Many women who enter a bodywork or therapy space have reached a point where they have burned themselves out and have a big masculine shielding. They have been achievers and doers their whole life, and have adapted a core belief of “I can manage on my own”. When a woman like that enters a session space, they usually come with a deep feminine longing to connect with pleasure in their body - whereas it is often something they have not been able to tap into in their life.
This article seeks to examine where such pattern stems from, and what to be aware of as a trauma-informed bodyworker to support such a client during the session in the best way possible. The article also examines what is important for the client after the session during her integration process.
It is not rare for a woman to live most of her life in her masculine energy, only operating in her doing-performing mode, and having difficulties moving into a more soft and feminine way of being. It is also often challenging to simply live in a greater balance between doing and being - in harmony with the masculine and feminine energies that reside within each of us. This is a problem that can both
be seen on a collective macro level, as well as on a personal micro level.
Macro-level representation of this dynamic:
We live in a society that is built on a masculine, patriarchal foundation, where we are rewarded for doing instead of being. We are focused on results, actions, competition, logic and performance. These values are so imprinted in the structures of the society, that many don’t even realize it being different.
We are starting to see that many - both men and women, cannot handle the stress and pressure this way of living creates. It is a big reason why more and more people suffer from stress, depression, chronic illness and autoimmune disease. We are simply not built to only be in our masculine doing energy all the time.
Especially women are not built to only be doing. Over time this will create imbalances in a woman's body, where numbness and lack of feeling pleasure is just the tip of the iceberg.
Micro-level representation of this dynamic:
When a wom
an is living mostly from her masculine doing energy, it is rooted in trauma that has resulted in a deep wiring in her nervous system. This conditioning most likely stems from her childhood and is caused by a lack of a mature masculine energy (father figure) providing her with the feeling of deep safety, protection and the knowing that someone “has my back”. It can also, and often parallely stem from a lack of a mature feminine energy (mother figure) providing her with a feeling of being unconditionally loved.
Not feeling unconditionally safe and loved as a child can make one's body armor up and become numb as a way of protecting itself. It is a survival mechanism that is actually protecting the child from being abandoned and dying. When growing up, that armor and numbness can prevent these people from feeling pleasure, life force and their true beautiful self. In the long run these wirings can create serious mental or physical illnesses in one’s being.
The lack of safety (dad) can result in an over-controlling behavior and a lack of trust in oneself and one’s surroundings i.e., “I have to control everything, so that i'm not being abandoned, because I cannot trust that I am safe”.
The lack of unconditional love (mom) can result in an over-doing behavior i.e., “I have to do, achieve and perform in order to be deserving of love”.
A client such as the one this article explores, has most likely only been acknowledged by her parents when she did something, instead of being shown love simply for being her. She has learnt that in order to feel safe and loved, she has to perform, do something, and control herself and her behavior. This has made her lose connection with her body and sacred femininity, and made her live only from her head. That is one of the most common reasons a client like that feels numb and has difficulties feeling pleasure.
Practical Guide on How to Best Support This Type of Client in a Session.
It is most likely that this is a deep programming of her nervous system. She has probably lived most of her life i
n the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight or freeze - survival strategy). Therefore in a session with her it is highly important to create as much safety as possible for her to relax, let go and surrender.
The number one priority is to her come into the parasympathetic part of her nervous system (rest and digest). This is also known as the ventral vagal state and is the state of safety, grounding, joy, and relaxation. It is also the state of social engagement, where we feel connected to ourselves and to the world. This remains the number one priority, even if the whole session is needed to achieve that.
For a woman who has lived most of life in fight, flight or freeze mode, it can feel really unsafe to actually move into the
rest and digest part of the nervous system. Therefore as a trauma-aware practitioner, aim to create a nest for her, making sure she is breathing deeply, talking to her along the way and making sure she stays present. Also having eye contact is deeply recommended, to really let her know that you are there and staying with her.
It is recommended to concentrate a lot on different techniques that would help her land in her body, and make her relax. An idea could be to do some soft, slow tantric touch to start awakening her body and open up her senses. Other times it can be more helpful to do more firm grounding and firm touch on her, to let her body know that you are fully there and that it's safe for her to surrender.
It is also important to have a
good long talk before starting the session. This provides a chance to let her know that the session will only happen in the tempo of her body, and that she is fully free and safe to express any boundaries or desires along the way. It will be important to go really slow to really give her an imprint of the feminine.
Integration After the Session
In the integration it will be important to let her know that you are there in case anything comes up which she needs to talk about, or she simply longs to feel held and safe.
You would ideally suggest her different daily practices that would help her move from the sympathetic nervo
us system to the parasympathetic nervous system. One of these practices could be her laying with legs up against the wall, deep belly breathing through the nose with longer exhales than inhales. You could also recommend a self pleasure/self massage practice, where she investigates her own body and pleasure, and creates a space to practice slowness and softness, starting to let go of the mind and connect deeper with her breath and her body.
When we have been disconnected from our bodies and have lived most of our lives from the head, it can be overwhelming and sometimes triggering to start feeling the body. It is therefore a good idea to advise this client to go really slow, to have patience and to really treat herself with self love and compassion. Almost as if it was a child having to learn something completely new.
In general, you should aim for guiding her towards having time for herself everyday, where she slows down and listens to her body; to turn down the voice of her inner doer and to cultivate and make more space for her inner be-er and feminine nature.