Author Archives: JSJ Therapy

The Art of Making an Apology

This was too good not to repost. Here in full with a few light edits.
by Tatu (via fetlife)

————–

People are people and whenever they encounter one another,
occasionally they do something that perhaps injures. I’m not talking about physical injury, but words or actions that injure or alienate another. Someone says or does something that harms or offends.

Now one would think that this is basic preschool stuff that we should
have learned from our parents at home, but there are those who
obviously never learned “The Art of Making an Apology”. I say “Art”
because if not done so in a way that communicates and touches the soul
and somehow breathes a new and more positive energy; we will come away
feeling like we totally wasted our time with this person.  It is an art to listen and live beyond the pain.

Now I have to say I have heard a lot of “nambie pampie” excuses for an
apology in my years. Given I spent the 1st 20 or so years of my
professional career involved in relationship, marriage and family
counseling; and the last 15 expanding it into the legal services
business; trust me I think I have probably heard just about
everything; from dealing with the angry child or the rebellious
teenager, to the cheating spouse; and even interviewing the child
molester in jail for a case about to go to trial.

The online world has generated a minefield of potential relationship catastrophes due to the ease of not being in the actual presence of real human being, and the relative perceived anonymity of sitting behind a keyboard looking at an electronic screen. I mean like who’s gonna care, really? They’ll get over it, right?

What happens is that it is relatively easy for people shoot their
mouths off in an instant without engaging hardly any brain cells. It’s
sort of like the illustration of how there is only enough blood in a
man’s body to supply his brain . That’s why when a man gets that testosterone pumping his head drops, his brow lowers. Picture the Neanderthal here.

Same thing happens on line, especially for the males. They get that
testosterone pumping and they start typing. Before you know it they
are popping out all kinds of discourteous verbal abuse to the nearest
bystander or in some cases the object of their focused attacks. They
will puff their chest out and show the world how great they are by
attacking and putting down someone. Their tools are vile language,
ridicule, harassment, baiting comments and / or pointing out how
stupid you are for that typo and how you are just not “real” as they are.

They are people who have such a low self-esteem that they feel it
necessary to try to pull others down to their level in order to make
themselves feel as good as someone else, or they are egotistical
assholes bent on being heralded as superior to others, condemning you
to their holocaust of inferior beings.

Now with our western society having too few tools in the areas of
politeness, common courtesy, and respect; this means all hell can
break out in an instant in the online forum; or even in a local real
time community.

Sometimes however a real person steps forward and realizes they were having a bad day and see immediately that they need to make things right. Occasionally one comes to understand that they have a real problem with an issue and need to address it with counseling. He or she has left a path of destruction and chaos in their way. People have been hurt, and not always simply the person you directly abused in some way. Either way they know they need to rectify the situation and make amends.

The Honest Desire to Rectify the Situation

Before any reconciliation or healing can ever occur, one must come to
the realization that they truly did something wrong and desire to do
something to make things right.

Honesty with Self

The next thing I would say is for an apology to have the result one
truly hopes for, you must be absolutely honest about what it is you
did. To figure this out you must take some time to think about what
happened; perhaps put yourself in the other person’s shoes; see and
feel what it is you did to them. They are hurt, offended by what you
did, you need to find out and understand why?

In fact however you may come away at this point unable to fully grasp
why this person is so upset with you, or has withdrawn their
friendship and is acting in a very distant manner. You just know it’s
there, and you know something is not right. You may have a little
idea, but don’t assume. One of the best principles in life I have ever
discovered is “never assume”. Assuming anything at this point is not
what you want to do. Be transparent enough, that you
can honestly see what is. There could be some other issue at play that
you have not considered; be open.

Yet it is a positive thing to simply realize you messed up and you
need to make it right.

Communicate Openly and Honestly with the Person

So when you go to that person, it is vitally important to limit your
comments and simply listen.

Ask the person for a special time to talk. Face to face, eyeball to
eyeball is best, but in the online world that is not always possible.
If it is give them a call and ask to meet over coffee one day.

If you are close enough to share on the phone; that would be 2nd best.
I cannot stress enough the fact that you need to hear their voice; and
they need to hear yours.

So you might start off emailing this person and asking them if perhaps
you could call them and ask what would be a convenient time, that you
want to make things right.

Once you have come together what do you say?

I would suggest that you tell them that you have come to the
realization that what you did was wrong and if possible you want to
make it right.

Describe the situation that occurred simply and honestly.

NO EXCUSES.

If you start making excuses, your apology is worthless. You have to
truly take ownership for what you did. If you start trying to shift
blame in any manner whatsoever, it’s never going to be resolved. You
are just making a bigger ass out of yourself.

To shift blame is communicating, that you are not really sorry; you
just want it to all go away. You don’t want to suffer any
embarrassment for what you did.

So I recommend that you say something like this:

If you deceived someone, consider saying something like this:

“I lied to you the other day when I said (such and such); I know it is
wrong to deceive you. I won’t do it again. I am asking that you please
forgive me.”

Here are some other examples:

“What I did the other day, ridiculing you and calling you names, was not appropriate; what I did was not polite or courteous. I’m sorry.

For the person with anger of verbal abuse issue, perhaps you should
say something like this:

“I was very rude to you the other day when I said (such and such); I
was very wrong for saying what I said. It was rude and verbally
abusive. I’m going to see a counselor about dealing with my anger issues. ”

LISTEN

Next you need to listen. They may need to say some things you weren’t
expecting to hear. Don’t let it throw you. If your heart is honestly
in a place for reconciliation; your response should not be excuses,
but to include whatever in your apology.

You may need to ask:

“What do I need to do to make this right”? …and be willing to act accordingly.

Now, if you are the one who offended another, after you have made an honest apology, there is nothing you can do about this. It is up to the person who you offended to offer their forgiveness.

They may tell you to go take a hike. If that is the case and you have
done what you should have done in making an honest apology with no
excuses. It is no longer your problem, but theirs. If you however
attempted to cloak your apology with excuses or shifting the blame.
Then you deserve to be told to go take a hike.

In society when someone commits a crime, they are adjudicated guilty and they have to pay some price for their crime. It might be a fine or it might be time in jail.

When you harm someone in a human relationship, there can also
potentially be a price to pay. Alienation is probably what it will
come to. That person will not want to be around you and unless you are
a complete sociopath you will find it very uncomfortable being around
them.

Understand that your victim does not have to forgive you. As we said earlier, if you come to them with a bunch of bullshit excuses, they will know you are not truly sorry. Excuses only communicate that you

are ego filled that you want to shift the blame and want the situation
to go away so you don’t have to suffer the true humiliation of an
honest introspective look within.

They could tell you to go take a hike, and sign you out of their lives
if they want to. You cannot control their response.

So when one truly forgives a debt, there is nothing else to pay. If
the offended party says they forgive you, but then dish out all kinds
of crap in revenge, they have not truly given forgiveness.

FORGIVE

When one comes to you honestly asking for forgiveness, no excuses, no
justifications, no shifting the blame; and you grant them forgiveness;
that is the end of it.

So what happens if you don’t forgive them? One asks forgiveness, but the other says hell no! They live on in misery, month after month, year after year. Then one day the offended says “I have decided to forgive you. You know what the they will likely say? “Forgive me? I don’t need your forgiveness, you have put me through hell for the past 5 years.”

You know what, they are right. They are not in need of your
forgiveness anymore. They already did hard time.

It is true, however, that a relationship may be irreparably scarred.
It is possible to forgive, heal and for the relationship to continue and
grow and be okay. It is also possible that the harmed partner / spouse
may forgive you, but is not willing to move forward with the
relationship any more, or it may take some time and counseling until
they feel they can trust you again. This is honest reality.

A Public Apology

This is the part that is going to separate the truly sorry from the
pretenders, because it is going to involve humility before others.

If you involved others in your offensive act(s), then you need to make
that apology public. If you verbally abused someone, lied, ridiculed,
stirred up a rumor, anything in an online forum or in any public
manner, then you need to apologize not only to the person you directly
hurt, but post an apology to the group. The community needs to know
all is ok, so they can relax, breathe and know the negatives
have been removed.

So a public apology would go something like this:

“The other day I said (this and that) about Billy. What I
said was not true, and how I said it was rude and discourteous. That
was wrong of me. I personally apologized to Billy yesterday and he was
kind enough to offer his forgiveness for what I did; so I hope those
of you that witnessed my lack of courtesy will find it in
your hearts to forgive me as well.”

No excuses, no shifting the blame; just the facts and apologize.

Conclusion

I wish for more for our world. It begins one on one, honest communication, asking for and offering forgiveness; resolve in your heart to make things right.

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A look into longing

What is longing? Well, to me it is about seeing a photo and wishing that I could spend the day with this dearest of friends.  It is her birthday after all, hence natural to want to be around her in person. Yet, she lives far away and I’m unable to celebrate with her.  The truth is… there is something deeper going on with my reactions.

I don’t just miss, I have a powerful visceral response to seeing her photos. I miss her so acutely at times it feels like my heart might just burst into a pieces. Sound dramatic? It is… because for me longing is a painful and sweet emotional expression of wanting something I can not have.

Longing gets it power by not relating to the present.  It is very often a reminder of something that has changed and a desire to have it returned. Or on the other side  it can be a forward projection of what you wish you could have in the future. However, it isn’t a here and now formation.

When we move into a place of longing for what we don’t have it takes up the available space to enjoy what we do! Hence, what this does is take us out of being part of the current experience. We are no longer living in the moment where the richness of experience is found but rather manufacturing an imitation of such.

This is not to say that having an emotional response is in any way negative, however allowing that emotional response to be coupled with negative thoughts about how your life is lacking, shifts the focus from who you are is in abundance now. So when you are pining away for someone or something that you want, take a breath and re-center. Shift your focus more towards how it is wonderful that you have experiences that are so powerful that they still resonate with you. This reframe allows you to bask in the here and now rather than taking you away from the very parts of life you want.

And to use this technique even within my own emotional framework and this blog post, I will say:

Happy Birthday and thank you for being in my life. I’m honored to have a connection with someone who brings me continued joy and inspiration!

See? Longing can become a reminder tool to focus on what living is all about.  It takes a bit of effort to shift into being present. It is worth it to be able to enjoy the current experience rather than separating from it. Give this approach a try. You are bound to be more presence.

Room for Anger

Last week was tough for a number of clients. I got to thinking about how great it would be if Madison had an Anger Room (a safe place to express anger in multiple forms).  Navigating angry feelings can be confusing and when you have abuse in your past it can be even more difficult to know what to do. A place like the Anger Room provides an outlet for learning about different expressions.

One might think that we all experience anger so what is complex about the process? Many of us suppress it for fear that we will act out in a way similar to the abuse or abuser we experienced. It is a scary thing when one has spent their life being a good, caring, gentle person who wants to stay away from conflict and angry feelings. It almost seems logical to become someone who is on the opposite side of rage. However, because anger is a universal signal that something isn’t right, problems occur if we ignore or push it away. People that experienced abuse didn’t feel that they could express themselves properly (for whatever reason) and were also taught that it was not okay to have the feelings of anger. Hence, in many ways their system is taught that it isn’t safe to have a response of anger, even when it is a healthy reaction.

Any time we pretend that our emotions don’t exist or don’t honor them, they float back up in unpredictable ways. And this very thing is often what a person is trying to avoid by suppressing the emotion in the first place.  So what is a person to do if they are scared or unfamiliar with how to feel anger and express it?

One of the first things is to begin to identity when you think you might be having anger. You begin to be aware of when you feel angry and where it is in your body. This allows for grounding and a signal that you are accessing the situation beyond just a momentary reaction. Once you have basic identification of what you consider to be angry feelings, you can look at what the anger is about… the person/situation that is currently happening or a trigger to how you were treated in the past.  Once these beginning steps are in place, you can look at how to express the anger in a healthy way*.

People hold anger in different ways and that means that what works for one may not work for another in providing some relief from the intensity of the emotion. Some people need a strong physical outlet, others need to write, many need to express the anger with the person (in a safe way) verbally, and others might need a more creative way to share these feelings.

Anger isn’t a bad thing, it is an emotional response to learn and teach you about your system.  What is harmful is when you don’t allow yourself to express emotions in a healthy way. Your angry feelings are telling you to listen to yourself and look at the situation  around you. This is a powerful tool for the ability to set boundaries, create a plan, and act in a healthy way.

*Please seek help from a therapist if you need assistance with this process.

JSJ Therapy presenting at CARAS conference

It’s almost time for alternative sex therapists and researchers to get together and talk about big ideas in the field.

All are welcome to attend the upcoming CARAS Conference in Chicago on May 24th.  I’ll be presenting with Awen Therapy on the topic entitled :

Using the D/s Dynamic to Reach Therapeutic Goals In and Out of Session

This is such an important group of individuals who are looking to bridge the gap between therapy-research-and-community. This is going to be a great conference, join us!

Personal House Rules

I think often we have unspoken rules about how we want to conduct our lives. It can be confusing for someone to automatically know that -you-should-take-your-shoes-off-when-you-come-inside-the-door.  Then when the person doesn’t quickly act in the way we are expecting, we are confronted with a choice. We  let the new person know the expectations directly or we sadly can  stay silent and be upset that they didn’t do it right.

This is the same thing that we do with the rules of self, we expect  that everyone will know how to we want to live our lives, what works and what doesn’t, how to treat us, what our boundaries are, and the very best way to show us love. This is mind reading  at its best. It is all so obvious to us.

I have a saying that I use with clients a lot “If it is obvious, then you need to say it out loud.” We are so accustomed to our own mind and beliefs that it seems a given, but if it is that ingrained within us that means it is pretty important. Hence, saying our ideas, expectations, and  boundaries out loud not only makes sense but also creates a much more open dynamic.

The approach of letting others know what your personal house are allows everyone to have a framework of interaction. You get to avoid a lot of the messy parts of stepping on each other’s toes.  Everyone decides if the structure is workable and provides an understanding of the boundaries. It sound so simple but that is exactly what we so often miss, stating that which seems like a default to our own system.

I really love the idea of putting your house rules out for everyone to see  (physically like photo above or state directly). Consider wearing your expectations with a badge of honor that you want others to know about from the start. Be proud of who you are and what you want from yourself and others!

The Beauty of Not Knowing

There seems to be a lot of pressure on knowing  in our culture.  One somehow has to have it all figured out and already 100% knowledgable about everything. This is so perplexing. Why would you want to have nothing left to learn? Wouldn’t it be terribly boring if you had nothing to challenge you, push you, or help you grow?

Sure there are instances where having as much knowledge as possible is best for a given situation. However, the general expectation that a person should know every word in the dictionary, have read every book already, or remember be up on every current detail, seems a bit much.

What is wrong with not knowing? What about the sheer pleasure of learning, exploring, or discovering something new? We love that scientists are curious and interested in creating that which has never conceived of previously, yet when it is the rest of us a negative slant appears.

Imagine  you are having a conversation and someone responds to something you say with, “Oh I haven’t heard about that. ” And then follows with various questions about the topic. Do you really consider someone who is interested in learning dumb, stupid, or foolish? The answer of course is … most likely you would enjoy that the person was eager to hear what you had to say and wanted to understand. Then why would you be so concerned if you did the same thing?

Most of us enjoy sharing information when asked and rarely negatively judge another for asking for more information.  The critical self talk actually strangles our ability to do the very thing we are hoping we are projecting (wanting to already know). How are you ever going to learn it if you claim you already know it all already?

You know what it is like when you can sense that someone is pretending to know what you are talking about when they obviously do not.  You wonder why they are pretending. You wonder why they are so afraid to ask or not know. It is in that moment that the  negative judgement of the person often arises. Again the very thing we often fear, happens only when we pretend to already know it all.

There is so much to be gained by asking questions, not knowing, and allowing others to teach you.  It can be a beautiful thing to share the connection of expanding your knowledge in the presence of another person. Be brave and admit to someone today that you don’t know and feel proud of yourself for doing so!

Fifty Shade Of Grey

By now you have probably heard of the book Fifty Shades of Grey. You know that BDSM romance novel a.k.a Twilight fan fiction a.k.a mommy porn? I figured you were probably aware of it, even if you haven’t read it yet. It has been on covers of magazines, TV shows, and of course all over the internet. Hence, people ask me, and ask me, and ask me, what I think about the book. Others seem very interested in my evaluation, so here it goes:

Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James is a book that needed to happen for this generation. I know this is really not what you want me to talk about… you really want to know what I think about the sex scenes. Do I think it is an abusive relationship? Do I find it believable?  Is this really what BDSM is like? Why would people be into this. Is it wrong if I was turned on by it? The list of questions (that no one ever seems to directly ask me but are always just right below the surface) goes on and on. Still, I gotta tell you… Fifty Shades of Grey matters because every so often a new work has to come along to push boundaries (yet again).

It is like we, as a society, kind of forget what intense sexuality can be like between people. Sure, it is there floating around in the back of our minds, but as a general concept; not something that one can identify with in fact or fiction.  Fifty Shades of Grey taps into that sweet spot of sexy romantic tension packaged in innocence and exploration. I think this is important and there are some other works that also can fall into this category including:  Lady Chatterley’s LoverThe Story of O, Forever, The Beauty Series, The Kushels Series, and The Marketplace.

So, time to dive into a few of the questions (mentioned above) that seem to be coming up for people about Fifty Shade of Grey:

  1. The sex scenes in Shades are to be expected for fiction of this kind.  Like most things, some people will think they are over-the-top, boring, not a turn on, or love the scenes and want to read more. This is pretty common for most people and this book will probably stir up some reaction in either direction for you.  This is a good thing! It gets you thinking about yourself and what you like and don’t. The dialogue of interests within the sexual realm is wonderful as an individual and with others.
  2. I don’t find the relationship between Ana & Christian abusive. Abuse is NOT consent. Those involved in a power dynamic relationship at any and all times are able to have boundaries, say no when they are crossed, and have those boundaries respected by the other person. Abuse does not involve consent.  Many people find role-playing in the bedroom or outside as a way to express themselves. Consenting adults choosing to live in a way that makes them happy and healthy is a positive for any relationship.
  3. The relationship isn’t really supposed to be believable, right? I mean it is fiction. It hits all the parts of our brain with archetypes and such. He is a bazillionaire and she is the innocent girl. It is a trope but that is okay, we want stories like this. They help take us away from the mundane parts of our lives, like doing laundry, and instead we can think about how it would be to live another’s life. The writing style fits for the Twilight 18-and-over fans. It strikes perfectly for what those readers are after. I don’t think that fan base is looking for reality in every detail, as fantasy is a creative outlet for many and taking pleasure in reading is beneficial on many levels for the mind and body.
  4.  Maybe what people are really asking is does this book represent what BDSM/power dynamics relationships are like?  Well–yes and no. It is fiction after all, people tend to use very different words and pacing for their real life interactions with one another.  Yet, Shades does capture a sense of the emotions that can range within any relationship. The elements of  “rough sex” and how the couple interacts with a more dominant and submissive approach could be what some BDSM relationships look like. I caution anyone within these relationships or looking to get into them, to not make a novel the end-all-be-all answer of sexual expression. I have heard many-a-story from people who read something about power dynamics and they thought it was the only way to express their sexuality. They felt bad about themselves and didn’t relate to others because they were certain they had some feelings about wanting to experiment but not the way it was in books. Hence, they missed out on years of exploration and only later came to realize when talking with others that they were not alone.
    A book is one moment in time, those relationships, those characters, their expression, and that story. So while many elements of the power dynamic relationship can be considered part of what people “do in BDSM” it isn’t the only version of such.  If you like certain sex scenes in the book but not others, do not worry, you are normal. We all have preferences!
  5. People are into all sorts of things and a dominance or submissive relationship dynamic is just one of many. The bigger question of why it turns you on or why it doesn’t is something to look at more closely. You are welcome to find the sex scenes something that you like or dislike, but remember that judging others harshly for something that interests them feels bad. You remember what it feels like when others think of you negatively for something you enjoy. People are made in many different ways and if everyone is adult,  of sound mind, consenting, and enjoy themselves then being into BDSM or even just liking the sex scenes in Shades is positive.
  6. This is part that it moves from being fiction to reality. What does it mean and what do you do if you liked the sex scenes? Well, in some ways it means that you just liked reading the book, in other ways it could mean that you want to explore these are any version of power dynamics. It doesn’t mean you are crazy, sick, or a bad person. It could mean that you like the fantasy and you want to read more. It might mean that you are turned on by the characters and not so much the sex scenes per say. Maybe it means that you want to read other books and or learn more about the topic in other forms. It also could mean that you want to possibly look into exploring elements with yourself or someone else. It all depends on you and your comfort level.It doesn’t mean you have to go out and find a partner to dominant or submit to right away. Nor does it mean that you have to lock yourself away for fear that you will hurt someone or let someone else hurt you. It just means the book stirred up thoughts and feelings within you and that it is a good thing to look at what they mean for you.

Many books of an erotic nature, along with Shades, have all had their detractors and supporters. People enjoy being titillated and challenged with fiction. It is a safe way for us to explore all kinds of ideas and even fantasies. The real problem starts if you judge yourself negatively for having these thoughts and feelings.

Remember that if you have questions or concerns, please do contact a sex-positive therapist to help you.

Learning how to accept yourself and your expression is one of the most positive things you can do to help yourself.