A FATHER’S DAY FANTASY

hefner and twinsFantasy’s a powerful thing.  It fuels the head trip of desire and compels the illusion of feeling good, even when there are no hands on.   Multi-billion dollar industries – from publishing to prostitution to porn – start here first.   

But how does the brain distinguish between what’s real and what’s imagined?   Scientists’ hypotheses point to the involvement of different areas of the brain and the multi-directional processing among them.  

Sexual fantasies are a solo adventure usually leading to release through orgasm.  For some the mind’s eye is enough to induce a significant physical event like orgasm.  Actual visual stimulation is so powerful that doctors’ offices getting sperm samples provide men with sexually explicit magazines as a way for patients to get it up and over with.   Humans are not alone:  Species that are down the evolutionary ladder from us also purposely seek out ways to feel good “down there”.  Elephants rub, monkeys twiddle away the hours masturbating, and male dogs lust after people’s legs.

Sometimes fantasy goes wild and boundaries are blurred, creating a new “reality”.  One example is the substitution of social bonds created by in-person interaction with texting, sexting, and hook-up sites.  We’ve always looked for love in the wrong places but it’s easier now; you don’t have to take a shower to “chat”.  Carried to extreme, fantasy never becomes reality:  the lure of being anyone you choose, often without consequence, is a strong inducement to stay impersonal.

It’s long been known that our brains are hardwired for pleasure, with specific neural pathways acting as highways.  As with anything pleasurable, the possibility of overindulgence, abuse, is possible.  While most brains have stopping, or surfeit, mechanisms, other brains are glitched to go wild.  Especially worrisome is the effect on young brains of unrelenting and ever-more-present societal messages about sex.  Young brains are not yet equipped with that Jiminy-Cricket-battle between the super-ego and the id; with this age group (and for some adults), the id wins almost every time.  Understandably there is concern for young people among parents, educators, and the mental health community.

The mental health and medical communities are concerned about the rise within the broader population of sexually identified mental health diagnoses as well as the rise in sexually transmitted disease.  It’s no longer unusual to know someone with herpes; it’s even been authoritatively predicted that in ten years over half of women and 40% of men will have contracted genital herpes.

Fantasy enables our addiction to the belief that if we can imagine it, we can make it real.  It sounds snappy when Sony says it, but those are dangerous words.  Not only because that’s not always true, but because it shouldn’t always be true..  Powerful as it is, sexual fantasy is just that.  Many of us are still hanging with Freud rather than updating our belief that it’s abnormal not to fantasize when bringing about orgasm. 

In praise of sexual fantasy: 

  • Leads to sexual activity, conjoint or solo, and that’s a good thing;

  • By inducing orgasm the body rids itself of stale sperm, an evolutionary advantage;

  • Orgasm reduces blood pressure, aids sleep, counts as exercise, lowers heart attack risk, lessens pain;

  • Can infuse a dulled relationship with newness;

  • Takes us on a journey we probably otherwise wouldn’t be capable of;

  • Stimulates creative thinking;

  • Enables us to practice social skills;

  • Offers an escape from criticism that may induce self-consciousness or an inability to function sexually;

  • Makes us feel good about ourselves, powerful, potent, and desirable;

  • Enhances relationship;

  • Mostly, sexual fantasy Is fun.

Sex is the adult version of play and fantasy is our way of looking forward to playing.  As thinking beings we need fantasy, daydreaming, and imagination as a pathway to our best self.  Fantasy is a pleasure in itself. 

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist whose private practice focuses on couples, especially those whose relationship is impacted by visible or invisible disability or illness for whom sexuality is often a significant issue.  It’s probable that childhood exposure to an overly enthusiastic dog is the reason she’s a cat person.  Then again, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  With their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, she and her husband David live in Colorado Springs where she maintains a private practice and where she and David co-instruct Couple Communication Workshops.  

Copyright 2015, Being Heard, LLC

SOMETIMES YOU OUGHTA BE SCARED

clown hugBells should go off in your head if you’re walking in the woods and a clown in a bunker’s offering free hugs.  

Or when your guy grabs your shirt, slams you up against the wall, and says you don’t wanna make him angry.

And the whole theater’s screaming at that dumb young thing not to open up when the doorbell rings at midnight and nobody’s expected.

I’m not generally an alarmist although my husband David would disagree.  I do worry about fire starting in a trash barrel where he’s dumped grass clippings.  Or being afraid things are gonna blow up.  Or when I feel eyes on me when I’m working late by the open window in my first floor office and I can’t help myself I just have to look.

One summer my panties started disappearing off the clothesline, hang-up calls began right after my soon-to-be-ex left the house, and the guy across the street would make a racket so I’d look up to see him standing naked in his doorway.  When the phone rang at 2 one morning and the soon-to-be hustled me into the dark backyard I thought yeah, sure, I’m gonna get whacked — he had lots of, uh, connections; I didn’t for a second believe the police were evacuating the neighborhood.  But they were.  That spooky ass guy shot a neighbor who was coming home from shift work.

A bit after I rented out my condo, the woman whose doorway was a few feet away from mine was strangled at home then dumped in the woods. The daughter’s boyfriend went to prison for murder in a sordid story worthy of a bestseller.

Like people in an abusive marriage or those who return from war, I can talk about what’s happened to me as if it had happened to someone else.  Traumatic stress is often numbing and, whether the stress is long- or short-term, the need for self-protection can make us look (and be) detached and dispassionate.

Danger exists in trusting others even as protection is so desperately needed.  Laying down the guise, being vulnerable and exposed, is almost literally a deadly challenge that many won’t choose.

Traumatic stress is so often unexpected — who would set themselves up to be traumatized? — we cannot prepare or protect our psyches from it.  A system-wide shock indicates that everything in our world — most especially those to whom we are vulnerable like spouses, parents, children, friends as well as surroundings that once felt safe — is now suspect.  Add to that the invisibility of chronic, traumatic stress and the difficulty of  recognizing or relating to it adds to misunderstanding and further isolation and loneliness.

Traumatic stress can be vigilance run amok.

The experiencing, fearing, seeing, remembering of violence and harm can derail our thoughts and emotions, often forever.  Like someone who puts and keeps themselves in line for abuse, or those who think themselves immune to repeated horror, all of us need to realize that horror commands a price.  Similarly, we need to know that sometimes, not always, we can predict nasty experiences and seek to avoid them.  Problem is, the invisibility of stress disorders can mean that some people are less in control than it seems.  The creed of healthcare workers, protectors of public safety, combatants, and others who serve reinforces our expectations — and their own — about invulnerability.

Sometimes, vigilance is underrated.

Putting ourselves in charge, like not hanging out with somebody who slams you against a wall, is a proactive step to avoiding traumatic stress in the first place.  And when you can’t avoid getting bummed out, talking with a professional helper can expiate what may be stuck in your head.  That’s necessary if you want to be able to live your life without looking over your shoulder for clowns.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice who specializes working with couples, especially those for whom invisible disability — like PTSD — is part of their relationship’s mix. She and her husband David hold Couples Communication Workshops that help inoculate couples from the stress that a poor relationship can bring.  Register now for the lateswt workshop at www.BeingHeardNow.com

© 2015, Being Heard, LLC 

THE #1 REASON WE DON’T LIKE THE HOLIDAYS

stressed christmsExpectations.

Say what you want about weariness, family dysfunction, commercialism, overeating and overspending.  Or that the sun’s been AWOL for 7 days straight and what’s left of the snow looks like it fell from a volcano.  Any number of stress disorders, worries about money, and disliking your own relatives (including Mother) count for nothing when a houseful’s coming, it’s your turn to entertain, and hubby’s at hockey with the kids.

Not much I can add to the 487 articles on Google about holiday survival except for this:  Never try out a new recipe with 20 coming for dinner.

I spent (too) many years expecting myself to live up to what I assumed was expected.  I didn’t make it “granular”; Enjoyment wasn’t My Enjoyment.  I lived the saying that expectations are premeditated disappointments.

Having a merry or happy or blessed was always accompanied by the picture of what it meant to be merry, happy, blessed.

I once believed that tramping through the snow, in the dark, to sit on a lonely outcropping at the edge of the forest to read a holiday card was worthy of a tug at my heart.   The fact, unromantic but true, was almost certainly a frozen body part, wolves in the woods, and having to pee part way there with the probability of my butt being frozen to my heels.

I don’t think we like the holidays because we’re supposed to like the holidays; we expect to, everyone expects us to, and everyone expects everyone else to, as well.  How is underwear a gift?  Who could enjoy watching Uncle Jim throw up turkey dinner after drinking too much?  Why would anyone endure the personal fallout of driving 600 icy miles to be with people you’re supposed to love but don’t really like?

Ain’t the holidays fun?

But when we have choices that lead us away from depression, guilt, hurt, or disappointment, we don’t make those choices often enough.

That underwear is given as a gift isn’t the reason we don’t like the holidays; the reason we don’t is because underwear, even if it has holes in it, is to be expected from parents, not partners.  Big girl panties don’t send the romantic message that he’d marry you all over again.  Thinking about it, though, I wouldn’t object to “tightie-whities” and “sexy” being in the same sentence.

Dissatisfaction with most holidays may have to do with the let-down that descends after shopping, spending, wrapping, waiting, and expecting.  Is that all there is?

“Lower your expectations of earth,” said author Max Lucado. “This isn’t heaven, so don’t expect it to be.”

Translation:  There is no gift wrap in heaven.

 

 Kathe KD-Winter_thumb.jpgSkinner is a Colorado Marriage & Family Therapist who always falls for  The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Colorado Christmas even though she doesn’t ski and  is basically an East-coast girl.  She lives along the Front Range of the Rockies  with cozy husband David and their two kitties Petey and Lucy, who leave little  presents for them year ‘round. 

 

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THEY DON’T HAVE SEX FANTASIES

Close up mid section of a young man wearing apron in the kitchenThe other day I was talking with a friend whose two children were going through predictable stuff – the yuckiness of the opposite sex, trouble with Social Studies, and the usual overload of growing up in a fast-paced world. The kids’ world was a whirlwind of soccer, the mall, computers, friends, dance, and school.  My  friend monitored sleep-overs, made it a point to know other kids’ parents, and whenever possible attended school and athletic events. Balancing work and home was always difficult and sometimes unsuccessful.  After lots of creative problem solving, things worked out.  Eventually. My friend confided that much as the children were loved, parenting sometimes got tough. There was guilt in wanting to work on personal stuff when the kids had needs, too. There was resentment when evenings melted into listening to problems, helping with homework, and enduring the logistics of bedtime when there was always laundry to do and lunches to pack.

“Getting enough” wasn’t about sex; it was about sleep.

My friend had put in time reading Harry Potter books out loud, kissing boo-boo’s, pacing the ER, laughing, crying, and being in awe that the growing-up years passed by so quickly. Even though there was sometimes disappointment, anger, and frustration there was always love.   Always love. As a work friend, I’d never actually seen all of them together, but I knew exactly how my friend felt about those kids.  One look at the multitude of pictures on the cube’s walls said it all. So when I was out shopping last week for a Mother’s Day card with my friend in mind, I was disappointed in not being able to find the right card that expressed the admiration I felt. And I wondered: what kind of Mother’s Day card do his kids get for him? Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach specializing in couples work, especially with those relationships impacted by invisible disability.  She has a firm belief that the quality of a couple’s relationship has significant impact on a family’s health.  With experiences as a 7th grade teacher and as a therapist working with adolescents Kathe considers herself “mom” to hundreds of kids.  She and her husband David live in Colorado where they teach Couple Communication Workshops and are both mom to kitties Petey and Lucy.  Discover more about Kathe Skinner and the Couples Communication Workshops at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com and be sure to check out more of Kathe’s blog at ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com ©2014, Being Heard, LLC

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INVISIBLE DISABILITY GOT YOU SIDELINED THIS WINTER?

Even if I walked away, I wouldn't be able to walk very far.

Even if I walked away, I wouldn’t be able to walk very far.

For those of us who are disabled, invisibly so, preparing for  weather that turns wintry follows a simple self-care rule:  stay inside.

As multiple sclerosis has progressed in me, simple tasks loom large.

Accumulation of simple tasks makes negotiating my environment literally hazardous to my health.

And I’m not alone in what can happen:

Impaired mobility.   “Give me something to hold onto, like a railing, or a walker,” I said confidently, “and I’m good to go.”  This from a woman who managed the unbelievable – falling down and taking the shopping cart with her.  Not just with her, on top of her.  The same woman who stepped off a sidewalk and fell face-first on her rollator into Chicago traffic.

Adding ice, snow or both increases  the danger, whether I want it to or not.  Cold temperatures stiffen already-Frankenstein-like limbs, reduce feeling, and can even shut down body functions altogether.  For me, any extreme of temperature, hot or cold, and I look and act like a zombie.

Impaired senses and abilities. When it’s cold, the body’s heat is centralized to protect the core.  Extremities function poorly, if at all.  Try counting change at the grocery store, or picking up something you dropped.  Even bending over is dicey and can result in a tumble.  Even worse?  Getting up again.

People with breathing difficulties may struggle, even with little or no exertion.  Arthritis sufferers are crippled all the more.  And the head-injured’s thought processes slow. way. down.

Anything already stressed responds negatively to even more stress.  Think of the knees of someone overweight:  when chubby becomes obese, knees already weakened break down when more weight is added.

Of course not everyone will have such a dramatic response to arctic-like conditions, but some will.   For me, balance and strength, ability to write, well-being and fatigue, mood, motor skills, bladder control, cognitive functions, like word finding, are some of what fall to unacceptable levels.

It’s just plain dangerous.   A wheelchair-bound client of mine was hit by a bus when the driver’s vision was impaired by a snowstorm – he didn’t see her crossing in front of the vehicle.  My massage therapist suffered brain damage when she hit the pavement after slipping on ice in the parking lot.

Our focus on independence may cost us, like the guy who refuses to leave when the flood waters rise.  Thinking about who picks up the pieces doesn’t cross our minds.

Can you afford to get stranded for hours?

Can your heart or lungs hold up to strenuous efforts to free your car from a snow bank?  What happens when your body’s attempts at staying warm mess with your blood sugar?  Or the stress of the whole ordeal brings on pain and diarrhea?

I have a highly polished ability to ignore what I don’t like.  I especially don’t like staying home on those arctic days when others are doing ordinary things, like going to work.  This is true even though experience tells me how I’ll hurt my body, mind, and self-esteem by ignoring how the m.s. in me behaves in harsh conditions.

Instead, control what you can.  Don’t know about you, but I already know what happens when I ignore what that is.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach working especially with the invisibly disabled.  She looks for real-life adventures in Front Range Colorado where the environment’s sometimes restricted by weather extremes. Currently, she’s cleaning up her home office while groovin’ to the oldies. A pirate’s treasure is stacked on the floor; who knows what she’ll find in all that paperwork?  Learn more about Kathe Skinner and the Couples Communication Workshops taught by Kathe & David at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com

©2014, Being Heard, LLC

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