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Relationship Alive!

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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Now displaying: November, 2015
Nov 24, 2015

You’ve heard it before - here, and elsewhere - in order to show up in relationship, you have to be able to show up for yourself. What does it mean to actually be able to show up for yourself? On top of that, have you ever experienced a split between your head and your heart - and do you know how to heal it? I’ve heard time and time again with friends and clients - “my heart wants one thing, my head wants another?” - but being able to feel like you’re fully in alignment is not only possible - it’s required for you to be able to be fully YOU in life.

Today’s guest is Dr. Margaret Paul, psychologist and co-creator of Inner Bonding - and the author of the book “Inner Bonding”. As you’re about to find out, Inner Bonding is a straightforward practice - which we’re going to teach you how to do on this episode - that will help you heal the split between head and heart, and give you the presence that you need to show up fully in relationship - and in your life. It’s helpful for addiction and depression - as well as breaking patterns of co-dependence and jealousy in relationship.

Margaret and I discuss the following aspects of her work:

  • Inner Bonding is a technique in which you learn to truly connect with your feelings, your wisdom/knowing, and your higher sense of guidance - and to connect them all with each other. Not only is it helpful to be able to tune into each aspect, but it is also impactful to bring them into alignment and support with each other. The process brings about a feeling of total internal alignment and integrity.
  • Many people go into relationships to GET love instead of to SHARE love, and that is what makes all the difference in the world regarding relationships. Inner bonding will allow you to feel full from the inside out. Through practicing it, you can fully choose yourself - and then be able to share/create more love with your partner. If you’re seeking love from your partner, that is a recipe for eventual codependence.
  • In Inner Bonding, the term “Inner Child” refers to your feelings and your innocence - the core of your essence. This part of you is connected deeply to your unique potential - what you have come into the world to express. If we numb our feelings through turning to some form of addictive behavior, then we miss the huge source of internal guidance. Even a “spiritual bypass” (going to a place of spiritual connectedness BEFORE getting in touch with your inner child) can be ultimately detrimental to your being fully YOU.
  • Your “Inner Adult” is the part of you that is learning and growing each year of your life. This part of you is as “wise” as your years and experience. And, just as an adult is responsible for a child, that adult part of us is responsible for listening to and tending to the needs of the feeling/innocent/essence part of us.
  • As you will see - Inner Bonding teaches you how to access your higher guidance for wisdom BEYOND your years. Your inner adult doesn’t have to do it all alone. Through inner bonding, you can learn how to contact the part of you that is in touch with the knowing outside of the limits of your experience.
  • In Inner Bonding, there are only two intentions possible: the intention to protect against painful feelings through some sort of controlling behavior, and the intention to learn about loving ourselves. The latter intention occurs when we are in the loving adult stage and can connect with higher guidance, love, and wisdom. It is powerful in opening us up to a high-frequency energy level. Since most of us did not have good role models for loving ourselves, so we need higher guidance.
  • Why are these two INTENTIONS important in the context of relationships? If you come into a relationship feeling unworthy, disconnected, and empty, then you expect the other person to “fill you up” and give you meaning and safety - to “protect” you from these uncomfortable feelings. Frequently we also attract common levels of woundedness in a partner. As we become emptier and emptier, we become resentful and controlling to feel love and avoid pain.
  • The main cause of relationship problems is self-abandonment and the controlling behavior that results. This is where Inner Bonding comes in. Practicing the six steps will yield love, inner worth, shared love, growth, fun, companionship, and support. Aren’t those the things we all desire in a relationship?
  • What if someone says, “I’m not feeling unworthy or unloved, but I just want more sex with my partner”? If someone wants sex because that is how they create feelings of worthiness and connection, then that’s a problem. If you want sex, and your partner isn’t in the mood, and you can respond without anger and neediness, then that’s a sign you’re coming from a place of love. If you become angry and controlling, or feel rejected, then that’s a clue that you might be seeking sexual intimacy for the wrong reasons.
  • What problems might you see in relationships if you aren’t inner bonded? There might be anger, guilt trips, and a fear of rejection. Margaret shares a specific scenario in which one partner might become anxious, and the other might have the fear of engulfment and retreat more and withdraw. The separation will escalate. In a situation like this, what is the path back for this couple? Each partner needs to practice inner bonding to reconnect with themselves, so they aren’t angry, shutting down, or being resistant. Both partners should take responsibility for their beliefs and take loving action within. This remedy will translate into loving action with each other!
  • What brings people closer together is when they are open to learning with each other and not to attack, blaming, and defending. When we are triggered into our fears and retreat into our “wounded self,” then we don’t even hear what the other person says. If you’re triggered and take a moment to practice Inner Bonding, you will be able to respond from a place of curiosity (the intent to learn) instead of your triggered place (the intent to protect).
  • Many people can give compassion to others but not to themselves. They connect to all kinds of spiritual awareness but not to themselves, maybe even give and give and give without getting anything back. This will wear you out and deplete you. Inner Bonding teaches how to give yourself love and compassion. Again, to start from a place of being full, of fully choosing and accepting yourself, before you reflect that out into the world.
  • There are two categories of negative feelings:
    • Wounded feelings-we cause them through our own false beliefs, self-abandonment, and rejection of ourselves. We feel anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, emptiness, and aloneness.
    • Painful feelings of life—These are feelings caused by deep grief, loneliness, heartbreak, and sorrow. We often learn as children to abandon these feelings, often turning to some kind of addictive behavior. Even “blame” is a form of addictive behavior - making other people responsible.
  • The Six Steps to Inner Bonding:
    • 1. Feel your feelings - become aware of what you’re feeling in your body. Do those sensations have a voice? What are they saying? In this step you are acknowledging the value of the feeling part of yourself, and the willingness to take responsibility for it.
    • 2. Move into the Intent to Learn - This is when you move into being your inner adult, with a curiosity about your feelings. What are they telling you? How can you grow from this experience? How can you tend to this part of yourself as if it’s a needy child?
    • 3. Dialogue with your inner child and your inner adult. It can be helpful to write this down - and even to write as your “adult” using your dominant hand, and to write as your “child” using your non-dominant hand. Have a dialogue with yourself as if you were talking to a child. What do you need? What do you want?
    • 4. Dialogue with your Higher Guidance. As your inner adult, ask: What is the truth about this? What would be the loving action to take? Get quiet and wait for the answer.
    • 5. TAKE the loving action. Develop a feeling of gratitude towards the guidance that got you there.
    • 6. Check in with yourself. How’s your inner child doing? Are you experiencing inner alignment? Is there still some work to be done? You can repeat the steps of inner bonding until it feels “right”.
  • How might one partner enlist the other in “getting on board” with Inner Bonding? The first step is always simply to do your own work. That in and of itself can be VERY powerful. Your partner may wake up to there being something different about you - and that would be a great time to tell them about your practice. When you’re doing the work, change is inevitable - and your ability to handle whatever change happens with compassion, love, and boundaries will also improve.
  • When one’s feelings are hurt, how do you know when it’s time to separate and attend to the inner child in offering tenderness? Hurt feelings are one thing - and perhaps a good place to start with inner bonding by yourself. A hurt heart is something else. When your heart is hurt, then it’s time to speak up with your partner and see if they are open to learning, and then you can ask for support and caring from your partner.
  • If both partners are “on board,” then how can you support each other? Say things like, “I’m here for you, I love you, and I want to help.” When the intention is loving, the words aren’t so important. It’s really all about the energy, and inner bonding helps you to trust the energy you pick up.
  • What about a common feeling in relationships like jealousy? Jealousy is a wounded feeling that comes from telling ourselves lies and judgments. A jealous person has not learned to define their beautiful essence and doesn’t think they are “good enough.” Practicing inner bonding will lead to an ENORMOUS shift in those feelings. Both in the partner who is experiencing jealousy, as well as in the partner who might in fact be doing things that are out of integrity and contributing to their partner’s jealousy.
  • What about the “really big feelings”? You can’t tackle these without a spiritual source of love. If there has been trauma in a relationship or a partner’s past, then we often need another person to help with those feelings. If you continue to abandon yourself, then you will re-traumatize yourself. It can also be helpful to get therapy specifc for the trauma while developing your loving adult self.
  • How can you “show up” when a partner goes through a hard feeling? Hold them, reassure them that you are there for them and that they are not alone. Do inner bonding WHILE you’re doing that, so that you don’t go into your own triggered state!

 

 

 

Resources:

Margaret Paul’s Website:  www.innerbonding.com

Inner Bonding on Amazon

www.neilsattin.com/innerbonding is the direct link to this episode. Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. If you download the guide within the first week of this episode's airing, you are automatically qualified for a chance to win a copy of “Inner Bonding”!

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Nov 17, 2015

How do you get in touch with what you’re feeling in the moment? How do you take that a step further, and tune into your partner? And how do you take that state, and turn it into deep intimacy, connection, and...well...hot sex? And can you keep that dance alive with your partner even if you have children competing for your time and attention?

Today, our guest is Dr. Keith Witt, Integral Psychologist, and author of several amazing books, including The Attuned Family: How to be a Great Parent To Your Kids, and a Great Lover to Your Spouse. His popular online course, Loving Completely, just came out at the beginning of 2015, and he often appears with Jeff Saltzman on the Daily Evolver show. In today’s wide-ranging conversation, we get into the practical details of how to practice what Keith calls “attunement” - and how it can help you resolve conflict, deepen your connection to yourself and your partner, and, if you have kids, be a better parent. Keith distills his vast wisdom from years of practice - he’s conducted over 55,000 therapy sessions with his clients - and he is on the cutting edge of how to take a relationship to new levels of growth, connection, and passion - especially when you’re past the honeymoon stage with your partner. We also talk about infidelity - why it’s a bad idea, and how to repair when it’s occurred. So - we’re going to cover a lot of ground, and this episode is a little bit longer than most of our episodes - but stick with it as it’s value-packed the whole way through.

Keith discusses the following principles from his book and his experience as a psychologist:

  • The relationship between partners changes after the birth of the first child. This is the premise of The Attuned Family. Couples who learn to reorganize their lives and their relationship to factor in the new circumstances and transition from the honeymoon stage will be better parents and better lovers.

 

  • Keith discusses the stages of relationships based on evolutionary drivers:

 

    • Lust-when you see someone and “want” them sexually
    • Romantic Infatuation-a temporary stage that lasts 6-18 months
    • Intimate Bonding-a more permanent pattern - and this is where most people either get stuck or break down. The goal of course is to move beyond this stage and thrive in deeper intimacy and connection with each other.
  • Treat your relationship as if it needs the same kind of attention that your kids (if you have them) also need. Obviously it’s great to devote time to being a good parent to your children, and Keith’s book offers great techniques for how to do just that. The problem with modern parenting is that we often become dedicated to parenting to the negligence of our relationship.
  • One of the foundations of integral psychology is the States of Consciousness, which include the emotions and impulses that we go through during each day. There are two categories: prosocial states, which we perceive as safe, using social skills and mature intelligence, and defensive states, which we perceive as unsafe. Characteristics of defensive states are amplified/numbed emotions, destructive impulses, distorted perspectives, diminished capacities for empathy and self-reflection. Basically, the brain is preparing us for “Fight or Flight.” Most people aren’t even aware of their defensive states, but these will accelerate conflict in relationships and will be toxic to couples.
  • Defensive states will cause couples to withdraw, shut down, and avoid each other. Catching the defensive state and regulating it to a state of social engagement is one of the most profound skills we can master as humans. By doing this, we cultivate the ability to attune to ourselves and to our partner.
  • So what is Attunement, and what does it mean in relationships? Keith gives the following steps to Attunement that must be carried out - with acceptance and caring intent:
    • Be aware of the breath going in and out of your body.
    • Be aware of the sensations in your body.
    • Be aware of your emotions.
    • Be aware of your thoughts.
    • Be aware of judgments about yourself and others.
    • Be aware of what you really want.
  • To attune yourself to others, imagine the other person—what they are feeling, sensing, thinking, judging, and wanting. Many, if not most, of the issues couples have are perpetual issues that are never resolved. You definitely won’t solve them if you spend your time arguing about content. The proper process is to get attuned first, and then the content often takes care of itself.
  • How do you shift strong “negative” emotions into being accepting and caring? There are two general approaches to the experience of emotion in yourself and others, which are to be either dismissing or coaching. In the dismissing attitude, those emotions are a burden, and you would ignore them, deny their validity, or strive to change them. In coaching, you develop an attitude of welcoming emotion and looking at them as an impetus to grow, make changes if necessary, and allow the emotion to shift on its own (as it naturally will). Can you become emotionally coaching as a partner and a parent. Studies show that children with parents with coaching attitudes towards emotion will be better-adjusted and happier in life. Be aware of the strong emotion and let it lead you to deeper intimacy.
  • What if you are attuned but your partner is not? What can you do? A great place to start is to focus on eye contact. It’s harder to hurt someone while maintaining eye contact. You can also ask a therapist or coach to help if you both can’t find your way back to love and intimacy.
  • You’ve probably heard that humans are programmed to NOT be monogamous. How does that play into relationships today? In Keith’s view, a relationship of deepening trust requires monogamy. The way to experience deeper and deeper intimacy is to create a more and more safe container for your relationship with your partner. This intimacy goes beyond biology and represents an evolution in terms of our psychological and spiritual capacity.
  • In Keith’s book, Integral Mindfulness, he gives an overview of a full life of development and engagement. The idea of Integral Mindfulness  is that any given moment gives understanding of yourself and environment as we are attuned with each other. What are our states and development levels? In relationships, we have to adjust many, many times before we achieve a background hum of being safe and connected with my partner. Keith uses the illustration of taking a dance class, being clumsy in the beginning, but learning to master the steps after much practice. This principle applies to physical, emotional, social, relational, sexual, and psychological development. All forms of relationship are like dancing. When it goes bad, we often blame our partner, but taking responsibility for our part and practicing the skills over time will change the outcome.
  • How is the idea of attunement related to the definition of intimacy? The more attuned that you can be, the more that you can play with the masculine and feminine polarity in order to create sparks. As soon as you are attuned to your partner, you create an opening to sense the pleasure that being attuned creates. And tuning into that pleasure leads to the deeper sparks of polarity, play, and a sensual connection. As we discussed in our episode with John Gottman, it’s so important for each partner to also be able to say “no” - and for the partner who hears “no” to welcome that and not take it personally, to actually make it TOTALLY FINE to say “no”. Couples who are fully in their “no” get to “yes” more often, because they have created a truly safe container in their relationship.
  • What about trauma? 10% of men and 20% of women have sexual trauma, and we all have issues to deal with as we proceed through adult development. Trauma can severely impact our capacity to bond sexually with our partner. However, it’s important for you to also take responsibility for healing from your trauma. Never say, “I can’t love you or deal with you in this way because of my trauma, so get used to it.” We have to want the best for each other, including in our sexuality, regardless of past trauma.
  • What about attuning to each other in conflict and recognizing polarity? One way to navigate conflict is to respond from an opposite pole to your partner. If your partner is masculine, respond in a feminine way, or vice versa. When a partner is doing WELL, take a moment to recognize and appreciate that! See if you can find pleasure in those moments, as they are truly the “golden moments.”
  • How do you repair and rebuild trust after it has been broken? Keith says that 70% of cheating incidents recover and work to rebuild, but a small portion of cheating incidents are “exit” affairs out of the relationship. The cheating spouse needs to find the determining factor, which is usually opportunity. What was the difference? What was missing with your partner? Anyone who has a secret affair has to make their family, children, and friends disappear and give in to intensely egotistical narcissism during the moments of the affair. So you need to repair from that state, come back into alignment with your partner, and work on your vision for the relationship that you WANT to create together. And heal the part within yourself that led to the affair and allowed
  • How do you clean up the mess of a secret affair? First, become honest and stop the affair! Ask the questions that need to be asked, and reestablish the lover relationship with your spouse. For the innocent partner, they have to deal with the profound unfairness of it all, which sometimes turns into trauma work. Anchor yourself in “What do I want?” You have to find a way through the trauma and identify your partner as a trustable person when they have betrayed your trust. For the person who had an affair: commit to your development as a person. Discover your vulnerabilities. Remember that “never doing that again” is only the start of recovery. For both partners: Get back to growing a sense of intimacy with each other. Remember, “Love always involves suffering. Hurt will happen.” However, what’s amazing is the capacity for you to get beyond the hurt to even deeper levels of integrity, commitment, and intimacy - if you’re willing to do the work.

Resources:

www.drkeithwitt.com  (Keith’s online course Loving Completely is available, and his free digital copy of The Attuned Family.)

The Attuned Family: How to Be a Great Parent to  on Amazon

Integral Mindfulness: Clueless to Dialed in - How Mindfulness Makes Everything Better on Amazon

www.neilsattin.com/witt is the direct link to this episode. Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. If you download the guide within the first week of this episode's airing, you are automatically qualified for a chance to win a copy of “The Dance of Anger”!

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Nov 10, 2015

When was the last time you got really angry? And...how did that go for you? Was it a positive experience, or...not? And...do you and your partner know how to use your anger to foster growth in your connection?

The reason I’m asking is that today’s guest is Harriet Lerner, Clinical Psychologist and author of the classic book The Dance of Anger which has sold over 3 MILLION copies worldwide. Harriet is one of the world’s most trusted experts on the topic of relationships, and her work has inspired countless others on the topics of Anger, Intimacy, Trust, Fear, Courage - you name it. Today we’re going to dive deep to talk about how to make your anger a force for good in your relationship. On top of that you’ll also get some words of wisdom that aren’t just about anger, but that are also about how to identify and change the patterns that are holding you back in your relationship.

If you need help with understanding and processing anger, then join my enlightening conversation with Harriet as she addresses the following:

  • Anger—what is it? Can it be useful? Anger doesn’t have to be a negative emotion. After all, it’s part of what makes us human and helps us define “self.” Anger is a vehicle for personal, social, and political change. “The pain of our anger preserves the dignity and integrity of the self.” In other words, when you’re feeling angry, that probably means that there is some place where you are ignoring your needs and betraying yourself.
  • Many people use anger in relationships for purposes that aren’t useful. Many people get angry with ease, but they don’t accomplish anything useful with their anger! If anger is a way to blow off steam, but doesn’t actually generate positive change, then it’s not serving its purpose.
  • Or some people avoid anger altogether. Another way that we mismanage anger is by AVOIDING conflict. This leads us to avoid any CLEAR statement of self that will “rock the boat” in a relationship. So it temporarily buys you peace, but at the cost of being fully yourself in relationship. And if you can’t be fully yourself, then you can’t fully meet your partner.
  • What is the connection between gender and ways of handling anger? Our culture is more comfortable with women who are guilty, apologetic, and self-doubting than with women who are angry and want to challenge the status quo. Too often, anger is associated with feminism (“those angry feminists”) and is taboo for women.  That all being said, managing anger wisely is a universal challenge for ALL of us, regardless of gender.
  • The BIG Question =  How do we transition from nonproductive to productive anger? Anger is a difficult emotion because we are wired for FIGHT or FLIGHT when we encounter most any problems. In order to turn anger into something useful, we need to become good observers of what is going on. The first step is noticing that you’re getting angry. Once you can become a witness to your anger, you are empowered to change YOUR part in the patterns that lead to anger being toxic versus being a vehicle for growth.
  • What might you notice in yourself as a precursor to anger? Often, when you’re in full-on anger, it’s not the right time to try to resolve a situation. Can you identify the micro-changes within you that lead up to fight-or-flight? Does your heart-rate change? Does your face feel flushed? Where is your attention focused? Do you start to get defensive? In these moments, when you recognize that something is going on, do your best to see it as a sign that something within you needs to be recognized. Take space if necessary, to get clarity. Don’t focus on being “right” or “winning” - focus on getting yourself back to a place of connection within - and love/compassion for your partner.
  • Learn to deal with countermoves and resistance to change in yourself and your partner. “Countermoves” are ways that a partner tries to hook you back into the old patterns when you are trying to change. If you have patterns in the way that you interact with your partner, you can prepare ahead of time for what they will probably do to try and continue the pattern. When that happens, can you continue to not take things personally? Can you stand firm in not being pulled into an old pattern? Can you do that in a way that is kind and compassionate?
  • One challenge in relationships regarding anger is DEFINING A BOTTOM LINE. A “bottom line” is the place where your beliefs, priorities, and values are not negotiable. Can you define a bottom line in a way that doesn’t create an ultimatum, but instead offers your partner a pathway for change?
  • What if you don’t know what your bottom line is? It takes courage to acknowledge that you aren’t clear about how to proceed, and to not know what your position actually is.  Sometimes it’s ok NOT to do anything!
  • What are the roots of change in your relationship? Change comes in small steps, so don’t expect immediate and dramatic results (although they do sometimes happen!). Change is made of courageous acts instead of blaming others and staying victimized. What is more important in your relationship - being locked into a pattern of pursuing, distancing, anger, and blame---or having the courage to break free from those? These changes are not easy, and it takes courage to shift your actions and not know how your partner will respond. Can you take a position that doesn’t involve blaming others - but that still allows you to take a stand for what you need and desire in your relationship?
  • After you get clear on what you need - Start looking for positive, constructive ways to address your needs within yourself, and within your relationship. Even if a situation is 97% the other person - that still leaves 3% for you to work on and change. And once you change, the whole dynamic changes.
  • One of the strategies Harriet shares in her book is to go back to your family origins. We all have a legacy that is handed to us from the formative people in our lives about handling anger and conflict. Often, the way our family members handled conflict is transferred to us. For this reason, it’s helpful to know the history of the “hot” issues in our family and take steps to become a “pioneer” in dealing with those issues in a different way. Can you become a detective and explore what has come before you in the way other family members have handled situations - particularly contentious situations?
  • Here’s how to change patterns in a healthy way: The best way to get your partner’s attention is to try out a NEW you. Do something different. Pick out something small and try it out when the countermoves roll in.

 

 

 

 

Links and Resources:

www.harrietlerner.com

The Dance of Anger on Amazon

www.neilsattin.com/anger  is the direct link to this episode. Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. If you download the guide within the first week of this episode's airing, you are automatically qualified for a chance to win a copy of “The Dance of Anger”!

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Nov 3, 2015

Today I’d like to have a conversation about a topic that’s a little dicey for some of us. Do you or your partner use pornography? What place, if any, does it have in your relationship? Is it helpful? Is it creating conflict? Is it possible that it’s having an influence on your relationship and you don’t even know about it? Today my guest is Gary Wilson, from YourBrainonPorn.com, and author of the book “Your Brain on Porn”. 

 Rather than talking about whether or not porn is good, bad, or healthy - we’re going to talk about the effects of porn use on your brain - what can happen when you or your partner uses porn - and what can shift when you remove porn from your life. We’re also going to cover how to know if porn is having a secret impact on your relationship, how to have compassion for those who are affected by it, and how to get it out of your life.

 As for me, I’m curious - not so much about the rightness or wrongness of it - but about what porn does to you and your biochemistry. Is it helping you? Or not? And once you learn about what it does, you might be inclined to find a way to remove it once and for all.  

We all know that porn has become pervasive and woven its way into our culture, primarily by way of the internet.  The use of porn tends to have negative effects on individuals - and, by extension, their relationships, and Gary is here to discuss exactly what is happening with your body’s chemistry as opposed to approaching the subject from a religious or moral perspective.

Highlights of my conversation with Gary Wilson:

  • Gary never set out to become an expert in this field.  Several years ago, men started posting on his wife’s website forum (which was about relationships) about their porn addictions and the problems that were occurring as a result.  Many of the men experienced sexual dysfunction, but they noticed that when they gave up the porn that they had better sexual function, better relationships, and better emotional health.
  • Gary was resistant and did not want to address the subject because of the ramifications and the stigma attached to it, but he felt compelled to write articles and get the word out.  He then realized the magnitude of the problem of pornography because of the widespread interest in his articles and the website he created in 2010.  Even though almost all of the recovery stories are from men, many women are affected by porn either directly or indirectly, through problems with their partners’ addictions.
  • Gary’s work addresses porn from the perspective of the biochemical effect in the brain.  The reward circuit of the brain runs on dopamine and is most highly activated by the things that ensure the survival of you and your genes.  Food, sex, achievement, taking risks, and novelty are just a few of the things that make dopamine levels rise and say, “Do that again!”
  • So what is it about internet porn that makes it so addictive? Internet porn is “the perfect storm” that raises dopamine and hits us in our primitive reward center. It combines novelty and sex in a way that is almost irresistible to your brain. The curiosity, shock, surprise, and searching qualities of internet porn all work to raise dopamine levels in the brain - tapping into an innate circuitry that was already there to be exploited.
  • Internet porn is a “supernormal stimulus” that appeals to us far more than normal stimuli. Think of junk foods vs. the whole foods that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle consumes. The added salt and sugar in junk food stimulates the reward center and tells us to over-consume.  In the same way, the unnatural sexual stimuli provided by internet porn make its users easily addicted and captivated by it.
  • Porn addiction results in the same kinds of changes in the brain that occur in drug addiction.  There are several reputable studies that prove this.  The changes are all due to high levels of dopamine over long periods of time and include less gray matter in the reward center, less sexual arousal, and changes in the frontal cortex.
    • THAT’S RIGHT - YOUR BRAIN ACTUALLY SHRINKS FROM PORN USE.
    • Porn users can also notice depression, increased anxiety (especially in social situations), and fuzzy, muddled thinking.
  • What can you do if internet porn is in your relationship?  Can you help your partner? First, remember that porn has almost nothing to do with you, the partner. The user sees internet porn use as normal and part of everyday life.  A real person can never match the novelty of internet porn, but a real partner can provide love, caring, and touch that a screen cannot. If the partner unplugs, then over time, they will become more sensitive to real interaction and relationship. 
  • Create a culture of openness in your relationship. If you can not take the problem of a partner’s porn use personally, it can be freeing for the addicted partner to talk openly about the problem. Gary Wilson has videos available on his website to clearly explain those biochemical changes that take place in the brain due to pornography and depersonalize the issue.
  • Internet porn addiction may be present in your relationship and you may not be aware of it. What are signs you might notice if this is going on? You may notice that your partner is distracted, not available for sex, or asking you to do things in bed that depart radically from what you normally do. You might have trouble connecting to your partner, or feeling their presence in the bedroom. Many users will “hit the wall” and experience extreme sexual dysfunction.  
  • What is the cycle that someone who uses porn is going through? They become so accustomed to the sexual stimuli that they need more shock and surprise to even become aroused. Everything you do trains your brain, so internet porn trains you to be rewired sexually to be fulfilled only through the internet porn and not the real-life partner. 
  • What will happen when porn use ends? The good news is that users who eliminate internet porn find real-life sex and their partner more appealing. However, they might have to give up the internet porn to find out exactly what problems were caused by its use! Positive psychological, neurological, and physical changes occur over time when internet porn is removed. Generally you will find yourself more tuned into what’s actually happening around you in real life, and connected to your partner.
  • Internet porn use can change how you view sexuality and what excites you.  Users become desensitized, which means that they need more and more stimulation to get the same “buzz.”  If you spend years watching straight porn, then you might have to resort to other, more shocking and kinkier versions of porn to be stimulated and turned on. However, it’s important to realize that the type of porn doesn’t always match with the person’s sexuality but has to do with the neuroplastic changes that are occurring in the brain.
  • Try a reboot.  Stop using internet porn for at least 3 weeks - ideally for 90 days. See what changes! If you have severe dysfunction caused by porn use, you might have to go for longer to see major shifts.
  • What strategies can be used to shift your focus and recover from internet porn addiction?  First of all, you have to be motivated to quit. You must replace the porn with other activities like exercise, socializing, meditation, hobbies, reading---things that take you away from the computer.
  • COLD SHOWERS - It’s been proven that taking cold showers can help with shifting away from the porn habit. At the end of a “normal” (hot) shower, you can turn the water on FULL cold - breathe rapidly, and rub your body in the places where the cold water is making contact. Shift so that the water contacts all parts of your body. Can you go for 10 seconds? 30 seconds? 2 minutes? Fringe benefit is that you’ll feel invigorated and the air outside the shower will seem toasty warm. :)
  • Get support - Coaching is great - as is support from peers who are also stopping porn - or who can hold you accountable if that’s necessary.
  • Create a vision for your life - Does it include the use of pornography?
  • What can our society do to transform our consciousness about internet porn? This problem may get a lot worse before it gets better.  Erectile dysfunction rates are on the rise:  27-33% of men under 40 report ED.  There will be more exposure and more availability to our young children. Sex Education is NOT the answer unless it includes education about the brain changes in the delicate reward center in the brain and supernormal stimuli.  When the adolescent brain meets supernormal stimuli, this changes sexuality even before teenagers begin to date each other.  It’s a recipe for disaster!

If porn has been affecting you in your relationship, I am so curious to hear from you - especially if you try the reboot. What changes do you notice?

Links and Resources:

www.yourbrainonporn.com

Your Brain on Porn by Gary Wilson on Amazon

www.neilsattin.com/garyw  is the direct link to this episode. Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. If you download the guide within the first week of this episode's airing, you are automatically qualified for a chance to win a signed copy of “Your Brain on Porn”!

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

 

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