The blog of The Sex Positive Coach provides relationship tips and tidbits of information about sexual health, while also promoting the author's belief that all humans deserve love and pleasure, and that all genders, sexual orientations, relationship structures, and consensual sexual activities are valid. Sometimes the posts here are objective and somewhat academic in tone, but ocassionally an issue will arise that provokes a more emotional response. Please take what works for you and leave the rest. We appreciate any sharing, liking, commenting, pinning, or promoting you feel inspired to do to help us get the word out about who we are and what we have to offer.
|Posted by [email protected] on October 16, 2015 at 8:30 PM||comments (3)|
I have always been emotionally volatile. I often made adults uncomfortable growing up because my tears were always quick to flow. I was told to “grow up” and to “act your age.” Sometimes I heard, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about!” I was taunted by classmates, ridiculed by teachers, and shamed by many of the other adults in my life. I struggled mightily to learn how to control my tears, but not one of those people who admonished me about crying ever thought to teach me or help me with this. Too often, they seemed to think that my tears were meant to manipulate them and therefore must be quashed in whatever fashion they thought most likely to do the trick. None of them offered me tools for learning emotional resilience or strategies for bolstering my emotional landscape to prevent the frequent flooding. This is likely because they didn’t have those tools, didn’t know those strategies.
This society does not value emotions and doesn’t teach people emotional intelligence. We do not equip people to cope with emotions, nor do we honor the messages our emotions are trying to convey. We cannot even conceive of there being any sort of wisdom in emotionality. So instead we are encouraged through shame and other tactics to ignore or suppress our emotions. We are supposed to “control ourselves” and only give in to our emotions when it is socially appropriate to do so.
I am an emotion coach. I have received some training in emotionally focused therapy and I pursued that because i believe strongly in the wisdom of our emotions. Guy Winch, in his recent TED talk on Emotional First Aid, succinctly described many of my thoughts on the topic of emotional and psychological health. He wondered why we value our bodies but not our minds. In other words, if we get a broken arm, we immediately take steps to tend that injury and we do whatever we need to in order to facilitate the healing of that wound. But when we sustain an emotional or psychological injury, such as loneliness, failure, or rejection, we don’t even acknowledge that these ARE injuries. And yet these things can lead to physical issues and even death, if not tended properly.
The online UK publication, Psychologies, published an article that describes https://www.psychologies.co.uk/self/the-link-between-emotions-and-health.html" target="_blank">the link between our emotions and our physical health. Both negative and positive emotional states have an effect on our physiology, and it’s important to become aware of these facts, so that we can both monitor and regulate our psychological and our physical health.
Because we’re not given an education in emotional regulation, many people have trouble even identifying what emotion they’re feeling at any given time. Once they’re able to detect their emotional state, sometimes they simply don’t have a word to use to describe it to someone else. I often ask my clients to start by turning their attention to the sensations they’re experiencing in their body as an alternative to trying to figure out how to name whatever emotion they’re feeling. If you don’t have a vocabulary for feeling-states, you can at least describe what you’re feeling in your body, which can give you clues about your emotional state. For instance, if you notice that your jaw is tight, or you’re holding your shoulders up by your ears, or your stomach is churning...these are all objective observations that are connected to our psychological experience. For most people, if they’re grinding their teeth, they’re probably experiencing one of the so-called negative emotions, such as anger or frustration.
Once someone begins to be able to identify their emotions, at least as good or bad, then we can start expanding their vocabulary. An excellent tool for this is the Emotional Word Wheel. Starting at the inside and working your way out, you can ask yourself what shade of the feeling category your current emotion is most like.
Now you’re able to identify and name an emotion you’re experiencing, so it’s time to start learning the tools to deal with those emotions and learn from them. A fellow life coach has written a beautifully simple but effective article on his R.A.I.N. approach to processing emotions. “R” stands for “Recognize,” which we’ve actually already covered. By learning to slow down enough to recognize that you are having an emotional reaction to something, and then analyzing it enough to accurately name it, you have taken the first step in processing it. My friend says, “Stopping to ask myself this question interrupts the momentum and drama that's happening in my head; naming it has a tremendous amount of power.”
Next, you must “Accept” that emotion, whatever it is. Accepting that whatever you’re feeling is valid is an important step and keeps you on the path to processing the emotion. The opposite of acceptance is resistance or denial. These would be akin to the suppression of the emotion, which as we’ve already noted, leads to negative consequences, both mental and physical. So let’s try to practice acceptance, and it is certainly a practice, something that we must return to and make an effort at, repeatedly.
The “I” in the R.A.I.N. approach represents “Investigate” and refers to the process involved in tracking down the source or trigger for the emotion, but also includes the physical experience of the emotion. So this step requires both the mind and the body to come online to help you understand your heart. Think about what triggered this emotion and feel the sensations this emotion triggers in your body. My friend’s article goes on: “I stop here, and sit for as long as I can and just bring my awareness to what it feels like. Even thirty seconds of this type of focused awareness can bring a dramatic shift in the energy of the emotion and the hold it has over me. This is simply called "feeling my feelings" and is integral to the process.”
Finally, the “N” represents “non-attachment,” a concept that those of us in the Western world often struggle with. Non-attachment, in this context, is simply the acknowledgment that YOU are not your thoughts. Think about it...who is it that is thinking about how you think? We all have a higher self or a core self that can observe or witness all the thoughts and emotions cascading through our brain and body, and if we can connect with that core self and engage its help, we can step back from the belief that everything our monkey mind comes up with must be true. We can begin to see that our thoughts and our emotions, while helpful, are not the sum total of our experience. We don’t have to identify with every passing whim. If you take some time learning to meditate, you will soon see that your mind will generate all sorts of things to try and distract you, but if you simply sit and breathe, and “watch” the parade of thoughts, you’ll soon learn that “this too shall pass” is a truism.
Learning to breathe slowly and deeply, to gain control over this one aspect of your physical body, will do more by itself than any other technique to help you manage your emotions. Take a yoga or meditation class, or remember the lessons from singing lessons, or look up on the internet how to learn diaphragmatic breathing, and you will be doing yourself a huge favor. Just remember to breathe and practice the RAIN approach the next time you experience some intense emotions and see if these suggestions change your experience, even just a little bit. Small changes can be built upon and amplified with practice, patience, and persistence. Thankfully my mom taught me some relaxation exercises and deep breathing techniques, as well as getting me started on my lifelong love of yoga. Thanks so Mom, I gradually learned to use these things to deal with my own emotionality.
|Posted by [email protected] on July 9, 2015 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
"How do I know if this relationship is right for me anymore?” Mary* asked.
“The fact that you’re even asking the question means that you probably already know the answer,” I responded.
We spent the rest of the hour going through the specific reasons why she was feeling unfulfilled. To the obvious question about whether she’d talked to her partner about her feelings, she told me that her girlfriend found it difficult to have discussions about emotional matters, which was just one more indication that these two were severely mismatched for long-term happiness since Mary deeply values deep emotional discussions. Don’t get me wrong, opposites often do attract, and usually for very good reasons. But if they don’t figure out how to appreciate how they complement each other, opposites can quickly become opponents, once the shiny wears off.
I also asked Mary to consider all the ways that her girlfriend is a good match, and to think about the things that drew her into this relationship. I asked her to weigh those against the negatives and the areas of perceived lack or mismatch. Which side is heavier? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? In an exploration like this, it’s important to note that there is no wrong answer here...what you’re doing is evaluating what’s best for yourself. And you will make the decision you need to make, even if it’s not one that I would make if I wore your shoes. If you decide to stay, there must be more for you to learn in this relationship or perhaps you’ve decided the negatives DON’T outweigh the positives.
Sometimes, all that’s needed is a listening ear and someone who’s not afraid to ask you the tough questions. Sometimes all we need is somebody who can point out patterns, or highlight where our words and actions are inconsistent. Some friends can do this, but a lot of times our friends are scared to hurt our feelings or they’re scared that if they are honest with us, the friendship could be damaged or ended. Enlisting the help of a professional ensures that the person you’re talking to has some skill in seeing patterns, has been trained in asking the right questions, does not have a personal stake in the outcome, and isn’t going to deflect the conversation to tell you all about themselves.
I’m not sure what Mary ultimately decided to do, whether to stay or leave that relationship. But the fact that I don’t know doesn’t really matter. I helped her to think through her situation and not simply react out of a place of heightened emotion. I enabled her to make the best possible decision for herself.
*Names and specific details changed to protect confidentiality.
|Posted by [email protected] on April 10, 2015 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
I recently had a discussion with someone who is relatively new to the Scene, who was trying to figure out if it’s actually okay to be kinky, to enjoy being hit. This is a person who works with domestic violence victims and has been having a hard time wrapping her head around the lifestyle and her own desires.
So I asked her, “When someone puts a penis into a vagina, what is that?”
With a confused look on her face, she answered hesitantly, “That’s sex.”
“Okay,” I said. “What if the person who owns the vagina did not want the penis there?”
She still wore a guarded expression, but answered more firmly this time. “That’s rape.”
“But it’s the same actions, whether it’s sex or rape, so what’s the difference?” A look of comprehension began to cross her face, and she said, “Consent, right?”
“Yes, consent on the part of the receiver and intent/motivation on the part of the doer. That’s the same difference here.”
I went on to share with her my maxim on this topic: BDSM is to assault/abuse, as sex is to rape. The same actions can often be seen in both healthy, consensual BDSM and in dysfunctional, abuse or assault cases. The difference is huge, but involves consent and motivation.
I remember when I realized how much I liked “rough sex” and BDSM play. I was struck with a similar quandary. I have always identified as a feminist, determined to help stop violence against women. So how could I, an anti-violence feminist, enjoy being hit so much? What was wrong with me? After much soul searching and talking through these issues with some trusted friends, what I finally arrived at is that what looks like violence is simply the inflicting of intense sensation. The mind and body determine whether it’s good or bad, pain or pleasure.
The body can take more intensity than most people realize. Those who have been in traumatic situations, war, or childbirth begin to understand that the body can take way more than they ever thought beforehand. My own experience of participating in a mini-bootcamp, as part of my junior ROTC membership in high school, was one of the things that proved this to me. I was not particularly in shape, I didn’t work out much, my primary exercise was yoga. So I was not really prepared for such a physically demanding experience as we went through that week. And yet, I found that under pressure, I could do probably 10 times the number of push ups as I’d ever done before. I stepped up to the challenges and was surprised and delighted with myself. It actually felt good and I discovered a lot about myself and what I could handle as a result of that experience.
The body and the brain have ways of dealing with intense sensations and demands on the system that can even sometimes be experienced as pleasurable. I won’t go into all the science here, but most seasoned members of the kink community know that there’s a complicated mix of chemicals that gets dumped into the system during a scene that results in a complex series of reactions to the intensity experienced during that scene. Some people experience pure pleasure from things they might normally perceive as painful. Other people go deep into trance-like states of mind, and some of those actually experience spiritual moments, including seeing visions and feeling euphoria.
The mind, too, has a lot of power and influence over the way sensations are interpreted. It has been shown that when people who hold the hand of someone with whom they are in a happy relationship, their experience of stressful and painful stimuli are much lower than when they are subjected to the exact same stimuli but do so alone. Our perceptions can change our physical experience.
A BDSM relationship is one in which great amounts of trust, negotiation, and consent have already occurred. So a very strong, deep bond has been formed, such that when these people play out a scene, the bottom already has the advantage of having their loving partner there AND the top often helps the bottom to reach states in which the intensity can be experienced as something other than pain. Because the people involved have communicated far more than most vanilla couples and they have all consented to the activities, what then transpires is NOT assault. However, if the pre-negotiated limits are exceeded or the safeword/safesign is ignored, everything that follows then becomes, at the very least, a consent violation, and at worst, assault. CONSENT is the difference. And different people consent to different things at different times, and that is why so much communication and negotiation occurs.
So, no, #BDSMisNotAbuse. In fact, vanilla couples could learn a thing or two about relationship negotiation and communication skills from the BDSM crowd, who have necessarily had to become masters at such skills.
|Posted by [email protected] on April 7, 2015 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
How do you reclaim your sense of personal power after a breakup, especially one in which you lost your sense of self or power or esteem? One of the ways in which to do this is to decide to deal with things on your own terms. Sometimes this means setting extreme personal boundaries regarding contact of any kind. Sometimes this means learning when to let (or make) things roll off your back. Sometimes it means acting as if you’re doing alright (even if you really aren’t yet). There is power in setting your own boundaries, in determinedly not obsessing over things, and pretending to be fine. All of these things will contribute to you eventually being okay, for real.
What Kind of Interaction Are You Willing to Accept
Setting personal boundaries is perhaps one of the most important things you can do to reclaim your sense of personal power. Look at your interactions with the other party and determine if they are usually additive and healthy for your mental and emotional stability. Or assess whether the majority of your interactions leave you feeling bad on some level, mildly guilty, drained, unsettled, or worse. If the average sense is that you feel more depleted than uplifted, then you may need to set some boundaries with this person. Determine when and how contact will be acceptable or at least at a level you can easily cope with. And then express those boundaries to the other person.
For instance, you may decide that you don’t wish to receive phone calls from them during the day while you’re at work, because you find that you’re less able to focus after such calls. Then let them know that this is a new boundary for you and ask them to respect your wishes in this regard. If they persist in trying to call you during these restricted times, you have a choice. You can either answer the call and participate in the conversation that is likely to distress you, thereby choosing to make yourself miserable. Or you can choose not to answer the phone and refuse to feel guilty for standing by your own boundary. If you answer the phone, even after setting and expressing your boundary, you’re teaching the other person that you’re not really serious about it. If you’re willing to break your own rule, then why should they bother observing it? You have every right to protect yourself from toxic interactions. And you have the power to do so, as well. But you must accept that right and that power and the fact that we teach people how to treat us. Treat yourself with no respect, and others will do the same. If on the other hand, you stand by your words and you enforce your own boundaries (in this case, by not giving in and answering the phone), then you begin to show others that you respect yourself enough to protect your own space. This will eventually teach others to do the same or to go away, since you’re no longer as easy a “mark.”
If It's Not Yours, Don't Pick It Up
Once you do have another interaction with this person, they may use all sorts of tactics to try and convince you that it is NOT alright for you to draw your own lines and protect your space, your heart, and your mental stability. People like this are masters of manipulation, but one of the tools you can develop to combat this onslaught of shaming, guilting, threatening behaviors, is to let it roll off your back. If it is honestly not yours, don’t pick it up. When someone tries to make you feel ashamed for ignoring their call, they’re really dealing with their own sense of low self-esteem and just trying to pawn that off on you. If you accept it, then they can convince themselves that perhaps you are actually at fault to “making” them feel a certain way. But we don’t have power over others’ emotions, only our own. So, for instance, let’s continue the example of setting a boundary around when you’re willing to accept phone calls from a particular person. Imagine that they’ve trying calling you during the day, anyway, even though you expressly requested that they not do so.
First of all, acknowledge at least to yourself, how that shows how little they respect you and your space and your wishes. Secondly, when you do accept their call later in the day, accept also that they’re likely to say something to try and make you feel bad about not answering the phone earlier. Practice in your mind, “it’s not about me, I let their drama roll off my back.” No matter what they say to you to try and make you feel badly, repeat this or a similar mantra to yourself. Even if you are beginning to feel badly, do whatever you have to in order to prevent them seeing how they’re affecting you. Instead, you can simply say, “Look, I hear that it was difficult for you not to be able to reach me today, but I will no longer be accepting phone calls during my work day.” Hold to your line. You needn’t be rude or disrespectful. You needn’t explain or defend yourself or your decision. Just calmly and firmly continue to repeat your boundary in response to whatever they throw at you trying to get you to change your boundary.
If the other person’s methods continue to be negative, aggressive, and distressing, you may consider ending the call altogether. “Look, if you can’t let this go, I’m going to have to end this conversation. I’m not changing my mind. Can we talk about whatever it is you wanted to talk about? If not, I need to hang up.” And then DO SO! Again, resist the urge to get drawn into defending yourself or answering their questions about your motives for drawing your boundary. You get to determine how, when, and how much you interact with anyone, without having to prove why you feel that might be necessary. Don’t rise to the bait. Stick by your words and end the call if they won’t let the issue go.
Fake It 'Til You Make It
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we might pretend not to be affected, we often are. These interactions can be so incredibly stressful and changing one’s behavior can lead to an increase in negativity from those around us until they adjust to the new boundaries and expectations. It can sometimes seem to be the easier way out just to cave in and allow the old disrespectful behaviors to go on, because at least then (we try to convince ourselves) we don’t have to deal with the drama associated with changing those behaviors (or at least changing what we’re willing to accept). But then we do have to deal with how bad we feel during and after toxic interactions. So it’s not really any easier. But pretending “as if” a thing is true, often leads to that thing eventually becoming actually true. So if I pretend to someone that their drama doesn’t affect me, then eventually that will be true - their drama will no longer affect me! And how glorious a day that is when it finally happens. When you can look up from the phone and honestly see that the drama is being created by the other person’s issues and that you’re not responsible for the toxicity they’re spewing, you will finally know what it is to be free.
You can step into your power, claim your voice, and protect your space and your heart. You needn’t accept responsibility for anyone else’s issues or emotionality. You do have the right to draw boundaries around the behavior you’re not willing to accept. You have the power to say no, not right now, or not in this way. People will begin to respect those boundaries if you respect yourself enough to defend your boundaries. And you will eventually feel better about yourself and attract into your life the kind of people who will naturally respect you.
|Posted by [email protected] on March 2, 2015 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
Did you know that March has been deemed Endometriosis Awareness Month? What do you think your awareness levels of this disease are? For instance, did you know that at least 6.3 million women and girls (about 1 in 10) suffer from this condition in the U.S. alone? Did you know that it typically takes women 6-11 years of living in pain before they receive an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis? Did you know that endometrial tissue has been found in the brain and the lungs? Did you know that men can develop endometriosis? Do you know what endometriosis is?
Most people, if they’ve heard of this disease, would probably know that it is generally associated with women and would be surprised to hear that some men have developed it. The endometrial lining of the uterus is the tissue that sloughs off and is expelled during a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle if no egg has been fertilized and implanted in that lining. Endometriosis is when that tissue grows in other places than the inside of the uterus, such as on the ovaries, on the outside wall of the uterus, along the vaginal wall, etc. A full description follows from the Endometriosis Association:
“This misplaced tissue develops into growths or lesions which respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the tissue of the uterine lining does: each month the tissue builds up, breaks down, and sheds. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus and out of the body through the vagina, but the blood and tissue shed from endometrial growths has no way of leaving the body. This results in internal bleeding, breakdown of the blood and tissue from the lesions, and inflammation -- and can cause pain, infertility, scar tissue formation, adhesions, and bowel problems.”
If you experience pain before or during your period, during sex, or painful urination or bowel movements during your period, and if you struggle with infertility , fatigue and other gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea or constipation, you may be suffering with endometriosis, too.
The site, endometriosis.org, reports that this condition is the one of the most common causes of pelvic pain and infertility in women. “More than half of all women with endometriosis experience intense pain during sex. What’s more, women who have such pain have a difficult time talking about the problem with their partners, making it even more frustrating,” according to Everyday Health. The pain a woman experiences during a sex can vary in intensity and varies depending on where the lesions are located. There are some strategies for reducing pain during sex if the pain is related to your endometriosis:
1 - Communicate! Don’t let your partner think that you’re just no longer interested in sex or in him or her personally. Let them in on what’s going on for you. In most cases, a woman’s partner is going to want to do whatever is needed to make sex pleasurable for her. Educate your partner(s) about your condition and even invite them to doctor’s appointments so they can more fully understand what it is you’re going through. And invite them to help you brainstorm ways to reduce your pain. These conversations can help bring you closer together, like a team against this painful invader. And it gives you the support you need to deal with this issue.
2 - Experiment and try different positions and different sex acts! This could be an opportunity to have fun with your sex life. It is frustrating to always experience pain during regular intercourse, but sometimes switching things up will let you find a position that does NOT hurt, or doesn’t hurt as much. And getting away from the idea that sex always has to involve vaginal penetration is another way to enjoy sexual pleasure without having to risk pain.
3 - Experiment with different times of the month! Chart your pain cycles and observe the patterns of when your pain is greatest and when it is lowest. Make sex dates during the low-pain times of the month and generate excitement between you and your partner(s) about those upcoming dates. Rather than only focusing on when sex might be most likely to hurt, instead look forward to the days when it’s most likely to be pleasurable.
4 - Get therapy or other individual and relationship support! Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; rather it’s an acknowledgment that you are dealing with something affecting your whole life, not just your sex life. Chronic pain conditions take a toll on one’s sleep, mood, ability to socialize, work, and relationships. The fact that endo pain can greatly impact one’s sex life and ability to have children compounds all those other difficulties. Help and support during treatment, both medical and mental, will help you and your partner(s) weather this storm together.
A fantastic article on what a partner (of any gender) can do to help a partner who suffers from endometriosis was posted on The Good Men Project website. Please disregard the heteronormative bias evident in the article; the advice is too valuable to ignore.
|Posted by [email protected] on February 25, 2015 at 1:35 PM||comments (0)|
I recently co-presented a mini workshop/demo on how to negotiate a BDSM scene prior to engaging in one. And with the #50Shades movie still garnering a lot of attention, from both within and without the BDSM community, I thought this might make a good blog post, as well.
Engaging in negotiation in non-sexual and non-kinky contexts is different from what I presented on at that event, but there are overlaps and things we can learn from how kinksters communicate. What does negotiation mean, anyway? In vanilla (non-BDSM) crowds, “negotiation” often seems to be equated with “compromise.” That word “compromise” often leaves an unpleasant taste in one’s mouth, because it seems to imply that everyone has to give up something that’s important to them in order to get something that’s more important. It suggests that people who are in negotiations are at odds with one another.
To complicate matters further, just add people. Polyamorous households that consist of multiple adults in various intimate configurations who need to figure out how to live peacefully together soon become masters at negotiation, or the household soon dissolves.
Step one: Remember you’re on the same side
One of the first things to do when you realize a negotiation is due or necessary is to change your thinking about it. Instead of dreading the conversation and wondering what you’ll have to offer up in exchange for getting what you want out of it...try imagining you and the person/people you’re negotiating with are ON THE SAME SIDE. Rather than pitted against each other, every person for themselves, remember that you are partners, members of the same team. This is an opportunity to find the Win/Win solution to whatever thorny issue has cropped up.
The kinky crowd really gets this concept. When two kinksters are negotiating a scene, they both recognize the fact that they’re working together to create the best possible experience for BOTH of them. These negotiations are not conducted like a high-powered executive business meeting as portrayed in #50Shades. The movie did get one element right - these initial scene negotiations are conducted between equals, so that no one is acting from a place of feeling coerced or pressured due to an unfair power differential. It’s not until the negotiation is over, and satisfactory and agreed to by all parties, that the power exchange begins.
In a polyamorous family, the best outcomes are also achieved when all the members feel that they have an equal voice in a negotiation that affects the entire household. Issues between any set of individuals is not subject to group negotiation, but household functioning issues often are hammered out in family meetings. Any good group leader knows that even the quietest person needs to feel safe and empowered to offer their opinions and get their needs met.
Try a different position to shift the energy
If you’re finding it difficult to step out of the combative positions you and the other parties may have taken in order to protect your interests in a negotiation, try suggesting a change in your physical positioning. If these talks typically happen around a kitchen table, with everyone facing off, an alternative might be to throw some pillows on the living room floor and everyone lay down with their heads in the middle. This change of positioning changes the energy and the context and participants can experience an internal shift in how they show up for the discussion, as well as see a difference in how everyone treats each other.
Of course, this isn’t to suggest that kinky folk don’t also fall prey to the same mistakes everyone tends to make in relationships around communication, conflict management, and relationship negotiation..
Step two: Engage in active listening
Step two in your negotiation discussion is to allow each other the space to be heard, safely and completely. You already know what is most important to you about this issue. So clear your head and truly LISTEN to your partner(s) and engage in active listening, so that they feel heard and understood. Validating another’s words does not mean that you agree with them; instead it conveys understanding and acceptance, of both the message and the speaker.
Active listening involves being mindful of your verbal and non-verbal cues to the speaker that you’re paying attention. If you don’t already do this, then in more social situations (where a relationship is not at stake), practice tuning in to how you’re communication during a conversation while you’re not speaking. See what happens when you lean in toward the speaker slightly, widen your eyes, and make small murmurs of encouragement. Experiment with listening so intently to what the other person is saying that you can restate in your own words what you just heard, BEFORE trying to formulate a response. There are many other things involved with active listening, and learning to become adept at this can improve all of your relationships, whether kinky, poly, or vanilla.
Step three: Have a creative brainstorming session
Back to negotiating...step three is to engage in a creative brainstorming session. After each speaker has had a chance to fully describe what’s important to them about the current issue, pose the question, “What COULD work?”. Often, when we reach the solution-seeking portion of a negotiation, the other parties will engage in “devil’s advocate” games, in which every solution is picked apart and the reasons it WON’T work are highlighted. When the OBSTACLES are given more energy than the effort to find workable solutions, everyone will become frustrated and discouraged by the exchange. However, if you can engage the problem-seeking party in a solution-seeking discussion, the energy of the whole conversation changes and becomes more positive. This can lead to looking through doorways of possibility that may have remain closed before, allowing everyone in the discussion to entertain creative notions of how to get everyone’s needs met.
From here, it’s just a matter of continuing to take everyone’s needs into account as each option is evaluated. For help in learning to have these discussions, for moderation in situations that feel out of control, and for help in developing protocols for family discussions, scene negotiations, and important relationship talks, please contact us at The Sex Positive Coach. We will take your family’s needs and dynamics into account while we help you figure out how to resolve differences without dissolving your relationships.
|Posted by [email protected] on February 24, 2015 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
Internalized kink-shame is very real
One of the criticisms of this movie is how the main characters portray how negatively they feel about kink, even while doing it. Anastasia’s horror at what Christian does only serves to reinforce this traumatized man’s feelings of shame about his desires and his very Self. Christian has a strong dose of internalized kink-shame, stemming from his low sense of self-worth as a result of his birth mother’s treatment of him as a child. He believes that since his sexual arousal is tied so strongly to acts of sexual dominance and sadism that he must be “50 shades of fucked up,” as he says in the movie.
Many people who are actually in the kink scene revile this movie, saying that Christian and Ana portray their lifestyle as something to be ashamed of and that it perpetuates stereotypes about BDSM that link kink and abuse. The fact is that many people, when they first discover their inclinations in this direction, feel shame and confusion. This culture teaches us NOT to hit or hurt others, but some of us find ourselves drawn to and turned on by the act of striking another. This can look and sound and feel very wrong to someone. Others of us pride ourselves on being feminist, on working to end the violence toward women, and then feel utterly confused when we discover we like the sensation of being struck with a flogger or a cane or whatever. What is wrong with me?
What is wrong with me?
I remember going through this stage myself, and I was fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded people who could help me think through it and learn to accept myself and my desires. Poor Christian is so completely isolated, due to his celebrity status and the societal stigma against BDSM, that his lawyer has advised him to have any potential partner sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to engaging in any interactions. He is not part of any social groups related to kink, he doesn’t go out to clubs, dungeons, or play parties, and he has no one to talk to (except his therapist, who we meet in the second book). He also doesn’t get to witness how anyone else might handle this role and responsibility.
Ana is forbidden from discussing any of this with anyone either, so she has no other outlet besides her online research. And unfortunately, what you can find online is often the most extreme examples of what we do. It’s not usually the best way to learn about kink, or to find support for your journey, unless you’ve connected to others through a social/educational site, such as Fetlife.
Allowing feelings of shame to overtake your enjoyment of your sexuality can stifle your experience. These internal emotional states can actually take a toll on the physiological functioning of your body. In other words, your sense of shame can interfere with your ability to get aroused or to reach climax. Feelings of shame about your sexuality can lead you to hate yourself, to fear your own impulses, to fear and hate others who do express this aspect of their sexuality. There are so many ways you can wound yourself and others by not learning to accept and embrace who you are and what you desire or find pleasurable.
The road to sexual self-acceptance
The journey to self-acceptance around one’s sexuality is a circuitous one. It requires a lot of soul-searching, personal experimentation, discussion with others, exploring and experimenting with others, more discussion.
We all receive numerous messages about sexuality and identity while growing up, and our parents, peers, and popular media all influence the development of our own beliefs and values. Without examination, however, these values that we learned as children and young adults simply exist as “shoulds” in our minds. For example, boys are often taught, “boys shouldn’t hit girls.” Maturity requires self-reflection and a conscious examination of our beliefs and value. Where did we learn these? What do they mean? Do we agree with them or some part of them? Do we wish to keep and reinforce each of these beliefs and values, or would it make more sense, given who we are (or are becoming) to rewrite some of these beliefs and values? How can I bring my beliefs and values into more alignment with who I know myself to be? These are the questions we must ask ourselves in order to grow into the authentic, self-confident, and self-possessed individuals we can be.
Self-reflection often needs outside assistance. Another perspective or a different reframe can help us enormously in the process of belief evaluation. We may feel intuitively that a certain thing doesn’t seem right to us, but have trouble putting words to it. Finding someone else with knowledge and acceptance in these areas of inquiry can give us the words and tools we need to continue our self-assessment.
This is where The Sex Positive Coach can help. We are familiar with and accepting of all types of sexuality. No one is shamed for how they feel here and we can give you a safe space in which to explore your own internalized shame regarding kink or sex in general. We will help you work through your angst so that you can get your needs and desires met in ways that are safe, healthy, and fully consensual for all involved. Let us know how we can help you on your own journey toward sexual self-acceptance!
|Posted by [email protected] on February 23, 2015 at 1:10 PM||comments (0)|
Recently I was asked if I work with transgender people. The answer is a resounding YES! I believe in the right to own your Self, no matter what. I believe that all people should be able to define and label themselves, based on their own interpretation of who they are. I find deep satisfaction in helping people learn to delve within to answer those questions for themselves and I enjoy co-creating with people, brainstorming to figure out just the right label that most closely defines who they are.
This world is a rough place for someone who doesn’t fit neatly into one of the binary options. No matter if you’re transgender (anywhere on the spectrum), intersex, genderqueer, or gender-questioning, you challenge the status quo and you make close-minded people uncomfortable. Which in turn makes it hard to find safe, comfortable places to exist, to connect, to socialize, to feel accepted, to be truly Seen. I can offer that. I will honor whatever gender pronoun(s) you prefer. You can show up for session dressed however you feel most comfortable.
You are so brave, you have so much heart, and you have already done so much soul searching, so much more than the average person who just stumbles through their life. You have the opportunity to become who you most truly are, and I can help.
However, I need to point out that I am a coach. What I am NOT is a therapist or a doctor. I cannot prescribe medication, I cannot sign off on the paperwork required prior to gender surgeries.
What I can do is offer emotional support and assistance in learning to resolve any mixed feelings you may be struggling with in relation to your gender and identity. I will assist in figuring out what shade of gender-variant individual you may be and what label (if any) to use in describing yourself to others. I will be your cheerleader, enthusiastically on your side while you progress through your identity shift, regardless of your decision to transition. I can help you prepare for and practice your coming out approach and manage the various reactions you get from your loved ones. I can help you work through any limiting beliefs or internalized transphobia keeping you from embracing your true nature. I can help share resources and information about transition and other gender related topics.
So what do you need? How can I help support you? Please reach out with any questions you may have. I’m happy to address your concerns. If you’re ready to schedule a session, you can do so here.
|Posted by [email protected] on February 19, 2015 at 12:00 PM||comments (0)|
The Hidden Gift of Jealousy
A recent set of studies, published in the Psychology & Sexuality journal, and reported on in Psychology Today, has revealed that “contact theory” (which states that the more exposure one has to something, the more favorable one is likely to be toward that thing) is true when it comes to polyamory as well. The study, “How to Make People More Accepting of Polyamory,” found that most people are fairly accepting of the concept of consensual nonmonogamy, although those interested in trying it are much fewer in number. One interesting find in this group of studies was the types of people more predisposed to be accepting of polyamory include those who are more adventurous, younger, liberal, and apparently weren’t as focused on their jealousy issues.
Myth: If you’re jealous, you’re not doing poly right, or you’re not really poly
It is a common myth both in and out of polyamorous circles that in order to be poly, you have to be one of those rare individuals who don’t feel jealousy at all, or you are supposed to swallow it and instead focus on learning compersion (the feeling of happiness as a direct result of your partner’s joy at being with someone else). However, jealousy is not necessarily a bad thing. All of our emotional states exist for important reasons. Our feelings give us clues about things occurring in our subconscious and can help us uncover deeper desires, limits, needs, or areas of confusion.
Myth: The jealous partner must be cut off or broken up with to prevent drama
Just because someone in your poly group is experiencing jealousy, this is not a reason to end the relationship, to request/require your partner to end their relationship with the jealous party, or to disregard, dismiss, or belittle the one having those feelings (Including if that person is YOU!). Instead, this is a prime opportunity to engage in more communication with one another. Allow yourself to open to the possibility that the jealous reactions of yourself or another are rooted in a place of pain, fear, or need. This is a chance to send messages of love, acceptance, safety, and trust. The gift of jealousy is that if offers the opportunity to deepen trust, solidify connection, and create an even more intimate relationship IF all parties can courageously meet the challenge of working through it together.
What IS Jealousy?
Usually, a feeling of jealousy is a result of EITHER a need not being met in the one experiencing those feelings, OR a boundary has been crossed so that the one feeling jealous winds up feeling less secure in the relationship. There can be other sources, but these are the two primary ones, in my experience. So it’s important to ask the person feeling jealous for more information about that feeling and about what has triggered the feeling. It requires the person having a jealous reaction to take a breath and a step back and to seriously and honestly analyze their reactions to a situation or a person to determine what exactly is going on inside of them.
Is There a Need Not Being Met?
We are only responsible for own feelings; no one can make us feel anything. So when we have a feeling, we need to develop the capacity to identify it, express is in a healthy manner, and resolve it. When it comes to jealousy, see what other feeling is also present - it could be a sense of sadness or (impending) loss, it could be grief, it could be pain, it could be fear of abandonment, it could be a feeling of inadequacy or low self-worth, or something else. This other feeling gives us a clue as to what else is lacking for the person, what need isn’t being met. This feeling could be compounded if the jealous person PERCEIVES that this need is being met for another person by the shared partner. It’s important to reiterate that fixing the jealous person’s feelings is NOT the responsibility of the other partner.
In this case, if there’s a need that isn’t being met, having an open and honest and non-blaming conversation about that could result in finding a new solution for that need to get met, either within the existing relationship or through some other outlet. Discussing the fear or the pain or the need and then exploring options together is the best bet for arriving at a satisfactory outcome.
Has a Boundary Been Crossed?
If the issue is more about boundaries being crossed, it’s very important to examine what lines might have been violated and if those lines had been explicitly agreed to by all parties, or if they were implicit boundaries, assumed to be understood and accepted by all parties. If the case is the latter, then the conversation needs to be about renegotiating boundaries, being very careful to be extremely explicit and detailed oriented in the discussion. Sometimes this means getting all the way down to defining terminology to make sure everyone is on the same page with what certain words (like “intimacy” actually mean. I’ve known some larger polyamorous households that created their own dictionary, where they would have a family meeting to discuss and come to agreement on whatever tricky words had come up for them.
If the issue is the former, and someone has crossed a line that was specifically and explicitly agreed to, then the focus must shift to the offending party. It is still the responsibility of each individual to manage their own emotional state, but the one who crossed the line must now be honest both within themselves and with their partner(s). What happened to facilitate that boundary-crossing and what can be done to mend the trust that crossing has caused?
No Matter What, Stay True to Yourself & Open to Hearing the Other
These are very difficult and delicate discussions. No matter what is going on to cause the jealousy, it is so very important for everyone involved to be true to themselves while being as open as possible to hearing the other(s) out. It’s important to give the benefit of the doubt; in most relationships, the partners are not trying to hurt each other, that was not the intent, but rather an unforeseen or unexpected consequence of getting some other need met.
Can You Ever Go Back to the Way It Was? Should You Even Want To?
All of the so-called “negative” emotions have a reason to exist, a purpose in our lives and relationships. The complex set of feelings we call “jealousy” combine to become a red flag. What need may not be getting met? What fear may have been triggered? What boundary might have been crossed? These are the places to start. And there is help...you don’t have to wade these murky waters alone. A coach like myself can help your family navigate this dark and bumpy terrain so that you wind up back in a place that is good for all involved. I can’t promise your relationship will return to the way it was. In fact, that’s nearly impossible. You know that old saying, “You can’t step in the same river twice” ? Anytime something difficult happens, it changes the people involved. This is an opportunity for growth. What can you do to facilitate the growth process?
|Posted by [email protected] on February 18, 2015 at 3:20 PM||comments (1)|
Wow, I just watched Eve Ensler’s TED talk on reclaiming your inner girl, and I find myself feeling humbled, enraged, and inspired, all at the same time. I am humbled by the harsh awareness of how privileged I am, that no matter what I have suffered in my life, it is nothing to that of so many girls and women around the world. I am enraged by how much I and others have been focusing on this ridiculous fictional tale of romance and kink, when there are girls and women elsewhere just trying to stay alive, trying to figure out how to educate themselves, running away from home to avoid being mutilated, enduring the harsh, torturous, repeated rapes of men who have been taught how not to feel or to regard females as less-than-human. I am inspired to take this lesson deep into my heart, my cells, my soul, and to put it back out into the world in such a way as to inspire others.
We in the U.S. do not live in the hyper-patriarchal, sexist societies found in some parts of the Arab worlds and across tribal Africa and other places. We have no excuse as to why we’re continuing to cripple our children, both boys and girls, by withholding from them the information they could use, that they NEED, to protect themselves and to own themselves. This 50 Shades movie is an opportunity! An opportunity to have 50 talks about sexual agency, about knowing oneself, about consent, and so many other things. We have a responsibility to our girls and our boys, to teach them how to develop and determine their own value system, how to use critical thinking and practice compassionate judgment regarding what’s good and bad for them.
We need to be teaching our children how to think for themselves, how to become the most empowered, authentic, and sovereign beings they can possibly be, People who are not afraid to speak their truth, to engage in the type of physical pleasure they most desire, to interact and form partnerships with whomever they happen to fall in love. Let’s re-empower our children to feel and to learn the intelligence embedded in their emotions. Let’s quit shaming them for their feelings and for being girls or “like a girl.” Let’s convince them that they have the right to self-determine, to self-identify, and to self-realize. Let’s teach them to love themselves and to pleasure themselves. Let’s convey the message that they are good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, gentle enough, strong enough, tall enough, short enough - that they do enough, they have enough, and that they ARE enough and wonderfully unique and powerful beings deserving of respect, love, and pleasure in the ways that they most desire!
I, for one, am re-committing to this mission. I am going to pull out the sexual education workshops I’d designed for teens many years ago, and I’m going to brush them off, tighten them up, and perhaps I’ll publish them in ebook form. Maybe I’ll start leading workshops again for girls and boys and women and men and all those in between to learn to reclaim their power and agency, not only in their sex lives but in the rest of their lives as well. I will continue writing and promoting my ideals. I will continue reaching out and offering my coaching and counseling and consulting services to help individuals and relationships to heal and move forward. What will you do? How can you take what you’ve learned from 50 Shades and improve the world? Will you stop at writing or reading some stuff on the Internet, or will you get out into the world and do something to change it? Will you start by turning inward and seeing what needs to change within yourself, to re-empower YOUR inner girl, regardless of your gender? Will you reclaim your powerful Self and offer your unique gifts to the world? Will you?