Struggling with difficult emotions

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As we go through life we discover new ways to cope and protect ourselves from threats that can be linked to our younger years. For example; children with aggressive parents may as adults be submissive and conflict-avoidance, as their body remembers how they used to be overwhelmed when trying to fight back with parents. These are called "protective and safety behaviours". These behaviours are often rapidly activated. Despite the challenges and undesired consequences they may cause, it's important to note that these behaviours are absolutely not our fault and are incredibly understandable.

Scheduling sex

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Work takes over, social lives get busy, life becomes chaotic. Sometimes sex doesn't happen like osmosis and it goes on the back burner. Desire can't always be innate and spontaneous. Planning in times to have sex is perfectly 'normal' and a healthy thing to do. We plan and make time for other aspects of our lives, why not our intimate part too? If you're worried about it not being sexy, think again. Start off by placing it in with a date night, or perhaps massages for each other, maybe it could be reminiscing and connecting. Make time for each other in this busy world we live in.

Celebrate milestones

Celebrating milestones is a lovely way to be positive in your relationship. Revelling in each other’s achievements; from personal ones -like getting a new job, to collective ones-like monthly anniversaries, keeps the positive energy flowing. Being in a long-distance relationship can be a slog, so drawing on positive aspects can ease the tension. They can be an incredibly meaningful boost. It can remind your partner that they are a priority while also showing that you remember what is important to them. Another great aspect is that it brings you together. I constantly try to get couples to ‘turn towards’ each other. That means coming together as a team and building on the resilience you already have. Celebration can help booster just that!

Trust in relationships

Trust is a necessity to any healthy relationship. Anytime we treat someone as if they don’t matter, they are going to feel some kind of betrayal. Trust, not mistrust, is our default mode as individuals. It’s our experiences that impact our faith in others. When entering into, or maintaining a long-distant relationship, issues around trust can be enlarged. Therefore, it’s important to reflect back on your previous experiences with trust. Intimate, friendships and parental relationships can have impacted your belief in others. First and foremost, when you experience a pang of distrust, ask yourself; ‘is this true?’ Now, I know what you may be thinking-that it FEELS true, but that doesn’t mean it really is. Sometimes it’s past experiences or traumas coming back to haunt us. This is called projections. The displacement of past experiences on the present and individuals in it. Try to decipher whether they’re historical feelings bubbling up, or actually you have legitimate reasons to be concerned. Which leads me to my next paragraph on communication.

Self-care

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"They are damaged", "I'm messed up", "there is something wrong with me"; are just some of the sentences I hear regularly. Mental illness, trauma, a dysfunction, a break up...whatever is causing you pain, does not equate to being broken. The language that we use towards ourselves and others perpetuate stigma and shame. So choose your words carefully. And give yourself/that person; time, patience and compassion instead. Which are vital ingredients to facilitate healing.

Your inner dialogue

If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, why would you say it to yourself? This is my question to you today: Why would you? We tend to talk about self-care in the context of actions and behaviours. We don't talk enough about the language that we use and the internal dialogue (or narrative) we subject ourselves to. 
The critical inner voice is a well-integrated pattern of destructive thoughts. It is an internal enemy that utilises negative thoughts, biases and beliefs against you. As a result the voice impacts on your confidence and self-esteem. So perhaps a form of self care this week could be challenging that inner critic. You can do so by : 1. Noticing the words, attitude AND TONE that you use towards yourself. 2. Challenging them, ask yourself; "if this happened to (insert friend/relative) what would I say to them?" 3. Ask yourself why you're not saying those (presumably lovely!) things. 4. Say those (presumably lovely!) things to yourself. Challenging yourself is actually cathartic, therapeutic and a great form of selfcare.

Stopping the cycle of blame

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Being stuck in the Drama Triangle can be exhausting-breaking the cycle of 'blame and complain' is no easy feat. But using a sentence like this facilitates change-it stops both parties being caught up in the rut. It opens up the possibility of effective communication and encourages you both to step out of the emotional brain and into the rational one.

Orgasms are subjective

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No two orgasms are alike, everyone experiences them differently. They can change over time and are influenced by context. Orgasms are personal and individual and come (pun totally intended) in many forms
Here are a few:
•Blended orgasms (variety of different orgasms blended together)
•Relaxation orgasms (through deep relaxation techniques)
•Pressure orgasms (through indirect stimulation and pressure)
•Multiple orgasms (one after another or with a break in between)
•Finally another to mention is orgasmic anhedonia (also called pleasure dissociative orgasmic dysfunction) A dysfunction that is rarely mentioned.
This is when someone is unable to feel pleasure when they climax (men still ejaculate)

It is believed that it can be as a result of Spinal cord injury, ME, depression or issues with dopamine and testosterone levels.
Ultimately orgasms are not a 'one size fits all', they don't have to replicate the famous; When Harry Met Sally scene and can change and vary over time.

Criticism and the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

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All couples fight, but those who fight fair are the ones who tend to stick together. Criticism often presents in the therapy room with couples. More often than not resentment has built up and criticism becomes child play "they never ", "she always" are some of the sweeping statements that become thrown around habitually. 
Criticism can increase the likelihood of your partner becoming defensive* and there is also a possibility of it spiralling into contempt*
If you are noticing this style of communicating increasing in your discussions, act now to learn safer and more effective ways to talk about your differences . There’s nothing wrong with voicing concerns and complaints in a relationship, but try to do so in a way that focuses on your own feelings and how your partners behaviour affects you. Try to find constructive solutions to aid you achieve mutual fulfilment. "I" statements are a great starting point. Try swapping the blame with "I feel" or "I wish". Another thing to do is try to identify whether or not the generalisations are true, it is quite common that they are in fact statements from a place of anger or hurt. If it's the case that comments arise from your own feelings, tap into that and try to understand why. Then perhaps you will be able to articulate in a manner that may lead you to be heard. *Contempt, defensiveness and criticism are 3 of 4 of John Gottman's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (stonewalling is the fourth). These 4 categories of behaviour were found to be the main reasons for marriages ending in divorce. Criticism paves the way for the other 3.

Self-awareness

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Self-awareness is a powerful tool to assist you gaining insight into how you feel and think. Being mindful is a valuable tool towards building a better understanding of your self-concept (how you think, feel and perceive yourself). Learning to identify emotions and triggers alone, can massively influence how you can create changes within. Therefore, enabling deeper connection with yourself, others and the world around you

Stealthing

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TRIGGER WARNING: Stealthing/rape- Two nights ago I asked women to anonymously share times, they had experienced stealthing. An act described as “the practice of one sex partner covertly removing a condom, when sexual consent has only been given by the other sex partner for condom-protected safer sex.” - If you consent to having safe sex and someone you’re intimate with violates what you have only consented to, it is rape. You are a rapist. People still have this idea that someone who rapes is this dodgy looking guy at the bottom of an alley way waiting around during midnight. It isn’t. A guy who slips off a condom without your knowledge is also a rapist. Many people who wrote in or commented on the thread I compiled admitted that they didn’t know there was a name for it (stealthing) and that’s because some don’t recognise it as being dangerous. If a woman consents to safe sex, you respect her wishes instead of risking her sexual health (exposing her to STI’s and unwanted pregnancies) because “it doesn’t feel great” - do not cross her boundaries for your pleasure. To the women who wrote in, thank you for sharing your experiences with me. You didn’t have to, but chose to, allowing me to bring more awareness. If you ever go through this, please contact a rape crisis centre who will be able to try and support you. 

Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

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What causes Erectile Dysfunction? Many people, on occasion will struggle to get or maintain an erection. There are numerous reasons for this, ranging from; stress, tiredness, anxiety (particularly around performance) or too much alcohol. If it happens more often and causing you upset, seek support.
In the first instance I encourage people to attend their GP. Get a full blood test and a physical test carried out. This is to rule out any physiological aspects. Irrespective of the results, Sex Therapists are full qualified to assist you through talking therapy alongside exercises that can be done at home. Erectile issues are nothing to worry or be embarrassed about.

Partnership is about 'our' way, not 'my' way

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Teamwork is vital in relationships, whether it's work, family or friends. It's all about give and take. Most of us have probably been on a team one way or another; being kids on sports teams to our present work teams. However, in intimate relationships we often push back against our partner rather than collaborating, we tend, instead to be focused more on 'my' needs than 'our' needs.

Teamwork requires you to be unselfish and responsive to your spouse’s needs by collaborating, listening and encouraging. True teamwork can bring about a bountiful partnership. It allows you to grow as a person, and as a couple. Take a minute and ask yourself, what are some changes you need to make so ensure that you and your partner operate as a team?

Passive Aggressive behaviour

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Passive aggressive behaviour takes many forms. Most of us know it by the obvious signs; verbal low-level attacks (criticism, snide comments etc) or indirect behaviours (slamming doors, stomping around). But passive aggressive behaviour may not always be conscious for example; procrastinating or avoiding (eg; being late), chronic forgetting, self-pity, withholding (actions such as sex, or even making a cup of tea), learned helplessness and shifting blame. Ultimately; passive aggressive behaviour is a way of expressing anger covertly or indirectly. This way of resolving issues seems almost unnoticeable. Passive aggressiveness can appear low-key, making it can difficult to identify and admit to. It can push people way with the slow drip-feeding of negativity. In order to change your behaviour, firstly, it's important to connect with the emotion. Often with PA behaviour it stems from not having a good understanding of why you are angry. Before you start addressing your actions start paying attention to what is triggering you. Then give yourself time to make the needed changes, showing yourself compassion as you do. Finally; practice! Practice how to assert yourself before you do, this will hopefully help you feel more confident.

Cervical smears

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"If we are comfortable enough to undress in front of our beauticians, why are so many of us still too embarrassed to take a potentially life-saving test?" Cervical screening is a at a 20 year low with two lives lost to cervical cancer every day.
Treatwell and Public Health England have teamed up to try and encourage people to attend their screenings through #lifesavingwax . Campaigning in salons through these leaflets to encourage change and conversation.
We take care of our appearance everyday-what about our health?

Negative thoughts effect Erections

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How do negative thoughts effect your erections? Just as we are not always conscious of the way we walk or how we drive a car, we are often not aware of our thinking. Some of our thinking is so habitual that it is automatic, and just like driving, when things are automatic, we might not be conscious of them. Negative thoughts perpetuate performance anxiety and therefore sexual dysfunction. It has been researched that men with Erectile Dysfunction present negative automatic thoughts during sexual activities. These thoughts tend to be; “I am not achieving an erection”, “I am not able to keep an erection”. Alongside the fixation of the possibility of disappointing their partner and thoughts around shame. Finally; fear and anxiety about penis size and body image can also play a role in performance anxiety. Capturing and documenting negative thoughts is a great way to start looking at what is happening to you sexually.

Do you know your projections?

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Projection is a subconscious defence mechanism. It's the tendency to disown the qualities we don’t like about ourselves and attributing them to others. It happens in relationships when we blame others for old or present hurts. Projection holds power when we have the inability to see it. Especially, if there is a high level of intensity, it creates a strong urge to blame.
In relationships, projection hurts our partners by casting them into a false role, and placing your feelings onto them. Its power lies in our inability to see it. Identifying and communicating that your responses are a projection of past relationship incidences, childhood experiences or your own personal issues, is an incredibly courageous act. It provides insight that may be needed to stop your relationship becoming stuck. Projection keeps us from understanding the true source of our pain and being able to tackle it. Blaming your partner keeps you from discovering your part in the dynamic, and it results in an entanglement. To tackle your projections this first thing I suggest is; when you get triggered, stay with the feelings.  Secondly try to ask yourself (in regards to emotions or negative thoughts); "who owns this? Is it mine? Or is it theirs?" This can help give a hand to identifying if this is a projection or the reality. Owning and communicating them is brave and courageous.