Mirror of Intimacy Webinar w/ Alex Katehakis: SELF-EMPOWERMENT



good afternoon and welcome to Center for healthy sex monthly webinar from near of intimacy I'm Alexandra Cotter jacquez Clinical Director of Center for healthy sex here in Los Angeles and today is Monday October 1st so we're officially in fall now and I want to welcome you as always to call our lines if you want to talk to somebody directly so today's topic is self empowerment and here we go Dee Wagner at center for healthy sex calm and I want to talk a little bit by starting with our quotation from today from Eve Ensler and she says I had to give up the fantasy the enormous life consuming fantasy that someone or something was going to do this for me the fantasy that someone was coming to lead my life to choose direction or to give me orgasms so this noted this notion that somebody was gonna come save me from myself is what she's saying she had to give up in part for herself empowerment and we have to consider that life is super challenging on any given day in fact I saw a movie recently a documentary and muddy waters was in it and he said that if you haven't had any challenges in life you haven't lived long enough yet and I thought wow that is really such a simple but incredibly profound statement because you're not going to escape challenges in any way shape or form and we can use these challenges to change ourselves to really shape our character to round out the rough edges of who we are and use it for personal growth and development or self empowerment or we can slide straight into victimhood and feel like the world is against us and that we're always broken and something bad is always going to happen to us so when you understand that there are multiple unending paradoxes in life there are all these different forces and choices and realities facing us at all times then you start to see that it's just life that you know things happen every single day and the question is how resilient am I and how much am I going to use this for self empowerment and they're really sort of simple way to say it is you know am I going to make lemons out of lemonade or am I just going to complain that all I have are lemons so and think about what it means what that saying means to take the bull by the horns and when you imagine taking a bull by the horns that can potentially be a lethal act that could be a very dangerous act if you really do do that but it means that when we do take that kind of initiative we are setting our life on a particular course we're saying that I have a vision for my life and this is the direction I want it to go in and then I'm gonna have to step out of my comfort zone to make that happen so for example I'll use the creation of Center for healthy sex but I and my partner endeavored to set out on a mission to create a center for healthy sexuality and this was a very idealistic vision it was one that we were incredibly passionate about and felt there was a need for and so we started out just unbelievably excited and full of energy and the truth is the amount of challenges that it's presented for us over the past 15 years now the amount of work the amount of unbelievable self-sacrifice is not anything we could have seen coming at us or we probably wouldn't have done it just the same way people would never have a child or buy a house or do anything that's challenging in any way but all of these challenges provided me opportunities to look at what I was made of how smart I thought I was or wasn't what I was capable of and whether or not I was going to exercise the discipline and the tenacity to keep going after what I believed in and what I wanted and not be swayed by that so well I was reliant upon my partner for a partnership for support for you know championing and you know helping me go forward he was relying on me in the same way that there was a symbiosis that we were cheering each other on let's say but it wasn't his job to make me happy or to make the ride smoother for me I mean certainly he did everything he could and likewise for me but you know we can't protect each other from the lessons that are going to befall us or the experiences we're going to have and likewise we cannot also rely on a lover to make us happy or to bring us into our own sexuality that we have to likewise be disciplined about that and have tenacity about that and really challenge ourselves on to our own growth edges so that we become empowered the way we want to be so I want to remind you at this juncture that if you have any questions as I'm speaking or any comments that you can type them into the message chat and I will answer them directly again if you want to ask a question anonymously so your name doesn't show up you can write to do Agner at Center for healthy sex comm and our intake counselors are standing by you can call them if you have any questions about sex love and relationship issues at three ten eight four three nine nine zero two so waiting again for Prince Charming or Cinderella to come in and swoop you away and take you out of the doldrums is really a disempowering and childish kind of fantasy that also has this idea of or smattering of grandiosity to it in other words this feeling that I deserve somebody to come save me or I deserve to have this that or the other thing without actually working for it without exercising my muscle to work for it because I think that someone should just come get me out of these this dreary life that I'm living or out of the doldrums and that really only if that were to happen all that does is serve to weaken us or sort of substantiate the victims stance that we've been sitting in and that's why you know fairytales tend to set us up in that way they may conjure images of you know the proverbial knight in shining armor or some you know magical fairy tale female that's going to rescue us from the hardships of life and that's not really how it goes these fairy tales are filled with metaphors for life but we can misinterpret those metaphors because we missed the the real meat of the metaphor or the weight of them and we construe them into some kind of magical thinking so they we have to think about what it means to be in an adult reality and that doesn't mean that we don't have moments of magic in our lives as we go along certainly we do but just hang our hats on that leaves us in a fantasy world where we start to choose people that can even be not only detrimental but downright dangerous to ourselves because we we've abdicated our sense of self to this other person and we're not really coming from an empowered place of the self so keep in mind that a lot of these myths came into being at a time when people didn't live as long as they once did they died earlier you know they died when they were in their 40s and even this notion of living happily ever after came from a time when you know children were dying all the time they either died at birth or they didn't make it through teenage years and the prayer sort of the affirmation was always at the end of stories and they lived happily ever after so it was a wish that life would go on and that people would be happy and vital and not die early so that's a sort of event stage of a bygone era this notion of happily ever after so happily one day at a time it may be actually more accurate for the times we're living in today and that it's not about some other coming to rescue me out of my life it's about me deciding you know what's the vision for my life and how am I going to empower myself to go after that vision and how steadfast and discipline and vigilant am I going to be towards that end so living a life of self empowerment really means the willingness to live in discomfort and to live in anxiety and to live in the unknown and sometimes to even live in fear because we don't recognize those feelings are really part of our personal crucible for growth we think of those kind of challenging feelings of fear of feeling like I can't do it or I don't know what to do as being weak somehow as opposed to being part of a natural process of growing and anything that grows goes through growing pains certainly children have physical growing pains and emotional growing pains likewise animals do too we all go through phases of life that can be painful and you just think about a baby getting teeth and how painful that process of growing is it's horribly painful and it can even seem cruel and yet it's necessary to have functional teeth so when you're putting yourself through an interpersonal process or an intra psychic process or some kind of crucible because you've made a decision don't give up on yourself don't abdicate responsibility to somebody else don't think you're going to be saved by somebody else you have to put you know one foot in front of the other and take responsibility for fully empowering yourself so you can have what it is you say you want to need so this is how we realize our dreams this is how we make things real by putting things into action and making these our own dreams and visions because all too often I think people meet other people because they're looking and they want so badly to be in relationship that they start to compromise what it is they said they wanted or they don't really know and they're hoping that they meet somebody who does know it's something it's something like this it goes like this I don't really know if I want to have a child or not but if I meet somebody who does then I will that's an abdication of real scrupulous self-examination of do I really want a child why do I want a child what will this do for me how sure am I about this and if I really really want a child and I meet somebody who doesn't I'm not going to be brave enough to say this is not the right person for me or is that person willing to could reconsider it because they're not that adamant about not doing it but I've known people who have gotten married thinking they were going to actually change the other person's mind about this now this is not an easy thing like I don't want a dog or I don't want to live in you know a cold climate this is something that you can't change if I say I don't want to meet live in a cold climate and I meet somebody and I fall in love and they live in one I might say you know what I'm gonna give it a go I'm gonna try it because if I really don't like it I can change that but you can't change having a child so these are fundamental differences that people will compromise on and then they get angry at the other person because they've compromised themselves so be careful about really getting clear about what your dreams are and what your visions are for what you consider to be an ideal life or a life you want to aspire to and then you want to make sure that you are really vetting somebody clearly during the dating process to see if they hold the same values that you ho the same ideals the same desires and independent people know that challenge is a genuine part of reality and that only by managing it will we manifest what's really true for ourselves and independent people learn that when they leave home whether they're leaving home and striking out into the world or leaving home and going to college the minute people step out of their household when they are young 18 19 years old the first thing they're met with is challenge and they start to see that they don't have a parent to come and rescue them but really they have to come to their own rescue and this is the reality of independent living and being empowered so holding the paradox of fear and faith simultaneously is the task of the visionary and it doesn't matter what your vision is those paradoxes ultimately come into play this in actuality or one of the first ways of thinking about this was in the Stockdale paradox where General Stockdale had to hold the vision of getting out of the prisoner of war camp he was in in the Vietnam War well everyday holding the reality that he and his men could be killed and it was that paradox he had to hold which had him getting out of there alive and getting all of his men out of there alive as well so that's different than a fairy tale so I would invite you to create your own fairy tale one that has to do with empowerment to live the life that you imagine and one that's based in reality that recognizes challenges that allows for challenges that invites challenges that recognizes that challenge and difficulty are going to be part of the terrain because without that you really don't have anything to push up against so there was this time for a while where we thought that stress was bad for you and then researchers started to realize that actually the human organism needs a little bit of stress in order to push against something so if you don't have anything to push a you're not going to grow muscle you can't be muscular without lifting weights or doing some kind of weight-bearing exercise whatever that is because the muscles aren't going to be forced up against something and likewise the muscle internally of self-empowerment or self-actualization or growing our intellect is a is something that can feel incredibly uncomfortable but is necessary in order for us to grow and realize who we are so any questions or thoughts about this topic well then I would ask you to consider before I start to wrap this up what fantasies are you harboring perhaps they're fantasies of being saved from your lot in life and do you need to – those fantasies and if you have such a fantasy I suggest that you write that fantasy down write them all down people might have fantasies that you know their parents are gonna die and leave them money and that may be true you may have an inheritance small or large coming to you but sitting around waiting for your parents to die is probably a bad deal because people live very long today so you might be sitting around waiting till you're 50 or 60 years old for that fantasy to come true in the meanwhile you're squandering all these days of your life or do you have a fantasy that if you meet the right guy then you'll be safe and secure and then you'll have the life that you want and then you'll know who you are because by doing that you're actually being very manipulative you are perpetrating on that guy that you meet you're letting him think you're somebody that you're not that you're more empowered than you really are so then you get involved with him and you are really borrowing a tremendous amount of that person's functioning so that you feel secure internally because really you're rather fragile in your wobbly and so think about the ways in which you trick yourself or the fantasies that you Harbor that keep you from stepping into your full potential somebody writes any thoughts on developing self-empowerment to overcome fears of being visible in the world as an adult woman after experiencing sexual trauma and also after growing up with a parent who was threatened by my success and was competitive towards me and on the flip side having a parent who seemed to own my accomplishment so it feels both scary old fears of my mom's rage and icky because I have this feeling sense that I cannot have anything that is mine all right so there's a lot in that so let's see if I can break it down fears of being invisible in the world after sexual trauma so sexual trauma can steal an enormous part of our very sense of self certainly our sexuality and certainly our ability to say no it steals our know from us and our sense that we matter and that we can take up space in the world so with that there's no quick answer to that other than it really requires good depth era P it requires some trauma work so that the parts of the brain that get uncoupled or dissociated can start to be recup 'old and when you start to be reintegrated and you can go back and have the experience in real time that you couldn't have at the time you were being perpetrated upon the organism the nervous system starts to reconstitute if you will that's not exactly accurate so you start to feel more whole internally and more literally empowered internally and that's what you need in order to feel neural integration and feel a sense of self and there's no shortcut for that that has to happen in order for you to feel whole again and when you do you will feel more invisible and you'll feel more entitled to be visible you'll also feel more entitled to say no or to tell someone to back off or leave you alone so it will connect you to your anger which is part of your power now it sounds like on top of that if you had a parent who is threatened by your success competitive towards you so that is really also very disempowering because that competition there's a narcissism to it which is you know also a parent that's owning your accomplishments so one parent is saying don't Excel because if you Excel that means that you're leaving me and I don't want you to leave me so there is an investment in that where the child starts to feel responsible for the parents happiness and the message is I have to keep myself down because otherwise I'm gonna make you feel bad about yourself so that again that parental in measurement piece is something to work through in therapy and on the other side on the flip side you've got another parent to whatever you do they take it they take whatever responsibility for that and that is a narcissistic extension of that person so I would suggest you took it take a look at two books one of them is the drama of the gifted child that talks about living with a narcissistic parent and then there's another book called I think parental in measurement by dr. Pat love and if you google her name you'll find the exact name of the book but I think both of those books would be helpful for you to look at and certainly longer term therapy and someone says borrowing the other person's functioning is interesting can you say more about that well that comes from dr. Davidson arches a notion of what he calls borrowed functioning and we all do it in relationship to one extent or another it's it's like if I'm not very good at something rather than me working to be better at it I just let my partner do it for me and with that I start to become reliant upon or enmeshed with that person so that may be saying well you know I'm not very good at balancing my checkbook and I'm not very good at math or number so my partner handles all of our finances and as far as I know we're a solvent and everything's fine but I'm kind of in a fog about how much money I spend and my partner's angry at me all the time because he or she says I overspend but I think that's ridiculous because it seems like everything's fine I mean that person owns a good earned a good living and so then the relationship ends or worse yet something happens where it turns out the person who I was relying upon really has a gambling problem or something and now I'm angry at that person meanwhile I had abdicated all my responsibility when it comes to being financially literate and solvent to that person so I'm borrowing they're functioning I expect that they're going to keep my head above water and they then can have a resentment because I'm not pulling my weight I may be earning money but I'm irresponsible with the money I'm not paying attention to budgeting and so there's a frustration that goes on all the time dyadic lee and you can bet that that will spill over into people's sex lives because there's anger and there's resentment there as well someone says I noticed a tick not on poster on the wall behind you how does what you're saying about empowerment coincide with the teaching of chicken on Han I met ready read many of his books and attend a Sangha weekly where we practice his teaching well I think you probably could answer that question more than I could but the calligraphy of his behind me says I have arrived I am home and he of course is pointing to coming home to one's very self and probably more accurately coming home to consciousness so I think it has everything to do with empowerment that when we are in contact with pure conscious awareness when we have a solid sense of self that we can not only rely upon but also drop and make contact with the conscious world around us then we have a sense of empowerment and we are empowered beings and from that hopefully we behave in a way that is morally ethical and compassionate and empathic and we do the right thing because of that empowerment people that are empowered are not victims they don't blame other people they don't shame other people they take responsibility for their actions they own what they've done they tell the truth about it even if it might be shameful but then they can apologize about it and not act like it didn't happen so I think that you know the spiritual teachings of conscious awareness absolutely align with all of these tenants of living in right action and Heather writes can you explain how codependents affects self empowerment I depend on others for my self-esteem well I think you just said it in that sentence if you're completely reliant upon others for your self-esteem then you cannot possibly feel esteemed yourself and let's just remember that codependence is a traumatic reaction that's born out of a need to care take to other people in order to feel safe so if somebody grows up in a family where there's verbal abuse or physical abuse or alcoholism the child learns that they have to care take to the perpetrator to make sure the perpetrator is not upset or angry otherwise they could get hit or yelled at or hurt in some ways and so it becomes an adaptive strategy and also in that the child does not get to develop a sense of self because the parent is not watching that child and saying how's that child doing is she okay what does she want to need what is she interested in how can i steward her towards those activities she's interested in how could she experiment with who she is and what she wants all of the energy is from the child onto the parent making sure the child's safe as opposed to the parent having all their energy attention on the child to make the sure the child is growing and developing into a solid human being so one of the ways that we create self-esteem in life is by engaging in esteem abow acts of doing things that bring merit to us so instead of relying on someone else to tell you you're doing a good job or you are okay go do things that make you feel good about yourself so that you know hey I did a good job there or I'm proud of that or maybe it wasn't like the greatest job in the world but it was good enough I put in a good day at work today I didn't steal my boss's time by you know niggling around on social media or taking breaks longer than I should that I was really honest about the agreement that I have with that person and so that was a good day and I walk away from my job feeling good about myself not angry or resentful because somebody's not telling me constantly what a great job I'm doing so someone says your sneeze a few minutes ago reminds me of a question I'm glad because I've always had some sort of empathic positive release I experienced whenever I witnessed somebody else sneezing it's like some trip your trips in my brain and even creates butterflies in my stomach not exactly a sexual response but not altogether different either what's up with that well that's a really interesting a good question I can't say I know the answer to that but I think you know certainly a sneeze is an embodied reaction in the organism that we all know about we all have that experience nobody doesn't sneeze and so that was a moment when I felt like I was gonna sneeze but I wasn't sneezing where it gets caught in between and so I started to get flustered and you maybe started to get flustered with me because maybe you got embarrassed or you started to you know the butterflies in your stomach had you started to feel anxious or nervous for me also like oh poor thing she must be embarrassed or I hope she doesn't feel shame about that because that's how you feel in the world so part of it is the empathy part of it has to do with our mirror neurons where we imitate what we see and part of it may be your projection on to the other person also that you might think they're more embarrassed than they actually are by the thing itself and so I don't know how that plays out for you sexually when you have a reaction with the other person but I would caution you from tracking other people so closely and see if you can start to track yourself more and what's going on with you and what you need and not being as concerned or worried about the other person so somebody writes what if the childhood injunctions linked to sibling rivalry I don't compete because I don't want to rock the boat and make problems from my already overstressed single parent by trying to win against my older sister well that can be a problem also so often times it's not that our parents were difficult it can be a sibling and certainly today more than ever it can be bullying from outside of the household but that is you know certainly a rule in the family system if you've got a single mother and you've got siblings and you see how hard your mom's working and you love her and she's a good mom but she's really stressed and she's beleaguered and she can only do so much and so any stress or tension the child has is not going to get met or taken care of because the child knows if I really give voice to this then mom's gonna be upset or it's gonna be harder for her so I have to shut it down or sneak around about it or I can't stand up to my sibling because that's only going to be more aggravating to my mother and that can leave a person really eliminating some of their self states so that edge one would have of competition or ambition or wanting to fight against another get shut down and then you don't even start to recognize it as a state of being for yourself you would say well I'm just not that ambitious or I'm not that competitive when the truth is you've not really exercised that muscle so I think that is a challenge for you to rectify one of the best ways to do that I have to say is in a group therapy session or setting because in group therapy we really get to see what our issues are and then we're confronted by other members of the group to speak up and advocate for ourselves or let that person know if they are annoying us or bugging us or saying things that might not be well let's just say they're rigorously honest you might not say them in the world but you're thinking them you might say to a group member you know the reason I think you're single is because you are negative about everything because you're always negative in this group and then you've got a risk that person getting angry at you and tolerating their anger and starting to notice where you want to collapse or backpedal or act like you didn't say that and that's the forum to start to correct those interpersonal interactions that you didn't get to have in an appropriate way and that weren't regulated by two parents growing up someone wants to know if their replays of these webinars yes if you go to our YouTube channel you'll see the YouTube channel is if you just go to youtube.com and type in Center for healthy sex that's when you'll be able to see all of our webinars from the past and present somebody says I'm scared of being visible online after an abusive relationship that ended a few years ago I haven't been able yet to move from an apartment where we both live so I'm afraid of anything about my private life being known by this person at the same time I want to freely post an image of myself on social media sites I feel like this is taking me a long time to feel strong enough so I'm concerned or confused I mean was this person abusive or were they stalking you is that why you're afraid to move is that why you're afraid to post photos of yourself because if they were but that's certainly a different matter if it's fear okay so you know you're saying there was an assault so that certainly makes sense one of the things I would recommend is that you go take a self-defense class because I've seen that work wonders for people especially for women because this assault is trapped in your body and so you now are having a post-traumatic stress reaction where you're afraid to leave your apartment or post a photo because your nervous system the body and even the deeper parts of the brain is in a hyper vigilant state that I've got to be careful because I'm physically going to be attacked again so that's not the reality of what's going on but it sure feels that way and that's what post-traumatic stress or acute stress feels like so I would recommend psychotherapy for that doing some maybe EMDR on that particular situation and also going and taking an impact self-defense class so somebody is asking about the parental enmeshment book and that's down below it's called what to do in a parent's love rules your life it's about emotional incest and parent rules and you'll see those links down below that were posted by Center for healthy sex here likewise with our YouTube channel you'll find those resources there so someone writes I was raised to be overly independent with perfectionistic tendencies which is the opposite of being too dependent or codependent and also that overly independent can be a form of codependence because your needless and your want list now that I've been in therapy and working on these and many issues and leaving an abusive relationship and going through a divorce I'm now struggling with the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction I feel anxiety and nausea when I try to work I can accomplish work that is self-care like cleaning my apartment grocery shopping paying bills yoga meditation etc but I feel rather paralyzed in the area of professional development I'm going through a transition period professionally but I feel unable to make a decision on which direction to choose and a lack of motivation both personally and professionally this lack of ability to take action is not in keeping with the past ability to make decisions in to to realize results I decided to try adding medication to the therapeutic journey and curious of yellow there suggestions well it's interesting to see that what may be happening and I don't know because I don't know you is that this perfectionist stick overlay if first of all is extremely controlling about having to get it right and to control and to hold on to my world in a certain way and that will have you choosing somebody who's most likely an underachiever or a victim because you're so used to saving people and fixing people up and so now that defense has been stripped from you and you're sort of like a turtle without a shell is what it sounds like and the truth is you always wear that turtle the exterior shell is kind of what protected that sort of very tender thin-skinned body and that didn't get to develop so it makes sense that you would be going through a transition period and I would encourage you to really trust the process of your meditation and yoga and that also that you followed the recommendation of your therapist so if your therapist is suggesting medication then I don't want to contradict that in this forum for sure but you also want to not be perfectionistic in the stripping down of your perfectionism so let nature take its course maybe this is going to go slowly maybe it's not going to go that fast maybe it's going to take a year or two years while you reconstitute and become more integrated and more self empowered in a real way not in a false way where your perfectionistic and overachieving nor where you are now just in this collapsed state where you can't make any decisions and you're too afraid to make a move because I suspect again that that's what's always been underneath that so starting to make small moves is what I would recommend taking small actions towards a goal what little thing can I do today towards taking an actionable step as opposed to taking on the world is a good place to start another book I really love for codependence is the language of letting go by melody Beatty which is an older book it's been around for a very long time but it's a daily book of meditations for codependency and that I think will help you start to gain some power and some self-esteem back and start to believe in that you can do it not that you can't do it so along these lines I would ask if you're sexually disempowered and if so how have you sexually disempowered yourself and what small steps can you take today to get into reality and to empower yourself so maybe it is about talking to a friend or a mental health professional or making an appointment to join a group therapy because you've been thinking about it and haven't done it or going to individual therapy because you've been thinking about it and haven't done it or going to couples therapy because you've been wanting to do it your partner hasn't doing it you know and actually making a demand and saying if we don't get help I can't stay in this relationship I need help so take your sexuality into your own hands take your self-esteem into your own hands and start to see what kind of actionable steps you can take in the direction of where you want to go and it's okay to do it and not feel confident to do it and to be scared to do it and not know what you're doing but at least feeling like I'm doing this I'm gonna go take a self-defense course even though that scares me to death because I was assaulted but if I don't do it I'm really not giving myself every possibility I can to heal this and start to look at fear and the way whoever assaulted me you know is keeping me a prisoner in my apartment I mean talk about somebody stealing our power and and that's for real I'm not saying that it isn't but are you gonna keep letting that person own you whether it's in somebody who assaulted you or a parent that was dysfunctional or are you gonna start taking your power back and saying I'm not gonna live like this anymore it's time for me to assert myself and one final question here from today's entry of self-empowerment do you discount your current relationship and live in fantasy about the perfect one and we all do that to a certain extent we all think we married the wrong person we all think if only I was in relationship with somebody else then it would be better the grass is always greener because how am i living in fantasy keep you from appreciating the relationship you do have the child you do have the home you have the car you're driving the food you're eating the vacation you do have the neighborhood you do live in you see we can always find ways to criticize or be in fantasy about some magical other and that really strips us out of the present moment of being in pure present awareness because consciousness is the only real reality the stories we tell ourselves the fantasies that we live in the news of today all of the arguing that goes back and forth it's just really you know reality TV and fantasy what's actually true is when you turn inside when you sit in meditation when you make conscious contact with the day with the universe with the people you're in relationship with that's as good as it gets so it's up to all of us to make it a good day to make our relationships good and to be in gratitude with them and to be self empowered through those actions that we take not to rely on some fantasy or some other person so I hope today you think about self-empowerment that you make one small move towards the direction of your vision for what you'd like your life to be and I hope you have a really good October and happy Halloween at the end of the month and I'll look forward to seeing you in November thank you

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