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!
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.
Check out Dr. David Burns's website
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
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...
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!
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.
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
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.