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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: March, 2019
Mar 27, 2019

How do you figure out your truth? In a loud world full of distraction, chaos, and uncertainty, there's a simple way to get to the truth within you - that you can do in a mere 15 minutes (or less). In today's episode, Neil Sattin will go on the journey with you, to discover the truth that's right there within you, waiting to be known. You'll also get a break from overwhelm and information overload by getting in touch with your own stillness, the inner guidance system that's waiting there with wisdom for you to access.

Also, announcing that tickets are on sale for Relationship Alive...LIVE! featuring Terry Real. We'll have a musical guest (Katie Matzell trio), and you'll also have the chance to ask YOUR questions. The show will be on June 6, 2019 at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine. Limited seats available. Click here to buy your tickets now!

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!

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Resources:

Click here to get tickets to Relationship Alive...LIVE on June 6, 2019 featuring Terry Real and musical guest Katie Matzell

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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

Mar 19, 2019

What if you had a way to improve your relationship in just 20 minutes per week? Working on your relationship doesn’t have to be heavy and time-intensive. It does require time and attention - but today we’re going to show you how you can utilize simple strategies in just 20 minutes per week to make marked relationship improvements. This week, our guest is Alicia Muñoz. Alicia is the author of the new book No More Fighting: The Relationship Book for Couples: 20 Minutes a Week to a Stronger Relationship. Her work with couples, extensive training in Imago and AEDP, and research has helped her craft fast and effective strategies to overcome common relationship problems that you can do in just 20 minutes per week. After today’s episode, you’ll have a sense of how to improve the quality of your time with your partner - and worry less about the quantity.

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 Alicia Muñoz’s website to learn more about her work.

Pick up your copy of Alicia Muñoz’s book, No More Fighting: The Relationship Book for Couples: 20 Minutes a Week to a Stronger Relationship

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/nomorefighting to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Alicia Muñoz.

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. It's funny, we kind of fall into relationship a lot of the times. Sometimes it's when we're looking for someone and other times it can literally just fall into our lap, the spark of attraction or who knows what circumstance that brings you into connection and partnership with someone. And as we've talked about here on the show, often, though not always, in those initial moments things are easy, things seem to connect without too much trouble. You have the kind of sex you want to have, you have the kind of fun you want to have, and it sets you up for a potentially long future together. And then you commit to a long future together, only to find, sometimes not long after, that there's a little more to be reckoned with in order to actually be fit for long-term connection with another person. And that's okay, it's part for the course, it's just what happens. And of course, what we're focused on here on Relationship Alive, are the kinds of skills and awarenesses that you need so that no matter what stage you're in, you have resources available to you. So that you can get past whatever growth challenges you're meeting in the moment and take your relationship to the next level.

Neil Sattin: And so today I'm really excited to share with you something that feels like a really practical manual of sorts, to help you in your relationship, written by someone who clearly knows what she's doing, knows her stuff, and also you can just tell by the words in her book that she has, kind of like me, an insatiable curiosity about what makes us tick and how to find lots and lots of resources and pull them together in a way that make them accessible for you. Her name is Alicia Muñoz, and her book, No More Fighting: 20 Minutes A Week To A Stronger Relationship, just came out. And I have to say, like I just mentioned, I've really enjoyed this book, both because it is full of practical ideas and wisdom for you as someone in relationship, but also because it covers such a wide range of possibilities. It's set up really so you can do one thing a week over the course of a year and we're going to dive into some of the contents, you get a sense of what we're talking about. But it starts with things that are a little easier and by the end, you might get to things that are a little more challenging, but in a good way. In a way that really helps you thrive in your relationship and push your edges a little bit more.

Neil Sattin: As usual, we are going to have a detailed transcript of this episode. In order to get it you can visit neilsattin.com/nomorefighting, all pushed together as one word. So, neilsattin.com/nomorefighting and just click the download the transcript button. Or, as always, you can text the word Passion, to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And as a special treat, we are going to also have a book give away. So to one of the lucky people who downloads the transcript in the first week after this show has come out, you will receive a free copy of No More Fighting signed by Alicia Munoz, the author and today's guest. Alright. I think that's enough from me. Alicia, thank you so much for joining us today here on Relationship Alive.

Alicia Muñoz: It's such a pleasure to be here, Neil. Thank you for having me.

Neil Sattin: You are welcome, you're welcome. And, as I was just saying, I was so impressed by the range of topics that you cover in your book, and I'm wondering if you could talk for a moment about... Just help give us a little context for where No More Fighting... Where that came from in your practice and in your life.

Alicia Muñoz: Sure. Well, I've been wanting to write a book for many, many years and there's never really been enough time, but gradually through various opportunities that have come my way, this one presented itself and I just dove right in. I still didn't have time, I was still busy, but it really, in a sense, I feel like it almost wrote itself because I had so many... Well, like 13 years of experience working with couples under my belt, and just so much that I wanted to condense and share to help people get these bite-sized doses of support in order to work through challenging issues in their relationships.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And so 20 minutes a week to a stronger relationship. You're not saying that all people need to give to their relationship is 20 minutes a week, obviously.

Alicia Muñoz: No.

Neil Sattin: But you're giving them this 20-minute long infusion that they can bring into the week that can give them a little extra. A little extra boost, a little extra thing to consider, a little extra way to connect.

Alicia Muñoz: Absolutely. And it is a little bit of sort of a carrot that we're dangling with that 20-minute promise, but if you do the 20 minutes, it can help you exponentially. So if you really invest that 20 minutes of time a week in sitting with your partner and following some of the guidance and some of the container tips that I give at the beginning of the book, then that will potentially help you connect in ways that you just wouldn't have a chance to connect had you not invest in the time.

Neil Sattin: Right. And 20 minutes to a couple that feels super busy that can feel like a lot. Well, hopefully not too much, because 20 minutes, it's better than an hour, right? I can find 20 minutes. That's between flossing and brushing. I think I've got 20 minutes in there. But on the other hand, I think it also works out that if you're able to find that 20 minutes and carve it out in an especially busy life, or in a life where you're sort of missing your partner, that it's kind of like when you set a timer for five minutes to work on cleaning your living room and before you know it, 30 minutes have gone by. I think it has that same kind of impact where so many of your exercises will bring people into a kind of connection where they might hear the buzzer go off at 20 minutes and be like, "Well, let's set that for another 10," or something like that.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah, yeah. That definitely can absolutely happen. I think it's also important though, because with people that I've worked with, and well, with my own husband also. Having a time limit and having a container, can really be soothing to partners who have a low tolerance for extended dialogues or extended intimacy. I talk in the book about intimacy tolerance and that we really do all have different tolerance levels for intimacy. And this idea that, well, it's always good to have a high tolerance for intimacy doesn't really take into account the reality that it's neither good nor bad, it's that we have different tolerance levels for it. And so the 20 minutes is really there to protect both the person who gets flooded from too much, and to give enough of a dose of connection to the person for whom 20 minutes feels like 20 seconds.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. That's so important how it creates safety in both directions. Yeah. And maybe that's a good place to dive in because I think so many people, they might find themselves in circumstances like that. And I know as your work, with your Imago training, that you're no stranger to couples who somehow find themselves in relationship with someone who seems exactly like the wrong partner for them.

[chuckle]

Alicia Muñoz: I'm not sure I've ever met a different kind of couple, but maybe that's just part of being a therapist, but people who come in, really have the sense of, "Wow, we're so different. How are we going to make this work?"

Neil Sattin: Right, right. And there's this illusion, especially when they find out about your Imago match, that, "Well, why don't I just ditch this person and find the person who's not my Imago match?" But of course, it doesn't really work that way, does it?

Alicia Muñoz: It doesn't. I think one of the humbling aspects of relationship is, I'm sure you yourself have experience perhaps at times is that we have an unconscious, so it's not so just...

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: I was like "Yeah, we do actually."

Alicia Muñoz: We do. That one took me many years to grasp, I really thought I was running the show and in control and could be in control and it was just a matter of being even more in control of everything, but I've gradually come to accept and surrender to the reality that I can't control everything. And that my unconscious makes choices or is drawn to things that I may not consciously be drawn to. And I would say drawn to, and certainly with my husband and previous partners, I think that plays a huge part in our love relationships.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. How many times have you had the conversation with someone where they're talking about the person that they've met that probably isn't their Imago match, that there's someone who's perfect in every way, except they just can't bring themselves to actually be attracted to them and want to be with them.

Alicia Muñoz: Yes, that is something I think we've all heard or maybe even experience, where it's like, "This is the perfect person and she's so generous, she's so kind. He's so thoughtful, and I'm just not into them."

Neil Sattin: Right. But let's also protect our listeners from feeling like it has to be at the other extreme too. I think what we're advocating for is that blissful gray zone, somewhere in the middle where you are attracted in that unconscious cosmic sort of you could never have made it a happen way, but on the flip side, there are relationships that are so problematic or fraught with turmoil and abuse or lack of safety that they shouldn't be followed through or you don't necessarily need to stick with those people.

Alicia Muñoz: Oh absolutely, yeah, that's definitely... It's a balance. And like you say, it's really that gray zone that we have both the conscious factors that draw us to somebody, and then there are these unconscious factors that through an alliance and through awareness, we can gradually work through and certainly learn to be more in collaboration with our partner around those.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's a great word, collaboration. And getting to that place where you're on the same team with your partner. Do you have any special exercises that come to mind for you, that are about... What's coming to mind for me is something like when a couple comes in to see you and you can tell that they haven't yet figured out that the other person isn't out to get them. Like they're still operating in that paradigm where it's like they really don't feel safe because the other person maybe is actively undermining parts of them or they've introduced... You bring up in your book The Four Horsemen that John Gottman talks about. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling. So maybe there are some things that are undermining the safety of their connection. Where's a place that you like to start with a couple to help them feel that alignment or feel that sense of, "Oh, we actually... We're going to get a lot further if we collaborate like this with each other."

Alicia Muñoz: Well, in Imago, and I think in a lot of other frameworks, it's pretty common to try to begin, even the initial couple session, with gratitude and appreciations. So from the get-go really trying to open the container of connection by helping partners focus on what's working and focus on what they appreciate. And that can be challenging when there are a lot of frustrations and there's a lot that's not working, and there's kind of a mental cash of negative assumptions about one another. But being able to bring to mind the things that you appreciate is one simple but effective way of resetting people to see each other through this lens of positivity. And so that's one and I have many others I could share with you if you wanted.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, well, we'll maybe be able to bring them up spontaneously as we go through today's conversation.

Alicia Muñoz: Sounds good.

Neil Sattin: Let's set the groundwork for people though around... You mentioned already creating a space and carving out time. And this 20 minutes a week program that you have in the No More Fighting book, what is the context that's going to help people make the best use out of those 20 minutes?

Alicia Muñoz: I think that really agreeing on a location in your apartment or your home or wherever you are and beginning to develop associations with that place, whether it's two chairs that are facing each other in your dining area or you're sitting on the ground in the living room on cushions, and lighting a candle or some sort of associations that you can develop with the location that help it be pleasurable for both of you. So I think that that's helpful. And then also the time containers, so agreeing on the 20 minutes and agreeing that you're both going to take up more or less 10 of those 20 minutes and share it. And then, if there's a point where you want to renegotiate the... Extending the container, then being accountable to each other for doing that, not kind of blind-sighting each other or just talking over that time limit. So I think it's really important to be intentional and conscious about the boundaries that you're setting, whether it's the location or the amount of time that you're going to be talking. That's going to create a sense of safety and, "Okay, this is going to be too much, and this is going to be a positive experience." It's really valuable and important to cushion this whole process in pleasure.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And then you also talk a lot in true Imago fashion about being responsible for who is the one who's actually speaking in a given moment, who's the one who's listening in a given moment. And I'm going to ask you a question that I haven't even asked Harville and Helen about, which is: Is there a way that you think is the best way to choose who goes first in which role? I always think it's kind of amusing when I'm... I probably shouldn't say this, but when I'm working with couples to just say, "Okay, this is what we're going to do, who's going to go first?" And you learn something obviously from watching that negotiation process between a couple, and yet there is a part of me that wants to help people out. So if they're sitting here and wondering like, is there an ideal way to determine who should?

Alicia Muñoz: That's interesting. I would love to hear what Harville and Helen have to say about that.

[chuckle]

Alicia Muñoz: I actually learned somewhere at some point, probably in my Imago training or maybe from my Imago supervisor, or might have heard it in a workshop. But this stuck in my head that at least for the initial session, it can be helpful to... Whoever called and made the appointment. So whoever was the initiator, sort of the motivated one to create the session, that asking them to go first or saying, "Would you like to open?" Or, "Since you were the one who called, I'd love to hear from you first." That that can decrease the anxiety of the partner who's the... What we call in Imago, the draggee. There's always a dragger, I shouldn't say always, but often there's a dragger and a draggee. So, the person who was the initiator tends to be the person who feels more comfortable, at least breaking the ice. It's not always the case, but that's one way that I do it with the initial session.

Alicia Muñoz: And then I think after that, I'll often say... And it's sometimes true, often true that I can't quite remember who may have started the last time, so I'll just say, "Whose turn is it?" Or, "Which of you would like to start?" Or, "Did we start first with somebody else?" And that way it gives them a sense to, if there's a feeling of inequity in terms of who speaks more, who starts first more, it gives them a chance to speak up and claim that space, that space to speak.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense too, just like there's safety in creating a time boundary, there's safety in knowing that, "Well, if I'm not the one to start today, I'll be the one to start next week." And knowing that that's going to be true. And before we go any further maybe we could talk for a moment too, about two little nuances, one being a good way to listen and the second being the sender, the speaker responsibility, in terms of being the one who's communicating.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. Is that a question in terms of the good way to listen? [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think it would just be helpful for people who are new to this conversation and haven't heard the episodes that we've done with Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt to talk about Imago. We don't have to give them the whole structure, but just that sense of like, "Okay, this is how I know that I'm being a good listener. And these are like the little things to look out for and this is how I know I'm being a good speaker and things to look out for."

Alicia Muñoz: Absolutely. Well, with the listening it's helpful to do the first step of the Imago dialogue, which is reflective listening and that's when you just take in the words, your partner's words, and reflect back, paraphrase back in your own words. But also using your partners words, what you hear them say. So, that's a good way to ground yourself in active listening, it's really focusing on the words and then paraphrasing the words back. And then just keeping in mind a neutral body posture, as neutral as you can voice, neutral to warm. And yeah, it sounds easy, but it can be quite challenging. So those are some tips for that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And as the listener, if you find yourself starting to think about how you're going to respond to the person, then you've probably stopped being a great listener. And what about when you... Do you have any particular things you like if you as a listener notice, "Oh, I am starting to get a little judgmental or I feel my defensiveness coming up." Or, "I want to refute the things that my partner is saying." What are some ways, just that within myself or maybe I introduce it into the conversation, that I could bring myself back online into active, empathic, non-judgmental listening?

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. It always helps to agree on these things with your partner before hand, like these signals and just let them know, "This is what I'm going to do when I feel myself starting to go into my own judgments, my own agenda." To gently raise your hand or come up with another signal where you're letting your partner know, I need you to pause while I reflect back what I heard you say. So actually having a hand signal or some other visual signals can be helpful. It's also good to have your own ways of self-soothing, and that could be anything from just taking a very deep breath, exhaling, closing your eyes for a moment, or wiggling your toes around in your shoes or just bringing mindfulness to your body for a second or two. And those can all be good reminders to just get centered and refocused.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. And just as a reminder, as Alicia said, you're going to do your best within the 20 minute confines of this time that you've allotted to take turns. So you'll be listening for 10 minutes and then you'll have your 10 at the end, but hopefully you're going to stick to the script in terms of... It's not like, "Well, that was horrible and now I'm going to blast you for 10 minutes." But you'll have a chance to also give your perspective and be heard. I think that actually makes me think of another good aspect which is, if you remember that your goal as the listener is to help the person who's speaking feel understood and feel like you really got them, like you really heard them, then there's a natural reciprocity that happens. That you can even ask for, because if you've done a really thorough job understanding your partner and they agree that you got them, then you can follow up by being like, "Well, now I'd appreciate it if you would really hear me, hear my perspective about this thing." And it gives you a chance to make the conversation also about that reciprocity.

Alicia Muñoz: Yes, yes. I love that word. That's a beautiful word Neil, and I think that's the foundation, incrementally as you are generous with your presence and with your listening and with sitting on or just back-burnering your own stuff. It's something that really opens your partner's generosity and opens their heart and makes them much more willing to also hear you when it's your turn. So, it really will build the more that you... Well, it doesn't always happen, but ideally the more that you can stretch out of your agenda or your comfort zone, the more your partner can also do that as well, as they see you modeling that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. I like that word generosity as well that you use, that you're in the position of modeling what you hope to receive from your partner. It's one of the hardest things, especially if you get to a place where you're feeling like, "I don't want to be the one who always has to give or at least not right now." [chuckle] "I just want them to get me for a change." Next time you should be the one to speak first then, that's all I'm going to say.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: And speaking of speaking, let's just talk for a moment too about the responsibility of being the one who's communicating. And this could be about a full range of things, your needs, your experience, your past, your present, what you hope for. But what are some ways to communicate that are the most likely to be generative and get you to some place new with your partner?

Alicia Muñoz: I think that really getting clear on your intention before you speak is one of the biggest things that I would suggest people try. I have to do this for myself all the time. It's really important to be honest with yourself about why you want to say what you're going to say. And if you're in these 20-minute containers with your partner, taking a second or two or five seconds to take a deep breath and remember that you're in this process because you presumably love your partner and want to expand and grow as a couple, then that's really going to put a little bit of a buffer. It's going to help you resist the pull to get maybe couch a criticism in a seemingly neutral statement or it's going to help you to really say what you want to say in a way that's not blaming or judgmental.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Let's talk about that for a moment, because Imago has that process of the behavior chains request. Because I could already feel like the sticking point in me even though I know the answer to this, but it's like, "But wait a minute, what if?" Like, "The reason that we're here is because I've got some complaints about my partner." [chuckle] "If I didn't have anything to complain about, we wouldn't be here, all would be good." I want to be able to deliver these complaints in a way that it's actually going to create some change.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. So the intention is the starting point and then actually operationalizing that requires accountability, which means that you can say something to your partner when you arrive 10 minutes late at our romantic dinner date I feel angry, I feel frustrated. And the story that I make up is that your work is more important than our relationship. And then, I protect myself by ignoring you and spending the whole dinner scrolling through Facebook and texting friends. It's like, I didn't say anything blaming right then, but I did get my frustration out. So it's kind of breaking it down in a way that you're identifying the trigger, when you do X, or I feel such and such a way when this happens between us, but then taking ownership for the different parts, the different components. So trigger, emotion, mental interpretation, my coping mechanism, and that's really a way to just get clarity around what's going on for you internally versus just saying, "You're so inconsiderate. I'm never going to arrange a date night like this ever again."

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So let's just go into that break down for a moment because I think that was really helpful. So where you listed out the trigger and etcetera, etcetera. Can we identify what each of those things are? It sounds to me like a way for someone to really take responsibility for how they're feeling in the moment, and get at the crux of what their intention might even be when they're trying to communicate with their partner about something that's coming at them crosswise.

Alicia Muñoz: Right, yeah. And this takes practice, so I don't want to give your listeners the idea that, "Oh, this is just going to easily come out of your mouth this way." It does take some inquiry and self-reflection and using your relationship as a kind of zone to experiment and learn about yourself. But each of those points, often we feel our feelings and we're so busy and maybe we're not aware of what triggered it, and how did I interpret that trigger and then what feelings came from my interpretation. And then, how did I then sort of defensively respond to my own feelings? So, we're not aware of all that. Often we just, we're going through life and we're just like, "Oh my God, he pissed me off, she pissed me off, this is upsetting me. That person is rude or... " So, it's really, with our partners, it's important to think about all those different domains and slow down enough to be able to consider what your experience was based on even just one moment between you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I like that, how it opens someone up to that process of figuring out how their own story about what happened is what contributes to how they're responding to their partner, which also seems so important in those moments. So, I'm wondering now, this is making me think of... You have so many amazing little chapters in your book because it covers a whole year's worth of work. And I'm going to read through some of the larger headings just so our listeners can get a sense of what I'm talking about. It starts with things like self-care and communication, and getting your partner's world and intimacy issues. Now, I'm just giving you section heading, so each of these has two or three chapters within it that give you a vignette of a couple that's going through this particular issue. And by the way, I just want to say as a side note, your vignettes were really fun and instructive to read. And that is not always the case. I read so many of these books and often I just get lost in the vignettes or I'm like, "Why did you even have to tell me that?" But the way that you laid this out, it just makes sense.

Neil Sattin: So you read the vignette and you're like, "Oh, okay. I totally get what Alicia Muñoz is talking about." And then there's some sort of meta level, like this is the exercise that we're doing and then there's the actual exercise with a little example. So it goes from those categories that I was talking about into, now I'm skipping a few pages, attachment issues, power and control, ruptures in your relationship, repair, money, parenting. I particularly liked the little chapter on blended families, which we have in our household. All the way down, and in the intro I said, "Yeah, it gets a little challenging at the end." So, at the end you cover relationship records, like addictions and dishonesty and wanting other people outside of the relationship and different takes on monogamy, so it really runs the gamut. What you were just making me think of though was the way that we take responsibility for ourselves and that also gets wrapped up in projection, which is one of those things where until you like... It's like when you notice that you have feelings and then suddenly you realize you're feeling all over the place like, "Oh, my God, I thought I was just like this rational automaton or whatever and going through life and it turns out I'm feeling all over."

Neil Sattin: And then that might get enhanced once you figure out, "Oh, and actually I'm getting triggered all over the place." Once you know how to recognize signs of sympathetic arousal in your body, fight or flight, you're like, "Oh, okay, I get it. This is happening all over the time." So for me, projection was another one of those things, where I was like, "Wow" At first it was, "I guess I'm projecting all over other people all the time." I had to really think about that a lot. And then experiencing other people's projection all the time. So let's dive in there for a moment, if you don't mind.

Alicia Muñoz: Sure.

Neil Sattin: And what wants to come out, I think from my perspective, is I would love to hear your take on how do you get a sense of what's real and what's projection? And if you know what your partner is saying to you, is just so obviously them projecting their stuff onto you, how do you respond in a way that's going to actually be helpful in that moment?

Alicia Muñoz: That's a great question. How do you know? Let me just start with, how do you know. Was it how do you know when you're projecting or how do you know when your partner is projecting onto you?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, let's just pick one, because I think that either direction will be instructive.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. Well, our partners are really the perfect people to help us understand our own projections. I think it's one of the benefits of being in a relationship is that they are going to feel as projecting onto them and they're not going to like it, and they're going to have a response to it. I'll give an example from my marriage if that's okay. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, great.

Alicia Muñoz: So initially, when my husband and I were dating, I was never angry, I was always spiritual and I always felt very loving towards people, and I just... Anger was beneath me. So, I remember that at one point... But my husband was very angry, my then boyfriend was very angry, and I was always complaining about how angry he was and if you could just be less angry. And this made him angry.

[laughter]

Alicia Muñoz: So I remember a moment when he calmly said to me, "You know what? I think you're the one who's angry." And when he said that I felt this almost like flood gate of rage just... I felt it in my body and it was this visceral sense of almost wanting to throw up, it was just so foreign, first of all to be called out and then to actually feel it in my body, and it just kind of turned my world upside down a bit, that moment. We had these moments where... And I think what made the difference is that I'd done enough work and we had built enough safety, and we were in couples counseling at the time, to be able to at least consider the possibility that he was right, that I had this anger inside me that I was projecting out on to him.

Alicia Muñoz: And then being able to consider that, gradually helped me to make more and more room to experience my own anger and to take more ownership and more responsibility for it. And then, of course, to begin looking at why I have such trouble feeling anger, owning anger. So it's a process, but I think being able to consider... Notice when something makes you very defensive and that's usually a sign that there's some piece of it inside you that you can take ownership of. It doesn't mean that your partner might not always or might not also... You might not be a little bit right about your partner, but to be able to kinda look at, "Oh, when I point my index finger at my partner, there are these three fingers pointing back at me, and how am I this thing that I'm blaming or accusing them of being."

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, that feels like... Not that I do this, but now that we've had this conversation, I'm going to make a practice of this, which is, any time I think that my wife Chloe is doing something, I will ask myself, "How do I do the very thing that I'm sensitive about with her right now." And that becomes, I think you're right, an access point to just deeper truths about ourselves and to bring those parts of us online in a different way.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. That's really brilliant. I think that's really a great tip and it reminds me a little bit of Byron and Katie's work, where you identify the thing you believe and then you turn it around, you flip it around to its opposite and consider that. So my husband is so angry, so the turnaround would be I am so angry. So it's that ability to look at the belief and then as you just said, you would do with your wife to be able to flip it around and consider how this lives inside of you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Now, do you mind sharing in taking that on, and you can say I pass on this question if you want, because maybe your husband will listen and he'll be like, "That's not how it happened." But I'm curious, what did you discover about his anger in going through that process, because I'm guessing that he was angry at least at some things, right?

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, it was true that he had a lot of anger and a lot of frustration and exhibited anger in a much more visible way. And of course, there's the whole gender part of this, where men are generally socialized to be more expressive of their anger, but not of their softness and their vulnerability and their tenderness, and whereas with women it's often reverse. What we discovered was that as I own more of my anger, he didn't have to be so angry and he didn't have to carry as much of that in our relationship. But he also gradually... And takes time and took time, but gradually he could be more vulnerable and could be more tender and the softer, more typically feminine parts of him could come out and live and be a part of our dynamic. So things got more fluid, there was less rigidity around our roles and our emotions and how we express them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. We did have Harriet Lerner on to talk about the dance of anger, so I encourage our listeners to check that out. It's one of our earlier episodes, if you get a chance. And I think you're bringing up such a valuable point, which is that there is room for a healthy expression of anger for both people in a relationship. And the anger is so often sourced from something else, like a hurt or a fear or something that's being aggravated and being willing to be vulnerable can often get you to the exact same place. But in a way that actually brings you together with your partner.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, actually I'm curious about that, because I know you've done a lot of work with AEDP, and we had Diana Fosha on and in fact, I'm going to be speaking with David Mars in a couple of weeks, to talk about AEDP for couples, which I'm super excited about. But I'm curious from your learned perspective about this, what is the AEDP take on anger? Because I know it's listed out as a core emotion, right? What's the nuance there between anger as a core emotion and anger as sort of a secondary piece that comes after you've been hurt?

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. Well, I'm not sure I can speak to it even close to the way Diana Fosha would or David Mars would, but my understanding is that it can be either a defense, hiding, sort of an underlying emotion like sadness or helplessness or fear, but it can also be an enlivening resource, feeling anger can be part of this core affect that we need to experience. And another emotion like sadness could be the cover for it or the outer coating of it that we use to avoid feeling the anger. I think it has a lot to do with how it's used, whether it's used defensively or not.

Neil Sattin: Got it, got it. So you might look at your anger and try to diagnose it a little bit more. Am I trying to motivate change with this anger? Am I trying to protect myself with this anger? Am I trying to find a sense of power when I'm feeling powerless?

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. I think that's one way to try to work with it is to... I think also to really see how it works in your relationship, so is it... And how it feels in your body. When you're accessing anger that is more of a core emotion, and I'm not talking about acting out on the anger, but when I say accessing I mean more like you are able to feel it in your body, you're able to let it kind of run through you. It's something that will be like a release or it will open up new possibilities, it will help shift your sense of yourself as somebody with agency in the world. I think that that's really an important piece of it, is to look at how is how does this feel in my body and is this something that's helping me connect to myself and also connect more authentically to people in my life.

Neil Sattin: Right. Because just hearing you say that I think back to that conversation with your husband, who is your boyfriend, I guess, at the time, that on some level there was probably a certain place that you weren't accessing in your connection with him. So having that moment of truth around your own anger enabled you to access something that you could then feed to your connection. Like here's more of me.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah, right. So it's about the authenticity and being able to access more parts of yourself, more authentically. Often we get locked into a limited range of our experience of our own selves, because so much of ourselves have been labelled or gone underground through conditioning or family conditioning or social conditioning. So I think one of the imperatives or one of the goals of our life force is just how do we feel more of ourselves within our body, how do we experience what it means to be fully alive, and anger is a part of being fully alive, and it can be part of what gives us access to our life force.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And we were chatting a little bit about that before I hit record, and now I'm super intrigued to hear more about your view on how we access more of that life force and bring it into our own lives, bring it into our connection with some... And you were talking about it earlier, now we're talking about it in the context of anger. Earlier we were talking about it in the context of pleasure, which is maybe a happier place to be talking about life force.

[chuckle]

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah, yeah. It's so funny, I was just like, "Oh my God, I wrote this book, No More Fighting, and here I am talking to him and I'm like, "Yeah, access your anger."

[laughter]

Alicia Muñoz: I think it helps to have examples because all this stuff can get very heady.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. So what was the question again?

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Give me some examples of ways that we can bring more of our life force online with our partners, but maybe it's first within ourselves.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah. Yeah. I think that it's easy to get caught up in adulting. And I think one of the dangers of adulting is that we start to gradually live for others and for roles and for tasks and accomplishments and sort of serving. And I think that our life force is... There's no reason for it, it just is, it's what children often have, they just have this joy and bouncing around and using, playing and creating and making noise and being original in the things that they do and being creative in the thing they do. As adult, I think it's very easy to lose touch with that. So, pleasure for me is one of the big ways that we can access our life force. And pleasure is that sense of like, I'm in the flow, I am laughing, I'm alive, I'm connected, I'm enjoying nature, I'm reading poetry, I'm savoring this food, I'm in the moment, just being this channel for joy and aliveness and presence. And I think that finding the things is not necessarily easy to do, but finding little things that make you feel that way is really the foundation of self-care.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So that makes me go in two different directions. One being, I know for myself, I have a sense and it's even connected in some ways to childhood, because I have vivid memories of the things that delighted me. And in fact we even had Julie Henderson on the show, she has this whole body of work around embodying well-being. And so much of what she talks about are these simple exercises that literally are things that kids do, but spelled out for the adults who are so busy adulting that they've forgotten how to blow bubbles with their lips or how to do crazy stretches or talk in gibberish or whatever it is. It's really fun work. I'm wondering for you... So there are these glimmer of like, "Oh yeah, I remember these things when I was a kid that used to light me up." And maybe that's a place to start for some people. I know I talk to some adults who are so overwhelmed with adulting, I like that word, I don't like the word overwhelmed, but adulting is kind of amusing to me. That they really can be in that, like, "I don't even know what brings me pleasure anymore."

Neil Sattin: Or I think of an extreme example of someone who's been through some trauma, where they are shut off to their pleasure because they have to get through a whole, say wall of shame in order to get to the pleasure. So Alicia, crack open the door for us. If I were stumbling in the darkness, I'm so disconnected from my pleasure and maybe the only way I feel alive has been through fighting in my relationship, how do I get more at something that's more blissful and more sustainable?

Alicia Muñoz: That's a great question. And trauma is so pervasive and there's so many different forms and ways that we experience trauma, and I think becoming an adult often is almost a form of of micro traumas in itself. I think that having a witness or witnesses, whether that's a coach or a therapist or even this podcast, it's a way of developing this community and bringing mindfulness and awareness to another way of being. So I think that if there is that, if there's a lot of fighting and there's trauma and you can't even access pleasure, it's important to find a connection or multiple connections, where you can safely be held as you process your grief, as you show up in the truth of your numbness, your regret, your sense of loss, your sense of feeling lost. I think that finding... It's very important, the connection piece is really important, the connection in the community. So being able to know yourself well enough and invest in yourself to create the community through resources like your podcast here Neil or books or a group, and also having coaches, therapists, if you have resources to do that or a group that you create locally. It's really important to be held through the difficulties that get in the way of being able to feel joy and to be witness in wherever you are.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. So I'm hearing you name things that might be those initial obstacles to getting to your joy, is that there could be some painful things that you're avoiding or have numbed yourself to. And as far as I understand, you don't get to just selectively be like, "I'm never going to feel sad or I'm never going to feel grief, I'm just going to feel happy." Like it doesn't...

Alicia Muñoz: Right, no. That's bypassing. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. And you probably meet people like that, where they are happy, but there's something that feels... It doesn't feel very grounded in who they are. I'm thinking of times where I've been in experiences where there has been someone who's been like, "Oh, I'm so happy right now. Aren't we having such a good time?" Where I'm just like, "Are you having a good time or are you just talking about how we're having a good time?"

Neil Sattin: And I love your listing of different options, different ways for people to get connected with support and identifying that connection is so much at the heart of a lot of the healing that needs to take place. It doesn't happen when you're isolated. And that, of course, can be why some relationships are so painful, because we feel isolated in them, even though we're with someone and yet we feel isolated. And that's another reason why your book is so powerful because it gives people just 20 minutes around a particular thing that brings them into connection with their partner around something, so that definitely is contributing to the healing conversation. Another thing that popped into mind too is, and it sounded like you had something to say there, but is the ability to just choose an accountability partner. Like just someone where you're like, you show up once a week and you agree like, "Okay, this is what I'm going to do over the coming week to honor my joy or my grief or whatever it is." And then you show up the following week and get to be accountable to this other person, helps you at least stay in conversation about and in process around those things.

Alicia Muñoz: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, it helps. It helps you to really have that human connection, somebody to bounce your thoughts off of, and to really have that attachment relationship, that can be so lacking in a lot of our histories, is just that kind of sense of even the secure attachment. So you're really kind of getting as an adult, you have the opportunity to get these doses of secure attachment. You can't do that in isolation, so it's really important to create those opportunities for yourself. I was going to mention that Amir Levine's book and Rachel Heller, their book Attached, that I really love one of the quotes in the book about this myth of independence. There's so much pathology, or there's often, we kind of talk about, "Oh, you don't want to be codependent." And I love the way that Amir Levine and Rachel Heller write about it, that when two people form an intimate bond, they actually regulate each other psychologically and emotionally, and that we are dependent, we are interdependent. And so, even if you're not in a relationship, it's very valuable to have those friendships or those bonds with other people where you can experience love and secure attachment.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And so just hearing you say that, I'm thinking that might look like finding the friends that you feel safe with to say like, "Hey, could we just get together and attune to each other?" And literally calling attention to that, that that's what you're doing. Like, "Can we just be together and meet each other's gaze and breathe together and then maybe we'll each share something about what's going on in our lives? I could see that being really powerful and super vulnerable for some people, so.

[chuckle]

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah, yeah. Well, we do it a lot anyway. So whether we call it out or not, I think it's being aware of yourself that when you call up your friend or you meet them for coffee and you're discharging frustration or you're excited about an accomplishment or you're feeling vulnerable about a new connection you've made and you're just talking and you're sharing and you're a friend. This person, even if you're not romantically involved with them, is listening and taking you in, that that is a healing moment and those healing moments are supportive of you. So I think it's good to just kind of see where that's happening and acknowledge it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And let's circle back around to the pleasure. I think that I don't want to lose that thread, because I'm curious, from your perspective, let's say, okay, I hung out with my friend Jerry the other day, I vented all my grief and I'm ready, I'm ready for some pleasure, but I'm still feeling a little alienated from me and what makes me tick and what feels good and how to grow that in my life. What would be a next step for me?

Alicia Muñoz: That's a great question. This is a little bit of self-disclosure, but I engaged in this program called Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts, for a little while. And her, Virginia Thomas Howard writes a lot about pleasure, and she writes about it more in the context of women claiming and reclaiming their own pleasure. A lot of it really... Pleasure is so shamed in our culture and many cultures, and productivity is celebrated, and her sort of hypothesis, her theory is that women are literally built for pleasure. We have more nerves, more availability for pleasure than men. And so, to shut down, to be shut down to pleasure is really to be shut down to our aliveness as women. And then of course, the more shut down we are to that, the less we can take other people around us higher. I kind of see it through that framework, but I think it's also relevant to men, especially when you think about the fact that we all contain the masculine and the feminine within ourselves, no matter what gender we were born as.

Alicia Muñoz: So I think that in your case, or what was the case of the hypothetical person, it would be about really connecting to your body, and not necessarily in a sexual or erotic way, although that could be a part of it. But to really connect to your senses and whether it's music or whether it's something visual or whether it's breathing or smelling, it's this idea that making time to enjoy life through your senses is an act of pleasure and it is kind of a revolutionary act because it's not anything you're going to get promoted for at work or people are going to slap you on the back for, or people are going to envy you for. It's sort of really approaching pleasure as a whole new paradigm.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I got a little lost in what you were saying because I was just like, "Yeah, my senses." And I was taking a moment to just enjoy like what does this world smell that I'm in right now? And I was just touching my hands with... One hand with my other hand and just feeling what that felt like. And noticing how much actually is available just in the moment to me, while we sit here on Skype together, and I'm not violating the boundaries of my monogamous commitment to my wife, by sitting here and just breathing the air and touching my own hand. Yeah, I'm reminded of when Betty Martin was on the show, this was back this past summer, I think. Are you familiar with her work at all? She talks about the wheel of consent?

Alicia Muñoz: No, but I will go back and listen to that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, you might want to check that out. And one thing that she talks about is this exercise where you literally just hold a rock in your hand, and just touch the rock and wake up your hands, your fingers, to the gift of sensation. And I'm not really doing the exercise justice by describing it here, but it just reminded me of that. And you're also reminded me that I wanted to have... What's her name? Mama Gena?

Alicia Muñoz: Mama Gena. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I wanted to have her on the show, so I gotta reach out to her for sure. Great. Well, and you're also reminding me of one of the exercises that you talk about in your book that made me really chuckle, in a good way, which was the love catch.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: It reminded me a little bit of the positive flooding that Harville and Helen talk about, but can you describe how that game works?

Alicia Muñoz: Sure. Maybe I'll tell you about the origins of it first and that'll explain a little bit. So I have a nine-year-old and we have ruptures, of course, around things like bedtime and homework and food and all kinds of other fun stuff. But one of the things that I discovered would help us work through a rupture was more physical. Sometimes we can do a little bit of talking, but we would go outside and just throw a football or kick a soccer ball and then my husband would join in. And so, we kind of brought this into the living room, because it's too cold to go out or it's snowing, we can't always do it outside. And then, gradually, my husband and I would occasionally do it where we would just try to add motion and movement to whatever we were doing, if we needed to process something or if we just needed to get a jolt of energy or connection, we would just pick something up and throw it.

[chuckle]

Alicia Muñoz: Throw it, throw it! Hopefully you're not too angry and not throwing it at each other's heads, but just throwing a ball or an orange or maybe not a shoe, but a pillow and then speaking words. Saying, "I celebrate this or I love this about you." Like the flooding in Imago. It really changes your body chemistry, so that it's not just an intellectual exercise, but you're getting into that pleasure that we were just talking about. You're getting into doing something that moves your body and helps the connection, not just be this intellectual exercise, it helps to be fun.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I could see that just there's something about the mechanics of tossing something back and forth that is going to invite you into that playful space in your brain.

Alicia Muñoz: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So just in case people didn't totally get it, what is the love catch exercise?

Alicia Muñoz: So the love catch exercise is finding something that is throw-able and throwing it at your partner, towards your partner, maybe not at your partner, and saying, "I celebrate our life together. I celebrate the amazing dinner we just had. I celebrate your gorgeous smile." And every time you say something, you're kind of tossing this orange or ball or pillow at your partner, towards your partner, and they're catching it and then tossing it back. So it's a way of reconnecting to that playful, young kid energy that we all have inside us.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm hearing the kid energy, the playfulness, the pleasure, the appreciations that we spoke about way at the beginning of our conversation, and also developing that resonance with your partner to help you feel connected.

Alicia Muñoz: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Well Alicia Muñoz, thank you so much for being with us today. We kinda covered the gamut and I hope that's okay, I asked you some challenging questions, but I felt a little bit of licensed to do that because your book covers some many different areas. And I was like, "There's no way, I can't just single... Just dive into one thing here." But I hope that everyone listening got a flavor for how you operate and the gifts that you offer and your ability to synthesize so many different things. And I mean this sincerely, that as you read through No More Fighting, you'll see, "Oh, there's Dick Schwartz in Internal Family Systems, and there's Harville Hendrix in Imago, and there's Emily Nagoski talking about erotic energy and the brakes and the accelerator. And it's all in there and I love that. And so for you, if you're enjoying Relationship Alive and you're looking for a book that makes a lot of the wisdom on here practical in bite-sized chunks, then I definitely suggest you check out No More Fighting: 20 Minutes a Week To a Stronger Relationship.

Neil Sattin: Tammy Nelson wrote the foreword to the book, she was also here on the show not too long ago. And yeah, it's so valuable and I appreciate the way that you're able to take all these things and make them accessible and actionable for people. As a reminder, if you want to download a transcript, just visit neilsattin.com/nomorefighting, where we will also have a link to Alicia's website, which I believe is aliciamunoz.com. Correct?

Alicia Muñoz: That's correct.

Neil Sattin: And a link, of course, to the book. And if you're one of the people who downloads the transcript in the first week, then you will have a chance at getting a signed copy of No More Fighting. And Alicia, you're also on Instagram, you were talking about how you're diving into that as a way of helping connect to people and also giving them, again, really kind of bite-sized morsels to help them in their relationship.

Alicia Muñoz: Yes, yes. I am on there, my handle is Alicia Munoz Couples, and I post there almost every day, and I've actually started to post one minute quick tip videos. So I really encourage people to check that out.

Neil Sattin: Cool, I will definitely check that out.

Alicia Muñoz: Awesome.

Neil Sattin: And we should link up there. I'm Relationship Alive Official on Instagram. Someone poached Relationship Alive and put up my logo and everything.

Alicia Muñoz: Oh no.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: I know, it's horrible. Some interloper. But anyway, Alicia it's been just such a pleasure to have you here with us today and thank you so much for your contribution.

Alicia Muñoz: Thank you so much for having me, it's been a pleasure to be here with you today.

 

Mar 13, 2019

The Five Love Languages only tell part of the story. It's just as important for you to understand the "Four Fear Languages" because they actually come into play all the time in your life - not only in your relationship, but also as you simply move through your day. And just like the Love Languages, the Four Fear Languages are universal - we all share them, but experience them in different ways. In today's episode we'll pick up where Gary Chapman left off, and you'll discover how understanding your core fears, and your partner's core fears, will help you create more love and connection in your relationship. And, most importantly, how to keep yourself and your relationship safe no matter which one of your Fear Languages is being spoken.

Also, announcing that tickets are on sale for Relationship Alive...LIVE! featuring Terry Real. We'll have a musical guest (Katie Matzell trio), and you'll also have the chance to ask YOUR questions. The show will be on June 6, 2019 at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine. Limited seats available. Click here to buy your tickets now!

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 an amazing company.

GreenChef.us is a USDA certified organic company, with a wide variety of meal plans to make having healthier food easy and convenient for you. And they’re offering you $50 off your first box to give them a try! Just visit GreenChef.us/alive and use the coupon code “ALIVE” at checkout for $50 off, and enjoy the delicious recipes and fresh ingredients that GreenChef sends your way.

Resources:

Click here to get tickets to Relationship Alive...LIVE on June 6, 2019 featuring Terry Real and musical guest Katie Matzell

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

Mar 5, 2019

What if there were a guide written to help you not only communicate better with your partner, and experience love more deeply - but that would also heal the triggers that keep creating conflict between you and your partner? As it turns out - that guide exists! This week, our guests are Harville Hendrix Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt Ph.D, authors of the classic book, Getting the Love You Want which was just updated and re-released. Both are internationally-respected couple's therapists, educators, speakers, and New York Times bestselling authors. Together, they have written over 10 books with more than 4 million copies sold, and created Imago Relationship Therapy, a leading tool for helping couples bridge the gaps and deepen their connection. In addition, Harville appeared on the Oprah Winfrey television program 18 times! This week, hear them reveal how they have put Imago into practice in their own relationship - which will give you some helpful direction on making this work practical for your life and relationship as well.

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:

Our sponsor today is 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.

Resources:

Visit Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix’s website to learn more about their work.

Pick up your copy of Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix’s book, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples

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/imago3 to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix.

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Past Episodes:

Please check out our earlier episodes with Helen and Harville:

Episode 22: Essential Skills for Conscious Relationship

and Episode 108: Creating Positive Intensity in Your Connection

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Here on the show, we are having conversations with the pioneers of what makes relationships work well. And today's guests are celebrating the recent re-release of their classic book, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples. And along with celebrating that re-release, we are so excited to have them back here on Relationship Alive to take an even deeper dive into their work so that we're not going to reinvent the wheel. If you want to know more about things that we've talked about, well, we have two other episodes that you can listen to. But we are going to cover some new ground today and also, hopefully, get some personal insights from our two esteemed guests. Their names are Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix.

Neil Sattin: And like I said, they've been here on the show before, and it's... We, Chloe and I, have actually taken a workshop of theirs at Kripalu in Massachusetts. And it's just always such a treat to have you back, especially to be able to celebrate with you the re-release of your groundbreaking book, Getting the Love You Want, which has created a difference for so many people. In fact, I posed the question in my Facebook group, "Does anyone want to ask Helen and Harville anything?" And I had a couple of people who said, "Their book changed and saved my marriage. Saved my marriage." So I know you probably hear that all the time, but I just want to tell you, there are at least a couple more people for whom that's true.

Harville Hendrix: Good. Thank you.

Neil Sattin: So as per usual, you can download a transcript of today's episode by visiting neilsattin.com/imago3. That's I-M-A-G-O. And it's imago3 because imago2 and imago are other episodes, episode 22 and episode 108, where Harville and Helen have joined us previously to talk about their work. And you can always text the word "Passion" to the number 33444, and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode. And we have show guides for their previous two episodes. I think that's it for me. So Harville and Helen, thank you so much for being here with us again today on Relationship Alive.

Harville Hendrix: Thanks, Neil. We are delighted to be here with you. Thanks for having us back on.

Neil Sattin: It is...

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Yes.

Harville Hendrix: We're becoming a regular.

Neil Sattin: You are. Yes. And it's a pleasure. I couldn't think of two people I'd rather be regulars with.

Harville Hendrix: Aww.

[chuckle]

Harville Hendrix: Thank you. How kind of you.

Neil Sattin: So I'm curious, for you, what... Let's just start by talking about when you were surveying Getting the Love You Want, which is such a classic. You were on Oprah 18 times to talk about Getting the Love You Want. What needed to be revised in the book? Why the new revision? And what were some of the main things that you felt needed to be updated, from your perspective?

Harville Hendrix: Basically, what is in the new book, as a revision and update, is a first chapter, which is a contextualizing of the book in today's cultural environment. The first chapter sort of brings us up today's... Sort of speaking to today's audience and making... And acknowledging how a relationship, culture has changed in the past 10 years or some, but certainly a lot in the past 30 years. And obviously, the thing everybody is concerned about is social media, and iPhones, and text, and what is considered to be the dissolution of connecting and as replacement with technology. And so that the audience reading this would know that we are speaking to, with some self-awareness, a new market. So that's the major thing, is to... The major first thing is the social context. And the second is that, since 19... Since, yeah, since 1988, especially, and even since it came out a new issue, but not too modified, 10 years ago, at its 20th anniversary, we have made some, I would think, two major shifts.

Harville Hendrix: One has been a clarification that connecting is the code word for Imago. Connecting is the code word for human yearning, how that connecting is the sort of... Misused everywhere by everybody now that even tech people and telephone people do sales and all that, you'll see connecting everywhere. But we posit that connecting is the nature of nature, and that we are living in an interconnecting universe of which we are participants, and that we have moved out of a universe set up by Newton in which individuals were in... Were separate and independent and isolated and in competition with each other, to a new universe in which we are not individuals and cannot live outside of relationship. So we made really clear that there's a... Quantum physics has given us a new view of what humanity is, what nature is, therefore what humanity is, and we tried to bring that into an understanding of marriage.

Harville Hendrix: The basic yearning, we think, with couples is to be connected, and to feel connected, and to know how to sustain connection. And so we brought that into consciousness and gone all the way through the book, removing the vestiges of the individual, isolated individual that was there in 1988 because that... That was the... The foreground in 1988 was the self. And now we're saying the self is a derivative of context, of ourselves conscious enough at the time that we were simply espousing what was ordinary in the culture. Although, behind what we were doing, was this un-languaged awareness of that... Of interconnectivity, but now it's languaged. And then we have some additional exercises at the end of the book. The part three is basically exercises that help people work with that. One of them is the removal... One of them is the addition of a process we call zero negativity. And Helen wants to comment about that.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Yeah. Could I please mention then...

Harville Hendrix: Please.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: In addition to what Harville has said, may I mention three things?

Harville Hendrix: Sure.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Absolutely.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: To add, we have a new definition of the self that typically... I'm sorry, a new definition of a relationship. What is a relationship, people think, "Well, Harville and I have a relationship. The relationship is Harville's and me talking to each other in our history or whatever." But our new definition of a relationship is, there's Harville and then there's me, but there's a space between us. It's a space, and it's actually that space between us that determines... How we steward that space between us that determines the quality of our relationship. It's sort of a whole new definition of what is a relationship. And second, we bring in ideas like zero negativity.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: And you all know the dialogue process that helps the space between become safe, so that when you're talking, you know who's talking, you take turns talking, and there's a structure, but also zero negativity. And then third, we used to have a process that, oh my goodness, we thought was going to be the best process for Imago therapy, which... This is way at the beginning, that if people could express their anger and not keep it locked inside, just let it out, like express... Take turns expressing your anger. And it was called the Container Exercise, where one partner would contain the anger of the other, and not only did we recommend it to couples, but Harville and I did it all the time... And...

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Oh, yeah. I know where this is going.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: We had a horrible marriage. And that was before neuro... The neurosciences say that with neuroplasticity and all the brain, what you focus on is what you get. And Harville and I looked at this exercise and went, "Uh-oh. I think this wasn't the right thing for a couple to do practice being angry to each other." And this is where we tossed that out and we've put in exercises only that creates safety between the two and help focus on what our partner is doing right instead of all the things they're doing wrong, even if there are many, many, many. You just try to focus more on what your partner is doing right. And we also then had that process of what to do about the things you'd like them that you wish they did differently.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah, and that's... It was important not to say to people, "You can't have your anger." What we had to say to people is, "You can't abuse your partner with your anger. So here is a way to talk about it so that... " And it's not the Container Exercise, it's more of a behavior change request process. Here's the way to talk about it so that the need behind the anger gets expressed, rather than the anger becoming so toxic, too. Because the other thing Helen and I have discovered, it was really interesting, because psychotherapists always work with memory. But somehow, there was like, "Well, all the memories you have are in the past." And one day it dawned on us that we're making memories all the time.

Harville Hendrix: And since our partners look at us, and cannot not look at us through the veil of memories they have of us, it's really important that you decide what memories you want your partner to have of you, and then create those memories. And if so... If you have a, even a therapy exercise in which there's a screaming face, your amygdala doesn't care whether this was in therapy or not, it just remembers the screaming face. And you may have regulated it. So we've gotten tremendously focused on this space between being the domain where safety is there so that you can deal with difficult issues without hurting each other, and that way you maintain connection while you're dealing with the difference.

Harville Hendrix: I think the other last thing is that we have emphasized more now of the need for affirmation, and that affirmation has become not just a, "Thank you, that was nice," but affirmation, sort of like Martin Buber long ago in the I-Thou relationship talked about, to affirm another person in their being is the function of the I-Thou relationship. And that has impacted me again, and many years after reading Buber, that to affirm another human being... But what we've added to Buber is that, "When I affirm you in your being, I simultaneously experience my being as affirmed." That the brain is a twofer; what you do for and to another person is simultaneously experienced by you. So that I think nature set it up so you couldn't cheat, because if I hurt you, I hurt me; If I care for you, I care for me. And that it works that way, that principle of simultaneity. So we've done some stuff like that in the new book.

Neil Sattin: Wow. There's so much that we just covered, so many directions to go. In reflecting upon what you were saying, Helen, about anger and realizing its effects on if you were giving it full expression, and also what you both were talking about, in terms of how we've evolved from a very self-oriented theory of relationship to a very... A more relationship-centric orientation, a relational orientation with the space between. I'm thinking about how going through the dialogues, in particular, how that helps everyone get to the hurt that's beneath that anger, and how that creates safety to be able to identify with your partner, the wounded part of your partner, as opposed to be identifying with a part of yourself that's really angry about whatever it is they did. Or for them, identifying with their angry part instead of by really getting in touch with, "Oh, this is how I've been hurt." And from there, it's a much more generative place. It would be like if your relationship space is a garden, to borrow maybe an overused [chuckle] metaphor, if you find a little plant that has broken in places, you want to tend to it. You wouldn't just necessarily yank it out if it was what you were trying to cultivate.

Harville Hendrix: Right.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Right, right. And so what I think we try to do is stay away from anger as much as possible, because it releases cortisol. And you know who feels horrible when cortisol is in their own body, and that's the person being angry. You think you're hurting someone else, you're also hurting yourself. So we do as much... What I appreciate about Harville is he has people more and more, in a simple way, circle what my wound was from childhood, just circle it, and not necessarily re-experience it. The cathartic thing that in the '70s and '80s, psychology said to get your feelings out about your parents, what they did wrong. Like if you express it, then you'll be getting it out of your system, and you don't have to carry it locked inside anymore. Well, guess what? That theory was wrong. [chuckle] Do you remember primal therapy by...

Neil Sattin: Oh, yeah.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Yeah, okay. So you would buy therapy or books to lay down on the floor and scream, and express your anger to your parents, your pretend-parents, to get it out. Well, so we are realizing that that's really damaging for the brain and damaging for the person expressing it. Harville has ingeniously headways a couple can identify the wound by circling it on a piece of paper. This wound is then a challenge from the past that they've brought to the relationship. And then they circle what is the need that they have from their current partner now, and changing an anger and frustration into a need and making a request. So we quickly accelerate someone on that path of something that your partner did wrong, well, you gotta name it. You gotta name it and maybe say how that made you feel, but say as quickly as possible what your partner should do, so you'll never feel that way again. And so the whole emphasis is making a request of what you want instead of telling your partner of what you don't want.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. And in the dialogue process then, what we do to operationalize that is that we'll give people the sentence stem. Which when they say what their frustration is, then Helen is very adamant about moving from frustration to, "What do you want?" And then we're giving a sentence stem as when I have that frustration that reminds me when I was little, and people then go to the hurt. And that hurt that I go to when I say, "It reminds me when in childhood my dad was not there," or, "My mother yelled at me," or whatever, that hurt then triggers in Helen, as my listening partner, empathy for me instead of judgment about me. And that revealing of the safety to reveal my hurt is created by the structure of the dialogue process, because I... By the way, the dialogue process works. We finally figured out is something that Dan Siegel said one time was, "Do you know why meditation works? Meditation works because the brain needs to know what's coming next."

Harville Hendrix: And in meditation, the brain knows you're going to breathe in and then you're going to breathe out, and there won't be any changes in that. And the brain doesn't care what you're focusing on, whether it's God, or a mantra, or your breaths, or whatever. The predictability of what's coming next helps the brain relax. And in dialogue, when I heard him say that, I thought, "Oh, so that's why dialogue works." The brain knows that when I talk to you, you're going to say, "Let me see if I got that," instead of, "What in the hell did you mean when you said that?" Or, "No, you shouldn't say that." So I can predict, when I talk to Helen, that she's going to say, "If I'm getting that," rather than, "Why are you talking about that?" So, that predictability. So in the dialogue process, you know that your partner is going to check and say, "And that reminds you in childhood of?" And I'm going to say, "Well, it reminds me, blah, blah, blah, when my mother wasn't there," and then she's going to mirror me.

Harville Hendrix: So what's happening is that she's regulating her prefrontal cortex by holding me in the dialogue process. And when she asked me, "And what did it remind you of?" and I tell her about my hurt, she is then going to experience, in the amygdala, an emotion called empathy. And so she will get empathy at the same time that I'm feeling safe with expressing my vulnerability with her. And when we shift that, we then move into curiosity rather than judgment, and when we go to curiosity, we've been deep in safety, and therefore, we can talk about vulnerability without fearing that somebody's going to say, "Well, that sucks, it's just too bad. You need to get over your childhood", which is kind of what is interesting, is what the message underneath psychoanalysis is, is that you finally have to go to adulthood and give up that fantasy that you ever... I remember my therapist now, nearly 40 years ago, when I was in analysis, saying to me, "Harville, you are never going to get what you want from Helen."

[laughter]

Harville Hendrix: "You must come to terms with that."

[laughter]

Harville Hendrix: I was like, "Oh, let me give you a book." I think we had... No, I think this was after Getting came out, that I was working with that therapist and I said, "Could I bring you a book?" [laughter] "Getting the Love You Want, in which I take opposition to your point of view." And he said, "No matter what you wrote in the book, it is still an illusion."

[laughter]

Harville Hendrix: What we have to say is, I got it from Helen. I didn't have to give up. You can't give up the desire, it's connected to your survival. It has to happen, but it has to happen with somebody with whom you are engaged, who will be present so that you can have your vulnerability and they stay in the curious and empathic place.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: And partner isn't going to do it unless their partner asks in a respectful way. Like Harville has brought his needs to me, explaining what it was like in childhood, and thus exactly what he needs from me, and he and I actually work on this not just once, but over time. Because I'll say, "Honey, I just still want to know exactly what you wish. If I did it perfectly... And tell me exactly what it is you need from me." And he'll say it to me kindly, instead of saying, "You never do this and you never do that." Well, that... What is it? Squelches my motivation. I get discouraged when all I hear is what I'm not doing.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. It disempowers you.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: And so the power for a couple just to shift from judgment to curiosity and wonder to each other, and shift from being critical to asking for what they want with sender responsibility.

Neil Sattin: Right. And when you say sender responsibility, you're talking about, as the sender, the one speaking, the one making a request, taking responsibility for how you are making that request?

Helen LaKelly Hunt: How it lands.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Such as your partner sticks their fingers in their ears and goes, "La la la la la."

[laughter]

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Let's say... And then you could ask your partner, "Could you coach me in how I'm asking for what I want? Could you coach me so that I could ask for what I want in a way that might make it something that we could have healthy dialogues around?" And just be curious about your partner, when they do shut down, were you part of the reason they shut down?

Harville Hendrix: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I'm thinking back to what it feels like when there is anger, or disappointment, in the room, and how disconnected. I can feel that cortisol and maybe the powerful anger response happening, but in the end, what I really want to get back to is connection with my partner. And so I love how this process creates that shift back to the ways that we open to each other. Curiosity, understanding, compassion, versus staying in that shut-down place where you might be making demands or levying your judgment of the other person.

Harville Hendrix: Yes. Right.

Neil Sattin: I appreciate, too, that you're using yourselves as examples a little bit, and that makes me curious, and you can pass on this question if you want, but I'd love to know, for you, what are the things that... If you could name something that you continually have to revisit? Because I think a lot of people have this illusion that we who are talking about relationships all the time and writing relationship books, we have perfect relationships, meaning there's never conflict, there's never negativity. None of that. So I'm wondering if you could share a little bit with what that journey is like for you, and what is the thing where you might revisit, you might find yourself revisiting over and over. "Oh, right, that's my thing that I'm working on."

Harville Hendrix: You want to go first?

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Right now, it's easier for me to share something that I always do wrong, or get feedback that I'm doing wrong. So could I start with that?

Harville Hendrix: Sure.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Because I am so great at multitasking. Oh, I am awesome at it.

[laughter]

Helen LaKelly Hunt: But when Harville is talking to me, that is so insulting to him. Like my great gift is making him feel invisible. And I get that, and I love that when he speaks, and especially if he's excited about something, excited positive or excited negative, my job is to stop what I'm doing right there and then, and turn around and be as excited as he is about something, or as frustrated as he is, and just be present for him as he's experiencing his feelings. And I used to try to fit that into my schedule, but I was doing important things, and he would understand if I wasn't looking at him while he was saying something important... Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And no, if he wants me to stop, "Wow, your... " What's more important, or what's more holy than getting to be present for Harville's experience of life. So over time, I've gotten clear that, "Wow, that's my number one job." So that's what...

Neil Sattin: And just I'm curious, Helen, is there something that you've done to remind yourself so that when you find yourself... Harville is sharing something with you, and you're in the middle of 20 things which you excel at, do you have a way of bringing yourself into presence in those moments?

Helen LaKelly Hunt: I do. When you came to our workshop, do you remember the video, the Still Face experiment?

Neil Sattin: I do. Yeah.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Okay. If anyone listening would look up, Google online the Still, S-T-I-L-L, Still Face experiment. A lot of psychiatrists at Harvard and psychiatry schools all around the country conducted this experiment, and Harville had picked that three-minute video to show in our workshops. And when the mother was present for their child, when the child was looking at the world, boy, was the child happy, but the moment the child... The mother had a still face that is not animated with the child, but just still, not angry, not distant, but just a still face, the child would try to get their caretaker to respond.

Neil Sattin: Engage. Yeah.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Engage. Engage and resonate with what the child was feeling. And in this little three-minute video, the child begins to go into shock that the mother has a still face and decompensates and starts screaming and yelling, even though the mom is about five inches away. The mother is right there, but it's the look in her eye that the child is missing. The mother is present but doesn't have presence. And so after watching that video for some years, I woke up to the fact that, "Oh, my goodness. Why don't I practice being the mother in the still face that is resonant face?" It's like... And it's a whole lot of fun to do that. I am having so much fun doing my best to when Harville might need me to drop everything, turn around, and just practicing presence.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. And what's interesting, and... But ordinary, is that you can imagine, therefore, that I grew up with a mother who had eight children plus me and no husband, he had died on a one-horse farm, and she was always busy. I have no images of her paying attention to me. None.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Harville Hendrix: She died when I was six, but I, in that six years, I do not have a single picture. She was a wonderful woman. When I talked to my oldest sister, who at the time was an adult when I was a child... She is the most wonderful woman you can imagine. She was kind, loving and caring, and you look at all my family. They had to have a pretty good mother, because nobody went crazy and did drugs, and nobody killed anybody and so forth. But I was the last, and my primal memory of her is trying to get her attention and failing. So when I walk into the room and Helen is busy at the stove, at the fireplace, doing what my mother did, but hers is on the... Usually on the phone. That memory pops in, like I'm not going to be able to get her attention. So Helen has a practice of when I walk into the room, she'll take the phone away and check and see if I want to talk to her or... Or the other thing is, on Helen's side, is that asking her, "Is now a good time to talk?" is a way of establishing her availability, and she can say no. So we've moved out of, "You gotta always respond to me when I walk into the room," to, I can ask, "Are you available for a question right now?" And she can say no, and come back to it later.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: And the key thing for me in terms of being vulnerable is, a big request I've asked is if you would coach me before presentations.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. So it's that...

Helen LaKelly Hunt: So that's a childhood thing.

Harville Hendrix: That Helen did not grow up being empowered by the people around her to function.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: He's such a great speaker. Oh, wow. He just is so good, and I don't mind not being as good, I just want the memories of him coaching me. So that's been our thing.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And when you say that, I just... I get the feeling of what that must be like to be supported by him, to have all that attention and encouragement coming from him.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Exactly, exactly.

Harville Hendrix: Except that right now, she's so good on the stages that people... There is a line up with her at the end of the workshop, and I'm over putting away my computer and nobody's talking to me. Everyone's talking to her. [chuckle] That's how good my mentoring has been.

[laughter]

Harville Hendrix: Yeah, but I get that. But that was you were not empowered as a child. And so to say, "Here's how you could do that, practice projecting, clear up this concept, make eye contact when you're talking, move around," anything that makes it charismatic, because speakers who had done it on stage a long time know how to hold an audience, and you don't hold them by standing there lecturing out of your throat. You engage them. And so she is... You do that with such magnificence. Well, you saw her do that with such magnificence, so... But the thing that's important is, we have talked about the new book. I think we finally clarified that healing is a medical term, and that it applies to the body getting well of a wound, but psychic healing, memories are not healed ever, that they are always resident in the... The emotional ones in the amygdala, and the event ones in the hippocampus. They're always there and can be activated by a behavior. So that what we work on is creating a relational environment in which we don't trigger the memories. And if we do, we have a repair process, in which we'll quickly put those memories back in the background, but they're not going to go away.

Harville Hendrix: We used to think, when we were working out of the medical model for psychotherapy, which came from Freud and he was a physician, so he did what he knew how to do, that all emotions were a disease and had to be treated, and now we know that emotions are triggered by memories and that those memories will always be there. And what you wanted is... When we talk about creating new memories to replace the old memories, but when the old memory is triggered, that you move quickly in and all old memories are triggered by the absent caretaker. Whether they are missing in their bodies or missing emotionally, although they're in the room, they are not present to the child, and like that baby in the Still Face experiment, not being able to get the resonant face is terrifying. So if we... We know that all the time we have to live with that kind of conscious intention that we want a play... Our relationship to be safe enough that we don't trigger each other's painful childhood memories. And when we do, we move to repair quickly.

Neil Sattin: Can you talk for just a minute about... And I want to make sure we don't lose sight of you also offering if you have something to share about your own personal thing that you revisit in the relationship, that you've been working on, Harville. But before we do, I'm curious, how do you encourage reciprocity in a relationship? I think, particularly in processes that require a lot of generosity of really listening with intent and being present and helping someone through a hard moment and being willing to come back to the table and repair, all of these important things. There's a danger that people perceive, which is like, "Well, I'm always giving and/or I'm always willing, but my partner isn't necessarily." So I'm just wondering if you have some guidance to offer around how to encourage partners to both be able to come to the table.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. Do you have a comment about that?

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Thank you.

Harville Hendrix: Well, I'd have to think about that because I'm thinking that I'm not associating that with us.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Well, actually... We actually did when we were in a low point.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: We created a calendar of on-duty and off-duty days where before going to bed at night, one person was in charge of making sure that they and their partner were connected before they turned out the lights, and the next day it was their partner's job to make sure they were connected. And that was something that really brought us both in charge of participating and making sure the relationship was healthy. Because in most relationships, one person might be a little bit more active doing that. And if one person is more active, the other might go, "Well, it's their job to do that," [chuckle] or withdraw. Every relationship has a turtle, as well as a hailstorm. So these on-duty... This calendar that invites a couple to co-create accountability for reciprocity is a beautiful way that, no matter what, you have to be connected before you go to bed. The other person on their on-duty day has to figure it out.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. And I think we've talked about that some. I'd say that was a really good training process, but I don't experience now, you and me saying, "Well, I did five things that were positive and you didn't do any," that we're not in the tit-for-tat consciousness. We do have a ritual every night that, before we go to bed, we give each other three appreciations, and rather than point out three things that we did wrong in dealing with the zero negativity calendar, that we moved that out and...

Helen LaKelly Hunt: We both are really responsible for the relationship these days.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: But if someone... If it's one-sided, that's a suggestion.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. And so that really is an amazing structure, that you have a day on which you are the one who is going to contain whatever is chaotic, and the next day you're off-duty. What we discovered, though, is we like the days on-duty better.

[laughter]

Helen LaKelly Hunt: It felt better to be on-duty than off-duty.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah, because you're working out of your prefrontal cortex and you're not into your reactivity. And if you do feel reactive, "I'm on duty, I can't drink."

[laughter]

Harville Hendrix: So you go and do the other piece, and you wind up feeling better because you have not gone into your negative emotions. And then after a while, we were both feeling better so that we kind of made that we are both on-duty every day for the quality of our relationship. And given that, we don't have a whole lot of things to clean up, and when we do, I think the thing I would say about that is we have got this repair process down so that if one of us does miss out, we just go fix it in the next five or 10 minutes.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: So that's the zero negativity process.

Harville Hendrix: That's the zero negativity process.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Which Harville could talk about for a long time. We do a better job at that, but...

Harville Hendrix: Let's see what Neil wants.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Well, I would definitely love to have you share that, but is there something, Harville, in particular, that you'd like to share about something that you've had to revisit in your relationship with Helen that's kind of your thing, that you've been working on, and maybe a struggle that is less and less of a struggle over time?

Harville Hendrix: Well, I'm thinking about that. I think that my growth edge is to listen until Helen finishes her sentences. That I interrupt her, and then that triggers her invisibility vulnerability. And to... Because my brain quickly is listening and has something to say to add to it, or an alternative, and I rationalize it by, "Well, it's a conversation, it's not a dialogue. We're playing tennis, we're not having a dialogue." But all interactions are and should be dialogical. And I still work on, as the co-creator of all of this, implementing it all the time. I would think that's... Would that fit with you? Your view of my growth edge? What else would you see as my growth edge?

Helen LaKelly Hunt: I think me finishing sentences.

Harville Hendrix: Finishing sentences, not being interrupted and deflected.

[chuckle]

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Mm-hmm. And I said the coaching.

Harville Hendrix: And the coaching. Because I think when you were little, nobody listened to you in the household, the family, the parents.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: I didn't talk. I didn't even try.

[chuckle]

Harville Hendrix: Well, and you didn't talk because nobody was listening. That was not cool. [chuckle] So interrupting her, but... And also appreciations, to notice what excellent things, more than just the ritual at bed time, that during the day I'm trying to grow into awareness that the way she just handled that phone call was amazing, and to say that instead of, "Well, we got another task done." That's the affirmation process, to be engaged in that. Because I grew up on the farm, and where I grew up on the farm was people didn't spend much time thanking you. It was like, "Did you milk the cow?" And then they didn't say, "Wow, what a good cow milking you did." [chuckle] It just was, "Did you do it? And did you feed the horse before you came in?"

[laughter]

Helen LaKelly Hunt: And all of those affirmations...

Harville Hendrix: So appreciations was not a part of that, and affirmations.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Appreciations and affirmations create safety, and that's bottomline.

Harville Hendrix: Yes, absolutely. And they then empower you, you know what you did that made a difference. And if you do something, like you did feed the cow or milked the cow real well, and nobody noticed it, then you don't know whether you did it right or not, or if you even want to do it again. But if somebody says, "Good milking. Wow, see the horse was fed. Good job." That's the kind of affirmation, appreciation, that becomes spontaneous rather than just the ritual at the end of the day.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that reminds me, too, of John and Julie Gottman's work around having that ratio of 20:1, positive to negative, interactions in normal day-to-day life. They were just on the show talking about the importance of cultivating cherishing in their relationship as well, so...

Harville Hendrix: Yeah, I like them.

Neil Sattin: It makes sense that you'd be on the same page.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah, yeah. John and I were talking one time at his home on the island, in San Juan Islands, where he lives, we'd gone out there to visit him. And at the time, there was some kind of... We're not sure we're on the same page and so forth, but he pulled me aside and he said, "Having been here for two days and talking, so forth, I think we're basically all doing the same thing, we just phrase it differently." And I thought, "Good! That means we pass your approval."

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: It does feel good.

Harville Hendrix: And I love the word "cherishing", that... I love that word, "cherishing". And I think the repair process, we prefer to call it the "reconnecting process" because repair seems so mechanical, but the methodology of that, the quickness of repair as a sign of a healthy relationship is another thing they threw into the world that we have picked up and said, "That's really important," is how quickly you get this thing fixed and get back on the road.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about your approach to repair that you've brought up a few times?

Harville Hendrix: Well, yes. The zero negativity is a pledge that you make, and we know that because of the wiring of the brain to be paranoid means that to change your brain to affirmations, goes... Is by changing the evolutionary patterns so big, so that when you commit to zero negativity, you gotta blow it. And we say to people, "We're telling you a great thing to do, but we know you gotta have difficulty doing it. So let's just say that upfront. But it's okay if you blow it, if you repair it." And because when you blow it, you'll disconnect, and what we want you to do is reconnect, which we like the word "connecting". So what we... There's a range of repairs, and one is to say, "Could I just do that again? Could I send that again?" Or Helen might say, "Would you be willing to send that in a different way that doesn't sound negative to me?"

Harville Hendrix: So, the re-do process. And then a sort of parallel to that is, if I'm not clear what you want, I could say, "Will you model it for me? So I can see how you want me to look, the tone of voice you want me to have, the words that you want to say." And the agreement is that we will let our partners teach us. Then the third thing is that we discovered some people don't need to do all that, they just need an apology. "I'm really sorry that I had that tone of voice." Helen likes apologies. I like behaviors, because when I grew up, people who apologize just hit you again. So apologizing means nothing to me. But if, stop hitting me and do something different, so then I will have to ask her how something she wants. A hug? We both respond to hugs, sometimes, "Just hug me," or, "Look me in the eye." A connecting behavior of some sort may repair it quickly.

Harville Hendrix: And then if, however, the memory that was a real sensitive one, we have the option of going into a full dialogue and talking about how that negative thing I experienced from you, triggers this memory for me, so that she can know or I can know that, then get curious, can know that I need to go to empathy and to holding that. And then we have a really complicated one. If it's really difficult, I may need more than empathy. I may need an actual request for behavior change, and we call that the behavior change request process. And that means we go through a process to arrive at a behavior that I need to have from you so that I can predict my safety with you. And then Helen will agree to initiate that maybe, or if it's on my side, I will initiate that behavior, so that the repair... But that's when it's really deep.

Neil Sattin: Right. I remember, in going through that dialogue in your workshop, how nice it was... I believe you have us come up with three or four options.

Harville Hendrix: Right.

Neil Sattin: So it's not just like, "This is my request, honor it. Please honor it." But, "Here are a few options for you. And any one of these things would satisfy me, or would feel like a step in the right direction." And I feel like that's important.

Harville Hendrix: It really is important because if it's just one thing, "Here's my hurt, here's what I want," it sets up a power struggle instead of a collaboration. But if they're, "I'm hurt. Three things, any one of three things would help with that," then I get a choice about which one of those I can do, which one I will do, and which one will not stretch me at all if I did it, and so I'll pick one that's challenging because I want to grow. But if I have choices, then I can participate. But we found that if I don't give you a choice, it's going to trigger your resistance. Then even if you did something, it wouldn't matter, because the psychological energy of a generosity is not there. But if I have a choice, I can be generous; If I don't have a choice, I'd be resentful. We don't want a therapeutic process that creates resentment.

Neil Sattin: Speaking of, I'm curious about the way that Imago handles shame. I could see, for instance, you take the zero negativity pledge and one person or the other dumps something toxic into the relational space. It happens. So how would you want to handle the shame that one might feel from having done that? Or we're in the Getting the Love You Want conversation, a lot of people have shame attached to their desires and to the very thing that they want to ask for. It might bring them shame to ask for it. So I'm just wondering if you have a way of holding that?

Harville Hendrix: Well, to me, the shame is dealt with by holding the request or holding the failure, so that you... I think the reparative or the healing or the reconnecting process always is that if it's guilt that you mirror back at, so you're feeling guilty about that, so shame... So that felt shameful to you. I'm getting that, there's some more about it, so then don't shame back or guilt back. But once a person has become... Has had their... And you know those emotions are all connected to developmental processes. If you're always into guilt, you're probably not into shame, you're into... You did bad behaviors. But if you're into shame, which is an earlier developmental issue, you're into not being a good person. And so...

Harville Hendrix: But in either case, they are all created by the parent who does not hold the child's behaviors and experiences at the time. And when those are held without judgment but with curiosity, that for us is what restores connection, whether it's shame or guilt, is it's... I don't end up... Haven't been able... I know there are shame books and guilt books and all kinds of things, but as I have read the literature for the past 40-50, nearly 60 years now, underneath all of those things, there's something that repairs everything. So it's not a shame repair. And what repairs shame and guilt and anger and all of that is presence. If I can be present to you without judgment, and hold you with curiosity, something will happen inside of you around that transaction, whether it... Whatever it was, guilt or shame. And it will be mitigated by the fact that it's not repeated in our interaction.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I am so appreciative of your time and wisdom again. I just want to remind everyone that if you want to download a transcript of this episode, we've had so many valuable action items and takeaways from this conversation, you can visit neilsattin.com/imago3. That's I-M-A-G-O 3, after their Imago therapy and Imago dialogues. And I also encourage you to listen to our first two episodes together, episode 22 and episode 108, where we go into more detail about how to do dialogues in the structured way that we've been referring to today. And also, we talk a lot in episode 108 about creating lots of positive force in your relationship.

Neil Sattin: Before we go, I just... I want to mention something that feels super important to me, and it's kind of funny that we waited until the end to chat about it, but one of the most important changes that I noticed in the book, along with all of the wonderful updates to the content that you mentioned, is that now, Helen, your name is also on the cover of the book as an author. And I just want to acknowledge that you write about it beautifully in the preface, both of you, about your process of how that came to be. Do you want to give us just a quick snapshot of that now? Because I know a lot of people ask about that and why, for so long, Helen, your name wasn't on the cover when you so clearly were involved in creating this work.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Well, thanks for asking, and maybe I'll go first.

Harville Hendrix: Okay.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: I look back now and am surprised at my own disassociation of the idea of being on the cover. At the beginning, I vehemently fought against it because I had a prominent last name and was from a family that had sort of, not world recognition, but in certain industries, world recognition. [chuckle] My last name is known around the globe and in certain places, certain industries, and Harville was a sharecropper's son and both parents had passed away by the time he was six. He was the youngest and was almost sent to the orphanage. So while I saw his brilliance, I didn't think his last name... Well, I just wanted this chance to have the theory so powerfully presented in this book, I just felt like it should be his name. It was his idea to focus on this book and so much of the content was him, and I was the ideal number two for him, we both think, but I wanted his name on it.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: But I just kept... Once he became so famous, I really missed that I wasn't recognized very much at all, but I dreamed I would be on the cover, and that was Harville's idea. But from the very beginning, there was some sort of dissociation that women have that I was a part of, that I had been, and that I recently wrote a paper on all of the things I did to prepare myself as a therapist before I met Harville. I got a master's in counseling psych, went halfway through a PhD in clinical psych. I love this stuff, but I just sort of dissociated from it. And it's a tremendous, joyful, beautiful thing that Harville had the idea of including me, and that I get to be visible as his number two.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. Well, and the reason her name is on the cover is that she is the co-creator of Imago. The first few sentences in the first year, in 1977, when we met, the conversation led to Getting the Love You Want, and Helen facilitated finding a writer and facilitated the research, all kinds of things, plus the conversation about content was there and the contribution, like Helen invented dialogue, it was her idea to do that structured process. Zero negativity came from Helen. And so I pick up a lot of things that she would say, and since I'm a systemic thinker, I then build that into the system, but... So a lot of pieces in the system... I take full credit for the structure of the system, but not for all of the limbs on the body of the system. So it was clear that we are co-creators with equal and unique contributions to it, and that Helen refused to have her name... That she was offered to have her name on in 1988, then she said no. But after a while, it began to agitate both of us that there was something wrong with this public recognition of me, part of which could be explained, because I was on the Oprah show.

Harville Hendrix: But that was also part of the problem that Helen, not being on the cover, didn't get on the Oprah show. So I'm the visible person, and she is the supportive housewife, even if she does have a famous name. I suddenly became as well-known, if not better known than her last name. So it began to just look like that. So when we got to the 30th, it occurred to me, and then I had this epiphany that it's not like a deserved thing. She deserves to be on it, or I want to be generous. It dawned on me one day that I colluded with the cultural devaluation of women, and that I'm married to one of the most powerful women in the world, who was a co-creator of a book and she's invisible around one of the things she loves the most. Helen colluded, too. She's a feminist, she is probably ranked as the second most influential feminist in America in terms of her contribution to women. But somehow, she disassociates herself from... Not from that work, but from our work.

Harville Hendrix: So it dawned on me, as we were getting ready to write the preface to the new book, that, just like an epiphany, "Wow, look at this. Can you imagine, if we colluded with the cultural trance, how could we understand everybody else's collusion with the cultural trance? No wonder it's so hard for women to get the right jobs and break through the glass ceiling, and be pastors in churches and bishops in Catholic churches, and everything where women are unequal. It's just wrong, and it needs to be righted." So we did it to cleanse our own souls and to make a statement to the culture, that gender inequity is basically a pathology. And hopefully, we have awakened from that trance and into at least a smidgen more health as a result of that. So her name is where it belongs. And another thing, it's a justice. Social justice is when equity shows up. And so this is a relational justice or partnership justice, in which we are truly partners, and she's not my helper. She's a partner, and we are equal in this project.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Well, and for me, I was known for being in the Hunt family and getting dividends. I started using dividends and I'm known as a donor, and my work in feminism is my head, but Imago is my heart and...

Harville Hendrix: Yeah.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: That's who I am at my heart. And so it's a beautiful experience, getting to have my heart seen more and being more of a partnership. So thank you for asking.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And just, for me, it was super powerful to pull the book out of the wrapper and to see both of your names there. I had a visceral experience, so...

Harville Hendrix: Are you...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I did.

Harville Hendrix: Yeah. Great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Harville Hendrix: Oh, we're glad. And I think, as it occurs to me, while we're talking, is you cannot really become without the resignating other. And so it's really helpful to me, and I think probably helpful to you, that people can say, "Yes, you all are equal partners. And Helen is an equal partner with you." Makes her an equal partner. There's something about the resonance of you and the public to that, that helps Helen integrate it. Otherwise, the disassociation is hard to overcome for both of us, because I was disassociated too.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And for me, this is a reminder too, for everyone who's listening, to just think about what you, in your relationship, what you are creating together, and to acknowledge that the ways that we do create things or support each other, but even in the support, it's truly a co-creation.

Harville Hendrix: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Things wouldn't be possible without... And that's the beauty of it, right? Is we get to create amazing things that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.

Harville Hendrix: And you're co-creating each other all the time, just like you create a baby together, then you co-create each other as parents, in where every interaction changes us. So we're constantly co-creating, but we don't know it, but it's so subtle. But it is the primary reality, we think. So thank you for asking.

Neil Sattin: My pleasure. And thank you both for being here and being willing to talk about the theory, the mind stuff, and the heart stuff, and to share some of your own personal journey. It's super powerful and such a treat to be able to talk to you again here for Relationship Alive.

Harville Hendrix: And for us, Neil.

Helen LaKelly Hunt: Thank you.

Harville Hendrix: Thank you. We love talking to you.

Neil Sattin: My pleasure.

Harville Hendrix: We read your newsletters every time they come out.

Neil Sattin: Do you? [laughter]

Harville Hendrix: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Well, hopefully, you've been entertained lately. [laughter]

Harville Hendrix: We keep up with you. Yes.

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