Relationship Alive!

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







All Episodes
Now displaying: Page 2
Jul 11, 2020

In today's world, it's challenging to avoid conflicts - whether with our intimate partners, or simply with people at the grocery store or on social media. How do you take control of any fight so that you can create the best outcome? How do you resolve conflicts in a way that helps bring you closer to others, instead of widening the divide between you? In this week's episode we'll cover some important ways for you to steer arguments towards a place where you can "win" without suffering the costs of victory. Wondering what I mean? Come aboard with me in this week's episode.

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!


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


Check out my Secrets of Relationship Communication COURSE for a masterclass in how to improve the communication and connection in your relationship.

I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Today we're going to tackle how to win any argument, how to come out on top in terms of any conflict that you might have. It's an important topic, especially in today's divided world and specifically, in the ways that we can be driven apart from our partners by deep seemingly unresolvable conflicts. So today, I'm going to give you three important steps to win any argument, resolve the conflict, and get on with the business of living your life hopefully in as joyous a way as possible and connected a way as possible.

Neil Sattin: First, I just want to remind you that Relationship Alive is an offering for me to you to help you have the most successful thriving relationships possible. If you are finding the show to be beneficial for yourself or for people that you care about, please consider a donation to support Relationship Alive and our mission. You can choose anything that feels right for you and every little bit truly does help. So to pick something that will feel good, just visit or you can text the word support to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: This week, I want to thank Keerthi, Angie, Jules, Cynthia, Thomas, Debra, Meredith, Kent, Laura, Sarah, and another Neil. Thank you all so much for your generous and ongoing contributions to Relationship Alive. As you might expect, today we are going to be covering topics that really dive deep into how we communicate with others. So if you haven't grabbed it yet, please do download my free guide to my top three relationship communication secrets. These are the kinds of things that will help you stay connected no matter how challenging the topic is that you're talking about, so it's going to go right hand-in-hand with what we're going to talk about on today's show. To download the free guide, just visit or text the word relate to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: And finally, before we dive in, just a reminder that we have a free group on Facebook, the Relationship Alive Community, where you can find more than 4,000 other people who listen to the show and who are there to have generative supportive conversations about how to do relationships well, along with all the other parts that come along with relationships; breakups, heartache, dating, finding love, and all the parts in between, so come talk to us, celebrate with us, commiserate with us and join the fun. Oh, one last thing, if there's something going on for you that you would like me to answer on the show, just email yourself talking about it to questions at relationshipalive dot com and I will keep you anonymous and answer your question on the show. If you don't feel comfortable talking, you can just write it down, but hopefully, you feel comfortable talking at least enough so that other people can hear your voice. I think it's a nice touch. We've been able to do that a couple of times in the show already and I am looking forward to your questions. Alright, so let's dive in with the top three ways to win any argument, and I don't know if you can hear it in my voice, but I'm smiling a bit when I say win any argument because the reality is that winning an argument is actually not the goal.

Neil Sattin: Now, I'm going to tell you a little bit more about this in a moment. It's going to factor in more to tip number two and tip number three, so let's just start with figuring out why this is important, where is this coming from? As I mentioned at the top of the show, it feels like we're living in a world that's becoming more and more divided, more and more polarized, and this is also playing out even in our most intimate relationships because we can feel paralyzed or like we can't act and we can't resolve simple things like who's going to initiate sex? Who is going to make sure there's dinner on the table? Who's going to wash the dishes? What are you going to do when you have a free night? Do you believe in wearing masks and social distancing, or do you not? There are all of these ways, right, that we are constantly discovering that our own opinions about how something should be or ought to be don't necessarily line up with the other people in our lives. And we can resolve to just yell at each other and not get anywhere. We can resolve to yell at each other until one or the other person gives up.

Neil Sattin: We can resolve to just never fight about anything. I don't think any of those solutions really get us anywhere, and I think this topic is really key and it's going to be even more key because they say a divided house cannot stand. I think that's what they say. I can't remember who said it and actually, I'm going to look it up right now. Okay, you gotta love the internet and also the ability to hit the pause button on my recording software. So, of course like many good things the house divided against itself cannot stand. It does come from the Bible, it comes from the New Testament. That's actually not what I was thinking of though. So maybe we'll talk more about that aspect of it a little bit later. I was actually thinking of the reference by Abraham Lincoln, known as His House Divided Speech, which he gave when he had accepted the Republican Party nomination to be Illinois US Senator. This was back in 1858 so it was before the Civil War. And the greater context is that he was saying that he didn't believe that the government could endure if we didn't resolve the question of slavery and of course, he wanted to abolish slavery, so this was the rallying cry for the Republicans at the time to take up the cause of abolition and emancipation.

Neil Sattin: So all super important aspects of the United States' history and I think that the same in many ways is true today, it feels like at least in my experience, and this could just be because of the way that we're connected to each other these days through social media where everything is on display. But it feels like there hasn't been a time in my experience that we've been more outwardly divided than we are now. And where people are saying some pretty scary shit, to be honest with you. Personally, I think that it's important for us to all learn how to get along with each other and take care of each other, and not just on the national level, but I believe that that's crucial on the global level, that we as humans really need to learn how to take care of each other and show up for each other and lift each other up. I believe that there is plenty in our world, as long as we're all on the same side of the table, figuring out how to make it work for all of us.

Neil Sattin: And what's challenging in arguments or conflict is how we so often end up on opposite sides of the table talking at each other, fighting to win and not fighting for a common purpose. So I'm giving you hints as to where we're headed, but I wanted to let you know that that's where this is coming from, I feel like I've experienced this in relationships and now in marriages, where the inability to resolve really deep disagreements led to the dissolution of what could have been a more perfect union. So let's all work together and I'm going to teach you today some very important ways to do that, that are going to make a radical shift for you in terms of how you approach any conflict with anyone.

Neil Sattin: Okay so here's the first thing, tip number one, the thing that you have to realize is that for the most part, people believe what they are telling you. And in many respects, they believe it passionately. Now, sure, some of us are a little bit more laidback, a little bit more easygoing, and it can happen that if you're an easy-going person and you're in a relationship with someone who's super convinced of their viewpoint, then you could find yourself yielding over and over and over again and just letting things go because to you, it's not as big a deal, but in the end, that is a surefire way to build resentment and that resentment over time will undermine the fabric of your relationship.

Neil Sattin: So let's not let go of our viewpoint because we are going to let go of who we are and what we feel is important in the world. And at the same time, let's recognize firmly that when someone else is telling you something, they probably believe that with every ounce of their heart, being, soul just like you do especially about the things that you feel passionate about, that you feel are important. So without that recognition, there's no possible way to resolve conflict because you'll be focused on the wrong thing. Now, what do you do if what the other person believes is based on something that you know for sure to be wrong, to be incorrect? Well this is a really good question. First question that I have for you under those circumstances is how do you know? Can you be absolutely sure that what you believe is 100% correct or 100% the truth or 100% the way it is? It could be that that's true. I mean it's possible and maybe what you believe is 95% true and 5% not true, so it gets challenging when the other person believes something that you think might be 10% true and 90% a crock of shit, right? So what do you do in those circumstances?

Neil Sattin: Well, first, you want to recognize that that person believes fully what they're telling you, or, and this is important, they might not believe what they're telling you 100% but they believe in the underlying reasons why they are telling you what they are telling you. So they might be 100% invested in their truth but generally, that investment isn't so much about that specific truth. It's about what lies underneath it. So can you literally hear first what the other person is saying? Can you acknowledge within yourself that what they're saying to them is probably pretty close to 100% true, 100% something they believe in? And can you ask yourself, why do they believe in this so much? Why is this so important to them? And then rather than just telling yourself this story over and over again, can you check in with them? Can you check in with them about your assumptions about why it is that they are so convinced of whatever it is they're telling you? Or why it is that their point of view is so important to them. Can you get to the core of what really matters to them?

Neil Sattin: Now you might ask them a question like "okay, okay, I see that this is... I'm pretty sure this is how you feel about this thing, right?" And make sure you're hearing them correctly, if you get it wrong, actually, you totally missed it, then you need more information to figure out what it is they're actually saying. But once you know what they're saying, then you say "can we go a little bit deeper? Could you tell me a little bit more about why this is important to you?" Or "I have a story about why I think you are saying what you're saying, can I check in with you about it and see if that's true?" Now that can be pretty risky, especially, if it's someone you don't know, If it's someone you don't know very well, then your safest bet is to not lead with your assumptions, it's to lead by asking them. "Can you tell me more about what's so important to you here? What are the underlying principles that you live and die by?" And then you might even get out "why are those principles important to you?" If it's your personal freedom that's important to you, for instance, if it's not wanting to be accountable to anyone else. I don't want to tell you where I was while I was out. You're not my mother, right?

Neil Sattin: If someone doesn't want to be accountable to you, then what's underneath that? "Okay, it sounds like you don't want to be accountable to me, and I'm not asking you because I want you to be accountable to me. I'm asking you because I'm curious, or I'm asking you because I'm scared. So I'm wondering if you can tell me a little bit more about why it's so hard for you to answer my questions? 'Cause I want to know more about you." So step one is all about understanding the other person. Now, this is something that I go deep, deep, deep into in my secrets of relationship communication course. The course is about three-and-a-half hours of instruction to help you communicate better, to help you understand and be understood, and it's a master class in the things that I'm talking about in today's episode. The course as of now is still in beta but because we are all in such close quarters with our loved ones, and because things are getting heated in our public spaces I reopened the beta for now. And if you're hearing this after the beta has ended, then that's good, that means the final version is out.

Neil Sattin: And if you sign up for the beta of the course, you'll also get the final version when it's ready. And if you want to know more about it, just visit There. So step one is all about finding out what's going on with the other person and checking your assumptions to see if you can dig a little bit deeper and figure out what's important to them, what's important to them on the deepest level.

Interested in reading the transcript for steps Number Two and Number 3? 

Click here to download the full transcript of this episode!

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!


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.


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


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!


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.


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


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.

May 29, 2020

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: I'm recording right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They do it in the waiting room.

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

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

I mean she was livid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What were you doing, who were you interacting with?

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

Neil Sattin: it sounds really familiar, actually.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: It's a pretty good deal.

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

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

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

And then her daughter recovered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Absolutely I would imagine so!

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

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

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

David Burns: Absolutely, is that important?

Neil Sattin: Definitely.

David Burns: is it real?

Neil Sattin: for sure.

David Burns: Is it powerful?

Neil Sattin: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Definitely.

David Burns: Is that a good thing?

Neil Sattin: absolutely.

David Burns: Is that powerful?

Neil Sattin: I would say, so, yeah.

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

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

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

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

Why would you wanna do that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2020

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

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


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.


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have to right now - of necessity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They're amazing moments when they happen.

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

I had the whole vision, all worked out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 25, 2020

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

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


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.


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

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

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Mara Wells.

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


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

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

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

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

Mara Wells: It is absolutely a romance novel.

Neil Sattin: Okay.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mara Wells: Yes.

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

Mara Wells: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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

Mara Wells: Yes. Absolutely yes.

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

Mara Wells: Yes.

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right.

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

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


Neil Sattin: It might not be the best start.

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right.

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

Neil Sattin: In the same moment. Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah. And then...

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right.

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

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

Mara Wells: Yes.


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


Mara Wells: That is not acceptable.

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right.

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

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


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

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

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm.

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

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

Mara Wells: Right.

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

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

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah, absolutely.

Mara Wells: Yes.


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

Mara Wells: Yeah. [chuckle]

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right, right.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Mara Wells: I'm glad.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah.

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


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

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


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

Neil Sattin: Oh, poor guy.

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

Mara Wells: Yeah. [laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

Mara Wells: [chuckle] Yes.

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right, right.

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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


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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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

Mara Wells: There's nothing guilty about it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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

Mara Wells: Right?

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

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

Neil Sattin: Wow.

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Mara Wells: Thank you.

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

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

Neil Sattin: Awesome. And how many...

Mara Wells: Marawellsauthor.

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

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

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Congratulations.

Mara Wells: Thank you so much.

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

Mara Wells: Oh, okay. [chuckle]

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

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

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

Mara Wells: Thank you.

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


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

Mara Wells: Yes.

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

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


Neil Sattin: I love it, I love it.

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah?

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

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

Mara Wells: Yep.

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


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

Mara Wells: Yep.

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

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

Neil Sattin: You're welcome.

Apr 10, 2020

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

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


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.

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


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

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jessica Zager.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica Zager: Correct.

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

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

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

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

Interested in reading a transcript of the rest of this episode?

Click here to download it!

Mar 20, 2020

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

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

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


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.


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive.

This is your host, Neil Sattin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why not? It started today?

Just go to better help dot com live simply fill out their questionnaire, which will help them assess your needs and get you matched with a counselor that you love, that's better. Help dot com alive, thanks better help.

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

We'll start with texting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So please let me know how I can support you.

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

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

Mar 14, 2020

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

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


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


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I've put together my top three ways to do that and a free guide for you called my relationship communication secrets.

And you can download that by just visiting or by texting the word "relate" to the number 33444 and following the instructions and the guide is free.

So I definitely suggest that you grab it, that you put those things into practice, and I, we will be having the final version of my secrets of relationship communication course that's going to be coming out again very soon. So keep an eye out for that and you will get notified if you download the free guide.

Just so you know.

Also, it takes a village, in so many ways and it takes a village to keep relationship alive going and I've really appreciated your generous support of relationship alive - the podcast, our mission. This is an offering for you to help you have the most successful, amazing relationships possible and if you're finding the show to be having a positive impact in your life, please consider a donation to help ensure that we can continue. You can choose anything that feels right for you and every little bit counts.

So this week, I would like to thank Sarah Dave Kendra Michael Michele Joseph Rana Holly Marie Timothy and Kona thank you all so much for your generous, in most of those cases ongoing, support of Relationship Alive.

And if you would like to make a contribution, all you have to do is visit or text the word support to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

And speaking of support if you are looking for another way to expand the web of support that you have in your life, you can come join the relationship alive community on Facebook. It's free, and we are endeavoring to create a safe space for you to talk about your relationships, personal development and anything that impacts the ways that we connect with each other, the successes that we experience and the challenges as well.

So that's the relationship alive community on Facebook.

Okay, so let's dive in. And I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek with calling this episode, Love in the Time of Corona. It's obviously a reference to the novel Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And I read that book, way back in college.

Tell you the truth. I don't remember a lot about it, but I do remember that it covers the complexities of love and relationship, and long-term relationship, and there's a comparison between love and sickness. So there's this sense that we have that life is complicated and it's gonna be complicated no matter what. And the things that we sometimes think are true or easy or that we take for granted aren't always - Things are not always as they seem. And I think that was a central theme in the book, that there are things that you assume to be true, that actually end up not being true. And of course, it's a romantic novel that covers decades and decades of the lives of the two main protagonists. And the reason that I wanted to refer to it here is because we are in this position where we can't escape what is happening around us.

Whether you think it's all something that's being blown out of proportion or whether you think that it is something that may seriously impact you and the people that you love or whether you're just watching everything unfold, and waiting to see what is actually gonna happen, there's almost no way at this point that you can avoid the impacts of covid 19, the new Coronavirus on your life.

Big events are being cancelled, or postponed. At least, this has been a consideration for me because I'm working on doing my live show and bringing it to a major metropolitan area near you. And it's a little challenging to think about planning something like that, when there's so much uncertainty at the moment, about whether these large events are actually going to be happening.

So life is interesting right now and I have two young kids in school, I have a mother with a compromised immune system, I have a 97-year-old grandmother. So as I look at the landscape of life, there's a lot of ponder. And so, let's just cover some of the basics. This portion of the show is gonna be my public service announcement.

Essentially what we want to do is something that has been called flattening the curve. So maybe you've heard of that, and you know what I'm talking about, if you don't let me just tell you that what we are trying to do is slow the spread of this virus, by employing some measures that I'll be talking about in a moment, and the idea of slowing it is to, one, prevent our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed, like, is already happening in some parts of the world.

So, as much as possible, if we slow the spread of Corona then we are doing our part to help overall, the healthcare system, keep up with whatever demand this illness puts upon it, and of course also as long as we're able to delay the spread than our chances improve of a vaccine or a really effective treatment being discovered to help more people get through it.

So there are real practical reasons for doing this and it's important for all of us because even if you yourself feel like your immune system is fairly robust, and you're not worried about it, odds are that there are people, if not in your life, in the lives of people who are close to you who are at risk or could be impacted.

And so this really is one of those situations where it falls upon each of us to do our part for the greater good, so to not be cavalier about taking precautions and instead to do your part to flatten the curve to slow things down and to keep the coronavirus from reaching - if not yourself, or people you love, other people who are loved by people you know. So let's all pull together for this. That is my wish for you as you're listening.

And the things that we can do right now that we know of are relatively simple.

We can avoid really crowded spaces.

This is known as social distancing. So to spend more time, either in small groups or alone, if you have any signs of illness, to keep yourself away from other people until you know that you're in the clear... And of course, if things feel serious at all or like you are at risk, then definitely contact your doctor, and find a way to get tested, so that you can know what is going on and so you can take an appropriate course of action.

It's helpful to have a little stockpile of food and things so that you don't have to leave your house, if you can avoid it, and you don't wanna go overboard because we wanna make sure that there's enough to go around and it's likely that no matter what happens, grocery stores will be open and all of that. So the goal here is just to have enough to make sure that you're gonna be okay in your home and that you will have to leave as little as possible. And the purpose of doing that again is to slow the spread because sadly we can actually be carriers of Covid-19 without knowing it, without having any symptoms.

So if you're able to stay away from other people, for a couple of weeks, and that prevents you from catching something, or from inadvertently spreading something, then that is going to go a long way to helping our world beat this thing.

And then you've also probably heard, some of the basics. washing your hands frequently and not touching your face. Because the Covid-19 virus, it needs to get to your lungs and the way it does that is through your eyes, your nose or your mouth.

So if you keep your hands away for your face, and you wash your hands frequently, then you should be just fine or you will at least be doing the best that you can to prevent the spread of this illness. And at the moment we do not believe that wearing a mask is a very effective way of preventing yourself from getting the virus.

And people stockpiling masks is actually creating a problem in the health care industry because our doctors and nurses and first responders, don't have the masks that they need. So maybe you wanna have a couple on hand just in case but other than that, probably better to ensure that masks can get to where they're needed most with the people on the front lines of fighting this thing.

They do recommend that people who have the flu or have coronavirus that they wear a mask, and that is mainly to prevent or cut down on the chances of spreading the illness to other people. So, masks aren't a terribly effective way to keep yourself from getting it as far as we know, but they are a good way of not spreading it to other people.

Of course, if you are being diagnosed with this, then you are probably gonna be getting much more thorough advice than you're getting from me, and I'm not a doctor. So let me just be upfront that anything that I say here, I would love for you to take it with a grain of salt.

Please do your own research online if you need to. I've been doing a lot of reading on this topic, so I feel pretty confident in the recommendations that I'm making but I'm not a doctor.

So if you have any concerns at all, I recommend that you check with a doctor or check with the latest recommendations from your local health service, and hopefully all of our health services all over the world are being really proactive in getting that information out. Okay, so that's the public service announcement part but now let's get into the nitty gritty of why we're here, which is three-fold, really. One is how to help yourself with what is going on in the world and how to deal with potentially the anxiety or worry or fear that you're experiencing, if you are experiencing it or if you are in blissful ignorance. Maybe we should talk about that for just a moment or two more. So that's the first part. The second part is, I wanna talk about when you are in a close relationship with someone, so if you are home more or less, working from home or in self-quarantine or social distancing. With your partner, and your kids, 'cause potentially, they are home from school.

So then odds are, you are gonna be around each other a lot more than you are used to. And so we'll talk about some special considerations for that.

And finally, I want to talk about those few or those of us who are dating and who are not necessarily in a single love relationship, and the implications of what is going on on finding love, and developing love. So those are the three main bases, that I wanna cover today.

As usual we'll start with the self and self-care because that is so important for keeping your feet on the ground, keeping your wits about you and keeping your heart centered as you move through this time.

So I'm not gonna make any assumptions about what this has been like for you. I'll just say that for me, it's been noticeable. I told you a little bit about a few moments ago that my mother has a compromised immune system, my grandmother is 97. they are in groups that are statistically at very high risk for not only getting the coronavirus, but also it potentially killing them.

And that's scary for me, and I've spent a lot of time - the way that I tend to deal with uncertainty is through research, so reading and reading and reading, and that's partly how this podcast came to be because I had my own struggles in relationships that I had witnessed in my own relationships, and so I dove into the details, because that's what I do and I... My hope is that that is a benefit for you, but that doesn't mean that you have to do it, you may have your own way of coping. And I think the first thing is just to acknowledge that it's very possible that whatever your experience is, that you are, below at all, experiencing some stress, so whether that stress is anxiety and worry and fear or anger at people for blowing this way out of proportion or whatever it is, no matter how stressed you are, that stress is something worth confronting and doing something about, because stress suppresses our immune system for one thing. So the more that you you can confront your stress and bring yourself into balance, the better off you will be when it comes to just having a system that can fight whatever is going on in the world around you, whether that just be a cold or Coronavirus and it also is gonna help you show up better for other people in your life.

There's nothing like trying to interact with the world, or trying to move through a stressful situation or conflict with another person when you yourself are stressed and dysregulated, so there's never been a better time for you to establish a routine of checking in with yourself, how are you doing? And you could start with something with a broad strokes, like maybe every time you brush your teeth, which is perhaps two or three times a day you use that as an opportunity, a reminder that you should check in with yourself, and ask "How am I doing, what am I feeling right now, where do I notice that in my body?"

"Does it make sense? Does it make sense with everything that's going on in my life?" To start doing this as a way of regularly taking your emotional pulse so that you can have a sense of what's really happening with you, and what if anything needs to be addressed. If you notice that you are feeling something in particular - anxiety, fear, sadness, confusion, then it's worth taking an extra step in asking yourself "What is that the root of that?"

And is there something I can do like "what aspect of this can I control and what aspects of this can I not control?"

And of the aspects that you can control, then you might ask yourself, "Well, what can I do to improve that thing?"

So if you're feeling uncertain, then maybe there are things you can do to get more certainty. If you're feeling disconnected or you're alone, then what can you do to reach out and connect? If you're feeling nervous for another person in your life, then what can you do to reach out to them and tell them that you care about them?

Right? These are all just simple ways of being proactive around noticing your emotional state and taking care of yourself to hopefully bring yourself back into balance: noticing your breathing, noticing your physical state, your physiological state and letting that also indicate for you how you're doing, and if there's something that needs to be addressed.

So you might think that you're totally fine but if you check in with your body, you notice like, "Oh my heart's pounding or... Oh, I'm kinda sweaty."

Well, those might be signs of stress or something going on and if you do notice those things, then what can you do?

So can you just take a moment to breathe? Can you fix yourself a cup of tea?

Can you call a friend, someone that you care about and who cares about you?

Can you spend a little time with a pet, and just pet your dog or your cat or... My daughter really wants me to get her a little pigmy bunny. So I'm thinking about that. If you have a pigmy maybe spend a little time with your bunny just petting the bunny. I gotta think that that soft little bunny might help you calm down a little bit if you need that, and if you're feeling angry at whatever is happening in the world, then this is also a great time for you to look within and ask yourself, "What is it about this that's making you angry?"

What are the places where you feel like your power is being taken from you? Your system is responding with intelligence to that - your system is responding and saying "No. Take that power back. I'm angry."

Again, there will be aspects of this that you can impact and there will be things that you cannot impact but no matter what, getting to know yourself better, getting to know what's going on within you better and figuring out where you can be proactive to keep yourself regulated to move through and out of your stress, those are things that will help you, yourself in whatever is going on in the world and it will help you show up for the world and the other people around you, so that is taking care of yourself, also. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, take Elderberry, vitamin C, just whatever you can do to keep your immune system bolstered and ready along with keeping yourself calm.

So I do want to change gears a little bit and talk about the impact of Corona on our relationships and on our dating life.

But before I do, I wanna take a moment to talk about this week's sponsor. We're talking about potentially being pretty cooped up with others. And there's never a better time to ensure that you are smelling fresh than now.

And that's where this episode's sponsor native deodorant comes in - with fewer ingredients that are easy to pronounce, and found in nature, and completely free of aluminum.

They offer free returns and exchanges in the USA, so there's no risk to try them out.

And native deodorant comes in a wide variety of subtle enticing sense for men and women along with unscented and baking soda free varieties, if you have sensitivities. They've had more than 9000 positive reviews. And you've probably heard me talk about them here on the show and if you have, then cool, you'll understand the story. If you haven't, then you should know that I put native to the test by using it after a day of not having had a shower and I found that it not only helped control any unpleasantness coming from under my arms, but it was also working at the end of the day. So it's super effective and long-lasting without any harsh ingredients, and in this case without a shower.

So like I mentioned, they have a special offer for you because as a Relationship Alive listener, you get 20% off your first purchase.

Just, visit and use the promo code "alive" during check out - that's 20% off your first purchase when you visit and use the promo code alive. And thank you, native deodorant for your support of Relationship Alive.

Okay, so let's get back to the next step in our conversation, which is about how Coronavirus is potentially gonna impact us in our relationships.

And there are few obvious ways when I mentioned already, which is the potential to be cooped up with people for a long period of time and just to be aware that in and of itself can cause stress and tension and then potentially, if anyone, you know, or as close to you get sick or if you get sick then that is another way that this could impact you.

So let's talk a little bit about just the stress of being cooped up with other people more than anything. I think our mantra today should be to be kind and generous with each other to be compassionate and understanding.

So if you find that someone else is getting snappy with you to remind yourself that they are probably going through some stress right now and to not take it personally as much as possible, and if you, yourself, are feeling irritable, or challenged by something that someone else is doing then you might even speak it out loud, just like, "Hey I just want you to know that I'm really stressed or I'm exhausted or this is really challenging for me, and so I know I'm being unpleasant" or "I know I'm being argumentative, or I know I'm snapping back at you, and I just want you to know that it's not personal, it's what's happening with me."

So as much as you can take responsibility for your state of mind and state of heart and state of being with the other people around you, that is one way to really help them feel connected to you and to your experience.

And you might check in with the others too like "Hey how are you doing? It's been five minutes since we've talked to each other."

"Can I just check in with you and see how you are?"

And if you are with loved ones and relatively safe and isolated then... And you've washed your hands, then it's probably totally fine for you to give each other back rubs or foot rubs and to be loving with each other as much as you can.

And if you've been going through a challenging time in your relationship, then this could be extra stressful for you. That seems obvious to me right now. There are those miraculous moments where times get tough and we band together and it helps us get past things that seem like a big deal, but when it comes right down to it, you realize that it's not such a big deal. So potentially, there are those kinds of things that are going on in your relationship, that are creating challenge and this helps you kinda put everything in perspective. That could be a good thing, and... this could also exacerbate things. So I invite you to just one to acknowledge that that is a possibility, if that is something that you're going through to recognize - Okay, things have been challenging, it might get more challenging and then you can develop a strategy for yourself - a plan around how to best safeguard yourself from it getting more challenging.

So if there are things that you know are particular triggers for you with this other person or ways that you trigger them, then you might take special care to not trigger the other person and to create safe boundaries around yourself, to keep your tender spots from being poked at and triggered as well.

You might also with your significant other, say something like, "Hey let's just acknowledge that things have been challenging between us and maybe we could agree to just put all of that aside right now and just band together for this, for what's happening in our world right now" - it's another possibility.

Generally, the best thing is for you to be open about your experience, and what concerns you. In fact, you might even say something to your partner, like "hey, things have been to tough with us, recently. I'm a little nervous about us being in the same space a lot because of what's going on in the world. Are you nervous about that?"

"Are there things do you think that we could do to help keep things light and spacious with us to help us be positive through all of this, and not make things worse?"

If you can enlist the other person and speak to the truth of what is, then that also increases your chances of getting through with flying colors, and I encourage you to do that as well and in the end, if you need to, I encourage you to take space and this can be a very useful strategy for everyone who is sharing space together: if you are sharing space to work out a system for when anyone can say, "Hey I need a time out for myself," and where that time out and space is granted so that you or the other person can have some moments alone to recharge.

And so, yeah, I encourage you to work those things out ahead of time, if possible, so that you're heading it off at the pass and you're being proactive, and that way those conversations will have happened so that you can make space for other more important conversations that may come up during all of this time.

Now, if you are single or solo let's move along, I guess. And of course, if you have specific questions around this stuff, you can always record yourself asking the question, and send it to me - the email addresses:

So, if you're single, or solo or dating like what do you do in your circumstances? Well, here, a few things that come to mind. The first is that there's potential for you to be extremely isolated, and that isn't necessarily healthy either. Being completely isolated will theoretically prevent you from getting the coronavirus. But it might be really psychologically challenging to be that isolated. So this is a time where I would encourage you to find ways to stay connected. There are great freeways... to drive your car on. But what I really mean is, there are great free... ways that you can stay connected with other people. If you have internet access or a phone, you can do a Google Hangout or FaceTime or Skype calls. I really love the video conferencing technologies. In fact, most of my clients that I see, and I see clients all over the world, we do that using Zoom or Skype, and I'm so used to it now that it really feels as though we are in the same room with each other. And so I encourage you to reach out to other people, to not just get isolated in your home, but to find ways to reach out and connect using technology, using whatever technology is available to you.

And if you don't have a phone and you don't have a computer, then of course I'm wondering how you're listening to this podcast, but you could always sit on your stoop outside - and if you're out in the fresh air or the odds are pretty good that you're not going to catch Coronavirus and that someone walking by would not catch it, from you or give it to you and you could just say "hello" to people who are walking by. Just be friendly and just ask people how they're doing, and you can point out.

"I don't wanna shake your hand, or give you a hug, but I just wanted to check in with people in the world and see how you are doing" and you may be surprised you might make someone's day, by simply saying, "Hey how are you? This is all pretty weird, isn't it, that we're going through?" Because most of us have never had to go through something like this in our lives, not all of us. So if you have gone through this, perhaps you even have expertise that you can lend to those of us who... For whom this is new and scary and confusing? This is a good time for you to speak up and lend your expertise to the occasion.

So, that's combating social isolation - even though we want to be doing social distancing. In order to flatten the curve.

Now, what about actual dating? Could you or should you be going out on dates in the current climate?

You know I'm inclined to say probably not right now, at least not until we really have a better sense of what is happening and really how Covid-19 spreads and we have consistent testing so that we really know for sure whether or not we are a carrier, someone else that we are going on on a date with... is a carrier.

It's not too unlike the conversations that you need to have around STDS before you have sex with someone. Hopefully, you are having a conversation that goes over your risk factors. "Have you been tested? Have you had anything before?"

"When was the last time you were tested? Have you had any risky behaviors?"

So when you go out on a date with someone and they say, "Oh well, I went to the whatever concert last night." Well, that might be a risk factor. So, the beautiful thing about this is that whatever you're doing to date, and I'm assuming that you're using technology of some sort at this point 'cause it's almost unavoidable in the modern dating landscape, then this becomes a great way to slow things down and really get to know other people.

So spending a little bit more time with your texting or chatting back and forth, your IMing, having a virtual date so you can use FaceTime, and make yourself a cup of tea and have the other person make themselves a cup of tea and you can sit down and sip tea and get to know each other just as if you were there in the coffee shop and I... One thing that's especially interesting about this is, with practice you can learn to really tune in to the other person, even though you're not there in the same space with them, you can really tune in and get a sense for who they are as a person.

And on top of that, even if you're not there in person with each other - think of all the times that when you've been in relationship if you have been in a relationship, how important it is to be able to communicate when you're not together, so whether that be through texting or talking on the phone or Skyping or whatever, it's actually helpful to know that that's a medium that you can operate in with your potential partner and what better way to know than by actually doing it, and doing it a lot and getting some good practice at it. So you may be having a little less sex than you used to, if you're a single person and you're out and about... But I think that overall, that is probably worth it, for your safety and your prospective partner's safety, unless you are absolutely positively sure that neither of you is that risk - in which case meet up and have fun. But I do encourage you to take advantage of the virtual spaces, and to take some risks around talking or hopping on a video call of some sort so that you can get to know someone more deeply without necessarily having to do it face-to-face, either at the coffee shop or in the bedroom. There will be a time for that, for sure.

And no matter what, taking the time to really get to know a person will help you make better choices than if you're going by chemistry alone because when you meet up with someone, and it feels really good and you connect with them right away, that doesn't always go so well, because you may not have done the due diligence required to ensure that someone is actually an appropriate partner for you. And gauging whether or not someone is appropriate for you to be dating is usually a much longer process that involves finding out a lot more about who they are and how they respond to you and how you respond to them.

And when you have all that dopamine and oxytocin flowing because you're just going to town in the bedroom, then it can seriously cloud your perception and your judgment.

So this is going to be a boon. I predict that there are gonna be all kinds of really strong relationships that emerge from this period of time when we were forced to spend a little bit more time apart and get to know each other a little better.

As always, I could talk about this for a long, long time, but I hope that whether you're single or in a relationship, or just thinking about how to maintain your own self-care during this time, that you've found something valuable in today's episode, and one thing you might wanna do is catch up on other podcast episodes or do some reading. And next week, we're gonna have a really fun interview with someone who's an old friend of mine actually, who is a romance author.

We're gonna talk about what we can learn from romance novels about love and relationships, and desire - and it may not surprise you to know that we can learn an awful lot!

So we have that conversation coming up next week, with Mara Wells. In the meantime, I am sending so much love and care and courage and calmness and health your way and just know that I am thinking of you and that we will all get through this, we will and I'm here for you... So thank you for spending this time with me today, and I look forward to you being with you again next week.

Take care.

And be safe.

Mar 5, 2020

What turns you on, and what turns you off? How do you get past the messages about sex that have been handed to you by others - to discover your own personal sexuality that emerges from within? How do you own your deepest desires - and then communicate them to your partner in a way that stands the best chance of having them be realized? In today’s episode, we’re having a return visit from Dr. Alexandra Solomon, author of the new book Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationships You Want. Our conversation will help you take your intimacy to a whole new level, so that your relationships can be satisfying in and out of the bedroom.

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

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

Also - check out our first episode with Alexandra Solomon about her first book, Loving Bravely (Episode 142).


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 Alexandra Solomon's website

Read Alexandra Solomon’s latest book: Taking Sexy Back

Read Alexandra Solomon’s other book, Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Alexandra Solomon.

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


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Let's talk some more about sex today, and I think it's really important, if for no other reason than the statistic that I'm pulling out of the book written by today's guest, that when you have a successful sex life with your partner, that accounts for say 15-20% of your overall happiness quotient. I'm sure I'm not using the exact term there, but when you have a dissatisfying sexual life with your partner, that can account for 50-75% of your dissatisfaction in your marriage, if I got that statistic right.

Neil Sattin: So, just think about that for a minute. If you're unhappy in the way that you're connecting sexually with your partner, or with your partners, then that's going to cause potentially a lot of distress for you. And what's at the root often of our dissatisfaction is the very foundation that we have, the way that we see ourselves as sexual beings, the way we operate in the world, the scripts that have been handed us and that we're enacting either consciously or unconsciously, or that we're trying to live up to, that can so often be a source of, not only unhappiness, but the sense of disconnection from who you actually are as a sexual being in the world, and that brings with it a whole host of things like shame or even just questions, self-judgment, and ultimately, potentially dissatisfaction in terms of your relationships.

Neil Sattin: So, let's tackle this head on and talk about how to reclaim and restructure who you are as a sexual being with today's esteemed guest. She's been with us on the show before, her name is Dr Alexandra Solomon, she's a professor at Northwestern and also a clinical psychologist who works with individuals and couples. Last time she was here, she was talking about her book, Loving Bravely, and if you wanna hear that episode, you can visit and it is episode number 142, if you're just flipping through your podcast app. And she's here today to talk about her new book, which is called Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationships You Want. It's a book written primarily for women and, at the same time, it has so much valuable stuff in it in terms of no matter where you are on the gender spectrum to reframe how you think about your sexuality and how you reclaim it for yourself.

Neil Sattin: As usual, we will have a transcript for today's episode. You can download it by visiting That one's not gonna be hard to remember. And as always, you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. So let's dive right in, Alexandra Solomon. It's such a treat to have you back with us here on Relationship Alive.

Alexandra Solomon: It's so nice to be with you, thank you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, let's talk... Let's just first unearth, there's something unusual about Taking Sexy Back, which is that you've taken the word sexy and you've made it a noun, and I'm wondering if you can explain what I'm even talking about and maybe explain your choice around that so that it will make sense as we move through this conversation.

Alexandra Solomon: Yes, so one of the first central ideas in this book is that there is a world of difference between being sexy and being sexual, so women have been taught and trained to either be sexy or to be afraid of being sexy, of being too sexy, not sexy enough, and that for women that word is oftentimes a question. Do you find me sexy? It's a question posed in the gaze of another, and when that is the lens through which one experiences one's sexuality, then sex becomes a performance, a sort of earning of that sense that you find me worthy, adequate, good, and it's different than being sexual. Sexual is a cultivation from the inside of my own connection with the erotic that I generate within me and then share with a partner. And so, in this book, we are taking sexy back, we're taking back the idea of sexy, and it becomes, as you said, a noun. So this book really is couple's therapy between the reader and her sexy, her sexuality, her sexual self. And the questions are: How well do you know that aspect of you? Do even know that is an aspect of you? What is that aspect of you wanting, yearning, in what ways is it hurting, and what needs to be kind of unearthed and processed? So, throughout the book, it is about really understanding and listening from within to that part of self that I think women are typically told really isn't theirs or shouldn't be looked at; good girls don't look at that. So, it's a reframing, and as you're saying, it's a reclamation, a taking back.

Neil Sattin: Right, and you talk about that being torn. And this is probably familiar for a lot of people who are listening, that you can be torn between wanting to really own your sexuality, but if you do that too much, then that also creates a shift potentially in how people see you, and so there's this burden of like how do you own your sexuality without it stigmatizing you?

Alexandra Solomon: Exactly, right. That sort of razor-thin line between being perceived as prudish and being, God forbid, slutty. So this sort of razor-thin line that, again, keeps a woman from connecting with herself. It becomes this sort of question of how am I being perceived. And the moment that's the focus, it cuts us off from being able to experience pleasure, experience mindfulness, articulate a boundary that is really from a place of truth rather than fear, and so then the entire possibility of cultivating a sex life that is healing, rewarding, connecting, uplifting, life-affirming is impossible 'cause there's no foundation to start from.

Neil Sattin: Right. Can you just talk for a minute about where this book was born from? And maybe the ways that you've seen women confront problems in terms of being disconnected from their sexuality? From their sexy? And what that process of reclamation looks like for them?

Alexandra Solomon: This book was born from a number of places. It was born from, I think, the way in which in my training as a licensed clinical psychologist and a couples therapist, I think the models that I was taught, were that when you're sitting with a couple, help them talk more nicely to each other, help them argue less, and then the sex will follow. You don't have to directly talk about sex. And there's a way in which that paradigm reinforced, I think, a message that I carried within me for a long time, that sex is not a polite topic. It really shouldn't be talked about or looked at, and if you're curious about it, something is wrong with you. So I think there were ways in which that message from my field kind of reinforced what I had done to myself my whole life, of just feeling like I'm feeling simultaneously fascinated by this entire world and topic, and then feeling like that wasn't really polite [chuckle] to be interested in or fascinated about. And so my own evolution of wanting to integrate love and sex within the work I do with couples, within my own life, and then just the work that I've done at Northwestern with graduate students and undergraduate students and being smacked again and again with my awareness of how inadequate sex education in our country is.

Alexandra Solomon: And how my students are sitting in front of me and I would give a lecture in my Marriage 101 course about sex, and basically invite them into this idea that sex is simultaneously a behavior, it's a thing that we do, instead of erotically-charged behaviors, and it's also this really powerful gateway into some of the most profound longings and questions that we have as humans. And just even that notion was radical to many of my students who had only ever talked about sex as something that is dangerous, dirty, forbidden, fearful, or titillating, and really central, but not this sort of whole-hearted aspect of self and aspect of relationship, and so all of that kind of created this. And I think, also, the fact that we are living through this massive upheaval around gender and power with the Me Too Movement. And so I think it was this coming together of all of this where this book basically wouldn't leave me alone. [chuckle] Like, I felt like I chose to write Loving Bravely, and I felt like this book was like, "Are you ready now? Can we go now? Can you just... " And it became easier to just sit down and create the table of contents than it was to just keep forestalling it.

Neil Sattin: Right, right, but yeah...

[overlapping conversation]

Alexandra Solomon: It felt really urgent. It felt really urgent to me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I think that's so true. I'm so glad your book was birthed and is... And by the time you're listening to this interview, it will be out. It's coming out February 2nd, Groundhog's Day of 2020. So you'll be able to get it. And yeah, it is such an important conversation because those scripts that have been handed to us around sexuality and the ways that our lack of education has gotten in the way, perhaps, of really getting in touch with who we are sexually, and not having a culturally accepted way of just exploring together 'cause so much sexuality has to happen behind closed doors and often in secret. We pretend it's not happening, but it's obviously happening. And so inviting the conversation into the public space, and one thing that I really love about your book, Taking Sexy Back, is that you explore all of these different dimensions of connecting into who you are as a sexual being. And each of those is a great gateway into understanding yourself in a new way, and then stepping forward into sexual connection with others with that new knowledge.

Interested in reading the rest of this transcript for this episode with Alexandra Solomon? 

Click here to download it!

Feb 22, 2020

It can be easy to avoid being judgmental with people that aren't close to you, but what do you do when you feel yourself getting critical or testing the people with whom you're the most vulnerable? How do you shift from judging back to connection? How do you deal with the pain that you might uncover when you own the fears at the heart of being judgmental? And what are some realistic expectations to have around the process of grieving? In this week's episode I answer YOUR questions as a followup to a few of our earlier episodes.

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


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


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

Check out this episode with Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of Conscious Uncoupling, about transforming core negative beliefs.

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Feb 14, 2020

How do we heal ourselves, our relationships, and the world we live in - all at once? How has our society created rifts within us (and between us) that get in the way of fulfilling relationships? With indigenous wisdom that has been handed down over thousands of years, today’s guest will help you heal the splits in your life and develop deeper integrity. Her name is Sherri Mitchell, and she is the author of “Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change”. A member of the Penobscot Nation, Sherri has also been actively involved with indigenous rights and environmental justice for more than 25 years. Instead of turning a blind eye to the ways that our cultural legacy gets in the way of connection and healing, today we will walk together down a practical path of truth, healing, and spirit.

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


With Real Roses that Last a Year, Venus Et Fleur offers luxurious, bespoke arrangements that will be a reminder of your thoughtfulness long after the day you give them. Visit and enter promo code ALIVE for complimentary shipping in the US thru 2/29 at 11:59 pm EST.

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


Find out more about Sherri Mitchell on her website.

Buy Sherri Mitchell’s book, Sacred Instructions, on Amazon.

I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

Visit this episode's page on our website - to download the transcript of this episode with Sherri Mitchell. Or text "PASSION" to 33444.

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. I like to bring in all kinds of ways to help us heal and grow and to take on the issues that impact us most, both in our lives, just as humans on this planet and particularly in our closest relationships with our partners. And, I'm often looking for new or different ways or in this case of what we're going to talk about today, ways that have been with us as humans for thousands of years. And there's something powerful in that. There's something powerful in the wisdom that's come down through generations and generations of connection to spirit, connection to life, connection to love, connection to wisdom. And within us being able to heal the ways that we ourselves have been brought into a culture that asks us to do one thing, like, for instance, fall in love and marry someone and and be happy with them for the rest of our days. But in the end, doesn't offer a lot in the ways of really how to do that successfully. And in fact, it could be that at the very root of how we learn to exist in this world. There are some core elements that are getting in our way. So. For today's conversation, I have a very special guest who I found out about through Peter Levine in a conversation one day, when I was asking him about whose work does he find or did he find to be really powerful. And that might be a great guest for the show. And as luck would have it, the person that he suggested lives right here in the same state where I live in Maine. And she is the author of the recent book "Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit Based Change." Her name is Sherri Mitchell and she is a member of the Penobscot tribe here in Maine. And she is also a distinguished lawyer and humanitarian and has been working for years in the fields of international human rights. And she has several projects that are helping to heal the world at large and in the process to heal the relationships that we experience with each other and all of the divisions that are happening in the world right now and within ourselves, as well. 

Neil Sattin: So if you want to get a transcript of today's episode, then you can visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-sacred. Or as always, you can text the word passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. And those instructions for downloading the transcript are fairly simple. You know, enter your name and email address. Today, we're going to tap into a deeper set of instructions. A deeper set of instructions that are here to help us thrive and change the way that we live. 

Neil Sattin: So, Sherri Mitchell, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive. 

Sherri Mitchell: Thank you for having me, Neil. 

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering if we could start with that sense of kind of where we are right now. That was something that really struck me in reading your book. Right off the bat, this description of how the experience that we're born into kind of sets us up for division from each other. I'm wondering if we can start there with this sense of the ways that that Western society is perpetuating a sense of division that is alienating us from each other and from ways of actually healing as a society. 

Sherri Mitchell: I think it's more than just contemporary society. This is something that has been conditioned into us, embedded into our thinking for millennia, that we have at least two millennia of real belief in separation and this idea that difference is dangerous and that oneness means homogenization. And so, when we're coming together and we're approaching one another, there's this inbred fear that we carry with us into those encounters. And the discomfort that we're feeling is something that we've also been taught not to experience, not to be able to be at peace with our discomfort. Any type of discomfort or pain, we're conditioned to deflect it, suppress it, project it, medicate it, avoided it all costs. And so that prevents us from really sinking into the discomfort that naturally arises when we come together because of this conditioning and prevents us from moving through the masks and the walls that have been created for us by others and handed down to us as this epigenetic inheritance within our DNA and our blood memory. And in order to be able to really address that and override it, we have to really become intimate with it. And that requires us to overcome a great deal of conditioning and ingrained thinking about how we view ourselves in the larger context of life. And so, you know,it's not a simple task of just realizing that the idea that difference is dangerous is inherently wrong. The idea that oneness and sameness are not equal. It's it's not just overcoming those ideas. It's overcoming impulses that arise within our limbic system that make us feel that we are in danger. That there's some threat to our lives being posed to us when we're facing this discomfort. And so we have to be able to work through all of those things and have a greater understanding of those things so that we can move forward into a path of healing that legitimately gets us to the place where that healing can occur. 

Sherri Mitchell: You know, one of the things that I have been quoted as saying is that we can't demand anything of others or even of ourselves, if we're unwilling to create the world in which that thing that we're asking for can be made available to us. And so it's really about creating a world where that healing can actually take place. In that world that we have to create is one that is filled with understanding and awareness of where we've been and how we got here. 

Interested in reading the transcript for the rest of this episode with Sherri Mitchell? 

Click here to download the full transcript of this episode!

Feb 7, 2020

How do you heal after a breakup or divorce? Whether you’re going through a breakup now, have been through a breakup and still have some cleanup work to do, or...well...maybe you will be going through a breakup at some point in the future...this episode is for you. No matter which way you slice it - the ending of a relationship can be challenging. There are a lot of "right" ways to heal your heart - and some wrong ways. My goal is to keep you from making common post-breakup mistakes so that you don't make it any harder on yourself than it has to be - and we'll dispel some myths along the way. 

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


With Real Roses that Last a Year, Venus Et Fleur offers luxurious, bespoke arrangements that will be a reminder of your thoughtfulness long after the day you give them. Visit and enter promo code ALIVE for complimentary shipping in the US thru 2/29 at 11:59 pm EST.

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


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

Check out this episode with Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of Conscious Uncoupling, about transforming core negative beliefs.

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Jan 24, 2020

Do you judge others or yourself harshly? How do you get past the judgment to a place where you can see a situation clearly, set appropriate boundaries, and change things for the better? In this week's episode, we're going to cover what to do when your occasionally judgmental nature gets in the way of positive connections with others - or yourself. You'll get some hints about what to do when others are judging you. And you'll discover the difference between being discerning and being judgmental.

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


With Real Roses that Last a Year, Venus Et Fleur offers luxurious, bespoke arrangements that will be a reminder of your thoughtfulness long after the day you give them. Visit and enter promo code ALIVE for complimentary shipping in the US thru 2/29 at 11:59 pm EST.

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


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Jan 16, 2020

What turns you on - and what turns you off? Once you know your erotic blueprint type, it’s so much easier to have the kind of intimacy that you most deeply desire.  And when you hit a snag in the sexual sphere of your relationship, it could be that you and your partner haven’t quite learned each other’s erotic languages - leading to sexual miscommunication. Never mind the love languages - it’s the Erotic Blueprint type that matters in the sexual domain! This week’s episode features Ian Ferguson, who played an instrumental role in creating the Erotic Blueprint methodology with his partner Jaiya. You’ll learn the 5 Erotic Blueprint types, how to figure out what you are, and how to tackle differences that you and your partner might have in how you express yourselves in your most intimate moments.

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


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.

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


Take the Erotic Blueprint Type quiz to find out your Erotic Blueprint Type:

Visit Jaiya’s main website

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict…

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Ian Ferguson.

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


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We have covered in more than 200 episodes all kinds of conversations detailing the nuances of having an amazing relationship. We've talked about communication. We've talked about overcoming problems and obstacles and healing trauma and being present. And we have, of course, also talked about sex and the erotic. And it's important to dive into this topic, I think, a little bit more deeply than I have in the past. 

Neil Sattin: Early on, I wanted to bring voices to you representing different kinds of sexuality, different ways of exploring sexuality that were more oriented towards slow sex or tantra. We talked to Diana Richardson. We talked to Margot Anand. And now, what I'd love to do is to open this conversation up further to the idea that there are actually different kinds of erotic types that we inhabit. And in order to have this conversation, which will, I think, help you really get to know yourself better in the sexual and erotic realm and also get to know your partner, if you're partnered or partners, or if you're out dating as a way of diagnosing what's happening with the people that you meet and getting a sense of where you're compatible, where you're not, and where there's learning and curiosity that opens up for you. It's fascinating. I had a friend who sent this link to me randomly not that long ago, and it was to the work of Jaiya. And I had actually heard of Jaiya's work, but I hadn't really honestly paid any attention to what she was doing. And. But there's something about this link spoke to me and I decided to take her quiz and listen to her on another podcast. And, I was fascinated. I learned so much about myself and about things that were happening in my own life. And I knew that I wanted to bring this work to you. So for today, we have our esteemed guest, Ian Ferguson, who is Jaiya's partner in business and in life and who is also responsible for the development of what we're going to be talking about today, which is your erotic blueprint -- the the thing that makes up who you are sexually and erotically and what turns you on, what turns you off. And we're going to dive deep into that topic with Ian. 

Neil Sattin: If you are interested in getting a transcript of today's episode. You can visit Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-erotic. Or as always, you can text the word passion to the number 3-3-4-4-4, and follow the instructions along with being Jaiya's partner in business and life. Ian is also the co-founder of their company and he is a master instructor of the erotic blueprints methodology. And he's also someone who does a lot of conscious dance stuff, which I've talked about on the show over and over again. We finally have someone here who actually does the very thing that I'm talking about. So I'm really excited to have Ian here with us to talk about your erotic blueprints. And Ian, welcome to the show. 

Ian Ferguson: Thank you. As a great intro. I just love all the seeds that you're planting about communication and learning and really using these kinds of tools to have a deeper understanding of ourselves and how we communicate with others about them. So, I love that intro. Thank you for that. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, you're welcome. You're welcome. And I think that, you know, we talked about this a little bit before I hit record. It's so important, especially when you're dealing with any system that gives you some information about you by telling you like, oh, you're an ENFP or you're a Scorpio or you're a number four in the Enneagram, whatever it is, it's challenging for people sometimes to break the mold of what they discover about themselves. So, I want this to be a conversation that allows people, and I know you're right here with me to tap in to curiosity about their type and also to like push the edges of the box that they find themselves in, and in fact, to unbox themselves and to stretch themselves. 

Ian Ferguson: Perfect. Yeah. We often say about the erotic blueprints, which we'll be talking about in more detail here, that when you discover your primary erotic blueprint type, it's actually showing you more where you're limited than where your resourced. Because there's this whole range, there's a smorgasbord of opportunity erotically in the world of pleasure available to all of us. And many of us are accessing but a very small piece of that smorgasbord. You know, we're eating the, you know, the beautiful strawberry when there's chocolate and truffles and steak and, you know, a beautiful garden of vegetables at our fingertips. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And this reminds me probably for obvious reasons to you, a lot of the love languages. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. 

Neil Sattin: And, when I have been introducing people to your work, just friends of mine or or acquaintances, I've drawn that analogy:"It's kind of like the love languages, but for sex and the erotic." But one of the things that I think is so challenging about the love languages is that people sometimes find out what their primary love language or you're supposed to find out your primary two love languages. And then they just kind of stop there. And then, if they take it a little bit further, they figure out what their partners love languages are. And then hopefully they really learn to speak each other's languages. But in the end, where I always come down to is I don't think there's anyone who doesn't appreciate or have the capacity to appreciate all those love languages. And so I'm curious, before we dive into like the specifics of the blueprints, do you do you feel like that's true for them, that there's an evolution towards kind of being multilingual across the love languages, that's just like natural if we allow ourselves to be open or what do you find? 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, I think that that's the ideal almost of any of these typing systems, is that it's not just about understanding your first primary access, the place where you're most resourced. It is a way of articulating and speaking to all of the other types of people that there are out there, all the other types of eroticism. 

Ian Ferguson: One of the things that I just love about our community in particular is that often in the realms of sexuality, when you're in this stage, you're curious, you're adventurous, you're looking to expand into something new or there's parts of sexuality you're hearing about and you don't have any idea what they are, say, in the kinky realm or around Tantra. The communities tend to be kind of siloed. They're brilliant. There are many brilliant communities that deal with all of these forms of sexuality. But when you want to find a find out about kink, you end up walking over into the kink realm, when you want to find out about energetic or tantric sex, you walk over into Tantra and they're very different communities. And one of the things that the blueprints have allowed us to do is to speak to the full range of eroticism and bring all of those people essentially under one roof.

Ian Ferguson: So, you know, we'll see this in our community, even in my own relationship, where, you know, somebody who is an energetic, they have a kinky partner and they have no real way to merge or meet. And if the energetic is going to take the kinky person to their energetic Tantra class, that kinky person may actually be totally turned off. They won't have a deeper understanding, it just won't appeal to them and vise versa. The kinky person taking their energetic partner to the kink environment may find themselves contracted and re-traumatized, or they just don't understand what's going on in that community. Whereas in a community where all the languages are being spoken to, there's an opportunity for people to see a multitude of people operating with a variety of these erotic blueprint types under one roof. And to start to have a way to bridge the gap and create inclusiveness for all of those communities to be able to have a conversation together. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. When I imagine being in that community, I imagine what it would be like to be with someone who was or to be just like having a conversation with someone where my type is just as valuable as theirs is. And that was something that for me was so eye opening. Even in just taking your quiz, which by the way, if you visit erotic-breakthrough-dot-com-slash-alive, you can take the quiz that helps you diagnose what type you are. So, that's always fun, to take another quiz online. So you should definitely go check that out. 

Neil Sattin: But, I took this quiz and what I found was that, it really helped normalize some things that I was experiencing that I thought were maybe... bad. That I had judgment about in myself and, we'll get further into this. But one, I actually have a lot of the different types in me. I'm the shapeshifter type which we'll get to, but I'm very strong in energetic. And so it was really easy for me and I mentioned I had a lot of probably very energetic oriented people here on the show. And you talk about one of the shadows of the energetic being kind of downplaying other kinds of sexuality. And I think I was doing that for the other kinds that live within me. So, it was really wild to take the test and to accept myself in a new way, as well as to have that language to bring to other people. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. One of the things I get most touched by in responses that we get from like you're sharing, even people who just take the quiz, even if that's the only step that they've taken, we will get emails from people or at workshops that we're teaching. I'll get stopped by the attendees who will, with tears in their eyes, just talk about, "Wow, now I don't feel alone. I thought that I was weird or messed up or, you know, crazy." You know, like the energetic type is one of the blueprint types. And for the energetic, energetics are often a highly sensitive, they're very aware, their empath, They're connected to their environment. And the types of orgasm that are available to an energetic can sometimes look quite strange to somebody who doesn't have access to that type of orgasm because they'll be releasing kundalini energy or having kriyas. So, those will show up as a sort of muscular spasms in the body. So especially in the case of cock-bodied humans who tend to be stereotyped into the sexual blueprint, many of the male body people, cock-body people will all of a sudden feel seen and heard for the first time because they've been putting on a mask of being a sexual when their entire system is geared towards being an energetic. 

Ian Ferguson: And then you also spoke to the hierarchical. I think we're probably going to start confusing people too much if we keep talking about the types without getting into what they are. But you did mention in terms of the energetic, there can be sort of a hierarchical viewpoint of the energetic. That energetics tend to be associated with spirituality, connected to sex. So a sexual act for many energetics needs to fall into the realm of being a spiritual event. And they may have judgment or look down on this as a shadow aspect to the energetic, may look down on people who might be a sexual type or kinky type, as that form of erotic expression is not spiritual to them. So these are all interesting distinctions of all of the five blueprint types that we've uncovered. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Where we're dancing around a little bit. But let's, as you suggested, kind of dive in and detail each one a little bit more. We've spent some time on the energetics. So maybe let's flesh that one out a little bit more and then we'll kind of move through the others that we've chatted about already. 

Ian Ferguson: Perfect. Perfect. Yeah. So the energetic is turned on by: anticipation, tease, space. They're very sensitive, energetically sensitive, environmentally sensitive, often emotionally sensitive. And this is the super power of the energetic type. They have the ability to be in an orgasmic state without even being touched. The breeze that blows across the hairs on their arm could send them into orgasm. A connection to themselves or the environment in some sort of spiritual connection could put them into an orgasmic state or into actual orgasm. So this is an amazing superpower for the energetic as well as on the flip side, can be a bit of the shadow or the challenge for the energetic. Because of that hypersensitivity, if somebody moves too fast, too quick and goes too deeply into the space of an energetic, it can turn into, overwhelm and shut down, so that the all the systems for the energetic will get overwhelmed. And they may actually be completely turned off or flatline in their turn on because the space has been collapsed. 

Ian Ferguson: So if you're listening to me talking about this and let's say you have that experience of you're about to kiss somebody and there's all of this energy and all of this turn on happening as you're approaching the kiss, maybe teasing out the kiss a little bit. And for you, when you actually kiss, the energy or the eroticism, the turn on goes down significantly or maybe completely collapses, that might speak to you being an energetic type. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Got it. And I think you also mentioned in one of your guides about energetics being able to respond to someone's hands being placed just above their body. So like not even literally touching them, but just being in their energetic fields. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. So this is this is the fascinating thing and also something that if you are if this is not something you have access to at this point and your lover does, it can be quite a bizarre experience. You know, I didn't really have any access to this energetic turn on when I was first partnered with Jaiya. She's highly energetic. She's trained herself to be even more energetic than I think she naturally was. And she would have kriyas. I could put my hand above her body and she would be reacting to that without me even touching. And because she's a teacher of sexuality and because of the type of relationship we have, I could witness her in energetic connection with other people and see these really huge expressions, these physical manifestations of her orgasm when a person was, you know, a foot away, even 10 feet away. And at first I would look at this and to be honest, I was like, "Oh, what is this? Woo, woo. You know, B.S." I was like, "This is just people performing in there. They're making this stuff up." And it took me... Because, I tend to be a skeptic before I accept something. Even after I accept something, I'm still have some skepticism about it. But the the thing around the energetic is first I started to have my own experiences with it. And then I had a couple of trainings around something called Network Spinal Analysis, which is a form of chiropractic where they sometimes touch your body. But a lot of the work is done off of your body in energetic fields. And I had a couple of masters that I did a deep, deep workshop with Christine and John Amaral, and they basically blew open my energetic receptivity. And after that weekend, all the sudden was able to tap into something that really looked pretty mysterious, if not completely inauthentic, before I tapped into it myself. And now I'm like, oh, it's now it's it is interwoven in my eroticism. It is interwoven, actually, and just sort of how I approach my day to day life. 

Neil Sattin: Wow, wow. What a transformation. 

Ian Ferguson: For sure. 

Neil Sattin: I am so fascinated and tempted to go down that road a little bit more. But before we do, let's jump to the next to the next type and we'll probably circle back around to these. But just so everyone knows, loosely, how do you define a type like what is what are the kinds of things that, "OK, I'm this kind of type. So that means that I have these kinds of physical experiences, these kinds of emotional experiences, these particular kinds of turn offs, these particular kinds of turn ons." 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. So the turn ons or the superpowers of the blueprints are the positives or the things where you're going to have the easiest, fastest access to arousal to turn it on, to connection. And that defines often your access point or the positive blueprint that you may be. And then there are the shadow aspects of each blueprint type and you can have the full positive of this, full super powers of one blueprint type and have the shadows of a completely other type, and not have the turn on our shadow of those same types. I hope that made sense, what I just said. 

Ian Ferguson: But the shadows are the things that are basically the brakes to your turn on. And Emily Nagasaki in her book "Come As You Are," talks about a bunch of research where, it is actually the brakes in people's sexuality, the things that put a stop to it that inhibit their ability to access pleasure or drop into expansion or discovery or a deeper understanding of their own turn ons and the shadow parts, that's what we talk about when we're talking about the shadow parts of the blueprints, those pieces that just shut it down for you. And it's bad, I think this land's better as I go through each blueprint type talking about the superpowers and the shadows of each one. So I can just jump into the sensual if you'd like?

Neil Sattin: Sure. And just as a mention for you listening, Emily Nagasaki, whom in just mentioned, she was on the show Episode 123. So, if you want to hear here, Emily, it's a fascinating work. So, definitely check that out.  

Ian Ferguson: She's awesome. She is so articulate about all of this stuff. So, yes, I would recommend your listeners. Go listen to Emily talk about that or read or pick up her book. Yeah. So the sensual type, the sensual type is, was one of my primary types I say "was" because I would say that I've really moved more into a shapeshifter in terms of my, all the superpowers that I've got going on. But the sensual is the type that brings artistry to sexuality. They are turned on by all of the senses being ignited. And that means that you can have an orgasm from eating that perfectly juicy, incredible strawberry. The sensuals will often when they're eating, they're the ones will be moaning they'll be like: "Mm... oh! Hmm!" And, you know, you can tell a shapeshifter often, by the way, that they dress, they'll wear textures and layers and often be perhaps touching themselves. 

Neil Sattin: You mean a sensual? 

Ian Ferguson: What did I just say? 

Neil Sattin: You said shapeshifter. 

Ian Ferguson: Oh, shapeshifter. Yeah. Sorry. A sensual will often be touching themselves. And one of their superpowers is the fully embodied orgasm. They'll find the orgasm all over their body in their own crevices of their arms, and their legs, uh, really, really fulfilling and rich. And a big difference between the energetic and the sensual, the energetic really gets turned on by that space, by the anticipation of the collapsing of the space without collapsing it. The sensual tends to want to get really snuggly and cuddly and tight and close in with their partner. So you can see where those two types might have a little challenge relating because one wants closeness, the other wants distance. 

Ian Ferguson: The shadows of the sensual. Would be that there, those same things that can turn them on can become complete red flags and become very distracting. A sensual can get very lost in their head and have a hard time accessing their pleasure because they can't get relaxed, they can't drop into the space. So let's say the lights are too bright or the music is the wrong song or too loud. They've got bills to pay or a call that they didn't return, there's socks on the floor. All of these things can lead to intense distraction of the sensual. And when the sensual is not connected to their body, they can't drop into their eroticism. So. You know, often what we'll say is that the sensual needs to relax to have sex. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Got it. And one thing I'm curious about is language, as well. And you talk about the different ways that we actually use words and our voices and how that can have an impact based on the erotic type that you that you are. So how might that be different between an energetic and a sensual person? 

Ian Ferguson: Well, there's so many aspects of speaking the blueprints, you know, I'll probably talk about this a little bit later, but we, in more detail, but we talk about once you learn your blueprint and you learn the sort of basics of what turn you on, turn you off, the next step there is to be able to learn to speak, feed, heal and expand your blueprints. So one of those pieces is what you're pointing to, which is being able to speak the blueprint. And in speaking the blueprint, that's the full range of what it means to speak. So that can be the words that you use. That can be the body language that you have associated to your eroticism. What turns you on in that realm, and a congruency between, say, vocal tone and your energy and your presence. So between these two types of the energetic and sensual, the energetic, a light energetic. So let me we can get into so many wonderful distinctions about all of these blueprints. But, there's light-energetic, and there's the dark-energetic. The light-energetic when speaking or being spoken to is potentially going to have a little bit of a loftier, lighter tone, maybe a little bit of lilting, but not crazy melodic, tends to be smooth and something that is gonna be flowing not staccato. 

Neil Sattin: This is so hilarious. I'm thinking of Marianne Williamson. While you're.... 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, that's perfect. 

Neil Sattin: But honestly, I think even like Diana Richardson, who's been on the show, you can hear that in her voice, for sure. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. And they might choose the language of, "I feel so connected to you. I feel that we've been really connected through time. And this feels like a universal connection. And my heart is so, it would be so open to you if we could just spend some time being present with each other." So absolute presence, clarity of intention. And they'll often talk about the cosmic. Energetic may also use their hands in sort of flowing patterns when they're expressing themselves. And then alternately, a sensual they may have very expressive, and they may get into very you know, they may may use tone and like really get into the richness of their voice and how they express and they'll talk about, "Oh, this is just so juicy and delicious. What we're talking about, I just love, you know, they'll point to colors and oh, the beautiful day outside and the trees are so green. So they'll notice all of those sensory elements and often be framing things in the language of the senses. 

Neil Sattin: Great. Yeah. 

Ian Ferguson: Yep. So we can we can pull out little elements of that as we talk about the other blueprint types as well. 

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Let's let's proceed to the next one. Yeah. 

Ian Ferguson:So the sexual. That is sort of the zone where our society focuses advertising what sort of put out front and center often in music. It's the stereotype of what sex should be. And the sexual is one of the more simple. They they just bring the fun. And by simple I don't mean there's not depth. I just mean that they don't overcomplicate the process of sex. It's about genitals, it's about orgasm. It's about, you know, fucking and coming and all of the the great things that just are raw, pure sex. They're gonna be attracted to the physical, though, in terms of the body language of sexual may be the type of person you're talking to and they're gonna be scanning your body up and down more than meeting you in the eyes. It's just that that sort of limbic animalistic turn on and they're their superpower is that simplistic. They can go from zero to 60 in zero seconds flat, as long as they have certainty, like, "OK, that's what this is about. We're gonna get down to it. I know I'm going to have the orgasm." It's kind of like if everybody has an orgasm, then it's all good. We succeeded. Yay! And in contrast to the sensual, the sexual often needs to have sex in order to relax. Whereas you heard me say before, the sensual needs to relax in order to have sex. So there was some point here that popped into my head about the sexual... and I'm forgetting it. 

Neil Sattin: Well, maybe it'll come back to you. But what you just said, I'm curious about kind of the gendered nature of particularly sensual versus sexual.  Do you find that it's a male bodied versus female bodied thing or not? Because that's kind of the classic example. Right? Like, the guy just wants to go straight to having sex and the woman needs time to, like chill out and and and really be relaxed and in her body. And in a lot of cases, that's true. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. 

Neil Sattin: So what do you find in the as you've worked with, you know, hundreds and hundreds of people around this? 

Ian Ferguson:So, yeah. Genitals are not just the descriptor or the diagnostic for telling us what our primary blueprint type is. We've had, I think over one hundred and fifty thousand people take the quiz at this point.

Neil Sattin:Great.

Ian Ferguson:And there is a light correlation to gender or genitals in terms of what we stereotypically think. But there is a large population of energetic cock-body people, you know, walking around the planet. There are a lot of men like myself who are sensual. So, gender is not really the deciding factor on any significant level of what blueprint type you are.

Neil Sattin: OK, great. Good to know. I mean, I knew that, but I. But I wanted everyone to know that. 

Ian Ferguson: And I also want to say something here, too, that is really important: if you are not experiencing any of the ecstatic states or the sort of forms of sexuality or the ease of access to your eroticism that we're speaking about here, there is nothing wrong with you. You're not broken. You are not wrong. Our deeper philosophy is that there's actually nothing to fix. It's really about creating an access to who you are first and foremost. So you accept yourself so that you can honor who you are, where you are, and that then opens up the opportunity to explore and find out other aspects of who you are. If you want to. So none of these are like, if you want them, great. If you want these heightened connections to your eroticism or your orgasm. Fantastic. If it's not your thing. Fantastic. Again, nobody's wrong, broken, and there's nothing to fix. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah. That's that's one of the things that for me, I think was so freeing. Even in just taking the quiz was was that feeling of like, 'Oh, I'm I'm OK, just as how I am.' There was no aspect of the results of the quiz that said, here's where you're damaged or here's how you shouldn't be. So I appreciate that a lot. 

Ian Ferguson: You know, and this is also something that that's what it was. And it's kind of ties back in again. Within the realm of therapy around sex or sex therapy, there is often the... putting of sex into the place of aberrant behavior or, you know, diagnosing things in the form, there's a word that's escaping my mind right now. But associating different behaviors to, you know, the quote unquote, unhealthy. 

Neil Sattin: Right pathologizing. 

Ian Ferguson: Pathologizing sexuality in a lot of the literature within that the that psychologists and therapists study, really only refers to sexuality in the frame of pathology. So that is, and there are amazing sex therapists out there. And we have erotic blueprint coaches who are teaching our methodology where we're just, and these things have been changing in the DSM, where, you know, Kinky was a pathology, I think not even 10 years ago. And that has now been taken out of the DSM as a pathology. Sothings are shifting. And part of our work is the intent to accelerate that path towards acceptance that we are erotic beings. We are very diverse erotic beings. And the problems tend to come more when we're shoving these aspects of ourselves in the closet and siloing ourselves and feeling lost and alone with no ability to articulate who we are and who these natural instincts and being able to funnel them in a way that we're creating consciousness around them and that they're happening with consent, that we understand how to declare boundaries, we understand what consent really means. And that we have agency in our own eroticism. So it's very important to us to normalize consensual sexual behavior in all of its forms. 

Neil Sattin: Right. And I like the ability to bring consciousness to all of those forms. So I think typically one might think, for instance, of the sexual type as not a conscious type of sexuality, but in fact, if you bring consciousness to it and your awareness of how you are turned on by sight and sound and sexual language and very like, visceral sexual related things, then you are actually bringing a level of awareness that allows you to evolve when, how you how you approach that with other people and how your boundaries and edges bump up against someone else's. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes, exactly. Love it. 

Neil Sattin: All right. Let's go to the next one. So we've done an energetic, sensual, sexual and now? 

Ian Ferguson: Well, there would be kinky next. But with the sexual, we get to talk a little bit about the shadow aspect. 

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. Thank you. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. So one of the shadow aspects is this part of the sexual that tends to look to: "This is what sex is, and why is everybody making it so complicated?" So they can get this short sighted or single focused and sort of miss out on that smorgasbord of availability. And the shadow is often more an interrupter for the partner of a sexual, than it might be for the sexual themselves because there there could be just as a lack of awareness or even an acceptance that there's more on the table, more on offer. There may be different ways of communicating about eroticism and turn on than just getting right to the act of sex and orgasm. And, you know, and genitals so that that can be a shadow aspect. Another shadow aspect of the sexual, what we'll notice in some of our clients is that sometimes for the sexual they, this isn't true universally, but sometimes there will be being caught in an adolescent sexuality and we'll uncover that, perhaps they were shamed very distinctly or told that their sexuality or turn on was bad. So they at a very young age or have stuck it in the closet and they've never been felt safe to express themselves in their overt turn on by genitals and sex and the desire for it. So they will have certain behaviors that are just kind of unconscious around their sexuality. Where they may be less aware of a partner while they're engaged with that partner. The partner becomes objectified and feels objectified. So this is... This always feel a little challenging to talk about with a sexual because it sounds like a potentially like a judgment. But as you and I have been talking about, it's really just about bringing a new awareness to these things and being able to accept where we're at and then be able to expand out of that to give ourselves the acceptance so that then we can say we can actually get our eyes above the above the horizon and see more of what's possible. The sexual also, this isn't so much a shadow aspect, but the sexual... sex is kind of like like air and water. It is  a necessity for a sexual. It is what has them feel connected to themselves, alive, dropped in. So a sexual who is getting plenty of sex and really feeling satisfied on that front is going gonna tend to be much more effective at work and in their other relationships. They're just going to feel like they're together. They got it handled and they can go out and conquer the world. On the flip side, a sexual who is not getting their sexual needs fed and fulfilled, they can really feel atrophied and starved and sometimes unseen in their relationship because there they are looking for acceptance for that intensity of desire that they have in their eroticism. 

Neil Sattin: I'm curious, as you talk about this, what you offer couples where let's say someone who's a sensual or an energetic, is with a sexual. And it feels like typically the way I might have approached something like that is to encourage the sexual person to really learn the sensual language, learn the energetic language. How do you help people who are more sensually oriented, who need the slowness, who need to relax in order to have sex? How do you help them meet a sexual person who wants that, like visceral, quick, rapid thing? 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. So that is that is an incredible question. And of course, one that the answers can often be very individual. And you know,one of the other things that we say quite often is that we wish to bust the myth of sexual incompatibility. That we are not sexually incompatible. We simply do not know how to speak each other's language of turn on. And that is particularly apparent in the pair up that you mentioned here when you're talking about an energetic with a sexual. And oddly enough, you know, that's we'll see a lot of that pairing, this sort of like opposites attract. And if you look at the core of the opposite attracts piece. It has to do with these recognizing in someone else these unlived or untapped aspects of vitality that we don't understand. We may look at and you know, if we have, if we're in the pheromonal soup and we're in love with that person, those, if I'm a sexual, and I'm getting turned on by an energetic, in the first flush of relationship, it may be like, oh, my God, this person is so amazing. They're so unique. I love these pieces of themselves. And then as the limerence period wears off, that initial six to two years and we fall back into our natural primary blueprint, then that's when the divergence happens and we start to see the sexual gets frustrated by the energetics need. The energetic has felt that their boundaries have been crossed or they haven't spoken up for themselves and they've been trying to live and satisfy their sexual while completely crossing their own boundaries to do so. And then resentments build up. And without the language of the blueprints, there's no recognition of like, oh, this is just our types speaking. And now there's an opportunity to bridge the gap and discover where we can meet each other. 

Ian Ferguson: So, there are a lot of ways that we go about bridging this gap in the work that we do. You know, one of the things that I mentioned earlier is we've got the speak, feed, heal and expand. And expanding into other blueprints is a big thing of what we teach, and how you can work to bridge the gap if you find yourself in a relationship where you are in opposing blueprints. Another another way that we'll work with people is to find where there is synergy. So we've got something that we use called the sex communication checklist. And it's a whole bunch of sexual practices broken down by blueprint type where you can say, "Yes, I'm interested in that. Mmm, I'm a maybe or I'm curious about that. And here are my no-ways." And we'll encourage our couples or people who are in poly relationships or whatever your relationship configuration is, or if you're dating, we even encourage people who are, you know, getting to that stage in their their dating life to share the sex communication checklist with their partner. And you fill it out separately... 

Neil Sattin: You mean on the first date?

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, well, for us, we kind of do that. So Jaiya and I will do that kind of thing with somebody that we're interested in, because that's the way we want to have our conversations, just like, Boom. Here it is. For others, you know, you may wait your second, third, fourth, 10th date. Just it's really your comfort level. But, you know, the advice is to go and fill those things, those forms out separately and then come back and compare and contrast. So you'll find just in those areas where you're both a total yes. Then you'll find areas where you might have been a yes and there are willing to or vise versa. You're willing to. And they were a full yes. Those are other areas where you can play. 

Ian Ferguson: And then there's the no-ways, which you know, those, the no-ways can change over time. But when you're in the first flush of really starting to articulate where you do connect.My recommendation is to not push on the no-ways to just get curious about them, because sometimes there's misunderstandings about what those know ways really mean, especially when it comes to zones of eroticism like kinky and energetic, where some of the language is not so obvious and projections and stereotypes may come in and have somebody judge what they think it means when somebody wants to do something like breath play or knife play. So getting curious about what that means if you've got a hard no-way but your partners a hell-yes to someplace where you don't meet up starting to ask questions. Well, what do you mean by that? What would that provide to you if we did play that way? What if you know what turns you on about that? So you start to open up a dialog of empathy with your partner about what it provides for them. And that's actually a third thing that I would talk about, which is actually a primary aspect of any great communication, which is essentially curiosity first. So the moment there's a trigger of the moment, there's a misunderstanding, the moment that something arises where there's discomfort or contraction, taking a breath, taking a moment and getting curious. What you mean by that? Was that mean to you? What pleasure would that provide? Why is it important to you? Instead of going into whatever our preconceptions may be, because we may be wildly off in in whatever caused us to contract or pull away or not hear our partner and their desires and needs? 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. So there are so many different things that have come up for me over the course of what you're just saying, and I'm going to try to distill it. So one was the way that... Because you mentioned consent and boundaries as being so important and, so how do you encourage curiosity while at the same time honoring boundaries? You know, I'm thinking like, let's just take an example just to like, make it concrete. 

Ian Ferguson: Sure. 

Neil Sattin: And we'll we'll use this, like problems situation. So you've got a sexual person who's just like: "I just want you like when, I get home from work, what would be amazing is you if you just went down on me. And that would feel amazing to me." And their energetic partner is like, "Oh, my God. Like, that's the last thing I want to do when you get home from work. I need space. I need to like feel out how your how your energy is before I'm willing to..." Right? So an energetic person might say, "Well, I have a boundary and that's my boundary. I'm not gonna to I mean..." Especially an energetic person. Right. Because they're all about the space where the sexual person is just like, "No, come over here and like. Touch me. Do me." You know, in some way. 

Ian Ferguson: "Yeah. Let's get to it!"

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So how would you... I think it's easy to kind of go in the inverse way where you talk to the sexual person and be like, "You just gotta learn to be patient and enjoy the anticipation." Right? But let's be fair here. And so that's one thing. And, I want to just place that in the context of... my guess, which is that what comes up when a lot of people take your quiz and find out these things about themselves erotically, is that you get the relief, the sense of, oh, that's who I am, or that's so freeing to have learned that about myself and to learn that and to guess that about my partner. But then, there's the pain of recognition like, oh, this is this is maybe also at the heart of some of the ways that we haven't been working so well. You know, we got through the limerence stage and we've been in this place of tension and discomfort. So it makes me think about what you mentioned about the need for healing. And so it feels like those two things need to coexist, because if you're dealing with this hypothetical energetic and sexual couple, if that's been going on for any length of time, there's going to need to be a context of healing that allows them to even step into that space. 

Ian Ferguson: Sure. Boy. One thing that's amazing about this conversation in general is how kaleidoscopic it is as we open one topic, then it starts to thread into all of the other areas. 

Neil Sattin: I know, and we still have two more types to talk about.

Ian Ferguson: Exactly. So the. OK, so one thing is that it is going to be just as difficult, sometimes, more difficult for the sexual, to put the brakes on what they need and want. And often that shows up in that they have been feeling unfed, like their libido is through the roof. They'd be having sex three times a day, while their energetic partner needs the connection. The space maybe rarely opens to full on intercourse and eroticism in a way that both people are are really feeling satisfied. So, we're dealing with opposing blueprints and we're dealing with what appears from the outside to look like potentially an unbridgeable gap. And in that space, the curiosity piece is vital. Let's take it from the energetics perspective and their sexual partners just said this to them: "This is really how I want it. I want you to go down on me the moment I come in the door." And from the energetic perspective, you could be saying, first acknowledging, "Thank you for letting me know that. I'd love to be able to provide that for you. And it's going to take some growth, I think, for me to get there. And I would like to know one, what it provides for you? Like, how does that make you feel?" So that as it is the energetic asking that question, can I start to bridge the gap and create an empathetic bridge of really understanding how their partner gets fed? And sometimes, even just really opening up the dialog so that  anybody in a relationship can be fully seen will take the pressure down several inches of: "It's gotta look this way. I've gotta, when I come home, we've got to be able to take my pants down and you gotta go down on me. That's the only way it's gonna be." So allowing for it to be seen and heard and say, "God, I really want that for you. I want that for us. And I'm scared because.." and getting into personal vulnerability. "I'm scared in it as well, because I want to provide that for you. And I think if I do that, I'm going to actually contract and feel less close to you. So I want to figure out a way to do this. But I really want to figure out a way to do that, so it works for both of us. Are you willing to explore and figure out how we can do that?"

Ian Ferguson: So, then that leads into the exploration and in deeper curiosity and starting to find a way. So we're getting some synergy here, hopefully between two people with willingness. That's a primary need inside a relationship, a willingness to try and meet each other and see each other and then starting to play with what we think it's supposed to look like. 

Ian Ferguson: So, you know, a specific example with the energetic may be, you know, "You're away at work all day. I don't really have any idea where you're at. I don't know what you're gonna be like when you come in the door. And if you're full of stress and anxiety, I pick it up immediately. And, I just feel tension and I don't feel comfortable feeling close to you. So why don't we try that throughout the day, you'll send me a text giving me where you are emotionally and giving me a piece of, telling me some way that you love me." So it's an energetic foreplay so that there's a sense of connection while the person's away at work. And it's not this immediate leap into just genital based sex, but they have some connection. "And when you come in the door for a week, let's try where or for the next two weeks we'll try it. We'll do this and I'll I'll go down on you shortly after you come home from work. But what I want to try to get there is, I'd like five minutes of eye gazing and breathing together. And then I'll go down on you." So starting to get into basically the science of your turn on and your partner's turn on and finding ways where you can bridge the gap and, there's no compromise. One of our mentors, Kelly Bryson, who wrote the book. "Don't Be Nice. Be Real." has a beautiful phrase I love, which is compromise is resentment, 50/50. So the whole book is about nonviolent communication. And the real gift of nonviolent communication, from my perspective, is the ability to find such a deep sense of empathy with the other that you find synergy such that you can figure out how you can meet each other's needs willingly without any compromise and get really creative about how you get to that solution. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I want that for all of you listening. I want you to that experience. So just as a reminder, if you want to take the quiz to figure out what kind of type you are and you and you get a nice breakdown of what percentage you are of all the types. And we still have two more to talk about. You can visit erotic-breakthrough-dot-com-slash alive. We will have a transcript of this conversation at, which will also have links to Ian and Jaiya's sites, so you can get more information that way. And you guys, do you have have a course, right, that's not only walks people through this stuff, but also helps them go through all these stages that you were talking about expanding into each other's blueprints, and feeding themselves. And they're obviously this is such a rich conversation, so what is the course that you offer people? 

Ian Ferguson: So we have a number of ways that we dive into this material. But the sort of the the entrance point is the erotic blueprint breakthrough course. And that is an online course. Along with it comes the opportunity to be part of our online community, our online membership group for three months as a bonus, just to kind of dip your toe in there. And the blueprint course is a very deep dive into the blueprints, because the blueprints, as you may be picking up, are not just simply about a sort of surface level idea of what you're erotic blueprint type is, but the blueprints are the core, your core erotic blueprints, what stage of sexuality you're in, where you are with the four pathways to sexual health and pleasure. These are all aspects of our sexuality. And we're really looking at sexuality as a 360 degree, you know, kaleidoscope of who you are, where you are in your life, what your aspirations are in your sexuality. And the blueprint course walks you through that process of really dialing in through games like fun ways to discover what your blueprint type is because you can take the quiz and that's your mind answering the questions. But when you get in your body, you may get different answers. You may open up in ways that you do you didn't that are a surprise, like oh! An example of that is a lot of people will take the quiz and the written portion of something related to kinky or even their predisposition to maybe have judgments about the selves around kink or shame around their kinky desires, may have them answering those questions either a little more carefully or kind of avoiding the thing that might turn them on, or may not just even relate to them because it's not a physical experience. But when you start doing things like our A-B game or the body mapping, which are games that we lead you through, then you start to get a real sense of your pleasure map. And these are great things to do with a partner, with somebody you're dating or a long term relationship to start to map each other's pleasure and start to really get a vocabulary and a way to articulate all your needs. So you can get them fed and fulfilled in relationship. And then there's the health and wellness aspect of our sexuality. Our hormonal health, our biochemical health, our bio energetic health and our emotional health. And this is another aspect inside of the blueprint course where I had spoken earlier about the healing portion around this, where we dive into those aspects, those things that may be putting the brakes on your sexuality, that may have you stopping yourself at that edge of where you really want to explore, where you really want to open up. There's a number of factors that go into really being able to to have a well rounded, vital vitality around your eroticism. 

Neil Sattin: So in other words. It's a super comprehensive course, where you would get a lot probably out of going through it. And if you take the quiz, then Ian and Jaiya will make you aware of how to how to get the course and when they launch it and when it's available for you. 

Ian Ferguson: For sure. 

Neil Sattin: Definitely, check that out. 

Ian Ferguson: Thanks for boiling that down.. 

Neil Sattin: Quick side note you have. You have definitely a hard stop at 2:30 your time? 

Ian Ferguson: It could go a little longer. 

Neil Sattin: Okay. I'm just eyeballing the clock and I want to honor your time. And thank you. We have two more to do. 

Neil Sattin: So and then you also do some live events to write for. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes, for. So every year we do something called Paths to Passion. That's that's sort of our entry level workshop where we introduce you to blueprints on a deeper level. This last year in October, we just do it once a year, we had 540 people at this event. It is just a beautiful way to drop in, start to get familiar a bit with our community and some of our coaches. And that's awesome. Our other workshops basically require you to have done that first workshop or at least have gone through the erotic blueprint breakthrough course, because we at each level of workshop that we offer, we go a little deeper, we get a bit more experiential with what we're doing. Again, everything at our live workshops is all very consent based and based on, you know, respecting people's boundaries and not doing anything to coerce anyone to do anything they don't want to do. The Path to Passion Workshop is, you know, I call it PG-13 because we definitely use racy language, we are talking about sex, but it's a clothes on, you know, there are immersive practices that are part of it, but it's all pretty digestible even from somebody who may be completely new to in diving into their own sexual exploration. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah, I could imagine being excited about something like that. Being really nervous about something like that. 

Ian Ferguson: Sure. We have people who just say that they're terrified to come Paths to Passion and pretty universally, on the flip side of that, they're just like, "Oh, wow, you've just normalized a conversation that I've had so much tension about my entire life. And I felt so safe in your community, in your environment. I felt taken care of." And, you know, more often than not, and the majority of people who come to that event come out with a stronger sense of their accepting themselves. Accepting the conversation and feeling comfortable, many times, for the first time to even claim what they want, who they are, and expressing a willingness to go after it. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That was exactly the word that was coming to me. Like fostering that willingness for themselves and in the way that they understand others too. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, for sure. 

Neil Sattin: Okay. So for all those people out there who are like when are they going to talk about the other two types? 

Ian Ferguson: That's it. We're using the energetic tease to hold out and have you want it really badly. A little bit of kink in not letting, not giving you what you desire. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Let's transition to the kinky type. 

Ian Ferguson: Cool. So kinky actually ends up being my primary blueprint. It is my fastest path to arousal. The kinky world is a vast, vast world. And simply put, we think of kinky as whatever is taboo for you. And that may run counter to the stereotype that people witness and see, even from movies like "50 Shades of Grey," where often it's the edgier aspects of kink that are that are labeled as kink or seen as kink. The leather. The dungeons. The whips and chains. Pain. These aspects of kink. And they are, they are part of the world of kink. But there are only one segment of it. So whatever taboo, whatever is taboo for you. For example, Jaiya had some clients in her practice who had been married for 40 years. They went to the same restaurant every Tuesday night, then every Thursday night, they would have sex and they would only have sex in missionary position. So when they started coaching with Jaiya and they started exploring having sex doggy style or doing oral sex, these things which may be very vanilla to your listeners or just most of your listeners, that was really edgy, hugely taboo and carried all of this thrill. So that was kinky for them. Whereas for others, kinky may mean, you know, intense submission scenes or intense rope tying and knife play, could even be hooks. You know, it can get very, very, very intense. And further, we break down kink into two different categories. We think about the psychological kink, which deals more with power games, power play, control and surrender from a not so much like the constriction and bondage in that version, but more somebody giving their power or submitting to the person who is in control of the scene. Psychological games. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, something like come over here, you know. Face the wall. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. Yeah. Get on your knees. 

Neil Sattin: Like that sort of thing. Yeah.

Ian Ferguson:  That sort of thing. Or you have to hold these paperclips on your fingertips with your arms outstretched and if you drop when you're gonna get a punishment. So that would be as a psychological predicament game. And then we have the physiological or the physical which tends to be more the spankings, the canings, the constriction. I'm a big fan of constriction as part of one of my turn ons. So it's more just the physical aspects of it. And you can be both. I'm certainly both psychological and physiological kink, kind of blended together. And the superpowers of the kink also, they're wildly creative. Other superpowers of the kink would be often in conscious kink, which I would recommend you practice highly conscious kink and highly safe kink if you're interested in this realm of exploration. The one of the superpowers is also the creation of the scene, creating really clear boundaries, creating really clear consent conversations and creating arousal and turn on by really setting up those scenes and scenarios with such clarity and holding those containers really powerfully. Other superpowers for the kinky, kind of like the energetic is, you can have orgasms without even being touched. So one example is a friend of ours did a scene with someone where they tied her all up. They tied her to a really powerful music speaker. Cranking like heavy metal music, and they gave the impression by shutting a door that they had left her alone in that room and so she was in this state of of fear, surrender all of these endorphins running in her system. And from her telling, she was left there for hours. That could have been 30 minutes and it felt like hours. But then the dom came in and slammed the door really hard. And she had the most insane orgasm, squirting orgasm that she'd ever had in her life. And he didn't touch her at all. So, that's an incredible super power of the kinky, as well as being able to go into what's called subspace. And that is that sort of endorphin rush where you completely surrender to sensation. And so it can often I mean, for me, the couple of times of I've accessed it, it's essentially same thing to me as reaching highly spiritual states through tantric sex or meditation. you go into a oneness state where you have surrendered identity, you've surrendered any sense of time or space, and it's for many people in the kink community, it's sort of the Valhalla. It's the thing you're seeking when you're doing this kind of scene work. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. And shadow aspects of the kinky would be one of the biggest ones is shame. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. 

Ian Ferguson: So deep, deep shame. What's wrong with me? Why am I like this? As Jaiya and I, we use our personal life as a petri dish of experimentation. And that's where we've gotten so many of the games and techniques and things that we're that we teach is that we've played with this stuff in our own lives. And one of the ways that we dove really deeply into the realm of kink, kinky was a zero on Jaiya's blueprint quiz. And it was a, I don't remember what that percentage was was like, forty seven percent on mine. It was my primary blueprint. So here Jaiya and I in our relationship went through a three year period of deep disconnection. I mean, we were, we were almost done well. And she was an energetic sexual and I was sensual kinky. We were completely on opposite ends of the spectrum and we didn't realize it because Jaiya hadn't downloaded the blueprints yet. They were starting to come into play and she was trying, she was coming home from strip classes and doing cat pounces and trying to turn me on in a sexual blueprint. While we're in this period of time and I, my sensual was kind of like looking for that closeness and connection and down regulation while she was jumping in with, "I need sex, I don't want sex and approaching me from a sexual viewpoint." And we were just missing each other entirely, feeling unseen, unheard. Jaiya was crying herself to sleep at night. And I was you know, my confidence was just dropping through the floor. And in that state I was pulling back and not giving her my presence. So we were really headed towards the end of our relationship until this stuff started to get dialed in, of like, "Oh, that's who you are. Erotically. Wow. Okay. Now I can start to learn how to speak that." Or, when you come on to me in that way, I know what it means as opposed to thinking you're just imposing what you want on me. And I'm a tool of your turn on that kind of thing. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think in the interview I heard with Jaiya. She spoke a little bit about that and her journey from well, she was writing a book on kink, right? Did that come first? Like she got the book deal. And she's like, "Alright, now I've got to figure this out."

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. We had done we had gone into some stuff that we teach that really started to heal our relationship, which is actively putting ourselves in sex life challenges where we're taking on a form of exploration and setting it on a calendar and making a date to explore in that way. And that was one of the big beginnings of the healings inside of our relationship. And also diving into the kink realm, which you're exactly right. Jaiya got the book deal to do the book on Kink and then had to do a bunch of research because you didn't know anything about it. And we dove into a 40-40 experiment where for 40 days, Jaiya dominated me and I was submissive. We took ten days off and then I dominated her for 40 days and she was submissive. And during those days, we were studying with kink experts in the bondage realm and the psychological kink realm in all sorts of areas of kink to really get a full understanding what the world was about. And that's when... like, I knew I was kinky and I thought it was a little bit of light bondage and some, you know, gender play and things like that. But the level and depth of my kink fully came into fruition when we started diving into this 40-40 experiment. I had no idea how much of a turn on it was for me and sort of how deep it went in my erotic map. And nor did Jaiya. So this whole aspect of my eroticism wasn't even being seen or honored by both of us. And one of the things I kept asking, you know, 30 days in to my being submissive to Jaiya, was like, "Why does this stuff turn me on?" I mean, there's this assumption or this this prejudice to think that kink is born out of people who were abused or have some dysfunction. And I had no sexual abuse. I had none of these things associated to that. So I'm ike, what is this about?! And one of our kink teachers during this kept hearing me ask the question. They said, "Stop asking the question, just enjoy yourself." It was just like a breath of relief of like, Oh, yeah, right. It doesn't have to mean anything. It's just what turns me on and I can play with it. And as long as I'm playing with it safely and consensually, it's a beautiful exploration. 

Neil Sattin: And was there anything in particular that you recall, Jaiya doing that helped her with what I imagine might have been challenging as primarily an energetic, which is her judgment around it? 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah. So there are a bunch of trigger things for Jaiya in the realm of kink. One was how far out my edges were because she couldn't find them. So, you know, there's in kink play. You'll set a scene, you'll begin the scene, you'll end the scene. And there's something often called aftercare, where in most circumstances, from my knowledge, the aftercare is usually guided towards having the submissive come back to their body and feel comfortable and connected because they've often gone through a very intense experience. Well, a Dom can also go through a very intense experience because they're holding the container for any number of you know edgy sexual explorations. For Jaiya, who is energetic, you know, when she first started doing kink, she would and was getting trained by a kink master, she would give somebody a spanking and she smacked their ass and then she'd go: "Are you okay? Are you breathing?" And the submissive would look up at her with like anger in their eyes, like, what are you doing? And so the kink person was like, no, that is not it at all. They're signed up for this. This is what they've agreed to. This is what they want. It's not going to check in with them after, you know, everything that you do. The time for that is in aftercare, after the scene is over. So anyway, we would do these scenes and Jaiya would be, you know, going pretty deeply into anything from, you know, we'd be playing with caning one session, we'd be playing with really derogatory language in another session, and usually we come out the other other end of the scene and she'd say, "I need some cuddling, I need some aftercare." So I come out like, "Oh, my God, that was great. We could've gone so much further!" And with no need for aftercare because I was just in a state of turn on and fun and arousal. So aftercare was a big thing, when I was dominating Jaiya, we started to uncover some of the aspects of her trauma inside of that container and we got a kink friendly therapist and we took their advice and we incorporated what they were telling us to do inside of our kink scenes. So we didn't put a stop to our exploration, we just put new boundaries in containers. So like we were playing with gagging her and because she needed her to have her voice, we took gagging off of the play because there were things that would happen if she had her eyes closed, we took blindfolding out of the erotic container so that she could have agency, so she could have her voice. And it's often said about kink that kink is not therapy, but it can be therapeutic and done in the right ways and with the right consent, with the right establishment of the container and with safety, it often can be a way even for people who have had trauma in their past or been abused to reclaim agency in a situation where, you know, when it happened to them earlier in their life, they had no agency. It was being dominated and taken advantage of without having any control. 

Neil Sattin: Well, we are definitely going to have to have the conscious kink episode, because I can tell there's lots to talk about there in particular. Yeah. Wild. But I appreciate your, I mean, it's obvious considering what we're here to talk about. But just your ability to share in the personal aspects of that journey and what you and Jaiya experienced, I think with any of these things, it's so easy listening to kind of idealize or project onto you like, "Well that must have been so freeing!" And to miss the ways that it was challenging or the fact that you guys were nearly done before you, you really started that exploration. So... 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, yeah. For sure. Thank you for that. Yeah. Yeah. So let me just dive into the shapeshifter, so we don't miss any of the blueprints. 

Neil Sattin: Yes. 

Ian Ferguson: So the shapeshifter is the sort of like tends to be the most sophisticated of all the blueprint types. And the shapeshifter is turned on by all of the blueprint types. They are, you know, you may lead with a primary. So I've I've ventured pretty much into shape shifter category where I can be turned on by all of the positives of every blueprint type. But my leads, my primaries are still gonna be kinky and sensual. Those are the things they're going to allow me to get to arousal and then we can bring in the energetic and the sexual and very those things. So, one of the superpowers of the shapeshifter is that they are turned on by all of it. A shapeshifter who is matured in their erotic exploration can be the ultimate lover because they can shapeshift to please any of the blueprint types. So they have all the skills, they have all the turn ons and they have access to all of those super powers. 

Ian Ferguson: The shapeshifter, like an energetic shapeshifter, can be almost like the Stradivarius violin of eroticism because they have such an access to energy and what's happening in a space and so much aliveness in their body. And then they have all of the other pieces of turn on available to them. So very, very fine instrument, the energetic shapeshifter. 

Ian Ferguson: The shadow side of the shapeshifter are often being starved and feeling starved because they are shapeshifting to feed other their blueprint types. They're not feeling fed, they're not claiming their own desires. 

Ian Ferguson: A shape shapeshifter may have shut down their sexuality because they've been told you're too much, you're too big, you want too much, you're too loud. So I'll give freedom to all the shape shifters who are listening to this. You are not too much. You're not too loud. The people, unfortunately, that you've been playing with just either don't understand you or can't play at the level to which you desire to play. So you've got a beautiful instrument, you've got beautiful access, incredible range in your eroticism. Another challenge for a shapeshifter, we almost refer to this as a sixth blueprint type, which is a shapeshifter can have the shadow aspects of all of the types. And that can be really challenging because at every turn there's something that could be the break to your arousal, an energetic interruption, a sensual interruption, kinky shame, you know, feeling shut down, shut down as a sexual. All of those things can weigh on the shapeshifter in and close off their eroticism. So a shapeshifter, another key indicator of a shapeshifter to me is somebody who really loves to play in extended play. They have a voracious appetite for more and more and more with some shape shifters. You could be playing for three, four hours and be like, are you done yet again? And they're like, "We're just getting started. Don't go away." Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So there might be some training involved, some endurance training for people who are matched with the shape shifters. 

Ian Ferguson: Yes. Yeah. And you know, as ways to play with a shapeshifter where you can incorporate toys, toys are really good thing to bring in with shapeshifter play. You can also. It does it can get very octopus pussy and kind of like your limbs are all over the place with trying to really feed a shapeshifter fully. If you're just it's a one-on-one partnership. But you can bring in vibrators or, you know, panty vibrators or butt plugs. You can use, you can tie the shapeshifter down and to incorporate the kink while you're bringing in other sensory play with scratchy nails or some kind of choking or light, energetic touch. It's just, there's so much to play with. And another indicator of the shapeshifter is that they can take tons of divergent sensory input all at once. 

Neil Sattin: Mmhmm. 

Ian Ferguson: You know, somebody who might have a couple of the blueprint types, like a kinky sensual like myself. And if I didn't have my energetic and I didn't have my sexual expanded, and you started to incorporate sexual or energetic inside of a container where were playing with sensual kink. I could get overwhelmed or annoyed and and it'll be a shut down for me. Whereas the shapeshifter is like "Bring it on. I want more. Yes. Throw in the energetic. Yes. Throw in the sensual." And it may be more about how you stack the blueprints for a shapeshifter. Then it is about them getting overwhelmed. They may never get overwhelmed as long as you weave them in in a way that really turns them on. 

Neil Sattin: Got it. So that's all about the games and ways of discovering which ones work, which ways of stimulating and diving deeper into that sexual sphere, work well together for that particular person. 

Ian Ferguson: Yeah, we call it the blueprint stack. It's a bonus thing that we offer as well as part of the blueprint course. And so when you know your stack, you know the kind of waves, the first access point and how you can build on each blueprint level. So when somebody takes the quiz, make sure when you take that quiz that you check out the Web page that pops up right when you get your answers, you'll see as you scroll down, you'll see your blueprint types in percentages and you can take a screenshot of that. So you have it for your records. You'll get an email that should have that same breakdown in it as well. But you'll often your primary blueprint is the entrance point. So for me, it'd be kinky. That is a surefire way to get me dropped in, turned on. Then it might be weaving in some sensual so I get some more relaxation and connection and then you can play energetic mixed with kink with me and really heighten the turn on because there's this anticipation and you're not giving me the satisfaction of the orgasm. And then you can weave back some kink and really extend the waves of pleasure and extend the lovemaking session. And then sort of capping off for me would be the sexual where we're going right for it and we're headed towards orgasm and ejaculation. And yay! You've had an amazing sexual experience!

Neil Sattin: That feels like a great place to end this conversation. Ian Ferguson, you've been so generous with your time and your wisdom. And I hope that you are all feeling expanded like I am right now. Clearly, we could just keep expanding. And like you said, the kaleidoscopic effects of this conversation, there's just such a rich journey for us to go on. So, again, if you want to take the quiz, erotic-breakthrough-dot-com-slash-alive. If you go to Neil-Sattin-dot-com-slash-erotic, you can download the transcript from this conversation and get links to Ian and Jaiya's sites. And Ian it's just been such a pleasure to chat with you. And I'm really just in such appreciation of the work that you and Jaiya are doing in the world. It's powerful stuff. 

Ian Ferguson: Mm hmm. Thank you, Neil. And deep gratitude to you for inviting me onto the show. This is still a challenging topic to breach and really have people talk openly about. So you're on the frontier with me and I'm grateful to have your partnership. 

Neil Sattin: It's so great to share this space with you. 

Ian Ferguson: Thank you. 

Dec 21, 2019

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

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


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.


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Dec 13, 2019

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

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

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


Away has created durable suitcases for the savvy traveler, with key features that help you easily get your stuff from place to place. With a limited lifetime warranty, and a 100-day trial period, it’s easy for you to experience an Away suitcase “in the field”. Away is offering free shipping with guaranteed delivery by 12/20 if you order by 11:59pm on 12/15 if you visit and use the promo code “RELATIONSHIP” at checkout.

Our second sponsor today is Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet and now, with Audible Originals, the selection has gotten even better with custom content made for members. As a special offer, Audible wants to give you a free 30-day trial - which includes 1 free audiobook and 2 free Audible originals. Go to or text RELATIONSHIP to 500500 to get started.


Visit the website for Guy Finley’s new book Relationship Magic for special bonus content

Visit Guy Finley’s main website

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict…

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Guy Finley.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yes, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guy Finley: Sure.

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

Guy Finley: Betrayal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah, go for it.

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

Neil Sattin: Totally. How did I get here?

Guy Finley: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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

Neil Sattin: Exactly.

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Guy Finley: No such thing, Neil.

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yes.

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

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

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

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

Guy Finley: I understand, Neil.

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

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

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

Guy Finley: Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guy Finley: Sure, go ahead, Neil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guy Finley: I have one closing comment.

Neil Sattin: Go for it.

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Of course, yes.

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

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

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

Dec 7, 2019

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


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.

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


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Special intro and outro music provided courtesy of Kyle Morgan and Starcrossed Losers

Nov 23, 2019

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

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


Away has created durable suitcases for the savvy traveler, with key features that help you easily get your stuff from place to place. With a limited lifetime warranty, and a 100-day trial period, it’s easy for you to experience an Away suitcase “in the field”. Away is offering $20 off any suitcase if you visit and use the promo code “RELATIONSHIP” at checkout.

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. helps you create an original song as a unique gift for any special occasion. You tell them what the occasion is, what emotions you want your song to evoke, what type of song you want, and give them a little bit of your story - and they bring your story to life with a radio-quality song that captures it all. Songfinch is offering you $25 off a personalized “Song from Scratch” if you use the coupon code ALIVE25 at checkout.


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Nov 15, 2019

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

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

Sponsors: helps you create an original song as a unique gift for any special occasion. You tell them what the occasion is, what emotions you want your song to evoke, what type of song you want, and give them a little bit of your story - and they bring your story to life with a radio-quality song that captures it all. Songfinch is offering you $25 off a personalized “Song from Scratch” if you use the coupon code ALIVE25 at checkout.

Our second sponsor today is Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet and now, with Audible Originals, the selection has gotten even better with custom content made for members. As a special offer, Audible wants to give you a free 30-day trial - which includes 1 free audiobook and 2 free Audible originals. Go to or text RELATIONSHIP to 500500 to get started.


Visit Dr. Stephen Karpman’s website for resources to help you conquer the Drama Triangle and live a game-free life.

Read Stephen Karpman’s book, “A Game-Free Life” for details on the Drama Triangle, the Compassion Triangle, and more!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Karpman: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and what is winning exactly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah, let's do that.

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

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

Neil Sattin: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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


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

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's...

Stephen Karpman: There's also...

Neil Sattin: Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right.

Stephen Karpman: Which might work also.

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: And...

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

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

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

Stephen Karpman: Hmm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Stephen Karpman: No, I'm okay.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Stephen Karpman: Thank you.

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: No, go for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Thank you.

Stephen Karpman: Again, thank you.

Nov 8, 2019

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

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

198 - Healing Your Earliest Attachment Wounds - with Peter Levine


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

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


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.

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


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Oct 26, 2019

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

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


Away has created durable suitcases for the savvy traveler, with key features that help you easily get your stuff from place to place. With a limited lifetime warranty, and a 100-day trial period, it’s easy for you to experience an Away suitcase “in the field”. Away is offering $20 off any suitcase if you visit and use the promo code “RELATIONSHIP” at checkout.

Beautiful jewelry, exquisite craftsmanship, sustainable sources, and affordable prices. Get $75 OFF your purchase at when you use the coupon code "ALIVE". With free overnight shipping and free returns, you can see something online today, and try it on tomorrow risk free.

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.


Visit Paula Hall’s website for more information about her work, her books, and her public speaking.

Check out the Laurel Centre’s offerings for help with Sex and Porn addiction.

Read the Paula Hall books that are right for you.

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

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

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

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


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

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

Paula Hall: Hi! Thanks for inviting me. 

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Yeah yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Sattin: Right. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Did I answer your question? 

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Absolutely yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Choice. 

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

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

Neil Sattin: Great. Yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Hall: Exactly. Exactly. 

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Hall: OK. 

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

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

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

Paula Hall: You're very welcome. 

Oct 19, 2019

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

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


Beautiful jewelry, exquisite craftsmanship, sustainable sources, and affordable prices. Get $75 OFF your purchase at when you use the coupon code "ALIVE". With free overnight shipping and free returns, you can see something online today, and try it on tomorrow risk free.

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.

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


I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil’s Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

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

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

Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Oct 9, 2019

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


Beautiful jewelry, exquisite craftsmanship, sustainable sources, and affordable prices. Get $75 OFF your purchase at when you use the coupon code "ALIVE". With free overnight shipping and free returns, you can see something online today, and try it on tomorrow risk free.

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.

Our final sponsor today is Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet and now, with Audible Originals, the selection has gotten even better with custom content made for members. As a special offer, Audible wants to give you a free 30-day trial - which includes 1 free audiobook and 2 free Audible originals. Go to or text RELATIONSHIP to 500500 to get started.


Visit Vi Neufeld’s website to get her “enhancing relationship vitality” inventory.

Read Vi’s book, Grateful for the Fight.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Your Relationship (ALSO FREE)

Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jeff Brown.

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We've talked a lot on the show about how to communicate. And we've dipped our toes into the water of how to have conflict in a productive way with your partner. But deep down I don't know about you, but I've always harbored this sense that conflict is best avoided or dealt with as quickly as possible. And yet despite that deep down held belief something in me knew that it wasn't quite right. It wasn't quite serving me. And I've had various attempts to put my finger on the reason why. And then good fortune brought today's guest my way. Her name is Viola Neufeld and she is the author of "Grateful for the Fight: Using Inner Conflict to Transform Yourself and Your Relationships." Her book is truly eye opening, in terms of helping you see how the conflicts that you have in your outer world, the conflicts with your partner, with your family, with your co-workers, or your boss, how all of those conflicts help point to the ways that you can grow within you, and transform your relationships. So it's a very powerful generative way of looking at conflict that almost makes you welcome the chance to have conflict with someone else because you're gonna be holding it in a completely different way. If you are interested in downloading a transcript for today's episode you can visit, because that's what we're gonna be talking about today. Or as always you can text the word "passion" to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions Vi Neufeld. Thank you so much for being here with me today on Relationship Alive. 

Viola Neufeld: I'm so happy to be here and I really love the name of our podcast Relationship Alive, because that's what this whole thing is about. It's about, what do you need to do to keep relationships alive over a very lengthy period of time and I know, you know, you were talking about how our natural tendency is to want to avoid conflict and you know that's just makes all the sense in the world because think about each time you enter conflict. It's like you're on this teeter totter and you don't know which way it's going to go. Is it just going to keep getting worse? Or is there a chance that this time you're going to turn around and do it differently and do it better? But we most of us have such a track record already with things going badly, that we're frightened of starting it again, because we know what the chances are we're realistic about the opponent that we have and our opponent gives us a real run for our money because they're able to find those places within where we question yourself. You know I mean it's funny. We often say to our partner you know, "you're pushing my buttons," as though they shouldn't. But interestingly enough it's when they push our buttons that they take us right to that part of ourselves where we find that really restless part. And of course it makes us feel terrible. We don't want to stay there, because we're uncomfortable there already. And yet if we continue to avoid it then it just remains there in a chronic state for many, many years. And we keep having fights over and over. Just on a little bit of a different stage. But the underlying fight is actually very much the same. 

Neil Sattin: Right. You talk about it basically being this cycle where each of you is poking at the others sore spots and that there's some way that we magically arrive at this dynamic in, in partnership around those perpetual fights where what they point to it hits us in our in our weakest most vulnerable places and then we in the way that we respond to them you call that "your M.O.," it does the exact same thing for them. And so it creates this vicious cycle that just gets worse and worse or never gets any better. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah, I don't know I was thinking about this yesterday I was thinking about the whole concept of chemistry and you know how we always talk about we, what is love and we have to have this, uh, thing that happens between us. They activate something inside us. And make us come alive. But then what I was really thinking about is like what is the chemistry. The very thing that draws you together. That gravitational pull often has something that also creates conflict between us.  I mean we love somebody because they activate that part of us that somebody else doesn't. And it gets us really, really excited but it also makes us just wild because we don't know what to do and we end up trying to sort through, while we're in the middle of it, this is where it gets really confusing what's your stuff and what's my stuff. But, Neil let me go back to that cycle that you were referring to because how I even came up with that and how I even started looking at things in relation to the book and writing things up was, at one point I had like about twenty 23....nah, it was even more than that. At least 30 different files that I had across my dining room table and I thought what are the similarities here? When do people get into such entanglements with each other that they just can't get out and are there some similarities? What are those similarities where people get stuck and stay stuck for years.  And then that's when I started when I came up with that cycle, and you realized that somebody in terms of what they say or what they do, maybe, they're critical maybe they're passive maybe they're withdrawn, but whatever it is they do, make you go back to the place where you question yourself. "Maybe I'm not enough. Or maybe I'm too controlling. Or maybe I'm too impatient or..." Whatever it is that either they're withdrawing or their attack makes you question yourself and and doubt yourself at very significant levels in terms of who you are as a person. Then when you come out, so you come back out fighting, and whatever it is you do makes the other person now question themselves. And face the part of themselves that they don't want. That unwanted self. And it's looking at how we feed that cycle and keep that cycle going, that I was really intrigued by and wondering how do people get out of that cycle. Because I think that so many of us live with more pain in life than we need to. Like if we could figure this out sooner and face the part of ourselves that causes such discomfort and we'll know, we'll recognize that part because it's always the part that makes us come out fighting. We have to defend ourselves. We have to protect ourselves because we think the other person said something that makes us look like an idiot or that we're unreliable or that we're not a contributor. All the things we don't want to be and that's when we come out fighting. And yet the interesting thing is that really the strange way out of that, is to face the very thing that you don't want to be like for me for a long time. One of the things I had to face was, 'I'm not enough,' and I keep thinking "No, I am enough." Well this is where the power of positive thinking doesn't always work because it can't wipe out truth. And so it's like you almost have to do a back and forth and go, "Where I'm not... Where am I enough and where am I not enough?" Because there are places where I'm not enough and what am I going to do about that. So then the hope lies in kind of finding a bit of a manageable change program. And if I can do more today than I did yesterday or feel better today about myself than I did yesterday, because of what I'm doing differently then that's already growth. I mean it's one of the things I absolutely love about conflict. I never liked to be in the midst of conflict. There's nothing easy about it. But if you can surrender to it and learn what you can then we learn so much more about ourselves. I think that we are all less self-aware than we really think we are. This is a wonderful way of getting to know who you are and who the other person is. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There's there's so much here that I want to unpack. And I love how rich your book is with like really taking apart each of the dynamics that, that are at work there in conflict and as, um, as I was wrestling with this question of, "OK what is the truth about those sore spots in me?" You know when I look at... You know something I mentioned frequently on the podcast is how I'm maybe not the cleanest person. So what is the truth around when when someone approaches me, or when Chloe my partner approaches me and says like, you know, "This place is a disaster like you have to do something." And for me like the natural tendency being you know all these things that I saw spelled out in your book like I would get defensive or I'd have I just have excuses maybe I wasn't getting defensive, but I'd be like you know I was really busy recording that episode of the podcast and I didn't get that chance to do the dishes like I said I was going to. And then there's that uncomfortable place of recognizing, "OK there is some truth here. And one of the questions that comes up for me is how you arrive at the balance of when it when it's actually healthy for you to look at, let's say a criticism from your partner and to not like focus on the fact that they criticized you and they could have said it better, but just to say like alright, I'm going to take a step back and see what's true here. What's the balance between doing that, in a way that's healthy, and then it becoming its own negative cycle and your relationship where you just get victimized by a partner who isn't doing their part to shift?

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. That's a really good question because you know I think it's almost like the sequence that's the most important. The natural tendency is to go back and start fighting immediately or protecting and defending self. Except that if you continue to do that it gets you nowhere.  Okay. So the first step is always going in and looking at what did they say about me? So that's true. Maybe I, you know I am messy or I am a control freak, or I'm a clean freak, or whatever it is. Whatever they have said about you, the first step, I mean this is a very courageous step right because you have to go inside and you go. How much of that is true. And once you start to look at that then you're no longer fighting or like pushing it away because you've actually brought it close. And I don't ever want to minimize the difficulty of this because the same way as a child balances down on heat and pulls their hand away we do the same thing with emotional responses. When something is uncomfortable we want to balance away but this is what is required is to actually stay there longer and go, "Is this true about me? Yeah you know what sometimes I am this way," or "Sometimes I'm not this way." So you're going back, you have to do a bit of an assessment, all along recognizing that you don't see everything about yourself, the other person is actually telling you something about how you are impacting them. And we're not always aware of our full impact on the other. But then after you've gone in I think that it's important to go up and you from a bird's eye view, you look down, and you go wait a minute what do I know about the way that the two of us interact? What do I know about when my partner is feeling uncomfortable, what do they do? And if they get to a place where they're blaming and I'm now feeling like a victim and this is I recognize this. This is, I easily fall into a victim. My partner usually blames that I go, Wait a minute what I've already looked at what's going on inside of me and what I need to do differently but now I'm also from the bird's eye view from way up top I'm looking down and going: I see this pattern between us and I know that my partner is doing that out of their own discomfort then because you're not being just reactive you are much more equipped to stand up and say, you know what you're going into a blamer, and you're doing the very same thing again, you're wanting to make it look like it's my fault and you're so, so it's a matter then of holding onto yourself and you are not as reactive. So you have a clearer mind and you can see what the pattern is between the two of you and begin to shift your pattern. 

Neil Sattin: Right. I loved in one of the chapters where you were talking about ways to shift the interactions like once you've done the inner work and I want to spend of course a little bit more time on that process of of the inner diagnosis. But you were talking about like once you've done that work and then you face into a conflict with your partner or anyone, really, you might ask a question like, Are you... it seems like you're trying to blame me right now are you, is that true? Are you trying to blame me right now for what's going on? And how asking the question invites them to take a deeper look at what they're doing and they may say they may say, Yes. You know they may be like, "That's exactly what I'm doing because this is your fault." Or they may say, "Well I'm not trying to blame you. I'm trying to just show you the impact of..." And you get further than you would get if you were just like, you know, stop blaming me and you're always blaming me. And then you're off to the races with your typical relationship pattern or conflict pattern. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah, see, I love that because once you have looked at yourself and you've really seen it, when you go out now, because I think there's three steps you go in, you go up, and then you go out. When you go out you grow up very differently. So, my husband and I, we had this cycle that went on for many, many years and and it would be that I would end up feeling like I was, you know, how did I have to raise another issue? I'm a malcontent. I'm a flake for what I'm saying. And then what I noticed and I would go into a blamer, because I didn't want to be that person but once I got to see that it when I experienced his criticism I, would go to that very same place. It kind of just made me chuckle because I go, "Wait a minute. I'm here at the same place. And yes I realize that sometimes I caused trouble but I also don't want to be the person who sees trouble and doesn't do anything about it." And so then I was equipped to just stand there and go, "No no. We do have an issue with this. But I gotta find a way of doing this and be lovable at the same time." So going inside what it helps you do is, it equips you and you feel more confident to stand on your own. To speak from your truth. And the fight changes because it's not like you're just defending yourself. You're actually talking about what goes on between the two of you and what you'd have to do to change that pattern so that it becomes a healthier pattern. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah let's go up even further for a minute and talk about differentiation, and the reason why conflict is so crucial for true intimacy. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. Differentiation. I mean it sounds like a big concept but, but it's so it's what you have to do in conflict all the time, is that... And conflict takes you to a place where you have to be willing to stand on your own and for a little bit. I mean it's almost like you disconnect with that other person, because you're so connected with who you are, what's important to you, and then you also have to hold the other at the same time. So it's being detached and involved. Standing alone and standing together. Lot of people get that part confusing because they think that you know they'll say, many couples will come in and one person will say, "No, I have to leave this marriage because I can't be myself." Well, if you have to leave a marriage to be yourself. That's not differentiation. It's individuation. That's about you being able to hold on to yourself. Differentiation is much more difficult because how do you end up holding on to yourself, and being a full self when you're connected to the other who is different than you, who thinks differently who wants different things. And that can be a big challenge. But ultimately I think it's only when we bring our full selves to the marriage, and freely being who we are even when the other person doesn't get who we are, that's the best chance that we've got of having real intimacy and vitality. I think way too many people give up intimacy because intimacy is hard. Intimacy means that you have to be able to state what do you want. What's important to you. What you value even when you think that the other person doesn't get it. So one of the ways that I've described it over the years is that I think one of the hazards of a long term relationship is a, is a shrinking pie. And initially you came together and the two of you were you flowed freely and you were all you brought all of which you were what you are. And so when you bring the full pie it just feels really intoxicating because you're free to be yourself the other person is free to be yourself. You don't have the baggage. But then what happens over the years is that let's say, there's something that's really important to you. Maybe it's something that you value. Maybe it's it's what you want sexually or who you are spiritually or you know what you're looking for,  you need emotionally. And let's say the other person isn't there doesn't meet your needs and so, or even they think you're less than for some reason because you're too emotional or not emotional enough or whatever. And so slowly we start pulling back pieces of the pie and we no longer bring them to the relationship. And if we don't do that sure we've got less conflict. But you know what: we have a whole lot less vitality, a whole lot less intimacy. So the challenge is even when you don't we don't think the same. I got to tell you this is who I am. And remember that other person fell in love with you in the first place because you so freely flowed with of everything that you were. But just now you've got some challenges. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah so the idea is that through this process you get to know yourself more. You get to grow yourself more. And then you get to bring that back to the conflict in a way that really it's like having the same conflict, but from a completely different place. So it's it's not gonna be the same conflict at least on some level. 

Viola Neufeld: Neil, and that's true because you went once you've done all this inside work you go, and as soon as you get back out there with the same person you go, "Wow this is the same stuff." But then you notice then it actually feels so differently when you're in it because you're not being triggered. So the same conflict. But now you're responding differently within it which means that nothing can be exactly the same. You know how they tell you you can never change the other person and there's a part of that that's true but it really isn't the whole truth. You know because how do we change the other person we change the other person by changing ourselves. If I change my pattern my husband could no longer do the same thing and that's the way it is in all relationships. And therein lies a huge amount of hope. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. In fact I just released a communication course that is all focused on the things that one person can do, like, basically all the places where we alone have influence when we're communicating with another person, since that's really the only thing we can change in effect. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. And also because like I think of, I don't know if you can visualize steps, you know, like, let's say you you enter at one level, but there was an action that came before. There's always an action that comes after. So think about how you change things. Because if you respond differently then the other responds differently to you as well and you get out of the vicious cycle and into a more virtuous cycle. And the power lies in one. 

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. I am I'm getting this image in my mind of you know someone kind of going to battle and over and over again, with the same opponent, the same foe and they have, I mean let's just use Achilles right. So that we'll take a myth. So this dude has a weakness in his heel, it's the only place that he can be killed, because that was where you know he was held when he was dipped into the pool of immortality or whatever it was. And it's like, imagine him going into battle again and again and he's like fighting and all doing well. And then what do you know, like the person like, pinches his heel and he's like down on the ground again. And thankfully the person isn't actually trying to kill him. But no matter what, there he is helpless down on the ground and it's like if all he focuses on is like, "How do I keep people away from my heel?" Then the heel is always going to be there as a weakness. And everyone's going to keep going for it. Whereas if he gets to know that spot intimately well and you know, I'm talking about Achilles, but it could easily be "Achillia” - you know some women as well. You know like, then once they realize like oh this is my weakness and they really get to know it intimately. And then when, the other person goes for it, they actually have a way of responding that they never had before. That's part of what changes the whole dynamic. So, I'm wondering if you can talk for a moment about that process of going in and and I love the way in your book you have these great questions that help you kind of peel away your self delusions and denial in a way that's not destructive. You know that's constructive. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that process of you know, asking yourself maybe you've asked yourself what's true about this which is what you offered earlier. And then what's the next step? Like where do you go when you when you realize like well you know what, it's true that I don't prioritize the dishes and that is just true about me or whatever it is. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. You know to even to go one step further back, because it's understanding. You know, I often think of that part of us that we don't like the unwanted self. I often think of that more and I relate to it as I would to a little child or to me as a little child because we all make sense. And that part of us that still needs healing was wounded somewhere along the line. And what I actually love about conflict is that conflict gives us a method to heal those parts that are the most sensitive. So so when we come to the self to the unwanted self in that way, and we warmly try to understand where the hurts lie, where the woundedness first started to show up, then it's a way of kind of... I don't know... embracing it really it really is... I don't know taking it on your lap and now you're not, you're not harsh with it which means you're also not unrealistic in what you're expecting of it.  So I understand that, "OK. Why is cleanliness not important to me? Or why is uber cleanliness important to me?" For instance. And I come to understand things that have happened in my life that have made me come to that conclusion. And the thing is that many times what worked earlier in life doesn't necessarily work anymore. So taking that cleanliness thing you know, before it was not a problem there are many other things that were more important. However if it becomes a problem, with your spouse, then yeah. Then it's something that you start looking at and you go, "Well, maybe now I would actually feel better if I had things a little more cleaned up or if I contributed more by getting the dishes done or any of those things. So. So, it's a matter of really first warming up to the unwanted self because you understand what role it played or how it came to be. And in facing that there is some healing and there is some freeing going forward. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I'm wondering when you look at yourself in that way like, what I'm hearing are these questions that help you get the underlying motivation. So if what you're looking at is a specific behavior that you do or don't do, what the motivations are beneath that to help you get more clarity on what, what's really driving the way that you act. Am I getting you?

Viola Neufeld: Yes for sure. Because we always have... And making that connection is sometimes difficult. Because we have these behaviors that we do. But then you have to kind of go underneath and go, "Why is that important?" Now, the why question is always a bit dangerous right because it can take you into rationalization which is not where we're going. It's more of a question of what? What is it that's actually driving that. So... 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I'm thinking about your chapter on I think you call it "self tripping." Maybe you can describe what that is before I say what I'm gonna say. So what's self tripping? 

Viola Neufeld: "Self tripping" is when you keep doing something that you know isn't getting you where you want to go and yet you can't leave. You can't let it go. So, in the book it was Nadia and her negativity. And so she recognizes that even though she doesn't like her negativity, that it also plays an important role in her life. It's where she feels like she makes a valuable contribution. It's part of her sense of identity. She thinks that people who just are always happy are people who just skate through life and don't have enough grit to face reality as it is. And it's so become woven into her sense of who she is that if she if she didn't be negative some of the time or you know bring out the umbrella that she wouldn't even know who she was anymore. 

Neil Sattin: Right. 

Viola Neufeld: Cuz of the roles. It was a role that she played growing up in her family and it's how others have come to know her. 

Neil Sattin: Right. So if it's okay, I'm just gonna go through these questions that you ask. 

Viola Neufeld: Sure. Yeah. 

Neil Sattin: So just to give you listening a flavor for this kind of inquiry. So, you identified the behavior then you might ask yourself why do you dislike this behavior? Because after all we're talking about the unwanted self, like this is a part of us that we don't necessarily feel good about. But we've come to accept it as just maybe just the way we are. Or just the way we're going to be. We haven't figured out a way out of it. What do you like about this behavior? And why are you attached to it? If you tried to change it what would you lose? Or how would the change destabilise you internally or destabilise your relationship externally? And how is it working for you to repeat this pattern over and over again? Is there anything else that holds it in place. So, you're really able to to look at it like almost a scientist would or at least an observer from another planet, who's really trying to get more familiar with what's, what's going on here? And do you find that that process of creating that insight in itself is what generates change? Or are there other things that you think are required for people?

Viola Neufeld: Well for sure what it does, like, it's the second step right? It's of going up and looking at it. So what it does is, you see the patterns, it loosens it inside and then I think going out is actually that you have to end up implementing that and realize how different it feels, and actually be surprised by how good it feels. And it doesn't mean, and like Nadia for instance might never give up all her negativity but she might be thinking differently about how often she's going to use it or whether it's going to be a comfortable blanket. She's going to recognize when she's using it illegitimately and she'll open up options. That's the whole beautiful thing about looking at, or engaging conflict differently is that you recognize that you have a whole lot more options than you believed you had earlier. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. It really frees you up in that way. And I'm just thinking about how once you're in that place with a new like trying something new on, you talk about not necessarily going for the big shift. "Well, I'm just gonna be positive all the time." Like, that's not gonna be Nadia's approach, right?

Viola Neufeld: No, no, no. I mean that has to be, it has to be, little, little steps. And I think you always measured today compared to yesterday. Are you happier with who you are today than yesterday? Oftentimes when I work with couples and I usually take the last 10 minutes to work on what kind of homework do they want to do and it's about together we figure out the homework, or they figure out the homework on their own, but oftentimes after a session people will be pretty motivated and they'll go, "Oh, I'm going to do this, this, this, and this." And I'm like: "How about we think about one thing you're going to do? So that you can be convinced, so that you know that you are going to actually succeed rather than setting yourself up for failure?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I'm thinking now of that way of reflecting on changes in conflict with another person that you mentioned, where you might even say it's like in Nadia's case like, "Wow,, when's the last I was just positive, like when's the last time I was positive in the middle of a conflict that we were having?" As a way of helping your partner see that you are trying to make shifts in the dynamic. When you when you are trying to make those shifts, what are, what are the common obstacles that you find when someone brings kind of a renewed sense of who they are? They've gone, they've done the deep dive. They've gone up, they've gotten some perspective. They really want to shift this pattern for themselves and for the way that they have conflict and then, let's talk about kind of taking it into the arena with their with their partner? And how do you do that in a way that's most likely to be generative? And how would you know? Because we're talking about stepping into conflict which by its nature is uncomfortable. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah, yeah. You know what I think, for one, being really realistic about change and how it happens. And know that the old is like a magnet and it just sucks you back, so quickly, and so powerfully and I think the important thing is not to get down on ourselves when that happens just to kind of look and kind of chuckle a little bit, and go, "Oh, my goodness, it's happening. The same thing still has some power." But even the fact that you can go up and recognize it, that means you're not functioning totally from your alligator brain, your amygdala, you're actually operating. You've invited your neocortex in and you're recognizing it even if you catch it after the fact and you go, "You know what, I just did the same thing again." But that's more than you were doing previously, because previously you didn't even see it. So kudos to you. And then the next time when it happens you'll probably see it while you're in the middle of it, and go, "OK, just wait a minute. I got to do something differently."  And when sometimes, when people get lost I'll say to them just do something which is 180 degrees from what you normally do and see how different, it feels and see what the impact is. Because it's all about experimenting and then recognizing that the person who got to you before, when you are making changes, whether it's your spouse, whether it's a colleague at work. If you make a change know that the other person is going to continue to do more of what they did before. So you're actually going to up the ante. Be prepared for that. Not because they're wanting you to still do what you did before, but just because that's what they know. And so your commitment is to yourself, more than to the other person to stay the course. Just focus on who do I want to be so that I can sleep comfortably in my own skin. And what is another good thing is that life keeps giving us one opportunity after another. If we miss this one there's another one right around the corner. And again just keep practicing on being the person we want to be. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. I like that image of your two brains learning how to work together because we have spoken a lot on the show about your limbic brain taking your neocortex off line basically for in favor of fight or flight. And so bringing your attunement, like your attunement within, to a conflict, that allows you to to bring them both online at the same time and to recognize your boundaries to recognize where you truly aren't safe vs. the illusion of not being safe which is often what your amygdala is responding to, right? 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. And that's what I love is because when you invite your brain back in, you can see that some of the things, cause conflict is all about your threats center going wild. And yet, when you bring your neocortex in then you can actually look at those fears and go, "Ok, they were real at one point. Are they still real? You know? I thought I couldn't do this on my own. And back then I couldn't. But can I do it now? Have I developed further? Or, I thought that you know I was not enough? Or, I thought that I spoke way too much. Do I still do that? I thought I was a drama queen. Am I still that or have I shifted? I thought people would reject me. But is that true?" So yeah it's always a question of checking where you are now compared to where you were then. And the many of the fears that were there don't need to be there any longer. 

Neil Sattin: Let's talk for a minute too about how we might... Because I agree with you that so often we we start changing and the whole thing shifts. But are there ways that you find with your clients that are particularly effective for inviting your partner to notice, along, apart from what I mentioned earlier, to notice like the dance is shifting here. Or, hey, like this is this is me stating my truth and you can make a choice about that but I'm really clear about what I believe in this moment or who I am in this moment. What are some ways to help invite your partner to change their steps in the dance? And maybe the last part of that question, is how would someone recognize if that wasn't going to happen and whether or not that's truly, you know, you talk a little bit about the times when it's actually healthy to disengage. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. Because you know I mean here's the sobering thing, is that we only have in our life what we tolerate. And so at a certain point it is that we go: This is who I am or I want to be sexually active, and that's really important to be in an intimate relationship. And if you're not there if that's not what you want, we're in real difficulty and I don't know what to do. Or let's say, "I want to be in relationship with somebody when I know that I have reason to trust them and I can believe them. And you have shown me on numerous occasions that I don't have evidence to trust you. And we are in a situation that I don't know if we can continue to go forward because this is what I need in my life." See, then you go back to differentiation where you really hold your own and you go. This is what I need from a partner. And if you're not that person, then I don't know where we're going to be in the future. So then there are other ones where, let's say you know, you know that the other person continues, regardless of how many times you say what's important to you and what really matters, it actually seems like the other person, if they really if that really doesn't matter to them then you are in a situation where you have to go, "OK. Am I going to continue on with this person or am I not?" Because you can't continue... Or let's say somebody continues to be hurtful and harmful in their actions towards you. And regardless of what you said they don't make the changes. Well then the writing is on the wall as to your future. You have to make decisions for your own safekeeping and for your own health. Going forward. 

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think one place where that can get tricky is: I think we can be too quick maybe to make that decision, if we're in pain and that's the interesting thing about what we're talking about. Is like just because you're having conflict and uncomfortable that that isn't necessarily a sign that this isn't a healthy environment for you to be in. It may be that there's more healing for you to do or more growing for you to do. And I think that can be tricky to know, like, actually this isn't about me growing or healing something this is just about kind of a core place where I stand. 

Viola Neufeld: Yeah, I mean, that's where it can get confusing for people to know whether it's just that it's theirs or if it has to do with the other person. I lost it there when I was going to say you and I'm sorry.

Neil Sattin: That's OK. And I'm wondering if you have any hints for how someone can do that diagnosis about like have they gone deep enough in terms of their own inner work?

Viola Neufeld: Yeah. So Neil I know what it was I was going to say because, what's the reason for moving on? So if you have not looked at your own stuff and you just think it's the other person then maybe moving out of the relationship is premature. If however you've actually looked at your part of the problem, your contribution, and still you're not getting from your partner what you need, then that's a different thing because you're not just leaving because of hurt and because of self blindness. You actually see it. You're doing the work. But the other person is not in a place where they're wanting to see more of themselves. And then maybe it points to a different future, but it's why are you leaving? Have you really seen what you need to see about yourself? Because then you can make a clear decision. 

Neil Sattin: Right. I love what you just said how crucial it is to identify your contribution and to change to address that. That is what we've been talking about all along. It's the ways that we show up and we create the dance that's happening or do our part to create the dance that's happening. 

Neil Sattin: Well Vi Neufeld it's been so great to chat with you about conflict and I feel like we should have argued more or something like that. I'm really appreciating your work. And so can you just tell us a little bit more about the different kinds of things that you offer? Obviously your book grateful for the fight is there for people on Amazon, it's a great read and really a useful tool for self discovery and transforming your approach to conflict. And I don't know about you, but if you can imagine like how tense and how much it can shake up your inner world to know that you're heading into conflict and just how different it can be to imagine stepping into a conflict knowing that you've got you, and that you can take care of yourself. This book is a really helpful part of creating that experience. So I appreciate your work in that way. But, what else are you doing with people?

Viola Neufeld: Well I was just going to say that I think one of the real benefits of doing this work is that you end up liking yourself more and you have better relationship. That's the end result. So yes, you know if you... Other things I mean there's all kinds of work. It's always having to do with sorting through relationships and extended families and with couples and in organizations. If some of you want to have a little scale that you can work through and it would be a little handout on enhancing relationship vitality, if you want to do that you can contact me and I'll send you a concept or I'll send you a handout if you like to do that. It would be a way of, you know how you always have ideas about who you think you are in relationship and then who your partner is. This is a way of actually going through a number of indicators and you can do a scoring at the end, which will tell you you know it'll shine some light on who's contributing in what areas and see if your yourself perceptions are accurate or not. 

Neil Sattin: Well I'm definitely going to to take your quiz. So, make sure that I get my hands on that as well. Yes. If you want to get a copy of the enhancing your relationship vitality inventory, then you can visit Vi Neufeld's web site which is, and I will have a link to that in the show notes, which you can get by visiting or texting the word "passion" to the number 3-3-4-4-4. And following the instructions. 

Neil Sattin: Vi Neufeld thank you so much for being here with us today. It's been such a treat to chat with you. 

Viola Neufeld: Thanks so much Neil.


1 « Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next » 10