Moving from burnout to desire...
Do you feel overwhelmed and exhausted? But still feel like you're not doing enough? If so, you’re not alone. If you’re ready to end this cycle, then tune in as this week I’m pinching myself as I get to have another conversation with one of my superheros, Dr. Emily Nagoski.
In this episode we're diving into how we can move through burnout, reconnect to desire, and cultivate sexual wellbeing. (Hint, it's not what you think)
In this episode you'll discover
Wow, This episode is so full of incredible tips and science on what it really takes to move through burnout, the science of desire and what it takes to build wellbeing, and how to cultivate an amazing sexual connection.
Dr. Emily Nagoski is one of my superheros when it comes to sex education. I'm so grateful to have her back on the podcast this week! She is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller, Come As You Are: the surprising new science that will transform your sex life and The Come As You Are Workbook, and co-author, with her sister Amelia, of Burnout: the secret to unlocking the stress cycle. She began her work as a sex educator at the University of Delaware, where she volunteered as a peer sex educator while studying psychology with minors in cognitive science and philosophy. She went on to earn a M.S. in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Health Behavior, both from Indiana University, with clinical and research training at the Kinsey Institute. Now she combines sex education and stress education to teach women to live with confidence and joy inside their bodies.
Because of her research in Come As You Are, she found so many were fascinated with her chapter around stress and feelings, so it led her and her sister to co author Burnout, which is a fantastic guide, filled with concrete, specific evidence-based, doable strategies that you can use to move through burnout.
Find Emily's podcast, the Feminist Survival Project 2020 HERE.
If you enjoyed this episode, check out her interview on episode 46 here: The Secrets To A More Satisfying Sex Life.
Thank you for listening! If you enjoyed this podcast, please share with your friends!
Join in the discussion on this episode and more in my free Facebook Group, Find Your Feminine Fire HERE.
Listen here or tune in via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Spotify.
(Find Full transcript below)
Amanda Testa (00:03):
Hello everyone and welcome to the Find Your Feminine Fire podcast. Do you ever feel overwhelmed and exhausted? If so you're not alone? If you are curious to learn more about why women feel so exhausted and overwhelmed by everything they have to do, and yet we're still worried that we're not doing enough. We're going to dive into a little bit of that today along with more science around mental health, relationships and more. So I'm so thrilled today to be talking with one of my superheroes, Dr. Emily Nagoski. Welcome Emily. Thank you so much for coming back on the show today. Oh, it's totally my pleasure. And I am thrilled to dive in today because you know, you have the amazing book, Come As You Are, as well as Burnout, The Secret To Unlocking The Stress Cycle. And I find that, you know, both of these books have been so transformational for me and I actually just re-read burnout again recently because I can't just stress how much that book explains things and makes you feel like you're not in it alone.
Emily Nagoski (01:08):
Amanda Testa (01:09):
And you know, and I think this is something I hear so much from women, just that you know, we do everything and yet still there's a part of us that like feels not enough and you know, and in the book, you talk a lot about and "Human Giver Syndrome". And I would love first of all before we dive in, if you want to share a little bit of a context of a, I know people who have listened to the podcast are probably familiar with who you are, but just a little,, a little teeny bit about what you do and who you are.
Emily Nagoski (01:43):
Sure. I'm primarily a sex educator. So Come As You Are is a book about the science of women's sexuality, but it turns out the best predictor of women's sexual wellbeing is their overall wellbeing. Go figure. So there is one chapter in Come As You Are about like stress and relationships and feelings. And as I was traveling around talking about Come As You Are, the year it came out, people kept saying, Oh yeah, all that sex science is great. Emily, but you know, the one chapter that changed everything was I one chapter about stress and feelings. And I was like, well that's interesting cause I've worked really hard on the sex science. And I told my sister Amelia is my identical twin sister. She's a choral conductor or professional musician. And I told her this and she was like, yeah, no shit, dumbass. Cause remember that time when I was in the hospital and you taught me this stuff and it, you know, saved my life twice. And I said, so we should racially to write a book, write a book about that. So that's that's the origin story of Burnout. The connection between the two, of course is wellbeing of women. My sort of purpose on earth is to teach women to live with confidence and joy in their bodies.
Amanda Testa (02:55):
Oh, so needed, so needed.
Amanda Testa (03:00):
And I love that your sister and you coauthored burnout. And I think it's so interesting because as I know for myself have experienced in my own life when I've completely burned out, you know, I have so many women that are always, Oh, I've lost my libido or I want to find my reconnect to my sexuality. And I find, like you say, it's so true. A huge part of that is because they're just stressed. They're stressed beyond belief and there's no way that they can even get to that place because they're either just spinning, spinning, spinning, or alternatively just so burned out. They're just like, Ugh, I just, I'm ready to give up. Exactly.
Emily Nagoski (03:37):
And that is the very nature of burnout for us. Burnout is when you feel overwhelmed and exhausted, everything you have to do but are still worried that you're not doing enough. And the cure for burnout, the problem with burnout is that it means you haven't got enough left to take care of anybody, including yourself. So the idea of the cure for burnout being self care is just sort of by definition impossible. The cure for burnout cannot be self care. It has to be all of us caring for each other. So when women are in that place of just having, given everything they have to give and having nothing left and yet still kind of beating themselves up because there's still so much more to do, the answer is not that they need more grit, they don't need more persistence. What they need is more help. They need more support. They need more kindness and compassion. Not just self kindness for themselves. Yes. That, but also kindness and support from all the people in their lives.
Amanda Testa (04:37):
Yes. So key. And so I'm curious, you know, when you talk about that, so it sounds all well and good. So many people I'm sure listening and like, yeah, yeah, that would be so great, but how do I tap into more community support? What would you know, things that we can do?
Emily Nagoski (04:53):
So yeah, we talk about like, it's all of us caring for each other. And one of the questions we get most asked most often about this is from journalists who were like, that's okay. So, but just hypothetically, what if you don't have anyone in your life who will turn toward your difficult feelings with kindness and compassion, who will be emotionally and instrumentally there for you? Come what may, what if you have no one in your life like that? And at first when we were answering this question, we'd be like, well, you just need to get more better people in your life. This sort of like flippant answer. And then we thought about our own story and we're like, that's, that's not how it worked for us. We we were raised in quite a dysfunctional family of origin, I would say with lots of rigid rules around emotions that basically you don't share anything, you don't talk about your feelings ever under any circumstances.
Emily Nagoski (05:49):
So here we were writing this book where we're reading this very hardcore science is affective neuroscience and comparative psychology, very difficult science. And the answer in this really difficult science kept being, well, it kept being connection. It kept being turning, turning toward each other's difficult feelings with kindness and compassion. This is not, this is, we did not want the answer to be love. We did not want the answer to be support and connection because that's like, that's what we wanted it to be. Like sleep and nutrition. And that's it turns out no, I mean those things are important. And the thing that really matters is that you be able to connect on a really deep, authentic, vulnerable level. And so Amelia and I could no longer deny it because the science kept telling us over and over that this is what we had to do.
Emily Nagoski (06:45):
And so we began sharing with each other the stories from our childhood that we had never told each other stories we were both there for but had never talked about. And what we found was that if both people are willing to take at least a little bit of a risk, you'll find that you can build this kind of connection with a person to be thoroughly vulnerable, thoroughly authentic. You don't need many people like this in your life. Maybe two is all it takes. And the people who deserve this kind of connection want to build it with you. Even if you feel like you haven't got it right now, it is not easy. It was difficult. It was not pretty. There was a lot of like crying involved. But it was worth it because at the end of the process of writing this book and being forced to acknowledge that it really is about goddamn love. Amelia and I built a sister relationship like we never had before in our whole lives.
Amanda Testa (07:50):
Oh I love that. And I think it's, you know, it's interesting because I love the love being such a powerful component and I think that can sometimes,
Emily Nagoski (08:01):
I'm glad you feel that way? Cause we hated it. (laughter).
New Speaker (08:04):
Cause I mean it just seems like it's something that's so hard to define, but the way you just shared about it made it a lot more understandable. It's, you know, having that connection with someone where you feel you can be deeply vulnerable and be able to connect in that and not, not be judged or shamed or ridiculed.
Emily Nagoski (08:23):
And the relief for us is that it doesn't have to look like really peaceful communication. It doesn't have to be happy and calm all the time. There can be a lot of ruckusness. There can be anger and love at the same time. There can be a total ridiculous laughter and love, like full emotional presence at the same time. It doesn't have to look like what you imagine a therapist. Like I'm witnessing your feelings and I'm noticing like that's not, that's not what it is for Amelia and me. It's not what it is for my husband and me. That's not what love has to look like. And if nothing else, I hope that Burnout shows all the different ways that love can show up in our lives. It doesn't have to just follow the script of like ultra feminine script, gentleness and positivity.
Amanda Testa (09:17):
Right. And I think, I think that that part that you said, having the ruckusness and the love and the anger, the both and part, that is so important. I feel like, at least I know in our relationship, but there's a lot of ups. There's a lot of ups and downs and good ways, but we're just very loud and volatile, passionate people, let's just say. Yeah and, but we just get fired up and it works well because now that we've been together for long enough that we understand what's going on with one another, it's much easier to roll with it versus feeling, you know, like when we get into an argument shutting us down, we're both like, Oh, okay, I see what's happening here. And we can laugh about it once we've had our moment.
Emily Nagoski (10:02):
Amanda Testa (10:04):
But you know, and I think, you know, it's important that we are moving to this point because as we talked earlier, you know about how important mental health is in relationships and that does affect everything. It affects the sexuality effects. It's a huge part of it.
Emily Nagoski (10:19):
Oh my gosh.
Amanda Testa (10:20):
I would love if you would share a bit more about that if you don't mind.
Emily Nagoski (10:24):
I actually, so there's some brand new research that's just starting. Mmm. So this is fairly complex stuff. Okay. Let me boil it down as much as I can. So it turns out sexual desire is not a thing that just sort of like sparks inside your body. If you've read come as you are, you know about responsive desire, where it emerges in anticipation of pleasure. What this new research is exploring and finding is that it's not just that it emerges in anticipation of pleasure, it emerges in a context of connection. So when one person brings forward an energy of positivity and sexual energy, they can bring their partner along with them when it's, when their partner is in the state of mind to have that happen. And the more you do that, the more you have this sort of like positive feedback loop of you feeling really connected with each other and each person's energy transfers to the other person, then that sounds really sort of like, Woowoo, when I say it, like your energy transfers to another person.
Emily Nagoski (11:31):
But like, no, really your brainwaves begin to synchronize in a really explicit way very soon into any kind of experiment. So in a really literal, explicit sense, your brains begin to the technical term is entrain into the same waves when you have this kind of connection, and the opposite is also true. So if one person has sort of like an emotional wall up or like is exhausted and overwhelmed and so they're shut down that has an impact on the partner who respond, who may respond to the wall by shutting down themselves. It's a kind of empathic response in a way, but it results in this negative feedback loop of people moving further away from each other sexually. So in this really explicit sense, our connection with our partners is influenced by the structure of the influence of our connection with our partners.
Amanda Testa (12:34):
That amazes me. And it also makes so much sense, right? Yes.
Emily Nagoski (12:39):
Like on the one hand, it's like, wow, that's really cool science when I read it. And on the other hand I'm like, well, duh, of course it is. Oh, of course.
Amanda Testa (12:47):
And I love the science backing up some, some of the ancient teachings in some ways. You know, it's funny because I think one of the things that I love to learn about is sacred sexuality and just, you know, how you connect with another person's energy and, and I mean that sounds very woo of course, but this, this research kind of just shows like that that connection is important and there is something to it. You can measure it. Yep. I love that.
Emily Nagoski (13:16):
Um one of my favorite things is looking at research that applies lots of different approaches and methodologies and how it finds the same goddamn thing over and over.
Emily Nagoski (13:24):
So the best book of 2020, in my opinion so far is a book called Magnificent Sex by Peggy Kleinplatz and Dana Menard,. This is a team of researchers in Canada who interviewed dozens of people who self identify as having extraordinary sex lives as having spectacular sex. And so the researchers wanted to find out, okay, so what are the characteristics of this like optimal sex, this magnificent sex, and how do you get there? How do you go from having regular sex in your life to having extraordinary sex? And the characteristics of extraordinary sex are almost all about connection, a combination of authenticity, which in this research is defined as being fully who you are, plus vulnerability, which is in this context defined as being fully who you are in the presence of another person who welcomes and accepts all of who you are.
Emily Nagoski (14:23):
Which that's like when you think about the script in people's heads about what we're taught great sex looks like, right? Lot of people's first thoughts are about like performance about positions and orgasms and frequency and none of those things show up on the list of what great sex looks like among people who self identify as having extraordinary sex. Instead, it's all about this really deep connection. Empathy is the Metta factor. It is the, the factor that predicts the other factors, the ability to be really in tune with your own internal experience and also really in tune with the other person's internal experience, which like that's sacred sexuality. Right? Yes.
Amanda Testa (15:07):
I love this so much. That's fascinating. And so I'm curious from your perspective, what would be some things people can do to try to up their connection?
Emily Nagoski (15:18):
Well, when you ask people how did you go, how did you get the, how did you go from being just like a regular person to having this like profound, like life altering, learning more about yourself as a human being, becoming a better person through your sexuality?
Emily Nagoski (15:35):
How did that happen? The first thing they say is I had to unlearn everything I thought I knew about bodies and sex and gender and power and love and intimacy and trust. You just start from scratch, noticing only what things feel like in your body and how things feel for your partner. Yeah. And and prioritizing that connection. That's it. So good. And it really is,
Emily Nagoski (16:02):
I mean, it's so easy to say, I say it and I'm like, well, that's a couple of sentences. And then you think about what it actually takes to do that work. Like, let me not minimize what an undertaking that is, but the fact that people go through that process is a Testament to how powerful the results are. Like it is so worth it. It changes your relationship with your body, with your sexuality, with your partner. It can transform your understanding of the nature of the universe. Like literally people are talking about like I have a greater sense of peace and meaning and purpose.
Amanda Testa (16:37):
I mean, I, I believe it. I totally believe it. And I, I was just going to say that too because yes, it sounds so easy, but yet there's so much too simple, but the process to get there might not be so simple. Yeah.
Emily Nagoski (16:50):
And there's the, because we are raised in a, this very toxic culture that first of all lies to us about our sexuality. Literally. Like there is nothing I learned about sex up until the age of 18. That was not wrong. Every single thing was disproved by the science I was exposed to over the following 10 years. And I have spent the, my career teaching people the stuff I learned that taught me that everything I learned was wrong. But not only was I lied to, I was taught a whole bunch of kind of moral messages about what it meant to be good at sex, to be a good sexual woman, to perform sexuality adequately. That I could be like a failure as a human if I failed to follow the sexual script. So it felt like there was a lot at stake for me being able to conform to this culturally constructed aspirational sexual ideal. It felt like there was a lot to lose and as you gradually learn what's actually true about how sex works, that it's has nothing to do with performance and everything to do with pleasure and connection. You realize that they're , you know you're doing sex right when it is literally impossible to fail.
Amanda Testa (18:11):
Yeah. That's impossible to fail. And that requires that connection and vulnerability.
Emily Nagoski (18:17):
Yeah, trust and sort of what, what Peggy Kleinplatz and her team says is creating a context of just safe enough and what counts as just safe enough is of course going to vary from couple to couple and encounter to encounter and person to person. For some people turning on the lights is like right at the edge of what they can tolerate, in terms of risk and it's like this huge thing that they turned on the lights and they can see each other's bodies and they can allow their partner to see their bodies. For some people that is going to a swing club. For some people that is opening their relationship. For some people it is daring to be in a committed monogamous relationship where they tell their partner what they have longed to do sexually for years and never been able to trust anyone else to even say the words out loud to say it out loud and trust that their partner is not going to turn away from them in disgust.
Amanda Testa (19:13):
So powerful. I love this conversation and I'm so excited because I feel like I am kind of wanting to shift what I originally wanted to talk to you about because now when you're talking about this new science, I'm fascinated.
Emily Nagoski (19:24):
You introduced it with burnout and here I am talking about all the sex stuff at all,
Amanda Testa (19:27):
But it all connects. I know. Yeah.
Emily Nagoski (19:30):
Imagine trying to like, like go to a just safe enough place when you're feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and stressed out by, you know, there's a pandemic like just safe enough is different in this context than just safe enough in a context where, you know, you can walk down the street without wearing a mask and worrying about whether anyone's got a potentially deadly virus.
Amanda Testa (19:52):
Right. That's a really different context. Exactly. And I think everyone's living with a little bit more stress level than they might even realize because of the pandemic. Heck yeah. So that's a big thing. But I also, we can come back to that in a minute, but I want to dive in. You know, when you mentioned that how much things have changed since you wrote Come As You are and the science, how it's rapidly changing. I'm curious, what is something else that was surprising to you that changed?
Emily Nagoski (20:22):
Peggy Kleinplatz's research was a very big part of rewriting the desire chapter. But I also did a whole lot of work on the last chapter, which is about Metta feelings or how you feel about how you feel. One of the things I say is that I teach women to live with confidence and joy inside their bodies, and so when I was saying that in a classroom one time a student raised their hand and said, Emily, could you be more precisely as, could you define your terms? What do you mean when you say confidence and joy? I was like, ah, that's a real good question. Let me get back to ya. So I thought about it and I read some things and I came back and I said, okay, so confidence, it comes from knowing what is true about your sexuality.
Emily Nagoski (21:06):
It is knowing about like the dual control model. It's knowing about responsive desire. It's knowing about like the cultural messages that you absorbed in your early life. It's knowing what's true about your body, even if it's not what you wish were true, even if it's not what somebody told you should be true. Knowing what is true. That's where confidence comes from. Joy is the hard part and joy is loving what is true about your sexuality and your body even when it's not what you were taught should be true, even if it's not what you wish were true. Knowing what is true and welcoming it with an open, loving heart. That is where sexual joy comes from and more work has been done in understanding the impact not just of self compassion practices, but of the mutuality, this, this dynamic interplay between partners when it comes to creating joy. When you can show up authentically as you are and be received with the warmth and compassion that we're all born deserving. But particularly in terms of our sexuality, we are so rarely able to receive because we're also scared and like tender and delicate and fearful around our sexualities. When we can take that leap into full vulnerability and our partners just there for us, that is where joy explodes. And that's where chapter nine went. Hmm, wow. Yeah. That full vulnerability piece when piece of cake, right?
Amanda Testa (22:50):
And so as people, you know, lean into that a little more or want to play with trying to have more of that, what are some things they can do to be more vulnerable or to even approach that with their partner if that's something that they don't, you know, they don't ever talk about.
Emily Nagoski (23:07):
Yeah, I mean the first step is very often having a conversation about it before you even do anything. Because the conver, and I know, especially when I talk to young people, people who are early in their sort of sexual self exploration, it can be easier just to do sexual things than it is to talk about it. But the talking about it is so often the starting place where you have a conversation and you set the frame of like, look, this is something I've been thinking about and I've rarely talked about it to anyone because I have all this worry that if I tell someone what's going on, they're going to react negatively. So this is me sharing with you a thing that I feel worried you're not gonna be welcoming of. So I'm going to ask you just to stay really neutral. I'm gonna say this thing and you're just going to go umhum, and then be silent for 15 seconds. Can we try that? Right? Like set the stage and what you can say could be anything from, I've always wanted to try handcuffs too. I'm so exhausted and overwhelmed these days that I haven't had a sexual thought much less masturbated for three months.
Amanda Testa (24:18):
Yeah. And I think that is such a good practice that you just shared practicing what a neutral. Let's just have a neutral experience with something. Right, because that could be even hard.
Emily Nagoski (24:30):
Yeah. Cause it's also, especially if you're talking to a partner, there's a whole other level of stakes because when you say something about your sexuality, you're not just saying something about your sexuality. It's also very often something about your shared sexual connection and Oh boy. Nobody ever wants to hear that. Like they're potentially failing at anything. Right? If you got the, like "it's a boy" masculine script. Part of the rules are you're supposed to already know everything. And for your partner to say anything about their sexual needs or desires automatically implies that you have failed because you didn't already know the thing. And so you have to act like you already knew everything. So that's one of the reasons why when folks have spectacular sex, it's not just that they don't learn tips, tricks, and techniques, they don't just learn different tongue motions. They learn an entirely different definition of what it means to be a man or a woman.
Amanda Testa (25:29):
Yeah. Important learnings. And you know, moving back easy,
Emily Nagoski (25:35):
It happens really fast. Well it, once you learn it, you never have to like do it again. You're done.
Amanda Testa (25:40):
So true. It is easy and it actually makes everyone feel so much better. And having that understanding, and I think, you know, bringing it back to what I was asking in the beginning, cause I thought this was such an interesting viewpoint of the human giver syndrome and why that comes into play often in relationships and you know, sexuality for sure.
Emily Nagoski (25:58):
Oh boy. Yeah. So Human Giver Syndrome. We bring this term from a very dark but pretty short book by a moral philosopher named Kate Mann. The title of the book is Down Girl, The Logic Of Misogyny. If you have the stomach for it, highly recommended. But it is a book that talks a lot about sexual violence and misogyny. So it's not for everybody, but in it, Kate Mann posits a world where these two kinds of humans, there are human beings who have a moral obligation to be their full humanity. You can send the name. Human beings have to be their full humanity to be as competitive, acquisitive, and entitled as required in order to maximize their human beingness. And that's one group of humans. And then there's another group of humans, the human givers who have a moral obligation to give their full humanity, their time, their attention, their patients, their kindness, their bodies, their hopes and dreams.
Emily Nagoski (26:54):
Sometimes their lives sacrificed on the altar of someone else's comfort and convenience. So, so guess which one women are, it is of course not as simple as like men are the human beings and women are the human givers. That's just the cultural script that you get taught on the day you're born. But like I'm married to a cis hat dude who is a hundred percent human giver and it changes the structure of our relationship that both of us are givers. Like we're constantly monitoring each other's energy and trying to pay attention to each other and he will just like give and give and sacrifice everything. If we're not both paying close attention. And one of us is willing to be like, Hey, I noticed you're giving a whole lot and maybe maybe a, you need to like pay attention to you and how can we make sure we're meeting your needs too.
Emily Nagoski (27:42):
It's a really different dynamic if there's a human being and a human giver in a relationship together because then the human being just feels entitled to take anything to give her gifts. And the more the giver gives, the more the human being feels entitled to take. And so you have this really imbalanced relationship where one person is just happy to take everything and the other person is giving and giving and giving. And again, because this is a moral obligation to be pretty, happy, calm, generous, and attentive to the needs of others. If the human giver dares to violate their moral obligation, they deserve to be punished. And if there's no one around who will punish them, we'll just, we'll just go ahead and beat the crap out of ourselves, right?
Amanda Testa (28:25):
Hmm, yes. Hmm. Yeah, that just makes me, just feel like I'm sad and it's so true and my God, we, we do beat ourselves up so badly and you know,
Emily Nagoski (28:39):
We say the things to ourselves that we would never say to any other person.
Amanda Testa (28:43):
Right. And that just, I think it's under so wonderful for people to hear and understand like the origins of why we do that. Because you know, so many of the women that I talk to are just so hard on themselves and this burnout piece falls right into play. If you're just giving and giving and giving and you know, not ever giving yourself the opportunity to replenish or have your needs met and of course you're going to eventually run out, run out of things to give.
Emily Nagoski (29:13):
Right? And you're not allowed to get your needs met because what kind of selfish bitch are you to stop meeting other people's needs just to like be, you know, meet your basic bodily needs. How dare you.
Amanda Testa (29:25):
Right. Yeah. Right. You talked to that too. Like why and then when you noticed that maybe in yourself, like if you see someone and you're like, there is something I don't my about that person. It's probably this conditioning that you're unaware of.
Emily Nagoski (29:38):
Right? Cause it's not just that we beat ourselves up, it's so we also have reflexive judgment. Like here I am giving everything, I have to like force my body to conform to the culturally constructed aspirational beauty ideal. I am forcing myself to conform to a parenting ideal, into a work ideal, into a class ideal. And here's this other person walking around, not beating the shit out of herself and just going ahead and letting herself not conform to the ideal when every moment of my life is dedicated to forcing myself to do this. How dare she. And so we judge that person because they dare to accept and welcome themselves precisely as they are. And if we, if we do nothing else, if we can just notice that we do that and be like, don't at that point, like beat the crap out of yourself because you have that judgemental thought.
Emily Nagoski (30:28):
That's not the goal. The goal is just notice that and be like, Oh, right. That is, that's human giver syndrome, right? They're telling me to be judgmental of other human givers. And I know that it comes from the place of exhaustion because all of us givers are giving so extremely much all the time that we expect other human givers to show up and give everything they have for us also when we need it. That when a fellow human giver, like you're in a workplace situation and a fellow human giver says, no, I can't help you with that project. I have to go home at 4:30 to pick my kid up from whatever. Like we want to be like, that's great. You do, you have fun, and there's this part of our heart that goes, how dare you? How dare you protect your boundaries?
Emily Nagoski (31:17):
How dare you limit what you give here and to me, just so you can meet other obligations, how dare you? Or how dare, Oh, like nobody ever comes into work and says, I got nine hours of sleep last night and people are like, yeah, right on. No, somebody has to come in and be like, that's so good for you. Self care is really important. I was up until four a frosting, the cupcakes for Becky's birthday party, but good for you. Good for you. Oh my gosh. Yes. Can we change that culture? Can we change that so that when somebody says they got nine hours of sleep last night, we genuinely in our hearts are like high five.
Amanda Testa (31:56):
It's like, Oh, there's a possibility that that can happen for me.
Emily Nagoski (31:59):
Yeah. And it is beautiful and it's happening for her. And she didn't just do that by like deciding she did that because she has a structure in place where everyone around her agrees that her getting adequate sleep is necessary for her and for the household. And so she has help. She has support. It is not just that she like took care of herself is that she had everyone around her caring for her and agreeing that her wellbeing was part of the priority of a family.
Amanda Testa (32:34):
Yeah. And I think women, or anybody, The human givers sometimes don't realize that when they ask for what they need, the people around them will probably be supportive because I, there's one story of, you know, this woman hated cooking. She's like, I'm done cooking. And her family was like, yes, now we don't have to listen to you complain about it every single night. And they figured it out and she didn't have to cook anymore. But it was like the other people in the family just couldn't stand how she constantly complained about how much she hated it.
Emily Nagoski (33:04):
And there are so many ways that could have gone wrong. Right? Right. They could have been like, you know what if you hate it so much, just stop and how do you respond if somebody is like, if you hate it that much, just stop. No you can't stop because then you're a failure because you've got to do all the things. And if, if she had said like I hate it, I'm not going to do it. And they were like well then nobody, nobody's going to eat. And nobody was like there for her to like, cause that's a need that just has to get met. Like it has to get done by somebody. And it is so easy for a person who's been trained to be a human giver, just to assume that it's her job. And if she doesn't do it, no one will. And if anybody else does it in a way different from how she would then it is not adequate. Right. That's a big one. Yeah. One of the things that I, a very slightly snotty but also true is if you want it done your way, you'll have to do it yourself.
Amanda Testa (34:01):
Emily Nagoski (34:02):
But there's a huge freedom of having it done someone else's way cause it's done.
Amanda Testa (34:09):
Right. And that's a big process for a lot of people to get to that ability to let it be done. And you know, it's a, it's a growth curve. But the thing is is that once you realize how much freeing, how freeing it feels and what space it opens up for other things, it becomes more manageable. And it's, you know, I think sometimes when you look at these things and thinking they're these huge leaps, well there's little steps that you take along the way. So it's much more doable. Absolutely. Yes. It doesn't have to feel like this seems too hard to do. No. And that's what I love about your book. So you definitely need to check out Burnout if you have it because there's amazing step by step, you know, tools you can use.
Emily Nagoski (34:49):
That was a priority for us. Concrete, specific evidence-based, doable strategies that you can use. Like you're not gonna, we're not gonna change the world tomorrow. Like we're not going to end sexism, we're not going to end racism. We're not going to end the pandemic tomorrow, but we are going to develop specific practices we can use today to make today a little more tolerable, a little more manageable, a little more energy giving instead of emotionally energy draining, which will make it even easier for us to get through the next day, which would make it easier to get through the next day until we've got so much energy that we can all collaborate together to end sexism and racism and the pandemic
Amanda Testa (35:33):
And I, and that too. Once you have that help that, that mindset or have tools and can implement them, then there is more bit more capacity and yes, there is more mental health, which you know, definitely will help you have the better relationship and have more capacity to even have desire.
Emily Nagoski (35:50):
Oh God, yes. Yeah. It's much easier to have desire for sex when you're not constantly full of exhaustion and resentment about how exhausted you are. Yeah. There's a lot of stories, laundry shows up a lot in the people who have magnificent sex, their stories like getting the laundry finished, getting the dishes finished and it's not just about getting the laundry finished and getting the dishes finished. It's about like if your partner participates in that stuff and you share a household and that's part of your relationship. When your partner participates in that stuff with you, you get to feel like my partner is a hundred percent there for me and they understand what my needs are and we are here for each other and like that is by itself sexy. The whole chore play thing isn't about seeing your partner engaged in the labor. It's about the, my partner is showing up for me and my partner understands what the needs are and we trust each other enough to collaborate on these basic things that have to happen and like we're just, we're a team. It's us against the laundry.
Amanda Testa (36:58):
Yeah, that's important. And I love that cause it's.
Emily Nagoski (37:02):
It is silly? I can almost not tell.
Amanda Testa (37:04):
Well, I actually don't think so because for me, I know in my relationship I grew up in a very, in a very Southern home, so it was very much my mom was the giver. And I just remember when I was a kid thinking I will never marry a Southern man. I know that's terrible. But I was just like, I saw that didn't seem right to me. And so it was always a big important thing in my life to find a partner who was collaborative and I'm so grateful that my husband is like that and he is amazing. I mean he has his tasks and he is amazing with them and I have mine and when everything feels off balance we talk about it. But it does make our relationship so much better because I know that we're in it together. It's that connection piece. Like you say.
Emily Nagoski (37:51):
Skills around like chores and other household stuff are not identical to the skills that you need to communicate around sexual needs. But if you've got a good base foundation where you can talk about that stuff, that's the foundation to build from. Like, if you can't even talk about like sharing taken out the trash, how are you going to talk about, I didn't have an orgasm last night and I really wanted to have an orgasm. Yeah.
Amanda Testa (38:22):
And those conversations, if they feel really hard then you can always reach out for help if you need.
Emily Nagoski (38:28):
Absolutely. They are, they are hard. We have all been taught that like, Oh, it's that who we are as people can be measured by our orgasmicity or by our sexual performance. And so like, in a way that only some people are taught, their personhood, can be measured by the laundry and changing the sheets every week and getting the dishes done every day. Like only some of us tie our identity to those tasks, but pretty much everybody was lied to about how much it matters that they perform according to a sexual script. Right. Yeah. PS doesn't matter at all. It's not about that. Not conforming to the script is actually the way to set yourself free. Yes.
Amanda Testa (39:19):
I well I just so appreciate your wisdom and I feel like there's such so many gems here and I adore both of your books. And I'm curious, you mentioned that you were making some rewrites for Come As You Are. Do you have any I know with everything going on in the world right now, things are, are not quite moving the same speed they once were. So do you have an idea of when that might be coming out or still in the works?
Emily Nagoski (39:47):
The plan now is for it to come out next spring. So spring of 2021 it was originally scheduled to come out in the fall of 2020, but I actually feel really good about that change because in the fall, in October of 2020, what are we all going to be paying attention to? Just one thing, just the election. It would be really hard to sort of convince anybody to think about, you know, the science of sexuality in the midst of that. So I'm perfectly happy to have it be delayed into the spring when whatever happens happens and we can all begin to like figure out what our lives are gonna look like now. Right.
Amanda Testa (40:22):
And we'll really need to be having some good sexual connection.
Emily Nagoski (40:26):
Oh God yes. And like if we can't get to sexual connection and I want to make sure people do not feel pressured to like use this quarantine time as time to connect sexually. If you are too exhausted and overwhelmed to find sexuality inside you just like lie in bed with the person you share your life with and like cuddle and cry. That counts right now that is a hundred percent like meeting your basic bodily need for connection. And we're also in a place where we're like, if you have a partner and let's acknowledge that about one in three households in the United States is a solo person. So some people are like, I would love to have someone I could just like lie in bed and cry with. But if you are a quarantined with a partner and maybe also some kids, these might be the people you love most in the world, but a connection is a biological drive like hunger. And the thing is when you get really hungry it can get desperate and then you eat some food and then what happens is you get full and you're kind of done and you need to stop eating.
Emily Nagoski (41:33):
A lot of people are bumping into that wall of like, I am full on connection, really use some time by myself. So recognizing that the need for connection is an oscillation that's built into our bodies. We want to spend some time in deep connection with people and some time in like just shallow connection with people and some time by ourselves. Like you can acknowledge that and if your partner's like, I could use some time alone, don't take that personally. That's not a rejection. That's just their basic biological need of being like, I am full. I do not need any more pizza. I have had enough pizza. I would like to go lie down and have a nap because of all the pizza. I hate connection. Feels like that too.
Amanda Testa (42:16):
Oh yes. I feel that the alone time need has been big for me lately, especially this past week. So I've had lots of early morning solo walks. Which have been life saving.
Emily Nagoski (42:26):
That's a wonderful, yeah.
Amanda Testa (42:28):
So I'm curious, is there any question that you wished I would have asked that I did not? Any the last words you'd like to share?
Emily Nagoski (42:38):
Oh, that's a really good question. I think I got to talk about all the things that are super top of mind. I'm in the brain space. I don't know if you've experienced this too, but so I want to say this. Okay. So in the beginning of burnout, Amelia and I talk about this a very simple study that some researchers did where they had college students do little mazes just on a piece of paper with a pen, just sort of go through this maze. And there's an illustration of a mouse in the middle. And on some of the mazes there's an illustration of a cheese over on the side. And in some on some mazes there's an illustration of an owl. Over on the other side. And the idea is, are you moving toward the cheese or you're trying to get away from the owl.
Emily Nagoski (43:23):
And it turns out that the students who were doing the cheese mazes completed more, mazes faster and made fewer mistakes and the people than the students who had the owl mazes. Now these are, these are very cartoonish. They're black and white line drawings. This is like the cheese is not this like very motivating, appealing goal. And the owl is not this very scary threatening threat. It's just draw lines on a piece of paper. But even with this tiny suggestion of like, are you moving towards something that matters to you or are you trying to avoid something that's dangerous? Even then the people who are moving toward the cheese do better. So my experience of the pandemic and quarantine and all that stuff is that the owl in my life is like 14 feet tall and just like camped out in my backyard.
Emily Nagoski (44:16):
So this is how I live now is with this 14 foot owl camped out in my backyard. And it's really hard to keep my eye on the cheese even though getting toward the cheese is how I'm like make my life worth living. So I would say the only thing been on my mind lately that I haven't said yet is I want to create space for people to normalize the power of living in a context where the threat is just sort of diffuse and everywhere. It really is an enormous cognitive and emotional load that we're walking around with. It makes everything just a little bit more difficult. But if we can remember what the cheese is and everyday do something or other that draws us, gives us a sense of connection with what Amelia and I call a your "something larger" to make meaning you engage with something larger than yourself. That's how you make meaning. So if you know what your something larger is and you can engage with it, whatever that takes, that will make it that little bit easier each day to tolerate having a, yeah. 14 foot owl your backyard. Sometimes the analogies get super silly.
Amanda Testa (45:30):
That makes so much sense though. And I can relate so much to that. But that's such a beautiful, beautiful advice to just, you know, do one little thing to remind yourself of the cheese. Yeah. Yeah.
Emily Nagoski (45:43):
Because it has to be worth it. Like there's a, has to be a reason why you're tolerating living with this owl in your backyard. There's nothing you can do about the owl much. Like we can do little tiny things to defeat the owl. Mostly it's about like living your life even though the owl is there.
Amanda Testa (45:59):
Yeah. Thank you so, so much. I so appreciate your wisdom and always the science. So it's been a pleasure. Pleasure talking with you again Emily. Thank you so much. Thank you. And everyone who wants to connect with you and learn more about you. Definitely. her books are amazing. Come as you are and Burnout. And where else can people connect with you?
Emily Nagoski (46:25):
The main thing I'm doing in terms of like being available on the internet, Amelia and I are making a podcast that we call The Feminist Survival Project 2020. Uback in the summer of 2019. I looked forward to 2020 and I was like, it's going to be a hellscape. What can I do? And making a podcast with Amelia about evidence based strategies for tolerating the hellscape,uwas the whole point of the podcast. And I have turned out to be way righter than I ever wanted to be. Uso I hope people will listen to it. Umaking it is part of me staying connected with my cheese.
Amanda Testa (47:02):
Oh, I am so excited to check that out. Amazing. I'll put those, all this good stuff in the show notes too so everyone can find that. And as always, thank you so much for tuning in and thank you again for being a guest. Emily. My pleasure. Everyone. Have a beautiful day and we will see you next week.