A shortlist included the following:
- A view of the entire face and clothed body, front and back, bottom to top.
- More noticeable eye contact.
- Grooming characteristics and their impact on the sensory organs of the observer. Subtle skin tones, makeup, natural bodily scents or odors, perfumes, shampoo emanations, cologne, and pheromone production could encourage sexual arousal.
- The way the person walked, moved, sat, reached, and shook hands.
- His attire.
- An intimate and unvarying background domain, quiet and the same each week.
- The healthcare professional’s voice was unaffected by the distortion of a computer speaker or headphones.
- Small facial expressions.
- An absence of distractions as opposed to a less controlled setting.
Put simply, the office was an environment decorated and modified by the healer, made consistent and safe by him. It included objects little changed in successive sessions. Physical nearness to him was one of those stabled features.
Unintended changes from the old way of doing things should have worked against the emergence of passion in post-COVID treatment relationships. But perhaps there are other considerations:
- The current unavailability of nearness to a doctor or psychiatric social worker might make them more attractive to some people. Imagine a client whose past experience with parents or lovers included their tendency to push her away or display inconsistency in expressing affection.
- A new analyst, “out of reach” due to a change in the provision of psychotherapeutic services, could serve unconsciously as another chance to achieve the kind of love she’s searched for, the person “difficult to get.”
- Unlike the doctor’s office, online contact gives the patient possible control of 50% of the framework for the meeting. Clients set up computers in bedrooms, bathrooms, automobiles, nearby pools, and other locations.
- Although not all possess the ease of finding privacy, some capacity to arrange the decoration, lighting, and background is more available than prevails in another person’s building.
- Since travel to and from the psychologist’s location is unnecessary, attire can also be controlled and sexualized.
- Without the need to leave home, it becomes easier to drink alcohol or use other substances to disinhibit one’s emotions and become more provocative.
- Many people watch TV and movies on their computers, iPads, and phones. The device thus transforms into a place of “performances.” The sexualization of the session exists in a world of potential unreality, encouraging a client’s inclination to take a performative risk.
- The power of words, an analyst’s kindness, and a level of attention the patient might never have experienced can still serve as potent aphrodisiacs. Remember, love relationships began and survived in the pre-computer age of letter writing.
- In 2020 pet ownership rose to 70% of American households. Pandemic-driven starvation for physical contact and touch (skin hunger) may explain a part of this phenomenon. It might motivate an increased want for the caress (and more) from someone who appears devoted to your wellbeing.
To sum up, we don’t know the extent to which virtual (online) therapy increases or diminishes erotic transference. Many of the various effects of the pandemic are little studied, leaving anecdotal evidence at best.
We all recognize that humanity would not exist but for sexual appetite. Sex and love endure through wartime, plagues, environmental destruction, and more.
Think of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, in Homer’s Odyssey. She waited 20 years for her husband’s return when he left to fight in the Trojan War.
The power of another’s gaze, warmth, careful listening, and voice remain available to us, no matter the change in therapeutic format. The enlarged distance from the therapist might even enhance his sense of mystery.
The hope for intimacy and the heartbeat of desire have survived with less assistance.
The first image is called Sculpture in Paradise by Philip Jackson, located at the center of the cloisters of Chichester Cathedral. The photo is by surreyblonde from Pinterest. Next comes Khao Luang Cave Temple, Phetchaburi, Thailand, sourced from Cheezburger.com/ Finally, Factory Butte, Utah, a 2019 work by Laura Hedien with her permission: Laura Hedien Official Website.