Healing the Roots of Women’s Sexual and Relational Struggles

Healing the Roots of Women’s Sexual and Relational Struggles

Girls are often born into this world surrounded by messages about who they are supposed to be, and who they should become; Be cute.  Smile.  Be a nice girl.  Just give them a hug.  Don’t make a fuss.  Suck in your belly.  Be the ideal body type.  Look sexy.  Stay pure and innocent.  Be good in bed.  You can have it all if you do it this way.

Is it any wonder why girls and women struggle with feeling comfortable in their own skin?  There is such a deep and contradictory connection between the messages they receive about their bodies, their emotional expression, and how to be sexual and relational.  Girls and women are set up to be at odds with themselves inside—to question their own experience and reality within.

Those messages are tiny ruptures in the attachments girls and women have with the people conveying them.  They’re conveyed through words or examples.  Subtle hurts, that develop insecurities.  They may be layered on top of even more abandoning or abusing experiences from family members, friends, teachers, coaches, spiritual authorities, leaders and authority figures, intimate partners, bosses, colleagues, and strangers.

  • 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually abused before they reach age 18 (dosomething.org, 2018)
  • 1 in 3 women ages 18 to 34 has been sexually harassed at work (timesupnow.com, 2018)
  • 80% of 21-year-olds abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder (dosomething.org, 2018)

The “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements of today are reflective of what many girls and women have long known; that it’s difficult to move through the world without having your body, sexuality, identity, and more be objectified or used in some way.  These movements encourage individuals to step out of isolation, into shared truth and support and are messages that are useful for all.

Research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) shows that women who experienced these messages, abandonments, and/or abuses when they were younger, are very likely to struggle with being sexual and relational as adults.

“Among individuals with a history of adverse childhood experiences, risky sexual behavior may represent their attempts to achieve intimate interpersonal connections. Having grown up in families unable to provide needed protection, such individuals may be unprepared to protect themselves and may underestimate the risks they take in their attempts to achieve intimacy” (Hillis, Andra, Felitti, & Marchbanks, 2001).

These childhood experiences can develop into adult intimacy issues ranging on a spectrum from attachment disorders (over- or under-connecting with others) to sex and love addiction issues (confusing sex with love, being compulsively sexual, fearing and avoiding sex, inconsistent boundaries in and around sex, and more).  Girls experience early life attachment ruptures and carry them into womanhood.  Adverse childhood experiences shape how women see themselves, see the world around them and see themselves in relationship to the world.  They may find themselves with unconscious, seemingly body-driven urges to over-connect with some people, and under-connect or wall off with others.  They may even find themselves seeking validation and closeness from people and situations that could cause further hurt, as they strive to fill unmet needs from childhood.  Sometimes the only way for a woman to feel a sense of power and control over the world that has exploited her is to become the exploiter of herself—of her body, emotional expression, and how she is sexual and relational. This is often how eating disorder and sex addiction issues arise.

In sex addiction, women essentially reenact the trauma they’ve survived, or try to avoid more of that trauma, by using their bodies.

A woman may use the sex appeal she’s been taught to develop, to build intrigue with a sexual or relational partner, and have a brief encounter seemingly without strings attached by remaining emotionally walled off in an attempt to avoid possible hurt.  She may do this repeatedly.

For the same intention, a woman may get involved with a partner who’s already involved in a primary relationship, lending itself to limited emotional entanglement for her.

Or a woman may feel over-connected emotionally to a long-term relationship partner who gives her more affection and attention than she can handle.  It feels engulfing and unsafe but she doesn’t want to make a fuss like she was taught.  So she may need to get away to breathe and act out in an affair which seems simpler.

Or a woman may find masturbation as a way to soothe herself, without having to be relational with others—especially if she has a negative body image—yet find herself needing more frequency and intensity to feel the same degree of soothing.  She may need to use a substance or another process to take the edge off being sexual because she feels scared, ashamed, or overwhelmed.

And so many other examples.

These types of sexual and relational experiences are just an illusion of power and control, of course, because in trauma reenactment and addiction, women are not operating from the frontal cortex of the brain where logic and intentionality live.  Instead, they are very much out of control or hijacked, by the limbic brain that holds implicit memories, drives, distorted perceptions, and survival modes of fight/flight/freeze.  They’re unable to decipher what their body and emotions truly tell them.  All the messages, abandonments, and/or abuses they’ve carried are a barrier to their true needs.  Women with this lifelong set-up are bound by the type of soothing and relief that sexual and relational acting out seems to provide, however brief.  This brings susceptibility for unsafe sex, sex with unsafe partners, exploiting others and being exploited by others, infidelity, and more. At the root, it is a woman’s best attempt to feel comfortable in her own skin, while actually sacrificing that very body which is her home.

Devastating as this cycle is, there is hope.

Just as women’s realities within are shaped by hurts, their realities can also be shaped by healing and recovery.

Ironically, healing and recovery for women’s sex addiction is rooted where the seeds of the hurts began—in the body, emotional expression, and sexual and relational attachment templates.  Working slowly, and with a strong, safe, and qualified support system, women can explore the early messages, abandonments, and/or abuses they’ve carried.  Expert therapists, somatic and experiential practitioners, 12 Step fellowships, and groups of women who have walked this path themselves are so valuable; this is a somatic healing process, using the body’s inner wisdom as a guide—attuning to grief, heartache, suppressed anger, and a core of shame and worthlessness that is often old and familiar.  Experientially, this history can be moved through to bring shifts from the inside out. Honoring and acknowledging what has happened.  Using experiential processes to move carried toxicity out of her worldview in a fully embodied way.  Developing healthy attachments that provide repair.  And addressing real and tangible boundaries to change her future.  This is a recovering path built on a woman’s newly developing trust in herself and her reality within.  This is a path that allows a woman who has survived struggle to overcome the messages and hurts and find comfort in her own skin as well as recognition that she is deeply worthy of that comfort and the boundaries to protect it.  This is freedom from the inside out.

Journey of a Woman’s Heart: Finding True Intimacy is a five-day intensive therapeutic workshop offered at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows designed to cultivate this healing and recovery.  Women are supported as they work through the roots of their sexual and relational struggles, where the seeds of the hurts began.  Identifying traumatic messages, abandonments, and/or abuses, and how they have sacrificed their own bodies and spirits through sexual and relational patterns in attempts to manage it all, is at the heart of this workshop.  The process is led by an experienced therapist in a small group of up to six participants to maximize the healing power of walking alongside others and moving out of isolation toward shared freedom.  For more details, call 866-582-9850.

References:

11 Facts about child abuse.  Retrieved January 2018 from http://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-child-abuse.

Cosmopolitan survey of 2,235 full and part-time female employees, 2015.  Retrieved January 2018 from http://www.timesupnow.com.

Hillis SD, Andra RF, Felitti VJ, Marchbanks PA.  Adverse childhood experiences and sexual risk behaviors in women: a retrospective cohort study.  Fam Plann Perspec.  2001 Sep-Oct;33(5):206-11.  PMID: 11589541.

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Relationships Can Be Difficult but there is Help for Healing

RelationshipsRelationships are hard. There’s no getting around it. Put more than one person in the same place for long enough and you’re sure to have problems. It’s as certain as death, taxes and computer problems. In his book Your Brain on Love, Dr. Stan Tatkin says that “there really is nothing more difficult on the planet than another person…nothing.” I tend to agree with him. My personal history with relationships and my work as working as a Marriage and Family Therapist seem to confirm that there’s nothing that will complicate your life more than another human. As much as we desire and need other people in our life, we simply cannot avoid the pain and conflict that inevitably comes when we enter a relationship. It’s a catch-22 of the human condition.

Much of the tension and quarreling that occurs within relationships exist primarily due to our inability to communicate effectively. Most of us struggle to listen without judgment, fully understand another’s perspective, validate feelings we aren’t experiencing, and show empathy toward someone who has hurt us. This is normal. It’s the result of a whole series of complicated relational wounds we’ve experienced over the years. Combine that trauma with the many defensive strategies we use to help ourselves feel safe, and you have a recipe for relational conflict.

Here at the Meadows, we offer workshops that are specifically designed to heal and enhance relationships. Both the Couples Bootcamp workshop and the Family Matters workshop help participants share their own perspective honestly, better understand one another, identify problematic relational patterns, set and maintain healthy boundaries, and create safety within the relationship.

The Couples Bootcamp is a five day intensive for those struggling in a romantic partnership. The workshop is facilitated in a group setting which can include up to three couples. Each member of the group supports one another and enhances the healing process for each of the other couples. All participants will explore their own relational history and other factors that have contributed to their current destructive patterns. The couples will then learn to communicate more effectively with one another and clearly state their needs within a safe environment. It’s been my experience that many couples already possess the tools they need to make positive changes in the relationship, but simply need additional support and guidance to help them work through the problems that keep them “stuck.” When working with couples in this workshop, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing beautiful moments of tenderness and empathy where criticism and defensiveness used to be the norm. On many occasions, I have seen a partner look at their lover and say things like “It feels so good to be heard by you” and “I’m starting to feel safe again.” Moments like these are not uncommon and watching them unfold is what I love about facilitating this workshop.

Family Matters is another five day intensive workshop that is specifically customized for your unique situation and solely focused on your family. Whether you want to work on parent-child relationships, problems between siblings, or any other family combination, this workshop can provide you with the tools you need to bring your family closer together. Since family systems are complicated and each member carries their own perspective, it is important that everyone can speak their own reality and feel heard by the others. This workshop provides everyone a safe environment in order to facilitate open sharing and healthy communication. Each family member is given an opportunity to express their own resentments and frustrations with the goal of working toward repairing and improving family functioning. It’s been common for me to hear participants talk about their time in family week as a “life changing” experience. I experience a profound sense of joy when I see families who have experienced years of anger and bitterness begin feeling safe enough to risk being vulnerable with one another. Relational healing is a beautiful thing!

While the Couples Bootcamp and Family Matters workshops offer expert healing we also offer other options for couples and families. Rio Retreat Center offers private intensive workshops for those who may require a higher level of confidentiality and safety due to their recognizability to the public, their leadership status in a corporation, or those who may be paparazzi pursued. We also offer specialized couples workshops for couples addressing sexual disorders. If you are looking for healing from your relationships, contact our intake department at 1-866-997-8770.

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Your Family Survived the Holidays…But Not Exactly Unscathed

family

There is nothing quite like the holidays to bring a family closer together…or to drive them even further apart. Families and holidays can be wonderful.  However, they can also be painful and traumatic.  Even the best families can have some holiday drama.

Holiday family drama is so common that it is the storyline for many movies—most of them pretty entertaining.  In the movie, A Christmas Story Ralphie’s family shows us how they cope with a turkey disaster, the terrible leg lamp, and Ralphie almost shooting out his eye with his Red Ryder BB gun that he almost did not get.  Kevin gets forgotten and left behind for three days in Home Alone while his family struggles to organize themselves for their holiday vacation.  The Griswold family deals with annoying in-laws, unexpected guests, power outages, sewage issues, a visit from the SWAT team, and a fire in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  While these movies are funny and end well, not all of us experience such a nicely wrapped-up Hollywood ending.

My own family dealt with some holiday drama this past Christmas.  Due to a prior disagreement, I was not invited to the gathering at a family member’s home though everyone else was expected to attend.  I was hurt. While my family was attending that event, I decided to join a friend’s family dinner rather than sitting at home alone and upset.  My friend’s family also had some holiday chaos and tension.  Ultimately, at both family gatherings, someone ended up in tears on Christmas day.  While there were no beautiful endings, we all survived, but feelings were left hurt and relationships left damaged.

After the holidays, family members often take with them more than the gifts from under the Christmas tree.  When families find themselves dealing with hurt feelings, damaged relationships, guilt for behaviors or reactions, or shame brought up through family interactions, it may be time to seek some assistance.  There is help and healing available for families who find themselves in this situation.

Whether it is the holiday season or any other time of the year, families do matter and most people want to resolve family issues they experience.  Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows offers a customized workshop called Family Matters.  The Family Matters workshop offers a supportive and safe environment for family members to work through issues by encouraging them to be authentic, communicate productively, utilize boundaries, and function in a constructive fashion. The Family Matters workshop helps families identify and resolve conflicts and teaches them how to develop tools and healthy strategies to manage conflicts in the future that will improve a relational family system. The ultimate goal of this workshop is to help family members bridge the gaps that have plagued the family system.

If you or someone you know would like to enroll in the Family Matters workshop, please call our intake department at 866-441-0368 or click here to learn more.

Written by Dr. Georgia Fourlas, LCSW, LISAC, CSAT-S, Clinical Director of Workshops for Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows

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Healing Relational Trauma

The Rio Retreat Bunkhouse is designed to be conducive to the process of healing and recovery. Book your stay at The Bunkhouse when you register for your workshop for added convenience, and more immersive healing environment.

Bunkhouse lodging is available on a first come, first serve basis; early registration is recommended.

Rio-bunkhouse

Rooms and Accommodations

The rooms at The Bunkhouse are purposely free of the distractions that often accompany hotel lodging such as TVs and phones. Rooms are very simply furnished with two twin beds, storage space, an alarm clock, and luggage stand. All rooms have their own private bathroom.

Bunkhouse occupants will have access to the swimming pool during certain hours. Modest bathing suits are required.

A Sunday evening snack will be provided. Meals will be provided from Monday morning through Noon on Friday.

Tian Dayton Psychodrama Workshop

Content Source: Relationship Retreat Center

THRIVE is an experiential intensive that takes you to the next level of recovery.

Workshop for Addiction

Hanging onto old pain keeps us preoccupied with our past and anxious about our future, rather than living in the present. Releasing dysfunctional roles and embracing new ones empowers us to experience our full potential. But before we’re able to release worn out roles, we need to give voice and shape to them. This action oriented process will provide a unique opportunity to engage in an exploration that will lead you to a greater sense of aliveness and purpose: a life changing new experience carved out of time to energize and revitalize —to live your actualized life!

The workshop will emphasize:

  • Forgiveness
  • Resilience Training
  • Post Traumatic Growth
  • Consolidating Recovery Gains
    Counseling for Grief Arizona

To THRIVE is to……

Engage: More fully and mindfully in your relationships and day-to-day life.
Embrace: A deepened and more purposeful sense of self.
Expand: And revitalize your life roles.
Energize: Forgive the past to live more fully in the present.
Empower: Take ownership of your own healing and attitude towards life.

Healing Relational Trauma

Healing The Family

Our team is strongly committed to the emotional health and healing of spouses, partners, and families impacted by the consequences of negative behaviors. We understand that destructive patterns often result in hurt, betrayal and a breakdown in trust between the individual and their family members. The MeadowsRio Retreat Workshops have been developed to help participants tackle their emotional issues and gain a better understanding of how they can discover a better way of living.

Rediscover yourself

Rebuilding Relationships

Workshops at the Rio Retreat Center are designed to help you understand your own needs, desires, emotions, habits, and everything else that makes you who you are. The more you know about yourself, the better equipped you are to engage in healthy relationships and have an improved sense of self. To learn more about the Rio Retreat Center or to sign up for one of our groundbreaking workshops, call us at 866-835-5431 or fill out the form below and a representative will be happy to provide you more information.

Self Development Workshops

Workshops For Self Improvement

Rediscover yourself

Rio Retreat is a part of The Meadows organizes a different workshop for mental health and healing. Men and Women respond to everything differently as they are programmed differently. It is a 3-days Men’s way professional development workshop offers practical guidance and tools for professionals working with men in navigating these challenging areas. Many treatment professionals may be unintentionally re-traumatizing male participants, thereby increasing their risk of failure in the program.

Emotional Healing Retreat

Specialized For Your Needs

Our workshops allow participants to learn and receive support from people facing similar issues. These transformative programs help individuals to identify negative patterns, and break the cycle of negative behaviors that holding them back from living the life they desire.

Counseling for Grief Arizona

Committed To Seeing Our Participants Succeed

Workshops at the Rio Retreat Center are designed to help you understand your own needs, desires, emotions, habits, and everything else that makes you who you are. The more you know about yourself, the better equipped you are to engage in healthy relationships and have an improved sense of self. To learn more about the Rio Retreat Center or to sign up for one of our groundbreaking workshops, call us at 866-441-0368 866-441-0368 or fill out the form below and a representative will be happy to provide you more information.

counseling for grief arizona

A Unique Equine Experience

Content Source : Trauma Retreat Centers

The Spirit Equine program of Colleen DeRango and Buddy Uldrickson is at the forefront of therapies for trauma and the healing of emotional wounds. Buddy’s calm, centered, presence, his immense horsemanship, and Colleen’s organic mastery of Somatic Experiencing™ have partnered to create a magical and transformative experience. I recommend this powerful program without reservation.
~ Peter A Levine, PhD, Developer of Somatic Experiencing , Senior Fellow and clinical consultant for the Meadows and author of Waking the Tiger and In an Unspoken Voice

Time 4 Change

Details

This workshop is held on a scenic rustic ranch in Wickenburg, AZ. Attendees will not be riding; they will be provided at time of registration with a list of what to bring. This workshop runs Monday through Friday, from 7:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with an hour lunch break. A Five- and Three-day workshop options that runs 7:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. are available.

Healing The Family

Content Source : Family Healing/Therapy Retreats

The Family Matters workshop is designed to assist members of a family with establishing a supportive and healthy recovery environment by encouraging them to be authentic, communicate productively, utilize boundaries, and function in a healthy fashion. During this workshop, family members learn how co-dependent behaviors, trauma, mood disorders, and/or addictions can impact a family system. Family members develop tools to successfully enhance recovery and a relational family system. The primary goal of the Family Matters Workshop is to help members bridge the gaps that have plagued the family system.

The Family Dynamic

This is where you find peace

The Family Matters Workshop is important because it can:

  • Teach family members about how families function in general and, in particular, how their own functions.
  • Help the family focus less on the member(s) who has/have been identified as ill and focus more on the family as a whole.
  • Help to identify conflicts and anxieties and helps the family develop strategies to resolve them.
  • Strengthen all family members so they can work on their problems together.
  • Teach ways to handle conflicts and changes within the family differently. Sometimes the way family members handle problems makes them more likely to develop symptoms.