By Jan Harley
Key Themes: sex, therapy, autobiographical, advice for others, nature of humans
The New Renaissance Sex Directory melds two journeys: one meanders through the author’s deeply personal experiences and the other collects and presents useful psychological theory in an eclectic fashion. The aims of the Directory are not only to involve the reader in the step by step assignments and a final promise contained within the book, but also to show how it is the courage of personal disclosure itself which is so powerful in allowing us all to be who we truly are as sexual beings. Volume I focuses on The Self, Volume II focuses on Self and Other and Volume III will focus on Transcendence. All are to be published by Chipmunka.
About the Author
Jan Harley was born the eldest of twin sisters, in Birmingham, England and raised in one tiny 2 up 2 down terrace house. She is the mother of three children, yet house mother to many more, neighbour and confidante. She has been a wife, an artist, and photographer/designer. She is now a therapist with practices in London and Oxfordshire and also teaches, preferring to work with young adults with mental health, learning difficulties and physical impairment.
Jan has been focusing most recently on writing both works of fiction and The New Renaissance Sex Directory series of self-help therapy books.
Jan describes herself as a pansexual polyamorous switch and writes: “There is no efficient psychological approach for working with emotional conjoinment, neither is there a perspective that allows both client AND therapist to disclose the necessity for love and to make dreams come true. Only in the revelation of pain does pleasure become available. Only in the sharing of sorrow are the steps to joy made accessible.”
I can be a self-defeating person and I am also a therapist.
As a hypnopsychotherapist I have a Code of Ethics. This ensures my client’s informed consent, confidentiality and safety. During therapy I may ask my clients to make full, fearless, moral and emotional disclosures. We as therapists are supervised and required to have an agreed number of sessions of self-therapy. We are also required to be in what is known as continuous professional development, which encourages us to be in touch with an up-to-date body of knowledge and practice. There is then a system of checks and balances and indeed our own Ethics Committees if we ourselves are found lacking.
Counselling is today a household term. There are views that it can only provide a ‘sticking plaster’ over your problem and that it encourages reliance on others rather than self-reliance.
Financial settlements awarded for victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – a condition unheard of before counselling evolved, but a disorder that has like-wise become part of everyday terminology especially post 9/11, has perhaps increased the opposition against the validity of this therapy. Cynicism rages greatest perhaps against hypnotherapy although ‘mind—bending’ entertainment captivates television audiences. Psychotherapy is gaining popular ground and safe houses, or refuges are increasing. As individuals we are still advised to ‘pull ourselves together’, ‘get real’, or ‘get a life’.
Medical science has now agreed that since body and mind are inseparable it therefore follows that psychological problems can be created by a physical cause and vice versa. However a high percentage of people needing psychological help are the very ones who deny themselves the help.
Support for those who are basically healthy, functioning adequately but are in a crisis after a relationship break-up, divorce, have premature ejaculation, sex addiction, are lonely in the midst of a crowd or simply cannot cope in their relationships, is difficult to come by. Most friends have a motive, an emotive point of view and ally themselves with one side or the other. Sadly, if you are urgently in need of advice, or consolation you might often be avoided by the very friends who might help you most: not because those friends do not want to help but they may simply lack understanding, are embarrassed or become painfully aware of their own inadequacies. Others may feel they lack the experience which would enable them to deal with your problems.
Therapy is based on skills of caring, listening and prompting. It is talking based and respectful. The therapeutic alliance that grows between therapist and client is a trusting relationship that builds over time. No book can substitute that.
So WHY is there an increasing demand for therapy? I have witnessed, in the UK, in my own lifetime, the breakdown of the family unit and social structure after World War II. Historically, the family unit offered support to each individual within it and around the family there was usually an extended family of close relatives, behind which lay a close-knit community, backed up by the family doctor and local vicar. Within such a tight-knit community, people grew, learned, and had a routine life, no matter what their place was on the social ladder.
Grandparents, who had played an integral part acting as surrogate mothers and fathers died and there was an escalation of what was once a minority number of ‘latch key kids’. In the early ‘60’s our insular communities expanded dramatically to include those from other countries, especially the West Indies and the Indian subcontinent ‘children of the Empire.’ The same changes have recently occurred with the integration of over 20 countries into Europe.
This creates insular communities, peopled by isolated individuals, locked inside their lonely worlds. Traumas and sexual problems go hidden. You may be in hiding and this very reason which has motivated you to buy this book.
However: it would be wrong to suggest loneliness and stress had never existed in the past: they did. People living alone are on the increase, the majority living long distances from close family. We live more secluded and scheduled lives, isolated and independent from our neighbours Divorce figures are rising steadily each year including ‘internal divorces’ where couples have chosen to go their own way, carrying on their lives separately, but still living under one roof. For the sake of the children? Financial security? Because of fear and uncertainty? Because of abuse and control? Or perhaps they simply cannot see an option. People who have to raise children without the support of a partner are constantly under stress. Disability and impairment exist within a world where perfect body image creates a pecking order based on body weight, absence of wrinkles and a size zero bargaining power. A fascist body culture. Mental health remains a taboo.
So many just coping with stress…… that sexuality, any form of sexuality, might seem a luxury.
Whilst there are distinctions between counsellors, psychotherapists and hypnotherapists, why, as therapists are WE supposed to be different? Simply because we have learnt how to be? Are life coachers for real? Are personal trainers and awareness gurus human? They may appear superhuman. But the simple opportunity to talk to another person without interruption or contradiction is, in itself, a beneficial release.
This book allows YOU anonymity and to take your medicine at your own pace, but that’s not my purpose here. I find that the therapist – client distinction creates a power imbalance. Lest our problems somehow pollute the therapy process we as therapists must be considered ‘fixed’, to be empty slates, tabula rasas, blank states, devoid of the pain of those experiences, which we are trying alleviate in our clients.
This is not so: my pathway has been one of sincere recovery, and is an on-going journey. Hopefully it is my disclosure and insight, as much as my theoretical approaches, which will direct you on this journey through the steps and processes of self-discovery. Actually my confessions enable me to introduce myself as a human being and get myself out of the way as ‘the therapist’: for me this book has been about tough self-therapy as well as academic clarity.
Herein I asked myself to describe my past ‘realities’ and current ‘realities’ and my hopes in writing the book. The structural tension between the two lead me to a new understanding of the differences between those theories that had both informed my work and somehow changed my life and how my life shows up. Exploring how I feel and need constantly to change it gives me the courage to make informed choices about relationship and sexuality. My own experiences (and the songs and poetry that has inspired me) are italicized but I hope that the inter-subjectivity of my approach stands as a powerful tool to enable YOU to self-discovery.
When I re-trained as a therapist in 1997 my most inspiring starting point was Carl Rogers’ Theory of Personality. Since the study of personality began, personality theories have offered a wide variety of explanations for behaviour and what constitutes the person. Rogers’ theory of personality evolved out of his work as a clinical psychologist and developed as an offshoot of his theory of client-centered (later called person-centered therapy: Rogers, 1959). He was first and foremost a therapist, with an abiding respect for the dignity of persons and an interest in persons as subjects rather than as objects. Rogers approach to the study of persons is my starting point. His view of human behaviour is that it is “exquisitely rational” and furthermore, in his opinion: “the core of man’s nature is essentially positive”. What he offered in relationship to his clients was a period of unconditional acceptance, and empathy.
My first client was Katie. In Appendix IV you can see exerts from one of her sessions where I had specifically maintained a client centred approach. It’s painful living in the past and takes courage to create a future. Katie eventually ‘came out’ as a lesbian to her friends and family but was allowed her own time to process the cause of her ‘spinning out’ anxiety.
History has proven that any innovation risks running the gauntlet of scepticism and controversy. You are asked to follow the assignments which will guide you from the ‘slings and arrows’ of your sexual past and assist you with making powerful choices about your future.