One of the most important skills in relationship is knowing how to actually show up - to be present. And while presence is a skill you can learn, there’s something else that’s almost always required if you’re going to be present for any length of time. You have to have something to bring to the table, and the only way that’s going to happen is if you’re paying attention to your own needs. It’s called “Self Care” - and in this episode I talk about how to honor the parts of you that are calling out for time, space, and attention. When you can show up consistently for yourself, it will be much easier for you to show up for others.
This episode also contains a quick guided meditation to help you get centered, and more in touch with what those deep parts of you need. Please make sure you don’t try to do that part while driving! Also, if you’re interested in finding out more about the 7-week online course that Chloe and I are running, called “Thriving Intimacy,” please visit http://www.neilsattin.com/course or text the word “INTIMACY” to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.
This episode is for you. I hope you find it to be nourishing and helpful on your path to deeper connection with others, and deeper appreciation for yourself on your journey.
How do you harness the power of your mind so that it’s working for you, not against you - especially when things get triggering with your partner? We now know that our minds are flexible, and that through neuroplasticity you can continue to develop and change throughout your whole life. In today’s episode, we are talking with Dr. Dan Siegel, one of the world’s leading experts on mindfulness and neuroplasticity, about how you can apply mindfulness with your partner to develop deeper connection to each other, and to yourself. Come along for the ride, as we take an in-depth look at the relationship between your mind and body - and your partner’s mind and body!
Self- In today’s culture we have equated Self as an output of the mind, and the mind as some outcome of the brain. We have narrowed our definition of Self and separated it from a broader and more integrated wholeness. Invite in the possibility that your sense of SELF comes from the weaving together of many layers of your being, and is as expansive as it is tangible.
Integration: Integration is the basis for wellbeing. Integration is the unifying principle that various aspects of a system are honored for their differences, and then linked. Integration is at the core of healthy brain functioning, and healthy relationships. In an integrated state, the social engagement system of our brains is turned on and we are available for connection.
MWE: A healthy relationship is not about dropping your own sense of Self, it is about learning to honor the uniqueness and individuality of both partners and integrating the two into a new whole. It is about going from ME to MWE: a new WE created by the joining of your two Selves into a new entity.
Mindsight: Mindsight is our capacity to be aware of our own minds. It is our ability be aware of our habitual patterns and behaviors and move away from being on autopilot. Mindsight is the capacity to 1) have insight into yourself, 2) have empathy for other people, and 3) honor differences and promote integration. Mindsight is something that can be developed and learned, and must be in order for healthy relationships to form. Thanks to neuroplasticity, increasing mindsight can physiologically and neurologically change our brains- helping us shake off old or inherited patterning and allowing us to become more aware, available, and attuned individuals.
PART: This is an acronym that helps get to the core aspects of how you are or are not showing up in your relationships. What PART do you play in your life to bring more health and restoration to yourself and your relationship?
P: Presence- Presence is the ability of being in an open and receptive state that allows you to connect with whatever is arising inside of yourself. Once you can be present for yourself, you can learn to develop a deep acceptance of what may come up. As we learn to be with, and tend to, and remain aware of our own triggers, emotions, thoughts, and patterns, we then learn to caretake ourselves in ways that take pressure off of our partners and allow us to be more present with THEM!
A: Attunement- By learning to direct your focus of attention, as if it is a stream of energy you can point in various ways, you gain the ability to attune to both yourself and others. Asking questions is a wonderful way to refocus attention. Ask yourself: what meaning does this have for me? What is happening right now? What is happening beneath my/your behavior right now? This curiosity and looking for the underbelly of behavior allows you to gain access to the subjective world of attitudes, beliefs, stories, longings, dreams, insights, and other aspects that are often influencing behavior in the moment.
R: Resonance- If, and only if, you are present, open, and attuned, can you resonate with others. Resonating with others is the ability to allow someone else’s internal state to affect your own. It is the openness to being changed because of another. To be touched. To shift inside in response and attunement to another. Feeling felt by others, and willingly feeling with others is the beginning of becoming a MWE.
T: Trust- When presence, attunement, and resonance are achieved the social engagement system of our nervous system is engaged and turned out. Our brains are wired towards reactivity (flight, fight, freeze, disconnect, avoid, defense, etc.) however when we are in safe and true connection with others we become receptive. Our neurobiology is changed when we feel safe- our muscles relax, our heart rate lowers, and we enter into a ventral vagal state that allows for even more P and A and R. Trust is simultaneously a requirement and an outcome of being in connection with others.
Positive emotion comes from connection. Research (and experience) have shown that positivity resonance is possible whenever there is human connection, even if it is around being together through suffering or difficulty. The act and process of reaching out to another and connecting, no matter their state, changes the neurobiology of both of you and increases the level of integration. The higher the integration the higher the positivity resonance. This is true because as you reach out you provide relief for the sufferer (who felt alone before), and the sense of compassion and empathy is increased in both individuals, therefore forming a sense of MWE.
Converting implicit memories into narratives of growth and coherence: Very often our reactions in a given moment are more based on implicit memories (those that live in our subconscious) than they are to the present issues/content. We react to the now as if the past were the present, and this can cause confusion, hurt, and high tension in relationships and wreak havoc in our interactions. When we are unaware and unable to differentiate between present and past we react to triggers in one of four ways: fight, flight, freeze, or faint. To begin the process of bringing these patterns into awareness, attune to your own internal state and notice when you shift from a place of receptivity to one of reactivity. Notice the difference in your body, and become aware of the micro-shifts that help clue you into knowing you are beginning to go into defense/reactive mode. This process has a physiology to it- be it clenched jaw, tightened chest, shallow breathing, getting sweaty, higher pitched voice- begin to map these for yourself so that you can fine tune your self-awareness.
Something needs to be done. Nothing positive happens in relationships when we are reactive! That said, it is crucial to learn ways to move out of reactivity and back into receptivity before engaging in fixing/healing/processing. Once you have become skilled in attuning to your internal state of being and noticing when you shift into a reactive state, then it is critical to learn how to take care of yourself. This can be anything and everything from journal writing, to walking around the block, to sitting for a meditation, to calling a friend, to putting on some music and dancing, stretching, drinking a glass of cold water, etc. Whatever your go to self-care and de- escalation strategy is, you MUST first be aware that you need to take a break! This inner work allows you to get back into a state where you are available and open to receiving and being in connection.
Memory retrieval is a memory modifier. Once you are able to 1) notice that you are being triggered and 2) able to pause and get out of the reactive state, then you can begin to get curious. What past experiences- be it a single incident, or chronic long term patterns, are informing your reactions right now? Ask non-judgemental, open ended questions of yourself. Write. Process with others. Go to counseling. As you find core explicit memories, you then have the opportunity to bring them into awareness and label as ‘past’. The process of bringing memories into consciousness (memory retrieval) is in itself a form of modifying the memory. Identifying the old memories that have been informing your present reactions allows you to make connections, see links, and gain insight into why you respond the way you do. From here you can make meaning of madness, and meaning of memory. Your implicit memories become explicit, and what is automatic becomes autobiographical. You can begin to own your reactions in empowering ways, saying things like ‘There is a theme in me where I get very defensive when I have the feeling of being rejected because my father never thought I was good enough.” Themes that you may begin to identify could be: abandonment, feeling worthless, neglect, isolation, rejection, being invisible, being smothered, being given too much responsibility, being ignored, being abused, etc. As you shift the ways you relate to yourself and your past, you will find your relationships shift too!
SIFTing: Our brains are wired with a negativity bias- meaning we automatically scan and focus on negative aspects of an experience (this is due to survival wiring). That said, our brains are elastic and neuroplasticity allows us to change our brain by changing our focus and rewiring our circuitry. We can do this by taking the time to notice and savor positive experiences. SIFT is a practice and process of focusing the Sensations, Images, Feelings, and Thoughts associated with a positive experience. Try it! The next time you recognize a moment or experience for which you are grateful for, relieved by, appreciative of, or feeling good about, pause and flow through the SIFT process focusing for just long enough to soak in the various aspects of the experience. Neurons that fire together wire together, and therefore these small but frequent exercises begin to reshape our brains in a way that is organized around positivity, making us more receptive and less reactive.
The Wheel of Awareness: Imagine a wheel- hub at the center, spokes leading outwards towards the rim. Now imagine that the hub is the seat of your awareness. Your consciousness resides here- centered, central, calm, clear, open. From here you can send a spoke of attention around to the rim, upon which resides all we can be aware of: our five senses, the interior of our bodies, our mental activities, and our sense of interconnectedness. Through practicing the wheel of awareness meditation you can develop the ability to 1) differentiate between awareness of rim elements and awareness of hub elements, 2) recenter yourself in the hub as the source of your consciousness, and 3) redirect your focus of attention/spoke. All of this helps to build your capacity to be in that deep presence so essential to receptivity and attunement.
Remember: The more integrated you can become the more you are able to lean into challenges, and the more open you become to new possibilities!
Visit Dan Siegel’s website for more resources
Want to know more about the Wheel of Awareness? Check it out here!
Read Dan Siegel’s book Mindsight
Order your copy of Dan’s newest book Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human which is set to be released October 18th, 2016.
www.neilsattin.com/mind Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Dan Siegel.
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Every day, with your partner, you have the chance to make things amazing. Or...not. In this episode, we're going to cover a simple practice that allows you to set a positive, love-filled, growth-oriented tone for your days no matter what is going on in your life. And, if things are tough, I talk about how to handle that in a way that still keeps things positive - without sweeping important issues under the rug.
Also, join my partner Chloe and me for our free online class - the 50-Minute Relationship Breakthrough. In less than an hour we will reveal a simple 3-step strategy that leads to deeper intimacy, less conflict, and shows you exactly where your relationship needs help (and where it's smooth sailing). Plus we'll be there live to answer your questions. You can sign up at http://www.neilsattin.com/webinar - or you can text the word "INTIMACY" to the number 33444, follow the instructions, and I'll send you a link so that you can register. Please sign up even if you can't be there on the webinar live - so that we can send you a link to the replay.
On the webinar we'll be also offering a special discount for our 7-week online course on how to create Thriving Intimacy in your relationship. It's everything about relationship that you wish you had learned in school (plus unlearning the things that you did learn in school). That course starts on September 26th. Another great reason to join us for the free webinar!
As always, let me know if you have any questions, and please enjoy this week's episode of Relationship Alive!
Have you been stuck in a cycle with someone that leaves you feeling like you can never win? Where you feel like you are always giving in? Not saying what you are really feeling? If so, you may be experiencing emotional blackmail. It’s not pretty, and you can be left with the uncomfortable feeling that there’s no way out without sacrificing who you are in the process. Don’t despair - there’s hope for you! In today’s episode, we’re going to chat with the world’s foremost expert on ending the grip of emotional blackmail, Dr. Susan Forward, one of the nation’s leading psychotherapists, and a New York Times bestselling author who has spent decades helping people break out of toxic cycles and discover healthier ways of relating.
What is emotional blackmail? The structure of emotional blackmail begins with a demand, followed by pressure to fulfill the request, and finally, being threatened with punishing consequences. The threat can be blatant or subtle. Subtle threats come in the form of pouting, sulking, passive aggressive comments, while blatant threats are overtly articulated consequences of ‘if ____, then ____’.
FOG: Emotional blackmail, although incredibly powerful and hurtful, can become normalized by both the receiver, and the doer. Another way to know if you may be being emotionally blackmailed is to check in on if you feel as though you are in a fog. FOG stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt. These three components cause us to feel overwhelmed and make it so it is difficult to find our way out of an imbalance of power, unable to clearly see the dynamics, and make us have a tendency to comply.
The Need to Please Disease- When we are vulnerable we have a tendency to rationalize unhealthy and unloving treatment in an effort to protect ourselves from further guilt and fear. We can end up giving in, no matter the price, just so that the other person is not angry with us. The lethality and toxicity of constant giving in accumulates until the person who is the target of emotional blackmail becomes depressed and angry, and internalizes this to become self-hatred.
Water wearing down the rock: Constant compromise and giving in to something and someone that does not feel aligned with your own needs and desires can wear you down. Like water wearing down the boulder, you become the pebble- a smaller version of yourself. By having the courage to look at what is really happening in the dynamic, you will find opportunities for change and growth.
Stand up for your own truth. Everyone is terrified of other people’s anger and retaliation- this is a core fear that goes back into childhood for many. Despite anger being such a powerful force, there are behavioral strategies that help equalize the balance of power and help you become more assertive and self-protective. It takes courage to stand up for your own truth, however it is worth it.
Honest look at ourselves. None of us are immune or exempt from being emotional blackmailers ourselves. Take time to look at your own patterns around getting others to do what you want. How do you handle when someone disagrees with you, or doesn’t want what you want? Do you plead? Coax? Get pouty? Become punitive? Do you punish through withholding things or love? Do you take their denial personally and as a threat to the relationship itself? Do you say things like “If you really loved me you would…” Or “if you really cared about us you would…” We are all guilty of some of these at times, and the question is not if, but rather to what degree and how often?
Admit and Acknowledge: Do you feel like you have been emotionally blackmailing someone? Begin by labeling your behavior as such. Then, find the courage and humility to sit down and tell the person you are bullying that you are aware of your actions. Naming and sharing this goes a long way. Admitting and acknowledging is a way of fessing up and owning your actions and it creates a climate of much greater safety. With this safety healing and repair can begin. Saying sorry will not be enough however. You will have to show the person you have hurt that you are ready to own your actions through behavioral changes over time. And elicit their help! Ask the person you have hurt what they need from you to feel safer, and more trusting. Find ways together to move forward, and stay open to getting counseling!
Admitting and acknowledging is a two way street! It is important to look at your own responsibility and behavior as the compliant one as well. Read through the following checklist to find out if you are a target of emotional blackmail:
- I tell myself that giving in is no big deal
- I tell myself that giving in is worth it to get other person to quiet down/calm down
- I tell myself that what I want is wrong
- I tell myself that it is not worth the hassle- I’ll give in now and take a stand later
- I tell myself that it is better to give in then to hurt their feelings
- I don’t stand up for myself
- I give away my power
- I do things to please other people and get confused about what I want
- I acquiesce
- I give up people and activities I care about to please the other person
Yes to the above? Don’t wait for the other person to change. Do the above statements resonate with you? If so, it is time to look inside and find the courage to make changes yourself. Find the emotional maturity and empowered stance to stop the victim/blame cycle by realizing that you do not need to put yourself second any longer. Be willing to look to your past to see if complacency is an automatic, inherited, or learned behavior that began in your childhood. Be willing to take the reins in your own hands and set limits and boundaries. You have just as much responsibility as the blackmailer to change the dynamic, and you have just as much right as the other person to have your needs met. This can be a difficult and daunting shift in perspective for anyone who has a history of abuse as it brings up true fear and guilt around displeasing people- reach out for support when needed!
Negotiating for a healthier relationship. We all have choices when a relationship goes off the track. We can accept things the way they are, we can negotiate for a healthier relationship, or worst comes to worst you can end the relationship. That said, there are strategies, communication skills, and behavioral changes that are worth trying in an effort to shift the dynamics before giving in more, or giving up.
Feeling your fear: Shifting yourself out of an emotional blackmail situation requires the willingness to tolerate the discomfort of displeasing someone, and often this can bring up fears. Many of our fears are old feelings that we mistake as coming from current events. We confuse our past with the present, and so when we get hurt we react in accordance with prior experiences. We will do nearly anything to protect ourselves from our fear of other people’s anger. Differentiating the present from the past will leave you with more confidence and many more choices for ways to react. Help yourself see that you are now an adult, no longer hopeless or dependent, and that your past does not need to dictate your experience any longer. From this knowing, ask yourself ‘what is the worst thing that can happen?’ Then believe you have the courage and resilience inside to handle this. Lastly, it comes down to allowing yourself to feel fear, and being with it.
*NOTE: There are certain situations and people where the fear is very warranted. If the person emotionally blackmailing you is completely locked into their angry defensive way of being, then you must ask yourself if it is really worth it or possible to work with them. Listen to your fear in these situations as it may be protecting you from true threat.
Be with your guilt: Guilt, along with fear, is often the major contributor to complacency. The fear of guilt itself is a powerful force. Realize that you can tolerate the guilt- no one died from guilt! Your dignity, self-respect, and health will all thank you for addressing this. Have a talk with your discomfort- take a close look and ask yourself the following questions:
-Is what I did or want to do malicious?
-Is what I did or want to do cruel?
-Is what I did or want to do abusive?
-Is what I did or want to do insulting?
-Is what I did or want to do belittling?
-Is what I did or want to do demeaning?
-Is what I did or want to do truly harmful?
If you answer no to these questions, then there is nothing to be guilty of. That is not to say that changing your behavior won’t be uncomfortable, but you can begin to redefine the discomfort as a sign of growth and change!
Do it and the feelings will show up! Many people incorrectly assume that they need to feel stronger before they can take steps and make changes in reaction to emotional blackmail. This is not true! As you begin to shift to a new set of behaviors, the sense of empowerment will follow. Others may be shocked by your changes, and have strong reactions. Allow for this and do not take it on! It may not feel great at first, and that is OKAY.
How to de-escalate the conflict: Blackmail thrives on conflict and escalation, and pushing one person lower and lower on the power structure. A natural tendency when we are emotionally attached is to get defensive, however defensiveness breeds defensiveness. If you can find non-defensive responses, the emotional blackmailer will no longer be able to attack and you WILL shift the dynamic. This requires learning to protect yourself, versus defending yourself. Doing so requires non-defensive communication skills. For example, try saying “I am sure you see it that way, and you are entitled to your feelings, however I am not willing to have this conversation now, let's talk about it when you are calmer…” Other non-defensive communications that can shift the other person’s resistance and defensiveness sound like:
“Can we talk about why this is so important to you?”
“Will you help me understand?”
“It is not acceptable for you to continually make me feel guilty and scared- how can we work together to find a way to get your needs met in a way that doesn’t compromise mine?”
“I feel as though you are pushing me and our relationship to the edge of a cliff and I don’t know if you are taking me seriously when I say I am not happy. I want to find ways together to solve our problems and conflicts in a way that doesn’t leave one of us feeling emotionally battered- can we talk about this?”
“I am not willing to live this way any more, I need to be treated with respect and caring and want to find ways to make us both feel safer and more loved”
“You could be right, however I am feeling…”
Stop! And take a breath. Next time you are asked to do something you are not okay with, first thing to do is to STOP. Take a breath. This immediately pulls you out of your habitual pattern and away from the automatic reaction. Instead of saying yes, or no, say “I am not able to make this decision right now, I need to think about this. I’ll get back to you- but I need some time to figure out how I am really feeling about this”. This stance will allow you to calm down, garner your strength, and have the time necessary to connect with yourself beyond the fear and guilt. A healthy decision is made when we are able to balance and check in with both our intellect and our emotions- this takes time. Putting things back on your own timeline will make for your ability to be in your integrity and this will inevitably shift the power structure!
Find out more about Susan Forward's work at her website
Email Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in phone consultations- she responds to each email personally!
www.neilsattin.com/blackmail Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Susan Forward!
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