The Feel Institute

relating

  • Supporting healthy male practitioners working with sexuality

    Trigger warning:

    This article deals with challenging content around non-consensual sexual behaviour involving men and will be uncomfortable for many people to read. Please check in with yourself and consider whether you want to continue…

    Healthy or unhealthy? Stop or go?

    Trigger warning. Please stop and check-in before continuing…

    Working with men

    I have a burning desire to work with men. It has always been there and each day it gets stronger and stronger.

    In this patriarchal society, I recognise the challenge to be an open, ethical, aware, vulnerable and honest man today, let alone be a man who wants to work with sexuality.

    One by one some of the men we knew, or at least suspected, were using their power to torment, manipulate, and in some cases abuse people, often women, were being called out.

    Publicly denounced in an article as having raped or committed another form of non-consensual sexual touch is what is expected when the word is out.

    And then what?

    What happens then?

    Without a criminal case, they seem to disappear.

    Men working with sexuality: angry, ready to fight and pushing away.

    Angry, ready to fight and pushing away

    Without hard facts, a judge or jury, no-one knows the truth. Speculation on past abuses becomes a talking point. People keep quiet, people defend their position, people are left hurting, fearful, and isolated.

    I rarely see those who have worked with the named abuser make statements on how they will no longer be associated with, nor work with the abuser again. I get that it is tricky without a judicial ruling. There comes a point where there must be sufficient noise to say a pause is needed. Some time out to investigate is warranted before we move forward.

    Those that have made statements, thank you. It matters.

    Silence erodes trust

    The problem is when any brand, organisation, or community who have worked with a perceived abuser says nothing, there is a credibility issue in my mind. How do I trust you when you have been their advocate and then go silent? That silence makes me feel uneasy. Over time that silence erodes my trust.

    There is a school of thought for some men wanting to work in this field of connection, intimacy, and sexuality that they will wait until the storm passes. They will put their profession aside for a period and hope that everything calms down. They can try again when there is less fear of being targeted.

    I am almost certain that this strategy won’t work. We need healthy, skilled, ethical male practitioners in the world of sexuality now. There are going to be more and more people who have been put up on a pedestal by many, that will be unveiled by some brave souls as being perpetrators. On some level, we know this, don’t we?

    I understand why men are staying out of the spotlight

    There are huge barriers to male practitioners continuing to work in sexuality, let alone those wanting to enter the community as practitioners for the first time.

    There are people out there who have been hurt by men and are fearful of men as a result. They want someone to pay for what has happened. Many men believe they are good, healthy, and ethical. Hannah Gatsby did a brilliant short speech about this which you can watch here.

    I know that there are men who have done some awful things. I do not expect all men to apologise on behalf of all men. I wish they would acknowledge that many other men have behaved in an unacceptable way and as a man you represent those people as well as yourself.

    Being observed

    Tape measure wrapped around a hand used to symbolise being scrutinised by men working with sexuality.

    Being sized up and scrutinised

    All practitioners, consciously or unconsciously, are being sized up by others in the community. I wonder how many people would be comfortable asking some direct questions to any practitioner about their ethics, boundaries, and consent? Are people more fearful of the answer or asking the question in the first place?

    I want to be clear here that I am not in any way saying that this is only a male practitioner abuse problem.

    This is about people. People who are offering services, running events and creating workshops. People who may have good intentions and lack the necessary awareness, ethics, support, education and motives for working in this delicate field of intimacy.

    High alert

    I know that some male practitioners are collaborating with women to run workshops and events to feel safer. It feels less risky. I also know men who are changing their offering to work with couples, again to not have to be alone with women or being the sole person in charge. They are on high alert. They are also unsupported in this largely unregulated industry.

    Regardless of what we do as practitioners, there is always a power dynamic at play when we are holding space. It is part of the role. Being clear on the boundaries and creating a healthy ethical container for that dynamic is an ongoing practice. I’ve witnessed first-hand and heard countless stories of messy boundaries, poorly held containers, and an urgent approach to sexual touch with little time for the brains, bodies and nervous systems of all involved to feel safe, seen and respected.

    Making mistakes

    Person walking on a yellow line in the road used to symbolise being on the line about men working with sexuality.

    On the line and not over it

    As humans, we will make mistakes. To say we will never get it wrong or cross a line is naive. This attitude and mindset sets us all up to fail. We need to understand and be trained in how to recover from an accidental human error which can support both the client and the practitioner. There are occasions where boundaries get crossed by mistake. Finding ways all parties can be empowered and grow from the experience is essential.

     

    I would like to see support networks for healthy ethical practitioners and neutral spaces for practitioners to voice fears and doubts. That includes tailored support networks for healthy male presenting practitioners.

    Recognition of abuse by men in this field is needed

    The slate can’t simply be wiped clean. There is an ancestral gender debt.

    That needs to be acknowledged and followed up with direct action to be better, to know more and to do the increased awareness work. Otherwise, those impacted by the abuse are soaking up the pain yet again for those wanting to learn about the misuse of power and privilege.

    Taking responsibility

    More men need to take responsibility for increasing their awareness. This means working on themselves, owning their part of this situation and not waiting for others to come to their rescue. There is an inherent irrevocable entitlement and privilege that most men are born within our society.

    Far too often at sexuality and intimacy type events, I see men waiting and expecting to be paired with a female. They don’t even consider that they could take the opportunity to work with each other.

    We can’t turn our backs and say it is not our problem either.

    For those able and willing, for those who feel safe enough, there must be a collaborative effort. There needs to be a way for men who want to offer high-quality work and are committed to continual professional development to have help. Support is needed to increase their awareness of the impact the past is having on the present.

     

    Working together

    Part of the reason I want to be involved with men’s groups is that having men-only groups can only go so far. If men are working with clients and workshop participants who are not men, surely, they need to have representation and perspective from those parts of the community. Only then can they gain knowledge and awareness of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a power dynamic with a male practitioner.

    I was in a small working group of men talking about the subject of supporting men who want to work in sexuality. As the only person presenting as a woman in this group, I asked if they recognised that a significant majority of women would be uncomfortable and potentially avoid talking about this subject with a group of men the way I was. They all acknowledged that there was some awareness of it in the background. By simply saying it out loud brought it to a front and centre awareness again.

    Collective awareness

    What collective awareness could be harvested from working groups including women, LGBTQ, non-binary, gender fluid, with a range of ethnic and generational backgrounds on this topic?

    Imagine what we could all learn if we stepped into this highly emotive and deeply uncomfortable area with a mindset of broadening our awareness and hearing each other?

    We are healers on the edge

    How do we safeguard our clients and ourselves to ensure we are not the next scandal 3 or 4 years down the line? Can we adapt to recognise what is on its way so we are not the next example of abuse? Can we call out other practitioners on their shadow behaviour?

    Having a diverse group to gain an educational understanding of trauma with continued professional development, confidential sharing, a space to own what has happened, to be vulnerable in and, most importantly, comfortable in the uncomfortable could make a significant difference.

    It would also help combat the loneliness of being in this profession. The loneliness that men often feel. The isolation of working with sexuality and trying to get it right. I feel that too.

    Personal fear and anxiety

    I am also aware that I have had this article circling in my head for months and months. There is a resistance to putting it out. I finally got it written over a week ago and here I am reading it again.

    Have I said enough? Have I said too much? Does anyone even care?

    There is a part of me that has been scared to even write this down never mind have it published. Fear of the backlash. It is a challenging subject and I want to see quality practitioners covering the whole spectrum of being human, and that includes men.

    If you want to help support ethical healthy male practitioners or are a male practitioner wanting this kind of support and supervision, please contact me and let’s start talking.

  • Pleasure based Sex Education for children AND adults please!

    It is arguably well-known that Sex Education in schools is, overall, inadequate. Part of that is the absence of pleasure.

    Both despite this and because of it, there is an enormous amount of shame, stigma, fear and judgment for most people around the subject of sex and pleasure.

    When I think back to my childhood, I cannot recall any sex education in primary school. The sex education in schools back then was strictly for secondary school and was exclusively focused on reproduction.

    I never heard the word pleasure uttered once.

    Many people agree that our desire to connect is what makes us thrive. It is what makes us happy. In contrast, pleasure-based sex education seems less worthy, less important than sex education around making babies.

    In my sex education classes, I recall nothing being said about gender identity or status, sexuality, attraction or the different relationship styles.

    LGBT was not an acronym I even knew back then, let alone GSRD (Gender, Sex and Relationship Diversity).

    As for masturbation, it was certainly discouraged and usually one for the boys. The pleasure aspect was implied and gendered.

    The unspoken message I received and continue to receive to this day is that the things I think about, and the things I want to know more about and do are wrong. My pleasure was undervalued and secondary at best.

    For many, the sex education they receive is via conversations and experiences with others and watching porn.

    It seems very much like the uninformed informing the uninformed, or maybe it is the unempowered passing on what they knew. As for porn, it is often lacking real-life information, intimacy, verbal consent, boundaries or healthy role-models.

    Generations of stigma and loneliness

    This lack of sex education in schools means we have generation upon generation who are learning the hard way if at all. Many of my clients are adults in the forties, fifties and beyond, who are wanting to discover their sexual selves before it is too late.

    The majority of adults do not, or cannot, talk to their friends, families or partners about sex. It certainly isn’t talked about healthily in any religious capacity I have seen and I am yet to see any work lunch and learns relating to sex. Have you?

    I know that we must talk about this more openly and engage each other in conversation. By doing this we can counteract the loneliness and the lack of intimacy and connection prevailing our society.

    Sex Education Role Models

    As adults, those of us who want to work in this area are often targeting for gossip. We are deemed as living ‘alternative lifestyles’. We are shamed for wanting to talk openly about the secret stuff and regarded as less than. It goes with the territory.

    I struggle to think of any mainstream role model who is openly talking about sex and is celebrated and championed for it. Can you?

    Do you remember how in the 80s or 90s of tales of Sting, the lead singer of The Police was known for his tantric sex moves? The tirade of jokes and newspaper stories that followed that reveal was mocking, shaming and made the common man look like a joke too.

    Part of my work as a sex educator is to unpick the stories and experiences from school and beyond. To nurture the parts that have been hidden due to shame, stigma, judgement, bullying and abuse.

    Empowerment comes from understanding our bodies and allowing our sexuality to be seen and expressed in a consensual way.

    Sex Education Resources

    For adults who want to learn about their bodies, there is a fear of having to get naked. You do not have to get naked anywhere other than the comfort of your own home. Can we learn about our bodies without the need to be touched by anyone? Yes! Similarly, we can be naked and if there is a desire for touch we can ask for it. It can be done consensual, ethical and honouring.

    Anatomically correct vulva cushions, soft cocks, photos and books used for sex education.

    Anatomically correct vulva cushions, soft cocks, photos and books are the new resources available

    I use anatomically correct vulva cushions and soft cocks to encourage engagement. Can we explore these parts of our bodies in a fun and interactive way?

    I can show images of bodies, including genitals, to re-frame the images we have about what is acceptable.

    Through embodied coaching, I encourage movement, breath and self-touch to soothe, stimulate, nourish and excite.

    Sometimes I wish I could take a photo of the people I work with before a session and after a session. The relief is palpable, and their bodies and faces are visibly different. More open, more relaxed, more seen.

    Sex Education in Schools

    Progress is being made in schools. On 5th April 2019, the government published a news article introducing compulsory Relationships Education for primary pupils and Relationship and Sex Education for secondary pupils. You can read more about it here.

    The target dates to start this new approach are September 2019 for early adopters and September 2020 for the remaining schools.

    I wonder who will be training the teachers. Will they be bringing their legacy of misinformation and their lack of sex education with them to the classrooms?

    How can I help you?

    Do you, your partner, your friends, your work colleagues, your community, dare I say it, your family, want to know more about real sex education?

    I am based in Central London and offering in-person and video conference sessions and programmes for individuals, partnerships and groups. You can find out more about these sessions here.

    Programmes include Sex Ed on Tour, which is a clothes-on experience, open to all genders, all sexualities and all identities. I can come to your location whether it be an office, public venue or home, suitcase in hand, packed full of materials to give a playful, information and personalised experience.

    Finally, My question to Corporate colleagues:

    Will you be the first to bring Lunch & Learn Sex Education sessions to your business?

    What would it be like to know you have made a difference to the people you work with? Could you empower the people who work for you in a way that helps them be happier in themselves and their personal lives?

    Something to ponder…

  • Is masturbation a part of your self care?

    I don’t know about you, but nobody ever spoke to me, in a healthy way about masturbation. Come to think of it, nobody really told me about touching any part of my body in a caring or loving way.

    In a world where having a self care ritual is core to being a healthy human, I wonder, how many of those rituals involve masturbation, touching your body, or self pleasure?

    Masturbation remains heavily stigmatised. If you are having sex with another, or others, then you must be doing something right, right? But, having sex with yourself. Touching your own body for pleasure! No, no, no, or at least, keep it to yourself. Shhhh!

    Why? Is it a problem with the word? I think it could be.

    What is masturbation?

    The definition of masturbation is, ‘stimulation of the genitals with the hand for sexual pleasure’.

    Masturbation is, inherently, goal orientated. Often, it is so we can have an orgasm, and once we’ve got it, we stop. Job done. Worse still, it might not be as big as we wanted, or maybe we couldn’t get to an orgasm. What a failure! So much shame and judgement. No wonder so many of us don’t talk about it.

    Could it be different?

    What if, we took away the need for success or failure to be orgasm related, and instead, change the emphasis, so that the stimulation was of the body, including the genitals. An invitation to explore our amazing bodies, rediscover the sensations, unlock the emotions, and be a lover to ourselves.

    What if we added some mindfulness to it with some intention setting? ‘I want to touch my body with the tips of my fingertips and feel as much as I can’, ‘I want to give myself the most sensuous shower, and enjoy the feeling of water running over my body’, ‘I want to notice the difference between excitement and enjoyment’.

    The best bit about the mindfulness part is, that this is your body, your time and your exploration. You can pick the intention you want and the only person you need to please is yourself.

    What if we scheduled it in, like we would a massage, or a haircut, or a therapy session? What if we carried on for the full scheduled session, no matter what happened?

    I have been coaching people on this for the last few months and this part, this is the ‘oddest’ part for most. What do you mean schedule it in? Well, why not? Seriously, why not?

    As well as all this, we have to start talking about self pleasure. We have to reduce the shame, the judgement, the secrecy. The body shaming can’t win if there is body loving!

    Masturbation education in schools?

    There is a push going on in the UK around the schooling system and sex education. I welcome this. I had nobody to talk to about masturbation at school. It wasn’t even mentioned, well apart from as an insult, ‘so and so is a wanker’. Even that, there, is adding to the taboo. It is something that ‘bad’ kids do. My ‘masturbation’ was something I kind of did, not really having a clue, in a very quiet, small way, not really sure of what was happening or why.

    I didn’t know what an orgasm was, that happened by mistake, many years later, with my boyfriend, whilst having sex. Even then I couldn’t share the excitement as I had been faking them until then. My friends told me it was what we did. It is funny now, and also such a waste.

    As an adult, not that much has changed. It is still something many refuse to admit to doing, and often something perceived as not needed when we are in relationship.

    Why masturbation is important

    When it comes to relating to others in a sexual way, we typically need to know what we like. Through self touch, we can discover the parts of our body that yearn to be touched, the parts that feel so good and so naughty, the parts that make us shrill with delight, as well as the parts that make us feel sad, upset and anxious.

    As wonderful as it can be to have sexual, sensual and erotic partners, we are sexual beings in our own right. We can tantalise and tease ourselves. We can soothe and stimulate our bodies. It also means that we are less reliant on others for touch. We can enjoy the connection for the sake of the connection rather than a desperate need for intimacy.

    Be your own lover.

    Make self pleasure a part of your self care.

    Tell someone something new you discovered about your body.

    Go on, I dare you.

  • One for sorrow. Is single bad?

    Single = bad

    For as long as I can remember, I knew that seeing a single, solidarity magpie was bad luck.

    As a child, the nursery rhyme was both superstition and fact. I believed it to be true, and why wouldn’t I?

    For those not familiar it goes like this:

    One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy…..

    I didn’t understand the three or four, nor the 5 or more magpies, but that one for sorrow stuck. It was bad and undesirable. For the next 40 years, whenever I saw a single magpie I nervously, anxiously, scanned for another to break the curse of sorrow. If I didn’t I was fear that something bad might happen.

    Lived experience of being single

    A couple of years ago, my quest was to further understand the words we use, what they mean, and generally how to communicate better. I realised how divisive a request for the alone time could be. When I wanted to spend some time by myself and voiced this to others, all too often it seemed to land as not wanting to be with them, rather than me wanting to have some alone time with me.

    I changed the, ‘I want to spend some time alone’ to ‘I need Sue solo time’. The difference was huge. It turned out a whole new dialogue was available around the importance of spending time with yourself and this vital act of self-care.

    The magpie connection

    What the fuck has this got to do with magpies?

    Well, earlier this year, I’m heading out from home on a beautiful late morning and I spot a solo magpie. For the first time, I asked myself why is this not ok?

    If me being solo was an essential part of living a healthy life, why was it not ok for a magpie to be solo?

    When I am wandering around doing my solo thing, 99% of the time, I am not sad.

    There is no sorrow.

    There is integration, relaxation, enjoying, being nosy, people watching, following impulses. The list goes on.

    Single = precious

    I realised, that seeing a solo magpie might be this precious, dying earths way of saying, ‘Sue, keep doing what you are doing’. Sometimes it’s, ‘Sue, how about some solo time to get back in touch with yourself?’. Over the next day or so, every time I saw a solo magpie, I smiled and felt a wave of connection with it and myself.

    A couple of days later, a pair of magpies arrived on the roof of the building directly opposite my living room window. I’ve lived in this home for 11 years. They’ve been based around that roof every since.

    Acceptance

    I couldn’t help but think that acceptance and awareness of the beauty, and necessity, of our solo time, allows us to be in healthy connection with others.

    I wonder what impact, that myth of one being for sorrow, has had on me and others brought up with this way of thinking.

    I also noticed that the version of the rhyme that predates ‘three for a girl, and four for a boy’, was ‘three for a funeral, four for a birth’. I will save my thoughts on that for another article…to be continued.

  • Harvesting the gifts of pain

    5Rhythms – an ongoing practice

    He did it again, except this time it was deeper and longer.

    I’m talking about Richard Wiltshire, a 5Rhythms movement meditation teacher based in London. This weekend, he led ‘A Deeper Acceptance: creating healing through movement’. A sister to the workshop where I found the words to write permission and pain

    Embodiment is challenging at the best of times. Those who experience chronic pain are often trapped in a no win situation.

    A Deeper Acceptance employs the 5Rhythms wave to heal, by being true with what is actually happening, rather than the fabricated, tortuous, pushing through and putting on the brave mask affair so many of us adopt.

    5Rhythms – shadow work

    Flowing was the inertia. The resistance. ‘Can’t get off the floor’. ‘Won’t get off the floor’. Sloth and petulance in equal measure.

    Staccato was tight fists, head to the carpet, silent screams, clenching every muscle to contain the rage. The ‘I can’t even get onto my feet’ dance.

    And then there was Chaos. The overwhelming, engulfing, massiveness of the sheer volume of crap we are trying to take on. The, ‘too many things to do’, ‘can’t stop’, ‘can’t start’, ‘can’t get out of my head’, and there, there, over there, back, forward, darting everywhere and getting nowhere. The ‘whirling dervish’ dance.

    Overwhelm

    I had never danced my overwhelm. I know this head space so well. Once I started moving, I wondered if I would ever stop. The tears inevitably came. There was that all too familiar urge to pull myself together. My body had waited too long for this moment and kept the momentum, discarding my mask, face wet and red. And then it slowed, the body had expressed itself. It was cathartic.

    The rest of the wave was one of liberation. A lightness. The realisation that this practice is still accessible to me. This is the elusive alchemy we strive for.

    Gratitude

    After our stillness and integration, we got into 3’s and spoke of our gratitudes. What the pain, the illness, has gifted us. 4 minutes of uninterrupted stream of consciousness with ears and attention on you. It is surprising what comes up.

    I am much more creative

    When you can’t stand on your feet for long you find alternatives. I have a brilliant scooter now, which I zoom around on. In dance spaces, I am a diva on the floor and a chair. I find different ways to get what I want and need.

    I give less unsolicited advice

    There isn’t much worse than well meaning people offering a variety of suggestions and fixes for the ‘problem’ you shared. I have learnt to say less, mean more, and try really bloody hard to only give advice when I’ve been asked to. I also don’t change the subject. This is important!

    I see duality everywhere

    I am physically strong and can wrestle most people to the ground, yet the weight of that bag I’m carrying magically bears down on the exact point in my foot that hurts the most, and every single gram feels like a kilo. I am strong and I am fragile. It’s not just me. When I see someone using inappropriate words to chat someone up, I also see someone wanting connection. When I see someone pushing themselves to burnout, I also see someone wanting appreciation and acceptance.

    I am aware of the invisible

    Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. The vast majority of chronic conditions are invisible. Often the only clues are props like walking sticks, hearing aids and wheelchairs. I rarely assume that the people around me are healthy and trouble free.

    I am learning to speak my truth

    I kept quiet for a very long time about anything I thought might rock the boat, or upset the apple cart. I didn’t want to be needy. I was a people pleaser. I learnt the hard way how vital it is to express with mouth words. Despite what most people think, we are not mind readers. Plus, when you identify yourself, your tribe can find you and quite often the ones that don’t get you, drift away, or, ironically, accept you as you.

    It’s not ok

    Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not a fan of the permanently happy, smiley, fake, woo woo, all peace and love stuff. Show me the darkness, the grit, the struggles and the matters of the heart.

    The not pretending everything is ok, when it is not, helps me see you. With that recognition, we can thrive, and that’s the point. When we can be seen in our mud pit, get the chance to roll about it in like happy pigs, and still look you in the eye without shame and judgement, we can cope so much better.

    Then, and only then, can we appreciate what else it has given us.

    There is always something to be harvested from the pain.

  • Are you a good friend?

    I have been thinking about friendship, what it means to be a good friend and whether I am, in fact, a good friend.

    When I looked up the definition in the Oxford Dictionary it confirmed that friend is a noun and “A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.”

    Hmmmm. This seems more about what it is not, rather than what it is.

    I turned to the Urban Dictionary….’people who are aware of how stupid you are and still manage to be seen in public with you

    YES!

    ‘…people who make you laugh until you pee your pants’

    ‘…people who cry when special items are lost’

    ‘…people who buy you a cup of tea when you are skint’

    Yes, yes, yes. These speak to me much more.

    When I think about those special friendships, both past and present, those defining memorable moments, there are 3 qualities that jump out.

    1. They don’t always agree with you

    I am smiling typing this, recalling the moments where my sincere, heart felt words were met with ‘What? Are you mad? What the hell did you do that for?’

    My tribe question me when they don’t get what I am saying or think I am heading down a crazy path. Knowing that they will do this from a place of love is one of the best gifts a friend can give. It crystallises my desire or helps me realise when it’s not quite right.

    Either way, I am grateful and this “not agreeing with me lark” must not be confused with the curse of the dream killers.

    We’ve all met them.

    You excitedly tell your ‘friend’ that you are going to fulfil your lifelong ambition to travel the world. You’ve worked out when, you have the money, it’s going to be amazing and their first response is ‘you’ll never get a job when you get back’

    Boom! Dream killed.

    It’s rarely about you, almost always about them and staying small in packs is their favourite place to be.

    2. They aren’t competitive

    I notice, in myself, when I am comparing myself to others. It rarely feels good.

    Admitting that after sitting on the sofa for the best part of 3 weeks eating pizza, chocolate and vodka, and with glee reporting that you managed 30 minutes on your indoor bike should never be met with ‘Well, I cycled the Pyrenes last week and didn’t train at all.’

    Extreme example, but you get my drift.

    Please don’t. Stop now.

    There is a subtle, yet massive, difference between being competitive and being inspiring. A certain dear friend of mine quite casually mentioned that she’d written a play. I was in awe. Wow! I wondered, maybe I could write that blog I always thought about and didn’t start. (Judith, this is your fault.)

    It reminds me of a Tim Ferriss quote. ‘You are the average of the 5 people you most associate with

    You are the average of the 5 people you most associate with.

    Simple and thought provoking isn’t it?

    They shape who you are. They can raise, or reduce, your game.

    Bring on the inspirational straight talking friends. Let’s share the love.

    I saved the 3rd one to the end as it has the most charge for me and is, so often handled badly.

    3. Someone I can truly share my shameful and embarrassing moments with

    When someone has the courage, the guts, to use mouth words to describe and recall the thing that makes them screw up their eyes in discomfort and shame, a good friend doesn’t say ‘I am sure it wasn’t that bad’ or ‘It’s fine. You are overreacting’.

    Good friends feel your pain and say ‘Oh shit! You did not!’

    ‘Noooooo! Tell me it didn’t!’

    ‘Oh man, I’ve so been there. Ouch. That sucks’.

    They hear, and they witness, and they share the discomfort. And then they make you a cup of tea. Or get prosecco.

    When we downplay those moments, we isolate and loosen the connection. We miss the opportunity to bond.

    When we open ourselves up in our vulnerability and are heard, we create a sense of shared understanding and unlock the way to deeper awareness and togetherness. It’s a beautiful thing.

    There are many more amazing qualities in our friendships and connections, however, these 3 stand out for me.

    I try and do these for my friends as much as I can and ultimately, I can’t help thinking about that quote.

    Essentially, we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Remembering, of course, that one of those people is you…..

  • Chronic Pain – My Dirty Secret

    pain – a Dirty secret

    I have been a secret chronic pain sufferer for over 2 decades. This is a post I made on Sunday 11th February 2018 on Facebook. It was at the tail end of another brutal winter of pain….this declaration was a game-changer…

    I have a secret.

    A dark dirty secret that I simply cannot contain anymore.

    The thought of putting a declaration on Fakebook about it jars with me.

    pain and Judgement

    I judge people who put ‘notices’ on here.

    Who do they think they are?

    Why do you need to share this?

    What is wrong with you?

    Don’t you have any ‘real’ friends you can talk to?

    Have some self-respect.

    Contain it saddo.

    Changing the subject

    See. I am doing what I always do. Distracting you (me) from the real truth.

    I show you my courage and bravery. My vulnerability. My discovery.

    What you don’t see is that I am hiding something.

    The mistress of illusion.

    I don’t even tell myself the truth so how can I possibly tell you.

    I just did it again.

    Did you notice?

    I don’t know how to say it.

    FUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKKK!

    Trying again

    I have a secret.

    A dark dirty secret that I simply cannot contain anymore.

    The tears, rage and despair and leaking from my body.

    For 2 decades I have been in pain. Physical, excruciating pain.

    It’s my feet.

    I’m trying to make this sound pretty and whimsical.

    Fuck it

    Pain

    I can contain it in bullet points. Let’s do bullet points:

    • ‘Moderately severe osteoarthritis’ is the large toe joints of both feet
    • Haven’t been able to move my big toes for years
    • I wake up from the pain (mainly in the winter)
    • The undercurrent of pain makes me edgy and bitter sometimes
    • I can’t get to sleep because of the pain (often in the winter)
    • Sometimes the pain is so bad that any non-soft touch on the rest of my body feels like an attack
    • On the really bad days, it feels like a sharp, hot tip of a kitchen knife is burrowing into the middle of my big toe joint
    • My arches scream to be released
    • The spasms up my toe to the nail gnarls at my nerves
    • My calf muscles are really tight. Ask to feel them. I might let you.
    • Sometimes, there are moments when I don’t feel it
    • Sometimes I want to cut my toes off (yes I know, I know)
    • Maybe, you can ask me more when you are drawn to

    Now what?

    Why am I writing all this down? Good question.

    Many of you know me from dancing.

    I bring it. I bring energy.

    The pounding. The fierceness, all that.

    Can’t let the side down.

    Can’t admit it hurts even when I am in agony.

    Why?

    It’s exhausting. Or maybe I am exhausted?

    I’ve exhausted my container that’s for sure.

    I am boring myself with this. That’s how unattached I am to my feelings about this thing that I don’t want to be true.

    I’m telling you all this, in the most ungraceful of ways so you will be mirrors, reminders, confidantes, advocates, allies, soldiers, catalysts, teachers and so much more.

    Most of all, I AM SICK OF THIS CRIPPLING PAIN BEING THE CLOSEST THING TO ME!

    Support

    My dirty secret is out with the help of some patient, challenging and loving people. Rob LondonStainsby, Judith Antell, Carrie Gow, Nikki Ashley, Anthony de Sigley, Sam Wells to name but a few. You know who you are.

    I am not sure what is supposed to happen now and I am a bit scared, embarrassed, hopeful and angry.

    On the one hand, I don’t want you to treat me differently.

    On the other, I do want you to treat me differently.

    There’s that rub again.

    There are a lot more tears to come.

    Sometimes I don’t know I need to slow down. Often I don’t know how much pain I am actually in. Sometimes I need to lie down. Others I need a chair. Sometimes I really need to dance through it, over it and under it.

    a request

    I want to keep dancing. I just started! Can the amazing space holders, guides, mentors and students continue or start to have a couple of chairs available on the dance floor in the movement practices?

    I’m naming Sue Rickards, Nikki Ashley, Ruth Hirst, Christian de Sousa, Bodhi Nick Hunt, Liz Baron Cohen, Sarah Davies, Killian Strong, Becca Parkinson, Jane Belshaw, Alex Svoboda. Please consider it.

    It means we can participate.

    Some of you do this already. Some of you know this.

    It means we can belong. I want to belong. To just need to get off my feet sometimes. I would dearly like to be on the same/similar level to my fellow movers.

    Maybe the truth can heal after all.