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A Queer Perspective on Somatically Befriending Vulnerability

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  Since being vulnerable does not always come easily to many of us, it is important to have empathy for anyone who struggles with it. The internet is flooded with writings and talks on encouraging people to show vulnerability. Having trouble expressing it often gets associated with a lack of authenticity. Such judgmental interpretations can frequently trigger shame in people who don’t feel safe enough to be vulnerable due to certain socio-demographic factors. There is a misconception that expressing vulnerability is a matter of courage or just making a mental decision. By helping others reclaim it, I have realized the issue has little to do with bravery or honesty. It has more to do with the state of one’s nervous system. By having a somatic perspective on understanding vulnerability, we can open a new path toward befriending it.   There are many different paths toward befriending vulnerability which includes using the body to build a greater capacity to embrace it. Our response

Authoritarianism and the Harm to Psychotherapy by Payam Ghassemlou Ph.D.

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  My journey of becoming a psychotherapist with a passion for serving the LGBT community started over three decades ago. In those days, AIDS was devastating our community, and I wanted to make a difference. I started my counseling internship at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian center with a focus on helping people living with HIV/AIDS. As I look back on my journey of studying psychology and becoming a psychotherapist, I am realizing an obvious point. I learned how to practice psychotherapy in a democratic society. This is a crucial point because the kind of society where mental health services being offered makes a substantial difference. Given my experience with living or visiting other parts of the world, especially in places ruled by authoritarian regimes, I have learned psychotherapy can be a transformative process when practiced in a free society. It is difficult to help individuals reach their true potential in a closed society where fear dictates people’s lives. In places where

The Queer Body Remembers: Somatic-Focused Trauma Healing By Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D.

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For many LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) people growing up was distressing due to homophobia and transphobia. Schools felt like a scary place for those who were scapegoated as queer. LGBTQ people of color reported even worse experiences due to the additional stress of racism and racial bullying. Many of the gay men’s personal narratives that I have heard are not vastly different from my own. Regardless of national origin or skin color, we are part of a tribe with similar stories of growing up in a homophobic and transphobic world where our true essence was repeatedly assaulted. As LGBTQ people, we have connected around the theme of “love is stronger than hate” which raised awareness about our injustice and suffering. Addressing these issues have helped people to become more concerned about the mistreatment of not only LGBTQ kids, but also any youngsters who do not flow with the mainstream. More work needs to be done to make the world a safer place for m

A Somatic Approach on Working with Depression and Negative Self-Talk By Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D.

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Depression is common and treatable. It can strike anyone at any age. Consulting with your physician or a licensed mental health provider is the best way to find out if you are suffering from depression and the type of depression you might be having. A person with depression can experience a few or many of the following symptoms: Feelings of sadness and emptiness Feelings of anxiety Experiencing restlessness or irritability Losing interest in all or most activities Problems with appetite that can lead to weight gain or weight loss Sleeping problems Loss of interest in sex Low energy that can include feeling tired much of the time Difficulty with concentration or making decisions Feeling negative towards oneself including worthlessness or excessive guilt Feeling hopeless or helplessness Crying spells Increased use of alcohol or drug use in order to cope with a depressed mood Thoughts of death/suicidal ideation Many peopl

The Role of Trauma Therapists in the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius

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A great change is upon humanity. The Age of Aquarius which values social conscience combined with love and unity is replacing the Piscean Age of dualism, hierarchy, and power. No one knows exactly when each age begins or ends, but most experts seem to agree that humanity is in a very important transition period. Unprecedented change and upheaval can happen when Piscean values that have lasted for over two thousand years is taken down to make room for a new world. Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic with its devastating impact on health and the economy is related to such a seismic shift. This transition to a new age is gradual and has been in progress for a long time. The world will become a better place once the transition is completed, and humanity can celebrate the promises of the Aquarian Age. Such promises include peace on Earth , end of poverty, love and kindness, pure spiritual awareness, true democracy and more. Some of these promises are happening now as humanity is racing to

Resource is Power in Dealing with COVID-19 By Payam Ghassemlou Ph.D.

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COVID-19 is the uninvited guest that has crashed our daily lives. This virus has forced us to take a collective “time out,” and shelter in our homes. Most of our plans are now on pause, and we are living with a great deal of uncertainty. For many of us, fear, helplessness, and confusion are among the common reactions to the coronavirus outbreak. It feels scary to deal with an invisible enemy that  can attack the respiratory system and jeopardize our well-being or the health of our loved ones. No one should feel judged for having an emotional  reaction to this pandemic.   It is important to have empathy for our painful feelings, and our struggle dealing with this situation. Everyone’s pain is unique, and no one deserves to suffer in silence. Reaching out and asking for help is a courageous act that we can do in response to our need for support. When it comes to asking for help, it is important to notice where we experience our distress. We often notice our overwhelming emotions

Breath & Love: A Different Kind of Intoxication by Payam Ghassemlou Ph.D.

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The word intoxication often gets associated with substance use. Even though some people do experience a physical high through drinking or drug use, such behaviors have nothing to do with the real desire of the soul for elevation. There is a different kind of intoxication that comes from certain body-mind practices.  Such practice draws breath and love together with the intention of a journey into the heart, which is into an inner place you can call “home.” Every journey has a beginning.   The journey into the heart starts with awareness of breath, which is one of the most accessible paths to the present moment and has the potential for transformation . Breathing is an automatic bodily function that you can consciously work with. For instance, you can infuse each breath you take with a silent mantra, which can be performed anytime and anywhere. A mantra can be given by one’s mentor or can be found through personal research. A conscious breath that is combined with