Erotic, Non-Sexual Experience!

I returned from another week of sex education. I took courses titled the Exceptional Sex Therapist (3 days); Resolving Trauma Through Somatic Experiencing, and Sexuality & Culture. Surprisingly, my favorite course was Introduction to Tantra. Before this course I thought Tanta was having sex for 24 hours at a time, which seemed kind of like a waste of time, honestly. I learned, instead, that tantra is a way of experiencing the eroticism in everyday life, sometimes without any specifically sexual encounters. Tantra is welcoming inter-connection while maintaining a primary connection with oneself. Eroticism bigger than sex—sensory and intellectual pleasure of many types and more of an attitude than particular events. Since March 17th, I keep going back to the 8 Principles of Tantra so I will briefly describe them here.

  • Everything is an Experiment: Beginners mind, openness to experience, observation, willingness to gather data
  • As Within, so Without: what happens in the world affects our individual experience; we need to prioritize and reset our bodies; we can offer our balance to the world
  • Tapas and Spanda: in a concrete visual form, these are the eyes in the yin and yang that reflect the healthy┬áhealthy “masculine” energy within “feminine” energy and the healthy “feminine” energy within “masculine” energy. The tapas is about patient, non-attached willpower and the spanda is about a sense of wonderment, thrill, and joy.
  • Inner Marriage: the healthy interconnection of dual, or contrasting energies within oneself. A well-integrated person is able to be consistently present in the world.
  • Multiple Realms of Consciousness: everyday waking consciousness, mythical consciousness (symbols, projections), magical consciousness (big energy, transformation), and integral consciousness (all levels of consciousness simultaneous)
  • Ascending and Descending Currents: chakras
  • Transformational Healing Power of Pleasure: this may be my favorite principle–that pleasure can heal! As a trauma therapist and human being, I know that people can get stuck in trauma, vigilance, and guardedness. True pleasure is the opposite! True pleasure can restore our bodies and clear our minds. While sometimes pleasure can invite trauma processing (for example, someone can remember a painful event while laying on the beach) it also provides a welcome, stabilizing context for healing. It’s important to differentiate impulse and addictions from pleasure.
  • Love: love, like pleasure, heals. It also connects people and connects humans to their surroundings.

 

Healing Body Memory of Trauma

I took a recent training with Yudit Maros called “Brief, Solution-Oriented Trauma Resolution.” This training specifically focused on troubling sensations in the body that may periodically resurface after the trauma. The BSOTR protocol helps a client attend to and correct the aftershock disturbances in the nervous system and one’s negative self-identity. Here are the most basic steps:

First, the therapist helps the client identify and practice a resource state called grounding. I can guide you through a visualization exercise that depersonalizes the pain and provides more comforting imagery, which tends to regulate the nervous system. We identify and develop comfortable imagery that helps you reset. Then, I ask you to scan your life history for anything that feels pleasurable and safe. We detail key components of the experience and you practice re-experiencing the positive experience and people. Later, we scan your life history again for an unpleasant or traumatic experience. I interview about what you would have preferred to experience. Then, I facilitate your current, grounded self attending to and taking care of your younger, distressed self through a series of self-care invitations, visualizations, and self-dialogue. When it appears that you have been a loving guide to your younger self and you have nothing left unattended about the chosen difficult experience, I invite you back to the here and now of the therapy room.

If you are interested in experiencing this BSOTR process or have any questions, please let me know.

Shame Shields

I took a webinar with Brene Brown called Shame Shields. Dr. Brown is mostly known for her research on shame, worthiness, and healthy vulnerability. Her research reveals these core tenants about shame:

1) We all have it
2) No one wants to talk about it
3) The less you talk about it, the more you have it
Shame and addiction are interlinked. Addictive behaviors are an attempt to numb, or shield the shame. However, their effectiveness is short-lived and the shame resumes. Dr. Brown, and separately–researchers at Wellesley College Stone Center–discovered there main subtypes of these shame shields:
1) Moving away — Avoiding, leaving the room, spacing out, daydreaming, distraction
2) Moving towards — Hyper-appeasing, over-flattery, buttering up, sucking up
3) Moving against — Attacking other people, inducing shame in other people
All three shields are an attempt to deflect shame away from the person. Here’s Dr. Brown’s recommended alternatives for shame resilience:
1) Recognize triggers
2) Reality check messages
3) Reach out
4) Speaking shame
I know these four prescriptions are easier said than done so I am happy to help be a part of the process.

How to Fall in Love (Again)

If you’re feeling distant from a partner or loved one and want to reconnect–you may need to:

  • look at your partner with beginner’s mind
  • do the scary work of emotional vulnerability

36 Questions is structure that can help you with these common sense, yet often elusive practices. These questions were developed and tested by psychologists. The results? A pair of strangers fell in love.

Six Principles of Sexual Health

At a time when people are gaining awareness about the dynamics & negative effects of sexual abuse AND deconstructing puritanical sexual beliefs & misinformation, Doug Braun-Harvey offers us six principles of sexual health. These principles are important guideposts in a frequently neglected and obscured corner of mental health treatment–as well as human lifespan development more generally.

  • pleasure: healthy sexuality leads to joy and/or empowerment (rather than detachment, and/or shame)
  • consent: participants should be in full, active agreement to the particular sexual acts, time, place, people, etc.
  • non-exploitation: secrecy and betrayal prevent partners from engaging in a psychologically-safe intimacy
  • protection: healthy partners collaborate in preventing transmission of STI’s and unwanted pregnancies
  • honesty: healthy partners voice their desires, limits, and ambivalence
  • shared values: connections are built on common meanings

If you would like to examine how your life interfaces with these principles, please contact me. BTW, imagine how much psychological pain would be eliminated and how much pleasure would increase if adolescent sexual education raised conscientiousness about these intra-personal and interpersonal factors.

Addictions Training

I enjoyed a presentation by Dr. David Willey and Dr. Amalia Bullard regarding medical and psychosocial treatments for addiction. Dr. Willey provided great information about medications that may aid in relapse prevention. For example, antagonist medication can help reduce cravings and change the brain-body’s response when substances are consumed. Dr. Bullard reanimated the importance of Motivational Interviewing.

Greater Good Videos

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley curates videos, articles, and podcasts about happiness. The short videos are presented by prominent researchers, therapists, business leaders, and educators. They include a wide range of topics such as “How to check in with Yourself” and “The Biology of Mindfulness and Compassion.” There are hundreds of happiness videos here. The information is not a substitute for therapy–a process that can investigate specific traumas and the complexity of a person’s unique life. However, the videos can help people remember their wisdom and encourage action.

Technology-Assisted Treatment

Many psychology researchers, including the Veterans Administration, are studying the effects of mental health applications. While indiscriminate screen time is widely known to reduce peoples’ focus, some research indicates that consistent, intentional use of some mental health apps tends to boost self-awareness; effectiveness; and happiness. The Veterans Administration is specifically studying the app PTSD Coach, which I would like to use with a client. Please let me know if you would like to participate in that process! Here are some applications I already find useful with many of my clients:

  • Narrative Therapy Questions: helps the participant conduct a deep self-interview about their preferred life direction and related obstacles
  • Calm: 100+ guided meditations to choose from. The app will track the dates and lengths of of your meditations
  • Relax: helps practice diaphragmatic breathing, which is good for nervous system regulation and panic-attack prevention
  • Mood Tracker: charts symptom severity/remissions/patterns based on pre-programmed OR customized data schemes