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At the recent sexuality conference I attended, my friend and colleague Gina Odgen spoke about her “ISIS Wheel.” ISIS is an acronym for “integrating sexuality and spirituality.” Gina is a sex therapist, author, and shaman, and her ISIS Wheel is a like a medicine wheel and a compass, applied to sexual experience and satisfaction. Above is an image of the ISIS Wheel.
Visualize yourself standing before a life-sized ISIS Wheel. Now reflect on your sexual experiences and sexuality and consider how you like to enter these experiences. Is it through the “body” realm and pleasurable sensations, such as heightened body awareness, the sounds of your partner’s arousal, or orgasm? Think back to the first time you had sex. Perhaps there was a “mind” component motivating you, such as curiosity or expectation. The “heart” component, about emotions, is strong for many and varies from the extremes of love and trust, to guilt and fear. For some, the “spirit” path is most motivating, when they exchange sexual energies and deep connection with their partner.
The foundation for Gina’s ISIS Wheel is sexual health, not sexual dysfunction. This means that despite any concerns people have in their sex lives, it is all just part of their sexual story that can be mapped and explored through the wheel. Framing sexual concerns as stories instead of dysfunction gives individuals and couples more freedom to explore the complexity of their sexual experiences, without judgment. Clearly, sex through the lens of the ISIS framework is about a lot more than physical release or performance.
The “ISIS connection” is when all four aspects of the wheel meet in the center. However, any experience is just as valid as the next. When we view a sexual “problem” as part of a sexual story and journey, it makes it a lot easier to address it head on, in all its layers of complexity. I suggest taking this wheel for a spin to learn more about you and your partner!
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sex Speaker, College Sexual Health Speaker
"Problems are only as big as we make them.”
A client shared this with me recently. She and her husband use this idea as a reminder to not make problems any bigger than they have to be. They choose to focus on their joys instead of their fears. Through our work on mindfulness and positive psychology, and their commitment to their marriage, they created this powerful mantra.
Pretty wise for 24-year-olds.
To develop mindfulness, I encouraged them to notice or reflect on their thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Sometimes a situation results in just a reaction without thought, and it seems you have no choice in your reaction. Mindfulness can reveal an opportunity to respond differently. I also encouraged them to end each day by sharing three gratitudes for that day with each other. In addition, if they felt sucked down by negativity during the day, they could choose to “flip the switch” to positivity, and instead shift their focus to something for which they felt appreciation.
Small shifts like these can have a big impact on a relationship. Clearly these shifts are working for this couple, as the husband recently shared:
I decided that the problems were small, and the rewards large, so I just don’t pay much attention to them anymore….Please know that you have helped guide us from a tragic situation to one of the highest levels of intimacy and satisfaction. I didn’t think it was possible to feel this giddy beyond the infatuation phase, but now I know you can feel in love every second of your life. Thank you Dr. Jenn.
They may be thanking me, but each of them is doing the hard work of retraining their brains. It’s not easy, but we have a lot more power and control over our emotional states and reactions than we realize. Sometimes it feels downright excruciating to break our automatic patterns. However, as this couple attests, through the pain of change, is the glory of intimacy.
(This was originally posted as the weekly Love & Sex Blog for Pacific San Diego Magazine.)
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, Sexologist, Sexual Health Motivational Speaker
I was interviewed this morning on Fox 5 News, to promote the "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Opposite Sex" event I'm a part of next week. They had 7 eligible bachelors in the studio, and myself along with morning anchors Heather Ford and Raoul Martinez, asked them individual questions about dating, women, and attraction. I don't think these guys knew what they were getting themselves into, but they really did a great job answering the questions, and I had the opportunity to comment on their responses.
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- San Diego Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, College Sexual Health Speaker
Well, mabye not EVERYTHING! But this event is a good opportunity to glean some insights into the opposite sex regarding intimacy, dating, communication, sex, and relationships. Having more information like this, helps us respect and understand men and women better, and therefore have better and happier relationships. There will be a panel of experts to answer your questions, ranging from sex therapist (me), dating coach, love coach, and marriage & family therapist.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011, 6-8:30pm, $20/$35 in advance for singles/couples
Marina Village Conference Center, San Diego, CA
Learn more and register HERE.
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, and College Sexual Health Speaker
Concern for breast cancer has spawned a huge movement around education, awareness, and fund raising. The concern over breast cancer is laudable, however the emphasis on women's breasts may bridge from concern to titillation. T-shirt slogans like "Save 2nd Base" or "Save the Tatas" attempt to bring levity to this disease by way of our cultural obsession with women's body parts.
Now moving to Halloween, which, as a costume-lover, is one of my favorite days of the year! It has exploded in the United States as a top adult holiday, with a heavy focus on sexy costumes for women. It seems that many girls and women use Halloween as an excuse to be blatantly sexual in appearance. I think it is fun and important that women feel permission and flexibility around their sexual expression. So often women are criticized if they "own" their sexuality, under their own terms. However, the Halloween emphasis on women presenting themselves as sexy objects generally isn't about sexual expression, but about appearing sexy to feel valuable. Getting attention does feel good, but at what cost?
Does this concern and emphasis on women's bodies benefit women? Love Your Body Day was October 19, and is a national day to raise awareness around the depiction and representation of women's bodies in media. Love Your Body Day brings attention to the rate of eating disorders, the airbrushing that creates impossible standards in model images, and the fact that 80% of women are unhappy with their appearance when they look in the mirror. With so many media messages inform women that they should spend time and money purchasing products to be younger, prettier, thinner, or sexier, I'm surprised this percentage isn't higher.
So this October there is a lot to consider regarding women's bodies! Where do you stand regarding your appreciation and love for your own body? If you're looking for a boost in that area, check out one of my recent blogs on body image that might help you out with your self lovin'.