How I realized my anger and grief were essential to my pleasure.

How I realized my anger and grief were essential to my pleasure

When I first started dancing again, I could barely move.

I’d show up to the Tiffany Center in downtown Portland with hundreds of sweaty humans embodying their wholeness, and I’d hold my knees to my chest, put my head down low, and just peek out.

I felt pathetic.

What’s wrong with me that I can’t let myself go?

I feel so unsafe.

I feel so uncomfortable.

At the time, I also had an undiagnosed case of vulvodynia – chronic vulvar pain without an identifiable cause.

Who knows the last time I’d orgasmed without some kinda substance to ease the intensity first.

And movement of any kind? Totally brutal.

Like a constant reminder of this secret unresolved shame I was carrying with me everywhere I went.

Like a bulls-eye on my beauty.

Like utter internal torture.

So… I just wouldn’t move.

Until one day, I was harassed in an elevator by a bell hop at a fancy hotel, and the next day at dance, I could no longer hold it in.

DONE with letting so much violation stay stuck in me, I went into the middle of hundreds of sweaty humans, got down on my knees, and started hitting my hands into the hardwood floor in time with the music.

I roared. I wept. I pulsed up and down and heaved. I screamed.

Women and men circled around me. They let their intensity pulse through, too. We all knew what to do, how to hold sacred space for shame and pain to move. Like it was in our blood. Like something animal was still miraculously left in us.

That night I touched myself totally sober, and wept, and orgasmed, and felt this deep, hard to explain kind of grief-gratitude.

Grief that I’d been holding so much pain for so incredibly long.

Gratitude that somehow my soul knew how to let it go. That my story wasn’t over. That there was still beauty and pleasure and possibility in store.

Years later, after working with hundreds of humans and reading a ton about the physiology of pain and pleasure, I’ve noticed a pretty clear pattern.

When some kind of violation happens that overwhelms our capacity to cope… when the pain is too intense, or the grief, rage or shame feel too acute, our systems automatically do this beautifully preserving thing: they freeze. Numb. Check out and stay outta the danger zone.

The trouble is, when we want to return to feeling things like pleasure, gratitude, hope or possibility… we gotta lotta unprocessed stuff blocking our access.

(Of course, we can infuse our lives with safe and doable pleasure practices, and that can definitely help us unthaw from long-held freeze states–100%–but for many people, even “small” levels of authentic felt-sense pleasure can feel fairly inaccessible until they get angry, get weepy, or get honest about just how much shame they’ve been storing deep inside.)

This is why one of my number one teachings around how to resolve trauma has to do with increasing our capacity to be present to intensity. Slowly. With care. With patience. With compassion.

Feeling our grief, our rage, our shame… is not an easy thing to do. Instead, lots of people spend a very long time teetering between pain and numb.

Who has the capacity to really feel that stuff through to the center? Who even knows where to start?

Actually, I think we all do. 

Like all those sweaty humans on the dance floor, we have an instinctual animal wisdom that can roar and rage and weep and lay so so utterly still after the storm has finally been felt from head to toe.

But often, we need safe containers – permissive grounds to feel, to be witnessed, to be held. Often, we need to be surrounded, in the flesh, by other humans, so we can breathe and dance and cry like the feral things we really are.

This winter, the Sex After Trauma Sisterhood is opening up, and a circle of women will be making sacred space to feel and heal together in deeply profound ways.

If you’re longing for a safely curated and cultivated space for your whole-self reclamation, please hit reply and I’ll send over more info.

Also know that on Black Friday the Kickstarter for Sex After Trauma (my lil book baby!) goes live. There will be tons of awesome ‘rewards’ – from signed print books, to audio books, to online classes, to in-person retreats and workshops (the Sisterhood is one of the rewards!). Stay tuned for ways you can be engaged. It’s gonna take a village to raise this one, for sure!

Loving you always.
Trusting in your path – messy, angry, griefy, grateful, whole.
xox,
Rachael

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