Thursday, November 18, 2010

Your plan for sexual health in an electronic world

The last assignment of the up and coming workbook, Cybersex Unplugged is finished. All that remains is the editing. Coming soon!

Our final assignment is also about integration. Given the continuing care plan, it is also important to assess the specific internet behaviors that contribute to acting out situations, or otherwise cross personal boundaries. There are many variations of this assignment that follows. One way to complete this assignment is to create three circles where you address the following:
1) Inner Circle are Acceptable behaviors
These behaviors are any internet behaviors that are healthy in your world. The difficulty is that many individuals want us to tell them the answers to this question, but the key is that you have to define these. Others might provide feedback and suggestions, but in the end you MUST clarify and determine what are acceptable behaviors in YOUR world.
2) Middle Circle are Cautious behaviors
These behaviors often have a “depends” linked to them. Sometimes the same behavior at work is acceptable, but at home is unacceptable (or vice versa). Anything you can’t clarify as healthy/unhealthy, needs to go here. You might be able to use the “depends” to gain further insight into risk factors in your life. As appropriate, clarify the depends component of these behaviors as much as possible. One example was a client who could surf the internet at home until 9 pm. At 9 pm, he started to tired and moved into the trance often associated with compulsive online behaviors. Surfing the internet until 9 was cautious, because he had to make sure his plans were in place to prevent ongoing surfing after 9 pm.
3) Outer Circles are Unacceptable behaviors.
These are behaviors that you have determined are unhealthy in any and all cases. For some people, any explicit sexual online behavior at work is unhealthy. Surfing for porn or engaging in sexual chat conversations may fit here. Certain types of websites might fit here. The key is that YOU must agree to any behaviors that are defined as unacceptable.
Behaviors to consider include the following. It is also important to link these behaviors to any qualifiers.
• What devices can you use to access the internet (think computers, smart phones, iPads, etc.).
• How frequently can you use the internet? Can you use it for sexual content? Where can you access the internet (work, home, friends, relatives)?
• Who is with you, as appropriate?
• What types of websites are acceptable? Think typical web sites such as banks, but also a typical hookup site?
• What types of online sexual activity could be explored online,(e.g., certain ethnicities, feet, animals, diapers…)?
• Identify if engaging in sexually charged chat, online relationships, virtual sex, exhibitionism or voyeurism online?
• What email accounts can you use?
• Using the internet to arrange real-time hook ups.
• Posting online erotic or sexual pictures/videos of yourself or others (including via webcam).
• Masturbating to online sexual materials or activities?
• Have you ever used a sex toy that connects to your computer while online?
• What other sexual activities have you engaged while online that would be important to review?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ADHD and Internet Behavior

A number of studies have reported an association between internet compulsivity and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Unfortunately, this type of research focuses on relationship between two things versus whether or not one causes the other. It is difficult to truly understand what is going on in relational research. To use a metaphor, it’s like saying ice cream sales and crime rates are related (they are). Both are high at the same time, and both are low at the same. While they are related, people will sometimes try to say one causes the other. For example, a person might propose, “People are stealing money to buy ice cream.” Another response might be, “Eating ice cream leads to crime.” Neither is accurate, and often another explanation might be better. In this case, both ice cream sales and crime rates increase in warmer weather. More people are out when it is 85 degrees (and hence may be robbed), and also more people are willing to eat ice cream when it is 85 degrees versus when it is 30 degrees.

Most often ADHD is first recognized as a child or adolescent. Recently, more and more adults are being diagnosed with ADHD. The diagnosis isn’t without controversy. It isn’t clear if the diagnosis is the current “trendy” diagnosis or if it is a true problem with adults. Having an ADHD diagnosis is also open to misuse, particularly with providing an excuse for the behavior, “I go online because I have ADHD.” Without a doubt, the relationship between internet use and ADHD is present, but complex. The key in our work is to acknowledge the relationship, and provide a basic level of information for you to follow-up with your primary physician. In some cases, treating ADHD might reduce an individual’s problems with the internet.

To help you determine if you need follow-up, please review the following symptoms. If you see five or six of them as descriptive of you, please seek out and obtain the necessary support for further follow-up.

Symptoms of ADHD

Does not give close attention to details
Makes careless mistakes in work, or other activities.
Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks.
Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
Often does not follow through on instructions
Fails to finish duties in the workplace
Often has trouble organizing activities.
Doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort.
Often loses things
Is often easily distracted.
Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat when sitting still is expected.
Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
Often feel very restless.
Often has trouble doing leisure activities quietly.
Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor".
Often talks excessively.
Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
Often has trouble waiting one's turn.
Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Projection, Transference and Sexuality

The inside functions like a projector;
Others become screens
And you start seeing films on others
Which are really your own tapes.

Over the past few weeks, a book I’ve been reading has been a source of reflection for a series of quick blog entries on sexual health. This blog continues this process.

I experience being a target of significant emotional reaction from folks, --either aversion or awe—when they discovery my area of work in sexual health. I’ve been in the field long enough to know it’s not about me, but rather a reflection of the inner workings of the individual (And usually I don’t take it personal, but heck, I’m human.). I’m amazed at how frequently an individual’s reaction reflects their reaction to sexuality. Those who have a strong negative reaction are often projecting the negative feelings of sexuality. The same is true for positive reactions.

In my work, I place a strong emphasis on increasing awareness of your reactions. Anyone who evokes a strong reaction is your teacher. Your reaction is yours. Figure it out. In the realm of fantasy, the entire fantasy is a projection of your inner being. Learn from it. In your dreams, you discover how you want to live in the moment. Start now!

OSHO (1999) Emotions: Freedom from Anger, Jealousy and Fear. OSHO International: New York.

The Kindle version is no longer free (updated 11/16). You can download a version to read kindle books on your computer desktop for free.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What would your genitals say?

To increase your self-awareness, it is important to be aware of the unspoken messages that are part of your inner story. One assignment is to write a response to the question, “What would your genitals say?” The impact of Internet sexual compulsivity can include a distortion of body image and genital image. I find these two topics are some of the biggest issues in a person’s recovery process. This assignment primary addresses both body image (and your image of your genitals) as well as shame associated with sexuality.

The assignment:

Write 1-2 pages about what your genitals would say if they could talk. Include any thoughts and feelings about the size, look and/or feel of your genitals, where they’ve been, and what has occurred with them. Include things you like and dislike. Describe any possible sources of the thoughts, as appropriate.

Letting go to become...

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
Lao Tzu

Building a life you love requires transformation. Often, however, fear, insecurity, and hopelessness leads to paralysis in a person's movement toward sexual health. In the realm of sexuality, there is often external pressure to conform. When you let go of the expectations that you place on yourself, you move toward the possibility of becoming something more. In my opinion, you start living a life you love.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Your Truth and Sexual Health

Truth liberates – but it must be your own.

The last few entries on sexual health (including authenticity and repression) highlight the importance of understanding YOUR truth regarding sexual health. The process of clarifying your values, and the behaviors consistent with those values is YOUR truth. Identifying the thoughts, feelings and high-risk situations that impair your life is a process of discovering YOUR truth. One of the major assignments in the workbook is the personal definition of sexual health. The focus of the assignment is to help your discern YOUR truth regarding sexuality. My experience suggests a client is much more successful with sexual health when it reflects YOUR truth.

OSHO (1999) Emotions: Freedom from Anger, Jealousy and Fear. OSHO International: New York.

This is currently available as a free kindle ebook on Amazon. (The kindle version is no longer free, updated 11/16)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Masturbation, Internet and Sexual Health

One of the major concerns in assessing the internet is the linkage between sexual media and masturbation. Often partners will have different opinions in addressing masturbation. In some opinions, masturbation is a healthy outlet within a relationship and should be incorporated into an individual’s relationship with him or her self as well as his or her partner. Masturbation can be a way to discover what you like sexually, as well as what parts of you body are most arousing or sensitive. In this example, masturbation can lead to a heightened awareness of self that can be shared with your partner. In other opinions, masturbation is a form of settling when the primary partner isn’t available. One example is a guideline within a relationship where you ask the partner if he/she is available for sexual behavior contact before you masturbate. If the partner says, “no” masturbation is allowed. Still other opinions view masturbation as a sin.
The key to the following questions is to clarify your opinions, beliefs and values about masturbation. Consider how the internet has impacted these values. Think about the role of masturbation in your definition of sexual health.

• Under what circumstances are masturbatory behaviors unhealthy for you?
• Under what circumstances are masturbatory behaviors healthy for you?
• What are my current values toward masturbation and fantasy?
• What are my current appropriate masturbation behaviors? (Where, when, how often?)
• What are my guidelines about disclosing my masturbation behaviors to my partner?
• What are my guidelines about disclosing my fantasies to my partner?
• What are my partner’s reaction to these guidelines?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Body Image, Partners Support and Sexual Health

One component of sexual health is body image. One critique of sexually explicit material is that it sets unrealistic expectations for men and women regarding body image as well as genital image. Without a doubt, mainstream American culture worships the perfect body and sets unrealistic expectations for both men and women.

Researchers continue to examine contributing factors to struggles regarding body image. Research suggests that a person’s self-image is linked to the partner’s response. As one could guess, individual who struggle with body image issues have a better response to treatment progress with the support of a primary romantic partner. Individuals who receive this support have less stress and anxiety. Negative reactions from partners led to increased struggles with body image.

There are three implications that I think are important. First, for individuals who struggle with body image issues, the key is to gain support from the primary partner. Second, if the partner isn’t supportive, I think it is important to address the negative impact of the partner’s behavior. As you could guess, hearing “Your fat.” isn’t going to help individuals address body image. Third, as one could guess, partners are also pummeled by the same cultural messages. Partners may need training and education as well as feedback regarding providing the necessary support.

Much of this appears to be common sense. Explicit positive and negative messages about a person’s body can easily be recognized for the. The difficulty, however, lies is recognizing implicit, hidden, or subtle positive and/or negative messages. For individuals struggling with sexual health concerns, assessing the messages is important.

Weller, J & Dziegielewski S. (2004) The Relationship Between Romantic Partner Support Styles and Body Image Disturbance Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 10(2) DOI: 10.1300/J137v10n02_04

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gratitude to my clients

I have a remarkable privilege of working in the realm of sexual health. The participants in a 6-week workshop on addressing chemical health recovery and sexual health again reminded me of this privilege. As one person stated, this is the last issue I need to address. I’m continually impressed with the client’s commitment toward “getting this stuff” for their long-term recovery.

As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different outcomes. I’m happy these guys are doing something different in the realm of sexual health.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sexual repression as suicide

Repression is to live a life that you were not meant to live. Repression is to do things you never wanted to do. Repression is to be fellow that you are not, repression is a way to destroy yourself. Repression is suicide – very slow of course, but a very certain slow poisoning. OSHO

Another quote from a book I’ve been reading.

The last line of the quote struck me. “Repression is suicide – very slow of course, but a very certain slow poisoning.” This is no truer in the realm of sexuality. I can not remember how many times I’ve worked with people who are experiencing a slow death because of the repression of their sexual energy. I can’t help but think of my work in chemical dependency as a way to avoid the pain of this slow death. The shame, fear, hurt, and guilt are the consequences of this repression.

What would it look like if you ended your own repression regarding your sexuality? How might life be different? How might you be different? How would your relationships be different?

I believe that one of the best interventions is to simply affirm the possibility of the individual to be who he or she is. I don’t give permission; rather the individual has within him or her own being the inherent permission to the core in all areas. Given my focus, this includes being alive in the realm of sexuality. It is stepping beyond the repression to affirm you wants, needs, and desires. Sometimes this will be easy; often it will be a bit of work.

OSHO (1999) Emotions: Freedom from Anger, Jealousy and Fear. OSHO International: New York.

This is currently available as a free kindle ebook on Amazon. (The kindle version is no longer free, updated 11/16).

What is sexual health?

“You simply remain authentic: you don’t know what is good and what is bad, you don’t know what is positive and what is negative. You are simply authentic. This authenticity will allow you to have a glimpse of the real.” OSHO

What is sexual health?

There are an abundance of formal definitions of sexual health. And still, what is sexual health? The quote reflects the key to sexual health in my opinion. It is simply authenticity. It is neither good, nor bad, simply authentic. And it is YOUR authenticity, not what you think others think should be authentic to you. Yes, that reads awkwardly, but the key is to focus on your authenticity. Clients will often worry about what family, friends, partners, and others think is important that they loose their voice.

Authenticity is more than simply doing what you want when it comes to sexuality; it is engaging in behaviors that express the core of who you are. The key for me is the core; your heart of hearts. From that core, sexual health is authentic.

OSHO (1999) Emotions: Freedom from Anger, Jealousy and Fear. OSHO International: New York.

This is currently available as a free kindle ebook on Amazon. (The kindle version is no longer free, updated 11/16)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sex, Shame, Fear, Recovery, Hope, Life

I was keenly reminded how difficult it is to talk about sexual health issues in general and sexual compulsivity in particular. For many individuals, the first steps toward discussing sexual issues are shaped by shame, embarrassment, fear and guilt. I can not stress enough how NORMAL these feelings are when opening up a new area of growth. While it is easy to say, I also know how many of these thoughts and feelings are irrational, based in cultural messages that “sex is bad,” and a general aversion to addressing sexuality.

Even though these reactions are normal, I’m also aware how important it is to start the process of talking about your sexual health concerns. My experience suggests that sexuality is at the core of many of the most important aspects of our life. For many people in recovery, sexuality is the last issue to be addressed. At the same time, it is often the last issue counselors want to (and in some causes are trained) to address.

In almost every situation when someone starts the process of addressing sexuality, the reaction eventually has been positive. The energy “protecting” the shame is released allowing the energy to be directed toward life giving actions. New possibilities are created allowing the individual to life a new life.

What do you need to start the process?