Boundaries, Disgust and Love

Have you noticed how people are talking more and more about boundaries?

I recently listened to a Facebook live stream with Danielle Laporte discussing boundaries with psychologist Terri Cole.

Terri recommended setting up boundaries without offering any explanations, for example saying “I can’t do that right now.”

Danielle Laporte then asked, “How do you get over the fear of being rejected or not being liked when you say that?” 

Terri replied, one way to get through the anxiety of saying no, is knowing that it’s at the expense of yourself.

While Terri’s suggestion is helpful for getting into the right frame of mind, I’ve found the problem is that, even when we know that we’re compromising ourselves, it doesn’t address fear physiologically. We all know fear in our bodies can stop us in our tracks, have us running for the hills or fighting back with a vengence.

I recently found myself in the position of knowing I needed to speak up for a boundary, but the hurt I felt in the moment literally froze my voice.

First I shut down. I could barely face the person who had stung me with their words, let alone speak. When I was no longer around them I cried.Then I was pissed. I knew I wanted to put up a boundary. But I wanted to do it in a healthy way, without being defensive, and still take ownership of my own feelings that this person happened to provoke.

First stop: I called my therapist.

“I want to speak up for my boundary in the moment” I tell her.

“Do you trust the feeling of something being off?” She asks.  “Sometimes we grow up in environments when something feeling off, was made ‘ok enough’ by those around us.”

I nod my head in deep recognition as she says this, and give myself a pat on the back knowing that years ago I wouldn’t have been able to even recognize that something was ‘off’.

“In this case I had no trouble knowing this person’s behavior was not okay with me, I just literally didn’t know what to say in the moment.”  

My therapist then gives me suggestions about what I might say the next time I find myself speechless, when I know something is off, such as: 

“How dare you?” or  “That’s not ok.”

“Do you understand how shaming me is hurtful?”  Was another suggestion.

At first these suggestions seem like the perfect tools – fair, clear, and direct. I was jazzed and ready to lay down my newfound communication skills.

But when I spoke to the person who’d hurt me, I was charged with fear…. again. 

Unlike those who easily errupt with anger, my tendency is to do almost anything to avoid conflict, sadly at the expense of myself.

The problem was the words my therapist gave me wouldn’t come out. My throat felt like a golf ball lodged inside. I had to cough and sputter and struggle to spit out the words.  And while the words eventually came out, I was left swimming in the feeling that nothing really got resolved. And, most importantly, I was still hurting.

And that’s the gap I’ve come to know where talk therapy just doesn’t fill. But luckily somatic work (work that allows you to release unconscious emotional blocks from your body) fills that gap.

Through somatic (somatic means “of the body”) work, I’ve learned, in order to express clear boundaries, it’s often about getting in touch with anger viscerally, without shutting it down or exploding into uncontrollable rage.

This kind of healthy aggression could be defined as an assertive expression of anger, rather than a defensive expression of anger – golden for creating clear boundaries and strengthening your integrity.

Next stop: My somatic practitioner.

I asked my somatic practitioner to help me work specifically on my jaw, where I felt I was holding my anger, preventing me from clearly expressing my boundaries. (As an aside, my pent up anger was also also affecting my sexual desire, no bueno!).

During my somatic session, before I could name any emotion, I felt heat surge through my neck and face.  A grimacing snarl moved into my mouth and I found myself baring both rows of my teeth and gums.  Relief washed over me as my grimace turn into a growl – this was exactly the physical catalyst I needed to unblock my healthy aggression.

When your body is subtly guided towards a satisfying release, like this feline snarl of mine that curled its way into my face, the body’s self-healing mechanism naturally kicks in and does it’s thing.

The next thing I know, I feel heat move into my legs and arms. I feel another release as my finger points distinctively in the air.

Before I had words for it, my practitioner says: “It looks like your finger is pointing in disgust.”

Ah yes! Disgust, exactly! When she named what she was seeing it validated what the thing I didn’t have the words for.

There’s nothing like disgust.

It’s a total and utter rejection of what you’ve swallowed, knowingly or unknowingly.

The thing is, I was taught… possibly like many of us, that expressing anger is “ugly”. I was often reminded that “people” will only want to be around me if I’m happy and pleasant.

Expressing anger somehow got translated as risking losing those who I love, and this block in my body was amputating my primal sense of sovereignty over my voice.

My body’s self-healing mechanism was in fact doing it’s thing. I was literally rejecting all the times I’d swallowed my anger.

As it turned out, disgust empowered me by helping me dislodge the fear I had with expressing my boundaries.

But the thing is, disgust isn’t always about the perpetrator, or the person who’s poking at the tender and ancient mollusk-like wound that’s already inside. Try as you might, trying to change the perpetrator is a tall order.

Our only option for real change is to change ourselves.

My experience has been over and over again that the answers are all inside of ourselves.  Practitioners and therapists are helpful in having an eye and ear outside of our own situation, but ultimately the answers we seek are inside.

Third Stop: Getting clear from the inside out.

To help my mind catch up with my body’s self-regulating, I did one of my favorite practices: vocalizing yes and no out loud for over an hour with my eyes closed. Suddenly all of the ways I wanted to set up boundaries for myself became crystal clear.

Yes, to my voice.

Yes, I will stand up to those who interrupt me, cut off or redirect the conversation when I haven’t finished speaking.

No, to those who are blind because they’re wrapped up in their own pain.

Yes, I will stand up to criticism.

No, to swallowing my shame in silence.

Yes, I will stand up to being bullied.

No, to explaining or trying to help the other person understand my pain.  “It’s not ok” is enough. 

The final hoo-haa:  Easy Breezy Boundaries 

What I realized in this final step about boundary-making was profound.  I kept on repeating yes and no outloud to myself, and something else became clear.

As I pictured the person whose behavior I was saying “no” to, my “no”: wasn’t angry at all. Instead, it was gentle. It was a “no” that was full of love for this person, who didn’t know how to be when they turned their shame onto me.

My “no” was no longer charged with rage or stunted by fear.  And this “no” was no longer contingent on a long list of changes that I was demanding from someone who quite possibly had no will to change.

It was a ‘no’ that had an grandmother’s voice, full of mothering love raining down on a child who didn’t know the difference between hot and cold, destructive or constructive, cruel or kind.  A loving “Ah child, no no no no no. Tsk tsk tsk tsk. No, no, no, no, no.”  was all that’s needed from me to ease both myself and the perpetrator out of pain and into clarity.

It made me see that harnessing rage to find clarity for righteous action needs a soothing love. We might say coeur (french for heart) + rage (healthy aggression) = a loving no.

So the next time you fumble and finagle for the ‘right’ words to set up your boundaries, you might also consider putting a dash of heart into your heated no to ease your fear of speaking up.

I’ve given this experiment a try already several times myself: no angst, no golf-balls in my throat and no push back from my boundaries.

And as Brene Brown says in her new book “Braving the Wilderness” :

“Opting out of speaking out because we may get criticized is the definition of privilege.”  And who wants to be speechless in the urgent times we’re in?

Would love to hear if you try this out.  And if you want to try some of the practices I’ve mentioned here, they’re available in my Passion Guide.


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What To Do When You Feel Triggered

What happens when you feel triggered?  Maybe something someone says or does, on the news, on the street, in your home, at work eeks it’s way into your psyche and your body threatening to replay the repugnant details of a traumatic or painful event…

What do you do?  Do you avoid it?  Or do you find yourself suddenly at the mercy of your mind and body spiraling out of control?

The problem is, we don’t always have fair warning when something or someone is going to trigger the emotional and physical reminder of a painful experience, or worse activate re-living a past trauma.

We know it’s not healthy to re-live trauma.  As one of my mentors Dr. Besser Van Der Kolk says, by re-living the trauma, your mind and body validates that there’s danger and a threat, even if there isn’t.

To some degree you may be able control what you take in on the media, but if someone shares their own traumatic event with you, it may inevitably stir up painful or uncomfortable memories or trauma of your own. 

Whether or not you identify with trauma, I want to share a powerful tool not only for getting through emotional pain when it’s been poked at, but for healing  trauma while you’re in it.

The common association to trauma is something that results from physical incidents, such as rape, sexual assault, physical abuse or other violations. But actually, trauma can be even more complex when it comes to emotional incidents that happen when we’re younger, which then get activated by things like a break-up that happens too fast and too soon, for you to be able to do anything about it.

With that in mind, you can use this tool for anytime you’re in a state of overwhelm, whether it’s post traumatic stress that’s been triggered, or an unresolved emotional wound that you may not be aware of.

The key is that you don’t stop or try to repress any uncomfortable sensations or emotions, but that you can off-set the overwhelm that comes with post traumatic stress with pleasant sensations in your body, to ground you.  By off-setting the sensation of threat in your body,  with a pleasant sensation in your body, the trauma can be releaseed in small, gentle increments without overwhelming you.

When you feel triggered, your body goes into a state of arousal, and your sympathetic nervous system becomes activiated.  This kind of arousal is associated with threat or danger, so your  body may react by shutting-down with numbness, or you may feel rage course through you, and want to fight, or you may be filled with adrenalin and want to get as far away from the situation as possible. 

In which ever way you find yourself reacting, here’s what you can do to move through the overwhelm, and

1. Breathe into the sensation in your body that feels the most activated while keeping your eyes open. Then describe the sensation to yourself out loud. 

2. Next, recall a time when you felt free, pleasant, happy or content. It can be as simple as recalling the last thing that went well for you that week, or something recent that made you feel grateful. 

3. After you recall that moment, scan your body and notice the sensations when you think of that moment.  Then breathe into that sensation in your body and describe the sensation out loud. 

4. After you express out loud what this new sensation is, scan your body again and see if the sensation changes.  Then describe out loud how you feel when you think of the pleasant moment.

5. Then scan your body to see if the part of your body that felt triggered, is still activated. Describe that sensation out loud.

6. Go back to recalling the pleasant experience. Continue to go back to the pleasant sensation and staying with that sensation by describing it out loud.

By going back and forth between the activated part of your body that signals danger or threat, and the pleasant sensations in your body, you get to release the activated part in small increments, so that it doesn’t overwhelm your nervous system. 

These small internal movements not only help you to ground yourself and prevent you from re-living trauma, but it helps you to heal from trauma.

In Somatic Experiencing Trauma Release, this process is called “titration”. The pleasant sensation, or grounded sensation in your body, helps to diffuse and off-set the sensation where your body senses a threat, when there isn’t actually a physical threat. 

This process also helps you to stay in the moment, so you don’t disassociate from your body.  Staying present with the sensations in your body, without going into overwhelm is the key to healing from any emotional or physical pain.

If you’d like guidance through this healing process, I’m a certified Somatic Experiencing Trauma Release practitioner and I’m available for one hour skype sessions.  Please feel free to contact me through my website.


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A Key You May Be Missing to Feeling Good in Your Body


Is pushing yourself to work-out a punishment or an act of love?

If your exercise jam isn’t pleasurable, here’s a download that can change not only how you exercise, but more importantly how kind you are to yourself in the process.

Unfortunately so many of the exercise options out there are championed by the slogan “no pain, no gain” coupled with a kind of discipline that’s crippled with self-loathing. Even in the mind-body-spirit arenas, there’s performance pressure to perfect yoga poses, instead of enjoy them.

While I know how important pleasurable movement is in my own life, last summer I opted to go hard and work out like a maniac to get rid of some stubborn rolls…..until my adrenals were totally fatigued. Not only did I not lose weight, I got sick.

So this summer, I’m changing my game plan…. not only because last year’s plan didn’t work but because I was reminded why pleasure is an essential part of feeling at home in my body without stressing it.

Earlier this spring, I had the chance to train with Jean Louis Rodrigue – a top coach for some big wig Hollywood actors and public speakers.

In short, Jean Louis helps people to connect to their bodies in a way that’s animalistic, so they feel fully, freely and completely themselves without pretense (similar to my work in Permission Sessions!).

I loved how Jean-Louis’s named three different ways of being in the body, and I want to share them with you so you can define for yourself if your work-outs are punishment or pleasurable:

1 – Punishing your body: This is forcing your body into compliance. (Hard core work outs anyone?)

2 – Body Beautiful:  When your body becomes an obsession. You create a mask and disappear behind it. (Remember the blog I wrote last month about smiling when you don’t feel like it?)

3 – Your Body is You: This is what animals are.  They are directly themselves and they don’t how to be anyone else.  They are the full version of themselves in their environment.

Just like animals, we were once all “full versions” of ourselves as babies.  But as humans, our rational minds socialize us and hold us back from being in our bodies.

Have you ever noticed how animals don’t judge themselves? Can you imagine a jaguar thinking she’s too slutty or too prude? Or how about an aardvark telling herself she needs to run laps all day long?

Funny how we humans are masters at judging ourselves and then punishing our bodies into compliance with hard core work-outs that can go against our nature.

While there’s no doubt movement is essential for physical health, obsessive work outs may actually be contributing to stress levels, preventing you from feeling good…. and peaceful.

Here’s the nitty gritty on why pushing your body doesn’t address anxiety or stress biochemically or on an emotional level:

Muscle spindles (sensory receptors within the belly of a muscle that primarily detect changes in the length of this muscle) are sending messages via neurons to the muscles to contract.

When you push your body to work out hard, and stretch your muscle tissue, the muscle spindal sends alpha-neurons to send messages to your brain for big actions – for a long stretch in the muscle tissue. The alpha-neurons however are not connected to your lymbic system (the part of you that feels emotions), and you by pass your ability to feel. So with extreme muscle actions, your feelings remain unexpressed in your body and anxiety continues.

But there’s good news, which can change the way you workout to reach both physical and emotional well being:

Other brain messengers, called gamma neurons, are the neurons that send messages for small actions/movements.  These neurons are activated with small muscle movements have a relationship with the lymbic system – your emotions!  So when we move our muscles with small movements, it allows us to feel our emotions. When we feel our emotions, we can release anxiety physically as well as emotionally.

Moral of the story?

Slow movement (go gamma neurons!).  Allow yourself to feel (go lymbic brain!).

And watch your stress and anxiety melt away while your body gets the pleasure of moving.

PS: if you apply the same principles to your sensual life, you’ll no doubt get heathly emotional satisfaction instead of just an endorphin rush.

Here’s to feeling free this summer!

REFERENCES: 
Some of the information in my blog is from the training I received in Peter’s Somatic Experiencing work (somatic meaning ‘of the body’). Peter’s work is based on the fact that humans are animals, and we prevent ourselves from our body’s natural ways of releasing emotional and physcial blocks because of our cognitive minds. His methods allow the body to come back to it’s natural self-healing mechanisms – the science of this is explained in his book, Waking the Tiger.

The other information was gleaned from experiential workshops I participated in with Jean-Louis Rodrigue who teaches another kind of somatic (body work) called Alexander Technique. He’s adapted the Alexander Technique to include the natural embodiment of wild animals.


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The Key To Releasing Anxiety With Ease

I’m so excited to have completed phase one of Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing Trauma ReleaseTraining earlier this month.  I can’t wait to bring what I’m learning into my work with Permission Sessions.

What I really love about this work is that it easily allows you to release unconscious blocks in your body that you may not even realize you had.

Somatic experiencing safely releases emotional and physical trauma in small increments without re-activating or re-living trauma.

Even though I’ve been practising this somatic work (working with the body for emotional well being) for my own healing for years, I’m always surprised by what comes up, and what I learn about myself.

In the training class, I volunteered to be a demo for the practitioner to conduct a session. I started by telling the practitioner I have chronic jaw tension and I was floored by what happened next.
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When Passion Fades……3 Questions You Can Ask Yourself

I was at a party recently and a friend asked,

“How do you get the passion back in your relationship, when you start getting bored of each other?”

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself – a lot actually.

What do you do when the sizzle fizzles?

What if you say you want more passionate kissing and he says he needs more passion before he can get to the kissing?

What keeps your relationship where you want it to be?

What are the ingredients? And how do you want to maintain them?

When you hear these questions, you might think:

“I don’t want to ‘work’ at having to have passion! I want passion to be effortless. I work at so many other things in life, why would I want to ‘work’ at passion?”

I get it. Maybe you even start to tally up all the ways you’ve already put effort into passion…

Planning a weekend getaway… Signing up for a course exploring your erotic nature…Talking to your partner about what you want in bed….Getting inspired with new ideas from a coach…Scheduling time together without the distraction of social media, texts, news, phone call, netflix, amazon etc…?

Maybe you’ve suggested all of these things, and done some of them, but your passion still isn’t jamming?

What next?
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Top 10 Keys for Living Shamelessly

shame, releasing shame,

Photo by Josef Kandoll

I’ve just returned from the Permission Retreat in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the powerful and profound shifts from the group have settled in.

For context, the 5 days of the retreat were rooted in Permission Sessions – my signature somatic group workshops where each participant is guided toward the unique intuitive shifts that need to be expressed through movement, voice and breath to release any part of themselves that’s been hidden, denied or shamed.

The goal is to free any stubborn hang-ups in your body that may unconsciously be an obstacle for liberated joy, confidence and pleasure on any scale. My approach is to unearth these hidden pieces from the inside out, so you can free your psyche, body and heart from any internal conflict or struggle.

Photo by Josef Kandoll.

We laughed that the hashtag for the retreat should be #kristamademedoit… and it still makes me smile. I like to think whatever is inside of you, has been aching to get out all along, and sometimes all you need is a little extra permission.
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My Top 12 Favorite Relationship Quotes

Sometimes a quote can cut straight to our core and wake us up to profound realizations about ourselves. My favorites are the ones that let us relate to others with more ease, love and freedom. Today I’m sharing my favorite relationship quotes with you and hope they offer endless inspiration.  Enjoy!

In your borrowed body, a precious gift is hidden.
Search for it not only when in pain
Learn to love before death claims you.
-Rumi

We need to be able to enter the body or the erotic space of another,
without the terror that we will be swallowed and lose ourselves.
– Esther Perel

Deprived of enigma, intimacy becomes cruel when it excludes any possibility of discovery.  Where there is nothing left to hide, there is nothing left to seek.
-– Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity
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Why You Should Stop Chasing Beauty And Start Seeing It

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision” – Helen Keller

“I’ll take you around the world if you get back to that shape.”  He pointed to a picture of me taken exactly 20 years ago. I was skin and bones; it was just a couple of months after I’d recovered from typhoid fever. For weeks, I couldn’t keep down anything I ate. It was closest to death I’d ever been in my life.  

I know he intended this as a compliment for my youthful skinny self.  And he didn’t know that I’d had typhoid fever a few weeks before that photo had been taken. But offering me a reward to return to my skin and bones state, felt sickening.

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INSIDE

k17
Inside, there’s something deeply quiet: 

A sanctuary for dances in the dark

A muse for adventure, spelunking onto damp soil.

Inside, you see

The YES is not lost.

When you sink down further into the noiseless dark,
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Unravel Me

neckexposedonflooraranka_0411-1

Smear rhythm into my skin

Travel the awakening of my curves

Soak into sensual arpeggios

As the untold story of liberation penetrates silky smooth skin,

Exploring unknown territory

Melting into this abyss of sensation (more…)


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