Relationships

It is hard to know the right thing to do. Within any decision there are competing forces that make appropriate decision making difficult. Generally, we want our decisions to be logical. But we also want decisions to be made by people who are closest to the issue, local knowledge is king. Unfortunately, the closer you are to an issue the less likely you are going to be able to view the issue through an objective lens. This is particularly true within a family or a relationship.

Generally, we think that parents know best what is for their kids, or people who are dating can most accurately measure the health of that relationship (as opposed to someone on the outside). In fact, we have strong cultural norms against providing advice to parents or dating couples unless explicitly asked, even if the relationship seems incredibly unhealthy or dangerous. When it comes to child rearing the response is particularly strong if you don’t have children but try to make recommendations to parents. It is often you will hear things like “You don’t have kids so you don’t understand”. While that may be true, it could also accurately be said “Because they are your kids you aren’t seeing the situation clearly”. Though, I would expect to be slapped or blocked on Facebook if I said that latter phrase.

The truth is, sometimes we our knowledge is “too local”. We are so close to the situation and our view blinded by love for a person that we can’t see that things aren’t healthy. We need people on the outside who can be more objective and give us straight answers. In short, we need therapists. A therapist is someone that you can share the details of your situation with but who is outside of it and can provide a more objective perspective. Sometimes a friend can act as a therapist, but often friends are also emotionally attached to you and the situation, and will provide guidance that is overly negative or positive. I think we’ve all had friends who dated someone who was terrible for them, but if we gave honest advice we would risk losing the friend. Because we are emotionally invested in the friendship it is impossible for our point of view to be objective or considered objective.

Unfortunately, many people cannot afford or are not willing to see therapists. I think everyone should see one occasionally, even if they aren’t in a relationship that could be destructive. It is really sad that people who can’t afford a therapist are unwilling to research the science on things like child-rearing or making relationships work before entering into a lifetime commitment. People (myself included) seem to intentionally go into things unprepared and hope that things will just work out.

It is simply false to believe that any of us will “naturally” know what to do to raise a child in the modern world or make a 50+ year relationship work.  It is just as dangerous to adopt cultural norms as your guiding force, just because our parents did something some way or you see other relationships operating in some way does not make those ways best. Evolution and most of our social norms developed in very different worlds than the one we live in now, and many of those lessons are no longer applicable. We only encourage unhealthy relationships if we refuse to seek objective viewpoints on our situation. None of us will naturally know what to do and cliches like “love is enough” are simply not true for healthy long-term relationships to thrive in 2016.

 

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Graduate School – Transpersonal Psychology

The idea of going back to school has been floating around in my mind for quite some time. I enjoy learning and I find the school environment works pretty well for me, particularly in smaller classes where I can be mentored by a challenging professor. I was lucky enough to have that in undergrad and I think I can find that in grad school as well.

What hasn’t been completely clear is what I want to study in grad school and why I want to study it. Generally, we treat formal education as fulfilling two purposes: research/discover an area of interest or passion and gain the skills necessary for a career. The former can generally be done without school in the modern era. School is often unnecessary for the latter as well, except when there is certification necessary to practice and finding a mentor outside of the academy is difficult. Either way, going to grad school appeals to me, even if it is just an experience that I decide wasn’t right for me, at least I had the experience.

So, what do I want to study? As much as I love Economics I don’t have any interest to pursue it professionally or in any advanced way (sorry Dr. Calcagno!). The only field that has really appealed to me consistently since high school is psychology and the older I get the more that passion grows. I have a couple of interests within the field. If I decide to work on the clinical side I’d like to help individuals who are LGBT, polyamorous and/or in sexually open relationships, and I’d like to use some “non-traditional” methods. If I decide to work on the research side (which would probably involve more schooling but my economic background could provide some assistance) then I want to study sexual diversity within a society, particularly with regard to kinks and paraphilias.

What do I mean by “non-traditional” methods? I mean using things like meditation, psychedelic drugs (including MDMA), spiritual practices, and other altered states of consciousness. This seems to broadly fall under the field of Transpersonal Psychology, which is basically spiritual psychology. I know that my hippy, Burner side is showing with this, but I don’t think spiritual necessarily means pseudoscientific. I tend to take a similar view of spirituality as Sam Harris and think that spiritual practices and altered states can be beneficial to people without resorting to supernatural explanations.

It will be 5 years before I am really ready to enroll in grad school due to my bike ride, prereqs, and this shitty $65,000 student loan Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. That time is probably good though, it will give me time to research transpersonal psychology more and see if it really fits for me. If things do fit I hope to enroll in Naropa University’s fall 2021 MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. They several interesting specializations. At this point Mindfulness Based Transpersonal Counseling is my first choice because of the explicit focus on human sexuality, yoga, and Jungian Dreamwork. I also like the Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy due to the focus on the outdoors and the natural world, as well as the Somatic: Body Psychotherapy because of the focus on touch and connecting the mind, spirit, and body.

I have my work cut out for me. Between the three programs that interest me there are 62 books that are recommended reading, as well as 6 undergrad courses that I will need to get credits for. I can knock out many of the readings on the bike ride, though I’m not sure how many are actually necessary. To be honest, I feel like I will be competing with much younger people out of my league and I need to be really on top of my game to be accepted at my age (though, I’ve heard that some grad programs would look at 20ish years of travel and life experience as a good thing). While on the ride I can also take free online courses to become familiar with the material before enrolling in a course for credit at a community college. There are also tons of YouTube videos by professors and authors on this subject that I can watch. I will also need some real world experience by working or volunteering in a “helping” profession and working directly with clients. Ideally, I will also find a transpersonal therapist to see for my own mental health needs once we stop the bike ride. I’ve got a Excel checklist ready to go.

All in all, I’m excited. It has been a long time since I’ve had any sort of focus. I tend to hop around from subject to subject trying to learn on my own, which is fun but it isn’t necessarily the most efficient way. Now, I feel like I have a path to explore something that I’m interested in and can maybe lead to passion and inspiration.

Age

I’ve been thinking a lot about my future recently… which is kind of weird for me. In particular, I’ve been thinking about my age and whether I can still accomplish the things I want to. We live in a culture where people are encouraged to be on a certain track by time they hit the age 30 and it is odd for people to redirect their education or careers after that point. I am 34, and for all intents and purposes I won’t be able to formally start on a new educational or career until I am about 40. My basic plan right now is to go back to school to become a therapist, I want to either be a counselor for people in “non traditional relationships” (for lack of a better term) such as polyamorous groups, open relationships, and maybe LGBT relationships. Either that or I want to be on the research side looking at paraphilias or the use of MDMA in counseling. So, will that be too old to start down that route?

Let’s run the numbers….

I’ll be 36 when the bike adventure ends. After that we plan on stopping for a few years in a city to do things that require a stable location… home brewing, gardening, chickens, etc. I’m not sure what city that will be yet but it will be cheap and awesome. So, during those years I will need to pay off my $65,000 in student loans before starting school again. I figure there are a few ways to do that:

  • I can get a full-time job somewhere to supplement my current part-time job. If I keep my cost-of-living at about $12,000 per year (which should be easy enough) then all my second job will go to paying off student loans. If I find an $8/hr job it will take me about 5.5 years of constant work to pay off my student loans. That would suck…
    ($8/hr * 40 hours a week * 52 weeks * .75 for taxes * 5.5 years = $68,640). Of course, if I found a full-time job that paid more this would speed up the process.
  • Instead of focusing on a shitty full-time job I can try and create something (or several things) that will make me $65,000. I have a few ideas that I think could reasonably net me $5,000 – $10,000 each, and maybe one of them could really take off and cover the whole thing. In the grand scheme of things $65k isn’t that much. This is clearly the riskier approach and would require the most amount of discipline
  • I could also do some combination of those two. Maybe work part time somewhere and work on my side projects as well. On the surface this seems to be a good balance between the two, but I also think this would be very difficult for me. Having any job outside the home means I am mentally drained a lot. I don’t know if I have the discipline for this middle road

So, even if I get all my shit paid off by 40, is it still worth going to school for a degree? Sure. 40 may seem kind of old but it is still possible for me to get the proper certification to set up my own practice by 43 and then spend 20+ years continuing my education and running a practice. I feel like there are a lot of fields that could be integrated into therapy in a way that is beneficial to clients, including meditation, yoga, MDMA, hypnotherapy, sexology, massage therapy, dance, sex surrogacy, etc. Those sub-specialties can be added after I get certified.

After all this thought and analysis about age and how I am going to move forward in life I come to the same conclusion that my gut always comes to… fuck social norms and I should just do what I want. Though, I do wonder if schools will accept me into their programs after a certain age and whether having a decade between schools will hurt my chances, though I will likely need to attend some community college courses to brush up on the field anyway.

Partying With Molly

Whew, I almost didn’t get a blog out today. I spent most of today travelling from Oklahoma to Dallas and didn’t have a lot of free time, but I managed to get a blog out. I’m a little drunk and this blog post is based on a question I got via Snapchat (Add me! pneiger), but it counts. Here is how I recommend partying with MDMA if you are doing a home party instead of a rave. I definitely prefer small, intimate gatherings instead of big raves or events but there is a time and place for everything.

Basics: There are a lot of ways to roll with Molly but some basics stand true for all circumstances. First, make sure your product has been tested and is safe. I recommend using a test kit from DanceSafe anytime you purchase a new batch. Even if you trust the source you should test each batch.

Hydration is really important when rolling, but unless you are dancing a ton it probably isn’t a major danger. You should still have Gatorade or orange juice on hand, as well as plenty of water. I also recommend plastic glasses to prevent accidental broken glass on the floor. Sometimes people get a little shaky with Molly and accidents can happen.

People often like to cuddle up and chat while rolling so it is nice to have a soft environment to hang out in. Simply placing blankets, pillows, and other soft things on the floor can help this environment. You don’t really need special supplies, just get the stuff off your bed and have them available for people to curl up with.

Music is also a major stimulant while rolling. I like to have a playlist ready on Spotify for rolling. A couple of hours that flows through EDM and some dancy top 40 can get people moving and exploring their bodies a bit. It is a tactile drug, which includes getting in touch with your own body at times. Music helps that.

Advanced: There are tons of ways to roll with friends that are more advanced. I don’t think you can really get into every detail but here is my favorite type of roll, a few couples who are good friends. I’ll start from the first time rolling because things flow more naturally after you’ve rolled with the same people a few times.

First, I think it is important to establish boundaries and expectations. Let’s say three different couples are getting together to all roll together. Each couple should discuss with each other about what their boundaries are. I like using the “Yes, Maybe, and No” method that is common within BDSM communities. “Yes” are things that you are absolutely comfortable with, “Maybe” are things that you might be comfortable with happening or seeing but check in first, and “No” are things that you aren’t comfortable with. By discussing these with your partner you can hold each other accountable and make sure that while rolling your lowered inhibitions don’t lead you doing something you regret. In my experience this is rare but it is better to be safe than sorry. There is always an opportunity in the future roll again, so don’t feel like you should do everything on the first roll.

Now, each Yes, Maybe, and No usually comes in three categories: things you will see, things you will touch, and things you will talk about. Things can get pretty intimate between sometimes so it is important to think about what you are comfortable with. “Seeing” can include naked bodies or people having sex, “Touching” can include massages or making out, and “Talking” may include personal issues like experiences in war, spiritual beliefs, or going into detailed conversations about what you desire in a relationship. Molly is a multi-functional drug that can be recreational, therapeutic, or both.

Second, you should discuss with your partner (or the group as a whole) the things you’d like to try while rolling. It is important not to have specific expectations about what will happen but there is nothing wrong with having things you’d like to experience. This may be something like discussing your past to heal from wounds or experiences a six-hand massage or see what everyone’s naked body looks like. If you are close to your friend’s they should be open to discussing anything, but the answer may be “no”. It is important to just put things out there.

Now, if you are doing a more intimate roll I recommend the following prep work:

  • Massage oil available for massages
  • Towels prepped near shower in case people decide to shower or bathe
  • Condoms and lube available for intimacy
  • A room dedicated to nudity or sexuality if some people in the group aren’t open to that (always provide a safe place for the newest or most conservative person in the group)
  • Candles or dim lighting for mood and to assist people with light sensitivity
  • Different playlists in different rooms for mood
  • Juices and pop-cycles for fluids and electrolytes
  • Magnesium supplements and gum to help with teeth grinding
  • Rave gloves, LED lights, and battery powered massagers available to help with stimulation
  • 5-HTP available for a few days after the roll to help with recovery

There really isn’t a bad way to roll, but some things can make the experience more epic. The most important thing is to take safety and comfort into account, communicate with the participants (particularly anyone new to it) and have a good time. Molly is a drug, an event, and a therapy, and putting in a little effort into prep work can take a good experience and make it legendary

The Future

Making plans for the long-term is a funny thing. It is almost always out of our control and the universe has a way of throwing us unexpected curveballs, but we humans insist on making plans and pursuing them. This doesn’t seem to be a bad idea as long as you don’t continue down a failed or impossible path because you refuse to reevaluate your plans. I am no different than anyone else in this respect. I make plans… no specifics or expectations but I do try to align myself along a certain path and make preparations for where I think my life is going. This last week was an eye-opener in that respect and I have begun to make more plans for life after the 2-year bicycle ride.

We have all heard the cliche that you should do what you are passionate about. Your career, your life, your happiness can (should?) all be aligned. To be honest, until recently this never really rang true in my life, at least not in a long-term sense. I’ve had jobs in many places but nothing that really kept me passionate or in one place/career for long. I think that may be changing though. I have found what I am passionate about…. sex. Not just having an orgasm (that is awesome too) but about helping people and relationships deal with unhealthy views of sex. Particularly people who don’t fall into traditional orientations. I want to help individuals and couples dealing with the issues that are somewhat unique to LGBT, polyamorous, and sexually open relationships. People who would normally not be able to go to a therapist for fear of being judged, over analyzed, or told they should stop their non-traditional life to find happiness.

Luckily, I have a friend who is interested in going along a similar path. After literally dozens of hours talking we have a little plan… a plan that may shift, alter, and change but it is at least a guideline. While on my bike ride I am going research programs to get into Marriage and Family Therapy with a specialization in sex, I need to study and take the GRE’s, read all the literature we can get our hands on, and also work on getting any necessary prereq’s out of the way via free online programs or community college online courses. I am confident this can be done while on the trail.

After getting into and finishing a program my friend and I would like to set up a practice together. As a male/female team who has overlapping but different interests I think our practice could be incredibly successful. The end goal isn’t simply a practice in a city though. We would also like to round out our education with yoga and massage therapy, and then put together retreats to peaceful locations that people can sign up for. These retreats could have a variety of uses… single people dealing with sex or body issues, couples looking to bring together more intimacy and exploration, or some other random awesomeness we haven’t solidified. In addition, we may also jointly do some research or write a book or three together. 

All in all, I am excited. It has been a long time since I was really passionate or interested in a particular career or skill set. Hopefully following this path will continue to lead me to a happy life. If people have any recommendations, resources, or whatever I am always open to advice.