Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey
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The Complexity of Desire, Shame, and Trauma with Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey

It is such an honor to welcome this week’s guest onto LaidOPEN Podcast. Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey (@drbisbey) is a clinical psychologist, acclaimed sex/intimacy coach, author, podcast host, and GSRD (gender, sexuality, relationship diversity) therapist with over 30 years of experience. She’s also the Specialist Relationship Therapist on the UK show “Open House: The Great Sex Experiment,” (you have to watch!) and host of the weekly podcast “The A to Z of Sex®.”  

In this episode, we talk about her journey moving from a trauma victim to a survivor and how she integrated her life into her work to help others step into joy and vibrancy in their own lives. Plus, we cover a variety of topics related to this including: the nuances of boundaries and consent inside powerplay BDSM relationships, learning to discern and listen to danger signals, healing PTSD and shame, and life after becoming a survivor.

The episode ends with Dr. Bisbey breaking down the Four Parts Of Consent so have your pens handy, you’ll want to take notes.

Show Notes Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey [00:00:00] Charna Cassell: Welcome back to Late Open Podcast. During my hiatus from recording , I've been building an online course on how to live the passionate, pleasure filled, peaceful life you want, reduce self sabotaging behavior, and gain control over your nervous system. [00:00:14] Charna Cassell: Creating courses for people around the world to understand the impact of trauma on their nervous system and relationships, and how they can heal is something I've wanted to do for over a decade. I'm thrilled it's finally happening. I'll keep you posted as to when it's launching. For now, you can also sign up for my newsletter, read my blog, or send questions to be answered at charnacassell. [00:00:38] Charna Cassell: com. [00:00:39] Charna Cassell: My conversation with my guests for this episode, Dr. Laurie Beth Bisbee is really rich. She's a clinical psychologist and an accredited advanced GSRD therapist. And I also wanted to give a heads up and a trigger warning around the topics that get covered around. violence and sexual trauma. So if those are subjects that you feel too tender to be listening to right now, I recommend you check out a different episode. [00:01:13] Charna Cassell: Welcome, Laurie. Thank you so much for being here. [00:01:17] [00:02:03] Charna Cassell: And, and just because I don't know how many listeners know what a GSRD therapist is, why don't we start with that and we can go from there. [00:02:15] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Sure. So that GSRD stands for gender, sex and relationship diversity therapists. So that means that I have a specialty for working with people who are part of the LGBTQ community and people who are living in alternative lifestyles. So either they're relationally different. So they're living non monogamously instead of monogamously, or they're involved in kink, BDSM, and power exchange or authority transfer relationships. [00:02:44] Charna Cassell: Right. And so, you know, I know this, but listeners don't. Can you share some about how you ended up specifically specializing in this area? [00:02:57] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Well, sure. I mean, cause it's me. [00:02:59] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. Mm [00:03:01] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I was nine when I made myself a bottle to live in and like I dream of Jamie, I was going to wait for my master. I always knew that my sexuality was different from the people around me. And I'm, I'm doing a talk around the uk, I'm doing a tour at the moment, and the talk is called The Psychology of Fetish and Kink. [00:03:21] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And the story I like to tell is that, you know, at, at the age of nine and 10 when kids were experimenting with people of the, the same gender, you know, and so all my little girlfriends were kissing each other and, you know, every, everything, you know, we all kept our clothes on. But that was, you know, I asked my friend to sit on my face. [00:03:39] Charna Cassell: hmm. Mm hmm. [00:03:40] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And, you know, usually everybody laughs and I'm like, well, she did it though, you know, so, for me, it was about that power that pressure. [00:03:50] Charna Cassell: hmm. [00:03:51] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: It was about somebody having control and having the power. And so I've always known that. And, my first relationships, I would be the one who orchestrated it because I didn't have words for this and we didn't have an internet. [00:04:08] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So it was hard to find partners. But I had a 1st partner when I was 19 who started out being appropriate and getting consent. And then after 2 and a half weeks decided. To violate my consent and kept me prisoner, he multiply raped me, he abused me, and he killed me. I came back with him pounding on my chest and giving me mouth to mouth. [00:04:33] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And that lasted five days. That whole thing lasted five days. And left me with post traumatic stress disorder. Left him in prison and left me really confused about my desires. Because I had these desires before [00:04:51] Charna Cassell: Right. [00:04:51] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: met him, and now I had these horrible experiences, and yet I still had the desires, and I didn't know how to make sense of that, and I didn't know how to make sense of where, where I'd enjoyed things that he did, even though I didn't want him to do them. [00:05:11] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And so that started a move from, I was a broadcast journalism major and I moved to special education in psychology and I started out by specializing in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder. Not unusual, you know, people often specialize in the areas where they have stuff and then also really looking at working with people who didn't fit the norm sexually. [00:05:37] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And, my career has been various different aspects around these things. As a result, [00:05:45] Charna Cassell: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for sharing all that. And, you know, there's, there's so much in what you already shared and I knew, you know, we could just pull all of that apart. And, you know, one of the things that I think is really important for us to talk about, I mean, one theme is this piece of because you've given consent in one way. [00:06:06] Charna Cassell: It doesn't extend the consent in any, you know, even in the [00:06:11] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: in anywhere else. [00:06:12] Charna Cassell: Anywhere else, but the complexity in having fantasies or enjoying a certain, you know, power dynamic, and then, When it's abused and it's repeated in a non consensual way or taken to a different extreme, the complexity of potentially, you didn't say this, but what can happen with abuse, right? [00:06:35] Charna Cassell: Like self blame, shame, you know, I caused this, like all those themes, and then trying to find your way back to the pure experience of your desire and what you do want. You know, after having to sift through all, you know, all of the pain and, and the trauma. [00:06:55] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: yeah and let me think for me, because I play very much on the edge, and my desires are quite intense, [00:07:04] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. [00:07:05] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: and quite far out there for some, it made it more difficult, because some people, Like, if your desire is to have a spanking, and then somebody... Beats you up and rapes you, [00:07:20] Charna Cassell: Right. [00:07:22] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Your body still might respond when you don't want it to, because that happens, you know, our bodies are on autopilot, it has nothing to do with desire, it has to do with synapses and nerves and right so it's got stimulation. [00:07:36] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: However, it's less likely to be as complicated. If your desire was something very discreet and was different from what happened to you. Whereas for me, was so many places where there was overlap that. It was, it was really difficult. The hardest part for me wasn't recovering from the PTSD itself, like getting rid of the symptoms. [00:08:00] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: The hardest part for me was coming to terms with Where, understanding that none of it was my fault, learning where I take risks and needed to modify that, [00:08:17] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. [00:08:18] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: which is not victim blaming, it's learning that happens anytime something, you know, anytime you experience something, one hopes, one learns something from it. And some of what we try to learn from experiences like that is how not to end up there again. [00:08:31] Charna Cassell: Discernment, right? Like developing that, that, that you can't expect a 19 year old who's in their first relationship to have, you know? [00:08:41] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: No, I mean, so it was very much about learning how to risk assess, which was something I didn't know how to do, which is pretty important. If you're going to get involved in BDSM, you should really partner choosing is actually the most important step for everyone, no matter what kind of relationship style you have. [00:08:59] Charna Cassell: Yes. [00:08:59] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And it's the thing that we're usually shittiest at because nobody teaches us where are we going to learn that right, because our, our parents show us what a relationship looks like. They don't show us partner choosing we weren't there for that step. [00:09:14] Charna Cassell: I mean, you know, we pick it up through osmosis and through being attracted to what's what biologically, you know, familiar, right? So if there's certain kinds of boundary crossings in our family or certain dynamics, then that may be what we unconsciously sniff out. But [00:09:34] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Well, you use the word sniff, which is perfect because to me, it's about who smells right, [00:09:38] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. Mm [00:09:39] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: right? It's always been about who smells right. So one of the things I find interesting is till 20 years ago, up until 20 years ago, if I walked into a room where there was only one person who was an addict in the room and 100 people who were not, the only person I was attracted to was the addict, [00:10:00] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. Mm [00:10:01] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: That was it. [00:10:02] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And I had a really hard time understanding what that was like I knew there was addiction in my not in my immediate family, but in the wider family. And I knew that there were some patterns and there were some adult children issues and stuff so I knew all of that. But that didn't explain how it was that I kept choosing these people. [00:10:24] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I also knew that I hated the addiction behaviors. I didn't like the lying. I didn't like, you know, the craziness and the chaos, but then what I liked was the edge. There was an edge. [00:10:35] Charna Cassell: hmm. [00:10:36] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And I couldn't figure out, I didn't know that that's what it was that I liked, and I couldn't figure out how to get that thing that smelled right. [00:10:45] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So it took a long time to unpick that when I finally realized, oh, it's the edge that I like. Well, where else can I get an edge without having somebody who's actively addicted? And finally moved to People who had been clean and sober for a very long period of time and had the same edge and then eventually to somebody, one of my partners has never had a substance issue and it was such a shock to have a partner who didn't come from a family of substance abusers and had never had a substance issue. [00:11:12] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: That took, that took, oh my god, 30 years, you know, to get from A to B. [00:11:19] Charna Cassell: right. That's the true unicorn. Someone who's never had a substance abuse issue. [00:11:25] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: The thing is, is that there's loads of people out there who haven't, I just wouldn't notice them. [00:11:30] Charna Cassell: Right, right. Well, you know, I think of it, I get the image of, you know, the claws in those, the cages of stuffed animals and the claw comes down and it plucks the thing. But I picture it extending externally, like we have these receptors and we'll skip over all the people who aren't addicts. [00:11:49] Charna Cassell: we plug into the ones that are, you know, whatever your, your pattern is, [00:11:53] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: whatever your thing is. Yep. [00:11:54] Charna Cassell: To, to reaffirm that's what, you know, that's what's out there. The, the thing I don't want to get too far from this, and I would love for you to speak more about it, because I think it's very, I think it's common, especially with sexual trauma and can create a tremendous amount of shame for people arousal non concordance. [00:12:13] Charna Cassell: And you didn't use that phrase, but if you could unpack what that means and how that showed up for you and how that impacted your process of healing, that would be beautiful. [00:12:24] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So arousal non concordance in simple terms is when your body reacts as though you are enjoying yourself when subjectively you are not. Or the reverse can also be true. Your body reacts as though this is all dull and boring and of no interest, but you're really turned on. It is highly common for people who have been sexually abused, experienced any kind of sexual violence or rape, to experience arousal non concordance at some point during the event. [00:13:02] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And as I said earlier it is, it's got to do with stimulation and our body our body is really on autopilot and it's, it's working towards a different end, right? So, women have orgasms during rape. And the impact of that is intense shame and horror and frequently feeling that you must actually have liked. everything that happened because otherwise you would not have had an orgasm. When in fact, your body's on autopilot there, that's not got to do with how you're feeling. And unpacking that is really difficult. [00:13:46] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: The other one is that men can have this happen as well. And so frequently men get erections and therefore nobody believes they were raped. Well, you got an erection so you couldn't possibly have been, that's just bullshit, right? You can have an erection and ejaculate. during a rate for the same reasons. [00:14:06] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. [00:14:07] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So it's really difficult to unpack. For me, it was particularly difficult because it took a particularly long time to untangle. So there were things that were arousal non concordance and there were things that I just enjoyed. And that had he not been violating my consent everywhere else would have been fine. [00:14:29] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: One of the reasons my situation was so complicated was because I had five days with him. So it was 24 7 for five days where he was, he was violating me. And so there were periods during that time because we'd had a pre prior relationship, albeit a short one, it was still a relationship and it was still consensual. [00:14:47] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: There were periods during that time that I forgot. That I wasn't there by choice, like it, it, things got very, my consciousness was very skewed. Also, , I had no food [00:15:00] Charna Cassell: Right. [00:15:01] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: had alcohol, little bit of other liquids and no food. So I was, you know, at various points, quite delusional. So it was, it was really difficult to pull apart. [00:15:11] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: What, what is this? Right? I didn't want to die. So, you know, when I stopped breathing and, and. left because I did leave my body. I just left my body. Had he not given me CPR, I wouldn't be here. And what I think happened is, I mean, he did not intend to kill me. And the reason he didn't intend to kill me was because of the consequences of killing someone. [00:15:37] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Not because he wasn't somebody who could kill people. He killed people after me. But he freaked out. So he went too far. He freaked out and brought me back and then was furious. At me for for daring to die on him. It's so for me trying to figure out what, what part of this was exciting later, because first I had flashbacks and flashbacks are horrible. [00:16:08] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: But then I had, then I had intrusive sexual thoughts. It's not intrusive thoughts intrusive thoughts are upsetting things, I started getting intrusive sexual thought, and that and that was really difficult. And it took me a long time to unpack the bits and so what I decided to do, I, I knew I was going to write the story some years back, I, I always wanted to find a way to tell this story. [00:16:33] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And what was important to me was that people who had been through things like me understood that there's a way through this, and that you don't have to live in trauma forever, and that there's life beyond survivor, there's actual life. Beyond survivor and unpick some of the more difficult and complicated concepts. [00:16:59] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And so I started working on a memoir at about picked it up and put it down for about 10 years. And then I met this. Therapist who I adore called Meg John Barker and Meg John started doing book coaching. Meg John's written an awful lot. And so we agreed to work on this together with them coaching me through my process of writing. [00:17:24] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And I said, I don't really know how to lay it out. Right. And they said, you know what, your erotica is pretty amazing because I've always written erotica. It would be [00:17:35] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: really interesting to make it an erotic memoir. And so I said, Hmm, like a piece of erotica, a piece of the story and then my analysis, which is what I ended up doing. And so there are places where I push people's buttons because it's hard for them to tell which bits the erotica and which bits. Even though I make it clear in the text, it can, it can run together. I remember shortly after the first edition came out someone I knew had read it and came to me crying. And I said, Oh my God, you know, what's the matter? And she said, I feel horrible. You're going to hate me. And I said, what? And she said, I didn't recognize the transition. [00:18:23] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I found the whole thing hot. [00:18:25] Charna Cassell: mm [00:18:26] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Yeah, that's the point. [00:18:28] Charna Cassell: mm-hmm. [00:18:29] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: That's the point. [00:18:30] Charna Cassell: Well, first of all, you have two different books, but one of the, the one that we're speaking about, the, the memoir Dancing the Edge to Surrender An Erotic Memoir of Trauma and Survival. So for people who wanna find it, it'll also be in the show notes. [00:18:44] Charna Cassell: One of the things that I really appreciated about your book is the complexity of that of the terror of feeling the terror feeling and the turn on. And that's where this arousal non concordance piece is so complex and important to understand it's like the nervous system when you're in that the same place that that fear. [00:19:08] Charna Cassell: Anxiety and anger live is also where turn on lives, right? So it can be the wires for excitement and anxiety and you know, terror like can get really woven together in children who are being abused or in a, an adult who's being raped. And. And even before and then it gets even more complex with the fact that you were like part of your desire and fantasy as a child before you'd even experienced it was to have power, someone to have power over you, but the piece. [00:19:39] Charna Cassell: The piece that's so, that's also important, and it's like, oh, I want people to get the beautiful, you capture the beautiful nuance in your book, right, and is, is the, you know, the consent piece, the, the holding you, it's like power over you, but also holding you at the same time, and, and how seductive and You know, sociopaths can be seductive, and this man who, who was older than you, who held you and then took that hand away and then just dominated you fully, right? [00:20:10] Charna Cassell: In this way, a sadistic way, and I think there are all these subtle distinctions that, like, I wish we had five hours to get into. [00:20:18] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: But it's a really important point that you're making. I mean, I think the thing is, is when things like this are consensual, both people desire to bring joy to each other. And there's a trust that's built up and There's a safety net, right? They communicate, and you can say, stop, and you'll be listened to. [00:20:46] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And so things can go really far because you know that that person holds you in that safe place. So somebody who seduces you and creates that safe place and then makes it unsafe, that level of damage is so intense. to try and figure out how to parse what is going to be safe again. And since I was already in that world [00:21:19] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. [00:21:21] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: and those desires didn't go away, and they usually don't, I need to say that they didn't come from trauma and they rarely do just for the audience because so often one of the biggest myths about BDSM is that, you know, and fetish is that, oh, you know, people become this way because they're traumatized and that's not usually the case. [00:21:42] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: But if you have trauma with similar themes, then you ended up with this complex web of stuff that is really very nuanced and takes time to unpick. So the work of, of, you know, becoming healthy. In all of this is not just dealing with the post traumatic stress disorder and or, or any other anxiety or depression that comes as a result of, of the experience, but also in understanding your own erotic map and forgiving yourself and getting rid of the shame associated with it and learning the skills you need to keep yourself safe. [00:22:24] Charna Cassell: Yeah. [00:22:25] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: It's complicated and it is nuanced and I love that you use that word because they think one of the things that happens in around this arena is nuance often goes right out the window. [00:22:36] Charna Cassell: Yeah, a lack of nuance is one of the more frustrating things in life for me, like living in that gray zone. And, and what's so tricky is so much that, you know, in terms of what happens with trauma is. Especially if it happens when you're a kid, right? You can get, kids automatically think in black and white terms. [00:22:56] Charna Cassell: And then trauma has you think in black and white terms. And so if it starts when you're a kid, then you grow up with this very, this kind of can be rigid or, or binary thinking. And given the work that you do, not just your desire, but like all the work that you do, it's, it's, there's so much gray and non binary. [00:23:17] Charna Cassell: material, right? [00:23:21] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Yeah, I kind of live there. And I find, I find that a lot of, I spend a lot of time trying to help people to understand nuance but also to be able to sit in that gray ambivalent place, [00:23:33] Charna Cassell: hmm. Mm hmm. [00:23:34] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: like loving and hating somebody at the same time, [00:23:37] Charna Cassell: Holding the complexity of that. Totally. Yeah. [00:23:41] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: it's, it's, it's, it's. And understanding that if you're able to do that and you're able to experience that and work your way through it, that life is so much richer than if you do what many people do, which is just, I'm going to pick one. [00:23:54] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. [00:23:56] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Somebody has to be either all good or all bad because I can't cope with the fact. [00:24:00] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I mean, if you look at what, you know, a lot of what's going on politically in the world and a lot of cancel culture is a great example of that, you know. You know, somebody wrote amazing work, but their politics sucked. And so now we're going to just say that we're not going to ever look at that work. [00:24:16] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And their work needs to be thrown out because they're a horrible human being. It's like, well, actually the nuance would be far more interesting to hold, which is how do you get somebody who creates this amazing thing while still holding these horrific views? And does that give you insight? A different insight into their, into their work than you have if you read it without knowing that. [00:24:36] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So that's far more interesting to me to look at the nuance. [00:24:39] Charna Cassell: Yeah, [00:24:40] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Today, people are far more likely to say, no, let's just get rid of it [00:24:44] Charna Cassell: yeah, [00:24:45] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: sitting in that ambivalence is uncomfortable. [00:24:47] Charna Cassell: But then there's the complexity of if we just take all the shadowy bits of people and push them over there, it just gets bigger, right? It just leaks out even more, and there's more likely that, you know, we look at that inside the Catholic Church, right? Like, let's just deny these desires and then, you know, hope they don't leak out sideways in the form of, [00:25:09] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Yeah, well, they have leaked out all over the place. [00:25:12] Charna Cassell: Exactly. Exactly. And so there's so much danger in, in in deciding that people are all good or all bad. [00:25:19] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Well, then part of it is that the people believe that they have magical thinking. They believe they can control by getting rid of. You know, so like rewriting history is going to control people's beliefs and viewpoints and I mean, it'll have an impact, but you can't completely get rid of stuff. And so, you know, ultimately, people think about things and go, Oh, that doesn't really make sense. [00:25:42] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Let me do some digging and it's, it's fascinating to me when people think like with book banning and things like that. Oh, we'll just get rid of these things and that's going to take care of. Of the complex problem of what we do about people who have, you know, are from different cultures who have different sexualities or different genders or different religious beliefs than we do. [00:26:04] Charna Cassell: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We're just gonna, we're just gonna get rid of all the difference. Kind of changing back to an earlier topic. So one of the things that I was thinking about was what was, what were some of the most helpful resources for you in healing from PTSD? And one of the things you said in your book, which I thought would be useful to get into is being gaslighting, trusting my inner sense and getting rid of nonproductive shame are three of the most essential tools. [00:26:36] Charna Cassell: In my life toolkit. [00:26:40] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And there were very few resources to be able to do that. So I'm 60 years old. And I say that, I say that to give people context because this happened when I was 19. And so, the world was really different and the way that we looked at healing was really different. And so, there was, it was very difficult to find adequate resources for that. [00:27:02] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: The therapy that I ended up having that was really productive, I had lots of productive therapy, but initially, It wasn't working on the trauma. It was just getting me comfortable speaking with another human being. I think that's really important that people understand that when somebody has been I call this catastrophic trauma, [00:27:20] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: just like child sexual abuse over a long period of time is catastrophic trauma. [00:27:24] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: When somebody's experienced catastrophic trauma, it fractures their trust in such a way that the first part of therapy is just about learning to trust another human being and to trust that no matter what you say to them, that they're not going anywhere. And but the trauma specific therapy that I did, which was amazing, which was traumatic incident reduction, which I then co authored a book on and I teach it and I use it with my clients. [00:27:47] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: One of the most healing parts of that was being able to express all of it. and be held in that safe space and know that the other person was not going to judge me and was going to allow me all the time I needed to process things through. So step one is actually processing and resolving some of the trauma before you can even start looking at stop gaslighting yourself. [00:28:13] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: You have to be able to change the narrative. [00:28:17] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. [00:28:18] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Learning that and learning risk assessment because most of us Don't learn that. I mean, we all know how to risk assess. We walk out the door. We risk assess when we leave the house, right? We risk assess when we drive a car. It's just when it comes to relationships that for some reason out the window. [00:28:38] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Gavin Becker wrote one of my favorite books called The Gift of Fear about learning to reconnect with your fear, which has, um, an adaptive.. And it's your intuition and your fear and your gut, which has an adaptive function because so many people have been talked out of their fear. And I cannot tell you the number of people I have seen as a therapist in the last 36 years about trauma who will say, you know, I had the funniest feeling, but I talked myself out of it. [00:29:17] Charna Cassell: Yeah. This piece, I mean, you know, you're speaking to the trusting other that needs to get healed, but a lot of what gets so broken in an experience like you had, or child sexual abuse, is self trust. And rebuild right and rebuilding that and that piece of like, Oh, how do I and if you're, you know, if you're in a traumatized state, you're not in your body, you can't feel the signals that your body's giving you to tell you. [00:29:44] Charna Cassell: You know, [00:29:44] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Well, and, and even if you can, thing is, is that most, you know, most people are gaslit by those around them before they gaslight themselves around that piece. I mean, so I, I like, I give examples of non trauma ones, which is like, how many women are told everybody deserves a chance. Don't dismiss somebody so quickly. You know, people get nervous. Everyone deserves a chance. And if your gut says something's off, [00:30:20] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. Yeah, [00:30:22] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: that's it. That should be the, the end. [00:30:24] Charna Cassell: You don't owe anybody anything. [00:30:27] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: No, you owe yourself something. You owe yourself something. You owe yourself the respect to listen to that part of you that is in direct contact with the energy in the world without filtering it through you. [00:30:46] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Lots of self talk and cognition. [00:30:49] Charna Cassell: I have an absurd example of that. I used to work at Good Vibrations, which is a worker owned sex toys store. [00:30:57] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Love that place. [00:30:59] Charna Cassell: I was so naive and I had grown up, ironically, with like, very rigid boundaries, but no boundaries because of child sexual abuse. And and so I'd be working with a customer and there were so many boundary crossings and I had a customer who had, who's missing a lot of his teeth. And he was just looking at me, you know, he's asked me a question about cock rings or something. [00:31:22] Charna Cassell: And I'm like, Describing the product and then just looking at me and opening his mouth and going, you know, like doing some weird tongue thing and I'm in my mind. I can remember being like. Well, maybe it's because he just doesn't have any teeth or, or [00:31:38] Charna Cassell: another customer, you know what I mean, or another customer, like putting their hand around my hip and being like, well, and then like it's sliding down and being like, well, maybe their hands slipped, like the way that I would try to give them the benefit of the doubt, even though on one hand I was. [00:31:55] Charna Cassell: I was like a, you know, wore combat boots and had a sexual aversion because I was so, dysregulated around sex as a kid or as a teenager, you know, so on one hand I was very rigid and another I was making all of these excuses and permitting because I just, you know, didn't want to see what was actually happening and was so uncomfortable with setting. [00:32:17] Charna Cassell: a very clear boundary. And, and I was getting what I call boundary boot camp at Good Vibrations, and I was doing somatic sexual trauma healing outside of there. And so slowly, it's like this amazing tracking of how I interacted with customers really showed my progress around developing embodied boundaries, you know? [00:32:37] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And that's it. I mean, that's the emotional skills and the social skills, the communication skills that we need. And so many of the people that I have known who have issues in childhood, And adolescence and young adulthood don't have those tools, the necessary tools like the boundary setting is the hugest one. [00:33:02] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Oh my god, you know, so many people don't know how to set a boundary. And so many people can't even figure out what their boundaries are and that's because they can't tune in. Right. They're not You know, I, I, I was doing this talk a couple weeks ago, and I was just, somebody put their hand up and said, well, but you know, I'm overly critical. [00:33:20] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And, and what if I, you know, just dismiss, you know, the one because I'm overly critical. And I said, well, first of all, that kind of thinking is the thinking that sets you up for ending up. as a victim. I'm afraid to say it, right? But it's the truth. If you're so focused on the one that you, you absolutely have to give everybody who presents themselves a chance, because they might be the one you're not going to listen to, to any part of yourself. [00:33:52] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Not the, not about the things about just like the parts of you that say, well, I just don't like this person, which is benign, but you're not going to listen to any danger signals. Because you're too focused on something that's a construct, it's a mental construct. [00:34:06] Charna Cassell: And it's [00:34:07] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: It's in your head. [00:34:08] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Completely. [00:34:09] Charna Cassell: but like also someone outside of you, rather than paying attention to this beautiful body that you have that's going to give you all the information you'll ever need. [00:34:20] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And it's, it's so, it is one of the hardest things for people to do, who are sexual abuse and, and sexual violence survivors, to retrain that sense. But even in households where you've grown up, where it's just kind of funny boundaries, like I grew up in a household where there were strange boundaries. [00:34:40] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So I was the victim of what we used to call a soft molestation means that I wasn't touched, [00:34:47] Charna Cassell: Mm [00:34:48] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: people are intrusive, but, but my dad was intrusive as hell. And my mom enabled that [00:34:54] Charna Cassell: Right. [00:34:55] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And if you look at their families, you can understand where that came from. That taught me that I did not own my body, that I didn't have the right to say no, that I didn't have the right to my feelings. [00:35:07] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And so you can see where you really end up screwed up if you don't, if you're, that's what you learn, then when your gut says, Oh, this isn't okay. There you are talking yourself right out of it. [00:35:21] Charna Cassell: right. [00:35:21] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: All it does is set you up. [00:35:23] Charna Cassell: Well, and the gaslighting happens so early because it's in your family, even when it's not. And again, you know, I, the book that I'm working on around you know, how, how to find sexual freedom after. Sexual trauma, and I'm defining sexual trauma in this broad way to include what you've described as like soft molestation or all sorts of things, you know, whether it's having a mentally ill parents any kind, anything that impedes the attunement of your parents. [00:35:54] Charna Cassell: And then you shape around them and you squeeze your life force down in order to be in, you know, to get their love or to be accepted in that family or that religious community or whatever it is. How can the restriction of your life force not impact your sexual self expression, which then lives in your system as trauma? [00:36:14] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Right. I mean, it certainly will. And it's I mean, one of the examples that I used in my book was from when I was 20. [00:36:21] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And, [00:36:22] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: after the whole situation with Damien was his name he had, he injured me. And so my left breast. kept getting infected. My father was a doctor. And so I was home and I developed an abscess and I knew I had an infection because I had a pocket of fluid under my breast. [00:36:44] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So I went downstairs in the morning. So I was home for about a month and I was getting ready to go out to the Midwest with friends. And then I was moving. And I said to my mom, listen I've got this infection. Because I'm rather bright and could tell that that was an infection. I need to, I need an appointment with the breast doctor. [00:37:03] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And she said, oh, your dad will examine you. And I said, no. I want to just go to the breast doctor. And she made such a big deal out of it that I was ended up standing in the kitchen, and he examined me and of course what he said was, you have an infection you're going to go to the doctor right. [00:37:20] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: It was completely unnecessary it wasn't for me that that happened, but neither of them recognized any other motivation, and to them that was normal and okay. And despite the fact that I was quite clearly saying I wasn't okay with this and I was crying. Everybody interpreted that as. Being okay. And you're crying because you're in pain. [00:37:41] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: It wasn't until I spoke with two girlfriends about it. And it was years later that this friend of mine, whose father was also a doctor, was appalled. And she just looked at me. She was like, there's nothing okay about that. Like, there's just nothing okay about that. That's abusive. And I was like, Oh yeah, I guess you're right. [00:38:03] Charna Cassell: That scene, actually, I made a note about that. That was so poignant and I think encapsulates so much. One, you know, It's it's your father. You're not supposed to question like his authority in that way to he's a doctor. You're supposed to you know, the doctor is going to know more about your body than you do. [00:38:25] Charna Cassell: I mean, there's just so much packed into that scene. And then also how that's as you said, it kind of subtly sets you up to not get ownership. And then the other thing that's so important in there is because there's so much focus on On women learning how to or people learning how to set boundaries, but then there's so much less attention on teaching the attunement to give you signals for what is a boundary and what is consent right and in that situation. [00:38:58] Charna Cassell: You know, clearly they're just he's deciding or they're deciding, Oh, you're crying because it's painful, not you're crying because you're so you're emotionally being violated right now. [00:39:08] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I mean, I was completely humiliated and they couldn't attune to those signals because that would shatter their view. The thing is, when we look at consent. And we're teaching consent in, you know, it's moved on a bit. So it's good. Now we're talking about enthusiastic ongoing consent, and that's better than it used to be. [00:39:27] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: However, we're still not talking about the subtleties of consent. We're still not talking about the fact that consent Conversation doesn't last five seconds. And that consent conversations aren't just for BDSM kink and things that are different. That consent conversations should be happening for any intimacy that you have. [00:39:48] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And, and in daily life, there are tons of things we need to gain consent for. But because, again, it's not nuanced, right? So it's like, Oh, you gave consent. It's so important to emphasize this. Consent can be withdrawn at any time by anyone, [00:40:07] Charna Cassell: Yes. [00:40:08] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: by anyone. So if you are in a consensual BDSM senior or you're in a consensual power exchange, not necessarily the submissive partner that withdraws consent. [00:40:20] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: The dominant partner can get triggered. The dominant partner can feel uncomfortable. They can feel uncomfortable with the, with the submissive partner's responses and withdraw consent right then. They might be withdraw, might be withdrawing consent because they're attuned to the other person and they think something's off here and I want to see what's going on before I take this further, or it might be something in them. [00:40:43] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And so it's this idea of checking in and paying attention and understanding your own signals, so that you can also understand the signals of the other. [00:40:54] Charna Cassell: So given Lori is such a wealth of information, instead of taking time to have her guide us through an exercise, I actually had her break down the four parts that she feels are necessary to allow someone to be able to give full consent. The things that need to be in place in order for you to feel. [00:41:19] Charna Cassell: Fully consenting and so get ready to take some notes. She's going to outline that for us now You talk about four parts to consent, and I think it's really important, I'll just say capacity, information, agreement, slash boundary setting, and autonomy. [00:41:40] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So let's start with capacity. So capacity. When you're looking at capacity, you have to think is someone that is someone able to give consent. What do I mean by able? Are they capable? So if somebody is under the age of 16 and we're talking about sex in some places, 18 and others, 21 and others, depends on what the age of consent is. [00:42:07] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Let's say 16, because that's quite a common one. If somebody's under the age of 16, they are not legally capable of giving consent. Children are not capable of giving clear consent for many things. Not all things but for many things because they they don't have fully developed brains and cognition, but also because they're in uneven relationships with lots of people, particularly caregivers. [00:42:38] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: If somebody is mentally ill, they may not be able to give consent. This is a really difficult one. So I invite people to think about it. they're depressed or highly anxious, how valid any consent might be in those circumstances. So I'm not just talking about someone's psychotic and then you can say, Oh yeah, they don't know which way is up. [00:43:04] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: They can't give consent. But sometimes if you are highly anxious, for example, and freeze, or you have post traumatic stress disorder, and you're somebody who fawns as a, as a way of trying to keep yourself safe. If you're fawning, you're a yes man, right? So you may be giving consent that isn't valid, or a person may think they have a person's consent, when all that person is doing is trying to keep themselves safe. [00:43:37] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So capacity and the other one for me is substance use, which is always a difficult one. I live in the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom people drink significantly more than they do in America. And so we always end up in these conversations about inebriated consent. So in my worldview, there should be no such thing, right? [00:44:02] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: If somebody is really, really drunk on the one hand, I feel you should take responsibility if you're an adult and if you're really, really drunk and some, and you do something stupid, that's your own fault. However, if you're really, really drunk and somebody's approached you to have sex, you can't consent. [00:44:23] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And so I advise people that the safe thing to do is To understand they don't have capacity. So that's, that's step one. That's kind of the easiest one in a way. Well, maybe not information. Information is again, people think all they need is one sentence. Hey, you want to come do a scene with me? Oh, what are we going to do? [00:44:47] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Oh, let's do a little bit of impact play. And that's all the information they get and off they go. No, no information should be detailed. You want enough information to understand exactly what you're consenting to. Think about it this way. Have you ever signed a contract and didn't read the small print? Comes back to bite you. That's not informed consent. Informed consent means that you have the details about what can go right and what can go wrong. So you need all the information in order to give consent. We go from information to what's next, [00:45:32] Charna Cassell: Agreement and boundary, boundary [00:45:34] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: agreement and boundaries. I always, I never remember how I phrased that. Then you need to look at limits and boundaries and agreements. What are we, what am I consenting to? I've got this information. What am I willing to do? What am I not willing to do? What are hard boundaries and limits? What are things I'm okay moving around, and so that needs to be discussed and really clear. [00:45:55] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I prefer, if you're doing this around anything sexual, I actually tell people to put things in writing. It's a good idea to put things in writing. So, I don't advise people to do this over text. It really is better face to face. It's also more fun face to face. But the only advantage to doing it over text is you have something in writing. [00:46:15] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: It's good to have something in writing because... Let's face it, when things go wrong, we often don't remember what we've said. And so if you have it in writing, you can refer back to it and go, Oh, you're right, that isn't what we agreed to, or... It's right there. That's what we agreed to, but that includes things about how to change the agreements. So that's the section where you talk about how consent gets withdrawn and how you check in with somebody to make sure that you still have their consent. I was at Ted in 2019 in, in, in Vancouver and at one of the receptions, a man came up to me and said, I want to talk to you about consent. I have a son in his early twenties. [00:47:05] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And I'm really worried that somebody is going to say that he violated their consent and somebody is going to accuse him of date rape when that's not what's happened. Right. I'm really worried because people, people don't seem to be having this conversation in a way that's useful. And he doesn't understand what he needs to do and what he needs to hear. [00:47:28] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And what he needs to see in order to feel okay about moving forward so he feels a bit paralyzed now, because he's, you know, he's, he's frightened of what would happen and I said well, you know, at first you need to have full information you need a full conversation need to assess the capacity of person. [00:47:45] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: One way of checking whether you have agreement around heterosexual sex, particularly if it's going to be penis and vagina sex. is when you get to the stage of putting on the condom, ask your partner to help you. If they enthusiastically engage in helping you put on a condom and they've already consented in other ways, you could feel reasonably sure you still have their consent. [00:48:14] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: If they hesitate, they're like, yeah, and they're, you know, kind of being wishy washy and maybe backing off a little, that's a point at which you assume you don't have consent. And say so. It feels to me like you're not really wanting to do this anymore. So it's been a lovely evening. And because you're actually engaging them together physically is a nice way of testing it out. [00:48:43] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: It would be nice if we could have a conversation and have that be enough. But a lot of times for various reasons people aren't in tune with themselves. And so you need to be observing what's going on with them emotionally if they don't look like they're into something you need to check, and it's your responsibility to check, just as it's their responsibility to figure out how to tell you, you both have responsibility, it doesn't fall on one person. [00:49:14] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: But I think the last element is most important, which is autonomy, which is you can only consent. If you have autonomy. And autonomy is my right over my body and my agency and my ability to act on my environment on my own behalf. Everyone has a right to agency, where they can make decisions and have control over their body, their emotions, their mind, and the things that impact them. That's where people end up in the situation around coercion. Or when there are imbalances of power, for example, you know, a teacher and a student an adult and a child. It not only doesn't the child have capacity, the child doesn't have autonomy there. [00:50:12] Charna Cassell: Right. [00:50:13] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: A boss and an employee, the employee doesn't have autonomy because if they say no, they may find themselves out of a job and that threatens their ability to look after themselves. [00:50:26] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So those are the things that you want to be looking at. order to decide whether consent is valid. And so any conversation should cover all of those points. [00:50:38] Charna Cassell: Mm hmm. [00:50:39] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So yeah, this is a long thing, right? It's not a five second thing. But you can do it in a way that's fun. You know, you can do it in a more lighthearted way. [00:50:51] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: You can flirt your way through it. It just needs to, it just needs to be a conversation. And to me, it's more important, the more serious the activity. So if you're kissing somebody, the conversation may not be very long. If you're planning on having intercourse, it's probably pretty long. But even still may not be very long. [00:51:14] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: If you're planning on doing shibari with somebody, which is Japanese rope bondage and suspending them from the ceiling, that's a long conversation, [00:51:23] Charna Cassell: there there's so much that that would be so fun for us to get into and I feel like we had a really important conversation and even even there's even more to talk about around consent and attunement and all of that. And. You know, there's also what you're, what else you're up to in the world. [00:51:44] Charna Cassell: You have your own podcast, the A to [00:51:46] Charna Cassell: Z of sex. You're on a, a TV show that we, unfortunately I couldn't, I didn't get to watch cause I don't have access to it over here. What's the, what's it called again? [00:51:58] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: It's, it's called open house the great sex experiment. I am hoping that they will finally distributed in the US. And it is on channel four in the United Kingdom and that basically it's an edutainment show, we [00:52:13] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: take monogamous couples. who want to open their relationships. They come along to my retreat and there are some residents there that are open minded people who are non monogamous and I do some work with with the couples and they get to try some stuff out maybe. [00:52:31] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: If they meet somebody they like, they get to try something out. So basically they come the first night. I do a session with them. Then that evening they get to try something out the next day. I do another session with them usually to repair the stuff that went wrong from the night before, cause they didn't follow their own rules. [00:52:48] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: And then they have another opportunity to try something. And then I see them on the final day to kind of pull together what they've learned to give them a, a good start. to opening up if that's truly what's for them or to really highlight that it isn't. I mean we, we had two couples that discovered that this was not for them and that was equally as valid as discovering that this is what you want to do. [00:53:12] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So we've done two seasons. hoping we'll do season three. It's been a lot of fun. I have an absolute blast [00:53:18] Charna Cassell: I'm so glad, I'm so glad you're getting to have fun with all your expertise, you know, like you've lived a freaking life, you, you know, your wisdom is, is hard won, and That you have so much to offer and just, you know, there's this, this beautiful depth to you that I really appreciate and have and felt felt so many feelings and things as I was reading your books. [00:53:44] Charna Cassell: But I just, I, I really hope that the listeners take advantage of you as a resource and you do do individual work with people as well. [00:53:53] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I do. I work individually with couples and with groups. I speak a lot these days. And so, like I said, I'm doing a tour in the UK for one company. I, I speak for two other companies. I come to the US and if you want to organize something, I will pitch up and speak, you know, we negotiate what in fees and all of that and I'll pitch up and speak, but I won't do is organize myself anymore. [00:54:16] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I'm too old for that. I have a really good time, you know, I, my, my speaking tour at the moment I'm, I'm, I'm in comedy clubs a lot. So what one of the guys who Came along to the show and I was on his podcast and he apparently does stand up. He said, you ought to do stand up. I said, no, this talk is enough stand up for me. [00:54:36] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I, because I have a really good time and I tell stories. I do have fun. I think that it's essential for me and I, and it's the best advice I can give young people is find something you love to do. And make sure that there are different iterations. And if, if something gets old and gets dull, find something new that you love to do. [00:55:00] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: You know, we don't have any idea how long we have, and I want to live each day completely. And fully, you know, and so I try sometimes, you know, there's drudge like everybody else, but I try to maximize my joy. [00:55:14] Charna Cassell: There's a, there's a meme I just. posted the other day about like, live your life like you're a band book in Florida. I think you're successfully doing that. [00:55:24] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: Yes. Yes. You know, I'm like I swear like a trooper. So I've actually controlled myself. I haven't sworn once on this show. highly unusual. I usually, I mean, I effin blind something fierce. If you listen to the A to Z of sex, you will hear lots of that. I've been running my podcast since 2016. And we cover everything. [00:55:44] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I mean, I have such a good time. It's, I think one of my friends reminds me that, you know, there's no sweetness without. saltiness, sour and [00:55:58] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: pain, right? [00:56:00] Charna Cassell: umami of life. [00:56:02] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: yeah, I mean, really, this is, people look at me and think, really, how do you do it? I just do. I have to make time for that. And I do as many things as I can to maximize joy. [00:56:15] Charna Cassell: That's beautiful. And, and is there anything else that you want to leave listeners with in terms of like resources, how they can find you? [00:56:23] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: The easiest way to find me is my website, which is dr. lorybethbisby. com. But I'm on Instagram and Twitter and threads at at dr. Bisby on Tick Tock. I'm Lori Beth UK. I answer email, but briefly. So if you have a question, don't email me the question. Because what you'll get is a form response from me explaining to you that I don't have time to answer every question I'm asked. [00:56:51] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: I've got a private members club that I'm starting up. Which is a great place to get questions answered exclusive content, and I do a live once a month within that group so that's a kind of great first step if you're not sure what you want to do and it's quite cost effective and I've got a ton of free content, and, and so some of it's my blog, some of it's my podcast, but they're on my website on the media page, there's, Like, every podcast I've been on, there's links to the podcasts I've been on, there's links to articles I've contributed to, there's links to YouTube, interviews. [00:57:28] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: So there are so many topics I can't even tell you. If it's about sex, relationships, or trauma, it's on there. So, that's a really good place to go to kind of get a feel. It's [00:57:40] Charna Cassell: Well, thank you so much. [00:57:42] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: been my pleasure. [00:57:43] Charna Cassell: Yeah. So good to meet you. [00:57:46] Dr. Lori Beth Bigsby: You too. [00:57:47] Charna Cassell: Was that as good for you as it was for me? If it was, we'd love it if you'd please rate and review it and share it with your friends so others can find us. If you have additional questions about living a vibrant life after trauma, we'd You can submit them at charnacacell. [00:58:03] Charna Cassell: com. Follow me at Laid Open Podcast on Instagram and Facebook and read more about my work at passionatelife. org. You can also sign up for my newsletter to stay informed. This has been Laid Open Podcast with your host, Charna Cassell. Until next time, keep coming.

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

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