Creating What We Expect

by mel21. January 2015 16:19

 

I recently heard about a great study. Researcher psychologist Bob Rosenthal took a group of average rats and put signs on their cages saying that some of the rats were very smart and some of the rats were dumb. He then assigned people to work with the rats, getting the rats to run a timed maze. So… some of the people believed that they had special smart rats and some believed that their rats were dumb. The effects were intense – the rats assigned to people who believed them to be smart ran the maze nearly twice as fast as the rats who had been labeled dumb.

 

Rosenthal’s speculation is that the people assigned to the rats touched them differently, more gently if they were proud of their smart little rat, and that affected the rats’ performance. So, if subtleties of our touch can affect rats this drastically – a species with little incentive to care what we think about them -imagine what it might do for our human partners.

 

What messages are you sending to your partner as you touch them in bed? What expectations can be transmitted through your skin? What patterns have you come to expect, so much so that your body unconsciously reacts in anticipation of them?  

 

As a sex therapist I work with people as they make changes to the way they interact sexually, changing patterns and expectations. Often we have to address the subtle, even unconscious, ways we are reacting to one another. While it is freeing to imagine that anything can happen, that we don’t know what to expect, with longer term partners we rarely have that mindset. And so we co-create a dance, feeling each other’s lead through our bodies and responding, feeling and responding, expecting and responding.  People who do partner-dancing know that if the person following begins to anticipate the lead’s move too early, it will throw off the rhythm. Moving together means responding in the moment, not forecasting the moments ahead.

 

So how can you drop expectation and truly see what you and your partner can co-create sexually? Approach touch and sexual play from a blank slate perspective. Imagine that you can ask for anything. Try not to brace for a YES or a NO. Expect fun and connection and pleasure and see what happens.

 

And, we know from our maze-running rat friends, that touch which broadcasts loving support, excitement, pride in your partner (what a smart rat, you are!) may bring out the best in them. Touch mindfully.

 

I will have an ecstatic year

by mel29. December 2014 13:16

 

Some many resolutions, so few that enhance our sexuality. Let’s change that this year, shall we? Here are a few ideas…

 

I resolve:

 

To welcome my own desires, sexual thoughts and fantasies

 

To treat each sexual experience as a something new with unknown potential

 

To get deeply curious about myself

 

To say yes with more enthusiasm

 

To say no with more confidence

 

To have sexual pleasure, because I deserve it and am worthy of it (even on “fat days”)

 

To get more comfortable talking about sex and what I want

 

To try something new without feeling like I have to “get it right” the first time

 

To find a way to channel my sexual energy into _________

 

To schedule time for sexual pleasure because it is a priority for me

 

To speak up when I hear someone say something sexually derogatory, discriminatory or damaging

 

To release old stories or fears that no longer serve me

 

To learn something new about my partner

 

To bring more ____(love, risk, reverence, play, sassiness)___to my sexual play

 

Did any of these inspire you? Create your own that feels right for you. Just don’t forget to include your sexual self in that list of resolutions. Happy, healthy sexuality is a part of a vibrant life. Give it the attention it deserves.

 

Of course a great way to bring new life and energy to your sexuality – Work The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook! Buy it on Amazon and start exploring in 2015. And for Santa Cruz locals, you can join Melissa Fritchle at Pure Pleasure on Jan 7th for the workshop, Your Sexual Resolutions for 2015.

 

What Emotions Are OK in Sex?

by mel17. December 2014 17:45

 

Some of the couples I work with have been having sex that is more of an intellectual exercise than an emotional connection. There is a lot of strategizing, observing, fantasizing, worrying, critiquing, hoping. But there is not a lot of expressing. So sometimes, I invite them to experiment with sexual play that is consciously about showing their partner how they feel in the moment. They focus on using touch and body movements to communicate what they are feeling, not so their partner gets it necessarily, but so that they feel more connected to their own experience. Approaching sex from this new perspective opens up a lot of potential and can allow a broader range of sexual moods and therefore, ways of interacting. Things get less boring and more dynamic.

 

Most of us can easily imagine sex expressing love, lust, joy, curiosity, contentment. Combining sex with the sacred may lead us to imagine sex that expresses reverence or peace. These positive states are often the emotions that couples start with when they begin to explore sex as a vehicle for expressing emotion. But you may have also enjoyed thoughts about sex that stemmed from pride, power, vulnerability, need, fear, even anger. Are those ok for you to express with your partner? Why or why not? And how about more subtle emotional states, like doubt, loneliness, apathy, regret, irritation? Can you imagine touching sexually in a way that expressed and contained sadness?

 

Does imagining some of these emotions being included in sex make you uncomfortable? Thinking and talking about what emotions are welcome in sex for you can be a great practice. It introduces questions about our motivations to have sex, how we want our partners to feel about us when they engage with us sexually, and what emotions are comfortable for us, or not, in general. It also explicitly opens up new room to explore sexually, to be emotional selves, to have moods and variations, to let the energy of feelings blend with the energy of sensations to create something possible new and unique each time you come together.

 

Commiting to Monogamy - What does it Take?

by mel9. December 2014 18:35

 

 

This is an old-y but a goody. Originally published by YourTango.com

 

Committing to Monogamy : What does it take?

 

 

 

I admit to being shocked that TV series The Bachelor, and its sister show, The Bachelorette, are still going with season 19! But it speaks to how focused we are on the dating portion of romance – the getting the partner to choose us and, so the story goes, commit. As a culture we have turned the search for love into a competition, a game, entertainment, something we can critique and, maybe sometimes, even learn from at a distance. But what we need are stories and examples of what happens after you have found each other. We need to watch people who can show us what it takes to be in love for the long term, how they wrap their mind around commitment, and how they are able to grow and thrive within successful monogamy way beyond the ring or the rose. I know some people who are doing that and here are a few foundational pieces they have in place.

 The ability to see monogamy as a choice you make : You can’t do monogamy for your parents, or your friends, or you partner. You have to decide that this is what you want, for you. Identify your own reasons for wanting to be monogamous long-term. Maybe for you it is a religious or spiritual choice, maybe you value loyalty, maybe you see commitment as a path to personal growth, maybe you want to see what can happen if you focus your romantic energy on one person. Whatever your reasons, to be successful at long-term monogamy it is crucial to take responsibility for your choice and to let go of any resentments about other people “making” you do it. Monogamy is not the only choice. If you chose it, do it because you can own it.

A partner who rocks your world : This may seem obvious, but I see people again and again who say that they want to be in a committed relationship now and the person that they are with feels an ok match, so…This is a hard setup for long term monogamy. If you want to feel inspired to stay committed, you need to find a person who inspires you, a person who shares your sense of humor and adventure, a person who turns your body, mind and heart on in a variety of ways, the person who you want to leave the party with again and again. If you start out comparing your partner to others and wishing your partner could be different in this way or that, you may eventually find yourself just wishing for a different partner.

Understanding and familiarity with your own sexual desire : We live in a world of attractive people and no matter how appealing your partner is, you will still notice the other people out there. The romantic saying, “I only have eyes for you” is not realistic. Our culture makes sure you see and encourages you to be seen. Committing to monogamy requires you to be honest with yourself about this and to be prepared to shift the desire stirred up in the world back to your partner. You must learn how to respond to your own desires in ways that feel in integrity to you and this can only be learned by acknowledging that desire and attraction for others will not go away even when you find the one person you want to commit to.

Confidence to be yourself and to ask for what you want : Long-term commitment will be difficult at best if you go into it by trying to shape yourself into the person you think your partner wants. A fun part of early dating can be trying out new things, being introduced to your partner’s new world. But it is one thing to go to MMA fights a few times and another to pretend that you will be happy doing this every weekend for the next 5 years. If you feel that you are subtly dismissing the things you want and slowly letting your life or yourself be reshaped into your partner’s idea of the ideal, be cautious. You want to be sure your partner is committing to you - the self you want to be, not the self you can be if you have to. And you want to be sure you are committing to a life you can happily embrace, not one with creeping resentment.

We may not have a lot of TV shows about it, but long term relationships are hardly boring. They ask a lot of the people involved. So whether you are searching for a partner or have found someone but are wondering how to keep it going into the future, I invite you to think about these traits. You can develop them and they will help to have a strong foundation for the evolving adventure that is love between two people.

 

Modern Moralizing?

by mel3. December 2014 16:02

 

 I had another client this month coming to see me ashamed and frightened because someone told them they were a “sex addict”. I am happy to support these clients, who often tell me about sexual behaviors that have become overwhelming or out of control. I believe that healthy sexuality should feel full of choice, not compulsion. We work together to re-create a sense of their sexuality that is safe and satisfying, and unique to them.

 

What bothers me is the way the label “sex addict” is being used. First of all, sex addiction is not an accepted psychological diagnosis. It was considered and rejected for the most recent DSM (Diagnostic Manual). So it is a label being used in a non-scientific context, often by people not trained to assess for psychological or sexual issues anyway.

 

What I have seen is “sex addict” being used as a new form of moralizing. In the past someone might have felt the righteousness of being able to openly accuse someone of being immoral or perverse in general conversation. Nowadays openly making that type of judgment is not as acceptable, but we can call someone an addict. Because we can claim that is not a moral judgment, it is a condition. But defining what is healthy or unhealthy sexual behavior condition is often a judgment call, especially when done by a non-professional.

 

The current popularity of ascribing all kinds of diagnoses to one another is probably troublesome to most therapists out there, at least those that take assessment seriously. I wish people would simply say, “I am worried about the sexual behaviors you are describing to me. Maybe you could talk to a sex therapist.” This feels honest and cleaner that using a label to scare or shame someone into seeking help.

 

I want to be clear - there are many people who suffer greatly from damaging sexual patterns and a loss of control over their behavior and choices. And I want those people to be encouraged to seek help. Because there is help for this. I just want us to be careful and responsible about the way we talk about other people’s sexual behaviors. Let’s not turn “sex addict” into the new scarlet letter, applied whenever we feel affronted or offended by someone else’s sexual history. Sexual compulsivity is complex and contains all the subtleties of the human heart and mind. Let’s respect that.

 

Are you a health professional who wants to know more and support people in healing sexuality that has become harmful? Attend Melissa’s training in January 2015.https://www.eventbrite.com/e/building-sexual-integrity-a-sex-positive-approach-to-treating-compulsive-sexual-behaviors-6ce-hours-tickets-14098371609

 

Express Your Gratitude, Sensually

by mel25. November 2014 17:05

 

Telling someone we are with how wonderful we think they are and how happy they make us is important; we all want to hear that we are noticed and appreciated. But sometimes words only go so far. Gestures of love and thanks are good too; but sometimes they can get lost in the daily chore list and not have the impact we intended. Expressing love and gratitude for some amazing someone’s role in your life, and your bed, should feel yummy. It should give both of you a rush of love, heat and intimacy. So here’s an invitation :

 

Bring your partner to a private place where they can lay down and be relaxed. Make sure it is warm so that they can be comfortable being naked or wearing very little. You will be seeking out their skin. Let them lay back and close their eyes. Now you re going to express gratitude for them as a sensual partner. Starting wherever you like, place your lips just touching your partner’s skin, not licking or kissing at this point, but close enough that they can feel your breath. Now whisper something you love about sharing sexuality with this person. The goal is not necessarily for them to hear what you say, giving you a lot of freedom to express your personal gratitude without worrying too much about how it is received. The goal is for them to feel your lips moving gently against their skin and your breath, carrying your words, warming that spot. Then move to another area of their body and do the same, expressing something different you love and appreciate. Keep moving until you have covered their whole body in whispers of your gratitude.

 

Then, of course, they may want to express some gratitude of their own…Enjoy and remember to stay creative and conscious! Happy Thanksgiving!

The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook is now available. Buy it on Amazon today!

 

You as a Sexual Partner

by mel12. November 2014 08:28

 

Excerpted from The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook:

 

I want you to fuck me. I want you to inspire me. I want you to tease me. I want you to notice me. I want you to love me. I want you to be with me even if you shouldn’t. I want you to punish me. I want you to be a reflection of me. I want you to initiate me. I want you to plunder me. I want you to slowly unwrap me. I want you to let me. I want you to deny yourself for me. I want you to scare me. I want you to nourish me. I want you to treat me like a child. I want you to dissolve into me. I want you to impregnate me. I want you to reduce me to instinct. I want you to cry out for me. I want you to dream of me. I want you to taste every part of me. I want you to be naughty with me. I want you to do something you have never done before with me. I want you…

 

The depth of what we want from our sexual relationships is wondrous. We open ourselves to our own hungers in relation to other people, other people who could give us something we are, in their presence, discovering that we want. Oh, and that wanting is intense. Sometimes we hardly know how to contain it. Partners become muses for us. And what we get back from our sexual interactions is often more and different from we initially thought we wanted.

 

Our relationships incite growth in us. It is true they open new worlds to us and require us to get creative in very good ways. Keeping a relationship alive and growing is a practice that asks us to stay dedicated and keep working at it. Periods of inertia often are leading us to periods of significant transformation. Relationships help us discover our limits and sometimes to stretch them. They break our hearts and heal us, sometimes, vexingly, at the same time. The person you are now was developed in part in relationships with other people, and I invite you to be fascinated by this.

 

As distracting as your partners may be, it is worthwhile to stay interested in who you are while you are with them. In the hustle to find or keep a partner, have you asked yourself what kind of partner you are? It is disturbingly easy to give responsibility away to a partner. But you are shaping your relationships as much as anyone else. And you are shaping yourself. What kind of sexual moments are you inviting? What levels of satisfaction are you willing to reach for? How much intimacy do you want?

 

Do you want more? Buy The Conscious Sexual Self Workbookavailable now on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Chasing Happiness

by mel5. November 2014 15:30

 

Probably all of us can relate to the nagging letdown after an event you had been looking forward to for days, or weeks, or months. The times when nothing went especially wrong but the experience just didn’t meet the internal hype you has created. This is a special kind of disappointment. And now researchers have something to say about this unpleasant aspect of chasing happiness.

 

In a 2003 experiment by Schooler and colleagues, people were asked to listen to a piece of music (selected for them) and some of them were instructed to  “try to make themselves as happy as possible” from listening. They found that the people who tried to be happy reported being made less happy from the experience. The people who just listened to the music without TRYING to be happy, got greater happiness from it. Hmmmm…

 

 

 

A more recent study looked at women who said they thought it was very important to be happy and their perceived rates of happiness while under low stress. They found that the women who said it was more important to be happy reported less happiness than women who “valued” happiness less. So, this does suggest that we can set ourselves up for disappointment when we expect happiness as a crucial outcome.

 

But it is good for us to be happy!?! Absolutely it is. It just seems that chasing happiness as an expectation may not be the best way to get it. In the music study, the people who listened and just let themselves be open to whatever the experience offered reported more of a happiness boost. Being present, without needing the experience to be anything in particular actually helps with enjoyment.  

 

Maybe you can apply this non-striving approach to the upcoming holiday season. Rather than setting yourself (or a partner) up by building towards an imagined happiness, how about going into things with a curiosity about how it might make you feel? Happiness will come and bless us, if we are open to it. Focusing on an experience itself, in all its joys and imperfections, will bring you there more quickly than mentally trying to get to a treasured happiness finish line.

 

Reminds me of orgasm…the more we chase, the farther away it can seem to get. But when we focus on the actual moment and sensations for their own sake… wow, that’s when a big juicy burst of happiness arrives like an unexpected gift. Be ready for it.

 

The Freedom Within a Costume

by mel29. October 2014 12:26

 

I have already written about the pressures to be sexy and desirable at all times, so let’s look at a different angle. What is it about costumes that invites people’s sexy out? What is it about Halloween that gives people free rein to set aside their respectable straight laced (and I don’t mean a corset) personas?  

 

Halloween allows, no, embraces, the taboo. It is a time to show the shadow, the normally unacceptable and so it frees us to push the edge a bit. It is ok to be over the top on this night without expecting to be judged. It is not “real” so it is all ok.

 

And that I think is a key to why this side of people comes to the surface on Halloween. It is a safe time to let it show without having to take it seriously. The play aspect of costumes allows a risk-taking that is good for us. We can bring out a fantasy or a previously hidden persona within us without the worry that we will be rejected – because it is only in play! We set down the burden of having to process - is it ok for me to express this, to like this, to want to be seen this way? We are not asking our partner to incorporate this into our sex lives from now on or to change their image of who we are. It’s just for tonight. Oh, and everyone else is doing it too.

 

I wish we gave ourselves permission to play like this more often. Why reserve one might a year for experimenting with sexual expression? What if you and your partner agreed to not take things too seriously, to show up in ways that are silly or risky or possibly over the top? Like on Halloween, in the privacy of your bedroom no one should misinterpret you as saying you want to behave like this in every setting. And like Halloween costumes, there are thousands upon thousands of ways to express yourself. You can just try them on and see how it feels. What if we didn’t have to be embarrassed about wanting to step outside of our day to day roles and rules and share something different with our sexual playmates?  

 

Invite the freedom of, “hey sweetie, it’s only a costume…”

 

Playing Out Our Sexual Fears Throughout Eternity

by mel21. October 2014 14:55

 

Horror stories, whether told around a campfire, in a theater, or streamed on a laptop, reflect our fears back to us. They are the stories we tell ourselves to process the dark, the shadow, the things we can’t fully comprehend. Themes change based on generational fears and concerns so that, believe it not for you non-fans, horror can provide social commentary. And often, they show us depictions of our fears about sexuality.

 

Of all the monsters we return to again and again, vampires speak to us about sexuality more directly than any other. They are depicted as seductive, killing in close physical contact, piercing a highly sensitive part of our body, coming in to our bedrooms at night. Often when they attack the biting process looks a lot like ecstasy rather than suffering. That’s a lot of sexy for a monster.

 

But they are fearful. Vampires have been in folktales for centuries. They had a wave of popularity in the late 1800s, bringing in metaphors of epidemic disease as well as the fears of being sexually seduced and all the consequences that can come from that. A large part of the fear came from depictions of women becoming sexually aggressive, predators seeking blood or life energy. Sure, the 1920s Nosferatu was not a sexy guy, but seeing him hover over sleeping women in the beds barely touching them was actually pretty titillating for movies at that time.

 

In the 1950s and 1960s vampires got more debonair. They were elegant and cultured but cold. Themes of being seduced and used, your humanity taken from you, became dominant. Vampires represented the foreigner, the draw of the mysterious, more dangerous than you imagine. They were amoral, perverse.

 

 In the 1970s we saw a series of funny vampires, taking the seriousness and fear out of the image. Only squares would admit to sexual fears so we can laugh at them. But even then, the overt sexuality was seen as something laughable. Perhaps revealing our fears of being embarrassed, afraid of being seen as a caricature, our sexually overwhelming everything else.

 

The 80s and 90s gave us a series of sexy but lonely vampires. Truly the outsider, these vampires craved connection, they were ready for intimacy but kept from it by their monstrous nature. We saw things from these vampires perspectives and were meant to feel sympathy for them. These stories speak to fears of empty sex and the fear of feeling disconnected. Also the fear of being a danger to others was present and may have tapped into the AIDs crisis at that time.

 

And recently? The success of the Twilight series suggests we still have some sexual fears to sort through. With passion and obsession being firmly entwined, the seductive vampire in these stories must hold himself back for fear his passion will harm his weaker partner. Sex is a path to losing control and devouring or being devoured. Love is repressing your urges for as long as you can. Dangerous stuff. And I am not just talking about the vampires.

 

So what depictions of vampires will we see next? What are we afraid our sexuality will do to us? No matter what, I trust that vampires will continue to play our sexual shadow for us throughout their eternal lives.

 

Melissa Fritchle

Melissa Fritchle is the author of The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook and  a Holistic Psychotherapist, licensed in California as a Marriage and Family Therapist (Lic#48627). She has a private practice specializing in Sex Therapy and Couples Therapy. She travels far and wide,  internationally and on the internet, to spread compassionate, sex positive, diverse, realistic sex education.

Contact Melissa for therapy or to book her for a workshop or presentation

Month List

Page List