Relationship Alive!

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







All Episodes
Now displaying: May, 2018
May 29, 2018

What do you do if you want to have sex more than your partner? Or if your partner wants to have sex more than you do? Differences in sexual desire can create so many problems in a relationship, and in today's episode we tackle this topic head-on. There's something here for you no matter which side of the equation you're on. Here's a hint: typically, when differences in sex drive become "the issue" - there's actually something else going on. Or even several "something elses". I'm going to help you figure out what they are in your relationship, and find your way to a balance around sex that feels great to both you and your partner. Along the way, you'll figure out if it's really about a difference in libido - or if there's something standing in the way of your having the kind of sexual connection with your partner that you desire.

And, as always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you.

Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by FabFitFun offers a seasonal gift box with full-size, ahead-of-the-trend, fitness, beauty, lifestyle, and fashion products.

Each box retails for $49.99, but contains more than $200 worth of goodies! You can customize your box, or just be completely surprised by what comes. As a special for Relationship Alive listeners, FabFitFun is offering $10 off your first box if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" with your order. It's a great gift for yourself - or for that special someone in your life.



Top 3 Secrets of Great Communication in Relationship (FREE)

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (FREE)

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

May 19, 2018

What power do you have to change your relationship for the better by working on yourself? If things aren’t going so well, how do you know if you’ve done “all you can do” - or if there’s still hope? As you know, relationships require a balance of learning the skills of relating to others AND doing your own work to bring yourself more fully to your connection. On today’s episode, you’re going to learn how to find that balance, along with some ways to take both your inner growth and your outer skills to the next level. Our guest is Dr. Alexandra Solomon, author of Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want. Along with her “Marriage and Intimacy 101” course at Northwestern University, Alexandra Solomon has taken relationship education to a new level - with practical ways to help you uplevel your abilities in relationship. The tools that we present in today’s episode will ensure that you’re on the right track as you move forward on your relationship journey.

And, as always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you.

Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by FabFitFun offers a seasonal gift box with full-size, ahead-of-the-trend, fitness, beauty, lifestyle, and fashion products.

Each box retails for $49.99, but contains more than $200 worth of goodies! You can customize your box, or just be completely surprised by what comes. As a special for Relationship Alive listeners, FabFitFun is offering $10 off your first box if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" with your order. It's a great gift for yourself - or for that special someone in your life.


Check out Alexandra Solomon's website

Read Alexandra Solomon’s book, Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Alexandra Solomon.

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


Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. I always start the show with a question. There's a question that's been coming up a lot recently in terms of the kind of feedback that I've been getting from you, both through email and through the Relationship Alive community on facebook, and that is how do I know the balance between what I can actually do in a relationship, and when it's just not going to happen with the person that I'm with? How do I know whether I've really done all that I can do relationally? How do I know that I've truly brought my best to relationship so that if things really aren't working out, then I can safely say it wasn't me, or at least to the best of my ability?

Neil Sattin: I think this is a great question to ask if you're in a troubled relationship. At the same time, if you're in a great relationship, there's always this question too of how do I bring my best to what we're doing? How do we be in a state of growth, and discovery, and curiosity? Also, how do we deal with the things that maybe come up for us over and over again? Is that a sign that there's something wrong or should I be fixing that?

Neil Sattin: It's a great process of inquiry to be in. So to cover the breadth of these questions, I wanted to have on the show a special guest who just came out with a book this past year called Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self Discovery to Help You Get The Love You Want. Her name is Dr. Alexandra Solomon, and she's a professor at Northwestern University who has gained a certain amount of notoriety for teaching a marriage and intimacy 101 class, which is something that we've talked about a lot here on the show that, that special "relationship education" that we often don't get in the haphazard way that we learn about relationship in our culture or in our families.

Neil Sattin: So Alexandra Solomon is here with us today to discuss her book, Loving Bravely, and to get at the heart of how we can take this journey, the journey that really begins within us, but that interfaces with our partners, our family, our friends to make sure that we are bringing our best to relationship.

Neil Sattin: We will have a detailed show guide and transcript for this episode. If you want to download that, you can visit, as in Loving Bravely, or you can text the word Passion to the number of 33444. Follow the instructions, and I will send you a link to this show's transcript and guide as well as all of our other show guides and transcripts.

Neil Sattin: So I think that's it. Let's get started. Alexandra Solomon, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive.

Alexandra Solomon: Thank you for having me on. I'm happy to be here.

Neil Sattin: Let's start with, I'm curious about this course that you teach. How did that even come up for you? The idea of teaching this class in college about how to do relationship well.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. This course has certainly been just a huge meaningful experience in my life year after year. So the course, when we teach the course this Spring, it will be our 18th time teaching it. So the first years that it was taught, I was a graduate student studying at Northwestern University. Two of my mentors, Bill Pinsof and Art Nielsen were long time couples therapists who sat hour after hour, week after week in their offices with couple after couple watching these dances of despair, of disconnection, of suffering, and started to ask the question like, what if. What if we started to really value talking to people about love early in their lives before they've partnered, and before they've gotten tossed around in the sea of love, and could it make a difference?

Alexandra Solomon: This was happening as the field of relationship science was really starting to take off and be able to stand on its own two legs as a legitimate field of study.

Alexandra Solomon: So I think for years we thought of love as this, I don't know, woo-woo thing, and so to teach love was seen like, "What are you talking about?" But the science is certainly clear. The quality of our relationships, especially our romantic relationships is a really big piece of the pie in terms of the overall quality of our lives.

Alexandra Solomon: So that was a place from which the course was born, was a desire to touch people, touch young people's lives and journeys early on when they're sexually mature, but exploring. My gosh, when I think about college, I spent hour after hour on the floor of the dorm talking about love and sex with my friends. So this class just, I think it really meets, meets young adults where they are.

Neil Sattin: Does that mean that if you're someone like me who's in his 40s, that I'm not impressionable enough anymore, and these lessons won't apply?

Alexandra Solomon: Not by a long shot. Not by a long shot. That's been, if there's been one thing I've heard over the years during this course has received, as you might expect a great amount of media attention. It's been featured on five continents, and just there's a lot of curiosity about what the heck are you doing talking to college students about how to do love?

Alexandra Solomon: So the one thing I've heard over and over again, is like, "Dang, I wish I had that when I was in college." I think that there's a real longing for why aren't we talking about this? Like, why didn't somebody talk to me about some ... setting down some basic principles, some basic foundation. So it's never too late though. Never ever too late.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Well I was being a little facetious because I do have a whole podcast about this thing.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. It's only the entirety of your life. That's right. Yes, we love the lifelong learning, right?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, exactly. I love how your book encourages, it encourages a process that allows people to get into that learning mindset, and to always be curious. I think that is one of the big challenges because when we struggle with our partners and find ... you have that moment where you get triggered and your prefrontal cortex turns off, remembering that you can find your way back to curiosity even in a moment like that is a real challenge for people.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, I mean that's the practice, isn't it? Like holding onto that framework that whatever is happening right now in this space between my partner and I, has got the power to really show me more about me, reveal me to me, offer me tremendous healing. That's a hard place to hold. I don't know if any of us hold it 24/7, but at least we can commit ourselves to trying to remember, to making our forgetfulness as short as possible, and coming back to that center of, "Okay, what's going on in me right now?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One of the themes that you come back to over and over again in Loving Bravely is this process of, I think you call it name, connect and choose. So perhaps we could dive into what that means right now. If you're listening and you're hearing me say name, connect, choose, you'll have a sense of what we're talking about because I think it pulls you from these moments of being dislocated from yourself and your curiosity and the kinds of things that help you find solutions or that even help you thrive and grow. It brings you back really, really well and succinctly.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. I think that, that was a helpful tool for me and my writing of the book. It's the name, connect, choose process is just the ... it's just a process of awareness. It's a way of thinking about what bringing awareness looks like. So sometimes it happens at the really macro level, like the really big picture level where the naming is I name my father's alcoholism, I named that. For many of us, we know our healing journey begins by just calling a thing what it is, looking a thing dead in the eyes and calling it what it is. Sometimes the naming is a big picture name, like I name that I am a survivor of abuse. I name that my father struggled with alcoholism.

Alexandra Solomon: Then the connect is just noticing the feelings that are attached to that truth. And, rather than judging the feelings or thinking about what you think the feeling should be, just bearing witness to the feelings. That, the connect is really a permission to just feel what you feel, because it's through that process of naming something, allowing ourselves to feel what we feel that creates enough consciousness, enough awareness that then multiple paths open forward that allow us to choose something different.

Alexandra Solomon: Sometimes like when we're talking about like a big picture thing, we may choose then to not partner with somebody who is in the throes of their addiction the way that we have before. When we're unconscious, when we haven't named the impact of a parent's addiction, for example, we will bring to us, in an unconscious way, we'll bring to us somebody with a similar wound, because that little child in us want so desperately to fix, to redo, to master something that in childhood was unfixable, out of our control.

Alexandra Solomon: Through the process of calling the chapters of our life story what they are, and letting ourselves feel what we feel, we bring ourselves to a place of greater awareness and ability to say, "I see that, that person is suffering. I see it, I feel the pull, but I'm not going to go towards it. I don't need to. I don't need to fix the world. I can come back to my center." That's that big picture naming of bringing our awareness to our life story.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you mentioned that process of even listing out the chapters. That was one aspect in your book that you revisit over and over again that I really appreciated as a way of helping you both see the themes, and the patterns that happen in your life and in your choices, as well as to get a certain degree of objectivity with those things.

Neil Sattin: So, maybe you could describe what we're even talking about in terms of the chapters of your life and what that ... how someone listening might go through that process for themselves in a particular area of their lives.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. So one thing to say here is that the book itself is written in chapters, obviously, as all books are. Each chapter of the book closes with some exercises. My intention there is to offer the reader ... Each of the chapters of the book is like another, just place of awareness. Then the exercises in each chapter are designed to flesh that out. How does it apply to you?

Alexandra Solomon: You're right, a lot of the work of the book is inviting people to work on their life story. This is from, there's a whole branch in the field of psychology that's about the power of story, the power of narrative, and that when we tell our stories, that's healing, right then and there, that's healing, just the telling of our story. So in the book, there are a number of invitations for the reader to kind of work on their story. It's through the process of working on who was I, and who am I? But then we start to really get empowered around, "Okay, so now who do I want to be going forward? What do I want to break, shed, transform? Then what do I want to carry through?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and being able to, like I was imagining because I, unfortunately, I was reading so much that I didn't get a chance to do all of your exercises. But that being said, it was exciting, the idea of imagining, okay, at this part of the story, this is when the unwitting hero stumbles across his first love, or makes the decision that he will regret for the rest of ... that thing.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so there's some quality of that, that I think can be really helpful for you to be willing to look at your life that way. If I'm the hero of this story or the heroine of this story, what did I do in this chapter? What's like the one sentence summary, and how does that chapter live in me unconsciously that I'm naming right now. Well, what could happen in the next chapter? Because that's the beauty of story, right? Is that as long as there's another book in the series, you don't really know what's going to happen. It's not a set destiny no matter what you thought in chapters one, two, and three.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right, and I think that when we are thinking about when we're working on a chapter in our story that maybe is what we would consider a dark night of the soul or a really difficult chapter that maybe has to do with a toxic romantic relationship, so we're writing that story. The risk is that what we take away from that relationship is just a lot of heavy cynicism, wound, hurt, a closed off heartedness, right? Because it hurt, because we feel like love is dangerous. We've been hurt. So I think there's something when we're especially working on one of those chapters, the process of telling the story can open up, even if it's just for a moment, it can open up a little light of awareness about the "and", about it was awful...and....

Alexandra Solomon: Then in the and, within the and, is that posttraumatic growth that's always there that we don't get to unless we really stand on the truth of it, allow ourselves to feel what we feel. Through that process, very often there can be this "and", that's about, "and that relationship taught me about what it really means to hold onto my worth, and what it really means to honor the red flags when I see them, and what it really means to speak my truth, even if I'm afraid..."

Alexandra Solomon: But we don't get to those. We don't get to those little pieces that are about our own resilience, and our own ability to get back up unless we're willing to just tell the story. Tell the story, to be like, "This is what happened, here's what I saw, here's what I felt, here's what I did, here's what I tolerated and here's what I want going forward."

Alexandra Solomon: So that's, I think that's why crafting our stories, telling our stories, even the chapters that were hurtful, that we survived. When we do that, we are really reclaiming our healing. We're really reclaiming our resilience through that process. I don't think there's any other way to get to the resilience, to the courage to love again. We don't get to that by just putting the chapter in a box, and burying the box in the bottom of the ocean, or doing this thing where we just say it was where we just don't talk about it. We can't get there unless we kind of go through and story it and start to make some sense of it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It's funny because I agree with you completely, and still I know these people in my life who that's what they do, like end of chapter, box goes under the bed or in the closet or burned in the bonfire, and that's it. Like, next. No real self reflection.

Neil Sattin: There is a part of me at times, especially when things get complicated where I'm like, "Wow, that must be a much easier way to live on some level." I'm wondering if you have any reflections on that. Do you ever, as you were writing the book, because what I loved about Loving Bravely, apart from it just being a really well organized book, when you read this book, you'll see that it does a great job, which probably won't surprise you for someone who teaches relationship 101. It walks you through a process that will get you somewhere, and with a whole lot more self understanding. So I really appreciated that.

Neil Sattin: At the same time, I was reading it and I was like, "This is great. I can relate to so many of these things, and it's true." We do, we have to ride the waves of our relationship, and there's so much growth, and it can be so hard. Then I was like, "But is there a magical universe somewhere where people would, someone would pick up a book like this and be like, it's not that hard. It's really easy." Or be just like, "What is she even talking about? You just let go of that person and you move on, or whatever it is." What do you think? Does that mythical universe exist?

Alexandra Solomon: I don't know. It sounds lovely. I might go visit that place, hang out for a while.

Neil Sattin: Bring Todd.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. That's right. Well, that is, I mean, I'm sure you had these moments as well where it's like, I think part of what I do, whether it's in my classroom when I'm teaching undergraduate students, or my classroom when I'm training couples therapists, or in my couple's therapy office when I'm working with couples, I mean my life's work is to make stuff complicated, right? To hold onto 50 Shades of Gray, to be willing to go to the level of nuance to turn something eight different ways so we can look at it.

Alexandra Solomon: So that's my jam. That's what I love to do. But I'm sure that way of living would drive a lot of people really crazy. It'd be a really unpleasant way to live the way there's just a simplicity that comes from not looking at the nuance of it.

Neil Sattin: This brings me, and it gives me an idea for a question.

Alexandra Solomon: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Which is, I'm sure you see this all the time. I see this with my clients and people who write in. There's so often someone who's very self reflective, for some reason, finds themself in relationship with someone who's like, "No, I don't really want to talk about that." Or, "Why are we making things so complicated?" Or any variation of that.

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering because you are probably not hearing from that person, you're hearing from the growth oriented taking things apart person who really wants to affect change. What do you offer someone in that kind of situation around the dialectics of their partner being different than them, versus inviting them into the reflection versus maybe this person isn't right for you?

Alexandra Solomon: Yes. I think that is such a great question because you're right. The person that I talked to is the growth oriented person who asked me a question like, "How do I get my husband ..." because usually, to be stereotypical, it is a straight woman whose asking about her male partner, "How do I get him to be more self reflective, or how do I get him to ..."

Alexandra Solomon: That to me is a red flag kind of question. Whenever we're talking about how to get somebody else to do something, we have exited our own business and we've put ourselves in somebody else's business, you know? But I do think that when there's a partner who has more interest in introspection, self awareness paired with somebody who has less interest, there is a way to invite, I think that the frame needs to be an invitation to collaboration, like an invitation to standing shoulder to shoulder and looking at a dynamic together. I think sometimes the person who has more years of therapy under their belt, who's read more self help books, there's a way that knowledge can start to get used as the weapon in the relationship in a way that, because I think it's like what I have done this to my husband at times, "Well, I'm the couple's therapist. Therefore ..."

Neil Sattin: Right. The number of times that I've sat with my wife Chloe and been like, "Well, Dan Siegel says that ..."

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. I know. Except for when it comes to Dan Siegel, because when you're saying what Dan Siegel said, you really are saying the right thing. He's just fantastic. But yes, I think that is. Those kinds of things can be used as a defense against the vulnerability of, "I'm hurt, I'm scared and lonely. I'm confused." When we start using our knowledge, or our experience, or our successful podcasts, or our successful ... our book, and we can start to use that knowledge defensively because it's maybe easier than saying, "I'm just really lonely for you, or I'm really scared about us right now, or I really don't understand your perspective. Can you tell me more about how you're seeing this?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Alexandra Solomon: We had a, there was a moment, maybe a year or so ago that our daughter was kind of needing to talk through a dynamic that happened at school. This one said to this one something or other, and just one of those messy friendship dynamics. She's kind of unpacking it with me, and I'm working on like a diagram, and frameworks and we're unpacking it. Todd walks by, and my husband Todd walked by and he goes, "I don't know, I think you should just tell her that snitches end up in ditches." I was like, "Beautiful. That's beautiful." because that may very well be as good an answer as this diagram that I'm working on craft here. Maybe there's a simple way forward.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So in the spirit of being able to hold both things and to see the possibility for connection even when you're with someone who you suspect may not be as "growth oriented" as you are, and yet where there could be this real opportunity to collaborate. Well, let's dive into that. You talk about the dialectical approach, the holding two opposites or seeming opposites together, and being able to be okay there. How does that process work, and where do you see that?

Alexandra Solomon: Well, I think this example we're working on about two people who have different approaches to life, like an introspective versus a just take it as a comes approach, that's a great ... That couple is a dialectic right there. How do you hold the both-and where sometimes reflection and introspection does yield greater wisdom and awareness, and sometimes there's a simplicity, "I love you. I'm here. Let's go forward."

Alexandra Solomon: I know that there are times when my husband will ... I will want to unpack something and look at it multiple ways, and he'll just say, "Al, I love you and it's going to be okay." And, that is the thing that is ... there are times when that feels actually really validating, right? This simplicity of, "I love you. I love you, and we're going to get through it. It's hard, and we're going to get through it. I'm here, and we're together." That there's a simplicity that comes from that.

Alexandra Solomon: So the both-and is like how do you hold onto a sense of like we're in this together, and that's maybe enough for now, and a need to kind of unpack and understand. But those both-ands come up everywhere. I think that's, they happen within us. How can I be both a career ... dedicated to my career and dedicated to my family. How can I be both strong and vulnerable? The dialectic idea is about how do we hold on to just complexity, both things at once. I think that happens at the level of the self, and at the level of the relationship.

Alexandra Solomon: When we start to go into this either-or, either I'm right or you're right, that's, to me, that's a red flag. Whenever the conversation is going towards trying to figure out which one of us is right and which one of us is wrong, that's a red flag that we've gotten ourselves off track.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So that would represent a black and white thinking, kind of cognitive distortion almost. Yeah.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Right. It can come up in like how can I love you so much and feel so angry at you right now? Or how can I trust you and handle the fact that I don't feel safe right now? Yeah. It comes up all over the place, doesn't it?

Alexandra Solomon: It really does. It's, I'm thinking about when I'm working with a couple where they really, they're coming to therapy and there's a real question about whether or not the relationship will continue. They're, "How can we do both? How can we have serious doubts and do the work of couple's therapy?" That's a hard thing to hold, how to hold on to both the awareness this may not continue, and be dedicated to doing the work, and the one that you're talking about, I think is so common, right? I think when we feel angry, when we feel ... Well, or when somebody is angry at us, when my partner is mad at me, how can I remember that somebody can be mad at me and love me? That's a challenging knot, that sometimes the anger feels ... it's hard to stay present when somebody else is angry with us or disappointed in us.

Neil Sattin: Right? That goes right back to childhood wounds usually around our experience of our parent's anger or disappointment in us.

Alexandra Solomon: I think it's really important for parents to find ways of saying, "I am angry right now. I am upset right now, and I love you and I'm doing my work to move through this. I's my job as a parent to move through this and to reconnect." Right? So we don't leave our kids in that place of toxic shame. But that lingers, right? That lingers, and then the kid becomes an adult who really becomes fearful of conflict.

Neil Sattin: Right? Right. We don't know anyone like that. Another dialectic. I like how you brought that up actually with couples who are on the edge of uncertainty around their status. But I think that that is something that more and more, especially in modern times, people are holding this, "I'm committed to you, and you know what? I could divorce you, I don't have to live with this bullshit." That kind of thing.

Neil Sattin: There's a challenge there because that particular tension can really challenge the safety that you feel in relationship, and the safety that's required to do some of that vulnerable work. Yeah, how do you help someone who's in that, who's deep in that struggle of like, "I really want this, and I don't want to feel like I'm trapped here."

Alexandra Solomon: I know. I think this is the hardest, I think this is the hardest thing. I think this is really, really hard because we are ... To act as if divorce isn't an option is to live in La La land, right? That is, even when divorce was, I think maybe 50 years ago, it was easier to not act as if that was in the realm of the possible because there was so much more shame and stigma around it than there is today. So what does ... that in and, there's no getting around the fact that in order to ... that will, that intimacy really does require a safe container. A container where I'm saying, "I am committed to showing up for you today, and I'm committed to showing up for you tomorrow. I'm here to do this with you."

Alexandra Solomon: I like to think about commitment as having like two faces. The face of commitment that's about, I'm here because it's hard to leave. I got a lot of stuff here and we've got joint accounts. That is a part of commitment, right? Part of the essence of marriage is creating a guard rail, and making it hard for people to leave. That's one part of commitment.

Alexandra Solomon: But there's the other part of commitment which is I'm here because I want to be here, because I value us, because I believe in us. That's always a really important piece of the work with couples who are ... Well, for any couple is really having that value statement, that what are ... that mission statement that, what are we about, what do we believe in, what do we value? That's how you create that container that makes staying here feel like a playground rather than like a prison, right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Alexandra Solomon: That I'm here because this is where all of me shows up, including the part of me that has pride in what it means to show up, to surrender to a process with a person. There's a pride that comes from experiencing yourself as somebody who gave their word and stands by their word. So I think couples need, individuals, and couples need lots of pathways towards capturing and embracing that second face of commitment, which is, "I'm here because I believe in us. I believe in this. I believe in what we're doing."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's something that emerged for me in what you just said, which was the reminder of being committed to the process. So within that, I feel like there's a lot of room for a couple to come to agreement that no matter what, we're committed to this process together, we're committed to being kind to each other.

Neil Sattin: Having that as also something that you hold to, particularly when you know, if you are in a couple in jeopardy, let's say. But at least being willing to say, "Yeah, neither one of us is going to just jump ship, but I'm not going to surprise you. We're going to be in this together, even if the in it means ultimately deciding we're not in it together."

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. One of my teachers along the way would say you can always end a marriage. You can't always save a marriage. So what it means to save a marriage, to work to heal a marriage or a longterm relationship, or a relationship, there's a pride and a sacredness to committing to that process.

Alexandra Solomon: I think here again, I think sometimes we use the fact that we can leave, we can use that as a defense against the vulnerability of really turning towards the relationship, and certainly to I think what creates a healthy relational environment is a commitment to never using the threat of leaving as a reflection. I think when we're, that's why it's so important to manage when we're triggered because when we're triggered, if we're triggered, and we keep talking, and we keep fighting, and the volume is going up, and the volume is going up, we really put ourselves in jeopardy of saying that thing of putting divorce on the table, of putting break up on the table, of threatening to leave.

Alexandra Solomon: That is all that can be, that is in that moment a reflection of that triggered volume-up kind of behavior that just doesn't create a healthy relationship climate. Like you're saying, if a marriage ends, it needs to end, or a relationship ends, it needs to end in, and from a really sober place of thoughtfulness, of consideration, of consciousness.

Alexandra Solomon: People need to be aware that, I mean, that's the thing we've learned. This is what the whole field of interpersonal neurobiology has taught us, is that when we're triggered, we're not our, and we're nowhere near our best self or our bravest self. That triggered language, triggered meaning we're kind of not in our ... we're not in our mind, right? We're out of our mind. Our blood pressure's up, our pulse is racing, our brain, our intellect is down. So we are at risk of saying stuff that we can't take back. Stuff that really hurts.

Alexandra Solomon: So part of that mission statement as a couple, I think is making commitments around what do we do when we get triggered, and how do we commit as a couple to taking time out for the sake of our relationship because we love our relationship too much, and we honor the fragility of the relationship. We know that relationships are breakable, they can be damaged. Therefore, we really value that when we're triggered, we just stop talking and we go back, we do a time out until we can speak from a place of love instead of reactivity. But that's a practice, and that takes commitment to practice to live that way, you know?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. In your book, you bring up several things that we've talked about on the show. Things like creating a code word that you use with your partner so that you can even avoid using the word triggered, which can sometimes be even more triggering. That was one thing, or focusing on just things in your immediate environment to help you get present, to not hopefully not being in an actually threatening situation, which is what that fight or flight is, is responding to. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: You offer lots of great hints in living bravely around how to navigate that kind of agreement with your partner, which I really appreciated. It's been a theme that we talk about a lot here on the show. What were you going to say?

Alexandra Solomon: Well, I was going to say because it's really, I think it's I'm glad that you're talking about it a lot on the show because I think it's just, it's so important and it's so difficult to do. When that overwhelmed state takes over, we can start to tell ourselves, "Well, it's just my feelings. I'm entitled to talk about my feelings." There's this whole kind of story that gets wrapped around, like when I'm upset, I'm allowed to say whatever I want.

Alexandra Solomon: An important aspect of self awareness is being willing to question that belief. There's, of course you are entitled and authorized to talk to your partner about what's on your mind, about what's troubling you, about the how, the how matters.

Neil Sattin: Right? There's a lot circulating in the popular culture right now around radical honesty and telling it like it is. That can feel really good, particularly if you're angry briefly, and then you have to live with the consequences of how you delivered that radical truth. I think you're definitely right that your ability to get back to the part of your brain, that goes offline when you're triggered, your prefrontal cortex to get back to that part of your brain before you express your radical truth, so that you can do it lovingly, and relationally, and creatively, and compassionately, you're going to be way better off.

Alexandra Solomon: Great. Yep. That's right. I think you're wise to connect it to this bigger cultural climate that we are in right now. I'm not a fan of radical truth. When I have a couple in my office, and one of them says, "You're not going to want to hear this, but I got to say it." I put my hand up and I said, "Well, let's just, let's pause. One hand on your heart, one hand on your belly. Let's do some breathing." Because if the frame is, you're not going to want to hear this, but I got to say it, maybe this is a great place to do some mindfulness and some preparation and kind of consider how can it be sad in a way that really is the voice of the voice of love, right? Said in a way that when you can advocate for yourself while also holding onto your partner.

Neil Sattin: Yes. You bring up a couple times this question of what would love say or do in this situation. That's a great place to orient from. If you hear yourself saying, "I don't want to, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but ..."

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. Go with that. Go to your journal, work it out. If that's the frame, that's a big red flag.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And, talk about the importance of the pause here because I love how you do that in a session, and I can relate. There are times when I definitely have to be like, "All right, stop everything." What's so important about the pause?

Alexandra Solomon: It goes back to the fact that we are ... we act as if we're these highly evolved creatures when we're walking around with these brains that for the vast majority of our existence have, and sometimes in our lives really do still need to be fight or flight. But so we are wired for fight flight so powerfully, but we live in a world, and we create these romantic relationships where we really do value, care, consideration, compassion, closeness, intimacy. Intimacy is really a tender thing, right? To really, if what we say we value is letting ourselves be seen in all of our complexity, if that's what we value in our relationships, then we need to be willing to do what it takes to create the conditions where we can safely show each other to each other, and share stories of our heart, and talk about our insecurity.

Alexandra Solomon: So that's what we want. We have to align our behaviors towards that. That means being willing to pause, and consider, okay, so having a concern, or a complaint, or a criticism is of course understandable and to be expected in a romantic relationship. Of course that's going to happen. But how do I say it in a way that really invites intimacy where this moment of difference, this moment of misunderstanding, this moment of disappointment can help us better understand who we each are individually, and what we're about as a couple.

Alexandra Solomon: That really comes from pausing. Dan Siegel has that really lovely way of talking about the yes space versus the no space. Getting to know what that feels, I think that's where it starts. Very often in my office I'm just helping people get a sense of what does it feel like to be in a yes space. The yes space is curious, collaborative, empathic. The no space is defensive, reactive, like that gotcha energy.

Alexandra Solomon: The first step is figuring out what that feels like in your body to be in a yes space versus a no space. In order to get to that, we've got to pause, and just take that moment of reactivity, and breathe, and watch it, and notice it, and start to question what are the stories that are getting going in me right now?

Alexandra Solomon: Very often, the stories are pretty negative and critical of our partners. They deserve to be unpacked around, okay, the story I'm telling myself is that you must not care very much about me. If that's what your behavior says to me, you don't care much about me. Even just that is a kind of pause, saying the story I'm telling myself is you don't care very much about me. That's a kind of pause because then we're inviting our partner to say, "Okay, I hear that's the story you're telling yourself that you don't feel very cared for right now. I'm sorry that you feel that way. Let me know when you're ready to hear a little more about what was going on, on my side of the street, in my part of the world." That's how that back and forth opens up.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. When you said we think of ourselves as these evolved beings, I think it's worth pointing out that when you were in fight flight, when you are about to say that thing that you know you shouldn't say, but you're actually in the least evolved part of your brain. That's your primitive brain. So you're not acting like an evolved being in that moment. Maybe that can be a reminder to you like, "Let me get back to the place where that ... where I can really leverage evolution here for myself."

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, it happens quickly. I'll be in a session with a couple, and one partner will raise their eyebrow, and then the other partner is like, "Okay, here we go." I'm like, "Wait, whoa. What happened?" It can turn on a dime. We get to know each other really well, we have these tells. My couple knows each other's tells much more than I know their tells. I'm getting to know the terrain of this relationship that they've been in for a long time.

Alexandra Solomon: So she lifts her eyebrow up, and her partner is like, "Okay, well, here we go." = "Wait, slow down, what's happening?" because that's that reactive part of our brains that is so ready to either fight or get the heck out of there.

Alexandra Solomon: That's a learning. To learn that the fight or flight response is our lower brain response, and that our relationships deserve something a little more careful, a little more nuanced than just fight or flight. That's work. They're like, "Okay, I'm watching your eyebrow go up. I'm starting to tell myself a story of you're dismissing me. You don't believe me?" Just to breathe through that stay in that space of curiosity instead of attack or get the heck out of there.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And, what's interesting to me, I'm just imagining this hypothetical situation with the eyebrow. I imagine that it's even possible that if the other partner were able to say, "I see you, I see your eyebrows being raised." and to actually name a few other things that they see, that even that in and of itself could totally shift what's being felt in that moment from what was about to happen to like, "Actually, we're both here in this space together, and we're both being people, and we're actually safe with each other." Just the act of mentioning those things presences both partners I think.

Alexandra Solomon: I agree, because then the partner with the eyebrow can say, "Thank you for letting me know. Okay. Let me just take a couple deep breaths here because I really do. I love us. I believe in us. I want to fight for us, so let me just regulate myself for a moment so that I can really take in what you need to say."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I don't know about you, Alexandra, but for me, when my partner names something that is a sign that I am going down some road that's very familiar to me. I have my own little recognition of, "Oh my God, I am. I'm about to do that thing that I always do." If she catches me just right, that's enough to let me see myself with a certain degree of humor and humility in those moments.

Alexandra Solomon: Yes. Isn't that beautiful? Yes. My husband will. I remember a time not long ago, he was like, "Whoa, you just want like zero to 60 in a millisecond. That was really intense to watch." And, he said it in this kind of half sarcastic but observing way. But it was I was able to hear the love in the message and the invitation to slow down in the message. In that moment I could take myself lightly enough to be like, "Okay. Yep. Okay. You're holding up a mirror. I see it. Let me try again."

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. That's the whole Gottman's 5:1 ratio of positive ... that we need five positive to counteract every one negative, and that when we have that kind of atmosphere in our relationship, our partner can say to us like, "Whoa, you're super zero to 60 right now." And, we can take it for what it is, which is a bid to be like, "Let's go. Let's be careful here. Let's slow down, let's be mindful and take it with that sense of trust that we're both fighting for the same thing right now, which is our relationship."

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There are two things that I want to make sure that we mention before we go today. Actually before we even do that, before we started, you mentioned that there's a new series that you're going to be doing online, like a book club around Loving Bravely. What is that you're going to be doing?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, we are. In January, we're going to launch a Loving Bravely book club. It's going to be online. We're going to do it through Facebook. So we've created a facebook group. So to sign up, you go to my website, and there's signup information. It's going to be free. We're gonna just move through one lesson of the book each month. So there's 20 lessons of the book, so we're going to do just a deep dive on each of the lessons.

Alexandra Solomon: It will be a blend of using Facebook live format plus Q&A in the Facebook group. Some dialogue back and forth there. Participants will have access to ... will do some homework and some challenges. I'm excited. It's a new venue for me. But a way of, I think of taking this work which is simple and infinitely complex at the very same time, and working on it in community, which I think is the best way to do it, frankly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. To be able to support each other for sure. So we will make sure that we have a link to that in the show notes for this episode as well, so that whenever you're listening to us, you can find Alexandra Solomon and jump in wherever they happen to be in the book.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. Yeah. They won't be a tight ... there's not going to be like if you don't get in, in lesson one, you're out, it will be an unfolding process.

Neil Sattin: Great. So the two things, one is on the shorter side and one might be a little less short, but hopefully not too long. So the first one is, I love how many helpful ways you offer in your book to be an invitation. Something that we started talking about at the very beginning of this conversation. I'm wondering if you could talk for a moment about constraints questions, because that's something I hadn't, at least a terminology that I hadn't come across before. I found that to be a really generative approach to how you might flip something around to actually be useful. So can you talk about that concept of a constraints question and how you would use that practically?

Alexandra Solomon: Yes. In fact, I love that you brought it up because just this morning I was thinking about the idea of a constraint question and just having a real moment of like, "Man, that's a brilliant idea." It's just, it's an old school family therapy concept that is simple and I think it packs a really powerful punch.

Alexandra Solomon: So let's say, I mean this is kind of a tricky one. Let's say our partner lies to us. There's two ways of bringing it up. One way is, "Why did you lie to me?" Then the other way is to ask a constraint question. The constraint question is, "What kept you from being truthful with me?" So the difference between why did you lie to me and what kept you from being truthful with me is a really big difference, right?

Alexandra Solomon: The why did you lie to me is an invitation to defensiveness. It's an accusation. It invites defensiveness, it predetermines the outcome, which is, I'm the victim. You're the perpetrator. It makes a good-bad split versus, what kept you from being truthful is a curious invitation towards let's work together to understand what the heck is going on in our relationship that truth is being constrained.

Alexandra Solomon: The truth that something doesn't feel safe enough or something is unhealed in you like, "What's going on? Let's look at this." It's an invitation to that shoulder to shoulder stance to look together at what the heck is going on.

Neil Sattin: So what's the trick for looking at a situation and finding the constraint? The constraint being though what's keeping you from something?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. Well, I think just that language. What's keeping you from, is the way to ask it. So you were late. What's keeping you from being on time? We agreed to 3:30, what's keeping, what kept you? What kept you from showing up at 3:30?

Neil Sattin: Right. You're setting unrealistic expectations for me. Yeah.

Alexandra Solomon: And, it may as well, okay, so now we're off to the races. Let's have a conversation about expectations. How do expectations tie to values? What do we value in this relationship? In what way are you and I different? You grew up in a family where 10 minutes late equaled on time. I grew up in a family where 10 minutes early equaled late. That's so fascinating. Let's unpack that. What does that mean to us going forward?

Alexandra Solomon: Now we're in it. Now we're unpacking and looking at it versus you were late, you were bad, you are wrong, you are disrespectful. That's a stance that closes off intimacy. It closes off any kind of curious conversation about how do we define? You know what? How do we define this? How do we operationalize it? What does it mean to us? Is there a difference between us and the value of this thing? Those are much more interesting conversations.

Alexandra Solomon: The idea, I guess the key to the constrained question - it involves a flip and an asking about what keeps us from a path that feels more healthy, more whole, more inviting, more collaborative.

Neil Sattin: Right? And, as you reach for a constraint question instead, you may bump up against that place in you that wants to be the victim because the constraint question, what I notice immediately is it invites you into a conversation where you have shared responsibility for whatever's happening.

Alexandra Solomon: Totally. Totally. Well, because when it comes to a lie, one of the really tricky things is - when we start to hide, we start to hide things, distort things when we don't trust, when we don't feel safe. So the lie can feel like the blatant obvious place to put the blame or the badness. But there's a very oftentimes really important things to look at about how do we respond when we're in the face of differences. Sometimes I may lie because it's, I'm really scared to be direct with you, to tell you what's really going on.

Neil Sattin: Right. We had, Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson on the show talking about their book, Tell Me No Lies, which, and I love how they illustrate that, that there is a co-created dynamic there of how honesty is fostered, and truth telling in a relationship.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. It's a lot of breathing. We have to really keep breathing when our partners share a truth that challenges us, that we disagree with, that we don't like. Okay. So keep breathing, keep breathing because if what you're saying is that you value transparency and honesty, then you got to keep breathing even when your partner is sharing something that you don't ... that you're struggling with.

Neil Sattin: Yes. True. Isn't that the truth?

Alexandra Solomon: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Neil Sattin: Maybe that would be a great place for us to end because I'm ... you spend the first half, I think of the lessons in the book are all about the work that we do within ourselves. It can be easy to ... One place where I've focused a lot on the show has been in the skills of being relational because the personal growth, like we're a very personal growth oriented world. So people neglect the growth that's around how you actually connect after you're growing personally.

Neil Sattin: But what did you, how can I phrase this? What's so crucial from your perspective about the way that we approach our own growth, and how we bring that to our relationship?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. One of the things that I say over and over again in the undergraduate course, and it pervades my work, which is the self awareness, self growth work isn't one and done. It's not like a thing we do for a month or a year or two years. It's something that we, it's a paradigm shift. It's a commitment to always seeing, to really taking ourselves as these unfolding projects, and that were never done, and we're never perfect, and thank goodness, and that it's this back and forth between my own intimacy with myself and how that opens me to intimacy with you.

Alexandra Solomon: Then how intimacy with you turns me back towards intimacy with myself. So it's really just, I think the most important thing is holding onto that both those things are true at the same time. That I'm working on me while we're working on us, and working on us helps me work on me. That that's this ongoing back and forth.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love that. It's true. It is an ongoing process. You offer some great ways in Loving Bravely to look at your own growth and how it, the bearing that it has on what you bring to relationships. So whether it's your beliefs about soulmates, or your beliefs about anger and confrontation, or what to expect in relationship, all those things are so important because if you're not illuminating them, they're going to drive you unconsciously or subconsciously.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. That's right. Even the whole, I could see a couple having a fight where it's about, "I thought you were my soul mate." What is a soul mate? Okay, great. So let's use rather than fighting about whether or not each other ... you are each other's soul mates, back up and have a conversation about how did you come to believe what you believe about soulmates? What ways that are a reflection of your family system, your cultural location? All of these little points of difference are really neat opportunities for expanding our own awareness, expanding our compassionate empathy for our partner, and how they're different from us, and how they view the world differently from us rather than them being threats.

Neil Sattin: Do we have time for one more question?

Alexandra Solomon: Sure. Go for it.

Neil Sattin: Okay. This came up for me actually at the very beginning of our conversation, and what you just said reminded me of it, and that is you've talked about the power of creating our narrative and really getting to know ourselves well in what you were just saying, unpacking that with our partners. I'm wondering from your perspective, what's the balance between what we share with our partners about that narrative, like sharing with them about our history, and what we're discovering, and maybe where we don't necessarily have to share.

Neil Sattin: And, on the flip side, I've actually gotten a lot of questions from people. Perhaps you run into this in your therapy as well when your sessions with clients around someone finding something out, and then having trouble forgetting it, or how do I live with knowing that this was my partner's experience? That could be something really bad that happened or it could even be like the knowledge that their partner had this amazing lover, and maybe they're not that. How do you help a couple navigate those kinds of questions?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. Boy, that's a big one. The first thing I'm thinking is about early in a relationship, the idea that we really do need to earn each other's stories. I think that early in a relationship there can be either a fear of being seen, of somebody knowing like what if you knew the skeletons in my closet, you would head for the hills, or there can be an opposite of like, "okay, so you need to know all this stuff about me so that you can decide whether you can handle me or not handle me, or I want to know right now if you are up for this because I don't want to get invested and then have you flee."

Alexandra Solomon: That's where the degree to which we can hold onto, with love and compassion, our own complexity that will help us navigate what is a really personal boundary around how and when we share.

Alexandra Solomon: But the thing that we know for sure is that when I show myself to you, and you respond with empathy instead of judgment, that right there creates a loop that builds trust. So the degree to which you do that for me is the degree to which I will feel safe enough to share more about me, and that builds trust.

Alexandra Solomon: The sharing, and the trust building, and the empathy do go hand in hand and they grow over time, and they're a process. Time is a really essential variable. That's what makes, I think I'm getting into a relationship, one of the things that makes getting into relationship so challenging is that, that it takes a while to build. It takes patience to share something, and then read the feedback of how your partner, how that person's responding to you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and on the flip side, if you're responding with a, "I don't know what to do about this, or having discovered this. You waited three years to tell me whatever it is." What I'm hearing, and what you just said is that, that might be a reflection of your own judgment or fear. And hopefully that's something that you're then able to bring to the conversation.

Alexandra Solomon: Right. Yeah, and when the partner, when our partner, if a partner shares something in year three of a relationship, usually it's when I see this happen with my couples, it tends to be something about when I was a kid I was abused or some piece of a story or my last relationship, I cheated. When that comes forward, hopefully it's coming forward in a way of like, "Listen, here's something difficult, and here's what I've done to understand it, to make sense of it, to heal, to grow. Here's what I commit to going forward." So that it's not just this kind of unfinished plop. Here's this thing which is plopped down in the space.

Alexandra Solomon: Where there is, I think some responsibility on the person who's doing the sharing to have done their own work around it, to have forgiven themselves, to have healed from the trauma, to have done some work around healing the trauma, to understand the bigger picture of what the impact was, what the recovery looks like, how they practice their healing today. I think that helps the integration of new knowledge, be a little easier for the recipient.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Well, now I'm realizing it wasn't really fair of me to drop such a big question on you at the end, but I appreciate that you are willing to dive right in with me. That being said, let this be hopefully an invitation for you to come back at some future date where we can unpack that even more.

Neil Sattin: In the meantime, Alexandra Solomon, thank you so much for being here with us today. Cearly, you are so wise and you have a lot of practical wisdom from also practicing with clients as well. Your book, Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want, I think is just so valuable. It's an easy read, and something that will definitely help you come to understand yourself in relationship way more than perhaps you already do.

Neil Sattin: Again, if you want to download the transcript and guide for this episode, you can do that at, as in Loving Bravely. You can also text the word PASSION to the number 33444, and follow the instructions, and I'll send you everything that you need along with links to find Alexandra Solomon, her book, and to get involved in her book group, and whatever else she has going on. Clearly lots of value there.

Neil Sattin: So thank you so much again, Alexandra, for being with us here today.

Alexandra Solomon: You're welcome. Thanks for having me on I appreciate it.


May 11, 2018

How do you know if your relationship is healthy? Does having problems mean that your relationship isn't healthy? And how do you promote the health of your relationship? In this week's episode, Neil Sattin answers these questions so that you can quickly get a sense of what's going on in your relationship - and, if you decide that things aren't healthy, exactly what to do to get back on track. It's like taking a multivitamin for your relationship!

And, as always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you.

Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by

FabFitFun offers a seasonal gift box with full-size, ahead-of-the-trend, fitness, beauty, lifestyle, and fashion products. Each box retails for $49.99, but contains more than $200 worth of goodies! You can customize your box, or just be completely surprised by what comes. As a special for Relationship Alive listeners, FabFitFun is offering $10 off your first box if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" with your order. It's a great gift for yourself - or for that special someone in your life.


FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE)

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


May 3, 2018

How do you do the work of true inner transformation? If there are parts of you that are getting in the way - of intimacy, of thriving, of living in integrity - then you’re going to have a tough time realizing the full potential of your life and your relationships. However, you have everything you need inside of you - if you know how to access it! In today’s conversation, we’re getting a return visit from Dick Schwartz, creator of Internal Family Systems. We’ll be exploring this powerful way of finding your core resourcefulness - which he calls “Self” energy - and using it to help heal and grow the parts within you that are holding you back, or interfering with your vibrancy and effectiveness. You’ll learn how to identify the different parts within you, and the roles that they are playing, and you’ll also get a taste of what it’s like to be coming from “Self”. And at the end you will hear Dick Schwartz guide me through an actual journey of identifying a part that’s been impacting me in the here and now - and you’ll hear how he works with me, and that part, to heal and transform. It’s powerful, and vulnerable, and all here for you to experience on this week’s episode of the Relationship Alive podcast.

And, as always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you.

Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Thanks to all of YOU who are chipping in to support Relationship Alive!


Listen to Relationship Alive Episode 26 with Dick Schwartz - How to Get All the Parts within You to Work Together

Check out Dick Schwartz's website - the Center for Self Leadership

Read Dick Schwartz’s Books along with others focusing on how to apply Internal Family Systems - both as a therapist, and for your life

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Dick Schwartz

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


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Way back in Episode 26 of the Relationship Alive Podcast, we spoke with Dick Schwartz who is the Founder of Internal Family Systems which is a way of coming to understand how you operate in the world, the various parts of you that sometimes have very different agendas for you and your life. Of course, this can have an enormous impact on how you show up in relationship and just how you show up in life in general.

Neil Sattin: Maybe you can relate to what I'm talking about, that feeling that one part of you wants one thing, another part of you wants another thing and how that can leave us paralyzed or maybe doing things that we're not necessarily proud of or that we didn't expect or that our partners didn't expect.

Neil Sattin: The process of working with your internal family, all of the parts within you and how they interrelate and the process of finding your own self to lead the way, that was what we covered back in Episode 26. This conversation that we're about to have with Dick Schwartz about some of the finer points of Internal Family Systems and how it can be useful for you in your day to day life to see how it's impacting you, all these parts within you and to give you some really practical new things that you can try to help you get related to how this is impacting you, how it's impacting your relationship and that's where we're headed today.

Neil Sattin: I'm very psyched to welcome back to the show Dick Schwartz to talk more about Internal Family Systems. He is the Head of the Center for Self Leadership, trains therapists all over the world and also has workshops for lay people to go through the process of self-discovery and healing and integration and bringing all of those parts back into harmony with each other.

Neil Sattin: Dick Schwartz, thank you so much for joining us again on Relationship Alive.

Dick Schwartz: Great to talk to you again Neil. I enjoyed our first conversation and you're a great interviewer.

Neil Sattin: Thank you. Thank you. We'll see. I could have gotten worse in the past couple of years. Hopefully, not. I just gave a quick synopsis in that introduction. By the way, if want to download the transcript or action guide from this episode, you can visit, that's the word self and then the number two, or you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Just didn't want to forget that because I'm sure we're going to cover a lot of ground.

Neil Sattin: Given what I had said already, I'm wondering what are the salient points, what's your elevator speech about "this is what Internal Family Systems is, this is why it's so important"?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I got to find the perfect elevator speech but I can elaborate a little bit on what you said. It's my belief that we all are multiple personalities, not in the sense that we have that disorder, but that we all have these what you were saying, we all have these parts that are little sub-minds inside of us and I mentioned too that I just wrote a book tracking the history of that in our culture and in psychotherapy that this idea has been in the field for years and years and comes up and then gets knocked down again.

Dick Schwartz: I'm trying to resurrect it, that it's almost like that movie, Inside Out, only with a lot more than just the five that were in that movie where they interact with each other, that's what we call thinking often, and sometimes, one will take over and make us do things we don't want to do like you said. It's a little inner family or society that most of the time, we don't pay much attention to and think of it as just thinking or different emotions coming and going.

Dick Schwartz: If you do shift your focus inside, almost everybody can access their parts and will learn that they're all in there doing their best. Many of them are frozen in time in the past during traumas or in psychotherapy, we call attachment injuries in your family. They're as extreme as they had to be back then to protect you and those are often the ones that we don't like and try to get rid of but you can't really get rid of them. When you try, they just get stronger usually.

Dick Schwartz: In addition to all these parts, the other thing I'll say about the parts is that the good news is they're all valuable. It's like we're built with this inner multiplicity to help us in our lives. Even the very extreme ones that screw up your life can transform once they feel witnessed by you and you can help them out of where they're stuck in the past and then they become very valuable qualities.

Dick Schwartz: The other good news is that as I was exploring all this, I ran into what we'll call the Self which is almost a different level of entity inside of everyone that can't be damaged and has all the capacity you need to heal these parts. When I work with people, I help them access that first, that essence that vital resource and from that place, begin to work with their parts. When people access their Self, we were talking about leadership earlier, they just naturally have qualities like curiosity and calm and what we call the eight C's of self-leadership, compassion, courage, confidence, clarity, connectedness and there's one I just forgot.

Neil Sattin: Curiosity, calm and confidence, did you say that?

Dick Schwartz: Confidence. I don't think I said confidence.

Neil Sattin: Okay. Compassion.

Dick Schwartz: Compassion. I did say compassion.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Dick Schwartz: Those are what we call the eight C's of self-leadership but it turns out that everybody at their essence, when that's accessed, experiences those qualities in others. From that place, has wisdom about how to heal themselves emotionally. That's as close to an elevator speech as I can get I think.

Neil Sattin: Okay. A couple of questions. First, is that even true for kids? Do kids have a Self Energy that helps them heal their parts?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yes. Very much, and we use this model a lot with kids. There's a book on IFS with kids fairly recently. It's quite amazing because you would think that that Self has to develop but even in very young kids, you can access that place. From that place, they don't know how to do a lot of things in the outside world but they do know how to heal themselves and relate with love and kindness to these different parts such that the parts will transform.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The other thing I was curious about was whether you could offer an example, just so people know what we're talking about. Can you think of a time or someone you worked with where they had a part that was really destructive and what that transformed into through working with that part in healing just as an example of how that works?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There are many, many, many because I'm a therapist and I specialized in the treatment of severe complex trauma for years. I worked with people who had intense suicidal parts for example or parts that wanted to hurt them in other ways and would cut them and then parts that were rageful and would hurt other people. I spent seven years using this model with sex offenders too and I'm here to say that all of those parts including the sex offenders when approached with compassion and curiosity would reveal the secret history of how they got into the role they were in and the crime and how much they hated to do what they were doing but they were carrying these beliefs and emotions from their past experiences that drove them to do those things.

Dick Schwartz: In understanding that and also getting them out of where they were stuck in the past, they were all able to transform. If I'm working with a suicidal client for example and I would ask or I'd have the client ask the part why it wanted to kill them, it would say, if I don't kill you, you're going to continue to suffer the rest of your life. I would say, if we could get her out of her suffering in a different way, would you have to kill her? The part would say, no but I don't think you can do that. I would say, okay. Give me a chance to show that we can and then we would do that. We would heal the parts that are suffering so badly.

Dick Schwartz: You come back and now the suicidal part is happy to step out of its role and we help it into another role which often is the exact opposite of what the protector, the protective part has been in. In the case of suicide, it's often now the part wants to help you enjoy life in different ways. That would be an example.

Neil Sattin: Wow. So powerful because I think one misconception that someone might have would be a part like that where you got to get that out of there somehow.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Get rid of the harming part.

Dick Schwartz: That's right. That's the way our mental health system and our culture has viewed these things, not as entities trying their best in a misguided way as to protect us but as destructive impulses that we have to get rid of. The level of suicide is going up and levels of addiction. All is because we tend to go to war against these parts. When you do that, they think you don't get how dangerous it is and they'll up the ante and they'll kick your butt. You can't beat them most of the time.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You offer an example in one of your books that I was reading about like imagining you're on a boat and you have a part that is convinced that something is true. The only way they're going to keep the boat upright is by leaning out this side of the boat. Then there's this opposing part that thinks basically the exact opposite and they're leaning out the other way. The more you try and adjust one or the other, instead of coming both in to share tea and crumpets under the mast of the boat, it tends to push them out further to the edges leaning off the sides.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. When any part gets extreme in one direction, there usually will be a part that will get extreme in the opposite direction. It's what we call polarization. You find that in other levels of system, for example our country right now is highly polarized such that the more I as a therapist or anybody sides with one side, the more extreme the other part has to get because they think the boat is going to collapse if they don't lean out in the opposite way.

Dick Schwartz: A lot of what we try to do is get to know each side with curiosity and compassion and then help them come into the boat and trust that it's safe to do that and get to know each other in a different way and see that they actually have things in common. They both have the survival of the boat in common for example and then help them find a new relationship. The best person to do that isn't the therapist, it's the client's Self.

Dick Schwartz: Frequently, we're helping people access the Self and then from that place, become their own inner therapist to these polarized parts.

Neil Sattin: Yeah and that's something that's noticeably different about Internal Family Systems, the role of the therapist. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit more about why that's so important to usher your clients into being in Self energy and then from that place, more or less doing their own therapy.

Dick Schwartz: As you're saying, that's probably the biggest difference between IFS and most other therapies and that is that rather than me, the therapist being the good attachment figure, it might be one way to think of it to the client and to the client's very insecure or hurt parts so that my relationship with the client becomes the fulcrum of their healing. My relationship is important in the sense that if I can be in what I'm calling Self energy, that allows the client to feel safe enough to drop their guard, their protected parts relax, and allows them to access Self.

Dick Schwartz: In that state, they become the primary caretaker to their parts, the primary attachment figure which is very empowering for clients and they can do it on their own between sessions and it becomes a life practice that way rather than there being this intense dependence on the therapist.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One of the cases that you write about involves treating someone with bulimia and you detail how 14 sessions and this woman was in charge basically of her life again. I don't know what happened to that particular person but there's something magical and it makes a lot of sense as well, not magical in like fantasy but more like, yeah that makes total sense when people feel empowered that way to work with the parts in them that otherwise were running the show.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That's part of why this often takes less time than others because as I said, people are doing this work on their own between sessions and many of my sessions, a client comes in and the first 10, 15 minutes, they're just catching me up on everything they've been doing at home. Then we go in and we do some more and then they take it from there so yeah.

Neil Sattin: A quick stepping out moment, because I know this comes up as a therapist and it also comes up in life. When you're interacting with other people's parts, I think you use the term blended. When someone is blended with their part, they're being that rageful part or that inconsiderate or mean or whatever it is. What's a way that you use to say in Self energy, compassion, curious, et cetera in the face of someone being potentially really offensive or inappropriate? Maybe I mean this more in terms of interpersonally out in the world versus in the treatment room.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I've had a lot of practice given the kinds of clients that I was talking about because they often have parts that as you get close enough to them to do any damage, suddenly, their rage will come at you and they've been watching you for session after session and they know your weaknesses and they find just the right thing to say. These clients would be labeled borderline personality which is a very pejorative way of thinking of somebody.

Dick Schwartz: It's a lot better to just think of them as having this protective rage that isn't going to let you get close enough. I've had many, many practice sessions of immediately noticing the parts of me that come to protect me, defend me and then in the moment now, not before but now, I in the moment, can notice those parts and ask them to just let me handle this, to just let me stay and I'll feel this shift from my heart being fully closed up and my urge to lash out. That will immediately evaporate and feel my heart open again and I'll be able to see past the protector in the client to the pain that's driving it so I have compassion.

Dick Schwartz: I'll be able to stay calm and simply that presence is very diffusing for these rageful parts. Whatever I say, if it comes from that place is going to deescalate rather than escalate.

Neil Sattin: You notice that huge difference between when you're coming from Self energy versus a logical, rational manager part-

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, absolutely. I can do that with most anybody now except my wife. When she and I get into it, I just notice these parts coming in. I know that it's going to make it worse but I can't get them to step back because she can hurt me like nobody else.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: We've learned ways of repairing that afterwards, but yeah. When the protectors, even if it's a logical, rational one which doesn't seem so bad just inflames her angry part and my angry part really sets things off. Anyway, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I do want to mention that we did have Toni Herbine-Blank on the show to talk about intimacy from the inside out which is the way she applies IFS to couples work and for you listening, that's Episode 52 that you can refer back to.

Dick Schwartz: Great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm curious because - full disclosure, I see an IFS therapist, my wife sees an IFS therapist and so I'm a little biased here-

Dick Schwartz: Honored to hear that Neil...

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The language of are you coming from Self right now? That permeates our relationship particularly when things happen so I know you are just saying that all bets are off when you're with your wife but I am curious if you have … Yeah, two important things here. One is, is there a way that you found reliably to suggest, wait a minute, we're not Self to Self in this moment.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: That's been a godsend. At some point, one of us will say, okay, let's just take a time out and work with our parts and come back when we can be more Self-led and we do it. That really has defused things. Then the next step and probably Toni talked about this too is to come back and what we call speak for rather than from the parts that were protecting us but also speak for the pain or the fear or the shame that was driving those protectors. When I can speak for what I call my exiles, those parts that I locked up in the past because they were so hurt or scared or ashamed.

Dick Schwartz: When I can speak from Self for those parts, then my wife Jean can hear that rather than when I'm speaking from those parts that try to defend me because they're so afraid that I'll feel ashamed and so on.

Neil Sattin: Wow. So many possibilities right now bumping through my brain about where to go. One loose end from earlier in this conversation, when someone comes to you and they're convinced that they are defective or that they don't have the resource within them, maybe they don't have that experience of Self energy that shows them that it's possible, what do you do to help them see actually, you are the one that you need right now?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. A lot of people start out that way.

Neil Sattin: Right because they're thinking, if I had all the answers, I wouldn't be so fucked up, right?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah and they've never had that experience of what we call Self. They've never felt it in their lives so why would they think they have it? They've been told by their families that they don't have anything like that, that they're good for nothing so they come in really believing that and I'll say, I know there are parts of you that don't believe that's in there but if you give me a shot, I can prove that it is.

Dick Schwartz: By that, I'd say, okay. Let's find the part that has this belief and ask it if it would be willing to just give us a little space in there and see what happens. If I'm in Self and my client has some degree of trust, I'll say just for a second, it can come back immediately, then the client will have this palpable experience of all that self-criticism, getting a little bit of space from it and with that, often will come to some little taste of Self. You never get full Self but just a little bit of a difference.

Dick Schwartz: Then I'll ask another part to step back and so on. Often, you'll come to some key ones that had been running things and asking them to step back is more of a challenge because they'll say, if I step back, there's not going to be anybody left. I'll say, I know you believe that but I guarantee you're wrong. Again, I would love it if you just give me a chance to prove that. You'll actually like who comes forward and it will be a big relief to you.

Dick Schwartz: I'm nothing if not a kind of what I call a hope merchant or a salesman. I'm selling hope to hopeless systems. If they buy it at all, they're eager. They would love to have somebody in there that is Self to run things. They're like in family therapy, we call parentified children. They're likely kids who when parents weren't available, had to run things and they're tired so they're dying for somebody capable to take over. They just don't think it's possible.

Neil Sattin: Could we talk for a moment about just the different categories of parts that might make it easier for you to recognize the different roles that your parts play within you and then maybe we'll chat about a way that someone listening could, after we're done, figure out their cast of characters, get related to some of the parts that are operating within them. What are some of the general categories that you see that are most significant in how we operate?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. The word roles is very important to remember because too often, other people, when they come up with category systems, they describe the category as if it were the part. In this system, these are the roles that the parts have been forced in to by what happened to you in your life. There's really one big distinction and that's between the parts of you that usually were the most sensitive, these inner children who before they're hurt are delightful and creative and innocent and trusting and so on.

Dick Schwartz: After they're hurt, they now carry what we call the burdens from the trauma or the betrayal and so now, they carry a lot of pain or mistrust or fear and shame and now, we don't want anything to do with them because we assume that that's just a hurt feeling or that's just a shame feeling. We tend to try and lock them away inside in inner abysses or caves or jails. We call these the exiles. Most all of us, partly because of these beliefs about who we are from our culture, have a bunch of exiles.

Dick Schwartz: When you get a bunch of exiles, the world suddenly becomes a lot more dangerous because anybody can trigger you. If you get hurt in a similar way again, all that past pain and the parts that are stuck in those past scenes come roaring out and take over and take you down and make it so you can't function often. There's a tremendous fear of the exiles and their being triggered. To keep that from happening, other parts are forced into the role of being protectors and some of them are trying to protect you and those exiles by managing your life so that nothing similar ever happens again and you don't manage your relationship so you don't get too close to anybody or too distant from people you depend on and manage your appearance so you look good all the time, manage your performance.

Dick Schwartz: These are parts that sometimes find themselves in the role of inner critic because they're criticizing you to try and prod you to do better or look better or they might be criticizing you to keep you from taking risks so you don't get hurt but there's lots of other common manager roles so there are caretaking managers that try to take care of everybody else and don't let you take care of yourself and so on and so on, but they're all a bunch of often pretty young parts who are now forced to do this role they're not equipped to do.

Dick Schwartz: Then the last category of protector, managers are the first, are parts that if an exile does get triggered, have to go into action to deal with that emergency and often, have to therefore be very impulsive and damn the torpedoes. I'm going to get you to do something that's going to take you away from this right now and get you higher than the pain or douse it, the shame, with some kind of substance or distract you somehow. These we call firefighters. They're fighting the flames of pain and shame and terror that come out of these exiles.

Dick Schwartz: They're the unsung heroes because most of the time, they do things that get us more attacked or shame but they're just doing their job because they know if they don't do it, the boat is going to sink.

Neil Sattin: Meaning, they're doing things like indulging in addictions or sexual compulsion?

Dick Schwartz: Right. All of those things. Some of us have more socially sanctioned firefighters like work is one of mine, we don't get as much … Actually, we get accolades for that.

Neil Sattin: Right, except maybe from your partner who's like, where the hell are you? You're working all the time.

Dick Schwartz: Exactly right, but most of my client's firefighters have been either destructive to them or to other people and so they hate themselves for having them and often, the people around them are critical of them for having them. Again, all of that shaming, both internal shaming and external shaming just adds to the load of these exiles which creates more work for the firefighters that then brings on more attack from the managers. Most people, addicts and so on are in that loop where the harder they try to sit on the addiction through discipline or self-blame, the more that firefighter feels like it's going to do its job.

Dick Schwartz: You can pump up the managers to the point where they will sit on the firefighters and the exiles but that's what people call dry drunk, a person become very rigid and the slightest thing could trigger them off the wagon so that's not the kind of healing that we're looking for.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm curious the word shame has come up several times. What is the healing path for shame?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Shame is usually minimally a two part phenomena. There's a part that says you're bad and then there's this part which is usually an exile that believes that you're worthless. Before we go to that exile, we'll go to the critic, the one who says you're bad, first and let it know we get it's trying to protect and give us permission to go to the exile. Once we get to that exile, we'll ask it, we'll have the Self ask it where it got the shame in the past and why it feels so bad about itself.

Dick Schwartz: Then people begin to witness scenes from their past where they were shamed or humiliated or made to feel worthless and how terrifying that was and how that part just bought into it then and thought they were a total loser and then how other parts had to combat that the rest of their life.

Dick Schwartz: Just that witnessing, once you see and I don't mean get it intellectually but I actually mean see it and sense it and feel almost like reliving it but not be overwhelmed by it. Once you really get what happened and how bad it was, then the part finally feels like you get it and we know where to have you go into the past in a literal way in this inner world and be with that boy in the way he needed when the shaming thing happened and often take him out of there to a safe place where now, he's willing to give up the shame.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There's this quality of hanging on. This is the burden, right? Hanging on to the shame?

Dick Schwartz: Right.

Neil Sattin: Through being willing to be present with that part's experience and to do something, I don't know why the word heroic is coming to mind but something that you … that had an adult, had a caring, compassionate, courageous adult been there that they would have done.

Dick Schwartz: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: if you can do that, then that part of you is getting what it needs, the exiled part and no longer requires the shame.

Dick Schwartz: That's right. Yeah. People say you can't change the past but it turns out in this inner world, you can. The part's literal experience, once you go into the scene, like if you did that for some part of you Neil and you are there with that boy in the way he needed and you maybe … stood up for him against your father for example-

Neil Sattin: How did you know that was what I was thinking?

Dick Schwartz: Because I'm so good. I'm psychic. He watched you do that. That literally changes in that part's experience, what happened to him. He now becomes attached to you as the caretaker rather than depending on his father anymore and now, he's willing to leave with you and let you have this ongoing new relationship with him where you take care of him every day which usually doesn't require more than just a little check-in to see how he's doing.

Dick Schwartz: Yes. Once, that's all complete, these parts are more than happy to give up these extreme beliefs and emotions like shame that they've been carrying for whatever it is, 40 years.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and this is why it just seems like it's so important to recognize the personhood of these parts within you to see them that way. It's like an individual worthy of curiosity, compassion, respect.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That's a tough sell on this culture because multiplicity has been pathologized over and over both by the idea that multiplicity or multiple personality disorder is a disorder. It's a scary syndrome and by just our kind of rational culture that says it's preposterous to have these little beings inside of us. It's been an uphill battle to try and make this idea sink in.

Neil Sattin: On the one hand, I love it because it's so empowering. More and more I hear from listeners or clients, people in relationship where they're like, yeah, I'm with someone who's … they have borderline personality disorder. I'm pretty sure they're a narcissist. There's some relief to knowing what might be going on with the other people in your life, maybe with yourself as well. I don't know how many people are like, you know what, I think I'm a narcissist.

Neil Sattin: At the same time, what I hear you saying is that everyone has this capacity for healing if they're willing to honor these parts within them that are causing the behavior that we see.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Again, I haven't worked with everyone, but everyone I work with, and I've worked with people that have been written off as sociopaths or various other labels. They have protective parts that fit the profile but when those parts step back, they have everything else like everybody else. Yeah, I bristle at all those diagnostic labels, it's like we take a person's most extreme and maybe destructive part and say that that's who they are. That doesn't give you much hope.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. What do you offer someone who … let's say they are in a relationship with someone who is exhibiting narcissistic tendencies? I think for those people, there's often this quandary of experiencing the destructive behavior, maybe seeing … especially if they're someone you love, then you tend to also see their capacity, their potential for amazingness. Yet, there's this question about do I really stay in this? Do I go? Do I give this person an ultimatum? You got this part. You got to heal it or else I'm out of here.

Neil Sattin: How does that work?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Sometimes, it takes something like that but you can do it from Self so there is what we call Self-led confrontation and I've done this with people I'm close to and also clients where you can see that there's a part that dominates them, that doesn't serve them and is also getting in the relationship you're in with them in the way but there's a way to say that to them with an open heart that is much more likely to sink in than if you say it from a protective part of you that's so annoyed with the person and also sees them as "a narcissist" or whatever monolithic label you've been encouraged to see the person as.

Dick Schwartz: When I'm with someone like that, again, so like x-ray vision, I can see the pain that's driving the protector and I can try to speak to both even with our current president which is a challenge. You know that there's just a bundle of exiles in there that drives all this stuff and if you can hold that perspective, then you can speak from a loving place even to very difficult things. Now, that doesn't mean you need to stay with that person if that part is constantly hurting you and that's a whole different topic of whether or not to stay but the point I'm trying to make is that it's possible even with people like that to stand up for your parts without alienating them.

Neil Sattin: What internal work would you suggest someone do to get to Self in order to have that conversation from aSself-led place?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There's an exercise that I'll do with groups where you could take such a person and put them in a room in your mind that's contained with a window and so you're outside the room looking at that person from outside and have them do the thing that gets to you and then notice the parts that get immediately triggered and come to your defense. As you notice them, start to get to know them and what they're afraid would happened if they didn't jump up to protect you that way and then you'll learn about the exiles they protect and then you can actively ask each of them if they'd be willing to just give you a little bit of space not so you're going into the room with that person but so you can look at them without the influence of all this protective stuff.

Dick Schwartz: If they're willing, the person again will notice this palpable shift and I'll have the person look again in the room and again, when you see through the eyes of Self, you have a very different view. The person looks different, less menacing and the person … I feel sorry for him whereas seconds earlier, they were terrified of him or hated him. I don't know if that answered your question but that's an example of what we can do.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It seems like that … that's giving someone an experience, a direct experience of that person when they're in Self that then they can bring to a real life encounter?

Dick Schwartz: Exactly, yeah. To really pull it off, you have to return to your parts and find the exiles that get triggered by such a person so much and do the healing we talked about earlier with those exiles because it's really hard to pull it off if your exiles are still vulnerable to that person.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Can we get clear too on some of the terminology like when we talk about asking a part to step back or even just asking a part anything, much less what are you afraid will happen, et cetera? How does that process work? Is that something that … What are the different ways it can work I guess because I'd love for our listeners to be able to get a sense of how this process could go? At least to the extent that they could do without guidance.

Dick Schwartz: You want to do a little piece together as an example Neil?

Neil Sattin: That would be great.

Dick Schwartz: Do you have a part you'd like to start with?

Neil Sattin: Let's see. Is there one? There's not one that's like jumping up immediately. Maybe help me get there.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. Is there something in your relationship, your intimate relationship that gets in the way?

Neil Sattin: Clearly. Yeah. Let's talk about the desire to work, like for me. That was one example you used earlier. That's true for me as well especially because I can feel like others … There's always more to do so it's hard to just close the door and step into time with my lovely amazing wife who would love to see more of me I'm sure. I know that because she tells me.

Dick Schwartz: Right. It's very similar. Focus on that part that's pushing you to work all the time and find it in your body or around your body.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. For me, it's like right in solar plexus area. There's like a heat and a tension there.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. As you notice it, how do you feel toward it?

Neil Sattin: I guess I'm a little bit annoyed and also at the same time, I'm like wow, there you are. That was easy to see you there. Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. Let's see if the part of you who's so annoyed or a little bit annoyed would be willing to relax a little bit and step back in there so we can just get to know the work part because it's hard to get to know it if you're annoyed with it. Just see if that's possible.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. He's trusting you right now so yes. He'll step aside for a moment. Relax. I think he like that word.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I will use that word then, relax. Then focus again now on the work part and tell me how you feel toward it now.

Neil Sattin: Wow. What I just experienced was another part coming in being like, wow, I can't believe you're not working with me right now. I've really needed some time and attention.

Dick Schwartz: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Isn't that funny?

Dick Schwartz: Do you want to shift or do you want to pass that one to relax too?

Neil Sattin: Let's go into that because that feels potent for me and it's just around the wellbeing of my kids and my listeners know that I've been through divorce. I have my kids halftime, I love them and yeah, there's just something about wanting the best for them in a complex world and being afraid that they'll get hurt.

Dick Schwartz: Okay, good. Where do you find this one in your body, around your body?

Neil Sattin: That one feels like a really intense welling up in my face like a pre-tears kind of feeling and I'm also noticing a hollowness in my belly.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. How do feel toward this part as you notice it, those places?

Neil Sattin: I really want to help this part.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Let it know that and just see how it reacts to your caring for it.

Neil Sattin: How do I let it know that?

Dick Schwartz: Just tell it inside. Just say, I really want to help you. Just see how it reacts.

Neil Sattin: In telling that part, I really want to help you, he feels more teary and I also feel relief like he would say, I'm not alone. I'm not alone.

Dick Schwartz: That's right. Now, let him know he isn't alone anymore and see now what he wants you to know about himself and don't think of the answer, just wait for answers to come.

Neil Sattin: He says, I know the pain of being hurt and I want to save these children from that pain.

Dick Schwartz: Does that make sense, Neil?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Let him know you get that. It makes a lot of sense that you value that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It's huge. He's a huge resource for those kids.

Dick Schwartz: That's right.

Neil Sattin: I just see too that there's … I recognize times when that fear that they're not going to be okay is running the show and that sometimes works out and other times, it definitely can keep me from being in Self energy around things that are challenging.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. See if he's interested in unloading some of that fear and pain that he carries from the past. Just ask him that.

Neil Sattin: He says, if you think that's possible, then sure.

Dick Schwartz: Tell him it's totally possible.

Neil Sattin: Totally possible. Dick says so, and I believe it too. I do.

Dick Schwartz: Tell him to show you, let you feel without overwhelming you and sense what happened to give him all that. Neil, you can share with us what you get or keep it private, it's up to you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. What I'm seeing are experiences of confusion and pain from different parts of my childhood that didn't make a lot of sense and it's just funny, ha-ha, that it does relate more to my father from what we were talking about before in this moment. That's what this part is showing me. Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Just stay with it. Is it okay to see all this, Neil?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Tell him you're getting it and it's okay to really let you get it all and just stay with it, encourage him to really let you feel it and sense it and see it how bad it was for him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. In that, I notice there's almost like a trembling happening in my body.

Dick Schwartz: Let that happen. Just let your body move the way it needs to. It's all good. It's all part of the witnessing and just stay with it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I can feel that pain for sure.

Dick Schwartz: Okay.

Neil Sattin: What I'm noticing is also that it's not overwhelming me, it's more like I'm getting the tears. I'm getting the trembling but I'm not losing touch with us, here having this conversation or-

Dick Schwartz: Ask him if he feels like you're getting this, if this is what he wanted you to feel and sense and see or if there's more.

Neil Sattin: He says no. This is it and in saying that I also felt this really quick shift to calmness in my body.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yeah, he's relieved?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Ask him if he's most stuck in one of those scenes or if it's the whole time period we need to get him out of.

Neil Sattin: He's like, if you could get me out of the whole shebang, that would be great.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, we'll do what we can.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Dick Schwartz: All right. Neil, I'd like you to go into that time period and be with that boy in the way he needed somebody at the time and just tell me when you're in there with him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, okay. I'm there.

Dick Schwartz: How are you being with him?

Neil Sattin: I'm taking a stand and saying this is not okay.

Dick Schwartz: To your father?

Neil Sattin: To my father.

Dick Schwartz: That's great.

Neil Sattin: I placed myself physically between the young me and my father.

Dick Schwartz: Let me ask you, do you see yourself doing that or are you just there doing it and you see him and your father?

Neil Sattin: That's a tough one. It feels like it's going back and forth.

Dick Schwartz: All right. See if you can just be there without seeing yourself.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Dick Schwartz: Keep doing that. Whatever the boy needs. Just keep doing that for him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm there saying, this is not okay and then what feels like it really wants to happen is I turn to grab the boy and pick him up and just take him out of there.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, let's do that. Let's take him somewhere safe and comfortable he'd enjoy. It could be in the present, it could be a fantasy place, wherever he'd like to be.

Neil Sattin: I'm asking him where he would like to be.

Dick Schwartz: Perfect.

Neil Sattin: I think he wants to just hang out  and play with his Star Wars figures.

Dick Schwartz: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm like, okay, where can we do that? Can we do that here and now? I'm imagining bringing him here into the room where I sit which is really convenient because my son has all my old Star Wars figures so I can grab some of those.

Dick Schwartz: Great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. We're here now and he's just doing that and we're away from whatever was happening,

Dick Schwartz: Good. How does he seem now?

Neil Sattin: It's interesting because he seems a lot younger than when I was interacting with him as the part that was fearful for my kids but he seems happy to be here and happy that I'm willing to play with him and he seems relieved like that was hard for him and it was a pretty quick turn though to just be here and be safe.

Dick Schwartz: Good. See if now that he never has to go back there and you're going to take care of him if he's ready to unload the feelings and beliefs he got from those times.

Neil Sattin: I think he says he's not sure what they are but yes, he's ready.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. He could just check his body and see if there's anything he carries that doesn't belong to him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's that like … he's calling it that weird feeling in my belly, that trembly flutteriness.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Great. Is he ready to unload that?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Ask him what he'd like to give it up to. Light, water, fire, wind, earth, anything else.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. He's like, I want it to just get dissolved in light.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. Bring in a light and have that happen. Tell him to let that all dissolve out of his stomach and stay with that until it's gone.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The feeling is gone and I'm also noticing that the hollowness I was experiencing in my belly before, it feels warm and full. That feels really important to me.

Dick Schwartz: That's great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Tell him now if he'd like to, he can invite into his body qualities he'll need in the future and you can just see what comes into him now.

Neil Sattin: He says, it's almost like cleverness, and the word that's popping into my head is mischief, but like a playful mischief.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Tell him to invite that in.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Actually, and just like a relaxed happiness, contentment I think is one of those, yeah.

Dick Schwartz: How does he seem now?

Neil Sattin: He seems really happy.

Dick Schwartz: That's great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Then before we stop bring in the one who was so annoyed with him originally, so it can see that he's different now and see how it reacts.

Neil Sattin: The annoyed, I think that might have been more around the work part.

Dick Schwartz: That's right. You're right. That's right. Okay. Maybe think about your kids now and see how it feels.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I feel really confident that I'm doing right by them.

Dick Schwartz: Good. Okay, you ready to come back?

Neil Sattin: I am. That was great. Thank you.

Dick Schwartz: That was very cool. Thank you for having the courage to do it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Wow. A little window into Neil's psyche, into the interpsychic space. One thing that I wanted to highlight that you said that feels important is when you talked about experiencing the feelings without being overwhelmed particularly if someone is doing this inner work on their own like being willing to … like having that be part of the dialog with their part.

Neil Sattin: I want to see what you got and you don't need to overwhelm me.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That was a big discovery maybe 25 years ago that parts can control how much they overwhelm because the trauma field and a lot of psychotherapy has just assumed that if you open that door, you're going to be flooded and there's not much you can do it about it other than practice these grounding skills endlessly and so on. It turns out that if you simply in advance of going to an exile, ask it to not overwhelm and it agrees not to, it won't so we can do the thing we just did with you without a huge fear of that overwhelm happening.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think some people are afraid to open the door. I'm not going to go there because that's just too much for me and they've probably experienced what that too much feeling is like at least once in their lives, right?

Dick Schwartz: Exactly right, yeah. They've experienced. When they open the door, they were flooded. They couldn't get out of bed. They're horribly depressed and they swore never again. It's a tough sell in such clients to allow them to believe that it's possible to not do that. The exile itself to its defense, it's desperate to get some attention. If you open the door, it's going to jump out and totally take over for fear of being locked up again but if it trusts that it's not going to be locked up and you'll listen to it, it doesn't need to overwhelm you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and because the worrying part wasn't really a part of that thread, we didn't really get to go there but I'm guessing there's something similar that happens. I'm not guessing, okay, I know but there's something similar that happens with the manager where they also get to be relieved of the burden of the protection and to be infused with some qualities that gives them that new assignment, the new role.

Dick Schwartz: Exactly. There are also stuff back in those same scenes where they took on the role of protecting that boy and they need to be retrieved that same way and unburdened. When that happens, then they're freed up to do something entirely different that they're much more designed to do and that they enjoy.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I felt like it's important to say it just because we did that work around my father that my dad is a good guy in case, in the off chance he's listening or that people who know him are listening. What I've noticed as a parent is that it actually is, their kids have things that hurt them.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yeah. That happens and like my father who isn't alive anymore but had a lot of untreated PTSD from World War II, so everybody has got trauma and everybody has got extreme parts and when they raise their kids, those parts get triggered.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: My father was a great guy also in many different ways.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One last thing. I just appreciate how wide our conversation has gone and your willingness to do that process with me as well which I think was very illustrative. You've mentioned that your clients, they have a routine or a check-in that they do that helps them do the work as part of their daily lives and I'm wondering what could that look like for someone if they wanted to incorporate something like that into their daily life?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah For some people, it's as simple as just a 10 minute meditation where you can incorporate it into what you already do for meditating but just start by finding, on your case, would be finding this boy and just make sure that he's still in that good place and see if he needs anything. In some times, it takes just a few seconds and he is doing well and other times, he does need more or if he feels like you abandoned him and you got to listen to that and help him with it.

Dick Schwartz: Everybody can do this on a daily basis. It becomes a life practice, not just checking with that part but with all your parts and just noticing what they need and taking care of them the way you might take care of your external children although again, they don't nearly need as much as your external children. Often, it's just a matter of minutes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: There's a woman named Michelle Glass who wrote a book on the daily practice side of it. I can't pull up the name of that book right now but you can find it on our website.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Your website is, and Dick, you also just recently came out with a book that you're telling me about before we hopped on the line here. What is that called and what's it about?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I coauthored it with a guy named Bob Falconer and it's called Many Minds, One Self. It's about ushering in this radically different paradigm of multiplicity and that there is this Self in there too. It's substantiating these positions I take by going through the history of our culture, the history of psychotherapy, different branches of science and showing how often the idea that the mind is naturally multiple comes up and gets pushed down.

Dick Schwartz: Then also going through each major religion and particularly, the more esoteric or contemplative branches of those religions and seeing how every one has a word for Self, it's a different word but they're all talking about the same thing that I stumbled on to many, many years ago that's in there. Some systems call it the soul or Buddha-nature or Atman or various names for it but we try to cover in some depth all of that.

Neil Sattin: Great. Is that available through your website and is it on Amazon as well?

Dick Schwartz: I'm not sure it's on Amazon yet. It just came out.

Neil Sattin: Okay, great.

Dick Schwartz: It will be soon but yeah, you can certainly get it from the website.

Neil Sattin: Great. We'll have links to that book, your website, the Michelle Glass book that you just mentioned.

Dick Schwartz: One more book if you don't mind.

Neil Sattin: No. Go ahead please.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I coauthored another book with a guy named Frank Anderson and Martha Sweezy which is a kind of workbook for applying IFS to trauma since we've been talking about that today that just came out too with through PESI, capital P-E-S-I.

Neil Sattin: Great. That's more for the therapist in our audience?

Dick Schwartz: Yes. Yes, therapist.

Neil Sattin: Okay, great. If people want to find out more about getting IFS training or finding an IFS therapist, is that through the website?

Dick Schwartz: That's right. There's a whole section on those issues.

Neil Sattin: Great. Great. One last point of curiosity. We've talked about the self and the qualities that if you're coming from a place that's compassionate, creative, curious, then you're in Self energy. Is there a quick exercise that you have people do to help them get a sense of "this is the inner diaspora of characters that are there within you that you can get to know over time?"

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There's something we call parts mapping for example where just to describe it very quickly, I would have you start with a part. It might be the same one you started with or a different one and just stay present to it until you could for example, draw it in some form or another on a page and then return to it and stay focused on it until you notice a shift. Another part comes forward and then you'd stay with it until you can represent it on the page and then return to it until another one comes forward.

Dick Schwartz: In doing that, usually, people will map out one circuit of parts, one cluster of parts that are related to each other and it's very useful for people to do that.

Neil Sattin: By staying with one, others will naturally emerge?

Dick Schwartz: It seems to be. If you can stay in an open, curious Self place, then, if you stay with one, something will come up, some other one that's related to it.

Neil Sattin: That makes sense to me especially considering what we're saying about polarized parts earlier that if one is like, I'm here, then the other one is going to be not far behind. Don't forget about me.

Dick Schwartz: Right. That's exactly right. Not just the ones that are polarized. You'll get the ones who protect each other and so on.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The work is really so fascinating and despite having been speaking here now for a little over an hour, we're still just scratching the surface. I loved, in particular, the way that you map the relationships between these inner parts as they relate to each other and then how that's reflected in the outer world. In fact, it seems like that was one of your breakthroughs, right? The sense that you could apply the structural family therapy that people do with the external systems to what's happening within you.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That's my background, is a family therapist, particularly structural family therapy. For an amazing thing, it turns out that this inner system is structured in a very similar way so I've become intrigued with the parallels between internal systems and external systems at all different levels including our country and international relations. The parallel is when you really explore them are fascinating and very evident.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You, I think, make the whole as, is it as within, so without? Is that the phrase-

Dick Schwartz: That is, yeah.

Neil Sattin: It feels really practical and-

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Concrete.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think getting some experience doing that within is also really helpful in being generative like the contentious moments that we experience in our lives whether it's with our partners or our parents or just in the workplace and the world, et cetera.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, being generative and generous. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Dick Schwartz, thank you so much for coming on this show again. I look forward to the next time we can talk and your work is just so rich and such a valuable contribution to change and growth and honoring the potential in us. I'm so blessed to have you here, so thank you.

Dick Schwartz: Thank you Neil. It's an increasing pleasure to talk to you as I get to know you and also feel your appreciation for it, so I'm happy to do it again.

Neil Sattin: Awesome.