Dr. Tina Sellers, author of Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, defines sexual shame as “a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being, and a belief of being abnormal, inferior, and unworthy.”
Most of us grew up in a culture where parents didn’t often talk openly with their kids about bodies and sex, and a good number of us still don’t really know what to say to our own kids about the topic. In schools, many sex-education courses focuses on abstinence and skirt around topics deemed more appropriate for home discussions. Combined with our distorted, sex-saturated media, it’s no wonder so many individuals grow up with feelings of shame or inadequacy surrounding their bodies and their sexuality.
These feelings interfere with the development of our most important relationships, but they don’t have to.
Dr. Sellers suggests four steps for overcoming sexual shame:
The first step is to Frame. Framing means gaining accurate information on sexuality. Some of my favorite books on bodies, sex, and intimacy are:
For kids: “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg
For girls: “The Care and Keeping of You” by Valorie Schaefer
For boys: “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew Smiler
For parents of teens: “For Goodness Sex” by Al Vernacchio
On female sexuality: “Come as You Are” by Emily Nagoski
On male sexuality: “The New Male Sexuality, Revised Edition” by Bernie Zilbergeld
For LDS couples: “What Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Sex” by Anthony Hughs
There are many more great resources out there. Having accurate and open information about your body and what “normal” looks like can help dispel the sexual myths you may have picked up growing up or through media. Education can calm anxiety and help lay out a plan for gaining the approach to sexuality that you’d like to have in your life.
Dr. Sellers’ second step is to Name. This means finding a group you feel safe in, where you can tell your story and feel heard. This could be a therapy group, it could be a book group (using any of the above suggestions!), it could be an online support group. The important thing is to find a place where people can really hear and understand you so that you can name, or verbalize your own story.
The third step is Claim: Where sex is used so commonly to sell products (either by sexualizing our lunch or pointing out our flaws in order to get us to buy the product that will “fix” everything), media and marketing can throw a real punch to our sense of self worth. We need to claim our right to be okay just the way we are. If this is an area you struggle with, reading books and sharing your story can help, but sometimes you might find you need extra help learning to heal internalized shame. Find a therapist to talk to. Practice challenging negative self-talk. Claim the amazing things that make you who you are.
The last step is Aim. Aim means to write a new story for yourself. We all have stories or narratives that we tell ourselves, and if the old one hasn’t been helpful, begin writing a new story. Learning to look at your past in new ways can help open up potential for growth and new discoveries in your future. Let the keyword for your new narrative be “hope.”
If you have struggled with shame in connection with your body or sexuality and it’s holding you back from creating the connection and pleasure you hope for in your relationships, call and schedule an appointment today at 801-944-4555.
So someone in your life is going to be having a baby. How exciting! This can be a very fun time, not only for the expectant parents, but also for friends and family awaiting the arrival of a new little baby into the world. As someone who is currently pregnant and expecting my third child in a few weeks, I can say that while having people be interested and excited about your pregnancy is wonderful, there are also some comments that one could live without. If you are one of the many who is sometimes looking for ways to talk to someone in your life (or even a random stranger) about her pregnancy, here are a few of the “do’s and don’ts”:
“Wow, you’re sure getting big!”
Any variation of this kind of statement is inappropriate. Things such as “Wow! You look like you’re going to pop any day!” or “Yep-you definitely look pregnant!” feel like you may as well be saying, “You look horrible and fat. I’ve definitely noticed your weight gain.” Individuals who make these kind of statements may think it’s okay to do so because a woman is expected to grow during her pregnancy, but it still doesn’t feel good to a vulnerable pregnant woman who already may be feeling uncomfortable and insecure with all the constant body changes that come with carrying a child. If you want to show that you notice or would like to acknowledge someone’s pregnancy, all you simply need to say is “You look great! How are you feeling?” or ask basic questions about the impending arrival, such as the due date, gender, etc.
“You shouldn’t wish for your pregnancy to end. Once it does, you’re not going to get any sleep, and you’ll be drowning in diapers!”
Sometimes, especially towards the end of a pregnancy, an expectant mother is asked about if she’s “ready” for her baby to come. She may reply by expressing just how ready she is, (because she can’t wait for the discomfort of pregnancy to end), people often fire back with this type of response. When a woman becomes pregnant, is she not supposed to want a baby at the end of it? Do you think she got pregnant because she loves morning sickness, aches, pains, heartburn, and low energy and just hopes it lasts forever?! There is enough anxiety and worry about the arrival of a new baby that pregnant women don’t need more negativity-even if it’s meant to be said in jest. If a person is talking about wanting to be done, a nice response might be, “I’m so excited for you! I can’t wait to meet the new addition!” or “When you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed, let me know. I’d be happy to watch baby for a couple of hours while you get some extra sleep.”
“Just wait! Adding another kid is going to be so hard! It’s a game changer!”
This is another kind of comment that raises anxiety and fear during pregnancy when there’s already enough there as it is. Most pregnant women are already stressing about how they are going to adjust to adding a new member to their family, or becoming a parent for the first time, and they really need to feel support and empowerment from those around them. If you’re worried about someone you know and their ability to adjust, or if they are expressing concern about it, a helpful way to respond would be, “When your baby comes, how can I help you? I’m confident you’ll adjust just fine, but how can I help to make the transition less stressful for you?”
“Can I touch your belly?”
While it is better to at least ask than simply run up to a pregnant woman and start rubbing their stomach, it’s usually better just not to ask at all. Rule of thumb-if it’s something you wouldn’t do to someone that’s not pregnant, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily like it even though they are pregnant. Different people have different comfort levels when it comes to personal space, and most women I’ve talked to who have experienced pregnancy (myself included) don’t wish to be touched in this way. However, even by asking, they are placed in the awkward position to either have to tell you “no,: or just go along with it even though they feel uncomfortable. If you’re just dying to touch someone’s pregnant belly, maybe “feel them out” first. Ask them how they’ve felt about this subject, or how they’ve responded to this before in order to get an idea of whether of not they’d be okay with you asking. Otherwise, simply wait for an invitation. If you have the type of relationship with someone where they’d want you to feel their belly, they will likely get excited when they start to feel kicks and ask you if you’d like to feel.
“Can I be in the delivery room when your baby is born?”
This is another situation where you simply need to wait for an invitation. Giving birth can be an incredibly stressful and overwhelming experience (not to mention a personal one). I’ve known of women who ended up allowing people in the room they didn’t want to have in there, simply because they didn’t want to say “no.” They then are deprived of the type of delivery experience they wanted. If you want to be truly supportive of the arrival of a baby, allow the parents of that child to decide what type of experience they want. If they want you in the room, they’ll ask.
I realize that these type of comments aren’t meant to be harmful, and that by in large, people are often just trying to express their excitement about and support of a pregnancy. If you have been guilty of these types of comments, don’t feel bad! None of us is perfect, and we often don’t realize the way something can come across. Hopefully after reading through some of the alternatives, you feel better equipped to connect with the pregnant women in your life.
Fear is a common emotion that everyone experiences. We generally spend a lot of time trying to avoid or get rid of it, but the reality is, it won’t ever disappear completely from our lives. So, how do we deal with it? Ashley Thorn LMFT recently had the opportunity to contribute to a 2-part article series about facing fear and using it to our advantage. The following links to these 2 articles should provide you with some helpful insight into managing your fears more effectively, and in a way that benefit (rather than hinder) you:
A few weeks ago, I gave a community presentation on body image, and many participants reported the following information was very helpful! There are 3 things that often contribute to how we perceive our physical self:
1-Early Environmental Issues
If you were praised based on appearance rather than internal performance, you are more at risk for thinking negatively about yourself. In addition, if you were raised in an environment where one or both parents were always “dieting,” you may also be at risk for developing a more negative perception of self.
People who see the proverbial “glass as half empty, rather than half full” are more likely to judge themselves negatively. Personalities who have a tendency to focus on flaws rather than strengths often have body image challenges.
Social media and even new phone apps (such as “Plump and Skinny Booth”) are altering our view of self more than ever. Cyberbullying seems to contribute to a negative body image, as well as performance pressures, say in sports, can lead to extreme measures to alter ones body, such as performance-enhancing drugs. New websites are popping up that even instruct the user “how to get an eating disorder” to control weight, which are a contributing risk factor as well.
The good news is all 3 of these factors can be managed or treated. A few useful tools can be found on websites (the positive side of technology!) such as centerforchange.com and thebodymovement.com. In addition, a Body Image Workbook by Thomas Cash PhD can be very useful, especially if used in conjunction with a trained therapist to address the above factors.
Last, learning facts about images we see are explored in a new documentary by Taryn Brumfitt called “Embrace.” This can help increase a more accurate view of ourselves an others. If you or a loved one struggle with negative body image, call Wasatch Family Therapy today to seek guidance from a body image professional and take charge of those negative self perceptions!
By now many of us have become aware of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which is a series depicting the experience of a young teenager who commits suicide. Throughout the series the main character shares the various hurts and traumas she has gone through that leads to her decision to end her life. For many people this has been a troubling show to watch due to its graphic content, which includes a detailed depiction of sexual assault and the process of a completed suicide including the detailed depiction of the character dying through suicide.
Multiple media outlets have highlighted the creators intent to open dialogue surrounding suicide and not to glamorize the process of dying by way of suicide. However, for many the interpretation and impact of the visual content has had varying responses. For some it has been highly triggering and has increased suicidal ideation. For others it has created curiosity and the desire to open communication about suicide.
For all parents even those with the best filters or rules about viewing mature content, chances are your tween or teenager will be exposed to this show in some fashion. Whether viewing it themselves or through interactions with friends and social media, 13 Reasons Why isn’t going away and here are five questions to support you in starting this necessary conversation with your teen or tween.
What do you understand about the show?
Were there aspects of the show that you personally related to?
Is there anything I can do to help support you in understanding the realities of suicide?
Have you ever had thoughts like this yourself? Can you help me understand them?
Is there anything I can do for you?
If you discover your child has struggled with suicidal thoughts or is currently having them, it is important to not dismiss the seriousness of their experiences and these thoughts and to seek out help from licensed professional immediately. Below are resources for parents and children who may be in crisis.
If you feel your child could benefit from further professional help Wasatch Family Therapy is here to serve you.
National Suicide Prevention Life Line 1-800-273-TALK
Anxiety actually works to suppress the spinal reflex that triggers arousal. So, if you want to have a hard time maintaining an erection or lubricating, get really worked up and anxious.
2) Don’t communicate with your partner about what you like sexually
If you want sex to be unpleasurable, do not tell your partner what kinds of touch you like and where. Keep those secrets locked in a vault and keep your partner guessing. Sex will become an experience you need to white-knuckle.
3) Obsess about the physical flaws you think you have.
A good way to make sex horrible is to get into your head, and out of your body. If you overthink how you look, it will go bad. Some research indicates that sex is more pleasurable when you view your own body as sexy. So whatever you do, don’t focus on your physical strengths.
4) Obsess about the physical flaws you think your partner has.
Make sure you focus on the parts of your partner’s body you wish were different. If you really want to go for the gold, consume a lot of media and pornography that has unreasonable expectations about body types of a sex partner that reflect a minute percentage of the population.
5) Say YES when you really mean NO
One of the best ways to make sex suck is to make it confusing. Have horrible boundaries and say yes when you really mean no, then you can make sure you are your partner are never on the same page.
6) Never or always initiate sex.
An important part of good sex is for both partners to feel wanted. In order to make it awful, make sure the patterns around initiation get super lopsided. You can make sure to increase feelings of insecurity and resentment.
7) Don’t brush your teeth.
You may not know, but smell, memory, and emotion are closely connected in the brain. Since sex is such an emotional experience and your partner is cued into their senses, you could try to make them feel icky by smelling Disgust is the exact feeling you want your partner to have during sex.
8) Have sex in an environment where your children and pets can interrupt at any moment.
If you want to make sex awful, certainly don’t focus on making it great. Don’t focus at all for that matter. Put yourself in a really distracting environment so you have a hard time focusing on the sensations and emotions you feel. Environments with many interruptions are ideal.
9) Try to read your partner’s mind during sex.
What ever you do, don’t ask your partner how they actually think and feel about your sex together. Make as many assumptions as you possibly can. This way, you can assure you have no idea how they experience you during sex, which means you will likely be missing the mark when it comes to meeting their sexual desires.
10) Don’t take care of your health
Try and be as unhealthy as possible. You don’t want to be in good physical shape in order to make a physical encounter like sex awful. You need to be in the worst shape possible. Make it really hard to maneuver and keep your stamina. An added bonus is that increased weight gain jeopardizes one’s ability to maintain an erection. In fact, most erectile dysfunction is due to weight gain limiting circulation, not mature age.
I think that sometimes, culture is a big reason that we act the way we act and think the way we think. Sometimes, we are so blind to our culture, and it is so engrained into who we are, that we don’t even notice. That being said, I don’t think that our culture is always right in how it does influence us.
I asked my husband a question the other day and thought, “Wow, my husband would never ask me that. Why am I asking him, and neither one of us even blinked?” Even the mere thought of him asking me the question, made me laugh! What does this phenomenon mean about how we think and view our worth as women? As you read through these questions, envision your husband saying to you…
Will you still find me attractive if I get stretch marks?
Do I look fat in this outfit?
Do you think I can be a parent and pursue a career?
I am getting greys. What color should I dye my hair?
Can you watch the kids while I run out?
Should I get BOTOX for my wrinkles?
Will you clean the toilets?
Can we afford for me to go to school also?
I am wondering how having another child will impact my job?
Will you still desire me when I don’t look 25 anymore?
I’m writing a menu for the week. Any requests?
Hey I am setting up the kids’ dentist appointments for next month.
Now, maybe you laughed, maybe you didn’t, seeing in your mind your husband so worried about his physical appearance, but ask yourself, are these things I worry about as a wife? Are these things I have asked my husband? If so, why? How come when my husband gets fat and goes grey, there aren’t worries or even a conversation about it? If you are a male reading this, perhaps you are thinking, “I hate when my wife asks me those things. I don’t even think about those things unless she’s asking.” or “Wow, it doesn’t even register as wrong when she asks me those things. Maybe it’s engrained in me too.”
Whatever your reaction to this article, I hope you used it as an opportunity to evaluate how you value yourself and your partner. Take your thoughts from this and have a good conversation with one another about where you would like to make changes in the relationship, and where you feel like you are doing well.
All parents want to raise strong, confident, happy daughters, but there’s evidence showing that female adolescents are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. A recent article in the Deseret News suggests that young women are having a rough time; researchers are seeing anxiety, self-harm, and even suicide in girls as young as 10. In recent years, I have witnessed an increase in the number of referrals of young people (girls and boys) to my therapy practice who are experiencing these same sorts of issues. Clearly, we have a real cultural problem to address, and there’s certainly reason to be concerned.
Have you ever considered food as a treatment or means of reducing your symptoms of Depression. Through the research of Nutritional Psychology studies are finding concrete links between nutrition and relief of various mental health symptoms.
Take a look at this Psych Central Article published By Jane Collingwood
Melanie Davis CMHC NCC is currently studying within the field of Nutritional Psychology and excited about offering her clients a wide variety of options for reducing common symptoms associated with Anxiety and Depression.
For more information contact Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555