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?