Why Pleasure requires trauma informed care
In my experience, I've found empowerment and focusing on health are key to finding more joy and pleasure. And, it's very real that this culture in which we live in, there is a high probability that when you move to explore what feels good, the imprints of past trauma or violation, even culturally and collectively will show up. It's important to recognize the pervasiveness of trauma in the world and seek to be responsive to this reality.
In this episode I'm sharing why trauma informed care is so important, especially when working with sexuality, what you can do to advocate for yourself in situations so you can feel more comfortable, and what you can do to invite in more compassion, curiosity, and care in your own pleasure explorations.
Complete transcript below.
In this episode you'll discover
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Amanda Testa is a trusted healer, coach, and guide who’s served hundreds of clients over the years with masterful skills in coaching, pleasure embodiment, and somatic trauma resolution.
After thousands of hours of training in trauma informed sex and relationship coaching, tantric sex coaching, energy healing, somatic trauma resolution, breathwork, yoni egg coaching and more, she’s seen time and time again the magic and wisdom of our bodies.
We all have the ability to return to our blueprint of health, aliveness, pleasure and sovereignty, and you can too.
With her powerful, loving and gentle support her clients find their desire and pleasure again, find safety and bliss in their bodies, and remember they are enough just as they are.
Find out more about her new monthly Pleasure Membership HERE.
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EPISODE 252: Trauma-Informed Care
[Fun, Empowering Music]
Amanda Testa: Hello, and welcome to the Find Your Feminine Fire podcast. I am your host, Amanda Testa. I am a sex, love, and relationship coach, and in this podcast, my guests and I talk sex, love, and relationships, and everything that lights you up from the inside out. Welcome!
Hello, and welcome to the podcast. Today, I’m talking about why trauma-informed care is so key, especially when working with pleasure. I’m gonna tell you a story. Last year, I had an appointment. I had to go in for a pelvic ultrasound, and so, when I get to the appointment, first of all, most doctor’s offices are very sterile, not very warm and welcoming. And so, I am getting ready for the pelvic ultrasound, which basically is they insert an ultrasound wand vaginally and kind of make sure everything’s looking all right. They check the insides of your ovaries through an internal probe, basically. [Laughs]
And so, I get there, and I get into the stirrups and immediately start shaking. One of the things, if anyone does a lot of work around this or is familiar with TRE, that’s Trauma Release Exercises, there are certain positions that you can put your body in that actually naturally invite in a shake, and when you know what’s happening, basically, it’s your body just kind of releasing stress, releasing pent up things that it needs to let go of, but if you aren't aware of this, it can be really scary for people, and so, I’m sitting here, shaking like a leaf. They never even mention one thing about it, and they're like, “Okay, one, two, three,” shove the thing in.
First of all, that was an extremely non-trauma-informed visit, and especially working with these tender areas, and this is something that’s no fault for these practitioners. They're probably not taught this, but even just in that experience, I could tell you I just remember laying there, and my legs are shaking, and these poor people are like, “Oh, I’m sorry. We’re almost done,” and I literally was laughing because I was like, well, you know, this position will encourage that.
If people have stuff to release, it’s gonna happen, and I would imagine that in that particular instance, that type of thing probably happens a lot because if anyone has experienced any type of sexual trauma, oftentimes, these types of practices, these types of procedures can elicit a response. If the practitioners don't know how to handle it, then that can be hard for the patient.
The reason I tell you this story is just because these are the normal things that we go through as women, oftentimes, in doctor’s offices going to get your gyno appointment yearly. All these things where we’re put into positions where we might not feel very comfortable, but there are things that we can do to feel more comfortable, and this is one of the things that I really am very passionate about because I do believe trauma-informed care is so key, especially when working with pleasure, because our pleasure is wrapped up in a whole lot of other things for most of us, and on this podcast episode, I’m gonna talk a little bit more about what trauma-informed care is and how you can advocate for yourself if you're in a position where you might be uncomfortable.
Some of the key things that I think are so important is to always, number one, listen to your own body, and it can be very challenging because we’ve been disconnected from it our whole life, let’s be honest, and we’ve also been conditioned to not speak up when there’s a power dynamic, specifically if you think about a doctor’s office and a patient. There’s often more power to the provider than the patient in that scenario, so it can feel uncomfortable or embarrassing to speak up because you're like, “Well, I guess this is what’s supposed to happen, and might as well just override all my body’s impulses and just lay here and let them do what they need to do.” [Laughs] Sad but true, right?
Even me, looking back, I was like, “Man, I could have advocated for myself,” but in that moment I was in a response where I could not advocate for myself. And so, that is why even if they would have said, “Hey, just so you know, this position might make your legs shake a little bit. It’s okay. Don't worry about it. If it feels too much at any time, just let us know, and we can pause for a minute.” The problem is that really affects their turn time, and I’m sure they don't really want to spend hours dealing with people,.
They want to just move onto the next patient, which is unfortunate in the healthcare industry. [Laughs] So that’s a whole other podcast.
But I’m gonna share a little bit about what is trauma-informed care and why I feel like it’s so important, especially in my work with pleasure because not just as the doctor’s office, but when you're working with your sexuality, when you're working with your feminine fire, these things are all so wrapped up, and one of the things is you have to honor the time it takes, right? One of my mentors -- I love that Layla Martin says this. She says sometimes you can only -- you know, this is the truth about any situation -- it can only go as fast as the slowest part of you can go. Often, that can be very frustrating, right? We want to override that part. We want to push through. We want to just move on. And healing doesn't work like that. Our body doesn't work like that. So, some of the key things are not pushing, not forcing.
One of the reasons I love the ReBloom trauma-resolution model so much -- it’s one of the certifications that I did through Rachael Maddox; I just adore her -- because when we’re working with sexuality, even if you are super healthy and you’ve had a very non-trauma background, there are still things that can be tender territory, right?
And so, I feel like anyone in this industry needs to have these skills because it’s very easy to push someone past their comfort level, and some teachers have that style, right? They're very young. They want to just push. They're like, “I’m gonna push something, and you're gonna have an experience.” I personally don't like that approach because I can see the negative effects of it, and I’ve seen it through my clients where it’s backfired. When you override your body’s impulses, then you're gonna be set back a little bit, right?
Oftentimes, that can be what happens in long-term relationships, with my clients that are in long-term relationships, and they're trying to get the spark back where they have just been so disconnected from themselves, where they maybe say yes when they don't really want to, and even in a loving relationship, when you are saying yes when your body is saying no, over time that can create some residual things within your body where you might feel pain or you might feel shut down. You might not want to be intimate. This is why part of the journey is making sure you learn the language of your body and how to listen to it.
And so, what I love about ReBloom is it includes story and myth and rituals and archetypes and metaphors because this is a great way to kind of take a step back and look at the overall picture because we are looking at the holistic person, right? You can't just extract certain areas of your life. They all blend together, right? All of your body parts blend together. We are a holistic being, so it’s important to be able to sometimes see the forest through the top of the trees, so to speak, so you can see what’s going on, and also focus on health as the foundation versus trauma. We focus on health. What is working? Because we all have this blueprint of health at our core, this original essence, the perfection of our divine blueprint, right? That is perfect, and throughout our lives, different imprints, different things happen that leave residue.
What happens, the way this shows up, another term Rachael says, which I love is she calls it trauma is an embodied violation hangover. So, something has happened, and it was in the past, but it’s showing up today. Sometimes it’s even subconsciously so we might not be aware of it, right? Maybe it’s feeling totally shut down or numb around your sexuality or feeling zero pleasure or a lack of libido. There are so many different ways these kinds of things show up - how you relate, how your relationships pan out. So, what we want to do is focus on the health that you already have because no matter what you’ve been through, you have that health in certain areas. And so, we use archetypes to pull out and draw out the strengths of you and really go from a strength-based approach.
Also knowing that lens, that there are a lot of systems of oppression and cultural trauma spells that we are all under and living in that are very real and deeply affect everyone’s experience in a different way. So, some people are way more affected, obviously, because of these cultures and the systems of oppression that we’re in.
The other thing is kind of understanding how all these different aspects of regulation can intersect, like how we can take care of ourselves, how we can regulate on our own, right?
These are some of the things I talk about a lot about finding a resource, finding these places of comfort, finding a way to feel safe enough in your body to explore, co-regulation (finding people that it feels safe enough to be around), community-regulation (again, finding the community that feels supportive, that feels stable), and nature-regulation (which I love so much about this model because I’m very much so connected with nature, and it’s always been a healing, soul-nourishing place for me even just simply looking at the patterns that you see in nature, right?) No matter how chaotic things can seem or how overwhelmed you feel or how stressed out, some of the things that, often, we can count on are the fact that the sun is gonna rise and the sun is gonna set. We can count on just the beauty of watching a flock of birds fly by, right? We can just listen to the sounds outside our door to connect to the aliveness that exists in our ecosystem that we are a part of, so we, too, have that in us, right? I love it so much!
Also everyone has a different timeline. I think that’s so important to note, and I think that’s one of the things when you're talking about trauma-informed care is understanding that everybody has their own pace, and so, you can't compare yourself to others, especially around sexuality. Some people are gonna have a real quick access to pleasure. Other people, it takes a little more time. But what I do know is time and time again, if you show up for yourself and you're consistent over time, you will see the changes that you want, and it might take longer than you want, but you will get there. The key is just showing up for yourself and showing up for your practice and trusting that you will get what you want because you're showing up for yourself, and that is a huge part of it.
Also, knowing that, really, meeting whatever comes with presence, right? Like I was just saying, you might not always have a joyous experience, but just meeting whatever comes up with presence and having and learning the skills to hold whatever comes up, that is in cooperation with your body’s current capacity, right? Not pushing, not forcing, as I mentioned earlier.
It’s kind of doing the beautiful thing of titration where you kind of dip into where it feels hard and go back to where it feels good so that there is not an overwhelm, because you want to gently stretch your nervous system, not strain it, right? You want to stretch it but not over-stress it because when it’s over-stressed, it’s gonna shut down and have the opposite effect of what you want.
So, the other thing is having a lot of consent along the way. I think that is such a key thing, especially working with pleasure, and I sometimes have been in environments or gone to things where people lovingly -- they’re not trying to cause any harm, A lot of these people, they're not trying to cause harm, they just don't know the difference. So, you know, you go to an event, and maybe they force you to eye-gaze or they force you to give someone a hug. These kinds of things, you’ve got to get consent, and you've got to make sure that people are opting in, that you have the chance to say yes or that you have the chance to say no, and that there are layers in which you can engage with things, right?
Some of the key things to bring in when you are working around sexuality and just kind of having that ability to speak up for yourself is, number one, having compassion, right?
Having compassion for yourself and for your experience because we are all in this together. We’re all learning. We all are doing our best. Curiosity: being curious instead of judging or wishing things were different or beating yourself up, just being curious about what your experience is, having kindness, and being open, having an open mind and being open to receiving all the support, being open to receiving all the support. That, my friends, is such an important thing because that could be hard, too, right? That could be hard to receive support, so that can be another muscle that we work to stretch.
And so, what does trauma-informed mean? Well, basically, the definition of trauma-informed care means understanding, anticipating, and responding to the issues, expectations, and special needs that may arise when working with a person who has been victimized, but at minimum, trauma-informed services seek to do no harm, and I think it’s recognizing the pervasiveness of trauma in the world and seeking to be responsive to this reality.
I actually was just on a call yesterday with Dr. Peter Levine teaching, who founded Somatic Experiencing, which is a very popular somatic trauma-resolution program that I love and have been very influenced by. (a lot of the work that I do is body-based trauma resolution which that’s what somatic means (of the body).
So, basically, what you're doing is you're allowing your body to share its wisdom and going in cooperation with what it wants to do to move through things and to kind of remind you that you do have that health within you, so it’s kind of helping you to do the work of reprogramming your inner landscape, so to speak, so it’s more healthy and that you can remember that you have that health within you.
But one of the things he was saying was that, you know, he started in the ‘60s, and that how trauma has just gotten way worse and the things that he sees are way worse, and so, I think that it’s a societal thing, but it just is heartbreaking to me, but anyways, the point is is that, basically, most people have been affected by it in some way, and so, we need to have these tools.
And so, I’m telling you this, too, as you are a consumer (maybe you’re a consumer of services) that you want to (especially in this realm of sexuality) make sure that you're working with someone who is, at the bare minimum, trauma informed. The beautiful thing about the type of coaching that I do that works well with a lot of my clients because they also have worked with therapists, because they have dealt with a lot of the major things that they’ve been through, but there are still the tendrils, and they want to resolve that specifically around their sexuality.
Some of the things that are really important for you when you are in an experience is just making sure that you feel safe enough to participate. If you don't, then what are the things that you need to call out or what are the things that you need to feel that way, right? These can be multi-layered, but it’s just something to think of. What can feel safe enough for one person might feel very threatening for another person. So, oftentimes, that’s one of the things that irritates me, and I have had a fault with it as well because before I did a lot of this training, I would do some of these things like saying, “Oh, this is a safe space.” Well, maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. That’s not for me to decide.
What I can do is create the intention that this is a space where there’s openness, there’s communication, where there is the potential for someone to feel safe enough to participate and that they have layers in which they want to participate before they decide what to do, so that people can show up whether I’m leading a full moon circle or whether I’m teaching a retreat for hundreds of people, it doesn't matter. When I’m in these experiences, my goal is to create an environment where there is an opportunity for every single person there to find a way to engage that feels doable for them.
The other thing is knowing that as you move into your life and you’re getting into situations like, say, for example, you are going to the doctor, and you need to get your yearly exam. This is something that I have practiced, and it’s actually been met with a lot of positive response from the caregivers. Ideally, what would be great to see is that when you go to your yearly exam, they spend time talking to you about your anatomy, they explain what’s what, they even show you your cervix, right?
How amazing would that be? Has that ever happened to you? I’m curious. It has not happened to me unless I asked specifically because I'm curious about my body. And I think one of the right things, especially in this day and age with all that’s going on in the reproductive justice lack-of, that it’s important to know your own body and be able to check out your own cervix.
I love Pamela Samuelson. They do an amazing workshop that I highly recommend called Take Back The Speculum where you will have an incredible sex ed class that you never got. I can guarantee you probably have never gotten it. And you also have the opportunity to look at your own cervix. Again, what are the benefits of that? That you can see what’s going on, that you can know it’s normal, that you can look at your cycles and how things look throughout the cycle. I mean, there are so many great things that we can do for ourselves if we have the desire to learn. Granted, maybe that doesn't float your boat, and that’s okay too, but what’s great about it is when you go to the doctor, they should be telling you these things, right? We shouldn't have to self-source information, but we do. And so, that’s why we’re here, right? We’re here to help so that you can learn this stuff.
I love it. I just did a big Anatomy of Pleasure Workshop, and I think that it’s a key thing for most people because I even remember as a well-educated, college-educated person in my thirties when I first started doing this work around sexuality and started learning so much more about my own body, I was like, “holy moly! How did I not know these things?” There’s so much you don't know. So, the good news is it’s easy to learn, and it’s all very simple and learnable. That workshop was in my Pleasure Membership. If that’s something you're interested in, you can check it out!
Back to my story of how you can advocate for yourself in situations, like, for example, when you go to the gyno. So, one of the things I did, which was really helpful, is I just let them know, “Hey, I would like to kind of have some say in how this goes. So, when it’s time to insert the speculum, could I please do it myself?” The first person that I said that to didn't like that at all, but I insisted, and then they obliged me, right? Then I started going to the midwives because when I was 35 weeks pregnant I switched to the midwives, and that was amazing because they are so supportive and so consensual.
I always feel like the midwives are like a loving aunt. That’s what it felt like. It feels like my loving aunt, just offering to give me some support. But anyways, so I was like, “Can I please insert the speculum myself?” They're like, “Of course!” which is great because then you can take all the time you need. You can go slow. You can be in charge of the process, and it’s not really that hard to do. You can't mess it up.
So, those are some things you can ask for. You can ask for what you need, like, “I feel cold. Could I get another blanket?” “My feet are cold. Can I borrow some socks?” Most doctor’s offices have these things or blankets or all the things. It’s learning to kind of ask for that. And then if they're not willing to do so, find another provider who is.
The whole reason I’m bringing all this up is because my goal in my whole world around this work I do around sexuality is to make it accessible, to make it feel doable, to find a way to approach it that is a full-body yes. And that, to me, is so important, and that’s why I feel like so many of my clients really do appreciate the way that I hold space for them.
A lot of times they have gone through a lot, you know? And that’s what I hear time and time again from these clients is that, “You made me feel safe,” and, really, what I’m doing is I’m not making them feel safe, I’m helping them find that within themselves, which, then, that is the win because they can use that wherever they are in their lives, right? It’s not me, it’s what I’m reminding them that they are capable of. It’s what they are finding in themselves, and it’s also really so important to meet people where they are.
I’ve been doing this for almost a decade now, and I can look back to when I first started (I’m sure most people can look back to when they first started in their things that they're like, “Oh, gosh, that was not very good that I did that,” or, “I’m sure I learned a hard lesson or two.” Most people probably at some point in their beginning stages of whatever they're doing they might have made a mistake or two that now they know better, right? But when you know better, then you do better.) I say that to just let you know that I’m always open to feedback and learning, and I’m constantly dedicated to improving my craft and getting better at what I do because I want to provide an environment that if you're gonna come to me, and you want to work around your sexuality, that you know that you're never gonna be pushed, that you're never gonna be forced, that you get to be in charge of everything. It goes at the pace that you want.
One of my clients just recently sent me the most kind note, and she said:
“Working with Amanda was so helpful. Every session was relaxing, supportive, and safe. I was so impressed at the meditations and visualizations she would walk me through, as well as the homework, tips, and reframes that she would suggest. Everything was done at a level I can handle, and she only pushed me to grow and learn at a pace that felt good to me. She provided a different perspective and offered ideas that I never would have thought to consider on my own to help me feel more comfortable and safe in my body. Amanda really understands how to support you at whatever level you need. I am so thankful for the time I had working with her.”
I share that because I want you to know that if you're gonna come to me, that you're gonna be in an environment where your needs are honored, first and foremost.
So, that is why I wanted to share more about the importance of trauma-informed care when it comes to pleasure because, unfortunately in our society, it is so mixed-up hand in hand.
Thank you for listening to this week’s podcast. I hope that this was helpful in kind of understanding you’ve probably seen trauma-informed care all over these days. It’s everywhere. Everyone’s talking about it. The thing is, is there’s a difference between trauma-informed care and a trauma specialist, right? There’s a difference between trauma resolution and just being aware, and so, that’s why I did a bunch of additional training around trauma resolution because I wanted to feel more confident in supporting people. And, granted, that’s why I say I’m not a therapist, I’m a coach. But there is so much amazing body-based resolution that can happen when you honor help and foundation, when you honor your client and their pace, and when you celebrate every little step of the way because that is so important, too. We always give ourselves such a hard time and don't reflect on the progress that we’ve made, and so, I think that’s a key thing, too, is realizing that when you're making these steps, they're huge.
I read this book once called The Slight Edge. I forget who wrote it now, but basically, he was talking about things that are easy to do and easy not to do. But say you're flying a plane across the US, if you go two degrees off course, you're gonna end up in a totally different place. The same thing that can happen when we’re looking at the trajectory of our life, when we make these little, tiny, doable changes (and that’s why I love small, doable pops of pleasure or ways to weave in what feels good), that, over a period of time makes a huge difference in where you end up. So, it doesn't have to be a sprint. It doesn't have to be hard and scary. It could be gentle and nurturing and done in a way that you can totally hold it.
Sending you lots of love. Thanks for tuning in. And if you are looking to learn more about this, then you can always reach out to me. Shoot me a DM on Instagram @abtesta. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can happily support you.
Have a beautiful rest of your day!
Thank you so much for listening to the Find Your Feminine Fire podcast. This is your host, Amanda Testa, and if you have felt a calling while listening to this podcast to take this work to a deeper level, this is your golden invitation.
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[Fun, Empowering Music]