ERP 345: How Embodiment Helps Regulate The Nervous System — An Interview With GS Youngblood

By Posted in - Podcast November 8th, 2022 0 Comments

In response to criticism or complaints, people frequently resort to becoming defensive as a coping strategy. It’s natural for people to defend themselves when they feel harmed or unfairly attacked. While defensiveness is designed to keep us out of danger, it is also one of the major relationship busters.

Women commonly complain about their partner’s defensiveness and how they feel disconnected. On the other hand, men are perplexed. They have no idea what to do when their partner is upset. And when the nervous system detects a threat, the mind springs into action with a variety of escape strategies or ways to ease the discomfort of anxiety. The mind then intervenes with stories, projections, and defenses.

Couples will never truly connect if one partner is in an emotional space and the other responds with information to try to talk him or her out of being upset.

In this episode, GS Youngblood introduces embodiment. He differentiates it from the type of meditation that most people are familiar with—noticing your thoughts and then deciding to let them go. He describes how concentrating on specific bodily sensations can help to control the nervous system. He also stresses the significant impact that this kind of awareness can have on how you show up in your relationships.

GS coaches men in relationships on how to live, love, and lead from their masculine core. He is the author of the acclaimed books The Masculine in Relationship and The Art of Embodiment for Men, both of which are written to help men build more masculine capacity. His work in this domain of masculine leadership pulls in principles from a variety of fields: psychology, spirituality, martial arts, tango, meditation, and BDSM.

Although GS primarily coaches men in relationships, women would equally benefit from practicing being embodied, too.

In this Episode

5:03 Embodiment vs. meditation: focusing on specific bodily sensations rather than your thoughts.

8:51 Benefits of embodiment in terms of intimate relationships: consciously choosing how one will respond or react.

21:15 How he helps people have more of this embodiment.

41:24 How is being physical different from being embodied?

45:42 Examples of how people can confront their tendencies to escape in this more embodied way.

53:10 Sexual leadership: how to bring some leadership to the bedroom so that your partner can, if she chooses, can surrender to your lead.

56:28 Discover more information about GS and his work, including his website, books, workshops, and social media handles.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Make being embodied your way of life; it’s not a quick fix, it’s a lifetime practice, so just get started.
  • Slow down and operate out of choice, not out of habit.
  • Consistently and daily engage in embodiment.
  • Learn to sit with discomfort.
  • Instead of reacting, practice responding more.

Mentioned

The Art of Embodiment for Men (Affiliate link to GS’s course)

The Art of Embodiment for Men: Using the ANI Framework and Daily Practices to Tame Anxiety, Heal Trauma, and Conquer Your Nice Guy Tendencies (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

The Masculine in Relationship: A Blueprint for Inspiring the Trust, Lust, and Devotion of a Strong Woman (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

ERP 263: How to Develop Three Key Qualities of Your Positive Masculine Leadership — An Interview with GS Youngblood

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Connect with GS Youngblood

Websites: gsyoungblood.com

Facebook: facebook.com/gsyoungblood1/groups

Instagram: instagram.com/gsyoungbloodmir/?hl=en

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

GS, thank you for joining us today.

Yeah, thanks for having me on, Jessica. 

Yeah, and you were on the podcast a couple of years ago. I’ll make sure to have the link to that show on today’s show notes. Today, we’re going to be talking about embodiment. For people who maybe don’t know you or don’t know perhaps what you’re referring to around embodiment, I would suggest maybe that’s a good place for us to start if you want to talk about what got you interested in doing a deeper dive with this.

Yeah. Let’s try to get the listeners oriented to what embodiment is. Let’s use meditation as our reference point because I think most of your listeners probably, at least the vast majority of them, have probably had some experience in meditation, and most people have a general idea of what it is.

Meditation is a lot about noticing your thoughts and then really choosing to let go of those thoughts and not engage with them, and then they just dissipate of their own accord. And at the end of that, you’ve got a bit more of a clearer mind. You’re less in your head. 

I started meditating in 1996. I swear it took 8-10 years before I actually could stick with it because I find meditation a little floaty. The reason I find it a little floaty is because it’s the mind governing the mind. It’s the mind noticing itself thinking and then choosing to tell itself not to do that. It’s kind of like saying, don’t look at the pink elephant. Like, you’re going to look at it the minute you do that. It’s too self-referential. And so I had a hard time really getting into meditation for many years because of that. 

Embodiment is a different way to come out of the mind and more into a clearer space. And in this case, with more of your attention on the body, because instead of noticing thoughts and trying to have the mind let them go, all you do is turn your attention towards certain physical sensations in the body and place your awareness on that. What happens is in the process of doing that, your thoughts naturally dissipate from your mind without even actually trying to because you’ve got the anchor of actual physicality at the moment to tether yourself to. 

And so embodiment is a body of practices or a set of practices that you do to come out of the thinking mind and more into the body. In the context of men’s work, this applies universally, but I’m focused on men’s work. So, the reason that I teach it so much is because I find guys that have an embodiment practice and learn to become more embodied; they feel more grounded. They feel more still. They feel more primal. I can tell you. If I can sense that, then their female partners or feminine partners sure as heck can also sense that as well. So since I coach guys in a relationship primarily, that’s part of what we’re trying to get them to be more grounded in this relational space with their partner.

Yeah, let me just slow down here. So it sounds as though what you’re really recognizing and have recognized in your life is that the meditation has been helpful to a certain extent. And that particular type of meditation that you’re practicing was really trying to use the mind and focus and have the kind of meta-awareness of the mind and just noticing what’s happening there. 

I do know; maybe listeners, there might be some more embodied. There are different types of meditation that do reference the body sensation, but for what you’re describing, and really the benefits of noticing the sensations and how that has such a big difference and how one might be able to show up in a relationship. And that that’s a very different experience, not only one making more contact with self but also how they’re approaching relationship and the position in which they are when they have more of that contact. Is that what I’m hearing you say?

Yeah. Yeah.

Let’s talk about just some of these benefits and how I mean relational that awareness of that, what that means is so much more popular now. I’m so so grateful. If you just want to spell out what you’re referring to around relational and how being embodied helps the relational approach.

Yeah, I think that’s the right question to ask, so I’m glad you did. This is what happens a lot in a relationship. I’m sort of stereotyping a little bit, but obviously, it applies both ways and all of that, but the feminine partner comes with emotion. There’s some upset, whatever it may be. And masculine partners, we tend to real fast want to get out of trouble because the emotion feels like a threat in some way. Our partner is upset, and then they’re kind of aiming that upset at us, and we feel like we’re responsible. We don’t want to be bad or wrong. That’s kind of the primary orientation of a lot of people. 

And so, what happens is the nervous system, as you know, experiences some threat, and then the mind kicks in with all kinds of strategies to escape the threat, to make the discomfort of anxiety in the body go away. So the mind jumps in with stories and projections and defenses and all of that. So really, the mind is not our friend. In times of threat, the mind is generally not your friend, you know, if we’re talking about the relational space here. 

And so, we tend to believe those thoughts as if they’re real. Our reality becomes our thoughts in the sense that we try to make of our partner’s behavior. That’s when the strategies kick in. The most common one that I hear women complain about is the defensiveness of their partners and the way that he’s going to try to meet their emotions with an explanation. And so, you know, when you’re at these two levels, you might as well be speaking different languages. If one person is in an emotional space of emotional expression, and the partner responds with information to try to talk her out of being upset, they’re never going to really connect with each other. 

And so, that’s what we’re trying to do is try to get the guy’s awareness away from the stories and the strategies that the mind generates and more into the body so you can be here in this moment with what’s actually happening. What’s actually happening is usually a lot less threatening than what you perceive it to be or the way your mind interprets it. So you can be more grounded. You can be more still. You’d be more present to your partner’s actual upset. That’s one of the examples of the way that embodiment certainly affected my life and my relationship, as well as that of my clients as well.

Well, I think that this is such an important place to expand and really give support around, so I’m grateful that you’re doing a lot to help people have more to work with that gives some scaffolding to this because I think people can resonate with what you’re describing. And also, it’s happening so, so, so quickly in the relationship. 

The more that we can expand, and my experience of this is that there’s a development of this, there are some growing muscles and a learning curve, that it’s not something that, “Oh, we want to be more embodied, and therefore we can just slow down and then all of a sudden, we have all of this capacity.” Usually, it takes some development. 

You know, and many of my listeners know, that my husband and I are in a particular phase right now where there’s a lot of stress contending with being displaced and having all of our belongings considered condemned and dealing with toxic mold. I just noticed the other day that my husband was expressing anger. And the way I felt my nervous system gets activated just seeing him express anger and noticing that I had the preference of wanting to brainstorm and be collaborative, and he wasn’t in that space. 

And so I set a limit with him, but I think we circled back after like an hour, and I was apologizing that I didn’t want to shut him down and that I did want to hold space and be present for him that at that moment, I didn’t have the capacity. And also, I love what you’re describing. That’s so, so classic that let’s just say if one partner leads with a complaint or criticism, it’s likely to feel more defensive because the characterization is not accurate. We get distracted like you’re talking about this missing each other and not speaking and actually meeting on what is wanting to be seen. So hence, there’s like crossing paths. 

The person’s not necessarily sharing the vulnerable need or fear that allows for that softening. And so wherever we can recognize that whatever juncture there’s a benefit to slowing down and noticing the nervous system and that there’s just so much more capacity there that we can begin to develop. So, can you help me? Would you agree with that, that there’s a developmental process here? How do you help people start to build from just even noticing that practice of embodiment?

Yeah, you couldn’t be more right. It’s absolutely a process. It’ll take time. I’ve been at it for years. While I’m far more developed in terms of capacity than I was years ago, I still got a lifetime of practice to go. It’s a lifetime practice and not one that is a quick fix for anybody out there who thinks it might be or really wants that. But you got to get on the path. You’ve got to start. It will show immediate benefits. There’s no question about that. It’ll be a long road. And Jessica, what was the second part of that question?

Well, before we go to that second question, you just mentioned “benefit.” Can you help us with what you see as some of the benefits of practicing more of this embodiment?

Yeah, just imagine when you learn to drive. You’re 16, and you got both hands on the wheel, and it seems really fast, and you look down, you’re only going 20 miles an hour. That’s really what it is. To use a sports analogy, the game slows down for you. The game that we’re talking about is relating. It’s not just your primary relationship. It’s truly relating with anybody, but you and I both know that our intimate relationship is the one that goes right to our hot buttons most quickly. 

I’ll just use my little hand puppets here to mimic my woman when she’s upset. She’s activated. And the old me is like “a threat.” My proverbial eyes go wide. It’s like, “Oh, my God, my nervous system knows that it has to do something to fix or stop this.” And now I can be more present. I can be more with her. The game slows down. And so, a lot of guys that come to me for coaching, they’re all just flummoxed. They don’t know what to do when she’s upset. This is what I call the magic moment, Jessica, that magic moment when your partner’s emotions flare up, and you have a choice that you can either react or you can respond, as the book says. 

Your ability to navigate that crossroads is directly correlated to your discipline around a daily embodiment practice or, you know, daily, or I’ll just say regular embodiment practice. So, that’s what you want. You want the game to slow down. You want to operate in your relationship out of choice, not out of habit, because that’s generally what happens. When we go into that threat state, we’re immediately going to go into our habitual defenses. And this is why guys say, “I have the best of intentions. I really want to be different. I keep doing the same damn dysfunctional thing.” That’s really the big thing is to operate your relationship moment to moment, out of choice. When you do that, you’re going to be a lot more successful in the moment.

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“Operate in your relationship out of choice, not out of habit.”

If I’m hearing you, it sounds like the embodiment and that magic moment to have more space to choose to respond versus just react, that we’re able to notice the nervous system. I’m a believer that we can’t, as much as we’d like to, override the nervous system’s activation. We are wired up to mitigate threats. And our partner, as you said, there’s a lot at stake with our partner and the quality of that connection. So, when that seems to get off track, right, we are going to feel it. 

If a partner’s approaching us with those wide eyes, or the elevated tone of voice, or whatever the body language that helps us know something’s up here without even the words, it’s just what we’re getting through neuroception, that our system is going to be activated. And so, it’s not even so much that we control that, but we have a little more space to be able to notice, feel it. And then to have more choice, is that what I’m hearing?

Yeah, I love how you put that. It makes me want to describe it as follows. This is your capacity for intensity, the relational intensity at the moment. And you know, trigger creates something that pretty much fills that up to high pressure. As you said, there really isn’t a way to will yourself through it because your nervous system will always cut off your cognitive intentions at the knees. So you’re not going to be able to power through it. The only thing you can do is create more capacity, which creates spaciousness through which your intention can now pass. And that’s the best way that I describe it. Because, as you said, primal smashes cognitive. That’s kind of the tagline I use. Primal smashes cognitive. What that means is your habitual nervous system reactions in a threat state will always be stronger than your cognitive intention unless you expand your capacity.

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“Primal smashes cognitive. Your habitual nervous system reactions in a threat state will always be stronger than your cognitive intention unless you expand your capacity.”

Okay, so as we take this one step further, that as we expand, and many people may have heard of the expanding the window of tolerance by using the polyvagal language, that there’s more space that allows us to remain in contact because when we do get dysregulated, either shut down or activated too much, then we are no longer really present. We’re no longer really able to stay engaged. Help me if we’re on the same page here. 

Yeah. Increasing the window of tolerance is the same thing as increasing your capacity for intensity. We’re absolutely on the same wavelength there.

Right. Just to be clear. I’ll just use myself as an example. When I’ve done this work, I still feel the charge in my nervous system. It’s not like I’m avoiding that. I have some magic wand that I don’t have to experience. I’m experiencing it. I just have a little more space to not just knee-jerk react. And that’s the thing you’re talking about. 

When we’re in that activated state, we’re going to use our normal tendencies to protect or protest. That’s where the prefrontal cortex goes offline. And then we’re doing insane things that we’re not proud of. And then we’re all in this negative spiral with our partner, like what happened. 

But to go back, I still feel the activation, but I can hold a little bit more. So thus, I’m able to maybe even say, I’m starting to feel myself shut down, or I’m starting to feel overwhelmed, or I’m starting to feel activated, or I’m starting to get upset, or I’m starting to want to raise my voice or whatever it is. Is that something that even just gives us a little more room, too, in your opinion?

Yeah, to not be in the story, but you’re noticing the story. Or, in this case, not being in the trigger but seeing the trigger, I think, is what you’re describing. Yeah, isn’t it? It feels good when we can notice that and speak about that. We feel more mature. We feel more powerful. We feel more relational. As we both know, it always goes a lot better when we do that.

Well, great! Thank you. Would you be willing to share, as I was asking just a moment ago, around how you help people have more of this embodiment? You’re saying if we don’t have a practice that we’re engaged with regularly, it’s going to be very difficult to practice this at the moment, is that right?

Yeah, you’ve got to do something to increase your capacity. It doesn’t have to be an embodiment. I mean, there’s like Somatic Experiencing could be something that people go for trauma, and that will kind of bring the noise down a little bit. There’s other work that can do that, but short of going to a professional to kind of do, whatever their mode of therapy is, this is something you can do at home on your own and have a personal practice, which is why I’m such a proponent of daily embodiment practice. 

I decided I beat my clients over the head. I tell them, “Look, you’re not recognizing your potential here until you do this. I won’t speak for the feminine side, but most guys, you know, want to do the head stuff. They want to read a book. They don’t really want to jump in. I was like that for a number of years myself until I discovered the power and then was like, oh, okay, this is so much more effective. And so I’m very insistent upon a daily embodiment practice.

Well, you mentioned the analogy of sports. I know many of my listeners may be familiar that HBO does this NFL Hard Knocks where you get to see the training camp. It just makes me think that, like, I don’t know, any professional athlete that would read a book about the play and not actually get the reps physically in before they go to a game, right? We don’t expect that. And so somehow, we’re expecting to have this knowledge to translate when we’re saying all of that goes out of the window anyway when the nervous system is hijacked or is activated in these kinds of very intense moments. 

Okay, so what else would you suggest, or do you help people in developing a little bit more of this room? And practicing embodiment in these more escalated moments? Can you give us more examples of what it looks like or how to practice it?

Yeah, let’s go into that. I’m just going to riff for a little bit here, Jessica. 

Yeah, please. 

It’s about awareness. It’s really, I mean, at its core. It’s where your awareness is. Most of our awareness is in our heads. And let’s ask ourselves the question, okay, why is that? Because what do we do all day long? We stare at our phones. We stare at our computers. We watch videos. We respond to texts. We are information-processing machines. I think everybody gets that. There’s no surprise there. But I don’t think people really understand the degree to which that makes them floating heads. 

And the problem is, anything you use all day long, what’s going to happen to it? It’s going to get a lot stronger. And that’s really what happens is that our world becomes our thoughts. Thoughts are always about the future and past. Thoughts aren’t really now. Experiencing is now, but thoughts are about the future and past. And so, it begins to cement the primacy of your past and future thoughts as your reality in terms of your awareness. 

So, to break that, you’ve got to really practice getting your awareness down into the body. And what that means is very simple. I mean, like, as we sit here, you know, if I say, “Jessica, just drop your awareness.” Like, keep looking at me, but drop your awareness down to your feet. You’re in a chair, so your feet are probably touching the ground. And just even while we maintain eye contact with each other, just feel the weight of your feet kind of pressing down on the ground, you know, gravity’s pulling it down. And then see if you can actually feel the ground pushing back up to support your feet. 

And then, in between those, you get some compression of the soft tissues. That’s the sensation of weight. So now that we’ve located it, we’re going to keep our awareness down there. I’m talking and looking at you. So I can still maintain part of my attention to be in the world, to be in a relational space with you at this moment. But I’ve got some attention down on the sensation of weight. And weight or gravity is one of the primary ones that I teach. I mean, I didn’t make that up. But I’ve made it a major, major focus because I think it’s the best sensation. It’s always available and always very simply right there. 

So as we sit here, you just feel your feet. I’m just talking about the mechanics of this and what you would do in daily practice through different exercises. We train for this awareness that you’re directing down there kind of by effort. It’s going to become more natural, where some percentage of your awareness kind of naturally rests in your feet. I’ll tell you. I go through my entire day playing with gravity. Walking, sitting, while I’m lying down, I’m standing. I’m always continuing to reinforce a little bit of my awareness of that. 

Now, why the hell would we want to do that? That’s kind of the next question that it begs. Because sensation, in this case, the sensation of weight on the ground, only happens at this moment. I mean, I guess you could think about sensation, but it’s not actually happening. So when you have a little bit of attention on the sensation, which is in the now, you’re now tethered into this moment a little bit more. It’s like being tethered to the space station so you don’t float off into space. You’re tethered to something real. 

And so, let’s say, you and I are partners, just for example sake here. We’re having a fight, and like, I’m starting to freak out because you’re pretty upset at me, and I’m feeling embarrassed and want to make it go away. What I do is I just drop my attention down to my feet, my weight. I’m still with her. I’m not checking out and zoning out. But instantly, and I really mean that instantly. It tethers me more to the now. I get more settled. I’m more present. I’m more choiceful with her. She feels me staying in it with her in the emotional-relational space for that moment. 

Part of that why it works so quickly; I’m just using myself as an example, or any practitioner, is because I practice being with gravity so much that it’s burned into my sensory memory. So I don’t have to kind of go look for it. I don’t forget about it when I go into a big fight. I always remember it because of practice. Just like any, you know, like a baseball swing, or your golf swing, or throwing a football, like you practice it, and then you can do it in your sleep. So I don’t do it in my sleep, but I can do it in a fight, you know, an argument. 

So that’s what we’re training for, so you can have a little bit of your awareness of sensation. It doesn’t have to be just gravity. There are others we can talk about. So, now as I train, now I can be in an uncomfortable interaction with my woman. I don’t float off into the space of my mind. I’m tethered to the now. I’m more choiceful and all those things I said before. I’m going to pause here because I know I just talked a lot, but that’s kind of like the next step of what hat the heck embodiment is.

I appreciate that it gives more foundation to then be able to recognize more sensations that we’re not just reacting as we’ve already stated. And that as we can ground, then perhaps we have a little bit more room to pay attention to what other sensations we’re feeling that might be a little bit more specific to the dynamic that then we can start to take steps towards because I think implied perhaps in what we’re describing here is that there’s a wisdom that comes from the body intelligence and awareness that for inner intellect and in mind we’re not referencing

It’s so true. I’m glad you brought that up because it’s kind of like, “Okay, now let’s go to the next step.” One of those is as you come out of the mind into the body. As you said, I can feel you more. I can feel the other more, which is really, I’m going to say this all the time. I contend that the feminine just wants to feel us feeling her. So when she’s emotional, she needs to feel that we can actually feel her pain at that moment. 

Now, again, these are generalizations, but I think I still posit that mostly it’s true. So my ability to feel my own body physically translates into the capacity to now be more available to feel you, which I think is what you’re getting at, and I can also feel what’s going on in me. So instead of maybe responding in anger, I respond in empathy. Or maybe instead of responding in my own anger, I actually see that beneath my anger is a little bit of an ouch or some kind of a shame. 

I can actually feel that a little bit more. So I have more self-knowledge because I’ve been doing this practicing of feeling because I contend that feeling sensation is the same synapse as feeling our emotions and that maps over really perfectly. So yeah, I’m glad you brought that up because that’s really the next step, as it opens up the ability to feel others and feel self.

In my mind, that’s a relationship. The expression and the participation and co-creating relationship are in the here and now, and it’s a hard task to always be self-aware. And as you mentioned, in the example of us relating to one another, ideally, I’m in contact with myself, but also aware of you in the space between us as you are in contact with yourself. Also, hopefully aware, to some degree, and then also the shared space that we’re creating together, and that’s a lot to be attending to.

It really is, but this is, again, I’m characterizing generalizations. For most relationships, this is what the feminine is craving. You said this is what a relationship is. I might replace the word relationship with intimacy or connection. There are a lot of women looking at their men, saying, “I don’t feel connected to you.” And therefore, I don’t feel good about our relationship. I don’t feel open sexually.” 

I just had a client telling me about that just an hour ago. “I’m not open to you because I don’t feel connected to you.” And most guys are like, “Oh, what does that mean?” We just described, I think, what it is. It’s the freedom for one person to express. It’s the capacity for the other person to receive, to feel other and self, and then have a back and forth about that and just stay in that space. 

And so, I’ll say this to your listeners. Guys out there. If you’re wondering what connection is, this is what we’re talking about. It’s not namby-pamby new-age stuff. This is the key to everything you want in a relationship with your female partner, a man. That’s what I would say. Everything your want is unlocked when you have more connections.

Agreed. I think just for any person that, that’s typically, the longing is to feel this deep sense of fondness and intimacy and connection. And to echo what you’re describing. I remember, many years ago, at that time, the statistic was that women are initiating divorce more than men stereotypically and that their biggest reason is the lack of emotional intimacy. 

In my work, I definitely see the desire to feel known, to be understood, and to be seen and heard. I see both partners really longing for that. I’ll just speak to the gender piece. I think this is developing. I don’t know the men’s experience. I’m seeing the evolution. So, I don’t know that this is going to continue to be, but more historically, they’re a very narrow window of what is acceptable for the man’s experience, what it means to be a man. 

So, I think there’s a lot of shaping and learning around how to contain and stuff down even, perhaps, the full range of the human experience. And so, there’s a lot of ability to turn that off or to not access it. I do think I’ll just speak for myself. And at least what I’ve seen is I feel so much more attracted to my husband when I feel his expression of him. Right? Like there are times when I’m upset, for sure, I want to be seen, and I want to be understood. 

I think when you’re talking about that embodiment and what he can feel inside himself and his desire, and he can own it and occupy his space like that’s incredibly sexy when I can feel him and just the draw of, like, not even sexually but just wanting to come into closer contact when I can feel him occupying his space. I feel like it goes both ways. The dynamics might be different, for sure. I know there’s absolutely a gender component, but I think there’s something that translates both ways. 

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“A man who’s more expressed is often more sexy to his partner.”

By the way, I totally agree with what you said about a man who’s more expressed is often more sexy to his partner. Now, let’s talk about what that means. We’re not putting anybody in a box. I’m making generalizations, but I think there’s a feminine way to express and a masculine way to express. 

I don’t equate emotions with femininity, which a lot of guys do. And then they’re like, “No, I’m not going to do that.” I don’t equate that personally. I think there’s a feminine way to express, and I think there’s a masculine way. Typically, if we’re talking about feminine energy, it’s going to be more unbounded, maybe a little less coherent, but a lot of energy behind it. I think a powerful masculine way to express is to deeply feel what’s going on. So, there’s like total self-knowledge and self-experience. But we’re going to express it. 

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“If you’re feeling hurt, keep it short and simple. Express it in a way where you’re not saying explicitly or implicitly that she needs to do something different for you to feel okay.”

I always coach guys, like, if you’re feeling hurt, keep it simple. Do two things. Keep it short and simple. And two, express it in a way where you’re not saying explicitly or implicitly that she needs to do something different for you to feel okay. We feel it. We know it. And then, we express it short and sweet. We don’t put any burden on the other person that they got to do something, so I’m okay. You express it in a way, “I’m going to be okay, but I’m feeling hurt when you said that it doesn’t seem like I’m making enough money. I felt hurt. My story is you felt less lesser of me, and that hurts.” 

You keep it really simple, but you’re speaking more about yourself than, like, “How could you say that? That’s just bullshit.” That’s about the other person and what they said, and they need to take it back, so I feel okay. None of that. You are just kind of short and sweet—It’s about me, no demand on others. I mean, it’s not like a rigid structure but that, you know, variety of emotions you can express very directly. It’s contained, but it’s still expressive.

I would say it a little differently as far as less coherent. I agree with you and how we are socialized that perhaps the more female tendency is to be a little bit more dimensional. And where the shaping or the culturalization for men is to be a little bit more directive, right, that’s just the kind of forward kind of energy of being directed, like that forward motion. So, I agree with you. I just would say it differently. 

And also, that as we are learning to reveal ourselves more, right, as you’re inviting the men that you work with to be able to feel, I mean, that’s huge in and of itself for anyone, but to be able to actually have enough embodiment to feel to be able to identify then to be able to name and to be able to reveal that in a way that’s not contingent on what their partner is going to do or needing to control certain something to her to be okay. Like, that’s an incredible gift. 

I think similarly with perhaps a female partner in this heterosexual relationship, if that’s what we’re referring to here, that if there is more dimension in the way that the female partners typically describing that there can be a little bit more, “Can I distill this more?” “Can I allow there to be a little bit more nuggets and concise around what it is that is so potent for me? And can I be able to reveal what that means to me and then send that over to my partner so that he can absorb it and digest it? So I think there’s work on both parts that allow this to be.

Have had a lot of experiences where there’s an expression that comes my way. And there’s a kernel of truth in it, like, you know, maybe something I did create a dynamic. And so I think of this as a sine wave. And you know, like, yeah, that’s pretty valid. But then there’s a history that comes in, and the amplitude just goes like this. And the problem is most guys have a hard time metabolizing that amplitude. And so then we won’t even look at the part which is super, totally valid. We’re just blown out, and then the defensiveness comes in. 

I don’t coach women, and I rarely give advice to women, but I will say, to the degree that you can separate out the amplitude from what your very legitimate expression is because we just can’t metabolize. If you want us to metabolize it, it can’t have an amplified amplitude. Otherwise, we’re probably less successful unless we’re super advanced practitioners, which just most people aren’t. So, yeah, that’s a distinction I always make. I teach that to the guys, too, to take responsibility for the part that is true that the little sine wave like own that a lot better.

Well, and to your point about embodiment, if there is a little bit more space, then perhaps there’s some leadership and being able to say, I’m hearing you say this. Let’s focus on that. Right? And to be able to lead with that. And that’s not to say that the person who’s approaching, I mean, this is where the Gottman Institute has done so much that brings one thing, try not just to be here and not bring the whole history because it just overwhelms and it’s really difficult to have any progress. 

I think the intention there typically is to feel heard, and if there’s history around not feeling heard, then I’m going to leverage, like, I’m going to lay this out where you cannot. This is undeniable, irrefutable. I get the inclination for that, but it doesn’t set it up for real responsiveness.

I couldn’t have said any of that any better. That’s all spot on.

Yeah. Okay. So coming back to you’re referencing the sports analogy. I love that one of the things you do is draw a distinction between sure we are more embodied when we’re engaging in physical exercise or even a sport. Help us with how being in our bodies, being physical, is different than what you’re describing. I think people might have a sense of that, but I would love for you to explain that more.

Yeah, I get that a lot. It’s like, “Dude, I ski every weekend. Am I embodied?” Well, okay, the part that skiing is missing is the relational component. A lot of the way that I teach embodiment is different than some of the things I’ve been taught over the years is that I really always put a relational component, or I always try to put a relational component in. So, ma be either being in eye contact with other through partner practice, or it could be just visualization of other, but I always try to give a relational context. 

Now mine is that if you play sports, ski, or do a martial art, you’re already down the road, in a good way, of becoming more embodied. It’s just that number one, you know, like, sometimes most people I know don’t have the time to ski every weekend or get in their bodies. 

And so, having a daily practice is something that you can do anytime, anywhere, even standing in line at the grocery store, quite frankly. And so, it’s more relational. It’s more intentional, these practices, than just going to ski or weightlift or anything like that. So yeah, I don’t think there’s add anything to that, but there are differences there. So it’s good to do these physical things, but they only get your part of the way there.

If I’m hearing you, it sounds as though the daily practice or regular practice that is relational could be a relationship to your surroundings. It doesn’t actually have to be your significant other to be practicing. But it’s noticing the self, noticing the body, noticing sensations in the present moment in the experience of whom you’re around. It could be nature. It could be other friends. It could be colleagues. Am I hearing you?

Yeah, I’ll just put it a slightly different way. I think, at its core, you’re developing the capacity to have awareness internally and externally. I mean, one of the practices that I do is candle practice. So, we use a candle. We’re with the candle, and the candle is not personified, but it’s other. We can represent others. I’m learning to split my awareness, which is a core part of my teachings, is how do we split our awareness internally and externally.

Nice. Nice. Thank you. I wonder, too, that, as one is beginning to practice this, some of those old coping strategies or even tendencies that are still alive that we start to notice the theme of that and that we can have a different relationship with those tendencies.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the more present and grounded you are, the more you can see that voice in your head that speaks in your ear like Greenwald and tells you you’re not good enough or you should have shame over how your body looks or whatever it is. Yeah, we’re going to become more aware of that voice. At some point, it will be like, why are you telling me these things? I’m not going to listen anymore.

Yeah, or the impulse, whatever that impulse is. Sometimes it feels like grasping. Sometimes it feels like slowly backing away. Like, I’m like wanting to leave. So, I think that those tendencies will likely be there if we can notice how we are experiencing ourselves in a relationship, obviously, depending on what the circumstances are. 

Is there anything you want to say to that point? Because when you were describing earlier about your practice of working with gravity, I know a lot of people do have that wanting to flee. And so, staying grounded and holding more capacity and other people want to fight and sometimes that charge, it’s like, letting it. I’m shaking because it’s like discharging it a little. Like, there’s so much intensity, and can I let it? How do you help people confront some of their tendencies in this more embodied way?

Whether they’re fleeing or fighting, it’s the same thing. I think you already said it, actually. It’s just an intensity that arises. It arises as an uncomfortable energy or sensation in the body. It rises as the energy of anxiety, which is uncomfortable. The next thing that we do is our coping strategy to make that discomfort stop. And so, if it’s a runaway, and go kind of deal with our emotions there, then we’ll do that. If we’re a fighter, we’ll do that. But whatever it is, it’s going to be you trying to make the discomfort stop. 

So, if we can just start noticing these things, I have some practice about noticing impulses and noticing them as energy arrive. If you can catch them before, there’s a lot of that in meditation traditions. So if we can get them to see these are just energies, like, you know, all our triggers, and this and that, and I know, historically, they’ve been with us for our entire life, and we’ve never had clarity about them, they just happen to us. But if you can see them just as simple energy and starts to, like, “Oh, I think I can cope with that.” It feels more tangible, and you feel like you might be able to cope with it a little bit more. 

So that’s, that’s one of the first things I just get them to see that it’s just an energy in the body. You just got to notice it and learn to sit with it. It’s just like, like, right now, I can feel my nose. It’s a little itchy, right? Kind of under the left nostril. So I could scratch it and make that stop. What if I just notice it? Then yeah, it’s a little uncomfortable, but that kind of went away. I just sat with it. That’s really what we’re doing. We’re learning to sit with discomfort. We roll everything down into simply that. It feels more accessible for a lot of people when I describe it like that.

I can’t help but think about it as we look at relating and how this applies to a relationship. In my experience, if there is more space, I’m not just repeating the old experience by engaging in the old tendency that I’m making more room, and it’s actually laying the groundwork for more possibility and then more corrective experience that, like, “Oh, he’s not just turning away from me.” “Oh, he’s not telling me I’m not good enough.” whatever the fear is. 

I am not just caught up in the tendency or the story, and I’m making more room for a different experience. I’m laying the groundwork and having the possibility for that new experience and, thus, maybe begin to build that new experience that then starts to create something that I can start to build safety and security and that I essentially have some healing and repair around. 

Free Young satisfied female on back of positive man in casual clothes spending time in autumn park Stock Photo

“The possibilities for your life are so much greater than you believe. The possibilities for you to be more present, loving, and grounded in the moment to create way better outcomes without getting your partner to change, without waiting for them to be somehow better or different, but actually just being different in the moment creates a whole new reality in the system between the two of you.”

Yeah, I’m not sure I could say it a lot better than that, so I’ll just highlight one piece of that. I’ll say this to your listeners. The possibilities for your life are so much greater than you believe. The possibilities for you to be more present, loving, and grounded in the moment to create way better outcomes without getting your partner to change, without waiting for them to be somehow better or different, but actually just being different in the moment creates a whole new reality in the system between the two of you. 

And so, I hold out the hope and the possibility of such a different life for people. It’s such a different orientation in a relationship if you can start to develop your capacities here. Your life can be so different. Your relationship can be so different. I mean, if we want to get big-picture here, you can break generational tendencies that you will no longer hand down to your children because you’re owning the break that you’re going to be strong enough to develop these capacities. So, the impact is immense here.

No kidding. I almost get the sense that the body is a resource. The breath is a resource. Gravity is the resource. The embodiment practice is the resource that can help give support to this because I will say whenever I’ve taken these risks, it’s terrifying. I mean, the way we’re describing it sounds doable, and when everything’s activated in my nervous system, it’s the very thing I don’t want to do. In the past, it’s been terrifying. And now, I believe in it enough, so I can tolerate it enough. I think it’s slowing down. It’s not as fast for me, but what a resource the body and this embodiment practice can be for us as a support tool of strength for us. Is that right?

Absolutely. Yeah, it’s absolutely right. It’s such a resource, and it’s free. That’s the good thing. Therapy is not free. No offense to the therapists here.

Well, look, I mean, really, I think one of the things that coaching therapy, I’m mostly practicing in the way of coaching even though I’m a licensed psychologist, but that’s space that is being held with that practitioner that can stay regulated that allows for more of that, having the capacity to metabolize to be able to see. I mean, it’s really getting some reps in, essentially, before in a relationship before sometimes going into the actual live play of something. But I think any work done in any capacity is beneficial. And yeah, my deepest work has been in my own privacy of my own space with no one there to guide me. 

Yeah. And what I would say about embodiment, just bouncing off one thing you said, is that this is really an enhancer to traditional talk therapy. Talk therapy is the mind is the pathway to try to change yourself. My personal opinion, I think you agree, Jessica, it’s not enough. And so, if you can unlock the body level, the physicality pathways, that’s going to make much more space for what you learn in therapy to be able to retain and then actually put it into use in your life. So anybody out there that’s doing therapy, I suggest you have a daily embodiment practice too. It’ll make your therapy more effective.

Well, it depends on what type of therapy, right? So, there’s the embodiment, there’s somatic psychology, and what I love about the body and the wisdom is it bypasses all the story of the justification, the rationalization. I mean, in my own therapy and my therapist, he’s like, I do need time to unpack the story and articulate and verbalize. But as soon as he can, he’s getting me into my body. And it’s like, it’s so much just revealed in the sensations and the way in which my body is the symbolism and how I’m holding whatever the tension, you know, look, I often have tension in the throat. I think that it tends to bypass all of a story that can be a real direct path to insight and reveal around our experience, and especially trauma or relational traumas. 

I know we’re winding down our time here, but it also occurs to me, and I do want to name that this is so incredibly important for a sexual relationship and its intimacy of it. I mean, like, I don’t know how we don’t start there before entering into sharing and sexual space with our person. Like, that just seems paramount. I know we’re not going to do that topic justice, but I just wanted to name that. Is there anything you want to say about that topic?

Yeah, and in the realm of sexuality, this stuff is even more important because being in front of your partner in a sexual situation is maybe, for men, part of what we teach is sexual leadership. How do you actually bring some leadership to the bedroom so that your partner can, if she chooses, your consensual partner, if she chooses, can surrender to your lead? That’s going to mean a lot of things. But I mean, I’ve had it expressed many times through my work, from females that I talked to, like, I just want my man to, like, bring a little leadership to the bedroom or, quite frankly, a little bit of darker energy to the bedroom, which actually is so funny because I’m right now planning a dark sexual energy workshop for these guys, whose partners are consistently telling me, you know, “I need a little more edge. The nice guy energy isn’t doing much for me.” 

I just had a, I just had a client today and married 18 years. His thing is, he’s a nice guy. And she’s been telling him almost that entire time that she’s not that interested in sex because it feels a little nice. And so we’re going to try to untangle that, and that’s what this workshop will be about. I know it’s going to be well attended, just knowing my clients.

No kidding. And does it harken back to occupying the space and being expressed rather than what is deemed appropriate or acceptable, like it’s really allowing expression for what the desire is and the full range of that? I think that it’s important to also note that it’s usually a partner who wants to feel attuned to, so it’s not just leadership without a relationship. It’s leadership with that attunement. Just to be clear.

Oh my gosh, Jessica, did you have to bring this up at the end? Because I have so much to say. 

We’ll just circle back. 

Let me just respond to what you just said. So yeah, actually, attunement is one of the big things that I teach with guys. First, you have your own clarity, and then you attune to her. That can mean a variety of things. But at the base level, it’s knowing your partner, knowing what pleasures her, knowing what she doesn’t like, knowing what’s not okay, and knowing where you can take a little risk. This is attunement, so I couldn’t agree with you more. 

And, yeah, it’s about first having the capacity for the intensity of sexuality, which is just what we talked about for an hour. Having some clarity and boldness and how you bring that into the bedroom, having the attunement, and yeah, maybe pushing some edges, because we all know this, like, if you do the same thing like sex is cool, but if you just do it the same way forever. 

It’s not novel. It’s nothing. Yeah.

In the space of consensual relationships, which I always say first, how do you create some edge? And that’s what this workshop is about. At first, it starts with your energy a little bit more like [roar]. You know, rather than, “Can I touch you here?” You know, and taking some risks, but also not creating harm because you’re unconscious about what’s okay and what’s not. Anyway, that’s the space that will play in in this in this workshop. We can do it. We can do the third one of these in about five months.

Yes. And there’s a little bit of a teaser here. So, how do people get in touch with you and stay tuned to that workshop? And also to get your recent book about embodiment. What would you attract people towards?

Yeah, there are two books on Amazon. The Masculine in Relationship is the first one, and then the art of embodiment is the second one. So, grab those on Amazon. I always ask. If you like, guys and ladies, please do a review. They help me get the word out. 

If you want to get a flavor for my work beyond what we talked about here, on Instagram, @GSYoungbloodMIR, you get a nice sampling of videos and quotes and stuff like that. And then, go to my website, GSYoungblood.com, and get on the mailing list. That’s the best way to get informed about things. And also, on the website, you can see my courses because I do have an embodiment course, which is sold really well. I’m very pleased with that. It’s the companion to the book. So you can find all that on the website. That’s the best way to find me.

Nice. Is there anything else? So, when did you say that that dark sexual workshop is? Is that going to be in a few months?

We will start in January. You’ll start to see the waiting list. The waiting list is already pretty long. So, get on that, and you’ll start to get the details very soon.

Okay, and that will be found on your website.

Yes, via the mailing list. So get on the mailing list, and that’s the best way to get the information pushed to you.

Gotcha. Okay, so I will make sure to have the link to both of your books, to your website, as well as your Instagram page so people can have easy access to connect with you, what you’re teaching, your groups, your courses, and upcoming offers. 

Thank you.

I’ll make sure to do that. It’s been an honor and a privilege to spend this time with you. 

Yeah, you too. I mean, you get this stuff, so it’s fun to banter with you, and that was a lot of fun.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching