Category Archives: therapy

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.

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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!

Finding the answers

Clients want answers. I want answers. We all want answers! It is a given that we are curious to find out what is going on within us. And I’ll say something that one is probably not supposed to say as a therapist, “I wish I DID have the answers” perhaps better said: I wish I had the ability to quickly allow other people to find the exact answers they want for themselves. I really do. I wish I had THE right answer for each person that comes with insight, introspection, and curiosity. I would love to place my magic-therapy-wand (patent pending) upon their heads and grant them the wish of pure personal understanding.

I’m not morally or ethically opposed to the idea of helping this way. The reason being is that I believe that the answers differs for each person. I have yet to see any person exactly match the other in how they come to understanding of themselves and the world around them. That is what is awesome and frustrating about how insight and choice works.

There is no right answer that works for everyone. Even as you read this, there are people who will differ with the premise that there is no specific answer for everyone. See what I mean? What works for you may not work for another. You can have shared values, ideas, and methods of expression and still come to your path in a totally unique way.

So when you come into therapy and hear me tell you that I can’t give you the “right answer” I’m not just pulling out a therapy cliché.  It is true. I don’t think that I can nor should provide the answer as to who you are and what you want and how to get there (save the magic wand possibilities now being tested in a secret lab). It is up to each person to dive deep, discover your own personal ethos, and move ahead in the face of it all.

Embrace that you may not have the answers right now… but that part of the adventure is seeking for them!

11-11-11 at 11:11

Sometimes it is hard to find something you enjoy about your day. It can seem like one bad thing after another happens. It all just piles up and you want to hang your head low as the Charlie Brown theme music plays along.  Basically, you feel like life sucks.

Now, this isn’t a post about how you are supposed to be happy and jump around when you are feeling like crap. I promise! However, this is a post about how you should find at least one thing to smile about even when you are super unhappy. I won’t go into all the science (you have the internet, you can look it up yourself) behind it. The basics are when you repeat negative messages over and over again… it becomes easier for your brain to respond with terrible thoughts than with positive ones.  This is essentially what is going on when you are depressed (same thing can happen with anxiety). Your brain wants to go to the miserable places rather than hang out at the joyous ones. (what fires together wires together).

Hence if you want a quick way to keep depression at a distance, you just need to allow your brain multiple different ways of interpreting information. This is kind of the idea that is set into motion when you learn a new language as a way of keeping your brain active to strengthen against Alzheimer’s. You begin to look for an opposite or alternative way of processing the daily grind of grumpy thoughts and emotional responses.

An example for this would be when your morning has already turned into a hellish adventure. You take a moment to realize that November 11th 2011 looks kind of neat as 11-11-11. Then you decide that it would be pretty cool (or geeky depending on how you look at it 😉 noticed it was 11:11 am on 11-11-11. Then you decide that you will text a friend and let them know about this grand idea. Then you decide to celebrate this 11-11-11 at 11:11 by both doing a dance even though you live in different time zones.   It sounds simple, it is simple. One thought leads to another and leads to actions and leads to positive emotional responses. Before you know it, not only are you dancing but you are smiling and BOOM depression is defeated for another day.

I’m being rather elemental with all this, but you get the idea. In the moment it takes to use the emotional energy to repeat the negative cycle you can decide to do something different. Maybe you aren’t ready to do the 11 dance (it is rather advanced). But maybe you are ready to consider shifting the continued pattern of sadness into a lighter version. Changing the thoughts from “I’m miserable and life is horrible” to “I’m pretty unhappy and I just haven’t found a way to get out of this slump YET!” See the change? That one little word at the end leaves open the possibility for a different approach, mindset, and emotional response.

Becoming happier doesn’t require some big overhaul of your life to begin nor does it require you stop being you. What it does require is the three-second effort of shifting perception to incorporate a new idea. I think no matter how upset, ticked off, or all around curmudgeonly a person you are… you can get this approach to work for you!

Seducing the Seducer — Part 1

I spend a ton of time reading, thinking, discussing, and implementing topics that have to do with power dynamics, evolutionary psychology, seduction, mental health, and emotional authenticity.  They all flow for me into a sex positive approach to therapy.

I have been a student of Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP for over 10 years. From those trance-induction building blocks,  I learned about Speed Seduction (the older term).  Ross Jefferies was really the only person at that juncture combining the ideas of natural rapport with sexuality. I was intrigued and actually am proud to say that I had numerous conversations  with him.  At the time, it was ground breaking concept formation to marry these two obviously similar seeming schools of thought.

Yet, there was a problem area with all this new exciting information. The thorn in my psychological side with Speed Seduction was often the same concern  I later had with the emerging  PUA communities. It all seemed so harshly negatively based. I would read these people (mostly men at that point) talking about picking up women and it was a very pump-em-and-dump-em kind of system. There was little to no discussion about seducing from an emotionally authentic way.  The focus was to build a man up by diminishing the self-esteem of a woman (remember this was all single hetero male focused).

Side Rant for clarification —  I have no problem with people engaging in sex casually or otherwise. I’m all for being primal- spiritual- kinky -romantic (or a zillion other variations) sexually.  I’m even an avid supporter of using your personal skill set, trance-rapport techniques, science, and any positive physical features one has to attract another person. In fact, I often work with many clients on these very things.  However, the difference is I specifically do so  from a positive-consent-based foundation.

Everything I saw was focused on feeling good about yourself by making another person feel less than.  I’m all about the truth of determining value based on your own personal values and social mores. Yet, when you are acting in a way to belittle another person to get them to have sex with you it  just seems shady. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but I am saying there is some lack of personal integrity. If one is working to establish high-value (as most seduction techniques express as a goal) I never saw the high value in lying or being cruel. It feels a bit like a crude hack as opposed to a well thought out positive sculpting process.

It seemed obvious to me that you would want to be seduced or seduce another by lifting up their self respect…even if your intent is for a one night stand.  I just kept thinking that if you can’t seduce someone into wanting to date or have sex with you and have them feel better about you and themselves afterward, it doesn’t seem like you did a very good job.  However, I appeared to be the only one thinking this. And basically the hetero female population that was paying attention to seduction culture was just outraged and dismissed it all.  Both sides seemed to say it was an all or nothing system. I felt stuck within my own world of knowing the value of these ideas but still not having a delivery system that was uplifting.

So time went on and The Game was published. Pick up artistry began to gather a bit more attention. By this point Mystery and a few others were riding on the coattails and creating a more up-to-date community for seduction. The trend was to make things look a more palatable for the general public and even open up the marketplace to women. It was a step in the right direction as far as I was concerned.   I felt personally intrigued and continued to use many of the techniques in situations…but nothing felt healthy and positive enough to share with clients.

Then a friend, who also studies seduction personally and for business use, recommended The Authentic Man Program. I was thrilled to see people using the  rapport skills in a non-shaming way. They were taking all the NLP, psychology, and sexuality concepts and rolling them together. It made my heart sing. Finally, there was something I could recommend to clients.  I took the courses online and learned a lot. I really enjoyed Bryan and Decker. They felt like honest people using these ideas in a healthy way. I recommended the classes in person or online to clients.  One small problem is that it is expensive. Not every client that could benefit from their ideas was able to be exposed to them.  The search continued.

More time passed and another friend was looking into David Deida’s work,  so I happily joined in the fun. Deida’s ideas had a wonderful sensual and spiritual feeling to them.  They were direct in the evolutionary psych components and incorporated the piece of creating a higher sense of purpose as a way to seduce. He also came from a perspective of being in a long-term relationship.  I loved stitching as many elements as possible into the fold.  And now I had at least one author that I could recommend and felt comfortable sharing with clients.  However, there were a few small concerns.  If the client was not naturally leaning towards being introspective, open to some spiritual elements, or already had a base for seduction skills …it was a bit too much to take on for the first round. Clients reported that there was some good stuff but didn’t exactly resonate.

I had yet more conversations  (well really me complaining) about this weird gap in teaching these ideas to others. A friend came to the rescue and started a blog  about seduction within long-term relationships.  I felt like I was finally able to reliably send clients to a site that I trusted would be smart, relationship safe, and that was teaching these combined principles.  Then due to the very hectic schedule of the author, the blog was simply not going to continue due to lack of time to commit to it properly. My heart sank… would I ever find the right mix for this approach to suggest to my clients?

It was becoming some sort of personal mission without consciously realizing it.  However,  now I was fully aware and had no idea where I was going to find the time to write this book, but I figured it would need to be done.  It would go on the list with the other projects I’m working on.

Then one day it happened…. there was this blog…. Married Man Sex Life by Athol Kay.  A man saying  the things that my clients had said:  all the things that they were afraid to admit to themselves,  all the things they felt shame about expressing to others, and all the things they resented and loved about dating and sex and marriage.  It was a real person who happened to be so smart and honest that it was almost impossible not to side with him. He wasn’t a jerk, he wasn’t single, and he didn’t naturally come to all this understanding with a dominant personality.  Kay was providing this knowledge base and it felt worthy of suggesting to a few clients.  The feedback was awesome and I just kept thinking about how great it would be if this guy would just write a book.   These core ideas are actually really important and of course it would make my life easier if someone would put all of it together nicely packaged so I could just tell clients to go get the book.

And then just like that… there was word that his blog was going to be turned into a book.  I began to get more and more eager for the release of The Married Man Sex Life Primer.   It was going to happen,  I was finally really and truly going to have material worthy enough for clients.  My standards are exceedingly high and so were my expectations of his work. Athol Kay had managed to seduce this therapist who loves  teaching seduction into wanting to read his book,  review it, and hopefully recommend it to clients.

In Part 2 of Seducing the Seducer … I’ll share how I read the book in record time,  got to talk with Athol Kay about his work,  and my review of the book The Married Man Sex Life Primer. And for the record, no one paid, asked me to, or even encouraged me to ever seek out this information, interview, or blog posts.  This is all about my interest in the field, being a therapist, and knowing that many of these ideas help others.

Alternative Sex Therapy

I recently spoke to a room full of Systems Therapists.  They were specifically come to listen to me talk about how work with Alternative Sexuality clients.  This workshop presentation matters a great deal to me because this is the state conference. It is an opportunity to teach therapists around Wisconsin how to be more open and accepting of differing sexual mindsets.  Like most people, they were not exactly sure what that means.  I tend to define alt-sex as any sexual expressions (be it words, ideas, feelings, actions) that are not currently openly accepted within Western culture.

So there I am standing up there as the token ambassador of  kink and open relationships.  Many of these people are by nature a bit more accepting, or they wouldn’t be at my lecture, but I still had to provide the foundations of what this all means. They realize it is not all about what they see in the media but they also don’t really know anyone that publicly talks about alternative sexuality. Hence, it is my job (and belief) to educate.

Now here is the thing, this field of Alt Sex Therapy is a new creation. We have evolved to a place where such a thing can exist but there is really no governing body of approaches. CARAS is the closest thing I know of in the country. I’m happily directly involved in the organization and most likely presenting at the Alt Sex conference this year.  Still while we are working on a curriculum for graduate level classes in therapy and creating ethical standards, there is a lot to be done in basic information for those that are not looking to work directly in the alt sex therapy field.

Hence my presentation discussed how to come from a strength based sex positive approach to working with clients.  The ability for therapists to know when they need to refer specifically to an alternative sex therapist and the overarching needs of using power dynamics and differing models with open-relationship clients. Two hours later the questions about abuse vs consent, feminist considerations, and legal concerns were all addressed.

I wondered if the therapists were freaked out. I was concerned that what felt like basic information to me was too extreme for the audience. I wanted to present beyond all else that those that are involved with alternative sex expression are clients just like any other that deserve respect, understanding, and legitimacy.  These are people’s lives and the core of their sexual being matters deeply to me. I wanted these therapists to be able to relate and look beyond the stereotypes and their personal fear to embrace these individual clients with knowledge and consideration.

I realize that this is a lot to ask of any group after two hours with a basic introduction to Alternative Sex Therapy, however I still had this hope.  It wasn’t until the evaluations came back later that a smile passed over my face. The response from the traditional therapists were extremely positive. They expressed how important they felt this emerging field was, that they were really excited to learn more, and that the ideas challenged them greatly but they found themselves more equipped to work with or refer these clients to someone else.  To me, this is a victory!

It may sound dramatic but if I can touch just one person out there that can help someone positively embrace their sexuality within a therapeutic setting, then I feel like maybe things are changing. I know what it is like to feel like you can’t express huge parts of your life to a person that is supposed to be there to support and help. Hence, I find myself brimming with joy at the understanding that there are more therapists out there that can help and even more on the way that are specifically focusing on Alt Sex.

I encourage you to support anyone you know in the health field that wants to learn more about Alternative Sexuality.  Yours may be the only voice they hear and so what you say has influence. You can be a positive force for change within your community by being open (as much as you feel comfortable and safe with of course) about how alternative sexual expression is a healthy way to live ones life.