In part two of Sarah Lou’s series on vagal tone, she explores the repairing process and what that means for healthy intimacy between you and your beloved.
—If you missed Part I of this two-part series, you can catch up with all the magic of the vagus nerve here.
Vagal tone will save your sex life.
There, now that I have your attention, I will share a bit more about how to harness the vagus nerve to create connection, how to respect your trauma, how to REPAIR from damage and YES! rekindle sensuality in your relationship. (This is great practice if you’re single too!)
But first, I’ve got a confession. I’ll share to show you where I’ve been in hopes you will feel less alone.
If you’re like me, your nervous system is out of sorts. How could it not be? We’re all carrying around burdens of trauma in our nervous systems and bodies from the past. Maybe capital T trauma, maybe baby t trauma, it makes no difference. We all have traumas, and different capacities to deal with them.
Some people were born into certain circumstances that fostered a capability to handle adversity. Some people were not. Different levels of resilience for all, which means everyday things can be traumatic to some people.
So first things first—you need to RESPECT your trauma.
—> My husband comes in the door just now, and I read to him what I’ve written so far. He says to me:
“Love it babe. We all need to learn to cope with trauma in ways that move us forward. Throw out the idea that all coping mechanisms are bad! People get into self-help and adopt this attitude against coping, thinking it’s all bad. That’s bullshit. Much of our coping does not serve us, yet instead of pushing against it, we must evolve our coping toward something that starts to align with real transformation—then a complete breakthrough could be possible. If we are judging our coping and at the same time there’s all this pressure to be perfect and heal quickly through some wonky super approach, then there will be a constant feeling of defeat and stagnation.”
And then he walks out.
Mr. Neuroman—he’s got it easy, I’m thinking for a second. Growing up in picture-perfect Norway, in an amazing family, A+ resilience and self-reliance. Gold Medalist in self-regulation!
I’m freaking jealous sometimes. There, I said it.
Needless to say, this is me funning around with my own projections in the moment. My hubby’s got his own t’s to dance with. I really admire how he’s dealt with them and evolved and how he’s harnessed his gifts and talents to be able to guide others from hell to heaven in relationships—or from plateaus to new victories professionally—in his work.
I’ve had a harder time in my relationships because of my upbringing, but seeing myself as ‘behind’ doesn’t help and would just be un-nuanced and not true.
So yeah, respect your trauma.
That’s easy to say, I know. I went through quite a journey to get to that point.
Not too long ago…
I got lost in shame.
I was feeling deeply alone.
I entered my own dark night of the soul.
I’d had many nights lying on the bathroom floor, like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. Thinking about how in dirty toilet hell I had ended up here…
I was ashamed for letting myself fall so low.
For my biggest project not being a success.
For being so deep in financial debt.
For noticing my fertility and my sensuality spiraling down.
And for how I lashed out at the people I loved from that place of unacknowledged angst inside me.
I behaved poorly sometimes. In my worst moments I was manipulative, and angry and very needy. So out of alignment with my values, my message, my work…
And I was SO AFRAID this was who I really was.
What I realized is I was isolating myself. I wasn’t asking for help. Out of shame, I hid myself away from everyone except one person. My partner.
Well, I tried my damndest to push him away too. I tried to run away from his penetrating presence. I found myself in old familiar loops, like thinking he wasn’t being good to me.
I’ve acted out my Bad Man Drama (BMD) on a good man.
Meanwhile, there were unbelievable efforts of bravery and self-mastery from my man, who didn’t take my abuse, who practiced healthy boundaries, who took care of himself (even though it was hard).
He still loved me through the worst nights of my life—of fighting him, telling him about how HE was the reason I felt so terrible. He helped me see that I was not those snakes of darkness—that the traumatized, tormented part of my personality was not ME. Yes, the snakes would indeed rage, but then after, I would always return to truth inside myself.
This was when I realized I needed to REPAIR. My beloved’s nervous system was tired from fighting off the snakes, so I decided to harness my outrage at myself to change things and to repair the damage I’d done.
Repair is Sexy
We all fuck up. There’s no getting around it, even if you TRY REALLY HARD.
Trying hard not to make mistakes puts you in a pinched, too-small corner inside yourself. Like the street performer on Pearl Street in Boulder, who folds himself into a see-through cube. You can’t move, you can’t breathe, you can’t be anything but perfect. It’s a special hell, perfectionism. And it’s not sexy.
What is sexy though, is getting over my ideas of perfection, getting humble, admitting when I fuck up, and repairing.
A wise person once said, the one who defends starts the war.
There is a way to go through the cycle of defensiveness, then blame, then self-loathing with humor. To allow some self-irony about how silly it is—like joking about how I feel like I’m sitting in the principal’s office in 3rd grade. Sometimes humor is the best medicine. I can even ask, “Can you please rub my feet while I self-loathe? Can I do a conscious humor blame rant while you witness me?”
Sexy Steps Towards Repair
1. Validate the other’s feelings about an event—even if they don’t align with yours, make you look bad, or feel yucky.
Don’t make it about you! Listen, let it wash over you, let the other person be heard without interruption or defending. You really have to be slow to hear them correctly. Make sure you do by checking and sharing what you heard. If you value their experience, it will make them feel extremely safe, important, and seen.
EXAMPLE: “I heard you say… (your recollection of their exact words) – is that right? I really want to understand you.”
2. Don’t isolate, co-regulate!
Get your network of support active. Do not rely on your partner for this part. Yes, you can co-regulate your bodies in safe ways—like belly breathing together—but don’t go to them every time you feel unsafe inside. Take your snakes to a professional somatic therapist who will help you find the anti-venom. Call your girlfriends and ask for their presence, support, listening.
EXAMPLE: “My life is very surprising to me these days—often not the cozy kind, but I’m resourcing. That’s part of why I reached out. I need some sisters right now…”
P.S. This was an actual text I sent a friend 🙂
3. Do repair work.
Make a priority of making it up to your partner somehow, with humility. Perhaps you do foot rubs, or dedicated listening sessions, or love notes, or art creation, or being in service in some way that feels generous. Create a schedule and an intentional container together. By the end of this repair work, you will feel so much more in integrity, with less self-loathing, for how shitty you’ve been. And the trust levels in your relationship will be up 100%.
EXAMPLE: I recently set out to do daily repair with my man with touch—morning foot rubs and evening neck rubs. I said I would do it for the rest of our lives as maintenance, but also because I love to touch and pleasure him. Touch feels like a space I feel safe expressing in, which is important.
EXAMPLE: My man and I recently dove so deep into how we yearned to be more trustworthy adults with each other that we initiated a practice of 10-day repair challenges. He went first, got up at 5.30 a.m., sat in silence for an hour, then connected with me mostly through touch for an hour after. For 10 days! Damn, was that healing and transformative.
4. You do You!
Make sure you are doing the work of keeping your nervous system on track, refer to the helpful ideas in the last article I wrote. Do things you love to do and do things that are good for you. Don’t get lost in the narrative that you’re less-than because you fucked up. Also, don’t over-do repair 24/7—that is why the schedule and container is important.
EXAMPLE: I play with different focuses each week. This week, I am massaging my cervix in the shower every morning. It’s been crazy! So much release, I had a two-day backache that I couldn’t dance out, and this practice of pelvic floor release erased the pain. It’s also made me very in touch with my soft emotions, like joy, contentment, and ease. AND it positively sensitizes my pussy and cervix to touch, which brings the pleasure spectrum up a few notches.
Rekindling After the Bite
So snake bites happen, to everyone. We all lash out when feeling stressed, under pressure, overwhelmed, or frightened. The next part of the game—after acknowledging that repair needs to be done, and after doing the work itself—is rekindling the sensuality.
Those moments when you revert to your teenaged little girl and act out toward your lover, you make an imprint in the relationship. The more that part of you runs the show, or the more your partner has to “father” you, the greater chance that sexual chemistry between you diminishes.
So, we talked about how you can source yourself in the last article—make sure you do this work! Trying to be sexy is NOT SEXY. Your radiance and feminine erotic genius will come naturally when you are feeling vagal tone, safety, and love inside. This comes from discipline, dedication, and self-awareness.
Sometimes difficult conversations need to happen after repair. Spending time in vagal tone opens your capacity to be in the front brain, where you can access your radiant intellect and your cognition, which makes you available for these conversations. Even the hard ones can be had without a blow-out, eventually. This is like learning a new language, remember, so give yourself time to learn the cues from your body about what safety FEELS like inside. Only proceed when you feel safe.
Turn toward your inner sensualista and coax her forward. This may be scary if you’ve never lead the relationship in this way. Think about it like this, this is repair too. Re-imprinting the nervous system of the third entity of your relationship with this Queen energy will overwrite any unsavory programs because it is you—the real powerful you—coming through.
Anyway, the real Queen—the radiant, in her power, in her body, naturally sensual, confident WOMAN—is totally in all of us. Maybe you’ve never learned to let her play without shame. Well, how long will you wait? How long do you want to be stuffed in that box breathing your own failures (you thought I was going to say formidable feet, didn’t you!)
Here’s the BIG secret:
Sometimes we women need a good reason to let ourselves unleash. Similar to how we are the most nurturing presence on the planet, but we often neglect to nurture ourselves until we get sick. Well, same thing with allowing yourself radiance and sexuality—it is strangely easier when it’s for the sake of repairing our wrongs.
I’ve danced for my husband when I’m in repair mode, to show him, with my body, the healthy remorse I feel. And then, with the release of letting that be expressed, come tears. Once I ride that wave, the joy of movement that follows, the erotic energy that just flows… that can be channelled into seducing him, and taking your throne, so to speak.
It’s the most thrilling experience, to own one’s self that fully, from the inside out. Letting myself be wrong—really feeling it—is much sexier than being right.