Tag Archives: diversity

Dreaming Our Way Into the Future

beaded dream catcherby David Bedrick, J.D., Dipl. PW

At this time in our world, we may need the power to dream and the ability to understand one another’s dreams more than ever.  Our colleague, David Bedrick,  has been writing about dreams and other psychological and social issues for many years now.  In the blog below, originally published by Psychology Today, David gives us some insights into the mysterious, night-time phenomena, we call dreams and suggests some reasons why we should pay attention to their quirky and often wise messages and symbols.

#1: Dreaming is one of the most powerful natural healing events.

Dreams are naturally occurring; every night we live in a world where our deepest, but often suppressed and unconscious, experiences get to live in the form of symbols, feelings, and other worldly experiences. Then we wake up, and for most of us, these experiences get dismissed or simply forgotten as we attempt to live in what we believe is a more objective world of “real” people, places, and events. The underlying dreaming experiences of our lives become marginalized leaving us without a connection to our deepest feelings to move us, without our imagination to show us new roadways, and without a profound sense of what it means to be sentient, to be human. In short, dismissing our dreams dismisses our deepest selves.

#2: Dreams offer new resolutions to our greatest sufferings. 

Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Our dreams are absolutely brilliant at doing just that – flipping our usual script and offering a radical new orientation designed just for us. They reveal the fear behind our rigidity; the beauty behind what we hold as ugly and the ugliness behind what we hold as beautiful; the power behind what we deem vulnerable and the vulnerability behind what we deem powerful; and the wisdom behind what we deem foolish and the foolishness behind what we deem wise. Further, they compensate for our biases showing us parts of ourselves that are in dramatic tension and conflict with who we try to be. Thus, when we try to be thoughtful of others, our dreams reveal how we need to be more self-interested; when we try to be spiritual, our dreams show how we marginalize our body and sensuality; when we try to be disciplined, our dreams show how we need to let go and let life flow; or when we try to promote peace, our dreams show how we need to live in a more “militant” fashion or grab hold of our power.

#3: Dreams reveal our most private needs nakedly, completely, and honestly. 

Dreams take off all of our clothes, showing the full range of our humanity in ways that our waking-selves would never do. I began commenting on people’s dreams in a public Facebook space about a year ago where 100’s of dreams have been shared with me – dreams of being fearful, powerful, brilliant, magical, ill, abused, brutal, and so many things that we wouldn’t show to others (and sometimes ourselves). It’s simply incredible to have a community of people, most who have never met personally, candidly revealing their deepest inner selves whether it is their demons or angels. Maya Angelou wrote in her inaugural poem for William Jefferson Clinton, “Give birth again
to the dream. Women, children, men. Take it into the palms of your hands. Mold it into the shape of your most
private need. Sculpt it into
the image of your most public self.” Our nighttime dreams help us heed Dr. Angelou’s call – to make our private selves public.

#4: Dreamers are needed to resolve the world’s most protracted problems.

How shall we respond to the enormous difficulties we face as individuals and as a global society – war, terrorism, addictions, and the harm done to women and to people of color?  We set up geographical borders and try to push them on the people of the Middle East to resolve their conflict, but it is not sustainable. We send people to treatment programs for substance abuse, but most relapse. We try to create a better world through revolutions and movements, but the new status quo ends up abusing and oppressing people in the same way that the old status quo did. We look at the problems of people of color and hope that some legislation and time will make it go away, yet the color line still remains one of the fundamental facts and tension points in America and much of the world. What can we do? We need dreamers who imagine outside the box, outside of our current paradigms, offering new ways of understanding, facilitating, and building deeper relationships with each other. Again, Einstein reminds us that, “The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.”

#5: Our indigenous brothers and sisters consider the dream world to be sacred and we owe it to them to honor dreaming as they have.

The injury, death, and symptoms of trauma left in the wake of the genocide of America’s indigenous people are overwhelming – shame and guilt that most American’s survive via our defense systems and denial. Along with the injury and neglect of our indigenous populations comes the neglect of indigenous wisdom and ways of being, thinking, and relating that have always been connected to the earth and to dreaming. Making a connection to our dreams is one small, perhaps very small, way of holding on to and valuing the native culture that grew out of this land and nurtured by the original people of this land.

#6: Dreams express our unique and creative brilliance equalizing the light we all share.

No matter how different we are in IQ, physical capacity, and other conventional or arbitrary norms of evaluation, we all dream. Further, we find in our dreams a wildly and profoundly creative, psychological, and spiritual genius and insight. Whether sick or healed, a guru or a fool, each night each of us dreams of what we are less aware of during the day. Regardless of the person and their station in waking life, the brilliance in symbolism in their dreams, the genius in their crafting, and a dream’s capacity to see through the narrow boxes of convention, seems to be the same for all people.

#7: Dreams tell the truth about our inner diversity – we are not only “one,” we are “many.” 

I think I am “David,” you think you are “you.” But dreams show how we are both sinner and saint, child and elder, Muslim and Jew, man and woman, gay and straight, able bodied and dying of illness, brave and terrified. Further, dreams show how these parts of us relate to each other, instead of falling into the trap of thinking that one way is right while the other is wrong or that resolutions will come from one way triumphing over another. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, our inner and outer diversity “inter-are.” Nhat Hanh writes, “Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.” Dreams declare, with emphatic repetition that we are not one, we are many, tied in an intricate web of life together.  We, in all of our diversity, “inter-are.”

David Bedrick is an author and speaker. His newest book, Revisioning Activism, provokes critical thinking, feeling, and dialogue. The book is comprised of essays that broaden our vision of activism to include how the social/political world impacts the inner lives of people, how dialogue across diverse viewpoints can impact hearts and minds, and how psychology can play a role as a social-change agent.  Revisioning Activism is a daring call to empower activism and see ourselves as individuals intimately woven into a web of relationships and social issues.

Everyone Has Bias

therapist bias

by Rami Henrich, LCSW

No one is immune from bias, not even us therapists! Everyone has bias.

Therapist bias takes many forms, especially with regards to clients’ sexuality, gender, erotic orientation, etc… 

Bias ranges from misinformed opinions about BDSM to confusing polyamory with infidelity to other subtle perceptions, beliefs and attitudes.  Bias is a part of us all and we need ways to work with it, learn from it and transform ourselves. 

Where Does Therapist Bias Begin?

How does bias impact clients? What can be done to mitigate its effects? Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D. and I attended the 2015 Alternative Sexualities Conference* (or ASC), where I presented “Uncovering Therapist Bias – A Lifelong Approach,” a talk about these questions and more.

*Produced by the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) and Projects Advancing Sexual Diversity (PASD), the ASC brings together leading researchers, clinicians, and educators for a one-day series of seminars and discussions about cultural concerns, clinical issues, and the latest research in the field of sex-positive therapy.

I wanted to share a few of the highlights from the ASC conference.

Why Talk About Therapist Bias?

The topic of therapist bias is especially interesting to us in our work as psychotherapists, educators and clinical supervisors. Our goal is to help the therapists we train and educate learn to recognize bias in themselves. By acknowledging that each of us holds onto certain biases, we can begin to discover and work with unknown or unexamined perceptions, beliefs and attitudes to enhance our ability to understand the diverse experiences that clients bring.  We believe this is best accomplished by deepening experience and awareness toward ourselves as well as others.

Keep reading for a summary of our ASC presentation:

Therapist Bias as a Clinical Issue

At LifeWorks, our clients identify across a variety of religious and spiritual practices, genders, sexualities, erotic orientations and relationship constellations, including: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, non-monogamous and polyamorous, and kink and/or BDSM-identified. Many hold more than one of these identities. Being able to identify, transform and understand therapist bias when it occurs is critical to our work.

In a recent informal sampling, a significant number of clients explicitly indicated that they had had experiences where a previous therapist’s bias regarding kink or non-monogamy was an obstacle to their care or hindered their experience in therapy. In an unpublished study (Henrich, 2011), 50% of clients identifying as polyamorous reported that they had seen therapists that they felt lacked cultural competency or were biased. Participants in the study reported that therapists who were uninformed about polyamory, or biased toward monogamy lead to them avoiding certain topics or leaving therapy.

Further, a 2006 study by Drs. Keely Kolmes, Wendy Stock, and Charles Moser found 67% of therapeutic relationships with kink/BDSM-identified clients reported instances of biased care, including:

  1. considering BDSM to be unhealthy,
  2. requiring a client to give up BDSM activity in order to continue treatment,
  3. confusing BDSM with abuse,
  4. the client having to educate the therapist about BDSM,
  5. assuming that BDSM interests are indicative of past family/spousal abuse, and
  6. therapists misrepresenting their expertise by stating that they are BDSM-positive when they are not actually knowledgeable about BDSM practices.

Therapist bias can be devastating for clients. It can undermine the therapeutic relationship and prevent clients from getting the help they seek.

New Perspectives on Therapist Bias

Therapist bias, as we define it, is a perception, attitude, emotion, belief or idea that limits the therapist’s capacity to relate to their client as whole, or that creates a tendency to marginalize aspects of that person’s experience. If left unexamined, therapeutic bias can wound the client by replicating (in the therapy) the stigma and bias they face in the outside world or triggering internalized oppression and further damaging the sense of self.  At the same time, we have seen bias be an important looking glass into the therapist’s and the client’s experience that can enlighten, deepen, and transform the connection and relationship between the client and the therapist.

In our work, we begin with the premise that every therapist—and in fact everyone—has bias. Bias comes from our experiences and the information we gather in life, which are filtered through our identity and culture. Some of our biases are known to us and some are unknown or hidden.

Even therapists who themselves identify as marginalized in some way—for example, those who are LGBTQ, kinky, non-monogamous, or polyamorous—may have biases about the groups with which they identify. Neither being inside or outside a given community offers immunity from bias towards that community (or any other). In our experience and anecdotal research, we find that bias is in all of us and affects us all.

Our work on bias is shaped by the concepts and methods, developed by Arnold Mindell and others, known as process-oriented psychology or process work. Process work is an approach to working with human problems that emphasizes awareness, the flow of experience, and embracing disturbance.

Using process-oriented methods and awareness, we have been teaching psychotherapists to detect and identify bias, to unfold its meaning and to learn to relate to aspects, attitudes and behaviors of themselves or their clients that they may find difficult, disturbing or troubling. In our experience, therapist bias is often a reflection or expression of some quality or trait that the therapist has a tendency to marginalize in themselves or has a tendency to have too much of. Something important, and often subtle, may need to be known or understood better, and can be uncovered by looking closely at our reactions and perceptions.

From our perspective, getting rid of bias is probably impossible, but we have found that it is possible to embrace and transform therapist bias into something that enhances the capacity to experience and support clients’ wholeness. In our experience, however, the awareness and transformation of therapist bias is a lifelong endeavor.

During the ASC presentation, we demonstrated an inner work technique that we developed for discovering the meaning and value of bias. We guided participants through an experiential exercise, which offered participants an opportunity to learn to detect and work with their experience of bias first hand. After the exercise, participants shared their experience and learning in small groups and we then facilitated a guided debrief where participants shared what they noticed, where they got stuck in the inner work and what might be useful about what they discovered.

If you are interested in the topic of therapist bias or have had personal experiences of it, we would love to hear from you. If you have any questions about our presentation, would like to see the list of references we used, or simply want to say hello, contact us.

LifeWorks also facilitates monthly Poly & Kink Support Groups in Chicago at the Center on Halsted. For more information about these and other upcoming events, visit www.lifeworkspsychotherapy.com/events.

Therapist Bias

communication-73331_640

by Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D. & Rami Henrich, LCSW

Bias influences all of us — even therapists.

In fact, one 2011 study indicates that as many as 50% of clients identifying as polyamorous had seen therapists that they felt lacked cultural competency or were biased.

Meanwhile, a 2006 study by Drs. Keely Kolmes, Wendy Stock, and Charles Moser found that 67% of therapeutic relationships with kink/BDSM-identified clients studied included instances of biased care, such as…

  • considering BDSM to be unhealthy,
  • requiring a client to give up BDSM activity in order to continue treatment,
  • confusing BDSM with abuse,
  • the client having to educate the therapist about BDSM,
  • assuming that BDSM interests are evidence of past family/spousal abuse, and
  • therapists misrepresenting their expertise by stating that they are BDSM-positive when they are not actually knowledgeable about BDSM practices.

What can clinicians do to detect and reduce bias within themselves? How can therapists avoid issues like the above in order to better serve BDSM-, LGBTQ-, poly-, and kink-identified clients, as well as other marginalized individuals?

2015 Alternative Sexualities Conference in Chicago

Join us later this month as we explore these topics and more at the 7th Alternative Sexualities Conference (ASC), where we will present “Working with Therapist Bias: A Lifelong Approach.” Hosted by our friends and colleagues at the Center on Halsted, the ASC is produced by the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) and the Projects Advancing Sexual Diversity (PASD).  Read on for details about the conference and our presentation.

Alternative Sexualities Conference

When: Friday, May 22nd, 9am–6pm
Where: The Center on Halsted, 3656 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60613

Description from the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities website (CARAS):

Leather, kink, BDSM, polyamory, alt sex… Non-traditional sexual practices, lifestyles, and identities have become increasingly visible in recent years. With more portrayals on television and in movies, as well as in literature and music, clients are feeling increasingly comfortable about bringing “forbidden” sexual issues to psychotherapy.

The ASC has been designed to provide clinical perspectives, empirical data and opportunities to discuss the challenges encountered in clinical work and research in the alternative sexuality communities. Our seventh conference includes individual, panel and poster presentations featuring professionals from across the United States, London, and Australia.

ASC is produced by the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) based in San Francisco and Projects Advancing Sexual Diversity (PASD) centered in Chicago. This year we are happy to partner with Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Institute (SOGI) at the Center on Halsted for our largest conference ever.

Therapist Bias: A Lifelong Approach

We define bias as anything that limits one’s capacity to relate to the other as a whole, or that which creates a tendency to marginalize aspects of another’s experiences. The facts are evident: every therapist, no matter their identity or background, has bias. Some bias is easy to recognize, but some remains unknown or hidden from us.

In this presentation, we will explore ways clinicians can detect, identify, and work on their own assumptions and prejudices towards clients. We’ll approach bias from within, viewing it as a reflection or expression of a tendency to marginalize or overemphasize something or some quality within ourselves. Through lecture, group exercise, and guided debriefing, participants will gain perspectives and tools to serve clients, and integrate insights into their own experience of  bias, regardless of the individual’s orientation, gender, cultural heritage, practices, or relationship status.

Interested in this topic but can’t attend the ASC? You can catch us June 6th, at theHazelden Betty Ford Clinic in Chicago where we will be offering a three-hour, CEU bearing course on therapist bias. Find more information here.

We would love to hear from you. How does bias impact you?

You can also leave a comment here, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, orLinkedIn with your thoughts.

Visit our therapist events page for a listing of upcoming seminars, workshops, groups, and classes, including details about our next KPACT (Kink Poly Aware Chicago Therapists) event.

Am I a Marginalizer?

Herbie

by Rami Henrich, LCSW

What do you think of when you hear the word marginalization? People living in poverty, persons of color, those who do not share fully in the privileges some of us are enjoying these days?

I would say yes to all of the above, and would include a list that would be broader and more inclusive of groups or communities of people we ordinarily don’t think of as marginalized such as: those who suffer from mental illness, particularly those who experience extreme states of consciousness; people who live alternative lifestyles, outside the norm of heterosexual monogamy (i.e. polyamorists or kinksters); and anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA, or does not identify with any particular gender or sexual orientation. The list is actually endless — think of religious and spiritual minorities, immigrants, the elderly, people with disabilities…

In general, when we think of marginalization we think in terms of self and other — you and me, us and them. But we rarely consider that we might be marginalizing ourselves.

How is this possible? Well, I know there are parts of me — aspects, qualities, biases and dislikes, etc… — that I don’t know about, that I don’t want to admit to myself, that I disown, disavow, or deny. Consider the idea that marginalization refers to a point of view that relates self to other, as well as self to self.

Do you know marginalize, disavow or deny? For example, would you say that you are an angry or rageful person? Probably, not many. If you are like me, my preferred way of identifying myself is as a “nice” person, relatively calm, thoughtful and non-reactive. Let’s see if that holds true…

Am I a marginalizer? Last week, as I was coming out of Starbucks, a man yelling at a woman, in the park nearby, caught my attention. In hearing him, I thought, “Geez, glad I’m not a yeller like that!”  I was instantly reminded of my dad who would often yell when he was mad and sometimes for no apparent reason. I believe I made an unconscious decision when I was a child to not be a yeller, to not be like dad!

Then two days later, I was sitting in my room manicuring my nails.  My dog, Herbie, was laying contentedly at my feet.  Very nonchalantly, he stood up and heartily vomited on my bedroom rug. Inside of me a yell arose, and out of me came a hearty “oh shit!”  There was more coming but I was able to stop myself before traumatizing the poor pup who was just doing what came naturally.

I thought about the man in the street and my dad — yellers. I could imagine that the man or my dad had moments like me.  They weren’t only yellers.  They were also human beings who got upset, lost awareness and blurted out things that might sound unkind.  In recognizing a mostly unknown or marginalized part of myself, I had an experience of feeling more whole and, in addition, I found myself more connected to and understanding of that characteristic or quality in others.

All this to say that while I do not readily identify as an angry yeller, but rather as a calm, thoughtful responder, the yeller does live in me and from time to time uses it’s voice.

To marginalize is human.  Being angry or being a yeller belongs to all of us. So does the impulse is to ignore qualities in ourselves and point the finger out at some other person, group, community, country etc… We all marginalize parts of ourselves and others. It is our capacity to use our awareness in the heat of the moment that helps to soothe our inner and outer responses.

Consider how you might marginalize aspects of yourself and how that might keep you separated both from yourself and others.

How Much Sex is Enough?

sex alt 1by Rami Henrich, LCSW

So often in my practice I hear complaints about differing levels of libido in partners.  One partner has more interest and desire than the other.

What to do? I have to say that frequently I don’t have the answer. That is, I think to myself, “Ok, you want to have a lot of sex and you don’t. I guess you’re at an impasse.”

However, as we know, there is more to sex than just the biological urge. Attitudes and beliefs that are formed through experiences with family, peer groups, society, religion, culture etc. have an enormous impact on our sexuality as do our lifestyle, health and the pressures and stresses that we experience day in and out.

A few months ago a couple came to see me. The wife said, “I am hypersexual. I just want to have sex all the time. What’s wrong with me?” Her husband, a gentle, warm man said, “I really never think about sex at all. I just don’t seem to have the urge to have sex. Ever. What’s wrong with me?”

How much sex is enough? Is there something “wrong” with either of them? Our culture would probably agree with this couple that something is wrong with each of them.

She is too sexual! It is still a taboo for women to want too much sex or to want sex too much! Recently, at a party, a woman confessed to loving sex, and lots of it! The mixed group (of men and women) whose conversation had meandered into this important territory, giggled and some blushed.  I thought, “Hmmm, we are still somewhat puritanical in some part of our being when we think of a woman who both wants and needs a lot of sex.”

And what about a man who isn’t interested in sex? Is there something wrong with him? Society seems to frown on men who aren’t robust, so to speak.  The alpha male type is still a widely accepted ideal of masculinity.  Men have been taught to “go for it”, that they are or should be hunters and warriors both on the battle field and in the bed. I know that these are generalizations, but I do sometimes wonder if there is a place in our society for a soft spoken man who is not so interested in sex?

From my point of view, this woman and man fall somewhere on a continuum in terms of sexual drive, interest and activity. Could it be that there isn’t anything “wrong” with either of them and that it is our expectations that they be some other way that defines them as outside the norm?

For some, identifying as living outside the norm and the process of adjusting to what that means is already a part of living a polyamorous life. There seems to be a perception both inside and out of the poly community that polyamorists have strong libidos and are constantly on the looking for the next catch. While this may be true for some, it is certainly not so for all! The poly umbrella includes a lot of diversity. It encompasses a broad array of relationship constellations and sexual identities as well as appetites that can’t be easily reduced to single dimensions.

Can we find a way to accept people for who and where they are sexually? Can we find a way to accept ourselves where we are sexually?  Expectations are like ghosts hanging around in the closet.  Can we clean out the closet and feel freer to be who we are sexually and in other ways as well?

Let me know what you think.  Your comments are welcome.