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.

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.

My Dance With Death

Death can come at anytime. We are fragile human beings; I didn’t know how fragile I was until I woke up in the hospital after 5 days of being sedated so that antibiotics could heal my pneumonia that had gone septic.

It started with what I thought was a simple flu. It came on so quickly, I had lunch out and as I walked up the hill to my home, I felt completely worn out. I went to the doctor and they confirmed it was the flu. 2008 had been a flu season where everybody seemed to get sick and the illness held on for weeks. A week after I was diagnosed I felt worse, went back to the doctor, had no temperature and was again told I had the flu. Two days later I got up to find there was no food in the house. I thought I could make it to the grocery store 7 blocks away. Driving to the store, I sideswiped a bus and a car, but did not stop I did not realize what was happening. Got to the store, went shopping and came out to find my car surrounded by three police cars. They asked me why I had a flat tire. I had been reported for two incidents. Fortunately, I think they were policewoman, saw how sick I was and gave me a ride home, instructing me to come back and have my car towed home. Somewhere after that, I lost awareness and became delirious.

This is where I know a power greater than myself took over. I was found naked in the garage at 1a, my roommate had come home late from work. If he had not found me I would have been dead by morning. They rushed me to the hospital. None of this do I remember. They thought I had a heart attack. My partner was in Denver, and he was immediately called by our neighbors. At 6 am they determined that I had not had a heart attack, that the diagnosis was indeed worse. I had pneumonia that had gone septic and was attacking all my organs. My kidneys had almost shut down.

The next miracle: my partner and I did not have a medical power of attorney. If we had been anywhere but San Francisco, he would not have been allowed in the room. I guess it is important for anyone who is not married or cannot get married to make sure all paper work is in place.

The next thing I remember, I was in a cave in Jerusalem, there were older Jewish woman praying over my body. My partner had died and I did not want to live, so I willed myself, with the help of these woman, to die. I floated over my body and felt extremely peaceful. One more vision had me in a science fiction hospital being ignored by everyone. Finally I realized that if I did not get to a bathroom, I was going to die. In the outer world this is where I pulled the tubes out of my throat and came back to this world. A world that I really didn’t want to be in. I saw a sign that said that I was intensive care. It was Valentine’s day. Being alive was my partners gift for Valentine’s Day. He was not there when I woke up and no one could convince me that he was alive. When he walked in the door, I started sobbing; I wanted to be alive. I wanted to be with him. I found out then that my brother, who is a pulmonary specialist, had flown down, just in time to stop the doctors from moving me to another hospital, which could have been dangerous to my life.

That was the scariest night of my life. I was sure that I could still die and wrestled with God the whole night; telling him that I was not going anywhere. That night the nurses put on music for me, and at that point I had an experience that I know was real and not real at the same time. The music that was playing represented all the partners that I had in my life, and I made peace with all of them. Later I sensed that all the people that had ever been important to me in my life were there. I could not see them, but, I knew they were there. I felt like a wise sage, however, the gift that I was giving them all, was the gift of laughter. I had all of them rolling on the floor laughing. Again I made peace with all those that I felt had harmed me in the past. I had been gay bashed when I was 28 years old, and even the men that had bashed me were in the room. They too, were forgiven. I used to have nightmares several times a week. They stopped.

From that time on, I felt so grateful to be alive, that I walked around in a place of constant peace and acceptance of everything. Many people had great things to say to me, but what I will always remember are the words of my Rabbi. I asked her whether I would hold on to these feelings. She said “most people are lazy, this is not a bad thing, it is just the human condition.” She said to treat this experience as if I had reached bottom in an addiction, now while I was very motivated I could make many changes in my life, and those I could hold on to. She then said that she wanted to pray with me. In Judaism there is a prayer for everything. The prayer she chose was for those who have come back from the other side. She said that her only hesitation is that the prayer had one take responsibility for their illness. I told her immediately that I could live with that. I immediately realized that many times in my life, I had talked about suicide. I now wanted to live. On the way home, the change I realized that I most needed, was to stop judging myself for mistakes or being human. This has not totally stuck, but it is available to me most of the time.

So did the feeling of peace stay with me? Of course, not always. However, when ever I think about this time in my life, I see it as a gift, I am grateful to be alive and I am at peace.