The Integrating Eros Workshop (2019-2020)

The Workshop
Integrating Eros, Loving With Kink and/or Poly
8 Weeks – One Session a Week

Is This Group for Me?  Who will be in the Workshop with me?  When is the next workshop?

I am now keeping “sign up lists”  of people who are interested in the Integrating Eros Workshops.  When I have enough persons to form a group, we’ll start one.

The first time we did an Integrating Eros Workshop, we had a very  “mixed” group of people .  Members included  “mostly” monogamous gay men into heavy pain-play,  and  also “mostly” heterosexual poly couples who were not much into any kind of spicy play such as bondage, pain-play, raunch or power exchange.  There were couples and individuals.  And, from a “clinical” perspective there were a mix of “diagnostic” categories – depressed, anxious, and so on – including those with no “diagnosis” at all. The variety of backgrounds in this group worked really well for me.

You might think that members of our first Integrating Eros Workshop might have separated themselves into cliques based on labels such as  “gay versus straight,”  “monogamous versus poly” or “kinky versus vanilla.” Not at all. Well, it is true that some group members might have started with those divisions in their head, and a sense of being “different” and “lonely” in the group.  But very quickly we all discovered we had much more in common then these labels would suggest.

  • We shared similar experiences of coming to terms with being different from mainstream culture.
  • We shared similar “life journeys” of erotic self-discovery. Similar “erotic careers” as the sociologists might say.
  • We all shared overcoming similar stigmas and shame, and we all engaged in very similar inner work of self-integration.

For me, and I think for everyone in the workshop,  as the group came to an end we each felt less alone in the world, and felt our hearts more open to those who at first might have seemed so different they were a little scary.

At the same time, I want to respect the needs of some people who rejected joining The Integrating Eros Workshop because it didn’t feel safe.  I heard from many people  that they were really interested in The Workshop, but wanted a group “more like me.”  They didn’t “feel safe” exploring their erotic life with people who were so different from them, who were so “other.”   Many prospective group members wanted a workshop tailored specifically to “their” erotic or relationship interest.  Poly couples who were not – or not much – into BDSM wanted a group “for them.”  Others would said they would feel safe only “with similar”  gay men into heavy kink.  Some wanted a group tailored for people who were in recovery.  I get that.  Groups can be intimidating, and many people feel much safer “with their own kind” when it comes to sharing their sexual fantasies and what they want in a partner.

So, for now, I am collecting names and making lists of people’s interests.   As soon as I get enough persons for a group, I will start it.  So please, on the registration form, tell me a little about what your background is and whether or not you would be comfortable in a “mixed” group or would only feel comfortable in a group of people who shared interests more like your own. 

I also want to share with you the practical difficulty of getting together enough people to do a group like this.   It’s difficult   Opening a workshop to people of different orientations, genders and erotic interests makes it much easier to find enough people to start a group.  It’s difficult to find 8 to 15 poly couples, or 8 to 15 hard-kink gay women, who all want to do a group with people “like me.”   To find 15 such people who are all available to attend an a workshop for 8 Wednesday nights starting on a particular day of a particular month is really, really difficult.  So if you think you could “deal with” a mixed group let me know, even if you would prefer a Workshop of people “more like you.”   We’ll see how the interest lists work. 

Group Format: Brief lectures, simple homework, group exercises, group sharing, and one-to-on work with Dr. McConnell and his co-facilitator during the workshop.

Size:  A minimum of 8 and a maximum of 15 members.

Time:  This depends on group members, a little.  The first Integrating Eros Workshop was 7:15 pm to 9:15 pm over 8 Wednesdays.  We might consider meeting Saturday mornings.

Cost: The cost is $360, payable in full before the group starts. That works out to $30.00 an hour.  Your health insurance probably will not cover this, because this is a workshop and not not therapy.  For insurance purposes, workshops are psycho-educational “disorder.”   

Two full or several partial scholarships are available for those with financial need. 

Workshop Content:

Through brief lectures, group members are introduced to a common language for understanding their erotic and how they “form attachments” in their romantic life, and how to define their core erotic fantasy. Using that language, participants are then guided in (verbally)  exploring and sharing their:

  • core erotic fantasies
  • peak erotic experiences
  • attachment style in loving relationships
  • key aspects of their developmental history

You will explore how your attachment style effects:

  • your partner choice
  • the way you interact with those you love
  • your erotic life.

Opportunity will be provided to:

  • experience new choices in erotic fantasy
  • risk new choices in attachment style

Background Information:

Sex is easy for most of us. Birds do it. Simple. The erotic is not so easy. Eros is the shape, form and meaning we give sex.  Eros is how sex becomes meaningful. The erotic is as complex as the human mind. Spicy or vanilla is just a start.  The erotic is not so simple.

Our core erotic fantasies develop early and often stay, with some variation, throughout life.  This is the world of our erotic daydreams, and are often associated with masturbation.  But  happy people who have reached a certain age and look back on their life  often discover that their peak erotic experiences are very different from their core erotic fantasies.  Learning to discriminate between core fantasy and peak experience can free you to explore new ways of connection.

For infants bonding is easy. Bonding is hard-wired.  We seek to bond as quick as we are cut from the cord. But for parents and other caretakers, reciprocating the infant’s hard-wired need is not so easy, but over time we learn to love in ways that meet our parents’ conditions. The path from infancy to adulthood imposes increasingly complex conditions on bonding.

“Attachment Style” refers to a specific aspect of how we bond.  There are only a few styles: secure, avoidant-dismissive, avoidant-fearful, anxious, and variations on these.  Only about half of adults have a secure attachment style.  Paper and pencil measures of attachment style are helpful, but for many adults yield misleading results.  Assessment by a therapist is more helpful.

Attachment Styles have been researched for over 50 years. The attachment style we learn in childhood predicts a stunning variety of things about us as adults: GRE scores, academic achievement, longevity in marriage, the kind of interactions you have with the person you love, and even some diseases.  This workshop will help you identify and understand your own attachment style.

Moving from an insecure to secure adult attachment style in adulthood takes a lot more work than we can do in eight weeks, but this workshop aims to provide you with a framework for setting realistic goals for yourself.

The conditions of loving we have learned become habitual, deep-seated, and unconscious.  They also become, of course, not only the conditions we demand of ourselves but also the conditions we try to impose on our beloved. Oddly, it is often only when our expectations of reciprocation from those we love results in conflict  that we start become aware of our own conditions of attachment.  So it is when we are in conflict that we typically experience the limits of how we love.

These conditions  of loving both shape our desire and fray the connections between eros and intimacy.  That’s a puzzle: they both inspire desire and frustrate desire. Most of us are unaware of our own conditions of loving. Loving our self is difficult enough, loving the “other” is a hard-won achievement. Half of marriages fail, and many of the intact ones are not happy. As a therapist, I have come to understand that very few find adult intimacy easy.

People with spicy eroticism face many additional challenges in loving, inner and from the outside. Perhaps most important,  persons with stigmatized gender or sexuality have learned to despise their sexual desires long before they are old enough to realize they enjoy spice over vanilla. Sexual shame, the inward face of stigma, is a wedge that cleaves eros from intimacy. In youth, stigma is internalized as shame.  In adulthood, with work, stigma is externalized as pride, then pride softens into love.
A Workshop Means Work

This workshop requires work.  Participants are asked to commit to all 8 sessions, do homework, be prepared, be open to deeply exploring their connection of eros to intimacy, and to support others doing the same work.

There will be lectures that require attention, homework to do, self-assessment tools to complete and share, and the expectation to participate in the group process.

Many skills of group participation mirror skills of intimate loving:  openness, risking vulnerability, reflecting the other, empathy, validating, and the art of complaining without being critical. These skills will be coached in the context of a deep exploration of what eros and intimacy means for each group member.

The Presenters

John McConnell PhD is both a Psychologist (PSY10673) and a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT23675). His office is in Hillcrest.  John has 30 years’ professional experience working with diverse sexualities and genders, and is active in the community. His work is humanistic, psycho-dynamic, attachment-based, and informed by control-mastery theory.  Control Mastery Theory  theory was developed by Dr. Joseph  Weiss the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute (C/MT).  He has advanced training in Imago Therapy, The Gottman Couples Method,  and is a registered Emotionally Focused Therapist (EFT).

Skye White, MA, is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT #107192).  Skye is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist who works in Hillcrest under the supervision of Dr. McConnell.   They enjoy doing co-therapy and co-facilitating groups.   After working in the GRSD community at various jobs for many years,  Skye decided to realize her vision of becoming a professional therapist to serve the community.  Her work is humanistic, client-centered and attachment-based.  She has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).

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