Hey there, fancy doctor lady!
Got a question for ya. I dig my sex toys. Like a lot. Am I gonna start over relying on them? Are they gonna ruin me for regular sex? I don’t wanna break my junk…HELP!
Hey there back atcha, my Babe in Toyland!
Short answer? Nah, you cool. Toy play away!
Longer answer? This is a really common question I get. You are not alone in your concern. So let’s talk about what toys do and don’t do and how all that fits into the context of a healthy sex life. Sex toys provide stimulation and sensation: Vibration, movement, warmth, etc. All the stuff we create for each other and ourselves for the purpose of sexual pleasure. And yes, sex toys can provide a more intensive version of those sensations for sure. But that isn’t gonna BREAK anything.
You called it “regular” sex, but which I think you mean sexual activity, with a partner or not, that doesn’t involve any accoutrement. Just whatever body parts you might be using. Think of it this way: You can walk to the store or drive, right? If you walk it might take you awhile longer but you’re still gonna get there. Walking has its benefits. You slow down, you connect to the world around you, you enjoy the view. Walking can be a ton of fun. But sometimes you just need to run into H-E-B and grab a bag of chips before the party, you know? Nothing wrong with driving, is there?
So the other question you may have is “what if walking ISN’T getting me there and I only get the chips from H-E-B if I drive?”
That totally does NOT make you broken, Babe. It just means you need more stimulation than other people. The toy didn’t create that, that’s just how you’re wired down there.
If that kind of bums you out, the question I would ask is what exactly does the driving do for you that the walking doesn’t? For example, if you are a clitoris-having person, you may have a clitoral hood that blocks a lot of sensation. The toy provides the extra sensation you need to get the job done. And you might be able to get a similar effect if you or your partner push back your clitoral hood during sex. Some people also have that hood pierced so the piercing provides the stimulation and some people have a clitoral hood reduction if it’s really getting in the way.
So a toy may be solving a problem you didn’t really know existed until you investigate a bit further.
So many people born with penii have had circumcisions (or at least gotten decent information about pushing back their foreskin for stimulation) that it’s less an issue. But it can show up in other places, too. Maybe your g-spot (which are not limited to vagina-having people, BTW!) is getting stimulated in just the right way by a certain toy, and that can be replicated with yours or your partners fingers (finding the G spot should be its own article, but in the meantime you can use your Google Fu). Or maybe it’s your perinium (taint, durf, gooch, etc….and yes, the perineum is not limited to penis-having people) that is getting hit the right way.
Pay attention to what the toy is actually doing for you, not just the final outcome. Erm, bag of chips. Whatever.
Toys can be lifesavers for both solo and partnered sex, PERIOD. And are nothing to be ashamed about. Some people have mobility issues that would make masturbation impossible without them. Sometimes toys allow people to participate in sex in a way they couldn’t otherwise. Individuals who struggle to maintain an erection, might find using a hollow core strap helpful in still allowing them penetrative intercourse with their partner.
Sometimes toys allow people to be authentically who they are. A traditional strap-on can allow someone to participate in penetrative intercourse if they don’t have a penis, for example. Another great example of the market catching up to the need is Buck Angel’s new Buck-Off, an FTM stroker which was designed specifically to allow transmen the stroking sensation that other men enjoy, while taking into account that they have larger genitilia due to gender confirmation hormone treatment.
In short? Sex toys are meant to enhance, not replace. And technology is letting many of us experience the sexual pleasure that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. You interested in going to explore? We have many awesome shops in town. I teach classes at The Love Shack Boutique, and it’s no state secret that it’s my favorite (and Current readers seem to agree, the store has won as many “best of” titles as the Spurs!). If you head out in that direction, mention you read this article. Amy and her crew will give you 20% off your purchase. SCHWING!
Because doesn’t everyone deserves to be all that AND a bag of chips?
Keynote Speech - Cook Children's Denton County Wellness Alliance For Children's Mental Health Wellness Conference
(TRANSCRIPTION - TALK GIVEN ON MAY 4, 2017)
Back in 1955, the National Cancer Institute started funding research for cancer treatment. Results weren’t great so in 1960 they expanded their search for cures into natural plant and animal products. Between 1960-1981, 30,000 samples were collected from nature. One such sample came from a USDA botanist named Arthur Barclay in 1962. Now, we move as slow in science as we do in society in general. So it wasn’t until much later (the 1990s through 2013) that the FDA first approved Taxol for the treatment of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, among others.
Today, Taxol is listed by the world health organization on their Model List of Essential medicines. This is the official list of the most necessary and most important medicines needed to support a basic health care system.
Taxol was produced from the bark of the Pacific Yew Tree. So as life tends to do, this is where it gets more complicated, and more interesting.
The yew tree is considered a trash tree by the logging industry. The wood isn’t appropriate for building, so when forests are being clear cut, it is dumped in the slash and burn pile by loggers. Even in the 1990s, when we KNEW what value these trees had, clear cutting practices meant that 75% of the life saving yew bark was lost as trash. About ten years ago, the Forest Service moved the yew tree from the vulnerable list to the endangered list.
But small groups of dedicated people are not having it. We have conservationists out there fighting for the yew trees. Protecting the old growth and defending the new saplings. These individuals know and value the truth. The yew trees contain something sacred. Something integral to the well being of humanity.
Although it’s a fight that feels overwhelming, the movement is growing. We cannot toss aside, slash and burn, and otherwise treat that which is sacred like so much garbage just because it doesn’t fulfill our immediate desires. The yew tree is a literal example that all life holds a piece of our collective survival. That everything is sacred.
Our LGBTQ youth today are our yew trees. And we are their protectors.
Like all protectors, all conservationists, we are hugging tree trunks and facing down bulldozers. It’s overwhelming.
I currently sit on four different not for profit boards. So fundraising is like breathing in and out for me. I keep telling people I need a million dollars and a building. Of course what I’m really asking for is a ten dollar a month commitment from enough people to help us fund our next family event.
But I really need a million dollars and a building.
My friend Brett told me recently that if he had a million dollars to fund a program, it would totally go to me. He said “I’ve seen the magic you work with zero dollars, so I can only imagine what you’d do with a million.” And all of us here today are in the same boat.
And one day, I’ll have that million dollars, but in the meantime, I will keep my arms wrapped around my yew trees, facing down bulldozers. Because I know their value and worth, even if I have nothing in my pocket but my determination. And everyone in this room is in the same boat.
My husband, out of curiosity, recently looked up the suicide rates of inmates on death row. We all know, that being in prison doesn’t stop anyone from committing suicide if they are so committed, anymore than being in prison doesn’t stop someone from using drugs.
He told me that the rate of suicide among death row inmates is 4 times higher than that of the general population.
Oh, I said, that’s interesting. It’s the same rate as it is for LGBQ folk.
Of course that number doubles to 8 times higher if they have unsupportive families.
And it’s 44 times higher if they are transgender or gender nonconforming.
Every year on the transgender day of remembrance, we host a march and memorial service for the individuals lost to hate crimes. We carry their names and photos on tombstones with us as we march. Every year, we add more tombstones to the walk, rather than take some away.
And let’s talk about our schools for a moment, our so-called bully free zones.
Nine of out ten LGBTQ youth experience harassment at school. Eight of ten students had been verbally harassed at school;
But we don’t do that, right?
Except we do. Or our colleagues do. LGBTQ persons experience similar forms of discrimination from mental health professionals as they do in the general public. A study that was just published this week by the Williams Institute found serious health care disparities for LGBTQ adults and youth in Texas along with economic disparities and discrimination in employment, housing, and public accomodations.
Additionally, there is still movement towards techniques termed “therapeutic” that focus on sexual orientation change efforts. In 2014, the Texas Republican Party Platform added language supporting “reparative therapy” as an appropriate counseling modality. Therapy to make you straight.
Just last week, someone asked me “Wait, isn’t that illegal???”
No, it’s not. Not in Texas. And not only is it legal, it was just publicly sanctioned and encouraged by the individuals whose salaries we pay.
I was training in Beaumont last year, on election day. When the results came in, every single one of my trans or gender nonconforming clients called me or texted me in the middle of the night in a panic. I got a call the next day from a colleague at the LGBTQ youth shelter in San Antonio. The kids were LITERALLY hiding under their beds. Sucide hotlines around the country reported that the number of calls that evening tripled. Staff at Equality Texas reported 8 reported suicides in the United States by LGBTQ individuals 24 hours after the election.
The new legislative session, currently in progress in our state, has already seen a flurry of bills that would strip away the rights and protections of LGBTQ Texans.
This is not a political position statement on my part, and it is not intended as a criticism of yours, if we happen to differ. Nor is it a criticism of your spiritual belief system or your religious or cultural practices. I have the utmost respect for whatever you bring to the table, because I want the same respect in return.
This is said as a statement about the reality of existence as an LGBTQ individual in this state and in this country. Our responsibility is to the health, well-being, and life span development of those we serve. And when it comes to LGBTQ folx… we are failing.
They are our yew trees. Despite their immeasurable value to the whole of society, and no matter how we in this room recognize the truth in that statement, they are still being treated like trash trees…left in the slash and burn pile.
One of the things I was asked to address this morning was the importance of language.
Here I am talking about bullying. And access disparities. And violence. And homicide. And suicide. And yew trees. So why the huge focus on language today at this conference?
I grew up in a time where most people were straight. As far as I knew. There were a few gay kids in the drama club and if you watched Donahue, you might have seen someone who was transgender on the show. The language we have today, and the space that now exists for different identities is wildly different. I train on this topic, and I still run into words that I’ve never seen before. Urban Dictionary is my best friend. And for those of us who grew up during gay-straight-or-Donahue times, it can feel overwhelming. But learning and respecting language is one of the most powerful things we can do as mental health advocates.
Franz Boas published the Handbook of American Indian Languages in 1911. He was one of the first cultural relativists and he discovered something interested when studying these languages with an eye as to how they function within their communities.
There is a bi-directional flow between thought and verbal expression. That is, what we think influences how we speak. And how we speak starts to change how we think. If we want to change the world, and we don’t have a million dollars and a building? We start with our language. The language we use in service. In direct care. In advocacy. Our language declares our allyship. Our bravery. Our intent for change. And that language changes the dialogue and changes minds. And when I’m feeling hopeless in the face of bulldozers, this is something I can do.
One of my favorite writers, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, said it with far more eloquence than I ever could:
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
This is how we protect your yew trees. And I am deeply grateful that you are with me in this fight. Thank you for being here today.
SB 92, filed by Texas tea party State Senator Bob Hall, sounds innocuous when you first read the title, doesn’t it? Interstate Commerce Improvement Act – is that going to promote commerce within the state of Texas? Definitely sounds like something the legislature should focus on. Though that isn’t at all what Senator Hall had in mind, as evidenced by language prohibiting individual municipalities, cities, or counties from adopting any new laws (or enforcing any standing laws) that create “a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in the laws of this state."
This is called “local control preemption” and can mean a lot of different things in a lot of different cities. For example, in Austin (as Equality Texas points out), it is illegal for property owners to refuse to rent to students. Austin is a rapidly growing city as well as a huge college town and finding housing can be a challenge for anyone living there. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for students to find landlords willing to rent to them. The problem grew so bad that the city was forced to intercede and protect students as a class of citizens from housing discrimination practices.
Makes sense, right? This isn’t a widespread problem in other parts of the state, so this needn’t be a state law. But in Austin, it’s a huge deal.
The irony is that the Texas lege has long held that local control and more stringent enforcements should always take precedence over federal “interference.” Privacy laws are a great example. We have had them in Texas since the 1970s, far before federal HIPPA laws went into effect. The privacy laws in Texas are also tougher than the federal laws. So clinical practioners in Texas follow Texas law, which trumps federal. So why would Senator Hall want to take away the rights of local authorities to better protect its local citizens?
Senator Hall was ranked the 2nd worst senator on LGBT issues by Equality Texas during his Freshman year (with Donna Campbell taking the #1 spot) and is known for his right wing stance on the state of democracy in our State. As the Texas Observer reported, Senator Hall stated:
“I think we’re sliding into Gomorrah… If we do not change what we’re doing
by changing the leaders when we go to the ballot box, our children
and grandchildren may be having to change their leaders with the ammo box.”
And this is where his so-titled Interstate Commerce Protection Act starts to make sense. Texas does not have any state laws that protect LGBT individuals from discrimination. However, many Texas cities (including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, and San Antonio) do. Because Texas state law doesn't include sexual orientation or gender identity, cities and counties would be be prohibited from enforcing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, if Senator Hall’s bill passes with a two-thirds vote.
These laws protect approximately 9 million Texas residents, approximately 1/3rd of our state’s population. These cities have decided to take on the enforcement of such measures at their own expense to better serve the individuals that live there. Senator Hall thinks that they shouldn’t be allowed to make such determinations in their local governance. Could you imagine his reply if the federal government decided to strip away the increased protections that Texas privacy laws offer those of us who live and work here and instead demand we comply with the less-stringent HIPAA regulations?
But putting aside the issues of the LGBT community for a moment, what might the possible economic ramifications could come of such a law? North Carolina has seen huge financial losses after passing anti-LGBT legislation, numbers of a magnitude that concerned the Texas Association of Business (TAB) came out in public opposition to such measures. Citing the $395 million-dollar loss suffered by North Carolina after the passage of House Bill 2, The TAB estimates even larger losses in Texas. Upwards of $8.5 billion dollars into the Texas economy and 185,000 jobs could be at stake over such a measure.
Billion. With a “b.” For a bill that prevents local legislatures from protecting their own citizens.
This is a bill that makes no sense. No fiscal sense, no structural sense, and definitely no moral sense. We recently saw a huge public outcry and immediate reversal of a federal move to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of the House Ethics Committee, which would allow federal lawmakers complete control over their own discipline. So you know what to do now, don’t you?
Note: This post was originally published as an article in the TALGBTIC newsletter, written as a response to questions from peers and allies within the mental health community after the Orlando shooting. It continues to apply in our day to day actions.
How many times have you seen someone profess allyship with no follow-through in their day to day interactions? Prayers and thoughts are always welcome, but love for others lies in our day to day behavior.
And I get it, I do, it can feel awkward to be supportive if you aren’t sure how. Do you attend the vigil you see posted on Facebook? Show up at a rally or meeting? Do you worry that you are gate crashing where you don’t belong? But I promise you this…professing your allyship with no follow-through is far more hurtful then bumbling a bit in your allyship response. Here are some ideas to get started and get involved:
Just wanted to say thanks to Amy at THE LOVE SHACK in San Antonio, Texas, for hosting my book signing on Saturday! It was a fun event for my new book, THE REVOLUTION WILL INCLUDE COOKIES. If you would like a signed copy, they are available here.
One question I always get when I am training and I pull out my favorite zines is “What’s a zine?” Excellent question! Zines are essentially pamphlets. Small-Circulation, self-published, long form essays or collections of other writings or media. They are born of the punk rock movement…a way of reclaiming media and voice at a grassroots level. You can read a more in-depth analysis on them here. I love zines. They are inexpensive, pocket-sized, easy to read, and often say things that mainstream media won’t say. I use them in my teaching and in my private practice. I also write them:
Dr. Faith’s 5 Minute Therapy Series
My zines are put out by Microcosm Publishing and are available through their website. If you saw one that isn’t listed, it’s likely because it sold out (they sell out quickly!) and is being awaited from the print shop. Holler at me, I may have a copy or can at least ask when they are back in stock. I cover a range of topics and produce new ones whenever I have time to sit down and be a typewriter monkey. The most popular topics are anxiety, anger, and adulting.
Then the second question I get is where did you order all the zines you are showing us? Can’t you put all the links online? Totally, and fair enough. I’ve pulled out and sorted a bunch of my zines and I’m dedicating my newt few blog posts to this topic. Let’s start with the mental health and wellness zines! By the way, these are in no particular order other than the order in which I pulled them out of the pile.
If you have a zine that you think belongs on this list, and you want to send it to me to read, hit me up at email@example.com for my snail mail address!
Touring With Mental Illness
An accessible DIY guide for self care strategies while on the road - including depressive/manic episodes in van, food difficulties when not at home, packing lists, tips n tricks, & *so important* tools bandmates & pals can use to support someone with mental illness. You don’t have to be a musician to benefit from functional ideas to support recovery!
In a time when sexual assault and abuse are an increasing problem; even in so-called radical and punk communities, and when most women have been sexually abused in one way or another, Cindy Crabb (Doris Zine) brings us a document showing ways to prevent sexual violence and support survivors of sexual abuse.
I Don’t Know How To Help You
This is a compilation of writing exploring the difficulties in supporting loved ones with depression, and not knowing how to ask for help when you are the one suffering. This is a resource of assistance and compassion, of true ache and optimism in the face of crushing blues.
How Not To Kill Yourself
Are you inclined to escape the crumminess of everyday life into fantasy worlds? Are you smart and imaginative in a way that isn't really suited to your surroundings? Are you definitely misunderstood, likely angry, and almost certainly depressed? Set Sytes, hailing from the UK, would prefer you stay alive and sort things out rather than the alternative, thanks. He figures there are better opportunities for you out there and lays it all out in a way that's compelling, funny, sharp, and useful.
How To Not Give A Fuck About A Thing That Is Not Worth Your Precious Time
A mini guide on making your life better by not giving fucks about things you shouldn't be worrying about. Which seems like a simple idea but, as says this zine, "the reality of not giving a fuck is pretty hard for most of us."
Self As Other: Reflections on Self-Care
In activist circles and elsewhere, it has become commonplace to speak of self-care, taking for granted that the meaning of this expression is self-evident. But “self” and “care” are not static or monolithic; nor is “health.” How has this discourse been colonized by capitalist values? How could we expand our notion of care to encompass a transformative practice?
The Do It Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad
Self-described as an "anti-depression guide/guide to a freer, more lawless life." Gnade's book looks at the root causes of sadness, anxiety, and general malaise/boredom and offers helpful point-by-point suggestions (in list form) and short essay pep-talks on how to move beyond your demons for a better, smarter, happier life. Like a letter from a trusted friend in the trenches, The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad will work with you through all phases of your life, thick and thin.
Simple Steps To A Life Less Shitty
A continuation of the work started with his Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad, Adam Gnade's new pamphlet is a series of peptalks and how-to's on dealing with the overwhelming bullshit of modern life. From list-keeping as a survival skill to battling sleep anxiety, finding the wild heart inside you to kicking your life-long depression in half like a cheap ceramic statue, these tips, lists, and essays show a path toward a better, smarter, freer life.
Shit's Fucked: A Positivity Guide is a very small self-help pamphlet by Gina Sarti, who is perhaps the punk rock Sark. It’s fun, concise, and full of little reminders we need all the time.
Stressed and Overwhelmed
If you're the sort of person who takes on every project and responsibility until suddenly it's one thing too many and you get completely burnt out and drop everything and start the cycle again from scratch ... this zine is for you. Includes hard-won pointers on how to train yourself to have more sustainable work habits (using tricks from dog training!), shore up your professional boundaries, and get more organized so you can have a better handle on all the things you are very likely to continue taking on.
That’s Not OK: Boundaries For The Conflict Avoidant
“What’s a boundary?” you might be wondering. But even if you understand emotional boundaries, reflecting more on them can help you live a less confused and happier life. In short, a boundary is telling someone what you are and are not comfortable with, telling people no and setting safe, comfortable limits in your daily life. As the author puts it, having boundaries is the difference between a restaurant having a menu or not—your friends, family, and lovers know what is on the table or not.
Open In Case of Emergency
A personal look into living with a mental illness. Issue one focuses on the need for help and the battle for self identity after receiving a diagnosis.
I’ve essentially been radio silent on social media regarding political issues. Cuz I’m just so tired, y’all. I’m tired of being told that I SHOULD be afraid of sharing the restroom with a woman who happens to be trans but I SHOULDN’T be afraid of men like Brock Turner.
I’m so tired of everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth that I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
I am so tired of my family, friends, and clients being scared into silence and hiding when they were just starting to gain voice in the world.
I didn’t enter this weekend feeling good about the world we live in right now. But then I woke up this morning, and it was far worse. I was ready to drink my coconut milk decaf coffee and have my gluten-free breakfast treat with my morning paper before I headed into the office. Instead I was immediately flooded with news about what happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. Details are still emerging, but we do know for sure that this is the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, with 50 lives lost and at least that many more wounded.
My phone was blowing up with texts from friends all over the country, begging me to be safe. To bring security when I attend and/or host fundraisers for the LGBT community. Or to not go at all. Then I got a text from my best friend, telling me it was time for me to write about all that is going on. To talk about what intimacy means in times like this. When we need intimacy the most. As always (and this is why he is my very best friend), he was right.
Because we talk about intimacy as if it were synonymous with sex. And sex is the fun part of it, for sure. And I have so much fun writing about that topic. But where the world is now? On the precipice of enormous change or doubtless self-destruction? The importance of intimacy takes on a far broader meaning.
Intimacy is connection. The shared strength of relationship. That we are ten-fold more powerful together than we are alone. And this kind of intimacy is the only way we can face our fears. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tweeted a biblical verse this morning, hours after the news of the shooting, that was as follows:
Do not be deceived:
The tweet was subsequently removed (likely by the sole staff member at the governor’s office with some semblance of intellect and self-preservation), but you know what, y’all? I happen to be in agreement with Mr. Patrick. In the reality of his message, if not the ideology and intent implied in his post. I agree that pulling away from each other is a mockery of God’s love and that it causes us far more pain in the long run.
And if instead, we connect with each other? If we choose intimacy over fear? Then we are sowing the peace we so desperately need.
Please don’t think I don’t know how fucking hard this is, what I am suggesting to do. I know. I know because as of late, I have been seriously debating moving to Costa Rica. I’m scared too. So ridiculously scared. But instead? I’m doing the following things the very best ways I can. And I see people around me doing the same. Please join us in:
1) Creating safe spaces. If being out in the community feels threatening for you, or the people you love, look at new ways of creating places where you can be in community. I saw comments on social media today, calling for the organization of house parties for people who didn’t feel safe at clubs. The idea being, we won’t be isolated in our fear. We simply change the locale to protect ourselves as need be.
2) Helping others. We make pots of soup and bake loaves of bread. We volunteer to bring our neighbors to their polling station on election day. We speak up for each other in public spaces. We guard the fucking bathroom doors when someone needs to pee. We make sure, with everything we say and do, that those around us knows they are not alone. We are connected and will prevail.
3) Asking for help. Do you know what is harder than helping others? Letting others help you. It is the best gift we can give someone, letting them care for us. Being cared for builds far more intimacy than taking care of. Ask for the help you need. Accept it with the gratitude it deserves.
Ask a friend to meet you for coffee, to come watch Netflix with you, to sit with you on the phone and tell you the world will make sense again.
When I finally did get to my office today, I found my private practice partner had left me a Starbucks gift card and a note telling me how much she appreciated me. Her love made me feel like I could see clients again feeling hopeful about the world, so I could support them feeling the same. That I could, at least for one more day, back burner any thoughts of moving to Costa Rica.
This Thursday, I am attending the Candlelight Vigil hosted by the Pride Center of San Antonio. I will be there with my husband and best friend. And you, if you want to join us. We will stand with you in community.
And then next week, I will host a fundraising event with The Love Shack Boutique, a sex trivia night at Bar Louie, benefiting the same Pride Center of San Antonio that I will stand with in mourning this week. We will laugh and have fun and raise money for our community, within our community. Again with you, too, if you want to join us.
Thank you, Dan Patrick, for the reminder. I have no doubt of the goodness we will reap.
Audre Lorde was a Carribean born feminist, activist, poet, writer, and lesbian who died of cancer in 1992, at the same time I was just discovering her work. She is perhaps best known for saying “The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” The original essay that quote came from can be found in her collection of essays and speeches, Sister Outsider (or online). The essential idea behind that quote, often heard but not as often understood, was that we cannot affect change playing by the rules that we had no voice in creating. These structures that surround us are designed to maintain oppression, not give us voice to rise up. The questions, then, become: How do we begin to get our voice back? and How do we learn to speak our truth with safety?
1. What are the words you do not have yet?
What experiences have you had for which there is no words to properly describe what has happened?
2.What do you need to say?
What are the things you have not yet shared? Maybe not even to yourself. Maybe because the words have not been available. List as many things as you need to list.
3. What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?
What do you take on that is not yours, no matter how often you are told that it is? What is imposed upon you that you suffer through in order to put food on the table? To remain connected to others? To survive? This list is ever growing and ever changing. Change the list as often as need be.
4. If we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?”
What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best? What is the most likely? Is it worth speaking up right now? If not, what would need to change to make it worth it?
You probably have never heard of a dude named Pierre Janet. He was a French philosopher and psychologist who lectured at the Sorbonne and created the first model of treating trauma in the 1800s. He was also created the terms “subconscious” and “disassociation.”
The idea that our brains work at more than one level, and process and give feedback at all of these levels was not anything anyone had considered before. And what later became known as “hysteria” was what he rightly termed disassociation…the idea that the brain is going to protect itself from trauma and perceived trauma. It wasn’t crazy, it was adaptive.
The people in psychology you have heard of credit this dude for their work.
Freud and Adler both built their theories on Janet’s work. Jung studied with him outright then did the same. Janet was a straight-up brilliant bad ass. He wrote a ton of epic stuff, but his best known work is likely Psychological Healing, published in 1919.
Janet’s work informed the seminal work of current trauma treatment movement, Judith Hermann’s Trauma and Recovery, which was considered groundbreaking in 1992. Lisa Najavit’s Seeking Safety treatment protocol honors this book specifically. All other sequential trauma treatment modalities come from Herman, as well, whether credited or no.
And it all comes from Janet. Fucking ALL of it. Before we understood what was going on with the brain in a scientific way. Before even Freud asked what was up with yo’ mama. It was all Janet.
So many of his ideas are bearing out as truth as we use new technology to learn more about how the brain works. Other than the specific ideas of subconscious and disassociation, Janet was the first to posit that:
We are far into 2016 now. Shit, when did that happen?
All those other resolutions flew out the window weeks ago. Ok, let’s be honest…MONTHS ago. The sneaks are back in the closet and the tacos are back on the table. Because seriously, fuck Pilates and kale.
So it’s a good time to give your intimate relationships a little boost. Just as good for you in the long run, and goes a long way to soothe your guilt over that gym membership you never use. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
This doesn’t mean bitching at Boo more. It means bitching at Boo differently. Do you remember the Pythagorean theorem? You totally just recited “a squared plus be squared equals c squared” in your head, didn’t you? Did you ever use that out of school? Yeah, me neither.
You know what would have been way more helpful to learn? How to communicate with I statements. Try this on with your partner when you are all kinds of hacked off (or all kinds of thrilled, for that matter):
What I want is:
You know what this is? Being a grown-ass person who takes responsibility for their own feelings and actions and clearly communicates their needs. Rather than blaming Boo (You made me mad!) or doing the freeze out no talking thing (If you really loved me you would read my mind!)
That’s awesome shit right there.
And bonus points on this…Boo can’t tell you how to feel if you are taking ownership of it. It’s not right or wrong…it’s just what you feel. Adulting FTW.
And I don’t mean collapsed on the sofa, streaming Gilmore Girls on Netflix and eating ice cream in your stained sweats with Boo by your side, but real planned couples time. Your mate deserves to be wooed. And so do you.
This doesn’t mean fancy, it just means intentional. It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk in the park, or ice cream cones at Lick, it means respecting your relationship enough to make time for it. The way you do everything else of importance in your life. Do you make an appointment when you go see your dentist? Plan in your schedule to run to Trader Joe’s for groceries? Isn’t Boo worth at least as much consideration?
Make a plan. To do something. Together. Once a week. It can even be home if that is how life is rolling right now. But make a plan. Not a Gilmore Girls default setting. Whether it be date night at Hot Joy, coffee at Rosella before hitting the latest SAMA exhibit, or Netflix and chill, do it in an organized way.
“Hey Boo. Tuesday’s are a pretty light day for us. I’m gonna get a bottle of wine and some take-out Pho. Let’s stream that movie we missed in the theatre that you were wanting to see on Tuesday.”
Date night. Not just for dating anymore.
This is stupid important if you and Boo share a living space. And ESPECIALLY if you have kids. Once a week you should each have a chance to escape the house alone and once a week you should have a chance to have the house to yourself alone. I know how hard this is to do, but if you make effort you will do way better than you are doing right now, I imagine.
It doesn’t have to be complicated time. Doesn’t matter if you want to go wander Target with a Starbucks in hand for an hour alone, we all need time that is just ours. Same with time alone in the house. Doesn’t matter if you do laundry and watch Mozart in the Jungle with the cat. The house. Alone. No judgments on how you spend that time. It’s all yours.
Mr. Intimacy Dr (the infamous Dan/Joe) is a writer. He’s good about putting on headphones and writing away while sitting on his bouncy ball (the one I replaced his favorite desk chair with to better support his back) while I am streaming Adele, arguing with the teenager, and banging pots and pans in the kitchen. Never mind my incessant phone ringing and booping through all this. Once a week I take the bratty teenager out with me to run errands, turn off the Google Audio Chrome and let him have the house in peace. He may actually write. He may take a bath, watch a movie, nap with the cat. But the time is all his with no judgments on how he uses that. We all need that time to reboot, recharge, and be good partners.
Keep Your Relationship In Your Relationship
I’ve talked about this before. Clearly this makes me nuts. But seriously, do the thing. I wrote that article in response to a few people I saw publically trashing their partner on a regular basis. Of course they didn’t read the article or think it applied to them, and that’s to be expected. But these same people? Increasingly miserable. Broken up with the aforementioned partner or quite nearly there. Always unhappy. Always complaining. Spending more time than necessary with their own therapists. Physically unwell, accident prone. Just…ugh.
Is this a magic cure for not tripping over sidewalk cracks? Of course not. But if you are connected to your authentic self, aware of what is important in your life, and intentionally making good decisions about you’re relationships? Life will be easier.
Life is already difficult enough, cupcake. For reals. Stop making it worse. And if Boo sucks that bad? GTFO.
Stop being happy only when you’re miserable. And stop bringing the people who care about you along for the ride.
Being A More Excellent You
When I asked on social media this week what relational resolutions people had, it was mostly my single friends that answered in detail.
(My partnered peeps said they had resolutions but to keep my nosy self outta their bidness…they must have thought it was a trick question about keeping your relationship in your relationship!)
Common theme in their answers: Being the best person they could be in order to be open to an excellent potential partner. Fuck yeah, rock star! Do you know what rocks? You not expecting a mate to fix everything wrong in your life. You doing that shit yourself. You know what happens when you are a jacked-up mess? Your bat signal attracts the same.
This is excellent advice whether you are single or already partnered. Actively work on your shit. That’s the theoretical point of New Year’s resolutions, amirite?
No one says you have to be perfect.
Dan/Joe loves me for my flabby belly and scrawny butt. Not because he finds them empirically sexy (but to each their own if that’s your thang). But because they are attached to someone who has worked hard to build a life they are excited about. We are both people with goals we go after with full force. We take responsibility for our fuck-ups and help each other be better people. This may mean never trusting him to take the trash out in the morning no matter how much he swears he won’t forget. But hey, healthy doesn’t mean flawless.
I have had clients come see me after being so fucking tired of ruining relationship after relationship because they hadn’t worked on their own shit. And it’s so cool to see them do that work and then, at some point, tell me with enormous surprise that they met someone amazing and are building a great relationship. “I told them about my history and they stuck around.” Of course they did. Because your history stopped defining you. And they know they are dating a human being working on their own shit.
And you deserve someone great. And they deserve someone as great as you.
So hit the Pilates and the kale if that makes you feel better connected to your body. Take a cooking class. Go to therapy. Learn French. Sign up for OKCupid. Go on a date that’s just a date.
Yes you have baggage. Your job is to carry your own rather than expect someone else to show up with a trolley.
I know, I know. That kale thing keeps rearing its ugly head. But other than that? What are your goals for your relationships? Any resolutions you want to share?
Shout out below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear what you are up to!