Podcast

Skin Starved During Covid

Happy New Year! This week Charna reunites with Amy MacClain to talk about dating during covid and how it’s left so many of us starved for physical contact. This includes the fleeting nature of intimacy when you haven’t been touched in a really long time, empty nest syndrome, moving through transitions, and ambivalent attachment. Also included is an exercise on attuning to self, the challenge of receiving and learning to cope with the changes around connection while in isolation.

Show Notes

Welcome back to late open podcast. I’m your host Charna caselle, a licensed and trauma trained sex therapist. My co host today is my bestie Amy Maclean. She’s an excellent songstress, Master facilitator and a gender equity trainer. We’re both thrilled to have you with us for our first podcast of 2022. I hope you had a safe, useful and cozy New Year. I personally am starting this year off grateful for my heater, my thick hiking socks and my hot tub as it’s been really windy and rainy here in Oakland, California. Of course, we had to lose one more legend Betty White three days before her 100th birthday on the last day of 2021. But the reality is it would have felt like a really rough Omen, if she passed just a day later. I want to acknowledge that a lot of what we recorded was pre quarantine during the pandemic. And so what we want to revisit is what is the time been like so many of us have been isolated and alone or deprived of contact or physical touch life is about to start the trauma is this bad

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Hey, Ames How you doing? What’s up

y’all doing good. It’s a beautiful warm California day. As it always is here, as it always is, yeah, I wouldn’t have to a really good bridge with my was bend and my son. And you know, I just miss him. My son, he went off to college in September. And it’s like, we used to be in contact every day, you know, like hugs. And, you know, he just leans a lot on me, we still do some wrestling even though he’s sixth floor and a gigantic biggie. I really miss him. Like I thought on the verge of tears the entire breakfast. I can’t even feel it now. And this was his first time home without me being in the house at all.

You went away to college in your own way you have your own, you’re your own apartment by yourself for the first time, which is a really big deal and a big transition. Yeah, I’ve never lived alone. So really feeling that lack of physical and regular contact with with your boy.

Yeah, and my dog. And so this is a family that I had even my husband who’s, you know, really wonderful. And we’re very good friends and sometimes very annoying. And I’m glad to have you know, my own space as I’m sure he is. Love you babe. You know, we’re so much better friends than partners and we have been for you know, these last three years that we’ve been divorced and living together, consciously uncoupled? Mm hmm, very, very wonderful and unique process. And we have had good models for that. And we are now good models for other people on how to really take care of your relationships and stay in relationship even though you’re divorced and stay with our family. And so even though we’ve been divorced three years, we’ve been doing that California can’t afford to move out. Plus, I want to be there for your kid, you know, thing, and now I’m finally on my own. And just all that contact is really it was overwhelming to be in it. But it’s also I miss it.

Yeah, yeah. That makes so much sense to me. You know, anything, you don’t realize how used to you get to things until they’re absent? You know? Yeah, I remember the first maybe it was two months into quarantine. And I was walking my dog and I hadn’t really seen anybody. I was taking quarantine pretty seriously. You know, you were in my pod but think I saw you very infrequently. Maybe I’d see I don’t know if I’d even seen you once at that point or what was going on. But I’m walking down the street and a neighbor that I was used to seeing I’d even done some jujitsu with the you know, so we’d had physical contact and that kind of way. I hadn’t seen her in a while. And I think I just bought a house and she reached had her hand I told her she reached out her hand and we were just holding hands and I hadn’t had any physical skin to skin contact at that point. And I felt it through my whole being I’m pretty good at spending you know, long periods of time by myself. I joke that childhood neglect set me up well for

quarantine many people of our generation. Oh,

yeah. Right, like 10 hours by myself drawing, sculpting, making Barbie doll clothes out of socks. And I just started crying because it felt so good. It was like my whole palm was so sensitized. And then she like, I was so surprised like she she reached out and she just pulled me into a hug and and then we just both wept standing on the sidewalk. And it was it was profound to realize how touch deprived and how much I missed, like full body physical nonsexual, just touch. You know, you know, we’re

in such a range of reactions. I mean, I think, you know, vaccinated unvaccinated masks unmasked people who are afraid to be with anyone. Yesterday, I went to a meditation for a day, we went, we did a day long meditation with some members of my community. And it was the first time that the host had had anyone in her home. Wow, yeah, seven of us in her home. And she just was like, This feels so strange and so wonderful. And like, you know, she stepped out for a minute to walk her dog. And she came back in and was like, could feel the energy of the people room. And it was such a big deal for her. She was just crying at the end of the day. Mm hmm.

Yeah, I feel like the the couple moments where I had those kinds of really close, intimate friend hugs, not just like, like kind of trying not to breathe your same breath, like that kind of weird side hug that some people do. A childhood friend came over with her mom and my mom was in town and we hugged we like full cuddle embrace. And I also wept, it was like this feeling of crying for gratitude for contacts, you know, and, you know, I’m thinking of early on in the pandemic. I wrote an article about grief and anticipatory grief. And during COVID And I remember a client, I was walking, talking to her over the phone during our session, and, and she was like, Oh, I feel so bad for, for single people during this time. And at that time, make besides the lack of skin contact, I was actually really grateful to not be forced to quarantine and be with someone 24/7. And to have that space, it’s like such a luxury to have solitude because a lot of people didn’t get that. And it’s it was intense for some and still is for so many people, right?

Yeah. I mean, we could just we could spend days on the social justice ramifications of this time and how different it’s been for people who can’t work from home. Mm hmm. What the United States caste system, though many people don’t believe we have one we certainly do, even though it can, of course, be transcended. There are so many different ways that it’s so difficult for people to move through the caste level that they’re in, because it creates such survival. And so many people had to be shacked up or out out in the world, exposing themselves day after day, or couldn’t be that way. And then we’re trying to live in poverty, I mean, the level of crime in Oakland that’s gone up here, you know, not because people are criminals, but because people are desperate. Right? Right, and angry and not invested in their community or their systems because the system still serve them and have it for so long.

Right? And just the reminder that so much anger comes from a lack of power and feeling like you’re empowered, and that powerlessness, it’s, you know, expressing it through anger is the least vulnerable way. And out of that helplessness, people often feel angry, and it just makes sense. That’s so interesting.

It’s like what part of our empowerment comes from contact? I’m curious about that. Because I feel like as you know, like, I’m used to so much contact, I mean, I’m a facilitator, I facilitate for a living, so I’m used to contact from morning till night,

right? Well, there’s different kinds of contact, right? So emotional contact, physical contact, sexual or intimate contact in that way, spiritual contact, right, you can feel you can, you know, meditate and feel deeply connected or deeply in love, and you’re solitary. Right. And so, I think there’s just different kinds of empowerment, and different kinds of gaining perspective. And I think, you know, because we’re pack animals when we’re left alone for extended periods of time. I mean, we’re seeing this polarity, right? This intense, intense polarity. And some of that I think it’s like loss of perspective. But also, as you were talking about loss of contact can contribute to that. And fear, right? So much fear. Yeah.

Yeah, you know, an energy, the energy of of people, we’re exchanging energy all the time when we’re near people, you know, it’s actually touching or just sort of standing near someone, we’re exchanging all kinds of different energies, you know, emotional energy, whatever our physical energy is, its surrounds our body is interacting with other people. And so what does it meant to be by ourselves without some of that just regular energetic exchange that we’ve been used to? I mean, I know neighbors in my neighborhood are much friendlier. Willing to stop and talk for five seconds, you know, then, and it seems they had been before the pandemic, you know, everybody was busy on their way. And now people are like,

Oh, well, it’s interesting, right? Because again, I feel like there’s these extremes, I can remember you and I going on a dog walk, masked outside, you know, in walking Miller, which is a beautiful Redwood Forest Park in Oakland. And, you know, there are signals there, you know, facial signals that we can’t read that we can’t take in. When we’re behind masks, we can’t see if someone’s smiling or signaling something. And so sometimes people strangely divert their eyes as if making eye contact creates more contagion in some way. I don’t know. So I’ve definitely experienced both extremes, like making good friends with neighbors that I’d never met before. Because I’m, you know, it would be working in a city all day, until after dark, and then suddenly being able to walk around my neighborhood and like, hear people plant practicing piano in the middle of the day. Right, or, or making new friends and trading flowers on the on the street corner and then being invited over to their house for Thanksgiving. And never having met them before. You know. Yeah, really profound opportunities that weren’t presented otherwise. Yeah, but yeah, I mean, we could clearly have a podcast just focused on the disparities and the extremes, some beautiful gifts and opportunities that have occurred for people during this time, given so many people were forced to make hard choices and decisions, life changes, and then in a positive way, and then also the profound losses that have occurred during this time. Yeah.

So powerful. You were going to talk about a show that you watched, I feel like that’s one of the ways we’ve really, we’ve really tried to make contact is to watch these different shows that like, bring us back into some semblance of normality, or some contact with an emotional part of ourselves, or just some relief, some humor, some fun. What were some of your favorite pandemic shows?

We were going to talk about shows. Well, we were going to talk about one

show in particular, I don’t remember.

What was that? Seriously? Oh, Ted Lassa?

No, the hottest show you saw the whole pandemic.

Oh, my God. I was a TED let so it’s your favorite show? Oh, you know, this was a really interesting, I feel like, so often, the success of a show or a movie or something is is about timing. Right. And I feel like so bridgerton. Right, there was mixed reviews of the show, but I think that part of the success of the show. mean yes, there are some great sex scenes in the show. But is the fact that, you know, I normally I’m not so into period pieces, but I feel like the Jane Austen walk and talk because we had so little contact. I could feel and resonate with the turn on of the main character when someone was just putting a necklace around her neck and his finger brush the back of her neck. Yeah. And there’s like I could feel myself gasp and be like, and yeah, yeah, I think that that was a universal success, because so many people were touched deprived.

Ah, it wasn’t just because they were so hot.

It wasn’t just smoking. I think that Logan can you remember watching your first show and when this is at the very beginning and we didn’t know what was going on and people my neighbors were like spraying down their groceries with like, Clorox Access or whatever. And then the first time and I was literally changing my clothes, when I go walk my dog, I had my dog walking close. So I’d like take my clothes off and put them by the door and then like put on regular clothes. I mean, it was kind of intense, hazmat, and the first show where somebody touched a doorknob or hugged someone, and you’d be like

at that level of, oh my god, don’t panic, I feel like poverty makes you bold, in some ways, you know, I grew up really poor, and there’s a place that we’re like, you just get this sort of feeling. I mean, I don’t know about everybody. But for me, as someone who grew up poor, I have this sort of feeling like nothing’s gonna kill me. I’m like a cockroach, I can only make it you know, I’m always gonna have a place to sleep like someone in my family will take me in not all of us, we had a big family, not all of us are going to be out of a place at any given time. And like, nothing’s gonna really kill me. Mm hmm. That didn’t kill me nothing. Well, so yeah, I kind of come from that place. I didn’t have that. So I didn’t have that reaction at the beginning of the pandemic, you know, I’ve

so level of resilience.

Yeah, it’s like, for however many ways I feel traumatized by the lack and the scarcity. Yeah, that’s not one of them.

Right? Right. One of the things that really surprised me that came up, I mean, I immediately my, my, my bigger fear than getting sick, the people that were quarantined at home, that were children and women, or anyone in an unsafe environment. So the anxiety, I felt my own trauma reactivated around domestic violence, and just picturing people being forced to be at home under the guise of it being safe, but it actually wasn’t safe. And how scary that felt for me, and where it escalated was into this idea of like, if I got sick, and I was unable to communicate with anyone not going into work, who would know, no one would, no one would miss me. And so you know, and it just, it doesn’t take long, right. And so the idea that I remember as a kid, when there’d be domestic violence, and no one was responsive, right? Like, even if I heard someone next door, and there was violence, and I was like, we have to call the police. And my mom would say, stay out of it. And this idea that, you know, you just want to keep your distance from things that are ugly or scary to you. And the fear that that’s what people would do that they wouldn’t want to reach out because they wouldn’t want to risk their own safety to help another person. And I feel like the reality was both extremes, like people bending over backwards to help one another. And then also, some people really isolating and not reaching out.

Yeah, you know, there’s just a level, I think there’s a level of shame and fear about things like domestic violence. I mean, and I think that really also relates to how we, how we respond and react and desire touch in our lives. I mean, I think that for me, as a survivor also have domestic violence. And you and I have talked about this before, just the place where we have such different experiences, you know, and we experienced different levels of violence and different types of violence in our childhoods. And I think for me, like, there’s a place of the pandemic, that this part of me that’s like, Please don’t touch me. Like, I don’t want you to touch. I’m bigger than everyone I know. And I don’t want to touch anyone else, because I don’t want to hurt anyone else. But I’m also in this place of like, whatever the shame sort of rejection thing about being bigger than other people, and also the touch thing about like having violence in my life. So maybe it’s a specific set of circumstances, I don’t know. But anyway, like, that place where I’m like, that part of me that’s like, don’t touch me, actually got to feel safer. Isolation in the space of like, and that’s because my home was a safe place to be right now. Now, my current my home during the pandemic, with my husband and my son, and even though he’s my husband, and we were divorced, like, he’s still a safe, physically safe presence. And there was this real boundary because we were divorced. So there wasn’t any kind of physical expectation on me. Yeah. So there’s just a place of like, comfort and connection, but I got to be in that space of like, actually don’t want people to touch me. About like, what feels good to me because I never got to make those choices when I was a kid. And here I am. And now I’m living by myself going oh, okay, now I’m gonna start thinking about what do I actually want? And maybe I’ll start experimenting with that.

Mm hmm. I think what you said is so important about there were no physical expectations, perhaps you know quarantining, and and at home, but I don’t hear the word trapped at home, and a lot of people felt trapped, whether you don’t have a kid pulling on you, right? So people with younger kids might have felt extremely more fatigued by the need and the want. For sure. Right? And so that you still had space even inside of, you know, like, not leaving your house much.

Yeah, and I had a yard and you know, and a dog would take on walks and so like, the level of contact that I could create, right, however, the whatever level of contact, I will not whatever level of contact I wanted. But yeah, having that I just feel like what a privilege that was. Absolutely. Let’s see of like, getting to figure out what what kind of contact I want. Mm hmm. Yeah. To go back to bridgerton. It’s like, I wonder how much of that like anticipatory contact? You know, that was that was like so hot and not show. I wonder how much of it was really expanded because we’re in the pandemic, and people were so pulled back. I’m curious about that. I mean, I think I would have thought that show was hot it no matter when it was released,

I had my first date during quarantine was however many months in, and we’re the first time we met, we sat outside, right, you know, pretty far apart cross from one another and talked for hours. The second time I think I remember if it was like maybe the second or third time where we were, we had contact and he were still outside and he was in a poly relationship. So he had agreements with his partner, he was where he wore a mask and I have this David out in my garden. And we, you know, kind of cuddled, dry humped style, but like, No kissing, I felt like that like a really, if I was a teenager, right? But the level of when I was a teenager, I was so unsafe in my body. I don’t feel like I got the full on horny teenager experience. But sometimes that now, right, like so I I projected that this is what the teenager experience was right? It was pretty innocent. But so, so hot that I was, you know, I was making, you know, loud sounds and the next day What was so funny because I was a little self conscious. Like, you know, there’s a 93 year old woman who lives next door to me and I’m like, I don’t have to serve her. So the next day, my neighbor across the street was like, there was a putting owl in your garden. Did you see? Like, I’m like, God? Did he hear me? But do you think? I don’t know there might have actually been an hour another Eagle there. There rather hawks in my in my garden wonder what

your hot sounds were? You’re like, Oh

yes, yes, I make bird calls when I get really turned on. So awesome. So awesome. That’d be really incredible. If that’s what someone did, they made like different animal calls, just because they practice them. That was what was the embodied sounds that would come out of them. At the peak of Turner.

I love how much permission you have to explore all over the place like that, like that’s an exploration that I wonder how many people would have permission for like, how did you come into creating that level of, you know, sexual permission that would allow you to just explore each other’s bodies with no, you know, with with, with your boundaries and tact and like what our I mean, it just feels like wow, what a sweet way to be in the pandemic in that moment.

Do you mean it? So it’s interesting, I’m not totally sure what when you say the permission. I mean, there was a lot of there was negotiation, right? Wanting to not only feel safe for each of us, but also take his partner into consideration. And so when you say permission, what do you

I mean, the kind of freedom that you have. So you’re out there on a day in and you’re out on your deathbed and it just starts to get physical like that. And you really let yourself go and be in that moment and enjoy it fully. And yeah, I just I don’t know that I would like surrendering

into the Yeah. You You don’t know if you would, what were you gonna say? Well, I

don’t know if I would surrender like that. I don’t know if I would feel awkward or embarrassed or, you know, so I’m just curious how you’re cultivating that wonderful freedom. You know?

What’s interesting is, I can remember being a senior in high school, and I pretty much didn’t have a sexual encounter that I for the most part, I would dissociate. Do during sexual encounters until I was in my mid 20s, or maybe like early 20s, early 20s. But I do remember there was this one boy who was in my ceramics class, and we ended up it was like an overnight senior party thing after, you know, before or after graduation. And he was a junior, he was the younger brother of, of a girl, my class, and we ended up just making out and I remember taking my shirt off, and it was outside, we’d slept outside. And I remember him being really, really nervous. And there was a level of freedom that I still remember to this day, because it wasn’t as frequent, right? So often, I felt this level of pressure from people that was put put on me, and then I would just float away, or I would freeze up. And I just felt so good in that moment. And I don’t, you know, I think that a bunch of circumstances have to occur. For that to to happen, but in terms of the moment with this guy out of my day bed, the restrictions, I think Brett even more turned on, right? I think that it was actually quite it felt quite taboo. It felt quite naughty, which also creates when you know, more turned on, when we feel like we’re like, oh, there’s there’s maybe like a sliver of shame in it. Like, oh, can I can I tell people that I like got this close to another human? Is that okay? And yet, there was also this level of safety because there was so much negotiated, like, I knew, aha, you know, that there was a lot of respect. And it was consensual, and things had been talked about. Well, it

just made me think there’s a friend of mine named Sumati sparks, do you know her? She’s Polly and has, you know, been a facilitator of groups most her life and she does coaching for people around sexual freedom. And she put a post up recently about conversation negotiation that she calls pep talks at the beginning. And so her pep talks are like, can we have a pep talk before we engage sexually? So can we talk about our physical desires are our physical needs, you know, STI is anything that we need to share with each other? Our emotional needs our emotional safety, our emotional boundaries? And then I forget the third one, I think it might be personal, like, really was sort of what are you more like? Like what’s Yeah, just your physical but like, what personally like sort of what are your references? Yeah. Third P is, but it got in, it’s like, yeah, you know, that is one thing that the pandemic for has much polarity as we have in our culture right now, that is one thing that the pandemic is providing an opportunity for us to have to talk, yes. Where our boundaries will be or like what we’re comfortable with, or at least checking in with someone, are you comfortable with this or not, has become sort of a more normalized, yes. Asking people are you comfortable or not, is like such a basic human thing that we should be doing all the time, but we’ve had in the past so much, you know, I want to say so much fucking permission. And I use that, you know, it’s like, I don’t know if that is bad to say on the podcast, but I really feel like I gotta say it like that so much fucking permission to just tread on each other in the name of what we want, you know, or in our individual, like yours out for yourself. And it’s like, you know, we are a global community in a global situation and member of global situations,

huh? Yeah, no, 100%, you know, there, there’s often I feel like, I make jokes around safe sex, right? It’s like safe contact and, and so much in terms of what you’re saying of, you know, when you go to someone’s house, it’s like, do you need the person to wear a mask or not wear a mask? Or are we going to be outside and like, all the things that get negotiated during this time, as you said, it’s like, oh, how much consent practice has the world had, and now it takes repetition, repetition for something to be embodied. And so we’ve gotten a lot of practice, and we’ll see how that translates into other parts of people’s lives. It’s going to be very interesting. I mean, even you know, corporations are in those conversations, right? Like, every business is in that conversation. And yeah, it’s a very, very interesting time when it comes to that. Well, I

love that you mentioned bridgerton earlier, because it’s like, can we make consent hot? Hmm. Right? Like, can we make it hot to ask someone if they want to, because they’re, or if they want to be touched in this way, or if they want to, you know, or what their boundary is, you know, like, I can totally imagine you making that really hot. Yeah, and how do you like, Okay, how do I want to ask this? You know, you’re talking about being skin starved, and then in contact starved in the pandemic, and it’s like this opportunity to reset and he’s Slow down, and remember what could be hot? Like in bridgerton, it’s hella hot that they have to keep such distance. And then every touch is meaningful, you know, in every, like, little space where you’re looking at someone, you know, coyly or in whatever way is is a build of tension. Yep. Yeah. And we’re in this fast food sort of nation, where it’s like, you’re gonna go from zero to 60 in five seconds? And I don’t know, it’s like, I think it’s really good to consider how do we use this reset in a way that we want? You know, like, how many women you know, raise your frickin hand if you want it to be hotter and slower? Like, let’s go build the tension? You know?

Yeah, well, you know, I think in general, slow, deliberate, mixed mixed pieces, but actually listening and being present. Right? Tuning into, you know, you’re, you’re much more likely to feel things when you go slowly. And if too much is happening all at once, right, you lose a lot, you lose a level of presence, like if you’re if you’re triple tasking, you know, you’re watching, I was watching a show while I was cooking, and it was talking about the mind and was talking about the brain. And it was talking about conscience, you know, like how, how much you’re taking in. And it even commented on exactly what I was doing, right. And so, you know, if you’re being with someone, but you’re thinking about your to do list, or you’re thinking about how you don’t want what’s happening to happen, or you’re thinking about, you know, there’s just so many, so many ways that you can take yourself out of presence. And the more that you’re able to say what does feel good and doesn’t feel good? It brings you back into the present moment. Oh, yeah. Right. Even in, in non sexual situations, right. So like it, let’s say you’re getting a massage, or just your there’s no physical contact. And if you’re trying to convince yourself out of what you’re feeling like, I should be feeling something different. Right? You’re not in the right, you’re not in the present moment, you’re thinking about what should be. Ah, and then if you say to yourself, like, because I can remember being with somebody once, like, early, early, like in my 20s. And he was tuned in to me, and he stopped and he was like, are you okay? And I had gone offline, I had started to dissociate. Because of something I was feeling, I don’t know. But as soon as he stopped and paused, and he was registering, that I had spaced out, or he couldn’t feel me in the same way, my turn on it was like a light switch went back on and my turn on came right back, and I was right back with him.

So sometimes, if you’re dissociating, it’s about having someone stop and give you a moment or someone even just know the carrying in that way. I’m wondering if another way, when you were talking about when you are feeling like I shouldn’t feel like that is to pause yourself and wonder how you are feeling and if you like it, or don’t like it?

100% and I just mean, even in a non sexual like, just emotionally, people in big periods in their life. They’re like, Oh, I’m making myself wrong for, for wanting this thing. Right? I don’t want to be in this job. I don’t want to be in this relationship. And then they tell themselves they should feel otherwise. Right? Yeah. And, and so what happens is, it’s like your foot is on the brake and on the gas and you can’t move forward. You can’t be in the present moment. You’re in this kind of liminal weird space.

Yeah, it’s like one of the things I think about what I when I think about do I like or don’t like it as someone who has sort of shut myself off to feeling for a long time. Like, it’s funny, because my career for 14 years was teaching people how to express their feelings, how to tune into their own feelings and express their feelings. And yet, so much of my own feeling life had had been shut down. Shut down. Yeah, I was leading my own feeling life for the benefit of others, not for the benefit of myself. And actually, I mean, I will say it was for the benefit of myself in the sense that I was keeping myself safe in the way that I knew how to do that. But now that I’m having this sort of more expansiveness, I like the idea of when I have that, like, you shouldn’t be feeling this, you know, because I have that that comes up, like, why are you feeling this? You shouldn’t be feeling this. Then the next question that comes up is, well, what do you feel? And then I go, I don’t know. That’s what comes up for me is I don’t know. And so that moment of stopping and being like, wait a minute, can I just say, What can I get present to the sensation and go like not like, because that might actually be another place? ago?

Well, you can also ask yourself, you know, if the automatic response is, I don’t know, for instance, I might be in physical contact with a client, right? Like, have my hand on a part of their body in a non sexual way, everyone please note, then ask them to, you know, how does contact feel? And they might be like, I don’t know, or I think it’s okay. And I’m like, and so then I take my hand off, and I go, so does it feel better or worse? To have contact? Right? So to check your check in with yourself, and then if it’s, well, I think it’s better. It’s like, well, what sensations and experience tells you it’s better? Like what tells you you like it? That’s what tells you you don’t like it? What do things get tighter? Do things get looser? How is your breath? Do you only feel the upper part of your body does the rest of you disappear?

Well, I feel simultaneously so interested by that. And also so like, discouraged, like, oh, my god that feels like so bad. Your work just well, and like comes naturally to most people.

I would say it’s not, you know, you can make that assumption. But I have clients equally on both sides of it. Right? There are people who tend to run more numb and people who feel everything, I’m more in the feel everything camp and you’re in more of the numb camp, and it’s not better or worse. It’s it’s just a different way of being. You know, I often think of animals, right? Like, I’m like a turtle and a giraffe different ways of being you don’t make them wrong for their way. Right? Yeah, but what you’re saying the amount of like, oh, this is so much work. We don’t see how much work it took to go numb, right? And to maintain numbness. It’s just habit. Right? It was work at some point. And so now it’s just like, Okay, I need to establish a new habit. And yes, initially, it’ll be more work.

Well, it was reaction. To me, it doesn’t feel like it was work, it feels like it was reaction over and over and over again, which is why I wait to have something else to react to, versus like changing my opinion that how I built those habits out of reaction, versus how I can build new habits out of intention, and what it feels like how it feels like, so much work to just have an intention, which like, I guess that’s a place for me to reframe, you know, yesterday, I was in my meditation, and I came out of the meditation, and I looked over and there was this place where I was, like, you know, have a lot of shit about where I should be at with this, how should I be feeling my heart and this minute, and then I looked over, and there was a little potted plant on the side of the room. And I was like that potted plant is not thinking about how it should be growing right now. Like, I know, it’s a complex to be a human being. I’m not a potted plant. Okay, but but it just felt like, you know, how do I come back to a place where I’m not ashamed that it takes work for me to undo the all the reactivity that created all of this habit. And I’m also not overwhelmed or disheartened by the prospect of how much, you know, intention and work and counteracting, it’s going to take for me to shift

it. Right? Well in that. So what happens with shame, right, is it shuts everything down. It shuts the conversation with another person down. If it’s expressed externally, it shuts the conversation with yourself down if it’s expressed internally. And just remembering that shame is also related to powerlessness, right? It’s something that we often will default to, like, Oh, I’m doing this wrong gives us a little bit more power than powerlessness. And when we don’t know how to make something happen, or have something be different, we may go into shame.

Yeah, it’s so interesting. You know, I’m hanging out with my son today. And he told me a few days ago, we’re on break. Yeah. And he mentioned to me that he has this feeling of depression, like once a month kind of comes on, and he feels unmotivated, and like, you know, a sense of hopelessness, a constriction in his chest, like, nothing’s gonna really work out. And I feel, you know, as a mom, I feel simultaneously anxious, and like, oh, shit, I gotta do something for my son. And also like, just, you know, heartbroken for him in some ways. And, and I also feel the big level of context of all of the things that have brought him to this place. And, you know, I’m just remembering, it’s like, he’s been away from home for the first time for a few months. And he’s coming back to this place where he and I have a lot of contact. And he’s off on his own. And so what isn’t about a lack of contact in that way? That reassuring way, you know, ever since he was a kid, we had a lot of contact. I held him constantly for two years. And you know, when he used to nurse as a baby, he would like hold my hair and, you know, have his little places that he would hold on. And he still does that. Like, there’s so many ways that he’s built all of this contact app. And now he’s been without it for a couple of months and just watching like, oh, the feelings of scarcity or lack or sadness, and how that how that hits him.

So is this different than how you experienced him during high school when he was living at home? Did he not ever share moments of depression?

It feels a little different. I mean, he did have those moments here. And there, you know, I think his generation when they think about the world, oh, yeah, even when they think about the world, it’s so overwhelming everything they’re facing, and, and they know it, they know that they’re facing me when I was 18. And I didn’t, I didn’t know what we were facing in the world, I didn’t have a sense of that. I was like, here’s what I’m facing at home. And I had a sense of social justice, I had a sense of injustice and oppression that we were facing, but it didn’t feel like the world was going to explode. And we were I died was. So he’s definitely had that. And I’ve done my best to put it in a cultural context for him. But

the amount of responsibility and pressure and uncertainty is massive. And, you know, I think that people who are pretty regulated and developed and have lots of tools have also experienced tremendous anxiety over the last, you know, year and a half during this time. And it’s just growing. Right? It’s just growing.

So do you think coming back together and creating some contact, especially some skin to skin contact would help people sort of re enter the world in a new way? And if so, like, how, how do you think we could start to do that in such a way that we could actually maybe reset and, and evolve a little bit?

You know, I think that’s not an easy answer. Because people have different levels of what’s called that attachment, secure attachment. And if, as you know, for some people, as you were saying earlier, having distance creates safety, right, so people can have ambivalence, and they can want contact, but then when they have it feel really unsafe. Right. So it’s not the sweet Pat, I would love for it to be a really simple thing of like, universally, you know, this is the pill for everyone to take, and you know, everyone go get a massage, you’ll feel great, you know, some people hate being touched. So, I do think that yeah, I don’t have a simple answer to that question. If you want to ask it another way. I’ll give it a try. But at could I will say, though, around that what’s tricky is that some people really want contact, but they may not have the financial resources to pay for it. And they may not have the people in their lives to get it from. Right. And, you know, there’s a kind of attachment bodywork that some of my clients call a cuddle therapy, or the whole, there’s something and it’s basically like replicating how you hold a baby, right? Like there’s a level of containment, that I’m physically offering my client and, and doing it in a way that’s constantly attuned to and listening to their nervous system for what’s too much what’s enough, sometimes it could look like I’m literally just holding the foot of a client, or that they’re holding my leg, right? So it can look really different. I’m holding the back of their head, like you hold a baby, which sends a nonverbal message to their nervous system that they are supported. And so it’s, it’s being with someone if you have someone in your life. So I would teach I used to teach that to friends of mine, because I thought it was such a radical, revolutionary practice. And so just being able to and not everyone has friends that touch each other, especially men, right? It can be really hard to find someone just to have non sexual touch from.

So would you say a place to start? We’re coming back from the pandemic, in some ways, in some places, not in all places, but feels like there’s some reentry happening. Would you say a place to start is with a question of negotiation? Maybe.

You know, it’s, it’s, it’s very interesting. I think people have different again, different skill levels. Some people they think they’re thinking things or feeling things and they don’t know, they don’t have the training to have it come out of their mouth. Right? They don’t know how to do that. But if you’re able to and if you’re able to get yourself to be explicit and say out loud, like check in with someone One, if you have a question, and you’re uncertain about how much contact they want, or if they are interested in being closer to you, yeah, ask them, because you’re not going to get what you want, if you don’t ask often, right? And, you know, that’s a lot of what, like, consent isn’t just about checking in with the other person’s needs and wants, it’s also putting foregrounding what you need and want.

So what’s an exercise you would do with someone to help them figure out what they want? In terms of contact?

So I’m wanting to translate this, this is a practice that I would do in person with somebody, but well, I’ll describe the I’ll describe the exercise. And I think I’ve described this before on different episodes, but getting clear on what yes, no, and maybe feel like in your body, right. So often, for people yes. Can feel like an opening, it can feel like things are looser in your system. But what’s tricky is some people are very much conditioned to say yes. Right? So we have an automatic Yes. Other people have an automatic No. Other people have an automatic, maybe. Right. So you first have to get a sense of well, what do I default to? My someone that always says yes to people? Am I someone that always says no to people?

Should you think of like your last 10 requests that people made of you and be like? Yes, did I say no?

Yeah, yeah. You know, I remember early on my somatic, I was in my 20s. And I had a partner who was so generous and sweet and giving. And but I was overwhelmed by how much she wanted to give me. And I remember the assignment was okay, Debbie has to give less. And she has to offer less for every 10 time she wants to offer you something, maybe only one. And you have to say yes, more. Right? It’s like it was that was a hard one for me. But it stayed with me. And I’ve developed the capacity to receive more, you know, So paying attention to what are the signals? What are the sensations, right? And so sensation shows up in the body in terms of temperature. In terms of texture, does it feel buzzy? Does it feel thick? Does it feel like cement? Temperature warm? Cold hot? Is there a size to it? Does it feel like a pit in your stomach? Does it feel like a boulder on your chest? Does it feel like there’s cement blocks around your feet? Right? Is there an image right? I just listed some images? Like what’s your experience of sensation in your body tension? pain free, expansive, bubbling, Buzzy, light vast? And what emotions are rising? Can you feel what emotions happen? Is there excitement? Right? Often excitement and anxiety can be hard to pull apart? What if there’s a history of trauma, like all sensation can increase anxiety for many people, but think of something very neutral that you respond yes to? Right. It could be food, right? It could be smoked turkey? Or is what something that you know, again, that’s kind of neutral, because relationships get really can be dicey for people. It’s a harder one to decipher. But don’t don’t start with your hardest thing. Right? What is something you know that you have a clear No. to doing? Right? And what are the sensations that accompany that moment where you clearly felt like no, I don’t want that. Yeah,

feels like food is an easy place to start. Is there like probably people have real yeses and noes with food

it can be but I also work with a number of people that have eating disorders. And so food can be a super tricky one for some people. So it’s again, there’s no right answer for everyone. But if that’s what feels right for you, then start there. Right? Like for sure, I know that I’m I’m I’m not into to green peppers. I will never say yes to a green pepper. Versus sex. Right? If we’re looking at sex, there are times where I’m going to be 100%. Yes, about something and there are times the same sexual act I’m going to be a maybe or a no to it depends on the circumstance depends on the person. Right? So you build up towards the harder things, but start with the the easier things. Cool. Yeah, the opportunity inside this time of being removed from contact, and then being reintroduced to it is that we’re more sensitized, right? And that’s not just like physical contact, but auditory contact, visual stimulation, like all the things right, I saw, I saw Hamilton and I felt like my whole body took it in, in a way that I hadn’t the first time was so intense and profound that I like wept for the whole second act. So just remembering it’s kind of like you’ve been You know, you’re a snake and you’ve like sloughing off your skin and you have like fresh skin and you’re much more sensitized to things. And so there may be just you need less, you want less, and give yourself the permission and don’t force yourself into old ways of being just because that was what you were capable of two years ago. I think that’s an important thing kind of coming full circle back to this place of what’s actually true for me now, and that can be hard to feel. But if you do feel it, don’t override it and make yourself wrong for feeling it.

Yeah, such a real opportunity right now. Mm hmm.

Yeah. Good to see your face even though I saw it a couple days ago.

Yeah. Thanks for the conversation.

Always. I’m so grateful for your friendship. Likewise, yeah,

I’m grateful for bridgerton

Oh,

I need to rewatch it apparently. I feel like we should do an episode that’s just about what are what are hot shows available for streaming on Netflix. And you know, the internet immediate gratification.

China’s hot top 10

Often it often it’s only like, like a three minute segment of on something but still right at what what’s cool about Netflix is that you can keep things queued up like if you’re looking for masturbation material, you can just like keep it queued up and like that’s what you know. You don’t have to fast forward

you know when around for a while. I don’t know if it’s still going around. But on on Facebook, this little thing went around I know you can people on the podcast won’t be able to see but see those two pink ones kiss and dreamy or

dream? Whatever. Oh, yeah. No, yeah, I’ve never heard of them.

So they’re just two little apps that people write their own stories and you pay for the stories as you go. So a story might be like $6 And you pay for it to keep unfolding but it’s like super low quality, like hot, trashy romance.

I’m so impressed. You have that on your phone, Amy.

I know

I was this little face. I saw them on Facebook and I started reading these like really hot, poorly written stories like just poorly written. I’m sorry y’all but they are terribly written. Wow. So hot that you just kind of can’t stop. It’s like watching a train wreck. But you know. There wasn’t really fun.

So whether you’re Netflix and chilling with yourself, or with a friend, I’m wishing you cozy, cozy times. This episode is dedicated to the big hearted brilliant beings who passed in the last few weeks. Bell Hooks. Melodrama Patrice. So may Desmond Tutu, Joan Didion, and Betty White. If you learn something new from this podcast, please like, share and review it so more people can find our community. Find it wherever you get your podcasts, just search late open podcast. You can also send questions to late open podcast@gmail.com And please follow us on Facebook and Instagram at late open podcast. Have a beautiful rest of your day.

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© 2022 By Charna Cassell, LMFT. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. MFC 51238.

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