Here are the nuts and bolts–what I think I know about change and resilience
The capacity to fully experience both pleasant and unpleasant experiences is key. A wide Window of Tolerance is healthy.
Avoidance and denial are only useful short-term survival strategies. Are you able to fully experience and express your unpleasant experiences in real time? Or the soonest appropriate time? This is what grief processing is all about. Grief work is not about recurring thought-cycles from the past; however, it includes honoring the deep emotional truth you feel presently. If the pain is not honored, it may be waiting in the wings to surprise you and project itself into even more situations down the road. Take your devastation seriously (yet don’t act impulsively). Acceptance and meaning develop out of emotional truth (both pleasant and unpleasant truths).
Less discussed is Positive Affect Tolerance. Positive affect tolerance is the ability to fully embrace pleasant experiences (love, joy, success, etc). Many folks harbor unconscious fear when a pleasant experience presents itself because they are bracing themselves from future disappointment and pain. They would rather control their experience than ride the emotional highs and lows. This emotional numbing is an understandable strategy yet ultimately limits internal and external connections.
Grief is a part of life. If you want to possibly skip the expense of therapy in your healing journey, you may want a grief processing strategy. Here’s one option and another
Identify the emotional longing underneath your disappointments, frustrations, and desires. What are you truly longing for? It may not be in line with your initial words or assumptions. For example, if you’re overtly wanting sex, you might be longing to play, be cherished, or to connect. Once you clearly identify your deep emotional longing, you can generate additional approaches.
When magic happens in therapy, it’s usually around a Corrective Emotional Experience. If a client is repeating any unconscious patterns, assumptions, and solicitations, I do my best to respond in a way that is helpful, yet goes off-script from the pattern. Relational dynamics that are experienced earlier in life sometimes become expected, maybe even facilitated, unconsciously. The corrective emotional experience can open doors that may increase relational options outside of therapy. This kind of exploration is a huge part of what makes therapy different from other relationships, like friendships or colleagues.
Projections. There are a million things I could say about projections. They can wreck havoc on relationships or, if brought to awareness, can be useful in self-development. Recognizing projections can lead to healthy vulnerability and communication. Everyone makes projection errors. When we recognize projections, we can practice self-compassion and repair.
Inner child. Self-parenting is cheesy but real, valid, and often necessary. Neglect is gradually healed by taking the inner child seriously and responding with appropriate, consistent self-care (and community-care if you can find it). Our younger selves can be attended to in the here & now.
This year I am one of Kansas City’s LGBT Affirmative Therapist Guild leaders. I am helping coordinate continuing education events for local therapists to develop their competencies with sexual and gender minority populations.
I’ve been reading Woman on Fire: 9 Elements to Wake up your Erotic Energy, Personal Power, and Sexual Intelligence. The 9 elements are: Voice, Release, Emotion, Body, Desire, Permission, Play, Home, and Fire. Amy Jo Goddard offers worksheets and exercises in each chapter to help individual women explore their sexual stories while identifying any stuck-ness, growth edges, preferred experiences, and experiments. I may refer to some of Goddard’s activities and resources as tools to bolster therapy.
I participated in a two-day couple’s workshop in Tantric Sexuality lead by Dr. Sally Valentine. Tantra is a special practice due to it’s concurrent engagement of the mind, body, emotions, and spirit. Tantra emphasizes a person’s internal body consciousness and self-love as a foundation for connection with a loved one. This foundation & specific practices facilitate a neural synchronicity between lovers with heightened non-verbal communication. I learned at least 12 non-verbal practices and 6 verbal practices for increased relational intimacy. I’d be happy to share these techniques with you!
Sex Under the Influence: Substance Abuse and Sexuality
Ethical Code for certified sexuality therapists
I appreciated the substance abuse & sexuality training because oftentimes these issues are artificially segregated. For example, many substance abuse treatment programs avoid inquiry and topics related to sexual shame, sexual abuse, body image, and sexual orientation dilemmas that contribute to people’s addictive patterns.
The ethics training was mostly review–but important stuff. Anyone can view the Ethical Code. I also adhere to the American Counseling Association ethical code. If you have any questions about either of these topics, feel free to contact me.