Intimacy, pleasure and erotic arousal all require a sense of safety to emerge. In this episode we explore why the human body needs to feel safe before pleasurable play, creative joy and erotic connection can authentically emerge. We look at the anatomy of social safety, fear vs. excitement, and the autonomic nervous system. Then we offer strategies for connecting with a sense of safety and finding ways to relax into play.
In this Speaking of Sex episode, we introduce a life-changing framework called Polyvagal Theory and how it influences our ability to relax, enjoy and play with one another as human beings. For way more resources on safety, play and arousal, visit us at PleasureMechanics.com/play
Practice Pleasure With Us!
This practice is offered as a gift for all to explore. Explore our Pleasure Practices library for more solo and partnered explorations to build your capacity for pleasure, joy & connection.
This podcast is dedicated to #PassionatePolyvagalist Deb Dana, with huge thanks for her tremendous educational resources on Polyvagal Theory: The Polyvagal Theory In Therapy and Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection
Transcript of Podcast Episode “Before Pleasure Comes Safety”
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:00):
Welcome to Speaking of Sex with the Pleasure Mechanics. I’m Chris.
Charlotte Mia Rose (00:05):
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:06):
We are the Pleasure Mechanics. And on this podcast, we have honest, explicit, soulful conversations about pleasure, joy and intimate connection. Come on over to pleasuremechanics.com where you will find all that we have to offer. And we have a lot to offer, because we have been the Pleasure Mechanics since 2006, making this our 15th year together, and our 15th year devoting ourselves to generating online resources so you can come into more pleasure and joy and connection in your life on your terms. And it’s been really sweet realizing it’s our 15th year together. We’re starting to really move through our archives, because we discovered with the help of many of you, our dear listeners, that most podcast feeds cut off after 200 episodes. And we are coming up on 400 episodes of the Speaking of Sex podcast. What’s up? Yes.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:10):
And as we do, we’re realizing that many of our foundational episodes where we lay out our core principles and ideas are starting to fall under that 200 episode mark and kind of getting lost in the archives. So we are curating our archives, organizing the best resources for you, and you’ll find that all laid out for you at pleasuremechanics.com. If you’ve been with us for a while and you love this show, go to pleasuremechanics.com/love for ways you can go deeper with us and support our work. And if you’re new to us, go to pleasuremechanics.com/free and be sure to sign up for our free online course so you can get started with us and we can be in direct touch with you and to you with us. Yes. All right. Hi, darling.
Charlotte Mia Rose (01:59):
Hi. I’m so excited to be here and to be talking about what we’re going to get into.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:06):
Let’s timestamp this a little bit. It’s March 2021. So we are now officially all of us a year into this global pandemic. And all of the adjacent emergencies and crises. What’s the plural of what we’re going through, folks? And so a lot of you have been writing to us with various levels of distress. And the global stressors are kind of at this unprecedented high and kind of relentless. So that is part of what informs this episode is where we’re all at. And on our Zoom meetings with other parents and in our organizing meetings, we’re hearing words like fried, and depleted, and drained over and over.
Charlotte Mia Rose (02:53):
And overwhelmed. Yeah, I think people are just at max level of discomfort and trying to cope with the global reality and all of its implications, and it is a lot. So we are wanting to see if we can serve you in bringing some thoughts about how you can create some more feeling of safety and calm in your body, knowing that that is not going to change and change the global situation, but it can help you feel a little bit better in your body. And that does have implications for yourself, your lovers, your community, your family. And so that’s what we can control right now. And from there-
Chris Maxwell Rose (03:33):
Charlotte Mia Rose (03:34):
Sometimes try to control it.
Chris Maxwell Rose (03:37):
And we’re going to lay this thought out, but the feeling of safety in your body, and we’ve mentioned this before, we want to talk about it in the future, and so we really wanted to get granular on this with you in this episode, the feeling of safety in your body is a neurological state that we can return to. It’s actually designed as our resting state. And we’ll get more into that. But the feeling of safety and social connection in your body is what we build all of our arousal and kinkiest thrills on top of. And we’ve talked a little bit in the past about the context dependent nature of arousal, and how we can learn how to manage our turn-ons and turn-offs, that gas and brake pedal of our arousal. But this is a really foundational idea we haven’t really laid out for you. So we’re going to do that today.
Chris Maxwell Rose (04:33):
What is the sense of safety in your body? What does it have to do with pleasure and arousal? And how can we practice on purpose to get back there more readily, knowing that the world’s going to throw more stress at us and it’s going to be a cycle on repeat? This is something we do over and over again throughout the day. All right. So we’re going deep into this. And at the end of the episode, we’re going to really try to bring you some hope and some strategies and a range of strategies that you can apply to try to use this to create. As we said these three words, we’re going to start building on top of pleasure, joy and connection. What does that have to do with eroticism and arousal? Everything, it turns out. These are the three words we keep coming back to. All right. We love you all. It’s so nice to be back with you. Thank you for being here with us. And again, pleasuremechanics.com/free, get on our free course, and be with us for the next 15 years. We love you. All right.
Chris Maxwell Rose (05:37):
So we are going to be talking about pleasure and joy and connection and safety and arousal through a lens of polyvagal theory. And we’re not going to geek out too much on this. I will put in the show notes page of pleasuremechanics.com some videos and some book links and some resources for people who really want to geek out on this with us. This is a lens and a framework that for me and for so many people in our field and the adjacent fields, as this theory emerged in the past decade, because it’s a newer theory, it became this lightning bolt aha moment. It explains everything kind of framework. And there’s whole conferences on it now and so many people are geeking out on this, and becoming what teacher Deb Dana calls, passionate polyvagalist.
Charlotte Mia Rose (06:31):
I am so in love with that phrase.
Chris Maxwell Rose (06:33):
I caught that phrase in an interview with her and we’re making T-shirts and stickers on the whole thing. So as admitted passionate polyvagalists, you will be hearing more about this in future episodes, but we wanted to sketch it out for you briefly here. And in the show notes page, I will put links to videos and books and resources for those of you who want to geek out with me further. So polyvagal theory emerged through the sciences, mostly through the work of a man named Steven Porges. And Deb Dana is a colleague of his that has then popularized the work and translated it into textbooks and resources for therapists and clinicians, and people who work around bodies and trauma and social connection.
Chris Maxwell Rose (07:20):
Polyvagal theory, it’s named after the vagal nerve, which is the longest nerve in the human body. It runs from the brainstem all the way to the foundation of our pelvis. I want to tell the story of the polyvagal theory through a story through kind of walking you through an event. Trigger warning, we’re going to talk about potential violence, which unfortunately has become so common in our culture, it is in fact one of those things that is a background fear for many of us. So I want to take you to a picnic in a park. You’re relaxing on a picnic blanket with your friends or around a picnic table. You’re comfortable, it’s a beautiful day, the food is delicious, you’re chatting and laughing with your friends. You’re in a ventral vagal state.
Chris Maxwell Rose (08:13):
The ventral vagal state, what I call lovingly, the vava voom zone is a state of joyful social connection. Your body is relaxed, you feel safe, you can process the information that’s coming at you. And you can look at cross the table into your friends eyes and have a smile or a laugh. You’re relaxed and socially connected. Imagine all of a sudden there’s a very loud noise, a boom. Immediately, your bodies, that of you and all of your friends is pulled away from that ventral vagal state and activated into the sympathetic mobilization. This is the fight or flight mode, it is a mode of arousal of your system, a stimulation that brings you here and then you all look up.
Chris Maxwell Rose (09:02):
Your bodies got a little bit tense, rigid, you stop eating, and you kind of whip your bodies into attention and you look for the source of that noise and try to determine, are you safe? Was that a threat. And that’s immediately kind of what your senses are doing. You’re not focused on your friends laughter anymore. All of your senses get hyper aware for threat tracking. And it turns out in this mode of the vagal state, again, I’ll try my best not to get geeky, your muscles in your ears and in your face shift. So you’re actually hearing different tonal regions to threat track. You’re looking at other people’s faces to determine safety or not. It’s an incredibly nuanced system. And as I tell you this story, I hope that you feel it as just kind of a truth in your body that you can really relate to. And this is how so many of us feel as we read through this theory. It’s like yes, this is so real. And unexplained so much. Okay.
Chris Maxwell Rose (10:03):
So we’ve had that boom, you’re friends and you are looking up, you’re looking for the source of that threat. If you determine that it’s just a car backfiring in a lot, or someone unloading a heavy table, and you all kind of realize that at the same time, someone might make a joke and you go back, you have a laugh, and you go quickly back to eating. And there might be one or two of you at the table that stays a little tense longer. That is a little kind of on edge for a while after that event. And just notice that. That would be me at the table. I’d be looking up like, does anyone need help up there? Is everyone okay? For quite a while. Where Charlotte would be laughing and eating a potato salad at the next heartbeat. And that’s what we’re going to start referring to as the vagal tone, that ability to move in between these states.
Chris Maxwell Rose (10:49):
If, however, the source of that noise was a threat, and you suddenly saw people running through the parking lot, what would your body do? Some of you would get up and start running with the crowd. You would flee, that’s the flight. Some of you might freak out, and freeze in place, and start getting confused and disoriented. And that is what is called dorsal vagal immobilization. It’s the freeze response, where your system kind of goes into a freeze state, a playing dead state. And this is one of the oldest responses of the vagal nerve, it’s the lizard playing dead so the bird passes him by. It’s dealing with threat by kind of going numb, in some cases, dissociating and kind of pulling your awareness out of your body and hoping the threat passes. And maybe a friend would grab you and say, “Come on, we got to go, we got to run.”
Chris Maxwell Rose (11:46):
And then you’re running. And you would get to a place of safety again. Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal. And people would gather at the edge of the parking lot and realize that the threat was over, and you would all mill around and talk to one another and return to a sense of safety. Or maybe it was a big deal. And you’re running and you’re getting to a house. And then you have friends around you. And that thread has actually become now a trauma. A very real threat to your survival, and it is something you will have to process over many days. And at that point, and I want to kind of close out this vignette and we can talk more about polyvagal and trauma and how that shows up for our erotic lives and future episodes.
Chris Maxwell Rose (12:28):
But if you imagine after this event, staying with your group of friends, laughing it out, seeing it on the news, understanding what happened, telling all your friends about it, integrating it, maybe even getting a therapy session or two, integrating it. It would be kind of a low level trauma in your life that the next time you’re at the picnic bench and you hear a loud noise, your body might remember that and you might have a bigger response than you did the first time. If after an event like this, you end up alone without support, you don’t know if you’re safe for a really long time, you’re hiding somewhere from a potential threat, and you don’t have social connection, and then there’s no one to attend to you after your traumatic event, that is when trauma can overwhelm the system and really become a thing for a really long time. And an event like this can become a hinge moment in your life. And so many of us … So, okay. Let’s all-
Charlotte Mia Rose (13:31):
Take a breath or two.
Chris Maxwell Rose (13:32):
Yes. Integrate that story. So we just mapped out polyvagal theory through a story. And so many of us carry these stories with us. From childhood on, your nervous system is getting mapped and established and patterns in your individual nervous system. So we all have this nerve, we all have the vagal nerve, we all have these proclivities. These states we move between when we sense potential threat. And again, threat isn’t always a loud noise, sometimes it’s a co-worker whose presence feels threatening to you, or who has threatened you in some way. Sometimes it is a culture we live in that threatens your survival all the time and dehumanizes you all the time. And so there’s constantly a threat to your personhood.
Chris Maxwell Rose (14:27):
Some of us have major events in our lives. Major tragedies, injuries, assaults, that become major traumas that have reprogrammed our nervous system, created a rift in our nervous system and in our ability to move easily between these states. And then some of us have developmental trauma, which refers to our childhood traumas, and not having co-attunement and that sense of social safety. Remember, we started and we will come back to that ventral vagal zone of socially connected, joyful, you’re looking in someone else’s eyes, they’re looking in yours. You smile, they smile back. You make a joke, they laugh. You show a sign of distress, they say, baby, what’s going on? That relationship is our earliest social relationship as babies with our caregivers, at a point at which our survival itself depends on that relationship being in place.
Chris Maxwell Rose (15:33):
And for so many of us, myself included, we grew up in homes, where maybe that connection was never firmly in place, our homes itself, the people who are meant to take care of us and ensure our survival were not always on our teams, were not always attentive to our needs, or they themselves were under-resourced and could not show up for us. And so that sense of, I am in distress and there is someone there for me, I make a joke and someone laughs, I smile and make eye contact and someone smiles back. That is survival for us humans. And that is the zone of a ventral vagal place of socially connected, I feel safe with you, you are safe with me. Let’s get on with the pleasure, the joy, the intimacy, the connection. Okay.
Chris Maxwell Rose (16:30):
So I just want to take a moment and pause and have you check in with yourself and where you feel this in your body, what stories emerge from you, what memories are coming up. Does this feel true to you? Where are your questions? This is a lot we just laid out. And it’s a kind of a huge way of understanding our bodies and how we move through these states of socially joyfully connected, of feeling hyper-aroused. And like, I want to get out of here, I want to fight back and I have all this energy and I don’t know what to do with it. And that’s like this hyper-arousal, or this collapse, hypo-arousal immobilization. I’m not safe here, so I need to disappear. Check in with yourself. Take a few breaths, go into your body, notice what you’re feeling with us. As I’m looking across the room, Charlotte has one hand on our heart and one hand on her pelvis, on pubic mound, and you’re kind of rocking. Can you tell me a little bit of what you’re feeling right now?
Charlotte Mia Rose (17:33):
Yeah. That’s a lot to move through. It’s a lot to be with and to bring up memories and think about these different states and how and when we felt them. And I have noticed for myself through experimentation that holding myself self, self-holds feel really calming and nourishing, and help bring me back to a state of ventral vagal tone. So I am doing that right now.
Chris Maxwell Rose (18:01):
You do it a lot. And when you were pregnant, your hands were all over your belly. And what we’re noticing as Charlotte’s laying on her hands on her own body, one of the technologies of the ventral vagal connection is touch. If you’re feeling distressed, and this happens to strangers, and sometimes I have to like hold myself back, if a stranger is in distress, sometimes a human instinct is to reach out and put a hand on them and be like, hey, what’s up, I’m here. Notice just that gesture of someone’s here, someone’s got you, we’re in this together, is a signal of safety for us humans. And we can provide it for ourselves. Self-holds are more or less effective for some people. And again, on the show notes page, we’ll have a link to a self-holds practice that we offer in the Pleasure pod, our pleasure practices library, of different ways you can hold yourself and put your hands on your own body.
Charlotte Mia Rose (19:04):
But self-touch also, stroking your arms, stroking your face, all of these sorts of ways of giving yourself touch can be really powerful for some people. So experiment and see if that does support you.
Chris Maxwell Rose (19:17):
Okay. And so what Charlotte is talking about are strategies for coming between one state and another. When we have this framework, and one of the reasons it’s so important for not only those of us who are trauma survivors, but for all of us as human beings in a pretty stressful and intense world, is when we notice we are activated, the sooner we can notice that and we start feeling it in our bodies and you’re like, I have made that switch, I have moved from a state of calm to a state of activation, you can then choose what to do with it. And sometimes you choose to move yourself into action. There’s action that needs to be taken. And sometimes you realize, wait, there’s no threat here and this is like the equivalent of looking around being like, that was just a car backfiring. There is no threat. I can return to my picnic.
Chris Maxwell Rose (20:09):
Sometimes in conversation or in a social relationship or in our homes or with the news, you recognize how activated you’re getting. And we’ve learned because we’ve been engaging in this for so many years, how to kind of catch that moment and be like, wait, is there a threat? Is what we’re talking about actually a thing here or are we just generating this? And we can choose to come back into ventral vagal. You can do that alone or you can do it together. It’s much faster to do it together, it turns out, but some of us don’t have that choice of another person to do this regulation, they call it with, this attunement, this getting back into a different state together. And it turns out, this is really important. Why is this important?
Chris Maxwell Rose (20:53):
I want to now talk about the ways in which this ventral vagal system of safe, joyful social connection allows for play, allows for eroticism, and creativity, and intimacy, and sex and fucking and kinky sex and all of the other things that so many of us crave more of in our life. And we’ve talked about on the show before that sex is a way adults play together. It doesn’t have to be the only way we play together. But it turns out, it’s an important one for a lot of us. And we can see this in the best moments of our sex life, we are feeling safe enough to play together, to be spontaneous, to be flexible and joyful and in that state of rolling around, doing things with our bodies we don’t normally do. It’s kind of an altered state of reality, where we play together and our bodies can get aroused and excited without getting afraid.
Chris Maxwell Rose (22:04):
And so this is what the brilliant therapist, Deb Dana, she has really extended a lot of the polyvagal theory work. And she calls this an intertwined state. So we talked about safe connection, mobilization, and immobilization. Play is excitement. It’s that arousal on top of safety. And I just want to take that in for a minute because that’s so important. If you don’t have that sense of safety, that same stimulation can feel threatening, overwhelming, confusing, can take you into a fear state. So what would be fun if it was safe becomes fearful because you don’t feel safe.
Charlotte Mia Rose (22:52):
Tickling is a great example of that. You may not feel unsafe when someone tickles, you might just feel agitated. But I think many of us know the feeling of engaging in a tickling game feeling super fun and sexy and enjoyable versus just irritating. And that is because the base level of your nervous system is in a different state. And so we can easily map that with sex.
Chris Maxwell Rose (23:16):
That comes you’ve been engaging, maybe you’re laughing, you’ve had a joke, you’re making eye contact, you are attuned together. And with that attunement, that tickle is at the right moment and it comes at the right time, and it is the right level of arousal on top of safety. Whereas if you’re having an argument and your partner tries to cheer you up, come on, don’t take it so seriously and leans over and tickles you in that exact same way, that stimulation is going to feel totally different. The sexier you want to get, the more safe you have to feel. But to feel safe for some of us, that means reconciling lifetimes of trauma and the disconnect, the social disconnect. And Charlotte and I’ve been working on this for 15 years, because I had a lifetime of trauma to really work on to keep developing my vagal tone, to keep getting out of those hyper-aroused states and back into social joyful connection.
Chris Maxwell Rose (24:21):
So for some of us, there’s a lot of work to do here. And what do we do? We just baby step into it. And the first point is just awareness, we start recognizing this, we start feeling it in our bodies, noticing. And then what we like to do, our approach is, how can we practice in the places of pleasure? And so we’ll talk more about pleasure practices in future episodes and how important this framework has become to us after 15 years. But what we’re talking about now is how do we start baby stepping into practicing these states of ventral vagal connection, practicing these states of safety, and then build little moments of play on top of that. And the more you feel kind of disconnected from this ability to just joyfully play and find safety, and you can do that as soon as you step into your bedroom together. Like for a lot of us, we need practice to be able to get to that. Like, let’s go zone. Especially, as life stressors get bigger, that can feel further away.
Chris Maxwell Rose (25:26):
So what do we do, we baby step into it, we practice safety and we practice playing. So let’s talk a little bit about how to do that. And we’ll have way more resources about this at pleasuremechanics.com/play. pleasuremechanics.com/play, where we’ll start organizing some resources around vagal tone and the polyvagal theory in your bedroom and all the ways it shows up, because this is a really important framework, and we’ll be using it more in future episodes.
Charlotte Mia Rose (25:58):
I’m so aware of you talking about how the ventral vagal is like the resting state that we all ideally are in. And I think culturally, if we look around, we may notice that we are so far from that being our general state that we’re living in. And so any kind of mastery or practice that we can have around learning what works for us individually to get us closer and closer into that state or quicker into that state when we want to is super powerful. And it’s going to be really specific to each of us. And the only way we can really discover what works for us is through experimentation and through paying attention.
Chris Maxwell Rose (26:40):
And it’s a good point how social this is. Our nervous systems are interdependent with one another’s, and we attune to one another and kind of match one another states, whether or not we’re intending to, whether or not we’re conscious of it. And you can play with this. Next time after COVID, get on an elevator anxious, and you will change the vehicle state of everyone in the room. You can get on a subway car and be joyful and relaxed and pull other people into that state. And maybe think about a time where someone, a stranger changed the state of your nervous system just by how they were feeling.
Charlotte Mia Rose (27:24):
Near you. And you don’t even know them. We are such mammals in this way. And we forget that. We disconnect from that. But we are animal bodies near other animal bodies. And we influence and impact each other all the time.
Chris Maxwell Rose (27:37):
And a microcosm of that for a lot of us is our home and our family. And so if you come home from work, where you’ve been threat tracking all day, dealing with very real stressors, or are looking at your bank account dealing with very real stressors, or on the phone with your elderly parents dealing with very real threats, many of us are managing very real threats to our sense of survival right now. If we bring that into our homes and don’t account for it, don’t manage it, don’t do something around it, we’re going to pull everyone into that sense of like threat tracking. What’s going on? Are we safe? Are we okay? What do we need to do? And it’s activation that many of us know far too well. Or we go into hyper-arousal. And it’s like you start loafing and getting very, very low energy and stagnant in your body.
Chris Maxwell Rose (28:30):
And like the survival, and I have done both of these, by the way, a lot of us survivors know both of these states and both of these survival strategies and coping mechanisms. And that needs to be named. These are survival strategies that keep us alive under threat. Tiger is coming, you either run or you hide. You get real quiet or real big. And then hopefully, once you’re back together with your people, you can talk about that and learn about it and move back into that same sense of safety and kinship and connection. All right. I’m not sure how we’re doing on our geeking out level here, but I want to move into strategies.
Chris Maxwell Rose (29:08):
So to develop a sense of safety, one of the most primary, readily available strategies is eye-contact. Making eye-contact and lingering there and just finding one another ends up being a really powerful strategy to start kind of linking up your systems and developing attunement. And sometimes attunement means let’s recognize there’s not a threat, get back to our sense of safety together so we can return to a sense of joy. And sometimes it’s let’s deal with these threats together and at least both be in reality together. And so Charlotte and I have also experienced this where there are moments in life where you are looking at each other or your eyebrows are raised, you are realizing, holy shit, something is coming, we need to act and we need to be unified and we need to be communicating well. And so you are together in your sympathetic mobilization.
Chris Maxwell Rose (30:05):
And this can be really powerful too, because you’re fighting or fleeing, but you’re together. And that can be very intimate. And let’s just honor that because a lot of us have also been in that state together, where it’s like, you and me, baby, we’re going to survive this and we’re going to do it together. And honoring that state and kind of naming it out loud can be very like fortifying. All right. Like, I’m activated, you’re activated, let’s talk about it. Let’s make a plan. When possible, and even micro moments within that, because some of these threats are so persistent, you’re never going to be like 100% safe. And so you have to create bubbles of the safety and release as a survival strategy. So when possible, you need to be able to say, all right, how do we chill the fuck out together? How do we get back into this ventral vagal? How do we play? How can we create enough safety that we can … Because playing is the way we discharge some of this energy.
Chris Maxwell Rose (30:59):
If we can get safe enough and then play, you can also use that as a way of like getting some of this tension out in a safe way. So some of the strategies there, safety, eye-contact, sitting next to each other on the couch, and even just like putting one hand on top of another, holding hands, going for a walk, doing similar activities that are rhythmic and get your body and rhythm together. So even like unloading the dishwasher together, maybe with a little bit of music on and getting into a little bit of a rhythm.
Charlotte Mia Rose (31:32):
Playing with a bowl. Synchronized breathing.
Chris Maxwell Rose (31:34):
Okay. So you’re getting into play.
Charlotte Mia Rose (31:36):
Okay. We’re still is going into safety?
Chris Maxwell Rose (31:38):
We’re marching from safety to replay.
Charlotte Mia Rose (31:39):
Chris Maxwell Rose (31:40):
So you said breathing. So noticing how your breath is together. And again, we’ll put some of these practices in our Pleasure pod in the pressure practices library. And on the page, pleasuremechanics.com/play, we will organize all this for you. Back to back breathing. Standing back to back or sitting back to back so you can feel one another’s spines and breathing together, super powerful, super available for many of us. And when you start noticing that sense of safety of like, okay, we’re here together, how then can you start inching into creating playful moments and kind of testing the waters of how safe that feels together? And I just want to name this, is flirtation. Flirtation is the slowly amping up of excitement on the foundation of safety. You’ve made eye contact with someone at the bar, you’ve shared a joke, you’ve had a laugh, there’s your little foundation of safety. And you can start amping up a little bit of play on top of that in proportion to the amount of safety you have.
Chris Maxwell Rose (32:45):
So Charlotte and I because we have 15 years together, we’ve been through so much together, we’ve been through illness and death and infertility and all of these things, we have a tremendous foundation of safety underneath us. So even in moments of threat this year, we’ve been able to draw upon that and then play. Some of the ways we play is also we have a six-year-old daughter who really invites a lot of play into the house. Literally, things kids play with. So object manipulation. Having a ball you toss back and forth together. A lot of people like balls in their hands, and they’re actually very calming. So have a few balls around the house that you can toss back and forth. And in a moment of activation, rolled up all across the floor, and roll it back. Like start using objects.
Charlotte Mia Rose (33:34):
Notice how you feel. It’s so interesting to just begin to feel that state change. And this is where we want to gain skill of being able to move ourselves from one to the other through practice and experimentation. But it’s fascinating to kind of feel yourself settle a little.
Chris Maxwell Rose (33:52):
This is not how I thought we talked about playing with balls.
Charlotte Mia Rose (33:54):
Yeah, I know, I know. We have to make that joke-
Chris Maxwell Rose (33:56):
Ball play is also really solo, you can take a ball and toss it from one hand to the other or toss it against a wall or roll it against a wall and back to yourself. And the rhythm of that, and also if you go from side to side of your body, the bilateral rhythm of that is really soothing for a lot of people. Balls, music, dancing.
Charlotte Mia Rose (34:16):
Exercise of any variety.
Chris Maxwell Rose (34:18):
Singing, using your voice. So humming, a solo thing, if you start noticing you get activated, hum, sing, use your voice, your voice is deeply connected to your vagal nerve. This was a strategy that I think predated our awareness of polyvagal theory. In some of our earlier moves and stressful times, we’d make everything a musical. We’d be like, we have to move faster or we’ll never get there in time. Never get there in time. Never get there in time. I’m revealing my awful singing voice but we would just belt it out together. And not only did that unify us in our voices, and we would do it alone in a room packing, like I’d turned the corner and you’d be singing to yourself. But it also created these moments of play and laughter and release.
Chris Maxwell Rose (35:05):
And humorous relief, we know this comic relief, literally sometimes can create that hinge moment where we can take all of that energy of our hyper-arousal and release it in a good laugh or in a good … Also, laughing moves your diaphragm and gets your insides moving. But making each other laugh is such an important way to manipulate your nervous system. And so, stand up comedy, sometimes in the most stressful moments of this past year, you would find me like howling alone in my office because had I put on stand up comedy that I know will make me laugh. And sometimes you laugh until you cry. And there’s that relief. And you can get back into that zone where you can kind of be more tender and socially connected and like available for social connection and intimacy. So you have to find what works for you.
Chris Maxwell Rose (36:06):
For some people exercise is really important. Exercising together is a good co-attunement strategy. Some people like competitive games. For other people, the competition feels more like a threat. So notice that. Is the game creating fun or fear? How are you playing together outside of the bedroom? And then how do you develop that? How do you practice it? Deb Dana talks about the practices of play. And again, this is a therapist teaching other therapists how to use this theory with not only trauma survivors, but with everyone who is overstressed and under-connected and under-represented in the vava voom zone. And this was actually foundational to our research way in the beginning of Pleasure Mechanics, when we learned that human beings again, our resting state is supposed to be this relaxed, socially connected, calm awareness, physical state of the body.
Chris Maxwell Rose (37:06):
It’s like a relaxed awareness where social connection feels good, where laughter comes easily, where we can learn, where our bodies feel safe, and they can just do their metabolic processes uninterrupted. And instead, so many of us are living suspended in threat states. And we can do better than this on a social level, on a global level, on a cultural level, and we’re practicing that on a personal individual level. Okay. Bring it back in, Chris. So what we talked about are these different practices … I was going to give you the Deb Dana quote. So she talks about practices of play as creating safe, interactive play opportunities to tone the nervous system and develop the social engagement system.
Chris Maxwell Rose (37:54):
So how do we on purpose, and you for yourself, notice the places you have felt most safe, most socially connected? Maybe that is the church choir and you long to get back singing with people. Maybe that is a chess club, and that sound of the pieces moving around the board, it’s a special kind of soothing to you. Maybe that is in sports. Like sports, we should honor, we’re not huge sports people around here, but like, that is a place because we have safety and notice the rules of the game, the boundaries of the game, how we structure that game creates the safety for that group excitement, that group arousal of, yeah. Get them. Because we know what get them means. And there are boundaries to that so we can get in and we can play and get really aroused, and then come back and have a drink after the game together and all laugh together.
Chris Maxwell Rose (38:49):
How do you create those arcs in your own life where you feel safe enough to play, you feel safe enough to get aroused, get turned on. And arousal literally means just stimulation in the body, your nervous system is processing more. And then how do we map that into our erotic lives? More to come on Pleasure Mechanics. You look ready to say something, darling.
Charlotte Mia Rose (39:13):
Well, just other ways of feeling safe are, of course, nature. And then also synchronized body movement. I feel like some people really love going like community fitness classes because there’s this technology of moving our bodies in the same way as other beings and how calming and safe that feels.
Chris Maxwell Rose (39:33):
Which we’ve noticed that effect even on Zoom dance classes.
Charlotte Mia Rose (39:36):
Totally. And our old school we dance way. Even like the little being on the TV like creates a sense of like, we are in community doing this together. It’s so amazing to intentionally use this. But we’ve talked about touch a little bit and I just want to go into that again. You can see why we are so positively obsessed with massage because it is an incredible technology to help the body feel safe while you are with another person before you get interested or become available for arousal. It’s just such a brilliant technology.
Chris Maxwell Rose (40:14):
I think we even need to do a whole episode about using touch to bridge these states.
Charlotte Mia Rose (40:21):
Yeah. Solo and partnered it is, I mean, again, I feel like it’s magic. It’ll work for many people, not everyone, but it is really powerful to let the body at a mammalian animal level know that it is safe and with someone who cares. And then arousal is much more likely to happen and feel better and stronger because of it.
Chris Maxwell Rose (40:42):
And I feel like when you do a massage, often you can feel the state’s changing in the body. And sometimes you feel it as a melt. Your partner starts kind of tense and hyped up from the day and kind of barely like, all right, let’s just do this for five minutes. And then you start touching and there’s a bit of a sigh and kind of a melting into this feeling of that does feel good. Okay, give me more. And this is, again, responsive desire, you’re like saying yes to the thing that feels good. And then there’s a place in the massage, sometimes, it doesn’t always happen, where sometimes you start feeling that give me more and yes. And that yes builds into desire. And we see these states going from activated to safe to playfully and sensuously and joyfully activated. And it’s magic.
Chris Maxwell Rose (41:35):
Whereas if you tried to bypass this stage, and we’ve talked about it before as the missing step in your sex life, I think is what we named it maybe eight years ago, seven years ago, missing link in your sex life, seven years ago, was this idea that if you just go from activated to try to have sex, a lot of people get too activated, or they get overwhelmed, or they feel a fear response or a defensiveness, even an aggressive response. And so we’ll get more into this. But the missing link for a lot of us is this relaxation, coming into the vava voom zone of your ventral vagal connection with either yourself or with a partner or multiple partners, getting into that place of joyful, relaxed, connection, safety, and then building arousal and stimulation on top of that.
Chris Maxwell Rose (42:26):
And we can see how the polyvagal theory really gives us a lens to understand how that is happening in the body in relationship to the other bodies around us and the social context of our body. So it’s this deep internal process happening for each of us in relationship with one another at all times. Yeah. I hope this episode has been useful to you. We will organize more resources at pleasuremechanics.com/play because we really are so invested in getting us all back to that place of pleasurable play together, creative play, generative play. It’s where human beings really thrive together. And this is like a social global mission and a very intimate one for us, for you, for all of us. Yes?
Chris Maxwell Rose (43:19):
We’d love to hear from you, pleasuremechanics.com. And if you join our free online course at pleasuremechanics.com/free, you will be in direct touch with us, we will be in direct touch with you and you can ask us your questions and ask for our support. And if you want to support this show and the work we do, go to pleasuremechanics.com/love, and you will find ways to go deeper with us and show us your love. I’m Chris.
Charlotte Mia Rose (43:44):
Chris Maxwell Rose (43:45):
We’re the Pleasure Mechanics.
Charlotte Mia Rose (43:46):
Wishing you a lifetime of pleasure.
Chris Maxwell Rose (43:50):
Safety and joy.
Charlotte Mia Rose (43:51):