Sex Therapy with Perfectionists: An Interview with Dr. Tom Murray
Curt and Katie interview Dr. Tom Murray about sex therapy for clients with the overcontrolled temperament. We talk about how temperament can affect one’s sex life, what therapists often miss in conversations about sex, and what good sex therapy can look like for these clients.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
An Interview with Dr. Tom Murray
Dr. Tom Murray, author, international trainer, educator, and couples and sex therapist-supervisor, is a widely sought-after expert in sexuality and intimate relationships. For 20+ years, Murray has worked with everyday folks to embrace their weirdness, shed labels and shame, lean into anxiety, and build better and stronger relationships. Murray has appeared in numerous venues, including the Huffington Post and The Daily Mail, as well as radio, television and podcasts, including the Practice of Being Seen and Shrink Rap Radio. Murray directs A Path to Wellness, a multidisciplinary practice providing sex therapy, couples counseling, and general psychotherapy. He authored “Making Nice with Naughty: An intimacy guide for the rule-following, organized, perfectionist, practical, and color-within-the-line types.”
In this podcast episode, we talk about how temperament can impact your sex life
We reached out to Dr. Tom Murray to share with us about his new book, Making Nice with Naughty, and how therapists can understand how to help perfectionists (and other over-controlled types) can improve their sex life.
What is the overcontrolled personality and how does it impact sex and sexuality?
“If sex is very predictable, it’s not desirable. Right? So, some people say low sexual desire is a problem. But sometimes it’s evidence of good judgment.” – Dr. Tom Murray, Author “Making Nice with Naughty”
- Personality characteristics and mindset (introspective, fixed or fatalistic mindset)
- Perfectionism, rigidity, and hypervigilance
- Sexual deficits (low receptivity, avoidance of novel situations, need for ritual)
- Typically choose monogamy as overarching rule for sexual relationships
The impact of trauma on those who are predisposed to the overcontrolled temperament
- The complication of past trauma on current relationships
- The challenge and the work of helping clients show up as the sexual being they would like to be
How can therapists help overcontrolled adults to improve their sexual functioning?
“If they bought into this trope that you should feel that you want [sex], then you’re going to go inside looking for the want and you’re like… ‘I’m not interested,’ when that’s generally not going to happen as frequently, particularly within the context of monogamy… And so liberating people from that expectation that they should experience the want, and instead just simply ask the question, ‘Am I willing?’, and they find that they are often willing. And so that idea – I can actually gift sex to my partner – can be revolutionary for people.” – Dr. Tom Murray, Author “Making Nice with Naughty”
- The goal of self-acceptance and the importance of learning about sex as an adult
- The rights and responsibilities of monogamy
- Sexual discrepancy and forced celibacy
- Looking at the difference between “want” and “willing” to have sex
- Understanding the different types of desire (spontaneous, responsive, contextual) and what is typical for each partner
- How to overcome low sexual desire in relationships
Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:
We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!
The book: Making Nice with Naughty: An Intimacy Guide for the Rule-Following, Organized, Perfectionist, Practical, and Color-Within-The-Line Types by Dr. Thomas L. Murray Jr
Tom’s website: drtommurray.com
Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:
Who we are:
Curt Widhalm, LMFT
Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com
Katie Vernoy, LMFT
Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com
A Quick Note:
Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.
Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.
Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:
Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:
Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:
Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:
Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/
Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano https://groomsymusic.com/
Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):
Transcripts include advertisements from the time of posting.
Curt Widhalm 00:00
This episode is brought to you by Thrizer.
Katie Vernoy 00:02
Thrizer is a new modern payment platform for private pay therapists. Unlike other credit card processors Thrizer automatically submits claims and deposits reimbursements for your clients with every appointment charge.
Curt Widhalm 00:15
Check out bit.ly/moderntherapists to learn more.
Curt Widhalm 00:20
You’re already listening to our podcasts. Let’s get you some continuing education.
Katie Vernoy 00:24
We provide monthly CE podcourses. We already have 12 and are adding new ones every month.
Curt Widhalm 00:29
Check them out at moderntherapistcommunity.com/podcourse.
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.
Curt Widhalm 00:49
Welcome back modern therapists. This is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. This is the podcast for therapists where we talk about the things that happen with our clients, the things that we don’t get taught along the way towards becoming therapists. And we are returning to a topic that we have not talked about in quite a while. And usually one of the top complaints that I hear from students leaving their grad programs is we don’t hear enough about sex. And so we are joined today by Dr. Tom Murray, a relationship and sex experts. And he’s here to bestow upon us some of the wisdom and some of the stuff that comes up with our clients around sex and sexuality sort of things that we just kind of stumble into it unless we seek it out. So thank you very much for joining us here today.
Dr. Tom Murray 01:40
Thank you Curt for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
Katie Vernoy 01:44
So I know we’ve only spoken once before, but I consider you a friend. I see all your good stuff on Facebook. So I’m excited to have you here. And I’d love to start you off with a question we asked all our guests, which is: Who are you? And what are you putting out into the world?
Dr. Tom Murray 01:58
You know, I’m a work in progress. I think one of the wonderful things about being a therapist is that we are a profession who really has a love affair with development. And so I think I’m still evolving. But over the past five years, I’ve really concentrated my career after leaving a University Counseling Center, as their director at a local university here in North Carolina, is create this niche practice of working with clients who present with sex and relationship issues, with particular love for my fellow weirdos out there, those who are bumping up against the edges of society and helping them to shed guilt and shame around what are perfectly normal parts of sexual expression.
Curt Widhalm 02:45
So we usually start the top of our episodes with a question not that is a shaming question. But as a if people have already made some mistakes, and we can save some other people from making those mistakes. What is it that a lot of therapists get wrong about sex?
Dr. Tom Murray 03:01
Not asking the questions, initially, you know, right out of the gate, and that initial intake is avoiding and perhaps only out of their own anxiety about sex and sexuality. When, I forget what theorists said that if you can talk about death, and sex, you can talk about anything. And so, you know, getting clients to, at the very least know that talking about sex and sexuality within the consulting room is absolutely acceptable. So I think the omission is perhaps what therapists may get wrong.
Katie Vernoy 03:33
It’s interesting, because I think that’s usually the answer we get is that people don’t talk about sex enough. And it’s probably part of the therapists issue, right? Because we were just feeling really nervous about it. But the book you’ve written, making nice with naughty is about this over controlled temperament, which I’m assuming those folks don’t really want to talk about sex either. So maybe we can dive into something that’s a little bit more specific, because I think we’ll link to other sex therapy episodes in the show notes. But I want to get specific into this topic. Because I feel like it’s a really interesting one. That there are folks who are very over controlled that then don’t have fun at having sex, right? Like they don’t enjoy sex, they aren’t having fun. And there’s also all the other kind of actual disorders that you kind of list in your book description that they have. So let’s jump into that. What is the over controlled temperament that leads to these sex problems?
Dr. Tom Murray 04:27
So you know, I know that most of the listeners are going to be therapists, and this may be old news, but let’s just talk about temperament in general.
Katie Vernoy 04:36
Dr. Tom Murray 04:36
Temperament is the kind of the stable ways in which we show up in the world, the stable parts of our personality that we show up in the world. And by and large, we look at temperament as just what is. So introversion, extroversion, being one of the most common temperaments and one is not good or bad. And in the same kind of similar way, there’s the over controlled and then the under controlled temperament. And the under controlled is much more out there, you know, they have big emotions and they, they tend to be more impulsive or they’re, they’re better at taking risks. They’re the ones that are able to go up and do karaoke without having a drink. You know, they’re just mentally lively and vivacious and full of energy. But at the very extreme end of the under controlled temperament, you have things like borderline personality disorder, ADHD, narcissistic personality disorder. So you have those kinds of disorders at the very maladaptive end. The over controlled temperament is much more inward, that is, they tend to have self control, right and too much self control. As you get further along the continuum, where they’re much more rule oriented versus under control people tend to be much more mood oriented. And so as you get further and further along on that continuum of the over controlled, you have disorders such as autism, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, schizoid personality, paranoid personality disorder, at the very far end. Of course, most people don’t live down there, we can still lean in that direction. In fact, the literature suggests that most therapists lean in that over controlled direction.
Katie Vernoy 06:25
Ooh, that’s interesting. Why do you think that is?
Dr. Tom Murray 06:29
I think that as therapists we tend to naturally be introspective. Right? And that very much is part of the psychology of an over controlled person: Who am I? Where do I fit in this environment? We tend to be concerned about how other people perceive us, right? Such as we tend to have high emotional inhibition, meaning that we tend to not show much emotion on our face. Someone out there asks us how we’re feeling. Our most common F word or favorite, one of our favorite F words is?
Katie Vernoy 07:04
Dr. Tom Murray 07:05
Fine. And if we’re if we are upset, maybe irritable, our other favorite effort is frustrated.
Katie Vernoy 07:16
Katie Vernoy 07:16
I feel like you’re setting us up for kind of a third F word that interacts with the over controlled temper.
Dr. Tom Murray 07:16
I’m feeling frustrated, you know. So I think because of the introspection, it just makes a lot of sense that we would kind of move in that direction. Over controled people also tend to be highly conscientious. So we tend to be concerned about how other people feel.
Dr. Tom Murray 07:42
I don’t know. I don’t know what that one might be. Well, actually, now that you brought it up, I hadn’t really thought about it. But in terms of mindset, right, there’s the fixed and the fatalistic mindset that is common among over controlled people, right? This kind of fixed mindset of no matter what’s happening around me, I have this goal and I’m going to pursue the goal. Or the fatalistic mindset is, I’m so overwhelmed by what’s happening to me, I’m just going to metaphorically implode and myself, and block out all of what’s going on around there. And the ultimate goal is to develop a flexible mindset. So there, there you go. There’s three more F words.
Katie Vernoy 08:25
I was thinking about the dirty F word, but that’s Curt’s trying to jump in with a question.
Curt Widhalm 08:33
Okay, so let’s talk about this flexible mindset. What does that look like? How do we move people coming from that fixed mindset into maybe having that different perspective and being able to apply that more regularly?
Dr. Tom Murray 08:49
So this whole concept of the fixed, fatalistic and flexible mindset, I wish I could say that is a Tom Murray development, but that comes out of the radically open dialectical behavior therapy model developed by Thomas Lynch. And so that flexible mindset is somewhat of a marriage between the fixed mindset and the fatalistic mindset. So let me go into those just real quickly in a little detail using a metaphor. So imagine the captain of the Titanic and the captain of the Titanic hits the iceberg. Well, that fixed mindset is, well, F it, we’re still going to New York, even though the boats taken on water and the ship sinking all of that, that I had that goal, I’m going to pursue that goal. The fatalistic mindset would be the captain hitting the iceberg and being overwhelmed by all of the decisions that have to be made and goes to the captain quarters huddles down into the corner and just waits it out. Right? So impervious to the feedback that’s coming in, and just doesn’t make any decision. So the flexible mindset is this being open to the feedback. We had an iceberg, all right, and then making decisions based on the current situation. So let’s get all women and children and very wealthy men into the lifeboats. And, and, you know, alter our plans to preserve, you know, the life of as many people we can. So that that that integration of the fixed and fatalistic is the flexible mindset based on the information that’s coming in and over control, people tend to be resistant to feedback.
Curt Widhalm 10:35
So, we brought you on to talk about sex. How does this apply to sex.
Dr. Tom Murray 10:42
So one of the core elements of over control people who have come in with sexual problems is sexual perfectionism. And there are four types of sexual perfectionism that I talk about. Which is, I have to be sexually perfect, right? So that might mean, I have to have an orgasm every time we have sex, or my partner has to have an orgasm every time, or I have to always have to have an erection every time that I want one, right? And then there’s my partner has to be sexually perfect. So my partner has to have an orgasm every time we have sex, or some kind of these rules, right? The third one is I think my partner thinks I have to be sexually perfect. So I’m self conscious about you know, how are my breasts, the right size for my partner or my is my penis, the right size for my partner, is my labia, you know, all of that kind of stuff about am I good enough as a sexual partner. And then the fourth one is, I think society expects me to be sexually perfect, right. So in those ways, if you get rigidly fixed around one of those types of sexual perfectionism, it certainly interferes with your ability to relax and have a good time in the bedroom. And I mean, an orgasm literally is the total loss of control. And that can be a particular challenge for people who are over controlled is that they fear what it’s like to lose control.
Katie Vernoy 12:08
So what are some of the common problems that are experienced by over control people? Kind of getting more specific?
Dr. Tom Murray 12:15
Yeah, so often, low sexual desire can be a byproduct of the over controlled temperament. And what creates this is a variety, it can be a variety of reasons, but underneath it is that rule orientation. So for example, there are four core deficits of the over controlled temperament and one of those is low receptivity and openness. So is avoidance of novel situations. Right? Over controlled people are the ones that sex becomes very ritualistic, right? I euphemistically call it nipple, nipple, pussy sex, right? So you know exactly what’s going to happen? Who’s going to do what, when is it going to finish? And it becomes not exciting anymore. Right. And so if sex is very predictable, it’s not desirable. Right? So some people say low sexual desire is a problem. But sometimes it’s evidence of good judgment.
Katie Vernoy 13:18
Ooh, that’s an interesting thing to think about.
Dr. Tom Murray 13:20
Right? Well, it just isn’t exciting. Why do I, I would rather do X, Y, or Z. In fact, that’s a very common experience of over control people as they think about all the other things that they could be doing in that moment, because over controlled people tend to be also very production oriented. I got to do more, do more, do more, do more. And so that distracts them from the ability to enjoy themselves.
Katie Vernoy 13:46
Just gonna pop in here real quick to tell you more about our sponsor Thrizer. A payment processing solution for private pay therapists.
Curt Widhalm 13:53
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Katie Vernoy 14:08
That is amazing. But even more amazing is that clients can have the option to choose to only pay their copay amounts and elect for Thrizer to wait for the reimbursement instead. The platform starts completely free for clients and you only pay a standard 3% payment processing fee.
Curt Widhalm 14:25
Go to bit.ly/moderntherapists and use the code “moderntherapists” to an enjoy an entire month without credit card processing fees as you get up and running.
Katie Vernoy 14:40
When you’re talking about some of this, I think there’s a distinction here that I want to sort out if we can. Sometimes the over control or the the need for ritual or predictability comes from a trauma history. Is there an intersection here? Is there a way to parse this out?
Dr. Tom Murray 14:57
The Thomas Lynch research suggests that the over controlled temperament, as temperaments are in general, is very much a bio temperament. That we’re born with a temperament. However, our environment is we know with epigenetics, our environment can certainly turn on or off the expression of genes. And that can, in some cases, intensify temperament. If that was a necessary part of surviving childhood. I often say that personality is the sum of our best attempts to survive childhood.
Katie Vernoy 15:32
Dr. Tom Murray 15:32
And so for for people who are inclined towards the over controlled temperament and to experience trauma, they may find that they’re driven even more to create predictability, right? To avoid conflict. To be very risk averse and threat sensitive, you know, that hyper vigilance, that’s natural part of the over controlled temperament to then to have a traumatic experience to turn up the volume on that?
Katie Vernoy 16:01
Does it impact how you would treat or support clients? If it has that compounding of the over control temperament in the past trauma?
Dr. Tom Murray 16:11
Yes, yes. In fact, I have a whole chapter around trauma relative to sex, because that often can be the reason for avoiding sex later. What I typically find is that couples will have had a what seemed to be a very normal, quote, unquote, sexual relationship early on. And then it shifts to a problematic sexual relationship. And one of the explanations for the problems is the traumatic events that preceded the relationship entirely. And what I try to do is work with people to maybe even untangled that narrative, that it may have nothing to do with the early childhood experiences or early life experiences. And that when you wed those two together, it’s harder to move beyond and to heal from the trauma because now the trauma is tied to the current life situation, and it may have nothing to do with it. And so, how I work with these individuals is for them to begin to ask themselves questions, and that’s part of our DBT is self inquiry, who is made right? When you continue to have the sexual problem? Well, the abusers made right. You know, the abusers robbed you of this body autonomy. And when we maintain beliefs that were lessons learned, from that traumatic experience, they’re made, right. And so part of the therapy that I do is helping the person reclaim for themselves what I euphemistically called one’s divine inheritance, which is to enjoy oneself as a sexual being.
Katie Vernoy 18:06
That makes sense.
Curt Widhalm 18:08
Katie says it makes sense. I maybe want to dive a little bit more into that, as far as I’m imagining a client who’s presenting is very over controlled. And that seems very, very logical, it seems very, very, you know, almost have the potential to be rule based about being a rule based into this. So…
Dr. Tom Murray 18:27
Curt Widhalm 18:28
How do you break through that with those over controlled clients in being able to allow for some of that more open under controlled passionate sort of encouragement there?
Dr. Tom Murray 18:41
Yeah, well, who do they want to be as a sexual being? It’s really exploring who do they want to be? If they were free of the anxiety and fear of uncertainty, which is, by the way, kind of one of the primary fears of over controlled people is the fear of uncertainty. If I had the magic wand, and I can absolutely ensure that they won’t have anxiety around uncertainty, how might that shape their sexual style with them and their partner. That might include educating themselves about sex and sexuality? You know, a lot of over controlled people don’t educate themselves about sex and sexuality. Perhaps, for example, that they grew up in the purity movement, right, where sex was really seen as evil or sinful, and a gateway to bad things happening. And so if they were free to imagine exploring themselves sexually, what would that look like? That might be for example, listening to podcasts about sex and sexuality, so that they can hear other adults talk about their fantasies, talk about their experiences, right? Most people when I ask clients, when’s the last time you read a nonfiction book about sex? The most common answer is…
Katie Vernoy 20:03
Dr. Tom Murray 20:04
Never. I’ve never read anything. Yet, we’re sexual beings 24/7. And what was true about your sexual style when you’re in your teens or early 20s is not likely going to be true when you’re in your 30s 40s 50s 60s and beyond. Right? So we have to continuously update our sexual knowledge. And that often means exposing yourself, you know, figuratively to new sources of information.
Curt Widhalm 20:35
I want to expand on something that you said just a few minutes ago, and you had sparked a conversation that I had seen online at one point before, but when people get locked down into these roles, and the effects that it has on their partners, they asked their partners to change, the partners change. And the partners then start to realize that the primary partner is now still uninterested. And some of this resentment can build up in the back and forth of relationships. You know, the very basics of doing couples therapy is get couples to talk about it. But when you’re talking about unweaving the past and the past before the past that even exists with a couples This is speaking to a lot more nuanced than I think it’s just like, Okay, you get Partner A and Partner B to talk about their sex lives with this.
Dr. Tom Murray 21:26
Curt Widhalm 21:26
How do you help to tease this out, not only for the singular person, but also the couple? Because we see guys in therapy, we see women too, but it’s just kind of like, yeah, I want more orgasms. And that’s kind of the the end of the sex talk that how do you get to more of this depth in this back and forth understanding when it comes to the relational piece of it?
Dr. Tom Murray 21:50
What I’m about to say is controversial.
Katie Vernoy 21:52
Okay, well brace ourselves.
Dr. Tom Murray 21:56
Most over controlled people choose monogamy as the governing institution of their relationship, because it does satisfy the need for predictability. At the same time, monogamy has as its occupational hazard, a decrease of desire over the long term. So desire tends to decrease that lusting after one’s partner decreases on average 8% per year and liking your partner decreases on average 4% per year. When it comes to the sexual desire discrepancy, I often remind couples about the definition of monogamy. In fact, I’ll be explicit about it, I’ll ask what is the definition of monogamy? And people will say well, sex with one person? And I say yes, that’s right. Sex with one person. And so if you’re not having sex, and monogamy is sex with one person, then you don’t have monogamy, you have something else. I don’t know what that something else is. But it’s not monogamy. And so then I explained that monogamy has with it a set of rights and responsibilities. The right is that you have the right to enjoy each other’s bodies in ways that other people don’t have access to. The responsibility is to be interested in the sexual needs of the other because the option of going down the street has been taken off the table. Now, does that mean that you have to say yes to sex every time your partner wants to have sex? No, because it’s precisely the option or the freedom to say no, that gives the yes its meaning. If you could only say yes, then yes wouldn’t have any meaning. So in that totality, if people want monogamy, then there is those rights and responsibilities. And I think what often happens is a partner is disinterested in sex, and then expect their partner to also not be interested in sex. And I call that forced celibacy. So the low interest desire partner essentially forces their partner into celibacy, because there isn’t the freedom to go down the street to get their needs met. And so that my my style of therapy is what I call care-frontational. I am very direct, because I’m an advocate for the relationship. Right, I’m not an advocate for any individual. As that I’m speaking on behalf of the relationship and and clarifying for them what in fact, are their values and if they say that monogamy is an important value for them, then there are obligations that are tied to pursuing that value.
Katie Vernoy 24:50
So how do you resolve that though, because of folks that I talked to that have low libido, it’s really hard to kind of get to that place of, Okay, I will engage with my partner
Dr. Tom Murray 25:00
Katie Vernoy 25:01
And some are in ethical non monogamy relationships. And so there’s you can go down the street if you need to. But but I think for those in monogamous relationships, what is the solution? If there if there is that difference?
Dr. Tom Murray 25:13
Sure, one of the first solutions is to normalize the lack of want. So, there are three types of desire, there’s spontaneous desire, responsive desire, and contextual desire. And in our society, we tend to privilege spontaneous desire, because that tends to be the typical male desire. I just think about sex kind of randomly, and then I want to have sex, and I want my partner to also think about sex randomly and also want to have sex. But that’s not most [unintelligable] people don’t have that experience, right? So they tend to have much more of a responsive or contextual desire. And so when I share that, it’s actually less important to have the want, it’s more important to ask whether you have the willing. Because for a lot of people, the want comes after. So if they are willing, then once they start engaging sexually with their partner, now the want kicks in, but if they bought into this trope that you should feel that you want it. Then you’re going to go inside looking for the want, and you’re like, oh, I don’t, it’s not there. So I’m not interested. When that’s generally not going to happen as frequently, particularly within the context of monogamy that I mentioned before. And so liberating people from that expectation that they should experience the wantand instead just simply asked the question: Am I willing? And they find that they are often willing. And so that idea of oh, I can actually gift sex to my partner, can be revolutionary for people.
Curt Widhalm 27:06
Breaking in here real quick to tell you how much fun it is to put out longer form episodes and provide some CEs. I’m having fun, are you Katie?
Katie Vernoy 27:15
Mostly. We’ve got some great stuff lined up for this year. And we’ve already got some amazing courses.
Curt Widhalm 27:23
Suicide, parental alienation, dual relationships, law and ethics…
Katie Vernoy 27:27
And some lighter stuff like walk and talk therapy, elite athletes, celebrities, executives and goal setting.
Curt Widhalm 27:33
All you need to do is hop over to moderntherapistscommunity.com/podcourse, where once you listen to the episode, you just have to fill out a quiz and an evaluation to get credit.
Katie Vernoy 27:47
With the different types of desire, can you go into cause spontaneous, makes sense. And I think responsive makes sense. But can you speak to what contextual?
Dr. Tom Murray 27:56
Yeah, so responsive is that kind of I, you know, when there’s a stimulus, then I’m will become sexually interested. In fact, that’s the kind of desire I have. I don’t have that people think, oh, you’re a sex therapist, you must think about sex all the time. No, I’m much more…
Katie Vernoy 27:58
But you do. It just doesn’t turn you on.
Dr. Tom Murray 28:13
That’s right. That’s right. But you know, when my partner starts kissing my neck or puts her hand on my thigh, you know, that’s like, oh, okay, that’s what we’re doing here. Contextual desire is much more nuanced, and sensitive to environmental factors, whether it be between someone’s ears or out there so that if stress, for example, stress can be a real aphrodisiac for some people. And for others, it’s just absolutely turns off any interest in sex, a smell of their partner can be a real turn on or real turn off. And so this balance of brakes and accelerators, as Emily Nagoski talks about in her book, “Come as You Are”, she wonderfully, beautifully lays out these different types of desire that I think again, can be quite liberating, when people are able to Oh, yeah. Oh, that makes sense. That’s perfect sense. That’s who I am. And we’ve been going along this path thinking that there was only one type of desire. One right type, right? And so you can see how that can become an impediment. And so if you know, for example, you have a contextual desire, then it’s really a conversation, like Curt had mentioned with each other about what are your brakes? What are your accelerators? And if I want to be a good sexual partner, I don’t want to do things that make you force your feet on the brake, such as a common complaint is when the partner passes gas. Right, you know, that’s like, slams on the brakes. And the other partner is like, well, it’s my house, I should be able to do what I want to do, right? Like, that’s not really a turn on.
Curt Widhalm 29:47
I imagine that for a lot of clients that come to you in the first place that coming to a sex therapist is already overcoming some of the barriers of getting to talk about sex in the first place. Obviously, for a lot more of the traditional tried and true couples therapists out there some of the advice is getting people to talk about sex in the first place, getting over your own hang ups about it. Everything that you’re saying makes sense in the depths that you’re talking about it, but it doesn’t seem to be as easy as just kind of a switch that, you know, it’s like couples come in for sessions one, two, and three, magically, we tell them start talking about sex, get to know yourself, talk about it with each other. And then session 12, you guys are great to go have wonderful sex.
Dr. Tom Murray 30:34
I wish it was that way.
Curt Widhalm 30:38
Yeah, I think we all do. I think the insurance companies want us to think that too. That I’m imagining that there’s also a lot of normalizing like this is three steps forward two steps back, and being able to normalize a lot of that process of exploration of normalizing just the attempts of trying and finding something new and seeing what works as well.
Dr. Tom Murray 31:01
Well, there’s can be a lot of hurt that’s accumulated over the years if there’s been this persistent sexual schism between the couple, right? And so there’s the legacy of hurt that has to be worked through before one feels open and available to an enjoyable sex relationship with their partner. And so a lot of the work has to do with that. I will also add that part of the over controlled temperament is a tendency towards self righteousness. And so there could be this rigidity around, I know that this is right, and I just need my partner to understand and agree with me. And, you know, again, that’s not sexy, either. So you’re absolutely right, that there are, in the absence of a lot of these other factors, I think people can move pretty quickly. But there is this self talk that can occur with these clients that, you know, the work for me is, I tend to have a orientation towards REBT, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy to really look at kind of these cognitive ways in which people process their environment that actually are impediments to overcoming their sexual problems.
Katie Vernoy 32:16
It seems like there’s a lot of different specific questions that I would love to ask you related to some of the clients that I have, and just the different reasons why they’re having a hard time with sex. So I think I have to get the book. But it seems to me that there’s a focus here on the over controlled temperamenton how they can get to this place. And it seems like some of its sexual and some of it, like you’re talking about, is more of this mindset stuff. And one of the ones that I have commonly seen is I don’t feel sexy, I’m overweight or you know, kind of folks that have kind of that the eating disorders or disordered eating that that and just kind of a negative self view. And it seems like there’s a potential where it’s kind of working in tandem. It’s working on on this piece of the connection in the relationship with my body, and then also with the sex piece, briefly, because we’re running out of time, is there something that you can say about that? And then we’ll send them over to your book? Because I think there’s sounds like there’s a lot to go into here?
Dr. Tom Murray 33:13
Well, no, the positive feedback that I’ve been getting is that while the book has it, as it’s as it’s focused sex and sexuality, that people are really able to take away and apply to other areas of their life. You know, we aren’t sexual beings in a vacuum.
Katie Vernoy 33:29
Dr. Tom Murray 33:29
And so we live in a society that has a lot of judgments about what is sexy. And if you don’t mirror that, you then begin to question your own sexual identity, and sexual expressiveness. And so I think, you know, my background as a systems therapist to really informs me to look at all of those other factors. And yet, there are in any given situation, there are things you have control over and things that you don’t have control over. And when we suffer, we’re focusing on the things that we don’t have control over. And so if I can move that person towards this focus on what they do have control over, then they’re more empowered to make the changes that can make a difference.
Curt Widhalm 34:12
Where can people find out more about you and tell us a little bit more about your book here?
Dr. Tom Murray 34:16
Yeah, so people can visit me at drtommurray.com or on Instagram at Dr. Tom Murray. And now over the past couple of weeks I’ve been making little tic TOCs at real Dr. Tom Murray. And the book is available on Amazon and everywhere fine books are sold, so people can grab it wherever location best fits them.
Katie Vernoy 34:38
And that book is “Making Nice with Naughty.”
Dr. Tom Murray 34:42
“Making Nice with Naughty: An intimacy guide for the rule following perfectionist practical color within the line types.”
Curt Widhalm 34:50
And we will include links to those in our show notes. You can find those over at mtsgpodcast.com Follow us on our social media and let us know how you feel about our episodes and give us any feedback. Join our Facebook group, the Modern Therapists group. And if you want to continue to support the show and other ways, please consider becoming a patron or supporting us on Buy me a Coffee. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy and Dr. Tom Murray.
Katie Vernoy 35:19
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Curt Widhalm 35:26
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Katie Vernoy 35:33
Go to Bit.ly/moderntherapists and use the code “moderntherapists” for a full month without credit card fees.
Curt Widhalm 35:39
Don’t forget we’ve got some fun, interesting and important CE podcourses over at moderntherapistcommunity.com/podcourse.
Katie Vernoy 35:47
Head on over and check them out.
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