How Non-Sexual Intimacy Can Make Or Break A Relationship

Let me begin this post by saying I actually have no idea how many men will read it. I say that because my experience online has been that the likes and comments I get typically come much more from females than males. But I figured what the heck, I’m going to post this anyway.

So, my question for you men out there is: how much does non-sexual intimacy matter to you in your relationship with your special woman? If your answer is anything less than “a lot” (or at least something like “ I know it should mean more, but I’m not sure how to get there”), then I encourage you to hear me out.

In the process, you will end up with a chance to take less time than it took me personally to really “get” how terrific non-sexual intimacy really is with the right partner. Oh, and BTW: in case it isn’t obvious, non-sexual intimacy can be either physical or verbal. Examples of physical non-sexual intimacy include warm hugs, holding hands, and massages. Verbal forms of non-sexual intimacy include expressions of appreciation, respect, gratitude, and specialness, either spoken directly out loud, or expressed through a card or something else you write by hand.

Now if you ask me fellow men out there, there are three great reasons to cultivate more non-sexual intimacy with your special woman:

🔶Number one: maybe you already know this (and if you don’t, give yourself a chance to find out), but moments of physical non-sexual intimacy can be great for stress management (for both you AND her).

🔶Number two: chances are–not guaranteed, but chances are—you will end up with more regular sexual relations (which may or may not become more frequent, but perhaps at least likely more consistent). But here’s the best reason of all:

🔶Number three: non-sexual intimacy can over time heighten the bond between the two of you above and beyond the realm of sexual intimacy, into what can become FOUNDATIONAL relationship intimacy! And that’s the best thing of all for you and your special woman to share!

What do you think? In my opinion, this is a really important subject to explore. Why does most therapy seem to cater to the female demographic only? Why aren’t more men sharing their feelings and being emotionally available (and proud of it)?

I think we have a ways to go as a society to accept that all genders are emotional creatures and erase the stigma of being a “manly man” or not. Men, like women, should be multi-faceted. I explore this idea more in my previous post about what makes a real man; check that out here.

When Arguing, What’s Your True Priority—WINNING OR RESOLVING? [Featuring Four Practical Steps For Positive Resolution]

What follows is for any important relationship you are in, or someone you know is in: romantic love, parent-child, other family members, or platonic friendship.

Let’s suppose you and someone with whom you are in a relationship argue often. Or, you don’t argue very often, but when you do, it can get nasty and contentious. What typically transpires, of course, is that you both go back and forth on the subject of the argument, e.g., money, domestic upkeep, keeping commitments, loyalty, et cetera.  Typical too, though, is the basic underlying message you are each giving each other, regardless of the subject being argued: it’s “I’m right, you’re wrong—and it really pisses me off that you don’t see it my way!”  

Well, ever heard of Newton’s Third Law—you know, the old ‘every action produces an equal and opposite reaction?’  When applying Newton’s Third Law to what l’ll call Human-Relationship Physics, what you can guarantee is happening is that each time one of you is emphatically taking the uncompromising “I’m right, you’re wrong!” position, that’s pretty much reflexively triggering an equal and opposite “No, I’m right, YOU’RE wrong!” position right back!  And round and round can this vicious Newtonian circle go, until one or both or one of you either says something truly mean and things get ugly, or one of you leaves the situation, until the next battle begins, an hour, a day, or a week later.

The question I now ask you is this: by holding on tightly to your “I’m right!” position, what did you win?  Did you get the other person to agree with you? Chances are maybe you forced their hand to agree on a rare occasion, but I doubt anything more constructive than that. Worse, did you and that person do anything at all truly healthy for the relationship? Did you grow together and nurture healthy habits? Obviously not—which is of course very easy for both parties to completely lose sight of during those Newtonian episodes (hey, when you come from an immediate family of quite a few arguers and arguments like I did, you know this stuff all too well, I guarantee you).

So, what can you do to try and nip these episodes in the bud?  Easier said than done for sure!  But, it truly begins with both of you committing to prioritizing RESOLVING over winning.  Practically speaking, resolving can involve the following diffusing steps:    

1)  Listening for what may be some legitimacy in the other person’s position.            

2)  Acknowledging the person’s feeling of the moment, e.g., “Hey, I assure you I see how angry/aggravated you are right now!”             

3) Challenging both of you TOGETHER about how much you’re hurting each other by staying on the attack, e.g., “but hey, can we agree to try and resolve this without hurting each other so much, like we keep doing?”             

4) Deciding together at that moment to either take a self-calming and de-escalating time out, or proceed to have a constructive discussion where intense anger and resentment are kept under control.

Should the two of you—with practice— manage to accomplish that last step, I encourage you to think in positive Newtonian terms of your accomplishment. You together switched the “I’m right, you’re wrong!” action/reaction PROBLEM into the “Hey, let’s really try to resolve this!” action/reaction RESOLUTION!

Oh, and one more thing: try reminding each other that you need to stop acting like adversaries if not enemies, because you supposedly love each other!

Overcoming Emotional Trauma: A Menu For Healing The Hurt That Holds You Back

Growing up, I was emotionally hurt a lot.  Although I was an only child, my parents were so caught up in their own troubles and struggles that I managed to end up not fitting the stereotypes of an only child.  Meaning not only was I not spoiled and catered to, on the contrary: I was outright neglected.  Plus, my parents fought like cats and dogs (on a slightly lighter note, I would describe them as the understudies for the Costanzas on Seinfeld — except in real life, it was anything but funny to regularly witness, as I figure you can imagine).

All that arguing inevitably left me with plenty of core anxiety and insecurity—no surprise there, right? So, that was the essence of my emotional hurt growing up: a mix of deep feelings of neglect (accompanied by feelings of being unlovable), plus significant amounts of insecurity and anxiety; hurt that left me vulnerable to what I came to think of as my inner bully’s “double whammy” of potential self-sabotage.  Meaning: on the one hand, I am aware of my having an emotional core of hypersensitivity and over-reactivity to feeling betrayed and/or rejected. Yet on the other hand, I am equally aware I have a piece inside of me—a piece I learned from watching my parents argue so much—to pseudo-compensate for feeling hurt by all too quickly going to anger.

I tell you all of this for two reasons. First, so I can now follow it up by sharing with you how I know firsthand what the incredible benefits are that you can get from being in the right therapy with the right therapist (it took me quite a while, but I eventually found him, thankfully).  Am I no longer hypersensitive and over-reactive? Certainly these self-sabotaging tendencies are not gone entirely by any means, but I’m clear as daylight that I have come a long way in controlling them—especially, and most importantly, in the face of situational triggers.

Am I no longer prone to outbursts of anger?  I can’t say they never occur, but I can unequivocally and unhesitatingly say they occur a lot less, and manifest much more often than not in an increasingly controlled manner.

So, what’s my “secret” here, to use this overused term?  It’s called HEALING. No, my painful emotional wounds certainly are not 100% healed; some scars do for sure remain. But my confidence in my ability to comfort myself and be resilient in the face of feeling betrayed or rejected, as well as in my ability to keep my anger in check have never been stronger.  And to what do I attribute my healing?  Here’s my “menu” for success.

First, again, being with the right therapy/therapist. Then, add all of the following items: having the incredible good fortune to still love my work, learning self-comfort tools, turning to my robust network of great friends for support (while making sure to give it back to them as needed, too), performing acts of kindness and courage, allowing displays of  vulnerability at the right time to the right people, getting a good laugh a day (and a good cry when needed), and, last but not least, staying as active, healthy, and playful as I have the luxury and ability to be.

So: care to share where YOU are on the healing front?

Learn more about my journey to overcoming my Inner Bully and tackling Self-Sabotage by checking out my two published books, browsing my recent blog posts, and connecting with me on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Oh, and I encourage you to download a FREE chapter from my book: you can find the link to download that here!

Learn to Love Yourself: The Four Components of Self-Love

“Learn to love yourself!” Wonderful and inspiring words, but certainly can sometimes be a challenge to do, right? Well, the way I have come to see it in recent years, if you want to feel more self-love, It can really help if you feel positively about yourself in the following four areas:

  • Self-liking;
  • Self-respect;
  • Self-enjoyment; and
  • Self-comfort.

Let’s dive deeper into each one of those components.

Self-Liking

Self-liking describes the positive, likable personality traits and qualities you see yourself as having.  These could be anything from intelligent, to outgoing, ambitious, kind, a good listener, devoted, energetic, or funny. Self-liking expresses the things you are good at and the good that others may see in you as well.

Self-Respect

Self-respect describes anything you feel you are accomplishing in your life—most certainly including the “little things” you do each day that are worthy of giving yourself a little bit of credit or acknowledgment for.  These can include: making the effort, self control over a self-defeating habit, an act of kindness, something that took some creativity, meeting a goal you had set, and—last but not least—an act of courage.

Self-Enjoyment

Self-enjoyment describes anything you do that allows you to entertain and enjoy yourself.  It could be through watching a funny show, writing something creative, making people laugh or telling an entertaining story, or being out in nature.

Self-Comfort

Self-comfort encompasses anything you do to compassionately comfort and soothe yourself when you are emotionally (or physically) hurting.  This can include things like taking a warm bath, listening to peaceful music or a meditation recording, reading something comforting or reassuring, making a list of what you like and respect about yourself, or—certainly not for everyone, but in my view so worth trying at least once —taking some kind of a furry stuffed animal or person (or even a pillow), holding it in your arms, imagining that it is you, and saying the kind of comforting and reassuring things you would say to a real live person you know who is hurting. 

In other words, in a nutshell, the clearer you can become that there are things you like about yourself, you respect about yourself, you enjoy doing in your own company, and you do to effectively comfort yourself, the more you will know your self-love is where you want it to be. But if you feel you fall short in any of these four areas, at least this can help you identify what you want to work on to get your self-love to that loving place. And if I may just add, a place I am grateful for and is a better place than it ever has been.

Feel like sharing where YOU are on the self-love front?  Leave a comment, or visit my Instagram or Facebook page for more on this subject!

inner bully

How To Shift Your Self-Judgement: A Technique To Overcome Your Inner Bully

I’d like to share with you something I’ve been practicing lately. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), as some of you may know, teaches us that we can practice challenging our negative thinking—including negative self-judgments—by pointing out to ourselves the irrationalities, over-generalizations, and incorrect assumptions in our minds that are creating and perpetuating the toxic negative thinking. Sometimes that approach works just fine. But in enough instances, I find it doesn’t work so well. For example, suppose you are mired in self-critical judgments like “I’m pretty stupid!” or “I’m fat and ugly!” or “I’m so undeserving of being loved!” These, what I call “inner bully,” harsh self-judgments can be pretty darn impenetrable to internal cognitive challenging, like what is practiced in CBT.


So, let me suggest an alternative strategy to getting control over negative self-judgments like these. The strategy involves switching the focus in your mind off of the distressing negative self-judgment you are caught up in, and onto what you are FEELING at that moment. I think it’s safe to say there are certain feelings that almost always create highly self-critical judgment—feelings like: sadness, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, hurt, or irritation.

The point is: what I’ve been preaching—and practicing—is mindfully shifting a negative self-judgment into one of those honest feelings. For example, suppose your inner bully has you saying to yourself something like “Jeez, you really are pretty stupid sometimes!” What you practice doing at those moments is switching immediately to telling yourself what you are really feeling, e.g., “I’m feeling sad right now” or “I’m feeling disappointed right now”—or anxious, or hurt, or pissed off, or jealous, or whatever. By doing this, you are replacing toxic negative self-judgment with a totally NON-judgmental, totally human feeling, one that exists in your emotional core because it belongs there at the moment.

Try it—and just see if like me, you feel like you are giving yourself a golden opportunity to bypass going cognitive with your negative self-judging; and instead, to cut right to non-judgmental honest feeling!

The Self-Worth Equation: Why The Little Things Make All The Difference

When I think of a way to describe the meaning of the term “emotional self-worth,” I go with the following equation: self-worth equals self-esteem plus self-respect. Let me take each of those two separately. On the self-esteem front , I look at self-esteem as having two parts: the “outer” (how you feel about how you look on the outside) and the “inner” (what you like about you personally on the inside).

As a little aside to that distinction, I truly wish that for true self-esteem, we could all make the “inner” part count a lot more than the “outer” part! But socialization and conditioning in our society being what they are, it makes it tough for that to happen, right? Oh well, and now to self-respect, which I’ll define here as anything you feel you’re accomplishing in your life, especially the “little things.”

Examples of “little things”— which as you’ll see in a moment really aren’t the least bit little at all—are things like pushing yourself and making the effort, exercising self-control over self-defeating habits, doing an act of kindness, taking care of your body and your health, reaching some goal you set, being creative and/or doing something really fun, and— last but certainly not least— engaging in act of courage.

These are the kinds of “little things” that we all could do ourselves a big favor by acknowledging even one of them that we may have done that day before we go to sleep at night! These days I’m thankfully feeling pretty good about myself on all three fronts (I assure you a lot of personal work has gone into making that happen)!

So next time you are judging yourself or worried about your value, remember the equation: Self-worth = Self-esteem + Self-respect!

inner bully

Feel Like You Are Never Good Enough? Learn My Secrets To Challenging Your Inner Bully [Because I’ve Done It, Too]


Are you challenged by the belief that you are “never good enough?” Well, my friends, I guarantee you: been there, done that myself, for enough decades of my life!

Only in maybe the past 5 years have I become clear that my—I call it, and wrote a book on it—“inner bully” had kept me puffing away on a “never good enough” emotional treadmill. Meanwhile, in the process of trying so hard to see myself as “good enough”—better yet, good, much less very good—I was very successfully disregarding my actual successes in my life, be they, e.g., professionally, academically, or inter-personally.

Photo by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

Ever wonder how the “never good enough” (NGE) bully takes control of your thinking? Or in other words, are you clear where this bully get its strength from? Maybe this is obvious, but just in case it isn’t: it gets its strength mainly from two things: 1) being negatively compared a lot to, e.g., your siblings or your friends; and 2) getting either lots of “yes/but” pseudo-compliments (e.g., “Yes you did well, BUT if you had worked harder you could’ve done better!”) or almost no compliments or praise at all. And as a little P.S. here, all it takes to feel NGE is to have had one parent be like this, even if the other parent did exactly the opposite, and gave you steady doses of praise, compliments, and encouragement!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So what do I recommend you practice doing to stand up to your NGE bully? First, in case you get caught up in this a lot (like I so often did), you need to stop comparing yourself to other people! Then (as I have posted previously) do something I make myself do and encourage my clients to do: just before bedtime, take a couple of moments to list at least one thing you did that day that falls in any of the following categories:

🔸an act of kindness;

🔸a goal met;

🔸worked hard at something important;

🔸something creative and/or fun;

🔸an act of courage.

Because as long as you are doing these kinds of things in your life, you are always better than “good enough”. In fact, you are actually a quite GOOD person, even a VERY good person. Time to stand up to your inner bully and start believing that, once and for all!

For more on standing up to your Inner Bully, join me for a FREE Expert Panel Discussion on March 12th at 2 pm; simply click below to register a spot and be a part of the conversation!

Post-Traumatic Stress Injury: Why You Should Be Using PTSI To Describe Your Trauma (instead of PTSD)!

Most people are familiar with the psychological condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As you may be aware from anything you have read or heard—or more unfortunately, from what you may personally suffer from—PTSD can be a quite debilitating psychological condition.  The main symptoms of PTSD typically include severe anxiety or panic attacks, flashbacks, depression, somatic symptoms (e.g., loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, or headaches), and loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.  Problems with addiction are also not uncommon when PTSD has taken hold. All of these symptoms ongoingly create and perpetuate marked distress in the person suffering from PTSD, and can continue to be present for many years or more, if not much of a lifetime.

When someone is formally diagnosed with PTSD, it is understood that by definition, the trauma triggering the PTSD involved a life or death event. War, a plane or car crash, or a natural disaster are all prime examples of life and death events that can of course traumatize someone involved in any of these events.  I should add that the formal diagnosis of PTSD can also include directly witnessing a life or death event, of the types just listed, without being a direct victim of it.

There is however another category of trauma that may not involve formally diagnosable events, but can trigger psychological trauma anyway. I’m referring here to psychological events which while not life and death, nevertheless in the extreme certainly can be traumatizing by themselves.  These especially include painful rejection, severe abuse, or a blind-siding major betrayal (e.g., an unsuspected infidelity). All of these psychologically devastating events have the potential to create most if not all of the same clinical symptoms listed above for traumas involving life and death events. Plus, need I add: unlike the first category of trauma which thankfully most people will never experience, chances are most people will go through their life experiencing at least one situation involving the second category of trauma.  

Now it’s time to tell you about Dr. Peter Levine’s work related to PTSD.  First we have his absolutely marvelous book, entitled In An Unspoken Voice: How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (2010). Then we have the incredibly valuable conference of his I attended several years ago on the subject of his book and related writings.  Dr. Levine is clearly a brilliant man. But better yet, he is also a deeply compassionate man—especially when it comes to people plagued by the debilitating symptoms of PTSD.

Let me tell you what I mainly mean by that statement of compassion—by quoting something from his book.  On page 34, Dr. Levine writes:


 “Recently, a young Iraq veteran took issue with calling his combat anguish PTSD.  Instead, he poignantly referred to his pain and suffering as PTSI. With the “I” designating “injury.”  What he wisely discerned is that trauma is an injury, and not a disorder like diabetes, which can be managed but not healed.  In contrast, post-traumatic stress INJURY is an emotional wound, amenable to healing attention and transformation.”


In An Unspoken Voice: How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness
Peter A. Levine
North Atlantic Books, 2010

To say I am indebted to Dr. Levine for introducing the term “injury” into the mix is putting it mildly.  That’s because virtually all of my current and past patients whom I have treated have found the term post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) a term that strips the stigmatizing judgment out of the diagnosis of a disorder or mental illness.  Knowing that in this framework someone who has been traumatized will instead be seen as having a painful deep-seated injury can provide a badly needed sense of “normalcy” for that traumatized person. After all, who doesn’t sooner or later have to contend with a painful PHYSICAL injury, which can—as with a painful psychological injury—last a long time, take quite a while to treat, and quite possibly never fully go away?  No one in good conscience could possibly think of suffering from a painful physical injury as having anything but normalcy to it under the circumstances, right?

So to me the overall moral of the story is this.  If you are an individual who suffers from PTSD, strongly consider from now on calling it PTSI (and leave the PTSD thing to, say, professional diagnosing for insurance purposes).  Same recommendation I want to give to psychotherapists, counselors, coaches, and healers working with people diagnosed with PTSD: tell your patients/clients you will be using the term PTSI for their condition.  Then, as so sensitively encouraged by Dr. Levine, let’s help these suffering souls attempt to heal from their deep, complicated injury. And let’s make sure they get plenty of doses of healing-oriented kindness and compassion along the way—from people around them and of course from us—and not just in-office, diagnosis-based treatment options.

PTSI rather than PTSD—thank you Dr. Levine!


Want to learn more about this subject? Subscribe below to get an exclusive invitation to my upcoming webinar on Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.

Manhood

In the near future, I will be offering a webinar on one of my favorite, complicated subjects: manhood. This feels timely to me to do, particularly in light of the recent highly viewed, highly controversial Gillette commercial.

I plan to begin by making the I believe crucial distinction between the stereotypical definition of a real man–Mr. “macho man”—vs. a non-macho definition that I will get to shortly. I think we all know the stereotype of a macho man, e.g., chiseled physique, strong as an ox, fixer-handy as hell, cocky in his (over)confidence, extols his sexual prowess, has a lot of money (or at least feels compelled to act like he does), lives life adventurously, and: makes sure to hide his vulnerability and always appear “strong”. Well, goodness knows on a personal note, to quote Bob Dylan (showing my age a bit here), “that ain’t me babe; no no no, it ain’t me babe….” So what do I view a “real man” as being? Let me preface my answer to this by saying I have given this subject a great deal of thought over the years. And the conclusion I have come to is to propose a list of qualities that I invite anyone reading this— and anyone you care to share it with—to please comment on. Okay, here goes. One totally non-macho man’s definition of a real man:

🔹 is hard-working, but not a workaholic
🔹 keeps in good shape physically and mentally
🔹 prioritizes accountability, integrity, reliability, and trustworthiness
🔹 financially, prioritizes a sensible balancing of spending versus saving, consistent with his level of earned income
🔹 sexually, prioritizes making sex as pleasurable and loving as possible for both himself and his partner
🔹 can show emotional vulnerability on occasion, without judging himself as “weak” or “unmanly” for it
🔹 prioritizes earning other peoples’ respect rather than demanding it; and makes sure to show it to others when it clearly is warranted to do so
🔹 is courageous and assertive most of the time, without resorting to aggressive intimidation
🔹 has a good sense of humor–in a playful, connecting, at times self-deprecating way, rather than being overly sarcastic and/or belittling of others
🔹 gives something back to his community
🔹 will do what he can within reason to protect and support important people around him
🔹 is affectionate in a non-sexual way
and last but not least
🔹 prioritizes moderation in indulgences; yet enjoys making allowance for extra indulging on special occasions

Moral of the story? I know I will never fully be this man, since it obviously sets the bar awfully high. But I also know this: this is so much more of a real man than a macho man can ever be. So I will spend the rest of my life striving to stay as much of the non-macho type as I can be, while hoping to get as good at it as I can get!

Care-Givers Versus Care-Takers

The other day, I was thinking about the distinction between being a care-giver vs. a care-taker. So I went to the “God of Google” for some non-cosmic insight on the matter. In several places that came up, the distinction made between the two essentially boiled down to this: care-GIVING involves giving in a deeply caring and personal way to a loved one, while care-TAKING refers more to a paid position, involving a person or situation as the object of the care-taking.

This distinction didn’t work very well for me I decided. So I went ahead and created a personally-preferred distinction. I’m sticking with care-giving as the personal giving of care to a loved one. But I’m switching care-TAKING to: the personal act of RECEIVING care from someone, be it a loved one, friend, or otherwise. I went with this distinction because I think it’s important to recognize that wonderfully care-giving people by nature can struggle with being on the receiving end—i.e., the taking in—of care-giving. Irrational guilt often is the underlying culprit here: essentially, feeling they don’t really deserve or have the right to receive care-giving—even when it’s clearly needed. So in enough instances, a care-giver by nature who at least temporarily needs care-giving given to them needs to be assured and reassured that it is perfectly ok to receive it, as it is a HUMAN NEED at times for everyone!

One more piece though. Care-givers do not always do a very good job of taking care of—or should I say giving care to—THEMSELVES. So to all you care-givers out there, I say: give yourself permission to receive care when you need it—but also make sure to take care of yourself too. After all, how can you really sustain being the best care-giver you expect yourself to be if you don’t balance it out at least some with taking or giving the best care you can to you?!

-Dr. Sid