What does Compassion have to do w/ Sex?

Consider these utterances:

All men are assholes.

I know how to get women into bed.

I didn't even know the bitchs' name the next morning.

I’d rather fake an orgasm than have to tell my partner what I like.

My message that "We are all in this together" (see previous blog about my billboard) indicated that we as humans all want to be seen, acknowledged, understood, respected, and loved. However, as reflected in the above statements (that I've actually heard before), compassion and sex don't necessarilly go hand in hand. Love, respect, and understanding are important in such an intimate act. Even if you've just met the other person, they are still another human being who is worthy of respect and kindness. But our patterns, projections, fears, and walls of protection get in the way of this basic fact.

American social norms encourage much judgment and shame around sexual expression. We plaster sexual images everywhere, but are also quite prudish. There is so much discomfort around sex, and frank sexual conversations are often avoided. Sexual expression can be stigmatized and anything outside of a narrow range of "normal" seen as wrong. However, if we remember that as humans we all are on this wild ride of life together on this planet, and that connecting intimately with others is one of the most beautiful things we can do as humans, we may be able to be a little kinder to our partners and even random people.

We share, as humans, the vulnerability of wanting love and connection. We could dislike this feeling of vulnerability and run from it by projecting negativity on others in an attempt to protect ourselves. OR, we could realize that we all share these same basic fears and deep desires. This common humanity unites us. And I hope it motivates us to inspire love and compassion, instead of fear and disconnect.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker

Compassion It! The new social movement you'll want to join

Does it matter to you if you’re a good person? If so, you’ve probably noticed how good it feels to cultivate such compassion. Nonetheless, in our me-centered society, I think folks struggle with understanding what compassion means in their interactions with others and with themselves. If you’d like to increase the role of compassion in your life, I have a handy suggestion below!

First, what exactly are we talking about here…what's a good definition of compassion? I like this definition of compassion from free dictionary: “Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” So it’s not sympathy, nor pity. It’s empathy and wanting to be of service. Self-compassion is a bit trickier to define. Consider your inner thoughts and how they become focused at times on your perceived failures or flaws. Self-compassion is making a choice to give yourself a break, accept you’re human, and focus on positive feelings towards yourself. Whether towards yourself or others, choosing compassion is a gift to the world.

Would you like to be more compassionate? Check out the bracelet reminder in the photo here. Start your day with your bracelet turned to the dark side. When you specifically do a compassionate act that day, you flip your bracelet to the white side. This is designed to raise awareness around being more compassionate to others. But with the amount of mental berating I see with my clients and friends, I think using it for self-compassion may be important too. The creators of Compassion It thought of that too, and there is now a red/white version of the bracelet specifically as a reminder for self-compassion!

I started wearing my Compassion It bracelet about three weeks ago (and by the way, if you haven’t said “Compassion It” out loud yet, you might not get how clever that name is!). I like to think of myself as a kind, caring person as I move through my day, from clients to loved ones. However, I found it harder than expected to find an opportunity to go out of my way or do something I wouldn’t normally do. This little bracelet has already changed the way I move through my day, and how I can stretch my awareness to be empathetic and kind in new ways. Imagine if everyone took this on?

The cool thing too is that when you purchase a bracelet, it comes with a second one. The intention is that your first compassionate act is already built in when you gift your second bracelet to someone else. Clever! Actually, I think everything about Compassion It is damn clever, and I’m excited that the founder, compassion teacher Sara Schairer, lives here in San Diego. We’re lucky to have this creative mind and teacher here. :)

For yourself, a friend, a stranger, or fundraising for your cause, you can join the social movement for compassion here:

Compassion It. Website

Compassion It. Facebook

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality & Mindfulness Speaker

4 Rules to Avoid a Mid-Life Crisis

Jokes about fast cars and busty women aside, a midlife crisis can be a very real thing for many men and women. The cause of said “crisis” is the realization that life isn’t going the way you expected. You worked hard and followed the rules, yet you feel unsatisfied, disconnected, and unhappy. Here are 4 rules to get you back on track, or avoid the crisis in the first place:

Rule 1. Don’t follow the rules. I say this tongue in cheek, as this blog posting is about following rules! What I mean is to follow new rules that don’t involve “shoulds.” You should be married by a certain age. You should have children. You should live in a certain neighborhood. You should sacrifice all your needs for your children. You should stay at a job you hate because at least you have a job. While some of these “shoulds” may be important to you, ask yourself where you learned them and then question whether they are attached to your personal purpose and mission in life. While you don’t want to dismiss your existing commitments in one fell swoop, you can start taking little steps to make your own rules so you can design your life, instead of your life designing you.

Rule 2. Find your passions. Explore what you’re passionate about, and in particular something that lights you up and involves helping others. Many people feel passionate about activities like golf, video games, or shopping, but I’m encouraging you to find passions that have an altruistic bent to them. Research shows that the benefits of activities that bring pleasure to us while helping others, versus purely hedonist pleasure for ourselves, last longer. If you connect this built in feel-good wiring with something that you are also passionate about, you have a recipe for deeper fulfillment and satisfaction.

Mindfulness BellRule 3. Practice mindfulness. Cultivating regular mindfulness practices helps you stay in touch with what really makes you happy, content, and satisfied, versus what you think “should” make you happy. Developing mindfulness helps you stay present in the moment, even if that present moment involves uncomfortable thoughts, emotions, or sensations. When you learn to stay present, instead of running, distracting, or numbing yourself, you can access authenticity and vulnerability. These are paramount to deeply knowing yourself and knowing others.

Rule 4. Cultivate gratitude. The science of happiness repeatedly points to the importance of gratitude and appreciation as a key to happiness. It may seem counterintuitive to appreciate what you have, when you’re feeling unhappy and unfulfilled. But gratitude is foundational to building your optimism, which then leads to greater creativity, connection, and resilience. An attitude of gratitude will also help you identify what is working for you in life, and help you focus on cultivating more of that.

A mid-life crisis is not inevitable. If you’re in crisis it is likely because you let your life go on automatic pilot. The above 4 rules help you take the reins of your life and be responsible for your choices and path. Enjoy the ride—it is the only one you’ve got.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego -- Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker

Why “What’s for dinner?” Can Hurt Your Relationship

Relationship researchers and counselors have long argued that how a couple fights is important to the stability of that relationship. But what about how a couple celebrates with each other? Psychology researcher Shelly Gable studied the impact of various responses of how a couple celebrates their successes. She found that their interaction style when sharing positive events was more predictive of the health of their relationship than how the couple handled conflicts.

The example conversation in the box above is borrowed from Martin Seligman’s positive psychology book Flourish. Can you find yourself in these conversations? Can you hear the voices of your parents? I think that many folks learn whether to be active/passive or constructive/destructive from the interaction styles of their parents. However, although you might have learned a certain reaction style or you believe that you “naturally” react in more passive or destructive ways, you can practice a new style. Ask yourself and your partner about the importance of supporting each other when something good has happened, and make a committment to practice new ways to be more mindful in these interactions. I also suggest that you observe these types of interactions in your family, friends, and coworkers, so you can feel for yourself the powerful difference being active and constructive makes.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker

Having a Bad Day? I Call Bullshit

From: http://serafimabogomolova.com/2012/05/a-bad-day-you-bet/Have you ever been around someone who’s having a “bad day”? For whatever reason, some happenings in their day have not gone as planned, and they are in a bad mood. They’ve labeled the whole day as bad. They are not fun to be around, especially if it’s our significant other.

How we define undesirable happenings in our lives is very important. Sure, these happenings are not what we hoped for and they have negative consequences for us. But the extent of those consequences is up to us. If you are viewing the world through dark-colored glasses because you’re having a “bad day,” I guarantee more bad things will happen to you. The amount of “positive” or “negative” you experience every day is largely up to how you perceive and react to events.

Consider that a negative event doesn’t actually make your day bad. It just means that you’ve had a negative incident. It’s an isolated event that doesn’t have to lead to more negativity. The meaning that we ascribe to an event has a large impact on how we actually experience it.

This is relevant in relationships too. If you or your partner perceive unhappy events as ruining a whole day, it can bring you both down. It’s difficult to thrive together unless you both choose to shift to a broader and more optimistic outlook.

If you’re a person who views days as “good” or “bad,” consider how this is impacting your partner, friends, and coworkers. Next consider how you can choose to accept a bad event for what it is and deal with it, without making it bigger than that. One suggestion, if you find your mental path on a downward spiral, is to identify three things to appreciate that day. Know that it will make you and everyone around you happier.

(This was originally posted as part of Pacific San Diego Magazine's Relationship & Sex Blog series.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sex Therapist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker

Grateful160 for Counting Your Blessings

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” ~Humor Columnist, Harold Coffin

http://www.abundance-and-happiness.com/gratitude.htmlWant some help counting your own blessings? I’m a huge proponent of doing “daily gratitudes,” where you write down three to five things you are grateful for in the past day. This activity is a keystone of the burgeoning science of happiness field, and there is mounting evidence that such activities have a profound impact on increasing optimism and improving happiness. (In my field, this is quite related to building happy relationships and fulfilling sex lives.) When reflecting on your day, your appreciations need not be the big things in your life, such as your partner, job, or car, but can be the little things, such as a seeing a spray of wildflowers on the side of the road, cashing in your “10th one for free” on your coffee card, hearing your favorite song on the radio, or eating at a delicious Thai restaurant.

If you struggle with accountability when starting new habits such as this, you can now sign up for an online gratitude journal called grateful160. Reminders are sent to you via email or text to assist in recording your daily gratitude list. When you reply to this correspondence with your gratitudes for the day, they are stored online for you. Every Friday you receive a review email listing all your daily gratitude entries for the past week.

I’ve been using this program for the past three weeks, and I’ve found the gentle nudge to record my gratitudes through email keeps me more accountable. I really enjoy the weekly recap and I’ve been surprised by how much of the week I had already forgotten. This review of what I appreciated was also an experience of savoring my positive experiences, which is another hallmark of the happiness research. I’m not sure what the “160” represents in the title, but grateful160 can support you in appreciating your life, 365 days of the year.

(Originally posted as part of Pacific San Diego Magazine's Love & Sex Blog.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sex Therapist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker