In a recent post I discussed how you can help your clients develop greater psychological flexibility and get unstuck using Commitment, one of the core AC Coaching processes. In this post I want to focus on the remaining two AC Coaching core components, Observing Self and Disentanglement since they go hand-in-hand.
Viewed from an AC Coaching perspective, the self is not a single thing. It can be viewed from different perspectives including the narrative self (a self-as-content view) as well as the observing self (a self-as -context view).
When clients take a self-as-content view and see their world from the perspective of the narrative self, they see themselves as merely a collection of their thoughts and feelings. In other words, they see themselves as the same thing as their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, stories and images (what their minds tell them about their lives). Much of this view is unhelpful, outdated, and does not match up to the reality of their lives in the present moment.
A perfect sexual example of this is the narrative self view that many clients have of their body image, a key component of sexual identity. If your clients are like most of my clients, what their minds tell them about their bodies is probably very different from what others think about them. I’ve had countless clients who by all objective measures (height, weight, body shape and composition etc.) have average or attractive bodies.
They do not have grotesque or unattractive bodies yet when you ask them to describe themselves you would think they are looking at different bodies than you are. They describe themselves as fat, heavy, lumpy, too thin, not athletic-looking or use a million different other unattractive adjectives to describe themselves. What their minds are telling them about their bodies differs from the objective reality of their bodies as measured by commonly-accepted standards.
If your clients are stuck in a sexual rut there is a good chance that their minds are telling them things about their bodies or their masculinity or femininity that keeps them from unleashing their inner sexual power and enjoying sex more.
If their minds are telling them that they are too short, too tall, too heavy or too thin, too small-breasted or too large-breasted, that their penises are too small or too large, or a million other unhelpful things about their bodies, it will be hard for them to relax and enjoy their bodies when having sex. It will be hard for your clients to be proud of their bodies and share them unabashedly during sex with their partners when their minds are telling them a million unhelpful things about them.
When you encounter a truly “sexy” client you notice how he or she radiates an aura of comfort and self-assuredness about his or her body, whatever shape or size it is. It isn’t the body that creates the sexiness, it is the way it is carried, presented, and shared with others that makes it sexy.
On the other hand I’m sure you know an extremely handsome or beautiful client who comes off as cold and un-sexy despite his or her attractiveness and perfect body. Despite their attractiveness, their negative thinking about their sexiness makes them come off as unappealing and not very sexy.
In addition to being stuck on body image issues, clients can attach to outdated personal scripts (inner dialogue similar to a movie script) about any aspect of their sexual identities. A script becomes outmoded or outdated when it is no longer helpful to clients in meeting their sexual relationship goals and staying true to their sexual values. For example, one of my clients reported that his first sexual experience was awkward, embarrassing, and not very sexually enjoyable. His first fumbled attempts at sexual intercourse and the personal scripts and mental images these encounters created are still there, tucked away in the deeper recesses of his mind.
One of the things his narrative self (self-as-content) view had attached to was that of being an incompetent, fumbling lover. Even though this was no longer true, and he has become a capable and competent lover, when I met him, the mental images and self-talk that his mind conjured up at times made it difficult for him to enjoy sex and strengthen his relationship with his partner. At times, he would get stuck or attached to that one aspect of his narrative self view.
Taking an Observing Self View and Using Disentanglement
The observing self view allows clients to step back and become impartial observers of their sexual thoughts, personal scripts, mental images and emotions. When clients can observe their sexual thoughts, personal scripts etc., from the safe distance of the observing self view, it allows them to see that their mental activity is just that, things going on in their minds. It also helps them observe whether or not this mental activity is accurate, helpful, or contributes to reaching their sexual and relationship goals.
Clients can do this by using Disentanglement (Cognitive Defusion). Disentanglement techniques give clients several different ways to step back and take an observing-self view. Many Disentanglement techniques such as the WhiteBoard actually use physical distance to separate clients from the contents of their minds (which they write down on white boards). By stepping back and reading what is on the boards, clients distance themselves from it. This allows them to become impartial observers and assess whether what is going on in their minds is helping them or creating barriers between them and their sexual relationship goals.
Find out more about the Observing Self, Disentanglement, other AC Coaching Principles and Practices check out my new training course.
My new training course, Acceptance and Commitment (AC ) Coaching: Sexual Relationship Coaching for Committed Couples has been approved for 10 CEU Coaching Credits by CCE, the nation’s premiere coach credentialing organization.
Find out more by getting a copy of my Free Training Session; This 30 minute training session (a $79.00 value) introduces my Acceptance and Commitment (AC ) Coaching: Sexual Relationship Coaching for Committed Couples course and is yours free for the asking.