How to Increase Your Capacity to Receive with Kate Northrup (017)

Kate Northrup

Did you know that your nervous system plays a crucial role in your ability to receive? Discover how to expand your capacity to receive love, pleasure, and abundance by creating a safe space within yourself in this insightful solo episode of the Plenty Podcast.

I explore the topic of expanding our capacity to receive and how our ability to receive is closely tied to our sense of safety and how our nervous system is wired. Our nervous system has a thermostat setting that is based on our childhood experiences and ancestral imprints, which determine what feels safe and familiar to us.

However, in order to expand our capacity to receive, we need to signal to our bodies that we are safe. In this episode I share practical tools for doing this, such as noticing gravity and orienting ourselves to our immediate environment. I also cover the importance of feeling and processing emotions to clear out any stuck energy that may be blocking our ability to receive. By practicing these techniques, we can gradually expand our capacity to receive and create a more abundant and joyful life.

Listen on…

Key Takeaways

  • Our capacity to receive is determined by our sense of safety, which is encoded in our nervous system based on our childhood experiences and ancestral imprints.
  • To expand our capacity to receive, we need to signal to our bodies that we are safe.
  • Practical tools for signaling safety include noticing gravity and orienting ourselves to our immediate environment.
  • Feeling and processing emotions is essential for clearing out stuck energy and expanding our capacity to receive.


01:35 | Our relationship with safety and the nervous system
04:15 | The thermostat setting in our nervous system
06:50 | The importance of feeling safe before expanding
08:30 | Our capacity to receive has no limit
09:35 | The energetic communication in our childhood environment
12:10 | The nervous system registers unfamiliar as unsafe
14:45 | How to expand our capacity to receive
16:30 | Examples of sabotaging behaviors and symptoms of feeling unsafe


Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Kate: Hi, welcome to plenty. I’m so excited to be here with a solo episode for you, which was inspired by a question from my friend Vasavi, who has also been a guest on the podcast. So the question was, how do we actually, Hey Vasavi, is it okay if I say your name? Okay, great. So the question was, how do we actually expand our capacity to receive?

Receiving comes up for so many women around love, around pleasure, around abundance, and it all comes down to our relationship with safety and how safe we feel. And we don’t often think about receiving. In relationship to safety because we think receiving is about more right and like expansion and at least until I began to study the nervous system.

I did not understand how fundamental it is for us to first feel safe before we expand. So before I get into how to actually expand your capacity to receive, which by the way, is something I’m also continually working on because The really cool thing is, there’s really no limit to our capacity. It’s not like, you know, a building that just has eight floors, and then you go to the eighth floor and you can’t go any higher.

In terms of our capacity to receive and our capacity certainly to feel pleasure and joy and expansion and our ability to dream and vision, There’s no limitation on that. We’re not going to get to a point where we’re like, okay, there it is. I’ve now expanded to my full capacity. It can actually just grow and grow and grow similarly to how our capacity for pleasure and presence in the body has no limit.

And that’s why we say the better it gets, the better it gets because the more we are able to stay present to, Our pleasure and our expansion and are receiving the more becomes available. And it’s like this beautiful ride that never ends similar to actually the way that the female body is wired. For orgasm, there’s we have this constant ability to be in expanded waves of pleasure, which is the very same thing when we’re talking about your capacity to receive.

So just know that we’re talking about a limitless. experience here that just keeps growing and growing and growing and you can continue to expand this your entire life, which I cannot think of a more fun project to be working on. So, but it comes down to safety first. So what I have come to understand about the nervous system is that we have a thermostat setting.

And that thermostat setting in our nervous system is created by our childhood experiences. Some of them pre verbal, some of them actually in the womb, and some of them ancestral. Like they actually live in our DNA, and they aren’t based on our lived experience, they’re based on the inherited lived experience from people.

In our lineage. So there’s this information that is passed down silently through our DNA and then embedded in our nervous systems, which basically tells us Important information for surviving as an animal, which is what we are as human beings. We are animals. And so we have this coding, this coding for survival, essentially, as animals.

And it tells us what is safe and what is not safe. Now, according to the nervous system, our thermostat is set based on what is familiar. So if you think about your environment from your childhood and also possibly thinking about what was going on with your ancestors, at least the ones you know about.

Think about the general tone, the general vibe, the general availability for joy and expansion and pleasure and ecstasy and bliss and just real like real beauty, like really living an incredible life. I know for me if I think about my ancestry the people in my lineage weren’t super focused on expanding their capacity to receive.

There was a lot more that was focused on just basic survival for a number of reasons, right? I mean, that’s just the history of, you know, we needed to come up with ways to make life easier and easier and easier over time, which has come with. You know, technology and industrialization and farming practices and all that.

Anyway, so our thermostat setting gets set based on the environment in which we were raised. And not specifically the content of what was happening. So there’s certainly the stories and the facts of what was happening in our childhood homes around capacity to receive, whether it’s like Our ability to just be in our pure joy as children or our ability to be in appreciation for what we have or be in gratitude or just receive compliments or gifts that we wanted or whatever it was.

But there’s, what’s, what’s more important. on the level of the nervous system is actually the energetic communication that was going on. So basically on a super, super simplified level, the question is, did you live in an environment that felt expansive? Or contracted? Did it feel expansive, full of possibilities, like really yummy, a lot of joy, a lot of, a lot of like, yeah, this is, yeah, yay, this is beautiful, yes, you can have that, yeah, you can have your desires, woohoo, or did it feel contracted, like living in the land of no, like this is scary, life is scary, you have to work hard, things are heavy, this is, we’re anxious, da da da da, right, like which one feels more like the environment you were raised in?

I know for me, there was, you know, there’s a combination, right, of course, but in, in terms of pleasure in terms of abundance, there was a little bit more of an environment of constriction, and energetically, there was just kind of a feeling of contraction and constriction. So, my nervous system And I want you to track this for yourself as you’re listening.

My nervous system got encoded with a thermostat setting that was more in alignment with, in attunement with the energy it absorbed. In my environment, and that energy was the, was the feeling of kind of stress and pressure. Especially around work and money. Stress and pressure. And so that was the vibe.

That was the general vibe. And the nervous system speaks on the level of energy. So it’s not about what was happening, it’s about the feeling of what was happening. And so, your nervous system will register anything as unfamiliar as unsafe. So we have these nervous system thermostat set points and they will keep us over time in our lives.

They will do everything in their capacity on, you know, and this is unconscious, this is like how our body works, unconsciously to keep us in a familiar band of experience because according to the nervous system, What is familiar is safe, and our bodies are wired for survival. And so they are not going to allow us to do something that would set off the radar from our nervous system as this is unsafe, meaning unfamiliar.

The nervous system will choose a familiar hell over an unfamiliar heaven. Every single time, and it does that because it’s wired for survival and safety, which is great because it’s kept you alive this long. So we love that, and also we want to invite the nervous system into more expansion so that we can expand our capacity to receive the joys and pleasures and the abundance that life has to offer us.

But how do we do that if what we desire to receive is something we’ve not received before? Because according to our body, according to our nervous system, according to our unconscious, that which we have not experienced before is not safe. And so we are wired to prevent it from happening. We are wired to shut that shit down and make sure we do not let it into our experience.

Which is why we’ll have things like, for example, when I first met Mike, my husband, he was all in. He was like, he knew I was his person, he was fully committed, he was showing up in a huge way, and I had never experienced that level of presence and adoration and availability before, and enthusiasm, and I thought there must be something wrong with this man if he was that into me.

Because I had a limited capacity to receive that level of love, especially from a man, which has to do with the environment that my nervous system was formed in. There was not that, like, unbridled presence and enthusiasm. And love from the masculine. So my body registered it as unsafe. And then what my mind did because my, I, my body was registering like.

Danger! Danger! We are now feeling something that we’ve never felt before. Let’s shut that down. Then what my mind started to do was tell stories about what was wrong with my now husband. Luckily, I got some support to expand my capacity to receive because he’s amazing and we have two beautiful children.

And I’m so grateful for our love story, but I will tell you Now we’ve been together since 2011. So we’ve been together for 12 years and he still, he still pushes up the edge up against the edge of my capacity to receive, which is why I said this is an ongoing. practice. This is an ongoing journey. So what happened at that time when we were early together is I tried to break up with him and then my body also freaked out.

And this was a, this is important to know that our nervous system is at the foundation. of our health as well. So, every physical system, our endocrine system our, our digestive system, our, all, all of the systems, our immune system, are related to our nervous system. And my body broke out in this It’s full body, crazy, inexplicable rash.

Very early on in our relationship, because I was in total freak out about having popped into a different level of receiving than felt safe for my body. And so I manifested a very intense ailment that eventually went away as I softened and surrendered and just allowed myself. to experience all of the goodness that he had coming my way.

So how do we actually do that? Well, number one, it’s just to know the information like, Oh, okay. So if something good comes my way, That I technically desire, but that I’ve not experienced before. I just need to know that my default programming will be to push it away because I don’t feel safe. Because I’m wired to register anything that’s not safe.

I’m sorry, that’s not familiar as not safe. But, having a wonderful man. Like, shower you with love is not gonna kill you, right? But according to your nervous system, it actually is. And there’s like a whole evolutionary reason for that. But it’s essentially like back in the day, when life was way more difficult and there were far more dangers, we needed to be wired.

To only stay around what was familiar because literally around every corner you could die from the unfamiliar. But now that’s not the case anymore. We just live in different times and so we need to update our bodies. And so we have to know that the first order of business when we want to expand our capacity to receive is that we have to learn how to signal to our bodies that we are safe.

Because when we can signal, when, when we are in the face of an expansion, what will happen is, we will freak out. And we will often do some sort of sabotaging behavior, like talk ourselves out of our deservingness. So we go down a whole spiral around, I’m not worthy, I’m not deserving, I shouldn’t have this, da da da.

Another example of when I did this was when I got offered my first book deal. So Louise Hay herself and I were in New York City. And I will never forget this moment. I don’t remember exactly. We were in Union Square. I think we were at the, the W Hotel maybe. And she had just offered me my book deal. And I will never forget her beautiful face with that, you know, that platinum hair.

And I was like, Oh, my God, I’m so proud of her, her tiny little pixie haircut like talking to me and then congratulating me on this moment, and I was very aware of, like, this is a very big deal.

Of personal development and spiritual work that, you know, the founder of Hay House is offering me a book deal. I knew it was a moment to remember, but I remember her closing that glass door and going into the hotel. And I went across the street to a cafe, and I had a complete. And I went into a spiral of feeling massively undeserving, and I went immediately into feeling like, I shouldn’t get this book deal, there are so many other people who deserve this more than I do, who have worked harder than I have, who didn’t have the doors opened in the same way, I should give it back, I should say no, I should let, as though there are like a certain I number of books that can be published and I was taking somebody else’s spot.

It was, it was such a, it was such a perfect example of, of spinning out and not having the capacity to receive the beauty of that moment. And instead finding myself in a total. lack of deservability and unworthiness spiral. So that is what that is. One of the things that will happen is our mind will begin to tell us all the stories for why we are unworthy, for why we are not deserving.

Because ultimately, we are feeling unsafe. So the mind will go. Another thing that will happen is anxiety will come up. So you might feel heart palpitations. You might feel shortness of breath. You might feel twitchy and itchy and all sorts of things. Those are also symptoms of a nervous system that does not function.

Feel safe. There are so many different ways that this can manifest, but those are two of them. You may find yourself picking a fight with somebody so that you are brought back down to the thermostat setting of what you are used to in terms of your ability to experience joy. And this is very connected to Gay Hendricks’s work in his book, The Big Leap, where he talks about upper limit problems.

So he talks about it, not, he doesn’t talk about the nervous system. I sort of, Figured that part out myself, but I love his work. I absolutely love The Big Leap. And he talks about how we have these thermostats for how much good we can feel, how much abundance we can feel. And they are based on our childhood experiences.

I will add in the piece, which I already said, I’ll just highlight again, that it’s actually not based on the, the, the facts of our childhood experiences. It’s based on the energy, like the way those experiences felt, essentially the way we were interpreting them through our lived experience. Because I know when I talk to my sister, she and I can be talking about the exact.

Same memory from our childhood, and she and I have made very different meanings about that same exact scenario, which means that our nervous system. Our nervous systems have different imprints. She and I have very different lived experiences around a variety of different aspects of our lives. Even though we were raised in the same household.

Okay, so, Gay Hendrix calls it a upper limit problem. Where the, me getting offered my book deal with Louise Hay or me being showered with love by this amazing man who was just like head over heels for me and I was having trouble receiving that. I was more than having trouble receiving it. I was freaking out.

are perfect examples of upper limit problems. I had expanded beyond what my capacity was to receive, but the missing piece for me, which I did not understand back when I read The Big Leap, was that in order to expand our capacity to receive. We need to learn how to signal to our bodies, to our nervous systems, that we are safe.

Now there’s any number of bajillion, gajillion ways to do this, but I have a couple of favorites that I’ll share with you. And if you go ahead and send me a DM with the word melt over on Instagram, you will get a free guide that highlights some of these. But one of my favorite ones that you can do right now as you’re listening is you can just notice gravity.

So, this is an incredibly effective tool to bring our bodies into the present moment, to bring ourselves into our bodies because you cannot become aware of gravity without becoming aware of your body and the way it feels. So, wherever you are, if you’re driving in your car, become aware of the way gravity is holding your body.

on the seat of your car. Become aware of the way gravity is holding your hands on the steering wheel. Right now, I’m aware of the way that gravity is impacting my body as I sit in this chair in our studio. And I can then add in another layer. Which is orienting, so becoming aware of gravity is one tool and you’re welcome to close your eyes if you’re not driving and like really feel into how do your, the soles of your feet feel on the ground, how does your seat feel in the chair, what does gravity feel like on your body right now, now you also can add in a tool called orienting, and orienting is becoming aware of the sensory information again.

In your immediate vicinity, in the present moment. So right now, for myself, I’m aware of the light that’s over the camera. I’m aware of the camera and the lens that I’m looking in right now. And it’s round, and it’s covered in glass. I am aware of the slatted, garage type door that’s right behind the camera.

I’m aware of the knobbly kind of fabric underneath my right hand. I’m aware of this kind of pink sheepskin rug blanket thingy that’s underneath where I’m sitting that I can feel on my bare foot, which is tucked underneath me so we can orient ourselves. So just become aware of five objects in your immediate environment that you can either see Or touch, or smell, or hear, or taste.

So you want to gather up that sensory information. I guess you could totally go for extra credit and find one for each sense. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, but that feels a little advanced, so go for whatever sensory information. Now notice, and I’m noticing this myself as well, I’m now more in my body. I feel more present.

I feel more safe. Safety is a precursor for pleasure. When we’re wanting to expand our capacity to receive, it is generally because we want to. experience something that we are imagining is going to feel good. Whether that’s an increase, we want to feel, we want to be more present to our orgasms. We want to be more present with our food and stop hoovering our dinner.

We want to, you know expand our capacity to receive love from, from our partner. Or expand our capacity to be present with our children. Or expand our capacity for receiving wealth and abundance. So all of those things. We need to know, like, when I want to increase my income, I need to know that the amount of income I’m making right now is what feels safe to my system.

And if I want to expand my capacity to receive more income, I need to be able to signal safety at every juncture as I expand that capacity. So, any nervous system healing tool, is a way that you are signaling safety to your body. And I teach many of these inside Relax Money. There’s a lot of other places you can find them as well.

But nervous system healing tools, when you begin to speak the language of your nervous system, you begin to unlock and be able to, at any given moment, practice what’s called interoception, which is being able to track what’s going on inside your body, and essentially slow down to the level of the nervous system.

So that you can be present with what is, but then also titrate, which is going in small doable steps to expand your capacity to be present with the sensation that you’re feeling now. Which then signals safety and then be able to possibly because what often comes next after we signal safety is That we begin to realize that the whole reason we haven’t been Accessing the information in our bodies is because we have a history of not So if you’re not feeling safe in the body, you may have a history of a variety of traumas or experiences where it wasn’t safe to be in your body.

And that’s a whole other conversation for a whole other day, but just know that learning to be with the feelings that come up when you start to be in your body is part of the deal and is an essential step. Because sometimes, actually for every single one of us, one of the essential ingredients to expanding our capacity to receive is clearing out the channel.

And in order to clear out the channel, there, for all of us, are unfelt feelings in there that is just essentially emotions. As my friend, Tracy lit, who was a guest on the podcast as well, says energy in motion. It’s energy that needs to be moved. It’s like stuck energy. So it’s stuff that we at the time that stuff, stuff happened to us.

It was a feeling that we had that we didn’t have the capacity. The time, the support, the understanding, the tools, the whatever, to feel. And then it gets stuck in the body. And so one of the things that we need to learn how to do to expand our capacity to receive is also feel what is coming up in the moment.

So just this morning before today’s recording session, I was having a very difficult time. And for a variety of reasons. And I just knew that there was some stuck energy in my body. So before we left, I went into the bathroom, and I put a towel over a pillow, because I had already had my makeup done and I didn’t want to ruin the pillowcase.

And I screamed into the pillow, because I knew that I was feeling like Angst and I felt mad and I had all this stuff in my body that I knew I did not want to carry into the day with my guests on the show. And so I spent a couple minutes screaming into a pillow in my bathroom. And then on the way to the podcast, I cried in the car with my husband.

And then by the time I got here, I had, not completely, but I had done some good work to expand. My capacity to receive because I had cleared out some unfelt emotions. Now we might feel like, Oh, why am I crying? I gotta, I gotta figure this out. It’s a problem. Emotions are just meant to be felt. It didn’t really matter why I was feeling the way I needed to feel, or I was feeling, certainly, if there was a boundary I needed to set, if there was a conversation that needed to be had, if there was a truth that needed telling.

Sure, sure. But I’ve just been in a little bit of a funk, and I just knew there’s like some stuck energy in my body that just needs to be felt. So I did that. And then have been able to have a full day of beautiful conversations where I’ve been able to be present and, and listen to my guests and be really available for what is here for me, which is joy and connection and pleasure and fun, right?

I want more of those things in my life. I want to be able to actually be in my life, not just go through the motions and then be on my deathbed and wonder like, God, I don’t even remember. You know, I don’t even remember. I talked to a lot of women who don’t remember their weddings. And you know, it’s supposed to be like one of the best days of our lives and not to put too much pressure on your wedding day because, you know, your whole life can be really beautiful.

But, I knew on my wedding day, I did not want to go back a year from later and be like, I totally blanked out. I don’t even know what happened. Like, I don’t remember it. So, on my wedding day, I was practicing. Signaling safety in my body. I didn’t know I was doing this. But what I was doing is I was feeling my feet on the ground.

And every, you know, every time I remembered, so it was several times throughout the whole day and the whole evening, I would stand to the side and feel my feet on the ground and get present in my body so that I could be present for the day and fully receive what was available. So, in short, That was a lot of talking, couple of stories, but in short, how do we expand our capacity to receive?

Well, first of all, we have to know that everything we want is generally something that we haven’t experienced before. So, it registers as unfamiliar, therefore unsafe to the nervous system. So, we need to learn how to signal to our nervous system that we are safe. We need to learn to actually feel the emotion when it comes up, to scream into a pillow, to cry, to, you know, get angry, to whatever we need to do so that that can move through our body so it doesn’t get stuck in another nervous system thermostat loop where you can’t then expand.

Because the reason we get stuck, the reason we can’t expand is essentially because of unfelt feelings. That we didn’t have the safety capacity resources or support or understanding of how to feel in a way that felt safe. Because essentially we avoid feelings because we think if we feel them we are going to die.

But I promise you, you are not going to die by feeling feelings even though it’s uncomfortable. And usually if you give yourself 90 seconds to fully feel a feeling and be totally present to the sensation that that feeling is bringing up in your body. It will shift in about 90 seconds, and I promise you, you can do anything for 90 seconds, and then it clears out some emotional energy, some energy, and then you have a more open and clear channel to receive.

And then if we just do that a gajillion times over our lives, we will, over time, expand our capacity to receive, and all of a sudden we wake up one day, and our life is unrecognizable, and we have the things. That one day we had only ever dreamed of, and we didn’t know how we would ever make them happen.

And it turns out, a huge part of that was not making it happen, but was actually simply signaling safety and clearing the channel so that we can expand our capacity to receive. So there you have it. Thank you so much for listening. If this was helpful, I want to know about it. Send me a DM on Instagram.

Screenshot this. Tag me, at Kate Northrup. Text a friend the link if you found it helpful and if you think they would find it helpful if you like the show Please subscribe so that you don’t miss an episode leave a review. Thank you so much We’ll be back next week with a new episode Thanks for listening into plenty

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