memories

The Heart of the Matter: Understanding the Body’s Memory Bank

Isn’t it fascinating how our bodies seem to carry the echoes of our past experiences? They’re like silent witnesses to every moment, storing away memories and emotions in the nooks and crannies of our muscles and bones. But have you ever wondered why our bodies have this remarkable ability? What purpose does it serve, and how does it shape the way we navigate the world around us?

To understand why our bodies hold onto our experiences so tightly, we need to look at the role of our nervous system. From the moment we’re born, our bodies are wired to respond to the world around us, constantly scanning for threats and opportunities. When we encounter something new or unexpected, our nervous system springs into action, sending signals to various parts of our body to prepare for whatever comes next. This is known as the fight-or-flight response, and it’s a fundamental survival mechanism that has helped humans navigate dangerous situations for thousands of years.

But our bodies aren’t just wired to respond to external threats; they’re also finely attuned to our internal world of thoughts and emotions. When we experience something that triggers a strong emotional response, whether it’s a moment of joy, sadness, fear, or anger, our bodies react in kind. Our heart rate may increase, our muscles may tense up, and our breathing may become shallow. These physical changes are not just random; they’re our body’s way of preparing us to cope with the emotional intensity of the moment.

memories

But the purpose of our body’s ability to hold onto our experiences goes beyond mere survival. It’s also a key part of how we make sense of the world and our place in it. Our bodies serve as a kind of living record of our lives, carrying with them the stories of who we are and where we’ve been. When we encounter a familiar song or smell, it’s like flipping through the pages of a scrapbook, reliving those moments all over again. And while this can sometimes be painful, it can also be incredibly healing, allowing us to revisit past traumas and come to terms with them in a new light.

n the end, our bodies are more than just flesh and bone; they’re vessels of memory, emotion, and experience. They have a way of weaving the threads of our past into the fabric of our present, shaping the way we see ourselves and the world around us. And while it can be tempting to try to escape the weight of our past, perhaps the real challenge is learning to embrace it—to acknowledge the stories our bodies hold and to recognise the strength and resilience they represent. So the next time you find yourself caught up in a wave of emotion or memory, take a moment to honor the wisdom of your body. It may just have a story to tell you.

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BDSM and therapy – Time to remove the shame.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had two clients express how grateful they have found me.

Grateful as they do not have to hide who they are. Grateful they can sit in my room and speak of their adventures confidently, they will not be judged or shamed.

Grateful I am as open as I am in my advertising and communication around kink and BDSM.

Previously, these clients have experienced unpleasant experiences from other therapists or have not felt comfortable speaking of their preferences. Let’s face it, speaking of any mental health issue can be shadowed by shame or other feelings resulting in us, as humans, hiding away and not being willing to face them. I can tell you I have sat across from a couple of professionals and felt I needed to be silence as my conversation was making them uncomfortable. During my time at university, I have sat in a classroom and listened to a lecturer shape minds around those who enjoy leather, flogging, or sleep with teddy bears as adult.

When you understand the history of kink and BDSM in professional circles, especially psychologists, you can see why they think and feel the way they do. Since 1952, fetish, kink, BDSM or any sexual behaviour that was seen outside of the norm was classified as a mental illness. This included homosexuality, the powers that be decided any non-mainstream sexality was a sociopathic personality disorder. Thankfully we have come a long way, or have we?

..any mainstream sexual activity was a sociapathic personality disorder..

Psychologists are known for treating clients according to the DSM (Diagnositc Statictical Manual). They are trained under the medical model. The DSM is their bible, rarely to they stray from it. I am familiar with the DSM, I also believe any person can find themselves with a diagnosis from the manual. With such a prestigious manual stating non-mainstream sexual behaviours are not normal, why would anyone who is trained in mental health think it is anything but normal?

A revision in 1987 (DSM-III-R) moved BSDM and kink from a sexual deviation listing to being a disorder. Now, if you are kinky you have a mental disorder. Disturbingly, children were being taken away from their parents by family courts because their sexual appetite included spankings or more than missionary position.

‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’

and/or

‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’

In 2009, Richard Krueger raised concerned for how stigma and bullying within workplaces, family courts, etc were impacting the BDSM and kink community. He stated the behaviour towards these communities created high levels of stress and was contributing towards a mental health issue, not the sexual behaviours themselves.

May 2013 the DSM-5 was released. Victory, but has the damage been done?

“A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.”

Moving forward I have been in conversations with clinicians who are open to understanding and learning more, also the opposite. The myths are still believed.

The last thing I want for our BDSM community is an underlying fear of walking into a therapists office and being shamed for enjoying breath play or being blindfolded and tied to a St Andrews Cross.

My aim is to change the way therapists and the wider community see kink and BDSM.

I am not saying everyone should like it, everyone should do it, and everyone should be into spankings. If that’s the case, I am going against one of the biggest pillers of the community – consent.

However, you can sit in my room. You can talk about your vanilla sex life, or you can talk about how much you enjoy primal or pet play. There is no judgement.

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Reasons to think outside mental health plans for therapy

Life is hard. Let’s face it, even at times, it’s downright dreadful! It has this way of throwing everything at us all at once. We try and lean sideways to dodge it. Sometimes we are winners, and other times, it hits us like a pie in the face.

We are constantly told talking about our emotions and feelings is normal and important. There is truth in that, and we must be okay with expressing what hurts us. We know who we talk to makes all the difference.

The most used option is a trip to your GP to request a mental health plan under the better health scheme. Realistically, why not? You are eligible for a few free or cheaper sessions. It’s a no-brainer, right? Sometimes though, it’s not always the right choice.

When you have a persistent sense of heartbreak and gutwrench, the physical sensations become intolerable and we will do anything to make those feelings disappear. And that is really the origin of what happens in human pathology. People take drugs to make it disappear, and they cut themselves to make it disappear, and they starve themselves to make it disappear, and they have sex with anyone who comes along to make it disappear and once you have these horrible sensations in your body, you’ll do anything to make it go away.

Bessel A. van der Kolk

What are your options?

Currently, under the medicare scheme in Australia, psychologists and mental health social workers can accept a mental health plan entitling you to 10 sessions per calendar year. Predominately, there is a gap fee and a waiting list to see a psychologist.

The alternative is you can access counsellors or psychotherapists. If you are concerned about qualifications, this is displayed on their website, or you can ask. Many counsellors and psychotherapists are highly trained and have similar qualifications to registered psychologists, and most are trained in specialist fields instead of generalists.

Before getting a mental health plan, there is information you need to be aware of.

The medical model

For a psychologist to obtain payment for your session from the government, they are usually required to list a code for a diagnosis. Under the scheme guidelines, the diagnosis will stay on your case file with Medicare. This is problematic as you may not need a diagnosis.

Sometimes we are going through a few things and need some help to process them or move forward. Big feelings or emotions are normal when experiencing grief, loss, relationship stress, work stress, or illness. These emotions will be anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, hopelessness, and depression. It is important to understand these feelings are expected and come and go with what is happening in our life. They do not always mean you have a mental illness or need to be diagnosed with one to get help from a therapist.

Your treatment plans are limited

The treatment choice under a mental health care plan is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). For some people, this works well; for others, it doesn’t. Therapy is not a one size fits all model.

Psychotherapists and counsellors are trained to look beyond the here and now. They will listen to your health concerns and rule them out first or work with them on a mind, body, and soul treatment plan. It is important to look at everything around you, even to travel back in time and explore your childhood or how trauma is passed through the generations.

There are many other treatment styles available. Psychotherapists and counsellors are trained to explore many of them at once. Furthermore, YOU are in control of your treatment. We will work with you and give you options for your treatment.

Registration with the Australian Counselling Association or PACFA requires ongoing clinical supervision and training. You can be confident your psychotherapist or counsellor is well prepared and highly trained.

Duty to disclose

Your diagnosis will be permanently stored on the Medicare database. Insurance companies can access your records and adjust your premiums if requested.

Working outside the medical model means your information is bound under the client-therapist confidentiality agreement. We do not report to anyone outside of our practice unless court-ordered.

You can choose your therapist

Research shows the relationship between client and therapist is the most important aspect of your therapy. Having a chat with a potential therapist allows you to feel confident in who you will be working with before you commit to sessions.

You can email, look at their website, check their socials, or even ring for a quick chat before booking an appointment. If you feel a little nervous about your session, this can assist in minimising any discomfort.

Relationship and marriage counselling

Relationship or marriage counselling is currently not available under a mental health plan. Therapists must be trained to work with couples, and doctors are more likely to refer to psychologists trained for individuals.

Therapy is a personal journey. Exercise your right to choose what that therapy looks like. It can be the difference in how your healing looks. Find a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who aligns with your values. You have the choice.

If you would like more information, reach out today.