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Through my journey as a therapist, I see how every individual is a unique tapestry of “parts” that function in what is often called an “internal family system” (IFS). Each part plays a crucial role and is motivated by a specific need or concern. IFS authors describe two of these parts as ‘managers’ and ‘firefighters,’ both are types of protective parts.

In our internal family system, managers are the ones at the helm, the decision-makers and strategists, perpetually working to maintain balance, control, and harmony. They assess potential risks and plan, and avoid situations stimulating pain or trauma. On the other hand, firefighters rush to our aid when painful emotions or memories are triggered. They attempt to distract us or numb the pain, primarily through immediate gratification strategies.

To further understand these protectors, let’s employ a quadrant system for a more precise delineation. Visualize a square divided into four sections; the horizontal line represents the continuum from ‘healed’ to ‘unhealed,’ and the vertical one represents ‘managers’ at the top and ‘firefighters’ at the bottom.

In the upper-left quadrant are the healed managers, proactive and supportive. They nudge us towards personal growth, healthy decision-making and encourage us to confront our fears and insecurities. Conversely, in the upper-right quadrant are the unhealed managers, who often become hypercritical, obsessively controlling, and perfectionistic, driven by fear and anxiety.

Moving to the lower half, in the left quadrant, we find healed firefighters. These parts are responsive and insightful; they encourage self-care and healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stressors. However, in the right quadrant, we find unhealed firefighters. These parts often resort to unhealthy coping strategies such as substance abuse, binge eating, or self-harm in a desperate attempt to quell emotional discomfort.

As complex as our internal family system might be, navigating through the labyrinth and transforming unhealed parts into healed ones is possible. Here are some reflective techniques I’ve discovered to be invaluable in this transformation process:

  1. Mindful Meditation: Sitting quietly, focusing inwardly, and identifying the different parts can be incredibly enlightening. This process enhances our understanding of our internal dynamics, thus empowering us to deal with them more effectively.

  2. Professional Assistance: Working with a professional mental health therapist or counselor can provide a safe and supportive environment to explore, understand, and heal our internal parts.

  3. Self-Compassion: Be gentle and understanding with yourself. Every part of you, even the wounded ones, are there to protect you.

  4. Coping Strategy Evaluation: Acknowledge and appreciate the helpful coping strategies and extend empathy to the methods that haven’t. It’s all a part of the journey towards healing.

  5. Social Connections: Surround yourself with friends who resonate with your values and goals. They can provide a supportive environment to nurture your healing process.

  6. Healthy Boundaries: Draw lines around toxicity. Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial to protect your mental and emotional space.

My experience has taught me that understanding and healing our internal family systems is not a linear journey. It’s a process of exploration, acceptance, and transformation. The beauty lies in acknowledging our unhealed parts, understanding their intentions, and guiding them toward healing. Doing so makes us more compassionate and whole towards ourselves and others.

Sexual dysfunction can manifest in various ways for both men and women. Both men and women can face issues such as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and Sexual Aversion Disorder. For men, some common issues identified in the DSM-5 include Erectile Disorder, Premature Ejaculation, and Delayed Ejaculation. Women may experience Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder or Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder.

Behind these clinical names are real people struggling with distressing symptoms, often resulting in strained relationships, lowered self-esteem, and emotional distress. The root causes of these issues can be multifaceted, ranging from physical health concerns to psychological challenges such as trauma and anxiety.

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can provide a new approach to addressing these sexual dysfunctions by creating significant shifts in cognitive attitudes toward sex, relationships, and self-perception. Substances such as MDMA and Ketamine, when used responsibly in a therapeutic setting, are known for their capacity to foster introspection, reduce fear and defensive attitudes, and increase empathy. This psychological environment can enable individuals to confront and resolve past traumas, alleviate sexual anxieties, and improve communication within relationships.

Consider a man struggling with erectile disorder, primarily due to performance anxiety. A guided therapy session under the influence of MDMA or Ketamine could help him dismantle his fears and shift his focus from performance to pleasure, helping to reduce anxiety and enhance his sexual experience.

Or consider a woman grappling with Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder, often linked to past sexual trauma. A psychedelic-assisted therapy session might provide her the safety and space to confront her past, understand her body’s response, and heal.

It’s crucial to note that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy isn’t a standalone solution. It’s a tool that, when combined with other therapeutic interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, or sensate focus exercises, can provide a comprehensive approach to tackling sexual dysfunction.

While we are still in the early days of understanding the full potential of MDMA and Ketamine in treating sexual disorders, early indications suggest that these substances offer a unique therapeutic tool that could potentially revolutionize our approach to sexual wellness. It’s an exciting field to be part of, and I’m eager to see how it continues to evolve.

Your mental health and wellness are worth the best care and attention. These treatments are best administered under the guidance of a trained professional, in a controlled setting, and after a thorough consideration of the potential risks involved.

As “we” continue exploring these breakthroughs in psychotherapy, it’s important to remember that every journey toward healing is unique, and the path to sexual wellness is no different. As we continue this conversation, let’s remember to extend understanding, compassion, and support to all those finding their way.

Note: As of this writing, MDMA is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States. However, through the efforts of organizations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), MDMA is currently in late-stage clinical trials for treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Should these trials continue to show positive results, it’s anticipated that the FDA may approve its use for medical purposes in the next several months, potentially in early 2024.

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  • Writer's pictureJeff Lundgren

Have you ever stopped to think about the stories we tell ourselves? You know, those little narratives we weave about who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we can achieve. I want to share a fascinating idea that’s been swirling around my head recently. It’s inspired by the incredible Maya Angelou, who once said, “The things we make up about ourselves are made up, so we might as well make up good ones.”

Isn’t that such a mind-blowing thought?

First things first: let’s talk about the power of our minds. It’s no secret that our brains are truly remarkable. They’re responsible for our thoughts, feelings, and actions and constantly create and update our personal narratives. These stories shape our reality, affecting everything from our self-esteem to our relationships and careers.

But here’s the thing: our minds are often our worst enemies. We’re so quick to judge ourselves, to focus on our flaws, and to doubt our abilities. It’s as if we’re hardwired to be our own harshest critics. And unfortunately, these negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies, leading us down a path of self-doubt and despair.

That’s where Maya Angelou’s wisdom comes into play. If our self-perceptions are made up anyway, why not make up good ones? By consciously choosing to create positive, empowering stories about ourselves, we can harness the full potential of our minds.

To get started, let’s take a look at a few strategies that can help us rewrite our narratives for the better:

  1. Embrace positive affirmations: Positive affirmations are powerful statements that can help us rewire our brains for success. By repeating phrases like “I am capable,” “I am deserving of love and happiness,” and “I am strong,” we can gradually shift our mindset and start believing in ourselves.

  2. Visualize your ideal self: Take a few moments each day to imagine the best version of yourself. See yourself succeeding, being confident, and achieving your goals. This visualization exercise can help you solidify your new, positive self-perception.

  3. Surround yourself with positivity: It’s crucial to surround ourselves with positive influences, from the books and shows we watch to those we spend time with. The more positivity we consume, the easier it becomes to internalize a more optimistic view of ourselves.

  4. Practice gratitude: Instead of dwelling on our perceived shortcomings, we should focus on what we’re grateful for. By acknowledging our blessings and achievements, we can start to see ourselves in a more favorable light.

  5. Stop comparing yourself to others: Comparison is the thief of joy. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Instead, focus on your unique strengths and strive for self-improvement.

So, there you have it! The key takeaway is this: our minds are mighty, and they can either work for or against us. By following Maya Angelou’s advice and consciously choosing to create positive stories about ourselves, we can harness the full potential of our minds – and become the best version of ourselves.

Stay positive, stay inspired, and keep making up those good stories!

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