MDMA Couples Therapy (and Other Intimacy Ideas)
Australia looks set to be the first country to run an MDMA-assisted couples therapy trial. What is it about ecstasy that researchers and couples therapists found promising back in the 70s and 80s, before it was made illegal?
Frank and Jenny talk to ‘late-bloomer Boomer’ Charley Wininger about his regular use of ecstasy in his marriage (he’s now 74 and they’ve “rolled” around 80 times, which he likens to 80 honeymoons), and how as a couples psychotherapist he views ecstasy as “emotional superglue”.
Jenny and Frank recall their own Pammy Anderson/Tommy Lee-style first date that wound up with big promises being made and eyebrows being intensely groomed, and they get some advice on how to achieve such intimacy without the use of drugs, through the 36 Questions That Lead to Love, developed by groovy husband and wife researchers Arthur and Elaine Aron.
Frank’s film Sengatan on Prime Video.
Jenny’s article on MDMA couples therapy in the Australian Financial Review.
Sex educator Eleanor Hadley.
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Is Vipassana Dangerous or an Antidote to Tech?47:42Vipassana is an intensive, 10-day form of meditation often likened to taking a heroic dose of a psychedelic trip, in terms of the profound realisations an individual can reach. And just like with hallucinogenic drugs, those with a predisposition to mental health issues, or who are at a vulnerable point in their life, can experience adverse effects – as the podcast Untold: The Retreat has found. Frank and Jenny talk to three people who completed a 10-day retreat and had very different experiences. Our lead interviewee is neuroscientist, AI engineer and 'extremophile' Dr Jack Allocca, who has found himself completely reassessing his life. LINKS Jack Allocca in Jenny Valentish’s book Everything Harder Than Everything Else.Jenny’s Australian Financial Review article about Jack Allocca speaking to mastermind groups.Jack Allocca on Instagram including a poignant post he made post-Vipassana retreat.Untold: The Retreat podcast.Vipassana subreddit.Further reading #1: Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. #2 Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark. #3: A romantic rebellion against the tech era (The Guardian).
The Fetish of Muscle Worship36:52Have you ever had your head scissored? Have you been piggybacked, by a muscular woman in a bikini? Fireman-carried across a five-star hotel room? Choked gently to sleep? If not, you can. Muscle worship sites are full of bodybuilding, tough-as-fuck women who are ready to arm-wrestle you into humiliation for a price. Kortney Olson is larger-than-life in every way. A hoot, a scream, a boss – in fact, a motherfucking CEO – and a bodybuilder who’s smashed watermelons between her thighs on television shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live. That she hasn’t yet become President of the United States of America pains her. Even so, she’s like a superhero. In fact, the creator of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, dubbed her ‘the woman with the world’s deadliest thighs’. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger snapchatted about her: ‘Now, that woman is definitely fit.’ Kortney is Frank and Jenny’s guest this week, talking about her hectic high school years, her former meth addiction, and her pathway into muscle fetish – including some really close that we shouldn’t laugh at, but with her permission, we will.LINKSKortney’s fitness apparel GrrrlKortney’s InstaKortney’s coaching programsKortney crushing watermelonsThis episode’s source material, Everything Harder Than Everyone Else, audio book via AudiblePhoto credit for Kortney cover art: Olga FilatovaSpirit Levels on InstagramSpirit Levels on TikTokGet our newsletterOur website
A Priest and a Navy Captain Walk Into a Bar33:51Are you related to either Jenny or Frank? If so, back away now – this one is NOT for you. Nor is it suitable for under-18s. Okay. In A Priest and a Navy Officer Walk Into a Bar, Jenny and Frank work out ways to role play that aren’t cringe-inducing, with the notion that starting a scenario in public – a bit like high-risk improv – is key. They recruit their friends Jan and Steve – who’ve been happily married for 50 years – to dress them in character for their latest date and then record the outcome, and you’ll meet a cast of their existing regular characters, from Xavier the masseur to Marcel the frottage-loving creep. There’s also a detour into props. No, not furry handcuffs from Sexyland. Frank builds the sort of props that a carpenter on a medieval movie would envy.LINKSSpirit Levels on InstagramSpirit Levels on TikTokGet our newsletterOur website
Are you a Grey Area Drinker?45:49Have you just finished Dry January? Thinking about Feb Fast? Can’t face either just yet? Maybe you’re a ‘grey area drinker’. This term was coined in 2018 by Jolene Park, who has trained many grey area drinking coaches. Since then, a whole world of alcohol-free, sober-pride people has populated social media, talking openly about their drinking, moderating and quitting, without the stigma attached to labels like ‘alcoholic’. For mums, in particular, it’s almost become a new women’s lib. Similarly, ‘quit lit’ has really become a popular genre of memoir in recent years.In this episode of Spirit Levels, Frank and Jenny talk to coaches Lissie Turner and Faye Lawrence, who have very different styles, as well as two women who are exploring experimentation and sobriety respectively – authors Rochelle Siemienowicz and Seana Smith. We look at how coaching works – as opposed to other methods such as rehab, AA and counselling – and how it can be improved. Host Jenny also talks about why she nearly went down the route of becoming a coach but decided she definitely wasn’t the best fit for the job. LINKS Host Jenny Valentish’s 2017 memoir Woman of Substances: A Journey into Addiction and Treatment was added to university course reading lists and used as educational material by treatment centres. And hey, 156 Amazon ratings give it a solid 4.4! Lissie Turner’s Dissolving Patterns course and podcast, and her music industry book, Off the Record. Faye Lawrence is an alcohol, ADHD and anxiety coach. Seana Smith’s Sober Journeys website. Check out her favourite quit-lit books! Rochelle Siemienowicz’s memoir Fallen, about pursuing hedonism after leaving the Seventh-day Adventists. The latest quit-lit book out there is A Thousand Wasted Sundays, by Victoria Vanstone. We love the Over the Influence podcast and community. Here’s their episode on Sober Code. And here’s the Sober Code website.Spirit Levels on Instagram
ASMR for ever and ever38:09ASMR. Never before have four letters divided people into two camps so soundly: The “What’s that?” camp and the “Yes, I watch girls in Ohio pretend to give me a cranial nerve exam all the time” camp. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response videos are commonly credited with helping people sleep and helping with anxiety. ASMR was only coined as a phrase in 2009, but those who get the ‘brain tingles’ will tell you they’ve experienced triggers their whole life – most commonly through whispering, clicking noises, hair brushing and quiet personal attention. Our beautiful interviewee Rea Moon is one such person, and now this Dallas grandmother has a super-successful channel of her own. But let us tell you, there’s a WHOLE weirder world out there, including ASMrotica, mortuary-themed ASMR and the assembly of sniper rifles. You’re going to have to listen to find out.Side note: just as you can order custom porn these days, surely there’s a market for custom ASMR? As Jenny is OBSESSED with ASMR, Frank comes up with his own recording, utilising her three favourite things: laundry, hankies and actor Ben Mendelsohn. OH MY GOD, SO MANY COOL LINKSRea Moon ASMR (We love her series of videos doing makeup for young folk going to Pride, and of course you’ll want to see her famous lady on a plane one.)Here’s Steve, from SRP ASMR, doing an eye examine. And he is indeed an optometrist.Two of Jenny’s favourites, Sarah Lavender (here she is as the bored art student we mention in the episode) and Diane from Moonlight Cottage.Here’s Julien Miquel, whose beautifully sonorous French accent tells you how to pronounce things.Here’s the ASMR Live Lounge in Southsea, England, which we are 100% going to visit next time we’re over there.Spirit Levels on InstagramSpirit Levels on TikTokGet our newsletterOur website
The Fast, the Juice Cleanse, the Colonics and His Lover35:17Whether or not our bodies need help detoxifying is a hotly debated topic. Feeling sluggish after a bumper holiday season, Frank decides to try a 16:8 fast, then ups the ante to a five-day juice cleanse with a course of colonics. That’s all very well when you’re paying for the privilege in a luxury resort, but how hard is it to commit under your own steam, on home turf?Jenny chips in by offering a sexual incentive if Frank can stay the course. As for the colonics? Frank hasn’t been beaten by a pipe like that since he was in Romper Stomper. Be sure to go to our Instagram to see what came out.We also talk to more seasoned fasters, including one trooper who did a 10-day water fast.LINKSSpirit Levels on InstagramSpirit Levels on TikTokGet our newsletterOur website
Walk the Talk: Motivational Speeches33:39Just started up at the gym again? What's more likely to turbo-charge your session than a big scoop of pre-workout? Motivational speeches! This genre was first adopted by weightlifters who wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger screaming encouragement over rousing strings as they bench pressed, but it has since infiltrated the mainstream. Boiled down to its essence, the premise is: You’re the underdog. Nobody knows how much you’ve suffered. Nobody cares either. So now you need to dominate. Absent fathers are a common theme, and so the narrator takes the form of Dad; sometimes Encouraging Dad, but more often Shouting Angrily from the Sidelines Dad. Their voices tend to be uncredited, though ministers, athletes and business leaders feature heavily. And Denzel Washington. Lots of Denzel Washington. These stand-in dads live in a labyrinth of playlists proliferating on Spotify and YouTube – so you can listen at the gym or watch stock-footage montages of people screaming in the rain on your laptop. This episode, Frank and Jenny talk to kettlebell sport athlete (and owner of Art Gym in Hobart) Eilish Kidd about how she went far down the rabbit hole of this genre. Boxer and ex-Special Forces guy Steven Body talks about how training in the military was designed to weed out anyone less than alpha, and how he loves pull-your-finger-out motivational speeches. We also talk to ultrarunner and performance coach Luke Tyburski about his own form of motivational speeches – the internal kind. He’s experienced horrific injuries and setbacks, and he’s got some great ideas of how to get you pushing through. Moved, Frank records Jenny the daddy of all motivational workout speeches. LINKS: Eilish Kidd and Art Gym in HobartLuke Tyburski – ultrarunner and mindset coachSpirit Levels on InstagramSpirit Levels on TikTokGet our newsletterOur website
Coming up on Spirit Levels in 202402:09Since the launch of Spirit Levels in October, we've road-tested a Melbourne cuddle club, MDMA couples therapy, extreme weight cutting, insomnia fixes, biometric tests, ADHD coaching, facilitated breath repatterning, cold water therapy and ecstatic dancing, not to mention we tried to turn Frank into a spiritual life-coach guru. Next week, on January 9th, we'll be human guinea pigs once more, back with episodes on sober coaching, role play, muscle fetish, peptides, hypnotism, DMT, saunas, the cult of motivational workout speeches, colonics, fasting, naturism (turns out we play table tennis even better without clothes), ASMR, sensory deprivation and a ton more.Till then, thanks so much for the reviews on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, the downloads, follows and Insta comments – we deeply appreciate each and every one. Don't forget to tell us what you'd like us to try next. Jenny and FrankLINKSSpirit Levels websiteInstagramTikTok
What Just Happened?10:56We're 12 episodes into Spirit Levels podcast, so as 2023 draws to a close, we recap our first three months of wellness adventures, from the pseudo to the sensible. NB: We should add that we recorded this while in the throes of Covid (thanks, Berlin!). We would definitely sound more pumped otherwise.