S3 E31 TRANSCRIPT The Pelvic Floor and it’s Relationship to Healing Freeze, Dissociation and Shame

[00:00:00] Elisabeth Kristof: Welcome to Trauma Rewired, the podcast that teaches you about your nervous system, how trauma lives in the body, and what you can do to heal. I’m your co host, Elisabeth Kristof, founder of brainbase.com, an online community where we use evidence-based neurosomatic exercises to create resilience, change behavior, and re-pattern trauma.

[00:00:19] Elisabeth Kristof: I’m also the founder of Neuro Somatic Intelligence Coaching Certification, an ICF accredited course that equips therapists and coaches with a framework and tools to create transformation from the level of the nervous system. 

[00:00:29] Jennifer Wallace: And I’m your co-host Jennifer Wallaceand I specialize in preparing your nervous system for peak somatic psychedelic healing experiences, and then integrating those messages into your everyday life and into your nervous system.

[00:00:43] Elisabeth Kristof: If you’re a therapist, a coach, or a practitioner, and it resonates with you that there’s a deeper level to go in supporting your clients to create change and healing, Neurosomatic Intelligence Coaching Certification is for you. NSI will distinguish you in your field and help you become an expert in brain based coaching.

[00:01:01] Elisabeth Kristof: NSI allows you to not only understand functional neuroscience for behavior change and trauma resolution, but really to achieve performance, presence, and creativity at a whole new level. This creates value for your clients. It improves your client retention. It expands your impact and it reduces your own burnout.

[00:01:21] Elisabeth Kristof: And the truth is, the world really needs coaches, therapists, and medical practitioners who can attune, co-regulate, and practice trauma-informed teaching. You can get more information about NSI at neurosomaticintelligence.com. We’re enrolling now for the next cohort, and we’d love to chat with you to see if this program is a good fit. The link is in the show notes to book a discovery call. Let’s talk.

[00:01:44] Jennifer: I’m so happy to be sitting with you today, Veronica. As we explore relationships on this season of Trauma Rewired, a big part of our conversation is the relationship to ourselves and to our bodies and I found your Instagram page at a time when I was coming into relationship with my pelvic floor and my womb space, which really coincides with being early on in my body as far as like my embodiment journey and I think coming into right relationship with my pelvic floor was really like this missing piece of the puzzle that was allowing me to enter into full embodiment and it’s been an incredible, it’s been an incredibly powerful place to be.

[00:02:27] Jennifer Wallace: But I see, and we see this a lot when we’re working with clients that this is a, this place and a scary part of the body to access and so today it’d be really fun to explore the impacts of dissociation from this area, how trauma impacts our relationship to our pelvic floor, the emotional pieces of the, of these places and how healing with our healing within our womb space can really create these expansive portals of creation of healing and expansion and I feel like there’s so much to dive into here with you today. So welcome to trauma rewired.

[00:03:06] Veronica Rottman: Thank you so much, Jennifer. It’s a huge honor. I’ve been an avid listener of Trauma Rewired for years now, and so yeah, it just feels really meaningful and special to be here with you both. Thank you.

[00:03:20] Jennifer Wallace: Thank you. I recently, you asked your audience on Instagram to ask a couple of questions in preparation of you being here and one of them asked you a question in reply of that you said that you don’t relate to being a victim or a survivor, although you’ve experienced and come through many events where those common terms have been used.

[00:03:43] Jennifer Wallace: Will you share with us how you got into the space of nervous system health and particularly pelvic floor and womb health?

[00:03:49] Veronica Rottman: Yeah, so I want to say this with respect for anyone who does identify with those terms. I’ve certainly had a phase in my life where they did resonate, but I think what’s really impactful about really exploring the relationship between your nervous system and any dissociation or disconnect from your whole pelvic bowl is that you heal and there is max, maximum amounts of Resilience that were cut you were cut off from before and you’re able to tap into that and since I’ve been able to feel my own resilience in relationship to my pelvic bowl no longer Identify with the term victim with the term survivor I feel like they don’t really capture the nuance and the multidimensionality of what it means to have experienced trauma and to be on a journey of healing from it. So yeah, that’s the gist of why I, I don’t really identify with those terms and I haven’t really found a good term that encapsulates the way I identify with my own trauma and trauma healing journey.

[00:05:05] Veronica Rottman: I really would encourage people instead to be in the experience of healing and let that be what carries you through versus these labels that I think push us towards essentialization of ourselves and each other and where when there’s that essentialization of I am a victim you are a survivor It can limit us from moving forward and feeling safe in our own body and in relationship with our pelvic bowl.

[00:05:42] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah, I think it’s been really powerful for me and for Jennifer to go through an evolution in our relationship to our trauma, and to also reframe a lot of our understanding of what we experience in the body as outputs of a nervous system. To understand that’s the way that the body is working to protect us, that it’s patterning that served its purpose at some point, and that it’s also possible to repattern and to work with the nervous system to create safety and release, and perhaps even pleasure in some of these areas that have been so chronically braced.

[00:06:20] Elisabeth Kristof: And so big picture, I’d like to span out a little bit and why should people work on this area? Where does your work take people? And what do you see as the impact of this for someone’s healing? Just for someone who’s listening that’s I never thought about working with my pelvic floor, my pelvic bowl. where does all that stem from for you?

[00:06:44] Veronica Rottman: Yeah, if we zoom out to a cultural lens, there has really been for centuries now this over culturalization of disconnecting particularly from our pelvic bowl due to white puritanical culture, religious trauma, misogyny, I could go on and on but we’ve really been conditioned to believe and. embody this sense of that place is shameful, or it’s dirty, or it’s a nuisance and something to put up with, right?

[00:07:18] Veronica Rottman: Versus it being our somatic center, which it is, our relational center and I think that really looking at it from that wider lens of all of us have internalized this message that our pelvic bowl is dirty or shameful. That is a trauma in itself, right? Like I talk about how the mere experience of having a pelvic bowl, particularly as someone in a female body, in this world, the objectification of our bodies and the fragmentation that results as a part of that is so chronic and so common and so pervasive that it’s not even being addressed.

[00:08:06] Veronica Rottman: In my journey and going into somatics, I found that even in the healing world, there was this sense of, we don’t go there. We can spend all our time in the heart and the ventral branch of the vagus nerve and all the heart expansion. But, the pelvic bowl, that’s just a little too much.

[00:08:27] Veronica Rottman: And that in itself is a reason to heal it, right? If it’s too much we can gently, in a titrated way, come back into relationship with it. And when we think of the pelvic bowl as our somatic center, there’s so much potential there for accessing the power that you had to cut yourself off from when you came into this world and realized, oh, this is a part of my body that I’m not supposed to be in relationship with.

[00:09:03] Jennifer Wallace: I think too, so much of our culture is programmed to address the neck up also and part of the neck up, though, is the jaw and throat and using the voice and so when we’ve been cut off from our pelvic floor, we’re also cut off from our voices and there is, the vagus nerve, this beautiful communication highway, it lands in the pelvis and it innervates the vocal cords and these two places of the body are so intricately connected through energy, through through physiology and biology and so it’s, it’s so important to come into this resilient place and connection of The pelvic floor. Would you speak to a little bit of maybe how some of the emotional places like shame could come and or freeze responses and some of these more up trauma responses live in the pelvic bowl and then permeate through the body?

[00:10:03] Veronica Rottman: Yeah, I’d love to, and from a more scientific lens if we look at the vagus nerve, which Jennifer just mentioned, there’s two branches. The dorsal branch of the vagus nerve runs sub diaphragmatically, meaning it runs below the respiratory diaphragm by the rib cage into the pelvic bowl and the dorsal branch creates a sense of that parasympathetic activation, the rest and digest, the recalibration, relaxation, down regulation that we need to feel grounded.

[00:10:43] Veronica Rottman: And these two branches don’t function in isolation of one another. So they actually work in relationship in a rhythm and the ventral branch, which is what we what gives us a sense of safety and connection and co regulation, can’t actually function optimally without there being that dorsal branch activation and online.

[00:11:09] Veronica Rottman: Now, when we have trauma, and oftentimes, yes, I’m working with people who have trauma to their pelvic bowl, whether it’s a birth injury or a boundary violation or a fall, an accident, those certainly fall under the category of pelvic trauma. But what you’ll find is that actually, particularly when it comes to relational trauma, that does impact our pelvic floor, our pelvic bowl because the dorsal branch is not only responsible for that relaxation and the grounding that we get from being in our pelvic bowl, but also the freeze response that immobilization in the body, this really adaptive, intelligent response to trauma that says we have to be still and be completely quiet coming back to that pelvic bowl jaw connection in order to stay safe and it’s often mixed with some dissociation, particularly from the pelvic bowl. A lot of my clients are dealing with that Freeze response, whether it’s due to boundary violations, sexual assault pelvic floor injuries and dysfunction, right? And we do want to remember that this is a provocative space, and shame is going to come up.

[00:12:34] Veronica Rottman: If you have trauma you have shame. That’s how it goes, right? And shame is also a really protective mechanism when it comes to our nervous system doing its job and keeping us safe, right? So if we’ve had experiences in the past That we’re too much, too fast, too soon, or too little, too slow.

[00:12:56] Veronica Rottman: There’s lots of definitions of trauma, right? But those are the two we’ll work with today. The shame break, if you think of it as a break, kicks in as a way to keep us from having to experience that again. So if the body is neurocepting or perceiving threat, Let’s say, for example, we have relational trauma and we get into a new relationship, whether it’s romantic or with a friend and it’s going great.

[00:13:29] Veronica Rottman: Things are wonderful. That can actually elicit a shame response because in the past we had a rupture or wounding in relationships that caused our body to go – connection isn’t safe and so let’s, put on that shame break to keep you from moving in close and so that you don’t have to experience what you experienced before.

[00:13:53] Veronica Rottman: So shame plays a really important role in protecting us, and we can work with the pelvic bowl to restore capacity for not needing it all the time, to feel safe. Yeah, I could go on and on, but

[00:14:11] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think it’s, I love the way that you framed it as a break, as a shame break, because we talk so much in here about shame being a protective emotion that becomes a well worn pathway when we’ve had a lot of relational trauma or developmental trauma to protect us from entering into those environments that it bring up those big emotional responses or where there’s areas where we could get hurt again with vulnerability, with intimacy, with connection and or we’re moving into a space where we feel like our social connections are being threatened and it is this big emotion that is trying to protect us to keep us socially connected, but often lands us back in isolation and it is an emotional response that actually represses other emotions. Which is crazy to think about. And when we work with people on the site, on the brain based site, whenever we’re doing neurological tools to help innervate into the pelvic floor and to stimulate the areas of the brain that help that connection be possible, it’s really interesting to me, the things that come up for people.

[00:15:18] Elisabeth: The shame, but also the clenching of the jaw and the rage and the anger that starts to present the immediate dissociation that kicks on and just how much resistance. I see people starting to reactivate those neural connections and I have come to a place where I feel like whenever I’m going to do pelvic floor stuff with people, there also has to be an emotional processing component because so much comes up. I’m going to just push people right back into that dissociative shame path otherwise. So would you talk a little bit to how you help people when you’re working with them to restore healthy pelvic floor function connection to the pelvic bowl? How do you also manage the emotional responses that come up with that?

[00:16:07] Veronica Rottman: Yeah, the emotional channel is really something that I’m always inviting people to explore. We often will not start directly with the pelvic bowl, because yes, it can provoke stress, so much, but we titrate our way there and along the way we are getting curious about, as you feel your body, what emotion may or may not come through and for a long time there might not be much. we have to really restore more safety and connection to the body in order for that channel to really become more available and underneath the shame that can come through as we relate to our body and especially our pelvic bowl, there are self protective responses, typically.

[00:16:59] Veronica Rottman: So Elisabeth, when you talk about the tension in the jaw that comes up or even in the hands, right? That’s typically, and I don’t like prescribing, but typically that says to me there’s anger here, there’s rage that didn’t get to be felt and moved, right? And so yes, our body may have gone into a freeze during stressful or traumatic events, but underneath that freeze was this impulse to yell, to bare our teeth, to bite, right? To open our mouth, to protect ourselves through that healthy aggression and so many people I work with have lost relationship with their own anger. They tend to be more defended against their own rage, especially as women, we’re taught to put a smile on our face and appease others with that fawn response, right?

[00:17:57] Veronica Rottman: And underneath that, there’s all of these self protective responses, and so I’m working with people to get curious about, oh, when you fill your pelvic bowl, I’m noticing that your jaw is tensing. What if we ask that tension how it would like to move through you? And then we get a chance to finally complete that incomplete self protective response, so that it’s no longer on repeat.

[00:18:27] Veronica Rottman: Almost like a broken record, right? We can help people to complete that and restore all the energy that was going towards this self protective response going and going and running the show. We get to reclaim that energy for ourselves again, for vitality and health versus dissociation and shame.

[00:18:52] Jennifer: You’ll likely find yourself in this conversation today and through our own examples. But trauma resolution is more than talking about the past and deeper than cognitively deciding to move forward. Trauma lives in the here and now. It impacts our relationships to self and all of our relationships, it lives in the body and our belief systems, and it affects our present moment until we find a way to rehabilitate the system. If you want to learn more about incorporating Neuro Somatic Intelligence into your life, into your business, with practical, actionable tools that create lasting change in your client’s lives the next cohort of Neuro Somatic Intelligence is enrolling right now and you can go to the link in the show notes to find out more.

[00:19:38] Jennifer Wallace: I was just listening to Gabor Mate talk about autoimmune issues in women. We have 80% of those issues: fibromyalgia and inflammatory responses in the gut and he related it to the constructs put on cisgender women by the Patriarchal Society that we are compulsively concerned with the emotional needs of others instead of our own true selves and well beings and that it’s the identification of working in the world versus, going against our true selves.

[00:20:11] Jennifer Wallace: And it is so much about suppressing that healthy anger and that we are taught to be peacemakers and that there’s these two big limiting beliefs that we’re meant to be peacemakers and also that it’s the belief that it’s our responsibility to support other people’s feelings, not to disappoint them and it really drives the narrative of self abandonment. And so can you speak to how this chronic self abandonment impacts the health of the pelvic floor?

[00:20:43] Veronica Rottman: Yeah, so if we lose connection with our pelvic floor, which I don’t know many people who intrinsically are able to access a felt sense connection without doing some type of work around reconnecting to the pelvic floor. Typically, what I like to say is we’re never going to be able to heal our pelvic floor and our relationship to it until we feel safe enough to embody it, right? If we don’t embody it, that means it’s going to be much harder for us to relax it and to contract it and one of the key sort of principles that I was able to make a connection on in my work with the pelvic floor and in my work with the nervous system is that ideally there’s a rhythm. So we need to actually recontextualize our relationship to strength.

[00:21:42] Veronica Rottman: Oftentimes it is sold to us as this like hard gripping. Hold on, squeeze, push forward, bypass your needs. Appease others so that everyone else is content and happy then you’ll be safe and this shows up in a nervous system that is either in hyper arousal going, right? That constant productivity, that constant up regulation until we crash.

[00:22:11] Veronica Rottman: Or there’s that flatline hypoarousal that we see, particularly with the freeze response and and trauma and with both of these non rhythmic ways of being, one of the very first places to adapt, really, to the lack of flow, is our pelvic floor. So Your pelvic floor is the initiator of sympathetic movement patterns in the body.

[00:22:43] Veronica Rottman: What does this mean? It means that when your body perceives threat, your pelvic floor will move into a protective response of contracting. Now, when we add in the layer of sitting all the time, and I’m literally sitting right now as I say this, sitting all the time, not being encouraged to connect with our pelvic floor, instead, disconnecting, we lose hydration, really.

[00:23:13] Veronica Rottman: So the pelvic bowl is richly and densely packed and innervated with layers of fascia, so you have fascia all over your body, I won’t go into a fascia lecture, but we have fascia all over our body and it’s this living system that coats our nerves. Nerves compose your nervous system, right? So if we are walking around constantly contracting our pelvic floor due to trauma, due to stress, due to sitting all the time and not moving in a more rhythmic way, a more non linear way in our pelvic bowl, we lack hydration in that fascia. The fascia is primarily fluid. So when we move our pelvic bowl, especially in fluid ways those fascia, all of the fascia, is being flushed and hydrated with water molecules. But when we don’t have that movement and that relationship to our pelvic floor, it becomes dehydrated and overly contracted, or what’s called hypertonic.

[00:24:25] Veronica Rottman: And that hypertonicity, it’s not so much going to respond to poking and prodding. So one of the first things that I do with clients who have maybe been going to a pelvic floor PT for a long time, which I highly recommend. If you want to learn more about your pelvic floor, if you’re just curious, or if you’re dealing with different forms of dysfunction.

[00:24:48] Veronica Rottman: But a lot of pelvic floor PTs are sending their clients my way because they’re realizing, oh, this isn’t just about a physical imbalance. This isn’t something that’s responding to poking and prodding and invasively working with the tissues, either. Let’s say we have a traumatic experience that causes our pelvic floor to want to protect us and create that hypertonicity. Trying to force and pry that open actually can backfire and so I have lots of clients I’ve worked with who we’ve decided let’s actually take a break from doing all the hip openers. That’s a big trend I see like just do the craziest hip openers and then you’re everything will be fine like actually, we are irritating an already contracted part of ourselves.

[00:25:46] Veronica Rottman: So let’s zoom out. Let’s see how tending to the nervous system and restoring that optimal flow where there’s a little micro up regulations followed by down regulations, right? This flow will then be mirrored in our pelvic floor and really our whole body, right? But especially because it’s that sympathetic initiator. We want it to be able to both fully relax so that it can fully contract. That was a mouthful. Laughter.

[00:26:24] Elisabeth Kristof: It’s really important information. You spoke to a couple of things that I want to just highlight and one is that it really is always about this modulation, right? I think so many people come in thinking nervous system regulation means super calm and Zen all of the time and that really what we’re talking about with a healthy, well functioning nervous system is the ability to modulate to the right amount of response for the right situation and to have that healthy flow that you were talking about and then I see these states of being stuck in too much activation or too little activation all the time.

[00:27:07] Elisabeth Kristof: And that’s really where the big dysfunction occurs is when we’re unable to transition appropriately in these different states and, and another big misconception that I see with people is that doing all of the key goals and all the, I’ve got to make my pelvic floor stronger, when really the relaxation is the more difficult component of that and being able to work with the nervous system, work with the body somatically and re pattern even some of the beliefs and the underlying causes of that constant bracing is in order to restore both relaxation and then appropriate contraction. It is so important and as you were speaking, I was thinking of a particular client that came to mind that has a lot of pelvic pain. It’s undiagnosable, has gone to many different doctors. Nobody finds a real problem, but there’s just constant pain in this area and then also too, the more doctors she goes to and the more PTs, the more that body boundary violation is happening and her responses have gotten really big afterwards.

[00:28:16] Elisabeth Kristof: Nausea, sometimes blacking out, vomiting, migraine for days and when we do some neural stuff to connect to that area, same thing, really big threat responses presenting. And so I loved the way that you’re talking about remembering that the body is a system and that everything is connected. So maybe we don’t go right to the pelvis, we work through the jaw and we work through the other places where the body is holding tension and the other input systems to then, naturally let that restored function come into place or to give our nervous system more capacity to then be able to do the work to handle with the pelvic floor and I think an important thing that I would love for you to speak to is so many people maybe can’t quite connect the dots between I’m experiencing this in my pelvic floor, I have problems.

[00:29:14] Elisabeth Kristof: Sex is painful. I have pelvic pain. I have incontinence, whatever it is and there’s not an understanding there of how much of that is related to the nervous system and or past trauma. So how does some of these symptoms present? How could someone know Hey, it might be a good idea for me to work with my nervous system and look at some of this trauma patterning to resolve these other symptoms over here that I didn’t necessarily know were connected?

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[00:30:47] Veronica Rottman: Yeah, so with chronic pain any type of pain, we often think of it as oh, I just, I got an injury or the physical tissues in an isolated mechanistic way are somehow out of balance and so if we just isolate that area and treat it from an outside in perspective is what I see it as, let’s use topicals, let’s use dilators, let’s use these things to force and pry it open. Instead, what we want is to get curious about what emotions need to be felt in order for that part of our body to feel safe to unfurl again because it, pain, is a signal of those tissues wanting to protect us, wanting to get our attention and I love what Hilary McBride says about if we actually hear the whispers from our body. make a daily practice or ritual around hearing those whispers, then the body doesn’t have to scream to get our attention, right? So our nervous system will use pain as a way to signal to us like, hey, you have this whole experience and It is impacting your health, not just from a physical point of view, but also emotionally and mentally, right?

[00:32:16] Veronica Rottman: It’s really all the same, and I think in our westernized culture, there’s this sense of isolate what’s going on, treat it from the outside in, without any regard for how this might be perpetuating some of the emotional and mental retraumatization, right? Because the pelvic bowl, if there’s pain, the pelvic bowl wants to be left alone.

[00:32:44] Veronica Rottman: Like really, if there’s, especially if there’s been a boundary violation, the pelvic bowl is saying, leave me alone. Give me a break, restore capacity in the nervous system. Perhaps we’re processing some of those traumatic events, experiences, and then let’s, in a very titrated, I love what you said about it being modulated way, connect with the feet. The feet are fascially and, through nerves deeply connected to the pelvic bowl. Let’s work with the jaw. Let’s work with the sacrum because typically that’s going to be a place at the back of the pelvic bowl that feels a little less sensitive. right? We work in a way that really is more global and in a much more gentle way than let’s go straight to these really already highly sensitive areas and try to make something happen, right?

[00:33:51] Jennifer Wallace: Yeah. Wow. So you guys have said so much stuff that especially when you brought up Kegels, cause I was going to ask you guys that is this intentional bracing adding to the already trauma of the pelvic floor? And it’s just like such a message that women have been getting, my God, I think since I was reading Cosmo as an adolescent I’ve been learning about Kegels and a lot of my learning to work with my pelvic floor was undoing.

[00:34:18] Jennifer Wallace: The key goal and learning on that inhale to relax in a way that everything is just going to dump out and that’s so counter It’s not the way that we were taught and so even that exhale breath holding is like really contracting the whole body and impacting and I think perpetuating these energy states of the f responses which then all have an effect on our thoughts, our beliefs, our behaviors, how we view attachments and relationships and our environment and like how freeze energy could perpetuate feelings of hopelessness and shame around our wants and desires.

[00:34:57] Jennifer Wallace: And then that’s really gonna block pleasure or how fight starting in the gut could really turn into criticizing and judging and blaming our bodies and like how we were talking about a few minutes ago with like emotional expressions so much of that just gets internalized and, put back onto ourselves. And so can we talk about how reconnecting to the pelvic floor impacts our relationships to our body and move into some pleasure spaces with the pelvic floor?

[00:35:29] Veronica Rottman: Yes, I’d love to and I want to circle back. It’s so funny, Jennifer, that you named Cosmo as being your original source of information for your pelvic health, because it was the same for me. I read, oh, I have to do Kegels when I was 16. I didn’t know how to do them, first of all and this is analogous to if we’re already in a contracted state, which the vast majority of us are from chronic stress and trauma on our pelvic floor.

[00:35:56] Veronica Rottman: This is analogous to walking around, flexing your bicep all the time and then at the end of the day, flexing it in short little contractions over and over again what’s going to happen to my bicep? It’s going to be fatigued. And not be able to handle the pressure that is put on it. And it’s actually not getting stronger because I’m never lengthening it and therefore allowing it to contract to its fullest potential.

[00:36:27] Veronica Rottman: So the Kegel, which by the way, a Kegel is a pelvic floor contraction. Dr. John Kegel with good intention in the 1950s created the Kegel, but let’s drop the whole like white men naming our intimate body parts and just call it what it is it’s a pelvic floor contraction, right? And we need to be able to contract our muscles. I’m really glad there’s a trend in pelvic health towards don’t do Kegels. Absolutely. I also noticed there’s various, there’s different versions of what a Kegel is and that drives me nuts. But we need to first with our breath, like you said on the inhale, be able to Relax and blossom open all four quadrants of the pelvic floor before it can actually fully contract to its full capacity.

[00:37:16] Veronica Rottman: So we can work with the breath and we can work with different movements to restore that while working with emotions, working with trauma if there’s capacity for that and I want to really speak to what you said about pleasure. Because clearly, our pelvic bowl is a major pleasure center in the body.

[00:37:43] Veronica Rottman: And I think we live in a culture that says pleasure is something you earn, pleasure is something that keeps you from feeling the hard stuff. There’s this whole feel to heal movement, which I appreciate, and if you don’t know how to be with pleasure, especially in such a major pleasure center in the body, or if we’ve lost capacity to be with pleasure because of trauma, we actually can’t feel the hard stuff without it creating more overwhelm in our system.

[00:38:20] Veronica Rottman: So if I don’t practice coming into a felt sense of pleasure, what is this telling my body? My nervous system, because of my trauma, may continuously neurocept danger in the absence of danger. When I feel a felt sense of pleasure, and I don’t necessarily mean sexual, but yes, that’s a part of it. That signals to my nervous system, it interrupts any of that perceived threat with down regulation with that low tone dorsal state in the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve that shows my body it doesn’t have to work so hard to protect me and I want to name, of course, there’s always two sides or multi dimensional sides, really, that some of us have a complicated relationship and history with pleasure because at some point in time in our nervous system it got over coupled with threats.

[00:39:25] Veronica Rottman: What we want to do is work to untangle that association of feeling good means threat and that takes time and being open and willing to feeling the pleasure inside, small, digestible bits versus big, cathartic blowouts that only cause our nervous system to go, Oh, it’s happening again. We’ve got a brace against what’s happening because even though it might be pleasurable, the nervous system still reads it as this is a huge change happening all at once and that reminds me of The imprint of trauma, which is too much, too fast, too soon. There’s a lot of uncoupling pleasure from danger and feeling it in tiny amounts so that we’re not slamming on the brakes too hard.

[00:40:24] Veronica Rottman: And there’s so much more conversation going on around women’s sensuality, and our sexuality, and our pleasure, and there’s still so much, we’re behind on the science, really, when it comes to the female orgasm. I grew up believing that there was only one way to have an orgasm. And now we know that’s not true, right? And it’s a very teachable skill. Often we hear Oh, if you’re anorgasmic, if you can’t have an orgasm, that’s just what it’s like for some women. When in reality, it’s a very teachable skill that when you involve the nervous system, when you involve the whole body, with, and emotions it becomes possible, yeah.

[00:41:12] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah, the minimum effective dose component of everything that you were just talking about is or the window of tolerance or all of that people might hear it referred to is really important and it’s like a lesson that I personally have had to learn over and over again, because we want all of these things like cognitively.

[00:41:32] Elisabeth Kristof: I’m like, I’m ready for this. I’m ready to express my anger. I’m ready to feel pleasure. I’m ready to open up all of these things and my body is not always there and I definitely have had the experience of the shame response, the inflammation, the digestive issues, rash, autoimmune symptoms, inflammation in the joints coming with an emotional experience, having intimacy and connection and pleasure. instantaneously bringing about that reaction in the body or expressing anger and doing a somatic practice for anger and having that instantaneous reaction in the body and so I think it is really key to understand that there is, what we do, we get better at and our nervous system is continuing to lay those paths.

[00:42:27] Elisabeth Kristof: And so it is really important to acknowledge what our body, that whisper, or maybe scream that the body is giving us and then calibrate the work so that it is Continuing to create a new response, a different pathway, one that we want to move into. 

[00:42:47] Veronica Rottman: Yeah, and if you want, I can speak to what you just mentioned, Elisabeth, because the connection of what you’re saying about how it’s easy to go into these practices, whether it’s, yeah feeling pleasure, moving our anger, and if you do have a tendency towards dissociation that can keep you from recognizing that what you’re doing is too much, too fast, too soon, because the dissociation inherently blocks you from feeling and knowing and the felt sense, right? And I have a history of dissociation and the tricky thing is Dissociation is inherently designed to keep us from knowing we’re dissociating, right? So there’s the sense of yeah, no, I’m fine.

[00:43:33] Veronica Rottman: I’m chilling. Like I can have, go into this temazcal ceremony and yell and scream and I’m good. Like I feel totally cool when really there’s just this flatlining and it’s trying to protect us from the fact that in those big cathartic moments our body is actually going, No way, this isn’t safe.

[00:43:53] Veronica Rottman: And so yeah, especially when it comes to dissociation, we want to slow down and ideally have someone who knows how to track like, oh, you said you feel okay. I’m wondering what tells you’re okay. Like, how do you know that? Versus You just have the thought of I need to do this thing to heal. So I’m gonna say I’m okay, right? Yeah

[00:44:17] Jennifer: Dissociation, we say it on here all the time. It is a traumatizer in of itself and it is such a crazy loop and then there’s so much, especially with like deeper, more like spiritual practice like you just mentioned, like a temazcal or any of the plant medicines, any of that is like, people are not used to, particularly plant medicines, people are not used to being embodied and then they go into an experience where boom this medicine propels you into full embodiment and that gets so scary for people.

[00:44:53] Jennifer: I hold so many consults each month for people who are suicidal post plant medicine experience just because of the embodiment piece, but moving a moving not so linearly. But, you made a post about The Body Keeps the Score and how questioning that term and it was so funny. Just yesterday I said to someone I had complex trauma and I used it, it was the very first time I used it in a past tense, and then I had to stop and question myself like no I think I still have complex trauma, but I’ve just done so much in the embodiment piece and in the pleasure piece and being able to feel the sensations of my body that it almost feels like you were saying in the beginning, I don’t really relate to being a victim.

[00:45:42] Jennifer: Or a survivor and I think that has something to do with it, but I would love for you to talk about how reframing the whole concept of The Body Keeps the Score impacts our healing and especially in these areas of the body that we’re talking about.

[00:45:56] Veronica Rottman: Yeah, and I want to start by naming that that book did such amazing things for helping us to finally pivot towards flipping the script literally on how we heal because everything was very, cognitive behavioral therapy, working with the mind and Bessel van der Kolk really was a pioneer in shifting our cultural orientation, and I am so grateful for that. But I have a lot of clients who have tried to read that book and spoke to how they couldn’t get through it, or they felt bad that they didn’t want to read it, or that there was something wrong with them because they can’t, they felt their body, they couldn’t be in their bodies when they were reading it, right?

[00:46:40] Veronica Rottman: And it actually really validated my own experience when I read it, I don’t know, 12, 13 years ago. There were some parts, of course, that I was very excited about and at the time was probably dissociating and not realizing that some of the content, and even the title itself, just did not resonate with me. And again, I think it’s if we zoom out and just see labels themselves, I teach polyvagal theory a lot, and I always tell people I’m giving you this roadmap, and there’s these names, like fight, flight, freeze, and let’s put down the ladder and actually feel our bodies and be in the experience versus What someone else tells us we’re supposed to feel, or what someone else has discovered about our body, right?

[00:47:34] Veronica Rottman: Especially because a lot of these authors that are really seen front and center in the somatic world are white men and there’s so many other amazing female women of color out there who are teaching somatics. Indigenous people who have known that the body plays a central role in healing trauma, and that our communities play a central role in healing trauma, right? But now, oh, we have the science for it, so let’s just give all the credit to these white men. So the body keeping a score, I don’t even know if I fully understand it. I’m not an athlete, by the way. I’m not an athlete. I don’t really, I was always picked last in gym class. Scores and things.

[00:48:26] Veronica Rottman: I’m not super competitive athletically. It never resonated and then the idea for some people of wait, there’s like some kind of scoreboard on my trauma? That doesn’t make me feel good. It’s the same as the language around oh, you have trauma stuck in your body if you have boundary ruptures, if you have any kind of trauma, thinking of something being stuck inside you is it’s not that it doesn’t, reflect the reality of trauma, it just, for some people, can feel like a lot. And, so how can we rethink the language we use, and invite ourselves to instead be in the experience, because it’s going to be completely unique to you and I also just wish it wasn’t.

[00:49:12] Veronica Rottman: I went to Portland when I was leaving a retreat a couple months ago, and this really cute bookstore was in there and The Body Keeps the Score was right on the most popular bookshelf area, and it’s not that’s bad. I just wanted to replace it with The Wisdom of Your Body, and The Call of the Wild, and anything by Resmaa Mannequin. Let’s just, not make that book the Bible of somatics. 

[00:49:38] Elisabeth: I am really glad that you brought this up and that this topic came up because I have very similar experience to with The Body Keeps the Score. I can appreciate the book for all that it brought to the conversation and the research behind it and have had many people be extremely traumatized by reading that book and just the title of it really sets up an adversarial relationship with the body. Like the body’s keeping a score against me? What’s the body keeping a score on? And it is also to from that very like overly intellectual heady paradigm of understanding trauma and somatics.

[00:50:18] Elisabeth: And there are so many other teachers and ways to understand these concepts that are maybe gentler and more body based and I think it’s an important topic to bring up in discussing somatics. So I really appreciate that and fully see that perspective. This has been such a wonderful conversation and I feel like we could go on for a long time about all of these concepts.

[00:50:47] Jennifer Wallace: Thank you so much. It’s just been so fun to explore this with you and discuss the importance of pelvic floor health and embodiment and how it serves our health and our power and it’s been wonderful. Thank you so much.

[00:52:26] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah. Thank you so much. Love to keep exploring these topics with you and you have a wealth of knowledge and we were really excited to have you on the show today.

S3 E31

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