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April 1, 2015

Interview With Kris Gooding

1. A common problem that we hear often from our subscribers is a feeling of being inadequate and unworthy especially as they age. Women feel anxious and stressed as they compare their bodies and looks to the younger women and unfortunately believe they aren’t able to attract men into their lives because they aren’t physically attractive. Some of our subscribers confess that they hate their bodies and feel undesirable and unattractive whenever they look in the mirror .

Can you share your advice on what women can do to shift their negative self-talk and how they can be more self-accepting and start loving their bodies?

Will people still find you attractive and see you as someone they wish to be with, to date, or to continue to find alluring?

My short answer is, it does not matter if someone doesn’t find you attractive. Don’t give up on me and stop reading…hear me out.  I myself am a middle aged single woman. So I know this is hard to accept – but there are lots of people who won’t find you attractive. Yep. It’s true. And it does not have to matter. Believe me I have thought hard and long about this as I have approached my middle years. You have a choice to make and I suggest you make the choice to let it matter less.  Way less.

Be you young or older, slim or not so slim -you won’t be attractive to everyone. You will be attractive to some.  And the more you are able to let go of being defined by who or how many people like your looks, the richer your life will be.  I submit that the courage to move beyond the hype will actually make you more attractive.  That is because there is so much more to how you are seen than your weight or your wrinkles – and that is your VITALITY.

Don’t make yourself or your life smaller with too much focus on advertising and shallow values.  One day most of us will be very old – and we will want to have had a life of courage and depth. How will you feel if you look back and realize you chased an image?

So what is really important in aging is to get clear about what does matter. And I assert you need to let go of the need to meet some idealized standard set forth by media which has seeped into your brain of how you should look. I know this may sound annoying and simplistic. I don’t mean it to be insensitive of the reality that we as women live in a society that advertises and promotes youth and slimness.  But we have to choose whether we are going to value this above something more real.

So I am choosing to bring myself back again and again as I slip into wrong thinking; to self directed vitality. Because obsessing over my dress size, counting wrinkles and comparing myself to 27 year olds will not increase my vitality; it will diminish me in too many ways.  I am not suggesting your body doesn’t matter. It does. I am suggesting that we chose to define how it matters by what it can do for us, and how it allows us to experience the world through our physical senses. Not simply on how it looks to others.

How do I practice this? I make a choice to show up with pride, courage and self care. It’s not always easy.

The way I increase my vitality may be different than what fits for you. But here is what I mean by the shift in perspective:

I continue practicing my martial arts:  not to sculpt my body, but to feel energy in my muscles, and broadening of my physical experience.

I put on makeup most days: not to look appealing to men, but because I like what I see when I look a little more polished. I am as likely to wear it for a day in the park with my child as I am if I were going out.

I lift weights (at home):  not to lose weight, but to build strong bones and be able to swing my child in the air at the pool!

I challenge my mind: not so I can impress folks at a cocktail party, but so that my mind will be my ally well into my later years.

I (usually) eat healthy: not to lose weight, but because I notice that I feel better when I do. I try to eat as if I am feeding someone I love (because I am).

So with all this self directed perspective said, I will reveal a secret anyway: Most men will be more attracted to the average looking woman who has confidence, energy and self-direction (vitality)  than they will be to the most idealized type of woman who has let herself be diminished by this society’s silliness about age, weight and beauty.  And for those who are more superficial-we don’t need their attention.

This took me a long time to feel, and I struggle with it continually. However, when I check in with myself I come back to the belief that it doesn’t matter what men or others think of how I look. If I live with it mattering to me very much, I will be unhappy. I will be powerless and I will lose my vitality. I know that it is that life-energy that comes from inside, from confidence, from a bigger perspective, from self care and love and courage to be me – that makes me my most beautiful and radiant self. And that can be powerfully alluring.

2. Fantastic insights. Essentially you are advocating self love and self care. Do something because it makes you happy and because you want to and not to impress someone or please someone or to attract someone.

Another common problem we hear from our subscribers is the fear of being alone and never finding the right man. This is especially common as women enter into their thirties. They see their friends getting married and even having kids, they are asked by friends and family when they are going to get married and they feel the pressure of a ticking biological clock. In the process, they approach their relationships from a place of fear, worry and anxiety.

Instead of enjoying their dates and conversing with men, they tend to interrogate them so that they can stop wasting their time and weed off the wrong men. They tend to fall too hard and too fast in love when they find a man they like but often that scares men away.

What advice do you have for women who approach relationships from a place of worry and how can they shift from a clingy, desperate vibe to an empowered, joyful zone?

I am so often asked by friends and clients, “What am I doing wrong?”; “Why do I have to go on all these dates?” Or “It’s such a waste of time” (to take one’s time with someone). “What if I invest all this energy over and over and keep having relationships end?”

Well, though every situation is different and no answer I give is going to hit the mark for everyone; I do often hear myself saying some variation of, “You have to lighten up”. I try to frame this advice more cleverly, or with more tact and often there are nuances to the situation that need serious attention. But apart from all of that there is a common problem I often uncover of looking at dating as a win or lose proposition.  And that is when the term “investment” comes up. It is often used to describe a negative feeling that too much has been given of oneself getting to know another or too much time spent hoping for something that may not occur.

This is not the way to approach dating, or life. When you approach experiences, like dating from a place of that sort of negativity and desperation for success, there is an inherent pressure and unnatural push within it that obscures the flow for both people.  If you are so afraid you will be alone that you pressurize each experience, and each part of the relationship building- then that is what you will have – a pressure cooker.

Relationships are a part of life. Getting to know and connect with someone is in and of itself a life experience and can be a gift if looked at with an open heart and a desire to live fully. There is no reliable map to life. When I get lost in travel, I often find some really cool place I never knew existed. But I wouldn’t have noticed that if I had not been able to see past my plan, or peek around my disappointment to see the other things along the roadway.

Your friends who are married may think they have it all tied up in a neat little package. But they don’t. No one does. There are no neat packages when it comes to life, to love or to relationships. They last, they don’t. We marry, we divorce. People even pass away. Your friend who is getting married today may be divorcing when you are getting married in 10 years. A lot of people plan out their lives: college done by 22; married by 27; 2 kids by 33 etc. But this is not the way to live. This does not allow for the gifts that life can bring. It pressures your experiences. It makes you forfeit today for tomorrow, and it places undue pressure on that lovely date you could be having, because you are so intently sorting if he is the one.  It is important to note that you can’t see clearly with your head buried and ignoring warning signs that someone isn’t a good person. But you can’t see clearly if you are trying to make your life fit into a neat little box either.

Let life flow as much as you are able. Try to enjoy your experiences and learn from them and be open to possibilities. Be grateful for the things you discover, the people that you meet and even the “failures” because you can learn and grow from them if you choose to do so. Yes, move on when things feel all wrong, but also relax the journey a bit. Don’t wait until tomorrow to be content or pleased with your life. You will wish away your today focusing on that day you marry the perfect guy. You won’t see the beauty in your life now if you spend today worrying you will be alone tomorrow. This thinking places you alone within yourself right now. You will be on your course if you have some peace with the moment.

3. From our subscribers, we often hear “lack of chemistry” as a leading reason why they aren’t willing to go out on a second date with a man even though he seemed to be a decent guy and they were comfortable and treated with respect during the first date. Can you share your thoughts on chemistry and can attraction grow over time? Is it worth persisting with a man with whom a woman feels comfortable but doesn’t quite share the chemistry?

A friend of mine once declined a second date with a very nice guy, Dan. They had met through graduate school and were casual friends. She liked him and had watched him behave well and be a generally well mannered guy. He asked her to dinner, challenging her sense that he was only “friend” material. On the date, they laughed and had a good time. At the end of the date she decided to let him know she wasn’t interested in him romantically. She struggled with concern that she had let him down, but she was trying to be clear and not lead him into thinking she had a mutual intimate interest.

Later, when we talked she disclosed that she just didn’t feel “chemistry” with him. We tried to unpack it and discover just what it was that left her feeling less than a-flutter. He was reasonably attractive. It wasn’t that so much, as she admitted to feeling very attracted to men before who weren’t as cosmetically good looking but had a certain “something”. He was nice and had a good personality and sense of humor. But something was missing. She just couldn’t imagine herself kissing him. She felt no urge to be physically close to him.

With this assessment, my friend chose to keep him at friend status. I applauded her being clear with him and true to herself. I always advocate for women (and men) to be clear once they know their feelings. But here is the twist; several years later after some other dating experiences, and a failed relationship, she was still friends with Dan. But something was shifting. Dan had grown up a little and had more self confidence. They had maintained a casual friendship and genuinely liked each other. One night as Dan was telling a funny story at a party, my friend experienced something surprising: attraction. Cut to a few months later and Dan and my friend are now dating and enjoying chemistry as well as good friendship.

Did my friend change or did Dan? Was it timing or did Dan grow into a sexier guy? Was my friend wrong those years before or was it these unknown changes that created a different dynamic?

I’ve been asked to say something about whether a good guy you don’t feel chemistry with should be given more of a chance to “grow on you”. And I don’t know: because I don’t know YOU. In fact it seems to me that one important factor is how well you know you. Would my friend have found attraction to Dan once she gave some room for intimacy to grow? Or would they have crashed and both felt frustrated by trying to force a situation that didn’t feel right at the time?

Some women are very in touch with their sexual and romantic needs and desires and what it takes to make them feel satisfied and stay interested. For some women, it is aesthetics more than personality; for some it is personality qualities more than shared interests; for some it is the connection around talking about deeply held beliefs; for some it is certain sensuality and the guy just feels right. It is truly different for every woman. Some just know that a hard to describe “chemistry” is very important to sexual satisfaction. For some women sex is not highly important to relationship satisfaction, so “chemistry” isn’t considered so much. Also, being young or new to dating can make it harder for some to know what feels right and why.

So what should you do when you meet up with a guy and he is cool, generous and kind but you don’t feel that spark? I recommend you think about this with a few things in mind:

– How well do you know yourself and what you desire?

– Are there clearly things about how he looks, behaves, or approaches life for instance that turn you off or leave you feeling negative?

– Was the time spent with him enough time or in the right circumstance to get a good read on your feelings?

– Are you unsure? Therefore could you give it a chance without compromising yourself?

I am a believer in women following their instincts. However I have seen too many instances where women describe to me “not feeling it” upon first knowing a guy, but ended up in a relationship with him some time later that turned out very sexy and fulfilling.

What I do not like is when a woman says “No” to a guy and he persists and pursues without proper respect for her boundaries. A little effort is nice, but not when it becomes negating of your boundary. So this is NOT what I am referring to when I say that sometimes I think it is possible for a guy’s sensuality and chemistry to become felt over time. I believe the basic ingredients have to be there, meaning you find him somewhat attractive; you think he is a good guy; he is a reasonable consideration based on who you are. Then if the spark eludes you and you wonder why – perhaps giving it some time and space to grow naturally by hanging out and getting to know one another better is in order. This does not mean you have to have sex to find out more. I recommend that you just leave it casual and friendly and see if there is more.

On the other side I have seen women convince themselves to become romantically involved with someone that just didn’t feel right. It may have been that he pursued with vigor and she was worn down and gave in; or that she didn’t want to say no so she just coasted into a relationship; or that she didn’t consider carefully within herself what she wanted. In these circumstances, we put ourselves at relational risk for disappointment, lack of fulfillment or worse.

So please be true to yourself, consider your feelings and look objectively. Also be open to possibilities that aren’t always apparent. Talk it through with a trusted friend. Take it slow. When we give ourselves time to see how we feel, we often become clear in what to do.

And let no one make the decision for you.

4. Some of our subscribers feel stuck in their love lives because of their past emotional baggage. This affects them in a number of ways- they either tend to compare the next man they are dating with their ex or they have trust issues because they have been cheated on before or they just cannot seem to forget their ex and move on in life. What are some practical ways that can help women release their past emotional baggage so that they can start attracting healthy love into their lives?

Relationships are messy. We are social beings but we are imperfect. Strong emotional bonds form between people, and therein lay the potential for both deep connection, and also feelings of abandonment. Chances are you carry with you some emotional “baggage”;   if not from an adult relationship, often from a childhood one.  And if you are reading this it probably means that experiences from your past have felt hurtful in some way and have come to impact the way you relate to others now.

When we think of baggage we tend to think of something heavy and burdensome, that we would rather not carry. So my next question is;          why do aspects of your relational past feel like they are getting in your way today?

Another way of feeling could be that you have loved and lost, you have had some painful experiences with loved ones and intimates, but you see those experiences as part of who you are and not a drain on you psychologically.  Sounds nice right? But for most of us, someone has caused enough harm at some point to leave us struggling in at least a few areas of intimacy or connectedness.

So what can we do that will allow us to heal, to move through painful experiences with others and to emerge feeling whole and centered? The answer is lengthy and much has been written about this topic but let me attempt to capture a few key areas for focus that can set the path toward healing from relational baggage:

  • In terms of experience, to be able to integrate something that has occurred requires that we are able to think about what happened. We can block thinking with alcohol, drugs, or a process of coping with very difficult experience called dissociation. And some way of blocking out pain is often employed by us when we are overwhelmed.  But blocked experiences can remain stuck and unresolved. They become like phantoms popping up when we are triggered by anything that our brain senses as similar.  In this way, something as benign as an unanswered text can lead to a cascade of emotions linked to a previous abandonment.  We can experience confusing feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, guilt, shame and bring a whole host of less than optimal moments to our relationship.
  • Become aware. By proactively thinking about your past and your relational hardships, and becoming mindful of your feelings, thoughts, perceptions and beliefs around these stressful events – you can give your mind the tools it needs to start to heal.
  • Speak it. Find someone to listen. Talk about what is upsetting you, what happened, how it felt, how you understood it, why you think it occurred, and how it affected other areas of your life. If possible find a therapist for at least a few sessions to process your baggage so you can subject past hurts to the light of today.
  • Find meaning. Sort through the experiences that have hurt you, or caused you to disconnect, lose trust, and feel fear or shame. Identify ways these feelings are triggering alarms or causing discomfort today. Note when and under what circumstances you feel the difficulty. Then take measures to care for yourself NOW.
  • Strive to heal. What did you need when the hurt originally occurred? Did you need more honesty, safety, compassion, love, communication, empathy, or attention?  Knowing what your unmet need was when you became burdened with baggage can help you give that to yourself now, and to request that kind of care in your current relationship.

If it feels like there is something blocking you from being open to true intimacy in your current relationship, it may be that your current relationship lacks the warmth or authenticity necessary to allow you to feel connected. But it is also true that many of the feelings that haunt our current relationships are leftover from the past. You deserve a fuller experience and looking through that heavy luggage can reveal what needs attention.

5. Some women have the tendency to attract the wrong men over and over again. Some repeatedly fall for the cheaters, players, men with addiction issues etc. A lot of experts talk about how this comes from unresolved childhood wounds and second they also point out that women may themselves have commitment issues. On the surface though, women find it hard to accept that they would repeatedly fall for the wrong men because that’s what they unconsciously want. Can you explain this issue in detail and how women can overcome this issue?

Do you unconsciously desire a bad guy?

I don’t think so. I know many in my field might disagree, and much popular psychology has told us that we unconsciously seek out those who will harm us in ways we are accustomed to being treated. We hear that we are attracted to bad stuff because it feels familiar. Or even worse, that we like to be treated badly because it allows us to stay in old patterns. This feels a little like blame the victim speech to me.

But to be fair, the more acceptable and expanded version of this idea is that ‐ as a child, we had negative experiences in our primary relationship’s (for instance, we had an emotionally abusive parent). Because of this formative relationship, as adults, and in an effort to gain mastery over that previously powerless experience, we seek out those who will replicate the harm. That way we can gain power over it as adults; power we did not have as a child.

But I don’t think that is usually true. I also don’t consider the perspective all that useful for finding a way out of an unhealthy relationship now. I think what can happen oftentimes though:

1. We have relational experiences. Those early ones especially, teach us what relationships feel like and what our value is based upon.

2. If we have negative experiences, our brain has connected those with what it means to be in a relationship (and to feel love or seek love).

3. We are therefore poised to accept certain negative behaviors going forward.

This is in part because we are accustomed to them, in part because we pair them with love, and in part because they have eroded our self-esteem.

Also those unpleasant behaviors or traits aren’t something we have learned to put boundaries around either. As children we can not place boundaries on adults. We have to accept the way things are and adjust our concept of ourselves to fit into the situation. This often leads to feelings that we are the problem, we are bad, and even that we are unlovable.

On the other hand, if we were treated with love and consistent respect as a child, when we encounter an abuser or something unhealthy, we are more likely to sense something is wrong. Therefore we are better informed and more powerfully positioned internally to place boundaries and limits on that person and therefore either rule them out as a long term mate, or exhaust the abuser’s ability to cope with our boundaries and self esteem ‐ and he ( or she ) will leave (because we are not so easily manipulated).

So how do you learn to recognize, attract and keep more healthy relationships? And how do you move away from partners or potential partners who are unhealthy for you, or treat you badly?

People are sometimes in therapy for years to begin to sort these dynamics out and to connect to places within themselves where needs were not met in childhood. Folks often have to work very hard to know what healthy feels like, and then to develop the self esteem and skills to find those sorts of people with whom they can have a relationship that does not erode their well being.

So if you are having issues with repeatedly finding yourself in relationships where harm is being done to you, or you feel worse about yourself than you did before you got involved with someone, I encourage you to find a professional who can help you sort things out.

Some of the tips I suggest are the following:

1. Journal about your childhood relationships. All childhoods involve some unmet needs. Think about what needs were not met in yours. Look for needs around protection (physical, sexual, emotional). Look also for needs for connection and attunement. Look for the needs around acceptance and feeling important.

2. Think about what would have helped to make you feel genuinely cared for, protected, valued, respected, honored, and important.

3. Then look for connections to your relationships now. Are there ways in which those same needs are being unmet today? Are there patterns in the unmet needs you experience?

4. Ask yourself what you need to feel supported, cared for and honored right now. Aren’t they similar to what you needed in the hurt or lonely moments from childhood?

5. Begin to find ways to get those needs met. Do this for yourself first. Once you become more attuned to yourself, your authentic loving nature, and genuine human needs ‐ you will be better able to make decisions and judgement about the role others are playing to either support your well being or contaminate it.

Be aware that once you get in touch with this there will often be grieving for what you haven’t had enough of, what you have lost, or time you have spent with unloving people. This is where you will need support. We all need nurturing and if you have a friend, mentor or therapist you can trust, it will help.

Also, you will most likely be needing to learn more about boundaries. If you have been in damaging adult relationships you most certainly have much to learn about boundaries. Its not your fault. Most of us were not taught about healthy boundaries by anyone. But for health in your relational life, you will need to know where boundaries are appropriate and get some training on how to speak them and protect them.

Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity.

About Kris Gooding

Kris Gooding

Kris Gooding, LCSW is a practicing psychotherapist and educator in Gainesville Fl. In her practice she sees both individuals and couples. Among her clients are folks working on relationship issues, communication, sexuality and intimacy goals, anxiety, self esteem, postpartum anxiety and depression, divorce, parenting struggles, grief and other life changes.

To learn more about Kris, visit her website Find-Within.com.




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