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.

The Evolution of Porn and Addiction

Sex addiction is the fastest growing compulsive behavior in our nation. There are some studies that say that it is the #1 addiction.

For straight men it normally begins with an innocent discovery of porn as a pre-teen or teenager. For some this is as far as it goes, with maybe occasional use as an adult. For others it becomes an daily expression of sexuality that may eat up hours a day. Before the internet, teens had to steal porn from stores; adults had to visit an adult bookstore. Then the internet arrived, and people needed to go no further than their personal computer to find access to millions of websites that would satisfy any taste, or pleasure. Many straight men go on to visit strip clubs, massage parlors and prostitutes. Some become voyeurs, exhibitionists or predators. These people cannot be stopped and the behavior needs to be treated like any other addiction.

Gay men have it easier in many ways. Sex is available 24/7 at many locations, mostly for free. It may also start with porn, and move on to phone sex, cyber-sex and then real people. It takes place in bathrooms, bookstores, parks, and rest areas. Most gay men can have occasional connections, but there are many whose lives center around the next sexual hit.

Though the behaviors are different, the consequences are the same: a lifestyle that reduces the functionality in all areas of life. Relationships, jobs, education, and all areas of a person’s life can be affected.

This is not a moral issue. This is a disease that is becoming more pervasive. With the access of these websites to our children, we run the risk of a tidal wave of deeply damaged individuals.