My Gut Saved My Life.

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways;
It is always in response to something.
it always has your best interest at heart”
Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

Gavin de Becker wrote an incredible book, “The Gift of Fear.” In the book,  he highlights the warning signs that often precede a violent crime. In his research he emphasizes that our intuition (gut) will let you know if a person is safe or not. It is in those initial moments of interaction that we can sense whether someone is safe or not.

The problem is, women are socialized to be nice over being safe (and trusting their gut). This is why Ted Bundy used a broken arm to lure women to their death. He knew his weakness would lower women’s ability to say no, even though I am certain they could sense something about him was not right.

Intuition is not always a scary thing.

A few years ago, I was attending a professional conference in Austin, Texas. As professional conferences tend to become late night parties, I did not end up back at my hotel until really late one night. The taxi dropped me off at what looked like my hotel and when I walked in, I realized that I was at the wrong Hampton Inn. Apparently, there are several Hampton Inns in Austin.

This situation was particularly frustrating because I was a broke college student. I was barely able to afford the conference let alone all the additional cost of another cab ride. In the midst of sharing my stress with the desk clerk, two middle-aged men offered to take me to my hotel at no cost. I sized them up and decided that this was a fine idea.

Mind you, it was now around 1am and I was getting into a strange car, with two men I did not know, in a state far from home. Not one person knew where I was or where I was going. My cell phone died hours before. This easily could have ended in a Dateline Murder Mystery. Thankfully, it did not. I arrived safely at my hotel and crashed out.

Why is that story important to me? I trusted my gut. I try my best to make this a hard and fast life rule. My gut tells me what to do and what not to do. When I sized these men up, I paused to consider how I felt about them. There were no red flags (other than they were men and I was a young vulnerable woman). The hairs on the back of my head did not stand up. I did not get a stomachache. I did not feel like running towards the door. My face did not get red. I was not suspicious. These men did not pressure me to get in the car. They did not make me feel guilty. I was not afraid of them or intimidated by them. I rode with them more out of convenience then desperation.

It turned out fine and I saved money. I am grateful that these kind men were able to help me out of a bind. In retrospect, it was not an ideal situation but we are sometimes put in less than ideal situations and forced to make a decision. Unfortunately, cabs and ubers are not always safe either.

“Only human beings can look directly at something, have all the information they need to make an accurate prediction, perhaps even momentarily make the accurate prediction, and then say that it isn’t so.”
Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

In my late teens and early twenties, I did not listen to my gut and this resulted in dangerous situations with unsafe people. Thankfully, I was not seriously hurt but I was definitely in situations where that could have happened. Frankly, I’m too embarrassed to go into detail but if we were friends when I was an undergrad, I’m sure you can identify a few of the aforementioned incidents.

If you are one of my best friends you are familiar with the phone call: My gut says something is off or my gut says I need to do this. And even though I’m calling for support, I know what I need to do. When you follow your gut you may have to do things that might make you feel guilty or bad but when I consider my options: I would rather be safe than sorry.

How do you trust your gut?

Pay attention to to your body! Your body is highly invested in survival. If your stomach starts to turn, your hairs stand up on your neck, you think “they’re lying,” you feel like something is not right, and/or you “just know”that you shouldn’t: DON’T DO IT! Your gut is a primal tool set to survival mode. Use it.

Also, I believe that your gut has the ability to encourage you to go for something if “it’s right.” So, believe your gut if it says: “Hey, that person is cute” or “You could totally do that job” or “You should ask for that raise.”

Your gut has your best interest in mind. Give it some love.

 

“The subjects did not always follow through with what their slightly sweaty palms were telling them to do, but the slightly sweaty palms were almost always right – in fact, they even had the ability to predict the future (by about 2-3 seconds).” – The Science Behind Intuition

Love.

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I Need A Few Vices.

“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” – Abraham Lincoln

As the year was winding down, I was listening to someone tell me that coffee was their last vice and they were in the process of giving it up. I thought to myself, “Why would you do that?” What is the purpose of living a life with no vices. I understand the importance of moderation (although struggle to moderate) but I don’t want a life with out coffee, cocktails, or television. Needless to say, her viceless life comment gave me a bit of anxiety. Naturally, I related her life goals to my own (as we always do when people assert themselves). I think Amy Poehler said it best when she said:

Good for her not for me.”

A life without vices stinks of perfectionism. And we all know the dangers of perfectionism. I also struggle to believe that someone can life a full life without a few vices. Where is the depth? What about experience? Really, what does a viceless life even look like? Is it possible?

I appreciate the fine line between a vice enhancing your life and a vice becoming an addiction. I think that many people struggle to walk that line. And, there may be a good reason you are giving up caffeine (maybe you’re pregnant or you don’t sleep well). However, if the goal is living a vice free life, I don’t know if I believe that is possible.

The term vice may connote bad behavior for some but it does not for me. In fact, I think it helps people better understand what kind of person I am. My vices currently involve craft beer (if you knew where I lived you’d understand), coffee/green tea, wine, and vinyl records. These parts of my life are not always the best choices financially or health wise but so be it. I’m not about to live in a straight jacket feeling guilty about indulging on things that make me happy.

Isn’t anything in excess a vice? Even “healthy” things can be vices? 

I surround myself with a strong support system that has no problem calling me out when my vices become problematic and my self-awareness fails me. My partner and friends made mention when my box of wine a week habit became unhealthy. Begrudgingly, I heeded their advice and my migraines diminished (thanks, folks). I feel I am able to provide them the same feedback and this is how we keep each other accountable.

I wonder why we all try to figure out where we fit in relation to one another? Why did her comment related to eliminating caffeine cause me to reflect on my own habits? In fact, it inspired a post about my need for vices.

Perhaps viceless living is goal worthy for some people but I don’t think it’s feasible for me. As I enter the new year, I will gladly carry on with a few habits that may not be the healthiest. It might just be semantics and vices to some are indulgences to others. To each their own, right?

“I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices whatsoever.”
Mark Twain, Stories

I Know Where Your Keys Are.

“Multitasking is a lie”
Gary Keller

(Note: Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy. I wrote this post a few weeks ago and literally lost my keys last week and cannot find them anywhere. So it goes.)

I spend a lot of time looking for my keys. A friend of mine even put up a hooks for my keys at each entry point of my house because he was tired of spending time helping me look for my keys. I am ashamed at how seldom I use the key hooks. The reason I forget where my keys are is not entirely a function of a bad memory (that I know of).  It is that I am not paying attention when I put them down. When I come home from work, I drop my bags and keys where I stop and this is not the same spot everyday.  Thus, the search for my keys becomes a regular struggle.

If I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing I can’t form a memory of the event.

This is what happens when you’re scrolling through social media on your phone and your partner asks you something and later says “remember when I asked you about this?” and you really cannot remember. You did not form a memory. You were not paying attention to what the person was saying and so it was not absorbed into your brain.

Yes, people can struggle with short-term memory challenges but a lot of what I see happening is not memory problems as much as a lack of paying attention to your life. This can be because you are thinking of what you have to do next, you are watching television, you are reading, you are on the phone, or you are anxious about something and hanging out in What If Land. The truth is you were not paying attention to what was happening in the right now.

How to improve your memory (unless you legitimately have a brain injury or a neurological disorder; if so, contact a physician).

Slow down.

Do one thing at a time and take your time doing it.

Pause while doing the task and review what you are doing.

Limit unnecessary outside noise so your brain only has to process one thing at a time. This is why when we are driving and lost (or the weather is bad) we turn the radio down. It allows our brain to focus on the task at hand.

Do not agree to do things you do not have time to do.

Sometimes it helps to say what you’re doing out loud as you are doing the task. For example, when I leave the house I say, “Doors locked, dogs inside, gate up, alarm set, good to go.” This way if you are stressing about whether or not you did those things you will remember that you went through the task out loud. You will have formed a memory that you did this and will be less likely to stress all day about if you locked the door or not.

I know it’s a bummer that a vast majority of us cannot do two things at once and do them well. And, I know that some of you won’t believe me and will even pride yourself on your ability to multitask.

But:

Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.” Travis BradberryMultitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest

So, take your time getting things done and then come help me find my keys.

Love.

 

My Time In Therapy.

“I know you said that you do not like the word survivor, but its just saying that you lived through, you survived, things that were traumatic…which was (and is) true. Much metta” 

I had my first session with a client as a therapist in 2005. I can remember every bit of the experience. I could probably recite, verbatim, every word we exchanged. To say I was nervous is an understatement – I was a wreck. It meant everything (and means everything) to me to be good at this work. Not to mention, my training involved years of clinical professors analyzing me through two-way mirrors and commenting on my every little move. At the time, I hated that process, but now I see the benefits of such intense self-reflection and self-awareness.

Then I needed to see a therapist. 

I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, and for the most part, I have been able to manage it fairly well. However, in early 2010, depression swept me up like a tsunami. I was not sleeping well (among other things) and I had the thought (at about 3am), “I could just disappear.” It wasn’t that I wanted to die, but it wasn’t that I wanted to live either. That thought scared the shit out of me. I knew in that moment, I needed professional support. In retrospect, I should have called for help much earlier.

I asked some of my colleagues for recommendations. I presented for my first appointment (scared and vulnerable) in front of a woman a few years older than me. From the beginning, she avoided eye contact. She asked me several stock questions, in a flat tone, and wrote out notes on a legal pad. At one point, I was describing how I was feeling and she said, “Oh wow!” and scribbled something on the pad. I thought to myself, “This sucks.” I left that appointment feeling even more hopeless.

As I reflect on the experience, I think if I had not been a therapist and known that there were better therapists than this, I may have never tried again. It takes immense courage to present in front of a complete stranger and lay your story bare. This business is serious stuff. I suppose she might have been off her game that night. Who knows, I never saw her again.

Still needing help, I tried once more. I asked around and this time the masses recommended Ken*. I sat in the waiting room of a dimly lit historic home that had been lightly (it still looked and felt like a house) remodeled into offices. A thin balding man with a Hawaiian shirt came down the stairs to greet me. He smiled warmly and called me by name. As we walked toward his office, he asked if I liked dogs. I replied that I love dogs. This is when a three-legged collie appeared (I cannot make this up).  I sat in a soft comfortable chair and the dog curled up near my feet.

Little by little, I disclosed the details of my story. He nodded and asked all the right questions. There was no legal pad with scribbles. It was simply, perfectly, and beautifully a conversation between a scared, sad person (me) and a person saying that it was okay to be scared and sad. He told me this repeatedly for months. I wish I could tell you that he had a bag of tricks or magic words but that was not the magic at all. The magic was that he never tried to make me feel better. It was safe to share the scary thoughts and feelings and in doing so, it made them less scary and sad. It sounds simple, but there was nothing simple (or easy) about that process for me.

Let me also add that I have an incredible support system. My partner, my friends, and my family were literally by my side through this period in my life. But, when I hurt they hurt. I needed someone with a bit more objectivity. Someone that could sit with my pain and not try to make it better. That was the alchemy of my time with Ken – deep pain and sadness transmuted into intense love and compassion. The only way out of pain is through, and I needed someone to light the way.

I write this story because reflecting on my work with him fills me with so much gratitude, it’s intoxicating. My work with him changed my life and may have saved my life. It also taught me to treat my profession with greater reverence. I literally understand the level of vulnerability that sits in front of me on a daily basis. I am humbled and honored that this is what I get paid to do with my life.

Even now, when I need to, I see a therapist where I live (I’ve since moved away from Ken). My current therapist is remarkable (and she is certainly magical).

Ken and I shared email correspondence throughout our time together and I’ve included two excerpts (including the quote at the top).

“Dear Ken, Sometimes the most valuable lessons our parents teach us are through their mistakes and suffering. This should not get lost in all that sunny-side shit. I credit my parents for these very reasons. They helped me “be better” by their own struggles. I have to believe we all do the best we can with what we have to work with. This inevitably will be different for everyone. There is so much to be learned in the darkness. lovingkindness.”

Love.

*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality and the integrity of the relationship.

 

 

 

How To Say: “No.”

“No” is a complete sentence.”
Anne Lamott

“I don’t want to!”

Humans are wired for social connection and it can be challenging for some of us to set boundaries and say no; especially if the other person really wants us to say yes (and maybe part of us wants to say yes). First, we must believe that we have value as a person even if we say “no.” Meaning, that you are absolutely still a good person and worthy of love and compassion even if you don’t extend yourself to the person asking that of you.

“Will you stop being my friend or loving me if I say no?”

By saying no and setting a limit you are treating yourself with respect. And, it is so important to treat yourself with respect on a regular basis. Our lives are finite and our moments are the most valuable things we have. We must spend them wisely and honestly. Please don’t waste the precious and fleeting moments of your life on people, places, and things that don’t mean everything to you (I understand you have to go to work).

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

It is true, some people will not be happy if you set a boundary in the relationship (it feels like rejection to them, but it usually isn’t about them at all). A good friend will be understanding of your limits and boundaries even if they really want you around.  Please, don’t make the people in your world feel guilty for not doing what you want them to do. I don’t think we always make people feel guilty or bad on purpose, its just sometimes we really just want the person to do what we want them to do. But, if you are wielding guilt as a way of manipulating the person into doing what you want, that’s not okay.

If someone says, “I can’t make it.” They don’t owe you an explanation, and your relationship can still be fine. Naturally, if this is a pattern of behavior, maybe it is time to let the relationship go for awhile and sometimes, the relationship will come back around. People have a lot of stuff going on in their lives that does not include you and if you remember this, you will be more compassionate and understanding.

It is unhealthy to make other people’s lives easier/better/happier at the cost of your own. 

How do you manage your bad feelings when you want to say no/set a limit:

  1. Breathe (number one on almost all of my lists is breathe), it slows you down, calms you down, and reminds you that in this moment you are safe.
  2. Remember that saying no to them is saying yes to something else. If I say no to you, I am probably saying yes to a bubble bath, glass of wine, Netflix, a night alone with my partner, or to time with someone else. All of the above are important.
  3. Remind yourself that if you force yourself to do something you don’t want to do, you will probably be unhappy doing it (and build resentment towards the person). In that case, is it really fair to bring your grumpy self to a situation “just because you said you would“?
  4. If the person is making you feel guilty or bad for setting a limit, end the conversation. Please, do not go into anxious detail about how or why you are saying no. You don’t have to explain yourself.
  5. Breathe and sit through the anxiety around saying no (and stick to it because it is a form of self-respect) and do the thing you said yes to. It gets easier. You will realize that most people get over things (forget about it) pretty quickly because again, they have a lot going on in their own lives.
  6. If they stay mad at you for saying no (and hold it over your head), that tells you an awful lot about how much they respect you and the relationship.

“When enforcing our boundaries, first and foremost, we are caring for ourselves, but we are also helping others to have a clear understanding of what we consider acceptable behavior. We are reflecting back to them what is not acceptable and, therefore, providing them an opportunity to consider that information and make necessary changes. If we ignore the behavior or accept the behavior, not only are we undermining ourselves, but we are denying the other person an opportunity to learn about themselves and to grow, and ultimately, we deny them the opportunity for a healthy relationship with us.” -Psychotherapist Donna Wood in The Inspired Caregiver

Love.

How To Survive The Holidays.

“It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on”  –  Rachael Yamagata, River

This time of year is not joyous for everyone. In fact, it can be an extremely challenging time for a lot of people. Unlike what is widely discussed, suicide rates do not actually increase over the holidays. However, I do find my therapy practice gets busier this time of year.

Why are the holidays hard for some people? It is impossible for me to capture all of the reasons this time of year can be challenging, but let me present some common themes.

  1. Some people do not have a family to spend time with. Or, they don’t have a good relationship with their family and it is healthier for them not to share time.
  2. Some people have experienced a significant loss and the holidays are a painful reminder of who is missing at the table.
  3. Some people have experienced a significant loss/tragedy around the holidays. This means that the holidays may always be coupled with feelings of tremendous sadness.
  4. Some people do not have the resources to provide for their children or family over the holidays. They may feel shame or embarrassment for not being able to “do the holidays right.”
  5. Some people do not like the pressure that the holidays bring. For a lot of people, the holidays mean a lot of travel, high cost, and time away from home. This can be very taxing.
  6. Some people don’t have a faith system and do not feel like they need to be forced to have “the holidays” pushed on them.
  7. Some people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. This means that they experience symptoms associated with depression during the winter (and sometimes summer) months. For them, it may be hard to feel happy during this time of year.
  8. Some people have anxiety around groups of people and hate small talk. The holidays are a time of year when people are put in positions to interact with people they do not otherwise share time with. This may result in pressured conversations about nothing. Or, it may result in conflict related to politics and religion.

What to do if you get the Holiday Blues or just don’t like the holidays?

  1. Give yourself permission to not do everything that everyone asks of you. It is okay and healthy to set limits.
  2. Try to personalize the holiday season in a way that feels special and safe to you (my grandma taught me this and it changed my life). What does this mean? You can do what you love around the holidays not just what others expect of you. It may have nothing to do with any holiday at all.
  3. Take care of yourself. Manage your stress in healthy ways. It’s okay not to love this time of year. You are not a Scrooge, it just isn’t your thing.
  4. Ask people to respect your thoughts and feelings related to the holidays. I know this is hard, but if people love you, they need to respect your needs.
  5. Don’t shove the holidays down your own throat in an effort to make it better. This is cruel. If it hurts, stop doing it. Again, you have permission to not like, not love, or even to hate this time of year. You are not a bad person for not liking the holidays.
  6. If people don’t respect your feelings related to the holidays, set appropriate limits. And if you love the holidays, be respectful that others may not feel the same. We all have a Bag of Rocks and not everyone gets to know why you don’t like the holidays.
  7. Love, love, love yourself through this time of year. Please do not beat yourself up, don’t expose yourself to things that hurt, don’t force yourself to do things that make you feel bad, and don’t suffer through conversations that go against your values. You don’t have to do any of that. 

January is coming and the noise will quiet once more.

Love.

My Dream Crushing Gremlin.

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Aim high? Shoot for the stars?  No thanks, I think I’m fine right where I am. – The Gremlin in my head

Recently, I’ve noticed my an increasing tendency to crap on my own dreams. I am definitely the first to say, “it’s not going to work out” when an opportunity presents itself in my life. It seems that the more excited I get about potential opportunities, the louder the gremlin screams stop. That mean little gremlin voice really likes to speak up when faced with an awesome opportunity. That little shit.

I want to be better about this.

I know how self-defeating it is to shut down my own hopes and dreams. I think “would I say that to a friend or family member?” I wish the answer were no, but it depends. We talked about how I try to prevent future problems and save people pain (a futile and cruel practice) by highlighting what might go wrong in “Happiness Terrifies Me” . Overall, I think I try to be a supporter for those I love. But that little gremlin just gets going, “Don’t get your hopes up because what if it doesn’t happen” and sometimes this spills over into my relationships. That little shit.

What if I fail?

Interestingly, I am not too afraid of failure. I’ve “failed” at lots of things in my life and magically, life kept on going just fine. And, because of my job, I know that people talk badly about each other all the time and it is usually not personal. But, I am still a human with feelings so what other people think and say does affect me. And, the gremlin likes to use other people’s opinions as evidence that it’s not worth it to try.

For example, when I share a hope or dream and someone suggests that it might not work out that way. Or, when something good happens and someone I love can’t be happy for me, the little gremlin screams, “See! I told you it wasn’t a good idea and they agree with me!” Literally, one person might suggest that I take the safe and predictable road and ten others may tell me to go for it and the gremlin convincingly uses the one person (that I may not even like) as evidence to back down. That little shit.

The Revelation.

The mean little gremlin voice is just trying to keep me safe (in a rather crappy way). The gremlin is a firm believer in staying put where things are safe and predictable. I need to stop arguing with it or trying to convince it that it’s safe to take chances. Because it is not safe to take chances and the little gremlin is right, things might not turn out the way I hope. Maybe I should stop calling him a little shit? Maybe I need to thank the little gremlin for its concern. I think we all have little gremlins that want to keep us just where we are, We know what to expect here!” – Says The Gremlin. However, if eventually I want be somewhere else or do something different, I need to step out and take chances. The gremlin will probably never be a supporter of change but that’s his job. I get it.

“We are all failures- at least the best of us are.”
J.M. Barrie

Porn.

“I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.” May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples” Song of Solomon 7:8

Disclaimer: This post discusses sex and sexuality.

A month or so ago, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Gloria Steinem speak. She said many things that resonated with me but one of the best parts of her talk was her distinction between pornography and erotica. It helped me make sense of what I see as the problem with pornography.

We really don’t talk openly about what it means to be a healthy sexual human being. That’s a problem. By and large, humans are sexual beings with thoughts, feelings, and desires. Repressing sexual desire and making it shameful can result in perverted behavior, sexual abuse, and the failure to report abuse (e.g., Josh Duggar). And that is precisely where we are as a culture. We don’t openly talk about healthy sexual behavior, but there is a booming billion dollar porn industry. So, this is where a lot of people are getting their “sexual education.”

The intention of this post is not to shame people for watching porn. Again, shame only drives people underground, leading to distorted perceptions related to sexuality. I hope to distinguish pornography from erotica.

A lot of the (abundantly) available heterosexual pornography depicts sex from the male perspective. This means that the sexual acts depicted are not representative of what is actually sexually satisfying for a woman. Thus, if a man watches porn and believes that what he is seeing is an accurate portrayal of a satisfying sexual experience for a woman, he may struggle to understand why the same behaviors are not as effective in real life situations.

Distinctions

The erotic movie is designed to sexually arouse but also to stir other emotions (i.e., joy, sorrow, anger) in the viewer. There is a compelling story, a message, and well-developed characters—especially the female characters. The well-crafted sex scenes are integral to the story and do not necessarily arouse the audience; it is a movie that portrays sex contextually and has artistic merit. One example of an erotic film is Like Water for Chocolate.

The mainstream typical pornographic movie intends to sexually arouse a male audience. The film does not contain a gripping narrative or message. The women are often young and have very similar looks (i.e., big breasts, small frame, blonde hair). The female characters are hypersexual objects who seem happy to be at the disposal of men. This type of movie tends to mix explicit sexual images, submission, and violence, and targets this violence towards women; it is a male fantasy in which there are no negative consequences (i.e., STIs, pregnancy, rejection, or sexual dysfunction) to questionable sexual acts. – from: Erotica Versus Pornography

The key distinction between pornography and erotica is story and context. Additionally, healthy erotica accurately captures the female sexual experience. Much of what is readily available in terms of porn is focused on the sex acts with out much warm up, so to speak. This makes a huge difference in the way we perceive the sexual experience. In real-life sexual situations, there is a warm up period (there should be a warm up). This makes context and story important and representative when depicting sexual intimacy. Of course, there is still erotica that depicts sexual acts in an unhealthy way (sorry, but this includes 50 Shades of Grey for too many reasons to go into here).

If people are going to view porn (and they most certainly are doing so), we need to help people critically evaluate the content of what they are viewing and how what they are viewing makes them feel. This may help curb compulsive behaviors and false beliefs related to sexual satisfaction (Štulhofer, Buško, & Landripet, 2008).  It may benefit men to seek out erotica as opposed to pornography to avoid some of the problems that can arise from excessive pornography consumption, such as: problems with intimacy, increased secrecy, and depressed mood (Bridgokoff & Morokoff, 2011).

The bottom line: We need to talk about sex.

In relationships it is essential to have an open conversation about your sexual thoughts, feelings, and desires. For couples, it can improve intimacy and sexual connection if they read/watch erotica together. As we talked about in Monogamy, one should talk with their partner about the relationship rules around engaging in these behaviors. It is important to remember that repressing or shaming sexuality is not healthy in relationships.

I was unable to find recent research related to pornography and the influences it has on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. I scoured Google Scholar for a study that examined these topics and found nothing. This is curious considering the large amount of pornography and erotica produced for and by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. I will continue to look for research related to these populations. If you know of anything, please let me know.

Love.

“People have sex, even the religious ones. Yet, when sex is transferred into words, suddenly it’s dirty, vulgar, immoral, trashy. Funny huh?”
Hector Himeros

 

 

Addicted To Fear.

“Then she told herself to stop her nonsense. If you looked for things to make you feel hurt and wretched and unnecessary, you were certain to find them, more easily each time, so easily, soon, that you did not even realize you had gone out searching.”
Dorothy Parker, The Portable Dorothy Parker

Are you watching the news right now? Please, turn it off. Humans are sponges and we’ve been absorbing the gross fear and negativity that the media is shoving down our throats for years. I am not encouraging ignorance. I am merely suggesting some moderation.

The 24 hour news cycle is destructive to our psyches because fear is addictive. Our brains are wired to seek out problems in the environment. When we turn on the news we are stimulated by the bright colors and sounds and we are sucked in by the the fear machine. We talk about it at work. We call our friends and share our fears. We beg them to be fearful with us. We want them to be safe. We are scared. 

Pause. Breathe. You’re safe.

Fear makes us reactive and defensive. Fear causes people to use the primal part of their brain when problem solving as opposed to the logical rational part of our brain . This leads to poor decision-making.

In small doses fear is the emotion that helps keep us alive. When we are healthy, our fear safely guides us through life. However, we are absorbing fear through every pore in our body by watching the news, scrolling through social media, listening to talk radio, and reading online. Then, we get angry. Fear tells us we are under attack. So, we end up in needless arguments or barricading ourselves in our homes.

Why do we buy so many guns after a mass-shooting? We do so to protect ourselves. But, how many guns can you use at a time if you were being attacked? The stockpiling of arms is fear based problem solving. Frankly and kindly, life is not like a Die Hard movie and most of us aren’t trained military or law enforcement. We are vulnerable even when we’re armed, no two ways about it. I would prefer not to spend my time here scared, worried, and angry.

Please, turn off the TV and step away from the computer. Take a vacation from the news this weekend. Hug and kiss the people you love. Play with your dogs and sit in the sun. Even better, watch a Pixar movie. I firmly believe Pixar is the best thing about this country. Soak up some love this weekend. The fear will be waiting for you on Monday if you want it back.

Image found here. 

My GPA Was A Lie!

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.– Jiddu Krishnamurti

“Emotional intelligence accounts for 80 percent of career success.”
Daniel Goleman

I spent a better part of my time in school chasing the perfect grade point average. Embarrassingly, I once (successfully) negotiated a grade increase much like Cher did in the movie Clueless. I was certain that if I reached the perfect grade point average my life would be smooth sailing. My life has not been smooth, but I doubt that has much to do with my inability to maintain a 4.0.

Once I started graduate school, a realization struck me in the form of a check sheet. I was invited to help with the admissions committee and was presented with the criteria for admission to the graduate school. The GPA requirement was not a 4.0, it was much more reasonable, and the check sheet included other background areas, such as: volunteer work, employment experience, and the personal essay.

Because I loved school so much (and did not want to adult yet), I set out for even more graduate school. I was even admitted to an exclusive program without reaching the “acceptable” score on the required standardized test. During interviews, one professor thought it was problematic, but the others were not concerned. I was later told by a faculty member that my tendency towards neuroticism was going to kill me if I wasn’t careful. This was his area of expertise and I did my best to chill out.

Now more than a decade into my career, not one person has asked to see my GPA. I used to provide my high marks on my resume/CV but was told by a friend that was also a manager that “it really wasn’t necessary to do so.” (nobody really cares).

I recently came across a study that put this all in perspective.  Thomas Stanley, PhD discovered that there was no correlation between grades and professional success. In fact, “The average SAT score for the sample was 1190.  Their most frequent grade in both high school and college was “B.”  Their GPA in college was 2.9.  They typically did not qualify for admission to an “elite” college or university.”

So, grades don’t matter as much as you think. What does? John Mayer (the researcher, not the singer) found that emotional intelligence was a far better predictor of success than grades, IQ, and standardized tests.

What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?

EQ is a combination of five different markers defined by Daniel Goleman, an expert on emotional intelligence:

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Self-Regulation
  3. Internal Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

To be fair, tests and grades are still important in assessing mastery. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with talented and brilliant people. It is not that I wish I would have done poorly or been less focused on grades. I just think we can do a better job of creating a culture that forces young people to also achieve high marks on emotional intelligence. In fact, it appears if you are kind, you just might be more successful.

Notable exceptions to the kindness equals success equation are Steve Jobs and Donald Trump. Although, there might be more to success than money.

“People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”
Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition

Love.