As coaches or others in helping professions, we are sought after to support people in their most challenging moments. Though we are used to offering people support in person, it is essential to also know how to connect with people during social distancing.
Somatica coaches – and other coaches who use touch in their practice – have the option of actually holding clients when they are hurting. We offer loving, supportive physical contact to people when they are experiencing hurt or grief.
How To Hold Someone – Without Holding Them Physically
In this time of social distancing, it’s so important to know how to still intimately and compassionately connect with people. We were recently asked by one of our Core Training students how to hold someone – without actually holding them.
So here are 3 ways you can give someone the feeling of being held during a Zoom or phone consultation:
Have Them Use Their Imagination
When you are coaching someone online and they are feeling alone, hurt, or are grieving, engage them in a creative visualization. Ask them to picture you holding them. To make the experience more real, it is helpful to use descriptive language.
Paint a specific picture by saying: “I’m imagining my arms wrapped around you right now”. Or “I’m imagining you relaxed, lying in my lap, and I’m gently stroking your hair”. You can also ask people how they would want to be held by you, and then expand on their suggestions. For example, you might ask, “If I could hold you just right, what would you want me to do?”
Connect to Yourself – and Bring Yourself Limbically
When we are far away from each other, what is missing is the feeling of our limbic systems joining and syncing up. This connection tends to be very calming to the body.
For your clients to feel linked to you, they need to receive signals from their body that you are present with them. But before you can bring yourself limbically, you must connect with yourself. So take a few deep breaths and make sure you can feel your body – your heart, your belly, and your pelvic floor. It helps to have your feet on the ground and continue to be aware of your own breath and body throughout your time with them.
Then, try these three tools:
Attunement – match their pace and energy. Maybe they are more solemn or want to bring more humor. Follow their lead.
Eye contact – look into their eyes gently and feel your love for them.
Soft voice – make sure your voice expresses the care you feel for them.
Focus on Listening and Empathizing
When people are under the stress of social distancing (or similar stressors), one of the main things they need is to be heard and understood by you.
Don’t think about their experience through your own filter – really try to understand how they are experiencing it. Make sure to speak this empathy. Don’t just say, “I understand” say, “Yeah, you are feeling totally overwhelmed right now, and it’s hard to make a decision. That makes a lot of sense. It’s a really overwhelming time.” Notice that this statement is not about you. Don’t say you feel the same way as they do – unless that is something that seems like it would be particularly soothing to them.
Each year, we offer a 6-months training to help people deepen the erotic and emotional connections in their lives. In this training, many exercises use verbal communications and others are more tactile and touch-based. But there is also a very unique technique around erotic energy we call “Showing Yourself Out”.
Why Show Yourself Out
Showing Yourself Out is a deeply empowering experience during which you share your internal erotic energy out in the world.
With a lover, it can be profoundly arousing to fully connect with your erotic energy. You link with them from a wholly erotic place, enticing them into your sexuality and desire. It also feels good to walk through life, connected to your erotic energy, and flirt with the world in an open, engaged, and non-intrusive way.
Showing Yourself Out is – first and foremost – a connection with yourself and your own erotic energy. It is tapping into the profound nature of your eroticism – and then connecting with others from this empowered, erotically-embodied place.
It is not a show – it is an intimate exercise of self expression and invitation. As a woman, this is a unique opportunity to be proud of your beautiful sexuality. To be the one who both desires and is desired – instead of only being allowed to be desired.
If You Were Socialized as a Man
As a man you were taught to be the one who gazes and desires – but not the one who is gazed upon and desired. Also, you likely learned early on in your life that your desires are creepy. And that you live in a world of scarcity where you are supposed to jump on any invitation.
To Show Yourself Out as a man means fully embracing who you are as an erotic being. It’s a method of deeply enjoying this part of yourself, while letting go of the idea that it has to be met by another. It also proposes allowing yourself to be gazed upon and desired. And most of all – to receive this desire as a way to feel your internal flame glow warmer.
If You Were Not Included
Or maybe you found you didn’t fit neatly into any of the binary gender categories. Perhaps you are someone who grew up feeling like they did not possess the requirements to be seen as traditionally attractive. For you, Showing Yourself Out means fully embracing the beauty of your inner and outer self, shamelessly.
For trans people, people with disabilities, or those whose bodies do not fit the unattainable beauty standards of our culture – it means dressing how you want, dancing how you want, speaking how you want. Loving the body you have, or creating the body you want.
It means connecting with the profound power of your erotic self as another resource to support you in those moments when the rest of the world does not. Reclaiming yourself from other’s thoughts and opinions, and standing proudly in your true self.
How to Show Yourself Out
The first time you try this technique, stand in front of a mirror or in the middle of a room where you have some privacy and feel relaxed. Later, once you feel more comfortable, you may want to try it in front of your lover while they are standing, sitting, or lying down. This will allow them to watch you in all your glory.
Decide whether you want to play music, or just let the sounds of your own breath wash over you.
Close your eyes and start taking some slow deep breaths, in and out through your mouth. Breath deeply into your lungs, and let the breath connect you with your pelvic floor, the center of your desire.
As you breathe, begin moving and touching yourself in a way that feels arousing TO YOU. Remember – this exercise is, first and foremost, about connecting with yourself.
As you deepen into connection with your erotic energy, open your eyes and look in the mirror (or at your lover). Communicate with that look the sexy, sensual way you feel inside.
Walk towards your reflection or lover – or even get on your hands and knees and crawl forward – maintaining eye contact and connection.In this video – starting at 2:27 – we show you how erotic energy can be summoned and shown to a lover:
Take This With You and Share It
The most important thing is to fully let yourself feel your erotic energy. Relish your arousal and let yourself be seen in all of your beauty and power. See what it feels like to walk in the world with this kind of self-possession and self-connection – and without expectation of anything in return. We think you just might like it!
With you, we are watching as the coronavirus / COVID-19 increases its presence in the U.S. Our thoughts are especially with those for whom this global public health issue is immediate, personal, and painful. For all of us, it is a time of great uncertainty.
Also, we are working on back-up plans to make sure you will still be able to get your sex coaching training this year, while reducing your risk of exposure to the virus. This will include making sure we follow all safety recommendations during in-person training. It may also mean that we will offer some portion of the training online.
At the moment, all workshops and trainings will proceed as scheduled. But as public health advisories change, please know that we might need to reschedule certain trainings or offer some portion of them online.
If you have RSVPd to a Free Intro or signed up for a training, we will keep you informed of any changes via direct emails.
Also, when we send out welcome letters, they will include the health and safety procedures that we are going to follow for any in-person trainings.
Upcoming Free Intros
We will be offering our upcoming FREE intros online instead of in-person. Please feel free to keep registering for the relevant intro, and we will send you a link via Zoom (a free video conferencing platform) to attend.
P.S. We are sure you are currently receiving heaps of reminders and guidelines from Public Health Officials. We want to make sure you are staying safe too, so here they are:
While the CA Department of Public Health continues to advise that the risk of Coronavirus to the general population remains low, recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that the following high-risk groups stay home as much as possible: a) people 60 and over, b) people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. For more information on this new CDC health advisory, click here.
But it’s probably best if I’d start my story a bit further back.
My First Forays into Sex Education
I was brought up in Israel. My family wasn’t particularly liberal or conservative when it came to sex or sex education – they simply didn’t talk about it. I guess the best way to describe me as a teenager was to say I was a sex nerd. I didn’t have access to any sexy books, so I ended up reading Masters and Johnson. And I fantasized about how cool it would be to be a sex researcher myself. Back then, it never even occurred to me that I might be able to make my own mark in the sexuality field.
During my early adulthood in Israeli, I studied psychology and social work. I worked mostly with addiction recovery. When I moved to California, I was in transition. I knew I didn’t want to continue a social work career. I also knew however I would have to basically start over anyway. So I embarked on teaching childbirth education and loved it – but I also sensed something was missing. I felt I wanted to do something new and inspiring. Yet at the same time I also wanted to continue to support and empower women.
One day, I was having a conversation with a friend and we were talking openly about sex, relationships, and childbirth. She was studying to be an MFT at the time and, in the middle of the conversation, she stopped and said: “I was thinking about you recently. We watched this movie in class about Betty Dodson, and I thought you will be so great at doing what she is doing”.
Intro to Betty Dodson
I had no idea who Betty Dodson was – so I really wasn’t prepared for what was coming. We scheduled a screening with a group of women friends, and got a hold of a copy of her DVD showing a Bodysex Workshop. After we all had a glass of wine, I popped in the DVD. A few seconds later, we were watching a circle of 8 or so naked women masturbating with big, white Hitachi magic wand vibrators.
Immediately my face flushed with discomfort. I was fine with what I saw on the screen, but felt quite embarrassed to be watching it in the presence of friends. Little did I know that less than 2 years later, I would be teaching hands-on adult sex education myself.
Unraveling the Mystery of Betty Dodson
After my friends had left, I jumped on my computer to do research into Betty Dodson.
Betty Dodson began her work as a sex-positive feminist in the late 60’s and early 70’s, when a huge wave of feminism was moving through the US. She started out as an erotic artist, but quickly became one of the early pioneers of the women’s pleasure movement.
Shaking her fist at Freud’s assertion that the vaginal orgasm was more mature, she taught women to reclaim their clitoris as the center of pleasure. She held masturbation circles in her living room so women could discover their pleasure in real-time. She wrote a book on masturbation, released multiple educational videos, and taught many thousands of women how to orgasm for the first time – and many times after.
And today – at age 90 – she is still passionately teaching and advocating for women’s pleasure, albeit via more modern channels like Netflix’s Goop Lab Series.
Shortly thereafter, I signed up to get my PhD at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. I learned about the Institute when I was researching Betty Dodson. It turned out she got her PhD there, and that the school was full of students who were sex enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the field of sexuality.
Also, thanks to Betty Dodson, I became a sex coach and later created the Somatica Method of sex and relationship coaching. I followed in her footsteps as an experiential sex educator. I believe that experiential practices are how people learn best when it comes to sex and intimacy.
So much appreciation to you, Betty, for birthing me into this incredible career of mine. Now I’ve not only watched your videos in a group of people without blushing – I may even have led and participated in few masturbation circles of my own…
How to ask for what you want – both in bed and in life – is intensely difficult for many people.
In this real-life example of a Somatica Session, Sabrina works with sex coach Celeste Hirschman on the themes of self care, self love, and self worth. She wants to overcome her fears of displeasing her partner by asking for what she wants – before, during and after sex.
Building Self Worth
The goal of this therapy session is to empower the client to take control of their life, and teach them it’s ok to receive love and attention from others.
Embracing the principles of self worth and self love, Celeste starts by helping Sabrina explore her feelings of deserving. It’s the concept that she deserves love and care, and doesn’t need to work so hard for it. Sabrina admits she doesn’t feel worthy to ask for what she wants. She is used to taking what she can get from her relationships.
To help build self worth, Celeste introduces the idea that having a real-time experience of asking for what she wants can help her get it. She encourages Sabrina to be specific and picky about her desires. On a deeper level, she can then go into an experience with the feeling that it is for her. Celeste assures that she wants to really do her best to meet Sabrina’s needs – and Sabrina practices accepting this sentiment.
They begin with breathwork to connect Sabrina to her heart, belly, and pussy. This is an effective tool to help someone identify what she really needs, in an embodied way. Sabrina asks for more closeness, and Celeste encourages her not to settle or “get by,” but to try to find and get what she really wants. As they deepen the connection, Sabrina gets specific about how she feels – for example about her hair being touched. Celeste encourages this specificity and thanks her for saying what she needs.
How to Get What You Want – By Asking For It
Sabrina biggest worries are putting someone out, or making them do something they are uncomfortable doing. Celeste reassures her, and this allows Sabrina to feel safe to ask for more. Settling in and taking time between each ask gives her the bandwidth she needs to feel what she wants next.
Celeste reflects that Sabrina’s laid-back, receptive attitude is very sexy and inspiring. She identifies Sabrina’s self-possessed attitude, and helps her feels what it’s like to own herself. Asking for more closeness, Sabrina becomes very relaxed.
As the exercise continues, Sabrina is emboldened by her success. She asks her coach to push things forward. Celeste cheer leads Sabrina’s clarity and self-possession, and invites her to give feedback.
Find Your Inner Cleopatra
At this point, Celeste guides Sabrina into finding her inner Cleopatra. Adopting a lounging position, they experiment with feeding Sabrina grapes and making her feel decadent and worthy.
However, when the word “deserving” is mentioned, Sabrina instinctually rejects it. She doesn’t feel herself to be deserving. Celeste points out how sexy she is when she takes the attitude of deserving, and Sabrina sees that it’s ok to relax into pleasure and ask for what she wants.
Guiding her deeper into the exercise of self worth building, Celeste helps Sabrina identify what she wants before, during, and after sex. The goal is for her to not be content with the status quo, and settle for less. By asking Sabrina to go to her oracles – her heart, belly, and pussy – they explore her needs after an erotic experience. In response, Sabrina brings up the courage to inquire if Celeste enjoyed herself – and wants to do it again.
Sensing that her client has managed to find a new confidence, Celeste invites Sabrina to let her inner Cleopatra self be the new normal. She points out that her queen-liness will invite all the things she wants in to her life.
Rewiring the Brain and Nervous System Through Experiences
In Somatica, we facilitate clients to have real-time encounters with pleasure and attachment. Through this process of experiencing something new and different, a person can rewire their brain and nervous system. It allows them to seek more joy and connection out in the world. Their body knows it’s possible, and longs to recreate the beauty of the experience.
While it might seem tempting to brainstorm what your client should do out in the world, as a practitioner, it is important to start with the relationship between you and your client. Until they get a real sense of being deserving, it will be hard for them to shift patterns. They learn through real-time experiences of receiving and practicing with emotional and erotic intimacy.
In the Somatica training, we teach you how to build a therapeutic relationship with a client that helps them transform in the realm of sex and intimacy. We call these “practice relationships” or “The Relationship Lab”. They are two-way, authentic relationships that offer freedom and safety to the client – so they can practice the tools to build healthy relationships.
Here is how:
1) Participate in Authentic Relating
Knowing how to build a therapeutic relationship with a client begins with being self aware of your own strengths and challenges. And you need to be willing to be honest with yourself and your client about them.
A practice relationship also requires authentic relating – a method where both practitioner and client share their feelings and vulnerabilities with one another. This is one of the biggest differences between most kinds of coaching (or therapy) and the Somatica Method – we don’t pretend to be unaffected erotically or emotionally by our clients. Experiences of arousal or emotional challenge aren’t simply processed by ourselves or with a supervisor. We share our feelings about and responses to our clients WITH our clients. Doing this mindfully and with the conscious intention of supporting our clients is of utmost importance. By providing real-life experiences with such challenges as differences in desire, triggering, conflict in relationships, we build trust and attachment.
Authentic relating also offers many opportunities to practice with the joyful and arousing parts of relationships. For example, you might practice giving each other appreciation, or learning each others Core Desires and Hottest Sexual Movies.
2) Offer Secure Attachment
In these therapeutic relationships with our clients, we are mindful in our constant intention to offer them an experience of secure attachment. We provide unconditional love and connection, respect, and honest, gentle communication as tools for this attachment. One of our favorite quotes is “There is no such thing as a perfect parent.”
We know we will not be perfect. But we commit to always be willing to repair, and to take responsibility for reaching out and inviting the possibility for repair. Creating a truly therapeutic relationship means we must be willing to take responsibility for the mistakes we make. And we must be honest about the triggered moments we experience in relationship to our client. This is the most anyone can hope for from an attachment figure.
Offering this attachment relationships is one part of why Somatica is so healing. Without even realizing fully why or how, people who experience this unconditional love and respect begin to feel better about themselves. By being treated respectfully and lovingly, people realize they deserve this kind of treatment. It allows them to build their own foundation or increase the strength of their foundation of self love.
3) Support the Client’s Autonomy & Individuation
Instead of having an agenda of saving or fixing, in a truly therapeutic relationship, we must always focus on helping our clients uncover their true will. People thrive on being supported in making decisions that are in alignment with who they are. In so many instances in traditional coaching or therapy, clients report feeling like their helpers have an agenda for how they are supposed to behave. To support your client’s autonomy, you need to drop your agenda and see what they really want for themselves.
We always invite our clients to tell us if they feel pushed or overridden by us. Listening to those feelings and taking them seriously is paramount. And we also share our feelings in response. As their practice partner, we are eliciting and supporting their true will – while still being real about challenges and triggers that arise in us in response to them.
Frequently, our clients’ biggest “aha” moments often arrive when they have a new experience. Engaging in a practice relationship makes it possible for them to get fresh, more positive ways of approaching the pleasures and challenges of relationships. Building a therapeutic relationship and practicing authentic relating will revolutionize your practice.
Have you ever wondered how to build emotional connection with someone in a social setting? In this third real-life episode of the Somatica Sessions video series, coach Danielle Harel teaches her client Krister how to ask for consent, build interpersonal relationship skills, and attune himself in order to stage a successful seduction.
Attunement to Open Yourself Up
Krister wants to find his confidence and inspiration – what he calls the “activation energy” – so he can reach out for connection in social situations. When he thinks about initiating, he fears he is not interesting enough or that he’s bothering them. He gets in his head and is unsure of where he fits in. His current strategy is to stand nearby and wait for some kind of invitation or natural connection to happen.
Danielle presents in the idea of attunement as something that happens when your body and brain are integrated. She invites him to enter a social situation by running pleasure circuits inside himself. Taking him through a breathwork session, she helps him start to connect with himself and his own pleasure. This self-connection and self-enjoyment is the foundation to create a circuit of mutual attraction.
As Krister becomes more embodied and less distracted, he starts to inspire and pick up Danielle’s more subtle connection cues. She points out that each of them are inside of themselves and running a circuit of aliveness between them. From this place, Krister learns to communicate without popping out of his body and into his head. He does this is by staying in the moment and bringing curiosity without an agenda.
Touch for Fostering Relaxation and Security
Krister mentions how relaxing it is for him when touch is in the mix. Touch gives him a sense of security in the connection and relaxes his whole nervous system. He and Danielle brainstorm how he can bring touch safely into a social environment. She teaches him how to escalate into touch by starting with the assumption of a yes – the assumption that he is wanted.
As they talk, he is flowing his erotic energy towards her, and they are trying to figure out how Krister can foster an approach with that. He likes to dominate and play with edges because it fills him with excitement. Danielle points out that when he approaches someone, he will need to attune first in order to make sure the other person is actually a yes. Krister is learning to escalate with ongoing consent. He practices this by coming at her with his full desire, telling her what he wants to do to her, then pausing and making sure he reads her consent cues.
At the end of the cycle of erotic connection, Krister discovers how to keep building that emotional connection instead of breaking it. He also learns to listen to the voice of his desire as the guide where he wants to escalate next. They practice together, playing with verbal seduction and dominance as he takes Danielle to new heights of arousal. He also learns to trust his own and his partner’s “YES.”
The Magic of Self Connection
In Somatica, we teach our students and clients how to follow their own desires, while staying attuned to the needs and responses of others. It can be challenging for anyone to come into a social situation and try to make connections – but someone’s got to make the first move.
At the Somatica Institute, we help you come into your body and foster pleasurable self-connection. The goal is to feel confident and be present – instead of being in your head, worrying and strategizing about what to do next. When you are embodied, you feel others more, and the likelihood of chemistry arising becomes much higher.
Have you ever experienced toxic shame and wondered how you can overcome it?
In this second episode of our Somatica Sessions video series, Danielle walks Dori through shame therapy and explains the psychological effects of shame.
Exploring The Roots of Shame
In her current relationship, Dori feels she is the “more needy” partner, which is not her usual experience of relationships. This causes her to feel a sense of shame for having needs at all. Danielle helps her explore the roots of this shame by taking her into an Inner Child Visualization.
When Dori goes back into her inner child, she lands on a memory where she is left alone in her crib while her parents play with and dote over her brother. As a small child, Dori’s needs and feelings were ignored, which caused her to start to feel a sense of toxic shame. She disconnected from her needs in order to survive the feelings of hurt and rejection.
Celebrating Needs as Beautiful and Necessary
As Danielle brings Dori into this inner child space, she offers her loving attachment and a strong belief in the idea that Dori’s needs and feelings are very important. She helps Dori express her fears and sadness about not being able to have needs as a child, and helps her see that her needs are actually beautiful. Just because her parents did not meet her needs doesn’t mean she has to stop needing.
Once Dori begins to embrace her needs as beautiful, Danielle helps her separate this idea from the reality that those needs won’t all be able to be met in her relationship with her lover. A lot of the session is actually attachment work, as Danielle stays connected and celebratory about Dori’s needs, always embracing and never shaming Dori for having as many needs as she has.
Healing Shame by Staying Resilient to Unmet Needs
One key concept of the Somatica philosophy is that a person’s needs are beautiful – whether or not they get met. The truth of being human is that we all have many needs and that they won’t all get met – and they certainly won’t all get met by one person. When people realize they can celebrate their needs – instead of shaming them – they can advocate for themselves and still stay resilient when those needs are not met. In other words, they can allow themselves to have needs – without feeling like unmet needs are proof that their partner does not love them.
What if you could learn how to create desire in others by simply fostering a deeper self connection?
In this first episode of our brand new Somatica Sessions video series, Celeste guides her client Spiritchild on a journey of self connection. By finding a connection to his own erotic essence and bringing it to every interaction, Spiritichild realizes he can increase his joy, creativity, spirituality and aliveness in the world.
Discovery of the Core Problem
The episode begins with Celeste helping Spiritchild discover what blocks him from enjoying non-sexual intimacy with his partner. At first, she tests to see if his problem is centered around not feeling free to choose when he wants to do something. She comes to realize that Spiritchild disconnects from his own erotic energy and, when he does, he feels less involved and excited.
Additionally, he goes into a pleaser mode. He jumps out of the self connection state and assumes a care taking role. When he is in this pleasing role, he feels more like a provider and less like a mutually interested participant. Celeste is able to feel this, and guesses that Spiritchild’s partner has this same experience. She is likely feeling that he has left the connection and is just doing it for her. But he isn’t really there for himself.
The Path to Self Connection
Celeste gently guides Spiritchild into touching for his own pleasure. She encourages him to to see what a non-sexual interaction can do for him. Staying connected to his own erotic energy allows him to attune to himself – while at the same time attuning to his partner. Celeste can feel the difference, and makes him understand how much more connected she feels if he is also in it for himself.
When you flow your own erotic energy into yourself, you learn how to create desire with self connection. You realize you don’t need to be in a mutually desirous situation. But you are also available to move into a sexual connection if your partner responds with desire. There is never pressure to do so. By keeping your erotic energy consciously engaged, you can bring it into every moment of your life.
The Lessons Learned
Spritichild’s erotic energy is a huge part of what motivates him in his daily life. Through his Somatica work, he now realizes this intensity is about more than just his love relationships. It’s what makes him feel vital, musical, loving, and connected to spirit in every moment.
The lesson to take from Celeste’s work with Spiritchild is that people often compartmentalize sex. They believe the only time to connect with their erotic energy is when they have sex with a partner (or themselves).
With the Somatica Method, you learn to help people stop shaming their erotic energy – and instead embrace it as a natural part of who they are. You can teach them to bring this erotic self connection into their lives – and in turn bringing aliveness into their daily activities.
Learning how to do relationship repair well will improve your life more than just about any skill you will ever learn. Tension and conflict are normal parts of every relationship. Relationship repair, however, can be tricky.
If you think you can make sure problems never happen by preemptively solving them, you will be sorely disappointed. There will always be tension and challenges in every relationship, so don’t try to eradicate them. If you do, you will likely spend your time together walking on eggshells, criticizing each other, or feeling distant. Instead, try to become efficient and effective in the relationship repair process. It will allow you to spend more time in joy, pleasure, love, and connection – and less time in pain, trauma, and conflict.
What is Relationship Repair?
Relationship repair is the process you go through with a partner when you have a challenge come up in your relationship.
If you address relationship conflict like most people do – by blaming, shaming, defending, explaining, apologizing, demanding forgiveness, or avoiding all conflict altogether – trust and intimacy in your relationships will likely erode over time.
Practicing relationship repair whenever you or your partner are upset can exponentially increase the likelihood of getting to a better place of understanding. It deepens trust and connection, and can also pave the way for mutual support.
The 10 Steps of Relationship Repair
Know You Are in an Emotional Conversation
Either of you can bring awareness to the fact that you have moved from a regular, positive, neutral, logistical or non-triggered conversation to a triggering or challenging conversation. You might say, “I’m starting to get activated” or “I’m feeling tension inside me from this conversation” or “I’m triggered”.
Gauge Your Level of Activation or Triggering
Each of you can name your number from 0-10. Zero is neutral and 10 is my head is about to explode/I’ve completely lost it (can be rage, desire to flee, dissociation). The idea is to try and avoid having conversations – and especially making any decisions – when you are in high activation. Anything beyond a 3 on either side, and it’s better to look for a way to come down and reconnect before you even try to start talking.
Remember – You are a Good Person
Once you’ve started the conversation, your partner might say things to you that make you feel like you’ve done something wrong. At this point, instead of defending or explaining, see if you can take a moment and remind yourself or your inner child (silently inside your head) that you are a good person and you are doing the best you can.
Decide Who Will Go First
It is almost impossible to get both people’s feelings or issues heard at the same time. Either of you can generously offer though to be the listener first. You can also preemptively decide to let the person with the highest trigger number go first. If over the course of your relationship, the same person always seems to be the listener first, it’s a good idea to let the other take a turn. In the least, try consciously acknowledging and making sure everyone is ok with whatever is happening around turn-taking.
Sharing vulnerably means talking about your feelings and not about what happened or about the other person. If you are the person who is sharing first, try to speak neutrally – in a non-shaming, non-judgmental way. Explain what the other person is doing and tell them how it makes you feel. For example: “When you decline my invitations for sex, I feel rejected and start to shut down or give up.”
Listening empathetically doesn’t just mean parroting back what the other person says. It means actually taking a moment and seeing if you can let yourself, as best you can, feel what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes. Do NOT say, “I feel exactly like that” or “Yeah, I feel that way too” because it is not true. Even if you harbor similar feelings, your life experiences (core wounds, triggers, survival strategies) are completely different. You will never feel exactly the same thing as someone else feels in the same situation.
Once you get a handle on what you think they might be feeling, say it while staying connected to your empathy. For example: “Yikes, that sucks. I can imagine how rejected and shut down you must feel when I say no to you.” At that point, they may need to elaborate more about how they feel, and you want to just keep listening and empathizing with each new thing they say.
Make sure to track if you are getting too triggered or overwhelmed in the process. If you do feel too triggered, you will need to alert your partner to the new number you are rising to.
Cop to It
Once you’ve listened to your partner as best you can, it is time to cop to whatever particular way you behave may have contributed to their upset. You know you can be challenging sometimes. It is great to know the ways you are challenging and to be aware of how they affect your partner. Instead of defending or feeling guilty, you can instead acknowledge the impact.
For example, you might say, “I know one thing that is hard about me in relationships is that I often feel like my freedom is being encroached upon so I might say ‘no’ even when I’m more of a maybe or just because you asked. Also, when I say ‘no’, I can be harsher than I want to be because I feel protective of my freedom.”
Make sure that the cop is generic – this means that you are copping to something you know to be true about you in relationships in general. Copping is not an apology for a specific thing that you did. Copping to a particular way you behave that increases the likelihood that your partner will get upset can really help your partner feel like they are not crazy. Make sure you only cop to something if you authentically feel it is something you do regularly – in other words, it is one of your patterns.
Reassure Your Partner
Once you really understand the underlying issue, you can give reassurance to your partner. Do not reassure before you actually know what is upsetting them or you will likely miss the mark. A reassurance might be, “I know that I have a much lower sex drive than you and the discrepancy is really difficult. I also want you to know that I really do desire you. When I am in the mood, I love having sex with you.” Again though – only reassure if the reassurance is TRUE.
Make Sure Both Partners Get a Turn
If you have shared some challenging feelings with your partner, it is likely they have their own concerns come up in response. It is extremely important that both of you are able to share – and feel heard.
If at the end of this process, you are not feeling better or more connected, something may have been missed. Perhaps a feeling you weren’t able to voice, or a need for reassurance. This is the time to check in and see if you are both feeling heard, understood and reconnected. If not, you may have to go through the process again with whatever is still residual. This process is an ongoing exercise in relationship repair, and you might need to revisit the same topic multiple times.
When emotions are high, it can be very difficult to switch into relationship repair mode, so be gentle on yourself and your partner. Instead of monitoring and correcting your partner around following the steps, see if you can do it well yourself.
The best way to make relationship repair part of your daily life, is to commit to practicing it as best you can – to share vulnerably, be honest about what is challenging about you in relationship, and treat others the way you want to be treated. You will feel better about yourself, and you will be the invitation for your partner to practice it well if they are able.
If you feel you need help learning and practicing the skills of relationship repair, find a coach near you via our directory. You can also get a tremendous amount of practice as well as learning how to help your clients with repair in our Somatica Core Training.