PERMISSION: Emotional Intelligence

Securing Your Desires Vs. Being Guided by Love

For years, whether I pursued my artistic or business passions, I thought I needed to work harder, while ironically thinking no matter what I did would never be enough. But as I let go of working harder and aimed to work smarter, some advice led me astray from my heart’s desires. And I eventually needed to find my way back to my inner guidance.

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Illuminated By Death

The air was heavy and dense. Walking into her room felt like being enveloped by a drug that sedates your body and comatoses your brain. Earlier in the day I’d plugged in a diffuser and filled it with invigorating lavender oil, but it was masked by a scent much more powerful.

The scent of death is the smell of many things. If you can imagine halitosis, mixed with fungus and decomposing liver in a compost on a humid day, it smells like all of that.

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The #metoo I Never Thought Mattered

I had a crush on one of my guy friends for three years in my early 20s.

I adored him. He was thoughtful, sensitive and made me laugh. We were both shy, but based on one episode of sneaking away for tequila induced kisses at a party, I thought there was a chance he liked me too.

One freezing cold night over Christmas break, I came back from University to my hometown Calgary, Canada. I was hanging out with the guy I had a crush on (let’s call him Wilbur) and four other friends. Wafts of boys socks, pizza, beer and dirty laundry lingered in the air, reinforcing  new-found independence.

In the 3am zone, after we’d played copious drinking games, I was delighted when Wilbur, told me I could sleep in his room with him while the others slept in the living room.

He shut the door. Wet sloppy drunk kisses followed. He slipped off my velvet top. The rough carpet rubbed against my bare skin.

I’d only had sex once in my life at that point. I wanted to tell him I was inexperienced. I wanted to tell him I was turned on but also nervous. I wanted to tell him I was happy to be alone with him. I wanted to tell him to go slower. But I couldn’t say any of it. I felt too naked on his carpet with him on top of me moving at a pace that was beyond my mental capacity. I was also terrified that if I admitted to any of the above, it would lead to rejection.


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Boundaries, Disgust and Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First stop: I called my therapist.

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

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

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

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

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

“How dare you?” or  “That’s not ok.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next stop: My somatic practitioner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s nothing like disgust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our only option for real change is to change ourselves.

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

Third Stop: Getting clear from the inside out.

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

Yes, to my voice.

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

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

Yes, I will stand up to criticism.

No, to swallowing my shame in silence.

Yes, I will stand up to being bullied.

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

The final hoo-haa:  Easy Breezy Boundaries 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moral of the story?

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

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

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

Here’s to feeling free this summer!

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

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

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The Key To Releasing Anxiety With Ease

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

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

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

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

In the training class, I volunteered to be a demo for the practitioner to conduct a session. I started by telling the practitioner I have chronic jaw tension and I was floored by what happened next.

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Top 10 Keys for Living Shamelessly

shame, releasing shame,

Photo by Josef Kandoll

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

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

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

Photo by Josef Kandoll.

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

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Why You Should Stop Chasing Beauty And Start Seeing It

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

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

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


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Why Being Good Stops you from Being Bad

Couple sweet laziness

It’s human to want safety in your relationship, but sometimes the compulsion to take care of your partner’s feelings in order to maintain a sense comfort with them might be killing your passion.

What many people don’t know is that there’s a pleasurable and empowering way to break free from this comfort zone.

If you become more daring with your erotic desires, you can actually break the pattern of over-giving emotionally. As a result, you can achieve both deeper satisfaction sexually, and greater trust in your relationship, because you’ll feel even more free to be yourself.

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Healing Betrayal Through Generations: An Emotional Journey

Beyonce Knowles at the premiere of "Dreamgirls". Wilshire Theatre, Los Angeles, California, December 11, 2006.

I just watched Beyonce’s hour long music video “Lemonade”, twice.

Poetic. Deep. Beautiful. Raw.

Let me get a few things out the way first.

Number One: I love the fact that Beyonce doesn’t define her worth by her lover’s betrayal.

Number Two: I love that she doesn’t question or deny her love for Jay-Z even though she’s been hurt by his dishonesty. Love is grand, but not always pleasant. And as she says, “When you lie to me, you lie to yourself.” 

Number Three: I love how Beyonce acknowledges the generations of men and women who’ve equally suffered from betrayal. Healing the pattern of betrayal is deep. It involves healing history.

Number Four: I love that she names how grief heightens orgasm. This is something I’ve experienced myself, and thought about a lot. A heightened state of emotion running through your body also makes you feel physical desire and sensation more strongly. When grief bubbles to the surface during sex, it converts into a fiery passion that heightens orgasm. I love how our emotional bodies and sensual bodies are intricately designed to heal ourselves. 

But what I really want to get to is this: What moved me the most was how the entire video evokes the complex layers of healing in the wake of any betrayal.

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