TWO-DAY COUPLE INTENSIVE by Joan E. Childs, LCSW

Joan E. Childs conducts a 2-day Couple Intensive.
For details call: (954)568-1004
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Hi everyone.  I have some good news!

Sometime during the latter part of August, I will be offering, for the first time, a two day Group Intensive for Couples. This will be two full days of deep connecting, communicating and sharing your full presence with one another. I am taking no more than four couples for this event so that each couple will have the chance to receive personalized attention, as well as to learn from the work of the other couples present.

The work is based on Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy, a modality designed by Hedy Schleifer, LMFT,who has been my mentor and teacher.  I am truly excited to offer this special program to those couples who are ready for change. Inclusive in this workshop will be Inner Child Work, NLP, hypnosis, psycho-education and processing,

First come, first serve. The cost of the two- day workshop is $900.00 per couple.  This will provide couples with an opportunity to heal their relational space, promote communication and realign their relationship for a deeper and more meaningful connection.

Please contact my office to register and for further information.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Joan

(954) 568-1004

 

THE REINVENTED ME! (At almost 77)! – Joan E. Childs

Joan E. Childs, LCSW & Inspirational Keynote Speaker

Joan E. Childs, LCSW & Inspirational Keynote Speaker

 

What does it mean to be reinvented?  What does it mean to keep changing and growing?  What does it mean to fulfill your dreams and aspire to reach your full potential?

These are the values that matter to me.  So, at 3 months short of turning 77 years of age, I decided to create a new career to augment the work I have been doing for nearly 40 years.  Forty years ago I was divorced with five children all under the age of eleven.  I was a single parent, living without child support for nearly a year trying to keep a roof over my family’s head.  I had been awarded the house in my divorce settlement but did not have enough money to maintain the debt service.  The child support had been garnished by the IRS from my ex-husband’s bank accounts along with his declaring bankruptcy.  I took the $18,000 I was awarded in alimony and invested it in graduate school. So, in 1975 I went back to school to obtain an MSW.  I was 38 years old when I graduated Barry College in 1978 and had no idea where or how I would begin to get on my feet and support my family.  I was twisting in the wind not knowing how I could manage.

Raised in the 50’s, the last era of innocence in this country and coming out of the Victorian era, entering the women’s movement, I was unprepared to meet the challenges that faced me.  I was too busy raising the children and surviving to consider anything else but to fight my way into a new brave world, leaving behind the norms and values of my time.

Nearly forty years later I can look back through a rear view mirror and see myself forging a trajectory that was not always in my conscious awareness, but instead in the deepest part of my inner self.  My muse pushed, prodded, fostered and generated the energy and the fortitude it took to take me to where I am today.

In 1998 I lost my beautiful 34 year old to suicide.  Pam did not choose to leap 15 stories to her death.  Her illness, bipolar disorder, pushed her out the window.  That same year, 6 months before she passed, I lost a husband followed by my best girlfriend who passed away from breast cancer she had been battling for more than 14 years, followed by my father.  Two months later, my mother-in-law passed and then Pam.  That was the hardest year of my life, never to be forgotten.  However, that was the year I made the most important choice of my life.  Were these losses going to make me a victim, a survivor or a Phoenix, the mythological bird that rises from the ashes to become larger than life?  I chose the last because that was the ONLY choice I had.  I took the pain and transformed it into power.  Survival wasn’t enough for me.  I had to find meaning in Pam’s life and death.  I had to find a way to take the shame and stigma out of mental illness.  My mission was to help other families who suffered the same tragedy as I.  If I could do it, so could they.

So approaching my 77th year, I made a decision to reinvent myself again.  Not unlike Madonna and so many other creative people, I decided to re-engineer myself once again and launch a new career as an adjunct to my private practice and bring my message to the masses.  Unsure of what to call myself, or what to title my message, I ruminated until one day my muse, that goddess that resides within all of us, came to me as she had so many times before. A title was born: Life After Loss: Victim? Survivor? Or the Phoenix?  The choice is yours.

The loss comes in many respects.  We can lose a loved one, the worst being a child as I have.  We can lose our health, our jobs, our money, our marriage, our relationships, our beloved pet and our peace of mind.  I decided to expand my thesis from losing a child and/or loved one to any loss that causes grief.  I decided to write my next book that will be released in 2017, SEVEN STEPS TO LIFE AFTER LOSS.  My hope is to share my story, courage and healing with others who suffer losses and help them grieve until acceptance is achieved.  I want to give hope where grievers feel there is none.  I want to give solutions where grievers believe there are none.  I want to give courage where grievers lost their desire to move on.  Not unlike John Walsh, Joe Biden, and the parents of the murdered children of Sandy Hope, I have chosen to become a Phoenix and make the life and death of my daughter matter.

Stay connected to my website and read the blogs that will be posted.  Write your comments so I can receive your feedback and find the answers to the questions you have.  I have re-invented myself to become the person I was intended to be.  So can you!

 

LIFE AFTER LOSS: VICTIM, SURVIVOR OR THE PHOENIX? My choice! by Joan E. Childs

onlyono__s_new_tribal_phoenix_by_fameflame-d4q9v0mOn July 2, 1998, where this story begins.  LIFE AFTER LOSS: Victim, Survivor or the Phoenix?  My choice… My 34-year-old brilliant and beautiful daughter leaped to her death from the window of her father’s fifteen-story apartment. After the shock and grief swept through me like an emotional tsunami, I realized I had choices. Would I become a victim of this nightmare? Would I manage to survive and live my life in quiet desperation, forever swallowed in thoughts and images of her plunging to the concrete below, or would I find a mission and purpose for my life and meaning from her death? As a mother of five children and psychotherapist for nearly 40 years, I chose the latter and decided to take my story and rise from the ashes of my pain and suffering and regenerate to help others who suffered the same tragedy.
VICTIM, SURVIVOR OR THE PHOENIX is my story. It is the story of how I moved on from my loss and grief. It is a story of heartbreak and despair that morphed into victory. I, like many others before and after me, made a conscious choice to become a Phoenix, not unlike the mythological bird that rises from the ashes and renews itself to become more powerful than ever before. The ashes became the fertile soil for my rebirth. I felt that if I could do this, so could others. My mission is to share my story in order to give hope and courage to others who suffered loss and grief. It is also to wipe away the shame and stigma of mental illness.
Not unlike John Walsh, who’s son Adam was kidnapped and murdered, or Nicole Hackley, Dylan’s mom, and Mark Barden, Daniel’s Dad, and all the other parents who lost their precious children in the horrors of the Sandy Hook Massacre, as well as the husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, moms and dads, children and grandchildren who died on a battle field in some God-forsaken land, giving their lives to their country, and all those who passed away from terminal illness, accidents, murder, or suicide, I chose the path of the Phoenix. They too created meaning for their lost loved ones, never to be forgotten.
My book, WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder chronicles her story from diagnosis to death and the trials and tribulations we all endured along with her suffering and the sub-standard mental health system we couldn’t overcome. It was only after my first book signing event that I realized the need and importance of sharing my experience and knowledge with others who suffered the loss of a loved one. It was only after this event that I saw the hunger and yearning for information about mental illness and its manifestations in our culture causing more than 40,000 suicides a year with nearly one million attempts.
Adversity escapes no one. It’s part of life. It’s how we cope with our loss and grief that determines if we become a victim, a survivor or a Phoenix. The choice is ours.

FLYING SOLO – JOAN E. CHILDS

osprey-bird-in-flight_flying soloALONE AGAIN…….NATURALLY
Just got dumped? Filed for divorce? Your fiancé got cold feet and cancelled the wedding? Ex-wife wants to reconcile? Found out your honey had another on the side? No good guys/gals in sight? Don’t worry! Being solo for a while might be a refreshing surprise; that is, if you know what to do.
Staying sane and single can be a challenge, but can offer some pleasant surprises. Here are 7 tips to make the ride a pleasant journey.
#1 Begin to think of you first. Start making plans that include activities that you love to do. Sign up for a ski class, tennis class, yoga class, dance class, Spanish class, computer class, etc. Choose anything that you have wanted to do but your relationship swallowed up your time and didn’t allow for personal stuff to take center stage.
#2 Think vacation! Travel alone on a single’s cruise or a Club Med, or ask a friend or family member to get away for a few days. Sometimes, just a change of pace and scenery, can be liberating and help your healing.
#3 Take some time to discover you. Spend some nights alone and find that waking in the morning without a bed partner can be tolerable; perhaps even pleasant. For sure you won’t die! Try using meditation, say positive affirmations to yourself, (i.e.: I am a worthy person; I deserve happiness and joy; I am complete and lovable.) Take baths, pump iron, stretch, work out, read a book and watch old movies to entertain yourself. Gals its cheaper and more satisfying than spending time choosing an outfit, primping, applying make-up, and wearing shoes that kill your feet and your pocketbook. Guys, think of all the money you’ll save while taking time out to know yourself and going out with yourself. Go ahead: Veg out, chill out, zone out and have a good cry. It cleanses the soul! Journaling is a wonderful way to discharge your feelings and sharing time with good friends who are supportive and listen well is the best. It’s a great way to know who your real friends are. If you get challenged critically, judged or stone-walled, move on to new friends or a therapist who can provide an opportunity for personal growth and development. This break-up just might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. You may not see it now, but in time, as you look back you will realize that it was for the best. One of my favorite sayings, is “If God doesn’t open the door, stop banging on it! What’s behind was not meant for you!”
#4. Exercise! It worked for Forest Gump and it will work for you. Bike, run, walk, work out, swim or participate in a sport. Exercising is like exorcising. Revving up those endomorphins is a great release to rid you of bad feelings. Masturbation is not a bad idea either! You’ll meet a better class of people!
#5. Spend some quality time with your girlfriends. In the end, you’ll discover they matter the most anyway. Boyfriends come and go; husbands do the same; kids grow up and start their own lives, but girlfriends are forever. Furthermore, no one understands a chick’s pain better than another chick. Maybe you’ll have to pay for your own dinner, but the nurturing, empathy, understanding, support and friendship is well worth it. Dudes simply don’t have the programming in their brains to do what your girlfriends can do. A champion fight or basketball game will take precedent over a“let’s talk” every time.
#6. Pamper yourself. Get a massage; change your hair color or style, sign up for a spa day, relax! Nothing works like treating yourself like a princess.
#7 Check out some dating sites. See what’s out on the market. Most therapists would agree that spending alone time for a while is the best medicine, but nothing works better for enhancing self esteem than finding a dude who thinks you’re gorgeous and wants to get into yours pants. Remember, you are vulnerable, so you don’t want to put all your emotional eggs in a new basket, but it sure feels good to know that there’s a dude with a hard on just waiting for a response from you. One word of advice: Don’t let hot sex replace a good solid healthy adult relationship. Too often women make the mistake of confusing sex with love once they go between the sheets. If you have this problem, be aware. Chicks tend to project what they want to see on a dude when it’s not really who they are. So beware!
In reality, there really is no quick fix to get over a broken heart. Time, talking out your feelings, and having faith that things happen the way they are meant to be, are your best resources. Learning to let go, forgiving your dude and most of all, forgiving yourself for anything you might blame yourself for. Never look back with regrets. Shit happens, we go on to something that may be better than what we lost and we hold our heads high with dignity and the knowledge that we are too good to feel this bad!
When I went through a heartfelt break-up, it was my inner adult voice that I kept hearing. She spoke to me like a Wise Old Women residing in my soul. I know this archetypal energy exists in all of us. It was she who told me to write. So writing became my release, my nocturnal companion. It was writing that nurtured my wounds and discharged my pain. When my last lover chose to close the door to what I thought would be my last chance at love, I took to writing to a book. Still in process, it gives me a vehicle to let go and accept what I thought would be impossible.
Whether you write, paint, play an instrument, sing, dance or act, find your bliss, use it and I promise it will bring you the relief and transformation you yearn for. Trust that you have all the resources within you. Just look inside and give yourself permission to use what you already have. We already know what we don’t know that we already knew!

THE CATASTROPHIC COST OF CODEPENDENCY – Joan Childs, LCSW

 

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DEFINING TERMS

Codependency has been around since time memoriam. In the early 19th century Rabbi Mendel was quoted saying, “If I am because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you. But, if I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you”. ~ R’Mendel of Kotzk. (Buber, 2002)

We finally gave it a name sometime back in the 80’s when Melodie Beattie wrote a book called Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself (Beattie, 1986) Since then others have attempted to define it (Morgan, 1991). The syndrome was originally coined and named when she was working at Hanley Hazelton with recovering addicts and alcoholics. She identified the significant others to the addicts as co-dependent, implying that the addict was addicted to a substance, but the significant other was addicted to the addict. Hence the concept now had an official title.

A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

The birth of “codependency” traveled many roads since that time. It became infiltrated into the psyche of individuals who did not feel whole without another. Many people could not connect to themself. They needed another to survive and were now the recipients of receiving the title of being “codependent”. As the years passed, the word became part of our everyday vernacular. We would hear things like, “She is so codependent”, or” they are so codependent on each other. They don’t know where one ends and the other begins.” It seems that eventually everyone was codependent to a greater or lesser degree. It’s the greater degree that defines the syndrome. Everyone needs someone. What we know about neuro-biology is that the brain is the only organ in the body that needs another brain to be regulated. (Tatkin, Stan PsyD.MFT Wired for Love (2011) New Harbinger Publishing Co.) Martin Buber, the famous Jewish philosopher tells us that we are hard wired for connection; that when we disconnect, we go into crisis.

DEPENDENCY IN OUR CULTURE

Our culture has marinated the concept of codependency with songs like, I can’t live, if living is without you, or I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the woods and needs someone to watch over me, or you’re nobody till somebody loves you! I am sure if you reflect on the lyrics of these songs whether you lived in the 50’s or grew up in the 80’s, you will be able to think of several songs that imply the need to have someone in your life to fulfill your needs and make you whole.
Movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Woman, Jerry Mcquire (Arch, 1993; Lawton, 1990;Crowe, 1996) and so many of the Disney Princess stories we grew up on like Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty , and especially Ariel from The little Mermaid, who changes her species to be with a human (Peralta, 1950; Grimm, 1937;Penner, 1959; Andersen, 1937 ). These stories all reinforce the old belief that “someday my prince will come” and we will live “happily ever after”, implying that we just need to meet the right man who will become our prince, save us and secure our happiness.

MEN AND WOMEN
The truth is that codependency features both men and women in real life who play out those Disney roles very well. There are men who seek out damsels in distress in order to feel self worth and there are women who always seem to need rescuing. They invariably find each other. It is true that “people need people” as Barbra Streisand belts out, however when it becomes excessive and you lose yourself in another, then it is defined as pathology.
It has been discovered when working with addicts that after the behavior was modified, the disease of the disease emerged: codependency. It seemed that every recovering addict exhibited codependent behaviors that were acted out and covered up with some sort of addiction. The basis of this disease was childhood neglect, abandonment or abuse. Somewhere in the family of origin there was a disconnect, thus a crisis that led many to self medicate. This was accomplished either by choosing a substance, behavior or person as their drug of choice. Many were cross-addicted.
Once uncovered and discovered, recovery was possible. Growing up in dysfunctional families where a child could not have his/her feelings, or there were “no talk” rules and family secrets, children were rendered powerless over the behaviors and control of their parents. The child had to adapt in order to survive. In the process of adaptation, the child creates a false self or an “adapted self” to survive. When this occurs, the authentic self-retreats and a survival mode is installed. The child becomes hyper-vigilant because there is little or no predictability in the family dynamics. Living in a state of hyper-vigilance causes further separation from the true self. As the child continues to grow and develop he/she seeks pleasure as a way of avoiding the chronic state of tension and fear that so often accompanies this state. The longer this goes on, the more separation from the true self occurs. This is systemic so everyone in the family has to adapt to live in the system. It’s a system that creates “crazy making” and ensures codependency!
As the child grows into maturation, the false self matures along leaving the authentic self further behind creating the expression, “the lost or wounded child.” This separation between the two selves creates turmoil, stress and an intra-personal disconnect. One literally loses oneself. Human beings forge towards pleasure and retreat from pain. By the time the child is grown he/she needs to find ways to manage these negative feelings. That’s when addiction is born.
Addiction is a way of managing feelings. The drug of choice can be different in each individual. Some will use a substance to manage their feelings; others gambling, sex, love, eating disorders, work, shopping, excessive exercise and so on. The content is irrelevant. It’s the structure that matters. Whatever the drug of choice, addiction is addiction. It’s simply something you can’t stop! In more psychological terminology, addiction is a pathological relationship with a substance, behavior or person that has mood altering effects and life threatening consequences.
THE COST
So what’s the cost of codependency? It’s not only substances that kill. Codependency may be a killer too. When you make choices out of a need to please or not to rock the boat, you may be putting your own life at risk, both emotionally and physically. The price of nice can be the demise of one’s own life. One of the best illustrations I can offer you is what happened to me when I put other’s wishes and interests before my own, so not to disappoint them. I’ll present a case study depicting how it nearly cost a life.
A CASE STUDY: LOST AT SEA
This story takes place in Cancun when Joan was not yet forty years old. Her husband, George an architect was designing a property for a developer. The developer was an experienced diver who had previously been an oceanographer. Neither she nor her husband had ever dived. They traveled to Cancun frequently and were invited to dive with both the developer and his partner. Joan suggested to take diving instructions and become certified before venturing into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico where Frederick, the developer would often go diving.
Upon completing the certification, the couple joined the others on dives. On one particular day when the men wanted to go out, Joan assessed the weather and water and saw that the conditions were everything they were taught not to go diving in. The swells were too high, the water was murky and the wind was rapidly rising. When Joan refused to join them, she was shamed and judged for “spoiling their good time”. “Don’t be a party pooper, Frederick said in a disparaging tone. “Come on, it will be fine”, said the partner, Miguel although admittedly anxious about the conditions as well. “Don’t worry. They know what they’re doing.” George said with confidence. So as not to displease them and be the “good girl”, Joan subjugated her own feelings and will, and capitulated to their wishes, intuitively knowing that she was making a poor choice, but reluctantly followed along with them.
The water was too choppy to jump backwards off the boat as was usual and customary, so they went down an anchor line. Joan was last to go down the line and by the time she found her way down, she could not see anything except the flippers on Miguel. Her husband George and Frederick were nowhere in sight. So her only option was to follow the flippers on Miguel’s feet. After about half an hour, unable to see anything of interest, she signaled to Miguel to surface. When they rose to the top there was no sound or sight of the boat. They were in twelve feet swells struggling to spit out the water that rushed into their mouths. Miguel swiftly handed Joan the end of his spear so they would not get separated. They doggie paddled for more than an hour until she began to feel weak.
Joan knew she was in trouble so she suggested that they dive to the bottom together, where they had learned from the diving instructor that the first foot of water from the bottom of the ocean floor had no current. Miguel tried to convince her that they would be found, but she knew differently. They had been in a current that brought them from where they first began, close to four or five miles out to sea. They were now literally between Cancun and Isle Mujeres. She could see the coast of Cancun. Learning that they should never dive without a buddy, she chose to drop her diving gear except for her goggles, BC (buoyancy compensator), snorkel and her flippers. She began swimming diagonally as had been taught by her diving instructor in case of such an incident, back to Cancun, leaving Miguel behind as was his choice.
Joan swam exchanging positions from back to front for five and one half hours while encountering a school of barracuda, some lemon sharks and a few stingrays until the boat, making its last round to search for them, finally picked her up. She was exhausted, fearful but mostly enraged that she allowed herself to join them on this dangerous expedition against her own better judgment. She had given up her own sense and sensibilities to accommodate and please the others. This was a hard lesson for her to learn, but one that she has never forgotten. It became transformational in her behavior. Hard lessons are often necessary for change to occur.
Yes, they found Miguel; only God knows how. Codependency can be catastrophic. Codependency can kill!

 

Come On Baby, Light My Fire!

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The proverbial question that keeps popping up is “How can I keep the passion in my relationship? The answer is simple: You can’t. Love changes as time moves on, so relax. That doesn’t mean that love has ended. It only means that it has entered a new phase. Love can actually grow in other ways that produce the chemical called Oxytocin, instead of that original Dopamine high that took your breath away in the beginning of your relationship. Oxytocin can provide the warm fuzzies and the feelings of caring that come after the honeymoon stage. This is the stage where “after the lovin’” happens. If understood and appreciated, your relationship can take on new feelings that are very satisfying.

There’s a dip that occurs in all long term relationships because we were tricked by nature. Nature meant for us to make more of us, so when we no longer need babies, the fire that once prompted that outcome, tends to diminish over time. So we need to trick ourselves into other ways of keeping the passion. Creating romance by using your imagination, fantasies and communication can foster those old feelings.

What we know is that relationships grow and evolve as we do. Too often people can grow apart. It’s the second stage of the relationship that becomes the most vulnerable, sometime after the honeymoon is over. This is the time when the boundaries bounce back up and each person has to learn how to negotiate the differences. This is the time that most divorces occur. It’s not too unlike the second stage of development in life: “the terrible twos.” The idea is to grow together, closer and stronger. You may have many partners, husbands and wives in the same relationship as time moves on; each better and more mature than the one before. Relationships tend to deepen in intimacy as time passes; not too unlike wine. Time can either create richer, more fulfilling, and meaningful relationships if the time spent with one another, nourishes the soul of each other, or it can become fermented and spoiled over time if it is left unattended. It is our responsibility to see that we nurture and tend to our relationship as one would a vineyard or a garden. We need to learn the language of our partner, see him/her with a new set of warm eyes beneath their survival self. Underneath each of our survival selves lives the authentic self and when two people are in their essence, time is eternal. Only then are we able to see the other for who they really are and what they really need and want.

So many relationships are unconsciously created as a result of unfinished business with our source relationships; our mothers and fathers. So, unwittingly we search out partners whom we actually hire for the job to attempt to resolve our unresolved childhood issues. They are usually the perfect match. So the patterns learned from childhood get re-enacted with what we think is our “soul mate”, only to discover that the “soul mate” is really a replica of the parent we had the most difficulty with. Unless we have a professional who understands the theory of recapitulation, (repeating the past) and has tools to help couples work through their “stuck” places, there is little or no hope to move the relationship forward to a mature level of intimacy and healthy relational space. It’s the relational space that we live in. It’s the same space that our children play in. So we have an obligation as partners to help clean up that space to make it safe and once again sacred. When this is accomplished, the dopamine levels rise again, but with a new landscape of pleasure that’s better than before. This is when passion transcends into relational maturity. It doesn’t get better than this!

Follow me along with this concept of transforming your relationship from dysfunctional to loving and lasting. I will present seven true stories over the next seven weeks that will give you an opportunity to visit real people with real problems and be a part of their personal recovery and self-actualized relationships.

Oh Where, Oh Where Did My Sexy Self Go? Maggie’s Story

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MAGGIE’S STORY
Maggie: I thought I was going to go crazy. I hated Michael; I hated his voice; I hated his walk; I hated his smell and I hated the way he chewed his food. Everything Michael did was repulsive to me and sex was the last thing I wanted. Worst of all, we were married, had 2 teenagers and had an upside down mortgage. Michael lost his job soon after the recession started and that’s when I lost interest in sex. He was earning a good living as a manager of a major department store. We both thought he had job security since over the years he had moved up in the company to an executive position. The company paid for our health insurance, provided a 401K and gave us a 3 week paid vacation. In addition to his yearly salary, we enjoyed the bonus he received every year as the store’s earning increased yearly and Michael took home a nice chunk of change. The money was appropriated for a vacation, some of it for house improvements and new clothes for the boys. Within seven months Michael lost his job, his bonus that we had already appropriated for our yearly family vacation and we were about to lose all our health benefits. Two years ago we took out a home equity loan to begin the addition onto the house and this year we were building a swimming pool. All our hopes, wishes and dreams were shattered due to the economic crisis. We were the victims of something we never saw coming. My job was still intact. I was a teacher; however, in order to compensate for Michael’s loss of income, I had to take a second job teaching Pilates three evenings a week at a fitness center. Michael became depressed and his depression infiltrated our relationship. It felt like a malignancy that was gripping us. I became angry and my anger exacerbated his depression and impacted our marriage. We were a mess!
My best friend, Phyllis, a therapist, coached me into counseling. She suggested someone she thought could be helpful and who would understand my feelings. Phyllis felt a professional was exactly what I needed and she couldn’t counsel me due to our friendship. Thank God for girlfriends! I made an appointment and, with more reluctance than hope, I went to my first session. I didn’t know what to expect. The problem seemed so obvious to me that paying money for professional help was irrational and not necessary. Anyone with half a brain could figure out why I was so angry. Not so. Being clueless to the therapeutic process, I thought after he heard my lamenting over our economic crisis, he would say something like, “Save your money, use it to pay down your credit card debt and as soon as Michael finds a job, you will be back to normal.” It was nothing like that. That was the furthest thing from what he presented to me.
Sam, my therapist asked me some questions about myself, my parents, siblings, school, etc. I suppose that’s what they all do on the first session; gather information. Then towards the end of that session he asked what I wanted to achieve from the therapy. “To get my sexy self back in this marriage and feel good about Michael”, I responded without hesitation.
“Good. That’s a positive goal. It’s going to take some time and patience, but, in the end, the results will be worth it.”
In the second session, Sam explored some more of my history. When he asked about the relationship between my parents and how they resolved conflicts, I went back to the same old movie. I heard my mother’s hostile words charging across to my father who stayed silent until he could no longer bear her shrills. Although I had forgotten most of the content, I couldn’t forget her face squinting up revealing her scowl lines between her eyes and ropes emerging from her neck. In that moment I disappeared and morphed into a little girl feeling helpless and scared. I never really understood why she was angry, except that seemed to be her general state as I gazed back thru my rear view mirror in my mind.
“My mother was always angry”, I said in almost a whisper. “ Dad had lost his job. I don’t remember why. It was something about a merger, now that I’m thinking about it. I remember he was out of work for a long time after the company he worked for merged with a company that bought them out. My father had been with them since before I was born. Then without warning, his job was gone, probably replaced by the new company’s staff. “ I went silent for a few moments. I stared into the past. Sam said nothing. He just looked at me as if there was a moment of insight between us. Then I remembered my grandmother, (my mother’s mother) telling me how bad it was when she was married. They went through the Great Depression and had to stand in long lines just to buy bread. She told me stories about the depression that made me feel so sorry for them and so scared that it might happen again. I felt like the movie in my head was giving me hints as to why I was so bitter towards Michael. My unconscious fear had become my rage. It all came to a crashing epiphany. I had carried that nightmare for two generations holding on to both my mother’s and my grandmother’s history shrouded in fear, anger and despair. When Michael lost his job, it triggered my fear and all my family’s history was brought into my present relationship. Michael was the recipient of the collective unconscious of my mother and my grandmother’s history. That was just the beginning of my treatment. Now he had to help me heal those wounds of childhood.
Sam used many different techniques in treatment that allowed me to confront my history and how I felt when I was little and too helpless and innocent to fully understand what was going on. I was only a container for the feelings I heard expressed. Sam had to somehow desensitize my past to liberate my present. His tools were designed more for experiential work by going into my feelings, leaving the cognitive stuff for later. He used methods that were foreign to my friends who had been in therapy. He called it experiential psychotherapy. I didn’t care what he called it, only that it helped me.
In a few months I noticed my behavior changing towards Michael and I felt the tension leaving my body like a ghost. The knot that was living inside my gut left with it. I felt that I had broken the ties with my past and could be free to live my own life. When I looked at Michael, I saw the man I married; not my father or grandfather who so vehemently disappointed my mother and grandmother. I became un-enmeshed from my history. I could now be more patient and supportive to Michael while he was going though this rough patch.
With the therapy and giving back the shame to the people who gave it to me, I learned to accept my situation and trust that Michael would work again, and our family would be OK. I learned that life can sometimes throw some curve balls. So, we have to be ready when they come flying out of left field. But, you can’t get to second base if you have one foot on first.

OH WHERE, OH WHERE DID MY SEXY SELF GO? – Jessica’s Story

tanga-109155_640Jessica: I was the hottest chic in town. I had a few nose jobs, boob jobs, a pretty face, long, beautiful raven hair that cascaded down my shoulders, a hot body and I made men wild. All I had to do was show up! When I married Richard, he thought he won the lottery! I satisfied every inch of his mind, body and spirit. I sucked his lips, his toes and his cock. We spent the first 6 weeks in bed which we left only to void, have some coffee and shower. We ordered in food, took baths together, lit candles, drank wine, sucked on chocolates, danced around the house naked until we fell into each other’s arms only to do it all over again. And then…….something happened that was inexplicable. My sensual pleasuring diminished slowly until after about a year I noticed it vanished. Why? I knew I loved sex before. Why had I suddenly gone dry? Why had Richard been unable to titillate the girl who never had to be titillated? Now 6 weeks had gone by without the lust we knew so well just one year ago. What made my sexuality vanish?
Richard hadn’t changed that much. He still had his warm brown doe shaped eyes. He still stood 6’3” in his bare feet. He still wore the same cologne and the same size pants and shirt. Richard looked just like the picture on our wall that was taken on our wedding day. And, so did I. How could one year of marriage change my sexual behavior so radically? I knew the answer, but didn’t want to admit it. I wanted Richard then; perhaps more than anyone I had ever known. He was kind, sexy, rich and madly in love with me. He could offer me a life style that every girl dreamed about. I knew I made him fall in love with me. It was my mission to do just that. I knew I was a femme fatale and capable of bringing most men to their knees. Had I really been in love or was Richard just a conquest?

Every man I ever dated lusted for me. I drove them crazy and when I won them over, I dumped them. I never married any of them because I waited for someone like Richard to come along. I felt I could be faithful, sensual and make him happy. Boy was I wrong. If I had to be honest with myself, I just wanted to conquer this guy because he was the hottest, most eligible bachelor around. What a trophy husband he would make. Only I didn’t know this about myself. It was only in therapy that I learned I was an addict; a love addict. I needed men like an alcoholic needs a drink. I thirsted for a man who I could conquer in order to satisfy my low self esteem. Now you may wonder why a woman like me, beautiful, sexy, intelligent and classy would have a low self esteem. After all, I had the face, the figure, an alluring personality capable of getting whomever I chose. How could that be a representation of someone with a low self-esteem? With the help of my therapist and long term treatment, I was able to uncover my authentic self. It wasn’t easy. It took a few years, but it was the best investment I ever made. The rewards were more than I ever expected. In fact, once I realized that my need to conquer men was a result of my abandonment issues in early childhood, I was able to not only heal the little girl in me, but my marriage as well. It wasn’t Richard who caused me to lose my sexuality, it was my toxic shame and pain from early childhood losses that were carried into my adult life and brought into my relationships. My need to conquer fed my ego, but only temporarily. I needed more and more. It was an insatiable wound that could never be filled. Once I discovered my wounded child and learned how to nurture her spirit and affirm her, (something I had been missing all my life), my true self emerged. I learned how to love myself, something I didn’t even know I lacked. Once I could love myself, I was able to love another.
I was fortunate. Richard was patient and relentless. He knew there was someone inside me who was very wounded and needed help. He also knew he could not fix me. He encouraged me to get professional help before we threw in the towel. Our marriage was on the brink of disaster and it was divorce or counseling. I chose the latter and we went together. But soon into the couple’s sessions, our therapist uncovered my history and saw the dots beginning to connect. She suggested I come in and work with her alone for a while. As she uncovered my past, she and I discovered that I had been abused by abandonment and left alone to prove that I was worthy. I used my sexuality to get my needs met, (that was all I thought I had), but that never really worked because I had to learn to love who I was. If my parents couldn’t love me, then how was I to know how to love myself? How was I to feel loveable? It was my therapist who mentored me through my past, guiding me and supporting me with tools and resources that I never knew existed. As I healed, so did our marriage.
Today, Richard and I have 3 daughters and although our sexual life has shifted from what it was to what it is, we are both engaging in a loving, sexual relationship that meets our needs and enriches our lives. My sexual dysfunction was about me and my history. Once I resolved my past, my present became authentic.

The Legend of The Lost Libido

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Everyone knows that over time relationships shift: sometimes for the better; sometimes for the worse. This will depend on how you tend to it. Relationships are like gardens. They need nurturing, weeding and care if we want them to grow, blossom and maintain their beauty. The time you give to your garden is no different than the time and care you give to your relationship. Communication in our relationships is as paramount as water to a garden. It is essential for survival.
In the beginning of all relationships, everyone puts their best foot forward. When we enter the first stage, commonly known as “the falling in love” stage, all our boundaries collapse; we can’t wait to see each other and our sexual appetite is perennially aroused. But then comes the next phase, when the newness wears off, and we get comfortable. This is when our authentic self emerges. However, our survival self makes a grand entrance when we have a conflict.
This concludes the honeymoon stage.
Usually, the first things that begins to evaporate are the barrage of multiple daily phone calls, the “I love you’s” along with our sexual desire. What follows is usually a shift in the show of affection; those tender moments that we cherished from the beginning, when his arm was around your shoulder, hands were held and good night kisses were a ritual, now begin to fade. It is replaced with discovering the deficits in our partner that were not visible in the first stage. Finding fault with each other is the first level of pollution to enter the relational space in which the couple lives; faults that were not evident in the first stage. Even if they were, we were not willing to see or acknowledge them. It’s a strange phenomenon, but once we get between the sheets, we project what we want to see on each other; not necessarily what is there. These projections are often the cause of disappointment, disillusion and bitterness. What is worse is that most people avoid communicating their feelings, fearful that being honest may upset the homeostasis of the relationship. The unconscious or conscious fear is that if I express my anger or hurt him/her, my partner might end the relationship. This is not true. The truth is, that avoidance it worse. Avoidance brews “the collecting of stamps”, and one day, the energy that gets lodged, breaks loose, and bites you in the ass. We tend to act out what we don’t communicate. Acting out is taking a feeling and translating it into a behavior. Our feelings are energy: e- motions, energy in motion. Stuffing them only makes them stronger until our container can no longer contain them. So what happens is they come out the side, worse than if we spoke our truth from the get go. Our insecurities rule our behavior and cause us to make poor choices.
One of the first things to lose its luster is our sexuality. When we are hurt or angry, we simply lose our sexual interest. Effective communication is crucial. It will always make things better. However, most folks don’t know how to communicate effectively. They never had healthy models of behavior to learn from. Bottom line: If your relationship is healthy, then the sex will be great! One of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship is effective communication and “the visit” across the bridge to our partner’s neighborhood.
Here is a simple and effective communication model that will help convert fighting into a healthy disagreement. It is called THE CHANGE MODEL. If used correctly, it will avoid triggering your partner into a knee jerk response that so often accelerates into a fight that takes off into every direction except your original intent. It’s simple; self responsible, using “I” messages that avoids the pain and discomfort that usually comes from disagreements.
Here is what it looks like:
When I hear/see (disturbing words or behaviors we notice from our partner)_______Our perceptions
I feel angry, hurt, disappointed, sad, etc______________________________________Our feelings
What I imagined, thought, fantasized etc, __________________________________Our interpretation
What I need___________________________________________________________Our needs
Can we agree?_________________________________________________________contract
When we use words like “you, never, always” (example: “You made me angry. You never consider my feelings; You are always late”), that becomes an invitation for a fight. When we use “I” messages, (self responsible statements), it engages our partner into listening without becoming defensive. This allows us to be heard and understood. Our partners will not get defensive if we own our perceptions, feelings, interpretations and needs. Conflict resolution is the result.
Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher said that human beings are wired for connection. If we disconnect, we go into crisis. It’s only in a relationship that we can know who we really are. Neuro-biology notes that we need another brain to resonate with our own. The brain is the only organ in our body that does not regulate itself from within. In needs another brain to do so. In his own words, he says, “Our relationships live in the space between us which is sacred.” He also says, “The meaning is to be found neither in one of the two partners nor in both together, but in their dialogue itself, in this `between´ which they live together.”
Next: five stories that illustrate this thesis