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  • feedwordpress 12:00:35 on 2014/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: Esther's Blog   

    Use of Self in Therapy 

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    From “Rethinking Couples Therapy: The Hard Questions and The Nuts & Bolts” teleclass with Esther Perel and Terry Real. The full teleclass series is available for purchase here.

    Therapists inform their therapy based on the context they live in, and the values they bring to their ideas and ideals of coupledom.

    These are my existential and clinical assumptions that inform my work.

    I believe that life is complex. This belief gives me a lot of tolerance for ambiguity. I don’t always believe the answers are clear. Through this, I am able to do a lot of work by keeping people in a situation of ambivalence and have a lot of patience for that. This is especially important when working with infidelity.

    I also vacillate between a world view of truth is subjective and couples’ work takes place within a social construct on one hand. And then I also adhere to a view of fact is a fact (i.e. poverty is poverty). I want to understand when something is a social construct and a subjective truth, and when something is clear cut, factual.

    People hold contradictory and powerful emotions toward people they love. Someone can simultaneously hate and love their partner. They can experience both aggression and connection towards a person. These emotions can change day by day. I will search for the other side that supersedes the emotion and feeling of today. For example, when a patient comes in angry and tells an angry story, I will get them to tell the happier side. I look at the dialectic between love and anger, as interdependent emotions.

    I am beginning to reject the concept of failed marriage. The common belief is that a marriage that ends is deemed a failed marriage, and only marriages that last until the couple dies are considered a success. Many relationships last for decades and accomplish a lot. I believe saying goodbye and end a marriage does not necessarily mean failure. One of my couples in therapy wrote to each as they were giving back their rings that, they both were grateful to what they had build together and that they will always cherish it. Ending like that, with appreciation for what they had in the past, may be a new way to look at divorce.

    I no longer take for granted that a couple is monogamous and that monogamy is a matter only of sexual exclusiveness. This helps me be clear and comfortably ask questions about sexuality as an integrated part of couples therapy.

    I pay attention to see what I avoid, what intimidates me, where are my discomforts and where in my body I feel them. If I feel emotions (i.e. discomfort, envy, etc.) it is important to notice and track them.

    When you invite couples to talk about something that clearly is not be part of your world? How do you respond? (position of authority, looking for the problem in it, emphasize relationship and trust, ask questions about it, etc)? I now look at whether I invite people to talk to me about aspects of their life that differ from mine. If they do, do I address that in a way that benefits me, or benefits the couple?

  • feedwordpress 13:00:09 on 2014/09/02 Permalink
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    Couples and Sexuality: Erotic Desire in Long-Term Relationships 

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    Click here to view the embedded video.

    I will be the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Imago Relationships International Conference on October 30th in Washington, DC. I will be speaking on how we can our need for secure attachment and our need for freedom and separateness. In the afternoon I will participating in a panel of noteworthy Imago therapists We will be discussing how to work with couples around intimacy and sexuality, how to help couples come out of emotional and sexual impasses, and how to bring an in-depth discussion to the interplay between these dialectic needs we bring to our adult intimacies. I look forward meeting all of you and being in dialogue with you.

    Click Here to Register for the 2014 IRI Conference

  • feedwordpress 12:32:49 on 2014/08/29 Permalink
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    History of Monogamy: The Shift from Duty to Pleasure 

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    Monogamy has nothing to do with love – it was an economic decision about patrimony and lineage. The idea of monogamy and love is only 150 years old. Why did we switch? Because we could never know whose child it was and a man could be stuck raising a child that wasn’t his.

    Women could not own their desire – desire is for men – she is about making herself desirable. As my mother would say, “Men married who they want, women married who they can!”

    Until the pill came along, sex had a dangerous outcome for women (death, childbirth, unwed motherhood). The pill is the first time women and men can have sex without fear of pregnancy, effectively separating sex from reproduction in the 60’s. Sex is no longer a condition but an identity (belongs to the world of nature).

    Sex became separated from nature and for the first time became a property of the self – about lifestyle choices, gets renegotiated overtime. The gay movement and women’s movement comes and it shifts again; then another shift from duty to pleasure (until now it is about duty – and if she likes it is important not to let him know that she likes it too much)

    It’s not possible that she would have an autonomous sexuality outside of him (“that’s a new trick – where’d she learn it?” Total threat to the man). In order to make sex proper it has to be related to love, intimacy, romance, connection – because if she just likes sex for its own experience, what does this make her? A threat to masculinity.

    Let’s expose the enormous fragility about male sexuality – she can’t even initiate sex, if she is that sexually powerful why should she stay with him? Thus creating a distance between himself and a sexually alive woman.

    The sexually powerful woman releases his own lust, which means he never has to face his own inadequacy. The more timid and less sexuality powerful, the more he wants the woman.

    You have to make a distinction between fantasy and reality – who you live with is not the same as who you fantasize about while masturbating. Women have been urged to become more powerful, including in their own sexuality. For example, the rise in pornography (not the extreme kinds): the regular use has to do with a relief of the burdens of emotionality. Women are beginning to experience a more free sexuality due to the women’s movement. As she becomes more empowered her expectations shift – she is no longer just needs a provider. He has been recruited as an emotional unit in the family, no longer the sole provider. He is connected to the children in ways never before.

    Loss of fearlessness allowed by detachment created by evolution. Psychotherapy has become inundated by women, and she comes with that word “intimacy”. It isn’t you, “Joe”. What you are being asked is a shock to the male evolutional model.

    “What is close for you…? We went to the market together, we had dinner together…what more do you want?”

    On the one hand you are being asked to do something that men have been programmed not to be but it relieves you from the burden to fix things. You think she is asking more of you but it is actually freeing you by not having to be the fixer. The woman next to you is stronger than you sometimes give her credit for. She can handle it. And it will not weaken him, it will allow him to experience other aspects of his masculinity.

    I have a certain kind of empathy of what they are going through. Sure some are jerks, but they are in a bind. Sometimes women are dishonest – we want this and we want that, which makes it harder for them to be instrumental and emotional. But men have always made it clear that they want women to be multiple things – women lie or deny what all we want/need from men. We want someone who is going to unleash us – open us up.
    He will release the lioness within, push our reserve, but we decide it was not us but him. He made me do it but I wanted him to make me do it.

    The woman’s big experiment is how to have both under the same roof – the mother and the sexually free woman. Self depriving and receiving through the children, the selfishness necessary for desire, the permission, the self directedness, the child centered world that we are in at this time. It’s important to de-psychologize certain things rather than absorbing the premise and work as if this is a given. It needs to be said to women, “What we are trying has never been done.” Couples are suffering and are trying to individualize it.

    She resents him partially because she is ambivalent about her traditional role, so she does it and does he say, “it was a wonderful meal, the house looks great”? Historically it needs to be affirmed – it’s true, why should she thank him for everything that he does?

    That is the next progression – from duty to pleasure. But she needs to know what it is that she likes. She needs to like herself first. That was never before required for sex and female sexuality.

  • feedwordpress 13:15:42 on 2014/08/26 Permalink
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    What does it take to conjure mystery and rekindle eroticism? 

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    Couples often go wrong by groping for greater closeness, when in fact only separateness and autonomy produce the magic bond they seek. Mystery is often nothing more then a shift in perception, but this takes considerably more than a simple,“Buy sexy lingerie, light candles, open a bottle of wine, and just do it.” The waning of romance is less about the bounds of familiarity and the weight of reality than it is about fear. Eroticism is risky.

    Just as fire needs air, so freedom is an essential element of desire. Too often intimacy and closeness turn into surveillance and possessiveness, a sure way to extinguish eroticism. Individuals must have friends of their own and activities they enjoy apart from the relationship, and not limit themselves to a virtual contract of mutually agreeable faces and events. “Cultivate your garden” is a good rule of thumb.

    And you can rest assured that not sharing every moment does not mean a lack of closeness. This is easy to forget when we turn to one person today to protect us from our existential aloneness and to serve as a bulwark against the vicissitudes of every day life. WE ask from our partner to give us what an entire village once used to provide.

    Languishing desire often results from the very elements we seek to establish in our loving relationships— grounding, predictability and continuity.

    Planning can seem prosaic, but in fact it implies intentionality, and intentionality conveys value. When you plan for sex, what you’re really doing is affirming your erotic bond. I’m not saying that you have to plan intercourse. I’m suggesting that you commit yourselves to cultivating an erotic space where anything can happen, and sex often does.

    Reconciling the domestic and the erotic is a delicate balancing act that we achieve intermittently at best. It requires knowing your partner while recognizing his persistent mystery; creating security while remaining open to the unknown; cultivating intimacy that respects privacy. Separateness and togetherness alternate in point and counterpoint.

    But we tend to be suspicious of premeditated sex. We cherish the belief that hot sex is spontaneous sex, the product of magic and chemistry. Many people bemoan the luscious times when sex used to just happen.

    Reconciling the domestic and the erotic is not a problem you solve, but a paradox you manage. Lover and Desire, they relate and they conflict, herein lies the mystery of eroticism.

  • feedwordpress 12:00:48 on 2014/08/19 Permalink
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    Dr. Whipple on Female Ejaculation 

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    Conversations about sexuality almost always include questions about female ejaculation. I want to give the mic to my colleague Dr. Beverly Whipple (professor at Rutgers University and co-author of the international best seller <i>The G spot and other discoveries about Human Sexuality</i>) who recently wrote an excellent summary on “La Femme Fontaine” that I want to share with you.

    The phenomenon of female ejaculation has been the object of controversy in the last decades, although there are historical data that show its existence for more than 2,000 years. Female ejaculation refers to the expulsion of fluid from the urethra that is different from urine. Some women expel a fluid from their urethra during sexual stimulation and some expel the fluid at orgasm. Many women in the past reported having surgery to correct this “problem,” and others reported that they stopped experiencing orgasm. The fluid is described as looking like watered-down fat-free milk, tasting sweet, and usually about a teaspoon (3-5 cc’s) in volume.

    Aristotle was probably the first to write about female ejaculation, and Galen is said to have known about it in the second century. De Graaf in his New Treastise Concerning the Generative Orgasm of Women in 1672 described the female prostate and the fluid from the urethra in some detail. The biological phenomenon of female ejaculation has always been a normal and pleasurable experience of women’s sexuality. It was a tradition of ancient cultures of China, India, Japan, as well as other territories in Asia and Africa. The Romans called these fluids, liquor vitae, and in ancient India this female erotic fluid was known as a amrita (Nectar of the Gods). The history of this female sexual phenomenon has been described by many authors, such as Gräfenberg in 1950, Sevely and Bennett in 1978, Addiego et al. in 1981, Perry and Whipple in 1981, Ladas, Whipple and Perry in 1982 and 2005, Belzer, Whipple and Moger in 1984, Stifter in 1988, Zaviacic and Whipple in 1993, Zaviacic in 1999, and Rubio-Casillas and Jannini in 2011.

    This fluid has been analyzed chemically by many, such as Addiego and colleagues in 1981, Zaviacic and colleagues in 1988, Belzer, Whipple, and Moger in 1984, and Rubio-Casillas and Jannini in 2011, all of whom found that the chemical components of the ejaculated fluid were significantly different from urine from the same subjects. Specifically, the ejaculate contains high levels of prostatic acid phosphatase, prostatic specific antigen, glucose, and fructose, but low levels of urea and creatinine. The chemical composition of healthy urine is the opposite of female ejaculate, so they are easily differentiated from each other.

    Rubio-Casillas and Jannini (2011) more recently have reported on the chemical composition of 3 fluids expelled from the urethra: urine, large amounts of a clear fluid that has been called squirting or “gushing ,” and what Perry, Whipple and Zavicic have all called female ejaculation. Their biochemical evidence demonstrates that the clear and abundant fluid that is ejected in gushers is different from the real female ejaculation, and both are different from urine from the same subject. Consequently, it is questionable as to whether in those cases the large amounts of fluid are female ejaculate or, more likely, diluted urine.

    Cabello in 1997, tested the hypothesis that all women ejaculate, and that because the volume of the ejaculate is small it may remain in the urethra or pass back (“retrograde”) into the urinary bladder. In support of his hypothesis, he found that PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen), which is present in women’s ejaculate, was absent from the women’s urine before sexual self-stimulation, but present in their urine and their ejaculate after sexual self-stimulation.

    This is probably a lot more than you wanted to know.


    Beverly Whipple, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Professor Emerita, Rutgers University

  • feedwordpress 17:26:29 on 2014/08/17 Permalink
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    Review: Joshua Wolf Shenk’s ‘Powers of Two’ 

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    I am forever interested in how to make better dyads, and harness creative intimacies from your desk to your dining room table.  Josh Wolf Shenk’s book speaks to this very topic. His investigation of hundreds of pairs has a lot to teach us on a personal level as well. Joshua Wolf Shenk has just published Powers of Two, a rich investigation of creative intimacy. He illuminates the electric connection between John Lennon and Paul McCartney and hundreds of other pairs, including many that have never been known as pairs, like Vincent and Theo van Gogh. Most importantly, the book shows what all this means to you and me. Josh argues persuasively, and illustrates with stories and surprising research, that relationships are the primary engine of the creative experience. If you want to make better work in any field, or if you just want to connect more in your life, read this book.


  • feedwordpress 12:00:04 on 2014/08/11 Permalink
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    What is Love? A Poem: 

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    Tor Jonsson (1878-1950):

    You are closest when you are away
    Something disappears when you are close
    They call it love
    I don´t know what it is
    Before the nights were filled
    with hiss from wind and waterfall
    Now there is a hidden tone
    trembling between us
  • feedwordpress 13:00:26 on 2014/07/29 Permalink
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    A french man speaks his mind about Love and Sex 

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    One french man speaks his mind about Love and Sex and addresses himself to us on this side of the Atlantic. I keep coming back to it , and when I do, I remember to let you all know of it as well. 

    For me, there are mainly two different ways to live: You can choose to live on the flatlands, and in those places you can see from far away all that will happen. On the flatlands, you can ride peacefully along on your road of life with no unforeseen accident threatening you ahead. You will go your way steadily, anticipating no bad surprises but no good ones either. Or you can choose to head for the high country where the light is bright, life is exhilarating, and everything is in Technicolor. It asks effort to climb there, but the reward is commensurate with the effort!

    Unlike the flatlands, however, those seeking the heights can’t avoid taking risks, and sooner or later, they’ll visit the abyss. That’s the price of the bliss they dared to reach so high to claim. All those who venture to live this way know what comes with the territory, so they accept being a little like Icarus in Greek mythology. You know the story: His father, Daedalus, made wings of feathers and wax for him, so they can escape the isle of Crete. But completely exhilarated by his flight, Icarus ignored his father’s warnings. Seeking the heights, he got too close to the sun, melted the wax of his wings, and fell to his death in the sea.

    From François Roland’s Being French! A Frenchman’s Guide to a More Sensual Life (Kindle Edition)

    Perhaps it’s time to share my own belief on this, and it will be to say: Yes, claiming a full sensual life can create some chaos in your existence; it can make your life complicated, unsettled, messy, or even a little bit scary sometimes. But are we really going to leave this world without knowing what can possibly be the most complete bliss of all, which is to feel intensely alive and filled by the pure joy that only the sensual fusion of lovemaking can give us? In some of these bright moments, you have the sensation of being complete at last, and maybe it gives you, as well, the deepest sense ever of your own humanity.

  • feedwordpress 14:00:00 on 2014/07/25 Permalink
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    Case study: Affair fills the space in a marriage 

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    Christina met her first lover who affirmed her autonomy, her attractiveness, her life apart from her husband.  The affair also showed how the period of one’s life as well as real or imagined inadequacies in a marriage can combine, again with opportunity, to set the scene for an affair for a woman as well as for a man. Sex became more infrequent after the first child and she thought it might well be over for her but her first affair confirmed that it was her relationship with her husband that was conspiring to make her feel sexually inadequate, not her sexuality. For her, affairs became a way of filling the gap between her husband and herself.  Each affair filled an ever-yawning marital gap, not only a gap about sex but about support, intimacy and friendship.

  • feedwordpress 13:00:20 on 2014/07/22 Permalink
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    Emotional meanings of affairs 

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    Our expectations and demands for exclusiveness which we see in marriage and monogamy are fixed in our earliest love relationship between mother and child. But transposing expectations from one to the other can be dangerous. The consistent, predictable preoccupation and concentration that goes on between mother and child are not possible and probably not desirable in a relationship between adults. And yet they are often expected. Jealousy is an extraordinary feeling which corresponds to the need for appropriation. Jealousy is never surpassed, it is always susceptible to come back and grab us in the belly because fear is always a part of our survival and never disappears from our behaviors. The notion of propriety, of private property, is a very wild and primitive human need that would like to possess and devour the other so that we can once and for all never be lacking again; yet, I can always escape you, you can always escape me and we only merge in certain moments. That is the human condition. Wisdom and lucidity require that we renounce our need for possession while we know that our freedom has a price. When we say my wife, my husband, my partner, or my lover there is always a mark of love possession that can be tender, but it is always relative. If a man and a woman are great friends and share intellectual and artistic tastes and they meet a few times a week in the café in order to exchange their views on life and performances, and these meetings are extremely important for them, the pleasure that they have at meeting is that in the order of eros?

    Too many women are closed to sexual fulfillment because they are dominated or taken by force or oppressed and they are closed to desire because they have no space in order to develop it. Desire needs distance, freedom, dream, mystery. It is that very freedom that allows us to maintain desire, that also has the risk to separate us, one from the other. The freedom posits risks, but without freedom we don’t maintain the intensity of desire.

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