Have you ever felt like everyone else’s needs come first? Have you wondered how you’re supposed to show up in your relationship, or for your family, if you’re exhausted and not feeling nourished and supported yourself? How do you make the shift so that you feel full enough to have something extra to offer those around you? In today’s episode, we’re going to cover the art of Extreme Self Care - so that you can learn how to make boundaries and take better care of yourself (and why that’s so important for the health of your relationship). Our guest is Cheryl Richardson, professional coach and New York Times Bestselling author of several books, including Take Time for Your Life, and her most recent book, Waking Up in Winter. Cheryl Richardson was literally one of the first professional coaches, and her decades of experience will help you reclaim your life, find your center, and bring your best self to your relationships.
As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you.
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Each box retails for $49.99, but contains more than $200 worth of goodies! You can customize your box, or just be completely surprised by what comes. As a special for Relationship Alive listeners, FabFitFun is offering $10 off your first box if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" with your order. It's a great gift for yourself - or for that special someone in your life.
This week’s episode is also sponsored by SimpleContacts.com, which offers an easy, convenient way to order contact lenses, carrying all major brands. They also have an online vision test that’s you can take quickly in the comfort of your own home or office, AND they are offering you $30 off your order by visiting simplecontacts.com/alive and using the code “ALIVE” at checkout!
Check out Cheryl Richardson's website
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www.neilsattin.com/selfcare Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Cheryl Richardson
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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. On today's show, we're gonna dive deep into the question of how to take care of yourself and why it is so important to take care of yourself in the context of nurturing your relationship with others, whether that be your spouse, your partner, your children, other important people in your life. At the core of it all rests your ability to nurture who you are here in this journey of your life on the planet. We've covered some more maybe psychological ways to do that. Episodes with Dick Schwartz, with Peter Levine, et cetera, et cetera. We've covered the gamut, and yet, what I wanted you to have today is some very nuts and bolts practical approaches to the art of extreme self-care.
Neil Sattin: I'm saying that intentionally because today's guest is I think the person who launched that term into the public eye, extreme self-care, and in fact she is one of maybe a dozen people who launched the profession of coaching in the world. So, if you are working with a coach or are thinking about working with a coach, then you have this esteemed guest to thank for coaching being what it is today. Her name is Cheryl Richardson and she is author of New York Times bestselling books. She's been on Oprah Winfrey's show. In particular, the first book of hers that I read, Take Time For Your Life, was huge for me in realizing all the ways in which I was not showing up for me and what that was costing me in other aspects of my life.
Neil Sattin: Cheryl has a long running radio show and I'm gonna let her tell you a little bit more about what she's doing and what she's done. She leads retreats and still does coaching, I believe, and in the meantime she is here with us today to share with us her wisdom on how to take care of yourself extremely well. If you are interested in downloading a transcript from today's conversation, then you can visit NeilSattin.com/selfcare, all one word, or you can text the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. I think that's it, so Cheryl Richardson, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive.
Cheryl Richardson: Hi Neil, thank you for having me. I'm glad to be here.
Neil Sattin: You are most welcome. I think when I first reached out to you is maybe two and a half years ago, so it's great to finally be able to connect with a fellow ...
Cheryl Richardson: Sorry it took so long.
Neil Sattin: ... A fellow New Englander. That's fine, I'm sure that you were saying no until it was a definite yes.
Cheryl Richardson: Yes, exactly.
Neil Sattin: We'll fill in everyone listening on what we're even talking just then. So, perhaps ... Like, why extreme self-care? Let's start there. Why extreme and not just take care of yourself?
Cheryl Richardson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, the phrase "extreme self-care" was first coined by my coach, Thomas Leonard, who really is the man who's sort of single handedly launched the profession of coaching back in the early '90s. He was my first coach and I worked with him, and, as you said in your introduction, a handful of other coaches who were sort of helping him to craft the curriculum for Coach University, which was his training organization at the time. He's since passed away.
Cheryl Richardson: He coined that phrase and I remember early on after we had been working together for a few years, he was developing this extreme self-care program as part of the coaching curriculum and he called upon both myself and a colleague of mine, Stephen Clooney was his name, to work with him on developing the program. So, he coined the phrase and I decided to bring it to sort of the mainstream world after he had passed, through the book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care. That book was really written ... You know, I had been teaching self-care. As you mentioned, Take Time For Your Life. I had written that book and Stand Up For Your Life, which is ... So, Take Time was about sort of self-care. Getting a handle on the outer world. Stand Up For Your Life was about building confidence and character and self-esteem.
Cheryl Richardson: Then The Unmistakable Touch of Grace was about going even more deeply inward and taking care of our self-care for the spirit. You know, taking care of our spiritual wellbeing. When I wrote The Art of Extreme Self-Care, I had been teaching about self-care for many years but my husband was really sick at the time, and at the time that I had the book contract, and I remember I was really struggling to support him through his illness. My best friend at the time said to me, "How can you possibly write a book on extreme self-care when your life is in a state of extreme disrepair?" I remember thinking, "My God, she's right."
Cheryl Richardson: Early on Thomas had used the phrase "extreme ..." I remember one time he said to me, "You don't just need self-care, you need extreme self-care," because I was such a good girl back then and I was such a yes machine that he was really challenging me. He was brilliant at honoring his own needs and at setting boundaries. At one point he said to me, "Your good girl role is gonna rob you of your life." So, I think he used the word "extreme" certainly to get my attention but to also get the attention of those of us who were training to be coaches by first really getting a handle on our own lives and our own self-care so that we could be good models and so that we could, in working with people, really know what people were up against when it came to practicing better self-care so that we could support them with integrity and with real empathy, I would say.
Neil Sattin: What is extreme about it?
Cheryl Richardson: Well, it really depends on who you are, because, for example, I remember one time early in my coaching with Thomas, he said ... We both identified that I, like a lot of people, especially women, was always saying yes because I didn't want to hurt someone's feelings. I didn't want to disappoint them. I didn't want to piss off people. I wanted them to like me, and so he gave me an assignment. For 30 days I had to piss off one person a day, every day for 30 days, and I remember being ...
Cheryl Richardson: Now, for me, that was extreme, right? For a lot of people, that would be extreme, but he was trying to help me find a balance, and a lot of times when we grow, we go from one way of being in the world to the complete opposite for some of us, until we find a balance in between, so he was challenging me, like a good coach will do, and I've done this for years with my clients ... You challenge your clients to do more than they think they can and they often fall somewhere in the middle, but it's far better than where they were, and that's really what he was doing, I think, at the time.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and what I appreciate about it among many things is that it isn't polarized in the way that ... There are a lot of popular books right now that are basically about kind of not caring what other people think.
Cheryl Richardson: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: What's so artful about what you teach is that these are ways that you can take care of yourself but in a way that actually still honors your connectedness, your relatedness to other people.
Cheryl Richardson: Well, yeah, and as a matter of fact there's one point ... So, my most recent book, Waking Up in Winter, which isn't a how-to book but instead is a memoir that just shares with people exactly how I live an examined life and how I grapple with my own self-care. At one point when I was going back to sort of edit this little section that I had written about doing an interview around self-care, I just named something that I hadn't been able to really name, and I'm not gonna be able to do it as well as I did in the book here in this moment, but ultimately we're all really caring people.
Cheryl Richardson: I mean, trying to teach people to not care what other people think ... I say good luck to that. I mean, that's just not gonna happen, because we are relational beings. We have a need for belonging. We have a need for connection. Most of us do. Very high percentage of people, and so it's not that we want to take care of ourselves at all costs. What we really want is more integrity in our relationships, right? We want to be able to be who we really are. We want others to be who they really are, and we want relationships and connectedness based on truth, so if I say to you, Neil, "Yeah, sure, I'll help you move on Saturday," when I haven't had a day off in 30 days and then suddenly I'm really pissed and resentful because I now have my only day off scheduled to help you move, I promise you I'm not gonna show up on the morning of your move ... It's unlikely I will show up being all excited and ready to be supportive of you.
Cheryl Richardson: So, most of us when we're overwhelmed, and most of us are busy and overwhelmed, when we say yes out of guilt or obligation or just unconsciousness, we end up putting ... Sort of taking little bites out of our relationships, out of the integrity of our relationships, and eventually you wind up with a lot of stuff that's unsaid or a lot of sort of unnecessary energy between two people that prevents a clean, vital, alive connection with the other person. So, I find as I get older and I think I'm probably much older than you are, I want relationships with people based on authenticity, based on aliveness, based on truth, based on a give and take relationship. I don't want to be sitting having dinner with somebody who spends the whole time just talking about themselves and their problems. I have no interest in that.
Cheryl Richardson: If you're somebody I really care about, then I'm gonna attempt to interject. I'm gonna attempt to create some balance in the give and take, but if that's not something you're sensitive to or aware of, then I'm probably not gonna have dinner with you again, and I wouldn't want somebody to do that with me either. If somebody felt drained or frustrated or irritable after spending time with me, I'd want to know that, number one, and number two, I'd want to rectify it, because at our best ...
Cheryl Richardson: You know, when we've got really good, clean, honest, open communication with one another, we really get the value of relationship and our relationships become alive, much like your podcast name, right? They are alive and fulfilling and meaningful and satisfying, and in the end, that's what really matters. I promise you, that's what really matters.
Neil Sattin: So maybe a great specific thing, because I really love the wording of this. You talk about how to say no gracefully to someone, and in a way, that is about honoring your relationship with someone and it being based on truth or being willing to be truthful with someone because you honor and respect your relationship with them. So, what's the key to delivering a truthful message? It could be delivering a no to someone, like refusing to help them out, let's say, or show up for something, or to change your mind about something you've committed to, or it could be a moment of wanting to provide feedback about what's going on in a relationship, to bring the truth to it in a way that isn't heavy handed.
Cheryl Richardson: Well, the honest answer is that for each of those different situations, the language is gonna be different, right?
Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cheryl Richardson: So, let's start by looking at what are some of the general truths for all of it. Number one, if you're having any kind of an emotional reaction to a conversation, you're scared of having it, you feel pressured, you're anxious, you're pissed off. If you're having some kind of an emotional reaction or response to somebody or to the need for conversation, then the very first thing you want to do is go handle that without having a conversation.
Cheryl Richardson: I love it. There's a wonderful book called Growing Yourself Back Up by John Lee that I recommend all the time to people because it's about emotional regression, which is something that therapists understand. Coaches don't necessarily understand it because they're not therapists, but, you know, when somebody gets their buttons pushed, we often go into a regressed state. So, I'm suddenly not 58 years old, I'm 12, and I'm about to have an adult conversation with you as a 12 year old. Chances are it's not gonna go well, right?
Neil Sattin: Right.
Cheryl Richardson: So, the first thing I need to do is step back and grow myself back up. It might be that I have to turn to my husband or another friend to kind of process the experience. This happens a lot when you've got people in your life that are critical or mean spirited or the nasty boss who humiliates you in front of other employees. Whenever people are inappropriate, the normal human reaction is to be stunned into silence. You don't even know what to say, and then people usually beat themselves up afterwards for not having said something, but it's normal when somebody behaves inappropriately to not have a response because you're too busy processing the shock of it. So, you need to walk away and process that. Have conversations. Maybe write in your journal or write a letter to the person. Do some emotional ... Go to see a therapist depending on the intensity of it.
Cheryl Richardson: You want to just get yourself into as neutral a state as possible. In coaching, we call it "charge neutral," so it's not an excited or a reactive state. That's true for any conversation, and then I would also say, again, a good general guideline is keep it short, sweet and to the point. I can't stress this enough. My dad used to say this to me. I grew up in a family business and my dad, like from the time I was 16 years old when he would be communicating with clients, he was a tax consultant, or he would do an annual letter to his clients, he would always say to me, "Keep things short, sweet and to the point, that way people remember, they get your message and they're not bogged down with too many words."
Cheryl Richardson: I think it's the same thing in difficult conversations. So, what's your truth? You deliver that as succinctly as possible. Along with that, you don't want to defend your position. You don't want to over explain it, which would be giving too much, and you don't want to open the door for debate. So, that's part of the reason why I say "keep it short, sweet and to the point." Then I would say ... I think those are probably the most important general guidelines, and if you can enter into a conversation without being emotionally activated, you've got your best chance of being gracious, and when you keep it ... Oh, and prepare. That's the other thing.
Cheryl Richardson: Sorry, the other thing I want to say is if you have to have a difficult conversation, and for some people, saying no to a friend who asks you to babysit their kids is a difficult conversation, so they need to step back and process the feelings. Let's use that as an example. You've got to step back and process the anxiety in your body of, "Oh God, I know she's gonna be really pissed at me. She watched my kids two times last month, but I'm just ... I'm not able to do it," or, "I really don't want to do it. Her kids are difficult and they're exhausting for me. I don't have kids and it's not easy for me to be with them." Whatever the reason is, process that truth first and then you can simply have a conversation and I think it's always best to have a phone conversation unless the person is toxic in any way. Then we can talk about that separately.
Cheryl Richardson: It might be that you just simply get on the phone and you say to your friend, "I got your message about wanting to take care of the kids and I'm not gonna be able to do it, and I want you to know that I will absolutely look for a time in the future when I can, but this time, I'm not able to and I hope you understand. Period. Period." Then you keep your mouth shut, and regardless of what that friend says, you just repeat the truth of what you just said, and nothing more. "Oh, God, that's too bad. I really needed you to watch the ... I can't find anybody. There's no one." = "I'm so sorry. I really look forward to helping you out in the future. I just can't do it this time."
Cheryl Richardson: "Yeah, but, you know, I'm always watching your kids. You should really-" - "You know, I recognize you're watching my kids and I appreciate that and I will absolutely return the favor. I just can't do it this time." You see? So, I'm not saying, "You know what? I'm so sorry but I promised Jim that we'd get together this weekend and we're supposed to have a date night or a date day." The minute you do that, now you're opening it up for interpretation. It's just completely unnecessary, so ...
Neil Sattin: Right, and what's interesting too, I think, is that the more you say ... When you talk about opening it up for interpretation, that's totally true. The meaning that the other person is making, whether it's ...
Cheryl Richardson: That's right.
Neil Sattin: ... "Oh, they value this person more than me."
Cheryl Richardson: That's right.
Neil Sattin: Or, "Oh, they actually don't really like my children" or whatever it is.
Cheryl Richardson: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, the more you just keep it short, sweet and to the point, the truth is whatever story they make up is their story and that's their responsibility to manage that, so that's why I say it's so important to process ahead of time, then plan what you're going to say. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Don't over explain. Don't debate it. Don't even open it for ... Just keep returning to the truth of what you've said and let that be enough. Then you'll need to do ...
Cheryl Richardson: You know, if it's a hard conversation for you ... Like, I don't like disappointing people, Neil. I don't like being disappointed. I haven't liked it since I was a little girl, and I've done a lot of work on dealing with my own issues around disappointment, but I know I can get activated. Just ask my husband, you know? All of a sudden we're supposed to do something and he decides, "You know what? I've had a horrible day. I just can't do it. I'm just exhausted and I'm just not able to do it," and I'm like, you know ... I get all activated. The little girl in me, I go into a regressed state sometimes and it's my responsibility to step back and go, "Okay, sweetheart, 90 percent of your reaction has nothing to do with this present moment, so let's become an adult again. Get out of the room and go get your shit together." Excuse my French.
Neil Sattin: No, that's fine. We have actually talked about that a lot on the show, recognizing those parts of us that are stuck in earlier places and earlier traumas, and trying to find the signs that that's where we're operating from instead of operating from our wise adult self, and to show up to care for those parts of us, whether it's ... We talked about it with Margaret Paul, with inner bonding work.
Cheryl Richardson: Yes. So, she's brilliant. She understands. Yes, it's exactly ... You know, it's internal family systems work, it's inner child work, it's ... Yes, it's absolutely, and that's really important. That's why ... So, from a communication standpoint, self-care, the decision to take care of oneself, brings up a lot of stuff. If you grew up in a family where it wasn't okay to tend to your own needs, or you just didn't ... It was never demonstrated to you. You never learned how to do it, it can bring up a lot of anxiety. The simplest thing can bring up a lot of anxiety, and we do need to be really respectful and loving and honoring of those parts of us that get activated. We don't want to communicate with people when they get activated.
Cheryl Richardson: Now, this especially comes into play when we're dealing with tough people, right? Critical people, authority figures, toxic-
Neil Sattin: Ex-spouses.
Cheryl Richardson: Ex-spouses. Yeah, okay, great, or situations fraught with excitability. Toxic people, all of that. It's become so important to ... The more toxic the relationship, the briefer the conversation needs to be, and I will say that in situations like a toxic ex-spouse, let's say, or a toxic parent or sibling, which, you know, I'll hear a lot about that sort of stuff, sometimes the best way to communicate is via email, once again using the guidelines, but not going ... You know, a lot of times people will say to me ... I just had a conversation with somebody recently who had to have a very difficult conversation with a really toxic friend, and she was really scared of her. Understandably so. The woman was a bully.
Cheryl Richardson: I said to this person, "No, no, no, no, no. You don't need ..." She said to me, "Well, I feel like it's only right that I see her face to face." Well, that's really lovely and clearly you're a person of integrity, but it's not good self-care, because this person's gonna eat you for lunch. So, instead, you need to communicate what you have to communicate via email. That's when it's appropriate. It's not appropriate when you're just trying to get out of a tough conversation with somebody you love, but when somebody's really inappropriate, has a history of that or is toxic in some way, or where you get incredibly triggered like an ex-spouse, sometimes you're doing both of you a favor.
Cheryl Richardson: Let me also say this. Sometimes you're doing both of you a favor by communicating via email. The other thing that's important is if you have to deliver really tough, bad news to somebody, you want to remember that sometimes you're doing them a favor by communicating via email, because you're giving them a chance to process their reaction instead of puking it all over you, and I use that gross word intentionally, because a lot of times that's what happens. People end up just puking their unfinished stuff, their unresolved stuff, their old stuff on you, and a lot of damage happens in relationships because of that.
Neil Sattin: I know. I hope more and more to foster a society where people are recognizing their potential to do that and stopping themselves, but I think it's healthy to recognize that that ain't happening all the time by any means. More and more, I think you listening to the show, that's probably true for you, where you recognize, "Oh, I get triggered. I'm going into my fight mode and I'm gonna let someone ... I could let someone have it, but I'm not going to because I recognize that that's what's going on."
Neil Sattin: There is a phrase that you mentioned in one of the recordings of yours I was listening to and I think in one of your books as well that I just love so much, so I want to make sure we say it specifically, and it's something like, "Because I honor and respect our friendship or our relationship or you, I need to tell you the truth."
Cheryl Richardson: Yes, yes. So, it's, "In an effort to honor our relationship, I want to be honest with you," or, "In an effort to honor our relationship, I need to tell you the truth." I would say, "I want to be honest." Depending on who it is, keeping it more conversational makes it feel less threatening to the other person. So, let me give you an example. This is an example I talk about all the time because ... I keep using it because people keep coming to me afterwards going, "Oh my God, that was so helpful. I needed to hear that."
Cheryl Richardson: So, let's say you have a friend that's constantly complaining about her job. Like every time you talk to her, she's just a chronic complainer, and you know you have a friend like this when you look at caller ID and you see that they're calling and you let it go to voicemail, right? Or you make dinner or lunch plans and you keep canceling at the last minute. These are the things we need to pay attention to. In our relationships, those are the clues that something's not working.
Cheryl Richardson: So, if you have a friend that's chronically complaining, it's really important to know that ... Oh, and by the way, let me just say this friend will also say things like, "You know what, Neil? God, I just love you. You know, every time I call you and I just talk about what's going on in my life, I feel so much better afterwards. I just feel relieved and energized." Meanwhile, Neil, you're hanging up the phone filled with all of their junk, exhausted and overwhelmed and thinking, "Oh, why did I answer the phone," right?
Neil Sattin: Right. Going through every spiritual clearing I know to release all that stuff.
Cheryl Richardson: Exactly. You're smudging yourself and you're taking a shower and all of that. So, it's important to recognize that when somebody's like that in your life, you show up and you answer the phone, you're completely ... You know, you're energetically clear, you're in a good place. I often use the visual of the thermometers you see in front of churches when they're raising money and they show the red line moves up as they raise more and more money.
Cheryl Richardson: If you imagine yourself as an empty vessel without a red line when the complaining friend calls and you pick up the phone and they start "wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah ..." You know, like the Charlie Brown character, "wah, wah, wah," and before you know it, the red line of anxiety or just stuff is moving up, up, up and you, because they're puking their negativity onto you, and again, I use that gross word intentionally ... So, it's coming out of them. Their red line is going down, yours is going up and by the end of the conversation, you're filled with their anxiety and you're exhausted, and they're feeling light and happy and off to the next thing.
Cheryl Richardson: The problem with that scenario is unfortunately ... I know you know this, Neil, because I think you were trained through Tony Robbins' work, right?
Neil Sattin: Yep, that was part of my training.
Cheryl Richardson: Yeah, most of us are ... Most human beings are motivated by pain or pleasure and most of it is pain, right?
Neil Sattin: Right.
Cheryl Richardson: So, when we get our anxiety relieved, we lose our motivation to take action to change things, so people who are chronic complainers who have vessels for their complaining keep getting to empty themselves of the anxiety of their situation so that they don't really ever get to a point where they have to do something about it. So, in that way, I'm not really doing you any favors by listening to you complain, right?
Neil Sattin: Right.
Cheryl Richardson: So, that's the basis for a conversation where ... Let's say you're the draining friend, Neil. Sorry, I'll only have you be that for a few minutes. So, my conversation-
Neil Sattin: Cheryl, you're always making me the draining friend.
Cheryl Richardson: I'm sorry - I'm so sorry. So, what I would say to you is, Neil, you know what? In an effort to honor our relationship, I really want to be honest with you. The last several times we've talked, you've been complaining about your job and it sounds like you're really unhappy, and you know what? Sometimes I hang up the phone and I feel kind of exhausted, or I notice myself every now and then kind of avoiding your phone calls, and I don't want that between us. So I just want to be honest with you.
Cheryl Richardson: I am here to support you and doing something about changing this job you can't stand. I'll do research for you. I'll take a look at your resume. I'll help you find a career counselor. Like, whatever I can do to support you, but I can't listen to you complain about it anymore, and I just wanted you to know that so that in the future if you start to complain about it, I'm just gonna gently say, "Hey, Neil? Remember that conversation we had? I just want to remind you, tell me what I can do to support you in taking action."
Cheryl Richardson: Then you keep your mouth shut. You don't say anything. Even if you're tempted, like, "I hope you understand. I hope you're not mad." Just keep your mouth shut. Be empowered. That's a way to really raise our level of self-esteem, by the way, by speaking our truth and then shutting up, and then whatever you say to me ... "Well, you complain about things too, Cheryl. I don't think I complain about it this much." - "Well, you know what, Neil? My experience is that you do, and I want to support you in doing something about it, so I promise you, I'm happy to help you take action. I just can't listen to the complaining."
Cheryl Richardson: Whatever you say, I need to just keep saying that, and then the last thing I want to say is, "And, by the way, Neil, you'll probably forget that we had this conversation and I'll gently remind you when it happens again," because the truth is if you keep listening to friends that are chronically complaining, you've trained them to believe that that's okay. They have a neural network set up. You have a neural network set up. That's what regression is. It's neural programming, right?
Neil Sattin: Right.
Cheryl Richardson: We tap into an old program and it starts running, and you're saying ... You're breaking up that neural network, that neural program, and that you're gonna remind them that you're doing that. So, then, what's really important is that I back up that boundary with action so that if a week from now you call me and you start complaining about your boss, I better say to you, "Hey, Neil, remember that conversation we had? Tell me what I can do to support you," because if you don't, you're also ... you're doing even more damage to the relationship because you're essentially saying to your friend you don't keep your word. Your word isn't to be paid attention to or trusted, so ...
Neil Sattin: Right, right, and I think that's helpful too, because so much of what creates alive relationships is having a container that feels safe. Now, within that safe container, that doesn't mean ...
Cheryl Richardson: That's right.
Neil Sattin: ... That there's not room to ask for adjustments like you were just talking about, but the container of safety, like you set it up by saying, "In an effort to honor our relationship, I need to be honest with you," so you're saying, "I honor you."
Cheryl Richardson: That's right.
Neil Sattin: On the flip side, you're also saying, "And you can trust me that I'm not gonna let this go."
Cheryl Richardson: Yeah. Well, and you can trust me that I'll tell you the truth. I think about some of my closest friends and they're my closest friends because I know that they'll be honest with me and I know that they care about the maintenance of our friendship, right?
Neil Sattin: Right.
Cheryl Richardson: They don't want unspoken things between us, and the friendships that I've had that have ended, the very long, important friendships I've had that have ended have all ended because of what was unspoken and un-dealt with. I think it's also important when you talk about creating a safe container. I mean, all of my work, for years, has been about building healthy relationships, both in my own life, first and foremost, and then teaching it as a teacher. My husband Michael and I have been together almost 25 years and the year before we got married, we spent a year doing imago therapy. Harville Hendrix's Imago Therapy Together.
Cheryl Richardson: I introduced Michael to it. I told him that I was not gonna get into a committed relationship, especially a marriage, with somebody who wasn't wiling to do the work, and it was the smartest thing we ever did and it was all about creating a safe container, right? Learning to create a dialogue process. I don't know if you've done any podcasts around that work, Neil ...
Neil Sattin: Oh yeah, Harville and Helen have been on the show twice now.
Cheryl Richardson: Great. Okay, great. So, a lot of your audience are familiar. Harville is a dear and one of his colleagues was and is our therapist on call for imago therapy and we've used him off and on over the years when we've been in tough places, all because that dialogue process creates a safe container. You can use it with friends. You can use it in business situations. I've used it in coaching relationships with people, in coaching people through difficult situations, and it is all about safety, because we all get triggered. We're going to emotionally regress for the rest of our lives. I mean, that's just ...
Cheryl Richardson: Without a doubt, I can be the healthiest, most functioning adult ... You know, I saw this ... My dad died a year ago, November, and the night that he died, I'm one of seven children, and thank God for the work I do because ... I mean, I was having my own reaction to my father dying, but here I am in a hospital with my whole family and I'm just watching, bing, bing, bing, one emotional regression after another, knowing, "Breathe, do not pay attention to anything that's going on right now, because everybody is in a regressed state. Nobody is in a sane, wise, adult state. People are scared, they're grief stricken, they're traumatized. Just stay sane as best you can."
Cheryl Richardson: Of course, I had my husband with me who knew exactly what was going on and was such an example, and I think this is important to say in terms of relationships. He was such an example that night of how powerful one's presence can be without saying a word. He was this calm, grounded, loving presence for everybody. He and my brother-in-law, both of them, they were like anchors for everybody. Just being in the room. I would watch him go from one room to another room where there was emotional upset. He would step into a room and just sit and everybody would calm down. That's the power of getting a handle on emotional regression on our own reactions and growing ourselves back up.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. I'm having this thought of, like, "Well, I wonder if when I'm 80 I'll regress to when I'm in my 40s and everything will be fine."
Cheryl Richardson: It's an interesting thing to think about, isn't it? I mean, I certainly have had experiences at 58 of regressing into remembering my mid-30s or 40s, let's say, from a career perspective when things were just going gangbusters and I've had the experience of feeling overwhelmed like I did back then, but so much of regression goes all the way back to where it all started, right?
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Cheryl Richardson: In the family of origin...
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, or maybe even for some of us what we brought in to this life.
Cheryl Richardson: Without a doubt. I personally believe that. Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Cheryl, I want to ensure, because this has been so powerful to talk about ways of creating healthy boundaries as a way of taking care of yourself, and I'm wondering, you don't have a lot of time left, but I want to ensure that we touch on some of the other things that are so important. At this moment I just want you listening to know that Cheryl's books are amazing. They lay everything out step by step so you're not gonna get overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to take care of yourself. There's a system there for you to follow, and I'm wondering, Cheryl, if you could give us just a taste of some of the things ...
Neil Sattin: Like, let's pull it back inward and how to really show up for us so that we're nurturing ourselves. That's where so much of your work is so powerful.
Cheryl Richardson: Well, in a lot of ways, my most recent book really demonstrates that. Waking Up In Winter. The subtitle is "In search of what really matters at mid-life," but it could've been subtitled, "In search of what really matters at a transition point in one's life." When it came time for me to write another book, I realized I really honestly felt like I had said all I needed to say about self-care and work-life balance and high quality living in all of my books, and what I really wanted was something I think a lot of us want, and that is to experience the healing power of story and example instead of teaching "how to" information and advice.
Cheryl Richardson: We have so much of it now, right? So, Waking Up in Winter is a memoir in journal form and I think journaling is one of the most powerful things we can do as an act of self-care, as an act of building a strong relationship with oneself, and I sort of demonstrate that through the book by taking a journal that was already written. It's not one that I wrote to be published. It was already written, and showing people what it means to grapple with issues of self-care, what it means to be too busy, what it means to enter a period of life where you feel like you're lingering in limbo, where you don't know what's next. You know what you don't want but you don't know what you do want, or you're waiting for the next stage of your life but you're kind of clueless about what it is.
Cheryl Richardson: How do you hold on during those times and how do you deal with the ending of friendships? I write about the ending of a very important friendship, and how do you deal with career transition and reevaluating? I mean, I think in a lot of ways I wanted people to know that they weren't alone in this process of trying to cultivate a deeper relationship with themselves. It sort of takes people on that journey by sharing what happened to me, and there's one part in the book that ...
Cheryl Richardson: I mention Louise Hay, who I had the good fortune to write a book with before this one. You know, Louise said to me one time when we were traveling together, she said, "Cheryl, you will be with you longer than anyone else on the planet. Why not make it a good relationship?" That just really struck me. I mean, think about that. You will be with you longer than your wife, your husband, your kids. I mean, you will be with you longer than anyone, and in the most intimate way. So, cultivating a relationship with our inner life through journaling or ...
Cheryl Richardson: When I say journaling, by the way, I'm not just talking about sitting down and writing. One whole year my journal consisted of every night I would make a list of 10 things that brought me pleasure that day. For the last two years on Instagram I make a list of five things I'm grateful for and invite my followers to do the same, and then I get to read about all these things people are grateful for. On Instagram I just want to say my username is Coach On Call. It's not Cheryl Richardson.
Neil Sattin: Great.
Cheryl Richardson: Also, I think photographs are a wonderful way, especially now with smartphones. Sometimes journaling is creating photo albums. Like every day I try to take at least one picture of something that's beautiful, and when I go back and I look in photo albums at the beautiful moments in my life, it teaches me something about myself and it reminds me of what really matters to me, so I think we have to expand our notion of what journaling is to be more about the activities we engage in every day that say to us, "You matter. I'm paying attention to you. I'm here for you. I'm present with you. You have my attention," because for most of us, the whole world has our attention on a regular basis. We don't have enough of our own attention.
Cheryl Richardson: In a lot of ways I took a big risk when I put this book out. I was convinced I wasn't gonna publish it til the day I hit send because it's very honest and it's about what happens when we decide to stop and pay close attention, to examine our life. You know, that's what I do. I live an examined life and then I write about what I discover. I mean, that's really ... You could sum up my career as a writer and a teacher pretty much, and that's what I really want for others, is to live an examined life. Give yourself the attention you deserve.
Neil Sattin: I think that's so important, whether it is figuring out how to achieve more of a work-life balance or getting rid of clutter and organizing your life and time so that it supports you and feels more spacious, or your health ... All the points that you talk about in more of your how-to books. I love that you're also there with us as an honest participant, just like I've talked on the show about things going on in my relationship with Chloe. We're not here to pretend like it's all perfect.
Cheryl Richardson: Yeah ...
Neil Sattin: We're here to remind you that it is about the process.
Cheryl Richardson: That's right, that's right. That's what it's all about. I mean, really, the soul is here to experience life, period. We're not here to accomplish or acquire or conquer. We're really here to be fully present for the experience of life and for the beautiful experience of our connection to one another because we are all connected.
Neil Sattin: I'm so pleased that we had this chance to share these moments together, Cheryl. If you're interested in finding out more about Cheryl's work, you can visit CherylRichardson.com. Her new book, Waking Up In Winter, is available, as well as all of her other books and audio programs through Audible, Sounds True. You can find it all on Amazon and through Cheryl's website, her Instagram, et cetera. We'll have links to all of that in the resources section of the show notes and transcript for this episode. Meanwhile, Cheryl, is there anything else that people should know about how they could work with you or get in touch with you?
Cheryl Richardson: No, I don't maintain a coaching practice anymore, so the best thing to do to learn about the events that I'm doing or the retreats ... I do host two retreats a year. They're just intimate gatherings of 50 people and they're very organic, and coaching ... That's where you could get coaching from me. The best place is to subscribe to the newsletter at CherylRichardson.com because I put a blog out every Sunday night and I always include what I'm up to in there as well.
Neil Sattin: Great. Well, thank you so much and it's such a pleasure to meet you and spend some time with you today.
Cheryl Richardson: Thank you, Neil, and thank you for the good work that you're contributing to the world. You have such high quality people on your podcast, people who are really steeped in a lot of experience and knowledge, and I really appreciate that you're putting this out into the world. It's so important right now.
Neil Sattin: Thank you so much for saying so. It's definitely work that's so important to me, so it's helpful to have that feedback from you.
Cheryl Richardson: Great. Thanks, Neil.
Neil Sattin: Sure thing.
Cheryl Richardson: Bye.