November 19, 2019
November 19, 2019
September 12, 2019
July 15, 2019
When a certain situation triggers a relationship a crisis and all the pain and chaos that comes with that, we understandably want to stop the pain as quickly as possible. In a crisis, our human body is designed to go into “survival” mode, not into complex decision making. We are going into “fight and flight”, not “ponder and wonder”. The impact of someone else’s chaos can create negative health outcomes in yourself. You may or may not feel anxious or depressed by your loved one’s issues but may notice that you cannot sleep, overeat, or cannot seem to get to the gym. Not to mention that you feel you are the first catching whatever sickness goes around in the office. Research shows that people’s immune system is taxed if they are dealing with a crisis. In addition, because our body is busy with survival, the brain focuses on survival and not on complex decision making. In other words, in addition to dealing with the crisis, you may be affected by difficulties to concentrate, problem solve, and plan strategically what is best for you long-term.
In other words: as you may deal with
(a) the crisis + (b) a stress response + (c) an impaired ability to make the best decisions that are in line with who you truly are = you have a lot going on.
In these times, it is especially important to take good care of yourself: to empower yourself that you get to be your true best self despite of what you are dealing with. Here are some healthy things to engage in when in a relationship crisis:
(a) Healthy Attention To Restore Your Health And Problem Solving Will Start Moving You Out Of Crisis Mode Into Healing Mode
Even if the crisis may have been prompted by your significant other and it feels that you need to spend all of your resources on moving the person out of his/her chaos so that your crisis decreases, decreasing your stress response gets to be your first and most important task in this season: this will unleash you to come to the best decision that this complex situation requires. As it may feel impossible to do so, try one tool at a time. Studies show that experiencing sexual infidelity in a committed relationship creates an acute stress response that may put your mental health at risk. To gently move you from
For example, gently move towards slowing down and getting some rest (if sleeping feels impossible). If you cannot fall asleep, see your time as time of resting instead. Resting helps your body relax and replenish. Listen to the “Resting” script https://sexualhealthoc.com/rest/ instead of trying to fall asleep. Alternatively, look up and listen to Youtube “EMDR Bilateral Stimulation Music”. Listen to that music using your phone’s headset- the rhythm sent to your ears in an alternating fashion will calm down your brain., assertiveness strategies for healthy communication, or and stress relief activities such as relaxation resources.
It is equally important to calm the stress response by healthy breathing and by using your body’s built-in ability to release stress. The built-in ability to release stress is switched on when you alternate between moving your right side of your body and your left side of the body (yes, it sounds silly, but actually always works). You can do so by taking a brisk walk, cycling, or simply tapping your car’s steering wheel using your left vs our right hand. You may find a noticeable calming down of yourself once you have moved left side-right side-left side right side for about 26-30 times.
Again, why bother moving the left side and the right side of your body in an alternating fashion when you may feel that the floor of your house is missing upon discovery of your loved one’s behaviors? Well, I personally wish that you get through this situation, and so it is vital to attend to your needs in this crisis.
You may have a 1000 questions about what is going on- what brought you here, why your partner engaged in infidelity. You might experience a flooding of painful feelings, regardless of your personality and social environment. You might even feel ashamed or guilt and shame or confusions about the cause of your situation.
(b) Find Healthy Support In This Complex Situation:
You will not need to master this on your own! Instead of needing to figure out if family members can be trusted or will worsen the crisis with their responses to what is going on, look for a specialized counselor who assesses for the complexity of you are dealing with: Is the counselor/therapist assessing you/your significant other’s stress response? Is the counselor/therapist trained in assessing for addiction? Is he/she trained to be sensitive to your specific circumstances such as your cultural background, religious values? Are they taking a directive approach (“You should….” “You should not…”) or an approach that will allow you to make your best decisions at a pace you feel comfortable with? While the temptation can be to get in with a counselor right away instead of “interviewing” several counselors for your best fit, the truth is that a not-as-trained counselor may create a so called “medical or treatment induced” trauma due to a lack of information on the complexity of the issue.
(c) To Do: Equip Yourself For BEST Decision Making
Allow yourself the time to develop a roadmap for direction consequences in response to your loved one’s behaviors. A lot of counselors recommend to not make major decisions (e.g., change jobs, sell the house, divorce) within 4-6 months of a crisis. Instead, use that time to engage in reducing the stress response and use guided support to make sense of what happened.
Even if it feels counterintuitive to make a list of losses and casualties that come with a crisis, research shows that a couple affected by crisis can only generate hope if one first makes a list of the losses that occurred, grieve the dreams that were shattered, and fully acknowledge the damage that was done. Once there is ownership of the crisis, the couple will be able to start their healing process. Look for a professional who is trained to lead you through grieving, disclosures of problematic/secretive behaviors and betrayal trauma that may have led to or resulted from the crisis. For example, look for Clinical Specialists of Partner Trauma or a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist who offer “disclosure” workshops, intensives, or other structured ways to systematically guide a couple from crisis to healing. As paradoxically as it may seem, a guided dialogue promotes the ability to move from grievance to hope and the ability to cast a new vision and to truly re-romanticize and rebuild their relationship, if they desire.
Even if it may feel like the last thing possible, there is a way out of crisis mode into hope and healing. May you feel empowered to pursue this path as you are worth it!
May 30, 2019
The following things allow you to calm down your body and mind. Or more specifically, your nervous system: it is the part of your body that controls whether you feel calm (then your parasympathetic nervous system is active) or on the edge, fighting or fleeing or frozen/stuck. (then your sympathetic nervous system response is active). And a calm mind and body is necessary for a relaxation response. And a relaxed body is good for your immune system that fights diseases and that masters the effect of stress and anxiety on your mind and body, long-term.
Our mind/emotions/body can feel like going into “freeze” or “collapse” if we experience a longer period of stress. If you feel you are slowed down (e.g., feel your brain is foggy, feel you cannot move, feel too heavy to get out of bed), seek some (therapeutic or mental health) support to gently release the stress response of your body. All of the above strategies can help you to move from feeling stuck or “frozen” to alive and pursuing YOUR true mission.
Let’s get started: Try out the following strategies of stress management:
-Calm Down Your Autonomic Nervous System Through Deep Breaths:
E.g., Inhale through one nostril, exhale through the other (as many times as you can)
-Bilateral Body Movements:
Move your body’s left and right sides in an alternating fashion, e.g., tap your right and then your left foot, right, left, right left,… (50 repetitions)
Take a walk; run a flight of stairs, go for a swim. It will get the “feel good” chemicals in your body going (especially after having exercised). It also get your blood pressure and heart rate down.
- Avoid talking to people who are not sensitive to your current needs;
- Take breaks from talking about this difficult topic (especially early in the morning and after 8 p.m. at night);
- Communicate to those not as sensitive to you during times of the day conducive to your schedule and energy levels.
Talk to (and possibly share) people who are sensitive to your current needs. If you are dealing with an addiction (or an addiction in a loved one), consider a 12 step community for education and support. E.g. 24 hours online support: https://www.intherooms.com/ or look up an in-person 12 step meeting by googling “12 Step meeting locator”.
- If you cannot fall asleep, see your time as time of resting instead. Resting helps your body relax and replenish. Listen to this “Resting” script instead of trying to fall asleep.
- Look up and listen to Youtube “EMDR Bilateral Stimulation Music”. Listen to that music using head sets- it will calm down your brain.
–Thought & Emotion Stopping Strategies:
With our thoughts we can increase our mental health or release stress response. Use some of the following strategies to stop your thoughts and emotions and reroute your thinking and feelings to create health in your mind and body:
Strategy 1: “The Three Second Rule”:
This strategy will take you about three seconds to create a change. Note that this strategy is easy on paper to difficult to do, because all of your feelings (or your body’s stress response) might want to hinder you from the following three seconds of experience:
-Second 1: In the first second that you notice something is going on, stop and tell yoursel: I feel something / have recurring thoughts that I cannot slow down.”
-Second 2: In the second second of your experience, Interrupt and ask yourself: What is my strategy?
-Second 3: During the third second of your experience, go through your strategy tool kit and pick and apply one of the above strategies.
Strategy 2: “Bathroom Break”
Step away from what you are doing by going to the bathroom (or another place with running water) to wash your hands. This will move your body’s sensations to a more calm state.
Strategy 3: “Ice Cube Break”
Step away from what you are doing by getting some ice (e.g., vending machine, ice cube tray) and hold the ice in your hands. Notice the cool sensation. The cool sensation can help you gently shift your behavior and/or feelings.
Strategy 4: Heart beat strategy:
Download an app with heart beat sounds. Take a break from what you are doing, grab a jacket, towel, sheet, or blanket, and listen to the heart beat (5 min or longer as you wish). It will gently activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the part of your nervous system that calms down your body.
April 25, 2018
… And Where To Go From There: A Review of Current Research
I recently was invited to give a presentation on common (mis)perceptions of relationship and sexual compulsivity at the 2018 Ensure Justice Conference, hosted by Vanguard University. Here are some of the keynote’s highlights on common perceptions with regards to compulsivity (especially in relationships), current research, and research-based communication about this important subject.
Perception # 1: Sexual Addiction/Compulsivity does not exist.
Where To Go From There: Let’s Go To Current Research:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM V) lists hypersexuality as a condition that requires further research. The DSM V conceptualizes sexual compulsivity as an impulse control disorder, not as an addiction. No diagnostic criteria formulated for adolescents and emerging adults are specified. Recent brain scans of individuals with sexual compulsivity show similar brain patterns to those found in people with addictions to cocaine. The World Health Organization defines an Addiction: a progressive brain disease that, if left unattended, may lead to premature death.
Preferred Communication To Replace Perception # 1:
Even if there is a lack of consensus on how to define problematic behaviors, sexual compulsivity needs to be taken seriously.
Perception # 2: Sex work is a choice. Women consent to it and can make a lot of money.
-45 % of self-identified female sex addicts had traded sex for money/gifts:
-8.4% for money (in comparison to 2.2% of non-sexually addicted females);
-26.3% for gifts (in comparison to 5.7% of non-sexually addicted females); and
-7.8% of female sex addicts identified themselves as sex workers (in comparison to 4.4% of non-sexually addicted females) (Corley & Delmonico, 2011).
-Sex work in sexually addicted women coincided with the use of drugs plus More partners; A higher frequency of sex; Use of drugs before and during sex more often; and A higher incident rate of STDs than women who were not addicted (Logan, 2000).
Preferred Communication To Replace Perception # 2:
Even if free will exists, the complexity of the impact on (drug-induced) addiction on women’s’ sexuality cannot be underestimated. The presence of an addiction impairs decision making (including the ability to consent).
Perception # 3: The absence of “old” acting out compulsive/addictive behaviors shows that the person is no longer at risk.
Complex interactions between the brain’s reward center facilitate that a formerly exhibited problematic behavior can be replaced by one or more of four types of addictions:
(1) Substance (that is, legal or illegal drugs); (2) Process (that is, shopping, gambling, online behavior); (3) Emotion (that is, intensity, drama, depression, anxiety, self-hatred); and/or (4) Unhealthy attachment/”trauma bonding” to another person (that is, for example, patterns such as “rescuing” another person, pathological giving, impression management). What to abstain from is a “moving target” (Carnes, 2012): one needs to watch if the addictive behavior switches to another of the aforementioned four types of addiction.
Furthermore, 97-99% of sex addicts reported at least one of various types of abuse (e.g., sexual, verbal, physical). Such unwanted events can produce complex layers of so called trauma. Often times, chronic trauma manifests itself in the re-enactment of trauma in relationships.The withholding of or absence of addiction behaviors, especially if underlying trauma is not decreased, may activate the brain’s reward center in the same way that the addictive behaviors once did.
Therefore, addiction and complex trauma require two tracks of treatment:
Track 1: Decrease of the impact of trauma;
Track 2: Completion of recovery tasks (Carnes, 2006) to create healthy thoughts and healthy attachment.
Preferred Communication To Replace Perception # 3:
Even if problematic behaviors stop, a comprehensive treatment and multi-faceted level of support to replace addictive behaviors with long-term, holistic health is needed.
Perception # 4: Once a person reaches the age of majority, he/she can be held accountable for her actions.
The exposure to chronic trauma may stunt a woman’s emotional development and predispose her to anxiety and depression due to a hyperactive nervous system. The effects of chronic trauma may continuously impact the women when she reaches the age of majority (Heim et al., 2002; Nemeroff, 1998). Furthermore, so called “trauma bonding” (that is, an attachment pattern to unhealthy behaviors and/or people due to the impact of trauma on the brain (not driven by free will)) may occur.
Preferred Communication To Replace Perception # 4:
Underdeveloped decision making, information processing, and lack of emotional maturity (including trauma bonding) is likely in individuals affected by trauma and addiction.
Perception # 5: In professional trainings, health care and medical professionals learn to address one (addiction) issue at a time, one day at a time. This means that this approach to treatment is sufficient.
The engagement in 12 Step Programs has been found to be very helpful for successful recovery from addictions. In addition, attending to addiction interaction and multiple addiction patterns, one needs to tackle as many of the addictive behaviors at the same time, systematically.
Preferred Communication To Replace Perception # 5:
In today’s addiction producing environment and culture (e.g., chronic overstimulation via technology, overworking as a virtue, social isolation), one needs to tackle as many problematic behaviors as possible at the same time, including sexual ones.
Perception # 6:
In most professional trainings, health care providers and medical professionals learn to work individually with clients, not as a multi-disciplinary team. This should be enough to help a client.
Sex and relationship addictions: ”intimacy disorders” due to genetic vulnerability, complex trauma, and lack of skills to connect with another person in a healthy way. Health care providers and medical professionals get to be proactive psycho-educators, on a joint mission with his/her colleagues from other disciplines to establish holistic, long-term, sustainable mental, physical, spiritual, and relationship health in their clients. This can happen through role-modeling of successful behaviors, constructive thoughts, how to create rewarding circumstances, and physical vitality.
Preferred Communication To Replace Perception # 6:
Today’s complex disorders requires a “village” approach to serving our clients: collaborations with other providers to help our clients in establish holistic health. In addition, health care providers and medical professionals should engage in their development of healthy self-regulation and consistent self-care. This will allow us to pass along health and resilience to our clients through healthy role-modeling. They are worth it. We are worth it!
Carnes, P. J. (2006). Children of wrath: Women and sex addiction. Counselor, 7, (3), 34–40.
Corley, M. D., & Delmonico, D. (2011). Closing the gap: Results from the Women’s Sexuality Survey on Female Sex and Love Addicts. Presentation at Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health Conference, La Jolla, CA.
Georgianna, S. (2015). Addressing Risk Factors Associated With Women’s Sexually Compulsive Behaviors Through Psycho-Education and Self-leadership Development. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 22:314–343. DOI: 10.1080/10720162.2015.1072489
Heim, D., Newport, J., Wagner, D., Wilcox, M. M., Miller, A. H., & Nemeroff, C. B. (2002). The role of early adverse experience and adulthood stress in the prediction of neuroendocrine stress reactivity in women: a multiple regression analysis. Depression and Anxiety, 15, 117–125. DOI:10.1002/da.10015
Logan, T. L. (2000). Sexual and drug use behavior among female crack users: A multi-site sample. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 58, 237–245.
Nemeroff, C. B. (1998). The neurobiology of depression. Science America, 278, 42–49.
April 24, 2018
February 1, 2018
Are you desiring breakthrough in your life? In your clients’ lives? As you are reading this, I can see that you are already a Master in creating situations that bring breakthrough. You ask me how I know that you are a Master? I know because you ran a search on this subject and looked up this page (or someone did for you). And with your response you show me that you are ready to not just master what you are facing but to excel and become an Expert, providing breakthrough for yourself and those you care about.
Dr. Sibylle Georgianna’s Helping Professional Cheat Sheets To Breakthrough are downloadable handouts and assessment tools to assess your clients’ vulnerability to compulsive behaviors and to create an effective intervention and treatment. Only Masters look for ways to create more leverage in their clients’ lives. So I will not have to convince you: You probably already KNOW that expanding your tools to deal with change is the key tipping point that will allow you to leverage your treatment success, impact on your client, and maintain your passion for what you would like to see: breakthrough in your clients’ lives.
But where do you start!?
Perhaps in your most courageous moments you’ve made the commitment to augment your treatment strategies. You’ve jotted ideas down to pursue, your next goal to tackle. If you’re super committed, but even with the best intentions, most people who set themselves goals to change end up abandoning the change they embarked on.
Here’s why most people abandon their goal to augment their clients’ treatment success:
- Without a clear, step-by-step project plan how to systematically add treatment tools, a lot of clients get completely lost.
- Most clients come to see us because they have fallen victim to paralyzing tech hangups – and so may we, the helping professionals: another app to download, another time management device to check out, a time-consuming sticking point in our continuing education or lack of clarity over how to handle our clients’ complex issues (not to mention the problematic behaviors with regards to social media use and their overwhelm with the #MeToo posts).
Here’s why this is so crippling:
As an already busy person with people to attend to, services to fulfill, you literally can’t afford to set time apart in order to improve your treatment strategies. And the moment you get lost in your feelings of being overwhelmed with adding something else to your full plate, it feels impossible and we get back to returning client calls, and walking into our next treatment session. As a result, we continue feeling swamped and our clients continue feeling tossed around by the forces of their complex lives.
Even if you a lot of times feel that you’re late to the party (e.g., you are not a Millenial, tech geek, and/or on Social Media), there’s still a golden opportunity for you to jump in, gain clarity, add on vital tools and leave behind confusion, uncertainty, and setbacks when it comes to your clients’ treatment success in today’s complex world.
1. Adding on cheat sheets and psycho-education materials for your client may not be particularly hard or complicated. But there are MANY moving pieces and potential roadblocks along the way. They could sound like this:
- Where do I begin?
- What are the patterns I see in my clients that want to throw me off course?
- What can I do instead to overcome old patterns and feelings (not to mention my clients’ responses and feelings)?
- What do I need to do to cope better with continued evolving of the media that keeps coming my and my clients’ way?
- Why do I feel paralyzed when something “good” is coming my way?
2. Most people approach developing the materials used in their practice as just another “thing there is or is not”. But the thing is, you can’t treat the development of your treatment materials as just another “strategy”, “tactic” or “system”. It’s an immensely valuable (and fragile) asset that when done right, can earn you great gains over the course of it’s lifetime.
3. Time to respect it for what it is – augmenting your success as a therapist is a PROCESS to embark on – and approach it accordingly. The key ingredient to your success in all of this is a place that empowers you to create breakthrough in your clients.
And with your permission, that’s what I’d LOVE to invite you to join: Check out the Helping Professionals’ Cheat Sheets To Breakthrough. You are worth it!
January 16, 2018
January 16, 2018
Every day we seem to be bombarded by the media with updates on crises, disasters, and tragedies while we are dealing with our personal lives and all there is to it. This can make us feel as if out of control situations, other people’s struggles with mental health, and uncontrollable circumstances are our daily bread and there is nothing that we can do about it. Subsequently we may feel that we do not have the strength to deal with life as it presents itself. Our body puts us in “survive”, not “thrive” mode.
However, there are proven ways to create a sense of healthy power and focus our lives: research shows that certain strategies can calm our stress response and thereby increase our focus, physical vitality, and well-being.
Are you feeling overwhelmed and not too confident about your ability to lead yourself (and others) during times of uncertainty and change? Take a look at common beliefs that create overwhelm and where to go from there:
Thought # 1 that creates overwhelm:
We think “Things will work themselves out”.
Nugget of Truth:
We are often afraid of new things and hold on to old things even if they are no longer how they used to be. We insist on pursuing what we are used to instead of making ourselves available to grow and change. However, taking small steps (also known as step-by-step) allows us to master the next step, become less afraid, and feel more in control. Incremental change will boost our self-confidence and ability to cope.
Thought # 2 that creates overwhelm:
Things are too complicated and I do not know where to start.
Nugget of Truth:
Don’t overanalyze or overcomplicate things. Ask yourself: What can I “roll over” from what I previously mastered to tackle the new challenge? What worked? How can what I did before help me now? Consider adjusting your course of action one step at a time and go with the flow of instead of trying to plan for everything. Try this cheat sheet to get from overwhelm to focus:
Thought # 3 that creates overwhelm:
I should not feel overwhelmed but should know what to do.
Nugget of Truth:
We know what to do if we slow ourselves down to create a game plan: that is, envision ourselves -in realistic detail- how to proceed. This can happen by looking at the mistakes we made in the past and how we can use them to plan for the future. Or, we can look at our successes and what got us there. If creating a game plan is difficult, consider running new situations by a trusted friend or peer. The feedback that you will receive from slowing down and creating your game plan and/or talking to your friend will help you get clear what to do.
Thought # 4 that creates overwhelm:
I should have nothing to fear.
Nugget of Truth:
Embarking on something new can trigger our beliefs about inadequacy, not measuring up, our black-and-white thinking or negative self-talk. The art is to not confuse yourself with fearful beliefs but to discern what realistic thoughts to engage in. While healthy fear can keep us out of danger and should be respected, most fears are irrational and may keep us from changing when we need to change.
Consider jotting down your thoughts with regards to a change you are facing. Students who wrote down all of their fears about an exam immediately before taking the exam scored higher than those who did not face their fears. Join those students and their success by writing down your fears. Running things by a trusted friend will help you discern between which thoughts to keep and which to let go of.
Thought # 5 that creates overwhelm:
If I am missing my chance [for change/improvement/growth], my opportunity will be lost.
Nugget of Truth:
There will be always opportunities to grow and develop, to develop an opportunity, to pursue a new challenge. However, we may not recognize this at the time when change is knocking at our door. Know that you will be rewarded when you go past your fear, open your door and enjoy the new adventure ahead of you. Are you concerned about making mistakes? Educate yourself on common mistakes that we are prone to make when pursuing new opportunities and how to avoid them.
Thought # 6 that creates overwhelm:
Things need to feel right, but right now, I don’t feel like… [fill in the blank].
Nugget of Truth:
Feelings are not good predictors of how well equipped we are. Also, feelings can mess with our plans because they can activate thoughts about ourselves that may keep us from pursuing what we want to pursue. For example, if our brain cannot create a match between what we tackled in the past and what lies ahead, it signals “danger” when facing a new situation. We may interpret this as overwhelm instead of knowing that this feeling is only there because our brain cannot find a match.
Thought # 7 that creates overwhelm:
I have no choice or control so I cannot move.
Nugget of Truth:
Our body’s memory is like a road map that wants to guide us. If we were in situations where we could not do anything, our body can create “body memory” map that tells us that we have not choice or control based on the old body memory- even if we have: as an adult in today’s world, we get to make healthy choices. With every choice we exercise we get to change our body memory map If you are not used to making choices, this may feel as if you are working out a new muscle that you have never worked out. But rest assured, making healthy choices will feel easier the more we practice. Not sure what healthy choices look like in your existing circumstances? Run things by a trustworthy person who can be your biggest fan as you add healthy choices into your life. You are worth it!
Have you ever wondered how to set up an environment that will create positive behaviors such as productivity and constructive thoughts, as reflected in satisfaction and overall well-being? Which will then positively affect your ability to give and receive intimacy in your important relationships?
Watch my interview with Elke Balger, a German interior designer who specializes in creating private and work spaces that facilitate and maintain healthy thoughts and behaviors. You are asking me how this is related to dealing with intimacy? We need well-being to be our best with giving and receiving intimacy (not to mention to maintain change long-term).