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
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Dec 21, 2019

While some kind of issue is going to be at the heart of every breakup, how do you get past the issues and create a breakup that's kind, generous, and respectful? How do you find compassion and understanding within the pain and grief? When it comes to conscious uncoupling, or divorce, are there ways to make the process easier on yourself and your soon-to-be-ex partner? In today's episode we confront whether or not breaking up has to be a shitshow - or can it be something that's easeful despite the pain that's inherent in the process.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Dec 13, 2019

What do you do when you're suffering? How do you escape patterns of blaming in your relationship, and find the place within you that can turn painful moments into growth, and transformation? And how do you know when you've experienced too much pain - when it's time to move on? This week, we’re having a return visit with Guy Finley, author of the new book Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together and the international bestseller The Secret of Letting Go. You’ll get to hear Guy’s work in action, as we tackle what’s real - when you’re hurting - and find practical ways to embody deep spiritual principles of healing when your heart is aching.

If you’d like to listen to my first episode with Guy Finley, check out Episode 164 - How Love Can Dissolve Conflict

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Today we're fortunate to have return visit from a favorite guest from the past. His name is Guy Finley, and he is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and the bestselling author of the book The Secret of Letting Go, as well as 45 other books and audio programs that have sold the whole world over.

Neil Sattin: In our most recent conversation with Guy, we were discussing his book, Relationship Magic, which is subtitled Waking Up together, which is all about the ways that we continually come back to love in order to connect with our partner and how to get past the kinds of patterns that block us or hold us back when we're in relationship with our beloved.

Neil Sattin: So today, we're going to dive deeper into relationship magic. And initially I was thinking that we might spend some time around the topic of how to make a fresh start, because that is so often the challenge in relationship where you are dealing not only with what is happening right in front of you in the moment, but with the history that you share with your partner, the history that you bring into the relationship and potentially the accumulation of hurts or transgressions or ways that you wish, you wish your partner were showing up for you or maybe you're feeling the weight of how you wish you were showing up for your partner, how your partner wishes you were showing up for them. There, I got it out.

Neil Sattin: I'm also going to be candid with you that today my heart is a little hurting and aching. And so I think that all of this is going to come into the mix, and I'm really excited to have Guy with us today. If you are interested in a transcript of today's episode, you can visit, that's the word magic, and the number 2, or as always you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And the reason why this episode is magic 2 is my first episode with Guy, our first episode together, was So here we are to continue the conversation. Guy Finley, it's so great to have you here with me today.

Guy Finley: Thank you, Neil, I'm happy to be with you too, I remember fondly our first conversation and I know we'll have a meaningful dialogue together, today.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm right there with you. I'm always excited when people want to come back and I'm super excited when it's after having had an amazing conversation like the first one that we had, so I definitely encourage you listening to go back and check that episode out. Yeah, and I'm curious, you were sitting there on the other end hearing my introduction and I have some thoughts about where I might like to start, and Guy, I'm wondering, is there something in particular that spoke to you as we started to dive into our conversation together?

Guy Finley: Well, you know, we can look at and we will, I'm sure, specifics, but I think that one of the main points at least in our last conversation and as we'll recover and uncover again today, we all have a very distinct responsibility for how we feel. Our tendency is to be almost completely outwardly oriented, meaning that our sense of self is virtually in the hands of those that we are with, around or consider, and depending on the moment of that consideration, so goes the feeling we have of ourself, and I think that we have to marry this idea. I have a way of expressing it, Neil, and you might want to write this down, listeners, because it gives us a much broader view of our experience of relationships, not withstanding... How do I say this? Without diminishing the significance of individual ones.

Guy Finley: Here it is. As goes my attention, so comes my experience. As goes my attention, so comes my experience. I'm sitting here in Southern Oregon, it's a fairly overcast fall day. The ground on my property is 100% covered with leaves. I know there is grass under it, but it's just a carpet of leaves and looking out the window and watching the birds and the leaves, and all that nature brings about, I give my attention to the beauty of this fall day, and my experience follows. My attention goes to a massive buck. It's the rut season here, and so these beautiful massive bucks are chasing the does, and I can feel in that buck this incredible natural strength, really power, and I'm lucky, forgive me if I wax on too long here, because I've hand raised like eight generation of deer here, not in the sense of being with them every single day, but most of them know me and I can hand feed them, so I'm able to be very close to these powerful creatures.

Guy Finley: As goes, my attention, so comes my experience. Now, we get that when it comes to nature. That's why we like mountain vistas, ocean views, beautiful sunsets, colorful fall. Because the experience we have is inseparable from what we're attending to in the moment. You following me, Neil?

Neil Sattin: Yes, of course.

Guy Finley: So now, though, when it comes to our relationships, we have to make a little deeper connection, and that is that my attention goes on to something from my past, something I just lost, something that hurts, and I can't help but believe that there's no choice for me but to feel the things that I am, and here's the key, being given to feel by where attention has been taken. And in this instance, it's a very key idea. In nature, I give my attention to things that are beautiful because I love the experience of knowing the beauty within me that I can see outside of me. When it comes to our relationships with other human beings, whether it's a husband, a wife, someone on the street, whatever the case may be, that in those moments I have to understand, especially if I'm suffering, that my attention has been taken and placed on something that while it may have occurred is no longer occurring, it's literally in the past, and the experience that I'm being given because my attention goes onto something painful, sorrowful is because I don't recognize yet that I have a certain complicity with those kind of moments where my contentment seems to be taken from me, but in truth, I'm giving it away.

Guy Finley: So I just want to get this broader picture in mind so that we understand that we are never powerless in the face of some painful moment in a relationship, but rather we don't understand where our true power lies, which is to possess our own attention and use the moments where our attention wants to be taken to change the kind of human being we are through that relationship in the moment, then as we change, everything about our life changes as well.

Neil Sattin: There's so much to go from from what you were just saying. And on the show I often talk about the reality of how you feel in the moment and that there are ways that if you try to just kinda gloss over how you're feeling and what's coming up for you, that you could end up doing a lot of damage to your relationship. And this comes up more often than not, I think, when people are in a state of trigger, they're really angry, or really scared, and then they're trying to interact with each other from that place. But when you're operating from your fight-flight or your freeze place, it's rare that's something good can come of that. So I usually invite people to give attention to what is happening within them.

Neil Sattin: And so as luck would have it, I'm taking in your words as goes my attention, so comes my experience and recognizing that my attention goes so clearly to this experience of my heart aching. And as you were describing the world outside your window there, I was gazing out my window here at the urban landscape that is right outside, and what I noticed more than anything is the quality of the autumn light, this really... Well, the words that are coming to me are where it's like stark, this stark yellow light, and I love the quality of that light, I always feel like the world looks so much more clear to me, and it is like a spotlight trained on the state of feeling that I'm experiencing in this moment.

Guy Finley: Yeah, and we're going to unwrap all of this, because I like you, especially in the fall, and I don't know exactly why, maybe it's because the angle of the sun creates a different frequency or I don't know exactly what it is, but at certain times, it's almost, I don't know if there's such a word, rapturous, there's just such a unique feeling that one derives from that light. Now, taking pains to look at that, is the unique feeling in the light itself, or is the unique feeling a relationship between that light coming from the sun and the parts of myself in which it is reflecting. This is key. And the answer is, it's because it stirs in my consciousness a quality or a character that I would never know were it not for that moment of relationship and where my attention is in that same moment.

Guy Finley: So we're building an understanding here that moments like those are so precious to us, if they are, because they are first awakening in us parts of our own consciousness that otherwise we don't have access to, so that the moment of that light is the same as the realization of a level of our own consciousness, that without the light, we can't experience, so we get that and we love it and we want to give our attention to that light, to that buck, to the leaves, whatever it may be, for what it seems to give to us in the same moment.

Guy Finley: But now, listeners, Neil, let's turn it around. Let's say I'm faced, for whatever reason, not with the additional beauty, the extra fulfillment of something in myself by a relationship with nature around me. But let's flip it around and say suddenly, I seem to be filled with a sense of loss. I seem to be in a hole somewhere because I can't take my mind off of what someone did or didn't do, what he said, what she didn't follow through with, any of those conditions. And we have to understand, if we're willing to, is that it's the same principle in action. What the moment is bringing to me is a revelation of an aspect of my own consciousness in this instance that seems not to be fulfilled, but rather seems to be taken from me, something precious.

Guy Finley: And this is where for me the rubber meets the road. If in fact a moment comes along, and I'm filled with whatever, anger, fear, anxiety, trepidation, a mixture of all of those things, my usual reaction is to look at the event that I hold responsible for the revelation. She didn't this, he did that. And when we look at the moment, the person, the problem as the reason for the revelation, we ignore the fact of what it is that's being revealed in us by that moment. So that I'm saying that these unwanted moments, as opposed to wanted ones, are every bit as valuable, if not more valuable, because those moments that we don't want are because something is being revealed in our consciousness that believes one way or another it is only as good and valuable and capable of contentment as is the condition outside of it responsible for its momentary appearance, which is why, by the way, we become so dependent, so attached, it never really dawns on us how this attachment grows.

Guy Finley: And I'm not saying, Neil, you know I'm not, that we don't fall in love, that we don't have attachments. I've been married for 40 years and every, God only knows why, blue moon, somehow I have this dream that she's not the same person, that she's not as attentive or caring and I wake up in that dream from a certain kind of sorrow that doesn't exist without the dream, but I realize that the dream is in fact a revelation of a level of attachment that I'm not conscious of, so I'm not denigrating the relationship, I'm not even saying there's anything wrong, in quotes, with that attachment. What I am saying is that there's something far more right for me as a man, a human being, in realizing that where there is attachment, there is dependency; where there's dependency, there's inevitable sorrow and fear.

Guy Finley: And to understand that doesn't take from us the richness of the loss of something. To me, it enriches the moment, because it allows me to tap into, become conscious of parts of myself that were it not for that moment I would never know the extent to which I am attached, dependent and therefore, back to the opening comment, therefore now I get it. My attention is going to the attachment, not to the beauty of what I may have had or do have, but to the fear of loss and primarily the fear of having lost myself because someone else did what they did.

Guy Finley: And we can see that in scale in every relationship we have with life, not just with husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, relationship with money, relationship with health, all of these aspects of our consciousness that we have become unknowingly attached to and therefore demanding that they remain in place. So, that should something shift and suddenly we don't know who we are anymore, I would argue, even as painful as it may be, that that's a very special kind of revelation, serving a very special kind of realization that without it, we would never know the extent of where we have handed over our life to something outside of us. I'll stop there.

Neil Sattin: Okay, so I feel like, yeah, I feel like you're getting to... You're teasing my next question, in a way, because...

Guy Finley: Sure.

Neil Sattin: And as you were talking about attachment in particular, it wasn't lost on me that your big book is called The Secret of Letting Go, so I was thinking about, like, okay, yeah, I think I think I have a sense of where we're headed here, but I... I wonder, yeah, I wonder what the next step is. And there are actually two little pictures that are unfurling from this particular moment for me. One is being, let's say, the person who's feeling the heartache or feeling the result of the attachment, feeling the anger, the fear, the shame, the injustice...

Guy Finley: Betrayal?

Neil Sattin: All of that, yes. One question is like, great, this is being revealed to me, what do I do? So that's question number one. Question number two in particular relates to relationship, because I do believe that there are some experiences that you just can't have without being in relation to something, and that's why it's important to not feel like you have to work out all your stuff before you get into a relationship with someone, 'cause no matter what, they're going to stir things up in you and there are things you can't quote unquote fix until you are faced with them in relationship. However, what if you're in relationship and you're in a practice of realization around all these challenging states of feeling and consciousness, but your partner that isn't operating from that place, so the more that you lean into the realization of the reality of what's happening in that moment, your partner leans more into wanting you to fix, wanting you to change, wanting you to be other than who you actually are, because they're convinced that you need to change something in order to fix their experience.

Neil Sattin: So they're too connected but somewhat divergent questions. Where do you feel inspired to dive in first?

Guy Finley: I want to be very clear. When we fall in love, we have a passion, we fall in love and have that passion for someone or something. Because at the onset of that relationship, we are privileged through that person or that condition to go through what that relationship alone awakens in us because of the unique elements that have converged in that relationship. To this day, my wife has a certain smile, if you just say the word TJ Max around here, I swear to God, and I'm very conservative, I could wear the same clothes for 50 years and if they didn't fall off my back, I would still be doing it. That's just what she just... She loves fashion, she is a spiritual woman, but she just loves fashion. So even though I wish that she didn't, it tickles me when I see her smile. I know before she's even going out where she's going 'cause there's a gleam in her eye.

Guy Finley: So I would never know were it not for that quirky part of my wife that little quirky feeling. But now we have to turn it around, because to the same extent that I am introduced and fulfilled made a hole in a way, because what is she showing me in those moments other than something I don't know about myself and can't feel without her? The converse holds true, Neil. I can't know there are parts of me that are selfish, that can't listen, that are impatient, that want to be left alone. I can't know those parts of me without her, without relationship with something. And where my work is, I think, quite different from most others is that I say that we must learn to first understand the significance of those revelations that are so unwanted and, rather than continue to blame the relationship, the person or the predicament for the pain inherent in realizing these are parts of my consciousness that I am asleep to, to be thankful for being awakened.

Guy Finley: Because the same integration that takes place when she awakens in me a wish to sacrifice, a willingness to go past myself and put her first, that same gratitude must appear when I am integrated, awakened to those parts of myself that I would avoid at all costs if I could were it not for love that uses my wife to awaken me to these limitations, and that uses me for my wife to awaken her to her limitations to serve a greater love than either of us can know without each other, whether high or low, light or dark, all serving a greater relationship, that love puts human beings together for. So that through those revelations, wanted and not, the man or woman can begin to become an integrated being, no longer living in unseen conflict with parts of him or herself, because the image that he has of himself or herself won't allow the fact of these aspects of limitation in our consciousness, so that that level of consciousness buries these things, but a stone under the ground weighs as much as one above, so that those moments are invitations, Neil, as painful as they are, to realize that there's no way any relationship can go forward as long as there is attachment and dependency that forms the seed of limitation, so that without these limitations revealed by my partner or by my partner leaving me or my partner hurting me, whatever my partner may have done, that moment is the revelation of a limitation in me.

Guy Finley: It's not their limitation and even if it is, I must still thank them. I don't mean to jump way off-board here, but this is the interior meaning of what Christ meant by love thine enemies. Because in those moments, without my wife, my husband, the guy on the street, the person tailgating me, the financial thieves that are breaking the country, without all of that taking place, I would never know the enmity, the violence, the anger, all of the things that so conveniently blame people and places and situations outside of me, so that those characteristics can continue living in the dark of our consciousness, not my consciousness, not Neil's consciousness, not my wife's consciousness, in consciousness that we are the instruments of and that are intended to be developed by the action of love revealing to us what only love can, high and low, light and dark.

Neil Sattin: Can I make this a little more personal?

Guy Finley: Anything, Neil, you know that, man.

Neil Sattin: Okay, let's just start with something that doesn't have say a lot of charge to it. So often I use the dishes, but let's forgo the dishes. Let's talk about the laundry. And I'm wondering like what if, hypothetically speaking, Guy, let's say you are someone who habitually takes off your clothes and you just kinda drop them wherever. It could be the bedroom floor, it could be the bathroom, could be the living room. It's wherever they... And they end up kind of all about. And your wife, with whom you've been for 40 years, comes in and says to you, you're blissfully working on your next book, and she says, "Guy, I can't handle this anymore. Your clothes are everywhere, you're so lazy. We've talked about this at least once a month for the past 40 years. Is it going to be another 40 years of us having this same conversation about your goddamn clothes being all over the place? I can't even think straight."

Guy Finley: Oh, and we know that happens, don't we?

Neil Sattin: Of course.

Guy Finley: Maybe it's not the laundry, maybe it's not the dishes that you think someone else will clean up for you. It could be anything, the way you park the car in the garage.

Neil Sattin: Right. Or it could be something more serious, like I can't believe you slept with that person three years ago, right? I'm still feeling about that. How could you go? How will I ever trust you again?

Guy Finley: Of course. Of course. And so the question is, what does one do in those moments as the one offended or the one being offended, as the offender or the one being offended?

Neil Sattin: Well, it's debatable which is which in that circumstance, it's debatable, but...

Guy Finley: Because we have to ask a pretty big question here, what's the difference between the two? In this instance, let's just say that, let's say, I do throw my clothes around...

Neil Sattin: Right, and just so you know, listening, I can see Guy's living room and there are no clothes anywhere. So this was strictly hypothetical.

Guy Finley: Of course, but even if they were and my wife had asked me innumerable times to clean them up, then I cannot blame her, she wants order, not chaos. And if I don't honor my wife's wish, then I have to understand that she and I have a major difference. She's asked me first nicely, she's become upset over it, and yet there's something in me that just will not do what it is she needs done. You're not asking me to lose 50 pounds, she's saying, "Take your laundry and put it away." So there's an irreconcilable difference, Neil, her character and my character have something that is in conflict with each other. If I don't change she will, because she can't help herself, I might add. See, this goes to something so much deeper. I know everybody wants it simple. Can I get upset? I'll turn it around. Can my wife get upset with me in a manner that... Would you agree that if someone loses their temper with you because you have a sock on the floor that that would be called a tempest in a teapot?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, maybe there's some context that makes it less of a teapot. Like, for instance, 40 years of having had the same conversation over and over again but...

Guy Finley: I understand, but that's the definition of insanity, isn't it?

Neil Sattin: Perhaps. I mean, I think...

Guy Finley: No, it is. I insist, I insist, I insist. So here's a force in one direction meeting a force in another direction, and it's not moving. So that is the insanity. See, here's what we don't want to get into, Neil. If I've asked my wife 50 times over 30 years not to do something and she keeps doing it, then at some point I have to recognize that the pain that appears in those moments is not going to go away by making her into what I need her to be, so at that point I either understand that's how she is and it's a small battle, it's very small in the scheme of things. But now to my point, something in me wants to make it moment, huge and there's what I'm getting at it. It never dawns on any of us, for the most part, that no one picks a fight with anyone else unless prior to the fight they pick they are in pain. It's a section in my book, pain picks the fight, not the person, so that here's something in my wife rubbed raw over 40 years that she is unable to reconcile and let go of the fact that this is just part of a character, I love him more than I care about his socks.

Guy Finley: But pain, my attention goes to the context of the condition, which is I've asked him for 100 years, he won't change. Instead of realizing that what's not changing in that moment is me, I'm the one who won't let go of the insistence that he be jumping through the hoop I want him to jump through about socks. What's more important, his socks and underwear, or that I have something in me that gets set on fire when I see it, because if we can learn to ask the important questions, "What in God's name is this pain I'm in over some peculiar aspect of my partner, that I've asked kindly, I've lost my temper, I've threatened to leave, but it doesn't change." So either get up and walk out or walk away from those parts of yourself that are captured by that conflict every time the context reappears in your mind.

Guy Finley: So that's the first thing, Neil, when my wife, God bless her, and I don't know if I've ever told you this, we've never raised our voices at each other in 40 years. But it doesn't mean that over 40 years, she hasn't said unkind things, but for whatever reason, by the grace of the work that I've done, I never react to unkindness with unkindness, I use her unkindness to allow whatever is kicked up inside of me to show me whether or not there's something factual in her unkind statement, because we can't tell the difference.

Guy Finley: Because when somebody attacks us, all we see and feel is the attack, instead of realizing there may be something in us producing the pain they're experiencing and that we need to deal with in ourselves. But if my first reaction is rejection, I'm not just rejecting my wife, I'm rejecting the revelation that's necessary and that if I could see it she might change herself as well. So what I do is, when she has said something unkind, is I never bring it up. I wait, sometimes two days, I wait until she's no longer in that consciousness, and then I will simply say to her, "Sweetie, do you remember we were walking down the driveway and you brought up that thing? I just want you to know that there's no value in bringing that up. It hurt. I'll deal with what I can, but to bring it up, it's just useless."

Guy Finley: And then because she is the kind of woman she is, she will not react to that or on the spot she'll say, "You know what, I knew it when I said it, and I'm sorry." And then it's not I'm sorry because you got mad at me; I'm sorry, because you allow me to see something in myself that I could have never seen if you just rejected and resisted the comment. And then love is doing what love is meant to do, which is develop the two people that love has brought together into a better representation of what love is. So I hope that clarifies some of what you asked, but I'm going to deal with something you didn't ask, if you'd like.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, go for it.

Guy Finley: What in God's name do I do with this pain? How do I go forward from here, what's going to happen? I feel like my heart was stolen out of my chest and the only one that I can look at and, in essence, blame and feel betrayed by is the person, my husband, my wife, my business partner who stole from our business that we started, as best friends. I mean, God, Neil, life is nothing but an endless series, a success of conditions where we find ourselves with our mouth open wide going, "What?" You know what I mean, "What?"

Neil Sattin: Totally. How did I get here?

Guy Finley: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Guy Finley: And the answer is the last answer we want, but the only answer that brings an end to the unconscious continuation of the pain. Someone says something, it hurts. Someone steals from me, someone betrays me, it's heartbreaking. I gave this person 30 years of my life, I did everything I knew how to do to be the best, most complying person I could so that this person could grow, and then they turn around and there's the... They're bad talking me or worse, they steal. The pain is undeniable. I feel like I'm dying. No human being doesn't go through that. And this will really throw you, and the luckiest of us go through that death more times than we want. And the reason I say the lucky of us go through that, though I would that the cup would pass from my lips, I don't want to drink from that cup. It's bitter, has no future. Everything that seems to have been built has been destroyed. But the moment where it feels like I'm dying is in fact a moment where something in me is intended to die, not go on as the one who is betrayed, full of bitterness, ever wondering why, thinking someday I'll get even or he or she will come back and then they'll see how wrong they were.

Guy Finley: Oh, my God, the story is endless 'cause all of us are an expression of a consciousness living it, but to understand and then to quietly sit back within oneself and let what the moment has come to do be done, because then the man or woman who exits that moment, where some idea they had about themselves, some image, an attachment, a plan, a dream, when the whole thing just goes belly up, we look at the condition, and we say, "That's what went belly up. No, that's not what went belly up. What died was a part of myself that I was so identified with that when the conditions no longer are in place to perpetuate the dream I feel like it's me that has died and it's not I who have died, but a dream a the dream and the dreamer."

Guy Finley: And there, I sit stark naked, quite literally, in the present moment, with what seems like nothing, because my attention only knows how to be given unconsciously to something that if I had my choice, I wouldn't give my attention to it, but I am drawn like a moth to the flame to feel these unwanted feelings instead of recognizing, sweet God, what is it in me that keeps going and revisiting a feeling that I don't want? And then out of the unwanted feeling building a dream or a plan or some future where momentarily I'm consoled, when I'm not meant to be consoled by that moment, I'm meant to be changed through it.

Guy Finley: That's called conscious suffering, not unconscious useless suffering. And if I can understand the difference in it, it's impossible that when I am called to return to that pain, revisit, think about, re-live, I don't re anything, I allow the moment to show me, I don't know who I am without somebody else, I don't know who I am without that plan that was so intimately connected to your presence and your participation and now you're gone. God, the whole thing's come undone, I'm probably going to lose everything now, because that's how deeply involved that dream is. It goes on without a person knowing it, and then instead of being thankful, which I know is hard to do, Neil, please don't misunderstand me. Nobody says, oh, at least not for the longest time, but I promise you, one day, it's true, even in the midst of the pain. Thank you, Father, thank you, God, thank you, the divine, for delivering me into a moment that I could have never even known I needed to be delivered into, let alone what I will be delivered from that I didn't know I needed to be delivered from, attachment, dependency, enabling, trying to keep everything in place, not so that the relationship stayed in place, but so that my person who I'm familiar with, isn't suddenly thrown out into a prison some place.

Guy Finley: This is a completely different context for our consciousness, Neil. I know you can hear and feel what I'm saying, but this is what we have to get to if we want to use these moments that come where we reject them instantaneously, and instead of rejecting them, understanding in that moment, the suffering isn't in the condition, it's in my attachment to a part of myself I didn't know was there and that I'm going to be much better off without once it's allowed to pass, to die.

Neil Sattin: And do you have some helpful hints about how to engage in that process? The concept makes sense to me. In what you were saying I was hearing the literal question of, "What is this pain pointing to in me that needs to die, that I need to let go of." And I'm just wondering, yeah, if there's a process there that you find helpful to help people engage in that, 'cause it can be so easy to get kind of a quick answer to that question. And then...

Guy Finley: Yeah, yeah, and then the moment comes... Yeah, I understand and that's wonderful, Neil, that's quite insightful, because the last thing that I want to do is paint this as a rosy picture when we're in some kind of pain, because our partner has gone left instead of right or maybe just disappeared. So I do not want to make light at all of what is essentially a kind of a mini dark night of the soul.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Guy Finley: But the question, what do I do with this pain, how do I process it, begs without the person asking the question, begs the question, well, I, therefore, must be different than this process. I must be something other than the pain in this moment. And that which is other than the pain in this moment wants to know what to do with the pain, so it can get past the pain in the moment, and no such thing exists. A person who has cancer, a person who's an addict, at some point comes to grips with the fact, this is what is. I am not empowered to change the pain of the revelation, the revelation has in it its own clarity about a set of conditions that one way or another have come to teach me something about myself. I haven't been thrown into this moment, I've been sown into it, and until I can find a greater purpose, which is what we're talking about, the whole of my work, then everything that I do to escape the pain, process it so seemingly I'm outside of it and better than that, is the waste of the appearance of that pain.

Guy Finley: You don't deny a toothache. Well, we do, don't we? I mean, that's there, right? I had a terrible toothache myself two weeks ago, it was unbelievable, out of the clear blue sky. And nothing in me wants to admit that this is the pain that usually leads up to a root canal. So what do we do when we have that kind of pain? We pretty much hope it goes away.

Neil Sattin: Exactly.

Guy Finley: And if you've ever had an impacted tooth and hoped the pain would go away, the truth is that sometimes it will go away, but the problem behind the impaction doesn't, so it becomes infected. And the next thing you know you've got something three times worse than what you had had you dealt with it on the spot, you understand the metaphor.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Guy Finley: The analogy. Same thing with this pain, Neil.

Neil Sattin: So yeah, a couple of different things coming up for me. One is, I'm sitting with what you said about being sown into it not being thrown into it, that idea that this actually is me right now, in this moment.

Guy Finley: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And listen to me, please, everybody, because in those moments when my heart has been plucked out of my chest or what I was depending on for the success of my business or whatever the venter was that it looked like everything was roses and suddenly I'm pierced by thorns, I have no future, it's been robbed. And the task here is to understand that who and what you actually are doesn't depend upon something you've imagined in the future that you don't even know you're dependent on. We have no idea the extent of the dependency, unconscious dependency, that grows over time through familiar relationships, where we begin gradually to depend upon the person to act out and to be what we are dependent on them acting and being. Because if they don't do it, they break the pattern.

Guy Finley: And if they break the pattern then is the pain that I feel in the break of the pattern, or is the pain in my dependency on the pattern? And if my pain is on the dependency of the pattern, why in the name of God do I want to create another one? I should be grateful because love has no pattern. That's called familiarity that breeds contempt, although we don't know it breeds contempt until someone breaks the pattern and then the resentment and the contempt sitting underneath it born of dependency rears its ugly head. And instead of seeing our complicity with that enabling dependency, we blame our partner. Instead of saying thank you, I don't know how, what I'm going to do, but I sure understand that there is something for me to learn in this moment instead of burn over, and by God, I'll do what I have to do to get the lesson in the moment instead of reject it in the hope of a moment that comes along where the pain isn't there with me.

Neil Sattin: So I have a bit of a curve ball question for you in this moment.

Guy Finley: No such thing, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Right, it's all part of the same fabric. And I'm wondering, Guy, for you, how would you decide if you were in too much pain in a particular, like if a relationship that you were experiencing, whether it was a relationship to the weather, the conditions, the person in your life, how would you decide if the pain of relationship with that person was too much for you? In other words, where, because no matter what, when you leave a relationship, that creates pain, so you get to decide if you want the grief associated with staying or the grief associated with going. And I'm just curious for you, I think there's potentially a danger, particularly for people who are in really problematic situations, of feeling like, "Wait, is Guy Finley saying I should just be thankful for this pain and stay where I am and that I shouldn't... "

Guy Finley: Okay, yeah, I got it. I'm glad you asked. I go to great pains in my book to absolutely make the point if you're in an abusive relationship, and let me be clear, your husband leaving his socks on the floor is not abuse, but your husband raising his fist at you because you tell him again please pick up your socks and you're in fear of your husband, get out of that relationship, you're not here to be abused by anybody. The strange thing is that we abuse ourselves. If my wife loses her temper every other week because X, Y, Z and blames me for losing her temper and I've done nothing other than just whatever it is that I am. Who's abusing who? We never want to see how abusive we are to ourselves, by trying to make someone into something they will never be. That is self-abuse, insisting that any other human being be what you need or want them to be is self-abuse. On the other hand, if they're trying to do that to you and are aggressive, consistently cruel verbally, involved in some pattern of a behavior, drugs, alcohol, anything excessive that way, and you stay in the relationship, you are self-abusive, and you have two people abusing each other, enabling each other and blaming the other for their pain. Does that answer your question?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think what I'm hearing is there are flavors of abuse that are maybe more obvious physical violence, and then there's maybe a gray zone where it's 'cause... And I'm just calling it a gray zone because I think people are often a little unclear on emotional violence, emotional abuse, but everyone who's listening to us...

Guy Finley: You and I both know there are people who are in emotionally abusive relationships.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Guy Finley: Why does anyone stay in an emotionally abusive relationship, especially if they have said, "You know what, every time you raise your voice like that, I don't know what to do with myself, it hurts. Please, please don't do that." And then the partner does not acknowledge, let alone attempt to act on the wish. Here is the root of it. We stay in emotionally abusive relationships because it's better to have someone to blame than to be without somebody to blame. I don't know who I am without resenting you. I don't know who I am without hoping, knowing it's futile, that you're going to change. I don't know who I am without coming home and hoping to God that you're not in that particular state of mind when I know that 9 out of 10 times you will be, and that there'll be that tension and that it doesn't get resolved. I don't know who to be because rather than go through what life is asking me to do, which is to rediscover, reclaim my own integrity, see through the co-enabling parts of myself, that I might enter into a relationship that starts healthy instead of keep an unhealthy one alive 'cause I don't want to be without it, I'd rather stay with what I have.

Guy Finley: And I'm going to make a giant leap here, Neil, that same mind is the same mind that revisits the loss. Rather than be alone, be by myself with this emptiness, I would rather revisit feeling victimized, revisit what will no longer be. This is where grief, natural grief turns into self-love. My wife dies, my child passes, a beloved friend dies. If I don't grieve I'm not a human being, but grief is the revelation of a certain limited kind of love that invites me to see that because the person's gone doesn't mean love is. Love can't die. So, when I revisit the grief and revisit the grief, it's not 'cause I'm revisiting a love lost, I'm revisiting a part of myself that loves to feel what it does, and would rather feel that pain than be a person who moves on and discovers there's another order of love possible in that very moment. So it's in scale.

Guy Finley: And I hope I didn't lose anybody, but that's why we stay in relationships not just with people but with our own problems, our own pains, because we don't know who to be without that dependency on something through which we derive an identity, as painful as it may be.

Neil Sattin: So maybe... This might be our last question for today. Not because we couldn't keep going, 'cause...

Guy Finley: I understand, Neil.

Neil Sattin: We could keep going for sure. And Guy, I'm so appreciative of just who you are and the openheartedness that you bring to these questions. What's illuminated for me in this moment is wondering about the fear that keeps people in place.

Guy Finley: Yes. So let's write this... Go ahead, please, I'm sorry.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so it feels like that's the last piece of this puzzle where we've landed today has been around this question of what do you do with the pain, what do you do with an aching heart? What do you do when there's when there's... And how do you know if there's too much pain? And what do you do when you're weighing the choice to stay or go? Which is this what I'm hearing you say is it's often centered around, do I choose what I know myself to be, which is who I am in relation to this situation, or do I choose the unknown along with the way that a choice to leave often impacts our family, our children, our friends, there are ripples to that kind of decision.

Guy Finley: Of course.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so when faced with that, what do you do?

Guy Finley: It's probably uncountable how many relationships there are on this planet that have become stale, stagnant and that basically trundle on from day to day because one or the other, and it's usually both, has just stopped growing. And we're all masters at blaming our partner for being the one who doesn't grow, because we can so easily identify in them the limitations that we're aware of in them, never dawning on us that judging a limitation in our partner and holding their feet to the fire for it is our limitation.

Guy Finley: So that the question is really underneath all of this, do I want to grow as a human being? Because honestly, Neil, we either grow or we die. We begin dying as human beings most of us in our 20s because we're so habituated to some status quo, where out of the fear of loss, of negativity, of meeting parts of ourselves, we compromise with everyone and everything, just so that the boat doesn't rock, and we wind up in a reality that's a dream and that anything that shakes the dream is seen as a nightmare, when the real nightmare is the dream we're in because it's keeping us from growing. So we reach a point where we need to understand that the real dissatisfaction in this instance, say, with our partner, whether they've stayed with us or left us, is because there's something in me that is offered in that relationship, a chance to grow beyond who and what I've been.

Guy Finley: Now in relationships that are intact, those moments come when I'm willing to understand that my partner may be in pain and that's why they made that punitive remark, and rather than responding in unkindness, fighting as we do tit for tat, I use that moment to discover in myself something that believes it's beyond question. You can't ask me something like that. Your opinion doesn't count, only mine. And then when we see that in ourselves, the very revelation is the beginning of its transformation, 'cause now I know something about my own consciousness I didn't before. I am growing. And whether my partner wants to grow or not, that's not the issue, because if I continue to grow, I will reach a point where I have outgrown my partner and there will be no question about it.

Guy Finley: Not that it won't be painful. So let's say I've reached the point where I've outgrown my partner or my partner's left me for whatever reason, and then I'm sitting there and I'm going, "Well, now what's going to happen?" I'm afraid, and I'm afraid because I don't know what's coming literally in the next moment, other than some terrible thought I wish I didn't have, so when it comes to the fear of the future, let's be clear about that, everybody. Again, the context, do I want to grow or not? There is no fear of the future, Neil, without negative imagination, period. There is no fear of the future without negative imagination.

Guy Finley: So now where's the responsibility for the fear? In the person that left me, in the great unknown that sits before me, or is the unknown that just before me, my demand that I know what's coming so that I know who I am and how to handle it. And when we start having this kind of understanding, she betrayed me. He stole from me. What's going to happen, what am I to do? And then you realize that to take thought in that moment about what's going to happen to you downstream is the same as going into another dream that is just a continuation of that consciousness, instead of the end of a relationship with that consciousness, because now it's very clear to you, the task here isn't to go into thought, the task is to remain as present as I can to everything that I see and feel in myself.

Guy Finley: And then don't ask, well, where is the limit? How much pain can I take? You'll know. The body shuts itself down. Literally, a person who will really attend to themselves in these heightened moments will likely fall asleep, because the resistance is so great, but you will have gained that much strength in understanding by going through that exercise. So if we will be true to ourselves as best we know how to be true to ourselves, given a new understanding of what it means to be true to ourselves, then we cannot fail. Every effort that we make along the lines of understanding that we mustn't take thought to end torment, because thought itself is the source of the torment, but rather we must become aware of thought, of the thinker, of the planner, of the one imagining, of the one afraid, and every bit of light we bring into that darkness, that darkness is changed in some commensurate level. That's a law. And as the darkness is brought into that light, that's the same as integrating ourselves and that's the purpose of love.

Guy Finley: And we know what to do with our relationships, even when we don't really know what to do when they throw us the curve, 'cause we don't go running out trying to find another ball game, another place to play. We use what's given to us as it's given to us, and then discover for ourselves the purpose of what was given to us, and then everything's quite perfect for us in that moment, even though there's pain.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think the phrase that comes up for me that I'm extracting from what you said was, well, a couple of things. One is a commitment to growth and faith even in a... Yeah, okay, I'm in pain, and I believe in my capacity to grow, to change, to shift, and even if I'm not growing the way that my partner wanted me to grow, I still am having faith in my ability to grow in this moment.

Guy Finley: Neil, your partner didn't put you on this planet. God did. I'd rather have the divine plan then be delivered into the hands of my partner and his or her plan, believe me, or for that matter, my own plan 'cause that's where most of the fear is.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, do you have a moment for one more question, Guy, before we go?

Guy Finley: Sure, go ahead, Neil.

Neil Sattin: What do you think has kept you in your relationship for 40 years instead of at some point deciding that it was time to go for a new adventure?

Guy Finley: Honestly, I don't think I can answer it. It could be argued, I think, Neil, that every relationship that we enter into is for the length of that relationship manifested for the purpose of the development of our soul, and that at some point when we are sufficiently developed, which we are not the ones who decide that, please, we will enter into more abiding relationships, because the capacity to act as a conscious mirror of our partner and vice versa, has reached a point where we understand that this is perfect for us, I couldn't imagine another partner, and I know she couldn't either, but I didn't create that, she didn't create that, but we both agreed to go through those consciousness-shaking conditions, both individually and collectively, that bring about what you intimated a moment ago, which is not just the all-abiding wish and intention to grow as a human being, but a faith that life creates the conditions for that growth through our relationships, so that the faith in the goodness of life, the understanding that love is in fact the basis of relationship allows us to work and remain as present as we can to the conditions where we discover that love in fact was behind that moment, wanted or not.

Guy Finley: Then you enter into a completely different relationship with life and your partner is obviously a big part of it. But now, everything serves that purpose, Neil, everything, literally everything. In the East, they call it polishing the mirror, and the more the mirror is polished, the more perfectly it reflects the world, until one day, and heck of a place to end this interview, but then, one day you realize the world that you're looking at is not out there, the universe is in you, literally, your partner is in you, everything is in you. I don't know how it happens, but that's the case, that's the only way we know what we know and feel and experience about what we see because, really, we're just seeing aspects of our own consciousness, and that's when a person begins to be grateful for everything they see, because everything is revelation, everything, every revelation is a form of integration, and it's endless. That's the majesty of God, that's the majesty of the divine.

Neil Sattin: Well, that is quite a place to end our conversation.

Guy Finley: I told you. Maybe we'll have another conversation in six months and we can pick up there, huh?

Guy Finley: I think so, because just like the last one, I think there's so much meat here for us to work with. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to digesting this conversation. And for the vegetarians there's a lot of tofu here to toss around and... Yeah, and I think I'm going to be so curious to hear how this impacts you as a listener, because we dove deep into this topic that I think is what brings so many of us here to this podcast. I hope that at least to some level, people are here because they're in a good situation and they want to make it better, and being honest, I think a lot of people come here because things could, they want things to be better in some way. So...

Guy Finley: I have one closing comment.

Neil Sattin: Go for it.

Guy Finley: It isn't... We cannot explore our strength without exploring our weakness and when we understand that they are not separate issues, then we're very close to not being afraid of ourselves anymore. That's it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So as you're polishing the mirror, be looking in the mirror, 'cause there's lots to be revealed.

Guy Finley: Absolutely, and if I may, can I tell people where they might, if they're interested, get the Relationship book?

Neil Sattin: Of course, yes.

Guy Finley: If you want to look at these ideas, please visit, one word,, and my foundation has put up a very special offer on a page there where you can get the free audible version of the book that I've read as well for the same inexpensive price. So, and if you want to visit my website, it's,, you can visit that site and literally stay there for years, free. There's a wisdom school there, where men and women from all over the world gather every week online. You can learn about that. It's incredibly inexpensive, less than the cost of a Starbuck. And lastly, if you want... I've just begun, God help me, I'm on Twitter, I post daily Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. So if you want to find out anything more about it, Google. Google Guy Finley. But I've given you some good places to start.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. And we will have links to all of that in the show notes and transcript, which as a reminder, if you want to grab, you can visit, that's the word magic and the number 2, or you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Guy, I'm so appreciative of your time, your wisdom, your heart and your friendship, and thank you so much for being here with us today. I'm looking forward to a future conversation and I'm also just so appreciative of your contribution to the world, so powerful.

Guy Finley: Thank you, Neil, thank you so much. 

Dec 7, 2019

For quite awhile now I've been mentioning that there have been some challenges and changes going on in my life. This week, I'm going to share some of that with you. I've waited awhile for the timing to be right, so please take a moment and join me for a glimpse into my world and all that's been happening.


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Nov 23, 2019

With all the focus on ways to improve your relationship, growth and change can become something of an obsession. Especially if things are painful! However, sometimes all the efforts to change can create even more problems.'s helpful to know when it's time to just...stop. There are particular ways of "stopping" that can actually be beneficial - to your health and the health of your relationship. In this episode, I give you three specific ways to "stop" that can potentially jumpstart the "flow" in your relationship - especially if things have gotten stuck. It's a little edgy (particularly my third suggestion) - but can sometimes be exactly what you need.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Nov 15, 2019

Ever feel like there’s a little too much drama in your life? Well, if that’s the case, then you probably have been caught in the Drama Triangle. If you’ve never heard of the Drama Triangle then be prepared - you’re going to start seeing it EVERYWHERE. Today you’ll learn how to spot it - and even better, how to escape it. Our guest is Dr. Stephen Karpman, the creator of the Drama Triangle, and author of the recent book “A Game-Free Life: The Definitive Book on the Drama Triangle and the Compassion Triangle” - which explains how to spot the sources of drama and dysfunction - and what to do to break the cycle. Along the way, you’ll also get clear tips on improved communication, how to deepen intimacy, and what agreements are essential to maintain in any relationship.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!

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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Sometimes life can be really dramatic. There can be highs and lows, you can feel like you're the victim with people just out to get you. You can feel like you're doing your best to show up for the people in your life, and they don't appreciate you. In fact, they see you as some kind of enemy and in the end, all of this drama plays out in ways that keep us from being truly connected with the people around us, and these could just be our acquaintances or our colleagues and co-workers, or it could be the people in our lives with whom we're most deeply connected: Our children, our partners, ourselves.

Neil Sattin: So I was actually going through a situation about a year and a half ago, and really struggling. And in reaching out to one of my friends about it. She said, "You know, this sounds like a classic Drama Triangle," and I had never heard of a Drama Triangle before, so I was like, "I'm going to have to check that out." I looked it up and there were lots and lots of references online describing what the drama triangle was, and sure enough it felt like that was what was going on in my life, but it didn't necessarily help me figure out how to solve the drama triangle.

Neil Sattin: And that's where today's conversation comes in. We have with us an esteemed guest, Dr. Stephen Karpman, who is the person who created the drama triangle, and whose work has evolved past the drama triangle in ways that help us see how to escape from these games that we play with each other, in ways that actually build intimacy and closeness with the people in our lives, or if we're not looking for intimacy, at least they keep us from being caught in a repetitive loop. So Dr. Karpman is the author of the recent book, "A Game Free Life," the definitive book on the drama triangle and compassion triangle and along with many, many other books and papers, and we will talk about that more over the course of today's conversation. If you are looking to download a transcript of today's show, you can visit, as in the drama triangle, or as always you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. So let's dive in today, Dr. Stephen Karpman, thank you so much for joining us here today on Relationship Alive.

Stephen Karpman: Thank you, Neil, for asking me, and I'll do what I can to help people with their lives.

Neil Sattin: Great. That's the best we can hope for today. And I just want to note that I'm really excited to be talking to you. What people listening don't necessarily know is that you and I have actually been in dialogue for almost this whole past year and a half, maybe even more. So, it's exciting that we finally made it all work. You're very busy in presenting and getting your books together and I'm glad that we're finally here today to talk.

Stephen Karpman: Okay.

Neil Sattin: So Steve, Stephen, let's just start... It's probable that a lot of people listening do know what the drama triangle is, at least on some level, but for those who don't, or for those who haven't really thought about it for a while, let's talk about it and enumerate each of the roles in the drama triangle, and then talk about what actually creates the drama. So, can we start there?

Stephen Karpman: Sure. The drama triangle is something I created many years ago. Primarily, originally, I was working on a strategy in football and basketball, and I'd do this three-corner triangle of different roles, and then it turned out to be applicable to theater, like there would be a villain, and a hero, and a victim. But eventually, the way I originally drew it is the way that took off, which is a triangle with the point down, which is the victim in a one down position. And the two people in the power position, in the upper left corner had the persecutor role, which is a person who's always blaming, always putting the victim down. And then the other corner on the upper-right is the rescuer position. That person is always helping, and always trying to save and trying to fix the victim who somehow never seems to get fixed and it's a very frustrating for the rescuer.

Neil Sattin: So when you're in a challenging situation, at a minimum it can help to step back and say, "Okay, which of these roles am I playing? And which role is the other person or persons playing in this situation?"

Stephen Karpman: Sure. Now, there's the difference between a game playing role and in real life. For instance, the persecutor might be an aggressor in real life, and just being an aggressive person who might be critical at times, but it goes into the triangle when they have... They're linked in with someone in a non-ending game. So the persecutor is always blaming, always criticizing the victim. The victim can never do anything right, but the persecutor always has to be right because they don't want themselves to feel like a victim inside, so they always have to win.

Stephen Karpman: Now the rescuer had to come in and save the victim from the persecutor, then more than likely the rescuer is a good-hearted person initially, and it's okay to be a rescuer in life, very good actually. But it becomes a drama triangle, when they're involved in an unending game with the victim who's always helpless, always wrong, never can do anything right, and they deplete themselves in their own... Drain themselves in their own light, devoting their lives to saving the victim and meanwhile neglecting their own life.

Stephen Karpman: And then the victim is a person who may be from their past, they see themselves as inadequate or insufficient and somehow get into the role of asking for help from people. But eventually, which is okay, but eventually, if they get into a game, then they play the role of a victim. They're not actually the victim, they're playing the role of a victim, which is very manipulative and playing all sorts of games to keep the rescuer helping them and to keep the persecutor criticizing them. So then, you have the drama triangle, that's the drama. When people get into dysfunctional roles and dysfunctional relationships, they get into the triangle. Sometimes they switch around different roles, like the rescuer might suddenly become the persecutor, or the victim might get even with the rescuer by becoming a persecutor, so then it gets complicated, and you get into a game that's... People... That can go on for years, and people can't solve it or get out of it.

Neil Sattin: So how do I know if I'm in a game or not?

Stephen Karpman: Well, it depends on the role, but primarily it's very frustrating. You're involved with someone else, that's when you're in the triangle, and it's very frustrating because you feel drawn in, particularly the victim will draw a person in. It's like quicksand, you get drawn deeper and deeper, and try harder and harder to fix the person to get them to think, to get them to realize things. The rescuer might say, "I've gotta get you to realize things." And the persecutor might say, "You're dumb because you don't understand anything," so it's one of... The relationship gets stressful, it gets exasperating or gets depleting of energy and primarily nothing ever gets fixed, nothing gets clear, nothing is understood and it just seems to stay that way, on and on.

Neil Sattin: So if a situation isn't evolving and it feels dysfunctional, then the odds are you're trapped in some sort of game?

Stephen Karpman: And you may not know that you're trapped, you just... You keep wanting to try hard, it's one of the drivers. You try hard to fix things or to be perfect in your answers or be perfect in your feelings so maybe the victim will change, and the person could make the criticism even stronger and stronger, thinking that will teach the victim a lesson, and by... With their strength, they will protect themselves from ever being criticized. So it's primarily... It's a relationship and other people may notice at first and you may not notice it yourself for months and years, and you don't want to leave the other person but you don't know how to make the situation better or to get it livable.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and why do you think that it's not enough? 'Cause this was my experience when this particular situation, and I can't get into the details just out of respect of other people's privacy, but I saw it happening and I was like, "Oh this is very clearly what is going on." And yet, just recognizing that, that I was playing a rescuer role, this other person was playing the persecutor role, and then someone else is playing the victim role, just recognizing that wasn't enough to actually change the dynamic. And I'm wondering if you can give us a sense of why that might be so, that it's not enough to just recognize that this is what's happening.

Stephen Karpman: Well, primarily, most of the people that write about the triangle talk about empowering. One needs to feel empowered, that they are successful and if they don't feel that they're successful, that nothing they're doing is working, at that point, they may step back and say, "Well, perhaps I need to change something and it starts by knowing what the roles are in the drama triangle, that there's a persecutor, rescuer, and victim role, and people do get trapped in it and get frustrated. And once they know the roles, then they need to get in touch with their feelings and why they're in that role and what's their pay-off.

Stephen Karpman: They're involved with people that they can't control. You can't control the persecutor or the rescuer, or the victim. You can't control yourself. So, at that point, you decide that you will control yourself and decide what to do about the game. Of course, you'll try to discuss it first or you may get into counseling about it, but at some point, you need to decide that the triangle isn't working for you and you move on if you can't make it work better for you or if you can't tolerate it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think one thing that might be challenging is probably most people arrive at thinking about the drama triangle by feeling like they're a victim to someone who's persecuting them and... That would be my guess. 'Cause that's the place where you feel like you're being stuck in a situation of powerlessness, and so it seems like it might be challenging to go to someone that you're perceiving as your persecutor, and say, "Hey, I think... I was doing some reading online and I think that we're stuck in this drama triangle thing, and I'm pretty sure you're stuck in the role of the persecutor and I'm the victim," I don't see that going very well.

Stephen Karpman: Yeah, the persecutor would then tell you that you're wrong, and that you're reading all the wrong information and your friends are telling you the wrong things and you got to shape up. The persecutor often is a narcissist or a bully, and they just like bullying people, they just like telling people what to do. And they can get along in life that way, but in the drama triangle, there's actually a link between all the roles and they're actually trapped in that role and they may persecute the rescuer, telling the rescuer that they don't know what in the world they're doing, and they're not going to stop because this is their power position. So how to get the persecutor to back off would be challenging and maybe some insight might get through or it won't get through and then you would face other decisions, whether you need to move on.

Neil Sattin: Right, so there is that element, as always, of someone being discerning and trying to figure out like, "Is this person that I'm perceiving to be a persecutor, are they adaptable, are they flexible, are they willing to work with me to show up or not?"

Stephen Karpman: Well, also you need to take into account the role of the victim. Are you feeding the persecutor what they need? Are you trying to, as they say, "sail a pizza past the wolf"? The persecutor may not pick up on things because your way of telling the persecutor may be either accusatory which would get the persecutor to fight back or maybe so sympathetic and so helpless that the persecutor would see it as a weakness, so the victim would need to look at their role, whether they're really playing a role that makes themselves irresistible to the persecutor, and then the victim would need to look at whether they need to empower themselves, so they come across as more effective and more worthy of respect and get listened to.

Neil Sattin: Yeah and maybe this would be a good time to also talk about what you alluded to a few moments ago, which is that, people often are playing more than one role and can switch back and forth. Or they can perceive themselves as one role while the other person is perceiving them differently, and the example that pops into my mind immediately of that is, you talk about the political system, the political parties in our country, where the classic, maybe Republican postures that they see themselves as the rescuer of the taxpayer, and the Democrat might see themselves as the rescuer of the common person, and both of them perceive the other as a persecutor. And that they're being victimized in some way by them.

Stephen Karpman: Well, that becomes a turnoff to the voter when they realize that politics has become a game of accusing people, lying, accusing people of things, switching around and only taking one position and not knowing what's going on on the other side of the aisle. So a person gets out of the political game by respecting both sides, to see that each side has a following and they have a point of view. Now the other question about the switching of roles is very real. The persecutor may decide that they want to win the game and if they're being accused of being a persecutor, they may switch. They may switch over to be a rescuer and say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, I really care about you. And I didn't mean that... "

Stephen Karpman: That could all be a game, it could all be a manipulation. Or they could be... Play the role of the victim in order to win the game and keep things confusing and keep things involved. So they could play the victim of... They never can be understood, they're really trying to help the person with the criticism and they're being misunderstood. So you can wind up switching around the triangle in order to win. In order to not get pegged into one of the roles, you switch around so that you can win.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and what is winning exactly?

Stephen Karpman: Well, winning is the excitement, the excitement of the drama of staying involved in some argumentative relationship wherein some problems, problematic relationship, which is very involving, it's... They're standing for negative strokes instead of positive strokes, but some people think negative strokes are just as good or even better, or they don't even know why they're involved, but they are involved and sometimes they don't realize how involved they were until the game somehow ends which could be traumatic sometimes or mind blowing. It could free them, they can all of a sudden feel free. The rescuer would say, "I'd rather be smarter than martyred."

Stephen Karpman: They don't want to be a martyr anymore, they want to be smart that they're out of the game and they're free again, and so the victim might say, "I'd rather be mad than sad instead of complaining all the time." They'd get angry at the whole game, saying, "Why am in this game? Why am I playing this silly role of a victim all my life? I can get things for myself." And then they can empower themselves, which is a big part of the drama triangle and getting out as people learn to empower themselves and realize they can't change others but they can change themselves and get what they want in life.

Neil Sattin: And where does this all... How did you come up with the compassion triangle as the antidote to the drama triangle?

Stephen Karpman: Well, in transactional analysis which started with Eric Berne's "Games People Play," which was a runaway bestseller years ago, 120 weeks in a row on New York Times best seller list, and I trained with Eric Berne, and one of the principles in transactional analysis is that there's three ego states. People can either play the role: The parent, adult, or a child; or be those people to others. And the thing is that the roles can be played positive and negative, like the critical parent role can be played in a negative way, which is always criticizing, but in the positive way, which is a strong leader with decisive... With rules and people follow them, and society is stronger because of the rules.

Stephen Karpman: So using that idea from Eric Berne that all these ideas can be seen in a positive or a negative way, I started looking at each of the roles in the drama triangle, can be either positive or negative. So, for instance, the persecutor is very negative 'cause they keep the victim feeling terrible about themselves, but if you get out of the triangle, it can be positive, you can be an aggressive, self-empowering person, who's determined to channel your energies into life and to being purposeful and productive.

Stephen Karpman: And the rescuer, ordinarily, is a person who gets walked on all the time, people take advantage of the rescuer. They're always helping, and giving people another chance and then another chance and then a third chance, and... But they can switch that negative rescuing to positive rescuing. They can love themselves and they can actually help themselves and help others. And the victim, instead of being the negative role of always needy, always helpless, never, never learning anything that they need to learn, then they can switch that into the vulnerable role, that they're actually open to helping themselves and hearing other people and changing themselves. So all three roles can be either way. But one day, I developed what I called the compassion triangle, which I could go into more if you want to.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, let's do that.

Stephen Karpman: Okay. The compassion triangle is, I put that altogether and realize that people are actually in all three roles at once. There's a primary role that everyone sees, but then there's two hidden roles. So, using an example of a boss picking on the secretary would be seen as the persecutor, and people wouldn't like the boss, but secretly, if you want another way of looking at the boss or helping the boss, the boss is also a rescuer. The boss is rescuing the secretary who can't do it right, who can't learn fast enough, so by criticizing the secretary or being a helicopter mom to the secretary, they're really trying to impart information that would help the person. And in a way, they're also helping their own job, because if people don't get their job done, then the boss could get fired. So the boss would also be a victim and say, "Oh my gosh, I'm running ship that's going aground and people aren't doing their job right." So then, it's all three roles at once.

Stephen Karpman: And originally, that actually goes back to evolutionary days in which there's, which I called the drama triangle, which is another subject but that's... In evolutionary days, you have to trigger all three roles at once, immediately, in order to save the offspring to go on to another generation. So I've digressed at that into a situation I saw on TV on a Discovery Channel.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Stephen Karpman: Where a tiger was approaching a baby elephant and the bigger elephants circled the baby. So the way they're a rescuer, they were rescuing the baby. They were also persecutor 'cause they could chase off of the tiger, and then they're also victim because they saw their own family being threatened, and with empathy, they could feel the threat to the baby elephant. So all three had to be triggered and going through different situations in evolution, all three of those actually started out of instincts. So in a stress situation, all three of those are fired off at once.

Neil Sattin: Interesting and why... So why did you end up calling this the compassion triangle?

Stephen Karpman: Well, compassion triangle was... I picked that name, somewhat for its appeal, but also because it helps you have compassion for each person. So instead of saying the persecutor is evil and critical and narcissistic, you'd have compassion for the person also being a rescuer and a victim in what they were doing. And same, you'd have compassion for the rescuer, it could be criticized and say, "Oh you're a rescuer. Maybe a therapist is letting their patient call in the middle hours of the night or something, and not paying their bills. They could say, instead of being critical a person who's a rescuer, you could see them as also a persecutor which is keeping someone in the dependent position, and they're also a victim, 'cause they don't know how to get out of the situation because they get so many strokes and purpose out of rescuing people.

Stephen Karpman: And the victim, instead of seeing them as, "Oh, you're a victim, you're playing a manipulation game, you're a professional victim," you could see them as also a persecutor that they're keeping other people involved in their game, and they're also a rescuer. They're giving other people what they want, they're giving other people a victim to pick on, so they don't need to look at their own lives. So, It goes on from there. In my book, A Game-Free Life, the first half of the book deals with all the different drama triangles in different situations like the identified patient and all sorts of situations. And the second half of the book is all about open intimate communication and listening and accountability and how to get out of the games.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and so I think that the danger is to start to get confused like, "Alright, well, if the persecutor is also the victim and also the rescuer, then how do those distinctions even matter?" And I think what you're saying is that, thinking about it this way is a good way to stretch you outside of the boundaries of the game thinking, where you're stuck in a particular role or where the other person is stuck in a particular role to develop a little bit more flexibility in how you're thinking about it.

Stephen Karpman: Yeah, the word compassion could get people drawn into forgiving other people for their game playing, like forgiving a persecutor, not actually realizing what they're actually doing with all their criticism. So you don't want to get soft, you need to know the games and you need to know the roles and you don't want to first get into forgiving everybody, because that will be a rescue and will keep you the game, but the compassion triangle is used mostly to understand why the games are played. If you want to do that, the most people just deal with the drama triangle with the roles. I'm in this role, that role. And sometimes they get into the switches, which is what the triangle role change was, the drama of changing roles and getting other people to line up as persecutors, rescuers and victims and getting lots of other people involved.

Stephen Karpman: So that's the drama and the switching. But if you want to understand the reasons why a person gets into the game, the compassion gives you three ways of talking to that person, like that boss, you could say, "I know you're trying to rescue a person help them by the criticism, but maybe it's not working." And also the boss saying, telling the boss how they're a victim, you know, you could be victimized, you could get fired, if these people don't learn their job or...

Stephen Karpman: So, it's when you want to get into understanding the roles is when you use a compassion triangle, and usually, if you go on the internet to the different blogs and the other books written about the Drama Triangle, they mostly just describe the roles and how people get into the roles and what to do to empower yourself to get out of the role. They don't often get into the switches, which gets into dysfunctional family games. And I have a list in my book of all dysfunctional family games, but they don't go the next step which is to actually understand why people are doing it, 'cause that would get them too soft and they would tend to stay in the game, if they are two sympathetic to the other people.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so when you're, say, working with a couple and let's just choose a typical example, which is like, one person is always complaining, let's say. So one person always has complaint and the other person probably has the story of like I can, it'll never be enough. What I do will never be enough for my partner. How could you help them use the compassion triangle as a way to get out of that dynamic?

Stephen Karpman: Well, we look at the three motivations behind each other's point. And I would do an exercise where each one would talk to the other person. One person would say, let's say, the complainer would say to the other person. I know I'm complaining as a victim, but I'm also persecutor and to keeping you feeling guilty about my complaints and I'm also rescuer because I'm turning up the energy between us and giving you what you need in order to feel superior. And then they would do the triangle for the other person. Like I know you're coming on as persecutor, which isn't working 'cause I'll fight it, but I know you're also the rescuer 'cause you're trying to help, and I know you're also victim because you feel this is intolerable, and you're afraid of what the next step would be. So I will do the compassion triangle exercise and I would have both people do it.

Stephen Karpman: So the victim would go through their three roles and the persecutor's three roles and then the persecutor would have to tell the other one, here's the roles and here are your three roles. This compassion triangle exercise is very, very moving, and it's being adopted in many many treatment centers. And I just wish more people would know about it, and use it, of course, wishing would be hoping and be a victim positions. So I'll back off that one.

Neil Sattin: Well, here we are taking action that hopefully, many of you will go out and grab A Game-Free Life. It's on Amazon, and there's a lot of information in there, there's a lot to absorb and even in just the description of the Drama Triangle, and the compassion triangle. And then, as you mentioned, Steven, you move on to talking about intimacy building and communication and building trust, and obviously, that's a lot of what we're talking about here on my show, Relationship Alive, because those are the building blocks of successful relationships.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Stephen Karpman: Okay. So, the second half of the book starts with the three rules of openness. It starts with the idea of how to set up communication, and the three rules of openness are: Bring it up, talk it up, wrap it up. And I've put a whole lot in there: How to bring up your points so that people listen to it, or how you can bring it up so they won't listen to it. And to talk it up, I talk about all the different games that go on, all the listening problems that go on, all the different blocks that occur to keep someone from listening to your point. And then, the wrap it up, I have a whole different series of how, rather than talk a point to death, you can wrap it up and that would be the goal. And the talk it up, I do a lot about listening, and I have a... A lot of different theoretical ideas I've written through, but they're all practical. And then the example you previously mentioned about the complainer. I have a person learn how to listen to the point the other person made.

Stephen Karpman: Now, I have this thing called the listeners loop, which is the four things that ideally a good listener, would do, and it's... I put them on a loop because they're all connected. So it's the letters S-E-V-F. S is for strokes. You give the person strokes for what... For who they are. And then the E stands for encouragement. You give them encouragement. "You can keep talking. You can bring this up to me any time." And that preserves the channel of communication. And the next letter is V for validation. You validate whatever is true that the other person says. And I do have a 10 percent rule, that 10 percent of everything you say is correct and 10 percent of everything you say is incorrect, and 10 percent of the population would agree.


Stephen Karpman: And that I use in couples to make sure someone hears at least something that the other person says. And then, so that validates the point. And then, the final is the F for follow through. That validates the purpose of the communication, that you show some results. After the communication, you show some tangible results of the discussion. That, I call that the listeners loop.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's...

Stephen Karpman: There's also...

Neil Sattin: Go ahead.

Stephen Karpman: There's also a loop of how you block people from ever getting their point across. So I could mention that if you want.

Neil Sattin: Sure, let's see that. And just to be clear, we're in the "talk it up" section of your work?

Stephen Karpman: Yeah. So there's three letters... Four letters there. In that loop, C-A-S-E, these are the four ways that you can block a person from being effective in their communication. The first C is condescending. I guess, maybe the listeners or you could imagine a situation in which you're really earnestly trying to get through to another person, and that person, in return, first, is condescending, they're looking down on everything you're doing, they're saying, "Oh, this is just your symptom of... You've been talking to the wrong people. You're just the fool. Nothing you say is correct." So they would be condescending and look down on you. The next block would be abrupt. They're just suddenly cut off... Suddenly cut off the communication, "Stop. I've had enough. Stop it." And then, they would walk out the room or hang up the phone or something.

Stephen Karpman: That would be intimidating, and that would stop a communication. The next on the loop is S is for secretive. They would withhold all the information that you need in order to hear their point of view, and they would withhold all the information that supports that you heard them. So they keep secretive, and you can't... You don't know where you stand with the person who doesn't give you enough information. But that's an information block, by not giving enough information to let the communication proceed further.

Stephen Karpman: And the last block would be the person that you're talking to is evasive. They would talk fast, they would change the subject quickly, they would lead you astray into another subject that's actually more interesting, and you would forget your original point. So that C-A-S-E, or CASE block would keep you from being effective. But if you know the four different blocks, maybe you can address one of them and break it down. If you can break down one of the blocks, then you can... The person will be open to listening to you. And according to the transaction analysis, positive-negative rules, there's also positive C-A-S-E that, instead of condescending, you'd be caring for C; Instead of A, Abrupt, you'd be approachable. Sure, it'd be nice to talk to someone who's carrying an approachable.

Stephen Karpman: And instead of S for secretive, the person would be sharing. "Oh, great. This person is sharing information with me. Now, we can move forward." And instead of E for being evasive, you'd say, they're engaged. "Oh, they stay engaged on the subject. We can have enough time to talk it all the way through, rather than suddenly stopping the subject after 30 seconds or five seconds." So, there's a positive loop. And in the workshops that I do, and I do workshops all over the world, workshop... We have that exercise being done. A person practices each of those four negatives, and then the other one deals with them, and then you switch sides. And so, on all these different information and communication blocks, people can practice them. And in couples therapy, you can get them to actually practice the negative C-A-S-E and then switch it to a positive C-A-S-E. And all those can...

Stephen Karpman: All those things in the back half of the book and are... Can be practiced. And as social skills. I could mention that originally in Games People Play, the games were spelled out. Eric Berne listed over 100 games and it was a wildly, wildly popular book. But he didn't have a way of getting out of the games. He had something he called an antithesis. Like maybe one sentence or two for about four or five of the games that you could say that would just stop the game right there. But he didn't take it further. I was the only one in transaction analysis field that actually took that further. And my entire book is... It's about what to do about it. Social skills training and relationship building, training, and intimacy building, training, that you can go beyond games with.

Neil Sattin: Great. So, let's pull out a few more of those because there are so many in there that are really... Well, what I like about it is that it... In the way that you quantify these ways of being, it makes it really clear in ways that that I wouldn't have thought about before. Before we dive into one of them, there are two important things that I think we should mention. One is, I'm wondering if you, we've mentioned transactional analysis several times, it's been your field. Can you give us just like the 10,000-foot view for people listening, if you don't know what transactional analysis is, this is what it is?

Stephen Karpman: Sure. Originally, the psychotherapy field was in the area of what Freud discovered. Freud was a hypnotist and he was a psychiatrist, and he would... With his mind as a hypnotist, he figured that if you could take people all way back to childhood and unleash all the traumas and all the repressed energies of childhood, that this freed up energy would then allow them to be freer in their lives. So this was called the psychodynamic approach or this... Or on a higher professional level, it's a psychoanalytic approach. And all you have to do was going back into childhood and understanding things. Eric Berne came along in a very revolutionary times in 1960s, in San Francisco, very revolutionary times where everything was being rethought and he said, "Why do you have to go back in childhood only? Let's look at what's actually happening on the social level. What's actually happening between people in the here and now that they have to deal with?"

Stephen Karpman: Like, you can talk about your childhood all you want, but what if you're getting divorced or what if the boss has demoted you and put your desk in the hallway or something when you were on vacation, or some game you had to deal with? So he brought up the games and he gave very catchy names to them like, "I'm only trying to help you," or "now I've got you, you SOB" or a game of Kick Me. So he came... So the book, of course was wildly popular, of course, people read it to figure out the games other people were playing [chuckle] and weren't necessarily using it to figure out their games. But he brought up the whole level of, of social level. So then transactional analysis had a social level, TA it's called, TA for transactional analysis. And then a psychological level. Psychological level's when you go into the depth, into childhood which is now called scripting, how people write their life scripts when they're young, and then they play out their life scripts as if they're plays.

Stephen Karpman: And transaction analysis has a lot about script analysis. And I have a, maybe the middle section of my book is all about script analysis. How you find out what your position is in life? Like, maybe you have an, "I'm okay, you're not okay," position in life or "I'm not okay, you're okay," which was written in Tom Harris's book, I'm Okay You're Okay, which was the other big best-seller back in the '60s and '70s. So transactional analysis became a major force in psychology and psychiatry and it's taught all over the world. We have training centers in 30 or 40 countries and conferences all over the world, so it's a major field in psychology. But because of the dominance of the psychoanalytic approach, some schools actually won't teach it.

Stephen Karpman: So that's one of the games people play of being, of protecting your turf. But it gets more and more popular and my book sells, I'm probably selling about 10 a week or so. And there's transactional analysis books and conferences all over the world all the time. So it's gotten pretty popular and more people are looking at what goes on between people, rather than just what went on in your childhood.

Neil Sattin: Right, and so the idea is that you're analyzing what is actually happening between two people in the present moment as...

Stephen Karpman: Right. And the only precedent to that was back in the early 1960s in the Bay Area, that they started family therapy, and they actually began to have names for what people were doing back and forth in the family therapy circle. Like, people who... There were dyads and triads and certain things like that. But Eric Berne just jumped in way into the future by actually naming the games that each individual person was playing and he brought it up in many different levels. Some of these games, he wrote up about six or seven different levels of why people are playing it. And that appealed to the more depth-oriented people who realized, there's a lot of depths in...

Stephen Karpman: There is many depths in what people are doing with each other as they were in what they were doing in their childhood, which I guess psycho-dynamically was like, there's a dozen defense mechanisms that people would employ that was pretty deep, but in TA, you have just as many or even more social defense mechanisms, how you keep people from getting intimate, how you keep people from making their point, how you keep people one-down. So that, sort of TA, primarily, my book, went more in that direction.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think that is definitely one of the valuable things is, as soon as you see that you're in a particular game, you talk about the title that could be kind of on the front of someone's sweatshirt like, "This is the game that I'm playing with you," that it gives you a clue of like, "Oh, I'm actually not really connecting with this person. We're just doing this dance that actually prevents us from connecting with each other."

Stephen Karpman: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that. The sweatshirt was an idea that Eric Berne used to talk about in our seminars, and I trained with Eric Berne for, in his weekly seminars in San Francisco for almost six years. And he used to talk about the sweatshirt jokingly, but I've taken it a lot further. It actually tells you what game a person's playing. Imagine you're trying to get through to somebody and you look at their sweatshirt and it says, "I don't care about you or what you're saying," and all of a sudden, you say, "My gosh, look at that." I figured there's a couple...

Stephen Karpman: I boiled that down to two sweatshirts. One is the let's pretend sweatshirt, is let's pretend I care about what you're saying. And the other was try and... Try and... Try and make me listen to you. So the "let's pretend" and the "try and" sweatshirt, you're served none. Breaks a game-wide open. Sometimes you don't realize until after you've left and you think, "My gosh, that person had a sweatshirt of I don't care what you say, or I'm never going to listen to anybody," and then you realize, "Wow, that's a game." And so the whole core of a game can be wrapped up in their sweatshirt. And there's a lot of work in TA about intuition, the use of intuition and reading what people are doing, and then also ways of checking out your intuition.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so if I had... Let's say I was with someone, and I thought their sweatshirt was, "Let's pretend that we're... That we're going to work on our problems together," maybe that would be a good one. How do I know if that person is actually just playing the game with me because on the back of their sweatshirt, it would be actually, I'm the one in charge here, or something like that.

Stephen Karpman: Well, that was the original sweatshirt of Eric Berne, there's the front of the sweatshirt and what you see and the back is after the switch. The switch is very important in games, like you think you see something and then you get a switch, and all of a sudden, you say, "Oh my God, that's what happened." So that sweatshirt could be an alcoholic wearing a sweatshirt "let's pretend I'm going to stop drinking this time", or "let's pretend that your insights get through to me." And then the rescuer or the co-dependent could say, "Let's pretend I'm going to be effective right now, and you're listening to me," or "Let's pretend we're all going to live happily ever after." But it's an intuition that you might not be able to think of in the heat of the game, but when you walk away the game, you say, "My God, I'm talking to a sweatshirt that says 'I don't care about you,' and I never will," on the back."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, how would you test that out? How would you know if... Because I think it can be easy to step back from a person and just say, "Oh okay, I have the story about this person, which is that, they're never going to care about me or they're actually not interested in me." Actually, that might be a good one I'm thinking about going out on a first date with someone and trying to navigate the awkwardness of that and maybe coming away from that thinking like, "Yeah, this person, they just don't care about me." How would you find out if that sort of thing was actually true?

Stephen Karpman: Well, probably in time, it'll come out or say... You mention there is this... That if the guy thinks the... Sees the girl's sweatshirt and says, "I'm not a man, I'm not romantically attracted to you," well, then he moves differently. He talks to her in a different way rather than assuming, "I'm a hottie and you're my man," thinking that that's what's going on. So it's a way sort of catching on to what's going on, what's the game that's... Is there a game and what are the real positions? Now, it's okay to be hoping and to wishing and maybe this is going to work out, this is going to be fine, but it's only when there's the game and one way of finding out what the game is to see the sweatshirt and then you go from there, you can bring it up.

Stephen Karpman: There's a new type of therapy called relational therapy, in which the therapist shares their feelings with their client and they could actually say to the client, "I feel you're not interested in anything I say," and that could open up a conversation, but it's fine to express your feelings of what you think is going on as long as there's an openness contract... Contract to be open and share with each other without games.

Neil Sattin: Oh my goodness, you're just reminding me of so many things that are in your book. Okay, so before we dive in there, just going back to the case, the blocks to communication that you were talking about, C for being condescending, A for abrupt, S for secretive, E for evasive. If I sense one of those things happening in my partner, or the person that I'm talking to, what's a strategy that you've seen be effective in... 'cause you mentioned, sometimes you can take on one of those blocks and break it down, and then you get through and then you're back to communicating with that person.

Stephen Karpman: Well, the first step in learning the games people play, and learning intimacy communication and so forth, is to identify it. So, if you identify the person as condescending, you would say, "Wait a minute, I need a little more respect from what I'm saying here are my points." So you could go for that. If you heard the person's abrupt you'd say it up in advance, "I need at least five minutes to talk to you. Will you give me five minutes?" So then you have a way of dealing with that. For the secretive block you'd say, "I need you to tell me why you're doing this and I'll tell you why I'm doing it so you set up a sharing substitute for the S."

Stephen Karpman: And then for... For the E, the evasive, you say, "I don't want to start changing the subjects," or as soon as they change the subject, you say, "Wait, you're changing the subject on me, you're not here, or you're not hearing me, or let's stay on this one point, it's important." So knowing what the blocks are, you can actually address each one and it'd be more effective than than if you just threw up your hands and say, "Well, you're impossible. I can't talk to you."

Neil Sattin: Right.

Stephen Karpman: Which might work also.

Neil Sattin: Right, well, it would work in a different way, I guess, of keeping things the way they are. I'm curious. You mentioned earlier very briefly, I think you call, they're called the ego states, the critical parent, the nurturing parent, the adult, the free child, the adoptive child, I think I'm remembering those right. And the way that each of those gives us some flexibility and how we interact with other people, and maybe also how we get stuck in one way or another mode. Can we talk about that for just a little bit and then what I'd love to do is kind of bridge that into your map of intimacy and how people can think about the level of intimacy, the intimacy scale between them and another person.

Stephen Karpman: Okay. So the ego states was Berne's way of externalizing Freud's super ego, ego and id, which is three factors of the internal mind, a person has a super ego that's critical of themselves or they have an ego which deals with the world, or they have an id which is powerful forces. So, Freudian dynamics was based on that, Well, Eric Berne took it out into the real world and said in the real world, there are people out there you see as your parent, as your adult, or as a child, and that gave you a way of looking at people. So that was the starting point. Now, each ego state, it gets subdivided a little bit, and they can be in a positive or negative way. Like the parent is sort of subdivided into the matrons and patrons, I guess, is the father and the mother, you know, different kinds of systems around the world.

Stephen Karpman: So the critical parent would, would be the authoritative one that maintains the rules of society and correctness and ethics. But the negative critical parent would be the one who would just domain and criticize people endlessly. So all the ego states have positive and negative side. Now the flexible person is one who stays in contact flexibly with all of the ego states. They can move in and out easily. And one of Eric Berne's dozen books, half dozen books, it's called The Moving Self. At times. In your talk to someone. If you need to go to the... Okay, critical parent, you say, "Wait a minute, you're breaking our rules." Or you need to go to the rebel child, you might say, "Oh, come on, well, let's have some fun. This is silly." So you need to be able to move around or you can move into the adult and say, "Wait a minute. I'm not sure what's going on. Let's look at the process. And let's see where we're going with the information." So you need to be able to move around all the ego states. And so that's the flexible person.

Stephen Karpman: A person who gets locked in, they could get locked into critical parent, locked into only free child, they're only negative free child where they're just silly all the time and you can't ever talk to them. Or it could get locked into the negative nurturing parent that just only wants to rescue victims, all they care about in the world is victims and everything you do is a symptom of something. So you could get locked into a certain ego state yourself. And you can be talked to someone else who's locked into one ego state only, and that's called the excluded ego state. So there's a lot about ego states that Eric Berne writes about in his early books. It's a good way...

Neil Sattin: And...

Stephen Karpman: Ego states it's a good way of identifying who you're talking to. There's the excellent idea by Dr. Dusey called the egogram and you look at someone and you see this vertical bar graph of how much critical parent are showing, how much nurturing parent is their, nurturing parent, adult reach out, adopted child, and you get an idea of who they are. We're talking to real tough person, a person whose critical parent could be first on the bar graph, their adult could be second, and maybe your free child or they're vulnerable, they have a child that's very low. Or it could be talk with a very flexible, easily manipulated person, they may be all in their child and all either playful or sorrowful or hurtful and they have no parent, no strength that they can rely on.

Stephen Karpman: So there's a lot in TA about the ego states and I go into that in my books too, 'cause I have one variant of this option, this article I called, called options, and showing you how you can switch among your different ego states in order to handle the situation with somebody else.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so what would be what would be an example of that?

Stephen Karpman: Hmm?

Neil Sattin: So if I wanted to, let's say, I was trying to assess if, where someone was at and I like how you brought that up in terms of like looking at them and seeing where they show up on the bar graph, are they high in one dimension or low in another? Do you have suggestions for how you elicit different states from other people?

Stephen Karpman: Well, there's two ways. I have a summary of the Options article in my book, A Game Free Life. And then, in my latest book, Collected Papers and Transactional Analysis, I have a copy of the original options article, which gives you all the examples. That's different from the egogram, which is an intuition reading of the other person in which you can tell how much ego state energy is in the other person that you're dealing with. So it's an intuition exercise, intuition reading like the sweatshirt, or just would be the egogram and the sweatshirt would be ways of reading a person that you're talking to.

Neil Sattin: Got it. Got it. Okay, let's, if we can... In our last few minutes here. One thing that I think you describe really beautifully in your book are the ways that we construct intimacy in relation to another person, and the two concepts that come to mind here for me are the trust contracts that we create with others. And then the intimacy. I think you call it the intimacy scale, which helps you see where you're at in terms of your levels of intimacy with another person. So yeah, let's dive in there.

Stephen Karpman: Okay, thank you for mentioning this. Over the years, I pretty much I've developed a lot of different ideas. I had an older sister who used to teach, have one new idea every year or one new project that you master. She would say, well, one year, you master bowling, another year, you master handcraft. So I set upon myself that each year, I wanted to create a new theory. So both of those are new theories.

Stephen Karpman: The five trust contracts for couples are... Might turn out be one of the most popular ideas I've done. And that is, you draw two sets of ego states facing each other, and the trust contract between the okay critical parent, and the okay critical parent, the other person, is the no collapse contract. You agreed to the contracts you've made, you don't suddenly stop working. You don't suddenly stop your hygiene, you don't suddenly break all the rules, you don't... So the no trust contract is between the critical parents, between the two nurturing parents.

Neil Sattin: Right. That's also like you don't threaten to leave the other person, or...

Stephen Karpman: And between the two nurturing parents, the couple agrees on the protection contract that it's in your mind to protect the other person from putting them to too much stress. Between the adults is the openness contract. Bring it up, talk it up, wrap it up, at a good timing, not just anytime. And then between the free child. It's the enjoyment contract that you really want to give the other person lots of pleasure and whatever you can and the other in their lives, and the two of you.

Stephen Karpman: And between the adapted child is the flexibility contract that you agree to give in. You don't have to win 51% of all the arguments. And so this is an ideal that they live by. Each person needs to live by it themselves, and they also look to it being maintained in the other person, but they can all break down very quickly. I had one example of an alcoholic who went out and got drunk, and a restaurant and was screaming. Right away, he broke the no collapse contract. He just broke down and threw a scene. He broke the nurturing, the protection contract. Everyone got embarrassed, everyone's child got embarrassed, and so that was broken, and the openness contract was broken because you couldn't talk things over with him, he was in a don't think mentality.

Stephen Karpman: And then the free child, the enjoyment contract, there was nothing enjoyable about that dinner in the restaurant, when he threw a scene with the restaurant that even Jack Nicholson would have been happy with in one of his books, movies. And then between the adopted child, the flexibility contract. There's no flexibility there. He wouldn't yield to people telling him to please stop or anything. So, all contract can be broken. And when a marriage relationship or a long-term relationship is breaking down, sometimes one by one, the contracts are broken. Maybe the enjoyment contact is broken first. They just talk too much about issues, and drag themselves down. Or maybe a no collapse contract is broken. They go out and have a partner somewhere else, so one-by-one, the contracts can be built up but they also can be broken down. And then you also mentioned was it the intimacy scale?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Stephen Karpman: Okay, I cataloged there the subjects that people talk about. I've never seen anyone do that. I go on five levels 20%, 40%, 60% up to 100%. And these are the actual topics that people talk about. Some of the topics can bring people closer, which is on the right of the scale at 100% or they can distance people. Eric Berne once used the example of a very awkward first date. Guy looks around and looks at the room and says, "My, aren't the walls perpendicular tonight?" That doesn't take things very far. So at the first level, at the 20% level, it's silence. Pretty much nothing is said but it could be an okay silence, a break in time, just a breather.

Neil Sattin: You could be staring into each other's eyes in silence, which might actually feel very intimate.

Stephen Karpman: Yeah, right. But that's a topic of conversation would be no topic but silence. You're not sure what's going on. So it doesn't really build intimacy, maybe it might. The next level will be 40% which is, things objects and places, which is the guy is saying, "My, aren't the walls perpendicular tonight," or people can just talk about the restaurants in town, sort of awkwardly trying to come up with one after another, until the conversation runs down, or he could hear at a diner, the truck drivers talking about the different stop lights and the police... That doesn't develop intimacy. It doesn't get people into who they are and what they believe in, but that comes at the 60% level. And I have several different PI people. You talk about people and ideas or philosophy and issues or psychology, you talk about what people think about and believe in things and they get to get into themselves and that gets a little more closeness going.

Stephen Karpman: Now, at the 80%, I have it divided with an M, Y, me or you. You actually interview the other person, find out a whole lot about who they are, what their beliefs are, what their hobbies are, their family is, and they talk about their self a lot. It gets uneven if one person only talks about themselves or they interview the other person, so the other person only talks about themselves. But that gets close when you learn a lot about the person, but it's not the same as 100%. At a 100% level, there is a you, us, talk about us. What do we feel about each other? What happened when we first met each other? What are the things that we are going to do together? What's going on between us? And you talk about at the us level, and you share your feelings about each other and the two of you.

Stephen Karpman: So that all can be practiced in workshops or between couples. You can practice each one of the different levels. So you get an idea of conversations. It's mostly useful when people first meet each other when conversations can go dead or they can go right. I mean, some party can jump too fast, a person... A guy at a first date could jump all way over to me and you and us and proposition her or someone could... And then she could bring it back to things, like wallpaper decorations or something. [chuckle] So, it gives an idea of the different topics of people talk about, whether it brings them closer or it brings... Takes them further apart.

Neil Sattin: Yeah and I could see that been instructive just like as you're with another person, like, oh, are they in their critical parent? Are they in their adult? Are they in their free child? You could just as easily be like, alright, what are we talking about and what is that, if I want to build more closeness with this person, then I might take this to trying to figure out their philosophies and ideas and interests and eventually, get into our deepest beliefs, what they believe, what I believe, and that actually helps bring you closer in a situation where you're feeling a little distant from either someone you've been with for a long time or someone you're just meeting.

Stephen Karpman: Right. Yeah, and by the way, none of this should be called manipulative, but like, "Okay, now I'm going to go to the 20% level, now I'm going to go to 60%." It's actually people are just identifying what good conversations are. Now, of course, a salesman could learn it immediately and go right over to all way up to 100%, and con you into thinking that the new vacuum cleaning device is what brings them... Two of them together. But all these things, you know, options, how to switch ego states, or the different levels of communication, all these things are things that you learn and eventually become part of you. 'Cause there are people out there who automatically know all these things, so it's okay to go to school and learn your social skills if that's what you need when you go into therapy, or you read a book on relationship building, which is my Game Free Life book.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so I want to let you know listening that, even though we've covered so much in this conversation today, it's not even half of what's [chuckle] in this book. And it... I really was struck with every several pages, like, wow, there's another valuable resource, wow, there's another way to think about this and to extract kind of the core of what's happening in every... In a particular given situation to get to something meaningful. So again, Stephen Karpman, he created the Drama Triangle. His book, A Game Free Life, which talks about the drama triangle, the compassion triangle, and then all of these tools for building intimacy and dealing with communication issues. Because this isn't a book that's just for couples, it's about how you navigate the world and stay game free as much as possible. So it's really, really valuable stuff in there.

Stephen Karpman: I should put in a plug that it's available on Amazon.


Neil Sattin: Yes, yeah. I think I mentioned that earlier and we'll make sure that we have links to all of that in the show notes and transcript for today's episode, which, as a reminder, you can get if you visit, as in the Drama Triangle. Or you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And Stephen, what's a good way if people want to find out more about your work, other than grabbing the book on Amazon, what's your website?

Stephen Karpman: Okay. I do have about 30 papers I've written, which go into much more detail of the ideas that are in A Game Free line. I just recently came out with that. It's called collected papers in transactional analysis, about 280 pages. I sell it from my website, all you have to do is type in my name on Google, and you'll go to my website. And eventually, Amazon's going to have it. But I really appreciate you inviting me Neil and sharing some of these ideas, and I would like people to have A Game Free Life, and that's what I've been working on, and I really appreciate the time you've spent, and the time we've worked on together to make this interview happen, so I really want to thank you very much and thank your viewers who are listening.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, my pleasure. It's been so great to have you, and this is stuff you've been working on for decades. So, what a treat to one that you were able to put so much of it into your book, and also that we've been able to meet and chat about it for the people today who are just finding out about your work. I do have one last quick question for you, if that would be okay?

Stephen Karpman: No, I'm okay.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Stephen Karpman: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So when we were talking about the trust contracts, I'm just wondering, if I were listening to that and thinking, "Okay, I'm hearing the contracts that I've navigated really well with my partner, let's say, but I can see that... " Here's a contract. Like the enjoyment contract that I've just let fall apart completely or even that I feel like my partner is sliding on one of those contracts. What would you suggest as a good first step for people to have the "us" conversation that allows them to repair around a broken contract?

Stephen Karpman: Well, generally, it would be communication, again, and stating what the problem is and your feelings, and if there's an actual issue or situation, you could do the compassion triangle, and your motivations for that situation, and their motivations. So, it primarily is just identifying the issue and working at what you can do and what you can't do. But primarily, the five trust contract, you should apply to yourself that... And the enjoyment contract that you really won't keep it in your heart, that you want the other person to be happy. And any kind of flexibility you can do on the flexibility contract would be fine. But there's some things you cannot do and you can't be expected to, and there's some things you can do that maybe you might do.

Stephen Karpman: But you could be getting more in touch with your free child, a more playful side, self. Or if the other person has trouble getting into their free child and their playfulness, you could stroke them and when they do get into the free child, tell them how much you enjoy that. And I don't have an actual situation to talk about. These are pretty general for people on any of the five trust contracts is it's something to talk about, to talk about it with all the rules of sharing and communication and... You know, I mentioned this: The listening loop. And also, there's a information iceberg I did mention. There's four levels of how you can get your point across, get your... Maybe it's too late in the interview just to go through it, but...

Neil Sattin: No, go for it.

Stephen Karpman: One is a... One, you get your point across, and then underneath the water of the iceberg, it's the first ice information. You want to give all the information behind your point to support it, and you want to get a chance to get that information out there before the person cuts off the conversation. And then, the next... I... On the iceberg, is importance. You want to be able to get across the importance of your idea, why it's important to be listened to. Like, if you're talking at a board meeting, you want to be able to get across the importance of why your idea needs to be taken up by the business, or with someone you're talking to, why it's important that this conversation is heard.

Stephen Karpman: And then, the last I at the... I at the very bottom, is actually a trauma triangle for the bottom of the iceberg, is the intent. You want to make sure you know... People know that your intent is not persecute or rescue a victim, but it's to share information, to move the relationship on in the five trust contracts.

Neil Sattin: And you actually made me think of just revisiting briefly a question that we touched on at the very beginning, which is, I'm curious about, in your experience, how do you know when someone is just kinda stuck in the game? And you try all these things and... Is there a point at which you think one can say like, "All right, I think I've given this what I can give it and it's time to move on to a... " You know, "This person is stuck no matter what I do."

Stephen Karpman: It takes a while to get stuck. If you're a rescuer and you're persistent, you'll stay in there. If you have the drivers that say, "Try hard and please them and be perfect in how you please them," the drivers can keep you stuck in the relationship a long time. Now, you could, maybe not even be in the game, and you meet somebody for the first time and you just say, "That's it," you just don't want to go further. You may give it a couple of tries, and then it's over. So it's... Getting into the triangle takes a while to get in there, because then it gets complicated because all three roles are beginning to emerge as motivations in each person, and that complicates it, the... But it takes a while to get to the point where we realize, "Hey, we're stuck." And then you could talk about the idea of being stuck.

Stephen Karpman: Maybe from the compassion triangle, you could settle on a particular issue, and once you got the issue settled on, then you talk about your three motivations for hanging on to this issue. But, yeah, defining an issue is usually a point to decide whether you can move on or not.

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah. And you do a good job, at one point in the book, of talking about, it was, I think, in a work situation with two people who are having... It's impossible for them to get along and where one of them simply is willing to listen, and the other one actually does the whole compassion triangle for themselves and for the other person out loud as a way of helping build a bridge of understanding between the two of them.

Stephen Karpman: Well, if it's a work situation, you wouldn't necessarily do it out loud with everyone listening, 'cause the boss could lose face or something like that, but it'd probably be in a closed room where people would cheer. Let's look... Is it okay... Well, first, you get the contact... A contract to talk. "Is it okay if we talk about this?" That avoids a rescue victim situation. The person say, "Yes. It's okay. Let's set aside five minutes to talk." Then you say, "Well, I would like to go through what I feel is going on and what I feel is going on with you, and then you can correct me or tell me what is going on with you." But then you share an awful lot of feelings. You can share your persecutor, rescuer and victim, and what you think is theirs. That fix right there. And then they share their persecutor, rescuer and victims of what they think their motivation is. And then there...

Stephen Karpman: They got their three, and then there are three about you. So there's actually 12 feelings to get shared. I mean, it can be a huge sense of relief when the compassion triangle exercise is done, but first, you gotta get a contract, an agreement that, "Let's go through it," and how much time to be set aside, and maybe even an agreement of what to do if a communication goes wrong.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Well, Stephen Karpman, again, thank you so much for being here with us today. And you've shared so much valuable information, and I'm excited to see what unfolds for our listeners who take this and run with it. So, thanks so much for giving us more of a perspective on how to apply the drama triangle, the compassion triangle, and all these other great ways of building trust and intimacy.

Stephen Karpman: Great. Thanks, Neil, and to all your listeners for listening, and we'll talk more later.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Thank you.

Stephen Karpman: Again, thank you.

Nov 8, 2019

How do you communicate about your feelings in the most effective way possible? While we're at it, how do you even *feel* your feelings so that they can move through you - instead of getting stuck or repressed? And, as you learn how to communicate about your feelings - what does the way that people respond to you tell you about them? In this week's episode, you'll discover some easy ways to touch into your deepest feelings, and to communicate about them in ways that can help connect you to the people in your life. And you'll learn how communicating about your own emotions can help you discern important information about others.

In this episode, I also refer to two earlier episodes:

198 - Healing Your Earliest Attachment Wounds - with Peter Levine


196 - Harnessing the Transforming Power of Your Core Emotions - the Change Triangle - with Hilary Jacobs Hendel

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Oct 26, 2019

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

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Read the Paula Hall books that are right for you.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship

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

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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. 

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

Paula Hall: Hi! Thanks for inviting me. 

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Yeah yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Did I answer your question? 

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Absolutely yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Choice. 

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

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

Neil Sattin: Great. Yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Exactly. Exactly. 

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Hall: OK. 

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

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

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

Paula Hall: You're very welcome. 

Oct 19, 2019

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

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Oct 9, 2019

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right. 

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

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

Viola Neufeld: Sure. Yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viola Neufeld: Thanks so much Neil.


Sep 14, 2019

It’s easy to talk about “Self Care” - to pay lip service to it - but what does it really mean to take care of yourself? In today’s episode, we’re going to get back to basics to ensure that you’re actually nourishing the most important person in your world - you! Because if you’re not, then how are you going to show up for the people around you? By the end, you'll have a sense of exactly what's essential for keeping you at your best.

Come see Relationship Alive - LIVE! with John and Julie Gottman, on October 12th in Portland Maine. You have the chance to ask us *your* questions - and get answers. Visit for more information.

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Sep 5, 2019

There are ways to communicate that keep you stuck, or that make things worse - and there are ways to communicate that foster the healthy development of your relationship. So how do you avoid the pitfalls, and reconnect with each other in spite of your differences? Or even in appreciation of your differences? In today’s episode, we have a return visit from Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson. They are co-founders of The Couples Institute, one of the leading centers for training couples therapists and helping people find practical solutions to relationship issues. Their book “Tell Me No Lies” describes how to create a culture of honesty in your relationship (and why that’s so important) - while their work on the Developmental Model of relationships gives deep insight into why we do what we do. Today we’ll get theoretical, we’ll get practical, and you’ll walk away with some new ways to communicate about challenging topics in ways that encourage the healthy development of your relationship.

Visit to join their free “What do you do when” 4-part series!

If you’re curious to hear our first episode together, about shaping a culture of honesty in your relationship, you can also check out Episode 24 of Relationship Alive - Why We Lie and How to Get Back to the Truth

And you can listen to our second episode together, which was about Relationship Development and getting unstuck in your relationship, if you click here.

Meanwhile - come see Relationship Alive - LIVE! with John and Julie Gottman, on October 12th in Portland Maine. You have the chance to ask us *your* questions - and get answers. Visit for more information.

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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. On today's show we are going to have a return visit from some of my favorite guests; Pete Pearson and Ellyn Bader. They are here to dive even more deeply into the developmental model for relationships and why it is so important for you to understand where you're at in terms of your development, both as an individual, but definitely as a couple, and also to talk about a new series that they're offering for therapists that will be great for you if you're a therapist in terms of boosting the way that you work with couples in your practice.

Neil Sattin: We're going to talk more about that, but I know that they elicited feedback from their audience of therapists about some of the toughest issues that they deal with, in sessions with couples and they put together a free series around that. So we're going to talk about that and we're going to ask them some questions about how to know where you are in the developmental status of your relationship and we're also going to give you a very valuable way to structure how you communicate with your partner around a sensitive topic, something that we haven't covered in quite this way on the show before. Ellyn and Pete have both been here before. If you want to listen to their episode about lying in relationships and how to cultivate a culture of honesty you can visit

Neil Sattin: If you want to hear more about the developmental model, you can visit Those are the two episodes that they were on prior to today. And if you want to download a transcript of today's episode, then visit Let's see, what should we call this one? Let's call it development2. I know that was really tricky. So, you can visit, the number two, and that will take you to this episode where you can download a transcript or you can always text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. That is it for this moment. So let's dive into the conversation with Ellyn Bader and Pete Pearson. Thank you so much for being here with us today.

Ellyn Bader: You're welcome, it's always fun to talk to you Neil.

Peter Pearson: It's good being here Neil, thank you.

Neil Sattin: Yes, and I should know this by now, but Pete, is it okay to call you Pete? Should I be calling you Peter or should I be calling you...

Peter Pearson: Pete is fine.

Neil Sattin: Okay, great, Petey... So let's start with just this... I want to give a quick overview of what we mean by the developmental model. If people really want the nitty gritty, then you can go back and listen to the first episode, but just so... Just to give us some context, the two-minute elevator pitch, that's a really long elevator ride if you've ever been in an elevator for two minutes. But anyway let's start there.

Ellyn Bader: Sure. So we look at relationships, and healthy relationships as going through a series or potentially going through a series of developmental stages and I'm going to give you the really short-hand version of it. But people will meet ideally often they fall in love, they have what I call a temporary psychosis, where they just focus on each other and the grass is green, and the sky is blue, everything is wonderful. And I know all relationships don't start out that way, but many, many do, and others start out more gradually. But the developmental task of that first stage is putting a boundary around the two of us as a couple and making the decision to be a couple, whatever that means to the two of them, but it's a commitment to that relationship.

Ellyn Bader: And then after people are together for a while and we see this happening, generally anywhere from about six months to two years, the partner gets taken off of that magical wonderful pedestal, and people start to see their differences, and that's a good thing, that's a healthy thing, it's not a bad thing. Many couples get scared when this happens, but it's inevitable that you're going to see more aspects of the other person. I use a disco ball in my office when I'm talking about it with couples because all those mirrors on the ball represent different facets of ourselves and those facets get shown to each other over time. And so this is a stage of differentiation, it's a stage where differences arise and the task is to learn how to be open, and authentic with each other about what you think, what you feel, what you desire and to be able to hold still while your partner does the same thing, and then to learn how to manage those differences successfully. And so there's... That's a short version. We can go into a lot more detail but basically there's a lot that's going on in terms of the personal growth of each partner during that stage.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so this actually brings up a question for me around this process of differentiation because I think that in that psychosis that you mentioned that often a lot of partners they start making agreements or presenting ways of being that maybe, when it comes right down to it, aren't truly authentic to who they are. They do a lot of compromising, for the sake of the relationship. And then when they come back around to this process of differentiation, there's this sense of coming into integrity with each other and with themselves around what they really want. What are the ways that they signed up for the relationship that actually haven't been working for them? So I'm wondering how common it is for you to see people going through healthy differentiation really getting clear on who they are, on what their authentic truth is, and then looking at the person that they're with and saying, "Wow, I'm actually not sure that we're meant to be together, now that I'm differentiated, now that I'm not in the psychosis, wow there are these things that maybe are... Represent ways that we're not compatible." How do people frame that? Yeah, go ahead.

Ellyn Bader: Well of course, that happens, and ideally, probably that happens a ton when you think about people who date and they get really excited about each other and then a few months later they realize, "Oh well, this is not really the relationship for me."

Neil Sattin: Right?

Ellyn Bader: So there's some of that going on there, it's much...

Peter Pearson: Sometimes I will ask a couple because they are challenged when they come into the office and they talk about all the differences that they have and the problems those differences create, I will ask them, I say, "Hey would you like to be married to a personality clone of yourself where all of the differences just magically disappear?" The vast, vast majority of people say, "Actually no, I would not want to be married to a personality clone." And one person said, "I would have all my problems times two. I don't think I want that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so there is first recognizing the value in the difference, but I'm wondering within there is something about learning how to love another person in the way that they're different from you and to feel like in the ways that it jars you that it maybe isn't in total alignment with what you would want, or who you are as a person, but there's some way to navigate that that's healthy, versus just kind of exploding it into, "Well, I guess we're just not meant to be together."

Ellyn Bader: Right, I mean the challenge you mentioned what goes on when people are developing a... What I call emotional muscle or a stronger backbone where they can hold on to their authentic selves, but it also means being able to do what we call other differentiation. It's what enables you to learn more deeply about your partner, be more giving at times when it isn't convenient. But it's not compromising core aspects of yourself. And that's why some couples especially in the differentiation stage, but even later, too, will have a really tough conflict to handle and deal with and some people will want to run and flee really quickly instead of hanging in there and learning how to stay open to yourself and to somebody else, which is something that most of us have never learned or never been in relationships that are interdependent and require you to be open and giving at the same time.

Peter Pearson: Actually Neil, there's two examples of this. One is couples will often say, "Well, we don't want to argue in front of the kids, we should have a united front." And the downside... I can understand their intention behind that but the downside is, the kids then do not see how their parents disagree and work it out in front of them and that is such a priceless gift when parents finally get it, "Oh, we can disagree not only in front of the kids, but they can watch how we come to a resolution on that." And boy, if that's not a priceless gift. The other one is just in our relationship, Ellyn between the two of us, Ellyn is a lot more organized. She likes more consistency going through life and I can get a life-changing idea every time I take a shower. Now what could possibly go wrong with that system?

Ellyn Bader: Yes so we have to... We've had to learn how to navigate our differences, for sure.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I wish you could see the look that Ellyn gave Pete when he started talking about this.

Peter Pearson: But see, here's the key, when somebody has differences is if I have to tone down my life changing ideas, am I compromising a set of values in me? And the answer is really no, it's more like a series of interests, what I'm drawn to, but it's not... I don't organize my life around creativity much more expensive visionary thinking, etcetera. It's an interest, it's a concern, but it's not a core value, which then makes it easy there to create adjustments when there are differences.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm wondering if you have any hints on in a circumstance like that, how could I as the person who's thinking like, "Wow, I wonder what Pete's going to say the next time he comes out of the shower."

Ellyn Bader: Well, what I... I'll answer that 'cause what I had to learn was how to give him positive recognition for great ideas and still say to him, "Focus Pete, stay focused."

Peter Pearson: And then, I had to learn how to hear Ellyn telling me to focus without feeling like I was being controlled. And I also had to learn that when I have a new idea, I will say to Ellyn, "Now wait a minute, this is just a brain storm idea." So if I go to Ellyn and I say, "What do you think about moving to Australia? 'cause I just saw a National Geographic special on Australia." And I say, "Now wait three days from now, I'm not going to want to move there, but let's just talk about it. It might be interesting."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so Ellyn, for you in this... How do you... It feels a little challenging as an example, because it seems obvious how this doesn't conflict with your core values but I'm curious to know how would one sit in a moment of tension and decide, "Is this about my core values?" And that could be true for either person, right, or, "Is this more about something that can be adjusted or worked around?"

Ellyn Bader: Well, let me say that I think... First of all, that sometimes people jump to that question that you just put out too fast. It's like the more that I am sure that I won't compromise on core core values, the more open I can be to any of Pete's ideas because I know I'm not going to get completely caught up and swayed and go down certain paths that I don't want to go down. So the ability to really explore the other person's world and the other person's reality, is dependent on how centered somebody is themselves or how differentiated they are themselves.

Ellyn Bader: I mean core values tend to be things like, "I don't believe in hitting kids or I'm not going to discipline my children by hitting them," whereas somebody might say, "Well, for me it's fine, to spank, and whatever," those kinds of things you're not going to get a compromise on. Religion is one that very often, you're not going to get a compromise on but there are so many things that people think. One other quick example I had a couple that I was working with, where he desperately wanted to live on this beautiful island, off the East Coast where they built an incredibly unbelievable place that they lived and she wanted to live in California where she had lived before and they were at a stand-off for probably 13 or 14 months about where they were going to live.

Ellyn Bader: But I kept saying to them, "We're going to stick with this and find out what matters to each of you so much about each of these places and that there is a solution. I have no idea what it is. You have no idea what it is, but there are core values that are embedded in this that matter to each of you a lot, and that's what we need to uncover to make a good decision," and it's that ability to live in the uncertainty that's so hard that leaves people to quickly get divorced or give up or throw their hands up in despair.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and so I'm hearing in there like a really valuable question such as what is it about this thing that really matters to you that might help people unearth the values embedded in something like a choice like where to live.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah that's the agreement.

Peter Pearson: That's right Neil and when you say, "What are the values of that and often there are multiple nuanced layers to that question, but people want to rush to the answer because it creates anxiety or tension to live in that pressure so they want to hurry up and rush to it but there are a lot of nuanced layers to that question, about why something really matters to me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, awesome. And so that leads me to something that we had chatted about maybe sharing with our audience which is a tool that you use as therapists and it's also a tool for people in relationship around how to communicate around a particularly challenging thing that involves these prescribed roles. The initiator and the inquirer. And I'm wondering if we could just take a few minutes to describe that process, which seems like it would be so powerful for people having that exploration with each other.

Ellyn Bader: I'd be glad to... I'd like to frame it first by saying that the most common problem that couples come to therapy with is the problem of saying, "We can't communicate, we have a communication struggle or a communication issue."

Neil Sattin: Great.

Ellyn Bader: As a therapist, I know that it's not just a simple behavioral change that's going to make them be able to communicate more effectively. And so, the reason Pete and I developed the initiator inquirer process is it is designed purposely to do two things. One is to help communication but the other thing is it does help people develop new capacities, new abilities in themselves that they didn't have before that make them a better communicator.

Neil Sattin: Got it, right, it requires you to be more differentiated in order to even engage in the process.

Ellyn Bader: To engage effectively, yeah.

Peter Pearson: Yeah, in that sense, it goes way beyond just a technique or a tool to talk about things.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Ellyn Bader: So basically we teach couples two very different roles and when you say... When kids go to kindergarten you learn to take turns, but as adults, when we have stresses, or problems we don't take turns we're both like hammering at each other. And so we divide it up into one person is the initiator and the other person is the inquirer. And the role of the initiator is to bring up one issue and only one issue at a time, and to say what they desire, to say what they feel when they bring it up, and to avoid name-calling, to avoid blame, to any negativity. And then the most important part of that role is to be open to learning more about yourself by the time you're finished talking than when you started.

Peter Pearson: Now that's pretty unusual. If I have a conflict with you, I'm not interested in learning more about myself.

Ellyn Bader: That explains why it is hard for you to be an initiator for a while.

Peter Pearson: Or an inquirer.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, as Pete just said, it's not easy for people who... 'cause it's more natural to just blame and want the other person to change and not be open to learning about yourself. So that's the initiating role, the inquiring role is the role for the listening partner. And when I'm teaching this to a couple, I'll say there are real challenges in this role. The first thing you gotta do is listen, and that means you're actively listening to understand, you're not listening but all the time you're thinking about how you're going to prove your point. So you listen. We teach people to be curious rather than furious.

Ellyn Bader: So you ask questions and the questions are designed to have a... Like if I'm asking Pete it's to get a deeper understanding of what he's communicating to me. The third piece, which is really hard but is to respond with empathy and to be able to stay with empathy until you get what we call a soothing moment or that moment of connection and contact where Pete feels like I really get him or I get what he's communicating to me and I've let it impact me 'cause I can be empathic about what's being communicated.

Ellyn Bader: And then we recommend a break and then you can switch roles but you don't want to mush everything together so, there's not clarity about what belongs to each person. So that's a quick short hand. We work with continuum so we help people see what they're developing in themselves to get better at it, and... But it's... The process is used by therapists all over the world and it's probably the most widely-used part of our model because they get to see how powerful it is for couples.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so I'm seeing as the important components from the initiator's side being willing to really get to what you want or what your issue is from a self-perspective, so not being in a position where you're blaming the other person, but focusing in on what is going on within you that's a challenge or problem, and...

Peter Pearson: That's extremely difficult Neil, what you just expressed right there is to get clearer and clearer about what's important to you and why. And so many people grow up with almost nobody encouraging or supporting the expression of what you want, or why that's important. And so as adults, it just gets layered over and layered over and it's surprisingly difficult for so many people to be clear about what it is that they really want.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and so the flip side of what's so important about this is that the person who's the inquirer, along with the empathy that you named which is clearly really important is this sense of like, "I'm asking you questions so I can understand you better not so I can pin you down, not so I can get my point across." It's not... I'm not asking you questions to make a case about something else, I'm asking you questions that are about really unearthing... Helping you dive more deeply into who you are and like we were talking about before, what it is about this thing that really matters to you.

Peter Pearson: And also Neil, what you're saying right there is on that side of the coin, extremely difficult. A lot of people think, "Well, jeez, if I really start knowing what's important to you and why, then I'm going to have to give up what I want or change what I think or change what I feel." And so that feels, it almost is like there's a self-preservation against knowing much more about what it is that your partner wants. They are simply afraid it will intensify the conflict and sometimes it does.

Ellyn Bader: But... And getting to that empathy pushes development, it pushes people to get out of themselves and understand another reality.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it makes me think too of your work around lying and your book Tell Me No Lies because this is one of those moments where it seems so important to be fostering an atmosphere that invites truth-telling, so that when you're asking your partner questions they feel like they can answer... Answer you honestly, without being beaten over the head by what they're saying or the person's response. So there's that aspect that's challenging as well of hearing things and learning how to not take it personally or to deal with the emotions that arise when you're hearing things that are challenging.

Ellyn Bader: Yup, yeah, I mean relationships are a place where an enormous amount of growth takes place and if you have the expectation that your primary relationship is always going to be easy, effortless, and enjoyable all the time you're in for a tough ride.

Neil Sattin: That doesn't happen?


Ellyn Bader: Not too often.

Neil Sattin: So, you alluded earlier to the series that you're doing, and we've been talking about communication and you said that one of the biggest things that comes to a couples' session is when couples think that their problem is that they're not able to communicate with each other, that all they have to do is learn how to communicate better. And that's one of the topics that you're going to discuss in this five day... Five part series, and I happen to have the list of the other topics in front of me, so I'm just going to name them for people, so that they can hear.

Ellyn Bader: Do you want me to do it or you want...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, go ahead, 'cause you can probably talk about it with even more intel.

Ellyn Bader: Well, yeah, let me just create a context. As Neil said earlier, I surveyed therapists about tough things that they struggle with. And then I wanted to put together this five part... Well, a series of training that would help therapists learn more about what the developmental model can do for them and why. And so I'm doing three live webinars starting a week, starting Monday, September ninth and going through that week. And the first webinar, the point of the first webinar is really clients don't always tell us what we need to know about why they're having trouble.

Ellyn Bader: They'll present a problem like we fight about clutter or he's never home on time, or whatever it is, but you don't have a window into seeing their developmental stage and the level of differentiation. And so the first webinar is designed to help you with an exercise that will show you how to see better what you need to know. And I'll be showing a video of a couple that I worked with using this particular exercise. The second day is actually an article and a clinical transcript. And it's about power struggles because so often, people get stuck in a power struggle.

Ellyn Bader: And this particular one is a case that Pete worked with and it is power struggling over parenting and how to parent. And then the third one is that we can't communicate. It's a video example of showing how to work with a couple when they come in and they believe their problem is communication and you want to take it further and deeper and more vulnerable and more open. And how do you get there and how do you help them see that it's more than just communication.

Neil Sattin: And I just want to mention too that being able to see you work with other couples is so valuable I think as a therapist, and a training exercise but also as a couple being able to see how another couple responds in a similar kind of situation, and how a therapist interacts... Just there's so much juice there, in terms of informing how we respond in a relationship as well, along with how we respond as counselors, and therapists.

Ellyn Bader: And yeah and we try to pick some cases that have common problems so that people who watch like you're saying Neil can benefit. In the first case, it's a blended family who are struggling with blended family issues. This case, I just mentioned is one where they say, "We can't communicate," but they've had some alcohol problems, they've had some other deeper issues that weren't on the surface. The fourth day is another article and transcript. And it's with me working with a narcissistic husband who had really dominated most of the sessions and was not somebody who had been willing to look at himself. And so I chose the transcript of a session where I was really pushing him around being open and looking at himself, and not being... Not externalizing everything onto me and onto his wife. So that's the fourth day.

Neil Sattin: Cool.

Ellyn Bader: And then the very last day is another one that I get asked about a lot and that is in the aftermath of infidelity, you often have one partner who is obsessing about all the details of their partner's affair, and they want to know, "Where did you meet, and where did you sleep, and how much money did you spend?" And that constant kind of obsession it can be very hard to deal with in sessions. And so it's an example of me working with a couple where the wife was doing that and how to turn that into a positive direction rather than having it undermine your work.

Neil Sattin: They all sound like super powerful things to witness and to learn more about. If you are interested in participating in this five-part series that Ellyn is doing, are the two of you doing that together or is it just you, Ellyn who's...

Ellyn Bader: I'm doing the webinars, but like I said, Pete did one of the transcripts for one of the article.

Neil Sattin: Oh right, right, yeah. So, you can visit and it's institute because Ellyn and Pete together run The Couples Institute, which is their center for information for couples, for therapists and their training course that they do because they have a big course that they do for therapists to help them learn how to work with couples around this developmental model. Ellyn, can you give us the full name of the course? 'cause it's... It gives you a lot just hearing the name you know what it's about.

Ellyn Bader: Sure. Just one thing before I do that, this series that I'm... That Neil was just talking about will be available online until September 22nd. So, if one of your listeners hears this a few days after we've started, they can still sign up and get what they missed up until the 22nd of September.

Neil Sattin: Great. And I think it's important to mention too, that this five part series is free. So anyone can sign up, and you'll be able to get access to these trainings for free.

Ellyn Bader: And the name of the course is the developmental model of couples therapy, integrating attachment, differentiation and neuroscience in couples work. And it's, of course, I love doing this training, it's an online program, there's therapists in it from all over the world, coaches too from all over the world, believe it, there's people from 35 different countries. And it's designed to help you learn to benefit from knowing the developmental model and using concepts to get you unstuck and to keep forward progress happening in your couples work.

Neil Sattin: So, very powerful and I'm always amazed as even when I re-visit your work in preparation for one of these conversations, I'm always pulling new stuff out and being like, "Oh I know, I read that before but there's another gem of information that... " So there's so much depth to what you're offering and you can tell just from the title of the course that it's very comprehensive in terms of merging development, attachment, neuroscience in a way that's really practical in the therapists or coaching office. Well, I...

Ellyn Bader: Thank you Neil.

Neil Sattin: One quick question going back to the initiator inquirer model, I was wondering if you have any suggestions for people on how to switch directions 'cause I think that can sometimes be one of the troubles where one person feels like, "Well, I'm always the one who's trying to understand my partner and I want them to understand me for a change." So are there ways that you found that work to invite that switch?

Ellyn Bader: Well, first of all, one of the things I like to say to people is that the person who actively initiates the topic and that can be to say to your partner, "Is this a good time to talk?" Or, "I have something I want to talk about." The person who takes the risk of initiating ideally is the initiator. Then when they're finished, you can take a 20 minute break up to a two or three-day break to come back and do the other side. But if there's somebody who's never initiating as their therapist, I'm going to be working with them on what's getting in the way of you initiating because there are many people who are just reactive and they wait for their partners to bring it up, and then they say, "But wait, I want to go first. There is my turn," but they won't do that active initiation. So I try to cut that out by really getting people to take that accountability and ownership to initiate for themselves.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it almost seems like then the real potential issue is helping get the inquirer to really want to sign up for asking questions that are about unearthing understanding as opposed to just reacting responding.

Peter Pearson: And ironically, the initiator could say to their partner if this person does most of the initiating, "Honey there's something I would like to talk about, which is, it seems to me, I'm the one who continues to bring up... And it would mean a lot to me if you brought up stuff about yourself for example... And I want to be in the role of listening and being curious and understanding your struggles a little more comprehensively than I do. That would help us, I think, create a stronger union, may be a stronger team and work more collaboratively shoulder-to-shoulder going forth in life. So, knowing more about you, I think could help us short-term and possibly long-term as well."

Neil Sattin: Perfect, well I see that we're bumping up against our hard stop for time. And even though I would love to chat with you more, I think I'm just going to have to save my other questions for the next time that we talk. But in the mean time, it's always such a pleasure to have you both here with us. Pete Pearson, Ellyn Bader of The Couples Institute. If you want to take part in their free series you can visit or to download the transcript of today's episode, visit That's the word development and the number two, or text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, and you'll have all the links for you that we talked about today on the show page. So that is for you Ellyn and Pete, thank you so much for making it work today, it's such a pleasure to talk to you.

Ellyn Bader: Well, thank you Neil, it's always enjoyable to talk to you. And yeah there probably will be a next time sometime we get together again.

Peter Pearson: Yeah, I hope there is a next time, Neil. It's like Ellyn says it's always good talking with you. The time goes fast and I just want to give another shout out to you Neil for all that you're doing, bringing these messages to the professional and to the public lives. So shut out to you for doing all your work Neil.

Neil Sattin: Thank you so much, I appreciate that reflection, a lot!

Aug 29, 2019

In what ways are you being controlled by your partner? In what ways are you controlling them? How does it help you? And how does it hurt you? In today’s episode, we’re going to dive deep on this issue of control, and see if we just can’t dismantle the ways that it’s holding you back in your relationship. By the end, you'll see exactly what structures of control you've put into place in your relationship, understand why they're there, and have a path towards greater freedom to be yourself in your relationship.

Come see Relationship Alive - LIVE! with John and Julie Gottman, on October 12th in Portland Maine. You have the chance to ask us *your* questions - and get answers. Visit for more information.

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Aug 20, 2019

Is it possible to be a spiritual being in a human body? Transcendent, yet grounded? And why is that so many “spiritual leaders” tell us to leave our feelings behind? How is it possible to be truly connected to another person - including on the spiritual level? To get to the heart, body, and soul of these questions, we’re having a return visit from Jeff Brown, author of the recently released book “Grounded Spirituality”. Jeff’s work is focused on connecting you to your precious, unique divinity - in a way that’s practical, connected, and...real. Or as Jeff Brown might say...enrealed.

If you’re curious to hear our first episode together, you can also check out Episode 118 of Relationship Alive - Crafting an Uncommon Bond and Soulshaping with Jeff Brown.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Neil Sattin  Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. 

Neil Sattin  It's always a thrill to get a return visit from a particularly awesome guest. And today is going to be one of those days. Here to talk about the, his new book "Grounded Spirituality," is Jeff Brown, who is also the author of "Soulshaping," and "An Uncommon Bond," and in fact we had him here on Relationship Alive, I guess it was probably about a year and a half ago, maybe, to talk about those two books. And if you're curious to hear that episode you can visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-soul-shaping. All one word. And today, we're going to talk about this approach to living a spiritual life that allows us to be fully grounded in who we are as humans in terms of our unique existence on this planet right now. I'm not going to try to describe the whole thing that's what I'm here to talk to Jeff Brown for. However I just want to say that for me personally this book came at a really challenged time when I've been going through a lot in my own life and I found some of the exercises in this book to be really helpful. And some of the viewpoints represented to help dispel some of the myths that I've been carrying around with me about what it means to be a spiritual being in a human body. And and helped me integrate in a in a new way that's been really helpful and transformative in terms of my day to day life right now. So I found the book to be really inspiring and that's why I'm so excited to be sharing it with you along with Jeff Brown it's auth, it's author. 

Neil Sattin  So if you want to download a transcript of today's conversation, which promises to be quite far reaching, then I encourage you to do so at Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-grounded, as in "Grounded Spirituality," not as in your grounded for being a bad human. And you can always text to the word Passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions to also get access to the transcripts and show notes for today's conversation. I think that's it for starters. So Jeff Brown, welcome back to Relationship Alive. 

Jeff Brown  Great to be with you Neil. It's good to be here. 

Neil Sattin  We're here to talk about "Grounded Spirituality," and I gave my off the cuff definition in the intro but I'm wondering if you might be able to give us a quick synopsis of what you mean by a "grounded spirituality," and maybe contrast that with what people tend to talk about when they're talking about spirituality and why this distinction is so important for you?

Jeff Brown  So let me just read from the book the grounded spirituality definition then go into the second part of your question. 

Neil Sattin  Sure. 

Jeff Brown  "Grounded spirituality is an all encompassing experience of spirituality that is rooted in and thread throughout all aspects of our humanity and earthly experience. We begin and end our spiritual quest within the ground of our being, our embodied humanness, as both interpreter of experience and as our individuated portal to divinity we don't look outside of our human form for spirituality we look deeper with a name and form, cultivating a more refined understanding of the divine reflection that exists right in the heart of our selfhood. We honor its sacred qualities and transformative properties celebrating it as the perfectly constructed laboratory of expansion that it is. With our feet rooted firmly on Mother Earth and in daily life, we become grounded in reality in all its identifiable forms. We expand outward and inward from there. In essence grounded and spirituality are synonyms. They both mean reality. The more deeply grounded you are in your body and selfhood, the more fully you are here. The more fully you are here, the more spiritual your experience. It's from the depths of your being that you have the greatest access to the everything." 

Jeff Brown  So for me you know I mean, my journey really began in the psychotherapeutic process. I didn't really have any idea of this thing called spirituality so I really... And, and as I went through that process and moved from more of a talk therapy model to working with Al Lowen and doing other somatic psychotherapy techniques, I found that the more deeply I opened and released the more expanded my vista. I felt like at the end of sessions or at the end of holotropic breathwork, I felt completely and deeply here in a unity consciousness field. And, but it happened through my body and it happened through the psycho emotional release. It didn't happen through anything separate from or distinct from my day to day experience. It was all coming through and threaded through my humanness. So I think I carry that forward and then began to explore this thing called spirituality and it began really with the love experience I wrote about in "An Uncommon Bond," and coming into a unified field or what I called the Unified Field from the love experience again through my heart and through my body through my being and then I began to encounter people like Bhagavan Das, and made Karmageddon and all kinds of other people in social media that were defining spirituality in a way that seemed to be devoid of humanness. I mean, it seemed to really be about something called transcendence. Something about finding selfhood finding spirituality independent of self, body, ego, feelings, stories -- everything about my humanness, everything difficult and uncomfortable was dissed. And spirituality was some awakened consciousness and an absolute consciousness field outside of my localized experience. That wasn't where I found it. I found it inside of my localized experience and so I, you know, as I've continued to work in the area and write in the area and develop ideas in the area, I began to realize that there's this thing called patriarchal spirituality. There is this thing I call the "new cage movement" there's this whole industry, industrial notion of spirituality that people are economically dependent on that tries to set off our humanness from our spirituality and that's just simply has not been my experience, and I feel as though that's one of the reasons why our species is in trouble because this way as in many other ways we continue to dissociated from our humanness in quest of something outside of it without understanding that the true integration happens has to happen right in the heart of it. 

Neil Sattin  I love that. And I'm thinking now of like the first place that I want to go with this, is, uh, that notion of transcendence and how helpful it has been for people to explore that to, to explore witness consciousness and, to in some senses let's just use the phrase rise above their, the drama and the chaos of human existence in order to get some perspective some peace. And your book is written as a dialogue between yourself and this character named Michael who is really rooted in this sense of spiritual journey that's all about transcending. Transcending reality or being far enough above it that you're you're not drowning in the chaos of it. And I think that's why it's so alluring to people because it, it's can feel easy to drown in the chaos of, of life and emotions and circumstances. So. Um.And you of course talk about Eckhart Tolle as a great example of someone who is you know the figurehead in some respects of the modern western transcendence movement. And so I'm wondering for you, where's the value in learning this witness consciousness and being able to take perspective vs. living there?

Jeff Brown  So the simple way I put it is that detachment is a tool. It's not a life. So for me... And transcendence can be defined you know, definitional stuff is very important and we won't go too far into it here. But you know what one person calls "transcendence," another person call something else. So the whole language of rising above being heightened all of that for me is part of the patriarchal bypass movement. That's not to say that being able to pull up and out and look at your localized self through various meditative and other techniques gain perspective on your habitual range of emotion, on the stories you tell yourself, and the way you move through the world on the various forms of anxiety that operate within you, is a good thing. It helped me enormously to be able to pull out of my very localized experience of Jeff Brown, from that super crazy childhood, and begin to witness myself and recognize and excavate parts of me that I didn't have access to in my habitual way of moving through the world. I have no issue with it. If Tolle  had written, "Power of Now," a book that I call the "power of self-avoidance." If if Tolle had written that book and he had said, "Look, I..." As he said in the beginning I think he said, he was suicidal and very troubled. If he'd said, "Look, I had all kinds of problems. And one morning I woke up and I developed, had developed some kind of a technique or access to a particular consciousness that gave me access to my material." Don't call it a pain body, don't talk about it like you're talking about a car part, acknowledge your tender woundedness, and then he said, "And I spent a lot of time out there getting perspective on where I'd been. Understanding my ancestral context, understanding how this painful material wove its way through my ways of being, and then I developed techniques for coming back down into that material," as though the material is in fact quite true and quite real and no illusion, no bashing of the ego, no bashing of the self, no bashing of the feelings, no bashing of emotions, no bashing of anything human. Acknowledging it, recognizing it, and understand that you needed to bring another consciousness into it in order to find the balance. The weave. The Holy Holy. That you need to move through the world with a connection to a more unified field and a profound and deep and worked through awareness of the localized self. If he had said that, I got no problem with that book. But he didn't.  He called that a, what'd he call it "a guide for enlightenment" or something in this, in the sub header? When you present the detachment or that as something that is the end of the story essentially to me that's just dissociative and that's not going to serve this humanity. We know why people want to do it. They're uncomfortable here. It's painful here. So they use the meditation as a drug or they use witnessing consciousness as a drug, and they convinced themselves they've gone to that superior place because they're numbing and detaching from all that material that's stirring up inside of them. It's still in there. It still shows up in their personal life. None of these teachers tell you about their personal lives, but you find out things about a lot of spiritual teachers' personal lives and you realize that this is an industry and they're telling you a story about their lives that isn't the whole story. Their stuff is still activated, their stuff is still working on them. They have not resolved work through all those pieces. And so for me what we need to do is develop a spirituality that acknowledges the wisdom and brings techniques to bear on people to be able to pull up and out, to pull back and look at themselves, to do the witnessing consciousness trip, to have a taste of something called "unity consciousness," and then to come back down into the body with that wisdom and find the weave between transcendence and imminence. That for me is the truest human experience. 

Neil Sattin  So let's contrast that with maybe some of your experience around the more human material. So when we come back in and write about how much is tends to be locked in the body and we've had right, Peter Levine on the show several times so that's that's I think, hopefully a level of discourse that listeners are familiar with, this idea that we're storing trauma in our body and if we're not dealing with it, then we're gonna have to stay in this dissociated state in order to feel like we're somehow coping, and I could, I could see like the freedom the illusion of freedom in that for people because we can't live there, there's that reality of your back in your, within your human form and there's still some shit to work through. 

Jeff Brown  Absolutely. It's, I mean trauma. It's encoded in the body. Its stored in the body. It's in the body. So I knew this in a very palpable way, when I shifted from being a talk therapy client to being a body centered psychotherapy client, and I would sit with Alexander Lowen for who was the co-founder of Bio and I would sit and talk for 15 minutes with him and he'd just be looking at my body and he'd be engaging my mind because he knew I needed that to feel safe, and I knew what he was doing but I needed to do it. And then he would say, "All right, you ready to work? You ready to get to work?" And so to get undressed, so I get into my underwear, my shorts whatever I would do and he would start working me, in the body, grounding me in the body, going over the stool, tantruming, kicking, and all of a sudden I would have access to a completely different experience of reality than my waking consciousness. It was painful. It was horrifying. There were memories that I had no conscious connection to in my day to day life, and understandably, I had to survive and get through my life. I couldn't be in touch with all that trauma but my experience of deep inside of my body was radically and remarkably different than who I thought I was. And I had tried going up and out I had been around the bypass movement I had attempted to be a bypasser. I would love to be a bypasser. But I just can't be a bypasser, it's just not, it, it's not in the way that I'm organized internally. But you know at the same time I was living kind of in between. I wasn't a bypasser but I wasn't going deep into the caverns of my own body consciousness. So Lowen, by going to Lowen, manifesting Lowen, what, however we characterize it, I was forced to go back down into that material. I chose to go back to into that material and and then I began to understand this deep and profound connection between this thing we could call imminence, the localized the day to day, the mundane whatever we call it and this thing called transcendence or unity consciousness field or the non-dual world, and then I would encounter it the spiritual world, they were talking about non duality and they all seem flatlined. They talk like automatons, they were they were addicted to meditation, you know, TM-ers, I knew so many TM-ers, who were like yogic flying and their personal lives were utterly insane, you know, there was no bridge. So I began to understand that my body was the bridge. My body is the bridge and it's the way that I try to make sense of how I can hold all of these threads of consciousness at the same time. And so. And Peter Levine is one of the great brilliant pioneers, and I noted him in the book. So his John Perocco, so is Wilhelm Reich. So is, you know, David Berceli is doing great work. Lowen, of course, did utterly brilliant work these people to me are the true spiritual teachers, because I define spirituality as reality, Neil. So the one who guides us or supports us in a movement towards being in touch with all threads of reality which must begin within the self it has to begin within the self, itself. To me those are the true spiritual teachers, not the ones who master a singular thread of consciousness master witnesses master meditators masters at the art of our premature forgiveness. There's a million of them out there calling themselves spiritual teachers to me there's nothing spiritual about them because all they've done is perfected one thread and they're not able to function within all of the threads of the human experience. 

Neil Sattin  That's one thing that's so appealing to me about your, your writing in "Grounded Spirituality," is this way that you continue speaking to "integrating." Integrating the spiritual awareness, integrating what's happening within your body, integrating your emotional awareness, integrating your intuition so that it it all becomes part of you as an alive, dynamic being. And what I've seen, what I've witnessed, it feels kind of funny to use that word, with lots of my clients who have been going through this sort of thing is that when people are totally focused on the meditative path, it actually creates a lot of challenges in relationship, because there's all that unconscious material that's still running them in the ways that they interact with each other or conversely they're they're kind of not really interacting with each other. They're, they're like two dissociated beings, or more likely one dissociated being, and another, who's like trying to call them back and then both of them of course have their work to do in order to to arrive at this place of being more integrated and unfolding in that way because I think it's it's not a static place, right? It's this dynamic place where you continually arrive again and again. 

Neil Sattin  Absolutely. I mean this is why the mindfulness revolution is dangerous. This is why the, you know, the society wide industry now really related to meditation is dangerous. I mean I get that meditation can be a wonderful technique for connecting to the self for pulling away from the localized material for periods of time, to getting a break from what it means to be a human being, you know, or at least to get a break from some aspect of that. But the problem is again, if it's not also coupled with some kind of re entry process and reintegration process, it's like we're moving towards inclusivity with respect to gender, with respect to sexuality, certainly with respect to race, you know, ethnicity, all kinds of ways. But I believe because the spiritual community is the one area in society where nobody's allowed to critically review it. It's amazing how well, how effective patriarchal spirituality in its origins has been at preventing us from deconstructing. You just got to go on my Facebook wall, when I put up a post where I'm critically reviewing a teaching, and how many conscious people even, really people who've really done work on themselves say, "Oh my God. How can you do that. You have no right to critique that person's teaching. You have no right to critique that experience." They're OK if we critique politics. They're OK if we deconstruct legal decisions. They're OK with us critically reviewing religion, but not spirituality. And this is the biggest part of the problem. You know if we're going to move in the direction of an inclusive world we have to allow for the critical review of everything that is not inclusive and that really includes spirituality because spirituality is growing in popularity, religion is becoming less popular worldwide. And if we keep moving in the direction of this protectorate this nonsense about certain spirituality as being a sacred cow we're leading humanity away from inclusively while at the same time pretending that we're moving them in the direction of something more advanced it's not more advanced if it's not inclusive.  It can't be. 

Neil Sattin  I suppose the one thing that really speaks to me in your writing is that sense of the imminence that you talk about being here, in the here and now, partly because I feel like that is really the place where relationship actually springs from at least springs from in its most, most healthy manifestation. You know, it's two people who are actually being fully here and alive to what's happening within themselves. 

Jeff Brown  Right. 

Neil Sattin  And, and. That's the thing that I think scares me a little bit about the spirituality movement is the way that it's discouraging people from actually feeling their full experience here with another human. Because that of course is what propels the growth that happens in relationship with another person. 

  Right. Well you know this is the trick of patriarchal spirituality to talk about the now, while leading you away from the now. That's the whole game. "The Power of Now," that's a very powerful sounding book title. "Be Here Now." Wow, what a powerful concept. But what are we really talking about we're talking about a notion of now-ness that is bereft of individuation. That is not connected to what I call the power of then, that is the true material that you're holding within your beingness unresolved, traumatic material, unresolved memories, unresolved events and experiences that completely inform your experience of the moment. Can you be fully in the moment if threads of your consciousness and threads that are somatically embedded in structure to defend and in armored ways of functioning, actually prevent you from being here in this moment? How could I be? 

Neil Sattin  Right. 

Jeff Brown  If I'm holding onto all kinds of stuff. And as a result of that early stuff I shallowed my breath. I pulled my head up and away from my body I tighten my hips, I rigidified my system, can I say that I'm actually in the now, in a full and complete sense? Of course not. So most of the people who are teaching now-ness are actually tricking you, they uh, or they're tricking themselves or both. They are the farthest thing from being in the moment because their version of the now is this patriarchal, cave dwelling, meditative absolute consciousness field, where you diss the self, you diss the story, you diss the ego you diss your body sometimes, you diss your feelings. All of that is an illusion, all of that is misidentified. But what's real is some version of the nowness where you're floating in the clouds scapes like we're birds or something? And you're having some experience of this absolute field of enlightenment, as though there is such a thing, as though we're not in process, as though it's not a relative experience? To me it's a big lie. So then people are going, "Wow, I get to be in the now." It gets... And the trick is we do get a little bit of relief when we get access to these techniques because they do pull us up but out of that worry-mind. Alright, I get that. But you have to look a little closer because then they go farther, they're actually taking you farther and farther away from your humanness and it's particularly dangerous for trauma survivors who really need to have a sense of intactness and integration and we're being led in the direction of dissolution of the ego, denial of the story, um, dishonoring of their feelings, all of it is unreal and untrue. And you know what,  what really got me going in this in 2013, someone I new on Facebook hung themselves after they'd bought into all these new cage and patriarchal notions of spirituality, fired their therapist and when their stuff kept haunting them in the middle of the night, they had nobody to turn to because now they had dissed all of that, and then they ended up hanging themselves and they announced it in advance, it was very clear what was coming. And I called the cops and tried to get them to go and they went and they couldn't do anything and then they hung themselves and that's when I really began to understand, and I'm understanding in my "Grounded Spirituality" discu-discussion group on Facebook. You hear these stories about how these bullshit versions of spirituality have damaged and destroyed lives, you know, and then you, you feel, I have felt compelled to find a voice that I'm not comfortable sharing in an effort to try to encourage us in the direction of a new spirituality not one that was fostered by men who couldn't admit their fucked up ness and had to go into meditation caves and convinced a village that they were the enlightened masters, that we're bringing great wisdom for twenty years sitting in a meditation cave being served by the villagers. That nonsense is ridiculous, that doesn't bring us into integration with ourselves or with humanity and now I think we need to move in the direction, as sacred activists, to bring ourselves into integration spiritually just like we're trying to bring everything else into integration. 

Neil Sattin  Can you draw a distinction for me, between what, how what we're talking about is spiritual, and sacred, since you just used that word vs. just, I'm going to a body centered therapist healing my old traumas. 

Jeff Brown  Mmmm, reframe the question? 

Neil Sattin  So in other words. How is what you're talking about different than, like if I were able to go to see, I know Alexander Lowen is no longer with us, but if I were able to go with him, is that in and of itself a spiritual experience? Or is there something more that's part of the spirituality that you're talking about? The grounded spirituality. 

Jeff Brown  So, so, I'll give you my Alexander Lowen moment because I was beginning to now to question the very beginning of, what is spirituality? So I brought it to him. I think it was in our last session I said, "So, Al, what is this thing they're talking about? About spirituality. What does this even mean?" You know, and he went: "UFFF." Like he was annoyed by the question and he said, he said, he said, "Going into your body, enlivening your body, getting your body grounded, and spirited. That's spirituality." So I think for me anything that we do that brings us into a more complete experience of reality, I would call a spiritual experience. I mean everything is spirituality. Spirituality is reality for me.  My opposition is simply to anything that's calling itself spirituality because of the way that I define it as reality. Those things that are only limiting our experience to certain elements of the human equation while dissing and disconnecting and boundarying themselves against the other part of it, to me are not actually part of the spiritual experience. So, the real spiritual teacher, if anyone is a spiritual teacher and really I say later in the book really nobody is. But you know for me somatic psychotherapists came closer to that because I felt that because they were taking me into my body and into the body of my experience and through that portal I had more access to a broader and inclusive experience of reality that felt more like a spiritual teaching than going to a non dual meeting and sitting in a Satsang, and accessing one very particular, elitist notion of what it means to be a human being while disconnecting from and dissing all the rest. 

Neil Sattin  Got it. I'm wondering if you could offer one of the exercises from your book, so that our listeners can get a flavor for the kinds of experiences that we're being invited into. 

Jeff Brown  Yeah, I have one called the excavation meditation. In "The truth is the gateway to the moment," chapter so I'll read that. 

Neil Sattin  Okay great. 

Jeff Brown  Great. Maybe you can do it, Neil. "Sit on a chair on the floor or on a cushion in whatever position feels most comfortable. While sitting do not close your eyes or focus your gaze directly ahead or above you. Instead keep your eyes opened and focus downward looking directly and with great curiosity at your body temple. Gaze at your body as you would a loved one. Begin to make contact with your breath, inviting it into awareness, feeling it move through you. First, start with gentle breathing as if you are gradually warming up. Then, invite your breath to move strongly and pointedly throughout your body infusing your body with life force, pushing into and beyond tightly held regions if you feel resistance do not hesitate or recoil. Breathe even stronger. If you feel emotions do not merely watch them as they float past. Instead immerse yourself in them deepen into feeling, inviting all held emotions and memories to be fully felt. Use the breath as an excavation tool. With your breath purposefully dig deep. Your aim is to bring repressed material to the surface, where it can be released and reintegrated. Allow this meditation to become a kind of visceral physical landscape of feeling and sensation. If there are tears, feel into and move them, to the extent that you can. If there's anger feel into and move it, to the extent that you can. If there are words or sounds express them fully. If you find yourself turning toward your habitual meditation style that includes a focus on the sensations of the body, return to the breath and intensify it. If you find yourself getting distracted by thoughts return to the breath and intensify it. If you find yourself wanting this exercise to end, return to the breath and intensify it, whatever arises return to the breath and intensify it. Your breath is your excavation tool and your guide. Now you are not just watching the body as it contracts and expands, you are fully experiencing and inhabiting the body, feelings, emotions, sounds, sensations, textures, roars, all and everything. Stay with this process until you have fully abandoned the watcher and have become a full bodied total experiencer feeling, moving, expressing and releasing as fully as you can." 

Jeff Brown  So I think for me you know this notion of monkey mind was very interesting, you know, it was like, OK I've got a monkey mind and I, so, when I wrote "Soulshaping,"  I was kind of a little bit more in that version of spirituality and talked about the monkey mind, and then I began to realize that really it was a monkey heart. You know, that focusing on the mind, getting inside of the mind, witnessing the mind, having various meditative, meditative techniques within the mind itself didn't seem to get me anywhere. I was just sort of going into one part of the mind to try to calm down another part of the mind. It felt like a very safe and irrational way to go about it, because when I went down into the body when I opened the material in this this armored temple of mine, I excavated feeling. I excavated sound. I excavated the need to rage or cry or whatever came through me. At the end of those discharges, I felt as though my mind completely calmed down. So it seemed very clear to me that this notion, this patriarchal notion, that everything is happening up high, and the mind is to blame for everything, which seems to be at the root of almost all of those spiritualities, if you read them, they're always blaming the mind, seemed to me to be a very safe and convenient thing, it was like talking to Michael, it was like Michael was at a safe place, was like how women have been perpetually frustrated by men who haven't accessed their feelings -- it was all the same thing. 

Jeff Brown  It was like a little boy who, who, who had pain and and didn't want anyone to know he was in pain so he, he picked up the Captain America shield and said, "I am Captain America," became a master. To me all of this mastering the mind nonsense didn't seem to get me anywhere. The only way that I ever changed anything inside of my mind really fundamentally was to change something inside of my heart and I think at the heart of patriarchal -- grounded spirituality is the belief not only that we live inside of the body, and through the body is a portal to all of it, but also that we understand the importance of clearing this emotional debris that obstructs our, our lense, that obstructs our presence. That makes it impossible-possible for us to actually be in the now. We could be in the now in a cerebral sense. We could be in the now in a tangible literal sense, but in a felt sense if we're not in the now we're not in the now at all. 

Neil Sattin  So I'm sitting with all of your words and also just with my experience from being guided through that process earlier and. And it rings true for me on the show I've recently had a triumvirate of AEDP therapists. I'm not sure if you're familiar with that modality but it's, I wouldn't, it's not body centered, per say, but the whole focus in that modality is on healing early attachment wounds relationally, through, with your therapist and they, they bring this whole skill set of co-regulation that I've found really helps me access these deep places, these deep wounded places, and heal in relationship with another person. 

Jeff Brown  Great. 

Neil Sattin  And at the same time what that process is with those, with that therapy has helped me see is just how much I am carrying around at any given moment. And you know I'm 45 years old. I've got probably, at least 45 years of things coming at me crosswise and it's not that everything has come at me crosswise, there, I've had a lot of blessed experiences in my life as well. 

Jeff Brown  Right. 

Neil Sattin  But those crosswise experiences I wouldn't say that I had the proper support as a kid to really handle those big feelings and I don't think many people do. 

Jeff Brown  Right. 

Neil Sattin  And so the technique that you just offered with connecting with the breath and, and you know, I loved how it started and even though I read it in your book I still like, when you said, when you invited me into the exercise, first thing I did was close my eyes you know and then the next thing you said was, open your eyes, and it was just like pretty amusing for me. And, and then I felt like by going through it, it really did help me access something that's here within me now. And you know for me it was this sense of, "Oh there are some tears there." Like I said I've been going through some challenges right now, some personal discovery that that's been like really eye opening for me as I look back over the landscape of my life. And so here in this moment I was super present to some, some grief and, and it was mixed with love that invitation to be looking at my body temple, as you name it. I think how also helped me connect with not only the sadness I was feeling in that moment but also the love that I had for this vehicle, this vessel for my, for my earthly experience. So I'm, I'm really just appreciating I, I felt within me like, OK if I weren't sitting here talking to you for the purposes of having a podcast like there, there are real deep aspects of that experience that I could have gone into and that moment right. 

Jeff Brown  Right. Right. And end of an end for all kinds of various reasons we, we don't you know or we can't. Even though I could probably easily hold the space for that. And as you could for me, I think. You know we our adaptations and you know survivalist tendencies and practical response, all that stuff. You know, one thing I understand, it's very simple in a way when I think about this thing called spirituality, is that everybody I've ever known as part of this human collective at this stage of human development is carrying an enormity of unresolved individual, very personal and ancestral material collected material and you know we approach this question of, What is Enlightenment? What is awakening? All these kinds of things. And it seems kind of preposterous to me, and I actually mean that with some compassion, that we try to answer these questions when we're not actually fully inhabiting our bodies. When we're walking around in these deeply armored and obstructed temples and then trying to ask the question, what has meaning? You know, what has, what is awakening. What does it mean to be an enlightened or enlightening consciousness? What is enrealment? All these things if we don't begin within clearing the emotional debris that obstructs us and affects our beliefs and our behaviors and our energies and our, and our relationships. I mean we see this all over the relationship field where at this stage of human development it's all most people can do to figure out who they are individually, let alone try to work it out with another person in the room for 30 years. I mean if you think about it it's a great miracle when two people can survive 30 years or even 30 days together given the amount of material we're carrying. And so for me and it's kind of simple. Before we go farther into the question of what is the most expanded consciousness, we need to clear the debris.  You know it's like trying to see what a room looks like when the room is completely filled with garbage, you can't. You can see the dimensions, maybe the size of it, but you can't really get a sense of that room. And I think that that's where we are. And I think that the more techniques we develop, not to pull us up and out, sure, for survival purposes. Sure, when we need to disassociate because sometimes we do, and I honor that and I've employed those techniques. I still do, I'm employing them right now in the last couple of weeks but at the same time until we start to develop takes to techniques, like Peter Levine's work, like Logan's work, that really bring us down into the truth of what we're holding not calling it a pain body like it's a car part, but acknowledging our tender woundedness and the tender woundedness of the collective. Finding ways to get into that material, to hold it safely, individually, collectively, therapeutically. Move it through so that it's resolved transformed whatever can be healed, can be healed, whatever can't be healed is managed. All of that, I don't think we even know what we're talking about when we talk about awakening. I think we're just full of shit to be honest.  And I think that's because we're literally are full of shit and we need to move that debris but before we can begin to access the truer and deeper questions of our lives. 

Neil Sattin  How would you suggest someone know whether or not, because this, this experience of accessing, the, you know, let's say you rise above, you see the, the garage full of boxes and boxes of old stuff and then you're like, Okay, I'm not going to stay in this risen above state I'm gonna go back and I'm going to start cleaning things out, I'm gonna clean house. When do you think someone needs help and support in that realm? Because I think that's you know the illusion that we have about big feelings and this is, I think, part of the cycle is when we're young those big feelings, especially when we're not given a safe container for them. They do feel like they're there too big they overwhelm the system and our nervous systems aren't, they aren't essentially capable of handling them. So, so then we have this irrational fear as an adult that we can't move through them when in fact like going into a feeling like that it does... It comes on strong and then it does subside and leaves you in a better off place, at least that's been my experience. And yet at the same time, I also have this feeling that for some people they may need a container or someone who's there to kind of help hold the space for them to have those kinds of experiences and so how in your opinion how would I know where I was landing on that spectrum? 

Jeff Brown  I mean, I don't know that you would. I mean a great many -- most people walk around you know living far distance from their body. Was that a line from I think it was, Walter Mitty or something: "He lived a fair distance from his body." Um. You know, I feel like what has to happen is this conversation has to be normalized and, within society. And I think it's beginning to happen and I think that it needs to begin to happen in the school system, where, there's some forum created for emotional attunement because we're talking about not being attuned at an early age for a healthy emotional release for supported release within the school, within the classroom, with teachers, with practitioners that are part of that. I think it has to happen in corporate environments where we learn how to attuned to and move material that's preventing us from being most effective. I think we need to have some kind of release chambers on street corners, where people can go inside and smash a cube with a baseball bat and normalize it, normalize healthy anger release, because it's, anger has been so deeply stigmatized that now all of it's restrained, repressed, and gets acted out in all kinds of weird passive aggressive, inappropriate ways. I think we just have to make this part of our every part of society so that attunement and release are normal and are considered to be healthy steps towards a healthy society. And, and then people will be able to gauge themselves. So right now you have people walking into a b- a body centered psychotherapist room who've never really enlivened their body. Who've been adapting, amoring in a million different ways. All they know is that consciousness. That's how they've organized themselves to survive in the crazy world and and then they have the super extreme experience of grounding, opening it. "Oh my God, what is this?" And many of them leave. Many people will go to somatic psychotherapy sessions and never do more than one, because it's, it's not normalized within society. It's startling. It's stigmatized and it's a radical experience of opening in a system that's been closed. So I think it's on all of us to create some kind of a reality where the conversation about how angry I am or I'm at level four in my anger quotient, or I've got grief at Level 2 or however you want to language it, begins part of our day to day conversation. So when people cry in a coffee shop people don't look at them and make faces. They come over and they sit around them and they hold the space for them. Those kinds of things need to happen. I believe they might happen and they are beginning to happen in some ways but not happening quickly enough. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah. Yeah. I agree. 

Jeff Brown  So you and I, so you and I are good examples. So you know it happens between people you know. I mean we're damaged in relationship and we heal in relationships, so here are you and I. I read the meditation not even thinking you might be having an experience of it. You have an experience of it. So then the question is how can I hold the space for that experience for you, so that you actually make some progress internally, resolutionally in a 10 or 15 minute period and model that to humanity and then as we model that to humanity, especially as men, which is so important to model this to men, in particular. And not only but in particular, then we begin to make progress. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah. Yeah, I think that's really true. That's really true. And it feels true also in terms of my experience. You know when I take something like a moment like this and then go out into the world then I start feeling those innately, I'm putting, I'm making the little quote marks with my fingers, those spiritual unity consciousness type experiences and I think they emerge from being really deeply in touch with... 

Jeff Brown  Your feelings. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah. My feelings these real parts of me. 

Jeff Brown  Yeah. This is... I'm not opposed to unity consciousness but I'm not interested in a unity consciousness experience that is limited to a transcendent field. I want my connection to the everything to come from the heart of the body itself and the emotional body. And then it feels like a more sustainable experience. And it actually feels like a more expansive experience for me. And I also feel safer because I haven't had to bifurcate my consciousness to have that experience. So now I'm afraid to come back down to earth and I'm going to crash at some point because you know I'm not bridging the two. If I start from within the body... So, so you know in interacting with Michael in the book was a kind of one of my struggles. It was like, what he's calling awakening or transcendence is something that's very different, may be very different from what I experienced as awakening or transcendence. Because I did it from within my body, my feet grounded on the earth plane. So are we even talking about the same experience? His feels flight, you're more kind of motivated by or intended in the direction of getting away from something, whereas mine felt like it was about really trying to be here for all of it. You know the real "Be Here Now" the one that actually starts within my body, not renaming myself, as Ram Dass did, but as Jeff Brown. Jeff Brown with Jeff Brown story. With my bubbie Frannie Perlove . With my grandfather Zeyta Deela Perlove. 

Neil Sattin  I'm just laughing... 

Jeff Brown  With my very difficult mother Barbara Brown. All of that is real. That is not not spiritual. That is so spiritual that's my lineage. That's my ancestry. That's my flesh and bones baby. And if I'm not in my flesh and bones there's no possible way I can access an awakening consciousness. 

Neil Sattin  I'm just laughing because I'm thinking of the place in the book where you talk about Eckhart totally changing his name and then... 

Jeff Brown  Yeah his name is Ulrich.

Neil Sattin  Right. And then like if names aren't important, then why are people changing their names? 

Jeff Brown  Yeah yeah. He's got this quote about like you know "formlessness over form," it's like, well you know, and "ego is the enemy of the sacred," whatever all these people are talking about. And then they change their names. Well clearly it's important enough for them to take on another name in order to disconnect from their birth -- their name of origin. And you know, I understand the purpose that serves it gives a lot of people a break from what it meant to be, their, their origins. But because their origins are them and their origins are encoded in their bones and in their cells. Changing the name can be a temporary reprieve. But ultimately you still got to come back down to do the work inside of "Ulrich Tolle" and, Ram Dass has to still do the work that is Richard Alpert and Ram Dass  wouldn't disagree with that, I think. You know and that's everywhere in the community. Bhagavan Das's real name was Kermit Michael Riggs. He's walking around carrying everything that's Kermit Michael Riggs. He can call himself whatever he wants, he's still carrying Kermit Michael Riggs and he is Kermit Michael Riggs. So I think you know, if we're going to go down into the body, into the feelings. And I realized because we don't have templates we only have a few models, a few techniques developed, it's very difficult to invite people in this direction because then how do we get them there to stay there because there aren't that many integrated models, most of what we've been calling spirituality is bifurcated and if you really look closely, even yoga was... If you look at its origins it's called "Yoke"  It means unity. But really what they're talking about is a version of unity that gets you away from and perfects the toxic body beast again. It's still dissociative. It's still the bypass. And what we need now and what I try to ignite and support in the call to action is: people, all the people, young people out there who were interested in somatic psych, a lot of them going into inclusivity, begin to co-create models that unite these various techniques that pull us up and out or in a way to look at ourselves through a more expansive lens, whatever we call it, with the desire to be deeply living within our body and healing the trauma that obstructs our consciousness. And finding a way to weave transcendence and imminence into the holy holy what I call a "We-stern" consciousness. The quest for unity consciousness and essence fundamental to Eastern traditions and the quest for a healthy self concept, and a work through, an embodied experience of the moment, that's more fundamental to Western consciousness. And when we find that weave, then we're really going to be here for our awakening. 

Neil Sattin  So I'd like to spend. Our last few minutes together today bringing this into the realm of relationship. And what I'm thinking of is how, in your book, The Evolution of this starts with being in the body and and there are a few other exercises that you offer that are all about accessing what's happened, the material that's happening within you now. And then that leads to this place of that being able to fuel a sense of who we actually are, beyond who we think we are and and mining ourselves for that, the uh, I forget the term that you use for it. But for those aspects of us that are about who we are uniquely able to be in this lifetime in this body. And I think for a lot of people there's this question of their journey found them, let's say to this place of relationship with this person, and then they start wondering well how do I know if this is a true connection, where we can grow each other, versus one where we're just going to be trapped in our woundedness together? So I'm curious to know how you would connect this body centered awareness with that question of: Is this the right person? Is this the right choice? Is this like, is this the work worth doing? Because we have all our own material that's right there for us, and then we're in, we can be in choice about the material we want to work on with another human. 

Jeff Brown  Yeah I mean, I mean so the distinction let's say between "woundmates" and "soulmates," or something. Yeah, I mean, I think that you know, I think one of the dangers of the therapeutic revolution with respect to the shadow work that I am encouraging people to do, is that we make the mistake of thinking that every trigger filled connection is worth our while. I don't believe that. That has certainly not been my experience. There, you know, there are certain criterion that would determine whether or not it's worth our while and whether it isn't. And one of the most obvious ones is whether both people are willing to do the shadow work, is the most basic level question, you know. Because if, if they're not if one of them isn't, then you have a problem. You either adapt your consciousness kind of lowest common denominator to the vibration of the person who doesn't want to do the work or you walk away. But even in an experience I've been in experiences where there was a willingness for two people, myself and the other to do the deeper shadow work. But the relationship was like a nexus for so many triggers, both very obviously, individually rooted in individual experience, and all kinds of inexplicable... You know it's so difficult to language collective, ancestral, familial material, that it didn't matter how much work we did therapeutically, there was no way it was ever going to become anything other than painful. And I do not believe that we need to perpetually live in suffering in order to become conscious. I mean, we have to do work within the pain material for sure. So, I think that you know as you move into this kind of consciousness, authentic relating more deeply attuned to your material and the others, you have to ask the question, is this the kind of experience where for whatever reason without having to judge it, perpetually, we're not going to be able to move our way through this to transformation in a way that feels healthy positive and forward moving? Or is this the kind of connection that has the hope of becoming what I call a "wholemate," you know a connection that really has that more subtle, essential, soulful quality to it. And the same time is grounded in the real world in the day to day life experience and also in the working through the shadow material in a way that's forward moving. And you have to always ask that question, because not every connection, even with the best of intentions is a connection that's going to allow you to grow and evolve. 

Neil Sattin  In your book you offer "the beloved meditation exercise" and I don't think we necessarily have the time and space to go through that whole thing right now. But I think it's it's actually a great, it's a great way I think to explore that question from a centered place. 

Jeff Brown  Yeah. And from an embodied place. Not as a concept. You know, I had a cousin who kept asking me if a relationship, every relationship he'd say he'd asked me if it was a fit. Like I knew I would say, well you know I'd say I don't know, how do you feel? He go, "Well I think..." And I'd go: You're not answering it from I think you keep trying it's not working you need to go into your body. He didn't want to go into his body. He was very, very detached from his body and only when he finally did have a forced, kind of a forced embodiment experience, as the trauma built and built and built into kind of like a breakdown. Did he actually come to access the answers that he actually had and always knew and always carried as to whether a particular connection he was in was a fit for him. It has to happen all of it inside the body so with the beloved meditation, my effort in a way was to try to invite people inside of that temple in order to ask that primary question whether or not that connections really a fit going forward. 

Neil Sattin  Right. And it's questions like, now I have it in front of me: Is this person still part of my future? Are there still lessons we need to learn from each other? Or are we complete together? Are there lessons I now need to learn on my own outside of this present relational form? Are we meant to walk together in the coming moments? Or is it time to take leave of each other? I mean these are great questions and they have to be answered from a place where you're fully... 

Jeff Brown  Feeling. 

Neil Sattin  Exactly. Like if they're, if those answers are coming from a place of fear then we already know what the answers are gonna be. 

Jeff Brown  You can, you can answer a question about whether someone's a fit for you from your mind if you want to do a practical pros and cons list or something. But if you're asking the question of how you feel you can't answer that question conceptually, you have to enter into that very scary terrain for most of us which is the emotional and physical body. And to me, they're kind of synonymous, and drop down into that and let your body tell you what your answers are. And that's why a lot of people remain stuck, you know, and then they go and they go to a workshop experience, that has in it a body component at the end of it they know whether or not to end their relationship or not, or to go deeper because they finally access their body which is very hard to do in our cultural, overstimulated, survive, by your wits, culture. We have to have an experience of the body in order to figure out what direction to walk in our lives. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah and I'm... It's interesting for me. We, Chloe and I, actually have this whole practice of using muscle testing and kinesiology to to tap into the body wisdom. And at the same time, I'm, I'm curious to see how these deeper and deeper emotional excavations will inform the body's wisdom, when we're asking those questions. 

Jeff Brown  Yeah. Yeah. There's such important questions and they're not just about relationships. They're about, you know, I use the term, "truthaches," in the book, in "Soulshaping," because there are many indicators we're off-path and the way we again determine that, is we do something embodied, whatever that happens to be. Osho's dynamic meditation, holotropic breathwork, some Somatic Experiencing work. You know, bioenergetics your core energetic sessions, core energetics is amazing also and something you know that allows you to really enliven the body and let the body speak its truth. It wants to. And that's what it's built for. 

Neil Sattin  Right you've got to help your body speak, and then tune yourself so that you're actually listening to what your body's saying. 

Jeff Brown  Right on. 

Neil Sattin  Well, Jeff I really appreciate you're here being here to join us again on Relationship Alive to talk about your work the book, "Grounded Spirituality," is a fascinating journey of a book and I appreciate that you gave me the time because we were actually in dialogue about when to do this conversation, that you gave me the time to really explore it, and try things out and it was helpful for me in my personal life and in being able to have this conversation with you. Of course because it's a really long book we could talk a lot longer, but I think I always have that feeling with you honestly that there's, there's always more to say which leaves me excited for the next conversation. 

Jeff Brown  Great. 

Neil Sattin  So thank you so much for joining us here today. And if people want to find out a little bit more obviously, they can pick up the book "Grounded Spirituality," and how else can they find out about you and your work? 

Jeff Brown  They can check out soul-shaping-dot-com, my older site. There's some course downloads and things there are lots of stuff to read. Soul-Shaping-Institute-dot-com. I've got a couple of writing courses coming up writing your way home courses and my new Jeff-Brown-dot-co, web site will be up soon. I'm very excited about that and start doing a lot more video, start a podcast and all that and just join me on Facebook and Instagram and there all the time and interactive. And thank you Neil. I appreciate your support. 

Neil Sattin  My pleasure. And just a quick additional plug for your writing course. Those are all about using writing as a vehicle for healing and finding your authentic expressed, grounded voice, right?

Jeff Brown  Absolutely. I hold a very tight and safe container for people to excavate their material and write through it, and bring it in the direction of healing without any emphasis on perfect writing or perfect grammar any of that stuff. It's... There are some people who do the course and don't join the Facebook private group and go off and write and write books and a number of my students have been published but the Facebook group component, which is about 60 percent of the student body for each course, is really focused on helping to support one another to just say and to express the things they've never ever felt permission to express before so it's a really beautiful experience. 

Neil Sattin  Such important work. And again if you are interested in finding out more, you can get all the links to Jeff's websites etc. through the show notes page which you can get at, Neil-Sattin- dot-com-slash-grounded, as in "Grounded Spirituality, where you can text the word "Passion" to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. And thanks again Jeff for being with us today. 

Jeff Brown  Thank you Neil. Appreciate it. 


Aug 9, 2019

Can people really change? And how do you know if someone *will* change? It's a good question, especially if you're dealing with some significant challenges in your relationship. You might be wondering about your partner - or you might be wondering about your own ability to do things differently, especially if you feel stuck in a rut. In this episode, we'll tackle how change works. What are the requirements for creating changes that actually stick? What's realistic when it comes to the pace of change? And how can you tell if someone else is truly going to do what it takes for change to happen? I want to inspire your hope and faith, while at the same time painting a realistic picture of what change looks like, without the hype.

Come see Relationship Alive - LIVE! with John and Julie Gottman, on October 12th in Portland Maine. You have the chance to ask us *your* questions - and get answers. Visit for more information.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Jul 24, 2019

When looking to change things in your world, how do you let pleasure be the force that guides you? How do you fulfill desire while you fight for change? How do you take care of yourself while you transform? And how do you allow organic, sustainable change to emerge in your life - without feeling like you have to force things? Today we’re speaking with author, activist, and healer adrienne maree brown. Her most recent book, the New York Times bestseller “Pleasure Activism”, leans into black feminist traditions to challenge you to rethink the groundrules of how to facilitate change in your own life, and in the world around you. In this episode, you’ll hear more about how adrienne came to this work, and her thoughts on how to be imperfect, yet honest, in relationship. You’ll learn how to bring true integrity into your relationships - and ways to ensure that your health and wellbeing aren’t compromised while you grow and transform. 

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. I want to start by saying that I believe in the power of synchronicity. I believe that when synchronicities happen it means something. And so to me it meant a lot when I was walking into a bookstore with a new friend of mine in New York City and she grabbed this book off the shelf and she said, "Given what we've just been talking about how you want to make this huge impact with your work and with the Relationship Alive podcast you need to read this book." And she handed me a book called "Emergent Strategy" by adrienne maree brown. 

adrienne maree brown: Oh wow. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And after reading that book and being so moved by what I read there both in terms of the promise that it holds for how our lives can unfold in a way that's really organic and natural and suited to who we are as people and also how that can impact the communities that we form whether it be our micro communities our family, our friends, or our larger communities, the movements that we become a part of and how we create change in this world. It was just super inspiring to me and I was delighted to see that adrienne was coming out with a new book called "Pleasure Activism," which just hit the New York Times Bestseller List and I thought you know what, like, I have to talk to this person and hopefully they'll talk to me. So. So I reached out and fortunately here we are today to talk to adrienne maree brown, who is a social justice facilitator, focused on black liberation, a doula, healer and a pleasure activist and a coach. And the list goes on and on. And honestly I can relate and I love that about... 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: About her work. And so we're gonna be here to talk about emergence and pleasure and how this all unfolds in the world of relationship. The relationship you have to yourself, the relationship you have to your beloved or beloveds, and the relationship you have with the world. As usual we will have a detailed transcript of today's episode which you can get if you visit Neil Sattin-dot-com-slash-A-M-B as in adrienne maree brown or you can always text the word "passion" to the number 3 3 4 4 4 and follow the instructions. And that will get you the transcript and the show notes and all that good stuff. 

adrienne maree brown: Oh cool. 

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

adrienne maree brown: Thanks for having me now. I'm excited that a podcast it's about relationships in this way, exists. So I'm like yay! Let's talk about it. 

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Yeah I've been thinking about a good way to dive in without asking you like a ridiculously broad question, but I might have to start with a ridiculously broad question.:. 

adrienne maree brown: You're like, I tried! I can't. It's ok. What's the  ridiculously broad question. 

Neil Sattin: Well. Yeah. So let's start with this idea about pleasure and activism and what does it mean to have pleasure be the center of how one operates in the world?

adrienne maree brown: For me, you know, I got this terminology, was taught to me and I learned the words from an organizer named Keith Cyler, who was the founder of something called "Housing Works," that's based in New York that raises resources and all kinds of resources like financial resources, but also does trainings and other things like that for people who are dealing with house-lessness, dealing with HIV, AIDS. And I was really moved by his genius and his work. But, one time we were just sitting around having a good time and he talked to me about this terminology "pleasure activism," and it stuck with me over the years so I kept being like "Oh. Like what could that mean? What could that mean? What could that mean?" And especially as I I grew, you know, I've always been very aware that there's a lot in the world that is broken that is hurting that is traumatized, and inside of that reaching for how are we meant to connect with each other? And somewhere in there this idea of pleasure activism kept returning to me as I was doing voter organizing, returning to me as I was learning about harm reduction, returning to me as I was supporting people to do direct action, nonviolent civil disobedience. It just kept coming back. And when I was working on my last book emergent strategy, I had to include it as a concept and I wasn't sure at that point like am I going to flesh this all the way out? Like there's a lot here. But then at some point I was like, "Let me just.... Like what would it look like." You know, what would it look like to actually flesh this out? And I had been reading Audrey Lorde's text "the uses of the erotic:: as power," which I got permission to reprint in this book. And I really loved her use of the erotic. And yet I just kept coming back to this idea of pleasure. Like that pleasure includes the erotic, but also includes a lot of things that may or may not be erotic, and so I was like, what is pleasure. And I looked up and its just like happy, joy and satisfaction. And I was like, "Gosh it seems so simple and yet there's so much resistance to it. There's so much fear of it there's so much control of it. And. And for those of us who are like actively trying to change the world in some way there's a denial of it, right? Like it's like, "We are not allowed to have that. We need to be fighting for this you know future that's off in the future somewhere.". 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

adrienne maree brown: And I just remember landing and like. Wouldn't it be so radical to listen to Audrey Lourde had taught us about engaging the erotic now, engaging our full aliveness, in this moment. And for black women who, you know, that's who is at the front of my mind when I wrote this text, you know, I was like there's a lot that has intentionally cut us off from our relationship with joy and happiness and pleasure and contentment and satisfaction. It's been trained into us that we're not allowed to have those things so I got very... Then I got very light lit up with this idea, that I was like, "Oh what if we could have these things? Like what if it's a measure of our freedom to reclaim pleasure?" And so that kind of sent me off down this path that has been really exciting. And you know it's interesting because activism in general is not where I land right? Like I, I've often been like I'm an organizer! And for me the distinction you know, I think activists or folks who are really like advocating for something like using their public sphere to advocate for something, going and talking to friends. Organizers to me or folks who are like, "I'm actually trying to move a strategy amongst the people." Right? Like I'm going to go find those who are not going to just easily be reached and I'm going to knock on their doors and I'm going to find out what they need and and build an analysis and a vision together. And so you know it's like, "OK is activism OK for this? And it felt like actually for this, it is it is important that as many people in the world as possible begin to come out and advocate for all of our rights to have pleasure to have pleasure be an organizing principle of how we structure our relationships in our society. And then it starts with reclaiming our own, and moves out from that place. So I'm excited that it exists. I'm excited that it came together and then I've been really blown away by the responses. So I'm like, OK this... I really for a while was like, "This is not the time to be putting out right now. We need something about justice or we need something about like you know I kept having this strategic idea around if this current administration is starting fires all over the place. I kept thinking like, how do we conjure up water? How do we vaporize ourselves in some way to come up and over and rain down on them? And I was like, I got to go write that strategy book or whatever. And then I realized I was like, "Oh this is actually it," in a way? 

Neil Sattin: This is that book. 

adrienne maree brown: This is actually that book and that's been clicking to me that I'm like: This is it. This is the way that we become more powerful through pleasure, through what we can release rather than what we can contain. So. Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: I love it. It's to me... What was I mean there are so many threads that came together for me as I was reading the book, and even just in hearing you speak right now. Primarily, that way that people are so.... Many people, I should say are so exhausted right now, with with just the state of affairs and.... 

adrienne maree brown: That's right. 

Neil Sattin: ...that's political, it's environmental it's economic. There is a lot that's taxing us and that's something that regenerates us when we can find the sources of pleasure within us and in how we connect with the world that I think allows us to bring more of ourselves to the world and and also highlights the places where we are denying ourselves or denying others that inalienable right for... 

adrienne maree brown: That's right. 

Neil Sattin: ...the experience of joy. 

adrienne maree brown: That's right.:I mean it blows my mind to really think about, like, what people what people have survived, like often when I stand in a room of people and I'm giving a speech or a talk or a training or something. There's a lot of me that's present with that moment but then there's also a part of me that's kind of thinking about all the lineages of all these human beings and how some of them in this moment have landed in a place of power, or privilege, and some of them haven't ended up in a place that's not that. But that those lineages all include some survival, some fighting to exist some taking a risk, some you know, moving out into the world with an unknown response you know, like we don't know what's going to happen here. We don't know if we're heading the right way. We don't know if we're going to survive and that there have been so many things that have have you know, like so much of our human history has just been about surviving, right? Just like can we make it? And so there's something interesting to me now to be like, I think I think we have shown that like oh we could make it like we could figure this out. We could be on this planet technically. But what is the life worth making it for? Like, what is worth surviving for?:

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: And now I think we're actively in that question. That is like, all of us deserve this relationship to pleasure. And when you look at like who thinks they deserve it or who is encouraged to have it, it's actually a very narrow small grouping of human beings. And I think that's because of capitalism. You know, I really think that as an economic system, capitalism thrives when we believe that we are not good enough and that we need to buy something outside of ourselves in order to experience pleasure. And I love the trick of it which is like, if you actually just drop down into your own body, which is the only thing in your entire life that you ever truly have, from the beginning to the end, if you just drop down into it, it's wired for pleasure. And those wires may have been crossed, you know, there may be some like dysfunctional parts of it because of trauma, because of pain, because of... which I now, also when I meet everyone, I'm like, 'I know you have some trauma," right? Like, I know you have some. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah no one escapes that. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. I don't know what it is. I don't know how severe or central it is to your life, or your life story it is to your life, or your life story. I don't know if you had the resources to recover or not, but I know it's there. And so I think like, "oh." What we're dealing with is like, what is the relationship between that trauma that's everywhere. And this system that's telling us that we can't heal ourselves we shouldn't even feel ourselves. We should just kind of outsource that to something we can purchase. And, and, then how in that do we find a way to be in RIGHT relationship with each other on this planet. Right? So that's the stuff I keep, I keep floating around with us like I want to, I want to leave a world behind me that people like I like I feel very compelled. I want to be here. It feels good, right? And that doesn't mean that I think we will solve the climate crisis in my lifetime because I do think... You know...  I really believe in Gopal Dayaneni, 1who works over at Movement Generation and talks about, like, there's things that we have already set in motion that we are gonna have to face the consequences of as a species. And I don't deny that that's what's coming to us but inside of that I think we also have to be actively fomenting pleasure and actively fomenting like reconnecting ourselves to land and to each other because as the changes happen we're still going to need to be able to feel, feel pleasure, feel satisfaction feel like being here. Otherwise we'll just depress and numb and you know kind of slip away. And I think that would be an unworthy end to our species. 

Neil Sattin: Totally agree with you and a word that popped into my mind that I would like to add to that, is resilience. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: The more that we're embracing our capacity for resilience in terms of how we heal our lineage of trauma. Or present moment traumas in terms of how we make things right when they've gone wrong, and do that in the context where what we're shooting for what we're envisioning is something joyful blissful like that actually has ease and pleasure connected to it. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. Yes. 

Neil Sattin: Then that that makes it worth it and gives us kind of a... I hate to use the word technology, but like a technology of continually adjusting to get there. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: You talk in "Emerging Strategy," about adapability... Yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: Exactly. Yeah exactly. Yeah. Well, I was just going to say, I was like, yeah. You know, like, to me emergent strategy and pleasure activism really go together like they're holding hands, dancing across the field of ideas and I really think that this this idea of resilience. You know I have a teacher Alta Starr who's always pushing me to be like you know, resilience is beyond even harm, right? It's sort of like this natural capacity we have to learn to adapt, to like grow, to learn from whatever changes come. And it's hard for me because I'm still like "Well. But also when someone hurts us, you know we had to be resilient." And you know it's hard in a city like Detroit because you know resilience can be weaponized. Like if people like you bounce back from anything, like, we'll just keep doing anything to you. Like you know we'll add an incinerator to your neighborhood or whatever you'll be fine. And so I think there's something about, Oh to me, like how do we have a transformative resilience right. How do we have resilience that is not just like we can recover back to conditions that we weren't very happy with in the first place. And being like oh you know when I look at like what am I recovering? I'm recovering something that's beyond my own origin, you know like I need to recover something that goes back past the many hours that my grandmother overworked, and I need to recover something that goes back past my enslaved ancestors, and recover something that goes back past my kidnapped answers, and you know, ancestors, like I feel this long, long, long arc of the work that I'm in right now where I'm like. Almost everyone that came before me was trying to work towards some joy some freedom some sense of safety for their children themselves. And now I am awakened so like I am aware of all of that and I have an option in front of me to be resilient across time and space right. And that feels very exciting. You know, I think as hard as it is to live in this age of hyper connectedness because I think it is really hard. My friend angel Kyoto Williams talks about this, that like, we we are given access to so much more information than we've ever had access to before but we're not given the tools to handle it all, right? Like we're not taught here's how to meditate. Here's how to pass what's overwhelming back to the earth or back to God or back to whomever you trust with it. We're not given those those technologies, right? So we kind of flailing a lot of the time of like, I'm receiving all this, I'm trying to care about all of it and we find ourselves stretched so far but I also think the really beautiful thing about that is like we can see how many people believe what we believe, how many people are trying to practice what we're trying to practice so we can find each other. You know you and I would have never found each other if it wasn't for this modern state of connection. And to be able to say like, "Oh you're out here in Maine fomenting these ideas and I'm out here in Detroit fomenting these ideas and we have very different lineages. And yet we both have arrived in this place where it's like this is a path. This is a way to move forward it's important. Paying attention to relationship is important." And so that you know, that gives me hope inside of the the struggle of this overwhelming moment where there is so much that is hard. It's also there's so much that is overwhelmingly beautiful and overwhelmingly good and there's so many ways that you know also we live on such a resilient planet. So, I often think about this that I'm like, you know, and I feel like I'm trying to remember whoever first said this idea, because I was a Oh snap! That's a game changer! It's like, the Earth is gonna be OK. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: Right? Like the earth is gonna be OK. Like, it might be, she might go through an Ice Age or something, but like if we're not here she'll still be OK. And like if we're not here she'll recover from whatever we've done. Like how we've remixed her nature into other kinds of things. And, I don't know if you saw this story came out last week about the white-throated rail, did you see that? 

Neil Sattin: I hadn't but I saw you wrote about it on your on your blog. Yeah.

adrienne maree brown: I was so moved by this. So this like little bird...:The debate is basically this bird re-evolved, right. Like it went extinct at 136,000 years ago, roughly. Because like,  these things are hard to track but like... Now this bird has has re-evolved has come back into existence. The same little -- it's a flightless bird. There's something about that that just I, I read it and I really was like moved in a way I was like, I didn't know I needed to know that that was possible. But, I was like, I need to know that that level of resilience is possible, like somewhere down in the programming of this planet. There's there's some code that's just like white throated rail.: And just because we can no longer see the creature, it doesn't mean that it's, it's disappeared like there's some aspect of it that DNA that's in there. And yeah, it made me feel like OK. Like there's mysteries on mysteries on mysteries when it comes to this planet. And there's so much that we can't understand. And so inside of that I'm like, you know, I love thinking really big grandiose thoughts. But then I try to bring them back down into very small tangible practices. Small ways of being with each other because I'm like, I can't imagine how we'll get through the climate catastrophe that we're in right now. But I can imagine being in right relationship with the planet around me and making better choices about this local place that I'm in and being place based and loving. Even though I travel a lot but I'm like rooting myself into the soil in Detroit in all the ways that I can. Like this is where I bury my compost. This is where I play with children. This is where I go find like where's the Detroit grown foods every summer and I am really cautious now. I've made a major shift in my life around how I produce waste. Like what kind of waste I will put out so that I tried to really shrink down my garbage waste to the, like the very very you know, it's like if I can rinse it and I can clean it off and it can be recycled. It's gonna be recycled if it's food if it can go into compost it goes into compost like I used to have a massive garbage bin that I was putting out. And I'm like I live alone. You know all of that with stuff that like other things can be done with. And now it's like you know a huge portion of what comes out of my home is gonna be recycled and reused again. And, I'm aiming at zero waste. I'm constantly trying to figure out where is and where other places where I can... I just bought this new set of like ziplocks reusable kind of Ziploc thingies, that so you know because I'm a, I'm a fan of Ziploc bags like I'm like you've put anything in a Ziploc bag. You can go anywhere you have it I carry like in my suitcase there's always like five Ziploc bags just like folded just in case because you just never know what you're gonna need a Ziploc bag for. And so I'm like, oh that's a next frontier that I need to like, you know, figure out a way to advance through and I'm like, oh I can do this, right. So anyway all of that to say to me I'm trying in my personal life to get in right relationship with nature and my body is a huge part of that. Like if I'm not in right relationship and respecting the miraculous, like, Stardust nature of my body then how can I even begin to be in my relationship with the rest of the living world. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: So, OK. So first, I'm so moved when I hear you talk about not really being able to read the code but seeing the expressions of the code like.. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: ...the bird coming back into existence from extinction and even when you were describing how you and I could be doing different work in different places and yet here we find ourselves together having this conversation. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: To me that is an expression of the power of something that's ineffiable, that like we can't understand but if we're willing to to follow that path and and follow the ways that it's growing and things are emerging then, then at least that inspires hope in me that there's like an antidote to disconnection, to destruction. 

adrienne maree brown: Yes. 

Neil Sattin: To... 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: ...all the forces that were that were working against and in terms of relationship the ways that people are, you know, experience this desire for closeness and connection. You know part of our, our wiring as you were mentioning earlier is to be connected to each other. 

adrienne maree brown: That's right. 

Neil Sattin: And yet, it becomes such a source of pain partly because we either intentionally or unintentionally traumatize each other and then also because of the social structures and their impact on us. When you talk about pleasure and relearning pleasure, getting in touch with your body and and I like that stand that you take for for the personal being political that fractal nature of... 

adrienne maree brown: Yes. Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: ...transformation. I think about how many of us are just kind of following the script of romance and love and sex and pleasure and needing... 

adrienne maree brown: When did you become aware that there was a script? 

Neil Sattin: Oohh. Well that's it's been an unfolding for me, for sure. And I think probably I became most aware of it when I inadvertently hurt someone. And like had no idea that that was happening for them and found out later and then you know, thankfully we've had our moments of amends and talking and all of that. But, in restoring ourselves. That was probably the inception of it. And then all through college. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: And then in my current relationship, I'm so blessed to be with someone who's taken a strong stand for her own boundaries around her own healing, her own trauma. And it forced me to even go even deeper into like, "Well, what am I looking for in relationships?". 

adrienne maree brown: Right. 

Neil Sattin: What am I looking for in sex? Would it like what is this rejection, quote-unquote, that I'm experiencing in this moment and what is that really about? And and so that has forced me to ask deeper questions, and to get progressively more and more honest with myself and with her, to a point where fairly recently I feel like I've hit ground zero. But it's it's a process it's definitely been an unfolding and watching those layers fall away. And then once they do being like, All right well how do I replace this? If I'm going to do sex the way that I thought I should? Or you know I think it was an essay that you wrote where you mentioned a babysitter who was watching Porky's when you were... 

adrienne maree brown: Yes. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And the way those things inform our sense of, of what's what's erotic, what turns us on, all of that. Once I peel those things away and come back to, this moment and what's real. Well... 

adrienne maree brown: That's right. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That's what my journey has been like and I've, I've certainly tried to surface that a bunch here on the podcast and and I'm really excited to hear your thoughts about that unfolding for yourself and, and you mentioned meditation earlier. Yeah. What are the the pathways into, kind, of breaking down the, the unhealthy learnings? And coming back into right relationship with with ourselves as relational, sexual, erotic, pleasure oriented being? 

adrienne maree brown: Beings, right? I feel like... a couple of things. I mean I think one is, there was a period of time where I was, I was really convinced that sex didn't have anything to do with me or what I was feeling. Like, I was really like what is the other person feeling and like that's that's what's important right now. And like my job is to make sure that that experience is a whole good one. Right? And, and I feel like, I remember like, there's just moments in most of its relational right. Like most of it is like just other people reflecting something back. And it's like "Girl, it doesn't had to be like that." You know? People talking to me, reading stuff. I remember reading the work of Andrea Dworkin. Have you read her? Like she she talks pretty scathingly about marriage and pornography and like, a lot of things that I was just I took for granted, were like those are good things that you try to get to in life. And, I don't agree with everything, you know, I feel like there's a lot of brilliant thinking in what she said and I feel like there's also not a lot offered of like here are other true pleasures, you know, like here's the ways to get them. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: But there was something that blew open for me where I was just like, I want to be able to consider this. I want to be able to consider that everything I was told about where pleasure in my life would come from and, or,  was, was and wasn't allowed. That maybe all that is wrong. Right? And then Audrey Lorde's writing, Octavia Butler's writing. There were just all these different people who were giving me. It was never just about sex. It was never just about the body. It was alway, have a revolution about how you think about how things work in the world. Start to ask questions and get curious about who benefits from these systems. Right? So, I remember, I remember having a quest-, you know, a conversation with a friend about marriage and just being like, who benefits? Who benefits in marriage, right? And, uh, and being pretty like oh my gosh. No one should ever get married. I was like, "No woman should ever get married!" Like I felt very strongly like, Nope it's not, it's just not a good idea. Like you will work forever in a labor that will never ever get acknowledged. You will not be able to pursue passion, work, things that you actually care about. You'll not be respected in the process. And then you know, and then he'll cheat on you. Like this is the arc of  it, right? Because you know he'll need something younger and prettier and he's worked you out, right? And I remember having that conversation as like, NO! You know? Like, and then be like well no that's just one way that's a model that is... The system that benefits from that is patriarchy. And if I can understand that then I can be like let me target patriarchy. Let me... And like I, I'm very lucky that I came across the work of Grace Lee Boggs where she really is like: Transform yourself to transform the world. And this is something I say probably every day of my life. There's some place or some way in which I say this to someone else or to myself. So I was like oh Where is patriarchy in my own practice? Where is patriarchy is showing up in how I'm approaching a relationship? And some of the interesting places were how quickly I would be dishonest for the sake of connection. And I say connection in quotation marks there, right? That I was like Well I don't want to be alone and, like, being alone is a sign of someone who's not a good person or whatever. Right? You have to be like with someone to be like a part of the human experiment or whatever. First you know, that that is...  I no longer believe that, but like you know. But at the time I just like, ok, I don't want to be alone. So I would go out on a date or someone, you know, I feel like I was I feel like I came up like right at the end of dating, also. So it's like right at the end of like when you would actually say, "Let's go on a date to a place and get to know each other." For maybe three or four times we would do that before we are actually alone in either of our places. And you know something else would happen right. I'm like I come from what feels like almost a chaste time before the apps kind of popped off into, just your place or mine. Like what's good? You know? And I talk about apps as if I know what I'm talking about I've never really used that apps to, that's just not how I meet people. But, but, I know that the majority of people in my life that's now how people connect. But so you go out and you're having these initial conversations and my practice was to just kind of listen for what I thought the other person really wanted to hear and then delivered that somehow. And you know, I grew up as a military brat. I moved like roughly every two years, so you get really good at figuring out like what is the, what are the rules here, and how do I adapt to be safe within them? And it can be hard when you get good at that to also be like. And then what is what is fundamental to me like what is the me that I'm also carrying to each place that needs to adapt? And the same thing in dating like what is the me that's showing up? And like might adapt in some relationship but like why am I rushing to not just adapt, but like completely contort into something? Why am I so desperate for being in relationship that I won't even be there? Like I wanted it to be me that shows that. Yeah. So I feel like I had rounds and rounds of that and it never worked. I kept having this heartbreak, that was really almost never about the other person. But it was about facing how much I had contorted to get in the door, and then how little I actually wanted to be inside that house, right? 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: Whatever house it was. And so, I feel like I took... 

Neil Sattin: Which by the way is a super common problem that people have. 

adrienne maree brown: It's every, it's everywhere. You know when, I do a bunch of you know like you said coaching and mediation and stuff like that, and I find like that is the number one thing. That's the number one thing is that people are like you're just not who you've said were. 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

adrienne maree brown: And how could you not be who you said you were? And how could you not uphold the promises that you made? And it's just like I was lying. I was, I wasn't even there. Like I don't even know I'm sorry. You know. 

Neil Sattin: Right. And then there's that additional layer of oh wait a minute. Now we also have to deal with your shame around who you... around your truth. yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: Exactly. And it's the shame and the still absence of yourself. Right? So, so often. Now I've been doing a lot of support for people who are in their mid 30s to 50s and a lot of the folks I'm supporting are going through major breakups of fundamental relationships. And it's interesting because they're like who am I? Like, who am I? You know like so much was defined in relationship to this other person? And that's how so many people get trained to become themselves. It's like now, now I'm ugly, I'm half of something, and now that's who I am. And so much of the work is being like; "You're a whole something. You're a whole something." And I think the thing I'm always watching out for is not to send people all the way to the other side of the pendulum, right.:To me the personal is political only as it relates to being part of a collective effort to be political about what is personal, right? So I feel like this is you know someone was asking me I did an interview yesterday, and they're like what about the GOOP, like what about the like white women taking bathes, or whatever. And I was just like "Yeah. Like you know that so much of self care is about that. It's like white people with privilege go off to the spa and that's when you know, often, I mention to people they're like, I'm not about all that, you know? And I'm just like, "Yeah I I don't think that that's political, necessarily, either right?" I think it becomes political in relationship to your identity. I think it becomes political in relationship to the community you're a part of and how you're making sure that everyone has access to the beautiful good parts of life, right? And so you know I'm part of a community. I'm part of many communities. And there's a particular community I call the goddesses. And it's a bunch of women, we all went to school together. Right now everyone's like slaying dragons in all these different fields of life, and we have started to really, like, have each other's backs and hold each other down in a way that like we didn't know how to necessarily do back then. Right. But we've rediscovered each other and been like we need to like all you know like how about half of us, half of the people are moms. And so it's like we need to go places where like everyone here gets to relax and be taken care of. That we get to be part of something that's close knit and intimate, but that we get to have massages or we get to be in a hot tub or we get to you know just cook for each other or take each other out to the best places we can find to eat. And like, there's so many small pleasures that feel really important, like it wouldn't be great for me if I was just like I'm over here living my best life and all my sisters were out here struggling. Like, I don't think that that's a way towards freedom, right? For me it's very important that as I have access, I increase access for everyone else and I particularly increase access for those who have less access than me. Like that to me as part of the political commitment I'm in for my lifetime.:

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There's... I'm just thinking here about the, uh, the commodification of self care and I think that's part of what you're talking about, right? Is that like... 

adrienne maree brown: Yes. Capitalism!

Neil Sattin: You actually have to... Yeah. There it is again. There it is again.

adrienne maree brown: it's always there. Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: One thing that popped up for me when you were talking about structures and like, I would never get married! And you know and then and then that sense of like well OK. It's just the system and who does it benefit and maybe there's a time and a place. What popped up for me was this question around the dance between safety and I think it was because you mentioned, you know, when going out on a date, like part of what's happening there is deciding, Am I safe with this person? 

adrienne maree brown: Exactly. Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: And. And then that because safety is right up there with connection in terms of something that we, that we require in order to function as humans. That's right. So and that's interesting as you start pulling apart the structures because one thing that marriage can be really good at... 

adrienne maree brown: Is safety. 

Neil Sattin: supporting safety. Exactly. And so how do you start to loosen those tethers in a way that still supports people being held. Because if you're not feeling safe, you're not growing in a way that's probably generative for you you're just like scrambling back to safety for the most part. 

adrienne maree brown: That's right. You know I think I love this question, Neil. I think this is like, this is an essential one. To me it's like, OK how do we balance these things. And a couple of thoughts leap to mind. One is that I think people feel like they have to choose between safety and like, being their whole selves or being their, being in their dignity, like all of it. And that first part, that feels like it's not true. Right, I'm like that's part of the lie that we've been told is that you have to choose. So you can either be safe in a marriage where you don't get to be fully realized as yourself or you can be fully realized as yourself. But like, you know, without that stability and I've seen it, I've seen the case more often than not be that you find that deep safety within yourself. It's a feeling not a story that you're telling about your life, right. Or a projection you're giving for someone else but it's actually like some, a felt sense, like I feel it in my life. Most of my life now, I feel safe right? And I can feel when that changes. Like sometimes I'll be in a space where there's just too many people, too much energy, something's off, you know? And I can feel it and it heightens my senses, it heightens my awareness, it makes me pay attention to what's happening around me. But then I think something like marriage, it's that kind of commitment, what I see so often happening is that people get into it and then they're like, "This isn't the safety that I thought it was going to be," right? Maybe it is for the first month or the first year or even until the first child or whatever, you know. But then there's some moment where that falls away because what you, what you thought you had, was like, I know you and you know me. And what's really happening is you're changing and I'm also changing and so I've officiated a few weddings and one of things that's been exciting is that the people asked me to officiate are like we want to commit to changing together, right. That to me is the kind of commitment that I can get behind where people are like I know this person again and I'm not going to change but I'm so curious about who they are and who they will become and I want to be there for that ride. And so it's not about marriage as entrapment and like catching you into one single identity, or any relationship, because now I'm like, you know I had to get married to be trying to trap someone in your web and I really like the model which I'm sure you've heard of of relationship anarchy. I don't think anything is perfect perfect thing that I really like it because so much of it is like, you know safety. You know, I think you were talking about with safety to me so much of that is rooted in trust. 

Neil Sattin: Mm hmm. 

adrienne maree brown: Right. It's like, Oh I trust that you're gonna do what you say you do. You say you're gonna do. And I trust that I can tell you my truth or whatever it is. And in relationship anarchy, which I think is like someone in Sweden, Andie Nordgren or something like that. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah I forget. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah I have to go look at her name but there's you can look a bit like a "relationship anarchy manifesto." Right. And I love it because it's like trust is something that we build together over time, and like we start out with a default of trust like rather than starting out with the default of like, you've got it, you know like your trust is at zero and you have to like somehow bring it up to a hundred and never let your stuff like, never fuck up like never ever break my trust in anyway, or I'm gonna hold that against you for the rest of time. And I'm like instead you start from a place of like I have an abundant sense of trust for like my place in the world, for what I'm up to in the world, for like the work that I'm here to do, my purpose and then I meet you. And I'm just gonna offer you trust as a human being and what I am counting on is that if you break my trust, then we'll figure out how to recover together. Right? And sometimes that breaking of trust might be, we're not supposed to recover together. You know, like we're sometimes, the breaking of trust will expose something like, you're more committed to... uh... Like I see this happen sometimes where people are like in an open relationship, but still do cheating type behaviors. And I'm like, Oh, OK like great. That's good information, right? Like you're still very committed to a certain kind of secrecy. Maybe that's what turns you on is the forbidden. Something along those lines. And that's not compatible, right, with the kind of relationship that I'm trying to build or whatever kind of relationship this person is trying to build. And so I get really excited about stuff like that, because I like then you in a, you know, then it's like we just got clear about it and like we can trust each other to take the step back and transition into some other form of relationship. Versus, I think what happens now which is like, I offered you a false trust that you could never live up to that I was waiting for you to somehow live up to, you broke it and now I don't, I never want to see your face again. Right? Like you let me down so thoroughly, that I just I don't even want you to exist and I'm like I don't think we have enough people for that way of being with each other. Right? That we can just keep being like if you're not perfect, perfectly trustworthy then I kick you out of my community forever. And I say that you know the same thing you said is that you learn some of this from causing harm. And I'm like I learned from breaking people's trust. Right? 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: There are people who I love and care about and I, I broke their trust and I have, I've had to do like a lot of work, a lot of work around like, Am I a trustworthy person? If the answer is No. How would I become a trustworthy person? Right. And again so much of that initial line of inquiry was just like about other people. Like how can I let them know how can I show how can I prove that I'm trustworthy? And of course the answer is I have to be trustworthy. Like I have to be able to feel in myself. And I'll tell you I'll tell you a little example of this. 

Neil Sattin: Sure. 

adrienne maree brown: I was in the airport like last week and I was running through and a lot had been happening and I went and sat down on a bench and there was this coat next to me and I asked around like, "Hey anybody is this your coat." And everybody was like no, you know whoever this coat is they just left this coat here. There's no bag there's nothing else around it. So I let it sit there for a little while and then I'm like Oh the nice coat. It's a nice coat. And so I picked it up to look at it and it's like a designer coat and it happens to be my size, right? So I'm like, This is a very nice gorgeous designer coat that someone just left here on this bench and like who knows if they're ever going to make it back, right? 

Neil Sattin: For you! 

adrienne maree brown: But, that, yeah part of my brain was like a gift from the universe! And I was like. And I picked it up and I looked at it and was like that would not be a trustworthy behavior to just take this coat and move on with life. Right. Like there's a chance that that person is still in this airport and that they're like running back here to get their very expensive, nice coat. Right? Or and, right. They'll call Delta. Like do you know where my coat is? Or whatever it is. So I took it over to the, um, you know where they check you in for the plane. I took it over to one of the guys there and I was like this was left over there. They're like, oh my goodness. You know like that's so sweet, you know. And it was just like, I felt the burden lift off my system that I'm like oh I was about to really just take someone's coat. But I didn't. And it is a small thing, like it's a really small thing that like no one would have known if I had done the wrong thing... 

Neil Sattin: Except you. 

adrienne maree brown: But I would have known. And like trying to get to that place in my life where like I don't make the mistake because it would hurt my integrity and my wholeness and my dignity outside of anyone else's. And even if I know it, that creates a shadow. Like how do I turned to my lover and tell this story? How do I walk into a room where I'm offering people, like let's be trustworthy people, and I'm standing there in a coat that I stole from some poor stranger, right? So to me it's that. It's like is my relationship with myself intact? And then from that place can I be in contact with another person and say, now this is intact? And if it gets harmed I commit to helping us get to intactness and sometimes that looks like a boundary. I keep repeating these words my friend, Prentis Hemphill, made this, made this, had this thought last week and then spread it all over the world basically, but its boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me, simultaneously. 

Neil Sattin: Mm hmm. I love that. 

adrienne maree brown: And I keep thinking about that that I'm like sometimes... Right? Isn't it beautiful. And sometimes it's like that. It's like sometimes in tactness is at a great distance. It's like we're good as long as you're two thousand miles away from me. We're fine. It's good. Like don't cross that boundary and it's all good. 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

adrienne maree brown: And so I think about that I'm like, you know that's one of the things I talk about in "Pleasure Activism" is like our "No,"  makes a way for our "Yes." Like the good boundaries are actually so crucial for the good relationships. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. What seems contained too, and what you're offering, is the necessity for healing, like, to recognize like, OK if we're not in right relationship we're all each on a healing journey to getting there. 

adrienne maree brown: Yes. 

Neil Sattin: It's probably rare, the person who's learned, who's reached their 30s or 40s or more, you know, and hasn't experience some sort of disruption of their integrity. 

adrienne maree brown: That's right. 

Neil Sattin: So there's the healing component. There's also the compassion component. Like if I, if I expect you to be perfect and you fail me, and then that becomes this huge breach, then that's a much different problem than I'm trusting you. And I'm also wanting you. Like I'm, I'm willing to be okay with where you and I aren't perfect as long as we can be in full disclosure about that together. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. That's right. 

Neil Sattin: That's the honesty piece. 

adrienne maree brown: I like that. I like that. I feel like that', you know, because I also think about this. Like for people who are like, "Oh no you know I'm sure they're someone's not me I'm good. You know like I know what you're talking about. I don't lie to myself or whatever." Or like, so often the people who seem to be, who have it all together, who have it altogether. Are are in some ways damaging themselves the most like I feel like now I have stopped doing to myself the harm of trying to pretend I am perfect, right? 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

adrienne maree brown: And I see it. I mean I feel like that you know when people watch Beyonce's Homecoming, right? Like what was intriguing to me is that she was like I was pushing for perfection and it meant having to like learn all the stuff that I would never do this again. It wasn't perfect it was actually too much that I harmed myself. And but, I pulled this off, but I harmed myself and didn't... Like, there's even stuff like that. Right? I'm like, "Yeah, what are you denying of yourself. That's where you're creating a prison, right, for yourself. You're containing that part of you that wants to be alive and free and moving around. And I'll say I'm part of the generative somatics teaching body. And for me, Somatics has been the healing pathway that has opened so much. And there's a really beautiful episode of The Healing Justice podcast, that has a woman named Sumitra on it, as it was that, they basically the Healing Justice podcast, they do an offer and then they do a practice to follow up on that. And so it's a 30 minute practice something less than that but it's basically this, the core practice of Somatics which is just centering learning how to actually drop into your body and feel and center in real time. And the idea is that you don't center to feel calm or better you center to feel more. that if you can feel more... 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. To feel what is. 

: That if you can feel more, feel what is and feel more of it then you start to have actual agency in real time over the choices you make, over the connections you move towards, over the connections you can start to set real boundaries around, like I can feel when someone is not a good energy to have around me, right. That doesn't mean they don't deserve to have people around them. But it's not going to happen here, right. 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

adrienne maree brown: I'm gonna move towards those people who are like the right energy for me for, for me growing them. And for them growing me. Yeah. Yeah. So I want to offer that because when it comes to healing, I think it helps to be fairly tangible. Like, there's, there's some you know, I feel like that for me. Like I went to talk therapy for a decade or whateve, right? And I've been able to move so much more through being able to feel, because I feel like talk therapy I was still able to stay in my head and tell my stories and tell my lies. And like you know you know, you can do it if your therapist has to be on to you just move on to the next one like, here's my, here's my story, right, or whatever it is. And I just think there's something so beautiful about dropping in and being like I'm feeling, I'm in a community of people who hold me accountable to being able to feel myself. And even now like I've been touring this book I land in a new city, and I run into someone who's also a Somatic practitioner and they hold me and they're like Are you good? Are you centering? Are you good? How are you feeling? You know and I know that they really care and they want to know. And in that moment I can feel the connection and my aliveness just expand. 

Neil Sattin: So important. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: adrienne maree brown thank you so much for your words today for joining us. I know we could talk for easy another hour. You don't have the time, at least not today. Hopefully we can chat again at some point. That would be special. 

adrienne maree brown: Yay. Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate being a guest on the show and I hope it's of use to people. 

Neil Sattin: It is my pleasure and I just want to encourage everyone who's listening to check out all your work but especially your latest book: Pleasure Activism, Emergent Strategy. They're both written with such care and and I really felt them speaking to me and my unfolding and I know it would be a gift to any reader who's here with us. And it feels like a fun footnote that the friend that I met who introduced me to you and your work. 

adrienne maree brown: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: We were actually both attending a somatic experiencing workshop with Peter Levine. 

adrienne maree brown: Yay. That's awesome!

Neil Sattin: So I love how it came back into Somatics here at the end. 

adrienne maree brown: Full circle. 

Neil Sattin: So far so important to find that truth of who you are and your experience in your body in this moment, and so much aliveness comes from there. 

Neil Sattin: Thank you Neil. 

adrienne maree brown: adrienne, if people want to find out more about your work, what can they do? 

adrienne maree brown: They can go to the website: allied-media-dot-org-slash-ESII. That's where you can get trainings, workshop, stuff like that. And then I'm on Instagram  @adriennemareebrown, and I, that's where I mostly post things into the world. 

Neil Sattin: Great. Well we will make sure there are links in all our stuff. And thank you so much for being with us today. And with me. 

adrienne maree brown: Thank you. Have a good one. 

Neil Sattin: Take care, adrienne. 

adrienne maree brown: All right. Peace. 

Neil Sattin: Same to you. 

Neil Sattin: And just as a reminder if you want a detailed transcript of today's episode, you can get that by visiting Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-AMB, adrienne maree brown, or you can text the word passion to the number of 3 3 4 4 4 and follow the instructions. And we will have links to everything that we mentioned here in today's episode as well as to The Healing Justice I think is what adrienne said the The Healing Justice podcast episode that she mentioned, as a gift for you. 

Neil Sattin: All right, take care. 


Jul 18, 2019

When things get challenging in your relationship, what's the best way to ensure that you and your partner can make it through? How do you avoid the losing strategies that come naturally in a moment of crisis - and, instead, choose ways of dealing that are more likely to lead to a positive outcome? Whether it's something small, or something that feels more apocalyptic, this week we'll talk about how to weather the storm successfully, with strategies that will help you navigate a painful moment without doing something destructive.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Or email YOUR recorded questions to questions (at) relationshipalive dot com.


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Jul 10, 2019

How would you know if there were experiences from the earliest moments of your life affecting you here and now? And if you are indeed being impacted by the distant past - what can you do to heal those early traumas so that you’re more free and connected in your current life? Our guest today is Peter Levine, creator of Somatic Experiencing, and author of many bestselling books on healing trauma - “Waking the Tiger”, “In an Unspoken Voice”, and “Trauma and Memory” - just to name a few! Today you’ll learn how to recognize the signs of these deep emotions, and what to do to regulate them, as well as how to help our co-regulate with your partner, to build a stronger, more resilient foundation for your relationship (and within yourself). 

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!

Check out my other episodes with Peter Levine:

Episode 127 of Relationship Alive on Building Resilience

Episode 29 on Healing Your Triggers and Trauma


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Neil Sattin  Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. As always we are exploring both the relational skills and the inner healing that's required in order to show up fully in your life and in your relationships. Today, we are fortunate to have a return visit from none other than Peter Levine -- one of the world's experts on healing trauma and also the creator of somatic experiencing one of the world's foremost modalities on healing trauma of all kinds. This can be the big kinds of traumas that people think of, you know, with war, and assault, and things like that. Or, it can be the smaller traumas that that still have a huge impact on us, things that happen in our childhood things that happen in our day to day lives. So, today in our conversation with Peter Levine we're going to be talking about how our early attachment traumas affect us in our adult lives and what we can do about that to bring more presence to our relationships. As always we will have a detailed transcript of today's conversation which you can get if you visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-Levine-2. That's L-E-V-I-N-E, as in Peter Levine and then the number two. Peter has also been on the show a couple other times, so if you, if you check out Episode 127 you can listen to us talking about resilience. Or I used the kind of funny form of that word resiliency, and uh, way back in Episode 29 we were talking about the again the effects of trauma on our lives and how to heal it. So we're building a comprehensive library here for you to help you get present and free your cells as and your physiology as well as your mind and your emotions -- your mind body spirit from the pernicious effects of trauma on our lives. 

Neil Sattin  So as always Peter thank you so much for joining us here today. It's great to have you again. 

Peter Levine  Sure, sure. 

  So let's just without having to give the full picture because I definitely think that our listeners can, can go and check out those other episodes that the two of us have done together. Let's talk about what might constitute an early attachment trauma or an early attachment wounding. What kinds of things would be the kind of thing that might stick with someone into their adult lives? 

Peter Levine  Yeah. Well you know, I mean, so many things from our past from our deep deep long past do affect us. They don't affect, they don't affect us in ways that we're conscious of, I mean that's part of the problem. And. I think of attachment, probably a little bit different than than most people do. I look more along a developmental arc about what happens to us from womb to, to adolescence and and the memories we carry. Now I said the memories are not conscious. But what are they? Well, we have to just take a couple of minutes to understand, at least comprehend, the different types of memory. Basically that some memories are conscious, are explicit. Other memories are much more unconscious and those are called implicit memories. And our basic attachments have to do with implicit memories. It has very little to do with explicit memories. That's one of the reasons why I think probably therapists often struggle in working with the early attachment wounds because they're so deeply ingrained in the, in the body experience and and can only really be accessed through the vehicle of sensations and these sensations are very primitive sensations very old, very raw. So, if we look at an implicit memories there are basically two types. One type is emotional. And so for example if you're introduced to somebody for the first time and all of a sudden you feel anger or fear or revulsion or just wanting to avoid them. There's a good chance that this stems from earlier experience with somebody who had some of those same qualities, so they get triggered and then they explode in an emotional way. I mean we all experience something like that at different times. You know, as an example, uh, a couple that's riding in their car and the wife is driving and they make a wrong turn. And her husband starts yelling at her: "Don't you know where you're going?" And then of course he starts laughing and they both died laughing. But from that moment something in him something in not being to the party at time or being lost, triggered some kind of a.. an old engram, an old memory trace. I sometimes am a little hesitant to use the word memory because the memories are so different than the conscious explicit memories. Ok, then even deeper than the emotional memories, which again do have to do with our early experiences as well as our development over the lifespan, that the other type of memory is called procedural memory. And these are memories that happen in our bodies and they can be both positive and negative, depending a lot on what our early experiences were in the womb at birth and during the bonding process. 

Peter Levine  And procedural memories very often are long, longlasting, and I divide them into two categories. One are basic things that the body learns such as for example, teaching a child how to ride a bike. So the parent or an older sibling by the side of the child and has their hands on the bicycle and they walk together and then run together, run and then bikes goes a little bit faster and then just at that right moment the parent lets go of the bike because they sense that the child is being able to balance themselves and then the child rides off on the bicycle and wants to go on the bicycle every day for the next six months. Because they're thrilled at that accomplishment. They now have a new memory, a new procedural memory, a new body memory and that involves a lot of different things that the body does. So if the parent trying to explain to the child: "Well, if you, if you, if you bend over this way your center of gravity will go off that way. So you'll have to turn the bicycle in that direction." It's just impossible. 

Neil Sattin  Right. 

Peter Levine  The body learns that quick, quick, quick, and once it's there even with a memory like that a positive memory like that the child is - you never forget how to ride a bicycle. That adage is largely true. It really is. So let me give you an example -- and again those memories can be positive like learning to ride a bike or learning dance steps or they can be highly negative. But let me give you an example and it does affect - It does introduce the relationship between attachment and these memories. 

Neil Sattin  Ok. 

Peter Levine  God, I don't know. Twenty, twenty-five years ago or so I was visiting my parents in New York City, in the Bronx. And so I spent the day down in Manhattan going to museums and it was coming back in the train the D train and train was packed with men in similar suits with newspapers folded under their arms. And so. But there was one particular person I just I didn't even see his face. There was just something about his posture that had a strange effect on me and I felt a slight slight expansion of my chest and a little bit of a warmth in my belly as I paid attention to my body sensations. So unbeknownst to me in a way I was having a memory but certainly not a conscious memory because you know I hadn't been the type, who knows why I was having this attachment. So anyhow, he, we both got off at the last stop. The crowds thinned out. Two-hundred-and-fifth street and I walked up to him and the fact, the words came out of my mouth out of my lips. I wasn't even consciously aware of saying them. I touched his arm and I said, "Arnold." And he looked at me utterly perplexed and puzzled. And we just stayed there for a moment. And then I said, "Arnold, you were in my first grade class with Ms. Campini. And well I would say, I would say, he was astonished, we were both astonished. There is something that I knew him in this class many decades before several decades before. Yet there was some attraction to that person because I obviously I don't remember everybody who was in the class. He's probably the only person I do remember that was in my in my first grade class. I mean I do remember bullies and I was very bullied at the time because I came in I was younger I came in in the middle of the class time, middle of the semester, and I had my ears were the same size then as they are now. So kids tease me about and call me Dumbo. And so I was bullied a lot. And Arnold was the one child that seemed to support me that seemed to care about me and it wasn't even verbal support. It was some, I just felt him someway, somehow on my side. So that implicit procedural memory is something that I've carried forth, for the rest of my life. Hopefully our early attachment figures have something like that so that when we are meeting another person, for, in terms of cultivating or being in a relationship or navigating the vicissitudes relationship that we have these positive memories, which have to do with approach. OK. Keep that word in mind. Approach. 

Neil Sattin  Ok. 

Peter Levine  If on the other hand we have had neglect, abuse, confusion, in our early experiences, we have procedural memories that are primary avoidance. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, the positive experiences, the approach experiences are much greater than the avoidance experiences because that's what we need for a healthy relationship. So. OK. So, anyhow let's look at some of the kinds of things that happened early in our experience of the world. 

Peter Levine  So. So as I was saying hopefully they approach procedural memories outweigh the they avoidance one. But again starting way way back our experiences in utero. You know, if the mother is in a relaxed state, which again is a good reason why hopefully, mothers are able to spend it. Certainly the later part of their pregnancy at home doing things they enjoy to do settling, resting, preparing, that, so, however if the mother is under a lot of stress, accumulated stress during that period particularly the later part of gestation, that stress through different channels is actually passed on to the fetus. It does this by certain chemicals that are released when the mother is under stress but also direct neural mechanisms that, that, that, that increase or decrease the blood flow to the placent-placenta itself. So the placenta increases level of carbon dioxide, less oxygen, which stresses the fetal nervous system and overstimulated it. And then, what often happens in these studies were done in animals of course, is that you have this tremendously increase in the activity of the whole brain. But then after a certain point it just shuts down. And so again here already, we're hopefully having positive implicit experiences, but we also might be having negative ones. 

Peter Levine  Then birth of course is the next stage here in development and my sense is that the, the utilization of midwives and doulas is a little bit starting to come back taking the birth process out of the realm of a, of a disease that needs to be dealt with medically. 

Neil Sattin  Right. 

Peter Levine  To part of a natural process. But anyhow. And so during that time again the fetus the newborn can be extremely stressed. But, here's the, here's the, the, the hopeful part because eh, that the parents, the caregivers can also soothe the distress of the infant after it's born, can really hold it, rock it, soothe it, patiently. So again it's getting a positive imprint a positive memory of being able to be helped out of the distressed state into a state of settling, of a relaxation because remember an infant can not regulate itself. If it's distressed, it has precious little in the way of being able to, to, to come down from that activation and that will -- and calm itself. It needs to be, the term used often is, co-regulated by the caregiver. So by holding, soothing, singing, gently rocking all of those kinds of things helps the newborn regulate. 

Neil Sattin  So. 

Peter Levine  And again. Yeah go ahead, anytime you want. 

Neil Sattin  So there are a couple things that are jumping out at me. One of them being that from the youngest moments of our existence, we're creating memories that are that are not the kind of memory that you would typically think about, you know, where you can picture a story in your head of something happening. These are actual body memories and emotional experiences that just live within us and can be evoked in the present. But they don't necessarily, they're not necessarily something that have a story attached to them that you would consciously remember. 

Peter Levine  Yes. 

Neil Sattin  And then the second piece that's popping into place for me is around how, so there are all these things that are just kind of happening to us when we're in the womb. And then when we come out and are born there's this additional component where we're associating these really intense visceral experiences in our neurobiology with our primary caregiver so with our primary attachment figures, and I can already see this kind of setting up what plays out in, in our future selves when we are actually entering partnership with others, so we create attachments as adults with the people who are, who we can be most vulnerable with, most cared for most caring to, et cetera. But it's like --. 

Peter Levine  Or the opposite. 

Neil Sattin  Exactly. Good point, good point. And memory being what it is, just the presence of these people will naturally evoke some of these early memories. And then if we're not aware that that's happening, it's clear that that could create all sorts of problems because you might think that it's something specifically about your partner that is evoking this particular sensation, you might not know you're having a memory you might think whatever they just did is absolutely disgusting, and revolting and whereas you're really actually having a memory and I'm wondering as an adult how do we begin to tease apart the two or is it not even really important to do that? Maybe it's more important to just think about how we process those experiences so that they're not impacting us quite so profoundly?

Peter Levine  All right. Well actually let me go back to, to baby time. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah. Let's go back. 

Peter Levine  Before we go to adult. And this is and this is actually an example of work with a 14 month old and the session is all, is described and along with photographs in, in my most recent book, "Trauma And Memory: Brain And Body In A Search For The Living Past." So again it's how the past lives within us. Anyhow Baby Jack was born of an extremely traumatic birth. The cord was three ti-- it was around his neck three times, at the last minute he turned breech and he had the more mother tried to push, the more that Jack tried to propel against the uterine wall. He became more and more wedged at the apex of the uterus. In other words, oh! Maybe some people don't know that actually the birth process itself is not just about the mother pushing the baby out, but the baby actually pushing itself out. So the more Jack pushed the more he got wedged, the more he got stuck in, you know in the new apex of the uterus, and so they did an emergency caesarean his, his heart rate was starting to go down significantly. And even so they still couldn't pull him out. So they use suction to pull him out. And use it -- this is a very traumatic birth. And he was suffering from some physical symptoms which would have required that they do endoscopes and also looking into his lung, uh, a procedure which would have certainly really add a tremendous amount of traumatization to this fourteen, to this infant which has already been highly traumatized. So the baby has been highly traumatized. So I start to work with him. And again and you'll see that the pictures in the book. But I take some wrapped rattles that were made for me by a Hopi person and I wrap them a little bit to get his attention and he's he's an alert person but his mother says he never will, you know, uh, stay still. Never just stay her lap and mold into her. She never had that experience of him. So she say "He'll maybe come over. But then he is off to the next thing again." And she says, "Oh and he can be okay when he is alone." So again you see this thing in relationships, when we're alone where we do we perceive ourselves to be OK, but then when we're in a relations with somebody, we can lose all of that. So anyhow he reaches for the rattle as I hand it towards him. And then he retracts his hand his arm and just, it goes limp. And so he is now having a memory. He cannot talk about this memory because he doesn't really have words and even if he could they wouldn't be the words that could, would work. So then I give the rattle to him again and this time he pushes against the rattle. And I say "Yeah that's great, Jack." You know because he had all, he was taken away. All these tubes all these procedures that were done, and he felt, he was helpless. He was this little teeny baby and all of these, you know, giants were doing these things towards him. So anyhow we continue with this and at one point I put my hand on his middle back, because I see that's where he stiffens when his mother starts talking about needing to, the doctors wanting to do an endoscopy. So anyhow this time he pushes against her leg really pushes any propelled, as though it was propelling himself through the birth canal as though it really was. Anyhow after that he just starts crying and crying and crying. It's just birth cry sounds. And his mother is just astonished. She said, "I've almost never heard him cry and I've never seen tears coming down." His tears coming from his eyes. And you can see it's both a combination of amazement and relief and she doesn't even quite know what that relief is about. 

Peter Levine  Then at, at the end of this crying there is deep spontaneous breaths, deep spontaneous breaths and he just positions himself so he can mold into the mother's shoulder and then she knows exactly what to do now. 

Peter Levine  She put her arm around him and gently holds him and you see them attaching. So it wasn't that she was a bad mother that prevented the attachment. That wasn't the case. It was that they got disconnected at birth. She was definitely a, in Winnicott's terms, a good enough mother, very caring mother. But again you see in youth, and you can see it in the pictures, her complete delight at him doing this and then they come in the next week for a checkup. And his mother says, "Oh, when, when we got home Jack went to sleep, and then at one o'clock in the morning he called out, 'Mama! Mama!' And she she came in and picked him up and he molded again right into her arm, right into her shoulders."

Peter Levine  So this here is a, is a definitely implicit memory. And it turned out to be positive. But what if nothing had been done at that, had been done at that time. Then you can certainly project ahead and probably have a pretty good guess that he is going to have difficulties in relationships, that he's going to have difficulty in getting really close and bonding and attachment. So I'd be able to change that memory from the timeframe of this birth that really made it much more possible for him to have secure attachments in other later relationships. There's one thing I like to say about that. Oh OK. So even in this case, in a case, like this where there has been trauma, er, around the birth and around early attachment, we are still able to work with those memories. They may not be as accessible as they were with Baby Jack. But, but at the same time we can use language and imagery to help the person connect with those procedural memories and to transform them, to transmute them, from negative ones which were dominating Jack to positive ones of approach. And again we want a relationship -- a relationship is not going to be able to really survive, unless there is much more approach memories than avoidance memories. But again these things can be shifted even in our adult life, but they will come up in close relationships. And if we have had those difficulties experienced negative experience if we were neglected... You know, when I was born, the medical wisdom at the time was, first of all, give the mother all kinds of drugs and then do not breastfeed because breast-feeding was unsanitary. I mean, can you imagine how archaic that was? 

Neil Sattin  Oh my god. 

Peter Levine  And to add insult to injury they also instructed parents not to pick, not to pick up their babies when the babies were crying because the babies would just use that to manipulate them. 

Neil Sattin  Right. 

Peter Levine  I mean think about that, that, that's abuse. Frankly, as we understand today. But that was the that, was the that was the understanding of the time the wisdom at the time. 

Peter Levine  So anyhow when people from my generation were crying and upset we weren't held. And so that's the memory that we carry, that when we're upset we will not be able to calm. So we're, if we're upset in adult relationship we do not expect to be calmed, and we won't even allow ourselves to be calmed. So we either avoid the relationship or become over dependent in the relationship to soothe us because we're unable to be soothed. And again one of the things that we teach in somatic experiencing, is to help people learn this is part of working with these procedural memories, to have people learn to be able to regulate themselves. And for couples to learn how to regulate each other, because there's a pretty good chance that if you you're dysregulated you find a dysregulated person to, to be in relationship with or, or opposite. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah. So, wow, there are so many things jumping out at me right now and I definitely obviously we're not going to go through the whole body of work of somatic experiencing right now. I do hope that we can offer our listeners a few things they can do when they notice these things coming out. All your books that I've read have been such a revelation to me and in particular when it comes to applying your work, there is a rather thin book called "Healing Trauma," that we've spoken about before, that I think is just so great because it offers like a whole sequence of exercises that people can work through that, that take you on this journey of of uncovering these implicit memories and and unearthing them and being able to resolve them in the moment like you were describing resolving or the resolution of your work with that with baby Jack. When you were describing the ways that your generation was or that your parents were taught to to care for your generation when you were born. It made me also think about the way that trauma is passed from generation to generation because what I think happened to a lot of people in my generation was that their parents were, you know, the product of this whole you know don't, don't breastfeed the baby, don't pick up the baby, and then when when they were presented with a baby that was crying or inconsolable, even if they had a different sense maybe of like, "Oh I'm supposed to be doing this differently or differently than my parents did." It's evoking all of these implicit memories for my parents. Um, and which makes it much more challenging for them to show up as a regulating force for their children. 

Peter Levine  Yeah yeah yeah. Or sometimes the parents will try to do the opposite of what they had experienced. And so there's another key feature here which is also important is, that absolutely you know for the first several some months after birth the child basically has to be held and rocked, eh, when it's upset. But then you know starting after several months like nine months or so, it's also important that, because once the child has had enough solid procedural m-memories, experience of being calm, being settled then it is important to at least allow for the child to be upset for some amount of time, so that they can also bring in their capacity, their gradually learned capacity to self regulate. And often parents who come, where they were not picked up, and where they were just left in this, this, this swamp of distress, they may have trouble to not immediately pick up their baby when it's crying and then immediately hold it. 

Peter Levine  So, sometimes those children don't develop a full enough capacity for self regulation, which can also can be problematic in later relationships, because of course we're going to be upset with things that our, that our spouses do, our partners do. And... But the question is do we have tools so that we don't just go into profound distress and despair every time something happens that upsets us. So we do need to have both, I think, I just mentioned this, the capacity to regulate and to co-regulate and to get some of these skills that the book that you mentioned, book-CD, actually by "sounds true" called "Healing Trauma," something like, "A pioneering program for healing trauma." I don't know but anyhow... 

Neil Sattin  "A Pioneering Program For Restoring The Wisdom of Your Body."

Peter Levine  Ah. That's it. OK thank you. So again, some of the exercises where we learn to regulate states of arousal, of fear, of anger -- so that we don't have to constantly rely on the other person. But at the same time a healthy relationship also involves co-regulation. Particularly, hopefully, when we're able to say and this may this is, a kind of a higher state, "Dear. I'm really feeling so unsettled and anxious. Could you please just hold me for a little bit?" And, then if the other, if the other partner is in a relatively grounded, calm place themselves then they most likely will want to offer that. 

Peter Levine  So again it's a combination of co-regulation, transmuting into or developing into the capacity to self regulate. And then as adolescents and adults to be able to switch between self-regulation and co regulation. So again we are in a sense transforming these procedural memories where we did not have positive experience of being co regulated or we didn't develop the capacity to self regulate, to self regulate. 

Neil Sattin  So, how would I know if I'm having an experience where, where it would make sense for me to check in with my partner let's say and ask for some co regulation? What kinds of experiences would I be having within me that might be an indication of like, "Oh wait. That's..." So when when someone hears this, they'll be like, "Oh that's the thing that Peter Levine was talking about. And look I'm experiencing that right now. Maybe I should go ask my my partner if they'll hold me for a minute and see what happens."

Peter Levine  Right. Well guess what. It's absolutely not... It's not going to happen at once, at once. It's a skill that one has to really, really build. But the basic idea is that when we become upset, become emotional, become angry, become fearful, become sad, that's out of proportion to what's happening here in the present, then that's a almost certain guarantee. It's a certain guarantee that we're dealing with some kind of imprinted procedural memory a negative, in a word, memory. And so while we're in the midst of it it's going to be harder to ask for help. But if we know how to co-reg, uh, how to self regulate ourselves, even a little bit then we can realize, "OK, I'm upset but I'm upset so much more than you know then my partner saying “you know I'm not going to be able to get together tomorrow because I have to work, for dinner. I have to work later at work." OK. So really upset. But if that child had been abandoned as an, as as a baby, then all of a sudden that abandonment comes in, and for an infant being abandoned would cause death. If if the baby is abandoned for enough time. 

Neil Sattin  Right. 

Peter Levine  And so we will experience this, this perceived rejection as a life threat. OK, so again if we know enough about our implicit memories we can then be able to kind of soothe ourselves, and I give exercises for that, to soothe ourselves and then to be able to enter back into the relationship. But it's a skill that really needs to be developed and good therapy, both couples and individual therapy, can really help to facilitate this kind of cooperation, between, between our relationships, our primary relationships as adults. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah, no, I've mentioned it on the on the show before and I think when when you were on... Maybe the first time you were on, we, we went over the "Voo" exercise and that's something that Chloe and I we do together all the time when we notice one or the other being in a dysregulated state to help us come back into balance with each other. It's super helpful. 

Peter Levine  Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean there are a number of exercises like the Voo exercise, like the self holding exercise, where it is bringing one's awareness to the parts of our body which are not feeling horrifically. And so that could be our, our hands or our feet even. So again there's a number of different exercises that we can learn from and learn how to self regulate enough. You know there's a Motown song that goes something like: "It takes one to stand in the dark alone. It takes two to let the light shine through." So I think again it's this combination of being responsible for our own implicit memories, our own emotional and procedural memories. But also to be, to be cognizant about them enough so that we can enter into co-regulation and that co-regulation really enhances the attachment, the adult attachment and secures that relationship, solidifies that relationship, build it into a positive experience. So you know, again a lot of times all these things that happened to us can have these different effects that really will disrupt the relationship. Let me give you one example. I was working with this woman, young woman, who was abused by a sports coach when she was 13 years old, and because she is a teenager, she thought that he was in love with her. She certainly was in love, whatever that means, with him. And then she was rejected by him. Anyhow, those were really, eh, procedural memories and so when her husband would try to touch her. She would go into anger or revulsion and just want to push him away. So. And of course he was deeply deeply upset cuz he had no idea what to do. So I had worked with her to do a few sessions and then suggested that they would come in together. And they were sitting as far away as possible from each other and they talked about their resentments. That he never gives me eye contact, she never gives me eye contact. So they were talking about wanting to make contact but they couldn't do it. So after this went on for 30 minutes where they were basically blaming each other I asked if they would be willing to try an experiment. And I said, "This is, there's a risk at this. I mean hopefully this will help but it might not. Are you willing to take that risk?" And they both said yes. So then, he, I had him where he was sitting and then I had her going to explain this both to them sit with her back towards him and kind of having his knee a little bit like touching her shoulder. So she could feel this contact but it didn't demand eye contact and it was touching in a relatively, in a relatively safe way. And so at first I could see they you know they felt very awkward and I encouraged them just to keep noticing their body sensations and maybe just report them out loud and they did that for a while and then for the first time she could say that she felt some safety with her husband. But otherwise it was all threat and confusion the confusion of this 13 year old adolescent. So, again all of these things will affect our attachments profoundly. But the good news is there are things that we can do about that. So, again I hope I'm not pitching too much, but I, I really do recommend that people, even if they're not therapists, read "Trauma and Memory," because it really helps to explain the nature of all of these memories that we have a better idea of the map of where we are, and also the understanding of when we're hyper activated or when we're shut down, which I cover deeply in, "An Unspoken Voice." So. And then of course the one that you mentioned. So all of these really talk about a map to know where we are. What is it, if we're, if we're angry with a person, there's energy in that we can more easily work with that. But what happens if when with the person our whole organism shuts down and goes into a protective shell, where we can't easily be reached then we have to help the person come out of that shutdown into a more activated state, and then learn to regulate... co-regulate that state and then to learn to self regulate that state. I know that's a mouthful. I'm putting in it at the end but... 

Neil Sattin  Yeah way to drop the bomb, Peter! You know I'm curious when maybe you could offer something then. So because I think it's so common for a partner when they feel their beloved shutting down in some sense to not really know what to do in that moment to not know how to how to speak to them or how to respond in a way. So, what would the invitation be there? 

Peter Levine  So sometimes you know instead of like being like confronting each other, uh, indoors, to, or at least I mean even indoors but hopefully outdoors if the weather is clement, is to just walk together, side by side and talk instead of trying to face each other, which is bringing up a lot of those difficult emotions. And when you're walking you're less likely to shut down. So, that's the first thing I would recommend. Don't, if you, if if things are stuck just walk together side by side because there's something just in that gesture side by side which is supportive which is caring. And caring that the person can actually experience. 

Peter Levine  Then I'll suggest doing some of the exercises like the "Voo exercise", you know the long easy sustain "voo" directing it from the belly. And that's one way of helping people both come out of shutdown or if they're in a hyper state, to calm the hyper state. So, I would suggest that they do the exercise and maybe especially do them together so that they feel more settled and in this more settled place they're able to engage each other, much more in the here and now, rather than in there and then. So, again that's why I use the term brain and body in the search for the living past, how the past lives within us and what we can do about it - how we can change the past so that we can be in the present. 

Peter Levine  And when two people are in the present with each other who care about each other that solidifies the bond and takes that out of the realm of things like adaptations, like codependency. 

Neil Sattin  Right and gets them into that space where, they can, they can re-experience those memories but metabolize them into something positive, where they're feeling like, "Oh I'm experiencing that, but my partner is here to support me like now I know what it's like to actually feel supported in this... 

Peter Levine  Exactly. Exactly. And again when we're able to cultivate in the relationship to the degree that we're able to do that, we're solidifying the relationship. Because difficult times will happen. I mean there is no -- I don't know of any relationships where, where crises have never occurred. Some kind -- it can be a small crisis but it can also be a really big crisis. So the question, is are we fortified enough have we built the foundation of our relationship somatically, so that when these things do occur we're able to weather them and co regulate each other. And I'm thinking sometimes of something that's really devastating. Like when a child dies or gets seriously ill, that's the time really that the parents need to co-regulate each other. 

Neil Sattin  Mm hmm. 

Peter Levine  But that's also the time where there's a tendency to distance. Or to blame. Rather than to connect. 

Neil Sattin  Right. Right. Those are the moments where you need each other more than ever really. 

Peter Levine  More than ever. But again if we've solidified that, up to that point then the chances of us getting through that are greatly enhanced. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah. It makes perfect sense. Makes perfect sense. And, and I could see you know, for instance even just with something as simple as taking a walk and doing the "Voo” together. That doing that in times that aren't dysregulated. That it's setting the stage for that just becoming something that you can rely on in a challenging moment. 

Peter Levine  Yeah yeah. You know many people, many couples, many individuals are reported when they did that with their partner, did the walking, the "Voo"ing that kind of thing -- they were really angry and fearful and blaming and they just walked for a while did the "VU" and then both of them started spontaneously laughing and laughing and laughing and crying and laughing. And then just kind of both seeing the ridiculousness of those, of that reaction but also their appreciation for the other. 

Neil Sattin  So yeah I can relate. And it's so important too, I think because when you're stuck in an old memory, that translates often into thoughts, the kinds of thoughts like that, "You're not safe with this person or that they're out to get you." And, and but the feelings actually precede the thoughts. So if you're able to tackle your somatic experience that feeling in your body, then the thought shifts. 

Peter Levine  Yeah. Right. The emotions precede the thoughts and the procedural memories come... uh, procedural memories are what's also evoking their emotional memories. 

Neil Sattin  Yeah. 

Peter Levine  So again and in somatic experiencing, we do a lot of work from the bottom up from sensations then to affects, then to new meanings. And so that couple had the new meaning like, "Oh my gosh. I don't have to feel so alone when I'm feeling angry or fearful I just need to ask for some kind of connection such as what we were just mentioning. Yeah. So again these are tools I hope that couples all know and practice a bit so that when they really, when it's really called upon that it'll be there. And again, my experience is that can really determine in a crisis time whether people, whether couples stay together, work together, stay together cooperate together, or where they split. 

Neil Sattin  Right. Yeah. Well, Peter thank you again for all your time and wisdom and you know, the years and years of dedication to unearthing ways to heal from traumas that happened to us before we even were aware of them. And your work is so important, I think to finding ourselves again and again in the present, especially when we're in partnership and you know evoking each other's deep emotional experience all over the place and hopefully, hopefully healing together as well. 

Peter Levine  Yes, yep, that's the idea. 

Neil Sattin  Before I go there's some work that's a little tangential to this conversation but I just wanted to give you an opportunity to mention it because it's so important that has to do with the ways that the effects of stored trauma, unprocessed trauma, in our bodies results in chronic illness and I know, I know you've been hard at work on ways to help people through that. 

Peter Levine  Yes. 

Neil Sattin  Would you mind taking a moment to just talk about what that is and...? 

Peter Levine  Oh yeah yeah yeah. No, gladly because that's something that really really excites me really turns me on. It over the years some 40 plus years. Um, I've probably worked with thousands of people who have had what would now be called conditions like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, chronic fatigue, severe PMS, migraines, urinary problems and so forth. And working with them, with SE, has been quite effective. And these are conditions that don't have a medical diagnosis. There are now calls sometimes in medicine MUS, medically unexplained symptoms. MUS. And there's no help for many of them, some people do have something organically wrong of course and that has to be eliminated. But many of these people are just thrown from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist, with you know, with no help. And you know even after the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, I think in 1980 to 94, 84... Still very very few physicians understood that but certainly almost nobody understood that it was not something that was just in a person's head. But these are functional disorders involving our stress responses basically. So you know thinking about that. There are probably at least 10 or 20 million people suffering in the US alone with those kind of symptoms and there's no amount of therapists. I mean that could really help all of these people and many people can't really afford therapists and so forth and they really need something that they can use even if they are doing therapy to be an adjunct of supportive therapy. So along with, uh, a project manager, an entrepreneur and an M.I.T. specialist in computer human interaction affective communication. And then three other programmers, we've been working in the last two and a half years on this program, be a program or an app, that people can use at home to help them heal those kinds of sick, uh, symptoms. And we'll be finally testing the first version of that in the next couple of months. So I'm both also I'm excited but I'm also a little bit, like, anxious... A little trepidation you know like putting in all this work. And I bet and I know it's going to help. I mean we did a proof of concept at the very beginning. And, it had very powerful effect but anyhow that's that's really where my a lot of my energy is right now. It's in, in, in continuing to develop that as we start getting feedback from the first... or, actually the second test group. So if you want to be glad to let you know when we're up and about. 

Neil Sattin  Definitely and we can we can send a blast out to everyone on our email list about that. And, and your assistant Melissa who is such a blessing, she also wanted me to mention that if if you send an email to Ergos-Levine-at-gmail-dot-com and that's spelled E R G O S L E V I N E at gmail-dot-com then then they can let you know and there's maybe even a chance that that those people can get involved in the testing of that app as well it sounds like. 

Peter Levine  Yeah. 

Neil Sattin  So. And of course you're always out teaching and people can participate in your public courses. There are some on the East Coast in the fall. There's a course in London in June. And if they visit is it, Somatic-Experiencing-dot-com? Then they can sort of see everything that you’r e doing. 

Peter Levine  I believe so. I believe so. Yeah some of the stuff I'm doing yeah.

Neil Sattin  Well Peter. Peter it's always a pleasure to chat with you. And I've so enjoyed your generosity of time and wisdom over the years. And thanks so much again for dropping in with us here on Relationship Alive. 

Peter Levine  OK. Take good care. 

Neil Sattin  You too Peter. Take care. 

Neil Sattin  And as just a reminder if you want a transcript of this conversation and also the relevant links and things you can visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com slash-Levine-2. That's L E V I N E, and the number two or you can text the word passion to the number 3 3 4 4 4 and follow the instructions where you'll be able to download the complete transcript of our conversation. All right thanks again. 


Jul 3, 2019

Do you want one surefire way to know if the way you're interacting with your partner is something that they're into? Get their consent! Is there a place for getting consent even in a long-term relationship where you're pretty sure you know what your partner wants (and doesn't want)? Absolutely! It turns out that getting consent is a pathway to deeper intimacy and presence - for ALL relationships. In today's episode, you'll learn how to re-introduce the language of consent into your relationship in a way that's empowering for both you and your partner, and you'll discover exactly why your "no" creates even more relationship health than your "yes". Along the way, you'll strengthen the trust and fuel the passion in your connection. 

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Or email YOUR recorded questions to questions (at) relationshipalive dot com.


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Jun 25, 2019

Beneath anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame, are core emotions that are hardwired into our circuitry. When you’re able to tap into the core emotions - and move through them - you’ll feel a new sense of freedom and empowerment - with the ability to handle anything that life sends your way. Our guest today is Hilary Jacobs Hendel. She’s a psychotherapist and the author of the new book, "It's Not Always Depression: Working the Change Triangle to Listen to the Body, Discover Core Emotions, and Connect to Your Authentic Self,” which will definitely be a game changer for you. Today she has some practical tips for you on how to identify and work through these core emotions, so that you don't get stuck in the secondary emotions that can get in your way.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. It's been my mission of course to give you the best tools that I can find to help you have an amazing thriving relationship. And some of those tools are relational and how you interact with other people, and some of those tools are all about the inner work and how we can come to understand ourselves better and experience life more fully, shine more brightly and to get past the obstacles that stand in our way. And today, I hope to synthesize both of those things for you. Though, we're gonna start with the inner work as we unearth how to get to our core emotional experience and just why that is so important. And along the way you're gonna learn how to identify when you're in a core emotional experience and when you are not and learn exactly how to handle that situation. We are diving more deeply also into the work known as AEDP: accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy. Which is a mouthful but if you listened to Episode 176 with Diana Fosha, or episode 189 with David Mars then you're getting a sense for how this way of working with people can be so profound in its ability to create positive change.

Neil Sattin: Today's guest has taken the model even further in showing us how we can apply it for ourselves. So, it's great when you're doing it in, in therapy it's great when you're doing it in couples therapy. And this is going to show you how to do it on your own so that you can experience this kind of change in your daily life, using what's known as "the change triangle.".

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Our guest today is Hilary Jacobs Handel and her recent book: "It's Not Always Depression: Working The Change Triangle To Listen To The Body Discover Core Emotions And Connect To Your Authentic Self," is, I think, a game changer for you in terms of deepening your experience and being able to bring that fully into your relationship with your spouse, your partner, and your relationships with others in general. As usual we will have a detailed transcript of today's episode. You can get that if you visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-triangle, because we're talking about the change triangle, or as always you can text the word passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. So let us dive in to the change triangle and discover how to get even more in touch with who we are at our core and how to bring that into the world. Hilary Jacobs Hendall, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Thank you Neil. I am delighted to be here talking about my favorite subjects, of emotions and relationships.

Neil Sattin: Perfect. Well we're on the same page then, definitely.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes we are.

Neil Sattin: And I do want to mention before we get too deep in, that if you are a visual person and need a visual representation of the triangle that we're talking about then that's also available both on Hilary's Web site, which will announce in a little bit, and also at Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-triangle, where we have the transcripts. You'll be able to to see it in front of you if that's required. But we'll do our best to to make it, make it real for you as we're talking about it.

Neil Sattin: So Hilary, why, why is it so important to get in touch with our core emotions and and how do we distinguish core emotions from just that emotional wash that can come, come at us or come over us throughout our day?

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Well, it's, there's many reasons why it's important to get, not only get it, well understand the different types of emotions and to get in touch with emotions and to be able to discern what you're what you're feeling and what you're experiencing. Because most of us live up in our heads. And thoughts are fantastic and we need them. And I love my thoughts but it's half the picture of knowing who you are and what you need and what's good for you and what's bad for you. And core emotions are these biologically wired survival programs that really tell us, at the core, so much about what we who we are and what we need that if we're not listening to them and our society really teaches us to avoid them and block them, which I think is responsible for the epidemic we're seeing in depression and anxiety and so many mental health issues, that, and we don't learn anything about emotions, that, that without knowing about emotions and understanding how they work, we're really at a huge disadvantage to thrive in life.

Neil Sattin: Right, when you're able to identify the emotional experience that you're having, it gives you clues as to how you need to best respond to the world in the moment with whatever is going on in your life.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Exactly and I think what's become more and more important for me, just to say from the beginning to the people listening out there, is that this is not about wearing emotions on our sleeve. This is not about looking for an excuse to act out or behave badly, to rage or to cry, experiencing emotions is a wholly internal process it has nothing to do with what we actually then show to others, or, or enact. It may, but I'm, we're always trying to think about what is constructive for us, constructive for the person we are with. It's not about an excuse to behave badly and I think we live in an emotion phobic culture partly because people don't understand that, they think "Oh my gosh, you know, if we're all into our emotions it's just gonna be you know not good. It's just, it's..." I'm only thinking of curse words now that would come out and explain like a shit show, but I'm just you know that type of a thing. And this is a very thoughtful process that I am talking about that only helps us. There, there is no downside to getting in touch with emotions the way that I am thinking about it and the way that I try to educate others.

Neil Sattin: Right, what you just said is such an important distinction that we're talking about a constructive way to meet your emotions and to metabolize them into something that's beneficial not just for you but for the other people in your orbit or for life in, in general. And you know we had Harriet Lerner on the show to talk about her seminal work, "The Dance of Anger," and turning anger into, into a constructive emotional phenomenon. And I love how in your book it's not always depression you talk about each of these core emotions and we're talking about emotions like sadness and fear and anger and disgust, and we're also talking about emotions like joy or excitement or sexual excitement. Lust I think is the way that Jaak Panskepp talks about it. And we're talking about all of those core programs that you just mentioned and looking at how they lead to our common good. The common benefit and also ways to know when, when something's coming at us that really isn't healthy and and how to respond effectively to that.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Exactly right. In particular with using anger to set limits and boundaries and to assert ourselves without being aggressive.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right which you're able to do when you've figured out "Wow I'm, I'm really angry. And here's why I'm angry right now." And so it becomes less about telling someone that you're angry and more about setting an effective limit with them.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes, and I would add an additional piece: it's, it's also working with that anger internally to to discharge some of that energy that causes us to, to act too quickly, and act, and say mean things or do hurtful things, so that there's techniques to work with the energy that, that most emotions have and that grip us into impulses right and these impulses have to be thought through very, very up, down and sideways, before we decide to say something or do something that we really want to be thoughtful about ourselves and the action that wants to come out.

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: It's hard work too,  this is a lifelong process.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So important to name that and, and for you, listening, we're going, we're gonna get to some of these techniques of how to really integrate and and process your emotional experience in the way that Hilary was just naming. And I want to say too that well, as you know I read a lot of books for this show and I love the ones that just right out of the gate, I'm like, "This book is gonna make a difference in my life." And I definitely felt that reading your book it's so practical and in some ways the title is misleading because I think people see it and they think "Oh this is a book about depression. I'm not sure that impacts me." And so I want to encourage everyone listening that this is really a book about what we're talking about: how do you encounter your own emotional experience and chew it up in a way that's beneficial for you and then bring that into how you how you interact with the world around you.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah exactly. And I think you're right about the title. I guess if the title was exactly what it should be, it would say "This is a basic emotion education that you should have received in high school," and hopefully one day people will. But it's something that every, everybody knows that the title came from the article that I wrote for The New York Times back in 2015 and because the article went viral and so many people responded to it, that Random House said let's just name the book that. And you know it's not always depression what is it? It's really life, and how surviving our childhoods and all the adversity that life entails affects us emotionally and what happens when you block those emotions and what happens when you embrace those emotions and learn to work with them. And it's it's it's a fork in the road. And it matters.

Neil Sattin: Yes. Yeah. So let's start with talking about "the change triangle," because I think identifying the three different corners of the triangle will be really helpful for everyone in understanding what we're talking about because why is it a triangle, why isn't it just like well you've got to have your core emotional experience, and there, there's more to it. And this was where your book was so eye opening for me in many ways, was getting to see oh these kinds of things that I experience< they're happening because I'm, I, I'm trying to I'm trying to protect myself from a core emotional experience as an example. So, I think as we as we dive in this is going to make a lot more sense for everyone listening. So, where's a good place to start, Hilary?

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: I think just a quickly, describe it and and what I, I'll try to bring it to life a little bit.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: So for everybody listening you want to imagine an upside down triangle superimposed on your body. The point of the triangle is in your core, you know, somewhere between your stomach and, and your, under your ribs. And that's because, and that's, at the bottom of the triangle is where core emotions are and they're in the body and that's why I'm asking you to imagine them in your core. And they're, the core emotions to say them again are: fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy, excitement, and sexual excitement. And each of those have their own unique programs and they're very simple in a way, you know, when something, when somebody hurts us... Well let's just take anger because it's something that we all struggle with in our culture. And there's so many myths about anger, but anger is there basically to protect us. Anger and fear. And when when somebody attacks us. And I always think about how these were designed to be sort of, hundreds of thousands of years ago, if somebody wanted to kill you, and, and had a threatening pose or gesture you would evoke anger in the middle of the brain, like where all core emotions are evoked, and then it sends out a myriad of responses to all organs of the body to ready the body for an action and that action is meant to be adaptive for survival. So anger will make us kind of want to make a fist and put up our dukes and get ready to attack. And it come, it's visceral. We all know that experience of when someone we care about insults us or doesn't do something that we really needed to and there's energy in the body and our, and we get tension in the body and we really feel like we want to lash out. So it's a full body experience and each of the core emotions have their own program that has an, uh, an uh, group of physical sensations that we can learn to recognize and name, and each of the core emotions has an impulse to action that we can learn to recognize, and, and explain and name, and, and an impulse to action, that we are, that it's pulling for us to do. And it's that whole experience that we want to get really good at recognizing and that is really just a part of knowing ourselves. The, the emotions react similarly in everybody. But there is nuance in everyone. So the way that I experience anger will be differently than the way you experience anger, Neil. And that's the same for all the core emotions.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: So that's the bottom of the triangle. Does that make sense?

Neil Sattin: Perfect.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: OK. Now there's uh, there's three corners of the triangle, which I'm going to explain. But there is a fourth point here and I'm just going to share it real quickly now because when we have a core emotion, we're at a fork in the road and there's base likely two ways it can go. We can bury that emotion and push it away and block it and then we're going to be moving to the top of the triangle. Or, we can validate it, name it, and work with the experience that it's evoking, in which case we get to this place that I put on the bottom of the triangle. That's called the "open hearted state of the authentic self." And what that is basically, a more practical way of saying, is it's a regulated state of mind and body and that when we are with our core emotions, and we let them process through, and we are allowed to experience them, and again nothing has actually happened yet in the outside world it's wholly internal, it's a way that comes the body back down. Because core emotions come up they kind of cause an arousal of the nervous system like a wave. You ride the wave and then they come down. And if we don't block them the energy kind of naturally will dissipate over time, and in ways and techniques that we can help with that, and then we come back to this kind of calm state, where our mind and body feel relaxed, and in that state good things happened, and there's a bunch of c-words that I borrowed from Richard Schwartz with his permission, where when we stay in this kind of calm regulated state, we are more curious, we feel more connected, we have a greater capacity for compassion for ourselves and other people, we tend to feel more confident because we can deal with our own emotions and we feel more courageous in life and we have more clarity of thought. So you obsess less. So this is where we all want to spend more time.

Neil Sattin: Definitely.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: And it's not that it's the goal to spend all our time there, right? That's impossible because life happens but that's where we want to spend more and more time. And so working this change triangle to get back to core emotions and to go through them down to this calm state is the whole point of this.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think it's important to mention that too, that we're describing this, this static image but it implies a process that you can go through in order to get to the openhearted state of self energy that that Hilary's just described.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Right, because we're moving around this triangle all day every day many times and it's what we do that matters and then we're also kind of moving around in this triangle in life on a macro level spending less time in our defensive states and more time in the openhearted state. So. So that's sort of a sort of a micro and a global way to look at it.

Neil Sattin: Great. So then when you have that core when you're when some core emotional response comes up, you said you're at a fork in the road and you can head, you can ride the wave and and get to that core self state or...

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Or like most of us do, because that's what we're taught to do in our society, is we tend to block them. And so the top of the triangle if we move to the top right that corner is labeled inhibitory emotions and the inhibitory emotions which everyone will recognize are anxiety, guilt, and shame. And again what they have in common is that they all push down, and block, and bury core emotional experience, in purpose for the purpose of pretty much getting along in our society. There are more social emotions, so that if the core emotions are the selfish emotions what's good for me the inhibitory emotions are, "How do I curb my own impulses and desires, so that I stay in the good graces, good graces of initially my mother and then my father and my siblings, my family, then my peer groups, my uh, by then you know as you broaden into society, my religious groups, my, oh, my collegial groups..." That we it's so important for human survival to get along. So in a way there's a fundamental conflict here. So, so the inhibitory emotions when we it's the way that we block our core emotions. And so what we end up doing is noticing that we have anxiety, for example, and if we have anxiety we know that we're on the top right hand corner of the triangle. But what that means practically, is that we also know that we are inhibiting some core emotional experience that if we can get to and name, and, and, and use, we will likely feel less anxious. Feel much better and I can give an example of this, but, then the way we do this is with muscular contraction, all sorts of maneuvers that anxiety, shame, and guilt block these core emotions and for different purposes. And some of us will feel more shame, some more anxiety. You know, we have to mix in genetics and disposition here, and then the environment for why we end up feeling ashamed or guilty or anxious.

Neil Sattin: Right and something that feels important to name right here is the way that you can feel those inhibitory emotions from a core positive emotional experience as much as a core negative. And I'm kind of putting those words in quotes because I think what we're getting at here is that they all have the capacity to be positive but one might not think like, "Oh you know, I'm, I'm experiencing shame because I'm feeling too much joy right now," or "I'm too excited. And so my anxiety is coming in to to block that, or my guilt about being excited about this thing.".

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: That is so crucial and the more that I do this work in psychotherapy and just observe the people that I'm with, the more I believe that it's the larger emotions. I wouldn't even say so... I think you're right, that people block joy and excitement and pride in the self and anything that makes us feel physically bigger. It's kind of fascinating you can almost reduce all below the neck deep experience into emotions that have energy that makes us feel larger, which is dangerous when we take up more space and we feel bigger, we tend to experience some inhibition either anxiety, guilt or shame. And so people tend to stay small and in a way people go negative... I'm not so sure anymore, which came firrt, err, do people kind of move into negative thoughts to keep them small? Because there's some core fear? Or is it that it's a it's a way not to feel big? I dunno if it gets sort of too complicated. But you can start to think of everything as almost like amoebas like am getting bigger or I'm getting smaller? And to begin to understand one's experience as, "Is this an expansive emotion now, that I'm feeling, like, joy and pride, and anger?" In which case it's going to make me feel vulnerable and then I'm going to come down on myself with some anxiety or shame or guilt. So that's just getting to what you were saying about people struggle with feeling good.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. So it could go either way. And, and what I love is this sense of, "Oh. When I notice shame or anxiety or guilt that the problem isn't the shame or the anxiety or guilt." That's, the I don't want to spend all my time there, because they're indicating that there's a deeper core experience that's happening and that's where the the gold is.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Exactly. That's where the gold is. Now. I think it's also important to mention that that, we're talking about kind of detrimental levels of anxiety, shame and guilt here, that the shame has a purpose too. Guilt has a purpose. Like when we do something that hurts somebody else it's good that we feel guilty. That means that we're not a sociopath and so we want to listen to the shame. Listen to the guilt. Listen to the anxiety. And we also know that we have to look for our core emotions. So, it's, it's both because the inhibitory emotions are going to bring us to the relationship piece. But we also need to know what we're feeling so that we can express ourselves to, to yourself and to others.

Neil Sattin: Yeah and I will say just as a side note your, your chapter on dealing with anxiety shame and guilt. I think it's also super helpful along with creating self compassion but for understanding the other people in your life and what might be motivating certain behaviors that you experience from them. That was, in many respects, worth the price of admission for the book because that's part of what's going on is not only understanding yourself but being able to see these things happening in other people and to, and to recognize how it might be impacting them as well.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes. So we can understand ourselves and others and I've had so many people read the book and tell me that they thought it should be in the Parenting section of the bookstore because we also want to understand our children's emotions so we don't unwittingly cause too much shame and guilt and anxiety when it can be avoided just by the education and emotions.

Neil Sattin: Yeah yeah they should have a "self parenting" section in the bookstore.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah. Self parenting, and parenting though, there's so much you know parents mean well, I made so many mistakes. If I had had this at this book in my 20s that would have spared me and my children a lot of heartache and I know most people feel that way. Most people have intent to do good. And if you don't have proper information, and you're just basing things on what you sort of intuition and how you were raised and what society says then it's easy to make mistakes anyway, easy to make mistakes, and we're not free that you know there's no way not to screw up your children on some level but you just want to know what's going on in the emotion department. It's really, really helpful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So we've covered the bottom corner of the triangle the core emotions, and the top right which is these inhibitory emotions that are are meant to block or suppress the core emotions.

Neil Sattin: What's up with the with the other corners triangle.

: So and again if we go back to that this is superimposed on the body. The point is of course in core emotions as in is in the gut area and then we're coming up. So anxiety and defenses are kind of sitting above the shoulders, is how I imagine them because they're out of, they kind of take us out of our body, they take us up into our head. And so because emotions, core emotions feel so at best they feel weird and new if you don't know what they are, and, and at worst they feel awful emotions and core emotions, and inhibitory emotions when they come in, in large doses and they come, many at one time and they're all mixed together... It's a horrible experience and a horrible feeling. And so we then tend to want to avoid the whole enchilada and we move into defenses and that's the topped, top left corner of the triangle. And defenses are basically anything we do to avoid feeling something that we don't want to feel and I don't even mean it in a pejorative sense I always say that that defenses, as I learned in AEDP training, which was so helpful, are really these brilliant creative maneuvers that humans can do to spare themselves pain as opposed to in my psychoanalytic training... I don't want to sell psychoanalysis down the river because I got a lot out of my studies there, but there was always this negative sense of bad, that you're doing something bad, and you're resisting and that defenses are bad and I think that defenses really need to be appreciated for one when they hold up. They get us through life. And two, when they don't hold up and we break through and start to have symptoms of depression or anxiety or many other things that we needed them at one time those defenses and now they're not working so well and then we need to embrace other ways of being that bring us peace and calm.

Neil Sattin: So defenses are like toward the, the last stop on the on the train. They're, they're, they're meant to help you not feel anything.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes. Exactly. Or to for, to exchange one emotion for for something else like defenses... Emotions can be used as defenses. For example, I would, you know, my whole younger life, if I felt scared or vulnerable I sort of had a more of an irritable, crusty armor and I would get angry and I would try to curtail it a lot because I had a really sweet, gentle mom and a really sweet, gentle sister and I was kind of the, the, the, the tougher one in the family. So I was always working hard to be quote sweet like like my mom. But I felt it. I felt it and I really didn't understand. I would beat myself up for you know, Why, why do I feel angry?" And it was really a big defense against fear.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: I had no idea I had no idea even I was the one that I was anxious when I was younger because it was just kind of covered by this kind of this kind of tough armor.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Or how many people do we know that might be feeling fear but instead go to like humor or lightheartedness, instead of instead of being able to go to that place.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Exactly. And so there are so many ways we can use defenses can be emotions. They can we can use behaviors as defenses. Self-destructive behaviors like, like cutting just behaviors like joking, making, being sarcastic, eye rolls, shrugs this is like body language defenses, not being able to make eye contact. There is, there is a myriad of defenses and I list a ton of them in the book and on my website. And you can try to recognize your own defenses which is probably one of the hardest things to do. It's much easier to see other people than ourselves and so you could probably much more easily recognize the defenses in the people in your family. But it's good to begin to recognize our own defenses so that we can loosen them up a little bit and know what the feelings are underneath them and then it kind of, gives us more resilience, more choices for how to be.

Neil Sattin: Yeah if we wanted perspective from an outsider that we more or less trusted about our defenses what would you say is a is a safe way to ask for that from another person?

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: That's such a wonderful question. I think it's not only the safe way to ask for it, but I think you're saying to make sure that person is safe is a safe person to be vulnerable with. Yeah, because what we really want to spare ourselves, as much as possible, is the excruciating experience of being shamed or humiliated. So, I think I would say and I do say this to my to my husband and my children, even friends sometimes: "Please let me know if I do something that..." I mean it's not so much as a defense, I would say, "Please let me know if I do something that you don't like or that hurts your feelings or that doesn't feel right." And then I guess if I was asking it I think I would just leave it at that. I'm concerned for the people out there listening who might say that to somebody they care about who doesn't have a lot of therapy background or understand emotions that might not be so gentle. So, I think you could always say: "But, be please be gentle with me." You know and I believe in using humor and lightheartedness in relationships a lot, but you know be be gentle. But I do want to know.... Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. No, I think that's great to name that desire for for gentleness or just to point out like, it's, "It's kind of tender or vulnerable for me to even be asking you this but I know that you may see, something that I don't see." Yeah.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: That's it's such an interesting question Neil. No one's ever asked me that and I think it's because most people get feedback from their family, when they're, when they're acting in ways that are are not pleasurable and they they might not all be defensive maneuvers some may be just like self care. Like I don't want to do this. Setting a limit or a boundary and then somebody reacts badly to that. But some of it would be defensive. So again, it's sort of interesting to think about.

Neil Sattin: Right and I think if you're not inviting someone into that conversation, then the feedback that you're getting is most likely not coming at you either at a moment where you're truly receptive to it, or in a manner that's that's constructive.  

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Mhmm. Exactly. Constructive being the operative word.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So we we found our way up to the top. And let's talk about what the process would look like if I noticed, "Oh I'm about to do that defensive thing that I always do." So maybe for someone like I'll just kind of out myself here, I might go to a political blog or to Facebook or something like that. I'm doing that, it doesn't serve any real constructive purpose in my life. So, even though, you know, you could argue about being informed or whatever but when I notice that I'm doing that, what would be the steps that I would want to take to help bring me into identifying whether or not there was a core emotional experience at work? And I think, especially because we as adults... Like these patterns are pretty well developed for us. So, so it may be a bit of a journey to find your way down into into your core, but what's, what's the map look like?

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah. Yeah but I think very possible, and, and I like your example, which I'm going to address. And you know, we could also use the example of reaching for a snack when you're not hungry or reaching for a drink right after work. Right? These are all these kind of they're just sort of automatic defensive behaviors and they don't serve us. So what I do is, you know, for all these examples is the first thing we have to be able to do is notice, right? If we don't notice what we're doing then we can't work the change triangle at all. And the way you get good at noticing is really by slowing down. We can't really notice much about how we're feeling if we're moving fast, it just tends to obscure or we just stay up in our head and our thoughts are churning and it kind of numbs us out below the neck. So, I when I'm teaching new people this you know you can just set aside, you can write in your, in your inner, in your, in your calendar, in your phone, you know, just set aside three times a day and remember to kind of check in and observe what you're doing. Meditation, obviously, is a great practice for this. So, let's say you actually notice that you're about to go check, what did you say Facebook or the political blogs?

Neil Sattin: Right side or more or more likely I'd, I'd be you know five or 10 minutes in, and I'd be like, "Wait a minute here I am. You know here I am on Facebook again.".

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Good. Good. OK. So before, or during...

Neil Sattin: Just being, just being honest.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah of course. You know, join the rest of humanity. That's great. So what you would do is stop what you're doing. And you would, kind of feel your feet on the ground like you instructed me to do before this, and, before we started, and maybe take a few deep breaths to kind of set the stage for noticing. And then I personally especially in the beginning would ask myself I would kind of scan my body head to toe, and toe to head, and just kind of see what I can notice about my physical state. Am I tense? Am I anxious? I might even go through all of the emotions and ask myself, "OK Hilary,or Neil, you know, do you notice any anxiety now check? Do you notice any shame? No, not right now. Do you notice any guilt? No. OK, so we've got some anxiety. What else? Let's see if we can get below that anxiety and see what else we might be feeling". And you may want to bring in the context of what's going on in your life also and what might be affecting you. So let's say, uh, this is the day my, my, my kid goes off to kindergarten. What else is happening today? I have work stress, what not. So then I might ask myself, "Is any of these things in life causing me fear? Check." And then we want to go through all the core emotions, do I feel angry? No. Do I feel sad? Check. And you want to name all the emotions that you possibly can but kind of holding them all together like, as I tell my patients, try to hold all the emotions but imagining them with lots of air and space between each one, because we have to, we have to attend to each emotion separately. Another way that I say it, is don't say "I feel afraid but I also feel sadness." I want to change the "but" to an "and." "I feel sad, and I feel afraid, and I feel excited, and I feel happy." And once we get a lot of emotions going at the same time it's a lot of energy. We can automatically push those down because we don't know we can handle it all. Feel some anxiety and then boom. Reaching for a political blog. So, that would be the idea to try to start to name the emotions and then just by doing that just by naming emotions and taking that time to slow down and do that, you might feel much, much more relaxed and in fact it gives you space to think, "OK do I want to continue with the blog? Because this is a good distraction that I need now." Because defenses aren't bad by definition it's only if they're hurting us or if we rely on them all the time. So you may continue to read or you may decide, "You know what. I'm going to go exercise instead or I'm going to go tell my partner how I'm feeling about everything going on." That type of thing, and that's the last step is to think through, what's the best thing for me right now? If I don't feel better and I'm trying to change my state what are some things that, that helped me feel better where I can take better care of myself. Or you may want to work with one of these emotions using some of the techniques that I, that I outline in the book. Staying with them in the body or imagining using fantasy to discharge some of the energy.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I definitely want to talk about fantasy, but before we go there, I, I just want to name that for me even though I knew this to be true it was really a revelation to stop and think about what that's like, that we can be experiencing fear and disgust and joy and sexual excitement that we could be feeling all of those things at the same time.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Each one calling out for potentially a completely different kind of response.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes.

Neil Sattin: So, no wonder we get all bound up with anxiety or overwhelm or feel any any of those things that just kind of paralyze us in a moment. Or if we, if we name one and we just kind of go with the first thing, "Oh, I'm feeling sad right now," and then you neglect the others, how you could feel incomplete in terms of actually processing the experience that you're having.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Exactly. Exactly and that's why it's so important to keep sort of searching when you notice one particular emotion to just keep looking around. What else is there? And to, it really helps to kind of run through that checklist. I still do that I've been practicing this a long time and I, I run through the different emotions and once you name them and search for them you know you might even find them. I say to my patients, "Even there's you know just check for like a little molecule of joy there, or a little molecule of sadness, and then if you find it you know, Oh maybe I need to actually make space for this particular emotion I spend so much time, you know, really orienting myself towards my anger, that I'm missing out on what the sadness or the fears telling me.".

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I was I was searching for a good acronym while, while I was reading the book, I was like there must be a good one for those core emotions to like help people just kind of do the, do the checklist.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah. Did you find one? Because I looked hard also.

Neil Sattin: Not yet but I'll let you know if I can.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And there's not a good one for all those C's when you're when you're... But I do like how you also offer that as an example of looking for you know am I feeling calm, right now? Am I feeling clear? Am I feeling compassionate? To be able to go through that list to find the nuances of your experience right now and to highlight, "Okay here are ways that I am feeling courageous even though at the same time I'm getting all this, this tremulous fear going through my body.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes, exactly. And I think even sometimes you can bypass the whole thing and just really try to shift into those states if you don't like what you're feeling right now and it's a particularly a great idea when you're about to have a conversation with somebody important to you, to before you do try to, try to just see if you can shift into a calmer, certainly more curious standpoint, more state, where you can try to take a couple of deep breaths and access some curiosity, so we don't make assumptions about another person's motives because they're often incorrect you know we make up our own stories and then we believe them without checking them out. And to try to lean into connection, so that, let's say you know again your partner really pisses you off. It's important, and the brain doesn't naturally do this, you have to push, put energy behind this idea of remembering the good things somebody has done to kind of take the steam out of the uh... You know, we can rev ourselves up with anger and start to think it's like chaining, you then, everything that someone ever did to hurt you comes back with a vengeance. Unless we really pull the other way and say, "OK, what is why do I love this person." Or if I can't remember that I loved him at one point, you know what is it that I used to love about this person and try to conjure those that part of it as well. It takes energy. It's not easy because we're really pulled to tough places and we have to use mental energy to pull ourselves back and it doesn't feel good at first, always.

Neil Sattin: Yeah yeah. Wow so many different directions that I'm going in at the moment. I think first I just want to name, it's really lovely the way that you show the integration of AEDP work through the vignettes, vignettes that you offer in your book, and also internal family systems and working with different parts of you, younger parts. If you're a listener for, and you have been for a while then you've perhaps heard the interviews we've done with Dick Schwartz, the most recent one is episode I wrote this down episode 140, where so you can you can get a sense of how the two modalities work really well together, fit super well together. And so all of that work to get to understand and process and metabolize your emotional experience, and to learn how to show up for yourself can come through what we've been talking about today and can also be helped by getting to identify the places in you that are stuck in a past experience. And the reason that I wanted to bring that up is because you were just talking about like the the possibility of skipping to connection and calmness, or doing what you can to to get to that place especially if you're going to reach out to someone that's important to you. And I liked how you also bring in the work of Peter Levine and talk about how all of this energy that emotions bring up in, in us when they're not processed when, when that energy isn't metabolized, then that is what creates trauma in our bodies -- that, that stuck energy that never quite got released. And so some of those stories in your book are just were so moving to me, as I, as I read them and got to see like oh right there's another nuance of how this could apply to me or to my clients. And so really beautiful, I think, to to see it written out like that but let's get into a little bit more of the...

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Thank you by the way.

Neil Sattin: Yeah yeah you're welcome. Let's get into the metabolizing and in particular let's talk about fantasy, because that use of the imagination and how it can help I think can be so powerful for us when we, when we're wrestling with that question of: "Well, I feel so angry or I feel so sad or bereft or whatever it is, and I don't know like I want to bring it to that person I want them to feel my anger. I want them to see the depths of my sadness." How can we do it in a way that's actually going to be more productive and give us the satisfaction of truly handling and, and, and giving our body some relief from those unfulfilled impulses?

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah. That's, that's, that's, that's a question that has many levels because I think what I'm first responding to is this idea of wanting someone to see and wanting to really be seen, in with one's emotions. And so I think that is legitimate. And, and then there are times when that's all somebody sees and they get weary. So it's it's really... you have to keep a lot in mind. So, I thought you were just going to kind of ask me about working with child parts and releasing stuck energy as a sort of either, either as an alone process or with a therapist and then you surprised me when you brought in this idea of, if you bring it into relationship and that makes it all sort of like it, I think we have to deal with one and then the other.

Neil Sattin: Yeah let's start with a first part.: Yeah, let's start with the first part...

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: ...which would be that the inner process that we might go through, and then and then we can bridge into bringing that into relationship.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Great. Great. So, I now I really consider myself a trauma therapist and I now think of trauma as something that everybody has just from surviving their childhoods. And so then we were changing the definition of trauma. This is still very controversial. You hear the word trauma, which most people still think of as a, as a some major catastrophic event happening, that is trauma. I'm adding on to that something that is also called small-T trauma -- which many people in the trauma field object to because it's it's sort of putting a value judgment on trauma. That one is smaller or bigger, which is, I want to say, that, that's not the case it's just some way to to differentiate different types of trauma. And small-T trauma is really what I believe everybody has, and small-T trauma is really, um, can be from so, so many, so many things that actually happened in our childhood. But the bottom line is, and I'm sure Diana Faucheux and David Marr spoke about this in the other episodes, that whenever we have too much emotion which happens a lot when we're children because our brains are full of emotion and very powerful emotion. So when there's too much emotion and too much aloneness at the same time, then the mind figures out a way to kind of block it. So it's not overwhelming. And then once that happens a lot where we're kind of blocking whole parts of ourselves and whole experiences and those are these little kind of child parts that we all have that are alone these kind of child parts of us exist alone because they had to be kind of cordoned off. So this, this happens you know if you have... In most families there's a parent that doesn't tolerate a certain emotion and so when you feel that emotion you are really told, you know, to put it away or get over it or you're yelled at or it's not acknowledged. So that kind of thing, on a small level, becomes big because when we have to exclude parts of our experience then they are literally excluded in the mind, they're not integrated. They're not connected to other parts of the... of us. So these are the the parts when I use the word parts from Richard Schwartz or in psychoanalytic literature they were called interjects. That we might have absorbed parts of our parents in us. It can be many, many different things but these are the parts that sort of live on with us, within us and they can get triggered and then we can start to react. The reaction is, is not really commensurate with what happens in our adult relationships. So, I think everyone can relate to like just when somebody pokes you in that just wrong place and you felt the feeling many, many times before and you can kind of track it back into fourth grade when you were bullied or ostracized, or you can track it back to sixth grade when you started to know that your sexuality or gender wasn't the same as the people around you or you were punished too severely, yelled at, you know all these or somebody you loved died when you were young or got sick or there was substance abuse, active substance abuse in the family, all these type of things and then these parts of us hold... They have their own triangles in a way and we need to be with those parts and liberate those old emotions so that they don't fire off and cause havoc in our adult relationships and inside us and make us feel bad all the time.

Neil Sattin: Yes. So we can, so you can get related to in a particular moment. The part of you that is feeling, that is having this emotional experience and to what was happening at the time and the way that you portray that in the book, I think is, is a great illustration of how to go through this process for someone and then talk about if you could, that, taking it to that next level of where you incorporate fantasy as a way of helping either a younger part or just helping yourself in the present with an emotional feeling how you could actually kind of burn off some of that energy before you're bringing it out, into how you connect with the world.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah I guess I'll use the, we could take any emotion and you can change this, but I'm going to, I'm going to go with these big energy emotions that are common like how you burn off as you say anger energy and also kind of feeling good about the self prideful energy both of these create a lot of anxiety and depression in people when they're blocked. And so I really like to, to harp on let's liberate this, this energy and how can we do it in a safe way. So one of the the the most effective ways to work with anger is, and I use this a lot myself... And I'm sort of pausing here because as people listen to this, it may seem kind of crazy. But we begin with the fundamental idea that the brain doesn't know the difference between fantasy and reality in certain, in emotional ways. And we know this from experiments where somebody imagines running and they're hooked up to an FMRI, that they imagine they're running. And there is movement in the in the parts of the brain as if they were actually running. So... And we see this every day in clinical practice. So, let's say I am angry, I'm going to take my sweet and wonderful husband John as an example here because I use him all the time. Let's say John does something, and he really doesn't anymore, we really get along quite well. But let's say he did something that really, really threw me into a rage. What I have learned to do and practice many times is before I go talk to him about it, I will, I know I will be able to identify that I am angry, right? And rage is sort of all emotions are on a spectrum from a little irritation or annoyance to outright rage. I will know, I will be able to say to myself: I am enraged. I will be able to feel that deeply in my body a burning energy in my stomach and a, and a movement of energy that wants to come right up and out, and I will not do anything, but I will focus in on that energy, listening to it with a kind of curiosity, kind of tuning in like a radio receiver feeling it deeply and seeing what that energy wants to do to John and it might want to just, so I and then I try to make it into a fantasy. So the idea is I'm noticing that if that energy could come up and out of me in a fantasy or a movie like, let it play out in a movie I would see myself just like punching the crap out of him. Like that's how angry I am that I really want to hurt him. And then I will allow myself in a fantasy to imagine doing that. And I do this in sessions for people that have a lot of pent up energy from being abused as children and neglected and various very hurtful things that were done to them. So I can see myself actually doing what this anger wants to do and trying to really even feel it as I see myself making contact with skin. And just let it... Imagining it and imagining it, watching it and watching it and watching it, and doing it and doing it and doing it in fantasy, until it feels done. Like the the energy will discharge and will drain out. And then when I tune back into my body, I'll feel probably tired and a little more calm so that I can then gather my wits about me and go back and say, and say, "We need to talk about what you did. I was so furious because you hurt me so badly when you did this this and this. And I never ever want you to do that again." That type of thing as opposed to storming out, I wanted divorce, you know this isn't working or attacking him you know verbally abusing him for everything that he's ever done, and which isn't going to help, it's going, it may feel better in the moment. And then I'm going to feel guilty afterwards. He's going to withdraw. It's going to escalate a fight and it's going to increase our disconnection.

Neil Sattin: Yes. .

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Does that make sense?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And one thing that I think you mention in the book is how often you can go with that initial like you're feeling all that anger and rage and seeing that. And then when that is finally discharged through imagining this scenario, that it leaves room for another core emotion to rise up. So it may not end there, it may be that after you experience your rage, you then experience your sadness or your fear.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: And so there's there's a lot there to be processed and what you named so beautifully was the problem not only with having those experiences, but, or emotions but having them and feeling alone and how showing up for yourself in this way also undoes that aloneness. I think that's such a powerful aspect of the work as you describe it. It's also so powerful in my experience of Dick Schwartz's work in IFS, that it it's kind of undoing aloneness with yourself not that you don't want to get to a place where you're inviting other people in. But, it also just builds such resilience knowing that in a moment like that, a powerfully charged moment, you actually have the capacity to to do something about it. Just you.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Exactly. And in that sort of reminds me to say that when you are connecting to yourself in that way, one has to have the utmost compassion and empathy as though you were relating to your own child or pet who you love or someone that you really cared about that you would never hurt. It's really unconditional love and positive regard, and not shaming yourself not judging yourself. Right? Because fantasy is so fabulous it doesn't hurt anybody. Even though some people get scared you know, when a lot of people that have a lot of trauma or even a little trauma, and I first kind of try to teach them how to do this. They... Guilt comes up and they're like," Well I don't feel good about myself. You know good people don't do this," and and I was like, "Well I'll explain. You know, you don't do it out in real life. That's what we're trying to to prevent." But, the capacity to use fantasy is very, very healthy and that's why it's so important when you have little children to use imaginative play and even as parents listening that when you're one child let's say wants to hit your other child, when they're young, because it's not always easy to have a sibling. Just use this as an example. You don't kind of block the anger and say no you have to love your your sister or brother, and, and we don't hit, you have to find a way to, to accept and to channel it, like we don't hit grown ups and we don't say mean thing -- we don't say we don't hit people and we don't say mean things to people. But here's this doll you can imagine it's your sister. And we can beat it up together and have a good old time. And that way the kid is learning to sublimate -- how to use emotions and play at the exact same time and that it doesn't have to be a toxic experience that the emotions are validated and they have to be released. And it doesn't have to be with again beating up like or even a fantasy of beating up like I just shared about myself. It could be writing these things out, unedited, just writing what you want to say to someone drawing a picture of what you want to say or do to someone. The idea is to just get it out, and it has to work so we not only have to get it out but you have to sort of the next step after this is do I feel calmer. Do I feel better. And if the answer is no, there's either more to be done or there's inhibitory emotions that are getting in the way and complicating it or other emotions that need tending. And it may be that you need to bring it to someone who is a professional to help you do this.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I was going to say this could be a good place to get support. Especially at something. If you're like, Oh, that feels like a big river of rage or grief or whatever it is. Well great. Like it's awesome that you identified that and sit with someone who knows how to help, how to hold you in that.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Exactly. Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Well what a rich conversation. And before we go today, Hilary I'm wondering if we can just take a moment to bring this back into the relational realm and, and talk about how, like, if you identify something going on with your partner or something is going on with you and we've talked about taking this space so that you can process and metabolize, is there a way to bring what you now know about the change triangle, maybe into your connections so that you and your partner can now be on the same team with seeing how this dynamic is at work as the two of you come together? What's a good first step, I think, for people to bring this into their relationship?

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes. Well, what what I would say as a, as a good first step is to make sure that both of you have the exact same information. So when possible, I really wrote the book to be used in many ways as a, as a workbook and to read the book together with your partner and to go through the exercises gives you just that, you're on the same page. And even though it will take practice over a lifetime to work it together. That at least you have the same bit of knowledge and you've gone through the same exercises which are pretty simple and, and, and, and, and just to say why I put case examples is because emotions have to be experienced. How do you help somebody get a sense for an experience? And that had to be through the stories. So, I would say just to make sure that the person that you're wanting to connect with has some basic emotion education. And...

Neil Sattin: Perfect.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: And then after that established ground rules. I wrote a little blog on this for, for, for how to find your life partner on medium that you want to establish ground rules that you won't be mean that nobody is going to attack or retaliate in ways that are dangerous and hurtful and that you don't abandon, so that if a conversation has to stop because it gets hard, and one person gets too anxious, then you then you have to be able to say to each other. I'm overwhelmed I'm not able to really think as I'm talking to you, anymore. Let's take a break but we'll come back and finish this because really in relationships all there, all there is is talking. You have to just keep talking. And then lastly I would say is you want to try to use the change triangle to make sure that, that both people are relating as much as possible from a core place. Either from that openhearted state or from the emotional state of the core emotions where you're saying, you're using I statements like, "I'm afraid," "I feel anger about this," "I feel sadness about this," as opposed to you, you, you, you, you. And that, when you're, when both people move to the top of the triangle, when you're either you're they're anxious or ashamed or guilty or defensive, you really have to stop. Like, I make a time out motion when I'm working with couples or even working in my own relationship, let's stop and then I say let's rewind to where we were going fine and then somehow we went off the rails and then it's usually a miscommunication, or let's stop and take a break and calm down and let's come back tomorrow again sit and have coffee or tea and begin again and see where did we go wrong, where, where, literally if you sort of track moment to moment: You're having a discussion. Everything is going fine. I want to talk about you know, why we, we don't have more fun together and then all of a sudden one person starts to get anxious or you start to, one person starts to get angry then you can literally stop and say, "Let's rewind to right before you, like I felt like I was with you we were connected and then all of a sudden I said, 'Well I don't really you know. You know, you're no fun anymore.' And then I noticed you got defensive." And then that's where you have to work because the person might say, "Yeah. When you told me that I wasn't fun anymore it hurt my feelings. And then I, I went up into the top of the triangle. I started to get defensive."

Neil Sattin: That's great. And, and I see to this opportunity for couples who really start to get this together to like, in a state of shame or anxiety or guilt those inhibitory emotions to learn how to show up for each other in those moments to help, settle whatever is going on or to help navigate their partner back into a place of like feeling understood or seen, and that might be a good, a good return visit for you on the show to talk a little bit more about how how they can collaborate in a moment like that to bring themselves back to a core emotional state.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yeah I would love to.

Neil Sattin: Hilary Jacobs Hendel, thank you so much for being here. If people want to learn more about your work where can they find you?

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: I have a website with tons of free resources all about emotions and that's Hilary-Jacobs-Hendel-dot-com. Or you could just google "the change triangle" and you can also get there by going to "the-change-triangle-dot-com," and there's articles that I've written for major media outlets. There's my blog which the titles are pretty explanatory of what they're about. And then there's a tool box section that has a lot of resources. So that would be the best place. I also have a youtube channel, so I could go over and explain certain aspects of this and I do something called 1 minute videos on emotional health, because everybody's so busy and nobody has an attention span anymore, so that's "The Change Triangle" YouTube station and then my Website. And then of course the book is the whole enchilada because it was what I did is it's got exercises so that you work The Change Triangle along with me as I'm working The Change Triangle with the people in my practice and then there's little bits of no jargon science to explain what's going on because I wouldn't have been interested in any of this had it not been deeply grounded in current neuroscience. That was really important to me. So, that's really gives you the whole kind of flavor of what's going on.

Neil Sattin: Great. And again the book is called "It's Not Always Depression" and we will have links to all of that on the page for this episode where you can download the transcript. And that's Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-triangle or as always you can text the word passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. Hilary...

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Yes. Can I just say one more thing?

Neil Sattin: Yeah of course.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: The book just won two book awards that won the 2018 Best Book Award for psychology and mental health, and the Nautilus Award for personal growth. So I just wanted to share that because I'm hoping that people will read this book and that eventually the, our entire society will be very well educated from an emotional standpoint. I think it can really change things for the better.

Neil Sattin: Absolutely and congratulations on those awards. They are well-deserved. You definitely have a gift from taking all of this information and making it really practical for people who read the book. So, big recommend for me.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel: Thank you. Thank you.

Jun 4, 2019

As much as we don't like to admit it, we all hold a vivid image in our minds of our partner at their worst. When things start to go a bit off the rails in our relationship, this negative image can sometimes be all we see. And the bad news is, your partner also holds a core negative image - of you! Thankfully, we also have a core *positive* image - which is part of what keeps us in relationship when things get challenging. Based on the groundbreaking work of Terry Real, the core negative image is an important tool in elevating your relationship. In today's episode, you'll learn why it's so important to get to know the core negative images that are at play in your relationship - and also how to use these negative images to help improve your relationship. Don't deny that they're there - know them and use them as a force for good!

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Or email YOUR recorded questions to questions (at) relationshipalive dot com.


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May 23, 2019

What do you do if you want to have conversations about emotions with your partner, and all they want to do is talk about how they think about things? Or vice versa? In today’s episode, we dropped in with Sue Johnson for a few minutes to get her take on this question. Sue Johnson is the author of “Hold Me Tight” and the creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) - and has trained thousands of couples therapists in her methods. Sue also reveals one thing that you can do, today, to add positive energy to ANY relationship.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship

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Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Sue Johnson.

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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Satin. Today we're gonna do something a little bit different. We are going to dive in quickly with one of the world experts on relationships to get answers to some of your questions. I dropped into the relationship alive community on Facebook and said, "Hey if you had 10 minutes to talk with Sue Johnson, today's guest, what would you ask her?" And then I was like, "asking for a friend. Okay, I'm asking for myself." And so we got some great questions from people and so I wanted to take this opportunity to ask them and to share just a few moments with our guest - as I mentioned her name is Sue Johnson, she is one of the world's experts on relationships and specifically on how we use attachment theory and attachment science to build stronger bonds with our partner and to thrive in connection. It's also a great way to understand when things are going south, why they're going south, and how to rebuild your relationship.

Neil Sattin: Sue Johnson is also the creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy also known as EFT, and has trained thousands of therapists around the world in using EFT, to help couples. And it is one of the methods that has been empirically shown through research to be effective at helping couples build stronger relationships. Sue has been on the show before. If you've been a long-time listener, you know that. To listen to any of her other episodes, you can visit, S-U-E, and then a number. And so, there's just sue or there's sue2 and sue3 she's been on all of those times. So this will be sue4. And we will have a detailed transcript as always, that you can get by visiting that URL or by texting the word PASSION to the number 33444 and following the instructions. Sue Johnson, so great to be here with you again, on Relationship Alive.

Sue Johnson: Hey, it's always fun. Nice to be here.

Neil Sattin: Great, great, so thank you for being willing to just jump in and go with a few quick questions. As opposed to our long conversations that we often have. It's so easy to talk to you for a long time 'cause there's so much to say about this topic. Let's start with, I thought this was a great question. And this comes up all the time, what can you do if you're in a relationship where one person loves to talk about emotions and feelings and have those conversations and the other person would rather talk about things and events and when you start having an emotional conversation with that person they start to shut down. And that often creates this dynamic where they're each kind of wanting more of the other or in some cases less of the other. What advice would you give a couple in that situation? And maybe you could speak to both members of the couple and how they might come to a better place.

Sue Johnson: Well, if we saw a couple like that in EFT, in therapy or if we saw a couple like that in one of our educational groups, our Hold Me Tight groups, we would get them to talk about just what you said, to talk about the process. Everybody stays with the content, and with their own kind of dilemmas and their own kind of issues. And from that point of view all you're left with is that these two people are different. Yup people are different. Everybody's basically incompatible on some level but they're not. Because you can talk about the process. So if I was sitting down with that couple, I would ask the person who wanted to talk about emotion, "Could you share with your partner what's happening for you and what it's like for you, when you're... What is so important for you about wanting to share your heart?" And you make it simple. That's the other thing, "What is so important for you about wanting to share your heart, about wanting to understand something about your partner's emotions? Can you help him understand that?" And the person might say, "Well yeah, there's times in the relationship where I kind of feel lonely, it's like I'm in a relationship, but I can't quite put my hand on you Tom, I don't quite know where you are, I don't quite know how you're feeling about me, and I kind of feel lonely."

Sue Johnson: And when people talk on this process level, it's usually new to the other person. The other person says, "I didn't know that you felt lonely, I felt like you were just fed up with me and that I wasn't emotional enough for you." So this is how it kind of goes. Usually the person who's looking for this emotional connection is saying, "Where are you, where are you, where are you? Can you connect with me? I need this emotional connection." And we know how important that is to people. Psychology pathologized that for a long time saying, "Oh no, you shouldn't need that. It's somehow immature." And now, what we're understanding is, no, no, no, it's just who we are. It's how your brain is structured, you're a bonding mammal and you need this sense of connection. So that person would say, "I don't need to talk about my emotions forever." That's the other thing, that people have fears the other person who's more withdrawn or more introverted would say, "Well, like if we start talking about emotions, are we gonna have to talk about it like for a week?" Usually the fear there is, "I'm gonna get overwhelmed." I'm not gonna know how to do it right.

Sue Johnson: So it's important for the person to say, "No, I don't need to talk about emotions for a week, I just need to be able to check in with you and connect." And the other person says, "Oh well, that's really not so hard." And then the other person needs to be able to say, "I'm slower than you. I'm more externally focused than you. I'm not as embedded as you in my emotions. I need to think about it a bit and I'm not always sure how I feel. And if I'm gonna share with you my emotions then you got to like understand that. And I also wanna connect about other things." The joke with me and my husband is that, his favorite place to go is a hardware store.


Sue Johnson: So I can't remember where we were, we were somewhere exotic. Oh, we were on this beautiful little island, a couple of days ago. And we're wandering around after coffee, and my husband's looking across the street and he's looking at the hardware store, and I said, "No. You don't wanna go in the hardware." He said, "I just wanna go in and find... " Right, so I wanna go look in the art galleries, he wants to go to the hardware store. The point is, if you can talk about them and talk about your needs and your softer feelings, and you can be responsive to your partner, you can deal with all kinds of differences. Tricky part is, that so many of us, that's not what happens.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Sue Johnson: What happens is we get stuck. We get stuck. The person who's wanting connection gets upset and angry and says, "You never talk to me." And that's a challenge and it's an accusation, really. And then the other person feels like they're failing, they can't do what they're partner wants and they say, "Well I don't wanna talk right now, I'm busy right now." So they shut down more; the more they shut down, the more the other person gets upset, and that is what brings so many people into seeing someone like me. And that's what I try to lay out for people in my book for the public, Hold Me Tight, because so many people don't understand that we can get trapped there, and then the dance takes us over. And before you know where you are, the other person looks like the enemy, and looks like somebody who's so different than you, that you don't even know what to do with it. So it's a good question. And we think it's always about gender, but it's not always. I've worked with folks where it's the man saying, "I wanna talk to you or I wanna get close." And it's the woman saying, "What are you talking about? I come home from my law practice, I'm exhausted." And so people have to be able to be emotionally accessible and open and responsive to each other. It's not about making cognitive deals. Cognitive deals, they don't go to the right level. It's about being able to share what's going on with you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sue Johnson: I don't know if I've answered your question. Have I answered your... I think I have.

Neil Sattin: You have. Yeah, in detail. And one little point about that, that I'm curious about, because I was thinking about the question and thinking, "Okay, so we reached this point." As you said, it used to be pathologized when someone was emotional in a relationship. How do we avoid pathologizing the other partner who is less emotionally oriented?

Sue Johnson: I think what we've learned over the years in emotionally focused therapy, is we think of emotions and how we deal with emotions as somehow random or irrational. And what we've learned over the years is emotions aren't irrational for a start, there's always a good reason for why you feel the way you feel. Emotions are all about telling you what matters in the world and what is important for your survival. And people have very good reasons. They have learned to focus on certain things and to deal with their emotions in a certain way to survive. And they're standing in front of you, so it worked, it worked on some level.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Sue Johnson: And now, that's what they know how to do. So I remember working with a man who could hardly... He could not look into his wife's face, for sure, and talk about his inner world. If he was going to do it, he had to go very slowly and stare at the rug, stare at the carpet. But what he told me was, he grew up in a very violent family, where the music to their dance was all kind of hostility and rage and violence all the time. So any time he heard that music, his brain would go into alarm. And his brain would start looking for ways out. And he needed to be able to tell this partner that, but they were very good reasons why when she would up the emotional music, he would start to freeze and go still.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Sue Johnson: And there's no point in telling him that's bad or you mustn't do that, that doesn't help at all. The most useful thing is to say, "Well, you must have a very good reason for that. Obviously, that was important for you to be able to do that right now. And can you tell your wife how can she help you? How can she help you not move immediately into that shutdown?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sue Johnson: He said, "Oh, she can talk slowly." And his wife roared with laughter, because, of course, she spoke very fast.


Neil Sattin: Totally.

Sue Johnson: He said, "She can speak slowly, because everyone in my family spoke very fast and all this fast emotional stuff coming at me, and I feel like I'm in a hail of bullets." Listen to his image, "I'm in a hail of bullets, I'm gonna get hurt."

Neil Sattin: Right.

Sue Johnson: No, we must not pathologize. People have certain ways of regulating their emotions. And the thing about that is, if we accept them and we understand them, people can then add to them. Relatively withdrawn folks can learn to come out and talk about what's happening inside and know that it works, and that the other person listens and actually it creates connection. And people who are really hungry for emotional connection, for all kinds of good reasons, could also learn to trust another person and to not have everything so urgent all the time. Like, "You've got to speak to me now."

Neil Sattin: Right.

Sue Johnson: Can translate into, "Basically I know you care for me, and I'm gonna take a deep breath here, and I'm gonna give you some space after you come home from work. And I'm gonna trust that, then if I come and talk to you, you'll be willing to talk to me."

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sue Johnson: So it's a lot of distress in relationships comes from partners triggering each other and ending up feeling disconnected and insecure, rejected, or abandoned. And as human beings, what people don't get is that feeling rejected and abandoned by someone you count on, your brain translates that into a danger, straight danger, just like walking up on a freeway, crossing a freeway is danger. Your brain says, "Uh-oh, emotional isolation. If you call no one will come. Danger!" Right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Sue Johnson: And people don't understand how they trigger each other.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And so the words that come up to mind for me is: One, I'm hearing that there's this sense of moderation. The "emotional person," I'm putting that in quotes, like learning how to be emotional without overwhelming another person. And the less emotional person learning like, I don't think anyone is devoid of emotions, but learning like, "Oh, there's actually something happening here." And it could be useful, it doesn't have to overwhelm the system. But it's not like you're gonna turn a non-emotional person into emotional person unless they discover some joy in that. I'm reminded of a conversation with...

Sue Johnson: I think that's a good point. Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm reminded of a conversation with Dan Siegel, where he talks about... He was doing mindfulness work with someone who was in their 80s or 90s and woke that person up to their physical sensation and their emotional experience, and suddenly the world was a rich place where they really wanted to be and we're enjoying it more. It's not to say that that's required, but I think that's available for people if they're willing to dip their toe into that water.

Sue Johnson: Yes, and also in relationships, the bottom line is, relationships are all about emotion, relationships are a dance, and the emotion is the music, and relationships are all about emotion. So when I'm working with a couple and one partner says something pretty loaded they're like, "Well, sometimes I think about leaving. I get so desperate I think about leaving." And I say to the other person, who might be the rather shutdown person, "What's happening for you?" And they say, "Nothing." I mean, I deal with it respectfully, but the bottom line is, in my head I say, "No. That's impossible. If you care about this person and you're not dead, and you're not a lizard, you are feeling, because she just sparked alarm in your mammalian brain. In your mammalian brain that knows that emotional isolation and losing someone who's a huge resource for you and who you depend on is a safety cue. Your mammalian brain knows that, your whole nervous system sings that song." So when people say, "No. I feel nothing." I just go, "Aha!"

Neil Sattin: Right. And I think with what you're... Go ahead.

Sue Johnson: Then I say, "Let's try that again. She turned to you and she's dead." And I run it past his amygdala again and finally he says, "Well, well, well, I don't know. I just wanna get out of here." So then he starts to tell me, "My body tells me to just get out of here. So then we go with that." And the whole thing opens up. We haven't taught people to trust their emotions and listen to them and make them their friend, we haven't taught therapists that. We've taught people that emotions are sort of dangerous stuff, they get out of control, they're associated with women. [chuckle] Women kind of going hysterical.

Neil Sattin: What's wrong with that?

Sue Johnson: Yeah, that's a bad idea. So there's a lot of interesting stuff in our society about putting rationality on a pedestal and ditching our emotional realities, actually, when the bottom line is, it's our emotions that organize our inner world and it's our emotions that organize the signals we send to others and the way we dance with others. So from my point of view, we might as well get to know them and start to use them well, but then I do something called emotion-focused therapy. So I am gonna feel that way.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. Thank you so much. I'm wondering before we go, 'cause I promised something quick, and it's so easy to talk to you, and we could keep talking about that very topic, probably for an hour.

Sue Johnson: We could.

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering if you'd be willing to just... Anyone listening, if they wanted to do one thing today that would infuse their relationship with some positive energy, and if they're not in a relationship maybe just infuse their relationships with others in their life with some positive energy. What's one thing that they might be able to do? They turn off this podcast and they can go and do it today.

Sue Johnson: Oh my goodness, there's so many things you could do.

Neil Sattin: I know, I know.

Sue Johnson: There's so many things you could do. What we see when couples have repaired their relationship or when they've gone through our education groups, is that they reach for each other. They reach for each other, and they risk sharing. So that's what we do when relationships are working. So that doesn't have to be a big thing. I worked with somebody last week, for a whole week. This young woman was helping me, and at some point during the evening I looked across at her face and I saw... And she was starting to talk about something and I saw the emotional music change and her face change, and I suddenly really got in my body that this was something... She was in pain, she was certainly in pain. She wasn't just chatting anymore, she was in pain. And usually, I don't know what we do with that, we kind of don't want to embarrass the person, so we stay away. And I just had this incredible feeling, so I saw that she was vulnerable, so I reached.

Sue Johnson: So what did I do? I didn't want to embarrass her, so I just went around the table and sat beside her and put my hand on her arm and looked at her. What I was saying to her, we do so much non-verbal. What I said to her with my eyes was, "I see that you're in pain." And she just turned into my neck for a minute. Some other people at the table might not even have noticed. She just turned into me for a minute and put her hand on my hand. It was like, "I see you. I see you and I care that you are there." And so, I reached to her and she... It's like her whole body told me, "Thank you. Thank you for this." People love it when we see them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sue Johnson: We do this with our dogs, we do this with babies, we forget the adults want it too.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sue Johnson: My dog will come and drop his toy at my feet, and I'll say, "Oh, you want to play? You're such a good dog." And my dog will quiver in joy. Why can't we do that with people? Just see them, see them and respond to them. It's so powerful, and in our busy lives, we don't do that very... We don't listen, we don't honor, we don't say, it's like we say to people with our actions, "I see you. We're two human beings on this planet. In this short little time we have here, I see you. I'm with you, you're not alone here, you matter." That's a very powerful message.

Neil Sattin: I agree. Such a gift to give someone else your care, your attention, to actually see them fully. Thank you so much, Sue, for joining us for this quick dive into your world and your world of relationships.

Sue Johnson: So is this sue4?

Neil Sattin: This is sue4.

Sue Johnson: It is sue4 and do I improve every time, Neil?

Neil Sattin: I think we both improve. I think we both do.

Sue Johnson: Okay, that was very insensitive of me. Yes, you do improve, Neil. We both improve every time. That's right. Okay.

Neil Sattin: Thank you so much for your willingness to join today and yeah, for you listening, to check out the transcript and download it. And Sue, I'm so looking forward to talking with you again sometime soon.

Sue Johnson: Yes. Take care.

Neil Sattin: Take care.


May 15, 2019

Remember that spark you had with your partner when you first met? Butterflies in your stomach. Constantly checking for a text message or call from them. Daydreaming about your next date. Well, how do you get that back after you’ve settled into a routine of work, home, dinner, dishes, mouthguard, sleep? How about after a year? Five years? Or even a decade? Today you’ll learn how to use mindfulness techniques rediscover what’s amazing about your partner. Today’s guest is Dr. Cheryl Fraser. Cheryl combines her knowledge of how the mind works from a psychological and Buddhist perspective with her mission to help people create sexy, passionate, playful relationships. She’s also the author of Buddha’s Bedroom: The Mindful Loving Path to Sexual Passion and Lifelong Intimacy.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Check out Buddha’s Bedroom on Amazon

Visit Cheryl Fraser’s website

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

Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Tammy Nelson.

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Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We’ve covered lots of aspects of how to develop true intimacy with your partner: how to communicate well, how to understand each other, how to get past your triggers. Today, I want to focus on how to bring that mindful connection that you’re developing with your partner into the bedroom. So that you can have passionate, thrilling, sexual connection with your partner. Because often that’s, if not part of why we’re in relationship, it’s a big part of why we’re in a relationship. In fact, recently I put the question out to the relationship alive community on facebook: “How important is sex to you?” and there were very few people who said “yeah, it’s not a big deal to me.” Almost everyone, without a doubt, talked about how important a sexual, intimate connection was. So there’s the intimacy, that’s your closeness, your connectedness, and then there’s your ability to bring that intimacy into the way you connect in the bedroom with your partner.

And today we have an expert in that very topic to chat with us. Her name is Doctor Cheryl Fraser, and she is the author of Buddha’s Bedroom: The Mindful Loving Path to Sexual Passion and Lifelong Intimacy. And, Cheryl actually reached out to me and sent me a copy of her book, and I was just really moved by how simple it is, and yet how powerful the results can be for you. So, I’m really excited to have her here on the show. As usual, we will have a detailed transcript and show guide with relevant links. To download that, all you have to do is visit -- and that stands for Buddha’s Bedroom. So I’m making it really easy for you. Or, you can as always text the word “Passion” to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

So let’s dive right in to the bedroom with Buddha and Doctor Cheryl Fraser. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Cheryl Fraser: It’s so much my pleasure. So happy to be talking with you.

Neil Sattin: Well, before we can get into bed, let’s talk about the way that you start your book which I love, which is bringing mindfulness to your relationship, and the sense that our partners aren’t there to make us happy. And how that desire for our partner to be that for us is at the root of so much unhappiness. So, before we can get really bed into partners, we often have this obstacle of feeling the resentments that we’ve stored about them. Or that abrasiveness that is actually an obstacle to the closeness, to the openness, to being there in a sexual way. So, how did you arrive there, and what, what is our good entry point here. Maybe it’s just with the Buddha, and how the Buddha’s teaching really do apply to the misery, the potential misery, of relationship as well as the bliss and joy.

Cheryl Fraser: Yes. Well, I think the short handle there is that great love and great sex are all in our head. And that ultimately is absolutely true. When I’m in love with you, it’s in my head. When I’m disgruntled with you, it’s in my head. When I’m horny, it’s in my head, even if it’s in my body. That’s why we can have an orgasm in our sleep, with absolutely no physical contact. Because actual eroticism and sexual response is also in our heads. So, you know, the title of the book, is a little bit controversial in some circles. I’m a card-carrying buddhist, whatever that is, I’ve been studying for 25 years, and I teach buddhism in long retreats, and I’m studied in Tibet and India etcetera. And “Buddha’s Bedroom” is a bit of a misnomer, in that Buddha was a celibate monk after the age of, about, early twenties. After he left his pleasure palace, and his concubines, and his wife, and his infant child, to go discover the root of suffering.

So. Why would we put Buddha in the Bedroom? Because ultimately the teachings of buddhism, and whether you’re a secular person, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, whatever your religious or philosophical bent is, the beautiful thing about the teachings of buddhist philosophy, is they’re simply about training your mind and looking at your experience, whatever your belief and religious system are, how do we bring that to love and sex, which is the root of your question.

So in essence, whether I’m happy or not happy is in my mind. And that applies directly to our relationships. So I’ll give a very simple example.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Cheryl Fraser: Let’s say after this interview, you and I have to drive somewhere, we’ve got a meeting. And we each go out to our car after we hang up from each other, and we’ve each got a flat tire. So what happens next is entirely up to our head. Do we have a tantrum? “This is a terrible day, I’m going to be late for my interview, oh no, this is a disaster, why does this always happen to me!” None of that has anything to do with the tire. It’s completely due to my mind’s reaction to reality. Reality is I have a flat tire. So let’s say, I’m going to make me the bad guy and you’re going to be the enlightened one here Neil. Let’s say I’m the one that’s having a tantrum, and I’m freaking out “Wahh!!!” meanwhile Neil goes out to his car, and is a highly civilized human being, and sees his flat tire, and says “Oh, ok, that happened. I’ll have to adjust my plan now.”

The difference between you and I is in our minds, and our mind’s reaction to reality in that moment. I freak out, and my mind goes into suffering and dismay, and creates my problem. Not the flat tire. You have the same real issue, the car won’t work in the way you need it to in here and now. And you simply go “Ok, that happened. Reality changed. And I, Neil, am going to go with the flow, and make a new plan. Call a friend, grab a bus, reschedule your appointment.” This is so simple. We all know that from our daily experience, when we react to something, that’s when we suffer. That’s Buddhism 101. How does that apply to love? Well, let’s say my sweet heart comes home today, and he promised he was going to get cat food. Now, my sweetheart has adult ADD, he’s a little bit forgetful. So let’s say he promised to get Cat Food. I texted him, “Hey hon, remember the cat food.” Because that’s part of our relationship agreement around his forgetting things. And he walks in, and we all know where this is heading, blissfully happy to see me, gives me a hug and a kiss, the cat’s meowing, where’s the cat food, his face falls. In that moment, reality is I have a person who’s forgotten to buy cat food. That’s all that’s happened. But what happens next can often be, and I’m not proud to admit that I’ve often gone there: “Oh, for goodness sakes. I can’t rely on you, I texted you, couldn’t you just check the phone before you leave the store. You know, what’s the deal.”

I am suffering but it’s in my mind. It’s certainly not the cat food. It’s certainly not the cat’s fault. And arguably, and this is where it gets challenging, arguably my misery isn’t because my partner did or didn’t do something. My misery is because I don’t like reality. I don’t like the reality that they did or didn’t do something. So to your point in your introduction, about whether we are ever in the right relationship, or can we be happy in our relationship. I’m fond of saying we all marry or fall in love with the wrong person if we expect them to make us happy all the time.

And the first quarter of the book is really about this teaching of examine your mindset, and don’t change your mate, change your mind. So most of the small or medium distresses in our relationship, sexually, romantically, communication wise, how we handle the chores, how we handle the commitments at christmas time -- whatever that is. The small and the medium distress, pain, annoyance, anger -- most of that we can get on top of that if we work with our mind. We can say “Oh, I’m so frustrated with Neil right now!” I can look at my mind, I can look at the emotion, I can feel the emotion in my body, I can look at the story: “Neil’s so unpredictable, he makes promises and he breaks them, nah nah nah.” I can harness that in, and ideally calm my body, calm my mind. Do a stretch, do a little meditation, go for a walk with the dog, and come back and say “Hey babe. I need to talk to you about something that’s really bothering me.” So when we take all of that, it sounds complex, it’s actually reasonably simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. But it’s reasonably simple to say “My mind is the root of my experience.” How I engage with you, my beloved, is, in reality we’re having engagements, but how my mind interprets them is where I’m either happy or not.” “Oh, I’ve got a hubby who forgets cat food, he’s such a sweetheart.” versus “I can’t rely on you. I’ve got to do everything myself.” Wow those lead down radically different roads.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. And so there are several different paths that I want to go down here. One of them, I just wanted to share, I had this interesting insight when I was reading Buddha’s Bedroom, which was thinking about the question that I’ve often get asked which is, “When I’ve done all this growth, what if I find out that my partner isn’t the person that I’m supposed to be with anymore?” And I think that a lot of what you just said is the answer to that question. Not 100% of the time, but probably 85 to 90% of the time, as long as that growth includes how you process your own stories about your partner and your relationship. And you may find yourself able to connect in totally new ways that aren’t based around the dysfunction that maybe brought you together to begin with. Which is so often the case. So I just wanted to share that because for me, it was actually really inspiring, as a way of saying, yeah you know what, when you reach a new level of growth, you also reach a new level of ability to take a new approach in something that’s problematic in your relationship. That’s part of the growing. And some of that is the relational skill -- it’s how you talk to Neil about the cat food he keeps forgetting. And another part of that is how the inner part of your conversation that’s happening. Recognizing that “Oh, it’s my mind that’s torturing me right now,” and whatever you do to get past that.

And a question that I have for you is around, is around those moments, like, how would you describe someone being, having their story, and getting past their story, but still recognizing, maybe it’s not the cat food, but maybe it is a repeated sense of like, “Oh, in reality I’m noticing that my partner actually doesn’t pay much attention to me.” It’s not like you’re giving the negligent partner a blank check to walk all over the newly practicing buddhist, right?

Cheryl Fraser: No, because that would just create more suffering. And buddhism is all about trying to reduce our suffering not increase it. So let me get a little more clear here, so if we’re becoming a little more aware, and we’re examining our inner experience and our relational experience, and we come to a dawning realization that maybe our partner’s not that great at paying romantic or connected attention to us. That’s partly what you’re putting out. What do we then do with that? And these are such vast, vast questions. And as relationship therapists and coaches, both of us, we know that there’s not pithy answer, but what I’m putting forward as a really important tool in the tool box that’s different than a lot of other relationship advice, is don’t immediately go to “I need to fix this situation.” i.e. teach you, bed you, plead, cajole, bully you into paying more attention to me, in order to be happy. That’s generally where we go. I have to fix the tire in order to be happy. And from buddhist philosophy, it’s a bit of a radical idea for most of us in the west who are not trained this way. Well, you don’t need to fix the tire to be happy. Ipso facto, I don’t need to get my partner to be attentive to me in a specific way that I would enjoy, in order to be happy. Whatttt.

That means I’ve got all this space in which to be happy, with my inattentive, distracted partner. Who I know loves me deeply, and shows me in other ways. It also gives space for the two of us to say “Hey, but with the inattentive, distracted, not romantic part, that is something I would like to work on.” But now I’m working on it from a place of curiosity and wonder and friendship and play and good humored acceptance that that is not your strong suit, instead of pain, demand and almost a cyclical failure experience, where I’m hoping you’ll remember to --

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Cheryl Fraser: Ok, here’s one. Oh, I did not get his permission to share this, I’ll get it retrospectively. I had an experience with my dearly beloved this weekend. It was my birthday, and um, I told him that all I want is something with wrapping paper on it. I said I don’t care if it costs a dollar. It’s not about that. It’s because I love wrapping paper, not because I love wrapping paper, but because of what it indicates to me. Which is a thoughtfulness, a bit of precision, a bit of, you know, making something special. It goes back to old patterns, about wanting to make a fuss about my birthday as a kid, and all that good stuff that we have some awareness of. So, my dearly beloved goes and gets me a really sweet little gift. As dog lovers, you and I both Neil, he got me this sweet book on you know dogs and whatever -- lovely book. And, he put it in a bag. Oh, uh, no! I’m telling you we’re set up for a fight now. He put it in a bag, and he left it on the hotel bed, and he left a card, and in the card, he said all sorts of loving things that were beautiful. And he said, “And redneck wrapping.” Now, redneck wrapping, meaning “I threw it in a bag! I didn’t get [TK AGAINST TAPE].” And I was not a very good buddhist, or a very good sex therapist, or a very good relationship therapist, or a very good wife, or a very good person in that moment. I kind of freaked out. “All I asked for was for it to be wrapped! I just wanted it to be wrapped!” And I actually had some tears, I was very tired, it had been a very long week. Now, if I had practiced what I preached, which I try to, as much as possible, I would have said “How cool! That’s his way of wrapping. This is my sweetheart. It’s kind of funny. It’s kind of cute. It’s kind of quirky. We’re different people.”

So, just to bring this back together and to summarize it for our listeners. When I accept responsibility for my mind’s reaction to reality, it frees me up to accept reality the way it is, and be not upset. It also frees me up to say, “Ok, I’m not really upset, but we can talk a little bit about the wrapping paper in the future? What I would really love, if is on special occasions, if you got paper, because it’s symbolic to me. It just lights me up. You’ll get great return on your investment because I’ll be so thrilled.” But instead of doing it from a place of pain and hurt, and the place we usually dialogue about problems. So, I don’t want listeners to think that “Oh, my goodness, I have to accept every shortcoming in my relationship, from now on, because it’s my fault that my head isn’t happy with it.” No, no. That isn’t what we’re saying. But we’re giving people a super powerful tool, to add to the way we usually do relationship. Work on our head as well as the interaction between you and I. And find a way to be happy, and joyful, and horny, and in love, and curious -- regardless of what’s going on for our sweetheart. And then maybe, take their hand and ask them to jump into that playground with us, when we’re at our best. Cajole them out of their stuck place instead of trying to berate them, or guilt them, or harunge them out of that place. I think you and I have both experienced professionally and personally -- it doesn’t work all that well.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, as soon as we are coming at people with, what in the dog training world we call negative reinforcement, as soon as that is happening, they’re going into their shame, and feeling unworthy, and that’s not a place where any good problem solving is happening. And certainly, where the connection, also, isn’t happening. I love that example that you gave, because your husband clearly he was thinking that -- he was probably thinking that he was getting at what you were asking for. He acknowledged it even. But he didn’t really get what you were asking for in the end, because, what you wanted was fairly simple. But he missed that point.

Cheryl Fraser: And I love him anyway. And we redeemed the weekend. And often it wouldn’t have gone that way, but you know, the trifecta was there: the exhaustion, the working too much, and hadn’t had much time together, and all that stuff. I’m a human being in relationships, so are you. My private practice therapy office is upstairs from my home. You and I are speaking from my home right now. And I often say to my beautiful patients I get to work with, the couples I work with, I say, you know, “There’s upstairs Cheryl, and she’s awesome. And then there’s downstairs Cheryl, and I’m a lot less skilled down here.”

[Everyone laughs]

But, all of us should be that self revelatory and not set ourselves up. Because even though, I’m literally considered a sex and love expert, that doesn’t mean it’s easy in the trenches of real life with real human beings. That helps keep us humble, and it keeps us always searching and looking for ways to bring this beautiful work to people to do something that is sacred and profound. Which is to choose to walk through life with a person. And we learn if we’re older than 16 or so, that it’s not as easy as we thought it would be, and that soul mates don’t exist, and that Walt Disney sold us a bill of goods, and we should all sue him. [LAUGHTER] There is no happily ever after, at least by itself.

Neil Sattin: So I think they have some money, so I think we should put a class action suit together, and go after Disney. Yeah, yeah, and I think that this is so true, that what we’re after is not this idea of a perfect relationship where nothing goes wrong. In fact, my latest catch phrase has been “the perfectly imperfect relationship.” That, that’s part of it. That it’s not that nothing ever happens it’s how you show up, it’s how you handle those things that inevitably go wrong that show you how strong you are, and actually I think are just as valuable as the blissful bedroom moments, are the moments where you survive something with your partner that was tough. That maybe in the past would have really derailed you. And you realize, “Wow, we did that in five minutes, which would have before taken us five days, or five months.” And that’s a real beautiful level of resilience, that you only get to if you’re doing the inner and the outer work that you’re talking about.

Cheryl Fraser: Yeah, there are no easy relationships, other than maybe in the first few months. And it’s the work, and the joy, and the … I think the old fashioned wedding vows are so profound: better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health. And I’d love us to remember that, that’s love. Not “you’re so perfect, and you’ll keep me happy forever, yay!” I mean, that’s naive, and, it’s not bad, goodness knows I’m not anti-romance, I love romance. But I love reality too. But the first part of the book, and we’ll probably move on to passion and stuff now, but the first part is sketching out the fundamental philosophy of using your mind in the way we’ve been talking about, as one way to approach your relationship, to increase your happiness and your connection, and avoid the pitfalls of having your day ruined because there’s a flat tire. Cuz nobody’s days ruined by having a flat tire. Your day is ruined by your mind, not the tire.

Neil Sattin: And I want to highlight too that you offered this really profound view of self responsibility. That it’s not only about your happiness, it’s also about your horniness, or about your attention to a quiet moment. It’s what you’re bringing in every single moment, to that moment, is something that you have a say in, that you can bring awareness to. And what I love about these kinds of conversations, that now that you have heard us say this, you will not be able to experience the moment the same way ever again. You’ll experience it, and you’ll recognize, “Oh, wow I’m really unhappy right now.” And it will give you the opportunity, to ask yourself “What is my story that I’m telling myself right now.”

Cheryl Fraser: Yes, yes. The phrase I use right now, that I bet you resonated with, is that we are story making machines. Right? I know you do that a lot of that in your work, and your teaching on this podcast and your other venues. It’s so important. What’s the story right now? And is it working for me! If the story is “You’re the worst husband ever, and all I wanted was wrapping paper, and nobody loves me!” That’s a dumbass story. I mean, what good is that doing me, what good is that doing me to the evening? Sure, we’re flooded with biochemistry, we all know when we’re in this story that it’s not always easy to snap our fingers and turn the page. Fair enough. But at least when we can realize that we’re stuck on a yucky page of the book, and this story is destructive, we can at least begin the process of stepping away, calming our self, finding our grounding, maybe hugging and holding our partner, letting our parasympathetic nervous system take over the sympathetic fight or flight, calm our self. And then we can probably turn the page, to a blank page and start again. Not easy, but profoundly beautiful to take that as a challenge personally, and with our partner if they’re willing to engage with some of that study with us. We can do with or without them being fully on board, like much relationship work, but to say: “I’m interested in re-writing my love story one mindful breath at a time,” is how I sometimes put it.

Neil Sattin: I love that, I love that. And as we bring our attention to the moment, this is like a perfect segue I think, because I think for one thing I think a beautiful remedy for those really triggered moments is how you presence yourself. You know, our limbic system is lost in this sense that the tiger is chasing us. So being able to bring yourself into presence with your partner and talk about what is literally happening, I think is part of the mindfulness that you’re advocating for. Is that you seperate your story from what is actually happening, what the reality is that you maybe don’t like, but this is reality. And that can bring you into “I’m here, in this room, with my partner, they’re standing in front of me, we’re both breathing, the cat is meowing,” whatever is happening, that that brings you back into the moment, and once you’re there, all those systems start to come back online. And now let’s talk about how being in the moment is so important to revitalizing the sexual passion that so many people lose, and I’m putting “lose” in quotes. Because I love how you talk about how that’s never really gone, that it’s there within us. So yeah, how does our mindfulness and being moment focused get us back into passionate connection with our partner.

Cheryl Fraser: Oh! My favorite topic. So the first chunk of the book is laying out what we’ve been talking about, the mindset and some of the fundamental teachings about how to use your mind to, to interpret reality and be happy regardless of reality, flat tire or no. Then I move into, I chunk it into what I call the “Passion Triangle,” I’ll briefly lay it out, and then I think you and I are going to focus on one or two key piece of that. When I talk about how to help people create, or become, or uncover, or revitalize, or reignite passion, I break into down into three keys to passion as a way for people to remember it. And I use the structure of the triangle, because I was told once by an engineer friend that a triangle is an incredibly stable structure. And if you want to build a big building you want to build it on the variation, and the idea of the triangle. All sides leaning on each other, strongly unshakeable. Isn’t that what we want to build in our love life? All three sides of our relationship leaning on each other strong and unshakeable.

What are the three? I’ll name them. I’ll briefly describe them. I talk about intimacy being the base of your triangle. Thrill being one side of the triangle. And sensuality being the other side. And intimacy is what a lot of your work and my work covers, Neil. Which is I don’t use intimacy here as an euphemism for sex. I use it as a psychological, emotional communication, even spiritual connection. That sense of knowing each other and being known. What John Gottman and team call love maps, and which many other people talk about being seen by you, being heard by you, ups and downs, the little stuff, the big stuff. True intimacy grows over time, months and years, through what you were just about, the ups and downs, the things we go through, and maybe we can stand in the middle and survive. Intimacy, key to lifelong passion. Because the kind of passion I’m talking about, isn’t just a wild weekend. I’m talking about sustainable fluctuating alive passion. Sexually, emotionally, romantically and spiritually. So intimacy is really important, we probably won’t talk a lot about it for the rest of this conversation, but a chunk of the book is talking about how to bring mindfulness to your intimacy, and communication practices, mindful apology, things like that.

Thrill and sensuality, are what I think people really respond to as ways to think about their relationship that are cast in a slightly different manner than maybe they’ve heard before. Thrill, I’m talking about the ineffable sense of butterflies in the tummy, and a rush of lust, or excitement through our mind or body, that most of us experience very easily in the beginning of our relationship, when we’re dating, we’re beginning to fall in love. You know in my days, I’m going to date myself a bit here, but it was all about the answering machine light and whether or not it was blinking or not when you walked in the door, you didn’t have the cell phone, so you were at work all day, and you came in at 5:30 or whatever, and immediately look to the corner of the room, where the answering machine sat, and if it was blinking, that meant there was a message! And hopefully it was him or her, and I would go and listen to the message, and it was my grandmother… And I love me my grandmother, but you’re so disappointed. We all know what it was like to be excited and anticipatory, and feeling a rush of thrill. To be at your office desk and to literally a rush of lust in your body when you remember that goodnight kiss from last night. Now what happens three, six or eighteen months down the road? You and I are familiar, and most of your listeners may be, with the findings that there’s a period of what’s called luminessence or numinosity, or whatever we want to call it in the fallin in love stage that is biochemically driven. We’ve got dopamine, we’ve got serotonin, and oxytocin, we’ve got love hormones, we’ve got sexual drive. We’re cave people in cave bodies, and we’re programmed to mate and get it over with! So the pursuit and the chase is very thrilling. Then we move into a phase of what I call “Marriage Incorporated.” Whether or not you’re married, gay, straight, or alternate couples, I’m talking about when we make a dedicated commitment to each other in whatever form. I just call it Marriage Incorporated. And that’s where the thrill is gone. We think, I’ll get back to that, but we think. As the old song says, the thrill is gone. And, we’re doing ok. I love you, you love me, we’ve got the kids, the dogs, the horses, the cats, no cat food, but whatever. We’re good, we’re fine, Neil, we’re fine. I like you, you like me, we’re not looking for an affair, directly, we’re not wanting to divorce, and we have a good time on vacation. And we are running the business of us: the mortgage, the pets, the kids, the activities, your career, my career, you’ve got that podcast, but I’ve got this other thing. We all know this, we are often living that right now. Marriage Incorporated is where the thrill seems to have gone, and we’re in contentment. Now, that’s a natural phase. My work’s about bringing the thrill back, re-infusing Marriage Incorporated, and turning it into Passion Incorporated. I’m going to get to sensuality probably a little later in this conversation, so let’s stay with Thrill right now.

A reminder the three are Intimacy, Thrill and Sensuality. Because you asked me a key question, which is how does the mind, or mindfulness or paying attention, relate to thrill? In every single way. Because when you and I are new it’s novel, and novelty automatically takes care of thrill. I am curious as heck about you, I can’t wait to hear about your day, who your best friend was in school, and what happened to that friendship, where and how you lost your virginity, and how embarrassing was it. I want to know everything, I want to know where you bought that shirt, I want to know what your relationship with your parents are like. It’s easy, we’re organically curious when we’re falling in love. The thrill is based on novelty. You are uncharted territory, and I can’t wait to map every single bit of you. Every inch of your body, and every neuron of your mind. I want to know you.

Neil Sattin: Right, and there’s often some fear, involved there as well that’s often fueling the dopamine and chemicals that are coursing through our bodies.

Cheryl Fraser: Great observation, I am investing, and I’m fearful or anxious or excited that, you know, I’m falling in love with Neil, and I don’t know if he’s going to feel the same way, and am I over playing my hand, all of that is very exciting -- sometimes painfully so. And we then move into contentment, and life and busyness. We get complacent often. And the few of you listening that didn’t, Bravo and Hallelujah. But the majority of us get complacent, and I start to take you for granted. And what was new seems familiar. And it blows my mind when as couples we say, “I don’t really think there’s anything new to learn about my sweetheart.” Are you crazy? Have you met them?? We are vast, we contain multitudes. I think that’s Whitman.

Neil Sattin: Yeah it is.

Cheryl Fraser: Thank you, thank you! You will never know your partner anywhere as deeply as you think you do. As this is where I mentioned affairs. And I just want to ground this in reality for all of us. If you and I are in long term relationship, and our partner loves us and thinks were cool. But they’re not all that interested in our day, or our hopes and dreams right now, we’re not creating time to explore that together, we’re not cultivating thrill, we’ve lost novelty in terms of newness, and we’re not creating novelty with our mind and our activities. And then you and I meet someone at work, or at play or at a conference who’s interested in what we’re interested in. We have a fascinating conversation that is so often the grain of an affair possibility, someone finding us fascinating. So the work I bring with bringing mindfulness and the buddhist philosophy to our love and sex life, is create novelty all over again by what you so cleverly summarized a little bit ago in this conversation. If I show up with you here and now in this conversation, you are freaking fascinating. Even if I’ve slept next to you for the last 26 years. Even if I believe I know everything about you. You are filled with surprises, if only I have the eyes to see. And I think that a very simple way to make this relatable to people, is: Let’s say you and I love chocolate. And I am able to gift you with a tiny sliver of the most gorgeous Belgian truffle, in exactly the flavor and style that you would most love. Even as I say this, my mouth starts to water a little bit, and probably yours, and probably our listeners. And I give this to you, and I say to you “Neil, I want you to take your time, and I want you bring this to your nostrils and have a little scent.” And you’re like “Oh my goodness, it smells delicious.” But then I ask you to place it on your tongue and just leave it there. Just for a few seconds.” And it starts to melt a tiny bit, and I ask you to roll it around, and it’s silky and it’s smooth, you’ve got texture, you’ve got the orgasmic flavor explosion. And then you just enjoy it, you take time, and you swallow, and it’s gorgeous. Right?

Neil Sattin: You’re killing me!

Cheryl Fraser: Oh! Right after this I’m going truffle shopping. And I bet what you do not say to me is “Yeah, whatever. I’ve had a lot of chocolate before.” And the reason is, you’re just showing up here and now with that sliver of truffle. And you’re experiencing it, as though for the first time, and if you’ve had thousands of chocolate -- if you have a two chocolate a day habit, this moment is gorgeous if you focus on it. The power, and the eroticism, of attention. Now, if you were to, and let’s do this together right now. I want you to take your hand, and everybody listening, and just gently stroke the top of your other hand with the fingers. Using my right hand fingers, I’m stroking the top of my left hand. I’m closing my eyes, and I’m focusing on it for a few seconds. And it feels very powerful. Simply because of the special sauce of attention. Imagine kissing like that. Imagine someone licking our thigh like that. That’s the way it felt for the majority of us in the beginning, when we were exploring each other. We were locked and loaded on that sensation, and it was so alive, and it was so erotic, and it was romantic. Not just because it was new, but because we were paying attention. Novelty makes it easy to pay attention, familiarity does not make it easy to pay attention. The first time you drive a tricky mountain road. If you’ve driven it four-thousand times, because your house is at the top, you stop paying attention. So, what’s the point of all that? If you want thrill in the here and now after 27 or 48 years or 30 days, or however long it’s been. It’s your mind paying attention to this truffle, this kiss, this conversation with you, this description of your business meeting today, that makes it alive and passionate. Interest makes us fall in love over and over again. Interest and mindfulness, make thrill perpetual. Instead of simply part of the first few months of our relationship. That part comes automatically. Enjoy the heck out of it! I love falling in love. I love the rush of all that biochemistry and projection and craziness. And when I counsel people on what to do about it, I’m like “Enjoy the freaking ride.” It’s a roller coaster, but just know that you’re on a roller coaster. It’s amazing, it’s intense, you’re in an altered state of consciousness, the biochemistry of falling in love literally mimics the biochemistry of obsessive compulsive disorder in functional MRI machines. We actually are mentally ill when we’re falling in love. Enjoy the heck out if it. And then when it starts to settle, change, shift, and some of the deep work starts to happen, and it’s no longer so perfect, that’s where we can say “Ok, I am interested in boarding the roller coaster volutionally over and over again through our decades together.” That’s my mindfulness, that’s choice, that’s effort. That’s how we can begin to keep thrill alive forever.

Neil Sattin: Great, yeah, that’s exactly how you take charge of your story. If you’re able in the moment to remind yourself, just like I had the ability to choose happiness in this moment, even, no matter what the circumstances are, now I also have the ability to choose attention.

Cheryl Fraser: Yes.

Neil Sattin: To put my attention into this level of fascination. And where my mind went strangely, not necessarily that the words are connected at all, but I was thinking about fastening, like you’re fastening your attention to someone. So you’re fascinated with them. And the way that brings you into joy, also I think, takes you out of that realm of wanting someone to fulfill your expectations. So, and this I think goes into the sensuality piece, right? Because when you’re in the moment, and you’re fascinated, and you’re just enjoying that last sense of the chocolate on your tongue, you don’t want that moment to end. You’re not really thinking of the next piece, right? Because you’re able to bring your attention in that fully. And where so many people get lost, I think, in especially when there’s a disconnected state, where we’ve been in relationship for a long time, and it feels like the chasm between us is vast -- I don’t even know how to get to being sexual with you because I’m so wrapped up with business, and the kids, and the dog and the cat food. So, but the way, it’s such a quick bridge is to be able to give your attention like that to your partner, and to find that fascination. And then, it’s almost like, that question of how we get to the bedroom, in some respects, becomes a lot less important, because you’re enjoying that moment, potentially almost as much, as you would enjoy the bedroom. And it gets you into that enjoyment, which gets you maybe into more of a sensual experience with your partner.

Cheryl Fraser: Yes. I want to comment on a few of those great points before we move into sensuality, I love the idea of fastening and fascination, because there’s actually a fairly esoteric buddhist word to describe deep concentrated attention, which is called Watakka [TK AGAINST TRANSCRIPT] which means to tack onto. Which is to fasten. Where your attention kind of gloms onto this breath, and it’s unshakably there. So you’re intuitively really on that point there, Neil, of fastening and fascination, because you’re the totality of my experience in this present moment. I am focused on you. The truffle. The business proposal. The kiss, etc.

The other thing is sensuality is the word I chose on purpose, and again you intuitively picked up on this. I didn’t call the third side of the triangle “Sexuality” because sensuality is a much broader field in which to play. All five senses: touch, taste, sound, smell, and vision. And, in Buddhist and other teachings, the sixth sense, which is our mind, we can play in that whole realm. So the third side of passion, intimacy, kind of our relational connectedness, psychological work, the delight in communication. Thrill: we’ve talked about here, every moment, being a perfect truffle. No, that doesn’t happen for me either. But I can aspire to it more often. And thirdly sensuality, our sexual and erotic life across the entire spectrum. Everything from my eyes meeting yours across the room and having a spark of “There’s my sweetheart.” to holding hands while we walk the dogs in the forest, to kissing to cuddling when we watch TV, to our entire spectrum or our erotic sexual life -- whether that’s a verbal foreplay with a sexy text, whether that’s kissing, whether it is in our love making, the breadth and depth  and possibility of our love making, I’ll talk a little bit about that. All of that, is really in your head. I’m turned on or not turned on in my head, I’m interested or not interested in my head. I’m present with this orgasm in my head, or I’m fantasizing about someone else in my head while I’m orgasming. Which means I’m not fully present with this physiological and emotional experience, it’s still fun, but I’m having sex with someone else somewhere else, while my body’s with you. Which is a pretty common phenomenon. I’m not even conscious at my own orgasm, and feeling fully the deliciousness of this truffle.

Neil Sattin: Ok, so, bringing our attention back to the sensual piece, when Chloe and I, in our course, when we talk about this, we talk about the continuum. And developing this mindful awareness that you are always on this continuum of sensual experience with your partner. Even if you are thinking about them, you are on that continuum. And the reason I talk about it that way, is because I like the sense that you’re always connected in that way, it helps, I think, also bridge the gap between disconnection or how do we even overcome this gap between us, and where we stand right now. If you’ve always been nurturing that sense of “Well, we’re on this continuum no matter what. It’s just a matter of where we are. We’re not in the bedroom part of the continuum, we’re on the kitchen making dinner part of the continuum, where we can be aware of each other's breath. Or I can go and touch and you really pay attention to that touch. And now we’re in the same dimension of sensuality, even though we’re in a different place than necessarily, hot sweaty sex between the sheets.

Cheryl Fraser: Yep! I am so happy that you teach it that way, and to help people come to that understanding. But you know, I’m going to have to say that unfortunately in my experience, not a lot of couples are doing what you’re promoting there. And that they don’t experience it, as a continuum. They experience it as a relational life, and psychological life, and our loving each other life. And it’s like errrrr bomp! And then there’s our sex life, and it’s not experienced as a continuum. So I think a lot of people would say “I love making dinner with my sweetie, and we’re laughing and joking and we’re listening to oldies and dancing around the kitchen, but I’m not connecting that to sex.” And that’s what you and I in our own unique ways are encouraging people to do. Which is, oh my goodness, the state of sexuality in long term relationship is really poor. There any very good surveys that give us a real glimpse into what’s happening in long term relationship bedrooms -- but clinically, and the best of the surveys and research that’s out there, I would guess that the vast majority of long term couples are having sex maybe a couple of times a month. And it is something they’re neglecting, it’s something they’re not even necessarily avoiding, though that can be the case. It’s more like passive, denial?

Neil Sattin: There’s so many other things going on…

Cheryl Fraser: So many other things. Fatigue and Netflix, the two biggest killers of sex ever. Maybe there’s another class action suit there. But, I’m Canadian and we’re not litigious, when we spill coffee we generally just clean it up. We don’t usually sue. But, I don’t know. We’re obviously teasing, neither you nor I want to sue anybody. But humor’s also good in love and sex. Here you go. But in the passion triangle, for sensuality, I just want to offer a few teachings that I think will be super helpful for people listening. And hopefully very reassuring. For people in long term relationship who are not having much sex, and not having very much spontaneous desire -- they’re not just like “Oh, I want to jump your bones, right now.” That’s sort of the old thrill phase for a lot of us, the early roller coaster phase. I want to let people know that there’s some very important research. Rosemary Bissant out of UBC, Vancouver, Canada, she works with a new model for female sexual desire, people can look her work up. But here’s the take home message that’s reassuring. Her research indicates that the majority of long term couples start making love from a place of sexual neutrality, now what does that mean? It means that the majority of long term couples start making love when neither of them is particularly in the mood. They’re not turned on, and horny in the body, I call that physical arousal, there’s different language for these, I’ll use mine. How I break it down to make it relatable to people. So they’re not physically turned on, and they don’t necessarily have mental desire: like “Oh, I really mentally feel like making love.” Often, they have sex because they’re like “Dang, honey, it’s been three weeks. We should probably have sex.” “Yeah, we probably should.” And that does not sound romantic, but I’ll tell you what it is, it is real.

I had a patient, a gay patient, lesbian patient last week, say to me, she and her wife hadn’t made love in four months, and I was really encouraging her to attend to that and open up those possibilities. So she was really excited, cuz they’d made love, and she said “Oh Cheryl, it was so great. I was snuggled in…” I’ll call her wife Jane, “and Jane had her back to me, and Jane said to me, ‘Do you have your mouth guard in yet?’” That was the big move! THAT was the big move, man. “Do you have your mouth guard in yet?” And we laughed, my patient and I. Cuz we thought right on baby, that’s real life. And she said “No, I don’t.” And the rest is history. Why do I make that point? Because that’s real life! So rest assured, if we’re not feeling spontaneously lusty, or really in our mind, “Oh, I really want to make love.” That is normal. And Ok. And so, one of the things I suggest to people, it’s not a novel idea, your guest a few episodes ago, Tammy Nelson suggested the same thing, as many wise people, you probably do to: Make a once a week sex date. And make that be unshakable. Like, Monday night we make love whether we have a headache, or one of us is super tired, or one of the kids has the flu. We make love whether we’re into it or not. Now, the only reason we won’t, is if really through illness or a business meeting, we consult each other and say, “Hey babe, I’m not sure I can make out Monday night sex date. Are you ok if we move it to wednesday this week?” Because that way, you start making love touching, kissing, have a hot shower, have a bath, when you’re not in the mood. Don’t wait until you’re in the mood. In fact I like to counsel people, one of my catchphrases is “Never say you’re not in the mood ever again.” And what I’m saying by that, is that it’s ok if you’re not in the mood. No one should be in the mood if you’re making scrambled eggs and thinking about your tax return. Tax Day in the states today, right?

Neil Sattin: It is.

Cheryl Fraser: And someone comes up and wraps their arms around you from behind, and says “Hey baby what do you think?” It’s like “I’m not in the mood!” Worst thing to say ever even though it’s true. Instead I suggest people say “Not right now babe, ask me later.” It’s a very different energy, and it acknowledges what we’re talking about right now. That waiting until you’re in the mood to have sex, means you probably won’t have very much sex. Versus, I have a couple working with the weekly sex date, just for the last three weeks, and they were having sex maybe once a month, they like sex. They have successful sexuality together. They were just busy and tired. But they made a weekly sex date, and they’ve made love five times in the last two weeks. Because the sex date on Monday, kind of got everything warmed up, and then Saturday morning was like, “Hey let’s have a quickie.” That’s not true for all of us, but what I’m saying is that this is also the practice of mindful attention. If we’re not paying attention to our sexual life, on that continuum, as you so beautifully put it, if we don’t bridge the gap in our continuum, from you and I, and our humor, and our playfulness, and our parenting, and our going to symphony, and all the other ways that we are. If we don’t remember that we’re naked under these clothes, if we don’t remember that the unique part about you and I, if we’re choosing a variation of monogamy, is that sexual contact is unique to my relationship with you. And we’re neglecting it, and we’re expecting it to take care of itself, and we’re buying into the myth that the thrill can’t last forever. And it’s normal for sex drive to wane. It is typical for sex drive to wane, which make it normal on a Bell Curve, but that’s like saying it’s normal when you’re old to get unfit. That is typical on the Bell Curve, but if we choose fitness as we age, if we choose to be at the gym, or yoga class, then we don’t have to fit what’s normal. Don’t be lazy and old with your sex life. Bring mindfulness to sensuality side of your triangle. And it gets so much bigger than that, we probably don’t have time to go into that, but I wanted to at least mention to people, where it gets super juicey to use your mind in your love making, is the aspect of Tantric Sexuality. Transcendent mind states in my lovemaking with you, where the sense of you and I dissolve, and the orgasm turns from its typical physiological experience, which is actually pretty puny -- the average male orgasm lasts 7 seconds, and the average female orgasm lasts about 20 seconds. That’s a pretty puny amount of pleasure, as great as it is. Through meditation and through focusing your mind, and some practices I talk about in the book, and you can research elsewhere as well, around tantric sexuality, extended orgasm, full body orgasm, we can turn the orgasmic experience into something that lasts much longer than 7 or 22 seconds. Imagine the orgasmic pleasure filling your whole body for minutes, even longer than that. Imagine being to exchange that on an energetic level. That’s some of the really beautiful places that working with our mind, our partner, our heart, our connection could lead us to in the sexual realm. A type of transcendent sexuality. So maybe once a month, or once a quarter, you decide to have gourmet sexuality and sensuality with your partner. Instead of your typical meal. And I talk about that in the later part of the chapters in the book, because, why don’t I talk about the in the beginning of the book? Because, it you try to practice tantric sex without clearing up some of your unfinished business, learning to communicate better, enjoying cooking dinner together, remember your partner’s fascinating, and all the things we’re touching on today, Neil, you’re probably not going to have a 15 minute transcendent orgasm. Don’t be greedy, put in a little bit of ground work.

You know, create and cultivate the conditions with Thrill, with Intimacy, and with Sensual contact, to move into some beautiful areas of sexuality, and intimate, spiritual, sexual connection that a lot of us don’t explore. And that, can certainly make a long term relationship fascinating a again. Fascinating again. And open up new worlds. From what I usually refer to as our nipple nipple crotch, good night routine. Where we just do the dang thing ever time, and I’m not opposed to that, but I’m saying sometimes, create a gourmet meal.

Neil Sattin: Right, so I just want to mention that if you are interested to learn more about Cheryl Fraser’s work, obviously you can read her book, Buddha’s Bedroom: The Mindful Loving Path to Sexual Passion and Lifelong Intimacy. There are lots of little how-to and action items in the book, to help you along the journey. So I recommend that. You can also visit her website, which we will list in the show notes. It is And, as a reminder, if you want to download the show notes, and the transcript of today’s episode, it’s, as in Buddha’s Bedroom, or you can text the word “Passion,” which is appropriate for this episode,  to the number 33444.

In terms of Tantra, I think it would be great to have you back on at some point to chat about that more. Um, we have if you’re listening and you’re curious, we’ve had Diana Richardson on the show, Episode 2 is a great place to start, it was the very second episode of the podcast. And, Margot Anand has also been on the show, I can’t remember her episode number, but if you search for Margot Anand on my website, you’ll find her. Two amazing Tantric practitioners who can at least start the conversation with you with what we’re talking about today.

Cheryl Fraser: Beautiful. Beautiful.

Neil Sattin: Cheryl, I’m wondering if you, cuz you offer on your website, people can sign up and get free stuff every week, and you over little love bites that give people a piece of something to work on, or to take action on, or to think about their relationship in a different way, which I think is really helpful to have those bite sized actionable items. You talk a lot about Tantra.

Cheryl Fraser: I do. It’s critical to have bite sized action items. Because we talked about complacency, familiarity, fatigue, and netflix and everything else gets in the way. So they’re called love bites because they’re meant to be small bites of digestible. Some of them are two seconds, five seconds, thirty seconds to read a little reminder for your love this week. So that’s how I try to help each of us -- myself included, my sweetheart and I read my bites and try to put them into practice.

Neil Sattin: We’ve been there, yeah.

Cheryl Fraser: Yeah, and if people want to learn a little more about Tantra. I would start with the episodes you suggested, and I have a ten minute free video on my website as well, people can watch. Just so people can get a sense of what is a tantric orgasm, and how is it different, and that is a lifelong exploration that I welcome everyone to engage in, and I would delighted to dedicate a whole episode to that in the future, it deserves a bit more of an arc, so we can teach people some techniques on your show here, and have them start with that. But don’t lose hope. There are worlds to discover, sexually, emotionally, romantically, and conversationally with this person you think you know everything about.

Neil Sattin: So, there’s one little bite that I’m wondering if you could offer our listeners today. I’m wondering if you could offer something for, let’s say you have that sex date on your calendar. And I have ten different ideas here, but I’m hoping you can offer one thing that brings people into the sensual dimension with our partner, something simple that helps reignite how they experience their partner this way, how they can invite their partner into the experience of them in a sensual way, what can you offer our listeners today as sort their little take home bite that they might try.

Cheryl Fraser: Beautiful try this at home. There are a lot of ideas, but the one I’m going to offer right now is pretty simple, but very profound and very few of us do it. Which is, on your erotic date this week, take at least an hour, and break it into two thirty minutes segments, and it can be longer if you wish, and do a giving and receiving of erotic touch. With the rule, that you’re not allowed to touch overtly sexual zones. So, no genitals, no bums, and no breasts. So how that would work, would be the following: flip a coin as to who goes first, whoever wins the coin toss is the receiver first. And the receiver lays down on their back, nude, their eyes closed, you can use candles, and sometimes soft music without lyrics is nice to help relax the receiver and give them something to kind of let their mind dream on. And the giver, you probably did this in your falling in love and wildly sexual, but you probably haven’t done it in a long time, it gives you thirty minutes to explore your partner's body with a finger, with a tongue, with your hair, with a feather, with whatever you like. To just explore that body. When’s the last time that you licked the back of your partner’s knees? Everybody listening is probably thinking “Ummm 17 years, I think we probably did it that time we went to the cabin for the dirty weekend.” Anyway. So giving and receiving erotic touch. The receiver use this as a mindfulness practice, there’s more description of that in the book in some of exercises I’ve given as you mentioned, to do this with your partner. But, as you’re lying there, and your mind’s racing, about this and that, and thinking, and being distracted as minds are unless you’re very well trained in meditation, try to re-focus. Every time you notice you’re off in your head, “Ok, Neil’s fingers are, fingernails are scratching along my knee cap right now.” And just try to focus on experiencing that as deeply as you can. Mind races off, come back “Oh, now he or she are nibbling on my neck.” So you’re learning as the receiver, to really start to pay, and this is preliminary, it takes, some practice, really starting to notice the actual sensory experience without story. That can lead to persons who have difficult with orgasm, erection, premature ejaculaiton, this can help with that down the road, by the way. Then, at the end of the time, when the timer goes off, and you thank you partner as the receiver, and you switch. And you become the giver, and you explore your partner. So you’re doing multiple things here. You’re training focusing on your partner when you’re the giver. You’re training on focusing on your own experience when you’re the receiver. You’re training on exploring the sensual body away from the usual, as I call it as you heard, nipple nipple crotch good night points, that we’re used to diving for. Nothing wrong with that, but we’re expanding it. And we’re looking at creativity, we’re looking at eroticism, and we’re looking at making it more interesting, because if we fell madly in love with a new person or into the taboo of an affair. That sort of exploration might come naturally, all we’re doing is creating it in the here and now with the one we’re with.

So there’s an idea people could do. And I’ll make the implicit, explicit. For this exercise, you could either then stop, and that’s the end of your sensual date, or, you could take it into love making if you wish, there’s different reasons to do either. But it’s really about erotically exploring. And let me just  finish by saying that a sex date doesn’t mean that you necessarily have intercourse, or that either person necessarily has an orgasm. It means it’s an erotic experience that involves nudity, touching, in that way. And that’s a real relief for exhausted bodies too. Our sexual date might be we play, we touch, and one of us chooses to have an orgasm. And the other one says “I’m completely satisfied right now just with playing and kissing and helping you as you touched yourself etc.” There’s no right or wrong. It’s the mindset of exploration, and the willingness, if it doesn’t go well, to just begin again with curiosity.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love the permission that you bring to how you approach this kind of time together. An it’s interesting because when I said the word permission, I’m also thinking about the permission to say No. So, there’s, even though for instance you just mentioned in this exercise you might say, that the genital areas are off limits. If you have points on your body that are triggers for you, those can be off limits too. Like you can set rules so that you feel safe enough to have this erotic but not explicitly sexual interaction with your partner.

Cheryl Fraser: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Create safety for you. I love that too when you mentioned the never, never say I’m not in the mood. And what you offered was to say, “Not right now, how about later?” that really reminds me of the Gottman’s work around the power of saying No, and both people have permission to say No, but it’s not a “No, never” it’s a “No, and” or a “No, let’s do this instead,” and speaking scientifically, they proved mathematically that more free each person feels to say no, the more sex they actually have, ironically. So I love that to incorporate that into your work, and hopefully if you're listening, you’ll get a date on the calendar, with your partner for this week even. And if you are not partnered, you can do that for yourself as well. You can have the self exploration, or, find a good friend. But you could definitely do that with yourself as a way of exploring your own erotic inner experience, and connection to self.

Cheryl Fraser: Yes, and I’m so glad you mentioned that. Because although the book is written primarily for couples, everything in it applies to us when we’re not in relationship, particularly around discovering our own mindsets, our own erotic potential, our own erotic touch and there are solo erotic exercises in the book as well. Because, my goodness, get yourself ready for when and if you choose to be partnered again.

Neil Sattin: Yeah it’s amazing how many opportunities you have in line at the grocery store to be reminded like “Oh, this is all a story in my head, what’s happening right now.”

Cheryl Fraser: Right, right.

Neil Sattin: Well, Cheryl Fraser, you’ve been so deliciously generous with your time and wisdom today, and it’s such a delight to have you here to chat about Buddha’s Bedroom, your new book, and I hope that you listening have gotten a lot of today’s show, and you take the opportunity to visit Cheryl’s website and find out more about the kind of work that she’s offering.

You mentioned that you’re going to come out with a course as well, in the Fall, right?

Cheryl Fraser: Yes, I am, mid-September, it’ll be debuting an online course for couples, eight weeks on this material and more that couples can do at home. I think the way a lot of your work is so important is that we create work that people can do from home, because they can’t necessarily arrange their lives, their childcare, their business lives to come at the same time to a therapist’s office for deep work, and I’ve been looking at ways to offer deep work to people, and that’s debuting in the fall. And anybody who goes to the website, or signs up for love bites, will get more information about that when it goes live. I’m very excited to work with people in that medium.

Neil Sattin: Love bites, Great. And if you download the transcript of today’s episode, we can also let you know when Cheryl’s course becomes available. So some incentive to grab the transcript.

Doctor Cheryl Fraser, thank you so much for joining us today on Relationship Alive. It’s been so great to have you here.

Cheryl Fraser: Thank you so much, and thank you for the work you do Neil. You know, I think people may often take for granted the plethora of profound, free, amazing, accessible content out there, so I encourage people listening to support this podcast and other great podcasts out there, that bring this amazing work to us that we didn’t used to be able get so easily. We’re all very blessed.

May 9, 2019

What do you do if your partner tells you that they don't love you anymore - or, maybe, that they think they never actually loved you? What are your next steps if your partner had an affair? These are all varying degrees of "leaning out" of your relationship. So - how do you respond in a way that has the best chance of not only preserving your sanity and dignity - but also, potentially, re-igniting your relationship? In today's episode I answer two listener questions and get to the heart of what to do, and how to get to the truth, in these situations.

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

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Or email YOUR recorded questions to questions (at) relationshipalive dot com.


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May 1, 2019

With so many different potential approaches to helping your relationship, how do you choose the one that’s right for you? And how do you make sense of them all together? John and Julie Gottman, Sue Johnson, Esther Perel, David Schnarch, Stan Tatkin, Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, Terry Real - they’re all describing different ways of getting the same thing - a loving, thriving, passionate relationship. Today we’re going to tackle how it all fits together, so you’re better prepared to steer your own relation-ship. To help us integrate in a way that makes it practical and clear, we’ve invited Dr. Keith Witt back to the show. Keith Witt is an integral psychologist, which gives him a unique perspective in making sense of all these roads that lead to Rome. His most recent book, Loving Completely, details his approach to bringing all of the essential parts of you to your relationship. Along with having written 7 other books, Keith has conducted more than 55,000 therapy sessions with his clients! If you’ve been wondering how to make sense of it all, this episode is for you!

Also, please check out our first three episodes with Keith Witt - Episode 158: Loving Completely,  Episode 80: Bring Your Shadow into the Light and Episode 13: Resolve Conflict and Create Intimacy through Attunement.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. And if you can hear it in my voice, I'm particularly excited for today's conversation. Of course, we've had so many different viewpoints represented here on Relationship Alive because there are so many roads that lead to Rome, the Rome of romance and romantic partnership, and how we sustain loving, thriving, monogamous relationships, and it's not always that one road works for any one person. And this has come up several times in the show, this question of, well, “so and so says their way is the way and they sound so convincing when you're talking to them, Neil, so what do I do when it doesn't work?" And this happens sometimes.

Neil Sattin: So, if you've tuned in for a while then you know that the reason that I have all these different voices on the show is because I really believe strongly that it's whatever works that's important. And I suppose for myself I might put some boundaries around that; what I'd be comfortable with or where I'd feel a little edgy or stretching, but for the most part, I think that it's up to you to really get informed about what's possible and then make choices that really align with you or maybe stretch you in a direction that feels like a light way to be stretched. At the same time, they all form part of this big puzzle that makes sense. And so, I wanted to have a conversation today about how we integrate as much as possible the way that we think about all of these different methodologies so you can see how they all fit together, they don't exclude each other, for the most part. They actually all find a place in the big picture of how we make relationships, what we want them to be. And as much as some of the people on my show might want you to think otherwise, this is my personal belief.

Neil Sattin: And so to have this conversation, I've invited one of my favorite guests to have here on the show who also happens to be someone who's very good at integrating all these different approaches. His name is Keith Witt. He has been here before to talk about his books, "Loving Completely", "Shadow Light", "The Attuned Family"; and he is an integral psychologist among other things. And so the integral perspective, I think will help us understand how all of these different pieces fit together in a way that actually does make a coherent whole, it makes sense. So, Keith, thank you so much for joining us today on Relationship Alive.

Keith Witt: I am always happy to be on your show and it's one of the pleasures of my life, our conversations.


Neil Sattin: Awesome, well, the feeling is mutual. I do want to say before we dive in deep that we'll have a transcript of this episode. If you're interested in downloading it, you may want to read it a few times, you can visit 'cause we're going to be integrating everything today. Or, as always, you can text the word "PASSION" to the number 33444, follow the instructions and you'll be able to download the transcript to today's episode. So, Keith, let's start with maybe where you orient in terms of this conversation. And before we got started, you were talking about this sense of, as we talk about all these different schools of thought, we're really talking about the founders of modern relationship theory. So, where do you put yourself and how do you make sense of where you are in this conversation about how we're tying all of these things together?

Keith Witt: Well, first of all, being a founder is a peculiar thing. I've developed various systems, all of them interrelated generally, under the integral umbrella. And integral has worked for me greatly. [chuckle] The reason why integral has worked for me greatly is the integral is a meta theory, not a theory. And so, I had actually generated systems and written some books about systems before I encountered integral. But then the integral, looking at the world through the objective and the subjective, the individual and the collective; looking at the world through types of people, states of consciousness, through people being at different developmental levels, including therapists, I realized that when you put any system into that, including the systems I developed, it expanded. And it made me just fascinated with the commonalities that affective systems, particularly of relationships and of love because I think everything's relationships is.

Keith Witt: And so, one of the things that's different for me and other founders is that, even though I've... If you look at my eight books, there's essentially seven different systems interrelated of doing psychotherapy and of doing couples work. I'm not particularly invested in any of them. Those systems are useful, they're coherent, they have a lot of technical and theoretical interconnections with everybody else and with the research. But I agree with exactly what you said. Ultimately, when a couple or an individual wants to love better, they come in, it's the goodness of fit with the therapist and it's how effectively they move forward, and there's an alchemical experience that happens with that, that can only be described in the intersubjectivity of the session. And meta research on psychotherapy has shown this again and again, and one of my favorite meta-analyses, which they took lots of studies and put them together, they found out a couple of very fascinating things. One, therapy helps people, okay? That's good news for everybody.

Neil Sattin: Good to know.

Keith Witt: The second thing that the variance of change was explained by 40% in this meta-analysis, 40% of the variance of change was client variables; how resilient they were, what kind of social networks they had, what kind of resources they had; 30% of the variance of positive change was the relationship, what was the solidity of the intersubjectivity of the alliance between the clients and the therapist; 15% was placebo effect. If you go to somebody, give them a bunch of money and they expect to change, you're going to change.


Keith Witt: In fact, that's something that has completely confused the field when it comes to the whole psychotropic thing. Probably 30% or 40% of the effect of most antidepressants is placebo effect, 8%-12% is probably the drug. Okay, so 15% placebo effect, 15% method of treatment. Okay, well, method of treatment 15% is significant. In poker, 7% is skill and the good poker player always wins but that 15% isn't as big as the client variables and it isn't as big as that 30% of the alliance. And so, I'm aware of that and so I hold my systems lightly, even though I love them. And so, I look at the other systems and I look at my relationships with the other systems, and I get a lot out of all of them. But also, I noticed that as we moved through the fields, our own little blind spots tend to affect how we absorb systems, how we enact systems, and how we integrate them. And I find that interesting because every time I find a blind spot, that's an opportunity to wake up. And this is where our conversation went when we were talking about this. So, how do they fit together? Well, as it turns out, even though they look very different from the outside, most of them fit together quite well in terms of the constructs that the various therapists bring to bear with couples and individuals for that matter and what they have to do in a session to help people move forward.

Keith Witt: So, that's pretty much it. My Loving Completely approach is approach that I love a lot, and you can check it out in my book, "Loving Completely". And my book, "Waking Up" that was the first book that I wrote after I had my integral awakening, is one of the first texts on integrally-informed psychotherapy, and it has sections in it around integrally informed sex therapy and marriage counselling. And I'm quite proud of that, and I think that works a lot, but are those more effective than Gottman's approach. Schnarch's approach, or Perel's approach, or Tatkin's approach? I don't think so. I think pretty much you have a good therapist, who's enacting their system and is attuned to their clients, they're going to do pretty well. And this goes for me, all the way back to my doctoral research. I was always interested in this, and so my doctoral research was I took three different kinds of systems and researched them in terms of how much they enhanced the health of clients. Talking plus touching, talking without touching, and touching without talking. And I found that the people got better equally, which led me to conclude that in psychotherapy, people have a natural healing style.

Keith Witt: And what you want to do is you want to identify it and enhance it and let it and help it grow as you grow throughout a lifetime. And I think that's probably the best way to go, as a psychotherapist and as a marriage counselor, and certainly when I train people and supervise people, that's my perspective. What's your natural healing style? How can we help you expand that and grow within that natural healing style? And that natural healing style has to involve, not just your style expanding, but you expanding. If we don't grow as individuals, we're limited as clinicians.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's... I really appreciate your saying that and it's making me think about that problem of when someone comes to me and says, "I tried. I found an EFT therapist and that didn't work, or I found a Gottman therapist and that didn't work." I wonder sometimes if that might be, because the particular therapist isn't necessarily 100% aligned in terms of their healing style, which you just mentioned, with the system that they've learned. It may be that they believe 150% in the effectiveness of that system, but if it doesn't tap into their own natural alignment and integrity and how they create resonance with their clients, then I could see it falling flat at times.

Keith Witt: Oh yeah. Before, let me see, probably 2000, I've been doing this since I first started studying therapy in 1965. I mean, I've been studying bazillion systems. And so for me, until I was around 50, every time they discovered a new system, I go, "Oh, damn." Because I knew that I was going to get disintegrated. I was going to learn this system and it was going to disrupt my understanding of the psychotherapeutic universe. I would have to climb into this system and enact it until I could actually enact the system naturally, I could answer questions from the system. And I knew that it would re-organize my understanding of the universe, and it was a lot of work. So, every time I found a good system, I go, "Oh Jesus, not another one." And then I would study it and I would... Sometimes for years, and it was always difficult in the beginning because it would destabilize, and that's very much how development goes on any developmental line. You expand into the current world view, and something comes and causes that world view to not quite be enough, and so the old one disintegrates and you go through that period of disintegration before you re-integrate into a more complex system. And I kept hoping that it would be the end of it. I'd finally get a system that was so great that I wouldn't have to have go through that experience.

Keith Witt: And then after I was 50 and studied integral and wrote about integral, I realized that I was enjoying the process now, that when someone came up with a new idea, like EMDR that it actually was... EMDR is wonderful in certain situations dealing with trauma. And so that was great when as soon as I identified it as a great system, I saw a research that persuaded me, I dived in and I had a lot of fun learning and acting EMDR until I could bring it into my repertoire of theoretical and practical understanding. Now, what did that reflect? That reflected my consciousness changing.

Keith Witt: I shifted from being more egocentric in my understanding to being more open, so my unconscious was actually aware. Keith, there will be great systems that will happen and when they arrive, they'll help you grow and be a better therapist, they're wonderful. And so, my subjective reaction to them shifted from, "Oh, no," to "Oh, boy." And this is how you notice that you grow. You don't notice that you grow particularly because you have a new idea, you notice that you grow because you have a different natural reaction to something that you had a different reaction to before. And it's very difficult to notice a shift of world views from the inside. It's easier for other people to give you feedback about it until you get to a certain level of development in the integral, we call that the "second tier" and then it's just easier to see that kind of stuff. And so that's been my experience with this over the decades. That's my current experience with it.

Neil Sattin: Great, yeah. And just to give you listening, a full sense of what I'm bringing to this conversation, I mentioned in the introduction that a lot of this is about you finding tools that work for you. I also have another bias that comes from my position of being able to talk to so many of the founders of relationship theories, which is... And it comes from my upbringing I think, which is this kind of like, "can't we all just get along" mentality. In an ideal world I'd be having this conversation, Keith, you would probably still be there and we would have everyone on a stage as a panel, but the express purpose of that conversation would be like, "Let's figure out how we can all work together." And my understanding is that, that's been challenging in the field to bring everyone together like that, but that's another thing that... My own agenda that I bring to this conversation is, I want everyone to get along and to commit to the overall betterment of how effective we can be in our lives or as therapists or coaches, or people who help others. It's really important to me.

Keith Witt: Well, Amen.


Neil Sattin: And some other things that you were mentioning made me think immediately of John Gottman. And I can't remember if he mentioned this actually in our first interview, if it was part of what I recorded or if it was just part of my conversation with him. But he talks about how important it is for him to know when he's wrong. He keeps a very detailed record of all the ideas that he's ever had and I think he might have said that he's wrong more than half the time.

Keith Witt: Yes, he says that. More than half of his hypothesis have been proved false. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Right, right. And so for him, this is one of the things that he stakes his claim around is that, he's distilled a body of work that statistically has been shown to work more than 50% of the time I think, in fact it's like 86 or something percent of the time. And that being said, he's also... What I love about that statement is one, his embrace of the willingness to be wrong, which is so important at any level of relationship, relationship to an idea, relationship to your spouse, so I really appreciate that. And also it seems to be his major critique of people who would use other systems that maybe haven't been empirically proven to be effective because what if you put it under a scientific scrutiny and found that it only worked 10% of the time, like your best placebo on its, without; or sorry, your best drug without the placebo effect. So, that's where it gets confusing for people I think, because they're like, "Well, if my local shaman hasn't undergone scientific study, what do I do with the fact that it's actually been really helpful for me? Versus going to my Gottman-certified therapist?

Keith Witt: John Gottman is the only founder that I know of whose psychotherapeutic approach and theoretical approach literally arose out of his research. That's not true for any of the rest of us. Everybody else was doing stuff that worked really well for them in certain situations and they saw how things fit together, and then they fitted it together with other stuff that they found out and created a structure. That's not a bad thing. That's how theories historically have arisen, in my opinion, except for say, physics. And John Gottman started out as a mathematician.

Keith Witt: I went to a three-day workshop with him and Julie, and at the very end, I went up to him, I said, "You know, John, I've done a lot of this stuff, okay? And your system has the most amount of good stuff and the least amount of bullshit than any other system that I've seen." And he laughed because he got it. Another thing that endeared me to him, and I gotta say I am biased towards John Gottman, I love that guy, I think he and Julie are great.

Keith Witt: In a conference where everybody's talking about how their system is the best, he went up on stage and says, "You know, I think about my treatment's failures." And I thought, "God, John, thank you." I think about my treatment failures too, what the fuck. What can I do different. What's the new stuff? He is a researcher. Now, I use a lot of his research to validate my approach, I've changed things that I've done in response to some of his research. I've changed some of my understandings in response to some of his research. Why? He's just the best and most comprehensive couples researcher around. In terms of my approach, almost every psychotherapist and all couples counselors to a certain extent through psychoeducation, you're basically teaching people about themselves and about how relationships work.

Keith Witt: The nice thing about Gottman's approach is that he didn't really, in most of his work, he didn't really have confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is what most founders bring to their research, if they do research. Okay, well, if you're doing research to show that your system is great, that's confirmation bias. Now, human beings, when they develop, when they develop from fundamentalist, which is I'm going to enact the EFT system or the crucible system exactly how it's supposed to be, and I'm not going to really think about whether it's working or not, that's a fundamentalist system. I'm going with the structure, but because it's the structure.

Keith Witt: When you go to a more rational system, a rational system is, "Well, I want to cross-validate things and see how they work, and if they work better, I'll shift into a new system." In between that conformist and that rational system, there's an in-between stage. Susanne Cook-Greuter and Beena Sharma who studied developmental stages, they call it the 3-4 stage 'cause 3 is conformist and 4 is rational; they called it the 3-4 stage. In that stage, people experience themselves as open to input, but actually they have confirmation bias, they're looking for data that support their preconceived notions and they very much resist change.

Keith Witt: You know, back in the '90s, I went to a David Schnarch workshop. And so, David Schnarch was all about differentiation, a concept he obviously lifted from Murray Bowen and never gives him any credit for, which pissed off Dan Siegel enough in the conference so Dan Siegel called him out on it. It was one of those little conference snafus that happen, it fascinated everybody. So I went up to Schnarch, I said, "You know, I think there is a more fundamental construct than differentiation." He said, "What?" I said, "I think it's health." He said, "That's too broad." Now, maybe he's right. Maybe my orientation towards what's healthy and not healthy is a too broad concept. But his immediate reaction was dismissal. He didn't want to consider that there might be a more fundamental organizing principle than his, okay? There was confirmation bias. Now, he's a good counterpoint, to me, to John Gottman. John Gottman doesn't like people making assertions without doing research, but I don't care, I still love John Gottman.

Keith Witt: David Schnarch spent minutes on stage during that workshop warning people to not use his stuff 'cause it's all trademarked and I found him arrogant and narcissistic, and to this day, irritating. Now, what is that? Both of them have their own critiques. Why do I find myself really liking John Gottman and irritated with Schnarch? Even more importantly, whenever you get irritated with someone, there's a tendency to dismiss what's great about their system. And this is what is beautiful about integral, integral says, "Everybody gets to be right, nobody gets to be right all the time." And Schnarch's concept of differentiation and holding on to yourself and the whole crucible approach to couples is a really good approach. Okay, that is very effective, particularly with some couples where they keep trying to move out of the container and you keep them in the container until something pops, and out of that pop come something new. And sometimes that newness is a new discovery of love for each other. Now, Esther Perel does a similar thing, but she's more of a practical romantic. I see Schnarch and Susan Johnson as more practical moralistic, in that they seem to literally have moral disgust for other people who disagree with them. [chuckle]

Keith Witt: I go, "Okay." [chuckle] Maybe that's what irritates me about them. Like Susan Johnson says, "If you do your work, you have to be slow and soft." Okay, well, that works for her with couples. But you know, as people might have noticed so far in our conversation, I'm not a particularly slow and soft guy, okay? So, my natural healing style, sure, I can get really gentle with people, and I actually was critiqued by Gestalt therapists in the '70s by being too nice to my clients. "You're too nice to your clients, Keith." "Oh, I'm sorry. Just because Fritz [Perls] is an asshole doesn't mean I have to be an asshole when I do therapy."


Keith Witt: And so, sorry, Susan, slow and soft is not my natural style, okay? It's alright. Now, does that make me less effective than her with a couple? Probably with some couples, I don't know.

Neil Sattin: Right, and it would probably make you less effective if you were implementing her system.

Keith Witt: Yes, that's exactly right. And when you learn a system, it's good to implement it. Now, even though I love John and Julie, John and Julie, when they talk about implementing their systems, they use a lot of their research tools. They give people like questionnaires, they give them cards and stuff, and they have their structured things that they recommend people doing. I'm sorry, I don't like doing that stuff.


Keith Witt: My clients don't like doing stuff like that, but even if my clients liked it, I don't like doing it. If you go to a risk management workshop, they give you a five-page thing your clients are supposed to sign about all the horrible things that they can report you for and that the therapy does and doesn't do. I'm sorry, I don't do a five-page thing. We all have our different styles. Now, that being said, I just love that guy, love him, and every time he gets a new thing out... I studied his last book from the beginning to end several times, and except for the math, just found it utterly fascinating. And I see him as a practical scientific guy. He is a true scientist. John Gottman will change an opinion on a dime if you give him persuasive data. And that's just not true for many people.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so, since you've brought up David Schnarch, and unfortunately, he hasn't been on my show yet, so we haven't had the benefit of being able to hear from him directly. I still... I reach out to him every so often and I'm hoping that one of these days he will. That being said, it's funny. I have my own bias when someone doesn't want to be on my show. [chuckle] I'm like, "Well, what's your problem?" What you just mentioned about your experience with him, that seems in some respects, to make sense given that he's staked his claim on differentiation, that that's where he's coming from, differentiation being that sense of holding on to you and your sense of who you are no matter what someone else is throwing at you. And so in preparation for this conversation, I really dove into his passionate marriage work, which is sort of the lay person's approach to crucible therapy, which is what he calls his work in the therapeutic realm. And I found myself really appreciating it, in fact, and it got me irritated because even... I was listening to this one recording of him and he said something that was dismissive of attachment theory and...

Keith Witt: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And I love what attachment theory brings to the conversation about relationships, both how you come to understand your own dysfunction in a relationship or how you come to understand the function of the dyad, what that does for you. And concepts of safety and how that enables you to differentiate. I love that, and it kind of bridges into Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson's developmental model too, which we can talk about in a little bit. But that all being said, when I heard him talking about the importance of knowing who you are, and at the same time being able to remove your distortions of who you are. And he talks about part of crucible being that your partner being there, that's a great way for you to learn where you actually aren't who you think you are, just as one example. Or you get to, through self-reflection, see some of the dysfunction in who you are, and actually work towards growth and improvement. But when he talks about differentiation, he talks about some things that I think are key. You talk about, not only holding on to who you are, but also your ability to self-soothe, so to take responsibility for yourself when you're triggered. How many times have we talked about that on the show? He talks about getting over your reactivity, so taking responsibility for not freaking out at your partner when they trigger you.

Neil Sattin: Again, so important, and fits right in. And then, he talks about, and I love this concept, the idea... And this is a place where I feel like he's kind of unique, and you can correct me if I'm wrong here, Keith, 'cause you have a broader perspective, perhaps, than I do. But he talks about... He names his approach as a non-pathological approach. In other words, if things are going wrong, then nothing is wrong. It's like, that's what you would come to expect. And that part of what he holds as an ideal in a relationship is the ability to hold onto yourself, to self-soothe, to not get reactive with your partner, and to hold the container of a relationship when things get uncomfortable. And that does seem so important, being able to grow with your partner. If you're so focused on fixing things and one of you capitulating to the other, it's not that there's never a place for compromise, but it's like, I think, and so many couples rush to that, they overlook the actual growth potential that happens in truly experiencing themselves as separate individuals with different ideas about how to live and how to be in the world, or how to be with each other.

Keith Witt: It's a wonderful approach. It's a wonderful understanding. I like it. And I use those concepts and those understandings, and have, ever since I learned the system. That the system has great efficacy, practically speaking. Now, that being said... So let's just expand. Okay, so it's great to say it's a non-pathological system. Okay, fine. And basically, effective therapists operate from that perspective. Here's two people, they want to change, they want to grow. That power of a human consciousness wanting to change and wanting to grow is so robust that there's a lot of details of self-regulation and moderation and holding on to yourself and understanding. But there's that basic core of power, of human consciousness wanting to grow. That's true, and psychopathology has existence. If somebody has a personality disorder, there's no couples approach that is going... In my experience, maybe I'm wrong, because I've been doing my own work. My lab is my practice. I've done 65,000 therapy sessions. And so, I take stuff into my lab, so to speak. So psychopathology has existence. Sometimes you need to go into that to help people grow. You have tell somebody, like, "You have a distorted view of the world," and need to have some individual work to deal with that, or, "You are so overwhelmed by your trauma history that you have to go resolve that trauma before you can experience sexuality and intimacy with your partner comfortably."

Keith Witt: That needs to be normalized and there's a subtle bias. In integral, we would call that a pluralistic bias or a green bias, to treat everybody like they're the same. This is what causes David Deida to dismiss psychotherapy in general. Now, that's an interesting thing. I'm a psychotherapist, I teach psychotherapy, I write about psychotherapy, I've generated systems, I'm a founder of systems, I go to David Deida workshops. He generally puts down psychotherapy as being kind of a pluralistic, limp-wristed, egalitarian, second stage, you know, wimps, so to speak. And I still love the guy, okay?


Keith Witt: Okay, so why is that? Probably part of it is because I see him as a kindred spirit, as a fellow warrior. But when you and I were talking about this earlier, but part of it is I probably have more projections with people like David Schnarch or Susan Johnson, like that moralistic... Maybe there's a part of me that has moral disgust that I don't like and I project onto them. I do that a little with Dan Siegel. I love Dan Siegel's work, I've studied his books, I've listened to his lectures endlessly, I've enjoyed his lectures. And every once in a while though on stage, he starts complaining about how somebody treated him badly or how somebody doesn't understand him or he had to push back, and I just find that icky. I go, "Dan, don't say stuff like that. That makes the rest of the cool stuff that you talk about. You know, you're a brilliant man, and you've changed everybody. Your book, The Developing Mind, was my foundation of neurobiology, interpersonal neurobiology."

Keith Witt: Alan Schwartz is similar. He says everybody bow to evidence-based treatment. He's irritated with this American Psychological Association privileging the research of, particularly, cognitive behavioral therapy, I suspect because cognitive behavioral therapists and the labs around the country get a lot of money and other people don't. So there's a lot of personality that comes through and yet all these systems have wonderful things about them. So, Schnarch is more practical moralistic in that sense. Esther Perel is more practical romantic, she's practical. All the good therapists are practical. You're with a couple, we're going to help 'em move forward and understand them individually and as a couple, and we have a vision of good relating that's for effective therapists is similar. But she has basically a romantic approach. You have your own way of understanding yourself, and of love, and I support that as a therapist. And you have your understanding of what you want with this relationship and I support what you want. And your partner is similarly. And we deal with that and from an accepting standpoint and a practical standpoint, how can we move forward?

Keith Witt: You feel enlivened by your secret affair that devastated your partner, I understand how you feel enlivened by that. I understand the draw of that. I understand your resentment at your partner for not being more cooperative and creating better love, the partner is outraged that you did this. Well, I understand your outrage. I understand your desire to love better. It's a very romantic approach, but it fits very well with all the scientific approaches, the moralistic approaches, with even David Deida's mythological approach. David Deida is basically a practical mythological approach. He draws from the wisdom, traditions of masculine and feminine. He used to teach the Shiva and Shakti scale, just brought it out of the Eastern traditions. And yeah, it's practical. This is how we can help you understand yourself, understand your partner, and understand how you enhance the polarity to have the intimacy and safety and love and the passion that you want. And if you get down to it in the psychotherapy session, if you watch any of us doing a session with people, you'd see very similar constructs that we're applying and you'd see very similar interventions.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's so funny I was listening to the first season of Esther Perel's podcast that she put out with Audible. I think it's called Where Do We Begin? Or something like that. And one of the sessions I was like, this might as well be Harville Hendrix that I'm listening to, just in terms of how she was showing up for that couple and talking about safety and the way they were constructing their communication and it was like right out of his getting the love you want workshop practically. So that was fascinating for me and I think worth noting because if you're just a bystander and you're like, say, listening to the Relationship Alive podcast, you can be so persuaded by one person's viewpoint or the other. And in fact, I find myself, like you were mentioning earlier, Keith, persuaded over and over and over again.

Keith Witt: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Because everyone's system has so much merit to it, that you might lose sight of where they both offer you something important. Sue Johnson and David Schnarch, it's interesting that you've paired them together because, obviously, they're in some ways they would see themselves as being in opposition to each other.

Keith Witt: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And yet, how many times have I seen with clients how important creating safety is to them, taking a stand for who they are? And vice versa, if they're all about the safety and they never take a risk by being who they are, I've seen that be problematic too. So, it's like everyone is reacting to the... What's the word? The distorted, the extended version, like if you go way too far into differentiation, that's not going to be a relationship. If you go way too far into creating safety or your couple bubble, like Stan calls it, Stan Tatkin, then you might lose the edge or the eroticism, which is what Esther would hone in on. You've lost your sense of the other person as other, you're too safe.

Neil Sattin: So, it's so interesting because even in just this past three sentences or so, you've heard me jump from one to the other to the other trying to show you, like, "Yeah, they all actually feed into each other." If you're really, really stuck, like a lot of people are, I think that's why Esther's TED Talk took off because so many people are stuck. I think she writes in "The State of Affairs" that sexless marriage is one of the top Google searches or something like that.

Keith Witt: Yes.

Neil Sattin: So, if you're in a sexless marriage, then when someone starts talking about how you feel too safe and you've come to not think of your partner as someone else. And so here are some ways to get you back to a more erotic, playful space with your partner, then you're going to listen and that's going to make sense to you. But it wouldn't make sense to you if you had no safety in your container and your partner was constantly texting other people and flirting with the waiters and waitresses at the restaurants, and if you were in a totally unsafe world, then that's not going to be a place where Esther's work might, or at least what you might initially think she's getting at. But again, this is just her TED Talk, you hear her in a session and she's talking about creating safety within a couple.

Keith Witt: Exactly. That practically speaking, everybody comes from constructs that involve relational patterns, a developmental orientation, that people are influenced by unconscious influences and trauma programming. Everybody has a vision of happy relating for every couple they work with. No effective couples counselor doesn't do that. We all, if we have a couple, we immediately start having a vision of how they could be getting along better with each other. And all couples counselors are informed by the psychological and psychotherapeutic traditions, therapeutic relationship attunement, and that kind of stuff.

Keith Witt: Now, when you look at it, for me, the breakdown between Schnarch dissing attachment theory and Susan Johnson saying, "I have the only couples therapy. We never had a theory before me." Okay? Well, look, if you say to a bunch of founders who have their own theories, "You never had a good theory of couples until me," everybody's going to get pissed off. So, Susan Johnson says that, I go, "Susan, you've got a good system, you got a good theory. You don't have to piss us all off by saying that. You can say, 'I got a couples thing that I prefer to yours.'" And so, John Gottman will go up in a workshop and say, "Well, we have our theory." You know he's speaking directly to that.

Keith Witt: Now, that being said, Esther Perel and Schnarch make a point that a lot of other couples people miss, they go, "Look, sexuality is a big deal and it's been neglected by the field," and they're right about that. That was true. In the '70s, therapists wouldn't even ask their couples about sex, it just drove me crazy. I did a lot of sex therapy training in the '70s because I realized that to be effective with couples, I need to be really good at helping them have better sex, and integrated that into my work and have ever since. And David Deida's stuff has been priceless around that stuff.

Keith Witt: And so, the field has grown to that. And to their credit, once again, John Gottman and Julie, they have their system of expanding the conversation about sexuality and the behaviors about sexuality because they've demonstrated from their research that it's not enough to just down-regulate conflict with a couple, you have to up-regulate good times. And as I make... The point that I make in my Loving Completely approach, a marriage is a friendship, a love affair and a capacity to heal injuries and ruptures. That love affair is a big deal. That first star, this erotic polarity between me and my partner, gets more space in my book than any of the other stars. Why? If that love affair isn't happening then there's a lot of problems that arise out of that, and that's that sexless marriage statistics that Esther mentions in her book. I wrote a book called "A Hundred Reasons to Not Have a Secret Affair", I couldn't find a publisher for it. And I read "State of Affairs" and I said, "Well, I like this a lot better than my book."


Keith Witt: And really I think that's a really good book about affairs and you can just feel that practical romantic orientation on her part.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and when you say romantic, let's just... Can you get more clear on what that means, just so we get you there?

Keith Witt: Esther has... Now, this is just my reading of her, okay? And I've never talked to her. I hope I do some day. There's this sense for her about love. There's a mystery, a cross-cultural mystery about love, that there's love is, I want to be loved, I want to love and I want to do it in a way that works for me. And if it's not happening, I'm suffering and I want to make it happen. And if it's not happening and I'm suffering, I need to take that suffering into the world and into my own development, into my relationship and make love happen. And there's a certain mysterious quality about it. And yes, there's things that interfere with it like lies and abuse and all that other stuff. And to a certain extent, because she works an awful lot with infidelity and that kind of stuff, you can see our practices shape our theoretical understanding. There's that sense of, if we open that up, then love will happen. Now hopefully, it happens with us as a couple, but if it doesn't, okay. It didn't happen. Love, the relationship just because it ends wasn't unsuccessful, we lose each other, we move on and we find love some place else.

Keith Witt: Okay, to me, this is very romantic. This is a subjective love-based, romance-based orientation towards eroticism and sexuality. And it's very effective because that's how in terms of the neurobiology of bonding, yes, we go from our various arousal systems, into attraction, into distracting attraction, into romantic infatuation, into intimate bonding, into life stages. Now, what I think Esther misses, because she doesn't seem to be as interested in the science, is that it's an apples and oranges comparison that early attraction, distracting attraction, romantic infatuation, sexual drives, with the sexual drives that exist in intimate bonding, okay.

Keith Witt: In intimate bonding, I have discovered or it's been my experience, to go into those romantic infatuation circuits, it's very, very intricate and detailed and it's not nearly as easy as finding a new person that you don't know. And so you can't compare, "Well, it's very hard to develop romance and passion with my husband, but really easy with my lover." Well, of course it is. We're wired to have that be the case. That's not the point. The point is that... And now we're getting into an integral understanding of evolution of consciousness. As we expand our consciousness, as we get more world-centric and more compassionate and less bullshit, our relationships are more demanding. And so it's very, very difficult. I haven't found relationships where people have the depth of connection that they want, knowing each other and accepting each other and loving each other deeply, that they have that and that that container, which is powerful but fragile, can tolerate one of them going out and falling in love with another person. And also, that container suffers if they don't do what they need to do to take care of their love affair. They have a love affair that they believe in that they're sustaining with each other.

Keith Witt: So, why is that fragile? Well, because it requires an awful lot of attention and knowledge and understanding and self-regulation. Why is it great? Because there's deeper intimacy available in that container than in previous containers over the last 10,000 years and it's more demanding. If you have a very, very primitive... Say you have a relationship that's pure conformist. We're getting married, we're going to have kids, we're going to do what the Bible says or the Koran says. In those cultures, women stop having sex with their partner when they stop being of childbirth age, in general. Fascinating study. They just go at that point, they go, "Well, I'm not going to do it anymore." A lot, not always, but a fair amount. Why is that? Because there isn't a developmental layer of intimacy that they and their husband are working for, because they're in a system where he's in charge. She has to do what he says. I say "yes" to sex, until I can't have kids anymore and then I can say "no" if I want.

Keith Witt: And if we don't have a certain level of intimacy and a commitment to depth, why would we be interested? He would be going after youth and beauty and maybe I'll have an affair or maybe I won't. It just depends. If you're going in, but if you both have the sense of equal depth, if you both are post formal operational, if you both want to sustain your friendship and your love affair and expand it and expand each other, well, then that requires a different kind of inner subjectivity. So these are very complicated forces that are operating on all of us. Now, they're explicit in integral psychotherapy because we always look at lines and levels, and probably, you're going to tell me about Ellyn Bader, probably in their developmental model, because developmental models notice that people's worldviews change, and that relationships, demands of relationship, change as we go into different developmental levels.

Keith Witt: The other ones, the effective ones, unconsciously adjust for different people's worldviews, but sometimes don't consciously do it, because it's not visible to them, consciously, but unconsciously, in the session, they get a feel for it and they attune to it. Just like if you're an effective therapist... Stan Tatkin has practically nothing about sexuality in his system, but I'll bet if people come in to his system suffering from not being sexual, he climbs in, understands their experience from the inside, finds out where they're turning each other and on and off, and helps them find the kind of safety that they need to move into eroticism.

Keith Witt: And eroticism's very central, because it's like the canary in the coal mine. Everything else has to be going pretty well for you to be good lovers with your partner. It's very rare, as a couples counselor, for people to come in saying, "Yeah, we're both fulfilled, sexually. We enjoy sex, we have sex regularly, and we want a divorce." That actually happens once in a great while, but that's like one in 100. Usually, when people come in and say, "Sex is great," there's a solidity to their relationship, and they're coming in to talk about other kinds of issues; money issues, sometimes... Often child issues and parental issues, sometimes physical issues, that kind of stuff.

Neil Sattin: Okay, so... Yeah, there are several different directions that I feel myself being pulled, and...

Keith Witt: Great.

Neil Sattin: I think where I'm going to go right now is on this practical level, because I want this to all be practical, and we're talking about all these systems as practical systems. I think I heard Schnarch say that... And I don't think this is an actual statistic, I think he was just making a point, which was, in a good relationship, sex makes up about 10% of what you think about and care about, but if the sex is bad... No, if the sex is good, then it's about 10% what you think about and care about. If the sex is bad, it's 90%, or non-existent. And so, I'm thinking about that in light of what you just said and wondering, okay, for people listening who are in this place where they're like, "Okay, well, I'm not connecting with my partner erotically. Should I be going to a sex therapist? Should I be going to an EFT therapist to work on my safety? Should I be... " I could feel... I can feel confusion there, around, what do you do, practically? 'Cause so many people might see like, "Oh, you're not having sex? Well, then, let's talk about sex." Others might say, "You're not having sex? Well, that's a symptom of so many other things going on in your relationship, so let's talk about the other things, and we'll talk about sex later."

Keith Witt: Well, first of all, go to a good couples therapist who understands eroticism. It doesn't matter what system they're operating in, if they're a good therapist, a good couples therapist, experienced and know how to attune, and have the things that I mentioned, those qualities, and understand eroticism. One of the reasons that Schnarch says that is that, in general, human consciousness goes where the pain is. We have a half-dozen sex drives, we don't just have one, we have lots of them. And so, if one of those sex drives is activated in a negative way, say jealousy, that's a lot of pain. Say frustration... Frustrated... This happens a lot with guys after the first baby is born. A baby is born. Okay, their wife kinda gets over the birth, and he finds her utterly adorable and desirable. Yeah, this is adorable and she's in love with his kid, she's full of love, "We're sharing this thing," and he wants to have sex. She's in love with the kid, she's got follicle-stimulating hormone up the wazoo, her desire is down, biochemically. If she doesn't have a commitment to re-establishing their love affair, then he's in pain.

Keith Witt: And so, what does he do? He makes jokes about it, and there's all these bazillion jokes about men wanting more sex, mothers with small children, and guys... Women don't want to have sex. And these are hostile jokes and these separate people. And, in general, three years after the birth of the first baby, according to the Gottmans' research, 70% of couples are doing worse. But what if you teach them about affection and eroticism and sensuality and say, "You need to sustain this after the birth of the first child. You need to both be onboard with it." Well, if you teach them that, then three years later, 70% of them are saying, "Yeah, we're actually better as lovers." Now, you need... In my experience, that's useful information for me to have, as a couples therapist.

Keith Witt: And it's useful for me to know the parameters of that. Just like it's useful for me to know about psychopathology. You know, if somebody has some kind of trauma thing or a personality disorder or some kind of debilitating or God knows, you know, bipolar. That kind of stuff. That has to be addressed. That really has existence. You go to a therapist that has a general understanding, and is good with sexuality in general. I don't know if I'd want to go to any couples therapist who didn't understand the principles of sexuality, and the sex drives, and the stages of sexual bonding, whether I was working on sex or not. It's such a central part of the life stages of a relationship, you know. You don't just have one marriage, you have many marriages. And there's different demands at each developmental level of marriage. And you want to be true to those demands and help each other with them, and good couples therapists all do that. Whether they do it consciously or unconsciously doesn't really matter, you know. They do it. Because, they're inside the universe of these couples helping them grow. And they discover these blocks, and they have their own orientation to help people through them, and help people into deep inter-subjective, into love with each other.

Keith Witt: And so, that's... All good couples therapists can attune. They all interrupt people all the time. 'Cause you gotta interrupt toxic patterns, and they all have some sense of what a positive pattern is. You know, all couples therapists suspend their ego in service of their clients. If you have too much ego in the session, you lose your capacity to help people. All good couples therapists are willing to share their clients' pain. All good couples therapists tell vivid enough stories, have vivid enough metaphors that they register, they land with people. They're bringing their best selves into the work, so that's... If you took anybody from any system and saw them work, and they were effective, you'd see that in my opinion and so, that's their natural healing style. And, you know, you keep expanding that and after a while... And what breaks my heart about this is since people resist change, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of natural healing styles in existence being embodied by great practitioners, that we'll never find out about. Because, you know, there's a resistance in the field to new systems. And these people don't have as much... I don't advocate much for any of my systems.

Keith Witt: As a founder, I haven't like pushed to make one of my systems famous. Okay, well, that means a lot of people haven't encountered a bunch of my systems. Okay. Well, that's kind of a weakness in my approach as the founder, really. Because if I want to make an impact, I should go out and beat drums about my systems and I don't. I go, "Well, yeah, I like my systems but the other ones are great too. Use the one that... Study the ones that turn you on. Turn that and have that enhanced and expand your natural healing style." What lights me up is people doing that. And if they want to use my system, if they like it, of course, I get a little ego rush from that, sure. That's great. [chuckle] Everybody likes to be told they're great, you know. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: You're great, Keith.


Keith Witt: Yeah, there you go.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and...

Keith Witt: Well, I'm actually a little embarrassed, but you know, I often do if my clients compliment me extravagantly, I'll get embarrassed. Partly because of the transference stuff, you know. Okay, so people go through stages, and partly because, I'm uncomfortable with my ego. I don't want it to show up in my session. Anyway.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm thinking of something you said earlier about systems that maybe do or don't actually handle mental health all that well. That there's, you know, a lot of these systems work well in the context of someone isn't suffering with major depression, or borderline personality disorder and that made me think of certain modalities that are helpful with that. Like in particular, what came to mind was Internal Family Systems, Dick Schwartz's system, and...

Keith Witt: I love that.

Neil Sattin: And there's been an evolution of that intimacy from the inside out which is basically applying Internal Family Systems to couples therapy.

Keith Witt: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And that Toni Herbine-Blank, she's been here on the show to talk about that. This is something that I feel particularly connected to, is this question of how we, in a relationship, actually show up for each other to help heal. 'Cause I don't think that there are many people in our world that have escaped some form of trauma or another. I think we all have like places where we're wounded or where we don't want to go. We're talking about all of these systems in many ways from the perspective of going and seeking help, which I definitely encourage you to do. It's a good idea to go and, as Keith was talking about a little while ago, to have that outside perspective until you're really good at getting outside perspective on your own.

Neil Sattin: But that being said, I like those modalities because the more conscious I think you get of how you heal from trauma, so I'm thinking of, yes, Internal Family Systems, somatic experiencing, the things that really enable you to identify what's happening within you, both your body awareness and how you attune to your body, but also what Dick talks about in Internal Family Systems, literally identifying the different personalities in you who are competing and at war, he calls them parts.

Keith Witt: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And then you can bring those dialogues into your conversations with your partner. Then I think there is a lot of potential through that, through co-regulation to actually heal with each other. But I don't know about any studies that show that that's going to be curative if your partner has depression, for instance, but I do have a pretty strong belief that that's going to help you show up in that relationship in a way where you're still feeling connected and you're in integrity.

Keith Witt: There are studies that show that it is curative to expand into your intimate relationship, your family relationships, and your social relationships to be curative with depression, just like there are many studies, overwhelmingly, that show that exercise is a better anti-depressant than any drug. So, that's all true. And your central point, I think, is huge, and that central point is when a couple has mobilized to, one, have compassionate self-observation of both their healthy and unhealthy sides. In my Shadow Light book, I talk about growing your shadow, and that our unconsciousness is constantly giving us constructive and destructive messages, and that we have resistances, defenses against being aware of them, and to the extent that we do that, we have problems with ourselves and in relationships with other people. Because, let's face it, the more intimate you are with yourself, which is having compassionate awareness and acceptance of yourself and self-regulation, the more able you are to be intimate with other people. So, that's just how it works, ask any therapist, any couples therapist.

Keith Witt: And Dick Schwartz's approach is wonderful in that, one, he develops... You'll notice there's always a compassionate witness observing these inner parts, okay? Just like meditation increases the capacity of the compassionate self-observation, the witness, as we say in the wisdom traditions, so do these systems that look at these inner parts. Because if I'm looking at inner parts, who's looking? The compassionate witness is looking, and awareness regulates. So, as I'm looking at these parts and I'm identifying the constructive and destructive ones, already I am unconsciously up-regulating the constructive ones, down-regulating the destructive ones. Okay, that's a great language, and it's nonjudgmental, but it's very, very powerful. Now, say you do that with your partner. Instead of taking offense when your partner says something nasty, you go, "Wow, that was that nasty sub-personality." And you go, "Whoa, that was kind of nasty." And they go, "Ooh, that was my nasty self, I'm sorry." Now, at that point, the nasty self isn't in charge. The compassionate witness is in charge regulating the nasty self and now bonding with that partner, and they are collaborating to help shape each other to be their best selves.

Keith Witt: When you get to that point with a couple that are doing that with their friendship, their love affair, and their capacity to repair injuries, that's a self-sustaining system that creates the great relationships. And you see the great relationships, you see that, it's called the Michelangelo Effect, it's been studied, and people, they end up talking more like each other, and looking more like each other. But even more, they get up... Long-term couples will tend to get happier with each other because they're receiving influence to be better. And it takes a lot of courage and a lot of openness to receive influence, and a lot of self-regulatory capacity, and that always runs from some kind of compassionate witness, and all the systems encourage that. They all have their different names for it, but if you don't have that, then you're kind of left with raw behaviorism. And if you do have that, which most of us do, or formal operational or post-formal operational.

Keith Witt: Having that compassionate witness be more robust gives us more options, response flexibility and interpersonal neurobiology, they would say. And response flexibility isn't random. I want to choose the healthy responses, which support love and support health and I want to say no to the unhealthy ones. But I have to be aware of them, I have to be able to regulate them. That's where Allan Schore comes with regulation theory, that's where Harville Hendrix. His systems basically force people to self-regulate because they can't go into their fight patterns 'cause he's given them different patterns to do.

Keith Witt: And so, probably the power of this system is as much by not allowing people to do their hostile patterns as it is giving them new patterns, and I think that's true for Dick Schwartz too in Internal Family Systems, and it's especially useful in trauma because we get overwhelmed with trauma. So, anything that causes us to observe trauma without being overwhelmed, whether it's somatic re-experiencing, EMDR, Internal Family Systems, all those things are drawing from the same well in terms of helping us be aware and regulate and then attach and then connect, love other people and be loved by other people. These are the things that the affective systems have in common. Like, practical mythological, somebody might do better if they see themselves at a particular stage of the Hero's Journey. Great, I love the Hero's Journey, I'm all over that, I've been studying it all my life and practising it.

Keith Witt: Somebody might do great in seeing, "Well, I have this destructive... An Internal Family Systems thing. One of my firemen is just driving me crazy by giving me all these impulses to regulate myself in unhealthy ways." You go, "Oh, yeah." But he wants that fireman and he wants to feel better and what's a healthy way to feel better? Oh, now, I'm going to these other selves. Okay, these deeper ones. Oh, and here's this injured self that just really never felt good and still doesn't. Oh, well, we need to love that self until it begins to feel like a legitimate person who's in pain. When that begins to happen, say a childhood injury, most people hate that little kid who was abused, if you had early abuse. Once you start loving that kid who was abused, feeling the pain but loving him, saying, "Hey, look, it wasn't your fault they molested you or beat you up," things change, there's more freedom of motion and you can love better.

Neil Sattin: Right. And this goes straight to the strengths of a system like EFT, and that's based around attachment and why it's so important to recognize the bonding, the safety, the ways that you are trying to regulate your safety in relationship. And if you're not conscious of that, how the ways you do it are probably going to be jeopardizing, ultimately, the safety of your relationship, even though, ironically, you're trying to keep yourself safe in those moments.

Keith Witt: Yes, and now here's the paradox of the whole attachment stuff. The attachment theory just kind of blew the lid off of the developmental orientation. People have been resisting psychoanalytics... The cognitive behaviorists, the cognitive therapists have been resisting for decades the psychoanalysts' assertion that infancy and early childhood really matter. Well, attachment theory showed that it really does, that we do get set up for secure and insecure attachment, and that there's elements of that that go all the way to the adult attachment industry that the researchers in Berkeley, I forget their name... Mary Main came up with. Yes.

Keith Witt: Now, there's a little switch here because that attachment has to do with mother/infant attachment. Okay, now, we go on to couples and then we gotta add that sexual component. Adding that sexual component to secure attachment is tricky. I really don't want to be having to be secure with my wife exactly the way I was secure with my mom. I want to have elements of that, but there's not a lot of eroticism there, or hopefully there isn't, and if there is, there's more problems, that would be more complicated. And so now we have to add that erotic component. Now that erotic component has a lot of other elements in it. It has adventure, it has transgression, it has change, it has whoever we discovered we are from a gender standpoint or whoever we discover we are in terms of our own kinks, whatever our culture told us about our sexuality, whether it's good or it's bad.

Keith Witt: People discover their sexuality, and if they're lucky, the culture says, "Oh, that's fine sexuality." Say you discover you're a heterosexual guy who likes the missionary position. Wow! You know, when you're married. Boy, you're in good shape, you can feel like a virtuous person. Say you discover that you're a transgender person who likes falling in love with the opposite sex, but likes to have fun sex with the same sex, it can go one direction or another, and really like being tied up and mildly humiliated before somebody fucks you. Okay, well, you're not going to get a lot of cultural support, at least from most of the cultures that I was raised in for that. So you're raised in endogenous shame that now you gotta deal with that fucking stuff. This is where Esther Perel's romantic approach is really good. The romantic approach says love triumphs. Love trumps culture, and so if a culture tells somebody that they're wrong, Esther is really good at saying, "Yeah, well, your culture does not understand how you love. And how you love is how you love, and I love that, and I support you." People feel liberated by that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Exactly.

Keith Witt: Yeah. Well, that's pretty great, and if you're a student of integral psychology, you recognize that when you get to an integral level of consciousness, an integral level of consciousness has a felt sense of appreciation from multiple points of view, and a diminished fear of death and of other things, okay? A felt sense of appreciation for multiple points of view, that means I have a felt sense of appreciation for however I am wired and how my partner is wired. And now we don't have a moral problem in finding our love affair, we have a practical problem, you know, more practical... All these things are practical. Practically, how do we create eroticism, erotic polarity, given who we are? It's not like either one of us is more or less morally correct. It's we are who we are, and now, where's the opportunity for movement and growth and passion? And good therapists go there.

Keith Witt: Whether they're at an integral altitude or not in their regular life, most good therapists are at an integral level during their work. If I observe their work and I track that around the characteristics of second tier functioning, most effective therapists are at that level when they're doing psychotherapy. They have felt appreciation for multiple points of view, they have diminished fear of everything, they have a profound sense of being able to shift the power dynamics to the growth hierarchies and the dominator hierarchies in the direction of greater love. They have a developmental orientation that intuitively tells them what's healthier and less healthy, and what's more love and less love, they're guided by that.

Keith Witt: And that's not just rational at all, that's rational plus intuition, plus something else. Now, you can do that something else directly by doing contemplative work and having your own understanding of the infinite, or you can do it unconsciously. But basically, good therapists are a channel from something larger than themselves into the session through their systems and their personality. And when that channel's there, magic happens, often. And if you don't have that channel, you suffer as a therapist. And if you continue at it, you'll find it, and that's that natural healing style. But when you get there, it's connected to something way larger than yourself.

Keith Witt: Now if I talk with John Gottman about this, because you can't observe this and measure it and study it and do a questionnaire about it, you go, "We should leave religion out of psychotherapy." In fact, I saw him do that once when they were talking about mindfulness. And so anytime he sees any kind of existential system coming into science, he gets uncomfortable. But it's not that he doesn't do that and he and Julie don't do that, they bring a sense of the sacred and sense of a sacred mission to every single class that they teach and session that they do. But in a way, they can't acknowledge it because they have to kinda anchor themselves... At least John can't, because he has to anchor himself, and you know... "Well, really, what I'm doing is I'm coming from my research." Yeah, John, you are, but there's something larger than you coming through you when you're teaching this stuff. I can see it, I can feel it, because I have no problem with it.

Keith Witt: I personally do not feel limited by everything has to be validated by social research and science. There are some things that you can only discover from the left quadrants. And that's from phenomenology. Phenomenology is real, but you have to develop the contemplative instruments to perceive things, you have to... And once you have those instruments, then you can perceive things like a channel into the other world. It's as visible as a blood cell is on a microscope. But you have to develop the instrument. That instrument is contemplative work in your own spirituality and your own development as a human being.

Neil Sattin: Wow. This makes me think of a system that we haven't chatted about here yet. And it ties in a little bit to attachment theory, and also kind of feeds into bio-hacking. And I'm pretty sure that I talked with you privately about the book, "Cupid's Poisoned Arrow", when we were talking about...


Neil Sattin: Karezza. And I'm thinking about the way that fostering what they call "bonding behaviors", behaviors that are oxytocin-producing, which is all about our pair bonding, all about our attachment, and diving into those behaviors allow you to experience a form of transcendence which feels very contemplative in terms of one's sexual connection with their partner. And now, we're talking about sexual development in a way that isn't entirely about eroticism, but that... And they talk about it in that book because their theory is that... And I'm saying "they", but it's Marnia Robinson who wrote the book...

Keith Witt: That's right.

Neil Sattin: Is that it's the chase for erotic polarity and the dopamine cycle that actually causes habituation to your partner and escalates the demise, potentially, of your relationship and your attraction to your partner, whereas if you're focusing on things that promote oxytocin and bonding, that might... Sue Johnson, I haven't talked to her about Marnia's book, but I could see her liking it from the perspective of like, "Oh yeah, it's all about attachment and fostering safety." Well now, you're able to do something that's also sustainable, because we don't develop a tolerance for levels of oxytocin and vasopressin in our systems.

Keith Witt: So first of all, I laughed because you mentioned that book to me and I went, "Okay, so this is one of those situations where here's a system." So I thought, "Okay, well, I'll check it out." So I went online, read the first couple chapters, and oh, really? And so I bought the book and I've read it. Now, no offense to Marnia. I think that this system is really, really powerful, and I think it's powerful not just for the reasons that she mentioned, I think it's powerful for other reasons. It's not just oxytocin that is increased by practicing karezza. You also increase vasopressin in men, which is a male bonding hormone. Also, you increase testosterone. Going into sexual arousal and not resolving it into orgasm, keeping it into that state increases the levels of testosterone, which increase levels of erotic urgency. Okay, that's another thing.

Keith Witt: Also, if you look at all the the practices, including the tantric practices, you'll see that the first levels of most practices involve renunciation. Any time that a human being takes one of the drives and does renunciation with it, it puts them into kind of a stark connection with their own material that they have to then wrestle with. And if you do it with a partner, together, you two are now engaged in a shared tantric practice. That shared tantric practice of we are now monitoring our levels of connection and love and passion too, because when you do karezza, you go to a certain level and you don't want to get too high or too low. But you're at a level of a erotic charge and a level of bonding, and you kinda stay there, that's why you don't have orgasms.

Keith Witt: Now, personally, renunciation is not my favorite, as everybody can probably tell from my tone of voice, of practicing. I love orgasms, and so the way that I manage that in my life is I have frequent sex and frequent orgasms. Now, that keeps me attached to my wife. Why? Well, the habituation part of eroticism and so on doesn't just run off of erotic habituation. When you enter the intimate bonding stage of relationship, you have the depth of connection with your partner where you recapitulate your family of origin levels of intimacy, that's when the more primitive and the older and deeper defenses come out. Those defenses were designed to protect you and to separate you from people that were acting badly. And they happen to happen in intimate bonding and they separate couples.

Keith Witt: Couples that work through, reach through those defenses into pleasurable contact of all sorts, that's another way of keeping that sense of special connection alive. Doesn't have to do with eroticism necessarily, it has to do with walking into the room and seeing your partner and smiling, and feeling the pleasure of your smile and their smile. It has to do with passing her and stroking her head, and her feeling the pleasure of that stroke. Couples that consciously practice those particular kinds of techniques, those couples are upping their oxytocin levels on a regular basis. You turn those kinds of practices into habits, then you habitually are increasing oxytocin level. You turn adjusting anger into regulating it into deeper contact, which is what you do when you're working with wounding, so you start out separated by anger and then you become connected by resolving it into love for each other, that actually plays on those same cords. Because habituation happens in many ways, not just one or two ways.

Keith Witt: Now, the karezza stuff works really well. It keeps you charged with your partner, and the people that do that kind of stuff report the same kinds of benefits that people who consistently practice any of the tantric techniques. And I think if you're wired for that and you and your partner like that, go for it. It's the same way, I was talking to a guy recently, and I said... His girlfriend wanted sex more frequently than him, and he was doing his best, I said, "Well, what gets her off?" He says, "Well, she likes Fifty Shades of Grey." I said, "Oh, constraints. Restraints." He said, "Yeah." I said, "Well, how do you feel about it?" "Well, it's okay. Now, it doesn't really turn me on, it doesn't turn me off." I said, "Well, good experiment, go get some restraints and play with them after you guys get turned on." If you're going to do something new, get turned on first because you get more disinhibited when you're aroused. And so, say they do that, okay? Well, then, he's brought that element in that has kept the eroticism alive, because those restraints might be a fetish. I hate DSM. DSM pathologizes fetishes. Every time I find a fetish with a couple and it doesn't completely turn off the partner, I go, "Oh boy."


Neil Sattin: And just to be clear, DSM, you're talking about the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, right? I want to just remove that from BDSM, which is what you're also sort of talking about in the moment.

Keith Witt: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The DSM, otherwise known as "the book of woe"...


Keith Witt: Has a bazillion things that are human problems, and then has a diagnosis for them. And some of those are quite useful and some of them are not useful and some of them are bullshit. And everybody in the field has a lot of hostility towards the DSM, but we have to use it because it's a common language. So a fetish is a problem if it interferes with individual relational health, and it's an asset if it can bring eroticism. But my point about it is, to me, the karezza practices fall within that, and you can see, karezza started in the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. And so, to me, what karezza ushered in was the egalitarian marriage between two educated people wanting to maintain a certain kind of special inter-subjectivity that was deeper than the people around them. And this was a sexual way of doing it.

Keith Witt: But to be able to do that, you do have to be educated, you do have to be self-aware, you do have to have capacities for self-regulation, you do have to be consciously sexual and have a conscious sexual practice that goes somewhat against cultural constraints, at least in the first part of the 20th century. Now, all those things that I just said are things that make relationships way better that don't have to do with not having an orgasm or maintaining a certain level of connection, but have to do with... Everything to do with intimacy, inter-subjectivity, and the development of consciousness and the co-development of inter-subjective consciousness.

Neil Sattin: So I'm appreciating that just like every other system that we've talked about, even karezza is a model that it's there for you to try and to see how that affects you. Does it have a positive impact or a negative impact? If you take karezza to an extreme and then you happen to have an orgasm, you might feel shame around that. Well, it's stopped helping you at that point, right?


Neil Sattin: So everything in its place, to everything its season. And that being said, it's a helpful seasoning to have.

Keith Witt: Back in 19... What was it? '79, I was studying with a Daoist priest and martial artist. I was learning a very intense kind of explosive form of somatic therapy called simple linking therapy, and I became his apprentice, and I studied martial arts and healing with him. It was just one of those archetypal things. So in the end, at the very end... So I'd studied hard, I became his number one guy. And in the end, there was this yoga called the yoga of the five dragons, and to get to five dragons you get one dragon every week, and you can't have an orgasm for five weeks. And not only that, because he wanted to make it hard for me, I had to go down to his fighting class in San Diego and I had to fight every guy in that class. It was just one of those martial arts movies things. At the end I was all covered with blood, right? So they had this circle, and they brought this poor, young fucker in, "Come fight Keith." He looked at me and he burst into tears. [laughter]

Neil Sattin: Oh my God.

Keith Witt: So then the teacher got in this ring with me and I had to fight, finesse fighting the teacher, so I didn't get killed and I could get out of there. Anyway, that five weeks of not having an orgasm when I was 30 years old was a fucking nightmare for me. Now, I can't remember what effects it had on my relationship with Becky at the time. Becky is way more flexible than me around sex. We were intimate, we were supportive and so on. And it was really useful for me, I remember those five weeks with gratitude because I had to discover new things about myself within that context and about us. And so I can really see karezza being something if a couple practices it, you're going to go deeper into your love and your eroticism with each other, whether you do it for a month or for a lifetime. And that kind of shared practice bonds people. It's kind of like both of you becoming yoga enthusiasts or both of you really loving meditation together, only this has those shared erotic elements that you don't do with other people. That makes couples special. And that special form of eroticism I think makes you stronger with your partner. And if you like it, you do it. But if you don't like it, then you don't have to do it. Now maybe I'm just saying that because it'd be great for me to do it and I don't want to give up my orgasms. I don't know, I can't say, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Well, I can't tell you how many people I've talked to about it who have literally had that, "You're not taking my orgasms away from me," kind of response.


Keith Witt: How dare you!

Neil Sattin: And I think that that's one of the reasons why it's so important, not that it necessarily become a lifelong practice, but particularly because of those habitual ways that we think about our sexual selves and that we're driven to orgasm, I think that it's helpful to really peel that back a little bit. And as an adult, as a mature adult, to take some perspective on how you even learned to be a sexual being and to re-experience yourself to some degree. And if you're not having orgasms and you're someone who's been orgasm-motivated, then that's going to give you a totally new way of understanding how you're even relating to your partner. And it definitely gives you a much broader vocabulary in bed if suddenly you're like, "Well, I'm not being driven to orgasm, so what the hell am I going to do? I gotta figure this out." So I think it's also a very useful vehicle to just waking up other parts of you that then, yeah, why not, integrate it all. But integrate it from having that new perspective where you're not just being run by the need, and so many people do express that as a need; I'm not sure that it is a need, but the need for orgasms.

Keith Witt: It's a drive. So first of all, it's a drive. So with the drives, we don't deny... Denying the drives screws us up. Integrating the drives into a larger consciousness makes us bigger people. The great thing about karezza is that when you're pushing towards orgasm, it's more individualistic. If you do karezza you're always in the intersubjectivity with your partner. Couples that are able to do that, "Yeah, I make love and I have orgasms or I don't have orgasms, or whatever," some people don't care to have orgasms during lovemaking, but I like the connection and I maintain the connection. It's frankly way, way easier, if you're doing karezza, to maintain that inter-subjective connection, to feel it, to feel that as the primary mover of your eroticism. It's not getting off that's the primary mover, it's that.

Keith Witt: And so it's a beautiful system for that. And so, is it a good thing to try? Sure, it's a good thing to try. If you and your partner feel like there's more love and passion if you do it, is it a good thing to continue? Sure, it's a good thing to continue. Is it alarming when you've been acting out on a drive, to go to orgasm, and somebody says, "No, you can't act out on the drive, you gotta suppress your drive." People get all defensive and rather than examine their defensiveness, we'll try to find some reason why you're wrong.


Keith Witt: Well, in integral you go, "How is this right? How does it fit in to the larger framework of the infinite variation of consciousness?" But still, that still predictably goes through certain stages, and has a directionality. Well, if something's creating more love and more connection and more of an erotic specialness with you and your partner, it's going to be a good thing, in my opinion, if you both feel that. Now, if one person is denying themselves and doing it for you and being pissed off about it secretly, that's co-dependent. And as we all know, being counter-dependent, pretending you don't need people sucks. That's differentiation, pathological differentiation. Being codependent sucks, which is, serving somebody in a way that denies yourself or supports your pathology. Being interdependent, where you two are appropriately connecting in ways that support your individual development and your collective development, that's the gold standard for human beings. And so, we want everything that we can to support interdependence around our friendship, our love affair, and our capacity to heal ruptures.

Keith Witt: Those three things are central to all the systems, and the karezza fits into it, it fits into it quite beautifully, in my opinion, and, particularly, a pro-sexual system in the beginning of the 20th century, end of 19th century. Remember, Christianity is not pro-sexual. These people were really going against the culture. The minute today, when you go to a... If you go to a fundamentalist church, and you got a pastor saying, "Yeah, I want everybody to have sex every day, for the next year... Month," which happens, this is Christianity, progressive Christianity, moving towards being a more pro-sexual system, and I think that's necessary, and it... And beautiful, and that's the development of that particular tradition, in my opinion.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's... I love how it's become another one of our many paths to Rome. And I also like how you put that into the integral context. I think that's helpful, for me, and, probably, for everyone listening, because we can talk about integral, and we haven't even... And you mentioned at the very top that it's a meta system, so it's a way of seeing systems.

Keith Witt: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: So I think it's helpful to understand that evolution, that that's maybe the bias, and it happens to be a bias that I appreciate, of looking at things from an integral perspective.

Keith Witt: Mm-hmm. Well, yeah. The downside of it is that I can't really... I can't go out and say, "Hey, buy my Loving Completely book, do my Loving Completely system and you'll be a much better couple's therapist, then you will be better than the other people." I don't know. You take my book, and you read it, and you apply it to your life, or you apply it to your practice. It'll probably enhance your life and your practice. As a therapist, will it make you better than other good therapists? Well, it'll make you a better therapist. Will it make you better than other people? I don't know. No. If somebody else is doing a really good work out of their system, and they're getting results, they're doing fine. And if they try to kind of shape themselves into Keith's understanding, bringing integral and neurobiology in the stages of bonding, and telling jokes and whatever it is I do, opening up a channel into the other world and letting that flood into the session, which is what I do in most of my sessions. If you go, "I'm going to try to do that instead of what I, naturally, want to do," it's probably going to screw you up.

Keith Witt: Now, if you're really excited by that, you go, "Yeah, I want to try that, put myself in that shape." Absolutely do it, and then what you'll end up discovering is your own version of that. And people end up having, I just need to say, whether they do it consciously or unconsciously, good therapists, really, are bringing in something larger than themselves into the container of the session. And just because I can see that and other people can't, sometimes, doesn't mean that it's not always there with people that are doing healing work. I might not, personally, think it's better to be aware of it so it's easier to regulate it up if you're aware of it, but that's not necessary. Consciousness of it is necessary, but the presence of it does make the work more sacred and more beautiful, in my opinion. And in integral, those are your three validity standards. What's true objectively, what's beautiful aesthetically, and what feels good, either subjectively and morally. The beautiful, good and true.

Neil Sattin: So I'm wondering, and this might be our last question for today, because I feel like we've covered so much territory and, hopefully, this has been helpful for you listening, to get so many different perspectives. And hopefully, if we've pissed anyone off, Sue, John, David, Stan, if you guys are listening. [chuckle]

Keith Witt: Sorry, you guys, really sorry if I irritated you. I'm just trying to be a truth-teller here. I love your systems.


Neil Sattin: If we've pissed you off, hopefully, it's in a good way. Hopefully, you'll see that this is all meant to be just in service of taking this all to a place where it's really benefiting the most people possible. And that brings me to my last question for you, and this is... I'm just curious to hear your answer, do you think that we'll get to a point where the last book on how to have a good relationship will have been written, and people will just be like, "You know what? We're just going to... This is the book, and there's no [chuckle] other, no... " Some people might say, "That's the Bible." But do you think that we'll get to that place where it's just going to be like, "You know what? Indisputably, this is the book, this kinda covers it." And it manages to encompass the light, the dark, the this, the that, the breadth of the spectrum, and it's all there.

Keith Witt: [chuckle] Well, so... The short answer to that is, no.


Keith Witt: That book is not going to be written. "Loving Completely" is my eighth book, and I'm working on a book on trauma now. And that book on trauma, those nine books together are cosmology that's an accurate reflection of how I understand the universe, how I understand people in love and psychopathology and healing and how to move forward developmentally in the world, and support the evolution of consciousness. Okay. So that's Keith's system. It's integrally informed, but still it's got my personality and my psychology, and my bias is all over it. So that's going to be true for everybody. Also, we grow through stages. We grow through an ego-centric, which is age-appropriate to little kids and to ethnocentric, where we're conformists to other standards. They don't have to make sense, which is normal for grade schoolers, to rational at teenage, which we can do critical analysis, but we're attracted to merit-based hierarchies. The pluralistic, which you see a lot in college where there's people who are egalitarian and multi-cultural, to integral where you're looking at everything in authority and goes in a flex-flow standard. You notice how growth hierarchies and dominator hierarchies and chose growth hierarchies.

Keith Witt: Okay, so every one of those world views responds differently to different teaching about love. When I write, I try to write to all of those world views, but each one of them is listening differently, because we all look at different worlds. And the world views don't stop. They don't stop at integral. You go from integral to a level of connecting where you want to connect with like-minded others that serves the world. You and I are doing that now. That's the next level after integral. There's another level after that where there's a constant relationship with spirit in whatever you do. And then there's another level after that. Now, the more... The higher you go, the fewer people meet you there. But if someone understands that territory and writes a book about it, it's just one of the pleasures of the world to run into that book and go, "Oh, my God." This is what Ken Wilber's stuff did to me. There was a part of my consciousness that was bursting to grow and wasn't finding a map to grow until I found the integral map, the meta-theory, and then bam. It literally transformed my consciousness. I'm a different person in many ways. I see a different world, and I've progressively seen different worlds.

Keith Witt: And so, what's going to happen more and more, particularly now that there's this explosion of knowledge, is people will write their books from their systems to whoever it is they're talking to. And I'm focusing more on people that are rational and post-rational, but the fundamentalist get stuff out of my book and ego-centric people can. But I'm not writing it to an ego-centric audience. If I was, I would write a book about the warrior in the "Man of Wisdom." When I have ego-centric guys in here, I challenge them to be a warrior of integrity, moving towards "Man of Wisdom." Red, ego-centric power God types guys like that. If I have an ego-centric feminine person, I challenge her to be the embodiment of whatever her concept of the feminine design, moving towards "Woman of Wisdom." Those work very well in my experience with ego-centric world views, but they don't work very well with ethno-centric world views, and so on. And so as we expand and we understand, there are all these world views, all these ways of experiencing the world are valid and that they do develop progressively. You don't skip levels when you grow on a developmental line. And then each one of them is available for different kinds of input.

Keith Witt: Terri O'Fallon up north does this. She says that, "You have to inhabit certain kinds of states before you can make it to the next developmental level." And those states involves understanding, but they also involve a visceral experience of certain things. If you don't have a visceral experience of, say, the infinite, you can't get to a particular developmental level on your psychosocial line, or your self-line. If you don't have an experience of world-centricism, of all people being connected, all of us being brothers and sisters, you can't really get to a world-centric world view. You have to have that experience. It's a felt experience. So the books all speak to the different stages and the different developmental levels, and different systems. And so, well we'll keep on writing books and we'll keep on coming up with new systems and we'll keep on interfacing it with technology, like neuro-feedback or therapeutic systems, like somatic re-experiencing, EMDR and so on. And we'll keep on refining our understanding of development on what's going on neurobiologically in the different developmental stages, but also, not just individually 'cause we grow up in a relationship, what's going on relationally when you shift from infant to toddler to young kid to sexually aware? Neil, one of... Just a final bee in my bonnet.


Keith Witt: I have worked with families. I tell families, "Talk about... Control what your kids see. Control images. Screens, whatever, but talk to them about everything." Couples are like, "I don't want to talk to my kid about sex until, they're what, 14 or something, or 11 or... " No. Talk to them about sex when they're two or three. "I don't want to talk about violence to my kid because I don't want him to... " Talk to them about violence when they can talk. Talk to them about everything. And then... But control the images. You don't want them to have traumatic images, but you want them to have a global understanding of how the world works and how they work, because they're sexual beings. They have impulses to violence. How are they going to understand their sexuality, their impulse to violence, their selfishness and so on, unless you can see it, normalize it and help them understand it within the context of development and the cultures that they're in.

Keith Witt: Talk to them about everything. And from an accepting standpoint, and a standpoint of, "In our family, we focus on everybody developing." And mom and dad a developing just like the kids are developing. Those are the families that seem to do the best, in my opinion, and those are the couples that do the best. It's not like we ever get there. We're always working at loving each other better. I'm going to be working on loving Becky better until one of us dies, or until my brain dissolves or whatever the hell. Okay, so why? Because that commitment, lets me know, I want to make it work now, but I'm always... My job is to make it work a little bit better, because that grows me and it grows her and there's something sacred about that.

Keith Witt: I'm not just doing it because it makes me happier and I'm not just doing it 'cause it makes us happier. I'm doing it because I think it makes the world a better place. It makes me a better therapist. Those are the reasons... I'm doing it for world-centric reasons as well as egocentric reasons, because development is including the transcendent. You never lose ego-centricism but you do get world-centricism or even life-centricism. I'm doing this, so hopefully people will stop this great "Die off" that we're doing now and start saving the planet. I think that contributing to the evolution of consciousness is contributing to solving those problems and so, that's my attempt to do it. That's a motivation system that runs me, as well as the other ones. And that's true for all of us.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It's certainly true for me as well, with the podcast and this work. As I hear you talk about all those different levels of how we're contributing. I'm right there with you, that's... I've sat back and thought about it a lot, recently. Having celebrated the three-year anniversary of the podcast just a month ago or so, and I was just kinda like, "Why am I doing this?" And then, it's interesting, right?

Keith Witt: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Because some of those reasons are personal like, "Yeah, this is Neil Sattin wanting to make his mark on the world." And then... Then I'm able to step back from that and say, "Yeah, and I want to make a mark on the world, I want to make this world a better place and I want to make it a better place for my kids, for you listening, for future generations, for... " Hopefully there are... There's a long future ahead of us, as a planet. And then, even potentially, when aliens finally do make contact with us, or we with them, then hopefully we're in a better position to do that in a way that's actually constructive. That's the first time I've spoken those words, so... [chuckle] I wouldn't have told you, I'm going to have to interview Whitley Strieber now. I'm going to have to get him on the... On this show.

Keith Witt: Well, that's why I love talking with you, why you enjoy talking with me. We share these motivation systems, Neil, and other people that talk to us and share them, they'll... We know each other when we relate.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Keith Witt: We feel that and you know what, it's... There's something... This is the evolutionary impulse coming through us. It feels sacred. It's something that is in the fabric of the universe to evolve to greater complexity and with human beings, greater complexity is deeper consciousness, more compassion and more love. More care for more. More for all. It's just we feel it. We feel it in each other and we feel it in ourselves and we want to help other people feel it because it's such a great thing.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I feel in this moment the presence of everyone listening who's here and is hopefully nodding their head at this moment, like, "Yeah, that's why I'm here, that's why I'm listening, and that's why I want to be a part of this conversation too."

Keith Witt: Yeah. God bless all of us and thank you for listening.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Keith Witt: Thank you for sharing this with us and for growing and for contributing your development and your consciousness to all of us. Thank you.

Neil Sattin: Keith is there and obviously, we've recommended your books highly here. Is there a particular Ken Wilber book that you think is a good starting place for people whose interest is peaked by our conversation and who isn't already integrally informed?

Keith Witt: I think the best place to start would be to get the "Kosmic Consciousness" audio tapes that Ken did with Tami Simon, It Sounds True, because once you hear those tapes, 12 of them, and listening to those more consistently than anything else, has lit people up in terms of their understanding, what this understanding of the universe. As Ken, Ken has called himself a "mapmaker." And it's not the mapmakers don't discover, don't create the territory. They draw maps that help us explore the territory. So you do that... That would be the first thing I'd recommend, get the Sounds True "Kosmic Consciousness," K-O-S-M-I-C Consciousness.

Keith Witt: Now, after that I recommend "Integral Spirituality." "Integral Spirituality" is a wonderful book. The first time I met Ken was when I was on a podcast with him talking about one of those chapters. And he and I have since become friends and he's written blogs for my books since... Like blogs for my books and stuff. And we've interviewed... Done various interviews with each other, but that's when I first met him. And that "integral Spirituality" book, if you've... Particularly, if you've heard "Kosmic Consciousness" it really takes you deeper into the cosmology. At a particular point, you just understand the universe in a different way and particularly, how consciousness exists in the universe and particularly, human consciousness that changes you. In that sense, it's a psychoactive system. You learn the system and you embody it and you're by definition, a different person. You have a larger perspective. Now, it doesn't solve all your problems and turn wine into water, water into wine or anything but...


Keith Witt: I don't want to over promise you.

Neil Sattin: Dang. [laughter]

Keith Witt: I know, that would be great but it doesn't do that. As far as I know, maybe it's somebody else has turned water into wine. But that being said, that's what I'd recommend. "Kosmic Consciousness" first and then if I was advising, do the "integral Spirituality." Now, any of his books are utterly fascinating. I haven't read all of them, but the ones I've read every single one of them has been great, because he knows that territory and describes it in ways that are surprisingly wonderful and very... To me, very applicable that's why I wrote "Waking Up." His stuff, to me at that point, hadn't been adequately applied to psychotherapy and, "Well, I'll do that." [chuckle] I was at a conference, he said the books haven't been written, I went home and wrote book.


Keith Witt: I dreamt about that material everyday for over in a year and then I would wake up and I'd write a 400-page book and I'd wrote... So I wrote a 400 page book and then send it to a couple of the integral people and said, "Hey, what do you think?" And they didn't even remember who I was. It was one of those real bizarre things, but that led me into the system and into meeting people and into my other books and so on. I find it enormously useful in understanding psychotherapy and everything else. And parenting for instance, and integrally understanding of parenting in my opinion, makes you a hugely better parent because it makes the interiors of your child and the world views of your child way, way more visible. And gives you direction about how to guide your child to more fully occupy their current world view, and then give them little hints about going to the next one because you can't skip world views, you have to go from one to the other. It helps you with sexuality, it helps you with your physical health, it helps you in your interface with culture, it helps you in your work.

Neil Sattin: Keith, Keith, you're getting into water into wine territory here.


Keith Witt: Okay, I'm sorry. Sorry about that. Getting a little evangelical here, hallelujah brothers and sisters. I'm not that, it's not for everybody. If you don't like integral that's fine, you can grow. You can transcend. I have no problem. I love you just as much if you hate integral. No problem. Just saying, just 'cause I love it. It's like karezza and you, just 'cause you love it doesn't mean everybody has to.

Neil Sattin: That's right, that's right. Well, Keith, it is always a pleasure to have you here on the show. I love your spirit, your wisdom and your willingness to go there despite how it might irritate people, not that we had that much of that here. And as you mentioned, it's just always great to connect with you for the podcast. So thank you so much for your time and enthusiasm today.

Keith Witt: Well, thank you for having me on again. I had really a lot of fun.

Apr 23, 2019

Are you worried that your partner might not like you for who you truly are? And if you notice that you've been not entirely "you" in your relationship - how do you shift gears and create a context that supports more authenticity? Sometimes we discover something new about ourselves. Other times we knew all along that there were aspects that we've been hiding. Or we might act one way when we're trying to attract our partner - only to then feel trapped into being that "super-enticing" version of ourselves...forever. In today's episode, I show you exactly how to bridge the gap into truly being yourself - and how to invite your partner to be more authentic with you. In the end it will be a relief for both of you to be who you are - and to set yourself free from the shackles of society's expectations!

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

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!

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