Gay Essentials: A NEW weekly meeting group/workshop in London – for Men Who Love Men!

Word Art (1)-1I have recently got together with a colleague of mine, Gian Montagna, to set up and facilitate a new weekly meeting group in London, for gay, bi, trans or questioning men.

Run every Monday evening over a period of 3 months (12 sessions), Gay Essentials will be a weekly space to experiment with and explore connecting in deeper, more open and authentic ways with other gay/bi/trans men.

Gay Essentials will also be an opportunity for men who love men to experience their own rite-of-passage into a more authentic, sexual and relationally diverse adulthood, whilst also sharing this journey with others, in a safe, contained and holding environment.

The issue of a [lack of] proper initiation and rite-of-passage into manhood is particularly relevant for men who have sex with/desire/have romantic or platonic relationships or want to experience a more authentic intimacy with, other men today: From the environment we grew up in, to the day-to-day living we experience now, we continue to receive negative messages, experiences and woundings around our sense of ‘self’ as a man in today’s world. In order to cope, we develop skills and personas that keep people at a safe distance from our vulnerabilities or our sense of shame and guilt.

In a valiant attempt to either ‘escape from ourselves’ or find ways of connecting with other men, these coping mechanisms often lead to dependency on substances such as alcohol and drugs, or manifest in ways such as out-of-control sexual behaviours, body image and eating disorders, depression or anxiety. More frequently than we care to admit, these behaviours develop into unmanageable addictions and compulsions that wound us even further.

Throughout history there has been little in the way of support and mentorship for younger people or adults recognising, coming to terms with and accepting their individual and (a)sexual identities. An appropriate and healthy rite-of-passage process we are all entitled to.

It’s about time there was a space for this process to occur naturally, organically and safely, for men who love men.

Gian and I now want to offer and invite you to join us in, just such a space.

The first Group is planned to start in October, 2017 in London Bridge, SE1, so please take a look at the Gay Essentials website, please share with anyone you know who might be interested and get in touch if ‘you’ are interested in finding out more.

 

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“We All F*ck Up: The Importance of Loving Yourself Even When You Disappoint Yourself”…and…”How to Make Mistakes Without Beating Yourself Up”

guilty-1300x912I recently came across a couple of really good articles on how to deal with making mistakes and not get trapped in the shame and guilt that often occurs in the way we feel about ourselves as a result.

A recent experience I had around this really crystallised, for me, the importance of self-care and accepting the consequences of the things we do. But also how important it is to process and grow from those mistakes so we can modify the way we interact with others in the future.

As the author of the first article states:

“…the relationship that I have with myself can and will change, evolve, grow, heal and even deteriorate at times as the circumstances in my life shift. That’s ok. That’s what it means to be human, alive, not static.

Self-love is not an achievement. It’s a practice. A tedious and difficult practice. It’s easy to love yourself when you’re coasting, when you’re not in emotional pain, when you’re not fucking up.

It’s when we fuck up, when we’re distressed, when we experience scarcity, when things hurt so much its damn near impossible to breathe, that it is most important to have a practice of self-love, of self-compassion, of nurture, of forgiveness”.

What I connected with most though, is something the second author spoke about:

“If I’m struggling to overcome feelings of guilt or self-loathing because I fucked up as an ally, I don’t go to the person I hurt and tell them how badly I’m feeling. Nor do I go to their friends, or, if we have them, mutual friends. Instead, I seek a neutral party to listen to my feelings and help me sort out and work through them. That way, I don’t have to bottle up how I’m feeling, but I also don’t make my feelings of guilt central to the situation.

…The more we listen and reflect on our actions and how they affect others, the more educated and mindful we can become in our interactions with one another”

Shame and guilt around who we feel we are and our actions and behaviours, can be crippling emotions but it’s also important to recognise the differences between them: When we experience guilt, we blame our behaviour (our ‘wrong-doing’) but when we experience shame, we blame our character and our whole sense of self (our ‘wrong-being’).

Being aware of the difference and moving through how these emotions impact us when we do things we are disappointed with ourselves in, are key to personal growth and a healthy sense of self. We can’t be perfect all the time and we will inevitably still make mistakes and hurt others. It’s what we do about it that really counts.

Take a read, the authors of each of these offer important knowledge worth sharing…

We All F*ck Up: The Importance of Loving Yourself Even When You Disappoint Yourself

How to Make Mistakes Without Beating Yourself Up

Breaking the Ice on Sexuality

How to include your sexuality/sexual fantasies and sexual identities in either therapy/counselling, or your own journey of Self-discovery

“Sex lies at the root of life and we can never learn to reverence life until we know how to understand sex.” Henry Havelock Ellis

maxresdefaultIn a book called Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life (2011), Stanley Siegel, a Psychotherapist and author, suggests that it is unlikely for anyone growing out of childhood, not to have some form of conflict or unmet need. For most of us there is, to varying degrees, pain and unhappiness around these conflicts. Although they may not preoccupy our current thoughts and feelings, they do become part of our inner world and our individual psychology. They also set the stage for how we interact with the world.

At some point during the heightened sexuality of adolescence, we unconsciously tend to eroticise these unmet needs or unresolved conflicts from childhood in a complicated attempt to heal ourselves – we turn early painful experiences into pleasurable ones.

As we grow older, these same conflicts, now loaded with sexual themes and codes, become the root of our sexual fantasies, desires and behaviours. Through our sexuality (including those who evolve an asexual identity), we find the route to gaining mastery over feelings of powerlessness, shame, guilt, fear and loneliness that we otherwise may feel will eventually defeat us.

Most Psychologists agree that sexual desire forms during early adolescence and tends to solidify by young adulthood. People’s attractions are far more varied and original than anybody would really like to admit. The details of these attractions are based on each individual’s unique psychology and family history.

Most people’s erotic desires are part of their hard wiring – and rather than trying to ‘fix’ these issues that may have evolved from early childhood, as many therapists or counsellors would try to do, I believe that these desires won’t fundamentally change after such resolution.

Its much more helpful for people to understand the meaning and purpose of their true desires and identities and honour them rather than suppress them – our (a)sexuality is an integral aspect of our true identity which needs just as much exploration and resolution from earlier wounds, as any other aspect of our sense of self.

Sexuality also stretches back throughout time and history into a communal and collective human unconscious that contains many mythical, archetypal, spiritual and collective human experiences.

This aspect of your journey into self takes a lot of courage and commitment – the path can be rocky and full of intense feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and powerlessness – but the thresholds crossed in this type of self exploration and acceptance act like rites-of-passage and initiation processes into a closer and more authentic integration of our inner and outer worlds. They also act as a framework for finding and living the authentic lives we are meant to live, in total right relation with the people we are meant to be with.

“Sexual attraction is not at all a purely physical event. The Soul is always in search of whatever will complete its desire and our physical eyes are never separate from the eyes of the soul” – Thomas Moore

Below you will find 10 questions to be used as a way of focusing your thoughts on your sexuality/sexual identity and/or any issues/problems/struggles you may have with them (for sexual you can also use asexual for some of the questions, if it works better for you).

Write your answers down for each question. You can either just use it for your own personal self-exploration and understanding, or you could take it to your therapist/counsellor, if you have one, (or someone else who can help you explore these discoveries professionally, safely and ethically with), and ask if you could discuss your sexuality and identity using the information you have uncovered here.

You can provide as much or as little information to each of the questions as you feel you want to/can right now. But if you feel unable or uncomfortable answering any of them, it is useful to note which ones and why they made you feel this way:

  1. How would you describe your sexual history and identity? What was your first sexual experience, how has this changed or evolved over time and how important is sex to you?
  1. What is your sexual health history and practice?
  1. How many sexual or intimate partners do you have currently? What about in the last 12 months? What’s your thoughts/feelings around monogamy/open relationships?
  1. Do you have sex (or fantasise about having sex) with male, female, transgender or gender fluid partners? What age do they tend to be?
  1. What sexual fantasies tend to be more prominent for you at present? How do you feel about these fantasies?
  1. If, in your core fantasies, there is/has been a consistent ‘story’ or ‘personas’ that you find you, or your fantasy partners in, what might be involved?
  1. What do you feel are the biggest obstacles or conflicts that you have, or that interfere with the authentic and full expression of your deepest sexual desires, fetishes, fantasies or kinks? (all that apply)
    • lack of confidence
    • shame/guilt
    • fear of discovery
    • family, social, moral, religious judgment
    • concern of others knowing
    • inexperience
    • partner(s) doesn’t/do not share my desires
    • other, please specify
  1. What role, if any, do the following play in your sexual life and what are your thoughts/feelings around this?
    • internet
    • social media/dating apps
    • porn
    • Drugs or any other mind-altering substances
    • Spirituality
  1. Who do you consider ‘family’ (blood family ‘and/or’ heart family) and who helps you/do you talk with around making (sexual/mental) health decisions?
  1. Is there anything else you want to mention about your sexual identity or practices, so that you can be as honest and authentic with yourself as you can be, if you are starting this type of journey of discovery?

Sexual fantasies and desires are windows into the deepest levels of our psyche and our sense of ‘self’. It should be at the centre of our discovery of self because it illuminates who we are and who we can become.

If we treat and celebrate sex with the same openness, honesty and respect as we would any other aspect of ourself, we can transfer pain into pleasure, loneliness into connection and fear into joy.

It will be a good guide for you to see how your therapist/counsellor responds to this ‘breaking the ice’ around sexuality, as to whether they are comfortable and honouring enough in their own sexuality to be the right person to help you unpack and explore yours.

References/resources:

Galen Fous: Personal Erotic Myth Survey (PEM Research Survey)

Stanley Siegel (2011): Your Brain on Sex:How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life. Sourcebooks Casablanca (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Brain-Sex-Smarter-Change/dp/1402253923)

Tashra.org: The Clinicians Guide to care of Kinky Patients (http://www.tashra.org/provider-education-)

 

BOOK REVIEW: Critical & Experiential : Dimensions in Gender and Sexual Diversity

A new review of the book I recently had 2 Chapters published in:

“Although aimed at the practitioner and professional there is much in this book that an informed layperson can benefit from, not least of which is the clear honest voices of experience of people living lives of delicate complexity and discussing openly and with a clarity that’s often not given platform the ways and means of developing ones identity, life choices and experiences based on what’s true to you.

There are some profoundly interesting chapters in this book, that challenge as much as inform but anyone with an interest in proud, frank and non-pathologizing discussions of gendered identities and sexual practices that are explored in honest and engaging ways would find this book invaluable in a process of personal understanding or development.”

Full review available here.

Available for purchase now here and here.

Free copies available for Reviewers and discounted copies available for Individuals, Institutions and Event Organisers. Please contact me on nick@nickfield.com or contact Resonance Publications direct for further information.

 

New Book. Critical & Experiential: Dimensions in Gender and Sexual Diversity.

critical-experimental-dimensions-in-gender-sexual-diversity-ed-previn-karian-2016

I have recently contributed 2 Chapters to a newly published book: Critical & Experiential: Dimensions in Gender and Sexual Diversity – Edited by Previn Karian and published by Resonance Publications Ltd, it is an exciting collection of original, cutting-edge thinking from those living and working within the newly emerging field of gender and sexual diversity (GSD). The real diversity of human nature, human experience and human histories provoke, demand and generate critical thinking. The lived experiences shared in this book stand as a testament to this diversity. Voices which need to be heard!

Available for purchase now here and here.

Critical & Experiential is a multidisciplinary collection of chapters written from within the newly emerging field in gender and sexual diversity (GSD) that moves beyond the LGBTQ(IA) acronym to include non-binary and heterosexual variation. It brings together academics, practitioners and activists from the UK, US, Canada, Russia and India working in the fields of psychology, clinical psychology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, counselling, sociology, cultural studies, political activism, legal consultancy and legal expert witnessing.

The contributions are primarily aimed at mental health, psychology and psychotherapy practitioners and teachers, as well as those working with psychological aspects of social sciences and legal theory. The concepts of ‘critical’ and ‘critique’ are reframed throughout as experientially provoked thinking and thought. This collection provides a practical reference handbook to critique our range and styles of learning, teaching and interventions in the GSD field. However, it is also a stimulus to broader questions about mental health in the psychological organization of social and professional values that, painfully, still demand to be voiced, if not critiqued.

The chapters I contributed were based on some original research I did for my MA. Splicing reflections on my own life experiences and therapeutic modelling during training with those of three interviewees, I attempt to open up a psychological space between BDSM, male homosexuality and psychotherapy. Applying Psychosynthesis and Person Centred psychotherapy methodology, I try to identify and validate the psychological states of mind that can be experienced in gay male homosexuality. I discuss the psychological equality that can exist in BDSM and look at the meaning of transpersonal as an intimate connectedness between sexual partners and within sexual communities. Further, I consider comparisons between psychological shifts and positions in Gay Leathersex and the conventional therapeutic session to advance Psychosynthesis and Assagioli’s take on sexuality further. Providing and advancing a non-pathological lens that offers up an alternative opportunity for transformed sexuality, spirituality and self-actualisation that could be used in therapy and therapeutic training.

All of this is underscored by a direct challenge to current mental health and psychotherapy trainings regarding the dangerous inadequacy of information, dismissal and exclusion for this alternative sexuality group. I provide comparisons between psychological shifts and positions in Gay Leathersex and the conventional therapeutic session that brings to light some potentially profound empathic failures. The transmission of this culture through mentoring support and education for youth comprised of male gay adolescents is therefore vital to the psychological health and welfare of future generations. Given that these subculture’s and their histories and spiritual ancestry are becoming more and more visible and younger and younger gay boys/men are exploring their sexuality and spirituality, frantically searching for even deeper authenticity in a constantly restrictive environment/society, this human, ‘life’ knowledge for gay men (in all manifestations) is especially important and critical to have available.

Free copies available for Reviewers and discounted copies available for Individuals, Institutions and Event Organisers. Please contact me on nick@nickfield.com or contact Resonance Publications direct for further information.

 

Nick Field Counselling Blog

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Psychosynthesis is a model of counselling and therapy that recognises and seeks to strengthen I-Self connection, works with subpersonalities and holds bi-focal vision to observe what is unfolding. If you’d like to explore further what each of those terms means, then just click the relevant link.