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
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Aug 14, 2018

If you’re in a same-sex relationship, do the rules change? Or are there universal principles of relationship that foster intimacy and passion no matter what kind of relationship you’re in? Today’s guest is Rick Miller, author of Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy and Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men. Rick Miller has also been featured at the Couples Conference, and is on the faculty for Esther Perel’s Sessions Live 2018. Rick and I chat about the unique challenges faced by same-sex couples, particularly gay men in relationship. How do you address the uniqueness, while at the same time staying true to what we know about what works in relationships? In this far-ranging conversation, we cover the particulars as well as what we can all learn from how to have a successful same-sex 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!


Check out Rick Miller’s website

Read Rick Miller’s books: Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy and Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men

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 Rick Miller.

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 had so many relationship experts on this show, and there have been times where we've talked about the principles of relationship and whether they apply or not to everyone, and particularly to same-sex relationships, are there these universal rules of relationships that apply? And up until now, the best answers we've come up with have been things like, "Well, yes, of course." But it's not necessarily based on any empirical evidence, or just a statement that's... And of course, these things apply to same-sex couples as well, you just have to make a few adjustments, that sort of thing. So, you hear that enough times and if you're me, you start to wonder, "Well, what is different?" I think it's important that we know, both for you, if you're listening and you are in a same-sex relationship, and I think there's something for all of us to learn as we learn about each other in this world, in this project that is so important, of just understanding other humans, and how we operate and recognizing that we don't all think about the world in the exact same way, and we don't all have the same kinds of experiences.

Neil Sattin: So today's conversation is meant to be helpful on so many levels, and I hope that it is. We have an esteemed guest with us today, his name is Rick Miller, and he is a clinical social worker from the Boston area, who I found out about when I was chatting with Jeff Zeig about this topic, and you may remember Jeff Zeig, he was on the show back in Episode 102 and in Episode 114. We were chatting about, "Well, who would be an awesome person to have on the show to chat about this?" And he mentioned Rick, who among having presented at the couple's conference on this topic of gay male relationships, he's the author of, Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men: The Gift of Presence, which is a book primarily for therapists, and then another book, Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy. Both books are amazing in helping you really wrap your brain, and I think that's kind of ironic, right? 'Cause we're talking about unwrapping. But it helps you wrap your brain around just how different this experience can be, and also where the similarities lie.

Neil Sattin: So, I'm really excited to have Rick with us today to talk about gay male relationships. We will as always, have a detailed transcript of today's episode, which you can get if you visit, as in Rick Miller, M-I-L-L-E-R. Or you can always text the word, "Passion" to the number, 33-444 and follow the instructions to download your transcript. I think those are all the details, so let's dive in. Rick Miller, it's such a pleasure to have you with us here today on Relationship Alive.

Rick Miller: Thank you for the great introduction!

Neil Sattin: You’re welcome! So Rick, perhaps a good place to start is this question of where we all might share principles of how to have an amazing relationship in common. Then from there, we'll go into the places where we diverge. What do you see as the principles that hold true, no matter who you are in trying to have a successful relationship?

Rick Miller: I do believe that there are universal principles that are a part of every intimate relationship, and some of them include vulnerability, self-expression, expression of intimacy and sexuality, dealing with conflict, dealing with trust, dealing with betrayal, so many things like that. I think what's unusual for male couples is that they were raised as boys and as men. So the development of the gay male is different from a man and a woman who end up being together.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and it also, from reading your book, Unwrapped, I was struck by not only are gay men raised as men, but then there's also this underlying dichotomy or tension between being raised as a man and what it's like to grow up gay in a world that doesn't fully support people who are gay.

Rick Miller: Yes. So I have a lot to say about you're pointing this out. First, and most important is that for the majority of gay boys growing up, they know that they're different, they feel different, they feel ashamed of being different, on some level they're attuned, probably unconsciously attuned to their parents and their society, aware that they're not the child that their parents want them to be. So by the time they reach adulthood, they've learned to constrict themselves and they've become masters at hiding. So, what do you do in an intimate relationship when you've been accustomed to being so hidden all these years? And then suddenly it's expected that you'd be communicative, open, unguarded, and all that stuff.

Neil Sattin: Right. Where those are really the essential ingredients in staying connected when things get challenging?

Rick Miller: Yes, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's a great question. One thing, one nuance that I really appreciated that you brought up in your book was that it comes even literally down to how I might feel in my body and distancing myself from that. So that even that might be a challenge to overcome, this feeling at home and at peace in my physical experience.

Rick Miller: Absolutely. One of the points in the book, and a lot of the work that I do, and the trainings that I do is that gay men and gay boys dissociate from their bodies because their bodies are dangerous to them, partially because of the conflict of growing up gay and feeling disenfranchised and shutting that off, or partially because many gay boys are not good at athletics, and they don't trust that their coordination will get them where they want.

Neil Sattin: So there's this need to build trust with your body?

Rick Miller: And so many people don't even recognize this tension that I'm describing, and I do a lot of hypnosis with my clients, which is a really fascinating process and a part of what it includes is relaxing, going inside, noticing what's taking place inside the body and creating space for openness, warmth, and resourcefulness. Frequently, what comes out for many gay men is that they've been tightening themselves and hiding themselves and dissociating themselves without even realizing that they've been doing it because it's their automatic go-to place for day to day life.

Neil Sattin: So listening right now, how would I know? How would I know if that is part of my normal state of being, and I wasn't even aware that that was happening for me?

Rick Miller: Well, the easiest way to know is simply to take a moment and put your attention inside of yourself in your body and notice what is your breathing like? How are you holding yourself in this very moment? Are you tightening up a particular part or a particular place of your body? What are your neck and shoulders like in this very moment? Even as I'm asking you these questions, what are you noticing? So if you'd like to be the guinea pig, perhaps you can answer these based on your own observations.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, well, I'm happy to be a guinea pig, and what I was noticing was just as you were talking, that there was a smile developing on my face.

Rick Miller: Nice.

Neil Sattin: And at the same time, I always feel a little... It's a combination of nervousness and excitement as these conversations get underway. I was feeling that like an unevenness to my breathing as opposed to just like a regular, smooth breathing. Yeah.

Rick Miller: So one of the lucky things is that our cameras are not connected to each other, so I can't make any observations or have you here. So I'm gonna go at face value with what you're saying. I like the openness that you have, that a smile can come to your face. And if I were sitting across from you, I might point out little things that I'm seeing, and ask you to make slight adjustments, and all that kind of thing. It's exciting. What's interesting about really being attentive to the body is that there are so many answers that we have available inside of us that many of us don't even pay attention to.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and it's coming to me really clearly right now and just so you know, and you listening know this, this is not planned, but I just became suddenly aware of how when I was reading your books and getting prepared for this conversation what it was like to grow up in this world, and I'm a product of the mid to late '70s and the '80s, I was born in '74, now I'm truly dating myself here and recognizing in relation to this dialogue, what my experience was, which is, I would not say that I'm gay and yet at the same time, I did experience a lot of, I think more things that might be considered more feminine and more connection to emotions. I'm realizing now just how much the fear of being labeled a certain way impacted me in terms of being fully in my expression of who I am. I wouldn't say that's the case for me now, but I think what came up for me was even a little bit of grief in recognizing like, "Oh, yeah, this was actually an obstacle for me in truly connecting with myself and with the people around me because I was afraid, afraid of being labeled."

Rick Miller: I totally appreciate your openness in talking about this, and I think the experience of feeling different or even being noticed as being different is universal for people, but everyone has their own reason why. You strike me as a male who is sensitive and able to be open. That, especially back then in the '70s was perceived as possibly being gay. Fortunately, we live in a time now where being an expressive man is no longer a curse of being gay. It's allowed, it's encouraged. I'm very interested in the whole topic of masculinity in general, and what straight men can learn from gay men and what gay men can learn from straight men and how gender can be so fluid at this point in time.

Neil Sattin: Absolutely.

Rick Miller: Times are exciting and things are changing. The problem is, is that many gay boys who grew up in the era that you're referring to, or gay boys growing up now who live in very conservative areas still have the same difficulties that I grew up with and that you grew up with.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And even in parts of the country that are more liberal, I wouldn't say that, it's not like homophobia has been eliminated or discrimination, or just even people's maybe unconscious but still expressed biases around same-sex relationships in society.

Rick Miller: Well, I'm glad to hear you say it because I do a lot of training, and frequently people come up to me and say, "The world is so much better. Why are you doing these workshops? Gay men don't have to worry anymore. Everything is fine." On one hand, I guess many gay boys or gay men don't have to worry about being killed or being abused, but it's still an issue. People are still struggling and my premise, as you know, is that people are struggling without even realizing how much they're struggling. That's my job as a psychotherapist when I work with people, but it's also my job as an educator to let people know that deep down, there are still parts of the self that are vulnerable and protective.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so that brings us back to where we were, which was this inner inquiry and experience of our bodies and how that would show up if we were shutting down or having ways in which we are hiding our experience.

Rick Miller: So sometimes it's a physical sensation that people are aware of. Sometimes it's a thought that comes up in the mind, or sometimes it's an image, our ability to use imagery is pretty profound. There are moments where things just pop into our awareness and we may not understand why or what it means, but if we dig a little bit deeper, we can usually make sense out of these things.

Neil Sattin: There's something that I love about hypnosis, among many things, and one is the way that it gives our inner world permission to communicate with the outer world. So there's something about that inviting that you just mentioned that is I think is so powerful. It's the willingness to just be open and then to experience what comes your way as a message and what does that message tell you.

Rick Miller: Well, what a beautiful way of describing hypnosis. Given that so many people are afraid of what's gonna happen and what they'll end up doing. Excuse me, it's pollen season in New England. So, the way that you described hypnosis was so non-threatening and so inviting, so I love that. As I do hypnosis with gay men, again, the constriction that has been part of their lives suddenly transforms itself into a beautiful openness and a self-reliance that is incredibly magical just to see.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So I would love for you to share with our audience why you've been using hypnosis as a therapeutic tool, and in particular the tension between like why using hypnosis is so helpful? And on the flip side, why someone might resist wanting the experience that hypnosis is giving them?

Rick Miller: Sure. I forgot the first question. The first question...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, the first question is, what is it about hypnosis that you've found to be so valuable in working with clients?

Rick Miller: So I've always done guided meditation and guided imagery, and I never got formal training in it, and yet I was doing it with my clients and amazing things were happening. So when I decided to get more formal training, it was based on some of my friends that loved hypnosis, that I ended up pursuing it. What I realized as soon as I started doing it is that it's something that we all know how to do, and it's something that we do in our day to day lives over and over and over again without realizing it. For example, when we hear an old song on the radio and we immediately begin to have flashbacks about where we were, how we felt, who we were with, what our lives were like, that's one example. Another example of being hypnotized by ourselves is a scent. So today is a spring day and I can smell the pollen and I can smell that beautiful spring afternoon, and suddenly I have memories of being a child late in May as it was getting warmer outside, and I'm flooded with amazing memories. So that's another example of being hypnotized. So when I work with people in hypnosis, I'm helping them achieve a state inside of themselves, or to shift a state away from unpleasantness into comfort, or pleasantness or resourcefulness.

Neil Sattin: And how does that makes such a huge difference particularly for gay men who are dealing with maybe this problem that we were talking about initially, which is around dissociation from their physical experience?

Rick Miller: I think in general, anyone who is open to trying these things will love hypnosis, whether you're a gay man or not a gay man, but given how limited our experiences has been as gay men to be able to go inside and recognize that enjoyment is there, is revolutionary. The other generalization about gay men being men is that many gay men are type A, over achievers, and have compensated for feeling inadequate by overdoing things in the work setting or in academic settings and of course, the price that we pay to do that is not always paying attention to what's happening inside. So having the opportunity to slow down to connect with oneself is a pretty important gift, and it's overlooked way more than it ought to be.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And you talk about that in terms of hypnosis and Milton Erickson and his viewpoint that all of his clients had the resources within them to do whatever shifting was necessary in their lives.

Rick Miller: Correct.

Neil Sattin: It also reminds me a lot, and I think you talk about parts work as well. It reminds me of Dick Schwartz in Internal Family Systems. Again, all about enlisting our inner resources to come online so that we don't feel like we're deficient in some way.

Rick Miller: So, let me say a little bit about parts work.

Neil Sattin: Please.

Rick Miller: Which is, inside of us are all these different parts. We're so busy living our lives trying to either be our best self, or trying to ward off parts of ourselves that are unformed or more primitive and the harder we try to push something away inside of us, the more it comes out in a way that we don't want it to. So in doing parts work, what we do is we welcome all parts of ourselves that exist inside. And as a psychotherapist, what I do is I work with people to have them bring these parts forward to allow each part to have an equal voice, the part of yourself that does greater work, the part of yourself that feels like an awkward adolescent, the part of yourself that feels like a five year old who's naughty because you know that you're different from other boys and I'll ask each part to recognize what they need or what they experience, and with this is a sense of integration and from this, there's a sense of well-being and mental health that is absolutely necessary.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love it. Let's bring that now, imagining that we've miraculously totally resourced ourselves [chuckle] in the past 15 or 20 minutes, and let's bring it to the question of relationships. We started out with identifying some of the universal principles underlying relationships, the ability to be vulnerable, to be courageous, to be who you are, to repair in conflict. What have you noticed that's particular to relationships between men that is different, or that makes their particular situation challenging in a way that a heterosexual couple might not experience?

Rick Miller: So the first image that comes to mind is, "How many gay male couples have arrived at my psychotherapy office sitting on opposite ends of the couch?" Of course, any couple can do that, but there's a particular way in which men can kinda shrink in and hope to disappear, which of course doesn't happen in a couple's therapy office and the ability to be tender and vulnerable and to listen carefully and closely as opposed to providing quick and instant solutions is something that a lot of men struggle with. The other thing is that men, as I said, are not experts at allowing vulnerabilities to come to the surface. So when you're in a male couple with two men who are fighting vulnerabilities, it's hard to know what to do when one or both are either feeling conflict or feeling scared. Another common issue that comes up a lot is that men frequently are lacking role models about how to be tender and intimate and loving towards their partners, and having growing up in a world of masculinity, it's not considered cool to do those things. But then suddenly when you're in an adult relationship, it's one of the necessary ingredients for a relationship to flourish.

Neil Sattin: Now you also talked about the impact of the mythology of gay culture, and as I was reading about that I was thinking about, "Yeah, that must be so challenging to on the one hand be part of this larger culture that looks at you one way, but then to have this idealized version of what it means to be a gay man that you also might not fully resonate with, but it at least gives you a place to go."

Rick Miller: Well, there's a lot of pressure to be a certain kind of gay man and what's interesting is that before we had the internet or phone apps, being gay perhaps was more regional. That we were informed by where we lived and how people did things where we lived. Now, it's a worldwide experience and gay men are looking at other gay men all over the world and the pressure to be young, to look a certain way, to be professionally successful is what is driving many men in their desires to be successful. The problem with that is that many men are very successful in a variety of ways, but they don't feel like they measure up to this gay-male standard. It's a lot of pressure and frequently men will buy into this without even recognizing that it's what they do.

Rick Miller: So when I do trainings, frequently people will raise their hands and say, "Well I have many gay male clients that live outside of the city, and they live in rural areas, and they don't buy into what you're talking about." and I'll come back and challenge them by saying, "Do they go online? What are they looking at? What are the pornography sites that they're looking at? What are the websites that they're going to as gay men were they being informed about what their life ought to be like as a gay man?" I make the comparison of how women will look at fashion magazines regardless of age, regardless of their size, and then experience this uncomfortable feeling inside of themselves based on not meeting those standards.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and how do you help a couple who were maybe one or both members of the couple is struggling with that issue? How do you help them support each other in finding who they really are in the midst of all of that?

Rick Miller: Well, one of the things is to verbalize what I just said to you about noticing how some of the pressure to be a certain way is coming from outside of themselves, and that they're internalizing that without even realizing it. So one of the gifts of being a couples therapist is that I get to help people shift their focus inward, and to be the person that they really are, and accept who they really are, rather than trying to be a stereotype of who someone is supposed to be. The other thing that I do, which is part of the same process as going inside, is helping people to identify what they want, what they need, what they expect from their partner, and to also learn how to give parts of themselves that they didn't know they could do or didn't allow themselves to do because it wasn't considered masculine.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, one thing that you mentioned, I think, in maybe the presentation that you gave for the Couples Conference that I can totally relate to, because I happen to think that just about everyone could use a bit of a sexual re-education. This idea that there's a discovery of what it really means to us as individuals to be healthy, to be sexual to... What gives us pleasure, what doesn't. And to really be able to explore that enough that we can take a strong stand for who we are in that, as opposed to just buying into some prescription that's been handed us.

Rick Miller: Part of the prescription that's been handed to gay men is that there are certain ways that we're supposed to be sexual and that we're all supposed to have open relationships and that every gay male cheats on his partner and that belief system reinforces something that may not necessarily be okay. If a gay male couple chooses to have an open relationship, that's their prerogative, but it needs to be done very carefully with a lot of questions and communication.

Rick Miller: The other aspects of sexuality that's very important with individuals and also with couples, is by being aware of sensory experiences. So here we are, going back in inward again, listening to the body. Each body, each person has their own preferences that feel good to them. Instead of having the norm of gay sex, have sex that you as an individual enjoy. What are the ways that you enjoy being touched? Where do you like being touched? How do you experience that? How do you like to give to each other, and what does your body tell you in these circumstances? Erection issues are common for all men and gay men tend to think that other gay men don't have erection issues. That's not true, but no one is talking about it because it's not a standard that's very cool to talk about. The harder you try to be sexual and pull off a great sexual act, the least likely you'll be able to be to have a great erection. It's like sleeping at night time. If you have sleep anxiety and you're trying to focus on sleeping well, you're gonna stay awake out of anxiety.

Neil Sattin: Do you have... 'Cause with what you were just talking about, and I think in this ideal world, we would be able to just be... Well, for lack of a better word, be innocent with each other and have that exploration. To me, the big word that leaped out when I was having that thought, was shame, and how shame becomes an obstacle to being a willing explorer.

Rick Miller: Yes. Yep, so shame, of course is a central experience for growing up gay. It's the backbone of one's being, and so as an adult, how do you rate yourself of something that's been embedded inside of you all this time? And so part of your approach in just being and finding comfort is a great way of working with shame and healing shame. So that's the good news about being in a relationship, is that the closeness and the tenderness that can be achieved is going to erode away these layers of shame. I also had an image of how men treat their animals, which is that they're able to speak in a high tone of voice. They're able to be very gentle, they're able to cuddle with them. Frequently partners will say, "If you treated me like you treated the dog, I would be so happy." and clearly, it's a less conflictual relationship. It's all about pure love, and for many men, they're not worried about being masculine with their dog. If only they could do the same with their partners, maybe they wouldn't need me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, that's a really interesting thought that brings me in so many different directions. [chuckle] Yeah, I'm curious about one thing in particular that... And I'm just wondering if you can shed some light on this, because as you've described it, one of the key possibilities for someone growing up gay is this sense that, "There's something not quite right about me," or, "a shame about who I am," and I think in 'Unwrapped', you described a client who was struggling with this question of choosing a relationship simply based on someone accepting them and what it feels like to actually be with another gay man and be like, "Wow, it's actually okay to be gay," versus taking it to the next level where someone isn't just accepting you, they actually want what you want and you truly have a symbiotic relationship. Is this a common problem in gay relationships where someone might kind of settle because they finally at least feel accepted even if they're not really getting the relationship that they want?

Rick Miller: You're touching so many things that I could go in about 10 directions on [chuckle] but I think, again, the norms of the gay male sub-culture are such that gay men frequently are seeking out beauty over other qualities. The prize of a gay male is being with someone who turns heads and beauty is only skin deep, and what else is there? So in an ideal world, we don't just look for a partner who looks great on the outside. We look for a partner who complements us, who challenges us, who brings us tension and joy. One of the things I love about relationships is that there's an expectation that it's all smooth and hunky-dory and hearts and roses, when in fact, the truth about intimate relationships is that they're challenging, they're difficult, and there's a certain edginess that comes with this that's truly intimate, truly exciting, and keeps a certain freshness going. So this is much more about the insides of who we really are rather than how we appear on the outside or how people view us from the outside. I always say that every couple has their own particular hell that they keep secret from the rest of the world because they fear that if other people know, they're gonna blow the cover. But there is no such thing as a relationship that doesn't have this.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and for someone who at one point relished the fact that they were accepted, but now is recognizing, "Oh, this isn't really a relationship where I'm being fully met, but I don't have hope that I could find what I'm looking for in another partner." How do you create a light of optimism there for those people?

Rick Miller: Basically, I will reassure them that the Hell that they're experiencing is normal. [laughter] So I have a timeline that I frequently tell people, which is that the first four months of any intimate relationship, not just men, is a time of such excitement and a time of great projection. During these moments, the rest of the world goes away when we're together and the other person is fulfilling all that has been unfulfilled, and it's so dreamy and it's so magical and obviously, there's a strong intimate and sexual component during this period of time. And around eight months or so, people really begin to see each other for who they really are, and this includes warts and all. So as people become more real, the challenges present themselves more and more regularly and frequently between this and about two years couples think that because this is happening, there's something wrong and a majority of people end the relationship because it isn't perfect when in fact, this is exactly what needs to happen.

Rick Miller: And when couples experience this, separating out their love and respect for their partner, along with what their hopes and expectations were, and experiencing disappointment, knowing that this is part of what the big picture is about, it enables people to move forward and really accept who they are, who their partner is, and what their couplehood is about. And that is what true intimacy really is. And so, again, going back to male couples, a part of this recipe is also in accepting our own limitations based on how we feel inside of ourselves, how we were raised, what was expected of us as men, and how to give a soft, intimate loving part of ourselves to another person when we haven't really been taught how to do it. If we use our mothers as our role model, then we're losing our masculinity. If we use our fathers as our role model, then we may have a struggle with how to be soft in these certain ways.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that makes me think about the pull between the importance of attachment in relationship and creating safety and then the ways that we handle a lack of variety or things being maybe too safe in our relationships. Maybe this is a tension inherent in that stereotype that you mentioned. The stereotype that there are a lot of gay relationships where people have multiple partners or poly or open, and how that must be creating some tension and polarity with what's required to create a secure bond between two people.

Rick Miller: It's so fascinating to me that frequently gay couples come into my office and say, "I think we need to open up our relationship." And I'll say, "Why is that?" And they'll say, "Because we're having a horrible time with each other." Since when would opening up a relationship be the solution to a struggle that has nothing to do with the outside role that has everything to do with the two people working on these vulnerabilities? So I frequently try to slow people down and to allow their focus to be between the two of them and themselves long before running out and making life a little bit more complicated. In terms of thinking about attachment, what we expect and need from our partners is for them to have our back. Our partners become a safe haven in the world. Our partners become a representation of our parents, or they even become a representation of the ideal parent that we never had. So as our partners tolerate us and love us and care for us, they're compensating for things that we didn't get when we were younger. And frequently, partners, men and women, need to be taught how to do this in a context of couples therapy or in the context of educating themselves in order to be more fully available.

Neil Sattin: And when you say learning about how to do this, are you talking about really being aware that that is part of maybe the unspoken expectation in relationship and then deciding how you're gonna respond to that? Or will you be that ideal parent as much as possible? Or will you shine a light on that dynamic and try to dismantle it so that neither of you is putting that expectation on each other?

Rick Miller: No. I will shine a light on that dynamic saying that this is what it is, this is what a truly intimate relationship is, and that each person in the world that's in an intimate relationship has some challenges with how to be a parent figure to your partner, 'cause that's not how we go into it. So how do you learn how to do that and know what to do? And so that's what I mean, is that we all have to learn how to nourish and nurture other people, especially our partners.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And what are your thoughts on how that creates... And I love this, we keep uncovering these little places of tension in relationship. Because as we show up more like a parental figure for our partners with unconditional love, unconditional support, not judging them, helping them through hard times, it sounds really great. At the same time, we potentially create a schism that makes problems with sexual polarity 'cause...

Rick Miller: Sexual polarity and all other kinds of polarity.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Rick Miller: First starting with a sexual polarity, how do you feel sexual toward someone that you've exposed so much of yourself to, and still keep things hot? And again, going back to sensations and sensory awareness is that sometimes what feels good sexually is a physical sensation, and people don't always pay enough attention to that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I wonder, are you familiar with Marnia Robinson's work?

Rick Miller: No, I'm not.

Neil Sattin: Okay. She was on the show, actually back in Episode 5, so a long time ago. She wrote a book called, Cupid's Poisoned Arrow, that's all about the biochemical effects of orgasms. And in particular, her whole thesis is based on this idea that if you have an orgasm, you're flooding your system with dopamine, and you're also creating this process by which you become desensitized to that dopamine and to your partner. So as we're talking about this and what keeps sexuality alive, it reminds me of her work because her whole thing is about how do you explore sexuality without orgasm in order to keep the sexuality alive and to keep the sexual chemistry going, as opposed to just repeatedly flooding your system with dopamine to the point where you're habituated to your partner and need to seek another person in order to get excited.

Rick Miller: So if you talk about gay men, gay men learn to be sexual as men, and of course, men's motive during sex is to have an orgasm. And frequently men have orgasms very quickly. So the suggestion that Marnia is discussing and that you're talking about, is something that I frequently assign to couples for homework. And it's very, very hard for people to actually do this, which is to spend a lot of time taking turns with each other and exploring each other's bodies without focusing on orgasm and without having an orgasm, so that they can really learn to identify other great feelings, how to give to each other, how to receive, how to instruct each other and to learn about what else feels good inside the body.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and there's so much to learn there because I think for so many of us, men in particular, orgasms are a great way to dissociate from life and our pain and our shame and whatever stress we're feeling in the moment. So if that has become your gateway to sexuality, then you really do have to learn something new in order to give up the temporary relief and release that orgasms give you from something that we've been talking about for this whole hour is the question of shame and how that affects how we show up.

Rick Miller: I think one of the joys that can happen for couples, and I'm thinking about this a little bit more detailed as you've been discussing this, is how good it feels to be with a partner and to help him be able to have an orgasm and if both of your minds approach sex from a similar vantage point, then it's a sense of power and conquering that two people experience with the help of each other. That's a pretty amazing feeling and even if it doesn't last that long, it's a great metaphor for success in a relationship.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. How would you suggest someone when they're in a sexual situation with their partner and they notice shame coming up and starting to get in the way, their own sense of thinking that something going on with their body is gross or unacceptable? How would you suggest someone work with that in the moment with their partner?

Rick Miller: By exactly what you were just talking about and what Marnia talks about, which is to de-emphasize orgasm. I also ask people to not worry about whether they have an erection. Frequently, what happens is that as men feel vulnerable, either about how they feel physically about themselves, or how they're performing as a partner in comparison to how people are supposed to be performing, they lose their erection. And then, as they begin to lose their erection, just like the sleep thing, they worry about it and then their partner may get frustrated and then the mind takes over and they're gone. So really, what I have people do first and foremost is slow themselves down. It's okay if you lose an erection, it's okay to keep doing what you're doing, keep exploring the sensations and take a break if you need, and worry less, enjoy more, be in the present, allow expectations to drift further and further away 'cause they only get in the way.

Neil Sattin: I am so appreciative that you brought this up because another person whose work I so respect and admire, her name's Diana Richardson, you may have heard of her, she does a lot of work around Tantra. And her version of Tantra, she also calls it "slow sex", is all about just that, how you slow things down. One of the things that she talks about that I think is actually really missing from the common dialogue about what you do when you have problems maintaining an erection is this concept of, she calls it "soft entry." It's not the most glamorous term in the world, [chuckle] but it's this idea... Well, it's not an idea, it's a practice of if you don't have an erection, you can still get lubricated, and with the assistance of your partner, you can still actually be inside your partner even if you're not hard.

Rick Miller: That's great.

Neil Sattin: So you're overcoming this barrier and I'm making those finger quotes in the air around the word "barrier," you can overcome the barrier to intercourse by simply using some lubrication, some patience, and really gentle movement to actually penetrate your partner and to rest there.

Rick Miller: And what a difference that makes to not have to rush so quickly and how freeing it can be. I don't know the statistics, but what percentage of people then experience erections as a result of allowing themselves to softly enter and be relaxed?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I wish I had the statistic on that. But...

Rick Miller: Good one.

Neil Sattin: I gotta think that it's a lot. It's a lot because what you end up giving yourself is that time and relaxation and the presence that you need to ignite that part of your system.

Rick Miller: Can I shift gears for a moment?

Neil Sattin: Please.

Rick Miller: Because I'm thinking of a specific couple that I work with, where one of the guys frequently would lose his erection because he felt as though he wasn't being as good or as strong of a partner as he ought to be and through some exploration in my office, what was clear was that expectations were driving their sex life and it was getting in the way. Part of being more real included talking about sex more, but also sharing fantasies. It was hard for them to do that because it was considered naughty for them to be talking about these fantasies and ironically, gay men love porn. So instead of keeping it out of the relationship, why not bring it in and share the enthusiasm about it to help things along? So this particular couple started talking more about their fantasies and sharing the visual images of the pornography that they really liked, and their sex life transformed itself really quickly because they were no longer keeping a part of themself a secret from their partner. Instead, they were bringing it back home and it worked beautifully.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love that and that sounds like a very healthy, strategic use of that kind of pornographic stimulation to bring a couple together.

Rick Miller: It was great.

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering though when you brought that up, it also made me think about... You used the word "expectations," their expectations of each other, and the ways that this is true across the spectrum now, especially because of the prevalence of pornography.

Rick Miller: Yes.

Neil Sattin: The way that people think they're supposed to be when they're being sexual.

Rick Miller: That's right.

Neil Sattin: And I'm wondering how you encourage people to abandon the scripts that aren't serving them?

Rick Miller: Good point. Everything goes back in a circle to listening to your body and the pornography industry is thriving, and people are pursuing it and losing fact of their own humanity as they're doing so. I'm saying that not as a moral judgement, but more as a mind-body clinician who wants people to function highly and successfully inside of themselves. Again, it all comes back to the body. I'm constantly slowing people down, asking people to notice what they enjoy, what turns them on, what their fantasies are, and to use pornography as a help or as an aid for themselves, rather than as a way of being in the world. And incidentally, another thing that's happening is that many men have an unrealistic view of what their penis should look like, because they compare their penis to pornography who frequently hire men who are very well endowed. These days, men are barely naked in front of each other, locker rooms are more segregated and separated, and men don't have an opportunity to see other men's dicks to realize that there isn't a problem there where they think it's their own problem that they feel ashamed about.

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah, yeah. And even if you are seeing dicks, you're probably not seeing erect dicks, so...

Rick Miller: Right.

Neil Sattin: That's another place where you wouldn't necessarily know where you stack up against the average that's out there.

Rick Miller: It's kind of incredible how much private shame people are living with and not doing much about it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and that makes me wonder in your book Unwrapped, you offer, for therapists reading that book, scripts to help them guide their clients through trance experiences, to give them that sense of safety and being alive in their bodies. Obviously, we can't do a hypnotic induction right here for the show. I'm wondering though, if you have some hints around language that partners could use with each other in a intimate situation, let's say, in the bedroom, language that they could use to help invite each other into that experience of being alive with each other, being present, or let's start there and then I'll maybe add on to that.

Rick Miller: Yeah, so I think language is actually too limiting, because what I'm imagining as you were describing this is a shared moment together where there's plenty of time, where maybe soft music is playing, where there's no rush, and the experience to enjoy is what feels good. And sometimes it isn't through words that we can convey to our partners what it is that feels good. We can take our hand and move our partner's hand, or we can move our body in such a way that communicates what feels good. So I guess I would use the word language in a very broad metaphorical way, which is to expand the language that we experience sensations, and experience, and expand the ways in which we communicate our pleasure in these sensations, so that our partners can enjoy what it is that we're enjoying, being perfectly clear to convey that we're enjoying it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so that's perfect. I love that notion of expanding language and expanding the ways that we're communicating in those moments. How about... And it makes perfect sense too, in the context of, that you said, I loved the soft music and I was kind of painting the picture for myself there.

Rick Miller: Yes. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Too bad my wife is out in California right now.

Neil Sattin: And, but what about... Because now we're coming back to shame, I don't wanna end on shame, so but what I do wanna do is, there's gonna be this dynamic where if you're being really present with your partner in sex, then you're either gonna maybe have moments of shame that you might recognize in yourself, or as the partner you might perceive that something is going on with your partner, that your partner's experiencing shame. What, again, we'll use the word language but broadening it to mean how would you communicate in a situation where you notice that your partner is in shame about something?

Rick Miller: So this is when language really does come in handy. Frequently, what I suggest to people is if they don't need to focus on being sexual, don't worry about ending the act and ending in orgasm. Let it be. Let it be fine. Sometimes sex is great. Sometimes it isn't great. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't work. So with language what I suggest is when things are a little bit more neutral and a little more okay, to have a simple basic conversation about what it is that one is noticing, either in themselves, or observing in their partner and just converse about what it is that's coming up. And so, again, we've gone full circle to how we started today, which is to be able to talk openly and honestly about what experiences are taking place and what partners are noticing in themselves and in each other.

Neil Sattin: And is there something that you've seen as you work with clients around issues of shame, as like a common theme and for some reason, I don't know why this is coming up for me, but it's this question of something about my body that I don't necessarily like, as to why those things stick with us? Because intuitively, that doesn't make any sense. It's our bodies, they're... We were gifted these amazing vehicles for living in the world. Yet, sometimes they betray us, like you lose your erection when you wish it were there, or you fart at the wrong moment, or whatever it is, or your gut's a little flabbier than you wish it were. Do you see some commonalities around what makes those thoughts about ourselves sticky? And what the path is to letting them go?

Rick Miller: Yep. So first, about shame, what I frequently do will generalize the experience of shame as a gay man and remind people that this is a common universal experience. It isn't just you, this is what most gay boys have experienced and internalized while growing up. So, that's at the baseline, and then in the here and now in terms of body image or sexuality, again, focusing on sensation rather than images of perfection, figuring out why it is that people are experiencing a sense of self-consciousness and shame. I love doing this with couples. I ask them, "When your partner gains five pounds how do you feel differently about him? And how do you feel differently about your sex life?" And, for the most part, what happens is that people don't care. Partners don't care.

Rick Miller: At a certain point in the relationship it isn't necessarily the abs that are creating great sex, it's the connection, it's the way in which people communicate with each other, it's the way in which people give to each other, the way in which they're attuned to each other and they enjoy these sensations. That's what sex is, and that's what makes it nice. In all long-term relationships, beauty dies down in a certain way and being with the same partner has a certain level of predictability. So, regardless of how hot one is, or how one is perceived at the beginning of a relationship, over time that hotness shifts and changes into a much truer kind of intimacy. So again, we go back to expressing what feels good, aiming towards pleasing oneself and pleasing each other, and enjoying the moment for the moment, and enjoying the moment in the moment.

Neil Sattin: I love it. I love it. Rick, thank you so much for all of your thoughts, and...

Rick Miller: Absolutely.

Neil Sattin: And I think as we've been dancing, we are really weaving the sense of where there's overlap and where there isn't, and I feel like we've just covered such valuable terrain in today's conversation.

Rick Miller: Thank you, we could go on for hours, I'm sure.

Neil Sattin: We absolutely could, but in lieu of doing that, I would love for you to share what you're working on, how can people find you. Of course, we will have links to all of your stuff in the transcript and show notes, but I'd love for people to hear from you directly.

Rick Miller: Absolutely. So my website is, B-I-Z, I'm working on a great project and maybe it's about how gay men learn to be intimate in the first place called, Gay Sons and Mothers. So it's I'm also on Instagram. I have a Facebook page, Rick Miller Psychotherapy+. I have a blog on Psychology Today called, Unwrapped. Where else can I be found? I think those are the main ones.

Neil Sattin: Great. Great. And you're obviously in private practice, so people can see you.

Rick Miller: That's right.

Neil Sattin: And then you're also involved in doing trainings for therapists as well?

Rick Miller: Yep, I do a lot of mental health conferences all over about working with gay men.

Neil Sattin: Great, and I think you mentioned that you have some coming up, the Brief Therapy Conference and the International Society of Hypnosis. So there're a couple ways, but you probably have your events listed on your website as well.

Rick Miller: I do, and I welcome any questions and any emails from people, so give me a holler.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Well, Rick, thank you so much for your time again today. If you are interested in downloading a transcript, you can visit, M-I-L-L-E-R. You can text to the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, which will also help you download the transcript, and we'll have links to Rick's site and all the ways that you can get in touch with him and to learn more about his work. Other than that, thank you so much for being here on the show with us today Rick.

Rick Miller: Thank you very much. Take care.

Neil Sattin: You too.

Aug 9, 2018

Are you someone who blames yourself when things go wrong? Or do you tend to blame other people? Even though we might think of blame as a negative thing, in today's episode I'm going to show you how to use your blame (whether it's self-directed or pointed at others) to truly learn and grow when things don't turn out quite as you're expecting. This 4-step process will transform your experience of blame, so that it becomes a way to deepen your connection with yourself and others.

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!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has two exciting sponsors. Please visit them to take advantage of their offers and show appreciation for their support of the Relationship Alive podcast! creates delicious teas that help you detox, relax, stay focused, and maintain a healthy weight. Their teas are tasty, beautiful to watch as they steep, and effective. And...they're offering 25% off for you if you use the coupon code "RELATIONSHIP" at checkout - at

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Aug 1, 2018

As your relationship changes, are things getting better and better? Or have you gotten stuck along the way? If you get stuck - how do you get unstuck? And no matter what happens, how do you foster a sense of collaboration, of being on the “same team” with your partner? Today’s guests, Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, have charted the course of how relationships develop - in fact, they created the “Developmental Model” for working with couples. Along with practical experience from having helped many couples, Ellyn and Peter are among the leaders in the field of training couples therapists to become more effective. Their book for therapists, In Quest of the Mythical Mate: A Developmental Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment in Couples Therapy is a classic that has stood the test of time - unlike many other books and theories that have come and gone. Today you’ll learn how to figure out where you’re stuck in your relationship, and how to be on the same team as you steer things back in a healthier direction.

Also, please check out our first episode with Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson - Relationship Alive Episode 24: Why We Lie (and How to Get Back to the Truth)

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!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has a cool new sponsor with a special offer 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 $20 off a personalized “Song from Scratch” if you use the coupon code ALIVE20 at checkout.


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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 Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson.

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Neil Sattin: Thank you so much for being with us here today on Relationship Alive.

Pete Pearson: It's good to be here, Neil.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, really happy to be with you again, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Yes. It's been a while since episode 24, which was when we last spoke, when we're now in the 150s here. So ...

Pete Pearson: Oh my goodness.

Neil Sattin: I know, I know. So Pete, we were just talking, and we were talking about the ... Before we started officially, we were talking about this question about what people do when they get triggered, and you said, "That's not the most important question for people to be asking." And so I'm curious, from your perspective, what is the most important question that people should be asking?

Pete Pearson: See, here's what's interesting, Neil. In just about every couple that we see, a couple will get an insight into where they're stuck, how they're stuck, and why they're stuck. And the next question almost inevitably is, "Well, what do we do about it?" And that's an understandable question. And I used to think, "Oh, they're asking me for advice. I'll give them advice about what to do right now." And then they will leave, they will practice what I just expressed, they will come back, and they will be on bending knee thanking me for my wisdom, intelligence, smarts, etc.

Pete Pearson: What I discovered is, and they say, "God you're so wonderful, what other advice do you have? And we're gonna tell all our friends about you, because you're so smart. " Well what I discovered was, it didn't happen that often. But yet they asked, "What do we do about it?" And then I discovered, the what do we do about it is a good question, but it's a premature question. Really the question that comes before is, "How motivated are you to do something about it?" See, it takes a strong motivation, a bigger picture that pulls us forward, and that bigger picture, that stronger motivation is what allows us to unhook from those triggers. And if the motivation is puny, then no matter what I say that could be effective, will not be applied.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, we had David Burns on the show, and he was talking about how surprised he often is that when it gets right down to it, a lot of couples that he's worked with, actually aren't willing to change. Even though they are coming to couples' therapy, they would prefer being stuck where they are, versus whatever's required to change the direction.

Pete Pearson: Well I think that's true for one part of them. Here's what I mean. And I think the dilemma of change was summed up brilliantly by James Baldwin, the playwright and writer, when he said, "Nothing is more desirable than to be relieved of our affliction." And that's the motivation that brings couples into therapy. "Nothing is more desirable than to be relieved of our affliction, and nothing is more terrifying than to be divested of our crutch." And that I interpreted as, "nothing is more terrifying than to be divested of our coping mechanisms. Our self-protections."

Pete Pearson: So couples are in a terrible bind. They want to be relieved of their affliction, yes, and it's terrifying to be divested of their coping mechanisms.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you speak also in your work about the importance of both people recognizing that there's something in it for them, whatever it is they're experiencing. I'm thinking right now of the example you give of people, and we'll explain this a little bit more as we go, but people who are in a symbiotic and practicing relationship. Where one of them is working to be more independent from the other, and the other one is like, "No, come back here. Be with me." And it creates all of this tension and conflict and it's easy for the practicing partner to overlook the fact that they actually benefit a lot from that symbiotic welcome home, that they get from their partner, even though it's confounding them in their quest for independence.

Pete Pearson: Ellen, you want to speak to that?

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, but I'm not sure what the question is. I can speak about that type of couple, but Neil, did you have a question there?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, good point. So the question in there, I think it was more of an observation that this is a situation where people are invested in the problem, or invested in the crutch as Pete was talking about. Maybe the question is, what are some strategies you have for helping people become aware of their role or of the crutch that they have in the moment, even if they think, for instance, that something is all about their partner's problem?

Ellyn Bader: So I think what you're asking is, first of all, at least to me it's like, how does a person take a look at what they're doing that's getting in their own way, and can you get some acknowledgement that a particular thing somebody is doing, is actually getting in their own way of being able to realize the dreams that brought them together or being able to accomplish something they want to accomplish. So there's the question of, "Okay, what are some things you do to help somebody realize it?" So that's one piece. Then the second piece is what Pete was talking about, is "Can you lay out what it's going to take to change it, and then increase motivation? Or is there motivation to actually do the work or put in the effort." And then certainly you want the couple to be able to collaborate and work together on that process of change, so that they are reinforcing each other as they go through what is challenging and difficult for them to do.

Ellyn Bader: So when you can get all three of those things really solidly in place, you're gonna have a couple that's motivated and working with you in the therapy process. When any one of those things, is missing, you're gonna have a much harder time, and therapists often report having sessions that are repetitive and seem to go nowhere and the couple comes in week after week with the same fight or the same dynamic. So I think you have to look at all three of those, and make sure that you've got them all in place.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, where do you feel would be a great place to start? I mean, what's popping into my mind immediately, is your concept of developing a strong future focus for a couple, based on where they are developmentally?

Pete Pearson: See, that's an important place when we start to figure out the steps for change. But to get people to own their part, I find now is, what I do in the first 10 or 15 minutes of the first session, is to have people own their part. But I do it in a rather indirect way. It's like it's traditional for most therapists, when a couple comes in for the first session to ask, "Why are you here," or "How can I help?" And at that point most couples launch of barrage of cross complaints about, "Well, I'm here because my partner is insensitive. They're a slob. They're not affectionate. They're not responsible. They don't follow through." Etc., etc. And so they trade blames.

Pete Pearson: And then after a few minutes, everybody in the room is feeling miserable, I know that because I've been there so many times. And then I found there's a much better way to get to the bottom of what they struggle with without any blame at all. And I will say to them, "It's typical for most therapists to ask when we start the first meeting, is to say, 'why are you here?'" I say, "I don't want to do that, because it just ends up everybody blaming everybody. So what I'd like to do is ask you guys a diagnostic question, and it lets me know how well you've been listening to each other. Which also lets me know how hard you're gonna have to work in here. So Joe, tell me what do you think are Sue's major complaints about you are? And Sue, what do you think Joe's major complaints about you are? And it doesn't matter who goes first, because you both get a chance to express that."

Pete Pearson: And at that point, Joe will say, "Well Sue will say that I'm too preoccupied with my devices. I don't spend enough time with the family. I don't call if I'm gonna be home for work. I just, and I want affection without being nice during the day or the evening, and ..." And then I'll say, "Oh, man, those sound really good, Joe. What else?" And he says, "Well, I think she thinks I'm not very careful with money." Well I'll say "Dynamite. Those are good. Joe, how confident are you on a scale of one to ten that Sue's gonna say you nailed it?" Joe'll say, "Well about a seven or eight." And then I'll say, "What those complaints you just mentioned, is there some legitimacy to her complaints?" And he'll say, "Well, yeah." But I don't go into detail.

Pete Pearson: See at that point, and then I'll say, "So Sue, how good has been doing?" "Well he's been listening, and frankly, I think he's listened better than I thought. I'd give him about a seven or eight on that or maybe even a nine." "Sue, do you have any appreciation for Joe, listening so well to you? Now why hasn't he done anything is why you guys are here. But is there a part of you that appreciates that at least he's been listening?" And she'll say, "Well yeah." "Well tell him." "Joe I didn't know you listened so well. Thank you for listening."

Pete Pearson: So instead of being defensive, now they're collaborating and giving each other compliments, and each of them, when they do that, have just laid out what the problems are by owning their stuff instead of having their partner do it for them. Almost nobody Neil, nobody wants to meet somebody and within 10 minutes start being ripped by their spouse about all their flaws and faults. All that does is create shame, embarrassment and guilt. But doing it this way, people claim their stuff for themselves, I don't have to work as hard, I get to understand the problems, and the atmosphere in the room is a whole lot better.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I can see how that would get things started off on the right foot. Both with giving you a sense of what's going on for them, and how well they listen, and also, the degree to which they're able to see their part or take responsibility for at least what they think their partner is complaining about with them.

Pete Pearson: Exactly. And that can only be done in the first 20 minutes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. That's perfect. I'm curious. Do you still ... You talk about the paper exercise in your book, The Inquest of the Mythical Mate. Do you still do that exercise with couples?

Ellyn Bader: Actually, you're right where I was gonna go. Because that exercise is an absolutely fabulous exercise. In five minutes a therapist can see and then can help feedback to the couple where they break down. It's an exercise that's designed to help you and couples ... And a concept the we talk a lot about is the concept of differentiation. And basically, the way the exercise goes is the therapist hands the couple a piece of paper and asks them to hold it between them, and gives them up to five minutes to decide who gets to hold the paper without ripping or tearing it. They can do it verbally, they can do it non-verbally, they can do it anyway they like, but at the end of five minutes, decide who has the paper.

Ellyn Bader: And then you get to sit back as the therapist, you get to sit back and watch for five minutes, and then in watching, you're going to be giving the couple feedback about how they do. And the exercise, I can give you a few highlights right now. It's a very wonderfully sophisticated exercise for getting to leverage stuck places in couples' relationships. But I mean, you're looking for whether people self-define. Whether they avoid conflict. Whether they're able to go into the conflict. Whether they have skills to negotiate and move a conflict forward.

Ellyn Bader: And so when you can talk to a couple about, "Hey, here's what I saw. Does this make sense? Here's what I think each of you did that was positive and great and effective, and here's where I think you're stuck, or here's where I see you getting stalled. And usually what you see in terms of how couples are getting stalled in that exercise, are similar to what they do at home, that prevents them from solving problems or sets them up to be angry at each other. And it's a very not-threatening, very sort of collaborative process that you can get into with couples when you do that exercise with them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and what I loved about reading your book, was not only the recognition that I had about, "Oh, okay. Yeah. I recognize having been in a relationship that was stuck in this place or that place," and let's, before we go too much further, we'll define them so that people know what we're talking about. But I also love

PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:17:04]

Neil Sattin: how, I think it's easy to, let's say, someone here says, "Well, I'm going to try that with my partner. Let's grab this paper and see if we can figure it out." And then for some reason they can't or they have a huge eruption or at an impasse to feel like, "Wow, we must be really horrible as a couple because we couldn't even do this paper exercise right."

Neil Sattin: But what I love is that it just is simply a way of getting insight into where you are, but that each place where you might be stuck simply represents a place where you need to grow and growing past that place gives you a pathway to a new level of intimacy and being able to handle conflict better and being able to stand really strongly in who you are while still enjoying intimacy with your partner.

Ellyn Bader: Oh, absolutely and one of the things that I think is so valuable about it is that it's easy when you're in the midst of it with your partner and you're like going home after work and you're having fights or you're not getting along well on weekends or you're fighting over disciplining the kids. It's easy to think you have a whole lot of problems, but when you can find the leveraged place, the place that repeats, and you learn how to do that differently, then you start doing it differently in all the different areas that you have conflict. So you don't actually always have to go back and solve every single problem that you think that you have if you change the process of how you talk and the process of how you approach things that are stressful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. How much do you feel like awareness, before we dive into it, briefly, of the developmental model, how much do you think that awareness is helpful for a couple to be able to see, like, "Okay, this is the span of how couples develop looks like and this is where we're at." Is that enlightening or confining? From a couple's perspective versus the therapist's perspective.

Ellyn Bader: I can tell you what the therapists in my online training program report. And so, I have therapists who work with me, basically, who are in countries all over the world and many of them report that their clients feel relieved when they see the process. We have little brochures that we use and that a lot of therapists give to their clients which layout the stages and sometimes they'll send a couple home to look at it and figure out where they are. Sometimes they'll just talk about it. But when couples can see, hey, there is kind of a normal progression that a lot of relationships go through and either we're right on track, which is sometimes the case, or hey, we got stuck here and this is what our challenge is so that we can move forward. And what we always say is, when couples get unstuck, then they can get back into their own developmental process. They don't need a therapist all the way through their whole development.

Neil Sattin: Right. So, would you be willing, or I could do this too, but because I don't want to put you on the spot completely, but to give sort of the two to three minute overview of, what are we talking about, the developmental stages that a couple goes through?

Ellyn Bader: Pete, do you want to do it or do you want me to do it?

Pete Pearson: Go ahead, Ellyn.

Ellyn Bader: Okay. So, the quick version is, two people meet, they fall in love. In the ideal world, everything is beautiful, wonderful. They have that incredible falling in love period, which I sometimes call a period of temporary psychosis. But it's a period in which there's bonding and attachment and not everybody starts that way, but a lot of couples do. And then it's normal by about two years into the relationship, sometimes a little sooner, sometimes a little longer, but it's very, very normal to hit a period of disillusionment when the partner is taken off that pedestal and instead of being seen as wonderful, all of a sudden the flaws start to show up and that disillusionment period is normal.

Ellyn Bader: And then what people have to contend with is, how do we work out who are you and who am I given that we not only have parts of ourselves in each other that we love, but parts of each other that we find sometimes disgusting or we don't really want to be around or we don't like and that's all normal. But what's hard for couples is to learn how to manage those differences effectively instead of ineffectively. When they handle it ineffectively, they start to blame, accuse, or withdraw and then they get into some negative patterns.

Ellyn Bader: So the second stage of relationship is the stage of differentiation. It's a stage in which partners do learn how to come to terms with their differences. When that goes well, actually people are able to have a lot more independence than they had in the first two stages because there's a base of connection and a base of, hey, we know to solve things. We solve them well. And then they can be out in the world more. They can be doing more independent things, enjoying other things that they're bringing back to help nourish the relationship, and so there's often a period in which that can go on for many, many years in which each partner is developing their own self-esteem apart from how the relationship is fairing.

Ellyn Bader: And then at some point often there's a period of reconnection or of returning to the relationship as a source of greater nurturance and often couples at this time tend to focus more on their sexual relationship or on different aspects of intimacy when they're reconnecting. And many couples who get through all of this end up wanting to create something together and so we even talk about a last stage being a synergistic stage. A stage in which one plus one is really greater than two and they support each other in ways or goals or projects that are meaningful to both of them. So that's a very quick version of sometimes what I teach in a whole morning.

Neil Sattin: That was great. And I'm thinking back to how you mentioned that you're working a lot with entrepreneurial couples these days and I'm curious to know how you draw distinction between couples who are working together from a synergistic place that one plus one is more than two, versus couples who are coming at that from a more enmeshed place where they're not ... It's about just not being able to be without each other.

Pete Pearson: I guess, that gave me, what a great question. If couples want to start working together and they haven't been able to work out yet how to manage their differences or their disillusionments, boy, are they in for a wild ride. If you think about all the different areas of interdependence that couples have when they're not even working together, where they have areas of interdependency, our family and friends and finances and fitness and food and fidelity and faith and man, there are a lot of F words in an interdependent relationship.

Pete Pearson: And each one of those areas require a set of negotiation problem solving skills and working together. And then you add all those areas of interdependency with all the areas of interdependency at work, when they're working together. What could possibly go wrong? So, the problems just are geometric when you work with your partner, your spouse, and yet, more and more couples are working together. There's a lot of entrepreneurs out there on the internet or doing franchise operations and their spouse is involved and that just really doubles the opportunity to collide. It also doubles the opportunity to synergize your strengths and abilities.

Pete Pearson: So, it really, the push and pull is enormous to deal with the differences and it's ... Sometimes I will say, I will ask couples, "Would you want to be married to a personality clone of yourself?" Most couples say no. And I'll say, "Well, why is that?" And the category it's generally falling to, "Well, if I'm married to a clone of myself ... If I married a clone, it would be like World War 3." Or, "If I married a clone of myself, it'd be really interesting, but nothing would get accomplished." And as one woman said, "I would have all my problems times two."

Pete Pearson: And so the good news is, they're smart enough to know that differences can enhance a relationship, but the same differences can also corrode a relationship, but we want to marry somebody who is different. And that's the good news and the bad news.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm just thinking too about how time, being such a limiting resource in many respects with everything that people are trying to accomplish in today's world and so I could see that providing incentive for people to want to work together as a way to actually maybe be able to spend more time together.

Pete Pearson: Right.

Neil Sattin: And yet, from what you're saying, I also gather, like, wow, it is so important in that case to be able to identify, oh, here we are not handling conflict very productively and here are all the signs of that. Whether it's increased resentment or increased ... Just increased conflict that gets explosive versus actually resolving. And that comes from what you were talking about, right Ellyn? That sense of, have you differentiated effectively enough so that you can stand in who you are, but actually meet the other person as a whole person unto themselves and have a collaborative way of being on the same team as you navigate those places where you're not in alignment.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah. One of the things, Neil, that I find really interesting, as I said, I've started doing some more work with entrepreneurs and their spouses and particularly, I love working with the couples who are fairly new to going into business together because one of the things that they know they have a ton at stake because if they don't make it, their business is going to have problems or have to be split up as well as their marriages or their committed partnerships. And so they actually have, in some cases, a much higher motivation to get it right at the beginning, and also sometimes it's easier for people to get the concept that in business, our roles and responsibilities need to be really clearly defined.

Ellyn Bader: And that's also true on the home front with a lot of couples, but couples don't tend to think about it that way, they tend to think about it as, well, if our relationship is good, everything will just go smoothly and we can move back and forth smoothly.

Neil Sattin: Right. It all just works itself out.

Ellyn Bader: Exactly. And so they know-

Pete Pearson: That's the hope.

Ellyn Bader: Right. That's the hope and the belief that it should be easy. But yet, when you have clearly defined roles, it mitigates a lot of conflict.

Ellyn Bader: Here comes our gardener making some noise I'm sorry to say.

Neil Sattin: I can hear it, but it's so faint in the background and you're coming through so loud and clear that as long as you're able to concentrate, then I think we're good.

Ellyn Bader: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So, I love that. So, one potential option if you're having trouble motivating to actually change is to start a business together.

Ellyn Bader: Well, except if your relationship is a mess, it's not a great time to start a business together.

Pete Pearson: You'll have all your problems times two.

Neil Sattin: Just kidding. But it does bring us back to that question of how you get people to buy-in. To like ... Okay, this is actually going to require something of me to create change in our relationship.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, and most people who have worked in the workplace understand that there are different roles and responsibilities that come with a job and they've been in jobs where they've had people on a team who are doing different aspects of the work. And so they've had that experience and it makes logical sense. But then when they go home and they think, there's just two of us, they don't think about saying, okay, who's responsible for organizing childcare? Who's responsible for our finances or is somebody paying the bills and somebody else doing the investments? Who's responsible for cooking dinner on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or does somebody always cook and somebody always clean up? And they get into patterns, but often it's not really clearly delineated.

Neil Sattin: Right. So, is there a process that, if I'm listening to this and thinking, "Oh, you know, some of those things we haven't actually figured out," or "I wonder if we've differentiated effectively?" How could I diagnose myself or our relationship to know if that's happened or not?

Pete Pearson: Well, the easy way to know that it's happened, Neil, is, what does my partner do that annoys me? And when you start from a place of, what does my partner do that annoys me in what area of stuff around the house, I would bet that it's because you haven't clearly delineated and agreed upon the roles and responsibilities of that area. Couples kind of normally fall into those patterns in kind of like happenstance, but there's a lot of slippage and a lot of boundary confusion or unclarity about who is really responsible for what and who gets the deciding vote in that area. And that's when our annoyances almost always come from expectations, "My partner's not meeting my expectations." So, the annoyances have to do with expectations of partners that haven't been clarified very well or agreed upon.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Or assumptions that you're making.

Pete Pearson: Assumptions, yes.

Neil Sattin: So, I'm curious for couples who say, think, "Well, generally it works out okay, but when we try to have that conversation, it doesn't go so well, like either ... That could be an explosive argument, or it could be I just always have to give in, because we can't have that conversation. What are some ways that you offer couples to help them have that conversation in a way that's more generative, and you talk about ... I think you talk about fighting fairly or conflict ... I can't remember the exact phrase that you use, but agreements around how you have conflict.

Ellyn Bader: Well, before we even go there, let's say that when couples are trying to negotiate, they make some mistakes. One of the big mistakes that people make is caving in too quickly and they don't realize that when they hit that place of tension, that's actually the place where it's important to stay with it a while longer and figure something out and not see that tension as something bad, but see that tension as where their growth edge actually is.

Ellyn Bader: And so, it's a long story, and we won't go into all the details, but Pete and I talk about many years ago, when we ran workshops together, how we reached a point of conflict, and where we each wanted something very different and it took a full year to sort it out and a full year of actually having to work with the tension, until we came to something that worked for both of us and enabled us to keep working together, because otherwise we would've had too much conflict and not been able to continue working together, running workshops together. People think they should get through stuff faster sometimes than is actually possible.

Ellyn Bader: The process of getting through it is a process where both you get to know yourself better, and you get to know your partner better, if you can stay curious about why something matters to your partner, stay curious about why is it so important to you, learning how to ask really good questions, learning how not to cave too fast. There's many different capacities that are involved in successfully differentiating and successfully managing conflict that get strengthened. The emotional muscle gets built as couples go through that together.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, so I could almost see, like for instance, if you sense that your partner is just caving in, because you've hit that point of tension, to have the willingness to say, “No, I don't want to just get my way here. Let's figure out a way to have this conversation, as long as is required.”

Ellyn Bader: Right, right, and you know, people who tend to be very active and assertive often end up with partners who are a bit more passive than they, themselves, are and for a while it may work to let the more passive person just cave in, but then, over time, instead of having clear roles and responsibilities, what you actually have is the active person doing way, way, way, way more, and the other person doing less, and resentment building. You need to be able to stop that caving in process early.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, what's ... Maybe we could talk briefly about a structure that could be helpful for people, when they realize they're at this place, a point of tension that's where they tend to get stuck. What might-

Pete Pearson: Hey, I have an ... Ellyn, I have an idea. Neil, if we could post somewhere, where your listeners could go to and get a four-page document called, “Super Negotiation for Couples.”

Neil Sattin: Love it.

Pete Pearson: It's a really step-by-step process for how to negotiate and how to avoid the two big problems of negotiation, which is either caving in too quickly or pushing yourself too hard to get what you want, at the expense of the other. I can give you a link where your listeners could go and get that document.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that would be great, if it's easy. We can always post it in the transcript of the show, as well.

Pete Pearson: That would be great, but very quickly, and then we'll send you the link, and it could be posted in the transcript. It's, and then in the blog, it's Super Negotiation for Couples,, and the blog is “Super Negotiation for Couples.” It's four pages, which is really good, a step-by-step process to lead you through what can be negotiated, and, interestingly enough, what cannot be negotiated, and even more importantly, how to prepare ahead of time to make an effective negotiation.

Neil Sattin: Great. I can already envision enlisting Chloe and doing it experimentally and recording ourselves for the podcast-

Pete Pearson: Oh, cool! Yeah.

Neil Sattin: So that you can hear us live going into negotiating or not, something really sensitive for us.

Pete Pearson: Oh, that would be interesting.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, totally. I appreciate your sharing that link, and we will definitely have a direct link to that in the transcript and show notes, as well.

Pete Pearson: Terrific.

Neil Sattin: I guess that saves us from having to go through the whole thing here.

Pete Pearson: Right.

Neil Sattin: One thing that I want to touch on is when people get into relationship and, Ellyn, you mentioned, very often, not always, but very often there's that initial falling in love or that feeling of merging, or we're the same, or we're meant for each other. This is perfect. Then the disillusionment happens, where you start realizing the person isn't perfect. Yet, towards the end of the developmental process, when you're actually in that place of synergy, I don't think you're going to feel like you're the same again, but you will feel an intense level of intimacy and closeness that, in some ways, is at least a variation on the theme of that kind of intimacy that you experience at the very start of your relationship.

Neil Sattin: I want to bring this up, because I feel like, so often, the struggle for people is wanting to hang onto what they experienced at the very beginning out of fear of moving like that, in the differentiation process, they're going to lose each other. How do you keep people connected, while they're differentiating?

Ellyn Bader: First of all, one of the ways that I explain this, and I think it's a visual that people really get, is you know the disco balls that have mirrors all around them?

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Ellyn Bader: I keep a disco ball in my office. What I say is a disco ball represents each person, and all the mirrors on the ball are different facets of yourself. When you two met and fell in love, the disco ball mirrors that were facing each other or were setting each other off, and you were falling in love, and all the brain chemicals got going, are those places where you really felt like you were the same, like you were meant for each other, like everything was just perfect.

Ellyn Bader: Well, because everybody has so many different facets of themselves, it's inevitable that those balls are going to spin. There's going to be a period in which the ones that are facing each other are actually the ones where you don't get along so well, or you're not the same, and where you have growth that needs to take place, in order to keep the connection. Over time, the balls are going to continue to spin, and you will learn things that will deepen your connection and, actually, the kind of intimacy that most couples experience when they get to the other side of that is a kind of intimacy that feels more real and more grounded than that super-exciting, temporary psychosis that went on at the beginning.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I mean the disco ball isn't terribly effective when it stays in one place. It needs to spin for-

Ellyn Bader: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it makes a ton of sense.

Ellyn Bader: Now, and a relationship needs juice. It needs energy, and some of that energy comes from the differences, as well as from the similarities.

Neil Sattin: I suggest that you, at home, you pick your favorite disco tune, and you can hum it to yourself when you're in a moment of uncertainty about the direction that you're headed. I'm already getting it might be the night fever, we know how to go it.

Pete Pearson: Cool.

Neil Sattin: There's that reassurance that you're headed towards that place, and yet it can feel really scary to give, to grant, freedom, or to take freedom, let's say, to take that independence. Is there a specific way that you encourage people to do that, to enter into that required process, but to maintain an awareness of the other person's heart and how they're affecting them, but not in a way that leads to codependence?

Pete Pearson: That question, Neil, brings us full circle back to where we started. Instead of saying, “Here's how you do it,” or, “Here's the way to do it,” it's like, “What is your motivation for doing it? What are the advantages for put ... Why would you put forth the effort? Why would you take the emotional risk? Why would you take the sustained effort to bring that about?” Then we can talk about how to do it, but let's first talk about the "why" you would be willing to do it. It's the why that gives us the motivation to do the work.

Ellyn Bader: Pete, I think of some of the stuff that you've been doing lately around couples as a team also is part of an answer to Neil's question.

Pete Pearson: Totally, because we first have to identify where we get stuck, where the pain is. That's easy for couples to do.

Pete Pearson: “Here's where I get triggered. When my partner does X, this is what happens, and I get triggered.”

Pete Pearson: I say, “Great, let's look at what you feel/think when you get triggered.”

Pete Pearson: They go, “Oh, that's easy to do.”

Pete Pearson: Now I will say, “Let's shift, because we have to shift from where you are in that emotional brain, that lizard brain reflex, that self-protection, and let's talk about how you aspire to be instead. If you come from your higher self, your transformative self, you're better self, what would that look like? Instead of responding from a defensive, blaming, accusatory, withdrawing place, what would be a better way of responding?”

Pete Pearson: Most of the time, people can say, “Well, I'd be better if I was calmer, if I was curious, if I was a little more compassionate, if I was a better listener.”

Pete Pearson: Then here's, I say, the key question, which is, “Why would you be willing to make the effort to go to that future focus, that forward focus? Why would you be willing to do that?”  Then, that gets us to all the benefits for change. People only change for three reasons: to avoid a greater pain, for the benefits involved or the rewards involved, and to live more within our integrity about how we aspire to be. We talk about why they would be willing to make the effort.

Pete Pearson: Then, I'll say, "When you get stuck, when you get triggered, I want you to clasp your hands together and squeeze. That will, first of all, distract you from being looping in that emotional, lizard brain response. Then, think about how you would aspire to be, and why you would change and be that way. When your partner sees you clasping your hands, that's a signal to your partner that you are struggling to change your response and come from your better self. Then your partner will say to you, 'Oh, thank you. I appreciate your willingness to try to avoid going into that old place and do something different. I really appreciate that. What can I do to help that? What can I say or what can I do right now that would be helpful?'"  I say, "When you guys do that, now you're working together as a team."

Neil Sattin: Perfect, and that being the whole goal is recognizing that, even as you progress through these stages of togetherness leading into greater independence, leading back to greater interdependence, that you're on the same team with each other.

Pete Pearson: Yes.

Neil Sattin: You're not out to get each other. You've got each other's back, and you can help each other through that process.

Pete Pearson: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Well, Pete Pearson and Ellyn Bader, it's been a treat to have you on the show again, just like the first time around. I wish I had read your book, In Quest of the Mythical Mate, years ago, but I'm so thrilled that I read it now. I would say it's required reading for any couples therapist out there. You're doing a lot of work, training couples therapists, as well as work helping lay people just do better in relationships, through your work at The Couples Institute.

Neil Sattin: Thank you, again, for being with us here today. I'll make sure we have links to your website, so people can find your work. I just want to say how grateful I am for the work you're doing in the world, and for your willingness to come and share it with us here on Relationship Alive. We could talk more, and hopefully, we'll get that chance again sometimes soon.

Pete Pearson: Thank you, Neil, so much, for what you're doing to bring the message to the people out there.

Neil Sattin: My pleasure.

Ellyn Bader: Yes, thank you, Neil. It's always a pleasure talking with you, and I also will mention that I'm going to be doing a free online workshop between August 13th and 25th, so if any of your listeners want to participate in that, I can send you a link for that, as well.

Neil Sattin: That would be great, and I can actually send that out to my mailing list, as well, so that people can find out about it that way.

Ellyn Bader: That would be fantastic.

Pete Pearson: Thank you, Neil.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, that would be great.

Neil Sattin: Absolutely. Well, we'll be in touch about that, and always great to talk to you guys. Take care.

Ellyn Bader: You, too.

Pete Pearson: Bye-bye, Neil.

Ellyn Bader: Bye.


Jul 25, 2018

You know all those ways that you've learned to cope over the years? The little things that you do that distract you from feeling uncomfortable, or bored, or stressed? While some coping strategies are positive for you, others rob you of the chance to actually either deal with what's there, or to fully experience the moment - to be present. Developing your ability to be present, to dive into the moment without distracting yourself, is the key to keeping things connected and energized with your partner. Today you're going to learn how to identify your coping strategies, decide whether they're serving you or not, and how to transform your habits of distraction and coping into new, positive habits.

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!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has two exciting sponsors. Please visit them to take advantage of their offers and show appreciation for their support of the Relationship Alive podcast!

RxBars are one of our favorite snacks. They're healthy, high in protein, and made with simple ingredients that you can pronounce. Plus, they're really tasty, without any added sugar, gluten, soy, or dairy. RxBars are offering 25% off your first order, if you visit and use the coupon code "ALIVE".

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Jul 19, 2018

What’s the best way to overcome conflict in your relationship? How does it change based on your attachment style? And can you use what we know about our biology, and our memory, to keep a relationship from getting past the point of no return? In today’s episode, we’re blessed with a return visit from Stan Tatkin. Along with training couples therapists and conducting workshops for couples all over the world, Stan is the author of Wired for Love, Wired for Dating, and the recent audio program from SoundsTrue - RelationshipRx: Insights and Practices to Overcome Chronic Fighting and Return to Love. Stan’s work blends Attachment Theory with Interpersonal Neurobiology, helping couples leverage science to succeed in long term relationships. It’s always a treat to have him here on the show, and our conversation today will give you fresh insights into how to fight, how to repair, and how to transform conflict into something that helps you and your partner grow closer together.

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! Also, see below for links to our other episodes with Stan Tatkin.


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has two amazing sponsors. Each has put together a special offer for you as a Relationship Alive listener. Please visit them to take advantage of their offer and show appreciation for their support of the Relationship Alive podcast!

First are the folks at Through a unique online quiz, they help you figure out exactly what vitamins and herbal supplements you need to achieve your optimal health. They use high-quality ingredients, and can save you as much as 20% over comparable store-bought brands. On top of all that, they are offering you 25% OFF your first month if you visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” at checkout.

This week is also being sponsored by is a service that sends healthy, delicious, plant-based and gluten-free foods to you, each week. They're easy to prepare (either ready-to-eat or ready in less than 10 MINUTES). And - special shoutout to their cookie dough - which you can eat raw (or bake for a healthy dessert). This is by far the best prepared food delivery service that we've experienced. And you can get $25 off your first TWO orders if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" at checkout - at


Check out Stan Tatkin's website

Listen to Stan Tatkin’s new release, RelationshipRx, offered through SoundsTrue.

Read Stan Tatkin’s books

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 Stan Tatkin.

Here are links to our other episodes with Stan Tatkin (prior to this one):

Episode 19: Recipe for a Secure, Healthy Relationship

Episode 50: Wired for Dating and Love - Psychobiology

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, and we are coming to you in full Technicolor today, which is a first for Relationship Alive, not a first for our illustrious and lovely guest, Stan Tatkin, who's back on the show. He was here in episode 19 way back when we started, talking about a recipe for a secure and healthy relationship. He was also here talking about his book Wired For Dating and Love and talking about psychobiology, which we'll address a little bit in today's episode, back in episode 50. And you can listen to either of those episodes by visiting or We'll make this one, so you can download. We'll have a transcript for this episode and any related links that we talk about over the course of our conversation.

Neil Sattin: So we're here to talk about a couple of things like when we dive in to the work as a couple and that work involves how you maintain your connection, how you maintain your safety, while at the same time keeping things exciting, but not too exciting because you're collapsing into fights and distress. It's a balancing act and it requires a level of skill that we are just now really coming to grips with, like what skills are required when it comes to relational excellence in long term relationships. And Stan is one of today's leading experts in how to navigate that well. And one thing that I loved, Stan, in listening to your recent recording that you did for Sounds True called Relationship Rx, which is all about overcoming chronic fights in a relationship, I love that you were right upfront by saying, "Hey, if you're in a real relationship, you're gonna be dealing with this. I deal with this." I deal with this with my wife, with my children. And so there's not this halo that somehow because we're relationship experts that we're not affected by things like getting triggered and getting knocked off balance and having to come back and repair. I'm excited to have you here to get real about this art of how we stay safe and secure and there are also a few specific questions that I have for you along the way that have come in from listeners to the Relationship Alive podcast.

Stan Tatkin: Sure.

Neil Sattin: It's a pleasure to have you back, so thanks for joining me today.

Stan Tatkin: Thank you, Neil. It's good to be back.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Awesome. I would like to just... Let's just have a nutshell summary of psychobiology. What do you mean by that since your approach is a psychobiological approach to couple's therapy, which is the PACT that we see behind you here for those of you who are watching.

Stan Tatkin: Well, think of it as study of the brain and the body. We could say it's psycho-neurobiology or neurobiology, but psychobiology is basically taking a developmental approach to the human primate lifespan and in particular pair bonding with and between humans. This is basically a capacity model, meaning we're looking at social-emotional development from even in utero. But postnatally, we're looking at the networking of these structures and the function of these structures that allow us to be effective human beings with each other, particularly when it comes to attraction and when it comes to distress. Those are the two areas that encompasses the burden placed on people who are and are not socially-emotionally intelligent.

Neil Sattin: Right, so this question of how we as organisms, like what generates attraction in us on a physiological level as well as a psychological level and then also how do we manage the problem states that come up.

Stan Tatkin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: On a physiological and psychological level.

Stan Tatkin: Yes. And a lot of what we see between human beings is psychological to be sure, but not in the traditional sense. A lot of what happens between people is involving automatic systems that are recognition based and not thought based. They're recognition based because we're fundamentally memory. That's how we operate. Everything we do is based on memory. There is, on balance, very little that we do that requires the kind of cognition, predicting, rotating objects in three dimensions in our head, planning. All of these things contingent kinds of processing. We don't do that at any given time during the day, very much compared to how much we are automated and how much we are using these very lightning-fast recognition systems. And so we're talking here about the human condition, not about individuals, per se.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I loved in Relationship Rx where you talked about how when we first meet someone, we experience them, it's this amazing novel, new thing, a new person in our lives. But that very quickly, you use the phrase, "we automate them", we push them back into the rote memory that allows us to just function automatically with that person.

Stan Tatkin: Yes, nature has built in energy conserving functions in our brain and in our body. If we didn't have these, we wouldn't survive, we wouldn't be here. So we can only perceive so much, hear so much, feel, taste, smell so much. We only have so many neurons for those things. And because there's so much sensory motor information that we have to process at every moment, the brain has to gate or limit that information. And especially limit the amount of information that floats up to consciousness or awareness. So most of the time we are doing things on a level where we're not being told, we don't get permission or give permission to some of the things that we do by these primitive areas that are recognition memory based that allow us to go through the day and do the many, many things that we do and still conserve energy. So, this is not a bug, it's a feature. But in relationships it can also be a bug.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, right, exactly. Because then you could be stuck in painful memories of what's happened either in your relationship or the things that happened long ago that your relationship evokes, right?

Stan Tatkin: Well, yes. In the love relationship in particular, a relationship I think of as the hardest one on the planet. The reason it's so difficult is...

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Jul 11, 2018

Should you get back together with your ex? How do you know if it's a good idea? And, once you've decided that it's a good idea, how do you get back together with the best chance of succeeding? Let's face it - things didn't work out the first time around. What can you do to prevent history from repeating itself? In today's episode, I'll give you the exact questions to ask (yourself, AND your ex) that will help you figure out whether or not it's a good idea. And then we'll cover what to do to increase your chances of getting it right this time around. Along the way, you'll learn great questions to ask yourself before you enter into ANY new relationship - or how to create a structure to support the relationship that you're currently in.

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Jun 28, 2018

What's stopping you from having the kind of connection with others that you want? Whether you're in a relationship and feeling stuck with your partner, or single and wondering how to connect with someone amazing - today's episode is for you. You're going to learn a simple way to shift how you interact with others that will open you up to a much more alive, dynamic, exciting way to connect. You'll also know how to recognize when it's time to make a boundary and NOT connect. 

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

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Jun 19, 2018

What’s the recipe for a successful divorce? If you’ve tried everything, and it’s time to separate or get divorced - how do you do it well, so that you (and your soon-to-be-ex) emerge relatively unscathed? And if you have children, how do you ensure that they are also not traumatized by the process? In this week’s episode, our guest is Dr. Constance Ahrons, one of the world’s leading experts in how to navigate divorce well. Her book, The Good Divorce was a groundbreaking work that studied the effects of divorce on children - and identified exactly what kinds of post-divorce relationships had the best outcomes. In my conversation with Dr. Ahrons, you’ll learn exactly what to do, what not to do, and how to salvage a situation that’s already not going well.

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


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Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Now as you know, we come down strongly in favor of relationships on this show, and in favor of helping you learn the skills required to have an amazing relationship, to turn your relationship around if things aren't going so well, and especially if things are really not going well, how do you find a foothold and work your way back up to intimacy and togetherness. But, as we've also talked about on the show, that isn't always possible. When it's not possible, we stand also strongly in favor of finding ways to part from your partner in ways that are kind, in ways that are loving, in ways where you can support each other. We've had Katherine Woodward Thomas on the show to talk about conscious uncoupling, her process of using the pain of a break-up to help grow, and learn new skills and new development for yourself, things that you would bring to your next relationship.

Neil Sattin: Today, I want to dive into the nitty gritty of what's required when you are ending a relationship. What kinds of things do you need to consider in order to have the best chance at being successful? In order to have this conversation, we have a very special guest, Dr. Constance Ahrons, who is the author of the book The Good Divorce, among other books. She was one of the first people to bring to popular awareness this idea that divorce doesn't have to be a stigma. It doesn't have to be all fire and brimstone and acrimony. It also doesn't have to mean that now you've created a broken family with kids suffering in the aftermath. Now, both I and Dr. Ahrons share at least one thing in common. We've both been through a divorce. This is a topic that's really personal for me as well, and her book has been really helpful for me, both in terms of my own situation - and when I went through Katherine Woodward Thomas' conscious uncoupling coach training she uses The Good Divorce as one of the textbooks for the coaches going through that training.

Neil Sattin: It's such an honor and a privilege to have Dr. Ahrons with us today. We will have a detailed transcript of today's episode, which you can get if you visit, or if you text the word passion to the number 33444, and follow the instructions. I think that's it, so Dr. Constance Ahrons, thank you so much for being with us here today on Relationship Alive.

Constance Ahrons: Thank you Neil, I appreciate you asking me.

Neil Sattin: Well, it's such an important topic. It's interesting to me, because your book, at least the edition that I was reading, came out in the mid-'90s, and at that time, you were talking about the importance of shifting the culture and our awareness of what's possible in terms of divorce. You did this comprehensive study of what you called binuclear families, and we'll get into that in a moment, and I think overall, though, the purpose was to get it out into the public sphere that divorce doesn't have to be this horrible thing, even though it's, in many ways, a set-up to be a really traumatizing experience.

Neil Sattin: What's interesting is that many years later, in fact I think it was probably close to 20 years later, when I was going through my divorce, my experience with my family was that it was really hard to talk to them about the fact that I was going through a divorce. In fact, one of my cousins kind of jokingly said, "You might as well be telling them you have cancer." That's what it feels like in our family. So I'm curious if we could start off by just kind of talking about the context of how much has our notion of a good divorce being possible, how much have you seen that shift since your book came out, The Good Divorce, and what do you think still needs to happen to help that conversation continue, along with things like you being here on the Relationship Alive podcast?

Constance Ahrons: You know, Neil, that's such an interesting question, because it seems to, I mean, I believe that it's changed dramatically, but at the same time, I also find that some people still carry the stereotypic image that it's going to devastate the whole family, children will always be destroyed in the process, and will have long-term damage. When I started to do this research, which was in 1989, that was the only stereotype that we had. That was the only literature that we had available to us, and it was quite a shift.

Constance Ahrons: My study was funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, and it was even a shift for them to fund a study that was not looking for problems, that was looking instead for what does a divorce look like, for how it affects children, how it affects parents, what is the relationship between ex-spouses like, and trying to deal with the stereotype that we had that ex-spouses must, of course, be bitter enemies, and children, of course, must be damaged. There was no literature in the field to say anything that was positive about divorce. What I mean by positive is, I'm not saying divorce is good. I need to make that distinction which is very different from having a good divorce, and sometimes that distinction is sometimes hard to grasp, because divorce in and of itself, it just is. It's not good, it's not bad. You can make it good, you can make it bad.

Constance Ahrons: It is a fact of our culture, and it's a fact of marriage. Still we have the same kind of percentages, with about 50% of marriages ending up in divorce. 50% of our population can't be all that bad. What I did find, and what was most important about the study, and at the time was groundbreaking, so we have to remember that this goes back now almost 30 years that it was groundbreaking, and not if we were looking at it today as much, was the fact that not all divorces are destructive to the family, not all ex-spouses hate each other, not all divorces have to be full of fury and rage, that maybe there were different types of divorces. That's what happened in the study.

Constance Ahrons: What had only been studied was the problems with divorce, and just going from A to B, divorce is necessarily bad, rather than there are lots of different outcomes from divorce, and let's see what they look like. That's what I have spent most of my career working on, has been looking at the ex-spouse relationship, the relationship between former spouses when they are parents. What does that relationship need to look like for the children to come through the divorce with the minimal amount of long term damage? There is always pain, but the minimal amount of damage to the children. There might be pain and crisis for a year or two, and in a good divorce, where parents can continue to parent effectively, then the children are going to come through it better after the crisis. There'll be an initial, sometimes a year, sometimes only six months, and it depends on the age of the children of course, too, where there might be a great deal of upset, and then it starts to calm down, and parents begin to get into patterns with each other about how they continue to relate. But it takes a lot of work.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I love how your focus is on uncovering what truly is in the best interests of the children, because that's something that it seems like it's just a matter of opinion in a lot of cases. It's hard to pin down what qualifies as the best interests of the children.

Constance Ahrons: Well, remember that it is a very rare case that children want their parents to divorce. We found that even when there was high conflict in the marriage, children still frequently did not want their parents to divorce. To find out exactly what it takes, and we had 98 pairs of former spouses in our study, and we interviewed them at one and three and five years post-divorce, interviewing both of the ex-spouses, what we found is that the relationship between parents, as we did by the way in marital studies, we found the same thing in divorce, that how ex-parents continued to relate to one another related to how the children came through the process. When ex-spouses could relate to each other in a way that I would call the good divorce, is when they could relate to each other in a way that was respectful, that they were mature enough to look at the difference between being parents and being spouses, and being able to switch gears and remember that they were indeed parents, and then co-parents as well, and that divorce and co-parenting could be for a lifetime.

Constance Ahrons: When we began to switch our thinking a little bit about this, we began to find that the strong relationship was how well the parents continued to relate. Of course, we used a number of different scales and different ways to look at the process and to understand what went on, and then importantly, we looked at change over five years, and then the children's reactions 20 years later. Those findings were published in a book called We're Still a Family, also by HarperCollins. What we found over time is that for the most part, the relationship between former spouses was perhaps the most important factor. There were other factors in terms of resilience of children, how much support they had outside of their parents, but when we looked at everything together, it was clear to me that parents could determine a lot about how their children were going to react to their divorce over time, not just initially, but what was it like five years later. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: What I'm noticing is that there's some irony there, right? That the reason that you're splitting up with someone, unless you just kind of lost interest, is maybe that you don't really get along so well. I mean, obviously there's a whole host of possible issues that bring two people apart, but it sounds like what you're saying is, is if there are kids involved, now if there aren't kids involved, you can just kind of go your separate ways. There may still be things to figure out about property divisions and things like that, but if there are kids involved, you're still going to have to figure out how to get along, even if it was something that vexed you as a married couple.

Constance Ahrons: That's very correct. Excuse me. But if you don't figure out how to get along, then you're going to really run into a lot of problems with your kids over the years. There is a difference between not getting along as spouses, but being able to get along as parents. I often see couples who come and tell me that, "We're great as parents. We are really good parents, I respect her or his parenting. We do fine together as parents, but we just can't live together. My anger with him or her is about being married to one another, being partners, being spouses. That's where my anger is." It takes some learning, and it also takes a lot of maturity, that for the sake of our children, we are not going to keep enacting the same marital communication that we had that brought us to the level of divorce, that we're going to try to ... In fact, parents often become better parents, and many talk about having better relationships once they are not living in the same household.

Neil Sattin: Now, if we could, let's just quickly enumerate the different, I think you call them typologies, of post-divorce families. Just to give our listeners a chance, if you're in a divorced situation, or a post-divorce situation, these are the possible couplings, or decouplings, that you may find yourself in. They each have their impact on the outcome in terms of what we are talking about, the best interests of the children, and probably also your own best interest, in terms of your own levels of stress and being able to function well in your life, in your non-married life, to that person, anyway.

Constance Ahrons: Well, what you're referring to is that coming out of the research data, we did all sorts of fancy things with factor analysis and so on, and came up with some typologies.  We came up with 5 typologies that were at one point given very academic names and then we changed the names with the help of my daughters to some much more acceptable names that everybody could understand and identify with. We came up with five types essentially but it's really a continuum. It's not as set differently as it sounds. They run the continuum from very very angry to friendly.

Constance Ahrons: Start at the friendly end. First group we called the friendly - I've forgotten the name of that.

Neil Sattin: The perfect pals.

Constance Ahrons: Perfect pals, that's right. That was a small group that you would anticipate it would be. But it was couples that when they divorce, they've been friends in the marriage and then whatever went awry went awry and they got divorced but they still had a friendship that they continued. The next group, which is where the majority of the couples fell into, was call cooperative colleagues. This is a group of people that would not call themselves friends. If you think of a collegial relationship it may even be with somebody you don't like who smokes in the next room to you or you don't like their language or whatever but for the sake of the job you're doing you cooperate. That's the same intent. For the sake of parenting, for the sake of your children you learn to cooperate and you learn what things not to talk about, what things to talk about. We talk about things like what boundaries do we set up, what's acceptable to discuss and what's not acceptable. What's gonna get us into a fight and what's not. How can we say with talking about the kids and not talking about, well when you did this to me 20 years ago and so on.

Constance Ahrons: That was very important and those people we called cooperative colleagues who could stifle the anger. They weren't best friends by any means but they learned to put their children's interests before their own at that point and learn not to go back into old history. They learn to cooperate as parents and they were good co-parents over time. The next group we had were the angry associates. And the angry associates, you could push their buttons asking anything about their marriage and they were off and running. They had trouble separating out the difference between being ex-spouses and being co-parents after divorce and those boundaries were blurred for them.

Constance Ahrons: Then we had a group below that call the fiery foes. The fiery foes really could not stop fighting. Essentially, they could not have a conversation that didn't end up in conflict and of course the children were often caught in that conflict. The sad part about it is in many of those situations and with the fiery foes that if the children, if it was a bad marriage or a high conflict marriage they were caught in a high conflict divorce.

Constance Ahrons: Then we have a group called the dissolved duos. In that group one parent drops out of the relationship with the children and frequently that parent is the dad. Each of those types or the continuum of types had an effect on children. Had an effect down the line of stressing the children out for many years following the divorce. Parent continued to play out the marital conflicts through their divorce for whatever reason. Sometimes it was maturity, sometimes it was just not knowing how to let go of anger. But for whatever reasons they could not move beyond the marriage and talk about their children's best interests and how to deal with that most effectively, then the children of course would feel that over the years.

Constance Ahrons: And so I think it would help if I moved on to what the book We're Still Family is about.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Constance Ahrons: 20 years after the divorce we went back and interviewed 163 children from the 98 families.

Neil Sattin: I was wondering about that. If you had done follow up.

Constance Ahrons: Yes. And that's in We're Still Family. We didn't have enough funds we would've loved to interview the parents as well at 20 years post divorce, but we decide that it was most valuable to interview the children. That's what we also were funded for. We found out from the kids, not surprisingly really, from the kids that when they look back the kids that did the best, the children who came through the divorce process in the healthiest way that they could, had parents that were more like cooperative colleagues. Who had learned over the years and because it was 20 years after the divorce these 163 adult children could then reflect on how things changed over the years as well and what they were most comfortable with. You would expect most people at that time had remarried by then. Almost everyone had remarried and some had re-divorced during those 20 years span.

Constance Ahrons: But the children were able to reflect back and say to us the same thing that we were finding with the parents. That when their parents found a way to get along, they didn't have to be friendly, they might only see each other at family occasions. A child's graduation, a wedding and so on, when they were able to not put children in the middle and function well as co-parents, the children did better. One thing the children hated the most is when their parents continued to fight. And that was the most destructive to children as you would expect. Different children in the same family had different responses. Which were depended on their age at the time, their personal resilience, what kind of support they had. Because children showed us very strongly that there were other factors that entered in that could help them in difficult times. That could be a coach in school, or it could be a grandparent or a close adult friend of their parent. Somebody who intervened at a time when their parents were not able to function very well. These children learned who they could depend on outside of their parent to help them through.

Constance Ahrons: Some of us are just born with more resilience than others and the age at which the children were when their parents divorced made a big difference and sometimes whether they had older siblings who were able to help them through the crisis. There were a number of factors but the one that just kep popping up over and over again was how the parents continued to relate even 20 years later. And sometimes they related poorly in the first 3-5 years but improved their relationship over the years and that had an impact as well. It's never too late to have a good divorce.

Neil Sattin: Let's start there because I have two questions that are closely related. But let's start there with let's say that you're listening, you're divorced and that probably true for a lot of my listeners because so many of us are. We go through that first marriage, we get divorced and we're like okay I'm gonna do it right the next time. And so you're tuning into Relationship Alive to hopefully get it right the next time. But let's say you're hearing these descriptions and if you're like me you might be thinking wow sometimes we're cooperative colleagues and other times we're angry associates and I would love to be more strongly in the cooperative colleagues camp for the sake of my kids and the sake of my life.

Neil Sattin: What are some ways that you advocate for people to start moving the needle in that direction for that relationship with their ex-spouse?

Constance Ahrons: The first is what you mentioned, which is motivation. I really wanna do this I want to improve what's going on with my ex and that if they knew that they could parent better that they would better, that their children would profit from that. The first thing is just an awareness of doing it. Second is to know what your hot buttons are. Know what happens when you talk with your ex on the phone, why does it all of a sudden end up in conflict. What happens? To understand what does happen and what particularly gets you set off and where the anger comes from. To be able to stay away from those areas. I'm not suggesting that we get over all of our anger at an ex-spouse from a 20 year marriage for example. But I am suggesting that I can find ways to at least not keep stepping into that same trap again of every time I say this he says that and off we go.

Constance Ahrons: If I'm working with couples and trying to establish a better relationship over time, I help them to see where they get into trouble. What happens, what kind of conversations do they get into that takes them on a bad road. Almost always it's the same kind of conversation over and over again. It's when they get into some of their own spousal history. When you start to talk about the kids can you stay on that plane of just talking about the children without going in to recriminations of when you always did that or you remember when you did this and so on. But rather trying to stay as much as possible in the present, focus on the children. If things get hot - calm things down. If you're on the phone say "why don't we talk later." Sometimes couples only do well if they're meeting in Starbucks for example. They really can't meet alone. Never have these discussions in front of the children. It's always better to have a separate time when you talk about this.

Constance Ahrons: For each of the spouses to identify within themselves when do I start to see red flags? When do I feel myself getting angry? When am I getting off the track? When are we talking about what to do for Jeanie's birthday and all of a sudden we're talking about 10 years ago when this happened or when that happened. Or you always did this in the marriage. And to also understand that your partner, your ex-spouse is always changing. Because one of the things we found is that dads often became better parents after divorce. Sometimes it was hard for their former spouses to accept that change.

Constance Ahrons: "Well you were never there when I needed you before, how come now all of a sudden you're willing to do this for the kids or do that for the kids?" The other thing is to accept that we never change anybody else. To be able to accept that she was always late, she was never on time. Then he anticipates that she's probably going to be late several times when you're picking up or dropping off the kids. And allowing some space for that because it comes up so often. What I'll say if I'm seeing one of the couple at the time, I'll say to them did she do that in the marriage too? And the husband will say yeah. And did you try to change her? Oh for 20 years I tried to change her. And did it work? No it didn't work. Well don't think it's gonna work now. If you couldn't change somebody. Especially in the time of a loving relationship, you're certainly not gonna change them in a time in an unloving relationship.

Neil Sattin: What have you seen work as far as, let's say I'm the ex-partner who's listening to this podcast and I'm thinking, okay I wanna take the initiative and help try to shift us toward being cooperative colleagues. Are there ways that you've seen in particular that work for introducing that conversation? Like hey I read this book called The Good Divorce. Something along those lines where you're like let's step back a minute and look at how we're doing here and maybe there are ways we could do this better or where we'd feel less stressed out with each other? Is there something that you've seen really helpful for people who wanna make that shift towards the more positive interaction style?

Constance Ahrons: I think most helpful is when they have some good intervention. When they see a counselor together, which many people do after divorce. Because what you can accept from somebody else like how about you read this book, you may not accept from your spouse or from your former spouse. You may be resistant to anything that your former spouse presents you as being biased or whatever. Where sometimes a third party can help by presenting the same information that your ex would present but in a way that you can hear it better, that doesn't feel critical. That makes a world of difference.

Constance Ahrons: I think in varying points in time it usually benefits most couples going through a divorce and afterwards to get some kind of help. Whether it's counselors, mediators, those people that can give you a third party view of you that isn't biased that can help you sort out what's going on. Frequently that person will see each of you individually to get a handle on things to be able to coach you. We're doing much more coaching today. It's not therapy. It's much more related to the current situation, not to go back into the history of the marriage, but to go forward with how are we gonna relate from here on no matter what went on in the marriage. How are we gonna be able to handle that? But very frequently it takes somebody outside the two of you.

Constance Ahrons: ... it takes somebody outside the two of you to bring in that new information in a way that you can hear. So I strongly suggest then, especially in times of remarriage and at varying times in the post-divorce relationship between ex-spouses. There are times we can almost predict when there's going to be a crisis that is looming. One of them is re-coupling, having a new partner, remarrying and all of the possibilities within there. The other partner has children of their own, changes in schedules are difficult, moving away. There are all sorts of situations that are going to produce a crisis. How you come through that crisis will predict a lot about how you're going to manage the next five, eight, 10, 15 years.

Constance Ahrons: The thing to remember is that once you're parents, you are a parent forever. If you want to be involved in your children's lives, and if you know that you're going to grandparent together, for example, you better start pretty early on trying to have a good relationship so that neither one of you loses out on times with the children. There are too many children I've heard recently who have said, "I'm not going to have a wedding because I can't stand having to deal with my parents together in one room. So we're just going to elope." Or, "We're not going to invite one of the parents", usually Dad. That's how dads get left out a lot.

Constance Ahrons: If you want to avoid those kinds of situations, then it pays to do all the work that you can early on so that you can try to avoid those situations so that 10 or 15, 20 years later, you are still able to enjoy all the wonderful occasions that come with children. You don't want a graduation occurring and the kids being scared to death because Mom and Dad are going to fight. Who are they going to go up to afterwards, after the graduation? Parents sitting on the opposite side of the assembly or wherever the graduation is occurring. The child is the one who has to look back and forth, has to make the decision so that who's going to have dinner, who's going to have the party and so on.

Constance Ahrons: Whereas a parent can do some of this deciding, it makes it much better for the children. They're not caught in between in the same way. I've heard of children being invited by both parents for dinner, separate dinners at the same time by both parents. Well that's terrible for kids. The last thing you want to do is ... You know, the worst thing for children is to be caught into a loyalty conflict between their parents. "If I chose Mom, Dad will be furious." So you want to help your children by the two of you deciding beforehand how are things going to go.

Constance Ahrons: You don't have to do everything together, but at least don't do them concurrently. Don't have Mom and Dad having a party at 6:00, in their own homes at the same night. At least split of the evenings or something.

Neil Sattin: Right. There's a situation that I've seen in clients. I'm curious for your take on this, which is ... I love your practical advice here. Like figure out what your hot button items are, and just don't talk about those. Try to keep it about the kids.

Constance Ahrons: That's right.

Neil Sattin: Yet, many times, the contentious issues end up being things like, what's our visitation schedule? How much is the child support going to be? That sort of thing. So I'm wondering when you're in that kind of thing where it's like, okay, you know it's going to be contentious, but maybe one of the ex-partners wants to be collegial and wants to just say, "Hey, let's work through this," and the other one is more stuck in angry associate mode where they're just like, "Nope, I don't have to listen to you, that's why I divorced you.", etc, etc. What do you suggest that helps people come to the table around an issue that really can't be avoided like that?

Constance Ahrons: Well, you know that's an important question because rarely are two people in the same place at the same time in terms of their emotions. So I think the best we can hope for is that one of them hopefully will take the high road and not get into that fight over and over again. Then, if they can, then get some help for how can we get around this? How can we find some way to compromise? It's all about compromise, just as marriage is too, for that matter.

Constance Ahrons: So how can we find a way to compromise? We have to accept some things and not others. Sometimes parents do trade offs. I'll give you this if you'll give me that. If you'll give me that extra day next week, I'll give that extra day next month. What they're fighting about usually, what the things you're talking about is child support and issues which are frequently contentious, they're not really about the kids. They're about the parents. They rarely fight about the children, I find, directly related to the children. Except if you have people whose value systems are very, very different. One is very conservative, and the other is very liberal, and they want their children freely brought up that way, or big religious differences I found are problematic. But there are things that are definitely related to the children, and not related to each other.

Constance Ahrons: Yeah, sometimes you do have to take the high road. You have to bite your tongue, and you have to say, "Okay, I'll compromise here if you'll compromise there." That, sometimes, works out very well by seeing a mediator. Sometimes it only takes one or two sessions with a mediator, to help you come to some compromise solution.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. That's one thing I love about mediators is hopefully they are very skilled in their training, which is all about helping everyone get their needs met. I also appreciate too, that you still do coaching and consulting to help people around collaborative divorce. Your books are great guideposts, especially The Good Divorce, for how to recognize these different characteristics that you want to shoot for, that become your ideal. So you kind of know what you're modeling after.

Neil Sattin: Constance, I'm wondering if we could take one last moment to chat about if someone is here and thinking, "Okay, I'm headed down this path. I'm getting divorced." What's a key element for that person to help steer the conversation towards the path of one that will leave them as cooperative colleagues so that they're starting off on the right foot? Because we've spent a lot of time talking about people who maybe aren't quite there, but who are already divorced.

Constance Ahrons: Yes, well one important thing is don't use an adversarial process. I am a firm believer in using an out-of-court process because it doesn't escalate things - and when you tend to use an adversarial process, the issues become escalated. Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose. You want to use a process where you hope it's going to be a win-win.

Constance Ahrons: So the first thing I would say is don't try an adversarial process. Don't go through the lawyer and say, "I want to get the most out of this that I can get. I want the kids all this time. He or she didn't do very much for the kids and wasn't good." Don't try to get your way in the divorce. So instead choose a path that is non-adversarial. Choose a path like mediation. I'm a firm believer in collaborative divorce because it's a non-court approach by a team. I think that that's a very effective approach to coming up with resolving the differences, and it's almost always using compromise. But the major part of it is the lawyers and the divorce coaches, and child specialists and financial people all sit around the table together and say, "We as a team," which includes the clients, "are going to work together to make this the best divorce we can possibly make it."

Constance Ahrons: Now, that doesn't mean that there's not going to be problems and differences, of course. There's going to be ... I've yet to see one divorce where there isn't that. But it's how can we resolve those in a productive way? All of us working toward the best interests of the children. And always putting the children up front.

Neil Sattin: You talk about creating a limited partnership agreement, like figuring out what your principles are and how you're going to co-parent, and spelling it out ahead of time before you even end up in front of lawyers or a judge.

Constance Ahrons: Absolutely. It's very important. As we were talking about a little bit earlier, Neil, is what do you do when every time you talk on the phone you end up fighting and so on. In a limited partnership, you decide quickly, "Okay, what are the limits to this partnership? We are going to be partners. We are parents who are partners, divorced or married, or remarried. How are we going to work toward the same goal, which is having a good divorce come out of this where we can continue to relate to our children, continue to give them the best possible options in life by having two parents who love them? Let that be the major focus, and not having two parents who are constantly fighting. I'm not sure that answered your question but I think I was heading in that direction.

Neil Sattin: It does. This makes me think that this term that we started out the episode with, a binuclear family, you talk in The Good Divorce about how challenged we are to have words that actually portray the outcome of divorce in a positive light, that the words themselves are hard. So maybe in closing you could just explain what's so important about binuclear, because I think it's such a valuable way of envisioning what happens next.

Constance Ahrons: Well, binuclear, I think if I could have developed a different term than I did ... I used binuclear because essentially, I'm a social psychologist. So essentially I was looking to say, "What else can we be but a nuclear family?" The nuclear family does split, and it splits into two households. So if you think of two households as binuclear, so that we are one family that lives in two households, it's a wonderful message to give children is to say to them, "You know, we are still family. We live in two households." Maybe some parents will decide to do things together, sometimes celebrate holidays and  have family dinners once a month or something. Other families will not. But that we still are a family and it's just a family that is in two households now. It is binuclear. It's very, very helpful for the children.

Constance Ahrons: But when you think about the terminology, we've only had negative terminology about divorce. Is there a better term that ex-spouses?

Neil Sattin: I wish there were.

Constance Ahrons: Well there is. We talk about ourselves now as co-parents.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Constance Ahrons: We encourage people not to refer to "my ex", but to refer as to my co-parent. People when they say, "Oh well, why is language so important?" Well language is very important. It really determines what our next steps will be and how we can think about ourselves.

Neil Sattin: Right. It's part of what frames the emotional state that comes from contemplating any situation.

Constance Ahrons: That's right. Yeah, and I'm shocked that in all these years that I've seen very little change in that area. I still hear that ... Nobody's come up really with getting co-parents as acceptable as ex. People still say my ex rather than my co-parent. One is negative, and one is in the past, and one is positive.

Neil Sattin: Let's commit right here and now that we're going to work on that change in terms. The other one I want to put out there that I think I've mentioned on the show before is because I'm remarried and we've talked about Chloe, my wife, being my kids bonus mom as a way of putting a positive spin on that.

Constance Ahrons: That's nice for kids because, as you probably know, step-mothers have a terrible image. You can't find anything positive about step-mothers. All of the humor, everything, is directed at them, and it's a negative image. That's all kids hear, "You're going to have a step-mother?" as if it's awful, so I think bonus mom is terrific.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, the language does matter.

Constance Ahrons: Oh, it makes a big difference.

Neil Sattin: Well, Constance, thank you so much for being here with us on Relationship Alive. I think we're bumping up against what you said was your hard stop, and I want to honor that.

Constance Ahrons: Hard stop, yeah.

Neil Sattin: But I really appreciate you being here with us. Such important work. Again, if you want to get a transcript of today's episode, you can visit, or text the word "passion" to the number 33444. We will have links to Dr. Ahrons's website and her books on the show page for this episode so that you can connect with her, read her books, and perhaps if you're going through this, you can even get some guidance from her about how to go through the process. But thank you so much for being with us today, Constance.

Constance Ahrons: Well thank you, Neil, for keeping up the good work.

Neil Sattin: My pleasure.

Jun 6, 2018

Have you ever felt like everyone else’s needs come first? Have you wondered how you’re supposed to show up in your relationship, or for your family, if you’re exhausted and not feeling nourished and supported yourself? How do you make the shift so that you feel full enough to have something extra to offer those around you? In today’s episode, we’re going to cover the art of Extreme Self Care - so that you can learn how to make boundaries and take better care of yourself (and why that’s so important for the health of your relationship). Our guest is Cheryl Richardson, professional coach and New York Times Bestselling author of several books, including Take Time for Your Life, and her most recent book, Waking Up in Winter. Cheryl Richardson was literally one of the first professional coaches, and her decades of experience will help you reclaim your life, find your center, and bring your best self to your relationships.

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

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


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by FabFitFun offers a seasonal gift box with full-size, ahead-of-the-trend, fitness, beauty, lifestyle, and fashion products.

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Check out Cheryl Richardson's website

Read Cheryl Richardson’s Books - Take Time for Your LIfe and Waking Up in Winter

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 Cheryl Richardson

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. On today's show, we're gonna dive deep into the question of how to take care of yourself and why it is so important to take care of yourself in the context of nurturing your relationship with others, whether that be your spouse, your partner, your children, other important people in your life. At the core of it all rests your ability to nurture who you are here in this journey of your life on the planet. We've covered some more maybe psychological ways to do that. Episodes with Dick Schwartz, with Peter Levine, et cetera, et cetera. We've covered the gamut, and yet, what I wanted you to have today is some very nuts and bolts practical approaches to the art of extreme self-care.

Neil Sattin: I'm saying that intentionally because today's guest is I think the person who launched that term into the public eye, extreme self-care, and in fact she is one of maybe a dozen people who launched the profession of coaching in the world. So, if you are working with a coach or are thinking about working with a coach, then you have this esteemed guest to thank for coaching being what it is today. Her name is Cheryl Richardson and she is author of New York Times bestselling books. She's been on Oprah Winfrey's show. In particular, the first book of hers that I read, Take Time For Your Life, was huge for me in realizing all the ways in which I was not showing up for me and what that was costing me in other aspects of my life.

Neil Sattin: Cheryl has a long running radio show and I'm gonna let her tell you a little bit more about what she's doing and what she's done. She leads retreats and still does coaching, I believe, and in the meantime she is here with us today to share with us her wisdom on how to take care of yourself extremely well. If you are interested in downloading a transcript from today's conversation, then you can visit, all one word, or you can text the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. I think that's it, so Cheryl Richardson, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive.

Cheryl Richardson: Hi Neil, thank you for having me. I'm glad to be here.

Neil Sattin: You are most welcome. I think when I first reached out to you is maybe two and a half years ago, so it's great to finally be able to connect with a fellow ...

Cheryl Richardson: Sorry it took so long.

Neil Sattin: ... A fellow New Englander. That's fine, I'm sure that you were saying no until it was a definite yes.

Cheryl Richardson: Yes, exactly.

Neil Sattin: We'll fill in everyone listening on what we're even talking just then. So, perhaps ... Like, why extreme self-care? Let's start there. Why extreme and not just take care of yourself?

Cheryl Richardson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, the phrase "extreme self-care" was first coined by my coach, Thomas Leonard, who really is the man who's sort of single handedly launched the profession of coaching back in the early '90s. He was my first coach and I worked with him, and, as you said in your introduction, a handful of other coaches who were sort of helping him to craft the curriculum for Coach University, which was his training organization at the time. He's since passed away.

Cheryl Richardson: He coined that phrase and I remember early on after we had been working together for a few years, he was developing this extreme self-care program as part of the coaching curriculum and he called upon both myself and a colleague of mine, Stephen Clooney was his name, to work with him on developing the program. So, he coined the phrase and I decided to bring it to sort of the mainstream world after he had passed, through the book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care. That book was really written ... You know, I had been teaching self-care. As you mentioned, Take Time For Your Life. I had written that book and Stand Up For Your Life, which is ... So, Take Time was about sort of self-care. Getting a handle on the outer world. Stand Up For Your Life was about building confidence and character and self-esteem.

Cheryl Richardson: Then The Unmistakable Touch of Grace was about going even more deeply inward and taking care of our self-care for the spirit. You know, taking care of our spiritual wellbeing. When I wrote The Art of Extreme Self-Care, I had been teaching about self-care for many years but my husband was really sick at the time, and at the time that I had the book contract, and I remember I was really struggling to support him through his illness. My best friend at the time said to me, "How can you possibly write a book on extreme self-care when your life is in a state of extreme disrepair?" I remember thinking, "My God, she's right."

Cheryl Richardson: Early on Thomas had used the phrase "extreme ..." I remember one time he said to me, "You don't just need self-care, you need extreme self-care," because I was such a good girl back then and I was such a yes machine that he was really challenging me. He was brilliant at honoring his own needs and at setting boundaries. At one point he said to me, "Your good girl role is gonna rob you of your life." So, I think he used the word "extreme" certainly to get my attention but to also get the attention of those of us who were training to be coaches by first really getting a handle on our own lives and our own self-care so that we could be good models and so that we could, in working with people, really know what people were up against when it came to practicing better self-care so that we could support them with integrity and with real empathy, I would say.

Neil Sattin: What is extreme about it?

Cheryl Richardson: Well, it really depends on who you are, because, for example, I remember one time early in my coaching with Thomas, he said ... We both identified that I, like a lot of people, especially women, was always saying yes because I didn't want to hurt someone's feelings. I didn't want to disappoint them. I didn't want to piss off people. I wanted them to like me, and so he gave me an assignment. For 30 days I had to piss off one person a day, every day for 30 days, and I remember being ...

Cheryl Richardson: Now, for me, that was extreme, right? For a lot of people, that would be extreme, but he was trying to help me find a balance, and a lot of times when we grow, we go from one way of being in the world to the complete opposite for some of us, until we find a balance in between, so he was challenging me, like a good coach will do, and I've done this for years with my clients ... You challenge your clients to do more than they think they can and they often fall somewhere in the middle, but it's far better than where they were, and that's really what he was doing, I think, at the time.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and what I appreciate about it among many things is that it isn't polarized in the way that ... There are a lot of popular books right now that are basically about kind of not caring what other people think.

Cheryl Richardson: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: What's so artful about what you teach is that these are ways that you can take care of yourself but in a way that actually still honors your connectedness, your relatedness to other people.

Cheryl Richardson: Well, yeah, and as a matter of fact there's one point ... So, my most recent book, Waking Up in Winter, which isn't a how-to book but instead is a memoir that just shares with people exactly how I live an examined life and how I grapple with my own self-care. At one point when I was going back to sort of edit this little section that I had written about doing an interview around self-care, I just named something that I hadn't been able to really name, and I'm not gonna be able to do it as well as I did in the book here in this moment, but ultimately we're all really caring people.

Cheryl Richardson: I mean, trying to teach people to not care what other people think ... I say good luck to that. I mean, that's just not gonna happen, because we are relational beings. We have a need for belonging. We have a need for connection. Most of us do. Very high percentage of people, and so it's not that we want to take care of ourselves at all costs. What we really want is more integrity in our relationships, right? We want to be able to be who we really are. We want others to be who they really are, and we want relationships and connectedness based on truth, so if I say to you, Neil, "Yeah, sure, I'll help you move on Saturday," when I haven't had a day off in 30 days and then suddenly I'm really pissed and resentful because I now have my only day off scheduled to help you move, I promise you I'm not gonna show up on the morning of your move ... It's unlikely I will show up being all excited and ready to be supportive of you.

Cheryl Richardson: So, most of us when we're overwhelmed, and most of us are busy and overwhelmed, when we say yes out of guilt or obligation or just unconsciousness, we end up putting ... Sort of taking little bites out of our relationships, out of the integrity of our relationships, and eventually you wind up with a lot of stuff that's unsaid or a lot of sort of unnecessary energy between two people that prevents a clean, vital, alive connection with the other person. So, I find as I get older and I think I'm probably much older than you are, I want relationships with people based on authenticity, based on aliveness, based on truth, based on a give and take relationship. I don't want to be sitting having dinner with somebody who spends the whole time just talking about themselves and their problems. I have no interest in that.

Cheryl Richardson: If you're somebody I really care about, then I'm gonna attempt to interject. I'm gonna attempt to create some balance in the give and take, but if that's not something you're sensitive to or aware of, then I'm probably not gonna have dinner with you again, and I wouldn't want somebody to do that with me either. If somebody felt drained or frustrated or irritable after spending time with me, I'd want to know that, number one, and number two, I'd want to rectify it, because at our best ...

Cheryl Richardson: You know, when we've got really good, clean, honest, open communication with one another, we really get the value of relationship and our relationships become alive, much like your podcast name, right? They are alive and fulfilling and meaningful and satisfying, and in the end, that's what really matters. I promise you, that's what really matters.

Neil Sattin: So maybe a great specific thing, because I really love the wording of this. You talk about how to say no gracefully to someone, and in a way, that is about honoring your relationship with someone and it being based on truth or being willing to be truthful with someone because you honor and respect your relationship with them. So, what's the key to delivering a truthful message? It could be delivering a no to someone, like refusing to help them out, let's say, or show up for something, or to change your mind about something you've committed to, or it could be a moment of wanting to provide feedback about what's going on in a relationship, to bring the truth to it in a way that isn't heavy handed.

Cheryl Richardson: Well, the honest answer is that for each of those different situations, the language is gonna be different, right?

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cheryl Richardson: So, let's start by looking at what are some of the general truths for all of it. Number one, if you're having any kind of an emotional reaction to a conversation, you're scared of having it, you feel pressured, you're anxious, you're pissed off. If you're having some kind of an emotional reaction or response to somebody or to the need for conversation, then the very first thing you want to do is go handle that without having a conversation.

Cheryl Richardson: I love it. There's a wonderful book called Growing Yourself Back Up by John Lee that I recommend all the time to people because it's about emotional regression, which is something that therapists understand. Coaches don't necessarily understand it because they're not therapists, but, you know, when somebody gets their buttons pushed, we often go into a regressed state. So, I'm suddenly not 58 years old, I'm 12, and I'm about to have an adult conversation with you as a 12 year old. Chances are it's not gonna go well, right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Cheryl Richardson: So, the first thing I need to do is step back and grow myself back up. It might be that I have to turn to my husband or another friend to kind of process the experience. This happens a lot when you've got people in your life that are critical or mean spirited or the nasty boss who humiliates you in front of other employees. Whenever people are inappropriate, the normal human reaction is to be stunned into silence. You don't even know what to say, and then people usually beat themselves up afterwards for not having said something, but it's normal when somebody behaves inappropriately to not have a response because you're too busy processing the shock of it. So, you need to walk away and process that. Have conversations. Maybe write in your journal or write a letter to the person. Do some emotional ... Go to see a therapist depending on the intensity of it.

Cheryl Richardson: You want to just get yourself into as neutral a state as possible. In coaching, we call it "charge neutral," so it's not an excited or a reactive state. That's true for any conversation, and then I would also say, again, a good general guideline is keep it short, sweet and to the point. I can't stress this enough. My dad used to say this to me. I grew up in a family business and my dad, like from the time I was 16 years old when he would be communicating with clients, he was a tax consultant, or he would do an annual letter to his clients, he would always say to me, "Keep things short, sweet and to the point, that way people remember, they get your message and they're not bogged down with too many words."

Cheryl Richardson: I think it's the same thing in difficult conversations. So, what's your truth? You deliver that as succinctly as possible. Along with that, you don't want to defend your position. You don't want to over explain it, which would be giving too much, and you don't want to open the door for debate. So, that's part of the reason why I say "keep it short, sweet and to the point." Then I would say ... I think those are probably the most important general guidelines, and if you can enter into a conversation without being emotionally activated, you've got your best chance of being gracious, and when you keep it ... Oh, and prepare. That's the other thing.

Cheryl Richardson: Sorry, the other thing I want to say is if you have to have a difficult conversation, and for some people, saying no to a friend who asks you to babysit their kids is a difficult conversation, so they need to step back and process the feelings. Let's use that as an example. You've got to step back and process the anxiety in your body of, "Oh God, I know she's gonna be really pissed at me. She watched my kids two times last month, but I'm just ... I'm not able to do it," or, "I really don't want to do it. Her kids are difficult and they're exhausting for me. I don't have kids and it's not easy for me to be with them." Whatever the reason is, process that truth first and then you can simply have a conversation and I think it's always best to have a phone conversation unless the person is toxic in any way. Then we can talk about that separately.

Cheryl Richardson: It might be that you just simply get on the phone and you say to your friend, "I got your message about wanting to take care of the kids and I'm not gonna be able to do it, and I want you to know that I will absolutely look for a time in the future when I can, but this time, I'm not able to and I hope you understand. Period. Period." Then you keep your mouth shut, and regardless of what that friend says, you just repeat the truth of what you just said, and nothing more. "Oh, God, that's too bad. I really needed you to watch the ... I can't find anybody. There's no one." = "I'm so sorry. I really look forward to helping you out in the future. I just can't do it this time."

Cheryl Richardson: "Yeah, but, you know, I'm always watching your kids. You should really-" - "You know, I recognize you're watching my kids and I appreciate that and I will absolutely return the favor. I just can't do it this time." You see? So, I'm not saying, "You know what? I'm so sorry but I promised Jim that we'd get together this weekend and we're supposed to have a date night or a date day." The minute you do that, now you're opening it up for interpretation. It's just completely unnecessary, so ...

Neil Sattin: Right, and what's interesting too, I think, is that the more you say ... When you talk about opening it up for interpretation, that's totally true. The meaning that the other person is making, whether it's ...

Cheryl Richardson: That's right.

Neil Sattin: ... "Oh, they value this person more than me."

Cheryl Richardson: That's right.

Neil Sattin: Or, "Oh, they actually don't really like my children" or whatever it is.

Cheryl Richardson: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, the more you just keep it short, sweet and to the point, the truth is whatever story they make up is their story and that's their responsibility to manage that, so that's why I say it's so important to process ahead of time, then plan what you're going to say. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Don't over explain. Don't debate it. Don't even open it for ... Just keep returning to the truth of what you've said and let that be enough. Then you'll need to do ...

Cheryl Richardson: You know, if it's a hard conversation for you ... Like, I don't like disappointing people, Neil. I don't like being disappointed. I haven't liked it since I was a little girl, and I've done a lot of work on dealing with my own issues around disappointment, but I know I can get activated. Just ask my husband, you know? All of a sudden we're supposed to do something and he decides, "You know what? I've had a horrible day. I just can't do it. I'm just exhausted and I'm just not able to do it," and I'm like, you know ... I get all activated. The little girl in me, I go into a regressed state sometimes and it's my responsibility to step back and go, "Okay, sweetheart, 90 percent of your reaction has nothing to do with this present moment, so let's become an adult again. Get out of the room and go get your shit together." Excuse my French.

Neil Sattin: No, that's fine. We have actually talked about that a lot on the show, recognizing those parts of us that are stuck in earlier places and earlier traumas, and trying to find the signs that that's where we're operating from instead of operating from our wise adult self, and to show up to care for those parts of us, whether it's ... We talked about it with Margaret Paul, with inner bonding work.

Cheryl Richardson: Yes. So, she's brilliant. She understands. Yes, it's exactly ... You know, it's internal family systems work, it's inner child work, it's ... Yes, it's absolutely, and that's really important. That's why ... So, from a communication standpoint, self-care, the decision to take care of oneself, brings up a lot of stuff. If you grew up in a family where it wasn't okay to tend to your own needs, or you just didn't ... It was never demonstrated to you. You never learned how to do it, it can bring up a lot of anxiety. The simplest thing can bring up a lot of anxiety, and we do need to be really respectful and loving and honoring of those parts of us that get activated. We don't want to communicate with people when they get activated.

Cheryl Richardson: Now, this especially comes into play when we're dealing with tough people, right? Critical people, authority figures, toxic-

Neil Sattin: Ex-spouses.

Cheryl Richardson: Ex-spouses. Yeah, okay, great, or situations fraught with excitability. Toxic people, all of that. It's become so important to ... The more toxic the relationship, the briefer the conversation needs to be, and I will say that in situations like a toxic ex-spouse, let's say, or a toxic parent or sibling, which, you know, I'll hear a lot about that sort of stuff, sometimes the best way to communicate is via email, once again using the guidelines, but not going ... You know, a lot of times people will say to me ... I just had a conversation with somebody recently who had to have a very difficult conversation with a really toxic friend, and she was really scared of her. Understandably so. The woman was a bully.

Cheryl Richardson: I said to this person, "No, no, no, no, no. You don't need ..." She said to me, "Well, I feel like it's only right that I see her face to face." Well, that's really lovely and clearly you're a person of integrity, but it's not good self-care, because this person's gonna eat you for lunch. So, instead, you need to communicate what you have to communicate via email. That's when it's appropriate. It's not appropriate when you're just trying to get out of a tough conversation with somebody you love, but when somebody's really inappropriate, has a history of that or is toxic in some way, or where you get incredibly triggered like an ex-spouse, sometimes you're doing both of you a favor.

Cheryl Richardson: Let me also say this. Sometimes you're doing both of you a favor by communicating via email. The other thing that's important is if you have to deliver really tough, bad news to somebody, you want to remember that sometimes you're doing them a favor by communicating via email, because you're giving them a chance to process their reaction instead of puking it all over you, and I use that gross word intentionally, because a lot of times that's what happens. People end up just puking their unfinished stuff, their unresolved stuff, their old stuff on you, and a lot of damage happens in relationships because of that.

Neil Sattin: I know. I hope more and more to foster a society where people are recognizing their potential to do that and stopping themselves, but I think it's healthy to recognize that that ain't happening all the time by any means. More and more, I think you listening to the show, that's probably true for you, where you recognize, "Oh, I get triggered. I'm going into my fight mode and I'm gonna let someone ... I could let someone have it, but I'm not going to because I recognize that that's what's going on."

Neil Sattin: There is a phrase that you mentioned in one of the recordings of yours I was listening to and I think in one of your books as well that I just love so much, so I want to make sure we say it specifically, and it's something like, "Because I honor and respect our friendship or our relationship or you, I need to tell you the truth."

Cheryl Richardson: Yes, yes. So, it's, "In an effort to honor our relationship, I want to be honest with you," or, "In an effort to honor our relationship, I need to tell you the truth." I would say, "I want to be honest." Depending on who it is, keeping it more conversational makes it feel less threatening to the other person. So, let me give you an example. This is an example I talk about all the time because ... I keep using it because people keep coming to me afterwards going, "Oh my God, that was so helpful. I needed to hear that."

Cheryl Richardson: So, let's say you have a friend that's constantly complaining about her job. Like every time you talk to her, she's just a chronic complainer, and you know you have a friend like this when you look at caller ID and you see that they're calling and you let it go to voicemail, right? Or you make dinner or lunch plans and you keep canceling at the last minute. These are the things we need to pay attention to. In our relationships, those are the clues that something's not working.

Cheryl Richardson: So, if you have a friend that's chronically complaining, it's really important to know that ... Oh, and by the way, let me just say this friend will also say things like, "You know what, Neil? God, I just love you. You know, every time I call you and I just talk about what's going on in my life, I feel so much better afterwards. I just feel relieved and energized." Meanwhile, Neil, you're hanging up the phone filled with all of their junk, exhausted and overwhelmed and thinking, "Oh, why did I answer the phone," right?

Neil Sattin: Right. Going through every spiritual clearing I know to release all that stuff.

Cheryl Richardson: Exactly. You're smudging yourself and you're taking a shower and all of that. So, it's important to recognize that when somebody's like that in your life, you show up and you answer the phone, you're completely ... You know, you're energetically clear, you're in a good place. I often use the visual of the thermometers you see in front of churches when they're raising money and they show the red line moves up as they raise more and more money.

Cheryl Richardson: If you imagine yourself as an empty vessel without a red line when the complaining friend calls and you pick up the phone and they start "wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah ..." You know, like the Charlie Brown character, "wah, wah, wah," and before you know it, the red line of anxiety or just stuff is moving up, up, up and you, because they're puking their negativity onto you, and again, I use that gross word intentionally ... So, it's coming out of them. Their red line is going down, yours is going up and by the end of the conversation, you're filled with their anxiety and you're exhausted, and they're feeling light and happy and off to the next thing.

Cheryl Richardson: The problem with that scenario is unfortunately ... I know you know this, Neil, because I think you were trained through Tony Robbins' work, right?

Neil Sattin: Yep, that was part of my training.

Cheryl Richardson: Yeah, most of us are ... Most human beings are motivated by pain or pleasure and most of it is pain, right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Cheryl Richardson: So, when we get our anxiety relieved, we lose our motivation to take action to change things, so people who are chronic complainers who have vessels for their complaining keep getting to empty themselves of the anxiety of their situation so that they don't really ever get to a point where they have to do something about it. So, in that way, I'm not really doing you any favors by listening to you complain, right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Cheryl Richardson: So, that's the basis for a conversation where ... Let's say you're the draining friend, Neil. Sorry, I'll only have you be that for a few minutes. So, my conversation-

Neil Sattin: Cheryl, you're always making me the draining friend.

Cheryl Richardson: I'm sorry - I'm so sorry. So, what I would say to you is, Neil, you know what? In an effort to honor our relationship, I really want to be honest with you. The last several times we've talked, you've been complaining about your job and it sounds like you're really unhappy, and you know what? Sometimes I hang up the phone and I feel kind of exhausted, or I notice myself every now and then kind of avoiding your phone calls, and I don't want that between us. So I just want to be honest with you.

Cheryl Richardson: I am here to support you and doing something about changing this job you can't stand. I'll do research for you. I'll take a look at your resume. I'll help you find a career counselor. Like, whatever I can do to support you, but I can't listen to you complain about it anymore, and I just wanted you to know that so that in the future if you start to complain about it, I'm just gonna gently say, "Hey, Neil? Remember that conversation we had? I just want to remind you, tell me what I can do to support you in taking action."

Cheryl Richardson: Then you keep your mouth shut. You don't say anything. Even if you're tempted, like, "I hope you understand. I hope you're not mad." Just keep your mouth shut. Be empowered. That's a way to really raise our level of self-esteem, by the way, by speaking our truth and then shutting up, and then whatever you say to me ... "Well, you complain about things too, Cheryl. I don't think I complain about it this much." - "Well, you know what, Neil? My experience is that you do, and I want to support you in doing something about it, so I promise you, I'm happy to help you take action. I just can't listen to the complaining."

Cheryl Richardson: Whatever you say, I need to just keep saying that, and then the last thing I want to say is, "And, by the way, Neil, you'll probably forget that we had this conversation and I'll gently remind you when it happens again," because the truth is if you keep listening to friends that are chronically complaining, you've trained them to believe that that's okay. They have a neural network set up. You have a neural network set up. That's what regression is. It's neural programming, right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Cheryl Richardson: We tap into an old program and it starts running, and you're saying ... You're breaking up that neural network, that neural program, and that you're gonna remind them that you're doing that. So, then, what's really important is that I back up that boundary with action so that if a week from now you call me and you start complaining about your boss, I better say to you, "Hey, Neil, remember that conversation we had? Tell me what I can do to support you," because if you don't, you're also ... you're doing even more damage to the relationship because you're essentially saying to your friend you don't keep your word. Your word isn't to be paid attention to or trusted, so ...

Neil Sattin: Right, right, and I think that's helpful too, because so much of what creates alive relationships is having a container that feels safe. Now, within that safe container, that doesn't mean ...

Cheryl Richardson: That's right.

Neil Sattin: ... That there's not room to ask for adjustments like you were just talking about, but the container of safety, like you set it up by saying, "In an effort to honor our relationship, I need to be honest with you," so you're saying, "I honor you."

Cheryl Richardson: That's right.

Neil Sattin: On the flip side, you're also saying, "And you can trust me that I'm not gonna let this go."

Cheryl Richardson: Yeah. Well, and you can trust me that I'll tell you the truth. I think about some of my closest friends and they're my closest friends because I know that they'll be honest with me and I know that they care about the maintenance of our friendship, right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Cheryl Richardson: They don't want unspoken things between us, and the friendships that I've had that have ended, the very long, important friendships I've had that have ended have all ended because of what was unspoken and un-dealt with. I think it's also important when you talk about creating a safe container. I mean, all of my work, for years, has been about building healthy relationships, both in my own life, first and foremost, and then teaching it as a teacher. My husband Michael and I have been together almost 25 years and the year before we got married, we spent a year doing imago therapy. Harville Hendrix's Imago Therapy Together.

Cheryl Richardson: I introduced Michael to it. I told him that I was not gonna get into a committed relationship, especially a marriage, with somebody who wasn't wiling to do the work, and it was the smartest thing we ever did and it was all about creating a safe container, right? Learning to create a dialogue process. I don't know if you've done any podcasts around that work, Neil ...

Neil Sattin: Oh yeah, Harville and Helen have been on the show twice now.

Cheryl Richardson: Great. Okay, great. So, a lot of your audience are familiar. Harville is a dear and one of his colleagues was and is our therapist on call for imago therapy and we've used him off and on over the years when we've been in tough places, all because that dialogue process creates a safe container. You can use it with friends. You can use it in business situations. I've used it in coaching relationships with people, in coaching people through difficult situations, and it is all about safety, because we all get triggered. We're going to emotionally regress for the rest of our lives. I mean, that's just ...

Cheryl Richardson: Without a doubt, I can be the healthiest, most functioning adult ... You know, I saw this ... My dad died a year ago, November, and the night that he died, I'm one of seven children, and thank God for the work I do because ... I mean, I was having my own reaction to my father dying, but here I am in a hospital with my whole family and I'm just watching, bing, bing, bing, one emotional regression after another, knowing, "Breathe, do not pay attention to anything that's going on right now, because everybody is in a regressed state. Nobody is in a sane, wise, adult state. People are scared, they're grief stricken, they're traumatized. Just stay sane as best you can."

Cheryl Richardson: Of course, I had my husband with me who knew exactly what was going on and was such an example, and I think this is important to say in terms of relationships. He was such an example that night of how powerful one's presence can be without saying a word. He was this calm, grounded, loving presence for everybody. He and my brother-in-law, both of them, they were like anchors for everybody. Just being in the room. I would watch him go from one room to another room where there was emotional upset. He would step into a room and just sit and everybody would calm down. That's the power of getting a handle on emotional regression on our own reactions and growing ourselves back up.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. I'm having this thought of, like, "Well, I wonder if when I'm 80 I'll regress to when I'm in my 40s and everything will be fine."

Cheryl Richardson: It's an interesting thing to think about, isn't it? I mean, I certainly have had experiences at 58 of regressing into remembering my mid-30s or 40s, let's say, from a career perspective when things were just going gangbusters and I've had the experience of feeling overwhelmed like I did back then, but so much of regression goes all the way back to where it all started, right?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Cheryl Richardson: In the family of origin...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, or maybe even for some of us what we brought in to this life.

Cheryl Richardson: Without a doubt. I personally believe that. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Cheryl, I want to ensure, because this has been so powerful to talk about ways of creating healthy boundaries as a way of taking care of yourself, and I'm wondering, you don't have a lot of time left, but I want to ensure that we touch on some of the other things that are so important. At this moment I just want you listening to know that Cheryl's books are amazing. They lay everything out step by step so you're not gonna get overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to take care of yourself. There's a system there for you to follow, and I'm wondering, Cheryl, if you could give us just a taste of some of the things ...

Neil Sattin: Like, let's pull it back inward and how to really show up for us so that we're nurturing ourselves. That's where so much of your work is so powerful.

Cheryl Richardson: Well, in a lot of ways, my most recent book really demonstrates that. Waking Up In Winter. The subtitle is "In search of what really matters at mid-life," but it could've been subtitled, "In search of what really matters at a transition point in one's life." When it came time for me to write another book, I realized I really honestly felt like I had said all I needed to say about self-care and work-life balance and high quality living in all of my books, and what I really wanted was something I think a lot of us want, and that is to experience the healing power of story and example instead of teaching "how to" information and advice.

Cheryl Richardson: We have so much of it now, right? So, Waking Up in Winter is a memoir in journal form and I think journaling is one of the most powerful things we can do as an act of self-care, as an act of building a strong relationship with oneself, and I sort of demonstrate that through the book by taking a journal that was already written. It's not one that I wrote to be published. It was already written, and showing people what it means to grapple with issues of self-care, what it means to be too busy, what it means to enter a period of life where you feel like you're lingering in limbo, where you don't know what's next. You know what you don't want but you don't know what you do want, or you're waiting for the next stage of your life but you're kind of clueless about what it is.

Cheryl Richardson: How do you hold on during those times and how do you deal with the ending of friendships? I write about the ending of a very important friendship, and how do you deal with career transition and reevaluating? I mean, I think in a lot of ways I wanted people to know that they weren't alone in this process of trying to cultivate a deeper relationship with themselves. It sort of takes people on that journey by sharing what happened to me, and there's one part in the book that ...

Cheryl Richardson: I mention Louise Hay, who I had the good fortune to write a book with before this one. You know, Louise said to me one time when we were traveling together, she said, "Cheryl, you will be with you longer than anyone else on the planet. Why not make it a good relationship?" That just really struck me. I mean, think about that. You will be with you longer than your wife, your husband, your kids. I mean, you will be with you longer than anyone, and in the most intimate way. So, cultivating a relationship with our inner life through journaling or ...

Cheryl Richardson: When I say journaling, by the way, I'm not just talking about sitting down and writing. One whole year my journal consisted of every night I would make a list of 10 things that brought me pleasure that day. For the last two years on Instagram I make a list of five things I'm grateful for and invite my followers to do the same, and then I get to read about all these things people are grateful for. On Instagram I just want to say my username is Coach On Call. It's not Cheryl Richardson.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Cheryl Richardson: Also, I think photographs are a wonderful way, especially now with smartphones. Sometimes journaling is creating photo albums. Like every day I try to take at least one picture of something that's beautiful, and when I go back and I look in photo albums at the beautiful moments in my life, it teaches me something about myself and it reminds me of what really matters to me, so I think we have to expand our notion of what journaling is to be more about the activities we engage in every day that say to us, "You matter. I'm paying attention to you. I'm here for you. I'm present with you. You have my attention," because for most of us, the whole world has our attention on a regular basis. We don't have enough of our own attention.

Cheryl Richardson: In a lot of ways I took a big risk when I put this book out. I was convinced I wasn't gonna publish it til the day I hit send because it's very honest and it's about what happens when we decide to stop and pay close attention, to examine our life. You know, that's what I do. I live an examined life and then I write about what I discover. I mean, that's really ... You could sum up my career as a writer and a teacher pretty much, and that's what I really want for others, is to live an examined life. Give yourself the attention you deserve.

Neil Sattin: I think that's so important, whether it is figuring out how to achieve more of a work-life balance or getting rid of clutter and organizing your life and time so that it supports you and feels more spacious, or your health ... All the points that you talk about in more of your how-to books. I love that you're also there with us as an honest participant, just like I've talked on the show about things going on in my relationship with Chloe. We're not here to pretend like it's all perfect.

Cheryl Richardson: Yeah ...

Neil Sattin: We're here to remind you that it is about the process.

Cheryl Richardson: That's right, that's right. That's what it's all about. I mean, really, the soul is here to experience life, period. We're not here to accomplish or acquire or conquer. We're really here to be fully present for the experience of life and for the beautiful experience of our connection to one another because we are all connected.

Neil Sattin: I'm so pleased that we had this chance to share these moments together, Cheryl. If you're interested in finding out more about Cheryl's work, you can visit Her new book, Waking Up In Winter, is available, as well as all of her other books and audio programs through Audible, Sounds True. You can find it all on Amazon and through Cheryl's website, her Instagram, et cetera. We'll have links to all of that in the resources section of the show notes and transcript for this episode. Meanwhile, Cheryl, is there anything else that people should know about how they could work with you or get in touch with you?

Cheryl Richardson: No, I don't maintain a coaching practice anymore, so the best thing to do to learn about the events that I'm doing or the retreats ... I do host two retreats a year. They're just intimate gatherings of 50 people and they're very organic, and coaching ... That's where you could get coaching from me. The best place is to subscribe to the newsletter at because I put a blog out every Sunday night and I always include what I'm up to in there as well.

Neil Sattin: Great. Well, thank you so much and it's such a pleasure to meet you and spend some time with you today.

Cheryl Richardson: Thank you, Neil, and thank you for the good work that you're contributing to the world. You have such high quality people on your podcast, people who are really steeped in a lot of experience and knowledge, and I really appreciate that you're putting this out into the world. It's so important right now.

Neil Sattin: Thank you so much for saying so. It's definitely work that's so important to me, so it's helpful to have that feedback from you.

Cheryl Richardson: Great. Thanks, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Sure thing.

Cheryl Richardson: Bye.


May 29, 2018

What do you do if you want to have sex more than your partner? Or if your partner wants to have sex more than you do? Differences in sexual desire can create so many problems in a relationship, and in today's episode we tackle this topic head-on. There's something here for you no matter which side of the equation you're on. Here's a hint: typically, when differences in sex drive become "the issue" - there's actually something else going on. Or even several "something elses". I'm going to help you figure out what they are in your relationship, and find your way to a balance around sex that feels great to both you and your partner. Along the way, you'll figure out if it's really about a difference in libido - or if there's something standing in the way of your having the kind of sexual connection with your partner that you desire.

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!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by FabFitFun offers a seasonal gift box with full-size, ahead-of-the-trend, fitness, beauty, lifestyle, and fashion products.

Each box retails for $49.99, but contains more than $200 worth of goodies! You can customize your box, or just be completely surprised by what comes. As a special for Relationship Alive listeners, FabFitFun is offering $10 off your first box if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" with your order. It's a great gift for yourself - or for that special someone in your life.



Top 3 Secrets of Great Communication in Relationship (FREE)

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

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

May 19, 2018

What power do you have to change your relationship for the better by working on yourself? If things aren’t going so well, how do you know if you’ve done “all you can do” - or if there’s still hope? As you know, relationships require a balance of learning the skills of relating to others AND doing your own work to bring yourself more fully to your connection. On today’s episode, you’re going to learn how to find that balance, along with some ways to take both your inner growth and your outer skills to the next level. Our guest is Dr. Alexandra Solomon, author of Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want. Along with her “Marriage and Intimacy 101” course at Northwestern University, Alexandra Solomon has taken relationship education to a new level - with practical ways to help you uplevel your abilities in relationship. The tools that we present in today’s episode will ensure that you’re on the right track as you move forward on your relationship journey.

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!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by FabFitFun offers a seasonal gift box with full-size, ahead-of-the-trend, fitness, beauty, lifestyle, and fashion products.

Each box retails for $49.99, but contains more than $200 worth of goodies! You can customize your box, or just be completely surprised by what comes. As a special for Relationship Alive listeners, FabFitFun is offering $10 off your first box if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" with your order. It's a great gift for yourself - or for that special someone in your life.


Check out Alexandra Solomon's website

Read Alexandra Solomon’s 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. I always start the show with a question. There's a question that's been coming up a lot recently in terms of the kind of feedback that I've been getting from you, both through email and through the Relationship Alive community on facebook, and that is how do I know the balance between what I can actually do in a relationship, and when it's just not going to happen with the person that I'm with? How do I know whether I've really done all that I can do relationally? How do I know that I've truly brought my best to relationship so that if things really aren't working out, then I can safely say it wasn't me, or at least to the best of my ability?

Neil Sattin: I think this is a great question to ask if you're in a troubled relationship. At the same time, if you're in a great relationship, there's always this question too of how do I bring my best to what we're doing? How do we be in a state of growth, and discovery, and curiosity? Also, how do we deal with the things that maybe come up for us over and over again? Is that a sign that there's something wrong or should I be fixing that?

Neil Sattin: It's a great process of inquiry to be in. So to cover the breadth of these questions, I wanted to have on the show a special guest who just came out with a book this past year called Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self Discovery to Help You Get The Love You Want. Her name is Dr. Alexandra Solomon, and she's a professor at Northwestern University who has gained a certain amount of notoriety for teaching a marriage and intimacy 101 class, which is something that we've talked about a lot here on the show that, that special "relationship education" that we often don't get in the haphazard way that we learn about relationship in our culture or in our families.

Neil Sattin: So Alexandra Solomon is here with us today to discuss her book, Loving Bravely, and to get at the heart of how we can take this journey, the journey that really begins within us, but that interfaces with our partners, our family, our friends to make sure that we are bringing our best to relationship.

Neil Sattin: We will have a detailed show guide and transcript for this episode. If you want to download that, you can visit, as in Loving Bravely, or you can text the word Passion to the number of 33444. Follow the instructions, and I will send you a link to this show's transcript and guide as well as all of our other show guides and transcripts.

Neil Sattin: So I think that's it. Let's get started. Alexandra Solomon, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive.

Alexandra Solomon: Thank you for having me on. I'm happy to be here.

Neil Sattin: Let's start with, I'm curious about this course that you teach. How did that even come up for you? The idea of teaching this class in college about how to do relationship well.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. This course has certainly been just a huge meaningful experience in my life year after year. So the course, when we teach the course this Spring, it will be our 18th time teaching it. So the first years that it was taught, I was a graduate student studying at Northwestern University. Two of my mentors, Bill Pinsof and Art Nielsen were long time couples therapists who sat hour after hour, week after week in their offices with couple after couple watching these dances of despair, of disconnection, of suffering, and started to ask the question like, what if. What if we started to really value talking to people about love early in their lives before they've partnered, and before they've gotten tossed around in the sea of love, and could it make a difference?

Alexandra Solomon: This was happening as the field of relationship science was really starting to take off and be able to stand on its own two legs as a legitimate field of study.

Alexandra Solomon: So I think for years we thought of love as this, I don't know, woo-woo thing, and so to teach love was seen like, "What are you talking about?" But the science is certainly clear. The quality of our relationships, especially our romantic relationships is a really big piece of the pie in terms of the overall quality of our lives.

Alexandra Solomon: So that was a place from which the course was born, was a desire to touch people, touch young people's lives and journeys early on when they're sexually mature, but exploring. My gosh, when I think about college, I spent hour after hour on the floor of the dorm talking about love and sex with my friends. So this class just, I think it really meets, meets young adults where they are.

Neil Sattin: Does that mean that if you're someone like me who's in his 40s, that I'm not impressionable enough anymore, and these lessons won't apply?

Alexandra Solomon: Not by a long shot. Not by a long shot. That's been, if there's been one thing I've heard over the years during this course has received, as you might expect a great amount of media attention. It's been featured on five continents, and just there's a lot of curiosity about what the heck are you doing talking to college students about how to do love?

Alexandra Solomon: So the one thing I've heard over and over again, is like, "Dang, I wish I had that when I was in college." I think that there's a real longing for why aren't we talking about this? Like, why didn't somebody talk to me about some ... setting down some basic principles, some basic foundation. So it's never too late though. Never ever too late.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Well I was being a little facetious because I do have a whole podcast about this thing.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. It's only the entirety of your life. That's right. Yes, we love the lifelong learning, right?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, exactly. I love how your book encourages, it encourages a process that allows people to get into that learning mindset, and to always be curious. I think that is one of the big challenges because when we struggle with our partners and find ... you have that moment where you get triggered and your prefrontal cortex turns off, remembering that you can find your way back to curiosity even in a moment like that is a real challenge for people.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, I mean that's the practice, isn't it? Like holding onto that framework that whatever is happening right now in this space between my partner and I, has got the power to really show me more about me, reveal me to me, offer me tremendous healing. That's a hard place to hold. I don't know if any of us hold it 24/7, but at least we can commit ourselves to trying to remember, to making our forgetfulness as short as possible, and coming back to that center of, "Okay, what's going on in me right now?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One of the themes that you come back to over and over again in Loving Bravely is this process of, I think you call it name, connect and choose. So perhaps we could dive into what that means right now. If you're listening and you're hearing me say name, connect, choose, you'll have a sense of what we're talking about because I think it pulls you from these moments of being dislocated from yourself and your curiosity and the kinds of things that help you find solutions or that even help you thrive and grow. It brings you back really, really well and succinctly.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. I think that, that was a helpful tool for me and my writing of the book. It's the name, connect, choose process is just the ... it's just a process of awareness. It's a way of thinking about what bringing awareness looks like. So sometimes it happens at the really macro level, like the really big picture level where the naming is I name my father's alcoholism, I named that. For many of us, we know our healing journey begins by just calling a thing what it is, looking a thing dead in the eyes and calling it what it is. Sometimes the naming is a big picture name, like I name that I am a survivor of abuse. I name that my father struggled with alcoholism.

Alexandra Solomon: Then the connect is just noticing the feelings that are attached to that truth. And, rather than judging the feelings or thinking about what you think the feeling should be, just bearing witness to the feelings. That, the connect is really a permission to just feel what you feel, because it's through that process of naming something, allowing ourselves to feel what we feel that creates enough consciousness, enough awareness that then multiple paths open forward that allow us to choose something different.

Alexandra Solomon: Sometimes like when we're talking about like a big picture thing, we may choose then to not partner with somebody who is in the throes of their addiction the way that we have before. When we're unconscious, when we haven't named the impact of a parent's addiction, for example, we will bring to us, in an unconscious way, we'll bring to us somebody with a similar wound, because that little child in us want so desperately to fix, to redo, to master something that in childhood was unfixable, out of our control.

Alexandra Solomon: Through the process of calling the chapters of our life story what they are, and letting ourselves feel what we feel, we bring ourselves to a place of greater awareness and ability to say, "I see that, that person is suffering. I see it, I feel the pull, but I'm not going to go towards it. I don't need to. I don't need to fix the world. I can come back to my center." That's that big picture naming of bringing our awareness to our life story.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you mentioned that process of even listing out the chapters. That was one aspect in your book that you revisit over and over again that I really appreciated as a way of helping you both see the themes, and the patterns that happen in your life and in your choices, as well as to get a certain degree of objectivity with those things.

Neil Sattin: So, maybe you could describe what we're even talking about in terms of the chapters of your life and what that ... how someone listening might go through that process for themselves in a particular area of their lives.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. So one thing to say here is that the book itself is written in chapters, obviously, as all books are. Each chapter of the book closes with some exercises. My intention there is to offer the reader ... Each of the chapters of the book is like another, just place of awareness. Then the exercises in each chapter are designed to flesh that out. How does it apply to you?

Alexandra Solomon: You're right, a lot of the work of the book is inviting people to work on their life story. This is from, there's a whole branch in the field of psychology that's about the power of story, the power of narrative, and that when we tell our stories, that's healing, right then and there, that's healing, just the telling of our story. So in the book, there are a number of invitations for the reader to kind of work on their story. It's through the process of working on who was I, and who am I? But then we start to really get empowered around, "Okay, so now who do I want to be going forward? What do I want to break, shed, transform? Then what do I want to carry through?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and being able to, like I was imagining because I, unfortunately, I was reading so much that I didn't get a chance to do all of your exercises. But that being said, it was exciting, the idea of imagining, okay, at this part of the story, this is when the unwitting hero stumbles across his first love, or makes the decision that he will regret for the rest of ... that thing.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so there's some quality of that, that I think can be really helpful for you to be willing to look at your life that way. If I'm the hero of this story or the heroine of this story, what did I do in this chapter? What's like the one sentence summary, and how does that chapter live in me unconsciously that I'm naming right now. Well, what could happen in the next chapter? Because that's the beauty of story, right? Is that as long as there's another book in the series, you don't really know what's going to happen. It's not a set destiny no matter what you thought in chapters one, two, and three.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right, and I think that when we are thinking about when we're working on a chapter in our story that maybe is what we would consider a dark night of the soul or a really difficult chapter that maybe has to do with a toxic romantic relationship, so we're writing that story. The risk is that what we take away from that relationship is just a lot of heavy cynicism, wound, hurt, a closed off heartedness, right? Because it hurt, because we feel like love is dangerous. We've been hurt. So I think there's something when we're especially working on one of those chapters, the process of telling the story can open up, even if it's just for a moment, it can open up a little light of awareness about the "and", about it was awful...and....

Alexandra Solomon: Then in the and, within the and, is that posttraumatic growth that's always there that we don't get to unless we really stand on the truth of it, allow ourselves to feel what we feel. Through that process, very often there can be this "and", that's about, "and that relationship taught me about what it really means to hold onto my worth, and what it really means to honor the red flags when I see them, and what it really means to speak my truth, even if I'm afraid..."

Alexandra Solomon: But we don't get to those. We don't get to those little pieces that are about our own resilience, and our own ability to get back up unless we're willing to just tell the story. Tell the story, to be like, "This is what happened, here's what I saw, here's what I felt, here's what I did, here's what I tolerated and here's what I want going forward."

Alexandra Solomon: So that's, I think that's why crafting our stories, telling our stories, even the chapters that were hurtful, that we survived. When we do that, we are really reclaiming our healing. We're really reclaiming our resilience through that process. I don't think there's any other way to get to the resilience, to the courage to love again. We don't get to that by just putting the chapter in a box, and burying the box in the bottom of the ocean, or doing this thing where we just say it was where we just don't talk about it. We can't get there unless we kind of go through and story it and start to make some sense of it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It's funny because I agree with you completely, and still I know these people in my life who that's what they do, like end of chapter, box goes under the bed or in the closet or burned in the bonfire, and that's it. Like, next. No real self reflection.

Neil Sattin: There is a part of me at times, especially when things get complicated where I'm like, "Wow, that must be a much easier way to live on some level." I'm wondering if you have any reflections on that. Do you ever, as you were writing the book, because what I loved about Loving Bravely, apart from it just being a really well organized book, when you read this book, you'll see that it does a great job, which probably won't surprise you for someone who teaches relationship 101. It walks you through a process that will get you somewhere, and with a whole lot more self understanding. So I really appreciated that.

Neil Sattin: At the same time, I was reading it and I was like, "This is great. I can relate to so many of these things, and it's true." We do, we have to ride the waves of our relationship, and there's so much growth, and it can be so hard. Then I was like, "But is there a magical universe somewhere where people would, someone would pick up a book like this and be like, it's not that hard. It's really easy." Or be just like, "What is she even talking about? You just let go of that person and you move on, or whatever it is." What do you think? Does that mythical universe exist?

Alexandra Solomon: I don't know. It sounds lovely. I might go visit that place, hang out for a while.

Neil Sattin: Bring Todd.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. That's right. Well, that is, I mean, I'm sure you had these moments as well where it's like, I think part of what I do, whether it's in my classroom when I'm teaching undergraduate students, or my classroom when I'm training couples therapists, or in my couple's therapy office when I'm working with couples, I mean my life's work is to make stuff complicated, right? To hold onto 50 Shades of Gray, to be willing to go to the level of nuance to turn something eight different ways so we can look at it.

Alexandra Solomon: So that's my jam. That's what I love to do. But I'm sure that way of living would drive a lot of people really crazy. It'd be a really unpleasant way to live the way there's just a simplicity that comes from not looking at the nuance of it.

Neil Sattin: This brings me, and it gives me an idea for a question.

Alexandra Solomon: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Which is, I'm sure you see this all the time. I see this with my clients and people who write in. There's so often someone who's very self reflective, for some reason, finds themself in relationship with someone who's like, "No, I don't really want to talk about that." Or, "Why are we making things so complicated?" Or any variation of that.

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering because you are probably not hearing from that person, you're hearing from the growth oriented taking things apart person who really wants to affect change. What do you offer someone in that kind of situation around the dialectics of their partner being different than them, versus inviting them into the reflection versus maybe this person isn't right for you?

Alexandra Solomon: Yes. I think that is such a great question because you're right. The person that I talked to is the growth oriented person who asked me a question like, "How do I get my husband ..." because usually, to be stereotypical, it is a straight woman whose asking about her male partner, "How do I get him to be more self reflective, or how do I get him to ..."

Alexandra Solomon: That to me is a red flag kind of question. Whenever we're talking about how to get somebody else to do something, we have exited our own business and we've put ourselves in somebody else's business, you know? But I do think that when there's a partner who has more interest in introspection, self awareness paired with somebody who has less interest, there is a way to invite, I think that the frame needs to be an invitation to collaboration, like an invitation to standing shoulder to shoulder and looking at a dynamic together. I think sometimes the person who has more years of therapy under their belt, who's read more self help books, there's a way that knowledge can start to get used as the weapon in the relationship in a way that, because I think it's like what I have done this to my husband at times, "Well, I'm the couple's therapist. Therefore ..."

Neil Sattin: Right. The number of times that I've sat with my wife Chloe and been like, "Well, Dan Siegel says that ..."

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. I know. Except for when it comes to Dan Siegel, because when you're saying what Dan Siegel said, you really are saying the right thing. He's just fantastic. But yes, I think that is. Those kinds of things can be used as a defense against the vulnerability of, "I'm hurt, I'm scared and lonely. I'm confused." When we start using our knowledge, or our experience, or our successful podcasts, or our successful ... our book, and we can start to use that knowledge defensively because it's maybe easier than saying, "I'm just really lonely for you, or I'm really scared about us right now, or I really don't understand your perspective. Can you tell me more about how you're seeing this?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Alexandra Solomon: We had a, there was a moment, maybe a year or so ago that our daughter was kind of needing to talk through a dynamic that happened at school. This one said to this one something or other, and just one of those messy friendship dynamics. She's kind of unpacking it with me, and I'm working on like a diagram, and frameworks and we're unpacking it. Todd walks by, and my husband Todd walked by and he goes, "I don't know, I think you should just tell her that snitches end up in ditches." I was like, "Beautiful. That's beautiful." because that may very well be as good an answer as this diagram that I'm working on craft here. Maybe there's a simple way forward.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So in the spirit of being able to hold both things and to see the possibility for connection even when you're with someone who you suspect may not be as "growth oriented" as you are, and yet where there could be this real opportunity to collaborate. Well, let's dive into that. You talk about the dialectical approach, the holding two opposites or seeming opposites together, and being able to be okay there. How does that process work, and where do you see that?

Alexandra Solomon: Well, I think this example we're working on about two people who have different approaches to life, like an introspective versus a just take it as a comes approach, that's a great ... That couple is a dialectic right there. How do you hold the both-and where sometimes reflection and introspection does yield greater wisdom and awareness, and sometimes there's a simplicity, "I love you. I'm here. Let's go forward."

Alexandra Solomon: I know that there are times when my husband will ... I will want to unpack something and look at it multiple ways, and he'll just say, "Al, I love you and it's going to be okay." And, that is the thing that is ... there are times when that feels actually really validating, right? This simplicity of, "I love you. I love you, and we're going to get through it. It's hard, and we're going to get through it. I'm here, and we're together." That there's a simplicity that comes from that.

Alexandra Solomon: So the both-and is like how do you hold onto a sense of like we're in this together, and that's maybe enough for now, and a need to kind of unpack and understand. But those both-ands come up everywhere. I think that's, they happen within us. How can I be both a career ... dedicated to my career and dedicated to my family. How can I be both strong and vulnerable? The dialectic idea is about how do we hold on to just complexity, both things at once. I think that happens at the level of the self, and at the level of the relationship.

Alexandra Solomon: When we start to go into this either-or, either I'm right or you're right, that's, to me, that's a red flag. Whenever the conversation is going towards trying to figure out which one of us is right and which one of us is wrong, that's a red flag that we've gotten ourselves off track.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So that would represent a black and white thinking, kind of cognitive distortion almost. Yeah.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Right. It can come up in like how can I love you so much and feel so angry at you right now? Or how can I trust you and handle the fact that I don't feel safe right now? Yeah. It comes up all over the place, doesn't it?

Alexandra Solomon: It really does. It's, I'm thinking about when I'm working with a couple where they really, they're coming to therapy and there's a real question about whether or not the relationship will continue. They're, "How can we do both? How can we have serious doubts and do the work of couple's therapy?" That's a hard thing to hold, how to hold on to both the awareness this may not continue, and be dedicated to doing the work, and the one that you're talking about, I think is so common, right? I think when we feel angry, when we feel ... Well, or when somebody is angry at us, when my partner is mad at me, how can I remember that somebody can be mad at me and love me? That's a challenging knot, that sometimes the anger feels ... it's hard to stay present when somebody else is angry with us or disappointed in us.

Neil Sattin: Right? That goes right back to childhood wounds usually around our experience of our parent's anger or disappointment in us.

Alexandra Solomon: I think it's really important for parents to find ways of saying, "I am angry right now. I am upset right now, and I love you and I'm doing my work to move through this. I's my job as a parent to move through this and to reconnect." Right? So we don't leave our kids in that place of toxic shame. But that lingers, right? That lingers, and then the kid becomes an adult who really becomes fearful of conflict.

Neil Sattin: Right? Right. We don't know anyone like that. Another dialectic. I like how you brought that up actually with couples who are on the edge of uncertainty around their status. But I think that that is something that more and more, especially in modern times, people are holding this, "I'm committed to you, and you know what? I could divorce you, I don't have to live with this bullshit." That kind of thing.

Neil Sattin: There's a challenge there because that particular tension can really challenge the safety that you feel in relationship, and the safety that's required to do some of that vulnerable work. Yeah, how do you help someone who's in that, who's deep in that struggle of like, "I really want this, and I don't want to feel like I'm trapped here."

Alexandra Solomon: I know. I think this is the hardest, I think this is the hardest thing. I think this is really, really hard because we are ... To act as if divorce isn't an option is to live in La La land, right? That is, even when divorce was, I think maybe 50 years ago, it was easier to not act as if that was in the realm of the possible because there was so much more shame and stigma around it than there is today. So what does ... that in and, there's no getting around the fact that in order to ... that will, that intimacy really does require a safe container. A container where I'm saying, "I am committed to showing up for you today, and I'm committed to showing up for you tomorrow. I'm here to do this with you."

Alexandra Solomon: I like to think about commitment as having like two faces. The face of commitment that's about, I'm here because it's hard to leave. I got a lot of stuff here and we've got joint accounts. That is a part of commitment, right? Part of the essence of marriage is creating a guard rail, and making it hard for people to leave. That's one part of commitment.

Alexandra Solomon: But there's the other part of commitment which is I'm here because I want to be here, because I value us, because I believe in us. That's always a really important piece of the work with couples who are ... Well, for any couple is really having that value statement, that what are ... that mission statement that, what are we about, what do we believe in, what do we value? That's how you create that container that makes staying here feel like a playground rather than like a prison, right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Alexandra Solomon: That I'm here because this is where all of me shows up, including the part of me that has pride in what it means to show up, to surrender to a process with a person. There's a pride that comes from experiencing yourself as somebody who gave their word and stands by their word. So I think couples need, individuals, and couples need lots of pathways towards capturing and embracing that second face of commitment, which is, "I'm here because I believe in us. I believe in this. I believe in what we're doing."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's something that emerged for me in what you just said, which was the reminder of being committed to the process. So within that, I feel like there's a lot of room for a couple to come to agreement that no matter what, we're committed to this process together, we're committed to being kind to each other.

Neil Sattin: Having that as also something that you hold to, particularly when you know, if you are in a couple in jeopardy, let's say. But at least being willing to say, "Yeah, neither one of us is going to just jump ship, but I'm not going to surprise you. We're going to be in this together, even if the in it means ultimately deciding we're not in it together."

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. One of my teachers along the way would say you can always end a marriage. You can't always save a marriage. So what it means to save a marriage, to work to heal a marriage or a longterm relationship, or a relationship, there's a pride and a sacredness to committing to that process.

Alexandra Solomon: I think here again, I think sometimes we use the fact that we can leave, we can use that as a defense against the vulnerability of really turning towards the relationship, and certainly to I think what creates a healthy relational environment is a commitment to never using the threat of leaving as a reflection. I think when we're, that's why it's so important to manage when we're triggered because when we're triggered, if we're triggered, and we keep talking, and we keep fighting, and the volume is going up, and the volume is going up, we really put ourselves in jeopardy of saying that thing of putting divorce on the table, of putting break up on the table, of threatening to leave.

Alexandra Solomon: That is all that can be, that is in that moment a reflection of that triggered volume-up kind of behavior that just doesn't create a healthy relationship climate. Like you're saying, if a marriage ends, it needs to end, or a relationship ends, it needs to end in, and from a really sober place of thoughtfulness, of consideration, of consciousness.

Alexandra Solomon: People need to be aware that, I mean, that's the thing we've learned. This is what the whole field of interpersonal neurobiology has taught us, is that when we're triggered, we're not our, and we're nowhere near our best self or our bravest self. That triggered language, triggered meaning we're kind of not in our ... we're not in our mind, right? We're out of our mind. Our blood pressure's up, our pulse is racing, our brain, our intellect is down. So we are at risk of saying stuff that we can't take back. Stuff that really hurts.

Alexandra Solomon: So part of that mission statement as a couple, I think is making commitments around what do we do when we get triggered, and how do we commit as a couple to taking time out for the sake of our relationship because we love our relationship too much, and we honor the fragility of the relationship. We know that relationships are breakable, they can be damaged. Therefore, we really value that when we're triggered, we just stop talking and we go back, we do a time out until we can speak from a place of love instead of reactivity. But that's a practice, and that takes commitment to practice to live that way, you know?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. In your book, you bring up several things that we've talked about on the show. Things like creating a code word that you use with your partner so that you can even avoid using the word triggered, which can sometimes be even more triggering. That was one thing, or focusing on just things in your immediate environment to help you get present, to not hopefully not being in an actually threatening situation, which is what that fight or flight is, is responding to. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: You offer lots of great hints in living bravely around how to navigate that kind of agreement with your partner, which I really appreciated. It's been a theme that we talk about a lot here on the show. What were you going to say?

Alexandra Solomon: Well, I was going to say because it's really, I think it's I'm glad that you're talking about it a lot on the show because I think it's just, it's so important and it's so difficult to do. When that overwhelmed state takes over, we can start to tell ourselves, "Well, it's just my feelings. I'm entitled to talk about my feelings." There's this whole kind of story that gets wrapped around, like when I'm upset, I'm allowed to say whatever I want.

Alexandra Solomon: An important aspect of self awareness is being willing to question that belief. There's, of course you are entitled and authorized to talk to your partner about what's on your mind, about what's troubling you, about the how, the how matters.

Neil Sattin: Right? There's a lot circulating in the popular culture right now around radical honesty and telling it like it is. That can feel really good, particularly if you're angry briefly, and then you have to live with the consequences of how you delivered that radical truth. I think you're definitely right that your ability to get back to the part of your brain, that goes offline when you're triggered, your prefrontal cortex to get back to that part of your brain before you express your radical truth, so that you can do it lovingly, and relationally, and creatively, and compassionately, you're going to be way better off.

Alexandra Solomon: Great. Yep. That's right. I think you're wise to connect it to this bigger cultural climate that we are in right now. I'm not a fan of radical truth. When I have a couple in my office, and one of them says, "You're not going to want to hear this, but I got to say it." I put my hand up and I said, "Well, let's just, let's pause. One hand on your heart, one hand on your belly. Let's do some breathing." Because if the frame is, you're not going to want to hear this, but I got to say it, maybe this is a great place to do some mindfulness and some preparation and kind of consider how can it be sad in a way that really is the voice of the voice of love, right? Said in a way that when you can advocate for yourself while also holding onto your partner.

Neil Sattin: Yes. You bring up a couple times this question of what would love say or do in this situation. That's a great place to orient from. If you hear yourself saying, "I don't want to, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but ..."

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. Go with that. Go to your journal, work it out. If that's the frame, that's a big red flag.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And, talk about the importance of the pause here because I love how you do that in a session, and I can relate. There are times when I definitely have to be like, "All right, stop everything." What's so important about the pause?

Alexandra Solomon: It goes back to the fact that we are ... we act as if we're these highly evolved creatures when we're walking around with these brains that for the vast majority of our existence have, and sometimes in our lives really do still need to be fight or flight. But so we are wired for fight flight so powerfully, but we live in a world, and we create these romantic relationships where we really do value, care, consideration, compassion, closeness, intimacy. Intimacy is really a tender thing, right? To really, if what we say we value is letting ourselves be seen in all of our complexity, if that's what we value in our relationships, then we need to be willing to do what it takes to create the conditions where we can safely show each other to each other, and share stories of our heart, and talk about our insecurity.

Alexandra Solomon: So that's what we want. We have to align our behaviors towards that. That means being willing to pause, and consider, okay, so having a concern, or a complaint, or a criticism is of course understandable and to be expected in a romantic relationship. Of course that's going to happen. But how do I say it in a way that really invites intimacy where this moment of difference, this moment of misunderstanding, this moment of disappointment can help us better understand who we each are individually, and what we're about as a couple.

Alexandra Solomon: That really comes from pausing. Dan Siegel has that really lovely way of talking about the yes space versus the no space. Getting to know what that feels, I think that's where it starts. Very often in my office I'm just helping people get a sense of what does it feel like to be in a yes space. The yes space is curious, collaborative, empathic. The no space is defensive, reactive, like that gotcha energy.

Alexandra Solomon: The first step is figuring out what that feels like in your body to be in a yes space versus a no space. In order to get to that, we've got to pause, and just take that moment of reactivity, and breathe, and watch it, and notice it, and start to question what are the stories that are getting going in me right now?

Alexandra Solomon: Very often, the stories are pretty negative and critical of our partners. They deserve to be unpacked around, okay, the story I'm telling myself is that you must not care very much about me. If that's what your behavior says to me, you don't care much about me. Even just that is a kind of pause, saying the story I'm telling myself is you don't care very much about me. That's a kind of pause because then we're inviting our partner to say, "Okay, I hear that's the story you're telling yourself that you don't feel very cared for right now. I'm sorry that you feel that way. Let me know when you're ready to hear a little more about what was going on, on my side of the street, in my part of the world." That's how that back and forth opens up.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. When you said we think of ourselves as these evolved beings, I think it's worth pointing out that when you were in fight flight, when you are about to say that thing that you know you shouldn't say, but you're actually in the least evolved part of your brain. That's your primitive brain. So you're not acting like an evolved being in that moment. Maybe that can be a reminder to you like, "Let me get back to the place where that ... where I can really leverage evolution here for myself."

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, it happens quickly. I'll be in a session with a couple, and one partner will raise their eyebrow, and then the other partner is like, "Okay, here we go." I'm like, "Wait, whoa. What happened?" It can turn on a dime. We get to know each other really well, we have these tells. My couple knows each other's tells much more than I know their tells. I'm getting to know the terrain of this relationship that they've been in for a long time.

Alexandra Solomon: So she lifts her eyebrow up, and her partner is like, "Okay, well, here we go." = "Wait, slow down, what's happening?" because that's that reactive part of our brains that is so ready to either fight or get the heck out of there.

Alexandra Solomon: That's a learning. To learn that the fight or flight response is our lower brain response, and that our relationships deserve something a little more careful, a little more nuanced than just fight or flight. That's work. They're like, "Okay, I'm watching your eyebrow go up. I'm starting to tell myself a story of you're dismissing me. You don't believe me?" Just to breathe through that stay in that space of curiosity instead of attack or get the heck out of there.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And, what's interesting to me, I'm just imagining this hypothetical situation with the eyebrow. I imagine that it's even possible that if the other partner were able to say, "I see you, I see your eyebrows being raised." and to actually name a few other things that they see, that even that in and of itself could totally shift what's being felt in that moment from what was about to happen to like, "Actually, we're both here in this space together, and we're both being people, and we're actually safe with each other." Just the act of mentioning those things presences both partners I think.

Alexandra Solomon: I agree, because then the partner with the eyebrow can say, "Thank you for letting me know. Okay. Let me just take a couple deep breaths here because I really do. I love us. I believe in us. I want to fight for us, so let me just regulate myself for a moment so that I can really take in what you need to say."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I don't know about you, Alexandra, but for me, when my partner names something that is a sign that I am going down some road that's very familiar to me. I have my own little recognition of, "Oh my God, I am. I'm about to do that thing that I always do." If she catches me just right, that's enough to let me see myself with a certain degree of humor and humility in those moments.

Alexandra Solomon: Yes. Isn't that beautiful? Yes. My husband will. I remember a time not long ago, he was like, "Whoa, you just want like zero to 60 in a millisecond. That was really intense to watch." And, he said it in this kind of half sarcastic but observing way. But it was I was able to hear the love in the message and the invitation to slow down in the message. In that moment I could take myself lightly enough to be like, "Okay. Yep. Okay. You're holding up a mirror. I see it. Let me try again."

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. That's the whole Gottman's 5:1 ratio of positive ... that we need five positive to counteract every one negative, and that when we have that kind of atmosphere in our relationship, our partner can say to us like, "Whoa, you're super zero to 60 right now." And, we can take it for what it is, which is a bid to be like, "Let's go. Let's be careful here. Let's slow down, let's be mindful and take it with that sense of trust that we're both fighting for the same thing right now, which is our relationship."

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There are two things that I want to make sure that we mention before we go today. Actually before we even do that, before we started, you mentioned that there's a new series that you're going to be doing online, like a book club around Loving Bravely. What is that you're going to be doing?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah, we are. In January, we're going to launch a Loving Bravely book club. It's going to be online. We're going to do it through Facebook. So we've created a facebook group. So to sign up, you go to my website, and there's signup information. It's going to be free. We're gonna just move through one lesson of the book each month. So there's 20 lessons of the book, so we're going to do just a deep dive on each of the lessons.

Alexandra Solomon: It will be a blend of using Facebook live format plus Q&A in the Facebook group. Some dialogue back and forth there. Participants will have access to ... will do some homework and some challenges. I'm excited. It's a new venue for me. But a way of, I think of taking this work which is simple and infinitely complex at the very same time, and working on it in community, which I think is the best way to do it, frankly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. To be able to support each other for sure. So we will make sure that we have a link to that in the show notes for this episode as well, so that whenever you're listening to us, you can find Alexandra Solomon and jump in wherever they happen to be in the book.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. Yeah. They won't be a tight ... there's not going to be like if you don't get in, in lesson one, you're out, it will be an unfolding process.

Neil Sattin: Great. So the two things, one is on the shorter side and one might be a little less short, but hopefully not too long. So the first one is, I love how many helpful ways you offer in your book to be an invitation. Something that we started talking about at the very beginning of this conversation. I'm wondering if you could talk for a moment about constraints questions, because that's something I hadn't, at least a terminology that I hadn't come across before. I found that to be a really generative approach to how you might flip something around to actually be useful. So can you talk about that concept of a constraints question and how you would use that practically?

Alexandra Solomon: Yes. In fact, I love that you brought it up because just this morning I was thinking about the idea of a constraint question and just having a real moment of like, "Man, that's a brilliant idea." It's just, it's an old school family therapy concept that is simple and I think it packs a really powerful punch.

Alexandra Solomon: So let's say, I mean this is kind of a tricky one. Let's say our partner lies to us. There's two ways of bringing it up. One way is, "Why did you lie to me?" Then the other way is to ask a constraint question. The constraint question is, "What kept you from being truthful with me?" So the difference between why did you lie to me and what kept you from being truthful with me is a really big difference, right?

Alexandra Solomon: The why did you lie to me is an invitation to defensiveness. It's an accusation. It invites defensiveness, it predetermines the outcome, which is, I'm the victim. You're the perpetrator. It makes a good-bad split versus, what kept you from being truthful is a curious invitation towards let's work together to understand what the heck is going on in our relationship that truth is being constrained.

Alexandra Solomon: The truth that something doesn't feel safe enough or something is unhealed in you like, "What's going on? Let's look at this." It's an invitation to that shoulder to shoulder stance to look together at what the heck is going on.

Neil Sattin: So what's the trick for looking at a situation and finding the constraint? The constraint being though what's keeping you from something?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. Well, I think just that language. What's keeping you from, is the way to ask it. So you were late. What's keeping you from being on time? We agreed to 3:30, what's keeping, what kept you? What kept you from showing up at 3:30?

Neil Sattin: Right. You're setting unrealistic expectations for me. Yeah.

Alexandra Solomon: And, it may as well, okay, so now we're off to the races. Let's have a conversation about expectations. How do expectations tie to values? What do we value in this relationship? In what way are you and I different? You grew up in a family where 10 minutes late equaled on time. I grew up in a family where 10 minutes early equaled late. That's so fascinating. Let's unpack that. What does that mean to us going forward?

Alexandra Solomon: Now we're in it. Now we're unpacking and looking at it versus you were late, you were bad, you are wrong, you are disrespectful. That's a stance that closes off intimacy. It closes off any kind of curious conversation about how do we define? You know what? How do we define this? How do we operationalize it? What does it mean to us? Is there a difference between us and the value of this thing? Those are much more interesting conversations.

Alexandra Solomon: The idea, I guess the key to the constrained question - it involves a flip and an asking about what keeps us from a path that feels more healthy, more whole, more inviting, more collaborative.

Neil Sattin: Right? And, as you reach for a constraint question instead, you may bump up against that place in you that wants to be the victim because the constraint question, what I notice immediately is it invites you into a conversation where you have shared responsibility for whatever's happening.

Alexandra Solomon: Totally. Totally. Well, because when it comes to a lie, one of the really tricky things is - when we start to hide, we start to hide things, distort things when we don't trust, when we don't feel safe. So the lie can feel like the blatant obvious place to put the blame or the badness. But there's a very oftentimes really important things to look at about how do we respond when we're in the face of differences. Sometimes I may lie because it's, I'm really scared to be direct with you, to tell you what's really going on.

Neil Sattin: Right. We had, Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson on the show talking about their book, Tell Me No Lies, which, and I love how they illustrate that, that there is a co-created dynamic there of how honesty is fostered, and truth telling in a relationship.

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. It's a lot of breathing. We have to really keep breathing when our partners share a truth that challenges us, that we disagree with, that we don't like. Okay. So keep breathing, keep breathing because if what you're saying is that you value transparency and honesty, then you got to keep breathing even when your partner is sharing something that you don't ... that you're struggling with.

Neil Sattin: Yes. True. Isn't that the truth?

Alexandra Solomon: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Neil Sattin: Maybe that would be a great place for us to end because I'm ... you spend the first half, I think of the lessons in the book are all about the work that we do within ourselves. It can be easy to ... One place where I've focused a lot on the show has been in the skills of being relational because the personal growth, like we're a very personal growth oriented world. So people neglect the growth that's around how you actually connect after you're growing personally.

Neil Sattin: But what did you, how can I phrase this? What's so crucial from your perspective about the way that we approach our own growth, and how we bring that to our relationship?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. One of the things that I say over and over again in the undergraduate course, and it pervades my work, which is the self awareness, self growth work isn't one and done. It's not like a thing we do for a month or a year or two years. It's something that we, it's a paradigm shift. It's a commitment to always seeing, to really taking ourselves as these unfolding projects, and that were never done, and we're never perfect, and thank goodness, and that it's this back and forth between my own intimacy with myself and how that opens me to intimacy with you.

Alexandra Solomon: Then how intimacy with you turns me back towards intimacy with myself. So it's really just, I think the most important thing is holding onto that both those things are true at the same time. That I'm working on me while we're working on us, and working on us helps me work on me. That that's this ongoing back and forth.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love that. It's true. It is an ongoing process. You offer some great ways in Loving Bravely to look at your own growth and how it, the bearing that it has on what you bring to relationships. So whether it's your beliefs about soulmates, or your beliefs about anger and confrontation, or what to expect in relationship, all those things are so important because if you're not illuminating them, they're going to drive you unconsciously or subconsciously.

Alexandra Solomon: That's right. That's right. Even the whole, I could see a couple having a fight where it's about, "I thought you were my soul mate." What is a soul mate? Okay, great. So let's use rather than fighting about whether or not each other ... you are each other's soul mates, back up and have a conversation about how did you come to believe what you believe about soulmates? What ways that are a reflection of your family system, your cultural location? All of these little points of difference are really neat opportunities for expanding our own awareness, expanding our compassionate empathy for our partner, and how they're different from us, and how they view the world differently from us rather than them being threats.

Neil Sattin: Do we have time for one more question?

Alexandra Solomon: Sure. Go for it.

Neil Sattin: Okay. This came up for me actually at the very beginning of our conversation, and what you just said reminded me of it, and that is you've talked about the power of creating our narrative and really getting to know ourselves well in what you were just saying, unpacking that with our partners. I'm wondering from your perspective, what's the balance between what we share with our partners about that narrative, like sharing with them about our history, and what we're discovering, and maybe where we don't necessarily have to share.

Neil Sattin: And, on the flip side, I've actually gotten a lot of questions from people. Perhaps you run into this in your therapy as well when your sessions with clients around someone finding something out, and then having trouble forgetting it, or how do I live with knowing that this was my partner's experience? That could be something really bad that happened or it could even be like the knowledge that their partner had this amazing lover, and maybe they're not that. How do you help a couple navigate those kinds of questions?

Alexandra Solomon: Yeah. Boy, that's a big one. The first thing I'm thinking is about early in a relationship, the idea that we really do need to earn each other's stories. I think that early in a relationship there can be either a fear of being seen, of somebody knowing like what if you knew the skeletons in my closet, you would head for the hills, or there can be an opposite of like, "okay, so you need to know all this stuff about me so that you can decide whether you can handle me or not handle me, or I want to know right now if you are up for this because I don't want to get invested and then have you flee."

Alexandra Solomon: That's where the degree to which we can hold onto, with love and compassion, our own complexity that will help us navigate what is a really personal boundary around how and when we share.

Alexandra Solomon: But the thing that we know for sure is that when I show myself to you, and you respond with empathy instead of judgment, that right there creates a loop that builds trust. So the degree to which you do that for me is the degree to which I will feel safe enough to share more about me, and that builds trust.

Alexandra Solomon: The sharing, and the trust building, and the empathy do go hand in hand and they grow over time, and they're a process. Time is a really essential variable. That's what makes, I think I'm getting into a relationship, one of the things that makes getting into relationship so challenging is that, that it takes a while to build. It takes patience to share something, and then read the feedback of how your partner, how that person's responding to you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and on the flip side, if you're responding with a, "I don't know what to do about this, or having discovered this. You waited three years to tell me whatever it is." What I'm hearing, and what you just said is that, that might be a reflection of your own judgment or fear. And hopefully that's something that you're then able to bring to the conversation.

Alexandra Solomon: Right. Yeah, and when the partner, when our partner, if a partner shares something in year three of a relationship, usually it's when I see this happen with my couples, it tends to be something about when I was a kid I was abused or some piece of a story or my last relationship, I cheated. When that comes forward, hopefully it's coming forward in a way of like, "Listen, here's something difficult, and here's what I've done to understand it, to make sense of it, to heal, to grow. Here's what I commit to going forward." So that it's not just this kind of unfinished plop. Here's this thing which is plopped down in the space.

Alexandra Solomon: Where there is, I think some responsibility on the person who's doing the sharing to have done their own work around it, to have forgiven themselves, to have healed from the trauma, to have done some work around healing the trauma, to understand the bigger picture of what the impact was, what the recovery looks like, how they practice their healing today. I think that helps the integration of new knowledge, be a little easier for the recipient.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Well, now I'm realizing it wasn't really fair of me to drop such a big question on you at the end, but I appreciate that you are willing to dive right in with me. That being said, let this be hopefully an invitation for you to come back at some future date where we can unpack that even more.

Neil Sattin: In the meantime, Alexandra Solomon, thank you so much for being here with us today. Cearly, you are so wise and you have a lot of practical wisdom from also practicing with clients as well. Your book, Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want, I think is just so valuable. It's an easy read, and something that will definitely help you come to understand yourself in relationship way more than perhaps you already do.

Neil Sattin: Again, if you want to download the transcript and guide for this episode, you can do that at, as in Loving Bravely. You can also text the word PASSION to the number 33444, and follow the instructions, and I'll send you everything that you need along with links to find Alexandra Solomon, her book, and to get involved in her book group, and whatever else she has going on. Clearly lots of value there.

Neil Sattin: So thank you so much again, Alexandra, for being with us here today.

Alexandra Solomon: You're welcome. Thanks for having me on I appreciate it.


May 11, 2018

How do you know if your relationship is healthy? Does having problems mean that your relationship isn't healthy? And how do you promote the health of your relationship? In this week's episode, Neil Sattin answers these questions so that you can quickly get a sense of what's going on in your relationship - and, if you decide that things aren't healthy, exactly what to do to get back on track. It's like taking a multivitamin for your relationship!

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!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by

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May 3, 2018

How do you do the work of true inner transformation? If there are parts of you that are getting in the way - of intimacy, of thriving, of living in integrity - then you’re going to have a tough time realizing the full potential of your life and your relationships. However, you have everything you need inside of you - if you know how to access it! In today’s conversation, we’re getting a return visit from Dick Schwartz, creator of Internal Family Systems. We’ll be exploring this powerful way of finding your core resourcefulness - which he calls “Self” energy - and using it to help heal and grow the parts within you that are holding you back, or interfering with your vibrancy and effectiveness. You’ll learn how to identify the different parts within you, and the roles that they are playing, and you’ll also get a taste of what it’s like to be coming from “Self”. And at the end you will hear Dick Schwartz guide me through an actual journey of identifying a part that’s been impacting me in the here and now - and you’ll hear how he works with me, and that part, to heal and transform. It’s powerful, and vulnerable, and all here for you to experience on this week’s episode of the Relationship Alive podcast.

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!


Thanks to all of YOU who are chipping in to support Relationship Alive!


Listen to Relationship Alive Episode 26 with Dick Schwartz - How to Get All the Parts within You to Work Together

Check out Dick Schwartz's website - the Center for Self Leadership

Read Dick Schwartz’s Books along with others focusing on how to apply Internal Family Systems - both as a therapist, and for your life

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 Dick Schwartz

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. Way back in Episode 26 of the Relationship Alive Podcast, we spoke with Dick Schwartz who is the Founder of Internal Family Systems which is a way of coming to understand how you operate in the world, the various parts of you that sometimes have very different agendas for you and your life. Of course, this can have an enormous impact on how you show up in relationship and just how you show up in life in general.

Neil Sattin: Maybe you can relate to what I'm talking about, that feeling that one part of you wants one thing, another part of you wants another thing and how that can leave us paralyzed or maybe doing things that we're not necessarily proud of or that we didn't expect or that our partners didn't expect.

Neil Sattin: The process of working with your internal family, all of the parts within you and how they interrelate and the process of finding your own self to lead the way, that was what we covered back in Episode 26. This conversation that we're about to have with Dick Schwartz about some of the finer points of Internal Family Systems and how it can be useful for you in your day to day life to see how it's impacting you, all these parts within you and to give you some really practical new things that you can try to help you get related to how this is impacting you, how it's impacting your relationship and that's where we're headed today.

Neil Sattin: I'm very psyched to welcome back to the show Dick Schwartz to talk more about Internal Family Systems. He is the Head of the Center for Self Leadership, trains therapists all over the world and also has workshops for lay people to go through the process of self-discovery and healing and integration and bringing all of those parts back into harmony with each other.

Neil Sattin: Dick Schwartz, thank you so much for joining us again on Relationship Alive.

Dick Schwartz: Great to talk to you again Neil. I enjoyed our first conversation and you're a great interviewer.

Neil Sattin: Thank you. Thank you. We'll see. I could have gotten worse in the past couple of years. Hopefully, not. I just gave a quick synopsis in that introduction. By the way, if want to download the transcript or action guide from this episode, you can visit, that's the word self and then the number two, or you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Just didn't want to forget that because I'm sure we're going to cover a lot of ground.

Neil Sattin: Given what I had said already, I'm wondering what are the salient points, what's your elevator speech about "this is what Internal Family Systems is, this is why it's so important"?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I got to find the perfect elevator speech but I can elaborate a little bit on what you said. It's my belief that we all are multiple personalities, not in the sense that we have that disorder, but that we all have these what you were saying, we all have these parts that are little sub-minds inside of us and I mentioned too that I just wrote a book tracking the history of that in our culture and in psychotherapy that this idea has been in the field for years and years and comes up and then gets knocked down again.

Dick Schwartz: I'm trying to resurrect it, that it's almost like that movie, Inside Out, only with a lot more than just the five that were in that movie where they interact with each other, that's what we call thinking often, and sometimes, one will take over and make us do things we don't want to do like you said. It's a little inner family or society that most of the time, we don't pay much attention to and think of it as just thinking or different emotions coming and going.

Dick Schwartz: If you do shift your focus inside, almost everybody can access their parts and will learn that they're all in there doing their best. Many of them are frozen in time in the past during traumas or in psychotherapy, we call attachment injuries in your family. They're as extreme as they had to be back then to protect you and those are often the ones that we don't like and try to get rid of but you can't really get rid of them. When you try, they just get stronger usually.

Dick Schwartz: In addition to all these parts, the other thing I'll say about the parts is that the good news is they're all valuable. It's like we're built with this inner multiplicity to help us in our lives. Even the very extreme ones that screw up your life can transform once they feel witnessed by you and you can help them out of where they're stuck in the past and then they become very valuable qualities.

Dick Schwartz: The other good news is that as I was exploring all this, I ran into what we'll call the Self which is almost a different level of entity inside of everyone that can't be damaged and has all the capacity you need to heal these parts. When I work with people, I help them access that first, that essence that vital resource and from that place, begin to work with their parts. When people access their Self, we were talking about leadership earlier, they just naturally have qualities like curiosity and calm and what we call the eight C's of self-leadership, compassion, courage, confidence, clarity, connectedness and there's one I just forgot.

Neil Sattin: Curiosity, calm and confidence, did you say that?

Dick Schwartz: Confidence. I don't think I said confidence.

Neil Sattin: Okay. Compassion.

Dick Schwartz: Compassion. I did say compassion.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Dick Schwartz: Those are what we call the eight C's of self-leadership but it turns out that everybody at their essence, when that's accessed, experiences those qualities in others. From that place, has wisdom about how to heal themselves emotionally. That's as close to an elevator speech as I can get I think.

Neil Sattin: Okay. A couple of questions. First, is that even true for kids? Do kids have a Self Energy that helps them heal their parts?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yes. Very much, and we use this model a lot with kids. There's a book on IFS with kids fairly recently. It's quite amazing because you would think that that Self has to develop but even in very young kids, you can access that place. From that place, they don't know how to do a lot of things in the outside world but they do know how to heal themselves and relate with love and kindness to these different parts such that the parts will transform.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The other thing I was curious about was whether you could offer an example, just so people know what we're talking about. Can you think of a time or someone you worked with where they had a part that was really destructive and what that transformed into through working with that part in healing just as an example of how that works?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There are many, many, many because I'm a therapist and I specialized in the treatment of severe complex trauma for years. I worked with people who had intense suicidal parts for example or parts that wanted to hurt them in other ways and would cut them and then parts that were rageful and would hurt other people. I spent seven years using this model with sex offenders too and I'm here to say that all of those parts including the sex offenders when approached with compassion and curiosity would reveal the secret history of how they got into the role they were in and the crime and how much they hated to do what they were doing but they were carrying these beliefs and emotions from their past experiences that drove them to do those things.

Dick Schwartz: In understanding that and also getting them out of where they were stuck in the past, they were all able to transform. If I'm working with a suicidal client for example and I would ask or I'd have the client ask the part why it wanted to kill them, it would say, if I don't kill you, you're going to continue to suffer the rest of your life. I would say, if we could get her out of her suffering in a different way, would you have to kill her? The part would say, no but I don't think you can do that. I would say, okay. Give me a chance to show that we can and then we would do that. We would heal the parts that are suffering so badly.

Dick Schwartz: You come back and now the suicidal part is happy to step out of its role and we help it into another role which often is the exact opposite of what the protector, the protective part has been in. In the case of suicide, it's often now the part wants to help you enjoy life in different ways. That would be an example.

Neil Sattin: Wow. So powerful because I think one misconception that someone might have would be a part like that where you got to get that out of there somehow.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Get rid of the harming part.

Dick Schwartz: That's right. That's the way our mental health system and our culture has viewed these things, not as entities trying their best in a misguided way as to protect us but as destructive impulses that we have to get rid of. The level of suicide is going up and levels of addiction. All is because we tend to go to war against these parts. When you do that, they think you don't get how dangerous it is and they'll up the ante and they'll kick your butt. You can't beat them most of the time.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You offer an example in one of your books that I was reading about like imagining you're on a boat and you have a part that is convinced that something is true. The only way they're going to keep the boat upright is by leaning out this side of the boat. Then there's this opposing part that thinks basically the exact opposite and they're leaning out the other way. The more you try and adjust one or the other, instead of coming both in to share tea and crumpets under the mast of the boat, it tends to push them out further to the edges leaning off the sides.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. When any part gets extreme in one direction, there usually will be a part that will get extreme in the opposite direction. It's what we call polarization. You find that in other levels of system, for example our country right now is highly polarized such that the more I as a therapist or anybody sides with one side, the more extreme the other part has to get because they think the boat is going to collapse if they don't lean out in the opposite way.

Dick Schwartz: A lot of what we try to do is get to know each side with curiosity and compassion and then help them come into the boat and trust that it's safe to do that and get to know each other in a different way and see that they actually have things in common. They both have the survival of the boat in common for example and then help them find a new relationship. The best person to do that isn't the therapist, it's the client's Self.

Dick Schwartz: Frequently, we're helping people access the Self and then from that place, become their own inner therapist to these polarized parts.

Neil Sattin: Yeah and that's something that's noticeably different about Internal Family Systems, the role of the therapist. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit more about why that's so important to usher your clients into being in Self energy and then from that place, more or less doing their own therapy.

Dick Schwartz: As you're saying, that's probably the biggest difference between IFS and most other therapies and that is that rather than me, the therapist being the good attachment figure, it might be one way to think of it to the client and to the client's very insecure or hurt parts so that my relationship with the client becomes the fulcrum of their healing. My relationship is important in the sense that if I can be in what I'm calling Self energy, that allows the client to feel safe enough to drop their guard, their protected parts relax, and allows them to access Self.

Dick Schwartz: In that state, they become the primary caretaker to their parts, the primary attachment figure which is very empowering for clients and they can do it on their own between sessions and it becomes a life practice that way rather than there being this intense dependence on the therapist.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One of the cases that you write about involves treating someone with bulimia and you detail how 14 sessions and this woman was in charge basically of her life again. I don't know what happened to that particular person but there's something magical and it makes a lot of sense as well, not magical in like fantasy but more like, yeah that makes total sense when people feel empowered that way to work with the parts in them that otherwise were running the show.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That's part of why this often takes less time than others because as I said, people are doing this work on their own between sessions and many of my sessions, a client comes in and the first 10, 15 minutes, they're just catching me up on everything they've been doing at home. Then we go in and we do some more and then they take it from there so yeah.

Neil Sattin: A quick stepping out moment, because I know this comes up as a therapist and it also comes up in life. When you're interacting with other people's parts, I think you use the term blended. When someone is blended with their part, they're being that rageful part or that inconsiderate or mean or whatever it is. What's a way that you use to say in Self energy, compassion, curious, et cetera in the face of someone being potentially really offensive or inappropriate? Maybe I mean this more in terms of interpersonally out in the world versus in the treatment room.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I've had a lot of practice given the kinds of clients that I was talking about because they often have parts that as you get close enough to them to do any damage, suddenly, their rage will come at you and they've been watching you for session after session and they know your weaknesses and they find just the right thing to say. These clients would be labeled borderline personality which is a very pejorative way of thinking of somebody.

Dick Schwartz: It's a lot better to just think of them as having this protective rage that isn't going to let you get close enough. I've had many, many practice sessions of immediately noticing the parts of me that come to protect me, defend me and then in the moment now, not before but now, I in the moment, can notice those parts and ask them to just let me handle this, to just let me stay and I'll feel this shift from my heart being fully closed up and my urge to lash out. That will immediately evaporate and feel my heart open again and I'll be able to see past the protector in the client to the pain that's driving it so I have compassion.

Dick Schwartz: I'll be able to stay calm and simply that presence is very diffusing for these rageful parts. Whatever I say, if it comes from that place is going to deescalate rather than escalate.

Neil Sattin: You notice that huge difference between when you're coming from Self energy versus a logical, rational manager part-

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, absolutely. I can do that with most anybody now except my wife. When she and I get into it, I just notice these parts coming in. I know that it's going to make it worse but I can't get them to step back because she can hurt me like nobody else.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: We've learned ways of repairing that afterwards, but yeah. When the protectors, even if it's a logical, rational one which doesn't seem so bad just inflames her angry part and my angry part really sets things off. Anyway, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I do want to mention that we did have Toni Herbine-Blank on the show to talk about intimacy from the inside out which is the way she applies IFS to couples work and for you listening, that's Episode 52 that you can refer back to.

Dick Schwartz: Great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm curious because - full disclosure, I see an IFS therapist, my wife sees an IFS therapist and so I'm a little biased here-

Dick Schwartz: Honored to hear that Neil...

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The language of are you coming from Self right now? That permeates our relationship particularly when things happen so I know you are just saying that all bets are off when you're with your wife but I am curious if you have … Yeah, two important things here. One is, is there a way that you found reliably to suggest, wait a minute, we're not Self to Self in this moment.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: That's been a godsend. At some point, one of us will say, okay, let's just take a time out and work with our parts and come back when we can be more Self-led and we do it. That really has defused things. Then the next step and probably Toni talked about this too is to come back and what we call speak for rather than from the parts that were protecting us but also speak for the pain or the fear or the shame that was driving those protectors. When I can speak for what I call my exiles, those parts that I locked up in the past because they were so hurt or scared or ashamed.

Dick Schwartz: When I can speak from Self for those parts, then my wife Jean can hear that rather than when I'm speaking from those parts that try to defend me because they're so afraid that I'll feel ashamed and so on.

Neil Sattin: Wow. So many possibilities right now bumping through my brain about where to go. One loose end from earlier in this conversation, when someone comes to you and they're convinced that they are defective or that they don't have the resource within them, maybe they don't have that experience of Self energy that shows them that it's possible, what do you do to help them see actually, you are the one that you need right now?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. A lot of people start out that way.

Neil Sattin: Right because they're thinking, if I had all the answers, I wouldn't be so fucked up, right?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah and they've never had that experience of what we call Self. They've never felt it in their lives so why would they think they have it? They've been told by their families that they don't have anything like that, that they're good for nothing so they come in really believing that and I'll say, I know there are parts of you that don't believe that's in there but if you give me a shot, I can prove that it is.

Dick Schwartz: By that, I'd say, okay. Let's find the part that has this belief and ask it if it would be willing to just give us a little space in there and see what happens. If I'm in Self and my client has some degree of trust, I'll say just for a second, it can come back immediately, then the client will have this palpable experience of all that self-criticism, getting a little bit of space from it and with that, often will come to some little taste of Self. You never get full Self but just a little bit of a difference.

Dick Schwartz: Then I'll ask another part to step back and so on. Often, you'll come to some key ones that had been running things and asking them to step back is more of a challenge because they'll say, if I step back, there's not going to be anybody left. I'll say, I know you believe that but I guarantee you're wrong. Again, I would love it if you just give me a chance to prove that. You'll actually like who comes forward and it will be a big relief to you.

Dick Schwartz: I'm nothing if not a kind of what I call a hope merchant or a salesman. I'm selling hope to hopeless systems. If they buy it at all, they're eager. They would love to have somebody in there that is Self to run things. They're like in family therapy, we call parentified children. They're likely kids who when parents weren't available, had to run things and they're tired so they're dying for somebody capable to take over. They just don't think it's possible.

Neil Sattin: Could we talk for a moment about just the different categories of parts that might make it easier for you to recognize the different roles that your parts play within you and then maybe we'll chat about a way that someone listening could, after we're done, figure out their cast of characters, get related to some of the parts that are operating within them. What are some of the general categories that you see that are most significant in how we operate?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. The word roles is very important to remember because too often, other people, when they come up with category systems, they describe the category as if it were the part. In this system, these are the roles that the parts have been forced in to by what happened to you in your life. There's really one big distinction and that's between the parts of you that usually were the most sensitive, these inner children who before they're hurt are delightful and creative and innocent and trusting and so on.

Dick Schwartz: After they're hurt, they now carry what we call the burdens from the trauma or the betrayal and so now, they carry a lot of pain or mistrust or fear and shame and now, we don't want anything to do with them because we assume that that's just a hurt feeling or that's just a shame feeling. We tend to try and lock them away inside in inner abysses or caves or jails. We call these the exiles. Most all of us, partly because of these beliefs about who we are from our culture, have a bunch of exiles.

Dick Schwartz: When you get a bunch of exiles, the world suddenly becomes a lot more dangerous because anybody can trigger you. If you get hurt in a similar way again, all that past pain and the parts that are stuck in those past scenes come roaring out and take over and take you down and make it so you can't function often. There's a tremendous fear of the exiles and their being triggered. To keep that from happening, other parts are forced into the role of being protectors and some of them are trying to protect you and those exiles by managing your life so that nothing similar ever happens again and you don't manage your relationship so you don't get too close to anybody or too distant from people you depend on and manage your appearance so you look good all the time, manage your performance.

Dick Schwartz: These are parts that sometimes find themselves in the role of inner critic because they're criticizing you to try and prod you to do better or look better or they might be criticizing you to keep you from taking risks so you don't get hurt but there's lots of other common manager roles so there are caretaking managers that try to take care of everybody else and don't let you take care of yourself and so on and so on, but they're all a bunch of often pretty young parts who are now forced to do this role they're not equipped to do.

Dick Schwartz: Then the last category of protector, managers are the first, are parts that if an exile does get triggered, have to go into action to deal with that emergency and often, have to therefore be very impulsive and damn the torpedoes. I'm going to get you to do something that's going to take you away from this right now and get you higher than the pain or douse it, the shame, with some kind of substance or distract you somehow. These we call firefighters. They're fighting the flames of pain and shame and terror that come out of these exiles.

Dick Schwartz: They're the unsung heroes because most of the time, they do things that get us more attacked or shame but they're just doing their job because they know if they don't do it, the boat is going to sink.

Neil Sattin: Meaning, they're doing things like indulging in addictions or sexual compulsion?

Dick Schwartz: Right. All of those things. Some of us have more socially sanctioned firefighters like work is one of mine, we don't get as much … Actually, we get accolades for that.

Neil Sattin: Right, except maybe from your partner who's like, where the hell are you? You're working all the time.

Dick Schwartz: Exactly right, but most of my client's firefighters have been either destructive to them or to other people and so they hate themselves for having them and often, the people around them are critical of them for having them. Again, all of that shaming, both internal shaming and external shaming just adds to the load of these exiles which creates more work for the firefighters that then brings on more attack from the managers. Most people, addicts and so on are in that loop where the harder they try to sit on the addiction through discipline or self-blame, the more that firefighter feels like it's going to do its job.

Dick Schwartz: You can pump up the managers to the point where they will sit on the firefighters and the exiles but that's what people call dry drunk, a person become very rigid and the slightest thing could trigger them off the wagon so that's not the kind of healing that we're looking for.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm curious the word shame has come up several times. What is the healing path for shame?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Shame is usually minimally a two part phenomena. There's a part that says you're bad and then there's this part which is usually an exile that believes that you're worthless. Before we go to that exile, we'll go to the critic, the one who says you're bad, first and let it know we get it's trying to protect and give us permission to go to the exile. Once we get to that exile, we'll ask it, we'll have the Self ask it where it got the shame in the past and why it feels so bad about itself.

Dick Schwartz: Then people begin to witness scenes from their past where they were shamed or humiliated or made to feel worthless and how terrifying that was and how that part just bought into it then and thought they were a total loser and then how other parts had to combat that the rest of their life.

Dick Schwartz: Just that witnessing, once you see and I don't mean get it intellectually but I actually mean see it and sense it and feel almost like reliving it but not be overwhelmed by it. Once you really get what happened and how bad it was, then the part finally feels like you get it and we know where to have you go into the past in a literal way in this inner world and be with that boy in the way he needed when the shaming thing happened and often take him out of there to a safe place where now, he's willing to give up the shame.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There's this quality of hanging on. This is the burden, right? Hanging on to the shame?

Dick Schwartz: Right.

Neil Sattin: Through being willing to be present with that part's experience and to do something, I don't know why the word heroic is coming to mind but something that you … that had an adult, had a caring, compassionate, courageous adult been there that they would have done.

Dick Schwartz: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: if you can do that, then that part of you is getting what it needs, the exiled part and no longer requires the shame.

Dick Schwartz: That's right. Yeah. People say you can't change the past but it turns out in this inner world, you can. The part's literal experience, once you go into the scene, like if you did that for some part of you Neil and you are there with that boy in the way he needed and you maybe … stood up for him against your father for example-

Neil Sattin: How did you know that was what I was thinking?

Dick Schwartz: Because I'm so good. I'm psychic. He watched you do that. That literally changes in that part's experience, what happened to him. He now becomes attached to you as the caretaker rather than depending on his father anymore and now, he's willing to leave with you and let you have this ongoing new relationship with him where you take care of him every day which usually doesn't require more than just a little check-in to see how he's doing.

Dick Schwartz: Yes. Once, that's all complete, these parts are more than happy to give up these extreme beliefs and emotions like shame that they've been carrying for whatever it is, 40 years.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and this is why it just seems like it's so important to recognize the personhood of these parts within you to see them that way. It's like an individual worthy of curiosity, compassion, respect.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That's a tough sell on this culture because multiplicity has been pathologized over and over both by the idea that multiplicity or multiple personality disorder is a disorder. It's a scary syndrome and by just our kind of rational culture that says it's preposterous to have these little beings inside of us. It's been an uphill battle to try and make this idea sink in.

Neil Sattin: On the one hand, I love it because it's so empowering. More and more I hear from listeners or clients, people in relationship where they're like, yeah, I'm with someone who's … they have borderline personality disorder. I'm pretty sure they're a narcissist. There's some relief to knowing what might be going on with the other people in your life, maybe with yourself as well. I don't know how many people are like, you know what, I think I'm a narcissist.

Neil Sattin: At the same time, what I hear you saying is that everyone has this capacity for healing if they're willing to honor these parts within them that are causing the behavior that we see.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Again, I haven't worked with everyone, but everyone I work with, and I've worked with people that have been written off as sociopaths or various other labels. They have protective parts that fit the profile but when those parts step back, they have everything else like everybody else. Yeah, I bristle at all those diagnostic labels, it's like we take a person's most extreme and maybe destructive part and say that that's who they are. That doesn't give you much hope.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. What do you offer someone who … let's say they are in a relationship with someone who is exhibiting narcissistic tendencies? I think for those people, there's often this quandary of experiencing the destructive behavior, maybe seeing … especially if they're someone you love, then you tend to also see their capacity, their potential for amazingness. Yet, there's this question about do I really stay in this? Do I go? Do I give this person an ultimatum? You got this part. You got to heal it or else I'm out of here.

Neil Sattin: How does that work?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Sometimes, it takes something like that but you can do it from Self so there is what we call Self-led confrontation and I've done this with people I'm close to and also clients where you can see that there's a part that dominates them, that doesn't serve them and is also getting in the relationship you're in with them in the way but there's a way to say that to them with an open heart that is much more likely to sink in than if you say it from a protective part of you that's so annoyed with the person and also sees them as "a narcissist" or whatever monolithic label you've been encouraged to see the person as.

Dick Schwartz: When I'm with someone like that, again, so like x-ray vision, I can see the pain that's driving the protector and I can try to speak to both even with our current president which is a challenge. You know that there's just a bundle of exiles in there that drives all this stuff and if you can hold that perspective, then you can speak from a loving place even to very difficult things. Now, that doesn't mean you need to stay with that person if that part is constantly hurting you and that's a whole different topic of whether or not to stay but the point I'm trying to make is that it's possible even with people like that to stand up for your parts without alienating them.

Neil Sattin: What internal work would you suggest someone do to get to Self in order to have that conversation from aSself-led place?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There's an exercise that I'll do with groups where you could take such a person and put them in a room in your mind that's contained with a window and so you're outside the room looking at that person from outside and have them do the thing that gets to you and then notice the parts that get immediately triggered and come to your defense. As you notice them, start to get to know them and what they're afraid would happened if they didn't jump up to protect you that way and then you'll learn about the exiles they protect and then you can actively ask each of them if they'd be willing to just give you a little bit of space not so you're going into the room with that person but so you can look at them without the influence of all this protective stuff.

Dick Schwartz: If they're willing, the person again will notice this palpable shift and I'll have the person look again in the room and again, when you see through the eyes of Self, you have a very different view. The person looks different, less menacing and the person … I feel sorry for him whereas seconds earlier, they were terrified of him or hated him. I don't know if that answered your question but that's an example of what we can do.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It seems like that … that's giving someone an experience, a direct experience of that person when they're in Self that then they can bring to a real life encounter?

Dick Schwartz: Exactly, yeah. To really pull it off, you have to return to your parts and find the exiles that get triggered by such a person so much and do the healing we talked about earlier with those exiles because it's really hard to pull it off if your exiles are still vulnerable to that person.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Can we get clear too on some of the terminology like when we talk about asking a part to step back or even just asking a part anything, much less what are you afraid will happen, et cetera? How does that process work? Is that something that … What are the different ways it can work I guess because I'd love for our listeners to be able to get a sense of how this process could go? At least to the extent that they could do without guidance.

Dick Schwartz: You want to do a little piece together as an example Neil?

Neil Sattin: That would be great.

Dick Schwartz: Do you have a part you'd like to start with?

Neil Sattin: Let's see. Is there one? There's not one that's like jumping up immediately. Maybe help me get there.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. Is there something in your relationship, your intimate relationship that gets in the way?

Neil Sattin: Clearly. Yeah. Let's talk about the desire to work, like for me. That was one example you used earlier. That's true for me as well especially because I can feel like others … There's always more to do so it's hard to just close the door and step into time with my lovely amazing wife who would love to see more of me I'm sure. I know that because she tells me.

Dick Schwartz: Right. It's very similar. Focus on that part that's pushing you to work all the time and find it in your body or around your body.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. For me, it's like right in solar plexus area. There's like a heat and a tension there.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. As you notice it, how do you feel toward it?

Neil Sattin: I guess I'm a little bit annoyed and also at the same time, I'm like wow, there you are. That was easy to see you there. Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. Let's see if the part of you who's so annoyed or a little bit annoyed would be willing to relax a little bit and step back in there so we can just get to know the work part because it's hard to get to know it if you're annoyed with it. Just see if that's possible.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. He's trusting you right now so yes. He'll step aside for a moment. Relax. I think he like that word.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I will use that word then, relax. Then focus again now on the work part and tell me how you feel toward it now.

Neil Sattin: Wow. What I just experienced was another part coming in being like, wow, I can't believe you're not working with me right now. I've really needed some time and attention.

Dick Schwartz: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Isn't that funny?

Dick Schwartz: Do you want to shift or do you want to pass that one to relax too?

Neil Sattin: Let's go into that because that feels potent for me and it's just around the wellbeing of my kids and my listeners know that I've been through divorce. I have my kids halftime, I love them and yeah, there's just something about wanting the best for them in a complex world and being afraid that they'll get hurt.

Dick Schwartz: Okay, good. Where do you find this one in your body, around your body?

Neil Sattin: That one feels like a really intense welling up in my face like a pre-tears kind of feeling and I'm also noticing a hollowness in my belly.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. How do feel toward this part as you notice it, those places?

Neil Sattin: I really want to help this part.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Let it know that and just see how it reacts to your caring for it.

Neil Sattin: How do I let it know that?

Dick Schwartz: Just tell it inside. Just say, I really want to help you. Just see how it reacts.

Neil Sattin: In telling that part, I really want to help you, he feels more teary and I also feel relief like he would say, I'm not alone. I'm not alone.

Dick Schwartz: That's right. Now, let him know he isn't alone anymore and see now what he wants you to know about himself and don't think of the answer, just wait for answers to come.

Neil Sattin: He says, I know the pain of being hurt and I want to save these children from that pain.

Dick Schwartz: Does that make sense, Neil?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Let him know you get that. It makes a lot of sense that you value that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It's huge. He's a huge resource for those kids.

Dick Schwartz: That's right.

Neil Sattin: I just see too that there's … I recognize times when that fear that they're not going to be okay is running the show and that sometimes works out and other times, it definitely can keep me from being in Self energy around things that are challenging.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. See if he's interested in unloading some of that fear and pain that he carries from the past. Just ask him that.

Neil Sattin: He says, if you think that's possible, then sure.

Dick Schwartz: Tell him it's totally possible.

Neil Sattin: Totally possible. Dick says so, and I believe it too. I do.

Dick Schwartz: Tell him to show you, let you feel without overwhelming you and sense what happened to give him all that. Neil, you can share with us what you get or keep it private, it's up to you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. What I'm seeing are experiences of confusion and pain from different parts of my childhood that didn't make a lot of sense and it's just funny, ha-ha, that it does relate more to my father from what we were talking about before in this moment. That's what this part is showing me. Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Just stay with it. Is it okay to see all this, Neil?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Tell him you're getting it and it's okay to really let you get it all and just stay with it, encourage him to really let you feel it and sense it and see it how bad it was for him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. In that, I notice there's almost like a trembling happening in my body.

Dick Schwartz: Let that happen. Just let your body move the way it needs to. It's all good. It's all part of the witnessing and just stay with it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I can feel that pain for sure.

Dick Schwartz: Okay.

Neil Sattin: What I'm noticing is also that it's not overwhelming me, it's more like I'm getting the tears. I'm getting the trembling but I'm not losing touch with us, here having this conversation or-

Dick Schwartz: Ask him if he feels like you're getting this, if this is what he wanted you to feel and sense and see or if there's more.

Neil Sattin: He says no. This is it and in saying that I also felt this really quick shift to calmness in my body.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yeah, he's relieved?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Ask him if he's most stuck in one of those scenes or if it's the whole time period we need to get him out of.

Neil Sattin: He's like, if you could get me out of the whole shebang, that would be great.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, we'll do what we can.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Dick Schwartz: All right. Neil, I'd like you to go into that time period and be with that boy in the way he needed somebody at the time and just tell me when you're in there with him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, okay. I'm there.

Dick Schwartz: How are you being with him?

Neil Sattin: I'm taking a stand and saying this is not okay.

Dick Schwartz: To your father?

Neil Sattin: To my father.

Dick Schwartz: That's great.

Neil Sattin: I placed myself physically between the young me and my father.

Dick Schwartz: Let me ask you, do you see yourself doing that or are you just there doing it and you see him and your father?

Neil Sattin: That's a tough one. It feels like it's going back and forth.

Dick Schwartz: All right. See if you can just be there without seeing yourself.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Dick Schwartz: Keep doing that. Whatever the boy needs. Just keep doing that for him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm there saying, this is not okay and then what feels like it really wants to happen is I turn to grab the boy and pick him up and just take him out of there.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, let's do that. Let's take him somewhere safe and comfortable he'd enjoy. It could be in the present, it could be a fantasy place, wherever he'd like to be.

Neil Sattin: I'm asking him where he would like to be.

Dick Schwartz: Perfect.

Neil Sattin: I think he wants to just hang out  and play with his Star Wars figures.

Dick Schwartz: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm like, okay, where can we do that? Can we do that here and now? I'm imagining bringing him here into the room where I sit which is really convenient because my son has all my old Star Wars figures so I can grab some of those.

Dick Schwartz: Great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. We're here now and he's just doing that and we're away from whatever was happening,

Dick Schwartz: Good. How does he seem now?

Neil Sattin: It's interesting because he seems a lot younger than when I was interacting with him as the part that was fearful for my kids but he seems happy to be here and happy that I'm willing to play with him and he seems relieved like that was hard for him and it was a pretty quick turn though to just be here and be safe.

Dick Schwartz: Good. See if now that he never has to go back there and you're going to take care of him if he's ready to unload the feelings and beliefs he got from those times.

Neil Sattin: I think he says he's not sure what they are but yes, he's ready.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. He could just check his body and see if there's anything he carries that doesn't belong to him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's that like … he's calling it that weird feeling in my belly, that trembly flutteriness.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Great. Is he ready to unload that?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Ask him what he'd like to give it up to. Light, water, fire, wind, earth, anything else.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. He's like, I want it to just get dissolved in light.

Dick Schwartz: Okay. Bring in a light and have that happen. Tell him to let that all dissolve out of his stomach and stay with that until it's gone.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The feeling is gone and I'm also noticing that the hollowness I was experiencing in my belly before, it feels warm and full. That feels really important to me.

Dick Schwartz: That's great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Tell him now if he'd like to, he can invite into his body qualities he'll need in the future and you can just see what comes into him now.

Neil Sattin: He says, it's almost like cleverness, and the word that's popping into my head is mischief, but like a playful mischief.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Tell him to invite that in.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Actually, and just like a relaxed happiness, contentment I think is one of those, yeah.

Dick Schwartz: How does he seem now?

Neil Sattin: He seems really happy.

Dick Schwartz: That's great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: Then before we stop bring in the one who was so annoyed with him originally, so it can see that he's different now and see how it reacts.

Neil Sattin: The annoyed, I think that might have been more around the work part.

Dick Schwartz: That's right. You're right. That's right. Okay. Maybe think about your kids now and see how it feels.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I feel really confident that I'm doing right by them.

Dick Schwartz: Good. Okay, you ready to come back?

Neil Sattin: I am. That was great. Thank you.

Dick Schwartz: That was very cool. Thank you for having the courage to do it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Wow. A little window into Neil's psyche, into the interpsychic space. One thing that I wanted to highlight that you said that feels important is when you talked about experiencing the feelings without being overwhelmed particularly if someone is doing this inner work on their own like being willing to … like having that be part of the dialog with their part.

Neil Sattin: I want to see what you got and you don't need to overwhelm me.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That was a big discovery maybe 25 years ago that parts can control how much they overwhelm because the trauma field and a lot of psychotherapy has just assumed that if you open that door, you're going to be flooded and there's not much you can do it about it other than practice these grounding skills endlessly and so on. It turns out that if you simply in advance of going to an exile, ask it to not overwhelm and it agrees not to, it won't so we can do the thing we just did with you without a huge fear of that overwhelm happening.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think some people are afraid to open the door. I'm not going to go there because that's just too much for me and they've probably experienced what that too much feeling is like at least once in their lives, right?

Dick Schwartz: Exactly right, yeah. They've experienced. When they open the door, they were flooded. They couldn't get out of bed. They're horribly depressed and they swore never again. It's a tough sell in such clients to allow them to believe that it's possible to not do that. The exile itself to its defense, it's desperate to get some attention. If you open the door, it's going to jump out and totally take over for fear of being locked up again but if it trusts that it's not going to be locked up and you'll listen to it, it doesn't need to overwhelm you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and because the worrying part wasn't really a part of that thread, we didn't really get to go there but I'm guessing there's something similar that happens. I'm not guessing, okay, I know but there's something similar that happens with the manager where they also get to be relieved of the burden of the protection and to be infused with some qualities that gives them that new assignment, the new role.

Dick Schwartz: Exactly. There are also stuff back in those same scenes where they took on the role of protecting that boy and they need to be retrieved that same way and unburdened. When that happens, then they're freed up to do something entirely different that they're much more designed to do and that they enjoy.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I felt like it's important to say it just because we did that work around my father that my dad is a good guy in case, in the off chance he's listening or that people who know him are listening. What I've noticed as a parent is that it actually is, their kids have things that hurt them.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yeah. That happens and like my father who isn't alive anymore but had a lot of untreated PTSD from World War II, so everybody has got trauma and everybody has got extreme parts and when they raise their kids, those parts get triggered.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: My father was a great guy also in many different ways.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One last thing. I just appreciate how wide our conversation has gone and your willingness to do that process with me as well which I think was very illustrative. You've mentioned that your clients, they have a routine or a check-in that they do that helps them do the work as part of their daily lives and I'm wondering what could that look like for someone if they wanted to incorporate something like that into their daily life?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah For some people, it's as simple as just a 10 minute meditation where you can incorporate it into what you already do for meditating but just start by finding, on your case, would be finding this boy and just make sure that he's still in that good place and see if he needs anything. In some times, it takes just a few seconds and he is doing well and other times, he does need more or if he feels like you abandoned him and you got to listen to that and help him with it.

Dick Schwartz: Everybody can do this on a daily basis. It becomes a life practice, not just checking with that part but with all your parts and just noticing what they need and taking care of them the way you might take care of your external children although again, they don't nearly need as much as your external children. Often, it's just a matter of minutes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: There's a woman named Michelle Glass who wrote a book on the daily practice side of it. I can't pull up the name of that book right now but you can find it on our website.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Your website is, and Dick, you also just recently came out with a book that you're telling me about before we hopped on the line here. What is that called and what's it about?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I coauthored it with a guy named Bob Falconer and it's called Many Minds, One Self. It's about ushering in this radically different paradigm of multiplicity and that there is this Self in there too. It's substantiating these positions I take by going through the history of our culture, the history of psychotherapy, different branches of science and showing how often the idea that the mind is naturally multiple comes up and gets pushed down.

Dick Schwartz: Then also going through each major religion and particularly, the more esoteric or contemplative branches of those religions and seeing how every one has a word for Self, it's a different word but they're all talking about the same thing that I stumbled on to many, many years ago that's in there. Some systems call it the soul or Buddha-nature or Atman or various names for it but we try to cover in some depth all of that.

Neil Sattin: Great. Is that available through your website and is it on Amazon as well?

Dick Schwartz: I'm not sure it's on Amazon yet. It just came out.

Neil Sattin: Okay, great.

Dick Schwartz: It will be soon but yeah, you can certainly get it from the website.

Neil Sattin: Great. We'll have links to that book, your website, the Michelle Glass book that you just mentioned.

Dick Schwartz: One more book if you don't mind.

Neil Sattin: No. Go ahead please.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I coauthored another book with a guy named Frank Anderson and Martha Sweezy which is a kind of workbook for applying IFS to trauma since we've been talking about that today that just came out too with through PESI, capital P-E-S-I.

Neil Sattin: Great. That's more for the therapist in our audience?

Dick Schwartz: Yes. Yes, therapist.

Neil Sattin: Okay, great. If people want to find out more about getting IFS training or finding an IFS therapist, is that through the website?

Dick Schwartz: That's right. There's a whole section on those issues.

Neil Sattin: Great. Great. One last point of curiosity. We've talked about the self and the qualities that if you're coming from a place that's compassionate, creative, curious, then you're in Self energy. Is there a quick exercise that you have people do to help them get a sense of "this is the inner diaspora of characters that are there within you that you can get to know over time?"

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There's something we call parts mapping for example where just to describe it very quickly, I would have you start with a part. It might be the same one you started with or a different one and just stay present to it until you could for example, draw it in some form or another on a page and then return to it and stay focused on it until you notice a shift. Another part comes forward and then you'd stay with it until you can represent it on the page and then return to it until another one comes forward.

Dick Schwartz: In doing that, usually, people will map out one circuit of parts, one cluster of parts that are related to each other and it's very useful for people to do that.

Neil Sattin: By staying with one, others will naturally emerge?

Dick Schwartz: It seems to be. If you can stay in an open, curious Self place, then, if you stay with one, something will come up, some other one that's related to it.

Neil Sattin: That makes sense to me especially considering what we're saying about polarized parts earlier that if one is like, I'm here, then the other one is going to be not far behind. Don't forget about me.

Dick Schwartz: Right. That's exactly right. Not just the ones that are polarized. You'll get the ones who protect each other and so on.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The work is really so fascinating and despite having been speaking here now for a little over an hour, we're still just scratching the surface. I loved, in particular, the way that you map the relationships between these inner parts as they relate to each other and then how that's reflected in the outer world. In fact, it seems like that was one of your breakthroughs, right? The sense that you could apply the structural family therapy that people do with the external systems to what's happening within you.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That's my background, is a family therapist, particularly structural family therapy. For an amazing thing, it turns out that this inner system is structured in a very similar way so I've become intrigued with the parallels between internal systems and external systems at all different levels including our country and international relations. The parallel is when you really explore them are fascinating and very evident.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You, I think, make the whole as, is it as within, so without? Is that the phrase-

Dick Schwartz: That is, yeah.

Neil Sattin: It feels really practical and-

Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Concrete.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think getting some experience doing that within is also really helpful in being generative like the contentious moments that we experience in our lives whether it's with our partners or our parents or just in the workplace and the world, et cetera.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, being generative and generous. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Dick Schwartz, thank you so much for coming on this show again. I look forward to the next time we can talk and your work is just so rich and such a valuable contribution to change and growth and honoring the potential in us. I'm so blessed to have you here, so thank you.

Dick Schwartz: Thank you Neil. It's an increasing pleasure to talk to you as I get to know you and also feel your appreciation for it, so I'm happy to do it again.

Neil Sattin: Awesome.

Apr 26, 2018

How do you invite someone into your world, your truth, your desires? When you have a complaint, how do you invite someone to the table about it in a way where they WANT to respond and help make things right? And, most importantly, how do you invite someone to be who they truly are? Today's show is all about how to "be an invitation", and whether you’re in a relationship, or single and looking to connect, the art of being an invitation can completely transform how you connect with another person. By the end of today's episode, you will have clear strategies to figure out how to improve your connection with the people in your life who matter most.


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Transcript (more or less): 

Now, what does it mean to be “an invitation”? And why is it so important to the long-term success of your relationship?

At its core, being an invitation is all about play. How do you encourage play in your relationship? Play is the energy that keeps things fun, and light - and can help you through a darker time in your relationship. I’m not necessarily talking about silliness - although that’s a great quality to be able to foster in your connection. “Play” is the energy of creative collaboration, and it requires you and your partner to both be as present as possible. And not only present, but also relaxed, engaged, attentive, responsive.

So being an invitation is the way that you interact with another person, inviting them to “come to the party” with you - so to speak. So at its simplest level, you might ask yourself - is the way that I’m interacting with other people encouraging them to be who they are? I’m going to give you a few questions to help you figure this out. And then, after that, I’m going to give you one key that ties it all together. Without this key, you can invite all you want without actually connecting with a person. So I’ll reveal that in a moment.

But first, how do you figure out if you’re inviting someone to the party with you. You can ask yourself questions like...

Am I being curious about them, and their experience?

Am I showing them that they are safe with me, that I’m not judging them?

Am I willing to notice what’s actually going on with a person - and to validate what I’m noticing through my curiosity? In other words - what do you think is going on with a person? How and why do you think that? And then, once you notice you’re thinking it, do you check in with them to find out whether or not it’s true?

Now why are all of those things so crucial? They are all about giving someone evidence that you are there, with them. And, on top of that, through being curious, you are giving your partner an opportunity to tune into themselves more deeply, to be in touch with their own experience. So as much as you’re inviting them into the dance with you, you are also inviting them into their own inner dance. What IS going on within them? And how is it a reflection of how they want to be in the world? Or are they being how they DON’T want to be?

You can say things like this - “I’m noticing that you’re doing this thing with your face, and it makes me wonder if I just said something that you didn’t like?”

Or - “I’m noticing that you’re taking shallow breaths...are you nervous right now? Or is something else going on?”

Now these are just a couple of examples - and there’s a fine line between asking these kinds of questions in a way that feels like an invitation, and asking them in a way that feels like an interrogation.

So now I’d like to give you the important key that brings it all together.

Can you show up this way, while at the same time revealing something of who YOU are? Bringing your own courageous vulnerability online in these moments?

The first part of being an invitation is inviting someone to the dance with you. The second part is your willingness to invite them into your world, into your experience. When someone learns what’s going on with you, and at the same time staying related to them - it’s an important component of them feeling safe with you.

I’m not talking about the kind of conversation where someone tells you something and then you turn it into being about you. We’ve all been in those kinds of conversations and those, rather than making you feel safer and more connected, can leave you feeling frustrated and like you’re not being considered.

So, by being open about how your experience of and with another person is affecting you, and at the same time, staying connected to their experience - that is perhaps one of the most powerful invitations that you can offer.

So it might be something like this:

“I’m noticing that you have this expression on your face, to me it almost looks like you’re in pain. And what I’m noticing within myself is that I’M getting really nervous, like I might have said something to offend you. Is that what just happened?”

Generally the safest thing is to start with the physical - what are you actually noticing about another person? And then what are you making it mean? And then...what is your OWN experience, your own feeling? And then...check in with the other person. Do they validate your feeling? Do they reveal something about themselves that you never could have guessed?

However, you could also just start with a feeling that you’re getting. Maybe you’ll be right on - or, maybe you’ll be way off. Can you present your feeling as a question, instead of as a fact? And can you reveal your own heart, so that the other person knows the impact that they are having on you?

Something like “wow, when you told me that I noticed that I got this sinking feeling in my gut. Does that relate to how you’re feeling about it?” - or - “Wow, I’m just feeling so elated after hearing that. I’m so excited for you. What was it like for you to have that experience?”

Then you get to see what happens next. And this is another reason why being an invitation is so important - especially if you’re single. You get to learn something about how the other person either does, or doesn’t, show up in this context. Do they want to play with you? Do they respond to your open heart with their own open-heartedness? Do they get flustered? Do they reflect before interacting, or do they just stay on autopilot? Do you get the sense that they are more THERE, more present with you? Does your interaction take on more of a quality of aliveness? Or does the other person get all triggered, and check out? And if that’s what’s happening - how do you know? What are the signs that you’re seeing?

Now...what about if you’re already in a relationship with this person?

Yeah, if you’re in a relationship, what do you do if your partner doesn’t immediately start to dance with you? Well, it could be that you’re really stuck in a rut, and so this can take some work to undo the patterns of the past. This is a great opportunity for you to get support, from a coach or a therapist, to get unstuck in your relationship, to have some guidance around re-patterning.

And, know that if you’ve been doing it one way for awhile, it can take a little time to make the switch to a new way of being, for your partner to actually get that you’re doing something different now. After all, if you haven’t been an invitation all this time, then it might take some time for your partner to actually trust that it’s safe to fully be there, with you, at the dinner table. And that’s ok, a natural part of the process. You’re both discovering here - discovering yourselves and perhaps re-discovering each other. If you start to see how you HAVEN’T been inviting your partner, all along, then you might start by taking responsibility for your part, for all the ways that you have either overtly or covertly been encouraging your partner to NOT be who they are, to not be unguarded with you. Ways that you have perhaps punished their vulnerability.

At this point in our world, there aren’t many people who have truly mastered this relationship skill. It takes practice, not only to do it, but also to UNdo all the ways that you were actively promoting the opposite kind of dynamics in your connection with your partner, or with the people around you. So don’t be hard on yourself if it’s a little awkward, or if it misfires a few times. It takes time. This is another place where getting coaching or support can be helpful, because you get to practice in an environment that’s safe for you - as well as getting to learn by example.

More than anything, I encourage you to….play. Experiment. Try it out with the people who matter in your life, sure - but you can also try this out if you’re standing in line at the grocery store, or when you’re at the gym, or buying a paleo bagel at the local coffee shop. And yes, there are paleo bagels. Well, grain-free bagels anyway. The point is - this is something that you can play with wherever you are, and wherever there are other people. It’s easiest to do when you’re actually interacting with people.

And whether you want support, or you want to simply let me know how your experiments are going - feel free to reach out to me via email: neilius @ neilsattin .com  - I get lots of email so I can’t promise that I’ll be able to respond, but I will definitely read your email - and it’s always great to know what’s happening with you.

That’s it for me, for this week. We’re still deep in the move here, sorting through boxes and boxes. I’m looking forward to seeing you next week, where you will be able to hear me get REALLY vulnerable in a conversation with Dick Schwartz, the creator of Internal Family Systems. This is our second conversation for the relationship alive podcast, and we’re going to dive even more deeply into how your inner world, and inner work, can help you show up more courageously, clearly, and compassionately in your own life. See you next week, and, until then, take care!

Apr 18, 2018


Are your orgasms getting in the way of your close connection with your partner? Conventional wisdom says that more orgasms = better - but the truth might actually be quite the opposite. The good news is that there are ways that you can have sex with your partner, and foster intimacy, that seem to avoid the pitfalls that orgasms can create. In order to explain, my guest today is Marnia Robinson, author of Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships. I'm moving this week, and so I pulled this episode from the archives, because Marnia Robinsons's work has been, for me, quite transformational. When I was deciding to create the Relationship Alive podcast I knew that I wanted to teach you about karezza, a form of slow sex that steers clear of orgasms - particularly for men - with the benefit of creating an even deeper, more sustainable connection with your partner. In this episode we'll cover all of the ins and outs of karezza and how to bring this form of bonding into your relationship.

Marnia is a graduate of Brown and Yale and a former corporate attorney.  She blogs on Huffington Post and serves on the board of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health. Marnia is also the moderator of the website where you can find more information about karezza and evidence to support how switching to non-orgasmic lovemaking will actually lead to a happier, more intimate relationship.

Here are some of the details of our conversation:

  • When you have an orgasm, your brain gets the biggest natural blast of neurochemicals possible without drugs.
  • The “ripple effects” of how this blast changes your internal biochemistry can continue for up to two weeks and affect how we view our partner and the world around us.
  • Some of the ripples you might experience are: mood swings, depression, anger, irritability, mental fogginess, boredom, and fatigue
  • While western society has become very orgasm-focused, other cultures have had teachings (many of them ancient) that advocate abstaining from too much sexual climax because of weakened energy. Now science can actually back up this advice.
  • It makes sense in terms of evolution and fostering diversity why you would want to grow tired of one partner and seek out another. However, since we humans are in the rare 3-5% of mammals that pair bond, we have two competing bio-mechanisms at work. If you stick with orgasm-centered sex, then you are going down the road of habituation to your partner. On the other hand, if you practice sex that is non-orgasmic, you activate the pair bonding circuitry more and more strongly over time.
  • When you are focused on bonding activities, you actually become increasingly satisfied in your relationship - and take yourself off the path that would otherwise have potentially led to your dissatisfaction.
  • Bear in mind that there is a difference for new lovers, who are in the “honeymoon neurochemistry” phase for the first two years of a relationship. During this phase you won’t be as susceptible to the same pattern of habituation - but by the time you reach two years you are in danger of rapidly shifting into an orgasm-driven downward spiral.
  • Marnia encourages gentle lovemaking and intercourse without being goal-driven and orgasm-seeking.
  • She also teaches attachment cues or “bonding behaviors” that should be part of each couple’s daily relationship.  If you download this show guide you will ALSO get a link to her FREE GUIDE on bonding behaviors that will foster oxytocin production in you and your partner.
  • This kind of sex brings more attention to each partner’s needs, a stronger connection, more tenderness, lingering contentment, better communication, reduced anxiety, more energy, more understanding, and more balance in life.
  • This kind of sex is also sustainable over the long term. If you’re in a more dopamine (and orgasmic) centered cycle, you will potentially have to always be focused on new ways to create more dopamine. Why go down that rabbit hole when your body already has a mechanism perfectly designed to keep you sexually satisfied and in harmony with your partner over the long term?

Are you intrigued?  I promise that you will learn things you have probably never heard before from Marnia’s practical explanation of these techniques.  Give them a try, and please let us know your results!

Resources:   - Marnia’s website

Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow on Amazon

Text PASSION to 33444 to download the pdf version of this episode guide AND Marnia’s Free Guide to Bonding Behaviors.

FREE Relationship Communication Guide

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook   (Marnia’s episode page on my website)

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The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Apr 11, 2018

How do you align with your vision for love and call it into your life? What’s holding you back from experiencing what you want? Whether you’re single and looking, or in a relationship and wondering what’s keeping you from making it even better, today’s episode is for you. Our guest is my friend, colleague, and mentor Katherine Woodward Thomas, bestselling author of Calling in The One and the New York Times bestseller Conscious Uncoupling. In this conversation, Katherine and I will take you on an inner journey, so that you can uncover your unconscious blocks to love and magnetize yourself for attracting exactly what you want in your relationship. She’s also about to launch a new training for Calling in The One coaches, which we’ll talk about towards the end of our conversation. Katherine Woodward Thomas’s work is profoundly transformative - something that I’ve experienced personally, and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you so you can experience it for yourself.

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!


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Check out Katherine Woodward Thomas's website

Read Katherine Woodward Thomas’s Books - Calling in The One and Conscious Uncoupling

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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 Katherine Woodward Thomas

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 going to have another very special visit from someone who's a friend, a colleague, a mentor, and an amazing teacher in the world around love.

Neil Sattin: She's been on the show three times before to talk about making space in your life for love, overcoming your barriers for love, how to get over heartbreak, and pain, and how to transform some of the beliefs at the core of who we are, the negative beliefs that get in the way of us, experiencing love and relationship the way we want to. Her name is Katherine Woodward Thomas. If you're interested in hearing any of her other episodes with me, you can visit That's for Katherine Woodward Thomas, and you can do KWT, KWT2, and KWT3. That will take you to all of her episodes with me.

Neil Sattin: Today, we are going to hone in on her work around 'Calling in "The One". How do you find love within yourself and in the world around you? Now, this work is especially important if you're single and looking for a relationship, and wondering how to find someone who aligns with you, aligns with your values, and also aligns with having a conscious relationship. At the same time, this work ... I work a lot with couples. In fact, mostly with couples, and I'm always recommending Katherine's books to them because there's so much in Katherine's work that transforms who you are and what you're able to bring to a relationship, so even if you're in relationship, this will help maybe right the course if things aren't quite right or if things are getting stagnant, this will help inject some new life into it.

Neil Sattin: This conversation is also for you. Everything we talk about will help you breathe more energy into your connections, and figure out what within you is potentially contributing to whatever it is that's going on. I think that might be enough from me. We're going to have a detailed transcript of today's episode, and to download it, all you have to do is visit Just keeping with the theme there, or you can always text the word 'Passion' to the number 33444, and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: Best-selling author of 'Calling in "The One"', New York Times best-selling author of 'Conscious Uncoupling', Katherine Woodward Thomas, it's so great to have you here again on Relationship Alive.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: It is a delight to be here with you again, Neil. Thank you so much for inviting me back.

Neil Sattin: Always a pleasure. Great to talk to you. I wanted to start with a quote of yours actually. This is something from 'Calling in "The One"', and it's toward the end of the book, so apologies. Spoiler alert.

Neil Sattin: This is what you had to say, "We have it backwards. We want to have love so that we can do loving things so that we can be loving, but the opposite is true. We need to activate an experience of expanding our hearts to feel love", in other words, being, "And then behave in loving ways, doing, so that we might draw toward us those things that create more love and fulfillment, having. Rather than have, do, be, which is how most of us are trying to create our lives, it's actually be, do, and then have." We got it reversed, and of course, that's what brings so many people into relationships that ultimately need help, right?

Katherine Woodward Thomas: For sure, that we're looking outside of ourselves for that other person to make us happy. They need to change for us to be okay, absolutely. It's so automatic to who we all are that we go outside of ourselves first, and I think the radical nature of 'Calling in "The One"' is that it is from the inside out, and we are always looking to align our consciousness with that which we are wanting to create, and so we do things like take radical personal responsibility for how we're the source of our experience. We also look to clear away anything that's inconsistent within us that would get in the way of being able to have what it is that we're wanting to manifest. I mean, they're really truthfully basic laws of manifestation.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I've had a lot of people do the 'Calling in "The One"' work, and then apply it to many different areas of their lives in order to manifest what it is they're really desiring in their heart to create, and haven't been able to up until now.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That reminds me of a passage. I think it's somewhere in the middle of the book where you're talking about a relationship that you had that went wrong, and where you went away on retreat, and on retreat, had this epiphany that I think you were like hanging on for, hoping for some sort of retribution around a hurt heart. I think you had a business together with this person, and you had this vision of like, "If you're able to let go of this, then you're going to get all that's coming to you."

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Actually, what I heard in that moment ... If I told you guys the story of what he did that had me so backed up and unable to forgive him in that moment, I get everybody all riled up and they wouldn't like him too because we all have our stories, and people actually do behave badly, and they do things that end up hurting us both consciously and unconsciously.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: What happened in that moment is that when I declared that I ... This is back in the 'Calling in "The One"' beginnings where before 'Calling in "The One"' existed as a book or a thing because it was my own process, and I had made this deep commitment to be engaged by my 42nd birthday. I was 41 at the time, and I had no prospects for a husband, but I began to ... It was only eight months away, but I began to live into that future, really into the question like, "Who would I need to be being in order for that to happen?" It wasn't so much about going out to find love. It was about going within to release any obstacles, any barriers that I had built against it, and building up certain skills and capacities that I might have been missing my whole life based on things that I never learned when I was young that most people who are in happy, healthy, secure relationships do automatically.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I was in this ... My whole focus was on my own growth and development, and one of the things I was struggling with is that I had this resentment towards a man. He was my business partner, but also, I was involved with him romantically off and on throughout the five years that we worked together, and we were both very love avoidant, and we had a lot of push/pull, and it was very dramatic, and it was very painful, and then we would always have to come to work together the next day because we had this business together. It was torture. In the end, it ended up kind of just blowing up, and I couldn't get over what he had done and some of the things that I had lost and what it had cost me. I'm on this meditation retreat with Michael Beckwith, who some people know.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: He's a very well-known teacher of metaphysics, and we're in silence, and I was wrestling with the resentment because I knew that I did not want to bring that resentment into the next relationship that I created. I didn't want to punish the next person. I didn't want to be defended against the next person because of what had happened. I wanted to complete it, and so what I was wrestling with was, "How can I complete it when it devastated me so much, and it cost me, and it's so unfair?", and I heard this voice within me. We all have these images. It was my little burning bush experience.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: It was like I had this image of a host of angels around me that I felt kind of transported, but I think we all have our own spiritual perspectives and how messages come to us, but I heard loud and clear inside of me that as long as I was holding on to him for restitution of the debt that was due me, then nothing could ever happen, because he wasn't about to restore that debt to me. He wasn't capable of it, and what I heard was is that it's actually blocking the Universe from giving me what my due is, and that framing, where like, "Oh yes, there is a debt due me", but he's not holding that debt anymore. The Universe itself is holding that debt, and that gave me the opportunity to let it go. The interesting thing about that, Neil is that it wasn't until I was willing to just let it go and to not have him holding his feet to the fire like he needed to be accountable, and I just had more faith in the overall goodness of life, that everything you put out that's good will come back to you tenfold just as a principle. It wasn't until I let go of him that I couldn't see my part in it clearly until I did that, and then suddenly, I started to see all sorts of ways that I had given my power away to him.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: It became very clear to me why it ended up going the way that it did, that right from the very beginning, that there were ways that I was giving away my power, I didn't believe in myself, I didn't set up proper structures to take care of myself, and that was a huge lesson to me, to not give my power away to anyone ever again like that. That changed me, because with that understanding, I had access to then doing things differently in the future. Now, I wish I could say I did it perfectly and I never ever, ever gave my power away to anyone ever again, but at least I knew that how I had co-created it and that this is actually my thing to deal with, and that the amends that needed to happen was the amends I needed to make to myself, and I think that we're all a little bit like that. I think that we're so busy pointing the finger at other people that it's very hard for us to see our part, but without seeing our part, we don't know how to grow and to change in the ways that we would need to in order to have great happiness and love.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You mentioned in the book ... In fact, David Burns, and then I think you read something that he had written that, "The number one determining factor of happy, satisfied couples versus dissatisfied couples was in the dissatisfied couples, they blamed each other, and in the satisfied couples, they were focused on taking responsibility for themselves."

Katherine Woodward Thomas: This is why a lot of people who were even in relationship and married, even though the 'Calling in "The One"' work is specifically for people who want to call in a great love, if they want to renew their relationship, they'll come do the work because these are very core foundational teachings about how to have our relationships flourish and thrive.

Neil Sattin: I want to just mention quickly the book, 'Calling in "The One"'. The subtitle is, '7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life'. One thing that I think is so great about the book is that it is broken down into seven weeks with a lesson per day, where you read a little bit, you do a little work. It's not like this monumental thing that you have to take on. You can just one chunk at a time work your way through, and in the process, discover all these things about yourself, transform all these aspects of yourself, and it's all work that you're doing within by just going through the book, so I just appreciate how well you lay that out and made your work very accessible for people going through it.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Thank you, Neil. I mean, I'd really like to backtrack and even share about how that got created if you don't mind.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Sure, and then I have a good juicy question for you, but go ahead.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Okay. Would you want to give me the juicy question and I'll leave in the answer?

Neil Sattin: Okay, juicy question. You were talking about the ways that we contribute to the situations that we're in, the ways that we give away our power, and yet, it can be so hard to see ourselves to really get an objective view of how we're doing those things, so I'm wondering if you have some insight on how to get that perspective on the things that we do that are the way that we're contributing to how our life unfolds in ways we might not want.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I think that's a fabulous question. You're right. It's very juicy. The short answer, and then it does kind of lead into my story here, but the short answer is that I think the way that we're trying to figure out how we're giving away our power contributing is by analyzing ourselves.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: We're going back into the past, and we're ruminating over what happened and what the story of that missing development is, and we're getting a little stuck in the quicksand of understanding and insight, and we're too far away from having a breakthrough or an actual shift in a relationship - that happens when you really do understand yourself as the source of something. First of all, it begins with the willingness to just say, "Okay. How am I contributing to this dynamic? What are the ways that I'm showing up that are giving someone permission to treat me badly? Is there a way I'm treating myself badly? Am I enrolling them into an old story covertly outside of my own conscious awareness?"

Katherine Woodward Thomas: "Who am I being in relationship with this person?", so the willingness to just even explore and begin to ask that question is what I think is a radical practice. I say radical practice because we are so programmed to project blame onto the externals, and we so think that other people are just the way they are. They're just fixed and they're never changing, and there are subtle ways that we are contributing to every single dynamic that's troublesome for us. It can be as simple as we pull our energy in, and we start to hide, we disappear ourselves when somebody disappoints us, or we don't ask the questions that would lead to clarity or set our boundaries. We fail to set boundaries because we're lacking the courage to disappoint someone or risk having someone be angry with us. We have to look at those and confront those ways of being straight on, and ask ourselves of course, "What's motivating that behavior?"

Katherine Woodward Thomas: This whole approach from the inside out ... Excuse me. I have a little tickle in my throat here, but this whole approach to the inside out is actually the core of the 'Calling in "The One"' work, and I love to share the story about how it all began because I was always a person who struggled tremendously in relationship. I had a pattern of unavailable people. I would always get involved in triangles, like people had other people in their lives, they were married, they had some incomplete relationship somewhere where they were tied up somewhere else, or it could have been workaholism or alcoholism, or just one impossible love after another was what made up the bulk of my love life for most of my 20's and 30's, and there was consequently either a lot of drama, a lot of pain, and a lot of resignation and disappointment for me. I felt confused about that.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I'm a very spiritual person. I had done years of inner work on myself. I was in therapy by the time I was in my mid-20's, and then I was in 12-step programs for years, and then I did all sorts of transformational work, and eventually, I became a therapist, and I still was helping people to have great love lives and had learned a lot of things intellectually, but I was still struggling. I would come home every night to an empty apartment with my little kitty cat, Clover, and I was just kind of heartbroken about it actually because I always wanted to have a family. It wasn't until I was in my early 40's that I started to learn about the power of setting intentions, and I began to learn about the metaphysics of generating a future that's unpredictable or unprecedented, which means that you're able to break lifelong patterns and lean into a particular possibility that was never going to happen unless you began to declare that future as your own and lean into that future and claim that future, and then, live backwards from that future.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: What I mean by that is you begin to ask yourself the question, like, "Who would I need to be?", "What would I need to let go of?", "What would I need to begin to cultivate?", "How might I prepare myself?", so you become very interested in the inner transformation. I think Dr. Joe Dispenza has a quote, which I'm probably going to butcher right now just off the top of my head, but he says ... I think it's something like, "You can't create a new future with the feelings of the past", and most of us are walking around filled with the emotional set-point of the past. We have tendencies towards depression, or our bodies are a little hiked up from the traumas we suffered long ago, so we go easily into a certain anxiety state or really, the kind of residue from the core consciousness that we formed in response to the wounds of the past, "My father left", or, "My mother worked full-time and neglected me", or whatever that situation, or, "My big sister picked on me", or, "My big brother abused me", or, "I was always left out. I was the one ..."

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I mean, we all have these variations of the theme, but there's a core consciousness that was formed in response to what happened, and it was a story that we crafted about ourselves, and that story has an emotional center, "I am alone", "I am not wanted", "I am unsafe", and that tends to be our default center when we get disappointed, or frightened, or overwhelmed, we'll wake up to it in the morning. It becomes kind of that unwanted companion in our bodies that resonates in our body. That's what Joe is talking about when he says, "You can't create a new future with the feelings of the past", so when I talk about creating the future, you declare. You make a declaration like I did, "I'm going to be engaged by my 42nd birthday", and then, I needed to become the self of my future, and that was a very full process. "Who would I be being?"

Katherine Woodward Thomas: "How would I be showing up? How would I be feeling?" It goes back to the quote you were saying before. "What does it feel like to have love that is sane, that is stable, that is kind, that is secure, that is inspiring?" Like, "Who am I in that love, and what is inconsistent in my life right now that I need to release that doesn't match that version of me?", so is this process of transforming from the inside out.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I set this intention. I was scared to do it. I had a bunch of friends who were setting intentions for themselves too and we were tapping into the collective field, which is really now being documented by Lynne McTaggart. She came out with a book recently, 'The Power Of 8'. 'The Power Of 8' is all about this collective field that when we share our intentions with each other, we hold those intentions.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: We hold each other accountable even to living inside of those intentions, that it expedites the process of transformation and manifestation. I didn't know that at the time. I didn't know the science, but I did have a group of friends, and we were doing it together, and I began my day, every morning with just asking, "What would I need to give up. Who would I need to be being?", and feeling into that, and imagining that future as though it were happening right now. This is the other answer to your juicy question.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: When you ask life these questions, like, "What would I need to give up?", or, "What would I need to grow within me in order to have the fulfillment of my desires?", my experience is, is that you get pretty hit over the head with the answer, that you will suddenly start to see things or hear things, or people will say things, or chance meetings. You will just get all the information that you need, and so I started to follow the gum drops in the forest, and I saw a ton of things that I needed to let go of. Rather than run out to try and find love, I actually went within to look at all of the barriers that I built against it and to also begin to lean into that future on an emotional level, and to become the person that I would need to be. That was where my focus was. I barely had time to date actually, which is really funny because I was pretty consumed.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I don't mean to keep talking. I have so much to say. Sometimes I'm like you wind me up. I want to get to the story, but I just want to take a breath to see if there's anything you want to say.

Neil Sattin: Wow. Thanks, and I've been enjoying. You're on fire, so that's great. One question that popped into my head, just something that I love as an addendum to the questions you were mentioning is, "What would I need to be willing to experience if I were going to live into that future?", so as a way of uncovering maybe those blocks of, "Oh, right. I'd have to be willing to, let's say confront my fear that someone won't actually love me the way I am", or any number of things like that.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I think there is. There's a turning toward the obstacle. There is an engagement, like an inner dialogue. An example of that is that once I ask these questions, I started to get answers, and one of the things that I saw when I said, "Okay. It feels like it's just happening to me, all these unavailable people." Consciously, I really want relationship.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: "How might I be the source of my experience that all these unavailable people keep showing up?", and of course, leading them to the question, "How am I unavailable outside of conscious awareness?" One of the things that I remembered when I was sitting there on this, almost like, not like a mental memory, but a somatic memory when we get flooded with a certain emotion, and I remembered being 10 when my father, who I loved with all my heart, he'd been divorced from my mother for many years, and they've had a lot of tension, so there was like a background to why he chose to do this, but he basically gave up parental rights to my mother without saying goodbye, and I just found out because my mother reported it to me, and then left the room.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: It was so devastating. It was such a defining moment for me, and I think outside of conscious awareness in that moment, I made a decision that no one was ever going to hurt me like that again, and so what I realized in that moment is that for all these years, what I had been doing is creating drama and substituting it for love, just so that I could be saved, and then I wouldn't really have to surrender to someone. When I understood that it was kind of a very primitive way of trying to protect myself, I remember that I'm an adult now, and that I have other tools to protect myself, but I got to ask myself the question, "Katherine, sweetheart, is it really worth love to you to keep this wall up?" Of course, the answer was no, and so I was able to have a dialogue with myself where I said, "You know, I think that there is a risk to loving someone, even if you love the safest person. They could pass away."

Katherine Woodward Thomas: We don't get that kind of guarantee in this lifetime, and I think that we're strong enough, and wise enough, and we have enough resources that we could handle that, and so I was able to renegotiate that within myself where I became consistently, all parts of me became available to love. This was the kind of thing I discovered like the resentments thing that I shared about my former business partner, clearing that, or the agreements that we've made with ourselves. That was really an agreement I've made with myself. Sometimes we make agreements with God. One woman I know was keeping her marital vows because she got married in a Catholic church, and she was Catholic.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: She'd been divorced for 10 years. Her former husband was already married with children from within another relationship, and she hadn't had a date in 10 years, and she couldn't figure out why, and we were able to track it back to -  She made this promise to God that she would only love this one man, so when you make these things conscious, then you get to say, "Oh, wow. That makes so much sense. Can I talk to God and see if I can renegotiate that agreement?"

Katherine Woodward Thomas: "God, can you come over for tea? I need to tell you something."

Neil Sattin: Right. Right, because it's not a matter of just realizing those things, and then just abruptly being like, "That's silly. I'm not going to do that." I don't think it works that way, that there is this process of allowing you to shift, but also to maintain your integrity. That's so important.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: It's so true what you're saying, Neil, and I think we have to take the time once we name something to renegotiate it and rethink it, and not just leave those tender parts of us behind, because the part of her that made that vow was so sincere, and so trusting, and so believed in that promise. The part of me when I was 10, I was so tender and so vulnerable, so it's not like we just dismiss it as stupid. We want to go back and pick those parts of us up, and say, "Sweetheart, I understand why you did that, but it's not really kind anymore, and it's not really appropriate, and this is what we're going to do now instead, but I've got you. I'm holding you, and I've got you." There were other things ...

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Also, another thing ... Gosh, there's all sorts of things I discovered on that meditation cushion too, Neil. I've discovered another thing that I call 'Toxic tie beliefs', when you're in relationship with people that is kind of based on a dynamic of you giving your power away in order for you to stay bonded to that person. A lot of us have these kind of toxic relational dynamics with people who matter to us - it's our father, or our mother, or our sister, or our boss, or somebody that we can't just discard, or even a friend that we've had for decades, so it's the ability to take back your power and be more authentic in the connection. There are a lot of examples of that, but just a simple one that shows us how much we can all do this is the woman who realized that she was very close to her mother and her grandmother, but the kind of the glue that held them all together was their disdain for men, and they'd always ... Her mother and her grandmother had married alcoholic, weaker men, and so they have this kind of matriarchal club.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Of course, she was in the club, but when she was doing 'Calling in "The One"', she realized, "Wow. I can't be in that dynamic anymore. I have to shift that. That's really toxic because if I'm in that club, and that's my way of belonging to my mother and my grandmother, then what does that say about the men that I'm going to be able to call in?"

Neil Sattin: Right. That would be the calling in the wrong one, of course.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Yeah. Exactly, which we've all done too many times.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Yeah. Go ahead.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm curious because a thread that seems to bind a lot of these things together is something you said early on, this faith in the goodness of life, and it's something that I see a lot that holds people back from taking risks that you might need to take, whether it's going out on a Friday night or whether it's leaving a relationship that should have been left a long time ago, or there are any number of ways that we avoid taking risks because maybe we're not anchored in the faith of the goodness of life, of things turning out well. If you're looking with a negative filter, I think that's something that David Burns talks about. It's like if you look through a negative filter, then you can find all kinds of reasons why it's not true, but I'm wondering if you can talk about the process of someone finding that within themselves to anchor themselves in that place of, "You know what? I can take this risk."

Neil Sattin: "This is going to work out one way or another. I have faith that it will."

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I think we have to expand our perspective on what it is to work out. I love David Burns, and I think that that quote that you're talking about, if you're looking through a negative filter really is important, and I have something to add to it, which is that it's not just the negative filter.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: It's missing development. We're actually ... The simplest way to say it is to say, "is it safe to cross the street?" If you don't know how to look left or right, no, it's not safe to cross the street, but if you know how to look left and right, then yes, it's safe to cross the street, so the same for relationship. If you don't know how to say no, if you don't know how to repair breakdowns, repair rifts and breakdowns, if you don't know how to hold on to your autonomy, if you don't know how to self-sooth, if you don't know how to take personal responsibility, if you don't know how to generate intimacy, all of these things, then is it safe to be in relationship?

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Maybe not. That's where we get into a lot of pain - full of toxic patterns. One of the things that I was doing also was I was looking at, "What didn't I learn when I was young that I would now need to learn in order to have successful, healthy relationships?" It really goes hand in hand. We're not just clearing away the old baggage, but we're also needing to begin to develop certain things, skills and capacities that we didn't develop maybe because it wasn't taught to us or modeled for us in our home, but also, I think that when we came to certain conclusions when we were quite young, for example, the conclusion, "I will always be alone, and no one will ever be there for me", so from that place, we might not really have learned the skills of collaboration or the skills of conflict resolution because maybe we just assume that once there's a conflict, that's kind of the beginning of the end, and at that point, you just start to withdraw your energies, a self-protective move so that you can minimize the hurt that you might feel if someone rejects you.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: There's the limitations of that missing development - what's really creating a feeling that we can't trust life. When you say, "I have faith in the overall goodness of life, and I'm going to go out on a Friday night", basically, there's the faith that, "Wow. Something really lovely could happen. I could make a really nice connection, and if not, I'm going to trust that even if I don't make a nice connection or I have an interaction that doesn't tend to be fulfilling for me, then that's going to be an opportunity for me to learn something about myself that's inside of this journey of 'Calling in "The One"'." I mean, basically, what we're doing with 'Calling in "The One"' and when we talk about living from the future backwards is we're inviting all of us to begin to organize everything, every choice, every action, every interpretation we make of what's going on according to that future, so that there's no mistakes that can be made, and you can pretty much count on that you're going to get disappointed, because in fact, Joseph Campbell said, "Destruction before creation."

Katherine Woodward Thomas: If you actually set an intention to create something that you've never been able to manifest before, what is probably likely is the destruction of what currently exists, so you will have lessons, and you will have some losses, but they're not necessarily a bad thing. Some people come in and do the 'Calling in "The One"' process, and suddenly, within a matter of a week or two, they're at odds with people that they've been in relationship with for years because they suddenly see, "Oh, that the terms of this dynamic is that I have to keep giving my power away, or that it's all about the other person, or that I have to be a doormat, and that doesn't work for me anymore", so everything starts to get repositioned in your life.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. All of those patterns are so entrenched, and until you fully transcend that dynamic, nothing changes, and then once you transcend, I think everything can change like dramatically sometimes. Yeah.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering, yeah, if we can ... I want to ask you just like kind of a silly question, and this is actually ... I mean, it's really not all that silly, but one of the questions I get asked the most by people who are single is, "Where do I meet people, or how do I find the person?" What are your thoughts on that question of like literally where? Do you think it matters whether someone's doing online dating versus going out into the world and doing things that align with their values as far as like how they actually meet people, and what do you think about that dynamic of seeking versus calling someone in?

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I think again ... Gosh, you just ask the best questions. I love being interviewed by you. Okay. Let me answer. There's two ways to answer that.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I'm sure there's probably 28 ways to answer it, but I can think of two. I want to answer from a 'Calling in "The One"' perspective, and then I'll add to it. What happened for me was as I was doing this, within a matter of weeks, a friend invited me to, or who was encouraging me, told me to get on a dating site. Now, that sounds normal to us, but this is 18 years ago, so there were no dating sites back then, but there was ... There was one.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: It was I think one of the first ones. It doesn't exist anymore. I was a little horrified at the idea because I thought it was so pathetic to have to not just be meeting someone in a supermarket down the aisle while picking out your cantaloupes, but I did it because I was coachable, and there were a quarter of a million people on the site, and I figured out the technology of how to put in all my stats and stuff, and it narrowed it down to I think from like 80 people, which is funny. It tells you how old it was because that was L.A., like 80 people meet my demographics in L.A., but I think there were other things too like my age group, or not smoker or whatever I'd put in there.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I'm reading through these profiles. No pictures. No pictures. No pictures because we didn't have the technology back then, believe it or not, so no pictures and just these handles like "two hearts beating as one" love handles and such, and one person just leaped off the page to me, and I just wrote a short, little email to him, said why I liked his profile, and then my computer froze, so I couldn't look at anybody else and I turned it off. I went to bed, and the next day when I woke up, I went to check my emails.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Back then, the technology was that if they want to write you back, it went right into your email, like it was you went email to email immediately, and so when I got his email, and his name was in parenthesis because that was another quirky, technical thing there back then, is that it actually had his name in parenthesis next to his email address, and it was a man that I had dated six years earlier who I had for years thought of as the one that got away, and that we went out and we ended up being engaged two months later, which was before my 42nd birthday, and we were married the next year, and then had our daughter.

Neil Sattin: Funny.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: To me, that was a miracle. That was the Red Sea parting really. I would have believed the Red Sea could part sooner than I would believe that I could find that wonderful man. That was actually why I created the 'Calling in "The One"' process because I thought, "Wow. What did I just do that created such magic?"

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I do think that when ... The first part answer to your question like, "Where do we go to meet somebody?", is I think that when you're ready, that the Red Sea will part. When you're really ready and you're standing in that magnetic energy, the Red Sea will part, and if you're not ready, you can go to all the right places, and it might not work out, or if it does, it will just do it for a short period of time because you'll end up sabotaging it. The focus of 'Calling in "The One"' of course is on the consciousness of that, however, I also as a person, have ideas about where to go to meet just because we live in such a global community, and I think more than ever, we have the opportunity to go to join communities and to attend events that really are reflective of our true core values. I think all the dating stuff is good.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I'm ambivalent about it like everybody else because of the fraud issues, and also because the manners of people seem to be really missing, and it seems to be that people have really largely ... We are culturally objectifying each other as opposed to relating to each other, so it's painful and it's wounding, but if you can not take it personally and you can understand that you're walking into a bit of a hornet's nest, there is definitely gold in there because there are people who are genuinely looking for connection and commitment, so I'm not going to pooh-pooh it, but I know that it's not for the faint of heart, and my number ... I was going to say my number one rule is don't take it personally, but my number two rule is be kind, please to people and don't take advantage of people, and try and be respectful and thoughtful, and remember that these are real human beings when you're on there, but I do think that it's about getting involved in things that you most deeply care about. I think that's the best bet truthfully is, because when we're looking at what really ... We've gone from role mate relationship to soulmate relationship.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: When we are looking at what it is that we are looking for in a soulmate, we're looking for someone whose mission is aligned with our own, and who sees the world in a similar way, a similar enough way that we can get up underneath them and trust their support of us, and then also be challenged by them because maybe they see things a little bit differently and challenge us to grow, but the fundamental core values and what you're called to in life are similar enough that you can join forces. That's going to be a more specialized community, and there's a lot of things virtually where people are doing things virtually and creating virtual communities, but there's also a lot of conferences or a lot of events that are happening with people who share our similar interest, and I think that those are the best bets for meeting people.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. In general, I think if you are literally in-person with someone, there's just so much more information available to you about how you connect with that person, that you're not going to get any other way when it really comes down to it.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I don't remember how you met Chloe. How did you meet Chloe?

Neil Sattin: Chloe and I met in a dance class that I had been going to for maybe about six months, and she had just moved to Maine from the West Coast, and she showed up to ... It was like maybe her first week even in Portland where we were at the time. She walked into this class, and we were paired together for an exercise. Totally out of our own control, and then from there, yeah, we just connected, and that led to everything that happened after, which listeners and you as well, Katherine have heard a lot about.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Wow.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, but it was being out there doing what we love.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. That's exactly what I was saying. It doesn't have to be like you're going to travel to another city to do a conference. You just start taking dance in your community.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Get out to a class and do what you love. That's great.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. For some reason, this word popped into my head. I'm not sure exactly what the question is here, but the word is 'Settled'. Something like, is that a lot of people like they're out, and they have like this clear vision of who they want or what kind of relationship they want, and maybe they've even done some of the work from 'Calling in "The One""', and then there's this like, "This person seems so great, and yet, blah, blah, blah." They have their hesitations, and then there's this question of, "Do I settle for this or do I keep going? Do I keep looking?"

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Yeah. It's more and more an issue in our online dating culture because there's so many choices, and I think ... I'm trying to remember the guy's last name who wrote the 'Modern Romance' book, and this is what's his main point was, where he was ... He did this kind of ... I don't think it was a scientific experiment, but he started interviewing people in retirement homes about they met their mate, and they basically, most of them said, "Oh, she lived next door", or, "She lived down the street." They basically had four people to choose from in their community, and they were happy.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: That was what life gave them, and they made it work, and they were happy, and so we live in a really different world. I think the more that we understand ourselves, and the more that we know what's really most important to us, the more that we will be able to choose wisely and recognize the things that matter most when we meet someone. I think that few of us like the word 'Settled' or few of us like the word 'Compromise', but I think that there is the reality that we're all a little quirky, and we're all a little imperfect and a little crazy, and in our own beautiful ways, and even not so beautiful ways, but if you know yourself, you're not looking for perfection from someone else because you know you're not perfect, and we're looking for a certain quality to the connection. The more we can prepare for that internally and start to ask ourselves questions ... Like one of the questions in the meditations that I offer people are ...

Katherine Woodward Thomas: It's a desiring meditation. It's just asking yourself, "What do I want to be experiencing in this connection?", so we're getting away from that checklist like needs a college degree, or needs to earn this much money, or needs to be working out three days a week. We've got this checklist, but you can have somebody who matches all this checklist and have a miserable connection with that person.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I like to start with, "What are you experiencing?" "I feel at home with this person, and I feel really heard, and I feel safe, and I feel inspired, and I feel like I can trust them, and I feel like just this deep sense of happiness, and I feel held, and I feel like someone has my back." You want to start with that, like, "What are the emotional components? What are you actually experiencing?" Then, when you find somebody who makes you feel that way, you already have been cultivating that within yourself so you know that more.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I think we have to drop out of our minds a little bit. I think our minds are a little bit too busy with our checklists, and what we think we want to be happy, but I think it's more about being in our bodies and recognizing that what we're looking for really is a certain quality to the field of the connection, and in order to keep that quality healthy, it requires us to grow in certain ways so that we can weed our gardens on a pretty regular basis, which I think you're helping people do a lot too, Neil.

Neil Sattin: That's definitely a huge part of it, and I'm glad you used that word 'Growth'. It made me wonder about how you identify in another person whether they are along for the ride with you in terms of that capacity to grow and shift, and knowing that that's just going to be required when you're in relationship.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I have learned over the years that people do not accurately self-report.

Neil Sattin: Present company excluded, right?

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Present, yes. You and I are completely not in that category, that people will describe themselves as this and that, this and that, so you don't actually ... No. Do not take people at face value. I don't think that most of us are meaning to deceive other people about who we are.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I think it's a lack of self-understanding, so what I'm looking for is kind of early on in the relationship to see how somebody is able to reflect on why their past relationships have been troubled in some way. What happened in that dynamic and how they themselves were responsible? If you have somebody who's only blaming the other person, and when you ask them what was going on for them, if they tell you things that are, "I was going through a tough time at work", that are just kind of circumstantial or situational, or, "I just believe in the best in people, so I just thought it would work out", but it doesn't have a lot of depth to it, it doesn't really bode for deep self-reflection, then you can better assess where this person is on their journey and adjust your expectations and investment accordingly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Yeah, but that said, then the later stages ... I mean, you have to just see what people do and how they solve their own problems, and if they're growth-oriented and they're thinking, if they take personal responsibility for things. I think there is a process of getting to know people that's really important, but sometimes, we want to know the one in the first date or two, but I'm kind of a little old-fashioned in my own sensibilities about it. I think it's better to not sleep together quickly. I mean, you definitely want to know if there's sexual compatibility and chemistry, but it also begins to cloud your perception, so I'm along the lines of get more information before you introduce sexuality into the equation.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah, once the dopamine and oxytocin are flowing, your judgment is totally impaired. Yeah.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: All bets are off. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Katherine, we could talk for hours obviously, and I want to ensure because this work that you're doing, you also train people to help others call in the one. You train people as Calling in "The One" coaches, and I think you have another training that's coming up really soon, so I wanted to give you a chance to talk about what that process is like if someone's interested in going through something like that to help other people find love.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Yes. It's actually one of my favorite things to do, is to train and certify relationship coaches, and whether or not people have been therapists. We have therapists, we have psychologists, we have social workers, but we also have what I call 'Lay people', people who come from other professions who've always just been that person that others feel comfortable telling their troubles to. The Calling in "The One" Coach Training was born really because the book came out in 2004. It's growing.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: We're just launching it now in China. There's a whole group of folks in U.K.. There's a growing group of coaches in Australia, and it continues to be a demand in United States and Canada, but also some other countries. I think Mexico, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is part of America, but ...

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Anyway, but the work is growing leaps and bounds. Finland, and ... Where is it? Also Estonia. We have a coach in Estonia now.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: People are bringing the work to different parts of the world, and I do that because I see people as my partners in sharing this work with other people. The 'Calling in "The One"' work is life-saving for many people. It will melt away decades of painful patterns and help them to create a miracle in their love lives that they never thought would be possible for them. I have seen countless stories of people who felt hopeless be able to really awaken to their power to create this miracle of love. I train people to have professional careers as a Calling in "The One" coach, and there's a lot of things that people do with it.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: One person has a radio show now, one of my coaches. People write blogs and get articles written about them. They do their own interviews on podcasts, and they do groups in their communities, and of course, they do the one-on-one coaching, so it's pretty special. I only do a training every two years, and it's very hands-on. I am there with people.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: My senior mentor coaches are there with people. We really take them to the process. It's a really joyful training. Actually, it lasts about six months, and then in six months, people can start earning their living as a coach. People can find out about that and read more about it if they just go to my website, Neil, and I have information there for them.

Neil Sattin: Great. Your website of course is, and we will have a link to that in the show notes in the transcript. If you go there and you're not interested in the coach training, you can also sign up for ... Basically, Katherine has been sending out daily inspirations with ... As you can tell, she's got a lot to offer, so it's a great way for you to keep in touch with her, and her teachings, and other courses that she has that are coming out.

Neil Sattin: Before we drop the topic of the coach training entirely, I just want a chance to say some of you know that I've been through Katherine's Conscious Uncoupling Coach Training, and my experience of you, Katherine as a teacher was that you're just so present, so giving, and you have such integrity in what you offer and how you train people. I mean, that's why it's a six-month-long course that you're talking about. It's because you have just such a high commitment to the people that you're training, and my experience of that, it was so powerful. There are very few teachers I've worked with that have that level of dedication to the process of training others. On top of that, the work is so profoundly transformative for ...

Neil Sattin: It was for me as a coach, and I think that's another huge benefit of working with you, going through these trainings is that you get the personal experience of going through this process and having Katherine and her other amazing coaches. She has really great people gathered around her who are also helping you get the benefit of their experience to guide you through the process not of just becoming a coach, but going through the work yourself.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Yeah. That's right. Thank you. We have weekly support calls for people who are processing the material on a personal level. Thank you for that reminder.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Thank you for what you said. That really touches my heart.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. It's one of the most powerful experiences I've gone through, was to go through that Conscious Uncoupling training programs.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Wow.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Thanks, Neil. That's great to hear.

Neil Sattin: Katherine, it is always a pleasure to have you here. I hope we can have another conversation for the podcast someday soon. In the meantime, you know that if you want to find out more about Katherine's work, visit We'll have a transcript available for you to download if you go to or text the word 'Passion' to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Katherine, I'm wondering if there's anything in closing that you, like if you just drop in for everyone listening, is there anything that comes up for you like, "Oh, this is the thing that needs to be said in this moment"?

Katherine Woodward Thomas: I think we've had such a rich conversation, and I just want to leave people with a sense of possibility, that this has been an area that you have struggled in, and if there's any way that you kind of dim down your hopes or just given up even entirely on the possibility of love for you, I would hope with all my heart that you come and find us because we can tell you countless miracles of deep happiness and love after painful patterns in the past, and you can really graduate from them. Your past does not determine your future in happiness and love. You do in this very moment.

Neil Sattin: I love that. Yeah. Just like past results in the stock market are not indicative of future earnings, past results in your relationships are not. You really do have that potential to grow, and change, and graduate to a new level of relationship. Katherine, thank you so much for joining us today. It's always great to have you here.

Katherine Woodward Thomas: Thank you, Neil. It's a joy to be with you.


Check out Katherine Woodward Thomas's website

Read Katherine Woodward Thomas’s Books - Calling in The One and Conscious Uncoupling

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 Katherine Woodward Thomas

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

Apr 4, 2018

What's one of the most important factors in determining the success of your relationship? I'll give you a hint: it's something to do with how you and your partner get your needs met. The good news is - there's actually a lot of power in your hands, if you know what you're doing (and how to do it). If you ever feel like you're not quite getting your needs met, or that you and your partner are getting stuck, then this Relationship Action Step could make all the difference. And if you're looking for something practical to help you be even more successful in your relationship, with more energy and passion for each other, then this episode is definitely for you. 


Join the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

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

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Mar 28, 2018

How does the way that you communicate affect your ability to connect, and be understood? Can you change your communication style to become a more effective communicator? We don’t all use language the same way, and in today’s episode, we’re going to see exactly how those differences play out in our interactions with the people we care about most. And by the end of the conversation, you’ll have some strategies for bridging the communication gap in any situation when things aren’t going quite as you had planned. Our guest is Deborah Tannen, Georgetown Professor and author of You Just Don’t Understand, the classic book on gender differences in communication. Her latest book, You’re the Only One I Can Tell, is about the language of friendships between women. Deborah Tannen’s specialty is how we use language - and identifying exactly where differences in the way that we communicate connect us, and get in our way.

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!

During the course of my conversation with Deborah Tannen, we also mention a few other Relationship Alive episodes that will help you with your communication:

Episode 59: How to Make Difficult Conversations So Much Easier - with Sheila Heen

Episode 22: Essential Skills for Conscious Relationship - with Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt

Episode 69: How to Be Completely Alive in Your Relationship - with Hedy Schleifer


Check out Deborah Tannen's website

Read Deborah Tannen’s Book - You Just Don’t Understand and her latest book You’re the Only One I Can Tell

You can also visit Deborah Tannen’s author page on Amazon

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 Deborah Tannen

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 spoken a lot about communication on this show - and in today’s episode we’re going to cover how the specific language that you use affects your relationships. The words that you choose matter - and today you’re going to find out why.

Neil Sattin: This podcast was actually born, in some ways, more than 20 years ago, when I was in a class in college called the Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships. In this class, I gathered with a bunch of students there, in a circle, and we basically dealt with the shit that came up between us, right then and there. If you’ve ever heard of an encounter group - well, that’s what it was. One of the books that was on the required reading list was called “You Just Don’t Understand”  by Deborah Tannen - about the different ways that Men and Women communicate. This book, after it came out, spent 4 YEARS on the NYT bestseller list. So you can imagine the effect that it’s had on our culture, and what we’ve come to know about language, and gender, how we create meaning and understanding with each other. When I started Relationship Alive, one of the people I knew I had to interview was Deborah Tannen, and it took us two years to coordinate this time together. She’s here on the heels of releasing her new book, “You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships” - and I’m so excited to have her here with us today to discuss how language impacts our connections - and what you can do to improve the way you communicate with the people who matter to you most.

Neil Sattin: If you’d like to download a complete transcript for today’s episode, please visit, or you can always text the word “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions. Deborah Tannen, thank you so much for joining us today on Relationship Alive.

Deborah Tannen: Hi. What a pleasure and privilege to speak with you.

Neil Sattin: Thank you so much. The feeling, as you can tell, is mutual. Let's start with You Just Don't Understand. We were talking for a few moments before we officially got started, and, as you mentioned, it's a classic. It's something that has defined how we look at gender dynamics in communication. I'm wondering for you what you've noticed about how that book as impacted people in the world around you, and also how you've seen it affect culture?

Neil Sattin: I know that for me, personally, not only did it give me a much deeper understanding of what was happening and how I communicated, but it made me want to change. It made me want to shift so that I could find more common ground, whether I was talking to men in my life, women in my life, and at this point, people all over the spectrum of gender. So, how have you seen that book shift what is actually happening in our culture?

Deborah Tannen: It has been overwhelming to notice how much of what I wrote about in that book has become part of the landscape, I would say, of how people think about relationships and conversation. I guess the most striking one is, "Why don't men ask directions?" When I put that in the book, I don't think anyone had talked about it, but a number of the interviews that I had very early on had picked up on that. Then it became so much a part of the culture people were sending me cocktail napkins, "Real men don't ask directions"; jokes going around, "Why did Moses wander in the desert for 40 years?"; maybe one of my favorites, "Why does it take so many sperm to find just one egg?"

Deborah Tannen: You hear a little bit less about that now that we all have GPS devices, but it really doesn't change things that much. Just recently, this is really funny ... My research method is asking people about their own lives, listening to people. More and more for the current book I actually interviewed people, but in the beginning I didn't do what. The idea of them not asking directions, which is one example that a friend of mine gave me, I just asked her, "What do you and your husband argue about?"

Deborah Tannen: She mentioned, "He won't stop and ask directions. We get lost and it frustrates me."

Deborah Tannen: I was talking to just that friend not long ago and asked her, "Well, now there's a GPS that doesn't happen, right?"

Deborah Tannen: She said, "It still happens. He doesn't want to use the GPS. He says, 'I don't need her to tell me where to go. I know how to go.'"

Deborah Tannen: So, that's a long answer. I think just the idea that women and men might have different ways of speaking has become almost like it's just accepted for many people, clearly not everybody. Several of the scenarios I talked about are now very much a part of the public knowledge-base, or something like that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Do you want to touch for a moment on ... Because there, of course, have been critiques of your work. What have you seen in terms of when people stand up and say, "Nah, this isn't really how it is?" Where are they typically coming from?

Deborah Tannen: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I should say, I guess for maybe about a year after the book came out, my book was very frequently criticized, especially in the academic world. It was criticized for generalizing, for saying all women and men are alike, for downplaying, or some people thought I was ignoring power differences.

Deborah Tannen: By the way, that led me to write the book The Argument Culture, because it was so surprising and shocking to me that people in the world of academia ... which had been my intellectual home for so many years at that point and really my oasis, you might say, in this wild world. I loved my academic job, my academic colleagues. So, it was shocking to me that what I saw a search for truth was leading people to accuse me of saying things I had never said. Led me to ask, "Why would they do that?"

Deborah Tannen: I ended up writing the book The Argument Culture in which I just dissected a bit our tendency to approach everything as a fight, a debate, an argument. Then, you're motivated to look for arguments to make the other person look bad, ignore things the other person actually wrote or said that would make them look good. So that's the background.

Deborah Tannen: To answer those complaints, obviously I know that there are power differentials in our culture between women and men. In fact, I do write about how the style differences that we often have -- and I never say all women all men; I always say tend to, many, often, most -- how these very style differences can lead to reinforcing the power of those who use the styles that I associate with men. I actually wrote a whole book about the workplace, that was the next book after You Just Don't Understand. That book was called Talking From 9 to 5, and I showed there how styles that are common among women when used in the workplace lead them to be underestimated, to be seen as less confident than they often are, to be overlooked, to not receive credit that they deserve. Clearly, there's also just sexism, so I would never say that all discrimination is simply based on style, obviously; that's not the case, just that this is one thing that has a role to play there.

Deborah Tannen: As for generalizing, there's almost an irony there. I did not start out as an expert on gender; my field was cross-cultural difference. My dissertation and my first book were about New York as compared to California conversational style. I grew up in New York City, Eastern European Jewish background -- I think that's relevant -- and was getting my PhD at Berkeley in California, and my dissertation was an analysis of a conversation involving three New York Jewish speakers and I was one of them, and two Californians who are not Jewish, and one British woman, who actually was half-Jewish but I don't think that affected her style much.

Deborah Tannen: I had so much to say about how cultural influence had an effect on the ways people were using language in conversation, and therefore the effects of their ways of speaking on the conversation. I had written much about Greek compared to American conversational styles. I had lived in Greece and I speak Greek. So, clearly I knew that gender was only one of many influence on our styles.

Deborah Tannen: The first book that I wrote for general audiences, and, maybe kind of interestingly, the one I really had ambitions for, the one that I thought, "This is going to change the world; people are going to see they're thinking psychology and sometimes it's linguistics, it's use of language," that book was called That's Not What I Meant. It was about all of the ways that our conversational styles, our ways of speaking, our ways of using language, are influenced by ethnic background, regional background, class background, age. How all these influences on style affected our ways of speaking, having conversations, and of course the way people see us, the way we see them. Clearly I knew that gender was not the whole story.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think why we're here is to get more of the meat around the ways that we use language, how that has an impact. When I read You Just Don't Understand, I identified a lot with some of the more feminine speaking styles. Probably had to do with how I was raised and interacting with my mom. I don't know exactly, my dad was a psychologist so he encouraged me to talk about my feelings. There you have it. It probably doesn't take much more than that.

Deborah Tannen: Yes-

Neil Sattin: And-

Deborah Tannen: Sorry.

Neil Sattin: Go ahead.

Deborah Tannen: Absolutely, yeah. I never actually would say feminine style, masculine style. I tend to say, "Ways of speaking associated with women, ways of speaking common among women, or men." As I said, although I would say something like, "Tend to, maybe, may, most." But, I think it seems to be the way our minds work, that people walk away thinking, "Women do this, men do that. This is feminine, that's masculine." But I would never put it that way, and you are so right, no two women and men are alike. Think of all the people you know. We've all got so many other influences on our style.

Deborah Tannen: I'll give you an example right up front. One of the things that I wrote about in that book, and it traces back to my work in That's Not What I Meant, when I wasn't focusing only on gender, was the use of indirectness. So there was a conversation I discussed there, a couple are riding in a car and the woman turns to the man and says, "Are you thirsty dear? Would you like to stop for a drink?"

Deborah Tannen: He's not, so he says, "No." Then later, when they get home, it turns out she's kind of frustrated. She had wanted to stop. It was the man who told me this anecdote and he said, "Why does she play games with me? Why didn't she just tell me she wanted to stop?"

Deborah Tannen: My response was, "Well she probably didn't expect a yes/no answer. So if she said, 'Are you thirsty? Would you like to stop for a drink?' She probably expected you to say something like, 'I don't know, how do you feel about it?' Then she could say, 'I don't know, how do you feel about it?'" Then they could talk about how they both feel about it. If he ended up saying, "I'm kind of tired, do you mind if we don't?" that would have been fine. Or if he said, "Well, I'm not thirsty, but if you want to we could," that would have been fine, that would have been great.

Deborah Tannen: That's where I began talking about message and meta-message. The meaning of the words, the message, was an information question, "Do you want to stop for a drink?" But the meta-message, what it means that she asks him in that way is, "I don't want to make a demand. I want to know how you feel about it before we make a decision." It's starting a negotiation, and then after you find out how everybody feels about it, you make a decision taking everybody's preferences into account.

Deborah Tannen: When she gets an answer, "No," she hears a meta-message, "I don't care what you want, we're only going to do what I want." Of course, he didn't mean it that way; he had a different idea about how a conversation could go. He assumed he could say no and if she wants to she could say, "Yeah, well I'm thirsty. Do you mind if we stop?" That would have been fine with him too. It was these different ways of going about that.

Deborah Tannen: Now, it's kind of interesting, I included that example in the book That's Not What I Meant. I repeated it in the introduction to You Just Don't Understand, in the context of saying, I think it was in the introduction, I had said, "Here's an example I had given. Both styles are equally valid." It had been included in a review of the book, it was actually a Canadian newspaper, I think, where they said, "So women have to understand how men mean it," and they didn't put the second part, "Men have to understand how women mean it." I use that to say it's very easy for people to hear my examples as one is right and the other's wrong, and I never take that position. I always take the position: Styles work well when they're shared and don't work well when they're not.

Deborah Tannen: This is the long way of leading up to what I was going to say in answer to your question about generalizing. The conclusion of that whole discussion is that women tend to be more indirect when it comes to getting their way. That is, you have something you want, but you don't want to impose it so you open a negotiation. I have lots more examples of that in this new book about women friends, You're the Only One I Can Tell. I have lots of examples of how that creates problems between women and men, and just among women friends. So we can give examples of that if you're interested.

Deborah Tannen: But, the very first paper I ever wrote and ever published in linguistics was based on conversations that I had been part of where I was the one who was direct, talking to a man who was indirect. My explanation was cultural differences. I thought of it at the time as American versus Greek, Greeks tend to be more indirect than Americans. Looking back, I would say the fact that it's a New York Jewish style, probably partially explaining my tendency to be more direct. All of this is by way of saying that not only are these generalizations not applying to everybody, but that even in my own experience something that is associated with women and is more typical of women in this country when it comes to getting your way ... I know because even the first paper I ever wrote, I instantiated the opposite style.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm just struck in this moment by how I think it would be common to assume that that means just kind of like what you were saying, that the direct style is more effective. So, when you're having communication issues in your marriage, let's say, try to be more direct. What I'm hearing in this moment is this question of how do we develop an appreciation for different styles of communication so that we're able to bridge the gap in styles more effectively.

Deborah Tannen: I think the most important thing is to be aware of style differences. Being more direct might help, but being more indirect or attuned to indirectness might also help. I'll give you this example that came up in a class I was teaching at Georgetown, it was a graduate seminar and it was about workplace communication.

Deborah Tannen: It came up that papers had been written -- Charlotte Linde is someone who wrote one -- analyzing interaction that is conversation in the cockpit of airplanes that led to accidents. These were studied in order to find out whether there were ways that the pilot and co-pilot were using language that could improve to prevent future accidents. There was one in which this was real. The pilot had not suspected a problem, the co-pilot had suspected the problem; he called attention to it but didn't say it in a direct way. He said it in a kind of indirect way, and so the pilot overlooked it and the plane crashed. This is the most extreme example of a negative result from indirectness.

Deborah Tannen: In the class we were discussing that co-pilots were now being trained to be more direct. There was a Japanese grad student in the class and he said, "Well, why don't they just train the pilots to be more attuned to listen for indirect meaning?" It was not surprising to me that this came from a Japanese speaker. Much has been written about how indirectness plays a very significant role in Japanese communication, and there is lots written about the purpose that it serves, that people feel that they understand each other. You could say, maybe, a meta-message of understanding, of closeness, comes from the indirect communication. We understand each other so well, we can get meaning without having to say it outright.

Deborah Tannen: In fact, someone named Haru Yamada, she was a student of mine who's written a book about Japanese compared to American communication, she says that the most highly valued communication would be translated into English as belly talk. That is silent communication, where you get your meaning across without having to put it into words at all.

Deborah Tannen: So, I'm suspecting the people listening, depending on their own styles, and how they've been raised, and how they've come to view language, some are going to be thinking, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Indirectness is great." Others are thinking, "No, no, no! This is would be a better world if everybody just said what they mean."

Deborah Tannen: I think it's really tricky because the ways we tend to communicate are self-evident. Can I give you an example of this?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, please.

Deborah Tannen: So, I showed up for a conference where I was going to be a primary speaker. Another friend of mine, her name was Judy, was also going to be a primary speaker. That conference organizer, when I arrived, said, "Judy is not going to give her paper. She called me this morning and she said, 'I'm coming down with something. I feel horrible. If you really need me I'll come, but I'm feeling very bad today.'"

Deborah Tannen: The organizer said to me, "I told her, 'I need you to stay home and take care of yourself.'" Now, that's indirect, right?

Deborah Tannen: I thought, "This is terrific. What a great example of indirect communication and how well it worked." I said to the organizer, "Hey, can I use that in my talk today?"

Deborah Tannen: She said, "Yes. Yes, you should. It was excellent, perfect, direct communication."

Deborah Tannen: Now, why did she think it was direct? Because the meaning was clear, and it worked. Judy felt better that she didn't have to make a demand, didn't have to let her friend down. The organizer felt better because she could feel that she made the choice to accommodate her friend. I have so many examples like that, where it just works so well.

Deborah Tannen: But then, I also have examples (again, in my book about women friends) where it can lead to confusion if you have different styles. So here's an example. This was two women, they had gone to college together so they knew each other. A third person who had gone to college with them was in town visiting the one. When he was with her he said, "Hey, are you in touch with so-and-so? I understand that she lives here."

Deborah Tannen: She said, "Yeah, I'm in touch with her."

Deborah Tannen: "Hey, I'd like to see her, too."

Deborah Tannen: "Okay," she said. "I'll find out if she's free." She called the friend, said, "So-and-so's in town. He'd like to see you. If you're free I can bring him over, would you like that?"

Deborah Tannen: She said, "Yeah, sure. Bring him over." And she did. She thought everything was fine. The next day, she got a call from that friend and the friend was livid, "Why did you bring him over? I hate him. You know I hate him."

Deborah Tannen: She was so puzzled. She said, "But you said I should bring him."

Deborah Tannen: She said, "You should have known by the way I said it I didn't mean it." Now, that sounds insane for people who don't share the style, but it would have been self-evident to people who do.

Deborah Tannen: I have one more example that's a self-example. I was talking to a friend-

Neil Sattin: This is the I don't know much about that person?

Deborah Tannen: Yes.

Neil Sattin: I love this.

Deborah Tannen: Yes. So, I was talking to a friend from South Carolina. I asked her about a guy that we had some slight dealings with but wasn't a close friend, and I asked her what she thought of him. She said, "I don't really know him."

Deborah Tannen: I said, "I think he's a jerk."

Deborah Tannen: She said, "That's what I just said."

Deborah Tannen: I said, "Huh?"

Deborah Tannen: So she explained, "In South Carolina, you cannot say someone is a jerk. You have to proceed on the assumption that if you knew him long enough you would find something to like. So, 'I don't really know him,' means, 'I haven't found anything to like about him.'"

Deborah Tannen: Now, this made sense to me, and I believed her, but I was a little bit incredulous. But, luckily, before too long I had met someone who at a gathering for a first time, and he said he was from South Carolina. So I asked him, this is research opportunity now, I asked him, "What would it mean if you asked someone what they thought of someone, and the person said, 'I don't really know him'?"

Deborah Tannen: He said, "That means he's a no good, no account."

Deborah Tannen: The meaning was completely clear to him, would have been to someone else from South Carolina, was opaque to me. So I could complain, "That's no way to communicate, she should have been more direct." But think about it for a moment, being more direct would have made her come across to other people in South Carolina as an unacceptable person. I cringe to think what she would have thought of me if she didn't know me. When I say about somebody, "I think he's a jerk," I'm saying something that you simply cannot say in that culture.

Deborah Tannen: There are ramifications of saying things directly and outright. The thought that you can reduce meaning to the message level and ignore the meta-message level, it's a fantasy. That's not how language works. We're judging people as people by the way they use language.

Neil Sattin: That brings me to, I think, a really important question. Though, I have to, just as an aside, say that I'm not sure that there was anything more traumatizing to me as a three-year-old than coming to Maine, where I grew up but I was born in Tennessee. I learned how to talk in Tennessee and when I got to Maine there was a lot about how I communicated that people didn't seem to understand.

Neil Sattin: I have very vivid memories of having to shift my language patterns, and also hearing things that people said, particularly the word "wicked" which people from New England will maybe laugh about. But, the first time I heard someone saying something was wicked something-or-other, I got freaked out because my only association with wicked was some horrible witch. It turns out that in Maine, anyway, wicked means more or less like "very". So if something's wicked awesome, then it's really, really awesome. So, just kind of a funny cross-cultural experience that I had.

Neil Sattin: Anyway, so the important question, apart from my silly anecdote is: How do we tune in more to the meta-message, particularly in the moment when it's crucial to be understood?

Deborah Tannen: It's a great question. I believe awareness of style differences is probably the best thing and the only thing that we can hope for. We are going to respond automatically, "You must mean what I would mean if I spoke in that way in this context." Now when styles are relatively similar, that's going to be okay, and probably most of the time. We're doing it every minute, every time we talk to someone and they say something, we have some automatic way that we think we know what they mean and draw conclusion about their intentions.

Deborah Tannen: But, when something goes awry, when you have a negative response when you think they're reacting in a way that's kind of weird, the hope is that you could step back and ask yourself, "What's going on?" But it's tough to do, and then sometimes you can do what I call meta-communication, talk about the communication.

Deborah Tannen: An example where I had to do this myself, and again, it's almost embarrassing because it's something I had written about for decades. But I had this op-ed in the New York Times about a month ago where I had a friend over for dinner and she kept offering to help, and then kept getting up and helping. I really didn't want her to and I kept telling her not to, and she kept doing it anyway. I was really frustrated. I was really rattled by it.

Deborah Tannen: Normally, I wouldn't had said anything, but since I was writing this book about friends I felt like I needed to know her perspective. So, I meta-communicated; I talked to her about it. I told her how I had responded, how it bothered me that she was ignoring my telling her that I really didn't want her to help. She was astonished and explained to me that in her family were expected to help, and when people say, "I don't want you to help," they don't mean it. They mean something like, "You're a guest and you shouldn't help, therefore I appreciate it all the more when you do."

Deborah Tannen: Now, I'd written extensively about indirectness, it still never crossed my mind that she thought I was being indirect, that she thought I didn't mean it. And, it never crossed her mind that I did mean it. But we solved it by meta-communicating, by talking about it.

Deborah Tannen: I think many of us, maybe women especially, but probably all of us, don't like to introduce a contentious note into a relationship or a conversation. So, my impulse was not to tell her that what she was doing was bugging me, but I think it served both of us really well to have that conversation. I feel like my consciousness was raised. Any resentment I might have felt because I thought she was behaving in a way that made no sense, that dissipated. She tells me that it's a huge relief to her to know she doesn't have to do all the work when she goes to somebody's house for dinner.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. I feel like there's this frame of reminding yourself not to take everything personally, especially when it's perplexing. To recognize, "Oh, this might not mean what I think it means. This person might not mean what I think they mean when they're making this request, or when they're saying something that I'm finding to be incredibly offensive, or hurtful, or scary even."

Deborah Tannen: Well, realizing what the parameters are is helpful. For example, are you a good person by asking questions to show interest? Or are you a good person by not asking questions because they would be intrusive? So, again, coming from my book about women friends, a woman told her friend that her mother was in the hospital and then was hurt that the friend never asked. But they did meta-communicate and the friend said, "Well in my family that would be considered intrusive. People will tell you if they want to talk about something personal, but you shouldn't ask."

Deborah Tannen: Or friends that were taking a walk, one was telling the other about a problem. She was listening, but when they passed something really pretty like a gorgeous flower, she said, "Oh, look at that." To her, that didn't mean, "I'm not listening. I'm not interrupting the story." It's kind of like you're at the dinner table and you're telling a story, and somebody needs the salt. They can murmur, "Pass the salt," they're not interrupting your story.

Deborah Tannen: But the friend was hurt. She thought, "You're not listening to me." But the other friend was hurt because she so clearly was. If they could talk about that, realize for some people you can throw in interjections and it doesn't mean you're not listening; for other people you really can't, the listener should be quiet. So just knowing that these differences are common makes it possible to give a friend a benefit of the doubt, whereas beforehand it would be self-evident to you that your way of thinking about it is the only way to think about it.

Neil Sattin: I have to say, in reading your latest book, You're the Only One I Can Tell, I had several moments where I was confused, actually. I think it was that I would read something and I'd be like, "Okay, that's the way it is." Then in the very next paragraph I'd be like, "Oh! Now this is how that thing completely malfunctions." It's interesting that there are really no hard, fast rules around how to communicate. What seems to be a hard and fast rule is "assume that there's more than meets the eyes".

Neil Sattin: I'm curious about having those meta-conversations. Do you have hints about ways to invite people into it, particularly as, as so often happens when you're having that conversation, you're almost undoubtedly having it with someone who couldn't imagine how anything could be other than how they see the world? So, do you have hints on how to invite people into that level of conversation?

Deborah Tannen: It's a good question. I guess I feel like the first thing is be aware that there are these differences, so that you can talk about it as a style and not as right and wrong. Then you have to be open to a compromise that might not be the one you would have chosen. People often ask me, this goes way back to You Just Don't Understand and the book before that, "Can people change their conversational styles?" Usually what they have in mind is sending their partner in for repair. They're not thinking, "How can I change my style?" Of course, they could if they wanted to. But they're thinking, "Can I get the other one to change their style?"

Neil Sattin: Right.

Deborah Tannen: So I think really, you can start by saying, "I want to talk to you about this because I think I might not completely understand your perspective." So, if you frame it as trying to listen and understand, I think that will be better. But you do have to realize, and this came up in my book about mothers and daughters called You're Wearing That?, and my book about sisters, which is called You Were Always Mom's Favorite, as well as friends. There were some women who felt you've got to talk about any kind of a problem or point of contention and work it out. There were others who felt talking about it is a problem in itself, "A friend who wants to constantly process is oppressive, and I don't want to be that person's friend."

Deborah Tannen: Now, of course with sisters you can't say, "I don't want to be your sister," but you might distance yourself. But I definitely, in both contexts, talked to people who were frustrated because the friend or the sister didn't want to process, to talk about it. They felt you have to or you can't get past it. So in that context, I would try to raise awareness that it's quite legitimate. Other people feel talking about it only makes it worse, it brings up all the conflict that I felt in the first place, we're both going to end up stating our perspectives that makes the other one angry. Let's just let it lie, move on, and once the emotions have receded in some way, they may never go away, but receded into the background, then we'll just pretend it never happened. I think it often comes down to respecting others differences, and respecting that there could be more than one way of approaching both a problem or the interaction about it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. A classic relationship problem is one person being conflict avoidant and the other person being someone who engages. That's a set-up for so many problems that people have in relationship. I could see that both people getting to a point where they feel understood and feel resolution, how it would help to have acknowledgement that either one is okay, in both directions. We talked about this in an episode with Sheila Heen, who wrote the book Difficult Conversations as part of the Harvard Negotiation Project. We talked about how so much of getting past any sort of disagreement is really about the other person, so if you put yourself in your own shoes, it's your ability to help the other person feel like you understand them and like you want to understand them.

Deborah Tannen: Yes, absolutely. I guess it's kind of like what I said earlier. I know many others are saying something similar, that often our idea of working something out is to convince the other person of our perspective. We want to talk, get them to understand us; but they want to talk and get us to understand them. So I think if we both come in with, "I want to understand your perspective. I want to listen to your perspective," the chances of coming out more happy on the other end are increased.

Deborah Tannen: I know that psychologists have many methods for this that can be very effective, like actually articulate the other person's perspective. Because if you keep saying yours they're going to want to keep saying theirs and so you're going to want to say yours again. But if you each articulate the other's perspective, then you're starting with that mutual understanding and you won't have to waste your breath, trying to say your perspective over and over again.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. Yes, and we actually, we had a great episode with Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, talking about the Imago approach to that kind of dialogue. Hedy Schleifer was on talking about a different flavor of that. I'm curious, that idea that we could be trapped in this cycle of wanting to be understood, and how that drives people apart reminded me of the topic that you bring up in your book that is called complimentary schismogenesis. I'm not sure if I said that right.

Deborah Tannen: You did.

Neil Sattin: This idea that you can find yourself in a dynamic where you're driven further and further apart from the other person in the way that you're communicating.

Deborah Tannen: Yes. That term comes from the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, but he used it for a cultures in contact. I've adapted it to everyday conversation. The idea is: If something is not going well, your impulse is try harder and do more of whatever you're doing. That can drive the other person into more and more extreme examples of the other style.

Deborah Tannen: So, very quick examples. To start with, what we were doing with indirectness. Say you asked somebody, "Do you want to have lunch?"

Deborah Tannen: They say, "Oh, I'm really busy this week." So you ask them again, and they say, "I'm not feeling very well this week."

Deborah Tannen: You start to wonder, "Are they being indirect?" So you're going to try to solve it by making them be direct and say, "First you were busy, and then you didn't feel well, do you just not want to have lunch with me ever?"

Deborah Tannen: Well, a person who started by being indirect probably cannot bring themselves to say, "I don't want to have lunch with you, ever." They will probably become more indirect. "Oh, gee, I don't know. It's just been a tough time now."

Deborah Tannen: So you say, "Well, what is it?" They're going to get even more indirect.

Deborah Tannen: Just a couple of other things that we haven't brought up before that are very prone to this complimentary schismogenesis. Let's say you're talking to someone, you tend to talk a bit more loudly than the other does, and they tend to talk a lot more softly. You might raise your voice to set a good example to let them know they should speak up. Well, you're now offending them even more so they're going to talk even lower because they want to set a good example for you. You're going to end up with one shouting and one whispering. You're talking more loudly than you normally would, they're talking more at a lower volume than they normally would in response to what the other is doing.

Deborah Tannen: Something that turned out to be very important in a conversation with regard to cultural differences, not gender differences, is how long a pause is normal between turns? When this normal length of pause, when you're approaching it, you'll start to think, "Gee, I guess I should take the floor, the other one has nothing to say." But if your sense of pause is somewhat shorter, you're going to be interrupting. You're going to think the other person is done when they're not and they're going to start thinking you don't want to hear them talk, you only want to hear yourself talk, you're interrupting.

Deborah Tannen: You're thinking, "What's wrong with this person? Do they not have anything to say? Do they not like me?" You're coming from Maine, speaking to me, who grew up in Brooklyn. I've got to be really careful and wait, perhaps, a longer length of time than would normally feel right to me, to make sure that you have nothing to say. You might have to push yourself to start speaking before feels completely comfortable. Otherwise, by complimentary schismogenesis, we end up in a situation where I'm doing all the talking and you never get a word in edgewise.

Neil Sattin: I was going to ask you why you keep interrupting me?

Deborah Tannen: Believe me, I've been holding it back.

Neil Sattin: What are some other ... I like how we're flavoring this soup with possibilities in terms of what kind of meta-messages could be operating, what kind of styles could be operating. I'm wondering if there are others, in particular, that come to mind around how people talk to each other. Perhaps, the difference between rapport and reporting, that's one thing that comes to me. But I'm sure you have lots that have been like, "These are the things that we've got to be aware of, because they're most likely happening in your dynamics."

Deborah Tannen: Yes, so a difference that I wrote about in You Just Don't Understand was rapport talk and report talk. So report talk is a conversation where really it's the message level meaning of the words that's most important and it's focused on information, impersonal information. Rapport talk is where a lot of what you're saying is to create social connection. It really doesn't matter that much what the specific answer is. I did, there, find that women probably tended to be more likely to do rapport talk in a situation where a man might do report talk. But this can happen between friends of the same sex, even at work.

Deborah Tannen: I'll give you an example where, because I have a book about the workplace, it's called Talking From 9 to 5, where one person felt when you have a business meeting you should start with personal talk. The other ones feels, in a business meeting get right down to business that's report talk. Well, the one who is starting with general talk might give the impression, and I had examples where this happened, "Well, there really isn't anything important to talk about. There's nothing I have to pay that much attention to. This is just a social meeting." So then, when that person, the rapport talk person gets to the report talk, the other one has switched off, figures this isn't all that important because it's coming as an afterthought, would be an extreme example from the workplace.

Deborah Tannen: I'll give you another example, too. It's kind of like rapport talk and report talk. One of the scenarios from the book You Just Don't Understand that really got a lot of attention, and I think has kind of become part of the culture, a conversation where a woman tells a man about a problem and he tells her how to fix it, and then she's frustrated. What I said about it in that book and what is often said about it is, "She didn't want a solution. She wanted to talk about it."

Deborah Tannen: He's frustrated because he's thinking, "Why do you want to talk about it if you don't want to do anything about it?" Both are frustrated because someone they're close to, who should understand how they mean what they say, seems to be misjudging them.

Deborah Tannen: I would actually say something somewhat different now, and in the book about women friends I do. I really wish for us to go back and think about that some more. How might the conversation go if it were women friends? Well, I tell you about a problem, you might say, "Gee, why do you think he said that?" And then, "Well, what did you say after he said that? What do you think you might do?" "Yeah, I would probably feel the same thing. I'd probably feel the same way, but what do you think of doing this?"

Deborah Tannen: In the end, you do give advice. So when I say, "She didn't want a solution," that's probably not accurate. It's just that we don't want the solution right off the bat, because the very act of talking about it has a meta-message of caring. The fact that you're willing to spend time talking to me about my problem means you care about me. It's a kind of rapport talk.

Deborah Tannen: Taking it as, "Here's a problem, I want a solution," that's approaching it as report talk. Perhaps the frustration is not so much that she didn't want a solution as that she didn't want it right off the bat, because the solution shuts down the conversation. Starting that kind of conversation was probably her motivation in the first place.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm getting the sense, and this comes up with another strategy that we don't really have time to talk about today called The Ways That We Energize Our Partners. But one element of this strategy, I think gets at helps us clarify meta-messages, which is for you to reflect how what someone is ... Let's see if I can say this well.

Neil Sattin: Let's say you say something to me, for me to reflect back to you, "You just said this to me, and what that means to me is ... blank". I think it would be so interesting to use that to flavor a conversation, especially when you sense it going awry. So if you were in that typical scenario where let's say someone just wants to be heard first, before the fixing happens, if you were able to say in that moment, "Wow, you're offering me these solutions. What that means to me is you don't actually really want to hear about what's going on with me, you just want to get past it," it becomes an opportunity for the other person to say, "Well that's not what I meant at all." And at least gives you a window into that dialogue around meaning and how meanings can be misconstrued, and getting at what's important. Like you were just establishing that what's important is setting the stage of caring to help frame a conversation where then someone can actually contribute a solution to it.

Deborah Tannen: Yes. That's why I feel that understanding these parameters, understanding that they can be different and often are different among speakers of the same language, that's what I see as essential. Then, once you have that understanding, you, and maybe you with a particular friend or partner, can come up with a way to handle it.

Deborah Tannen: A quick example: There are many ways that my husband is not typical and I am not, and there are many ways that we are. For example, he's the one who likes to ask directions and I'd rather use waze or a map. But, this is one where he and I often get frustrated. He once said to me, "I know you don't want a solution, but it's too frustrating for me to listen to you go on and on when I know the solution. So, how about I tell you the solution and you listen. Then if you want to keep talking about it you can."

Deborah Tannen: I think that's just as good a compromise as my teaching him to not give me the solution right off the bat. The key is, he and I both understand that this is a difference. Then, we can come up with all different ways of accommodating that difference.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I like that. I really like that. Because your latest book really focuses on friendship, and friendship is such an important part of feeling balance in our lives, feeling fed and supported by the community, I'm wondering if you can touch for a moment on the interplay of how we communicate with our friends versus how we communicate with our spouses, our beloveds?

Deborah Tannen: Many of the patterns that I observed in considering conversations among friends were quite parallel to the kinds of things that happen in family relationships and romantic relationships. Some of the things that were different had to do with the level of choice that goes on with friends. This can be both good and bad.

Deborah Tannen: As I said earlier, you can decide not to be a friend, you can't decide not to be a sister. You can decide to separate from a romantic partner, but that's quite a big deal, although cutting off a friendship with a same sex friend or other sex friend is also a very big deal. I have a lot to say about that because so many of the women that I interviewed, I interviewed 80 girls and women from this book, so many of them told me about cut-offs, or what we now call ghosting. A friend suddenly disappears, or they decided, "This friendship is really not good for me, I'm just going to cut it off."

Deborah Tannen: Somebody pointed out to me, "With a romantic relationship, you kind of have to have that closing conversation, 'I don't think we should see each other anymore because ...'" Certainly if it's a marriage, or living together situation like that, you would have to say, "This isn't working." You would have to have that conversation. But it's so common among friends to just cut it off with no closing conversation, no, "I decided this isn't working for me because ..." So I think that's a huge difference.

Deborah Tannen: I guess there's two ways to look at it. One is it was so hurtful when people told me that others had cut them off and they didn't know why. The not knowing why was really, really hurtful. On the other hand, you could say that it's one of the gifts of friendship that you have more volition, that you can decide, "This is causing me more pain than it's giving me pleasure and I want out." I guess you could think of it as a positive or negative thing, but that certainly is a big difference.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I will say too that some of the more poignant moments in your latest book for me were when the circle did get completed, when people were able to follow up and tell those stories of what they discovered about why cut-offs happen.

Deborah Tannen: Yes, and since it is such a common thing and the cause of so much hurt, I do have a bit about it. It could be ... Maybe this is something, in a way, about the whole book, or maybe about all my books, it's a great relief to know that something you've experienced has also been experienced by many other people. You're not alone, nobody's crazy, but these are inherent in human relationships. These cut-offs, yeah, sometimes someone would come back years later and say, "I was just going through a tough time then," or "I was cutting everybody off at that time."

Deborah Tannen: I have an example of my own from high school. Very exciting when half a century later I actually found the person who had cut me off, and discovered that it actually wasn't anything I had done or anything she really was going through. It was her older brother who insisted that she end our friendship.

Neil Sattin: Wow, yeah, I remember that-

Deborah Tannen: I had actually written about that, that yeah, if you're a young person living at home, older people living with you who have that kind of power over you, sometimes they're the ones that make the decision. Often they're right; they may well see that a certain friend is not good for you. But on the other hand, sometimes they're just jealous.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, plus I think it's worth highlighting in this moment that I think you might have the title for your next book: You're Not Alone and Nobody's Crazy.

Deborah Tannen: Maybe that should be the title of every book.

Neil Sattin: Deborah, before we go I'm wondering if we can just touch for a moment on the influence of digital communication on how we communicate? In particular, how much gets sacrificed through texting and Snapchatting? Maybe if you have some ideas on strategies other than, "Don't try to have any meaningful communication that way," which is often what I would just say, but strategies for people to help them sift through the possibility for missing the meta-message when it's just a few characters on your iMessage that's doing the communicating.

Deborah Tannen: Yes, I do have a chapter on social media, so I'll just say a little bit from that chapter. I believe that all these social media ramp up both the positive and the negative of friendships. On the positive side, you can stay in much more constant touch. There's this sense of absent presence, so that you feel you're together even though you're not. You send these pictures, it's a way of saying, "Hey, look at that," and you feel as if you're together.

Deborah Tannen: One of the big risks is fear of being left out. We all can be hurt if we discover that our friends are doing things without us. Women seem particularly sensitive to that kind of hurt. Well, with social media, your chances not only of knowing what they were doing, but of seeing pictures of what they were doing without you goes way up. It could be you missed it because maybe you were invited but you couldn't make it; maybe you missed it because you didn't check your phone in time; maybe you weren't invited. But the changes of being exposed to this and hurt by it are ratcheted up.

Deborah Tannen: As you say, the risks of missing the meta-message, or mistaking the meta-message because you don't have tone of voice, facial expression, although we're extremely creative at using emojis, emoticons, memes, and pictures. There's more and more use of that. My students look at all the creative uses of ha, ha-ha, ha-ha-ha, lol, all these ways that we say, "Don't take what I just said literally." So, I think that people can be very creative about it.

Deborah Tannen: Maybe one of the biggest risks is the sense that ... Again, it's a kind of conversational style difference. One friend thinks texting is a good way to talk about problems, the other thinks it's not so she gives minimal responses. The one who's talking about the problem that way thinks, "Where's my supportive, caring friend?"

Deborah Tannen: Of course, I think you kind of implied this in your question, just the sense of overload. So many different platforms that you have to check, the fragmentation of attention, the temptation to be looking at your phone rather than the person that you're with. All of these are challenges that we have to be aware and find ways to overcome.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, my hope is that as people become more sensitized to how it's affecting them, that it actually spawns even more authenticity and integrity. It's really calling people to the table to be more aligned in terms of how they communicate, because the consequences are so easily seen or experienced, of not being clear.

Deborah Tannen: You know, I often find myself defending the use of social media, because I think it has a lot of positive things that we can lose track of. There are many people who can be more authentic when they're typing on a screen than if they're facing a person. Many people find it easier to reveal their real feelings, something personal, some emotion, when they don't have a person staring them down. Many close friendships have evolved, some who never meet, just by talking on the screen, Facebook or some other such medium, and reveal things they wouldn't reveal to somebody that's in the same room with them.

Deborah Tannen: I think it's just a matter of awareness and finding what works, and tempering if you feel that things are becoming out of hand. But often those people who are looking at their screen rather than talking to you are really, importantly, avoiding being rude to the person who texted them and need that answer right away. So, a bit of it might be being more tolerant of that. But then, I know there are groups of people who when they get together they all put their phones in the middle, and then the first one who grabs his phone pays the bill.

Neil Sattin: I love that. That's a great solution. I can already imagine the meta-meaning conversations. Like, "So, honey, when you're texting on your phone and we're in bed together, what that means to me is ... " Then you get to get more clear about it.

Deborah Tannen: You certainly can have parameters that you agree on for your relationship.

Neil Sattin: That's what we hope, that's what we hope. Well, Deborah, thank you so much for being here with us today. I'm just so appreciative of your time and your wisdom. For me it's just such a treat, considering how much of an impact your work had on me oh so long ago. It was really fun to revisit today, 20 something years later, and just see how your work has permeated the way that I think, the way that I communicate and interact, and the way that I hope to help others, both as a coach and through this podcast. So, just thank you so much for  being here with us today, and for such a vast contribution to our knowledge about how we communicate with each other.

Deborah Tannen: Thank you so much, it's really been a great pleasure to talk to you.


Check out Deborah Tannen's website

Read Deborah Tannen’s Book - You Just Don’t Understand and her latest book You’re the Only One I Can Tell

You can also visit Deborah Tannen’s author page on Amazon

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 Deborah Tannen

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


Mar 20, 2018

Is it ever a good idea to snoop? Do you suspect that your partner is keeping secrets from you? Or are you being "snooped upon" and wondering what to do about it? How do you rebuild trust? In today's episode, we're going to dive deep on the topic of snooping, and secrets, in your relationship. What do you do if you feel like snooping is the only way to get information about what's going on with your partner? How do you rebuild openness and honesty in your relationship? I'll answer all of those questions as we continue the conversation about how to promote "the truth" in your relationship.

And why would you want to promote the truth? Because it creates energy, and passion, and connection - even when the truth is complicated. The truth might not be easy, but it is better than what happens when you live in an atmosphere of lies in your relationship.

There have been a couple other episodes that have focused on this topic so far. If you want to get more information, you can listen to:

Episode 24: Why We Lie and How to Get Back to the Truth - with Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson

Episode 107: A Little Honesty Goes a Long Way - with Neil Sattin


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by YogaGlo.

YogaGlo offers amazing online yoga and meditation classes, at all levels, wherever you are, at whatever time is convenient for you. Along with being incredibly affordable (each month costs less than a single yoga class), they are offering you two weeks free just for signing up and checking them out. Visit for two free weeks!


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Mar 15, 2018

The way that you think creates the way you feel. If you have great thoughts then no problem, but if your thoughts are a little distorted, then...look out! Wouldn’t it be great if there were an easy way to look at your thoughts...and change them? As it turns out - there is! In today’s conversation we are going to show you how to identify the kinds of thoughts that lead to depression, anxiety, shame, anger, and self-doubt - and talk about the process that you can go through to eliminate those thoughts for good. Our guest is Dr. David Burns, author of the acclaimed bestseller Feeling Good and one of the leading popularizers of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). He is also the creator of TEAM therapy, which takes CBT to the next level. Today, David Burns and I are tackling the topic of “cognitive distortions” - the messed-up thinking that can get you stuck in negative emotions. By the end of today’s episode you’ll not only be able to spot the times when your thinking gets distorted, but you’ll know what to do about it so that you can “feel good”.

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

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!


Check out Dr. David Burns's website

Read David’s classic books, Feeling Good or When Panic Attacks

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

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. On today's show, we're going to cover ways that your thinking can be distorted. And, by being distorted can impact the way you feel, the way you behave, the way you interact with other people, and basically get in the way of you being an effectively functioning human being.

Neil Sattin: I'm talking about cognitive distortions and they've been mentioned a little bit on the show before, but I wanted to take this opportunity to dive deeply into the ways that our thinking can just be messed up. From that messed upness - and no that is not a technical term -  comes all sorts of problems.

Neil Sattin: From today's show, what my hope is for you is that you understand these things well enough so that you can spot them happening in your own thinking and perhaps in the thinking and reasoning of those around you. We're going to talk about effective strategies for changing the pattern.

Neil Sattin: In order to do that, we have with us today a fortunate return visit from Dr. David Burns who was on the show back in episode 98 where we talked about how to stop being a victim in your relationship. This was an episode that was all based on David's work in a book called Feeling Good Together.

Neil Sattin: If you're interested in hearing that, you can go to What I wanted to talk about today relates to some of the pioneering work that David did in popularizing cognitive behavioral therapy primarily through his book Feeling Good which has sold millions of copies all over the world and has been prescribed and shown to actually help people with depression simply by reading the book and going through the exercises.

Neil Sattin: I'm very excited to have David with us today, we're going to talk about cognitive distortions, we're probably going to touch on TEAM therapy which is his latest evolution that's attacking some of the problems with cognitive behavioral therapy. And hear about some of the amazing results that that's getting and get some insight into how that even works.

Neil Sattin: Without any further ado, let us dive right in. David Burns, thank you so much for joining us again here on Relationship Alive.

David Burns: Thanks Neil, I'm absolutely delighted to be on your podcast for two reasons. First, I think you're a tremendous host. You know your stuff both technically and you know my background, you do your homework, that's very flattering to me being interviewed, but also you seem to exude a lot of warmth and integrity, just a pleasure to hang out with you a little bit today and your many, many listeners.

Neil Sattin: Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate your saying that. This stuff is important to me. I'm hoping that this podcast makes a big difference in the world and the way that we do that is through being able to feature amazing work like what you do. I don't want to forget to mention that you also have your own podcast, the Feeling Good Podcast that has amazing insight into the work that you're doing.

Neil Sattin: In fact, you record sessions with people so people can actually hear you working with clients and then explaining how you did what you did and also getting direct feedback from the people that you're working with. That's a fascinating show and how many episodes have you put out at this point?

David Burns: I think Fabrice and I are up to roughly 60, in the range of 60. One really neat bit of feedback we're getting is that a lot of therapists now are requiring their patients to listen to the Feeling Good podcasts. There's been a lot of research on my book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy and studies have shown that if you just hand the book to someone with moderate to severe depression, 60% of them ... 65% of them will improve dramatically within four weeks.

David Burns: That's really, really good news. It's called bibliotherapy or reading therapy, but now we're getting this ... I'm getting the same kind of feedback from people who are listening to the podcasts and saying that just listening to the Feeling Good Podcast had a dramatic effect on their depression or their obsessive compulsive disorder or whatever is bothering them. I'm hoping that that trend will continue.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, someone's going to have to study podcastio-therapy.

David Burns: Yeah, right. You may be having the same thing Neil on your relationship broadcast from people with troubled relationships following the information and the techniques you're providing and perhaps experiencing genuine improvement in their relationships, greater intimacy and love.

Neil Sattin: Absolutely. I'm getting that kind of feedback all the time from listeners and I also hear that therapists, particularly couples therapists are having their clients listen to the show and even sometimes prescribing specific episodes for them to listen to. It feels really good to be able to be an adjunct part of people's progress and therapy.

David Burns: Congrats. That's great. That's a real credit to the quality of what you're offering.

Neil Sattin: Thank you. Thank you. Well, let's dive in. Enough kudos although it does feel really good, though I guess that doesn't surprise me considering you're the author of Feeling Good. Quick point of clarification. Is it the just handing of the Feeling Good book that has a 60 to 65% improvement rate or did the people actually have to read some of it to get that?

David Burns: All they have to do is touch it. The improvement comes through osmosis and many of those who have read it have gotten worse. They don't have good data on that in the studies. It's people coming to a medical center for the treatment of depression and in the original studies, they said that they had to be on a waiting list for four weeks and during the four weeks, read this book.

David Burns: Then they continued to test them every week with various depression tests and half the patients went to some kind of control group who were on a waiting list control for four weeks or they gave them some other book to read like Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning and in all of the studies, the patients who were given a copy of Feeling Good, two thirds of them had improved so much within four weeks that they didn't need to have treatment anymore at the medical center.

David Burns: They never got antidepressants or psychotherapy. Then they've done follow up, up to two year follow up studies on these patients as well. For the most part, they've continued to do well or even improve more and have not had significant relapses. The alternative groups who got Victor Frankl's book did not show significant improvement or people on waiting list control.

David Burns: They were pretty well done studies sponsored by research from ... sponsored by National Institute of Mental Health and other research groups. Forrest Scogin is a clinical psychologist at University of Alabama and he pioneered a lot of these studies, but there have been probably at least a dozen replications of that finding that have been published now with teenagers, with elderly people and with people in between.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I want to just say, your book despite having been published a little while ago now is eminently readable and I did read it a while ago. In fact, I think it was one of the first "self-help books" that I stumbled across probably around when I was graduating from college. In sitting down and revisiting it in preparation for our conversation today, I was just struck by how personable, for a book that's about cognitive behavioral therapy which is something that I think just calling it that probably turns a lot of people off.

David Burns: You bet.

Neil Sattin: The truth is that reading it through, it just makes so much sense and I love how you bring humor into the subject and in many ways talk about yourself as an author in some of the quizzes around the kind of thoughts that undermine our self-esteem. Anyway, I definitely recommend it.

Neil Sattin: If you're not one of the millions of people who have already read it, you should pick it up and if you are, I would suggest picking it up again to just glean again what more is there. We're going to talk about one of the central topics in the book which is how our thinking affects the way we feel.

Neil Sattin: Maybe we just start there because that was one place where I even in upon revisiting, I got a little confused and in the past, that's made total sense to me. Yeah of course, I make something mean something and that gives me an emotional response to it which ironically makes me think of Victor Frankl's work.

Neil Sattin: At the same time, I know that we have feelings that just our bodies kick in with emotional responses in a split second when something happens. That seems to precede thought. How do you parse that apart in a way that makes sense?

David Burns: Well, the basis of cognitive therapy and we've moved on to something new called TEAM therapy or TEAM CBT, but I think the basis of cognitive therapy which as far as it goes it's still pure gold goes back to the Buddha 2,500 years ago and to the Greek philosophers like Epictetus 2,000 years ago that humans are disturbed not by things, but by the views we take of them that you have to interpret an event in a particular way before you can have an emotional reaction to it.

David Burns: This thought is so basic that our thoughts create all of our moods. We create our emotional reality at every moment of every day by the way, we interpret things, but that's such a basic idea that many people can't get it or they don't believe it. I had an example of this at my workshop in the east coast recently - I was in a hotel.

David Burns: I've had many afflictions myself in my life. I love to treat people with depression or anxiety because whatever they have I could say, "Oh, I've been there myself." I can show you the way out of the woods, but when I was little, I had the fear of heights and then I got over it completely as a teenager through a high school teacher who had me stand on the top of a tall ladder until my fear disappeared and took about 15 minutes and it was dramatically effective.

David Burns: Suddenly, my anxiety went from 100 to zero and I was free, but it crept back in because I stopped going up on heights not out avoidance, just I had no reason to and then suddenly I realized it had returned. I was on a hotel on one of these glass elevators and I was going up to the 14th floor and I was looking down into the elevator and I had no emotional reaction whatsoever and it was because I was telling myself and this was automatic I guess, but you're safe.

David Burns: However, if there hadn't been that glass there and it would have been the same elevator going up and looking out, I would have been paralyzed with fear and terror and it would have been a total body experience that I can feel in my whole body this extreme terror. That's the first idea that you can't have an emotional reaction without having some kind of thought or interpretation.

David Burns: You feel the way you think - your thoughts create all of your moods. After Feeling Good came out, I got a letter from a therapist in Philadelphia. He was a student therapist at the Philadelphia Marriage Counsel I believe and he said he had read my book Feeling Good: How Your Thoughts Create All of Your Moods.

David Burns: He said, "Well, that's a great idea, but how can it be true? If you're on a railroad track with a train coming and you're about to get killed, you're going to feel terrified. You don't have to put a thought in your mind, it's just an automatic reaction." He said, "I don't believe your claim that only your thoughts can create your moods."

David Burns: I got that letter and I started thinking, I said, "Gosh, what he's saying is so obvious, how could I have missed that when I wrote that book?" I felt embarrassed and ashamed. A couple days after I got that letter, I was in a taxi coming home from the airport and at a certain place on River Road, you go over this railroad track.

David Burns: I looked down the railroad track, I saw there was a car driving on the railroad track at about two miles an hour. Bumpety-bumpety-bump. I looked then in the other direction and this is ... Freight trains come through here, they never stop, they come at 65 miles an hour. I saw one about a mile and a half in the other direction.

David Burns: I said, "Man, that guy is going to get smashed by the train." I told the taxi driver, "Stop, I got to try to get that guy off the railroad tracks." I ran up and knocked on the window and he rolled down the window and there's this older man there and he said, "Can you please direct me to City Line Avenue?"

David Burns: I said, "City Line Avenue is 10 miles in the other direction, but you're on the railroad tracks and there's a train coming. You've got to back up. Back up to get to the road." Because he was beyond the road, where you know how they have a pile of rocks at the railroad tracks, that's where he was and I said, "Back up, I'm going to get you off the railroad tracks."

David Burns: He backed up and he kept ... When he got to the road, I said, "Now turn, turn your car." Finally I had them positioned to where just the nose of the car, the front part of the car was over the tracks and I was standing in front of it. Now the train was about maybe 20 seconds from impact and they had their whistle on.

David Burns: I was waving my hands like, "Back up, back up. Just back up five feet and it will save you." Instead, the guy started creeping forward very slowly.

Neil Sattin: Oh no.

David Burns: The train smashed into him at the side of his car at about 60 miles an hour.

Neil Sattin: Oh my goodness.

David Burns: Actually ripped the car in half. The front compartment was thrown about 30 feet from the tracks. They had their brakes on, the train was skidding to a stop and I ran over again to the driver's compartment and looked in, it was all smashed windows and I thought I'd see a decapitated corpse, but it hit probably an inch behind his head and it hit so fast it had just cut the car in half and he didn't seem to be that injured or anything.

David Burns: He looked at me and smiled and said, "Which way exactly did you say now to City Line Avenue?" I said, "You got to be kidding me." I said, "You were just hit by a train." He said, "I was not." He says, "That's ridiculous." I said, "Oh yeah, what happened to the windows of your car?"

David Burns: Then he looked and he noticed all the windows were smashed and there was glass all over. Then he says, "Gosh, it looks like somebody broke my windows." I said, "Look, where's the back seat? Where's the back half of your car?" He turned around and he saw the back half of his car was missing.

David Burns: He looked at me and he says, "I think you're right. Half of my car seems to have disappeared." He says, "Where is this train?" I said, "Look, it's right there, it's 20 feet from here." Now the conductors were rushing up and the engineers and he looked at me and he says, "This is great."

David Burns: I said, "Why is that? Why is this great?" He says, "Well, maybe I can sue." I said, "You'll be lucky if they don't sue you. You were driving down the railroad tracks." I couldn't understand it and at this point, the police cars came, the ambulance, they put him in an ambulance, I gave my story to the police, he looked just fine and they took him to the Bryn Mawr Hospital.

David Burns: I was just scratching my head and I got in the taxi, it was just a mile from home, the taxi driver took me the rest of the way home. I was saying, "What in the heck happened?" The next day I was jogging around that same corner, of course, there was all this litter from the car or broken pieces of metal and glass all over the place and there was a younger guy maybe 50 years old or something like that going through the rubble.

David Burns: I stopped there and asked him who he was and he says, "My father was almost killed by a train here yesterday and somebody saved his life and I was just checking out the scene." I said, "Well, that was me actually." I said, "I didn't understand it -  he was driving down the railroad track and if I hadn't gotten there, I think he would have been killed."

David Burns: I said, "Why was he driving down the railroad track?" He says, "Well, my father has had Alzheimer's disease and he lost his driver's license 10 years ago, but he forgot and after dinner, he snuck out. He grabbed the keys and snuck out, decided to take the car for a drive." Here is the same situation, a train about to kill somebody on a railroad track about to smash into you and I had the thought this guy is in danger he could be killed.

David Burns: I was experiencing 100% terror and anxiety and fear, but his thought was different. His thought was, "This is great. I might be able to sue and get a great deal of money." Therefore he was feeling joy and euphoria. Same situation, different thoughts and radically different emotions.

David Burns: That's what I mean and that's what the Buddha meant 2,500 years ago when we say that only your thoughts can create your emotions. It's not what happens to you, but the way you think about it that creates every positive and negative emotion.

Neil Sattin: Did you ever write back to that person who wrote you? About that train - to tell him what had happened?

David Burns: I don't remember it because this was way back in 1980 shortly after the book came out. I probably did because in those days, I was so excited to get a fan letter. I never had any idea that the book would become popular, it didn't hit the best-seller list until eight years after it was published because the publishers wouldn't support it with any marketing or advertising because they thought no one would ever want to read a book on depression.

David Burns: When I got a letter in the days before email, I would get so excited and I would try to contact the person and sometimes talk to them for an hour or two on the telephone thinking this might be the only fan I'll ever have. I'm sure I did write back.

Neil Sattin: Speaking of that, this might be a good chance to start talking about the cognitive distortions and like the idea that this might be the only fan that you ever have, what are we talking about in terms of now we've established pretty well. The way I think about things is going to determine how I feel.

Neil Sattin: Yet, there are these distorted ways of thinking about the world that really have an enormously negative impact on our ability to function and interact.

David Burns: This is one of the amazing ideas of cognitive therapy that at first I didn't quite grasp, but the early cognitive therapists like Albert Ellis from New York and then Aaron Beck at University of Pennsylvania who I learned it from were claiming not only do your thoughts create all of your moods, but when you're upset, when you're depressed, when you're anxious, when you feel ashamed or excessively angry or hopeless, not only are those feelings created by your thoughts and not by the circumstances of your life, but those negative thoughts will generally be distorted and illogical so that when you're depressed, you're fooling yourself, you're telling yourself things that simply aren't true and that depression and anxiety are really the world's oldest cons.

David Burns: Beck - when I first began learning about cognitive therapy from him when I was a psychiatric resident and postdoctoral fellow, he had about four distortions as I recall and he had big names for them and then I added some to those and I used to talk to my patients about all-or-nothing thinking and overgeneralization and self-blame and the different ones.

David Burns: Once, I was having a session with a patient and he said, "Why don't you list your 10 distortions and hand it out to patients?" He said, "It would make it so much easier for us." I thought, "Wow, that is a cool idea." I ran home that night after work and I made the list of the 10 cognitive distortions and that's what led to my book Feeling Good.

David Burns: My list of 10 cognitive distortions, it's probably been reproduced in magazines and by therapists all over the world, I would imagine easily millions of times and probably tens of millions of times, but there are 10 distortions. Number one is all-or-nothing thinking, black or white thinking.

David Burns: It's where you think about yourself in black or white term, shades of gray don't exist. If you're not a total success, you think that you're a complete failure or you tell yourself you're defective. I gave a workshop with Dr. Beck at one of the professional conferences like the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, cognitive therapy had just come out and Beck is not a very good public speaker.

David Burns: I was a novice also at the time and we had a half day workshop and there were a few hundred therapists there and it was okay, but it wasn't great and they started challenging us because nobody liked the idea of cognitive therapy initially, it was scorned and looked down on. We got defensive and then afterwards Dr. Beck looked at me and said, "David, you look like you're feeling down. What's the problem?"

David Burns: I said, "Well, to tell you the truth Dr. Beck, I thought we were below average in this presentation and I'm feeling upset about that." He said, "Oh, well you should, if we were below average, you should thank your lucky stars." I said, "Why should I thank my lucky stars if we were below average?"

David Burns: He said, "Because average is the halfway point. By definition, we have to be below average half the time. We can thank our lucky stars we got the below average one out of the way and we look forward to an above average one the next time we present." Suddenly, my discouragement disappeared.

David Burns: He was just modeling thinking in shades of gray whereas I had been thinking in black and white terms. All-or-nothing thinking is very common in depression and it's also the cause of all perfectionism - thinking if you're not the greatest, second best or average just is not good enough, it's either the world or nothing, perfection or failure and it creates tremendous problems.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I could see that also coming up in terms of comparisons like if so and so is already doing this thing, I can't possibly do that because it's so and so's domain. As if one person could own the domain for the entire world in any particular area.

David Burns: Well yeah, that's another mental trick that we play in ourselves with the distortions I call mental filtering and discounting the positive. You see this all the time when you're feeling inferior and comparing yourself to other people. Mental filter is where you focus on all of your flaws thinking about all of your errors.

David Burns: You don't think about what's good about you or what's beautiful about you. I did a TV show finally when the book gained popularity in Cincinnati and it was a morning show and they had a live audience and a band and he was interviewing me. It was exciting for me because it was still the first time I had any media exposure.

David Burns: Then after the show, the host said, "Dr. Burns, could I talk to you for a minute?" This often happens to me when I'm on a radio or TV show because the people in the media have tremendous pressures on them and they often also feel that they're not good enough. I said, "Sure. I'd love to. What's the issue?"

David Burns: He says, "Well, after every morning show, I get about 350 fan mails, fan letters or calls or whatever." He said, "They are 99.9% positive, but everyday I'll get one critical letter. One critical feedback and I dwell on that one constantly and make myself miserable and ignore all the other positive feedback." That's called mental filter because you filter out the good stuff and you've just focused on your flaws.

David Burns: A lot of the people listening to the show right now do that. Then an even bigger mental error is called discounting the positive - when you say that the good things about you don't even count. You may have done this to yourself when someone gives you a compliment, you might tell yourself, "Oh, they're just saying that to be nice to me. They don't really mean it." You discount that positive experience.

David Burns: I had a colleague who got upset when he recently won the Nobel prize, one of my college roommates, and the reason he got upset is he said they haven't recognized my best work yet. So those are three of the 10 distortions.

Neil Sattin: Yes. One of my favorites I think comes next on your list, at least the list I'm looking at after discounting the positive which is the ways that we jump to conclusions.

David Burns: Right. There's two common patterns here, jumping to conclusions that aren't warranted by the facts and mind-reading and fortune-telling are two of the commonest ones. Now, fortune-telling is when you make a prediction about the future, an arbitrary prediction about the future and all anxiety results from fortune-telling, telling yourself that something terrible is about to happen - like when I get on that plane, I just know it will run into turbulence and crash. You feel panic and anxiety.

David Burns: Depressed people do fortune-telling as well. Hopelessness results from predicting that things will never change, my problems will never get solved, I'm going to be miserable forever. Almost every depressed patient thinks that way and that's actually why many people with depression commit suicide because they have the illogical belief that their mood will never improve, that they're the one untreatable person.

David Burns: Mind-reading is the other common form of jumping to conclusions and this is real common in social anxiety, but Neil, I'm sure you see it in a lot of people with relationship problems.

Neil Sattin: Absolutely.

David Burns: But mind-reading is where you assume you know how other people are thinking and feeling without any evidence, without any data. I used to struggle with intense social anxiety among my many other fears and phobias that I've had and overcome over the years, but the anxious person - say you're at a social gathering and you think, "Oh, these people won't be interested in what I have to say and they never feel anxious. I'm the only one who feels insecure."

David Burns: Then you also may have the thought, "Oh, they can see how anxious I am and they're going to be real turned off by me." Then what happens is that when you start talking to someone, you get really busy worrying about how they're not going to be interested in you. You try to think of something clever or interesting to say while they're talking.

David Burns: Then when they're done, instead of repeating what they said and expressing an interest in what they said, you make the little speech you had prepared. That turns the other person off because I think, "Wow, David doesn't seem interested in me. I was just telling him about my son, he was just accepted to Harvard and now he's talking about something else."

David Burns: That person pretty quickly loses interest in you and says, "Oh, I have to talk to so and so on the other side of the room." Then you, the shy person get rejected again which is what you thought was going to happen. Although these are distortions, you're thinking in an unrealistic way, they sometimes feel like self-fulfilling prophecies so you don't realize that you're fooling yourself.

Neil Sattin: Right, because when you're in it, then you seem to be getting plenty of evidence that it's true.

David Burns: Yes, and another form of evidence comes to another distortion. One name I made up called emotional reasoning where you reason from your feelings. You see this in angry interactions, you see that in anxiety and in depression. The depressed patient is giving themselves all these messages like I'm a loser, I'm no good and beating up on yourself and then you feel ashamed and guilty and worthless and inferior and inadequate.

David Burns: Then you say, "Well, I feel like a loser, I must really be one." Reasoning from your emotions, thinking your emotions somehow reflect reality. That thought by the way is one we skipped over - overgeneralization. That's number two on the list actually, right after all-or-nothing thinking.

David Burns: Overgeneralization, this is a Buddhist thing, really overgeneralization. It's where you generalize to yourself from some specific event. For example, I have a free training for Bay Area psychotherapists every Tuesday evening at Stanford and you don't have to be a Stanford student to come,  I give unlimited free psychotherapy training to therapists who can come to my Tuesday group and any of the listeners or therapists near in the Bay Area on a Tuesday email me and you're welcome to attend my Tuesday training group.

David Burns: Then I also have free hikes every Sunday morning and we go out hiking for maybe three and a half hours on the trails around my home and I treat people for free on the hikes. We do training and one of the women on the Sunday hike, I'll keep it vague to protect her identity, but she just had a problem with her boyfriend and they broke up and then she was telling herself, "I'm inadequate ... I'm unlovable" kind of thing.

David Burns: "This was my fault and I must have been doing something wrong." You see, when you think like that and most of us do when we're upset, she's generalizing from this event, that it didn't work out with her boyfriend to then this global idea that "I'm inadequate. There's something wrong with me" - as if you had a self that wasn't good enough.

David Burns: Then people also say, "I'll be alone forever. I'm unlovable. This is always happening to me." That's all over generalization where you generalize from a negative event and you see it as a never-ending pattern of defeat. You also see it as evidence that you're somehow defective or not good enough than when you're thinking these things, they seem so true - just as believable as the fact that there's skin on your hand.

David Burns: You don't realize that you're fooling yourself, the pain that you feel is just incredible. I know that of the many people listening to this show right now, I'm sure you can identify this with this that you've had thoughts like that and you know how real and painful these feelings are.

David Burns: It's one of the worst forms of human suffering, but the good news is and we haven't gone around to that, but not only are there fantastic techniques, cognitive therapy techniques that we've been talking about from my book feeling good described in there or my feeling good handbook so that you can overcome these distorted thoughts and get back to joy and self-esteem quickly, but also my group at Stanford over the 10 years, the past 10 years, we've created even more powerful techniques and to help bring about really high speed recovery for people struggling with depression and anxiety.

David Burns: The new techniques are way more powerful than the original cognitive therapy although those methods are still fabulous, but maybe we'll have time to talk about some of these.

David Burns: But there's more distortions to cover.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Maybe what we could do because I'd love to balance this out and I want to ensure that we cover the other distortions. We have maybe four more. At the same time, maybe let's break from the distortions just to change things up a bit and start entertaining that question of, "Alright, yeah. I relate to some or all that we've even listed so far."

Neil Sattin: What are some of the initial steps that someone could talk because where I tend to go with this is like, "Well, these belief patterns like you talked about, "I'm unlovable" as one, those seem to emerge from a place that's immutable. It's something that's really deep in someone's psyche and yet, you're suggesting that there's ways to transform that that are really quick and direct and give someone a felt experience of the truth that's not that thing.

David Burns: Yeah, that's right. You can group the techniques into cognitive techniques to crush these distorted thoughts and motivational techniques to get rid of your ... To bring your resistance to change to conscious awareness and melt away the resistance. The patients become incredibly motivated to crush their thoughts.

David Burns: An example of the way the cognitive techniques work, what is crucial and this is one of the first things when we first created cognitive therapy in the mid 1970s was to write the negative thoughts on a piece of paper. It's a very humble thing to do, but it can be dramatically effective because then you can look at the list of 10 distortions and immediately, pinpoint the distortions and that makes it much easier to talk back to these disruptive thoughts and poke holes in them.

David Burns: I'll give you an example of my own personal life because I've used these techniques myself and if they hadn't worked for me, I never would have become a cognitive therapist and now a TEAM CBT therapist, but when I was a postdoctoral fellow, I used to go to Dr. Beck's weekly seminars and I would present all my most difficult cases and get tips from him on how to treat these people with what was then the rapidly emerging brand new cognitive therapy and it was an exciting time, but one day, I talked to him about a patient that wasn't paying the bill, that I've had a bad session with this patient and asked him for some guidance.

David Burns: He actually was pretty critical of the way I had dealt with this patient. I became awfully upset, I got depressed and anxious and I was riding home on the train and my head was filled with negative thoughts and negative feelings. Then when I got home, I told myself, "Well David, you probably better run, go on a long six mile run and get your brain endorphins up so get over your depression" because those were the days when everyone was believing the phony baloney that somehow exercise boosts brain endorphins and will reduce depression.

David Burns: I went out on this long run and the longer I ran, the more believable my negative thoughts became. I said, "David, what are you telling yourself?" I said, "Oh, I'm a worthless human being. I have no therapeutic skills, I'm going to be banned from the state of Pennsylvania and they'll take away my medical license, I have no future in psychiatry. I'm a worthless human being, I'm a bad person." Stuff like that.

David Burns: It seemed overwhelmingly true. I said, "Are there some distortions in your thoughts David? Look for the distortions like what you tell your patients." I said, "No, there are no distortions in my thoughts. This is just real." I was telling myself it's so weird to hear, you're something like 30 years old or however old I was, 31, it took you all of this time in your life to realize what a horrible loser you are.

David Burns: It's as if I had seen the truth for the first time and it was devastating. Then when I got home, I said, "David, why don't you write your thoughts on a piece of paper? That's what you make all of your patients do." I said, "Oh no, no, my thoughts are real, that won't do any good." Then I told myself, "But isn't that the same way you're whining just like your patients whine and resist? And you force them to write their thoughts down on a piece of paper. You tell them they have to do that. Why don't you try that David?"

David Burns: I said, "No, no, it wouldn't do any good. I really am a worthless human being. This is true." Then I said, "No David, you're still resisting. Take out a piece of paper and do what you tell your patients to do." I said, "Oh okay, I'll do it just to prove that it won't work." I wrote my thoughts down. Number one, I'm a worthless human being, number two, I have no therapy skill.

David Burns: Number three, I screwed up with this patient. Number four, they'll take away my medical license, stuff like that. I wrote down four or five thoughts. Then I said, "Now, are there any distortions?" I looked at my own list of 10 distortions. I said, "Wow, those thoughts are pretty distorted. It's all-or-nothing thinking, black and white thinking like I'm not allowed to make a mistake with a patient. It's overgeneralization, I'm generalizing from the fact that I screwed up with this patient in a session to, "I am a worthless human being," it's fortune-telling, "I have no future in psychiatry."

David Burns: Jumping to conclusions, self-blame, hidden "should" statements, that's another distortion. I shouldn't have screwed up, I should always be perfect. It was emotional reasoning, I feel worthless, I must be worthless. I suddenly saw those distortions and then I said, "Now, can I write a positive thought to challenge these negative thoughts?" That's the other part of the exercise. First you write the negative thought, then you identify the distortions, then you write a positive thought.

David Burns: The positive thought has to be 100% true. Rationalizations and half truth will never help a human being. I came up with this positive thought. I said, "David, you're just a beginner. You have the right to make mistakes. In fact, even when you're 75 years old years from now, you might be a great therapist, but you'll still make mistakes and learn from them. That's part of the territory."

David Burns: "You're absolutely permitted to do that. Instead of beating up on yourself, why don't you talk it over with your patient tomorrow and tell him that you made a mistake and see if you can repair that rupture in your relationship with the patient." All of a sudden, I said, "Is that true?" "Yeah, that thought is 100% true." How much do I believe this rubbish that I'm a worthless human being and all of that and my belief in those negative thoughts went to zero and my negative feelings just disappeared in a flash entirely. I said, "Wow, this shit is pretty good. This really works." Hope you don't have to edit out that word.

Neil Sattin: No, that's fine. That's fine.

David Burns: Then the next day I saw the patient, I said, "You know Mark, I've been feeling terrible since last session and ashamed because I don't think I treated you right." I was putting pressure on you because of the unpaid balance and I didn't put any emphasis on your suffering and what's going on with you as a human being I just imagine you felt so hurt and angry with me and discouraged and I'm just overjoyed that you came back today rather than dropping out of therapy so we can talk it over and see if we can deepen our relationship.

David Burns: He just loved that and we had the best session ever, he gave me perfect empathy scores at the end of the session, but that's just an example from my personal life and I'm sure the people here can relate to that, but I've developed probably 50 or 100 techniques for crushing negative thoughts and I've made it sound easy, but it isn't always easy because you might be very, very trapped in your negative thoughts.

David Burns: You might have to try several of the different techniques before you find the one that works for you. I want to be encouraging to the listeners and to therapists who may be listening, but I also don't want to make it sound like something overly simple or overly simplistic because it's really a pretty high-powered, sophisticated type of therapy.

David Burns: Fortunately, many people can make it work on their own, but anyway, that's the half of the treatment breakthroughs and that was called the cognitive revolution and my book Feeling Good really helped usher that in when feeling good came out in 1980, cognitive therapy was virtually unknown and they were just a handful of cognitive therapists in the world.

David Burns: Now, it's become the most popular form of psychotherapy in the world and the most researched form of psychotherapy in all of the history of psychology and psychiatry.

Neil Sattin: I wonder if we could emphasize because I'm thinking about how we talked about the technique for identifying a negative thought, identifying the cognitive distortion or distortions that are happening and just to talk about the importance of actually going through that exercise and writing it down.

Neil Sattin: Maybe you could just talk for one more minute about why that part is so important. Why is it important to actually write that stuff down versus to do it in your head?

David Burns: I think that the negative, the power of the human mind to be negative is very profound. The negative thoughts are like a snake eating its tail, they go round and round and one leads to the next.

David Burns: In the early days, I used to try to do cognitive therapy without the written exercise and to this day, new therapists still try to do that. They think they're too fancy that writing things down is too simplistic or something like that and they're going to be deep and just do verbal, deep stuff with people, but the problem is, the human mind is so clever.

David Burns: Each distortion reinforces another one and each negative thought reinforces another one and you go round and round and round. That's why doing it verbally or in your head when you're alone is rarely going to be effective, but when you write the negative thoughts down one at a time and number them with short sentences, that makes it much easier to identify the distortions in them and turn them around.

David Burns: There are three rules of thumb. There's an art form to writing them down. Everything is more sophisticated than I make it sound in a brief interview. There's a lot of rules of the game. For example, when you're writing down negative thoughts, you should never put an emotion or an event.

David Burns: People have a negative thought like Trisha rejected me and I feel terrible. Well, that's not a negative thought. That's an event. Trisha rejected me and I use a form called the Daily Mood Log and at the top you put the event and then you circle all of your emotions and put how strong they are between zero and a hundred.

David Burns: These emotions might be feel guilty, ashamed, lonely, depressed, worthless and then the negative thought would be the interpretation of that event like I must be unlovable, I'll be alone forever. Then those are things that have distortions. A second rule is don't ever put rhetorical questions in the negative thought column.

David Burns: If you say something like, "Oh, why am I like this? Why am I so anxious in social situations?" Or "What's wrong with me?" You can't disprove questions so instead you can substitute the hidden claim behind the question which is generally a hidden should statement like I shouldn't be like this or I must be defective because I'm so anxious in social situations or some such thing.

David Burns: There are probably one or two other rules of the game and my book When Panic Attacks which is one of my newer books on all the anxiety disorders, Feeling Good is on depression. When Panic Attacks is on all of the different kinds of anxiety. I think the third chapter shows how to fill out the Daily Mood Log and what the rules are to follow to enhance the effectiveness of it so you'll be more likely to have a successful experience.

Neil Sattin: Great. The idea is that it's simply by doing this process that the things shift. It's not like there's ... You go through the process and then maybe you would track your mood afterwards and see, "Wow, I'm actually feeling better than I was before" just by simply doing that?

David Burns: Well, a lot of people can feel better just by doing it, but the research has shown that two thirds of people just by reading Feeling Good, they can improve a lot in depression, but some people need the help of a therapist and it isn't true that everyone has to do it on your own, sometimes you need another person to get that leverage to pop out of it.

David Burns: Another thing that's helpful when you're writing down your negative thoughts is Beck's theory of cognitive specificity. You see, Buddha said our thoughts create our emotions, but Beck took it to the next level and said different patterns of thoughts create different types of emotions.

David Burns: If you're feeling guilty, you're probably telling yourself that you're a bad person or that you violated your value system. If you're feeling hopeless, you're definitely telling yourself that things will never change, something like that. I'll be miserable forever. If you're feeling anxious, you're definitely telling yourself something awful is about to happen.

David Burns: "When I get on that show with Neil, I'll screw up, my brain will go blank." That type of thing. When you're feeling sad, you're telling yourself... or depressed, that you've lost something central to your self-esteem. When you're feeling angry, you're telling yourself that someone else is a loser that they're treating you unfairly, that they shouldn't be that way.

David Burns: These rules can also help individuals pinpoint your negative thoughts. Once you see what the emotions are, then you know the kind of thoughts to look for. One last thing is sometimes people say, "Oh, I don't know what my negative thoughts are." I just say, "We'll just make some up and write them down and number them."

David Burns: Then I say, "Are your thoughts like this?" They say, "Oh, that's exactly what I'm thinking." Those are a few tips on refining the part with the negative thoughts. But now we have even more powerful techniques that have evolved in my work with my training and development group at Stanford.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, before we talk about those, which I hope we will have time to do - there are a couple of things that jumped out at me. One was as you were describing the distortions that we've already talked about, it popped into my head that this is often at the source of most conflict that happens in couples - that either one person is having distorted thinking or one person is protecting themselves from their own distorted thinking.

Neil Sattin: For example, your partner says something and you have this feeling like, "Well, that's not true. I got to defend myself from that accusation."

David Burns: That's right yeah.

Neil Sattin: You jump into this place of conflict that's all about proving that this negative concept you suddenly are perceiving about yourself isn't true. When that negative concept in and of itself might be an example of you just having a distortion - like for instance, "my partner is mad at me, that must mean they think I'm a horrible human being."

David Burns: Yeah, what's huge what you just said, when we're in conflict with people, there's a lot of inner chatter going on in addition to the verbal altercations, the arguing, the escalation, the defensiveness - and some of the distortions will be focused on the other person and some of the distortions will be focused on yourself.

David Burns: You see all of the 10 cognitive distortions in relationship conflict, but they have a little bit of a different function I would say. Now, let's say you're angry, Mary is angry at her husband Sam, she's ticked off and then if you look at her thoughts, they have all 10 distortions.

David Burns: She'll tell herself things like, she might be thinking, "Oh, he's a loser. All he cares about is himself. The relationship problems are all his fault, he'll never change." That type of thing. You sell all-or-nothing thinking, mind-reading, imagining how he's thinking, you see blame, you see hidden should statements, he shouldn't be like that, he shouldn't feel like that.

David Burns: You see discounting the positive, mental filtering, overgeneralization, magnification, minimization. You see all the same 10 distortions. The only difference is that when you're depressed and I can show you that your thoughts about yourself are distorted and that's not true that you're a loser, you're going to love me, the therapist, you're going to appreciate that and you're going to feel better and you're going to feel better and recover from your depression.

David Burns: When people are in conflict and we're having distorted thoughts about the other person, we're generally not motivated to challenge those distortions because they make us feel good. We feel morally superior to the other person. I don't generally work with people too much on changing their distortions about others because they don't want to hear it.

David Burns: If the therapist finds out that this woman, that her thoughts about her husband are causing her to be upset, not her husband's behavior, and in addition that her thoughts about her husband are all wrong, wrong, wrong, they are all distorted, she'll just fire the therapist and drop out of therapy and she'll have two enemies, her loser of a husband and her loser of a therapist.

David Burns: That's why I developed some of the techniques we talked about in the last podcast we did on relationships. I used slightly different strategies, but you're right, those distortions are incredibly positive and the other kind of distortion you have when you're in conflict if someone's criticizing you, again you may start thinking, "This shows that I'm a loser, I'm no good. I should be better than I am. If you're criticizing me, that's a very dangerous and terrible situation."

David Burns: By attending to those kind of thoughts that make you feel anxious and ashamed and inferior and guilty and inadequate, then you can modify those and then do much better in the way you communicate with the other person because your ego isn't on the line. An example with me is in my teaching, I always get feedback from every class I do, every student I mentor or supervise from every workshop and I get it right away, I don't get it six months from now, I get it the very day that I'm teaching.

David Burns: I get all kinds of criticisms on the feedback forms I've developed even if I have a tremendous teaching seminar, I'll get a lot of criticisms especially if they feel safe to criticize the teacher. I find that if I don't beat myself up with inner dialogue, then I can find the truth in what the student is saying and treat that person with warmth and with respect and with enthusiasm even.

David Burns: Then they suddenly really love the way that I've handled their criticism and it leads to a better relationship and that's true between partners or in families as well. That inner dialogue that's where we're targeting ourselves and making ourselves needlessly anxious and defensive and hurt and angry and worthless when we're in conflict with someone - that can be adjusted and modified to really enhance relationships.

Neil Sattin: The two distortions that we hadn't really covered yet, you just mentioned them and I thought ... We've mentioned them all at this point, but some of them like blaming, whether it's blaming yourself for a situation or blaming others for a situation, that seems a little self-evident.

Neil Sattin: I'm curious if you could talk for a moment about labeling and then also magnification and minimization just because I think those are the two that we listed, but didn't really cover.

David Burns: Did we mention shoulds?

Neil Sattin: Let's mention them and I think again, that might be something that's a little more understandable for people, but yeah, let's do this.

David Burns: Oh yeah, okay. Yup. Well, labeling is just an extreme form of overgeneralization where you say I am a loser or with someone else, "He is a jerk." Where you see yourself or another person as this bad glob so to speak. Instead of focusing on specific behaviors, you're focusing on the self. When you think of yourself as a loser or a hopeless case, it creates tremendous pain.

David Burns: When you label someone else as a jerk or a loser, it creates rage and then you'll often treat them in a hostile way and then they treat you in a hostile way and you say, "Oh, I know he was a loser." You don't realize you're involved in a self-fulfilling prophecy and you're creating the other person's, you're contributing to or creating the other person's hostile behavior.

David Burns: Magnification or minimization is pretty self-evident - where you're blowing things out of proportion - like procrastinators do that. You think about, "All you have to do, all the filing that you're behind on." It feels like you have to climb Mount Everest and you got overwhelmed and then minimization, you're telling yoruself, "Oh, just working on that for five or 10 minutes would be a drop in the bucket. It wouldn't make a difference." You don't get started on the project.

David Burns: We've done those two. The should statement say I think is very subtle and not obvious to people at all that we beat up on ourselves the shoulds and shouldn'ts and oughts and musts and we're saying, "I shouldn't have screwed up, I shouldn't have made that mistake. I should be better than I am."  

David Burns: That creates a tremendous amount of suffering and shoulds go back - if you look at the origin in the English dictionary, maybe we did this in our last podcast, I don't recall that if you have one of these thick dictionaries, you'll find the origin of the word should is the Anglo's accent word scolde, S-C-O-L-D-E where you're scolding yourself or another person, where you're saying to your partner, "You shouldn't feel that way." Or, "You shouldn't believe that."

David Burns: We see that politically, two people are always blaming someone they're not in agreement with and throwing should statements at them. Albert Ellis has called that the "shouldy" approach to life which is a cheap joke I guess, but it contains a lot of truth. The feminist psychiatrist Karen Horney who actually I think was born in 1890s did beautiful work on shoulds - when my mother, when we moved to Phoenix from Denver, I think my mother got depressed and she read a book by Karen Horney on the Tyranny of the Shoulds, how we give ourselves all these should statements and make us feel like we're not good enough and we're not measuring up to our own expectations and create so much suffering.

David Burns: I think that book was very helpful to her and then Albert Ellis in New York saw that, he argued and I think rightly so that most human suffering is the result of the shoulds that we impose on ourselves or the should statements that we impose on others.

Neil Sattin: Well, if that's true, then maybe that should be what we take a moment to attack and I'm wondering if you have a powerful crushing technique that works with shoulds whether it's and maybe it would be a little bit different, the ones that we wield against ourselves versus so and so should know or should have done this differently.

David Burns: Right. Well, a lot of the overcoming has to do with the mystical, spiritual concept of acceptance, accepting yourself as a flawed human being is really the source of enlightenment, but we fight against acceptance because we think it's like giving in and settling for second best. We continue to beat up on ourselves thinking if we hit ourselves with enough should statements, we'll somehow achieve perfection or greatness or some such thing.

David Burns: One thing that I learned from Ellis that has been really helpful to my patients is that there's only three correct uses of the word should in the English language. There's the moral shoulds like the 10 commandments, thou shalt not commit adultery, though shalt not steal or thou shalt not kill.

David Burns: There's the laws of the universe should where if I drop a pen right now, it should fall to the earth because of the force of gravity and then there's the legal should. You should not drive down the highway at 90 miles an hour because that's against the law and you'll get a ticket. Now, I had a colleague who came on one of the hikes who has a developmentally challenged child, say a son just to disguise things a little bit and she's from a very high achieving family, Silicon Valley family just to say the least.

David Burns: She and her husband are giants, geniuses and then she went to the grammar school for the parent's day and they had all the kids and they have their daughter in some very expensive private school. The kid's pictures were up on the wall and then she saw her son's picture and it was just very primitive compared with the other children who are real high-powered children from high powered families.

David Burns: Her son struggles severely and then she saw that and she felt the feeling of shame. Then she told herself, "I should not feel ashamed of my son." That's hitting herself with a should statement which it's like she doesn't have permission to have this emotion and that's what we do to ourselves.  

David Burns: That's not a legal should, it's not illegal to feel ashamed of yourself or your son. She then was also of course feeling ashamed of herself. It's not immoral and it doesn't violate the laws of the universe. A simple technique that Ellis suggested and it's so simple it goes in one ear and out the other instead of saying, "I shouldn't, you can just say it would be preferabe if or I would prefer it if or it would be better if."

David Burns: You could say it it would be better, it would be preferable if I didn't feel ashamed of my son, but that's the human feeling and probably other parents feel upset with their children, they feel ashamed sometimes of their kids or angry with their kids. It's giving yourself permission to be human and that's called the acceptance paradox.

David Burns: The paradox is sometimes when you accept your broken nature, accept your flaws and shortcomings, you transcend them. I've often written that acceptance is the greatest change a human being can make, but it's elusive and Buddha tried to teach this 2,500 years ago when I saw on TV and I don't know if was just a goofy program, but it was on PBS that he had over 100,000 followers in his lifetime and only three achieved enlightenment.

David Burns: I think it was frustrating to him and disappointing, but I can see it clearly because what he was teaching was so simple and basic and yet it's hard for us to grasp it and that's why I love doing therapy because we've got powerful new techniques now where I can bring my patients to enlightenment often in a single therapy session if I have more than an hour.

David Burns: If I have a two hour session, I can usually complete treatment in about a session and see the patient going from all the self-criticism and self-hatred and misery to actually joy and euphoria. It's one of the greatest experiences a human being can have because when my patient has a transforming experience, then it transforms me at the same time.

Neil Sattin: Can you give us a taste of what some of the more powerful new techniques are and how they might work in these circumstances?

David Burns: Yeah, they're pretty anti-intuitive and it took me many years of clinical practice before I figured it out and before it dawned on me. I would say very few therapists know how to do this and it's absolutely against the grain of the way therapists have been trained and the general public have been trained to think about depression and anxiety as brain disorders.

David Burns: The DSM calls them mental disorders. We've gone in the opposite direction and I'll just make it real quick because we're getting long on people's time here I'm afraid, but when I am working with a person, like last night at my Tuesday group, we were working with a therapist and someone who's in training to become a therapist and she was being very self-critical and telling herself she wasn't smart enough and just beating up on herself and saying that she was defective and she should be better at this and she should this, she shouldn't that.

David Burns: She was feeling like 90% depressed and 80% ashamed and intensely anxious. One thing I do before I ... She had all these negative thoughts, "I'm defective" and I don't have the list in my hand, but she had about 17 very self-critical thoughts. After I empathized and my co-therapist was Jill Levitt, a clinical psychologist who I teach with at Stanford and Jill is just a gem, she's fantastically brilliant and kind and compassionate and humble.

David Burns: After we empathized with this individual and I'll just keep it vague because most therapists feel exactly the same way so I won't give any identifying details, but we asked this young woman, "Would you like some help today?" With her depression and anxiety. If we had a magic button on the table and she pressed it, all our negative thoughts and feelings would instantly disappear.

David Burns: Would she press the magic button? She said, "Oh yeah, that would be wonderful." I guess she's felt this way on and off throughout her life since she was a little girl that she is somehow not good enough. Then we said, "Well, we have no magic button, but we have amazing techniques." But before we use these techniques, maybe we should ask, "What are your negative thoughts and feelings show about you that's beautiful and awesome?"

David Burns: Also, "what are some benefits to you in having all of these negative thoughts and feelings?" She was very puzzled by that at first as most therapists are like, "How could there be benefits from having depression? We learn that's some kind of mental disorder or major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, all these fancy names pretending that these are mental illnesses of some kind.

David Burns: But then she got in the flow, we primed the pump a little bit and she was able to come up with a list of 20 overwhelming benefits to her and beautiful things about her that were revealed by her negative thoughts and feelings. For example, when she says, "I'm defective." She will say, "Well, it shows that I'm honest and accountable. Because I do have many flaws."

David Burns: Then a second benefit was "it shows that I have high standards." I was able to say, "Do you have high standards?" She said, "Absolutely." I said, "Have your high standards motivated you to work hard and accomplish a lot?" She says, "Oh yeah, absolutely." That was the third benefit. Then the fourth benefit is her self-criticism showed that she's a humble person. That was the fourth benefit, the fourth beautiful thing it showed about her.

David Burns: Then we pointed out that humility is the same as spirituality. Her self-criticism shows that she's a humble and spiritual person and then her sadness showed her passion for what she hopes to achieve which is a role as a therapist and a good therapist and her self-doubt keeps her on her toes and motivates her to work really hard.

David Burns: Her suffering shows enhances her compassion for others and her shame shows that she has a good value system, a good moral compass and on and on and on, then we came up with a list of when we got to 20 benefits of her negative thoughts and feelings, then we simply said to her, "Well, maybe we don't want to press that magic button because when your negative thoughts and feelings disappears, then these other good things will disappear as well. Why in the world would you want to do that?"

David Burns: We have become the role of her subconscious mind and the therapist is paradoxically arguing for the status quo and not arguing for change. The therapist's attempt to help or change the patient is actually the cause of nearly all therapeutic failure both in the treatment of depression and anxiety as well as in your specialty area which is relationship conflicts.

David Burns: Then we did a little thing to help her resolve this conflict called the magic dial which is instead of pressing a magic button and making them all disappear, maybe it's appropriate to have some negative feelings fro time to time. How depressed would you want to feel when you walk out of the room tonight at the end of the evening?

David Burns: Maybe you don't need 90% to have the benefits of the sadness and the depression. What would be a good level? What would you like it to be? She said, "Well, maybe 20% would be enough." Then, "Yeah, okay." We make that her goal, we'll reduce it to 20. Then if she want to reduce her anxiety to 15 and reduce the shame to five and reduce the anger to 15 and these different goals we set for her.

David Burns: Then I said, "Okay, we'll reduce them to just that level, but no higher. Now, you have to be careful because the techniques are so powerful that we're going to use now that your depression may go below 20. It may get all the way to zero or five, but don't worry, if we overshoot before the end of the evening, I help you work your depression back up to 20."

David Burns: Then she started laughing, but at this point, we've made a deal with her subconscious mind and then she's in control. We're not imposing our values on her. She's saying, "I'm willing to go to this level." Then at that point, we're generally five or 10 minutes away from total enlightenment which is what happened last night.

David Burns: She started just crushing her negative thoughts and finding the distortions in them because her subconscious mind is now giving her permission to fight these distorted thoughts. By the end of the evening, we worked with her for about two hours including teaching about 30 therapists who are launching, teaching along the way and pretty much everything went to zero.

David Burns: At the moment of that, she suddenly received her enlightenment, she started sobbing because she was so euphoric and ecstatic. At the end of the evening, it was not just feeling less depressed and anxious because all the feelings pretty much went to zero, but she went into a transcendent state of what I would call spiritual enlightenment.

David Burns: It's just mind-blowing and most therapists in the general public, they don't even know that these new techniques exist and that these fantastic rapid changes are possible, but that's what I see. Almost every time I treat somebody now and it's mind-boggling and that's why I'm so grateful to have had the chance to be on your show today to try to get the word out more.

David Burns: I'm writing a new book about it as well. The tentative title will be Feeling Great. It will have all of these new positive reframing and resistance busting techniques along with the powerful cognitive techniques.

Neil Sattin: Just to step up a little bit, it sounds like the technique that you described is all about laying the ground work so that when you go back to doing the cognitive work, you have way less inner resistance to that change actually happening.

David Burns: Yeah. Usually there's none and all patients have within them and everyone listening to the show right now, this powerful healing voice, but we keep it suppressed because of the resistance thinking we don't want to give up our perfectionism for example. We think that if we keep beating up on ourselves, that's somehow honorable or good or motivating and that's why in all of the psychotherapy outcome studies for depression, at least 50% of the patients don't improve much at all and it's because all these schools of psychotherapy are busy throwing help at patients without stopping to think, "What are some reasons this person might want to resist change?"

David Burns: The kinds of reasons we have come up with for resistance are all flattering to the patients. We make the patients proud of their symptoms, proud of their resistance and paradoxically when we do that, suddenly they want to change and then recovery is generally just a matter of minutes away like eight minutes or 12 minutes or something in that range.

Neil Sattin: Wow. While we wait for your new book to come out, what are the best ways for people to get more information about these techniques if they're not in the Bay Area?

David Burns: On my website,, feeling good is one word with two G's in the middle. There's tons of free resources for therapists and general public alike. There's a Feeling Good blog, the Feeling Good podcasts, there's all kinds of stuff. I probably have at least 500 or maybe a thousand or more pages of free resources there for folks and I would say that's a good step in the right direction or to pick up the feeling good handbook or the feeling good book because those tools are still incredibly powerful and helpful to millions of people in the United States and around the world as well.

David Burns: Feeling Good is now in over, well over 30 languages. It sold more than five million in the US and I have no idea how many more worldwide. Those techniques are still as good as gold and really helpful for individuals.

Neil Sattin: Wow. Well, we will have links to your site and your books available on the show notes for this episode which you can pick up by visiting or you can always text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions to get the transcript and action guide for this episode. David, I'm wondering if we have time for one more quick question.

David Burns: Absolutely.

Neil Sattin: This is of course a relationship show. A lot of what we've talked about is ways of turning the work inward, noticing the cognitive distortions that are coming up within you and how you can attack them powerfully in order to neutralize their effect and actually be more present, more in the moment and more able to have feelings that are actually based on reality and not just on something that you're making up.

Neil Sattin: However, when I think about hanging out with Chloe tonight, my wife, who's amazing, I wonder about what should I do, not that this would ever happen, but what if I notice her saying something or let's just flip this around. What if Chloe listens to this podcast and then she notices that I am using some cognitive distortion, some distorted thinking is coming out of me.

Neil Sattin: What's the best way for Chloe as my partner to avoid the pitfalls of maybe calling me out on it, but still to turn it into a generative conversation when she recognizes exactly what's going on? "Oh Neil, he's just trapped in blame again." Or not that I would ever do that, but a should statement, whatever it is.

David Burns: Well, I may not have the answer you're looking for here, but I do have a definite answer to that. I write books for people to help themselves, not to try to help other people or to impose these ideas on someone else because if you go around saying to someone, "Oh, you're having this distorted thought or that distorted thought."

David Burns: It would just irritate the heck out of them. If you have a family member or friend who's depressed, you could give him a copy of Feeling Good or suggest they pick up a copy of Feeling Good and it will probably be very helpful to them, but when you see another person involved in distorted thinking, I think that the thing that you can do in this too is hard to learn and probably would need another podcast would be to empathize and to listen and to provide emotional support without trying to help or fix them or change the distortions and their thoughts because I can tell you that it's not going to be effective to throw help or advice at someone who's angry at you or who's depressed and angry with themselves.

David Burns: Empathy can have a certain healing power and I think is about as far as we need to go as general citizens, as partners, as family members. I think empathy itself requires a lot of training and learning to do it skillfully and it's a gift that the world needs where we're not seeing a lot of empathy and support for one another in the world.

David Burns: We're seeing a lot of attack and criticism and trying to change other people, trying to punish other people and those strategies in my opinion are usually doomed to failure or as empathy and warmth and compassion has always been a gift through the ages.

Neil Sattin: I would love to have you back on the show to chat about empathy. In the meantime, I will make sure that if I hear any cognitive distortions, I don't go offering a magic button too.

David Burns: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Thank you so much Neil and maybe another six months down the road or something we'll do Feeling Good part three, but it's always an honor for me to work with you and I have a tremendous respect for you because of the quality of what you bring to the interview and to the dialogue which I just think is tremendous.

Neil Sattin: Thank you so much David and the feeling is mutual.


Check out Dr. David Burns's website

Read David’s classic books, Feeling Good or When Panic Attacks

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

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

Feb 28, 2018

When you start a relationship, something special becomes possible, something unique that the world has never known before. However - how do you figure out what that “something special” is? And how can your love be a vehicle for actually helping us evolve? This episode is an invitation to you to step into an experience of “shared consciousness” - what happens when you’re able to explore the space created between you and another person. Our guest is Patricia Albere, founder of the Evolutionary Collective and author of Evolutionary Relationships: Unleashing the Power of Mutual Awakening. Patricia has been guiding others on this path for years, exploring the edges of how consciousness shifts when two (or more) people step into it together. In her book, and in this episode, we talk about the practical aspects of her work - how it translates into higher levels of connectedness, personal growth, healing, feeling supported, and supporting others. And we also talk about some of the fundamental principles that are required when you want to explore and experiment with your partner (or others in your life who are up for the journey).

Here is a link to the first appearance of Patricia Albere on Relationship Alive: Episode 6 - How to Deepen Intimacy through Shared Consciousness.

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!


Check out Patricia Albere's website

Read Patricia’s new book, Evolutionary Relationships: Unleashing the Power of Mutual Awakening

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 Patricia Albere

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 we're trying to do with this show is create a change in culture, and for the purposes of our conversation here, most of that change has to do with how we relate to our partners, our lovers, our spouses, our boyfriends and girlfriends and other friends. That's the foundation of the conversation that we're having here, and we're part of a larger conversation about how we relate to each other in the world in general.

Neil Sattin: In order to talk more about that and where our relatedness is going, how to take conventional relationships and actually turn them into something that's deeper, more fulfilling, more enlivening, and part of the evolution of our species and our culture, I brought in someone really special who was here in the early days of the podcast. Her name is Patricia Albere and she is here on the heels of releasing her new book, Evolutionary Relationships: Unleashing the Power of Mutual Awakening.

Neil Sattin: She was on Relationship Alive way back in episode six, and if you're interested in hearing that episode you can go to and that will take you there so you can hear what we talked about the first time she was on the show. We may take a moment this time around to talk a little bit about mutual awakening and how to do it, which is something that we talked about back then, but otherwise we are going to dive even more deeply into the skills of relatedness and how to create something even more amazing as you explore the shared consciousness created between you and your partner, or you and someone else with whom you feel that spark of an evolutionary relationship. We're going to talk about what that means in just a moment.

Neil Sattin: If you are interested in downloading the transcript and action guide for this episode, you can do that at, that's the name Patricia and the number 2, or as always, you can text the word PASSION to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, and that will get you all the information that you need. Okay, I think that's it for now. Patricia Albere, thank you so much for joining us again here today on Relationship Alive.

Patricia Albere: I am just smiling, I'm just so happy to be with you and to be able to have another conversation about something that we're both passionate about.

Neil Sattin: Yes. I don't want to set an unrealistic expectation but I will say that after our last conversation, I just remember this so clearly. I got off Skype and I went and found Chloe, my wife, and I was just like, "That was probably the most powerful conversation I've had up until that point." You know, it was just so expansive and it's such a treat to be able to have you back here today.

Patricia Albere: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: The title of your book, it's called Evolutionary Relationships, and I don't think we can really talk about the practice of mutual awakening and all of the activating principles - we will hopefully cover some of those on today's conversation - without talking about what you even mean about evolutionary relationship. How is that different than the kind of relationships that we're used to having and why is it so important?

Patricia Albere: Great question. Evolutionary relationship, you can approach it from a couple of different angles. One is evolutionary. We are lucky enough as human beings to be conscious of the fact that evolution exists, that we're actually headed somewhere. For thousands of years no one had that concept at all. I mean basically we were just on the planet, we were living, we were doing whatever we were doing, and for the most part time and the movement of time was very ... It looked like things weren't even changing. Like most people's children did the same thing they did.

Patricia Albere: If you think of thousands and thousands of years, the sense of no change was pretty strong. For us, we are now living at a time where the quality of change and how everything is moving is so crazily intense. Every day scientists are discovering things, there's technology. I mean it's like the newness of what is occurring and how we are hooking up and even consciousness itself is evolving, that to be connected to the fact that your relationships too are evolving, love is evolving.

Patricia Albere: We think love is just some eternal expression between human beings that has been the same forever, and actually love itself is evolving. For relationships, the evolutionary quality of relationships, I talked about in the first chapter, first or second chapter, I can't remember, talking about Maslow's hierarchy. If you look at relationships from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, some relationships, none of it is bad or good, it's just different. You can have a romantic or a marriage type relationship where in a way it's at the basic needs of Maslow at the bottom, it turns into logistics.

Patricia Albere: Sex is kind of very basic, you have a home together, you take care of things, you get food, you have meals, you get a new car, there can be a quality where much of the relationship starts getting devoted to just the survival needs of what it means to live together. Just even saying that sometimes you're like, "Ooh". You can feel when your relationship is sort of slipped into, that that becomes the dominant.

Patricia Albere: Even if you're doing it at a high level of going on vacations and getting another fabulous car, or something else, it becomes kind of on a survival level and the relatedness is not very awake and expanded, and there aren't tons of potentials that are going to show up between you.

Patricia Albere: Next level up you would move into safety and security. Most people navigate that in their relationships to feel safe, safe psychologically and physically with each other, and secure and able to trust. Next level up is belonging, a sense of being loved. Some relationships never get beyond sort of like third level up which is just that just to be loved and to feel like you have a sense of belonging, you belong to one another, is the scope and the territory of the level of relatedness which is also important and wonderful, but it isn't on the edge of evolution.

Patricia Albere: Evolution is always pushing into the newness into what's possible for human beings. An evolutionary relationship is like where our human potentials and possibilities are evolving into, moving into. As you move up the scale, I went through the whole thing, but on that higher levels, there's the two higher levels, one is called actualization. You can be with a partner where you experience empowering one another to really actualize your potentials to both be successful in the world, to make a difference or whatever it is that you have a value for in that way, and to love each other from more of a place of abundance rather than need.

Patricia Albere: Instead of just "I need this" or "I need a relationship for the various things", you start to feel like an overflow, like you actually have a lot to give and you can give to one another.

Neil Sattin: Right. In our first conversation we talked about how in that kind of relationship you can even be taking a stand for each other, like, "I'm taking a stand for you being the best you could possibly be."

Patricia Albere: Yes, definitely. I think a lot of the current things, you know, the courses and conversations, and the things that you can do are very much about empowering that sense of actualization where you have two independent human beings who are self-authoring. They're trying to really fulfill themselves, their higher purpose, their sense of self, their interior sense of self, and that you have two people loving each other from being more actualized whether it's in the world or also in your own consciousness and development.

Patricia Albere: The evolutionary relationship is taking it a step further which is something that not everybody needs to do but some of us need to. If evolution is going to continue to move, the thing that is worth knowing is that it isn't just about relationship, evolution itself is happening through human consciousness and human relationship at this point. We aren't creating new creatures, in fact we're eliminating many of them.

Patricia Albere: Evolution isn't fooling around with "how do we have new species", where it's interested, where the push is in the entire movement of billions of years of evolution is human consciousness is where it's happening. Where it's happening in human consciousness is no longer with just people's individual consciousness, that's been being worked with for the last few thousand years. Individual enlightenment, personal transformation, individual salvation through like religion and stuff has been -

Neil Sattin: Right, that's old news.

Patricia Albere: Kind of. The way I see it, that's been going on. We've been doing that for a few thousand years, somewhat, I guess okay, and we're failing in a lot of it, but that's not new. Science is pointing to that we're not separate objects, that actually the only thing that's real is exchanging. There's no there there, there's no atom. We think there's little billiard balls that we're made of. When they go down to the root of the root of what's there, they don't find anything, what they find is exchange. These little balls of exchanging energies. If you want to translate that, that is relating. What that is, is relationship and relating.

Patricia Albere: Ultimately, all there is, is relating on the most fundamental levels, and the way that humans can begin to push the consciousness, awaken to and begin to be a part of, being able to manage the kind of consciousness that we need to start to get access to, kind of like atomic fusion, is what is the space between us, what is actually happening in the space between humans and how can we lean into and become awake to, and sensitive to reality together.

Neil Sattin: I'm curious to know a couple of things, one is do you recall when you first became aware that that was what was happening? That there was this space between a shared consciousness that was where evolution was taking us. Was there like an "aha" moment for you around that?

Patricia Albere: Yes. I didn't know about the evolutionary part until later, but my path has always been I'm like taken into experiences and then 10 years later I understand what happened. I guess I'm mystic at heart, I'm willing to not know. I'm sure I probably shared a bit of it on the first conversation that we had, but it happened in a relationship. There was a man named Peter who was a beautiful German mystic, and we fell in love and came together. His obsession for awakening and for enlightenment was from the moment he woke up all the way through his sleep. He never was interested in anything other than that and he never stopped paying attention to awakening, to consciousness, to being fully present in every moment. He was pretty obsessed.

Patricia Albere: For me, I had had a background of working with thousands of people and I think my heart, my ability to love was very developed. I had a childhood that ... A great mom. My heart was very available. When we came together and I am convinced that he is my twin soul, it was one of those things that you couldn't not recognize and you couldn't not be in. The magnet that pulls us together was not ... There was no choice, it was choiceless.

Patricia Albere: Our being together, what happened was was as we said yes to one another and we were so focused on each other and the space that was happening between us, and with his meditative consciousness and my capacity and attunement to love and the energies and what's going on there, and then just the way we felt about each other, we were so made one, and 24/7 we were always aware of what was happening. There was never a moment where he was unaware of what was happening with me, what was happening with us and vice versa. We never were separate, we never went in to like, "I'm just me over here, and he is just him over there, and I don't really know what's going on."

Patricia Albere: Most relationships, if people look are pretty separate. There's times of relating, it's always sort of there, but a lot of the time we're functioning on two separate tracks a lot. Especially in that actualized level, you're very focused on your own separate track even though you love each other and you're supporting each other. This was being what I call interpenetrated, like we were completely inside each other and inside of this relatedness that we were together.

Patricia Albere: I had four years of that before he was in a car accident, and he was brain injured, then eventually he died. I was in something where we were opening and being taken somewhere. Evolution was definitely having a field day with us. I felt it, I felt like I'd look at him sometimes like we'd make love or something would happen and I would look at him and I'd go, "Oh my god." I felt like love itself had just gone some place where it had never been before.

Patricia Albere: Sometimes it felt more like it was just beautiful, and full and amazing, but there were times where I could actually feel the newness of existence finding new pathways because we were so available. Just like if you were two great tennis players, like if you're two genius tennis players, sometimes tennis goes some place where tennis has never been before. It was pretty exciting to have that in the level of relatedness.

Patricia Albere: For me when I later found out many years later about evolution and about the edge of evolution, and about consciousness, I could see that what I had experienced with him was part of the future of where we were headed. Where not just couples were headed, but that the multiple beloved. There is a way to be connected that has that mystical dimension, that has our divinity being evoked as much as even more than just our humanity and our limitations. That's pretty exciting.

Neil Sattin: Yes. When I hear that what I am brought to is thinking about the capacity that we have to experience the miracle of life, the blessing of interrelatedness to bring that into even just our simple day-to-day interactions which brings a quality of aliveness that once you experience it I think it's challenging to be like, "Yeah, I'm just gonna go back to paying the bills and pretending this doesn't exist."

Patricia Albere: It's true. There's even a more, to me, kind of exciting opportunity in all of it for those of us who are drawn to love, drawn to pay attention to relatedness as you are, as we are, and I'm sure the people that are obviously listening to this. The thing that's so exciting that I didn't know when I was with Peter was the quality of the consciousness that we were developing was different than nondual consciousness. Those people who have done a lot of meditation and a lot of work in nondual quality of consciousness which is usually what people consider being enlightened or awake.

Patricia Albere: It's completely different than that. There's actually a new kind of consciousness that's absolutely enlightened but it's not that. When they do brain studies they can actually see that when you're meditating which is by yourself with your eyes closed in silence, you are learning how to let go of thinking, you're learning how to move into a certain state where they find that the mind when they measure it, you're letting go of your particular relationship to the world. You go into a deep state of relaxation and the brain goes into a certain place.

Patricia Albere: When you're doing the kind of practices that we're doing, that I'm practicing and working with people where it's like super focus with the other, with the space between, your brain goes into this amazingly other place, it ignites different lobes and parietal. I don't remember the names of all of it but it activates your brain in such a way that it goes into a place of flow, it goes into a place of like joy and positive love, like different kinds of experiences and energies that lift people. Lift their mood and lift their stabilization there, and it also allows them to be incredibly engaged in the world.

Patricia Albere: Like you're in contact with this kind of intimacy, and love and care for the trees, for your kids. The feeling of intimacy, like everything is touching everything, like you feel like you're inside your cat when your petting their fur, like you're both the fur and the cat. It makes sense because ultimately with love or lovers, people that have studied tantra, you experience your lover, you're like inside them experiencing their experience, your experience and then something else simultaneously. This consciousness is that.

Patricia Albere: I think it's way more attuned to eyes open, moving around in this world, and it is what is necessary. It's a kind of flow state rather than just being in yourself, focused on your higher purpose, focused on how you feel, grounded in your body. All of that is good but it's so separate, and it's not like, "You know, as long I am completely focused on my own subjective experience, and how I feel, and how I'm moving, and what I want and where I'm headed and all the rest of it", I'm not all of that related.

Patricia Albere: That makes a certain kind of flow not possible, it also makes the fact that 7.5 billion people right now moving towards 10 billion in 2050, to me, evolution is not that interested in everyone individually really knowing themselves only, it's not going to really work.

Neil Sattin: It's going to be a lot of life coaches.

Patricia Albere: Oh my god, we're going to have a problem. We need to learn how to be like those sports teams, and the people that, well we see them become like one organism, and then spectacularly empowered to be individuals within it. Like the way basketball team that's really got that oneness, all the team members are like knocking it out of the park but they're not operating individually, there's this oneness of the way that they're flowing and moving together that's tastable. My work is about ... We've hacked into how do you bring people into that level of consciousness and relatedness without having to have like a basketball or a violin.

Neil Sattin: There are two places I want to go right now, one is giving you listening a taste of what we're talking about, like how this actually happens, and then there's the question that's in my mind around like how do you know if a certain person that you're interacting with, how do you know if this evolutionary potential is there between the two of you?

Patricia Albere: Interesting. The first thing would be, as we've talked about, people can download a couple of chapters of the book in You personally need to first go, "What is she talking about? And who am I in relationship to this?" If it starts to make more and more sense, if you feel like you're a candidate or maybe you're quoted for this edge of evolution, to understand more about it and to begin to experience it for yourself.

Patricia Albere: There are ways that we take people into the practice. There are certain practices like meditation that give you a very powerful experience of being in this consciousness with another human being who's also interested in being the consciousness with you, because you need two people that are mutually interested which is one of the great things and it's one of the problems because you can't do it by yourself. You can't just do it with anybody. If you have somebody sitting across from you who's kind of going, "I don't really wanna do this and I don't really wanna be here", it's not going to work.

Patricia Albere: The first thing is find out for yourself, then from there ... You read the book together, you could start to do the practices, you could then begin to invite someone into like, "Would you be willing to experiment with me and see, and see what happens for us?", like you and your wife, and start to see if something begins to open in a way that is compelling for both of you.

Neil Sattin: Actually you were just mentioning talking about the brain activity that might be involved in this kinds of practice. We just released an interview with Alex Katehakis who, she focuses mainly on addiction, and sex, and love addiction, and the power of relatedness in healing the pathways that went offline and that created an opportunity for addiction to emerge in a person. I can imagine this practice will have an enormous healing potential for connection, like if you're in a place that feels really disconnected from your partner if you can invite them into it in a way where they feel like, "Yeah, I'm willing to give that a whirl."

Neil Sattin: The kind of presence with each other that we're talking about, and we'll get a little bit more into that I think, offers a healing experience when you're bringing those parts of your brain back online. This is total speculation, but it must be that when you set up that kind of resonance that's what allows this shared consciousness to happen.

Patricia Albere: Yes, definitely. It was so amazing. I just came from teaching for like almost eight days or nine days which isn't usual, I mean normally I have some breaks in between. We have the people that are very, very interested in what can happen between people who are really inside this way of practicing and want to work together instead on their personal work. We have 100 people who are doing these kinds of practices with each other and just spent five days together in a retreat.

Patricia Albere: They're practicing all year long and we meet a couple of times a year, so we're building this quality of the beloved, of this amazing ridiculous-like levels of our nervous systems getting hooked up. What you're saying is, like the people that understand attachment theory and the various kinds of ways in which people develop, this is first of all like when people are inside of something that's large like that and the level of connectedness is so absolute, the pathways around not having had healthy attachment, and not being able to trust, and not being able to relax literally start getting handled without even paying attention to it.

Patricia Albere: So you're not actually processing that stuff, you're actually in a larger nervous system that's already stabilizing and harmonizing and regulating you which is crazy powerful as far as healing people. We're not doing it for that reason but that is happening. The other thing ... One of the most exciting things that's happened at least up until this week, the group is from all over, everybody came. There are people from Japan, and Australia, and Europe, and New York, and Vermont, and California.

Patricia Albere: We were all together and we've all been working together for anywhere as from one to eight years, there are people that have been in that. What started to happen, we were all together is you know how like when you're working with someone, and consciousness-wise, they can all of a sudden shift their consciousness and become totally silent or totally focused, or they could drop into a certain kind of depth reliably? You can just point the there and they go, "Whop", and they kind of go there.

Patricia Albere: Our collective being, because it actually feels like something that's bigger than us, literally has new skills. It was amazing. We could be in this powerful sense of unification, and focus and depth of love, and then if I said something you could tell if somebody started to think, there was a tiny bit of fragmentation, I could just point to it and it would just be like, "Woo."

Patricia Albere: The level of unity. One of the women shared this morning, we had a call earlier, she said she's always felt like a little bit afraid to speak up for herself in certain situations that are challenging. She always thought she should and blah, blah, blah, and she said there is something that is so powerfully in her now that she can't not. Almost like something was, some strength was placed - in her level of not being alone, her level of this consciousness connection that we have, she's standing on something that she never stood on before and it's changing her behavior. Which is kind of cool!

Neil Sattin: Yes, very cool. Bringing that back to the context of romantic relationship, it's very common that the battles that emerge are around actually fighting for connection, fighting to prove that you're not alone, and it can feel like you're really alone. Again, I can just imagine how creating a backdrop of connectedness has such a powerful impact on the level of trust in relationship as one example.

Patricia Albere: Yes. Part of what the practices are, I mean there is a main one but there are some different things, is where you learn to make the connection is not on the surface, it's not on the personality level, it's not even on that subtle connection level where you're feeling your heart, and there's like a deeper place that people usually are trained to connect from. We're actually moving it from the subtle to this causal dimension which is the deepest origination point of that particular human being and yourself.

Patricia Albere: When I can work with people I can get them to drop into this place, and from that place you're not solid. You're like this opening of who you are that's very particular but it's not a solid object, it's like what the scientists are saying - you're like this space of potential as Neil. When you and I connect from that deepest opening that you are, and you can see into the deepest place of where I am, and we literally start to connect from there, two spaces could connect, two fragrances can connect, two stones can't. Things that are solid can't actually interpenetrate.

Patricia Albere: When you start to build that level of the we, like you literally become a new kind of wine. Your grape and my grape, we become Merlot. When you're deepening and deepening into that, now does it mean that your personality and the crazy things that drive each other crazy go away? No. We still have separatenesses that are still going to operate but we have that to ... That becomes louder and louder and a place to return to and stand on. So that when you're dealing with the things that are different and challenging, you don't lose each other, you do it from being connected instead of separate.

Patricia Albere: Most arguments are completely separate. That's why people love having fights and making love because when you make love and you all of a sudden go, "Oh, it's you, it's me. You know, I remember you. You know, you don't look like the evil guy who's making me crazy." You go back to that place where the real connection is, and we have a very sophisticated but powerful way to just have humans find that, nurture that, deepen that because that's also where divinity arises from.

Patricia Albere: We include our human limitations and failings, but there's some source that I know Peter and I found where I felt myself as more beautiful, and more powerful. It was like I was almost witnessing her as he was. It was like some way of me being myself that I had never experienced nor had I ever been received in that way. My work is really devoted to deepening that for people, exploring that not as a spiritual bypass kind of thing but as making that louder and louder, and clearer, and more rich and substantial so that the other levels of us are kind of put more in their place. They're not everything.

Neil Sattin: Yes. We have had Jett Psaris on the show, one of the authors of Undefended Love, I'm not sure if her conversation will have aired by the time. We may do this one first. One of the places that she comes from, I'm not sure if you're familiar with her work at all is basically getting couples to the place where they're able to be totally open and vulnerable with each other.

Neil Sattin: When we're young we start out from a place like that and then we end up suffering some wound or something happens that creates a crack in the veneer of everything being one and perfect which gives us a really hard emotional internal experience. From that our personality emerges which she talks about as basically all of our ego structures that are about protecting us from the experience, from what we're afraid will happen if we're that vulnerable again.

Neil Sattin: Her practice is a lot about going inwards when you feel that fear happening, that closing happening. I love that this is almost like the equal and opposite approach to very similar way of getting at the essential self. Like what is there beneath the veneer of personality.

Patricia Albere: Yes. It's interesting because as you're speaking I'm realizing the direct access to the core which actually is findable  - interestingly -  I don't know why but it's almost like giving people ... Like if you're doing remote viewing and you give them coordinates. The coordinate of finding this deepest place in oneself is actually findable even though people think they can't, they find it.

Neil Sattin: Is that something we could talk about now?

Patricia Albere: I'm just saying when you find that and you deepen into that then when stuff comes up there's a way in the way that we practice where we turn towards whatever is there together. If I'm feeling defended, I'm feeling hard like cardboard, and I'm sensing into like the phenomenological reality of feeling separate. That would happen with Peter, sometimes we'd go, "Wow, it feels really flat." We'd go, "Yeah, it does, doesn't it?" we were like kids, like we were so curious about whatever was there, we didn't have like a certain kind of preference that it had to be always profound or deep.

Patricia Albere: Whatever was there, we were like we wanted to be close to that, and we wanted to be close together with it. When you turn that way towards whatever is there even if it's a weird defensive thing, it seems to unravel, it tends to show itself without you trying to do anything, and it tends to, in my experience, the power of things dissolving in the face of "the two" being with it instead of it's just my process and and it's my stuff. It's exciting because it moves very quickly and it feels different when you're not just by yourself working on your stuff.

Neil Sattin: Yes. It feels to me like there's alchemy in the space.

Patricia Albere: Yes, that's a good way of saying it, interesting. Yes, definitely. Part of what I'm excited about too, I mean I've worked for 40 years with people with their individual work, and I love people, and I've always been committed to people being able to express their highest, deepest selves and why they're here. For the people who are able to not make it all about them and want to explore the edges of where evolutionary relationships could go and what's possible together, what I find is that the kind of activation and healing, and empowering people to move forward is just a hundred times more powerful, and it makes sense.

Patricia Albere: If I was creating the universe, instead of having everybody selfishly working on themselves individually forever as the fastest mode, that wouldn't make sense. It makes sense that if we somehow find a way to come together that everything goes faster, that we're rewarded for that makes sense to me.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Patricia Albere: It's more efficient, it's kind of like I can't build a house by myself, if we're like a hundred people we can do it.

Neil Sattin: Honestly, I'm also thinking about the power, like in the power of relatedness. I was just reading a book by Deborah Tannen about friendships among women, and it was talking about this girl who, she was on the autism spectrum, and seemingly incurable and getting worse. No amount of therapy, no amount of intervention from a teacher, like nothing was helping, and then she made a friend who actually accepted her. I think they connected around horses or something like that, and did this amazing turnaround where she went from being completely shut down to being open, socially engaged.

Neil Sattin: It was like the power of healing that was there in the relatedness versus trying to fix something, or cure something.

Patricia Albere: That's so beautiful. Here's another thing I'll throw in that you'll probably appreciate. I don't know if everyone will appreciate this. In this evolutionary piece, when you think about evolution there are jumps to evolution. We went from nothing to matter, so there was geosphere, there was just this dead planet here, and then from a dead planet life showed up which is kind of crazy, like how did that happen. There are jumps that just are completely miraculous. From dead matter to life, and then from life, from single celled creatures, we have Einstein, we have geniuses and human beings, and plants, and birds and everything come to life, and then humans with consciousness which is just a miracle.

Patricia Albere: From humans, we have what he calls the thinking layer. Teilhard de Chardin called that the noosphere , he said we go from the biosphere which is life and human life, to the thinking layer which is the noosphere which is all of culture, and language, and art, and philosophy, and psychology, everything that you're talking about on your show, and love. All of that he called the noosphere, and you can see it in the internet, you can see the physicality of this noosphere, hooking up, hooking up, hooking up, so that we have omnsicience. We can know anything anytime, we can contact each other.

Patricia Albere: If the aliens land outside my house like in the next five minutes, if I captured it on my phone, the whole world will know in about 10 minutes. If it was real, but it was compelling enough, billions of people would be focused on the same image and the same words in a heartbeat. It is unbelievable. That didn't even exist 10 years ago, and we are hooking up, hooking up, hooking up, right? People have it on their phones.

Patricia Albere: The noosphere was the next layer that evolution was innovating and is obviously pretty excited about. The next one is what I'm going to call the spondic sphere. Spondic love, the term is this experience of I am, may you be. In the way that we practice there's this experience of love, and when you love someone, it comes from some place that's deeper than your personality loving them. There's almost like this cosmic energy that wants to just go, "Ha, I want you to have everything. You know, like I love you, I love you." You just want to imbue them with everything. We feel that for our children. Sometimes our heart bursts into this kind of empowerment that is deeper than just human love.

Patricia Albere: You can feel it when you're on the other end of spondic love, it is palpable, you actually feel like part of your life just got made because this person loves you from a place that they're in and for you in a way that's real. This mutual spondic love which is also part of the consciousness that we're working with and the consciousness that I think is next, I think that the next place of innovation will be that kind of love where we, instead of being separate, instead of not being even neutral towards each other and just surviving on our own, or competing or actively using each other and stomping on each other.

Patricia Albere: This spondic quality of love and connectivity will be the foundation for a ridiculous amount of miracles, innovation, creativity, coming together, working together, doing things that can't be done, et cetera, et cetera, that's going to be the next explosion of where evolution is going to be working.

Neil Sattin: I'm going to ask a hard question here which is what's the place of monogamous relationships in the birthing of this interconnectedness and this evolutionary consciousness.

Patricia Albere: I think when you are in fact with your twin soul, it doesn't happen a lot, but when it happens, there is nowhere to go, there really isn't. Even if they ended up marrying someone else they are yours. You are so one and there is nowhere you want to be. The kind of sexuality, the kind of love and the depth that's shared, there's no desire for anyone else because the newness of love, and the depth, and the profundity of what's there is just crazy unfolding between you. You'd have to be crazy to want to actually go and try to be with someone that you didn't have that with. Maybe you eat the best food in the world and then you decide to go have a-

Neil Sattin: Have a burger.

Patricia Albere: McDonald's hamburger. I don't know why did I even want to do that.

Neil Sattin: It's just interesting because it sounds like the experience, because we're talking about being able to evoke this kind of consciousness in an exercise with a partner, and yet it is creating the experience of deep, deep love and interconnectedness.

Patricia Albere: There is still a discernment. The thing that I find with the groups of people is, what happens is because everyone is so starving for being seen for any kind of real depth and relatedness, the moment someone sees you deeply you think you want to have sex with them or that you love them. It's so pathetic, I mean we're so starving as humans, and it's nobody's fault. We live in a world of separation. People don't look at each other, we literally live in so much separation and isolation that we don't even realize that it doesn't have to be normal.

Patricia Albere: What happen is is like in the people that I'm working with intensively, I remember two people and they're both married to other people, they did a practice and they went somewhere, and they both came out and you look at them and you were like, "Whoa, what just happened?" They've gone to a level of love and depth that they didn't ever even experience with their partners.

Patricia Albere: Initially they were kind of like, "I don't know, you know, what do I do with that?" It was a man and a woman, and I just said keep allowing it, keep holding, and then more of that started to happen in the group. Part of what comes through then as you begin to create these deeper connections and you're being so nourished and so seen and you realize how abundant that is, you can then bring that to your partner. You don't have to go being, what do they call it, polyamorous.

Patricia Albere: Polyamory is a lot of work, to try to juggle. You have to have no life I think. To navigate one relationship is hard enough as you know, if you're trying to navigate with depth, and with openness, and transparency and honesty, two relationships or more, that takes a ridiculous amount of real energy and work. I respect it, I think that there is some newness, something that's opening there and people are learning and growing within that, so I'm not condemning that, I'm just saying I don't think that ultimately that's where we're headed, not at all. Because you can experience profound connection without having to have sex with everybody.

Neil Sattin: Thank you.

Patricia Albere: You're welcome.

Neil Sattin: This really makes me want to dive in to some of your activating principles.

Neil Sattin: Great. Patricia, like I mentioned in our first episode together, we talked about the mutual awakening practice. Could you give us just a quick like 30 second rundown. If you're going to try it with your partner, this is how you try it. Then we can talk about some of the principles that make it so unique in terms of your approach and how to really deepen in that experience.

Patricia Albere: I honestly, I can't do a 10-minute version of how to do it, I can't because it wouldn't really help and if people tried to do it from there it wouldn't work anyway. You need to know enough of where to come from, you need to take the time because otherwise ... People do it from the superficial level of self, it's pointless, it wouldn't do anything. Again, if they just go to and they at least download the first three chapters that will start them on their way. If they listen to the other interview that we did that will help as well. If they're genuinely curious, they're going to need to invest some time and energy in actually discovering what this is and how it works for real.

Patricia Albere: The activating principles which are in the book, the chapters in the book are basically mostly dedicated to not only how to do it but then how do you turn it on, how do you continue ... If you were to do it with your wife you would start to learn how to do it and then you could take a chapter and work with that for awhile to open it, to make it even more full, and to continue to work through the pieces.

Patricia Albere: One of them is engagement. It's simple but when your turns towards each other, to really recognize how fully engaged are you and how much more can you open and give yourself into the connection. If people just think about that for a moment, the next time they listen to their small engaged are you? Are you just sort of passively listening, being polite, being a good parent and hoping that it won't take too long, or do you actually go over where their enthusiasm is, get inside their little six-year-old consciousness, try to really enter into them and engage fully in what it is that they're actually experiencing? That's one of them.

Patricia Albere: In life, you don't have to know how the practice works, to just pay attention to the engagement not as someone as separate but can you get inside them, can you be inside their world and then connect. That turns something on. When people are, when you're inside their world with them and then getting engaged, something happens that's different than if you're just listening from over where you are.

Neil Sattin: Can you talk about how that interacts with the next activating principle of commitment in terms of your committedness to staying inside as you work through whatever comes up.

Patricia Albere: That's a little bit bigger. If you created an evolutionary relationship, if you are practicing with each other, if you're entering into this interpenetrated consciousness, consciousness where instead of ... Most people have a subjective experience where "I feel this", and if I'm vulnerable I'll let you in on how I feel, I'll share it with you and you compassionately listen and usually relate to it from yourself - from the way you feel like that - which is still we're very separate.

Patricia Albere: Interpenetrating is where you learn how to place your consciousness. This is like against all the boundary stuff, but you actually go inside and you feel the other as they feel themselves. You feel me as I actually feel myself. There's a way that I guide people into how do you actually do that. When that level of relatedness is being developed and built, from there and from a commitment to each other, then the committed-ness make sense.

Patricia Albere: Like if something happens or if you do something that's driving me crazy, instead of me working it out in my head by myself and then announcing to you how I'm going to deal with it, or announcing to you that I'm leaving you, I'll let you know what I worked out for myself. I stay inside with you and I share with you, and we kind of go in together into what the resistance is, what the concern is. We do it from being inside the commitment to each other, and to the relationship, and to the experience that's actually there. I don't do it as a separate something. Does that makes sense to you?

Neil Sattin: Yes. What you're committing to is that you're involved in a process that you're co-creating, and so the act of going off on your own to figure something out is a step away from what could emerge if you gave that thing to the process that you're in.

Patricia Albere: Yes, right, and that we'll share it. It doesn't mean anyone is going to be perfect, it doesn't mean that we won't disturb each other in different ways, but that we bring it forth, and we bring it in, and we bring it towards, instead of that it's a function of separation. When you have that spondic relationship too, when you activate that in and for each other, that also makes it a lot safer.

Neil Sattin: Then you can actually be invested in the truth without it being something that's about separating.

Patricia Albere: Yes, totally.

Neil Sattin: Obviously we won't have time to talk about this whole topic but I didn't want to end this conversation without being able to talk for a moment about trust. I love the way that you articulate the different levels of trust. The level that you call basic trust, how that feeds into the way that we trust each other, and then the generative trust that leads to your trust growing and the expectation of it being potentially a little messy that's included there.

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering of you could just explain, because I think what would really be helpful for our listeners is if they could come away from this with a sense of what basic trust is, and then let's see where that takes us as we wrap up this conversation.

Patricia Albere: You keep asking me for the one-minute version of something that takes like-

Neil Sattin: I'm bad, I know I'm so bad.

Patricia Albere: The basic trust is obviously - there's one of the chapters that goes through that, relative trust and generative trust. There's a course that I have online that's in evergreen that people can buy that has two whole sessions dedicated to the basic trust part. To do the very simple version is basic trust is something that we have when we're born, until it's disturbed there's this sense of being connected to the flow of life where we feel like ... It's without thought, it's like things are going to work out.

Patricia Albere: If you get fed, you get off, you get a little frustrated and you get fed, and somebody picks you up. Different things are happening without too much frustration, you tend to grow up to be a human being who has some sense of being relaxed in life. Even if something is hard that's happening, you kind of sense that it's going to work out or you're going to figure out a way through it.

Patricia Albere: The people that have basic trust interfered with, they constantly are not getting what they need, they tense up and their egos are wired to try to make it all happen themselves. Ultimately, when basic trust is restored, you relax and life unfolds. Actually, faith, true faith, the kind that saints have, is basic trust restored, and that's full relaxation. You actually feel utterly okay being in the world that even when things don't go well.

Patricia Albere: It's unbelievably important, it shapes your relationship to absolutely everything, and it's one of those concepts that when you find out about it and you begin to work with it, it can change your whole life. It's super important. Obviously with the hundred people, that is what is partly being restored.

Neil Sattin: Right. That feeds into, if you can operate from that place then it makes that that much easier to have relative trust which you talk about as the way that two people learn to trust each other based on their agreements, and their humility, and their expectations. Again in your book, Evolutionary Relationships, it's such a compelling read because for one thing, it's not like an entire book about trust, but it also distills it in such a way that I think makes it really real and practical for you to examine.

Neil Sattin: This is an area like for instance, "my relationship has tons of trust based on our commitment, but we don't actually have the capacity to communicate in order to keep our trust intact", and so we have to increase our capacities. I love how you do that. What I love too is how it evolves to this generative trust and I think this is one of the hardest things in relationship because people expect like, "Oh, we're going for it and we're really deep and we're connecting, and we're interpenetrating with each other, then all of our problems are gonna go away."

Patricia Albere: Yes, not so.

Neil Sattin: How did that emerge for you, that concept of generative trust and why that's so important.

Patricia Albere: Having worked with people forever and just having been in relationship, I mean the clarity around that was just given. Because you have to manage all of it. The relative trust is also important. If you have somebody who never keeps their word no matter how deep the connection is, you're not going to trust them and you shouldn't because they're not trustable.

Neil Sattin: Right, or if they don't have the humility to be open to influence.

Patricia Albere: Absolutely. People have to also take responsibility for having character, and I think that in some of the post-modern work everybody's working and dealing with their limitations. We get to a point where we just assume everyone is doing the best they can, and people are following the flow. They are following their subjective experience individually, but they're not taking responsibility for being related and actually showing up and having character, and dealing with the impact of a certain lack of integrity in certain ways. That definitely gets addressed in the book.

Neil Sattin: Yes. It's funny that there are people like Dale Carnegie who write on and on, and on about how to become trustworthy, how to be someone that other people will turn to for influence. You sum it up pretty well in one chapter.

Patricia Albere: Cool, thanks.

Neil Sattin: Well, Patricia Albere, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today on Relationship Alive to dive more deeply into the question of what makes an evolutionary relationship, what's possible. Again, you can visit her website, where you can download the first three chapters of Patricia's book, Evolutionary Relationships, and also find out more about her work and her trainings. We will have links to Patricia's book and website in the detailed transcript and action guide for this episode which you can get at, or you can text the work PASSION to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: Like I said, our first episode together, episode six, we do talk a little bit more about the actual mutual awakening process and I encourage you to check out that episode that we did together as well. In the mean time, thank you so much for joining us, Patricia. Is there anything else? Maybe you could just mention you do in person intensives where people can come and learn this.

Patricia Albere: Yes. People that are intrigued by the possibility of being with a cohort of other human beings that are really interested in this quality of relationship, there will be a three-day in New York in April, the 13th through the 15th, we only do those twice a year, it's kind of special. If they sign up for the book, they'll have access to knowing what's happening and then people can, from the menu of what's there, see if something serves them. Thank you and thank you Neil, you do such a good job with this and with bringing just a myriad of ways to empower people with relatedness which I really respect.

Neil Sattin: Thank you, I appreciate your saying that.


Check out Patricia Albere's website

Read Patricia’s new book, Evolutionary Relationships: Unleashing the Power of Mutual Awakening

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 Patricia Albere

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



Feb 20, 2018

Does Valentine's Day create pressure, or problems, for you? How do you get past the expectation and celebrate love - in your own way - without falling victim to the cliché? And also - on a separate but equally important note - how do you handle uncertainty, in your life, and in your relationship? In today's episode we're going to cover strategies for successfully navigating Valentine's Day whether you're single or in a relationship - and we're also going to reveal our top 3 ways to deal with uncertainty, and transform it into something positive. Plus Neil Sattin reveals a bonus "4th way" to use uncertainty in your relationship to create connection with your partner.


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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 outtro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Feb 14, 2018

How do you build an indestructible relationship? It’s all about how you welcome the challenges, magnify the good times, and build a web of support. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, though - because the way to do those things wasn’t something that you were taught in school. In today’s episode, we welcome Jayson Gaddis, fellow relationship coach, founder of the Relationship School, and host of The Smart Couple podcast. Jayson shares some of his favorite relationship recipes, so that you can not only collect the right ingredients for your relationship, but also learn the unique way to cook them up into something that will serve your relationship for years to come. We also talk about Jayson’s new book, The Smart Couple Quote Book: Radically Simple Ways to Avoid Pointless Fights, Have Better Sex, and Build an Indestructible Partnership. It’s a far-ranging conversation to explore how to work smarter in support of an amazing relationship.

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

Sponsors: - YogaGlo is an affordable way to do yoga, or meditate, with the guidance of a world-class instructor. They have classes for you no matter what level you’re at. And you can do it whenever is convenient for you, wherever you are, with your computer or smartphone! YogaGlo is offering two free weeks to try out their service for Relationship Alive listeners. Visit to get your first two weeks free, and experience Yogaglo for yourself!


Check out Jayson Gaddis's website

Read Jayson’s new book, The Smart Couple Quote Book: Radically Simple Ways to Avoid Pointless Fights, Have Better Sex, and Build an Indestructible Partnership

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 Jayson Gaddis

Amazing intro/outro music (not including the Namaste chant) 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. How do you take on your relationship in an intelligent way? How do you show up in a way that brings learning and growing to the forefront of what you do with your partner? And I guess another way of saying this is how do you avoid doing stupid shit that just perpetuates old patterns and old heartbreak and heartache, and instead show up for this dance of relationship in a way that welcomes every part of your experience, whether it's the amazing joy that a relationship can bring, or the painful moments that relationship can bring? In the words of today's guest, "There's only one place to work out our relationship issues, in relationship," and to talk about this, I have with us today a very special treat, a fellow podcast host and relationship coach, the founder of the Relationship School and the Smart Couple podcast. His name is Jayson Gaddis, and if you haven't checked out his show already, I definitely recommend that you do.

Neil Sattin: His is a great blend of what we know about neuroscience, what we know about psychology, what we know about personal growth. In many ways, a lot like what we're trying to do here on Relationship Alive, but as you'll see, he has his own perspective, and that's something that I really appreciate is being able to bring different points of view onto the show, and I'm making an assumption here because I feel like I know enough about Jayson to really appreciate the work that he's doing in the world, and I want you to be able to hear from him as well, and maybe we'll find out where we are aligned and where we are different in today's episode.

Neil Sattin: Jayson's just come out with a book called the Smart Couple Quote Book: Radically Simple Ways to Avoid Pointless Fights, Have Better Sex, and Build an Indestructible Partnership. What could be better than that? In this book, he shares quotes from his own writing as well as some of the people who have been guests on his podcast, but it's mostly his own work, and it is the perfect kind of coffee table book or bedside book where you can pick something up, open to a random page, get an amazing piece of wisdom, and have something to reflect on or to chat about with your partner. We'll get a chance to dive deep today with Jayson Gaddis. In the meantime, if you want to download a detailed transcript and guide for this episode, you can visit, or you can always text the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, and I will send you a link to that guide and transcript.

Neil Sattin: I think that's all the business to cover. Jayson Gaddis, thank you so much for being with us today on Relationship Alive.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah, Neil. I'm really honored to be here, man. Thanks for having me.

Neil Sattin: I think what I'd love to start with is to get your perspective. I feel like there should be a warmup question here, but what's calling to me right now from having read through your book, is your view of pain in relationship, and so many people, of course, come to our podcasts and our work as coaches because they're in pain, and they feel like pain is the problem, and I'm wondering if you have a perspective on pain that helps mine it for the golden opportunity that pain often brings.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I love pain. I don't like feeling it, but I love it because it's always what ignites transformation in me, and it's often what I see brings people to the path and to a better result in their life, so I'm a big fan of pain. I definitely don't enjoy the crunchiness of it in an argument with my wife, and I know intellectually, and this holds me through it, that on the other side of this painful experience, we're going to be better off, so I'm a big fan of helping people embrace pain as a doorway, as a gateway, and as a path to greater fulfillment, really.

Neil Sattin: When someone comes to you and says, "I'm in a ton of pain in my relationship," where do you start with that person? Congratulations?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. It's kind of like, "Congratulations. Welcome and I'm glad for you that pain's brought you to your knees enough that you're willing to learn something new here, because clearly how you're doing it is not working," and they would probably tell me that themselves, but I might reflect something like that back if they were a little stuck in their victim seat, which we get stuck in, and I'd say, "Great. Let's zero in on what the pain is and how is it, how did it come to be, and what are you responsible for in that? Let's change it. Let's do something about it."

Interested in reading the transcript for the rest of this episode with Jayson Gaddis? 

Click here to download the full transcript of this episode!

Feb 3, 2018

How do you embody masculinity in a way that creates more connection and passion in your relationship? How do you avoid the stereotypes, while still getting the benefit of positive polarity in your relationship? Is there even a point to talking about “masculine” vs. “feminine” (and if so, what is it?)? Today’s episode is a conversation with Shana James, men’s coach and host of the Man Alive podcast. We take apart the myths of what it means to be a “real man” - and explore how you can get beyond what you’re “supposed to” be, uncover the true you, and bring all of you to your relationship. Learn how to break out of the box in a way that keeps you connected to the people who matter most.

Please enjoy this week’s episode, with Shana James, on Relationship Alive!


Here is a link to Relationship Alive episode 20, my first conversation with Shana James on Sparking Passion through Generosity and Authenticity

Visit Shana James’s website to check out the Man Alive podcast AND pick up her free guide to the Unknown Skill that helps men succeed in life, career, and relationships.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

visit to download the transcript for this episode, or text the word "PASSION" to the number 33444.


Neil Sattin: All right. Hello and welcome to another episode of ...

Shana James: Man Alive, and welcome to another episode of ...

Neil Sattin: Relationship Alive. We are your hosts ...

Shana James: Neil Sattin.

Neil Sattin: And Shana James, and we're here today to talk about some really important topics that we each wanted to cover on our respective podcasts, and so we thought, "Why not ..."

Shana James: Become each other and do it together.

Neil Sattin: Right. We will merge like you're not supposed to do, but why don't we come together and talk about it, and so we have it for each of our shows?

Shana James: I love it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: I love it. Yeah. We've been really going back and forth around this idea of the stereotypical masculine and some frameworks out there that in some ways have been really helpful for men, and have had men step into more of their power, and confidence, and have deeper connections, and in other ways have, what might you say, pushed men into shame, and feeling wrong, and feeling they're out of one box and into another box, and feeling confined, and so really wanting to look at if we are going to take on or if men are going to take on a kind of archetype or ideas of masculinity. How can they be played with versus ... How did you say it? Versus constricting or something like that?

Neil Sattin: Constricting. Yeah. Yeah, and this question too of whenever, if you're feeling like you should be some way, whatever way that is, how's that going to impact you? How's that going to impact your relationships, and because my show, like ...

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: This is interesting because my show is all focused on relationship, and Shana, your show is called 'Man Alive', so it's all about this question of how men can step into who they are.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: I was wondering before we got on, I was thinking like, "Is there a difference when ...? Is there something about men stepping into who they are where that could in and of itself get in the way in relationship?"

Shana James: Interesting, so the question being if men are themselves for lack of a more specific way to say it right now. Right? Like if a man actually discovers who he is, his own needs, his desires, his truth, that it could actually get in the way of a relationship?

Neil Sattin: That was the question.

Shana James: That's the question.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I say that because when I'm looking at a lot of ...

Shana James: Interesting.

Neil Sattin: I like the word you used, 'Framework', so I'm looking at some of the frameworks that are becoming more and more popular now as a way of I think reeling ourselves back from men and women being the same, and so trying to reclaim some of the polarity and the difference, and the beards I guess.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: As I look at that, I can see that there's a lot in that that actually does help us, men ... I'm just speaking for myself here, step into more of who we are. In fact, I even grew this out a little bit for our conversation.

Shana James: "This" being "a beard" because some people are not watching this...

Neil Sattin: Right. My beard. Right. You might not be watching, so I grew my beard out. That's an important thing to note.

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: That being said, when you start talking about what's involved in people actually relating to each other, then I don't think that those answers necessarily are long-term solutions. They could provide short-term solutions, but over the-

Shana James: The answers of like, "Here's how to be a more masculine, or more of a man?"

Neil Sattin: Here's how to be more of a man. Yeah. Yeah.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Take charge, buy a gun, grow a beard, drive your truck, and own all of the archetypal or really stereotypical manly things.

Shana James: This is so interesting because hearing you say that, I'm like, "Oh, that wasn't the frameworks I was talking about about being a man." I was thinking more of the frameworks of David Deida and some other people out there who talk about a kind of masculine power that has to do with presence and solidity that I'm getting a little tongue in cheek in the way I'm saying this, but I do think they're actually really powerful ways that a man or a woman ... I mean, we could talk about it. Right? Masculine and feminine to me doesn't mean man, woman, but yeah, so probably important that you and I get on the same page. Are we actually talking about the same frameworks or do we have different frameworks we're thinking of?

Neil Sattin: I think that's why it's so important that we have this conversation, and of course, I was being a little facetious about the gun and the pick-up truck, and the beard for that matter, and you might be able to hear there's a plow actually.

Shana James: Yeah. Yes.

Neil Sattin: I wish I were driving that plow. It feels so much more masculine as well.

Shana James: Manly than sitting here, doing a podcast.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right, or, "Why’d I get the plow? I should be out there shoveling like a real man."

Shana James: Right. The whole idea of being a real man. See, my sense-

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Right? This is where it gets confusing. I think a lot of the frameworks out there ... My sense is that their intention in some of these more conscious realms and tantra and personal growth is to help men step away from some kind of box of, "Here's what you have to be to be a man", and yet, I think they have a negative spin sometimes where men take it on as, "Oh, now I'm supposed to do this to be a man. Right now, I'm supposed to be more present."

Neil Sattin: Right.

Shana James: "Now, I'm supposed to lead. I have to lead every action."

Neil Sattin: Exactly.

Shana James: Right?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. "I'm supposed to lead. I'm supposed to open my woman" if we're talking about a heterosexual relationship...

Shana James: If we're talking heterosexual.

Neil Sattin: Right, and there's no room for me to be uncertain or vulnerable, or weak, or ... Yeah.

Shana James: Which is so interesting because a lot of the work that I do with men is around how to be able to bring vulnerability, shame, weakness, desire, whatever our weaknesses and what I think makes me weak, but in a more powerful way, which again, I think could be confusing, but in a way, the way I describe it is like, "I have these vulnerable parts of me, and ultimately, I know I'm a good person or I'm a good man." Like, "I know there's more to me. I know that these things don't make me unlovable or unworthy, and so I can bring these forward in relationship" or in another, any kind of relationship, but let's say also romantic relationship with a partner, and not fall into, "I need you to tell me I'm okay. I need you to tell me I'm good enough. I need you to fix me or make me feel better about myself."

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. There is that sense of, how do you enter a relationship without either partner feeling like, "Wow. You're here to save me", and whatever that translates into, if it's one partner needing to be the hero of the relationship or one person needing to be the caretaker of the relationship?

Shana James: Right, and they're needing to be saved.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Then, what is it like to come into a relationship knowing that there's potential for healing and growth without needing to fix or save each other? Right? That to me is a kind of mastery. Can we love each other through these challenging moments of vulnerability for both of us, whatever gender we are? That's one end of the spectrum.

Shana James: That to me feels a little bit more like the Yin or a certain kind of foundation of connection, and then, you also mentioned earlier, polarity. Right? Then, how do we keep that spark alive also?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and this is an important place as well because I think the reason that the more stereotypical kinds of frameworks hold so much power is if you're in a relationship where that's not happening at all, then you can hear that and feel like, "That's exactly what's missing. I need that." Whether it's, "I need to be led and opened", like, "I'm tired of making all the decisions", or, "I'm tired of your" whatever it is, or it's like, "Yeah, I need to step more into that powerful presence. For some reason, I've been scared to do that, or I've been holding back because I'm not feeling confident in expressing myself that way."

Shana James: Yeah. Right.

Neil Sattin: If that's place you're in, and then you hear someone's saying like, "Yeah. Step into your power and lead, and be opened" or whatever it is, then it can be like, "Wow. What a relief!" Like, "Yes, let's do that."

Shana James: Right. It gives permission in a way like, "Oh, I can lead and I can take charge, and I don't have to be that asshole I saw my dad be or some other men in the past who were doing it without care for other people." I've definitely seen that help men feel more empowered.

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah, and-

Shana James: And, or, but.

Neil Sattin: It's like ... Two things come to mind. One is that it could certainly infuse some energy into a situation that that feels stale or stagnant, like where it's just you need something to get the whole thing moving, but on the flip side, there is this question, and this is something I've talked about on my show, you've probably talked about it on yours, of as soon as we're stepping into roles or scripts of how we're supposed to be, that actually can kill the things that create juice in a relationship that are about being in the moment, being spontaneous, owning who you are, which to me, doesn't have anything to do with whether my wife can hold my beard while we're having sex.

Shana James: Yeah. Right. You mean that metaphorically? What does holding your beard mean?

Neil Sattin: I was just imagining like I've grown out this big beard. I don't have a big beard like that, but it's like just saying, "Yeah", that there's a point where even if we're wearing the costume that we're supposed to be wearing, and presenting the way we're supposed to be presenting, that there's a place where that play will be satisfying, but if you watch the same play over and over and over again, it's going to get old.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: If you're in that play over and over again, it's going to get old.

Shana James: Yeah. It's getting old, or if you're in a play, that I do believe that some fake it until you make it can actually work. Right? It can jump-start the engine let's say, or it can give us access to certain parts of us whether it's in the realm of leading or surrendering our vulnerability that we haven't had before, and it can be a tricky line. Right?

Shana James: Like, "When is it faking it until I'm making it, and when is it that I'm just continuing to fake it?", because anywhere I think where we keep doing something because we're supposed to, I mean, maybe that's the heart of it. Right? It's like, "Oh, I am supposed to do this thing", versus, "When I do it, I feel more", and this might take some describing, but like, "I feel more aligned in myself. I feel more alive. I feel more true."

Shana James: "I feel more open. I feel more joyous. I feel more vital." Right? Like, "Where is it that we put these roles in as a "supposed to" as opposed to, "I'm going to try on this role", or, "I'm going to put on a new costume and see how does it fit with me. Does it give me more access to my voice, and my truth, and my power, or does it have me feel stilted and constrained?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and you can come at it from the other angle too where authenticity can also be a trap.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Perhaps you've seen this where someone feels like, "Oh, I'm just being me."

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Like, "It's me to not take the initiative ever in bed."

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: I don't know why we keep talking about bed, but let's just say-

Shana James: It's a concrete example.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Sure, and mine is right over there, so I keep looking at it, but yeah. Authenticity can also be a trap, and there's that question of, "How do you be authentic without being held back by your authenticity as its own prescription or role?"

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: I'm thinking about how you and I even met.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: I can't remember if we spoke about this in the episode that we did together for the Relationship Alive Podcast. We may have addressed it, but Shana, you were coaching for the Authentic Man Program, and I saw you in a video, and I thought, "I want to be her friend." That's like the ultra condensed version of the story, but I was in a place where I was married to my first wife, and really unhappy, and trying to figure out why I was so unhappy.

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: That was how I came across Authentic Man Program.

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: I was thinking about that as I was pondering this conversation that we were going to have, and thinking like, "Right. We came to know each other in this realm of not putting on anything fake, like learning how to be present, learning how to give attention in a way, where you're not losing yourself, learning how to stand in who you are."

Shana James: Yeah. Right. When I think about the Authentic Man Program and all the work I've done with men and you've done with people, I mean, I don't want to speak for you, but there is a paradox or an overlap or a something between helping, for me, helping support men to find their authenticity, and I guess I probably have a bias or a belief that authenticity is not ... What did you say? Something about like never making decisions, or like that authenticity is not a lack of energy, or a lack of life force in me.

Shana James: I think I have a bias or a belief that authenticity is a kind of fullness of life force and that that could be sadness, that could be anger, that could be joy, but that ultimately, there is this sense of, "When I check in with myself, I feel good about the choices I'm making, I have access to create what I want to create." Not that I should be creating something or you should be creating something in particular, but that I know that I can create what I want, and so if a man comes and he's ... I've often said this, like some men have more of a heart-based, and some men, there's humor, and other men, there's just intellect that is through the roof, and other men, there's more of like this mysterious quality, and I don't try to steer men toward one way or like a cookie-cutter mold, but more to find what is your unique expression.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate that, that there's not this sense that anyone of those things is necessarily bad, though when anyone of those things is running the show, that's where you end up disconnected or you lose access to parts of you that help you connect.

Shana James: Yes. Exactly. Exactly.

Neil Sattin: We're talking about it in this realm of connection, and that's where I tend to dance is like, "Okay. If I'm coming to you and I'm ..." I mean, it's maybe a little easier when you think about like, "I'm angry", or "I'm really sad about something", but I want to even think like, "What if I were really depressed and exhausted?"

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: "What if I were spent?" This is like stretching what we're talking about a little bit because that is maybe a state where you're not in your energy, in your power.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: How do you be authentically that while I'm depleted, but in relationship, how do you bring that so that it is a force that connects you, so even if you're depleted, you're still able to be with the person that you're with?

Shana James: I love that. Right, and then it doesn't have to be the most passionate connection or the most exciting connection in that moment, but it might be more of a tender or a quiet connection. I love what you're saying. I just had a thought, which may have flown out of my mind when you said about being depressed or ... It's like ... Right.

Shana James: How do ... Maybe there's something in here about, "I'm trying to be something so someone else will want me, or love me, or believe in me", versus, "Oh, I feel depleted right now. I feel depleted right, and I still care about you", or even in a work context. "I feel depleted right now, and I'm still here committed to getting this job done or something", but is there a way that we don't have to hide what's really going on, and at the same time, how do we bring those parts of ourselves in a way that creates more connection rather than pushes someone away? What might be the most authentic thing in that moment is, "Actually, I need some space. I need to move away from you, but I still believe we can do it in a connected way."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, which bumps right up against the men need their space kind of mentality, that that's somehow part of the masculine archetype is taking space and going into your cave to figure shit out, and if you don't, now you're what?

Shana James: Right. Right.

Neil Sattin: I don't know. You've been, you're more feminine because you want to-

Shana James: I was going to say a pussy, and I hate when people say that, but it's like I think that is this idea or ...

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Then, in some realms where I've seen men learn, "Okay. Don't bring your struggles to a woman or to a partner", and again, I see the paradox of if we bring all of our struggles to our primary partner, I think that can create a heaviness and a feeling of like, "Oh, God." We're always going to be struggling together, but if you don't bring anything to your partner, then you don't know each other, and it's all based on this more surface experience to get there.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you missed the opportunity of pooling your resources with your partner, and sometimes, that one of you is depleted and the other of you carries the weight, and that's not gender-dependent or spectrum-dependent, but that's-

Shana James: Right. Yeah. Right, and I-

Neil Sattin: Go ahead.

Shana James: No, no. You go.

Neil Sattin: I was just going to say, so it's a dynamic, and the question for me is, "How do you ...?"

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: When you're talking about polarity, the whole point is to create a dynamism in your connection, so how do you keep things dynamic?

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: You don't do it by necessarily being the same way all the time. That's for sure.

Shana James: Right. I like that you just went back to, "What's the point?" Right? "What's the why? What are we going for here?", versus I've learned the art of setting context for something.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Right? Like, "I'd like to try leading you around for the next 10 minutes because I want to see what it feels like in my body to unapologetically take control while still being connected to you in your heart and what's good for you", versus a lack of context, which is just like, "I want to try taking on this role. I want to lead you around." There's a way I think when we know for ourselves why we're doing something, and when we can communicate it to others, it puts us I think in a deeper place of connection of, "Oh, now we're more on the same team, we're trying something out together, we have a sense of why we're doing what we're doing", and then I think if you have a why, there could be endless number of "hows" to get there, versus, I'm going to focus on, "What's the correct how?"

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I like that. I like how what you're talking about sounds so collaborative because that's another relationship problem where each person feels like they're alone in their silo to try and figure out how the hell to make a change or make a difference, or like they just got to figure it out.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: That can sometimes really feel true when you're in relationship with someone who's a little shut-down and who doesn't want to have the conversation about like, "I don't want to be invited into leading you", or "I don't want to be invited into being led by you". That sounds scary, or, "I'm not even there."

Shana James: Right, and that could be a whole another conversation like, "What do you do?" Maybe you've probably ... I imagine you've addressed this in your podcast. What do you do when you have a partner who doesn't feel willing or isn't wanting to stretch, or grow, or expand, or change things if there's something that you're wanting? I mean, that's a whole another ball of wax we could get into.

Neil Sattin: It's one thing about I think what we were talking about before we officially started, which is conscious relationship, and how our relationships really do require something different, and this is something I think about a lot because I work with a lot of couples where one of them is in that situation, and the question does come up for me, like, "Does this mean that there are a lot of partnerships that really aren't destined to stay together because one is just going to be on a growth path, and the other one isn't and has no interest?"

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: For me, that balances out with having experienced actually that even that -  even like having a foundation of like, "Yeah. I want to be a better person" - there are times when I don't feel like changing. There are times where I'm stuck in who I am.

Shana James: Right. Right.

Neil Sattin: There are times where Chloe, my wife, where she will say, point out something that is represents an old pattern of mine, and I'm irritated, and I don't want to do anything about it, so there is space in a situation that feels hopeless if you can stay engaged, and that's really the art of what you're talking about. It's like - How do you show up even then in a way that doesn't become about, "You should be growth-oriented because otherwise, how are we going to have a conscious relationship" that doesn't become that, because now it's just become oddly confining, even though it's about growth and change?

Shana James: Yeah. Right.

Neil Sattin: I mean, at some point, you got to be able to figure out like, "All right. Are our values aligned enough that we're on this journey together, or are they not?"

Shana James: Back to values. Yeah. Yeah. I just did a conversation last week that where we got into ... Right. What are each person's values and how often people don't necessarily know their values.

Shana James: I mean, I remember doing some coaching before I got married, and we did some values conversations and where our values were differing and where they were the same and overlapped, and yeah. In some ways, we still ended up getting divorced, and we both I think are on a path of growth, but a different kind of growth, or then we had a kid and all kinds of things started to show up. I think I also want to speak a word to the complicated nature of relationships, and in our culture, it can seem like if you don't stay together with someone, it's a failure, but I'm also aware that now, we're ... I don't know. We're on a different topic in a way of conscious relationship, and what is conscious relationship, or how do we stay connected?

Shana James: How do we collaborate? How do we be on the same team? Maybe it's all still ... I think it all still is connected, but also, this idea of how to not get stuck in a stereotypical masculine role as we're becoming more conscious maybe.

Neil Sattin: Right. I think where I start to get a little nervous is where these frameworks, as you've been talking about for masculinity, where they potentially become problematic, where they're actually if you're not bringing consciousness to them, then they become the source of problems -  and I can't help but think at the moment of, "#Metoo", and just how much of that is about  - more like this shadow masculinity. Right?

Shana James: Then, it's like are we talking about like unconsciously masculine or consciously masculine, because I think the unconscious or the box of kind of cultural definition of masculine is be strong, be powerful, go after what you want, don't apologize.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Shana James: At the same time, I know a lot of men, especially men who come to me, who have had really loving women in their lives, and they've been taught to be nice, and be good, and not overstep their bounds, and be respectful, and I think it has often put men in a bind like, "Wait. I'm supposed to be strong and powerful and not admit to any weakness. Wait, but then, I'm supposed to be kind, and loving, and caring, and what the fuck do I do now, and how do I actually express myself, or how do I share my needs and desires, let alone, even get them met?", and so I think the next step ... I don't know. Maybe this is arrogant to say or too conclusive, but it feels like there's a step in masculine evolution where, and sometimes the way I talk about it is head, heart and sex or head, heart and balls balance.

Shana James: Right? This way of both heart and love and care and sexuality being the dials turned up in a way to a hundred percent. Like I don't know if I give up my heart and my care to be very powerful or sexual or confidence, and then I think men can get out in the world in a powerful way, and co-create or collaborate - versus the false power I see, which is, "I don't feel powerful, so I'm going to try and take because I think that's the only way I could get it."

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. What I like to add if this fits into people's paradigms in that "head, heart, balls" is also your connection to "spirit."

Shana James: Totally. I've been realizing that lately, that I'm like, "Oh, it's missing that fourth piece."

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and how that fuels your connection to something greater.

Shana James: Yeah. Yes.

Neil Sattin: You're being part of the whole, how we're actually connected to other beings.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: It becomes a lot more challenging to do things that are, let's just call it since you did it earlier beautifully, the unconscious masculine. It becomes a lot more challenging to do that if you're aware, if you're conscious of "Oh, we're actually connected, so why would I do that to you?"

Shana James: Right. Right. Right.

Neil Sattin: Why would I act upon you instead of bringing some ferocity in that still is able to be WITH you?

Shana James: Right. Right, and I think some of my favorite experiences of a man's expression of power, they really come with this, there's an intensity like you said or sometimes ferocity, but sometimes just an intensity. An intensity of loving or an intensity of passion, and it's so clear to me that I'm cared about and that they want something good for me too, and yeah. I love bringing in the soul element, because in the soul, in my experience, there isn't really a masculine, feminine. It's more of this pure just being.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and it also, like as you were saying that, I started to feel like, "Right", and there's a difference between, "I'm with you so that I can get my needs met" versus, "We're together so that we can get our needs met", and how that changes the dynamic.

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Then, it's not like you were saying earlier, it's not about taking what you need.

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: It's about, "How are we going to get this together?"

Shana James: Right, which I'm wondering, okay, if we bring that back into this stereotypical masculinization or idea of masculine, whether it's in a business context or a relationship context or a family context, when there is a sense of a man getting his own, that his own needs and desires are valuable, valued, important, and that so is "the other's" needs and desires. I just, I wonder then how that impacts, and how to move beyond like I was saying before, this conflict of, "Wait. I'm supposed to be the rock. I'm not supposed to have any vulnerability. I'm supposed to be nice and take care of others", and I do see this next stepping stone or next evolution of, "Oh, I can be powerfully grounded in myself, value myself, believe in my own self-worth, and also share I feel really vulnerable right now, and I feel moved to tears right now, or I feel really sad that there's something happening in this relationship that it's painful for me, or something I'm not getting that I don't know if I need to get it from you or not, but I'm not feeling loved, I'm not feeling affection, I'm not ..." Those things.

Shana James: Right? Can we actually come to the table and, I think express a kind of powerful vulnerability, or that vulnerability itself to me is power.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. I want your opinion on something, and at the same time, let's try to shift our conversation, if we can, to get ... let's see how practical we can get", because I don't know that this is going to be practical, but let's-

Shana James: Yeah. Okay. Let's see.

Neil Sattin: This is the question. The question is, "Why even talk about masculine and feminine?", because in my experience if two people come together and they're willing to be in who they are to be impacted by each other, to speak to that, and sometimes that "speaking" is the voice, but other times it's how you touch, how you ... It could be anything. Right? It's not just like blah, blah, "We're going to talk about it", but if two people are doing that, that's where the energy is, and it's not necessarily about leading or following.

Shana James: Being more masculine.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Exactly. It's actually about what it feels like to be more real, and we got, like I'm somehow back at that authenticity piece. It's just like be authentic with your partner, and there you are.

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: You're going to find your way into masculine, feminine. I'm just looking inside, like sometimes, you might be more like the tree, or the snowflake, or the squirrel, or the bear, or-

Shana James: Or the root of the tree, or the leaves of the tree. Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Right. If we actually let go of, "I'm supposed to be some way that is either feminine or masculine", would things just take shape in an easier way?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Then, I think the question of authenticity though can be so confusing for people because at least from my perspective, we've all been conditioned from such a young age that it's hard to know what's authentic, like what's true for us, but in the context, I found myself saying this recently, like I feel like an explorer. I love to explore dynamics and the inner world and the outer world, and, "What happens if I do this, and how will you react if I do that?" Yeah. I wonder if there's a context of play, and I don't know that I have an answer for this, but I like the idea of taking on experiments and time-bound experiments, and so for those who are in relationship, what might it be like for a day or a week to say, "You know what? I'm going to let go of any ideas of masculine, feminine, anything, and I'm just going to see what I feel moved to do."

Shana James: Some of that might be scary. Right? Some of that might feel like, "This is really awkward or uncomfortable, but I'm noticing I feel moved to cry in your arms even though I don't even know if I can, or I'm noticing I feel moved to take you into the bedroom and have my way with you", or like any of those things, man, woman, masculine, feminine aside. That could be a really interesting experiment, and the opposite could be interesting too, or opposite being like, "What if we really put attention on a masculine or a feminine dynamic, and what if we each took on the other?" I don't know that I have any concrete answers, but I think in practical terms, to become an explorer and to see what brings me more energy, and vitality, and excitement, and connection in the moment feels like an interesting way to go for me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There's something about when you said, "Let's each be the other."

Shana James: The other.

Neil Sattin: What that sparked in me was, "Right - That makes a ton of sense" because if I'm going to be more feminine, let's say in that context, hanging out with Chloe, then the odds are that I'm going to do it in a way that on some level, I'm looking for - that I feel is lacking. It's almost like if she were to be like, "Tell me how to be a woman. I don't really know", or, "Tell me how to be a man. I don't know what you're missing. I'm just being me."

Neil Sattin: Like, "Show me", and I could see that being valuable that there's some potential for it to feel ... Like you got to be in the spirit of play.

Shana James: Exactly. Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. You don't want to be in the spirit of being critical or judgmental, or, "I'm going to show you what I've been missing from you, but-"

Shana James: Right. Right. What if it's just about me? It's not about what I've been missing with us. It's more like, "Oh, do I let myself ...

Shana James: When I look at the whole spectrum of how I could express myself and what I could do and say, where are the places I'm not thinking it's okay to go? For some people, for a lot of people, that's anger. For me, I've also noticed it's joy. I hold back my joy. If someone else feels less joyful than me, I feel a little guilty feeling joy or playful, and I have seen that for other people too, so again, maybe another practical way is starting to consider, and you could do this even with a partner or a friend, like, "Where do I see you holding back from what could be called a 'Natural expression'?", and that with anger, we don't have to take our anger out on someone or blame or attack someone, but at the end of my last relationship, I had this really interesting experience where I started getting a little more frustrated, and at the end, he said something like, "I don't think you're as nice as you think you are."

Shana James: I said, "That's totally true actually. I believe you. I try to be nicer than I am, and there are things that bothered me that I don't speak to, and I try to just shove under the rug", because I'm like, "Oh, that's not a big deal." Then, it'll come back out later, but when I went to one of my teachers and I told her that, she laughed and she said, "Actually, I think you're nicer than you think you are." It was just this really brilliant counterpoint where she was pointing out like, "That in my soul, I actually am really loving", and it was my ego or my identity that started getting contracted and started reacting in certain ways, and if I throw all that away, there's this way of like, "Oh, how can I give voice to all of those parts of myself, whether it's nice or not nice, or ...?"

Shana James: You know what I mean, and play with that in the spirit of play like you said so that we have more choice, not because now, I'm supposed to be a certain way, but so that we have more choice and freedom to be who we are?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Just to be clear, I wasn't saying that we should embody what we want in our partner. I was just postulating that.

Shana James: That that could happen.

Neil Sattin: Maybe what emerges is that because our idea of what that other is - if it's something we're wanting from our, more of from our partner, then we're going to show it in the way that we've been wanting.

Shana James: Yeah. Yes. Right. That could be very interesting.

Neil Sattin: That could go for, like you could decide, "I'm going to play in the realm of being more like a tree". Like what is it like to be the grand oak that lives for hundreds of years for the next week, and what kind of perspective does that give me if I bring that to our interactions versus like, "Yeah. I'm going to be the sapling that just grew and is new, and bendy, and playful?"

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: It's a totally different ... You can play with ... I mean, who says you have to be masculine and feminine? You could be any of these things in the spirit of trying out a new repertoire, and it's something that you can do on your own without telling your partner.

Shana James: Right. Yeah. I like that.

Neil Sattin: If they are tuned in, they might be like, "What are you doing? Why are you standing there with your arms out stretched all the time?"

Shana James: I love that. I'm just wondering too as we're wrapping up if there's anything we each feel called to say, and maybe ... I mean, I feel moved to continue exploring this and see if there are anymore practical ways to apply this because I think this has been a very, in some ways, a roundabout conversation, but I like conversations and that it brings up ... It has us question our norms and structures and ways that we've held ourselves and thought we had to be, and somehow, I just felt called to what you said of these ways we think we're supposed to be and, yeah, what it's like to actually let go of.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah.

Shana James: I'm supposed to be some way, and I could see a lot of the men I've worked with or I've had these responses of like ... I actually had a man recently say, "I let go of being ..." What did he say? "It seems like women really like me for being this kind, gentlemanly person", and he was getting really frustrated, like, "That's not all of me, and I want to have to be good to be liked", and so actually, our next week session I said, "Let's really talk about this. I think this is one of my strengths is to help men move forward and connect in relationship while feeling their own strength and their own power, and their own commitment to their desires and truth, while also being able to connect and still have their care. It's like that balance again between the sex and the heart, or the whatever that kind of passion and heart or strength and heart.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think what could be really helpful if someone was inclined to do this, and so if you're listening and you're thinking, "How can I get more related to what these guys have been talking about?", I could see listing, "I'm supposed to..." over and over again until you're ... Set a timer for 15 minutes because the first five minutes, you'll get all those things that are obvious, and then if you keep going, you'll start to discover even more about the scripts that you're playing, and it could be, "I'm supposed to be this way or I'm supposed to not be this other way" is another one, and then-

Shana James: I love that. I just thought you and I should both do that and post ours and be vulnerable with that.

Neil Sattin: Okay. I'll do that. Then, if you're in relationship, it might be great to share that.

Shana James: Share that.

Neil Sattin: Another twist on that could be, "I think my partner wants me to be..."

Shana James: That's a great one.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Again, try to exhaust yourself in terms of what you write, so it's not just the first things that come to you.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Right. It's not what you already know - then you surprise yourself.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Right. Right. Then, when you can share that with your partner, there may be things where they're like, "Oh, yeah. I actually do want more of that from you, but I'm seeing how you think you're supposed to be this way," and it becomes a great opportunity for you to be in dialogue about, and to surface the roles that you each think you're supposed to be following.

Shana James: Yes. Yes. Yes. I love that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Again, in service of choice more than not supposed to let go of these roles and take on some other role. Right? I think that's the endless hall of mirrors that we can get stuck in sometimes and to feel that sense of choice.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. That's an interesting one because what do you do with like you're supposed to be present?

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Like I'm going to tell you that in terms of how I see successful relationships, if you're not willing to be present, then you're screwed, like that doesn't mean you can't-

Shana James: Right, and that doesn't mean I have to walk around a hundred percent of the time being present. I get to actually say to my partner, "Are you able to be present right now?", or, "Can we have this? When would be a good time?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: We do have to be willing to show up for each other I think in that way.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, so we are being a little prescriptive, but I feel like what we're being prescriptive with are with values that actually allow for a lot of flexibility.

Shana James: Yes, versus stereotyped roles and ways we're supposed to be. Maybe we jut brought it all the way back.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Shana James: Yes. All right. I think we could do a part two and part hundred.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: I think we could keep going with this.

Neil Sattin: Probably.

Shana James: I like this, but for now, that feels like a good place to come to a completion.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Shana, it's always great to ... I'm so glad that we're friends and it's such an honor to have you back on Relationship Alive to talk about this.

Shana James: Thank you. I love that we're friends too and colleagues, and that you continue to inspire me, and we continue to talk about what it's like to be in relationships and new relationships in our later life, and to grow, and to be on this path of trying to figure out what the hell this is all about, so thank you for doing this with me.

Neil Sattin: It's so important. Yeah. Absolutely.


Jan 31, 2018

One of the most important things that you can develop in your life, and in your relationship, is your resilience - the way that you bounce back from the challenges that life throws your way. How do you recover in a way that leaves you even stronger, more connected, more inspired than before? In today’s episode, we’re talking with Dr. Peter Levine, creator of Somatic Experiencing, author of the bestseller Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, and co-author, with Maggie Kline, of Trauma-Proofing Your Kids. Peter and I explore exactly how to build your own resiliency - and how to also help your partner, and your kids become more resilient. 

Please enjoy this week’s episode, with Dr. Peter Levine, on Relationship Alive! We’ll show you how to tap into the language of sensation, which gives you a window into the deepest parts of your brain and body. We’ll explain how to show up for others in your life, to support them in the most effective way possible. And you’ll discover how to help children access their innate ability to heal as well.


Here is a link to Relationship Alive episode 29, my first conversation with Peter Levine: How to Heal Your Triggers and Trauma

Peter’s author page on Amazon

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Peter Levine’s website

Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute (to locate certified SE practitioners)

Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

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. How do you foster resiliency in yourself and in your partner and if you have kids, in your kids? When it comes to relationship and how we are in the world, there's perhaps nothing as important as how resilient we are because let's face it. Life sometimes sends problems our way or things that are challenging. And if you're expecting everything to be a cakewalk, then life is going to be really hard for you.

Neil Sattin: On the flip side, if when things go wrong, you think, "Oh, my goodness, it's over now," then things are also going to be hard for you. In order to get through anything that happens to you and come out the other side stronger and more vibrant and to bring that same quality into your relationship and to bring that same quality to, if you have kids in your life, the way that they respond to the world. That is what we are going to talk about today.

Neil Sattin: In order to do so, we have brought back one of our most esteemed guests to the Relationship Alive podcast. His name is Dr. Peter Levine, and he is one of the world's experts on how to heal from trauma. He was first on the show back in Episode 29 and if you're interested in checking that out, you can go to and you can hear all about how to heal your triggers and trauma in relationship.

Neil Sattin: We're not going to cover much of that material. We're going to try to cover new ground here. I invite you to listen to Episode 29. In the meantime, it's not a prerequisite for today's conversation and we are going to dive deep on the topic of resiliency. If you want a transcript and guide for this episode, you can visit as in Peter Levine and that's spelled L-E-V-I-N-E or you can text the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions and I will send you a link where you can download that show guide and transcript.

Neil Sattin: In the meantime, Peter Levine, thank you so much for joining us today. It's great to have you back here on Relationship Alive.

Peter Levine: Thank you. It's good to be back. I enjoyed the last time.

Neil Sattin: Well, it's always exciting to be able to chat with you and you are someone who has been on the forefront of figuring out how we heal the things that keep us stuck. And there's nothing that I think defines resilience more than the ability to get unstuck when you're going through something.

Peter Levine: Indeed, I like that. I think that's right on it. It's about when we get stuck, somehow knowing we can handle it because of an inner sense in our bodies, in our organism and that we can also receive and give support at times that are really challenging.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm inspired by in your book, Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living Past, which I happen to have here right in front me. You talked about this location in the brain where resides our capacity for wanting to persevere through adversity.

Peter Levine: Wow, you obviously have actually read it. Yeah, that is central to healing from trauma, and also for being able to stay in a supported intimate relationship. There amazingly are areas in the brain, specific areas that appear literally to be involved with the will to persevere in the face of significant obstacles.

Peter Levine: If you think about it, it makes sense because we wouldn't be able to survive as a species if we didn't have that capacity. I don't say it's the same as resilience but it's a big important component of resilience. In working with people who have been traumatized for 45 years, and I think back on it, I think really my job is to help them enlist that capacity, connect to that capacity and by doing that being able to move forward in difficult times. But I think they're very closely related, this will to persevere and resilience.

Peter Levine: I also see resilience as an autonomic exercise and what I mean by that is when we're in states of fear, our autonomic nervous system gets activated in particular ways and that really affects our whole perception of the world and our cognition really because it's strong ... But it's a foundation for many perceptions. And if we're able to experience ourselves, for example, our heart rate increasing and then experiencing it decreasing, we're doing an autonomic exercise.

Peter Levine: This is something that couples can do with each other by just being present when one of the members is feeling frightened. “It's okay, and so what happens now and what happens next? And is there anything about that? Is there anything else about that?” To be there with the person, to help them move through the stuck places is a great gift and I really believe that in one way or another, most, maybe even all successful couples have some degree of this capacity.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and in the interest of increasing that and maybe even getting a little bit more detail about what you were just mentioning, I'm thinking now because as I mentioned before we jumped on the interview, I just read your amazing book, Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parents' Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience. One of the things that I loved about the book was not only feeling way more resourced in terms of how I show up for my own children but also you stressed the importance for parents of being able to understand the language of the body so that you can have those communications with your children and help them understand the language of the body.

Neil Sattin: But one thing I'd love for you to talk about is how there's this way of communicating about sensation that is how these deeper parts of our brain actually perceive the world that's not about ... Because I think the temptation, if I were sitting with my partner would be, if I were saying “what's next” and “what happens next” we would be caught in these zoo of thoughts and feelings. I love bringing it down to the deeper level of sensations. Can you talk a little bit about that and why it's so important to develop a vocabulary around sensation in your body?

Peter Levine: Yeah, for sure. All of our emotions have sensation-based components. Indeed many emotions, particularly difficult emotions, are a combination of physical sensations and cognitive thoughts or beliefs. And together, they drive an emotional state such as fear or rage and if we are able to become aware of the sensations that actually underlie those emotions, then we are able to allow the sensations to change, to transform and also noticing the thoughts that are involved, and doing that has the sometimes miraculous way to actually change our emotions.

Peter Levine: Because one of the things about difficult emotions - called negative emotions - is they just have a tendency to keep going and keep going as much as we can understand them or understand our thoughts about them. Really, it's difficult to change them and I really believe my experience is that again, the way that we can change the ... One of the ways that we can change these difficult emotions is by the alchemy of working with these sensations, the underlying sensations and also sensations of goodness.

Peter Levine: In my major book, In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, the key is in both. And restoring goodness also is a sensation, a feeling of felt sensation of resilience. When I say goodness, I don't mean like a good child, a good spouse, a good so forth and so on. I mean, more of the Buddhistic understanding of goodness - that it's a feeling of wholeness and a feeling like this, like wholeness, are some of the most important antidotes again for these difficult emotions and sensations, that allow us to move through them because we have this innate capacity to heal.

Peter Levine: Originally, I studied this in animals and how they rebound in the aftermath of prey animals and predation but it's led me to a more general understanding that there is this profound instinct similar to the instinct to persevere - they're related, I'm sure, to heal - that we yearn healing. And in a way, in relationships, I'm sure as you and many of your speakers have noted that we tend to pick people with similar traumas or complementary traumas. At first, we're very much in love, which is often the first phase of a relationship, but then what happens when the stuff hits the fan, how do we deal with that in a collaborative way, in a corrective way?

Peter Levine: Again, this is so important in restoring resilience because co-regulation is tremendously important. I'm looking forward to it and later this month, there's a big Evolution of Psychology conference in Anaheim and I'm on a panel with Sue Johnson. I think you've interviewed Sue and if any of your readers don't know, Sue is the leading person in understanding the emotions that go on in couples' dynamics and really has a strong emphasis on co-regulation.

Peter Levine: What I'm saying is that we need both co-regulation, of course, but we also need the tools for our own regulation, for our own building of resilience. I see the two blending together very nicely.

Neil Sattin: Taking a step back, I guess just to-

Peter Levine: Let me go back, one other thing.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, go ahead.

Peter Levine: We're talking about with our children. By learning to read their bodies and helping them connect with their sensations, we are building a tremendous reservoir of resilience that they will add skills that they will carry for their whole lives. Again, one of the things that as parents that we need to be able to do is when there's ... In the inevitable fall or God knows the ride to the emergency room, we need first to take care of our own sensations and emotions because children are incredible mimickers. They will pick up the emotion of the parent.

Peter Levine: You know, anybody who's flown in an airplane in the last 25 years, what do they call them? The cabin personnel, they make the announcement that in the unlikely event of depressurization, the oxygen mask will come down. If you have a child or somebody infirm next to you, put the mask on your face first and then put the mask on the child. In other words, calm yourself first so that the children are not picking up the fear. Or very often, the parents override the fear with anger and they're very angry at the child. Again, children will pick this up.

Peter Levine: If we learn to take care of ourselves, self-regulation, we then can impart that capacity or support that developing capacity in our kids. When I work with kids when there's been a relatively acute trauma, sometimes, it just takes a few minutes of play and they go right to the place where they are stuck in their bodies. I just help them move through that and then, they're off back to play again.

Peter Levine: These tools are tremendously important and probably a quarter of the book or the eighth of the book, I guess, probably is about exercises to help the parents maintain this resilience in the face of the catastrophes that will befall the children and the parents. It's a given. Kids, especially when they get into the more active phase around 18 months, 2 years where they're just scooting everywhere and climbing and falling and pulling flower pots down on their sweet little heads. They get terrified but again, if we hold our own center and then help the child contain those difficult emotions and sensations, they will calm often surprisingly quickly, sometimes in a matter of minutes.

Peter Levine: The way you support children, it's age-dependent. The way you support a baby who's tremendously upset is way different than the way you support a four-year-old. With a young child, you're going to be holding the child and rocking the child. With the four-year-old, you're going to sitting by child's side and maybe placing your hand as we suggest in the book, on the child's back until the breathing reestablished itself, the spontaneous breathing reestablished itself.

Peter Levine: The amazing thing, I think, the side effect of this is that kids start doing it for themselves and many of the children that I've worked tell me how they've done it in their school when something happens to one of the students. They sit there and they're with the student in that way. Actually, when I was designing the cover of the book with North Atlantic, I wanted it to be red. It has a picture of children in the middle. This is not red, but the rest of the cover is red and the idea, please forgive me, is Mao Zedong and the way he wanted the red book, well, he insisted that the red book be in the hands of everybody in China that had his sayings.

Peter Levine: The idea here is that every parent could have this book and could share it with other parents. One of the things that I think geopolitically is that when we're in a fearful state, any leader, and we've had ample evidence of this, who says there's an enemy out there. They want to attack us. They want to humiliate us. They want to take our jobs away and I am the only person that can protect you. No names mentioned.

Peter Levine: That's going to grab a lot of people. But if you're not in a fearful state, then you don't buy into that. You really think about it. I'm hoping also that this book in the next generation will give us more citizens, more democratic citizens allowed to or what's the word I'm looking for? Empowered, really, to make effective action.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, as I was reading the book for one thing, and actually this brings me to a question because I was reading it and I was, of course, thinking, "Wow, I wish I had read this before my kids were born." I want to fill in a gap or two but perhaps before we do that, I'm just going to ask you this question which is, let's say, my son. He's going to turn 11 in a couple of months, but there are things that I remember having happened with him. When he was two and tumbled down the stairs or three or four years ago, he jumped off a swing set and ended up breaking his arm. These are some traumatic events in his life. I'm wondering, and this is obviously going to have some bearing for adults as well. How do I know if those things are lodged within him as trauma? And if so, what's a way to invite him into releasing that?

Peter Levine: Well often, you'll see it, 11 is an age where you can really also talk to the child-

Neil Sattin: Definitely.

Peter Levine: And sometimes, we're sitting around. We'll say something like ... Maybe even if we're at the top of stairs or something like that and I would just maybe sit down with the child and saying, "Gosh, I remember when you fell down these stairs when you were two years old. Do you remember anything about that?" If the child very quickly says no, then you have a good indication there's something there. Or, if they say yes, if they reflect and then say yes, then it's an opportunity, really a wonderful opportunity to explore that.

Peter Levine: What I sometimes will do is, for example, if the child was falling, I'll hold the child or put my hand on the back of the child and hold the child and let them fall into my hand gradually and then to see what happens as they have this controlled fall. Because again, you have your hands, they're not going to fall. But they have the feeling, the sensations of falling. That may bring up images or sensations that were associated with the earlier event when they tumble down a flight. I guess, it was a flight of stairs. I think that was just an assumption I made.

Peter Levine: In games, in play, in just talking, 11-year-old, you were able to say again, "Remember, a couple of year ..." When was it that happened, a couple of years ago?

Neil Sattin: Well, that and the stairs, that was a long time ago, but I know he remembers it because it's come up before in conversation.

Peter Levine: Well, I would again make a game at it with a falling game. Sometimes, I'll do it just holding them with my hands, letting them slowly fall backwards, for example, or forward. You can do either one, and then I'll put a really big, super big pillow or combination of pillows and then they can begin to ... I'll let them down part way and see if they want to play the game where you release them and they fall into the pillows.

Peter Levine: At first, there may be some fear. You might see it in their eyes or their heartbeat might increase. They might tense a little bit, but you see when you continue with this controlled falling and they're falling into the soft cushions, the kids love it. And very often, it's something simple like that which is all that's needed. Something simple like that.

Neil Sattin: Where would it come in, for instance, just using my son as an example. Let's play a game. Let's do this thing, and let's say I notice something in him, where would it come into ask him or to invite him to name the qualities of sensation that he's feeling within him?

Peter Levine: Well, again, if you talk to him, "I wonder if you remember the tumble you took down the stairs when you were really little, when you were about two years old." If the child says yes, then the sensations are going to be right there. If they're not remembering it, you can say, "Well, when you just even think about that, think about how it might have been for you. Is there any place in your body that you can actually feel that?" Again, most children will point to some part of their body.

Peter Levine: Then, you take it to the next step. "Okay, and you feel that sensation. Does it have a shape? Does it have a size? Does it have a color? What does it feel like?" And so forth. You start asking these what I call open-ended questions.

Neil Sattin: What is it about naming those sensations that's so important?

Peter Levine: Well, of course, the most important thing, of course, is feeling the sensations, being in contact with the sensations. But naming them is also important, because that's a way that the child can reference them in the future. It's kind of like a flag attached to the sensation. "Okay, this sensation has a name. The next time I have this sensation, I have a name and when I have the name, I can also notice the sensation." You're shifting back and forth.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that reminds me of how important it is for all of us really to have the experience of moving through - which is part of what contributes to resiliency - is knowing that the pendulum swings the other way.

Peter Levine: That's right. Yeah, I call that pendulation, because no matter what we're feeling ... What we tend to do when there's been a difficult sensation is we recoil from it. We try to push it away and by pushing it away, it actually makes it seem stronger. That which we resist persists. If you have a sensation that's coming up, imagine your hand moving upwards and your hand is in a fist, your arm moving upwards and you take the other hand and you put it over that hand that wants to move up. Well, then it's going to push harder against your upper hand and then your upper hand is going to push harder against it. It then seems like this is going to be overwhelming and we lose resilience.

Peter Levine: However, when we're able to experience the sensation and that it moves through, that it increases and it decreases, that it contracts and it expands. It contracts and expands and expands and expands. This is the expansion, which I talked about when I say goodness or wholeness. Again, I think it's very deeply related to resilience. I think we're talking about many, many, many of these different states and processes that increase a resilience.

Neil Sattin: When a child is able to get related to that inner sensation, and I think this is true for adults as well that when we're sitting with our partner and able to say, "Okay, like right now, I'm feeling this constriction in my chest and this heat in the palms of my hands. There's tension behind my eyes like I almost want to cry." When you can get really related to that sensation, then you can-

Peter Levine: I'm sorry, to which sensation? The sensation of?

Neil Sattin: To all of those, I guess, like those things that are happening in your body. Like one, just like you were saying earlier, when you feel those states again, it can remind you like, "Oh, I've been here before," and “I know what's going on” so there's that. But then, there's also ... And you talk about this in terms of pendulation, if you can get acquainted with the sensations of goodness and what that feels like in your body as well.

Peter Levine: That's right.

Neil Sattin: Then that really connects you with that full range of experience and how you move from one to the other.

Peter Levine: When you experience goodness, it stays with you and it really helps you get that whatever you're feeling, whatever the sensations are, they will change. But the bigger reservoir of goodness we have, the more resilient. A study was done, oh, gosh, I don't remember by whom or when. I think Bessel told me about it, Bessel van der Kolk, that if a person, a child has had tremendous trauma in their lives, neglect and abuse, that child will actually fare okay - in other words, you'll be able to work with that person - if one adult in their lives has cared about them and loved them unconditionally.

Peter Levine: In a way, that's amazing. Again, I think that's something that contributes to that reservoir of goodness and resilience that somebody really reflected our feelings and our states and imparted upon us that gift of being seen, of being known, of being cared for, of being loved. It's very important.

Peter Levine: Again, most people that you see have had, I believe, one encounter with that reservoir of goodness and so, sometimes actually with adults but possibly also with children, to remember together that person. When you remember that person, how does it sense in your body? How does it feel in your body when you see the picture of grandma and how she would, when you were sick, she would come and put her hand on your forehead and reassure you. These are valuable. These are lodestars that help us return to our own capacity for resilience and wholeness.

Neil Sattin: One thing that strikes me too is that that is why relationship can be so profoundly healing and allow people to reach new levels of their own thriving in life is if you're able to find that in partnership or your partner is willing to see you unconditionally and hold space for you and accept you in your vulnerable moments, then that allows your system to do what it needs to do to evolve past the things that-

Peter Levine: Right, right. Yeah. Well, unconditional love is not necessarily a given.

Neil Sattin: That's true.

Peter Levine: Hopefully, it's a given between a parent and a child. But I think that just being sufficiently centered and caring can catalyze healing. I don't think there's any question about that. I think it's really important that couples sort of work out a ritual of sorts where if one person needs something, that they can communicate that. And then the other person, their job is to try to be there for that person. And it should be relatively equal. Each person should have a relative number of things.

Peter Levine: Although, particularly, I'm thinking about couples where one of the spouses is coming back from Afghanistan or Iraq. They're very, very traumatized and it's very likely, and hopefully that their spouse, their partner is going to be able to be there for them in those difficult times. I can't tell you how healing that is. It's not easy because a lot of times, because of the fear, the spouse becomes like the enemy. It's almost like you're expecting them to throw a hand grenade at you. So, it's tricky.

Peter Levine: If people want, they can go to ... It's on YouTube, and it's called Ray's Story, Peter Levine's Somatic Experiencing, where I work with a young marine who was blown up by two of these IEDs and then lost ... I think his best friend died in his arms just before that, and how we worked with the shock of that. And then, how we worked together with he and his wife and their new child. And at that time, it was really helping her develop the skills to be with him and to not pursue him when he really needed to withdraw.

Peter Levine: I think it's a short documentary. It's about 20 minutes. I recommend looking at it because it really talks a lot about this. Because when you're highly traumatized, your resilience is very, very low and vice versa when your resilience is higher, the trauma has less of a corrosive effect. But then again, I think it's also important that there'd be some kind of equality that ... I guess I'm saying that one person doesn't become the therapist for the other person, that there's reciprocity - which you have to have in a relationship, of course.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I have some faith in the pendulation in relationship as well where that reciprocity may not have to all be at the same time, that most likely if one partner is having their moment where they really need to be attended to, the other partner will have their moment at some point down the road.

Peter Levine: Yes. You can pretty well be assured of that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And even when people aren't coming back from war zones, and I think the fact that your work is so helpful for people who are suffering such severe trauma, that's like a testament to just how powerful your work is. And at the same time, when you're hijacked and kind of triggered by your emotions and whatever is happening with your partner, you're going to feel like your partner is out to get you. I think that one of the biggest things for partners to realize is to establish like, "Oh, I'm actually safe with you," like, "You're not out to get me or get something from me." Sometimes, there are some reckoning that has to happen for that to actually be true-

Peter Levine: Indeed.

Neil Sattin: For people to renegotiate how they even come together in partnership.

Peter Levine: Absolutely. Again, the idea of making a ritual out of it and because of pendulation, no matter what we're feeling, it may transiently ... It may temporarily feel worse but if you're able to stay with it and maintain an observing presence, it will shift. And often, this observing presence is fostered by the support that we get from our partners.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Can we talk for a moment about what that looks like? Because I think there's a danger in being the witness whether it's with your partner or with your kids of maybe intervening too soon. What does that process actually look like where something stuck gets resolved?

Peter Levine: Well, let's just say it's a heterosexual couple. The husband comes in and he's had a difficult day at work. It's not a trauma per se, but he failed to get a promotion. The person got the promotion who he felt didn't deserve it, and he's really angry. And he comes home, and there were toys gathered all over the floor, no different than any other day when he would be returning home. He's angry, and he yells at the kids, "Dammit, pick these toys up! You always leave toys in the middle of the room," something like that.

Peter Levine: Let's say the spouse is able to maintain her center and then she can approach her husband and say, "Yeah, it seems like something is upsetting you. And I'd like to just offer myself of just being here so that you can feel what you're feeling." But again, this has to be a pre-agreed upon ritual that you give the permission. You empower the other person to do this for you. Again, because when you're angry, sometimes the tendency is to snap at the partner, not just the kids but the partner.

Peter Levine: Again, we have to find a way that we have some rules and regulations built into it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I like a code word sometimes in a time like that.

Peter Levine: Sure. "Okay” or “leave me alone right now."

Neil Sattin: Right. I was thinking more like something even kind of like one partner comes in and says, "This is a ..." I'm just going to make something up here. "This is a Oriole moment," or "This is a Blue Jay moment," or, "We're in code Cardinal for Red"

Peter Levine: Oh, I see. I didn't know what an Oriole moment is back then.

Neil Sattin: Right, just a way like some pre-arranged designation so that the partner doesn't have to say, "Wow, you seemed really triggered right now."

Peter Levine: Oh, got it. Got it. Okay, good idea.

Neil Sattin: If I can say, "Code Cardinal," then the other partner, "I would love to hold space for you right now. I would love to just hear what's going on with you." Then - takes a little bit of the edge of.

Peter Levine: Right. "Can I just be there with you?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Peter Levine: No, code word is a good idea because each person probably knows what word is most likely to work for them and not be reactive to it.

Neil Sattin: Good point.

Peter Levine: Yeah. I think that's an idea. I think that's a great idea. I know some couples, when the other couple is really like anxious and getting ready to, in their perception to snap at them, I had couples that just say, "Eggshells." That's it, and often, they laugh together but not always. You're concerned. You're noticing that you are walking on eggshells. Maybe that's useful.

Peter Levine: But anyhow, let the person pick their own. That's the one that's more likely to work and nothing is going to work all the time. That's another given. There are times when it won't work and you don't want to be discouraged by that. That's just the nature of-

Neil Sattin: Resilience.

Peter Levine: Resilience, of building resilience. It doesn't happen all at once. It doesn't always seem to happen “increase, increase, increase” because sometimes, you're feeling more resilient and then, something happens and it feels like you're less resilient. But the overall movement is towards greater resilience. Again, I think that's just part of how we are built. That's part of our evolutionary advantage, is to have this kind of resilience.

Neil Sattin: Right. And yet so often, it doesn't happen. People do get stuck in trauma or couples get stuck in a pattern of how they interact with each other. I'm curious getting back to our example of the husband who comes home, the partner says, "Could I hold some space for you?" What's likely to happen next?

Peter Levine: Well, let's say a favorable outcome what I've seen many times. Again, let's just say it's heterosexual couple. The husband is coming home and he's obviously activated. Just by being there and being present and saying, "I'm here," saying it verbally and non-verbally, "I am here. I am here for you." Often, the tears will just start flowing from the spouse's eyes, from the husband's eyes, tears of relief and tears of gratitude. And that's another part that's really important in resilience, is not the belief in gratitude but the inner experience of gratefulness, of gratitude.

Peter Levine: Again, that's something that we can cultivate together because it's really what we want. We don't want to be angry and withdraw and isolate ourselves and become more angry. We want to be able to move through it. If people are in a relationship, they're committed to a passionate relationship. If you are committed to that, then you have to be able to work with these difficult emotions. Otherwise, there won't be the passion. The passion will die as these emotions get more and more suppressed.

Peter Levine: I think if people are committed to a passionate relationship, then they also are committed to being there for each other with these difficult emotions.

Neil Sattin: Tears are normal to experience?

Peter Levine: Tears, even sometimes, you'll see shaking and trembling and spontaneous breaths. Sometimes, there'll be even, of course, sobbing. When they're sobbing or even when there's just the tears, very often if the spouse or the partner says, "Can I hold you?" Or, "I'd like to hold you." And they give some kind of a non-verbal cue that it's okay, just holding the person when they're in that emotional pain. God, how liberating that can be to be literally held?

Neil Sattin: Right. And this really challenging because sometimes when your partner is in pain, it's hard to know, like to know what am I supposed to do in this moment. Being willing to make an offer like that. How would I know if I'm holding space for my partner and they're crying and shaking, like how do I know if everything is okay versus like things are not okay?

Peter Levine: Again, no matter what the emotion is, if you're helping to hold the space including holding the person, and I'll put in the question like, or statement like this, "I'd like to hold you. Just nod if that's okay." So, they don't have to think because they will, "Is it okay if I could hold you now?" Well, then the person has to start thinking about it, which takes them out of the feeling. But if you're able to do something like that I just described, "I really would like to hold you. If that's okay, just nod or just look at me for a moment."

Peter Levine: Then, to be held ... Because almost all of us who have been traumatized have not been held in those critical times when we should have been held - but it's never too late to have a resilient childhood. It's never too late to have a happy child because the child not only lives within us but that child's ability to rebound, to be resilient also lives within us.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I'm wondering, what does it look like? Like how do these things ... How would it typically resolve? Because I think one thing that a lot of us can feel a lot of fear going into tears and I want to offer this because if you're listening to the show, and maybe you're thinking like, "Oh, God, I got some tears to shed," or like I want you to have a sense of, that there is another side like what does it look through when you get through the tears? What does it look through like if you feel yourself starting to shake? What's on the other side of the that and how do you know when you're getting there?

Peter Levine: Yeah. Again, almost any sensation where the person … It's in a safe enough situation and the person is able to stand back enough to observe them. I can barely ever think of a sensation that didn't become more good, more glad, more whole. It's just our nature, and it's a skill. You have to practice. It doesn't happen all at once, so a couple shouldn't feel frustrated if it doesn't work at once. And if the spouse that's in the distress barks at you, just to feel your own body, of course, and remind yourself that you're not the target, that they're angry at somebody else.

Peter Levine: And then again, sometimes, the partner will say something like, "Maybe it seems like you just want to be alone right now, and if you need me, I'm here. And so, let's just talk a little bit later," because again, a lot of times and again, I know this is like stereotypic but it's also true. A lot of times, the men don't want to deal with it then. We need some more time just to be with ourselves and then we can reach out for support and help. It would be great if it didn't happen that way, that we're always open to support but we're not. We're not. We need also to acknowledge and respect that.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Peter Levine: Again, to know because if you have ... As your relationship grows and as trust continues, those skills really build. And I've seen clients, where they're just really angry at each other at one moment and then boom. They're in love with each other again, and again, and again. It does take practice. It does take appreciating that nothing is going to happen perfectly. Nothing is going to happen all at once. That it's a gradual process of deepening as relationships are about deepening the connection and deepening our skill to be with ourselves and to be with the other.

Neil Sattin: In the How to Trauma-Proof Your Kids book, Trauma-Proofing Your Kids, you talk about offering children the opportunity to tell the story of what happened.

Peter Levine: Well, that's usually after you've gone through first the bodily reactions.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Peter Levine: The crying, the shaking, the trembling, the spontaneous breaths, and leaving time for that to settle. And then, I know a number of parent who told me and say that happens like just before dinner. Well, then they'll have the family dinner together and then afterwards to sit by the child and say, "Wow, you know, when you fell off your bicycle, that really scared me. God, I bet it really scared you. Do you remember? Do you remember what it was like to fall off?" And then the child, if they want, can then start talking about the content of how scary it was, about how they couldn't get their breath, but then they could get their breath when they were crying just then.

Peter Levine: Yeah, it's fine to talk about it but again to at least separate it in time with moving through the shock part of it and moving towards a more beneficial sensations, more supportive sensations.

Neil Sattin: Right. You've moved from shock. Maybe even numbness into really tuning into the bodily sensation and the things that are uncomfortable in a moment-

Peter Levine: That's right.

Neil Sattin: And by being there, it initiates the process. I think this is what you're talking about that by attending to that sensation, there's a natural mechanism at work that invites it to evolve to a place of release, which is going to feel good in the end.

Peter Levine: Yeah. We will always, always open, almost always open to release given an adequate amount of support.

Neil Sattin: Right. What I loved too is you talked about the importance of time in between questions, so when you're asking like what are you sensing or what comes next to just leave space there.

Peter Levine: Yes, that's right. Adults tend to be linear time, this, then that, then that, then this, then that, then this, then that, like a long straight trajectory. Kids don't do that. They're much more with what the so-called aboriginal people called circular time. And children are like that. They get up in the morning. They have their breakfast. They go to school. They come back. They have milk and cookies, milk and Oreos. They go out and play. The parents call them for dinner. They come and they eat. They play. They go to sleep. They wake up. They get dressed. They have breakfast. They go off to school. It's a very different relationship of time. It's a much more right brain way of relating to time.

Peter Levine: Yes, adults will often tend to rush things when you need pauses, and the children will give you clues about that. One of the case examples I give or the examples I give in Trauma-Proofing your Kids is a play where with Sammy who had a fall, cracked his ... had to go to the emergency room for stitches and so forth. And then, we were playing the game of rescuing Pooh bear. Pooh bear was in the hospital. Each time, he would give us very clear signals of what he needed then, and our children give us these cues if we're paying attention. And in order to pay attention, we have to be able to be relatively comfortable within ourselves. Again, this is something that the parents can practice with each other, and it just spreads to the child, and it spreads to the child's playmates, and it spreads to the whole village as it were.

Neil Sattin: Peter, you've been so generous with your time and your wisdom as before. I have one more question for you, if you don't mind that, that just sprang in with what you just said, which is ... For one thing, I'm impressed by your faith in our ability to heal, to get to a place of goodness and wholeness. And what you said about the children, that they can communicate to us exactly what they need if we're willing to pay attention and offer space. And I'm thinking as an adult, how do we recognize the signs within ourselves of what we need in a given moment?

Peter Levine: Well, that takes practice because again, when we're in a scary or a vulnerable moment, our early pattern may be to withdraw. But again, we can unlearn that and learn new ones. When you talk about faith, well, I guess I could kind of relate to that. I could relate to that, but it's also 45 years of experience in seeing this happen thousands of times.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Peter Levine: I guess I know it because of experience. I guess if you want to call that faith, okay, we have to call it faith, but it's just ... The human being never ceases to amaze me. I think we're all like this meadow of different colored flowers, and there were all moving from our roots to our stems, to the flower, to the bud, to the flower and opening and opening and opening. And I think opening is basic human need, a basic human drive.

Peter Levine: I think Anais Nin said something like this, "When the pain of tightening into a bud becomes more than the pain of opening as a flower, then we will open." And there's some truth to that, of course, but I don't think it's just pain that brings us towards opening. I think it's just this innate capacity, the desire to open, to be fully alive, to be able to say, "I'm alive, I'm here, I'm real. I'm here, I'm alive and I'm real. I'm alive and I'm here." That's what everyone wants.

Peter Levine: Again, faith, it's observation. I was trained as a scientist and a lot of that is about observation. Yogi Berra said it this way, "You can observe a lot just by watching." And I would say that. Again, in the book, we give a number of different exercises for the parents to help them get more in contact with their inner sensations and their own resilience.

Neil Sattin: And I would like also, following on your metaphor, I would love for this conversation to plant the seed, that pain isn't required to get you to this place of blossoming. That knowing that it's possible to blossom will hopefully help you invite your partner, invite your children, invite yourself into that experience.

Peter Levine: Exactamente as they say in Brazil. Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Well, Peter, thank you so much for being with us today. Your books, Trauma-Proofing Your Kids, Trauma and Memory, Healing Trauma, Waking the Tiger, so many classics that are just completely inspiring, both in the level of recognizing what's possible but also understanding what is happening within us and in the world around us. It's such an honor to be able to talk to you and to share your work with the world.

Neil Sattin: As a reminder, if you want the show guide and transcript for today's episode, you can visit, as in Peter Levine. You can also text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And we will have links as well to Peter's work, to his books. Peter, what do you think is the best way for people to find out more about what you're doing in the world? Is there a particular website you'd like them to visit?

Peter Levine: Yeah. There's the website of my training institute. It's And there are lists of therapists and you can find that, for example, therapists that specialize with children or with relationships. And then I have a website with different information of where I might be giving a public lecture or something like that or some videos that are available. That's, or dot org, I think.

Peter Levine: Yeah, you can get material there. And apparently, although, I've never seen them, people tell me there are a number of interviews or lectures that are available on YouTube. So, I guess if you just YouTube my Peter A. Levine, it will come up with a bunch of stuff.

Neil Sattin: Great. I think-

Peter Levine: And it's delightful to talk with you again, Neil, really. I so much appreciate what you're doing because really we are designed to be in relationship, and to keep our relationships alive. That's the real task. It sure is for me. Okay.

Neil Sattin: Thank you, and your work has been so helpful in my life. And I know the thousands upon thousands of listeners who listened to our first conversation together. So, really exciting to talk to you. Thanks, Peter.


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