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CosenZ Consent

Collaboratively creating a Co-Consent Culture of Safe Abundant Loving Touch

Vol. 1 : Foundational Nourishing Container for the SomasenZ Razma Movement Method of Dance Massage Bodywork

By : Alexa x Razma

CosenZing combines cultivation of precise perception of personal perspectives/preferences’ confident communication through empathetic expression; and amplifying awareness of attunement with All to co-create a culture of constant collaborative cosensing cosent – making safe somatically nourishing loving touch accessible and abundant.


The purpose of this book

This is the book that I wish I had read before I became a teenager, as I believe learning and practicing these skills would have allowed me to avoid losing my virginity to rape.

The responsibility and duty to share my knowledge and circumvent the violation and self-blame that I lived through was the fierce fire that catalyzed the creation of this work. Living through this experience, embarking on an all-consuming healing journey and coming out the other side made me a more compassionate and perceptive person. I hope that you can harvest harmony from the hardships and hard-won knowledge of my journey. This tome is a written wish that all physical interactions are enthusiastically consented to so that we can co-create an abundant world of pleasure as prayer together.

This series of books is a roadmap – taking readers from feeling disembodied and disconnected to emerging as an in-tune body genius. At the culmination of this course graduates with a Soma Diploma will be proficient in not only the Razma Movement Method, but also informed by the diverse physical palate of the evolving edge of therapeutic touch - Radical Bodywork.

In Volume One I lay down the foundational structures to creating the trust and safety needed to form deep intimacy. This education is two pronged : firstly to delve deeply into the inner world - building self-knowledge and the confidence to convey this clearly externally and secondly to train body language literacy so that we can read the signals of our playmates. When this holistic proactive education system is put fully into practice it acts as both predator-prevention (through training attunement to other) and moves potential victims from inhibition through exhibition and confidence in clearly expressing emotion. Through work on both sides of the predatory/prey dichotomy, we rewrite the antiquated *dis-responsible cultural narrative so that all parties can be sure that a wholehearted state of agreement called co-consent is constantly being created. Co- consent is shorthand for continuous collaborative co-creative connected compassionate communicative community-cradled consent. I fully believe that most people do not want to have predatory energy, but are culturally conditioned to believe that predatory scripts of behavior are the only way that they can get their needs met. Providing signposts to educate others in body language and wrting a replicable blueprint for creating a plethora of places to get platonic physical contact needs met will solve issues of violence stemming from touch isolation and promote peace on our planet.

Through first deepening our relationship to inner self-knowledge we then apply this honed sense to expansion – including what had previously been labelled as ‘other’ within our awareness of self. It is my dream that we expand our attention to include not just members of the human race but also all species and the biosphere of the Earth as a whole. In this attunement process we deepen access to our senses – taking in a fuller environmental richness while enhancing intimacy and immediacy. Through attuning to increased depth of detailed data, we are more informed – finding dexterity in decision making.

Outline of Volume One

We begin at the Introduction - why I was particularly suited to write this tome and where my compulsion to do so came from.

Part One is a brief history of some of the philosophical underpinning how we got to where we are today.

Part Two is a deep personal dive – probing individual preferences and boundaries and the histories that formed them. It is highly recommended to find a Razma Movement Method practitioner, SomanautZ playmate, bodyworker, somatic therapist, or compassionate friend to reveal the roots of past pain in relationship. With supportive witnesses and allies we can examine the past without judgement spaciously, unpacking trauma that no longer serves our desired future, replacing unexamined patterns with new grooves that reinforce a new way of being in the world. Here we find an easeful style of vocalization and gain comfort in expressing ourselves both verbally and physically. In understanding the depth and nuance of personal needs, interests, and proclivities and speaking about them to others with clarity, we get a visceral sense of how to honor and respect the specific preferences of others.

In Part Three we delve into the complexities of consent and how to interact with others consensually through energetic, physical, and verbal means.

In Part Four we share Soma-tech : unique healing modalities and ways of interrelating pioneered by the radical bodyworkers evolving the edge of intimacy and performance healing - the SomanautZ ( Together we discover novel ways to get needs met – reframing being attached to a certain activity into going after a feeling or emotion (such as intimacy or feeling loved). **

Initially I had stripped this handbook of any personal detail, but was informed time and time again that humankind learns and encodes evolution most memorably through the sharing of personal stories and legends. So I step into the vulnerability of sharing self, think me not egotistical that interwoven throughout this tome is my own tale of somatic and psychological healing to provide a personal example of one empath’s journey of going through rape and embodied trauma and the tools that helped me heal.  May this sharing aid all in their path to wholeness.


After reading this book you will have a toolkit to be :

Self-aware : Navigating the world understanding your boundaries, needs, preferences, and edges. As an expert in your own body language signals you are acutely aware of boundrary approaches and you will have a clear sense of when you are attracted and repulsed to various offers. You know the underlying history of why you have such reactions, how your boundraries have changed ove time and the situational, interpersonal and environmental charachteristics that cause the edges and ridigity of your boundraries to ebb and flow. You are familiar with your trauma and triggers, working to unwind projections playfully, releasing patterns that no longer serve and acknowledging systems that keep you safe- consciously cultivating the skill of intuition.

Self-expressive : Comfortable vocalizing your no/yes/more/less/pause/refresh you communicate early and often. You are able to communicate and receive message acoss all channels – verbal, physical, emotional, energetic, and situtional. Your diverse range of emotional nuance is able to overly any statement with multifaceted meaning. Aware of body language signals that you give off, you are cognizant of how you come across to others, presentation and preference in alignment.

Other-aware : Understanding the unique physical communication signals of your partner, you are abke to communicate non-verbally, especially when they are in a surrendered subspace and may be unable or unwilling to speak. You are attuned to the impact of your actions on others and seek the highest heaven yes of all involved. You are cultivating your ability to melt into a point of contact with other bodies and from these enter into sensing the inner experience of another. You have expanded your sense of self to enfold others and have an internal connection to the biosphere.

Collaborative : You are familiar with the foundation necessary to set up a safe abundant loving touch container and maintain its integrity. You can find compatibility easefully, and quickly connect intimately with physical playmates through platonic touch. You are a confident cuddly cat - well versed in techniques to make others feel good while deriving benefit from the touch yourself.

Touch abundant : You have no shortage of touch playmates (dance, massage, cuddle, and bodywork partners) looking forward to playdates. You are practiced in interacing with a diverse population and know the trending commonalities of what bodies generally tend to like while tuning into the nuances of your specific current playmate. Your touch needs do not unconsciously default to falling on a romantic partner and your nurturing touch needs are distributed along lines of mutual interest. This naturally leads to less (or completely absent) internal social stress, anxiety, and pressure when desiring to make sure all goes well with that special someone. You feel more connected, whole, and abundant in physical love – no longer projecting hungry, grabby, or needy vampire energy.

Introduction – author background / history

Why am I writing this?

I am driven to create this work as information and techniques I wish I had abundant access to in my youth. I seek to expand the accessibility of the healing tools I have been privileged to experiment, gather, distil and synthesize. I was sheltered and naïve in the realms of my own dis/likes and had no consensual sexual experience before my virginity was taken by rape at the age of 20. Releasing this work is my actionable wish for a future in which all interpersonal interactions, especially in the realm of touch (both platonic and sexual), have been enthusiastically consented to. Had I practiced these exercises in a low-pressure environment before being alone with a man I did not know I would have developed confidence in defending my boundaries vocally and physically and I would not have been violated. Post-penetration I realized that I needed to develop internal understanding and confidence in communicating my boundaries in a clear, compassionate, and graceful manner.

In my healing journey I found a transpersonal psychologist who focused on somatics. I pivoted from Bio-Premed studies to Human Development and Psychological Studies at Northwestern University in a concentrated effort to meta-analyze my own mind within a mainstream frame. I journaled and cultivated catharsis through art (especially in my Touch and Drip series of acrylic paintings in which I was literally caressing the canvas with my fingers as paintbrushes and washing my wounds and wide brush strokes ith waters to smooth the edges into a sea of color). I educated myself about consent. Yet there were patterns in my body I could not dislodge with discussion alone, no matter how compassionate the listening ear.

I sought out exercises to practice consent and found the landscape lacking, as much of the content I came across assumed a high level of self-knowledge about dis/likes and a well-developed expressive voice – neither of which had been fostered in my sheltered introverted intellectual bookish Midwestern Lithuanian upbringing in an forest preserve. The education system did not teach me a word about consent, relational skills, or confident personal expression. Even in my adult life as I scoured books, the internet, class, and workshop offerings I did not come across any venue to physically practice consent in a learning environment (as opposed to verbally discussing and puzzling through the philosophical and ethical quandaries – another essential pursuit enriching the practical work comprising this book). Thus, this tome is chock full of journal prompts for personal reflection, solo excercizes [sic] to cultivate personal skills, and partner and group exercises to engage interpersonal dynamics in a living learning laboratory.

Taking these unmet needs into account I developed the program I wish I had gone through by reflecting on my own evolution and streamlining the necessary sequence of skill building - shortcutting the long winding and laborious path I had tread. Through this self-analytical process, I began from a blank skill slate - without assuming prior proficiency – a novel idea from any other work in the marketplace. As any physical or cultural architect knows, the strength of the structure depends on a solid foundation and sequential scaffolding to ensure all have learned from the same playbook and have shared understanding and skill. Through beginning from the foundational tools that other teachings assume to be present I can ensure soundness in my system as a whole – an essential or me to feel responsible in teaching my intimate full body contact Razma Movement Method. I wanted no place for shadow predatory energy to hide, proclaim ignorance, or prey on personal or cultural inexperience or naivete. This all-encompassing approach has the side benefit of benefitting those who are younger in years or those who have not had experiences witnessing model inter-relational or self-knowledge.

The format of this book also has the added benefit of unpacking cultural assumptions and gendered indoctrination we take for granted. To this end, I have compiled and generated exercises that can be done both inside and outside the context of an intimate partnership. The circle of experience ripples outward, moving from solo inquiries and writing prompts to hone internal awareness, to exercises being amenable to practice with friends or even public situations to provide an abundance of contexts in which to practice. In the end, much as various movement practices and martial arts have sequentially deep graduations, the final level of the Soma Diploma involves deep partner and group tracking that is best done under the supervision of a certified teacher of the Razma Movement Method.

There is a final high level of work in groups and deep experiences that will be revealed in subsequent tomes. Through a foundation emphasizing solid connection to body, knowledge of preference & interest, expressive development, and active engagement in co-consent container creation we build real-world desire satisfaction scenarios from a place of practiced clarity, articulation, and strength.

Why the Workbook Format ?

We all agree that consent is important, and our shared public consciousness is gaining clarity about what is non/consensual (thank heavens!). Unfortunately, as is the case with initial criticism before solutionary analysis, these previous threads address what is going wrong with the system while being less then forthcoming about active steps in how to create a consent culture to make it right.

I thank the current and past consent pioneers and whistleblowers for blazing the trail so far. In this book, I am interested in evolving from an intellectual abstract understanding of consent (rooted in a legal framework of who or what is to blame) into an embodied encoding of empathetic engagement. I am filling the ‘training gap’ of a lack of practice in consent and related skillsets through low-stress preparation in-vivo before we need it. Through my own experience of violation, I feel a responsibility to provide others with the tools to prevent predators from preying on innocence and naivete. When we strengthen our consent and related foundational skills such as: knowing what you don’t/want and dis/like, developing self-knowledge, knowing where your boundaries, and speaking with clarity about them others, I have found that the shadows of uncertainty for predators to lurk in shrink and disappear. All this while being able to be mutually motivated by shared desire.

It is to this aim that I aggregated impactful techniques that accelerated my development, designing my own when there was not an exercise that stressed the growth of a skill I found essential to my journey practicing consent or boundary regulation.

In the following pages, find the guide I wish I would have had inside. May all interactions be enthusiastically consented to.


Why bother spending so much time on Body – what are the benefits ?

Unconscious speaks through Body through intuitive / physical communication channels. Unconscious has access to the full range of sensory input before the reducing valve of Mind filters and brings to the forefront the stimuli it deems most relevant for organismic survival. Throughout the human evolutionary process the ‘summarizing’ faculty of Mind grew more stringent over time, selecting for ‘speed as survival’ and propagating this process over many gene-itrations (= gene + iteration + generation).

In this lusciously luxurious moment in humanity’s evolution we have met our survival needs and recognize ripe timing in reaping the value of exponential knowledge increase -  developing our emotional intelligence and intuitive sense through accessing more Unconscious as it speaks through Body. Tapping into Unconscious through Body allows us to easefully make choices we can trust – starting from a place of grounded wholeness with can allow the hyper-processing analytical knowledge of Mind to scaffold us toward greater heights of inter/personal creation. In addition to aiding us in decision making we can utilize Body as portal to effortlessly enter flow states. Much as many meditation traditions use breath as a reminder to return to centered stillness, we create physical sigils that encode the access of flow states through a series of poses and bodysenses. When we are reliably able to train our system to drop into flow  we reconnect with our capacity to enjoyably and efficiently accomplish our goals in a spirit of exploratory play through a match of capability and captivating challenge. This space of open competency is at the heart of the Razma Movement Method practice (especially when engaging in partnered play).

Our sacred task of Spirit dancing in matter is to expand our capacity for awareness so that we may understand ourselves (and therefore by proxy, others) more fully. When we reconnect to our bodies we can repeatedly open to greater nuance in sensory stimuli - this inner inquiry increases available bandwidth of sensory/emotional/subconscious experience and expands our physical play palate. In this deepening we access increasingly profound levels of connection/understanding to self/other and in so doing exponentially multiply the forms of love that we can give and receive.

Finally, trauma is often ‘frozen’ in Body when too overwhelming to process in the moment of a fight/flight/fawn/freeze/appease/attach survival state. Frozen trauma requires physical, mental, and psychic energy to padlock and patrol (we can see how reactive these psychological ‘trauma antibodies’ through the high level of reactivity that occurs when we touch upon a trigger). When we let go of old trauma patterning that does not serve our current state we no longer need to use resources to maintain and guard this bound energy. This unfrozen energy is liberated for use in service of constructive pursuits (such as expanding the bandwidth of sensation and being present to a greater depth of feelings).

How we got here – why are we so disembodied ?

There is a strong thread of disconnection from Body running through the dominant culture of the US (*author grew up as a Lithuanian American in the USA and so writes from this ‘born into’ perspective). This rift between Body, Mind, and Spirit arises from a confluence of factors including inheriting a history of religious rules (especially from the judgmental modern Puritanical and Catholic strains), an emphasis on intellectuality, and an idea that what is below us is beneath us. Some of the most commonly held tropes from these oppressive hisstories (= hiss + history; also his-story) are: body is base, body is lowly, body is source of sin, body is to be transcended, and body is inherently impure from birth.

Many US socialized people have an internalized notion of body as base. This goes hand in hand with the attribution of body as the source of shameful, sinful impulses that need to be transcended. Many around the world have received an oppressive dose of religious judgement for enjoying physical sensations (*‘catholic guilt’ for this author) – perceiving such pursuits as damming, hedonistically indulgent, or a waste of time. This subtext of ‘transcending beyond Body’ and its insipidly impish impulses blasphemies Body as anchor to that which we abhor, chaining us to the corporeal and physically preventing sublimation with spiritual Source in the ‘higher’ holy realms. In this book we dispel this notion, celebrating embodied arts as another delicious direction to diving into divinity.

Devastating Disconnection

The devaluation and denigration of the physical also perniciously translates into acceptance of mainstream mistreatment of animals (as below us on the consciousness spectrum), planet (Mother Earth) and female-bodied people (as portals into physicality). Through this demonishing (= demonic + diminish + admonish) distancing of ourselves as in a level above the other species with which we share a common home we can justify our continued abuse of animals as meaningless material to kill and consume without honor at our current unsustainable rate. Unsurprisingly this cold cruelty also contributes to the degradation of our globe due to the resource greed required to house, feed, tend, kill and process animals as food.[1] This monetization mindset also results in short-sighted extractive economics and harmful harvest of resources (e.g. logging old growth, burning jungle to plant fields of a single cash crop, metals strip-mined, fracking, non-renewable sources of energy used for power).

We are shedding the old paradigm of considering the land, plants, and animals that live upon it as our God-given servants solely created for unlimited harvest. We are reframing into responsible relationship, spurred into a stewardship model - shifting towards sustainability, mutual respect, and reciprocity in all our relations. When we realign into nurturing our instrument of action in the world - our personal Body - we can then extrapolate this honorable treatment towards the bodies of others and our shared planetary body Earth, applying the Golden Rule (‘treat others how you wish to be treated’). In this way we expand our sense of self to not just include our physical body and personal vessel, but come to see other people, and eventually the planet as part of ourselves. Within this expansive empathetic awareness, we gain access to not only the patterns recorded in the repository of relationship between parts but also the holistic wisdom of of the whole.

Access to Female Bodies

In US culture female-bodied people are culturally socialized to be self-sacrificing and demure, subservient to the needs of others – forfeiting their bodies to the desires of males. The internalized oppression of the feminine makes access to women’s bodies abundant to males and dims the considerable power that could come of women banding together. Relatedly, women are cast as the only gateway to socially sanctioned connection to the physical, earthly, and emotional (base aspects of the world to be transcended) - simultaneously reviled, feared and desperately sought as channels for loving nurturing energy.


Our current socio-political system focuses on rewarding certain types of labor, or work, while minimizing (and therefore rendering invisible and devaluing) the essential contributions of other forms. In a particularly poignantly sad irony the labor of labor and it’s related processes are neither supported not acknowledged as important and essential. We can reverse this trend by demonstrating our high valuation of pregnancy and postpartum bonding through paid time off work, un-shamed breastfeeding, supports fo single mothers, and widely available state subsidized childcare. The caretaking, teaching, and rearing of infants, children and young adults – perhaps the most important job in ensuring humanity’s future success and capacity for prosocial behavior – continues to be unpaid or garners a low wage. Caretaking and nurturing work of all forms follows a similar pattern of meager salaries and more commonly is an expected duty to be completed without remuneration by females.

Emotional Labor

Women are the kinkeepers and the weavers of the connective web between people, and maintaining this state of interdependence takes a large amount of emotional labor (remembering birthdays and special events, making plans, coordinating family schedules…)  and emotional intelligence (how to navigate and mediate tangled social scenarios, knowing how certain people express specific emotions, reading micro movements of the face and body & accurately determining emotional state). The labor of connection-creation is compounded with noticing the effect that women have on others and being socialized to do what needs to be done, taking self-responsibility to fill in the gaps in consciousness of other inattention (these and similar tasks fall under the umbrella term ‘Emotional Labor’). Other characteristics of female socialization include putting the needs of others before oneself, making oneself as small as possible (ideally to the point of invisibility), attuning so deeply to how one affects others that they alter their behavior dramatically (discouraged to behave in a self-interested way).[2] Taking these traits on and internalizing them is commonly recognized as appropriate female gendered behavior.[3]

Collective / Individualistic behavior - Who is supported in their self-interest?

In our current society boundaries have proven themselves useful for long-term survival (knowing where Body ends helps propagate the genes that spread themselves through the action of Body). Relatively, Western personal boundaries are especially rigid and self-focused when compared with other cultures that are more attuned to the collective (for example Eastern nations such as Japan and China). Western individual-focused mindset also extends to the sense of responsibility we feel for other’s situations, and why we espouse ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’. Alas, when we consider that females in our culture are socialized to be self-sacrificing for others, this system of individual responsibility only authentically serves those who are supported in expressing and pursuing their self-interest in - men. Alternatively, when we consider a world in which everyone acts solely out of self-interest we are met with the emotional moonscape of a cold and calculating society. When we consider some of the deepest delights of this world they are born from interrelation: the giving and receiving of gifts, nurturing, and caretaking. Would we live in a more loving community-supportive culture if we were to care for our neighbors as ourselves? In this reframe we can also include the earth as our mother, treating her with respect, reverence, love, and gratitude. Through expanding our frame of what constitutes ‘our self’ we can expand our attention to encompass ever expanding swaths of our experience, moving from a focus personhood, to family, community, biosphere, and universe.

Gendered Putdowns

To easily find out what behaviors are traditionally masculine or feminine one can act as cultural archeologist and examine the disses and slurs that in most cases are directed at a certain gender. For men it is putdowns associate with feeling too much – such as ‘sissy’ or ‘pussy’. For women it is terms associated with asking for what one wants such as ‘bossy’, ‘pushy’, or ‘b*tchy. In these damaging insults we recognize the encultured pattern of women expected not to ask for what they want and sacrificing their needs to the desires of others. We recall the recurrence of men encouraged to distance themselves from their feelings, the feelings of others, and how they might be impacting the world around them. These cultural tropes end up confining the expression of all, distorting relationships  between folks of different genders (and especially for those that feel as though they don’t fit into any gender box) and distancing individuals from their inner selves. These restrictions on appropriate forms of expression according to gender maim what could be authentic unburdened communication and limit the potential diversity of contact.

Body as Unsafe Space of Pain

Within our current social rearing environment, most people have had a moment where Body was a source of shame and/or pain –usually first at a young age, and often increasing in frequency over time. Due to this early impression most have internalized the notion that Body is not a safe place for them to be (because when they are within it, they have been hurt, made to feel violated, or been embarrassed by some aspect of Body’s functioning – especially when out of their conscious control like bedwetting). Some people are in frequent or constant physical pain in Body. Many judge, critique, and compare Body with those of others and feel that they don’t measure up. Advertising reinforces this notion of lack – that you are incomplete or inferior in some way, but that a sold product or service will correct that deficiency. Even if not blatantly negative or critical advertising still typically implies that you could be better and that you are not enough as you are in your current state.

Numbing is Non-selective

For an unfortunately majority of people Body has been a place of judgement, pain, and trauma. To make this hurt manageable our psyche numbs this trauma, ranging from dulling emotion through complete dissociation from the place of these negative experiences –Body itself. Unfortunately, we cannot selectively numb only the negative, so this process puts a damper on all sensations and emotions. This coupled with the commonly heard put downs of childhood such as ‘you’re too sensitive’ and ‘toughen up’ and we have a culture-wide recipe for disconnection from our internal sense-scape of feeling and inner perception.

Compounding this with Body’s coping mechanism of freezing overwhelming trauma and locking it within specific locales within and we begin to understand that Body is for many an abandoned minefield. The bound and buried energy locked up in distancing and avoiding these wounds amounts to a large reserve of potential we can direct to constructive purposes through thawing and releasing the trauma with trusted confidants in safe space. Through kind embodied practices such as SomaSenZ, we create a relationship of deep compassionate listening on both verbal and physical levels. Through spaciousness of time in empathetic touch we can rewire the neural circuits from numb fear into release and relief, promoting relaxation, rejuvenation and opening Body into greater sensation (magnifying our possibility to perceive, feel deeply, and potentiate our power in decision making).

Boundaries Philosophy

Children and Boundaries

We are often implicitly taught that our bodies are not sovereign to us at a young age - such as when parents tell their children to hug someone or give them a kiss. Often this person is either a trusted friend or relative of the parent/child, however, the child may have good reasons for not wanting to engage physically with someone else at that time. Even though these actions are well meaning they proclaim the message that the child’s body is ultimately not their own, and is subject to the desires of others regardless of what the child wants. This early experience of consent being overridden creates an unhealthy sense that those in power are allowed to override personal boundaries – leading to unconsciously laying down the path accepting of traumatic scenarios that are in truth unacceptable consent violations.


Often, some of our boundaries are ingrained in an unconscious way – through well-meaning adults decreeing specific rules about our bodies (such as telling us that ‘no-one gets to touch us in our bathing-suit area except parents and doctors’). Although the intention of these types of absolute physical boundaries is well-intentioned (often to keep us safe from predation or injury), we may not be addressing the roots of how to more directly address issues of wellbeing. If children are taught in age-appropriate ways about consent and that they are the sovereign masters of their own bodies this greatly reduces the likelihood that they will be able to be preyed upon. When children have strong consent skills they are no longer acquiescing to what they perceive to be societal or relational norms but instead can tune into their own personal truth in the moment regarding contact with others and if it feels appropriate.

Our society has room for improvement in the realm of teaching healthy boundaries and the consent that goes along with respecting the boundaries of others. Instead of blindly repeating decrees from the adult fiefdom without explaining the reason for them we can teach children the tools to know their boundaries, how to internally monitor how they may shift in difference situations, and practice confidence to vocally express needs clearly. Through this subtle shift in explaining and empowering through teaching skills that apply in any circumstance (rather than a narrow rigid rule) we set young ones up for a lifetime of vibrant communication and easeful expressive interrelation. This abilities-based approach also removes shame from Body, instead focusing on tracking internal experience and honoring personal needs.

Philosophical Analysis – From Whence Do Boundaries Come?

At this juncture, parsing out where boundaries come from will help us to explore how to adjust boundaries that have already been created. We are born boundaryless and only learn the concept of self as distinct from mother over time (or so goes the current party line in developmental psychology). In this model a newborn initially starts out as a blank slate (perhaps with slight dispositions) – fully open and receptive to experience (you can see this radical openness in newborns and infants). This rosy innocence also means that infants are inherently unguarded to the effects of others on their experience. Over time this openness is protectively shut down as the psyche is damaged through encounters with junctures in which the world does not perfectly care for their needs (exacerbated by the deeper cuts of being catcalled, taunted, put down, viewing a certain piece of media...). At these assaults the psyche shouts “I don’t want this to happen to me (again)” and a deflecting buffer boundary is created to keep others from getting close enough to that sore, sensitive wound to inflict pain upon it again. A boundary is akin to a guard, taking up psychic or mental energy to be watchful for any potentially dangerous approaches. In this way, boundaries usually exist because they have been crossed in the past, resulting in registering a violation in the psyche and seeing up a ‘safe zone’ to cushion the blister from future irritation.

How Trauma affects the body

Although trauma can affect people in a diversity of ways, through my experience as a bodyworker I have found, as a coping mechanism, that most people freeze trauma inside Body. For example, someone who has experienced a sexual violation may have very stiff hips that are closed off to full range of motion. When receiving a massage in this area (such as the outside edge of the hip or the glutes) the receiver on the mat may tense up protectively, or have memories float to the surface, or even cry without knowing why. One theory as to why trauma is frozen in Body is that ‘in the moment’ of acute trauma the body/brain cannot handle or process the intensity of stimulus, and instead of allowing resources to flow to the emotional evaluation centers, BodyMind prioritizes action that ensures the survival of the organism - ensuring resource is directed towards responding directly to physical preservation in the face of a threat (packing away the trauma for a time of greater resources able to process the event).

Compounding the difficulty of unlocking frozen trauma inside the body is the tendency of some to dissociate and ‘remove’ themselves from their physical experience (such as through ‘watching from the ceiling’) when overwhelmed. I have a personal tendency to dissociate when I experience trauma, especially when it occurs to Body. At the moment of penetration when I lost my virginity to rape the violation displaced my consciousness from Body and I watched the proceedings from above. When the perpetrator plunged into me he made Body a place of shock and fear, pushing my sensing spirit out. My second strongest memory of dissociation occurred at another time of great physical shock when I tore my ACL after falling down a ladder while being attacked by bees.

Learning from animals -how do fauna handle trauma?

Seeing as we are animals ourselves, observing the rest of the animal kingdom and how it handles trauma can work in service to broadening our understanding - providing potential models for clues as to how we can release trauma. For example, when one of a pack of deer is killed, after the rest have found a safe space away from the predator, they shake to remove the remnants of the trauma of being pursued from their nervous system. If you have house cats or dogs and they are reprimanded, you will often see them ‘shake it off’ with head motions. We operate in a social milieu in which the benefits of shaking to dislodge trauma neither widely known as a beneficial practice, much less is socially encouraged, acceptable, or even condoned.


All people have experienced the activation of their sympathetic nervous system in Fight or Flight mode (such as the impetus of an unexpected sound in the darkness) – startled, adrenaline racing, heart pumping, pinpricks of hair standing on end, and muscles activated and ready to move. However, far from only the reactions of Fight or Flight, there is a whole range of response commonly seen in the animal kingdom, including freezing, fawning, appraising, submitting, and attaching.

This expanded ladder of trauma indicates that there are additional behaviors that are traumatic to the animal body that are not currently commonly known or acknowledged in the human species. Fascinatingly enough, the masculine retorts of physical fight or flight are widely acknowledged as trauma reactions, whereas the feminine feedback of freezing, fawning, appraising, submitting, and attaching are not traditionally included or even acknowledged as trauma responses. When we expand our understanding of trauma to encompass these more feminine forms of reacting to trauma, we tune into the more subtle and social responses to harm that have been previously overlooked. Have you ever had the experience of ‘not being able to reach someone’, ‘talking to a brick wall’ or looking into someone’s eyes and realizing that they were ‘not all there’ ? These may have been more feminine forms of trauma response.

Inward turning / Feminine forms of reacting to trauma :

More yin / feminine forms of trauma response include : physically/emotionally/energetically withdrawing, turning inward, freezing, numbing, and more extreme forms of leaving the body such as dissociating partially or completely, and caretaking.

What does a Freeze State look and feel like?

One of the more commonly seen forms of feminine response is a ‘freeze’ state (this reaction is readily documented in our fellow animals). Freeze states may take the following forms : body becoming rigid, muscles either extremely tight / loose, eyes focusing on a point in the distance (‘1,000 yard stare’) / partially / completely closed, shallow / fast breathing, becoming soundless or quieter, slow / no verbal answers to questions, flat affect / voice, slowness / lack of physical response, becoming limp (rag doll-like), becoming smaller, a protective curling up into the core by crossing the arms, caving chest in upon itself, or even going into a full fetal position.

Contexts for Touching

Compared to other cultures *cite touching*, we do not engage in much platonic touch. This is due to the overarching environment in western culture that culturally acceptable platonic touch is reserved for specific relationships - babies, young children and their parents, lovers, close friends, and massage therapists / healers. Although platonic touch is generally culturally acceptable for these groups oftentimes many do not engage in platonic touch frequently because there is an additional narrowing of the acceptable range of circumstances– such as death, diaper changing, or within the bounds of a paid massage session. Overall, most touching we witness occurs between those who are in a monogamous sexually intimate partnership. The types of touch seen most frequently is directly regulated by the cultural politics of what is deemed appropriate in public – as the most current policing about breastfeeding demonstrates (as though the act of feeding a child is somehow obscene and needing to occur behind closed doors in private).

Why has touch become suspect?

With good intentions but negative unforeseen outcomes we have tried to protect vulnerable populations (such as the young) from manipulative or exploitative touch by making nearly all touch with them suspect. A common example of this is an adult making a big deal of children wrestling or enjoying their bodies (such as in self-pleasuring) which instills shame in the children who had pure exploratory intentions. Instead of shaming we can clearly explain why certain behaviors are not appropriate in public rather than shadowing behaviors through judging them. The holes that are evident in our past methodology - attempting to limit touch - show their clear downside when a perverted predator ‘grooms’ a child or gets a child alone without the protective scrutinizing gaze of society.

Our rigid cultural gender norms also come into play here – women are expected to instinctively coo and care for every child that crosses their path, whereas most male touch of children is not encouraged (thankfully this norm also seems to be slowly changing). This policing and unequal distribution has negative consequences for all concerned – further touch isolating men, removing possibilities for men to express non-sexual physical nurturance, and additionally constricting circumstances in which men can model safe loving nurturing touch to younger people sans sexuality.

Due to the cultural milieu of physical contact tending to signify a strong (often exclusive) connection, public displays of touch are highly monitored and attract a lot of ‘attention’ from scrutinizing witnesses analyzing the meaning of the link. Due to the dearth of alternative models or contexts for touch the default interpretation is that any touch between peers is often assumed as sexual interest (or at least the potential of such). Due to this insipid assumption, there are often socially implied or unstated (shadow/subliminal) intentions behind touch. The current cultural overtone of relentless goal pursuit extends into the social practice of the sexual treadmill (meaning the implied escalation of physical intimacy towards the ultimate ‘home-run’ goal of copulation).

Instead of preventatively teaching listening skills and vocal/expressive boundary management, to protect ‘vulnerable’ populations we insipidly imply that nearly all touch is suspect because it often can indicate a desire to escalate along the ‘sexual treadmill’ (with the ultimate goal held as the ‘home run score’ of Penis-In-Vagina (PIV) intercourse). I believe that in large part touch has become suspect due to its rarity. This rarity imbues touch exchanges with a highly charged aura of attention, suffused in a scarcity mindset of ‘get what you can when you can’ of pursuing limited, rapidly expiring chances of opportunity. What would shifting from a model of expiring to inspiring intimacy feel like?

Teaching healthy boundary management

Unspoken beliefs (such as ‘touch is only appropriate within a monogamous sexual relationship’) and the lack of models for clear conversation around contact constrain the situations in which people are socially supported in engaging in touch and speaking about their preferences.

Rather than nixing all touch as potentially suspect, a strong solution that addresses the root of this issue is teaching children (and indeed all people) self-confidence in expressing clear boundary management. This would include lessons on : how to know where boundaries are, what forms healthy boundary dialogue can take, how to know if someone is respecting your boundaries, self-confidence in communicating (vocally and physically) when a play partner is approaching a boundary, and how to direct partners to actions would make you feel more comfortable. Through this pre-emptive methodology we return the onus of the matter to a proactive place – teaching relational skills that allow each individual to determine what is appropriate for them in the moment rather than relying on antiquated proscriptions (which inherently can never cover every single persnickety nuance of every single situation).

Additionally, through increasing self-confidence in clear easeful expression we diversify the routes to preserving our wellbeing rather than being solely reliant on our play partner’s perceptiveness to checking in. Certainly, in an ideal frame, our play partners would be well educated in tracking their playmates and checking in, but in case they are acting in a selfish or ignorant manner (or merely claiming such) - confident self-expression and practiced gumption to stick up for yourself acts as another self-defense safety net. Therefore, through developing skills that allow us to assuredly impart our inner experience we expand our ability to safeguard ourselves through championing communication (with the necessary caveat / integral flipside skill set development that the others are listening on multiple channels).


Invitation without Expectation / De-coupling Touch from Assumption of Sexuality

I am striving to decouple the assumption of touch as inherently indicating sexual interest, as it limits our range of expression through the meme of ‘invitation without expectation’. This shorthand contains within it the understanding that the invitation or gift of touch does not have within it expectation of reciprocation of a specific form. This type of transparent experience of giving the possibility of a sensation or experience works well for platonic touch exchanges in a low risk environment. If you do have specific intentions behind your touch the honest thing to do is to share your desires to make sure your partner can provide informed consent in alignment with your aims.

‘Invitation without expectation’ also implies that just because something was vocalized does not mean it needs to be acted on or immediately acquiesced to. Indeed, it is courteous, considering, and in alignment with constructive consent practices to allow your partner ample time to respond so that they are able to tune into their truth without time pressure.

Communicate don’t speculate – use Premeditation Contemplation

If a time buffer has passed since your ‘invitation without expectation’ and your play partner returns salivating at your open-handed offer eager to engage from ‘contemplation titillation’ (positively pleading is an ideal to strive for) you can be assured that they are a ‘sure bet without regret’. This ‘evaluation accommodation’ period allows sufficient processing time for partners to pre-emptively contemplate and address any ‘sticky’ places of future ‘potential regret’.

A pause to ponder allows your responder to find a fit for full participation and allows all participants to accommodate any adjustments or needs. Communication allows for calibration and is essential for true collaboration !

On the flip side as a receiver, first go through the ‘reel of experiences’ with the ‘Hibernate to Educate’ Journal Prompt in your head and on paper and then tune into your body’s reactions in vivo – do your memories, expectations, and experiences match? If not, the points of mis-alignment are prime for potent learning and pointed examination.

Journal : Hibernate to Educate

In the following Journal Prompt, consider interactions that : did/not go well, were/not high stakes, what aspects of these interactions would you love to carry through all of your engagements, and what are some solutions to issues that seem to have a common thread? Upon receiving an offer tune into your body’s initial subtle reaction even if you believe you are a full YES - watch your bodies signals to gain a sense of how your body speaks yes/no to you – how does it speak loudly? How does it speak subtly when the dial is turned down?  Are there aspects of the offer that you are an easy yes to? Where is your ‘no’ line? Where might you have a twinge of uncertainty or hesitation? Ask for detail – Articulate to Alleviate the tightening tension that may come from vagueness or ambiguity. Are there needs that are crowding your mind that are dominating your attention? Do you need to take a bio break to refresh and reconsider?

Preparative Narrative

The ‘Premeditation Contemplation’ method can be dovetailed with ‘describing what you will do in detail before you do it’ (as if you are pretending you are narrating a steamy pulp erotic novel) with the entrancing and enhancing effect of ‘boiling the water’ of arousal through imaginal fantasy time. This verbal foreplay can both allow you a safe ‘dry run’ to see what your partner is interested in (HINT - make special note of the moments in your tantalizing tale telling when: they blush, their eyes widen, their fingers go to their mouth, their breathing changes, when they give a sly smile, when they let out a laugh, or when they look up as you through their lashes).

You can even adjust your tactics with the knowledge that those acculturated as female tend to take in their erotica through reading (in that women in general are stimulated by descriptive detail, where you may opt to woo them through story spell spinning - allowing them to ‘feel through fantasy’) and that those raised as male tend to prefer to watch erotica (in that men are in general visually stimulated, where you may opt to woo them through acting out what you would do to them on yourself or showing what you want them to do to you).

This sensual storytelling – what I call – the ‘preparative narrative’ / ‘showtime mime’ - lets your partner in on your fantasy forecast for the future in a languid luscious lengthening of the luxurious liminal space between offer and action. This tantalizing tale generates anticipation lubricating the situation so that all parties are prepped and panting for the physical culmination of the delicious description / pantomime. The preparative narrative is a legendary litmus test in which gauging interest also doubles as an arousal builder of Pre-MOAN-itional pleasure potentiation.

Making your play partners beg for your previously made offers is a fun flirty way to build erotic tension while engaging strong consent practices.  ****

The Dark Side / Reverse - Dangers of Implicit Intention behind touch

The reverse of an ‘invitation without expectation’ is ‘invitation with clear expectation’, otherwise, the lack of clarity can not only cause confusion, but can be maliciously manipulated by those with a predatory mindset. A trope frequently encountered within the theme of ‘touch with strings attached’ occurs when one person offers a massage to another to whom they are sexually attracted to. At the end of the kneading session the unstated ‘expectations’ of the ‘gift’ become clear when the giver excepts reciprocation in kind or moves toward escalating touch towards sexual intimacy. This example is not shared to demonize massage trades, but to elucidate the importance of clarity in intention behind touch so that all can enthusiastically participate with fully informed consent. This situation can be ameliorated through clearly discussing expectations of reciprocity (and even hopes) before the touch commences so that guilt is not used as a manipulation tactic.

When the intention behind touch is not made explicit, unconscious fears and assumptions can create uncertainty in the receiver and allow manipulators the space to blame lack of specificity or speed for a victim’s violation. This smokescreen allows the perpetrator to distract and disguise themselves under the cover of ignorance rather than speak the damming truth – confessing their disinterest or lack of effort in identifying whether their prey was enthusiastically consenting to the acts in question. Thus, the accused can blame the situational context and lack of understanding for the gap that allows them to fulfil their selfish desires without consideration for the victim’s satisfaction or lucidity. When the impetus behind the touch becomes explicit and the onus is on constant consent excusing nonconsensual behavior with “I didn’t know what they meant” or “it all happened so fast” will soon become a thing of the past.

Solving this pernicious problem involves encouraging communication frequency, clarity, and breadth. This can be done through encouraging constant check-ins (including verbal and physical communication), increasing the vocabulary and specificity of terms, and dilating receptivity / increasing attunement to encompass greater information density. The responsibility lies with all parties engaged in the touch – the giver to check in, monitor communication channels, and acutely calibrate / adjust and the receiver to express their inner experience with depth, clarity, and timeliness. When in doubt, speak it out.


You don’t have to be a mind-reader, but your lover will think you are

If the concept of constant check-ins feels overwhelming know that it is a skill set that can be learned and practiced as any other. Although ‘constant check ins’ seems to be a high bar, this phrase is used to emphasize the constant collaborative nature of co-creating a consensual consent space. Later practice sections in this tome introduce tools and techniques to create space for communication such as pausing the action momentarily (employing a ‘Prolonged Pause’) and the use of an arousal building tool called a ‘Preparative Narrative’.  Constantly checking in is a practiced skill that becomes effortlessly ingrained over time and is another way of describing the attunement that grows from the desire to care for another being.

In order to visualize yourself in a ‘constant check-in’ attunement state, you can observe or contemplate the behaviors of those who have needed to cultivate this skill to succeed at their employment. Common examples of those who have developed a ‘constant check in’ skill set include: accomplished therapists, bodyworkers, empaths, parents with infants, animal whisperers, and renowned lovers (both historical and personal).

Benefits to honing these ‘constant consent’ attunement skill sets include: people thinking that you can read their mind, understanding someone’s unspoken motivations, knowing when people are telling you the truth, increased understanding of babies / children / pets, feeling a sense of flow in moving and interacting with others, and being an unforgettable lover.


When Over-communication becomes under-communication

One may think of this change as a shift in the current status quo towards a penchant for over-communication. What is currently considered ‘over-communication’ may indeed in the future be seen as laconic and lacking in both nuance / frequency (especially if the singularity proponents succeed and we collectively reach the point at which we can mind-meld and communicate through consciousness itself).* Our standards for tracking each other’s responses continue to raise, and with this comes more easeful and profound communication. When we expand our abilities to track non-verbal communication, we can continue to be in connection and resonance without needing to bureaucratically run down a contractual verbal checklist to get a yes for every slight physical act. When we non-verbally maintain connection through tracking, we are getting non-verbal yesses through body-based communication and staying in resonance with our partner.

Through expanding depth of dialogue and forms of interaction, we increase our chances to practice attunement skills and gain additional additive benefits inherent in raising the general communication skill level of the populace. Communication skills serve us especially well when we are interacting with those whom we have not yet established historical rapport / patterns, interacting with those who challenge us, and when engaging in activities in a small or compressed time frame (high speed/pace).

Everyone needs touch

All humans need touch to thrive. Babies even need touch to survive! An orphanage**touching cite* was befuddled when their infants who were otherwise taken care of (food, shelter, warmth, etc.) ‘failed to thrive’ and were dying. Once the babies received physical affection each day the trend reversed, and all the infants grew up healthy. Engaging in platonic touch releases endorphins and oxytocin (the bonding, love hormone) into the body, increasing feelings of well-being and connection. These compounds decrease stress allowing the immune system to operate at its highest efficacy.

Today many people are touch-starved especially those raised as males and vulnerable populations such as the elderly and infirm. It is my personal belief that many ‘crimes of passion’, rapes, and violence against women (and in the end, all people) are due to an unfortunate majority of males and other folx being touch-starved. **cite ** Men who travel on business hire prostitutes just to touch them lovingly.**  The shadow of a touch-starved and touch-judgmental culture is dark, depressive, and deprives us of the potential of bountiful daily connections. **move this section?**

Now future : Safe Loving touch as human right

Have you had your Vitamin T (touch) today?

I propose that we decree safe loving touch as a human right. Touch is an essential nutrient for growth, development, and an affirmation of the very continuation of life itself. As previously mentioned in Touching by Ashley Montague, newborns were perishing from lack of human contact! **cite

With safe loving touch recognized as a renewable resource and right for all we can multiply love and conscientiousness and regenerate our world – finding peace through pleasure. In casting off patterns of extractive and self-sacrificing touch (touching to get yourself off/elicit a reaction; losing sense of self agency in desire to please) we can instead refocus on reciprocation. When we give each other the renewing gift of somatic synergy we are able to dance with the balance of giving / receiving - finding the point of melding where we can give in receiving and receive in giving. My mission in sharing SomasenZ is to teach the skills and create the cultural container to bring this mutual pleasure portal into greater prominence for the general populace in a good way that allows the authentic vulnerability to be held safe and sacred.

Your body is a gift - to be enjoyed by the bearer

Pleasure is our bodily birthright. We are born sensate, sensitive, and wide open – but over time we close down, protectively veiling ourselves behind shells and masks due to the psychological blows of being hurt in not being seen, met, or supported as we are. We are taught that sensitivity is weakness, to ‘toughen up’ to the harshness of ‘real’ life and so we guardedly shut down in self-preservation.

In actuality, Body is the sole physical thing that you can truly possess, and the ultimate playground of your sovereignty. Body is yours to share with those whom you choose in the way that you choose. Self-inquiry through experimentation allows you to track your inner experience, identify with precision what you do/not enjoy, and have a clear knowledge of your boundaries. A strong sense of body sovereignty cultivates confidence in your right to say no at any time for any reason, regardless of the past.

Touch Abundance

In sharing the Razma Movement Method and my SomasenZ sensation style, I am formalizing the study of soma-tech (somatech = somatic + technology) to usher in a lived new cultural story of feeling safe loving touch as abundant. I have found that when the need for nurturing touch is not met a ‘lack’ energy of seeking creates a vacuum and the starving neediness of empty places suckling for sustenance dominates. Alternatively, within the culture of ‘platonic touch activism’ I am promoting, partners can come to their intimate relationships as resourced wellsprings of sharing energy - in a more reciprocal respiratory flow of pre-balanced and harmonized symbiosis. Within this abundance model even ‘red blooded’ highly sexual people can meld desire and plenty as overflowing vessels of passion flowing freely into each other rather than lack-extracting what is absent.

A helpful metaphor distinguishing Touch Abundant and Touch Scarce modes of being is the dissimilarity between someone who is parched and protectively rationing their only canteen of water (Scarce) and another who has just visited a nearby spring, eager to share not only their liquid but also the location of the source (Abundant). When we consciously construct abundant modes of being through creating containers and cultures that make nurturing touch multiply we can ebb and flow in giving and receiving without attachment.

Re-conceptualizing Touch - Touch activism

My purpose as a touch activist is to re-normalize and proliferate platonic touch as a pathway to intimate connection and wellness. Touch activism bridges the realms of dance, bodywork, massage, deep platonic connection, physical communication, and consent. As an embodiment educator I seek to make safe and consensual platonic touch supported in all spaces while expanding our physical languages to increase the diversity of ways that we can touch each other to mutual satisfaction, delight, and sillybration of sensing (= silly + celebration).

The gaps I see in the current consent culture conversation that coincide with my personal passions / proclivities as a touch activist include : non-verbal communication, dance-floor consent, creating body-supportive spaces, translating the physical embodied realm of dance & bodywork into evocative / explanatory language, and developing new bodywork tools, techniques & styles (and engaging in bodywork { everywhere } ). In the section that follows I share these interests through personal, partner, and group practice skill building exercises which, when knit together in a living learning lab, comprise the foundational safety net in which SomaseZ occurs. The need for skill development is multi-directional : folx need to be able to dive into and communicate their shifting inner landscape, while still expanding into sensing the language of their partners (which may be altogether different from their own communication signals and styles – both verbal and body-based). May we have abundant opportunities to practice and deepen into these skills.


Consent Workbook


Level 1 – Connecting To Self-Body

Self-Knowledge Examination and Cultivation

  • Boundaries

Boundary Flavors

There are three main types of boundaries : hard, soft, and conditional boundaries. Each term denotes the flexibility of the boundary based on context and comfort. Boundaries (aka limits) are discussed during an initial exploratory conversation (*referred to in BDSM as a negotiation) with all participating playmates. I am choosing to use the parlance of BDSM culture to clarify the fine distinctions conveyed in this body of terminology because, due to BDSM’s inherently edge-exploring nature, BDSM has developed a nuanced vocabulary around boundaries out of necessity for fully informed consent communication. In adopting the parlance of kink, I will use the terms ‘bottom’ as receiver of sensation and ‘top’ as giver of sensation (with the acknowledgement that these roles may flip suddenly or even blur over time with experienced playmates).

The first type of boundary is the most rigid and uncompromising - hard boundaries. Hard boundaries are never to be crossed, and out of courtesy (and especially when playing initially with a new partner) it is recommended to keep a respectful distance from even approaching them (eg. if the hard boundary is no penetration, not hovering your hand at the entrance to their intimate openings as if ‘testing the waters’ / pressuring penetration).

Soft boundaries are more flexible and comprise activities “that the bottom has indicated that under normal circumstances they do not wish to do, however, under certain specifically negotiated circumstances these types of play may be permitted provided they are approached delicately by the top”.[4] For example, a soft boundary may be no spanking unless I stick my bum out and beg you, you ask me specifically, we start with light nail strokes / caresses to warm up the area, and we build up the intensity slowly towards harder impact.

Conditional boundaries are boundaries that need a certain criterion to be met before they are approached. Some examples of conditional boundaries are ‘verbally asking me before touching me below the waist’ and ‘putting on gloves before touching mucus membranes’.

A useful metric to initially determine if you can trust someone is by closely monitoring if they respect your boundaries (additional recommendations on trust below on ‘how you know you can trust someone’*).

Over time as trust between partners builds or as a partner becomes more adventurous boundaries may change or relax. In advanced stages of inter-relation gently pushing (probing) boundaries - when done by a comforting, compassionate partner with great care - can be a beautiful way to enrich and evolve a relationship. [5]

How do you know what your boundaries are?

Solo Boundary Exploration

Confounding Boundaries – Journal Prompts

Journal : What are your boundaries? Are they context dependent? What are the contextual factors that cause your boundaries to dramatically change (what makes you put down or raise up your boundaries or ‘make more space’ – increasing the width of the buffer around a hard line)? How have your boundaries evolved through time? What caused them to change? How did you learn what your boundaries were? What was it like before you had a boundary? What happened to cause you to make a boundary? Have your boundaries become more general or specific over time?

Were there any signs in your body/mind the moment before your boundary was crossed that were red flags? These are your personal intuitive signs - mark them well, for monitoring them enables you to check in with yourself regarding your inner state. The following exercise can help clarify your internal process and help you identify your personal signals.

One on One Boundary Exploration

SenZation Buffet

If you are new to exploring your personal physical expression you may not necessarily have a detailed or crystalized understanding about what your boundaries are. If this describes you a fun way to explore your boundaries / preferences is through seeking out a SenZation ‘sensation buffet’. SenZation buffets are led by trusted facilitators who are trained to start slow and escalate sensations carefully, allowing you to develop fine-tuned knowledge of your body’s inner experience. SenZation buffets create a enhanced emotive environment that encourages tuning into the guide inside through ease of access to sequential somatic stimuli in a supportive sensation playpen. The SenZation body buffet bounty serves diverse platters of physicality in procession precisely to potentiate tracking of inner sensations, attractions, and repulsions.  The concentrated clarity that comes from consecutive comparison and progressively expanding depth produces a heightened state of tracking – allowing subtleties of reaction that typically go unobserved to be held and highlighted. This conscious cultivation of a richly contoured canvas of contact is presented to produce a precise sensation scaffolding map – providing a detailed dive into nuanced gnosis as well as plotting a wide overview of the plethora of potential expressions of experience and exchange.

Self-knowledge enhances play with others due to the linked relationship between the level of detail in your personal understanding of inner landscape and how directly you can communicate this interior world with others externally (you cannot communicate something you yourself are not tracking). The more nuanced your needs and detailed your desires, the more precisely you can communicate about your personal preferences to others, multiplying the likelihood of a satisfying mutual meeting.

As a very rudimentary indication that someone is approaching a boundary is that you start to feel physically uncomfortable or nervous – wanting to move away (create distance from the stimulus) and have them leave you alone. You may freeze or shut down because as your bodily boundary is being encroached upon, Body is no longer a safe place to be feeling inside of. You may begin to feel an activated adrenaline response of fight or flight and become jittery or ‘on edge’. [Caveat to any examples of reactions described within this tome as typical – these reactionary trends ‘tend to be true for most people most of the time’ – however, each body’s reactions are different and reactions can change over time – noting that exposure to trauma can also deeply after patterns of reactions as a survival coping mechanism - as is discussed in depth later.]

Partner-Present Boundary Probing : Realizing in Relationship

If you are discovering your boundaries in a SomsenZ session and you feel your guinside (= guide + inside: pronunciation evocative of go or goo -Inside **) physical communicating wanting to move away from a stimulus take the time to explore the edges of the boundary to clearly realize it’s nature. If you have not previously realized a boundary was present in that area or for that type of touch, stick with the sensation and follow it to the root to pinpoint its cause of feeling / what feelings are feeding it. Treat yourself tenderly throughout this pinpointed probing as it is a potent personal learning experience! Once you become aware of your wariness, signal to your partner to slow down by giving your ‘slow’ physical sign (such as by raising your hand in a ‘stop’ / ‘slow down’ motion with palm facing your partner) or verbalizing your internal experience and aligning intentions (ex.  ‘yellow, you’re approaching a boundary and I want to get clear on what it is – can you do what you were just doing in slow motion and explore the surrounding area while I get a clearer idea?’). If you can determine why a boundary exists and details of the context that erected it this distinction adds to your self / situational awareness and aids in communication with other play partners in the future. When a boundary can be directly articulated (eg. don’t touch my face unless your hands are freshly washed) confidence in vocalizing your needs in the moment increases and leads to deeper and more satisfactory play.

Some examples of common reasons your boundaries may be activated or change over time are : you sense your partner has begun to run sexual energy; you are with an unfamiliar partner in edgy territory; your partner is distracted/you sense their awareness is elsewhere; your energy has dipped; your body state changed; you’ve become cold or sore; you are protective of a current/past injury in that location; you are not feeling warmed up or stretchy.**

Investigatory Inventory: Determining your Personal Yes/No/Maybe Lists

An additional benefit of the SomasenZ SenZory Buffet below is that this luscious list can be used as a yes/no/maybe worksheet specifically focused on Sensation Play. This static suggestion sheet preserved in print is a fossilized partial list of what is included in the SomasenZ Buffet for perusal to pique interest (find the actively updated / current list of offerings online at[6] A yes/no/maybe list is an checklist to seed awareness of ideas of areas of exploration that may be fun and other’s you may prefer to avoid for now. These lists of potential play areas create a fun, titillating communication container for a discussion that is both easeful and thorough between play partners to help them find areas of mutual interest for exploration (upon inspection we are sure you’ll get some ideas you have not thought of recently). This SenZory Inventory list is specifically focused on platonic touch play –an abundance of lists tailored to alternative zones of interest can be found online.[7] The Sensory Inventory below includes my personal favorites from the full sensation buffet journey I take exploratory playmates through when they are unsure of their preferences and/or wanting to explore new ways to interact. Variations/deeper dives are found in parentheses and are considered part of a ‘physical platter’ of closely related sensations. I heartily encourage you to create your own SenZesory Inventory – please share your favorite sensations with the contact community to spread the love.[8]

Explored record

Keeping a written record of what you have explored with immediate jottings and comprehensive journaled notes made about the experience can later provide an excellent point of reflection for how your sensation preferences and proclivities evolve over time. A fun exercise for self-reflection and/or in any exploratory partnerships is to set a yearly date to go through your yes/no/maybe list again and chart changes - noting how growth edges reveal themselves in  self-understanding, increase in detail, and awareness of preferences. You may be surprised at the degree to which your interests / likes change and how boundaries can expand when exploration is held in caring relationships in which trust builds over time.

How to Set yourself up for Satisfaction in a Play Session : Advanced Aspects to Consider in an Exploratory Partnership

Should you choose to proceed in exploring sensation play with a partner who is not SomasenZ certified, there are several important container integrity guidelines that we recommend for the safety and health of playmates. These guidelines are especially helpful and relevant if you do not know your potential playmate well, or are new to playing with them in a physical context. The body is a storehouse for memory, and this work is often intense and intimate (risk / vulnerability in proportion to its potential for gratifying growth), so it is wise to choose play partners who revere you and treat you with respect.

  1. Discuss the purpose of your session : make intensions and desires clear so you know you are a match.

Are you seeking to relax? Explore new types of sensation? Trying to shut down the thinking mind? Be more present? Have more access to your senses, expanding your capacity to feel into nuance, and thus more capacity to receive knowledge? Learning more of your body cues and honing your intuition? Entering an altered state? Getting more comfortable expressing yourself? Practicing having conversations about your boundaries? Connecting to a new friend? Connecting to a longtime partner? Exploring a persona? Channeling an energy or architype? Channeling sensual energy? Channeling sexual energy? Orgasming? Stretching your edges? Practicing presence through tracking sensation?

  1. Know your / partner’s boundaries, triggers, trauma history, and how to support them when triggered

Boundaries :

Boundaries are created to protect agency, respecting them is the cornerstone of trust building. Please reference the ‘Boundaries’ section for a discussion of the types of boundaries which includes a philosophical treatise on why they exist and how to honor the needs beneath them.

What does a soft boundary means to you – is it a boundary that requires less space around approaching it? Do you want a verbal check in before exploring? Do you want to explore the soft boundary but only after you are warmed up? What would warm you up to explore this soft boundary?

If all participants are open and available for deeper emotional conversation it can be fruitful for trust and relationship-building to ask each person why they have a boundary so you can respect the deeper meaning behind the barrier, allowing you to honor their core needs and create a greater container for safety.

Trauma history, triggers, reaction patterns :

When having conversations about such charged subjects, be sure to be aware of both what the listener and the teller need to feel open to having the conversation while maintaining a state of high resource (this may look like checking in with physical bodies with frequent biobreaks for food, water, and movement). It’s good to consider what all participants would need to feel held in the intimacy of these conversations and acknowledging that those with additional training may be needed to be present to hold such deep space. Additionally, consider that giving enough time and space for full stories to be told will reap dividends, as this preemptive investment in knowing your play partner’s history allows you to avoid emotionally complicated or unpleasant situations. Please review ‘How animals handle trauma’ section for additional detail on trauma and reaction patterns.

Trauma :

We typically think of trauma as a response to an event that is deeply distressing or disturbing, eliciting “fear, helplessness, or horror” such as when the individual experiences “a threat to their life“, sustaining “a serious injury”, or having their “physical integrity” threatened. [9] However, additional trauma research has broadened the definition to include the nervous system’s reaction to perceiving the “self or a loved one in danger” even if danger may not “actually be present”. The nervous system may respond as though a survival level threat has taken place, even if this behavior is not logical, reacting to “chronic stress, dramatic change, shame, betrayal, or prolonged chaos as if trauma were present”. [10]

Trauma can be elicited in may ways : in the form of a single event, a series of instances of note, an accelerating on ramp of behavior, or in constant low grade microaggressions or emotional abuse. Trauma can be caused by many forces: a person, type of relational pattern, group dynamic, and even through a cultural system (e.g patriarchy, slavery).

Trauma is relative – what is profoundly traumatic to one person may not affect another as deeply, or may not even be considered noteworthy at all. Each person’s unique nature (genetic hardwiring) and nurture (social software and encoded patterns of behavior) will change the valence or likelihood that they will have a have a trauma response activated in their nervous system when experiencing a particular stimulus. Additionally, people’s triggers may become stronger or weaker over time, and people will be affected differently depending on how resources they feel in that moment (eg. ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ moments may be slight when considered in the grand scope, but came at a time of low/no resource and capacity). The context of encountering a specific trigger also matters, as evidenced by the psychological treatment techniques of Exposure Therapy and paring a feeling of safety with experiencing the trigger to reduce the severity of a reaction to create new associations in the mind through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Each being’s “nervous system is different”… Some of us are built with a resilient system, while others may be more vulnerable to stress, chaos, or being startled or shamed”. Those with “a more sensitive body/nervous system can hold onto [an] experience for months, years, or even decades” because, in the end, “It is not about the event, it is about how that circumstance was internalized by this survival oriented parts of the brain”. In some people a “visceral, nervous system shifting, traumatic reaction” will happen due to ‘nearly universal’ events such as “being yelled at during a vulnerable time or getting into a fender bender”. When “scars, wounds, and bald spots are visible to people around us” they can prompt “negative responses and the resulting shame and isolation can be traumatic”. [11]

Additionally, although each person will likely have a ‘typical’ type or range of forms of trauma reaction they are ‘familiar’ with and predisposed to, this is not a guarantee that they will respond with the same form even if the trigger is the same. Knowing the distinctive forms that trauma responses can take can help guide how to support self and others through a trauma reaction in ways that deescalate the reaction and help communicate to the nervous system that ‘everything is ok’, bringing body back to baseline.

Anatomy of Trauma Response

Responses to threat typically include several stages, starting with a freezing response, proceeding to fight-flight, and possibility followed by tonic immobility (‘playing dead’). [12]

Details on Types of Trauma Response


Gray (1987) described freeze as a “trauma response comprised of alert or vigilant immobility” with “alert posture, attention aimed at locating the possible danger” (see also Marks, 1987/1991). [13]

Fight : activation of sympathetic nervous system,

Flight : activation of sympathetic nervous system, escape, avoidance,

Tonic immobility :

Tonic immobility (TI) is often “described as the final stage after encountering a predator” and in animals occurs as a death-feigning state, “which may be of evolutionary advantage in that many predators are interested in living prey only”. “The most pronounced features of TI are physical immobility and muscular rigidity, but additional features such as suppressed vocal behavior, analgesia, waxy flexibility and tremors in the extremities have also been reported (Gallup, 1974). However, in TI the prey animal is still highly alert and features of the event and the environment are still actively processed.“ [14]

TI can also be “characterized by pronounced physical and verbal immobility; trembling; sensations of cold and numbness; insensitivity to intense or painful stimulation”[15]; “ profound but reversible physical immobility and muscular rigidity; sympathetic and parasympathetic responses; intermittent periods of eye closure; fixed, unfocused gaze or stare; Parkinsonian-like tremors in the extremities; suppressed vocal behavior; analgesia; waxy flexibility (Gallup & Rager, 1996)” [16] ; “motor inhibition; increased breathing” (Suarez and Gallup (1979))[17]”. The Tonic Immobility Scale, which scores severity of TI includes measuring for “paralysis, incapacity to scream, numbness, sensation of cold, fear, [and] feeling disconnected from oneself and the surroundings).[18]

TI is often “ induced by conditions of fear and physical restriction, although it can also occur in the absence of the latter, so the important aspect may be the perceived incapacity to escape (Heidt, Marx, & Forsyth, 2005; Moskowitz, 2004). Tonic immobility is an adaptive response when one does not perceive the possibility of escaping or of winning a fight. In effect, as predators tend to react basically to the movement of their prey, if the latter remain immobile instead of struggling or fighting, the probability of escaping increases because the predator often is distracted and temporarily releases its prey (Bracha, 2004; Marks, 1987; Moskowitz, 2004).”[19]

“TI is thought to be the ultimate response in a series of defense reflexes (i.e., freezing, flight, fight, TI) observed among many animal species that are elicited by circumstances involving imminent mortal danger where escape is impossible (Fanselow, 1994; Gallup & Rager, 1996; Marx, Forsyth, Gallup, Lexington, & Fusé, 2008; Ratner, 1967). Among animals, TI can only be elicited under conditions in which both restraint and fear occur. Researchers have suggested that TI-like responses occur in about one third to one half of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivors (e.g., Fusé, Forsyth, Marx, Gallup, & Weaver, 2007; Galliano, Noble, Travis, & Puechl, 1993; Heidt, Marx, & Forsyth, 2005) and that these TI-like responses may be a byproduct of intense fear and perceived inescapability experienced by the individual. Furthermore, TI has been shown to significantly correlate with psychological difficulties, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptom severity (e.g., Heidt et al., 2005).

Tonic immobility (TI) is an involuntary state of temporary motor inhibition believed to occur in response to events that provoke extreme fear and the perception of inescapability (Marx, Forsyth, Gallup, Fuse, & Lexington, 2008The response has been documented for centuries in numerous species (Gallup & Maser, 1977) and is posited to have evolved as an adaptive response to animal predation (Gallup, 1974, 1977; Marks, 1987). “When people experience extremely stressful or traumatic events, they sometimes feel “frozen” or “paralyzed with fear.” Individuals may be unable to move even though they remain conscious and are not physically restrained. For example, during an assault a person may feel frozen or paralyzed with fear and be unable to resist their attacker.” “My body felt frozen,” “My legs felt paralyzed,” and from the dissociation scale: “My ability to feel pain was diminished,” “I had trouble keeping my eyes open,” and, “I felt faint or light-headed.” [20]


“Women who reportedly experienced TI during a CSA [Childhood Sexual Assault] episode displayed greater PTSD symptomatology than women who did not experience TI during a CSA episode. TI’s unique relationship to PTSD reexperiencing symptoms suggests that TI may be a critical factor in the development of these specific symptoms. One possible explanation for this specific relationship, posited by Marx et al. (2008), is that the gross motor inhibition or “freezing/paralysis” associated with TI promotes feelings of self-blame and guilt because of being unable to prevent the attack (e.g., Metzger, 1976). These feelings in turn may lead to rumination and/or intrusive thoughts about the traumatic episode (Metzger, 1976; Mezey & Taylor, 1988; Suarez & Gallup, 1979). Others have suggested that the freezing that occurs during TI may itself promote the emergence of PTSD and other posttraumatic sequelae (e.g., Levine, 1997; Ogden & Minton, 2002). Specifically, these authors suggest that the TI response thwarts other more active and adaptive defensive responses from occurring during and after trauma. These failed responses, along with the inability to modulate arousal, can be sources of distressing bodily experiences and ultimately lead to trauma symptoms. Although the relationship between TI and dissociation is not yet clearly defined, recent studies have demonstrated an association with these two peritraumatic responses (Fusé et al., 2007; Heidt et al., 2005). TI may result in a pattern of suppressed autonomic arousal to trauma-related stimuli, which has been associated with the experience of dissociation during a trauma (e.g., Griffin, Resick, & Mechanic, 1997; Lanius, Williamson, & Boksman, 2002). Subsequent acknowledgment and understanding of the TI response may lead to an increased capacity for abuse survivors to feel more comfortable disclosing aspects of their experience and may also foster a more supportive environment that is sensitive to this dimension of trauma response and its consequences. Further research on this relationship may provide important information for therapists working with sexual abuse survivors, leading to the inclusion of TI assessment as part of their clinical practice, and the recognition that this response is common, associated with negative outcomes, and likely will impact outcomes in those seeking professional help for their sexual abuse-related difficulties.” [21]

Hagenaars et al demonstrated findings and hypothesis about the correlation between TI and PTSD in an experiential PTSD analogue study by “showing that (either voluntary or involuntary) immobility during an aversive film resulted in more intrusive memories of that film relative to free-to-move counterparts (Hagenaars, Van Minnen, Holmes, Brewin, & Hoogduin, 2008).” Researchers theorized that “TI could enhance PTSD development in several ways. First, victims were more likely to be blamed if they did not show active struggling (McCaul, Veltum, Boyechko, & Crawford, 1990), which may result in less post-trauma social support and more negative cognitions about oneself, both predictive factors in PTSD development (Ehlers & Clark, 2000; Ozer, Best, Lipsey, &Weiss). 2003). Second, the intense peritraumatic distress associated with TI may be responsible for later PTSD development, possibly as an indicator of perceived life stress (Ozer et al., 2003) or trauma severity (Brewin, Andrews, & Valentine, 2000). Third, controllability is considered a key factor in TI as well as PTSD development (Marx et al., 2008). That is, physical restraint or entrapment and intense fear are the two conditions that elicit TI. Animals indeed showed increased susceptibility to TI after an uncontrollable than after an escapable shock (Maser & Gallup, 1974). So as a consequence, individuals with poor controllability capacities may be more vulnerable to experience TI. TI might also specifically affect the development of intrusive memories. That is, another defense response that includes immobility (freezing) is associated with enhanced sensory intake (Bradley, Codispoti, Cuthbert, & Lang, 2001). This may cause a dominantly perceptual information processing style, which is considered to result in the development of vivid, intrusive memories (Ehlers & Clark, 2000). Indeed, a previous experiment showed that immobility during an aversive film resulted in higher frequencies of intrusive memories of that film (Hagenaars et al., 2008).” [22]

Hagenaars et al’s findings also pointed towards potential preemptive actions as well as treatment paths for those predisposed towards TI as a response to trauma in the relationship between cognitive control and memory. “The fact that involuntary memories were found to be associated with self-reported weaker cognitive control (distractability; Verwoerd & Wessel, 2007), as well as with deficient inhibitory control that showed on experimental tasks (Verwoerd, Wessel & De Jong, 2009) seems to confirm that [cognitive control affects the development of involuntary memories]. For example, lower working memory capacity was associated with relatively high levels of intrusive memories (Klein & Boals, 2001), whereas people with high working memory capacity were better able to suppress intrusive thoughts (Brewin & Beaton, 2002; Brewin & Smart, 2005). Working memory capacity refers to “the ability to control attention to maintain information in an active, quickly retrievable state” (Engle, 2002, p. 20). By definition, it is at least related to but possibly isomorphic to the concept of executive attention or attentional control. Moreover, self-reported low attentional control was also related to higher intrusive memory frequency in an experimental study.” Cultivating attentional control is comprised of  “attentional focus (the ability to focus attention), attentional shift (the ability to shift attention between tasks), and thought control (the ability to flexibly control thought). Possibly, attentional control is not a predictor of intrusive memories by itself, but rather a protective factor. That is, the effects of PTSD-risk factors such as TI may be diminished by enhanced attentional control. One mechanism may be that good attentional control enhances inhibition or suppression of unwanted memories (Brewin & Beaton, 2002; Brewin & Smart, 2005).” [23] This study suggests that cultivating attentional control may be a fruitful avenue to explore for pre-emptive skill to build in order to mitigate risk in those predisposed towards TI.

This author is sensitive to the implications of statements similar to the following made by Murray et all, that “TI has been conceptualized as the terminal defensive response, occurring after flight and fight behaviors have been exhausted (Blanchard & Blanchard, 1988; Marks, 1987)”. [24] Statements such as these could be interpreted to mean that a TI response occurs only after an expressed fight or flight attempt. Contrary to this reading of the statement, the body of research suggests that the use of ‘exhausted’ is implied in the sense of ‘considered and then discarded as ineffective’. The author stresses this point, as there has previously been a cultural ‘trauma response hierarchy’ in which undergoing/demonstrating a fight or flight response is ‘more indicative’ of Sexual Assault and defensible in a legal context as opposed to a freeze or TI response. The author wishes to emphasize that the body of available scientific literature is in agreement with the statement that undergoing a TI response merits greater concern and need for psychological aid as TI an indicator not only of greater severity in impact of trauma (as the bodymind perceived that other trauma responses would not have resulted in escape, as TI is the ‘last ditch effort’) but also that TI is correlated with ** .

TI as proxy indicator of PTSD severity

“First, traumatic events severe enough to provoke a TI response are likely to occur at the extreme end of the severity continuum and, accordingly, are inherently more likely to result in more severe PTSD (Zoellner, 2008). If this is the case, reported TI may function as a proxy indicator for trauma severity.” Measuring event severity has proven challenging in the past, because, “consistent with current PTSD conceptualizations (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), event severity is a largely a matter of subjective experience and efforts to operationalize it are likely to be viewed as arbitrary. Evidence to date suggests an overlapping but distinct relationship between TI and peritraumatic dissociation; on the one hand, dissociation (by definition) interferes with higher cognitive functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), whereas evidence from animal research suggests intact central processing during TI (Gallup, Boren, Suarez, Wallnau, & Gagliardi, 1980). This latter finding is consistent with reports that sexual assault survivors who report TI are able to recall the sequence of events during their attack (Suarez & Gallup, 1979). Specifically, it is possible that respondents who report being frozen or paralyzed with fear may be confounding dissociative reactions…with the physical immobility characteristic of TI (Zoellner, 2008).” [25] This author reminds readers that there is significant overlap between a TI and dissociation, and speaks from a personal experience of sexual assault in which the initial trauma response was a freeze state which was propelled into dissociation at the moment of vaginal penetration.


Weave in following content

“Tonic immobility, a far less investigated peritraumatic reaction in humans, has been studied in animals for over three centuries.9-11 Tonic immobility is characterized by reversible immobility, analgesia, and relative unresponsiveness to external stimulation elicited in a context of inescapable threat.12-14 Its adaptive value is supported by the fact that the absence of movement increases the odds that a captured animal will escape, as the predator may loosen its grip if it assumes that the prey is indeed dead.15,16 This response is considered the last-ditch defense against entrapment by a predator within a sequence of defensive responses, namely freeze, flight, fight, and tonic immobility.17 Tonic immobility is different from freezing behavior, which occurs early in the encounter stage of the defensive reflex. Freezing is an initial response during which the animal stops moving to avoid detection and shifts resources to locate the predator and is associated with increased responsivity to stimuli and alert posture.18-21 Freezing was shown to occur in humans when confronted with a potential threat (pictures of injured people) through objectively measuring the body sway, and it is accompanied by bradichardia.22,23 Tonic immobility, on the other hand, was shown to involve motionless posture along with accelerated heart rate under very high threat (Volchan et al., submitted). Early studies of tonic immobility in humans have focused on female victims of sexual assault.24 Further studies found that tonic immobility predicts posttraumatic stress symptoms in non-clinical and clinical female victims of sexual assault.24-26 Our group recently investigated mixed-gender samples exposed to urban violence and found that peritraumatic tonic immobility predicted both the severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms and a poor response to pharmacological treatment in PTSD patients.27-29 This finding implies that trauma victims who react with tonic immobility are at high risk for developing PTSD. Secondary prevention of PTSD is an important goal for public health. The present study suggests that screening for tonic immobility in the aftermath of a traumatic event may help to identify victims in need for early therapeutic intervention. Also, the present study adds evidence that the occurrence of tonic immobility under traumatic events is far from rare in humans. Information about this involuntary defensive strategy to life-threatening events should be spread to the general public. Knowledge about this “natural” reaction has the power to alleviate shame and guilt of being immobile during a trauma.”[26]

Social compliance

Although being a mild stressor relative to actual trauma, the film used in the current study still adequately evoked TI. Lang, Davis and Öhman (2000) already suggested passive viewing paradigms mimic actual threat encounters by eliciting feelings of restraint, as the participant is subjectively trapped by experimental instructions and social compliance. Empirical findings have indeed confirmed that passive viewing paradigms can effectively elicit basic defense responses (Lang et al., 2000; Roelofs, Hagenaars, & Stins, 2010).  [27]


Bullying / Social exclusion :

Background: A variety of studies have demonstrated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in victims of bullying. Because bullying with only relational aggression, such as social exclusion, does not involve physical aggression that could explain PTSD symptoms, it remains unclear why these relational aggression situations are also linked to PTSD symptoms. Objective: The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the fear-response tonic immobility (Ti) can occur during social exclusion. Since Ti, as an indicator of peritraumatic dissociation, is an important predictor of PTSD symptoms, we expected that the presence of Ti during social exclusion might contribute to possible explanations of PTSD symptoms in victims of relational aggression. Method: Social exclusion was manipulated by a virtual Cyberball game in which participants were excluded and included by virtual confederates. During the game, Ti was measured, both physiologically (heart rate) and psychologically (subjective symptoms). Also, the underlying concepts of Ti, high levels of fear and psychological restraint (threatened sense of control), were measured. Results: Excluded participants experienced higher levels of subjective and physiological Ti symptoms (lower heart rates) in comparison to social inclusion. Also, as expected, social exclusion resulted in higher levels of fear and psychological restraint in comparison to social inclusion. Conclusion: Social exclusion can evoke symptoms of Ti, fear, and psychological restraint, which might be important mechanisms to consider in explaining PTSD symptoms after relational forms of bullying in the absence of physical aggression. There is a growing body of literature highlighting the existence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in victims of bullying (Idsøe, Dyregrov, & Idsøe, 2012; Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2004; Mynard, Joseph, & Alexander, 2000). Bullying can be defined as ‘‘longstanding violence, physical or mental, conducted by an individual or a group and directed against an individual who is not able to defend himself in the actual situation’’ (Roland, 1989, p. 143). Bullying happens at different ages and in several settings (e.g., school and work) (MacDonald & Leary, 2005). Frequently, bullying consists of a combination of relational aggression and physical aggression (Olweus, 2013; Roland & Idsøe, 2001). Physical aggression involves behaviors such as physical attack and fighting (Olweus, 1991; Roland & Idsøe, 2001), whereas relational aggression is a type of aggression that ‘‘involves behaviors such as threatening to withdraw friendship in order to get one’s own way or using social exclusion as a form of retaliation’’ (Crick, Bigbee, & Howes, 1996). Examples include social exclusion, cyber bullying, and spreading rumors (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995; Williams & Guerra, 2007). In school bullying that included both physical and relational aggression, it was found that 2537% of the victims. reported PTSD symptoms (Mynard et al., 2000; Rivers, 2004). In bullying among adults in the workplace, 4063% of the victims experienced PTSD symptoms (Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2004; Tehrani, 2004). Remarkably, in this study by Matthiesen and Einarsen (2004) bullying only included relational and verbal aggression, such as insulting remarks, social exclusion, verbal abuse, and spreading rumors. As such, this study shows that relational aggression, although it does not meet the DSM-5 A-criterion of PTSD (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), is associated with PTSD symptoms. Ti is observed as a last defense response in reaction to a predator, after fight or flight reactions have failed to enable escape from the situation. Ti has both physiological symptoms such as immobility and stiffness, bradycardia, fixed, unfocused eye gaze, parkinsonian-like tremors, and decreased pain perception, as well as subjective symptoms such as an inability to speak or move and feeling fearful, cold, and ashamed (Gallup, 1977). According to the fear hypothesis (Gallup, 1977), Ti is commonly hypothesized to occur exclusively during situations that involve physical aggression, as described in reports of rape and sexual abuse (also referred to as rape paralysis). However, it was shown that organisms in social isolation show more prolonged immobility reactions than organisms that were not socially isolated (Gallup, 1974). Gallup (1974) concluded that: ‘‘... social isolation ... could also lend itself to an interpretation of immobility as being related to fear associated with separation from imprinted or familiar companions’’ (p. 840). Experimental studies on social exclusion have indeed observed several Ti responses such as analgesia (DeWall & Baumeister, 2006; Eisenberg, Liebermann, & Williams, 2003; MacDonald & Leary, 2005), feeling cold (Zhong & Leonardelli, 2008), and experiencing the inability to control the social situation (Williams, 2007; Williams, Cheung, & Choi, 2000; Williams et al., 2002). ggression, the physical restraint component is not present. This brought up our main research question: whether Ti can occur during situations with high levels of fear and relational aggression but no physical aggression or restraint, in this case social exclusion. Our hypothesis was that Ti can occur because the subjective experience of restraint rather than the actual physical restraint might be most evident in events that do not involve physical aggression. In the current study, we refer to this form of restraint as psychological restraint, which involves the subjective feeling of being restrained by others with the power to influence social status, accompanied by a perceived inability to control the social situation. For example, Mynard et al. (2000) showed that PTSD symptoms were predicted by the belief that control lies with powerful others. Psychological restraint is related to a wider range of situations. For instance, feeling restrained is often interpreted as an urge to leave an aversive situation or environment (flight), but being unable to move away from this situation because of social rank factors (Gilbert, Allan, Brough, Melley, & Miles, 2002). As such, the psychological experience of feeling restrained can take place in events involving physical aggression (e.g., rape or abuse) or other circumstances (e.g., restrained by partner in relationship) (Marx, Forsyth, Gallup, Fuse´, & Lexington, 2008). Thus far, only the study by Roelofs, Hagenaars, and Stins (2010) purposefully examined the relationship between relational aggression, in this case social threat with no physical restraint, and Ti (freeze). It was found that viewing angry faces induced fear and physiological Ti-like symptoms such as significant reductions in body movement and decreased heart rate. However, immobility was only measured with physiological indicators in that study and their experimental condition was assumed to induce fear, but not psychological or physical restraint. To fill this gap, the present study aimed to measure Ti during social exclusion that involves both fear and psychological restraint. Given the fact that social exclusion more frequently happens online than some years ago (Slonje & Smith, 2008; Williams & Guerra, 2007), the present study used the Cyberball exclusion game to evoke social exclusion. This game was used because it has been repeatedly shown that both fear and the psychological feeling of threatened control are induced. That is, participants feel anxious during this game (Williams, 2007), they exhibit the fear component of Ti, and participants have a threatened sense of control (Williams et al., 2000; Williams & Zadro, 2001; Zadro, Williams, & Richardson, 2004), which is hypothesized to be the psychological restraint component. One explanation for the fact that symptoms of Ti can occur during social exclusion with no physical aggression is that, in contrast to earlier assumptions, not only the actual level of physical restraint might predict fearresponses such as Ti, but also the subjective, psychological level of restraint. This was examined in our second research question that tested whether social exclusion indeed evoked subjective feelings of fear and psychological, as opposed to physical, restraint. In terms of the fear component, we found that social exclusion induced higher feelings of fear in comparison to social inclusion. This finding is consistent with the fear hypothesis (Gallup, 1977) and other models of fear-responses (Ratner, 1976; Schauer & Elbert, 2010). In terms of the psychological restraint component, it was shown that excluded participants reported subjective feelings of psychological restraint and threatened control (e.g., ‘‘I felt I was unable to significantly alter the event’’ and ‘‘I felt restrained during the game’’). This suggests that, although participants were not physically restrained or withheld, they felt unable to influence their inclusion status (‘‘I felt I was unable to influence the actions of others’’). During the exclusion game, some participants clicked on the icons of other players or pressed several keys on the keyboard. However, these actions did not change the course of the game, as the behavior of the other players was preprogrammed. As such, the control and power of the participants was presumably threatened, as previous studies have shown (e.g., Williams et al., 2000; Zadro et al., 2004). Overall, these findings are relevant because they give new insight into a possible explanation for the presence of trauma-like responses during and after relational aggression. Research with PTSD patients has shown that Ti can predict PTSD symptoms (Rocha-Rego et al., 2009) and might have a more negative impact on PTSD development than peritraumatic panic (Lima et al., 2010). The psychological restraint component is also highlighted in other areas of psychopathology. For instance, it has been demonstrated that psychological restraint is related to the development of several disorders, including social anxiety disorder (Taylor, Gooding, Wood, & Tarrier, 2011) and psychotic disorders (Schreier et al., 2009). Also, it is assumed that the experience of immobility and restraint in a psychological way, can serve as a mediating factor in the development and maintenance of psychiatric disorders. Recently, for instance, it was found that restraint mediated the relation between self-appraisals and suicidal behavior in patients with PTSD (Panagioti, Gooding, Taylor, & Tarrier, 2012). In summary, these studies suggest that subjective appraisals of restraint might be just as important for the emotional or behavioral consequences, as the physical actions during the event. Future research could investigate whether subjective appraisals of restraint are also important in non-interpersonal trauma. xclusion could also be varied in intensity and over time. In conclusion, this study found that the subjective experience of Ti, including subjective feelings of fear and a threatened sense of control, can occur during social exclusion. This finding is highly important because it provides a new perspective on Ti as a fear-response and the circumstances in which Ti can occur. Whereas previous studies have only highlighted Ti-responses during situations of physical aggression, with high levels of fear and physical restraint, the present study demonstrates that events with relational aggression could also induce symptoms of Ti. In addition, the presence of Ti symptoms and psychological restraint might be important mechanisms to consider in explaining PTSD symptoms in victims of bullying who have suffered relational aggression, even in the absence of physical aggression.  [28]

Survivors of sexual assault

While tonic immobility (TI) is a phenomenon well known and documented in the animal world, far less is known about its manifestation in humans. Available literature demonstrates that TI is significantly associated with less hopeful prognoses when compared with survivors who did not experience TI (Fiszman et al., 2008; Heidt et al., 2005). If survivors who experience TI are at increased risk for “depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and peritraumatic dissociation” (Heidt et al., 2005, p. 1166) and respond more poorly “to standard pharmacological treatment for PTSD” (Fiszman et al., 2008, p. 196), the implications for treatment are significant, suggesting that TI “should be routinely assessed in traumatized patients” (Fiszman et al., 2008, p. 193). Literature indicates that “TI is thought to be particularly relevant to survivors of rape and other sexual assault” and that “sexual assault is a trauma that appears to entail virtually all of the salient elements associated with the induction of TI in nonhuman animals, namely, fear, contact, and restraint” (Marx et al., 2008, p. 79). Describing the phenomenon as it is experienced by survivors is especially important because the ability to accurately understand and describe the nature of the phenomenon is the first step toward accurately identifying, diagnosing, and treating the sequelae of such a response. This study examines the experience of TI from the perspective of 7 women who survived a sexual assault accompanied by tonic immobility using qualitative phenomenological methodology, and yields a description of the core defining themes of the experience of TI.  Tonic immobility is defined by diminished or absent volitional movement in response to a traumatic event, accompanied by diminished vocal capacity. Theoretical descriptions have hypothesized TI as an “evolved predator defense” (Marx, Forsyth, Gallup, Fusé, & Lexington, 2008, p. 74) and noted “psychoeducation regarding its involuntary and defensive nature may help normalize trauma-related reactions” (Zoellner, 2008, p. 98). These overviews have noted that “TI is evolutionarily highly conserved (uniform across species)” (Bracha & Maser, 2008, p. 91) and is experienced by humans across a broad spectrum of critical incidents (Bracha & Maser, 2008; Leach, 2004; Moskowitz, 2004). Other writers have extended the theoretical bases of this construct into the empirical literature using SA as a focal point of investigation. For example, Heidt, Marx, and Forsyth (2005) explored the relationship between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and TI. Over 52% of their sample (n 39) reported experiences consistent with TI in response to episodes of CSA. Moreover, having experienced peritraumatic TI was positively correlated with “depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and peritraumatic dissociation” (Heidt et al., 2005, p. 1166). Lexington (2007) also found that TI was associated with poor outcomes relative to controls among female undergraduates. In her study, those in the TI group were more likely to engage in emotion suppression, to experience more severe PTSD symptoms, and to experience increased negative affect, guilt, and shame. Moreover, among her sample (n 96), heart rate reactivity to a hypothetical date rape scenario was significantly lower among the TI group than among either nonvictim or non-TI victim control groups. Lexington also found that those who had been victimized but had not experienced TI were less likely than the TI group to engage in cognitive reappraisal of their SA experiences during the recovery processes. These are the primary components broadly comprising a TI response, which is marked by motor inhibition, inability to vocalize, tremors, subjective feelings of terror, and inability to escape. The present study explores how survivors experience TI in their lives. Such understanding is valuable to researchers and clinicians because it can lead to further studies that develop ways to help ameliorate mental health and relational problems in those who have experienced TI because of SA. These problems were noted by Fiszman, Mendlowicz, Marques-Portella, Volchan, Coutinho, Souza, and Figueira (2008); Humphreys, Sauder, Martin, and Marx (2010); and Bovin, Jager-Hyman, Gold, Marx, and Sloan. (2008). Second, understanding the phenomenon will give increased opportunities to provide effective interventions. To date, no interventions specific to TI have been identified. **interventions specific to TI**. We used a phenomenological design to explore TI as a lived experience. The goal of phenomenology is to share the essence of an experience by gathering detailed descriptions that provide the basis for a reflective structural analysis (Moustakas, 1994, p. 13). Data were analyzed by using Moustakas’ (1994) modification of the Van Kaam method of phenomenological data analysis. The first step, horizontalization, is the process of identifying horizons of the experience, those things that can be a “grounding or condition of the phenomenon that gives it a distinctive character” (Moustakas, 1994, p. 95). Interview transcripts were studied and all expressions relevant to the phenomenon were listed. Second, two questions were asked of each expression listed, as called for by this method: (a) “Does it contain a moment of the experience that is a necessary and sufficient constituent for understanding it?” and (b) “Is it possible to abstract and label it?” (Moustakas, 1994, p. 121). Expressions not meeting the criteria were eliminated, and those remaining formed the invariant constituents of the experience. Third, invariant constituents were reviewed for similar thematic content and grouped accordingly. The thematized invariant constituents were considered the themes of the experience of TI. Fourth, the researcher reviewed transcripts anew so that invariant constituents and themes established could be checked against the data set, thus establishing confirmability. Themes not explicitly expressed or compatible across narratives were discarded. The first author completed initial abstraction and thematizing; themes were audited by the second author and by an independent auditor as detailed in the section on Trustworthiness. Trustworthiness was addressed using a multipronged approach. Trustworthiness incorporates the concepts of credibility, dependability, and transferability. Credibility is similar to the quantitative concept of internal validity. Dependability is similar to how quantitative research discusses reliability, and transferability describes the ability of the findings to be applied to a similar situation. Credibility was strengthened using triangulation (Merriam, 2009; Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009), which consisted of an independent investigator and the second author, both with expertise in qualitative methods, auditing the transcripts, themes, results, and conclusions. The task was “to check that the final report is a  credible one in terms of the data collected and that there is a logical step-by-step path through the chain of evidence” (Smith et al., 2009, p. 183). Triangulation to strengthen credibility included member checks (Merriam, 2009, p. 217). Similarly, both triangulation and the audit trail strengthen the dependability of results. Themes Initial overwhelming confusion. All seven participants described a period of crushing confusion, which included racing thoughts, as SAs commenced. They described thoughts aimed at making sense of the SA or at understanding events differently from how they appeared (i.e., in some context other than violence). Participants indicated that after an initial period of racing thoughts, their minds went “blank” and/or that they experienced an inability to control their thoughts, which was distressing. This confusion was prominent and a critical part of the onset of TI. They felt paralyzed by an inability to comprehend unfolding events meaningfully. Terror. All seven participants described overwhelming fear at the start of the SA. They described this as occurring alongside confusion in a way that made the two seem indistinguishable or inseparable. They described a point at which the initial terror yielded to nothingness, or an absence of, or distance from, their emotional experiences. Choosing to “check out” during the sexual assault. Participants described a strong urge to avoid being mentally or emotionally present during the SA. They all described this in terms that suggested a voluntary, self-protective measure. All described the solace this offered as a way to distance from the events, a numbness that offered relief from the terror and confusion. However, five described this as a means to guard their inner selves from intrusion or control at the hands of the perpetrator; effectively, they opted for the only form of agency available to them when their bodies were not in their control and locked their minds away so that they could not be touched even as their bodies were abused. Eye closing and avoiding visual contact. Participants all reported an urgent desire to avoid visual contact with the unfolding SA and especially with the perpetrator. Four indicated they choose to close their eyes when they realized the SA was unavoidable. One reported that studying the design on the sheets very intently. One watched herself in a mirror. One gazed at a clock. All indicated that, in addition to a generalized desire to not see what was happening, they had an intense urge to avoid seeing the perpetrator. The face and/or eyes of the perpetrators were particularly charged stimuli, and six participants articulated a very vivid memory of seeing a perpetrator’s face or eyes just before they closed their own or fixed their gaze on a focal point; the remaining participant was sexually assaulted in a very dark room. One participant stated that her periods of eye closure were voluntary at times, and other times they “just happened.” Being “captured inside my own body”—paralysis. Participants all described an inability to move their bodies voluntarily for most or much of the SA. This period of immobility was described with very sudden onset as the period of confusion and terror gave way to a numbness that eclipsed both physical and emotional sensation. In addition, participants were unable to vocalize. Three noticed a diminished vocal capacity; four were not able to vocalize. Intense urge to flee. Participants all described a strong desire to run away or leave when the SA commenced, accompanied by an inability to do so. The inability to run was either externally imposed (i.e., not physically possible in the face of the perpetrator’s physical control), internally generated (i.e., a desire to move was experienced along with the realization that volitional movement was not occurring), or often, both. Physical numbness. All participants, except one, indicated they were not aware of painful sensations during the SA, yet became aware of pain associated with injuries after they knew the SA was over. None reported major injuries requiring medical attention, though five experienced minor bruising, soreness, abrasions, or genital pain or soreness associated with the force of the SA. The one who did not endorse this was aware of pain during the SA. Changes at the moment of penetration. Participants described particularly stark or vivid memories at the moment when vaginal penetration occurred, accompanied by an awareness of changes in their bodies. They described this variously as the moment when they began shaking or experiencing creeping coldness, a moment of particularly vivid memory imprint, the strongest impetus to mentally “check out,” and/or associated this physical sensation with the strong desire to avoid seeing the perpetrator’s face. One woman did not endorse this experience, stating that she was “zoned out” by this point in the SA. Clocks and mirrors. This theme is included because of the depth of intensity experienced by the four participants who described it. These participants described vivid memories of attending intently to either a clock or a mirror at some point during the SAs. Digital clocks drew the attention of participants in dark rooms, and they described long periods of gazing at digital clocks; in one case, a participant described doing so in an active effort to pretend she was elsewhere. Two participants articulated vivid memories of periods during their SA when they looked in mirrors. These moments were especially salient as they looked at themselves, rather than at the perpetrators, and described feelings of detachment as they gazed. Crystalline memories of perpetrator departure. Five participants described sensory memories of the moments when the perpetrators stepped away from their bodies and/or left the rooms. They described these as qualitatively different and very vivid memories. Two people did not experience this; one intentionally kept her eyes closed and feigned sleep when the perpetrator left in an effort to avoid engaging him, while the other participant left the room, instead of the perpetrator. Her descriptions of her movement away from the perpetrator were noticeably starker and more vivid than her other memories of the SA. Confusion immediately after sexual assaults. Participants all described the return of swirling confusion immediately after realizing the SA was over. They described an onslaught of thoughts focused on figuring out how and what had just happened, and on what to do next. Guilt and worry about what others would think. Participants indicated that their experiences were permeated by concerns about what others would think about them after the SA. This concern set in as the SA started and was a significant contributor to feelings of confusion and distress just after the SA. The worry or guilt was sometimes described as more general in scope, and in many cases focused on a specific individual(s) in the person’s life, often a parent. Gradual return to movement. Participants described a period after SAs of continuing to feel, to some extent, paralyzed and empty. All described lying or sitting still and/or crying as they tried to get their bodies to return to volitional movement. They described this time without urgency and with some detachment. A return to movement came along with a specific goal, usually getting dressed and/or leaving the scene. Shaking or shivering. Participants experienced uncontrollable shaking or shivering. For five, this occurred only after the SA was over and when experiencing a return of volitional movement. Two experienced shaking or shivering without specifying when it took place. They did not describe this as denoting significant distress or discomfort. It was associated with feeling cold, though it was not attributed to feeling cold; the sensations were linked but distinct. Physical soreness afterward. Participants all experienced soreness in their muscles in the hours and days after the SA that was not associated with any impact or injury. They described the soreness as feeling like they had extensively “worked out” their muscles. They described this as occurring in the legs, the abdominal area, and/or “all over.” Quality of memories. Participants described memories associated with the SA in two ways. First, all participants described extraordinarily clear, vivid and sense-laden memories that were closer in nature to flashbulb memories than ordinary narrative memories. Second, three described memories of the SA as extremely aversive, noting active attempts to stifle, blur, and/or avoid them. These three participants alternated between these two types of description or incorporated language from each in their descriptions. These participants stated that they chose not to recall the memories and therefore experienced them as “fuzzy” and were also able without much prompting to provide very clear and detailed recollections of specific parts of the SAs, complete with stark sensory details. No participants described entirely absent memories or noticeable portions of “missing” time associated with the SA and their immobility. The shadow of tonic immobility. Participants all described a lasting impact of having become immobile during an SA that we refer to as the “shadow” of TI. They said this was one of the most significant impacts of this experience on their lives, and something they continue to struggle with and fear. Being rendered incapable of volitional movement under conditions of extreme duress and terror left them with the repeated, episodic recurrence of something similar but not quite the same. Provoked by sexual contact, and sometimes by situations involving fear, anger, feeling out of control, or being disregarded, the shadow of TI moves over these women and threatens immobility. It does not steal volitional movement away entirely, though some feel momentarily as though they cannot move or cannot move normally. Four described it as being accompanied by muscle tensing, two described reacting to the feeling by “kicking,” and all described overwhelming emotion. One described it as happening “not physically, emotionally.” It feels like a warning that they may not be safe and/or that their bodies could freeze up. Subsequent relationships. All participants described difficulties engaging in romantic relationships since being sexually assaulted and talked about two particular contributing factors. First, they described longstanding and usually still recurring interferences in attempts to be consensually sexual with partners by the shadow of TI and by flashbacks to the SAs. Second, they described significant difficulties with the emotional engagement and vulnerability required to support a fulfilling relationship. Guilt and shame. All participants described extreme depths of shame and guilt after and about their experiences of being sexually assaulted. This did not seem to be attributed in any specific way to TI, but rather to be one of the more global impacts of experiencing sexual violence, though for five Participants TI did intensify these feelings. For those whose guilt and shame were exacerbated by TI, they described feeling as though they blame themselves for their inability to escape or stop the SA. Discussion Findings Consistent With Prior Literature Diminished or absent volitional movement, accompanied by diminished vocal capacity and the subjective experience of terror, were two themes that emerged strongly among the data, and were described as prominent components of the phenomenological experience of TI. . As research moves ahead in exploring TI, it is worth noting that refining the fear scale of the TIS may be important in maximizing its utility in identifying and measuring TI (Abrams, Carleton, Taylor, & Asmundson, 2009; Fusé et al., 2007). Most notably within these results, while it is generally accepted that fear is a necessary pre-condition for TI, these participants described an abatement of fear as immobility set in. This suggests that TI and fear may have an inverse relationship to one another as part of a larger, organized response set to a crisis. If this is the case, rather than seeing high scores on both the immobility and fear subscales of the TIS, in cases of extreme immobility it may be that scores indicating fear during the event may drop as immobility scores increase. In this is case; the cutoff scores proposed by Heidt et al. (2005) may not be the best criteria for inclusion on a TI criterion, because this may exclude participants with higher immobility scores who felt less fear (and more numbness) during the index event. Prior literature also predicts periods of eye closure during episodes of TI, tremors, and endogenous analgesia among humans as well as animals (Fusé et al., 2007). These themes emerged among the data here, with some notable findings. Participants universally described periods of eye closure as a significant part of their experiences. However, only one of them described the eye closing in terms that suggested an absence of volition in this. Rather, this was described as a choice made in those moments, part of an action they chose to take to protect and distance themselves from the unfolding SA A final theme that emerged that is also discussed in current literature is the experience that participants here described as feeling physically “numb” during SA, and which might otherwise be described as endogenous analgesia (Fusé et al., 2007; Gallup & This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. 174 TEBOCKHORST, O’HALLORAN, AND NYLINE Rager, 1996). Participants reported that, to varying extents, either that they noticed during the SAs that their bodies were numb, or that they became aware of pain resulting from the SA only after they had recovered volitional movement and were sure they were safe, or both. Findings Not Predicted in Prior Literature Most important among these themes were participants’ experiences of significant confusion, particularly as SA began, and ongoing struggles with the shadow of TI. Other themes that emerged were as follows: the intensity of their desires to avoid visual contact with the perpetrator; the particular significance of certain moments during the SA, including vaginal penetration and the perpetrators’ departures; objects that drew attention such as clocks and mirrors; physical soreness after the SA; and the quality of memories associated with the SA experiences. Participants described confusion when they realized they were being sexually assaulted. This was linked with the terror they experienced such that the two became a unified force in the moments just before they realized they had lost volitional movement. Participants described this as being associated with a racing mind struggling to force the experience into a familiar category of experience. Such understanding evaded them until they reached the point of overwhelm and began to distance themselves mentally and emotionally. Dunmore, Clark, and Ehlers (1999) discussed that people tend to respond to crises in general and SA in particular with a range of cognitive processing styles, that one of these is marked by confusion, and that those who experience mental confusion during a SA are more likely to develop PTSD as a result of the SA. The extent to which participants experienced confusion as paralyzing and concomitant with terror cannot be overstated, and may imply that cognitive contributions to TI in humans may be an overlooked factor of the experience. While TI is recognized as a physiologic process that is initiated by the limbic system, current available descriptions of TI do not include descriptions of a cognitive component of the experience. The degree to which cognitive overwhelm precedes, defines, or is a necessary precursor to the onset of TI in humans is not currently understood It is important to distinguish between dissociation and TI, and to note that there is no reason to believe that TI and dissociation are mutually exclusive events. One study explored the degree to which dissociation may be a factor in the experience of TI (Abrams et al., 2009) but was not able to identify a systematic relationship between TI and dissociative symptoms. They suggest that “emotional numbing may be related to dissociation and mediated by biological mechanisms resembling those that underlie freezing behavior” (p. 554), a suggestion that is consistent with the emotional numbing described here. As Dell (2009) points out, “the word dissociative can be, and has been, applied to a bewildering variety of very similar cognitive/phenomenological phenotypes” (p. 759). One of the least well-studied faces of dissociation is peritraumatic dissociation, the type implicated here. However, there is some indication that peritraumatic dissociation may be associated with a tendency toward experiential avoidance (Marx & Sloan, 2004), which “occurs when a person is unwilling to remain in contact with particular private experiences (e.g., bodily sensations, emotions, memories) and takes steps to alter the form or frequency of these events and the contexts that occasion them” (Hayes, Wilson, Gifford, Follette, & Strosahl, 1996, p. 1154). Individuals accustomed to avoidant coping strategies may experience a paucity of coping options when faced with an unavoidable and highly aversive event such as SA. Accordingly, they may be prone to peritraumatic dissociation in response to this. In this case, dissociation represents another form of “emotional avoidance behaviors” (Polusny & Follette, 1995, p. 158) for these individuals. Whether or not any avoidant coping options are available in the moment, the urge to use these skills would be noticeable. Participants may have experienced this urge, and this may explain the degree to which they described “checking out” behaviors as voluntary. It bears pointing out that individuals accustomed to a particular coping style, including avoidant, will likely continue to rely on this skill set in the aftermath of an assault. Both experiential avoidance and peritraumatic dissociation are correlated with higher levels of long-term impairment and PTSD after a trauma (Marx & Sloan, 2004; Polusny & Follette, 1995). Perhaps peritraumatic dissociation, experiential avoidance and TI are related in ways that are not currently understood. It may also be worth exploring whether the confusion that marked the onset of the assaults described here is in some way related to these phenomena, as much of the cognitive activity surrounding the initial confusion seemed to be aimed at avoiding the reality of imminent assault, or making sense of the experience in some way other than assault. One of the ways in which participants were able to “check out” during SA was to avoid visual contact with the perpetrators. The intensity with which participants described their desires to avoid all visual contact with the SA in general and the perpetrators specifically was notable. All participants here described this, and some even continued to avoid eye contact with perpetrators for weeks and months after the SA. It has been demonstrated that birds remained immobile after an induction of TI when a human was in close proximity, and that “this effect was exacerbated when the experimenter maintained eye contact with subjects during testing” (Gallup & Rager, 1996, p. 71). Among animals, both the presence of simulated eyes (Gallup, Nash, & Ellison, 1971; Gagliardi, Gallup, & Boren, 1976) and reflections of an individual animal’s own eyes (Gallup, 1972) have been shown to stimulate a TI response. It seems that, among both humans and animals, eye contact is potentially a contributor to TI responses. This response is also consistent with an avoidant coping response. Participants’ reports of attending to clocks and mirrors may have been part of their efforts to “check out” during the SA. Attention being drawn to clocks and mirrors may also indicate that attention during TI is altered; it seemed here to be associated with the mental and emotional distance victims sought to put between themselves and the SAs. Gallup, Boren, Suarez, Wallnau, and Gagliardi (1980) noted that animals continue to scan their environments during episodes of TI. In human beings, this scanning could be easily drawn to light and motion in a room. Brain activity as measured by electroencephalogram (EEG) does seem to change in animals, many of whom “have been shown to exhibit an increase in slow-wave activity following induction of TI similar to, but nevertheless distinct from, that observed during sleep” (Gallup & Rager, 1996, p. 68). For participants here, the focus on these objects may represent an easy landing place for attention that is altered by fear, TI, dissociation, or some combination of these. It may be that attention was easily drawn to the brightest thing in the room, or the only motion in the visual field. Moments when vaginal penetration occurred during the SA were described as qualitatively different than other moments. This may be attributable in part to the high degree to which participants found proximity to perpetrators aversive. Heidt et al. (2005) did find that women who reported penile–vaginal penetration during an SA were more likely to report experiencing TI than those experiencing a SA without such penetration. They also found that those reporting penetration scored higher on the immobility scale of the TIS, but not the fear scale. Smith, Webster, Hartesveldt, and Meyer (1985) found that, among rats, vaginal-cervical stimulation “significantly potentiated tonic immobility” (p. 580). What, if any, physical stimuli predispose or provoke a TI response in human beings are not currently known, but exploring this question would help us to understand how human beings experience TI; results here implicate vaginal penetration as on obvious candidate for inclusion in such a category of stimuli. Much as eye contact and penetration signal progression of the SA, perpetrator departure likewise would signal the end of the SA and may be why these moments were particularly salient in memory and description here. These stimuli may specifically provoke some of the physiologic changes that accompany TI, as they may be experienced as indicators of the relative danger one is in. Nijenhuis, Vanderlinden, and Spinhoven (1998) pointed out that, in animals, “imminence [of a defensive reaction such as TI] varies in terms of space” (p. 245) between prey and predator. Certainly, eye contact in combination with proximity (particularly, perhaps, of a face), vaginal penetration, and perpetrator departure would be significant cues regarding the physical space between assailant and victim and may therefore be cues that impact TI. This particular stimulus, and/or the accompanying awareness that the SA had ended, may be involved in attenuating a TI response. It may be that the very vivid memories typically associated with TI peak at specific, significant moments. Available literature also does not describe or explain muscle fatigue and soreness in the days and hours after an episode of TI that participants experienced. This would be consistent with the muscle rigidity that is known to characterize TI (Fusé et al., 2007) and may simply be an overlooked aspect of the experience. The other significant aspect of participants’ experiences was the ways in which they continue to experience what one called the “residual” effects of TI, what we have called its shadow. They described in compelling and consistent ways how they struggle in the present time with a feeling when they engage in consensual sexual activities that feel similar to, but not the same as, TI. These moments feel threatening and distressing to them, and are perhaps one of the most salient aspects of their experiences. Nijenhuis et al. (1998) noted that animals acquire and preferentially access a TI defense once they have had initial experiences with it. Working strictly within a behavioral framework, these authors point out that “the acquired associations between an extreme aversive stimulus and other stimuli are extraordinarily resistant to change” and highly aversive conditioned stimuli reliably elicit TI in animals (p. 248). In these behavioral terms, participants here may have not only acquired a response to an aversive stimulus, the response then cannot extinguish when they periodically expose themselves to similar stimuli in the form of sexual contact. Whether the shadow of TI is a muted version of TI that continues to reappear in response to tactile or psychological trigger events remains to be seen, but for these participants, this enduring impact of TI was very significant and very distressing. Implications Because it was particularly problematic for these participants, the shadow aspect of the TI experience has important implications both for further research and for practice. Browne and Finkelhor (1986) provided a seminal and thorough overview of the many ways in which relationships can be affected by experiences of abuse, which has been further explored and confirmed by other research (Kallstrom-Fuqua, Weston, & Marshall, 2004; Reid & Sullivan, 2009). However, more research specific to this phenomenon, which has not been addressed specifically in previous literature, would be very helpful in articulating what this is, whether TI is primarily cognitive or physiologic in nature, and the extensive impact it appears to have. It is possible that this “residual” impact of TI is part of a pathway that interferes with the response to extinguish. It keeps the fear and helplessness associated with TI fresh in the minds of survivors, and may predispose them to TI when they are triggered by actual or perceived aggression. In addition to a more precise articulation of what this experience is and how TI happens, research focused on how to help alleviate its impact could be valuable. Bovin et al. (2008) found a highly significant relationship between having experienced TI during a SA and the degree to which participants were affected by intrusive memories and reexperiencing, independent of the fear associated with the SA. Extending this finding, Hagenaars and Putman (2011) found that self-reported levels of attentional control, while significant, mediated this relationship. This implies that memory quality does seem to be heavily influenced by TI, and that some individuals are more able than others to control the degrees to which memories become intrusive and therefore problematic. Thus, it seems that memory processes are affected during TI; however, the causal pathways by which this occurs are unclear at this point. The final theme to be discussed here is the theme of shame and guilt experienced by participants after the SA. For those survivors who did experience greater shame and guilt as a result of TI, education and information may be enormously valuable contributions to post facto attributions that survivors make about their experiences. Providing them with some evidence that they did not choose the path their bodies ultimately went down and that others have also experienced a response that was similar in quality and effect may be critical in helping them to navigate to a place of recovery. Validating and normalizing the myriad ways in which people respond to trauma has been demonstrated to be very useful in helping individuals begin to recover a sense of normalcy and health in their lives (Briere & Scott, 2006; Herman, 1997), and this may be especially true for TI as survivors often do not have the capacity to name or normalize this experience on their own. For those trying to facilitate the recovery of survivors who have experienced TI, these results indicate that an awareness of the continued impact that the shadow of TI has in the lives of those who experience an initial episode could be invaluable. Whether or not current approaches may be useful in helping survivors find successful ways to cope with this repeated intrusion into their lives remains to be seen, but it would seem useful to explore this. possibility. Approaches including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR; Shapiro, 2001) and exposure therapies (Shapiro, 2010) may be useful places to begin helping survivors modify and ameliorate their long-standing experiences of feeling threatened by and frightened of the prospect of renewed immobility when they attempt to engage in consensual sexual activities. EMDR has demonstrated efficacy in addressing trauma in general (Shapiro, 2010) and SA specifically (Rothbaum, 1997). Exposure therapies have been effective in helping trauma survivors (Shapiro, 2010), and Hayes et al. (1996) point out that “treatment of abuse survivors should involve, in part, exposure to previously avoided thoughts, feelings, memories and bodily sensations” (p. 1162). However, it should be noted that one study found that having experienced “mental defeat” during a SA was correlated with “inferior response to exposure in rape victims” (Ehlers et al., 1998, p. 457). Whether or not the construct of “mental defeat” may have any association to an experience of TI is a matter of speculation, but may suggest that caution is warranted in exploring the use of exposure therapies as a standalone approach with this particular population of survivors. Cognitive processing therapy is one approach that has demonstrated some success with survivors of sexual violence, and incorporates both psychoeducational and exposure components that may be especially useful when TI is complicating recovery. Marx and Sloan (2004) nominate acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999) as a potentially helpful approach to treating those whose problems stem from some combination of peritraumatic dissociation and experiential avoidance. Nonetheless, providing survivors with strategies to understand their experiences and some freedom to engage in fulfilling sexual expression could, in itself, provide enormous relief from the distresses that continue to plague them in the aftermath of a SA marked by an onset of TI. Boundaries and Limitations Participants were young adult, female undergraduates who had experienced TI in response to one or more episodes of SA. This sample was drawn exclusively from one area of the United States and was relatively ethnically homogeneous. Furthermore, the experience of TI because of an incident other than SA was not explored. The degree to which the specifically sexual context of these assaults may have contributed to, or interacted with, TI is not possible to determine from this work. Future researchers should explore whether the experience of TI is impacted by the nature of the event that provoked this response. Finally, this work was limited in its ability to detect whether TI is a phenomenon that human beings experience along a continuum of severity (i.e., is it possible to experience varying amounts of TI according to person or event, or do people experience it as a discrete categorical event). This is not yet well established (Fusé et al., 2007). The need to work within an operational definition that, for the purpose of this work, required a cutoff score on the TIS, limited the ability to include women who may have experienced some version of TI that did not meet this threshold. Conclusion Results indicated that there are a number of significant themes defining the experience of TI, including significant confusion at the onset of TI including confusion, terror, “checking out,” paralysis, diminished vocalizations, eye closing to avoid contact with perpetrators, and a “shadow” form of TI that poses ongoing struggles for survivors long after the SAs. These themes are offered to help guide our nascent understanding of the construct and experience of TI, as yet not well defined. Such understanding is the first step toward identifying and offering specific interventions to help the population of people affected by TI, who have been identified in prior research as being at markedly increased risk for traumarelated problems, including PTSD.[29]

Tonic immobility (TI) is a threat-related response characterized by physical immobility and muscular rigidity in the face of extreme fear and inescapability (Marx et al., 2008). Although rare in the general population, it is often reported in PTSD patients (23%–37%) (Galliano, Noble, Travis, & Puechl, 1993; Hagenaars, 2016). Peritraumatic TI is a relevant concept in the etiology of PTSD, as it was found to be predictive of PTSD, intrusion development, and poor treatment outcome (Bovin et al., 2008; Fiszman et al., 2008; Hagenaars et al., 2008; Heidt, Marx, & Forsyth, 2005; Lima et al., 2010; Marx et al., 2008). DSM-5 has recognized that PTSD can present itself in many forms and added a dissociative subtype. Given that TI is associated with distinct posttrauma behaviors and attitudes (Galliano et al., 1993), PTSD patients with high TI may also form a specific subtype of PTSD, characterized by a distinct behavioral and neurobiological profile. Indeed, PTSD patients with high levels of TI responded poorly to pharmacological treatment (Fiszman et al., 2008; Lima et al., 2010). Popova (2004) suggested that the choice of a defense strategy is based on serotonin metabolism in the brain and Lima et al. (2010) argued that PTSD patients that respond with TI might have higher levels of serotonin and reduced sensitivity of postsynaptic serotonin receptors, which might explain the ineffectiveness of antidepressants in these individuals. Treatments can be adjusted in several ways. First, TI induces feelings of shame and guilt (Bovin et al., 2014) so psychoeducation on the automatic nature of this response may be especially important in these specific PTSD patients, as it was already suggested 35 years ago (Bovin et al., 2014; Suarez & Jr Gallup, 1979). Also, although exposure treatments are generally effective for PTSD, the effects are stronger for fear and anxiety than for other emotions and cognitions (Schnyder & Cloitre, 2015). Emotions/cognitions such as shame and guilt may merit additional treatment strategies focusing on other emotional responses. For example, imagery rescripting was equally effective for fear-related emotions but more effective in reducing other emotional responses (such as anger; Arntz, Tiesema, & Kindt, 2007). Imagery rescripting techniques might also be used to address peritraumatic TI. responses and related emotions. Overall, our data, as well as previous studies reporting an association between high TI and PTSD severity or poor treatment response, might indicate a TI-specific PTSD form which could be in need of more tailored interventions. Moreover, occurrence of eye closure during TI is associated with longer TI duration in animals (Gallup, Nash, & Wagner, 1971). That is, eye closure leads to increased postural sway in the PTSD group, but PTSD patients with high TI exhibited a lower increase in body sway, and Controls exhibited a greater decrease in body sway. This distinctive response raises questions about other e00546 (6 of 7)  |     Fragkaki et al. potential differences in PTSD based on levels of TI that warrant future exploration. Additionally, these findings suggest that traumatic experiences and the associated TI may become embodied in postural control systems. Future research is highly needed to corroborate these findings in larger samples of PTSD patients and compare PTSD with other threat-related disorders and anxiety disorders to establish whether this association is a transdiagnostic symptom or specific to PTSD  [30]

Tonic immobility (TI) is an adaptive, reflexive and involuntary defence response, characterised by profound but reversible motor inhibition and muscular rigidity, supressed vocalization, tremors, intermittent periods of eye closure, and analgesia with evidence of a preserved awareness of the surroundings (Gallup, 1977; Marx et al., 2008). TI has been observed across species and is thought to occur in life-threatening situations, which are both inescapable and illicit intensive fear. It is believed to be a late defence response when other responses, freezing, flight and fight responses, are exhausted (Bracha, 2004; Hagenaars et al., 2014; Marks, 1987; Volchan et al., 2017). Although often used interchangeably, freezing and TI refer to different responses in the defence cascade (Hagenaars, 2016; Kozlowska et al., 2015; Schauer and Elbert, 2010). Freezing is an early response to danger, aimed at optimally assessing threat and preparing the organism for action (i.e. flight or fight). TI is thought to occur when threat is extremely close, and flight or fight is no option. Several studies have shown that TI has been preserved in human beings. For instance, 21 to 70% of the survivors of sexual assault reportedly experienced TI during the assault (Bovin et al., 2008; Galliano et al., 1993; Hagenaars, 2016; Heidt et al., 2005; Moller et al., 2017). there is data suggesting that the highest TI rates are observed for sexual trauma (during child- or adulthood; Hagenaars, 2016; Kalaf et al., 2015, 2017). In clinical samples, prevalence rates of peritraumatic TI are generally high (43–73%; Fiszman et al., 2008; Heidt et al., 2005). Moreover, the experience of TI during a traumatic experience has been positively linked to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in cross-sectional studies (Bovin et al., 2008; Hagenaars, 2016; Heidt et al., 2005; Humphreys et al., 2010; Kalaf et al., 2015; Portugal et al., 2012; Rocha-Rego et al., 2009). Most recently, a prospective study demonstrated that peritraumatic TI during sexual assault increases the risk for subsequent PTSD development (Moller et al., 2017). In line, induced non-movement or higher self-reported TI during analogue trauma (i.e., a trauma film) was associated with more subsequent intrusive memories of trauma (Hagenaars et al., 2010; Hagenaars et al., 2008). It has even been shown that those who experienced peritraumatic TI and subsequently developed PTSD responded worse to treatment with medications (SSRI's or SNRI's) compared to those without peritraumatic immobility reactions (Fiszman et al., 2008; Lima et al., 2010). In non-human animals, TI occurs under conditions of restraint (inescapability) and extreme fear. Restraint in humans might also be subjective, though. That is, TI might occur under conditions of perceived inescapability (Marx et al., 2008). Indeed, experimental paradigms that prompted perceived inescapability and stress elicited TI reactions as well (Hagenaars and Putman, 2011; Mooren and van Minnen, 2014). Moreover, TI might also be provoked in situations that remind of the trauma, because these situations are perceived as inescapable stressors (Ehlers and Clark, 2000), and because trauma reminders trigger responses that were shown during the actual trauma (Foa and Kozak, 1986; Lang, 1968). Few studies explored the occurrence of TI during trauma reminders. Volchan et al. (2011) presented trauma-exposed participants with an autobiographical trauma script and found that script presentation evoked TI reactions. Moreover, this experimentally induced TI was positively related to reports of peritraumatic TI. In similar fashion, Alves et al. (2014) showed that higher levels of TI during violent crime were associated with increased heart rate in response to trauma-relevant pictures (i.e. pictures of a gun), while those with lower TI during violent crime responded with reduced heart rate. Together, these findings raise the question whether TI reactions might also occur in daily life in reaction to trauma-reminders, and specifically, whether PTSD patients might experience TI during reexperiencing the traumatic event (e.g. during unwanted thoughts or flashbacks). By the best of our knowledge, no one has yet investigated whether PTSD patients experience TI during re-experiencing the traumatic incident. This might be of particular relevance, as immobility might contribute to feelings of uncontrollability and negative appraisal, which are important factors in the maintenance of PTSD (Ehlers and Clark, 2000; Foa et al., 1992). In line with previous work in clinical populations (Heidt et al., 2005), the prevalence of peritraumatic TI in our treatment-seeking PTSD sample was high: almost 80% of patients reported having experienced moderate or extreme peritraumatic TI. This percentage of people having experienced peritraumatic TI is much higher than the percentages found in most non-clinical samples (Bovin et al., 2008; Galliano et al., 1993; Hagenaars, 2016; Heidt et al., 2005). Our finding thus adds to the growing body of research implying that TI plays a pervasive role in PTSD. Notably, both female gender (Kalaf et al., 2015) and PTSD symptom severity have been positively linked to peritraumatic TI (Bovin et al., 2008; Heidt et al., 2005; Humphreys et al., 2010; Kalaf et al., 2015; Maia et al., 2015; Portugal et al., 2012; Rocha-Rego et al., 2009).  In any case, the high report of peritraumatic TI by treatment-seeking PTSD patients suggests that clinicians should pay attention to this trauma response. Psycho-education about the automatic, non-volitional nature of peritraumatic TI may address commonly experienced feelings of guilt and self-blame regarding immobility reactions during trauma (Bovin et al., 2014). Remarkably, many PTSD patients reported moderate or extreme TI during re-experiencing the traumatic event. Previous studies already reported TI during stress inductions, such as trauma scripts (Volchan et al., 2011), unpleasant picture viewing (Alves Rde et al., 2014), and eye closure (Fragkaki et al., 2016). Now, TI also proved to be present during re-experiencing the trauma, a highly relevant PTSD stressor. This is of great relevance, because TI may elicit feelings of uncontrollability and inescapability (Bovin et al., 2008), which are considered to be relevant in the aetiology of PTSD (Foa et al., 1992). As such, re-occurring TI might be an important maintaining factor of PTSD. Future work should investigate whether the occurrence of TI during re-experiencing symptoms is indeed related to a worse course of PTSD. Previous studies suggested that peritraumatic TI is related to PTSD symptom severity (Bovin et al., 2008; Hagenaars, 2016; Heidt et al., 2005; Humphreys et al., 2010; Kalaf et al., 2015; Maia et al., 2015; Portugal et al., 2012; Rocha-Rego et al., 2009). In line, we found a moderate positive correlation between peritraumatic TI and PTSD symptom severity. Previous studies also found a relationship between peritraumatic TI and TI in response to a stress-induction (Fragkaki et al., 2016; Volchan et al., 2011), which was again confirmed by our findings. By testing all variables in one model, we found a possible explanation for the previously reported effects of peritraumatic TI on PTSD. That is, TI during re-experiencing the traumatic event fully mediated the relationship between peritraumatic TI and PTSD symptoms. Thus, it appears that those who experience peritraumatic TI are likely to experience TI during subsequent stressors, and that especially this re-occurring TI response is related to PTSD symptom severity. This would imply that more attention, in both research and clinical care, should be paid to post-trauma TI reactions. One alternate explanation for the finding that TI during reexperiencing mediates the effect of peritraumatic TI on PTSD symptoms severity is that TI during re-experiencing is not so much a predictor but rather a correlate of PTSD severity. The occurrence of TI during re-experiencing and its effect on PTSD symptoms highlights the importance of further studying TI at different stages post trauma. We propose a mediation model including peritraumatic TI as well as TI during re-experiencing and made a first step in testing this model. Our findings highlight the influence of post trauma TI on PTSD symptoms, and it appears crucial to learn whether this re-occurring TI hampers recovery.  [31]

Dissociation :

“Peritraumatic dissociation refers to dissociative reactions during a traumatic event and is characterized by alterations in perceptions of time, place, and person. Peritraumatic dissociative experiences include feelings of unreality, depersonalization, disorientation, altered pain perception (a feature of TI), and tunnel vision (Marmar, Weiss, & Metzler, 1997). It has been identified as a correlate of (Abrams et al., 2009; Fuse´, Forsyth, Marx, Gallup, & Weaver, 2007; Heidt et al., 2005) and possible precondition for TI (Abrams et al., 2009). Several researchers have linked peritraumatic dissociation to the development of PTSD (Birmes et al., 2003; Brewin, Andrews, & Valentine, 2000; Koopman, Classen, & Spiegel, 1994; Ozer, Best, Lipsey, & Weiss, 2003),”[32] Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire (PDEQ; Marmar et al., 1997). The PDEQ is a 10-item questionnaire that asks respondents to recall dissociative experiences (e.g., derealization, depersonalization, amnesia, altered time perception) that may have occurred during the traumatic event. Items on the PDEQ are responded to on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (not at all true) to 5 (extremely true). Sample items include: “My sense of time changed—things seemed to be happening in slow motion”; “I felt as though things that were actually happening to others were happening to me—like I was being trapped when I really wasn’t”; and, “What was happening seemed unreal to me, like I was in a dream or watching a movie or play.”[33] Appendix : Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire & Peritraumatic Distress Inventory


Opening up discussion about trauma :

What is your trauma history? Are there any specific events or motifs you would like to share? What are your most common reaction patterns to trauma? (For example, I have a history of dissociating from my body when encountering physical and emotional trauma – this looks like withdrawing, getting distant, disappearing, or if unable to physically escape, my consciousness leaving my body and I watch myself from above).

Discussing each participant’s known habitual trauma patterns and how they prefer to be supported after they have been triggered or left their body is wise to do ahead of time because someone acutely immersed in a triggered or traumatized state may not be able to verbalize coherently. In the midst of a trigger, someone may not even know what they need because they are so disconnected they are unable to track their body state (especially in dissociated states coming back into the physical sensations of their body). Even if your partner does not have a history of certain responses to trauma, or has not experienced all the forms of trauma reaction, it is a good proactive measure to discuss in hypothetical terms what they would want for each of the trauma responses : fight, flight, freeze, dissociate, fawn, submit, appease, and attach.

For example, if you would happen to dissociate from your body how would you prefer to be interacted with? If you have never experienced this state, which of the following ideas appeal to you as a response from your partner : being spoken to soothingly, being held in silence, being swaddled in a blanket, having soft music put on, having an essential oil bottle opened nearby, or even being left alone until you return of your own volition. If you would like to be immediately brought back into your body, how would you prefer this be done? What are some ways that you may be reached or ‘grounded’ in a dissociated state?

Is there anything that reminds you of traumatic events that you would like avoided (these ‘echoing reminders’ are often called triggers) ?

Triggers :

Triggers are actions or scenarios that carry emotional charge and typically catalyze an unpleasant or unexpectedly dramatic reaction.

“Triggering occurs when a victim, reminded of a traumatic event, is plunged into re-experiencing the original pain and humiliation of that trauma.”[34]

Do you have any personal triggers to be avoided (eg. particular pet names like ‘baby’, cussing, dirty talk, being spoken to in condescending ways, certain terms for body parts, teasing, sarcasm)?

What types of triggered states have you been in? Were there any initial indicating factors that you were on the path to a reaction (eg. face feeling flushed, clammy hands, feeling a desire to close your eyes and have the experience go away)? What did your trigger states feel like internally (eg. explore the sensation of each : faun, flight, flight, freeze, appease)? What do your triggered states look like externally? What are your most common triggered state forms? How do you prefer to be interacted with in each type of triggered state (eg. spoken to soothingly, held, having a blanket brought to you, having water or a grounding snack brought to you, being given a few feet of space but having your play partner nearby and available, being left alone completely, being given a specific comfort object, calling a specific support person)? What helps you exit a triggered state? What helps you ground and come back to body baseline after you have been triggered (eg. shaking to discharge the tension in your nervous system, going outside, journaling)?

‘how to preemptively prepare and support those in freeze states’

In my research on types of trauma and levels of public awareness around each, I have found that many are unaware that freezing or dissociation is a trauma response. Thus, in this tome I emphasize education around these forms of response as there is less cultural awareness around how to identify freezing/dissociation and how to support someone who has entered into these states. The freeze response in the animal kingdom looks like ‘deer in the headlights’ or a ‘squirrel in the road’ (and as animals ourselves we can learn a lot from our fellow fauna about fear, reactions, and trauma).

In addition to the unblinking ‘deer in headlights’ of freezing in complete stillness (“my camouflage renders me invisible”), characterized by hypervigilance, another trauma state is ‘playing dead’. ‘Playing dead’ in the scientific parlance is termed tonic immobility or thanatosis. Tonic immobility is well known in the animal kingdom (and knowledge of this state as a physical meme is evidenced by people training their dogs to ‘play dead’ and children “playing possum”), and studies on this state in our furry friends abound, but more research and education is needed to bring knowledge of this in human animals to public awareness. In our current cultural understanding of trauma, ‘freezing’, tonic immobility, and dissociation responses are typically incorrectly interpreted as passive consent, especially during sexual activity. This culturally manifests in victim blaming and shaming and is insidiously implied in questions such as ‘did you scream, fight back, or try to get away?’. We are just beginning to acknowledge the more internal feminine responses to trauma through more widespread awareness of tropes such as ‘shell-shock’ or ‘the 1,000 yard stare’ of soldiers returning to war. (history of not acknowledging freeze state until shell shocked soldiers came back from war *citation**).  “In addition to this, there are testimonies that a significant minority of people are paralyzed, placing their lives at risk, in catastrophes such as the sinking or explosion of oil platforms, shipwrecks and fires, or airplane emergencies (Leach, 2004).[35] Likewise, Marks (1987) reports that a state of paralysis has been described in survivors of attacks by wild animals and in soldiers under machine-gun fire.”[36]

Meta-analysis of scientific studies of tonic immobility in humans

Reviewing and meta-analyzing the current body of scientific literature and research regarding tonic immobility generates a ‘typical’ topography of forms this trauma response takes in behavior, situational characteristics in which this form of trauma response is more likely to occur, and associated treatment outcomes. Bados, García-Grau, and Fusté (2015) found that tonic immobility (TI) “is a possible reaction to danger that is facilitated by intense fear, physical restraint and perceived inability to escape”. Bados et al. also found that “only certain features of the events (occurrence of physical/sexual abuse, number of different types of events experienced) and certain reactions to them (perception of how traumatic were the events, severe fear response) were significant predictors of TI” and that “these predictors explained only 25% of the variance” (in multiple regression analysis). Unfortunately, “the type and characteristics of traumatic events and personal characteristics have been little or no[t] studied” although the authors suggest that “neuroticism, negative affectivity and perceived lack of personal control or resources to cope with traumatic events– should be investigated”.

Bados et al. identified “four defensive responses linked to the proximity of danger: hypervigilance or freezing, escape, fighting and tonic immobility (Gray, 1987; Marx, Forsyth, Gallup, Fusé, & Lexington, 2008). Tonic immobility (TI) is characterized by profound physical immobility, suppressed vocal behaviour, trembling, muscular rigidity, a decrease in body temperature (cold sensations) and lack of sensitivity to intense or painful stimuli, although an awareness of surroundings remains. TI is triggered by situations of intense fear and physical restraint, although as it may occur without the latter it is likely that the perceived inability to escape is what matters (Heidt, Marx, & Forsyth, 2005; Marx, Forsyth, Gallup, Fusé, & Lexington, 2008; Moskowitz, 2004). In animals, TI can be an adaptive response when there is no possibility of escaping or winning a fight. In these cases, TI reduces the likelihood that the predator will continue to attack and thus increases the chances of escape and survival (Bracha, 2004; Moskowitz, 2004). TI has not been widely studied in humans, and although some authors argue that it may have an adaptive value in certain situations of physical or sexual aggression where fighting or escape is not possible (see Heidt et al., 2005), it has been found to be moderately correlated with post-traumatic symptoms (Abrams, Carleton, * Dirección para correspondencia [Correspondence address]: Arturo Bados. Departamento de Personalidad, Evaluación y Tratamiento Psicológicos, Facultad de Psicología. Paseo Vall d’Hebron, 171, 08035 Barcelona (Spain). E-mail: Taylor, & Asmundson, 2009; Abrams, Carleton, & Asmundson, 2012; Bovin, Jager-Hyman, Gold, Marx, & Sloan, 2008, Humphreys, Sauder, Martin, & Marx, 2010; Heidt et al., 2005; Rocha-Rego et al., 2009) and to be a predictor for the emergence of intrusive memories (Hagenaars & Putman, 2011), the development of post-traumatic symptoms (Bovin et al., 2008; Humphreys et al., 2010; Rocha-Rego et al., 2009) and a poorer response to pharmacological treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Fiszman et al., 2008; Lima et al., 2010)”.[37]

Tonic immobility “may be typical not only of sexual traumas, but of other kinds of directly experienced traumas as well”[38].

“In any case, in our study, the group with physical/psychological abuse (n = 10) or sexual abuse (n = 3) scored the highest in physical immobility, which, together with the lack of statistical power, advises the suitability of carrying out studies with larger samples in order to clarify whether physical immobility is more or less acute in these kinds of traumas.” (call for more research) [39].

“research has shown that 37% to 52% of sexual assault survivors report experiencing a set of peritraumatic responses, which include gross motor inhibition, analgesia, and fixed or unfocused staring. This response set closely resembles a set of unconditioned responses, collectively known as Tonic Immobility (TI).” [40]

as well as typical iden identification and. in which movement , trends of typical characteristics. Tonic immobility is more likely to be induced in situations where movement is restricted or the body is contacted in a threatening way, such as in sexual assault. The occurrence of tonic immobility can occur under intense trauma, such as sexual assault.

Indications of Tonic Immobility in Humans

In humans, eyes closing can indicate a ‘freeze’ tonic immobility state or be an indicator of dissociation. Although your play partner may simply be closing their eyes and relaxing into the sensations you are evoking, if your SomasenZ perceives distance or lack of presence, they may be withdrawing and beginning to enter a freezing or disassociated state. If you suspect this is the case, stop what you are doing. Engage a prolonged pause and track their response physically and energetically. If there is not a reaction to the halting of the action, verbally check in. Encourage your play partner to open their eyes if they are closed and ask them to identify three things in their surroundings to bring them back into their physical environment (eg. I see a painting of a green forest on the wall opposite me, a plant in a green pot, and a notebook on the table next to me). Then ask them to identify 3 physical sensations they are experiencing (e.g I feel the back of my neck resting against a pillow, the warmth of my breath leaving my nose, and my feet slightly cold without socks). Some of the following questions may be helpful in bringing them back into presence with you.

Where are you? Where did you go? Do you need some space? How can I support you?

If you have a relationship in which you are attempting to understand and reveal their trauma patterns the following inquiries may also guide towards the source pattern of why they left.

What do you think caused you to leave your body? Did it happen all at once or was there a leadup (helpful to begin identifying the signals before dissociation)? What caused you to come back into your body? What was helpful in grounding you? What was especially helpful in the way I interacted with you? What about the process of my support of you would you want changed? What would have been the ideal environment and actions to support you? What do you prefer we do in the future?

Orienting to 5 senses. This is a meditation practice that involves slowly and mindfully noticing each of your five senses. Spend about a minute each observing what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. Move your neck slowly as you look all the way around you. Notice what bodily sensations come up as you become more present in the moment and environment. This process communicates to your nervous system that you are safe now, grounding you in the present moment.

Sensory tracking. Non-judgmentally notice various sensations in your body: tightness, softness, textures, temperatures, urges to move, breath, stomach, pressure, etc. Observe how the sensations evolve as you name them. Try this in joyous time and when relaxed just as much as the hard times. If noticing sensations becomes disturbing, please bring these concerns to a trauma-informed therapist.

Resourcing. Self care is essential, so engaging in both our internal and external resources regularly is a lifelong intervention that makes you more resilient. When you are in difficult moments, struggling with an urge or simply stressed out, bringing these resources to mind can help settle your nervous system and help you cope.

Log Sensations when tracking your BFRB. If you keep a log of your picking and pulling patterns, make a note of the bodily sensations that came up before, during, and after the pull as well as thoughts and emotions.

Trauma First Aid. These are simple, structured exercises that you can do to integrate your nervous system. Sit in a calm and safe space with both feet on the floor. Start noticing the sensations in your feet and really feel the contact with the ground. Body part by part, work your way up scanning your body and trying to put words to describe the sensations you feel. Feel the support of the chair under you. Feel the air in your lungs. Imagine a color that represents your current state.

Breathing with a Fidget. Each breath serves our body the way it needs to in that moment. Paying close attention to your breath can help your nervous system settle and calm down when activated. Trying holding a stretchy fidget to represent your airways and lungs. Stretch it with each inhale and relax it with each exhale. Try to keep it in sync with the rate and depth of your breath, and watch how your breath naturally slows down and gets so very deep. Spontaneous breath comes on its own, and washes over you with an indescribable calmness. [41]

  1. Go through a yes/no/maybe list to catalyze conversation and know where to start.

Filling out yes/no/maybe list of potential activites together is a great way to start a discussion or be inspired to play in a new way. Now is the time to be open and honest if something scares you, and how much on a scale from 1-10. What do you like, hate, and what would you try at least once? What do you have experience with? What are your favorites? What do you love giving? What do you love receiving? Anything you like watching?

Advanced : What would you not mind being the canvas for (if you’re feeling generous in allowing your partner the pleasure they may receive from being the giver of a certain sensation)?

  1. Create a safe word / safe gesture

Choose a safe word that is easy to remember and will not be confused (eg. ‘Safeword’ is often the ‘house safeword’ for dungeons and play spaces because it is obvious and already means what is intended).

Utilizing the stoplight shorthand is also common : ‘Red’ as stop, pause, break; yellow as slow down, back off, check in; and green as yes, go, more please. ‘Stop’ is another intuitively sound choice. ‘No’ is also be a good choice for many, but some advanced players enjoy the edginess of being able to say or shout ‘No’ and have someone continue (eg. in pre-negotiated consensual non-consent or psychological play).

In choosing a safeword, consider the natural ways you express yourself, as well as what you are able remember and access even in a spacey dreamlike headspace (we are playing with body chemistry and endorphins here, and if all goes well you may get high on your own supply in dom- or subspace).

Additionally, if you will be playing with sensory deprivation, gagging, eating, drinking, light BDSM, bondage, sensual kink, deeper non-verbal headspaces, or any play that affects the ability to move, make sound, or speak, it is crucial to have a physical safe word or ‘safe gesture’ that will stop the action if the receiver is unable to communicate or move freely/fully.


Examples of safe gestures:

thumbs up to signal good

thumbs down to signal approaching a red zone

1-10 fingers to indicate intensity

as in wrestling : double tap/slap to signal stop

one tap to signal, slow down, pay more attention to my body’s responses


For bondage or scenarios of restricted movement :

squeaky toy - one squeak for yes two squeaks for no[42]

dropping a heavy bell / set of keys / object that will make a loud noise if the receiver / submissive is ‘bottoming out’ (works especially well for bondage).

Bottoming out means when someone has either retracted into themselves or expanded beyond their body into a partially or completely unresponsive state due to the flood of endorphins / altered mindstate induced by receiving large amounts of sensation. When someone is bottoming out they will often become non-verbal as all the processing power of their mind is going into feeling / interpreting / handling the sensation. In my experience it feels at though the energy that is typically directed to the prefrontal cortex is diverted into the reptilian brainstem / parts of the mind and body that are registering the sensation rather than analyzing /attempting to interpret the meaning of the feeling. For me this is a direct physical gate to presence through pressure & physicality and many of my SomasenZ clients describe it as a ‘forcing into meditative presence’ as the pressure/sensation squeezes out anything beyond present awareness and focusing on the intensity of the sensation.

  1. Know your partner’s non/verbal signals for no/yes/more/less/refresh

No/yes/more/less/refresh is compound shorthand for the basic building blocks of communication :

no = stop

Yes = wonderful, continue

More = I would love for this to continue for a longer amount of time, could you dial up the sensation (increase pressure, go deeper, greater intensity)

Less = please dial down the sensation (decrease pressure, lighter touch, less intensity).

Refresh = I need a break, can we switch up the type of sensation, can I take a breather, I need some water

Although the deep resonance needed to communicate in a nuanced non-verbal way typically takes witnessing and deeply tracking your partner’s physical cues through the threads of a diversity of experiences and interactions to note the deeper patterns, ideally those engaged in the self-awareness development practices of this tome will know the general trends of their personal idiosyncrasies of how they communicate no/yes/more/less/refresh both verbally and non-verbally.

  1. Arrange for Aftercare

How do your play partners

  1. Know limits & Calibrate intensity scales

Limits :

Limits describe the maximum range of sensation desired.

Have a detailed conversation about how long your partner can handle a certain type of sensation. You can use the following prompts to seed discussion :

Does your play partner’s ability to handle [sensation] increases over time as they are warmed up? Is there a time period in which [sensation] is most enjoyable (eg. when an initial new stimulus is presented, when a certain stimulus has been going on with regularity and there is familiarity, when something comes as a surprise, when the intensity can follow a un/predictable pattern, when they can fall into a rhythm trance). Are there any health concerns?

Calibrate Intensity Scales

Get to know your partners 1-10 intensity scale and get an overview of how much time they would like to spend at each intensity. A 1 on the scale corresponds to ‘barely registering’ with 10 as the upper limit of sensation - an almost unbearable ‘maxing someone out’. For example, if I am going to be spanking someone and am matching the strength of my impact to correspond to their scale I give them a medium spank (what I project to be a 5 for me) and ask them where that is on the scale from 1-10 for them – perhaps it is also a 5, but depending on the person and their state that day it may be a 2 or even a 10. Through additional calibrations (aiming for something like a 2 and an 7 respectively on their scale) we can match our understanding of what each point in the scale is for our playmates in that moment (as we are constantly changing in both strength and sensitivity throughout the day). Through this stimulus-feedback triangulation I get a rough sense of how granular their sensation is. I can then establish my playmates sensitivity to types of sensation through modulating different spanks (eg. stingy v. thuddy, with/out rebound, in different areas) and asking for their rating for each one. Then I can ask, “what intensity and types of sensation would you like to play within for this session?”. Playmates may reply something along the lines of “I would like to hover around a 4, sticking mostly around 2-7 and am comfortable going as high as 8 for a few surprise spanks to keep me excited, but never more than 1 at a time at a high intensity 8 with a wait of at least 30 seconds between each high spank. Please warm me up and ramp up slowly - allowing my blood vessels to dilate and my endorphins to start flowing, enabling me to take more of those high juicy impacts overall that I relish so much. Overall I prefer thuddy deep penetrative impact in the middle of my muscles such as punching but I like light slaps at a 3 on my sides with the place of sting varying each time no more then 1/3 of the time”.

Bonus Points : learning your playmates non/verbal cues for no/yes/more/less/refresh during the calibration.

  1. Check in frequently – especially with a new partner – practice over-communicating

Givers of sensation / dominants should check in periodically even if there are no obvious signs of distress. If you are in doubt as to what your playmate is communicating, stop and ask. You may choose to create a space for response non-verbally through pausing or backing off and seeing if they move into the contact. If you are still unclear moving the dialogue into the verbal realm with a check in is highly advised, as they may be in a freeze state. **left off here**  For receivers / submissives – you are not disappointing your partner if you want to stop, slow down, or reduce the intensity, you can stop at any time, and its fine to try something and find out you don’t like it – you are not obligated to do it again. You can change your mind about your limits or the types of play you’re willing to do at any time.[43]

Shifting into the mindset of exploration, as though you are an alien visiting a new world, foreign traveler coming to a fresh country, into detective mode, or into beginners mind can . Finding unexpected out of the way places, being surprised by your own reactions.

  1. Increase in Increments
  2. Wellness check the next day

Start slow. Increase sensation in increments (and depending on partner preferences from in-depth conversations and reading their body language. Warm ups before wallops are important, especially for impact play. Capacity to hold sensation will dilate as the dial is turned up slowly, like a frog in a boiling pot. [44]

Aftercare :

Coming down after a scene, reintegration, cuddling (thick fuzzy blanket), making sure their body temperature returns to normal, offering them a drink of water and a snack, giving verbal praise and reassurance, decompressing, talking about the scene out of role – a great time to explore what worked and what could be done better next time, favorite moments; gentle touching, relaxing massage, cleaning up taking a shower or bath together

Switching : top-leaning, bottom-leaning, in a scene or series of scenes feeling more toppy or bottomy, impacting perspective of how something feels on you and applying that knowledge to inflicting it upon someone else. Knowing what makes a compelling scene, conversation, what language helps to inhabit a scene and propel it forward, what touches elicit the desired responses.

SenZory Inventory

Overarching Themes to weave in : opposites, contrast, wild freedom/restraint – opposing types of touch thoughtfully applied stimulation in succession, firm gentle, fast slow, hot cold, rough soft [45]


Reclaiming the everyday sensory as captivating :

food/edible - Chocolate sauce, juicy fruits,

drink - wet, water, liquid, bubbly (kombucha, sparkling water)


Actions :

Biting – lightly dragging teeth along skin, defining the edges of bone; nibble, nips, full mouth thick juicy meaty bites pulling muscle away from bone – fascial work (thighs, shoulders, arms, hands, feet), pressure variation / calibration with partner, front of mouth, side, incorporating sucking / blowing / raspberries

Percussion – self- rainstorm exercise, patting, spanking, jiggling, flogging, stingy (cane riding crop) or thuddy sensations (heavy leather flogger wide thick straps) (pattern/rhythm variations : jiggling can also be incorporated here, as well as smoothing out the area after a lot of sensation, compressing, giving a squeeze, washing/pulling the energy out of the limbs)

Spanking : finding no-go zones – avoid hitting these places because lasting damage can result : lower back, tailbone, hip bones, backs of the knees. Warming up – try spanking through clothes before moving directly to skin, warm up increases blood circulation which provides a cushion for the blows, which results in less bruising and discomfort. Thighs, butt. Arnica cream for aftercare to prevent bruising. [46]

Pressure – Jiggling, Swaddled, Laid upon like a blanket, dragging, pulling, grabbing, Raspberries Feather pulled across skin (neck, face, side of ribcage)

Grabbing : Muscle/skin grabbed, pulled away from body (top of shoulders, biceps, thigh, stomach), shaking back and forth, back of the neck like kitten, incorporating jiggling and shaking -slowly and more rapidly, surface shakes and deep full body vibration, pinches,

Sensory deprivation : blindfold, earplugs, noseplugs, mask over face, cocoon NYC exploration, gag (ball gag, ring gag, spider gag), hood, whispering, mummification, swaddling, vet wrap (only sticks to itself),

Sensory overload / group : multiple hands, alternating between hot/cold water, and hot wax drips,

Bondage : Getting tied up, materials to try : hemp, jute, nylon, bamboo, silk, linen,

Teasing – edging, edge riding, edge play, tickling, bottoming out, letting them see and hear the tool but not feel it, making them beg for it

Advanced, edge play : if receiver is fearful of something, emulating it - extreme cold especially on a dull blade can feel like being cut, warm water can feel like blood, spines and pokies can make you feel like your skin will break

Artmaking / performance art: knitted around, cocoon NYC exploration, voyeur, being witnessed, weeing others, being seen,


Areas / parts of the body:

Skin – wax, dry brush, lotion, oils, massage

hair : hair dying, hair pulling, braiding, combing, cornrows, mini-braids, Hair pulled (back of neck, full scalp, body hair)

Head : Head scratched : with metal ‘spider’ scalp massager, brush, comb, short/long fingernails

Face : touched carefully (eyebrows, cheekbones, eye sockets, around mouth), ‘egg drip’

mouth : teeth, chewing, bubble gum

Ears: Listening hear on inside of seashell, Whispers, being sung to, singing bowls

Neck : manipulated, full weight close to ground, piloting movement,

Neck – breath play, nails, Pulling nape of neck hair

Hands – wax dipping into fingers

Claws/nails – points, backs dragging, scratching, clawing

Feet – acupressure, walking on spiky balls, feet in dirt, acupressure mat, tennis balls, getting toes sucked

muscles, fascia – grabbing, rolling, foam roller, tennis balls


Feelings : cosy, cute, animalistic, compassionate

Sensation play :

Breath play / Lung work : ribcage massages, hands feeling outline resting gently, tight squeeze of hug, chest sat on

Percussive play (impact play) : light tapping, spanking, flogging, spanking, paddle, playful slaps, full on paddling, leather, ruler, wooden or leather paddle, canes, crops, whips, floggers, light slaps

Sound play : moaning, laughing, purring, belly rumbling (try placing the head in different places such as the thigh to stretch the neck, directly on the belly, on the heart)

Air play : fanned, incense, heat of fire (wax dripping candle play – just make sure it is not beeswax as it burns hot and blister skin), hot breath close / cool stream of air farther away

Fire play – wax play – colored and scented candles burn hotter, beeswax also burns hotter, holding the wax higher above allows it to cool as it falls, start with soy or other low temperature candles first. You may want to experiment with putting on lubricant before the wax play for easy cleanup, unless your receiver enjoys the sensation of scraping for removal

electrical – whartenberg wheel (1,3,5,7 wheels), tens unit electrodes, glove, nails, bear claws, wolfman gloves

Temperature – ice cubes, hot tap water, hot water bottle, warm cloths, warm wet cloths, sponge bath, Fire play, Water running down, glass and stainless steel toys fare well in the freezer or immersed in warm water, test on your own skin first to make sure its not too cold or hot.

bondage – types of rope, help, nylon, jute, bamboo, clothespins, clamps, suspension, communicate sleeply limbs immediately – cutting off blood flow for too long can lead to nerve damage[47]

Materials : Latex, Bubble wrap, Saran wrap, Glitter, Latex, leather Rabbit fur, Sheepskin, Linen, silk, wet fabric, pervertables (daily objects used for a kinky context such as an electric toothbrush; household items repurposed for kinky uses[48])


Locations :

Flower caressing, pretending to be a pollinator with nose, mouth, tongue, lips

Nature, Earthy, Ladybug

Beach – low water, tide pool, rocks, sand, buried,

Feather pulled across skin (neck, face, side of ribcage)

Head scratched : with metal ‘spider’ scalp massager, brush, comb, short/long fingernails

Hair pulled (back of neck, full scalp, body hair)

Hair braided / cornrowed

Nails dragged across skin

Muscle/skin grabbed, pulled away from body (top of shoulders, biceps, thigh, stomach), shaking back and forth

Lung work : ribcage massages, hands feeling outline resting gently, tight squeeze of hug, chest sat on

Face touched (eyebrows, cheekbones, eye sockets, around mouth)

Percussive play : light tapping, spanking

Sound play : moaning, laughing, purring, belly rumbling (try placing the head in different places such as the thigh to stretch the neck, directly on the belly, on the heart)

Air play : fanned, incense, heat of fire (wax dripping candle play – just make sure it is not beeswax as it burns hot and blister skin).


Group Boundary Exercises

Knowing internal Boundary Approach signals

Exercise : Two Lines - Approach & Body Monitoring

People pair up, and stand 10-15 feet away from each other in two lines. One side designated Approachers moves toward the still line embodying the intention expressed out loud by the facilitator (ex. Friendly, threatening, inquisitive, animalistic, lustful). The Still partner stands in place and in the process of being approached holds their hand up when they feel a reaction in their body. When the Still partner’s hand is up, the Approacher stops in place.

Some examples of physical signals that you may receive (when someone is approaching your boundaries) are : coldness in stomach, heat rising, discomfort, desire to back away, wanting to freeze, breath getting tight or shallow. When the Still partner feels the sensation dissipate they put down their hand and the Approacher continues toward the Still partner.

Discussion :

How close was your partner able to get? Did the distance change depending on the intention the approaching partner was holding? What parts of your body became activated as you held different intentions? Where did the focus in your body go?

Still partner : How do you check in with yourself to know when the sensation has dissipated ? What are your subtle signs? Does each sign increase in volume (does the feeling become more intense) or do you have a series of sensations that occur in an order that signals an increase in parasympathetic response?

Exercise : Deliberately boundary crossing / Safeword practicing

Caveat – Trigger warning - if you are still integrating the experience of boundary violation please do not engage with this exercise, you may also choose to leave the room for self-care during this section as it may be triggering. In this exercise, we deliberately cross boundaries to create data points for our inner personal response and practice expressing our ‘no’ and safeword both physically and out loud. Pair off and discuss your safeword, non/verbal cues, and hard boundaries with your partner, sharing a flexible boundary, a conditional boundary, and a hard boundary. Choose only a level of boundary you feel comfortable with- there is a lifetime’s worth of boundary pushing available should you choose that in the future.

You partner’s role is to begin mildly with one of the stated conditional boundaries and cross it without the condition being satisfied (this is for most people a ‘minor/less severe’ boundary violation). The receiver is welcome to use their non/verbal communication, safeword, and ‘NO’ at any time. The giver is to experiment with pacing and type of violations : rapid /  moving slow and ‘sneakily’ violating - and note the differences in physical reaction. Run through this boundary at least 3 times and have the receiver note the differences in their body reaction in the following scenarios :

  1. ‘freezing’ with no reaction from the Receiver
  2. Receiver remains silent and only communicates with body language
  3. Receiver allowed to vocalize safewords / ‘no’.

Note the differences in body tension and discharge.

Next a flexible boundary is probed and pushed with the 3 variations with the same 3 variations repeated with the hard boundary.

As the Giver / Boundary Pusher approaches a boundary (such as touching the neck if the boundary is not to touch face) – the Receiver is to notice physical sensations and instinctual actions that occur when a boundary is being approached near, far, at the edge, and penetrated. Does the inner experience during and after differ when allowed to respond (noting the differences between the 3 scenarios)?


How to know you can trust someone ?

A deep level of trust (in conjunction with an easeful capability to judge trustworthiness) can be reached in a relatively short time when the animal body is able to relax, the fear-seeking warning systems can power down, and the unconscious is freed to speak and be heard through Body. An integral part of knowing if you can trust someone is being able to tune into Body’s own innate system for communicating the trustworthiness of another. The unconscious receives significantly more bits of information then what is filtered and presented to the conscious mind, and thus the unconscious typically speaks most loudly through Body, a relationship summarily encapsulated in the phrase ‘the body never lies’. To tap into the unconscious’s storehouse of stimuli you must know the personal language of your inner voice to receive detailed messages from Body about other people. This process of inner communication is commonly called intuition, having a hunch, or listening to your gut. Each body’s language will have its own patterns and idiosyncrasies, and the ‘Two Lines - Approach & Body Monitoring’ exercise can help you begin to explore the understated signs and specificities of your body’s language. When beginning to learn the language of the body it is beneficial to start at a slow pace as messages are frequently first able to be felt in this deliberate context. When the pace of stimuli is reduced to allow space for the message to be fleshed out, signal bandwidth (and thus detail and distinction) expands the range of received communications.

When you are deciding how much/to trust another potential playmate it is highly recommended to :

  1. Watch the person interacting with others while noting your inner sensations as you track the proceedings (this also has the side benefit of keeping the community safe, as people will be aware they are being watched and be on their best behavior). Observe the potential playmate engaging with others and attune to Body’s communication regarding ‘gut feeling’.
  2. Ask the wider community about the potential playmate’s reputation – ask others within their friend and social group if they would recommend you playing with them.
  3. For more submissive folx it can be helpful to appoint an ‘advocate’ to approach and vet potential play partners on your behalf.
  4. After an initial conversation or negotiation, notice if the potential playmate remembers the details of what you have told them (demonstrating that they are interested in recalling your preferences). A yellow or red flag may be continual ‘forgetfulness’ – especially of important issues such as boundaries. Train an eagle eye on whether they are proactive about your boundaries and if they check in or seek clarification in grey areas. Do you feel as though you have their full attention? Is the interaction a conversation with messages being communicated through both physical and verbal channels? If you take the view of an impartial observer, would you deem that the needs of both parties are being met? In general, is your body tense or relaxed ?

Advanced topics : healing in relationship

Fascinatingly enough, as crucial as trust is in creating intimacy and propelling society, we do not frequently blatantly discuss the level of trustworthiness of others, choosing to veil our statements in oblique language. One interesting example is the phrase that is uttered in a ‘game changing’ relationship of advanced trust - ‘I am breaking all my usual rules for you’. The subtext encoded in this phrase is : wow, you are reading my body language and communication so deeply that you are in tune with respecting the needs underneath the boundary I have created -I feel so safe with you that I can trust you with relaxed or lapsed rules that I erected to protect myself from more callous types who have hurt me in the past. The phrase ‘I am breaking all my rules’ demonstrates our indirect understanding that if the needs which created a boundary in the first place are listened to, this dissipates their need to exist as a protective mechanism. If you feel that you have a lot of tender boundaries initially, have hope – it is possible to unpack boundaries that no longer serve you in a loving relationship/partnership (such as therapy). However, engage with this relaxation at your own (slow) pace and do not feel pressure to change if you are being currently served by your boundaries.

**** Advanced topics : kink as therapy

Feeders and feeding fetishes – sploshing. Perhaps you or your partner has had an eating disorder or other destructive impulse.  “For individuals with a history of disordered eating and body image, incorporating food into play can be especially powerful. Like other forms of self harm binging and purging releases an adrenaline rush that some kinky people eroticize. choosing to only practice previously destructive habits during a scene and with a trusted partner can give someone an opportunity to feel control over these impulses”. [49]  ****

  1. Finding your voice

Although it can be challenging for ‘shy’ or ‘quiet’ folks (author included) to be proactive and vocal about their desires it is especially important for us to both be advocates for our pleasure and to extend invitations/advances to those whom we fancy. If we do not step up into expressing ourselves, we continue to silently support the status quo of dominant / aggressive individuals being rewarded for their forwardness and persistence (never mind that their success relies solely on the taxing emotional labor of continuously rejecting another’s advances, until in the persistent wearing down of resource it becomes easier to say yes then continue to say no). Much like power, the people who deserves your attention are the ones honoring it - aware and appreciative of the responsibility of requesting your most precious resource –attention.

8 Directives {:&:no:yes:more:less:pause:refresh:{}:}

The 8 main directives (written shorthand as {:&:no:yes:more:less:pause:refresh:{}:} with curly brackets and other corresponding typography) are a shorthand phrase to indicate the initial ‘base’ or main types of non/verbal communication you will come across in your personal and partner play. Once you have a strong grasp on how your body communicates these main needs you will be able to play your body like an instrument, responding to its requests, and you’ll be able to teach others how to paint with the brush of your body. Over time, as you dive deeper into the nuances of emotional expression, your ‘symbolic body communication’ skills will sharpen, for example noticing when a food craving for sugar means desiring more sweetness in your life (this type of ‘body divination’ [50] work is covered more thoroughly in the SomasenZ Soma Diploma and SenZnutrition programs).

Each phrase is meant as a meme to connect to the following additional layers of nuance :

:&: how can we add to the mutual magic? :&: comes first to highlight the synergistic improvisational principal to keep of ‘yes, and’ to keep connection flowing Seeking to find the yes& in an offer, to be optimistically seeing if any overlap is possible to celebrate, amplify, and expand the possibility of play. The universe began in a yes& of symbiotic merging[51] and as an answer to the cry of ‘life more life’[52]. :&: reminds us that there is always greater nuance to explore and even more subtle sensation to expand into. :&: encourages us to feel more, to dilate into the experience, even if it is not what we expected. :&: amplifies our confidence to speak voice to our preferences in seeking ever greater resonance with our play partners.

:No: where do I need to make my edges known? Second in the list, :No: is kind and empathetic to reveal as early as possible as soon as it is clear there is not a Venn diagram space of overlap with :&:. :No: comes before :Yes: because ‘your :Yes: is only as strong as your :No:’. :No: contains boundaries in which we define ourselves as separate from another. No contains our needs, preferences, and helps to guide us in actions of self-care.

Yes:  what makes my spirit sing?  next in line because ‘a :No: is a :Yes: to something else’ and finding :Yes: is exhilarating detective work when we feel the maze of :No: coming in strong. :Yes: is your heart singing, expanding, feeling unwoven, safe and open, as your nervous system unwinds and your inner smile shines. :Yes: is savoring the deliciousness of this moment as a gift from the universe to compursively [53] delight in your delight.

:More: Want to dive in, feel deeper, feel :More: ? When you are loving the happenings going down and you are wanting more – encouraging the dial to be turned up, putting another scoop on top, increasing the pressure, the contact, the depth. :More: may also mean a call to increase the pace ad go  faster, although things may also be just right in that parameter, so checking in or more closely monitoring physical communication if you change either of those dimensions is advised.

:Less: Have you had more than enough ? When things have taken a turn towards an intensity, that you are unable to track or may be unpleasant. :Less: is a call to ease up on the pacing, go slower, decrease the pressure, or decrease the depth and paddle towards the shallows. :Less: may be a natural lead up to a :Pause:

:Pause: how can you retain connection in the :Pause:, separation, or break? This may be a need for space, or simply taking a moment for a bio break (= biological break to take care of physical needs such as getting some water, altering wardrobe / windows for temperature, or using the restroom). A moment to powder the nose, to check that the video / audio is indeed recording, and a ‘hold everything as it is while we break the 4th wall to make sure the backstage tech is taken care of’. :Pause: allows for more presence - through acknowledging the bothersome brain bugs that often sip (or greedily slurp) our attention to attrition like focus feeding bloodsuckers and taking care of them as they crop up rather then attempting to suppress their influence.

:Refresh: How can I bring more presence to the space I am stewarding? :Refresh: is a recalibration of headspace, physical space, and inter-relational space. :Refresh: is a scene change,, whether to change the scenery by going outside, having a shower, changing into clean clothes, or moving objects that would feel better in another position. Pesky cords cluttering your shot; an odd smell in the air; or Body calling for a change in position are all calls for refreshment. :Refresh: is a return to beginner’s mind, noticing what you have been enjoying and returning to the adjectives

:{}: how can we get meta? Holding Space for the unborn, unforeseen, to be planted seed. Wildcard reminding us that we are in the end beyond boundaries and static rote forms, no matter how seemingly comprehensive. Create systems that evolve the system. This work is constantly evolving, as we all are, spread seed, fill :{}: with what works.

Typographical details : There are two colons in between each word to emphasize the nature of not just looking at each phrase from your own perspective, but putting on a pair of glasses, and also taking another ‘lens’ to see if your communication is landing as you intended – is there a more direct or rich way you can communicate? The 2 colons on either side also serve as a reminder to take at least two breaths to help in sensing clearly (each colon symbolizing either an in and out breath).

Exercise –  Warm up your throat - practice communicating your {:&:no:yes:more:less:pause:refresh:{}:}

In Phase One : begin by positioning yourself in a space where you feel free to express yourself sonically without judgement (somewhere you can be loud without being self-conscious). Begin by gaining comfort in vocalizing each of the eight main directives - {:&:no:yes:more:less:pause:refresh:{}:}. Practice all the different ways, or flavors, you may choose to conveying the same message : pleasant, gracious, graceful, forceful, sharp, humorous... Note the types and flavors of expressions that you are least comfortable vocalizing and explore what causes this discomfort.

This is an excellent journal topic as well as an informal poll topic around the dinner table with friends – be a social scientist and see if there are any trends you can discern. Place an emphasis on developing a wider vocabulary to convey the most challenging messages for you specifically (ex. Are you hesitant to say :Yes: because you prefer untethered flexibility and fear disappointing others if your plans change) especially with the goal of diffusing tension or discomfort.  will provide nuance, aiding in self-awareness and detailed communication with playmates.

Phase One and a Half : Add additional visual feedback and practice this in front of a mirror.

Phase Two : practice saying no/yes/more/less/pause/refresh to a friend with a distinct flavor of communication in mind and get feedback on the way that this flavor comes across.

Phase Three : Practice conveying no/yes/more/less/pause/refresh and adding additional context / intent in mind (eg. ‘yes, and I’d like to have a boundaries conversation before we escalate to any other activity like touching erogenous zones’, ‘less / what a compliment, I don’t feel like going that far just yet, let’s get to know each other another way’, ‘pause : let’s slow this down give me some time to check in and see what my body is telling me’). Get feedback on how you are perceived / how forceful that flavor and word choice comes across (likely it will garner a milder reaction then you expect).

Phase Four : repeat Phase Two and Three  with a stranger (or relative stranger / new friend)

Exercise : Own your Own pleasure in open expression

Here is your enthusiastic permission to make noise : be it juicy sexy noises, giggles, gurgles, gargles, guffaws, or gasps ! Begin simply by allowing yourself to breath heavily and notice your breath during your personal favorite pleasurable activities (you can start solo and build up to being witnessed if this is edgy for you). Begin with breathy moans, then start turning up the volume on your expression to test your pipes. ). Let the giggles and gushes multiply, mumbling and tumbling out from your belly, letting your jaw relax and soaking in the easy delight of ecstatic expression. Move on to letting your sounds out when working with a partner – such as while receiving a massage. Not only do your noises convey a wealth of information about specific types of touch to your play partner, but they are they often quite rewarding for your playmate and those within earshot!

Challenge : Expand the range of places, sense spaces, and activities you openly express in and work on incorporating vocalization and sound into your life as frequently as possible. Note which emotions and contexts you feel the most challenge expressing in. Don’t keep your inner world locked up inside – let your personal experience be known in sound. *cite: research shows that test subjects encouraged to vocalize and curse were able to withstand pain longer then those told to hold their tongue.


What does your yes / no sound and look like ? Does it change based on the situation ? What carries over into all situations – what are you preferred channels of communication?

New Vocabulary - SomaSenZ / SomaSenZi

In my journey I have found that a big part of building confidence in voice and self-expression has been learning and developing new terms to describe and share more nuanced shades of life experiences with others. Finding new terminology helps me feel as though I am not alone and I deeply appreciate the thought that has gone into the creation of expanding our shared language with new vocabulary. In some ways ‘something’ does not consciously exist in a meaningful way in the collective until it is named – at which point dialogue is possible through shared understanding.  I have found immense relief in finding words that help describe me or a way that I experience the world as a shorthand to communicate with other people and to know that I am not alone.

A term that I have created to help me conceptualize my own experience is SomaSenZ, and the related terms SomaSenZI, and SomaSenZitivity. SomaSenZ is a shorthand expression for the felt body sense in it’s totality : proprioception, body intelligence, and ability to communicate / read someone else through physical touch.

I was frequently labelled ‘sensitive’ growing up (mostly as a put down as used  in ‘stop being so sensitive and toughen up’), and through my explorations of self I have come to create the term ‘somatically sensitive’ to describe myself. My SomaSenZitivity led me to understand that I have higher then average SomaSenZ (somatic perception) which dovetails with my emotional intelligence (also described as emotional sensitivity). Certain other groups of people can also be thought of as ‘Somatically sensitive’ – colicky babies, those on the autism spectrum, those diagnosed with Asperger’s, obsessive compulsive disorder, and many others.

Am I SomaSenZI ?

You may be somatically sensitive if you find the following to be true in your life :

Your body speaks so loudly its signals cannot be ignored (similar to the feeling of needing to go to the bathroom taking over more and more of your brain as you continue to ignore it over time), you cannot suppress the communications of your body regardless of social norms of politeness. If you need to stretch, you will no matter the circumstance.

You cannot stay in one position for too long - you feel the need to move after a certain amount of time sitting. If we work on computers we have a setup that allows us to stand, move, bounce, or shift positions.

You can sense if someone is being fully attentive to you in their touch and if not your patience with letting them touch you wanes rapidly.

You have a high level of skin sensitivity – itchy tags are unbearable, certain types of fabric are irritating (such as only wearing predominantly natural fibers, and favoriting fine fabrics such as secondhand silk and cashmere)

Daily movement practices are crucial for our physical and mental well-being. Sleep is sacred to you and is a highly protected and valued activity.

You may think more clearly when in motion – going on ‘movement meetings’ through walks or hikes in person or on the phone.

You tend to seek out spaces where your body has the option of playing. You may have body tools such as a back cane, inflatables (yoga ball), yoga swing, or other body tools. You have a space in your home, outside, or a studio space where you are able to freely move.

Sometimes when hearing a body injury story you shudder or feel a shadow of the pain because you are able to somatically empathize with the felt sense. When you watch another person dance, or a duet or group dance together, you can deeply feel what that is like to move in that way with you body – your mirror neurons are very physically linked.

You are very conscious of spatial positioning – moving out of the flow of traffic on a busy sidewalk if you stop walking rather then standing in the middle of the stream.

You invest money in body technologies – including nutrition, massages, herbs, pure water.

You spend time educating yourself about nutrition and how to take care of your body.

You are sensitive to artificial scents and you avoid toxic perfumes, opting instead for unscented laundry detergent or essential oils.


Level III Communicating with Others Consensually

Beyond the Verbal – Types of Communication

Is non-verbal consent a solution to the consent crisis? A case for holding each other accountable for becoming fluent in body language.

Communication happens on many levels – verbal, physical, energetic, and within the web of situational context & cultural/group norms. Current consent education teaches that an affirmative verbal response is the gold standard and the only way to have ‘true consent’. Alas, the current hierarchy placing verbal consent as the only authentic form of consent minimizes those who prefer or are more fluent in physical communication. There are may people who spend much of their day in communication in non-verbal modes such as children, dancers, bodyworkers (not to mention animals and pets). Additionally, there are those who have not yet developed comfort in vocalizing their needs and desires or are within a power structure that minimizes their voice – eg. women, subordinates in the workplace, minorities, and young people.

Moreover, certain situational contexts can make the possibility of clearly communicating verbally impossible, such as in spaces where silence is commanded, or in loud places. Finally, there are many secondary benefits to cultivating and holding each other accountable for the skill of body language fluency – such as allowing us to consider whether the messages from our playmates are congruent and whether a verbal check in is needed to clarify details.

Power and Verbalization

On overlooked pernicious assumption that ‘all consent must be verbal’ invisibly transfers power to those who are comfortable communicating and bargaining. (Anchoring in marketing)

Currently there is a hierarchy of the verbal (at the command of cerebral world of symbols) above the realm of physical communication (connected to the body and with the subtext of being less advanced or specific). This sets up a pernicious power dynamic when considering a physically sensual encounter in which any of the participants have not developed personal strength of voice. This developing of personal voice is highly socially and culturally constructed, and in the US we have a pattern in which the voices of minorities, women, and those who do not currently hold power are silenced and marginalized rather than nurtured. Men taking up most of the talking space in conversation citation. Those in positions of power interrupting those who are less (hopefully we are seeing a change thanks to leaders saying ‘leaders speak last’ (simon sinek)*.

Historically muffled groups are then left with communicating more in the embodied, emotional realms, which places then squarely in the devalued and easily dismissed communication style group in our current patriarchal society. When the cultural pattern of submissively shouldering burdens and placing other’s need and pleasures before your own (even at your discomfort) has been internalized (eg. for female bodied people socialized along those lines), it follows that these behaviors continue in silence or freezing in physical interactions and most frequently end in personal and public judgement for the silent party, longstanding regret, and self-blame. To this end I developed this program to cultivate our Voices and share our Boundaries and Limitations.

Why has the verbal been placed above the non-verbal as the ‘only true way’ to establish consent?

The emphasis on the verbal as the only iron-clad form of ‘affirmative consent’ is likely due to the attempt at precise clarity that utilizing spoken communication reaches for. The emphasis on the verbal may even be due to our current culture’s litigious nature and obsession with holding people to their word (even if the situation changes). This ‘verbally binding’ overtone concerns me when conflated with consent, because a cardinal principal of consent is that you can change your mind at any time, and for any reason. The implication (however subtle) that because you have vocalized an agreement that you must follow through regardless of changing circumstances does not belong in Consent Culture.

Predatory ‘binding verbal agreements’

Currently in the mainstream the only way we are told we can get concrete consent is through ‘affirmative consent’ through verbal channels (it would be informative to look up the legal president for this **). There are several pernicious assumption that ‘consent can only be given verbally’ hides – the first being that someone may agree to something verbally but when their body is saying no, that does not give you the opportunity to say ‘well you agreed verbally’. In our current litigious society it is understandable that because speaking invokes a verbal agreement that enables ‘holding’ people to their word. However, this is a predatory mind set more interested in following the letter of the law to prevent getting in trouble then actually honoring the individual they are interacting with. This is a manipulative form of consent, because at the heart caring for the other person is obviously not present. Additionally, the concept of binding verbal agreements in consent is false, because the truth of the matter is that consent can be revoked at any time and for any reason. Do not let anyone pressure you into an agreement that no longer feels right, and do not give those who try make you feel guilty for changing your mind the gift of your company.

If you receive a no, you have a responsibility to honor it, no matter what level it is given on (energetic, physical, verbal…). If you are receiving mixed signals that is the moment to stop the action and check in with a physical pause (and usually verbal conversation) as it often means the person you are playing with is inwardly conflicted. To pause and reflect pre-emptively and proactively diverts the potential for your playmate to regret interacting with you. Your attentiveness to your playmate will build immense trust in them for you and allow them to more deeply surrender into your contact and help avoid any snarly non-consensual potentials.

Even through verbalization of a question for clarification causes us to pop into our minds and can alter the natural and easy flow that energy in the body had been enjoying, check-ins at any time are encouraged. Although disruption is often seen as negative, if it is in service to seeking clarity and checking-in this is a noble pursuit that demonstrates the attentiveness and caring of the individuals. The ‘worst’ that could happen is that the play partner would ask for a reduction in check-ins or give a yes in a commanding tone that might indicate a twinge of annoyance at the anticipation (“shut up and kiss me”). Remember it’s always better to err on the side of checking in more than is necessary then not doing so and causing an easily avoidable unpleasantness.

Mixed Signals - when signals don’t match

In your relational forays there may be times in which someone may verbally be saying yes, but their body signals are saying no. This is a prime opportunity to check in verbally explaining what you are observing / sensing with your partner (e.g.. ‘I am noticing that you have closed your eyes and your body feels stiff’), opening the conversation and engagement to a deeper level. Noticing and voicing the mismatch of signals demonstrates attentiveness to your partner, and deepens their trust in your ability to tune into them and speak up when receiving mixed messages.

If you are in a longer-term relationship or both parties have the interest and the capacity to dive deeper, you may consider discussing personal dynamics/past trauma (‘are you having any memories come up? Do I remind you of someone from your past?’). In this way you can aid in rewriting a previously painful pattern and be a new model for respectful relationship. Alternatively, you may find that the unconscious body signals that the receiver is giving off they are not only unaware of but also that they are incongruous with their desired communication. Through this multi-leveled dialogue spanning many interactions, observations, and clarifications, together you can begin to learn each other’s unique tactile vocabulary and body language until it becomes second nature.

In general, an upstanding principal to follow is that a no on one level overrides a yes on other levels. This helps honor the principal to pursue highest hell yes of all participants.


What do you do when verbal and physical do not match? What do you do in situations where you cannot obtain verbal consent (eg. a loud place, silent place)? It is recommended to ask these questions of yourself AND your play partners.

Specificity is Splendid, and unending

Another reality that is not frequently spoken about by those advocating that ‘verbal consent is the only way consent can be given’ is that not only can you never discuss every possible nuance of a particular activity, but also that specificity in asking has no end, as the following ‘may I touch your arm’ exercise illustrates. Verbal consent is not an ironclad assured safety mechanism, as manipulators will always find ways to twist words, hence the need for practice in affirming and defending boundaries through both verbal and non-verbal means.

Exercise : May I touch your arm

Pair off, one partner asks the other ‘may I touch your arm’ or something equally innocuous. The touching partner is to be in a manipulative, extractive, penetrative mindset, pushing the boundaries of akin to a misbehaving child wishing to get away with treating their younger sibling poorly as revenge for a previous slight. Beginning touching the arm in an expected ‘normal’ way, the toucher can them begin caressing in a laviscious, uncomfortable, or painful way (such as by pinching or twisting the skin on the arm in opposite directions such as an ‘Indian burn’). Allow the receiver to clarify what they do/not prefer, with the giver trying to look for loopholes, ways to manipulate, or cause pain. In subsequent rounds, asking more difficult questions such as ‘may I kiss you’ (here is an opportunity to gain comfort in vocalizing no or counter-offers for the receiving partner as well).

Discussion : What did it feel like to be the receiver? The giver/manipulator? What was enjoyable about being the manipulator (feeling smarter than the other person at finding a loophole)?

Consent killing the mood ?

A common reason that consent is seen as uncool or un-suave is the often-heard sentiment from many initiators (most often men) I have spoken to who believe that consent kills the mood. A phrase I hear frequently encapsulating this is ‘I don’t want a girl to ask to kiss me I would rather have her just do it”. I have heard the mirror sentiment from the receiver that they “don’t want to be asked to be kissed”. The subtext is that the receiver does not want their play partner to verbally ask them and put them into a mental headspace, however, the receiver does want to be listened to and communicated with on a physical, animalistic level. The trope that asking for ‘consent kills the mood’ has a big underlying assumption beneath it – that consent can only be given verbally. When we become fluent in body language we are able to ‘ask’ for consent through physical communication and to receive a body based affirmative consent answer.

** Negotiation and Consent Communication is not all verbal

I advocate for expanding ‘affirmative consent’ to include non-verbal communication,

In summation, consent has to do with both clarity in the question as well as giving the other person the time and space to respond without pressure, not the form the question comes in (whether verbal or physical) **

Body Based affirmative Non-verbal consent in practice – the Prolonged Pause – ‘physical asks’

A ‘Prolonged Pause’ is a ‘physical ask’ for body based affirmative consent. A good rule of thumb is that if you have been reading the body language signs of your partner and getting strong yesses and you would like to know if they would enjoy receiving a new sensation of [ insert activity here – neck biting, spanking, etc ] –go 90% of the way towards/into the action slowly and then pause, waiting for them to meet you the rest of the way. Through this method the engagement becomes a conversation and you are not simply impressing yourself and your wishes/desires onto someone who is reluctantly acquiescing. The amazing side benefits of this method is that the slow pace can increase sexual tension and therefore build arousal ! I would argue that offering a situation of prolonged pause and having your playmate meet your offer by moving forward constitutes ‘enthusiastic affirmative consent’.

This concept is best explained though an example such as a kiss. A kiss is a common physical escalation point  – a jump in intimacy occurs at this act and provides a prime place to practice non-verbal consent. For example, if you are the initiator/giver going in for a kiss, you can make lingering present penetrative eye contact and slooooowly lean in, pausing again about 10-20% away from physical contact to the lips of your receiver. This ‘hanging air time’ I call a ‘Prolonged Pause’. This prolonged pause is the initiator non-verbally ‘asking’ a physical question through body language – moving forward indicating their interest, with the pause signaling a space of respect that allows the receiver spaciousness to respond. If the receiver leans in to complete the kiss, this clearly demonstrates participatory consent (what I call a sign of ‘affirmative body based consent’) on their part, as they were given the choice to lean in, bridge the gap left by the initiator, and chose to join in the kiss of their own volition. (Caveat being there may be power dynamics at play that may have lead to the Receiver/Responder into feeling as though they did not have a choice – which we will discuss later – but in most typical scenarios the ‘Prolonged Pause’ is a great way to receive a yes with affirmative body based consent).

‘But what if I have to touch them somewhat for them to understand what I want to do?’

For example, let’s say the initiator is feeling inspired to give a sensation that the receiver may not be able to see before it occurs, such as hair pulling. I would recommend to start at a less-risky activity, such as resting your hand on their hair, or combing your hands through their hair to see how they respond first. Then you can begin with slow light pulling at the base of the neck and read their body signals as you accelerate the pressure. Remember, if you are unsure of you’re receiving affirmative body based consent you are always encouraged to verbally check in!

A great moment to break into the verbal realm is if you ever find yourself unable to track your partner or if any doubts or questions enter into your mind that are taking you out of the present moment. In a way, a verbal check in indicates that you want to make sure that you are still in sync with your partner and shows that you value shared resonance enough to voice interest into deepening into greater harmony. You will gain greater levels of intimacy and a long-lasting positive relationship through frequent check ins, calibrations, clarifications, and questioned posed to your partner. We demonstrate attentiveness through depth of listening, and in my numerous conversations with the body geniuses of the bay area regarding attractive traits in a play partner, attention always tops the charts of ‘hottest turn on’.

Love is Listening

The same way we demonstrate love for children we can use with our playmates : by observing them, making sure they come to no harm, and patiently answering their questions. An additional layer that we may not always grant children but do to playmates is the respect of giving them the spaciousness to come to their own conclusions without pressuring them into what we think they may enjoy or interpret to be best for them.

We can remain neutral in our inquiry through taking on the role of detectives and suggest hypothesis behind actions by using the phrase ‘the story I am telling is…’ and asking if the projection rings true (eg. the story I telling is that you are closing your eyes because you are having trouble separating your inner desires from my expression of my preferences and desired activities – how does that land with you? ).

Holding each other accountable to body language fluency

One proactive response to the falsely problematic assumption that verbal consent is ironclad (potentially stemming from the litigious nature of US society and the emphasis on verbal / written contracts*) is the need to hold each other accountable to speaking body language. Body talk is our first language, as all babies can speak to, and we all have the underlying neutral connections to make the most of this rich and nuanced original form of communication.

Humanity would be well served to teach continuing education for physical communication to increase clarity and communication density. Body language holds deep nuance – as demonstrated by the continued preference for in-person interviews and insistence on live meetings to get a true read on people even in our dispersing digitized online age. The underlying truth of somatic communication is encapsulated by the phrase ‘the body never lies’.

Non-verbal/Physical Language/Communication Common Translations/Basics

Although everyone is different, below please find some trends I have observed for how to interpret physical movements. I have encapsulated the basic ways of physically responding through the shorthand of ‘no/yes/more/less/pause/refresh’.

Moving towards : yes / more

Moving away : no / less / slow down / refresh

Speeding up : yes / more / increase energy, pace

Slowing down : no / slow / refresh

Tensing up : no / slow / decrease energy, pace

Yielding : yes / surrender

Other aspect to note are : eye movements – open/closed, eye contact, breathing changes (heavier, deeper, quicker, shallower, swallowing, yawning), repositioning, movements synching up

Additionally non-linguistic sounds are a wonderful way to communicate and stay in the bodily experience : moaning, heavy breathing, animal noises – grunts, growls, yelps, purrs, squeals.

Non-verbal Physical Safe words

Having a ‘physical safeword’ which is a physical symbol to convey to your play partner that you need the activity to stop non-verbally (‘red light’) is necessary for deeper levels of play or any type of activity in which it may be challenging to speak or hear. You will likely derive benefit from creating a signal for ‘decrease intensity’ (‘yellow light’). Over time you may naturally create a whole non-verbal language with your play partner, but these two symbols -stop and slow down - are most paramount, so start by creating those together. Please practice these non-verbal communication symbols frequently as it is important to your safety to get into the habit of using them so that they become second nature and you can summon them easily to mind / body even in the altered state of sub-space.

A common physical safeword is the ‘two tap out’ sign. In wrestling when a combatant is pinned and they admit defeat the pinee give two smacks of the ground with an open palm or on the body of the pinner to signal to the pinner that they have ‘won’ and to release them. Another physical safeword for body handling, rope play, bondage, or restricting your play mates movement is for them to hold a bell, keys, or other noisy object in their hand and drop it, causing a loud clatter to signal the desire to stop the scene/activity.

De-shaming Desire

Showing your cards – Radical Honesty

When playing with a new partner, making the intention behind the proposed touch explicit allows all those participating to fully understand and agree to the activity and subtext. Although ‘showing your cards’ and letting others else know when you have romantic / sexual interest in them can be scary for the ego, there are a plethora of benefits to making this commonplace.

De-shaming the open expression of desire and attraction allows us to be honest with each other and prevents shadowy social manipulation of undercover attempts to reach our unstated needs. When we are upfront and specific about what we desire, we speed up the process of finding a partner who can enthusiastically connect with us in rapidly choosing and conveying exact compatibility – laying out all our cards on the table. This initial honesty has a second trust building element – the more honest and vulnerable someone is with us up front, the more we can trust them to be forthcoming in the future (even in challenging scenarios).

When we take another’s expression of desire for us at face value we are able to decouple the simple expression of desire with the current social script of feeling the pressure of acquiescing to their response simply because it was expressed. In the same vein we are free to respond without charge because we are not being expected to engage in the expressed offer, as it is communicated as a preferred possibility.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Most often conveying deep feelings is scary because of the fear that the other’s feeling will not align and the revealer will be rejected. The extreme terror that rejection can cause is bound up in fear for survival – when being accepted by others was a prerequisite for inclusion in the tribe during a time when aloneness equated death. The ego’s oversized fear is outdated - a symptom of the inflated alarm over a potential social gaffe, an overblown obsession with saving face and sparing embarrassment. Failing early and often allows you to build stronger relational prototypes that allow you to receive your deepest desires from those who delight in fulfilling them.

Working up the courage to clearly communicate how you feel allows you to seize the reigns of your life and avoid wasting opportunities that present themselves out of fear of rejection. This confidence translates into having more power and proactivity when interacting with others. The more frequent the rejection, the more effective the inoculation against fear of failure – for ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. There is wariness of saying or receiving a ‘no’ as well as a stigma around rejection that we as a culture would do well to dissipate – for ultimately our yes is only as strong as our no. Normalizing saying no without judgement and making rejection an acceptable and commonplace occurrence would also break our distended fear of receiving these as answers.

There are many options in this ‘worst case scenario’ when a no is received to an offer.

The Upside of No. Benefits to receiving a No

There is a big hidden benefit to receiving a No – time is not wasted on pursuing futile actions. Although there may be a moment of awkwardness or discomfort in vulnerably sharing what you want if the other person does not share your sentiment, you are able to know right away that you are not a match rather than wasting energy in courting this person sexually (no more ‘unknowingly’ being in the friend-zone!). (side note on the friend zone – the friend zone is only a bad thing if you don’t value having women as friends!* scarcity of connection leads to grasping needy energy ** ) You are then able to divert what would have been wasted energy chasing the un-interested into pursuing others who are more likely to enthusiastically meet (and even celebrate) your needs.

Verbal Responses to No – Counter-Offers

Receive a No graciously, and if it feels genuine you can thank your partner for expressing their boundaries. Allowing the receiver to make a counter offer, or making one yourself allows the connection and play to continue and models ‘a no does not mean the end of play or the relationship’. Very young children are only able to say no to their parents or caregivers when they feel secure in the relationship that they will not be abandoned/still be loved if they say no or express their body sovereignty. See how you can get creative within the boundary, for ‘a no just means a yes to something else’. My friends Catalina and Michael invented a new type of play called ‘Energy Sex’ because Catalina expressed that she did not want to have sex with Michael (a relatively new friend) with whom she was attending a sex party that evening. The pair got creative within the boundary and through circulating their sexual energy non-physically, they birthed a new way of relating ! **does ME want this mentioned ?

After it is clear that the Receiver of the invitation is a no to the stated offer they may still want to engage with the Invitee through another activity and may choose to propose a counter offer of an action they would enjoy. This keeps the connection going and flips the roles - with the former Invitee then being Invited to decide if they would like to engage in this newly proposed way by the former Receiver of the offer. If you are new to this play partner this is a great way to vet them (see the section on ‘how do I know I can trust someone’*) : you can experience how eager they are to interact with you as a person or simply interact in a certain way; you can see if they continue to push or pressure you into the initial offer; you can see how gracefully (or not) they receive the no; you can see how creative they are when working with the no and stated boundaries related to it.

Somatic Redirect

If you are in a non-verbal space and communicating somatically and someone give you a touch they you don’t 100% prefer, you are empowered to adjust the touch. There are three ways to do so, which I will present in escalating order of want for the action to change (also could be interpreted as severity of response).

The first way to react is to redirect the touch for your enjoyment – cats are seen to do this, nuzzling their heads and chins into your hand when they want to be pet there and physically moving the point of contact to exactly where it is bringing them the most satisfaction. This body repositioning can be the perfect response to an attentive partner, but if your playmate is not as perceptive or responsive you may wish to escalate the redirect.

The second way is through a physical grasping of the offending part with your hand and moving it towards another place – for example if your partner’s hand is beginning to slither up your skirt and you’re only wanting to engage at that level of intimacy in private, you can grasp their hand and lovingly place it exactly where you desire more attention from their nimble appendage.

Finally the third way is to combine either method with a verbal clarification if your partner is not getting the message somatically through body language. This can begin with a breathy request and escalate as needed.

Initially Platonic

If you are new playmates and still developing rapport, your playmate is likely to express that they would like to keep interactions platonic.  When we begin relating on a platonic level an environment of a respectful trusting relationship is founded on the evidence that both parties will communicate authentically even when uncomfortable or difficult. As the common date night movie trope often lead us to believe it is even possible that the organic deepening and growth of the platonic relationship over time may result in feelings of attraction blossoming from the romantically uninterested that were not there initially. However, I strongly caution that this should not be the primary goal when agreeing to be friends.

Best case scenario

Upon revealing your undying love you may find that they have a crush on you too – and you would have never known had you not bared your heart !

Practice Produces Proficiency

Promiscuous Flirting :

Flirting is a great place to have fun practicing with expressing physical attraction in a low/no pressure scenario and engaging more with others in the world. As I learned in a flirting workshop, ‘flirt with the world, and the world will flirt back at you’. Flirting is also an excellent space to practice saying no while continuing to engage someone in a socially interactive dance. Practice flirting anywhere it is appropriate – grocery store, on the phone, at events. Flirting works well to spice up places that are traditionally ‘boring’ such as the grocery checkout line, post office, or DMV. Make sure your flirting is clearly playful fun for all involved – keep it lighthearted and unattached to outcome. To increase the pool of potential flirting candidates, flirt with people you are not necessary sexually interested in (eg. a young man flirting with his grandmother’s friends). By flirting with those you are not sexually attracted to you gain valuable ‘practice time’ to try out your personality before a ‘high stakes’ scenario in which you genuinely fancy the target of your flirtatious banter.


Practicing : Comfort Receiving Nos

Bus Stop Backrub Exercise :

Offer someone a touch that you are certain that they will say no to (eg. ask for a massage from a stranger at the bus stop) Consciously practice comfort with making a fool of yourself, and be surprised at the range and style of answers you get to your offer (this is also a good way to learn the variety of ways that you can reject someone). Propose a counter-offer or invite them to suggest how they would like to be interacted with. Be open and receptive to their response and whether you want to engage with them in the way in which they offered.


Pure Play

Occasionally, such as with children, pets, or friends, one may find a play partner who will simply enjoy the touch for what it is – an exploratory gift of the moment. Holy Hedonists! If you are so lucky to find this rarity, they may be a good candidate to explore what kinds of touch you enjoy without obligation or shyness (with obvious considerations of appropriateness with children / pets for lack of informed consent). With such a partner the delight comes from the exploratory play itself – relishing in the journey without attachment to destination. The focus of the session can be falling as deeply as possible into the ‘now’ of the body experience, drinking deep of the delight of the moment. When I am blessed by such a relationship all the actions within the session become a pure gift and I am welcome to show up fully as my silly, sound-full, sacrilegious self (such as by laughing when a tumble takes place or invariably gas gets loudly squeezed from my intestines).  I am fortunate to have many bodywork friends in the bay area who help me to develop SomasenZ Razma Movement Method positions and moves through our untangled, sloppy, highly experimental play.

Safe Loving Touch Exercises

Throughout these exercises note how your nervous system initially reacts and if/how you relax into the exercise. Are there memories or metaphors that come up for you with regard to how you receive touch or your inner physical experience of giving / receiving touch?

Ragdoll Cradling Exercise (credit to Karen Moriarty) :

Form duets, one member as rag doll the other as the cradler. The cradlers prompt is to love, hold, nurture, and demonstrate physical affection for their beloved rag doll. Cradlers - this is your worn out, favorite doll, the one that has been with you from the beginning, the best friend always dangling from your arm – you have never gone anywhere without your beloved doll soul twin. How can you show your love and affection to the doll? How close and entangled can you get with your doll? You may want to stroke you dolls hair, whisper secrets into their ears, or tell them a story. Ragdolls – how physically inert can you get – you are an intimate object, limp, yielding, and receptive. Now go deeper into child’s mind surrounded by play innocence, wide-eye wonder, and imagination. What does this relationship feel like in the body? In metaphor? Switch.

Discussion :

Receiver : How does it feel to receive such childlike love? What are your memories of being held tenderly? Notice when you do not trust them to hold you – where do you tense up? When / how does your body tell you they are trustworthy? What was the hardest aspect to receive (true surrender, their secrets)? Do you trust the pure nature of this experience or is your mind going into protective thoughts evaluating what they might want from you? Did anything change when you went into child’s mind?

Giver : What was the hardest thing to believe or to trust your doll with (secrets, that they would not leave your side) ? Did you remember how you used to demonstrate love physically when you were a child? Why do you think you have that imprint of how you express love (grandma always pinching your cheeks? Roughhousing among playmates as a sign of acceptance?)


Listening to Heartbeat Exercise :

In this simple exercise you will lay your ear over another’s heart and listen to their heartbeat. Find a position that is comfortable to you: Can you feel their breath? Can you feel their water body move as they breathe and create vibrations? Can you feel how their heartbeat expands their outer boundary almost imperceptibly? Switch.

Discussion :

Notice how your breathing changes – do you end up in sync? Where are you holding tension – in your neck, not wanting to fully let your head sink into their chest? In your shoulders, not trusting their body to hold you head? Do you feel as though you have to remain frozen in one position or do you feel at ease moving? Do you have any recurring thoughts of doubt or uncertainty in your mind?

Human Blanket Exercise :

For 3 minutes you will have your partner lay on top of you as a human blanket. Decide if you want to be face up or down. Do a short 10 second ‘nestling’ trial with your partner on top of you (with them facing down) and see if you need to assemble any squish or pillows you may need to feel comfortable being compressed on the floor (putting a pillow under the hips and head is recommended). Feel free to move or adjust positions if you become uncomfortable. Switch.

Discussion : what memories came up for you? Did aspects of the experience change over time? What was the experiential story arc?

Level IV Advanced Topics –

Blanket Non-verbal consent

In due diligence I wish to preface this section by proclaiming that Non-verbal consent is an advanced technique for garnering consent (as opposed to merely using non-verbal monitoring as a skill to determine that playmates are still in attuned resonance) and should only be used when all partners are confident in identifying and expressing their boundaries, know each other’s signals well, are deep listeners, and have pre-established trust.  Non-verbal consent should only be used after a verbal conversation (or several) establishing that non-verbal consent is appropriate, welcomed, and constitutes an enthusiastic yes.

I have certain play-mates with which I have established a container of non-verbal communication and consent. I have given verbal ‘blanket consent’ for them to touch me in certain ways and that I am a pre-approved yes unless I state otherwise in a future moment. As an example, a frequent blanket consent I give is for hugs, although I occasionally (rarely) turn down hugs even from people I love because either I or they feel too hot or sweaty for such close contact, if I am repelled by their smell, etc. I also turn down hugs if I am feeling horizontal and giving a hug would require me to stand and I am cuddled comfortably in my current state. There are some people I turn down hugs from if I am in an emotionally tender place and do not have the resource to give that energy to them, or if I am on another mission not to be waylaid. As demonstrated by this example, just because you have given blanket consent for something does not mean you can say no, it is more akin to a ‘standing order’ or invitation to engage in certain types of touch without needing to go into a negotiation or discussion. Blanket consent makes the natural closeness that tends to develop between friends, lovers, or partners more explicit bringing clarity to how the relationship is developing. Bringing trends of what has been formally implicit into the explicit helps us consciously create the structures that fit the needs of all parties in the timeline that is best rather then just leaving this important work to chance or the normative cultural pattern.

While learning and practicing the skill of non-verbal consent it is even more important to be obsessively attentive to what your partner is communicating and to go slow. Due to the dearth of teaching the language of the body in traditional schooling, a useful comparison to make is as though learning you are leaning a new language through visiting a foreign country. As in the case of visiting a foreign land - be careful, courteous, and curious! Remember that as infant and young children all of us communicated through fluency in body language for survival before learning how to verbalize (in the case that we had attuned and expressive caregivers). Let’s return to our Original Language : Embodied Communication !


What type of consent do you prefer (verbal, nonverbal, energetic)? Does your preferred mode of consent change depending on the environment, level of trust in partner, or your mood? Ask these questions of both yourself AND your play partners.


Fixing the Broken Stair : Reforming Predators – the need for ‘Sensitivity School’ (**attentive academy, compassionate, respectful, altruistic academy)

In part I wrote this book to address the need for educating, rehabilitating, and re-integrating reformed predators back into our communities as trained, respectful play partners (that we can also keep an eye on to make sure they have indeed changed rather than ostracizing them and having the pattern repeat in another community). The term ‘missing stair’ encapsulates the current environment well : predators being ‘worked around’ in a community as a ‘commonly known’ dangerous entities without having the issue addressed directly (much like jumping over a broken stair in contrast to deciding to fix the stair).

De-shaming Predatory Behavior

There is a need in our communities to de-shame and de-stigmatize being labelled as a predator / having predatory tendencies. Although it is crucial we hold predators accountable for their actions through a re-education program, when we de-shame the process of being given the label of predator we open the possibility for reformation. Additionally, focusing on the label as temporary until reform has been integrated also minimizes the reactional whiplash of being given what, as history shows, was a damming label for life. This process also taps into the primal fear of not being ostracized and isolated from community/tribe, which throughout all of hum-animal history meant death. This ‘scarlet letter’ process of the past encourages the panicked denial that ultimately goes along with attempting to shrug such allegations, because of their lifelong effects. Consider the parallel situation of jailing someone for stealing, not giving them any rehabilitation within the penitentiary, and then releasing them, only for them to repeat their crime due to lack of alternatives or opportunity to reform, resulting in a revolving door of continued jailing and wrongdoing (not to mention the context of violence, gang exposure, and additional hardening that is likely to occur in prison).

When we de-stigmatize the label of predator we also acknowledge the reality that these predatory behaviors did not happen in a vacuum. Instead, we focus our efforts at gazing deeply at the root causes of the behavior in a less personally charged and emotional way - aiding in problem solving and creating structures in which this behavior is no longer likely or even possible. With this systemic societal wide lens, we can address the pernicious underlying factors that laid the foundations for misconduct and eradicate the possibility of predation through personal and social systems development. Social factors contributing to predation include the touch isolation that men are encased in US society, lack of outlets for safe loving touch, and other factors discussed in the ‘How did we get here’ section of this book.

When we focus on forgiveness and use a restorative social justice model we focus on how we can make things right rather than focusing only on who was in the wrong. This shifts the focus from individual people to systems thinking to address issues that humanity has continuously been dealing with since the beginning of recorded history. Clearly, our systems are broken, and they are producing broken people in need of help and re-education. This book is one response to that need, and I earnestly hope many more follow.

Our current environment of calling predators out without systems of reform in place to direct them to change does not address the root causes of the anti-social behaviors and will cause the unconscious perpetuation of predation. Additionally, the current system puts all the onus on the victim to shoulder the burden of seeking justice, often with community scrutiny as to the truth of the allegations, judgement, and near-zero emotional support structures. Instead when we take on predator re-education as a community the victim can allocate their energetic resources where they are of most need - to heal from the trauma they underwent and reflect on ways to improve systems to prevent such transgressions in the future.

How Labelling Predators and Creeper School Works In Practice

Initially an allegation of Predation is made, which a counsel of trained community mediators evaluates. The onus is on the Predator to provide proof of lack of predation rather than the Victim. The community tracks who is making the allegations of Predation very visibly and will address the Victim if one individual continues to make many accusations or there is another suspected abuse of the system. The community then takes the power of reputation away from the predator as they have proven themselves unworthy of initial basic trust through giving the Predator a choice : being enrolled in ‘Re-socialization’ aka Creeper School or issuing a public statement of allegation. Within the public statement, the wider community is informed of who has made the allegation, what type of support is requested, the Predators choice of reaction. If additional Victims come forward this information is added to the thread of the document (available for searching online). This public statement warns potential victims and lets the community know to keep a special eye of the Predator. The opportunity for dissenting views on the character and actions of the predator will be possible on the document thread. Over time the label of Predator will dissipate (if a false accusation) or gather additional evidence as the community further scrutinizes the predator’s behavior. This system values the potential safety of a Victim over the potential initial reputation damage of a false accusation.

If the Predator chooses to attend Creeper School, they undergo the curriculum, learning in depth through practice the social and relational skills they may have missed. One portion of the curriculum may involve the Predator being assigned a Voluntary Victim who was violated by another perpetrator and has fully healed of their trauma to enter a dialogue of understanding and address the underlying social issues that need to change for the act of harm to not be repeated. There may also be a general conversation in the community between victims and Perpetrators (not each other’s) with each side attempting to analyze the factors that went into the act of harm.

Even after the Predator has gone through Creeper School, to evaluate whether the individual in question has reformed, we as a community need to address the matter through keeping eyes on the person and making sure anyone interacting with them is safe. Under this surveillance we can test and see if the perpetrator has authentically embodied their learning and changed deeply or if they are putting on a mask that occasionally slips off. This is reminiscent of speaking in a politically correct way while continuing behavior that is racist or bigoted (the values and roots of the evolved movement being cooped as a thin veneer insidiously propagating the issues they were trying to solve). Through a predator ‘catch and release’ system we also hold the community accountable to judging if the individual has truly reformed, especially in the period immediately after re-education, and reminds everyone to keep and eye on those ‘on the fringes’ and look out for each other. Part of Creeper School will involve past predators mentoring those who are newly accused Predators as their continuing duty to the health and safety of the community. ‘Creeper School’ is a program that I will release in partnership with others : stay tuned at the progress at the website of this book*.

Kink, BDSM, Boundaries, and consent

I was fortunate to connect to kink /BDSM (bondage & discipline, dominance & submission, sadism & mascochism) in my young adulthood and was drawn to it through the detailed practices around boundaries and consent, applying many of the principals I learned in my teachings and embodiment coaching practice. Due to the intensity of many of the acts, scenes, and the possible unfamiliarity of new play partners to each other’s preferences, out of necessity BDSM has developed a host of skills, techniques, and terms to create an extremely well-woven safety net of consent. BDSM culture emphasizes personal responsibility over ‘idiot’- or ‘baby’-proofing potentially dangerous scenarios and this focus forces a comprehensive ‘covering all the bases’ negotiation style. Negotiation is a cornerstone of BDSM and encompasses the pre-emptive verbal dialogue between the people who are going to ‘play’ or engage in a ‘scene’ (activity) to establish their interests and boundaries before any action takes place. For a platonic touch play context (very low-risk) some of these topics may be perceived as ‘over-cautious’ but seeing as people choose to engage in a diversity of ways, some of which have much higher risk, I stress it is wise to practice these skills proactively before you need them.

How BDSM helped me find my boundaries and understand advanced consent

BDSM was a crucial piece in the puzzle of what allowed me to heal from the trauma of losing my virginity to rape (BDSM is in addition to other formative pieces found in the Why the Somatic Magic practice was created section*). In the container of BDSM I gained detailed knowledge about the diversity of sensations and types of play possible. I found my space of comfort within BDSM and explored body handling, percussive, and impact play (mostly I discovered that others enjoyed the same activities that I did but perhaps for reasons beyond simply physical stimulation). Negotiation and communication were encouraged and helped me feel safe and secure in knowledge in what I was enthusiastically agreeing to with clear terms of exchange, disrobing my fear of ‘owing’ an unknown debt to my play partners. I love the nuanced vocabulary that has emerged around BDSM, such as describing the giver of sensation as a ‘top’ and the receiver as a ‘bottom’ and allowing for a wide range of nuances that can include ‘topping from the bottom’ (more on this later*). Educating myself about BDSM allowed me to uncover the power dynamics unconsciously operating behind broader social structures and interpersonal interactions and gave me the terminology and culture experienced with making these factors unambiguous.

In BDSM spaces I found partners who went slow, read my body language, and checked in. I also found myself in situations in which I needed to speak up to have my internal experience be understood so that my play partner could meet my needs with greater alignment. I also encountered ‘fluffy service tops’ (like myself) who often simply wanted to provide newbies with novel experiences that enriched their lives and added depth and richness to their understanding of what was possible.

I found a realm in which I could romp and relax, feasting at the buffet of sensation play without feeling pressure to be pushed into sexual waters – my luscious reactions and vocalizations providing all the tribute required to the giver of sensation. In dungeons, I was deeply apricated for my embodied gifts, body handling, energy sex, and splashy vocalizations and moans. I particularly appreciated the emphasis on reputation and community accountability which filters out abusers and manipulators quickly. I address how wider communities can address is in my ‘Reforming Predators’ section.


Negotiation is a word that comes from BDSM culture, and I have found it is a useful model for communicating needs, desires, and plans between potential play partners. “In the D/s or BDSM environment negotiation is one of the most basic building blocks of a power exchange…it is agreeing when and where to meet, what limits might be imposed or explored…physical and health considerations, emotional landmines, the use or absence of safe signals, [and] how and when the scene begins and ends.” (

A great tip to enhance clarity and make sure no topics are forgotten during negotiation is to preemptively write out your boundaries, desires, and other pertinent information to convey to your playmates in advance. This also provides an individual check in as to whether you are “able to discuss sensitive topics openly and honestly”, for if you cannot, you must seriously reconsider your status as “emotionally mature enough to engage in these activities with this person if you are not even able to speak about it openly”. This allows you to prepare your ‘elevator speech’ : a concise 3-5 minute summary of your health/injury status, boundaries, preferences, needs, and wants for connection.

One style of negotiation involves the use of white lists or black lists. “Whist list only indicates you will only perform activities that are explicitly negotiated as a “YES, please!”. Black lists indicate that you will do anything that is reasonably safe and sane, and isn’t indicated as an “I very much do not want to do this”.” For new-to-you playmates or activities, it is recommended to operate with a ‘white list only’ status until you get to know them over time. Even under a ‘white list only’ status, it is helpful to know your playmates  black list so that you can more deeply respect their preferences.

Beginning Verbal Discussions

When beginning verbal discussions use I statements, clear, concise, and assertive speech ( “I want” and “I do not want”) to express boundaries. Start small and simple with negotiations and don’t be afraid to speak up if clarification is needed (especially if the point is particularly salient for you) so that your wishes can be properly followed and reinforced. Leave nothing up to interpretation at first and gradually negotiate as it become appropriate for the developing dynamics (over several scenes / interactions or near the end of negotiation if you are comfortable with your playmate). Experienced players find clarity and honesty in negotiations more valuable than someone claiming to have ‘no boundaries’ and pushing past their comfort zone and ruining a scene. This is not a race, you will always have more opportunities to play! Start with a light and respectful scene, which allows for trust to build with additional conversation and interaction over time.

Do not agree to anything you aren’t enthusiastic about doing.

If you aren't comfortable and 100% sure if you want to play with someone, don't play.


Non-verbal negotiation

If you are engaged in low key physical play within the container of a class or a well-held workshop, extensive negotiations to practice a skill or prompt may not be necessary or possible. Additionally, in pick up play, or on a non-verbal dancefloor, verbal negotiation may not be possible.

A good rule of thumb for situations in which verbal negotiation is undesirable, unlikely, or impossible is to start by watching to gain more information about the players and the scene. If you feel as though your interaction would contribute and be welcome, make eye contact and make a physical gesture of ‘asking’ (eg. eye contact, hovering hand over arm to physically ‘ask’ permission to touch, making light contact and waiting for them to press their body into your touch as a ‘yes more’). **how to consensually enter group play

Start any new type of touch ‘low and slow’ – with low intensity, pressure, and pace, and only increase if your partner shows signs they desire more stimulation. It is also recommended that you touch your play partner on portions of their body where they can see you touching them at first (not staring out by sneaking up and smacking them on the rump unless they have expressed their desire and delight at this sudden shock). When introducing any new types of touch or sensation monitoring your partner’s body language is additionally re-emphasized.

For a thorough Negotiation Short and Long Form please see Appendix *

SomanautZ / Radical Bodywork Specific Negotiation Prompts

What would you like to share with me about your body / state ? Any areas that want special attention? Any areas to avoid ?

Injury Inventory : What is your injury history? do you have any old injuries ? would you like me to specifically avoid or work on those areas (eg. to break up scar tissue and fascia)? do you have any new injuries?

Do you have any medical conditions that are relevant to note?

Are you hyper-flexible?

Do you have any time limits to set an alarm for? If you fall asleep what would you like me to do?

Do you want to be in one role (dominant, submissive, switch) for a portion of time, or the whole time? Do you want the switching to flow back in forth in longer periods of time or like quicksilver whenever the feeling rises?

What are your signs / noises / vocalizations for no/yes/more/less/pause/refresh ( X 0 + - || ~ **)

How to make negotiation Safer : Community Net

For people entering a new community or place, there are several ways to make choosing playmates and having negotiations safer. These guidelines are particularly geared for those who are more submissive or have difficulty appraising if others may do them harm, reducing exposure to predators though relying on community reputation and visibility during vetting.

  • Play in a public place such as a dungeon, contact improv jam, or event.
  • Have a neutral party observe the negotiation and play such as a friend, event host, dungeon monitor, or even an attentive audience.

When new playmates are watched (especially the first-time people are playing together) they are much less likely to do something unethical, dangerous, or abusive which will reflect badly on their reputation.

  • Find a protector / mentor and have them select a play partner and negotiate with or for you.

Ideally this person is more experienced then you with the type of play you are wanting to engage in and is “a very trusted friend who very thoroughly knows your intimate desires and boundaries” with skill in choosing good play partners. ( This person may have been in the shared social circle longer, or generally respected as a good judge of character. Regardless of what others say, in the end the safest bet is to trust your personal instincts above all.

When playing in private - Set a check-in alarm

Pre-arrange with a friend that you will call them at a certain time to check in and make sure all is well on/after your first ‘play date’ with a new partner. Make sure that this friend has the address, name, and contact information of your new playmate. Tell your potential playmate that you are doing this (you can also recommend that they do the same). If they react with anger or judgement, note that as a huge red flag and reconsider playing with them, or proceed with additional caution. Be sure to set an alarm on your phone so you do not forget to check in with your friend. Remember – the first play date with a new partner is the one most likely to go wrong.

BDSM Consent

BDSM ‘Best Practices’ advocate for informed (risk-aware) express consent rather than implied consent (eg. inferred from silence). Informed consent means that all parties involved have a “clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action” and are aware of the potential risks of any action. Informed consent can be “given in writing, by speech (orally), or non-verbally, e.g. by a clear gesture such as a nod”. ( – this page is highly recommended reading and I will be pulling, paraphrasing, and adding to the concepts presented within throughout the section below).

Consent :

  • requires a clear, enthusiastic, resounding yes; can never be assumed, it must be granted
  • when given does not constitute blanket consent, it can be revoked at any time
  • is ongoing - requires continual communication between all parties
  • is only capable of being granted by someone who is fully capable, fully informed and not coerced
  • requires that each person involved is responsible for respecting, maintaining and/or communicating consent.


Many of the terms, concepts, and practices of BDSM have helped me immensely in understanding and navigating platonic touch situations. For example, due to many BDSM folk’s interest in power play BDSM makes explicit the typically hidden power dynamics present in many interactions with vocabulary to provide delicately nuanced detail.

Due to new playmates initial unfamiliarity with each other and the potentially intense nature of interactions consent is crucial, and trust is built up in the community over time through reputation, skill, and clear negotiation.

Absence of Judgement

There is trend in BDSM of preparing ‘elevator speeches’ in which each person’s preferences (‘yuck/yum’) are expressed and last test date / STI (sexually transmitted infection) status stated. This open and vulnerable sharing is part of the cultural fabric of informed consent and the radical unabashed honesty of the revelations allows mutually compatible play partners to find each other quickly and easily. When I encountered my first elevator speech sharing session I felt as though I had hardly explored my interests compared to the compressive and specific answers that many provided!

The emphasis on lack of judgement in BDSM is conveyed in a common phrase ‘don’t yuck my yum’ abbreviating the notion that we all have preferences and just because you don’t share someone’s penchant / perversity does not give you the permission to judge them. BDSM’s emphasis on deep sharing of personal preferences and proclivities provides a refreshing model for the clarity that comes from radical honesty and results in a system that provides the potential for comprehensive detailed matches between different playmates that are new to each other with the utmost rapid efficiency. Immediate intimate self-disclosure allows compatible playmates to find each other rather than trying to manipulate or mold someone into playing a role they are unsuited for or uninterested in. The protective nature of throughout preemptive discussion and agreement puts personal responsibility and agency at the forefront before any action occurs. Combining this with BDSM’s cultural emphasis on checking in during play and ‘aftercare’ once the scene has ended make it a model worth studying for anyone who cares about the wellbeing of their playmates – platonic or otherwise.

The lack of coercion and openness to ‘no’ and ‘stop’ in BDSM provides a strong model for healthy relationships. People only play together because they both want to, and anyone can stop the action at any time, for any reason (such as a bio-break – short for biology break like needing to go to the bathroom).

What BDSM can teach us about boundaries

When playing with a new partner it is good to have an exploratory conversation to establish your hard and soft boundaries, your rules/preferences around them, and what your intensions and desires for engaging with the person are to see if you are a good fit - having common ground to engage with harmoniously to mutual satisfaction. This may sound like sharing hard boundaries (not wanting to be touched in a certain place, no penetration, no kissing on the mouth) and describing moments that you want to be checked in with (check in when you increase the pressure beyond a firm handshake, check in before you slip under my clothing, check in before taking any piece of clothing off).

Within this initial conversation is an apt moment to establish words that signify stop, slow down, keep going, increase the pace, and decrease the pressure (for example, red, yellow, green, yes, more, lighter). BDSM uses red/yellow/green/pink light to convey stop/slow down, check in pause, less/all is well, you can increase the sensation. Pink light is coming into vogue as a sign to take a non-scene related break – such as a bio-break to get water or go to the bathroom. Some ‘safe-words’ are used to stop the action outright, such as ‘red light’ or ‘STOP’ while others can communicate a willingness to continue, but at a reduced level of intensity (such as slow down / yellow). I would encourage erring on the side of nuance, but only if it is easy to remember.

Additionally, if you are engaging in pressure play it can be useful to have an intensity rating scale of 1-10 and asking your partner where they want to be within that chart (eg. I would like to be at a 5-6, starting by building up from a 2, with a few moments at 7, with a maximum of 8). To do this you can give them some pressure and ask them what number that is, increasing and decreasing the pressure and getting their response to calibrate what their ‘2’ or ‘8’ means in terms of your provided pressure.

Pro dommes are deep listeners

Pro dommes are highly respected and sought after because they are consent specialists and are clear and thorough in their communication. Through the domme’s ability to listen attentively to their sub before the scene (as well as translating the physical signals that are unspoken during) they weave a safe container for those they are playing with. Through the magic of attentive presence, the strong container created by the domme allows the sub to submit to the domme’s control with confidence. Thus, the prerequisite for continual trust is fulfilled, allowing the sub to surrender to their deepest desires. This feeling of submission, or ‘sub-space’ is immensely pleasurable and relaxing for the sub, who feels cared for and attended to on a level that is infrequently found after infancy. Many dommes also can derive benefit from guiding their subs into this space, enjoying the Godlike rush of being in power or the feeling of nurturing someone they love, providing an intimately curated experience in which the sub can surrender further than they ever imagined through reading (and often enjoying!) the subtle communications of the sub’s body language.


Appendix A

Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire (PDEQ) Please complete the items below by circling the number that best describes the experiences you had had during and immediately after the critical incident. If an item does not apply to your experience, please circle "not at all true". Not at all true Slightly true Somewhat true Very true Extremely true 1 I had moments of losing track of what was going on. I "blanked out" or "spaced out" or in some way felt that I was not part of what was going on. 1 2 3 4 5 2 I found that I was on "automatic pilot". I ended up doing things that I later realized I hadn't actively decided to do. 1 2 3 4 5 3 My sense of time changed. Things seemed to be happening in slow motion. 1 2 3 4 5 4 What was happening seemed unreal to me, like I was in a dream, or watching a movie or play. 1 2 3 4 5 5 I felt as though I were spectator watching what was happening to me, as if I were floating above the scene or observing it as an outsider. 1 2 3 4 5 6 There were moments when my sense of my own body seemed distorted or changed. I felt disconnected from my own body, or it was unusually large or small. 1 2 3 4 5 7 I felt as though things that were actually happening to others were happening to me — like I was in danger when I really wasn't. 1 2 3 4 5 8 I was surprised to find afterwards that a lot of things happened at the time that I was nor aware of, especially things I ordinarily would have noticed. 1 2 3 4 5 9 I felt confused; That is, there were moments when I had difficulty making sense of what was happening. 1 2 3 4 5 10 I felt disoriented; that is, there were moments when I felt uncertain about where I was or what time it was. 1 2 3 4 5 4


Appendix B

Peritraumatic Distress Inventory (PDI) Please complete the items below by circling the number that best describes the experiences you had had during and immediately following the critical incident. If an item does not apply to your experience, please circle "not at all true ". Not at all true Slightly true Somewhat true Very true Extremely true 1 I felt helpless. 0 1 2 3 4 2 I felt sadness and grief. 0 1 2 3 4 3 I felt frustrated or angry. 0 1 2 3 4 4 I felt afraid for my own safety. 0 1 2 3 4 5 I felt guilty. 0 1 2 3 4 6 I felt ashamed of my emotional reactions. 0 1 2 3 4 7 I felt worried about the safety of others. 0 1 2 3 4 8 I had the feeling I was about to loose control of my emotions. 0 1 2 3 4 9 I had difficulty controlling my bowel and bladder. 0 1 2 3 4 10 I was horrified by what I saw. 0 1 2 3 4 11 I had physical reactions like sweating, shaking, and my heart pounding. 0 1 2 3 4 12 I felt I might pass out. 0 1 2 3 4 13 I thought I might die. 0 1 2 3 4


Appendix C Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (from DSM IV)

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM-IV) According to the diagnostic criteria set by the APA in the DSM-IV, in order to determine if your patient has post-traumatic stress disorder they must satisfy various criteria: A (Exposure to a traumatic event), B (Intrusive symptoms), C (Avoidance and numbing symptoms), D (Symptoms of increased physiological arousal), E (Duration of the disturbance) and F (significant distress or impairment). A: Exposure to a traumatic event The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present: 1. The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved any or all of the following: actual or threatened death; serious injury; or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others. 2. The person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. B: Intrusive symptoms The traumatic even is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways: 1. Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event, including: images, thoughts, and/or perceptions. 2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. 3. Impressions of reliving the event (including hallucinations and flashbacks, experienced while awake or intoxicated). 4. Intense psychological distress, when exposed to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the event. 5. Physiological reactivity when exposed to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the event. 7 C: Avoidance and numbing symptoms Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by at least three of the following: 1. Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, and/or conversations associated with the trauma. 2. Efforts to avoid activities, places, and/or people that arouse recollections of the trauma. 3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma. 4. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities. 5. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others. 6. Restricted range of emotional expression. 7. Sense of a ‘stunted’ future. D: Symptoms of increased physiological arousal Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by at least two of the following: 1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep. 2. Irritability or outbursts of anger. 3. Difficulty concentrating. 4. Hypervigilance. 5. Exaggerated startle response. E: Duration of the disturbance(s) (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than one (1) month. F: The disturbance causes clinically significant distress and/or impairment in social, occupational, and/or other important areas of functioning. [56]

[1] statistics about resources needed to produce a calorie of energy from meat, and the animals water and resource consumption as compared to plants

[2] *emotional labor reddit thread

[3] research that married men live 10+ years lnger then bachelors, and if they lose their wives they die much sooner then if a wife is widowed)



[6] SomaSenz offerings expand and adapt over time and are affected by season. Current sensation availability can be found at ****

[7] My favorites can be found at ****

[8] ***submissions link : The most innovative suggestions will be included in updated versions of this book, the website, and in the SenZation Buffet with credit given to those who submit  ****blook (blog +book)

[9] by the Douglas Hospital and McGill University



[12] (TI; Lang, Bradley, & Cuthbert, 1997; Marx, Forsyth, Gallup, Fusé, Lexington, 2008) from Attentional control affects the relationship between tonic immobility and intrusive memories Muriel A. Hagenaars*, Peter Putman Department of Clinical Health and Neuropsychology, Leiden University, PO. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiat. 42 (2011) 379e383

[13] Traumatic Events and Tonic Immobility Arturo Bados, Lidia Toribio, and Eugeni García-Grau, The Spanish Journal of Psychology Copyright 2008 by The Spanish Journal of Psychology 2008, Vol. 11, No. 2, 516-521

[14] Attentional control affects the relationship between tonic immobility and intrusive memories Muriel A. Hagenaars*, Peter Putman Department of Clinical Health and Neuropsychology, Leiden University, PO. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiat. 42 (2011) 379e383

[15] Traumatic Events and Tonic Immobility Arturo Bados, Lidia Toribio, and Eugeni García-Grau, The Spanish Journal of Psychology Copyright 2008 by The Spanish Journal of Psychology 2008, Vol. 11, No. 2, 516-521

[16] Tonic Immobility in Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors and Its Relationship to Posttraumatic Stress Symptomatology The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0886260509334412 J Interpers Violence 2010 25: 358 originally published online 16 June 2009

[17] Suarez, S.D., & Gallup, G.G. (1979). Tonic immobility as a response to rape in humans: A theoretical note. Psychological Record, 29, 315-320.

[18] Forsyth, J.P., Marx, B., Fusé, T.M.K., Heidt, J., & Gallup, G.G., Jr. (2000). The Tonic Immobility Scale. Albany, NY: Authors.

[19] Traumatic Events and Tonic Immobility Arturo Bados, Lidia Toribio, and Eugeni García-Grau, The Spanish Journal of Psychology Copyright 2008 by The Spanish Journal of Psychology 2008, Vol. 11, No. 2, 516-521

[20] Tonic Immobility Does Not Uniquely Predict Posttraumatic Stress Symptom Severity Murray P. Abrams, R. Nicholas Carleton, and Gordon J. G. Asmundson Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy © 2011 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 4, No. 3, 278 –284

[21] Tonic Immobility in Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors and Its Relationship to Posttraumatic Stress Symptomatology The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0886260509334412 J Interpers Violence 2010 25: 358 originally published online 16 June 2009

[22] Attentional control affects the relationship between tonic immobility and intrusive memories Muriel A. Hagenaars*, Peter Putman Department of Clinical Health and Neuropsychology, Leiden University, PO. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiat. 42 (2011) 379e383

[23] Attentional control affects the relationship between tonic immobility and intrusive memories Muriel A. Hagenaars*, Peter Putman Department of Clinical Health and Neuropsychology, Leiden University, PO. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiat. 42 (2011) 379e383

[24] Tonic Immobility Does Not Uniquely Predict Posttraumatic Stress Symptom Severity Murray P. Abrams, R. Nicholas Carleton, and Gordon J. G. Asmundson Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy © 2011 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 4, No. 3, 278 –284

[25] Tonic Immobility Does Not Uniquely Predict Posttraumatic Stress Symptom Severity Murray P. Abrams, R. Nicholas Carleton, and Gordon J. G. Asmundson Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy © 2011 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 4, No. 3, 278 –284

[26] Peritraumatic tonic immobility is associated with posttraumatic

stress symptoms in undergraduate Brazilian students

Liana Catarina L. Portugal,1 Mirtes Garcia Pereira,1 Rita de Cássia S. Alves,1

Gisella Tavares,1 Isabela Lobo,1 Vanessa Rocha-Rego,2 Carla Marques-Portella,2

Mauro V. Mendlowicz,1 Evandro S. Coutinho,3 Adriana Fiszman,2

Eliane Volchan,2 Ivan Figueira,2 Letícia de Oliveira Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria · January 2012

Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012;34:60-65

[27] Attentional control affects the relationship between tonic immobility and intrusive memories Muriel A. Hagenaars*, Peter Putman Department of Clinical Health and Neuropsychology, Leiden University, PO. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiat. 42 (2011) 379e383

[28] Feeling psychologically restrained: the effect of social exclusion on tonic immobility Nora Mooren1 and Agnes van Minnen1,2* 1 Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; 2 Overwaal, Centre for Anxiety Disorders Overwaal, Nijmegen, The Netherlands European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2014

[29] Tonic Immobility Among Survivors of Sexual Assault Sunda Friedman TeBockhorst, Mary Sean O’Halloran, and Blair N. Nyline University of Northern Colorado Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy © 2014 American Psychological Association 2015, Vol. 7, No. 2, 171–178

[30] Tonic immobility differentiates stress responses in PTSD

Iro Fragkaki1 | John Stins2 | Karin Roelofs3 | Ruud A. Jongedijk4 | Muriel A. Hagenaars Article  in  Brain and Behavior · September 2016

[31] Tonic immobility during re-experiencing the traumatic event in

posttraumatic stress disorder

Rianne A. de Kleinea,b,⁎

, Muriel A. Hagenaarsc

, Agnes van Minnenb,d, Psychiatry Research · June 2018

[32] Tonic Immobility Does Not Uniquely Predict Posttraumatic Stress Symptom Severity Murray P. Abrams, R. Nicholas Carleton, and Gordon J. G. Asmundson Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy © 2011 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 4, No. 3, 278 –284

[33] Tonic Immobility Does Not Uniquely Predict Posttraumatic Stress Symptom Severity Murray P. Abrams, R. Nicholas Carleton, and Gordon J. G. Asmundson Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy © 2011 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 4, No. 3, 278 –284


[35] Leach, J. (2004). Why people ‘freeze’ in an emergency: Temporal and cognitive constraints on survival responses. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 75, 539-542.

[36] Marks, I.M. (1987). Fears, Phobias and Rituals: Panic, Anxiety, and their Disorders. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Spanish translation: Miedos, fobias y rituales 1: Los mecanismos de la ansiedad. Barcelona: Martínez Roca, 1991].

[37] Predictors of tonic immobility during traumatic events

Arturo Bados*, Eugeni García-Grau, and Adela Fusté 2015 anales de psicología, 2015, vol. 31, nº 3 (octubre), 782-790

[38] Traumatic Events and Tonic Immobility Arturo Bados1, Lidia Toribio2, and Eugeni García-Grau The Spanish Journal of Psychology Copyright 2008 by The Spanish Journal of Psychology 2008, Vol. 11, No. 2, 516-521

[39] Traumatic Events and Tonic Immobility Arturo Bados1, Lidia Toribio2, and Eugeni García-Grau The Spanish Journal of Psychology Copyright 2008 by The Spanish Journal of Psychology 2008, Vol. 11, No. 2, 516-521

[40] Tonic Immobility in Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors and Its Relationship to Posttraumatic Stress Symptomatology The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0886260509334412 J Interpers Violence 2010 25: 358 originally published online 16 June 2009










[50] Term inspired by Calypso Saliba’s ‘body oracle’

[51] Please explore Dr. Bruce Damer’s work on the Origin of Life

[52] Free Play : improvisation ** book

[53] Compersion is the opposite of jealousy – the sense of good feeling you get when your Polyamory partner(s) are connecting with someone they love and you are happy for them even if you are not participating.