Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

info@positivelifechanges.ca
778-558-8207

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

sexual healing

Whether you’re feeling the loss of a not-too-distant breakup or you’re sitting in the longing of meeting that special someone,  you might be wishing that Valentine’s Day would have  come and gone already.

Love and Dating Advice from Relationship Therapist BurnabyWho needs a reminder of romantic couple love everywhere when it just brings back painful memories or makes you wonder what’s wrong with you… Why can’t you seem to meet a truly nice guy or gal who wants you?

As a couples counselor and relationship therapist I often work with singles who want to break unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns of relationships past.    As we deconstruct familiar relationship dynamics and old hurts, we most often discover that things would shift greatly if there was an increased focus on loving the self rather than trying to please the other.

quotes_beyonceEspecially as women we are still hearing the old echoes of the female’s job description as being someone who is nurturing, in service, helpful, kind, loving and caring. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a nurturing, kind and loving individual – on the contrary – but it needs to start with YOU.

Because Valentine’s day isn’t all chocolate and roses for many, there are more and more messages in the media about using this day to love yourself. It’s an excellent idea.

Let this Valentine’s day

mark a shift in the most important love relationship in your life – the relationship you have with yourself.

If you had a partner who was the love of your life and infinitely special to you – how would you treat him or her?

Would you:

  • force them to do things because you thought they SHOULD? Because it made you happy?
  • make them feel guilty if they said no because they were honouring their own truth?
  • tell them that they should put themselves last and everyone else’s needs first?
  • tell them that they would be more lovable if they lost 10 pounds, had a smaller belly or bigger chest?
  • think they should feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • suggest they do everything in order to avoid disappointing others?

I can’t imagine you would!!

I am imagining that you would treat this special someone with great respect and care. If they felt discouraged you wouldn’t criticize them but encourage them. You would remind them that not only were they allowed to say no, but that they should say NO to anything that creates a cost of self.

Perhaps you would encourage them to trust that other’s can take care of themselves, that it wasn’t their job to fix everything.

Finally you might remind them that it was who they are that you loved and not what they accomplished or managed to produce.

Heal low self esteem and co dependency with relationship therapy North Vancouver

“Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.” Margo Anand

 

How would your life shift if you realized that the biggest love of your life needs to be YOU?

What would happen if you let go of all the SHOULDs and all the inner conflict and allowed life to love you? How would you feel during the day if you could shift your focus on the things you do have and opened yourself to receiving more of what you wanted rather than worrying about yet again not having your needs met?

Remember:

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship that you have.”

Here is to setting the intention of loving yourself and accepting yourself just the way you are on Valentine’s day and EVERY DAY.

 

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi, thirteenth century Sufi poet

Sex and intimacy counselling can help you communicate differently in the bedroomImagine what it would feel like to do the dishes in the dark. You would sort of know what you’re doing because  you’re familiar with the layout of your kitchen sink  and the dish soap. But you probably wouldn’t be feeling very confident about the results.  If your goal was to have  satisfyingly clean dishes,  you most likely would be double checking with your  fingers trying to identify if you missed spots.  You might not be as relaxed as you normally are when you’re doing the dishes.  If you were hoping to please your spouse with clean dishes you might experience  some anxiety and a certain level of uncertainty regarding your ability of being a good dishwasher until you were able to see the results once under the light.

Transferring this metaphoric scenario  to the bedroom,

how confident do you feel as a lover?
Are you willing and able to ask for or give feedback?

As a relationship therapist who specializes in sex therapy and intimacy counselling, I often point out to couples that many of their challenges in the bedroom  stem from communication issues rather than physiological difficulties.

About giving feedback:

  • Sometimes internalized cultural, religious or family of origin belief systems can make it difficult to ask for what you want sexually.
  • Another common obstacle is the fear of hurting your lover’s feelings.
  • You might also be challenged by the “mind reading” myth where you think your partner should either figure it out on his or her own because otherwise you are making it “too easy” or it isn’t “mysterious” enough.
  • Finally, you may feel that you are being “difficult” and that you want “too much.” You may feel intimidated by the idea of asking exactly for what you want. Or perhaps you already shared that you wanted a lighter or firmer touch more than once and it seems easier to just put up with what is happening.

There are no benefits to letting your partner “go blind” and not give feedback as to what feels good and what doesn’t feel so great. 

Here are some supporting arguments to give feedback:

  • Assume your partner wants to pleasure you and is interested in your pleasure
  • You may also assume that your visible or audible experience of pleasure is a turn on for your partner
  • If something doesn’t feel very good you are most likely going to tense up and “close” your body or split off mentally rather than being open and present, and this will impact not only your level of enjoyment but your level of connection
  • You are responsible for your body and for your pleasure and potentially finding out what exactly works for you and what doesn’t

Think about it for a moment – when you go to a coffee shop you most likely have no problem asking for exactly what you want – extra hot, skinny, no sugar, foam on top and if you don’t get one of these requests you let the barista know.

About receiving feedback:

If you struggle receiving feedback from your lover you need to check your ego at the door. Touching your lover’s body has to feel good to her or him. It is not about you and what you think would feel good. Instead it is  about what is actually enjoyable for the receiver. For men it can often feel frustrating or confusing because what “worked well” the last time doesn’t seem to be “right” this time. Don’t take it personally. Hormonal changes during the monthly cycle can impact the sensitivity of nipples or other areas of the body.

Actively experiment with giving and receiving feedback and explore together what is easy and what is less comfortable for you.

Schedule a love play session with the only purpose of exploring sensual touch.Burnaby Sex Therapy and Intimacy counselling can help get your marriage back on track

Take 15 or 20 min each to give or receive touch and to give and receive feedback. During this exercise avoid the “Bermuda triangle” – i.e. avoid the nipple and groin area. Take performance or the outcome completely off the table and simply focus on learning about all the other areas of each other bodies that respond to sensual touch.

Couples who have tried this often report new insights, new sensations and some surprising discoveries. What will yours be?

 

A common complaint couples share with me in my role  me as Burnaby relationship counsellor specializing in sex therapy and marriage counseling is a loss in libido. Usually these are long-term partners who are unhappy about the steady decline of passion and fire in their lovemaking. Often there is a higher desire partner and a lower desire partner and the self-diagnosis is a loss of libido.

North Vancouver couples counselling helps revive libidoWhile lack of sleep, thyroid health, your overall good health and hormonal changes can all be a valid underlying cause for a decreased sex drive, I have found that 80% of my clients have no medical condition that explains what has been happening.

When lack of desire becomes a concern in a relationship, I like to point out that intimacy and lovemaking do not start with desire but with willingness. Which leads us to the real question, have you lost your desire or your willingness to say yes when your partner tries to initiate intimacy. (read my blog post “Are you just not “into him” that much anymore” discussing low libido in women at my counselling for women site www.goddessrevealed.ca)

Imagine these two scenarios:

  1. Your partner initiates sex or intimacy. Clearly he or she is experiencing some sexual desire. While you are not in that same place at this moment, you are willing to explore the idea together and potentially raise your desire. You let your partner know that you are willing (even if that means making a request to meet in a little while, allow you to finish a task at hand, have a shower ecc). This can lead to delightful and perhaps longer than usual foreplay which most often will create some desire.
  2. Your partner extends an invitation / lets you know that he or she is feeling sexual. You are not only NOT experiencing any desire in that moment but you don’t feel like going there. The reason you don’t have any willingness is because, consciously or unconsciously, you are still upset about not feeling heard or seen in some previous arguments. Perhaps you feel like you never get any help around the house or you have felt let down or disappointed because you’re partner doesn’t seem to listen to you.

Burnaby Marriage Therapy can help you with sex and intimacy issuesHere are some questions to ask yourself and to discuss with your partner:

  • Are you being the partner you aspire to be?
  • What will it take to close the gap between how you are and how you want to be?
  • What is so distressing to your partner about you/your interaction? “Do you know what bothers your partner about you?”
  • When things go wrong, do you take an active role in repairing distress?

Creating desire and willingness happens long before you get to the bedroom. Finding answers and sharing your thoughts to the questions above could be a pivotal point in creating a deeper intimate connection with your partner.

Have you ever faked an orgasm? If yes, please take a moment and acknowledge to yourself why you answered the famous question “Did you come?” with a lie.

As a sex therapist and relationship counsellor I help couples address this questions and the potential surrounding anxieties in a way that is nurturing and supportive rather than anxiety provoking and frustrating. When the question “Did you come?” turns into a “But you didn’t come :(” or “Why didn’t you come?” the afterglow and positive emotions just shared are  often replaced with feelings of low self-esteem or thoughts of not being enough.

Frank and Susan have been dating for 3 years. Both divorced and in their early 50’s, they  have counted themselves lucky to find someone to love again who feels like such a good match. They both love to travel, play golf and be outdoors. Their children are mostly grown up, financially they are doing well… until they have sex and Frank doesn’t orgasm. While some men can struggle with premature ejaculation, Frank from time to time has delayed ejaculation. Frank doesn’t mind the occasions when he doesn’t climax. He derives great pleasure and enjoyment from touching and being touched as well as bringing Susan to orgasm. But Susan gets upset. Her reaction can range anywhere from wondering whether Frank is cheating on her to finding herself unattractive, not sexy enough and fat. All her fears about aging come rushing in. Frank feels embarrassed and frustrated. “Why does Susan get so upset if I am fine with not having an orgasm every time we have sex?”

Can you relate to Frank or Susan? Or perhaps the following scenario feels familiar:

Burnaby Marriage Therapist can help you rekindle your romantic connection

Mandy has been consistently lying to Jake and doesn’t know how to fix it. The couple had turned to marriage counselling because they felt stuck in a rut. They are a great team when it comes to managing their busy lives.  However, after 4 years of marriage their romantic and erotic connection had been replaced with a solid friendship and camaraderie. They wanted to rekindle the passion they once shared but couldn’t seem to move forward.
When we discussed whether they talked about sex and their sexual desires and preferences we slowly identified part of the problem. Both Mandy and Jake had been hesitant and less then forthcoming in sharing what turned them / satisfied them or what they would like to change. Mandy imagined that Jake would think her “too wild” or “dirty” if she were to be honest about some of the things she wanted to try in the bedroom. Furthermore, she had been feeling inadequate and ashamed because the way Jake had been pleasuring her, never brought her to a climax. Feeling vulnerable and not wanting to hurt Jake’s feelings had her faking orgasms from the beginning. Jake also had some negative self talk going on and had refrained from sharing some of his fantasies. 

In both of these scenarios (as in all examples, names and identifying characteristics have been changed) communication broke down because of:

  • self-esteem and body image issues
  • worrying about the partner’s reaction
  • feeling responsible or wanting to assume responsibility for the partner’s orgasm

Burnaby sex relationship counselling helps couples talk about sexIn a magical and ideal world every sexual connection and love making creates simultaneous pleasure for both you and your partner. In the real world, our bodies change – sometimes from moment to moment – and what felt amazing yesterday feels a little different today. What you wanted to fast and hard last week, you want to savour slowly this time.

Talking about sex can feel vulnerable. You both need to feel emotionally safe and may have some specific requests for each other before you start sharing such as: “Please don’t comment until I have finished.” or “Please remember that I love you and find you sexually attractive.”

But before you talk about sex you need to check your attitude and your boundaries.

Remember the following realities: 

  • the amount of pleasure you both experience will fluctuate from time to time
  • not every time you are sexual together will  you both climax
  • you are responsible for letting your partner know what you need or want to enhance your erotic experience
  • your partner is not a mind reader whose job it is to know what you want
  • there is a difference between being mindful of your partner’s feelings and feeling responsible for how your partner feels – you are not responsible for your lover’s feelings

Ideally,when you take your clothes off, think of offering your ego a chair to rest on for a time out while you are making love. Remember…making love is about connecting erotically and intimately with your lover. Hopefully you will both climax… but it is not the only way to feel fulfilled after sex.

North Vancouver Couples counselling can help you reconnect intimately

 

Do you feel less inhibited or does it seem like you can “let yourself go more” sexually after you’ve had a drink or two or three? As a marriage counsellor and relationship therapist I often hear couples share that over time their sex life has lost some of its initial “sparkle.”

Recently one couple, let’s call them Mary and Tom,  shared that they had gotten into the habit of drinking or toking before being intimate. Conflict arose because Mary didn’t always feel like having a drink before sex and this was now affecting their physical intimacy.

How does alcohol affect your sex life? On the surface, alcohol may give you the illusion to promote “great sex” because it can make you feel romantic and more inclined to be sexual. For some men, it can “prevent” mild cases of  premature ejaculation or a tendency to come too soon. For some women it can promote sexual arousal or desire.

Have you have ever experienced difficulty in staying present with your partner  during sex (i.e. while you’re intimate your mind wanders and you suddenly think about work, or something on your to do list)?

Perhaps you can relate to the struggle to relax and relinquish control because you worry about being parts of your body being unattractive?

This was the case for Tom and Mary. Tom often felt overwhelmed by Mary’s need to have eye contact during sex and desire to talk after sex. Mary could get caught up in thinking her belly was too fat and trying to avoid Tom touch her in certain areas she thought were less attractive.

After a couple of drinks these feelings subsided for both of them. This makes sense because alcohol and marijuana are both depressants. The can temporarily alleviate anxiety.

Alcohol does not however contribute to building a deeper intimate connection. You also face the risk of developing a habit of needing “chemical” support to handle your emotions, which can of course lead to addiction.

Sexual bliss is directly impacted by your ability to

  • Manage your anxiety
  • Learn to be present in your body
  • Build and maintain charge
  • Create emotional safety and trust in your relationship

Introspection is the place to start if you’d like to deepen your intimate connection, if you long to have sexual experiences with your partner that verge on the spiritual or if you’d like to be more at ease in your body.

Once you’ve identified whether you need help with boundaries, self-esteem building or anxiety management, you can choose a number of ways ranging from self-help books to counselling support to create positive change in your life.

If you have identified that your relationship is lacking in emotional safety, you and your partner will want to sit down and discuss what you need from each other in order to repair or rebuild trust.

Often this will mean that you both learn how to communicate differently with each other. Sometimes it means one of you needing to learn anger management.

There are numerous resources available from books to courses in non-violent communication or working with a love and intimacy counsellor like myself who can help you with the process of hearing and seeing each other and accepting each other’s differences without sacrificing your own needs and desires.

As a somatic psychotherapist and marriage counsellor I offer intimacy coaching to couples who would like to deepen their intimate connection and want to share a more satisfying sex life.

The number one practice and first, very simple step towards a more fulfilling sex life is body mind awareness.

In a world that is incredibly fast-paced and almost everybody’s day is tightly structured and governed by a schedule, most individuals spend a lot of  time “in their head.” And while eroticism and desire are governed by the mind and by willingness, without body mind awareness your sex life risks being limited to a quick orgasm rather than the enjoyment of a full body release.

There is often an erroneous belief that a bigger trigger creates a “bigger bang”, i.e. increasing stimulation of the genital area results in a bigger orgasm. It’s like driving a low horsepower vehicle and thinking that if you push the gas pedal hard enough it’s going to go faster, forgetting that maximum output is determined by horsepower.

If we transfer this analogy to the body, the amount of energy in your body is the equivalent of the vehicle horsepower. You need more horsepower, i.e. energy for a more complete orgasmic experience. How can you increase and build energy, specifically sexual energy? Since you can only change something if you have an awareness of the starting point and the desired outcome, body mind awareness is your gateway to building energy.

Exercising and maintaining a certain fitness level can contribute but don’t guarantee that you have body mind awareness. If you tend to exercise and multitask, i.e. watch TV, work on your computer or read while you’re running on the treadmill, you’re often distracting yourself from your body.

Cultivating a “breathing practice” is the simplest way and first step to increase body mind consciousness while learning how to move/raise energy in your body.

 When you bring your awareness to your breath and increase its volume, a number of beneficial physiological mechanisms are set into motion. More breath means more oxygen which is a key element in your body’s ability to produce energy. The website “The Healer within” is an excellent resource for variety of simple breathing practices that you can integrate into your daily routine.

Practicing to regularly tune into your body is the second step in mastering body mind awareness. How often in your busy day do you ignore the signals your body sends you?

Perhaps you’re familiar with these examples:

  • You have to go to the washroom but decide that you don’t have time right now and continue on with your day ignoring your discomfort
  • You skip lunch even though you’re hungry because you’re too busy
  • You overeat even though you feel full
  • You don’t drink water even though you’re dehydrated
  •  You have a cup of coffee rather than a brief nap when you’re tired

Learning to listen to and honor your body signals, slowing down and doing a body scan to bring awareness to your body,  practicing mindfulness, all these are simple ways that can enhance your body mind awareness.

Imagine lying in bed with your partner fully present in your body, acutely aware of the sensations touch is producing. Imagine engaging all your senses, smelling, touching, seeing yourself and your partner. Imagine breathing and deliberately changing your breath to increase and raise your sexual energy.

Now compare that image with lying in bed with your partner a part of you giving and receiving touch while another part of you is thinking about what you have to do tomorrow. As you go through the motions of “pushing all the right buttons” a part of your mind keeps wandering off.

Which intimate experience would you rather have?

 

 

In my Burnaby marriage therapy office, I often hear couples talk about their desire for a deeper intimate connection.

Perhaps you can relate to this scenario: Sex is mostly good or okay, but not as great as it could be, because of time constraints and scheduling problems, lack of connection or underlying conflict.

After years of working as a couples counsellor and somatic therapist, and from my personal experience, I know that how deeply we connect with others depends on our ability to be fully present in the moment.

Take a moment right now to stop and reflect. Where is all your energy? While you’re reading this, is a part of you thinking about the deadline of your project, or what you need to prepare for the kids? Or are you fully present in your body and with the process of reading this article?

Most likely, you’re energy is scattered; especially if you’re in the habit of multitasking. Don’t get me wrong, multitasking has its benefits, but none of them are relationship and intimacy enhancing.

Do you ever catch your thoughts wandering off while you’re making love or having a quickie? Nobody likes to admit that while they’re in the throes of passion a part of their mind is engaged making the grocery list or thinking about the laundry.

Here is a perceptively simple exercise which I like to call Skinergy. Regularly practicing 10 minutes of  Skinergy will help you become more present with your intimate partner, which in turn will create a deeper intimate connection.

Skinergy combines Skin with Energy.

One of the most effective ways to become fully present in the moment and with someone else is to become fully present in your own body.

  • Lie down together completely undressed, i.e. skin on skin ( you could stand but most couples prefer a horizontal position and support for their long torso).
  • Start with your eyes closed and connecting to yourself. Take several deep breaths and become aware of your body. What does it feel like? Are you tense, is there any pain, do you feel cold or hot?
  • After a couple of minutes, make eye contact with your partner (it doesn’t matter if you’re completely synchronized or not).
  • Now tune into the connection between you and your beloved. What does his or her body feel like next to yours? What do you see in his or her eyes?
  • After a couple of minutes return to your own body experience. This process of taking turns of being present with yourself and another is called shuttling.

Some things to observe and be aware of:

Notice your breathing. When you connect and look into each other’s eyes, does your breathing change? Do you lose connection with yourself? Do you get to a point of needing to look away or close your eyes? All your feelings are valid and welcome.

This entire exercise is about noticing. Breathing together and feeling each other’s energy.

You can touch each other – but in a non-sexual way. This is not meant to be foreplay, although many couples report that being connected and fully present and feeling each other’s energy creates and builds sexual energy or arousal. If that happens you may of course choose to continue with foreplay AFTER Skinergy.

The entire exercise (approx. 10 min) happens in silence.  This is all about sensing yourself and each other. If you notice your thoughts wandering off (and they will) gently bring yourself back to the present moment – just like you would during meditation. Simply observe the thought without engaging and let it pass by like a cloud.

A regular practice of Skinergy will “train” you to become automatically more present with yourself and attuned to your partner and his or her energy. You will notice that your intimate connection will deepen naturally.

If you experience any challenges, or have feedback, comments or concerns, I’d love to hear from you! Please connect with me by leaving a comment or sending me an email at info@positivelifechanges.ca.

Here’s wishing you deeper and more fulfilling intimate connections.