“My vulva is a houseboat, an anchor, a secure, soothing refuge, an abundant space of realignment. It has been with me through the vagaries of life, and it has wisdom stored within it that is accessible to me whenever I want it. Pleasure grows from me and transforms me when I connect to it.”:
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While that is super important to discuss, I’m complimenting those narratives by focusing on Sexuality and Pleasure Awareness, since we seem to talk about sex only when there is sexual violence involved. Stay tuned : )
Seems like there’s a pattern in the lives of these folks (including me) of being a kind of one-sided emotional sink for our friends. People from our communities seek us out for our listening/ empathic skills and look to us for advice about their lives on love, parenting, grief, sex etc. This is wonderful. Being generous with our time in community is a gift to this world. But there’s also a whole negative aspect to this- and that is, this one sidedness. While I understand that empathic listening or solution finding might not be a strength for many, a reciprocal give and take of care is absolutely essential in relationship.These past few years, I’ve had to say goodbye to many such one sided friendships. It took a while to learn how to compassionately communicate the problem to my friends and let myself not be guilty for distancing myself from friends who did not understand.
Here are some tips if you find yourself in a similar position:
– Is someone that reaches out to you only about themselves really your “friend”? Have you defined for yourself what friendship is?
– Notice in yourself the tendency to reply to cries of help immediately. Before replying, ask – what is my intention with this person? Then, wait atleast 20 minutes before you reply.
– PROCESS TIP:
If your friend seems to be not receptive to your help and you’ve spent 10 minutes of your day talking or texting with them, about their problem, ask them what exactly they are looking for, from you. If they communicate what they need and you can offer it, do it. Then let them know a bit about yourself.
Talk about your feelings, your thoughts.
Notice their response. Did they reciprocate? Did they ask about you? Did the conversation become about your day/your feelings/your relationship stuff too?
– If not, scroll back to your communication with this friend and check, have they been asking about you this past month at all? Is this a habit for them to reach out to you spontaneously, talk, seek help and say goodbye, without ever checking in on you? How does that make you feel? Have you enabled them to depend on you as their emotional sink?
– Often people will assume that the ‘helper type’ is strong and doesn’t need anything in return. The assumption is that if they need help they will ask. But I know, for a fact, we don’t ask. Due to our own childhood stuff, we have trouble asking/ we ask out of pent up resentment and then explode/snap. So, ask yourself- what blocks you from asking for support in return? If the answer is that this friend isn’t able to provide you the support you need too, then why are they your friend?
– Creating better dynamics for yourself will make space for you to welcome people who truly care about you too. Trust me, there are people like that out there and they can only come into your life, if you allow yourself the care and respect that you deserve.
My answer: Healthy boundaries are beautiful, open, porous exchanges between people that are willing to truly understand each other and themselves in relation to each other. Healthy boundaries are meant to be changed, renegotiated, reconversed because needs change, life changes, time changes us. They take effort and work, and care to keep up but once they exist, you feel loved and understood in a way that makes you feel like someone truly has your back as you have theirs.
What are boundaries that are unhealthy?
From “Yes doesn’t count if you can’t say No” (Googling this article will help):
Whenever you give up what is most important to you in order to either get what you need, or to keep the peace, you are allowing your boundaries to be violated.
Ask yourself if you knowingly or unknowingly violate your partner’s boundaries by taking advantage of a lack of clarity on their part. This is too common- “oh, they are unclear and needy of me, let me just get what I need from them until they clarify”
When there is no opportunity to negotiate, when boundaries become walls without conversation
. – :
When you communicated to your best and your friend/partner just does not want to meet you there, responds with defense after defense or blames you for “making things difficult”.
When you or they overpromise/underdeliver and don’t have or are unwilling to consistently learn how to negotiate differences.
#therapy #learn #grow #becomebetter #dobetter#boundaries #no #yes #culture #relationship
It is such an interesting phenomenon, in my couples and family therapy work, to see more and more women (25-40 years of age), across cultures, mostly middle-class, voicing their struggles in their relationships, pushing their partners to show up better, seeking therapy, earning more than their (male) partners at work, and overall having SO much ambition and drive, while more and more men in that age group are struggling with questions like- what is my passion? What is an empowered masculinity today, and how should I show up? The wiser men are seeking help, the not so wise ones are participating in the buildup of slowly exploding pressure cooker. We are really heading toward an overall crisis in relationship durability, if we don’t invest in our growth, maturity and development urgently. Catch the train!
Why are you so scared of prioritizing yourself? Why am I so intimidated about putting myself first? Why do we shame self-pleasure, self-love and self-advocacy as a society as if it the opposite of being in relationship? Isn’t it the most selfish thing, to enter relationships with hungry, desperate, unmet needs which are so focused on what YOU can give ME? Love me, kiss me, make me feel good, tell me I’m amazing, help me heal my trauma, make me feel less alone, me, me, me, me. We all do this to each other, in one way or the other, and wait for someone to come along to make ourselves feel whole again because we think only someone else can make us feel pleasure. And we mask this self-directedness with words like care, concern, friendship and “love”. We normalize sucking the life out of each other.
However, it’s so rare for us to say to our own beautiful, chaotic, desperate and needy selves:
Yes, I’ll love you even when everyone pushes against you.
Yes, I’ll pleasure you well and discover what makes you tick instead of waiting for a person to bless me with time/attention.
Yes, I’ll make you feel whole because you deserve it, for you are worthy of it as you are. Giving yourself pleasure, respect and compassion are not some award-winning instagram-documenting worthy acts. They are everyday acts of strengthening your friendship with your OWN self.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Healing from assault is a process of rediscovering the self. Having good, pleasureable sex is also a process of self-discovery. There’s no one who will show up at your doorstep to rescue you from your pain. A healthy relationship will support you as you evolve in your own friendship with yourself. Cheers.
Folks in Mumbai! I’m visiting in July and currently setting up dates for sexual violence focused, trauma-informed art therapy workshops for:
– survivors of sexual violence (across the gender spectrum)
– artists that may or may not be survivors but are interested in learning about art therapy
– therapists/social workers that are curious about incorporating the arts in their therapeutic practice.
I also want to provide time to anyone in our queer communities struggling with finding a trauma-informed sexual violence focused therapist. If you have friends that would benefit from my work, please connect them to me.
Currently teaching a segment at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai,the lovely Khula Aasmaan, an MIT Media Lab Maker Space in Powai and seeing folks and families impacted by sexual violence who contacted me earlier this year in Mumbai. I have a few dates open, so if you/your organization/your community need therapy work in the arts, gender and mental health spaces, I’m open to setting up dates until this Monday.
Thank you and much love.