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The Evolution of the Love Languages with Anne Hodder-Shipp

This week Anne Hodder-Shipp, a renowned sexuality educator, joins me to discuss her new book “Speaking From the Heart: 18 Languages for Modern Love.”

Her book offers an alternative perspective and response to what we have come to accept as the 5 Love Languages, which is focused on heteronormative monogamous relationships. Anne instead proposes a refreshing new take on intimacy and safety building in all types of relationships. 

In this episode, she invites you into creating additional love languages of your own while recognizing hers is based on 6 years of research with clients but not exhaustive. Plus, she offers up a dreamwork exercise to navigate our subconscious emotions and symbols. That you can easily do on your own.

Her work can be found at and all of her trainings are available at

Show Notes

Welcome back to Laid Open podcast. This is your host Charna Casell and today, my excellent guest is an hotter ship. She is an award winning internationally recognized sex educator and the author of the groundbreaking expansive love language guide, speaking from the heart 18 languages for Modern Love. Our guest is such a great resource. She’s doing important work in the world around sex education. And this book really offers some basic relating skills and empathy building skills and how to care for the people in your life, not just in our romantic relationships, hopefully one day in my lifetime these skill sets are something that are included in public school education. Welcome.

And I thanks for having me. Yeah,

I’m really excited to talk to you and looking forward to having this be a resource out in the world, for my clients and for for other listeners that I have yet to meet. Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I learned from your book that I did not know, because, you know, I knew about the five love languages and took the quiz, like so many other people over the however many years that book has been out, but I didn’t know it was written by a Christian minister. And I definitely saw the flaws in how limited it was. But that was an important fact for me, in terms of slanting like who is this? Who’s this book directed at? And, and the limited perception of of like, this is what love is, right?

Yeah, I feel like and this is, of course, just me sussing it out. But it is like suspiciously missing from the mainstream discourse and marketing, that this dude isn’t actually anything more than a minister. And that’s where he’s gotten his quote, unquote, like relationship expertise. And that alone is super problematic. But also he is not privately homophobic. He’s on me, you can find his commentary online about his ideas of homosexuality. So it’s just kind of like, Alrighty, let’s burn this. I don’t understand, you know, how is this you know, still, it’s Ficus. How many three years later almost, it’s still like the goat you that people are always referring to?

Well, what’s crazy? I mean, it’s a funny thing. It’s, it’s great that that people are starting to think like, oh, the way that it’s entered mainstream dating, right, so you could go on on a dating site, and there’ll be one of the series of questions. It’s like, what makes you laugh? And what is your love language? Yeah, right. So it’s, it’s, it’s normalized to talk about that, which is a good thing. And to know that what you love and like, and what feels good to you, and has you feel cared for may be very different than what someone else feels cared for. And that’s a good important distinction. But to then take it outside of romantic relationship and spread it across all platonic relationships is something that you do. And I think is, is really valuable.

Thank you. Yeah. I mean, I’ve been aware of and utilizing the concept of love languages for ages. And for a really long time, you know, the resource was the book and the quiz. And so I would just, like, adjust it in real time when I was using it with people. But one of the biggest issues I have found is just among other things, how sexualized and romanticized, the concept of love has been to the point where it ends up seeping into all other kinds of toxic issues with our relationships, including like the idea of it’s somehow a betrayal to access or source love from anyone other than some kind of monogamous partner that is destined for a marriage certificate. And it’s just like, when I would work with all these people, there would be really this like hesitation and confusion around. How am I supposed to get my needs met if my partner isn’t matching my love language? And it’s like, Well, do you have other folks in your life who also provide you a sense of like love because that’s another option your partner doesn’t have to be slashed, cannot be the well you constantly dip into for all your needs, that’s too much pressure on them, and they’ve got their own well to try to source so just right off the bat, I realized among the needs for expanding this concept was to really remind people that love is not a sexual thing. It is not even a romantic thing. Because we love our pets and our family members and teachers and children, you know, and and to really just give people a big reminder that this is something outside of MIDI, these narrow parameters that over time, we in our culture have just been kind of putting around it. Mm hmm.

Yeah. And we also we need to put care and work into listening and evolving how we love ourselves and other people throughout our life. Totally,

Because it never stays the same. That’s the other thing that I that people would have a hard time with. It’s like, similar with, you know, sexual identity, I need to figure it out. So it’s done. And I’m good until I’m dead. And it’s like, well, I’m actually very much like the wind, you know, it’s gonna be there. And then at one point, you might notice it’s suddenly over here. And, and that’s okay. So maybe take some of that pressure off and just like, keep exploring and off and have that open, that openness to noticing if something shifts and, and feels different, and then maybe seeing that as like a positive opportunity more so than a chore or a burden to have to try to like figure out all over again.

Well, it’s, you know, this odd time that we’re in with COVID. And all the uncertainty that’s been happening for years. You know, it, it’s, it highlights how uncomfortable humans are with uncertainty. Oh, yeah, we want things to be black and white. We want to put people in boxes, we want to, you know, to label them and have those labels stick. And, and so I think, yeah, we’re all getting a lot of practice and being with it. And if it’s, if it’s the more rigid you are, the more rattled you’re going to be? Yeah, yeah. So I’m curious, I know that a little bit about your background regarding sociology and journalism. And I’m curious how that may be informed your interest or this path towards being a sex educator.

Oh, yeah. 100%, where I went to school, it wasn’t sort of commonplace for there to be a bunch of gender related sociological classes. And so it was one of my minors, for some reason, I wanted to double minor with French as though I would ever use the French minor. But anyway, anyway, I think I was one credit shy from the sociology minor, honestly. But what I tried to do is cram it with as many cultural discussions around like identity. So there was, I think, one class on women’s studies, one on men’s studies, there might have been one on human sexuality that I don’t even know honestly, it was, it was in the sociology department. But I was really just finding ways to piece stuff together. So it makes sense. And I don’t think I actually had a trajectory or specific intent. It was really, this is interesting and feels relevant. And I have access to it while I’m in this school. So let’s just do it. And it really helped give me perspective on concepts like constructs and the impact of culture on what a lot of us believed to just be universal truths, and ways to identify the difference between what could be like a factual truth and what could be really just someone’s belief system from 100 years ago, that ended up because of their power and access and influence ended up becoming the truth 100 years later. And so all that cultural discussion mixed with the critical thinking skills, and the research skills on the journalism side, really just like accidentally gave me a really fantastic set of tools to look at the world through. And that coupled with just the reality that I didn’t have a ton of, I didn’t have a ton of the sexual scripting that I think a lot of people do grew up with, I had plenty, but it wasn’t the sort of heteronormative oh, gosh, I don’t even know how to describe it, like the heteronormative ideas of what sex is supposed to be and what masturbation is and isn’t, and it just didn’t have any bat. So on the one hand, it meant I was kind of just like, floating into the ether with nothing grounding me, but then also it didn’t. I didn’t come with all of these, like, rigid, you know, inflexible standards, right? So all of that put together just made it really easy to ask questions and to be curious and to try to, you know, learn as much as I possibly could. And at the same time, you know, how can I relate a concept that might feel kind of, you know, fancy or researchy and, you know, sometimes a little a little over our heads and how do I have a put that into maybe even like a form of literary journalism with storytelling that could bring bring that concept down to earth, so it could be like swallowable, you know, so I did that for a little while before officially going into sex ed As a sexuality journalist, and it was kind of a logical path, because after a while I realized, part of the fun of doing this is to actually engage with people and not have like, the screen or the page as a middle thing, you know, so so that was when I started to make a more official transition. And even then I hadn’t really done the official like sex ed trainings just yet. So that was even still part of the progression. But absolutely, all of that in college was, unbeknownst to me a very valuable set of skills and tools and classes I was able to really take to build all of this for myself. Hmm.

And, and you also, I’m curious about when you were a kid, you’re saying you didn’t have all of this, like some people raise with certain kinds of religion, or models in their home around what sex was supposed to look like, and depending on, you know, the gender and sex of their parents and, and so what? What questions were you personally in, in your development? And what was being modeled for you at home? Yeah,

So very different things, in part, because my parents were relatively hands off with a lot of stuff. So I would, it was really up to me a lot of things, but it’s up to me to kind of like figure out or deal with. And there wasn’t necessarily this thought that, you know, open conversation with questions was even something I would need or benefit from. Yeah. So I didn’t have the internet until mid high school. So it was very much reading back issues of like Cosmo and glamour that they had at the libraries grew up in a small town. So wherever I had access to, and then the sex book section, this little tiny section, I would just look up in the card catalog. Remember those?

I I think I’m probably 10 years older than you. So I was like, not using the internet until I was like, past working in Good Vibrations. Like I don’t think the internet was maybe in the early 2000s. For me.

Oh, wow. It’s interesting. Like, I mean, I love that because we both end up like we both have knowledge of how to have both sides could be and how to, like engage with information and figure stuff out. I remember the card catalogs started to get transitioned into the digital catalog where you could like type in search terms. I don’t remember how old I was. But I want to say maybe early teens, and the internet existed, but we didn’t really have it easily in our house until I want to say sophomore or junior year of high school. And back then it was still chat rooms and instant messenger and which is its own cesspool of information, you know. But anyway, so I just wanted to try to read stuff, because to me, it made sense to gather information, because to me, and what had been modeled to me is, you know, understanding stuff brings a sense of safety information is power. And if there’s something I don’t quite understand, if I can find it written down in a book somewhere, then that will help me maybe better understand it. So the modeling side, I really just observed a heterosexual marriage that had very specific roles and power dynamics that aren’t necessarily the stereotypical ones. But what there was, for sure, were the results of both my dad and my mom’s own upbringing, and what it meant to be a partner. And my dad really had an upbringing that I wouldn’t wish on. If I had enemies, I wouldn’t wish it on to my worst enemy. He didn’t have really parents at all to model anything. My mom had Irish Italian combination, alcoholic dad, Sicilian mom, who was like a little firecracker, but also was trapped, you know, in this like situation. And so I just observed a bit of deference to the, the male who also just there was no discussion of feeling no space for feelings, like just a lot of that kind of stuff. So I had that kind of scripting in terms of gender roles. But ironically, as someone assigned female at birth, I had a lot of like socialization on the masculine side. So in terms of like, how to apologize, how to deal with feelings, how to communicate was very much quote unquote, male or masculine, but then my entire childhood teenage hood, and part of my 20s was striving to like sort of be able to be to prove that I could be a part of the woman club as well. And so I had, all of that was an internal struggle, though. And, you know, at the time, it wasn’t a struggle to me, it just, it was like, this was just what life was. So those kinds of scripting plus what I would just see in the media around, you know, body standards, what was attractive, what was considered attractive specifically through the male gaze, all of that was very much internalized and taught to me and I really absorbed it. I was a fantastic student in that. And then on the SEC side, I just had no scripting no nothing except what I could learn. And then I just was constantly I mean this, maybe that’s hyperbole, but I masturbated whenever I wanted all the time. There were no rules. No one ever brought anything up, I think I might have been walked in on once. And my mom was just like, why are you doing that here, and then she left and probably an ideal reaction, I suppose. But it was very hands off, you know. So I didn’t have any of that hang up. But I also didn’t really have any experience of being sexually desired, or expressing sexual desire or pleasure with another human being until maybe I was 17. And it was in a really, unfortunately unhealthy, moderately manipulative type of relationship, in part because it wasn’t technically a relationship in this person’s eyes. I was really just like a warm body. But for me, it was like, This is what I’ve been working for. And so I’ll take the crumbs even if I’m still starving after Yeah, you know, even if the crumbs are really covered in mold, I’ll take them. And that was something that I didn’t, it didn’t even really register the impact of that. And including my concept of like, what it meant to be loved and deserve love and earn it until probably that was 31. So a lot of the a lot of the work I’ve done in my 30s is really just kind of thinking about whether or not I want to label it as anything negative. Who cares? To me really, it’s more like, how was this a teacher of mine? And where can I locate those lessons, because they’re probably garbage and I should be toss them out in the alleyway as soon as I possibly can. So I can really find space for bringing in the stuff that actually is mine is not the stuff that I just kind of picked up along the way.

And also, what were you consciously or unconsciously in a conversation with or in response to, right, and, you know, there’s definitely the typical thing of like, oh, this is what I’m seeing in the media, or in my family or school. And this is how I need to be to be loved as, as a female body person or a male body person. And you know, some people are constantly in like, you know, searching out information to try to make sense of what their internal state is. So did you have any, like friends or teachers or other resources, besides a card catalog to be in those dialogues with to try to make sense?

Not really only because I had, like, lots of friends, I had the teachers? Sure, I guess were in my life. But there, I guess to me, I don’t have the greatest memory necessarily of maybe specific dynamics that might have existed. But friend wise, I don’t think we had any kinds of real conversations around, you know, this is how I’m feeling and what do you think and what kind of support can I have? It was really, I was just in my world in my reality, and filling in the gaps in the blanks with what made sense to me. And I think they were probably also and we were really just kind of going with the flow, while also just sort of, I don’t know, sourcing and cheesing bits and pieces of excitement and things that could feel, I don’t know, enjoyable or interesting, outside of this very sort of small bubble we were in because my my parents were from Brooklyn, I mean, my dad’s from England and emigrated but they’re Brooklynites who moved to this tiny town just because my mom was pregnant, and they couldn’t live in the shithole they lived in in Brooklyn. So my dad happened to get a job in this tiny town. And it was the only reason we were there. And so there was also that element of we did not belong, I did not connect, we did not snowboard or have snowmobiles, or boat in our like, yeah, hockey. And I would play the role is to try to adapt, because what else was there to do, but socially and emotionally and even, like mentally, none of that made sense to me. And there were some other people in my life, in my school in the community who had a similar kind of disconnect from that whole space. So we were really just doing what we could to try to feel like we were living a life that was even remotely in line with what would feel desirable to us with whatever was in our control. And then of course, you know, when we left for college, we were just kind of doing whatever the fuck So

yeah, that’s it’s painful, that level of disconnect the cultural piece, the emotional piece that you know, and feeling like that sense of belonging is so necessary as humans, right, we want to belong and so feel like there’s this dissonance and then often people make it about themselves. Right, there’s some there must be something wrong with me because I don’t snowmobile.

Right. How do I figure out how to snowmobile in three days so I could go on to this party? I was maybe invited to.

Yeah, oh my god. Um, well, I just think it’s a really sweet and interesting gift given that that was so and this is so typical, right? Like all of our pads as they evolve, whatever was missing for us. So that’s how we figure out a way to bring this gift out into the world. And, and so the lack of communication, the absence of checking in like, what would feel good to you right now. And that’s what that’s what the your book is right. And also, one of the things that stands out with your book that it’s very user friendly. And, and it has illustrations, and it’s very clear, it’s like, this is what this is, and this is what it’s not in great might have thought that that’s what this is. And in a very gentle way. It’s it’s giving instruction as to how to try try this new language on.

Totally. I mean, that was really I’ve had people complain, actually, but they thought it should have been a deeper dive. And I was like, you’re asking for a different book, y’all, it’s up, you don’t have to like it. But like, of all the criticisms, because the whole point is for it to not be another 300 Plus page book that you have to somehow figure out how to read in order to then use it in your life. I don’t I barely app, especially pandemic, you know, throughout that like my ability to be in a book and read, I almost feel the tiniest bit of shame, because I’m looking at my bookshelf, and none of the bindings are creased, because they’re on the still the to do to the to read list. And who knows when I’ll get into to them. And so for me, I’m like, okay, but first I knew the population I’ve been working with that really helped me understand how I would want this guide to read slash not read, you know, how I wanted it to be able to be absorbed. Yeah. Because partly, I don’t want you to have to have a certain kind of reading level to be able to then benefit from this. And a lot of people don’t necessarily need to read chapter after chapter and then process and then come to their own conclusions. There’s nothing wrong with that. But we have that already. With this. What I found was part of the the issue with among the issues with the original concept was, there was so much room for making your own sense out of it. And because you’re looking at it through your own lens with your own shit coming in your own biases and your own messaging about how things are supposed to be some of the conclusions. Some of the clients that I was working with, that were coming to was like, Oh, no. Okay, let’s talk about that. Holy, holy shit, I didn’t even think so. Okay, I can see how you got there. But we need to like back up, you know, things about the concept of gift giving more things about the concept of service, and what that supposed to look like. And so for me, I really wanted there to be an element of not necessarily telling people how to do it or what to do. But instead of describing something and leaving it at that I wanted to give specific examples of this could look like this. And then especially this also, it really shouldn’t look like this. And here’s why. So that there was also space to support any potential confusion or misunderstanding, or even just misinterpretation based on someone else’s own lived experience. You know, yeah,

People use words. And they mean such different things to, you know, I use a word I mean, something different than it means to you, right, respect or love. I mean, for me as the first time somebody said, I love you, to me, in a romantic way, I had a panic attack, because for me, it was like, oh, people, like who loved me also sexually abused me. So this is where my nervous system can’t handle this concept. Like what is, you know, an unpacking what love was in college, for me was a really big deal. And so it’s so useful. I mean, people, my clients, some I’m a trauma and sex therapist, and people want things to be very concrete, right? If you’re learning about the language of the body, or the language of the heart, like love, right? If it’s a new thing, of course, you need to ask, well, how, what is that? You know, how do I how does the Body Talk to me? Or what are the different ways that my heart will talk to me? And what’s an example of what accountability is if my if you didn’t grow up with accountability, you know, so I think that that’s so important in that specificity versus like, we’re just going to dump a big concept here, right? And hope that you get it because I’m assuming it means the same thing to you like the even words, even the word sex, right? If you’ve grown up in a heteronormative world, it just informs the way that I see the world right and I was talking to a client the other day who said so I had my a sexual encounter last night. And it was very heteronormative and I knew exactly that was a gay was a catch all but it was because we you know, we’re we have a similar view of the world so I knew what she meant when she said that and I was like, Okay, I know what to expect from that.

Yeah, because people’s idea of like, what love is defined as is so different depending on your what you experienced. And then same with sex, like yes, yes. different things to different people.

Oh, yeah, that’s what that’s so often. And I remember back in my 20s, we use the Turn PIB penis and vagina right. And I’m so glad that that’s like caught on as a very common phrase now, because that’s what people who are raised in street culture think sex is. And it’s so much more. And as is love, right?

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, I think that was one of the other things that came up for me was the idea that because lug was so specifically romanticized and or something that only happened when you were also fucking somebody, it was like, Okay, I get where that came from and get that messaging, what can we do to try to break some of that away so that there’s more space for it to expand? Because God would a lonely horrendous thing, especially for a romantic people who were like, Okay, this lives off the table for me then. So it romantic also means I’m not gonna ever love someone or be loud or feel that it was just like, No, no, no, let’s take the word. And like, put the word here, but like, what does it feel like to feel loved? And can you associate that with anything else? And so I would sometimes work when I would be in groups with people in early recovery, I would work in some rehabs and just ask like, what is something someone could do? Or say, that would make you feel respected? Mm hmm. And then they would come up with something? And then I would just ask, what is that? That sensation and feeling that you’re associating that with right now is that similar to any other thing or any other like action or word that someone has ever told you? Have, you felt something similar before. So he would try to then like, make connections between feeling respected, which I do think for a lot of people, myself included, I associate that with feeling loved, honestly, I don’t really give a shit. If you’re kissing or hugging me. You know, to me, that is not necessarily love. But that’s because of my experiences with touching stuff. And so for these folks, it was really just to try to show them that these words aren’t just necessarily words, like, intellectually, those are words, but the actual concept isn’t really an intellectual thing. It’s very much a felt experience. And while we might describe it all differently, using different things in the dictionary, there is some level of universal sensation associated, even if it’s like a temperature, or a, I don’t know, a tingle or something, or an expansiveness, or Yeah,

Or just you notice something happens, like, I don’t know, your brow suddenly, like lifts a little bit like, yeah, those are the little signals that I think can be really helpful to then bring into the love concepts. So we can maybe rely less heavily on the word and maybe the definition that we think is correct. And just make space for you know, what can make me feel this way? Yeah, and how do we get more of that, and who are the people in my life that give me that? That in case if it’s your neighbor, then great your neighbors a love source, you know, if it’s the the neighborhood cat, who like visits you in the morning, when you’re on your walk, great, love source apps, you know, and just to kind of make space because at the end of the day, we’re all so many of us are like, love starved in a lot of ways, because we really think we can only go to like one so called store for it, you know? Yeah,

It’s heartbreaking really, there’s a, there’s a form of bodywork that I do that comes out of body namics. And it’s focused on attachment and building that in in a nonverbal way. And it’s, you know, the way you hold a baby against your body like this, and your arms around its back, and then it’s pressed against your torso. And so that’s, that’s creating a level of containment for the nervous system. And then in an ideal, rare but ideal situation, right, that, you know, the parent, or being who’s holding this baby, it’s regulated and calm, and in a state of like, ease, then this little baby’s nervous system gets run through my bigger nervous system, right? So I have a way of doing that with adults. So this, you know, this piece of looking for where it is someone’s nervous system. And whether you’re doing it, I’m doing something like that in a physical practice, or whether I’m doing it by standing all the way across the room, and doing a different kind of safety practice, where I’m giving them lots and lots of space and letting them know I’m not going to come any closer, looking for that place where their nervous system goes. Right that there’s a sigh there’s an exhale having to be less vigilant. Right, exactly. Yeah. You know, and so, it would be it would be cool to have that be like an addendum with this with this book, right going through. It’s like oh, accountability. upskilling like going through the things and going what might be the physical sensations that either show up with all of them or show up you know, even just if it was an exercise that the people you’re working with did right and it’s like, what happens in your body when when you do this when when this occurs? And then it really highlights like oh, there’s a much bigger settling in my nervous system when somebody does this then when they do this and that.

Right, and that could be a really good sign where it’s like, okay, if my nervous system reacts this way, needy this is going to be one of the things I put on my list. Yeah, that’s, you know, there’s this workbook that is just in, you know very much in process and has been for I don’t want to say like eight months at this point. Yeah. But one of the little worksheet things is something kind of similar. It’s like a body scan situation where because some people really wanted a quiz for this. And I understand I’m not against quizzes, but it’s not terribly visible. And also, I’ve, I’ve only really experienced a lot of people misusing the quiz, a little internet to bypass some of the sensation work. So to many people’s dismay, I have not gone the quiz route. But there is sort of a yes, no maybe esque type of list where you just don’t have to do any extra work, go through that book again, but use this worksheet. And each time you read something, read it out loud, and then just write down temperature, physical sensation area of the body, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, just to kind of give some extra info. Yeah, and there will be like an add on to that. So it’s really not just we’re going to do this complicated exercise about embodiment. Ready, you know, because that sometimes already makes people just go, Oh, I can’t do it.

Know that I love a, you know, someone who became a teacher of mine, his name is brother, Ishmael Tete, I used to go to a non denominational church. And he came in to speak one day, and he’s from Ghana, and he works with kids, and did this exercise. And there was never any language, like, you know, that the kind of language we use, where all this jargon where it’s like, this is embodiment. And this is Cymatics. And this is it. And it was just like, having us relate to the universe and claim our body parts. Like you’d be, like, have eyes, and it’s like, then you say, I have eyes and then have your arms, I have my arms, you know, like he was just kicking us has like, have the stars, I have the stars. Oh, he was taking us through. And it’s a very nature based spiritual background that he comes from. And I mean, God just even recalling it, I feel like I could cry. Like I just, it was so powerful. We’re in a room full of, you know, 300 400 people. And you know that everyone’s having this joyful ownership, and seeing the possibilities of what can be when you affirm something, and it and without ever talking about Cymatics was so good.

That’s a special skill, I think, to be able to take these concepts and just think about and talk about them in ways that completely just drops the vocabulary, not because it’s bad, but because it’s not terribly accessible to the masses. And so it’s just finding, for me, it’s like power of language. And I am definitely a word nerd. Yeah, language is powerful, even though a lot of people want to say, you know, the sticks and stones type of BS. But we can totally relate to words in a different ways. So that might be just a shift in the language, or the way we describe something could be the key to someone saying, oh, yeah, that’s totally what I’m thinking, or that’s what I’m feeling. But if you had said something amusing, like the jargon or the lingo, they would have been like, that’s not what I’m feeling. Yeah, maybe I’m crossing my arms, like mimicking that, because it’s just like, I’m closed off that sounds intellectual and academic. And that shit is triggering and awful to me. And I don’t I don’t know how I feel about you anymore. Even so

Right. You don’t you’re not gonna get me. Yeah, you know. And then there’s a there’s a separation, rather than the healing piece, which is union. You know, I trained as a somatic coach before becoming a psychotherapist. And then, you know, I studied sociology of identity in school and undergrad and all that, right. So there’s a cultural studies, I mean, oh, my God, there’s so much jargon. And that creates division and, and like elitism in a way. Yeah. Rather than going I wouldn’t. So again, I really liked what you were saying. And then what you did with your book, going, like, let’s make this accessible. Because even if you don’t speak the language, you might be able to look at this picture and get what’s happening here. Yeah, totally. So I wanted to talk about some of the other resources that you offer and other skill sets that you have, I think, before we had even set this up, when Sabrina, my Podcast Producer mentioned you I think I referred some, some clients to you even for like, you know, for dating, coaching and things like that. So I’m really curious. So you do dating and sex and relationship coaching? And is there as Do you have a sweet spot inside of that? Is there something in particular that you really enjoy cultivating or?

Yeah, you know, I’m not, I don’t know, I probably have to think about, like, where the sweet spot specifically is, but I listened to what they’re saying. And when they’re done, I will just kind of share like, Here’s what he heard. And potentially, here’s what I heard beneath that, but tell me if it’s just me projecting, like it’s very much this open like I don’t I’m not analyzing you and I don’t know better. We’re both on the same level. You’re in charge, you know, but here’s what else I’m hearing is that possibly also true in the situation? And I think it’s just kind of getting people filling in some of their own blanks. With something outside of their own story or their own perspective, because I benefit from that incredibly V, just talking and having someone like traditional talk therapy just kind of make space and listen, there’s something wrong with that. But that doesn’t actually the way my brain works, it does nothing for me. And what I really need is someone to hear me potentially hear the story that I’m actually stuck in, and then call that out, but not in like, your second story again, you know, loser, it’s like, I’m hearing this, it sounds similar to this thing that I remember you telling me last year? What do you think? Is it similar? You know, could there could there be a connection, so it’s kind of like connecting dots for, for folks that they can see a little bit more clearly. And maybe, in some ways, the way I would describe it is, it can feel a little liberating, because some of the things that we feel a little bit stuck in, without necessarily knowing what the stuckness is, we can kind of feel, but borderline hopeless in it, because we don’t really know what to do or what’s going on. And we can sometimes question like, is it all me? Am I really just making this all for myself and causing all these issues? Or is there something else out of my control that I could also, you know, bring in to this understanding, just to get a bigger picture. And then, with that bigger picture, maybe locate like what is within my control that could maybe be slightly different. So next time, I have an opportunity, I could try this thing, and just see how it goes, even if it feels weird or wrong, just to kind of see. And so I just, I like making space for that because it can really, there’s a sense of relief, I think, I call it relief when I see people’s faces or body language shift and change. Which relief to me also associate with like liberation, I also associate that with a little bit of safety, a little bit of freedom, and maybe space for like a teeny iota of joy even because there’s like this weight that has temporarily lifted and also like think there’s something else I like is whatever we’re talking about, especially if there’s some kind of conflict, whether it’s oneself or another person or something in the world. The I don’t know, being able to kind of affirm or validate the person’s feelings, not necessarily the truth that they have made up related to those feelings. Mm hmm. Can, I don’t know, it just makes I don’t, it just makes people feel. For me, again, this is my perspective on it, I’m when witnesses if they just feel kind of like, oh, this person is like being nice to me, or something, you know, like, I don’t even know what the word is. Maybe the way that I can engage with people can feel significantly different from maybe other practitioners or clinicians or folks they’ve worked with, who maybe didn’t have that sense of compassion or humanity. And I’ve also experienced that where sometimes you can feel a little bit like, the person is just observing you and looking at you like you are some sort of underling or less evolved person, or even like feeling kind of judged. So I always I like to witness things and hear things. And I don’t have the judgment coming up in that moment. So it’s not present. And I think that can really impact the other person really positively. Even if we don’t end up coming up with any kind of like solution.

Yeah, well, that’s I mean, and that’s, that’s one of those love languages, right? It’s like, okay, they may not need problem solving, yet. They may need safety, they need compassion, they need normalization. And I think that, given your background and working around sexuality, I mean, yikes, if somebody is in that field, and they’re big and judgy, that’s particularly tricky, right? Yeah. So I think that you take that you take that ability to go like, Oh, I’m not going to Yuck, your yum. So to speak, right? I’m just gonna hold and see and reflect back and, and then and then figure out, do you need some resources to go in this direction? Do you know, do you need this, what I’m really hearing that you enjoy is just being in a physical space with somebody where you get to see their nervous system start to settle because they’re not being judged for what is being expressed? Or how they’re showing up?

Yeah, and I think, yeah, and not reacting needy in a way that they thought that I would, or anticipated or expected and, Oh, it must be really good to the nervous system to like, yeah, we throw you off. It’s because the thing you thought was gonna happen just didn’t know what,

Well, it’s, you know, it’s so vulnerable, right? It’s such a, like, the area of sex and dating is so vulnerable and people are in so much shame and self judgment. And so when you just meet them in a space of like, there’s nothing wrong with you. Totally right, like Okay, so what’s the problem here? One of the things that was really profound for me and working good vibrations was encountering so many men who were interested in having female partners strap it on and had you know, having no sex and and now It is an area that so many hetero men will judge themselves for, for wanting that because there’s so much conditioning around that right? Yep. And so much, it doesn’t take something like that. It could be like the smallest thing and people are just racing for judgment constantly. Right? So when you don’t do that, it’s like, Ah, okay, maybe I can take another step in. Totally.

I mean, that’s a big thing that happens in adult stores. I’ve never worked in retail, I’ve only just supported retail on the education or even marketing side. But like you can you see it happen all the time. And anybody have, you know, speaking from experience, when you work specifically in a sex positive type environment, like a good vibrations, it’s, it’s a combination of going shopping. But then also, there’s a little element of healing, that’s completely accidental, and maybe even unexpected, because A, you can ask questions, and you can say, Do you have a dragon shaped penis that’s at least a bit long? And the person’s like, yeah, come over here. And the person is like, okay, maybe we’re just asking about, you know, the weather or something. Right, then, you know, you might actually ask some more questions, because you’d feel like the doors open and there’s permission for it. And then you might learn something else. So and then at the end of the day, you get to take home that dragon Bilbo and have a fantastic time and maybe even have a slight reframe around the fact that you even want a dragon to fuck you. You know, exactly. It’s it’s just like, a really big thing. I think people undervalue adult retail workers. I don’t think that I know they do. Oh, yeah, underpaid, they’re overworked and the and the work that they do. You know, people’s relationship to God, of course, is different. But like the content of God’s work, you know, it’s a really big part of that. And I look forward to a time where more stores are able to really, you know, compensate and treat their staff with respect.

Yeah, seriously. Well, what’s so funny is, you know, I had a dad that I wasn’t raised with, and he went to Stanford and bla bla bla bla, and the first time he ever told me he was proud of me was when I gave him a tour, good vibrations and sold him a vibrator. Oh, that was so surprising. But it was like, this is not his comfort zone. Yes. Outside of anything he knows anything about. And suddenly I blew his mind. Oh, yeah. Yeah, that feel for you? At the time. I mean, it’s clearly memorable. Right. And it was like this stood out, I never felt like I was good enough. So yeah, I think what’s valuable about that is that we earn respect, sometimes in surprising ways by like, just being who we are fully. Right. You know, like, he didn’t understand somatic work, when I first started training as a somatic coach. And he was like, I don’t know what you’re up to about your stand, your posture is better, you know, but it was like, oh, over the years really getting getting what that was all about. How do you How do your parents are they in your life? And how do they relate to your work and what you’re doing?

You know, I still think there is an element of hands optimist, but not necessarily rooted in anything bad or negative or judgmental. I remember at first a copy editor at a magazine that covered the business of adult and at the time, it was mostly porn. It was back when DVD still existed, it was pre streaming, pre video on demand. So interesting to think of it that way. Right? And they came in for a visit I was in Los Angeles. And they, I think it brought them in because like, I’m proud of all the things that I do. So I wanted to show off where I worked. And I remember them talking to my boss. And my dad said something along the lines of it’s so interesting, it’s like, you could be selling anything. It’s like, you could be selling snow tires. And it’s just like the same business. And it’s like, yeah, literally, that it’s just, this is an industry in a business. And the product just happens to be different from other products that like, ultimately, there’s not a whole lot of difference except maybe the the profit margins that you could make on these products over set of tires.

Than the plan the pleasure, you can have a lot more fun, but not necessarily that’s gonna rescue you in a blizzard, but maybe they will in their own way. So there was just like, there’s never any secrecy. When I moved on from that magazine. That magazine had a glass ceiling. I was really making that person a lot of money, the owner and I was doing some really big things that I wasn’t getting credit for the usual I was 24 at that point, I think. And at one point, I realized we got a pay cut all of a sudden, which meant I had to like move, and I couldn’t live where I’ve lived anymore. But then I was also having to then fly to a bunch of trade shows to represent this magazine. Meanwhile, you just cut our money with no warning and all this kind of stuff. And so I got poached by Playboy, and I said I’ll do I don’t care what I do I need to make 60k before taxes, which at the time for me was like so much money. Oh yeah, you know, lay it brought a sense of safety there even if they gave me a sudden pay cut. That was where my mind was. It was like what can I ask for? So if they do Give me a cut, I’m still able to keep my apartment, just set in when you think about it, like what a stressful thing for a young person to have to, like, try to figure out in their minds as a 24 or 25 year old, like, I barely knew how to pay taxes. That’s what I worry had to be, like survival, please kind of. Anyhow, that job ended up falling through because of misogyny and patriarchy, honestly. And so I had a month where I didn’t quite know what to do next. And my parents didn’t, I think I had to ask them to help me pay my rent that month, because that was how little I was making with the magazine, but how much work I was doing, which is a huge, huge privilege. And bonus, like, I don’t think they even had any real issue, because they knew something was, I think, going to transition. And that was when I started doing PR and marketing for sex toy companies, the companies I was writing about and working with, when they found out I left the magazine, they were like, Oh, my God, can you help us? They said, I think I can. And it was an accidental business. But even then, you know, my parents just like always knew. And I think maybe because I thought about it and talked about it like it was, you know, the weather, they might have just felt that same way. And if they had any weird feelings, it never was shared. And I do think there was a level of respect, regardless of their thoughts or feelings about what my work was. My dad knew. I remember him saying, like, his concept of respected course, came with, like, he knew I would always what was his word, something like you’re gonna end up on your own path and like making your own thing happened. I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to work for someone else and have that makes sense for you. And at the time, I’m like, Yeah, whatever. But it’s so much easier. And like, you know, I’m fine with that. I’m doing it now. And then, coincidentally, he predicted the future. And it ended up being a very similar career path, not subject matter wise. But what I was doing to what my dad ended up doing. Yeah. So my dad did it just with coins and numismatics and ancient currency in history totally. And then I ended up doing similar, you know, cataloging and writing descriptions and researching shit, but for like dildos, and vibrators, and clock rings. And so there was, I think, a level of an underlying level of respect, because there was maybe familiarity and he saw himself in me and versa. And so even today, I don’t have the same kind of open ish book with them as I did, in part just because of, you know, things I’ve come, I’ve acknowledged and recognize in my 30s, about things from the past. But again, there’s no secrets. And they probably should know more about the cool things I have done that I’ve even shared, I think I’m minimizing it, to be honest, a little bit, which I inherited from the British side of our family. But still, even to this day, I think that the fact that I have another business that trains people to like, talk about and teach about sex, to an educational type of environment to try to like, infiltrate the world and change that way. That I think is something that my dad was even surprised not surprised, because he didn’t think I could, but it was just an interesting maybe evolution or shift from what I was doing. Because I guess I didn’t talk about it as much. When it did come up that we had a lot of sold out trainings consecutively. He seemed to be impressed and a little bit you know, surprised and a level of pride that not maybe not necessarily was communicated verbally with those words, but I could I could sense it and and he’s not stingy necessarily by saying I’m proud of you, but it’s mostly if he does, I think it’s mostly like rating I don’t know how much we’re gonna card, you know, or an email or something. But but I’ll take that they’ve always just been very supportive and and I think there’s the last thing I’ll even say that I can remember my dad says something like I’m just I’ve never really worried about you like I’m not worried about you. And that’s something that for him maybe brought a sense of safety and maybe relief because there was a tiny bit of time where he I think was concerned about the various ways he may have fucked me and my sister up growing up, which for sure there’s a nice little like nice list he was doing the best he could with the you know, shitty tools he didn’t have, but that that’s made me feel good because I ultimately as they get closer to you know, 80 years old, like I don’t want them to sit there worrying about their kid I want them to exist with as much you know, comfort and enjoyment until we can’t anymore.

You know, when I think about what we were talking about earlier around love languages and people’s nervous systems, being able to settle and being like, maybe that helps you identify where your love languages. I feel like for parents like what you could just picture your dad’s nervous system going like ah, I don’t have to worry about you. Having trusting that their kids are safe and okay in the world could be most parents love language you. 

You know, for sure I don’t have to imagine I’m not a parent myself almost was but I imagine that’s one of the top goals probably that a parent or a caregiver would have, I just want to get to a point where my, you know, the person and caring for is like, okay, yes, you know, and so I’m not thinking about them right before I go to sleep, or, you know, spending a lot of my time and energy trying to, like, help them or figure their stuff out instead of, you know, dealing with my stuff.

Right? Right. It’s kind of insane. When you think about what parents have to do and go through I have so much compassion for, you know, my parents who also didn’t have many tools, just this idea of like, okay, so you have this little being it totally dysregulated your nervous system, you’re sleep deprived, like you’re supposed to focus on keeping them alive. And then you have all of the stuff that’s happening in your world. And in you know, we’re really lucky if our parents do their work while they’re raising us, rather than in some never choose to do it, but it’s like a kind of, how do they not put their life on hold? Right? It’s a huge part of it. They will say I’m a twin my parents had surprised when they were doing that but times two, which I cannot wrap my head around, literally my mom birth my sister, and then was like, Oh, thank God, I’m done. The doctor was like, no, no, keep going. Oh, literally at birth learn to Holy came in and life was absolutely on hold especially. And this may be a little bit of my imprint on what you know, I know about my mom, but like, but they had moved from Brooklyn. My mom left all of her jobs. She didn’t have one. Now her job was figuring out how to keep these two screamers alive. In a town. She knew no one in an old, ancient beautiful, but like leaky and rundown house four miles from town with no car. Yeah, and I can’t imagine ever, in my mind, I’ve always thought like, I never want to replicate that for myself. Because I know for me, my my brain would completely implode and I would not be able to deal. And in some ways i i almost like not quite recreated that. But you can find like you try to avoid the situation. And you end up being in a situation just in a completely different context. You thought you were outsmarting. But that’s definitely a big party thing about parenthood that isn’t talked about as much, especially for the person birthing and the pregnant person, because it’s just like it’s all on you. You can’t delegate the gestation. You can’t delegate feeding and cleaning and birthing like that’s all and you. And plus everything else is still because of you know, culture. So the idea of being able to try to still have your own identity and life, but there isn’t space for that for a really good chunk of time. And that’s so discombobulating. Yeah. But people just accept it. Because there’s never been any other way. And so in some ways, the people struggling just think, Well, it’s because I’m not reading enough of the books, or there’s something wrong with me, because everyone else seems to be doing it. And it’s like, actually, no, I think everyone is fucking flailing

Right now. Well, in it again, kind of coming full circle back to some of the first things we were talking about, about what are the beliefs that get formed, and they’re still we’re still taking them on as facts 100 years later, and the way it’s supposed to be one, it’s like, wait a seconds, there’s a, you know, let’s come up with some new concepts that are more realistic and more compassionate for, for what, who we are and what we know about the brain and the nervous system and ourselves as humans. There’s when you were describing the house, it made me think about the fact that you also do dream work, right? Yeah, I was thinking. So where my brain went. I also love dream work, by the way, but I was picturing how that leaky house might infiltrate your dreams and show up at symbols, you know? Sure. Anyways, that that was just what so that came in. And so if there’s anything that you want to share about your love of dream work, and how that works for you, because earlier you were saying that straight talk therapy may not be as effective for you, or that’s not how your mind works. And so I thought, Oh, the good thing you found the dream work.

Oh, yeah. 1,000%. I mean, I guess dream work is my favorite thing to do with other people. I’ve been doing it at least once a week since 2014. It was a random gift from a partner, I just kind of started dating, who I ended up marrying, and is still married you and was like, What is this shit. And it was very weird for a while, but I just kind of stuck with it. And that is the thing that that helped me more than any other kind of therapy that I had tried. I’ll be it like, it’s not about your conscious brain or what you even think about anything. It’s just what happened in the dream. How did it feel there? Can you connect that feeling to something from your awake life? And like, let’s see where that takes us. So that has just been incredibly beneficial in part to identify some of the stuck spots and the stories and even make connections with things in your awake life that you never would have consciously been like, yeah, that’s, that makes sense that connects with that. It’s the same and actually, because you are conscious being can’t be in charge. It really wants to you know, and it’s I think it gets passed. I personify all of my organs or anthropomorphize them. Yeah. The subconscious really gets to just like show your shit and hope that you pick it up. And if you don’t, there’s no punishment. You know, there’s no judgement And it’s just like well do will have this dream again, or will have a different dream, but with the same feelings in a month, and maybe they’ll see it there. And it’s just a lot of compassion and friendliness. And so I think it was in 2017, my dream person was like, What do you want to learn this as well, I’d be like, it would be good at this and it could be useful. So I said, Sure, whatever, and didn’t really think anything would come of it. Because a lot of people still hear the concept of dream work. And they’re like, I don’t want to touch that with a 10 foot pole. Because to them. Dream work means finding inner hidden secrets that you don’t want to know is true about you, which is just not what it is at all. Even your nightmares aren’t punishments, you know, your nightmares are very intense, I think of it as like a theater play, where like the producers are just like, we’re going to make this very big drama, the characters are going to be random from you know, your life, including the checkout guy from the grocery store, let’s throw that person in because they need you feel a certain way. And we’re going to really give you this relationship to Leo fear, and whatever else comes along with it. And so when you wake up, sometimes people are like, I don’t want to talk about that one. Because that’s going to show me something really bad, when actually it’s going to show you something really amazing and fantastic. It’s in this context, so that you really remember it. And it’s very impactful for you. But it doesn’t have ulterior negative motives. And so that for the people who do want some dream work in, you know, with our, whatever the coaching is, it’s just like, it’s not even just looking at a tool, it’s that ends up being like the key, or the thing that brings all this stuff together. Because you end up bringing in some of the emotional stuff that doesn’t require you knowing what you’re feeling. Yeah. It’s just did you remember your dream and write it down soon enough so that we could talk about it here. And it’s very powerful for the people who have been brave enough to just say, Yeah, fuck it. I’m going to try that.

I’m curious. So I usually like to have an exercise that either I or my guest guides people through a five minute exercise. Is there anything around dreamwork could be around? I mean, sex is a great topic, we could do an exercise around. But if there’s something that you feel inspired to guide us through, I would love that.

I mean, maybe this is totally off the cuff. But yeah, I think that for people who are curious about dream work, and are maybe a little more focused on the symbolism, like what is the elephant mean? And if I dream about a boat, but it’s not in the water, what does that mean? I would say like, throw that over to the side. And then just write your dream down. Even if you remember it really well just like put it on paper, or on your screen, and then go through it line by line. And once you are at the end of each sentence, just pause before you go to the next and say how did I feel about this part. And then write maybe three feelings down, bring out a feelings wheel, if you want some additional vocabulary, get as specific as you can. And then keep going. No agenda, just write the feelings down when each section of that dream. Even if that dream was two sentences long, you can still do stuff with that. You might have a shorter emotion list, but that’s actually probably good. And then put the dream over here. Because how you feel about the dream, what you think about it, who cares? completely meaningless. And sometimes that’s a total just big judgment fest. And then you go to the list of the feelings and just maybe take that pen and say, Okay, I felt really unsettled. Maybe recently, or in general, what are some things that come up for you right now, where you remember feeling this similar kind of unsettled. And then don’t think of me they don’t put meaning on it just right, maybe some of those things down. When I talk to my dad on the phone. When I walked into the grocery store for the first time we got a mask on, for people who aren’t wearing masks, whatever else. And just like making those kinds of lists, it might even look like, I don’t know what they’re officially called. But they kind of look like a list that kind of crescendos out with lines coming off of each word and just kind of letting you build on each previous thing. And so then by the time you’re sort of done with that rating, then you can really just look at it and that’s where you can if you want to, you know, you can intellectualize stuff, you can kind of see how you feel about the stuff you wrote down about your feelings, you know, and and see like, is there a connection here that might be able to assist me when I’m in situations where I’m feeling this? And is it possible that you know the thing in my waking life that makes me feel super unsettled? Maybe it’s not necessarily because the thing is unsettling. But this just brings something up to me because of my relationship to the idea of feeling like unsafe or afraid. And it’s a fun exercise. It’s low stakes. And you’re the goal. You don’t have a goal. You’re not supposed to figure anything out. That’s really not it. It’s not a nice little pretty linear, bow tied. thing, it’s just, I think of it as information gathering, like research but a whole lot nicer and kinder more. I don’t know human about it. And, and this is info that you just like, store away like, Okay, interesting. I don’t need to do anything more with that I don’t have to pick anything more about it. And I’m going to continue with my day. But even just doing that the way I described myself was your subconscious is like, they’re paying tension, holy shit, what are we going to do tonight, you know, Lights fitting, whatever, like, let’s let him make this happen. Most people dream, even if they don’t remember, because they’re actually remembering more bits as you’re doing this work. And I really feel it’s, it’s almost like your subconscious is like, oh, it’s finally working. Let’s start really going for it. And then you can keep doing this, this exercise. You also can hire other people who do this form of dream work, which tends to be called, I think they call it natural dream work, it’s very feelings based. And then you can have another person with outside perspective, help guide you through some of that info to offer additional perspective as well as gently challenge something you may be bringing in, like, Oh, I know what this is about. But then as you start talking about it, there may be actually something completely different that it’s related to. And that’s what can be beneficial that having another person right there with you.

Hmm, it’s such a cool thing to keep a regular dream journal, and see how your symbols change over time. And see how the same emotion can show up in relation to like such totally different storylines, right? Absolutely. Yeah.

It’s really interesting.

I know that you also have some trainings coming up. And I’m wondering, as we come to a close, if there’s anything else that you want the listeners to know how they can find you.

Yeah, sure. Yeah. So some of the trainings are more on like the professional development side. But we do have a lot of people who never plan on teaching sex ed, take these trainings. So it’s open to everybody. There’s no prerequisites. But there is a 35 hour certification for teaching sex ed you very much cover information, but also some facilitation skills and communication tools and blocks. So it’s, it’s a little bit of a fuller package than just learning about like anatomy and identity. And then you’re done. And we have something called a sexual attitude reassessment, which, again, sounds so formal and official and intimidating. I’d love to call it something else, but it’s just what it’s known as, but it’s less of a training, like teaching you info and more like, we’re going to talk about perspectives and situations, and you’re going to see how you feel, and where you’re like your shit comes up, or what your trigger points are. It’s really great to see where your judgments or where your gaps in understanding are. As as a regular human, but if you’re also doing work with other people, the real value is you get to set kind of see like what your shit is before it comes out in real time with another person. So that’s, that has been really nourishing for people. I’ve taken like 10 stars at this point, because I love them as well. And yeah, I think those are the two the two main things from this year, and I’m on the internet and an otter with two peas in ship. And all of the trainings for the sex ed type stuff can be found at everyone deserves sex

Fantastic. So good to get to know you. Yes, you too. Glad you’re out there and as a resource. Thank you so much. Thank you. This has been laid open podcast with your host Charna Cassell, please join us next week. If this show feels beneficial, we’d love if you’d please rate and review it and share it with your friends so others can find us. If you have additional questions around sex and trauma, you can submit them at Please follow me at later podcast on Instagram and Facebook and read more about my work @passionate Until next time.

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

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