If you’re not in your body, where are you?
In a sneak peek of a recent Q&A from The Afterglow, somatic educator, body worker, and empowerment self-defense teacher Diane Long; kinkster and relationship coach MksThingsHappin; and psychotherapist Matthew Amador respond to a listener who asks whether checking out during sex might be a sign of trauma. And somatic therapist Elmo Painter leads a guided visualization to bring pleasure into daily experiences.
Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
#S2E8 | Get Into Your Body
[Wild & Sublime theme music]
Diane Long: Is it a problem that penetration is not accessible, that that's painful? If that's not so much an issue, then how do we expand pleasure in different ways?
Matthew Amador: We are a Western culture that prizes answers, prizes solutions, prizes that kind of very linear way of looking at, "Okay, here's where my problem starts, and that's going to be where it ends." And it's much more complicated than that.
Elmo Painter: I don't know anybody who was raised in a culture of sex positivity. All over the world, all different religions, there's some form of sex shame going on. We cannot escape it.
Karen Yates: Welcome to Wild & Sublime, a sexy spin on infotainment®, no matter your preferences, orientation or relationship style, based on the popular live Chicago show. Each week, I'll chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity. You'll hear meaningful conversation, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I'm sex educator Karen Yates. Today, we talk about traumas big and small, and approaches we can take toward more pleasure. Keep listening.
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Hello, everyone. Today, we will be taking a bit of a look at trauma. But don't worry, it's not a super-heavy episode. I say "a bit of a look" because with the following two segments, we'll be talking generally about the subject, and helping orient folks to ideas about what trauma is exactly. You'll hear a Q&A as well as an interview with a somatic therapist, complete with a really cool visualization. In future episodes, we will be diving in deeper about how trauma affects the body, specifically around pleasure. Before we get to our first segment, I wanted to read a really nice Facebook message from a listener named KJ that we got last week. KJ says: "I've listened to and read so much in the realm of sexuality and sexual ed over the past few years in my self-training as an educator, and was so tired of the same old, then stumbled across your podcast, and HOLY SHIT!!!" That's all caps, three exclamation points. "Holy shit, I'm revitalized and filled with life connection and awe that I have been longing for. Really fantastic work. Thank you.: I have to say, I got this message on a day when I was feeling pretty down, and it just lifted me up. So thanks, KJ. I really appreciate it.
And if you, gentle listener, want to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review or contact us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or at . So, first up, a selection from our December Afterglow question-and-answer. The full version is available to our monthly members. You'll be hearing from somatic educator, body worker, and empowerment self-defense teacher Diane Long; kinkster and relationship coach MksThingsHappin; and psychotherapist Matthew Amador. Enjoy.
[to panel] So, I would like to welcome Diane Long, Matthew Amador, and Mksthingshappin. Welcome all. So, today we have some questions from our Patreon subscribers. One person wrote -- they did not sign it -- "There's a lot of talk about trauma now in the media. How do I know if trauma has affected me? I'm in my 30s" -- and then in parentheses, 'cis hetero female' -- "and I don't have bad memories, but in the past couple of years, I see myself get shut down when I had sex with two former partners. Not into penetration because of pain, feel like I'm not really present. Could this be trauma, and what do I do about it?"
Diane Long: So there's a lot happening in this question, which I really appreciate. First of all, I think growing our awareness about how the body responds to stress is super helpful in general. So that a basic understanding of trauma -- you know, like demands put on the system, I think of that as stress, and when the demand is over, the body kind of returns to its baseline. And with trauma, even though the event's over, those things are still living in our systems. And so, understanding that we all have smaller traumas, little-t traumas or big-T traumas in our lives, and that's a natural part of life. But something about the traumatic experience of something that's too much, or too fast, beyond our capacity to manage with the resources that we have at the moment, can leave us sometimes with stories that our bodies are holding, and we don't necessarily even know the content.
What I think is so exciting about somatic work, or working directly with the body, is we don't have to have specific details. We don't have to work specifically with the content of what happened. So this question of, is it trauma, I think is -- you know, for me, it would sort of be like, what's happening in your life now? What is it that you want to grow? Are there places where you feel limited? Or things that you'd like to experience more of? So less about "Is this trauma?" Or, "What was the trauma?" And more about how is it impacting your life now. I think being able to have more awareness of how trauma plays out in the body helps us be more compassionate, less judgmental. I think it counters some of the isolation that happens for a lot of folks, particularly with chronic pain, or the things that we don't quite understand, or relationship challenges. And I heard in that question, too, you know, "What do I do?" And so I think, already, the person is describing, just that noticing, and sort of naming what's happening, the naming that "I have tended to shut down in a past couple of relationships." And so sort of that process of bringing in more mindfulness -- to notice what's happening, to name it, to start to talk about it, and to build more awareness of your own patterns. I would say also, bringing in more resources and curiosity about what works well, what has worked in the past. Right? And what's working well in the relationship. It sounds like certain parts of sexuality maybe are not as desirable or as accessible. But are there other things that are working wel? Helping somebody pay attention to positive sensations and experiences on purpose, as a way to grow those. You know, sort of that neuroplasticity that was alluded to earlier. And then just a variety -- I would come in with maybe that first question, of what is it that you're wanting? What is it that you're wanting to grow? And from this question, it sounds like maybe the ability to be more present. And so, you know, some of the things I think about are slowing down, doing things that have a time limit, taking things off the table that maybe feel problematic or inaccessible, and really bringing in that spirit of experimentation and play. You know, I work a lot with exploring preferences, in terms of pace and pressure, and playing with different sensations as a way into choice. "I like this more, I like this less." Finding words to talk about what feels good, starting to notice subtle shifts in our system, so that we can actually get a sense of the fact that things can change. Around pain, I think it can be really hard to be with pain. Like, a lot of us don't want to spend time in a place that's painful, especially if we feel like we don't have a lot of control over what's happening. So, being able to slow down, and have support, and feel into qualities of pain, and how that changes over time, and being able to feel places that feel better, so that we know that it's not stuck, it's not all one thing. So kind of growing these places of comfort and connection in real time. So that's just probably a starting place for that.
Karen Yates: That's great. And I really appreciated that you brought in the angle that this person is already noticing that there is a discomfort. That's, you know, really laudable, and I'm glad you pointed that out -- that in the beginning stages of noticing, that's really the most powerful point. It's like, I am noticing now that something is not -- I'm not comfortable with something in my body when I experience intimacy.
Diane Long: If I can add on to that, too, like, is it a problem, that penetration is not accessible, that that's painful? Is that something that they want to work on for themselves? Or because of their relationship with partners? And then there's ways to do that. If that's not so much an issue, then how do we expand pleasure in different ways? And how do we expand presence in different ways? So really, you know, keep bringing it back to that person, about what is it that they're wanting to grow.
Karen Yates: Matthew and Mksthingshappin, any thoughts?
Mksthingshappin: I wanted to go back to the the penetration in painful. You know, there's a lot of ways to enjoy sexual activity that does not involve penetration. I think, thanks to the media, thanks to porn, people think that P-in-V is the only way to get things done, or some combination of that. And the nice thing is, once you're with a partner that you trust, you have feelings for, there's a connection, you can find many, many ways ways to find gratification that are just not based on biological parts.
Karen Yates: Yes. Matthew.
Matthew Amador: Part of the question that I keep coming back to is, being curious about "Is this trauma? Could this be trauma" And, yeah, possibly. It could also be anxiety, it could also be a lot of other things. And one thing that I would hope for this person is that there would be space to maybe not start at the solution, but give themselves the luxury of space and time, through exactly what Diane was talking about, in terms of mindfulness: being aware of what's happening in their body at the present moment. It's really easy to see something and be like, "Okay, how could this be trauma? How can this be anxiety? How can I make this be the answer?" And we are a Western culture that prizes answers, prizes solutions, prizes that kind of very linear way of looking at, "Okay, here's where my problem starts, and that's going to be where it ends." And maybe this isn't that easy. I think, actually, the first show I was on of yours, Karen, I was talking about sexuality and how nuanced and complex it can be in the body, and how a lot of people think it's kind of like that Ariana Grande a song, where it's very linear. It's very like, "I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it." Like, that's just a very clear, focused way of like, "Okay, there we go. That's how desire works." And it's much more complicated than that. It doubles back on it, it can go back a couple spaces, it can go around and not collect 200 bucks. It really, really can be very, very complicated. So, I would hope that there's space for them to continue to be present with themselves, and just notice what's happening in their body. And be curious. Continue to be curious.
Karen Yates: For more info on Diane, Mksthingshappin and Matthew, go to our show notes.
Did you enjoy the segment you just heard? If you become a member of our monthly members club The Afterglow on Patreon, every month you will hear a full-length panel segment. For as little as $5 a month, you can ask anonymous questions that our rotating panel of sex experts will answer. Higher levels can watch live on Zoom and receive merch, be mentioned on the show, and attend monthly hangouts with me and your friends. We rely on Afterglow subscribers and one-time contributors to help us with the expenses of putting together this podcast. Consider joining. The link is in the show notes. Thank you. Wild & Sublime is also sponsored in part by our Sublime Supporter, Chicago-based Full Color Life Therapy, therapy for all of you, at fullcolorlifetherapy.com. If you would like to be a Sublime Supporter, showcasing you and your business and supporting us at the same time, contact us at .
And now for my interview from the July 2019 show at Constellation in Chicago with somatic psychotherapist and relationship coach Elmo Painter. As I mentioned earlier, during the interview, Elmo incorporates a very cool visualization that you can enjoy.
[to Elmo] You're a somatic therapist, I'm a somatic sex educator. What does "somatic" mean? [laughs]
Elmo Painter: Somatic, meaning "of the body."
Karen Yates: inside the body, feeling the body,
Elmo Painter: Mmhmm. I do a lot of body mindfulness, emotional mindfulness. I do a lot of trauma processing, through movement and sensations in the body, and using visualizations, impulses, and things of that nature, to get people more out of their heads and into their bodies, so stuff that's stuck in there can move through.
Karen Yates: Yeah, right. Because the body has a wisdom, a wisdom that's not about the wisdom of the mind. So, what's the first thing you work on with clients? Or what do you do with clients when they first come to you, and they want to get out of their heads during sex? What do you do?
Elmo Painter: I teach sensual empowerment workshops. And when somebody comes to me, and that's what they want to work on, we start kind of way back out of the bedroom, and start thinking about things like: What does it feel like to be in water? What does it feel like in your body right now, when you think about eating something really delicious, that somebody that you love cooked for you? Like, what do you notice about yourself when you think of just putting your feet in grass? You know, just like, sensual things, using the five senses, thinking about things that they like to look at, things you'd like to listen to, and then from there going into: How do you like to be touched? A lot of times, people don't know how they like to be touched. That's kind of a new concept. Like, "What do you mean? Touching just happens!" So, experimenting with light self-touch, and then a little bit harder, and kind of like, well, what do you feel like? What do you like better? So going way back, because most people, if they're needing some empowerment or some healing around that, I can't just be like, "So you just tap into your inner sex-divine-being..." They're like, "Okay, yeah, I know what that is..." Because most of us were not raised like that.
Karen Yates: Right?
Elmo Painter: To put it super mildly.
Karen Yates: Yeah, it's totally real small steps by small steps, right? So it sounds like the first thing you do is kind of just orient them to just the idea of pleasure kind of across the board. It's not necessarily a sexual pleasure.
Elmo Painter: Yes.
Karen Yates: It's just like, "I like ice cream."
Elmo Painter: Yeah.
Karen Yates: And so you're like, "Well, like, why do you like it?" Or like, what's going on there?
Elmo Painter: Yeah.
Karen Yates: And this idea of touch. I'm realizing what that might do for folks, to see that they have choices around touch. Understand that there's a whole menu.
Elmo Painter: Hmmhmm.
Karen Yates: So you've worked with people with trauma?
Elmo Painter: Yes.
Karen Yates: But that's not always about sexual trauma.
Elmo Painter: Right.
Karen Yates: So, let's unpack trauma for a second.
Elmo Painter: Yeah. There's all kinds of relational traumas, and smaller traumas, and cultural traumas.
Karen Yates: Yeah. So, cultural trauma. So, a person might come to you like, "I had a great childhood. Nothing happened to me. I'm cool. But I can't get out of my head during sex."
Elmo Painter: Right.
Karen Yates: So like, what's this culture piece -- beyond oppression, cultural oppression, which is everywhere.
Elmo Painter: So, specifically like, the sexual culture piece. I don't know anybody who was raised in a culture of sex positivity. Like, all over the world, all different religions, there's some form of sex shame going on. And we all have -- we cannot escape it. It just is in the world, you know, going back to that piece of, "connect to your inner sexual, like, divine being!" And most people don't know what that is. And so that's a little bit of like, proof, that we all have a, "How do I get in touch with me?" And a lot of people just have a lot of autopilot going on. Like, well, it's just sex. You just go show up and you do the thing, and then you're done. And then sex happens, and that's it.
Karen Yates: And you're bitterly disappointed if it's not this magical thing. Cuz you're just kind of like, "We're two people colliding in a bed..." [laughter] And you know, you were hoping for a good collision... [laughter] But it was, it was--
Elmo Painter: It was subpar.
Karen Yates: It was a fender-bender, and someone got whiplash. [laughter] But no, seriously. Yeah, right. I mean, we do. It's like, it is a collision in a bed. And you're just hoping for the best, right?
Elmo Painter: Yeah. And that's where the empowerment piece comes in. Because when you can bring communication, when you can bring a little bit of, "I know that I like this one thing,..."
Karen Yates: Right? Just one thing,
Elmo Painter: Just one thing. Yeah. Then you can get a little bit of what you were wanting, coming into the situation, right?
Karen Yates: Right. Because if you identify one thing, then I'm positive, you're gonna identify another thing. Right?
Elmo Painter: Yeah!
Karen Yates: Because you found at least one thing you dig. You work with, like stones, right? Tumbled stones with people?
Elmo Painter: I do
Karen Yates: Talk about that.
Elmo Painter: Okay, so I have a box of tumbled gemstones in my office, all different colors, all different textures, stuff like that. And I have people choose the one they like the best, and the one they like the least. And this helps people who don't have a whole lot of sense of their own boundaries to feel into, "Yeah, I like this one," or "No, I don't like that one." That's when the somatic piece comes in. So, what do you notice in your body? Like, what kind of sensations do you notice about your breath? What do you notice about your muscle tension? What kind of bubbly -- what we call "activation." So the somatic, the body piece, the physiological sensation of anxiety, excitement, fear, anger -- like, this activation is what we generally call the physiology of that. So paying attention to that, and kind of like, going back and forth, and being like, "Oh, okay. I feel the -- yeah, I like this more. And I feel the... I don't like that as much." And it's a really slight way to start practicing your authentic yes, and your authentic no.
Karen Yates: And people basically can kind of take that same skill into their everyday life.
Like, you walk into the bar, and you're like, "Oh, what am I feeling here?" Or, "Why do I want this one thing, versus this one thing?" Or, "Why do I like this one toilet paper better than this other toilet paper?" No, seriously, right? Do you like the fluffy, or the strong?
Elmo Painter: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Karen Yates: Okay. You had a visualization you wanted to do with the audience?
Elmo Painter: Yeah!
Karen Yates: So yeah, let's do it. Let's do it.
Elmo Painter: Do you guys want to do an experiment? [audience cheering]
Karen Yates: Oh, yeah! You're frisky. I like it, like it.
Elmo Painter: Okay. I'm gonna stand up, because I'm a cartoon, and I need to feel wobbly. Okay, so, right now, just feeling into your muscles, feeling into your skin. You can have your eyes open or closed, either way. Noticing the sounds in the room. And rather than reaching for the sounds, if it makes sense, allow the sounds to come to your ears. Allow the voice vibrations to come to your ears, take the effort out of listening, and just allow receptivity.
And check in with your breath. Check in with any emotional sensations that you're feeling. And just notice like how much access you have to those sensations. And if you don't have a whole lot of access, that's totally okay. Check in with what you do have access to. And now, think about something that is one of your favorites, like your favorite place, your favorite food, your favorite piece of jewelry, your favorite museum, favorite pair of shoes, favorite fetish. Just think about one of your absolute favorite things. And notice how those same sensations in your body respond. Notice how your muscles respond, and your breath.
And see if maybe you can tap into a tiny bit more awareness than you could at the beginning. Say, maybe you notice your fingers this time, maybe you notice your feet this time, maybe you notice your back against the chair.
For the next part of this exercise, think of something that happened within the last few days -- maybe the last two days, like 24 to 48 hours -- that was irritating, or irksome, or just like blah! We're not working with any trauma right now, or triggers. We're just, like, somebody cut you off in traffic, or you just missed the bus, or you stubbed your toe, or, you know, your pet went potty on the floor, or your human pet went potty on the floor, or you know, something that was just irksome, is kind of what we're going for. Think of something like that. And now, notice how your body responds. Notice your breath, your heartbeat, your muscles, your attention, any of those emotional sensations.
Now go back to your favorite thing.
Let all those feelings happen. Let all that change happen. If any. You might not notice a whole lot of difference, and if not, totally okay. There's no wrong answer.
So then, with that kind of yumminess that you have, thinking of your favorite, now bring some of that back to the irksome memory, and just see what's different. See if anything is different. If it's more or less, or if it's about the same. How tolerable is it? More, less, the same. And now come back to your favorite thing. Let that kind of wash any of the other stuff that came up. And allow yourself to come back to the room.
So, that practice that we just did is called pendulation. Where you think of something that's really resourcing, and really like, "Ahh." And allowing your body to respond, and allowing your body to come to a sense of peace, and a sense of "Yes." Like putting your body in safety and yes and comfort. And that allows for more activating work. So when I'm doing trauma work with somebody, we first we go into comfort, we go into safety, orient to safety, we orient to the softness and calmness of something serene, or something cute, or something nice that happened, so that that person can access the fact that they can have these nice feelings. And then it makes it safer to go into more activating stuff. So you just felt into your authentic yes, and some authentic no.
Karen Yates: Yeah. Let's give a hand here! [applause] So that was really cool, because I was feeling all groovy with my favorite thing, and I thought about my computer issues, and my head got all like, "Ehhhh," but then I moved the groovy thing into my computer issues. And all of a sudden I was like, "Hey, computer issues! I'm dancing with my laptop. Awesome." So any final words about taking that out into the world?
Elmo Painter: I have a couple of words about taking it into the bedroom.
Karen Yates: That's why we're here. Yeah.
Elmo Painter: So, if you're having a hard time focusing or staying present during any kind of sensual play, whether it's sex, or whether it's any kind of physical intimacy, or kink intimacy, or, you know, like sexting, or however you're connecting intimately with your partner, or partners, orienting to pleasure -- like, if your partner is touching one of your erogenous zones, or touching your arm a certain way, touching your low back a certain way -- just feeling into the weight of them, feeling into the smell of them, feeling into who the person is -- like, sometimes just looking at their face, and being like, "This person can be really..." Oriented, because it's orienting back to safety. If you're like, checking out, you can be like, "I know this one. This person is a really good person, and it feels really good to be with them." So just like, orienting to safety, orienting to pleasure.
Karen Yates: Cool. Thank you. Elmo Painter, everyone. [applause]
For more info on Elmo Painter, go to our show notes. And thanks for listening. [music] Next week, we talk with writer Meg Weber about her BDSM memoir, and publisher Sienna Saint-Cyr about their press' consent-based erotica. Thank you for listening. If you know someone who might be interested in this episode, send it to them. Do you like what you heard? Then give us a nice review on your podcast app. You can follow us on social media @wildandsublime, and sign up for newsletters at wildandsublime.com. I'd like to thank associate producer Julia Williams and design guru Jean-Francois Gervais. Theme Music by David Ben-Porat. This episode was edited by The Creative Impostor Studios. Our media sponsor is Rebellious Magazine, feminist media at rebelliousmagazine.com.
- AFTERGLOW Q&A: Sneak peak of a listener question about trauma and sex (3:42)
- INTERVIEW & VISUALIZATION: Bringing body pleasure into bothersome life situations (12:45)
From the July 2019 live show
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