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How to embrace your authenticity. Daring to be yourself.

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Back when I first training to become a therapist I was told I didn’t have “therapist hair” and everyone would questions my qualifications and no one would take me seriously with this hair and I’d have to revamp my entire image and go and buy some “office clothes.”

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I was told I needed to take out my piercings and brush out my dreads and look “normal” and “presentable”- whatever that means.
I understand there’s an expecatation to dress in a professional manner sure but how can I speak to my clients about authentically being themselves if I’m so busy trying to turn myself into something I’m not. If I can’t walk my walk and talk my talk how can I expect my clients to!
I want to see a therapist who lives their life honouring their authentic truth.
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Authenticity is about making informed decisions based on your own self knowledge.
The philosopher Allan Bloom called the self “the mysterious, free, unlimited center of our being.”
Our society places a lot of emphasis on masking our true self to please others expectations or to conform.  However if we are playing out the projections others put onto us we are not living out our authentic Self.
This authentic Self is always trying to come to our attention no matter how much we try and push it down and ignore it. Our own authentic self gets buried under painful childhood memories and other emotional and mental baggage.
Often our inner critic is such a harsh monster that as we try to balance it out by sucking up any validation or flattery we can find. Our true self gets buried in this to and fro conflict.
This  deep inner craving for authenticity that is with us all throughout our life. It impacts how we exist in relationships, sexual relating, work and play.
I see my clients wearing masks and how it can make them so unhappy. Have you felt trapped in a routine or life that doesn’t seem like your own? It might feel like emptiness or self betrayal or it might come out as the fear of not being liked or wanted. Perhaps you feel like you must fit in with whoever you are hanging out with and keep your opinion to yourself for fear of upsetting anyone?

When I was a young teenager I first started falling in love with the music and expression of metal and punk music. I shaved the sides of my head with razors, had black and pink dreadlocks and mohawks and had so much fun expressing myself however I liked. This was long before it became fashionable and it was pretty ‘out there’ at the time.

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I used material dye to dye my hair shades of purple and green. That was before I discovered this one little store at Centrepoint in Sydney that sold blue, pink and purple Directions hair dye.  I pierced my nose with a safety pin when I was 15 and made clothes myself and ripped up op shops clothes into new articles of clothing.. These decisions all emanated from my own inner values about who I was and embracing the DIY spirit on as many levels as possible.

I was expressing my need for creativity. This was my fundamental authentic truth.

My hair was symbolic to me of feeling comfortable with who I was. Obviously hair is just a simple example and I could go much more deeper but it’s enough to highlight my point.
The reason I’m bring up these younger examples is because I want to ask you this question– What did your younger Self absolutely love to do?
What things were really fun for your younger self and how did you pass your leisure time?
What did you do on your weekends?
Did you love climbing trees? Make time to include activites in your life now that you loved as a child. Let go of how silly you might feel or how your inner critic tries to talk you out of it. Have fun and remember the fun things you did as a kid.

What did your younger self dream of for their older adult self and how is that different to where you’re at right now?

Did young you dream of being a writer, a vet or a sailor? Even if now you can’t become a vet, you can still volunteer at your local animal shelter. Even if you didn’t  become a sailor, perhaps spend a day off at the Maritime Museum, explore a naval vessel on its open day or hire a boat for the day with friends.

Get back in touch with what you’ve pushed down to the side.

 
Getting in touch with those things that made us so happy when we were younger before we were bogged down with adult responsibilities can help us get back in touch with fun and our authentic selves.

Shaping fun self care activities is authenticity at work.

Don’t bother with the self care 101 exercises you read in magazines unless they appeal to you. Do the specific self care exercises that feed your inner child and inner adolescent. Authentic self care isn’t a cookie cutter on size fits all process.

Be prepared that it won’t be easy. This self knowledge isn’t for the faint of heart and sometimes it can be scary to be authentic.

Showing up and sharing your gifts is what the world needs more of.

My partner won’t have sober sex with me

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Dear Cat,

I met my girlfriend three months ago when we were both working in a rock n’roll nightclub together. Alcohol was always flowing, it was party central and we would always have drinks together after work. We hooked up the second time we met and had the hottest sex ever. Everything happened so fast and she was so wild in bed!

We moved in together in June three weeks after we first met. After living together a while I’ve started to clue in that she is never sober when we get down n’ dirty.  I thought cos of work that when we lived together we could have nice Sunday or Monday morning slow loving sober sex but it hasn’t happened.  She always has at least a few drinks before getting it on with me or maybe more.  One time I suggested getting it on and it was a Sunday arvo. She went to the bottlo and came back sculling tequila straight from the bottle. The sex was mind blowing but I felt weird about it.

I suggested we both do dry July to have a break from alcohol but she only lasted one week.

If she’s sober she isn’t interested in me sexually at all. No affection or nothing. She won’t fuck me, touch me or even pash me. It sucks and I feel unattractive.

She broke her dry July because she couldn’t hack it and our sex celibate spell ended.

Is there something wrong with me that she needs to get drunk to have sex with me?

I thought she was a “wild child” but I think maybe she’s insecure and anxious but maybe it’s me? She doesn’t seem to be able to talk about her feelings to me.

Jen

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Hi Jen,

Thanks for getting in touch and sharing with us so honestly.  I can really feel your confusion and hurt about this and it must be a challenging time. It’s surprinsingly common that a lot of people struggle to have sober sex but there’s ways to solve this. I’m sure there’s a lot of people reading this that can relate to your experience.

In most of the instances I’ve come across like this, it’s usually nothing to do with your personally. The fact she can’t talk about her emotions with you is quite typical in people that use addictive behaviours to cope. Addictive use of drugs, alcohol or food can a smokescreen to avoid intimacy and looking within, getting too close or being too vulnerable.

It sounds like the sexual side of the relationship moved very fast before you knew each other very well and you’ve moved in very quickly together. This can be quite typical for someone with addictive behaviours and I will  talk more about that later.

Your partner is using alcohol to mask the deeper problems that aren’t allowing her to have sober sex with you. These are usually her own personal problems that interweave her use of alcohol in with her sex life and feeling vulnerable.

I’d love for you to come see me in person in my Sydney rooms or via skype to work through these issues. This would enable us to get to the bottom of what’s motivating the drinking before sex behaviour so we can overcome it.

Alcohol can relax us and make us lose our inhibitions. Some people rely on alcohol to “self medicate” themselves for their anxiety, fears or give themselves a false sense of confidence. It’s worrying to hear how your girlfriend is always using alcohol as a crutch to enable her to be sexual with you.

In our sessions together I would work with your partner with specific exercises where she can feel relaxed, less anxious and more confident without any drugs involved. These engage her unconscious and calm down her anxiety.  You can then do these exercises together to help you get in the right head state before intimacy occurs without relying on alcohol. We can also talk about creating the right mood and atmosphere before sex occurs for her to feel relaxed and comfortable.

I would like to explore her sexual history and previous sexual experiences in our sessions together to understand more what’s going on. Does she have any shame or trauma surrounding her sexuality or sexual expression? How is her self esteem and sexual self esteem?

The research shows us that women who are anxious, worried about or averse to sex, are more likely to drink. A Canadian study found a direct correlation with anxious, over stressed personality traits and being motivated to drink alcohol in order to cope better.

A study from the University of Washington concluded that people were much more likely to partake in risky sexual behaviour when they were drunk if they were people that generally experienced sexual fear, insecurity and were sexually averse.

If she’s using alcohol to escape sexual trauma then please get in touch with me to book some confidential sessions.

Alcohol can numb the sexual experience. Wasted sex  avoids intimacy and stays slightly disconnected with your partner. Alcohol abuse is a way people can escape true intimacy.

Perhaps talk about how amazing sober sex is with her and frame it in a positive light. Tell her you’d rather wait to have sex with her when you’re both sober as it’s going to be so much more enjoyable.

So many people these days confuse intimacy with sex and think that by having sex with a new partner they can create emotional relationship intimacy that they crave.  This never works because sex only creates an illusion that intimacy is there. Once the smoke fades the partners realise there’s no intimacy that they were ultimately searching for and it can leave you feeling lacking. Intimacy is a slow process that has to be worked on as you slowly get to know each other.

Being vulnerable to each other builds intimacy as you trust each other and open up to each other more and more. People with addiction issues have impaired the skill of intimacy. They’ll struggle with sharing deep sides of themselves, listening to feedback and unconditionally accepting their partner.

If your girlfriend had difficulty learning to trust as she grew up and her parents or caregivers didn’t provide a safe and trusting space for her,  this can make her overly protective and struggle to trust others. When this mistrust is present in our adult life it can make attaining intimacy in a relationship very hard. This might mean they get straight into a sexual relationship with someone without getting to know the other person emotionally first. It sounds like this is exactly what you’ve done. Sex straight away. Moving in together very fast. Realising you don’t know her.

When someone has been addicted to something like alcohol or drugs for a long time, they’re usually hiding from their reality and their true emotions. I’m concerned about the alcohol abuse and addicitive behaviours and how this would be affecting her physical health and your relationship. It’s a bad long term plan.

The good news is that in psychotherapy sessions you can build true intimacy together and it can be so exciting as you discovering things about each other that you may have been in denial about.

The below diagram explains a little about what I’ve been speaking about but I’d like to go into this with you in more details in our sessions.

intimacy

 

Art- Almos Bechtold

Do men think about sex every seven seconds?

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This urban myth has been around a long time! When I was a teenager, I remember being told that men thought about sex every seven seconds as if it was as an accepted fact like the sky is blue.

If men really do think about sex every seven seconds, then that’s seven or eight thousand thoughts about sex a day! The myth doesn’t hold up when you look into all the many research studies done on this topic.

This every seven seconds idea really supports the culturally constructed idea that all men are obsessed with sex all the time. It lumps all men into a sexually homogeneous group with this uniform sexual energy.

This myth ties into all the many stereotypes about male sexuality. Male sexuality isn’t as simple or uniform as people like to believe.

Male sexuality changes with age, relationship status and emotional and physical health.

This cultural idea that men think about sex every few seconds simply isn’t true and it’s very much over estimated. The research can’t agree on how many times a day anyone thinks about sex because there’s just such a huge variation.

One research study found that young men on average thought about sex 19 times a day. This was a fraction more than young women on average thought about sex in a day (ten times) but they also discovered men thought about sleep and food more than women too. Researchers concluded that men are more needs based than women.

Other researchers found that men and women’s sexual thoughts were of about equal amounts during the day.

Another study found that 16 year old young men thought about sex every five minutes not every seven seconds.  Men in their 40’s thought about sex every half an hour. These sexual thoughts kept decreasing as their age increased.

The Kinsey Report discovered that 4% of men under the age of 60 think about sex only once a month, 43%  of men think about sex a few times a month or a week and 54% have at least one sexual thought a day or more.

As men age they have less sex than when they were younger. Sexual thoughts and desires fluctuate depending on your overall energy and wellbeing.

How many times you think about sex a day has more to do with you as an individual than what sex you are. It also has to do more with how you feel in your body and your sexuality than your genitals.

Researchers found that some men and women thought about sex a hundred times or more a day. They also found some men and women only thought about sex a few times a day.

If someone is dealing with sexual addictive or compulsive behaviours then it’s also more down to a whole host of complex reasons that aren’t necessarily related to their genitals.  Sexual compulsive behaviours are due to an inability to cope with stress, biochemical reasons or growing up in a dysfunctional family or surviving childhood sexual assault. People with sexually addictive traits use sex in the same way a drug addict uses drugs- to avoid unpleasant feelings or stress from work etc.

So there you have it. Men do not think about sex every seven seconds! Myth busted!

Photography- Oliver Easton

Why asking questions about sex is important.

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I’m still very concerned by how GP’s in Australia receive minimal or no training in sexual health.

GP’s in Australia don’t receive any training about how to discuss sex and sexual health with their patients.

Sexual health is intergral to our well being and it needs to be seen as an essential part of our mental and physical health.

GP’s often assume their patients are sexually active because they don’t want to ask them that question. A lot of the time that assumption is wrong.

There’s a lot of couples counsellors out there who have no sexual health training at all. A lot of them also don’t have any training in working with couples where domestic violence and abuse might be present.

You can’t operate in a sexless vacuum. It’s there and medical and mental health professionals need to have adequate training in sexual health.

It’s not true that if you repair the relationship that sex will automatically start flowing again.

It’s also not true that you can wait for a couple to bring up sexual issues with a therapist. Often they might want to but won’t, hence the need for therapists with sexual health training who will ask the right questions and not shy away from topics about sex and intimacy.

Asking patients questions about their sexual health is crucial for understanding their medical history.

The more uncomfortable the question is, often the more important it is to ask.

How to Overcome Male Performance Anxiety- video

“When I’m not interested in sex, it makes me feel like I’m not a man. In fact, my wife wants it more than me so I came up with the excuse of chronic back pain. I think it’s easier for her to accept. What’s wrong with me?”

– David, Clifton, New Jersey

Three essential male vulnerabilities that many men grapple with.

The fear of rejection. The free and burdensome position of being the iniatator.

The fear of inadequacy. Am I competent enough, do I know what I’m doing?
How do I know if my partner, especially if they’re female, really enjoys it. What is that mystery of that other partner who I can never know what she really feels, because she can fake it.

Why compatibility is a myth

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I’m sick of reading about compatibility being the supposed ‘glue’ of a relationship all the time.  I hate this strange definition of compatibility and I’d like to redefine it with you now and show why it’s overrated.

There is such a thing as a compatible couple.

There’s no such thing as two people who share all the same tastes, values and interests.  All couples fight and argue about the same things- sex, time, money, kids, in-laws etc.  A good relationship hinges on how you manage and resolve these conflicts together.

Research shows there’s no difference in levels of compatibility in happy or unhappy couples.

Happy couples never even mention compatibility. Only unhappy couples bring compatibility up all the time and stress how important it is to a relationship.

Compatibility is like an easy scapegoat for unhappy couples to blame when a relationship is floundering or doesn’t work out.

Successful relationships aren’t about compatibility.

Successful long term relationships  are more about will power and partners who truly want to stay together in the relationship. You must want to be in a relationship in general and you must want to be with your partner.

Creating a fulfilling relationship is more to do with you and your partner than this contemporary concept of compatibility.

Lasting relationships are more about how you interact with each other than who you are.

Compatibility is something that you create together. It’s not something you have inside of yourself. You maintain and nurture that compatibility over time. You work at compatibility.

I want us to throw out talking about relationship compatibility like it’s a noun. It’s not like a holy grail you find in the wilderness. Relationship compatibility should be discussed as a verb. You go on a pilgrimage together to find the holy grail. Verbs are doing words and a noun is an object.

Relationship skills can always be sharpened and improved upon.

How do you emotionally connect? How do you respond to your partners bids for connection? Do you turn towards your partner or turn away?

Some people think someone’s personality or interests are what makes up compatibility but these won’t necessarily pass the test of time.

Relationships are about building something together. How does your relationship support your vision for your life?

Stop focussing on this flawed notion of compatibility especially in the early days of dating. Doing this makes it easier for commitment phobes or people scared of intimacy to run straight for the exit door of the relationship as soon as things get challenging.

Watch this before you get married or move in together

This is beautiful….

The relationship counsellor in me got very excited when he started talking about Dr Gottman.

Gottman says the most important factor for a happy marriage is attention.

Small moments of positive attention.

Remember you are on the same team.

It’s about giving your partner consistent small acts of love and attention.

It’s the small things often that make the big differences over time.

It’s the small moment of our lives that take up the biggest parts of our hearts…

If you’re in a relationship, what is your favorite small act of love that your partner does for you?

Let me know what you think of the video..