafficking, rape, and bodily violation.

Feminine nurture vs feminine sexuality

One of the most effective forms of trauma-based mind control is socially conditioning the good-bad split. For this particular polarity, denominational religions have played an essential role in the agenda to characterize the body, and notably sex, as dirty, dangerous, shameful, and best kept a secret. Goodness is found outside the body’s desires—in service, in piety, and in the realm of devotional thoughts.

The Madonna is the Madonna, and a whore is a whore, and never the two shall meet.

Especially within an individual! After generations of nudity-shaming, sexual secrecy, and confusion on the part of women as to how to represent sensuality to their children, we became disconnected from our most vital force, from our very bodies, and from the natural world herself.

Did your parents talk to you about the sacred nature of your erotic energy? How to develop intimacy with your own body and commune with another? Did they teach you how to open and close your energy field, how to hold fierce boundaries, how to say yes when it’s a yes and no when it’s a no? How much were you taught about even your own anatomy?

For so many who hid memories of sexual abuse, were shamed for the way they dressed, or were “caught” masturbating, sex is a secret.

We are rendered, in this state of disorientation, ripe for capture by the allopathic system and the medicalization of women’s bodily powers. We submit to ritualized penetration through pap smears, unquestioningly hijack our cyclical hormonal energies through birth control, and are indoctrinated into fear-based mechanized birthing (men have their own parallel experience through circumcision, capture of their protector role during the birth process, and prostate exams).

We are left afraid of our body’s potential to spew forth deadly diseases, confused about the relationship between our erotic energy and our creative power (literally and figuratively), and embody either a sexualized persona or a professional persona, juggling our disparate parts in an endless circus act of people-pleasing and self-suppression.

The New-Age movement of spiritual bypassing hasn’t helped the experience of the divide. Popular exploration of tantra and energetic lovemaking, invites white-light, holy sex for your partner’s bodily experience alone. The rest is the soulless, grinding, animal sex reduced to fluids and virtually wasted orgasms. In this world, too, there’s a right kind of sex and a wrong kind. It is worth noting that whenever we are in that duality, victim consciousness is pulsing right beneath.

I long used my sexual energy through subtle flirtation and the recruitment of male approval and attention, so I could feel safe in the world. Beneath this strategy was, however, a deep fear of masculine power.  I believed that I would be harmed or taken advantage of if I wasn’t controlling the presumed sexual dynamic. I walked the world pre-empting sexual predation at every turn using flirtation as a strategy to corral the energy somewhere I felt I could control. And then, I chose to grow through my second marriage.  I learned how to open and close my sexual energy, and I shut it down to the world. For many years, I was never hit on by a single male stranger and the Madonna/whore split grew stronger. I felt conflicted when I would dress in tight clothing I loved or adorn my waist with a belly chain. I remember driving to a twerk class years ago listening to an audiobook on Jungian individuation and feeling a rumble of shame about how my parts didn’t seem to fit together in a way that anyone could wholly love. While I danced with my sexuality (literally and figuratively!) in my local life, I made very sure to never expose my body in any way on social media. I consciously maintained a singularly defined persona as a professional clinician who was here (properly outfitted!) to save the world from the grips of Pharma.

All the while, as a mother, I would speak openly to my daughters about sex and sexuality, dance daily, walk around the house naked, and hold regular “Body Talk” sessions where I would teach my girls about their anatomy, self-pleasuring, and the contours of sexual energy. So, naturally, I thought I had healed the Madonna/whore complex for my motherline. Voila!

But something else began to rattle inside. The professional psychiatrist, author, activist persona and the sensual, embodied, play, and pleasure-seeking woman demanded an introduction. I recognized that an inner war was still waging. A part of me was clearly saying, you have a responsibility to keep sex and sensuality secret. WOAH. Where did that voice come from? And how does that voice interact with the other one that says, but this is who I am?

Letting the caretaker retire

The truth is that you don’t owe anyone anything. Not consistency, not an explanation, and certainly not a version of yourself that pleases them and leaves you feeling like you’re putting on a dog and pony show 24 hours a day.

The impulse to feel responsible for someone else’s feelings, their understanding, and their experience of you is a way that victim consciousness hides in the Rescuer.

I know that I have held the belief that I am responsible for others (Rescuer) and that I need to make sure they understand that I have a good reason for doing or being whatever it is that I am doing or being. You see, I have a long history of upsetting others when I self-express. A lifelong history in fact. So, I learned, at a young age, to strategically present the parts of me that I could justify, rationalize, and defend with my intellect, science, and eventually credentials and clinical expertise.

I’ve made sure that, whether or not I secure approval, others know why I am doing what I’m doing. That they understand. That they at least see I have a reason.

After leaving my second marriage, I am now in a rebirth process that appears to be focused on the integration of all of my seemingly disparate parts under the umbrella of my Self. De-secreting my sexuality has been a natural byproduct of saying yes to my childself-led intuition, aligning with her, and working with the alchemy of the many deep emotions that were kept at bay through various external securities, these many years of my adult life. Integrating my erotic life force energy into my whole being, I have decided to say YES to every creative impulse that comes to me—singing a song for someone, writing an essay, sewing a purse, learning a dance, dressing in costume, making an amateur pole video or a goofy lipsync of a ratchet hip hop song…child parts that were in conflict with each other are now released into play because I am the adult presence holding space and organizing interactions and they no longer have to protect the young girl they were charged with protecting decades ago.

Some folks, dear reader, are not pleased with this new direction I’m moving in as a dynamic being. From my perspective, however, all judgment (as distinct from discernment) is a projection of self-rejected aspects. I know this because I’ve occupied so many polarities that I have formerly judged. And I’m not alone. Recently, in my Vital Life Project membership circle, a lovely woman shared that she was a Kelly hater only a few months previous and recognized that her judgment was a projection that she’d since integrated.

Social dynamics (and social media specifically) can be a hall of mirrors. Endless opportunities to feel how avatars holding different energies reverberate in your own body. As Gabor Mate shared in his documentary, The Wisdom of Trauma—you wouldn’t be offended if someone criticized your green hair if you didn’t have green hair! What hurts only hurts if we already are holding the belief that is being reflected. Charged defensiveness is the bellwether of a hidden hurt-inducing belief.

So,when I am asked, why are you posting sexual content and dance videos, Kelly? You have a responsibility to those you serve!

The true answer to why I do what I do, post what I post, and have always made the choices that I have is…

…because I want to.

And, for now, that reason is a good enough reason for me.

Eros is a primordial (mythologically parentless!) life force and is therefore my birthright. I do not believe that a woman’s erotic energy is meant to be locked in the closet of her partner’s bedroom.

In fact, I’ve learned and now believe that, for me, sacred monogamy is defined by a willingness to examine any and all intention to build connection with someone of the desired sex, outside of the relationship. Even if that intention looks “spiritual,” “collegial,” or “service-oriented” and overtly non-sexual. Eros can have an object of attention and intention, or it can sparkle and swirl in the tissues of one’s body for all to enjoy.

I understand better the nature of prostitution and its more elevated expression as the courtesan. Women hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven and there will always be an exchange required for access to this sacred energy. That’s why it wasn’t surprising that my scantily clad dance videos garnered critical comments about the fees I charge for my various services and offerings. You have the audacity to gatekeep her own energy? You think you're worth that? You hold the keys to the kingdom, woman, and you better let us in!

We are all so confused and disempowered, but the clarity comes when we recognize that we have some sexual healing to do…and that’s ok. It’s time to de-secret, de-fragment, and de-compartmentalize this cloaked, distorted, and shame-contorted force.

Ensoulment basics

For me, there’s been an important order of operations. First, I took the invitation of my first “illness” diagnosis home to myself. I engaged the chopping wood and carrying water of ritualized self-care and reunion with my body and her meaningful language of symptoms. I put these forth in Vital Mind Reset and my two books. Then came the interpersonal cleaning house. This has involved taking responsibility for trauma-based relational patterns and unfulfilling dimensions of my lifestyle. Then, “finally,” I waded in with my coach Whitney, to the warm sea of embodiment, individuation, pleasure practices, and integrating all of the parts I had shamed into various closets.

So, if you’ve secured the chopping wood, carrying water approach to ritualized self-care, here are some of my favorite auto-erotic resources you might be ready for:

Feel for your YES and NO 

When you heal the physiologic nervous system because you know that this healing is possible, you open the channel to feel subtle sensations in your body and you learn your YES and NO. Your intuitive yes and no are stable and almost small. Overlaid on top of a small yes will often be a big NO and vice versa. When I recently signed up to do some growth edge exercises including dancing with a stranger on the street and laughing hysterically on the floor of a supermarket aisle, I did it because of a small yes that said, yeah you’re doing this. But that yes was beneath a huge no that said there is NO WAY I’m doing this! Similarly, I’ve learned to listen to my small no that often lies beneath an old habit of launching into contact, engagement, defending myself or appeasing a connection that is better left alone.

Pleasure in simplicity

Pleasure is not simply sex and orgasm. It is, as Ari, a member of VLP, writes in this poem, the enlivening of the skin that is already there to feel the simple ecstasy of the senses. It is moving energy through my bones and tissues. It is feeling ineffably lit up by how I chose to spend a certain ten minutes of my life. It is the exhilaration of permission to simply follow desire. It is our birthright. And it is experienced through slowness, through awareness—brought to the body’s sensations, to the enjoyment of a sip of tea, the color of a leaf, or the feeling of warm water running down your leg…

Untangling the exchange

Most of us assume that we experience pleasure when our lover experiences pleasure. That may be true, but let’s back up. Betty Martin is a pioneer in decoupling the energies of Taking and Allowing, Giving and Receiving. With this simple hand exercise, you can learn how to touch and feel the textures of your fingers and how to touch and feel your fingers’ pleasure in the touching. The intentionality of “taking pleasure” through the touch of another is very different than that of giving pleasure through the touch of another, and it requires that we get clear on what we want, what we are willing and unwilling to engage, and what the nature of an exchange between two people really is. Reclaiming the taking of pleasure with the consent of another is a liberation.

What’s your pleasure type?

Jaiya’s Erotic Blueprints quiz and associated offerings are a gamechanging introduction to the nature of one’s own erotic language. As a Shapeshifter, I was able to deeply contextualize so many aspects of myself that otherwise lived in the “you’re too much” self-rejection shame bin. My work with my coach Whitney has allowed me to prioritize erotic self-intimacy in a way that has shifted how I now walk through the world.

Learn how to express desire

Desire is arguably the organizing principle of the world. We are all always doing what we want to do, even when we think we are doing what we don’t want to do. Reclaiming desire requires that we free ourselves from caretaking, identify what we actually truly want, and learn how to ask for it. The book, Unbound, by dominatrix and Taoist nun Kasia Urbaniak, gave me the tools to learn how to get my energy coherent. How to ask for what I want in a way that invokes clear roles in dyadic relationship. I teach much of what I learned in this workshop.

Say yes to you

If I want a man who is a yes to my yeses, then I have to be a yes to myself. The feminine essence is playful, creative, and dynamic. And she wants to feel seen, understood, approved of, and protected. I’m creating my own masculine container where my adult woman and my childself both have free reign to play. Even at the same time! These days, I say YES to every little creative impulse (even if my container has to hold the voice of my inner critic trying to preempt and protect me from imagined feedback).

Here’s my playlist of mini-creations where my childself and my adult woman have formed what feels like a beautiful relationship expressing embodied play, channeling sexual energy, and feeling the power of sensual pleasure.

Enjoy, if you please…

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About Dr. Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your OwnOwn Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She is the founder of the online healing program Vital Mind Reset, and the membership community, Vital Life Project. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Learn More