Integrating Eros and Loving (Spring/Summer 2018)


Integrating Eros, Loving and BDSM/Poly
An 8 Week Workshop
May 30 to July 25, 2018 (excluding the 4th)

Who:  This workshop is open to persons of any gender or sexual orientation who is into BDSM or Poly.  10 to 20 participants

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

Time:  7:15 to 9:45 on Wednesday nights.  

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 (workshops are psycho-educational and seek to educate, while therapy involves diagnosis of a mental disorder,  a treatment plan, and seeks to heal a diagnosable condition.)  Two full or several partial scholarships are available for those with financial need. Limited to 26 persons.

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.

This Workshop

This workshop requires work.  Participants are easked 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.


Future Groups

This workshop is just a start to exploring these themes.  Integration of eros and intimacy is a lifetime’s work.  I hope an ongoing group of 8 to 12 persons will evolve out of this workshop.

Based on interest and the information from the intake forms,  I will provide a  series of workshops over the next year tailored to specific interests:  Littles, sensuous spice, pain play, power exchange, D/s, CNM (consenting non-monogamy), substance use, and perhaps one for persons dealing with unwanted sexual desires

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, psychodynamic, attachment-based, and informed by control-mastery theory (CMT).  He has advanced training in Imago Therapy and is a registered Emotionally Focused Therapist (EFT).

Julia Schiffman, ASW (ASW #77096) has worked in various mental health settings providing services for sexual diversity,  relationships, and domestic violence.