Category: Core Training

The signs of shame are all around us. Sometimes you can see people’s shame seep out slowly – other times it explodes. When you pay attention and listen to people long enough, you begin to hear not only what they are saying about themselves, but what they desperately want to hide. Many people seek coaching or therapy because they want to change something about themselves. We work on overcoming and healing shame first. Then we look to see what the person really needs in order to grow.

What is Shame?

At its essence, shame is a feeling you get when there is something about you that you feel is inherently bad, wrong or unlovable. You fear that, if people knew this thing (or things) about you, it would make you unfit to be in their heart, their family, their embrace. Or that instead, you would be cast out.

While we are ultimately in the business of helping people obtain new tools that will help them live happier, more fulfilling lives, we certainly never want to reinforce the extensive amounts of shame that are part of the day-to-day air we breathe.

Identifying and Uprooting Toxic Shame

We begin every session by attuning to ourselves and others, listening deeply to a person’s desired outcomes, and ruthlessly rooting out toxic shame. We call this last part of the process “de-shamifying”. And why do we start with de-shamifying before transformation? Because shame fills a person with pressure, apprehension, and restriction.

It is very hard to learn something new if you believe you are completely unlovable the way you are. That level of pressure causes a person to freeze, shut down, fake it, and run away. Trying something new is risky – it requires patience, gentleness, and self-acceptance.

And Finally – De-shamifying and Healing Shame

Once you have begun to identify and name your feelings of shame, there are some key ways you can begin to let go and heal shame. In the Somatica method, we de-shamify in multiple ways, including the following three:

1. Admitting we are flawed

Unlike many other coaches and teachers, we very vulnerably share the ways we do not have it all figured out. This helps our clients realize that it’s ok not to be perfect, that we ourselves are not perfect and are ok with it.

2. Exposing unrealistic expectations in our culture

Another way to de-shamify is to shake our fists at a world that creates all that expectation. It practically requires us to pretend that we have it all together and are ok and happy all the time. To point out that this is not true for ANYONE often helps clients realize it is actually the world that is messed up – not them.

3. Loving someone – even as they tell us what is unlovable about themselves

When someone shares their shame with us, then looks us in the eye and sees we have nothing but love and appreciation for them – that is often the key that helps to melt the shame away. This love and compassion, in fact, is often enhanced by their bravery in sharing their shame with us, and by expressing those sentiments, the person can relax, let go of anxiety and breathe again.

YES, AND

Sometimes people get confused by the process of de-shamifying. They ask the question: “Is our job to help a person accept themselves as they are – or to transform?” This is a false choice – the answer is actually YES, AND. Yes, it is our job to help someone accept themselves exactly as they are AND to transform. Our desire to continue to grow does not go away because we accept ourselves. Quite the contrary – self-love unfreezes us enough to exercise our freedom to experiment, to take the big scary risks, and to step more fully into the bigness of all that we can be!

 

If you’re interested in deeper learning around the process of overcoming and healing shame – either for personal growth or your own therapy practice – consider taking part in our Core Training sessions. We also conduct a Free Intro so you can get acquainted with the Somatica Method. We look forward to seeing you there.

Last weekend I had sex at a sex party

Presumably, that is what one does at a sex party. However, I had been ambivalently having sex parties experiences for two years (five in total) – and this was a first for me.

When I attended my first party I was seven months out of a 16-year relationship and three months back home in the Bay Area. In a vortex of long-term monogamy, motherhood, and grief I had lost a vital part of myself. I set out on a journey with no roadmap to rediscover my sexuality; everything felt new again. My curiosity about sex parties was both anthropological and personal. I was intrigued, it was ridiculously outside my comfort zone, and I wanted to see what it was all about.

I like testing my edges

When I go to the edge of my comfort zone, I get to see how much I can handle. In doing so, I open myself to new experiences and people.

The initial party I attended was epic: a weekend-long event at a Northern California retreat center. I was flying solo, invited by a man in an open relationship whom I had met online. We’d been dating for a couple months (online dating, another first). The weekend was a somewhat awkward experience punctuated by moments of brief connection. The fact that it spanned a weekend turned out to have benefits. I had private space to retreat to, and plenty of time to step in and out of the party as my comfort level allowed. I made a few connections that weekend that lasted, and a couple that imploded. Such is life.

For some reason, I kept going to sex parties

I questioned myself as to why I continued to go to parties. Drawn to neither exhibitionism nor voyeurism I wondered: were sex parties experiences even a thing for me? Why was I continuing this experiment? I didn’t have an answer.

I continued to feel awkward, and often out of place. Then, at one party, I had a lovely experience of desire and consent. A sweet and sexy man (who I had initially met at the first epic weekend) asked if he could kiss me and I said yes. He asked if he could escalate a bit, and I said yes. When I told him that was all I was up for, he was great about it.

I experienced an embodied sense of my boundaries, felt empowered to communicate them, and felt genuinely cared for, desired, and respected all in that one exchange. Maybe I was learning something about navigating a challenging space. Challenging because the whole point is exploring the rawest, most naked human experience – sex.

What do you like about the sex parties experience?

I interrogated friends: what is it about sex parties that appeals to you? Why do you go? I received thoughtful and vulnerable answers. One person expressed desire to be in an environment of positive sexual expression, to be immersed in sex positivity. Another described the attraction to expanding boundaries of sexuality and sexual experience, to push edges in service of growth and to keep discovering more of what is possible. These responses stayed with me, affecting the lens through which I observed my own experience, and the changes taking place in me.

The latest two parties I attended were in June of last year and most recently, this month. I surprised myself by enjoying both. In June I had the company of people I really liked, and with whom I felt a blossoming sense of trust and safety. I made out with and had an intimate exchange with a couple of friends. It was a comfortable social experience with a dash of erotic charge.

Know what you want and be flexible

I anticipated the most recent party with a mix of anxiety, hope, and excitement; the anxiety peaking on the day of the party. The experience I was looking for did not involve sex, but rather a feeling of ease and belonging. I wanted to let my guard down, to dance and feel my body, without pressure or inhibition.

OH, this is happening…

It was one of those nights that aligned so well it almost feels like magic. I showed up, feeling confident, sexy, social. I made easy contact with people I knew well, introduced myself to some I didn’t. Later, one of these newer people approached me. At previous parties and for most of the last two years I’ve projected a pretty unapproachable vibe. My guard was definitely coming down. It took me a bit to catch up to what was going on and then I thought, OH! This sex party experience is happening, to me, right now. And I was into it. And into him.

As a sex and relationship coach, embodied knowing is part of what I teach and practice. What does that mean? How did I know? Lots of reasons. First, he was hot. He was also adorable, and seductively shy in expressing interest and asking for what he wanted. My core erotic theme – my biggest turn-ons – was getting lit up. More than anything, I felt relaxed and comfortable in my body and the only direction I wanted to move in was forward.

In some ways this is all new to me, and in some ways not. As I think back, it was kind of miraculous that in my teens and twenties I felt entitled to my desire for and enjoyment of sex. I was enthusiastic about it and not particularly restricted by ideas of how, when, or with whom I should or should not be having it. The freedom of going with the moment and following my desire came back to me that night. I didn’t care if people saw me having sex, or that I was having sex in a room full of other people having sex. I felt my desire, I felt his desire, and I went with it.

Somatica skills at sex parties and beyond

A significant part of my journey has been practicing and refining skills I learned and teach as a group leader in the Somatica Core Training and in one-on-one sex coaching. I practice listening to my body, connected communication, resilience and flexibility in navigating shifting boundaries (whether they are expanding or contracting). A common sex party guideline is a high possibility, low expectation, which is a relational philosophy full of potential. It speaks to a zen of putting what you want out there and being open to getting it (being able to receive), or not getting it (being with disappointment), or getting something you hadn’t even known was possible (presence and flexibility).

Whether the edginess of sex parties experiences appeals to you or not, erotic and relational literacy is for everyone. It empowers and enhances every part of our lives. Come and learn with us – see a coach or join the training. Let them know you heard about it from this blog when you sign up!

Love,
Elena

There is no questions the date between Aziz and Grace was a disaster

We have watched as people have taken sides, but that’s not what we want to do here. It was a bad date, Aziz pushed too hard, Grace didn’t leave. Instead of taking sides, what we’d rather do is ask “Why?” For the sake of simplicity, we will start with Grace.

There’s an important piece of the story missing

While many writers, including Emma Gray from HuffPo, call on the socialization of women to be nice and accommodating, we think this is only part of the story.

A much deeper problem is lack of women’s sexual empowerment. Because women are taught to say “no” to sex, they go into sexual situations from a defensive mode. They are not thinking, “I love sex and have every right to it. So, do I want sex with this guy, under what circumstances would or wouldn’t I? And, what kind of sexual experiences would make me feel great physically and emotionally?”

Instead, they go into a dating situation thinking, “What is this guy going to want from me and how do I navigate it so that I am sexual enough for him, while still getting him to respect and take me seriously?”

Boys are praised and girls are protected

Girls are sexually disempowered from a young age. When you see people talk to parents about their children, they look at boys and say, “Oh, he’s flirting with me, he’s so cute, he’ll get all the girls.” When they look at a pretty girl, the say, “Boy, you better watch out, all the boys are going to be after her, you might need to keep her locked up ’til she’s 18.”

The protectionist attitude is everywhere in our society, and it contributes to women feeling like victims instead of people driving their own lives. We have worked with so many parents struggling with how to deal with their teenage daughter’s budding sexuality. When we float the idea that they might talk about how wonderful and pleasurable sex is before telling them to be careful, it’s like the thought has never even occurred.

So, why didn’t Grace just leave (or why don’t women just leave)?

She probably had a romantic fantasy that she might end up being Aziz’s girlfriend, though he clearly was only out for casual sex. She was probably being nice, because she was socialized that way. And, importantly, it is VERY unlikely that she had any idea of what her sexual desires and boundaries were in the situation, so she was in a reactive instead of empowered mode.

Reactive mode

Unless you’ve experienced it, it is very hard to imagine what reactive mode is like. It is almost as if the world becomes very small and you are only in the current interaction. You are trying to deal with the moment-to-moment experience of decision-making in the face of the force of someone else’s desires. And, sometimes like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water, you only realize how bad it’s gotten once the pot is boiling.

Trauma

While it may not have been the case in Grace’s situation, it bears mentioning that people with a history of unresolved trauma can have a freeze response, which might lead to them not being able to stop a violating experience. In a similar situation, a woman with a history of unresolved trauma, would have one or more of three potential responses, fight, flight or freeze. Fight is great in these instances — a woman with this response might have pushed Aziz away and said, “Get off of me.” Flight also would have been great — a woman with a flight response would likely have run out of the house. The tougher one in these situations, and one that women will often then be blamed or shamed for and feel terrible about themselves after, is the freeze response. A woman who has the freeze response will generally dissociate, never say no or stop saying no, and let the other person do whatever they want to do until it’s over.

Lack of sexual empowerment

Even if Grace did not have a trauma history (and we don’t know whether or not she did), we strongly believe that the fact that she did not leave the date sooner was not Grace’s fault. We think it is highly doubtful that Grace received the message that she has a right to pleasure and can decide what she does and doesn’t want. Until women are fully empowered to not be so nice and to have their own internal compass, bad dates will continue to look like Aziz and Grace’s. Even when we are highly empowered, women still might occasionally not take perfect care of themselves, but we will at least have the best possible chance. Also, even if we are totally clear and empowered in dating situations, we can still get violated and raped if a man is willing to use force. We must keep all of this in mind if we are going to change our culture around dating and sex.

What does women’s sexual empowerment look like?

At minimum, if we want girls to grow up to be empowered women in these kinds of situations — to ask for what they want, to stay when they like it and leave when they don’t — we need to treat them like adult sexual beings. We need to get rid of the protectionist attitude towards girls and teach them that sex is pleasurable and that they deserve pleasure. We need to tell girls that sex is for them and not something that boys get to have and they get to try to stave off in order to get a relationship.

What needs to change in the minds of men and women?

  1. It is time to celebrate women who have multiple sexual partners as wise women, not sluts (or reclaim the word slut as something positive)! We need to imagine a future of wonderful, pleasurable sex for girls and give them the knowledge to do so once they become women.
  2. Both men and women need to think of women’s sexual desire as an essential part of every women. We need to stop thinking of sex as a commodity that women trade for love and relationships.
  3. It is only through knowing what we want and that we have a right to it, that we can also know what we don’t want and be crystal clear about it.

By now, you have probably read the article about a date Aziz Ansari had with “Grace”, which is sparking a debate about the complexity of the #MeToo movement and starting a much-needed dialogue on the nuances of consent. As Sex and Relationship coaches we have spent countless hours analyzing specific dates, dating culture, and working with men and women to better understand consent, boundaries, and desire. When we hear stories like Grace’s, and we do, regularly, we are reminded just how crucial and rare communication about desire is.

Most People Don’t Know What They Want or How to Express It

As people are taking sides on Aziz and Grace, trying to pinpoint one or the other as a truer victim they are often missing an important point that can help frame this conversation and allow us all to better understand how and why these kind of dating scenarios are both terrible and commonplace. Most of us don’t even know what we want out of dating and sex. And we sure as hell don’t communicate it.

Aziz and Grace were on two different dates

He was looking for his version of a hot sexual experience, likely a one night stand, and she was hoping for something more romantic and potentially ongoing. They were both undoubtedly inside of their own fantasies, not noticing or caring about what the other one wanted. Of course, this was not impactful to Aziz in the same way it was to Grace, but it is still useful to explore where both were likely coming from.

What Did They Each Want?

From the story Grace told, this is what we can imagine it looked like inside of each of their minds:

The Aziz Fantasy

Man, I met this really cute girl, she seems to be really into me, I’m going to go through this whole bullshit dating thing and then I’m totally going to fuck her. I really can’t wait for us to get back to my place. We better get through dinner quick because I want to eat her out and get every part of me in her mouth — my fingers, my dick. It would be so hot to watch us in the mirror, I’m going to bend her over. Then she can see how hot it is that a famous guy like me is doing her from behind. C’mon, let’s get this party started. Sweet, she’s already talking about my counter-tops, that’s a great place to start. Girls in their 20s are really horny, I hope we can just skip all the bullshit and get right to it…

The Grace Fantasy

OMG, I can’t believe I’m going on a date with Aziz Ansari. He seems really cool and I Iove how sweet he is on his show. It will be so romantic, we can sit and sip our favorite wine and have a long, leisurely dinner. We already love the same camera, I bet we have a bunch of other things in common. I hope this dress is ok, I hope he thinks I’m cute, I can’t believe I’m going out with a celebrity. What if we end up dating, what if we end up in a relationship Ok, I’m cool going to his house. Maybe we can go out on his balcony and kiss under the stars. He seems really cool, I bet he’ll know how to kiss me just right, and touch my face, and we can make out and touch all night long. Who knows, maybe we will even end up having sex, but I probably shouldn’t because I want to make sure he still respects me and wants to go on another date.

Did They Care What the Other Wanted?

Obviously, this is not a perfect re-enactment of what was going on in their heads, but it is probably not too far off the mark. More importantly, whatever was going on it was entirely projection on both their parts. On his- a hot, porno fantasy, on her’s -the perfect romantic movie. We can only imagine the countless times this similar dating scenario has been played out, with women feeling used and taken advantage of and men feeling shocked that anything they did was wrong. It seems to us that Aziz didn’t really care what Grace wanted and Grace was in denial of what Aziz actually wanted.They were hoping for really different things but never talked about it.

Aziz seemed to be able to stay in his fantasy regardless of the pretty clear evidence that Grace wasn’t into it. A lack of empathy, insensitivity, or high levels of turn-on mixed with not really caring what the other person wants often lead to this. Aziz doesn’t actually have the luxury of claiming ignorance, since he literally wrote a book on dating, Modern Romance, which leads us to believe he simply thought there would be no consequences for continuing to push much harder than he should. As a culture we don’t consider a one-night stand an ok desire, so Grace isn’t even tasked with accepting that might have been what Aziz wanted.

Why No One Says What They Want

In dating there is way too much unspoken and both men and women are afraid to speak it, often for different reasons. As a guy, it’s nerve-racking because you don’t want to scare a date away by being too forward, or by just wanting sex, or a particular kind of sex. As a woman, if you are hoping for something more long-term, you don’t want to scare men away on a first date by grilling them about whether they want something serious. The fear that talking about sex might impede on the sexual tension or ruin the romantic fantasy means we don’t talk about what we are really after. With this approach, it’s surprising that any good comes of dating.

Regardless of whether or not we agree on how this should have been handled by the media or the parties involved, we can all agree that Aziz and Grace had a bad date. Ultimately, there was actual harm done, even if not criminal. Grace was emotionally hurt and, as a result of the article, Aziz suffered harm to his reputation and, undoubtedly, his feelings. Surely there would have been harm done to Grace’s reputation as well had she used her real name, since many people are blaming and shaming her around her approach to the evening.

While probably not criminal, certainly some of what Aziz did was not consensual. He continued to press Grace even after Grace told him she didn’t want to go any further and he agreed to just chill. Theoretically, Grace could have left at any time, but this would take a level of personal, sexual empowerment that our culture does not teach girls and young women. Check out our upcoming blog on Why Grace Didn’t Leave.

So What Do We Do About It?

Changing our society so that these types of dates are a rare exception and not an unacknowledged norm is not a simple task. We cannot stress enough how important communication is even in the most casual relationship. We need to start talking about desire while also exercising embodied empathy, verbal and embodied consent and gradual escalation. In general this means men need to do a better job of reading their partners; she didn’t say no is not a reason enough to proceed. And women need to learn that their boundaries and their desires are important.

Here are a Few Practical Steps

  1. One way to remain mindful of your boundaries and desires in dating is to get past wishful thinking and projection. Whether your fantasy is for a hot one night stand or a romantic date, pay attention to what the other person actually wants. As long as boundaries are being respected, try accepting what the other person wants without judging it.
  2. Even better, you could openly acknowledge what you want and have an honest conversation about it.
  3. Next, if there is any part of what the other person wants that you want too, be clear and communicative about your desires and boundaries.
  4. Once you know what each of you wants, engage in whatever feels mutually good to both of you.
  5. If it ends up you are on different pages, let yourself feel the disappointment of your desires not being met. This disappointment is not their fault and, likewise, you are not responsible for fulfilling their fantasy when it doesn’t fit with yours.

While this moment of societal reckoning is difficult, we are hopeful that it can move us towards more communication around sex and a better understanding of consent.

So many people call us searching for the right sex coaching training. As teachers and former students of multiple programs, we understand how important fit is since no program is perfect for everyone. There are more and more programs out there and it can be really hard to find the differences between them just by reading a website. As we guide people through this process, we have gained unique insight into what questions people ask as well as the ones they often overlook.

Here are some questions to ask, when you need to find the right program for you:

What is my philosophy and does the program reflect this?

For example, do I believe that verbal coaching and giving advice works best or do I believe in the importance of hands-on, interpersonal work? If you are interested in giving advice you can take a talk coaching training. If you are interested in a relational approach you should consider a training that offers in-person practice and experiential exercises.

Is it only a sex coaching program or does it include relationships?

If you feel like you have a solid grounding in helping clients navigate the complex dynamics of relationships, then a program that focuses primarily on sex might work for you. For some people, these programs feel detached from underlying issues and they need a more integrated approach that addresses the interplay of sexual and emotional connection.

What is my learning style and what are the tools and the learning methodology offered?

If you have an easier time learning at your own pace in the privacy of your own home, you might consider an online training. If you need a higher level of embodiment or interactive learning, it will be better to do in person, group learning.

Do I want to be able to see clients right away?

Some people don’t realize that with the right intensive program they will have the confidence and tools to see clients right away and start earning money while getting ongoing training to learn and build on their skills.

Will it be enough to take a year-long training?

The short answer is no, it is never enough because even the longest, most in-depth program will only give you a foundation, but you there will always be so much more to learn once you get out in the field and start working with people. If it is the right training that offers practice and theory, it will be enough for you to start your practice.

Will I have a place to keep growing?

After you finish your initial training it is your job to keep growing and sharpening your skills as a professional. A good program will offer ongoing classes and supervision so you can keep learning – ideally, you can do this while already seeing clients.

Is community important to me?

Finding a program that has an emphasis on learning from your peers and offering a continued network of support is crucial for most folks to have continued success. You are looking to work with people and who you surround yourself with matters. Each of the people in your training represents an opportunity to grow your personal and professional network. We have watched the Somatica community grow into a thriving resource full of mutual referrals, as well as a place for professional and emotional support.

Do I need letters after my name?

For some people having an MA, MSW, MFT, PhD, etc. after their names gives them a sense that they deserve to do the work they are doing. For others, these letters may be something they perceive as important to impress others either from a marketing standpoint or to feel acknowledged by their relatives etc. There is no right answer here – we ourselves both love higher education! At the same time, it’s important to understand the difference between getting a degree and attending a professional training. Both can be amazing for personal and intellectual development. Just make sure if you want to work with clients that you are going to get a full set of useful tools to work with instead of just a theoretical education.

What Couples Tell Us about their Traditional Therapy Experience

We have couples calling us every day looking for help around sex and intimacy. Here are some things we hear from them:

“We had a wonderful couple’s therapist. They helped us so much with our communication and connection, we are fighting way less and feel much closer, but they really had nothing to offer when it came to sex.”

Or

“We came to therapy to talk about sex and our therapist said that we should make time for sex, so we did, but we had no idea what to do when we got there. It was awkward.”

If you are a therapist or a professional that works with couples and want to help all of your clients, and especially couples, with the full range of what they need, sex is an essential ingredient. It’ is also a huge part of what falls apart in coupledom.

The Myth of Intimacy

“My therapist said that sex is the cherry on top, and if we have a good connection sex will follow. Well, that didn’t happen to us…”

Creating emotional intimacy is usually not enough to get people sexually connected again.

We Help You Understand Sex

In our Somatica Couple’s Training, we offer a set of practical tools that can really help detangle sexual issues, bridge differing turn-ons and desires, and get to a place where couples can make their sex lives hot, connected, and expansive. In addition to helping you work with couples around sexuality the class also offers powerful tools for attachment, dealing with disappointment in relationship, and repair.

We were just joking about the 5 Easy Steps, but we do think it’s time to lose the reputation you’ve been trying so hard to protect! So here’s a story by (and about) Celeste that we think will help you find your freedom instead…

When the rumors started

One Monday morning in 8th grade, as I jogged slowly around the block with my fellow students in PE class in the small town where I grew up, one of my classmates jogged up next to me, “So, I heard you gave head to John last night in Nate’s treehouse.” Simultaneously, I felt the wind knocked out of me and my flight response kicked in full-force. I started to run as fast as I could – Looking back now, I know I was trying to run away from this image of me as a girl who would give a blowjob at a party to someone she wasn’t even really dating. Never having been any kind of jock, it was certainly the fastest I’d ever run in PE.

Nevermind that the furthest I had ever gone with a boy was a french kiss and a little touching of my breasts over the shirt. But for the sake of the rumor mill, the fact that I had breasts – really big ones for my young age combined with my flirtatious personality were enough to brand me a slut. When I first heard the news I felt a very strong need to clear up my reputation, to make sure people knew that I had done no such thing. At the same time, I was perhaps lucky to have been born in the early 70’s into a family who had fully embraced being part of the hippie counterculture. It had never been our motto to fit in or be what everyone else thought we should be. My dad was an avid stoner and, by this time, my mom had already begun her career as a Tarot reader.

And I, whether I liked it or not, was going to be seen as a slut. It didn’t take me too long to stop running and to wholeheartedly embrace the slut image. After all, I was really horney. I loved to flirt and feel people’s attraction towards me. Though I didn’t have sex with lots of guys, I started having sex relatively early and had had 5 partners by the end of high school. I also loved to make out at parties and I really, really loved dressing sexy. I liked the attention and I liked showing off my big, beautiful breasts.

Letting the “Good Girl” Go

There was something about losing the reputation of being a “good girl”, (something I still love to be called during sex), that also freed me up from worrying too much about being good in general. We, humans, are complex creatures, and to pretend that all of our motives and actions come from a place of love, generosity, and positive purpose is a lie. What’s more, even when we are coming from a place of love, generosity, and positive purpose, others may still see or experience what we are doing differently. They may even feel harmed by something that we are offering from this place.

The wonderful thing about losing your reputation, early and often, is that you don’t have to be shameful, or guilty, or defensive when you do something from the not-so-full-of-love-and-light part of yourself – from the childish, vindictive, or narcissistic part. And, you don’t have to defend yourself if you are doing something from a place of positive intention and someone else experiences what you’ve done as hurtful. Instead, you can “cop to it”. When you can be honest about not being perfect and you can let go of having to be seen as perfect, you get to be human and you get to be more connected.

So, go ahead and ruin your reputation

Think about it, if you have to defend against, divorce yourself from, or hide from anyone who thinks that something about you isn’t perfect or who is harmed by your best intentions, you will spend a lot of time defending, divorcing yourself, and hiding. If, instead, you step towards people and acknowledge your imperfections and hear their pain.You may even know that they are most certainly gossiping about you behind your back and you can let go of needing that to be different because you can now walk in the world with openness. People may look at you and shake their head disapprovingly saying, “She (or he) is shameless” and you will know that they are right. Turns out being free of shame is not such a bad thing.

  • Photo by Raj Bandyopadhyay

In light of the recent #metoo campaign and other ongoing consciousness-raising around the importance of consent, we are reaching out to all of you, students past and present, and Somatica Practitioners, to give you some updates to how we are going to emphasize consent in our teaching. While the way we teach has always had the intention of helping people read and attune to their partners to make sure everything that is happening is consensual, desired, and pleasurable, we feel the way we have presented it may not have emphasized the importance of consent enough. We are now teaching people how to have consent conversations with their clients and partners, and how to escalate while making sure that there is ongoing consent. Please check out these updated explanations and exercises that we feel more properly represent how we would like people to teach around consent in their practices. These additions will be included in next year’s updated Somatica Training manual.

Much love,

Celeste & Danielle


Consent

Consent is a very hot button issue in our culture, so please pay attention to the activation in your body as you read through this section. The concept of consent touches on our deep need for safety, equality, and respect. If you ask just about any woman what it is like to walk around late at night somewhere by yourself, or to walk down the street in broad daylight and have a man follow you calling out at you, or to go on a first date, at best she will tell you stories of feeling fearful or being extra careful, at worst she will tell you stories of rape, harassment, and violation. Likewise, if you ask men who love and respect women, what it is like to be out dating and having sex or trying to have sex with women, they will often share their fear of crossing boundaries, hurting someone, being accused of harassment or rape, and their fear of being shunned by their community or the people they care about.

Consent and non-consent can also be a part of our arousal. For example, we may be very aroused by the feeling that we can fully trust someone or feel cared for by them because they ask our consent or give their overt consent at each new step of sexual escalation. Or, we may be aroused by overt non-consent, where our partner does whatever they want to us without regard for our needs or we do what we want to them, regardless of our partner’s needs. We may be turned on by the romantic notion that a partner can know everything we want without ever having to ask or feeling like they can attune to us without words. In long-term relationships, women have sometimes expressed to us that they wish their partners would push past some of their crunchiness or resistance and just keep going. Jack Morin does a great job talking about how we can want the world to be a place full of overt communication and egalitarianism and still be turned on by scenarios that are quite contrary to these goals.

In Somatica, we want to account for both the importance of a safe, respectful world and honor that different people may have different needs around how they want their partner to ascertain consent. Obviously, if someone is turned on by doing things to someone that are non-consensual, we need to work with them on finding a partner that they can play this out with in a role-play as opposed to enacting it in the world, where they may do tremendous harm and be punished by their community or the legal system, For this reason, instead of teaching people to ask for overt consent at each step of escalation, we teach people how to have a consent conversation to ascertain what kinds of consent they want to practice in their life and to attune to nonverbal cues.

Experiential Practice: Have a Consent Conversation

Introduction: Read the above explanation of consent and trauma.

How to explain it to your client: You can say, “Let’s talk about how you give or get consent with a partner.”

How to do the experience: Talk with your client about their feelings, history, and possible fears around consent as well as what kind of consent they want with a partner. Help them identify if they are more commonly the initiator of sex and sexual escalation or the recipient or both. If they are the initiator, help them practice talking with a date or partner about what kind of consent their partner wants. If their partner wants them to initiate and escalate without asking, help them make an agreement that their partner will let them know if they are coming to a boundary. If their partner wants overt consent, help them practice how to get consent in a sexy way.

If they are normally the recipient of escalation, help them identify whether they want to be asked for verbal consent at each new escalation or if they want their partner to continue to escalate without asking (or some hybrid, like not asking at the kissing stage, but asking at the oral sex or intercourse stage). If they do not want their partner to ask for overt consent, make sure they are empowered around their boundaries.

If your client has a trauma history or is prone to dissociation as a defense mechanism, it is important that they identify if they are someone who freezes or dissociates during sexual escalation. If so, you will need to help them communicate to their partners that this happens to them and to let their partners know how to deal with it. For example, if your client is prone to freezing, they might say, “I’d really like it if you’d ask before you initiate a new sexual experience every time we have sex and make sure I give you a verbal yes. Also, if my body seems really still or you feel like I’m checked out, I’d love for you to just check in with me” or they might say, “I don’t want you to ask me for each new sexual escalation, but please pay attention and check in with me verbally, if it seems like I’ve stopped moving or am breathing very shallowly or if my eyes look spaced out. If I don’t respond verbally when you check in, please stop all sexual interaction with me until I can talk again.” You can also help your client have these same conversations if they have specific triggers or flashbacks. Help them identify how their partners can tell and what they need from their partners when this happens so that they can communicate this to their partners.

What are you looking for: You want to see if your client can clearly express how they want to get and give consent and that they feel empowered around communicating their boundaries, especially if they are interested in escalation without verbal consent.

Debrief: Talk with your client about how they will take these practices of consent out into their dating or relationship life, what they’d like to communicate to dates and partners from now on.

 

If there is one quality that we insist upon when training sex and relationship coaches it is that they teach from their vulnerability. We may seem like broken records but we cannot emphasize it enough: one of the most harmful and least compassionate things that you can do as a coach, therapist or personal growth teacher is to pretend that you have it all figured out and are now perfect. People suffer constantly under the belief that they have to be perfect to be loved, desired, or in a relationship. They think that they will someday get over all of their hurts and never feel bad or triggered again. This is an impossible task and only causes people to judge themselves harshly and keep themselves closed off against connection.

We also practice what we teach. When one of us sits in front of a client and says, vulnerably, “Last week in my relationship, I got so triggered, that all of my revenge fantasies started flooding in and I just wanted to make my partner hurt as much as I felt hurt,” our clients say, “You? I thought you had it all together.” There is so much projection on teachers and so much shame that results. By being vulnerable about the fact that we are all still on our own growth journey and will always be, we are saying that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved (or to be a coach or teacher).

We also engage in authentic relationships with our clients, not only listening to how we impact them, but sharing vulnerably how they impact us. In this way, they get to see that we are not perfect and to learn about being in a real relationship. Hopefully, most people in helping professions already know that they are emotionally affected by their clients. Allowing your clients to know they impact you just as you impact them helps them learn what it is like to be in a real relationship – namely, that you cannot avoid impacting the other person. Sometimes we feel joy and pleasure with our clients, sometimes we feel hurt or rejected, just as they feel with us.

If we take a step even deeper into the premise that people learn how to move beyond shame and to be in a real relationship through vulnerability, when we work with our clients we also let them know our biggest emotional challenges and how they have affected us and continue to affect us. We also learn each of our client’s biggest challenges and talk about how ours may interact with theirs and in what ways we might trigger one another. We talk about these triggers vulnerably when they arise between us and our clients.

For example, after a challenging email exchange, when we are back together in the office, one of us might say, “The hurts of my childhood sometimes make it hard for me to trust. When I got your email, I felt attacked even though I know that was not your intention and I’m sure you were triggered, too. It took me a while to calm down and write back because I didn’t want to respond from a triggered place. I can imagine that might have triggered some of your abandonment fears and I would love to hear how you felt and also tell you how your choice of words affected me.” This is an invitation to hear each other’s challenges and triggers and to move towards empathy and repair. To be able to talk openly and practice sharing these challenges in a safe space gives them the tools and skills they need to take out into their own intimate partnerships. Helping your clients learn about and empathize with their partner’s challenges and share their own almost always leads to more gentleness and mutual support in their relationships.

Sharing vulnerably and inviting others vulnerability is a skill that takes time, practice and gentleness with yourself and others. If you’d like to do some deep transformational work that will change the quality of your relationships forever, come join us for The Somatica Core Training.

A Somatica sex and relationship coach offers a unique approach to working with clients on intimacy and sexuality. While Somatica has aspects of talk-coaching and experiential-coaching (learn all about these types of coaching here), the foundation of the approach is completely different. Somatica was created as a way to fill a gap in the experiential learning realm. In order for clients to learn how to have emotional and erotic intimacy, we felt they needed to have authentic experiences of two-way intimacy—what we call a Relationship Lab. As a Somatica Coach, you will practice authentic relating with your client to help them learn, grow, and transform in their sexual lives and relationships.

Somatica Sex and Relationship Coach Builds the Relationship Lab

As their coach, you will not act as a distant helper, but instead as a partner who engages in emotional and erotic intimacy, seeing what it feels like to be intimate with this person. By engaging in physical and emotional intimacy, you can evaluate the client’s sexual and relational strengths, as well as their challenges. Once you understand what they need to learn, you then teach them the tools they need to have in order to attain more emotionally connected and sensually satisfying lives.

Somatica offers both individuals and couples real-time, experiential practices with emotional and erotic connection so that clients can experience embodied learning. Embodied learning is different than purely cognitive learning. When a person has an actual experience of vulnerability, arousal, or passion, they are much more likely to be able to translate this into their day-to-day lives. They are then able to change habits more easily than if they have solely thought, read, or talked about it.

Experience is How Change Happens

If we look at it from a brain plasticity perspective and how people learn, creating new multi-dimensional experiences that involve thoughts, emotion, and the senses is much more effective and efficient. It helps your clients create new neural pathways and is, therefore, a powerful way to change behaviors and old habits. The boundaries of Somatica are clothes-on, with no kissing on the mouth. Touch is acceptable in both directions, but no touch should ever move toward orgasm.

Beware of One-Size-Fits-All Approaches

Finally, while some forms of erotic teaching try to help students learn completely different approaches and languages around eroticism (sometimes insinuating that these are superior forms of erotic expression), Somatica instead helps draw out each person’s unique erotic imagination and desires, helping them integrate them out in the world. Somatica does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution to people’s sexuality, but rather helps to expand what’s on the menu until the client discovers what turns them on the most. We believe that a person’s main erotic desires do not change. This means trying to eradicate, ignore, or change them is a great disservice to the person. Approaches that do this often instill both shame and the feeling that something is wrong with these desires. Instead, in Somatica, we support individuals to explore and embrace their unique erotic makeup, learning how to communicate it to a partner.