Monday, January 31, 2011

Sexual Wellness

updated for a new workbook (Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sexual Wellness)

Believe it or not, sexual wellness is not defined within the field of psychology. A literature review of both psychology and medicine literature databases identified three articles. A search of “sexual wellness” on the Internet also finds few resources. The vast number of websites focus on functioning better, preventing disease, or preventing pregnancy. Other websites focus on sexual toys. Very few websites address a robust definition of wellness. It is a new concept when we address sexual wellness.

To move toward a definition of sexual wellness, it is helpful to understand wellness. The website provides a nice definition I like. They even talk about dimensions of wellness, but of course one of the missing dimensions is sexual wellness.

Given the lack of an existing definition, the definition of sexual wellness I am establishing for this workbook is that sexual wellness is the movement toward sexual health. Sexual Wellness is the active participation of the individual in his or her life by addressing the numerous issues within sexual health. This requires active participation and movement. The purpose of this workbook is to help expand specific topics from the literature to help you move toward improved sexual health. The process is what we define as sexual wellness. While I cover a number of topics, the information is simply the tip of the iceberg. You are encouraged to seek out and find more information.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Illusion of Fear

I've been working on this article for the past 2-3 weeks. My thanks to David Walker at:


The starting place is fear. Real fear is when our existence is threatened, but most of fear doesn’t actually threaten our existence. Infrequently this fear is real, but often much of what we fear is simply made up in our thoughts and stories. This type of fear is defined as “Existential Fear.” Most of us approach much of life with a sense of existential fear. In other blog entries, I talked about the power of thought, and the importance of story. It is these thoughts and stories that reflect this existential fear.

Now the paradigm:

Consider a triangle representing fear. Each of the corners of the triangle is labeled with the following: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer (described below). When we act powered by existential fear, we act based on the paradigm of a triangle. We fall into a primary role of victim, perpetrator, or rescuer. Anytime we experience fear, we react in a primary role. This reaction is often unconscious and is seen in many of our automatic responses. It is a learned behavior that has become routine. The primary role is backed up by a secondary role. We attempt to cope with the fear by using characteristics of the primary role and the secondary role. Yes, we can still act in their third role, but most often our behavior will reflect the primary and secondary role. It should be noted that we switch these roles with amazing speed. In one instant we feel like a victim, and in the next moment, we lash out becoming a perpetrator.

The triangle seeks balance, so when we operate from a primary (and/or secondary) role, we seek out others to balance the triangle. There is always someone, or something, real or imagined in one of the roles.

A brief description of the roles and corresponding thoughts:

I am helpless
I can’t do anything
I’m hurt
Something is done to me
It’s my fault
Lost child
Everyone say’s “no”

I’ll do what you say.

It’s your problem
You fix it
I’ll punish you
Doing something to others
It’s Your Fault
You don’t know what you’re doing

It’s their fault
I can fix it
Passive Aggressive
I’ll make you feel better
Fixing something
It’s the Persecutor’s Fault
Want to feel needed
I know what to do.

Transcending the Fear

Transcending this fear is possible. It is essential to step outside of the fear and take responsibility for the subsequent choice. 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. One way to do this is to identify values that express what inspires you at your core.

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?”

Application of the model

Some generic examples may help. I feel a sense of fear in response to my partner. It really doesn’t matter what it is, because the surface issue simply reflects the existential fear that I bring to the conversation (see the blog entries on transference). So, in the case when I feel any fear, I can play the role of victim. I feel powerless, and in this example I might move to the secondary role of trying to placate my partner. I will do what I need to help my partner feel better so I reduce my level of fear. I could put “boss,” “friend” or any role into that space of partner. I can also put a larger phenomenon such as “culture” or “church” or society. As another generic example, I can play the role of victim, and move to the secondary role to blame my partner. I start to victimize others in response to the fear I feel.

Now some specific examples related to my work in the realm of sexuality.

First, consider a guy struggling with feelings of loneliness and rejection
• My wife just doesn’t understand me. So, since she doesn’t understand me I will use the Internet to help medicate my feelings of loneliness. When caught, I blame by partner by saying “You don’t understand me. If you were available, I wouldn’t need to go online.” These two statements reflect both the perpetrator and victim responses.

Second, consider a person who is afraid of their sexuality.
• In this case, the person might experience feelings of sadness and depression expressing the fear of rejection. In this place, they might move toward placating society by hiding sexuality or “following the rules.”

Third, consider a person having a sexual relationship outside a monogamous relationship.
• In this case, the fear of being discovered may get projected as attacks against others who engage in these behaviors. Some of the individuals with the strongest reactions to President Clinton’s behaviors with Monica Lewinsky were later found to have engaged in the same behaviors (Gingrich, Ensign). Their fear was projected as a perpetrator and later as a victim once uncovered.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cybersex Unplugged

is now available on Amazon!

Life's Pivots Points

Throughout life, there are moments when what is, is no longer. Based on a new awareness, life changes. I define these moments as pivot points. When a pivot points occur, the trajectory of your life pivots, and you change the direction of your life. Sometimes the pivot points are “big” and impact a lot of people, other times the pivot point is uniquely your own. Sometimes the change is positive, and other times the change may be negative.

We all experience pivot points. Here are some examples.

• Many individuals in the United States see 9/11 as a pivot point. It changed the trajectory of the country. And both sides argue whether or not the country’s response was positive or not.

• The moment in your personal experience where you decide to start or end a relationship. While the relationship process may take a while, there is often a moment when you know something has changed.

• Ever been so angry with someone, that you hold a huge resentment? After you gather your courage to talk to the person, you find the individual doesn’t remember the incident. This is an example of a pivot point in YOUR life.

• Ever have someone apologize to you for something that you don’t remember? That incident was a pivot point to THEM.

• Sometimes pivot points are about self-awareness. For example recognizing how you engage in disrespectful behaviors toward yourself or others. Or, coming to awareness that you are attracted to someone of the same sex.

• Other pivot points are spiritual. In the 12-step tradition, step 1 reflects the moment when an addict surrenders to the powerlessness of the addiction/compulsivity. Being reborn within a religious tradition is another example.

• Any experience of transference (discussed in a previous blog entry).

The key for self-growth is to increase your awareness of the large and small pivot points. Too often we simply focus on “big” pivot points. But many pivots occur on a daily basis; consider them the small daily self-corrections in your life like the continual corrections when you drive a car. By sitting back and reviewing the pivot points, you have an opportunity to examine the underlying issue leading to awareness and transformation.

To this day, one of my favorite scripture passages from my seminary studies is 1 Kings 19:11-13

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn't to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn't in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn't in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there.

I see the small pivot points in my daily life as the whisper of God. My response to the pivot points demonstrates what is key in my life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Deception, Sexual Health, and Spirituality.

Those who live by self-deception will perish by self-deception.
Children of Dune, Frank Herbert

Having an abundance of time sitting on an airplane returning from an extended vacation, I ran across the above quote. When it comes to sexuality, I experience a lot of individuals struggling with self-deception. It might be self-deception related to the quality of their relationship, or the level of compulsivity, or simply deception about their inner desires. What strikes me about the quote is that those living in self-deception are in a type of spiritual death.

The show I was watching. OK, so I'm a bit of a sci-fi geek!