Monday, December 31, 2007

Exercise 4: Life timeline.

The goal of this exercise is to translate the material from the sex history into a visual format to help understand how your sexual behaviors have occurred across time. Complete the following exercise attempting to be as thorough as possible. You might need to devise a code to fit everything into the timeline. (It might also be helpful to tape a few pieces of paper together to make a larger piece.) Across the left hand edge of the page, draw a vertical line. The vertical line should be numbered –5 to +5. At the center of the vertical line, draw a horizontal line going the length of the page. The horizontal line reflects your age across time. Take the responses to the sex history questions and list the events along the horizontal line roughly reflecting your age at the time of the event. In addition to the behaviors identified in your sexual history, plot the following life events on the time line.

1) Meeting a best friend.

2) Having a crush.

3) Age when you hit puberty.

4) Your first time of masturbation.

5) Age when you can first remember being attracted to another person

6) Your first kiss/ first date

7) Age of your first orgasm.

8) Age when you first had sex (however you define that)

a. With a girl

b. With a guy

9) Age when you had your first relationship

10) Age at relationship changes (new relationship, divorce, break-up, marriage)

11) Age at life changes (move, new job, sobriety, first child, illness, death of a loved one).

12) Any other relevant critical incidents in your life. A critical incident is any event, “large” or “small” that has meaning in your life. An example might be when you self-identified as “gay.”

13) With additional color pens or pencils, track other relevant behaviors. This might include tracking spending behaviors, drug or alcohol behaviors, gambling, etc. A later assignment will ask you to reflect on other behaviors that correlate to your sexual behavior.

14) Next, with additional color pens or pencils track additional life events such as depression/mood, stress, marital satisfaction, job satisfaction, or other important events in your life. Below is a simplified example to illustrate how to complete a timeline.

By charting these events, it may be possible to discover simple and/or complex patterns to an individual’s sexual behavior. In the example below, I graphed mood, anxiety, job satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. Reviewing the chart, there appears to be a relationship between mood and frequency of sexual functioning. While it is possible to see a relationship, it is not possible to determine cause and effect. In this case, the mood may lead to sexual acting out; alternatively, sexual acting might be an attempt to feel better; another alternative is that the person feels depressed because of the sexual acting out. Because of the graph, we get a sense of the relationship. Therapy is a process of exploring and understanding the relationship.

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