Sex and Love

BREAKING BAD HABITS IS IMPOSSIBLE - WHAT TO DO INSTEAD

Attempts are often made at breaking or eliminating bad habits. Such efforts are frequently unsuccessful. Over 50 percent of smokers who try to quit go back to smoking as soon as a stressful situation comes up, even though they are aware that smoking is dangerous to health.

The figures are no more encouraging among the sexually dissatisfied, who find themselves returning to their old behaviors even though they may have tried the best "unlearning" or "habit-breaking" techniques.

What is "unlearning"? Well, if to learn means to acquire or gain, then unlearn means to take away or lose. But it is questionable whether behavior is ever truly lost, even when it is no longer observable.

For example, people who have stopped smoking still know how to smoke; if given a cigarette they would know precisely how to light it, inhale it, knock off the ash, and so on. just as one-time bicycle riders who haven't been on a two-wheeler in years still know how to ride a bicycle. And long-ago roller skaters can still, however awkwardly, roller-skate.

Skills and bad habits can coexist along with the many other items of behavior a person has in his or her repertoire -even when the skills (assets) and bad habits (liabilities) seem incongruous and contradictory.

The human mind is fantastic. It has an incredible capacity to add on. Whatever you want to put in there you can put in there. Most people understand that. We are very powerful and we don't notice how powerful we are. Psychiatrists, unfortunately, are thought of as "shrinks."

One of these days we'll all realize that if we want to go for assistance we'll go to an "expand." Really. Not to a "shrink." For one thing, it's not true - you can't take away anything from a persons past. No matter what you do, it will always be there, a part of that person's history. Besides, why bother?

They're playing with habit-breaking - psychologists call it "extinguishing behavior". It's idiocy: the truth is, bad habits are best noticed and left alone.

I believe it's much better to have people decide for themselves what they want to learn and then have them learn. A person desirous of changing behavior need only acquire new behavior and then select it for use when appropriate.

It is crucial first to note the person's liabilities and incongruities ... that thinking, feeling, and doing behavior that seems to get in the way of the specified goal, especially the behavior that seems recurrent.

Once noted, it may be left alone and another behavior chosen. This may take the form of newly acquired, regularly practiced and mastered skills.

It may also be old behavior that works. This is called an asset, behavior already in the client's repertoire that may assist in reaching the specific goal.

Assets are good things from the past and present that can assist you in moving into your future comfortably. Assets are the Right sided behavior you already have, and it doesn't matter how Left sided the overall picture may seem ... the assets are there to be used.

It's not necessary to abandon your past to pursue a happy tomorrow. Only notice that it's there, then let it go if it doesn't serve you well. Although much of your past and present might be left alone profitably, there might also be something there worth holding on to, worth nurturing.

Meredith came to me with a common complaint ... she wasn't experiencing orgasm during intercourse with her husband. The only time she did reach orgasm was alone, while wearing panties and lying on her stomach with her thighs tightly crossed and her hands pressed firmly on her upper pubic area.

She told me this was a masturbatory practice that she had begun at age seven or eight and had continued to the present. She didn't realize that this was an asset, that she already had behavior in her repertoire that worked, behavior she could expand and exploit to bring zero to plus-ten sex.

She thought it too strange to admit to her husband. Besides that, she believed people masturbated alone.

She was told that not everyone did that alone; she was told that many people did it in front of each other and to each other, and enjoyed it. It was suggested she try masturbating, then maybe further take advantage of what obviously worked and continue her masturbatory behavior, but with her husband, cutting a hole in the underpants to allow him to enter her from behind.

The example may seem unusual - Meredith herself called it "bizarre" - but I don't think it is. (Everything is normal, right?) No more unusual than the problem of Melinda, who said boredom and frustration ended her marriage and now she couldn't come with a partner.

In recounting her sexual history, she said, "When I was about nineteen I met a boy who knew about sex and how to give a woman an orgasm because I went to the beach with him and we petted and fondled and just through physical contact I had an orgasm. And then a year later, after I graduated, again I went out with a boy I liked.

I remember we went to the beach again, and coming home he put his head on my lap and began what you might call oral sex on his part and again I had an orgasm."

This one nostalgic paragraph was laden with assets, but Melinda was either ignoring them or didn't know that's what they were. First of all, she knew how to have an orgasm - she'd done it before - and she remembered distinctly what it felt like. That meant that her current problem probably wasn't physiological (it rarely is).

And her memory made it possible for her to recreate that feeling in fantasy. Still another asset was in circumstance - how and where she reached orgasm when she was 19 and 20 years old. It wasn't by intercourse, but on the first occasion friction alone and on the second oral manipulation.

And both instances were connected with the beach. I suggested she take her partner to the beach. Pavlov would've been proud. It worked.

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