Relationship Alive!

by neilius@neilsattin.com

52m

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Neil Sattin interviews John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix, Peter Levine, Stan Tatkin, Dick Schwartz, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Diana Richardson, Terry Real, Wendy Maltz - and many others - in his quest to dig deep into all the factors that keep a Relationship Alive and Thriving! Each week Neil brings you an in-depth interview with a relationship expert. Neil is an author and relationship coach who is enthusiastic and passionate about relationships and the nuts and bolts of what makes them last. You can find out more about Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast at http://www.neilsattin.com

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Last updated on August 08, 2020, 9:28 pm

#1

32: Mastering Communication in Three Dimensions with Marty Babits

March 28, 2016 • 68m

Are you curious to know the most common issue that I hear about from clients, and from listeners who write in? It’s communication - or, rather problems with communication. Whether it’s being heard, or feeling like you have no idea where your partner is coming from, or you’re trying to communicate one thing but your partner hears something completely different, or you’re always being criticized - the list of potential communication problems goes on and on. Fortunately, today’s guest is going to help you take a monumental leap in the direction of communication that creates growth and connection in your relationship - and in how you communicate with others in general. Today’s guest is Marty Babits, contributor to Psychology Today, and Co-Director of the Family and Couples Treatment Service, a division of the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy in NYC. Marty is also the author of the extremely helpful book, “I’m Not a Mind-Reader - Using the Power of Three-Dimensional Communication for a Better Relationship”. Marty has been working with families and couples for over twenty-five years, and the wisdom in this book combines that experience with the work of many of the guests who have been here on the show, to create a manual for communication that will give you a completely new perspective on how to do it well. Prepare to dive deep into a recipe for communication that is sure to shift the results that you get as you interact with the world - especially the ones you love. The 3 dimensions of communication: These 3 dimensions are in every interaction between any two people who are connected: The 1st dimension- This is the literal meaning of what we say, or rather the surface meaning. This is where we can ask: are the messages clear and coherent? The 2nd dimension- This is the meaning that is under the surface, aka the emotional subtext. This dimension is often more complex and it includes the way we are thinking about the way we are. It is in this dimension that love comes through, or contempt. The 3rd dimension- This is the deepest and most profound dimension of communication. It requires reflectiveness and mindfulness. This is where we can take the pulse of whether what we are communicating is moving us towards creating emotional safety with our partner or away from that. Implicit in this dimension is our ability to monitor how the whole direction of the relationship is going. Try this: Pause in your next challenging interaction and take a mental snapshot in any given moment and compare it with what is happening 3 minutes later. This will give you a sense of the direction it is going and will help you practice being aware of what feelings, ideas, and tones are actually transpiring compared with those that you would like to be communicating or feeling.  This willingness to become more aware of how we are showing up in our interactions is helpful in any kind of communication!   Beginners mind- Foster your willingness to try something new on and a willingness to begin again! Maintaining openness can offer whole new vistas we may be currently unaware of. And that not knowing is okay! Allow yourself to forge ahead into unknown territory knowing that this risk is what it means to be human, and to evolve. Bring this openness and willingness to not know into your relationship. Can you be open to the possibility that attitudes can change and that people can grow? Openness and willingness to not know are the key for couples to get out of that locked patterning that can happen due to expectations and assumptions. When one partner begins to change, the other partner often continues to expect more of what they previously experienced, thus not able to see the newness in their partner's actions or attitudes-even when these changes are attempts at trying to create a better relationship. Resistance to change is common, and natural, as there is often a strong sense of inertia that carries you towards what has been, perhaps out of fear because change WILL inevitably disrupt patterns that may have been in place for a long time. To help move forward, consider that when you are busy focusing on your partner’s faults, you often miss all of the nice things that they are doing! In an effort to energize the positive, give yourself a direct encouragement to try to look for those new things. Actually open yourself to the possibility of new trends- this is the heart of what develops in successful couples work, and what ultimately transforms disappointments, disillusionments, and resentments… The optimal prelude to conversation is invitation: Are you willing to be open to the possibility that you CAN have better interactions? As we learn over and over again, we can not force someone to feel, see, or hear our perspective- but we CAN invite them to do it. By inviting your partner to join you in conversation is to honor their sense of choice in how they enter the dialogue. This honoring leads to a sense that you respect their inner world, which then sets the stage for more openness and trust. Now the conversation can begin. Being safe is a prerequirement for making breakthroughs in intimate communication- This goes for ALL interactions, interpersonal, romantic, sexual, etc. In order to understand each other, people have to be open to each other, and in order to do this there has to be safety. Attachment theory suggests that our survival, and therefore our sense of safety, is dependent on the extent to which we do, or don’t, feel connected to others. Conversely, when we feel threatened (whether this is perceived or real) our autonomic nervous system goes into its fight or flight response, at which point we are not available or open for connection OR communication. Therefore, it is important to cultivate an awareness of how safe our interactions are. Get into the habit of asking yourself “is the way I am communicating right now contributing to an overall sense of safety in this interaction or is it distracting from it?” We all have the capability to activate the part of our neurobiology that is very highly attuned to interpersonal issues! Meaning, we each know how to connect and build empathy in our interactions, we just need to first learn how to be relaxed within ourselves and have the safety in order to do so. The power of the unconscious. We are each guilty the following: Your partner says something that makes you feel something, and you make an assumption that how you are feeling is connected to some truth about what your partner just said. This leap happens on an unconscious level. Invite yourself to consider the possibility that you may be misinterpreting! Sometimes we think we are reading our partner’s mind, but we have this unconscious tendency to misread their meaning depending on our own conditioning. This is important to remember as both the receiver/lister and the giver/talker. When you are speaking, bear in mind that your partner may be hearing you through their own lens- communication does not end when you have muttered what you want to say, rather it is a process that you must follow through on, noticing if what you said had the effect you intended. Listen three dimensionally! We are more than our words. Words can be profound, yet we are sharing lives not words. Remember that what people mean is more important than what they say. Although, there is a strong relationship between the two! With compassion, we can move ourselves towards fuller expression. This requires a rethinking of what listening is. Expand your sense of listening to include a listening in on your own internal voice so that you can remain aware of what you are thinking , feeling, and believing and how you are putting this together with what you are hearing from the other person. Then work on extending your awareness to  include a consideration of what might be happening inside of the other person that may be producing the speech or the tone you are hearing now. This alive awareness of what is being said, how it is being said, and how it is being received helps move towards a communication that is open, flowing, and receptive enough so that the love that is needed can come through, and the sense of contact and connection is felt and genuine. Receiving- to receive you have to give to yourself. For those of you who are more comfortable with being the caregiver than the receiver, allow yourself to see this as an invitation to learn more about yourself. Is there are sense of unworthiness? This is just one example of resistances we may have built in how we are in relationship, and while it may be tempting to accept this as just the way things are, often times rejecting this very notion is what will lead to growth and opening. Remember that ‘working’ on your relationship is really ‘learning’. If you can change your perspective and attitude on problems and redefine them as challenges, then you will be able to turn your problems into opportunities. Get curious and compassionate with yourself and reflect on questions like “How can I make things better?”, “How can i allow myself to feel more loved than i do?”, and “How can I work with receiving while maintaining my integrity?” A synonym for complexity is richness! In effort to rethink “working” in and on your relationship, it may be helpful to welcome complexity as richness. Together you can begin looking to create possibilities and new roads where you thought there were dead ends. Ask, “What else is possible in this moment?” and “What if this isn't what i think it is?” These are the questions that make awareness three dimensional. You are aware of the problem AND you are aware of there being other possibilities. With 3D awareness it is as if you can walk around the problem- seeing it without totally being in it. Troubleshooting mode- how to turn the ship around. Okay, so let’s say you're in a conversation and it is about to go south- what can you do? First, name it. Say something like “Hey, I think we are at that place we have been before, and I know what has happened in the past, do you think it is possible that we can try to do something different?”. Then, for example, you can say something like  “I’m having that feeling again that we are going further away from each other- let's take a brief break and resolve to come back again and approach this with a more positive attitude- because right now i am feeling a little hopeless and defensive”. These statements are founded on the belief that you CAN change the dance. To do so requires a plan, preemptively created, that can be used in tense moments. If you know that when one of you is triggered, voices often get raised then collaborate together when you are both regulated to set up a plan and a statement such as  “hey babe, you must really be activated right now because you are raising your voice, let's slow down”. Acknowledging each other’s autonomic responses without judgement, and having a plan that gives each other permission to calm back down helps to create emotional safety. This emotional safety is unavailable and often threatened when we are in up-regulated and triggered states. Have an insult substitute ready! There are inevitably going to be times when you will not be able to get around your biological state of fight or flight (defense and anger), and this is NOT going to be a time when you are going to create new understandings that are going to become the foundation of a better relationship- no, this is going to be a moment to just get through. When all else fails, and we cannot regulate ourselves with the grace or swiftness our system or our partner needs, then it can be helpful to have a venting statement at the ready as a means of damage control! This allows you to have a way to express your anger or activation in a somewhat contained way. You can say, for instance,  “I'm not going to say what is on my mind right now because if i do it is going to create bad feelings, I just want you to know that I am that angry and I'm going to, for the sake of our relationship, chill out for a minute”. Figure out a statement that works for you and your partner, and don’t be ashamed to use it on occasion- when triggered enough our autonomic system reverts to old patterns and conditioning that can lead to much more damaging behaviors and statements than something like “woah, I’m super activated right now and can’t engage or I may say something hurtful that I would regret”. Remember also that YET, the word and the concept, hold all possibilities present. Try bringing it in when you feel stuck- “I’m not ready, yet”, “I’m not yet calm enough”, “I don’t want to, yet”... “Communicate don’t Debate”: You may be so accustomed to debate style conversations that you don’t realize any more how much energy is going into discussing who is right and who is wrong. Begin to notice how open you are to hearing each other. You do not have to agree, but you do have to agree to openly listen. The actual nuts and bolts decision making that is often fodder for debate will come easier as you develop your capacity to work things out without being deadlocked in not understanding each other. Often criticism is a veiled attempt at repairing a disconnection. This is a hard one to conceptualize, and even harder when we are in midst of hurt. And yet, the idea that criticisms can actually be a way for our partner to say they need to connect with you is a core principle in attachment theory. Of course it is not a great way to do so, nor is it very effective, but it does speak to the concept that our main motivation in communicating is to connect. When we feel we cannot connect effectively than we become frustrated, and this can come out looking like hostility. It is not necessarily hostility against the target person, even though it sounds like it, it is more about what is underneath- a pleading for connection. How does the fear of abandonment and loneliness show up in your interactions? How can you find ways together to say “I am here”, even in those messy and hurt moments? The predominant element in relationships is work, not magic. Mindreading, although so tempting and so habitual, is not advised. It is not the mindreading itself that is destructive, as much as it is the assuming that your (mis)reading is the truth. When we take our own readings as the way it is, we leave our partners feeling in the dark and misunderstood. How you analyze or hold onto what you think your partner is thinking and feeling often becomes a critical aspect of the tone of your relationship. It can lead to resentment, frustration, hurt, and alienation. Although you likely know your partner very well, do not confuse this with having the ability to mindread- your assumptions of what are going on with your partner are often times NOT TRUE (especially if you are assuming the worst). Conversely, holding onto the attitude that your partner should automatically and intuitively “already know” is equally destructive and misleading. The golden rule is that YOU have the responsibility to help your partner understand what you are feeling. Express and share yourself in a clear way so that your partner can better give you what you want. Through a mutual commitment of 1) not mindreading and 2) not holding onto the “well my partner should have known” ideal, you will become partners, not adversaries. This is not to say that partners who are close sometimes CAN understand each other on a beautifully profound level, or that there are times when genuine unconscious communication does happen, but it cannot be expected or taken for granted. In general, relationships DO take work, especially when it comes to communication.   Resources Read Marty’s book “I’m Not a Mind-Reader - Using the Power of Three-Dimensional Communication for a Better Relationship” Learn more about Marty’s work at his website martybabits.com Check out his blog on psychologytoday www.neilsattin.com/communication Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Marty Babits and qualify for a signed copy of his book. Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

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#2

128: Practical Masculinity: Beyond Stereotypes - with Shana James

February 03, 2018 • 53m

How do you embody masculinity in a way that creates more connection and passion in your relationship? How do you avoid the stereotypes, while still getting the benefit of positive polarity in your relationship? Is there even a point to talking about “masculine” vs. “feminine” (and if so, what is it?)? Today’s episode is a conversation with Shana James, men’s coach and host of the Man Alive podcast. We take apart the myths of what it means to be a “real man” - and explore how you can get beyond what you’re “supposed to” be, uncover the true you, and bring all of you to your relationship. Learn how to break out of the box in a way that keeps you connected to the people who matter most. Please enjoy this week’s episode, with Shana James, on Relationship Alive! Resources: Here is a link to Relationship Alive episode 20, my first conversation with Shana James on Sparking Passion through Generosity and Authenticity Visit Shana James’s website to check out the Man Alive podcast AND pick up her free guide to the Unknown Skill that helps men succeed in life, career, and relationships. FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide Relationship Alive Community on Facebook Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out visit http://www.neilsattin.com/128 to download the transcript for this episode, or text the word "PASSION" to the number 33444. Transcript: Neil Sattin: All right. Hello and welcome to another episode of ... Shana James: Man Alive, and welcome to another episode of ... Neil Sattin: Relationship Alive. We are your hosts ... Shana James: Neil Sattin. Neil Sattin: And Shana James, and we're here today to talk about some really important topics that we each wanted to cover on our respective podcasts, and so we thought, "Why not ..." Shana James: Become each other and do it together. Neil Sattin: Right. We will merge like you're not supposed to do, but why don't we come together and talk about it, and so we have it for each of our shows? Shana James: I love it. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: I love it. Yeah. We've been really going back and forth around this idea of the stereotypical masculine and some frameworks out there that in some ways have been really helpful for men, and have had men step into more of their power, and confidence, and have deeper connections, and in other ways have, what might you say, pushed men into shame, and feeling wrong, and feeling they're out of one box and into another box, and feeling confined, and so really wanting to look at if we are going to take on or if men are going to take on a kind of archetype or ideas of masculinity. How can they be played with versus ... How did you say it? Versus constricting or something like that? Neil Sattin: Constricting. Yeah. Yeah, and this question too of whenever, if you're feeling like you should be some way, whatever way that is, how's that going to impact you? How's that going to impact your relationships, and because my show, like ... Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: This is interesting because my show is all focused on relationship, and Shana, your show is called 'Man Alive', so it's all about this question of how men can step into who they are. Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Neil Sattin: I was wondering before we got on, I was thinking like, "Is there a difference when ...? Is there something about men stepping into who they are where that could in and of itself get in the way in relationship?" Shana James: Interesting, so the question being if men are themselves for lack of a more specific way to say it right now. Right? Like if a man actually discovers who he is, his own needs, his desires, his truth, that it could actually get in the way of a relationship? Neil Sattin: That was the question. Shana James: That's the question. Neil Sattin: Yeah. I say that because when I'm looking at a lot of ... Shana James: Interesting. Neil Sattin: I like the word you used, 'Framework', so I'm looking at some of the frameworks that are becoming more and more popular now as a way of I think reeling ourselves back from men and women being the same, and so trying to reclaim some of the polarity and the difference, and the beards I guess. Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Neil Sattin: As I look at that, I can see that there's a lot in that that actually does help us, men ... I'm just speaking for myself here, step into more of who we are. In fact, I even grew this out a little bit for our conversation. Shana James: "This" being "a beard" because some people are not watching this... Neil Sattin: Right. My beard. Right. You might not be watching, so I grew my beard out. That's an important thing to note. Shana James: Yes. Neil Sattin: That being said, when you start talking about what's involved in people actually relating to each other, then I don't think that those answers necessarily are long-term solutions. They could provide short-term solutions, but over the- Shana James: The answers of like, "Here's how to be a more masculine, or more of a man?" Neil Sattin: Here's how to be more of a man. Yeah. Yeah. Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: Take charge, buy a gun, grow a beard, drive your truck, and own all of the archetypal or really stereotypical manly things. Shana James: This is so interesting because hearing you say that, I'm like, "Oh, that wasn't the frameworks I was talking about about being a man." I was thinking more of the frameworks of David Deida and some other people out there who talk about a kind of masculine power that has to do with presence and solidity that I'm getting a little tongue in cheek in the way I'm saying this, but I do think they're actually really powerful ways that a man or a woman ... I mean, we could talk about it. Right? Masculine and feminine to me doesn't mean man, woman, but yeah, so probably important that you and I get on the same page. Are we actually talking about the same frameworks or do we have different frameworks we're thinking of? Neil Sattin: I think that's why it's so important that we have this conversation, and of course, I was being a little facetious about the gun and the pick-up truck, and the beard for that matter, and you might be able to hear there's a plow actually. Shana James: Yeah. Yes. Neil Sattin: I wish I were driving that plow. It feels so much more masculine as well. Shana James: Manly than sitting here, doing a podcast. Neil Sattin: Right. Right, or, "Why’d I get the plow? I should be out there shoveling like a real man." Shana James: Right. The whole idea of being a real man. See, my sense- Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: Right? This is where it gets confusing. I think a lot of the frameworks out there ... My sense is that their intention in some of these more conscious realms and tantra and personal growth is to help men step away from some kind of box of, "Here's what you have to be to be a man", and yet, I think they have a negative spin sometimes where men take it on as, "Oh, now I'm supposed to do this to be a man. Right now, I'm supposed to be more present." Neil Sattin: Right. Shana James: "Now, I'm supposed to lead. I have to lead every action." Neil Sattin: Exactly. Shana James: Right? Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. "I'm supposed to lead. I'm supposed to open my woman" if we're talking about a heterosexual relationship... Shana James: If we're talking heterosexual. Neil Sattin: Right, and there's no room for me to be uncertain or vulnerable, or weak, or ... Yeah. Shana James: Which is so interesting because a lot of the work that I do with men is around how to be able to bring vulnerability, shame, weakness, desire, whatever our weaknesses and what I think makes me weak, but in a more powerful way, which again, I think could be confusing, but in a way, the way I describe it is like, "I have these vulnerable parts of me, and ultimately, I know I'm a good person or I'm a good man." Like, "I know there's more to me. I know that these things don't make me unlovable or unworthy, and so I can bring these forward in relationship" or in another, any kind of relationship, but let's say also romantic relationship with a partner, and not fall into, "I need you to tell me I'm okay. I need you to tell me I'm good enough. I need you to fix me or make me feel better about myself." Neil Sattin: Right. Right. There is that sense of, how do you enter a relationship without either partner feeling like, "Wow. You're here to save me", and whatever that translates into, if it's one partner needing to be the hero of the relationship or one person needing to be the caretaker of the relationship? Shana James: Right, and they're needing to be saved. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: Then, what is it like to come into a relationship knowing that there's potential for healing and growth without needing to fix or save each other? Right? That to me is a kind of mastery. Can we love each other through these challenging moments of vulnerability for both of us, whatever gender we are? That's one end of the spectrum. Shana James: That to me feels a little bit more like the Yin or a certain kind of foundation of connection, and then, you also mentioned earlier, polarity. Right? Then, how do we keep that spark alive also? Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and this is an important place as well because I think the reason that the more stereotypical kinds of frameworks hold so much power is if you're in a relationship where that's not happening at all, then you can hear that and feel like, "That's exactly what's missing. I need that." Whether it's, "I need to be led and opened", like, "I'm tired of making all the decisions", or, "I'm tired of your" whatever it is, or it's like, "Yeah, I need to step more into that powerful presence. For some reason, I've been scared to do that, or I've been holding back because I'm not feeling confident in expressing myself that way." Shana James: Yeah. Right. Neil Sattin: If that's place you're in, and then you hear someone's saying like, "Yeah. Step into your power and lead, and be opened" or whatever it is, then it can be like, "Wow. What a relief!" Like, "Yes, let's do that." Shana James: Right. It gives permission in a way like, "Oh, I can lead and I can take charge, and I don't have to be that asshole I saw my dad be or some other men in the past who were doing it without care for other people." I've definitely seen that help men feel more empowered. Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah, and- Shana James: And, or, but. Neil Sattin: It's like ... Two things come to mind. One is that it could certainly infuse some energy into a situation that that feels stale or stagnant, like where it's just you need something to get the whole thing moving, but on the flip side, there is this question, and this is something I've talked about on my show, you've probably talked about it on yours, of as soon as we're stepping into roles or scripts of how we're supposed to be, that actually can kill the things that create juice in a relationship that are about being in the moment, being spontaneous, owning who you are, which to me, doesn't have anything to do with whether my wife can hold my beard while we're having sex. Shana James: Yeah. Right. You mean that metaphorically? What does holding your beard mean? Neil Sattin: I was just imagining like I've grown out this big beard. I don't have a big beard like that, but it's like just saying, "Yeah", that there's a point where even if we're wearing the costume that we're supposed to be wearing, and presenting the way we're supposed to be presenting, that there's a place where that play will be satisfying, but if you watch the same play over and over and over again, it's going to get old. Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: If you're in that play over and over again, it's going to get old. Shana James: Yeah. It's getting old, or if you're in a play, that I do believe that some fake it until you make it can actually work. Right? It can jump-start the engine let's say, or it can give us access to certain parts of us whether it's in the realm of leading or surrendering our vulnerability that we haven't had before, and it can be a tricky line. Right? Shana James: Like, "When is it faking it until I'm making it, and when is it that I'm just continuing to fake it?", because anywhere I think where we keep doing something because we're supposed to, I mean, maybe that's the heart of it. Right? It's like, "Oh, I am supposed to do this thing", versus, "When I do it, I feel more", and this might take some describing, but like, "I feel more aligned in myself. I feel more alive. I feel more true." Shana James: "I feel more open. I feel more joyous. I feel more vital." Right? Like, "Where is it that we put these roles in as a "supposed to" as opposed to, "I'm going to try on this role", or, "I'm going to put on a new costume and see how does it fit with me. Does it give me more access to my voice, and my truth, and my power, or does it have me feel stilted and constrained?" Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and you can come at it from the other angle too where authenticity can also be a trap. Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: Perhaps you've seen this where someone feels like, "Oh, I'm just being me." Shana James: Yes. Neil Sattin: Like, "It's me to not take the initiative ever in bed." Shana James: Right. Neil Sattin: I don't know why we keep talking about bed, but let's just say- Shana James: It's a concrete example. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Sure, and mine is right over there, so I keep looking at it, but yeah. Authenticity can also be a trap, and there's that question of, "How do you be authentic without being held back by your authenticity as its own prescription or role?" Shana James: Right. Neil Sattin: I'm thinking about how you and I even met. Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: I can't remember if we spoke about this in the episode that we did together for the Relationship Alive Podcast. We may have addressed it, but Shana, you were coaching for the Authentic Man Program, and I saw you in a video, and I thought, "I want to be her friend." That's like the ultra condensed version of the story, but I was in a place where I was married to my first wife, and really unhappy, and trying to figure out why I was so unhappy. Shana James: Right. Neil Sattin: That was how I came across Authentic Man Program. Shana James: Right. Neil Sattin: I was thinking about that as I was pondering this conversation that we were going to have, and thinking like, "Right. We came to know each other in this realm of not putting on anything fake, like learning how to be present, learning how to give attention in a way, where you're not losing yourself, learning how to stand in who you are." Shana James: Yeah. Right. When I think about the Authentic Man Program and all the work I've done with men and you've done with people, I mean, I don't want to speak for you, but there is a paradox or an overlap or a something between helping, for me, helping support men to find their authenticity, and I guess I probably have a bias or a belief that authenticity is not ... What did you say? Something about like never making decisions, or like that authenticity is not a lack of energy, or a lack of life force in me. Shana James: I think I have a bias or a belief that authenticity is a kind of fullness of life force and that that could be sadness, that could be anger, that could be joy, but that ultimately, there is this sense of, "When I check in with myself, I feel good about the choices I'm making, I have access to create what I want to create." Not that I should be creating something or you should be creating something in particular, but that I know that I can create what I want, and so if a man comes and he's ... I've often said this, like some men have more of a heart-based, and some men, there's humor, and other men, there's just intellect that is through the roof, and other men, there's more of like this mysterious quality, and I don't try to steer men toward one way or like a cookie-cutter mold, but more to find what is your unique expression. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate that, that there's not this sense that anyone of those things is necessarily bad, though when anyone of those things is running the show, that's where you end up disconnected or you lose access to parts of you that help you connect. Shana James: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. Neil Sattin: We're talking about it in this realm of connection, and that's where I tend to dance is like, "Okay. If I'm coming to you and I'm ..." I mean, it's maybe a little easier when you think about like, "I'm angry", or "I'm really sad about something", but I want to even think like, "What if I were really depressed and exhausted?" Shana James: Right. Neil Sattin: "What if I were spent?" This is like stretching what we're talking about a little bit because that is maybe a state where you're not in your energy, in your power. Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Neil Sattin: How do you be authentically that while I'm depleted, but in relationship, how do you bring that so that it is a force that connects you, so even if you're depleted, you're still able to be with the person that you're with? Shana James: I love that. Right, and then it doesn't have to be the most passionate connection or the most exciting connection in that moment, but it might be more of a tender or a quiet connection. I love what you're saying. I just had a thought, which may have flown out of my mind when you said about being depressed or ... It's like ... Right. Shana James: How do ... Maybe there's something in here about, "I'm trying to be something so someone else will want me, or love me, or believe in me", versus, "Oh, I feel depleted right now. I feel depleted right, and I still care about you", or even in a work context. "I feel depleted right now, and I'm still here committed to getting this job done or something", but is there a way that we don't have to hide what's really going on, and at the same time, how do we bring those parts of ourselves in a way that creates more connection rather than pushes someone away? What might be the most authentic thing in that moment is, "Actually, I need some space. I need to move away from you, but I still believe we can do it in a connected way." Neil Sattin: Yeah, which bumps right up against the men need their space kind of mentality, that that's somehow part of the masculine archetype is taking space and going into your cave to figure shit out, and if you don't, now you're what? Shana James: Right. Right. Neil Sattin: I don't know. You've been, you're more feminine because you want to- Shana James: I was going to say a pussy, and I hate when people say that, but it's like I think that is this idea or ... Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: Then, in some realms where I've seen men learn, "Okay. Don't bring your struggles to a woman or to a partner", and again, I see the paradox of if we bring all of our struggles to our primary partner, I think that can create a heaviness and a feeling of like, "Oh, God." We're always going to be struggling together, but if you don't bring anything to your partner, then you don't know each other, and it's all based on this more surface experience to get there. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you missed the opportunity of pooling your resources with your partner, and sometimes, that one of you is depleted and the other of you carries the weight, and that's not gender-dependent or spectrum-dependent, but that's- Shana James: Right. Yeah. Right, and I- Neil Sattin: Go ahead. Shana James: No, no. You go. Neil Sattin: I was just going to say, so it's a dynamic, and the question for me is, "How do you ...?" Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: When you're talking about polarity, the whole point is to create a dynamism in your connection, so how do you keep things dynamic? Shana James: Yes. Neil Sattin: You don't do it by necessarily being the same way all the time. That's for sure. Shana James: Right. I like that you just went back to, "What's the point?" Right? "What's the why? What are we going for here?", versus I've learned the art of setting context for something. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: Right? Like, "I'd like to try leading you around for the next 10 minutes because I want to see what it feels like in my body to unapologetically take control while still being connected to you in your heart and what's good for you", versus a lack of context, which is just like, "I want to try taking on this role. I want to lead you around." There's a way I think when we know for ourselves why we're doing something, and when we can communicate it to others, it puts us I think in a deeper place of connection of, "Oh, now we're more on the same team, we're trying something out together, we have a sense of why we're doing what we're doing", and then I think if you have a why, there could be endless number of "hows" to get there, versus, I'm going to focus on, "What's the correct how?" Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah. Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: Yeah. I like that. I like how what you're talking about sounds so collaborative because that's another relationship problem where each person feels like they're alone in their silo to try and figure out how the hell to make a change or make a difference, or like they just got to figure it out. Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Neil Sattin: That can sometimes really feel true when you're in relationship with someone who's a little shut-down and who doesn't want to have the conversation about like, "I don't want to be invited into leading you", or "I don't want to be invited into being led by you". That sounds scary, or, "I'm not even there." Shana James: Right, and that could be a whole another conversation like, "What do you do?" Maybe you've probably ... I imagine you've addressed this in your podcast. What do you do when you have a partner who doesn't feel willing or isn't wanting to stretch, or grow, or expand, or change things if there's something that you're wanting? I mean, that's a whole another ball of wax we could get into. Neil Sattin: It's one thing about I think what we were talking about before we officially started, which is conscious relationship, and how our relationships really do require something different, and this is something I think about a lot because I work with a lot of couples where one of them is in that situation, and the question does come up for me, like, "Does this mean that there are a lot of partnerships that really aren't destined to stay together because one is just going to be on a growth path, and the other one isn't and has no interest?" Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: For me, that balances out with having experienced actually that even that -  even like having a foundation of like, "Yeah. I want to be a better person" - there are times when I don't feel like changing. There are times where I'm stuck in who I am. Shana James: Right. Right. Neil Sattin: There are times where Chloe, my wife, where she will say, point out something that is represents an old pattern of mine, and I'm irritated, and I don't want to do anything about it, so there is space in a situation that feels hopeless if you can stay engaged, and that's really the art of what you're talking about. It's like - How do you show up even then in a way that doesn't become about, "You should be growth-oriented because otherwise, how are we going to have a conscious relationship" that doesn't become that, because now it's just become oddly confining, even though it's about growth and change? Shana James: Yeah. Right. Neil Sattin: I mean, at some point, you got to be able to figure out like, "All right. Are our values aligned enough that we're on this journey together, or are they not?" Shana James: Back to values. Yeah. Yeah. I just did a conversation last week that where we got into ... Right. What are each person's values and how often people don't necessarily know their values. Shana James: I mean, I remember doing some coaching before I got married, and we did some values conversations and where our values were differing and where they were the same and overlapped, and yeah. In some ways, we still ended up getting divorced, and we both I think are on a path of growth, but a different kind of growth, or then we had a kid and all kinds of things started to show up. I think I also want to speak a word to the complicated nature of relationships, and in our culture, it can seem like if you don't stay together with someone, it's a failure, but I'm also aware that now, we're ... I don't know. We're on a different topic in a way of conscious relationship, and what is conscious relationship, or how do we stay connected? Shana James: How do we collaborate? How do we be on the same team? Maybe it's all still ... I think it all still is connected, but also, this idea of how to not get stuck in a stereotypical masculine role as we're becoming more conscious maybe. Neil Sattin: Right. I think where I start to get a little nervous is where these frameworks, as you've been talking about for masculinity, where they potentially become problematic, where they're actually if you're not bringing consciousness to them, then they become the source of problems -  and I can't help but think at the moment of, "#Metoo", and just how much of that is about  - more like this shadow masculinity. Right? Shana James: Then, it's like are we talking about like unconsciously masculine or consciously masculine, because I think the unconscious or the box of kind of cultural definition of masculine is be strong, be powerful, go after what you want, don't apologize. Neil Sattin: Right. Shana James: At the same time, I know a lot of men, especially men who come to me, who have had really loving women in their lives, and they've been taught to be nice, and be good, and not overstep their bounds, and be respectful, and I think it has often put men in a bind like, "Wait. I'm supposed to be strong and powerful and not admit to any weakness. Wait, but then, I'm supposed to be kind, and loving, and caring, and what the fuck do I do now, and how do I actually express myself, or how do I share my needs and desires, let alone, even get them met?", and so I think the next step ... I don't know. Maybe this is arrogant to say or too conclusive, but it feels like there's a step in masculine evolution where, and sometimes the way I talk about it is head, heart and sex or head, heart and balls balance. Shana James: Right? This way of both heart and love and care and sexuality being the dials turned up in a way to a hundred percent. Like I don't know if I give up my heart and my care to be very powerful or sexual or confidence, and then I think men can get out in the world in a powerful way, and co-create or collaborate - versus the false power I see, which is, "I don't feel powerful, so I'm going to try and take because I think that's the only way I could get it." Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. What I like to add if this fits into people's paradigms in that "head, heart, balls" is also your connection to "spirit." Shana James: Totally. I've been realizing that lately, that I'm like, "Oh, it's missing that fourth piece." Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and how that fuels your connection to something greater. Shana James: Yeah. Yes. Neil Sattin: You're being part of the whole, how we're actually connected to other beings. Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: It becomes a lot more challenging to do things that are, let's just call it since you did it earlier beautifully, the unconscious masculine. It becomes a lot more challenging to do that if you're aware, if you're conscious of "Oh, we're actually connected, so why would I do that to you?" Shana James: Right. Right. Right. Neil Sattin: Why would I act upon you instead of bringing some ferocity in that still is able to be WITH you? Shana James: Right. Right, and I think some of my favorite experiences of a man's expression of power, they really come with this, there's an intensity like you said or sometimes ferocity, but sometimes just an intensity. An intensity of loving or an intensity of passion, and it's so clear to me that I'm cared about and that they want something good for me too, and yeah. I love bringing in the soul element, because in the soul, in my experience, there isn't really a masculine, feminine. It's more of this pure just being. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and it also, like as you were saying that, I started to feel like, "Right", and there's a difference between, "I'm with you so that I can get my needs met" versus, "We're together so that we can get our needs met", and how that changes the dynamic. Shana James: Yes. Neil Sattin: Then, it's not like you were saying earlier, it's not about taking what you need. Shana James: Yes. Neil Sattin: It's about, "How are we going to get this together?" Shana James: Right, which I'm wondering, okay, if we bring that back into this stereotypical masculinization or idea of masculine, whether it's in a business context or a relationship context or a family context, when there is a sense of a man getting his own, that his own needs and desires are valuable, valued, important, and that so is "the other's" needs and desires. I just, I wonder then how that impacts, and how to move beyond like I was saying before, this conflict of, "Wait. I'm supposed to be the rock. I'm not supposed to have any vulnerability. I'm supposed to be nice and take care of others", and I do see this next stepping stone or next evolution of, "Oh, I can be powerfully grounded in myself, value myself, believe in my own self-worth, and also share I feel really vulnerable right now, and I feel moved to tears right now, or I feel really sad that there's something happening in this relationship that it's painful for me, or something I'm not getting that I don't know if I need to get it from you or not, but I'm not feeling loved, I'm not feeling affection, I'm not ..." Those things. Shana James: Right? Can we actually come to the table and, I think express a kind of powerful vulnerability, or that vulnerability itself to me is power. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. I want your opinion on something, and at the same time, let's try to shift our conversation, if we can, to get ... let's see how practical we can get", because I don't know that this is going to be practical, but let's- Shana James: Yeah. Okay. Let's see. Neil Sattin: This is the question. The question is, "Why even talk about masculine and feminine?", because in my experience if two people come together and they're willing to be in who they are to be impacted by each other, to speak to that, and sometimes that "speaking" is the voice, but other times it's how you touch, how you ... It could be anything. Right? It's not just like blah, blah, "We're going to talk about it", but if two people are doing that, that's where the energy is, and it's not necessarily about leading or following. Shana James: Being more masculine. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Exactly. It's actually about what it feels like to be more real, and we got, like I'm somehow back at that authenticity piece. It's just like be authentic with your partner, and there you are. Shana James: Right. Neil Sattin: You're going to find your way into masculine, feminine. I'm just looking inside, like sometimes, you might be more like the tree, or the snowflake, or the squirrel, or the bear, or- Shana James: Or the root of the tree, or the leaves of the tree. Right. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: Right. If we actually let go of, "I'm supposed to be some way that is either feminine or masculine", would things just take shape in an easier way? Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: Then, I think the question of authenticity though can be so confusing for people because at least from my perspective, we've all been conditioned from such a young age that it's hard to know what's authentic, like what's true for us, but in the context, I found myself saying this recently, like I feel like an explorer. I love to explore dynamics and the inner world and the outer world, and, "What happens if I do this, and how will you react if I do that?" Yeah. I wonder if there's a context of play, and I don't know that I have an answer for this, but I like the idea of taking on experiments and time-bound experiments, and so for those who are in relationship, what might it be like for a day or a week to say, "You know what? I'm going to let go of any ideas of masculine, feminine, anything, and I'm just going to see what I feel moved to do." Shana James: Some of that might be scary. Right? Some of that might feel like, "This is really awkward or uncomfortable, but I'm noticing I feel moved to cry in your arms even though I don't even know if I can, or I'm noticing I feel moved to take you into the bedroom and have my way with you", or like any of those things, man, woman, masculine, feminine aside. That could be a really interesting experiment, and the opposite could be interesting too, or opposite being like, "What if we really put attention on a masculine or a feminine dynamic, and what if we each took on the other?" I don't know that I have any concrete answers, but I think in practical terms, to become an explorer and to see what brings me more energy, and vitality, and excitement, and connection in the moment feels like an interesting way to go for me. Neil Sattin: Yeah. There's something about when you said, "Let's each be the other." Shana James: The other. Neil Sattin: What that sparked in me was, "Right - That makes a ton of sense" because if I'm going to be more feminine, let's say in that context, hanging out with Chloe, then the odds are that I'm going to do it in a way that on some level, I'm looking for - that I feel is lacking. It's almost like if she were to be like, "Tell me how to be a woman. I don't really know", or, "Tell me how to be a man. I don't know what you're missing. I'm just being me." Neil Sattin: Like, "Show me", and I could see that being valuable that there's some potential for it to feel ... Like you got to be in the spirit of play. Shana James: Exactly. Right. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. You don't want to be in the spirit of being critical or judgmental, or, "I'm going to show you what I've been missing from you, but-" Shana James: Right. Right. What if it's just about me? It's not about what I've been missing with us. It's more like, "Oh, do I let myself ... Shana James: When I look at the whole spectrum of how I could express myself and what I could do and say, where are the places I'm not thinking it's okay to go? For some people, for a lot of people, that's anger. For me, I've also noticed it's joy. I hold back my joy. If someone else feels less joyful than me, I feel a little guilty feeling joy or playful, and I have seen that for other people too, so again, maybe another practical way is starting to consider, and you could do this even with a partner or a friend, like, "Where do I see you holding back from what could be called a 'Natural expression'?", and that with anger, we don't have to take our anger out on someone or blame or attack someone, but at the end of my last relationship, I had this really interesting experience where I started getting a little more frustrated, and at the end, he said something like, "I don't think you're as nice as you think you are." Shana James: I said, "That's totally true actually. I believe you. I try to be nicer than I am, and there are things that bothered me that I don't speak to, and I try to just shove under the rug", because I'm like, "Oh, that's not a big deal." Then, it'll come back out later, but when I went to one of my teachers and I told her that, she laughed and she said, "Actually, I think you're nicer than you think you are." It was just this really brilliant counterpoint where she was pointing out like, "That in my soul, I actually am really loving", and it was my ego or my identity that started getting contracted and started reacting in certain ways, and if I throw all that away, there's this way of like, "Oh, how can I give voice to all of those parts of myself, whether it's nice or not nice, or ...?" Shana James: You know what I mean, and play with that in the spirit of play like you said so that we have more choice, not because now, I'm supposed to be a certain way, but so that we have more choice and freedom to be who we are? Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Just to be clear, I wasn't saying that we should embody what we want in our partner. I was just postulating that. Shana James: That that could happen. Neil Sattin: Maybe what emerges is that because our idea of what that other is - if it's something we're wanting from our, more of from our partner, then we're going to show it in the way that we've been wanting. Shana James: Yeah. Yes. Right. That could be very interesting. Neil Sattin: That could go for, like you could decide, "I'm going to play in the realm of being more like a tree". Like what is it like to be the grand oak that lives for hundreds of years for the next week, and what kind of perspective does that give me if I bring that to our interactions versus like, "Yeah. I'm going to be the sapling that just grew and is new, and bendy, and playful?" Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: It's a totally different ... You can play with ... I mean, who says you have to be masculine and feminine? You could be any of these things in the spirit of trying out a new repertoire, and it's something that you can do on your own without telling your partner. Shana James: Right. Yeah. I like that. Neil Sattin: If they are tuned in, they might be like, "What are you doing? Why are you standing there with your arms out stretched all the time?" Shana James: I love that. I'm just wondering too as we're wrapping up if there's anything we each feel called to say, and maybe ... I mean, I feel moved to continue exploring this and see if there are anymore practical ways to apply this because I think this has been a very, in some ways, a roundabout conversation, but I like conversations and that it brings up ... It has us question our norms and structures and ways that we've held ourselves and thought we had to be, and somehow, I just felt called to what you said of these ways we think we're supposed to be and, yeah, what it's like to actually let go of. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Shana James: I'm supposed to be some way, and I could see a lot of the men I've worked with or I've had these responses of like ... I actually had a man recently say, "I let go of being ..." What did he say? "It seems like women really like me for being this kind, gentlemanly person", and he was getting really frustrated, like, "That's not all of me, and I want to have to be good to be liked", and so actually, our next week session I said, "Let's really talk about this. I think this is one of my strengths is to help men move forward and connect in relationship while feeling their own strength and their own power, and their own commitment to their desires and truth, while also being able to connect and still have their care. It's like that balance again between the sex and the heart, or the whatever that kind of passion and heart or strength and heart. Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think what could be really helpful if someone was inclined to do this, and so if you're listening and you're thinking, "How can I get more related to what these guys have been talking about?", I could see listing, "I'm supposed to..." over and over again until you're ... Set a timer for 15 minutes because the first five minutes, you'll get all those things that are obvious, and then if you keep going, you'll start to discover even more about the scripts that you're playing, and it could be, "I'm supposed to be this way or I'm supposed to not be this other way" is another one, and then- Shana James: I love that. I just thought you and I should both do that and post ours and be vulnerable with that. Neil Sattin: Okay. I'll do that. Then, if you're in relationship, it might be great to share that. Shana James: Share that. Neil Sattin: Another twist on that could be, "I think my partner wants me to be..." Shana James: That's a great one. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Again, try to exhaust yourself in terms of what you write, so it's not just the first things that come to you. Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Right. It's not what you already know - then you surprise yourself. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Right. Right. Then, when you can share that with your partner, there may be things where they're like, "Oh, yeah. I actually do want more of that from you, but I'm seeing how you think you're supposed to be this way," and it becomes a great opportunity for you to be in dialogue about, and to surface the roles that you each think you're supposed to be following. Shana James: Yes. Yes. Yes. I love that. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: Again, in service of choice more than not supposed to let go of these roles and take on some other role. Right? I think that's the endless hall of mirrors that we can get stuck in sometimes and to feel that sense of choice. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. That's an interesting one because what do you do with like you're supposed to be present? Shana James: Yeah. Neil Sattin: Like I'm going to tell you that in terms of how I see successful relationships, if you're not willing to be present, then you're screwed, like that doesn't mean you can't- Shana James: Right, and that doesn't mean I have to walk around a hundred percent of the time being present. I get to actually say to my partner, "Are you able to be present right now?", or, "Can we have this? When would be a good time?" Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: We do have to be willing to show up for each other I think in that way. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, so we are being a little prescriptive, but I feel like what we're being prescriptive with are with values that actually allow for a lot of flexibility. Shana James: Yes, versus stereotyped roles and ways we're supposed to be. Maybe we jut brought it all the way back. Neil Sattin: Yes. Shana James: Yes. All right. I think we could do a part two and part hundred. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shana James: I think we could keep going with this. Neil Sattin: Probably. Shana James: I like this, but for now, that feels like a good place to come to a completion. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Shana, it's always great to ... I'm so glad that we're friends and it's such an honor to have you back on Relationship Alive to talk about this. Shana James: Thank you. I love that we're friends too and colleagues, and that you continue to inspire me, and we continue to talk about what it's like to be in relationships and new relationships in our later life, and to grow, and to be on this path of trying to figure out what the hell this is all about, so thank you for doing this with me. Neil Sattin: It's so important. Yeah. Absolutely.  

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#3

42: How to Invite Intimacy through Deeper Presence with Guy Sengstock

June 07, 2016 • 74m

How do you really see another person? And how do allow yourself to BE seen? How can you deepen into knowing the people around you, especially your partner, more honestly, more fully? These seem like they would be obvious questions in the case of relationship, and yet so often we plunge into partnership, driven by chemistry and desire, only to wake up later, sometimes years later, and to find that we’re simply going through the motions, vaguely (or extremely) dissatisfied, and knowing on some level that something more is possible. Today, we’re going to take this on directly, to go to the heart of vulnerability - opening up to the experience of the moment with another. Guy Sengstock is the earliest founder of “circling” and the co-founder of the Circling Institute. He’s also an exceptional coach, with a gift to help you see the water you’re swimming in. Circling is a practice that allows you to experience what it’s like to be fully “gotten” by other people - and for them to get a sense of what it would truly be like to be in your shoes. If you enjoyed Episode 13 on Attunement, with Keith Witt, or episode 6, on developing shared consciousness with Patricia Albere, then you are going to love this deep dive into how to really get related with yourself and another human being. Today, Guy and I dive into the following: What is Circling? Circling is more practice than it is concept. It is a practice that when done in a group is simply following and giving ourselves to what is most alive in the moment with others. It is a presence practice. Like a mantra in meditation or an asana in yoga, the object of focus in Circling is the moment to moment occurrences in relationship. This relational practice helps us become uncomfortable in a particular way, that can help open us to new aspects of ourselves that we then take into our relationships outside of the practice. Relational asanas: At the heart of circling is the simple (yet challenging) intention of speaking the moment, such that you are voicing what you are noticing and sensing AS IT OCCURS. Most human conversations are triangular in that you and I talk about a subject - rarely is it present tense and speaking in, for, and about the moment. Circling is similar to an asana in yoga, but in this case it is a relational asana. How can we learn to not speak about, and rather speak and listen for what is happening right in this moment? When we do this, we step into surprise and mystery because we do not know what will happen next. From this risk, our aliveness and our anxiety increases. Share your anxiety -  So many times we hide our anxiety from our partners, and often from ourselves. Anxiety and a nervous feeling helps to illuminate areas of stuckness/friction - a trailhead for finding out what is important enough to cause such an acute sensation! When we learn to share our anxiety with our partner, we show them that we care enough to include them. If and when you notice anxiety in the other, do not take it as a red flag, but rather a moment to get curious- “Oh woah, I’m imagining there is something really important to you that is making you feel so strongly”. Opening up our most vulnerable and sticky feelings to our partner brings in a whole new dynamic to the relationship! It opens the doors to what is ACTUALLY occurring in a way that can then be explored and known, rather than simply managed. Being in someone else’s shoes. Really feel heard and known. What is it about circling that brings about the experience of real connection? In circling, we really acknowledge ourselves as nervous systems that are inherently open to the world (permeable and transparent to it). When I look at you, I can actually start to imagine what it is like to be in your nervous system. I can start to sense what you are afraid of, how what I am saying impacts you, etc. In all deep levels of conversation and intimacy, what we are saying to the other is “I am close to knowing, understanding, and caring about what you care about”. And in caring about each other, we find out what WE really care about. When we tune in this closely, it is almost as if someone could ask you to make a decision as if you were the other person, and you would feel like you could! Of course, there is a critical line between feeling as though you know someone through being present with them, and believing you know someone. How do you know that you have an assumption? You don’t! Assumptions are inherently places we are unaware - if we know about it, then it isn’t an assumption anymore! Assumptions are a natural reaction to being in relation and we all have and hold them! And they are not to be feared or shamed - in fact, we can even look forward to moments of dissonance. Once an assumption is named, it then becomes great information and material for exploring. What if instead of trying to get to right and wrong (which inevitably leads to repression or argument), you got curious? What if your response to being triggered was to become curious about you, about your partner, about your relationship and what is happening to you, them, and the couple in that moment!? What to do when the record stops. Okay, so everything is going swell, and then all of a sudden the record screeches to a halt, and you and your partner are in a disagreement. How we respond in that moment is going to make a huge impact on how the next moment will unfold. Try letting go of proving who is right and who is wrong- and instead, choose curiosity. What exactly is curiosity? Curiosity is the first thing to go when we contract, and one of the primary aspects of being open. Whatever curiosity actually is, it is deeply connected to our level of openness. And of course, the moments when it would be generative and helpful to be curious are exactly the times when we do not feel it. And so we must choose it. Leaning in: Choosing curiosity might look like this: 1. Acknowledge (with the intention to relate) that something just happened, and 2) Ask your partner: What just happened, for you? What was the impact on you of what I just said/did? How did that occur to you? What did _____ mean to you? How did you take that? Demonstrate that you actually care by showing your intention to really know them. Asking these leaning in questions affirms and acknowledges their otherness, and that you are a being that has no authority to know what they are feeling or thinking, but that you want to share and know! Leaning forward and in with our questions and attention is an act of offering to someone our deep desire to fully understand them. We cannot force intimacy to happen - we can only invite it out! Sometimes when we ask such direct questions, we will be met with “I don’t know”. Honor this - it is a reminder that we cannot force closeness. We cannot manage or take away how our partner is experiencing us, and you must remember to make space for them to share with you what is actually happening inside their world.  If someone does not want or is unable to share with us how they are feeling, you can try to ask a follow up question: “Huh, you don’t know? I’m imagining that you are too mad to talk right now, is that true? Or perhaps in asking you how that was for you you feel invaded, or pressured? Is that true for you?” When someone reveals what is true for them, it is an act of their own human freedom, and so when they don’t, we can only respect their individuality and sometimes, share our personal experience: “When you said you don’t know, I just noticed that I was feeling some anxiety in my chest and I started to lean forward more”. This type of sharing - the kind that reveals what is happening inside of us - is unarguable. When we share from this place we gift our partner insight into a space that is wholly, and holy, us. Thus inviting intimacy, and aliveness! Intimacy is a function of our ability to tolerate anxiety. You can’t separate wetness from water - in the same way, you can’t have intimacy without discomfort. We spend a lot of energy trying to not say truths that we feel might push our partner away. In submitting, controlling, dominating, or dissociating from discomfort we diminish the possibility of intimacy and aliveness. It becomes harder and harder to be ourselves, and we end up risking connection for fear of disconnection. When instead, we share our truth and take that risk, we grow! And yes, it is unpredictable, and yes, it is anxiety producing because it immerses us in a reality that anything could happen. And yet, to have more and more depth and competence in our relationships- we need to just jump in and even invite in more ambiguity! Although scary and uncomfortable in the moment, the times when we share what is really happening for us, we begin to create a deep and genuine sense of security in our relationships. Life is about reaching out to become what it is. By entering into unknown, unpredictable, and uncontrollable territory together, you learn and build what your connection really is.  If i am continually willing to be myself, and willing to let you be yourself, then we may actually find out what is really true for us. This is the case because we are not known selves when we enter relationships. As is implicit in nature, in biology, in wherever life unfolds, relationships are a constant becoming. And to become, there must be some friction, or dissonance. Look at evolution! If all had gone perfectly, there would still only be single celled organisms! When life is introduced to irritation, it creates itself in higher order of complexity. Life becomes itself through interactions with discord. This is true in relationships as well. We ourselves are revealed in moments of relational tension. Our reactions and responses are a feedback loop that tells us what is important, and what makes our heart hurt, and grow. Staying present, and being willing to be in the unknown, will inevitably lead to a surprising new sense of aliveness and closeness!   A TIP for kickass dating - In dating, we are constantly screening the present for clues about how we will feel in the future. Becoming masterful of noticing and illuminating how a conversation is actually going automatically translates into kickass dating! It will help you embrace the anxiety in the moment in a way that is fun. Step into the curiosity and ask yourself “What am I going to learn about myself from this person?” TRY THIS AT HOME: In a relationship you care about (with your primary partner or other), simply see what happens when you introduce your experience of what is happening right now, in the relationship. “Right now i am noticing you…. And it makes me feel …..”. Then just pause and find out what happens. Notice that by the time you finish your sentence you don’t know what will happen next! A lot of the time we speak to each other in order to know what will happen after we talk... instead, be willing to move away from triangular conversation- and generously name what is happening for you right now. More specifically, try to bring a practice of gratitude into moment to moment interactions. “I am grateful right now for this moment we are having” or “I’m noticing how you are leaning right now, and I’m feeling so touched by it”. Etc. Remember- every single moment holds the possibility of growth! A present focus invites this sense of aliveness! Resources If you are interested in coaching email Guy at guysengstock@gmail.com To read some of Guy’s writings check out his website!   To learn more about being trained in Circling check out their website www.neilsattin.com/circlecircle Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Guy Sengstock and be entered to qualify for a free two-hour couching session! Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out!  

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#4

156: Rethinking Narcissism and Its Impact on Your Relationship - with Craig Malkin

August 29, 2018 • 78m

Do you suspect that you someone you love might be a narcissist? Or have you been told that you might be a narcissist? What can you do to bring a narcissist (or your own narcissistic tendencies) back into balance? What is the difference between healthy self-esteem and narcissism? Today we’re talking to Dr. Craig Malkin, author of Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists, and one of the world’s leading experts on how to heal when narcissism impacts you. Our conversation will teach you how to recognize true narcissism and what do do about it. You’ll also learn why a certain amount of narcissism is good for you and your relationship. And if you’re on the opposite end of the scale, an “echoist” in relationship with a narcissist, you’ll discover how to safely reclaim your own voice, without necessarily blowing up your connection. As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Sponsors: Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has two amazing sponsors. Each has put together a special offer for you as a Relationship Alive listener. Please visit them to take advantage of their offer and show appreciation for their support of the Relationship Alive podcast! First are the folks at TakeCareOf.com. Through a unique online quiz, they help you figure out exactly what vitamins and herbal supplements you need to achieve your optimal health. They use high-quality ingredients, and can save you as much as 20% over comparable store-bought brands. On top of all that, they are offering you 25% OFF your first month if you visit takecareof.com and use the coupon code “ALIVE” at checkout. Resources: Check out Craig Malkin's website Read Craig Malkin’s book: Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict… Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) www.neilsattin.com/narcissism Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Craig Malkin. Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out Transcript: Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. This has come up a lot lately where you hear people talking about one of the most pernicious epidemics to affect society and relationships - it's the epidemic of narcissism and the reason why I call it an epidemic is not because I came up with that, it's because it's been labeled an epidemic with a lot of fear attached to it that perhaps the way that our society is, the way we've been raising children, the way that we are on social media, that that has fostered a whole generation of narcissists and perhaps because we've become more actively seeking help when we're in trouble, then it's easier to see what's going on around us and see perhaps if those people around us are affected by narcissism because it has a profound impact on us. Neil Sattin: That being said, the way that we've looked at it has been pretty black and white. In that black and white view of what narcissism is, there hasn't been a lot of room to actually know what kind of things you can change, what's actually healthy and what isn't. Neil Sattin: If narcissism is this inflated sense of self, do you want to not have a sense of self? How does that even work? Are there places where narcissism is actually good for you or for your relationship or for the world? These are the kinds of questions that we are going to be addressing today with our esteemed guest, Dr. Craig Malkin. Neil Sattin: He's the author of the internationally acclaimed book, Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists. Dr. Malkin is a clinical psychologist and he's a lecturer at Harvard Medical School. He's been featured on NPR and Fox. He's covering the whole spectrum there. Neil Sattin: You might also get a sense that this is a particularly relevant conversation for today's world. I'm super excited to have Craig Malkin here with us today. I just want to let you know that as always, we will have a detailed transcript available for today's episode which you can get if you visit neilsattin.com/narcissism and if you don't know how to spell that, feel free to Google it. Neil Sattin: No one is going to make you feel bad about that. Neilsattin.com/narcissism or you can always text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. I think that's all the details, let's get on with the conversation. Craig Malkin, I'm so excited to have you with us here today on Relationship Alive. Craig Malkin: Oh, thanks so much for having me Neil. Neil Sattin: I was feeling this hint of irony as I was ... Because every episode I start with, I tell people, "If you want to just text the word passion to the number 33444, you can get a transcript." As I was saying the word passion, I was reminded of how in your book you talk about the link between narcissism and passion and how much perhaps we owe to degrees of narcissism in our world. Neil Sattin: Obviously, it's expressed really malevolently at times and other times, it's so beneficial to our world. What do you ... This is maybe a really tough place to start, but I'm curious for your take on that. What's required and why is there this link between narcissism and passion? Neil Sattin: After all, that's often what draws us into relationships with narcissists is that heightened feeling of passion and intensity that we experience with them. Craig Malkin: It is a tough place to start, but it's an important place to start. Really what you're asking about is what we have come to call a healthy narcissism. We'll get into more detail about this, but briefly, 50 or 60 years of research demonstrates that the average happy, healthy person around the world, this is cross-cultural research mind you including China, the average happy healthy person doesn't view themselves as average. They view themselves as exceptional or unique to some extent. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Craig Malkin: Yeah, they see themselves through slightly rose-colored glasses. This is what we think of as healthy narcissism. In the research I did with my colleagues, the research that others have done because at this point there are four measures that tap into healthy narcissism. Craig Malkin: Also called moderate self-enhancement. I want to make a point here, this is not self-esteem. Narcissism and self-esteem are not the equivalent. Even healthy narcissism and self-esteem are not equivalent because healthy narcissism is tilted slightly towards the positive. Craig Malkin: What turns out in this research is that people see themselves through these slightly rose-colored glasses, feel happier, they're able to persist in the face of failure, they're able to maintain big dreams. There's that sense of passion where that comes in and they may even live longer because there's some tie in between moderate or healthy self-enhancement and health measures. Craig Malkin: What we're finding is it's just that ability to maintain a little bit again those slightly rose-colored glasses just enough to be happy, healthy, maintain some intense engagement in your ambitions or your visions for yourself and others that can provide a fuel. Craig Malkin: If we get too focused on other people to the exclusion of ourselves, then we lose some of that passion. That is to some extent that passion and engagement comes from being able to let other's needs and feelings fade from huge or small enough to keep you going, but not so long that you become deeply self-involved. That's a good way to think about healthy narcissism or moderate self-enhancement. Neil Sattin: Right. You can be present and you can even be internal, but you don't lose connection. Craig Malkin: Precisely. Another way to think about this is secure attachment that is our ability to feel like when we're sad, scared, lonely, blue, we can safely turn to others, one special person or even people like a group and depend on them for mutual caring and comfort and support that we're safe to some extent in their hands. Craig Malkin: Secure attachment in the research is tied very closely to this healthy narcissism. What's fascinating is people who are securely attached don't become so driven by that drive to feel special that they lose sight of other people's needs and feelings or even behave in a hurtful fashion. Craig Malkin: It's like secure attachment both brings out those rose-colored glasses for ourselves and others. I go into great deal in rethinking narcissism is about this. It both brings out those rose-colored glasses and it also keeps us tethered so that we don't tip into dangerous territory where we are so addicted to that experience of feeling special that we go out of our way to get it including hurting other people. Neil Sattin: Yeah. I loved how ... It was interesting that you mentioned in your book that there was this study done that one of the most ... One of the strongest indicators for longevity and happiness in a relationship was a couple's ability to see each other as better than they actually are. There's this healthy relational narcissism as well. Craig Malkin: Right. Those rose-colored glasses that people lined up developing. Again, closely related to our ability to safely depend on others to securely love. They extent to our partners. There is this large scale study of 40,000 people you're referring to what's sometimes called the pickle study I think because of the variables that were identified to be strongly related. Craig Malkin: One of them was PI, positive illusions, that was the strongest. Way more than self-esteem or what you might think of it was a winning personality. It was one or both partners seeing their partner as better than they were by objective measures. That sounds odd, but there's lots of objective measures like intelligence. Craig Malkin: There was a recent replication of this study where happy healthy people viewed themselves as ... I think it was a funny number, 80% of people in this large scale study over 2,000 believe themselves to have above average intelligence which of course statistically is impossible. Craig Malkin: What we're talking about is just again, slightly tilted towards a positive and it turns out that's helpful. It's like the roots, there's a place for it in healthy relationships. I make a distinction between extreme or addictive or pathological narcissism and the playing with positive illusions is that really what we're talking about is being special to a partner as opposed to special for the world or for others which is performative. We feel like the gleam in their eye, they feel like the gleam in ours. That's a very loving, secure relationship. Neil Sattin:  It reminds me of a time when a friend of mine who had just gotten out of a challenging relationship. It happened upon a book about narcissism and in reading this book, she had this huge revelation that, "Oh my goodness, so many of my problems in this relationship were that I was with a narcissist." Neil Sattin: While it was great that that gave her some relief to know that, what I noticed was that I started noticing lots of people labeling others as narcissists. For me, that's caused me to wonder, "Are there really that many narcissists out there? Are they all as bad as all that? Or is there this spectrum of what people actually ... What we can expect people to act like and behave like." Neil Sattin: Some of those things being really problematic and other things being something that you could actually work with. That's why your book on rethinking narcissism was such a relief for me because it really addresses that head on. I'm wondering if you could talk for a moment about what is this spectrum of narcissism and where can people land on it and where is it workable and where is it not? Craig Malkin: Absolutely. Happy to talk about the spectrum. The first thing I should say though is the way I described the spectrum is not the way it has often been described in the past although a lot of people are adopting my version of it because it's more inclusive, it helps explain all types of narcissism and it explains some other problems that we can get into. Craig Malkin: The way it's usually viewed as is think of narcissism as this pernicious, obnoxious, arrogant, self-involved personality trait and you start with a little bit of it that's pretty bad and then you go all the way up to the extreme where it's disordered and there's many, many problems. Craig Malkin: It starts out as bad and there's more bad, but as we already covered, the problem with that view is for a long time really since the inception of the concept of narcissism, we have this idea of healthy narcissism, there's plenty of evidence for it. Craig Malkin: Again, think of it as having slightly rose-colored glasses for yourself, at least feeling exceptionally unique compared to seven billion people on the planet even if privately. The problem is that there's all ... That's only associated with positive measures of self-esteem, of capacity for relationships and our study for empathy. Craig Malkin: If you look at people who have zero narcissism and I'll introduce my term for that in a moment, that's a problem as well. It's really where people lack any healthy narcissism or healthy self-enhancement or they self-enhanced too much where it become disordered. Craig Malkin: We want to think of imagine a spectrum at zero. If there are problems at zero, imagine a spectrum at 10. There are problems at 10, this is where people are so ... If you think of narcissism as this pervasive universal tendency, the drive to feel special, these people at 10 or so addicted to it, they turn away from love, relationships, truth. Craig Malkin: Again, lie, steal, cheat, do whatever it takes to get their high. They soothe themselves by feeling special. Then in the center is where we find the moderate self enhancement or what I've called healthy narcissism. As soon as you start viewing the spectrum that way, a lot of things become clear including the fact that we also know people can be extremely high in trait narcissism without being disordered. Craig Malkin: Think of some narcissists as someone who's dependent on her addicted to feeling special if they become so addicted that they have diagnosable problems, that's when they have narcissistic personality disorder, but not all narcissists are diagnosable with a disorder of some kind. Craig Malkin: I think I want to address your question in pieces, that's really the first piece, helping people understand that there's a spectrum and that we can lie along any point within that spectrum and if people are interested or who are listening in where they fall, actually my colleagues and I developed a measure for the narcissism spectrum scale. Craig Malkin: I have a brief version of it on my website that you can access just by going to the thenarcissismtest.com or drcraigmalkin.com and click on the test tab. If you have trouble spelling narcissism, in fairness I often did early on, but now I've spelled it so much that it's second nature, but you can also get to it through my website. Craig Malkin: You can take it and I'll give you feedback and test results. You can see where you fall in the narcissism spectrum as I've described it. Neil Sattin: I took the test and fortunately, it was such a relief to me to find out that I'm not way up at the top of the spectrum though I had a feeling I probably wouldn't be, but you take those tests and you're like, "I really hope that this doesn't reveal something that everyone else around me has known for quite some time and I'm going to discover right now." Neil Sattin: I was slightly above the average number though because you have the test in the book so that was the diversion of the test that I took. It was interesting for me to see that and to see fortunately I think, I was pretty good in the healthy narcissism category. Neil Sattin: It made sense to me of my experience and then even when I thought about, "Okay, I was a little above average in the ... I guess it's the extreme narcissism category, that actually helped me make sense too of some moments especially when you quantify it as this is an addiction to feeling special." When I think about certain times in my life, when let's say that was compromised, my feeling special are important. Neil Sattin: Now that makes a lot more sense from the perspective of, "Oh, there I am. A couple points above average in the narcissism test that you offered." Craig Malkin: But not above the cut-offs in the book you're saying or it gives you the cut-offs for a score where this relates to where you want to keep an eye on how to keep yourself in a healthy range? Are you saying that ... Neil Sattin: No. For example, you said if you scored 27 or below, stay where you are on your spectrum estimate. Then you said if you scored 35 to 41, move yourself up a notch. I actually scored a 29. I was in the gray zone between the 27 or below and then the next one that you described the 35 to 41. Craig Malkin: I see. Okay. Yeah, that's more or less the same of course because all of those, the ranges I described, this will help anybody who reads my book too, you really want to look at those specific cut-offs because that difference of a couple of points isn't really, it's not statistically significant if I'm understanding what you're saying. Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah. Craig Malkin: I would have to ... It's been a while since I looked at the cut-offs myself, but as long as you are below that next cut-off, you're just in that first range even if it's a couple of points above. Neil Sattin: Oh phew. Craig Malkin: Okay. Neil Sattin: I recommend that you take a test. Do you think someone could actually accurately fill it out for another person if they were trying to figure out what was going on with someone else in their life or is that really not an accurate thing to do? Craig Malkin: I think you can fill it out. A lot of times, these self-report measures are used that way where a partner fills it out. It changes the nature of the test. I will say that we have not tested the narcissism spectrum scale by asking partners to fill it out, but here's what you should know about the answer to that question is it turns out that we're actually really good at picking up. Craig Malkin: At least when it comes to a very specific type of narcissism. We haven't talked about the types yet. Along that spectrum, there were going to be lots of different ways to feel special and that's what explains the different types. When it comes to more outgoing, charismatic, manipulative, arrogant, chest-thumping narcissists. Craig Malkin: As I say, the narcissist ... I often say the narcissists we all know and loathe. Everybody recognizes that type and it turns out in the research that if we see somebody like that on social media or we have interactions with them in person or we just observe in any other context that when we rate them on narcissism, our ratings are pretty accurate compared to when that person fills out self-report or is assessed clinically where it turns out we're pretty good at spotting that more outgoing kind of narcissism. Craig Malkin: When it comes to filling out the test for somebody, if you're with a partner or a friend and you're wondering about them and the vain preening, primping, loud version of narcissists, you're filling out of that questionnaire is going to bring- PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:25:04] Craig Malkin: Filling out of that questionnaire is kind of gonna bring you pretty close to an accurate picture. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah and let's talk a little bit about some of the more subtle versions that someone might kind of experience but not entirely be aware that that's what's going on. Craig Malkin: So important. Yeah, I often start conversations about narcissism and narcissist just as we did ... this is sort of the opening of Rethinking Narcissism, my book, I explain narcissism's not a diagnosis, we've talked about that. Neither is narcissist, the only diagnosis is Narcissistic Personality Disorder and when most of us think of narcissist or narcissism, we do tend to think of that vain, preening, primping, boastful, bragger. The problem is, it's really a caricature of a stereotype. The reality is that not all narcissists care about looks or fame or money and some can be extremely quiet. Craig Malkin: So, if you get too focused on those features or those traits, you missed signs of difficulty or trouble that have nothing to do with vanity or greed. So, very simply, if you think of narcissism as a drive to feel special, narcissists as people who are addicted to or dependent on it and the level of disorder they're severely addicted. Many ways to feel exceptionally unique compared to the other seven billion people on the planet. So, we've talked about the obvious, it's often called or overt, I prefer Extroverted Narcissism as the term, I think it's more precise. And they tend to agree with statements like, "I find it easy to manipulate others and I think I'm pretty special." Things along those lines. And they answer them in the extreme. Craig Malkin: So, these are people who might feel special because they accumulate lots of wealth or they accumulate fame. Again, they're really out there. But there's other kinds of ways of feeling special. Like you can feel like the most misunderstood person in the room. Introverted Narcissists don't particularly care about fame or money most of the time. They agree with statements like, "I feel I'm temperamentally different from most people. I have problems no one else seems to understand." Sometimes they think of themselves as an undiscovered genius. If people only knew me, they would see. And there's yet a third, I'm sure there's gonna be more as we continue to research called, Communal Narcissist. These are people who agree with statements like, "I'm the most helpful person I know and one day the world will know me for the good deeds I've done." So obviously, this is someone that doesn't care about vanity or greed. So, if you just think of it, this is really about becoming too reliant on feeling exceptionally unique compared to other people, you can now start to imagine it doesn't have to be for positive reasons. Craig Malkin: I mean, you can meet someone who feels like they're the ugliest person in the room and they're deeply invested in that and that's their way of feeling exceptionally unique. Neil Sattin: Yeah and this might be a good time to talk about something that's so important because lest we focus too much on the label or even why, like this desire to feel special, let's go maybe deeper to why would someone have this desire to feel special? Apart from the fact that we all have it and this is something that I've addressed on the show before but that's, I think, one of our universal needs. To feel loved, to feel special, to feel certainty, to feel ... it's just, it's in there, in the mix and yet, you talk about this and I think it's so important when we start the conversation about how you actually reach someone who might be up somewhere other than healthy on the narcissism spectrum, which is what's underlying that need to feel special and maybe that will help us find some compassion and connection for people who are struggling with this issue. Craig Malkin: Absolutely, I mean, I work with people in my practice, I have both with couples and individually worked with people who are so extreme in the trait that they do have Narcissistic Personality Disorder and even that, there's sort of a range of where you can feel some hope. We have to enter the conversation, first of all, by recognizing that before we even think about, "Can I reach this person?" You have to think about safety. That is not if it were the case that everybody who was narcissistic was abusive and dangerous to be around, we would have that as part of the diagnosis. It's not part of the diagnosis. Craig Malkin: The reason is that there are plenty of people who either are narcissistic or even have Narcissistic Personality Disorder who aren't abusive but I always like to refocus people's attention, if you're thinking about, "Can I reach this person?" You want to think about what I talk about is the three stop signs in rethinking narcissism first and that first is, abuse. Emotional and physical abuse. If you have a partner who calls you names, who puts you down, who relentlessly demeaning, dismissive, that's emotional abuse. If they are physically aggressive, it's not really crucial to figure out why they're abusive, people get distracted by that. People can become abusive because they have an addiction that's fueling it, they can be abusive because they have tension over some other problem like gambling and they can become abusive because they're extremely narcissistic. But if you see abuse, you want to address that. It's not on you as a partner to end abuse, it's on somebody who's being abusive. So if you see that, a reason I call it a stop sign is that until the abuse has ended, you can't be safe in the relationship trying to reach your partner in different ways or trying to make changes. This is such a part of my training as a therapist and a couples therapist that if we see, if we hear signs of abuse, I'll typically meet with a couple one on one so I can ask them about their safety in the relationship so, I can get a sense of just how safe they are. If you see signs of abuse, you really can't even work together as a couple until that's ended. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Craig Malkin: So you want to get help figuring out next steps. If you see denial, whether the problem is a partner who has a substance abuse problem, or gambling, or extreme narcissism, it can't change. It's not gonna change until that person is willing to at least say, "I think there's something wrong that I need to work on, I need to get some help." And the third stop sign is psychopathy, that's a pattern of remorseless lies and manipulation. Not all people who are extremely narcissistic are psychopathic but people who are psychopathic, actually, their neurology is different. They don't just have empathy blocks as we see, where that drive to feel special gets in the way of thinking about other people's needs and feelings when somebody is narcissistic. People who are psychopathic actually may not be able to experience empathy in the same way. So, if you see those three stop signs, you want to get help thinking about next steps. We were really talking about if you don't see those stop signs, if somebody's in the milder range where they might have Narcissistic Personality Disorder but none of those other signs, this is where you might be able to reach them. Neil Sattin: Yeah okay, and what are some of those ... what are things that you might notice where you'd think, "Oh okay, this isn't the extremely vain chest thumping narcissist or preening narcissist but this is one of the more subtle kinds." What are some of the warning signs that you might notice where you'd be like, "Oh, this could be what's going on with this person?" Craig Malkin: It's a great question because one of the reasons I wrote Rethinking Narcissism is to also direct people to more reliable signs of difficulty or even danger and when you think about extreme narcissism, even in the milder range say when it doesn't tip into disorder as an attempt to manage attachment insecurity. Once again, attachment insecurity is when you're feeling sad, scared, lonely, this is a person who for whatever reason has come to mistrust, not feel trust that they can turn to somebody for comfort or care in mutually supportive ways so, they see themselves of feeling special instead. As soon as somebody does that, I think of it as kind of doing an end run around healthy vulnerability. Craig Malkin: They loathe to be vulnerable in any way because that means you have to be open to being in somebody else's hands. That's part of what attachment security is about. So there are predictable ways of doing that. One of the most common that I see is what I call, playing emotional hot potato. You want to think of this like playing hot potato only with feelings of insecurity. An example I often use is I had a woman I saw whose husband would stand over her shoulder while she was applying for jobs and say, "Are you sure you want to do that one? Maybe that one's out of your reach or they're out of your league." So, he wasn't really sure what he was doing in his life, he felt in a really unsure place himself but rather than turn to her with that and look for some kind of soothing instead, he made himself feel like he was in the know by casting doubt on her certainty about herself and what she was doing. Craig Malkin: Think of that as I don't want to feel insecure, here you take those feelings so, the person says and does things to stir those up. That's a way of bypassing any of those feelings of vulnerability and doing it in a way that makes that in that case, the husband felt like, again, he was special, he had some special knowledge, he didn't even know about the job market she was looking at, that's how extreme it was. But you can see, that's not overt abuse but it does undermine somebody's confidence. So, that's one example that can come out very early on and it's not so severe that it's obvious like the other things people talk about. Neil Sattin: Yeah, that reminds me of a couple of the other warning signs that you mention because they surprised me, honestly, I was like, "Oh yeah, I've experienced that and I see how it could be what you're talking about." And those two that I'm thinking about, they seem a little connected. One is placing other people on a pedestal and then there's that like twinning phenomenon like, "We're exactly like each other and isn't that amazing?" Craig Malkin: Yeah, this is again, it cuts if you have to rely on feeling special, instead of depending on people for sense of feeling good about yourself or soothing, it means always bypassing those vulnerable experiences so, putting people on pedestals, again, I mention this study, it's worth going back to and rethinking narcissism, the study of 40,000 couples, where one or both partners viewed each other as better than they actually were, smarter, warmer, funnier and objective measures. It was just like, "No, you're about average or below." But the partner thought otherwise, that's putting people on a pedestal and it seems to be a part of normal love relationships and it actually keeps people together. But if it becomes so rigid that you feel like you're being cemented to a pedestal, like you can do no wrong, it's not okay for you to make mistakes, now that's a sign that this person is struggling with subtle or maybe even extreme narcissism because what they're doing is they're trying to avoid feeling vulnerable. If they've convinced themselves that you're so special like you're a God or an idol, you're perfect, perfect people don't disappoint. Craig Malkin: You can never let them down and if somebody is so narcissistically driven that they're afraid to be vulnerable, then if there's no disappointment, then there's no vulnerability and they can feel safe from that experience, they never have to fear feeling that at all. The problem is, of course, that it's not a real relationship, disappointment is part of relationships, working that through is part of a secure, loving relationship and working it through in healthy ways and inevitably, we get knocked off the pedestal, often in anger. Because it's not a sudden realization, "Oh my gosh, not just that you're not perfect," but it's this sense of that the anger is partially, "and I don't want to be around you because I might be vulnerable." Neil Sattin: Yeah. Craig Malkin: So, that's the pushing off the pedestal. And then why people engage in the twin fantasy where if somebody's narcissistic that you're close to, they focus on everything that's the same between the two of you, "Oh, we love the same movies, we love the same books," some of that is fun, again, some of it has roots in something normal where it's a special relationship to be a twin, one mind in two bodies. But you can see, if it becomes insistent, then it's about, again, bypassing doing an end run around an experience where, "Oh my gosh, you mean you don't see things the same as me?" Because that can be kind of a letdown, you're not on the same page. And that requires being open to feeling vulnerable about the fact that, "Oh my God, you mean this person isn't always gonna agree with me?" And being able to work that out instead of feeling like you never have to fear that the two of you are ever gonna disagree on anything. Neil Sattin: Right. Craig Malkin: So you never have to face it. Neil Sattin: Yeah what this reminds me of is, well, for one, I think you're right, that some of these things are part of healthy relating, particularly in the beginning stages when we've got that oxytocin and dopamine coursing through our veins with our new beloved and that to me, just suddenly I had this light bulb flash where I was like, "Oh, that's why people who have narcissistic qualities do get into relationships." I mean, it makes sense on the level of that's one great way to feel special but these two in particular, the pedestal and the twinning, that's something that actually does bring you together and being on the receiving end of that like knowing, "Wow, it feels great to be put on a pedestal for a little while," and it feels great to have someone being like, "Oh, we're so much alike," it kind of reinforces your own sense of specialness, right? Neil Sattin: So to me, that explains why narcissists actually do end up in relationships. But then what we know about relationship development and we actually just had Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson on the show talking about this is that you have to go through that place where you're no longer in symbiosis with your partner to get to the healthier horizon of having a good mix between being differentiated and being securely attached and so, that's where the problem, it sounds like, of narcissism really emerges because you're trying to do something natural in a relationship, which is to be different from each other and then the system that really needs those things that reinforce specialness can't take it. Craig Malkin: That's exactly right, that's exactly right. I forget where I read this years ago but this can all be summarized as no conflict, no closeness. Very early on in a relationship, it is normal to idealize each other, that honeymoon stage, yes, when the oxytocin is flowing and that it's fun and it's wonderful. These early warning signs can appear in ... we all engage in them sometimes and again, a certain amount of it is healthy and normal, it's when you see it rigidly and frequently and across the board that you have to start worrying and wondering how much can this person handle the normal experience of, "We are different people." And that means that I might not always see things the same way and can that be anything but catastrophic and dangerous? Can we still remain connected? That differentiation you're talking about. We're two separate people but we are securely attached and if there's this rigid insistence on always feeling special in the relationship or that twin ship effect where we're always the same, then you can never progress beyond that. And you never really learn is this person capable of negotiating needs and seeing me as a separate, complete, whole other person that they can still be close to? Neil Sattin: Right, right. And that reminds me of the warning sign you mentioned of someone trying to kind of control you. But it's not necessarily overt control, it's this stealthy, behind the scenes, because then you never have to meet each other in vulnerability to actually have a conversation about something as simple as where we're gonna go for dinner or something bigger like are we gonna move to Tanzania together? Craig Malkin: Exactly. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Craig Malkin: Yeah so, stealth control comes about. Again, you can see the common thread throughout these, if somebody's so narcissistic that they can't handle any feelings of vulnerability, sadness, feelings of rejection or disappointed, they're all normal and if they can't handle that, then it's gonna be very hard for them to directly ask for what they want to engage you in a conversation about, "I would like to do this." So the more narcissistic someone is, the more likely they are, sometimes in subtle ways, to go around that all together through what I call, stealth control, by arranging events to get their needs met. And the classic example I provide of this ... I think I even talk about this in Rethinking Narcissism is the ... I was working with somebody whose partner would come in at the last minute, say with concert tickets or something really fun and sweep them off their feet and they didn't really have time to plan and it was fun, of course, and exciting, you can just imagine the thrill of this surprise but anytime she wanted to go somewhere like check out a new restaurant or go to this movie, his answer was, "Well, I'm bored or I'm too tired or I'm bored with Chinese food," or whatever. There was always some reason not to do it. Craig Malkin: And she slowly realized that she was sort of orbiting his preferences organized around what he liked to do without his even asking. It's like a slow, subtle attrition of your will. It doesn't become a part of the conversation, they're just doing what this other person wants. Neil Sattin: Right and that, I think, almost brings us to the opposite end of that narcissism spectrum, right? Where the co-partner that's most appropriate for a narcissist is someone who more and more erodes who they are and what they want and that's kind of the only way it can work. And I'm putting work in quotes because it's obviously not really working. Craig Malkin: Absolutely. So yeah, the nice segue to one of the most important contributions that I worked on in Rethinking Narcissism that people find so helpful, especially people in relationships with somebody who's narcissistic is this idea of echoism. We talked about healthy narcissism. In Rethinking Narcissism, I introduce the term, echoism, you want to think of these as people who lack any self-enhancement, they rarely or never feel special, usually they've had experiences that lead them to fear that they might become a burden. Growing up, say they had a fragile parent who was depressed or rageful so, they worried about having too much of an impact or too much effect on that parent so, people who develop echoism agree with statements like, "I'm afraid of becoming a burden and I'm at a loss when people ask me what I want or what I need." And you can see, the reason I came up with this term is that in the original myth of Narcissus, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection due to a curse. Echo was a nymph who fell in love with Narcissus and she was cursed to have no voice of her own, she repeated the last few words that she heard, that was all she could do. Craig Malkin: And people who struggle with echoism, like Echo, tend to fall into relationships with extremely narcissistic friends and partners or at least they have trouble recognizing it and pulling themselves out because they're already afraid of seeming narcissistic in any way so, they become adept at echoing the needs and feelings of others so, it makes for yes, a match, not a happy one for either partner sometimes but people can get very stuck when they struggle with echoism and they wind up finding a partner who's more in the extreme range of narcissism. Neil Sattin: Right, yeah. I thought that was so beautiful how you brought that in and that is such an important part of the myth as is recognizing that echo just fades away to nothingness where that's all that's left is her voice and repeating and so, I really appreciate the dynamic there that you illustrate and also to me, I was like, "Oh right," and that is probably one reason why just thinking back to my friend, when she got out of that relationship, she felt this huge reclaiming. Neil Sattin: She felt this huge reclaiming of who she was that had been undermined, and I realize that I'm talking about a friend who's a woman, but there are narcissists who are women, too, and men who find themselves in this role. So it's not a gendered thing, right? Craig Malkin: No, it's not gender, and what's interesting is I think we might find a slight gender difference, just a note on the research on traits. We tend to think of men when we think of narcissism and extreme narcissism, in particular, and while men outnumber women in extreme range, they only slightly outnumber them. The rates aren't that high to begin with, and men outnumber women 2:1 when it comes narcissistic personality disorder. But when we're just talking about the subtle range, somebody who qualifies as above average in narcissism enough to be called a narcissist, there's only slightly more men than women. I think we'll find the same with echoism. Just because echoism is really about attuned to other's needs and feelings often at the expense of your own, in general, on average, women are more socialized, focused on relationships and caring, and others that what we found, and I think this speaks to your point, is we didn't find a gender difference in echoism, so far. Neil Sattin: Interesting. Craig Malkin: So it might be slight and we haven't picked it up yet. Neil Sattin: There are two important things that I want to make sure that we cover before we end. One of them is … The one that we're going to cover second is talking about what you do, because I think that's a really important part of your book and you go into it in detail. I love how you talk about being in relationship with narcissist, but also like how to do it in your family, how to cope and strategize at the workplace. So there's a huge scope in your book that we're not going to be able to get to here. We're going to focus on the relational component. But before we do that, I want to know, like, if you are listening to this and you're hearing all these words and you're like, "Holy mackerel, like that might be me. I might be kind of veering into the narcissistic end of the spectrum." For one thing, like I don't want you to feel horrible. I want to celebrate that you're hearing this and thinking like, "Oh my God, that could be me." It's probably worth taking that test that Craig was mentioning earlier. But, Craig, what could you offer someone who's sitting here, listening to us and thinking, "Wow, that actually might be me. I might be doing that in my relationships. What do I do?" Craig Malkin: I can offer hope to people who are listening and identify with the experience of extreme narcissism, because as long as you have that awareness, I mean a big part for me of change and growths and healing is really compassionate self-awareness. I really try to help people get to that pace. If you're, at least, aware, "Okay, this might be me," we already know from the research that what keeps people, as I said earlier, tethered to the center, that is where they might have just moderate self-enhancement is secure attachment. We know from the research that extremely narcissistic people aren't securely attached. Craig Malkin: So to the extent that you can start to become comfortable with normal vulnerable feelings owning them in yourself when you're sad, scared, lonely, testing out in relationships, sharing those feelings directly and trusting that people actually care even if you don't nail it at work, even if you don't make tons of money, even if you're not an undiscovered genius, that people still care about what you're feeling. So working with therapists who are trained, I think what we're learning is based on … I'm going to throw a fancy phrase out … communal activation. It's an area of research that shows that, especially in this subtle range, or the milder range of narcissism, that people who struggle in that way, they're not missing empathy, it's blocked. It's blocked by this drive to feel special. Craig Malkin: There are therapies, I practice these forms, that are rooted in attachment research, again, helping people relate in ways when they are feeling vulnerable, that they can trust they can depend on others. Therapies like schema therapy, accelerated experiential dynamic therapy or AEDP, EFT for couples, Dr. Sue Johnson's model. All of these therapies are helping people learn how to relate in securely attached ways. If you can do that, you're not going to rely on feeling special. You're not going to tip into the extreme because to the extent that you can truly depend on people on healthy emotionally mutual ways, you won't be addicted to feeling special. Neil Sattin: Yeah. This reminds me a lot about Alex Katehakis' work. She was on the show back in Episode 116, and she was talking about how the pathways of addiction get created and she describes how, when you're young and your attachment bonds aren't necessarily being fostered the way they ought to, how it becomes really easy to find shortcuts to feeling better rather than what you learn in a securely attached environment, which is that, "Oh, if I get connected to someone and feel safe and vulnerable and open, that's another way." It's a more sophisticated way of feeling better. It's not quite the easy pathway that then can get hooked into any kind of addictive behavior, where you get quick rushes of dopamine to the system and that helps you deal with your discomfort. Neil Sattin: So, I'm thinking about that, and, yeah, how powerful it is that while relationships can bring out the dysfunction, there's so much potential in relationship if you have that awareness to lean in and either create or reinforce that other pathway of how you deal with your discomfort and your disregulation by regulating with each other. Craig Malkin: That's absolutely right, co-regulation, regulating with each other. We heal and experience deep healing in relationships when we experience the person that we're with in a way that we maybe didn't experience growing up as someone that we're safe in their hands and they experience us in the same way. That changes us. This is what we're learning from this research, and yes, when people have had an experience where they don't have that basic sense of trust where they're insecurely attached, they turn to all kinds of substitutes. Drugs are one; gambling, pornography, and an addictive drive to feel special, self-soothing in that way. Craig Malkin: Again, I want to come back to this, this is a central idea when we're thinking narcissism. Speaking to anybody who's listening who thinks they're struggling with extreme narcissism or somebody who has a partner when they're not seeing those three stop signs, that learning how to relate in a securely attached way is the answer to the extent that you can rely on people, love and depend on them, you will not rely on feeling special. What we're doing is replacing feeling special for the world or for others with feeling special to a partner or even a group of people, if it's a religious group that you're a part of, where you feel special in their eyes. Neil Sattin: Got it, yeah, because that kind of connection actually reinforces an intimacy, reinforces a specialness that's not quite so fragile. Craig Malkin: That's exactly right. It's more lasting. Those addictive replacements are addictive because they're controllable. One of the reasons people turn to say alcohol or other drugs or narcissism to soothe themselves if precisely because unlike people, you can buy and sell money. With narcissism, to some extent, you can control your looks by dressing really nicely and making yourself up as best you can. Even the research, it turns out that people who pride themselves on their looks narcissistically, they engage in something called effective adornment; that is, they're really good at putting selves together but it turns out they're no more attractive than the average person when they're not allowed to do that. So these are controllable ways of feeling special. Neil Sattin: Now, let's just … I love the hope here because that's, I think, one of the unfortunate things about earlier approaches to narcissism is by lumping everyone together. I think it didn't give people a lot of hope that someone could change or that a situation like that where you've involved in with someone who has narcissistic tendencies, that there's any hope for change. Neil Sattin: So let's assume that we're not seeing those stop signs that you mentioned of abuse, denial, psychopathy, and what might I do if I'm saying, "Okay, this is my partner. I want to know that I have given it my all before I leave because I don't see being with the narcissist forever, like that doesn't sound my idea of happiness, but I'm inspired by Craig Malkin's view that there is hope here and change is possible. So what could I do to help try to bring my narcissist back into the healthy zone? Craig Malkin: Such an important question. Yeah, I know, there is hope. Anybody who wants to change can change and I firmly believe that if they're willing to do the work. We can invite people to a healthier range where they can meet us in mutually, satisfying, caring ways. I go over all of the research and rethinking narcissism, I mentioned earlier communal activation. I think of this as lighting up areas of the brain devoted to relationships and caring and connection that we're born with this. Human beings are social creatures. It's part of how we survive. This is the attached- Neil Sattin: Right, I even talked about how, when you're using the pronouns like "we" and "us," that that is activating those parts of the brain. Craig Malkin: Yeah. There's over a dozen, I mentioned in my book, but there's even more now, just simple things like using communal language: we, our, us; flashing images of a mother holding an infant; of a teacher helping a student; of asking somebody who test as narcissistic, who actually scores on a test as a narcissist or maybe not disorder, maybe they are, but they're in the extreme enough that they test high and you can ask them to put themselves in the shoes of an abuse survivor that they're watching, for example, in a video and it's called empathic induction. They'll actually show a reduction in our narcissistic traits. It is like it's reactivating the attachment system. Craig Malkin: Again, we are social creatures. We're meant to survive by being with people so we have this … Attachment system is part of our evolutionary survival. It's early experiences that interfere with its full expression. So if somebody is in the subtle range, I wanted to offer very simple ways of tapping into that communal activation, lighting up that area of the brain by inviting secure attachment experience. So I describe what I call empathy prompts. This is what you can try. Craig Malkin: There are two parts to an empathy prompt. The first part, part one, is to voice the importance of the relationship. This is where you're reminding the person that they're special to you. In some way, shape or form, this is attachment language. Then you voice your vulnerable feelings. We tend, when we're feeling disconnected in relationships, sometimes we go to anger. Sometimes we shut down and move away, instead of saying what we're feeling underneath, which is "I'm sad and I'm lonely. I'm afraid. I'm worried," whatever it is. That's the vulnerable piece. An example would be I would often coach a client to say something like, "You are my husband and my best friend, and you'll always be important to me. That's why I feel so sad when you give me the silent treatment. It's like I am losing the person that I love the most." Craig Malkin: So that would be an empathy prompt. You're reminding the person of their special relationship with you and the place that you hold in each other's lives, and then you're sharing the impact that they're having on you. Most people, if they're capable of empathy, they'll melt when they hear statements like this. It really is an invitation to hear what you're feeling on the inside. Another example, I'll go back to the husband who's looking over the woman's shoulder, commenting, "Oh, isn't that out of your league?" or when she's applying for jobs, I might help her say something like, "Your opinion means the world to me. You're my husband. I look up to you. When you suggest I only apply to easy jobs, I'm afraid you don't think that much of me, like I'm not that important in your eyes." Craig Malkin: So these are examples of empathy prompts. If you do not see shifts with these, I even say in the book, like within the three weeks, don't hold out a whole lot of hope because then you might be dealing with a more extreme situation. Certainly, don't hold out hope if you don't seek out a couple's therapy where people would help changing the nature of the relationship between the two of you to a more securely attached one. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so you're looking for that melting or that person like actually having some understanding and maybe even taking some responsibility for how their actions have affected you. Craig Malkin: Absolutely. You want to hear things like affirming statements like, "I love you, too, and I don't you to feel sad" or "How long have you felt sad like this?" or "I'm sorry. I never want you to feel like a failure," apologizing even, right? Validating, "I know my sarcasm hurts you," and you want to look for signs that this person is not shifting. You're doing your part. This is as much as anybody. I'm not ever going to ask somebody to be like a therapist to their partner. These are ways that we should talk to our partners anyway, based on the research. Craig Malkin: So I want to make that point. I often say, if it doesn't work with somebody who's not narcissistic, it's not going to work with someone who's narcissistic. These are things that are just known to help invite a more securely attached way of relating. If you get responses like, "Why are you saying this to me?" defensive, attacking, or "I get busy, that's all. What's the problem?" or "What about what I've been going through?" sort of hijacking the conversation. Or worse, blaming you: "You're just too sensitive." Those are really, really bad signs because if you lead with how important that person is to you and follow-up with, "That's why I feel sad" or "That's why I feel afraid," you should see signs of empathy. Neil Sattin: Got it, yeah. Is there any way to tell someone, "I think you might be kind of a narcissist," in a way that's ever generative or helpful in a relationship? Craig Malkin: I don't recommend it because, for the same reason I approached both individual in couple's therapy where the focus should be on what your experience is and sharing that with the person that you're trying to remain close to. If you're describing their behavior, if you're labeling them, again, if it doesn't work with somebody who's not narcissistic, it's not going to work with somebody who is. So as soon as you say here is what's wrong with you, even if you try to do it in the most loving way, it immediately puts people on the defensive. They're far less likely to be open to hearing what you have to say. It's better to simply share that when they criticize you or raise their voice or question your choices, that it leaves you feeling like they don't … leaves me feeling like you don't think much of me. You want to talk about the impact it has on you, the specific behaviors. Let's leave the diagnosis and the labeling to whoever they go to for help. Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and if you find yourself going to therapy, it sounds like that'd be a great idea to get help and support in a situation like this. If your therapist is open to influence and they haven't already read Craig's book, Rethinking Narcissism, you might want to just kind of surreptitiously pass it off to them so they have a chance to read it. Craig Malkin: I have clients who have come to me because their partner gave them my book. Over the years, I probably had, in the last couple of years, I've probably had, at least, five, I would say, come to me because their partners said, "I think you should read this book," and then they come see me. Neil Sattin: Wow. Well, that must be profound to see that your book is having that kind of impact as well where people are willing to come forward like that. Craig Malkin: Yeah. I feel honored and grateful that it's having that kind of impact and I find it very moving when somebody calls me up on the phone, and that's happened too, and says, "I read your book. I felt like I'm lost through all my life and I've left some wreckage in my relationships, but I really want to change this and your book gave me hope." I get calls like that, too. Neil Sattin: Yeah, awesome. Well, I do want to mention that you brought up Sue Johnson as someone whose couples work you recommend to help people build attachment in a secure attached relationship. She's been on the show a couple of times, so you can listen to Sue Johnson in Episode 27 and in Episode 82. Actually, she was also on an Episode 100, but those two that I just mentioned are probably the most relevant for this conversation that we've been having today. Neil Sattin: Meanwhile, Craig, I'm so appreciative of your time and the vast wisdom that you have on this particular topic. I know that I feel hopeful, not only from having read your book, but also being able to hear it from you as well, that this is something that we can shift in our world, that it doesn't have to be an epidemic; that it can be something that ultimately helps us find more pathways to connection and feeling special in sustainable ways, because there's nothing wrong, I think, with feeling special. It's just doing it in a way that actually brings us closer. Craig Malkin: That's exactly right. No, I'm so glad. I'm glad I can offer some hope, and that is truly the way I see it. Really, the image I want to leave everybody with is think of attachment security as a tether and it keeps us rooted in a healthy place while they were trying to make sure we don't become too tipped into narcissism or too tipped into echoism. So, yeah, no, I don't believe for all kinds of reasons that we're in danger of being taken over by some narcissism epidemic. I am encouraged by the efforts I see to educate people about emotions, about attachment, about managing and recognizing emotions. As soon as you do that, you are already moving into an area where you're not going to tip into either of these extremes. Neil Sattin: Great. Well, if you are looking to find out more information about Craig Malkin, you can visit DrCraigMalkin.com, it's D-R-CraigMalkin.com. Definitely pick up his book, Rethinking Narcissism, and we will, of course, have links to all those things and to the narcissism test in the transcript, which you can get, again, if you visit NeilSattin.com/narcissism, I think, is what I said. Or, you can just text the word "Passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Craig Malkin, thank you so much for being here with us today. Craig Malkin: Thank you so much for having me, Neil. It's been a lot of fun.   

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#5

134: Snooping, Secrets, and Rebuilding Trust - What to Do - with Neil Sattin

March 20, 2018 • 50m

Is it ever a good idea to snoop? Do you suspect that your partner is keeping secrets from you? Or are you being "snooped upon" and wondering what to do about it? How do you rebuild trust? In today's episode, we're going to dive deep on the topic of snooping, and secrets, in your relationship. What do you do if you feel like snooping is the only way to get information about what's going on with your partner? How do you rebuild openness and honesty in your relationship? I'll answer all of those questions as we continue the conversation about how to promote "the truth" in your relationship. And why would you want to promote the truth? Because it creates energy, and passion, and connection - even when the truth is complicated. The truth might not be easy, but it is better than what happens when you live in an atmosphere of lies in your relationship. There have been a couple other episodes that have focused on this topic so far. If you want to get more information, you can listen to: Episode 24: Why We Lie and How to Get Back to the Truth - with Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson Episode 107: A Little Honesty Goes a Long Way - with Neil Sattin Sponsors Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by YogaGlo. YogaGlo offers amazing online yoga and meditation classes, at all levels, wherever you are, at whatever time is convenient for you. Along with being incredibly affordable (each month costs less than a single yoga class), they are offering you two weeks free just for signing up and checking them out. Visit yogaglo.com/alive for two free weeks! Resources Join the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook FREE Guide to Neil's Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets (or text "RELATE" to 33444) Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Support the podcast (or text "SUPPORT" to 33444) Amazing intro and outtro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

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#7

17: Stop Worrying, Start Playing - The Art of Improvisation with Patti Stiles

December 15, 2015 • 73m

I wanted to put together something a little different for you today. You probably don’t know (yet) that I spent some time learning the art of physical comedy - you might call it “clown school” - at the Celebration Barn, here in South Paris, Maine. Looking back on the 15 years since then, it’s remarkable how many things I learned, about being present, about being a “yes,” and about rolling with whatever happens - that actually apply in real life. I mean, it only makes sense, right - otherwise why would theater and comedy, good theater and comedy, be so compelling? In the words of Will Shakespeare: All the world’s a stage - and today’s guest is going to help you see how to use that to your advantage in life, and in your relationship! First let me ask you - what do you do to keep things playful with your partner? Are you inadvertently sabotaging the flow of good feelings, good energy, and goodwill in the way that you interact with each other? Is it possible that your fear of making mistakes is getting in the way of being fully there, in the moment? Today’s guest is going to talk about how to get over whatever fear is there so that you and your partner can keep building and growing in your connection. Our guest’s name is Patti Stiles, and she is one of the world’s foremost experts on the art of improvisational theater. She studied directly with Keith Johnstone, author of the book "Impro", at the Loose Moose Theater, and has been working professionally acting, teaching, directing all over the world - since 1983. In today’s conversation, we’re going to talk about how to foster trust, acceptance, and playfulness in your relationship - so that once you see your life as a great work of improvisation - you’ll be able to do it...better! Patti discusses the following topics: What is good improvisation? Does bad improvisation exist? Funny improv vs. reflective improv Improvisation and real-life overlap in many areas Realize it’s ok to make mistakes-this reduces fear and anxiety It’s a challenge to help people overcome the fear of failure Our partners are always making bids for our attention. Being a “Yes,” being neutral, blocking—what do they look like? What if you don’t want to be a YES? Teaching improvisation is teaching to be present. “Make your partner look good.” The dilemma for a teacher/performer when students are glued to their cell phones We don’t value the present moment in society today. How you are isn’t equal to what you’re doing. Sometimes doing something playful and joyous can bring the person back to the present. Being creative can help overcome the boring routine. Couples who are “stuck” usually think they themselves are boring. When a relationship becomes “all about me,” then the focus is no longer on the story or the present. There are exercises you can do to help your partner look good, like “Yes, let’s!” Learn to use the “Happy Nope.” Contribute value to your partner’s world by inspiring their joy. Is there a playful way to interrupt a partner’s assumption about me? Improvisation seeks to bring people into places of trust, acceptance, and play. How to use the negative/positive list Resources: www.pattistiles.com   www.neilsattin.com/improv  Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

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210: How to Escape the Drama Triangle - with Stephen Karpman

November 15, 2019 • 87m

Ever feel like there’s a little too much drama in your life? Well, if that’s the case, then you probably have been caught in the Drama Triangle. If you’ve never heard of the Drama Triangle then be prepared - you’re going to start seeing it EVERYWHERE. Today you’ll learn how to spot it - and even better, how to escape it. Our guest is Dr. Stephen Karpman, the creator of the Drama Triangle, and author of the recent book “A Game-Free Life: The Definitive Book on the Drama Triangle and the Compassion Triangle” - which explains how to spot the sources of drama and dysfunction - and what to do to break the cycle. Along the way, you’ll also get clear tips on improved communication, how to deepen intimacy, and what agreements are essential to maintain in any relationship. As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Sponsors: Songfinch.com helps you create an original song as a unique gift for any special occasion. You tell them what the occasion is, what emotions you want your song to evoke, what type of song you want, and give them a little bit of your story - and they bring your story to life with a radio-quality song that captures it all. Songfinch is offering you $25 off a personalized “Song from Scratch” if you use the coupon code ALIVE25 at checkout. Our second sponsor today is Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet and now, with Audible Originals, the selection has gotten even better with custom content made for members. As a special offer, Audible wants to give you a free 30-day trial - which includes 1 free audiobook and 2 free Audible originals. Go to Audible.com/relationship or text RELATIONSHIP to 500500 to get started. Resources: Visit Dr. Stephen Karpman’s website for resources to help you conquer the Drama Triangle and live a game-free life. Read Stephen Karpman’s book, “A Game-Free Life” for details on the Drama Triangle, the Compassion Triangle, and more! FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Your Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit www.neilsattin.com/triangle2 to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Stephen Karpman. Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out Transcript: Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Sometimes life can be really dramatic. There can be highs and lows, you can feel like you're the victim with people just out to get you. You can feel like you're doing your best to show up for the people in your life, and they don't appreciate you. In fact, they see you as some kind of enemy and in the end, all of this drama plays out in ways that keep us from being truly connected with the people around us, and these could just be our acquaintances or our colleagues and co-workers, or it could be the people in our lives with whom we're most deeply connected: Our children, our partners, ourselves. Neil Sattin: So I was actually going through a situation about a year and a half ago, and really struggling. And in reaching out to one of my friends about it. She said, "You know, this sounds like a classic Drama Triangle," and I had never heard of a Drama Triangle before, so I was like, "I'm going to have to check that out." I looked it up and there were lots and lots of references online describing what the drama triangle was, and sure enough it felt like that was what was going on in my life, but it didn't necessarily help me figure out how to solve the drama triangle. Neil Sattin: And that's where today's conversation comes in. We have with us an esteemed guest, Dr. Stephen Karpman, who is the person who created the drama triangle, and whose work has evolved past the drama triangle in ways that help us see how to escape from these games that we play with each other, in ways that actually build intimacy and closeness with the people in our lives, or if we're not looking for intimacy, at least they keep us from being caught in a repetitive loop. So Dr. Karpman is the author of the recent book, "A Game Free Life," the definitive book on the drama triangle and compassion triangle and along with many, many other books and papers, and we will talk about that more over the course of today's conversation. If you are looking to download a transcript of today's show, you can visit neilsattin.com/triangle, as in the drama triangle, or as always you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. So let's dive in today, Dr. Stephen Karpman, thank you so much for joining us here today on Relationship Alive. Stephen Karpman: Thank you, Neil, for asking me, and I'll do what I can to help people with their lives. Neil Sattin: Great. That's the best we can hope for today. And I just want to note that I'm really excited to be talking to you. What people listening don't necessarily know is that you and I have actually been in dialogue for almost this whole past year and a half, maybe even more. So, it's exciting that we finally made it all work. You're very busy in presenting and getting your books together and I'm glad that we're finally here today to talk. Stephen Karpman: Okay. Neil Sattin: So Steve, Stephen, let's just start... It's probable that a lot of people listening do know what the drama triangle is, at least on some level, but for those who don't, or for those who haven't really thought about it for a while, let's talk about it and enumerate each of the roles in the drama triangle, and then talk about what actually creates the drama. So, can we start there? Stephen Karpman: Sure. The drama triangle is something I created many years ago. Primarily, originally, I was working on a strategy in football and basketball, and I'd do this three-corner triangle of different roles, and then it turned out to be applicable to theater, like there would be a villain, and a hero, and a victim. But eventually, the way I originally drew it is the way that took off, which is a triangle with the point down, which is the victim in a one down position. And the two people in the power position, in the upper left corner had the persecutor role, which is a person who's always blaming, always putting the victim down. And then the other corner on the upper-right is the rescuer position. That person is always helping, and always trying to save and trying to fix the victim who somehow never seems to get fixed and it's a very frustrating for the rescuer. Neil Sattin: So when you're in a challenging situation, at a minimum it can help to step back and say, "Okay, which of these roles am I playing? And which role is the other person or persons playing in this situation?" Stephen Karpman: Sure. Now, there's the difference between a game playing role and in real life. For instance, the persecutor might be an aggressor in real life, and just being an aggressive person who might be critical at times, but it goes into the triangle when they have... They're linked in with someone in a non-ending game. So the persecutor is always blaming, always criticizing the victim. The victim can never do anything right, but the persecutor always has to be right because they don't want themselves to feel like a victim inside, so they always have to win. Stephen Karpman: Now the rescuer had to come in and save the victim from the persecutor, then more than likely the rescuer is a good-hearted person initially, and it's okay to be a rescuer in life, very good actually. But it becomes a drama triangle, when they're involved in an unending game with the victim who's always helpless, always wrong, never can do anything right, and they deplete themselves in their own... Drain themselves in their own light, devoting their lives to saving the victim and meanwhile neglecting their own life. Stephen Karpman: And then the victim is a person who may be from their past, they see themselves as inadequate or insufficient and somehow get into the role of asking for help from people. But eventually, which is okay, but eventually, if they get into a game, then they play the role of a victim. They're not actually the victim, they're playing the role of a victim, which is very manipulative and playing all sorts of games to keep the rescuer helping them and to keep the persecutor criticizing them. So then, you have the drama triangle, that's the drama. When people get into dysfunctional roles and dysfunctional relationships, they get into the triangle. Sometimes they switch around different roles, like the rescuer might suddenly become the persecutor, or the victim might get even with the rescuer by becoming a persecutor, so then it gets complicated, and you get into a game that's... People... That can go on for years, and people can't solve it or get out of it. Neil Sattin: So how do I know if I'm in a game or not? Stephen Karpman: Well, it depends on the role, but primarily it's very frustrating. You're involved with someone else, that's when you're in the triangle, and it's very frustrating because you feel drawn in, particularly the victim will draw a person in. It's like quicksand, you get drawn deeper and deeper, and try harder and harder to fix the person to get them to think, to get them to realize things. The rescuer might say, "I've gotta get you to realize things." And the persecutor might say, "You're dumb because you don't understand anything," so it's one of... The relationship gets stressful, it gets exasperating or gets depleting of energy and primarily nothing ever gets fixed, nothing gets clear, nothing is understood and it just seems to stay that way, on and on. Neil Sattin: So if a situation isn't evolving and it feels dysfunctional, then the odds are you're trapped in some sort of game? Stephen Karpman: And you may not know that you're trapped, you just... You keep wanting to try hard, it's one of the drivers. You try hard to fix things or to be perfect in your answers or be perfect in your feelings so maybe the victim will change, and the person could make the criticism even stronger and stronger, thinking that will teach the victim a lesson, and by... With their strength, they will protect themselves from ever being criticized. So it's primarily... It's a relationship and other people may notice at first and you may not notice it yourself for months and years, and you don't want to leave the other person but you don't know how to make the situation better or to get it livable. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and why do you think that it's not enough? 'Cause this was my experience when this particular situation, and I can't get into the details just out of respect of other people's privacy, but I saw it happening and I was like, "Oh this is very clearly what is going on." And yet, just recognizing that, that I was playing a rescuer role, this other person was playing the persecutor role, and then someone else is playing the victim role, just recognizing that wasn't enough to actually change the dynamic. And I'm wondering if you can give us a sense of why that might be so, that it's not enough to just recognize that this is what's happening. Stephen Karpman: Well, primarily, most of the people that write about the triangle talk about empowering. One needs to feel empowered, that they are successful and if they don't feel that they're successful, that nothing they're doing is working, at that point, they may step back and say, "Well, perhaps I need to change something and it starts by knowing what the roles are in the drama triangle, that there's a persecutor, rescuer, and victim role, and people do get trapped in it and get frustrated. And once they know the roles, then they need to get in touch with their feelings and why they're in that role and what's their pay-off. Stephen Karpman: They're involved with people that they can't control. You can't control the persecutor or the rescuer, or the victim. You can't control yourself. So, at that point, you decide that you will control yourself and decide what to do about the game. Of course, you'll try to discuss it first or you may get into counseling about it, but at some point, you need to decide that the triangle isn't working for you and you move on if you can't make it work better for you or if you can't tolerate it. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think one thing that might be challenging is probably most people arrive at thinking about the drama triangle by feeling like they're a victim to someone who's persecuting them and... That would be my guess. 'Cause that's the place where you feel like you're being stuck in a situation of powerlessness, and so it seems like it might be challenging to go to someone that you're perceiving as your persecutor, and say, "Hey, I think... I was doing some reading online and I think that we're stuck in this drama triangle thing, and I'm pretty sure you're stuck in the role of the persecutor and I'm the victim," I don't see that going very well. Stephen Karpman: Yeah, the persecutor would then tell you that you're wrong, and that you're reading all the wrong information and your friends are telling you the wrong things and you got to shape up. The persecutor often is a narcissist or a bully, and they just like bullying people, they just like telling people what to do. And they can get along in life that way, but in the drama triangle, there's actually a link between all the roles and they're actually trapped in that role and they may persecute the rescuer, telling the rescuer that they don't know what in the world they're doing, and they're not going to stop because this is their power position. So how to get the persecutor to back off would be challenging and maybe some insight might get through or it won't get through and then you would face other decisions, whether you need to move on. Neil Sattin: Right, so there is that element, as always, of someone being discerning and trying to figure out like, "Is this person that I'm perceiving to be a persecutor, are they adaptable, are they flexible, are they willing to work with me to show up or not?" Stephen Karpman: Well, also you need to take into account the role of the victim. Are you feeding the persecutor what they need? Are you trying to, as they say, "sail a pizza past the wolf"? The persecutor may not pick up on things because your way of telling the persecutor may be either accusatory which would get the persecutor to fight back or maybe so sympathetic and so helpless that the persecutor would see it as a weakness, so the victim would need to look at their role, whether they're really playing a role that makes themselves irresistible to the persecutor, and then the victim would need to look at whether they need to empower themselves, so they come across as more effective and more worthy of respect and get listened to. Neil Sattin: Yeah and maybe this would be a good time to also talk about what you alluded to a few moments ago, which is that, people often are playing more than one role and can switch back and forth. Or they can perceive themselves as one role while the other person is perceiving them differently, and the example that pops into my mind immediately of that is, you talk about the political system, the political parties in our country, where the classic, maybe Republican postures that they see themselves as the rescuer of the taxpayer, and the Democrat might see themselves as the rescuer of the common person, and both of them perceive the other as a persecutor. And that they're being victimized in some way by them. Stephen Karpman: Well, that becomes a turnoff to the voter when they realize that politics has become a game of accusing people, lying, accusing people of things, switching around and only taking one position and not knowing what's going on on the other side of the aisle. So a person gets out of the political game by respecting both sides, to see that each side has a following and they have a point of view. Now the other question about the switching of roles is very real. The persecutor may decide that they want to win the game and if they're being accused of being a persecutor, they may switch. They may switch over to be a rescuer and say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, I really care about you. And I didn't mean that... " Stephen Karpman: That could all be a game, it could all be a manipulation. Or they could be... Play the role of the victim in order to win the game and keep things confusing and keep things involved. So they could play the victim of... They never can be understood, they're really trying to help the person with the criticism and they're being misunderstood. So you can wind up switching around the triangle in order to win. In order to not get pegged into one of the roles, you switch around so that you can win. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and what is winning exactly? Stephen Karpman: Well, winning is the excitement, the excitement of the drama of staying involved in some argumentative relationship wherein some problems, problematic relationship, which is very involving, it's... They're standing for negative strokes instead of positive strokes, but some people think negative strokes are just as good or even better, or they don't even know why they're involved, but they are involved and sometimes they don't realize how involved they were until the game somehow ends which could be traumatic sometimes or mind blowing. It could free them, they can all of a sudden feel free. The rescuer would say, "I'd rather be smarter than martyred." Stephen Karpman: They don't want to be a martyr anymore, they want to be smart that they're out of the game and they're free again, and so the victim might say, "I'd rather be mad than sad instead of complaining all the time." They'd get angry at the whole game, saying, "Why am in this game? Why am I playing this silly role of a victim all my life? I can get things for myself." And then they can empower themselves, which is a big part of the drama triangle and getting out as people learn to empower themselves and realize they can't change others but they can change themselves and get what they want in life. Neil Sattin: And where does this all... How did you come up with the compassion triangle as the antidote to the drama triangle? Stephen Karpman: Well, in transactional analysis which started with Eric Berne's "Games People Play," which was a runaway bestseller years ago, 120 weeks in a row on New York Times best seller list, and I trained with Eric Berne, and one of the principles in transactional analysis is that there's three ego states. People can either play the role: The parent, adult, or a child; or be those people to others. And the thing is that the roles can be played positive and negative, like the critical parent role can be played in a negative way, which is always criticizing, but in the positive way, which is a strong leader with decisive... With rules and people follow them, and society is stronger because of the rules. Stephen Karpman: So using that idea from Eric Berne that all these ideas can be seen in a positive or a negative way, I started looking at each of the roles in the drama triangle, can be either positive or negative. So, for instance, the persecutor is very negative 'cause they keep the victim feeling terrible about themselves, but if you get out of the triangle, it can be positive, you can be an aggressive, self-empowering person, who's determined to channel your energies into life and to being purposeful and productive. Stephen Karpman: And the rescuer, ordinarily, is a person who gets walked on all the time, people take advantage of the rescuer. They're always helping, and giving people another chance and then another chance and then a third chance, and... But they can switch that negative rescuing to positive rescuing. They can love themselves and they can actually help themselves and help others. And the victim, instead of being the negative role of always needy, always helpless, never, never learning anything that they need to learn, then they can switch that into the vulnerable role, that they're actually open to helping themselves and hearing other people and changing themselves. So all three roles can be either way. But one day, I developed what I called the compassion triangle, which I could go into more if you want to. Neil Sattin: Yeah, let's do that. Stephen Karpman: Okay. The compassion triangle is, I put that altogether and realize that people are actually in all three roles at once. There's a primary role that everyone sees, but then there's two hidden roles. So, using an example of a boss picking on the secretary would be seen as the persecutor, and people wouldn't like the boss, but secretly, if you want another way of looking at the boss or helping the boss, the boss is also a rescuer. The boss is rescuing the secretary who can't do it right, who can't learn fast enough, so by criticizing the secretary or being a helicopter mom to the secretary, they're really trying to impart information that would help the person. And in a way, they're also helping their own job, because if people don't get their job done, then the boss could get fired. So the boss would also be a victim and say, "Oh my gosh, I'm running ship that's going aground and people aren't doing their job right." So then, it's all three roles at once. Stephen Karpman: And originally, that actually goes back to evolutionary days in which there's, which I called the drama triangle, which is another subject but that's... In evolutionary days, you have to trigger all three roles at once, immediately, in order to save the offspring to go on to another generation. So I've digressed at that into a situation I saw on TV on a Discovery Channel. Neil Sattin: Okay. Stephen Karpman: Where a tiger was approaching a baby elephant and the bigger elephants circled the baby. So the way they're a rescuer, they were rescuing the baby. They were also persecutor 'cause they could chase off of the tiger, and then they're also victim because they saw their own family being threatened, and with empathy, they could feel the threat to the baby elephant. So all three had to be triggered and going through different situations in evolution, all three of those actually started out of instincts. So in a stress situation, all three of those are fired off at once. Neil Sattin: Interesting and why... So why did you end up calling this the compassion triangle? Stephen Karpman: Well, compassion triangle was... I picked that name, somewhat for its appeal, but also because it helps you have compassion for each person. So instead of saying the persecutor is evil and critical and narcissistic, you'd have compassion for the person also being a rescuer and a victim in what they were doing. And same, you'd have compassion for the rescuer, it could be criticized and say, "Oh you're a rescuer. Maybe a therapist is letting their patient call in the middle hours of the night or something, and not paying their bills. They could say, instead of being critical a person who's a rescuer, you could see them as also a persecutor which is keeping someone in the dependent position, and they're also a victim, 'cause they don't know how to get out of the situation because they get so many strokes and purpose out of rescuing people. Stephen Karpman: And the victim, instead of seeing them as, "Oh, you're a victim, you're playing a manipulation game, you're a professional victim," you could see them as also a persecutor that they're keeping other people involved in their game, and they're also a rescuer. They're giving other people what they want, they're giving other people a victim to pick on, so they don't need to look at their own lives. So, It goes on from there. In my book, A Game-Free Life, the first half of the book deals with all the different drama triangles in different situations like the identified patient and all sorts of situations. And the second half of the book is all about open intimate communication and listening and accountability and how to get out of the games. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and so I think that the danger is to start to get confused like, "Alright, well, if the persecutor is also the victim and also the rescuer, then how do those distinctions even matter?" And I think what you're saying is that, thinking about it this way is a good way to stretch you outside of the boundaries of the game thinking, where you're stuck in a particular role or where the other person is stuck in a particular role to develop a little bit more flexibility in how you're thinking about it. Stephen Karpman: Yeah, the word compassion could get people drawn into forgiving other people for their game playing, like forgiving a persecutor, not actually realizing what they're actually doing with all their criticism. So you don't want to get soft, you need to know the games and you need to know the roles and you don't want to first get into forgiving everybody, because that will be a rescue and will keep you the game, but the compassion triangle is used mostly to understand why the games are played. If you want to do that, the most people just deal with the drama triangle with the roles. I'm in this role, that role. And sometimes they get into the switches, which is what the triangle role change was, the drama of changing roles and getting other people to line up as persecutors, rescuers and victims and getting lots of other people involved. Stephen Karpman: So that's the drama and the switching. But if you want to understand the reasons why a person gets into the game, the compassion gives you three ways of talking to that person, like that boss, you could say, "I know you're trying to rescue a person help them by the criticism, but maybe it's not working." And also the boss saying, telling the boss how they're a victim, you know, you could be victimized, you could get fired, if these people don't learn their job or... Stephen Karpman: So, it's when you want to get into understanding the roles is when you use a compassion triangle, and usually, if you go on the internet to the different blogs and the other books written about the Drama Triangle, they mostly just describe the roles and how people get into the roles and what to do to empower yourself to get out of the role. They don't often get into the switches, which gets into dysfunctional family games. And I have a list in my book of all dysfunctional family games, but they don't go the next step which is to actually understand why people are doing it, 'cause that would get them too soft and they would tend to stay in the game, if they are two sympathetic to the other people. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so when you're, say, working with a couple and let's just choose a typical example, which is like, one person is always complaining, let's say. So one person always has complaint and the other person probably has the story of like I can, it'll never be enough. What I do will never be enough for my partner. How could you help them use the compassion triangle as a way to get out of that dynamic? Stephen Karpman: Well, we look at the three motivations behind each other's point. And I would do an exercise where each one would talk to the other person. One person would say, let's say, the complainer would say to the other person. I know I'm complaining as a victim, but I'm also persecutor and to keeping you feeling guilty about my complaints and I'm also rescuer because I'm turning up the energy between us and giving you what you need in order to feel superior. And then they would do the triangle for the other person. Like I know you're coming on as persecutor, which isn't working 'cause I'll fight it, but I know you're also the rescuer 'cause you're trying to help, and I know you're also victim because you feel this is intolerable, and you're afraid of what the next step would be. So I will do the compassion triangle exercise and I would have both people do it. Stephen Karpman: So the victim would go through their three roles and the persecutor's three roles and then the persecutor would have to tell the other one, here's the roles and here are your three roles. This compassion triangle exercise is very, very moving, and it's being adopted in many many treatment centers. And I just wish more people would know about it, and use it, of course, wishing would be hoping and be a victim positions. So I'll back off that one. Neil Sattin: Well, here we are taking action that hopefully, many of you will go out and grab A Game-Free Life. It's on Amazon, and there's a lot of information in there, there's a lot to absorb and even in just the description of the Drama Triangle, and the compassion triangle. And then, as you mentioned, Steven, you move on to talking about intimacy building and communication and building trust, and obviously, that's a lot of what we're talking about here on my show, Relationship Alive, because those are the building blocks of successful relationships. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Stephen Karpman: Okay. So, the second half of the book starts with the three rules of openness. It starts with the idea of how to set up communication, and the three rules of openness are: Bring it up, talk it up, wrap it up. And I've put a whole lot in there: How to bring up your points so that people listen to it, or how you can bring it up so they won't listen to it. And to talk it up, I talk about all the different games that go on, all the listening problems that go on, all the different blocks that occur to keep someone from listening to your point. And then, the wrap it up, I have a whole different series of how, rather than talk a point to death, you can wrap it up and that would be the goal. And the talk it up, I do a lot about listening, and I have a... A lot of different theoretical ideas I've written through, but they're all practical. And then the example you previously mentioned about the complainer. I have a person learn how to listen to the point the other person made. Stephen Karpman: Now, I have this thing called the listeners loop, which is the four things that ideally a good listener, would do, and it's... I put them on a loop because they're all connected. So it's the letters S-E-V-F. S is for strokes. You give the person strokes for what... For who they are. And then the E stands for encouragement. You give them encouragement. "You can keep talking. You can bring this up to me any time." And that preserves the channel of communication. And the next letter is V for validation. You validate whatever is true that the other person says. And I do have a 10 percent rule, that 10 percent of everything you say is correct and 10 percent of everything you say is incorrect, and 10 percent of the population would agree. [chuckle] Stephen Karpman: And that I use in couples to make sure someone hears at least something that the other person says. And then, so that validates the point. And then, the final is the F for follow through. That validates the purpose of the communication, that you show some results. After the communication, you show some tangible results of the discussion. That, I call that the listeners loop. Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's... Stephen Karpman: There's also... Neil Sattin: Go ahead. Stephen Karpman: There's also a loop of how you block people from ever getting their point across. So I could mention that if you want. Neil Sattin: Sure, let's see that. And just to be clear, we're in the "talk it up" section of your work? Stephen Karpman: Yeah. So there's three letters... Four letters there. In that loop, C-A-S-E, these are the four ways that you can block a person from being effective in their communication. The first C is condescending. I guess, maybe the listeners or you could imagine a situation in which you're really earnestly trying to get through to another person, and that person, in return, first, is condescending, they're looking down on everything you're doing, they're saying, "Oh, this is just your symptom of... You've been talking to the wrong people. You're just the fool. Nothing you say is correct." So they would be condescending and look down on you. The next block would be abrupt. They're just suddenly cut off... Suddenly cut off the communication, "Stop. I've had enough. Stop it." And then, they would walk out the room or hang up the phone or something. Stephen Karpman: That would be intimidating, and that would stop a communication. The next on the loop is S is for secretive. They would withhold all the information that you need in order to hear their point of view, and they would withhold all the information that supports that you heard them. So they keep secretive, and you can't... You don't know where you stand with the person who doesn't give you enough information. But that's an information block, by not giving enough information to let the communication proceed further. Stephen Karpman: And the last block would be the person that you're talking to is evasive. They would talk fast, they would change the subject quickly, they would lead you astray into another subject that's actually more interesting, and you would forget your original point. So that C-A-S-E, or CASE block would keep you from being effective. But if you know the four different blocks, maybe you can address one of them and break it down. If you can break down one of the blocks, then you can... The person will be open to listening to you. And according to the transaction analysis, positive-negative rules, there's also positive C-A-S-E that, instead of condescending, you'd be caring for C; Instead of A, Abrupt, you'd be approachable. Sure, it'd be nice to talk to someone who's carrying an approachable. Stephen Karpman: And instead of S for secretive, the person would be sharing. "Oh, great. This person is sharing information with me. Now, we can move forward." And instead of E for being evasive, you'd say, they're engaged. "Oh, they stay engaged on the subject. We can have enough time to talk it all the way through, rather than suddenly stopping the subject after 30 seconds or five seconds." So, there's a positive loop. And in the workshops that I do, and I do workshops all over the world, workshop... We have that exercise being done. A person practices each of those four negatives, and then the other one deals with them, and then you switch sides. And so, on all these different information and communication blocks, people can practice them. And in couples therapy, you can get them to actually practice the negative C-A-S-E and then switch it to a positive C-A-S-E. And all those can... Stephen Karpman: All those things in the back half of the book and are... Can be practiced. And as social skills. I could mention that originally in Games People Play, the games were spelled out. Eric Berne listed over 100 games and it was a wildly, wildly popular book. But he didn't have a way of getting out of the games. He had something he called an antithesis. Like maybe one sentence or two for about four or five of the games that you could say that would just stop the game right there. But he didn't take it further. I was the only one in transaction analysis field that actually took that further. And my entire book is... It's about what to do about it. Social skills training and relationship building, training, and intimacy building, training, that you can go beyond games with. Neil Sattin: Great. So, let's pull out a few more of those because there are so many in there that are really... Well, what I like about it is that it... In the way that you quantify these ways of being, it makes it really clear in ways that that I wouldn't have thought about before. Before we dive into one of them, there are two important things that I think we should mention. One is, I'm wondering if you, we've mentioned transactional analysis several times, it's been your field. Can you give us just like the 10,000-foot view for people listening, if you don't know what transactional analysis is, this is what it is? Stephen Karpman: Sure. Originally, the psychotherapy field was in the area of what Freud discovered. Freud was a hypnotist and he was a psychiatrist, and he would... With his mind as a hypnotist, he figured that if you could take people all way back to childhood and unleash all the traumas and all the repressed energies of childhood, that this freed up energy would then allow them to be freer in their lives. So this was called the psychodynamic approach or this... Or on a higher professional level, it's a psychoanalytic approach. And all you have to do was going back into childhood and understanding things. Eric Berne came along in a very revolutionary times in 1960s, in San Francisco, very revolutionary times where everything was being rethought and he said, "Why do you have to go back in childhood only? Let's look at what's actually happening on the social level. What's actually happening between people in the here and now that they have to deal with?" Stephen Karpman: Like, you can talk about your childhood all you want, but what if you're getting divorced or what if the boss has demoted you and put your desk in the hallway or something when you were on vacation, or some game you had to deal with? So he brought up the games and he gave very catchy names to them like, "I'm only trying to help you," or "now I've got you, you SOB" or a game of Kick Me. So he came... So the book, of course was wildly popular, of course, people read it to figure out the games other people were playing [chuckle] and weren't necessarily using it to figure out their games. But he brought up the whole level of, of social level. So then transactional analysis had a social level, TA it's called, TA for transactional analysis. And then a psychological level. Psychological level's when you go into the depth, into childhood which is now called scripting, how people write their life scripts when they're young, and then they play out their life scripts as if they're plays. Stephen Karpman: And transaction analysis has a lot about script analysis. And I have a, maybe the middle section of my book is all about script analysis. How you find out what your position is in life? Like, maybe you have an, "I'm okay, you're not okay," position in life or "I'm not okay, you're okay," which was written in Tom Harris's book, I'm Okay You're Okay, which was the other big best-seller back in the '60s and '70s. So transactional analysis became a major force in psychology and psychiatry and it's taught all over the world. We have training centers in 30 or 40 countries and conferences all over the world, so it's a major field in psychology. But because of the dominance of the psychoanalytic approach, some schools actually won't teach it. Stephen Karpman: So that's one of the games people play of being, of protecting your turf. But it gets more and more popular and my book sells, I'm probably selling about 10 a week or so. And there's transactional analysis books and conferences all over the world all the time. So it's gotten pretty popular and more people are looking at what goes on between people, rather than just what went on in your childhood. Neil Sattin: Right, and so the idea is that you're analyzing what is actually happening between two people in the present moment as... Stephen Karpman: Right. And the only precedent to that was back in the early 1960s in the Bay Area, that they started family therapy, and they actually began to have names for what people were doing back and forth in the family therapy circle. Like, people who... There were dyads and triads and certain things like that. But Eric Berne just jumped in way into the future by actually naming the games that each individual person was playing and he brought it up in many different levels. Some of these games, he wrote up about six or seven different levels of why people are playing it. And that appealed to the more depth-oriented people who realized, there's a lot of depths in... Stephen Karpman: There is many depths in what people are doing with each other as they were in what they were doing in their childhood, which I guess psycho-dynamically was like, there's a dozen defense mechanisms that people would employ that was pretty deep, but in TA, you have just as many or even more social defense mechanisms, how you keep people from getting intimate, how you keep people from making their point, how you keep people one-down. So that, sort of TA, primarily, my book, went more in that direction. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think that is definitely one of the valuable things is, as soon as you see that you're in a particular game, you talk about the title that could be kind of on the front of someone's sweatshirt like, "This is the game that I'm playing with you," that it gives you a clue of like, "Oh, I'm actually not really connecting with this person. We're just doing this dance that actually prevents us from connecting with each other." Stephen Karpman: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that. The sweatshirt was an idea that Eric Berne used to talk about in our seminars, and I trained with Eric Berne for, in his weekly seminars in San Francisco for almost six years. And he used to talk about the sweatshirt jokingly, but I've taken it a lot further. It actually tells you what game a person's playing. Imagine you're trying to get through to somebody and you look at their sweatshirt and it says, "I don't care about you or what you're saying," and all of a sudden, you say, "My gosh, look at that." I figured there's a couple... Stephen Karpman: I boiled that down to two sweatshirts. One is the let's pretend sweatshirt, is let's pretend I care about what you're saying. And the other was try and... Try and... Try and make me listen to you. So the "let's pretend" and the "try and" sweatshirt, you're served none. Breaks a game-wide open. Sometimes you don't realize until after you've left and you think, "My gosh, that person had a sweatshirt of I don't care what you say, or I'm never going to listen to anybody," and then you realize, "Wow, that's a game." And so the whole core of a game can be wrapped up in their sweatshirt. And there's a lot of work in TA about intuition, the use of intuition and reading what people are doing, and then also ways of checking out your intuition. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so if I had... Let's say I was with someone, and I thought their sweatshirt was, "Let's pretend that we're... That we're going to work on our problems together," maybe that would be a good one. How do I know if that person is actually just playing the game with me because on the back of their sweatshirt, it would be actually, I'm the one in charge here, or something like that. Stephen Karpman: Well, that was the original sweatshirt of Eric Berne, there's the front of the sweatshirt and what you see and the back is after the switch. The switch is very important in games, like you think you see something and then you get a switch, and all of a sudden, you say, "Oh my God, that's what happened." So that sweatshirt could be an alcoholic wearing a sweatshirt "let's pretend I'm going to stop drinking this time", or "let's pretend that your insights get through to me." And then the rescuer or the co-dependent could say, "Let's pretend I'm going to be effective right now, and you're listening to me," or "Let's pretend we're all going to live happily ever after." But it's an intuition that you might not be able to think of in the heat of the game, but when you walk away the game, you say, "My God, I'm talking to a sweatshirt that says 'I don't care about you,' and I never will," on the back." Neil Sattin: Yeah, how would you test that out? How would you know if... Because I think it can be easy to step back from a person and just say, "Oh okay, I have the story about this person, which is that, they're never going to care about me or they're actually not interested in me." Actually, that might be a good one I'm thinking about going out on a first date with someone and trying to navigate the awkwardness of that and maybe coming away from that thinking like, "Yeah, this person, they just don't care about me." How would you find out if that sort of thing was actually true? Stephen Karpman: Well, probably in time, it'll come out or say... You mention there is this... That if the guy thinks the... Sees the girl's sweatshirt and says, "I'm not a man, I'm not romantically attracted to you," well, then he moves differently. He talks to her in a different way rather than assuming, "I'm a hottie and you're my man," thinking that that's what's going on. So it's a way sort of catching on to what's going on, what's the game that's... Is there a game and what are the real positions? Now, it's okay to be hoping and to wishing and maybe this is going to work out, this is going to be fine, but it's only when there's the game and one way of finding out what the game is to see the sweatshirt and then you go from there, you can bring it up. Stephen Karpman: There's a new type of therapy called relational therapy, in which the therapist shares their feelings with their client and they could actually say to the client, "I feel you're not interested in anything I say," and that could open up a conversation, but it's fine to express your feelings of what you think is going on as long as there's an openness contract... Contract to be open and share with each other without games. Neil Sattin: Oh my goodness, you're just reminding me of so many things that are in your book. Okay, so before we dive in there, just going back to the case, the blocks to communication that you were talking about, C for being condescending, A for abrupt, S for secretive, E for evasive. If I sense one of those things happening in my partner, or the person that I'm talking to, what's a strategy that you've seen be effective in... 'cause you mentioned, sometimes you can take on one of those blocks and break it down, and then you get through and then you're back to communicating with that person. Stephen Karpman: Well, the first step in learning the games people play, and learning intimacy communication and so forth, is to identify it. So, if you identify the person as condescending, you would say, "Wait a minute, I need a little more respect from what I'm saying here are my points." So you could go for that. If you heard the person's abrupt you'd say it up in advance, "I need at least five minutes to talk to you. Will you give me five minutes?" So then you have a way of dealing with that. For the secretive block you'd say, "I need you to tell me why you're doing this and I'll tell you why I'm doing it so you set up a sharing substitute for the S." Stephen Karpman: And then for... For the E, the evasive, you say, "I don't want to start changing the subjects," or as soon as they change the subject, you say, "Wait, you're changing the subject on me, you're not here, or you're not hearing me, or let's stay on this one point, it's important." So knowing what the blocks are, you can actually address each one and it'd be more effective than than if you just threw up your hands and say, "Well, you're impossible. I can't talk to you." Neil Sattin: Right. Stephen Karpman: Which might work also. Neil Sattin: Right, well, it would work in a different way, I guess, of keeping things the way they are. I'm curious. You mentioned earlier very briefly, I think you call, they're called the ego states, the critical parent, the nurturing parent, the adult, the free child, the adoptive child, I think I'm remembering those right. And the way that each of those gives us some flexibility and how we interact with other people, and maybe also how we get stuck in one way or another mode. Can we talk about that for just a little bit and then what I'd love to do is kind of bridge that into your map of intimacy and how people can think about the level of intimacy, the intimacy scale between them and another person. Stephen Karpman: Okay. So the ego states was Berne's way of externalizing Freud's super ego, ego and id, which is three factors of the internal mind, a person has a super ego that's critical of themselves or they have an ego which deals with the world, or they have an id which is powerful forces. So, Freudian dynamics was based on that, Well, Eric Berne took it out into the real world and said in the real world, there are people out there you see as your parent, as your adult, or as a child, and that gave you a way of looking at people. So that was the starting point. Now, each ego state, it gets subdivided a little bit, and they can be in a positive or negative way. Like the parent is sort of subdivided into the matrons and patrons, I guess, is the father and the mother, you know, different kinds of systems around the world. Stephen Karpman: So the critical parent would, would be the authoritative one that maintains the rules of society and correctness and ethics. But the negative critical parent would be the one who would just domain and criticize people endlessly. So all the ego states have positive and negative side. Now the flexible person is one who stays in contact flexibly with all of the ego states. They can move in and out easily. And one of Eric Berne's dozen books, half dozen books, it's called The Moving Self. At times. In your talk to someone. If you need to go to the... Okay, critical parent, you say, "Wait a minute, you're breaking our rules." Or you need to go to the rebel child, you might say, "Oh, come on, well, let's have some fun. This is silly." So you need to be able to move around or you can move into the adult and say, "Wait a minute. I'm not sure what's going on. Let's look at the process. And let's see where we're going with the information." So you need to be able to move around all the ego states. And so that's the flexible person. Stephen Karpman: A person who gets locked in, they could get locked into critical parent, locked into only free child, they're only negative free child where they're just silly all the time and you can't ever talk to them. Or it could get locked into the negative nurturing parent that just only wants to rescue victims, all they care about in the world is victims and everything you do is a symptom of something. So you could get locked into a certain ego state yourself. And you can be talked to someone else who's locked into one ego state only, and that's called the excluded ego state. So there's a lot about ego states that Eric Berne writes about in his early books. It's a good way... Neil Sattin: And... Stephen Karpman: Ego states it's a good way of identifying who you're talking to. There's the excellent idea by Dr. Dusey called the egogram and you look at someone and you see this vertical bar graph of how much critical parent are showing, how much nurturing parent is their, nurturing parent, adult reach out, adopted child, and you get an idea of who they are. We're talking to real tough person, a person whose critical parent could be first on the bar graph, their adult could be second, and maybe your free child or they're vulnerable, they have a child that's very low. Or it could be talk with a very flexible, easily manipulated person, they may be all in their child and all either playful or sorrowful or hurtful and they have no parent, no strength that they can rely on. Stephen Karpman: So there's a lot in TA about the ego states and I go into that in my books too, 'cause I have one variant of this option, this article I called, called options, and showing you how you can switch among your different ego states in order to handle the situation with somebody else. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so what would be what would be an example of that? Stephen Karpman: Hmm? Neil Sattin: So if I wanted to, let's say, I was trying to assess if, where someone was at and I like how you brought that up in terms of like looking at them and seeing where they show up on the bar graph, are they high in one dimension or low in another? Do you have suggestions for how you elicit different states from other people? Stephen Karpman: Well, there's two ways. I have a summary of the Options article in my book, A Game Free Life. And then, in my latest book, Collected Papers and Transactional Analysis, I have a copy of the original options article, which gives you all the examples. That's different from the egogram, which is an intuition reading of the other person in which you can tell how much ego state energy is in the other person that you're dealing with. So it's an intuition exercise, intuition reading like the sweatshirt, or just would be the egogram and the sweatshirt would be ways of reading a person that you're talking to. Neil Sattin: Got it. Got it. Okay, let's, if we can... In our last few minutes here. One thing that I think you describe really beautifully in your book are the ways that we construct intimacy in relation to another person, and the two concepts that come to mind here for me are the trust contracts that we create with others. And then the intimacy. I think you call it the intimacy scale, which helps you see where you're at in terms of your levels of intimacy with another person. So yeah, let's dive in there. Stephen Karpman: Okay, thank you for mentioning this. Over the years, I pretty much I've developed a lot of different ideas. I had an older sister who used to teach, have one new idea every year or one new project that you master. She would say, well, one year, you master bowling, another year, you master handcraft. So I set upon myself that each year, I wanted to create a new theory. So both of those are new theories. Stephen Karpman: The five trust contracts for couples are... Might turn out be one of the most popular ideas I've done. And that is, you draw two sets of ego states facing each other, and the trust contract between the okay critical parent, and the okay critical parent, the other person, is the no collapse contract. You agreed to the contracts you've made, you don't suddenly stop working. You don't suddenly stop your hygiene, you don't suddenly break all the rules, you don't... So the no trust contract is between the critical parents, between the two nurturing parents. Neil Sattin: Right. That's also like you don't threaten to leave the other person, or... Stephen Karpman: And between the two nurturing parents, the couple agrees on the protection contract that it's in your mind to protect the other person from putting them to too much stress. Between the adults is the openness contract. Bring it up, talk it up, wrap it up, at a good timing, not just anytime. And then between the free child. It's the enjoyment contract that you really want to give the other person lots of pleasure and whatever you can and the other in their lives, and the two of you. Stephen Karpman: And between the adapted child is the flexibility contract that you agree to give in. You don't have to win 51% of all the arguments. And so this is an ideal that they live by. Each person needs to live by it themselves, and they also look to it being maintained in the other person, but they can all break down very quickly. I had one example of an alcoholic who went out and got drunk, and a restaurant and was screaming. Right away, he broke the no collapse contract. He just broke down and threw a scene. He broke the nurturing, the protection contract. Everyone got embarrassed, everyone's child got embarrassed, and so that was broken, and the openness contract was broken because you couldn't talk things over with him, he was in a don't think mentality. Stephen Karpman: And then the free child, the enjoyment contract, there was nothing enjoyable about that dinner in the restaurant, when he threw a scene with the restaurant that even Jack Nicholson would have been happy with in one of his books, movies. And then between the adopted child, the flexibility contract. There's no flexibility there. He wouldn't yield to people telling him to please stop or anything. So, all contract can be broken. And when a marriage relationship or a long-term relationship is breaking down, sometimes one by one, the contracts are broken. Maybe the enjoyment contact is broken first. They just talk too much about issues, and drag themselves down. Or maybe a no collapse contract is broken. They go out and have a partner somewhere else, so one-by-one, the contracts can be built up but they also can be broken down. And then you also mentioned was it the intimacy scale? Neil Sattin: Yeah. Stephen Karpman: Okay, I cataloged there the subjects that people talk about. I've never seen anyone do that. I go on five levels 20%, 40%, 60% up to 100%. And these are the actual topics that people talk about. Some of the topics can bring people closer, which is on the right of the scale at 100% or they can distance people. Eric Berne once used the example of a very awkward first date. Guy looks around and looks at the room and says, "My, aren't the walls perpendicular tonight?" That doesn't take things very far. So at the first level, at the 20% level, it's silence. Pretty much nothing is said but it could be an okay silence, a break in time, just a breather. Neil Sattin: You could be staring into each other's eyes in silence, which might actually feel very intimate. Stephen Karpman: Yeah, right. But that's a topic of conversation would be no topic but silence. You're not sure what's going on. So it doesn't really build intimacy, maybe it might. The next level will be 40% which is, things objects and places, which is the guy is saying, "My, aren't the walls perpendicular tonight," or people can just talk about the restaurants in town, sort of awkwardly trying to come up with one after another, until the conversation runs down, or he could hear at a diner, the truck drivers talking about the different stop lights and the police... That doesn't develop intimacy. It doesn't get people into who they are and what they believe in, but that comes at the 60% level. And I have several different PI people. You talk about people and ideas or philosophy and issues or psychology, you talk about what people think about and believe in things and they get to get into themselves and that gets a little more closeness going. Stephen Karpman: Now, at the 80%, I have it divided with an M, Y, me or you. You actually interview the other person, find out a whole lot about who they are, what their beliefs are, what their hobbies are, their family is, and they talk about their self a lot. It gets uneven if one person only talks about themselves or they interview the other person, so the other person only talks about themselves. But that gets close when you learn a lot about the person, but it's not the same as 100%. At a 100% level, there is a you, us, talk about us. What do we feel about each other? What happened when we first met each other? What are the things that we are going to do together? What's going on between us? And you talk about at the us level, and you share your feelings about each other and the two of you. Stephen Karpman: So that all can be practiced in workshops or between couples. You can practice each one of the different levels. So you get an idea of conversations. It's mostly useful when people first meet each other when conversations can go dead or they can go right. I mean, some party can jump too fast, a person... A guy at a first date could jump all way over to me and you and us and proposition her or someone could... And then she could bring it back to things, like wallpaper decorations or something. [chuckle] So, it gives an idea of the different topics of people talk about, whether it brings them closer or it brings... Takes them further apart. Neil Sattin: Yeah and I could see that been instructive just like as you're with another person, like, oh, are they in their critical parent? Are they in their adult? Are they in their free child? You could just as easily be like, alright, what are we talking about and what is that, if I want to build more closeness with this person, then I might take this to trying to figure out their philosophies and ideas and interests and eventually, get into our deepest beliefs, what they believe, what I believe, and that actually helps bring you closer in a situation where you're feeling a little distant from either someone you've been with for a long time or someone you're just meeting. Stephen Karpman: Right. Yeah, and by the way, none of this should be called manipulative, but like, "Okay, now I'm going to go to the 20% level, now I'm going to go to 60%." It's actually people are just identifying what good conversations are. Now, of course, a salesman could learn it immediately and go right over to all way up to 100%, and con you into thinking that the new vacuum cleaning device is what brings them... Two of them together. But all these things, you know, options, how to switch ego states, or the different levels of communication, all these things are things that you learn and eventually become part of you. 'Cause there are people out there who automatically know all these things, so it's okay to go to school and learn your social skills if that's what you need when you go into therapy, or you read a book on relationship building, which is my Game Free Life book. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so I want to let you know listening that, even though we've covered so much in this conversation today, it's not even half of what's [chuckle] in this book. And it... I really was struck with every several pages, like, wow, there's another valuable resource, wow, there's another way to think about this and to extract kind of the core of what's happening in every... In a particular given situation to get to something meaningful. So again, Stephen Karpman, he created the Drama Triangle. His book, A Game Free Life, which talks about the drama triangle, the compassion triangle, and then all of these tools for building intimacy and dealing with communication issues. Because this isn't a book that's just for couples, it's about how you navigate the world and stay game free as much as possible. So it's really, really valuable stuff in there. Stephen Karpman: I should put in a plug that it's available on Amazon. [chuckle] Neil Sattin: Yes, yeah. I think I mentioned that earlier and we'll make sure that we have links to all of that in the show notes and transcript for today's episode, which, as a reminder, you can get if you visit neilsattin.com/triangle, as in the Drama Triangle. Or you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And Stephen, what's a good way if people want to find out more about your work, other than grabbing the book on Amazon, what's your website? Stephen Karpman: Okay. I do have about 30 papers I've written, which go into much more detail of the ideas that are in A Game Free line. I just recently came out with that. It's called collected papers in transactional analysis, about 280 pages. I sell it from my website, all you have to do is type in my name on Google, and you'll go to my website. And eventually, Amazon's going to have it. But I really appreciate you inviting me Neil and sharing some of these ideas, and I would like people to have A Game Free Life, and that's what I've been working on, and I really appreciate the time you've spent, and the time we've worked on together to make this interview happen, so I really want to thank you very much and thank your viewers who are listening. Neil Sattin: Yeah, my pleasure. It's been so great to have you, and this is stuff you've been working on for decades. So, what a treat to one that you were able to put so much of it into your book, and also that we've been able to meet and chat about it for the people today who are just finding out about your work. I do have one last quick question for you, if that would be okay? Stephen Karpman: No, I'm okay. Neil Sattin: Okay. Stephen Karpman: Thank you. Neil Sattin: Yeah. So when we were talking about the trust contracts, I'm just wondering, if I were listening to that and thinking, "Okay, I'm hearing the contracts that I've navigated really well with my partner, let's say, but I can see that... " Here's a contract. Like the enjoyment contract that I've just let fall apart completely or even that I feel like my partner is sliding on one of those contracts. What would you suggest as a good first step for people to have the "us" conversation that allows them to repair around a broken contract? Stephen Karpman: Well, generally, it would be communication, again, and stating what the problem is and your feelings, and if there's an actual issue or situation, you could do the compassion triangle, and your motivations for that situation, and their motivations. So, it primarily is just identifying the issue and working at what you can do and what you can't do. But primarily, the five trust contract, you should apply to yourself that... And the enjoyment contract that you really won't keep it in your heart, that you want the other person to be happy. And any kind of flexibility you can do on the flexibility contract would be fine. But there's some things you cannot do and you can't be expected to, and there's some things you can do that maybe you might do. Stephen Karpman: But you could be getting more in touch with your free child, a more playful side, self. Or if the other person has trouble getting into their free child and their playfulness, you could stroke them and when they do get into the free child, tell them how much you enjoy that. And I don't have an actual situation to talk about. These are pretty general for people on any of the five trust contracts is it's something to talk about, to talk about it with all the rules of sharing and communication and... You know, I mentioned this: The listening loop. And also, there's a information iceberg I did mention. There's four levels of how you can get your point across, get your... Maybe it's too late in the interview just to go through it, but... Neil Sattin: No, go for it. Stephen Karpman: One is a... One, you get your point across, and then underneath the water of the iceberg, it's the first ice information. You want to give all the information behind your point to support it, and you want to get a chance to get that information out there before the person cuts off the conversation. And then, the next... I... On the iceberg, is importance. You want to be able to get across the importance of your idea, why it's important to be listened to. Like, if you're talking at a board meeting, you want to be able to get across the importance of why your idea needs to be taken up by the business, or with someone you're talking to, why it's important that this conversation is heard. Stephen Karpman: And then, the last I at the... I at the very bottom, is actually a trauma triangle for the bottom of the iceberg, is the intent. You want to make sure you know... People know that your intent is not persecute or rescue a victim, but it's to share information, to move the relationship on in the five trust contracts. Neil Sattin: And you actually made me think of just revisiting briefly a question that we touched on at the very beginning, which is, I'm curious about, in your experience, how do you know when someone is just kinda stuck in the game? And you try all these things and... Is there a point at which you think one can say like, "All right, I think I've given this what I can give it and it's time to move on to a... " You know, "This person is stuck no matter what I do." Stephen Karpman: It takes a while to get stuck. If you're a rescuer and you're persistent, you'll stay in there. If you have the drivers that say, "Try hard and please them and be perfect in how you please them," the drivers can keep you stuck in the relationship a long time. Now, you could, maybe not even be in the game, and you meet somebody for the first time and you just say, "That's it," you just don't want to go further. You may give it a couple of tries, and then it's over. So it's... Getting into the triangle takes a while to get in there, because then it gets complicated because all three roles are beginning to emerge as motivations in each person, and that complicates it, the... But it takes a while to get to the point where we realize, "Hey, we're stuck." And then you could talk about the idea of being stuck. Stephen Karpman: Maybe from the compassion triangle, you could settle on a particular issue, and once you got the issue settled on, then you talk about your three motivations for hanging on to this issue. But, yeah, defining an issue is usually a point to decide whether you can move on or not. Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah. And you do a good job, at one point in the book, of talking about, it was, I think, in a work situation with two people who are having... It's impossible for them to get along and where one of them simply is willing to listen, and the other one actually does the whole compassion triangle for themselves and for the other person out loud as a way of helping build a bridge of understanding between the two of them. Stephen Karpman: Well, if it's a work situation, you wouldn't necessarily do it out loud with everyone listening, 'cause the boss could lose face or something like that, but it'd probably be in a closed room where people would cheer. Let's look... Is it okay... Well, first, you get the contact... A contract to talk. "Is it okay if we talk about this?" That avoids a rescue victim situation. The person say, "Yes. It's okay. Let's set aside five minutes to talk." Then you say, "Well, I would like to go through what I feel is going on and what I feel is going on with you, and then you can correct me or tell me what is going on with you." But then you share an awful lot of feelings. You can share your persecutor, rescuer and victim, and what you think is theirs. That fix right there. And then they share their persecutor, rescuer and victims of what they think their motivation is. And then there... Stephen Karpman: They got their three, and then there are three about you. So there's actually 12 feelings to get shared. I mean, it can be a huge sense of relief when the compassion triangle exercise is done, but first, you gotta get a contract, an agreement that, "Let's go through it," and how much time to be set aside, and maybe even an agreement of what to do if a communication goes wrong. Neil Sattin: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Well, Stephen Karpman, again, thank you so much for being here with us today. And you've shared so much valuable information, and I'm excited to see what unfolds for our listeners who take this and run with it. So, thanks so much for giving us more of a perspective on how to apply the drama triangle, the compassion triangle, and all these other great ways of building trust and intimacy. Stephen Karpman: Great. Thanks, Neil, and to all your listeners for listening, and we'll talk more later. Neil Sattin: Awesome. Thank you. Stephen Karpman: Again, thank you.

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#9

179: Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love with Julie and John Gottman

February 05, 2019 • 62m

What if you could have eight powerful dates that could totally transform the most important aspects of your relationship with your partner? Whether you’re in a new relationship and trying to figure out if someone’s right for you, or have been with your partner for decades and trying to figure out if your partner is STILL right for you, today’s conversation will help jump-start your curiosity and lead you into deep connection with your partner. This week, our guests are John & Julie Gottman, the founders of The Gottman Institute. They are the co-authors, along with Doug Abrams and Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams, of the new book "Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love". World-renowned researchers and clinical psychologists, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. They have published over 200 academic journal articles and written 46 books that have sold over a million copies in more than a dozen languages. As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Sponsors: Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are – thank you!), this week’s episode is being sponsored by 2 amazing companies. This week’s episode is sponsored by Blinkist. Blinkist is the only app that takes the best key takeaways and the need-to-know information from thousands of nonfiction books and condenses them down into just 15 minutes that you can read or listen to. Go to Blinkist.com/ALIVE to start your free 7-day trial. This episode is also sponsored by Native Deodorant. Their products are filled with ingredients you can find in nature like coconut oil, which is an antimicrobial, shea butter to moisturize, and tapioca starch to absorb wetness. They don’t ever test on animals, they don’t use aluminum or any other scary chemical ingredients, and they’re so confident that you’ll like their deodorant that they offer free shipping - and returns. For 20% off your first purchase, visit http://www.nativedeodorant.com/alive and use promo code ALIVE during checkout. Resources: Visit John & Julie Gottman’s website to learn more about their work. Find out more about John & Julie Gottman’s new book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Buy the Eight Dates book on Amazon. FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Your Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit www.neilsattin.com/gottman4 to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with John and Julie Gottman. Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out Transcript: Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of 'Relationship Alive'. This is your host, Neil Sattin. One of the most important things that you can do for your relationship is something that we've talked about occasionally here on the show, which is to have a date night with your partner, to have something regular that's on the calendar, that's about connecting, and honoring your relationship. And yet, there's more to it potentially than that. Certainly, there's something good for just the regularity and the dedication, but what if you want to actually enhance your connection, enhance your understanding of your partner, and have a series of dates that actually leads you to someplace deeper, someplace more connected, and someplace that really gives you something to offer each other in terms of how you share your futures together. So, it's not just more of the same, but it's a springboard to something even more rich in your connection. Neil Sattin: In order to find out more, we have the pleasure today of being joined by Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, and also Dr. John Gottman, who are the co-authors, along with Doug Abrams and Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams, of the new book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. They are here today to talk about this book and explore exactly why it's so important to come together with your partner with some intention to understand each other more deeply, and not just for the purpose of bringing out the ways that you're the same, but in particular, coming to understand your differences. And we're going to get more into that in a moment. As usual, we will have a detailed transcript of this episode. In order to download it, you can visit neilsattin.com/gottman4, that's Gottman and the number 4. And you can also just text the word "Passion" to the number 33444, and follow the instructions, and that will also get you to a page where you can download the transcript for this week's episode with the Gottmans. So I think that's a good enough start. Without further ado, John and Julie Gottman, thank you so much for joining me today here on 'Relationship Alive'. John Gottman: Thank you, Neil. Julie Gottman: Thanks, Neil. It's great to be here. Neil Sattin: And we were chatting briefly before we got started. Julie, it's especially a pleasure to have you here. We've gotten to listen to John ramble on here and there, but it's nice to have you both here together. And I'm looking forward to hearing more about your connection, and I know that my audience is really excited to learn from the two of you together. Julie Gottman: Oh, thanks so much, Neil. That's really kind of you. Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. So, let's start with maybe a softball question, which is, where was this book born from, the "Eight Dates", which each cover such an important area of relationship, and a way to steer into knowing your partner more deeply? Julie Gottman: Well, initially, what happened is that we were privileged to be part of a think tank about relationships, and how to really support relationships nationwide. And we met our friends, Doug and Dr. Rachel Abrams at this think tank. And together, we were talking about how can we really help to deepen connection with couples through a book that would really give people a fun way to connect with one another, give them different types of dates, different kinds of opportunities to really get to know each other better, whether at the beginning of a relationship, or all the way towards the end of a relationship in age, any way we can enhance their connection, deepen their connection, so that people really keep up with who the other person is, how they're changing, how they're evolving over time. And so, the four of us together sat and talked for days on end, recording everything, including our own personal dating experience, which was kind of hilarious, especially before we met each other. And really sharing stories, as well as, what kind of dates would particularly be great for relationships. And then we decided to do some research about it. So we crafted 12 dates and recruited 300 people... John Gottman: 300 couples. Julie Gottman: 300 couples. John Gottman: Yeah. Julie Gottman: Thanks love, he's always accurate with the numbers. To take these dates and see what they thought about the dates, to really experience them. And then we recorded their conversations, the dates that they had, and we learned that out of the 12, several of them were complete duds, they were terrible, people were completely bored, they ended the conversation after two and a half minutes, and then they went to the movies. But there were eight dates that, in particular, people really loved, and we created the book from those. Neil Sattin: Great, great. Yeah, and we're going to get into the stellar dates in a minute, but I'm curious, do you remember what any of those duds were? John Gottman: We had one date that was just about work, and how people felt about work, and that was pretty boring. Neil Sattin: Right. John Gottman: We had to really re-shape that date and change it. And by the way, we had... 37% of the couples of the 300 couples were brand new relationships, and so the dates were really very important for people in very new relationships to find out who they were dating and see if that relationship had any potential. But the overwhelming majority were couples who've been in relationships for some time, and they found it really did enhance the quality of their intimacy. Neil Sattin: Yeah, what I really love about this book, among many things, was that it feels like, in many respects, it's a crash course in curiosity. And so, whether you're in the initial stages of a relationship where you can kind of throw curiosity to the wind, it can sometimes feel like, you're on that dopamine-fueled high of just enjoying everything about your partner, or if you're 20 years into a relationship and you feel like you just know everything there is to know about your partner. I love the way that this book gives people a structure to actually support deeper questions, and to discover how there may be these places where they actually don't know each other, in the case of a long-term relationship. Or yeah, I love that model for new people who are getting to know each other, to really have an opportunity to flesh things out before they're deep, deep down the rabbit hole. John Gottman: Right. Julie Gottman: Yeah. You know, when you think about some of your earliest dates, oftentimes they are so awkward. Everybody's on your best behavior, you've spent maybe six weeks planning what you're going to wear, and you meet each other, you're nervous, you're awkward, you're anxious, and that can last for a while, several dates in perhaps. So, people aren't quite sure how to proceed in getting to know each other, and what aspects should they get to know about in terms of this individual when they're considering the possibility of having a long-term relationship. So, what we really wanted to do was to help people with clear ideas about what fun things they could do in the setting of the date, and then give them, again, these very particular questions to discuss together. And it's not an interrogation, we don't have the big shining light in the parking space as they were answering these questions. Instead, it's really people discussing them together and sharing at a deeper level what their values are, what their history is, what their needs are a bit. Nothing that makes them over the top vulnerable, but something more about where they really live inside, as opposed to the more superficial aspects that people tend to focus on in the beginning. Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm... And I noticed that you started... Like, date number one is with trust and commitment. John Gottman: Right. Neil Sattin: And obviously this is an important topic in a long-term relationship, and it's one that I thought was curious, it wasn't... There wasn't much of a warm-up there. It's like, here we are talking about these deep things, and particularly for a long-term couple, they're probably at a place, I would guess, where there have been a lot of assumptions about trust and commitment, there have potentially been betrayals of some sort, hopefully just minor ones. But I'm curious if you can set the stage for that conversation in a way that really helps keep people safe as they have the trust and commitment conversation? Julie Gottman: God, that's a wonderful question, Neil. Well, first of all, what we really understand about relationships after learning about relationships for over 40 years, is that the one question that people have with their partners is, "Can I trust you?" That is one of the most important questions. That's what they're focused on, really, right from the beginning. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Julie Gottman: And so, shoot, why not start where people really live, right? Neil Sattin: Yeah. Julie Gottman: And so, that was part of our decision. And in terms of staying safe, we're not asking, "Are you going to commit to me? Are you going to be somebody I can trust?" It's not about that. It's more, "How did your parents show that there was trust between them if in fact there was? Or if there was a lack of it, how did you see that? How did you witness that? What does trust mean to you? Is it important to you? Is it not? Is commitment important to you? Is it not? What makes it important to you?" So again, you're talking a little bit more in the abstract about people's history that doesn't necessarily involve maybe some mistakes they've made. They're talking about what they witnessed in their own life, what they experienced in their own life. And sharing that with one another, so that each partner can just kinda get a snapshot of, "Do we both think about trust and commitment in the same way or do we think about it very, very differently? And if so, does it make sense for us to proceed in our relationship?" John Gottman: Yeah, that date, Neil, turned out to be the most powerful date of all the eight. And couples liked it the most too. So, one of the things that we did was, we had some webinars with the couples in our sample, and they could ask questions and give us feedback. And that date was really, really... It went deep. It was very powerful. And they were able to talk about other relationships they'd seen where people had violated trust, and where people had really demonstrated that they weren't quite committed to the relationship, and the other person didn't know that. So they could talk about how to avoid disasters about trust, how to avoid future disasters of commitment. And what had been the history in the relationship of that, showing that they were trustworthy, that they were committed. So it turned out to be a really fascinating sort of conversations that people had. And I don't think anybody felt alienated in that date from one another. They felt actually reassured and safer with their partner after this date. Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I want to just point out to our listeners that your book does a great job also of setting the stage not only for the date itself but also for someone to ask themselves these questions first. So there's a certain amount of self-exploration that you do before you're out on the date, so that you already are starting to get your own perspective on this, and can bring that to your partner. John Gottman: Right. Julie Gottman: Yeah, that's one of the beautiful things that I really love about this book. You know, as we all experience, Neil, we are so caught up in the minutiae of our daily lives, and running from task, to task, to task. Sometimes paying attention to the news, sometimes not, sometimes trying not to. And at the same time, do we give ourselves those hours of really looking in the mirror and saying, "Who am I now? How has experience changed me? What are my values now? What do I believe now?" And so, in a way, it's... As you pointed out, the book really gives the opportunity to meditate on who we are as individuals, so that when we do come together in a date to share that, we can do so with more clarity, and maybe humor too. [laughter] John Gottman: Yeah. I want to mention, there was a study done at UCLA by the Sloan Center, and they put microphones and cameras in couples homes, and they studied 30 dual-career couples in Los Angeles, and they had young children. And their wives had really become kind of an infinite to-do list, and they never went out on dates, they spent less than 10% of every evening in the same room with one another, and they talked to one another an average of 35 minutes a week. Neil Sattin: Wow. John Gottman: All that conversation was about, who's going to do what when. But they never had a date that was a romantic date, that really built on intimacy. So they basically were carrying on with life and work and really ignoring their relationship. Neil Sattin: I'm wondering if you could speak to that a little bit on a personal level in term... Because both of you are very active in your careers and have... You had a family together. How have you managed honoring that commitment to date night? And is that something you had all along or was it just kind of discovery along the way, and you were like, "We better do that. It's working for everyone else, we should do that too."? Or, how have you negotiated and navigated that for yourselves? Julie Gottman: Well, one of the things that we used to do when we were living in Seattle, where we are not currently, but we used to not have all that much money. John was a professor, I was a clinical psychologist, private practice, and we were spending money on schooling for our child. And so we discovered the most beautiful hotel lobby in all of Seattle. There was this great hotel, and it had this gorgeous stone fireplace, dark lighting, beautiful soft couches, and we would go on our date night, commandeer a couch and not let anybody else sit there, and we would order one glass of wine, and we would pretend we were guests in the hotel. And we would sit and talk for hours and ask each other these big open-ended questions, similar to the ones that we address in the dates. And John would always bring a yellow notepad to take notes about what I said, which was always a worry because it meant it was definitely going to show up in the book later on. And so, it was kind of like, "Oh my God, I better watch my wording here." So those were our initial dates, which were really, really fabulous. And now, with our busy lives, we are talking all the time because we work together, we are talking on planes as we travel somewhere, we're talking over dinner, we're talking about work, we're talking about the news, we're talking constantly. So... John Gottman: Yeah, but tell them about our annual honeymoon. Julie Gottman: And our annual honeymoon, okay. So, we found that because our schedule is so erratic, it's really, really, hard to have a weekly date, we don't have a schedule like that, because we're always somewhere doing something. So, when our daughter was about eight years old, she went away to camp for three weeks for the first year during the summer and did so every year after that for a while. And we decided, "Hey, she can go to camp, let's go to camp, too." So, we decided to take ourselves to camp, which was specifically this beautiful B&B up in Canada, on one of the islands close to Vancouver BC, called Salt Spring Island. And we would go there for about 10 days and do nothing but talk, we would just talk. And we called it our annual honeymoon, and we've been doing it ever since, every year. John Gottman: We bring our kayak. Julie Gottman: Yup. John Gottman: And we ask each other three questions: What did you hate about last year? What did you love about last year? And what do you want next year to be like? And then we talk about that for 10 days, and really evaluate the year, and then make plans about how next year will be different. Julie Gottman: And the reason we always go to the same B&B, it's been 20 years now, is that there's a restaurant in this little town that serves schnitzel, which is John's favorite. And we have schnitzel every single night for 10 nights. [laughter] It's not only the annual honeymoon but the annual schnitzel fest. [laughter] Neil Sattin: That's good. Well, it's schnitzel every night, and then maybe the rest of the nights of the year you get to indulge in other delights as well. John Gottman: Right. [laughter] Neil Sattin: Well, I did want to mention that Maine has some lovely places to kayak. So, if you're ever in this neck of the woods, make sure you bring your kayak with you. Julie Gottman: Yeah, we would love that. John Gottman: Yeah. And Rachel and Doug also found that, when Rachel was in medical school and doing her residency, that date night was just absolutely essential for maintaining the relationship, and not ignoring it, not making it the last thing on a very long to-do list. So, they kept passion and romance alive that way, and also the emotional connection. So, date night has been important for all four of us. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I like the idea, too. When I envision Doug and Rachel's story, which they talk about in the book, and I love that, that we get a window into your lives together. I think that's... Maybe we'll even talk about that a little bit. I think it's so curious for everyone, right? Where they're like, "Well, they have all the answers, but what's their life really like? Are they really doing all this stuff?" So, it's helpful to hear. And I also like this idea that if you've prioritized it, and you've shown in so many ways how important it is, families with young kids, families who are... A relationship who's getting older, and why it's important to honor each other that way, and the connection that way. Yeah, I can imagine people triangulating, and just being like, "Alright. This is important, we're committed to how important it is. And this is the one hour that we have in a week where we can find ourselves in the same place, at the same time, without all those other responsibilities," and being willing to be committed in that way, to the process with each other. Neil Sattin: I realize we haven't gone really beyond that trusting commitment chapter in our conversation, but I'm also thinking about... You mentioned the anecdote of John working with a couple who he has this realization that they were never even really committed to each other, they'd always had a foot out the door. And when they got that reflected back at them, that became an opportunity for them to reflect on what commitment really was. And as much as they thought they were committed, were they truly committed to each other? Which is probably one reason why that first date is so powerful for people. John Gottman: Yeah. Julie Gottman: Exactly. John Gottman: Yeah, that couple, every time they had an argument or things got stressful, they were each thinking, "I can do better than my partner." They were thinking about their exit strategy, rather than, "What can I do to get closer and more committed? How can I get past this period? It's stressful." Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think you mentioned that as a harbinger of doom in not your classic Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, but the negative comparisons, and how the impact that that has. Can you talk about that a little bit, so that our listeners understand what that means? Julie Gottman: Sure. There was a fabulous researcher who studied the antecedents to betrayal. What is it that led up to people having affairs? And what she discovered is that, in particular, an individual in a relationship would always be comparing his or her partner to some better alternative, another person who they thought was better than the partner they currently have. And we call that a "negative comparison," or a "negative comp". And we found in our own research that when people continually make those negative comparisons, always finding their partner wanting, always seeing the negative side of their partner, rather than being grateful and cherishing what their partner does provide for them, then that often leads to crossing the lines into developing relationships with someone else, perhaps beginning with a friendship, and then perhaps deepening into a possible betrayal, whether it's an emotional affair or a physical affair, or both. And so, the whole idea of not making negative comparisons with your partner and someone else, but instead trying to see the good in what your partner is, who they are, what they do give you, what they are beautiful in, is a way to really keep the relationship stable, keep the relationship loving, warm, really a treasure for you. John Gottman: And another thing that this researcher, her name is Caryl Rusbult, R-U-S-B-U-L-T, Caryl Rusbult found was that when conflict happens, these couples, instead of giving voice to their complaints and talking about their needs, they'd talk to somebody else about how miserable they were in the relationship, and confide in someone else, not in their partner. And so, part of what this book talks about is, one of the dates is about how to deal with conflict. And the other thing about the book is that it tries to teach the skills of managing conflict well in the relationship, and having intimate conversations. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, I'm wondering... Just a quick little footnote on the negative comps; is that an intervention that you suggest? So, if I'm someone who notices, "Oh, I do that all the time, I'm always thinking, 'Oh, if I just were with so-and-so, or, the grass is greener.'" And I could even see that being a bit of an addiction for people. And I'm using that term loosely, but that kind of like, "Oh, I could just escape this, and... " What is a way that... John Gottman: Yeah, it's kind of a mind... Neil Sattin: Go ahead. John Gottman: It's kind of a mindset. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Julie Gottman: There are two things that need to be changed with a couple where that's going on. One is that the individual who's making the negative comps needs to be thinking about what do they need that is not being met in the relationship, and bring that up with their partner, not talk to somebody else, as John mentioned, but to bring it up with their partner. To really think about, "Okay, what's missing for me, what is it that I'm feeling? Am I feeling lonely? Am I feeling starved for affection? Am I feeling criticized, or put down all the time?" What is it that they need? And taking their need, and expressing it in a positive way. We call this "Expressing a positive need." Which means if something feels bad, flip it on its head, to think, "Okay, what do I want in place of that negative thing?" For example, if you feel criticized all the time, "I would love to hear appreciations from you. I would love to hear some compliments from you about how funny I am, or how I look, or what a great human being I am," in general of course. So, flipping that need on its head and giving a positive need to it. What is it you do need, rather than don't want or need? That's one thing. Julie Gottman: The other thing is looking at your partner with different eyes. And this, again, takes a whole mental shift. What is my partner doing right? Not, what are they always doing wrong, but what are they doing right? For example, John and I have been together for 32 years, and every single morning he makes me coffee. Anybody who makes me coffee is my hero. [laughter] Julie Gottman: for life upon life. And so, John has been doing that every single morning, and he makes the best coffee in the world. And so, I always thank him every morning for making coffee, seeing the good. I could take it for granted and say nothing, but that's not helpful in a relationship. And I do appreciate it. John Gottman: Hey, you do. Julie Gottman: Right. John Gottman: Well, you can think about the fundamental problem in relationships is that we are actually attracted to people who are very different from us. And that's why the dating websites are really... Have a broken system of match-making. Because they're matching people and saying, "If you date somebody who is just like you, you're going to really like each other." But it really doesn't work. Okay, Cupid, for example, will pair 50,000 people, and 200 marriages result from that pairing. So, they're 96% ineffective for people to meet who like each other. So, it turns out, we really like people who are not like us. We don't want our clone. And then, when we're attracted to this person, we have this asymmetry. But that we have to act as a couple, we have to create symmetry. And the worst way to do that is to try to get your partner to be like you, to try to criticize your partner for not being like you. And that's the fundamental problem in relationships, that's not the way to do it. Really, you have to accept your partner for who they are. And they are different and cherish those differences. Julie, for example, is very different from me. She was a downhill skiing racer in college, she went downhill 50 miles an hour. Her idea, her dream was to go to Mt. Everest base camp, number two with 10 other women. And I'm very different, my dream was to study differential equations. [laughter] John Gottman: I sit in my chair to do that. And so, she's an athlete and an explorer, and I'm just the opposite. I call myself an indoors man. [laughter] John Gottman: So, we have these really big differences. But the ways in which she's different from me, really are quite wonderful, and I love them and cherish them. And if she, on the other hand, said, "What's wrong with you, why can't you have more of a sense of adventure like me?", then she'd be trying to turn me into her, which really doesn't work. And if she was successful in turning me into her, she wouldn't be attracted to me. Julie Gottman: And the other side of that is that John has failed miserably in trying to make me either a mathematician or a physicist. [chuckle] Julie Gottman: We accept each other's differences. I do listen to John when he describes some latest discovery in physics and math. I try desperately to understand. I don't, but I nod my head. And so... [chuckle] John Gottman: But you actually do understand a lot. Julie Gottman: Okay. So we make it work. We make it work. Neil Sattin: I want to point out that at the back of your book, you have lots of great suggestions for people to help them identify ways they actually do cherish their partner. So, if you're listening and thinking, "Well, I've kinda lost touch with that." Or, "It's just like I can appreciate them for the same old thing. I've been appreciating their coffee making for 32 years, but I'm not sure what else to appreciate." Then, it can be helpful to have some prompts in that regard, to help you reflect upon all the different ways that your partner shows up for you. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about... Because this is another, in a way, a pre-requisite for the book, although I have a feeling that as you go through each of the dates, you will cultivate this as well. And the question is making the mental shift around developing understanding, and embracing your differences, the way you were just talking about, versus that sense of judging your partner's differences. It's one thing to say, "Listen to your partner without judging them," and then it can be a totally different thing to actually put that into practice. Julie Gottman: Right. So, you're asking how do you work on accepting your partner's differences, yeah? Neil Sattin: Yeah, what is that... Well, I think I'm just highlighting it for one thing, because it's so key to how to have these conversations, I think, is just to realize like, "I'm just trying to understand this person who's sitting across from me, or next to me." Julie Gottman: That's really a wonderful question. We have a particular way of people doing that, which is, first of all, asking each other things like, "What's the history in your family about that particular characteristic or value that you have. Where does that come from for you? What's the background to that that led you to either value this particular way of being, or has led you to love this particular dream?" So, asking about background is important. Also, asking things like, "Well, what does it mean to you to have this particular passion, or this particular love, or this particular characteristic? Is there some underlying purpose to living by this value? What does it mean to you?" So, you're carving out kind of a subterranean region, where you're discussing both more personal history, that may be good, maybe not so good, as well as the more existential piece of who you are, how you've arrived at some particular set of values or characteristics that have meaning and purpose for you. Julie Gottman: Now, the other thing though, is that there's always going to be either lifestyle preferences, or just personality characteristics that you don't know where they come from, they don't have particular meaning. But they are who your partner is. And so it's not necessarily that you're going to absolutely love and cherish those differences, they might drive you crazy. John and I have characteristics like that. He calls himself "Charmingly sloppy," and I'm obsessively neat, a little OCD. [laughter] Julie Gottman: Okay, so that's a big difference, right? So I'm not going to adore the fact that there might be piles of books everywhere. However, however, you create almost ways of coping with those differences that are not necessarily conflict, they're simply, "Okay John, it's been four weeks. I'm now at risk of my life when I make the bed because the pile books next to the bed is so high that I may trip over them and be buried in an avalanche. So, can you please move the books?" It kinda looks like that. So you accept those differences in each other and cherish the ones that really have some purpose and meaning to them. Neil Sattin: Yes, in the very second date night that you talk about is how you work with conflict. John Gottman: Exactly. Neil Sattin: And probably no chance, it's not just a total happenstance that that comes second after trust and commitment. Julie Gottman: [chuckle] Yes, indeed. Because that is what most couples struggled with. We are a culture that has a lot of trouble expressing emotion. We've all been taught that, for example, it's not okay for men to express fear, sorrow, vulnerability, anxiety, fine for them to express anger, but the more vulnerable emotions, not so much. And women are taught that they're horrible human beings, with the B word, if they express anger. So, how then do you have conflicts where there are these constraints and fences around what you express or don't express? So, what we believe is that it's incredibly important for people to express all of their emotions, whether it's anger, or sorrow, or frustration. But that chapter, in particular, really focuses on how do you express those emotions, especially if they're negative ones, and how do you respond to them with empathy when you hear them, rather than just defensiveness, which takes you down the wrong path. That's that chapter. John Gottman: Yeah. We learned that behind every one of these negative emotions, there is a longing, and in that longing, there is a need and a recipe for solving the conflict. So, we have blueprints that we can offer that make conflict really constructive, so it doesn't alienate people, it actually brings them closer together, and creates that understanding that you mentioned earlier. Neil Sattin: Yeah. That reminds me of, I think, it's the 'Dreams within Conflict' exercise that we've mentioned here on the show before, and I think, if it's okay with the two of you, I'll offer it here as well, that if you download the transcript for this episode, we can also include that 'Dreams within Conflict' exercise, which touches, maybe not ironically, two of the dates. It touches that conflict piece, but also the very last date is all focused on your dreams, and what you aspire to as individuals. And it just feels like such a powerful addition, because I want everyone to know who's listening, it's not all trust and commitment, and addressing conflict. You get those out of the way, the very next one is being able to talk about sex and intimacy. And in there is play, and fun, and how you foster that in your relationship, too. So yeah, go ahead. Julie Gottman: Right. So, a lot of people think that "Well, if you solve all of your conflicts, your relationship is going to be just dandy." But we found in our research that that really wasn't true, that you do have to focus on how do you create a more positive experience in the relationship. We all work so darn hard that we forget how important fun is, how important play is, how important a sensitive venture is. And the fact that we can share those with each other is part of the wonder, the beauty, of having a terrific committed relationship. You've got a playmate, you've got somebody you can do all of that with. You can have wonderful sex, you can have intimacy, but you have to be able to talk about what it is that you love, what brings a sense of adventure and fun to you, ways that you would prefer to have an intimate connection. How do you want to do that? What's going to feel great for you? So, it's very important to be talking about all of that as well. That's part of this book. Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I love, too, how because the focus is on developing that shared understanding with that, as opposed to trying to make your partner like you or trying to just figure them out so you can get past all your conflicts somehow, I think what it actually does is it opens up this huge resource for you, of energy, and ways that you can bring more variety and connection into your life. Like each of these dates strikes me as a seed for so many different other experiences that could come from that understanding that you're building with your partner. Julie Gottman: Exactly. That's a lovely way to say it. Neil Sattin: I'm wondering if, and you can say no, you can pass on this question if you like, but I'm wondering if you'd each be willing to share what you think the most valuable skill for you has been in your relationship. What is the thing that... And I'm sure there's more than one thing, but when you think about what being together for 32 years has been like, what has been something that you fall back on, something that not only is reliable for you in terms of helping you in your connection, but also you've had to maybe revisit it again and again, as like being reminded like, "Oh yeah, this is something I'm working on, and I have to bring that attention to my own work and growth in order to make this connection work."? Julie Gottman: I love that question. I'll start, yeah? [chuckle] John Gottman: Yeah, go ahead. Julie Gottman: Okay. So, I think what I've had to work on the most is kindness, without question. Kindness, and keeping in my mind a fixed picture of who my husband is. So, I'm a person who really reacts quickly to things, impulsively to things, I would have been a great emergency doc. [laughter] Julie Gottman: You have a response to stuff, and can respond well, or perhaps not so well. And so, I've really had to work on my tone of voice, what words I use, patience, and remembering that... I've had this vision... I'm going to embarrass John now, Neil. Neil Sattin: Uh oh. Julie Gottman: But, yeah. But I really see John as a genius. You can't say anything. And when you are living with somebody with the kind of mind that he has, then there's going to be unbelievable gifts that you get to share as that person shares their ideas, shares their creativity. And all of those gifts I have been privileged to experience with John. And so, when he's not perfect, when he doesn't clean the counter the way I want him to, see, there's the OCD, the books pile up or whatever, it's like, "Okay, he's writing a grant," or, "Okay, he's working on a book, and he's completely immersed in that." "Okay, he gets up at 3 O'clock in the morning because he's just had an idea come to him, and he's gotta go write it down, and he's going to wake me up with a flashlight in my face." [laughter] Julie Gottman: That's the way it is. And again, the privilege and the honor of living with somebody with whom I will never, ever be bored, ever, is such a gift, that add the little stuff as trivial. And so, I keep that impression and image of who John is in my mind as a fixed picture, and remember the gifts of that, and try like crazy to be kind and to be patient. And believe me, I do not succeed a lot of the time, but... And thank God he's patient with me. [laughter] Neil Sattin: Thank you for your honesty about that, Julie. Julie Gottman: [chuckle] Right. You're welcome. John Gottman: Well, my big problem is defensiveness. And I have to learn over and over again that when Julie is feeling something very strongly, it's time for the world to stop, and me to listen without being defensive, even if she's disappointed in me, or angry with me, or I've done something to upset her. And I do a lot of things that are thoughtless, and often I ignore her because I'm so involved in a paper I'm writing or something like that. And when I concentrate, a lot of times I don't hear her calling my name even, because I really literally don't hear it. So I do things that really hurt her, and I need to listen. And for me, that's very hard, because the first thing I'm thinking is, "Why is she so negative? Just appreciate everything I do, and just come to me when she's really happy." So I had to learn when she's upset about something, the world needs to stop, and I need to listen without being defensive, and try to understand what she's feeling. And usually, when I can do that, it rapidly diffuses the situation. She feels listened to and understood. Even if I'd hurt her, we can repair the relationship and figure out what to do. So that's my constant struggle, I think. Neil Sattin: And do you have a particular way that you remind yourself of that when you feel the defensiveness coming on? John Gottman: I carry a notebook in my back pocket, and I take it out and I take out my pen, and I tell her, "Okay, I'm listening. Slow down, let me write down everything you're saying." And as I'm writing, I get less defensive. I'm thinking, "Boy, why does she have to go into that? What's wrong with this woman?" And then, as I'm writing, I go, "Well, that's a good point." [chuckle] John Gottman: "Yeah, she's right there." And pretty soon I'm really paying attention and listening. So, for me, having that notebook and writing down what she says, and slowing her down, really helps me to be less defensive. Neil Sattin: I love that. And that really reminds me too of your dates together and the notebook that comes along on the dates. So I could see it kind of being a little reminder of like, "Right, we have a connection that transcends this whatever-it-is that's causing conflict right now." John Gottman: Yeah. I probably have about 400 notebooks that I've filled in the 32 years we've been together. [laughter] And they're all piled on my bureau. Julie Gottman: And I'm going to burn them. [laughter] Neil Sattin: Won't that be a lovely ritual for the two of you. [laughter] Neil Sattin: Well, John and Julie, it's been such a treat to have you here with us today on 'Relationship Alive'. Your new book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, is so rich, and I think obviously has a lot to offer couples, no matter where they're at in a relationship. And I think, even if you're single, going through the prep work questions would be really helpful as a way of just understanding who you are and how you operate in a relationship. If you want to get more information about the book, there's a website that is devoted to the "Eight Dates" book, which is eight, the number eight, datesbook.com. You can also visit gottman.com to find out more about Julie and John's work, the work they're doing through the Gottman Institute. And they're going to be on a book tour to support the "Eight Dates" book, traveling all over the country, so you may be able to catch them in your community. And I definitely encourage you, if they're anywhere nearby, go check them out. You'll have a chance to ask questions, I'm sure. And as you can tell, they're delightful people. So I encourage you to go and find them when they're in your neck of the woods. Neil Sattin: Other than that, if you want the transcript to today's episode, neilsattin.com/gottman4. And as you might get, that's because we've had John on a few times before, so you can go to Gottman, Gottman2, Gottman3, and you can get your dose of Gottman, and it's so sweet, Julie, to have you here with us as well. I've loved your contribution today in this conversation. Thank you so much both for joining us, and I look forward to having you here again on 'Relationship Alive'. Julie Gottman: Thank you so much, Neil. It was really fun. Thank you. John Gottman: Yeah. Neil Sattin: Great. Julie Gottman: Okay.  

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#10

80: Bring Your Shadow Into the Light - Keith Witt

February 28, 2017 • 88m

How do unconscious forces affect what you do in your relationship? Is there a way to get in touch with those things lurking in the shadows of your inner self - so that they can become fuel for positive energy in your life? In today’s episode, we have a return visit from Dr. Keith Witt, integral psychologist and author of the new book Shadow Light: Illuminations at the Edge of Darkness, and we will dive deep into how you can harness your shadow as a force for good! (If you’re curious to also hear Keith Witt’s other episode, you can check out Episode 13 - Resolve Conflict and Create Intimacy through Attunement) Defining shadow: Shadow is the concept that there is a lot that influences us of which we are not consciously aware. For example, our nervous systems are always reacting to internal and external cues. Our nervous system processes information from the world within and the world without and sends this information, these stories, to our consciousness. As our nervous systems scan and determine safety continually, we navigate our world throughout the day 1-10 seconds at a time. 40-60% of the information we gather about the world comes from nonverbal cues- from the unconscious to unconscious. If our nervous system concludes we are safe then we are more able to be in the moment. If it reads threat, however, then we go into defense and protective reactions. All this happens instinctively and unconsciously. Our conscious awareness either notices or doesn’t notice. All psychotherapy and healing work is about growing awareness of the shadow self, becoming more and more able to notice and interact with the unconscious itself. Developing awareness: Developing awareness of our shadow selves is a continual process. It is effortful and easeful at the same time. Difficult and simple. It can begin by simply focusing on our breath going in and out of our nostrils and down into our abdomen. This meditation alone increases our appreciation of the sensation of breathing, and begins to build the mindfulness muscles so necessary to stay in the moment and be with what is. We probably have to practice this awareness of breath 1,000 times before it is a go to resource for us, but it is critical to developing our perceptual awareness, and our ability and capacity to shift our awareness between our conscience and subconscious. Take the reins: Imagine your unconscious as a group of horses. Our conscious self is the one that should have the reins - the one that chooses the direction if it is in control. You want to shift from the experience of the horses pulling the carriage in any direction (usually more directions than one!) they please, to a centered and directed approach. The conscious self has the potential to direct the development of our unconscious, the potential to choose how to consciously and authentically evolve. Be in charge of the interface between your conscious and subconscious - and invite shadow material to surface. You can do this by asking yourself questions and listening to the answers given by your shadow self (that which is under awareness). Expect everything to be as it is: Are you finding yourself stuck in repetitive patterns either in your inner world, or in your relationship? If so, there is likely a defensiveness that is creating resistance and repetition. Look under the surface for a clue - ask yourself what fear or expectation are you protecting yourself from? A key to breaking this desire/disappointment cycle, and finding more authentic happiness, is to return to an expectation that everything is and will be just as it is. This shift will help increase authenticity and give the energy to better hear and see ourselves clearly. Constructive and destructive shadow: As we become more aware of all that influences us at any given moment, we can learn to discern between the constructive instincts and the destructive instincts. Remember, as you do this, that we do not have inherently evil parts of ourselves, and that the parts of ourselves that react and behave in ways we deem destructive are working to protect us. It is critical to our interactions that we become responsible for noticing and naming ways that our more destructive shadow self is showing up in any given conversation or exchange. How are these protective parts of you creating or exacerbating escalations, conflict, withdrawal, etc? If there is a sense that the connection between you and your partner is degrading or diminishing than there is evidence that this protective schema is at play. Shift into curiosity and cooperation - how in this moment can you work with your own fears and pain in a way that allows you to move towards repair and connection? Couples that cooperative and are open to receiving influence from each other are stronger, happier, and healthier.   Don’t deny drives: In order to avoid deception, resentment, and the buildup towards an affair it is critical that you be honest about your instinctual drives, and curious about your partner’s. Do not deny them. Be receptive and creative in finding ways to meet each other’s needs. If you want to have a solid marriage, you must be willing the make sacrifices and make sure you allow your partner to be fulfilled, emotionally, erotically, relationally, spiritually, parentally. Long term relationships require will and effort and conscious acts of creation. If you are not willing to exercise that choosing and dedication, then fleeting passionate romance and affairs might shine brighter in your life and distract you from what is possible and waiting in your marriage. Turn towards the questions below to help clarify your knowing about why your partnership is worth the effort: Ask questions to explore these 5 dimensions that are critical to intimacy: Is there erotic polarity between this person and myself? Does this person take care of their psychological and physical health? If I was in conflict with this person would they be able to get back to love? Would this person show up as a parent or family member? Does this person have something that is sacred to them that is larger than themselves and are they respectful of what is precious to me? The hero/heroine journey- The last question above is so integral to a fulfilling relationship in that it reminds us that we cannot have a fulfilling love life if we ignore that which calls us forward. We are each on our own sacred heroic path, and our partner is as well. This journey must be celebrated, honored, protected, and nourished. Get in touch with what archetypal forces are influencing you- finding the ones that shut you down, or light you up- and begin to bring the concept of the hero/heroine’s journey into your long-term relationships. How can you use archetypal metaphors to understand each other better? How can you experience yourself as your own hero/heroine of your autobiographical narrative, and your partner as a companion, and vice-versa. Becoming clear about your sacred purpose is critical not only to living authentically, but also to loving authentically. Your partner may, at first, wish for you to choose them over your own sense of purpose and desire, however ultimately, you will be diminished, weakened, and likely lose attractiveness in their eyes if you do not dedicate yourself and follow your knowing. Trust, together, that following your truth and honoring your mission is one of the most loving things you can do to create a fulfilling and stable partnership. Be a magical aide: Witt explains “if you have a partner that is deepening intimacy with you, you’ll feel that partner joining with you and supporting you on your quest. Your partner will become a source of magical aide for you, and one of your allies. And you want to be a source of magical aide for your partner too on his/her epic journey”. Summoning the archetypes: Not sure how to identify inspiring or informative archetypes? Begin looking around, in your mind and memory, in your lived experience, in stories, movies, religious scripts, etc. in order to find heros. Identify their characteristics- what calls them forward in the world? Once you have identified archetypes that speak to you, you can find that part in yourself, and in doing so, find the parts of yourself that are stopping you, or afraid of being that big/bold/courageous/generous/etc. This “want” vs. “can’t” is an ordeal. There is something you want to do, but you have a fear that is blocking or protecting you from fully embodying these characteristics and doing that thing that you want (asking for a raise, learning to surf, asking your wife to explore sex more with you…). Whatever your ordeal is, if you take your ordeal on and do your best with it, you WILL discover more of your warrior self and strengthen your warrior self in that ordeal, and that leads you a little deeper. Have conversations with your archetypes! Find them in dreams! Do meditations! Spend time with them. Summon them as needed. Illumination at the edge of darkness: Never ever say “that is just the way I am”. Even if you think this, do not say it! Say, instead, “I’ll work on it”. In order to build intimacy and grow your love life, move towards discovery.  Become curious and learn about your shadow side and how it is influencing your desires or fears. Go to the interface between the known and the unknown. Be in this interface without judgment, but with curiosity and acceptance, and with discernment for what is healthy and unhealthy. Be in that interface between constructive and destructive shadow with caring intent, always working to reach towards health. This, of course, is not as easy as it sounds and it requires effort and courage, however as we know, when we act with courage we discover more courage! Remember, as Witt explains, that “focused intent and action in service of principal, driven by resolve, is a human superpower!”  If you have focused intent and action in service of loving your partner better, and you are resolved to do that, you are going to create better love with your partner. And if you both do it, you are going to create better love, and will continue to discover more and more about each other and the world. This is illumination at the edge of darkness! Find the courage to share: We have a cultural dissociation around eroticism in the West, or maybe it is everywhere, maybe it is a human thing in that human societies tend to control people’s sexual choices.  Either way, it is up to us to overcome this silence, and to be able to open to each other in order to keep erotically alive. One exercise to help with this courageous conversation is explained below: Create a lust map: Try this exercise in order to help clarify, communicate, and celebrate your sexual desires. Get a big sheet of paper and draw a circle in the middle. Using colored pencils, markers, collage materials, etc. write and draw things around the paper that light you up or turn you off and draw lines connecting to the center circle, and to anywhere else on the page- building a web. Be specific! Write down activities, behaviors, thoughts, fantasies, longings, etc. Get big with it - make it a masterpiece. When you finish, take turns showing your maps to your partner, explaining the different discoveries you have made. This sharing inevitably wakes things up - good or bad. You may find yourselves more turned on and connected, or perhaps triggered and intimidated. If the latter, it may be helpful to seek a therapist together in order to be held as you navigate discrepancies that arise from differing desires. Ask yourself: “is there room for me to help you have a better time during lovemaking, or vice versa?” Know that this exercise, however vulnerable it is, has powerful effects. What possibilities open up? The art of intimacy is really the art of believing that you can engage in relationships that have endless levels of intimacy. There are a zillion ways to have great sex! For example, what possibilities open up if we aren’t following orgasm? We are all wired for sexual satisfaction, however how we define this is very open to interpretation. In the West, we may have become too dependent on the dopamine rich climax result as our definition of sexual ‘success’. Tantra, for example, helps to break the unconscious sexual dissociation barriers that have become so pervasive. It helps us to open again to an expansive, inclusive, and spontaneous exploration of what defines our own sense of sexual satisfaction. This expansiveness inevitably leads to a more fulfilling, awake, nourishing, and conscious sex life. By committing to authenticity and transparency you will find that you are able to go deeper together into a space of more and more personal and erotic growth. Interesting fact: The average time couple’s spend engaging in foreplay increased from 7 minutes in 1940 to 14 minutes in 2000. This is a doubling in 60 years. Resources: Read Keith Witt’s new book Shadow Light: Illuminations at the Edge of Darkness and buy the workbook too! Explore videos, resources, and more on Keith Witt’s School of Love website! Read more about the concept of shadows in successful marriages on his blog! www.neilsattin.com/shadow Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Keith Witt.   Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out

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#13

108: Creating Positive Intensity in Your Connection with Harville Hendrix & Helen LaKelly Hunt

September 19, 2017 • 57m

Does it seem like the only time that things get intense in your relationship is when negative things happen? This kind of experience, repeated over time, can literally train your brain to be in a hyper-vigilant state when your partner is around. So how can you rewire your brain to experience your partner as intensely positive? And how do you switch from a pattern of complaining to a pattern of wish-granting with your partner? In today’s episode, Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt return to answer these important questions. We cover one particular exercise that you can do with your partner (that Chloe and I experienced in their Getting the Love You Want workshop at Kripalu) that they’ve never talked about in an interview! We also discuss tips from their new book, The Space Between, which offers a succinct explanation of how to apply the fundamental lessons from their work in your relationship. Additionally, if you’re interested in hearing our first conversation together, you can do that here: Episode 22 - Essential Skills for Conscious Relationship with Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt Positive Flooding: Positive flooding is a brain exercise that produces dramatic shifts in how partners relate to one another, especially when it comes to trust and safety. So often when we are desiring certain changes in our partner we come at them with criticism and complaint. What happens when instead we communicate from the parts of our brain that can appreciate our partner’s strengths and contributions? By acknowledging all that your partner is doing right it becomes increasingly safe to discuss more vulnerable and difficult topics. When we move ourselves into the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex- the region of the brain that houses curiosity and openness- we can create a sense of connection with our partner that is non judgemental and more collaborative. Given that energy follows intention, and that what we focus on becomes what we get, it is our responsibility to choose where we place our attention.   How to try positive flooding: While this is mostly an exercise done in workshops, you can give it a try at home! The entire exercise is only a few minutes long, and is broken down as follows: Step 1: Place your partner in the center of a space, and circle around them as you speak Step 2: Spend 1 minute commenting on all the features of your partner’s body that you appreciate (their hair, the curve of their nose, their bright eyes…). Speak with natural volume. Step 3: Spend 1 minute identifying and expressing your appreciation for all of your partner’s traits that you find amazing (their warmth, their intelligence, their kindness, etc). Raise your voice as you do this to medium volume. Step 4: Speak, in a really loud voice this time (nearly shouting), about behaviors and things that your partner has done that you really appreciate. Step 5: After these three minutes are over stand in front of your partner and jump up and down exclaiming, in as loud a voice as you can, how much you love, appreciate, and value them. Yell “I can’t believe I am in a relationship with someone as amazing as you! I love you I love you I love you I love you!” Step 6: End the exercise by standing and sharing a one minute long hug. Then switch.   Intensity without aggression: The Positive Flooding exercise is a way to rewire people’s nervous systems. There is a certain intensity to this practice as it has a lot of energy to it- and yet, it is all with positive intention. Throughout the exercise both people will likely have a sympathetic nervous system response in which their energy is elevated and their body may perceive threat. At the same time however, the body begins to register that the intensity is coming from love, and this, along with the hug at the end,  activates the parasympathetic response which helps to calm and re-regulate. In this way both people learn to respond, physiologically and psychologically, to intensity with appreciation versus apprehension, thus giving people a different embodied memory of intense energy.   Positive flooding in everyday life: Play around with positive flooding in everyday life by expressing something intensely positive to each other a sentence at a time throughout the day. The point is to direct intense positive and loving energy at your partner on a regular basis- because positive venting creates body memories that provide a sense of bonding, versus disconnection. The more you do this, the more you build up a storehouse of memories that reflect a positive quality.  As you increase the repertoire of positive memories you increase the memory base that helps inform the association of safety and love, versus danger and hurt and this way your partner will intrinsically tend towards feeling open versus on alert during your interactions.   Memory making: Ask yourself- what kind of memories do I want my partner to have of me? Once you have clarity on the quality of these memories, check in on if you are taking responsibility in your actions to make sure these memories are being created. In what ways are you being caring, and in what ways are you being careless in your relationship? We have the power, for better and for worse, to populate our partner’s memory system in such a way that their brain organizes and remembers us in certain ways. Knowing that the brain wires around experiences that have emotional intensity as these are the ones that trigger endorphin releases- what type of intensity are you allowing into your interactions, and is it aligned with what you ideally want?   Stay out of the lower brain. The lower brain is wired for impulse and it’s motto can be described as ‘my way or the highway’. If we are not able to regulate ourselves when we encounter triggers, we often lose neural contact with the upper brain- that part of our brain that houses wonder, curiosity, and the ability to think flexibly. Exercises such as positive flooding help us to train our brain to more quickly recover from intensity and to stay in a creative and open place even on the edge of a trigger. The more you exercise this ability to stay out of the limbic brain, the more able you are to stay connected to your partner even in difficult conversations.   Wish in disguise: Most, if not all, of our frustrations are truly just wishes in disguise. The frustration itself points to a need that was not met, and a desire for this need to be acknowledged and addressed. If you go directly to the frustration your partner will become defensive, however, the more you can learn to listen for the disguised wish, the more collaborative the process can become. Some couple’s first learn to do this in a very structured process based on the template of dialogue process of mirroring, validating, and empathizing. To start, identify the frustration/complaint, then change this into a wish. Once the underlying wish has been identified give your partner 3 behaviors which would respond to the wish. While frustrations usually have very limiting and specific focuses, wishes and needs are often able to be fulfilled in a myriad of ways- get creative! Giving your partner options allows them to feel some agency and capability in actually being able to give you what you need- something that many people struggle with as they have become shut down around their ability to give and support.   Heroes and Sheroes: Almost everyone in a relationship is longing to be a shero/hero in their partner’s life. Unfortunately the negativity and failed attempts due to poor communication beats them down and makes them feel unable, incapable, and therefore, unwilling to try. Trust that your partner truly does want to come through for you. They are ready to be invited in as a support and will welcome the opportunity you offer by sharing what you need and ways they might step up.   Sender Responsibility: For most of us, not being able to ask for what we want in our relationship is the greatest problem. As you begin to practice asking more for what you need/desire/want, remember that it is not as much what you say, but rather how you say it. As the ‘sender’ be responsible with your frustrations and remember to speak with a kind tone of voice, soft eyes, and respectful language. The more intention and love you put into HOW you speak, the greater the likelihood that your partner will get curious about what you are sharing and feel open to doing what is being asked of them.   Practice asking for what you need:  In order to build the ‘I deserve’ muscle, begin practicing asking for small things so that you can get better and better at asking for the bigger things. Find tiny requests you can make that do not have a strong emotional charge, and practice asking for these things with intention. This will help get you into the habit of turning your frustrations into wishes and opportunities for clearer communication. Furthermore doing so not only will mean that your partner will finally understand and have the chance to show up for you, but you will actually get what you need and want! Win-win. Resources: Read their new book The Space Between Read Getting The Love You Want Learn more about their work and upcoming workshops on their website Get the toolkit for Safe Conversations: How to Create and Sustain a Thriving Relationship www.neilsattin.com/imago2 Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out

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#14

174: She Comes First: More Orgasms For Women with Ian Kerner

January 01, 2019 • 50m

What are some of the keys to helping a woman experience pleasure, and orgasms? If you’re a woman and you’re not having orgasms - and you want to be - then this episode could be really helpful - sure, for you - but especially for your partner. Maybe leave this episode’s transcript under their pillow? This week, our guest is Ian Kerner, New York Times bestselling author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman. Ian is a licensed psychotherapist, and nationally recognized sexuality counselor who specializes in sex therapy, couples therapy and working with individuals on a range of relational issues. Today Ian Kerner shares how he has helped couples create more intimate and satisfying sexual relationships and he addresses the knowledge gap that many of us have about a woman’s sexual anatomy. As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Resources: Visit Ian Kerner’s website to learn more about his work. Pick up your copy of Ian Kerner’s book, She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman . FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Your Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit www.neilsattin.com/ian to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Ian Kerner. Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out Transcript: Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome, to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Today I have with me Ian Kerner who is a nationally recognized sexuality counselor specializing in sex therapy, couples therapy, and working with individuals on a range of related  issues. He's regularly quoted as an expert in various media outlets with recent appearances on CNN, The Today Show, The Dr. Oz show, and now...he's here on Relationship Alive. Ian is The New York Times best­selling author of numerous books including "She Comes First", which is what we're  here to talk about today, and I should say that "She Comes First" is subtitled "The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman". In addition to being a clinical fellow of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Ian is also certified by the American Association of Sexuality  Educators, Counselors, and Therapists - also known as AASECT, with a doctorate in clinical sexology. If you download the transcript of today’s episode you will ALSO get a bonus show guide with highlights and action items from the show. You can do that at neilsattin.com/ian (I-A-N) or by texting the word PASSION to the number 33444 and following the instructions. Ian Kerner - thank you so much for joining us today on Relationship Alive! Ian Kerner: Thanks, Neil, my pleasure. Neil Sattin: Great. Well, we are here primarily to talk about She Comes First, which is a book about how to give pleasure to a woman and before we get started I was wondering if you could just let our listeners know a little bit more about you and how you came to write this book. Ian Kerner: Sure, well, I guess that there are two ways I came to write the book. One is sort of the professional path and the other is the personal path. Professionally, as a sex therapist at the time that I wrote the book and even through today, one of the questions I get asked most often by women is “what can I do to have an orgasm during intercourse, and what am I doing wrong?”. So I really wrote the book as a response to that question. I wanted to let women know you're not doing anything wrong. It's just that, you know, a lot of the men that you may happen to be partnered with are what I would call ill-cliterate, they know more about what's under the hood of a car than the hood of a clitoris and it's often through no fault of their own, and there's nothing wrong with you. It's just that we are sort of all trapped in what I'd call the Intercourse Discourse in terms of thinking of sex often in one way and that once you kinda break out of the intercourse discourse and think of other ways of pleasuring, and once men understand that the clitoris is the powerhouse of the female orgasm and how to stimulate the clitoris, then you really won't be asking the question, “what can I do to have an orgasm during the intercourse?” Ian Kerner: You may not be having intercourse at all, or you may be having intercourse plus other activities. So that's kind of the professional path. Personally, I suffered for many years from a very common sexual dysfunction, premature ejaculation. It's actually more prevalent than erectile disorder but certainly much less talked about, and it's an issue that leaves many men feeling sexually crippled, leaves many partners feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. And I suffered quite a deal from this... Quite a bit from this issue to the point that it affected my desire to date, and my desire to make love to a woman, certainly my confidence and my self-esteem and... Ian Kerner: When I began to learn more about female sexuality and about the power of the clitoris as sort of the centerpiece of female sexual arousal and I was able to learn how to pleasure a woman in other ways outside of just intercourse and with just my penis and I began to make love with not just my penis, but my mouth and my mind and my hands and every other part of my mind, body, and soul, it really liberated me and actually that liberation and that confidence and self-esteem became one of the most important tools that I gained at my disposal to manage premature ejaculation. Ian Kerner: So that is sort of the professional and personal pathway that led to writing She Comes First and I've been, you know, amazed over the years in terms of how the book has resonated and continues to sell and I hear not just from men but from women as well, who learned from the book and give it to their partners. And probably I'm most flattered when I hear from a parent who says, whether it's a mom or a dad, "I want my son to be sexually competent and to be respectful of female sexuality and understand female sexuality. And so I gave your book to my 18-year-old son." So that's a little bit of background to She Comes First. Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's great and it's really interesting to me because... Well, for one thing, we had Wendy Maltz on the show to talk about sexual healing and I got connected with you through Wendy and that was without really even knowing what you had done and what you were writing about. And then on the show, we've also talked a lot with a few people in particular, Diana Richardson, who wrote "Heart of Tantra" and then also Marnia Robinson, who wrote "Cupid's Poisoned Arrow", about both non-orgasmic sex and also the problems that orgasms can cause, particularly for men, in disconnecting them from their partner. And I'm bringing both of these things up because as I was reading your book, which is basically about how to perform cunnilingus, like that's what this book is about, and it does it in a very informative way, where I learned a lot about female sexuality that I didn't even know necessarily, and it's... I wanted to bring this actually to our audience because sometimes, for one thing, you may just want to go for it and have orgasms and she wanted to have some great methods and knowledge at your disposal on how to do that, so you're not just winging it. Neil Sattin: And I appreciated how in the book you brought up that most men actually don't have a lot of sources of information for how to please a woman. It's maybe the locker room, probably porn and apart from that, there's not a lot of guidance being offered. So I liked how you offer it from that perspective as a way to help bring people up the curve. Ian Kerner: Yeah, no, thank you. I mean, certainly on one level, the book is a very practical guide in how to pleasure a woman and how to, you know, create or get help to mutually co-construct and create orgasmic satisfaction and that is, I believe, through cunnilingus, not only in my own experiences, but you know, study after study shows that women, not that they prefer oral sex to intercourse, just that they most more consistently orgasm from cunnilingus as opposed to intercourse. That has a lot to do with the distance between the clitoris and the vaginal entrance, and in some women, it can be anywhere from two centimeters to four centimeters and many sexual positions or most sexual positions miss the clitoris altogether and the greater the distance, they call it the vaginal clitoral distance, the greater the distance between the clitoris with the clitoral glans, the head of the clitoris, what's visible and the vaginal entrance, the greater that distance, the harder it is for a woman to orgasm through intercourse. So, certainly manual stimulation, whether with your hand or with a sex toy and oral stimulation are more direct and consistent ways of eliciting orgasms. And I wanted and I hope that the book... I think actually the staying power of the book has been that it's a little more than just a cunnilingus guide and that it is both a real introduction to understanding female sexuality and hopefully there's a little bit of a fun philosophy in it as well. Ian Kerner: And I just came across a really interesting statistic that related to porn use and that heterosexual women are the biggest consumers of lesbian porn. So heterosexual women are the biggest consumers of lesbian porn and that's for a couple of reasons. One, that heterosexual porn often really objectifies women and that's not a turn on to women who are watching porn. And then of course lesbian porn features a lot more cunnilingus. And when you look at the top search terms by women that women enter into porn sites... How explicit is this show, Neil? How G-rated, PG-rated or R-rated do you want me to keep it? Neil Sattin: We're good, we rate it explicit on iTunes. Ian Kerner: Okay. So when you look at the top five search... Neil Sattin: However, let me just interrupt you and say if you're listening with your eight-year-old in the car right now, it might be a good time to hit pause and then come back to it. [chuckle] Ian Kerner: Okay, I would say you should have hit pause like 10 minutes ago. [laughter] Ian Kerner: But if you need to hit pause now go ahead and hit pause now. But the top terms are things like "pussy licking", "pussy eating", "pussy touching". I mean, they're all terms that really come back to clitoral stimulation and particularly oral stimulation of the clitoris. So I guess, I just wanted to provide a little bit of context and both around the importance of direct clitoral stimulation and the way that I'm trying through the book to take an act that's traditionally considered foreplay and turn it into coreplay, a complete act of love making that really vouchsafes and guarantees almost the female orgasm. Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love that, especially because we are arriving at a very similar place where we're talking about expanding the definition of intimacy and expanding what it means to be making love with your partner, coming at it from different directions. But you arrive at this very similar place which is, how are you really exploring sensuality with your partner and are you doing it in a way that's actually not objectifying your partner, but really about tapping into what really makes them tick and feel good? So let's start with that because one of the most fascinating things in reading your book was that there are 18 parts to the clitoris, and I'm not expecting you to necessarily remember what all of those are right here now. Ian Kerner: [chuckle] Okay. Neil Sattin: But I was like, "What are you even talking about?" And then you went on to elucidate. And so I'm hoping that you can just give us a little bit of a taste of what you're talking about. Ian Kerner: So male and female sexual anatomy, although they look very different, they're actually homologous and that means during the early months of gestation, when a woman is pregnant with a baby, the baby isn't really differentiated as male or female until around the 12th or 13th week and up until that time, the baby doesn't really have an assigned sex, and all of the tissue that's ultimately going to form the genital structures, it's really up for grabs, which way is it going to go, male or female? And then around the 12th or 13th week, there's some different bursts of hormones, namely testosterone. And the fetus is either differentiated as male or female, but all of the same tissue is used and male sexual anatomy will grow outward into a penis and scrotum with testicles and it's all very visible. Ian Kerner: But those same structures really exist for women, they just kind of grow... Everything grows inwards. And so what you end up seeing is a vulva that includes a vaginal entrance and inner and outer labia, as well as what we would also call the clitoris. Really what we tend to think of as the clitoris and sometimes people refer to it as a bump or the little man in the boat or the pea in the pod. I mean, there's a lot of sort of vernacular around the clitoris but really that what you're seeing is the head of the clitoris, or the clitoral glans just as a guy has a head on his penis, and really for a woman that clitoral glans is really just kind of the tip of the iceberg. And there's a whole internal development of sexual anatomy and really the latest science is really showing that all of that material really encompasses what you would consider sort of like the clitoral network, and so that even the g-spot is probably just the back and roots of the clitoris. Ian Kerner: And so that's really what I mean when I say that the clitoris has 18 parts, that the part that we normally associate with... Usually are generally associated with the clitoris again, is really just the tip of the iceberg and there are other parts that are internal and external that constitute the totality of the clitoral network, and it would be extremely... It's really rather rare for a woman to really experience arousal and certainly orgasm without clitoral stimulation. Neil Sattin: Right. So even if you're having, say vaginal orgasms, that's probably because you're stimulating the part of the clitoris that is actually surrounding... Ian Kerner: Correct, correct. And those... That part of... Those parts of the clitoris tend to be either on the surface of the vulva or within the first inch or two of the vaginal entrance and the deeper you go into the vagina, the less nerve endings, there are... The less sensitivity there is. And so really when you think about making love, making love to a woman, rather than thinking vaginally, you should really be thinking clitorally. And rather than thinking about penetration, you should be thinking about stimulation and rather than thinking about really internal stimulation, you should be thinking about external stimulation of the vulva. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so hence what you were talking about earlier, about how the penetration really doesn't even have to happen at all. Ian Kerner: No, it really doesn't. And that's why, you know, when men obsess over penis size, not to say that size is totally irrelevant, or that size doesn't matter, or that it doesn't feel good to a woman to have a penis inside a vagina. I'm not trying to discredit entirely the role of the penis in pleasuring a woman, but I don't think that really size is as relevant as men think it is. Neil Sattin: And when you're talking to people about performing oral sex on a woman, what kind of problems or obstacles do you run into around actually someone diving into doing that? Ian Kerner: Okay, well, I mean, first of all, it is about thinking of oral sex, not just as sort of an optional appetizer but is a required entree and understanding, thinking of oral sex, clitoral stimulation as a complete act of love making that often can include the female orgasm. It's also not just what you're doing, but when you're doing it and being tuned into a woman's arousal arc and thinking about it as a dance in which you are both participants in which she's often leading the dance in order to cue to you the type of stimulation that at the time feels good and right. I mean, as we sort of know the more you get aroused, the more tolerance you have for sensation. So certain things that may feel not so great at the beginning may feel really great towards the end of an act of love making closer to orgasm. The other thing that I deal with is probably just self-esteem issues, misconceptions. I often am working with couples in which ironically, believe it or not, it's often the male partner who's very eager to engage in oral sex, really loves going down on his partner, really enjoys it, wants to sort of liberate himself from the tyranny of his penis. Ian Kerner: I'm using rather a hyperbolic language today on this podcast. And very often, it's a female partner who has genital self-esteem issues, so maybe she feels like she doesn't look beautiful down there, or taste wonderful, or smell is great, or maybe she feels like she's taking too long. Women often can bring a lot of anxiety around receiving oral sex, and for many women, especially women who have experienced faking orgasms, it's sometimes easier to give pleasure than it is to receive pleasure. I know a lot of women who really enjoy giving pleasure and can really participate in that way, but when it comes to receiving pleasure, they tend to get very anxious or very inhibited. And so a lot of times that's the point at which I'm kind of entering into this situation and certainly there are men who are ambivalent about oral sex who don't understand it as being important, who don't understand clitoral stimulation, who maybe have had some negative experiences in the past, or were brought up to feel that maybe a woman's vulva or vagina is unhygienic in some ways. So there can be a lot of myths and misconceptions, and opportunities for discomfort around oral sex. Neil Sattin: Yeah, that brings up so many questions from me. I guess the first one would be, well, let's talk about those hang ups. So if someone is really feeling self-conscious about their own vagina or vulva, how do you work with someone like that so that they can relax into receiving? Ian Kerner: Well, it's sort of like throwing a stone into a pond and watching the ripples. How close to the stone are you going to get? Like at what point do you address the rippling? Do you think that... Well, really, I want to be in the kind of relationship that lends itself to intimate connected sex, and I really need to focus more on the positivity in the relationship and being in a sex-positive relationship and being able to communicate openly and constructively and arousingly around sex and then maybe you need to get closer to the sex act itself. And what are you really doing to stimulate desire and arousal? Some studies really show that the closer a woman gets to orgasm the more parts of the brain that are associated with stress, anxiety, high emotion deactivate and that as a woman is having an orgasm, she's actually entering into almost a kind of a trance-like state. And so what is happening to facilitate that process of deactivation where a woman can shut down those stress centers in the brain and those anxiety centers? And what are you doing in the actual environment around sex to create a sex-conducive environment to actually create sort of a love nest? And does that require music? Does it require lighting? Does it require certain types of being dressed or undressed? Like what does it take for a woman to feel really comfortable? Ian Kerner: And then I think the most important factor is really to be able to hear from a guy, hopefully a guy with whom she loves and has a secure, trusting attachment that she can really let go with, to hear from a guy, to be reassured like, "You are absolutely beautiful. I love doing this and it's arousing to me and I get so turned on by this and the longer it takes actually, the more I'm just postponing my own gratification and the more intense my own gratification is going to be." I think so many women just wonder, "Does he like doing this or is it a chore?" And you ask so many men and they say, "Well, I love doing it. It's the last thing from a chore. It's completely arousing. I get into my own kind of zen headspace." And then just the way you would look into a woman's eyes and let her know how beautiful you find her, I think, you want to be able to let her know how beautiful you find her vulva and you want to contribute to, again, that concept of genital self-esteem, positive genital self-esteem, that doesn't come from just your own sense of your body, like you need to be told by your partner that you are beautiful. And I think we often are focused on, "Oh, your hair looks great, or that dress looks great, or you look so hot and sexy right now." And we need to be able to extend those compliments to our mutual genitals. Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah and I noticed you were using the pronoun he but, I mean, this can apply to both... Ian Kerner: Right. Absolutely, absolutely. I didn't mean to take the words out of your mouth, but yes, it can apply to... I work with a lot of lesbian women who have bought She Comes First because they may have some inhibitions around oral sex or they want to be more proficient. And so, yes, I didn't mean to be gender-specific although I do have to say, I didn't write the book in a gender-neutral way. A lot of sex books and I've written a bunch of them can be written in a gender-neutral way, but I really wanted to send a specific message to heterosexual men. Neil Sattin: Yeah and probably rightly so, because if nothing else, we don't have a woman's body, so we don't have... And in fact, our penises can probably take a lot more and a lot different kinds of stimulation that we don't even think about than we might practice if we didn't know any better when we are with a woman. Ian Kerner: Yeah, I think that's true. When you look at the age at which men start having nocturnal emissions or wet dreams and they start masturbating and having their first orgasms, there's a huge concentration all in those early teen years, 13, 14, 15, and men have their first ejaculations and they figure out how to give them themselves these ejaculations repeatedly, and for most men orgasm and sex are very tied together, and most men wouldn't really think twice if you ask them, “do you know how to give yourself an orgasm?” But when you look at women, it's a very different story across the board. Women have their first orgasms at vastly different ages, many women who have had orgasms early in their teen years don't necessarily know exactly how to replicate them. Even today, I have a number of women in my practice who weren't really sure they've ever had orgasms. They've certainly enjoyed sex and they've felt a lot of arousal, but they're not sure that they've had orgasms. Neil Sattin: Yeah. One thing that you mentioned in just a few moments ago, it came out as part of how you reassure a partner, but I heard you talking about this what you call The Three Assurances. So I'm wondering if we can just enumerate those for people listening, so they know exactly what you're talking about that... because these seem really key. Ian Kerner: Yeah, do you mind if I go grab the book off my shelf then? I don't have it, so... [overlapping conversation] Neil Sattin: You know what I can... I'll read them out loud. Ian Kerner: Oh, that would be lovely. Neil Sattin: Because I have it right in front of me. Ian Kerner: Why don't you do that? Yeah, well, okay. Neil Sattin: Yeah, I didn't mean this for this to be a pop quiz... Ian Kerner: No, no, no, no, but I think the book says it better than I would just impromptu. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so what you write are, "To that end, the three assurances of the cunnilinguist manifesto are as follows: Number one, going down on her turns you on. You enjoy it as much as she does." So, I would paraphrase that, something like your pleasure gives me pleasure. Ian Kerner: Absolutely. Neil Sattin: "Number two, there's no rush. She has all the time in the world. You want to savor every moment." So that's taking the time pressure off and letting it just be what it is. And I have a question about that, but I'll come back to it. Ian Kerner: Okay. Neil Sattin: And then the third thing is that, "Her scent is provocative, her taste powerful. It all emanates from the same beautiful essence." So basically, where you're saying the whole visceral experience of being there is great, is amazing for me. So the question I had about the second one, the all the time in the world is... The book is about bringing a woman to orgasm and yet we also talk a lot about not being orgasm-focused and being real sort of process-oriented instead of product-oriented. Ian Kerner: Well, that's interesting, I don't... Yeah, let's talk about this. I don't think that there is anything necessarily wrong with being orgasm-focused. Our body participates in the process of arousal. There is a vasocongestion but blood flow to the genitals. There's myotonia, there's sexual tension being developed throughout the body and when those two processes kind of reach a tipping point, that muscular tension causes orgasm which is a flood of different sort of feel good hormones that are all triggered and connected to the release of sexual attention, and men and women have capacities to orgasm. Women have an innate capacity to experience multiple orgasms, and certainly, over the course of the life cycle, our relationship with orgasm changes and orgasms can feel differently and happen at different intervals. And we can lose our ability to have orgasms, but I don't think that there's anything wrong with being focused on, or wanting to have an orgasm, or wanting a partner to have an orgasm. And very often you will hear in the media and in writing and from professional therapists, many of whom are my colleagues, you'll sometimes hear, "Well, men tend to be orgasm-focused. Women tend to be more process-focused, more pleasure-focused, can enjoy sex without necessarily having an orgasm every time." Ian Kerner: I think that there is some truth to that, but I also want to just say that I meet with women every day in my practice who are sometimes on their own or sometimes as part of a couple and they are often very, very, very frustrated that they're not having orgasms in the sex that they're having. And given the choice between not having an orgasm and having an orgasm, they would much rather have one. And certainly there are times in life when you don't always have an orgasm, but if you're in a relationship where you are having sex and you are consistently not having orgasms, I'm going to wager that there's going to be a lot of distress and dissatisfaction. And I think also that one of the reasons we often tend to say, "Oh, women can be pleasure-focused or less concerned, or care less about orgasms," is because as men, we don't live in a culture where men really consistently are tuned in, care, and can kind of elicit orgasms consistently. So I think a lot of that sort of verbiage around being pleasure-focused and non-orgasm-focused is also justifying a paradigm in which men always get to have orgasms during sex and women do not. And so... My dogs are barking incessantly in the background. Neil Sattin: They agree with you. [chuckle] Ian Kerner: So I just want to challenge that assumption again. Listen, I understand that we should all be pleasure-focused. I've been working with a client for the last few weeks, and he's a gay man and he experiences erectile issues and delayed ejaculation, and one of the biggest changes he made on his OkCupid profile is saying that he is pleasure-focused as opposed to orgasm-focused. So I don't want to say that I don't understand the sentiment and that there aren't certain people for whom they really are going to be more pleasure-focused than orgasm-focused, but I also really don't want to discount the value and importance of orgasm, and I don't want to live in a world where we think that, "Oh, men consistently get to have their orgasms and women don't and that's okay, because women are more pleasure-focused and less orgasm-focused than men. Neil Sattin: Yeah, I really appreciate your taking a stand for the orgasm just now. And it makes a lot of sense that the mechanism is there. So if the experience of not having an orgasm is about the inability to have an orgasm or about... Well, not being able to take the time to have an orgasm which is what brought us down this topic, this line of conversation, then yeah, don't let it be an excuse by any means. Ian Kerner: Right. Now the other myth that's out there, it's not exactly a myth but it's sort of a semi-truth is that it takes women longer to get aroused and reach orgasm than it does men. And that's certainly something that I see in my practice all the time that I wrote in She Comes First, that I pretty much stand by. But when you also talk to women about masturbation and their sort of approach to self-pleasure, many if not most women will say, "Well, if I want to I can get there in three minutes." And it kind of starts to really resemble the way men masturbate and the road to orgasm can be as short for women as it is for men, that doesn't always translate into relational sex between two people, but I would say it's also something of a myth that it always takes women longer to reach orgasm, and that's so... Even in my reassurance about time, when you have all the time in the world then you're just happy to be there, it doesn't have to be a chore and it doesn't have to take so long. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and another thing I wanted to just clarify for you, too, is that when I say that here on the show we've talked a lot about non-orgasmic sex, we've been really approaching it from the perspective of well, for one thing, the way that for a man having an orgasm changes the level of connection that they're experiencing with their partner when they're making love. So in a way it's like taking it off the table so that you can actually prolong what's happening when you are doing the rest of the stuff, which is affecting you, obviously, biochemically and also energetically. Ian Kerner: Absolutely. I would agree with that. Very often when I'm working with couples and there's a sex issue, or they're not having mutual orgasms, or they're not enjoying sex as much as they could or there's some kind of dysfunction, I'll often say, "Well, let's take orgasms and sex off the table and let's just sort of go back to a ground zero and build up from there." Neil Sattin: Yeah, well, I think that this podcast episode would not be complete without talking about some actual techniques and details of how to do it and we don't have to cover everything. There's a lot of information in Ian's book, She Comes First, and that makes me think of another question but before I ask that, let's just talk about a few things that are important and that maybe you find to be the biggest problems when people are actually performing oral sex on a woman and how to do it differently? Ian Kerner: I think one misconception is that the tongue or an oral sex, it's about penetration or that the tongue is kind of a stand-in for the penis. And then a lot of guys sort of focus on sort of showing off a little bit. And again, all of the nerve endings that really contribute to the female orgasm are located on the surface of the vulva. They respond to gentle stimulation rather than penetration. Some women have told me, when complaining about their partner's oral sex techniques, "Oh, it's like the running of the bulls in Spain, a mad stampede for my clit." That's not what you want to be doing. They're like, "When he goes down on me, it's like a cobra fighting a mongoose." It's just like a...you don't want to be that vicious cobra. You want to approach oral sex again as a dance in which a woman is often leading, sometimes just providing a very flat still tongue or a simple point of resistance. Ian Kerner: There's an area of the vulva, of the clitoris, that's actually just above the clitoral glans which would be more in the area of the hood that kind of covers the glans but it's just that area, just sort of a little above and behind the clitoral glans that's called the Front Commissure and it's a little smooth area that's so kinda like the... As big as... Less than the size of a fingernail of your pinky, but there's a lot of nerve endings there and that area responds very well to pressure, not necessarily friction but pressure and if you just sort of get into a groove and get into a position where a woman is... Ian Kerner: Where there's contact between the front commissure and either a tongue or even better, something that's firmer than a tongue like your front gum just above your tooth, if you just sort of raise your lip into kind of like a little bit of an Elvis Presley snarl and just kinda nestle your gum against that front commissure which is, again, not exactly on the clitoral glans but more sort of just above and behind the clitoral glans a little, and then just kinda get right into that. And let her do... Let her sort of set the routine. It's a little like when a woman is on top during the intercourse. One of the reasons the female superior position is the position that most consistently leads to orgasms for women is because in that position they can really get a lot of clitoral stimulation by pressing the clitoris against a guy's pelvis and pubic bone and also really control the frequency and pressure and the nature of the stimulation against the clitoris as well. If you can do the same thing during oral sex and really let her sort of press into a point of resistance, again, sort of like the soft area of your gum just above your tooth might be, I would say, is ideal. Ian Kerner: And really let her lead the dance. In some ways you don't have to do anything more than that. You can certainly use your tongue to be providing, to be going back and forth against the clitoris or looking inside the vulva and the vaginal entrance, you can also... You should also certainly think about enhancing oral stimulation with manual stimulation, whether your fingers or a sex toy. You can raise your fingers and sort of press into the g-spot area, but certainly a combination of manual stimulation and oral stimulation and again where you're less of the lead dancer and more of following her lead is one approach that I often recommend for people who are just sort of entering the world of oral sex. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and one thing that made a huge impression on me was you mentioned stillness, as being really important as well as movement. Ian Kerner: Uh-huh, yeah, and part of that is because men reach a point of ejaculatory inevitability and this has a lot to do with evolution and the importance of the male ejaculation to reproduction of the human race, but men can very quickly, often very quickly reach a point of ejaculatory inevitability. You're going to have an orgasm, you're going to ejaculate and there's no pulling back, and you get to that point of no return. And I think for men that's sort of how we conceptualize the sexual response cycle. But most women will tell you that they can very easily lose an orgasm, and that even as an orgasm is starting to happen, it can still be lost. There is no point of inevitability, there is no real point of no return, and that's why I emphasize both stillness and predictable routines. If you're doing something and it's working, keep doing it until she lets you know otherwise. Too many men I hear from their partners are doing great jobs, a woman is very close to having an orgasm, she's very excited. And based on that excitement, they will sort of get excited themselves or change what they're doing. And it's in that change that a woman often loses her orgasm. So, I do emphasize tuning in, I do emphasize stillness, I do emphasize following her lead, and I do emphasize predictable, consistent, rhythmic routines. Neil Sattin: Great, well, Ian Kerner, thank you so much for your time and for all the valuable  information that you've given us today on the podcast. And I just wanna say that Ian's book "She  Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman" is available on Amazon and also probably at your local bookseller. You can visit Ian on the web, his address is iankerner.com. And again, if you’d like to  download the transcript AND the bonus action guide for this episode, just visit neilsattin.com/ian, that's I­A­N or you can just text the word "passion", P­A­S­S­I­O­N to the number 33444 and follow the instructions there.  Ian, thanks again for coming on the show today, and for defending the orgasm, and also giving us some great words of wisdom for how to have more pleasure in our intimate lives. Ian Kerner: You're very welcome. I can't think of anything I'd rather be defending, so thank you.  

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#15

25: Get Your Ego Out of the Way - How to Be an Adult in Love with Dave Richo

February 09, 2016 • 70m

Today’s guest is Dave Richo, a psychotherapist, teacher, workshop leader, and author of the well-known book “How To Be An Adult in Relationships- The 5 Keys to Mindful Loving”. In this conversation we explore topics found in his more recent book “How To Be an Adult In Love- Letting Love In Safely and Showing It Recklessly”, and his brand new book “You Are Not What You Think- The Egoless Path To Self-Esteem and Generous Love”. Richo’s approach, which combines Jungian, poetic, and mythical perspectives, delves deep into the Buddhist concept of loving-kindness. In today’s episode we explore the whys and the hows of egoless love in the context of romantic relationships. You will learn key questions to help you assess your own ego balance, and ways to surrender ego in order to build self-esteem, address old wounds and fears, be fully loving in all of your relationships, and to actually evolve your capacity for love. You will be reminded and awakened to the ways in which taking care of ourselves is in itself an act of love.   Here are some highlights, insights, and suggestions from my conversation with Dave Richo: Widening the range of love- The Buddhist practice of loving-kindness is really about expanding our definition of what it means to love. It is about beaming out love to yourself, those closest to you, those you feel neutral about, those you don’t even really like, and all with EQUAL force. This force of grace and power is one that comes from beyond our ego, and extends through us to all beings. We can learn how to love, which is important, but we can also work on opening ourselves to call upon this sense of unconditional grace that is omnipresent and here to help us. How to connect with this sense of spirit is incredibly personal and you must find the right wording, symbolism, rituals, and practices that make it your own. However you relate to this concept, take a moment to consider that perhaps by incorporating awareness of this wider loving spirit you might find ways to better heal during difficult times, feel connected to your partner regardless of what you think or feel about them in a given moment, and even potentially, as Dave explains, feel more fully human. Agape love: The Greek’s referred to this form of selfless, unconditional and utterly limitless way of showing love as ‘Agape love’. They saw this form of boundless love to be our own highest calling. Although the love we hold for our romantic partner(s) exists within the definitions of the Greek’s Agape love and the Buddhist’s loving-kindness paradigm, it is the erotic dimension that distinguishes our intimate partnerships from the crowd. Interestingly enough, the Greek’s also believe that erotic love exists in our creative pursuits as well. Therefore there are many ways to experience erotic love, and infinite ways to experience Agape love. Tending to the relationship through Egoless Loving: So how can this wide definition of love inform our ability to engage the challenges that may arise in our partnerships? Love is about giving of oneself without being sure exactly what we will get in return. If instead, our egos are leading the way in our relationship we may find ourselves using the partnership to assert and solidify our own ego purposes, leading to patterns of selfishness (and not the good kind!). The evolution of a relationship from Ego-ideals to Egoless led love: There are three phases a romantic relationship must pass through in order to achieve an egoless led love: 1) Ego-Ideal to Ego-Ideal Romantic Phase: In the beginning… two individuals meet, and their two ego ideals fall in love. Meaning that person you always desired is finally found! Stars, rainbows, romantic dates, until…   2) Ego to Ego Phase: The inevitable conflicts, big or small, begin, and the ego-ideals erode and you begin to see the other person as she or he really is (warts and all). You may start to see your partner as self-centered, self-promoting, self-ish, or maybe you just start getting really irritated with the way they do or don’t do the dishes, you get the idea… In this conflict stage, the goal is to confront the ego dimension of ourselves and see if we can let go of it in favor of a more loving response. There are many psychological techniques, communication tips, outlined processes, prompts and activities you can choose to engage in here to help address, process, and make it through this phase. Regardless of how you and your partner work on your conflicts, it is critical to remember that this is an act of love! When we commit to working through the tough stuff and putting in the energy when struggles arise we are showing ourselves and our partners love in action. This increases connection, and of course, trust. And it leads to the final phase. 3) Egoless Love Phase: Through successfully showing up for Phase 2 and taking responsibility for our own egos, a new dimension of love is possible. Now that our partners can trust that we are dedicated to tending to the partnership versus tending solely to our egos, true commitment is possible.  (Note to eager hearts: this is the appropriate time to choose marriage rather than during the Ego-ideal phase!). Hold up! Lets take a moment to look closer at what ego is, and what it means in love. Ego is the latin word for ‘I’. It lies on a continuum. One extreme is when the ego is inflated which can look like arrogance/swagger/narcism, and on the other extreme when the ego is deflated it can look like withdrawn/shutdown/doormat-like. In equilibrium the ego is strong yet not forceful, direct but not judging, respectful, humble, confident without arrogance, and loving. Only from a healthy ego is true love possible. You cannot be fully loved by those whose egos are stuck on either end of the spectrum. Someone with an inflated ego cannot truly love you, even if it seems she/he cares about you it is only because they are focusing on you to see what they can get from you. Someone with a deflated ego is guided by fear and appeasement, neither conducive to deep healthy love. Those with healthy egos however, have self-esteem, and so they are capable of looking into YOU. Helpful questions to uncover where you are on the ego spectrum, and consequently discover if the love you are giving and getting in your relationship is healthy: We are each born with a set of original needs, Dave categorizes them into the 5 As: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. -Attention- your caretakers focused on your needs in an engaged way -Acceptance- your family and community accepted you as you were -Appreciation- your family cherished and celebrated you -Affection- your family showed affection in physical and appropriate ways -Allowing- your family supported you without clinging or holding you back These five needs remain with us throughout our life and they create a solid definition of how love is shown. How do you know that you really love yourself? Ask! Using the same 5As you can ask yourself “Am I paying attention to my needs? Am I accepting myself as I really am? Am I holding myself as valuable? Am I taking care of my body? Am I allowing myself to make the choices that reflect who I am rather than what others insist? Notice your answers, and notice how assertive you are. Can you state your needs without aggression or demand? Are you afraid of asking for what you want or afraid of your needs themselves? Are you afraid of needing or wanting to be fully loved? Bring the 5 As into your relationship by talking through them with your partner and turning the questions around! How can I pay attention to your needs? Am I accepting you as you really are? Etc. This can be in incredibly informative and empowering process to pursue together. When you can give yourself the 5As it is called healthy self-love. When you can give your partner the 5As it is called intimacy. And don’t be fooled. Acts of self-love are in themselves a way of showing love to others. Turning attention inward helps you show up and be fully you! The 4A Process: In establishing intimacy, it is critical to address fears of intimacy- Although subconscious, hidden, or simply out of awareness, many relationship conflicts arise from two common fears originating from our childhoods: 1) fear of abandonment and 2) fear of engulfment. These fears develop into fears of intimacy and are the root causes of so many relationship struggles (both MAJOR and minor ones!). The 4A process can help you and your partner work through the fear(s). 1) Admit- admit you are afraid, share with your partner 2) Allow- allow yourself to feel the feeling 3) Act as If- feel the fear but do it anyway, don’t let the fear stop you 4) Affirmation- Tell yourself “I am letting go of this fear” An example: “When you hug me I feel scared you will smother me, but please keep hugging me so that I can work through this feeling because I know you are safe and will not overwhelm me. I don’t want the fear to stop this moment that is happening, so I am going to let go of this fear.” Work with original fears so that you can experience the other side of intimacy! There is a difference between fear management (making exceptions, working around, and placating ourselves, etc) versus taking responsibility for our fear (tracing source, acknowledging triggers, expressing awareness). It’s not you, It’s me! While our romantic relationships are indeed sources of deep happiness, they are also our best labs in which to grow into awakened, full, and healthy human beings. As so many of us have experienced, our intimate partnerships lead us to the most undeveloped parts of ourselves. Humbling! Intruiging! And experience shows that everyone, we mean everyone, has childhood scars that continue to dwell in the psyche and play out in subtle, and unsubtle ways! Taking responsibility and becoming aware of how our past carries over into the present is in itself an ACT OF LOVE. Healthy relationships give us the opportunity to heal old wounds, and therefore the ability to have healthier relationships, and so on. Welcome these opportunities to heal your past! For those of you growth-oriented partners, you can begin to ask yourself and your partner “how can I best sponsor growth and healing?” From this place of love, you can engage in what Dave calls Safe Conversations. Safe Conversations- If you want to love yourself and allow your relationship (current or future) to have more love in it, you must be willing to have conversations without judgement about how the past is informing the present. From here you can choose how you want to give and receive the 5As and how to have a relationship in which childhood wounds are no longer getting in the way. Safe Conversations help to air out and find patterns for deeper understanding. Here is short list of example questions to discuss with your partner (taking turns asking each other), but please refer to Dave’s book for more a more in depth discussion. “How were your early needs handled in childhood? How did your parents show you the 5 As?” “How can your needs be met now in this relationship?” “How were your feelings handled and expressed in your childhood? How was sadness shown? Anger? Fear? Joy?” “How were conflicts handled by your parents?” “How do you want to handle conflicts in our relationship?” “How was free speech seen ny your family?” “How can you feel safe to speak your needs in our relationship?” This is a lot! It is long, deep, unfolding, and takes an immense amount of ego-less led presence. Take breaks! And lastly, a suggestion for expanding your daily capacity for loving kindness: Daily rituals help call our awareness to attention, Dave shares his morning dedication with us: “I say yes to everything that happens to me today as an opportunity to give and receive love without reserve. I am thankful for the enduring capacity to love that has come to me from the sacred heart of the universe. May everything that happens to me today open my heart more and more. May all that I think, say, feel, and do, express loving kindness towards myself, those close to me, and all beings. May love be my life purpose, my bliss, my destiny, my calling, the richest grace I can receive or give and may I always be especially compassionate toward people who are considered least, or last, or who feel alone or lost” Resources Dave Richo's Website How to Be an Adult in Relationship on Amazon How to Be an Adult in Love on Amazon You Are Not What You Think on Amazon www.neilsattin.com/adult Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Dave Richo Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

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#16

59: How to Make Difficult Conversations So Much Easier with Sheila Heen

October 05, 2016 • 87m

What do you do when you and your partner disagree on something truly important? How do you find a way to bridge the divide and come back to a place of collaboration and understanding? And how do you know when to throw in the towel? Today’s guest, Sheila Heen, of the Harvard Negotiation Project, is one of the world’s masters of turning difficult conversations around. In today’s episode, you’ll discover some of the skills required to get through an impasse back to a place of connection. And like many of the relationship skills that we’ve covered here on the Relationship Alive podcast, our goal is to give you some new approaches to familiar situations, to uncover the blind spots that get you into these predicaments in the first place (or prevent you from getting out of them. Once you make the shift, you’ll never experience conflict in the same way again. What qualifies as a difficult conversation? If you are anxious about raising a conversation, or have raised a certain topic a million times and it goes badly or nothing really changes, then it qualifies as a difficult conversation.  Difficult conversations are those that are about things that really matter to us, and with people who really matter to us. Difficult conversations have a certain intensity to them, often eliciting strong emotions, and carrying a long history. These are the conversations where the stakes feel high, and you might feel like there are just no possible solutions. Difficult conversations are part of a healthy relationship. Having a relationship comes down to the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions, meaning that it is less about never having conflict or disconnect, but rather having enough eye to eye and heart to heart to repair, grow, and trust. This is especially true when it comes to communication. Do not take the fact that you may be arguing or disagreeing as an immediate sign of health. Instead look at how you are having the conversations. We all know that there are many ways of communicating that damage relationships, however it is important to realize that there are also many ways to have difficult conversations that in fact help build and strengthen your bond! Don’t get too caught up in the content! Moving difficult conversations towards healthy connection is about looking and listening for what is underneath the content. It is very easy to get hooked into the substance of the conversation- however the substantive issue is temporary and ephemeral, while what is underneath is long term and deep set. Take a step back and look at HOW you are having the conversation, more than focusing on the WHAT of the conversation. Are you trying to understand the deeper layers? Listening for the implicit messages? Beneath what it is you may be talking about or disagreeing on is a second layer consisting of feelings and fears about being cared for, understood, appreciated, loved, etc. This second level is the glue that holds relationships together, and is often an omnipresent influence in the tone of the relationship, whether acknowledged or not. Be willing to let go of control.  Many of us come into our interactions with the agenda of changing the other person. What we believe we really want is for them to be different, and we think that if they changed then all would be better. As a result we become hyper-focused on getting the other person to think X or do Y, which inevitably increases tension and discord. We must try to fess up and come to terms with the fact that we don’t have ultimate control over how or if someone else will change. Instead of so actively trying to fight and avoid this reality- embrace it! At first this may feel frustrating, or depressing, but soon enough there will be this sense of liberation. Ah…a weight lifts off your shoulders and you become available to tend to what is happening for YOU. In letting go of the need, desire, and agenda to control the other, we enter into the conversation in a more open way that actually maximizes the chances that you will get the results you ultimately want! Shift to a learning conversation: We are all guilty of confusing conversation with the need to win the argument, or get the other to admit we are right. Acknowledge this desire and tendency, and then work towards shifting the purpose of the conversation from delivering YOUR message to that of connecting for the purpose of learning. If the purpose is truly to learn more about each other’s differing perspectives, then a certain level of trust will be possible that then is often the opening to options, connection, and possibilities that were otherwise unseen. Internal voice: If you look and listen below what people say to each other, then you can tune into the running commentary of their (or your) internal voice. This is the voice that has strong beliefs, is fearful, worries, judges, has negative or distorted view points, and projects on those around. Get to know your own internal voice in an effort to realize how it is influencing your ability to be present in meaningful conversations. In conflict, this internal voice is preoccupied with 3 levels of conversation: What Happened Conversation. This is that inherent sense of “I am right”.  We feel that we have a story about what happened, what is happening, and what should happen going forward. Feelings Conversation- Strong feelings are the energy that drives the conversation and guides our reactions. Notice what feelings are fueling you- sadness? Feeling at whit’s end? Feeling afraid? Identity Conversation. One of the strongest contributors to how we are or are not reacting in conflict is due to what we feel the situation says about us. We wonder whether we are competent. Loved? A good parent? Identity is really driving who we are trying to be in most conversation. What happened conversation: When we are focused on the WHAT happened part of the conflict or discord, we are usually focusing on 3 things: 1) Preoccupation with what I am right about 2) Placing blame and figuring out whose fault it is 3) Looking for intentions and what is motivating the other person to be so adamant/unreasonable/etc. Intention and actions: It is inherent that many of us have a tendency to think the worst of other people and the best of ourselves. Whether through a sense of protection, ego, or defensiveness, we commonly interpret our own behavior in the best light. We also project our fears on others, confusing feelings and fears. For example, if our partner does not do the dishes, we may automatically believe that it is because they do not care, or that they are trying to make our life miserable, or that they simply did in on purpose to upset us. This blaming and assumption of bad intentions is one of the fastest ways to escalate a fight! To slow this reactivity down, it is important to pull apart and make space between intentions and impacts. Intentions are invisible. Again, intentions are invisible. We have no x-ray capacity to truly know someone else’s intentions without them letting us know. What we can see is actions, and what we can do about it is share and ask. Tell your partner how their actions impacted you. Tell them that you don’t know what their intention was. Tell them you are frustrated/mad/sad/hurt. You can even share with that that it isn’t working for you. But while you do, also share that you are curious about what is happening for them. Then listen. Gather information about their side of the story. Be receptive instead of defensive, and curious instead of controlling. The truth is that there will be no new solution until the problem itself is really understood. Blame vs. contribution:  Blame is an inherent part of our internal voice. It is part of our way of looking in reverse and learning from our experiences. It asks “whose fault is it” and then figures out punishment. While it is true that blame can be dangerous as it escalates conflict and impacts safety and trust, it is also a hard wired way we figure out problems. A healthier, and more productive way of using blame, is to shift to joint contribution. Instead of focusing whose fault it is, the concept of joint contribution assumes that everyone contributed somehow*. It may not necessarily be 50/50, but there is shared responsibility. Thinking through a joint contribution lens helps get at the critical learning needed to build awareness that allows the relationship to develop and shift out of stuck patterns. *Note: contribution is not just what you DID, but what you may not have done. It may look, for example, like ways you are expecting something from your partner that you know is not truly who they are/what they are capable of. Are you still expecting them to be on time, when you KNOW they are always 10 minutes late? Are you an absorber or a shifter? Absorbers are those that are quick to see their faults, while shifters are those that never see their part in a conflict or situation.  As with many dynamics in relationships, there is usually a balancing out of these tendencies- with one person becoming more of the absorber in order to bring equilibrium. Over time however, this pattern becomes unstable as the absorber gets overtired from overcompensating and taking on the blame, and always being the one who apologizes. They hit their limit of what they are able to change about themselves without having their partner shift as well. Absorbers themselves have to take responsibility for how their overcompensation is affecting the relationship, and learn to make ultimatums. Take responsibility early and often for your contribution to a problem! Feelings conversation:  Feelings are inevitably going to be present and part of difficult conversations. Make them known, visible, and heard. Let them be part of the dialogue. How we each feel treated in a relationship, and how we feel treated on a specific issue is always at the heart of the conflict. Welcome feelings in, not as distractors or points of contention, but rather as inarguable truths that need attention. Feelings can get a bad rep- but they play such a positive role in relationships and help lead us towards deep and core meaning and values. There is a big difference between expressing emotion and being emotional. Being emotional often involves translating our feelings into judgments. Internal emotional voices are profane, and tend to come out sounding big and mean. This is the WHAT THE FUCK part of us. In effort to avoid hurting our partners, we try to hold our emotions in, muting and hiding them. There is, however, ways to share emotions without coming from emotionality.  Practice noticing and naming the emotion, and then OWNING IT. Speak FOR the feeling, rather than from it.  Say “I am so frustrated/lost/at whit’s end/hurt”, without adding on an attack (because you…). Share things such as “I am confused about whether or not you are as committed as I am” or “I’m scared about what this might mean for our relationship”, or “I feel lonely”. Watch out that you do not say “I feel LIKE”. A feeling followed by ‘like’ turns it automatically into a thought and a judgment. Identity conversation: Identify questions fuel feelings and fears. What is usually at stake is not whether or not your partner did or did not do the dishes/come on time/follow through/etc, as much as it is about your own identity of what this means. You may be questioning whether you are lovable or not, whether they care or not, whether you are trustworthy or not, or whether you are someone who is willing to be walked on or not. These deeper questions and insecurities prompt the feelings that get embedded into the meaning of an action. Identifying what is at stake: In order to gain clarity on what identity questions are influencing your reactions, it is helpful to hone in on what you are truly worried about. Ask yourself “What do I worry this conversation/conflict says about me?” Begin to get a pulse for your common insecurities and put your finger on what the deeper questions you are constantly asking are. Depending on the questions you are asking, you find evidence. Looking for evidence that solidifies our worst fears gets us into a whole lot of trouble in relationships. When you get a handle of these identity pieces, you can get insight into why certain conflicts feel so high stakes.   Collaborating anew:  To move out of conflict and towards collaboration, it is key that you shift to a third story. In conversation there is always MY story, and YOUR story, and yet, realize that there is always also a third story. This third story is the one that holds onto the knowing that each of you have a different relationship to the problem and have different conclusions. This third story respects discord and even embraces it. Coming from this place of accepting difference, allows for the possibility of understanding, learning, and togetherness. It might sound something like: “Hey babe- look ,we have been trying to talk about this for a while now, and I may have not done a great job yet of understanding how we got here, or what this means to you, but I am going to try again. I’m not here to persuade you of anything, or show you how I am right, I just really want to learn what is at stake for you in this situation, and what you are afraid of.” Follow through- listen, don’t argue, be curious, step into a 3rd party listening role and just hear them for who and what they are. Say “tell me more about that…”. Of course, you WILL have your own internal reactions and defenses, and it is okay to share your struggle from a centered place.  Sign post it! Meaning, it is okay to name for your partner what is happening for you internally, but only with the intention of sharing- not with the intention of blaming. Slow it Down!  These conversations take time! Do not rush them, or expect them to resolve immediately. Give time for digestion and processing. In fact, it is a good idea to give a while (hours, a day) between really allowing your partner to share their side, and you sharing yours. Acknowledge how much you have learned from their sharing, and then choose a time when you will have a chance to share how it affected you and where you are at. When we postpone the expectation for the need to respond immediately we really create the space necessary to sink into deep listening. Time allows for us to move away from reactivity, and into responsiveness. When we take off the pressure of having to find the solution instantaneously we open ourselves up to listen for the deeper fears, worries, identity issues, and core feelings. Opening up more than just my way or your way. While this all might sound like a long and arduous process, it is ultimately way more efficient AND worthwhile. Take the time to really show up for deeply understand the problem, and you will find how much more graceful and easeful solutions appear. This is true because deep listening allows for collaboration. You get to a place of knowing what is at stake for each of you (without the need to agree), and you begin to understand each other’s points of view. This creates common ground around the stuckness. “Oh wow- we really are on different pages here!”. In most cases, individual solutions are not actually what is needed as much as it is about the process. Can you solve the problem together? Can you reconcile differences while walking through life together? Create sanctuaries in your conversations that honor your differences! Invite in the difficult conversations with courage and vulnerability, as this leads to transformation! RESOURCES Check out the Triad Consulting Group Find more information on Heen’s work here Learn more about the Harvard Negotiation Project Read Sheila Heen’s Book Difficult Conversations Also read her book Thanks for the Feedback www.neilsattin.com/conversation Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Sheila Heen. Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out

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#18

213: How to Handle an Aching Heart - with Guy Finley

December 13, 2019 • 90m

What do you do when you're suffering? How do you escape patterns of blaming in your relationship, and find the place within you that can turn painful moments into growth, and transformation? And how do you know when you've experienced too much pain - when it's time to move on? This week, we’re having a return visit with Guy Finley, author of the new book Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together and the international bestseller The Secret of Letting Go. You’ll get to hear Guy’s work in action, as we tackle what’s real - when you’re hurting - and find practical ways to embody deep spiritual principles of healing when your heart is aching. If you’d like to listen to my first episode with Guy Finley, check out Episode 164 - How Love Can Dissolve Conflict As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Sponsors: Away has created durable suitcases for the savvy traveler, with key features that help you easily get your stuff from place to place. With a limited lifetime warranty, and a 100-day trial period, it’s easy for you to experience an Away suitcase “in the field”. Away is offering free shipping with guaranteed delivery by 12/20 if you order by 11:59pm on 12/15 if you visit awaytravel.com/relationship and use the promo code “RELATIONSHIP” at checkout. Our second sponsor today is Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet and now, with Audible Originals, the selection has gotten even better with custom content made for members. As a special offer, Audible wants to give you a free 30-day trial - which includes 1 free audiobook and 2 free Audible originals. Go to Audible.com/relationship or text RELATIONSHIP to 500500 to get started. Resources: Visit the website for Guy Finley’s new book Relationship Magic for special bonus content Visit Guy Finley’s main website FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict… Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) www.neilsattin.com/magic2 Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Guy Finley. Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out Transcript: Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Today we're fortunate to have return visit from a favorite guest from the past. His name is Guy Finley, and he is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and the bestselling author of the book The Secret of Letting Go, as well as 45 other books and audio programs that have sold the whole world over. Neil Sattin: In our most recent conversation with Guy, we were discussing his book, Relationship Magic, which is subtitled Waking Up together, which is all about the ways that we continually come back to love in order to connect with our partner and how to get past the kinds of patterns that block us or hold us back when we're in relationship with our beloved. Neil Sattin: So today, we're going to dive deeper into relationship magic. And initially I was thinking that we might spend some time around the topic of how to make a fresh start, because that is so often the challenge in relationship where you are dealing not only with what is happening right in front of you in the moment, but with the history that you share with your partner, the history that you bring into the relationship and potentially the accumulation of hurts or transgressions or ways that you wish, you wish your partner were showing up for you or maybe you're feeling the weight of how you wish you were showing up for your partner, how your partner wishes you were showing up for them. There, I got it out. Neil Sattin: I'm also going to be candid with you that today my heart is a little hurting and aching. And so I think that all of this is going to come into the mix, and I'm really excited to have Guy with us today. If you are interested in a transcript of today's episode, you can visit neilsattin.com/magic2, that's the word magic, and the number 2, or as always you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And the reason why this episode is magic 2 is my first episode with Guy, our first episode together, was neilsattin.com/magic. So here we are to continue the conversation. Guy Finley, it's so great to have you here with me today. Guy Finley: Thank you, Neil, I'm happy to be with you too, I remember fondly our first conversation and I know we'll have a meaningful dialogue together, today. Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm right there with you. I'm always excited when people want to come back and I'm super excited when it's after having had an amazing conversation like the first one that we had, so I definitely encourage you listening to go back and check that episode out. Yeah, and I'm curious, you were sitting there on the other end hearing my introduction and I have some thoughts about where I might like to start, and Guy, I'm wondering, is there something in particular that spoke to you as we started to dive into our conversation together? Guy Finley: Well, you know, we can look at and we will, I'm sure, specifics, but I think that one of the main points at least in our last conversation and as we'll recover and uncover again today, we all have a very distinct responsibility for how we feel. Our tendency is to be almost completely outwardly oriented, meaning that our sense of self is virtually in the hands of those that we are with, around or consider, and depending on the moment of that consideration, so goes the feeling we have of ourself, and I think that we have to marry this idea. I have a way of expressing it, Neil, and you might want to write this down, listeners, because it gives us a much broader view of our experience of relationships, not withstanding... How do I say this? Without diminishing the significance of individual ones. Guy Finley: Here it is. As goes my attention, so comes my experience. As goes my attention, so comes my experience. I'm sitting here in Southern Oregon, it's a fairly overcast fall day. The ground on my property is 100% covered with leaves. I know there is grass under it, but it's just a carpet of leaves and looking out the window and watching the birds and the leaves, and all that nature brings about, I give my attention to the beauty of this fall day, and my experience follows. My attention goes to a massive buck. It's the rut season here, and so these beautiful massive bucks are chasing the does, and I can feel in that buck this incredible natural strength, really power, and I'm lucky, forgive me if I wax on too long here, because I've hand raised like eight generation of deer here, not in the sense of being with them every single day, but most of them know me and I can hand feed them, so I'm able to be very close to these powerful creatures. Guy Finley: As goes, my attention, so comes my experience. Now, we get that when it comes to nature. That's why we like mountain vistas, ocean views, beautiful sunsets, colorful fall. Because the experience we have is inseparable from what we're attending to in the moment. You following me, Neil? Neil Sattin: Yes, of course. Guy Finley: So now, though, when it comes to our relationships, we have to make a little deeper connection, and that is that my attention goes on to something from my past, something I just lost, something that hurts, and I can't help but believe that there's no choice for me but to feel the things that I am, and here's the key, being given to feel by where attention has been taken. And in this instance, it's a very key idea. In nature, I give my attention to things that are beautiful because I love the experience of knowing the beauty within me that I can see outside of me. When it comes to our relationships with other human beings, whether it's a husband, a wife, someone on the street, whatever the case may be, that in those moments I have to understand, especially if I'm suffering, that my attention has been taken and placed on something that while it may have occurred is no longer occurring, it's literally in the past, and the experience that I'm being given because my attention goes onto something painful, sorrowful is because I don't recognize yet that I have a certain complicity with those kind of moments where my contentment seems to be taken from me, but in truth, I'm giving it away. Guy Finley: So I just want to get this broader picture in mind so that we understand that we are never powerless in the face of some painful moment in a relationship, but rather we don't understand where our true power lies, which is to possess our own attention and use the moments where our attention wants to be taken to change the kind of human being we are through that relationship in the moment, then as we change, everything about our life changes as well. Neil Sattin: There's so much to go from from what you were just saying. And on the show I often talk about the reality of how you feel in the moment and that there are ways that if you try to just kinda gloss over how you're feeling and what's coming up for you, that you could end up doing a lot of damage to your relationship. And this comes up more often than not, I think, when people are in a state of trigger, they're really angry, or really scared, and then they're trying to interact with each other from that place. But when you're operating from your fight-flight or your freeze place, it's rare that's something good can come of that. So I usually invite people to give attention to what is happening within them. Neil Sattin: And so as luck would have it, I'm taking in your words as goes my attention, so comes my experience and recognizing that my attention goes so clearly to this experience of my heart aching. And as you were describing the world outside your window there, I was gazing out my window here at the urban landscape that is right outside, and what I noticed more than anything is the quality of the autumn light, this really... Well, the words that are coming to me are where it's like stark, this stark yellow light, and I love the quality of that light, I always feel like the world looks so much more clear to me, and it is like a spotlight trained on the state of feeling that I'm experiencing in this moment. Guy Finley: Yeah, and we're going to unwrap all of this, because I like you, especially in the fall, and I don't know exactly why, maybe it's because the angle of the sun creates a different frequency or I don't know exactly what it is, but at certain times, it's almost, I don't know if there's such a word, rapturous, there's just such a unique feeling that one derives from that light. Now, taking pains to look at that, is the unique feeling in the light itself, or is the unique feeling a relationship between that light coming from the sun and the parts of myself in which it is reflecting. This is key. And the answer is, it's because it stirs in my consciousness a quality or a character that I would never know were it not for that moment of relationship and where my attention is in that same moment. Guy Finley: So we're building an understanding here that moments like those are so precious to us, if they are, because they are first awakening in us parts of our own consciousness that otherwise we don't have access to, so that the moment of that light is the same as the realization of a level of our own consciousness, that without the light, we can't experience, so we get that and we love it and we want to give our attention to that light, to that buck, to the leaves, whatever it may be, for what it seems to give to us in the same moment. Guy Finley: But now, listeners, Neil, let's turn it around. Let's say I'm faced, for whatever reason, not with the additional beauty, the extra fulfillment of something in myself by a relationship with nature around me. But let's flip it around and say suddenly, I seem to be filled with a sense of loss. I seem to be in a hole somewhere because I can't take my mind off of what someone did or didn't do, what he said, what she didn't follow through with, any of those conditions. And we have to understand, if we're willing to, is that it's the same principle in action. What the moment is bringing to me is a revelation of an aspect of my own consciousness in this instance that seems not to be fulfilled, but rather seems to be taken from me, something precious. Guy Finley: And this is where for me the rubber meets the road. If in fact a moment comes along, and I'm filled with whatever, anger, fear, anxiety, trepidation, a mixture of all of those things, my usual reaction is to look at the event that I hold responsible for the revelation. She didn't this, he did that. And when we look at the moment, the person, the problem as the reason for the revelation, we ignore the fact of what it is that's being revealed in us by that moment. So that I'm saying that these unwanted moments, as opposed to wanted ones, are every bit as valuable, if not more valuable, because those moments that we don't want are because something is being revealed in our consciousness that believes one way or another it is only as good and valuable and capable of contentment as is the condition outside of it responsible for its momentary appearance, which is why, by the way, we become so dependent, so attached, it never really dawns on us how this attachment grows. Guy Finley: And I'm not saying, Neil, you know I'm not, that we don't fall in love, that we don't have attachments. I've been married for 40 years and every, God only knows why, blue moon, somehow I have this dream that she's not the same person, that she's not as attentive or caring and I wake up in that dream from a certain kind of sorrow that doesn't exist without the dream, but I realize that the dream is in fact a revelation of a level of attachment that I'm not conscious of, so I'm not denigrating the relationship, I'm not even saying there's anything wrong, in quotes, with that attachment. What I am saying is that there's something far more right for me as a man, a human being, in realizing that where there is attachment, there is dependency; where there's dependency, there's inevitable sorrow and fear. Guy Finley: And to understand that doesn't take from us the richness of the loss of something. To me, it enriches the moment, because it allows me to tap into, become conscious of parts of myself that were it not for that moment I would never know the extent to which I am attached, dependent and therefore, back to the opening comment, therefore now I get it. My attention is going to the attachment, not to the beauty of what I may have had or do have, but to the fear of loss and primarily the fear of having lost myself because someone else did what they did. Guy Finley: And we can see that in scale in every relationship we have with life, not just with husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, relationship with money, relationship with health, all of these aspects of our consciousness that we have become unknowingly attached to and therefore demanding that they remain in place. So, that should something shift and suddenly we don't know who we are anymore, I would argue, even as painful as it may be, that that's a very special kind of revelation, serving a very special kind of realization that without it, we would never know the extent of where we have handed over our life to something outside of us. I'll stop there. Neil Sattin: Okay, so I feel like, yeah, I feel like you're getting to... You're teasing my next question, in a way, because... Guy Finley: Sure. Neil Sattin: And as you were talking about attachment in particular, it wasn't lost on me that your big book is called The Secret of Letting Go, so I was thinking about, like, okay, yeah, I think I think I have a sense of where we're headed here, but I... I wonder, yeah, I wonder what the next step is. And there are actually two little pictures that are unfurling from this particular moment for me. One is being, let's say, the person who's feeling the heartache or feeling the result of the attachment, feeling the anger, the fear, the shame, the injustice... Guy Finley: Betrayal? Neil Sattin: All of that, yes. One question is like, great, this is being revealed to me, what do I do? So that's question number one. Question number two in particular relates to relationship, because I do believe that there are some experiences that you just can't have without being in relation to something, and that's why it's important to not feel like you have to work out all your stuff before you get into a relationship with someone, 'cause no matter what, they're going to stir things up in you and there are things you can't quote unquote fix until you are faced with them in relationship. However, what if you're in relationship and you're in a practice of realization around all these challenging states of feeling and consciousness, but your partner that isn't operating from that place, so the more that you lean into the realization of the reality of what's happening in that moment, your partner leans more into wanting you to fix, wanting you to change, wanting you to be other than who you actually are, because they're convinced that you need to change something in order to fix their experience. Neil Sattin: So they're too connected but somewhat divergent questions. Where do you feel inspired to dive in first? Guy Finley: I want to be very clear. When we fall in love, we have a passion, we fall in love and have that passion for someone or something. Because at the onset of that relationship, we are privileged through that person or that condition to go through what that relationship alone awakens in us because of the unique elements that have converged in that relationship. To this day, my wife has a certain smile, if you just say the word TJ Max around here, I swear to God, and I'm very conservative, I could wear the same clothes for 50 years and if they didn't fall off my back, I would still be doing it. That's just what she just... She loves fashion, she is a spiritual woman, but she just loves fashion. So even though I wish that she didn't, it tickles me when I see her smile. I know before she's even going out where she's going 'cause there's a gleam in her eye. Guy Finley: So I would never know were it not for that quirky part of my wife that little quirky feeling. But now we have to turn it around, because to the same extent that I am introduced and fulfilled made a hole in a way, because what is she showing me in those moments other than something I don't know about myself and can't feel without her? The converse holds true, Neil. I can't know there are parts of me that are selfish, that can't listen, that are impatient, that want to be left alone. I can't know those parts of me without her, without relationship with something. And where my work is, I think, quite different from most others is that I say that we must learn to first understand the significance of those revelations that are so unwanted and, rather than continue to blame the relationship, the person or the predicament for the pain inherent in realizing these are parts of my consciousness that I am asleep to, to be thankful for being awakened. Guy Finley: Because the same integration that takes place when she awakens in me a wish to sacrifice, a willingness to go past myself and put her first, that same gratitude must appear when I am integrated, awakened to those parts of myself that I would avoid at all costs if I could were it not for love that uses my wife to awaken me to these limitations, and that uses me for my wife to awaken her to her limitations to serve a greater love than either of us can know without each other, whether high or low, light or dark, all serving a greater relationship, that love puts human beings together for. So that through those revelations, wanted and not, the man or woman can begin to become an integrated being, no longer living in unseen conflict with parts of him or herself, because the image that he has of himself or herself won't allow the fact of these aspects of limitation in our consciousness, so that that level of consciousness buries these things, but a stone under the ground weighs as much as one above, so that those moments are invitations, Neil, as painful as they are, to realize that there's no way any relationship can go forward as long as there is attachment and dependency that forms the seed of limitation, so that without these limitations revealed by my partner or by my partner leaving me or my partner hurting me, whatever my partner may have done, that moment is the revelation of a limitation in me. Guy Finley: It's not their limitation and even if it is, I must still thank them. I don't mean to jump way off-board here, but this is the interior meaning of what Christ meant by love thine enemies. Because in those moments, without my wife, my husband, the guy on the street, the person tailgating me, the financial thieves that are breaking the country, without all of that taking place, I would never know the enmity, the violence, the anger, all of the things that so conveniently blame people and places and situations outside of me, so that those characteristics can continue living in the dark of our consciousness, not my consciousness, not Neil's consciousness, not my wife's consciousness, in consciousness that we are the instruments of and that are intended to be developed by the action of love revealing to us what only love can, high and low, light and dark. Neil Sattin: Can I make this a little more personal? Guy Finley: Anything, Neil, you know that, man. Neil Sattin: Okay, let's just start with something that doesn't have say a lot of charge to it. So often I use the dishes, but let's forgo the dishes. Let's talk about the laundry. And I'm wondering like what if, hypothetically speaking, Guy, let's say you are someone who habitually takes off your clothes and you just kinda drop them wherever. It could be the bedroom floor, it could be the bathroom, could be the living room. It's wherever they... And they end up kind of all about. And your wife, with whom you've been for 40 years, comes in and says to you, you're blissfully working on your next book, and she says, "Guy, I can't handle this anymore. Your clothes are everywhere, you're so lazy. We've talked about this at least once a month for the past 40 years. Is it going to be another 40 years of us having this same conversation about your goddamn clothes being all over the place? I can't even think straight." Guy Finley: Oh, and we know that happens, don't we? Neil Sattin: Of course. Guy Finley: Maybe it's not the laundry, maybe it's not the dishes that you think someone else will clean up for you. It could be anything, the way you park the car in the garage. Neil Sattin: Right. Or it could be something more serious, like I can't believe you slept with that person three years ago, right? I'm still feeling about that. How could you go? How will I ever trust you again? Guy Finley: Of course. Of course. And so the question is, what does one do in those moments as the one offended or the one being offended, as the offender or the one being offended? Neil Sattin: Well, it's debatable which is which in that circumstance, it's debatable, but... Guy Finley: Because we have to ask a pretty big question here, what's the difference between the two? In this instance, let's just say that, let's say, I do throw my clothes around... Neil Sattin: Right, and just so you know, listening, I can see Guy's living room and there are no clothes anywhere. So this was strictly hypothetical. Guy Finley: Of course, but even if they were and my wife had asked me innumerable times to clean them up, then I cannot blame her, she wants order, not chaos. And if I don't honor my wife's wish, then I have to understand that she and I have a major difference. She's asked me first nicely, she's become upset over it, and yet there's something in me that just will not do what it is she needs done. You're not asking me to lose 50 pounds, she's saying, "Take your laundry and put it away." So there's an irreconcilable difference, Neil, her character and my character have something that is in conflict with each other. If I don't change she will, because she can't help herself, I might add. See, this goes to something so much deeper. I know everybody wants it simple. Can I get upset? I'll turn it around. Can my wife get upset with me in a manner that... Would you agree that if someone loses their temper with you because you have a sock on the floor that that would be called a tempest in a teapot? Neil Sattin: Yeah, maybe there's some context that makes it less of a teapot. Like, for instance, 40 years of having had the same conversation over and over again but... Guy Finley: I understand, but that's the definition of insanity, isn't it? Neil Sattin: Perhaps. I mean, I think... Guy Finley: No, it is. I insist, I insist, I insist. So here's a force in one direction meeting a force in another direction, and it's not moving. So that is the insanity. See, here's what we don't want to get into, Neil. If I've asked my wife 50 times over 30 years not to do something and she keeps doing it, then at some point I have to recognize that the pain that appears in those moments is not going to go away by making her into what I need her to be, so at that point I either understand that's how she is and it's a small battle, it's very small in the scheme of things. But now to my point, something in me wants to make it moment, huge and there's what I'm getting at it. It never dawns on any of us, for the most part, that no one picks a fight with anyone else unless prior to the fight they pick they are in pain. It's a section in my book, pain picks the fight, not the person, so that here's something in my wife rubbed raw over 40 years that she is unable to reconcile and let go of the fact that this is just part of a character, I love him more than I care about his socks. Guy Finley: But pain, my attention goes to the context of the condition, which is I've asked him for 100 years, he won't change. Instead of realizing that what's not changing in that moment is me, I'm the one who won't let go of the insistence that he be jumping through the hoop I want him to jump through about socks. What's more important, his socks and underwear, or that I have something in me that gets set on fire when I see it, because if we can learn to ask the important questions, "What in God's name is this pain I'm in over some peculiar aspect of my partner, that I've asked kindly, I've lost my temper, I've threatened to leave, but it doesn't change." So either get up and walk out or walk away from those parts of yourself that are captured by that conflict every time the context reappears in your mind. Guy Finley: So that's the first thing, Neil, when my wife, God bless her, and I don't know if I've ever told you this, we've never raised our voices at each other in 40 years. But it doesn't mean that over 40 years, she hasn't said unkind things, but for whatever reason, by the grace of the work that I've done, I never react to unkindness with unkindness, I use her unkindness to allow whatever is kicked up inside of me to show me whether or not there's something factual in her unkind statement, because we can't tell the difference. Guy Finley: Because when somebody attacks us, all we see and feel is the attack, instead of realizing there may be something in us producing the pain they're experiencing and that we need to deal with in ourselves. But if my first reaction is rejection, I'm not just rejecting my wife, I'm rejecting the revelation that's necessary and that if I could see it she might change herself as well. So what I do is, when she has said something unkind, is I never bring it up. I wait, sometimes two days, I wait until she's no longer in that consciousness, and then I will simply say to her, "Sweetie, do you remember we were walking down the driveway and you brought up that thing? I just want you to know that there's no value in bringing that up. It hurt. I'll deal with what I can, but to bring it up, it's just useless." Guy Finley: And then because she is the kind of woman she is, she will not react to that or on the spot she'll say, "You know what, I knew it when I said it, and I'm sorry." And then it's not I'm sorry because you got mad at me; I'm sorry, because you allow me to see something in myself that I could have never seen if you just rejected and resisted the comment. And then love is doing what love is meant to do, which is develop the two people that love has brought together into a better representation of what love is. So I hope that clarifies some of what you asked, but I'm going to deal with something you didn't ask, if you'd like. Neil Sattin: Yeah, go for it. Guy Finley: What in God's name do I do with this pain? How do I go forward from here, what's going to happen? I feel like my heart was stolen out of my chest and the only one that I can look at and, in essence, blame and feel betrayed by is the person, my husband, my wife, my business partner who stole from our business that we started, as best friends. I mean, God, Neil, life is nothing but an endless series, a success of conditions where we find ourselves with our mouth open wide going, "What?" You know what I mean, "What?" Neil Sattin: Totally. How did I get here? Guy Finley: Yeah. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Guy Finley: And the answer is the last answer we want, but the only answer that brings an end to the unconscious continuation of the pain. Someone says something, it hurts. Someone steals from me, someone betrays me, it's heartbreaking. I gave this person 30 years of my life, I did everything I knew how to do to be the best, most complying person I could so that this person could grow, and then they turn around and there's the... They're bad talking me or worse, they steal. The pain is undeniable. I feel like I'm dying. No human being doesn't go through that. And this will really throw you, and the luckiest of us go through that death more times than we want. And the reason I say the lucky of us go through that, though I would that the cup would pass from my lips, I don't want to drink from that cup. It's bitter, has no future. Everything that seems to have been built has been destroyed. But the moment where it feels like I'm dying is in fact a moment where something in me is intended to die, not go on as the one who is betrayed, full of bitterness, ever wondering why, thinking someday I'll get even or he or she will come back and then they'll see how wrong they were. Guy Finley: Oh, my God, the story is endless 'cause all of us are an expression of a consciousness living it, but to understand and then to quietly sit back within oneself and let what the moment has come to do be done, because then the man or woman who exits that moment, where some idea they had about themselves, some image, an attachment, a plan, a dream, when the whole thing just goes belly up, we look at the condition, and we say, "That's what went belly up. No, that's not what went belly up. What died was a part of myself that I was so identified with that when the conditions no longer are in place to perpetuate the dream I feel like it's me that has died and it's not I who have died, but a dream a the dream and the dreamer." Guy Finley: And there, I sit stark naked, quite literally, in the present moment, with what seems like nothing, because my attention only knows how to be given unconsciously to something that if I had my choice, I wouldn't give my attention to it, but I am drawn like a moth to the flame to feel these unwanted feelings instead of recognizing, sweet God, what is it in me that keeps going and revisiting a feeling that I don't want? And then out of the unwanted feeling building a dream or a plan or some future where momentarily I'm consoled, when I'm not meant to be consoled by that moment, I'm meant to be changed through it. Guy Finley: That's called conscious suffering, not unconscious useless suffering. And if I can understand the difference in it, it's impossible that when I am called to return to that pain, revisit, think about, re-live, I don't re anything, I allow the moment to show me, I don't know who I am without somebody else, I don't know who I am without that plan that was so intimately connected to your presence and your participation and now you're gone. God, the whole thing's come undone, I'm probably going to lose everything now, because that's how deeply involved that dream is. It goes on without a person knowing it, and then instead of being thankful, which I know is hard to do, Neil, please don't misunderstand me. Nobody says, oh, at least not for the longest time, but I promise you, one day, it's true, even in the midst of the pain. Thank you, Father, thank you, God, thank you, the divine, for delivering me into a moment that I could have never even known I needed to be delivered into, let alone what I will be delivered from that I didn't know I needed to be delivered from, attachment, dependency, enabling, trying to keep everything in place, not so that the relationship stayed in place, but so that my person who I'm familiar with, isn't suddenly thrown out into a prison some place. Guy Finley: This is a completely different context for our consciousness, Neil. I know you can hear and feel what I'm saying, but this is what we have to get to if we want to use these moments that come where we reject them instantaneously, and instead of rejecting them, understanding in that moment, the suffering isn't in the condition, it's in my attachment to a part of myself I didn't know was there and that I'm going to be much better off without once it's allowed to pass, to die. Neil Sattin: And do you have some helpful hints about how to engage in that process? The concept makes sense to me. In what you were saying I was hearing the literal question of, "What is this pain pointing to in me that needs to die, that I need to let go of." And I'm just wondering, yeah, if there's a process there that you find helpful to help people engage in that, 'cause it can be so easy to get kind of a quick answer to that question. And then... Guy Finley: Yeah, yeah, and then the moment comes... Yeah, I understand and that's wonderful, Neil, that's quite insightful, because the last thing that I want to do is paint this as a rosy picture when we're in some kind of pain, because our partner has gone left instead of right or maybe just disappeared. So I do not want to make light at all of what is essentially a kind of a mini dark night of the soul. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Guy Finley: But the question, what do I do with this pain, how do I process it, begs without the person asking the question, begs the question, well, I, therefore, must be different than this process. I must be something other than the pain in this moment. And that which is other than the pain in this moment wants to know what to do with the pain, so it can get past the pain in the moment, and no such thing exists. A person who has cancer, a person who's an addict, at some point comes to grips with the fact, this is what is. I am not empowered to change the pain of the revelation, the revelation has in it its own clarity about a set of conditions that one way or another have come to teach me something about myself. I haven't been thrown into this moment, I've been sown into it, and until I can find a greater purpose, which is what we're talking about, the whole of my work, then everything that I do to escape the pain, process it so seemingly I'm outside of it and better than that, is the waste of the appearance of that pain. Guy Finley: You don't deny a toothache. Well, we do, don't we? I mean, that's there, right? I had a terrible toothache myself two weeks ago, it was unbelievable, out of the clear blue sky. And nothing in me wants to admit that this is the pain that usually leads up to a root canal. So what do we do when we have that kind of pain? We pretty much hope it goes away. Neil Sattin: Exactly. Guy Finley: And if you've ever had an impacted tooth and hoped the pain would go away, the truth is that sometimes it will go away, but the problem behind the impaction doesn't, so it becomes infected. And the next thing you know you've got something three times worse than what you had had you dealt with it on the spot, you understand the metaphor. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Guy Finley: The analogy. Same thing with this pain, Neil. Neil Sattin: So yeah, a couple of different things coming up for me. One is, I'm sitting with what you said about being sown into it not being thrown into it, that idea that this actually is me right now, in this moment. Guy Finley: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And listen to me, please, everybody, because in those moments when my heart has been plucked out of my chest or what I was depending on for the success of my business or whatever the venter was that it looked like everything was roses and suddenly I'm pierced by thorns, I have no future, it's been robbed. And the task here is to understand that who and what you actually are doesn't depend upon something you've imagined in the future that you don't even know you're dependent on. We have no idea the extent of the dependency, unconscious dependency, that grows over time through familiar relationships, where we begin gradually to depend upon the person to act out and to be what we are dependent on them acting and being. Because if they don't do it, they break the pattern. Guy Finley: And if they break the pattern then is the pain that I feel in the break of the pattern, or is the pain in my dependency on the pattern? And if my pain is on the dependency of the pattern, why in the name of God do I want to create another one? I should be grateful because love has no pattern. That's called familiarity that breeds contempt, although we don't know it breeds contempt until someone breaks the pattern and then the resentment and the contempt sitting underneath it born of dependency rears its ugly head. And instead of seeing our complicity with that enabling dependency, we blame our partner. Instead of saying thank you, I don't know how, what I'm going to do, but I sure understand that there is something for me to learn in this moment instead of burn over, and by God, I'll do what I have to do to get the lesson in the moment instead of reject it in the hope of a moment that comes along where the pain isn't there with me. Neil Sattin: So I have a bit of a curve ball question for you in this moment. Guy Finley: No such thing, Neil. Neil Sattin: Right, it's all part of the same fabric. And I'm wondering, Guy, for you, how would you decide if you were in too much pain in a particular, like if a relationship that you were experiencing, whether it was a relationship to the weather, the conditions, the person in your life, how would you decide if the pain of relationship with that person was too much for you? In other words, where, because no matter what, when you leave a relationship, that creates pain, so you get to decide if you want the grief associated with staying or the grief associated with going. And I'm just curious for you, I think there's potentially a danger, particularly for people who are in really problematic situations, of feeling like, "Wait, is Guy Finley saying I should just be thankful for this pain and stay where I am and that I shouldn't... " Guy Finley: Okay, yeah, I got it. I'm glad you asked. I go to great pains in my book to absolutely make the point if you're in an abusive relationship, and let me be clear, your husband leaving his socks on the floor is not abuse, but your husband raising his fist at you because you tell him again please pick up your socks and you're in fear of your husband, get out of that relationship, you're not here to be abused by anybody. The strange thing is that we abuse ourselves. If my wife loses her temper every other week because X, Y, Z and blames me for losing her temper and I've done nothing other than just whatever it is that I am. Who's abusing who? We never want to see how abusive we are to ourselves, by trying to make someone into something they will never be. That is self-abuse, insisting that any other human being be what you need or want them to be is self-abuse. On the other hand, if they're trying to do that to you and are aggressive, consistently cruel verbally, involved in some pattern of a behavior, drugs, alcohol, anything excessive that way, and you stay in the relationship, you are self-abusive, and you have two people abusing each other, enabling each other and blaming the other for their pain. Does that answer your question? Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think what I'm hearing is there are flavors of abuse that are maybe more obvious physical violence, and then there's maybe a gray zone where it's 'cause... And I'm just calling it a gray zone because I think people are often a little unclear on emotional violence, emotional abuse, but everyone who's listening to us... Guy Finley: You and I both know there are people who are in emotionally abusive relationships. Neil Sattin: Yes. Guy Finley: Why does anyone stay in an emotionally abusive relationship, especially if they have said, "You know what, every time you raise your voice like that, I don't know what to do with myself, it hurts. Please, please don't do that." And then the partner does not acknowledge, let alone attempt to act on the wish. Here is the root of it. We stay in emotionally abusive relationships because it's better to have someone to blame than to be without somebody to blame. I don't know who I am without resenting you. I don't know who I am without hoping, knowing it's futile, that you're going to change. I don't know who I am without coming home and hoping to God that you're not in that particular state of mind when I know that 9 out of 10 times you will be, and that there'll be that tension and that it doesn't get resolved. I don't know who to be because rather than go through what life is asking me to do, which is to rediscover, reclaim my own integrity, see through the co-enabling parts of myself, that I might enter into a relationship that starts healthy instead of keep an unhealthy one alive 'cause I don't want to be without it, I'd rather stay with what I have. Guy Finley: And I'm going to make a giant leap here, Neil, that same mind is the same mind that revisits the loss. Rather than be alone, be by myself with this emptiness, I would rather revisit feeling victimized, revisit what will no longer be. This is where grief, natural grief turns into self-love. My wife dies, my child passes, a beloved friend dies. If I don't grieve I'm not a human being, but grief is the revelation of a certain limited kind of love that invites me to see that because the person's gone doesn't mean love is. Love can't die. So, when I revisit the grief and revisit the grief, it's not 'cause I'm revisiting a love lost, I'm revisiting a part of myself that loves to feel what it does, and would rather feel that pain than be a person who moves on and discovers there's another order of love possible in that very moment. So it's in scale. Guy Finley: And I hope I didn't lose anybody, but that's why we stay in relationships not just with people but with our own problems, our own pains, because we don't know who to be without that dependency on something through which we derive an identity, as painful as it may be. Neil Sattin: So maybe... This might be our last question for today. Not because we couldn't keep going, 'cause... Guy Finley: I understand, Neil. Neil Sattin: We could keep going for sure. And Guy, I'm so appreciative of just who you are and the openheartedness that you bring to these questions. What's illuminated for me in this moment is wondering about the fear that keeps people in place. Guy Finley: Yes. So let's write this... Go ahead, please, I'm sorry. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so it feels like that's the last piece of this puzzle where we've landed today has been around this question of what do you do with the pain, what do you do with an aching heart? What do you do when there's when there's... And how do you know if there's too much pain? And what do you do when you're weighing the choice to stay or go? Which is this what I'm hearing you say is it's often centered around, do I choose what I know myself to be, which is who I am in relation to this situation, or do I choose the unknown along with the way that a choice to leave often impacts our family, our children, our friends, there are ripples to that kind of decision. Guy Finley: Of course. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so when faced with that, what do you do? Guy Finley: It's probably uncountable how many relationships there are on this planet that have become stale, stagnant and that basically trundle on from day to day because one or the other, and it's usually both, has just stopped growing. And we're all masters at blaming our partner for being the one who doesn't grow, because we can so easily identify in them the limitations that we're aware of in them, never dawning on us that judging a limitation in our partner and holding their feet to the fire for it is our limitation. Guy Finley: So that the question is really underneath all of this, do I want to grow as a human being? Because honestly, Neil, we either grow or we die. We begin dying as human beings most of us in our 20s because we're so habituated to some status quo, where out of the fear of loss, of negativity, of meeting parts of ourselves, we compromise with everyone and everything, just so that the boat doesn't rock, and we wind up in a reality that's a dream and that anything that shakes the dream is seen as a nightmare, when the real nightmare is the dream we're in because it's keeping us from growing. So we reach a point where we need to understand that the real dissatisfaction in this instance, say, with our partner, whether they've stayed with us or left us, is because there's something in me that is offered in that relationship, a chance to grow beyond who and what I've been. Guy Finley: Now in relationships that are intact, those moments come when I'm willing to understand that my partner may be in pain and that's why they made that punitive remark, and rather than responding in unkindness, fighting as we do tit for tat, I use that moment to discover in myself something that believes it's beyond question. You can't ask me something like that. Your opinion doesn't count, only mine. And then when we see that in ourselves, the very revelation is the beginning of its transformation, 'cause now I know something about my own consciousness I didn't before. I am growing. And whether my partner wants to grow or not, that's not the issue, because if I continue to grow, I will reach a point where I have outgrown my partner and there will be no question about it. Guy Finley: Not that it won't be painful. So let's say I've reached the point where I've outgrown my partner or my partner's left me for whatever reason, and then I'm sitting there and I'm going, "Well, now what's going to happen?" I'm afraid, and I'm afraid because I don't know what's coming literally in the next moment, other than some terrible thought I wish I didn't have, so when it comes to the fear of the future, let's be clear about that, everybody. Again, the context, do I want to grow or not? There is no fear of the future, Neil, without negative imagination, period. There is no fear of the future without negative imagination. Guy Finley: So now where's the responsibility for the fear? In the person that left me, in the great unknown that sits before me, or is the unknown that just before me, my demand that I know what's coming so that I know who I am and how to handle it. And when we start having this kind of understanding, she betrayed me. He stole from me. What's going to happen, what am I to do? And then you realize that to take thought in that moment about what's going to happen to you downstream is the same as going into another dream that is just a continuation of that consciousness, instead of the end of a relationship with that consciousness, because now it's very clear to you, the task here isn't to go into thought, the task is to remain as present as I can to everything that I see and feel in myself. Guy Finley: And then don't ask, well, where is the limit? How much pain can I take? You'll know. The body shuts itself down. Literally, a person who will really attend to themselves in these heightened moments will likely fall asleep, because the resistance is so great, but you will have gained that much strength in understanding by going through that exercise. So if we will be true to ourselves as best we know how to be true to ourselves, given a new understanding of what it means to be true to ourselves, then we cannot fail. Every effort that we make along the lines of understanding that we mustn't take thought to end torment, because thought itself is the source of the torment, but rather we must become aware of thought, of the thinker, of the planner, of the one imagining, of the one afraid, and every bit of light we bring into that darkness, that darkness is changed in some commensurate level. That's a law. And as the darkness is brought into that light, that's the same as integrating ourselves and that's the purpose of love. Guy Finley: And we know what to do with our relationships, even when we don't really know what to do when they throw us the curve, 'cause we don't go running out trying to find another ball game, another place to play. We use what's given to us as it's given to us, and then discover for ourselves the purpose of what was given to us, and then everything's quite perfect for us in that moment, even though there's pain. Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think the phrase that comes up for me that I'm extracting from what you said was, well, a couple of things. One is a commitment to growth and faith even in a... Yeah, okay, I'm in pain, and I believe in my capacity to grow, to change, to shift, and even if I'm not growing the way that my partner wanted me to grow, I still am having faith in my ability to grow in this moment. Guy Finley: Neil, your partner didn't put you on this planet. God did. I'd rather have the divine plan then be delivered into the hands of my partner and his or her plan, believe me, or for that matter, my own plan 'cause that's where most of the fear is. Neil Sattin: Yeah, do you have a moment for one more question, Guy, before we go? Guy Finley: Sure, go ahead, Neil. Neil Sattin: What do you think has kept you in your relationship for 40 years instead of at some point deciding that it was time to go for a new adventure? Guy Finley: Honestly, I don't think I can answer it. It could be argued, I think, Neil, that every relationship that we enter into is for the length of that relationship manifested for the purpose of the development of our soul, and that at some point when we are sufficiently developed, which we are not the ones who decide that, please, we will enter into more abiding relationships, because the capacity to act as a conscious mirror of our partner and vice versa, has reached a point where we understand that this is perfect for us, I couldn't imagine another partner, and I know she couldn't either, but I didn't create that, she didn't create that, but we both agreed to go through those consciousness-shaking conditions, both individually and collectively, that bring about what you intimated a moment ago, which is not just the all-abiding wish and intention to grow as a human being, but a faith that life creates the conditions for that growth through our relationships, so that the faith in the goodness of life, the understanding that love is in fact the basis of relationship allows us to work and remain as present as we can to the conditions where we discover that love in fact was behind that moment, wanted or not. Guy Finley: Then you enter into a completely different relationship with life and your partner is obviously a big part of it. But now, everything serves that purpose, Neil, everything, literally everything. In the East, they call it polishing the mirror, and the more the mirror is polished, the more perfectly it reflects the world, until one day, and heck of a place to end this interview, but then, one day you realize the world that you're looking at is not out there, the universe is in you, literally, your partner is in you, everything is in you. I don't know how it happens, but that's the case, that's the only way we know what we know and feel and experience about what we see because, really, we're just seeing aspects of our own consciousness, and that's when a person begins to be grateful for everything they see, because everything is revelation, everything, every revelation is a form of integration, and it's endless. That's the majesty of God, that's the majesty of the divine. Neil Sattin: Well, that is quite a place to end our conversation. Guy Finley: I told you. Maybe we'll have another conversation in six months and we can pick up there, huh? Guy Finley: I think so, because just like the last one, I think there's so much meat here for us to work with. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to digesting this conversation. And for the vegetarians there's a lot of tofu here to toss around and... Yeah, and I think I'm going to be so curious to hear how this impacts you as a listener, because we dove deep into this topic that I think is what brings so many of us here to this podcast. I hope that at least to some level, people are here because they're in a good situation and they want to make it better, and being honest, I think a lot of people come here because things could, they want things to be better in some way. So... Guy Finley: I have one closing comment. Neil Sattin: Go for it. Guy Finley: It isn't... We cannot explore our strength without exploring our weakness and when we understand that they are not separate issues, then we're very close to not being afraid of ourselves anymore. That's it. Neil Sattin: Yeah. So as you're polishing the mirror, be looking in the mirror, 'cause there's lots to be revealed. Guy Finley: Absolutely, and if I may, can I tell people where they might, if they're interested, get the Relationship book? Neil Sattin: Of course, yes. Guy Finley: If you want to look at these ideas, please visit relationshipmagicbook.com, one word, relationshipmagicbook.com, and my foundation has put up a very special offer on a page there where you can get the free audible version of the book that I've read as well for the same inexpensive price. So relationshipmagicbook.com, and if you want to visit my website, it's guyfinley.org, GUYFINLEY.org, you can visit that site and literally stay there for years, free. There's a wisdom school there, where men and women from all over the world gather every week online. You can learn about that. It's incredibly inexpensive, less than the cost of a Starbuck. And lastly, if you want... I've just begun, God help me, I'm on Twitter, I post daily Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. So if you want to find out anything more about it, Google. Google Guy Finley. But I've given you some good places to start. Neil Sattin: Awesome. And we will have links to all of that in the show notes and transcript, which as a reminder, if you want to grab, you can visit neilsattin.com/magic2, that's the word magic and the number 2, or you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Guy, I'm so appreciative of your time, your wisdom, your heart and your friendship, and thank you so much for being here with us today. I'm looking forward to a future conversation and I'm also just so appreciative of your contribution to the world, so powerful. Guy Finley: Thank you, Neil, thank you so much. 

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#19

227: Racism, Racial Equity, and Relationships - with Neil Sattin

June 06, 2020 • 43m

How do we confront our blind spots and tackle the ways that racism and privilege affect our relationships, our lives, our society? And...our podcasts? This week's episode is not meant to be a complete answer to those questions - just a beginning to the conversation. So today you'll hear more about the "hidden agenda" of Relationship Alive - how what you've been learning is a crucial part of taking care of yourself as we change the world. And how racism has impacted my journey - and the evolution of the Relationship Alive podcast. Yes, let's all be part of the solution. I can - and will - do better. It's that important. #blacklivesmatter As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Sponsors: Find a quality therapist, online, to support you and work on the places where you’re stuck. For 10% off your first month, visit Betterhelp.com/ALIVE to fill out the quick questionnaire and get paired with a therapist who’s right for you. Resources: I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner’s Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Support the podcast (or text “SUPPORT” to 33444) Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters Transcript: Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. I'm doing a little bit of a different episode this week than what I had planned. If you tuned in last week to my show with David Burns, then you know that this week was intended to be an episode that was going to be a session that David did with me around being overwhelmed. And it's an important episode if you are interested in hearing how David Burns uses his methodology, Team CBT, as a way to help me work through a problem that many of us are going through these days, which is being overwhelmed by just the sheer amount of things that are happening in our world today. Neil Sattin: So it's an important episode. And yet I couldn't sit by and not address what is literally happening in our world, in our communities along with the pandemic right now. Which is responding to systemic racism and white privilege along with police violence towards black people, toward minorities, toward protesters. I couldn't be silent, and I wanted to talk to you about it this week. Generally, I've tried to keep Relationship Alive fairly non-political. And the reason behind that is because I feel that the purpose of Relationship Alive is inherently political, even though we're talking about how to have successful relationships. It expands beyond what we do with our partners with our spouses, it expands to the world around us to how we are with our kids with our parents with our extended family with our friends, with our co-workers with the authorities in our lives. Neil Sattin: So, I've always viewed Relationship Alive as being something that is contributing to the overall betterment of society, not just in being able to experience more love with your partner, but also to experience more love, and harmony with your fellow humans. And granted that's not possible all the time. And yet in this moment, this is really the first time that I've felt called to not be silent to be explicit in my own personal support for Black Lives Matter. For the idea that our skin color doesn't determine who we are in this world, and that there should be racial equity in terms of how our society functions, and it just isn't that way. It just isn't. Neil Sattin: So, in today's episode, I'm going to give you a little bit of my own personal story, my own background here, and I'm going to talk a little bit about Relationship Alive and some obvious things that you may have noticed. I want to address them head on, because they're important in terms of recognizing just how pervasive white privilege is in our world, and in how we recognize who the experts are and who they're not. And I want to tackle that head on. So that's what today's show is going to be about, a little bit from me personally, and a little bit of a statement about what direction we're going to head in this show. But first, I just want to remind you that Relationship Alive is an offering for you to help you have an amazing relationship. And as I just said, my hidden agenda is to help the world be a better place. So if you are finding the show to be helpful, then please consider a contribution. Anything... Any little bit counts. Neil Sattin: And today I want to thank these listeners who have made a contribution to help support Relationship Alive. Their names are Sylvia, Angie, David, Margot, Drew, Lydia, and Valerie, Keerthi and Jewels. Thank you all so much for your generous and ongoing support of Relationship Alive and our mission. And if you want to make a contribution, just visit neilsattin.com/support or text the word "support" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Neil Sattin: In today's world, we could all use some help communicating with each other and I've actually put together a guide with my top three relationship communication strategies to help you connect to another person, no matter how challenging the thing is that you are trying to connect with them about. It's relevant today. Figuring out how to communicate with so much polarization in the world. To download the free guide just visit neilsattin.com/relate or text the word "relate" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Neil Sattin: We do have a Facebook group where listeners gather to create a safe space for others and for you to talk about relationship-related matter, and that's the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook. And if you have questions, you can email them to questions at relationshipalive.com, and what's super awesome is if you record yourself asking the question, then I can hear you and I can answer you here on the show. Neil Sattin: So I think that's it for the business that I need to cover. Let's dive in to this topic of racism and racial equity, and I think I just want to give you a little bit of my own just personal background, personal perspective on this. I grew up being raised Jewish in a predominantly Christian community. And for the most part, even though it was, it was weird to be othered. It was something that I was fortunate that I never really felt victimized by that I never felt any anti-Semitism growing up that I can recall. And I took it upon myself to talk to my classmates, my school mates about being Jewish and what that meant to me and what our traditions were. And part of being Jewish at least the way that I was raised was also an awareness of our history as a people, and in particular the ways that Jews have been persecuted throughout the history of the world and in terms of recent history, in terms of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. Neil Sattin: So I had a consciousness even as a young child of what that meant to come from a community that had been singled out for death. Now fortunately, I never experienced that. And growing up here in the States, I felt for the most part pretty safe and being Jewish is not something that is visible, for the most part to other people. I did have an interesting moment when I was in my 20s, and I was at a cousin's bar mitzvah at a university. They hosted the bar mitzvah at the university. And if you don't know a bar mitzvah is like a coming of age ceremony for Jewish kids at the age of 13. Neil Sattin: A Bar or a Bat Mitzvah. If you are a girl. It's about being ushered in to being a responsible adult in the eyes of the community. And so I was at a cousin's bar mitzvah and I was looking around and I noticed something that I had never noticed before which was that the people who were surrounding me, who were mostly students at this university, because there was an actual synagogue on the campus of the University - which was something I hadn't experienced. I went to predominantly Christian liberal arts school out on the West Coast. Neil Sattin: And so I was looking around and I noticed that the people that I was looking at actually looked a lot like me, and I had never really thought about myself as looking any different, from anyone else. Again, this kind of veers into this notion of white privilege because there was nothing obviously different about me, but I did notice - Oh. There is something about me and where I come from, that makes me look a little bit different than, for instance, the people in the community where I grew up, who were predominantly either French-Canadian or from Ireland, with a few English people thrown in there. Neil Sattin: So that was the community that I grew up in. And not universally true. There were exceptions to the rule, but I looked different than they did and that explains in some respects, some of the experiences that I think I had when I was a kid. That again, weren't about anyone consciously singling me out or not singling me out, but I think it plays into the ways that we perceive other people in our lives. We are used to people who look like us who act like us, who talk like us use the language we do or the languaging, if we speak the same language, but we use different kind of ways of pronouncing things or different idioms. We are geared towards looking for where we're similar, and how that makes us safe and in some respects, the way that our differences might bring us danger. Neil Sattin: And I think there's more for me to learn about this because my guess is that on some level, there are some things that are hard-wired into our system to be suspicious of something that's different than us as a means of protection. Now, that doesn't mean that we are in danger at all, at all. It's about something that we've talked about here on the show a lot, which is noticing the ways that our body responds. That physiologically, we are having a response to the world around us and being able to respond to that in choice. Neil Sattin: To not be victims to our own physiology. So, in the ways that we are carrying around our own trauma or the trauma of generations, or the trauma of things that we see around us, whatever that is, that we're carrying with us, when we are triggered, in the moment, it is worth paying attention to what's happening in our bodies so that we can respond, so that we can regulate ourselves and bring ourselves back to being in relationship with the people who are around us. Neil Sattin: So while I was "other" I was definitely privileged as well. My parents were educated. We lived in a very peaceful suburban community where things were relatively pretty safe. I wasn't worried about whether there was going to be food on the table and I definitely wasn't worried about if I rode around town, on my bike at any hour of day I wasn't worried about being accosted by police officers thinking that maybe I was up to no good. I might have had to worry the times that I was up to no good, but I definitely wasn't going to get singled out, just because of how I looked. And I wasn't in danger because of how I looked. And so I got to grow up feeling relatively safe and secure, in a world that a lot of people don't feel safe and secure in and I'm aware of that. Neil Sattin: Now. One thing that's interesting, as I think back on my own upbringing, I watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons. There was this whole thing that maybe you've seen or was maybe was part of your life called Schoolhouse Rock that was basically propaganda and education rolled into catchy tunes, and cartoons on Saturday mornings and one of them that made this big impression on me, was the great American melting pot - this idea that America was this place where we could all learn to appreciate our differences appreciate each other that we all came together. Now, I'm aware that there is a part of the original melting pot theory was not about that at all. It was about, everyone becoming part of one culture this homogeneous culture that was based on this, the idea that kind of Anglo-European culture was the norm. That that was what we wanted for everyone and I don't agree with that at all. Neil Sattin: And that was never part of my consciousness I was much more of this idea of appreciating just how different people were. And wondering what that was like for them. I had a classmate who was Chinese, I had classmates who were refugees from Cambodia. The town that I grew up in had a black mayor, even though as a whole, there were not many black people in the town where I grew up. Hardly any as far as I know. And so I got to live in this fantasy world, where everything was okay. Even though I knew deep down that you didn't have to go far to find places where there was danger for others, based on how they looked. And honestly, I don't know a lot about the experience of people who had darker skin than me, in my community. I don't know what that was like for them. And it gets me curious. It gets me curious to know, because I can't imagine that it was always easy. Neil Sattin: And of course, on TV, there were plenty of opportunities to see darker skinned people doing bad things and lighter skinned people being the heroes and the victors and this subtext has permeated so much of our culture. Maybe we'd read one book. The Invisible Man or To Kill a Mocking Bird. And then everything else, we would read in school was centered on a white culture. Why is that? Why are the things that are considered normal considered normal? Well, it's because we're a product of our environment, right - and finally we are at a place where we're changing, we're challenging this idea of what's normal as well we should be. Neil Sattin: And we're struggling to do the things that are in many cases the most challenging which is to figure out our blind spots. Now, this is challenging on any number of levels, to figure out where you are blind to the ways that you treat other people, the ways that you show up ineffectively, because in our... And each of us has our own world within us, and in that world, everything we do makes perfect sense. So it is actually quite challenging to see the things that we do that don't make sense. And I think that there's this book that a lot of people are talking about right now, or have been for the past year or so, White Fragility which is a lot about how challenging it is for privileged people to recognize the ways that we support systems that are oppressing other people. Neil Sattin: And we have to work together, we have to call things out for how they are, and we have to work together. That's what I'm working towards here. So when I see footage of black people being murdered by police officers in the case of George Floyd in Minneapolis apparently because he maybe had a counterfeit $20 bill. I realized just how much further we need to come as a society. It's not that I think all police are bad. In fact, there have been many times where I've been grateful that police have been around. And what I think is important is that we address the ways that culturally we are perpetuating oppression and violence and profiling against people of color. I'm just going to say, clearly that it's not okay. And then on top of that, when I am watching footage of protests happening and seeing the police, the people who are theoretically there to protect and serve us citizens, they're here to protect and serve us. And yet when I see them violently swinging at protesters, pushing old people over, something has to change, it's not right. It's not okay. Neil Sattin: And there's something about it that chills me to my core, it goes all the way back to the questions that I had as a kid about how did that happen in Germany, how did that happen that a group of people is able to be singled out and murdered and people either stood by watching or participated in it. How was that okay? And I remember over and over again, thinking whatever power there was that let me grow up in this place, The United States of America where I didn't feel like I had to fear that kind of violence. In fact, I thought that there was a consensus pretty much around me that that kind of violence against humans wasn't okay. Growing up in a tiny town in Maine, it was easy to believe that that wasn't actually happening, still, just against other communities of people. Neil Sattin: And now we are in danger here of having the might of weaponry and a militarized police wheeled against the very citizens that theoretically they're supposed to be protecting. And for some reason, the President of our country thinks that it's okay to incite violence to keep bringing up the second amendment as if we don't know that that's about not so subtle call to arms, how is that helping our world? It's not, it's not. It's upsetting, it's distressing and I think it's important for us to be having this conversation. So next week's session with David Burns is going to be even more relevant, maybe because I'm stirring things up here with this week's episode, but also because we have to take care of ourselves so that we can have this larger conversation and so we can be allies for each other and allies for a world where the people who do bad things are the people that are held accountable and that the people who aren't doing bad things are left alone to just be people. Neil Sattin: And maybe there's something really wrong with potentially paying for cigarettes with a fake $20 bill. If the person even... If George Floyd even knew that that was a fake bill, who knows, right? But come on, the punishment has to fit the crime. If there's a crime going on, it definitely didn't call for being murdered. Now, I respect that being a police officer that is not any... It can't be an easy job. It can't be. It's definitely not going to be an easy job if you view the community that you're in as your adversaries as opposed to trying to build relationships in the community, and create an overall fabric of everyone, trying to hold each other accountable to civil behavior. There are places where they're getting this right, there need to be more places like that. Neil Sattin: Now I want to talk a little bit about the podcast, because here's a place where I don't want you to think for a moment that I have a blind spot. Before I do, I do need to take a moment to mention this week's sponsor, whose support I also really appreciate and they are here to support you through these times. Their name is BetterHelp. And if you are looking for extra support around the things that get in the way of happiness or achieving your goals or dealing with the stress of what's happening in our world or your own personal world from the comfort of your own home or wherever you are, you can use BetterHelp. BetterHelp will assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist. And you can chat with that therapist via text at any time and you can schedule weekly video or phone sessions, all without having to go anywhere. It is more affordable than traditional offline counseling, and they do offer financial aid if you qualify. Neil Sattin: They also offer a broad range of expertise so that you can find the person most suited to helping you with your own unique situation. So whether it's depression, stress, anxiety and dealing with racism and our place in the system, whatever it is, that's up for you, try out BetterHelp to help you move past the places where you are stuck. And because you are a listener of Relationship Alive, BetterHelp is also offering you an extra 10% off your first month. Just visit BetterHelp.com/alive and join over 800,000 other people who are taking charge of their mental and emotional health. Again, that's BetterHelp.com/alive and thank you so much BetterHelp for your support of Relationship Alive.[TK REMOVE] Neil Sattin: You can probably hear the emotion in my voice because this stuff is affecting me deeply. And I stand with Black Lives Matter and the other organizations that are dedicated to justice and racial equity and rooting out some of the obvious ways that that isn't happening in the world, and some of the less than obvious ways. So, let's talk about one of the less than obvious ways for some of you, and maybe some of you haven't noticed this because sometimes racism and racial equity in our support of a just world isn't necessarily about what we do, it's about what we don't do. And here on the show, I've wanted to have a diverse group of voices represented. And just to give you a little insight - when I started this show, it was really important to me to find the top names in the field, to have the top-most respected people on this show to talk about relationships and doing them better. Neil Sattin: And by and large, those people have been on Relationship Alive. And I'm so grateful. People have done countless hours and hours and years and years of therapy sessions and research, and who have the experience to merit, being recognized as experts and leaders in the field. And each of them has also taken me on a journey as I learn, as I read their work and talk to them. Inevitably those books and conversations lead me to another person, to another set of ideas. And many of those people have been on the show. And so this show has been curated by me and my curiosity, by the issues that I've personally been struggling with or that I've seen others struggling with, and by this observation of who the recognized world leaders are. Now, I want to tell you that when you look at who's headlining - the keynote speakers for various conferences that are happening around the country in the English-speaking world. Neil Sattin: And you're looking for those people who are the recognized world leaders in this particular field, what you might notice is that there isn't a lot of racial diversity among that group. Which isn't to say that there isn't any, there's some, a little bit, it but not much. Now, is anyone to blame for this? I mean, maybe on some level, there are things to blame, there are people to blame, but I think you can step back and extrapolate that the systems of power and education and who has made it, who has had an easy time of finding their ways to the ranks of academia and book publishing and speaking on stages and whether it's intentional or not, choosing who else gets to come alongside them, who else gets to be speaking alongside them, who else gets recognized as an expert. Neil Sattin: Well, the power structures in this country anyway, for a long time, have been white. And there are a lot of people who are trying to change that. Thankfully. I know when I look back over the guests who have been on this show, I feel really good about the balance of genders, men and women. I know that I could have more people on this show who represent different parts of the gender and sexuality spectrum, I could do a better job of that. And I could definitely do a better job of having people with different colored skin on this show. Again, there have been some, there have been some and those conversations have been amazing. And yet, there aren't enough. And it takes effort on my part, it's going to take more effort on my part. Now I've got great excuses. I have a busy life and trying to raise a family, trying to have a relationship, trying to deal with my relationship ending all that stuff. I've got all kinds of excuses. We all have great excuses, I think, for living life the way that we live it. Neil Sattin: So I'm recognizing here for you that I need to do better. And I've been looking, just so you know for more diversity in terms of who's on this show. And there may be ways that it's more challenging for me because they're not people who are necessarily recognized by the "world authorities who recognize these things" as being experts in the field. And I have to get by my own sets of biases about who I want to have on the show, the ways that I might discount someone's opinion. In general, what I'm going to do is just try to find voices on the show of people I respect, people who are researching their work. Neil Sattin: I'm not a huge fan of having people on Relationship Alive to just talk about their opinion of things, we all have opinions, right? There are some less savory phrases about that, but this isn't a show, this isn't an opinion show. At least I try to not have it be. I'm really trying to create a space for you where you can trust the information that's in front of you. And yet as I look back on it, I'm humbled to recognize that there could be definitely more black, indigenous and other persons of color represented here on the show. Neil Sattin: I'm naming it, not because I think that... Not because I don't think that we should just all love each other as people, and that the color of our skin shouldn't matter. I do believe that the color of our skin should not matter. And yet, I do not want to be part of perpetuating a system that is only recognizing some people, not others, and that some people happen to be of a particular skin color because the systems that recognize experts are generally run by people with that very same skin color. Neil Sattin: And I'm the one with the podcast and I have that same skin color, even though I have my own history of being a minority, a non-visible minority and generally thankfully, a non-endangered minority, and I hope it stays that way, not just for me, but I hope we can expand the sphere of who gets to be safe in this world - So that it does truly include everyone, no matter the color of your skin. So if you have suggestions for people whose work you admire and who you think would be a great guest for Relationship Alive, by all means do let me know, you can email me. My email is neilius at neilsattin.com. But it's not on you, this one's on me. That being said, I could use some help. So if you've got some good ideas, send them my way. And I've got a lot of queries out there with people and I'm doing some more work to find more people. Neil Sattin: And my hope is that each of us finds our way to change the system, so that we all get to be safe. We all get to experience love and connection. And so more and more we know what it's like to elevate each other. And to find pathways for doing that to elevate and amplify each other. That's what I want for you, that's what I want for the world where my kids are growing up. And hopefully my grandkids and my great grandkids and whoever else is coming down the path. Neil Sattin: Thanks for being here with me today, thanks for listening, thanks for hearing my story and I hope that it ignites something in you and if it does, I want to hear about it. So please write to me or mention something in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook. I'm not terribly active there right now, it's been honestly quite challenging for me to be on Facebook. And yet if you tag me, I will definitely see what you write. And I welcome all of our efforts to make this world and the relationships that we experience better. So sending love to you, sending love out to all the people who are in the streets taking a stand, maybe even risking their own lives and their own health with the pandemic going on. And I send love to the people who at this point maybe don't know that they actually do need to change, and I hope they find their path to change in a way that expands what's possible for them in the world 'cause living a life of violence and hate and leaning on authority instead of leaning on respect, it's not a way to live. Neil Sattin: There's a lot more that's possible when we learn how to open our hearts to each other and be humble about the ways that we've messed up and apologize and make amends and move forward together. Okay, I'll see you next week for my vulnerable session with David Burns, on overwhelm. And in the meantime, take care, stay safe, and keep in touch.

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#20

154: What's Different and What's Universal - Gay Male Relationships - with Rick Miller

August 14, 2018 • 67m

If you’re in a same-sex relationship, do the rules change? Or are there universal principles of relationship that foster intimacy and passion no matter what kind of relationship you’re in? Today’s guest is Rick Miller, author of Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy and Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men. Rick Miller has also been featured at the Couples Conference, and is on the faculty for Esther Perel’s Sessions Live 2018. Rick and I chat about the unique challenges faced by same-sex couples, particularly gay men in relationship. How do you address the uniqueness, while at the same time staying true to what we know about what works in relationships? In this far-ranging conversation, we cover the particulars as well as what we can all learn from how to have a successful same-sex relationship. As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Resources: Check out Rick Miller’s website Read Rick Miller’s books: Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy and Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict… Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) www.neilsattin.com/miller Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Rick Miller. Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out Transcript: Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We've had so many relationship experts on this show, and there have been times where we've talked about the principles of relationship and whether they apply or not to everyone, and particularly to same-sex relationships, are there these universal rules of relationships that apply? And up until now, the best answers we've come up with have been things like, "Well, yes, of course." But it's not necessarily based on any empirical evidence, or just a statement that's... And of course, these things apply to same-sex couples as well, you just have to make a few adjustments, that sort of thing. So, you hear that enough times and if you're me, you start to wonder, "Well, what is different?" I think it's important that we know, both for you, if you're listening and you are in a same-sex relationship, and I think there's something for all of us to learn as we learn about each other in this world, in this project that is so important, of just understanding other humans, and how we operate and recognizing that we don't all think about the world in the exact same way, and we don't all have the same kinds of experiences. Neil Sattin: So today's conversation is meant to be helpful on so many levels, and I hope that it is. We have an esteemed guest with us today, his name is Rick Miller, and he is a clinical social worker from the Boston area, who I found out about when I was chatting with Jeff Zeig about this topic, and you may remember Jeff Zeig, he was on the show back in Episode 102 and in Episode 114. We were chatting about, "Well, who would be an awesome person to have on the show to chat about this?" And he mentioned Rick, who among having presented at the couple's conference on this topic of gay male relationships, he's the author of, Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men: The Gift of Presence, which is a book primarily for therapists, and then another book, Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy. Both books are amazing in helping you really wrap your brain, and I think that's kind of ironic, right? 'Cause we're talking about unwrapping. But it helps you wrap your brain around just how different this experience can be, and also where the similarities lie. Neil Sattin: So, I'm really excited to have Rick with us today to talk about gay male relationships. We will as always, have a detailed transcript of today's episode, which you can get if you visit neilsattin.com/miller, as in Rick Miller, M-I-L-L-E-R. Or you can always text the word, "Passion" to the number, 33-444 and follow the instructions to download your transcript. I think those are all the details, so let's dive in. Rick Miller, it's such a pleasure to have you with us here today on Relationship Alive. Rick Miller: Thank you for the great introduction! Neil Sattin: You’re welcome! So Rick, perhaps a good place to start is this question of where we all might share principles of how to have an amazing relationship in common. Then from there, we'll go into the places where we diverge. What do you see as the principles that hold true, no matter who you are in trying to have a successful relationship? Rick Miller: I do believe that there are universal principles that are a part of every intimate relationship, and some of them include vulnerability, self-expression, expression of intimacy and sexuality, dealing with conflict, dealing with trust, dealing with betrayal, so many things like that. I think what's unusual for male couples is that they were raised as boys and as men. So the development of the gay male is different from a man and a woman who end up being together. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and it also, from reading your book, Unwrapped, I was struck by not only are gay men raised as men, but then there's also this underlying dichotomy or tension between being raised as a man and what it's like to grow up gay in a world that doesn't fully support people who are gay. Rick Miller: Yes. So I have a lot to say about you're pointing this out. First, and most important is that for the majority of gay boys growing up, they know that they're different, they feel different, they feel ashamed of being different, on some level they're attuned, probably unconsciously attuned to their parents and their society, aware that they're not the child that their parents want them to be. So by the time they reach adulthood, they've learned to constrict themselves and they've become masters at hiding. So, what do you do in an intimate relationship when you've been accustomed to being so hidden all these years? And then suddenly it's expected that you'd be communicative, open, unguarded, and all that stuff. Neil Sattin: Right. Where those are really the essential ingredients in staying connected when things get challenging? Rick Miller: Yes, yeah. Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's a great question. One thing, one nuance that I really appreciated that you brought up in your book was that it comes even literally down to how I might feel in my body and distancing myself from that. So that even that might be a challenge to overcome, this feeling at home and at peace in my physical experience. Rick Miller: Absolutely. One of the points in the book, and a lot of the work that I do, and the trainings that I do is that gay men and gay boys dissociate from their bodies because their bodies are dangerous to them, partially because of the conflict of growing up gay and feeling disenfranchised and shutting that off, or partially because many gay boys are not good at athletics, and they don't trust that their coordination will get them where they want. Neil Sattin: So there's this need to build trust with your body? Rick Miller: And so many people don't even recognize this tension that I'm describing, and I do a lot of hypnosis with my clients, which is a really fascinating process and a part of what it includes is relaxing, going inside, noticing what's taking place inside the body and creating space for openness, warmth, and resourcefulness. Frequently, what comes out for many gay men is that they've been tightening themselves and hiding themselves and dissociating themselves without even realizing that they've been doing it because it's their automatic go-to place for day to day life. Neil Sattin: So listening right now, how would I know? How would I know if that is part of my normal state of being, and I wasn't even aware that that was happening for me? Rick Miller: Well, the easiest way to know is simply to take a moment and put your attention inside of yourself in your body and notice what is your breathing like? How are you holding yourself in this very moment? Are you tightening up a particular part or a particular place of your body? What are your neck and shoulders like in this very moment? Even as I'm asking you these questions, what are you noticing? So if you'd like to be the guinea pig, perhaps you can answer these based on your own observations. Neil Sattin: Yeah, well, I'm happy to be a guinea pig, and what I was noticing was just as you were talking, that there was a smile developing on my face. Rick Miller: Nice. Neil Sattin: And at the same time, I always feel a little... It's a combination of nervousness and excitement as these conversations get underway. I was feeling that like an unevenness to my breathing as opposed to just like a regular, smooth breathing. Yeah. Rick Miller: So one of the lucky things is that our cameras are not connected to each other, so I can't make any observations or have you here. So I'm gonna go at face value with what you're saying. I like the openness that you have, that a smile can come to your face. And if I were sitting across from you, I might point out little things that I'm seeing, and ask you to make slight adjustments, and all that kind of thing. It's exciting. What's interesting about really being attentive to the body is that there are so many answers that we have available inside of us that many of us don't even pay attention to. Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and it's coming to me really clearly right now and just so you know, and you listening know this, this is not planned, but I just became suddenly aware of how when I was reading your books and getting prepared for this conversation what it was like to grow up in this world, and I'm a product of the mid to late '70s and the '80s, I was born in '74, now I'm truly dating myself here and recognizing in relation to this dialogue, what my experience was, which is, I would not say that I'm gay and yet at the same time, I did experience a lot of, I think more things that might be considered more feminine and more connection to emotions. I'm realizing now just how much the fear of being labeled a certain way impacted me in terms of being fully in my expression of who I am. I wouldn't say that's the case for me now, but I think what came up for me was even a little bit of grief in recognizing like, "Oh, yeah, this was actually an obstacle for me in truly connecting with myself and with the people around me because I was afraid, afraid of being labeled." Rick Miller: I totally appreciate your openness in talking about this, and I think the experience of feeling different or even being noticed as being different is universal for people, but everyone has their own reason why. You strike me as a male who is sensitive and able to be open. That, especially back then in the '70s was perceived as possibly being gay. Fortunately, we live in a time now where being an expressive man is no longer a curse of being gay. It's allowed, it's encouraged. I'm very interested in the whole topic of masculinity in general, and what straight men can learn from gay men and what gay men can learn from straight men and how gender can be so fluid at this point in time. Neil Sattin: Absolutely. Rick Miller: Times are exciting and things are changing. The problem is, is that many gay boys who grew up in the era that you're referring to, or gay boys growing up now who live in very conservative areas still have the same difficulties that I grew up with and that you grew up with. Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And even in parts of the country that are more liberal, I wouldn't say that, it's not like homophobia has been eliminated or discrimination, or just even people's maybe unconscious but still expressed biases around same-sex relationships in society. Rick Miller: Well, I'm glad to hear you say it because I do a lot of training, and frequently people come up to me and say, "The world is so much better. Why are you doing these workshops? Gay men don't have to worry anymore. Everything is fine." On one hand, I guess many gay boys or gay men don't have to worry about being killed or being abused, but it's still an issue. People are still struggling and my premise, as you know, is that people are struggling without even realizing how much they're struggling. That's my job as a psychotherapist when I work with people, but it's also my job as an educator to let people know that deep down, there are still parts of the self that are vulnerable and protective. Neil Sattin: Yeah, so that brings us back to where we were, which was this inner inquiry and experience of our bodies and how that would show up if we were shutting down or having ways in which we are hiding our experience. Rick Miller: So sometimes it's a physical sensation that people are aware of. Sometimes it's a thought that comes up in the mind, or sometimes it's an image, our ability to use imagery is pretty profound. There are moments where things just pop into our awareness and we may not understand why or what it means, but if we dig a little bit deeper, we can usually make sense out of these things. Neil Sattin: There's something that I love about hypnosis, among many things, and one is the way that it gives our inner world permission to communicate with the outer world. So there's something about that inviting that you just mentioned that is I think is so powerful. It's the willingness to just be open and then to experience what comes your way as a message and what does that message tell you. Rick Miller: Well, what a beautiful way of describing hypnosis. Given that so many people are afraid of what's gonna happen and what they'll end up doing. Excuse me, it's pollen season in New England. So, the way that you described hypnosis was so non-threatening and so inviting, so I love that. As I do hypnosis with gay men, again, the constriction that has been part of their lives suddenly transforms itself into a beautiful openness and a self-reliance that is incredibly magical just to see. Neil Sattin: Yeah. So I would love for you to share with our audience why you've been using hypnosis as a therapeutic tool, and in particular the tension between like why using hypnosis is so helpful? And on the flip side, why someone might resist wanting the experience that hypnosis is giving them? Rick Miller: Sure. I forgot the first question. The first question... Neil Sattin: Yeah, the first question is, what is it about hypnosis that you've found to be so valuable in working with clients? Rick Miller: So I've always done guided meditation and guided imagery, and I never got formal training in it, and yet I was doing it with my clients and amazing things were happening. So when I decided to get more formal training, it was based on some of my friends that loved hypnosis, that I ended up pursuing it. What I realized as soon as I started doing it is that it's something that we all know how to do, and it's something that we do in our day to day lives over and over and over again without realizing it. For example, when we hear an old song on the radio and we immediately begin to have flashbacks about where we were, how we felt, who we were with, what our lives were like, that's one example. Another example of being hypnotized by ourselves is a scent. So today is a spring day and I can smell the pollen and I can smell that beautiful spring afternoon, and suddenly I have memories of being a child late in May as it was getting warmer outside, and I'm flooded with amazing memories. So that's another example of being hypnotized. So when I work with people in hypnosis, I'm helping them achieve a state inside of themselves, or to shift a state away from unpleasantness into comfort, or pleasantness or resourcefulness. Neil Sattin: And how does that makes such a huge difference particularly for gay men who are dealing with maybe this problem that we were talking about initially, which is around dissociation from their physical experience? Rick Miller: I think in general, anyone who is open to trying these things will love hypnosis, whether you're a gay man or not a gay man, but given how limited our experiences has been as gay men to be able to go inside and recognize that enjoyment is there, is revolutionary. The other generalization about gay men being men is that many gay men are type A, over achievers, and have compensated for feeling inadequate by overdoing things in the work setting or in academic settings and of course, the price that we pay to do that is not always paying attention to what's happening inside. So having the opportunity to slow down to connect with oneself is a pretty important gift, and it's overlooked way more than it ought to be. Neil Sattin: Yeah. And you talk about that in terms of hypnosis and Milton Erickson and his viewpoint that all of his clients had the resources within them to do whatever shifting was necessary in their lives. Rick Miller: Correct. Neil Sattin: It also reminds me a lot, and I think you talk about parts work as well. It reminds me of Dick Schwartz in Internal Family Systems. Again, all about enlisting our inner resources to come online so that we don't feel like we're deficient in some way. Rick Miller: So, let me say a little bit about parts work. Neil Sattin: Please. Rick Miller: Which is, inside of us are all these different parts. We're so busy living our lives trying to either be our best self, or trying to ward off parts of ourselves that are unformed or more primitive and the harder we try to push something away inside of us, the more it comes out in a way that we don't want it to. So in doing parts work, what we do is we welcome all parts of ourselves that exist inside. And as a psychotherapist, what I do is I work with people to have them bring these parts forward to allow each part to have an equal voice, the part of yourself that does greater work, the part of yourself that feels like an awkward adolescent, the part of yourself that feels like a five year old who's naughty because you know that you're different from other boys and I'll ask each part to recognize what they need or what they experience, and with this is a sense of integration and from this, there's a sense of well-being and mental health that is absolutely necessary. Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love it. Let's bring that now, imagining that we've miraculously totally resourced ourselves [chuckle] in the past 15 or 20 minutes, and let's bring it to the question of relationships. We started out with identifying some of the universal principles underlying relationships, the ability to be vulnerable, to be courageous, to be who you are, to repair in conflict. What have you noticed that's particular to relationships between men that is different, or that makes their particular situation challenging in a way that a heterosexual couple might not experience? Rick Miller: So the first image that comes to mind is, "How many gay male couples have arrived at my psychotherapy office sitting on opposite ends of the couch?" Of course, any couple can do that, but there's a particular way in which men can kinda shrink in and hope to disappear, which of course doesn't happen in a couple's therapy office and the ability to be tender and vulnerable and to listen carefully and closely as opposed to providing quick and instant solutions is something that a lot of men struggle with. The other thing is that men, as I said, are not experts at allowing vulnerabilities to come to the surface. So when you're in a male couple with two men who are fighting vulnerabilities, it's hard to know what to do when one or both are either feeling conflict or feeling scared. Another common issue that comes up a lot is that men frequently are lacking role models about how to be tender and intimate and loving towards their partners, and having growing up in a world of masculinity, it's not considered cool to do those things. But then suddenly when you're in an adult relationship, it's one of the necessary ingredients for a relationship to flourish. Neil Sattin: Now you also talked about the impact of the mythology of gay culture, and as I was reading about that I was thinking about, "Yeah, that must be so challenging to on the one hand be part of this larger culture that looks at you one way, but then to have this idealized version of what it means to be a gay man that you also might not fully resonate with, but it at least gives you a place to go." Rick Miller: Well, there's a lot of pressure to be a certain kind of gay man and what's interesting is that before we had the internet or phone apps, being gay perhaps was more regional. That we were informed by where we lived and how people did things where we lived. Now, it's a worldwide experience and gay men are looking at other gay men all over the world and the pressure to be young, to look a certain way, to be professionally successful is what is driving many men in their desires to be successful. The problem with that is that many men are very successful in a variety of ways, but they don't feel like they measure up to this gay-male standard. It's a lot of pressure and frequently men will buy into this without even recognizing that it's what they do. Rick Miller: So when I do trainings, frequently people will raise their hands and say, "Well I have many gay male clients that live outside of the city, and they live in rural areas, and they don't buy into what you're talking about." and I'll come back and challenge them by saying, "Do they go online? What are they looking at? What are the pornography sites that they're looking at? What are the websites that they're going to as gay men were they being informed about what their life ought to be like as a gay man?" I make the comparison of how women will look at fashion magazines regardless of age, regardless of their size, and then experience this uncomfortable feeling inside of themselves based on not meeting those standards. Neil Sattin: Yeah, and how do you help a couple who were maybe one or both members of the couple is struggling with that issue? How do you help them support each other in finding who they really are in the midst of all of that? Rick Miller: Well, one of the things is to verbalize what I just said to you about noticing how some of the pressure to be a certain way is coming from outside of themselves, and that they're internalizing that without even realizing it. So one of the gifts of being a couples therapist is that I get to help people shift their focus inward, and to be the person that they really are, and accept who they really are, rather than trying to be a stereotype of who someone is supposed to be. The other thing that I do, which is part of the same process as going inside, is helping people to identify what they want, what they need, what they expect from their partner, and to also learn how to give parts of themselves that they didn't know they could do or didn't allow themselves to do because it wasn't considered masculine. Neil Sattin: Yeah, one thing that you mentioned, I think, in maybe the presentation that you gave for the Couples Conference that I can totally relate to, because I happen to think that just about everyone could use a bit of a sexual re-education. This idea that there's a discovery of what it really means to us as individuals to be healthy, to be sexual to... What gives us pleasure, what doesn't. And to really be able to explore that enough that we can take a strong stand for who we are in that, as opposed to just buying into some prescription that's been handed us. Rick Miller: Part of the prescription that's been handed to gay men is that there are certain ways that we're supposed to be sexual and that we're all supposed to have open relationships and that every gay male cheats on his partner and that belief sys