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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lisa

Lisa sits across from me with a shy smile on her face.

"What's up?" I ask, curious to dig beneath her expression.
"I didn't do my homework again," she says and smiles at me.
"Why not?" I ask.
"Oh...  I guess I didn't want to."
"Why didn't you want to? What's really going on?"
"I guess I'm scared."
"Scared of what?"
"Of having sex."

Sexual withholding is another expression of sexual anger. Lisa has become unwilling to be sexual with her partner because, as a child, she endured sexual abuse, there is something inside her that will now allow her to be sexual or to give up a part of herself, even though she is willingly in a relationship with someone she loves--and has been in the relationship for years.

As children, abuse victims had to give up themselves and their bodies in order to survive. They are not going to do that again. So the anger at the original perpetrator gets played out in their relationships. The act of withholding is another way trauma victims create the illusion of power and control. The power and control that was stolen when they were sexually violated is now transferred to their unsuspecting partners.

When Lisa's partner of four years comes to her for sex, every part of her -- her emotions, her intellect, and her body -- screams. The very innermost part of her being says, "No. I cant give myself again." She may consciously or subconsciously feel that her refusal has put her in control, and she may feel temporarily relief. The feeling of control may produce a neurochemical release that produces a high, which paradoxically is also produced by acting out sexually.

"What's so scary?" I ask.
 At this point, Lisa begins to cry, "I am so scared, so scared of letting go."
 "What are you afraid is going to happen?" I ask.
Her tears turn to sobs as she explains.

(To be continued.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

More Maxine

As is often the case with sexual addiction, the "high" is not always about having sex. In Maxine's case, it is about the chase, getting attention, and being desirable -- and then, as if throwing a bucket of ice-cold water on her admirer, letting him know, "You can't have me."

Maxine dressed provocatively, flirted, and fished for admiration from men. Her gestures, touches, and seductive display of cleavage sent out the sexual signal that she was available and hungry for sex. But when one of the patrons approached her and asked for a drink after work, she assumed he wanted to be sexual. She acted as if she were insulted, even though she had been behaving provocatively. In this scenario, her power lies in her ability to reject him and to imagine in him the shame that, in fact, she feels within herself for having been the illicit object of her own father's sexual objectification. When a patron triggered her traumatic memories of her father, she hid the shame she felt then with the sexualized anger she feels now. When she shoves her shame onto him, she feels that she has been restored. She deludes herself into thinking and feeling that she has resolved the original trauma. This relief is only temporary, and she will inevitably return to that feeling of shame.

Among my clients who have dysfunctional sexuality at the heart of their relationship problems, the passive-aggressive anger hides the truth of their shame core from them. This sense of resentment, shame, rage, and anger that infects their relationships originates in their sense of having lost power and control, even as they were being shamed. Their passive-aggressive manipulations are their way of undoing their disempowerment. They will ruin their attempts at sexual relationships by dysfunctionally trying to win back the power and control that was stolen from them when they were children abused by their primary caregivers.

***

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Maxine (cont)

Maxine lights up at the chance to explain. "An official party girl is hired by liquor companies to entertain and wait on men at parties sponsored by the company. We wore short skirts and revealing tops and flirted," she says, pushing to allow a wry smile. "We weren't allowed to have sex or go home with the guys. We could only flirt, you know, have fun."
"How many liquor companies did you do this for?"
"About three."

A common way people hide their sexual anger is through the cognitive distortion called "minimization." Maxine's minimization of being a "party girl" keeps her out of touch with the shame behind her sexualized anger. When Maxine dresses provocatively at the alcohol-driven parties, she covertly expresses sexual feelings, which she denies in order to avoid feeling the shame that sexuality carries. Maxine's sexualized anger makes her feel powerful and in control, and she does not want to stop. When she complains that men are always hitting on her, sounding like a coy, self-proclaimed victim, she enjoys the pleasure of innocent righteousness.

"What was it like being a party girl?" I ask.
"It was GREAT," she gushes, her eyes dancing with blissful reverie.
"But what was really going on? What were you really doing at these parties?" I press. Before I even complete my question, a male patient sitting next to Maxine begins to smirk and nod his head.
"What do you think was going on?" I ask him.
"We call them prick teasers," he says.

Maxine's exuberant mood collapses like a helium balloon deflated by the painful truth of her behavior.

"It's called 'sexualized anger,'" I say with a pause. "My bet is that you were either overtly or covertly sexually traumatized as a child. Is that correct?"

There is a long, thoughtful pause as tears start to form in the corner of Maxine's eyes.

"It was my father," she says through a choked voice. "He always called me his 'sexy lady.'"
"How old were you when he said that?"
"I don't know," she says, pausing to take a mental inventory. "I guess as long as I can remember."
"How did you feel when he said that to you?" I ask.
"It made me feel special, I guess, but it felt kind of gross, too," she says, her voice trailing off.
"And angry?" I ask.
"Yes," she responds. "Yes," she says again, nodding her head, "Angry."

The "chase" is yet another form of acting out through passive-aggressive sexualized anger. When Maxine was a young girl, her father sexually objectified her. Although Maxine craved the attention, it was ultimately traumatizing. In order to get attention from her dad, she discovered she had to be "sexy."

As a little girl, Maxine was clueless as to the meaning of "sexy," but she was desperate and determined to find out. Vigilantly, she watched for clues, and they were not hard to find. Flirting with large-breasted, wasp-waisted women in tight, skimpy clothes was Dad's operating procedure. It became Maxine's sexual template. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Maxine

Maxine, a tall, striking woman with long, silky blond hair, sits in the corner of the room. She is large-breasted, small-waisted, and wears a hardened smirk on her face. The room is crowed with its six other patients, the primary therapist, and me. I am running a primary group at The Meadows. In groups, the goal is to help others gain insight into their behaviors and trauma histories by listening to the experiences of their peers. Each person will share in groups with each member giving feedback.

Patients' artwork adorns the fabric walls, along with large posters delivering reminders of lessons to be learned on impatient treatment. The lighting is soft and warm. I start the group with Maxine's story.
"Are you ready, Maxine?" I ask.

Maxine's hardened expression fades away, replaced by one that is vulnerable and sad.

"Yeah, I'm ready, but I am a little nervous," she says in a high-pitched voice that I have to strain to hear.
"That's okay." I say.

Maxine takes a deep breath and, when she exhales, she resumes the weary, hardened posture.

"I began drinking in high school," Maxine begins, "And then I started using speed when I moved in with a girlfriend who, of course, was a dealer."
"How old were you?" I ask.
"Sixteen." Maxine says, almost prideful.
"Where were your parents?"

Maxine chuckles as if mocking the question. "My parents were where where they always were: traveling, working, or getting stoned." She shrugs her shoulders, off-loading a heavy backpack.
"Living on my own, money was always tight," Maxine continues, "So, to get extra cash, I became an official party girl, which was great, 'cause I also got free drinks," she says, almost as an after thought.
 "What is an 'official party girl'?"

Friday, July 5, 2013

Healthy Sexuality, Self-Nurturing, Moderation

From Maureen Canning book, ``Lust, Anger, Love'':
``Healthy sexuality is 10 percent about our genitals, while the remaining 90 percent is about our life force, our creativity, and our passion. This energy taps into the core of who we are. ... Our sexuality comes from the depth of our being, ... Examining and integrating our healthy sexual selves from this perspective results in much more than just `mind-blowing sex'. It provides a spectrum of possibilities, a transformation of the whole self.'' (p. 216)

``Male resistance to self-nurturing [e.g., stimulating senses by lighting incense or scented candles] is a universal pattern.
....
Being sensitive, nurturing, or sensuous with yourself is not about threatening your sexual orientation or masculinity; it is about being in touch with your body and learning to pleasure it in nongenital ways. ....
In our addiction, we learned to fill our shame core from outside: how much sex we scored, how many secrets we could get away with, ... how great we looked, how much attention we could solicit. ...
In recovery, we learn to fill ourselves from the inside out. This is done through the art pf self-nurturing and self-care. Each time we honor ourselves by listening or supportively reacting to our internal cues, we are healing the shame core. This is the foundation of sexual health.
....
As trauma survivors, we learned to disconnect not only from our feelings, but from our bodies. ... Coming back to our bodies, or being present, can feel awkward or uncomfortable. It can also generate a great deal of fear: the fear of the unknown, the fear of triggered memories, or actual physical discomfort or pain.
This is why recovery is a process, a gradual building of self-atonement, becoming in-tune with self-awareness. We allow ourselves to build on each step to avoid overwhelming or flooding our system with too much change, confusion, or information.
We learn to live in the moderation of recovery, as opposed to the extremes of addiction.'' (pp 220-222)

Diagnostic Criteria

The diagnostic criteria most commonly used by those who treat sexual addiction are similar to those applied to chemical dependance. They include:

  • Loss of Control. Clear behaviors that go further then intended, such as having unprotected sex, meeting someone as opposed to just talking to them online, and having sex in dangerous conditions, such as with a coworker in the office storage area during business hours.
  • Compulsive Behaviors. A pattern of out-of-control behaviors over time, such as masturbating to the point of pain or injury.
  • Efforts to Stop. Failed attempts to stop the behaviors, such as broken promises to self and others, or bargaining with oneself, (e.g., "I will only flirt with someone at the bar instead of having sex"). 
  • Losses. Significant losses due to engaging in behaviors related to acting out sexually (e.g., sacrificing hobbies, commitments, and financial, career, and family obligations; not meeting deadlines; or forgetting special occasions).
  • Preoccupation. Obsessing about behaviors, leaving the addict disengaged or disconnected from the present moment. This allows for emotional numbing but will never provide or promote personal intimacy or connection with others.
  • Progression. The need to make the behavior more intense, frequent, or risky. Like an alcoholic, the sex addict will reach a threshold or plateau that needs to be amplified in order to maintain the desired high.
  • Continued behavior despite negative consequences. The inability to stop a behavior that creates problems, including legal, physical, financial, or relational problems. The addict is usually in a great deal of denial as to the extent to which his addiction has permeated his life.
  • Withdrawal. Stopping behavior causes physical and/or emotional discomfort or distress, including mood swings, depression, irritability, headaches, nausea, dissociation, interrupted sleep patterns, anxiety, or intrusive thoughts.

Understanding and Overcoming Porn & Sexual Addiction

Skye Video of Porn or Sexual Addiction...

Interesting in that this man says it is a chemical addiction in the brain. Dr Amen would be a good start to righting this easy enough. Counseling is where to start after someone, anyone, can simply admit they have a problem that is effecting and affecting their lives. He mentions an on-line course that is anonymous. Daily support and encouragement. Get people out of isolation. Too much shame is associated with it. He's a professional and deals with this so it isn't uncommon that folks need to talk to him! So many are influenced and effected by the onslaught of porn, soft especially that leads to harder, due to internet access.

He gets a bit technical but once we can see that it is more clinical and not personal is how we learn to adjust our lives and reactions to visual simulations.

Three things needed to create an addiction.

Long version...
1. Speed with which dopamine can be found.
2. Intensity pf release.
3. Reliability of it.

Short version...
Time
Effort
Reward

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Trauma

Trauma

I am reading the Maureen Canning book, ``Lust, Anger, Love''. Here is an interesting quote
``Trauma is a profound experience that affects all aspects of our lives. In his book, Waking the Tiger, Peter Levine describes trauma's impact and the possibilities it solicits:
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Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. Not only can trauma be healed but also, with appropriate guidance and support, it can be transformative.  `Trauma has the potential to be one of the most significant forces for psychological, social, and spiritual awakening and evolution. How we handle trauma (as individuals, communities, and societies) greatly influences the quality of our lives. It ultimately affects how or even whether we will survive as a species.
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'' (p. 88)
 And here is a Q and A (thanks to dear Shadi):  

Question: Since you mentioned trauma, I have a question that has occupied my mind for a while. What is the best way to treat trauma, especially if it is related to childhood? (I mean other than medications for symptoms like anxiety or depression) Do you know a practical and accessible reference for someone like me with no training in psychology, etc     

 Answer:
 Here are a sum of different therapies used to address trauma. one thing I have to be clear about is that trauma never goes away but rather one learns to make sense of it/live with it. so there is trauma therapy with three stages of stabilizing and managing client's reaction (physical symptoms mostly) processing the memories of/related to trauma and finally re learning/re connecting with life. this a classic approach and commonly uses by psychotherapists. there is ITT, Intensive Trauma Therapy. I have not practiced it but I have started reading about it. You can google it and see what you think of it. Now, EMDR is gaining more and more attention. I personally cant relate to it but I have seen it work for many pp. read about it and see what your level of comfort is. it stands for Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. the other one EMT. Emotionally Focused Therapy. ... I have seen therapists using Logotherapy and Adlerian/Individual Psychology to address trauma as well. I am biased when it comes to these two as I am certified in them! well, not only that but I do believe in the philosophy behind them. I find them very close to my Zen/Buddhist beliefs. 

You will be lucky if you can find a therapist who does Eclectic therapy. Meaning you and her/him create a plan on what approaches work for you and your situation and the therapist will use a number of approaches to work with you. But again, that therapist better be damn good in her job as it can get really confusing for the client if not done professionally.