What is 5-PATH® Hypnosis?

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When searching for a system of hypnosis that would best help my clients overcome their blockages on their road to success, I found that most of the instructional courses I could find weren’t actually offering a form of hypnosis that was systematic at all. Some even bragged they offered “shortcuts” and “cheat-sheets” to “quick fixes.”  What the hell? I genuinely want to help people take control in their lives, not offer them a quick-fix or require they suppress or ignore their feelings! Thankfully, I was introduced to 5-PATH®.

I genuinely want to help my clients take control in their lives, not offer them a quick-fix or require they suppress or ignore their feelings!

Simply put, 5-PATH® Hypnotherapy allows the hypnotist to go far beyond what most hypnotists can do in a hypnosis session. Because 5-PATH® takes a systematic approach when working with clients, 5-PATHers® go beyond merely suggesting changes and using  visualization techniques offered by so many other hypnotists — which only bring about limited or temporary results.

5-PATHers® take difficult cases and help most people resolve their problems, usually in 4-6 sessions. 

5-PATHers® use modern hypnotic induction (no swinging watches or hokey gadgets are used), to take clients through each phase of the process, customizing each phase for the client’s needs, making sure that their hypnosis experience is completely professional, confidential and effective. As 5-PATHers®, we are trained to find the actual cause of the client’s problem and neutralize and even eliminate it. 5-PATHers® are even able to deal with issues that could be causing problems that the client may not have thought of such as internal conflicts. Because the 5-PATH® process uses therapeutic & hypnotic techniques, applied in five phases over an average of four to six sessions, the approach allows clients to be more successful and experience long term and even permanent results.

Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, or any other stressful issue, you should know that there is hope.

 


Micki Allen is a proud 5-PATHer®, a certified hypnosis professional trained directly under Cal Banyan, the creator of 5-PATH® Hypnotherapy.

Speaking of Independence: Balancing Connectivity and Autonomy for Healthy Relationships

Recently an adult sexual health peer and I were talking about our marriages and she commented on how impressed she was by the boundaries that my spice and I have set in our relationship while being able to maintain our connection as a married couple for the past twenty-five years. Not only was I was greatly humbled by her admiration, but with the coming of America’s celebration of independence from England, it reminded me just how important it is for partners in a marriage or committed long-term relationship to have enough mental and spiritual room to live as individuals in order to strengthen their bond and connection with their chosen companions.

Partners need to allow one another room for individual and independent growth in order to have successful relationships.

Becoming independent men and women with a strong sense of self is crucial to the mental well-being of all adults. Science has proven that evolution has hardwired humans for constant growth. In fact, all living creatures must be in a continuous state of growth; otherwise, they stagnate and eventually wither away.

We aren’t built to live comfortably under someone else’s control. It would be suffocating and unbearable. Everyone needs a break from time to time. 

A co-dependent relationship is built on insecurity and need; the logical conclusion of which is complete instability. When both partners are continually seeking the approval of or acceptance from the other, they are ultimately handing over their own God-given endowment of free will to their partner. The dilemma that leads to the dysfunction of this type of relationship is that both partners because they are so needy of the other resort to manipulation and emotional blackmail to control each other. Unable to function in a healthy manner on their own, they seek and often demand whether overtly or covertly, completion or wholeness by taking what they need from their lover. When both partners are constantly placing these sorts of requirements on each other, one or both companions will eventually have nothing left to give.

A healthy relationship is built on mutual respect and genuine affection. When both partners are mature, capable adults they are able to choose to bring the best of themselves into the relationship for an engaged and meaningful connection. Rather than continually seeking that which they can take from their loved one, they are free to consider their own needs. Having their own needs fulfilled by their own merit encourages them to share with their chosen other sincerely and without pressure. Both partners are inspired towards self-fulfillment as well as towards mutual satisfaction.

The Freedom to Be “We”

So, how are two individuals who are adequately able to stand on their own two feet supposed to come together into the balance of a healthy partnership without losing that strong sense of self? How can we coordinate the seeming contradictions between healthy adult independence and a wholesome togetherness?

  1. Take full responsibility for yourself and your actions and expect your partner to do likewise.
  2. Allow your partner to form and maintain respectful, platonic friendships.
  3. Consent to giving one another time apart for separate hobbies/interests.
  4. Establish, respect, and maintain boundaries.
  5. Be honest and transparent with your chosen partner.
  6. Keep an open dialogue in order to foster mutual trust.
  7. Make informed crucial decisions together.

I find that there is something very gratifying in hearing from my spice that he doesn’t have to or need to be with me, but rather that he chooses every day to be with me. I love being his chosen.

Agree? Disagree? I’m eager to know your thoughts on the subject.

 

 

 

 

Fantasize Your Way to More Fulfilling Sex, Part 2

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What was the subject of your last sexual fantasy? I ask because I know that you’ve had one if you’re normal.

Okay yes, “normal” is a really relative term. What I mean to convey is this: If you’re a typical human being like the majority of us functioning folks walking the planet, you’ve likely engaged in a healthy sexual fantasy or two or one hundred just like the rest of us common folks. And, that’s okay. You’re not alone. You’re in good company, and you’re doing just fine.

Normal and Healthy

You don’t need to be ashamed. Believe it or not, even our wildest, most outlandish fantasies¹ are likely common. The most significant reason most people are afraid to share their innermost private thoughts is that they fear being judged as abnormal or weird. This sort of anxiety is not conducive to fulfilling sexual interludes, so I encourage you to read on.

Engaging in intimate fantasies in order to heighten our sexual desires is very common; only, no one wants to admit to it, not even to their closest friends. Large and numerous research studies have concluded that roughly nine out of ten people engage in sexual fantasies while “daydreaming,” masturbating, and/or during sexual encounters. And when they’re frank, professionals admit they think that the “tenth” person is simply too afraid to admit to it for one reason or another because studies have found that incidences of sexual fantasies are practically universal. Almost the entire agglomeration of research about sexual fantasies is only collected because researchers guarantee complete anonymity for its subjects. Thank God for anonymity! The findings of all of this research can be very comforting to the people who find it. Knowing that when you’re fantasizing you’re engaging in common, usual behavior can help ease misplaced feelings of shame. But how many people are brave enough to search out the findings?

Topics of Fantasy

Specific fantasy differences are most often based on gender, sexual orientation, cultural conditioning, and age. However in general, the most common fantasies (for most genders and orientations) are: reliving a past exciting sexual experience (with or without their current partner), imagining sex with a current partner, and imagining sex with a different partner. The next most common fantasies involve giving or receiving oral sex, sex in a more desirable location, and relinquishing of or gaining of sexual power².  The specific subjects of our sexual fantasies are extraordinarily varied. That said, the majority of erotic themes can be tidily placed under less than a handful of labels: exploratory, intimate, impersonal, and dominance/submission and sadomasochism.

Exploratory themes are just that; they explore people or places or things never before engaged in by the person fantasizing. They may include threesomes, foursomes or moresomes. More often than not, exploratory fantasies involve situations that the person would not actually want to act on in real life.

Intimate themes involve known partners, whether past or present lovers or someone they know socially but have never been with sexually. Fantasizing about a known person other than your spouse or partner does not necessarily indicate that, given the opportunity, you would actually take it.

Impersonal themes center around sex with strangers. Most report this as relating to imagined interludes with famous people, anonymous people, group sex or orgies and voyeuristic fantasies of watching or being watched while having sex, masturbating, etc.

D/s S&M themes involve scenarios of power exchange (dominance or submission) and/or sadomasochism (giving or receiving pain for pleasure). Includes ravishment fantasies for both men and women.² The most frequently cited hypothesis for why women indulge in ravishment fantasies is that the fantasy avoids socially induced guilt—the woman does not have to admit responsibility for her sexual desires and behavior. As for men, they report indulging in ravishment fantasies as receivers as a way to escape the burdens of having to often “be in control” in daily life, and as givers as a form of exhibiting sexual prowess and power.

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Why We Should Fantasize

You’ve likely heard it said that our brain is our most important sex organ. And, it is! Aside from our skin, it is our second largest sex organ, too. So why not use it to it’s full advantage to pique our more provocative nature?

Fantasizing Outside of Coupled Sex

The advantages to using sexual fantasy apart from during sexual interludes have proven numerous:

  • Facilitate Erotic Intellegence
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Boost sex-esteem
  • Can reduce stress/anxiety
  • Augment self-exploration
  • Improve mood
  • Preserve pleasant memories
  • Allow us to safely engage in activities we are curious about and/or wouldn’t normally engage in
  • Provide outlet for healthy escape (granted it doesn’t become compulsive)
  • Allows us to consider/compare possible erotic scenarious
  • Can prepare our minds and bodies for pending sexual interludes
  • Is always readily available

And, of course, allowing your erotic and intimate fantasies to influence your sex life with your partner can be a very powerful aphrodisiac that can make the sex outside of your imagination more fulfilling and satisfying.

Fantasizing During Sex

You may have also heard it said that while women are like slow cookers in the bedroom, men are like microwaves. You’re likely nodding your head as you read, but let me throw you a curve ball. Men are not faster to climax than women. Wait, what? You read that correctly. When women masturbate, it takes them, on average, the same amount of time to orgasm as it takes men to have an orgasm during intercourse. There are numerous reasons, then, for the disparity of orgasms between men and women during penetrative sex; and while outlining them all would take another article or two altogether, I’m here to hopefully help you bridge that arousal gap via, you guess it, fantasy.

Studies have shown that women’s fantasies are extremely rich and incredibly strong. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about whether or not this is because women tend to have more detailed and elaborate fantasies; however, according to Professor Beverly Whipple, some women are capable of having an orgasm from their fantasies alone — that is, without touching themselves. Delicious.

So, what is the benefit of fantasizing during sex? Women live inside their heads. If your grocery list or to-do list tends to pop into your head when you’re having intercourse, it can be helpful to think about a proven stimulating fantasy in your mind to get your mind back on the love making at hand. Of course, being fully engaged in the actual love making is even better! But, thinking about the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink is not conducive to arousal! Placing yourself are your lover on a beautiful tropical island beach inside your head may improve your libido.

I strongly recommend that when you do choose to play around with fantasy, you get in the habit of always making your fantasy lover your real time lover…

Sharing Our Fantasies

The sharing of your fantasies is a delicate topic, one that can have both arousing benefits and lousy drawbacks. Which ones should we share? The ones we’ve explored or evaluated enough to know that we’d actually like to bring them from our fantasy world into our real world with our partner. Obviously, some fantasies are better left unshared, especially if that fantasy involves an ex-lover. Do not share those fantasies with your partner. The effects on your relationship could be devastating. In fact, I strongly recommend that when you do choose to play around with fantasy, you get in the habit of always making your fantasy lover your real time lover because there are proven benefits to fantasizing about our real life partners in and out of the bedroom.

According to three recent studies, fantasizing about your spouse or significant other actually changes your relationship perception and may even alter your behavior — influencing you to be kinder to your lover. These types of fantasies can even strengthen your relationship by strengthening your commitment and bond with them.

Sharing your fantasies with your lover can be incredibly arousing for you; just make sure you are prepared to discover that your lover may not be so keen on certain ideas. If they aren’t, that’s okay. Here is your opening to discussing other fantastic things the two of you would like to explore together. Enjoy!

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¹ For the purpose of clarity, I discuss actual erotic fantasy that is being actively imagined and not unbidden thoughts of a sexual nature that bubble to the surface. for example, when you see an attractive person.

² Because the majority of my readership is female, and because the word “rape” carries extreme emotional weight and can be a trigger for many women, I prefer to use the word “ravishment” which, while having the same literal meaning, can more readily denote power, dominance, or coercion without threat of physical or emotional violence or abuse. It is extremely important to note that women who engage in ravishment fantasies do not want to be criminally violated or harmed, as evidenced by the fact that these women are ravished by the person that they desire and are very rarely physically or emotionally injured in the fantasy. It is also important to note that the women creating these fantasies are by definition consenting and are in complete control of the scenario [of who, what, when, where, why, and the duration] which is not the case for criminal, injurious sex. Non-consensual sex is a crime.

 


Links to articles used in researching this topic:

What men and women fantasize about has more in common than you think by Jessica Orwig and Mike Nudelman/ Business Insider article based on research by Christian C. Joyal et al. found here in an article published by The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Sexual Fantasies: What are Their Hidden Meanings? by Daniel Goleman

9 Reasons Sex Fantasies Are Good For You by  Wendy Maltz, Suzie Boss

The Power of Fantasy in Relationships by Elizabeth Berstein

Sexual Fantasies: A Way of Having Sex with Everyone by Fredric Neuman M.D.

Having Fantasies About Someone You’re Not Married To? The Pros and Cons of Sexual Fantasies in Relationships by Sheri Stritof

Sex Fantasies are Good for your Relationship, But Only if You’re Fantasizing About Your Partner by Kristine Fellizar

For books used in researching fantasy, see Resources.

Fantasize Your Way to More Fulfilling Sex, Part 1

Engaging in sexual fantasy to heighten our sexual desires is a good thing. But, I know, there are some readers who would disagree with me for a variety of reasons, and this is why this article will be a tad lengthy, hence in more than one part. As a practicing Christian, I know from experience that this topic is a hotbed of controversy for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, so I’d like to address their concerns first. And then, we can get to the fun stuff of fantasy.

Fantasies come from our imagination and imagination is a God-given gift. It is part and parcel of who we are as human beings. Fantasies by definition are imaginary, make-believe, about scenarios that are, if not completely impossible, at least improbable. Fantasies are, in and of themselves, morally neutral. What becomes of our fantasies is up to us. We are not always responsible for our thoughts. We are, however, responsible for our actions. That said, are we in Mister Roger’s “Neighborhood of Make-Believe” or are we on Mr. Rourke’s Fantasy Island?

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Things didn’t always go as planned on Fantasy Island.

Christians and Fantasizing

YES! We Christians are allowed to fantasize and I’m happy to tell you why. There is no edict in Sacred Scripture that forbids desire or fantasy. Did you get that? It’s important. There is no edict in Sacred Scripture that forbids desire or fantasy. No, not one.

The scripture that you’ve likely had drummed into your head since you were pre-pubescent to shame you away from healthy sexual desire and fantasy is Matthew 5:27. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Often, pastors and priests use this verse to warn against adultery — and rightly so. Infidelity is bad whether you’re a Christian or not. But, some people interpret this verse as meaning Christians aren’t allowed to even think sexually about someone they are attracted to. Yikes. All too often Church teachings are interpreted to equate sexual thoughts with actual sexual sin. And this idea, my friends, is wrong and incredibly harmful to the mental health of too many Christian men and women.

The problem with that translation of Matthew 5:27 is that the word translated as “lust” in this passage is the same word used for “covet” in The Ten Commandments. “[Y]ou will not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). Coveting is so serious a sin because it is wanting something that already lawfully belongs to someone else. It is not wanting something like what another has; it is wanting the exact thing. Imagine reading the tenth commandment as “Do not lust after your neighbor’s house; nor lust after his wife, nor his servant or maid, nor lust after his ox, nor his donkey.”  Should we really equate the word “covet” for “think about sexually” here? No.¹ There is a difference between natural sexual desire and coveting (wanting to possess what belongs to another as your own).

I could discuss poor theology and really crappy translations all day, but one only need contemplate the fact that there are literally tens of thousands of different denominations all under the same Christian umbrella to know that poor theology and really crappy translations exist. Besides that, it’s not my intent to prove how wonky centuries’ old translations of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic are. My intention is to tell you, quite truthfully, that Christ Himself never condemned being “horny” — through arousal, desires, fantasies, or otherwise. In fact, even a cursory glance at First Corinthians, chapter seven, proves that Saint Paul assumes we’re going to be sexually aroused and desire others. Of course we are! It’s how God designed us. As sexual beings. And while we’re discussing chapter seven, it’s interesting to note that Saint Paul admits in verse 25 that “Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord.” Mull that one over for a minute or ten.

Christians and Masturbation

I bring up masturbation here is because it is usually accompanied by desirous thoughts or fantasies. Masturbation, or stimulation of one’s own genitals for sexual pleasure often, though certainly not always, to the point of climax, is a perfectly normal and natural act. However, another tradition that is taught, but not once mentioned in Sacred Scripture is that of masturbation as sin.  Early church fathers used the story of Onan in Genesis 38 to preach against believers using coitus interruptus [the “withdrawal method” of birth control] in particular, and masturbation in general. According to the church, every sperm possible — because the church had no control over what happened with nocturnal emissions of sperm — was to be implanted into the wife’s womb. Keeping in mind that the mission of the early church was to encourage its members to “go forth and multiply,” it makes sense that they thought this was a really great scripture to use to scare the hell out of people from wanting to limit their family size via contraception.

So, the early church preached against what it called the “Sin of Onan” — and many Western churches still do, although they do not all agree on exactly what that sin is. The Catholic Church still preaches today against onanism which is, in the strictest sense, contraception, as well as against masturbation to climax. When Protestant denominations started branching out, they too continued preaching against the “Sin of Onan” as against contraception and masturbation. It wasn’t until Protestant denominations determined that contraception was no longer sinful (circa 1930), that they dropped the contraceptive concept of onanism to be an edict against masturbation alone. Because sperm was no longer sacred, masturbation as a “selfish act of lust” became the focus of the sin; but as you will see, these views are slowly but finally changing, too.

Careful reading of the story in Genesis 38 shows that the God killed Onan because he refused to follow Mosaic law for levirate marriage and give his dead, older brother’s wife an heir because he was selfish and wanted to be the firstborn heir to Judah’s fortune. In verse 9, Onan withdrew his penis from (his sister-in-law) Tamra’s vagina before ejaculation and the “spilling [of] his seed lest he give his brother an heir” occurred. In verse 10, “the thing which he did displeased the Lord” and his subsequent punishment for sinning (i.e., God slew him) was not because he chose masturbation, nor was it likely for employing the withdrawal method; his sin was more likely in disobedience to his father’s command, for not following Mosaic law, or it was due to his inordinate and unlawful greed.²

As I’ve noted, some Western churches, especially those of Evangelical origin, still preach against masturbation; but due to the abundance of scientific and medical evidence that masturbation is a medically healthy and psychologically normal act, more churches are electing to forgo the topic of masturbation altogether. Dr. James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family,” has even gone on record contending, “The Bible says nothing about masturbation, so we don’t really know what God thinks about it. My opinion is that He doesn’t make a big issue of it… So I would encourage you not to struggle with guilt.”³ Wow and yay! I hope this helps those of you who are struggling with shame concerning masturbation to understand that you are not alone in your struggle. Sexual self-exploration is healthy and normal and is not immoral. You are okay.

Continued


 

¹ For further in-depth reading, please see theologian Jason Staple’s finely detailed article “Whoever Looks at a Woman With Lust”: Misinterpreted Bible Passages #1

² Read Genesis 38 in its entirety for a better understanding of the context of the story.

³ Dobson, James C. (2000). Preparing for Adolescence: Growth Guide. Delight, AR: Gospel Light.

* Compulsive masturbation, like other compulsive behaviors, can be signs of an emotional problem, which may need to be addressed by a mental health specialist. There is no shame in seeking help from a professional. 

To Forgo the “O”

Sex without orgasm? You’re jokin’, right?

Recently, I had a returning female customer come into our boutique and giddily thank me for advising her and her husband to try preventing orgasm. I remembered the woman by sight because she and her spouse had struck me as a particularly handsome older couple who were deeply in love; but frankly, I didn’t remember giving them that specific advice. “Oh yeah,” she said, “at first my husband thought you were trying to be a smartass!” Then I remembered. He’d been having a difficult time maintaining an erection, and they’d come in to our establishment to see about purchasing pleasure aids he might use to focus on giving her orgasms when he wasn’t feeling up to the task.

At the time, I’d just finished re-reading  Viktor Frankl’s classic account of surviving as a prisoner in various Nazi concentration camps entitled Man’s Search for Meaning¹. Towards the end of his autobiographical account, Frankl, a neuro-psychiatrist by profession, posits his theory of logotherapy and explains some of his techniques for working with various mental illnesses. One of the techniques he suggests involves “tricking” the brain into a sort of reverse psychology. Since I am not a mental health professional, I cannot subscribe or even explain how it works; nonetheless, I suggested this couple might try something of the sort.

I asked if they’d ever tried pleasure mapping [I’m a huge fan of the practice] and suggested that they “map” their erogenous zones together. “But,” I said, “neither of you are allowed to climax.” Her husband scoffed, “Sex without an orgasm? Where am I? You’re jokin’, right?” I explained that I thought his condition (erectile dysfunction) was perhaps exacerbated by the anxiety he was experiencing by trying so hard to make his wife orgasm via penetration. Of course, they had a lot of other options that they could explore, for example cunnilingus, arousal enhancers, adult toys, etc., that could bring both of them pleasure. I admitted that I’d be happy to sell them the latest and most expensive toys in our store; but I was curious to know whether or not they would benefit from just leisurely exploring one another’s bodies. Sometimes, when orgasm is seen as the end-all, be-all of sex, so many other pleasurable opportunities are missed.

When the woman came back to tell me how happy she had been with their pleasure mapping experiment, she said it was practically a miracle. “If it hadn’t been so passionate, it would have been funny. In fact, ____ and I laughed about it later, but he couldn’t keep from getting aroused!” I admitted that I couldn’t take credit and told her about an example from Frankl’s book wherein Frankl worked with a man who had been overwhelmed his entire life with a terrible stutter. The man was to speak publicly at a conference and sought the doctor’s help. Frankl suggested that during his speech, the man force himself to stutter throughout. The result was that the man actually couldn’t stutter.

I knew that it sounded too good to be true, but the woman assured me that she didn’t care about the “how” of it happening; she was just thrilled that she and her husband had been able to reconnect intimately and she promised she would be sharing the wonders of pleasure mapping with all of her friends.

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For more on Pleasure Mapping, see my post on Searching for Your Buried Pleasure.

¹Man’s Search for Meaning  by Viktor Frankl, 1946. [find a quick link in Resources]

What Is an Intimate Adult Sexual Relationship?

Is there a gap between what you were taught in Sex Ed at school and what you’ve experienced in real life?

Let’s face it, we don’t know what we don’t know. If you were asked to create a delicious four-course meal from scratch that would be enticing, balanced, and healthy for your dinner guest, where would you begin? Personally, I would begin by freaking out. If you’re a skilled chef, this assignment would be easy, right? But for someone like myself, who was never even offered Home Economics in school, I would be at a total loss.

I don’t even know what’s served in a four-course meal. I know appetizer, entrée, and dessert. I thought appetizers were the first course. I’m missing an entire course. And as for “balancing” a meal — what exactly is a balanced meal — does that mean I have to offer vegetables; and if I do, do they have to be green to count? If they do have to be green, I’d also like to know whether or not a box of frozen peas would be considered as cooking “from scratch” because I think it does, as long as I add some spices or something to them. I guess green peas could be enticing if I added enough butter and cheese, but then that might subtract from the healthy part of the equation. And speaking of healthy, a healthy dessert just sounds like an oxymoron to me.

So, if our culture, our churches, our families, and our friends all think that we should eventually be in an intimate adult sexual relationship … where the hell are we expected to learn how to do it?

If current data on the divorce rates is any indication, adult relationships have been miserably failing for the better part of the past thirty years or so. What the hell happened? It’s obvious that adults have been entering marriages without being properly taught the skills of effective communication, a deeper understanding of interpersonal expectations, healthy emotional boundaries, and how to be committed to their intimate lives. So, if our culture, our churches (synagogues, temples, or other homes of spirituality), our families, and our friends all think that we should eventually participate in an intimate adult sexual relationship — being successful at it, notwithstanding — where the hell are we expected to learn how to do it?

Colleges are talking a lot about everything sexual being consensual nowadays, but they’re not teaching young people how to build sexual and emotional intimacy. I wonder if the type of  “education” we are offering is a result of, or a precursor to, our new and often damaging “hook-up” culture. Because a lot of young folks are proficient at releasing sexual tension, but they woefully lack what it takes to participate in mature, emotionally healthy, sexual partnerships that develop and deepen over time. I’ve heard this is called “sharing parts, not hearts.”

For those of us who desire lasting relationships over brief encounters, answers deeper than “it’s complicated” are necessary. So, let’s break it down. Intimate Adult Sexual Relationship:

  • intimate:  arising from a close personal connection or familiar experience
  • adult: grown up; mature
  • sexual: of, relating to, or for sex
  • relationship: the way in which two people are connected

Having a mature, close personal connection with a sexual partner seems easy enough, right?

According to Elizabeth Entenman, “Being in a relationship means you’re in a relationship with your entire partner; you can’t pick and choose which parts you do and don’t like. Along with the good comes the bad, and being a partner means embracing all of someone.”¹ Okay I’ll admit, that does sound complicated, but not impossible.

So, maybe not everyone wants to be in a lasting intimate adult sexual relationship. But, for those who do, it’s important to acknowledge that fostering deep emotional intimacy is crucial to building a healthy, solid sexual relationship. If you are interested in learning more, I’d love to hear from you.

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What Being in a Relationship Really Means,” by Elizabeth Entenman for The datemix via zoosk, September 3, 2017

Sexual Humility vs. Humiliation and Sexual Shame

Both “humility” and “humiliation” come from the Latin root word humilis meaning lowly. Humility (humilitās) is to “lower” yourself in light of others; whereas, to humiliate (humiliare) is to “make lower” someone else. The definitions may seem confusingly close, but there is a very important difference between the two — one is a virtue; the other is a vice.¹

Humility as a modest view of oneself should make people feel good about themselves. A person who is humble is praiseworthy. Humility is a virtue that we express from our inner being as opposed to the vice of vainglory (arrogance/pride²). I find it interesting that the most humble people I’m acquainted with are also some of the most intelligent and confident people I know. Conversely, the most arrogant people I’ve had the displeasure of encountering are often the most insecure. I don’t think that this is a coincidence either. It is possible to be fully aware of and fully embrace one’s self worth without being pride-full.

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Humiliation stems from feelings of the shame of being judged. Shame by definition is a painful feeling. What is the point of using shame as a weapon — whether against ourselves or our fellow humans?

Sexual humility, I would argue, offers a very wide berth to love and healthy sexual intimacy.  Two sexual partners who practice humility by definition would each place the needs, desires, and joys of their partner above their own; thus, opening the door to a mutually honest, vulnerable, and loving relationship. As Brené Brown points out in The Gifts of Imperfection, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.”³ A person who is confident has no need to humiliate another person, especially not their own partner.

Sexual humiliation on the other hand, serves only self. People with a deep-seated need to humiliate their partners in order to feel better about themselves will not be found in healthy, loving relationships. Healthy sexual relationships require a great deal of open communication. People who are prone to shaming (read: emotionally abusing) their partners through humiliation are not inclined to encourage open, loving communication. In fact, they are more likely to be Narcissists who gas-light their partners. In addition, humiliating someone who is not a partner about or because of their sexuality is equally cruel and abusive.

Sexual Shame is a byproduct of humiliation. Here in the United States entire generations have been shattered by sexual shame. While some people are quick to blame religion for this dispiriting phenomenon, it is important to keep in mind that the taboo of sexuality can be secular in nature.

No one is born with shame. Cultural sexual shame is first and foremost passed down to us through our parents. Later our under-educated peers take over by dictating the norms for what is considered acceptable sex — often the same peers who don’t know the difference between a vulva and a vagina. We then get Hollywood’s take on sexuality, completely outside the moral confines of any religion, where only stunningly attractive people are lustfully engaging in 180 second sex which always results in mutual orgasms, right? Oh, and don’t forget the Internet. Of course, when you consider the fact that online body shaming is practically a cultural pastime, that’s one helluva scary thought.

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¹ For the purposes of this post, humiliation refers exclusively to the non-consensual act of humiliation.

² I make a distinction between healthy pride, as in being conscious of one’s own dignity and self-worth and self regard (satisfaction), and unhealthy pride, as in having an inordinately excessive opinion of one’s importance (narcissist).

³ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

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This post was prompted by a friend in the Blogosphere, author Linda Hill, who is offering (“Just Jot It January”) daily writing prompts for fellow bloggers. Today’s word, “Humiliate,” originated with Jim Adams, whose own entry entitled Stitches caught my eye and inspired me to write this post.

Life is Messy

Life is messy. We all know it. It is inconsistent and contradictory. It can be smooth sailing one minute and topsy turvy the next. The only constant we can rely on in this world is change. Change often brings conflict and stress. That is why it is so important that when two unique souls come together in a relationship they set boundaries and expectations and have a clear vision for their relationship together as a team. Having cohesive boundaries and explicit expectations within any familial relationship are paramount to maintaining the mental and emotional health of each of its members. It is the only way that they will be able to weather the storms life throws their way.

My spice and I are such firm believers in the messiness of life that we chose it as our family motto, vita est nuntius (“Life is messy”). We didn’t chose this motto from a stance of fear or as a warning, per se; rather we proclaim life’s messiness as a rallying cry for our family to be always prepared. To know that we are always and forever on the same team. We want to live fully, facing Life head on; and we want our children to be brave when facing the messiness of living full and daring lives. Perhaps this decision to see our family as a team, as a unit, a clan (we are Clan Allen, after all), stemmed from my spice’s military experience as a Marine. He knows firsthand the importance of the semper fidelis.

When my children were young, I would tell them every time they left our home that they were entering the “mission field” as a reminder that they would face challenges to their faith, their beliefs, and their world as they new it — certainly not to instill fear, but to nurture their emotional and mental foundation, knowing that home, The Home Clan Allen Builds, is always their fortress of refuge and strength. Home is always the one place they can come to be loved and embraced fully for who they are.

Three of Clan Allen’s explicit expectations are that: (1) we are a team and stand together protecting our family from anyone or anything that might break up our unity, (2) we are to live to the best of our ability, and with God’s merciful help, Ephesians 4:31-32: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” [which I’ll admit is often much easier quoted than done!]; and (3) only one of us gets to be “crazy” at a time. Again I’ll admit, this is easier said than done — especially when we had three teenagers in the home at the same time. Alas…

Of course it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Clan Allen. In our messy lives together, we’ve often had to remind one another, and especially our children, that Hey, we are on the same team here. Of course because life is messy, many boundaries have been crossed and expectations haven’t always been met, but having them in place has been the cornerstone of our family’s sanity. What boundaries and expectations have you and your partner, your teammate in Life, set for your familial relationships?

 

 

Hope for the Holidays

The holiday season can be a time for crazy extremes for many women. Everything around us telling us that we should be full of excitement and good cheer, but in truth we may be feeling very anxious and stressed. Let’s face it, party planning, gift hunting, and wrangling family politics aren’t always exciting ventures! You may be grieving the loss of a loved one and coping with the pain of facing your holidays without them. It can difficult to manage our expectations when everyone in holiday commercials looks like they just stepped out of the Hallmark channel.

We need to be mindful about keeping our priorities and expectations in check if we want to keep our sanity relatively stable. I recommend giving yourself a Mind, Body, Spirit check as often as possible.

MIND

Do your utmost to keep any positive thoughts in action. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have or don’t have time to do, remind yourself of what you are grateful for in life and what you have already accomplished on your holiday to-do list. Celebrate every small victory. Whether you identify as being Christian, Jewish, pagan or anything else, keeping your mind focused on what is true, honorable, lovely … and anything worthy of praise is sound advice for every mind.

BODY

This one seems a no-brainer, but is sometimes it is easier said than done. Moderation at all times, but especially during the holidays, is key for a healthy, happy body. For me it means lightening up on sugary sweets … and alcohol. Again, easier said than done; especially if all you wanna do is race home from a long hard day of wrestling with bustling holiday crowds and reward yourself a hot toddy or four! Keep your body moving because it can actually keep your energy levels up. Oh, and a little vigorous sex can be a really fun way to do this, by the way. But self-care and being kind to yourself means treating your body with the respect it deserves.

SPIRIT

This is a sacred time of year. Stay connected (or re-connect) with your Divine. Nourish and enrich your spirit, planting and watering the seeds that you want to reap in the New Year. If your goal is to practice love, patience, kindness, and gentleness with those around you, you must get in the habit of practicing love, patience, kindness, and gentleness with You first.

Remember, there is hope for the holidays. My holiday wish for you, girlfriends, is for a peaceful and gracefully contented time with those whom you love during this sacred season.

He Said Whaaat?

       Did you know “communication stress” can be one of the biggest sources of stress in relationships?

Communication. How do we communicate? Even the experts cannot agree on how many different communications styles actually exist, so how is the average Jane supposed to know how to communicate effectively? We all like to think we’re saying exactly what we mean, but when you have different styles of communication in one dialogue, things can get really confusing. Miscommunication can accelerate a discussion into an argument in only seconds. And, the reason communication is so important in a relationship is because miscommunication can lead to conflict, misunderstandings, stress, and worse.

One thing all linguistic and communication experts can agree on is that communication styles exist along a continuum. The ease or difficulty of expressing yourself and understanding you partner lies in determining how far you and your partner are from one another along the line of opposing communication extremes. And, while there can be many influences on communication styles (such as age, culture, status, geography, and even more) gender differences play a crucial role in communication.

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Scientific research has shown the men and women actually use different parts of their brain while listening which can lead to what is called conversational disconnect. I’m sure my spice would love to be able to blame our breakdowns in communication on science rather than indifference! Instead, communication is a lot more complex. Verbal, non-verbal, aggressive, passive-aggressive, assertive, manipulative, and passive communications with direct vs. indirect styles … it’s a wonder that any person can ever understand what anyone else is actually saying.

Three Perceptual Positions

 

     Have you ever listened to a couple having a conversation, and realized that neither of them are actually talking about the same thing?

Three very important things I’ve learned in life concerning communication in general are:

  1. People don’t usually listen to us in order to understand what we are saying; instead, they listen in order to respond to what we are saying.
  2. Even when people are listening to really hear us, they hear us from their own perspective, not our perspective.
  3. In any given conflict, the Truth of that situation tends to lie somewhere in the middle.

So, ladies, if you’re in a relationship with a man, this stuff is really worth investigating. The more we are aware of all the differences, the more successful we will be in communicating to get our message out in a clear and understandable manner; plus, it may help keep us from coming to wrong conclusions while listening to our partners speak. In the midst of a discussion, few couples want to stop and say, “Hey, why don’t we analyze what we’re actually trying to say here before this gets outta hand?”. It’s especially difficult  to do during a discussion or debate that is already ramping up.

One of my favorite sources on male and female differences in communication style is You Just Don’t Understand, written by the esteemed linguistic expert Deborah Tannen. I was introduced to her while at Texas Tech University and I’ve since become a something of a fan-girl.  You’re welcome to check out my resource page, on which I assure you, you’ll find her work.