I’ve often wished I had a biofeedback device that could tell me whether something I was doing was good, bad, or neutral for my body. I have found pain and other sensations ambiguous directors. What are they asking for? This has been especially important in the last few years, dealing with injuries and slower healing. I recently asked my physiotherapist, Shannon, for her general recommendations for reading pain related to an activity. This is what she said:

1) Joint pain is never okay. If you experience joint pain during or after activity something is wrong; consider getting help to figure out what.

2) You should have no muscle pain during an activity (if you do, it means you are doing way too much).

3) Muscle pain after an activity means you are close to the right intensity – try lowering intensity and/or duration for a while and see how you respond.

4) Mild to moderate muscle pain in the next couple days is fine as long as it doesn’t escalate.

5) Each time you add an activity, do it at a constant level for 1-2 weeks before increasing duration or intensity

I forget who showed me this–someone I worked with at the old Rancho Mirage Charthouse. Squeeze some lemon juice onto your watermelon. I like watermelon a lot, but with lemon I love it. It’s so delicious that I’m surprised it’s not a big thing. Try it and thank me.

This video makes a good case for using your full range of motion every day. The way I understand it, “the fuzz” is actually a healing process. Some tissues, like bone, “know” which way to send their healing protein. Soft tissue like fascia, though, send out their healing fibers in all directions, and rely on the body’s movement to break the strands that shouldn’t be there. If we don’t use our full range of motion, however, those strands start to glue everything together.

I have received several letters from my past self, as part of a ritual we do sometimes at Not Back to School Camp. The idea is to send the feeling and ideas of an experience forward, a reminder of the sense of clarity, inspiration, and purpose that is common at the end of a session of camp. It’s always interesting to get one of these letters, but they don’t often hit home like this one that I just received from myself of one year ago, just before I started seeing clients.

Hi Nathen,

I just did this guided imagery thing w-Jonathan Stemer in Child & Family Assessment and am to write or draw to you, my just-graduated self. I imagined myself as an old man, wrinkly, bald, spotty & beaming. The thing is, you will be an old man and you will look back on your just-graduated self with real love, with fondness & satisfaction. One thing you would want to say to yourself is that everything works out. You wouldn’t exactly say not to worry about it, because the worry is part of everything working out, but it has that flavor. Your story is good. You are worthwhile. People have been better off for knowing you. You are, right now, doing great. Notice it if you can.

Have a great summer, Nathen.



Add drawing of old-man Nathen here –>

It’s funny to find myself giving a presentation about getting a date, as I’ve asked exactly one person for a date and was rejected. I agreed to help with a presentation in my Sex Therapy class about clients who are lonely and want to date. This is my rough (but roughly accurate) outline for my part of the presentation, about what the research says:

Things to Know About Loneliness

It’s common. 10-25% of people are significantly lonely. Adolescents and young adults are the loneliest groups.

There are two kinds: Social and emotional—a lack of a sense of social integration, and the absence of an attachment figure. Most research is about social loneliness, and the two can get confounded. Our clients may mistake one for the other.

It is bad for us. Both social integration and attachment figures are human needs. It significantly increases morbidity and mortality, probably mediated by stress and also possibly by metabolic syndrome. Predicts 25-30% of suicidal behavior. Loneliness is a key vulnerability in sexual offending.

Things to Know About Dating

Lots of people are single. Maybe close to half.

Rejection hurts. Physically. Seriously. It may actually help to take a Tylenol. Normalize the pain and the fear of pain.

There is a lot of research and it may be good to know, for psychoed purposes:

Awareness. To get a date, other people must be aware of you. Are your clients making others aware of them? The general rule here is to stand out from the crowd in some way that does not violate social norms. Standing out in a negative way will not help.


Physical attractiveness is a big deal. Sorry, it just is. If it is an issue, consider a conversation with clients about grooming. Beyond that, blame the media and move on to the points below.

Appropriateness. Again, violating social norms generally will turn people off. There is also a lot of research on stuff like age, social/economic status, and race/ethnicity acting as “appropriateness” filters for affiliation, but I’m not sure how helpful that will be for clients.

Familiarity. People will like you more just because they know you. As long as you didn’t make an initial negative impression, becoming a regular will help you.

Similarity. Opposites attract is wrong. People like people who are like them. This is a good plug for meeting people at special-interest events. (Bars are an exception. Very few real relationships start in bars.)

Responsiveness. We like people who seem interested in us. Eye contact, questions, turning towards bids for attention. Check your clients for an exaggerated sense of putting themselves out there.

Approach/Affiliation. If you want someone to approach you and choose you, you need to be accessible and receptive. These are much like the awareness, familiarity, and responsiveness principles, above.

Today a chiropractor told me, based on my x-rays, that my left pelvic bone had gotten stuck. He held his hands out as if he were going to catch a basketball and said, “Imagine my hands are your pelvic bones and we’re looking at them from behind. Your pelvis did this [bending his left wrist back] and got stuck there.” He adjusted my pelvis, which seemed like a very mild adjustment for the problem he described, and gave me this list of “do’s and don’ts” for the next few weeks. Following them will mean walking a lot more and sitting a lot less–probably a good thing even if my pelvis wasn’t twisted.

1. Do not sit for extended periods of time. Alternate your positions–standing, sitting, walking, lying down. When driving long distances plan to stop every half hour or so for a brief walk.

2. Walking is the best exercise for you at this time. Temporarily discontinue all other sports activity and exercise programs. Ask us about a particular activity if you are not sure.

3. Avoid movements that use your abdominal muscles and the muscles of your lower back. Avoid awkward twisting, bending, and lifting movements. Get next to, under, or behind any object or load that you need to lift. Use your leg muscles as much as possible and spare the muscles of your lower back. Avoid “sit-up” type movements.

4. Avoid movements that spread one leg far apart from the other–all straddling positions.

5. Do not cross your legs or ankles.

6. If any discomfort occurs in the sacroiliac area ice can be applied 15 minutes out of every hour.

7. The proper procedure for lying down and getting up is most important. To lie down, first sit and then slowly lower your body bringing up both of your legs, being careful to keep them together. Then, turn your body on your back using your arm and leg muscles. When arising, turn your body on its side, drop your feet to the floor while pushing up with your arms and legs, not using your stomach or back muscles.

8. When moving objects from one place to another, make sure that both your feet are pointing in the same direction as your upper body. Do not keep one foot planted while twisting your body and moving the other foot the direction your are twisting.

Dear Nathen,

US Airways is an awful company to do business with. Please do not forget this again. Perhaps this post will help.



I’ve never been a huge fan of Dan Savage. He rubs me the wrong way kind of like Dr. Laura rubs me the wrong way. They both have moral codes so strong that they don’t need to know very much about a person before dishing out copious advice. Of course, they are both in the business of giving advice, so I guess it comes with the territory. I just want anyone with that much power to listen more and be less sure of their moral code. Their supplicants are real people with complex, unique histories, families, confusion, and pain. Advice before understanding is premature–I read that in one of my textbooks and underlined it. True. And if you think you understand someone after they’ve said a few sentences, you are wrong.

But this video makes Dan Savage a hero to me. This is using power for good. So many gay kids kill themselves! It’s a real, ongoing tragedy and shame in the US. Just at the developmental phase where fitting in is the highest priority, these kids are often denied respect and bullied mercilessly. But it gets better:

I love buckwheat but I’ve been frustrated with it. Most of the time it just explodes into this muck in the pan and the texture is terrible. It still tastes decent, but it’s not as good as I remember from my childhood.

So I emailed my dad for his recipe. He made the original buckwheat I fell in love with. Now I know what I was doing wrong: cooking buckwheat just like other grains. It’s understandable. That’s how everyone says to do it on the internet: Two parts water, one part grain, cook until the water is gone. Unfortunately, that is a recipe for muck, not delicious buckwheat.

Here’s how to do it, straight from my dad [with a few comments from me in brackets]:

Saute onions lightly in oil [I’ve been adding garlic, shallots, and other alliums, and sauteing in butter. You can also caramelize them a bit.]

Add buckwheat and stir in with heat up [This step is crucial. If you bought toasted buckwheat, just heat it up. If you bought raw buckwheat, toast it in another pan before adding it to the onions. This is also when to add salt, if you’re not going to use soy sauce in the final dish.]

Then add water about 1/1 [That’s right, not 2:1!]

Turn down to simmer, let cook about 25 minutes and check for enough water. Sometimes you have to add a bit to get the right texture [You have to watch it, at least at first. I had a batch cook perfectly in less than 10 minutes. Other times it’s taken longer.]

You can run a knife down to the bottom of the pan (I recommend using a frypan with lid) to see if you have enough water. It will start getting hard at the bottom if there is not enough.

That will get you perfect, delicious buckwheat, hopefully on the first try. It’s hands-down my favorite food right now.

I read this sample of how to explain eye contact to couples a few weeks ago, in Brock and Banard’s Procedures in Marriage and Family Therapy (p. 71):

“Good eye contact is designed to communicate that the listener is paying attention to what is being said so that the speaker feels attended to. When good eye contact is present, a speaker usually does not need to get angry or resort to some other attention-getting strategy to make sure that the listener pays attention. Good eye contact consists of looking in the pupil of another’s eye and moving back and forth from eye to eye while the other speaks.”

I agree with all of that except for the last sentence. When making eye contact with your partner, do not shift from eye to eye. That kind of eye contact is better than nothing, but it’s not great. Shifting your eyes back and forth make you look nervous and shifty if you do it fast enough, and even if you slow it down you give the impression of looking at your partner’s face, rather than into their eyes. The same goes double for other popular advice about eye contact, like looking at your partner’s nose or hairline.

Here’s  how to make good, intimate-feeling eye contact:

1) Figure out which of your eyes is dominant. To do this, look at a small object that’s fairly far away, then make a circle around the object with your thumb and first finger. Close each eye and see which one has the object in the circle. That is your dominant eye–the eye that you really look out of. The other eye is more of a backup eye.

2) When making eye contact, look into the pupil of your partner’s eye that is directly across from your dominant eye. If your left eye is dominant, for example, look into their right eye. Check the other eye once or twice to see if that feels better, and stick with the eye that feels the most like you are looking into each others’ eyes. (The reason to check is that your partner may have the same dominant eye as you do, and thus across from your dominant eye. You don’t need to remember or even understand this, but if you’re interested, the ideal situation for eye contact is that you and your partner have opposite dominant eyes, one left, one right. That makes everything easy. If not, you end up figuring out whose dominant eye is more dominant and going that way. Try the procedure with someone you know and love and you’ll see what I mean.)

3) Remember that it can take some practice to do this and stay relaxed, but it is worth it. I recommend setting aside time with romantic partners to simply sit and look into each others’ eyes. And make plenty of good eye contact when talking with each other.

4) Remember also that different people of different cultures may have different reactions to direct eye contact. And I don’t just mean people from other countries. There are  people in eye-contact-making cultures who can’t stand to make eye contact for more than a fraction of a second. Be sensitive to this. Do not force eye contact on anyone. I’ve seen dancers who crane their heads to catch and keep their partner’s eyes and it makes the partner uncomfortable. Remember that there is the I’m-just-looking-at-your-face strategy and the even less intimate I’m-just-looking-at-your-face-every-once-in-a-while strategy.

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