polyamory, bisexuality, counseling, therapy

Why Polyamory?

In order to be Poly one has opened  themselves to love, intimacy and sex with more than one person.  This opens a new level of joy that may not be available with monogamy.    Most of us were taught, in one way or another, (Television, movies, family role models) that one person “should” be able to meet all of our needs.  It often is very painful to realize that this myth, most of the time, is not true.  We begin to add friends or we search for community for needs.

polyamory, bisexuality, counseling, therapy, communication ,

Polyamory is More Than Two

Configurations of Poly Configurations

A Poly relationship includes  many different configurations that imply more than one intimate partner.  For example one might have a primary relationship a partner, married or unmarried, and one or both of the individuals might have a secondary partner.  Sometimes the relationship is a Throuple, where three people have an equal relationship with each other and live together.

Sexual Orientation?

Those who choose Poly relationships often experience it as a sexual orientation and ask themselves:  am I Poly?  They ask this question the same way that one might ask oneself:  am I gay, straight or bisexual?  Poly relationships include all sexual orientations.  One partner might be heterosexual, the other might bisexual or all might be gay or lesbian.

When someone identifies as  Poly, they have come to this realization. They look to more than one person to satisfy their needs.  However, as opposed to a monogamous relationship, Poly individuals intentionally search for those that want or need the same  experiences.  By definition Poly relationships  are an intentional way to find intimate partners who actively fulfill their needs.

Individuals who are poly often, learn,  that they need to develop extraordinary communication skills to make each relationship extraordinary.  In their book “More Than Two” Franklin Veaux and Eve Rikert use the analogy of tending a garden.  “Your Garden will thrive, or not, based on the time and skill that goes into watering, weeding, fertilizing and selecting and placing your plants” in the right amount of sunshine and shade.  Each person  learns to communicate as effectively  as they can and commit to learning and changing everyday.

http://www.goldengatecounseling.com/polyamory/

Couples And Brainspotting

Image communicating with your partner without screaming.

Imagine couples counseling where you were able to solve ongoing problems while feeling close

and holding hanMarriage counseling, Brainspotting,couples therapyd.

 
Imagine changes that take place after one or two sessions.

When a couple goes to counseling they are usually in crisis: They are at the point of breaking up, giving it one last try. One of the partners has cheated on the other. They have found themselves fighting all the time. They deeply love each other but cannot get along. They find they communicate the same way their parents did. They blame each other for all that is not working.

One of the hardest problems that almost all couples have is they are unable to distinguish what is their own issues and what are the issues unique to their relationship. It is like there are three people in the room, instead of two. Partner A, Partner B and the couple. When they communicate and get angry it often is not about the current relationship, it is about triggering issues from the past. We all carry our past in our bodies and when our bodies get activated, we have a sense of losing control. This is when we want to blame someone else. Since our partners are the closest to us, they do a better job of triggering past feelings than anyone else in their lives.

I have studied couples therapy for over 20 years and have used many methods. There are differing opinions of how best to work with couples. John and Julie Gottman believe that the couple cannot make changes if they are working at a high stress level. They have very structured exercises to help couples communicate without fighting. When I used this work, I found it helpful. David Schnarch who is a very prominent sex therapist and neural-psychologist believes the opposite that couples change when their bodies are activated. They change when conflict is high and the therapist makes interventions that actually increase neural activity.

Then there is Brainspotting, which in most cases has become my technique of choice. It is also based on neuropsychology. The brain’s neural pathways need to be activated for lasting change to happen. However, the brain can be activated while the client feel calm and resourced. Communication, even deep communication can take place while the couple feels close to each other. Most of the communication takes place with the couple looking at each other and maybe even holding hands. If one or both of the partners get activated (upset) they have a way of looking away from their partner which calms then down, while they continue to talk and listen. The therapist’s job is to help them notice when they need to calm themselves and when they need to go deeper. The other job of the therapist is to notice when the problems are unique to the person and not the couple. The therapist can then work with the individual on a past issue or trauma while the partner observes. In this way the pressure is taken off the relationship to solve problems and each partner gets to observe the other’s vulnerability. This promotes deep compassion.

This does not mean that couples therapy is not painful, nor difficult, but it usually means that the couple walks away knowing and respecting each other in a new way. It also allows the therapist to relax and know that they can do no harm and that most times the couple does not leave in a state of war.

Acknowledging That You Have An Addiction May Be The Best Thing That Ever Happens To You

Ashamed of our addictions, we hide them, we “fool” people, first we fool ourselves, and we lead a double, sometimes triple life. As Americans the chances are that we are addicted to something. There are so many choices, ones that we think about, such as drugs, alcohol, sex, food, smoking and gambling. Then there are those that are more prevalent and acceptable: Nielsen Ratings estimates that the average American watches 34 hours of television a week, almost 5 hours a day. If not watching television this time is often spent on playing video games. That is five hours a day taken away from a life full of meaning and purpose. A Time away from a productive, satisfying life. Time away from building relationships and community.

One way of dealing with addiction is to stop and try to control it on our own. This certainly makes life better, but unfortunately we usually replace one compulsion or addiction for another.

The second way is to call for help, see an addiction therapist or attend a 12 step meeting. Taking this step opens a life with unlimited possibilities. The potential to begin a rich, productive, full life filled with other people and community begins immediately. After a short time, people become grateful that they have an addiction, because their life has changed. They are no longer alone, they realize that many people suffer from the same problems and, in community, they build compassion for themselves and understanding of others.

With professional help they discover who they were meant to be on this planet. They free themselves from the bonds of compulsion, and learn that they really can reach goals and achieve dreams. The amount of time and energy spent with each compulsion becomes the time and energy that is put in fulfilling dreams, nurturing families, building deeper relationships with our partners, our spouses and our friends.

As a therapist I know that those who admit their compulsions and the painful effects of them grow several times faster than the person who claims only anxiety and depression. Desperation to change one’s life due to the pain we cause ourselves and others, leads us quickly to changes that would take years under other circumstances. If we are not forced to change, we probably will walk a life that never changes. At the very least our lives are boring. Often they are self-destructive.

When we seek help for an addiction, we are saying “I Want Life.”

My next article will describe an addict’s life and the road to freedom.

Brainspotting – The Gentle Way To Heal From Painful Events And Addiction

David Grand and Lisa Schwarz discovered that by simply following the gaze of the eye, one is able to access painful memories and feeling states. When you are able to focus on a visual spot that coincides with a particular problem or upset, the brain will automatically begin to process and release the unwanted energy. This process is as simple as it sounds, and yet it is very powerful. As the therapist, my role is only to follow you and your process wherever it will lead us. I do not know where we are going but I am there to protect you on your journey. Of course before we can start the journey I need to gain your trust and become attuned with your goals and desires.

This process is affective with dealing with anxiety, depression, abuse and trauma. It can also be effective when you are unable to make a decision.

Often it has been thought that a person heals from their past by re-experiencing it, sometimes known as exposure therapy. Resourced Brainspotting, believes that the body can process from a very low state of agitation. In other words the calmer the body, the easier it remembers and releases the effects of painful experiences. The client also quickly learns that they can use these methods at home, to calm themselves in difficult day to day situations.

What is my personal experience with Brainspotting?

I have experienced many different paradigms of therapy in my life. All of them have been effective in supporting my own healing process. Brainspotting has played a unique role in allowing me freedom in my life. In a very short time it allowed me to process through trauma that I had been holding my whole life. It helped me handle situations in my life that used to seem impossible.

What is my experience of Brainspotting with my clients?

My clients are able to access their own rate of healing and are able to focus very quickly on what they want to heal. They decide at what intensity they are able to deal with a particular issue. Since there is no right way to heal, the client nor the therapist feel pressure to do it right. If the two of us hang out together, change will happen.

One of the most exciting aspects of this work, is that you do not need to remember the past, your body tells you the story, and then the brain automatically begins to heal the past.

Having been trained and experiencing the benefits of Brainspotting, I am passionate about sharing this experience with others. When someone comes to therapy for the first session, they are confused, anxious and scared. Taking the first step towards healing is courageous.

Anxiety and Depression – Best Ways to Treat Both

Most of the causes of anxiety and depression are stored in the body. We may not remember events that happened in our lives, but our bodies remember everything. Our bodies store experiences that happened in the womb. Our frame of mind as an adult can stem back to what experiences our mothers were having when they were pregnant.

Most of us had parents who did “the best that they could”. My work as a therapist is not to blame parents but help my client’s bodies let go of the effects of what happened during home life, school life and often religious life.

What makes us human is our brain’s ability to discern, reason and grow. It also hinders our ability to let go of things that have happened. Our brains protect us from anything that may harm us. Human experiences can be so painful that the brain wants to protect us from the sensations in our bodies. Unfortunately these experiences are stored. When an animal is at risk, it does what it needs to survive, but then it is able to shake off the experience, even if it is life-threatening. It then gets up and moves on as if nothing has happened. Humans do not have this ability. We do not automatically shake off our experiences.

Recently a form of therapy called Brainspotting, developed by David Grand allows the therapist to help the client shake off past body memories. What is even more important is that it teaches people to shake off their own negative experiences as they occur. Therapy is only as useful as what you can take with you out of the office and use on your own once you leave the room.

Most of us are conditioned to be afraid of our bodies. Sensations and emotions are foreign to us as they were to our parents before us. Seldom do we learn at home or in school how to manage and be with the experiences that we are having. Worst case scenario is we are told not to have the feelings or experiences that we are having. We shouldn’t feel this way. At best we are told that what we experience is normal; almost never are we told how to experience our experience.

Depression often comes from learning to suppress and oppress our feelings. Anxiety comes from being overwhelmed by our experiences. Brainspotting teaches us how to do both: let our feelings out and survive the experiences we have had and are having. Any techniques that teach us how to be with who we are, what we feel and how we experience things helps us alleviate depression and anxiety.

When a client comes to see me, I ask them what experiences are happening in their body that most distresses them. We then measure the intensity of the experience. Then I find where a client feels the most calm. From the place of calmness a person can release the intense experiences of distress. I then teach them to do this on their own.

 

Sex and Couples Therapy

I attended my 2nd Crucible Marriage and Family Workshop this weekend. I have now completed 7 days of very intense training. The Crucible combines sex therapy and Couples Counseling.  One would think that these two therapies are the same, however, the field of psychology has always considered these to be two separate fields.   As a trained Couples Therapist, I have also been taught to see them as two different areas of expertise.  I no longer perceive this to be true.

Maybe the separation of these two therapies has been based on the fact that we view long term relationship problems as issues of communication, distance, fighting and avoidance.  There is also the belief that inevitably our sex life diminishes because of length of partnership or marriage and our age.   Another reason is that many therapists are uncomfortable talking about sex.   This also allowed people in our field to not  broach the topic of sex at all, or certainly not intimately talking about the vagina, penis, oral sex, intercourse and more. Keeping the two topics of relationship separate has protected the therapist from having to deal with their own issues around sex.  It also kept them from having to deal with issues around gay sex , not having to talk about anal intercourse or dildos etc.  However, this was  doing our clients a disservice. David Schnarch one of the founders of the Crucible has proven over 30 years, that sex can become more frequent and more satisfying in our later years.  Sex in our sixties can be hotter than sex in our 20s.  Hot Sex has little to do with biological drive.  The hormones of  teenagers keeps them horny all the time, but that does not mean they know how to please their partners whether female or male.  Age and Intimacy are the ingredients for great sex.

Couples have a hard time talking about and negotiating intimate, hot, sloppy sex.  Heterosexual couples have a more difficult time talking about what they want, need and consider steamy, than gay and lesbian couples.

The amount of sex we are having is the direct result and a reflection of rest of our relationship.  If we are not having good sex, we are having other problems.  If one partner wants sex and the other is consistently withholding, than their is probably a tremendous amount of anger in the relationship.  These two issues do need to be worked on together.  Marital and Sex Therapy need to become one.

The Word Crucible is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:

1: a vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat.

2: a severe test

3: a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.

In order to change the dynamics of our relationship and sex life, we need to be willing to heat up our interactions, do intense self-reflection and confront the underlying issues that immobilize our relationships.  hense: the word Crucible.  What does heating up our interactions mean:  It means being honest with ourselves and each other about our blocks to sex and intimacy.  We need to put our relationships to the test, looking at what works and what doesn’t work

Two Books worth reading are:

Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships Desire and Intimacy

Both books are written by David Schnarch, Ph.D

Randy Weled, MFT

polyamory, bisexuality, counseling, therapy

Jealousy and the Breath

This is the first of what will probably be a number of musings on the experience of jealousy, so, stay tuned ..(by Jeanna Eichenbaum)

I’ve spent much of the bulk of my free time the past few years thinking about polyamory. I think about it because it is a way of living and exploring that I have been experimenting with in my own life, and because about half of the clients in my psychotherapy practice identify as “poly” or “open” or something along that spectrum. If you think about polyamory for any stretch of time, you’re going to be forced to think about and consider some of its shadow material, most prominantly, of course, jealousy. As much as I read and learn about jealousy (and there’s some really good stuff out there, namely (from my perspective) writings from Thomas Moore, Kathy Labriola, and Deborah Anapol), when it hits me, it hits with the force of something hot and raw, and seems to have within it elements of pure, undigested and what can feel like undigestible experience. It feels, in a word, awful, at times close to unbearable.

And what can we do when hit by something that feels unbearable? Well, we can, first of all, remember to breathe. When we are under assault, one of the first things we seem to do is hold our breath, as we scan the situation and assess for threat. I imagine, from an evolutionary perspective, that this holding of one’s breath has some value, as a way of getting real quiet, and turning our attention outward, but like good meditators, in those situations, after assessing that there is no threat to actual physical safety, we might do better to turn our attention inward, and the breath is often a good anchor for that inward journey. Breathing distributes necessary nutrients that are present in oxygen throughout the body, and also removes carbon dioxide from the system, which keeps us in balance and helps avoid toxic buildup. Additionally, the process of breathing is a physical reminder that things come and go, air flows in and out, the belly rises and falls, things move through us, and when something unbearable comes along, we can start to feel that it will never move .. shift .. leave, so yes, please remember to breathe.

So, with the breath as an anchor, as a rope that ties us to our body as the elemental place of experience, as a place beyond thought, we can, perhaps, start to observe the thoughts and feelings that accompany the experience of jealousy. And, I want to do some of that exploring now, with you, as you read this. Looking at jealousy both more deeply, and more dispassionately.

What happens inside you as you experience the yucky mass of emotions and thoughts called jealousy? What happens in me are thoughts like, “I can’t believe this is happening”. “This isn’t what I want”. “That person (or persons) are going to take something that is mine, or something that I highly value”. The body sensations can be a tightening in the belly, clenching of fists and other muscles, shallow breathing, sweaty palms, rapid blinking of the eyes, a faraway look, in short, an activation of my ‘fight or flight’ system. Emotions might be anger, rage, fear, upset, fury, a desire to strike out and hurt others.

What are some of the physical sensations and emotions that happen in you? Can you spend some time observing, the next time you experience jealousy, with even just a little bit of curiosity, rather than getting completely swept up in the wave that is jealousy? This is all hard work, and any attempts you make to take a step back and look might be of help, if only to see that yes, this is one strong emotional state.

Trans March 2012

The Trans March, and this time of year, also has me thinking some about the expanding definitions of ‘trans’. I spoke with someone the other day who is female born/bodied, has a masculine identity, and identifies as trans. I don’t know if this person plans to “transition” at some point in the future, take male hormones, or do any of the other stuff that I normally associate with being trans. None of those things seemed all the pressing to the person I was speaking with. There was an ease in the way they spoke of their gender that I found refreshing, and a little unnerving. After all, I am one of those people that did, and had to do, a lot to change my gender presentation to be more content and in alignment with my true self in the world. The process of coming out, for me, was painful, scary, and utimately exhiliarating. I did have to change my body in some ways, take hormones, get new ID stuff, etc. And, I see, that for some people, at least in the Bay Area, trans is becoming an identity for folks that may not need or even want to change their bodies in those ways, but want the option to express the complexity of their gender in their own way, and also have a space/community that they can locate themselves in and find acceptance and mirroring and celebration.

I know that some trans people have an issue with this, feeling that the identity of transgender will become diluted in some way, that our hard earned quest for rights and acceptance by the wider world will be taken over by some gender-queer mass of people who have a more fluid presentation, and different needs than the MTF/FTM people I know. I think I understand this point of view, and can empathize with the need to have spaces for the trans folk for whom the experience means a more complete change or shift in gender presentation. It’s important that everyone be represented. But, as to the rest, I say “bring it on!!”. The more the merrier. A good party really benefits from having lots of different people at it: more energy, more colors of the diversity rainbow. I, for one, am excited that more folks get to identify as trans and find the community a place of sustenance and support, and that the definition is expanding. Something in me exhales as I start to realize that I have more points of commonality with more people that I could ever have imagined before.

Debting And Compulsive Spending

Do you or a loved one have a debting habit?
Do you or a loved one spend money compulsively or shop impulsively?
Are you in constant anxiety of living on a financial edge?
Do you feel like you don’t understand money?
Are money conflicts destroying your relationship?
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Millions of people have become trapped in a spiral of spending and debt. Overspending is a cultural addiction in a society that urges us to buy on credit, and keep buying. We are, after all, a consumer society, which rewards and glorifies the self-destructive behavior of overspending and compulsive shopping. This behavior leads to lives of unrealistic expectation, anxiety, and fear.

Break the cycle of financial terror for yourself or a loved one. There is hope!

It is not necessary to “hit bottom” in order to start recovery.

Call now! For immediate support and information on the loving and respectful way of getting you or your loved-one and your family on the path of recovery.

Also offering INTERVENTION SUPPORT for ALCOHOL and SUBSTANCE ABUSE, GAMBLING, SHOPPING, SEX ADDICTION, PORNOGRAPHY or CYBERSEX-internet sex-ADDICTIONS, LOVE ADDICTION and other BEHAVIORAL COMPULSIONS

 

Written by Moshe Rozdzial, Expert Writer of Glow Counseling

Typical Behaviors of An Emotional Abuser

“The local woman whose husband beat here severely, cut her achilles tendons, made her watch him murder her three year old, set the house on fire and shot himself (last week) is the subject of much sympathy.
There are also people, however, who asked a friend of hers “Why didn’t she leave sooner?” ARRGGH!
I am constantly trying to think of ways to get people to think more deeply, with no victim blaming. We have great but long articles about that; wish we could teach some snappy and illuminating come-backs to such ignorant remarks.”
(Rose Garrity)

Here are signs of domestic abuse/Violence

 

1. Isolates You From Others

Abusive partners want you “all to themselves” and go to great lengths to keep you from social acitivity. (This is not “romantic” or related to love at all, but is part of their sense of entitlement to control and prevent you from communication with others about anything, especially your relationship). They do not allow that you have a life outside the relationship, even with family and friends. They do not believe you have a right to a previous life that impacts the current relationship. Even your children from a previous relationship can be a source of his deep jealousy.  It is healthy and normal for you to hang out with other people besides your partner. If he prevents you from doing so, or escalates his abuse when you do spend time with others, this is serious emotional abuse.  (See also numbers 6 & 8.)

2. Is Verbally Abusive

When a person calls you names, taunts or ridicules you they mean to hurt you and keep you “in line”. Abusers often try to blame you, like saying that you are “too sensitive”. You are not too sensitive; you rightly feel that this is not the way you should be treated. Abusers have a way of making you think that this is normal behavior and that it is you who has the problem. (See number 3.) Abusers also commonly accuse you of behaviors such as talking to another man, etc. They often talk in circles or twist things to confuse the issues, and they are often impossible to discuss issues with, because it all becomes convoluted and about anything but him.

3. Blames Others For His Behavior and its Consequences

If your partner blames everything on others, often you, this is a red flag. He will say his tantrums or attacks are because of you. When he says his behavior is your fault he is trying to say he is not in control of himself; this is an attempt to take away his own responsibility. It is not a healthy relationship if your partner never admits to being at fault, or if he seems to admit it, then goes right back into blaming you and escalating an argument. He feels entitled to your compliance, and feels blameless for the things he does. He may blame others for bad things that he has done, like being arrested, fired, having a car repossessed, etc. These are all signs a person may feel entitled to behave however he chooses.

4. Alcohol and Drug Use

Not all abusers drink alcohol excessively or use other drugs, but some do. Being under the influence of alcohol does not cause abuse, but can make it worse, and can be used as an excuse for the abuse. Addictions need intervention that is separate from the issue of abuse.

5. Instills Fear

If you feel fear and tension around your partner something is very wrong. Abusers may intimidate you with violence or dominating tactics like all of those listed here. Putting you in potentially harmful situations, or showing you a weapon or fist and stating they are not afraid to use them are common examples. Threats of various types are common. He may demand to know what you did all day if he was at work, wanting you to account for every hour. He may stalk you and insist on even seeing your doctor with you.

6. Punishes You For Spending Time Away

This is related to isolation, (number 1).  If you do go somewhere or do something without your partner, or even if he goes along but others are also there, an abuser will punish you later. He may shout, insult, threaten or worse, all because you were not exclusively hanging out with him. He will give you signals while others are around to make you frightened of later, such as raising an eyebrow or texting you during the visit, even though he is right there. An abuser may text you constantly, to track where you are, to threaten, to remind you of the limits he sets, etc. He may follow you through the use of GPS devices on your car or cell phone. He will demand to read your text messages and email as well. He will demand to know all of your passwords, and read your mail. He threatens to or tells lies about you to your family, friends, doctor or boss.

7. Expects You to Do As He Says

An emotional abuser feels entitled to be treated like “the boss”, and expects you to do as he says.  He may give you orders, and lists and threats about housework or cooking, or even what you can wear.    Abusers feel very entitled to be in control of you and the relationship at all times

8. Is Extremely Jealous of You

A frequent trait of abusers is their jealousy. An abusive partner is usually very jealous of you, other people and even of your dreams and goals. Their jealousy and rage over intangible things like your aspirations is from the lack of control they feel over those aspects of your life. They often do not want their partners to go to school, have a job, see a therapist, take classes, or have any social life. If you do have a job or classes he will wait nearby for you to leave, may even be there to watch what you do on breaks.

9. Controls You Through His Emotions

An abuser is a grand manipulator and will sulk, show rage, smash things, threaten to leave, and emotionally punish you for not going along with his idea of how things should be. An abuser will try to make you feel guilty any time you exert your will and assert what is right for you. He will accuse you of “cheating” or flirting if you even answer the door for a delivery person or speak politely to a store clerk. At times the abuser may appear to be apologetic and loving but his “remorse” doesn’t last long; the abuse begins again, over and over, and usually escalates as time goes on.

10. Gets Physical

If you are emotionally abused, there is a high chance that he will eventually physically abuse you. At first he might pull your hair, push you, or grab you so hard that you bruise; these are serious warning signs that things will get more dangerous. A partner who has reacted with violence before (breaking things, punching walls, getting into altercations with others), is more likely to hit you. Abuse usually gets more frequent and more severe as time goes on.

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Note: This article uses “he” for the abuser. Anyone can abuse an intimate partner, including same sex relationships. Our models for intimate partner relationships are mostly based upon centuries of attitudes and practices of heterosexual relationships, and many of those traditional dynamics are copied in same sex relationships.

In heterosexual relationships men have the traditional sense that they should be “in charge” and dominant. Men are the most frequent users of violence and tactics that support it. While women may abuse men they don’t do so out of the same sense of entitlement, and are not seen as traditionally entitled to control a male partner. Men seldom  walk around in fear of a female partner.

Men abuse women frequently and with little accountability or consequences. Men are often socially expected to be in control of female partners and controlling, demanding, jealous or humiliating behaviors toward women are accepted as “normal male” actions; men are essentially acting the way they have been socialized to be.  Male children are frequently told to “act like a man” and we all know exactly what that means, even if we cannot articulate it.

Society is beginning to teach more messages of equality and fairness; it may take a generation or more to see much change in gendered attitudes, however.

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We want to be clear that when men are abused they deserve our full support and help to escape. No one deserves to be abused. No one has the right to abuse others. 

A New Hope Center provides confidential, free services to any survivors of abuse, including intimate partner abuse, sexual assault, child abuse, hate crimes, incest and other crimes. 

Services include crisis intervention, counseling, support groups, advocacy and accompaniment, safe shelter, and more.

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