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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
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Now displaying: June, 2020
Jun 29, 2020

Sexting - what is it? How do you do it? Why would you want to do it? And...most 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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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 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 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, 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, and join over 800,000 people taking charge of their mental health. Again, that's 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! 


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


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 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


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?


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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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 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 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, 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 and join over 800,000 other people who are taking charge of their mental and emotional health. Again, that's 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 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.