Healing Wounds of the Gender Wars
Sometimes when I see a need I can't help but imagine possible solutions. On average I probably have one new business idea every other month, but I'm not really driven to make money. One of my newest real-life heroes is Suelo. I'm comfortable financially and a bit envious of his freedom. Janis was right: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. However, I don't think this will be the blog I've mentioned about the Middle Way, even as I continue to dance with the illusion of sexual duality. Nor do I think this is the promised blog on epistemology, though I have to admit that all illusions have their own form of reality. It is possible that neither of those blogs will ever be written, as I expect to continue this dance around the subjects for a long time to come.
The real starting point for me here today is a condition called Love Shyness. I'm not going to further define it, but will quote wikipedia now in case that page is ever vandalized or lost:
Love shyness is a phrase created by psychologist Brian G. Gilmartin to describe a specific type of severe chronic shyness. According to his definition, published in Shyness & Love: Causes, Consequences, and Treatments (1987), love-shy people find it difficult if not impossible to be assertive in informal situations involving potential romantic or sexual partners. For example, a heterosexual love-shy male will have trouble initiating conversations with women because of strong feelings of anxiety.
I've met men who identify with this condition to varying degree. There don't seem to be any good options. They may seek out help in therapy where they may or may not have luck finding someone equipped to really help them. I expect there are a variety of problems related to this condition (ranging from Asperger Syndrome to PTSD and beyond). I know that in some cases people have turned to overeating in their loneliness. In the belief that they are unworthy of love, they've physically manifested a condition that virtually everyone else will find unlovable. They have self-defeating beliefs that are even more difficult to change once they've been manifested in the flesh.
Many people have damaged views of the opposite sex. They probably all need therapy even as social stigmas about mental illness create resistance. I believe that many if not most can be helped. I believe that people's views may be damaged, but that damage is usually reparable and their inner beings can be whole if they choose to believe in themselves and do the hard inner work that necessitates.
I can't help anyone who doesn't want to change. I may not even be able to help everyone who does want to change. But I believe that I do have something to offer. Because life is short, there's a chance I will not be able to achieve everything I dream of doing in my lifetime. I'm willing to put this idea in writing now, and even risk having it "stolen" because it is so important that I'd be almost relieved if someone else has the means to take it and put it into practice before I can. It is my major focus for 2010.
This is really a set of three complementary businesses that I'll describe below. If I do this they will be structured under a non-profit umbrella, with all proceeds going back into scholarships for people who cannot afford treatment. Some people have self-esteem issues that prevent not only relationships, but jobs. Lacking confidence to get a job presents a catch-22. How do you get therapy to address that problem if you can't afford it?
Branch I: Therapy for Relationship Problems
This is the core of the three businesses from which the other two arise as logical needs. It will be open to men and women alike even as I will begin with marketing toward the love shy. I do not expect to deal with anyone under the age of consent. I could some day develop a separate curriculum using the same basic principles just for adolescents and believe such a thing is needed, even as it is not my current focus.
I also do not intend for this branch of the program to do any couples' therapy. It will be designed for people who are single and looking for love. We will always seek to have good referral resources for everyone who comes needing help but who may not be eligible. I guess I think of the intake phase as a kind of triage even. In order to be successful it needs to appeal to a very broad range of people. The end goal is to change the way our entire society dates. Participation in this program will be a mark of honor, not shame.
While I would absolutely welcome all orientations, I don't expect to market directly to gays and lesbians. The coursework could be equally relevant, but only to a certain degree. I'm still envisioning heterosexuals as the primary target market. The reason here is that we are repairing damaged views of the opposite sex where it inhibits relationships. There are misogynistic gay men and misandrist lesbians, but they lack real motive to address those issues. So it's back to I can't help anyone who doesn't want to change. People who have psychological barriers to finding love still have a need to be loved and hence, a very strong motive to change. Therefore I imagine there would be more benefit for gay men suffering misandry or lesbians suffering misogyny.
Everyone who enters the program will be given individual counseling with a licensed therapist throughout their time in it. It is my hope that for many, insurance will cover most of the costs. Again by structuring as a non-profit, I will seek to make it as accessible as possible. I think this is one business that can only succeed in my wildest dreams by becoming THE preferred way for men and women to meet and form long term fulfilling relationships. We've all suffered damage to our views of each other as sexual beings. Our culture itself isn't healthy, and I think that is too often an excuse for inaction. Excuses don't buy me anything. I'm only interested in hearing explanations in order to better understand past behavior so we can work together to create a new reality that breaks the old patterns of destruction and retribution.
Everyone who enters the program will also participate in group coursework. I may teach some of this myself to start, but envision hiring others as the business grows. There are a couple very important concepts that the program will be based around that I will address in the methods section.
Branch II: The Monitored Dating Service
The need for a dating service arises logically out of the goals of treatment. It could be devastating to attempt healing of sexual wounds and then send the person back out to meet with other people who are still wounded and who may play mind games because they don't know what they want. There has to be a safe place for interactions. Is the idea of bringing wounded men and women together asking for trouble? This is the scariest part of the program to me. If each is able to more honestly communicate and understand the other, I believe there is real potential for healing here. It all comes down to the willingness of the participants to act with integrity and self-awareness. While the program will not independently provide relationship counseling to people who haven't participated in the core curriculum, that will absolutely be available to everyone who is dating inside it. The only reason to exclude the already coupled* is because they don't have the same incentives to complete the coursework. The program could some day grow to include the needs of those people separately as well.
Branch III: The Weight Loss Program
In many cases the relationship disorders either stem from, or are the cause of, obesity (and really I expect it to normally be an inter-created condition). There will be other disorders as well, including drug and alcohol problems that this program will not deal with and which will be sufficient for rejecting a person from any participation until they've cleaned up. I realize that actual diagnosis of such is often difficult and relies upon self-reporting that can't be trusted. There may be a requirement for both drug and STD tests in Branch I & II. Testing positive for an STD wouldn't necessarily be a prohibition from entry, but would still require disclosure inside the community as a condition of entry.
The weight loss program incorporates a couple crucial concepts and will be valuable even for people who don't suffer obesity. There is a chance this will be called something else, perhaps Body Image Healing. After all, one's body image is a mental construction. The core problems that most people face in forming relationships are mental. We can treat multiple types of problems with a similar group therapy. I will still absolutely insist on the importance of the individual therapy in Branch I. There is no One Size Fits All even as some shared concepts will be absolutely vital.
The Basic Methods
1) Many people are suffering from some type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR and gestalt therapy are two of several therapies I'd like to be able to offer in the individual therapy sessions.
2) Concepts such as Radical Honesty and Compassionate Communication will be introduced to everyone in mixed-sex classes. We will role-play a wide variety of scenarios that people encounter when dating and in relationships. The importance of understanding one's own needs in order to communicate and enforce boundaries is paramount. Dating is only one small part of the larger picture of establishing a relationship.
3) A new understanding of the sense of Self will be presented. We are the synthesis of many things, but primarily we can be viewed as the consciousness, unconsciousness and physical body. The latter two seem to blur or merge, and we will explore that merger. There are three vital techniques I want to teach:
a) Programming Your Internal Alarm Clock - This is a very simple exercise that will seem stupid without any context. When I was about 10 years old I wanted to get up every Sunday morning to watch my two favorite T.V. shows, Batman and Bewitched. I wasn't allowed to get up at 4:00am and watch T.V., so setting an alarm clock wouldn't work- my parent's bedroom was right next to mine. But I knew if I could wake up on time, I could sneak downstairs and use a pair of headphones to listen in silence by huddling in front of the set. So I would fall asleep Saturday night after noting the time with only one thought on my mind: 4:00. Over and over I thought of that hour and without fail, I woke up within 15 minutes of it unlike any other day of the week. Everyone in the program will be invited to try this exercise as a precursor to the others. Even if it does not work for everyone, the other concepts may still have validity.
b) Satisfying Your Hunger - Around the same age I found myself in class one day after skipping breakfast. It was about 10:00am and I was starving with two hours to go to lunch. My stomach was making noise and physically hurt. So I began to imagine that I was eating. I tried my best to imagine every detail - the taste, smell, texture and temperature. I even chewed and swallowed just a little bit. Then I had seconds, and thirds. I just continued to imagine I was eating until suddenly, I felt physically full. I didn't want to eat any longer. This exercise will also benefit everyone, so that they can experience changing their physical reality by changing their minds. We will have a group fast and we will face our fears and hungers together.
c) Changing Your Reality - Both of the above exercises are precursors to what I believe is the most important exercise. If our personality is the synthesis of conscious and unconscious, then everything we say while we are awake is heard and reflected back by our unconscious. The time when we fall asleep is a very important time. By giving the unconscious certain messages, it will begin to give those same messages back:
- I am loved
- I am confident
- I am whole
Anyone could choose to manifest something more specific, but I'd start with these simple ones that are repeated every night of every week of every month for the duration.
4) In combination with (b) above, the Miracle Berry tablets will be an excellent aid to altering perception and hence, consciousness, without actually taking a mind-altering drug. When we have a group fast and shared encounter with hunger, I do not anticipate ever denying anyone. I envision sitting with fruit and tablets in front of us, doing imaginary eating exercises just to see how long we can resist, with no shame at all to anyone who gives in. It will become more of a game than self-denial.
If possible, I'd like to offer 1-2 week long workshops in remote and beautiful locations. I think you need to really get people out of their routines and away from their habits to bring about lasting change.
Even as we address issues related to obesity, we will also directly confront our issues of body image. There are powerful biological imperatives in attraction that cannot be denied. However, understanding them is vital to knowing when they lead us astray. Many people do not couple in order to have children, even as their attractors are oriented toward that biological imperative. Will understanding change biology? I tend to think not. The most I can ask for is consciousness in the process.
December 7, 2009
* Already coupled is a pretty biased phrase with regard to people who practice polyamory. They are clearly the furthest from our obvious target demographic even as some probably suffer the same issues.