Sunday, December 18, 2011

Living a Life I Love, 2nd edition

And finally, the new workbook is available on Kindle at Amazon.

Living a Life I Love, 2nd edition now available on Amazon as well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Living a Life I Love, 2nd edition

The 2nd edition of Living a Life I Love is now available!

I've been a bit busy over the past month finishing the editing process for the new edition of Living a Life I Love. The 2nd edition is officially available as of today. Check out the link for more information and to purchase the workbook!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Identifying the transforming values of your life.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. (Gandhi)

A task toward sexual health is to define the values by which you want to live your life. It is done in community/connection with others. The process of clarifying your values, and the behaviors consistent with those values is the experience of discovering your truth. My experience suggests an individual is much more successful when their life that reflects their truth. For some individuals, discovering or naming their internal truth is asking a blind man to describe a color. Due to shame, guilt, fear, failure, or any number of reasons, many individuals cannot name the most important values in their life that truly represent their core.

Paradoxically, others can be the source of the primary values in your life. What we like and dislike in others reflects our inner core. Briefly, that to which we are drawn reflects an inner craving that we must address. That which we reject reflects an inner craving that we must address. Transference is a tool where you can recognize what is most important in your life. You can recognize these values by identifying various pivot points in your life. It is in these pivot points where we get a sense of something more in our life. In the pivot points a person experiences awe, amazement, horror, beauty which can be used to connect with others. The experience is rewarding, but isn’t always easy. Sometimes these are values that we have and want to express more; or, it may be values we don’t have and want to obtain.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blessing and Sexuality

A friend gave me a copy of David Spangler’s book, “Blessing.” Spangler looks at what blessing means, and how giving or receiving a blessing is such a profound act. For Spangler, blessing is a sharing of spirit. Blessing transcends a specific act and evokes a profound connection. Blessing comes from the depths, and takes us into new depths. Blessing brings us into a fuller relationship with life. Blessing is a gift. Blessing is a manifestation of our spirit. Blessing is a linking to our inner sacred space. Blessing is done with respect, honor and love. Blessing is connection. Blessing is an experience of wholeness.

I see sexuality as a blessing. Sadly, however, many people see sexuality as a curse rather than the transforming characteristics it can have.

In my work, I focus on sexuality as a vital expression of our identity and life energy. My profound question is to take the previous paragraph, and substitute the word blessing with the word sexuality. What would it look like if you saw your sexuality as a blessing?

Relapse and Healing

Obviously, no one likes to relapse. It often feels like a failure. Rather then emphasize the failure, the process of change can take a relapse and learn from it. When you examine the conditions that occurred in a relapse, you might uncover an unknown issue; or, you might recognize an issue you were avoiding is more important than you previously believed. Similarly, you might recognize you need to develop a different plan on a topic that you thought you addressed.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sexual Health Life Coaching

Sexual Health Life Coaching addresses sexuality from a wellness approach. Sexual Health Life Coaching is an opportunity to focus integrating sexuality as part of your amazing life. The basic premise I bring to my work is that you are first and foremost a whole person. Yes, you are a person whose sexuality is sacred. In the area of sexuality, rarely do we start from the place of sacredness of sexuality. Even linking the term sacred and sexuality brings confusion, shame, fear, and suspicion. Our society shames sexuality. Many religious traditions link sexuality to sinfulness and brokenness. The domain of psychology often focuses on fixing the negative aspects in an individual’s life.

Perhaps along the way, you’ve stumbled. Heck, we all do. Nevertheless, I believe in the beginning you started in an honored place. This honored place included an integration of your sexuality as a positive energy in your life. In our current society, this may seem impossible to conceptualize. What would it look like to come back to the place of integration, wholeness, and yes, even sacredness of sexuality? What would it look like if for the next moment, you saw your sexuality as a profound gift? How would your life change if you embraced this energy? This is the focus of sexual health life coaching.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rock, Paper, Scissors–Life Coach and Living a Life You Love

I’ve been working toward completing my certificate as a life coach. One image to describe a Life Coach is childhood game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Life Coaching as a Lever
Using a lever at the right place with the right amount of energy is how a person can move a heavy object. A lever actually magnifies the power of the user. Life coaching is a tool to leverage your own energy leading to profound change. A coach simply helps you identify that spot to get the most out of the energy. With a focused use of energy, you move the ROCKS in your journey.

Life Coach as Creating a Plan
What would a Life You Love Look like? Write it down (i.e., on PAPER). Create a map of where you want to go. The map is a handy tool to remind us of where you are going in your life when you get lost, or otherwise run into a detour.

Life Coach as Pruning
Every year, I prune back the trees and bushes in my yard to help them grow stronger next year. Using a Life Coach can help you identify patterns of thoughts and behaviors that you might remove with a pruning SCISSORS to help you grow into Living a Life You Love. (This is different from therapy which might use the metaphor of replanting and re-landscaping-i.e. moving the tree or bush.)

I work as both a psychologist (MN) and a Life Coach. I have a general focus, as well as specialties in recovery and sexuality. For more information on the coaching I provide, please see:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

White-knuckling in the area of sex doesn't work.

The human mind is constructed in such a way that when you tell yourself NOT to think about something, it becomes all you think about. For example, I want you to think about your favorite dessert, or meal. Seriously, think about enjoying this dessert. Can you feel your mouth watering simply with the thought of the dessert or meal? Now, tell your self to STOP thinking about the dessert or meal. STOP thinking about it! You can’t. In a similar way, telling yourself you will never have sex or won’t thing about sexuality only reinforces the pattern of thinking about sex. Attempting to avoid addressing sexuality through abstinence or force of will is called white-knuckling. Eventually your level of exhaustion or resentment will overcome the force of will and you will revert to the pattern of unhealthy sexual behavior. Similar to learning how to eat in healthy ways, a person needs to find a way to engage in HEALTHY sexuality.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Your body and sexual health.

In moving toward sexual health and recovery, it is important to engage not only your thoughts and feelings in the process, but also your body. Sexual health will include the integration of your body with your thoughts and feelings. There are a number of items to consider as you gain awareness of your body. Pay attention to the touch. How soft/hard is the experience? What is the level of pressure? Where is the touch occurring? Notice the temperature; is it warm cold? What sounds are present? How comfortable do you feel in your body? Does it appear fluid or stiff? What smells are present? Any tastes? What do you see? These are questions to help you discover your body in the experience of sexual health.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What kind of cookie are you making? Understanding Cross Compulsivity

A metaphor to understand cross-compulsivity is the process of making a cookie. One of the first things you do in making cookies is to review the list of ingredients. Typically this list includes flour, eggs, water, sweetener, fat, and a raising agent. Beyond the basics, most of the other ingredients reflect the type of cookie you are making. If you’re making chocolate chip cookies, you need chocolate chips. If you want oatmeal raisin, you need those ingredients. White-chocolate, macadamia with cran-raisin requires those ingredients.

Using the metaphor further, a person can make a slight change in the ingredients and achieve different results. For example, there are many options in the type of fat to use. If you use butter, you get a soft, creamy cookie. Margarine gives you are smaller, harder cookie. (In the cooking field, these nuances are a big deal!) Each of the different types of fat results in slightly different taste and textures.

Coming back to cross-compulsivity, many of the ingredients between cross-compulsive behaviors are the same. Whether it is sex, drugs, eating, spending, or other form of acting out, there are overlapping ingredients. It is the specific behavior that adds the type of cross-compulsivity similar to the types of ingredients that define the type of cookies (chocolate vs oatmeal vs sugar vs peanut butter, and so on). Drugs create the flavor of drug addiction; sex means sexual compulsivity; eating means eating disorders and so on. This similarity helps explain why a person might address or “fix” one problem behavior, and simply switch to a different problem area. It also helps why addressing the underling cycle is important. Similar to the cookie, there are similar ingredients within the acting-out cycle. In my approach I use thoughts, feelings and high-risk situations as the ingredients to the acting out cycle. It is important to identify the basic ingredients to your acting out cycle versus only focusing on the problematic area. Otherwise, you risk simply changing the type of cookie you are making in your life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Buddhist Psychology

As part of my personal growth journey, I'm taking this class on Buddhist psychology. The text book, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology is amazing. I recommend it for everyone.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Intimacy Wheel of Life

Today I worked with a tool labeled “The Wheel of Life.” It is essentially a pie chart that has a number of content areas such as financial, relationship, work, recreation, etc. The questions to ponder are about helping any one of us move a good life to a great life. After reviewing the Wheel of Life, I immediately thought of two additional versions/adaptions. First, I thought of the Sexual Health Wheel. I’ll save that idea for a future blog. The other one was the Intimacy Wheel. Here are the 12 types of intimacy based on a model I like.

1. Recreational intimacy (sharing fun, hobbies, recreation; leisure; refills my wells of energy)

2. Intellectual intimacy (sharing the world of ideas; a genuine touching of persons based on mutual respect for each other’s minds; e.g., reading, discussing, studying, learning)

3. Work intimacy (sharing common tasks, supporting each other in bearing responsibilities
e.g., raising family, house, yard chores)

4. Commitment intimacy (togetherness derived from dedication to a common cause; values; e.g., Working together for a political cause)

5. Aesthetic intimacy (sharing experiences of beauty; e.g., music, nature, art, theater)

6. Communication intimacy (being honest, trusting, truthful, loving; giving constructive feedback)

7. Emotional intimacy (sharing of significant feelings; touching of the innermost selves)

8. Creative intimacy (helping each other to grow, to be co-creators, not “reformers” of each other)

9. Sexual intimacy (sensual emotional satisfaction, experience of sharing and self-abandon in the physical merging of two persons, fantasies & desires)

10. Crisis intimacy (standing together in the major and minor tragedies of life; closeness in pain and

11. Spiritual intimacy (the Awe-ness of sharing intimate concerns, the meanings of life, philosophies and religious experience)

12. Conflict intimacy (standing up with/to each other; facing and struggling with differences together; ”fighting”

Answer the following questions

1) Rank each one on a 1-10 point scale. 1 Means you are not satisfied at all in this area. 10 Means you are completely satisfied in this area of intimacy.
2) As you look at the list, reflect on what you notice.
3) Pick one area that has the biggest energy or attraction for you. This should be the one that will have the biggest impact in your life if it was to improve dramatically. Avoiding picking the one you think you “should” pick, but the one that speaks to you.
4) Think about what would make this area a 10? (If you’re completely satisfied (already a 10), what would make it an 11?)
5) List 2-3 ideas that you could do to bring the 10 closer?
6) What is one of the things (or part of a thing) that you are willing to do this week?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

You are a sexual being that begins from a place of wholeness.

The basic premise I bring to my work is that you are first and foremost a whole person. Yes, you are a person whose sexuality is sacred. How often have you been told that your sexuality is already whole and worthy of esteem? In the area of sexuality, rarely do we start from the place of sacredness of sexuality. Even linking the term sacred and sexuality brings confusion, shame, fear, and suspicion. Our society shames sexuality. Many religious traditions link sexuality to sinfulness and brokenness. The domain of psychology often focuses on fixing the negative aspects in an individual’s life. Chemical Health and Sexual Health Recovery is a process of surrendering to the addiction and compulsive behaviors, and acknowledging the brokenness of life as a result of the addiction/compulsivity.

Perhaps along the way, you’ve stumbled. Heck, we all do. Nevertheless, in the beginning you started in an honored place. This honored place included an integration of your sexuality as a positive energy in your life. In our current society, this seems impossible to conceptualize. What would it look like to come back to the place of integration, wholeness, and yes, even sacredness of sexuality? What would it look like if for the next moment, you saw your sexuality as a profound gift? How would your life change if you embraced this energy?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How your own thoughts limit and control yourself

A metaphor to help express the power of thoughts can be illustrated by my two dogs. I put a lot of energy into training my dogs to walk beside me. Today I let them go off leash, and they stayed right beside due to their training. Even when I tried to have them run free, they followed the training. They didn’t know they were even free, and simply followed the training. In many ways, our thoughts are what limit us, when in fact we are free to begin with. Our thoughts are the equivalent of our training. We follow our thoughts without thinking. Often, we don’t know we are free, so we continue to act according to how our thoughts trained us. The key is that you are free to start with, and the key to discover how you limit your own freedom.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why talk about sexuality.

One of the obvious reasons for developing a support network when starting this process is simply to gain support. A second reason for developing a support network is to help you discover who you are. It isn’t until we start talking about this sexuality that we understand the layers and connections of sexual health. We may not recognize sex negative thinking until someone says, “Wow I really hear a lot of negative talk.” Your ability to cope with shame is supported by a network, but in talking with your network you may actually talk through a solution that dispels the shame leading to a breakthrough in your sexual health.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Toward the future of your sexual health

We can never see past the choices we don't understand. (Matrix Reloaded)

The process of sexual health is a journey, a journey that leads to places you may not understand. This is scary, and a normal part of the process. The goal of the process isn’t to make you turnout or behave in a proscribed manner. Instead, it is helping you chart a path for your future addressing things you may not necessarily understand in this moment.

This process of change has a predictable pattern. Weaved throughout the process are concepts from of stages of change model which helps individuals understand how a person changes behavior. The first stage is precontemplation; its focus is the lack of any change, any desire for change, and /or no perceived need for change. For many individuals, this might be the first time you’ve read anything on all or any of the topics. Phrases such as, “I didn’t know it was a problem” Or, “I didn’t see the connection before.” illustrate this stage. Contemplation, stage two, is when an individual might be aware of, or recognize a problem, but not make any changes either because they are too overwhelmed, or not willing to commit to change the behavior. Avoiding a topic, or not talking about something are examples of this stage. Stage three, preparation reflects when an individual recognizes a need to make a change, and even has an idea about what to do. For some reason, however, the plan isn’t started, completed, or other addressed. “I haven’t done that yet.” Or, “Yes, but…” statements are expressive of this stage. Stage 4, action is when the individual actually changes the behavior. It is here when the work and struggle often occurs. This is also where a client can look back and see the progress. It is also when failure or giving-up can occur. Understanding that the struggle, and even failure, is simply part of the process allows the individual to re-start plans and celebrate when the plans are completed. The fifth and final stage is maintenance. This is where the new behavior is now the new habit, and it continues on its own. Sometimes continuing care plans (also called relapse prevention plans) are designed to reduce the risk of relapse or a failure.

This model is helpful because it allows the individual to identify where he or she is at in the process of change, especially when the path is not understood. It allows the individual to reframe any action (or lack of action) into the process of growth. If you're not willing to make a change, the model can be helpful to understand why and what can be done. For example, you can ask if you need information, what the avoidance may be about, figure out what else is needed, or implement the plans. If you aren't willing to make the change, an underlying issue may be discovered that is the barrier to be addressed first. As you move through the process, reflect where you are at in your willingness to change. The topics are set-up to help you clarify what you need to do for you to allow you to address your stage in that topic. There are no right or wrong responses, simply what you will do next.

Through the process

that doesn’t necessarily have bout value clarification.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A list of Virtues

One of the approaches I use in the treatment of sexual compulsivity is a list of virtues. See the link for a list of more than 100. Which words inspire you to learn more?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Best Predictor of Future Behavior is Current Behavior.

Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either. Albert Einstein

The best predictor of your future behavior is your current behavior. Individuals will often say they did something because of a past incident. I think that is often a convenient excuse to avoid responsibility. Building on the concept of parallel process, what you are doing in the current moment reflects what you will do in the future. How you approach even the small things gives insight into how you will address the big things. In examining your approach you can find your motives, desires, dreams, thinking errors, excuses, and payoffs that you seek. In the discussion on integrity, it isn’t your past deceit that is a concern, but the current deceit. It is important to be open and honest about what is going on in the moment. If you’re lying about the small things now, my guess is you’ll lie about the big things in the future. If show courage in examining the small things now, you’ll show courage in addressing the big things that will occur in the future. How you change your behavior now will tell others you will change your behavior in the future. The past is the past (which doesn’t mean you get to ignore it). All you have is what you are doing in the now. When you say I did this because of “________,” you rob yourself of an opportunity to make changes the current moment. The things you avoid will be the same things you avoid in the future. As you move forward in the workbook, how you address the assignments will give insight into how you will shape your recovery. When you transcend your small barriers, you’ll be able to transcend the big barriers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Full disclosure to others.

This exercise is a helpful template to facilitate full disclosure. Use/adapt as you both find necessary. After both you and your partner have completed the above questions, first confirm that you are both willing to go through the process. This starts with a confirmation by each of you to use the information to strengthen the relationship (and not as a reason to end the relationship). If you cannot confirm this commitment, please post pone disclosure and address the underlying issues. Clarify and negotiate a neutral setting for the disclosure to occur. Consider if you need someone there DURING disclosure: sometimes this may need to occur in a couple’s therapy session. Please make sure you schedule enough time. Pick a date that is NOT already emotionally charged (in other words, don’t do this on your way to holiday dinner with the in-laws!). Consider if you want a support person nearby or on standby.

Start by reviewing the receiving partner’s response to the questions on page 187. Use these questions to structure the discussion. Start by answering each of the questions, allowing the partner to ask clarifying questions. Remember to respond openly and honestly; a lie of omission is as damaging as a lie of commission. Take a break when necessary. Ether of you can call a timeout and/or suspend the disclosure if necessary. Identify a plan to resume the disclosure process if you call a timeout or suspend the disclosure.

After disclosure, debrief the experience. This includes asking each of you, “What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What are you present to? What do you need? End with a ritual to celebrate the relationship and the reaffirmed connection that occurs in disclosure. (Yes, conflict is a form of healing intimacy, see page 165). This ritual could be dinner, a walk, a date, meditation, burning the papers created to answer the questions.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Mindfulness is the experience of being aware of your current thoughts, feelings, body state and surroundings by paying attention to your reactions, motivations and actions. Our mind is so full of ongoing chatter that it simply becomes the noise the fills up most of our life. To increase your ability to be mindful, I encourage you to become aware of your inner conversation. When someone walks into the room, we may say to the person next to us, “She’s attractive.” But our inner conversation is what we have with ourselves when no one is around. Someone might walk into the room, and we say to ourselves, “I want to have sex with her.” Various meditation techniques can also be helpful in increasing your mindfulness. The process of behavioral analysis described later in the stage is a tool of increasing mindfulness by asking you to reflect on your thoughts, feelings and behaviors when you last acted-out.

What you will find is that mindfulness is a skill. It is not possible to mindful 100% of the time. The key is to try to be mindful, and when you aren’t mindful of what you are feeling or thinking to simply and gently become mindful of what you are thinking and feeling. I know it is easier said then done. Many meditation traditions have at their core the concept of mindfulness. I have two examples that might be helpful. Consider the image of a cloud in the sky. We see the cloud, and watch it come to be right over us, and slowly move on only to have another cloud take its space. Next, think of a leaf on a river. While sitting on the bank, you see the leaf come into view, pass in front of you, only to move out of your view. So too, mindfulness is becoming aware of your thoughts as you move from thought to thought. So to when building our skills of mindfulness, we watch what we are thinking as we move from thought to thought. Given that many of our thoughts are automatic, in the healing process, becoming aware of our thought may occur we stop and ask, what where we thinking. This is a benefit of completing a behavioral analysis.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Theory, Adaptations and Recommendations

The workbook is organized in a way that could be used alone or in a therapeutic setting. If you look carefully, you see the standard therapeutic structures within the assignments. Stage 1, for example, reflects the data collection often completed in early therapy. In the clinic I supervise, for example, we use an interview process where a therapist and client complete a bio-psych social. The relevant topics in the workbook for data collection are:

• Developing Rapport (talking about sex)
• Short-term treatment plan (what brought you to treatment)
• Data Collection (sex history, timeline, logs, acting out cycle, cross compulsivity, be-havioral analysis).

After the data is collected, a client will collaborate with the clinician to complete a treat-ment plan. The treatment plan is where the client tells the clinician what are the most im-portant issues. In the workbook, this corresponds to the summary and prioritization of topics at the end of stage 1 (see page 73).
After the completion of the treatment plan, the client starts the work corresponding to the client-defined priorities. The topics in stage 2 reflect an introduction to the major issues that I believe are most important. If additional material on a topic is needed, the client is encouraged to go beyond this workbook. All of the assignments in the workbook reflect an attempt to integrate a cognitive behavioral model with a health promotion model.

In the therapy process, there comes a time when both the clinician and client recognize the process is nearing the end. Assignments in stage three reflects the termination process by helping the client clarify the major issues to be addressed after treatment (continuing care plan), and provide opportunities for the client to demonstrate the progress that oc-curred in the treatment process (personal definition of sexual health). These two assign-ments are done within a context of motivational interviewing and stages of change model (Spirituality Values, and Sexual Health). In other words, a client’s values shapes what the client thinks is most important in his or her life, and confirms what the client is willing to commit to in the future within the client’s cultural context (e.g., the first topic in Stage 2).

The reason for the extended discussion is to help either the client or professional to make changes, or adaptations to the structure. You are encouraged to use the workbook in a way that makes sense to you. The implicit structure is what makes sense to me. But in the end, a personal definition of sexual health requires each of us to define what is right with-in our world. My hope is that you found the workbook helpful.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Transference Updated content

I updated the content on Transference.

Transference is any reaction we have to another person. The individuals with whom we have the strongest reaction are perhaps the people who can teach us the most about our self. Often the experience of transference occurs so quickly, we don’t real-ize neither that it occurred nor are we mindful of the content of the transference. The reality is that transference is how we make sense of the world. We are CONSTANT-LY assessing and judging our environment based on our past experience. It is the past experience applied to the current situation that typifies transference. It is the way we “know” what to do in the current situation. The problem is that no two situations are the same, so sometimes our transference might actually be getting in the way during the current moment. Also, most of the time we focus on negative transference, or the negative reactions we have to someone, but positive transference is also helpful to understand. In any reaction -positive or negative- you can learn what you are feeling and thinking and how it relates to your acting-out cycle. It is your reaction that tells you the most about yourself. The key is to pull back the levels of reaction to focus at the core motives/thoughts. Individuals often try to hide/avoid these thoughts. Ask yourself the following questions: “Why am I having this reaction? Who does this re-mind me of? What memory does this person trigger? Why do I like or dislike this person?” Whatever the response, you can gain insight into your internal thoughts and feelings. As highlighted, transference can occur in positive and negative ways. What I don’t like about a person may often be expression of the things I don’t like about myself. What I do like about a persona may also be an expression of things in my life that I like about myself, or I want but don’t have. What we like and dislike in others reflects our inner core. This is a classic psychological principle that also applies to sexuality. That to which we are drawn reflects an inner craving that we must address. That to which we are rejecting also reflects an inner craving that we must address. Take the opportunity to discover about what moves in you in your life by becoming mindful of your reactions to others. Your strongest reactions reflect a deeper truth. An open, honest and fearless examination of those reactions might create profound transformation and possibility.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Healthy Masturbation Exercise

Moving toward integrating masturbation into healthy sexuality means moving away from the typical form of masturbation. It is also about moving from shame to self-exploration and discovery. To do so, the following exercise will help expand your experience of masturbation from a quick and dirty activity (on average, lasting 3-5 minutes) to a sensual self-affirming opportunity. This applies to both men and women.

Make sure you have the time for the following exercise. What follows is one example, but you can adapt to your personal interests. For this example, I assume you are in your bed (but experiment with other locations/positions). Start by making sure you’re comfortable, including any music, candles, aromatherapy, oils, bath, or any activity that can help you relax. The fun is in the experimenting.

First, start by being aware of your breath. Breathe in-and-out, slowly and steadily. As you move through the experience, it is important to maintain your breathing. Sometimes as a person becomes aroused, he/she may forget to breathe. When you sense that you are holding your breath, gently remind yourself to keep breathing.

Next, continue by touching your body with your hands (without lubricants). At this point, don’t focus on your genitalia. Touch your face, ears, massage your neck, arms, fingers. Feel your chest, moving to your stomach. Massage your thighs, and include your legs and feet (and toes!). The slower you move through ALL of your body parts, the better. Vary the intensity, and type of touch. You can use your thumbs, palms, fingernails, back of the hand, tips of the fingers, back of the fingers, etc. Repeat the touch and be mindful of what you enjoy. Perhaps gently tug at your hair, or pinch your skin. Each of us has erogenous zones that vary in sensitivity. Find the zones and types of touch that are most pleasurable to you.

As you continue touching your body in different ways, include touching your genitalia, nipples, and buttocks. Continue varying the touch. Move back and forth between all your body parts. You may find that your genitalia will change in the level of arousal throughout the experience.

Optional activities might include using other pieces of clothing or items. Various items might be different fabrics, cold/hot items (not too hot!), feathers, or sticks (such as a dowel). The key here is to experience a range of touch.

As you go through the experience, vary the type of touch of your genitalia (for example, the grips of the penis, or the massage of the clitoris, etc.). Each type of touch will lead to different experiences. Experiment and enjoy. If you don’t like something, or it feels unpleasant, do something else.

Remember to breath.

After you’ve felt your body, repeat the full body touch but this time you might consider the possibility of adding lubricants such as oils, waters, water based or silicon-based lubricants. Each will create different experiences. Some might be sticky, slick, sensual, etc.

Continue to breath.

Your body will increase in excitement simply due to the stimulation. Depending on how long your want to prolong it, you will notice that if you are very genitally stimulated moving the touch to other body parts will extend and slightly decrease the overall stimulation thereby prolonging the experience.

At some point in the experience, particularly if you are focusing your touch on the genitalia, you may get to the point where you might experience an orgasm. Continue to breathe. But remember that orgasm isn’t necessarily the goal. Understanding what you like and providing self-pleasure is the goal.

Practice and repeat.

After your experience, review how you felt, what you liked, and talk about the experience with your support network. Often in the struggle with sexual compulsivity, we have to UNLEARN unhealthy patterns of masturbation (often associated with shame, guilt and frequently linked with problematic behaviors)

Friday, August 5, 2011

The transforming power of community.

A powerful instrument to help individuals move toward sexual health is the support of a community. Often in the early stages of addressing sexual health issues, the isolation a client feels is profound. With so many fears and secrets, the expectation that a client share his or her secrets in the sexual timeline is the first hurdle to overcome. But often, it is the sharing of the secrets that leads to the beginning strands of connection and community. By sharing secrets an individual deconstructs the illusion that he/she is alone. Yes, breaking the silence starts with one disclosure, and leads to additional disclosures. Slowly what was experienced in isolation disappears in the developing connections that occur through the sharing of secrets. As the process of disclosure continues, a community develops. Believe it or not, what was once a secret is joyfully acknowledge in community and leads to a sense of transformation. From this transformation, powerful new opportunities are created. All of which starts with sharing a secret with one person.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

We are simultaneously the source of our own pain and joy

One of the foundational beliefs/approaches in my work is the assumption that we are simultaneously the source of our own pain and joy. Often an individual experiences pain as a result of attachments, expectations, desires or other thoughts where I think either I need “this thing” or “this needs to be a certain way.” Different traditions/theories have different words for essentially the same thing. I use the concept of “thoughts” to integrate many of these approaches. These thoughts often are unconscious, hidden, or habitual patterns of thinking. They are always occurring, and individuals/society knows how to manipulate these thoughts.

The economic field of marketing is about creating thoughts of desire that feed consumption. In other posts, I talk about the primary thinking error that is simply an elaborate illusion personalizing the existential fear we all experience. Assumptions are other examples of these thoughts. In my experience working in chemical dependency and sexual health, our thoughts around sex, body image, relationships, and success are examples of these thoughts.

The pattern goes something like this. On some level, we have a thought that having these desires fulfilled will lead to happiness. When unmet, we experience the pain. An individual might feel sad, fear, anger, hurt, lonely, disappointed and so on as a result of these thoughts/desires. It is easy to see how these thoughts are the source of our pain. When met, we may feel a type of happiness that is often temporary.

Recognizing these thoughts for what they are, that is, “thoughts,” allows us to reshape our view of the world and respond in different ways. The dilemma is that I don’t know what is a different way for you to respond. Your response to thoughts/pain needs to be your response. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for others. This is often an individual approach and reflects our personal journey toward meaning in life. One direction to consider however is the wisdom of service. All of the major religious traditions focus on service. The 12th step emphasizes service.

The type of service is more than simply doing things for others. In my opinion, we each experience moments of transforming joy. Reflect on those moments when you felt most alive, experienced timelessness, and/or transcended your own self-imposed limits. Finding the key elements underlying these experiences is the key to finding your expression of service. I label these key elements values/virtues. When we live a life that connects us to these values, we experience the transformation of pain into joy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Presenting at Texas Behavioral Institute

Presenting on the overlap of sex, drugs and the internet. ;-) Welcome to Texas. It is probably unique that it is cooler in TX right now then MN!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

How do you know what you know?

A philosophical branch of study is epistemology. It essentially asks, “How do we know what we know?” There is a direct application to the field of sexual compulsivity. Specifically, How do we know what we know about sexuality? For me, this also raises an implicit question, “How do we know whether ‘it’ is healthy/unhealthy sexuality?”

Stepping outside the details of epistemology (which are amazingly complex), my emphasis is to integrate a healthy dose of skepticism into therapy. The key is challenging the assumptions an individual has regarding any belief, value, opinion, thought, or conclusion. Throughout my work with clients, I will ask, “Says who?” “What’s underneath/before that?” “What else could it be?” and/or “What about….?”

The goal of these questions is to challenge the absolutism that appears to be present in the current culture regarding sexuality. Often it is the internalized absolutism that is the source of unneeded emotional pain. In my opinion, nowhere else do we still have such a dichotomy of right/wrong providing external pressure for individuals to conform.

Friday, July 1, 2011

You are not here by accident

We make a multitude of choices in every moment, so much so that we simply don’t recognize all of these choices in each moment. To process all these choices, the mind abbreviates, habitualizes, shortens or otherwise discards data to help smooth the process of making choices a bit easier and less overwhelming. Nevertheless, you are at where you are at as a function of all the choices you’ve made in your life.

This requires each of us to radically accept responsibility for exactly where we are at in this moment as a function of our choices. Even if bad things have occurred, our reaction is a choice. Even in loose-loose situations, you make a choice. Not to act is to make a choice.

The implication in this acceptance of responsibility is that our next moment is an opportunity of choice. Simply put, you can choose to stay in the same track, or you can choose to do something else. Yes it may be hard, yes you will fail, yes you will struggle, yes you will not know what to do, yes you will want to stop, all of which reflect a choice in the subsequent moment.

What do you choose now?


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

4 Deadly Horseman in relationships

Dr. John Gottman is a researcher on couples therapy. He is well known and respected for his work at pinpointing factors that contribute to long-term relationships as well as behaviors that facilitate the demise of relationships. One of his metaphors that he identified was the 4 deadly horsemen in relationships; those behaviors that that bring about an end of a relationship (playing on the theme of the 4 deadly horseman of the Apocalypse, the end of the world.)

Criticism is focusing or otherwise only seeing the negative components of a partner. We all understand the basic negative impact of negative criticism. The non-verbal forms of negative criticism are sometimes as equally difficult to address. Ever get that “look” from your partner? Assertive communication is the path out of criticism. The difference appears small, but the implication is significant.

Defensiveness focuses everything on your partner’s mistakes. The defensiveness creates a barrier to admitting your own part of the conflict or struggle. This approach reflects the saying, “The best defense is a strong offense.” By avoiding your role in conflict, you project onto the partner all of the problems. Owning your behaviors, and taking responsibility for your part of the conversation is one helpful strategy.

Stonewalling refers to the avoidance of the partner, or passive-aggressive behaviors. In Minnesota, we call this “Minnesota Nice” where your words don’t match your attitudes/behaviors. Assertiveness is again a strategy to help you here. So too integrity is helpful, “saying what you mean and meaning what you say.” Uncovering or otherwise revealing your hidden/secret thoughts and feelings is necessary.

Contempt is the judgment that occurs in a relationship. Much of Gottman’s research has focused on the subtleties of how contempt shows up. It usually serves to demean the individual. Finding healthy ways to address the underlying issues is important. Taking responsibility for your thoughts/feelings, as well as developing assertive ways to communicate them is necessary. Being mindful of your judgment is necessary.

If you notice any of the behaviors in your relationship, seek help. Often one of these sets of behaviors is linked with others leading to a flood of issues to be addressed. As the saying goes, the 4 deadly horsemen don’t travel alone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daily Living a Life I Love

--turns out this is my 200th post.

As the saying goes, “Death by a thousand paper cuts.” Life, then, is created by a thousand moments of transformation. Living a life you live is based on a transformation of your daily life.

One of the assignments from the workbook is identifying values or virtues important in your life. These values are selected from moments where you feel inspired, reflecting on why you admire certain people, and a few additional strategies (see the blogs on pivot points, values, creating your future).

The current paradigm I emphasize is based on helping an individual make a choice between acting out or choosing something he/she finds important. Today’s blog is to also emphasize how you can cultivate the virtues on a daily basis outside of the crisis moments. The key in cultivating a life you love is to identify values to shape your behavior at all times. By cultivating these experiences on a daily basis, an individual will be able to move toward the type of life he/she desires.

For example, take the principle/virtue of courage. Courage has many definitions, and the one I like is, “Courage isn’t acting without fear, it is acting in spit of feeling fear.” This definition is helpful in shaping ALL of your behaviors moving forward. Asking yourself, “What is the courageous thing to do in this moment?” can help you overcome the small little fears in daily living. It might be as simple as assertively communicating your requests, saying yes when you mean yes, being honest about how you think/feel, being proactive (vs. passive), and a multitude of other behaviors. Courage may strangely be the opposite, depending on the circumstances. Courage might be simply waiting for the situation to naturally unfold, trusting others in their statements, or giving up control.

The value of expressing courage is to address the infinite times where you might feel the anxiety/fear/hesitation in your DAILY life. It is in the daily moments where we are fully alive. It is also the daily moments that become the building blocks for the times when we experience a major trigger/risk of relapse. The daily practice can help us respond to the larger events is a courageous manner.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matrix Trilogy as an analogy for life.

Lately I find that I have been referencing the Matrix Movie Trilogy. The movie is rich in symbolism, and is expressive of a great number of archetypes. Outside the gratuitous fight scenes (which could be metaphorical as well), I find a great many helpful metaphors that correspond to living a rich life. Here are just a few. If you have more, please submit.

1) The names of many characters/features: The Oracle, Neo, Mr. Smith, Architect, Trinity, and Zion. Each has additional meanings beyond simply referencing the characters.
2) Life is a choice. You choose your worldview, and you choose how to respond to everything within your worldview. Sometimes we may not be fully aware of the choices, but even within our subconscious, we are making choices. (The blue pill or the red pill.)
3) The Promised Land is not what you think (Zion as the promised land).
4) You can recreate your life. Every moment of insight/growth changes the matrix of your life. You recreate your life when you continue to grow/live. (The scene with the architect, and the statement there were 6 previous Neos).
5) Awareness allows us to see connections others cannot perceive. Our insight/awareness provides us a larger consciousness within the world. We see the linkages where others see nothing. (Neo’s ability to see when blinded.)
6) What you are paying attention to may not be the most important thing in your life. (The lady in the red dress as a distraction.)
7) Think outside the box. What we think may limit our choices is simply an illusion. There are many more options than the two options we think we have. (The scene with the architect).
8) Anything is possible. This may require us to envision a new reality, but once designed, it is a series of choices that move us toward the new possibility. (The influence of the Oracle, and the statement, “You play a dangerous game here.” The ending is different from the expectation; no spoiler here!).
9) Find something in your life worth fighting for that gives purpose/meaning to your life. (For Neo, it is his love to Trinity and commitment Zion).
10) When you find the core to your purpose, you will choose to face what appear to be insurmountable odds. You will discover your response to the question, “Why?” “Because I choose to?” (The ending fight scene between Neo and Mr. Smith).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What are you keeping secret?

In my therapy approach, I often ask, “What are you not talking about?” In my opinion, this is one warning flag associated with a possible treatment issue. If there is any historical or current event, topic, behavior or concern that a person isn’t talking about, it’s something that needs to be investigated.

Without a doubt, the key in a therapy process is the application of wisdom to discern who are your support people, as well as timing of a disclosure, etc. But, I have concerns when I hear clients say, “No one can find out.” or “I wouldn’t want _______ to know about this.” I also use those statements to help clients identify boundaries. If you say those things regarding something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. In the end, responsibility is about taking on the ownership of your behaviors and interests and sharing them with others.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My June 7th interview on Chan 9 News

Click on the title to view my interview on Chan 9 news. As my mother said, you look so serious.

Do I have a cybersex problem?

A question in the recent public sphere is how does a person know if they have a problem with cybersex. Based on the research, simply going online for sexual material isn’t a problem. Research suggests 80-85% of people have no problem. As an example, most people use alcohol with no problem. And many users of alcohol never move onto drug use. In other words, for many people, alcohol use is not a problem. The same can be true for cybersex. But how does one know? The following are some things to consider.

1) Does it “feel” like a problem for you? If so, try to uncover why it feels like a problem.
2) Have you tried to stop, and failed? Explore why.
3) Often cybersex issues aren’t about the cybersex behaviors, but expressive of other issues such as relationship, loneliness, depression, boredom, anxiety or other concerns. How present are these issues?
4) In what way have your behaviors put you at risk for consequences including legal, emotional, relational, financial or employment consequences
5) What, if any, consequences have you experienced?

The website has a screening instrument you can also complete. It has about 25 questions to consider. A copy of the instrument is also in the book Cybersex Unplugged. In reviewing your responses, you’ll start to get a sense if it is a problem or not. When in doubt, seek help to help you figure this out.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It’s not about the sex.

I was asked if someone could/would engage in cybersex behaviors without actually meeting a partner in real time/face to face as Rep. Weiner acknowledged. The short answer is, “yes.” The reason is that the cybersex behavior isn’t always about the sex. Why do it then? To that question, there is no easy answer. Below is a list of other reasons that people might use to engage in cybersex behaviors.

1) Boredom
2) Loneliness
3) Fear of cheating
4) Shame
5) Jealousy
6) I didn’t cheat since I didn’t meet
7) It’s a break from the hard work of the day.
8) Horny
9) My partner isn’t around
10) It’s just a fantasy, it’s not real.
11) No one will find out.
12) Excitement

One of the tasks in treatment is to figure out the deeper motives that shape an individual’s behavior. It is a process of discernment and discovery. In the workbook, we highlight 3 groups of reasons: thinking errors, feeling triggers, and high risk situations. Each then becomes a source to intervene in the cybersex beahviors.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What we can learn from Rep. Weiner

1) This can happen to anyone. Rep. Weiner is one more person in a long list of individuals who have sexual health concerns.
2) Don’t lie. When something happens, the truth will eventually come out. It is better to get everything out right away.
3) Other will be hurt by your behavior.
4) Sex is still a scandal. Our sex negative society still has a strong reaction to sexuality. If we got rid of every politician who lied, well….
5) Sexual compulsivity problems aren’t limited to meeting others. Problems can include cybersex behaviors such as chatting, “harvesting” pictures, or even engaging in the online hunt seeking a thrill.
6) The Internet is not private. Anything you post in electronic forum is public. Period!
7) A problem is an opportunity to start the process of changing your life. If you’re stuck in denial, you are stuck.
8) Get help if help is needed. Regardless of what is said in the press, we really don’t know the entire story. Resources are available. Check out AASECT.ORG or SASH.NET for therapists/resources.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The language of relationships, 2.0

Adapted from: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sexual Health
Weston Edwards, PhD, LP

Much of couples therapy focuses on communication skills. Using the helpful metaphor of language, “undoing the assumption that we all speak the same language” is often the first place of intervention. Consider the following examples. English is the predominant language in the United States, and the assumption is that we all speak English. Yet, even within the United States, different words are used to describe the same concept. For example, New Yorkers enjoying a cola drink might be drinking soda, but Midwesterners enjoying the same drink would be drinking pop. The same holds true in other English speaking countries, like England. Americans on a road trip store their luggage in the trunk of their car, but the English store it in the boot. And when the Americans arrive at their destination, they might take the elevator up to their desired floor, but the Australians might take the lift. Likewise, there are significant differences between Spanish in Latin America and Spanish in Spain. Even Arabic has multiple dialects, and these differences are barriers to communication. So even though people may speak one common language, it is crucial to be aware of differences present in that one common language. Here, we refer to those differences as “dialects.” It is important to learn how to understand and translate those dialects.

Similarly, in relationships, it is important to remember that we all have different dialects of communication. These dialects are informed and shaped by the multiple cultures we belong to (age, race/ethnicity, religion, gender, etc.), our family of origin, and our life history. Often, there is enough commonality to be able to communicate with a partner. Most relationship problems stem from communication problems that show up in the guise of unmet expectations and assumptions, hidden wants and needs, past hurts and pains, and hoped for joys and goals.

A classic example is fighting. In some families, conflict is forbidden. A partner learns that anger cannot be expressed. Another partner may come from a family where conflict is resolved quickly and respectfully. When two partners come together, the dialect of conflict is an obstacle to be resolved. The resolution is often as simple as teaching each other their respective dialects. The same idea can be applied to mundane things, like the level of cleanliness in the house, or difficult areas, such as sexual expression, needs and values.

The difficulty in this process is that much of our dialect regarding relationships is automatic and habitual. We assume everyone has the same language, mannerisms, assumptions, and expectations in a relationship. That assumption is often the source of the relationship problems. Teaching each other your individual dialects, and learning to translate your partner’s dialect is a necessary skill for building powerful and strong relationships.

Consider the following questions, first for yourself and then your partner. The key is to focus on your language beyond verbal words. What are the non-verbal’s that you use?

• How do you express anger?
• How do you know if your partner is angry?
• How do you express happiness?
• How do you express that you are horny?
• How do you express sadness?
• Identify 5-6 pet-peeves in your relationship. What do they mean to you?
• What are additional feelings, or issues important to you? Why?

• How does your partner express anger?
• How does your partner know if you are angry?
• How does your partner express happiness?
• How does your partner express that he/she is horny?
• How does your partner express sadness?
• Identify 5-6 pet-peeves your partner has in the relationship. What does it mean to him/her?
• What are additional feelings, or issues important to your partner? Why?
1) Review your responses to the lists above.
2) How do you react (healthy or unhealthy) when you see your partner communicating on these levels?
3) What is a positive response I can do to clarify the non-verbal communication?

For example.
A subtle sign that my partner is angry is her jaw locks up. Her tone of voice is “fine” and her body language is “fine,” but I can see a difference in her face/jaw. As a result, I get defensive, thinking I did something wrong. One of my non-verbal behaviors is to leave the room and go watch TV creating distances. This starts the dance of a conflict that culminates in a verbal argument. What can I do differently?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interpreting a Fantasy

I believe fantasies are amazingly powerful in helping an individual uncover/reveal parts of his/her deepest core. Jack Morin, in Erotic Mind highlights much of the academic material that is the source for this assignment. The following is a helpful tool in examining the core of a person’s fantasy(ies). By the way, some individuals suggest they don’t fantasize. If the word "fantasy" gets in the way, I will talk about daydreams, or hopes, or wants, or desires. (If you find the comparison helpful, fantasy analysis might be compared to dream analysis.)

The first step is to have a “solid” fantasy to work with. This occurs when an individual writes his/her fantasy. I ask clients to write the fantasy as if a reader could enact the fantasy based simply on what is written. For some people this might be the equivalent to a screenplay or script. I’m not expecting material that is “word for word,” but enough detail to have a pretty good sense of the actions/motivations of the individuals. The content of the fantasy can be anything, including relationship, dating, wants, joys, fears, the search, hunt, etc. I do encourage the individual to include sexual contact as well.

Second, I remind the individual this is a process of inquiry. The client is the one who makes the determination if something “fits.” I (or a group) may provide suggestions, but ultimately the client says, “This fits the bets.” There isn’t a right answer, simply today’s better answer. Future reflection might nuance what is uncovered. Within inquiry, it is important to brainstorm different thoughts about the underlying motivations. In another blog post, I ask, “Why does a person stop at a stop sign?” As I asked in the blog, “And why else, and why else, etc.” There are many reasons a person stops at a stop sign. So too there are many influences in the fantasy.

Third, remember that many conflicting answers can be applicable at the same time. This reflects the tension within the individual. The concept of layers within the individual is important.

Fourth, when possible, look for an expression of the primary thinking error. Often in the fantasy, the primary thinking error looses its power or is somehow addressed/resolved. You may also get a sense of the primary values. In philosophy, we talk about positive and negative arguments. The absence of something can affirm the presence of the same thing.

Fifth, I use a process that is helpful to me. Feel free to adapt. In my process, I have the client read through the entire fantasy without interruption. The goal for me is to understand the fantasy in context, length, and direction. Then, I have the client reread the fantasy. In the second time through, I will stop at places (usually a clause, or each sentence) and complete a literary analysis on that small piece. With some clients, I will revisit the fantasy 1-week, or 1-month later.

Sixth, use open-ended questions for each section. After you ask each question, engage in basic reflection of content/feeling, and ask, “What else?” Here are some basic questions that I start with. Feel free to adapt/add.

1) Tell me about the motivation that is going on in that moment.
2) Describe anything from your history reflected in that moment?
a. Describe how you felt or what you thought?
b. How is this important to you today?
3) What would happen if it were to come true?
4) Describe your fears if this was to happen?
5) Describe your hopes if this this was to happen?
6) How would you feel if this was to happen?
7) What would you think if this was to happen?

The academic material:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sexuality and Chemical Health

Click on the title for an interview on the pages

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Relationship Health Exercise

An exercise to help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your relationship is to graph topics on to a target.

On a LARGE piece of paper, start by drawing a target with three circles. You are essentially drawing a target that you might use for a bow/etc. The outer circle should take up the entire paper. Within that circle, center a mid-size circle. And within the middle circle, draw another smaller size circle.

The outer circle is where you will write the “red” topics (see below). They represent the concerns furthest from the “bulls-eye.” These are the topics that are most out of balance, and represent your biggest concerns in the relationship.

The middle circle represents the “yellow” topics. They are the one’s you might modify with “It depends.” The yellow topics could also represent what is getting better (a red moving toward green) or getting worse (green moving toward the red). Also, the yellow circle might represent issues you will address later. Finally, they yellow circle may represent issues that you simply never thought about before, but you recognize as important for you.

The inner circle represents the “green” topics. These are the topics that you have a lot of satisfaction with in your life. They are topics that reflect the joys, hopes and desires that are in agreement with your values and what you want.

What follows are a number of topics that you will graph into one of the circles. Chart any/all of the following as appropriate. Focus on how you perceive the topic, and not on how you think you should perceive it. This is YOUR list, not your partner’s list. Your partner will be invited to do his/her own list. If not a concern or issue, simply cross it out and leave it off the graph. Remember:

RED: Unhappy, problem, concern
YELLOW: Depends, sometimes, getting better/worse/Don’t know but should.
GREEN: Strengths, likes, happy about.

First, let’s address your frame of reference.

Your comfort in talking about sex.
Disclosing your sex history
Your cultural values regarding relationships
Your feelings of shame
Your feelings of guilt
Your sexual identity/sexual orientation
Your sexual functioning
Your sexual skills
The types of sexual contact with your partner
The frequency of sexual contact
Your safer-sex behaviors (risk for pregnancy/HIV/STI)
Your sexual compulsivity behaviors.
Your sexual avoidance behaviors
Your Alcohol Use
Your other chemical Use.
Your eating behaviors
Your spending behaviors
Your mental health diagnosis(es)
Your experience of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
Your level of internet/technology use.
Your level of online sexual behavior
Your types of online sexual behavior.
Your body image.
Your partner’s view of your body
Your frequency of Masturbation
Your ability to engage in assertive communication
Your personal boundaries
Your Desire for intimacy
Your most important types of intimacy
The type of Touch/physical intimacy
The frequency of touch/physical intimacy.
Your ability to talk to your partner
Your spiritual values
Your religious beliefs

Next, let’s address your partner’s frame of reference. Chart YOUR view of the following. Again, this is what YOU think, not what you think your partner thinks you should think. Your partner will graph his/her perception of you.

Your partner’s comfort in talking about sex.
Disclosure of our partner’s sex history
Your partner’s cultural values regarding relationships
Your partner’s feelings of shame
Your partner’s feelings of guilt
Your partner’s sexual identity/sexual orientation
Your partner’s sexual functioning
Your partner’s sexual skills
Your partner’s desired types of sexual contact
Your partner’s desired frequency of sexual contact
Your partner’s safer-sex behaviors (risk for pregnancy/HIV/STI)
Your partner’s sexual compulsivity behaviors.
Your partner’s sexual avoidance behaviors
Your partner’s Alcohol Use
Your partner’s other chemical Use.
Your partner’s eating behaviors
Your partner’s spending behaviors
Your partner’s mental health diagnosis(es)
Your partner’s experience of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
Your partner’s level of internet/technology use.
Your partner’s level of online sexual behavior
Your partner’s types of online sexual behavior.
Your partner’s body image.
Your partner’s view of your body.
Your partner’s frequency of Masturbation
Your partner’s ability to engage in assertive communication
Your partner’s personal boundaries
Your partner’s desire for intimacy
Your partner’s most important types of intimacy
Your partner’s type of Touch/physical intimacy
Your partner’s frequency of touch/physical intimacy.
Your partner’s ability to talk to you.
Your partner’s spiritual values
Your partner’s religious beliefs

The list is far from exhaustive (although it is long). Are there any topics you’re happy about that are not on the list? What about any topics you’re worried about, or are a major concern. Add them to your chart.

What’s next?
You can use this list to highlight treatment issues for your progress. After you complete your project, you might review your target with your partner and vice-versa. You can learn a lot about each other by recognizing similarities and differences in the perception of the topics. Discuss the areas where you are different in respectful ways. The differences may trigger additional reactions for additional therapy. By the way, where you are in agreement with positive aspects, congrats and enjoy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sexual Health

It's now available for purchase. WOO HOO!

Click the title of the blog to the eStore.

What I say is not what I mean

One the of the applications in understanding the power of the primary thinking error is the recognition of hidden or unspoken motivations that subconsciously shape our reactions to others. Frequently we are often saying two (or more) things at the same time. It is not surprising that in the end, we get exactly what we mean and not what we say. I have two examples.

Often people say, “I want to be connected to people.” A subconscious thought might be, “I don’t want to be hurt. “ As a result, the hidden thought shapes the behaviors with others. These behaviors might include hiding information, looking for ulterior motives, or otherwise not trusting people. After a while, the fear of being hurt grows in intensity to the point the individual sabotages the relationships confirming how he/she is hurt in relationships. It is an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy reflects the title of the post: What I say (I want to be close to people) is not what I mean (don’t hurt me).

The second example is similar. “I want us to be connected” is the statement, but often underneath is a statement, “but I don't want to fight.” In this second case, the relationship is set up to have conflict simply because of the fear of conflict. It’s as if you look for the conflict in an attempt to avoid it. As a result, the potential of conflict has more power than the statement “I want us to be connected.”

The primary thinking error shapes our behaviors at a fundamental level. In my opinion, one way to step outside of the struggle is to simply not struggle. Somewhere along the line I heard the term, “non-change.” You can’t change the primary thinking error, but simply placing awareness on the primary thinking error transforms it. It is paradoxical. It is about naming and expressing what you mean, and not emphasize what you’re saying. Talking about the amount of fear of being hurt in the first example, and the fear of conflict in the second example is the way to step out of the cycle. Another analogy, “I can’t consciously change my breathing until I am conscious of my breath. “ As the saying goes, “you get what you ask for.” The key to transformation is awareness that the primary thinking error is often expressing what you are asking for. By placing awareness on when we use the primary thinking error (what we mean) to shape our behavior, we can truly choose something else to shape our next action.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Triggers as opportunities

Much of the fear in recovery is around the fear of relapse and the fear of triggers contributing to relapse. Fear is a powerful feeling. It often sets up paralysis, anxiety, and retrenchment. When faced with any fear, individuals will sometimes literally shrink physically and emotionally.

Rather than focus on the fear, I ask you to think of the triggers as opportunities. (And no, this doesn’t mean you have to search out triggers; there are enough that will simply show up in your daily journey!). As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When faced with a trigger, implementing a pre-identified plan is always helpful (hence the continuing care plan). On a larger level, your response also gives insight into your overall worldview. You “get” the opportunity to examine how show up in the world. For example, are you hopeful? fearful? careless? planful? Are you playing a victim? Are you acting from integrity? Isolating? Or are you reaching out for support?

All of the worldviews are available when faced with a trigger. As your recovery grows, you can sometimes answer these questions in the moment. Other times it may be after the fact that you recognize the patterns in your response. Reviewing your response is a way to continue the journey in recovery.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Working on a Newsletter summary of the Cybersex Workbook.


The overlap between chemical health recovery, sexual health/sexual compulsivity and cybersex is well documented. Too often, clients and professionals don’t examine the role of the Internet as a relapse trigger for sex and drugs. This brief article provides a basic intro to addressing online behaviors.
What is Cybersex?

The term “cybersex” has become a catchall to describe a variety of computer based sex related behaviors. These behaviors can include accessing online pornography (audio, video, text), engaging in sexual chat with others, creating an avatar to engage in sexual acts or chat, using sex toys designed for the online world, or a combination of all the above. More variations of online behavior are being developed as the Internet changes.

When Does Cybersex Become Compulsivity?
It is important to understand that not everyone who engages in cybersex behavior has a problem with compulsivity. Research indicates about 85% of individuals who engage in cybersex behaviors do so without serious consequences. In thinking about your cybersex behavior and determining whether it is problematic or out of control in your life, there are two components.

Subjective – Realization that a Problem Exists
On some level you recognize your online sexual behavior is a problem. Cybersex compulsivity includes many sexual behaviors or thoughts that violate your personal values and boundaries. “I know I did something I didn’t want to do.” The vast majority of people seeking help realize they need help.

Objective – External Notification of a Problem
Some form of external feedback has presented itself to bring the situation to light. This feedback can come in the form of a legal consequence (such as an arrest), a financial consequence (such as money spent on the Internet, or termination from a job) or damage to a relationship because of the violation of boundaries. For some people, the objective component of sexual compulsivity may not always be present.
The basic premise is that you define healthy and unhealthy behaviors in dialogue with others. It will be most helpful for you to pay attention to whether there is a repetitive and consistent pattern to your behavior, and how the consequences of your behavior may be affecting your life and relationships.

Internet Sex Screening Test
One way to help determine if a behavior is problematic is to take a self administered screening test. The Internet Sex Screening Test has been taken by thousands of individuals and can be used to help gauge how problematic your online sexual behavior may be. This screening test is available at

Problematic Cybersex Users
Remember 85% of people don’t have a problem with online behaviors. People who exhibit problematic sexual behavior on the Internet tend to fall into one of the three groups:

Discovery Group
People in this group have no previous problem with online sex and no history of problematic offline sexual behavior. However they often begin using sex on the Internet as a recreational user and become completely carried away with online activities.

Predisposed Group
This group is made up of people who have never acted out sexually until they discovered cybersex. They might have fantasized about exposing themselves or had the urge to see a prostitute or go to a strip club. Until they discovered the world of cybersex, however, they were able to manage their fantasies and urges.

Lifelong Sexually Compulsive Group
People in this group have been involved in problematic sexual behavior throughout most of their lives. They might compulsively masturbate, compulsively use pornography, practice voyeurism or exhibitionism, or compulsively frequent strip clubs and prostitutes. For these people, cybersex simply provides a new option for acting out sexually that fits within their already existing patterns of problematic behavior.

A Primary Assignment to cope with Cybersex.
It is important to assess the specific Internet behaviors that contribute to high-risk situations, or relapse. The final assignment from the workbook follows. In this assignment, you create three circles where you address the following:

Outer Circle Are Acceptable Behaviors
These behaviors are any Internet behaviors that are healthy in your world. The key is that you have to define these behaviors. Others might provide feedback and suggestions, but in the end you MUST clarify and determine what are acceptable behaviors in YOUR world.

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. 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 p.m. At 9 p.m., he started to get tired and moved into the trance often associated with compulsive online behaviors. Surfing the Internet until 9 was a cautious behavior, because he had to make sure his plans were in place to prevent surfing after 9 p.m.

Inner 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 at work 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.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sexual Health

...the book has been submitted to the publisher. Soon, very, very soon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Judgement and Sexual Health

A connection to

I loved this part of the blog:

Try calling a florist and saying, “I need a nice pick-me-up bouquet for a friend who’s been diagnosed with a spinal tumor.” They’ll get on it right away. But then call and say, “I need a nice pick-me-up bouquet for a friend who’s been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.” They’ll think it’s a prank call. Or go to your local cozy little Hallmark store and say “I’m looking for a card for a friend who’s been in bed all week with the flu.” They’ll have rows and rows of cards expressing the perfect sentiment I’m sure. But then say “Now I’m looking for a card for a friend who’s been in bed all week with post-traumatic stress disorder.” They’ll probably call security.

I would add:

Now ask, "I'm looking for flowers for someone who just found out they are HIV+." I'm looking for a nice card for someone who test positive for Syphilis."

If mental health is discriminated against, sexual health is even further down the food chain. In these cases, the reaction is "they deserve it."

Just saying.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Upcoming Trainings

March 25, 2011 New York City, New York. Realization Center. The overlap of sexual health concerns and chemical dependency. 3 hr workshop

March 29, Assessment and Treatment Strategies for Cybersex Behaviors. 3 hr workshop
Location: 2110 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis

May 5, 2011, Ft. Lauderdale, Assessment and Treatment Strategies for Cybersex Behaviors. 5 hr workshop.
To register, call Pride Fort Lauderdalte at 877-774-3346. For more info:
May 13, 2011, Atlanta, The overlap of sexual health concerns and chemical dependency. 3 hr workshop
Location: TBD

July 20, Texas Behavior Institute, The overlap of sexual health concerns and chemical dependency. 3 hr workshop
For more information:

Aug 1-7, Easton Mountain Retreat, New York. Recovery Camp Focus on Chemical Dependency and Sexual Health.
For more information:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dan Savage as conservative, but not Repubican

I've been reading Dan Savage for years. Dan has a flair that is enjoyable to read. Generally speaking, I often concur with the responses from Dan Savage. Over the recent years, Dan Savage has "grown" in popularity, and is a regular on the cable shows and college campuses. As his popularity grows, more and more commentaries appear. An interesting dialogue in the past few weeks has been fun to watch. The title to this blog links to an extensive dialogue describing a Lutheran Pastor's reaction to Dan Savage. The author even compares Dan Savage to Ann Landers. I think the author does a good job placing Savage's approach in context, and highlights a number of ethical principles to guide sexual health choices. These are: Disclosure, Autonomy, Reciprocity, and minimum standards of performance.

I like these values; I would add responsibility (you can't get what you don't ask for), and integrity (consistency between your values and behaviors). My own approach to sexuality is similar, but decidedly toned down. I also integrate flavors of spirituality and psychology within my approach. In the end, I think we both would agree that each person is responsible to give voice to his or her desires, and communicate with partners in respectful ways.

Enjoy the article by following the link in the title.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sexual Health and Covey’s 7 Habits

My approach to sexual health integrates other helpful tools. Sometimes these tools are implicit such as the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. You can read more at Wikipedia, but a super-brief summary is here with an application to sexual health.

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Your choices are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the subsequent consequences that follow. In the sexual health workbooks, I highlight this concept as assertiveness, integrity, and responsibility. You are where you are at because of choices you’ve made. It is no accident.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Clarify your values and life goals. I ask you to think about how a sexually healthy life would look, and help you put in place the values that reflect the sexual health.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
Review and assess if your behaviors reflect your values, and move you toward your goals. This is an ongoing task. Simply working through the workbook is the first part; reviewing the progress in response in the workbook is an ongoing task.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Valuing and respecting people by understanding a "win" for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution. Your work in the workbook is done in the community of your support group including your partner. Sexual health isn’t a free-for-all, but sexual health may require difficult choices.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood
Talking about sexual health leads to a deeper understanding of yourself and others. Engaging in respectful conversations can create amazing intimacy, and profound transformation. Your primary source of information occurs when you understand other’s journeys are a reflection of your journey.

Habit 6: Synergize
Long-term recovery in sexual health can only be done in a network. One of the first and one of the last assignments both address developing and confirming your support network. It is often the task people avoid.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
I concur with Covey’s importance of maintaining a balanced program in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. I obviously add a fifth area of sexuality.

Habit 8: Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.
In a later book, Covey adds an 8th Habit. This habit isn’t too different from the 12th step. By finding your truth in sexual health, you attract and promote sexual health in others. Simply standing in your truth allows others to seek their truth.

To your good sexual health!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Yoga, Humility, and Sexuality

The ongoing daily experience of many days of Yoga affirms the importance of humility. At this point, I’m far enough along in the practice to not worry about what others are doing. I’m simply becoming more aware of my own body and how stiff I am. There are always ways to improve my practice. Today the instructor “modified” my positions in a way that allowed me to discover new parts of my body. Many of the modifications she helped me with where around hip openers. My guess is I would need a year of hip openers to do anything about them. I jokingly talk about my “father’s hips” which I inherited. They simply are stiff, and don’t move, and get in the way of flexibility regarding many more positions. Alas, it is a process, and a lesson in humility.

So it is true in sexuality. Sometimes my role is it the role of a teacher, and many times my role is that of a student. I continue to discover that there are many others who know more than me. I also know I am continually uncovering my own biases and barriers. And in many circumstances, I affirm that I have more to learn.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yoga lessons and sexuality, day 2.

In Yoga, you’re not a victim. You can modify, stop, or further enter into the position. This is the basic premise of any position. If a certain position doesn’t work, multiple modifications are possible to make it easier or more difficult depending on your skill. The same is true if the position is untenable. In some cases, you simply stop. And yet, some of the most growth occurs by entering further into the position. As the instructor says, “breath into the movement.”

So it is in sexuality. Sometimes we need to modify or change our sexual health concerns (such as our values, beliefs, cultures), or end something (perhaps a behavior, or bad relationship), or enter into some event and see it as an opportunity (conflict, sexual expression, desires, etc).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yoga, Individual, Integrity, Intelligently and Sexual Health

While in Puerto Valletta, Mexico, for a well-earned vacation, I take time to attend Yoga as part of the vacation. (And, no, blogging isn’t work; it’s a type of journaling for me!) Today’s lesson was about being in the moment, a great thing to do while on vacation. The instructor also talked about how yoga is an individual practice that needs to be done with integrity and intelligently.

She explained that each student knows his/her body, and knows when to push the extra effort to fully enter the experience, and each student knows when to pull back. This is/must be done with integrity. The only one who truly knows is the student.

The individual practice done with integrity also requires intelligence. By this I understood intelligence to reflect wisdom, correct/good form, and staying at the edge of practice without going too far and hurting one’s self. Intelligence implies listening to the body, increasing self-awareness of one’s greater limits and personal limitations.

So to do these terms apply to sexual health. Your journey toward sexual health is YOUR journey. Only you know what truly expresses your heart of hearts regarding sexual health. No one else can tell you. Others may guide you, but you are the one responsible for the final choice. And sexual health requires wisdom, knowing and respecting your inner truth.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Importance and Difficulty of Integrity in Sexual Health

Link to Dan Savage and Mistermix

The above link describes another public scandal regarding sexuality. What both Dan Savage and Mistermix highlight is the importance of sexuality in a person's life, the desire for sexual satisfaction, and the danger when you're not able to resolve these difficulties in your relationship. Integrity in sexual health requires personal responsibility to declare your personal definition of sexual health. Sometimes this requires challenging the stereotypes of what others think you should want, and choosing your path toward sexual health.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Creating your future and Transcending the Fear

It’s always great when I find someone reading my blog. I was asked a follow-up question regarding breaking the cycle of fear described in the “Illusion of Fear” blog (dated: 1/29/11). I start with the material from the blog and expand it further.

Step 1: Don’t play the game. The fear is not real.

Remember the fear isn’t real. It may feel real, but it isn’t. Again, very little of the fear we experience is in reality. While it may hurt if someone leaves, or is angry, or doesn’t like us, or we loose our job, or whatever, our actual existence is not called into question.

If you catch yourself playing the game, stop. In this case the game is the various roles of the triangle. Simply stop. No matter how you try, you can’t win at a game of fear. I love the line for the 1980’s move Wargames, “The only winning move is not to play.”” (To watch the scene:

Step 2: Transcend the Fear --Find a bigger goal.

Transcending this fear is possible. One way to do this is to identify values that express what inspires you at your core. It is essential to step outside of the fear and take responsibility for the subsequent choices. I know this is easier said than done. In another blog entry, I highlighted the Litany of Fear.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. (Dune, Herbert)

To me, this litany of fear reminds me that the fear is not real, and that if I stand through the fear, only I remain. In that moment I have an opportunity where I can make a choice that expresses my true identity.

Courage is not acting without of fear, it is acting in spite of fear. Continuing the metaphor of the game, the way out of the game of fear is to play a completely different game. The “fun” part of this process is that you get to decide what “new game” you want to play. Instead of fear, play a game of love. Or, play a game of healing, or play a game of wisdom. Every experience becomes an opportunity to express or learn something greater in your life. In other blog entries, I’ve called this “Creating your future.” This concept is not original to me, but has it’s root in viture ethics. Mark Vernon summarizes virtue ethics as:

Virtue ethics begins by asking what it is to be human, and proceeds by asking what virtues — or characteristics, habits and skills — we need in order to become all that we might be as humans. It’s much associated with the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who discussed the meaning of friendship as a way to illustrate his approach to ethics. … The virtue ethics approach is not individualistic. It tells us that to become all we might be as humans we need others. And we need others in a number of ways. One is highlighted by Aristotle’s focus on friendship. Social animals, like ourselves, are fulfilled by being with others: we discover who we are by discovering who others are — those to whom we are connected by way of family, affection, community, and society. They shape us, and we shape them, and so we need to have a concern for them all. (Link:

Step 3: Other’s as a reflection of your goals

Our task is to define the virtues by which we want to live our life. It is done in community/connection with others. The struggle with virtue ethics is most people don’t know what they are, or are caught up in a dilemma of having to use other people’s opinions of the important virtues. The process of clarifying your values, and the behaviors consistent with those values is the experience of discovering YOUR truth. My experience suggests a client is much more successful when their life that reflects their truth.

Paradoxically, others are the source of the primary values in our life. What we like and dislike in others reflects our inner core. This is a classic psychological principle that also applies to transcending the fear. That which we are drawn to reflects an inner craving that we must address. That which we reject reflects an inner craving that we must address. Whatever we fear is an opportunity to personal growth, discovery and transformation. An open, honest and fearless examination of those reactions is necessary for this discovery. It is then that new possibilities of a transformed life become possible.

We can recognize these values by identifying various pivot points in our life (see blog date: 1/22/11) It is in these pivot points where we get a sense of something more in our life. The experience is rewarding, but isn’t always easy. Sometimes these are values that we have and want to express more; or, it may be values we don’t have and want to obtain.

Step 4: Identifying your values by completing the following assignments.

To begin this process, I give my clients a number of assignments to identify pivot points that can be useful in identifying the values in your life. This assignment will help you to start thinking about something greater in your life. Think “big” about your future. What would a “life you love” look like?. You need to step forward to identify and claim the values that you find important, the values that you will use to shape your life. What works for some people person will not necessarily work for you. We may learn from each other, but our path is uniquely our own.

• Identify three people who inspire you. These people may be real or fictional, living or dead, someone you know, or simply someone you’ve read about. For each person, identify why this person is an inspiration to you. Examine two or three values this person has expressed through their life. As you think about each person, you may start to identify themes that are important to you.

• Name three times when you experienced a sense of timelessness. Some authors describe this as “being in the flow.” In this context, “timelessness” is the experience of time passing without your awareness. Think of a young child playing outside all day. You say to the child “Come in for bed.” To the child, the day passed with a sense of timelessness. They simply were completely in the moment. Describe the settings in which you experienced timelessness, focusing on who, what, when, and where. What words do you use to summarize how these experiences inspire you?

• As you examine the individuals and experiences in your life that are important, make note of common themes, values and experiences. These themes are expressions of your experience of God in your daily life.

• After listing the themes, review each word in a dictionary or Wikipedia. Learn the depth of meaning of these words. Summarize what you learn.

Step 5: Choose

The challenge is to ask yourself, “How willing am I to do whatever it takes to express my values in living?” Our inspirations are often people who, despite their fear, choose actions that express their values. Think of people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Mother Theresa. They expressed their values in their daily lives to the degree that the world recognized them as inspiring. You can use your values to shape your choices in a profound way. The key questions are, “Will this behavior protect my values?” and “How do my values shape the next step for me?”

In each moment you face fear, you can succumb to fear and fall into the triangle roles of persecutor, victimizer, or rescuer, or you can choose to engage in behaviors that express your values. When you succeed, life will be amazing. And yes you will fail, and life will be amazing. Perfection is not required, but integrity to YOUR values and truth is how a person lives a life they love. Each moment is an opportunity. Choose.

Books referenced in this text.