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Neil Sattin interviews John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix, Peter Levine, Stan Tatkin, Dick Schwartz, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Diana Richardson, Terry Real, Wendy Maltz - and many others - in his quest to dig deep into all the factors that keep a Relationship Alive and Thriving! Each week Neil brings you an in-depth interview with a relationship expert. Neil is an author and relationship coach who is enthusiastic and passionate about relationships and the nuts and bolts of what makes them last. You can find out more about Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast at http://www.neilsattin.com
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Now displaying: October, 2019
Oct 26, 2019

How do you know if you, or someone you love, is addicted to sex, or porn? What can you do about it? And along with healing patterns of addiction, what is most helpful for the partners of people with addiction? Our guest today is Paula Hall, one of the world’s leading experts on treating sex and porn addiction, and the author of “"Understanding and Treating Sex and Pornography Addiction” - along with many other books on the topic for addicts, partners, and the therapists who are helping them. Although the idea that people can be addicted to sex or porn is still controversial - we’re going to tackle this topic head-on, so you can identify ways that you might be impacted. And, as always, you’ll learn powerful strategies for how to overcome addiction and get back on track to a healthy sex life.

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:

Visit Paula Hall’s website for more information about her work, her books, and her public speaking.

Check out the Laurel Centre’s offerings for help with Sex and Porn addiction.

Read the Paula Hall books that are right for you.

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Visit www.neilsattin.com/addiction to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Paula Hall.

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. 

Neil Sattin: We're going to revisit a topic today that we've talked about before on the show and we're going to take an even deeper dive into the question of addiction. Especially as it pertains to sex addiction, porn addiction, love addiction. How do I identify if that's something that's impacting you or someone that you love? And if the answer is yes, what can you do about it? Is there hope? How do you facilitate change in a way that actually leads you to someplace that's healthier, and not being impacted by addiction? To talk about the topic today, we have with us Paula Hall, who is a licensed psychotherapist from the U.K. and whose book, "Understanding and Treating Sex and Pornography Addiction," is a masterful work on understanding exactly where sex addiction comes from and what you can do to treat it. And her words are based on years of practice with clients and seeing what works and what doesn't. Paula is the founder of the Laurel Center which offers treatment programs in the UK for people and they also offer sessions in the UK and over Skype and Zoom for people everywhere in the world. So it's powerful work that they're doing. She's written a couple of other books. Well actually many other books, but a couple others that are notable in terms of sex addiction recovery one for the partners and one for the couple as a whole, and we'll probably get a chance to talk about that as we go. In the meantime, there will be a detailed transcript of today's episode, if you are interested in downloading that just visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-addiction. And as always you can text the word "Passion," to the number 3-3-4-4-4, and follow the instructions which will also get you the transcript to today's episode. I think that's it for now. Paula Hall thank you so much for joining us today on relationship alive. 

Paula Hall: Hi! Thanks for inviting me. 

Neil Sattin: It's really great to have you here. I'm curious to know maybe for starters, what just led you to focusing your work on sex addiction and and porn addiction? How did how did you end up there?

Paula Hall: Oh gosh I thought you might start with an easy question, Neil. I guess so I've been a therapist for gosh nearly 30 years, now initially I started in drug addiction, did that about three years and then I trained as a couples' psychotherapist and sex therapist. And it was probably about 15 years ago now I was working in private practice and I had seen a couple of clients, a couple of male clients, coming on their own. Both of them very happily married, young families, devoted fathers but they had these habits. One of them, it was visiting massage parlors. The other one was picking up women in bars basically. And what I noticed was that, being a psychotherapist for some years, I was able to kind of work with these guys to understand why they were doing what they were doing, and in a typical psychotherapy style: How was your relationship with your mother? And you know all of that kind of stuff exploring that. And we were able to kind of find those answers but unfortunately both of those guys, towards the end of the case. they understood why they did it and carried on doing it. I didn't seem to have any tools to help them stop. And then basically what happened was I went to a conference and one of the speakers that a guy called Thaddeus Birchard, also someone in the UK, did a talk on sex addiction. He is one of the very much one of the pioneers out here in the UK. And he talked about a cycle of addiction and having come from drug addiction, all the pennies just dropped into place. I just started seeing how what I had been sitting with those two guys was just like the work that I was doing with drug addiction. But this was around sexual behaviors, and for some reason that penny hadn't dropped before. So yeah, that I guess, failing my clients is what drove me to be so passionate about understanding this problem more, learning more and really developing tools and models and services that could help. 

Neil Sattin: And can you talk a little bit about your perspective? Cuz I know you also do couples work and you've done sex therapy with clients. I think in the UK, they call it psychosexual therapy.

Paula Hall: Yeah yeah. 

Neil Sattin: So I'm curious where does sex positivity intersect with this question about whether or not we can be addicted to sex?

Paula Hall: I think it's a completely different thing. In terms of being a therapist and being sex positive, I think it's a bit like you know being food negative if you work with people who chronically overeat. Of course, I think sex is brilliant. It's great. The problem is addiction robs people of their sexuality. I've never met a happy sex addict. Now you could argue that perhaps they're out there but they're not seeking help. So perhaps I'm the wrong person to know that. But my experience has been that addiction and compulsion robs people of their positive sexuality. It takes away their ability to choose the lifestyle they want to lead. It becomes a place where they feel shame, where they feel dissatisfied, where they feel insatiable or where it feels seedy, it feels stolen. It's no longer a pleasure. And I think treating sex addiction is about helping people get their sex lives back. When I run the group so we do a lot of group work over here with guys, and the guys often think I'm kind of joking when I quite often start off by saying, "I'm going to make sure that your sex lives are better than they have ever been, ever." And they kind of look at me curiously and think that's an odd thing to say, but actually I think that is one of the goals of treating sex and porn addiction is helping people have brilliant sex lives and really enjoying sex again, in whatever shape or form that makes. Whether that's within a monogamous relationship, a heterosexual relationship, whether in kink or whatever your taste is, I think that's irrelevant. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Great. And that seems to touch in to the question about how someone would know whether what they're experiencing is addiction or not. So can we can we steer a little bit towards assessment, and how that how that works. 

Paula Hall: Yeah, I think it does lead to that very much so. I think a really critical question is do you enjoy what you're doing? Are you still enjoying it or is it never enough? You always gotta go for the next hit? Are you noticing that your behavior is escalating, that you're preoccupied by it? I think a good sexual experience should leave you with a smile on your face, a sense of wholeness and fullness, and you feel satiated, a bit like a good meal. You're not worried about where the next one's coming from, you're not anxious about it. You're not worried that someone's going to find out. So, if it's a positive experience that you've really enjoyed and then you're probably not acting out compulsively. But if you're preoccupied with it. If it's never enough it is nowhere near as much fun as you thought it was going to be. Then perhaps this has become a compulsive. I think ultimately escalation is the, is the real critical sign of compulsivity, it's when it's escalating. 

Neil Sattin: And so just to really be specific about escalation, what are some different forms that that could take?

Paula Hall: So, that might be spending more and more time on the activity or planning for the activity or recovering from the activity or needing higher and higher stimulus. So, that might be more hard core porn or taking more risks with sort of cruising or whatever, in order to get the same kind of impact.  I think most of us understand escalation if we think about it around alcohol, escalation might be the wrath of the one glass of wine and it's become a bottle. So it's more and more of it or rather than the glass of wine, it's now become a glass of whiskey, you need something that's stronger and harder to get the same impact. 

Neil Sattin: Got it and then there's also, right, the potential for certain kinds of activity to lead to other kinds of activity. So you might start out in an online realm and end up chatting with people, end up on dating sites or visiting escorts, and like there's that kind of escalation as well. 

Paula Hall: Absolutely escalation into... Yeah, I mean there's other forms of kind of higher stimulation but they may be ones that are you know going to cause you more and more harmful consequences. If you're beginning to cross your own boundaries. Things that you always said you wouldn't do. Promised you wouldn't do. Never thought you'd even want to do, perhaps. Then again, that's showing that that escalation is is really pushing into your own value system. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And, is there a point in making a distinction between like, it's an addiction that's pushing your past your values or it's an inability to live according to your values, that's keeping you from sticking with your values? Do you know what I mean? 

Paula Hall: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No. Good point. Yeah. Okay, so I think this is where shame comes in. And shame unfortunately comes up a heck of a lot in this work. If you keep crossing your moral values and actually, Hey you aren't really that bothered about it, you probably won't feel any shame. Also, the experience of shame demonstrates that you actually have strong values. If he didn't have strong values you wouldn't experience it, you just wouldn't care. So, if you know your going against your value system and you feel really bad about it but nonetheless you are unable to stop, then it's likely to be addiction. If you're crashing your value system but you don't really care, you may still be an addict, but you've also got a problem with your moral compass. So you know, classically you have kind of sometimes I have a first session with a guy and he'll go," You know, I just, am I an addict? I dunno if I'm an addict, or whether I'm just a bit of a womanizer and I just want my cake and eat it. Maybe that's what it is." And I often say, "Well you know what. You can be an addict AND a womanizer, who wants a cake and eat it. They're not mutually exclusive. You can be both or one or the other." But escalation is the side where it really is addiction, I would say. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah so just a quick point of clarification. You've mentioned working with guys a lot. How gendered is this problem?

Paula Hall: So, most of the research seems to say, in the research certainly I did for my first book as well on this, suggested that about 30 percent of the people with sex and porn addiction were women. And certainly, if you sort of look at some of the forums, some of the kind of free spaces if you like, you'll see more and more women's voices coming up talking about their problem. But they don't seem to come forward for help and this seems to be something that's international, I've got colleagues delivering programs in other parts of the world as well and obviously there's there's a lot of therapists working in the States. And though, women don't seem to come forward for help as often. And you know, I'm quite curious about that some of that to do with economics, is that to do with different different types of shame that are around for female sex and love addicts? Is it because there aren't enough services offered on a few occasions. We have tried to offer very, very specific female services but still had very little take up. So I think... 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that is interesting because there are so many other realms where I think the women lead in terms of you know, couples therapy or even like personal growth work. There seem to be a lot more women on average in terms of like the demographics of people who are writing me and listening to my show just as one sample group, predominantly women. So it's interesting that that that that would be the case that they'd be less inclined to seek help for sex and porn addiction. 

Paula Hall: Yeah, and my hypothesis would be, well, two. One, is I suspect an awful lot of those women who are addicted or using sex compulsively may actually be working within the sex trade. So for them finding help is also going to get in the way of their income stream. But, I think we do still live in a society where the message is about how, dare I use the old fashioned word "promiscuity." Male promiscuity still viewed quite differently to female promiscuity. So you know a man that is sleeping around, has multiple partners, is a bit of a lad, is a bit of a cad, is you know a bit of a womanizer, a bit of a player. The words we use for women are still tend to be "slut," or so much more derogatory. So I do think it's harder for women to come forward. I think there's, I don't know if it's more shame, but a different kind of shame for women coming forward for help. And as I said, I think it's a Catch-22, because in the media, in situations such as this, I find myself talking predominantly about men because that's who we generally work with. Most of my services are targeted at men because they're the people that come. I think that means a lot of women begin to feel increasingly invisible. So I really hope it will change. And yeah, we are going to launch an online group for women because then at least we don't have to worry so much about the geography. So is anybody listening out there who would define themselves as a female sex addict do get in touch because you could join one of our online support groups. And I hope that might begin to get something going and then as we're talking about it, more and more women come forward, and it will make it easier for more women to come forward and get into that positive spiral. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah yeah. Great. One thing that I'm curious about is, so we've talked about some of the kinds of behaviors that might fall into this category and in researching for our conversation and also resulting from my conversation with Alex Katehakis before, I've talked to a lot of people about masturbation. More than I've ever talked to people about masturbation before which is in itself been interesting because I think there's so much shame that we hold around self pleasuring. And there's this question about how masturbation can potentially be addictive or can be used as a coping strategy for dealing with emotionally challenging situations or emotionally challenging places in one's life. And so I'm curious about like if someone first, is using masturbation as a way to kind of cope with stress and hardship. I've talked to some people who've said, "Well isn't that normal like, like, that's a mechanism that we have in our bodies to do that." But then if you suggest to someone, "Well how about not doing that?" They would say, "Well why would I not," or, "I could never stop doing that." And then it starts to bridge that question until like, "Well is it an addiction for you to be to be masturbating as a way to cope or is it not?" So there's this gray area here that I'd love to have your insight on because I think a lot of people when I talk to them about it they're like well, "Wow if like that means I'm an addict then I got to think like you know 90 percent of guys out there are sex addicts using masturbation as a way of dealing with their lives and fantasizing and things like that." And overall, I want just people to be pulled toward feeling like whatever they're doing is healthy for them and positive. Can you shine some light on that?

Paula Hall: Yeah. So first and foremost I absolutely do not think there is anything wrong with using sex, whether it's partnered sex or masturbation for comfort. I think couples have kissed and made up as we euphemistically call it, for years, centuries people have masturbated to help them get to sleep at nights, masturbating to help them get out to work in the morning, masturbating because they're bored, masturbating because they're sad. That in itself I don't think is a problem at all. It's when he becomes a primary coping mechanism. It's when, if for some reason you couldn't then actually you start feeling worse and worse and worse. And again is when it's escalating. So I think if somebody uses masturbation as a way to get to sleep every night. And if it takes 10 minutes whatever is never escalated it's never got worse than that, it's not getting in the way of their relationship. So let's assume they're single or whatever. It's a habit. There's no harmful consequences, I think the problem is you say, we're trying stop. Well why? Why do that? I you know I watch television quite often to switch off. "Dunno. Well maybe you're addicted, maybe you should stop." Or maybe I just don't have the motivation to try and stop because I don't see why it's a problem? 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

Paula Hall: I think that's where we start getting into the realms of pathologizing sexuality. For me you know masturbation, it's a physical comfort. Why is that any worse than having a soak in the bath or putting your feet in a foot spa? 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Great. So I think that maybe the question is where it bumps up against your values. And that question of escalation. 

Paula Hall: I think in terms of addiction it's about escalation. If there's been no escalation then... I realize I'm being quite categoric and there's bound to be some exceptions. But, on the whole if there's been no escalation I'd say there was no addiction in just because it bumps up against your values. That doesn't make it an addiction. I've had a number of clients come and want to work with me. They've been a people of faith where masturbation for them is a sin, it's something they're not comfortable with but they keep doing it. And they will use the language of addiction. And if there's no escalation and the only problem is that it's against their values, then it's not addiction. Now that doesn't mean that you might not work with that person, you might not help them to find other things to do. So let's say my feet somehow became allergic to my foot spa, so I couldn't use it anymore. Let's find some other ways of getting some physical comfort that aren't going to cause a problem in other areas of my life. But let's not call it an addiction because it's just not accurate. 

Neil Sattin: Great. That's a helpful distinction to have. 

Paula Hall: And I think it's also important to recognize that as I'm sure you know CSBD, Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder has been accepted by the World Health Organization to go into ICD-11. So it will be, we're not calling it addiction yet, it's going to be called compulsive sexual behavior disorder, which will include pornography. This will be an official diagnosis that can be used but that's coming online quite soon. But very, very clearly in the diagnostic criteria is that it can not be purely a problem caused by morality. It has to be causing problems outside of that. I mean another sort of way I often describe this is if alcohol was against your moral values. So for some people of faith of course drinking alcohol is not OK just because you have a small glass of wine every single evening to get to sleep would not make you an alcoholic, if it's never ever escalated. That would not make you an alcoholic. Even though it's against your values. And you need to stop drinking if it's against your values, and something else. So I'm not saying you shouldn't change but you wouldn't call that person an alcoholic. 

Neil Sattin: Really helpful distinctions. And where this I think also gets interesting is because it plays into the partner dynamic. And that question of like well of course I don't have a problem with you masturbating but what are you thinking about and or you're looking at porn like that doesn't seem like it is you know aligns with my values or that sort of thing. So how does that when you look at addiction and that sense of like is what you're doing is causing a problem for you in your life. How do you how do you separate that from those other kinds of conversations that people need to be having with their partners anyway about what's appropriate what is and how to handle it when they actually have differences. 

Paula Hall: Yeah absolutely. And of course for up for some couples pornography is just not okay, it's not okay for a partner. And if your partner is looking at pornography something that you are morally opposed to then that is going to create an issue within your relationship. And I would say that's an issue for couples' counseling. So assuming it's not escalating there's nothing to define it as an addiction. This is a couple counseling issue to decide what to do about this. And I think if you're somebody who is just can't stop looking at pornography in spite of how your partner feels about it, then maybe you either need to look at your feelings towards your partner and how much you respect them and their views or you need to look at whether or not this is a compulsion. I think in terms of fantasy, I mean that again is a really interesting one it is perfectly possible to masturbate and not to use fantasy. And of course some partners don't have an issue with fantasy, some partners will thoroughly enjoy sharing their fantasies with each others. Some people use fantasy but it's always a fantasy of their partner so their partner doesn't object. Again and as a sex therapist and I have been a sex therapist for what 18 years now. Talking about fantasies is something that commonly comes up when you're working with couples with sexual difficulties and want to enhance their sex life and every couple is different. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. You said something... 

Paula Hall: Did I answer your question? 

Neil Sattin: Yeah you did. And they're like so many things flying around in so many different directions we could go. I think to ground us, I'm curious like as a partner what are some ways that you might sense that there's something going on that would need to be addressed as an addiction. 

Paula Hall: Yeah that that is a tricky one isn't it? I think it's uh... changes in behavior. So someone who might be becoming more and more withdrawn from the relationship. Someone who's becoming more and more secretive. Somebody who's finding more and more excuses or reasons to not engage in activities that they previously would have seen as important. So if they've never wanted to go to the parents evening and are making excuses now then it's probably not relevant. But if they you know, if this is a new thing, if they seem to be finding excuses to get out of responsibilities that they would have enjoyed otherwise, then I think you might question that. Struggling with stress more. I think if you've... It's tricky partners often when they reflect back recognize that there have been changes. It's only in hindsight that they realized why. But there are of course 101 other explanations for why somebody might be withdrawing behaving secretively,  maybe there are issues within the relationship that need addressing that've got nothing to do with sex or porn addiction. Or it may be something else altogether. But yeah I think withdrawing from the relationship, becoming more secretive and changes in character. Behavior. That's really vague, isn't it? It's tough, it's really tough for partners. 

Neil Sattin: It's a little vague. And I mean what comes up for me is the sense that if you are sensing something is going on then you want to do your best I think to lean in and to have vulnerable conversations. 

Paula Hall: Absolutely yeah. 

Neil Sattin: And so that brings up this question of like how can people in partnership particularly, how can they create a context that allows them to talk about this safely? Especially because in partnership so many of the things that happen are are a violation of the integrity of the relationship. So as a partner, I think you ideally you want to, if something's going on with your spouse or your partner, you want to know what's going on. But then once you find out what's going on, and that of course I think is what often keeps these things in the shadows right. Is that someone might be willing to talk about their struggle except knowing the impact that that could have on their on their partner and on their relationship. 

Paula Hall: Yeah it is. It is very difficult. I think sometimes as a partner, if you do have a sense that there may be something around this that they don't want to talk to you about, can they talk to somebody else? And that might be the bridge to them talking to you. So, I wouldn't say that that is a lot of alternative of course but that might be the bridge to them being able to talk to you. But it is really difficult and you know I've worked with partners who have you know, tried to say and did that with all integrity and commitment, "I will support you. If this is about this and let me know. Tell me. There's nothing we can't work through." And then they find out something and they are absolutely devastated and the guy feels cheated because he trusted that she wasn't going to react like that, she had no idea what he was going to say when she said that. It's really difficult. It really is. It really is difficult of course that's what couple counseling often comes in,  so it may be that you are noticing there are issues within your relationship, there's issues within your sexual relationship. Also your emotional intimacy and you agree to some couple counseling for that and maybe within that environment it comes out. I mean certainly one of the things we're a training organization as well, and one of the things I say whenever I'm speaking to or training couple counselors, is always ask about poor news, always do individual history sessions and always ask about porn use and compulsive behaviors. Because so often what increasingly, that is at play if not the cause of, that is at least a contributing factor to so many issues for so many couples. 

Neil Sattin: What advice do you have for a partner who's in that quandary of feeling, on the one hand the impact of the betrayal, so that betrayal trauma, and somewhere in there saying, "Well I love this person and I do want to help them but I'm I'm really angry or feeling devastated," or all of those things. 

Paula Hall: I think firstly be gentle with yourself and give yourself time. It is perfectly okay to be angry. It is understandable to be angry. It is okay to have those feelings, find somebody that you can share those feelings with. Ultimately, if you want your relationship to survive then you need to be at both of you need to get to the place where you're blaming the addiction rather than your partner and you're able to rebuild your relationship from what the addiction has done to you, rather than what your partner has done to you. But that takes time. And initially when there is so much pain around it, and fear, and of course you can't break through that fear unless your partner really is getting into recovery and able to support you in your recovery. But yeah it takes time so often it is just be just be gentle with yourself. 

Neil Sattin: I know in your in your book you advocate not making any drastic decisions for a period of time so that you have time to kind of think it all through and regain your footing. 

Paula Hall: Yeah, especially if you've got children. I mean there's you know, there's some decisions that are very hard to take back. I think if you've got children then wait... What I often say to partners is: "Don't let what he has done, his complete and total screw up, force you to make decisions that you're not ready to make, or force you to make decisions that you and your children potentially will have to live with forever." His crisis does not have to create urgency for you. It doesn't have to and that's tough to hold on to that. It's true.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And do you have thoughts for someone who's now listening to this and thinking well maybe I do struggle with that or maybe that is an issue for me. How can they come forward in a way that has the best chance of panning out well for them. 

Paula Hall:  I think for partners, I believe in connecting with others in all kinds of work. I think recovering on your own is incredibly difficult. Whether you'll be on the addicted partner or the partner. So certainly for partners I'd encourage them to find other partners but do find other partners who, trying think how to say this respectfully, who want to move on from this. Occasionally, I have stumbled across some partner forums or partners who've been on certain partner forums where everything's about staying in the same places, it's a year on, two years on, three years on, five years on, and they still feel completely trapped and burdened by this situation. And I think that is so disheartening and discouraging for other partners. You're not trapped. There may be some very very difficult decisions to make and they're decisions that have been forced on you. But you're not trapped, you do have choices about where you move forward so find support from other people who are trying to find ways of moving forward. Whether, that's together or apart. 

Neil Sattin: Great, great. And I think where I was heading was also, you know, we've been talking a little bit about if you suspect something's going on for your partner what can you do and how do you handle the betrayal and all that. If you are potentially the addicted partner, what are some ways to step forward that help you handle the betrayal trauma that your partner is experiencing, or own what's happening for you? That sort of thing. 

Paula Hall: Well, you hit the nail on the head there, Neil. Own what's happening. Own the fact that you did cause this and I think that's really, really difficult. I think we've just run one of a couple of weeks ago, a couples' intensive, as the first time we've run the couples program since the book came out for couples and it was so powerful, it was incredibly powerful. And I think the absolute number one tool for helping couples move forward is for the addicted partner to express empathy. As soon as the addicted partner gets into defensiveness, gets into: "Yeah but... " It just all falls apart. Relentless empathy.  I think for the partner, if you try and think about it like this, if your partner doesn't believe that you know how it feels and what you've done. How on earth can they trust you won't do it again? And you have got whether it's something was an accident, whether it's deliberate, whatever it was you have got to demonstrate relentless empathy and drop the defensiveness, of course you can't live in a place of constant accusations, two years, three years, five years on. But if you're in the first 12 months post full disclosure and this is assuming that has been the disclosure that's required, and you are fully in recovery. You have got to just keep taking it on the chin and relentless empathy. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I like how we're bridging and it's starting to get towards recovery and repair. When you talk about the disclosure just so that everyone understands what you're talking about, what are you talking about?

Paula Hall: So, we talk about therapeutic disclosure. We recommend therapeutic disclosure. Unfortunately, there are few partners who know absolutely everything. That's not necessarily because they haven't been told, it may be that actually much of what was told was late at night. It was in the height of emotion, a lot of it may have been forgotten. What I've experienced so often as a couple counselor is that if you don't do a therapeutic disclosure then some additional bit of information that either gets discovered, disclosed or remembered, sabotages the healing process. So a therapeutic disclosure is about getting the facts out on the table. And it's important to distinguish between a therapeutic disclosure and a forensic disclosure. This is not every single nitty gritty of sexual position and cup size and place and whatever, that's forensic and completely unhelpful. But a broad brush understanding of the chronology, the dates, the times, the where's, the when's, the what kind of things, the behaviors, are really important.  And really, and in that's between the therapist and the partner to kind of negotiate what's going to be genuinely helpful. Then when you have got that information when you both know what it is you're dealing with, in the couples book I use the metaphor of more of a tidal wave crashing over your relationship. And it's kind of really understanding what that tidal wave is saying, so you know what the damage is so you know what you're repairing from. And I think until that happens you keep getting the aftershocks. So a therapeutic disclosure is a way of putting the past in the past. Assuming of course, no relapses but putting the past in the past so you really can move on from it. 

Neil Sattin: Right, and I like the support that you suggest for having that kind of disclosure where you know they're supported by a couples' therapist, and also each by their own therapists, so that there are a lot of people holding the container around the information coming out. 

Paula Hall: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know for some people that there are extra bits of information or things that are remembered or I mean an example it was... In some respects, looking back on it it's almost quite comical. But my goodness it wasn't at the time. I had a couple where the partner knew the addicted partner often acted out. And he said he often acted out, and I just happened to ask the question, "How often is often?" And her interpretation of "often" was... Let's see I can't remember exactly now, but say once a month. Whereas his definition of "often" was twice a week. They both thought the other one knew what "often" meant, this what really was a genuine miscommunication but it caused such devastation and going almost back to square one for that poor partner, again. So again, this is how a therapeutic disclosure really helps people be sure that they have got the story as it were, the narrative, and doing it in a safe way or safe a way as possible. Unfortunately we can't guarantee it's pain free. But having some way to move forward from that as well, a process of moving forward. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah and let's let's veer our conversation towards recovery. And what you see as required. I know that you came up with your choices... Is it choice, or choices? 

Paula Hall: Choice. 

Neil Sattin: Choice model. And that was a little bit of a departure from there's a model created by Patrick Carnes here in the States, and you did some training with him and then decided there was something more that needed to be there. So how is your model different? And then let's let's dive in, because I want to make sure that everyone listening to this conversation feels like there actually is a pathway forward. 

Paula Hall: Absolutely. Absolutely there is. And I think that the whole the whole field of sex and politician recovery has grown so much and indeed chemical addiction recovery and the training initially I was doing with Patrick Carnes was oh gosh I think the first course was over 10 years ago that I did and some of his early writings of course a pre internet. Some of those stats still get quoted from a book that was written before the Internet and then clearly the profile of sex and politics has changed considerably. So yeah, I know their training is evolved and their models would have evolved, as well since I did the training. But I think what really changed for me, is understanding how getting into recovery from addiction is about so much more than stopping. There's one of the kinds of sayings of recovery is that recovery is about what you take up not about what you give up. And I think the initial models that I were trained in were all about focusing on stopping your behaviors. And if you stop your behaviors you'll get better, your depression will lift, your anxiety will lift, your relationship...you will live happily ever after. And actually I think it's a lot more complicated than that. I think life is a lot more complicated than that. So for me most addictive behaviors or a lot of them are symptoms of other issues that are going on in life. So you absolutely need to be sure you've identified those, recognize those, and are dealing with those. But even from a simply, from a biological perspective, if you just try and stop your porn use, and you don't replace it with healthy alternative activities that give your life a sense of meaning and purpose, then you just end up with a void. You end up with an emptiness and nothingness. And I work with so many young guys now where the huge chunks of their time is spent on porn, they've never had a partnered relationship and they really need to find a new way of living their life, living unaddicted love. So the "choice model" really is the C, the first is an acrostic, the first C, is all about challenging any unhelpful beliefs, so those beliefs: "I can't change. It's just who I am. I've just got a high sex drive. I'm just a weirdo." The H is about having a vision. And again I think this is something that has really changed for me, understanding how much easier it is to drive people towards something than away from something. Let's focus on what you will gain not what you will lose. The "have a vision." The O is about overcoming the behaviors, now I used to think that was the whole treatment program and now I recognize that's just one part of it. The I is about identifying positive sexuality, as I was saying, right at the beginning of this podcast for me, it really is about reclaiming sexuality from the addiction. The second C is about connecting with other people. And one of the real joys of group work and whether that's within a therapeutic group, a peer support group, a 12 step group, whatever it is, I think is building those relationships with other people breaking through the shame and secrecy and I think you as humans we were created to connect. I think that's so important. And the final E is about establishing confident recovery, that really is building your life well with meaningful other relationships and hobbies and pastimes and career and personal growth and all that other stuff. So I think in my kind of recovery model has become increasingly integrative and has been about changing your life, rather than just changing your addiction. 

Neil Sattin: Great. Yeah. 

Paula Hall: That was a lecture wasn't it? 

Neil Sattin: No. It was perfect. You went right through the entire choice model and of course each of those, you know, we could talk for you know five or ten minutes on and we don't have time to do that. Sadly. I will say that each of your books, they're fairly concise and direct and that's really helpful I think you can dive into understanding and treating sex and pornography addiction and come away with some very practical strategies as well as a comprehensive understanding of what you're dealing with. 

Paula Hall: Yeah, very much written as a self-help book as well as a research book. So yeah. 

Neil Sattin: Great. Could we talk for a moment about the cycle of addiction that you've identified and particularly, how that can be a way for people to kind of understand themselves and where they are in that cycle and end and how to make different choices depending on where they are in the cycle? 

Paula Hall: Yeah, so. Six stages on the cycle of addiction. So dormant phase is where you're not acting out. And some people will might go weeks, months, without acting out. Critically dormant is not the same as recovered. Yeah. A period of abstinence is not the same as recovery. And often what's hiding in that dormant phase are all sorts of unresolved issues that you've not dealt with. You're still lonely you're still isolated you still hate your job you still feel you're trapped in the wrong marriage or feel bad about your sexuality whatever it is. Then, there are triggers whatever those triggers might be, that kind of push you out of that dormant phase and often they're either environmental, and I think we often underestimate just the impact of having the opportunity to act out when it's on the plate and we now really understand some of the neuroscience about why that is so hard to resist, it's not purely psychological. But of course there might be emotional triggers as well so you having  an argument, feeling particularly isolated, rejected, whatever it might be. Then there's often a period of a series of triggers and you thinking should I shouldn't I and all those cognitive distortions. "Yes. But, everybody looks at porn. But does it really matter? It'll only be for five minutes." All the lies we tell ourselves for why it will be okay for us to do it, and we all do this. I have fun when I'm doing public speaking, I'll often ask for a show of hands of anybody who's never broken the speed limit in their car. And of course there's always one person and I say do you drive a car and they all say no, and put their hand. I've never yet met anybody who drives the car who's not broken the speed limit and we all believe that speed limits are right and good. But we make excuses for why on some occasions it's okay. I was late. The driving conditions were perfect. I wasn't going fast as that person. I'm a very good driver. We all have our reasons why we break our own rules, so it's no different for addicts. Then of course there's the actual acting out behavior whatever that might be. Really it doesn't matter whether your thing is a porn or cam sex or sex workers or cruising or whatever it is. It's the way that behavior makes you feel that you are addicted to, not actually what it is.  Period of regret. I think the sort of big difference between my cycle of addiction and Patrick Carnes' cycle that he refers to, is he talks about despair and for an awful lot of people I've worked with, there isn't despair and shame. If you're single and you've been looking at porn yet again, for another night for five hours, and you're not going to get to sleep 'til 1:00 in the morning, you regret it because you're going to be tired and you feel a bit of an idiot. But despair? No. Often despair isn't experienced until much, much later in the evolution of the addiction. But then often there's a period of time in the reconstitution phase of trying to put everything back together again: "Right. That's it. I'm gonna put those blockers back on. I'm going to make more of an effort. You know, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that, I'm going make sure I don't do that." But, what you're doing then is just going back into dormant because you still haven't managed and dealt with those issues that get triggered and set you off going around again. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One thing that I thought was really interesting you talk about that the preparation phase, like getting ready, that that often is actually what is bringing relief to people. 

Paula Hall: Yeah. It's not a perfect model, no models are. It's it's really tricky to identify when something is acting out, because I think often in the seeking and searching phase particularly for example people who visit sex workers, they may spend days and days and days looking at the website, reading the reviews, chatting for a few different people. Really, that is all the acting out. I'm not sure that is the preparation phase that I think the preparation phase and the acting out phase kind of blur. Because often by the time they get to acting out, that's just trying to get the damn thing I've done. It's the window shopping as it were, that really has been the addiction, rather than buying, the being at the till and paying for the item. 

Neil Sattin: That's so interesting right because the dopamine is fueled by the seeking, right?

Paula Hall: Exactly. Exactly. 

Neil Sattin:  Yeah. That's where that addictive biologic cycle happens. 

Paula Hall: Yeah. I think that's where people sometimes, and I think that with assessment, that's why the questions are so important. If you just say to somebody how often do you act out? They might say, "Oh I visit a sex work once a month." And it's never escalated it seems, it's been once a month for the last two years. If you ask how much time do you spend online seeking sex workers, looking at sex worker reviews, sending text to sex workers, exchanging messages and pictures with sex workers. You might get quite a different answer and that might be the piece that is escalating significantly. 

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. I just want to highlight that you mentioned that along with obviously treating people who have or are struggling with sex addiction and also treating couples and working with partners, that you also train therapists to work with people who are struggling with sex addiction and are impacted by it. So how does that work. Do people come to the UK to train with you or is it online?

Paula Hall: Yeah. No. We haven't done anything online yet. Yet. Everything's evolving isn't it. So, we do obviously just kind of you know single day training events and I've done quite a lot in house stuff, as well. So I've been to a few rehabs and done kind of dedicated four-day training programs to really upskill addiction stuff, particularly in sex and sexuality, and working with sex addiction. So I've done that in quite a few places. And we can kind of tailor make those programs, but we also have an accredited diploma. So it's an independently accredited diploma, so one of the professional awarding bodies in the UK has apprenticeships accredited it. And that's a level five diploma and that's three modules of four days. And really what we're teaching therapists is an integrative model. So this is what's also very different from Patrick Carnes model, if you do the Patrick Carnes model, then you're being trained to deliver the 30 task approach. Whereas what we're doing is training you in sex and porn addiction and some of the models we use, but how you then interpret that, there's no set program it's not a manualized system that you're being taught, it's much more about people. For people who kind of work more relationally with clients whether that's in developing programs or one to one to kind of tailor it to the places where they work and their own personal modalities as well. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Well, we only have about a minute left and so if you are interested in Paula Hall and her work I encourage you to visit the Laurel Center website, Paula's website to get one of her many great books on the topic. So whether you're a therapist or someone who's impacted, I heartily recommend her work. We will have those links in the show notes for today's episode which you can pick up if you go to Neil-sattin-dot-com slash addiction or text the word "Passion," to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. Paula, I'm wondering if you have a minute for one last question. 

Paula Hall: OK. 

Neil Sattin: And that is, we've talked a little bit about not just stopping things and putting new healthy behaviors in. And there are some great suggestions around that in your book I'm wondering if you can just talk for a minute. Obviously, this is way too short but about the healing aspect of how someone goes about healing the underlying issues that lead to being an addict and acting out?

Paula Hall: Yeah. So I think that the model that I used, and I talk about in the book, is now often referred to as "OAT model" there has to be opportunity. And of course this has been the big game change over the years, isn't it, is the fact that we can now access pornography and sex through our mobile phone. Absolute anonymity. It's been the absolute game changer. So there has to be the opportunity for some people there's greater opportunity because of their work because of whatever their personal and private situation is, their financial means whatever they have more opportunity than others. And that in itself of course is a temptation because we all are drawn to sex and sexual novelties, it's part of how we've been wired up. But for some people they're more susceptible to that opportunity, those opportunities, than others are and some are more susceptible because they've experienced issues in their childhood and those issues may be around kind of neglectful or absent parenting. So, they may have been brought up with a sense that nobody will really care for their needs. They can't really trust other people. And what tends to happen in those situations is that you turn to, for comfort, you tend to turn to things rather than people. So, if you've got a history where people have let you down, you may decide to look after yourself in terms of things rather than others. And of course porn and sex are effective comforters but then there's trauma as well. So for some people it's the attachment wounds in childhood, for some people it's trauma. So if you've experienced a significant trauma and that might be in childhood it might be as an adult -- we work with a number of people from the armed forces, emergency services, who had significant traumas kind of later in life and we know that trauma actually impacts the brain directly. So this isn't just a psychological issues then, it's become a biological issue. So we know that the way that trauma impacts the brain makes it harder. You need more comfort because you end up hypersensitive to a lot of cues and triggers. But also it's harder to actually access the self soothing chemicals within the brain because of the trauma, so you're more likely to look to external things to soothe that. But I think there's one other thing I would say Neil, that's why I'm so grateful to people like me for doing these kind of podcasts. And one of the great causes for sex and porn addiction, is naivete, is ignorance, is knowing, is the lack of education. And unfortunately so often we get caught up in the moral debates about pornography and sexuality, and of course those debates exist and I'm not trying to say they're not important ones. But I think often we lose the health issues. And I believe very passionately that we need to start educating people particularly our young people about the potential risks of sex addiction and pornography addiction so they could recognize it in themselves. So many people develop these addictions simply because they didn't know they could become addicted. 

Neil Sattin: Well we are undoing the naivete right here. And I so appreciate your time and wisdom today and hopefully we can have you back on it. I know we could easily talk for another hour. And I just want to point out to our listeners that we have had Peter Levine on the show to talk about healing from trauma. We've had David Burns on the show to talk about cognitive distortions. We've had Diana Fosha to talk about AEDP, which is an attachment centered therapy so healing early attachment wounds. So all of this is meant to offer you a big integrated package of healing and hope for you. And Paula thank you so much for being part of that picture with us today. 

Paula Hall: You're very welcome. 

Oct 19, 2019

Are you being true to who you are? What are the ways that you're holding back in your relationship, or compromising yourself? Even if you're single, there might be ways that you're not quite being fully yourself! Not only do you not get to experience life as fully as you could be - the people around you don't get to actually experience3 you in all your glory! Of course, sometimes being "you" is risky - and requires courage and vulnerability. In this week's episode, I'm going to help you diagnose the places where you could be shining a little more brightly - and help you learn how to step back into integrity before your light gets too dim - or the resentment gets too overwhelming!

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:

Beautiful jewelry, exquisite craftsmanship, sustainable sources, and affordable prices. Get $75 OFF your purchase at hellonoemie.com when you use the coupon code "ALIVE". With free overnight shipping and free returns, you can see something online today, and try it on tomorrow risk free.

Find a quality therapist, online, to support you and work on the places where you’re stuck. For 10% off your first month, visit Betterhelp.com/ALIVE to fill out the quick questionnaire and get paired with a therapist who’s right for you.

This episode is also sponsored by Native Deodorant. Their products are filled with ingredients you can find in nature like coconut oil, which is an antimicrobial, shea butter to moisturize, and tapioca starch to absorb wetness. They don’t ever test on animals, they don’t use aluminum or any other scary chemical ingredients, and they’re so confident that you’ll like their deodorant that they offer free shipping - and returns. For 20% off your first purchase, visit http://www.nativedeodorant.com/alive and use promo code ALIVE during checkout.

Resources:

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Oct 9, 2019

Conflict in relationship is often viewed as a bad thing. It’s uncomfortable. It’s tense. It makes us feel bad, and often makes our partners feel bad too. But what if you’re missing out on an opportunity? Like two tectonic plates rubbing against each other, two people butting heads in relationship might be just the moment where something new forms within that relationship. And within you. That’s the view of this week’s guest, Viola Neufeld. She’s a coach, educator, therapist and facilitator, and she works to help those stuck in conflict to work through their difficult conversations to a place of profound inner transformation. Viola is also the author of “Grateful For The Fight: Using inner conflict to transform yourself and your relationships.” Her motto? “Don’t waste your conflict.” And today you’ll get a taste of how you can turn your conflicts into building and rebuilding moments within relationship. 

Sponsors:

Beautiful jewelry, exquisite craftsmanship, sustainable sources, and affordable prices. Get $75 OFF your purchase at hellonoemie.com when you use the coupon code "ALIVE". With free overnight shipping and free returns, you can see something online today, and try it on tomorrow risk free.

Find a quality therapist, online, to support you and work on the places where you’re stuck. For 10% off your first month, visit Betterhelp.com/ALIVE to fill out the quick questionnaire and get paired with a therapist who’s right for you.

Our final sponsor today is Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet and now, with Audible Originals, the selection has gotten even better with custom content made for members. As a special offer, Audible wants to give you a free 30-day trial - which includes 1 free audiobook and 2 free Audible originals. Go to Audible.com/relationship or text RELATIONSHIP to 500500 to get started.

Resources:

Visit Vi Neufeld’s website to get her “enhancing relationship vitality” inventory.

Read Vi’s book, Grateful for the Fight.

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/conflict to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jeff Brown.

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

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We've talked a lot on the show about how to communicate. And we've dipped our toes into the water of how to have conflict in a productive way with your partner. But deep down I don't know about you, but I've always harbored this sense that conflict is best avoided or dealt with as quickly as possible. And yet despite that deep down held belief something in me knew that it wasn't quite right. It wasn't quite serving me. And I've had various attempts to put my finger on the reason why. And then good fortune brought today's guest my way. Her name is Viola Neufeld and she is the author of "Grateful for the Fight: Using Inner Conflict to Transform Yourself and Your Relationships." Her book is truly eye opening, in terms of helping you see how the conflicts that you have in your outer world, the conflicts with your partner, with your family, with your co-workers, or your boss, how all of those conflicts help point to the ways that you can grow within you, and transform your relationships. So it's a very powerful generative way of looking at conflict that almost makes you welcome the chance to have conflict with someone else because you're gonna be holding it in a completely different way. If you are interested in downloading a transcript for today's episode you can visit NeilSattin.com/conflict, because that's what we're gonna be talking about today. Or as always you can text the word "passion" to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions Vi Neufeld. Thank you so much for being here with me today on Relationship Alive. 

Viola Neufeld: I'm so happy to be here and I really love the name of our podcast Relationship Alive, because that's what this whole thing is about. It's about, what do you need to do to keep relationships alive over a very lengthy period of time and I know, you know, you were talking about how our natural tendency is to want to avoid conflict and you know that's just makes all the sense in the world because think about each time you enter conflict. It's like you're on this teeter totter and you don't know which way it's going to go. Is it just going to keep getting worse? Or is there a chance that this time you're going to turn around and do it differently and do it better? But we most of us have such a track record already with things going badly, that we're frightened of starting it again, because we know what the chances are we're realistic about the opponent that we have and our opponent gives us a real run for our money because they're able to find those places within where we question yourself. You know I mean it's funny. We often say to our partner you know, "you're pushing my buttons," as though they shouldn't. But interestingly enough it's when they push our buttons that they take us right to that part of ourselves where we find that really restless part. And of course it makes us feel terrible. We don't want to stay there, because we're uncomfortable there already. And yet if we continue to avoid it then it just remains there in a chronic state for many, many years. And we keep having fights over and over. Just on a little bit of a different stage. But the underlying fight is actually very much the same. 

Neil Sattin: Right. You talk about it basically being this cycle where each of you is poking at the others sore spots and that there's some way that we magically arrive at this dynamic in, in partnership around those perpetual fights where what they point to it hits us in our in our weakest most vulnerable places and then we in the way that we respond to them you call that "your M.O.," it does the exact same thing for them. And so it creates this vicious cycle that just gets worse and worse or never gets any better. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah, I don't know I was thinking about this yesterday I was thinking about the whole concept of chemistry and you know how we always talk about we, what is love and we have to have this, uh, thing that happens between us. They activate something inside us. And make us come alive. But then what I was really thinking about is like what is the chemistry. The very thing that draws you together. That gravitational pull often has something that also creates conflict between us.  I mean we love somebody because they activate that part of us that somebody else doesn't. And it gets us really, really excited but it also makes us just wild because we don't know what to do and we end up trying to sort through, while we're in the middle of it, this is where it gets really confusing what's your stuff and what's my stuff. But, Neil let me go back to that cycle that you were referring to because how I even came up with that and how I even started looking at things in relation to the book and writing things up was, at one point I had like about twenty 23....nah, it was even more than that. At least 30 different files that I had across my dining room table and I thought what are the similarities here? When do people get into such entanglements with each other that they just can't get out and are there some similarities? What are those similarities where people get stuck and stay stuck for years.  And then that's when I started when I came up with that cycle, and you realized that somebody in terms of what they say or what they do, maybe, they're critical maybe they're passive maybe they're withdrawn, but whatever it is they do, make you go back to the place where you question yourself. "Maybe I'm not enough. Or maybe I'm too controlling. Or maybe I'm too impatient or..." Whatever it is that either they're withdrawing or their attack makes you question yourself and and doubt yourself at very significant levels in terms of who you are as a person. Then when you come out, so you come back out fighting, and whatever it is you do makes the other person now question themselves. And face the part of themselves that they don't want. That unwanted self. And it's looking at how we feed that cycle and keep that cycle going, that I was really intrigued by and wondering how do people get out of that cycle. Because I think that so many of us live with more pain in life than we need to. Like if we could figure this out sooner and face the part of ourselves that causes such discomfort and we'll know, we'll recognize that part because it's always the part that makes us come out fighting. We have to defend ourselves. We have to protect ourselves because we think the other person said something that makes us look like an idiot or that we're unreliable or that we're not a contributor. All the things we don't want to be and that's when we come out fighting. And yet the interesting thing is that really the strange way out of that, is to face the very thing that you don't want to be like for me for a long time. One of the things I had to face was, 'I'm not enough,' and I keep thinking "No, I am enough." Well this is where the power of positive thinking doesn't always work because it can't wipe out truth. And so it's like you almost have to do a back and forth and go, "Where I'm not... Where am I enough and where am I not enough?" Because there are places where I'm not enough and what am I going to do about that. So then the hope lies in kind of finding a bit of a manageable change program. And if I can do more today than I did yesterday or feel better today about myself than I did yesterday, because of what I'm doing differently then that's already growth. I mean it's one of the things I absolutely love about conflict. I never liked to be in the midst of conflict. There's nothing easy about it. But if you can surrender to it and learn what you can then we learn so much more about ourselves. I think that we are all less self-aware than we really think we are. This is a wonderful way of getting to know who you are and who the other person is. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There's there's so much here that I want to unpack. And I love how rich your book is with like really taking apart each of the dynamics that, that are at work there in conflict and as, um, as I was wrestling with this question of, "OK what is the truth about those sore spots in me?" You know when I look at... You know something I mentioned frequently on the podcast is how I'm maybe not the cleanest person. So what is the truth around when when someone approaches me, or when Chloe my partner approaches me and says like, you know, "This place is a disaster like you have to do something." And for me like the natural tendency being you know all these things that I saw spelled out in your book like I would get defensive or I'd have I just have excuses maybe I wasn't getting defensive, but I'd be like you know I was really busy recording that episode of the podcast and I didn't get that chance to do the dishes like I said I was going to. And then there's that uncomfortable place of recognizing, "OK there is some truth here. And one of the questions that comes up for me is how you arrive at the balance of when it when it's actually healthy for you to look at, let's say a criticism from your partner and to not like focus on the fact that they criticized you and they could have said it better, but just to say like alright, I'm going to take a step back and see what's true here. What's the balance between doing that, in a way that's healthy, and then it becoming its own negative cycle and your relationship where you just get victimized by a partner who isn't doing their part to shift?

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. That's a really good question because you know I think it's almost like the sequence that's the most important. The natural tendency is to go back and start fighting immediately or protecting and defending self. Except that if you continue to do that it gets you nowhere.  Okay. So the first step is always going in and looking at what did they say about me? So that's true. Maybe I, you know I am messy or I am a control freak, or I'm a clean freak, or whatever it is. Whatever they have said about you, the first step, I mean this is a very courageous step right because you have to go inside and you go. How much of that is true. And once you start to look at that then you're no longer fighting or like pushing it away because you've actually brought it close. And I don't ever want to minimize the difficulty of this because the same way as a child balances down on heat and pulls their hand away we do the same thing with emotional responses. When something is uncomfortable we want to balance away but this is what is required is to actually stay there longer and go, "Is this true about me? Yeah you know what sometimes I am this way," or "Sometimes I'm not this way." So you're going back, you have to do a bit of an assessment, all along recognizing that you don't see everything about yourself, the other person is actually telling you something about how you are impacting them. And we're not always aware of our full impact on the other. But then after you've gone in I think that it's important to go up and you from a bird's eye view, you look down, and you go wait a minute what do I know about the way that the two of us interact? What do I know about when my partner is feeling uncomfortable, what do they do? And if they get to a place where they're blaming and I'm now feeling like a victim and this is I recognize this. This is, I easily fall into a victim. My partner usually blames that I go, Wait a minute what I've already looked at what's going on inside of me and what I need to do differently but now I'm also from the bird's eye view from way up top I'm looking down and going: I see this pattern between us and I know that my partner is doing that out of their own discomfort then because you're not being just reactive you are much more equipped to stand up and say, you know what you're going into a blamer, and you're doing the very same thing again, you're wanting to make it look like it's my fault and you're so, so it's a matter then of holding onto yourself and you are not as reactive. So you have a clearer mind and you can see what the pattern is between the two of you and begin to shift your pattern. 

Neil Sattin: Right. I loved in one of the chapters where you were talking about ways to shift the interactions like once you've done the inner work and I want to spend of course a little bit more time on that process of of the inner diagnosis. But you were talking about like once you've done that work and then you face into a conflict with your partner or anyone, really, you might ask a question like, Are you... it seems like you're trying to blame me right now are you, is that true? Are you trying to blame me right now for what's going on? And how asking the question invites them to take a deeper look at what they're doing and they may say they may say, Yes. You know they may be like, "That's exactly what I'm doing because this is your fault." Or they may say, "Well I'm not trying to blame you. I'm trying to just show you the impact of..." And you get further than you would get if you were just like, you know, stop blaming me and you're always blaming me. And then you're off to the races with your typical relationship pattern or conflict pattern. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah, see, I love that because once you have looked at yourself and you've really seen it, when you go out now, because I think there's three steps you go in, you go up, and then you go out. When you go out you grow up very differently. So, my husband and I, we had this cycle that went on for many, many years and and it would be that I would end up feeling like I was, you know, how did I have to raise another issue? I'm a malcontent. I'm a flake for what I'm saying. And then what I noticed and I would go into a blamer, because I didn't want to be that person but once I got to see that it when I experienced his criticism I, would go to that very same place. It kind of just made me chuckle because I go, "Wait a minute. I'm here at the same place. And yes I realize that sometimes I caused trouble but I also don't want to be the person who sees trouble and doesn't do anything about it." And so then I was equipped to just stand there and go, "No no. We do have an issue with this. But I gotta find a way of doing this and be lovable at the same time." So going inside what it helps you do is, it equips you and you feel more confident to stand on your own. To speak from your truth. And the fight changes because it's not like you're just defending yourself. You're actually talking about what goes on between the two of you and what you'd have to do to change that pattern so that it becomes a healthier pattern. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah let's go up even further for a minute and talk about differentiation, and the reason why conflict is so crucial for true intimacy. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. Differentiation. I mean it sounds like a big concept but, but it's so it's what you have to do in conflict all the time, is that... And conflict takes you to a place where you have to be willing to stand on your own and for a little bit. I mean it's almost like you disconnect with that other person, because you're so connected with who you are, what's important to you, and then you also have to hold the other at the same time. So it's being detached and involved. Standing alone and standing together. Lot of people get that part confusing because they think that you know they'll say, many couples will come in and one person will say, "No, I have to leave this marriage because I can't be myself." Well, if you have to leave a marriage to be yourself. That's not differentiation. It's individuation. That's about you being able to hold on to yourself. Differentiation is much more difficult because how do you end up holding on to yourself, and being a full self when you're connected to the other who is different than you, who thinks differently who wants different things. And that can be a big challenge. But ultimately I think it's only when we bring our full selves to the marriage, and freely being who we are even when the other person doesn't get who we are, that's the best chance that we've got of having real intimacy and vitality. I think way too many people give up intimacy because intimacy is hard. Intimacy means that you have to be able to state what do you want. What's important to you. What you value even when you think that the other person doesn't get it. So one of the ways that I've described it over the years is that I think one of the hazards of a long term relationship is a, is a shrinking pie. And initially you came together and the two of you were you flowed freely and you were all you brought all of which you were what you are. And so when you bring the full pie it just feels really intoxicating because you're free to be yourself the other person is free to be yourself. You don't have the baggage. But then what happens over the years is that let's say, there's something that's really important to you. Maybe it's something that you value. Maybe it's it's what you want sexually or who you are spiritually or you know what you're looking for,  you need emotionally. And let's say the other person isn't there doesn't meet your needs and so, or even they think you're less than for some reason because you're too emotional or not emotional enough or whatever. And so slowly we start pulling back pieces of the pie and we no longer bring them to the relationship. And if we don't do that sure we've got less conflict. But you know what: we have a whole lot less vitality, a whole lot less intimacy. So the challenge is even when you don't we don't think the same. I got to tell you this is who I am. And remember that other person fell in love with you in the first place because you so freely flowed with of everything that you were. But just now you've got some challenges. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah so the idea is that through this process you get to know yourself more. You get to grow yourself more. And then you get to bring that back to the conflict in a way that really it's like having the same conflict, but from a completely different place. So it's it's not gonna be the same conflict at least on some level. 

Viola Neufeld: Neil, and that's true because you went once you've done all this inside work you go, and as soon as you get back out there with the same person you go, "Wow this is the same stuff." But then you notice then it actually feels so differently when you're in it because you're not being triggered. So the same conflict. But now you're responding differently within it which means that nothing can be exactly the same. You know how they tell you you can never change the other person and there's a part of that that's true but it really isn't the whole truth. You know because how do we change the other person we change the other person by changing ourselves. If I change my pattern my husband could no longer do the same thing and that's the way it is in all relationships. And therein lies a huge amount of hope. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. In fact I just released a communication course that is all focused on the things that one person can do, like, basically all the places where we alone have influence when we're communicating with another person, since that's really the only thing we can change in effect. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. And also because like I think of, I don't know if you can visualize steps, you know, like, let's say you you enter at one level, but there was an action that came before. There's always an action that comes after. So think about how you change things. Because if you respond differently then the other responds differently to you as well and you get out of the vicious cycle and into a more virtuous cycle. And the power lies in one. 

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. I am I'm getting this image in my mind of you know someone kind of going to battle and over and over again, with the same opponent, the same foe and they have, I mean let's just use Achilles right. So that we'll take a myth. So this dude has a weakness in his heel, it's the only place that he can be killed, because that was where you know he was held when he was dipped into the pool of immortality or whatever it was. And it's like, imagine him going into battle again and again and he's like fighting and all doing well. And then what do you know, like the person like, pinches his heel and he's like down on the ground again. And thankfully the person isn't actually trying to kill him. But no matter what, there he is helpless down on the ground and it's like if all he focuses on is like, "How do I keep people away from my heel?" Then the heel is always going to be there as a weakness. And everyone's going to keep going for it. Whereas if he gets to know that spot intimately well and you know, I'm talking about Achilles, but it could easily be "Achillia” - you know some women as well. You know like, then once they realize like oh this is my weakness and they really get to know it intimately. And then when, the other person goes for it, they actually have a way of responding that they never had before. That's part of what changes the whole dynamic. So, I'm wondering if you can talk for a moment about that process of going in and and I love the way in your book you have these great questions that help you kind of peel away your self delusions and denial in a way that's not destructive. You know that's constructive. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that process of you know, asking yourself maybe you've asked yourself what's true about this which is what you offered earlier. And then what's the next step? Like where do you go when you when you realize like well you know what, it's true that I don't prioritize the dishes and that is just true about me or whatever it is. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. You know to even to go one step further back, because it's understanding. You know, I often think of that part of us that we don't like the unwanted self. I often think of that more and I relate to it as I would to a little child or to me as a little child because we all make sense. And that part of us that still needs healing was wounded somewhere along the line. And what I actually love about conflict is that conflict gives us a method to heal those parts that are the most sensitive. So so when we come to the self to the unwanted self in that way, and we warmly try to understand where the hurts lie, where the woundedness first started to show up, then it's a way of kind of... I don't know... embracing it really it really is... I don't know taking it on your lap and now you're not, you're not harsh with it which means you're also not unrealistic in what you're expecting of it.  So I understand that, "OK. Why is cleanliness not important to me? Or why is uber cleanliness important to me?" For instance. And I come to understand things that have happened in my life that have made me come to that conclusion. And the thing is that many times what worked earlier in life doesn't necessarily work anymore. So taking that cleanliness thing you know, before it was not a problem there are many other things that were more important. However if it becomes a problem, with your spouse, then yeah. Then it's something that you start looking at and you go, "Well, maybe now I would actually feel better if I had things a little more cleaned up or if I contributed more by getting the dishes done or any of those things. So. So, it's a matter of really first warming up to the unwanted self because you understand what role it played or how it came to be. And in facing that there is some healing and there is some freeing going forward. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I'm wondering when you look at yourself in that way like, what I'm hearing are these questions that help you get the underlying motivation. So if what you're looking at is a specific behavior that you do or don't do, what the motivations are beneath that to help you get more clarity on what, what's really driving the way that you act. Am I getting you?

Viola Neufeld: Yes for sure. Because we always have... And making that connection is sometimes difficult. Because we have these behaviors that we do. But then you have to kind of go underneath and go, "Why is that important?" Now, the why question is always a bit dangerous right because it can take you into rationalization which is not where we're going. It's more of a question of what? What is it that's actually driving that. So... 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I'm thinking about your chapter on I think you call it "self tripping." Maybe you can describe what that is before I say what I'm gonna say. So what's self tripping? 

Viola Neufeld: "Self tripping" is when you keep doing something that you know isn't getting you where you want to go and yet you can't leave. You can't let it go. So, in the book it was Nadia and her negativity. And so she recognizes that even though she doesn't like her negativity, that it also plays an important role in her life. It's where she feels like she makes a valuable contribution. It's part of her sense of identity. She thinks that people who just are always happy are people who just skate through life and don't have enough grit to face reality as it is. And it's so become woven into her sense of who she is that if she if she didn't be negative some of the time or you know bring out the umbrella that she wouldn't even know who she was anymore. 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

Viola Neufeld: Cuz of the roles. It was a role that she played growing up in her family and it's how others have come to know her. 

Neil Sattin: Right. So if it's okay, I'm just gonna go through these questions that you ask. 

Viola Neufeld: Sure. Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: So just to give you listening a flavor for this kind of inquiry. So, you identified the behavior then you might ask yourself why do you dislike this behavior? Because after all we're talking about the unwanted self, like this is a part of us that we don't necessarily feel good about. But we've come to accept it as just maybe just the way we are. Or just the way we're going to be. We haven't figured out a way out of it. What do you like about this behavior? And why are you attached to it? If you tried to change it what would you lose? Or how would the change destabilise you internally or destabilise your relationship externally? And how is it working for you to repeat this pattern over and over again? Is there anything else that holds it in place. So, you're really able to to look at it like almost a scientist would or at least an observer from another planet, who's really trying to get more familiar with what's, what's going on here? And do you find that that process of creating that insight in itself is what generates change? Or are there other things that you think are required for people?

Viola Neufeld: Well for sure what it does, like, it's the second step right? It's of going up and looking at it. So what it does is, you see the patterns, it loosens it inside and then I think going out is actually that you have to end up implementing that and realize how different it feels, and actually be surprised by how good it feels. And it doesn't mean, and like Nadia for instance might never give up all her negativity but she might be thinking differently about how often she's going to use it or whether it's going to be a comfortable blanket. She's going to recognize when she's using it illegitimately and she'll open up options. That's the whole beautiful thing about looking at, or engaging conflict differently is that you recognize that you have a whole lot more options than you believed you had earlier. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. It really frees you up in that way. And I'm just thinking about how once you're in that place with a new like trying something new on, you talk about not necessarily going for the big shift. "Well, I'm just gonna be positive all the time." Like, that's not gonna be Nadia's approach, right?

Viola Neufeld: No, no, no. I mean that has to be, it has to be, little, little steps. And I think you always measured today compared to yesterday. Are you happier with who you are today than yesterday? Oftentimes when I work with couples and I usually take the last 10 minutes to work on what kind of homework do they want to do and it's about together we figure out the homework, or they figure out the homework on their own, but oftentimes after a session people will be pretty motivated and they'll go, "Oh, I'm going to do this, this, this, and this." And I'm like: "How about we think about one thing you're going to do? So that you can be convinced, so that you know that you are going to actually succeed rather than setting yourself up for failure?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I'm thinking now of that way of reflecting on changes in conflict with another person that you mentioned, where you might even say it's like in Nadia's case like, "Wow,, when's the last I was just positive, like when's the last time I was positive in the middle of a conflict that we were having?" As a way of helping your partner see that you are trying to make shifts in the dynamic. When you when you are trying to make those shifts, what are, what are the common obstacles that you find when someone brings kind of a renewed sense of who they are? They've gone, they've done the deep dive. They've gone up, they've gotten some perspective. They really want to shift this pattern for themselves and for the way that they have conflict and then, let's talk about kind of taking it into the arena with their with their partner? And how do you do that in a way that's most likely to be generative? And how would you know? Because we're talking about stepping into conflict which by its nature is uncomfortable. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah, yeah. You know what I think, for one, being really realistic about change and how it happens. And know that the old is like a magnet and it just sucks you back, so quickly, and so powerfully and I think the important thing is not to get down on ourselves when that happens just to kind of look and kind of chuckle a little bit, and go, "Oh, my goodness, it's happening. The same thing still has some power." But even the fact that you can go up and recognize it, that means you're not functioning totally from your alligator brain, your amygdala, you're actually operating. You've invited your neocortex in and you're recognizing it even if you catch it after the fact and you go, "You know what, I just did the same thing again." But that's more than you were doing previously, because previously you didn't even see it. So kudos to you. And then the next time when it happens you'll probably see it while you're in the middle of it, and go, "OK, just wait a minute. I got to do something differently."  And when sometimes, when people get lost I'll say to them just do something which is 180 degrees from what you normally do and see how different, it feels and see what the impact is. Because it's all about experimenting and then recognizing that the person who got to you before, when you are making changes, whether it's your spouse, whether it's a colleague at work. If you make a change know that the other person is going to continue to do more of what they did before. So you're actually going to up the ante. Be prepared for that. Not because they're wanting you to still do what you did before, but just because that's what they know. And so your commitment is to yourself, more than to the other person to stay the course. Just focus on who do I want to be so that I can sleep comfortably in my own skin. And what is another good thing is that life keeps giving us one opportunity after another. If we miss this one there's another one right around the corner. And again just keep practicing on being the person we want to be. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. I like that image of your two brains learning how to work together because we have spoken a lot on the show about your limbic brain taking your neocortex off line basically for in favor of fight or flight. And so bringing your attunement, like your attunement within, to a conflict, that allows you to to bring them both online at the same time and to recognize your boundaries to recognize where you truly aren't safe vs. the illusion of not being safe which is often what your amygdala is responding to, right? 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. And that's what I love is because when you invite your brain back in, you can see that some of the things, cause conflict is all about your threats center going wild. And yet, when you bring your neocortex in then you can actually look at those fears and go, "Ok, they were real at one point. Are they still real? You know? I thought I couldn't do this on my own. And back then I couldn't. But can I do it now? Have I developed further? Or, I thought that you know I was not enough? Or, I thought that I spoke way too much. Do I still do that? I thought I was a drama queen. Am I still that or have I shifted? I thought people would reject me. But is that true?" So yeah it's always a question of checking where you are now compared to where you were then. And the many of the fears that were there don't need to be there any longer. 

Neil Sattin: Let's talk for a minute too about how we might... Because I agree with you that so often we we start changing and the whole thing shifts. But are there ways that you find with your clients that are particularly effective for inviting your partner to notice, along, apart from what I mentioned earlier, to notice like the dance is shifting here. Or, hey, like this is this is me stating my truth and you can make a choice about that but I'm really clear about what I believe in this moment or who I am in this moment. What are some ways to help invite your partner to change their steps in the dance? And maybe the last part of that question, is how would someone recognize if that wasn't going to happen and whether or not that's truly, you know, you talk a little bit about the times when it's actually healthy to disengage. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. Because you know I mean here's the sobering thing, is that we only have in our life what we tolerate. And so at a certain point it is that we go: This is who I am or I want to be sexually active, and that's really important to be in an intimate relationship. And if you're not there if that's not what you want, we're in real difficulty and I don't know what to do. Or let's say, "I want to be in relationship with somebody when I know that I have reason to trust them and I can believe them. And you have shown me on numerous occasions that I don't have evidence to trust you. And we are in a situation that I don't know if we can continue to go forward because this is what I need in my life." See, then you go back to differentiation where you really hold your own and you go. This is what I need from a partner. And if you're not that person, then I don't know where we're going to be in the future. So then there are other ones where, let's say you know, you know that the other person continues, regardless of how many times you say what's important to you and what really matters, it actually seems like the other person, if they really if that really doesn't matter to them then you are in a situation where you have to go, "OK. Am I going to continue on with this person or am I not?" Because you can't continue... Or let's say somebody continues to be hurtful and harmful in their actions towards you. And regardless of what you said they don't make the changes. Well then the writing is on the wall as to your future. You have to make decisions for your own safekeeping and for your own health. Going forward. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think one place where that can get tricky is: I think we can be too quick maybe to make that decision, if we're in pain and that's the interesting thing about what we're talking about. Is like just because you're having conflict and uncomfortable that that isn't necessarily a sign that this isn't a healthy environment for you to be in. It may be that there's more healing for you to do or more growing for you to do. And I think that can be tricky to know, like, actually this isn't about me growing or healing something this is just about kind of a core place where I stand. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah, I mean, that's where it can get confusing for people to know whether it's just that it's theirs or if it has to do with the other person. I lost it there when I was going to say you and I'm sorry.

Neil Sattin: That's OK. And I'm wondering if you have any hints for how someone can do that diagnosis about like have they gone deep enough in terms of their own inner work?

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. So Neil I know what it was I was going to say because, what's the reason for moving on? So if you have not looked at your own stuff and you just think it's the other person then maybe moving out of the relationship is premature. If however you've actually looked at your part of the problem, your contribution, and still you're not getting from your partner what you need, then that's a different thing because you're not just leaving because of hurt and because of self blindness. You actually see it. You're doing the work. But the other person is not in a place where they're wanting to see more of themselves. And then maybe it points to a different future, but it's why are you leaving? Have you really seen what you need to see about yourself? Because then you can make a clear decision. 

Neil Sattin: Right. I love what you just said how crucial it is to identify your contribution and to change to address that. That is what we've been talking about all along. It's the ways that we show up and we create the dance that's happening or do our part to create the dance that's happening. 

Neil Sattin: Well Vi Neufeld it's been so great to chat with you about conflict and I feel like we should have argued more or something like that. I'm really appreciating your work. And so can you just tell us a little bit more about the different kinds of things that you offer? Obviously your book grateful for the fight is there for people on Amazon, it's a great read and really a useful tool for self discovery and transforming your approach to conflict. And I don't know about you, but if you can imagine like how tense and how much it can shake up your inner world to know that you're heading into conflict and just how different it can be to imagine stepping into a conflict knowing that you've got you, and that you can take care of yourself. This book is a really helpful part of creating that experience. So I appreciate your work in that way. But, what else are you doing with people?

Viola Neufeld: Well I was just going to say that I think one of the real benefits of doing this work is that you end up liking yourself more and you have better relationship. That's the end result. So yes, you know if you... Other things I mean there's all kinds of work. It's always having to do with sorting through relationships and extended families and with couples and in organizations. If some of you want to have a little scale that you can work through and it would be a little handout on enhancing relationship vitality, if you want to do that you can contact me and I'll send you a concept or I'll send you a handout if you like to do that. It would be a way of, you know how you always have ideas about who you think you are in relationship and then who your partner is. This is a way of actually going through a number of indicators and you can do a scoring at the end, which will tell you you know it'll shine some light on who's contributing in what areas and see if your yourself perceptions are accurate or not. 

Neil Sattin: Well I'm definitely going to to take your quiz. So, make sure that I get my hands on that as well. Yes. If you want to get a copy of the enhancing your relationship vitality inventory, then you can visit Vi Neufeld's web site which is transpectives.com, and I will have a link to that in the show notes, which you can get by visiting NeilSattin.com/conflict or texting the word "passion" to the number 3-3-4-4-4. And following the instructions. 

Neil Sattin: Vi Neufeld thank you so much for being here with us today. It's been such a treat to chat with you. 

Viola Neufeld: Thanks so much Neil.

 

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