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Neil Sattin interviews John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix, Peter Levine, Stan Tatkin, Dick Schwartz, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Diana Richardson, Terry Real, Wendy Maltz - and many others - in his quest to dig deep into all the factors that keep a Relationship Alive and Thriving! Each week Neil brings you an in-depth interview with a relationship expert. Neil is an author and relationship coach who is enthusiastic and passionate about relationships and the nuts and bolts of what makes them last. You can find out more about Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast at http://www.neilsattin.com
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Now displaying: 2020
Jun 29, 2020

Sexting - what is it? How do you do it? Why would you want to do it? And...most importantly...how do you ensure it goes well - and how do you keep it from going horribly wrong? Whether you have been with your partner for a long time - or are just getting to know someone - sexting can be a fun way to connect and expand the range of your intimacy with another person. There's a lot of serious stuff going on in the world right now, so I thought we'd take a moment on the show to dive into something playful. Sexy texting (or messaging) can be a new (or improved) relationship-building skill for you to experiment with.

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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Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. There is a lot going on in our world right now. A lot. And as much as I personally would like to fix everything overnight, that's not going to happen. And so I'm doing my best, as always, to mix things up because this topic of how to do relationships well, how to find relationships, how to stay in relationships, how to leave relationships, sometimes, let's be honest, it can be kind of heavy, or if not heavy, at least serious. Today, I want to take a step towards a topic that's actually quite useful, quite important, and also on the lighter side of things. I want to talk about sexting.

Neil Sattin: I want to talk about sexting in terms of how to sext, how to sext well, what not to do, what to do, why you might want to do it. And we'll talk about sexting also from the perspective of where you might be on the spectrum of how well you know your partner. So we'll talk about what it's like to use sexting as a tool for connection and fostering desire in your main relationship, if you have a primary partnership. And then we'll contrast that with what it's like to do that with someone that you've never met, or maybe you've had some Tinder interaction or online dating interaction. I don't want to necessarily promote just one thing. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OkCupid, Plenty Of Fish, whatever the hell it is.

Neil Sattin: Whatever it is, if you're meeting people there and if you are being responsible about whether or not you are keeping a distance from them, right now we're in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, then you might consider sexting as a way to boost your intimacy and to have a little fun with someone that you're meeting. But it's very different when you sext with someone that you don't know in person or whom you barely know, especially if you don't actually have a sexual history with that person. We're going to get into the ins and outs of sexting, and hopefully have some fun while we do it. Because I think when done right, sexting can be pretty amazing. And if you don't know what I'm talking about when I say the word sexting, I'm talking about communicating via instant message or texting about sexual things. And not just about sexual things, but actually taking your partner and yourself on a sexual journey, on a fun journey, on a connecting journey, on an intimate journey, it can be intimate, and all over some texting or instant messaging medium.

Neil Sattin: So that is what sexting is, at least the way that I'm defining it right now. And before we dive in, I just want to remind you that Relationship Alive is an offering for you so that you can have the best relationships possible. And I can't do it alone. In fact, I really can't do it alone. Over the coming weeks and months, I'm going to be probably putting out a call for some assistance. Because for a long time, this has been pretty much a solo show, although I have had amazing help from my editor, Christy, and some various assistants along the way. It's time to really have a team who's helping carry on the mission.

Neil Sattin: Right now, one of the most important people on the team is you being there - listening, putting this stuff into practice, talking to people about Relationship Alive, turning other people on to the show and, if you are able, supporting us through a contribution. You can choose any amount that feels right to you, because every little bit counts. If you're finding the show to be helpful, just visit neilsattin.com/support or text the word "support" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. This week, the team members I would like to thank are Joseph, Ruthanna, Holly, Mark, Ruth, Jenny, Marie, Timothy, David, Angie, Sylvia, Drew, Lydia, Ann and Valerie. Thank you all so much for your generous and, in many cases, ongoing support of the Relationship Alive podcast.

Neil Sattin: Oh, and I don't want to forget that it's been a little bit, Mark, since your donation came through, but I wanted to mention that Mark's donation was made in honor of Annie. You can do that, too, when you contribute to the show. Just tell me who you'd like to thank, who's important or special in your life, who has been, is currently or will be, and I'm happy to thank them as well here on Relationship Alive.

Neil Sattin: Before we get into the topic, just a reminder that we do have a free group on Facebook, if you're still on Facebook, I'm not sure honestly how much longer I'm going to be there. But if you are there, we have a Relationship Alive community where we have more than 4,000 people who are listeners of the show gathered to create a safe space to talk about relationship stuff. So, come join us there. It is a closed group, so the only people who see what you post are the people who are in the group. Generally, it's a really supportive community. And the times occasionally when people need a redo, they're generally pretty good about asking for that and giving positive, supportive, constructive feedback so that you can work on your skills at supporting other people as well. So that's the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook.

Neil Sattin: If you have a question for me on the show, just email it to questions at relationshipalive dot com. You can record yourself asking the question or you can just email the question to me. I was thinking the other day about how it might be fun to actually have people interview me for the show, so that's something I'd consider, too. If you want to interview me around a particular topic for Relationship Alive, let's do that experiment. That will be fun. Just again, questions at relationshipalive dot com.

Neil Sattin: And lastly, if you are looking for ways to improve your communication, we're going to be talking about one particular aspect of communication today. But in general, if you are looking for ways to communicate about things that are intimate or challenging and to stay connected to your partner while you do, then please download my free guide to my top three relationship communication secrets. These are special strategies for communicating in relationship that are a little different than your conventional wisdom around how to communicate well. And by putting them into practice, you can stay connected no matter how challenging the topic that you are talking about. You have a pretty good chance anyway. Nothing is 100% certain, right? You never know. You can do your best, and the other person might not be their best, or they might still be doing their best and it might still go poorly. But to get a really good chance of it going well, start with my free communication guide. To get that, just visit neilsattin.com/relate or text the word "relate" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: Let's get on with the show and talk about sexting. Sexting, when it's done right, it can be super hot, super fun and super connecting. And when it's done not so right, then it can be really horrible and go poorly and really be disconnecting or alienating even. So, let's talk about sexting and some of the principles, 'cause I'm not going to... The way that it unfolds, and the way that it needs to unfold for you or for the person with whom you are sexting, that's going to be different based on every person. In fact, one of the things that I love most about sexting is that when it's done well, it's generally because it's following the rules of good improvisation.

Neil Sattin: Now, we've had a couple episodes on the show where we've talked about improvisation and how to do that well, and so I want to give you those episode numbers so that you can listen to them at your leisure. The first is episode number 17, which was called "Stop Worrying, Start Playing", and that was with Patti Stiles who's one of the world's foremost improv teachers. She's based out of Australia. And that was a super fun conversation. And then we had another conversation later with Cathy Salit, that was episode number 78: "How to Have More Fun in Your Relationship."

Neil Sattin: If you're not sure how to locate episodes based on number, you can scroll through your podcast app that you use, if you're using a smartphone or something like that. Or you can just go to neilsattin.com, which is the Relationship Alive website, and there's a little search magnifying glass up at the top, and you can just go - in that magnifying glass, you can type in the episode number, and it will pull up the episode for you. I'm going to do that right now just to prove that it works. I just typed in "78" and it brought up episode 178, episode 78, and then some random episodes, so I don't know what to tell you there, but it started with the right episodes.

Neil Sattin: Okay, great. Good sexting follows the rules of good improvisation. And basically what that means is first creating space for the other person to respond to you. Second, to be really paying close attention to how they are responding to you and looking for ways to amplify what they do or say or add to it. And there's some responsibility that we have as communicators in general, to be listening well, to be responding to what is actually being offered rather than off on our own tangent. And also, there's a responsibility for us to participate, like in good faith.

Neil Sattin: One of the first things about sexting that is important to establish with a person is whether or not they want to sext. Now, some people just don't. For some people, that can be a super edgy thing or it can bring up bad memories about some bad experience, so it's not like everyone necessarily right off the bat wants to be a sexting partner. It might be helpful to have a conversation. Again, download that free relationship communication guide. It might be good to have a conversation about sexting so that you know where the person who you're talking to stands, whether that person is your close intimate partner that you've been with for 10 or 20 years, or whether that person is someone who's totally new to you. Questions you might ask are things like, "Can we talk about a topic that might be a little edgy or a little risky?"

Neil Sattin: Hopefully they'll say yes, and then you might say, "I've been wondering if we can talk about sexting and what that would be like." Or, "I'm curious to know if you would ever be interested in having sexy texting time with me." There are a couple ways. Now, you can think of something that feels good for you or that feels right, or that feels right with knowing your partner. But I think it's helpful to, one, get their agreement to even have a conversation with you about something edgy so they know what's coming. And then the second thing is to make it explicit that what you're talking about is being explicit to some degree via texting.

Neil Sattin: Now, as you talk about it, if you have a conversation about it, then you'll be able to gauge how well you or your partner... How much you actually want to get explicit. And there are ways to sext that actually don't involve a single naughty word. Sometimes using the naughty words can be fun, other times you don't have to go there. And there's an important reason for that that I will tell you about in just a minute. But it's good to get a sense of whether or not someone is into that. One way is the direct way, which I just gave you. Now, a second way to explore whether or not someone might be into that would be to actually start something with them, to start a chain of potential sexting. But you gotta start off really lightly. It could be something like, "What are you wearing right now?" Something like that, especially once you have the precedent with someone of doing this sort of thing, then it might be very easy for you to just say something like that, and suddenly there you are getting each other in the mood.

Neil Sattin: But if you're not sure about another person and their willingness, and you're not sure you even want to ask them directly for whatever reason - although I gotta say, being direct is far and above the best way to go about it - then you can do a little foray into something that leaves the door open for things to be sexy, but isn't next necessarily sexy in and of itself. And I'll give you an example of that in just a moment.

Neil Sattin: Actually, I'll give that example to you now 'cause I wasn't even sure - I've had something I was going to say, but now I'm going to give you the example. So something like that might be... Oh, I remember what I was going to say. I'll say it next. You might text something like, "I was thinking of you a moment ago... " and that's it. Now, remember the whole idea of sexy texting is that you are in a conversation with the other person. So if I text you something like, "I was thinking about you just a moment ago, and I was imagining your beautiful eyes and your curves, and I was thinking about un-zipping your dress." If you just go off like that, you don't know what's going on with the other person. They might be in the middle of a business meeting, or they might be changing a child's diaper, who the hell knows. It could be something that is absolutely not sexy, and it might not be the right time for them.

Neil Sattin: So if you just kind of launch off onto your sexy talk at the wrong time, then it could be funny, and it could very well have the opposite effect of what you would be intending, which would I hope be to have a hot, fun connecting time with this other person. So you want to engage them. Something simple, "I was just thinking of you... " and then you wait. And sometimes, as one of my favorite musicians, Tom Petty, used to say, "The waiting is the hardest part." But you gotta be patient because what comes after a text like that is so important. You might get a response like, "Oh, yeah?" with a question mark, which is an invitation for you to say something more. Or you might just get a, "Oh, that's cool. What were you thinking about?" Or you might get a, "Awesome, babe, see you later," or you might get a non-response that shows you that the other person isn't really there, or they're not really ready to play with you.

Neil Sattin: And then a response like, "Oh, yeah?" that could be an invitation, that could be a, "Hmm, what's going to happen here, I might be willing to play." Or it might just be, "I'm curious, you were thinking about me, how come?" Even then, you don't want to launch right into something. In fact, you don't ever want to launch right into something, and here is why, because the most important thing that happens in sexting, and this actually might be true in any form of communication. I should really think this through, but definitely in sexting the most important thing is not what you say. The important thing is what is happening in your imagination or in your partner's imagination. This is truly one of those times where saying less could be more, because really what you're both trying to do is to go on a journey together, a journey of fantasy together.

Neil Sattin: Now, this is why sexting can sometimes be problematic when you don't really know the person, you don't know them, you haven't spent any time with them in person, you've just had some communication with them online or maybe a phone call or something like that, but you've never actually been with them, and you've never even been with them sexually like... So we'll talk for a minute about the risk of that. But right now, just know that so much of what you are trying to do is you're trying to create this shared story that's going to unfold under your fingertips and in between your ears, in other words, in your mind and in your body, because when you're sexting, you're going to be able to have a very visceral experience that incorporates most, if not all of your senses, and your own erotic energy.

Neil Sattin: So that is the important part of sexting. Knowing exactly the right thing to say or the perfect combination of words, trust me, that is not as important as saying things that inspire the other person to get into their bodies, to get into their experience, and to get into their imagination about what might be happening. For instance, if you text, "I was just thinking of you... " and the other person responds, "Oh, yeah?" Then you might say, "Yeah, I was thinking about your big broad shoulders," or "I was thinking about your deep blue eyes." Or if it's someone that you don't even know, like an online dating person, you might refer to a conversation that you've had, "Yeah, I was thinking about when you were talking about blah, blah," whatever it is, "and how that made me feel inside." Or you could refer to something, "I'm thinking about you in that red dress or you in that suit, and the way it makes me feel inside."

Neil Sattin: Now, that's a pretty edgy thing, especially if you add the, "and the way it makes me feel inside part," 'cause you're basically putting it out there like, "There's something going on, I'm thinking about you." And let's face it, any improv is a risk, and definitely sexting when you don't know if the other person is quite ready for it, or willing or wanting, it's a risk to put yourself out there. So you gotta be willing to be courageous. When you say something like that, now the door is open, and now you wait again to see how the other person is going to respond. If they start asking you questions about how you feel - where they are really with you and they're really curious - then I think most likely the game is on. If they don't respond or if they respond in a business-like manner, or if they respond in a way that leaves you really questioning over and over again, whether they're there with you, then they're probably not there with you, 'cause most people, when they're ready for something like that, it's only going to take a little bit of back and forth before it's super clear what's happening. You gotta take my word for that.

Neil Sattin: And the thing is, you don't want to force anyone into it. There's nothing quite as unsexy as trying to continually get someone into this sexy journey with you when they're not interested, so pay attention to what you're receiving, and wait and see how the other person responds. They may respond with something really forward and even graphic. If you said, "I was thinking about you with your big broad shoulders," they might say something like, "Oh, and that makes me think about wrapping my arms around you and pulling you close." Well, if someone responds that way, game on. If they say something like, "Yeah, I used to... They came in really good in rugby," then you really don't know where the person's at. They could be joking with you. They could be just being playful, or they could be not interested. And so you're going to have to take the conversation a little bit further to find out.

Neil Sattin: So if someone says, "Yeah, those shoulders came in really handy when I was playing rugby." Then you might say something like, "Tell me a little bit more about what the scrum is like...?" Isn't that what it's called in rugby the scrum? I don't know. I never played rugby, but... "Tell me more about what that's like being all huddled together." You're staying with what they offer you, which in improv is known as "yes...and". You're taking what someone gives you, and you're saying, "And something else" that goes along with what they gave you. So if someone talks about rugby, you don't want to say like, "Well, I hate rugby," or you don't want to say, "Well, let's get off the rugby field and into the bedroom." There might be a time to say something like that, when it's clear that the person is talking about more than rugby. If all they really want to tell you about is rugby, then it might be a little out of place to invite them into your imaginary bedroom. So you're going to have to take the conversation, the play, the improvisation a little bit further to see where they go.

Neil Sattin: The reason that this can be challenging when you don't know someone very well - and maybe you've had this experience in the past, I've had this experience before - where because so much of sexting and really any sort of written correspondence... This is one of the most challenging things about online dating is, so much of the interactions that happen are through the written word. We are different people when we're writing versus when we're talking, versus when we are seeing another person versus when we are right there in the flesh with another person. Those are all different modes of communication, and the way that we represent ourselves isn't always the same. Partly that's because the more removed you are from the direct experience of a person, the more you are creating that experience in your mind of the person.

Neil Sattin: So perhaps you've had that experience of having a written correspondence with someone that feels passionate and playful, and light, and sexy and engaging, and then you meet them in person and there's just no chemistry, or there's none of that fire, that playfulness or no attraction, or no interest, or no engagement, or whatever it is. Or it's just like awkward and shy and weird, and we will talk in a moment about what to do when that happens. But just recognize that the risk here, when you are sexting with someone that you don't actually know, is that you are going to be creating this whole fantasy world that might not fully be in alignment with what your experiences of that person in real life, real time, and that's challenging. Especially if you've spent days and days and days, maybe even longer, having more of a virtual relationship with a person. If you find yourself there in person and it's just not clicking, well, that can be a real downer.

Neil Sattin: In fact, maybe some relationships are just meant to be virtual. They can be fun and perfect just like that, and don't ever have to be more. That could be true. However, I think that it's more common that people will have this amazing virtual experience in real life, it won't go so well, and then the after-virtual experience just never is quite the same, 'cause so much is in the anticipation, so much is in the story that you have told yourself about the other person, about what they are like, what they look like, how they are as lovers. So, yeah, it can be challenging, whereas if you have experience with someone as an intimate partner, then you have some of that experience to draw on in terms of the picture that you paint for each other of what's happening. And also, the experience that you're creating for yourself in your head as you go through it is going to be aligned with what you naturally create with your partner in real life.

Neil Sattin: Now, sometimes you can just get a little bit into the sexting with someone that you are with in real life as a way of simply stoking the fire of something that could happen in person later. So all of that, "I was thinking of you... Blah, blah, blah." That can become, "I can't wait to see you tonight," or "Let's make sure we get the kids to bed early," or "I'm grabbing takeout so that we don't have to worry about cooking dinner," whatever it is. And in days like we have now, where you might both be sheltering-in-place in your house, even texting to each other under those circumstances can be fun because again, it is a different mode of communication, and because it allows you to take advantage of the fact that it activates your imagination and your partner's imagination.

Neil Sattin: And sometimes that's one of the hardest things about getting out of the routine and into something that's a little bit more intimate or erotic, it's because we're just... We're in the flow of something that's purely domestic, and it can be hard to change gears. So sending a little text, even when you're in the same house as someone can be a way to tap into a different part of them and their experience, and to change up the conversation and the vibe a little bit. That is if someone is willing to do this with you. I'm a big fan. I think it really activates a lot of our imagination and our eroticism, and there are things that we can text to each other that we might not ever say to each other. Sometimes that comes through in a negative way. I don't know if you've ever gotten a text from someone where you're like, "This person would never say that to me in person, but here they are texting it to me." But here it works to your advantage in a positive way where you can say things that you would never say.

Neil Sattin: And if it doesn't go so well, whatever it is you say, then you can always kinda laugh it off. So getting back to the whole process of getting started on a sexting-capade, if it's clear that the other person isn't going there with you, then the best thing to do is to just kind of blow it off with a little joke, and that could be like where you just let it go, and that's fine. Or you could be like, "Sounds like you're really busy right now." And if they say, "Yes," then you might be like, "Okay, well, I'm going to leave you alone 'cause clearly my mind was elsewhere." So you're naming it for the other person, which I think is actually a huge mark of integrity where you're not leaving them guessing, "What was that all about? Were they trying to sext with me? What was going on with them?" So you can actually say, "Hey, yeah, my mind was elsewhere, and yours isn't, and that's totally fine. That's totally okay." Yeah, you definitely want to let the other person off the hook so that they don't feel bad about it, because you don't want to create any pressure around this at all, really around anything sexual, if you can avoid it.

Neil Sattin: So, if someone is a no, then that's okay, you can be like, "Alright, no worries. I was glad to... It's good to talk to you. It's good to text with you a little bit. I just wanted to check in more than anything." And if someone is reaching out to you in that way and you want to let them down gently...If you barely know the person, and it's actually offensive, then you might not want to be so gentle. You might be like, "Wow, you're really going for it, aren't you? I'm not sure I'm ready for that kind of conversation between us," simple as that. Or if you are more intimate with the other person or you know them well, then you might be like, "I would so want to go there with you, but right now really is not the time for me. I'm so sorry, and I really appreciate that you were willing to put yourself out there like that."

Neil Sattin: So you probably heard a lot in there. There is me taking responsibility for myself. There's me naming what I think is going on with the other person. There's me appreciating them. There's me even apologizing, "No big deal. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I can't do this with you right now, but I would love to later. Thanks for bringing it up. Can I have a rain check on this conversation?" There are all sorts of ways where you can let someone down gently and still honor that they were being courageous and taking a risk. This is part of the dual responsibility in relationships. There're any number of ways that this can be illustrated, but here's one clear way where we are taking responsibility for just recognizing, "Oh, you were taking a risk, and I honor that in you," or "I'm taking a risk, and I just wanted you to know that. I'm naming that.

Neil Sattin: And these are great opportunities both for shared vulnerability in relationship, but also sharing responsibility for the moment, really owning your part in any moment that's happening goes such a long way to increasing the generosity that you both experience, because when you're taking responsibility for yourself fully, then I won't end up feeling taken for granted, because I know that you've got you and that you recognize how much work I'm putting in, how much effort, how many risks I'm taking. It's so important, 'cause in the end, it's that spirit of generosity and reciprocity that makes for good sexting. It makes for a good relationship-ing. It makes for good everything.

Neil Sattin: Now, I need to take a quick break before we dive into a little bit more of where you go, once the sexting starts happening, where you go with that. I want to tell you more about that, but before I do, I just need to mention this week's sponsor. Now, I'm not sure that they can offer you much to help you with your sexting technique. But if you are nervous about sexting or in general, you need some extra support around the things that are getting in the way of your happiness or achieving your goals, then this sponsor offers a great way that you can do that from the comfort of your own home, or from your office, or from your car, anywhere really, and their name is BetterHelp.

Neil Sattin: BetterHelp will assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist. You can chat via text with your counselor at any time, and you can schedule weekly video or phone sessions all without having to go anywhere. It's more affordable than traditional offline counseling, and they do offer a financial aid if you qualify. They also offer a broad range of expertise so that you can find the person most suited to helping you with your own unique situation. So whether it's needing to muster up some courage, or dealing with depression or stress, or anxiety, trauma, whatever is up for you, try out BetterHelp to help you move past the places where you're getting stuck.

Neil Sattin: So to start living a happier life today, you can try BetterHelp. And for being a Relationship Alive listener, you can get an extra 10% off your first month. Just visit betterhelp.com/alive, and join over 800,000 people taking charge of their mental health. Again, that's betterhelp.com/alive. And, thank you so much BetterHelp for your support of our mission here at Relationship Alive.

Neil Sattin: Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty of what to do when you're in the middle, when sexting is on, when it's happening. What do you do? How do you make it sexy and keep it sexy? Now, I'm going to just give you my thoughts on this, and my experience. So, this might be different for you, and I'll do my best to cover a few different scenarios so that you might find yourself fitting into some way of doing this that I describe. Amusingly, I just glanced at the clock and I realize that I've been talking for almost 40 minutes about sexting, and who knew I had so much to say about sexting? But there's actually quite a bit to say. And, as you can tell, it branches off into so many other aspects of relationship that are so important. I love that about this topic. Every piece of it is a fractal that opens to a whole different world that's related but different.

Neil Sattin: So, what do you do? Let's go back to those conversations about sexting that we talked about at the very top of the episode. What you might want to get clear on is, what kind of language is a turn on for your partner and for yourself, and what kind of language isn't. Now we may have to get a little explicit here. If your children are for some reason listening to this episode, this would be a good time to hit pause and to resume later. I'm assuming you did that. Some people want just delicate language about sex. They don't even want genitals named.

Neil Sattin: In fact, even the word genital, if you're one of those people, it probably just turned you way off right now, they probably just want to talk about things that are a little bit more metaphorical. I'm thinking of, for some reason, a good romance novel like, "That's making me feel warm between my legs," or, "Oh, I'm getting really excited, or, "I'm feeling all this energy in my body." Or even just saying that you're getting turned on in a gentle way. Saying turned on is a little bit more gentle. "Oh, I'm feeling so turned on right now." It's a lot different than like, "Man, I want to fuck your brains out right now." Totally different.

Neil Sattin: They're essentially saying the same thing, but they're saying the same thing in a very different way. And you want to get a sense of what works for you so that you can communicate that to your partner. And you want to get a sense of what works for them, so that you can communicate to them using the language that is going to be most powerful and evocative for them. So you might talk about things like, "Well, what words do you like to use for your various body parts? What words are turn on to you? What words are turn off to you?" Those are really important things to know because when you are texting, you are in the realm of words.

Neil Sattin: You're in the realm of the words that you say, and then you're in the realm of the thoughts that those words get you to think, or get your partner to think. If you're able to have a conversation about it, or if you get a sense of where they land, or just from how you've known them to be, you could be wrong. You could think that someone is super innocent and vanilla, and find out that they really love to talk really dirty, and say really dirty things. That could be true, and you will find out as you try this out, because usually if that is true for them, and they're feeling safe with you, then they'll start by taking a risk with words like that.

Neil Sattin: When your partner offers something like that, then you get to be a "Yes, and" to it. The "and" can be steering it in a new direction. The "and" can be just going with it, even if you might not necessarily use that word, but you know that they like to use that word. It could be like, "Wow, you just said that, didn't you?" Where you're actually calling attention to what you're doing in the moment, which can be fun too. It can keep things playful. If you say to someone like, "Oh, I just want you to put your cock in me." A totally legitimate sexting response to that might be like, "Wow, you just went there, didn't you?" Now, you might want to use an emoji there, like a smiley face or a winky face or something like that, just to show that you're not being mean, that you're being playful. The goal here is to be playful and fun, and to also pay attention to what you are saying and what is being said to you, how that makes you feel in your body.

Neil Sattin: Now, I'm just going to say it right now that when you are sexting, you have license to touch yourself. Now, if you're at the office, you may need to exercise some discretion about that. Depending on the circumstances, you may just have to be totally in your imagination. But if you have a little bit of privacy, then I give you permission hereby to touch the parts of your body that feel good, to even take a break for a minute from whatever conversation you're having, and just to go into your fantasy about what is happening, and to explore that for yourself, to explore the way it makes you feel, to touch yourself in ways that feel really good, to build the pleasure in you, and to build your story about what's happening and what's unfolding in your imagination, in your experience. And then once you've done that, you can transmit that to your partner.

Neil Sattin: It's funny, some of the most hot sexting experiences that I've had that have lasted even the longest, and I've had some that I've gone pretty long - and some can be super short. But it's funny, I'll look back at them and realize that we actually didn't say a whole lot. It's like the art in sexting isn't about how much you say or how graphic you get. It's saying just the right things that evoke the pictures, the experiences for your partner, and then creating the space for them to have that experience and to appreciate it in them.

Neil Sattin: A moment ago, when I was talking about those meta moments where you might say like, "Wow, you just went there, didn't you?" I think it is really helpful to the experience to name things like, "Wow, I am so turned on right now," or "I wish you were right here next to me right now," or "Oh my God, I can't wait until you're next to me." Or if you know how it feels to be actually being sexual with the other person, you might say, "Oh, I know exactly what that's like. It feels so good." You're, of course, saying all that with your words.

Neil Sattin: Now, as you sext, I think it's a good to note on the punctuation, as silly as that sounds. I think it's really helpful to use dots like dot dot dot, and question marks, and to use those as ways of reminding the other person that you're waiting for them. Again, you don't want to just sext AT your partner unless they've asked you to do that. I could see that happening. "Just send me sexy texts. I'm not going to be able to text back to you because I'm in the middle of making dinner for the kids, but just keep sexting me up, 'cause every time I read those, I get totally turned on." So there's a case where you've been given permission to just monologue your sexting.

Neil Sattin: But for the most part, you want to constantly be creating space, so you want to offer a few things and you might... This is a great way to use pauses in your texting, so you might just text a phrase. And I gave an example of this at the very beginning. So here's another. It might be something like, "Now I trace my fingers" and hit Send. Or actually it would probably be like, "Now I trace my fingers... " Send. "Starting at your collar bone... " Send. "Working my way down... " Send. And then you might ask a question like, "Where do you want me to go?" Or, "How do you like that?" So you offer something and then you ask a question.

Neil Sattin: Now, sometimes you're going to just offer something, you don't have to always put a question at the end, you don't want to be formulaic about it. So you might be offering something and then your partner might just start texting you back, and then you're in a back and forth. So there's no hard and fast rules about how to do this, or "I need three phrases with ellipses at the end, and then a question with a question mark at the end." It doesn't work that way. If you're stuck, then sure, use those things as ways to foster your own creativity, or to help remind your partner, "Hey, I'm over here. I'm waiting for you. Are you still there?" And in fact, if you lose your partner to some sexy reverie, then you might even ask them like, "Are you still breathing over there?"

Neil Sattin: So you want to be kinda playful about it, but it's a way of reminding them like, "Hey, we're on this journey together. Where'd you go?" In this zone, this is a good time to think about painting a picture of how you want to touch your partner, how you want them to touch you, and describing it in ways that aren't too specific unless specificity is asked for. If you asked me, "Where do you want me to go?" I could respond, "Just keep going down." That's one way, or I could respond like, "I want you to grab my cock."

Neil Sattin: There's just any number of ways, or like "I want you to tease me and... " And you could leave it at that, "I just want you to tease me. What do you do next?" And now it's back in your court, so you can be like, "Oh, okay, how am I going to tease Neil?" There's all kinds of possibility there. One of the best things I think, is for you to describe something about what you like or what you want to do, and then to be an invitation to whatever comes next. Now, hopefully, that's becoming clearer. As I'm talking about this, I'm thinking "hmmm...maybe I should make a little how-to guide on sexting?" You'll be the first to know if that happens, but I'm hoping that this is giving you a lot of good pointers.

Neil Sattin: As this goes on, with you inviting each other into the dance, talking about what you're really enjoying, what feels good, what you want to do, what you want to be done, giving your partner really appreciative feedback, "Oh, like you said that, that just really... That felt so good." or, "I'm just imagining that and that's so amazing." or whatever it is. So you're giving each other feedback. In many ways, this can be great practice for being in the bedroom and learning how to communicate better as lovers when you're actually in the bedroom with each other because it's required here.

Neil Sattin: But at the same time, also allowing each other that space to be in your own experience. And if your partner is not squeamish about this kind of thing, you might even say something like, "I can't help myself. I'm just...I'm touching myself right now." Or, "Are you touching yourself? I am." And if they say, "I am, too," then you might say, "Oh, tell me a little bit about that." 'cause you can be in the fantasy world, and then you can bring people into their own experience, "Tell me about what is happening for you right now. I'm so turned on right now." "Oh, tell me more about that. Tell me more about how you're turned on. What are you thinking about? What's getting you? What's getting you the most turned on right now?" So you can learn about each other, too, by asking questions. You're asking questions, you're staying in the flow, you're ramping things up, you're getting more and more excited, and then there's the question about how you bring things to an end.

Neil Sattin: Now, if you only have like 10 or 15 minutes to begin with, then you might say that at the beginning so that you both know that you're operating within certain time constraints. If you don't have time constraints, that's a totally different thing. But if you do, then you might ask each other something really blatant like, "Do you want to come now?" And I'm trying to think of even a less direct way. You've probably got something - if we were here talking about this, and we'd come up with probably a half dozen different ways to ask the same question. Or you might offer it, if you're feeling like you don't want to. For instance, you might be like, "Just so you know, I'm totally good right now. I don't need to come but if you want to, I'm totally here for you. Tell me what you want me to do." So you're showing that you're available and you're taking responsibility for yourself. Or you might be like, "I really, really... I have to go in two minutes but I have to come before I do."

Neil Sattin: Now, for me personally... And I've talked about this on the show before. I don't like to have traditional climax orgasms all that often. I like to explore more the energetic spaces that happen, that open up when you stop having peak orgasms, and that's just one type of orgasmic experience. But there are all kinds of different nuances to how you have orgasms, and the kinds of orgasms that your body is capable of in different parts of your body, different ways of experiencing it. There's so much more than the tension, tension, tension, and then release that you can feel from a more physical climax kind of orgasm.

Neil Sattin: For me, I am often good - not necessarily ejaculating and having to clean all that up. I'm usually good not doing that. No, that's not always true but often it is. But this is something that's very personal. You might have a little conversation like, "Do you want to? Do you not want to? Do you want to just like... " If you decided you didn't want to, then you might just start transitioning your sexting into something a little bit more sweet and connected like you might have after actually having sex. For instance, you might say something like, "Let's just cuddle up and hold each other. I'll be the big spoon. What do you think about that?" So you're even in your story about what's happening. You're transitioning to a different kind of mood that allows you to just bask in everything that you've stirred up. Or again, you might be like, "This has been so amazing. I can't wait to see you later." or, "I can't wait to see you in person, whenever that happens."

Neil Sattin: Now, let's say you decide though, that you've gotten to a point where you both just want to come like crazy. Well, that's something that you can do together, too. And you can play with that like, "You want to? I want to. Alright, let's do it. Don't do it yet. Let's sync up with each other." And so you might have to figure out where you're each at and what each of you needs a little bit more of. So if you're both right there on the edge...

Neil Sattin: Now, this is something that is so funny, I think. It's not universally true, but for a lot of people, it can be a lot easier to have an orgasm when you're by yourself than when you're with another person. And so you might find that someone with whom orgasm-ing when you're actually having sex is challenging, that when you're there sexting with each other, that they're right there and ready. Hey, we know our own bodies better than other people know them, and that's why sexting can be so powerful, because so much of what's happening is happening in our own heads. And so we are really in control of how the fantasy is unfolding. We can make it unfold exactly like how we would want it to be in real life.

Neil Sattin: But then you can experiment with things like you can switch to recording yourselves, sending little audio recordings to each other. You can have a little countdown and you both are like, "Alright, we're going to count down from five, and when we get to one, we're both going to orgasm." And there are any number of ways that you can do this. But in all of those magical, "We came at the same time and the world exploded into beautiful fireworks of ecstasy" moments. You can do that in your sexting because you have that much more control over what's happening.

Neil Sattin: So I invite you to play with what feels right in the moment and to show up for each other. If you do go for the big 01 orgasm, then don't just fall asleep on your partner. Take a few moments afterwards to be, one, "How was that?" Or checking in like, "Oh my God, that felt amazing," or, "That was crazy," or whatever it is. Share with them about your experience and give them space to share about their experience, and then offer each other so much appreciation. "That was amazing. That was so fun. You're so good at that. I loved when you talked about blah, blah. Let's definitely do this again." whatever it is, offering each other lots of appreciation and good feelings so that it becomes something that can become part of your repertoire with how you nurture the erotic energy in your relationship. It can be such a useful tool if you are willing and able to go there with each other.

Neil Sattin: And lastly, yeah, you might want to offer some closing moments about how great that is or how you can't wait until you can do that in person, or how now you're going to just imagine curling up with the person, and what that feels like, or what that might feel like, and bringing your sexting to a close in a way that feels right for you. Wow. I'm sure when I go back and listen to this or read the transcript, I will realize that there's more that I could say. Oh, I remember I talked about something earlier on, I do want to cover this before we go. So what do you do if you've been sexting with someone that you don't really know all that well, and then you meet in person and it's awkward, you're not totally feeling it, what do you do? Uh-oh. What a downer.

Neil Sattin: Well, it's possible that it's not salvageable. It's possible that that's just the reality. The reality is that in-person interactions are different. And when it comes right down to it, the in-person reality of you and this other person just aren't going to work, and that's okay. You can be thankful for the fun experiences that you had in virtual space with that person and just acknowledge graciously that you're not totally feeling it. So that might be one way. Another way might be to acknowledge, particularly leading up to it, because I imagine that if you're anything like me, that if you have incredible virtual experiences with a person, then you might be a little nervous about meeting them in person. What's this going to be like? Is it going to live up to what the virtual has been like? Etcetera, etcetera.

Neil Sattin: By the way, I am a huge fan of actual phone calls or video chatting with someone. That can be a step between texting or messaging and actually meeting someone in person, so that can be a good way to get a sense of how it feels with that person. But let's say, you're nervous about it. Well, one of the best things that you can do is to just voice that for the other person. When you're there with each other, you might name it like, "Wow, I'm noticing that I'm feeling a little nervous and a little awkward." or, "Yeah, it's so weird 'cause we've shared such intimate moments virtually, and I'm realizing here in front of you that I actually don't know you at all in this way."

Neil Sattin: So talking about what your present moment experiences... You've probably heard me talk about this before, can be such a great way to connect with another person. If things are a little weird and awkward, if you're able to name it, and you're able to name the experience that you're having of that, that can help put you at ease. It can help with the other person at ease, and it just might get you to a place where you can be exploring connection again.

Neil Sattin: Again, that's not always going to work, and there's probably more I could say about that, maybe we'll do a whole segment on online dating and transitioning into real life from the online space. But that's my helpful hint for you right now, is to be able to name it as it's happening. And then another thing you can do is, you can talk about the experiences that you've shared together. So you could talk about, "Wow, when we were sexting two nights ago, that was amazing. That's one of the best sexting experiences I've ever had." You're actually building on experiences that the two of you share. "What was that like for you?"

Neil Sattin: Now you're in conversation, you're getting related, you're talking about ways that you've known each other. It could be a huge advantage that you've already opened up that erotic intimate space between the two of you, once you get over whatever awkwardness there might be about suddenly being in person when you haven't been in person before or much.

Neil Sattin: Okay. Thank you so much for being with me here today to talk about sexting, a very important topic. And just know that I'm available for practice sessions. No, just kidding. Well... No, I am just kidding. That being said, maybe the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook might be a good place to share some of your experiences around sexting or you can always email me. My email address is neilius at neilsattin dot com. I hope you've had fun day, 'cause this has been a lot of fun to talk about.

Neil Sattin: I will be back next week. Am I back next week? Next week might be... No, next week is a week off, so I'll be back the following week. I haven't quite decided yet who you're going to hear from, but we've got a couple great possible episodes on tap for you and more are always coming. Until then, take care, happy sexting, and I'll talk to you soon.

Jun 19, 2020

If you’ve got big feelings going on - overwhelm, anxiety, depression, sadness, anger - how can you discover the valuable messages they contain, and then transform them rapidly into feeling good - or even great? In today’s episode, you’ll get to listen in as David Burns helps me bust through feelings of overwhelm - teaching me powerful techniques to dissolve negative thoughts. Along with getting an up-close and personal look at my inner world, you’ll also get to hear a master guide me through the process of silencing the inner chatter that gets in my way. David Burns is the author of the classic bestseller Feeling Good, and the soon-to-be-released, Feeling Great. His TEAM-CBT approach to therapy is a powerful way to stay centered and positive, no matter what’s going on in your world.

If you want to listen to our first episode together, where David Burns and I spoke about how to apply his work in relationships (based on his book Feeling Good Together), here is a link to Episode 98: How to Stop Being a Victim - Feeling Good Together - with David Burns

If you want to listen to our second episode together, where David Burns and I spoke about how to recognize and deal with cognitive distortions, here is a link to Episode 133: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life - Cognitive Distortions with David Burns

And our most recent episode together, Episode 226, covers What Matters and What Doesn’t when it comes to making positive changes in your life and relationships.

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

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

Sponsors:

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

Resources: 

Check out Dr. David Burns's website

Read David’s classic books, Feeling Good or Ten Days To Self-Esteem

Pre-Order David’s newest book: Feeling Great - The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide www.neilsattin.com/feelinggood4 Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with David Burns, along with the Daily Mood Log.

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

Transcript:

David Burns: So tell me about... We'll start out with some team therapy here... And you've got the things I sent you?

Neil Sattin: I did, yeah. And can you turn your video on so I can see you?

David Burns: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I don't know it wasn't on. Oh, yeah. Here we go. Yeah. There we go. Great.

Neil Sattin: There you are.

David Burns: Yeah. Okay. Tell me how you've been feeling?

Neil Sattin: So I've been noticing that I've been feeling... I would characterize it as feeling overwhelmed, that there are too many things to organize. There's even a little bit more chaos in my life now with being confined, more or less to my home and having responsibility to homeschool my children. On top of that, there are a lot of projects that I'm trying to manage and those could be in my business and the podcasts and all of that. Or they could be personal projects like organizing my home or making sure I stay well-nourished and get enough exercise. So lately, I've been noticing that it just feels like the volume has become really loud and I would say that I've never been necessarily the most organized person from... If you had the perspective of organization, meaning everything is neat and tidy and you have your days planned out exactly how they're going to go, that's not me or my approach to organization. It's been generally a little bit more organic in how it unfolds. And that can work up to a certain level of complexity. But once things start to get more complex, I've been... Especially with the state of the world over the past few weeks, I've been just noticing that I want to shut down, instead of feeling like I'm really rising to that complexity with more resourcefulness. Yeah.

David Burns: Before we go on, let me see if I got it right, because it sounds like what I was telling you, I have been confronting...

Neil Sattin: Oh, yeah.

David Burns: Recently.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: That you've been feeling overwhelmed, because you're just getting too many things that have to be organized. And now that you're confined to home, you've got homeschooling, which it takes a lot of energy and effort and personal projects and business projects, many of which are probably fun and exciting. But it just feels like the volume has become loud. You're... There's too much stuff happening. And then on top of that, you're feeling like you're not organized, that you don't work in that kind of obsessive manner, but at an intuitive organic manner. Just like today, for example and I do the same thing. I'm supposed to work on my app with some colleagues. I told them, "Well, I've got something really great going on here with Neil but I'll pick up with you later in the day". But that... And so I don't like to have a schedule. I like to work intuitively. In my office, I have things piled up all over in here.

Neil Sattin: Out of view of the camera right now. Just... [chuckle]

David Burns: Yeah, yeah. I could show you stacks, this high, on my desk of stuff but it's quasi organized, but I let it get disorganized and then once a week, I try to force myself to file things and then I feel much, much better. But I like to make things happen and just set things down, when I'm done with them. It sounds like a little of that is happening to you. You like things to unfold organically. Then when there's too much and everything gets complex and too demanding to keep up on top of all of these multiple things happening, at the same time, you feel like you just want to maybe shut down and escape. And maybe a little like myself. Sometimes I think, "Gee, do I need a nap? Do I need another fantastic podcast or a good podcast, or whatever"? Little Misty, a feral cat we adopted, she'll swing by and rub up against my legs and give me a meow saying, "Time for some candy or some lovees. Do you have some time, daddy"? I find myself feeling really torn and wanting to spend more time on some things of that level. Did I get it right so far?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. And right down to the... It ends up feeling a little bit like procrastination or the... Here's an example and this is just one of many things. I did two live events last year, that I mentioned to you. One: Terry Real came here to Portland, Maine and the other John and Julie Gottman came here and both of them I filmed and I've been wanting to get the films... The videos edited and out the door so that people can see them. Honestly, that could be a source of revenue for me to make up for the cost of filming both of those things.

David Burns: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And the Gottman event... That's two-and-a-half hours. So really all I've needed to do is take two-and-a-half or three hours and sit down and watch it and come up with some notes and send them to my video guy. I've had that sitting on my desk, so to speak... My virtual desk since October, when the event happened. Obviously, I've had three hours, but I can think of a million other things I've done with my three hours. And I think when the volume increases like I was talking about, then so does the visibility of all the things that aren't getting done, like I start... And then it becomes really hard to prioritize because each thing calls loudly to me.

Neil Sattin: Oh, there's this thing you haven't done that you could have done three months ago, and then there's this other thing, and for me, I end up just doing what I need to do. So every week I need to create a podcast. That's important to me and I've managed to do that, more or less, except for in the depths of when my marriage was ending. I had to stop for a minute or two there. But for the most part, I'm getting that done, but all the ways that I want to grow my practice and my work and just myself as a human, I end up feeling like I'm falling short.

David Burns: Right. I'm sorry to hear about your marriage ending. I can imagine that was a source of angst and stress, but you're saying that in a way you feel like you're procrastinating, but what the issue is, is that you have all these creative things that you could do, like listen to the Gottman event up in Maine so that you could think about how to edit it and maybe market it, get some extra revenue. Could be exciting, generate interest among your fans, generate more fans. But there's so many of these maybe cool exciting things that you could be doing, you're noticing all these things that you could be doing there that you say they shout out to you, they're all worthwhile and interesting. But you find that you have to take what energy you have just to do the things you have to do, like doing the essentials, doing a podcast every week, and you're not feeling the motivation, or maybe even having the time and resources, to do probably a significant list of really cool things that you could be doing, probably most of which would be reasonably successful if not tremendously successful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's the dream, is that each of those things, they come with the allure of the impact that it could make or the... I think when I look at everything that I'm doing... I used the word "organic" earlier, and my life has evolved organically in a way that generally I look at and I think, "Wow, this is beautiful," and I look back at everything that's come together and woven its way together to create what happens now. I worked in technology for a long, long time, and so much of what I do now would have been a lot more challenging if I didn't have that background. And I can also look at each of these ideas and think, wow, that could be amazing or that could be a piece of this puzzle, and the puzzle starts to take shape in front of me, and that gets exciting.

David Burns: I have an idea, let's not work together on any project, because that's what's happening to me too. And these things expand exponentially. All of your skills start coming together, and then you start thinking, wow, I could do this and I could do that and I could do this and I could do that. What you're saying is that there's an allure, a dream that your life has evolved organically and it's kinda coming to fruition on many different levels, and the things that you worked hard to learn are now available to be creating things that would just have a tremendous beneficial impact on others and benefits for yourself. But maybe you're saying, "Oh my gosh, do I really want to have to do all of that right now?"

Neil Sattin: Right. There's some... Well, you know what, the voice that actually... That I hear is something like... I've never been able to be that organized, and so... It's like... I'm not sure I can. So it's almost like there's that hesitation... I'm trying to think of what the image is that's coming to me, but it's like... There are any number of starting gates, like there's the starting gate of finishing the projects or there's the starting gate of, let's just create a meal plan so that I'm a little... I feel a little bit more organized around my nutrition and nourishment. Any one of those starting gates, I find myself caught a moment before that where I'm like, wow, I could go that way, I could go that way... And even when I step up to one, I'm often hearing the call of the others.

Neil Sattin: You talked about the magic button earlier in our conversation and for me, the magic button would be like the elf that somehow knows exactly where this is all going and just shows up every day with my daily agenda, and says, "You just do these things, and trust me, and it's all going to work out just fine."

Neil Sattin: And all I would have to do is those things and everything that I wanted to get done would happen, and the structure to support my personal wellness, as well as the wellness of my clients and listeners and the wellness of my business and my children and that would just ripple out just from taking those actions. And what's funny is that I know that it all boils down to what you do in any given moment like, that's what life is, life is how you... What you do in this moment and then in the next moment. Sometimes that just feels like the biggest hurdle to me and it matters more now than ever because of that additional chaos that's in the system.

David Burns: Yeah. So, in an ideal world that you're having a little elf bring you a Do-list every day, and the elf has figured out what are the essentials and the order in which to do them in order to fit everything in, and then it's all going to kind of ripple out and all these wonderful things are going to happen. But then you're saying, life is a Series of Moments and it's kind of hard for you to get on board and feel motivated to tackle all these things, because once you think of... Well, let's work on the starting gate, or let's create an eating plan. And then once you think about stepping up and working on that, you start hearing the call of all these other things that you should be doing and maybe end up feeling or getting a bit paralyzed. Can I suggest we switch just temporarily to The Daily Mood Log? Do you have one there? And at the top it says, "upsetting event" and that could just be like, could be this morning or right now or you know.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I would, for an upsetting event let's just say, an upsetting event would be a day that's gone by where I didn't... Where I feel like I didn't get enough done.

David Burns: Okay, okay, so is that right now, feeling like yesterday, you didn't get enough done?

Neil Sattin: Sure.

David Burns: Okay, so put that on the upsetting event, day when I didn't, I didn't get enough done and just write that down.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm actually...

David Burns: You did already?

Neil Sattin: I didn't yet, but I'm opening this in a little PDF editor things that I can...

David Burns: Oh, okay.

Neil Sattin: Edit and write on the document, so...

David Burns: Okay, great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then, do you see... That's an obviously upsetting event but now we want to see what your emotions are, and the first category is sad, blue, depressed, down, unhappy. Were you feeling some of those?

Neil Sattin: Definitely.

David Burns: Tell me me which ones and I'll circle them or maybe you can circle them or highlight them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I would say kind of down and unhappy. Those...

David Burns: And how strong are those between zero and a hundred?

Neil Sattin: So yeah, at the end of a day, I'd say it's like an 85 or 90.

David Burns: Okay then, put 85-90, in the "percent now column."

Neil Sattin: Okay.

David Burns: And see that's important because, just a minor point, you're such a warm, upbeat person.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: So people interacting with you wouldn't know that you're feeling that unhappy inside, that's why it's great to measure 'cause that's almost, most intense unhappiness a human being can have. Do you feel anxious, worried, panicky, nervous or frightened?

Neil Sattin: Yes. [laughter]

David Burns: Okay. All of them?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I mean, if I touch in to worried, maybe a little less worried a little more on the panicky side, a little more on the nervous side a little less on the frightened side.

David Burns: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: But it's all definitely there.

David Burns: And anxious?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, anxious for sure.

David Burns: And how strong does that get between the 80... Zero and a hundred?

Neil Sattin: I would say... Well, if I compare that to sadness, I would have actually said that that's a little bit more.

David Burns: Sure.

Neil Sattin: So maybe the sadness is more like 80 to 85 and then the anxious is more like 85 to 90, but...

David Burns: Okay.

Neil Sattin: At the end of the day when I'm feeling that feeling of like, "Oh I didn't get enough done." Then yeah, there's kind of, the sadness that comes with that and then, yeah, there's the anxiety of like, "I work for myself and I'm also in charge of my own showing up for my life." And yeah, there's that sense of like, "Oh, if I don't do this, no one's going to do this for me." So it's all dependent on me. Yeah. So right, that was a long-winded way of saying 85 to 90 as well.

David Burns: Great, great! Now, do you feel guilty, remorseful, bad, or ashamed?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I would say... Probably, mostly... Yeah, there's definitely... You're a capable person, you should be able to do this and figure this out.

David Burns: By the way, I'm also writing down negative thoughts in the negative thought column and I just wrote down, "I should be able to do this and figure this out." And when that thought goes through your mind, how strongly do you believe it between zero and 100?

Neil Sattin: That I believe I should be able to figure this out?

David Burns: Mm-hmm.

Neil Sattin: That's a 100, yeah, for sure.

David Burns: Okay, so I'm going to put 100 in the percent now column, the belief column. And again, you were about to tell me how guilty, remorseful, bad or ashamed, do you have those feelings.

Neil Sattin: I'm starting to feel guilty that these are also high. But yeah, I would just put that all, again, in 85 to 90.

David Burns: Okay, great.

Neil Sattin: I always feel like I've got the glimmer of... There is always that piece of me that's like, "It's all going to be okay, you're fine." So that still lives in those moments.

David Burns: Sure, sure. But that's really intense, the guilt and shame and feeling bad. And then, do you feel inferior, worthless, inadequate, defective or incompetent.

Neil Sattin: Shit, yeah, I do.

David Burns: All of them or some of them or...

Neil Sattin: No wonder this is so horrible.

David Burns: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I wouldn't say worthless. I would say, it's probably inadequate, defective, not incompetent, yeah.

David Burns: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Somewhere in there.

David Burns: How strong are those?

Neil Sattin: That's more probably like the 65% to 70% range.

David Burns: Okay, and do you feel lonely, unloved, unwanted, rejected, alone or abandoned?

Neil Sattin: That, I do not feel as much.

David Burns: Okay, we'll put a zero there. Do you feel embarrassed, foolish, humiliated or self-conscious?

Neil Sattin: I would make that a 50.

David Burns: Which feelings? Embarrassed, foolish, humiliated, self-conscious?

Neil Sattin: Well, it's only in my own eyes. I don't think anyone else really... Except now, of course, everyone who's listening knows this is what Neil goes through at the end of a day where he hasn't got enough time...

David Burns: This is very courageous...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, this is the reality...

David Burns: What you're doing. It'll be interesting to see what kind of feedback you get...

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: I bet you'll get an overwhelming number of fan responses.

Neil Sattin: We'll see. Yeah, so I would say embarrassed, not foolish, not so much self-conscious, but humiliated. Yeah, that's why it's sort of in that range.

David Burns: Okay 50.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'd say 50, yeah.

David Burns: You feel hopeless, discouraged, pessimistic, despairing?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, definitely not despairing, discouraged for sure. That's the one that jumps out of me most and...

David Burns: How strong is that?

Neil Sattin: I would say that's an 85.

David Burns: Great, great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then, do you feel... Oh, by the way, I could have recorded this at my end.

Neil Sattin: I'm recording.

David Burns: Okay. Then I could have sent you my recording, so you would have a local, higher quality.

Neil Sattin: No, we're good, we're good, I think.

David Burns: Okay, that's great.

Neil Sattin: You're coming through loud and clear.

David Burns: Oh, good. Do you feel frustrated, stuck, thwarted or defeated?

Neil Sattin: That's probably like a 95%.

David Burns: And all of those are...

Neil Sattin: All of them, yeah.

David Burns: Yeah, and do you feel angry, mad, resentful, annoyed, irritated, upset or furious?

Neil Sattin: I'm annoyed and irritated. Yeah, and those are probably in the 70% range.

David Burns: Right. Any other emotions that I haven't asked about? So far, we got sad and down and unhappy. We've got the whole anxiety cluster, intense. We've got the guilty and shame clusters, intense. A little inadequate and defective and a little embarrassed and humiliated quite a bit, actually, and very discouraged, 85 and frustrated, 95 and annoyed and irritated, 70. Anything else like overwhelmed?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I mean if we add overwhelmed in there, that would be super high if it gets its own category.

David Burns: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'd put that at 95%.

David Burns: 95, great. Now, let me ask you what some of your negative thoughts are when you're feeling this way or even at this moment like you said, "I should be able to figure this out." And you believe that 100. You also said "No one will do this for me." That's probably not a distorted thought. I jotted it down. And then "I'm not sure I can be that organized." That's a good negative thought. How much do you believe that one?

Neil Sattin: I would put that at probably 85%.

David Burns: 85, great. And what are some more of your negative thoughts when you're feeling down, guilty, anxious, defective, embarrassed?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it would be things like I'm failing.

David Burns: Failing, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: How much do you believe that one?

Neil Sattin: In those moments?

David Burns: Mm-hmm.

Neil Sattin: That would be 90%-95%.

David Burns: 95 and I wrote that down. "I'm failing." That's an excellent one. What are some more negative thoughts, things that you tell yourself?

Neil Sattin: Oh good. I'm seeing, this goes on to another page. I was like "I'm going to run out of space."

David Burns: We got more Daily Mood Logs too.

Neil Sattin: Time. Like there's not enough time, or there's no way that I can... There's no way I will be able to do this is maybe. There's not enough time. They kinda overlap with each other a little bit.

David Burns: You'll make that one thought, "There's not enough time and no way I can do all of this." How is that?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then how much do you believe that one?

Neil Sattin: Yeah like 100.

David Burns: Hundred. Sure.

Neil Sattin: 100%. [chuckle]

David Burns: Sure. And what are some more... That's kind of the discouraged thought and the frustrated thought. What's the inadequate and defective thought?

Neil Sattin: Well, that I'm not capable of doing this, that's definitely the defective there is.

David Burns: Yep, sure.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: Let's write that down number... That's thought number five I think.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: I'm not capable of doing this. And then, what is this defined as?

Neil Sattin: This is... Okay, so this could be two things. This could be getting organized and executing on that.

David Burns: Yeah, okay.

Neil Sattin: Or this could be sort of the result, like I'm not capable of the success or the goals that I want.

David Burns: Achieving my goals.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: Okay, great. And then that's a really well-stated one. And how much do you believe that between zero and 100, "I'm not capable of getting organized. I'm not capable of achieving my goals."

Neil Sattin: In those moments, it's not how I live my day. Though I guess I do come in and out of that. It's so wild to just really kinda see that in front of me that way. I would put that in an 85 or 90.

David Burns: Yeah 90. By the way, it's like going in and out of a trance. Like when you get in there it seems totally true.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then when you recover, it's such a radical shift. It's like you're in almost, you're in a different reality.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that makes sense to me.

David Burns: Any other negative thoughts? We've got some super ones here.

Neil Sattin: Let me just see if anything else jumps out at me. I don't know, this one feels kind of risky to say. My father was right.

David Burns: Great, okay. And tell us what that means, how you're feeling right at this moment.

Neil Sattin: Well, I can hear his voice at a young age accosting me around like, "You gotta figure this out. You gotta clean your room. You gotta get organized. You'll never succeed if you can't figure this out." I hear that. And on the flip side of it, there's a part of me that would love his blessing in terms of what I do with my life. And it might shock people to learn that I don't... I definitely haven't gotten it explicitly. Whether he does feel it and he's just keeping it to himself, that's possible. But my father, his career, he was a clinical psychologist, and there have just been a lot of times where I have wished that he could also see the value in what I do, and how I'm showing up in the world and how I'm contributing.

David Burns: Is he still alive?

Neil Sattin: He is. Yeah.

David Burns: Do you feel sad when you think about that or angry or...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, we could do a whole nother mood log on that one. [chuckle]

David Burns: Sure.

Neil Sattin: But yeah for sure, it's a source of sadness and anger that I've dealt with for most of my adult life. And because he's alive, I hold out the hope that at some point there will be some sort of redemption in that way, but it hasn't happened yet.

David Burns: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's a lot about... And just to be clear, I think I said this one other time when I talked about my dad on the show, I love him dearly, and then there are things about him that I just don't understand and that aren't... I may never understand them. There's a level of opaqueness in terms of how he lives his life and his choices and I guess I'm just... I would just like a little bit more from him, a little more engagement and support.

David Burns: Well I feel sad and really close to you based on what you're saying right now, what you said the entire time we've been talking. And I can identify with it on a personal level too because I've been experiencing a little conflict with my own son. Just yesterday kind of erupted a little bit and we were both pretty angry with each other and feeling unappreciated and unloved and we're trying to talk it out a little bit. But there was such an explosive level of anger, like it wasn't working. And he also loves me a lot and really admires what I've done, but maybe doesn't always feel like his dad appreciates him. Very, very similar to what you're saying. And I was kind of at wits' end and very anxious and feeling kind of ashamed too and hurt. And he was sitting at the dining room table doing some work with a colleague and on an impulse, I know he likes physical touch, and so I just went up and started massaging his shoulders and he indicated he was really loving that and then I just kind of leaned over on his back and hugged him, and then he got up and turned around gave me a wonderful hug.

David Burns: It was really a beautiful moment. And sometimes I think that out of intense anger, if you hang in there in a relationship, then really, really beautiful things can happen. But I'm sure it was so painful for him and has been painful for him to feel like his dad doesn't really appreciate him. And I'm so filled with admiration for him and his ethical qualities, his idealism, his incredible, technical skills, his love, his work ethic. But it's so easy for fathers and sons to disconnect and sometimes never connect. My dad was a Lutheran minister and he was... I just admired him when I was little and loved him so much and thought I'd be a minister. And then we kind of drifted apart and I began to see things that really hurt me and turned me off and so, we never really did reconcile. I felt kind of judged, and he was very rigid. And if you don't believe in Jesus, you're going to go to hell, and stuff that seemed harsh to me. But I'm sure you'll find a way to connect with your dad. But I can certainly identify with how incredibly painful that is for you and you have achieved such a fantastic amount - if a father could ever have a son to be proud of, you're the son and I can see you're hurting an awful lot.

Neil Sattin: Thank you. Yeah. I just want to say too that the space exists between you and your son to be able to do that and that you would recognize his love language and show up in that way is such a gift. And it was really moving to hear you describe that.

David Burns: I felt really lucky that that happened. Generally, there's a path to intimacy when you're upset with people. I have the philosophy, the more angry or hurt you feel with someone, the more fantastic potential for a loving connection and reconciliation and more, but it's like, what is the path? That's a conversation for another day. But, "My father was right," when you say that, how much believable is that?

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so in those...

David Burns: Let me unplug my phone here. Sorry. I've just unplugged it. Yep.

Neil Sattin: In those moments, "My father was right," that's 85 or so.

David Burns: 85, sure. Yeah, I feel so close to you right now and I think many people are going to be touched by the reality and the openness and vulnerability you're bringing to this and probably to all of your podcasts. Any other negative thoughts?

Neil Sattin: Well, the only other one that really jumps out for me would be something like, I'm going to be... I'll be unhealthy, weak and broke. That that's what's going to happen.

David Burns: Oh great, and then how much do you believe that one?

Neil Sattin: That's less. So, I would say, that's in the 60%-65%.

David Burns: 65. So just to review your negative thoughts in reverse order, "I'm going to be unhealthy, weak and broke. My father was right about me. I'm not capable of getting organized and achieving my goals. There's not enough time and no way I can do all of this, all the things I have to do and all the things I want to do. I'm failing. I should be able to do this and figure this out and I'm not really sure I can be that organized, organized enough to do all the things on my plate." And then, perhaps the "No one will do this for me." You had mentioned zero on lonely, unloved, unwanted, rejected, alone and abandoned. But when you say "No one will do this for me," does that cause some feelings of being alone at all or not? You gave a zero...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I guess so. I guess it's true. Yeah, there's that sense of like, "I'm in this by myself." Yeah.

David Burns: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: And then, when you have that thought, then how alone would you be feeling?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, like an 80.

David Burns: An 80.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: Okay, good. And so, you're feeling overwhelmed, irritated, frustrated, discouraged, embarrassed, alone, inadequate, guilty, ashamed maybe, intensely anxious and very sad, down and unhappy. So how am I doing right now in terms of getting you an understanding how you're thinking and how you're feeling? And to what extent are you feeling the sense of compassion or acceptance, if you were to grade me on empathy, so far, would you give me A, a B, a C, a D?

Neil Sattin: I'd give you an A for empathy, yeah. I feel like going through this, it helps me see myself for one thing and what's happening in those moments and the attention that you're giving to the language that I'm using, and encouraging me to get specific and telling me about your experience with your son and your dad, and really kind of pausing with me in that. Yeah, I feel seen.

David Burns: Okay, we've kind of... Just from a brief teaching point of view. We've done the T, because we've done testing. We know exactly how you're feeling and we'll do that again at the end of the session, and we've done some empathy. Now, we want to take a look at A: Assessment of resistance, and let me ask you this question. You've talked about some things that are very powerful, and very personal and very important. And there's something here that you would want help with. And is this a good time for us to get to work or do you need more time to talk and have me listen and provide support? Because that's important and I don't want to jump in prematurely.

Neil Sattin: I think that both my excitement for being able to do this with you and my frustration at how persistent this has been, leads me to want do the work.

David Burns: Okay. Now, let me ask you this question, suppose at the end of our session today, you say, "Well, that was better than French fries," or something like that, and a miracle happens. What miracle would you be hoping for? What change... If this was a really wonderful experience, what would change by the end of our session?

Neil Sattin: Okay, if a miracle were to happen, then I would feel totally capable. I'd have a sense of how to prioritize and where to start. And I would feel like a certain measure of trust in the path and the unfolding that I could see it... I could see how it's all going to work, how it's all going to be okay, yeah.

David Burns: Okay, that's a good goal. Now, let me ask you to imagine that we have a magic button. I can send you a nice red magic button if you want for your show notes. Someone in my Tuesday class, her husband is a graphic guy and he made a magic button, a red magic button for me. It's very neat looking. But if we have this magic button, let's say, if you pressed it, all your negative thoughts and feelings would instantly disappear in a flash. And you become euphoric and you'd feel joy and confidence and trust and you'd feel totally capable. Would you press the magic button?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I definitely would.

David Burns: Oh, okay. That's what most people say. And I don't have a magic button but I've got some really wonderful techniques. But I'm not sure it would be a good idea to use those techniques and cause all these negative thoughts and feelings to disappear, that there might be some unanticipated losses there. And so, if you can take a piece of paper and put positives on it and we're going to make a list of positives and we're going to ask two questions about each negative feeling, or negative thoughts as well as you like, and we're going to ask two questions about it.

David Burns: What are some benefits or advantages of this type of negative feeling, like feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling guilty, whatever? And the second question is, What is this kind of feeling show about me and my core values as a human being, that's a beautiful and awesome and positive? So this is the opposite of the way most mental health professionals and people look at it. We say, "Oh, Neil has this defect this problem that that has to be fixed. This is all the stuff that's wrong with you." And I'm going to go in the opposite direction here and see what this shows about you, that's really quite the opposite of defective. Let's just start out with sad, down and unhappy. You're feeling 85% sad, down, and unhappy. So, what does that show about you that's beautiful, positive and awesome? Show about you and your core values? You're sad because...

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Burns: You have a lot of exciting projects that you're not getting to, among other things.

Neil Sattin: Right, I mean... Sorry, I'm just making a note here. That... For me, that shows that I... Well, on one level that I'm ambitious.

David Burns: Okay, so let's just stop for a second.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

David Burns: Put down ambitious.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

David Burns: The sadness shows that... Is that real? Is that true? Are you ambitious?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I am ambitious. Yeah.

David Burns: Is that a good thing?

Neil Sattin: I think so, yeah.

David Burns: Is that important?

Neil Sattin: It's super important.

David Burns: Is that powerful?

Neil Sattin: It's part of what drives me.

David Burns: Yeah it's part of what... And you've achieved a lot. Could we add that too?

Neil Sattin: Add what?

David Burns: Your ambition has caused you to achieve.

Neil Sattin: For sure. Yeah.

David Burns: Is that important?

Neil Sattin: Very important.

David Burns: Okay, let's add, have achieved a lot. And just to bracket it, for our listeners because this is so new to people even mental health professionals, some have not been able to learn how to do this, they're so used to thinking about these things as bad. But notice if you press the magic button, you'll become euphoric, euphoric about the fact that there's all these projects you're not getting to. You see what I mean? Sadness...

Neil Sattin: Right, 'cause I feel excited. I would just feel like, "Okay I'm going to... I will, I am going to do these things."

David Burns: Right, and that's a benefit. But at the same time if you weren't feeling sad, it would be like you didn't value these things.

Neil Sattin: Right.

NOTE - This transcript, like this episode, is very LONG. The rest of the transcript is available for download by clicking the button below (or visiting the webpage that this episode is on, and clicking the button to download the transcript).

Jun 6, 2020

How do we confront our blind spots and tackle the ways that racism and privilege affect our relationships, our lives, our society? And...our podcasts? This week's episode is not meant to be a complete answer to those questions - just a beginning to the conversation. So today you'll hear more about the "hidden agenda" of Relationship Alive - how what you've been learning is a crucial part of taking care of yourself as we change the world. And how racism has impacted my journey - and the evolution of the Relationship Alive podcast. Yes, let's all be part of the solution. I can - and will - do better. It's that important. #blacklivesmatter

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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Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. I'm doing a little bit of a different episode this week than what I had planned. If you tuned in last week to my show with David Burns, then you know that this week was intended to be an episode that was going to be a session that David did with me around being overwhelmed. And it's an important episode if you are interested in hearing how David Burns uses his methodology, Team CBT, as a way to help me work through a problem that many of us are going through these days, which is being overwhelmed by just the sheer amount of things that are happening in our world today.

Neil Sattin: So it's an important episode. And yet I couldn't sit by and not address what is literally happening in our world, in our communities along with the pandemic right now. Which is responding to systemic racism and white privilege along with police violence towards black people, toward minorities, toward protesters. I couldn't be silent, and I wanted to talk to you about it this week. Generally, I've tried to keep Relationship Alive fairly non-political. And the reason behind that is because I feel that the purpose of Relationship Alive is inherently political, even though we're talking about how to have successful relationships. It expands beyond what we do with our partners with our spouses, it expands to the world around us to how we are with our kids with our parents with our extended family with our friends, with our co-workers with the authorities in our lives.

Neil Sattin: So, I've always viewed Relationship Alive as being something that is contributing to the overall betterment of society, not just in being able to experience more love with your partner, but also to experience more love, and harmony with your fellow humans. And granted that's not possible all the time. And yet in this moment, this is really the first time that I've felt called to not be silent to be explicit in my own personal support for Black Lives Matter. For the idea that our skin color doesn't determine who we are in this world, and that there should be racial equity in terms of how our society functions, and it just isn't that way. It just isn't.

Neil Sattin: So, in today's episode, I'm going to give you a little bit of my own personal story, my own background here, and I'm going to talk a little bit about Relationship Alive and some obvious things that you may have noticed. I want to address them head on, because they're important in terms of recognizing just how pervasive white privilege is in our world, and in how we recognize who the experts are and who they're not. And I want to tackle that head on. So that's what today's show is going to be about, a little bit from me personally, and a little bit of a statement about what direction we're going to head in this show. But first, I just want to remind you that Relationship Alive is an offering for you to help you have an amazing relationship. And as I just said, my hidden agenda is to help the world be a better place. So if you are finding the show to be helpful, then please consider a contribution. Anything... Any little bit counts.

Neil Sattin: And today I want to thank these listeners who have made a contribution to help support Relationship Alive. Their names are Sylvia, Angie, David, Margot, Drew, Lydia, and Valerie, Keerthi and Jewels. Thank you all so much for your generous and ongoing support of Relationship Alive and our mission. And if you want to make a contribution, just visit neilsattin.com/support or text the word "support" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: In today's world, we could all use some help communicating with each other and I've actually put together a guide with my top three relationship communication strategies to help you connect to another person, no matter how challenging the thing is that you are trying to connect with them about. It's relevant today. Figuring out how to communicate with so much polarization in the world. To download the free guide just visit neilsattin.com/relate or text the word "relate" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: We do have a Facebook group where listeners gather to create a safe space for others and for you to talk about relationship-related matter, and that's the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook. And if you have questions, you can email them to questions at relationshipalive.com, and what's super awesome is if you record yourself asking the question, then I can hear you and I can answer you here on the show.

Neil Sattin: So I think that's it for the business that I need to cover. Let's dive in to this topic of racism and racial equity, and I think I just want to give you a little bit of my own just personal background, personal perspective on this. I grew up being raised Jewish in a predominantly Christian community. And for the most part, even though it was, it was weird to be othered. It was something that I was fortunate that I never really felt victimized by that I never felt any anti-Semitism growing up that I can recall. And I took it upon myself to talk to my classmates, my school mates about being Jewish and what that meant to me and what our traditions were. And part of being Jewish at least the way that I was raised was also an awareness of our history as a people, and in particular the ways that Jews have been persecuted throughout the history of the world and in terms of recent history, in terms of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.

Neil Sattin: So I had a consciousness even as a young child of what that meant to come from a community that had been singled out for death. Now fortunately, I never experienced that. And growing up here in the States, I felt for the most part pretty safe and being Jewish is not something that is visible, for the most part to other people. I did have an interesting moment when I was in my 20s, and I was at a cousin's bar mitzvah at a university. They hosted the bar mitzvah at the university. And if you don't know a bar mitzvah is like a coming of age ceremony for Jewish kids at the age of 13.

Neil Sattin: A Bar or a Bat Mitzvah. If you are a girl. It's about being ushered in to being a responsible adult in the eyes of the community. And so I was at a cousin's bar mitzvah and I was looking around and I noticed something that I had never noticed before which was that the people who were surrounding me, who were mostly students at this university, because there was an actual synagogue on the campus of the University - which was something I hadn't experienced. I went to predominantly Christian liberal arts school out on the West Coast.

Neil Sattin: And so I was looking around and I noticed that the people that I was looking at actually looked a lot like me, and I had never really thought about myself as looking any different, from anyone else. Again, this kind of veers into this notion of white privilege because there was nothing obviously different about me, but I did notice - Oh. There is something about me and where I come from, that makes me look a little bit different than, for instance, the people in the community where I grew up, who were predominantly either French-Canadian or from Ireland, with a few English people thrown in there.

Neil Sattin: So that was the community that I grew up in. And not universally true. There were exceptions to the rule, but I looked different than they did and that explains in some respects, some of the experiences that I think I had when I was a kid. That again, weren't about anyone consciously singling me out or not singling me out, but I think it plays into the ways that we perceive other people in our lives. We are used to people who look like us who act like us, who talk like us use the language we do or the languaging, if we speak the same language, but we use different kind of ways of pronouncing things or different idioms. We are geared towards looking for where we're similar, and how that makes us safe and in some respects, the way that our differences might bring us danger.

Neil Sattin: And I think there's more for me to learn about this because my guess is that on some level, there are some things that are hard-wired into our system to be suspicious of something that's different than us as a means of protection. Now, that doesn't mean that we are in danger at all, at all. It's about something that we've talked about here on the show a lot, which is noticing the ways that our body responds. That physiologically, we are having a response to the world around us and being able to respond to that in choice.

Neil Sattin: To not be victims to our own physiology. So, in the ways that we are carrying around our own trauma or the trauma of generations, or the trauma of things that we see around us, whatever that is, that we're carrying with us, when we are triggered, in the moment, it is worth paying attention to what's happening in our bodies so that we can respond, so that we can regulate ourselves and bring ourselves back to being in relationship with the people who are around us.

Neil Sattin: So while I was "other" I was definitely privileged as well. My parents were educated. We lived in a very peaceful suburban community where things were relatively pretty safe. I wasn't worried about whether there was going to be food on the table and I definitely wasn't worried about if I rode around town, on my bike at any hour of day I wasn't worried about being accosted by police officers thinking that maybe I was up to no good. I might have had to worry the times that I was up to no good, but I definitely wasn't going to get singled out, just because of how I looked. And I wasn't in danger because of how I looked. And so I got to grow up feeling relatively safe and secure, in a world that a lot of people don't feel safe and secure in and I'm aware of that.

Neil Sattin: Now. One thing that's interesting, as I think back on my own upbringing, I watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons. There was this whole thing that maybe you've seen or was maybe was part of your life called Schoolhouse Rock that was basically propaganda and education rolled into catchy tunes, and cartoons on Saturday mornings and one of them that made this big impression on me, was the great American melting pot - this idea that America was this place where we could all learn to appreciate our differences appreciate each other that we all came together. Now, I'm aware that there is a part of the original melting pot theory was not about that at all. It was about, everyone becoming part of one culture this homogeneous culture that was based on this, the idea that kind of Anglo-European culture was the norm. That that was what we wanted for everyone and I don't agree with that at all.

Neil Sattin: And that was never part of my consciousness I was much more of this idea of appreciating just how different people were. And wondering what that was like for them. I had a classmate who was Chinese, I had classmates who were refugees from Cambodia. The town that I grew up in had a black mayor, even though as a whole, there were not many black people in the town where I grew up. Hardly any as far as I know. And so I got to live in this fantasy world, where everything was okay. Even though I knew deep down that you didn't have to go far to find places where there was danger for others, based on how they looked. And honestly, I don't know a lot about the experience of people who had darker skin than me, in my community. I don't know what that was like for them. And it gets me curious. It gets me curious to know, because I can't imagine that it was always easy.

Neil Sattin: And of course, on TV, there were plenty of opportunities to see darker skinned people doing bad things and lighter skinned people being the heroes and the victors and this subtext has permeated so much of our culture. Maybe we'd read one book. The Invisible Man or To Kill a Mocking Bird. And then everything else, we would read in school was centered on a white culture. Why is that? Why are the things that are considered normal considered normal? Well, it's because we're a product of our environment, right - and finally we are at a place where we're changing, we're challenging this idea of what's normal as well we should be.

Neil Sattin: And we're struggling to do the things that are in many cases the most challenging which is to figure out our blind spots. Now, this is challenging on any number of levels, to figure out where you are blind to the ways that you treat other people, the ways that you show up ineffectively, because in our... And each of us has our own world within us, and in that world, everything we do makes perfect sense. So it is actually quite challenging to see the things that we do that don't make sense. And I think that there's this book that a lot of people are talking about right now, or have been for the past year or so, White Fragility which is a lot about how challenging it is for privileged people to recognize the ways that we support systems that are oppressing other people.

Neil Sattin: And we have to work together, we have to call things out for how they are, and we have to work together. That's what I'm working towards here. So when I see footage of black people being murdered by police officers in the case of George Floyd in Minneapolis apparently because he maybe had a counterfeit $20 bill. I realized just how much further we need to come as a society. It's not that I think all police are bad. In fact, there have been many times where I've been grateful that police have been around. And what I think is important is that we address the ways that culturally we are perpetuating oppression and violence and profiling against people of color. I'm just going to say, clearly that it's not okay. And then on top of that, when I am watching footage of protests happening and seeing the police, the people who are theoretically there to protect and serve us citizens, they're here to protect and serve us. And yet when I see them violently swinging at protesters, pushing old people over, something has to change, it's not right. It's not okay.

Neil Sattin: And there's something about it that chills me to my core, it goes all the way back to the questions that I had as a kid about how did that happen in Germany, how did that happen that a group of people is able to be singled out and murdered and people either stood by watching or participated in it. How was that okay? And I remember over and over again, thinking whatever power there was that let me grow up in this place, The United States of America where I didn't feel like I had to fear that kind of violence. In fact, I thought that there was a consensus pretty much around me that that kind of violence against humans wasn't okay. Growing up in a tiny town in Maine, it was easy to believe that that wasn't actually happening, still, just against other communities of people.

Neil Sattin: And now we are in danger here of having the might of weaponry and a militarized police wheeled against the very citizens that theoretically they're supposed to be protecting. And for some reason, the President of our country thinks that it's okay to incite violence to keep bringing up the second amendment as if we don't know that that's about not so subtle call to arms, how is that helping our world? It's not, it's not. It's upsetting, it's distressing and I think it's important for us to be having this conversation. So next week's session with David Burns is going to be even more relevant, maybe because I'm stirring things up here with this week's episode, but also because we have to take care of ourselves so that we can have this larger conversation and so we can be allies for each other and allies for a world where the people who do bad things are the people that are held accountable and that the people who aren't doing bad things are left alone to just be people.

Neil Sattin: And maybe there's something really wrong with potentially paying for cigarettes with a fake $20 bill. If the person even... If George Floyd even knew that that was a fake bill, who knows, right? But come on, the punishment has to fit the crime. If there's a crime going on, it definitely didn't call for being murdered. Now, I respect that being a police officer that is not any... It can't be an easy job. It can't be. It's definitely not going to be an easy job if you view the community that you're in as your adversaries as opposed to trying to build relationships in the community, and create an overall fabric of everyone, trying to hold each other accountable to civil behavior. There are places where they're getting this right, there need to be more places like that.

Neil Sattin: Now I want to talk a little bit about the podcast, because here's a place where I don't want you to think for a moment that I have a blind spot. Before I do, I do need to take a moment to mention this week's sponsor, whose support I also really appreciate and they are here to support you through these times. Their name is BetterHelp. And if you are looking for extra support around the things that get in the way of happiness or achieving your goals or dealing with the stress of what's happening in our world or your own personal world from the comfort of your own home or wherever you are, you can use BetterHelp. BetterHelp will assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist. And you can chat with that therapist via text at any time and you can schedule weekly video or phone sessions, all without having to go anywhere. It is more affordable than traditional offline counseling, and they do offer financial aid if you qualify.

Neil Sattin: They also offer a broad range of expertise so that you can find the person most suited to helping you with your own unique situation. So whether it's depression, stress, anxiety and dealing with racism and our place in the system, whatever it is, that's up for you, try out BetterHelp to help you move past the places where you are stuck. And because you are a listener of Relationship Alive, BetterHelp is also offering you an extra 10% off your first month. Just visit BetterHelp.com/alive and join over 800,000 other people who are taking charge of their mental and emotional health. Again, that's BetterHelp.com/alive and thank you so much BetterHelp for your support of Relationship Alive.[TK REMOVE]

Neil Sattin: You can probably hear the emotion in my voice because this stuff is affecting me deeply. And I stand with Black Lives Matter and the other organizations that are dedicated to justice and racial equity and rooting out some of the obvious ways that that isn't happening in the world, and some of the less than obvious ways. So, let's talk about one of the less than obvious ways for some of you, and maybe some of you haven't noticed this because sometimes racism and racial equity in our support of a just world isn't necessarily about what we do, it's about what we don't do. And here on the show, I've wanted to have a diverse group of voices represented. And just to give you a little insight - when I started this show, it was really important to me to find the top names in the field, to have the top-most respected people on this show to talk about relationships and doing them better.

Neil Sattin: And by and large, those people have been on Relationship Alive. And I'm so grateful. People have done countless hours and hours and years and years of therapy sessions and research, and who have the experience to merit, being recognized as experts and leaders in the field. And each of them has also taken me on a journey as I learn, as I read their work and talk to them. Inevitably those books and conversations lead me to another person, to another set of ideas. And many of those people have been on the show. And so this show has been curated by me and my curiosity, by the issues that I've personally been struggling with or that I've seen others struggling with, and by this observation of who the recognized world leaders are. Now, I want to tell you that when you look at who's headlining - the keynote speakers for various conferences that are happening around the country in the English-speaking world.

Neil Sattin: And you're looking for those people who are the recognized world leaders in this particular field, what you might notice is that there isn't a lot of racial diversity among that group. Which isn't to say that there isn't any, there's some, a little bit, it but not much. Now, is anyone to blame for this? I mean, maybe on some level, there are things to blame, there are people to blame, but I think you can step back and extrapolate that the systems of power and education and who has made it, who has had an easy time of finding their ways to the ranks of academia and book publishing and speaking on stages and whether it's intentional or not, choosing who else gets to come alongside them, who else gets to be speaking alongside them, who else gets recognized as an expert.

Neil Sattin: Well, the power structures in this country anyway, for a long time, have been white. And there are a lot of people who are trying to change that. Thankfully. I know when I look back over the guests who have been on this show, I feel really good about the balance of genders, men and women. I know that I could have more people on this show who represent different parts of the gender and sexuality spectrum, I could do a better job of that. And I could definitely do a better job of having people with different colored skin on this show. Again, there have been some, there have been some and those conversations have been amazing. And yet, there aren't enough. And it takes effort on my part, it's going to take more effort on my part. Now I've got great excuses. I have a busy life and trying to raise a family, trying to have a relationship, trying to deal with my relationship ending all that stuff. I've got all kinds of excuses. We all have great excuses, I think, for living life the way that we live it.

Neil Sattin: So I'm recognizing here for you that I need to do better. And I've been looking, just so you know for more diversity in terms of who's on this show. And there may be ways that it's more challenging for me because they're not people who are necessarily recognized by the "world authorities who recognize these things" as being experts in the field. And I have to get by my own sets of biases about who I want to have on the show, the ways that I might discount someone's opinion. In general, what I'm going to do is just try to find voices on the show of people I respect, people who are researching their work.

Neil Sattin: I'm not a huge fan of having people on Relationship Alive to just talk about their opinion of things, we all have opinions, right? There are some less savory phrases about that, but this isn't a show, this isn't an opinion show. At least I try to not have it be. I'm really trying to create a space for you where you can trust the information that's in front of you. And yet as I look back on it, I'm humbled to recognize that there could be definitely more black, indigenous and other persons of color represented here on the show.

Neil Sattin: I'm naming it, not because I think that... Not because I don't think that we should just all love each other as people, and that the color of our skin shouldn't matter. I do believe that the color of our skin should not matter. And yet, I do not want to be part of perpetuating a system that is only recognizing some people, not others, and that some people happen to be of a particular skin color because the systems that recognize experts are generally run by people with that very same skin color.

Neil Sattin: And I'm the one with the podcast and I have that same skin color, even though I have my own history of being a minority, a non-visible minority and generally thankfully, a non-endangered minority, and I hope it stays that way, not just for me, but I hope we can expand the sphere of who gets to be safe in this world - So that it does truly include everyone, no matter the color of your skin. So if you have suggestions for people whose work you admire and who you think would be a great guest for Relationship Alive, by all means do let me know, you can email me. My email is neilius at neilsattin.com. But it's not on you, this one's on me. That being said, I could use some help. So if you've got some good ideas, send them my way. And I've got a lot of queries out there with people and I'm doing some more work to find more people.

Neil Sattin: And my hope is that each of us finds our way to change the system, so that we all get to be safe. We all get to experience love and connection. And so more and more we know what it's like to elevate each other. And to find pathways for doing that to elevate and amplify each other. That's what I want for you, that's what I want for the world where my kids are growing up. And hopefully my grandkids and my great grandkids and whoever else is coming down the path.

Neil Sattin: Thanks for being here with me today, thanks for listening, thanks for hearing my story and I hope that it ignites something in you and if it does, I want to hear about it. So please write to me or mention something in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook. I'm not terribly active there right now, it's been honestly quite challenging for me to be on Facebook. And yet if you tag me, I will definitely see what you write. And I welcome all of our efforts to make this world and the relationships that we experience better. So sending love to you, sending love out to all the people who are in the streets taking a stand, maybe even risking their own lives and their own health with the pandemic going on. And I send love to the people who at this point maybe don't know that they actually do need to change, and I hope they find their path to change in a way that expands what's possible for them in the world 'cause living a life of violence and hate and leaning on authority instead of leaning on respect, it's not a way to live.

Neil Sattin: There's a lot more that's possible when we learn how to open our hearts to each other and be humble about the ways that we've messed up and apologize and make amends and move forward together. Okay, I'll see you next week for my vulnerable session with David Burns, on overwhelm. And in the meantime, take care, stay safe, and keep in touch.

May 29, 2020

What can shift anxiety, depression, overwhelm, or simply feeling “down” - into feeling good, or even great? What are the hidden obstacles that get in the way? When it comes to improving your inner world, there are some things that consistently work. And there are other things that might help, but that aren’t nearly as effective. With more than 40 years of experience, Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good, returns to the show to reveal how his new “TEAM” approach helps you feel good - no matter what’s happening in your world. With examples from how he’s treated severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD - you’ll get a sense of how to eradicate your negative thoughts - and any resistance that's getting in the way. David Burns’s new book, Feeling Great, will be released this coming September.

If you want to listen to our first episode together, where David Burns and I spoke about how to apply his work in relationships (based on his book Feeling Good Together), here is a link to Episode 98: How to Stop Being a Victim - Feeling Good Together - with David Burns

If you want to listen to our second episode together, where David Burns and I spoke about how to recognize and deal with cognitive distortions, here is a link to Episode 133: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life - Cognitive Distortions with David Burns

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

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

Sponsors:

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

Resources: 

Check out Dr. David Burns's website

Read David’s classic books, Feeling Good or Ten Days To Self-Esteem

Pre-Order David’s newest book: Feeling Great - The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

www.neilsattin.com/feelinggood3 Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with David Burns

Visit neilsattin.com/support or text "SUPPORT" to 33444 to support the podcast. Every little bit helps!

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

Transcript:

David Burns: I had created - and we need to upgrade it a lot, an electronic version of my brief mood survey that patients can take at the start and end of every therapy session, plus rate the therapist: on empathy helpfulness, were there feelings that you were hiding, did you have trouble being honest? filling out the survey? And so we have before beginning and end of session, rating on relationship satisfaction, depression, anxiety, anger, happiness, suicidal urges - and although the tool needs to be improved a lot, they sent me the data from 9000 therapy sessions.

David Burns: And so I've always loved statistical modeling and the kind of modeling, I do - Analysis of moment structures or structural equation modeling - requires big "Ns". And I've never had a database this big... It's kind of overwhelming like being a kid in a candy store. So I was able to... First off, just to replicate a lot of findings from 10-20 years ago, when I was working with smaller databases like maybe 500 patients from my clinic in Philadelphia, 100 and 70 patients from the Stanford in-patient unit which are relatively small. But I was able to replicate almost everything and the data is just the cleanest data set that I've ever seen and it's just full of correlational findings and potential causal findings as well. So I feel like we're seeing for the first time kind of like the anatomy of psychotherapy that's never been seen before. The veins, the arteries, the muscles, the tendons and how it works. So I can begin answering really, really basic questions, like, if you wanna have high patient satisfaction, what are the variables that cause that in the session, what do you need to attend to, or what goes into therapeutic empathy? I published an article that everyone has ignored actually in the top psychology journal about probably 20 years ago called intimacy and depression. Is there a causal connection?

Because the interpersonal therapists, make a big deal about the idea that depression is caused by problems in intimate relationships.

Maybe this should be our podcast. Maybe we could start broadcasting. And I never really bought it but it had never been tested. And it's hard to test because you have to do something called non-recursive modeling which is the most difficult topic in statistics where things are circularly correlated.

Neil Sattin: Right, I think I heard in a recent podcast episode of yours. Testing - do thoughts cause feelings, or do the feelings cause thoughts?

David Burns: Chicken or the egg... exactly, that was just a little study I did with my Standford Data it had about an n of 100 but the findings were clear cut, so I did something like that with a much larger database, maybe a few hundred where we had depression, and relationship satisfaction scores at the start of therapy. I didn't measure as intensely every session at the start and end. It was just once a session. But we had it at the intake and 12 weeks later. And intimacy and depression were correlated minus.4 at both time points, which was similar to what you see in the literature, using different scales everyone seems to come up with about that number. So high depression, low relationship satisfaction and high relationship satisfaction, low depression at both time points - and then changes in depression were associated with changes in relationship satisfaction.

And so, people interpret this, like the cognitive therapists say. Oh, that's because when you're depressed, it causes an impairment in love relationships because a variety of reasons - you feel worthless, you feel un-lovable, and you're very sensitive to criticism, and you feel like I have a self that's no good.

And then the interpersonal therapist says, "No, you know we need love, to feel happy" - But none of those people has ever bothered to check it out. People in our field in general, pretty much everything that's said is false, 'cause people just talk, they say things that they wanna believe and came up with it themselves, so they think it must be true. And so in my study, we found that there are NO causal links in either direction, that have any particular meaning. There are tiny little causal links that are marginally statistically significant, but the magnitude of the causal link is so tiny that you couldn't possibly improve depression by improving relationship satisfaction - even a great deal, and that itself, it's almost impossible.

And in addition, you couldn't possibly improve a troubled marriage by improving the depression or even curing both partners of depression.

I knew it already, because when my book 10 days to self-esteem came out. I did a bunch of studies all around - pilot studies. It's a self-help thing for depression, and I had about 40 pilot studies. This should be, in your podcast, I think.

Neil Sattin: I'm recording right now.

David Burns: Oh, you are recording - Okay that's great. And what we saw was that in all of these groups, people started with my book 10 days to self-esteem and they were in these groups - there were no therapists president. It was just a self-help thing I was trying to create.

And all the groups, people had dramatic improvements in their depression but... but in none of the groups did relationship satisfaction improve. At the beginning they were depressed with miserable marriages, and then at the end of the group, they were euphoric with miserable marriages.

It just proves that there's no connection between these domains.

Well, I had a chance to try to confirm that now with 9000 therapy sessions where we've got relationship satisfaction or dissatisfaction is one variable, and depression or happiness. I measured happiness for the first time - as separate from depression. Happiness at the start and end of the session, depression at the start and end of the session. And the findings were exactly the same, and it was really thrilling. The correlation was similar, like -.3, which is a small correlation - 'cause the 3 times 3, is a 9, so there's only 9% overlap in depression and relationships, and relationship satisfaction or happiness and relationship satisfaction.

I have to do that one. I could test that today. Does relationship satisfaction cause happiness or does happiness cause relationship satisfaction or both or either. After our call it'll take me a minute to answer that question.

Neil Sattin: We can do a little footnote on this conversation with whatever you discover.

David Burns: Right, but at any rate, it came out exactly the same - there are no meaningful causal relationships between them, and that's not a bad thing.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so what it leaves me wondering is, where are the major leverage points for what does cause either of those things?

David Burns: Well, as I've said for years, all the causes of all psychological and interpersonal problems are totally unknown. And anyone who claims to know is just a con artist or a fool. It's just like before we knew the cause of polio there were thousands of theories and treatments for the last two or three thousand years - and everyone was sure that they knew - and it came out to be a virus and we got the Salk vaccine. We had the true answer. We can say with certainty that depression is triggered by negative thoughts, and that if you have a negative thought and believe it like "I'm no good" or "I'm a loser", then you're gonna be very unhappy. But what we don't know is why are some of us so prone to negative thinking and pessimism, and self-doubt, self-criticism. While others are maybe more outgoing and happy. And then there's a bell-shaped curve.

Some of us, most of us are somewhere in between these extremes. That question we don't know the answer to, all we can say with certain... Is that all current theories are false, like the psychiatrists claim it's the chemical imbalance in the brain, and that's been... We proved that was false in 1975 at our laboratory, in Philadelphia in our depression research unit. We flooded the brains of depressed veterans with like 30, 50, 100 times boost in brain seratonin. And that's what the so-called chemical imbalance people fraudulently call seratonin the happy chemical. There's nothing in the literature that ever said it should have anything to do with mood. Somebody just made up the theory and then there was no change in the mood of the veterans, none whatsoever. And we published that in the top psychiatry journal and it was ignored for 25 years. Because the drug company people didn't wanna hear it. And recently, people are starting to quote it a lot. All these theories of causality. Nobody knows. You know, as Freud says, "Oh it's anger turned inwards, or something in childhood" and certain psycho-analytic type therapists, they believe these theories that have no research to confirm them. But the great news is we CAN help people tremendously with depression.

My new book, I'll give a pump for it, "Feeling Great" - it should be able to be ordered on Amazon soon - it's coming out in September. We've got fantastic high speed techniques to cause depression to go away really fast. And that's all I care about. And then, why do people have relationship problems? My research indicates that blame is the major factor. The problem is not that your partner is to blame, the problem is that you're blaming them and not looking at your own role in the problem. And we've got ways if people want help with troubled relationships, which is generally not the case, we have tremendous techniques to help them. But anyway, that's just kind of quick - where I'm at. The TEAM-CBT that I have created, and it's now really out-performing cognitive therapy, at least in, in my hands, and those of a number of my colleagues. It emerged because of the research I was doing, a number of years ago when I was in practice. Why do some people get better fast, and others resist, or fail to improve?

And I found out why that was- it has do with motivation and resistance. Something I scorned early in my career, thinking it was not important, that turned out to be incredibly important. And once we saw that we developed new high speed ways to boost motivation, and that has, and reduce resistance.

The first time we meet with someone - and then that leads to amazingly rapid recovery.

Neil Sattin: There are all sorts of thoughts that I'm having at this moment, that are interweaving with things that you've mentioned already in this conversation.

So, I guess first... Well, I'm thinking about Emily Nagoski and her model for Human Sexuality, and what allows people to feel connected to who they are as a sexual being, and to their partner - and she talks about the dual control mechanism, which is basically what turns you on, and what turns you off, and being aware of those things. And so I'm hearing the parallel already in what you're offering in terms of what motivates you to change, and what resistances you have to change - your accelerator and your brakes. And I'm curious to know, for you, does willpower enter into the conversation at all? I've been trying to get what's his name, Roy, Baumeister on the show to talk about willpower. We've been in conversation for quite a while, but I'm wondering where you feel like willpower ends up as part of the equation?

David Burns: I don't use the term willpower, but I created a term called willingness in the late 1980s when I was trying to find out why some people don't recover quickly when treated for depression.

And over the years, I've come to see more of what this willingness is and what it isn't. I developed a scale. And essentially, how willing are you to do stuff to help yourself like, psychotherapy homework for example.

And that was the only variable in the world literature that's ever been shown to have a causal effect on depression or changes in depression, and the causal effect is massive. And then you can think about that as resistance, or motivation, which would be the opposite. And that variable - I tested all kinds of things that people were saying cause people to get better, like therapist empathy. Everyone was thinking, that was it. Therapist Empathy is important but it doesn't have much of a causal effect on anything, surprisingly. But that variable was huge, and people doing homework had a huge causal effect on who got better.

Neil Sattin: So the variable was their willingness or the variable was their taking action? Because someone could begrudgingly take action.

David Burns: Yeah, yeah both. If you take action that's meaningful, to help him reduce your negative thoughts - the actual homework had effects and the motivation that the homework reflected also had a massive causal effect on changes.

Recently I saw an article, somebody took this term willingness - I don't think they attributed it to me, they should have - but they developed a willingness scale for anxiety disorders and reported that's the first variable in the world literature that's been shown have causal effects on recovery from obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD. That are you willing to use exposure to confront your fears...

Neil Sattin: So, willingness. So, that does intersect with the question of resistance and... So in your TEAM model, which is what you've added on and just to mention, for you listening, this conversation is, in some respects, giving you a brief synopsis of things that we went into a lot of depth into in our first two conversations together. So in our first conversation which was episode 98, we talked about your book "Feeling Good Together," and it was this question of how to help relationships using your model.

We talked about that point that you just made a few moments ago that a lot of people actually don't want to change their relationship even though they might say they want to change their relationship.

So we go into that question in a lot more depth in episode 98. And then in our last conversation, which was episode 133, we talked a lot about the ways that we work on our own feeling state.

So the first conversation we had was more focused on relationships, then we went through all the cognitive distortions, and we talked briefly about your TEAM model, but let's just say what the TEAM stands for in this moment. Because that may be a good point for us to dive off into the other intersection that you brought up - the polio virus. And it's impossible to have a conversation right now. I think without talking about the ways that SARS-CoV-2 or covid 19 or the novel Coronavirus whatever we're gonna call it - that is impacting us.

And I'm seeing it have a huge impact on so many people, including myself, people who have been resolutely positive and optimistic, and it's the way, the scale by which this seems to be affecting everyone in every walk of life - I feel like it would be great for us to bring our conversation back to that, and maybe we'll weave in, maybe we'll weave in all these things, like our resistance, and our blame, and we'll put it all a nice bow around it before we're done...

David Burns: That sounds great! We're starting on my feeling good podcast series, Corona-casting and we've got two recorded and we're gonna be doing maybe one or at least one or two more. But essentially, when you're looking at the effects of the corona virus or both at intimacy relationship issuesm because we're compressed closer together, and there's more blow-ups and anger and tension being expressed. And so we've had a couple of those in my Tuesday training group at Stanford, where we sometimes do live work. It's free training for therapists in the Bay Area or from anywhere. If they come consistently, they can get unlimited training and unlimited personal therapy for free, which is a pretty good deal.

And they have to come consistently, and do homework and use the brief mood survey to see how they're doing with their patients. But in the last two weeks, we've had two people very upset. Both therapists - the therapists are human - no different from anyone else - due to intense family conflicts that have erupted because of of the coronavirus. And then I've also been working on the internal mood issues - the panic, the depression, and how we use TEAM to help with those things too - again with one live, or a real example. But what team is: T is testing, E is empathy is, A is - we used to call it paradoxical agenda setting, but that was too confusing to people. So now we call it assessment of resistance, and then M is methods. Now testing means that we test every patient at the start and end of every therapy session.

They do it in the waiting room.

And can do it now on their cell phone so it doesn't waste any therapy time, but we find out exactly how depressed they are at the start of the session. How angry they are, how anxious they are, how happy they are, and what their relationship satisfaction is with the spouse or mother, whoever they want to be rating. And the reason we get those ratings at the start of the session is because therapists' ability to know how patients feel is close to zero.

Research has proven this. And therapists don't know this. Therapists think they know how patients are feeling, but if you stop and test it, you find out the therapist's perceptions are way off base in most cases. In fact, it happened to me recently. I thought I was doing brilliantly. I'm not in practice, but I still treat a lot of people for free because I'm addicted to it. And on one of my Sunday hikes... I was working with a woman with certain issues, and I could just see that I was hitting it out of the park, and it was just an awesome hike... There were many hikers there, and afterwards, I was just congratulating myself for how outstanding I'd been in helping her, and then I discovered that she was enraged with me.

I mean she was livid.

I had totally totally missed the boat. And the listeners are maybe saying "Burnsie, he's probably insensitive. That wouldn't happen to me," but it happens to all therapists all the time, and most therapists don't know it. But if you get the assessments, the measurements, because then they rate you at the end on empathy, on helpfulness, on unexpressed anger, which was the case with my so-called patient, and a lot of other dimensions. And if you use the brief mood survey, it's like having an X-ray machine. You see the truth for the first time. It is the platform for all effective therapy to my way of thinking. E is empathy, you know all about empathy. And so at the start of the session, we empathize with the patient without trying to help. That was my mistake with this patient - I just thought I knew what her problem was and jumped in to cure her. I didn't bother to empathize or reduce her resistance - I violated my own rules. But fortunately, we had talked it over, and now we're closer than ever. The failure turned into something just the opposite.

Neil Sattin: Right, and how often do we assume we know what's going on with another person? And just jump in, yeah, with offering something and it can be with the best intention.

David Burns: That's one of the things here with the coronavirus - people are often trying to help somebody or tell them what to do. Most people just want someone to listen, they don't want someone to try to fix them, if they're panicky, or upset, or angry about the coronavirus - good listening skills is is all that 95% of people are really, really looking for. But then after we've empathized, and that takes about 30 minutes generally, in my experience. I treat most people just with one session, I don't have multiple sessions - I just treat people once and try to "cure" them or whatever that means in one two-hour session. One and done, is my approach. But if they need more, they can get more. But I rarely see people for more than one session. So you can empathize if you use what we call The Five Secrets of effective communication, which is I'm sure similar to approaches that you use. You can generally get an A or an A plus - you can form the deepest possible relationship with any person, you've never met in about 20 to 25 minutes. And then we do assessment of resistance. We say, "What do you want help with? Do you want help with anything?"

And once they say what they want help with - could be a relationship problem, it could be depression, it could be anxiety - we do what we call, fractal psychotherapy. I don't know if we brought up that - fractal psychotherapy - a fractal is a little tiny formula that multiplies itself, and you can simulate almost anything in this way. This is like, how nature works.

Neil Sattin: The macro level is mirrored in the tiniest piece.

David Burns: Yeah, yeah, that's it. I can take a little tiny equation that a third grader could understand, and have it multiply on your computer, and it will go infinitely to the size of the universe. You can't see it all, you can only see a portion but you got it. It could create a gorgeous multi-color parrot, but the most beautiful little parrot, but if you zero in on the tiniest little piece of that, it will always be the same thing, that's just repeating itself over again. And that's how human suffering is. At any one moment in a relationship conflict, all the causes of the relationship conflict will be embedded. By one moment, I mean, what did the other person say to you, What did you say next?

And if you look at that interaction, you'll see all the causes of that conflict between those two people. You don't need their history. You don't need their childhood - just one sentence from the other person, or two sentences - whatever - and exactly what you said next. That's a fractal for a relationship problem. And you have a fractal for depression.

Tell me one moment you were depressed. What time of day was it, where were you, what were you feeling? Circle all of your emotions, how depressed were you? 90% okay, how anxious were you 80%? Okay, how guilty or ashamed were you? You get all of these emotions and 9 different dimensions, and you say, "What were you telling yourself, what were your negative thoughts?" And in that one moment when the person was depressed or anxious, you can find all the causes, and all the cures for all the upset they've ever had in their life. So we want the person to say, what's one moment - if you want help, give me one moment that you want help. Where were you? What time of day was it?

What were you doing, who were you interacting with?

Yeah, and then I generally say to the person, Okay, you were all upset yesterday at 9:30 or whatever and you were feeling 100% depressed and angry and upset and all these emotions, but what kind of help would you be looking for? And generally it comes down to... Well, I want my negative thoughts and feelings to go away. With someone recently... We had a woman 95% depressed and 95% anxious and 65% feeling inadequate, and I think frustrated at 100, and jittery 100 because of the coronavirus. She just woke up and she's trapped at home, and she's thinking that she should be more active, but she feels like procrastinating and then she's beating up on herself for not being productive. And...

Neil Sattin: it sounds really familiar, actually.

David Burns: Then we say, well if there's a magic button - if you press that magic button all your negative thoughts and feelings will instantly disappear, or the person you're upset with will instantly become your best friend in the whole world. With no effort, you gonna press that button? And everyone is "oh yeah, I'll press that button." And then we do what's called positive reframing - we bring their subconscious resistance to conscious awareness.

This is the whole key to TEAM therapy to eliminate resistance before you try to help the person change, and that is what has opened the door to these phenomenal high-speed changes that I'm seeing. Now almost all the time when I work with people, they generally go from extreme or severe depression, not only to no depression - they go into a state of euphoria, mostly in a single two-hour session. People hearing this will get enraged, and they'll think I'm a con artist, and think it's impossible. If I'd heard this was possible 10 years ago I would have said it's a con also - don't believe that person. But I see it and I measure it, I have the data...

Neil Sattin: And you're doing follow-up with those people as well?

David Burns: I do from time to time... I'm building an app now, a feeling great app, that will allow us to do follow-up forever, on everybody. Doing follow-up on humans is pretty time consuming. In my clinical practice, I did relapse prevention training.

I always do that before I'm done with somebody. Because we can guarantee that people will relapse. 100% of humans relapse pretty much every day. I define a relapse of one minute or more of feeling like crap.

We're always relapsing all the time, but what I found is that if you do relapse prevention training, which takes about 20 or 25 minutes - relapse has not been a problem. And what I do is I just tell the person you are gonna relapse and here's what you're gonna be thinking when you relapsed, and here's how to talk back to those thoughts. And then we practice it with a role play and they record it. Then I say, if you ever do relapse, play this recording and if you're still stuck, give me a call because I offer unlimited lifetime guarantee of my work, and I'll give you tune-ups for free, if you're not satisfied.

Neil Sattin: It's a pretty good deal.

David Burns: Yeah, in my whole career, I've had over 40000 hours of therapy sessions - I've only had eight or nine patients who ever took me up on that. And in all of them, it was one session or two sessions and then they're on their way again. I only had one patient whoever relapsed and required intensive therapy again, to get out of her web. So I don't think the relapse thing - the people that I've been working with - I worked with a woman four or five years ago, who thought she was a bad mother, because her daughter had been shot in the face, and she thought it was her fault. Her daughter was 12 and wanted to go out and play after dinner, and she says it's a little late but I guess... Go ahead. She'd let her daughter go out every night for years, and then some neighborhood boys snuck up on her daughter and they had a high power pellet rifle - and aimed it at her face and pulled the trigger. And it hit her daughter's tooth, which exploded in her mouth, and she ran inside, sobbing, blood coming out everywhere. And she required multiple, multiple surgeries. And in addition, by the time I saw the woman she had been beating up on herself for nine years. "I've ruined my daughter's life."

Her daughter was still struggling with PTSD and had failed therapy. So we did the TEAM therapy with her. I did it in a live workshop, and it took about an hour and a half, and her feelings went from extremely severe that she'd had every day for nine years. Just, "I shouldn't have let her go out and play. I'm a bad mother I've ruined her life, I can never allow myself to be happy when she's struggling. The people in the audience who are watching, they probably are judging me and thinking I'm a bad mother."

And at the end, she was more than recovered - all her negative feelings went to zero, but she estimated one of them as minus a thousand and another one as minus a million an a score of zero to 100. She was in a state of euphoria. So I contacted her. I follow up with people from time to time just out of curiosity, and she sent me an email that she's still in this amazing joy, and her negative thoughts have never returned it. And the thing is that after that session, when she recovered, I have a recording of it - which I gave her and she listened to it with her daughter, who had no idea that her mother was struggling like this.

And then her daughter recovered.

And so it's infectious, when you're recover. But at any rate, relapse prevention training is easy to learn - it isn't easy to learn how to cause severe chronic feelings to disappear in a single session or a short period of time. It requires a lot of skill and training. But at any rate at the assessment of resistance, we bring the factors - see Anthony de Mello, maybe I said this in our last interview, he's a Jesuit mystic from the early 1900s I think, or maybe the mid-1900s but he said "We yearn for change, but cling to the familiar." And that's resistance... We say, "Oh I would really wanna lose some weight." But then when you... someone offers you a nice... like my wife made - we're cooped up here at home - but she made some beautiful peanut butter cookies.

And they're so good with a fresh, crisp apple. So you say, "Well I'll lose weight next time." We have ambivalence about change.

And so, we bring all the reasons to resist change to conscious awareness and patients haven't thought of it before. And what we've seen is, for the most part, at least with depression and anxiety, the reasons people resist have do with really beautiful things about them, and once they see that, they don't wanna press that magic button anymore, because then all these beautiful things will go down the drain. Like the woman who says I'm a bad mother. I hope we didn't talk about her last time.

Neil Sattin: No, we haven't spoken about her yet.

David Burns: I think - she's saying "I'm a bad mother" - I told her, Well, gosh, if you press that magic button all your negative thoughts and feelings will go away. But before we do that, let's say, What do they say about you that's positive and awesome? When she's telling herself I'm a bad mother what does that show about her that's positive and awesome? And what are some benefits to her? What does that actually show about her, that's beautiful and positive?

Neil Sattin: Well, it would show that she really cares about being a good mother.

David Burns: Yes, and that's what she came up with. And I said, "Is that important?

Neil Sattin: Absolutely I would imagine so!

David Burns: Is it powerful? So if you press that magic button all your sadness and concern about your daughter will disappear and you'll be euphoric, as happy as a lamb - is that what you want?

"Oh no, no, I see what you mean." You see, and she's intensely anxious. What does her anxiety show about her that's positive and awesome?

Neil Sattin: Well, it would again be... I'm just imagining that she's still really concerned for her daughter and wanting to ensure that she's doing whatever she can to keep her safe.

David Burns: Absolutely, is that important?

Neil Sattin: Definitely.

David Burns: is it real?

Neil Sattin: for sure.

David Burns: Is it powerful?

Neil Sattin: Absolutely.

David Burns: Yeah. And so we went through all of her negative thoughts and feelings. And now you're concerned that the people in the audience here are judging - gonna judge you.

What's awesome about that, what does that show about you that's beautiful?

You're a bit afraid they're gonna think you're a bad mother.

Neil Sattin: Right... so she wants to be a positive role model in the world, for motherhood. She also probably wants people to know that she takes responsibility for being a good mom - that there's something about if she were totally okay with it, then somehow she's absolving herself of all responsibility.

David Burns: So does it show that she wants good close respectful relationships with the people in the audience?

Neil Sattin: Definitely.

David Burns: Is that a good thing?

Neil Sattin: absolutely.

David Burns: Is that powerful?

Neil Sattin: I would say, so, yeah.

David Burns: And so everything you see, we've been trained to tell patients - you have a mental disorder - you can look it up in DSM, you could qualify for probably three different mental disorders.

And that makes us ashamed of our suffering. Thinking. Oh, there's something wrong with me.

And what we're saying is there's actually something right with you - a lot that's right with you - your suffering comes from the part of you that's most beautiful and awesome, at least with regard to depression and anxiety, not not so much relationship conflicts, although to a certain extent. But in depression and anxiety it's something beautiful. And that's called "assessment of resistance." And then with her we came up with, I think, 22 beautiful things about her and benefits of her negative thoughts and feelings, and I said, well...

Why would you wanna press that magic button 'cause then all of this will go down the drain?

Why would you wanna do that?

And she said "I see what you mean, but still I I'm suffering so much, isn't there something I could do?"

And then we used the Magic dial and say, "Well maybe instead of pressing the magic button we could dial them down. Your depression is 90... How much would you like to be at the end of the demonstration, today?"

Is there a lower level, that you could keep all these beautiful things about you and your shame, and your guilt? What would you like them to be? How anxious would you like them to be and she said "oh well 20% is enough on depression and maybe five would be enough anxiety, and shame - I'll turn that one all the way down to zero."

Her anger... She was very angry at the parents who let their boys out with a loaded rifle. And she wanted that one to go from 100 to maybe 20 or something. And then we say, "Okay well, we got powerful techniques and will lower them to those levels." She had a gold she wrote down for each of her nine different negative emotions. They I say "we won't lower them any further, but we'll have to be careful 'cause the techniques I'm gonna use here are so powerful - we may overshoot."

Your depression may go down to five or zero even - but don't worry if you get too depression-free or too anger-free I'll help you dial it up at the end of the session.

And she liked that, and now the resistance, is gone. And then we just went on and identified the distortions and her thoughts, and showed her techniques and roleplay techniques to talk back to them, and she just blew her negative thoughts out of the water. And then at the end I said now do you think these people in the audience are thinking you're a bad mother and they're judging you? Could we do an experiment to find out if that's true?

And she got very anxious and he said, "You mean maybe I could ask them?" and I said, yeah, would you wanna do that? She says No no A... And I said "your fear shows us that it's the thing to do" 'cause that's exposure, right? Confronting your fear.

So she said, "Well maybe could some of you come up to the front," because a friend of mine was doing is on his tiny little cam recorder, and so talk into the microphone - and then you can ask them if they're judging you and how they feel about you. And then about 10 people came up and each one of them she said "How do you feel about me?" And they started - every one of them started crying and saying, "You're my hero. Getting up in front of the group and doing this demonstration shows what a beautiful mother and beautiful human being you are, and I'm so deep in admiration." And then she started sobbing - she couldn't believe it. To see how off-base or negative, her thoughts had been... And that was kind of the end of the session - we did the end of session measurements and everything had gone to zero and below zero. So, that's TEAM - testing, empathy, assessment of resistance, and the M is methods. That's identifying the distortions in the thoughts and turning them around. Now it plays out radically different for relationship problems when we follow the same structure.

Neil Sattin: right, and I like when I've heard you talk about all the different methods that get combined, and how you work with people, that you're quick to point out that they come from all of these different places that you're sourcing all kinds of different therapy, therapeutic models and how you approach problems.

David Burns: yeah, yeah, TEAM is not a school of therapy, I'm against all schools of therapy. And think they could all be got rid of, just as when the Catholic church, when science and astronomy broke away from the Catholic church, it became a science - data driven science. So now you see how fantastic physics and astrophysics and all of that, has become... And I think that therapy you can draw from all the schools of therapy and the M equals methods. I use over 100 methods really that are on my list for therapists, and they come from all schools of therapy.

But then we should be focusing on basic research, to see how all of psychotherapy works. And then having a structure for therapy. TEAM is a structure for all of psychotherapy. That's how therapy works - rather than schools of therapy, which are generally guru-driven rather than a science-driven, and are pushing some theory of some person who has a lot of followers.

Neil Sattin: And is the idea that you're paying attention to what is actually working for the individual? 'cause I can see that some things might statistically look like they work more than other things, but if it's not working for the person in front of you, then it doesn't matter how statistically proven, it is to be effective.

David Burns: Yeah, like her thought - the first thought she wanted to work on from her daily mood log was "I never should have let my daughter go out and play."

And in my mind or on paper, I generate what's called a recovery circle. I imagine that thought's in a circle that she's trapped in - and then there's arrows coming out of the circle. And each arrow is a different way of escape and at the end of each arrow would be one of these hundred methods that I use. Like a method could be identifying the distortions, or externalization of voices, or examine the evidence, or a downward interpersonal arrow, or the hidden emotion technique, or whatever techniques. And then I go through them one at a time, in my mind, until I find the "Aha!" one that just implodes the system and the patient suddenly recovers. This recovery generally happens in a matter of...

Oh, maybe a minute or something like that. When the patient suddenly sees that the negative thought is not true, at that very moment they will improve or recover.

Neil Sattin: Okay, I'm wondering if you'd be willing to do something that I've only done occasionally, here on the show, but what I'd love to maybe try if you're up for it is... is to do a little work together.

Because I feel like one of the reasons that I reached out to you is that when I was thinking, Okay, we're in the middle of a crisis, at least that's what the thoughts tell us - and the news tells us - and most of us are living somewhat sheltered in place. We're not leaving our homes... So the world is different in this moment.

I was thinking, Okay, who... Who do I know that I would most trust to show up in a moment like this? And you were the first person that came to mind for me and so it's...

David Burns: So kind of you to say - thank you - you're one of my heroes.

Neil Sattin: Thank you David, I appreciate that. And so what I'm hoping is that for everyone listening, that if they... I think it's so instructive to hear you talk about the process and, as you know, witnessing the process might also be really helpful for people as they think like, Okay, how do I deal with everything that's happening in the world right now?

[First we revisit the data set to see if we could find any more causal relationships or correlations]

David Burns: We're looking at the relationship between relationship satisfaction, happiness or unhappiness on the one hand, and then a 10-item happiness scale. It's things like "I feel worthwhile, I feel close to people. I feel productive," and so forth. We'll get on to our exciting personal work, which is gonna be way cooler than research for your listeners. But we did get some clear cut results here, with, I think the... N on this is 9000 sessions - and so we can now say...

Okay, let's just, let's look at the results, right? Okay, we've gotta just make one last adjustment.

Does happiness lead to better relationships? Or does better intimacy cause feelings of happiness? That seems like a reasonable question, don't you think?

So, and I'm just, I'm setting this up in the software I have no idea of what these results are gonna show, but they do, they do show a fairly clear cut result here. The correlation between positive feelings and relationship satisfaction is about.38 - it's a modest correlation - not huge - you take the square root of that which would be about 15 or - the square. The square of.38 is about.15. So there's about 15% overlap between how satisfied you feel in your relationship with your spouse, or partner, and how happy you are. Now, in one of these models I declared that there was no causal effect of positive feelings on relationship satisfaction. In other words, that when you're reporting how satisfied you are with your spouse or your partner, we're testing the theory that... How happy or unhappy you are, has nothing to do with that.

Now do you think that's a true or false theory?

Neil Sattin: I would say that that's - intuitively I would say false. That your level of relationship satisfaction would impact how happy you say you are.

David Burns: Well, you're, you're right, you're a genius. Because it has no causal effect whatsoever.

Now, how about the other hypothesis? Is your happiness, feeling of happiness, influenced by how satisfied you are in your relationship with your spouse or partner?

Neil Sattin: That was the one that I was saying, I thought would there would be a correlation.

David Burns: Well, we're talking about causal effects not correlation...

Neil Sattin: Right, so, in other words, with the first one, does your inner state of happiness cause you to report more satisfaction in your relationships?

David Burns: Right, and, and you predicted "no", and you were right...

Neil Sattin: But that was the one where it was 15% like that there was 15%...

David Burns: No - that's just the correlation between them, but that doesn't mean there's a causal relationship.

Neil Sattin: Okay, got it, thank you for clarifying that.

David Burns: Yeah, but if you're very unhappy and then you become very happy, that's not gonna affect how you report your relationship satisfaction or dissatisfaction. And that's kind of what I found in my pilot study too, that when we made people's depression, disappear, it had no effect on their level of satisfaction with happiness or unhappiness in their marriage. Now we're looking at the other direction.

Does how happy or unhappy you are, in your relationship, does that affect your feeling of depression?

Neil Sattin: I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Yes.

David Burns: Yeah, and again, you're right, so you... I think you need to go into statistics. Good statistics should reflect common sense. It often gives surprises.

There is a causal effect there, and I can tell you how big the causal effect is. My relationship satisfaction scale, is highly accurate. It goes from zero to 30. So let's say your relationship satisfaction increased by 10 points - that would be a huge improvement. And it's hard to get that in a clinical situation when someone's unhappy with their marriage. But if you can boost it by 10 points there would be four-tenths of a point increase in the positive feeling scale, which goes from zero to 40. So it's the same result that I had in Philadelphia. There is a causal effect in the direction you mentioned, but it is so tiny as to be kind of theoretically and clinically, meaningless. And it's kind of an interesting result, because it means that how happy or depressed you are, on the one hand, and then how close you feel to people in general or to your partner on the other hand - that they're not related to each other - for the most part, there's no connection. So, the tools that you would need to improve a relationship and the theory of what causes bad relationships is totally different from the tools you would need to treat depression or boost happiness and the things that cause depression or happiness. That they're independent domains - they are not linked.

Neil Sattin: So, there you did see a causal effect, but it was pretty small.

David Burns: Yeah, it's exactly what I reported in my original paper in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in the mid-1990s or something like that - and no one's ever attempted to replicate it. Today, I have the first replication studies of that.

And it is important because it means, let's say you're a therapist, and someone comes in with depression, and they're lonely or they have a poor relationship. Clairman and Cole [sic] have this thing called Interpersonal therapy where they treat depression by improving people's relationships, and then they think that that's effective. And of course, the therapy, all therapies for depression have a placebo effect and not much more. And that's true of theirs. And so while they do get people somewhat better. It's not - the depression doesn't improve because of improved relationships - improving relationships will not cause you to feel less depressed or happier.

Neil Sattin: It's so interesting, it's so interesting. And I guess this must be something that I'd account for, I'd have to account for it in a different way. At this point it makes sense to me... People often talk to me about their relationships, I think, because of what I do. But prior to what I did, I found people talking to me a lot about their relationships, and it always seems, it has always seemed as though that if something isn't going well, that that weighs heavily on them and it does ripple out into the other aspects of how they perceive themselves to be doing.

So what that would suggest - what you just revealed - is that we may harbor this belief that there's a connection there, when in fact those are two completely independent domains and should be treated as such. So, what someone says, "How are you doing" and you... You say like... Well, I'm okay, but my relationship is horrible or whatever. Then maybe the next response that should happen given what you just said, is like, "okay, that makes sense. Let's separate those two, because they are a completely separate or almost completely separate."

David Burns: Right, right, and because you don't have a big ego, like probably your self is dead, so you're open and can receive. But the problem with most mental health professionals is that they think they know things, and so it's hard to accept new findings. I find these new findings that are so different from what I believe to be, in a way, kind of exciting, because what it means is that we have new understanding of how the world works, and then we can use that to refine our effectiveness as therapists. But sometimes it's really hard to accept what research teaches us because it shuts down what we thought intuitively to be the case. But I found this also true, that when - I have treated thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of people with depression and now I have tools to cause depression to disappear most of the time, just really fast in a single two-hour session. And I never work on boosting relationships - I can cause depression to go away without any attention to how happy or unhappy a person is in their intimate relationships. And if they also want help with relationships, then I would use a completely different set of therapeutic tools from the ones I used to treat depression.

So it's just kind of interesting and you always have to take it with a grain of salt, because you can fool yourself with research too. But I've seen this now with two huge databases exactly the same results.

Neil Sattin: I'd be interested to see how this... Not that we're gonna do this right now, but how this would overlap with say all the research and modeling that John Gottman has done, and see where those datasets correlate with... Where they line up with each other, and where there might be disparities between the two.

David Burns: Yeah, absolutely, and if you review the literature too, if you want publish a paper, you have to say so-and-so found this and so and so found that... And so forth. But the kind of analysis that I'm doing here is-it's difficult to do, it's the most difficult topic in all of statistics when you have A and B - the kind of the chicken and egg thing. Most people don't know how to do this. This kind of modeling. But it would be fun. Maybe he has never measured happiness at the same time that he's measured relationship satisfaction - maybe he's never measured depression at the same time he's measuring relationship satisfaction.

That's what you need to measure these things. at time A and then measure them again at time B later on - and then you can model the causal connections if any between the variables. But yes, it would be fun to find that out, but let's do something cool and truly awesome now and get rid of statistics...

May 15, 2020

One of the biggest blocks to lasting intimacy is shame. Shame keeps us from being honest with ourselves, and our partners. And from truly owning what's real for us - what we actually want. In today's episode we're going to cover some of the many ways that shame gets in the way - and we'll also take a stand for what's possible when we allow ourselves to get real - about what's going right and what's going wrong - in our lives. Let's shine a light on the shadow - and free ourselves to be real with each other. And in the process we'll free up all kinds of energy to get closer to what we truly desire.

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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Transcript:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive, this is your host Neil Sattin, and today I wanna get real with you, I wanna get real with you about relationships. It's not that I haven't been real with you, all along. Of course, I have in fact that's been probably one of the most important things to me about this conversation that we're having about relationships is being real and not getting hung up on how things are supposed to be, but dealing with how things really are, and honestly, that's been challenging for me lately, and I've been doing a lot of soul searching. The getting real hasn't been challenging but what's been challenging for me has been connecting in with what motivates me with what drives me to do this to be here with you every single week.

And it probably doesn't surprise you to know that that goes back to my own relationship coming apart or transitioning let's say, back in the fall, and the very real need that I've had to do a lot of processing, a lot of grieving, a lot of wondering, a lot of questioning, a lot of raging, a lot of integrating that entire experience to make sense of what it even means.

What does it mean when a relationship comes apart, particularly when you're someone like me who is so deep in this conversation about how we do relationships well or better, being focused on growt, h being focused on integrity, being focused on showing up to the best extent possible, and at the same time wrestling with shame - the impact of Shame on our relationships, on my own relationship, on what it's like to come here and talk to you after going through such a big experience that I never expected for sure.

I mean so much of Relationship Alive grew out of the journey that I was on, that I've been on. I'm still on it, of course. And that journey had love, it had struggle, it had challenges, it had disharmony, it had coming back together, it had all of that - and coming back apart and it's really gotten me thinking about what is it that we are trying to do? What is this whole relationship thing all about?

There are those of us who never get into committed relationships who never find love, and that energy - and then there are those of us who find a person and meet up with them at a young age and stay with them the rest of their lives, and then there's most of us who fall somewhere in the middle on that. I mean, you might be one of those two people that I just described. There's nothing wrong with any of that.

And then there's this whole spectrum of what's possible in relationship in the middle.

Are we monogamous? Are we polyamorous? Are we casual? Are we serious? Are we sexually-abstinent before marriage, are we sexually-abstinent after marriage? There are all of these variations on what we experience and what I'm trying to do here on Relationship Alive of course, is to bring you the best resources that I can to help you navigate all of that.

And mostly that's been focused on this broader concept that I might call writing a wrong... Something has gone wrong, and we wanna fix it. I've got a really deep fix it, streak within me. And that has been, what the podcast has been focused on. We don't know how to communicate. Well, let's fix it. We end up in conflict - let's fix it.

One of us slept with someone outside the boundaries of our monogamous commitment. Let's fix it.

We don't know what to do about our own struggles with mental health and depression. Let's fix it - like that.

That has been what the show has been like, and that's important, those are important things to be talking about. Of course, none of us wants to stay in those sticky icky places where things are super uncomfortable and I sure don't it's not... Not what I aspire to. They're unavoidable, of course and yet there's maybe a bigger topic around their unavoidability that I've managed to avoid for much of these conversations. So today, I wanna tackle that and I wanna give you a sense of where I'm really coming from right now, because this is where I'm going to be coming from now on.

Well, as I evolve I can't hold the same perspective that I had a year ago 'cause it doesn't make sense to anymore, so I've been stewing and trying to make sense of everything. And today I'm gonna give you my best shot at making sense of it all, in a way that at least gives you a sense of the direction that will be headed in... So thank you for being here with me today to be part of this important conversation because we as humans are on this journey together, we are evolving what we do relationally with each other.

I was speaking with Jeff Brown earlier today, in fact, and he said something that was so hilarious. He's like, Let's... And I'm gonna paraphrase him. But it was something like, let's just get to the point where we can be in a room with each other, without things going horribly wrong - and that is in some ways where we're still at... As people. And now in this moment when I'm recording, we are most of us in some form of sheltering in place or staying at home, and so we're spending a lot of time in the same room, either with ourselves and having to own that conversation, or with our families or significant others, And that stirs up a lot. There's never been a more important time to try and evolve what we're capable of.

We have to right now - of necessity.

So that we don't tear ourselves or each other apart, there's so much that's possible. And I've witnessed it, I've witnessed it in my own life, I've witnessed it in the life of the clients that I work with or the people who have taken my courses. And I hear from you to... And I have to say those emails are magical, they're like gold for me when I get an email that's just telling me how much of an impact this work is having on your life, it's part of what helps keep me going - has helped keep me going, especially over the past few months, when I've had my own dark nights of the soul, and I've wondered why I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm the kind of person who wonders that frequently. It's important for me to keep my finger on the pulse of what motivates me, what keeps me going and that way I can hopefully avert disaster by diagnosing problems, when they are well in advance of before they hit. And yet sometimes things are unavoidable. So anyway, now I'm rambling a bit, so before I ramble any further or actually before I really dive into the meat of the matter. I wanna just take this moment to thank you if you have been a contributor to relationship alive just by being here to listen, you're a contributor, and I really appreciate that. Just so you know, I'm so thankful that you are here to be part of the conversation with me and this show is an offering for you, to help you have the best possible relationships, and without your support this show couldn't continue.

So in this moment, I just wanna thank some of the people who have contributed recently.

Sylvia, David, Angie, Drew, Lydia, Anne, Valerie, Keerthi, Angie, and Jules.

Thank you all so much for your financial support of Relationship Alive and just as a reminder, every little bit counts. So, if you wanna choose something that feels right for you to help show your support of relationship alive and the work that we're doing, then just visit neilsattin.com/support or text the word support to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Also, I put together a free guide for you to help you learn how to communicate more effectively, in relationship. And this guide has just three simple tips if you put them into practice, they will transform your communication outcomes. I'm not sure if you heard that. I just got a call through my computer. I'm not sure how that happened.

Alright, [TKEDIT] that sounded super official. Then the communication outcomes.

In any case to grab the free guide you can visit neilsattin.com/relate or text the word relate to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Finally, I just wanna remind you that we do have a free group on Facebook - the Relationship Alive Community where you can join in with a safe space to have conversations about relationship stuff, lots of amazing people in that group over 4000 people at this point. And if you have a question that you would like me to answer on the podcast just record yourself, asking the question and send it to me. The email address is questions at Relationship Alive dot com and I will answer your question on a future episode of the show. I had a few good questions come in, lately which has been cool.

Alright, so let's get back to the topic at hand, which is What's up with relationships anyway, no one has... No one has an easy time.

Or maybe I shouldn't say no one, 'cause then I'm falling into that cognitive distortion place of black and white thinking.

There probably are a few people who have supremely easeful relationships or people who are supremely easeful in their solo-ness.

But in the middle, there are gonna be moments where things are going well, and then there are gonna be moments when things are a struggle - that is the reality, and what I'm realizing more and more is how much of an obstacle it can be when we feel shame around there being issues like somehow there shouldn't be something going wrong, or there shouldn't be this challenge... Or I shouldn't be bored or I shouldn't care about this pet peeve of mine or right, whatever it is.

And There have even been people here on the show, on Relationship Alive who talk about certain practices of mindfulness and acceptance that would have you think that you should just be walking around accepting everything and being totally cool with everything and then life would just be blissful all the time and maybe just... Maybe there are those truly enlightened souls for whom everything is just bliss, but honestly I think the paradox is that those people, it's probably not all bliss because partly, what they're blissing out on is probably their experience of challenge when they get into it.

And that represents a response to being challenged. You're a generative response, which would be... Man, this fucking sucks. What am I gonna do about this?

I'm gonna learn to love it, even though it's really hard... That's different than things never being hard.

It's just learning how to build that kind of resilience into your system, but despite what you see on Facebook and Instagram, or whatever social media thing, you might be on, things are challenging for just about everyone at certain points, maybe even more than half the time, and if not challenging, they're going to be moments where one or both people or several people, if you're in a polyamorous situation, where someone is having questions about whether they really wanna be there, about whether it's really working for them, or having realizations about ways that they've compromised themselves, not intentionally.

I think it's rare that someone compromises themselves intentionally like to try to be manipulative or something like that. We are doing our best all the time, to maintain connection with each other, and sometimes our best requires a little bit of contortions as we twist ourselves into a shape that works for the other person. Or if you're not a contortions kind of person, you might choose to avoid the avoid your partner so that you can avoid contorting yourself. But even avoiding, even avoidant people still wanna be in relationship, they still choose relationship over solitude until things escalate - and then sometimes solitude is a welcome respite from the calamity, the emotional calamity, of two people who aren't quite in sync with each other. Whether you're anxious or avoidant or secure I'm speaking about attachment styles. Wherever you fall, there are gonna be times when you just aren't sure or where you have questions or where you're in pain, or where you're hurting and if you're sitting there thinking I shouldn't feel this way, there's something wrong with me for feeling this way or that there's something wrong with my relationship that I feel this way that sense of "there's something wrong. And so, I shouldn't... " That is paralyzing. And I've felt that at moments with the podcast where I - even this episode that I'm recording this has been on my mind for weeks now - and if you're someone who's paying close attention, you may notice I skipped a couple of weeks. And it's because this has been a-brewing and it's actually been a-brewing for me for months now waiting for the right moment to come out.

The reality is I think that relationship and our choices around relationship-ing exist on a spectrum and that for the most part we are evolving on that spectrum all the time. And there are gonna be moments where... Where you're at is perfectly right for you and your partner or partners, and those moments of alignment are awesome, thrilling, and we can sometimes create them, sometimes ritual moments like your first date, or celebrating an anniversary or getting married, or you can create moments that have that special juice, the juice that forces everything into crystal clear clarity.

It doesn't happen all the time necessarily, for those events that I was just describing, but it's one great way to kind of bring everyone on to the same page.

They're amazing moments when they happen.

And you might shift if you are focused on your own development and growth, then for one thing, the relationship you're capable of today, is gonna be world different than the relationship you were capable of - well, maybe yesterday, but definitely five years ago, and definitely 10 years ago. What seems like so amusing to me is, I think back - this is just myself, but I see this in other people, as well. I think back to the relationships that I had when I was young, when I fell in love, in elementary school or even in high school, let's go to high school 'cause that's a little less ludicrous, but I remember meeting someone in high school and thinking "this is the person, this could be the person that I'm gonna spend the rest of my life with."

I had the whole vision, all worked out.

Now this happened several times, which tells you something. In fact, it's happened repeatedly over the course of my life.

And what's true is that the person that I met, let's say in that moment in high school, we were probably perfect for each other - in that moment, and we were capable of something particular to that moment to where we were both at in terms of our development.

But I can tell you that where I was at when I was 14 or 15 compared to where I'm at now, being 46-30 plus years later... Can't even compare. And yet, somehow back then I thought "You know what, I'm gonna marry this person that's what's gonna happen."

I wish there had been a little angel on my shoulder or a parental figure. capable of having this conversation with me of something, like, "You know what, it's not gonna be that and that's totally cool, that's fine. This is what two high schoolers are capable of doing."

"Have at it, have fun, enjoy, don't try to make it more than it is, let it grow naturally." Someone could have said that to me, in my teens, in my 20s, in my 30s, and now here I am in my 40s and I'm the one whispering this to you. And to myself. You are capable of what you are capable of today. It's gonna be probably more and better than yesterday and the day before, and the day before. And what you are capable of, in the future, assuming that you keep paying attention and growing, will be even more incredible.

Now, will the person that you're with, will they meet you there?

It could be a question of whether or not they're capable, whether they are growing the way that you're growing, or it could just be that where they're going is different, and suddenly, requires something different than what you offer, or that you are requiring something different than what they offer.

And these are key moments - key moments of questioning, in our relationships, whether we should stay there or not. How amazing would it be to be able to have that conversation free of shame and inhibition? ! ? ! ?

There is so much fear and shame that gets in the way of us simply being honest with each other when we diverge. When what you want is different than what I want... There's so much fear - fear in losing the other person, fear in being judged. Sometimes in our lives we've paid a price for being seen, we can't be too big, we can't be too great, we can't be too happy. And so, even if what we wanna share is something amazing, we can have fear around revealing that part of ourselves. And the fear may have nothing to do with our partner. It may be just something that we're carrying around within ourselves, but I can tell you that when you carry around fear, it is really easy to bring about the thing that you're afraid of.

If you're afraid of being judged, then man does it take some skill to come to your partner with something revealing without revealing it in a way that almost asks them, begs them... To judge you! It's really hard, it's hard for you, it's hard for your partner, it's fucking hard.

Not always, thankfully, but when things are dicey it gets... It gets tricky and hard.

And so much of what we've talked about here on the show is being able to recognize moments when they get dicey and being able to show up differently in those moments. That's so key, right?

But if you mess up or it doesn't go quite so well, there's nothing wrong with you because that happened, there's nothing wrong with your partner because that happened. It just is where you are right now. And then the question becomes, "What are you gonna do about it, what are you gonna do about that? And can you do it free from the fear and shame that can so often be an obstacle in this moment as I'm talking to you about it?"

I'm realizing how even though in so many ways, I feel, okay, actually great about my relationship with Chloe having ended, which isn't to say that I haven't felt pain and grief and despair. I felt the full range of stuff.

But in this moment what I am relating to is just how much I've also felt fear, fear about what this means for me because I put so much energy in really trying, trying, in so many ways. A whole podcast was born out of that trying out of that inquiry, out of wanting to know, out of wanting to do better. And yet - still, I got to go on that whole ride and at the end of that ride, was disappointment, was sadness, was disruption, was pain.

And so, I'm realizing how challenging it has been for me to face myself in the middle of all that. Part of the making sense of things is not just facing myself, but facing the ways that it's hard for me to face myself facing that challenge. The challenge of looking honestly at everything that unfolded, looking honestly at the choices that I made, looking honestly at the choices that I didn't make, and being able to see myself without judgment. So that's what the shame is all about, right? There's the shame that you feel because you're imagining that other people are thinking something about you, when in reality it's you thinking something about you. I've been there, deeply, and I think that the part of me who was so eager and so convinced that if I just did enough learning if I just grew enough that I could avoid "failure" and I'm putting failure in little quotes 'cause in truth I don't believe in failures in this realm. Anyway, I'm not sure I believe in failure in any realm. I guess if we had an existential conversation about failure, maybe there are some place, or places where failure really makes sense but not in this context, but that eager earnest driven part of me, he's having a hard time with what happened and what he really needs is this healthy dose of self-compassion to remind him that It's okay. What happened is, Okay, what happened maybe couldn't have been avoided, what happened is, maybe what should have happened, maybe it was the natural result of choices that happened earlier that could have been different if he had only known better.

That game is only one that's helpful to play, I think, when you're trying to make sense of things. There's no point in being like, "Oh I should have blah blah" 'cause you didn't... Right? But it is helpful to look back and think "Oh, I could have" maybe not, "I should have," but "I could have." What would have happened if I had made that other choice and what was going on with me that I didn't make that choice?

I hope this isn't too amorphous for you, like this conversation, I hope you get where I'm coming from.

There's deep stuff in us. And the places where shame starts to creep in, or where our expectations of ourself starts to creep in... Those are the places where we're blocked from having the conversation that we need to have.

And it could be that the situation that you are in requires some deep honesty with yourself, with your partner - if you have a partner - some deep honesty that's hard to get at if you're afraid or if you're experiencing shame.

How are you evolving? how are you growing? how have you changed? Is there a reality that needs to be acknowledged there?

There just might be... And if we could be really real with each other about our hopes, our fears, the things we enjoy, our disappointment - if we could do that without taking it personally, and to just see the person that we are, and the person or persons who are there with us with compassion, there's a lot of power in those conversations. I believe deeply in the power of radical compassion - that compassion allows you to value the other person, to value yourself, to value the other people in your life. But you're free to choose all the time, you don't have to choose to stay in a situation where, ultimately, it's just not right for you - but you might make that choice if you're feeling a ton of shame around what it would mean to leave - to make a different choice.

I want to change the way that shame paralyzes us. I do not want any of us. You, me, the people who aren't listening to this, I don't want any of us to feel paralyzed by shame.

I'm not sure I want us to feel paralyzed, period. That feeling of being held back, of having to cut yourself off from the life force that drives you forward - that sucks! And when you're caught there that is a recipe for, well, if nothing else, dissatisfaction, it could be calamity - could be disaster. Let's not cut ourselves off from the sources of life in our lives. And one of those, I think most profound sources of life is our willingness to be honest with what's real right here and now. In a way that's kind and compassionate... I'm not a fan of brutal honesty but I think we can get honest in ways that are about us. In my Communication course I talk a lot about that. I talk about how do you communicate what's true for you in a way that owns it - that doesn't put the other person on the defensive.

How do you talk about what's true for you in a way that actually invites other people to be there with you?

Because when you can do that, it creates even more of a spark, particularly if there's a spark, there to be created.

[TKEDIT OUT] I do wanna take just a moment to talk about this week's sponsor, of this episode because just like those of you who choose to support the podcast with your donations or sponsors are a key part of what helps keep Relationship Alive going.

And this week we have a sponsor who has been with us for quite a while and who are really about helping us get the support that we need.

And sometimes when you're feeling these deep levels, of shame or confusion or pain or questions, or even happiness that you don't feel like you can share it's helpful to get support from someone else.

So if you're looking for some extra support around the things that are getting in the way of your happiness, or achieving your goals dealing with the whatever's current for you in your life, the one really great way that you can do that from the comfort of your own home which is especially important right now, or you can do it from your office, wherever you are. Is this service called better help, better help will assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist with whom you can chat via text any time, and you can schedule weekly video or phone sessions, all without having to go anywhere.

It's more affordable than traditional offline counseling, and they do provide financial aid. If you qualify, they also offer a broad range of expertise so that you can find the person who's most suited to helping you with your own unique situation, so whether it's shame, depression, stress, anxiety, your relationship, family conflicts whatever's up for you, try out better help to help you move past the places where you're stuck, so to start living a happier life today, you can try better help and get an extra 10% off your first month for being a relationship alive listener, just visit better help dot com alive join over 800-000 people who are taking charge of their mental health, with better help.

Again, that's better help help dot com alive and thank you so much better help for your support of healthy relationships, healthy people, and the relationship alive podcast.

So, where do we go from here, where do we go from here?

I want this show to ALSO not be held back by shame.

Fear. I wanna talk about the things that are really going on for us the things that we have concerns about - the secret joys that we have that we don't think we can share - and maybe the secret sorrows that we have or questions - I wanna shine a light on that so that you can feel free to experience it and to share it with other people.

There are so many things that have impacted us along the way. Things that are simple that should be easy to talk about or accepted.

Here's a perfect example, take masturbation. Now, I'm not sure what the statistics are on masturbation. And maybe you don't masturbate, but I think most people on some level, do - and I think we've also reached a day and age when most of us accept - at least intellectually - that masturbation is okay.

It's okay to do that in some way. It doesn't mean you're a bad person if you're masturbating - it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. It is actually really healthy to desire pleasure and to realize like, "Oh if I wanna feel pleasure I can give that to me - I can be in charge of that. There's nothing wrong with it."

And yet, I realize that even for myself talking to people about masturbation evokes deep, deep shame and fear - or at least it did. It did when I first started talking to people about it.

This wasn't that long ago, like REALLY talking to people. Not talking about... "What do you think about masturbation?" talking about "Do you masturbate?"

"I do. Tell me about when you masturbate. Tell me about where you masturbate. Tell me about the conflicts that masturbation creates in your life."

"Tell me about your relationship with masturbation." Now I bring this up because this is an incredibly private conversation for most people. Why is it private? Could it be because we're embarrassed or we feel some sort of shame about the fact that we might do that? Yeah, yeah, it's powerful stuff.

So I'm glad I broached the topic here with you. I do masturbate. I'm just gonna let you know, that's part of my life.

It's not like hourly or anything like that, but it happens and sometimes I'm just in my body and feeling the pleasure in the sensation wherever it is in me, and I'm really grounded and rooted in me, and sometimes, I'm exploring in my imagination connection with another person, could be a real person could be an imagined person.

I actually get a lot of energy from it to tell you the truth, a lot of energy for the rest of my life.

Now, on the show, I've talked a lot about sexual practices that don't involve having peak orgasms. And so while we're on the topic of masturbation I'll just let you know that I don't often have a peak climax while I'm masturbating, I don't. But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy the process - and I just choose the right time to stop and move on to the next thing while I'm all energized, and fired up and no in case you were wondering, I didn't do that before I started recording today. But maybe when I do the show that's completely about masturbation, maybe that's what I'll do - is I'll just do a little warm up before I get on the mic. That'll be interesting. If I have a guest, maybe I'll encourage them to do it as well is so we can all be on the same page anyway. I didn't mean to go completely off topic, on to the topic of masturbation. I offered it, just as an example of a place where many of us harbor a lot of shame and I wanna shine a light on all those places through this show.

So this might be an opportunity for you if there's something that you, in particular, feel shame about and you felt comfortable recording yourself asking a question about it, send that to me and if you don't feel comfortable recording yourself than at least email it to me. And you can email questions at Relationship Alive dot com, and that will get to me because these things are important. So yeah, if there's something going on for you, I wanna know, and we're gonna shine a light not on you, I'm not gonna put the spotlight on you but we're gonna shine a light on the thing because guaranteed, you are probably not experiencing something that no one else is experiencing or that no one else has experienced. A friend of mine on Facebook the other day, and I'm trying not to be on Facebook all that much these days, 'cause it's a bit of a shit show, but a friend of mine on Facebook said "post something down below in the comments that you're sure no other of my friends has ever done that you've experienced."

And so I was thinking about that and I was like, "What would I post? And the reality is that almost everything I came up with, I was pretty sure that none of their friends had experienced it, but that it's likely that someone out somewhere had experienced it.

The point being that you are not alone and if nothing else, I'm here with you.

But our unique existence on this planet, isn't so unique that we don't... That things don't happen that we share in common with other people, so even if you don't masturbate, I know there's thousands and thousands of people masturbating. In fact, there are probably thousands of people masturbating right now as we are having this conversation, that's probably happening.

I don't know where they are. That would be interesting, but I know that they're out there guaranteed.

And so, I thank you to all of you out there who are masturbating right now, thank you for owning your pleasure and hopefully you're finding a way to do it where it feels healthy and fulfilling and not something that you're just hiding about.

So let's let this be... Let's... Let relationship alive, be about what's true about relationships. And again, that's been the journey that I've been on this whole time, but just like I was saying, it's a journey. We're evolving and I'm realizing some things that are true that might have even been true all along, but I wasn't ready to realize them. But now, I'm ready, I'm inviting it, and I invite you to invite it to so we can be on this journey together. I have a feeling that it's gonna be worth it.

Partly because of how freeing it will be, and also partly because we are gonna change the world, you and I and our friends and our lovers, and our children, we are gonna change the world - and it may not look perfect tomorrow, it may never looks perfect, but just like our own growth, it will be better tomorrow than it is today, and it will get better and better and better.

I know that for sure, I know that to be true, and that's my wish for you.

So along those lines, I have some special episodes coming up.

I had a recent conversation with David Burns, the author of Feeling Good. His new book, Feeling Great is not out yet - I'm really looking forward to that.

He's one of the world's foremost cognitive behavioral therapists who has evolved beyond cognitive behavioral therapy with a new approach that very much incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy. In fact, what I really like about David Burns, is that he is not afraid to draw from whatever tradition he finds is helpful, and works, and so I had a really awesome conversation with him that I'm looking forward to sharing with you. And the conversation actually led to two sessions with him, that he did with me - one was dealing with overwhelm and all the negative thoughts that were happening within me and turning those around. And then another session about procrastination.

I'm sure you never have to deal with procrastination, right?

So there's gonna be a special series of episodes. It's a lot - there's probably in total, about three hours or so maybe three and a half hours worth of stuff there, so I'm not gonna put it all out at once, but we're gonna kick that off probably next week or maybe the week after. And I thought it would be really valuable for you to hear a master working with me, so you can hear a little bit of my reality - the negative thoughts I struggle with, and you get to hear what it's like to actually work with them and come out on the other side. And there's some pretty cool ways that David approaches that - and you'll hear how challenging it was for me to take them on because they were so radically different from how I would typically handle let's say a negative thought.

And that's why maybe one of those negative thoughts would persist.

So I want you to hear that I think it'll be instructive for you to hear one of the world's masters working. I've done that a few times on the show. I had a really deep session with Ken page in one of our conversations on deeper dating - and with Dick Schwartz talking about internal family systems where he did a session with me.

Yeah, so it's a little vulnerable, but I'm looking for to you hearing it and it's all in the interest of being real. So let's just be real with each other, okay? We don't have to pretend to be perfect, and therefore, we can accept that we are imperfect, people, and hopefully we can accept that the people around us are imperfect, and we can just be on this journey together, in ways that feed us and when it stops feeding us, let's be honest about that, too, and let's feel as free as we can to make choices that aren't about shame, but that are about you and the people who are important to you, being your best self. And sometimes that involves work, you have to do on your own, sometimes it involves work you do together sometimes it involves being together sometimes it involves going your separate ways and that's just what fucking is. You heard it here first, or if you've already heard that before, you heard it here again, Alright, peace out. I'm really psyched to be on this journey with you, and to see where it takes us. As I mentioned David burns' coming up, we also have a guest who's a friend of mine, who happens to be a behavioral scientist talking about dating, that's coming up in the next few weeks on Relationship Alive and hopefully we will also be featuring some of your questions too. In the meantime I'm sending you so much love, and encouragement and good health, and we're in this together. Thank you for being here with me.

Apr 25, 2020

Life doesn’t always lead to Happily Ever After (or Happily For Now) - like a romance novel. However, romance novels tap into something deep in our heart and psyche - keeping us turning the pages to see just how it’s all going to unfold. You can use the lessons from fiction to craft your own personal love adventure. This week we’re talking to Mara Wells, author of Cold Nose, Warm Heart - about the craft of romance writing, to learn what fuels our real-life desires. You’ll avoid the mistakes that not only would destroy a good plot line - but that also would send a perfectly good relationship down the tubes. And you’ll get some ideas for how to keep the passion flowing when you’ve moved past seduction - to doing each other’s laundry.

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

Sponsors:

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

Resources: 

Pick up the new Mara Wells Book, Cold Nose, Warm Heart - and support independent booksellers! (or you can pick it up on Amazon as well)

Check out Mara Wells’s website for more information about her novels.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

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

www.neilsattin.com/romance Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Mara Wells.

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

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. What do we know about what drives the human heart? And not just in terms of love and connection but also in terms of desire. There are any number of ways to approach this question and I wanted to try something a little bit different in today's episode because I happen to be good friends with someone who is an author in the romance genre. And I thought what would be better than to dive in to romance writing and to figure out what that can actually teach us about how we operate as humans. And if there weren't something there, it wouldn't sell millions and millions of books every year and so there's clearly something there that romance writing taps into, and so I wanna mine it for all it's worth with today's guest. Her name is Mara Wells and she is the author of the new book, Cold Nose, Warm Heart, which is the first novel in the Fur Haven Dog Park series.

Neil Sattin: And I gotta say, it's actually the first bit of fiction that I've read in years because I'm mostly reading non-fiction for this podcast and I really enjoyed it. It was just such a great escape for me to take a couple of days and dive into the world of Fur Haven Dog Park. And we'll find out a little bit more about what that means but is as usual, we will have a transcript for today's episode, which you can get if you visit neilsattin.com/romance or you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And I think that's it. Let's just dive in. Mara Wells, thank you for joining us today on Relationship Alive.

Mara Wells: Thank you so much for inviting me, Neil. I really appreciate this opportunity.

Neil Sattin: You're welcome. You're welcome. And as I was talking just a moment ago, I had this sudden hesitation like, "Is it okay to call this a romance novel?" Is this a romance novel, what you wrote?

Mara Wells: It is absolutely a romance novel.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: The definition of a romance novel is that you have a guaranteed Happily Ever After or at least Happily For Now. In the industry, the HEA or HFN, and if it meets that criteria, the guaranteed happily ever after ending and that the relationship is the primary focus of the story, it's a romance.

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah, that makes sense.

Mara Wells: It's a big, big world.

Neil Sattin: And I was wondering because as I was talking to a friend of mine about this interview, I was like, "Yeah, this... " Like, it's a romance book, it's got sex and romance and relationship and she was like, "Well, there are a lot of books that have that." So we were sitting with this puzzle of like, "Well, what does make it a romance book versus just like a good book that has sex and heart-centered interactions and steamy interactions and... " So is that the working definition right there or is there more that defines it?

Mara Wells: Yes. A romance novel has a relationship as the primary focus, a romantic relationship as the primary focus of the story and then we have a guaranteed happily ever after ending or at least happily for now. Within the novel, there's some expansion in the definition. Sometimes we see the happily ever after is guaranteed at the end of a series if we're following one couple through a series but usually it's contained within the one novel.

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah, and I think part of what fueled me as a reader was I knew that was gonna happen and I was wondering how it was gonna play out. So there's maybe a bit of a beauty in that when you pick up a book like this where it's like, okay, you know that it's probably gonna work out, it's gonna work out on some level. You may not know all the twists and turns, and discovering those twists and turns is part of what keeps you going.

Mara Wells: Right. We read for the twists and turns. We read for the journey and I think I've... Before I was a romance writer, I was a romance reader and so for me as a reader, there's comfort in knowing what the ending is going to be and so I'm actually able to enjoy that journey more. And to see the ways in which it plays out individually for every different couple.

Neil Sattin: Now I hadn't thought about this at all but just hearing you say that makes me wonder if there's some element of that when you actually meet a person that part of why you can meet someone and within a few seconds you can make a snap decision about whether or not this person is gonna be a good person like a good fit for you, romantically. And that's not always true, right? 'Cause we can meet people where we don't necessarily think that and then they surprise us because we get to know them a little better and we uncover the things that draw us to them. So it's not true 100% of the time but I'm thinking back on any number of relationships that I've been in and wondering if that's part of it. You meet someone and you're like, "Oh, something's gonna happen with this person and now let's uncover the twists and turns that get us there."

Mara Wells: Right. If we think of story and then also the story of our own lives as being focused on the journey rather than the outcome because unlike fiction, the outcome in real life isn't guaranteed. But being able to focus on the journey makes that process enjoyable.

Neil Sattin: Right. Well, in terms of the happily ever after or the happily for now ending, I'm not really sure what that means for the genre. It wouldn't surprise me if... It's just the stereotypical... Like the movies, they never show you what happens after the people get together and that's so much of what we face in our lives is we live that romantic journey that brings us together with a person but then there's the laundry, I can't remember who said that but.

Mara Wells: [chuckle] Right. And I think that's actually one of the reasons why series are very popular in the romance genre because we live in the same world with the characters so, for example, in my series, book two goes on to follow... Caleb is the main hero of book one and he has a brother Lance who becomes the hero of book two and another brother Knox who becomes the hero of book three but Caleb doesn't go away. So in book two when we're invested in Lance and Carrie's relationship, Caleb and Riley from book one are still around. And we get to see how their life is playing out as they become secondary characters in the series and I think that's some of the delight of the series' experience for readers and actually, I'm experiencing it as a writer now, that we do get to see what happens afterwards and who is doing the laundry. [chuckle] And how are they balancing all of the challenges that they had as a couple to get together. Did they actually come up with a working solution so they can stay together? And, of course, the answer in romance is they did.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: But you get to see that in an ongoing way...

Mara Wells: Yes.

Neil Sattin: In which it... That's cool. Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: So you get to check in with them and who's pregnant now and now what's happening and... In my series, you get to see the dogs again and you get to see that that happily ever after is really actually happening.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Wow. Now I really wanna read book two. I love how in Cold Nose, Warm Heart I love how the dogs play a role from the very beginning. You've got Caleb who enters this building and... Can I reveal a little bit of the intro of the plot?

Mara Wells: Yes. Absolutely yes.

Neil Sattin: So Caleb walks into this building and he's on a mission to save the family business, resurrect the family business because it's gone through this huge upheaval. And so he walks into this building that his grandfather has potentially offered him and he's just noticing how it's fallen into disrepair and there are just all these things wrong. But he's also assessing it for its potential as an economic engine to revitalize the family business and then at some... One of the very first things that happens is this cute little poodle runs over to him. So he's scratching the poodle and even that is a source of irritation for him because there aren't supposed to be pets in the building but there's this poodle that's running over to him but he's good with dogs like any good hero would be, I would think.

Mara Wells: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Right? The villain kicks the puppy, the hero scoops him up in his arms. And so, he's cuddling the puppy and at the same time thinking about how he's gonna have to fire the building manager, this horrible dude named Riley Carson who clearly is not doing his job. And then this beautiful woman runs down the hall to recover her escaped poodle and they get into this bantery conversation and in the end I think he asks her out for dinner. I might be remembering this not quite right but he's like, "We should get dinner." And she's like, "You don't even know my name." And he's like, "Well, what's your name?" And she introduces herself as Riley Carson so... And that's where the plot just goes from like, "Oh my god," for me, like, "How am I gonna deal with this?" I'm reading a romance novel, 'cause that's where I started, to like, "Oh my god, what's gonna happen?" I had that initial like, "How is this gonna work out?"

Mara Wells: Right. And she says, "And you are?" And he says, "I'm here to fire you."

Neil Sattin: Right.

Mara Wells: And so that starts off their... The trope is enemies to lovers, right? They're on opposite ends. He wants to take the building down and rebuild it as luxury condos, she wants to preserve it and restore its art decor history. Both of them can't have their way. How will that work out? And it occurred to me when you were describing the book, about how he's coming in to assess the building and to think about it, its potential for the future. Isn't that a nice metaphor for relationships as well?

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. And with maybe the interesting twist of that being with a building, there is the sense of like, "Well, if I had to, I could tear this sucker down and start over." If you enter a relationship thinking, "Alright, I'm gonna tear this sucker down and start over."

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: It might not be the best start.

Mara Wells: I think some people do. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: They do. That's for sure. That's for sure.

Mara Wells: But he has to learn that that's not the best way forward. There's something beautiful about the history. There's something beautiful about the cracks in the terrazzo and the crumbling facade that's worth saving.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. And I think one thing that's really lovely about the plot of your book is that they do negotiate that and navigate that really beautifully in a way that makes it feel like change happens pretty organically, the way that change does happen in real life 'cause it's not that people don't change but when you wanna introduce wholesale change with a person, that's a recipe for challenge and disaster. People resent that. And so, that initial tension, "I'm here to fire you," and, "I'm gonna tear this whole place down," that introduces that same level of conflict and resentment. "Well, wait a minute." Like, "That's not okay. You can't take this place that I love and that I manage and just toss everyone out and... " Like, "That's not gonna work." Just like in real life.

Mara Wells: Yes, I have a controlling belief in my own life that you can't change people but people do change, so the opportunity to change comes and people will take it or they don't but you can't force it on them. I think what's also interesting about the building as a metaphor is that Caleb is also not wrong. That place is deteriorating and there's the population, it's a 55 plus building so they're all senior citizens, with the exception of Riley, the building manager. And they're living in a building that the elevator is about to break down, that the plumbing is very inconsistent, that there's a lot of hazards for them living there. So it can't just go on as it is.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Mara Wells: It is deteriorating. He's not wrong but she's not wrong either. And for me that was the fun of the book, was how can they both... How can they be on opposite sides. And how do they come to understand.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So that makes me start to wonder about the general principles of romance writing and how we start extracting even more about what fuels us as humans. And I wonder if you can give us some insight into how those problems are so important to the structure of the form of romance writing.

Mara Wells: Yes. So my thinking about romance changed drastically a number of years ago when I read a book by Jayne Ann Krentz called... Oh, of course my brain just blanked on it. Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, and it's a sort of academic treatise about the romance genre in which she argues that romance is inherently feminist because what it's ultimately arguing for is a balance. A Yin Yang balance by the end of the book, that nobody has more power than anybody else in a relationship, in the world that's created in the book, that ultimately all romances the arc is toward balance and partnership, equal partnership. And I think that's a really beautiful way of thinking about it. [chuckle] There are many tropes and almost inside jokes in romance at this point and one of them is that the hero has to grovel at some point. He has to be taken down a peg.

[laughter]

Mara Wells: And that doesn't happen. Again, anything I say about romance isn't true of every single romance but there are definitely trends that we see. But again, it's not that he's being taken down, it's often that men do have more power, especially in particular societies and time periods that the stories might be happening in. And so, it's not that they have to be taken down to be taken down, it's that if we're going to have an equal partnership, there has to be an acknowledgement of who has advantages and who doesn't, and a balancing of power.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And how does that stack up for you in terms of the differentials in power being part of what creates the tension versus wanting to end up at a place that feels more balanced?

Mara Wells: So I think the driving force in writing romance for me has been that there are these disparities between them, there is this unequal balance. Caleb is from a very privileged family, Riley is not, something as basic as that, but ultimately they desire each other. There's some sort of attraction that they just can't shake. And there are moments of rejection where it's like this just can't work, this person is not for me but it's that desire that brings their attention back to each other over and over again. So I'm not sure what I'm saying there except perhaps that the logical reasons we might choose to stay or not stay with somebody are overridden in romance by this attraction, this desire, this wanting, and the wanting is for everything that other person is. And often, the other person has some aspect of life that the hero or heroine is lacking.

Mara Wells: So Caleb has this money, this privilege, this utter confidence that anything he does will turn out right and Riley needs that. But Riley has connection and love and family, and Caleb doesn't and he needs that. So the physical attraction is, again, I think a metaphor for attraction to the missing parts in their own lives.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that is super true in real life for sure, is that we often connect with other people who illuminate aspects of ourselves that are underdeveloped or that we really want or need in our own lives. And at the same time, they can highlight the places where we might feel incompatible or like, "Well, that person, they don't have strong ties with their family. So how could I be with that person?" And I think that represents some core conflicts that people... Inner conflicts that happen in the choice of a partner is navigating that question of like, "Well, okay, they have these things that I don't have and I want that or they don't have these things that I do have and that frightens me." Yeah.

Mara Wells: Right. And the choice to move ahead in the relationship anyway is always a risk because as much as you might long for something that's not in your life, it's also not in your life for a reason. Right? Some fear perhaps is holding you back, some hurt from the past has shut down that part of yourself and so you can long for it and be afraid of it at the same time.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: So it's attraction and repulsion can be happening in the same moment.

Neil Sattin: In the same moment. Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah. And then...

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And you see that in the characters in your book. I'm thinking about the way that they are, even in this initial scene where they are sussing each other out and then you also get a glimpse into their inner monologue around the proximity of their hands on the dog's back. They're both petting the dog and their fingers are a mere inch apart and how many times does that happen where you're in that moment of wondering like, "Well, what would it be like to just cross the distance?" What would it be like to actually follow through on an impulse and at the same time to have all those inner resistances coming up like, "Well, here are all the reasons why I shouldn't do that."

Mara Wells: And I think we, in real life, we're socialized that certain things are acceptable and not acceptable in interactions and we navigate our lives very carefully. And I think the promise of romance is that when you reveal who you really are, your partner loves you. That it's unconditional acceptance of the good and the bad. And of course, it's the bad that we're hiding for most of the book. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Right.

Mara Wells: But the worst has to come out at some point so that the person can be loved with that as part of the understanding.

Neil Sattin: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Or else it sets you up for a disastrous book two of the series.

Mara Wells: Yes.

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: Yes. The new couple can't be getting together while the couple from the first book is breaking up like that.

[laughter]

Mara Wells: That is not acceptable.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Just out of curiosity, when would that be acceptable in a romance book for a couple to part ways? Would it ever be acceptable?

Mara Wells: That is the type of relationship that happens before the book starts. So we might have heroes or heroines who are coming out of a bad relationship or a relationship that wasn't quite right for them but we don't... Yeah, I'm trying to go through the library in my head but again, the promise of romance is that happily ever after.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Mara Wells: So even if a couple does break up over the course of the story, they are gonna get back together.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. So if you're a long time listener of the show, you might understand that that kind of ending, I might feel a little jaded about that at the present moment.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: And Mara, you... We've known each other a long time so you know that as well. And in fact, that was maybe my hardest, the hardest thing for me in the book as just someone who's been through a divorce is appreciating every single aspect of the journey. And then there was something about the happily ever after that I loved. It actually brought tears to my eyes as much as I hate to say it but it did and at the same time I was like, "Damn." Like, you went all the way there, in those last couple of chapters and I was like, "Did it have to? Did it really have to?" But maybe someone like, where splitting up is slightly less fresh for them would appreciate that a little bit more.

Mara Wells: Right. And the other thing is that romance is in many ways a fantasy of what... It's a fantasy of equality and equal partnership, right?

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm.

Mara Wells: It's not claiming that this is real. It's not saying, "This is how all relationships work out." It's saying, "Wouldn't it be beautiful if this is how relationships worked out? Isn't this something to aspire to?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, so there's that danger, I suppose, in... There's the way that it can fuel us, that ideal, and I think that vision is such an important aspect of how we construct our relationships, holding on to an ideal vision, and at the same time, being willing to accept imperfection as part of real life versus what happens in a fantasy novel.

Mara Wells: Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, it's a tough balance but the beauty, I guess, of a book, is that you can preserve the fantasy of where romance takes us, which is... Yeah.

Mara Wells: Right. And the... You know, the first step of change in the real world is imagining that change can happen. And so, I think, in a lifetime of reading romance, that's what I'm imagining, right?

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm.

Mara Wells: That that change is possible and equal partnership is possible, and that there's hundreds of thousands of ways for that to play out. You know, Caleb and Riley's journey is not your journey, but it's a journey.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. What have you loved about... What drew you to romance as a reader, I guess, first? And then I'll be curious to hear about that as a writer, 'cause you haven't always been writing romance.

Mara Wells: I started reading romance when I was about 10, which is probably on the young end of the spectrum, for reading romance. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: I know, I was thinking about that, actually, with this book. I was like, "Well, it's about dogs." And I couldn't find my copy, the first copy of the book that you sent me, I couldn't find it. I have the sneaking suspicion that it could have ended up upstairs in my daughter's room, 'cause it's about dogs, you know? So, I should go look a little bit more thoroughly [chuckle] for that, probably.

Mara Wells: Yes. Luckily, we don't outgrow our love of dogs. So, I started young, but I think it was piggybacking right off my love of fairy tales. I would dress up as Cinderella for Halloween for almost every Halloween of my childhood. So, I loved fairy tales a lot and romance novels seemed to me to be the grown-up version of fairy tales. And I think you can see a little bit of Cinderella in Cold Nose, Warm Heart.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, absolutely.

Mara Wells: Yes.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Now that you mention it. [chuckle] There's even a fairy godmother. Oh my gosh, that's funny. Okay.

Mara Wells: Yeah. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: But there is no wicked... I'm just trying to think. There's no evil stepmother, really. There's the absent mother, which may be is a little bit, right?

Mara Wells: Right, there's the absent mother. And I think that I personally don't believe in evil people that are just purely evil. And so, the... Caleb's family is evil. His dad is evil, right?

Neil Sattin: Right, right.

Mara Wells: But even they have redeeming qualities. Nobody is the villain in their own story, so they might appear villainous in someone else's story, but they have their reasons. They've made the best choices they can make.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, so important to recognize 'cause I think that is a part of how we victimize ourselves, is by projecting someone else being evil onto them, as opposed to looking for, "Well, what was their intention?" I don't think I've ever done that with the Cinderella story, is like, well, what... You know, the stepmother, she was just trying to get those dresses made for her daughters, she was just... I mean, she did say some pretty cruel shit to Cinderella, you gotta admit, but... [chuckle]

Mara Wells: Yes. Yes. Or not... Yeah. No one is at their best all the time. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Isn't that the truth? Yeah. So, it being an extension of that, that's what drew you in. And then, what drew you to writing in this genre?

Mara Wells: I've been writing for a long time, and I had published a young adult novel many years ago. And I was just feeling really frustrated, and I had written this book that had gotten many, many beautiful, beautiful rejections.

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: And I had done one more round of revisions and sent it to my agent, and she said, "So, what are you gonna work on next?" And I just started crying, I was like, "I don't know. I feel like I've been knocking on this door for so long, and it's never gonna open again." I had my shot and that was it. And I said, "I can't even stand to read anything right now, except romance novels. I'm just binging romance novels, many, many, many per week." And she said, "Well, why don't you write a romance novel?" And I was like, "Oh, ha ha ha. I'm not gonna ruin my one true escapist thing that I do to escape the world. That's my hobby, that's my relaxation time. Why on earth would I turn that into my job?"

Mara Wells: But she kept talking to me, and she convinced me to do it. And that's why I had been avoiding it for all these years, was I thought if I became a writer of romance, I'm going to read them differently, more critically, more craft-oriented. But what I found is that I have the same joy in writing the romance novels that I have in reading them. So, I'm really excited that she pushed me in that direction because writing has become more joyful for me now. I enjoy figuring out the twists and turns along the way, and what made me a romance reader is really feeding the romance writing, as well. So, I've been telling people we get advice, as writers, all the time, to write what you know, which I think is pretty terrible advice 'cause we have a pretty limited worlds, [chuckle] most of us.

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: But I think "Write what you love" is very good advice.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And that comes through. One, I have to say your skill as a writer comes through in reading the book. There was never a place to me that felt awkwardly worded or there were places where I could tell that I was like, "Oh, that's kind of an inside joke." Or "That's Mara being clever."

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: And I liked it. I loved it. And so your skill as a writer definitely comes through and for it being your first book in this genre, like that... I think your love of the genre also came through, your knowing it backwards and forwards, in the way that the journey was really useful for me.

Mara Wells: I'm glad.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: I have a confession to make, which is that this is the first romance novel that I've ever read cover to cover. There are plenty of romance novels, mostly in my teens, I would say, and early 20s when it was really hard to access anything that was remotely erotic or sexual.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Where I would skip to... I'd find a romance book and I'd skip to the good parts that I never... I don't know what happened in any of those books. I just know that who fucked who basically and so it was nice, actually, to sit down and really enjoy the whole way through which was... It was cool. Cool to experience that. What do you think... Let's talk about the erotic for a minute because we're talking about longing and attraction and... What is it that fuels eroticism in a romance novel and yeah, makes it compelling in that way? What... Something that turns us on.

Mara Wells: I think it's the longing. I think it is that moment of not knowing if you should touch fingers or not, that plays out later in the sex scenes. So that the thing that makes the sex scenes very satisfying is tension and longing that lead up to it. So I would say to your younger self, who was just skipping to the erotic scenes like, You missed out.

[laughter]

Mara Wells: You missed the part that made...

Neil Sattin: Oh, poor guy.

Mara Wells: Yeah, that made those scenes more powerful because they are finally a release of this tension and a culmination of this partnership and that ultimate integration of the opposites. So I think it's the wanting that makes having satisfying. But that said, there are... In romance, we call it heat levels. There are varying degrees of heat levels and so it spans from the story ends with kissing, right? That once they kiss, we know that they're gonna have their happily ever after and we never see more than that, that's one end of the spectrum and on the other end, we have erotica. And the romance novels fall all along that spectrum of heat. So I will say that when I decided to write romance, I was nervous about that part of it. [chuckle] And I read all over the heat spectrum. I enjoy all of it but I didn't know as a writer where I would fall comfortably.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And so was that just a discovery process for you or did you have a target heat level or...

Mara Wells: Yes. I did not have a target heat level, I just thought, "Well, let's see how it goes." So I got to the part in the first draft where I knew that I had to write that scene. That scene. And at the time, my father was living with us because he had been having some medical problems and I tend to write early in the morning, and he's an early riser and he kept... He would wander through the room that I was working in and talk to me, and I was like, "Oh, I can't... I can't write this scene."

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: Thinking that my dad's gonna walk in any moment, right? I just can't. I can't.

[laughter]

Mara Wells: So I went... [laughter] So I put it off until I had some time and I went to a coffee shop that's in my neighborhood and I sat there. I have this couch I like to sit on and I wrote it, and I was pretty happy with it. I was feeling very proud and then I looked up and I'm sitting in this room with music playing, surrounded by a bunch of people and I had been so much in my own little bubble world there that I... I just remember feeling so hot, I know I must've blushed dark, dark red and I texted my friend Kait Ballenger who's been a really beautiful, wonderful mentor for me on this romance journey and I was like, "So I just wrote my first sex scene in a coffee shop and I don't know how I feel about that." And she texts back, "Welcome to Romancelandia."

[laughter]

Mara Wells: "You're gonna find yourself writing them in lots of places." [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: That's so funny. And even the... For me, I think about what runs through our head potentially when we're at a coffee shop so there's that level and even the beautiful aspect of your father walking through the room or that fear of what that's like to feel. How many parents of young children are trying to find time to be sexual but the kids could bust in at any moment. And you're in the bathroom with the shower on and the door locked and hoping that they don't pound for too long 'cause that would be child abuse, right? If they're like, "I can't get in." Never been there, so...

Mara Wells: Yeah. [laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so that's some of the real life aspects of it as well. In terms of determining the heat level, is that about language or...

Mara Wells: Yeah, it's about specificity. And so I think that I landed in a heat level that I... This is not a technical term, but I call soft focus. So we have some idea of what's going on, but I haven't really zeroed in on every breath, every touch. It's kind of I picture the camera pulled back and we got kind of a fuzzy lens on.

Neil Sattin: Right, which leaves some up to the imagination.

Mara Wells: Yes, yes. And so, you can go less heat than that where it's even more fuzzy, I guess you could say, and then other novels get much steamier and more specific in what's going on.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I actually have another friend that... Someone that I've known even longer than I've known you, who writes... I wonder I should chat with her, she might consider it more erotica than romance, but it's all based around aliens so it's people having sex with aliens. And I imagine you have to get fairly explicit and it still leaves a lot up to the imagination once you're dealing with alien body parts.

Mara Wells: [chuckle] Yes.

Neil Sattin: And I'm taken back... I actually wanna just mention that I feel somewhat vulnerable and laid bare with that talking to the young part of me, and that is interesting for me to just sit within this moment, that sense of how much what fuels attraction and those maybe moments of culmination where you're actually kissing someone or you're being sexual with someone. How much of that is the longing, the tension that leads up to that moment? And this is a classic challenge for... And it's not really necessarily a gendered thing, but some people are just sexual and they don't actually need all of that build up. They're able to talk about sex, think about sex, and then let's have sex versus there are other people who are more focused in the tension, the build up, the longing and that just needs to be there in order for there to be fuel for the actual coming together, so to speak, to be desirable. You don't get there without the tension and the longing, for those people.

Mara Wells: And then what happens when you're in a long-term relationship?

Neil Sattin: Right, right.

Mara Wells: And that tension and longing has been satisfied. Then what fuels desire?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Then I end the book so the rest is for you to figure out.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Right. Right, I don't have to figure that out. Yeah, that's why those characters become secondary and tertiary characters. You just get to assume that they're doing whatever it takes to make that happen. Yeah, but that is the big challenge of any long-term relationship is how do you fuel passion and juice? And so often this falls into what we were talking about a few moments ago where people land in different places and it's very common for someone who needs tension and longing to end up with someone who doesn't. And so how do you do that, how do you... How do you cross worlds? And it's a challenge for both people to figure out 'cause sometimes that person who needs the tension and longing, it's helpful for them to figure out what do I need to do in order to show up so I can just be in a sexual experience with my partner that didn't require sexy texts for three days to get us to this moment?

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: And vice versa. Where the 0-60 in 0.3 seconds partner can be like, Alright, what do I need to do to... What does get my partner in the mood? What helps them, what helps fuel their desire, so that they'll meet me there 'cause it's so easy for me, it may not be for them. And it's actually not a problem with them, it's just how they're wired. They're wired differently.

Mara Wells: Yeah, and the romance answer to that is both people are right. And the relationship is about negotiating that. How do you accept that about your partner and integrate that into your life together?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I like that for a real life answer as well.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: That both people are actually right and so if both people are right, what does that mean? That forces us to get creative as opposed to making the other person wrong and then forcing them to change, which was one of the very first things we were talking about. Forcing them to change, being not the most sustainable approach. Yeah.

Mara Wells: If you wanna stay together. If you're looking for a way to break up, it's probably fairly efficient.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: But this also makes me think about... Romance has had a history of readers being shamed for their reading choices and I think in the past few years, the conversation has really changed where romance writers are pushing back and saying, What's shameful about female desire? What's shameful about fantasy, right? Why do we call it a guilty pleasure? Why can't we just call it a pleasure...

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: To read. And I think that that extends beyond reading choices. I think that in relationships as well, you can't have a guilty pleasure or a secret desire that you're keeping from your partner and have that work out long term. And so I think part of romance's job is to take the shame out of whatever desire people feel because again, ultimately, that happily ever after is guaranteed, and the partners have to accept each other exactly for who they are. So whatever is revealed over the course of the novel is accepted and loved. And isn't that a beautiful thing to think about happening in the world as well?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Yeah, I hadn't really thought about that. There is that place where... And shame is kind of the... What's the word I'm looking for? Shame is the challenge of someone who maybe is a little kinky, where something being a secret or being taboo does fuel them, does create a little bit bit of charge and juice for them, and shame is the shadow of that. The potential for it to feel shameful because most people aren't turned on when they're feeling shame. They're looking for a way to escape from that feeling of shame. So yeah, I hadn't really... That hadn't occurred to me, that romance in and of itself could be a way to reduce the shame that people feel around different kinds of desire and as a way of experiencing differences as being acceptable and accepted. Yeah. No wonder I liked your book so much.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think it's instructive. As I was reading it, maybe because there are aspects of it that are when you read it, you know. I knew, "Okay, this is when... I can see it coming. This is when they're gonna kiss for the first time," and it's like... So even the knowing, there was something about it that... Yeah, I feel like in this moment, could actually be more instructive for a person to read than reading a book that talks about how you might need tension in order to fuel longing in a... You might need tension and wanting and desire, and it's enough to know that that's true, but then to actually read a romance novel, I think it gives you a sense of how that actually plays out and how that works.

Mara Wells: Right. And do you know that they're going to kiss? And you can feel that kiss coming, and it's that anticipation doesn't ruin the fact that they're going to kiss. It sweetens it. And so you keep reading, not because you're like, "Maybe they're not gonna kiss," but because they are and you wanna see how it goes down.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Right? Because every first kiss is different and every moment, every intimate moment that people share together, there might be certain moves or phrases that various scenes have in common, but ultimately, every moment is unique. And that's what draws us to it, and it's not... I don't know, it's not... It's predictable, but not in the negative sense of that word. It's predictable in that sense of anticipation way.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right, that phrase, "How's this gonna go down?" That actually came up for me several times as I was reading where I was like, "Alright, how's this gonna... I know that something... This is gonna work itself out somehow, or this, I know this twist, or I know there's a twist coming. What's it gonna be like? How's that gonna go down?" And yeah, it really kept me engaged as a reader and I loved escaping for... Yeah, it was the better part of... I guess it was most of a day and then the day before or a half of the day before where I was just like... That's the privilege of being able to read as part of my living is I could just set a day aside to do that. It felt good. I might have said a guilty pleasure, but I'm not gonna say that anymore.

Mara Wells: There's nothing guilty about it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: I just heard a statistic that romance readers read four times as many books as other types of readers. So I think you can see the... You got a little taste of what drives that market.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, I guess I did.

Mara Wells: Right?

Neil Sattin: What surprised you about your book? As you were writing it, knowing that there's a form to the genre, what... Yeah.

Mara Wells: This isn't always true, again, but my book is in a fairly standard point of view, which is alternating between the hero and the heroine, third person close. And I had never written a male point of view before.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Mara Wells: I just decided to. And so I think that I was surprised all along the way at how much Caleb had to say and his attitudes, and I guess it shouldn't be surprising because obviously he came out of my mind, but it's like, "Oh, he's just a person too. There's nothing scary about writing a male point of view."

[laughter]

Mara Wells: But the thing that absolutely surprised me is in the first scene where we meet Riley's grandmother and I found out that she's still in love with her ex-husband, 'cause I thought they were just straight up enemies. That I hadn't been planning on, but then it turned into a delightful thread in the book. I enjoyed writing the senior citizen romance quite a bit.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, this is one of those things where I'm for you, listening, it's so hard for me to not do any spoilers or plot reveals here because there are so many beautiful moments that I would be sharing with you right now, Mara, because I just loved how they went down and also some of the... 'Cause it's not all sweetness. There's a lot of sarcasm, there's a lot of people digging each other in ways that are affectionate, but also quite cutting at times. But the whole way along, I felt very uplifted at the same time, that people were being really honest with each other. And so I think that the temptation in being like, "Oh, this is a romance novel, that's the fantasy of romance," is to feel like the interactions somehow don't feel real, but I didn't feel that way at all, as I was reading. In fact, you're talking about Caleb's point of view, the male point of view. That's another place where it felt very seamless to me, where I was never like, "Oh I would never, as a guy, I would never think that." Everything he was thinking, I was like, "Yeah, of course, that's exactly what I would be thinking in that moment."

[laughter]

Mara Wells: That's funny. What you were saying about the conversations feeling real and the interactions, it reminded me of something that the writer Richard Peck said in a workshop that I took with him one time. He said, "If you're gonna have a ghost in the scene, you better describe the wallpaper."

[laughter]

Mara Wells: When you have a fantasy element, you have to... The real world of the story has to be absolutely grounded, and I think that that happily ever after isn't believable if everything has gone smoothly and people are all sweet and nice to each other for the whole thing, that doesn't... Right? That doesn't feel real. So the satisfaction of the happily ever after is that it did feel real and they had real problems, and yet somehow managed to transcend that to be together.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's I think what part of what makes it inspiring, is that it feels real along the way.

Mara Wells: Yep. And I do describe the wallpaper. I describe the building a lot, so...

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: That's true. Now that you mention it, that is true.

Mara Wells: Yes. My great love of South Beach architecture comes through, I think.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and I felt like I was there, even though I've only been there once or twice in my life, but it was very vivid, but not in a burdensome way. Some people really get off on reading a lot of scene and setting stuff, and I am not one of those people. I'm like, "Give me the... What's happening? Okay, enough, there are some flowers. What's happening?"

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Thought you balanced that really well. Yeah.

Mara Wells: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: Well, Mara Wells, congratulations on your first book being out. And in our understanding is that it's doing really well. I saw a lot of really good reviews on Amazon. It's called Cold Nose, Warm Heart. If someone wants to find out more about you and what you're doing, what do they do? Where do they go?

Mara Wells: They can go to my website, marawellsauthor.com and sign up for the newsletter. And then I'm also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. And how many...

Mara Wells: Marawellsauthor.

Neil Sattin: How many books are coming out in the series, at least as far as we know at the moment?

Mara Wells: As far as we know at the moment, there's three. So book two is called Tail for Two, it comes out in July, and Paws for Love comes out March 2021.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Congratulations.

Mara Wells: Thank you so much.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm really excited for you. And actually, before... We gotta address the dog thing for a minute.

Mara Wells: Oh, okay. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: So first, why dogs? Why did you personally make that choice to bring dogs into the mix?

Mara Wells: Well, my mother was a dog breeder, so I grew up with the dogs as part of the family. And I've had dogs all my adult life, and I just... I've been thinking a lot about the relationships we have with animals, especially our pets, and how they're not humans. They aren't humans, but they are still part of our lives, really important part of our lives and part of our families, but they don't speak and they don't act human. [chuckle] And so it's this weird... I'm just fascinated by the interspecies aspect of it and how passionately we can feel for dogs because they aren't complicated human beings with other motives going on that we don't know about. They're just love. And if I'm gonna write a romance novel in which unconditional love is an important part, who better to model that for us than dogs?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, I think it's hilarious. I hadn't really even considered this until this moment, but you know this and actually a lot of my listeners know that part of what led me to relationship work was my prior life as a dog trainer. So we both have that actually, which I hadn't even really thought about a lot, but... And part of that journey for me was that very thing that you just mentioned about how much dogs are about heart and expression of heart energy. And so that was something that I really appreciated in the book. The dogs and their heart and their personality, they wove in in ways that also seemed very authentic, and I liked that. You just described it beautifully, the way that they're woven into the fabric of who we are, it felt natural, it felt more... There was more texture, really, for me in what I was reading because those beings were included as well.

Mara Wells: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Funny, what an interesting thing that we have in common there.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And so it's a series that revolves around a dog park.

Mara Wells: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. What keeps that interesting? [chuckle]

Mara Wells: Well, [chuckle] there's an infinite number of dogs and the people attached to them who can come through the dog park. So it gives me a very rich tapestry to pull from, I guess, of characters for upcoming novels. And I think it's a pre-test of people. If you have a dog, then you love the dog and the dog loves you. So you're pre-approved as a decent person, deserving of a novel, perhaps.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: I love it, I love it.

Mara Wells: Yeah. I was looking for some sort of premise that has the potential for new people to be coming and going. And when we first moved to South Beach, the first place that we made friends was at the dog park.

Neil Sattin: Yeah?

Mara Wells: Yeah. And so the first parties we went to in South Beach were hosted by people we met at the dog park. And so I know that it's a very fluid and welcoming community.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And you point out well in the book the ways that when you know people that way, there's so much that you don't know about them because generally you have those conversations that are about your dogs and things that impact your dogs, but... And I like that uncovering that happens in your book about how those people also get to know each other in a more deep way, which is really sweet to follow. And so funny in real life when you're like, "Yeah, I've been hanging out with you for three years and I don't know anything about you." I've had those conversations with people before where it's just like, "Yeah, we were dog park friends."

Mara Wells: Yep.

Neil Sattin: And then here in Portland, Maine, where I live, we had this dog park that was known all over... There were some national public radio stories about it. I think it was very early in the dog park era that this dog park existed, but unfortunately it was also in a historic old cemetery so the people who were the preservationists of the cemetery, and maybe the big wealthy houses that surrounded the cemetery, at a certain point decided that they didn't like hundreds of people showing up there with their dogs.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: So that actually went away. There are other dog parks in this town that I haven't explored, but that used to be such a community center. So I think anyone who has a dog who's done the dog park thing will totally relate to that as well.

Mara Wells: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Well, Mara, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive. This was definitely outside of my wheelhouse to have a conversation like this versus going straight at someone's relationship advice, but this is good stuff for all relationships. I'm really glad that you came on the show and for the joy of reading your book as well as the instructiveness of reading your book. I hope people check you out.

Mara Wells: [chuckle] Ah, thank you, Neil. Thank you. This was really fun. Thank you for inviting me on your show.

Neil Sattin: You're welcome.

Apr 10, 2020

Sometimes you just need simple strategies to give yourself a boost. In today’s episode, we’re going to cover ways that you can increase your sense of wellbeing and connectedness - by harnessing your own biochemistry to foster oxytocin production. This can all be done solo - no partner required (though you can do them with a partner too). Our guest, Dr. Jessica Zager, is a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist, and one of only 5 physical therapists in the world with an AASECT certification in sex counseling. Along with these simple oxytocin-boosting strategies, you’ll also learn a bit about how pelvic floor physical therapy can help with pain during sex. It’s a lighthearted conversation full of practical ways to keep you feeling good, and connected, that you can use whenever...but especially during these times of social distancing.

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

Sponsors:

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

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

Resources: 

Check out Jessica Zager's website to pick up her free cheat sheet to boosting oxytocin, and to find out more about her work.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

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

www.neilsattin.com/oxyboost Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jessica Zager.

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

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. It's an interesting world that we're living in right now with social distancing or sheltering in place happening in most parts of the world to combat the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic that's affecting the world. And I think that there's probably not many of us who can escape the impact that it's having on the degree of closeness and intimacy that we're experiencing with the people in our lives. And if there aren't people in our lives, like if we're single or solo, or if we're separated from people who are important to us, then it brings a whole different dimension to it. Potentially, loneliness and missing out on the benefits of even just connection with close friends or going out on dates.

Neil Sattin: And then, of course, those of us who are cooped up together, that has its benefits and also the challenges as well. So it's an interesting time and for the past several weeks, I've wanted to give you a wealth of resources to help you get through this time, staying sane, staying connected, and feeling connected not only to yourself, but to the people in your life that matter. Today, we're going to cover a special subject. We've talked on the show before about oxytocin, which is sometimes labeled the love hormone. Maybe a bit of a misnomer if you really dive into the scientific literature. But what we do know about oxytocin is that it is one of the chemicals that is in our bodies, and is primarily responsible for pair-bonding and it is also a chemical that helps us feel really good, and when we are connecting to ourself or to others, we can enter into blissful states of transcendence which are different than the ways that we feel when we're focused on activities that are more dopamine-driven.

Neil Sattin: So a long time ago, in Episode 37, we had Sue Carter on the show, who is one of the leading researchers, who discovered oxytocin and its effects on pair-bonding. She was studying prairie voles at the time. But since that research has gone on to cover what happens within humans as well as prairie voles and if you want to listen to that episode, you can visit neilsattin.com/oxytocin. Now, I wanted to have someone new on the show. We were... This person actually happens to be a friend of mine, and we were talking the other day and she mentioned to me that she knew a lot of ways to foster oxytocin within us during these times of social distancing. So I thought it would be great to have her on the show to talk to you about these special techniques.

Neil Sattin: Her name is Dr. Jessica Zager and she's a doctor of pelvic health physical therapy. She's also a sex counselor and a sex educator. She is one of the five physical therapists certified by AASECT, which is the American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors and Therapists. She is one of the only five physical therapists certified by them in the entire world, which is pretty amazing. And so, she's here to share her vast knowledge of this particular narrow topic, and we'll get also a sense of some of the other things that Jessica does as well. But she is, in my experience, a profoundly kind and generous soul who has lots to offer the world. I know that she does sex counseling for people who have pain during intercourse or who have trouble with desire or libido and arousal. She also works with people around gender identity. And she's friendly to... No matter where you are on the gender spectrum or the kink spectrum, she is a open-minded, open-hearted person who is doing great work in the world.

Neil Sattin: It's a pleasure to know her and call her one of my friends. And Dr. Jessica Zager, it's a pleasure to have you here today on Relationship Alive.

Jessica Zager: I'm so excited to be here with you, Neil. Thank you for that very generous introduction.

Neil Sattin: You are welcome and you deserved every word of it. I just want to let you know that we will have a transcript of this episode as always, you can get that if you visit neilsattin.com/oxyboost, that's O-X-Y as in oxytocin, and boost, B-O-O-S-T. And the things that we're going to talk about today, Jessica also put together a little cheat sheet guide that you can download, that'll have it all listed out in a condensed form for you and you can get that if you visit her website, which is drjzager.com, that's D-R-J, and then her last name, Zager, which is Z-A-G-E-R.com and you'll be able to download the free cheat sheet to all the things that we're going to talk about today to boost your oxytocin in a world where we have to stay six feet apart from each other.

Neil Sattin: And I was just seeing, Jessica, an article today that had this picture of people who were all hanging out on their... In their pick-up trucks, and in their backyards and they were six feet apart from each other. And apparently, this is not what they mean by social distancing. The idea is if you go out in the world, stay six feet from people. But you're not supposed to just like hang out with people staying six feet away from them. That defeats the purpose and you might still... We don't know enough to know if that over a longer period of time would expose you to something from that person or expose them to something from you.

Jessica Zager: Correct.

Neil Sattin: So it's really important, I think, to be observing these... What do we call them? Orders from on high? But they're really kind of orders from within, 'cause we're trying to take care of each other, and at the same time, we don't want to miss out on some of the most treasured aspects of the human experience, the ways that we feel connected to ourselves and to each other. And anyway, that's why we're here, so...

Jessica Zager: I think that's why this has been... One of the reasons why this has been so difficult for people right now is because we're in the midst of this global, worldwide pandemic, and we're being forced to be apart, and it's necessary, and it's beneficial, and then it's what we all need to do in order to help slow the spread, to, as they say, flatten the curve so that we're not overwhelming the healthcare system with as many hospitalizations and crisis situations at one time. But the drive for human connection is so strong that I think it's easy for people to do things, like you just said, and convince themselves that, "Well, as long as I'm six feet apart from my friends, we can hang out." But you're absolutely right, we don't know a lot about this virus, and we don't know exactly how it's transmitted. We keep hearing over and over again that if you are within six feet of somebody for 15 minutes, that puts you at a greater risk for catching the coronavirus. But we don't know about extended periods of time near others but greater than that six feet.

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah. And I like what you're bringing up, that there's such a drive within us to connect, and I think for many of us, we don't realize just how pervasive... If we're people who are connectors, we don't realize just how much we get from bumping into a friend every so often, and getting and giving a big hug. Or if you're dating, that even if you're just going out and you don't have a steady partner, just that act of being out with someone is igniting something in us that helps sustain us.

Jessica Zager: Definitely. Whenever we are in close contact with people, especially people that we care about, to begin with, that will help to... Help our brains to start to release oxytocin. And as you mentioned, sometimes it's called the love hormone, it's also nicknamed the cuddle hormone, which I think is a little bit more accurate than the love hormone.

Neil Sattin: Well, the challenge, though, is in this world, it... The state of things as they are right now, it's challenging to do the things that would typically ignite oxytocin. But I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about why we care, like, why focus on oxytocin in the first place? Why would we want to produce that within ourselves? And also I just want to mention to you listening that we're going to go over these things. We happen to be in a time of pandemic right now, but these are things that will be helpful for you no matter when you're listening to this episode, because they're the kinds of things that are always there as a resource for you to boost your own inner experience and reserves of the cuddle hormone, as Jessica was just mentioning. So yeah, why? Why do we care? Why do we want to boost oxytocin within ourselves?

Jessica Zager: When oxytocin is released in our brains, it fosters an increased sense of well-being and a sense of social connection, like, we're not just isolated beings that exist and are walking around in the world, that we're actually connected to a larger network of others. And so oxytocin helps to really drive that sense of connection to those around us, and I think that's really important, because part of that drive helps us to be responsible for caring about others in times like this. And so it's kind of a catch 22, but right now, the best thing we can do to care for others is to stay away from people, yet when we're with people, that's what helps us to care more about others and create that sense of connection with others.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so it's super complicated, [chuckle] the intricacies and how we're interwoven with each other. And it also strikes me too that the ways that our desire for connection might lead us to choose irresponsibly if we really start to feel like we're at a deficit, that I could see that being another reason why we might want to supplement our internal production of oxytocin so that we aren't doing anything stupid for the sake of a hug or a cuddle.

Jessica Zager: Yes. And there are many, many other benefits that are derived from oxytocin that can help us get through this time of social distancing and fear and worry about our loved ones and ourselves. So it also helps to decrease our blood pressure, it helps to decrease our anxiety in general, it helps to mitigate stress levels. So oxytocin is actually released during stressful situations to help counteract that stress response, which obviously would be a beneficial thing right now.

Neil Sattin: For sure.

Jessica Zager: And it also... You know, you already mentioned pair-bonding, which that I think is a lovely benefit, but also maybe one that is difficult right now, [chuckle] but it helps to decrease our sensitivity to pain... And one of my favorite benefits is because it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, it helps to improve our gut motility and our gut health and relieve constipation. So as a pelvic floor PT, I love that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You have like the sneaky side benefit of helping keep people healthy and regular.

Jessica Zager: Exactly. And that just makes everyone feel better.

Neil Sattin: For sure. For sure. Can you talk a little bit about what you do as a... I know that it's only one aspect of what you do as a pelvic floor or a pelvic health physical therapist, what does that even mean? I know it's a very specialized thing that not a lot of people do.

Jessica Zager: It is. It's a specialized field of physical therapy that focuses on the muscles between your hips that are responsible for bowel, bladder and sexual function. And so, as a pelvic health physical therapist, I specialize in helping individuals improve and enhance their bladder, bowel and/or sexual function because oftentimes a lot of issues can be interconnected. For example, when I treat people with pain with sex, it's not uncommon to have constipation as a side effect as well, but we don't often think about our bowel movements being related to our sexual function. But as a pelvic floor PT, it really helps give me a perspective on how the human body works and not just as an isolated unit, but because I help people with sexual dysfunction and pain with sex, I'm also looking at their connections with other people.

Neil Sattin: Right. 'Cause it's not a... It's not a closed system, those things are often... We're being impacted by the people that we're with as well as whatever physical condition just happens to be occurring in our bodies.

Jessica Zager: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So... And just... You know, this is something that will... Maybe we'll have you back on the show to talk about painful intercourse, 'cause I know that that's a problem for a lot of women, having pain during sex. What... For a woman who's experiencing that and thinks like, "Well, that's just how it is," or "My doctor can't see anything wrong, like there's no irritation, there's no obvious sign of why I should be having pain." Like I've heard that from women in the past. Can you just give us a teaser of what is sometimes going on in a situation like that and how the work that you do can actually help?

Jessica Zager: Yes, definitely. So what you just said is a very common experience for women experiencing pain with sex, but I will tell you that pain is not normal unless it's a planned part of the sex that you want to be having. And so, pain during penetration, for example, or pain with clitoral stimulation is never normal. And so, if you are experiencing those symptoms, I urge you to see your doctor and they might... To be honest, they might not even know what pelvic floor physical therapy is, but in my experience, if you ask for it, you will get it. So most physicians, especially if they're scratching their head trying to figure out why you're experiencing these symptoms, are very open to referring you to pelvic floor physical therapy.

Jessica Zager: And when somebody comes to me from a physician who has been having pain with sex and there doesn't seem to be a known cause, there's always a cause, it just hasn't been identified yet. So it's not in your head. It's not something that, you know, is... You're doing subconsciously, and what I do as a pelvic floor PT is I will help to assess your pelvic floor muscles to see if there's something going on with the muscles themselves that are contributing to your symptoms. So when a gynecologist looks at somebody's vagina who's having pain with sex, they usually push, they move the muscles out of the way with a speculum to take a look at the organs. So they're mainly concerned with how does the cervix look, how does the uterus look, they might do a scan to see if there's anything going on that they can identify with the ovaries or if there are any cysts that they think might be contributing to your symptoms, but if they can't find anything wrong with the organs, then the next step should be referring you to a pelvic floor physical therapist who can assess your muscles to see if there is any increased tension in the muscle that is actually contributing to your symptoms.

Neil Sattin: Got it, and then I gotta think that someone here, I know the answer to this, but someone's probably wondering, "Well, what do you do, how do you actually treat that?" What's that experience like?

Jessica Zager: So what I do is when somebody comes to my office, I do an examination, but the type of examination that I do does not involve a speculum. I use one gloved lubricated finger either vaginally or anally, depending on where the pain is and other factors to first of all see how the muscles function. Are they contracting well, are they relaxing well, do they know how to alternate between the two, how strong are they, how coordinated are they? And so, I gather all of this information about the muscles and their function and then based on that information, there are often patterns of things that I see happening when somebody has pain with sex, usually there can be increased muscle tension, there can be trigger points in the pelvic floor muscles, just like you can get trigger points in your shoulder if you sleep on one side for too long at night or you sleep with your arm up and then you wake up with a knot in your shoulder and a headache for the rest of the day.

Jessica Zager: The same thing can happen in the pelvic floor. And so as soon as we can identify what's going on, we can then address that specific component of the muscle function and treat it. And so I use a lot of manual techniques, using my hand, sometimes we'll do something called dilator therapy, which involves using graduated sized wands in the vagina to gently stretch the muscles. I also do dry needling in the pelvic floor and to trigger points, and that can really be beneficial as well.

Neil Sattin: Wow, so there are all kinds of possibilities for how you would treat that. And we said beforehand that we weren't going to go down this road, but it's so interesting, here we are. And if people are listening, and this is impacting them, I guess I want them to have a sense of what the course of treatment is like. So what you, everything that you said is super helpful. Do people recover, like people who have had pain with sex and had it, not known what's causing it and been able to work with the pelvic floor physical therapists. Do they get to a place where they don't experience pain during sex?

Jessica Zager: Yes, they do, and it's usually very, very successful. So I highly encourage anybody that's having pain with sex to please build up the courage to see a pelvic floor PT. I know it takes a lot of guts to go, 'cause this is a very emotionally charged type of pain and the idea of this therapy can sound very foreign to a lot of people because they haven't ever experienced anything like this before, but I will tell you that the people that come to pelvic floor PT almost always get better when it comes to pain with sex. So if this is something you're really struggling with, I highly encourage you to find a pelvic floor PT in your area.

Neil Sattin: Great, great, I'm glad that we... I'm glad we talked about that. And now, when I have a weird pain down there, I'll just know that I slept on my pelvic floor funny and...

Jessica Zager: Exactly. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: I just need some treatment.

Jessica Zager: And this is worth being said too, but men also have pain with sex, and I treat men as well as women, so it's not just women that have pain with sex, men can also have pain with sex as well. But again, that could be a whole other podcast.

Neil Sattin: I was wondering about that, I can imagine that would also potentially impact their erectile function and...

Jessica Zager: Oh, yeah, definitely.

Neil Sattin: Or their ability to orgasm, and all of that. Yeah, okay.

Jessica Zager: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Good stuff, Jessica. So we'll have you back at some point to talk more about that. And of course, you can always visit Jessica's site, drjzager.com, to find out more about that. And let's go back to... Let's pivot now back to talking about oxytocin, and here we are. I think we made a pretty good case for why it's a good idea to want to boost your own oxytocin in this time of feeling particularly disconnected from others potentially, and then these are things that you'll be able to always use as a resource for yourself, so to boost your well-being, your sense of connectedness.

Neil Sattin: As a side note, I was reading some of the literature before we spoke, and I saw that in one study, people who were given a nasal spray of oxytocin, they were actually less friendly to people that they perceive to be outside of their social group, or outside of their clan. So if you start doing these things and then find yourself feeling particularly xenophobic or something like... Just know that it's the oxytocin at work, that you haven't suddenly become someone who doesn't like people other than you. But I didn't read enough to know if that was a widespread phenomenon, or if that was just something they happened to notice in this one study. So, proceed with caution as you boost your oxytocin, but don't let it stop you, 'cause I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

Jessica Zager: I would agree.

Neil Sattin: Neither one of us is a medical doctor, I'm just going to point that out right now.

Jessica Zager: Good to note, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yes. Though you are a doctor of physical therapy, and that took lots and lots of training. So important to know, plus your AASECT certification. Alright, so let's get into the good stuff, Jessica, where do we start with boosting our own oxytocin?

Jessica Zager: So one of the first things that you can do to boost oxytocin is give yourself a nice, lovely light massage. Sometimes I call it tickling, but it's not the tickling that makes you want to squirm away from somebody, it's like lightly brushing and stroking your skin. And this can be done all over your body, this can be done on your scalp, If you have one of those head massagers that looks like it has little...

Neil Sattin: Little spider leg thingies...

Jessica Zager: Yeah, and it goes on your head, and massages your scalp, that's a fantastic thing. Or you can just get some nice lotion or oil, you can make it into a whole self-care experience, but lightly, stroking your skin, that light pressure is important for stimulating the release of oxytocin in your hypothalamus.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm doing it right now. It feels really good.

Jessica Zager: It does feel good.

Neil Sattin: This reminds me actually of something else, which is that when... Light touch massage is something that was encouraged as part of the natural child birth or hypnobirthing courses that I did with my first wife before my kids were born. 'Cause oxytocin also is part of what can encourage uterine contractions during labor. Pitocin that people give to encourage childbirth to begin is actually oxytocin that's being applied in the body, right?

Jessica Zager: Definitely. So oxytocin is great for swift birth.

Neil Sattin: Oh. [chuckle]

Jessica Zager: And so it's most known for its effects on labor and facilitating labor and giving birth and allowing the uterus to contract to make that happen. So yeah, it's... You're spot on with that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so if you're in the late stages of pregnancy, maybe talk to your doctor before you do some of these things, just in case. Though I will say that I remember practicing light touch massage on my wife at the time, and nothing bad happened. In fact, it was a nice part of our night-time ritual together was practicing for the main event.

Jessica Zager: Did you do that for an extended period of... A certain period of time before her due date?

Neil Sattin: Well, the purpose was, I believe, to really just kind of perfect the technique. I'm really good at light touch massage. And also because you want to be able to rely on those things when you're in the intensity of labor and birthing, which can be pretty intense. So having that as a set thing that you can rely on. I don't remember there being a specific length of time. I think we would often do a little meditation or something, imagining the different colors of the rainbow or something while we were, or really while I was doing, I was giving the light touch massage, I didn't get much light touch massage during that time, I have to say. I'm making up for the deficit right now during this interview.

[chuckle]

Jessica Zager: Well, you can continue with the light touch massage.

Neil Sattin: Alright, I'm going to continue while we keep talking.

Jessica Zager: Yeah, so...

Neil Sattin: I'm going to feel very connected to you by the end of this conversation.

Jessica Zager: Well, oxytocin actually helps people feel connected to the source of the stimulation.

Neil Sattin: Oh, how about that?

Jessica Zager: Part of me wonders if that can be extrapolated to... If you're doing these techniques, on yourself really fostering a sense of self-love, I at least like to think that it would.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think we should have everyone report back after you've been light touch massaged... Light touch massage yourself for a week, not constantly, but over the course of a week, and then report back to how much you love yourself just from that alone. But we're going to give you more...

Jessica Zager: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: So okay.

Jessica Zager: Also stimulating the inside of your mouth.

Neil Sattin: Oh!

Jessica Zager: So your oral mucosa can facilitate oxytocin, so you can do this with sucking behaviors. Again, this kind of goes back to labor, but also breastfeeding. But sucking behaviors, like gum, hard candy, using a water bottle with a nozzle, sucking on ice, hell, go buy a pacifier, whatever gets you through this COVID-19 is fair game. There is no judgement here.

Neil Sattin: Right, it's all going to be happening in the privacy of your own home anyway, so.

Jessica Zager: Exactly. You can massage the inside of your mouth with an electric toothbrush, massaging your gums with it, the inside of your mouth with it, but gargling is a way to also stimulate the inside of your mouth and your hard palate, and the hard palate is connected to the vagus nerve, which is the nerve that's responsible for the parasympathetic nervous system, which is our rest, digest, chill out nervous system, which is one of the reasons why oxytocin helps us decrease our stress, decrease our anxiety, decrease our blood pressure.

Neil Sattin: Wow, yeah, and I don't think we mentioned this on the show. I think enough time has passed that I can mention it now that one of the leading researchers around the polyvagal theory, as he calls it, Steve Porges, he's actually married to Sue Carter, the oxytocin woman, and Steve was on the show as well talking about polyvagal theory and its role in helping us stay regulated and feeling safe under stress or in relationship. He was on an episode 34 of the podcast, in case you were curious, but that's so interesting about the hard palate. I didn't realize that it was part of that, that it was wired into that system.

Jessica Zager: Yeah, I know. And also gargling is shown to help with upper respiratory tract infections. So it's kind of a...

Neil Sattin: Win-win. Yeah, yeah, salt water, I think, can be good. So...

Jessica Zager: Yeah, nice salt water... Sea salt water gargle.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, then a little mouthwash in case you are stuck with someone, they might appreciate that as well. Awesome.

Jessica Zager: Another thing that you can do is make yourself warm. So literal warmth. For example, the easiest way to do this is maybe taking a bath. You can create your own oxytocin ritual, like COVID-19 social distancing, I feel lonely ritual, where you would take a bath, and maybe you come out of the bath and you use oil on your skin, and you lightly stroke your skin, and then you brush your teeth, and you gargle, and you go to bed. And so all of those things would help to stimulate the release of oxytocin.

Neil Sattin: I like it. And I think it's so interesting that, one, there are probably a lot of people who are doing that sort of thing anyway and not totally getting like why it's so beneficial for them. And I also think that in general self-care practices like that when there's more attention paid to the intention behind it. So even if it's your ritual to have a bath, and brush your teeth, and gargle, like knowing, just knowing that that is going to be boosting your oxytocin I think enhances the effect of that on your physiology.

Jessica Zager: I agree. I think we tend to go through our rituals without thinking about what we're doing and without being present during these activities, and really feeling what does it feel like when I brush my gums, what does it feel like when I apply lotion to my skin, what does it feel like when I'm taking a bath? Because our minds are in so many other places typically and right now it's really easy to do that with, if you're constantly looking at the news and it can be difficult to get in the moment, but if you use these guidelines, these ways to bio-hack your oxytocin as almost like meditations in and of themselves, like to practice being in the moment and experiencing what you're feeling in that moment, you're going to get multiple benefits from doing something as simple as brushing your teeth or gargling.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, absolutely. I can't wait till tonight with my kids where we go to do our self-love ritual, which they like to do as quickly as possible and I'm like, "No, this is how you love yourself, kids. We're going to really brush our teeth tonight, and now brush your gums. See what that's like." Yeah, it's going to be good, it's going to be a beautiful thing and I'll set them up for a lifetime of self-love and hopefully cavity-free teeth.

Jessica Zager: There is a myriad of benefits. Another thing that somebody can do to release oxytocin is fostering positive warm interactions, and those interactions don't have to be in person. So FaceTiming with somebody you care about. And the research was very particular about this in that it works best if you're talking with somebody you have strong warm feelings towards. If you have a tumultuous relationship with your mother or your father and you're FaceTiming with them, that's not going to help you release oxytocin the way that we're talking about.

Neil Sattin: Sorry, mom. Talk to you tomorrow.

Jessica Zager: So choose wisely.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah I like that. And that connects in with one of the techniques that I often offer people for regulation, is this heart-centered breathing technique that the HeartMath Institute promotes. So it's all about increasing your heart rate variability as a way to down-regulate your system. And one important part of that technique is to focus on an image of a scene or a person that brings you joy. So it strikes me that that... It makes sense that that's an important part of choosing wisely around who you're FaceTiming with, like think about who brings joy to your life and make sure that person's on your speed dial.

Jessica Zager: Exactly, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Do we even have speed dial anymore? I don't think that exists.

Jessica Zager: That's such an outdated term. I know you can program people into your phone buttons or can't...

Neil Sattin: Can you? I don't know.

Jessica Zager: I don't even know. Now, we just talk at our phones.

Neil Sattin: That's right, I just let Siri handle that for me.

Jessica Zager: That's what she's for.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, she manages my Rolodex.

[chuckle]

Jessica Zager: Again, another very outdated term.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, no, I don't think, however, that Siri is very good at fostering it. For the number of times that I've sat with my kids, or I'll admit, alone, trying to get Siri to respond in ways that are connecting and amusing. I don't think, I wouldn't recommend that you rely on Siri or Alexa to foster your oxytocin needs.

Jessica Zager: No. There hasn't... We have yet to have a lot of research about the release of oxytocin in human-robot interactions, but I don't think there's a lot of empathy and warmth coming from Siri and Alexa.

Neil Sattin: Not yet, although we probably just had everyone's iPhones and Amazon devices like going a little bit haywire if they're... Sorry about that if you're listening to this, you'll apologize to Siri and Alexa for us later. Okay, so we've got a pretty good list. What else comes to mind?

Jessica Zager: So this is something I know you do very well, and that's singing.

Neil Sattin: Oh!

Jessica Zager: So singing out loud, like with gusto for 20 minutes, helps to release oxytocin in...

Neil Sattin: For 20 minutes?

Jessica Zager: 20 minutes, that's what the research says. It helps to release our oxytocin and foster increased feelings of happiness and decreased feelings of sadness and worry.

Neil Sattin: Very cool.

Jessica Zager: I don't know, four or five songs.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I can do that.

Jessica Zager: Yeah. That's easy.

Neil Sattin: I mean, not right this instant, but I did just put something on the quarantine karaoke group on Facebook. I don't know if that was actually started by someone here in Maine, where I live. Last time I checked, it had over 150,000 members now. But it's a Facebook group where people are singing popular songs to each other doing karaoke style. Now, we know, isn't that interesting, 'cause not to necessarily be promoting Facebook here, but as a way to stay connected during these times and add in the singing component, it makes sense why people are responding so much to that.

Jessica Zager: It really does. And I always find it amazing how as humans, we tend to figure out ways to create what we need, what our bodies are lacking or missing without even really realizing it. And I see a lot in pelvic floor PT, people will come in and say, "I started doing this particular stretch," or "I started doing this other thing and I don't know why." And there will be a very good explanation why they've done that, and it will be something that I often recommend people do in their situation. And it's just amazing how our bodies figure out what they need.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's this innate intelligence, especially if we're listening.

Jessica Zager: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I like that one, singing.

Neil Sattin: And then this next one is, I alluded to it earlier, when we were talking about sucking. But nipple stimulation is a really big one. So labor and breastfeeding are the two activities most associated with releasing oxytocin, and so stimulating your own nipples can be a way to facilitate oxytocin release and create that sense of well-being and closeness, and decrease stress and anxiety, and all of those wonderful juicy benefits of oxytocin in the comfort of your own home. I was looking to see if this was just studied in women or if this was studied in men as well, 'cause as we know, men have nipples.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Jessica Zager: We don't know why.

Neil Sattin: I just discovered mine. [chuckle] Just this moment. [chuckle]

Jessica Zager: Surprise, you have nipples. And, but there is some research to show that nipple stimulation in men works the same way as it does in women, even though men don't breast feed. So stimulating your own nipples can really help to release that hormone. I was also reading this really interesting article about nipple simulation that was conducted at Rutgers and published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, about how nipple stimulation lights up the same part of the brain as clitoral stimulation or stimulation of the vagina or the cervix. So that kind of helps to explain why nipple stimulation for some people and in men too with the nipple stimulation lit up the same part of the brain as the genitals, so that kind of helps to explain why for some people, nipple stimulation feels really good and can even lead to orgasm, and, but also aside from that, it is a really big avenue for releasing oxytocin, so even if generally your nipples aren't very sensitive or you haven't really enjoyed nipple play in the past, doing it for non-sexual purposes, and for mitigating the effects of social distancing, it can be really effective for this particular reason.

Neil Sattin: Is there a preferred way to or a length of time or...

Jessica Zager: There wasn't a length of time associated with it.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Jessica Zager: In the research, and when they study it, they often look at actions that mimic like a pulling or sucking, kind of like a baby's mouth would do on the nipple. But there are multiple, I would say again, do what feels good and play with it and your body will kind of lead you in the right direction.

Neil Sattin: Trust your body, got it. Well, I've been, while you've been talking, I've been experimenting with all these different ways of playing with my own nipples, this is a very interesting interview. It's... [chuckle] Can't say I've played with my nipples while I've spoken to anyone else before, but I feel comfortable with you, Jessica, so thank you for giving me this experience.

Jessica Zager: I take that as a compliment. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Cool. Well, that's a lot. Have we exhausted the list yet, or is there more?

Jessica Zager: We've exhausted the list.

Neil Sattin: Okay, well, those are some...

Jessica Zager: We don't want to overwhelm people.

Neil Sattin: No, that's a healthy number of things to try to boost your oxytocin, which will have the benefit of increasing your sense of well-being, increasing your sense of connectedness within, because you will be the source of your own stimulation as well as your connectedness to others. And I'm really curious to hear from you. So if you put these oxytocin-boosting practices into use in your life, keep track of what that's like and let me know. You can find me in the Relationship Alive community on Facebook. You can email me, Neilius, N-E-I-L-I-US, @neilsattin.com, yeah, let us know and I'll make sure to pass this along to Jessica as well, 'cause I think it's really helpful to hear your experience and how this sort of thing has been helpful for you, and it seems obvious that everything we've mentioned is something that you could then, you could do that with a lover, knowing what it does, you could do that with yourself as part of being with another person or just as part of your own rituals, even when we're not forced to be apart from other people. That, all of these things we can bring into what we do to our repertoire of how we enhance the way we feel in life in general, to be more connected, more attuned. Yeah, I see you nodding.

Jessica Zager: That's beautifully stated.

Neil Sattin: It's powerful, powerful stuff. Well, I'm really glad that you let this idea fall just so casually in a conversation that we were having, 'cause I think it's perfect for the time that we're in right now, and I'm really excited for everyone to try this out. And again, if you want to download the condensed version of, like the cheat sheet version, then definitely visit Jessica's site, drjzager.com, D-R-J-Z-A-G-E-R.com and she has it there available for you to download, you can also find out more about the work she does helping people with sexual issues, or issues around gender identity, painful intercourse, etcetera.

Neil Sattin: And thanks also, Jessica, for being willing to talk a bit more about your work as a pelvic health physical therapist. I had never heard of that before, when we were talking about it. And so, I'm going to guess that a lot of people haven't and, as you mentioned, even there are many doctors who don't know that it exists, and yet it's such a huge resource for people who are experiencing very common problems.

Jessica Zager: Definitely.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jessica Zager: And I hope we do get to do another podcast about that, because I think it's really important that everybody know that this exists because there are so many people suffering with issues that can really be easily treated.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, we will. We'll do another episode together. In the meantime, if you do also want to get a transcript of this episode, visit neilsattin.com/oxyboost, so you can get the full transcript, and I'll also have links to Jessica's site there as well. Or you can always text the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow those instructions. Dr. Jessica Zager, such a pleasure to have you, thank you so much for offering your inspiring wisdom and being willing to handle me touching myself while we spoke. [chuckle]

Jessica Zager: Always a pleasure, Neil. It was great.

Neil Sattin: Awesome, we'll have you back soon.

Jessica Zager: Sound good, I'll hold you to that.

Mar 20, 2020

Sometimes all it takes is a simple adjustment to create a much deeper connection with another person. Today I'll offer you some obvious-but-not-so-obvious ways to foster intimacy - whether you're cooped up with another, or connecting digitally. In this episode I'm also sharing some of the ways that I create deep presence when I'm using video chat to communicate. Strategies you can always use that will come in handy as we social distance to slow the coronavirus pandemic. Simple stuff, with big results.

This week's episode is a follow-up to last week's episode about how to stay connected to yourself and others amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

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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Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Transcript:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive.

This is your host, Neil Sattin.

I know, I know I said in last week's episode, that this week, there was gonna be an interview with a friend of mine who's a romance writer, and that interview is coming, but just not this week, so sorry to those of you who are excited for that interview. It will be coming.

I just decided that as a follow-up to last week's episode, Love in the Time of Coronavirus where I talked about some strategies for helping you take care of yourself, helping you take care of your relationship and if you're single, helping you date safely.

During the present moment - I wanted to follow up with a few quick tips for you to help you create intimate space no matter what your situation is. So if you are cooped up with your partner day in day out, because you're on lockdown, and on a strict social distancing regimen with everyone, except your immediate family or if you are dating and communicating digitally through apps and texting, and video chat, I wanted to give you a few hints to help you actually create intimacy no matter which of those settings you're dealing with, so that you can best get that sense of being connected with other people. And I know, I often say This is gonna be a really quick episode, or the other day, I sent an email out and I said This is gonna be a quick email. It ended up being a longer email.

I'm gonna do my best to make this fairly quick because, Hey, there's a lot going on in our lives right now and I'm gonna do my best to honor that for you.

However, before I dive into the meat or the tofu, of the episode, I want to do important things like first just to thank you if you have been contributing to relationship alive to help keep us going, I'm so appreciative of your support. This is a labor of love about love to hopefully help you have the most successful relationship or relationships that you can have, and so if you're finding the podcast to be beneficial for you on your journey or for people that you know and love, please consider a donation to keep us going.

Every little bit counts, and you can choose something that feels right for you if you visit neilsattin.com/support and you can also text the word "support" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And this week I'd like to thank Angie, David, Sylvia, Elyse, Drew, Marilyn, Lydia, Valerie, and Keerthi, thank you all so much for your contributions to relationship alive and Angie - Sorry, well we'll do the romance novel one soon... Okay, so... Also, I do have a free offering for you along with this podcast. If you're looking for ways to improve your communication with your partner or with people who are important to you, then download my guide, my free guide to the top three relationship communication, secrets - these are things that are fairly easy to put into practice and can really be a huge transforming factor when you're trying to talk about things that are challenging, when you're trying to communicate about something that's important, when you're feeling vulnerable - these action items will help you do that successfully to help you stay connected, no matter how challenging the topic. To download that, just visit neilsattin.com/relate or text the word "relate" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

And before we dive in, we do have a free Facebook group. The relationship alive community, where you can come and join others who listen to the show in a safe space to talk about relationships and get some support for yourself, so or support others. So hopefully I'll see you there, in the relationship alive community on Facebook.

If you're on my email list, which you will be if you've downloaded any of the show guides to the show or if you download the relationship communication tips that I just mentioned, you may see that I recently announced that I created some spots in my calendar to do one-off coaching. This isn't something that I do very frequently, but there's so much going on right now that I wanted to make myself available, so I'm offering it on a sliding scale, and I'll be sending out another reminder soon, so just hop on my list and you can get more information about that. If you need a little extra support, right now, I totally get it. Hey, I need a little extra support right now and I have been reaching out to the people that I count on: a therapist, close friends to get that little extra bit of support when I need it, 'cause none of us should be alone. So, if there isn't anyone in your life that you can count on, then consider signing up for a session 'cause I would love to be there to help support you.

Okay, all right, let's dive in. I'm just like, I have this image of just running for the water and taking a big dive in and that would feel really good right now, except I live in Maine, and it is cold and while I have some friends that I've seen jumping in the ocean on Facebook - I guess that is theoretically good for your immune system to take the cold plunge - I'm not gonna do that right now.

No, in fact I'm still recovering from the cold that I got a little over a week ago, which you may have heard me talk about briefly on the last episode of the show. So far, so good, everything seems okay. Of course, I cannot get tested because they're just aren't enough tests and thankfully, what I'm experiencing isn't severe enough to warrant a test, the way that they are doling them out right now, so I'm doing all right. I'm getting rest, drinking lots of water and I'm gonna be okay, and hopefully we all band together and we'll all get through this. Even though it's kind of a weird challenging time, let's just be honest. It is unlike anything any of us has ever probably dealt with before.

So that's just the reality, and I think that's why this felt so important to give you a few extra hints because we're all in the soup right now, and so it's super important to have as many little tricks as you can to stay connected and to be able to experience intimacy even if you have to keep your distance.

So the first thing that I wanted to talk about has to do with if you are in fact spending a lot of time cooped up with your partner, so you're in our relationship or this could be true even if it's not a love relationship, maybe it's your roommates or if you live with your family. There are a couple of possibilities, one is that it's so easy to be around each other all the time and still kind of be missing each other - to not really have those moments where you feel like you're really dropping in and connecting.

And on the flip side, maybe you're so busy that you're not taking the time to truly connect or maybe you're in each other's business all the time, but not in ways that are particularly connecting.

So here's the hint for those kinds of situations. The hint is to make a date with each other, to actually put time on the calendar and you might wanna do this on a daily basis to have a little check-in if that feels appropriate, or every other day, you gotta go with whatever feels right for you, but I invite you to designate a specific time where you will come together and just check in with a "Hey! How are you doing?"

And to give each other permission to be however you are. Maybe amidst all of this, you're doing totally fine. And if that's true, that's great. Relish that, that things are going a little crazy in the world, and I'm actually doing okay and having that strength or resilience that comes in handy when times get tough.

So the goal here is to celebrate whatever is, and if it's not something that you feel like celebrating exactly - like for instance, if you're NOT doing so great, well, take the word with a grain of salt, you don't have to "celebrate" it, but you can honor it - honor the challenge, honor the fear, honor the sadness or the heart break, honor the rage, and the anger, or honor the okay-ness - honor those moments of exhilaration where you feel like... "Wow, this... Maybe this is all we got, so let's enjoy it." I know yesterday I went out on a couple of really long walks in the sunshine. It's not sunny today, but it was yesterday, and I actually had moments of joy where I felt like I was just seeing the world so clearly, noticing the people around me and saying, "hello" from a safe distance of six feet and just appreciating life, so that those were really good moments for me.

And then I've had moments where I've been scared, I'm scared of what might happen to people that I care about, moreso that than myself, but honestly, I wanna keep living.

You know, I wanna get through this in one piece. So, yeah you gotta just deal with what is and check in with each other. If you're solo or single at this time, make an appointment to check in with yourself, maybe a couple of times during the day to just kind of step back from social media, from the news, from whatever it is you're doing and just check in with your body with your own state of being. This is something that I talked about in the last episode. Make it intentional though. And that way, if you're feeling, on the other side of those things, you were feeling like you're kind of obsessive about how you're feeling, then that's another advantage of setting a time. You have that dedicated time to check-in about your feelings, and then you can get on with your day.

So that's my hint for self and for being in relationship - to carve out time to be intentiona, l to honor each other, to really listen and acknowledge each other, and just to acknowledge if it's good. Awesome, that's good. If it's hard, Okay, it's hard - I hear you.

I'm gonna do a quick message from our sponsor for days episode and then I'm going to offer you some hints on digital intimacy so staying connected, and feeling like you're creating a good container of intimacy in digital communications, whether that be texting or using Zoom or Skype, or something like that, to do video chats.

But today's sponsor has been supporting the podcast for a little while now, I'm so appreciative.

And they are potentially another way for you to get the help that you need the support that you're looking for as you're creating that web of support that is so valuable that we talk about on the show all the time.

So this way that allows you to connect with a professional counselor in an online environment, that's safe and private and obviously respects social distancing, is today's sponsor. Better help with better help you can get help on your own time, and at your own pace. Along with scheduling video or phone sessions, you can also chat and text with your therapist, they are affordable and financial aid is available for those who qualify. So whether it's the current situation with Coronavirus or anxiety or depression or things going on in your relationship, whatever it is, definitely consider better help as a way to help you transform the places where you are stuck, and best of all, it's a truly affordable option because as a Relationship Alive listener, you get 10% off your first month with discount code, a live.

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Alright, I'm gonna keep my promise to you that this is gonna be quick. So let's talk about digital intimacy.

We'll start with texting.

When I was talking before about carving out time to communicate, I think that can be helpful for texting, as well so that you are not just texting off and on throughout your day or texting a bunch of people at once too... Sometimes texting works that way, where it's designed to be asynchronous - meaning you send a message to someone and they may or may not reply to you right away - so I get it, that's how it sometimes works. So this isn't a strict rule but if you get the sense that someone is there on the other end, and ready and willing to text with you then carve at that time, carve out five minutes, 10 minutes, and just focus your energy on texting with your friends and while you are waiting for the other person to text you back instead of checking social media, or going online, or to a your favorite blog or whatever it is, I invite you to just stay present, stay present, with the waiting, waiting, for their communication - breathe, get in touch with what's happening in your body and do your best to just stay focused on that communication with that person.

It makes a difference in not only feeling connected, but in their feeling your presence - especially if you're able to respond back really quickly, because you are giving that other person your full attention via text. That's my hint for texting.

Now, when it comes to video chats, there are a couple of things that I've found that are really helpful and I actually use these tips when I am doing sessions with people, 'cause at this point, almost all the sessions that I do are over Zoom or Skype.

And as you can imagine, it's really important for my clients to feel my presence to feel like we are creating an intimate space for those sessions to occur.

So there are a couple of ways that I like to do that that seemed to work well for me. And I invite you to experiment with them and see what works well for you.

The first thing is to close all your other apps, on your computer or on your phone. I guess if you're doing it on your phone, it's less of an issue because if you switch over to another app, they're gonna know. If you're in your computer, closing your browser closing everything else that's going so that you can give the other person your full attention. If you have a way of turning off your notifications on your computer or on your phone, that's good too, so that you're in a do-not-disturb mode, and you don't have little notifications popping up to disrupt your concentration or your presence. If you're on your computer, you might turn your phone over so that it's face down so that you don't have things on your phone lighting up your phone and distracting you. And the goal is for you to be as present as possible. Another thing I like to do is I like to keep my computer- I do most of my zooming via my computer - and I like to keep it in right in front of me, so whether it's on my desk, or it's on my lap on a board or something, I keep it in front of me, and I actually put my arms out and I put my arms on either side of the computer, almost like I'm holding whatever, whoever is on the other end. I'm holding the image of them on my computer screen, and I do that to create a physical container in the best way possible. That would be like if we were in-person, it would be like the same as us sitting directly opposite each other and me facing you squarely with my body, and giving you my full presence and eye contact, and you knowing that you have my full attention. So one way that I help myself do that and stay focused is by reaching my arms out in a natural way... And having them on either side of my computer as if I'm holding the person that I'm talking to.

Another thing that I like to do - I've been using full screen a little bit more lately. It seems like it's working okay, but a lot of the time, what I'll do is I'll actually switch to minimizing the view of the other person - not minimizing it, so it's off the screen, but getting the little mini version so that instead of their face taking up the whole screen, that's actually like a little tiny version, of them. And then I'll move that right up to under the camera or the webcam on my computer.

And that is one way that seems to be really helpful for the other person feeling like when I'm looking at them, that I'm actually looking at them. 'Cause of course this is all happening in a virtual space, right, I'm not really looking at them, I'm looking at a screen I'm looking at a picture of them and likewise, they're looking at a picture of me, but if I am looking right at where the camera is then that's the best chance that I've got of being able to make eye contact and being able to help the other person feel the presence of my gaze, and my attentiveness, as they're talking. So that's another little trick that I use from time to time and it's been really helpful. And lastly, when you're talking to another person, especially via video chat, I think it's really helpful to pay attention to your breathing. So how you are breathing and whether your breath is shallow, or whether it's deep - just noticing what's happening in you and then also noticing the breathing in the other person. So when does the person that you're talking to, take breaths, when do they exhale, when do they sigh. Paying attention to their breath also helps you just tune in to everything else that's going on with them, in general, with their body.

So you notice when the color of their skin changes, or when tension appears or disappears on their face.

There's something about tuning into the breath that really, I think, synchronizes us with another human in general. So I'm not saying that you should do that in a creepy way, where you're just mimicking another person's breathing pattern. But noticing it, I think does tend to bring us at least into some form of synchrony with the other person, and I think it creates a certain level of intimacy. It seems to work.

So those are the tricks. Other than that, you gotta just pay attention and be receptive and acknowledge what other people are saying. Acknowledge its impact on you. Notice where it lands in your body, and tell them about it. You wanna just follow good practices for presencing yourself as you show up there in virtual digital intimacy with the other person.

Okay, so those are my quick hits for the week. I have kept this under 30 minutes, we're at 26 minutes right now. I appreciate your being here with me this week and it's always good to share time and space with you, and I'm looking forward to being with you next week when I think it's gonna be my interview with my friend, Mara Wells, the romance writer, pretty sure. And I do look forward to being with you. And in the meantime, take care stay healthy, take this seriously and we'll all get through this, we'll get through it by sticking together and helping each other out.

So please let me know how I can support you.

You can always write to me. My email address is neilius at neilsattin.com.

Or if you have a question for the show, just record yourself, asking it and email that to questions at a relationship alive.com - Sending you so much love, and blessings, and I will be with again soon. Take care.

Mar 14, 2020

How is coronavirus (COVID-19) impacting you? What are the implications of "social distancing" on your relationship - especially if you're cooped up together for weeks at a time? Or if you're single, how can you still enjoy dating while staying safe? In this week's episode, you'll get some strategies for taking care of yourself amidst the epidemic, with practical advice for staying calm - connected - and HEALTHY - while we weather the storm...together. Plus a few (mostly relevant) thoughts on "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Sending so much love to you!

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

Sponsors:

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

Resources:

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FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

Support the podcast (or text “SUPPORT” to 33444)

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Transcript

Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive.

This is your host, Neil Sattin. Today, we're going to talk about a topic that's been on my mind lately and perhaps it's been on yours. We're gonna talk about how the coronavirus Covid-19... How that is impacting us in our own lives and in our relationships. So whether you are solo or dating or in a relationship, or just looking for a better way to take care of yourself, we're gonna talk about the impact of what is happening in our world, today on us.

And how do you stay centered and grounded and connected through all of that?

So that is what is in store for today. I had something else planned. But sometimes you gotta just go with what is right there in front of you, and if this isn't in front of you already, it probably will be soon hopefully, and not hopefully not in a dire way, but let's be real. This is a serious issue that we're facing here in our world today, and I wanna be here to help support you through that.

Now, you might be able to hear that my voice is a little congested I've been fighting a cold.

I'm pretty sure that it is not the novel Coronavirus. So fingers crossed, but I don't have all the symptoms so my healthcare provider tells me that I should just drink lots of fluids, get some rest and stay the course. So, well, of course, keep you posted on that one, on and I'm just gonna start by sending some love and care to you, today, hoping that this virus doesn't impact you, and that it also doesn't impact people that you love.

And of course, all in all. I don't want it to impact anyone, and it is going to, on some level, so we're confronted with a situation that's not unlike other things that come up in life, where there's a reality in front of us and we get to decide how we are going to respond to it, and how we're gonna let it impact us, and also it gives us a chance to discover yet, again, what is in our control and what is not, and to make the best of what is in our control.

So today I'll be discussing specific strategies with you to help you get through love in this time of coronavirus. Okay, first things first, if you find yourself in close quarters with people that you love and care about, because you're going through some proactive social distancing.

Or in some sort of quarantine situation then it is extremely helpful to know how to communicate well and how to stay connected, even if you're communicating about things that are challenging.

And I've put together my top three ways to do that and a free guide for you called my relationship communication secrets.

And you can download that by just visiting neilsattin.com/relate or by texting the word "relate" to the number 33444 and following the instructions and the guide is free.

So I definitely suggest that you grab it, that you put those things into practice, and I, we will be having the final version of my secrets of relationship communication course that's going to be coming out again very soon. So keep an eye out for that and you will get notified if you download the free guide.

Just so you know.

Also, it takes a village, in so many ways and it takes a village to keep relationship alive going and I've really appreciated your generous support of relationship alive - the podcast, our mission. This is an offering for you to help you have the most successful, amazing relationships possible and if you're finding the show to be having a positive impact in your life, please consider a donation to help ensure that we can continue. You can choose anything that feels right for you and every little bit counts.

So this week, I would like to thank Sarah Dave Kendra Michael Michele Joseph Rana Holly Marie Timothy and Kona thank you all so much for your generous, in most of those cases ongoing, support of Relationship Alive.

And if you would like to make a contribution, all you have to do is visit neilsattin.com/support or text the word support to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

And speaking of support if you are looking for another way to expand the web of support that you have in your life, you can come join the relationship alive community on Facebook. It's free, and we are endeavoring to create a safe space for you to talk about your relationships, personal development and anything that impacts the ways that we connect with each other, the successes that we experience and the challenges as well.

So that's the relationship alive community on Facebook.

Okay, so let's dive in. And I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek with calling this episode, Love in the Time of Corona. It's obviously a reference to the novel Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And I read that book, way back in college.

Tell you the truth. I don't remember a lot about it, but I do remember that it covers the complexities of love and relationship, and long-term relationship, and there's a comparison between love and sickness. So there's this sense that we have that life is complicated and it's gonna be complicated no matter what. And the things that we sometimes think are true or easy or that we take for granted aren't always - Things are not always as they seem. And I think that was a central theme in the book, that there are things that you assume to be true, that actually end up not being true. And of course, it's a romantic novel that covers decades and decades of the lives of the two main protagonists. And the reason that I wanted to refer to it here is because we are in this position where we can't escape what is happening around us.

Whether you think it's all something that's being blown out of proportion or whether you think that it is something that may seriously impact you and the people that you love or whether you're just watching everything unfold, and waiting to see what is actually gonna happen, there's almost no way at this point that you can avoid the impacts of covid 19, the new Coronavirus on your life.

Big events are being cancelled, or postponed. At least, this has been a consideration for me because I'm working on doing my live show and bringing it to a major metropolitan area near you. And it's a little challenging to think about planning something like that, when there's so much uncertainty at the moment, about whether these large events are actually going to be happening.

So life is interesting right now and I have two young kids in school, I have a mother with a compromised immune system, I have a 97-year-old grandmother. So as I look at the landscape of life, there's a lot of ponder. And so, let's just cover some of the basics. This portion of the show is gonna be my public service announcement.

Essentially what we want to do is something that has been called flattening the curve. So maybe you've heard of that, and you know what I'm talking about, if you don't let me just tell you that what we are trying to do is slow the spread of this virus, by employing some measures that I'll be talking about in a moment, and the idea of slowing it is to, one, prevent our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed, like, is already happening in some parts of the world.

So, as much as possible, if we slow the spread of Corona then we are doing our part to help overall, the healthcare system, keep up with whatever demand this illness puts upon it, and of course also as long as we're able to delay the spread than our chances improve of a vaccine or a really effective treatment being discovered to help more people get through it.

So there are real practical reasons for doing this and it's important for all of us because even if you yourself feel like your immune system is fairly robust, and you're not worried about it, odds are that there are people, if not in your life, in the lives of people who are close to you who are at risk or could be impacted.

And so this really is one of those situations where it falls upon each of us to do our part for the greater good, so to not be cavalier about taking precautions and instead to do your part to flatten the curve to slow things down and to keep the coronavirus from reaching - if not yourself, or people you love, other people who are loved by people you know. So let's all pull together for this. That is my wish for you as you're listening.

And the things that we can do right now that we know of are relatively simple.

We can avoid really crowded spaces.

This is known as social distancing. So to spend more time, either in small groups or alone, if you have any signs of illness, to keep yourself away from other people until you know that you're in the clear... And of course, if things feel serious at all or like you are at risk, then definitely contact your doctor, and find a way to get tested, so that you can know what is going on and so you can take an appropriate course of action.

It's helpful to have a little stockpile of food and things so that you don't have to leave your house, if you can avoid it, and you don't wanna go overboard because we wanna make sure that there's enough to go around and it's likely that no matter what happens, grocery stores will be open and all of that. So the goal here is just to have enough to make sure that you're gonna be okay in your home and that you will have to leave as little as possible. And the purpose of doing that again is to slow the spread because sadly we can actually be carriers of Covid-19 without knowing it, without having any symptoms.

So if you're able to stay away from other people, for a couple of weeks, and that prevents you from catching something, or from inadvertently spreading something, then that is going to go a long way to helping our world beat this thing.

And then you've also probably heard, some of the basics. washing your hands frequently and not touching your face. Because the Covid-19 virus, it needs to get to your lungs and the way it does that is through your eyes, your nose or your mouth.

So if you keep your hands away for your face, and you wash your hands frequently, then you should be just fine or you will at least be doing the best that you can to prevent the spread of this illness. And at the moment we do not believe that wearing a mask is a very effective way of preventing yourself from getting the virus.

And people stockpiling masks is actually creating a problem in the health care industry because our doctors and nurses and first responders, don't have the masks that they need. So maybe you wanna have a couple on hand just in case but other than that, probably better to ensure that masks can get to where they're needed most with the people on the front lines of fighting this thing.

They do recommend that people who have the flu or have coronavirus that they wear a mask, and that is mainly to prevent or cut down on the chances of spreading the illness to other people. So, masks aren't a terribly effective way to keep yourself from getting it as far as we know, but they are a good way of not spreading it to other people.

Of course, if you are being diagnosed with this, then you are probably gonna be getting much more thorough advice than you're getting from me, and I'm not a doctor. So let me just be upfront that anything that I say here, I would love for you to take it with a grain of salt.

Please do your own research online if you need to. I've been doing a lot of reading on this topic, so I feel pretty confident in the recommendations that I'm making but I'm not a doctor.

So if you have any concerns at all, I recommend that you check with a doctor or check with the latest recommendations from your local health service, and hopefully all of our health services all over the world are being really proactive in getting that information out. Okay, so that's the public service announcement part but now let's get into the nitty gritty of why we're here, which is three-fold, really. One is how to help yourself with what is going on in the world and how to deal with potentially the anxiety or worry or fear that you're experiencing, if you are experiencing it or if you are in blissful ignorance. Maybe we should talk about that for just a moment or two more. So that's the first part. The second part is, I wanna talk about when you are in a close relationship with someone, so if you are home more or less, working from home or in self-quarantine or social distancing. With your partner, and your kids, 'cause potentially, they are home from school.

So then odds are, you are gonna be around each other a lot more than you are used to. And so we'll talk about some special considerations for that.

And finally, I want to talk about those few or those of us who are dating and who are not necessarily in a single love relationship, and the implications of what is going on on finding love, and developing love. So those are the three main bases, that I wanna cover today.

As usual we'll start with the self and self-care because that is so important for keeping your feet on the ground, keeping your wits about you and keeping your heart centered as you move through this time.

So I'm not gonna make any assumptions about what this has been like for you. I'll just say that for me, it's been noticeable. I told you a little bit about a few moments ago that my mother has a compromised immune system, my grandmother is 97. they are in groups that are statistically at very high risk for not only getting the coronavirus, but also it potentially killing them.

And that's scary for me, and I've spent a lot of time - the way that I tend to deal with uncertainty is through research, so reading and reading and reading, and that's partly how this podcast came to be because I had my own struggles in relationships that I had witnessed in my own relationships, and so I dove into the details, because that's what I do and I... My hope is that that is a benefit for you, but that doesn't mean that you have to do it, you may have your own way of coping. And I think the first thing is just to acknowledge that it's very possible that whatever your experience is, that you are, below at all, experiencing some stress, so whether that stress is anxiety and worry and fear or anger at people for blowing this way out of proportion or whatever it is, no matter how stressed you are, that stress is something worth confronting and doing something about, because stress suppresses our immune system for one thing. So the more that you you can confront your stress and bring yourself into balance, the better off you will be when it comes to just having a system that can fight whatever is going on in the world around you, whether that just be a cold or Coronavirus and it also is gonna help you show up better for other people in your life.

There's nothing like trying to interact with the world, or trying to move through a stressful situation or conflict with another person when you yourself are stressed and dysregulated, so there's never been a better time for you to establish a routine of checking in with yourself, how are you doing? And you could start with something with a broad strokes, like maybe every time you brush your teeth, which is perhaps two or three times a day you use that as an opportunity, a reminder that you should check in with yourself, and ask "How am I doing, what am I feeling right now, where do I notice that in my body?"

"Does it make sense? Does it make sense with everything that's going on in my life?" To start doing this as a way of regularly taking your emotional pulse so that you can have a sense of what's really happening with you, and what if anything needs to be addressed. If you notice that you are feeling something in particular - anxiety, fear, sadness, confusion, then it's worth taking an extra step in asking yourself "What is that the root of that?"

And is there something I can do like "what aspect of this can I control and what aspects of this can I not control?"

And of the aspects that you can control, then you might ask yourself, "Well, what can I do to improve that thing?"

So if you're feeling uncertain, then maybe there are things you can do to get more certainty. If you're feeling disconnected or you're alone, then what can you do to reach out and connect? If you're feeling nervous for another person in your life, then what can you do to reach out to them and tell them that you care about them?

Right? These are all just simple ways of being proactive around noticing your emotional state and taking care of yourself to hopefully bring yourself back into balance: noticing your breathing, noticing your physical state, your physiological state and letting that also indicate for you how you're doing, and if there's something that needs to be addressed.

So you might think that you're totally fine but if you check in with your body, you notice like, "Oh my heart's pounding or... Oh, I'm kinda sweaty."

Well, those might be signs of stress or something going on and if you do notice those things, then what can you do?

So can you just take a moment to breathe? Can you fix yourself a cup of tea?

Can you call a friend, someone that you care about and who cares about you?

Can you spend a little time with a pet, and just pet your dog or your cat or... My daughter really wants me to get her a little pigmy bunny. So I'm thinking about that. If you have a pigmy maybe spend a little time with your bunny just petting the bunny. I gotta think that that soft little bunny might help you calm down a little bit if you need that, and if you're feeling angry at whatever is happening in the world, then this is also a great time for you to look within and ask yourself, "What is it about this that's making you angry?"

What are the places where you feel like your power is being taken from you? Your system is responding with intelligence to that - your system is responding and saying "No. Take that power back. I'm angry."

Again, there will be aspects of this that you can impact and there will be things that you cannot impact but no matter what, getting to know yourself better, getting to know what's going on within you better and figuring out where you can be proactive to keep yourself regulated to move through and out of your stress, those are things that will help you, yourself in whatever is going on in the world and it will help you show up for the world and the other people around you, so that is taking care of yourself, also. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, take Elderberry, vitamin C, just whatever you can do to keep your immune system bolstered and ready along with keeping yourself calm.

So I do want to change gears a little bit and talk about the impact of Corona on our relationships and on our dating life.

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Okay, so let's get back to the next step in our conversation, which is about how Coronavirus is potentially gonna impact us in our relationships.

And there are few obvious ways when I mentioned already, which is the potential to be cooped up with people for a long period of time and just to be aware that in and of itself can cause stress and tension and then potentially, if anyone, you know, or as close to you get sick or if you get sick then that is another way that this could impact you.

So let's talk a little bit about just the stress of being cooped up with other people more than anything. I think our mantra today should be to be kind and generous with each other to be compassionate and understanding.

So if you find that someone else is getting snappy with you to remind yourself that they are probably going through some stress right now and to not take it personally as much as possible, and if you, yourself, are feeling irritable, or challenged by something that someone else is doing then you might even speak it out loud, just like, "Hey I just want you to know that I'm really stressed or I'm exhausted or this is really challenging for me, and so I know I'm being unpleasant" or "I know I'm being argumentative, or I know I'm snapping back at you, and I just want you to know that it's not personal, it's what's happening with me."

So as much as you can take responsibility for your state of mind and state of heart and state of being with the other people around you, that is one way to really help them feel connected to you and to your experience.

And you might check in with the others too like "Hey how are you doing? It's been five minutes since we've talked to each other."

"Can I just check in with you and see how you are?"

And if you are with loved ones and relatively safe and isolated then... And you've washed your hands, then it's probably totally fine for you to give each other back rubs or foot rubs and to be loving with each other as much as you can.

And if you've been going through a challenging time in your relationship, then this could be extra stressful for you. That seems obvious to me right now. There are those miraculous moments where times get tough and we band together and it helps us get past things that seem like a big deal, but when it comes right down to it, you realize that it's not such a big deal. So potentially, there are those kinds of things that are going on in your relationship, that are creating challenge and this helps you kinda put everything in perspective. That could be a good thing, and... this could also exacerbate things. So I invite you to just one to acknowledge that that is a possibility, if that is something that you're going through to recognize - Okay, things have been challenging, it might get more challenging and then you can develop a strategy for yourself - a plan around how to best safeguard yourself from it getting more challenging.

So if there are things that you know are particular triggers for you with this other person or ways that you trigger them, then you might take special care to not trigger the other person and to create safe boundaries around yourself, to keep your tender spots from being poked at and triggered as well.

You might also with your significant other, say something like, "Hey let's just acknowledge that things have been challenging between us and maybe we could agree to just put all of that aside right now and just band together for this, for what's happening in our world right now" - it's another possibility.

Generally, the best thing is for you to be open about your experience, and what concerns you. In fact, you might even say something to your partner, like "hey, things have been to tough with us, recently. I'm a little nervous about us being in the same space a lot because of what's going on in the world. Are you nervous about that?"

"Are there things do you think that we could do to help keep things light and spacious with us to help us be positive through all of this, and not make things worse?"

If you can enlist the other person and speak to the truth of what is, then that also increases your chances of getting through with flying colors, and I encourage you to do that as well and in the end, if you need to, I encourage you to take space and this can be a very useful strategy for everyone who is sharing space together: if you are sharing space to work out a system for when anyone can say, "Hey I need a time out for myself," and where that time out and space is granted so that you or the other person can have some moments alone to recharge.

And so, yeah, I encourage you to work those things out ahead of time, if possible, so that you're heading it off at the pass and you're being proactive, and that way those conversations will have happened so that you can make space for other more important conversations that may come up during all of this time.

Now, if you are single or solo let's move along, I guess. And of course, if you have specific questions around this stuff, you can always record yourself asking the question, and send it to me - the email addresses: questions@relationshipalive.com.

So, if you're single, or solo or dating like what do you do in your circumstances? Well, here, a few things that come to mind. The first is that there's potential for you to be extremely isolated, and that isn't necessarily healthy either. Being completely isolated will theoretically prevent you from getting the coronavirus. But it might be really psychologically challenging to be that isolated. So this is a time where I would encourage you to find ways to stay connected. There are great freeways... to drive your car on. But what I really mean is, there are great free... ways that you can stay connected with other people. If you have internet access or a phone, you can do a Google Hangout or FaceTime or Skype calls. I really love the video conferencing technologies. In fact, most of my clients that I see, and I see clients all over the world, we do that using Zoom or Skype, and I'm so used to it now that it really feels as though we are in the same room with each other. And so I encourage you to reach out to other people, to not just get isolated in your home, but to find ways to reach out and connect using technology, using whatever technology is available to you.

And if you don't have a phone and you don't have a computer, then of course I'm wondering how you're listening to this podcast, but you could always sit on your stoop outside - and if you're out in the fresh air or the odds are pretty good that you're not going to catch Coronavirus and that someone walking by would not catch it, from you or give it to you and you could just say "hello" to people who are walking by. Just be friendly and just ask people how they're doing, and you can point out.

"I don't wanna shake your hand, or give you a hug, but I just wanted to check in with people in the world and see how you are doing" and you may be surprised you might make someone's day, by simply saying, "Hey how are you? This is all pretty weird, isn't it, that we're going through?" Because most of us have never had to go through something like this in our lives, not all of us. So if you have gone through this, perhaps you even have expertise that you can lend to those of us who... For whom this is new and scary and confusing? This is a good time for you to speak up and lend your expertise to the occasion.

So, that's combating social isolation - even though we want to be doing social distancing. In order to flatten the curve.

Now, what about actual dating? Could you or should you be going out on dates in the current climate?

You know I'm inclined to say probably not right now, at least not until we really have a better sense of what is happening and really how Covid-19 spreads and we have consistent testing so that we really know for sure whether or not we are a carrier, someone else that we are going on on a date with... is a carrier.

It's not too unlike the conversations that you need to have around STDS before you have sex with someone. Hopefully, you are having a conversation that goes over your risk factors. "Have you been tested? Have you had anything before?"

"When was the last time you were tested? Have you had any risky behaviors?"

So when you go out on a date with someone and they say, "Oh well, I went to the whatever concert last night." Well, that might be a risk factor. So, the beautiful thing about this is that whatever you're doing to date, and I'm assuming that you're using technology of some sort at this point 'cause it's almost unavoidable in the modern dating landscape, then this becomes a great way to slow things down and really get to know other people.

So spending a little bit more time with your texting or chatting back and forth, your IMing, having a virtual date so you can use FaceTime, and make yourself a cup of tea and have the other person make themselves a cup of tea and you can sit down and sip tea and get to know each other just as if you were there in the coffee shop and I... One thing that's especially interesting about this is, with practice you can learn to really tune in to the other person, even though you're not there in the same space with them, you can really tune in and get a sense for who they are as a person.

And on top of that, even if you're not there in person with each other - think of all the times that when you've been in relationship if you have been in a relationship, how important it is to be able to communicate when you're not together, so whether that be through texting or talking on the phone or Skyping or whatever, it's actually helpful to know that that's a medium that you can operate in with your potential partner and what better way to know than by actually doing it, and doing it a lot and getting some good practice at it. So you may be having a little less sex than you used to, if you're a single person and you're out and about... But I think that overall, that is probably worth it, for your safety and your prospective partner's safety, unless you are absolutely positively sure that neither of you is that risk - in which case meet up and have fun. But I do encourage you to take advantage of the virtual spaces, and to take some risks around talking or hopping on a video call of some sort so that you can get to know someone more deeply without necessarily having to do it face-to-face, either at the coffee shop or in the bedroom. There will be a time for that, for sure.

And no matter what, taking the time to really get to know a person will help you make better choices than if you're going by chemistry alone because when you meet up with someone, and it feels really good and you connect with them right away, that doesn't always go so well, because you may not have done the due diligence required to ensure that someone is actually an appropriate partner for you. And gauging whether or not someone is appropriate for you to be dating is usually a much longer process that involves finding out a lot more about who they are and how they respond to you and how you respond to them.

And when you have all that dopamine and oxytocin flowing because you're just going to town in the bedroom, then it can seriously cloud your perception and your judgment.

So this is going to be a boon. I predict that there are gonna be all kinds of really strong relationships that emerge from this period of time when we were forced to spend a little bit more time apart and get to know each other a little better.

As always, I could talk about this for a long, long time, but I hope that whether you're single or in a relationship, or just thinking about how to maintain your own self-care during this time, that you've found something valuable in today's episode, and one thing you might wanna do is catch up on other podcast episodes or do some reading. And next week, we're gonna have a really fun interview with someone who's an old friend of mine actually, who is a romance author.

We're gonna talk about what we can learn from romance novels about love and relationships, and desire - and it may not surprise you to know that we can learn an awful lot!

So we have that conversation coming up next week, with Mara Wells. In the meantime, I am sending so much love and care and courage and calmness and health your way and just know that I am thinking of you and that we will all get through this, we will and I'm here for you... So thank you for spending this time with me today, and I look forward to you being with you again next week.

Take care.

And be safe.

Mar 5, 2020

What turns you on, and what turns you off? How do you get past the messages about sex that have been handed to you by others - to discover your own personal sexuality that emerges from within? How do you own your deepest desires - and then communicate them to your partner in a way that stands the best chance of having them be realized? In today’s episode, we’re having a return visit from Dr. Alexandra Solomon, author of the new book Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationships You Want. Our conversation will help you take your intimacy to a whole new level, so that your relationships can be satisfying in and out of the bedroom.

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

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

Also - check out our first episode with Alexandra Solomon about her first book, Loving Bravely (Episode 142).

Sponsors:

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

Resources: 

Check out Alexandra Solomon's website

Read Alexandra Solomon’s latest book: Taking Sexy Back

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

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

www.neilsattin.com/sexy Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Alexandra Solomon.

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

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Let's talk some more about sex today, and I think it's really important, if for no other reason than the statistic that I'm pulling out of the book written by today's guest, that when you have a successful sex life with your partner, that accounts for say 15-20% of your overall happiness quotient. I'm sure I'm not using the exact term there, but when you have a dissatisfying sexual life with your partner, that can account for 50-75% of your dissatisfaction in your marriage, if I got that statistic right.

Neil Sattin: So, just think about that for a minute. If you're unhappy in the way that you're connecting sexually with your partner, or with your partners, then that's going to cause potentially a lot of distress for you. And what's at the root often of our dissatisfaction is the very foundation that we have, the way that we see ourselves as sexual beings, the way we operate in the world, the scripts that have been handed us and that we're enacting either consciously or unconsciously, or that we're trying to live up to, that can so often be a source of, not only unhappiness, but the sense of disconnection from who you actually are as a sexual being in the world, and that brings with it a whole host of things like shame or even just questions, self-judgment, and ultimately, potentially dissatisfaction in terms of your relationships.

Neil Sattin: So, let's tackle this head on and talk about how to reclaim and restructure who you are as a sexual being with today's esteemed guest. She's been with us on the show before, her name is Dr Alexandra Solomon, she's a professor at Northwestern and also a clinical psychologist who works with individuals and couples. Last time she was here, she was talking about her book, Loving Bravely, and if you wanna hear that episode, you can visit www.neilsattin.com/bravely and it is episode number 142, if you're just flipping through your podcast app. And she's here today to talk about her new book, which is called Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationships You Want. It's a book written primarily for women and, at the same time, it has so much valuable stuff in it in terms of no matter where you are on the gender spectrum to reframe how you think about your sexuality and how you reclaim it for yourself.

Neil Sattin: As usual, we will have a transcript for today's episode. You can download it by visiting www.neilsattin.com/sexy. That one's not gonna be hard to remember. And as always, you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. So let's dive right in, Alexandra Solomon. It's such a treat to have you back with us here on Relationship Alive.

Alexandra Solomon: It's so nice to be with you, thank you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, let's talk... Let's just first unearth, there's something unusual about Taking Sexy Back, which is that you've taken the word sexy and you've made it a noun, and I'm wondering if you can explain what I'm even talking about and maybe explain your choice around that so that it will make sense as we move through this conversation.

Alexandra Solomon: Yes, so one of the first central ideas in this book is that there is a world of difference between being sexy and being sexual, so women have been taught and trained to either be sexy or to be afraid of being sexy, of being too sexy, not sexy enough, and that for women that word is oftentimes a question. Do you find me sexy? It's a question posed in the gaze of another, and when that is the lens through which one experiences one's sexuality, then sex becomes a performance, a sort of earning of that sense that you find me worthy, adequate, good, and it's different than being sexual. Sexual is a cultivation from the inside of my own connection with the erotic that I generate within me and then share with a partner. And so, in this book, we are taking sexy back, we're taking back the idea of sexy, and it becomes, as you said, a noun. So this book really is couple's therapy between the reader and her sexy, her sexuality, her sexual self. And the questions are: How well do you know that aspect of you? Do even know that is an aspect of you? What is that aspect of you wanting, yearning, in what ways is it hurting, and what needs to be kind of unearthed and processed? So, throughout the book, it is about really understanding and listening from within to that part of self that I think women are typically told really isn't theirs or shouldn't be looked at; good girls don't look at that. So, it's a reframing, and as you're saying, it's a reclamation, a taking back.

Neil Sattin: Right, and you talk about that being torn. And this is probably familiar for a lot of people who are listening, that you can be torn between wanting to really own your sexuality, but if you do that too much, then that also creates a shift potentially in how people see you, and so there's this burden of like how do you own your sexuality without it stigmatizing you?

Alexandra Solomon: Exactly, right. That sort of razor-thin line between being perceived as prudish and being, God forbid, slutty. So this sort of razor-thin line that, again, keeps a woman from connecting with herself. It becomes this sort of question of how am I being perceived. And the moment that's the focus, it cuts us off from being able to experience pleasure, experience mindfulness, articulate a boundary that is really from a place of truth rather than fear, and so then the entire possibility of cultivating a sex life that is healing, rewarding, connecting, uplifting, life-affirming is impossible 'cause there's no foundation to start from.

Neil Sattin: Right. Can you just talk for a minute about where this book was born from? And maybe the ways that you've seen women confront problems in terms of being disconnected from their sexuality? From their sexy? And what that process of reclamation looks like for them?

Alexandra Solomon: This book was born from a number of places. It was born from, I think, the way in which in my training as a licensed clinical psychologist and a couples therapist, I think the models that I was taught, were that when you're sitting with a couple, help them talk more nicely to each other, help them argue less, and then the sex will follow. You don't have to directly talk about sex. And there's a way in which that paradigm reinforced, I think, a message that I carried within me for a long time, that sex is not a polite topic. It really shouldn't be talked about or looked at, and if you're curious about it, something is wrong with you. So I think there were ways in which that message from my field kind of reinforced what I had done to myself my whole life, of just feeling like I'm feeling simultaneously fascinated by this entire world and topic, and then feeling like that wasn't really polite [chuckle] to be interested in or fascinated about. And so my own evolution of wanting to integrate love and sex within the work I do with couples, within my own life, and then just the work that I've done at Northwestern with graduate students and undergraduate students and being smacked again and again with my awareness of how inadequate sex education in our country is.

Alexandra Solomon: And how my students are sitting in front of me and I would give a lecture in my Marriage 101 course about sex, and basically invite them into this idea that sex is simultaneously a behavior, it's a thing that we do, instead of erotically-charged behaviors, and it's also this really powerful gateway into some of the most profound longings and questions that we have as humans. And just even that notion was radical to many of my students who had only ever talked about sex as something that is dangerous, dirty, forbidden, fearful, or titillating, and really central, but not this sort of whole-hearted aspect of self and aspect of relationship, and so all of that kind of created this. And I think, also, the fact that we are living through this massive upheaval around gender and power with the Me Too Movement. And so I think it was this coming together of all of this where this book basically wouldn't leave me alone. [chuckle] Like, I felt like I chose to write Loving Bravely, and I felt like this book was like, "Are you ready now? Can we go now? Can you just... " And it became easier to just sit down and create the table of contents than it was to just keep forestalling it.

Neil Sattin: Right, right, but yeah...

[overlapping conversation]

Alexandra Solomon: It felt really urgent. It felt really urgent to me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I think that's so true. I'm so glad your book was birthed and is... And by the time you're listening to this interview, it will be out. It's coming out February 2nd, Groundhog's Day of 2020. So you'll be able to get it. And yeah, it is such an important conversation because those scripts that have been handed to us around sexuality and the ways that our lack of education has gotten in the way, perhaps, of really getting in touch with who we are sexually, and not having a culturally accepted way of just exploring together 'cause so much sexuality has to happen behind closed doors and often in secret. We pretend it's not happening, but it's obviously happening. And so inviting the conversation into the public space, and one thing that I really love about your book, Taking Sexy Back, is that you explore all of these different dimensions of connecting into who you are as a sexual being. And each of those is a great gateway into understanding yourself in a new way, and then stepping forward into sexual connection with others with that new knowledge.

Alexandra Solomon: Yes, exactly, exactly. And it's not about, like there is... In the book we really are looking at, as you're saying, these scripts and these highly gendered scripts. And it's not about blaming or finger pointing or, God forbid, male bashing or any of that. It's not that at all. The ways in which we're given these gendered messages cut all of us off from living wholeheartedly and fully. I just couldn't tackle all of it in one book, but you could speak to this like as a boy and a man. Boys and men are given horrific messages around their own sexuality. And it's what drives me crazy about these dress code laws that schools are... Rules that schools will do. This idea that girls' shorts have to be this length and girls' tank tops straps have to be this width.

Alexandra Solomon: And one of the things it does is it reinforces this idea, this message to boys, that your sexuality is so dangerous and so out of control that the world has to be protected from you or from the power of your sexual energy, versus teaching boys that they, sure, erotic energy courses through you but here's how you ground it and here's how you harness it, and here's how you boundary it, and here's how you treat it with respect. And if those were the tools that we gave to boys... I think that's just... I don't know. I haven't grown up in this lifetime in the masculine, so I didn't have those messages, but I don't know what that does. And that was the early messages that you were given, was this fear of being perceived as creepy or dangerous. I just think it's all problematic and it keeps people coming... Whether it's male bodies or female bodies or one of each coming together, it keeps those bodies from coming together in a way where each person can feel integrated and ready to step into that space of intimacy and closeness.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I mean that's why I think your book is a valuable resource for whoever on the... Wherever you are on the spectrum. I did find myself reading it and nodding for each chapter and being like, "Yeah, guys need this just as much." And that's been definitely a journey for me as an adult has been reclaiming my own desires, my end, and where those things emerge at different places on the spectrum as well. In what you were just describing, I was just thinking about, yeah, how men in many cases need to learn how to be in touch with their bodies and with receptivity in sex and really being attuned and because they're so conditioned to be pursuers and achievers throughout life, but definitely in the sexual realm as well. And for women, I think part of that reclaiming is also being willing to engage in seizing your desire and owning it and being willing to do that just like any guy would. And we're wrestling, of course, with what's culturally acceptable, back to the very first thing we were talking about. But how beautiful it can be when two people come together and each person owns who they are, what they want, what their fears are, what their desires are, what feels good, what doesn't feel good, and when they can do it in a way that doesn't judge the other. I mean, we all need that when we're in the bedroom.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right, that's right, that's right. And it makes sense that we have gotten stuck because the information has gotten stuck. One of the things that was so interesting in the research for the book was to look at this book couldn't have been written 20 years ago because we've had a burgeoning of science around female sexuality. So we, for years, remain willfully ignorant about female sexual anatomy even. So medical anatomy textbooks would blur out the clitoris and it wasn't fully mapped, fully imaged until really, really recently, like 20 years ago recently. So it was the clitoris was thought of as this little button when, in fact, it's this larger structure that extends deep into the body and the potential for pleasure is incredible. In fact, that's the only job that the clitoris has is pleasure. And so, what might be different if a woman came into her sexuality knowing that and honoring it, and what if then sexual scripts were built to really honor that part of a woman's body in a way that the traditional heterosexual script, which we as a culture have really held up one particular sex act, we've held up penetrative sex as the most sex in sort of this hierarchy of sex acts.

Alexandra Solomon: We learn it on the playground in elementary school, first base and second base and third base and home run. So this whole kind of script around how far you're trying to get and how far you're going with this goal being penetrative sex, which the research shows tends to not be the most orgasm producing part of the realm of sexual behaviors because it's not the most... It doesn't maximize clitoral stimulation potentially. For some women it does, for others it doesn't. But just this idea that if we only have one story line, what are we limiting for any of the bodies in the bedroom? As you're saying, men exploring receptivity and not having to be in charge and not having to perform and having their own... Being not so limited by the ideas of what they ought to be doing in the bedroom and... So just the opportunity to deconstruct all of that and challenge it and push back a little bit is really important and really healing.

Alexandra Solomon: And that's what we found. I had this amazing team of graduate students and undergraduate students with me as we were researching and writing, and we moved through a lot of sadness, a lot of anger at the limits that have been put on people's experiences. And then to connect the loop back to what you said in the beginning, that it affects our relationships. If we can't cultivate erotic connection in our intimate relationships, they're going to suffer. Having a really fun sex life kind of buffers a couple against the storms and the annoyances and the irritations of partnership.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. Just one thing that came up for me about that question of anatomy and how we've learned that. I did wanna mention for you listening, that way back, this is one of my earliest episodes, episode 23, we had Sheri Winston on the show, she wrote Women's Anatomy of Arousal. So that's another great doorway into this question of how does feminine sexuality work and also what is literally happening, like what parts are there to work with and to enjoy? So it's so important to increase your awareness of what's there and how it operates and to not be driven by old stories, like the love button, or what you see in porn, which is, again, occasionally informative, but it's not designed to be informative generally. So there are some genres of porn that are probably better for what we're talking about here. But that's probably not the majority of them at this moment. You'd have to seek it out, I would think. The feminist porn and...

Alexandra Solomon: Exactly, exactly. Right. At the back of the book, there's a resource guide and we did include some feminist, ethical, carefully curated erotic places for erotic materials. 'Cause, right. You're right. You can't paint it with a broad brush. But it's a very different era of erotic materials. We're living in free streaming 24/7 porn. And a lot of it isn't, as you're saying, created with intentionality in mind and really honoring the science of women's bodies, the realities of women's bodies. And that can be another then force of restriction, that it looks like I should like this behavior and I don't like this behavior. How do I reconcile that? And often times the way we reconcile it is thinking something's wrong with us. Feeling ashamed.

Neil Sattin: Right. You mentioned someone in your book that you were working with who really wanted to like hook-up culture. And she came to you with this mission of there's something going on. Like this culture surrounds me, and maybe would it be helpful if you explain what you mean by hook-up culture versus conscious, casual sex culture or all the different possibilities there. But you talk about how she was really unhappy and came to you wanting to figure out if there was a way to be happy in that world. So let's start there maybe.

Alexandra Solomon: Sure. So hook-up culture is a term that we associate oftentimes with college campuses and the idea that oftentimes physical intimacy, sexual intimacy comes first and then emotional intimacy is retrofitted, so that people are finding each other sexually. Oftentimes, hook-ups are alcohol-fueled, not a ton of communication. And there's a sense, there's sort of an aura or a sense or a feeling that you should like it. You should like that and you kinda have to like it. And in fact, it's the only pathway into intimate relationship. And so the student was... In the first book, we work with a name, connect, chose, process. So she's trying so hard to use this change process to make herself go from hating hook-ups. In fact, she would hook up with a guy at a party and then go home and wash her lips or anywhere he had touched her.

Alexandra Solomon: Just felt really dirty and awful. And so she was trying so hard to move, what she thought she needed to do is move through the discomfort, so she'd get good at this thing that in her mind, and I think in the minds of lots of young people, you should be good at, like you should be able to do this. The idea is that it is sexual liberation or it just is necessary, it's what you have to do. What I wanted her to do really was honor the wisdom of her body. Her body was communicating to her so clearly; feeling her lips were numb afterwards. The data could not be clearer that she was really overriding something powerful inside of her body. And in fact, the research around hook-up culture shows that young people are tolerating it, but not really reveling in it, not really deeply, deeply enjoying it. It just feels like it's a necessary pathway.

Alexandra Solomon: But I do make a distinction between hooking up and then conscious, casual sex, 'cause there are times in a person's life where that really might be a beautiful, healing, necessary time. But what it has to be founded with... Create a foundation of an understanding of where are our boundaries, what are we both interested in, what are we each available for. So a really lovely, conscious, casual, sexual experience needs to have that kind of co-created understanding of what's the space that we're entering into. And so we spend a lot of time in the book helping people just feel entitled to understanding their own motivation and distinguishing that and the choice of fear versus love. "I choose to hook up 'cause I'm afraid there's nothing else for me," or "I'm afraid I am weird if I don't like hooking up," versus love, "Choosing something 'cause I really want it. It feels great to me. It's a space of learning and healing and play and escape."

Neil Sattin: Right, right. I've enjoyed your framing of it in the book. At first it kinda jarred me. I was like, "Oh, no. You're taking a stand for love. Like sex has to be about love? What are you talking about, Alexandra?"

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: But then, what you just explained, that if we're talking about the paradigm that we operate from and are we choosing things because we're afraid that if we say no to sex with this person in this moment, we're gonna suffer some consequence, versus being in a more love-centered place where you're focused on what brings you joy in the world and what enlivens you. Yeah, I would love for every single person to have those kinds of experiences be the foundation of how they connect with other people sexually.

Alexandra Solomon: Right, right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Alexandra Solomon: And sometimes we don't know until we know. So in the book, we also talk about FGOs, which I call these fucking growth opportunities, where it's just like, "Oh, that is not my best pathway". Sometimes we have to do it in a way that leaves us feel... That's just... And so I think around sexuality, around this unfolding story of who we are sexually, there has to be a ton of self-compassion. Just a lot of gentleness about, "Okay, so that didn't work for me. What do I wanna learn from that and what do I want to know going forward?"

Neil Sattin: Right, right. Yeah, can we just give everyone in this moment the permission to make mistakes? And I'm making the little quotey things around "mistakes" because I think what you're pointing to is that most of these things aren't actual mistakes, they are opportunities that we have to learn about ourselves. And there is that aspect of sexuality where there are some things that you're only gonna learn relationally, you're only gonna learn it when you're with another person and experiencing something. It can't all happen... A lot can happen in the privacy of your room. But not all... Not all of it.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. That's right.

Neil Sattin: So that being said, let's dive in a little bit to what can we do on our own? What are some of those gateways that we were talking about earlier? And physical, developmental, emotional, mental. So, I'm thinking of those pathways in so that everyone listening can have a sense of like, "Alright, how do I enter into this way of reclaiming who I am sexually?" What are some places to start?

Alexandra Solomon: Right. I think, so the reason that I organized the book the way that I did, with these seven different realms, is that we have different... We all have different journeys, we all have different places where we get locked up, so our work is to find areas where we feel blocked, constrained, where shame lives, where inhibition lives, where fear lives. And it might be different for different people, like on my team. So, one of the seven realms is spirituality. For some people, their early religious training, they receive shame loaded messages that can really, really get in the way of feeling permission to just be who you are, as you are. And so, for one member of my team, the work on that chapter was very, very powerful for her. She identified a lot of ways in which she was felt hurt by her early religious training, how it created shame inside of her. And for another gal, who grew up in China without any religion, it really didn't speak to her. She could kind of resonate with this idea of sex as being a spiritual experience, and being something that is sort of transcendent and can tap us into those big feelings of whatever, one-ness, and...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, union.

Alexandra Solomon: Connection to... Yeah, but that was... For her, that was more about nature rather than anything we had to do with a spirituality or a religion. So, but another chapter for her was really where she identified that her shame loaded stories lived. And so, there are these seven different realms where we may find some work that we need to do to kind of identify a block and then heal it. So, that was why we organized the book the way the way that we do, 'cause we're just... There's so much diversity in how we show up sexually and what's challenging for us. And I think for a lot of us, the chapter about physical was important because what's clear is sometimes body image stuff can get in the way. We're in, we've got a great partner, we have a partner who is ready to connect with us and create experiences that are pleasurable, and we end up locked in our own heads because we are very, very, very self-critical about our bodies. And that makes sense because there are entire industries that I built on selling us the idea that we are not thin enough, fit enough, whatever enough, and those messages come with us into the bedroom, especially when we're naked and exposed and feeling vulnerable. And so, that can... Those scripts in our... The tapes that play in our head about our hips, or our stomach, whatever it is, sort of body image ones can be a source of inhibition and can really block a sense that we're entitled to feeling good in the bodies that we live in.

Neil Sattin: So, let's just assume that almost everyone has something about their body that is like that for them. Where would we start? What kinds of questions would we ask? Or how would we get to the heart of the ways that we feel shame about our physical bodies and take some new steps around that?

Alexandra Solomon: I think it can be helpful to develop that kind of a critical eye towards realizing that these messages about our bodies are designed to make us feel insecure so that we buy a product or do a thing that we sort of then, when we just mind mindlessly internalize that message, we are perpetuating that whole cycle. So, there's a way in which a sort of a feminist consciousness can inoculate us against those messages so that when the thought comes up in our heads, we can let it go and come back to something that is more self-compassionate. I think mindfulness... So, the researcher who wrote the forward to the book, Dr. Lori Brotto was based in Canada, and she was really troubled by this finding that almost half of women, especially partnered women, struggle with low sexual desire, and she created a mindfulness training program. She simply taught women mindfulness skills and then invited them to use those skills in the bedroom. So, sometimes it's as simple as noticing the thought come up. "How do my hips look right now?" for example. And then just knowing, "Oh, that's a thought. That's a thought." And sort of letting it pass over and then coming back to sensation. So, mindfulness can be a really powerful tool towards helping us notice a troubling thought, and then let it go and come back to, "I'm entitled to this. I'm entitled to feeling good. I'm allowed to feel good in this body that I live in". And that can be a helpful shift.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah and you're pointing to a degree of presence in the bedroom. I love how we keep talking about the bedroom, 'cause it could be the kitchen or the living room or a public park. Take precautions if there are cops around, be careful. But you have to be able to stay within you and to notice what's actually happening for you in a moment like that. So, maybe some of these things around body image are even easier, at least initially, privately, just in front of a mirror, which I think for some of us can also be challenging, to stand in front of a mirror naked and look at yourself and take in the whole picture.

Alexandra Solomon: Right, right. Yeah. And just... There's a way in which I think it's really helpful to grieve, to grieve that I have been doing this around my body for so many years. Or to feel really... Let ourselves feel really sad that the only way... There's a beautiful poem in the book by Holly Holden that is just basically an invitation to just being really gentle with our body, really honoring it as this physical home, the source of delight, of sensation, of connection, and I think that's a practice. My gosh, I think that's a practice and I don't think we're ever done. I think those old stories about how we should look, and then whatever we think we've figured out, we get a little older and the body changes. It's like this constant journey towards self love isn't done, but I think we can get... We can start to get savvier about noticing that I'm doing that to myself again.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I have an interesting story about that. Something that happened with me recently, that's actually not about sex at all, but realizing a place where I had internalized some beliefs. I've spoken a bit on the show, off and on, about my own tendencies to be a little chaotic in terms of how I keep house. And I had this realization that every time I saw a pile of something, that I would have an internal message that would say, "There's something wrong with you." Just that pile means there's something wrong with you that you cannot keep your... And it might be a pile all of amazing books that I'm reading for the podcast, but the fact that it's there and these books aren't in my bookshelf or whatever it is. And what a difference it has made to me since realizing that, of seeing a pile and simply saying, "There's nothing wrong with you." Like, this pile doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. And in fact, and I think this is the turn towards self-compassion, it's like, in fact, there's nothing wrong with you. Look at all these amazing books that you have to read, just to use that example.

Neil Sattin: So, being able to look in the mirror and look and see your hips, or whatever part of your body it is, and say, "Oh wow, I'm looking at this part of me and thinking there's something wrong with me." What is it like to just be like, "There's nothing wrong with you," and, "What is there to celebrate about this?" or "How can I embrace the part of me that's judging me, and offer that part some tenderness?" Like, oh, maybe there's even some grieving there. Not just in how we do it to ourselves, but this is who I am, and I'm not that person that I see on TV, or in the porn movie, or walking... My next door neighbor, whoever we're judging ourselves against. To be able to be like, "Okay, that's not me. And now, how do I turn to celebrate who I am and what I have to offer?"

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, yep, yep. And this illusion that I will feel more, I will feel more X, I will feel more desirable, I will feel more competent if I lose five more pounds, if I have five fewer piles. This idea, we end up putting this idea that I'm gonna feel okay once I do that thing that's out there, and it's a road to nowhere. Every time I have held up one of those ideas for myself, I'm gonna feel better once this thing happens, I get there and it doesn't happen. I just come up with a new thing. It's a hamster wheel. And so, that is really radical and revolutionary, to just find a sense of wholeness right now, with the pile, with the curvy hips, [chuckle] whatever the thing is. It's just, find that sense of I am worthy as I am right now, because that's the only place, to circle back to sex, that's the only place from which we can feel entitled to pleasure. I can only feel entitled to pleasure if I... Allowing myself to feel okay is what then opens me to say, "Okay, I can be with my partner, and let my partner help me feel really good." Or put myself out there to find a partner that I can do that with. I can only... That's... And it's not... I don't know, it's not... It's just a practice, it's coming back to... I find it helpful to say, "That's my trauma, not my truth." When that stuff comes up, that's my trauma, that's my trauma telling me that I'm awful at this, or this is not enough, or this is... And then coming back, it's trauma, it's not truth.

Neil Sattin: Right, and those are glorious moments, really, when you see it happening. And so, when you've witnessed that for yourself, those are the golden opportunities. Maybe they're FGGOs, the fucking golden growth opportunities, like where it's happening right there and you get to see like, "Oh, I carry this with me." Or, "This is how I judge myself." Or, "This is how I choose partners who reinforce this negative belief system instead of partners who celebrate me." 'Cause how often does that happen, where we choose people who are unconsciously, probably, reinforcing the ways that we judge ourselves?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's maybe an important piece, too, I think for women who are partnered with men, I think that men have... Men didn't... Any individual man didn't create these wounds. Hopefully, I think. In abusive relationships, certainly that does happen, but I think a man can be such a powerful ally to a woman, and so, I think that there is a piece about around some of this body image stuff or just that kind of affirmation of, "I'm just... I don't view you that way. I don't want... When I'm making love to you, I'm not... Just so you know that you may be doing this to yourself, but I'm not doing that to you." And that can be lovely. It can't be the whole thing, 'cause shame is about my relationship to me, but having a partner who is affirmative or who just even acknowledges, "That doesn't even cross my mind. I don't think about your body in that way when we're together," can just be a little icing on the cake. It can't be the whole thing. A man can't, any partner can't out-love, can't love us out of our shame, but a partner can certainly be with us and say, "Okay, I hear that you're doing that to yourself, but I don't do that to you, I don't treat you that way.

Alexandra Solomon: And there's something very powerful when it is in a heterosexual dyad, men who are willing to kind of bear witness to that. That's why I wrote a chapter at the end for an open letter to men whose partners have read this book, whether that's maybe male allies of or male partners, intimate partners, just about... It's hard, I think it's hard, as we kind of reset the balance around this painful historical patriarchal old stuff, as we try to heal that and reset the balance, there's a beautiful opportunity for men to step in as allies. They can't fix this, but they could certainly be allies.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that chapter I think is a beautiful invitation to how to be curious, how to... And how to show up as an ally, instead of doing things unwittingly that are detrimental when you're faced with vulnerability. And I also like that it's an invitation, that chapter, to the kind of thing that we've been naming, which is that everyone probably has a place where they can come to understand themselves a little bit better in this way as well and to question what's been handed to them. So interesting, so much of this really is shame reduction in some ways, like unearthing those places and going through the process of getting rid of it. I wanna name... I was reminded of this when you were talking about religious perspectives on sex, and one thing that you mentioned in your book is a study that someone did. Justin, I don't know how you pronounce his last name, Lehmiller, is that?

Alexandra Solomon: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. About the kinds of fantasies that people tend to have. And these are fantasies that people have no matter what their upbringing is though as I name them it will be obvious like why they might cause some conflicts for people, but I wanna name these so that you know that other people are thinking about this kind of thing, so you don't have to feel bad.

Alexandra Solomon: 95%, sorry. 95% of people. So he found... The first thing he found is that 95% of people had sexual fantasies. So it is normal to have sexual fantasies. Okay, go.

Neil Sattin: Okay. So the first one is multi-partner sex, like threesomes and orgies. The second is power, control and rough sex. The third is novelty, adventure, and variety, like things you've never tried, unique settings, having sex in public. The fourth is taboo and forbidden sex, like watching people have sex, licking someone's feet, having people watch you. The fifth is sharing partners and non-monogamous relationships. These are the top five. It took us all the way to number six to get passion and romance fantasy. So that's down toward the bottom of the list, and then we have erotic flexibility, like gender-bending and cross-dressing. And this is no matter who you are, that people are having fantasies like this. So I hope in hearing this list you realize like, "Oh my God, there's so much that we are not talking about," and why I think it's so important to have this space to talk about these things. Yeah, go ahead.

Alexandra Solomon: And just to kind of... There's this both and of our erotic imaginations are potentially really wild, broad, deep, expansive and we may in our lives not inhabit all that breadth and width. So those are two... That's a both and. That we can be expansive and show up with one partner. So maybe our fantasies become things we translate into real life and maybe not. But just the ability to tolerate, "Wow, my sexuality is really big and wide and curious." That's a piece of healing, rather than shutting it down, 'cause the moment we start to shut things down and quarantine them off, that's when things get scary. That's when we're more at risk of acting out if we can't tolerate our own complexity, we are far more likely to act out.

Neil Sattin: Right. So you're talking about creating a space where having those fantasies is okay. Like where and even if so... There's a difference, I think, in talking to your partner, let's say, and saying, "Oh I have this fantasy about someone else being in the bedroom with us." There's a difference between saying that and being like... And having your partner say like, "Oh really, tell me more about that, and what might that be like, and let's explore that." and to be received in a very non-judgmental way versus coming to your partner and saying, "I have this fantasy about having someone else with us in the bedroom, and his name is Raul, and I have his phone number, and I'm expecting him to come over tonight." So there, which in itself may not be a bad thing, but I'm just trying to point out here that there's a whole spectrum of what's possible in terms of how we accept each other, we accept ourselves then accept each other relationally, and create a space for those things to be alive because just naming something like that might fuel your completely monogamous sexual relationship with your long-term partner, where there's never gonna be a third person involved, but the fact that you've been accepted in that way, that your fantasy has been accepted, will be potentially so energizing for you rather than feeling like you have to keep things in the shadows.

Alexandra Solomon: Beautiful. Yeah, I think that's a great example...

Neil Sattin: Or that the fact that you have it is somehow gonna threaten the connection that you have, which is, I think, another piece of how you communicate about fantasies in ways that are non-threatening to each other.

Alexandra Solomon: Well, even just the example that you gave, the Raul example, it confronts... Sometimes we talk about toxic monogamy. This idea that we have monogamy has certainly been put... Sexual monogamy has been put out there as the norm. And sort of again in a hierarchical way, as the best way to love and be loved. And sometimes it goes so far that it's like any attraction, any fantasy that doesn't involve your partner is a slight against your partner. Then there's a way in which that paradigm is so narrow it makes all this stuff feel so dangerous and so threatening versus just a bit of expansiveness as you're saying. Just saying, this energizes me. Okay, then who knows where it goes from there, but just naming it and having a partner who doesn't need to go into that toxic monogamy space of like, "Oh my God, if my partner has any erotic energy that isn't directed solely to me all of the time, it means we are doomed. It means I suck, it means we're broken, it means we are doomed." That's just way too much pressure.

Neil Sattin: Oh my God, I wanna do a whole episode on toxic monogamy. But in lieu of doing that, what would you suggest for partners where that is happening, where they're unable to broach that topic without it igniting some sort of rupture in their connection.

Alexandra Solomon: Right. In the book, I talk about some ways that couples can... And I think talking about sex can be really hard. And if you've been together, especially if you've been together for a long time and you haven't talked about it, it can be really hard to find a way in, and I think that's a lot of couples' struggle. So it's really, it's normal. And given our conversation today, it's understandable. How would we ever know how to talk about sex? We certainly aren't taught that in school and we're... Anyway, so it makes sense why a couple may struggle talk about sex, but there may be some scaffolding. So, I give a list of examples I have collected over the years. I met a couple who talks about sex by putting puppets on their hands and the puppets talk about sex, so they put a bit of space between themselves and this conversation by using puppets. Or something like a book or a sexy scene in a movie, can be maybe a starting point. I'm always happy to have people put this on me. I don't know, I'm reading this book or listening to this podcast, and they were talking about this. And that can be nice, sort of a neutral sort of third-party way in. And to just have it be framed as starting with, "I love us. I love us. I love what we're about. I love who we are. I love what we're going. I'm all in on this mission and I want... And I'm interested in this because I love us, because I'm excited to expand us."

Alexandra Solomon: So, that really... So, foregrounding the positivity and the commitment and the excitement, I think is also really helpful. And then, just being able to name when we're on the receiving end, like, "Ooh, ouch, okay, I have this urge to get defensive. I have this urge to tell myself a story that you're really saying that you're not happy with me and that I'm not enough for you." And just sometimes just naming that can be like, "Okay, good, I hear you're doing that. Let's put that off to the side. Can we put that in the corner and just keep going, 'cause I'm not saying that?" And sometimes it has to happen in a therapist's office. Sometimes, and I think that's a really legit reason to go to therapy. When I have a couple that's coming in after years and years of erotic neglect, I often think to myself, "I wish they had felt able to come in sooner and unpack this sooner." 'Cause that's a really legitimate question. It's really legitimate to say that long-term sexual monogamy is challenging. Long-term... Just being sexual is challenging. Long-term sexual monogamy is challenging, and it makes sense that there can be dry spells and breakdowns and miscommunication, and sometimes having somebody else there for the conversation is helpful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. So, totally agree with you there. And then just to circle back on that. So, there's naming and owning the importance of the connection. So, if you're the person who wants to bring something to your partner, saying, "You're important to me, and I'm bringing this to you because we are important to me." And then, you also named for a partner who's feeling reactive, to be able to name that and to recognize, "Wow, I'm hearing this and I'm being reactive." And so, that will... Hopefully, the act of bringing attention to it, hopefully that can also be held non-judgementally too. Like, it's okay that you are... That this is edgy for you to hear about this. There's something in that, "It's okay." You're okay for having this fantasy. I'm okay for having this reaction. We're gonna be okay. We're gonna navigate this together with this assumption that we'll get through, we'll be okay. There may be work for the reactive partner in examining their own self-worth issues, and doing that dance between being able to hear something like that without it going to the core of who they are or whether they feel like they're being accepted or loved by their partner. So much there.

Alexandra Solomon: There's so much there. And with the thinking about the example of if the question is around, this idea of bringing in a third person or somebody who watches, it may... An interesting place to go is to ask what is it about that that's so stimulating for you? What's so intriguing about that? So that's interesting, that's a more interesting question than when will it happen or who should it be. And maybe it happens and maybe it never happens, but to start way, way, way back at the beginning, about tell me more, like we said. Tell me more about how that stimulates you. What's so exciting about that? What is the kind of juice there within that narrative? Who do you get to be in that story? Who am I in that story? Understanding and being curious about the charge, the yearning, just that curiosity may be enough to kind of satisfy it and play with that energy, versus actually bringing in a third person. And who knows? We can separate the outcome from the process, and the process may be one that's very enlivening and engaging, separate and apart from whatever happens in real life with the actual fantasy.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. The purpose of a fantasy isn't necessarily that it has to happen.

Alexandra Solomon: Right, right.

Neil Sattin: There's something that just crossed my mind that I'm hoping you can shed some light on, 'cause it jumped out at me when I was... And it was back in this part about fantasies. I love the puppets thing, by the way. There was something you named there, which was couples talking about themselves in the third person. That was one I hadn't heard before, but I really... She really enjoys it when you do this, and he feels really vulnerable in this moment, just as a way of getting that enough of that distance, but it also feels like it could be really fun and cool to be narrating what's happening as it's happening. Yeah, I don't know, I like that.

Alexandra Solomon: Totally, absolutely. Right, right, right.

Neil Sattin: So, the fantasy thing was... 'Cause we're talking about reclaiming your sexuality and that an important piece of that is reclaiming it so that it comes from the inside out, as you named at the very beginning, so that your sexuality isn't developing in relation to how other people see you and how other people think of you, and I lost the page, so I'm not gonna be able to read it exactly, but there was this category of fantasy that was about being seen and appreciated and... Right, oh, here it is. Object of desire's self-consiousness, and I'm interested in this, the dance between it actually is really compelling to be the object of someone's desire, which in a way is about how you're being seen and noticing that you're being seen, but without having your desirability be based on how people see you. Do you see where it's...

[laughter]

Alexandra Solomon: It's so complicated.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, so the object of desire is this idea that... And the research has found that this is something that is more compelling, more stimulating for women than for men, but the idea that somebody sees me as desirable spikes my desire. Being wanted spikes my desire. And it helps me... It is about helping me tap into me. I just did an IGTV video about this. So last weekend, I was heading home from the gym, and I texted my husband and I said, "Will you go shopping with me today?" And it was so clear to me what I was wanting. So, this book launch, I want a couple of new dresses, and I know how I want to feel at these upcoming events. And so, I certainly could have gone shopping myself, obviously, and I have. But the idea of him being in the dressing room, down the hall, I go try something on, I come down the hall and show him. And it's not even about him saying thumbs up or thumbs down or him saying, "You look beautiful." It's about him holding space while I feel beautiful.

Alexandra Solomon: It's a subtle but important difference. What I was saying is, "Can you be the bass note? Can you hold a steady bass note while I do this thing that I do," where I play in different colors, different textures. And I find pathways into my own sense of my own experience of my beauty, my aliveness, but will you be with me while that happens. It's a really subtle difference. And it's an important pathway for me, and for a lot of women as the research shows, to connection to the erotic is this idea that, basically, you're watching me feel into my own erotic self, my own alive self. I think sometimes it could feel transactional. I'm asking for him to do something for me, but it's not transactional, it's just an invitation to connection. This is for me, what I know about me is this for me is powerfully connecting. Will you join me in that?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so there's something in there of really how you know yourself and you know that this is gonna be something that's going to really feel good, that will bring you pleasure and... Yeah, so knowing yourself in that way, being able to communicate it. What are you gonna say? I saw you.

Alexandra Solomon: Well, just that it's been this way... Todd and I've been together forever, but I have memories of... I love to dance. Dance is a humongous part of me, and he hates it. So, there would be times at parties where literally I'd be like "Can you just stand on the dance floor?" I would use him like a prop. He would just stand there, and I would dance around him. I'm just "I just need you with me while I do this thing." It really is good for both of us. It's good for both of us because I get to feel the way that I know I want to feel to show up with you, to feel close to you. It's just fun. It's just such a part of our... And I think that's part of it, too, is that now in year whatever of our relationship, these kinds of things, him going shopping with me, also has that circular sense that it reminds me and reminds us of how we used to be and who we used to be. We used to shop together a lot when I was from a suburb in Detroit and he lived in Chicago, and I would come visit him, and we would go shopping on Michigan Avenue. I'd never been to Chicago, so it also had this element of reminiscing, which is also really good for couples, to tap into who they used to be. That's very connecting and intimacy provoking, inspiring.

Neil Sattin: Well, Alexandra, one of the many things that I appreciate about you and your work is how well you bring together so many different writers and thinkers and put it all together in a way that's really practical. And just like Loving Bravely was a very practical book, Taking Sexy Back is another great example of how you pull all these things together, and it becomes a very useful manual for diving in. So, I hope that you listening that you've gotten a taste of that and just how much practical information is here along with ways of talking about sexuality that illuminate the challenges that we face. So much of that is seeing like, "Oh, right, this is a challenge. This is shame that I carry with me, this is a story that I carry with me, this is how my partner and I are missing each other." Having awareness of that. You do such a great job of illuminating that for the reader. Something I really appreciated. And in what you were just talking about, I was thinking about how we identify what we like and what we don't like. And you bring up Emily Nagoski's work around the dual... What's it again, the Dual?

Alexandra Solomon: The Dual Control Model.

Neil Sattin: Right. So, there are those things that excite us. Go ahead.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, just that. That our sexual desire functions with an accelerator and a break. So as you were gonna say, things that excite us and things that shut us down.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so what you were just offering is, I think, a great example of that, or at least that's how it showed up for me, like, "Oh, right, this is Alexandra knowing this gets me going," and inviting Todd your husband into the dance with you.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. Versus playing yahtzee which is gonna just slam my break real hard.

[laughter]

Alexandra Solomon: Playing yahtzee, doing anything that's competitive with him really, really shuts me down. Now, for another person, that might be incredibly connecting and gets them going, to be competitive, to be... I just know for myself, no. Hard no.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so interesting.

Alexandra Solomon: It's so idiosyncratic and that's why the whole thing about sexual self-awareness, really understanding ourselves, is so vital and so valuable.

Neil Sattin: Well, Alexandra Solomon, thank you so much for being with us here today. Your book, Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationships You Want, is a valuable addition to anyone's self-growth or relationship growth library. And if you want a transcript of today's episode, there's so much that we've talked about, you can visit neilsattin.com/sexy or text the word PASSION to the number 33444. And also, if you wanna find out more about Alexandra and her work, you can visit dralexandrasolomon.com, where you can find out all about her, what she's doing, where she's speaking. Yeah. And it sounds like you're on Instagram as well. What's your Instagram handle?

Alexandra Solomon: Dr.alexandra.solomon.

Neil Sattin: Okay, great. I haven't really figured out how to play in that world, so I'm glad you are doing it.

Alexandra Solomon: Oh, it is a world.

[laughter]

Alexandra Solomon: It's a world.

Neil Sattin: Thank you so much for being here with me today, Alexandra.

Alexandra Solomon: Thank you, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Feb 22, 2020

It can be easy to avoid being judgmental with people that aren't close to you, but what do you do when you feel yourself getting critical or testing the people with whom you're the most vulnerable? How do you shift from judging back to connection? How do you deal with the pain that you might uncover when you own the fears at the heart of being judgmental? And what are some realistic expectations to have around the process of grieving? In this week's episode I answer YOUR questions as a followup to a few of our earlier episodes.

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

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Resources:

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Feb 14, 2020

How do we heal ourselves, our relationships, and the world we live in - all at once? How has our society created rifts within us (and between us) that get in the way of fulfilling relationships? With indigenous wisdom that has been handed down over thousands of years, today’s guest will help you heal the splits in your life and develop deeper integrity. Her name is Sherri Mitchell, and she is the author of “Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change”. A member of the Penobscot Nation, Sherri has also been actively involved with indigenous rights and environmental justice for more than 25 years. Instead of turning a blind eye to the ways that our cultural legacy gets in the way of connection and healing, today we will walk together down a practical path of truth, healing, and spirit.

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

Sponsors:

With Real Roses that Last a Year, Venus Et Fleur offers luxurious, bespoke arrangements that will be a reminder of your thoughtfulness long after the day you give them. Visit VenusETFleur.com/ALIVE and enter promo code ALIVE for complimentary shipping in the US thru 2/29 at 11:59 pm EST.

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Resources:

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Visit this episode's page on our website - https://www.neilsattin.com/sacred to download the transcript of this episode with Sherri Mitchell. Or text "PASSION" to 33444.

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Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. I like to bring in all kinds of ways to help us heal and grow and to take on the issues that impact us most, both in our lives, just as humans on this planet and particularly in our closest relationships with our partners. And, I'm often looking for new or different ways or in this case of what we're going to talk about today, ways that have been with us as humans for thousands of years. And there's something powerful in that. There's something powerful in the wisdom that's come down through generations and generations of connection to spirit, connection to life, connection to love, connection to wisdom. And within us being able to heal the ways that we ourselves have been brought into a culture that asks us to do one thing, like, for instance, fall in love and marry someone and and be happy with them for the rest of our days. But in the end, doesn't offer a lot in the ways of really how to do that successfully. And in fact, it could be that at the very root of how we learn to exist in this world. There are some core elements that are getting in our way. So. For today's conversation, I have a very special guest who I found out about through Peter Levine in a conversation one day, when I was asking him about whose work does he find or did he find to be really powerful. And that might be a great guest for the show. And as luck would have it, the person that he suggested lives right here in the same state where I live in Maine. And she is the author of the recent book "Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit Based Change." Her name is Sherri Mitchell and she is a member of the Penobscot tribe here in Maine. And she is also a distinguished lawyer and humanitarian and has been working for years in the fields of international human rights. And she has several projects that are helping to heal the world at large and in the process to heal the relationships that we experience with each other and all of the divisions that are happening in the world right now and within ourselves, as well. 

Neil Sattin: So if you want to get a transcript of today's episode, then you can visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-sacred. Or as always, you can text the word passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. And those instructions for downloading the transcript are fairly simple. You know, enter your name and email address. Today, we're going to tap into a deeper set of instructions. A deeper set of instructions that are here to help us thrive and change the way that we live. 

Neil Sattin: So, Sherri Mitchell, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive. 

Sherri Mitchell: Thank you for having me, Neil. 

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering if we could start with that sense of kind of where we are right now. That was something that really struck me in reading your book. Right off the bat, this description of how the experience that we're born into kind of sets us up for division from each other. I'm wondering if we can start there with this sense of the ways that that Western society is perpetuating a sense of division that is alienating us from each other and from ways of actually healing as a society. 

Sherri Mitchell: I think it's more than just contemporary society. This is something that has been conditioned into us, embedded into our thinking for millennia, that we have at least two millennia of real belief in separation and this idea that difference is dangerous and that oneness means homogenization. And so, when we're coming together and we're approaching one another, there's this inbred fear that we carry with us into those encounters. And the discomfort that we're feeling is something that we've also been taught not to experience, not to be able to be at peace with our discomfort. Any type of discomfort or pain, we're conditioned to deflect it, suppress it, project it, medicate it, avoided it all costs. And so that prevents us from really sinking into the discomfort that naturally arises when we come together because of this conditioning and prevents us from moving through the masks and the walls that have been created for us by others and handed down to us as this epigenetic inheritance within our DNA and our blood memory. And in order to be able to really address that and override it, we have to really become intimate with it. And that requires us to overcome a great deal of conditioning and ingrained thinking about how we view ourselves in the larger context of life. And so, you know,it's not a simple task of just realizing that the idea that difference is dangerous is inherently wrong. The idea that oneness and sameness are not equal. It's it's not just overcoming those ideas. It's overcoming impulses that arise within our limbic system that make us feel that we are in danger. That there's some threat to our lives being posed to us when we're facing this discomfort. And so we have to be able to work through all of those things and have a greater understanding of those things so that we can move forward into a path of healing that legitimately gets us to the place where that healing can occur. 

Sherri Mitchell: You know, one of the things that I have been quoted as saying is that we can't demand anything of others or even of ourselves, if we're unwilling to create the world in which that thing that we're asking for can be made available to us. And so it's really about creating a world where that healing can actually take place. In that world that we have to create is one that is filled with understanding and awareness of where we've been and how we got here. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and yeah. There's so much to unpack in what you were just saying. So I'm just kind to like sitting there in the in the midst of all that and feeling the power of, yeah, just how ingrained some of these responses are and also how they're not things that you would necessarily notice because they're just kind of what arise from, well, it almost feels naturally. But I say that and at the same time, I know that the experience, for instance, of children is is very different. So even a child who's carrying the lineage of trauma, let's say, through their genes, in their DNA. You know, for me, when I think about my legacy, there's this legacy of worry that that seems to have come from my forbearers. And I'm doing my part to heal that worry and learn to trust life. But the children, at least the young children that I know, they seem to get it in a different way. The interconnectedness that we that we actually are a part of. So somewhere along the way, the learning happens or the learning meets the legacy. 

Sherri Mitchell: Right. 

Neil Sattin: And we have to unravel that somehow. 

Sherri Mitchell: Mm hmm. Yeah. I have a story from when my son was small. He's a grown man now. And when he was three years old, getting ready to go to a community gathering and I was putting his native regalia on him, you know, and I had mine on and we were getting ready to go out the door. And I asked him, "Do you want to see herself?" And he excitedly said he wanted to see himself. And he was, you know, three years old at the time. We didn't have cable in the house. I was very, very careful about what I allowed him to ingest in that way. And we lived in a tribal community. So he was growing up in a very strong native family, surrounded by native people. At that time, and when he looked at himself in the mirror, he started to cry. 

Sherri Mitchell: And I asked him what's wrong, and he said, "I don't want to be in Indian, and they always kill the Indians."

Neil Sattin: Wow. 

Sherri Mitchell: At three years old. Wow. And it broke my heart. And my mind is reeling. Where did he get this idea? We're not watching John Wayne in our living room. You know, there he's certainly not surrounded by an ideology that I could pinpoint in any way that would give him this idea that he was a target because of his identity. And yet at three years old, he had somehow absorbed this idea and was able to articulate it back to me. This understanding that indigenous people are targeted for death. And you know that that was the point in time for me where I really started to look into more deeply the ways that we form ideas, the ways that we formulate our sense of safety in the world, how we develop our sense of belonging. And probably 15 years later, I ended up working for the civil rights division of the Maine Attorney General's Office as an educator. And one of the stories that came forward during one of these sessions was of two women, one of whom was at the playground with her, her child and her child, was two or three years old the time. And a mother who was a little person, whose child was also a little person, came walking up to the swim swing set and her child became inconsolable. She was terrified of them. And the mother was horrified. She kept trying to make it OK, make it OK. And she could tell that the other mother was feeling really uncomfortable and that it was hurtful for her. And she was horrified to think, where would my child get this idea that these other human beings, who look different than than we do, might be dangerous to her? And there was there was no immediate explanation for that belief that this child was acting out of. 

Sherri Mitchell: Then there was another mother who was a black woman who said that when her child started daycare, they had had a similar reaction to another black child who had darker skin than that they did. And so somehow this child saw the darker skinned black child as being a danger to them. And so we have this this belief within us because our... for all of our cleverness, and there's air quotes around this advancement, we still haven't, you know, been able to deal with the part of our primitive brain that recognizes differences as danger. We're still responding to some of these challenges that come before us in the world. Certainly where we're dealing with a higher level of stress than perhaps we have and in a very, very long time. Certainly not throughout history, because we've had much more stressful times in our past. But as a species anyway. But we we're dealing with a degree of stress, where we're getting stressful impulses presented to us throughout the day, time and time and time again, trauma across the globe, playing out on our screens in real time before our eyes. And we don't have the mechanisms within our brain to be able to distinguish the difference between, you know, some of those things and being confronted with a saber tooth tiger. 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

Sherri Mitchell: Because we're still in that place. And so, you know, we have to start to purposely evolve our consciousness purposely work with these impulses, because people just say, "I don't know, I just have a feeling in my gut that that this, you know, that this person isn't trustworthy." And I remember that there was a lot of talk about that going on when Obama was running for president. And politics aside, what I think of Obama, what anybody else thinks of Obama, you know, isn't part of the discussion. But it was interesting to me to see that there were a lot of people who couldn't point to any one thing they didn't like about him. They just said there's just something about him that makes me feel that I can't trust him or makes me feel unsafe. And when I when I posed the question, do you think it could be that he's a black man? They immediately scoffed at that idea. But we have had this history of leaders that look a specific way, you know, these middle to elderly, white men who have become the image of acceptability for leadership. And then when people start coming along, that challenge, that image, we experience some of this cognitive dissonance where we can't we can't reconcile what we're seeing, the difference in what we're seeing with what we've learned to be identified with as safe. 

Sherri Mitchell: And so we're being confronted rapidfire right now with all kinds of things that don't meet the imagery that we have been taught to believe is the safe norm. We're experiencing that in regard to gender fluidity, for instance. We're experiencing that with a real change in the fabric of what leadership looks like, with the most diverse Congress being elected in the history of the country. Right. You know, there's there are all kinds of all kinds of things that are cropping up. And the backlash against that is deepening some of the trenches within our minds that are related to this embedded thinking. 

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah. And I mean, I'm also reflecting on relationships where the way that they tend to unfold, you fall in love and falling in love, whatever differences you notice in a person, we tend to find them charming or kind of gloss over them, and the initial phase of of relationship is about finding all the ways that you're the same. And then the reckoning starts to happen when you realize how different you are and where so many people are unequipped to navigate this terrain of, wow, you are different, and that feels dangerous to me the way that really different for me. And so it can happen in those really intimate interpersonal spaces as well as on the political or global scale like you're describing. And for me, it makes me wonder like, well, go ahead. Yeah. 

Sherri Mitchell: Well, I was just going to say it can be as simple as a difference between how we wash the dishes, right? 

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah. Yeah. I mean you hear the stories all the time of like, you know, that's not how the dishes go in the dishwasher. You know, if you have a dishwasher, I don't have one. But yeah, it's hilarious. But those things aren't so hilarious when you're trapped in the middle of it and you feel like a life with the person who's in front of you is going to be one where you where you are truly in danger. And so you're responding from that place. So whether it's in your home or we're walking down the street, it gets me really curious about now that we've identified that there is something deep within us that recoils in some way from what we perceive as a division between us and another. What do you know about how to how to bridge that gap in a way that that brings that brings connection back? 

Sherri Mitchell: I think that the first step, as it is with so many things, is just acknowledging that there is a problem with our thinking and realizing that we don't have to follow the dictates of all of the voices in our heads. One of the one of the things that came to my attention years ago, was this realization that I had this belief that things should be done a certain way. And one of the most common phrases in my family was, why are you doing it like that? And you know, and if you couldn't explain why you were doing it the way that you were doing it, then you were discredited. 

Sherri Mitchell: And so, it became this this kind of this defensive mechanism that developed within me towards defending my way of doing things that caused problems in the relationship that I was in, because it hadn't occurred to me that other ways might be equally as valid and that they did not pose a threat to my identity or sense of value and worth in the world. And so learning to recognize that we have these ways of being that actually inhibit us from sharing intimacy with those that we want to be close to, even when we have a strong desire to be in close, intimate relationship with someone. All of these different ideas, I call them masks are preventing us from actually seeing the face of our beloved. And so the first the first part of that process is, is recognizing that we have these masks that are impeding our ability to see clearly the world that we know exists beyond our illusion. And so if we can first start to recognize that there are obstacles in our way that are preventing us from seeing clearly and begin to explore and examine them, not in a way that punishes, not in a way that pokes and prods, not in a way that tries to fix or resolve, but just in a way that allows us to understand more fully the processes by which we come to our conclusions. Then we can begin the process. Step two of engaging, those beliefs and ideas and applying our critical thinking and applying our core values. What do we really want to bring forward into our relationship with this person? Do we want to be able to give them full acceptance? Well, if we do? Then we need to really be fully accepting of ourselves first. How can we sit with and engage these processes that are rising up within us that are going to make us very uncomfortable? And just be there in the presence of those thoughts and ideas without having to respond to them? How can we be with our discomfort without having to immediately try to fix it or apply some balm to it? Projected outward, once we can learn that there is a safe place for us to be, with all of the things that make up who we are, then we can begin to make space for sitting with someone else in that same space. That true level of deep acceptance. And once we get to that place, how we load the dishwasher or whether we have a dishwasher becomes irrelevant. Right? We are able to see something much deeper in them because we understand the complexity within ourselves and that these automatic responses aren't a reflection of who we are. They're a reflection of how we've been taught to behave. And there's a very big distinction there between the two. And so, you know, we really have to engage this process of getting to know ourselves more deeply. And driving down the road, I can see something on the side of the road and a thought will automatically pop into my head. And I can attribute that thought to specific relative. Right? And I can say, OK, thank you, Uncle so-and-so, thanks for sharing. I'm gonna choose to see this differently in this moment. That's a process that we all have to go through and it requires us to be willing to show up in the moment that we're in with an awareness and to have a really heavy pause. You know, that's one of the challenges I think for us is that, there's so much rapidity, there's so much lack of time given to our our responses these days that it becomes a challenge. One of the things that I write about in the book is this concept of Indian time. 

Neil Sattin: Right. So fascinating to me. Yeah. 

Sherri Mitchell:Yeah. That's become kind of this cliche for being late, right? Oh, I'm running on Indian time and I used that excuse one time when I was in my in my early 20s and my grandfather sat me down and said, "How you're using this term is a misrepresentation of its true meaning. That what Indian time really is about is about taking the time to sit with something, you know, sit in circles, see it from all sides, really understand it before you make a decision. It's about making the time and taking the time to make a good decision and to make an informed decision." We don't do that with ourselves. We don't take the time or make the time to sit down and to understand ourselves fully and to understand the moment that we're in fully and to recognize the different voices that are coming in that might be informing us at that time, and then critically thinking about which information do I want to bring forward. We don't give ourselves that pause for that moment to to be able to do that. And so, I've talked to a lot of people who have wanted to sit with and learn from different indigenous elders that I'm connected to, and one of the first things that I explained to them is that there is absolutely no need to fill the silence with chatter, there's no need to fill the space with something that you can just let that space remain empty, and be patient for what will rise up, because there is a longer pause ratio for a lot of these indigenous elders than there is in the common way that we speak. And our tendency is that as soon as the other person stops talking, we have to fill that space with something. So as soon as the question is posed, we have to automatically give a response. If we can give ourselves a longer pause ratio between the inquiry and the answer, we can begin to give ourselves space, to really start consciously greeting the moment that we're in and, you know, that's a challenge for us because of the speed at which society is moving right now. 

Neil Sattin: Right. You're, for one thing, making me super self-conscious about not just jumping in with another question in this moment. But I was reflecting, too, on how even in podcast and and you have a podcast, right? "Love and Revolution Radio," are you still doing that? 

Sherri Mitchell: We're not still doing that. We stopped a little over a year ago. We took a pause. My co-host was was going through a challenging health crisis. And then we were both, you know, really, really super busy. And we're trying to figure out a way that we could continue to do it. So it's on pause for now. We may pick it back up down the road, but for now, it's we're on sabbatical. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. OK. Are our older episodes available for people to listen to? 

Sherri Mitchell: Oh, yeah. There are hundreds of episodes in the archives that people can listen to. 

Neil Sattin: Great. And the reason I brought it up was I was thinking about how the trend in podcast editing is to edit out all of the spaces. I think it's to maybe help people consume more content more quickly. And I like the first time my editor did that to one of my conversations, I was like. "Umm. It doesn't sound right." And so to me, that preserving that space is super important. But to really put it in perspective. I'm wondering if you could share your a little bit of your story around, because this is the part that really was fascinating to me was this sense of things can sometimes take a long time. And you mention the dreams that you kept having and not knowing if it was a sign of something that you were supposed to do in this lifetime or if you were simply meant to hold the story and that and pass it onto the next generation. And as I was reading that, I was just thinking about how different that is from I think the the more conventional perspective, which is kind of like I need to do something now, like it's up to me to effect change in this world or it's up to me to whatever it is, versus like, no, this could be I could just be a steward of this idea for someone else to carry when the time is right. 

Sherri Mitchell: Yeah. So the story you're talking about relates to one of our prophecies. And I had been having a dream since I was a small child so I was about four years old, this recurring dream about being in this place where runners were sent out in every direction through this mound space and these underground tunnels and and people from all over the world came and, a seed was brought up at the end by the elders that I was asked to go and retrieve. And that seed was the seed of the origins of our relationship. And so when I started in my 20s, when I started telling the elders about that dream, you know, I had been having that dream at that point in time for close to 20 years. And they said, well, that dream is connected to the prophecy of the reopening of the eastern doorway. The eastern doorway is where creation sits. And those things that are created under that eastern doorway then grow and move to the west, which is the gateway through which life leaves this earth. And so the relationships that were formed here under this eastern doorway, this spiritual gateway between the indigenous peoples and the newcomers, was forged in blood. And so that seed was damaged and it was toxic. And the dream was a reflection of that. In that, you know, there was a time that was going to come when we would have to come back under that eastern doorway to heal that seed of that relationship that had begun and to make new sacred contracts with one another, new sacred agreements with one another as human beings to live in a different way, in relationship to one another, and then to also live in in a different way, in relationship to the rest of life. So, I had that dream, as you said, for 43 years before anything ever came of it. And I had talked to the elders about it, and they had confirmed that  this is what this was connected to. And I brought it up again, you know, five years, 10 years and, I asked, when are we going to hold the ceremony that this prophecy talks about, because we've got some real problems going on here in the world that need to be addressed in relation to how we're relating to one another, how we're engaging one another, and the elders in the way that they do just said, "Oh well, they'll let us know when it's time." And so that went on for a long period of time. And then one of the clan mothers from my territory pulled me aside one day after ceremony and said, "You know, I've been thinking about this dream." And she said, "Sometimes she said it's not for us to act on." She said, maybe you're just meant to be the keeper of that story. And what I want you to do is when you go out and do that, because I was working with indigenous spiritual elders from all over the world at that point, she said, "What I want you to do is every time you go to be with these spiritual elders in their territories, whenever you're in a ceremony with them, I want you to tell them that story. And keep that story alive and make sure that you're telling it to our young people, too, so that they can keep passing that story on." And so that's what I did and I did that for. A long period of time, and then in 2016, I got a phone call from one of the elders from the South that I had been working with for more than 20 years, and he said to me, "That dream that you told us about came up in our ceremony this past weekend. And I think that there's there's something coming up in connection to that. So you might want to talk to your people." Right after that, I got another call from another elder from the West who said the same thing. Who said, "We would do the ceremony this past weekend. And that dream that you told us about when you're here came up in that ceremony with a couple of people. And I think you need to tell your people about that." And then I got a call from another grandmother who was in the North who said, "I had a dream last night that you were telling me again that story about your dream." And, then I told her about the other two calls that I had received. And she said, "Yeah, it's time to sit down with your people and talk about that." So I called my clan mothers and some of the hereditary chiefs from our region, the spiritual leaders. And we got together and talked about it and they said, "Yeah, we've been getting signs as well that now it's time.". 

Sherri Mitchell: So, you know, 43 years after I started having that dream I got this instruction from my elders, because I asked them, "Well, when are you going to do the ceremony?" And they laughed at me and they said, "No, you're going to do the ceremony and we're going to support you. And what you're gonna do is you're going to invite all the elders, the indigenous spiritual elders that you've worked with over the past 20 years, 25 years, to come and support you and to be here with us for this gathering." So that's what that's what happened. And they came, and we had people from six continents that came to share in this ceremony with us. And it's a 21 year ceremony that goes to all of the directions. And, the fourth year for the ceremony is gonna be this coming summer here in our territory. And before it travels to the south. And so it's grown every single year where people from all over the world are coming to sit with us in ceremony to heal their relationships with one another as human beings and to heal their relationship with Mother Earth and the rest of creation. And it's just become this incredibly beautiful thing to witness. I feel like I'm just standing in the doorway of it and and watching it unfold. It has a life of its own. And so, that's an example of just being patient with the information that's coming in, that there may not be an immediacy to the response to it. It may be that the story is building and being created within you. And so, that's why the last chapter of the book talks about what does it mean for us to be living in a time of prophecy? What are our roles as witnesses to prophecy? Is it just this passive spectator type event or are we meant to meaningfully engage with the prophecies that are unfolding around us? And how do we know when the time is right? To to do that? And I think that, what we've learned to do with some of the information that's coming in for us is we've learned to do something symbolic around it, rather than actually diving in deeper and being clear about what the right movement is. We just do something even if it's not the right thing, because we have this immense need to keep moving. And what ends up happening is that we have these large scale symbolic gestures that occur that don't really deal with healing on a deep level, the root of the issues that are being discussed. 

Neil Sattin: Right. Right.  I mean, just hearing you describe this process is so moving to me.  And I find myself wondering, you know, as we as we kind of sit in a moment of indecision or we're being really impacted and and trying to take in, you know, the fact that we might be looking at the world or at a particular situation through a mask that we're wearing, from your perspective, how do we invite the the the deeper knowing and also be able to recognize it when it arrives?

Sherri Mitchell:Well, I think that one of the things that is most important that I wrote about in the book is about really coming to know the teacher within, because we tend to be led so easily by the opinions of others who we hold in high esteem. And so my advice to people is to really take the time to cultivate a relationship with that teacher within, the one who holds your highest level of truth. The one that is most aligned with your deepest and purest itself. And then no matter what you're given for advice from another, you know, whether it be me or some other figure that people hold in esteem, they're able to process that through, this knowing that lives deep within us to gauge whether or not it's in alignment with their highest truth. And so I think that that that question is somewhat subjective depending on what one's deepest truth may be. For me, that process is about being able to allow our style ourselves to be still allow ourselves to learn when we're hearing the voice of truth within us and when we're hearing a prerecorded message of somebody else's ideas. Right? So it all kind of comes back to the same thing. And being able to open up the space within us. So, we have one of our creation stories, which is not in this book, it's gonna be in the second book, he follow up book, "Sacred Laws," talks about the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine. And so the sacred masculine is this pool of energy, this pool of matter, unrealized potential, that just sits there stable waiting and is not animated and brought into form until the sacred feminine speaks into it and creates vibration and frequency that create the form that emerges. And so that feminine interior, divine, creative, intuitive knowing is what speaks into form the physical manifestations that we create out in the world, and it's that dance between the masculine and feminine and being able to realize that we all have that exact thing within us. We have that that pool of possibility, that field of matter, that masculine action oriented activity out in the physical world element that's waiting within us to be formed. And the division that we've created between the voice of the sacred feminine and the movement of the sacred masculine has created a rift in the forms that are being created. So we have this real imbalanced creation that is moving out into our physical reality because we haven't learned to heal that rift between the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine within us. And when we are able to do that, then we hear the heart based wisdom, the intuitive guidance of that sacred feminine. And it guides us to create the forms and the movement out in the physical world that are going to be a balanced representation of wholeness from within us. And so if we want to be able to really get in that space where we know that what we're creating, what we're moving out in the physical world, is a true representation of our highest knowing and heart based wisdom.We have to be able to heal that that division between the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine within us. And so that process of engaging that teacher within introduces us lovingly to those aspects of ourselves that have been divided, that have been fragmented off, that have been broken down into commodified salable parts and that prevent us from emerging as whole beings in the world today, which we're needed as whole beings in the world today. That's how we offer our gifts to the world. What we were born for exists within our wholeness. And so if we want to be able to realize the purpose that we were born for, we have to be able to emerge as whole human beings. And, you know, part of that process is healing the division between our body and our spirit, healing the division between our sacred masculine and our sacred feminine, healing the division between our higher truth and the ideas that have been embedded into our into our ways of being. And so all of that healing has to take place in order for us to be able to show up in the world in the ways that we were meant for. And so that's how that process unfolds for me. That's how I see it. But like I said, that's you know, that's something that people have to arrive at that place in their own ways and with their own understandings. 

Neil Sattin: That was such a beautiful way of also like summing up so many things that we've touched on in this conversation. I'm wondering if we have time for one more question before you go? 

Sherri Mitchell: Sure. 

Neil Sattin: I'm curious about when you find that you are someone who is engaged in this process of connecting with your inner teacher and confronting the masks that you're wearing and operating from this place of how do I heal the divisions, how do I create this wholeness? How do you hold yourself in relationship to people who maybe aren't going through that process for themselves? And, you know, obviously that's possible again in the world at large. And often this comes up in relationships, right?Where someone is kind of the growth focused person and the other person just kind of has their head down and and doesn't care or doesn't care to engage in that way?

Sherri Mitchell: Yeah, I think it's a challenge at times to do that. And a conversation that I had with my ex-husband one day while I was making dinner and he was standing on the other side of the counter from me as I was chopping up vegetables and we were talking about something. And he was just standing there looking at me dumbfounded. And, you know, we had been together for quite a long time at this point in time. And I asked him, "What's what's wrong?" And he said, "I just realized that this isn't a phase, like you really do want to save the world. And I just want to live in it." And and I said, "Well, somebody has to make sure you have a good place to live." And, you know, then we just went back to cooking dinner. But that that moment was the beginning of the end of our relationship, because there was a level of simplicity, a level of detachment that he felt most comfortable in that I would never feel comfortable in, because I was this voracious seeker of truth that, you know, I came I came in with a fire that drove me to seek levels of truth on many different fronts. You know, spiritually, socially, in regard to justice. All of these issues that were really feeding this fire within me that I had been born with because that was what I was born for. And we were able to sit down together and to acknowledge that we wanted very different things for our lives going forward. And that the pathway leading into the future for us was not a pathway that merged any longer, that these pathways were were divergent, but we were able to sit in ceremony together and lovingly untangle the ties that we had made to one another and to wish each other well on that pathway that we would each be traveling into the future with love and respect for one another. That doesn't mean that whenever you get to these places of division that you have to separate from the ones that you love.But sometimes the greatest act of love that we can offer someone is to just accept who they are, and where they are, to allow them to continue to flourish into who they are becoming. And we can do that with them, in relationship with them, in close proximity, or we can do that with them, in relationship with them, with some physical separation. And only the individuals who are involved in that moment in time together can decide. Do we do this? Is it a continued act of love for us to continue to walk this pathway together? Because we again, where we're filled with all of these ideas of what we're supposed to do. Who we're supposed to be. What it's supposed to look like for us. And when that doesn't resonate with our truth, we find ourselves in constant conflict. So we have to get to a place where we're doing that meaningful work in a way that aligns with our deepest truth. And in order to get to that deepest truth, we have to move through all of the filters and the tapes that we've been carrying with us, that tell us who we're supposed to be, you know, who I feel I was meant to be in the world, is not a person that could have sacrificed their own dreams in order to fulfill somebody else's need at that moment in time. And the love that that other person had for me was such that they did not want to restrict who I was becoming in order to make them feel safe in the world. And and so, you know, we have to be able to hold ourselves, I think, to that that moment of fire. And try to see each other with eyes of of real love. Like, is this person that I see before me, someone that I am capable of giving absolute acceptance to, regardless of what that means to me? Am I allowing this person to become who they are choosing to become in a way that is meaningful and in alignment with their own truth? Or am I trying to restrict them based on my own fear? Am I capable of dealing with my fear in this moment and allowing them to become while allowing myself to become as well without running away? Right? So there's this element of running away that we do that is not about consciously thinking about how can I best love this person in this moment, in truth? 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

Sherri Mitchell: AndI think that place right there is the juicy bit of life. Can we sit with the discomfort that we're feeling? Can we deal with our ego? Can we deal with our fear and our need to control? Can we just get to that spot of of real love and acceptance? And then from that place, looking at each other without having to fix or to change or to judge or explain, choose to accept each other in that moment. And cycle forward into whatever future it is that we're holding the dream of within us together, or if it's a more loving act to allow our paths to diverge at that point in time. And I don't think that people do that. I think that people, you know, people throw around this this term, "conscious uncoupling," right now. And I think that there's an element of beauty in that. That we don't always have to be what somebody else wants us to be and still be demonstrating acts of love, that sometimes it's an act of love to say, "I'm sorry that this conflict exists between us. I'm, you know, going to stand here firmly in my own truth and I'm going to lovingly accept what comes up for you in this moment. And hopefully you can look at me with some loving acceptance about what's coming up for me in this moment, and we can make space for each other to be uncomfortable and then to settle in to the real baseline love that we have for one another, and be able to discuss this in a way that allows us to both become the most whole versions of ourselves and to make a decision in that moment on what's best for us." 

Neil Sattin: Mm hmm. Yeah, I'm right there with you. And I think that that's such an important element of moving the paradigm of relationship in a more whole direction than than the ways that, you know, historically the way that we've bound ourselves to each other without really thought of everything that you just named, the way that that's creating challenges for people that don't necessarily need to need to be perpetuated.

Sherri Mitchell: Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: So yes. The way that you know, I had the Gottmans here in Maine recently, John and Julie Gottman, for a live version of my show here in Portland. And as I was sitting with them, I had this thought, which is that so much of the energy that we've put into how to make relationships work, how to help people succeed in relationships has like been based on this presupposition that longevity is somehow the marker of success in a relationship. And so if you take that as a given, then from that point unfold, all of these things that are about like fostering longevity. That, the lens changes a little bit when you're looking at it from a place of who am I, who am I meant to be when I get past what I've been told I should be? And who are you meant to be? And how can we love each other in that? And how can we make choices? Sometimes really challenging choices, but be rooted in that love for each other, even when it represents a divergence or an acknowledgement of some core differences?

Sherri Mitchell: Yeah, I think what tends to happen is that people let go of and sacrifice pieces of themselves in order to achieve that goal of longevity. That is the social standard of success. Andone of the things that I do in one of my trauma workshops is I give participants a meditation to have them go into each relationship that they have and ask themselves what aspects of myself have I had to give up in order to be in relationship with this person? What dreams of mine have I let go in order to be in relationship with this person? What parts of myself have had to be suppressed in order to make this this person happy? And then to look at the way that that giving away of aspects of themselves has actually led to a lot of the problems that rise up in the relationship because you're no longer the person that that other person thought you were, but you're also no longer the person that you know yourself to be. So you're in conflict continuously. And so we've we've been raised under this capitalist system that leads us to believe that we are either a consumer or a commodity. And so,we are constantly looking for ways to sell ourselves, whether that be to our friends, to our families, to our faith communities, to our employers, to our potential partners. We look for the aspects of ourselves that we believe are going to be most saleable to that other that we want to be in relationship with.

Sherri Mitchell: Or, that we want to create this sense of inclusivity and belonging with and we sacrifice the aspects of ourselves that we don't feel line up. And in doing so, we never, ever know if we in and of ourselves are lovable because we're only putting forward an image that we believe will be acceptable to whoever that other is. And so the aspects of ourselves that we hide become cloaked in shame and in fear that if they escape, we're no longer going to be lovable because we've made this contractual agreement on a spiritual level to only show this aspect of ourselves that we feel it's going to be acceptable. And so, you know, when we're in that situation, which is a majority of the world, we don't know if we, the wholeness of who we are, is truly lovable. And so we live in constant fear of losing the love that we have put forward conditionally. We've put ourselves forward to be loved conditionally rather than unconditionally. And so we have to have the courage to bring forward all aspects of ourselves. And it's so cliched at this point in time, right?. But the courage that's required to be able to do that is phenomenal. It's phenomenal because we all need a sense of belonging, connectivity, inclusivity and the threat of losing that registers in our primitive brain as being ostracized at a time when our connectivity was absolutely crucial for our physical survival. And so it wasn't very long ago that when somebody was ostracized or moved beyond the pale. Right, that that they were no longer guaranteed safety. Right. Because they didn't have the safety of the group. And so we actually recognized that in our bodies. This  fear of not belonging, this fear of not being included, is equated with actual death in our physiology, the way that our body chemically responds to it. And so we have to be willing to work with that system so that we can evolve it, so that we can consciously evolve it into realizing what is the real threat here? The real threat is death to our whole selves, death to own truth, in order to barter for acceptability. That's conditional. And can we have the courage to move beyond that? Can we have the courage to show up with all of our our parts available to be seen, and see if we can be accepted as we are? That's the real dance that we have with ourselves in order to be able to have truly intimate, truly loving relationships with others. 

Neil Sattin: Well, what you're talking about is something that's impacted me personally very recently, so I'm really taking that all in very deeply. And I think my wish for all of you listening is that you feel inspired to be courageous in this absolutely essential and cliche way of discovering who you are and being willing to offer that courageously in the world. 

Neil Sattin: Sherri Mitchell, it's been such a pleasure to talk with you today. Your book, "Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit Based Change" is so full of good stuff. We've only really scratched the surface today. So, I definitely recommend checking the book out. And I'm excited to hear that there's another one in the works. When's that due to come out? Do you have a sense or? 

Sherri Mitchell: I'm not sure if it'll be out in 2020 or early 2021. I'm hoping it'll be out by the end of 2020. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Well, that's definitely something to look forward to. I hope we can have you back on the show to talk about it. 

Sherri Mitchell: That would be wonderful. 

Neil Sattin: And if people want to find out more about you, what's the best way for them to do that? 

Sherri Mitchell: They can go to my website, sacred-instructions-dot-life, or they can follow me on social media. My public Facebook page is Facebook-dot-com-slash-sacred-instructions. And I do have Instagram, but I'm terrible about social media. I need to have somebody come along. I've accepted that about myself. 

Neil Sattin: Same. 

Sherri Mitchell: Yeah, you know, that's just not the thing that I do well. And so I'm constantly searching for the technology person who can help to deal with that aspect of my life. But I do my best. 

Neil Sattin: Well, hopefully you can call that person in. So that people can, you know, watch your life from the outside and hopefully come and participate through, I mean, it sounds like you're offering workshops and the ceremonies that you're hosting. Sounds so powerful. And again, if you want to get a transcript of today's episode, just visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-sacred or text the word "passion" to the number 3-3-4-4,-4. Sherri Mitchell, your native name. I'm going to just invite you to say it means she who brings the light. And I definitely feel like you've been bringing the light today to to me, into our listeners. 

Sherri Mitchell: Thank you. So we'd say in our language, the words that I offer for all my relatives and my name in my language, Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset.

Neil Sattin: Thank you so much. So good to meet you and be with you today. 

Sherri Mitchell: Yeah, you too. Thank you so much, Neil. 

Feb 7, 2020

How do you heal after a breakup or divorce? Whether you’re going through a breakup now, have been through a breakup and still have some cleanup work to do, or...well...maybe you will be going through a breakup at some point in the future...this episode is for you. No matter which way you slice it - the ending of a relationship can be challenging. There are a lot of "right" ways to heal your heart - and some wrong ways. My goal is to keep you from making common post-breakup mistakes so that you don't make it any harder on yourself than it has to be - and we'll dispel some myths along the 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!

Sponsors:

With Real Roses that Last a Year, Venus Et Fleur offers luxurious, bespoke arrangements that will be a reminder of your thoughtfulness long after the day you give them. Visit VenusETFleur.com/ALIVE and enter promo code ALIVE for complimentary shipping in the US thru 2/29 at 11:59 pm EST.

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

Resources:

I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

Check out this episode with Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of Conscious Uncoupling, about transforming core negative beliefs.

Support the podcast (or text “SUPPORT” to 33444)

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Jan 24, 2020

Do you judge others or yourself harshly? How do you get past the judgment to a place where you can see a situation clearly, set appropriate boundaries, and change things for the better? In this week's episode, we're going to cover what to do when your occasionally judgmental nature gets in the way of positive connections with others - or yourself. You'll get some hints about what to do when others are judging you. And you'll discover the difference between being discerning and being judgmental.

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

Sponsors:

With Real Roses that Last a Year, Venus Et Fleur offers luxurious, bespoke arrangements that will be a reminder of your thoughtfulness long after the day you give them. Visit VenusETFleur.com/ALIVE and enter promo code ALIVE for complimentary shipping in the US thru 2/29 at 11:59 pm EST.

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

Resources:

I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

Support the podcast (or text “SUPPORT” to 33444)

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Jan 16, 2020

What turns you on - and what turns you off? Once you know your erotic blueprint type, it’s so much easier to have the kind of intimacy that you most deeply desire.  And when you hit a snag in the sexual sphere of your relationship, it could be that you and your partner haven’t quite learned each other’s erotic languages - leading to sexual miscommunication. Never mind the love languages - it’s the Erotic Blueprint type that matters in the sexual domain! This week’s episode features Ian Ferguson, who played an instrumental role in creating the Erotic Blueprint methodology with his partner Jaiya. You’ll learn the 5 Erotic Blueprint types, how to figure out what you are, and how to tackle differences that you and your partner might have in how you express yourselves in your most intimate moments.

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

Sponsors:

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

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

Resources:

Take the Erotic Blueprint Type quiz to find out your Erotic Blueprint Type: https://www.eroticbreakthrough.com/alive

Visit Jaiya’s main website

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict…

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

www.neilsattin.com/erotic Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Ian Ferguson.

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

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We have covered in more than 200 episodes all kinds of conversations detailing the nuances of having an amazing relationship. We've talked about communication. We've talked about overcoming problems and obstacles and healing trauma and being present. And we have, of course, also talked about sex and the erotic. And it's important to dive into this topic, I think, a little bit more deeply than I have in the past. 

Neil Sattin: Early on, I wanted to bring voices to you representing different kinds of sexuality, different ways of exploring sexuality that were more oriented towards slow sex or tantra. We talked to Diana Richardson. We talked to Margot Anand. And now, what I'd love to do is to open this conversation up further to the idea that there are actually different kinds of erotic types that we inhabit. And in order to have this conversation, which will, I think, help you really get to know yourself better in the sexual and erotic realm and also get to know your partner, if you're partnered or partners, or if you're out dating as a way of diagnosing what's happening with the people that you meet and getting a sense of where you're compatible, where you're not, and where there's learning and curiosity that opens up for you. It's fascinating. I had a friend who sent this link to me randomly not that long ago, and it was to the work of Jaiya. And I had actually heard of Jaiya's work, but I hadn't really honestly paid any attention to what she was doing. And. But there's something about this link spoke to me and I decided to take her quiz and listen to her on another podcast. And, I was fascinated. I learned so much about myself and about things that were happening in my own life. And I knew that I wanted to bring this work to you. So for today, we have our esteemed guest, Ian Ferguson, who is Jaiya's partner in business and in life and who is also responsible for the development of what we're going to be talking about today, which is your erotic blueprint -- the the thing that makes up who you are sexually and erotically and what turns you on, what turns you off. And we're going to dive deep into that topic with Ian. 

Neil Sattin: If you are interested in getting a transcript of today's episode. You can visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-erotic. Or as always, you can text the word passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4, and follow the instructions along with being Jaiya's partner in business and life. Ian is also the co-founder of their company and he is a master instructor of the erotic blueprints methodology. And he's also someone who does a lot of conscious dance stuff, which I've talked about on the show over and over again. We finally have someone here who actually does the very thing that I'm talking about. So I'm really excited to have Ian here with us to talk about your erotic blueprints. And Ian, welcome to the show. 

Ian Ferguson: Thank you. As a great intro. I just love all the seeds that you're planting about communication and learning and really using these kinds of tools to have a deeper understanding of ourselves and how we communicate with others about them. So, I love that intro. Thank you for that. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, you're welcome. You're welcome. And I think that, you know, we talked about this a little bit before I hit record. It's so important, especially when you're dealing with any system that gives you some information about you by telling you like, oh, you're an ENFP or you're a Scorpio or you're a number four in the Enneagram, whatever it is, it's challenging for people sometimes to break the mold of what they discover about themselves. So, I want this to be a conversation that allows people, and I know you're right here with me to tap in to curiosity about their type and also to like push the edges of the box that they find themselves in, and in fact, to unbox themselves and to stretch themselves. 

Ian Ferguson: Perfect. Yeah. We often say about the erotic blueprints, which we'll be talking about in more detail here, that when you discover your primary erotic blueprint type, it's actually showing you more where you're limited than where your resourced. Because there's this whole range, there's a smorgasbord of opportunity erotically in the world of pleasure available to all of us. And many of us are accessing but a very small piece of that smorgasbord. You know, we're eating the, you know, the beautiful strawberry when there's chocolate and truffles and steak and, you know, a beautiful garden of vegetables at our fingertips. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And this reminds me probably for obvious reasons to you, a lot of the love languages. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. 

Neil Sattin: And, when I have been introducing people to your work, just friends of mine or or acquaintances, I've drawn that analogy:"It's kind of like the love languages, but for sex and the erotic." But one of the things that I think is so challenging about the love languages is that people sometimes find out what their primary love language or you're supposed to find out your primary two love languages. And then they just kind of stop there. And then, if they take it a little bit further, they figure out what their partners love languages are. And then hopefully they really learn to speak each other's languages. But in the end, where I always come down to is I don't think there's anyone who doesn't appreciate or have the capacity to appreciate all those love languages. And so I'm curious, before we dive into like the specifics of the blueprints, do you do you feel like that's true for them, that there's an evolution towards kind of being multilingual across the love languages, that's just like natural if we allow ourselves to be open or what do you find? 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, I think that that's the ideal almost of any of these typing systems, is that it's not just about understanding your first primary access, the place where you're most resourced. It is a way of articulating and speaking to all of the other types of people that there are out there, all the other types of eroticism. 

Ian Ferguson: One of the things that I just love about our community in particular is that often in the realms of sexuality, when you're in this stage, you're curious, you're adventurous, you're looking to expand into something new or there's parts of sexuality you're hearing about and you don't have any idea what they are, say, in the kinky realm or around Tantra. The communities tend to be kind of siloed. They're brilliant. There are many brilliant communities that deal with all of these forms of sexuality. But when you want to find a find out about kink, you end up walking over into the kink realm, when you want to find out about energetic or tantric sex, you walk over into Tantra and they're very different communities. And one of the things that the blueprints have allowed us to do is to speak to the full range of eroticism and bring all of those people essentially under one roof.

Ian Ferguson: So, you know, we'll see this in our community, even in my own relationship, where, you know, somebody who is an energetic, they have a kinky partner and they have no real way to merge or meet. And if the energetic is going to take the kinky person to their energetic Tantra class, that kinky person may actually be totally turned off. They won't have a deeper understanding, it just won't appeal to them and vise versa. The kinky person taking their energetic partner to the kink environment may find themselves contracted and re-traumatized, or they just don't understand what's going on in that community. Whereas in a community where all the languages are being spoken to, there's an opportunity for people to see a multitude of people operating with a variety of these erotic blueprint types under one roof. And to start to have a way to bridge the gap and create inclusiveness for all of those communities to be able to have a conversation together. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. When I imagine being in that community, I imagine what it would be like to be with someone who was or to be just like having a conversation with someone where my type is just as valuable as theirs is. And that was something that for me was so eye opening. Even in just taking your quiz, which by the way, if you visit erotic-breakthrough-dot-com-slash-alive, you can take the quiz that helps you diagnose what type you are. So, that's always fun, to take another quiz online. So you should definitely go check that out. 

Neil Sattin: But, I took this quiz and what I found was that, it really helped normalize some things that I was experiencing that I thought were maybe... bad. That I had judgment about in myself and, we'll get further into this. But one, I actually have a lot of the different types in me. I'm the shapeshifter type which we'll get to, but I'm very strong in energetic. And so it was really easy for me and I mentioned I had a lot of probably very energetic oriented people here on the show. And you talk about one of the shadows of the energetic being kind of downplaying other kinds of sexuality. And I think I was doing that for the other kinds that live within me. So, it was really wild to take the test and to accept myself in a new way, as well as to have that language to bring to other people. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. One of the things I get most touched by in responses that we get from like you're sharing, even people who just take the quiz, even if that's the only step that they've taken, we will get emails from people or at workshops that we're teaching. I'll get stopped by the attendees who will, with tears in their eyes, just talk about, "Wow, now I don't feel alone. I thought that I was weird or messed up or, you know, crazy." You know, like the energetic type is one of the blueprint types. And for the energetic, energetics are often a highly sensitive, they're very aware, their empath, They're connected to their environment. And the types of orgasm that are available to an energetic can sometimes look quite strange to somebody who doesn't have access to that type of orgasm because they'll be releasing kundalini energy or having kriyas. So, those will show up as a sort of muscular spasms in the body. So especially in the case of cock-bodied humans who tend to be stereotyped into the sexual blueprint, many of the male body people, cock-body people will all of a sudden feel seen and heard for the first time because they've been putting on a mask of being a sexual when their entire system is geared towards being an energetic. 

Ian Ferguson: And then you also spoke to the hierarchical. I think we're probably going to start confusing people too much if we keep talking about the types without getting into what they are. But you did mention in terms of the energetic, there can be sort of a hierarchical viewpoint of the energetic. That energetics tend to be associated with spirituality, connected to sex. So a sexual act for many energetics needs to fall into the realm of being a spiritual event. And they may have judgment or look down on this as a shadow aspect to the energetic, may look down on people who might be a sexual type or kinky type, as that form of erotic expression is not spiritual to them. So these are all interesting distinctions of all of the five blueprint types that we've uncovered. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Where we're dancing around a little bit. But let's, as you suggested, kind of dive in and detail each one a little bit more. We've spent some time on the energetics. So maybe let's flesh that one out a little bit more and then we'll kind of move through the others that we've chatted about already. 

Ian Ferguson: Perfect. Perfect. Yeah. So the energetic is turned on by: anticipation, tease, space. They're very sensitive, energetically sensitive, environmentally sensitive, often emotionally sensitive. And this is the super power of the energetic type. They have the ability to be in an orgasmic state without even being touched. The breeze that blows across the hairs on their arm could send them into orgasm. A connection to themselves or the environment in some sort of spiritual connection could put them into an orgasmic state or into actual orgasm. So this is an amazing superpower for the energetic as well as on the flip side, can be a bit of the shadow or the challenge for the energetic. Because of that hypersensitivity, if somebody moves too fast, too quick and goes too deeply into the space of an energetic, it can turn into, overwhelm and shut down, so that the all the systems for the energetic will get overwhelmed. And they may actually be completely turned off or flatline in their turn on because the space has been collapsed. 

Ian Ferguson: So if you're listening to me talking about this and let's say you have that experience of you're about to kiss somebody and there's all of this energy and all of this turn on happening as you're approaching the kiss, maybe teasing out the kiss a little bit. And for you, when you actually kiss, the energy or the eroticism, the turn on goes down significantly or maybe completely collapses, that might speak to you being an energetic type. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Got it. And I think you also mentioned in one of your guides about energetics being able to respond to someone's hands being placed just above their body. So like not even literally touching them, but just being in their energetic fields. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. So this is this is the fascinating thing and also something that if you are if this is not something you have access to at this point and your lover does, it can be quite a bizarre experience. You know, I didn't really have any access to this energetic turn on when I was first partnered with Jaiya. She's highly energetic. She's trained herself to be even more energetic than I think she naturally was. And she would have kriyas. I could put my hand above her body and she would be reacting to that without me even touching. And because she's a teacher of sexuality and because of the type of relationship we have, I could witness her in energetic connection with other people and see these really huge expressions, these physical manifestations of her orgasm when a person was, you know, a foot away, even 10 feet away. And at first I would look at this and to be honest, I was like, "Oh, what is this? Woo, woo. You know, B.S." I was like, "This is just people performing in there. They're making this stuff up." And it took me... Because, I tend to be a skeptic before I accept something. Even after I accept something, I'm still have some skepticism about it. But the the thing around the energetic is first I started to have my own experiences with it. And then I had a couple of trainings around something called Network Spinal Analysis, which is a form of chiropractic where they sometimes touch your body. But a lot of the work is done off of your body in energetic fields. And I had a couple of masters that I did a deep, deep workshop with Christine and John Amaral, and they basically blew open my energetic receptivity. And after that weekend, all the sudden was able to tap into something that really looked pretty mysterious, if not completely inauthentic, before I tapped into it myself. And now I'm like, oh, it's now it's it is interwoven in my eroticism. It is interwoven, actually, and just sort of how I approach my day to day life. 

Neil Sattin: Wow, wow. What a transformation. 

Ian Ferguson: For sure. 

Neil Sattin: I am so fascinated and tempted to go down that road a little bit more. But before we do, let's jump to the next to the next type and we'll probably circle back around to these. But just so everyone knows, loosely, how do you define a type like what is what are the kinds of things that, "OK, I'm this kind of type. So that means that I have these kinds of physical experiences, these kinds of emotional experiences, these particular kinds of turn offs, these particular kinds of turn ons." 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. So the turn ons or the superpowers of the blueprints are the positives or the things where you're going to have the easiest, fastest access to arousal to turn it on, to connection. And that defines often your access point or the positive blueprint that you may be. And then there are the shadow aspects of each blueprint type and you can have the full positive of this, full super powers of one blueprint type and have the shadows of a completely other type, and not have the turn on our shadow of those same types. I hope that made sense, what I just said. 

Ian Ferguson: But the shadows are the things that are basically the brakes to your turn on. And Emily Nagasaki in her book "Come As You Are," talks about a bunch of research where, it is actually the brakes in people's sexuality, the things that put a stop to it that inhibit their ability to access pleasure or drop into expansion or discovery or a deeper understanding of their own turn ons and the shadow parts, that's what we talk about when we're talking about the shadow parts of the blueprints, those pieces that just shut it down for you. And it's bad, I think this land's better as I go through each blueprint type talking about the superpowers and the shadows of each one. So I can just jump into the sensual if you'd like?

Neil Sattin: Sure. And just as a mention for you listening, Emily Nagasaki, whom in just mentioned, she was on the show Episode 123. So, if you want to hear here, Emily, it's a fascinating work. So, definitely check that out.  

Ian Ferguson: She's awesome. She is so articulate about all of this stuff. So, yes, I would recommend your listeners. Go listen to Emily talk about that or read or pick up her book. Yeah. So the sensual type, the sensual type is, was one of my primary types I say "was" because I would say that I've really moved more into a shapeshifter in terms of my, all the superpowers that I've got going on. But the sensual is the type that brings artistry to sexuality. They are turned on by all of the senses being ignited. And that means that you can have an orgasm from eating that perfectly juicy, incredible strawberry. The sensuals will often when they're eating, they're the ones will be moaning they'll be like: "Mm... oh! Hmm!" And, you know, you can tell a shapeshifter often, by the way, that they dress, they'll wear textures and layers and often be perhaps touching themselves. 

Neil Sattin: You mean a sensual? 

Ian Ferguson: What did I just say? 

Neil Sattin: You said shapeshifter. 

Ian Ferguson: Oh, shapeshifter. Yeah. Sorry. A sensual will often be touching themselves. And one of their superpowers is the fully embodied orgasm. They'll find the orgasm all over their body in their own crevices of their arms, and their legs, uh, really, really fulfilling and rich. And a big difference between the energetic and the sensual, the energetic really gets turned on by that space, by the anticipation of the collapsing of the space without collapsing it. The sensual tends to want to get really snuggly and cuddly and tight and close in with their partner. So you can see where those two types might have a little challenge relating because one wants closeness, the other wants distance. 

Ian Ferguson: The shadows of the sensual. Would be that there, those same things that can turn them on can become complete red flags and become very distracting. A sensual can get very lost in their head and have a hard time accessing their pleasure because they can't get relaxed, they can't drop into the space. So let's say the lights are too bright or the music is the wrong song or too loud. They've got bills to pay or a call that they didn't return, there's socks on the floor. All of these things can lead to intense distraction of the sensual. And when the sensual is not connected to their body, they can't drop into their eroticism. So. You know, often what we'll say is that the sensual needs to relax to have sex. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Got it. And one thing I'm curious about is language, as well. And you talk about the different ways that we actually use words and our voices and how that can have an impact based on the erotic type that you that you are. So how might that be different between an energetic and a sensual person? 

Ian Ferguson: Well, there's so many aspects of speaking the blueprints, you know, I'll probably talk about this a little bit later, but we, in more detail, but we talk about once you learn your blueprint and you learn the sort of basics of what turn you on, turn you off, the next step there is to be able to learn to speak, feed, heal and expand your blueprints. So one of those pieces is what you're pointing to, which is being able to speak the blueprint. And in speaking the blueprint, that's the full range of what it means to speak. So that can be the words that you use. That can be the body language that you have associated to your eroticism. What turns you on in that realm, and a congruency between, say, vocal tone and your energy and your presence. So between these two types of the energetic and sensual, the energetic, a light energetic. So let me we can get into so many wonderful distinctions about all of these blueprints. But, there's light-energetic, and there's the dark-energetic. The light-energetic when speaking or being spoken to is potentially going to have a little bit of a loftier, lighter tone, maybe a little bit of lilting, but not crazy melodic, tends to be smooth and something that is gonna be flowing not staccato. 

Neil Sattin: This is so hilarious. I'm thinking of Marianne Williamson. While you're.... 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, that's perfect. 

Neil Sattin: But honestly, I think even like Diana Richardson, who's been on the show, you can hear that in her voice, for sure. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. And they might choose the language of, "I feel so connected to you. I feel that we've been really connected through time. And this feels like a universal connection. And my heart is so, it would be so open to you if we could just spend some time being present with each other." So absolute presence, clarity of intention. And they'll often talk about the cosmic. Energetic may also use their hands in sort of flowing patterns when they're expressing themselves. And then alternately, a sensual they may have very expressive, and they may get into very you know, they may may use tone and like really get into the richness of their voice and how they express and they'll talk about, "Oh, this is just so juicy and delicious. What we're talking about, I just love, you know, they'll point to colors and oh, the beautiful day outside and the trees are so green. So they'll notice all of those sensory elements and often be framing things in the language of the senses. 

Neil Sattin: Great. Yeah. 

Ian Ferguson: Yep. So we can we can pull out little elements of that as we talk about the other blueprint types as well. 

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Let's let's proceed to the next one. Yeah. 

Ian Ferguson:So the sexual. That is sort of the zone where our society focuses advertising what sort of put out front and center often in music. It's the stereotype of what sex should be. And the sexual is one of the more simple. They they just bring the fun. And by simple I don't mean there's not depth. I just mean that they don't overcomplicate the process of sex. It's about genitals, it's about orgasm. It's about, you know, fucking and coming and all of the the great things that just are raw, pure sex. They're gonna be attracted to the physical, though, in terms of the body language of sexual may be the type of person you're talking to and they're gonna be scanning your body up and down more than meeting you in the eyes. It's just that that sort of limbic animalistic turn on and they're their superpower is that simplistic. They can go from zero to 60 in zero seconds flat, as long as they have certainty, like, "OK, that's what this is about. We're gonna get down to it. I know I'm going to have the orgasm." It's kind of like if everybody has an orgasm, then it's all good. We succeeded. Yay! And in contrast to the sensual, the sexual often needs to have sex in order to relax. Whereas you heard me say before, the sensual needs to relax in order to have sex. So there was some point here that popped into my head about the sexual... and I'm forgetting it. 

Neil Sattin: Well, maybe it'll come back to you. But what you just said, I'm curious about kind of the gendered nature of particularly sensual versus sexual.  Do you find that it's a male bodied versus female bodied thing or not? Because that's kind of the classic example. Right? Like, the guy just wants to go straight to having sex and the woman needs time to, like chill out and and and really be relaxed and in her body. And in a lot of cases, that's true. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. 

Neil Sattin: So what do you find in the as you've worked with, you know, hundreds and hundreds of people around this? 

Ian Ferguson:So, yeah. Genitals are not just the descriptor or the diagnostic for telling us what our primary blueprint type is. We've had, I think over one hundred and fifty thousand people take the quiz at this point.

Neil Sattin:Great.

Ian Ferguson:And there is a light correlation to gender or genitals in terms of what we stereotypically think. But there is a large population of energetic cock-body people, you know, walking around the planet. There are a lot of men like myself who are sensual. So, gender is not really the deciding factor on any significant level of what blueprint type you are.

Neil Sattin: OK, great. Good to know. I mean, I knew that, but I. But I wanted everyone to know that. 

Ian Ferguson: And I also want to say something here, too, that is really important: if you are not experiencing any of the ecstatic states or the sort of forms of sexuality or the ease of access to your eroticism that we're speaking about here, there is nothing wrong with you. You're not broken. You are not wrong. Our deeper philosophy is that there's actually nothing to fix. It's really about creating an access to who you are first and foremost. So you accept yourself so that you can honor who you are, where you are, and that then opens up the opportunity to explore and find out other aspects of who you are. If you want to. So none of these are like, if you want them, great. If you want these heightened connections to your eroticism or your orgasm. Fantastic. If it's not your thing. Fantastic. Again, nobody's wrong, broken, and there's nothing to fix. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah. That's that's one of the things that for me, I think was so freeing. Even in just taking the quiz was was that feeling of like, 'Oh, I'm I'm OK, just as how I am.' There was no aspect of the results of the quiz that said, here's where you're damaged or here's how you shouldn't be. So I appreciate that a lot. 

Ian Ferguson: You know, and this is also something that that's what it was. And it's kind of ties back in again. Within the realm of therapy around sex or sex therapy, there is often the... putting of sex into the place of aberrant behavior or, you know, diagnosing things in the form, there's a word that's escaping my mind right now. But associating different behaviors to, you know, the quote unquote, unhealthy. 

Neil Sattin: Right pathologizing. 

Ian Ferguson: Pathologizing sexuality in a lot of the literature within that the that psychologists and therapists study, really only refers to sexuality in the frame of pathology. So that is, and there are amazing sex therapists out there. And we have erotic blueprint coaches who are teaching our methodology where we're just, and these things have been changing in the DSM, where, you know, Kinky was a pathology, I think not even 10 years ago. And that has now been taken out of the DSM as a pathology. Sothings are shifting. And part of our work is the intent to accelerate that path towards acceptance that we are erotic beings. We are very diverse erotic beings. And the problems tend to come more when we're shoving these aspects of ourselves in the closet and siloing ourselves and feeling lost and alone with no ability to articulate who we are and who these natural instincts and being able to funnel them in a way that we're creating consciousness around them and that they're happening with consent, that we understand how to declare boundaries, we understand what consent really means. And that we have agency in our own eroticism. So it's very important to us to normalize consensual sexual behavior in all of its forms. 

Neil Sattin: Right. And I like the ability to bring consciousness to all of those forms. So I think typically one might think, for instance, of the sexual type as not a conscious type of sexuality, but in fact, if you bring consciousness to it and your awareness of how you are turned on by sight and sound and sexual language and very like, visceral sexual related things, then you are actually bringing a level of awareness that allows you to evolve when, how you how you approach that with other people and how your boundaries and edges bump up against someone else's. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes, exactly. Love it. 

Neil Sattin: All right. Let's go to the next one. So we've done an energetic, sensual, sexual and now? 

Ian Ferguson: Well, there would be kinky next. But with the sexual, we get to talk a little bit about the shadow aspect. 

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. Thank you. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. So one of the shadow aspects is this part of the sexual that tends to look to: "This is what sex is, and why is everybody making it so complicated?" So they can get this short sighted or single focused and sort of miss out on that smorgasbord of availability. And the shadow is often more an interrupter for the partner of a sexual, than it might be for the sexual themselves because there there could be just as a lack of awareness or even an acceptance that there's more on the table, more on offer. There may be different ways of communicating about eroticism and turn on than just getting right to the act of sex and orgasm. And, you know, and genitals so that that can be a shadow aspect. Another shadow aspect of the sexual, what we'll notice in some of our clients is that sometimes for the sexual they, this isn't true universally, but sometimes there will be being caught in an adolescent sexuality and we'll uncover that, perhaps they were shamed very distinctly or told that their sexuality or turn on was bad. So they at a very young age or have stuck it in the closet and they've never been felt safe to express themselves in their overt turn on by genitals and sex and the desire for it. So they will have certain behaviors that are just kind of unconscious around their sexuality. Where they may be less aware of a partner while they're engaged with that partner. The partner becomes objectified and feels objectified. So this is... This always feel a little challenging to talk about with a sexual because it sounds like a potentially like a judgment. But as you and I have been talking about, it's really just about bringing a new awareness to these things and being able to accept where we're at and then be able to expand out of that to give ourselves the acceptance so that then we can say we can actually get our eyes above the above the horizon and see more of what's possible. The sexual also, this isn't so much a shadow aspect, but the sexual... sex is kind of like like air and water. It is  a necessity for a sexual. It is what has them feel connected to themselves, alive, dropped in. So a sexual who is getting plenty of sex and really feeling satisfied on that front is going gonna tend to be much more effective at work and in their other relationships. They're just going to feel like they're together. They got it handled and they can go out and conquer the world. On the flip side, a sexual who is not getting their sexual needs fed and fulfilled, they can really feel atrophied and starved and sometimes unseen in their relationship because there they are looking for acceptance for that intensity of desire that they have in their eroticism. 

Neil Sattin: I'm curious, as you talk about this, what you offer couples where let's say someone who's a sensual or an energetic, is with a sexual. And it feels like typically the way I might have approached something like that is to encourage the sexual person to really learn the sensual language, learn the energetic language. How do you help people who are more sensually oriented, who need the slowness, who need to relax in order to have sex? How do you help them meet a sexual person who wants that, like visceral, quick, rapid thing? 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. So that is that is an incredible question. And of course, one that the answers can often be very individual. And you know,one of the other things that we say quite often is that we wish to bust the myth of sexual incompatibility. That we are not sexually incompatible. We simply do not know how to speak each other's language of turn on. And that is particularly apparent in the pair up that you mentioned here when you're talking about an energetic with a sexual. And oddly enough, you know, that's we'll see a lot of that pairing, this sort of like opposites attract. And if you look at the core of the opposite attracts piece. It has to do with these recognizing in someone else these unlived or untapped aspects of vitality that we don't understand. We may look at and you know, if we have, if we're in the pheromonal soup and we're in love with that person, those, if I'm a sexual, and I'm getting turned on by an energetic, in the first flush of relationship, it may be like, oh, my God, this person is so amazing. They're so unique. I love these pieces of themselves. And then as the limerence period wears off, that initial six to two years and we fall back into our natural primary blueprint, then that's when the divergence happens and we start to see the sexual gets frustrated by the energetics need. The energetic has felt that their boundaries have been crossed or they haven't spoken up for themselves and they've been trying to live and satisfy their sexual while completely crossing their own boundaries to do so. And then resentments build up. And without the language of the blueprints, there's no recognition of like, oh, this is just our types speaking. And now there's an opportunity to bridge the gap and discover where we can meet each other. 

Ian Ferguson: So, there are a lot of ways that we go about bridging this gap in the work that we do. You know, one of the things that I mentioned earlier is we've got the speak, feed, heal and expand. And expanding into other blueprints is a big thing of what we teach, and how you can work to bridge the gap if you find yourself in a relationship where you are in opposing blueprints. Another another way that we'll work with people is to find where there is synergy. So we've got something that we use called the sex communication checklist. And it's a whole bunch of sexual practices broken down by blueprint type where you can say, "Yes, I'm interested in that. Mmm, I'm a maybe or I'm curious about that. And here are my no-ways." And we'll encourage our couples or people who are in poly relationships or whatever your relationship configuration is, or if you're dating, we even encourage people who are, you know, getting to that stage in their their dating life to share the sex communication checklist with their partner. And you fill it out separately... 

Neil Sattin: You mean on the first date?

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, well, for us, we kind of do that. So Jaiya and I will do that kind of thing with somebody that we're interested in, because that's the way we want to have our conversations, just like, Boom. Here it is. For others, you know, you may wait your second, third, fourth, 10th date. Just it's really your comfort level. But, you know, the advice is to go and fill those things, those forms out separately and then come back and compare and contrast. So you'll find just in those areas where you're both a total yes. Then you'll find areas where you might have been a yes and there are willing to or vise versa. You're willing to. And they were a full yes. Those are other areas where you can play. 

Ian Ferguson: And then there's the no-ways, which you know, those, the no-ways can change over time. But when you're in the first flush of really starting to articulate where you do connect.My recommendation is to not push on the no-ways to just get curious about them, because sometimes there's misunderstandings about what those know ways really mean, especially when it comes to zones of eroticism like kinky and energetic, where some of the language is not so obvious and projections and stereotypes may come in and have somebody judge what they think it means when somebody wants to do something like breath play or knife play. So getting curious about what that means if you've got a hard no-way but your partners a hell-yes to someplace where you don't meet up starting to ask questions. Well, what do you mean by that? What would that provide to you if we did play that way? What if you know what turns you on about that? So you start to open up a dialog of empathy with your partner about what it provides for them. And that's actually a third thing that I would talk about, which is actually a primary aspect of any great communication, which is essentially curiosity first. So the moment there's a trigger of the moment, there's a misunderstanding, the moment that something arises where there's discomfort or contraction, taking a breath, taking a moment and getting curious. What you mean by that? Was that mean to you? What pleasure would that provide? Why is it important to you? Instead of going into whatever our preconceptions may be, because we may be wildly off in in whatever caused us to contract or pull away or not hear our partner and their desires and needs? 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. So there are so many different things that have come up for me over the course of what you're just saying, and I'm going to try to distill it. So one was the way that... Because you mentioned consent and boundaries as being so important and, so how do you encourage curiosity while at the same time honoring boundaries? You know, I'm thinking like, let's just take an example just to like, make it concrete. 

Ian Ferguson: Sure. 

Neil Sattin: And we'll we'll use this, like problems situation. So you've got a sexual person who's just like: "I just want you like when, I get home from work, what would be amazing is you if you just went down on me. And that would feel amazing to me." And their energetic partner is like, "Oh, my God. Like, that's the last thing I want to do when you get home from work. I need space. I need to like feel out how your how your energy is before I'm willing to..." Right? So an energetic person might say, "Well, I have a boundary and that's my boundary. I'm not gonna to I mean..." Especially an energetic person. Right. Because they're all about the space where the sexual person is just like, "No, come over here and like. Touch me. Do me." You know, in some way. 

Ian Ferguson: "Yeah. Let's get to it!"

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So how would you... I think it's easy to kind of go in the inverse way where you talk to the sexual person and be like, "You just gotta learn to be patient and enjoy the anticipation." Right? But let's be fair here. And so that's one thing. And, I want to just place that in the context of... my guess, which is that what comes up when a lot of people take your quiz and find out these things about themselves erotically, is that you get the relief, the sense of, oh, that's who I am, or that's so freeing to have learned that about myself and to learn that and to guess that about my partner. But then, there's the pain of recognition like, oh, this is this is maybe also at the heart of some of the ways that we haven't been working so well. You know, we got through the limerence stage and we've been in this place of tension and discomfort. So it makes me think about what you mentioned about the need for healing. And so it feels like those two things need to coexist, because if you're dealing with this hypothetical energetic and sexual couple, if that's been going on for any length of time, there's going to need to be a context of healing that allows them to even step into that space. 

Ian Ferguson: Sure. Boy. One thing that's amazing about this conversation in general is how kaleidoscopic it is as we open one topic, then it starts to thread into all of the other areas. 

Neil Sattin: I know, and we still have two more types to talk about.

Ian Ferguson: Exactly. So the. OK, so one thing is that it is going to be just as difficult, sometimes, more difficult for the sexual, to put the brakes on what they need and want. And often that shows up in that they have been feeling unfed, like their libido is through the roof. They'd be having sex three times a day, while their energetic partner needs the connection. The space maybe rarely opens to full on intercourse and eroticism in a way that both people are are really feeling satisfied. So, we're dealing with opposing blueprints and we're dealing with what appears from the outside to look like potentially an unbridgeable gap. And in that space, the curiosity piece is vital. Let's take it from the energetics perspective and their sexual partners just said this to them: "This is really how I want it. I want you to go down on me the moment I come in the door." And from the energetic perspective, you could be saying, first acknowledging, "Thank you for letting me know that. I'd love to be able to provide that for you. And it's going to take some growth, I think, for me to get there. And I would like to know one, what it provides for you? Like, how does that make you feel?" So that as it is the energetic asking that question, can I start to bridge the gap and create an empathetic bridge of really understanding how their partner gets fed? And sometimes, even just really opening up the dialog so that  anybody in a relationship can be fully seen will take the pressure down several inches of: "It's gotta look this way. I've gotta, when I come home, we've got to be able to take my pants down and you gotta go down on me. That's the only way it's gonna be." So allowing for it to be seen and heard and say, "God, I really want that for you. I want that for us. And I'm scared because.." and getting into personal vulnerability. "I'm scared in it as well, because I want to provide that for you. And I think if I do that, I'm going to actually contract and feel less close to you. So I want to figure out a way to do this. But I really want to figure out a way to do that, so it works for both of us. Are you willing to explore and figure out how we can do that?"

Ian Ferguson: So, then that leads into the exploration and in deeper curiosity and starting to find a way. So we're getting some synergy here, hopefully between two people with willingness. That's a primary need inside a relationship, a willingness to try and meet each other and see each other and then starting to play with what we think it's supposed to look like. 

Ian Ferguson: So, you know, a specific example with the energetic may be, you know, "You're away at work all day. I don't really have any idea where you're at. I don't know what you're gonna be like when you come in the door. And if you're full of stress and anxiety, I pick it up immediately. And, I just feel tension and I don't feel comfortable feeling close to you. So why don't we try that throughout the day, you'll send me a text giving me where you are emotionally and giving me a piece of, telling me some way that you love me." So it's an energetic foreplay so that there's a sense of connection while the person's away at work. And it's not this immediate leap into just genital based sex, but they have some connection. "And when you come in the door for a week, let's try where or for the next two weeks we'll try it. We'll do this and I'll I'll go down on you shortly after you come home from work. But what I want to try to get there is, I'd like five minutes of eye gazing and breathing together. And then I'll go down on you." So starting to get into basically the science of your turn on and your partner's turn on and finding ways where you can bridge the gap and, there's no compromise. One of our mentors, Kelly Bryson, who wrote the book. "Don't Be Nice. Be Real." has a beautiful phrase I love, which is compromise is resentment, 50/50. So the whole book is about nonviolent communication. And the real gift of nonviolent communication, from my perspective, is the ability to find such a deep sense of empathy with the other that you find synergy such that you can figure out how you can meet each other's needs willingly without any compromise and get really creative about how you get to that solution. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I want that for all of you listening. I want you to that experience. So just as a reminder, if you want to take the quiz to figure out what kind of type you are and you and you get a nice breakdown of what percentage you are of all the types. And we still have two more to talk about. You can visit erotic-breakthrough-dot-com-slash alive. We will have a transcript of this conversation at Neil-Sattin-dot.com-slash-erotic, which will also have links to Ian and Jaiya's sites, so you can get more information that way. And you guys, do you have have a course, right, that's not only walks people through this stuff, but also helps them go through all these stages that you were talking about expanding into each other's blueprints, and feeding themselves. And they're obviously this is such a rich conversation, so what is the course that you offer people? 

Ian Ferguson: So we have a number of ways that we dive into this material. But the sort of the the entrance point is the erotic blueprint breakthrough course. And that is an online course. Along with it comes the opportunity to be part of our online community, our online membership group for three months as a bonus, just to kind of dip your toe in there. And the blueprint course is a very deep dive into the blueprints, because the blueprints, as you may be picking up, are not just simply about a sort of surface level idea of what you're erotic blueprint type is, but the blueprints are the core, your core erotic blueprints, what stage of sexuality you're in, where you are with the four pathways to sexual health and pleasure. These are all aspects of our sexuality. And we're really looking at sexuality as a 360 degree, you know, kaleidoscope of who you are, where you are in your life, what your aspirations are in your sexuality. And the blueprint course walks you through that process of really dialing in through games like fun ways to discover what your blueprint type is because you can take the quiz and that's your mind answering the questions. But when you get in your body, you may get different answers. You may open up in ways that you do you didn't that are a surprise, like oh! An example of that is a lot of people will take the quiz and the written portion of something related to kinky or even their predisposition to maybe have judgments about the selves around kink or shame around their kinky desires, may have them answering those questions either a little more carefully or kind of avoiding the thing that might turn them on, or may not just even relate to them because it's not a physical experience. But when you start doing things like our A-B game or the body mapping, which are games that we lead you through, then you start to get a real sense of your pleasure map. And these are great things to do with a partner, with somebody you're dating or a long term relationship to start to map each other's pleasure and start to really get a vocabulary and a way to articulate all your needs. So you can get them fed and fulfilled in relationship. And then there's the health and wellness aspect of our sexuality. Our hormonal health, our biochemical health, our bio energetic health and our emotional health. And this is another aspect inside of the blueprint course where I had spoken earlier about the healing portion around this, where we dive into those aspects, those things that may be putting the brakes on your sexuality, that may have you stopping yourself at that edge of where you really want to explore, where you really want to open up. There's a number of factors that go into really being able to to have a well rounded, vital vitality around your eroticism. 

Neil Sattin: So in other words. It's a super comprehensive course, where you would get a lot probably out of going through it. And if you take the quiz, then Ian and Jaiya will make you aware of how to how to get the course and when they launch it and when it's available for you. 

Ian Ferguson: For sure. 

Neil Sattin: Definitely, check that out. 

Ian Ferguson: Thanks for boiling that down.. 

Neil Sattin: Quick side note you have. You have definitely a hard stop at 2:30 your time? 

Ian Ferguson: It could go a little longer. 

Neil Sattin: Okay. I'm just eyeballing the clock and I want to honor your time. And thank you. We have two more to do. 

Neil Sattin: So and then you also do some live events to write for. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes, for. So every year we do something called Paths to Passion. That's that's sort of our entry level workshop where we introduce you to blueprints on a deeper level. This last year in October, we just do it once a year, we had 540 people at this event. It is just a beautiful way to drop in, start to get familiar a bit with our community and some of our coaches. And that's awesome. Our other workshops basically require you to have done that first workshop or at least have gone through the erotic blueprint breakthrough course, because we at each level of workshop that we offer, we go a little deeper, we get a bit more experiential with what we're doing. Again, everything at our live workshops is all very consent based and based on, you know, respecting people's boundaries and not doing anything to coerce anyone to do anything they don't want to do. The Path to Passion Workshop is, you know, I call it PG-13 because we definitely use racy language, we are talking about sex, but it's a clothes on, you know, there are immersive practices that are part of it, but it's all pretty digestible even from somebody who may be completely new to in diving into their own sexual exploration. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah, I could imagine being excited about something like that. Being really nervous about something like that. 

Ian Ferguson: Sure. We have people who just say that they're terrified to come Paths to Passion and pretty universally, on the flip side of that, they're just like, "Oh, wow, you've just normalized a conversation that I've had so much tension about my entire life. And I felt so safe in your community, in your environment. I felt taken care of." And, you know, more often than not, and the majority of people who come to that event come out with a stronger sense of their accepting themselves. Accepting the conversation and feeling comfortable, many times, for the first time to even claim what they want, who they are, and expressing a willingness to go after it. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That was exactly the word that was coming to me. Like fostering that willingness for themselves and in the way that they understand others too. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, for sure. 

Neil Sattin: Okay. So for all those people out there who are like when are they going to talk about the other two types? 

Ian Ferguson: That's it. We're using the energetic tease to hold out and have you want it really badly. A little bit of kink in not letting, not giving you what you desire. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Let's transition to the kinky type. 

Ian Ferguson: Cool. So kinky actually ends up being my primary blueprint. It is my fastest path to arousal. The kinky world is a vast, vast world. And simply put, we think of kinky as whatever is taboo for you. And that may run counter to the stereotype that people witness and see, even from movies like "50 Shades of Grey," where often it's the edgier aspects of kink that are that are labeled as kink or seen as kink. The leather. The dungeons. The whips and chains. Pain. These aspects of kink. And they are, they are part of the world of kink. But there are only one segment of it. So whatever taboo, whatever is taboo for you. For example, Jaiya had some clients in her practice who had been married for 40 years. They went to the same restaurant every Tuesday night, then every Thursday night, they would have sex and they would only have sex in missionary position. So when they started coaching with Jaiya and they started exploring having sex doggy style or doing oral sex, these things which may be very vanilla to your listeners or just most of your listeners, that was really edgy, hugely taboo and carried all of this thrill. So that was kinky for them. Whereas for others, kinky may mean, you know, intense submission scenes or intense rope tying and knife play, could even be hooks. You know, it can get very, very, very intense. And further, we break down kink into two different categories. We think about the psychological kink, which deals more with power games, power play, control and surrender from a not so much like the constriction and bondage in that version, but more somebody giving their power or submitting to the person who is in control of the scene. Psychological games. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, something like come over here, you know. Face the wall. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. Yeah. Get on your knees. 

Neil Sattin: Like that sort of thing. Yeah.

Ian Ferguson:  That sort of thing. Or you have to hold these paperclips on your fingertips with your arms outstretched and if you drop when you're gonna get a punishment. So that would be as a psychological predicament game. And then we have the physiological or the physical which tends to be more the spankings, the canings, the constriction. I'm a big fan of constriction as part of one of my turn ons. So it's more just the physical aspects of it. And you can be both. I'm certainly both psychological and physiological kink, kind of blended together. And the superpowers of the kink also, they're wildly creative. Other superpowers of the kink would be often in conscious kink, which I would recommend you practice highly conscious kink and highly safe kink if you're interested in this realm of exploration. The one of the superpowers is also the creation of the scene, creating really clear boundaries, creating really clear consent conversations and creating arousal and turn on by really setting up those scenes and scenarios with such clarity and holding those containers really powerfully. Other superpowers for the kinky, kind of like the energetic is, you can have orgasms without even being touched. So one example is a friend of ours did a scene with someone where they tied her all up. They tied her to a really powerful music speaker. Cranking like heavy metal music, and they gave the impression by shutting a door that they had left her alone in that room and so she was in this state of of fear, surrender all of these endorphins running in her system. And from her telling, she was left there for hours. That could have been 30 minutes and it felt like hours. But then the dom came in and slammed the door really hard. And she had the most insane orgasm, squirting orgasm that she'd ever had in her life. And he didn't touch her at all. So, that's an incredible super power of the kinky, as well as being able to go into what's called subspace. And that is that sort of endorphin rush where you completely surrender to sensation. And so it can often I mean, for me, the couple of times of I've accessed it, it's essentially same thing to me as reaching highly spiritual states through tantric sex or meditation. you go into a oneness state where you have surrendered identity, you've surrendered any sense of time or space, and it's for many people in the kink community, it's sort of the Valhalla. It's the thing you're seeking when you're doing this kind of scene work. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. And shadow aspects of the kinky would be one of the biggest ones is shame. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

Ian Ferguson: So deep, deep shame. What's wrong with me? Why am I like this? As Jaiya and I, we use our personal life as a petri dish of experimentation. And that's where we've gotten so many of the games and techniques and things that we're that we teach is that we've played with this stuff in our own lives. And one of the ways that we dove really deeply into the realm of kink, kinky was a zero on Jaiya's blueprint quiz. And it was a, I don't remember what that percentage was was like, forty seven percent on mine. It was my primary blueprint. So here Jaiya and I in our relationship went through a three year period of deep disconnection. I mean, we were, we were almost done well. And she was an energetic sexual and I was sensual kinky. We were completely on opposite ends of the spectrum and we didn't realize it because Jaiya hadn't downloaded the blueprints yet. They were starting to come into play and she was trying, she was coming home from strip classes and doing cat pounces and trying to turn me on in a sexual blueprint. While we're in this period of time and I, my sensual was kind of like looking for that closeness and connection and down regulation while she was jumping in with, "I need sex, I don't want sex and approaching me from a sexual viewpoint." And we were just missing each other entirely, feeling unseen, unheard. Jaiya was crying herself to sleep at night. And I was you know, my confidence was just dropping through the floor. And in that state I was pulling back and not giving her my presence. So we were really headed towards the end of our relationship until this stuff started to get dialed in, of like, "Oh, that's who you are. Erotically. Wow. Okay. Now I can start to learn how to speak that." Or, when you come on to me in that way, I know what it means as opposed to thinking you're just imposing what you want on me. And I'm a tool of your turn on that kind of thing. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think in the interview I heard with Jaiya. She spoke a little bit about that and her journey from well, she was writing a book on kink, right? Did that come first? Like she got the book deal. And she's like, "Alright, now I've got to figure this out."

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. We had done we had gone into some stuff that we teach that really started to heal our relationship, which is actively putting ourselves in sex life challenges where we're taking on a form of exploration and setting it on a calendar and making a date to explore in that way. And that was one of the big beginnings of the healings inside of our relationship. And also diving into the kink realm, which you're exactly right. Jaiya got the book deal to do the book on Kink and then had to do a bunch of research because you didn't know anything about it. And we dove into a 40-40 experiment where for 40 days, Jaiya dominated me and I was submissive. We took ten days off and then I dominated her for 40 days and she was submissive. And during those days, we were studying with kink experts in the bondage realm and the psychological kink realm in all sorts of areas of kink to really get a full understanding what the world was about. And that's when... like, I knew I was kinky and I thought it was a little bit of light bondage and some, you know, gender play and things like that. But the level and depth of my kink fully came into fruition when we started diving into this 40-40 experiment. I had no idea how much of a turn on it was for me and sort of how deep it went in my erotic map. And nor did Jaiya. So this whole aspect of my eroticism wasn't even being seen or honored by both of us. And one of the things I kept asking, you know, 30 days in to my being submissive to Jaiya, was like, "Why does this stuff turn me on?" I mean, there's this assumption or this this prejudice to think that kink is born out of people who were abused or have some dysfunction. And I had no sexual abuse. I had none of these things associated to that. So I'm ike, what is this about?! And one of our kink teachers during this kept hearing me ask the question. They said, "Stop asking the question, just enjoy yourself." It was just like a breath of relief of like, Oh, yeah, right. It doesn't have to mean anything. It's just what turns me on and I can play with it. And as long as I'm playing with it safely and consensually, it's a beautiful exploration. 

Neil Sattin: And was there anything in particular that you recall, Jaiya doing that helped her with what I imagine might have been challenging as primarily an energetic, which is her judgment around it? 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. So there are a bunch of trigger things for Jaiya in the realm of kink. One was how far out my edges were because she couldn't find them. So, you know, there's in kink play. You'll set a scene, you'll begin the scene, you'll end the scene. And there's something often called aftercare, where in most circumstances, from my knowledge, the aftercare is usually guided towards having the submissive come back to their body and feel comfortable and connected because they've often gone through a very intense experience. Well, a Dom can also go through a very intense experience because they're holding the container for any number of you know edgy sexual explorations. For Jaiya, who is energetic, you know, when she first started doing kink, she would and was getting trained by a kink master, she would give somebody a spanking and she smacked their ass and then she'd go: "Are you okay? Are you breathing?" And the submissive would look up at her with like anger in their eyes, like, what are you doing? And so the kink person was like, no, that is not it at all. They're signed up for this. This is what they've agreed to. This is what they want. It's not going to check in with them after, you know, everything that you do. The time for that is in aftercare, after the scene is over. So anyway, we would do these scenes and Jaiya would be, you know, going pretty deeply into anything from, you know, we'd be playing with caning one session, we'd be playing with really derogatory language in another session, and usually we come out the other other end of the scene and she'd say, "I need some cuddling, I need some aftercare." So I come out like, "Oh, my God, that was great. We could've gone so much further!" And with no need for aftercare because I was just in a state of turn on and fun and arousal. So aftercare was a big thing, when I was dominating Jaiya, we started to uncover some of the aspects of her trauma inside of that container and we got a kink friendly therapist and we took their advice and we incorporated what they were telling us to do inside of our kink scenes. So we didn't put a stop to our exploration, we just put new boundaries in containers. So like we were playing with gagging her and because she needed her to have her voice, we took gagging off of the play because there were things that would happen if she had her eyes closed, we took blindfolding out of the erotic container so that she could have agency, so she could have her voice. And it's often said about kink that kink is not therapy, but it can be therapeutic and done in the right ways and with the right consent, with the right establishment of the container and with safety, it often can be a way even for people who have had trauma in their past or been abused to reclaim agency in a situation where, you know, when it happened to them earlier in their life, they had no agency. It was being dominated and taken advantage of without having any control. 

Neil Sattin: Well, we are definitely going to have to have the conscious kink episode, because I can tell there's lots to talk about there in particular. Yeah. Wild. But I appreciate your, I mean, it's obvious considering what we're here to talk about. But just your ability to share in the personal aspects of that journey and what you and Jaiya experienced, I think with any of these things, it's so easy listening to kind of idealize or project onto you like, "Well that must have been so freeing!" And to miss the ways that it was challenging or the fact that you guys were nearly done before you, you really started that exploration. So... 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, yeah. For sure. Thank you for that. Yeah. Yeah. So let me just dive into the shapeshifter, so we don't miss any of the blueprints. 

Neil Sattin: Yes. 

Ian Ferguson: So the shapeshifter is the sort of like tends to be the most sophisticated of all the blueprint types. And the shapeshifter is turned on by all of the blueprint types. They are, you know, you may lead with a primary. So I've I've ventured pretty much into shape shifter category where I can be turned on by all of the positives of every blueprint type. But my leads, my primaries are still gonna be kinky and sensual. Those are the things they're going to allow me to get to arousal and then we can bring in the energetic and the sexual and very those things. So, one of the superpowers of the shapeshifter is that they are turned on by all of it. A shapeshifter who is matured in their erotic exploration can be the ultimate lover because they can shapeshift to please any of the blueprint types. So they have all the skills, they have all the turn ons and they have access to all of those super powers. 

Ian Ferguson: The shapeshifter, like an energetic shapeshifter, can be almost like the Stradivarius violin of eroticism because they have such an access to energy and what's happening in a space and so much aliveness in their body. And then they have all of the other pieces of turn on available to them. So very, very fine instrument, the energetic shapeshifter. 

Ian Ferguson: The shadow side of the shapeshifter are often being starved and feeling starved because they are shapeshifting to feed other their blueprint types. They're not feeling fed, they're not claiming their own desires. 

Ian Ferguson: A shape shapeshifter may have shut down their sexuality because they've been told you're too much, you're too big, you want too much, you're too loud. So I'll give freedom to all the shape shifters who are listening to this. You are not too much. You're not too loud. The people, unfortunately, that you've been playing with just either don't understand you or can't play at the level to which you desire to play. So you've got a beautiful instrument, you've got beautiful access, incredible range in your eroticism. Another challenge for a shapeshifter, we almost refer to this as a sixth blueprint type, which is a shapeshifter can have the shadow aspects of all of the types. And that can be really challenging because at every turn there's something that could be the break to your arousal, an energetic interruption, a sensual interruption, kinky shame, you know, feeling shut down, shut down as a sexual. All of those things can weigh on the shapeshifter in and close off their eroticism. So a shapeshifter, another key indicator of a shapeshifter to me is somebody who really loves to play in extended play. They have a voracious appetite for more and more and more with some shape shifters. You could be playing for three, four hours and be like, are you done yet again? And they're like, "We're just getting started. Don't go away." Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So there might be some training involved, some endurance training for people who are matched with the shape shifters. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. Yeah. And you know, as ways to play with a shapeshifter where you can incorporate toys, toys are really good thing to bring in with shapeshifter play. You can also. It does it can get very octopus pussy and kind of like your limbs are all over the place with trying to really feed a shapeshifter fully. If you're just it's a one-on-one partnership. But you can bring in vibrators or, you know, panty vibrators or butt plugs. You can use, you can tie the shapeshifter down and to incorporate the kink while you're bringing in other sensory play with scratchy nails or some kind of choking or light, energetic touch. It's just, there's so much to play with. And another indicator of the shapeshifter is that they can take tons of divergent sensory input all at once. 

Neil Sattin: Mmhmm. 

Ian Ferguson: You know, somebody who might have a couple of the blueprint types, like a kinky sensual like myself. And if I didn't have my energetic and I didn't have my sexual expanded, and you started to incorporate sexual or energetic inside of a container where were playing with sensual kink. I could get overwhelmed or annoyed and and it'll be a shut down for me. Whereas the shapeshifter is like "Bring it on. I want more. Yes. Throw in the energetic. Yes. Throw in the sensual." And it may be more about how you stack the blueprints for a shapeshifter. Then it is about them getting overwhelmed. They may never get overwhelmed as long as you weave them in in a way that really turns them on. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. So that's all about the games and ways of discovering which ones work, which ways of stimulating and diving deeper into that sexual sphere, work well together for that particular person. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, we call it the blueprint stack. It's a bonus thing that we offer as well as part of the blueprint course. And so when you know your stack, you know the kind of waves, the first access point and how you can build on each blueprint level. So when somebody takes the quiz, make sure when you take that quiz that you check out the Web page that pops up right when you get your answers, you'll see as you scroll down, you'll see your blueprint types in percentages and you can take a screenshot of that. So you have it for your records. You'll get an email that should have that same breakdown in it as well. But you'll often your primary blueprint is the entrance point. So for me, it'd be kinky. That is a surefire way to get me dropped in, turned on. Then it might be weaving in some sensual so I get some more relaxation and connection and then you can play energetic mixed with kink with me and really heighten the turn on because there's this anticipation and you're not giving me the satisfaction of the orgasm. And then you can weave back some kink and really extend the waves of pleasure and extend the lovemaking session. And then sort of capping off for me would be the sexual where we're going right for it and we're headed towards orgasm and ejaculation. And yay! You've had an amazing sexual experience!

Neil Sattin: That feels like a great place to end this conversation. Ian Ferguson, you've been so generous with your time and your wisdom. And I hope that you are all feeling expanded like I am right now. Clearly, we could just keep expanding. And like you said, the kaleidoscopic effects of this conversation, there's just such a rich journey for us to go on. So, again, if you want to take the quiz, erotic-breakthrough-dot-com-slash-alive. If you go to Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-erotic, you can download the transcript from this conversation and get links to Ian and Jaiya's sites. And Ian it's just been such a pleasure to chat with you. And I'm really just in such appreciation of the work that you and Jaiya are doing in the world. It's powerful stuff. 

Ian Ferguson: Mm hmm. Thank you, Neil. And deep gratitude to you for inviting me onto the show. This is still a challenging topic to breach and really have people talk openly about. So you're on the frontier with me and I'm grateful to have your partnership. 

Neil Sattin: It's so great to share this space with you. 

Ian Ferguson: Thank you. 

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