Alberto Pavan Life Coaching and Counselling

My Blog 2. Alberto Pavan Counselling

My Blog

A horror story

An incredible circumstance has taken place tonight. I must be careful about what I say not to break anybody's confidentiality. I will disguise the case, but, to cut a long story short, tonight I found out that a person with whom I had a professional therapeutic relationship committed an extraordinary act of violence against a fellow human being.

When I used to work with this person, I was aware of the darkness in his mind. It was an example of a wild narcissistic personality generated by the difficulty to accept one's own sexuality and a very bigoted family nucleus. This person was a high achiever, needed to excel in everything he did. He was a model student, a model son, although extremely resentful toward mum, a successful professional. He was not successful, however, in the sphere of sex and sexuality. To make up for the lack of ability he became the best pervert. His taste detached itself from a strive toward love, intimacy and warmth and took directions toward the extreme. The interest in these extreme practices unavoidably drove him toward the chemsex experience and that's when I met him. Cutting out the morbid details, when he was discharged from the organisation I used to work for, he was doing remarkably well. He was a regular to Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings, he managed 3 months of total abstinence and he found a partner with whom he was able to have sex as it is intended by the extended community, with kisses and tenderness.

But he was obviously far from recovered. He was only on a break from his psychotic self-perception and his attraction to self-destruction and death in the most morbid terms.

What is making me so very sad at the moment is that, if public service was more concerned with the community well-being and less with concepts like "value for money" , "cost-effective services", "more for less", "outcome based service" and "monitoring forms", if us practitioners were allowed to keep our clients and work holistically toward real change, real self-discovery, real understanding of the self, if reputable organisations and practitioners with integrity were not forced to speed up, quantify, measure and evidence the treatment, but overlook the relationship, close one eye or two on the many open wounds we can clearly see but we are not allowed to even touch because we must concentrate on the detail ( in my case, the client's addictive behaviour) , if there were availabilities of long term after-care, where one is able to work on the root issues that brought him/her to be an addict, may be this gruesome episode would have never happened.

When I began to work in the Substance Misuse field, us practitioners did not have an agenda; we were not there to talk our clients into stopping their drug use. Our job was to offer a non-judgemental, safe, warm space where they would have been able to learn to trust somebody and develop a constructive relationship that could have been used as a template for future ones. We were to implement harm reduction, make sure that the damage to the body was contained. Our most valuable skill was the ability to treat them with unconditional positive regard so that, when the right time were to come, the recovery would have been not only from the substance use but from the reasons why they became substance users. The goal was to maintain people into treatment. If this guy had the opportunity to remain in contact with a health advisor, a counsellor, a coach, a professional of any sort, possibly the darkness he had the tendency to surround himself with, would have been spotted; but, most of all, he would have had the opportunity to heal his major wound, his self-loath for what he became as an adult, when as a child he was made to believe that he would have grown into a pure, an angelic creature, characteristics he considered ideals, holy and deserved by him, but spoiled by this bloody sexuality he was born with that led him toward sin.

I saw pathologies in this person that needed to be addressed, faced and resolved. The fact that he was using crystal meth was nothing but the consequence of these pathologies. But, no, the way services and treatments are shaping up, the client centred approach is more and more an abstract concept.

My Blog 2. Rio

Love yourself a little more

I am still learning to love myself as I deserve; to accept myself without any judgement as I am without loosing my drive to self-improvement

Like most people, I used to find difficult to master this skill. I must admit that it is not na easy one. We all are subliminally trained at being modest, not to be big headed, to view pride as sinful.

We also prefer to talk ourself down before others do. Also, a collection of events in our early experience (attachment issues, fear of abandonment, dysfunctional family situations, difficult experiences at school , without even mentioning possible traumas) can make us develop some maladaptive conditions of worth.

These can take many forms and shapes and they might accompany us throughout our lives. Few examples:

  • I will be lovable if I am perfect at school, work, career, life in general

  • I will be ok as long as I am good looking

  • If only I could loose some weight my life would be fine

  • I must be the centre of the attention all the time and keep people around me amused and entertained

  • In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, on the other hand, we talk about Core Beliefs, intended as the beliefs we form in an early experience that mark us for the rest of ur lives and keep generating dysfunctional automatic thoughts that do not help us in our attempts to self-love.

  • I am unlucky

  • I am a looser

  • Nobody will ever love me

  • I am fat

  • I am ugly

  • Life is unfair

    Different schools of thoughts have different ways to explain our tendency to criticise ourself severely and to tend at judging our doing with merciless, punitive eye. In doing so, we end up drowning our potential.

    If we want to be successful in our quest toward happiness and fulfilment, the first step to take is toward self-love.

    Our tendency to generalise often make us feel that there is nothing redeeming about who we are, how we look, what we do; this is the best way toward depression. A good start to put some perspective could be asking to ourself what is it that we dislike so much. - Do I hate myself or do I hate some aspects of myself?-

    Very likely you will be able to pin point your dislike down to some specific characteristics. They might be ether physical or behavioural. It is a good start to acknowledge that it is not the whole self that we have problems with, but some specific parts of yourself.

    The next step is asking yourself : - Can I change this thing i do not like, or can I not?

    If you can make changes, then your work will be toward the setting of goals to make it happen (this we could do together). If the change is not possible, then I must tell you that the only option is for you to accept and embrace that part of yourself you dislike.

    Nowadays more than ever, with so much emphasis given to physical appearance, it is very easy to create for ourself conditions of worth related to how we look, e.g. : nose too long, eyes too small, lips too thin, bum too big, breast too small, biceps not developed enough and on and on.

    We concentrate on these characteristics we carry and turn them into faults. Also, by having these "faults" in mind so much, we end up highlighting and projecting them so that they will be visible to the rest of the world that otherwise wouldn't even notice them. Usually people do not care if you have a spot on your face, if you have a bum is a bit bigger that you would like it to be, if your nose is important. People get on with whoever they are presented with, but, our merciless inner-crititc will make damn sure that, through our insecurities, our distrust for the self, our trying too hard, these so called imperfections will be well visible, making us vulnerable.

    It is a case of self-fulfilling prophecy . One's embarrassment for her size will be perceivable by others and can result in being picked on; may be even bullied for it, which will re-inforce the belief that it is her size that people see first and this is ruining her life. Vicious cycle.

    If you think you are too fat, too thin, your nose is too big, your breast is too small, please do one thing: Think of how many celebrities you know that have a similar or even more of an exaggerated characteristic than yours and they have the admiration of the public, they live a charmed life, they have what you believe is forbidden to you.

    These people have been able to use that characteristic you dislike and make it work in a positive way. Barbara Streisand wouldn't be who she is with a smaller nose; Madonna is very short, Dawn French is certainly not thin. Did this stop them from achieving success? it did not. whatever you have that you think it is a set-back you can turn it into an advantage, a characteristic that makes you unique.

    But, even more important is to be able to look at yourself as a whole, avoiding focusing on details: go in front of a big mirror. Look at yourself in the eyes. Have a real good look at you and take in all your characteristic, good and less good. Then say aloud

    I accept and love myself as I am without any conditions.

    Repeat it 10, 20 , 50 times. You want to try to feel it. Teach yourself to believe it, but if you don't , if you feel it is just a mantra with no substance, it is also good. It is a new perspective. it took you years to evidence to yourself your unlovability; the new belief will take time to settle in. Keep saying it daily. It will be felt eventually.

    When I started to work as a counsellor, I did not believe in me being one. I didn't think I would have been able to go in a room with a stranger and create a therapeutic relationship. I felt like a phoney, an impostor. Nevertheless I kept doing it. I saw that people were coming back for more. Now being a counsellor is so much part of me that I couldn't see myself in any other way.

    It is a bit of a paradox the fact that you are asked to learn to love and accept yourself as you are but also you can aspire at achieving your full potential and become a better, more attractive, fitter individual, but without self-acceptance the change won't be real. It will be just a patching up job. It is about finding the balance between unconditional positive regard for yourself and the desire for improvement. You don't have to be different, you don't have to be thinner, with bigger breast, with bigger muscles, with a smaller nose. You are able to love yourself as you are but this doesn't mean that you will be complacent and lazy. If you see characteristics in your persona that you would like to change and you can do so, great! you will do it because you can, not because you must. Whatever you cannot change, that is still you and it is still to be loved.

    Think of the Bears phenomenon ! Being fat has never been desirable, or so one thinks, but, many of you will be aware that, in the gay community, there is a tribe that express their admiration for big, fat men, the bears. It is actually a tribe that is increasing in number and men that have never considered themselves as sexually appealing, found themselves turned into sex symbols. What I mean is that whoever you are, whatever you look like, you can make the best of what you have been given by nature and use it at your advantage if you learn to love yourself more.

  • Mindfulness

    Mindless seems to be the flavour of the moment. Even the NHS has taken it into consideration as a valid, cost-effective treatment. My rebellious self has felt a little antagonistic to it at first. I made fun of it, calling it "A re-branding for Meditation"' "New Age mysticism for bankers', "something new made up by something very old" and felt not very open to it.

    I am sorry! I regret my dismissive attitude, How could I have been so blind? Mindfulness is probably the future of treatment as it behold an immense potential. In the last few days of employment I had the opportunity to re-consider such matter as our clinical psychologist was promoting it. He was about to organise sessions for staff. What made me decide to attend to a sessions was his description of the concept of pain. He stated that pain is 40% made of the uncomfortable sensation and 60% made by our natural resistance to it. We feel pain, we want out, we have to do something . But the mindfully trained individual will do something different. One will look at her pain and accept it. It becomes as a prop; it is part of you, can't escape it. May as well embrace it. One can even find that the sensation described originally as painful becomes interesting , to be explored.

    The famous experiment with the currant also had a part in winning me over. Currants are tiny little things , in a fraction of a second they get into our mouthes a quick chewing and it has gone from the face of hearth. Brutal. The mindful currant experience consists in making this operation last.

    You can start by placing the currant on your palm , look at it , really make sure you see it as the complex structure it is, with wrinkles , textures, shapes. then you press it with the opposite hand's finger, assuring that you will not overlook any of the sensations that this little dry fruit is going to give you. You will roll it between your two fingers , you may have some enjoyment out of the feeling up this humble but unpredictable shape. it may be sticky, it may be dry. it may be elastic, it may be something. Keep delaying the process as much as you can think how to do it, finally the dry fruit will be placed on your tongue and the ritual will repeat itself. textures against the tongue, the palate, rolling, movement, and eventually bite into it. The flavour that will be release may surprise you. It is amazing how an ordinary gesture to which we don't attach any value or importance can be a vessel for discovery.

    I can now see the vast potential of being able to accept, to stay in the moment, to embrace. It has an incredible power. the being mode, compared to the doing mode seems to be more suitable to overcome feelings of depression, anxiety, or general negative emotions.

    We belong to the animal kingdom and we tend to respond to stress with a need for action. We try to think ourself out of the stressful situation. This because it is in our hard drive the information that stress equal action due to the fact that, originally, stress was caused by elemental sources: hunger, cold, dangers. In front of such difficulties, our animal organism produces adrenaline and the fight or flight state to help us to fix the dangers. In these days, however, more often than not, our malaises are of an existential nature. The doing mode, the adrenaline fuelled action might not be the most suitable tool to overcome the difficulty.

    You won't be able to think yourself out of a depression, I can guarantee that. The doing modeis not adequate in these cases. Mindfulness provides a new tool : The being mode.

    My Blog 2. Ipanemablue

    More on Chemsex

    The fact is that there is chemsex and chemsex; and chemsex and chemsex; and chemsex and chemsex

    Same formula, same drugs, different interpretation. This is my own classification i came up according to the reports I have collected during my work with this clientele.

    Brigitte Jones chemsex: Participants: young men aged between 20 and 40.Parties are a second best to the loving relationship they would love to have but that it hasn't come into their life yet. The used substances are more GBL/GHB and Mephedrone than Crystal Meth and many of the people involved have little or zero experience of drug use previous to this new trend. The men are not porn stars; just average looking guys feeling lonesome. Probably the sex is still protected and the level self-care may be good. Dangers: the guys are mostly inexperienced; easily seduced into taking new steps. easy to exploit, manipulate, use. Many have started to party at this level to escalate to heavier parties and substances.

    The Sex Gods chemsex These are the guys that have been involved at some level in the sex industry and they are mixing a bit of business with a little pleasure. The participants look stereotypically masculine in that all too gay way we can see in pornography. The group is usually closed to this type only; like an after work club, the men are well seasoned and experienced, they are well aware of what they are doing and the risks they are prepared to expose themselves;
    B>Dangers:The use of substances is illegal and if prosecuted the host, the landlord, will be getting charged with many crimes. The sex can be pushed to extreme levels.

    The Sodoma and Gomorrah parties Experienced men with good knowledge of seduction dynamics prey on less experienced men for personal advantage, This can be by allowing the new, less experienced, less good looking participant to buy most of the drugs and have their share for free. More sophisticated exploitations may include blackmail or even sex taken without consent Dangers: Many dangers: financial loss, being filmed and put on line without knowing it, possible traumatic experiences, abuse and rape unprotected sex, HIV, STI, and BBV spreading

    The bare backers and the breeders With the general acknowledgement of the undetectable HIV viral load being not so infectious many gay men have taken a more relaxed attitude to safer sex . The danger is when virus exchange is glamourised . No judgement, but my thoughts are that if this is how one feels, may be it would be not a bad idea to look into it. It is puzzling to think that some gay men want to contract HIV and more in the name of a perverted libido. Dangers:too obvious to mention.

    The Russian roulette parties I must say that I do not know if this is a fact or another of the many urban legends, however, I am aware that GAPLOP ( the organisation affiliated to the Metropolitan Police that deals with Hate Crime and consent issues ) is looking into this: this is the setting: It is a party fuelled by GHB/GBL. One of the shots mf GHB dispensed out is purposefully an OverDose. The shots are all identical and they are all mixed randomly. Once the G has taken effect and one of them will "go under" , the passed out individual will be the "bitch" and will be abused by the group. This is meant to happen with the full consent of the party goers. However, once the consenting party has made to go under, it is believed that he is "kept under" for as long as it takes. In this case the consent has gone. Dangers::. going under on G may be normalised in some groups but it is a fully fledged overdose that can cause death. Sexual injuries. Loss of control. I know that this can be desirable to some, but it is extremely dangerous.

    The super-tecnoligised Once again, myth or reality? I have spoken to people that believes that they have been victims of such crime (as a crime it is) but I cannot be sure that it was not a case of drug induced psychosis: The parties are often related to my second classification, the Sex Gods . you arrive and realise that there is a quasi-professional level of technology ; incongruent in a council flat. Also you feel as if you were “directed” to do stuff in a way that doesn’t do it for you, but it feels a must for the host. Apparently there is a growing industry for broadcasting sex live on line and there is money to be made. You may be broadcasting your sex live. Dangers :your employer/client /mum? may be watching you.

    The next is best parties All the guys with their smart phone in hand. No sex. They all all arranging the next party to go, the next person to invite, the next drugs to take. Nothing there seems to be good enough. The fun is the quest of the next.Dangers: die of boredom and not very good for your self-esteem.

    The super safe parties. Usually run by experienced guys with self-preservation sense. You will find charts to top up GHB on the hour and a half; condoms are handy and plenty. If one of the guys passes out on G an ambulance will be call. If slamming, it will be done according to harm-reduction guide-lines These are guys have survived the AIDS crisis and have developed a sense of care for one another, so ….Respect to them . Dangers: even the safest party may go out of hand. You may end up feeling complacent. Drugs are still very involving. So is sex. The combination of the two is very, very involving. it can catch you off-guard however safe you’ll try to keep it.

    My Blog 2. pop

    Chemsex - just a little fun or the enemy within?

    If most may be an assumption, at least many gay men have, or have had sex while high on some mood altering substance including alcohol, so one would be forgiven for thinking that Chemsex is not a new phenomenon.

    Well... think again; there are some fundamental differences. Dropping one or two E tabs while clubbing and ending up in bed the occasional stranger, having too much to drink down the local gay pub and tumble home with your old chum, smoking some cannabis in the company of an acquaintance that will soon change into a friend with benefits will not quite fit the Chemsex profile.

    Chemsex requires the conscious acknowledgement of the user that he is about to take some substances with the intention of enhancing the sexual sensation and prolog the performance. It is not a casual consequence of events. It implies the belief of the user that with these substances his sex will be much more interesting. He plans to take these drugs specifically for the sexual experience. It is not Dutch courage, it is not to break the ice, it is not the consequence of wanting to have some fun; it is integral part of the sexual experience, to the point that it may become the sex in itself.

    If we will rely on a shot of G or a line or M or a slam to enjoy our bodies, we surrender to the idea that sex in itself is not enough and that's a terrible shame!

    The act of using drugs is sexualised to the point that it is confused with sex itself. There are already porn sites in which there is no sex, but you can see men slamming each others. The penis is replaced by a syringe's needle. I am sure that none of us men that sleep with men would have planned to allow this to happen to us.

    But it has already happened . So what to do now? Well... stop for an instance and start re-discovering sex as it is. There are ways to wake up dormant senses that have been for too long padded with too much of Miss Turner's company. Falling in love is only on of many. There are experiences to get engaged with that do not demand a boyfriend. Just to give an idea, the BDSM scene has been having a range of sexual (or sensual) experiences and for decades this was not a drug fuelled scene. "But to get to that stuff you need to be high" I can hear you thinking. I would really suggest that if one is not prepared to do something as a sober person, he should not do it at all. Drugs will fade away and if you have taken part in something that is not you, that it doesn't match your morality ( in the broadest sense possible) you will suffer,

    Drugs can be used in sex, but drugs are not sex. And if you cannot have sex without them, you should do something about it.

    Ask me. We can talk about it

    My Blog 2. Triceps

    Challenging well eradicated beliefs about how to loose weight

    Cardiovascular exercise. Best friend or hidden enemy?

    Yes, things are not as clear as they used to be. I was trained to believe that cardio is indispensable to burn fat, it is healthy and it is suitable at all ages.In fact, I was given to believe that it was the safest way to maintain a low level of fat and burn off calories.

    Cardiovascular, without any doubt, does do such service to the organism, but, in men over 40, recent research has come up with further information. Cardio, especially in men over 40 causes us guys to produce Cortisol. Cortisol is an Adrenal gland produced hormone, it is not a hormone we particularly want. It is the hormone produced in the "Fight or Flight" syndrome. In other words, we produce Cortisol under stress. So, when engaging in hours of running on that road to nowhere that is the trade-mill, we may feel in a meditative state, but our organism is taking the effort as stress. As a consequence, it will lower the immune system . iFight or Flight mode is there to send blood to arms and legs to run faster or to fight the alleged enemy facing us, make us think and act fast and take sudden decisions, but to do so it slows down other functions amongst which the production of antibodies.

    It also activates the production of Glucose, which it is sugar, which, even without being a scientist, I suspect that it is not such a good idea o have in abundance.

    Continuous cardio will end up eating into lean muscles and reducing them. This is the last thing a man wants; or probably not the last, the last is the reduction in Testosterone production. Testosterone make us men, give us a sex drive and is essential in growing muscles... Well .... be prepared for this, along with the reduction of antibodies. For the very same reasons, perceived stress' production of Cortisone will causes exactly a reduction in the production of Testosterone.

    It has also been noticed that the loss of fat by cardio is negligible. I was told by a trainer, not in scientific terms that cardio burns while you are at it, but stops burning as soon as you stop doing it, just a low fat sandwich will give you back the calories you just burned with great effort; exercise containing some impact, causes some muscle repairing to do and create a oxygen debit to pay back to the organism which means that we keep burning calories after we have stopped exercising.

    I have read a very clear and easy article online Does Cardio make you fat? by Poliquin Editorial that explains in debth the many disadvantages of Cardiovascular exercise. If you like to confirm what I just have told you, please have a look at it and you'll never think of Cardiovascular exercise in the same way.

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