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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Jan 13, 2018

When you’re in a “Yes” brain state, everything seems possible - you’re courageous, resilient, and creative. When you’re in a “No” brain state it’s nearly impossible to learn, grow, or interact in a positive way with others. This yes/no brain state impacts everything you do - how you meet the world, and, if you have children, how you show up as a parent. So how do you cultivate a “Yes” brain state in yourself? How do you teach the children in your life to recognize the signs of being in a “No” brain state - and, even better, show them how to shift back into a “Yes” brain? Today we’re talking with Dr. Dan Siegel, founder of interpersonal neurobiology and co-author (along with Tina Payne Bryson) of the new book “The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child.” His strategies for understanding your own reactivity will transform your relationships and your parenting. You can also help the children in your life understand their own emotional world, and show them how to come back online after big emotions get the best of them.

Here is a link to episode 57 with Dan Siegel: Mastering Mindfulness in Your Relationship


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. How do you show up when there are kids involved? In other words, how do you bring what we know today about attachment and the best way to parent children into the context of your relationship so that whether it's your own children or you're entering a relationship where children already exist, you know the best way to show up to help kids interact with you in ways that are positive and to help them have successful outcomes? In other words, have lives where they feel happy and fulfilled and like they really know themselves well. These are the questions that we're going to cover in today's episode and we're going to talk about it in a way that not only gets at the heart of how we parent, but also how we ourselves show up to the equation. So we're not acting on our children or with our children mechanistically or like behaviorists trying to get them to do the right thing and jump through the right hoop. We're bringing to bear everything we know about our own emotional makeup and how we interact with the world to help our kids also have positive, alive interactions with the world, 'cause that's what we're all about on this show.

Neil Sattin: In order to have this conversation, we're going to be talking with Dan Siegel, who is returning to the show after his last episode, which was all about mindsight. Today, we're going to talk about his latest book which is just coming out, co-written with Tina Payne Bryson, called "The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity and Resilience in Your Child." And I have to laugh at that a little bit only because I feel like on this show we're often talking about how to cultivate courage, curiosity and resilience in each other and in ourselves in our relationships. So who better to have on this show than Dan Siegel, the father of interpersonal neurobiology, which is at the cutting edge of the science of how we relate and how the way that we relate affects our brains, our biochemistry and our ability to be healthy and alive and effective in the world and not crippled by anxiety or depression or disconnection. So Dan Siegel, thank you so much for joining us again today on Relationship Alive.

Dan Siegel: Neil, it's an honor to be here with you.

Neil Sattin: Great, great. I think a great place to start is at the end. And I like to start there only because sometimes it helps provide a really nice context for the overall conversation. And by the end, I'm thinking about the end of your book where you start talking about what is it that we're really after in children? How do we measure success and I'm wondering if you can talk for a moment about the kind of culture clash that's happening in terms of how we encourage this kind of external success and sometimes we're missing out on the internal success that The Yes Brain is all about.

Dan Siegel: Well Neil, you've picked up on, I think, one of the central issues that Tina Bryson and I really wanted to address in The Yes Brain book and in our work as teachers and clinicians and in our life as parents and partners with our spouses, this idea of thinking deeply about what success is for ourselves and for our kids, is at the heart of a strategy for how you parent because if you're just going along with what in modern society you hear is a measure of success like what your numbers achievement is, like what kind of elite college you get into, or your bank account alone or the number of cars you have, or these things that you can measure in numerical ways that give us a feeling like, "I could always do more. I don't have enough fans on my social media page. I didn't get enough hits when I put out that photograph." You can always feel like there's someone who's doing better than you. We even have a set of circuits in the brain that are ready to give us a comparative stance toward other people and if success is measured by these very common, contemporary culture ways of saying, "Yes, I achieved this bank account and yes, I have this kind of car and yes, these are the number of things I have." Then it's a treadmill that continually leads to a feeling of inadequacy and I gotta do more and more and more and more.

Dan Siegel: In contrast to that kind of treadmill that goes nowhere but that most of us get on, even as parents thinking about what we want for our kids, in contrast to that, think about the idea that someone could develop an internal compass that gave them a feeling of incredible gratitude for being alive, for the privilege of having this journey that we call a lifetime for the honor of connecting with other people. For the excitement of having curiosity for what the world and life is all about, for the way we can have this courage to actually try new things beyond what we're just given. And when life doesn't go the way we may have expected it to go, we have the resilience to bounce back. So that resilience and creativity and courage come from an internal compass, that you can help construct in a child as you parent them in a certain strategy that we call a 'Yes Brain' strategy.

Dan Siegel: So in The Yes Brain book, what we've done is give a way to parent with discipline, with structure, so sometimes people hear the word Yes Brain and they'd go, "Oh, permissive parenting." And that's not at all what we mean. What we mean is that you as a parent have the opportunity to understand that the brain can get into a No Brain state. And that's where you're feeling threatened, where you feel inadequate, where you activate these survival reactions of fight, flight, freeze and faint, the four Fs, that come along with the reactive No Brain state. And in that No Brain state that comes when you say, "No" harshly several times, is the thing I do in workshops. That shuts down learning and shuts down your access even to connecting not just with other people but even to your own internal compass.

Dan Siegel: And in contrast, that you can cultivate a Yes Brain state which is where a person feels open to new experience. Aware that life is about challenges and disciplined effort, and that sometimes what you accomplish with your effort isn't what you expected, and we call that a disappointment, some people call that an un-success or a failure. But instead of collapsing with that experience, you rise up and say, "Wow, here's an opportunity for more learning, for me to try again, for me to learn new skills." And then when you do that, there's where you get the courage and resilience, and really the ability to say, "Let me try things in new ways," which is what creativity is.

Dan Siegel: So when we use those phrases, you know, creativity and courage and resilience, we don't use them lightly. We're literally defining them very carefully, talking about what's the brain state that enables them, and then giving parents strategies for basically creating a Yes Brain state, which develops the trait of courage, the trait of creativity, the trait of resilience, and that's what the whole approach is about.

Neil Sattin: Now, are parents going to be able to create, or cultivate, a Yes Brain state for their kids without getting to know a Yes Brain state for themselves?

Dan Siegel: Well, the first step is exactly like you're saying, Neil. It's about having the insight to feel inside yourself when you're reactive, that's the No Brain state versus when you're receptive, that's the Yes Brain state. And so the first step is to know yourself. And in a book I wrote, Parenting from the Inside Out, with Mary Hartzell, that book was all about the research finding that parents who do have self awareness, and especially awareness of how their own past shaped their present experience of being alive and their present experience of parenting. Those parents are actually the ones most likely to have a relationship with their child that cultivates security. Secure attachment is the best predictor of what we can do as parents to help our children have resilience, basically.

Dan Siegel: So, when you look at that research, it shows that yeah, exactly like you're saying, "Self awareness is the starting place." And then once you have that self awareness, then you say, "Okay, well, that's my inner reflective skills, now what do I do with my parenting actions?" And that's where you get onto the Yes Brain approach where we say, "Okay, your goal as a parent is, he has to know what a Yes Brain feels like and a No Brain feels like, so that you learn from the inside out." How... If you are doing things with your child that are repeatedly creating a sense of threat, or your child is coming home from school and feeling that threat state. Not from anything you did but from what happens with their peers, or teachers, or being on the internet. There are all sorts of things that create a No Brain state. Whatever it is, your sensing it in yourself is the starting place so you can then sense it in your child.

Dan Siegel: And then when you sense that fighting, fleeing, freezing or fainting, No Brain set of re-activities, then you can teach them how to move from a No Brain state to a Yes Brain state. So instead of being shut down in either rigidity or chaos, you actually allow them to transition into a Yes Brain state. And we teach these very practical steps on how to do that, so now your child is in a receptive Yes Brain state where learning happens, openness to new things happens, connecting with others happens, and even developing this internal compass which is basically a feeling in your gut and a feeling in your heart that gives you this literally felt experience that directs you even beyond words in your mind or beyond the thoughts you might have. It's kind of an internal compass, is what I call it, that is directing you to the true north of things that matter to you and things that are important in your relationships with others.

Neil Sattin: So perhaps a great place to dive in would be to talk about the different characteristics of The Yes Brain and how we actually can... Some actual strategies as parents for helping children understand these concepts and then to put them into practice. And I really think this is great because so much of the work that we're doing here in relationship has been about helping people recognize when they are triggered. And we had Steve Porges back on the show in episode... What was it? 34, to talk about Polyvagal Theory and basically what's happening in our brains. But what I love about your book is that it makes it really practical to see not only how it happens in a child, but also ways to talk about it that get you some place else so you're not feeling trapped by your biology. So maybe we should start with balance. That's the first concept that you talk about. And so how do you convey what balance means?

Dan Siegel: Right. Well, the first thing to say in terms of people who love acronyms is I'm kind of an acronym nut, so the whole book is an acronym of... Especially if you like cheese, it'll be easy to remember, it's Brie cheese. So the first of B-R-I-E, I don't know if you noticed that Neil, but is balance. And here the idea is just to start with I think that beautiful way you introduced this segment of our conversation is the sense of awareness we have of our internal state. In our interpersonal neurobiology series, Steve Porges has two books in our series, one is the Polyvagal Theory, the other is the Pocket Guide to The Polyvagal Theory, both beautiful books. And the idea is that you have a physiological state, which we can describe in a moment. And the key to making this practical in a parent's life is for you as a parent, or 'cause you were just talking about a relationship with... Close relationships, with you as a partner to become aware of what that internal state is.

Dan Siegel: And a state basically means a pattern of energy and information flow that's happening. And we can talk about an inner state; so the internal milieu of your whole bodily system, including what happens in your head. So when we talk about the brain, it's really the embodied brain. It's never just the head alone. Even though we're all excited about the brain, 'cause we can now look beneath the skull. But it's really the embodied brain. But you even have a relational state, you can call that an interstate, but you'll probably think it's a highway going between Tennessee and another state. So these inner states and interstates are patterns of energy and information flow. So for example, in the relational world, I work with two wonderful researchers at MIT, Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge, and we're studying something that we call generative social fields.

Dan Siegel: And in this work, what we're trying to do is identify relational fields - that is social connections, relationships, that we call a social field - that have a generative quality to them. That is, they promote curiosity, they promote creativity, they promote compassion, anything with a C. It's good stuff. I think they're what are called integrative fields. Integrative means you honor differences and promote linkages. That's my take on it, for the work Peter, Otto and I are doing. And if you look at it that way, you say, "Well, what is it really comprised of?" And from an interpersonal neurobiology point of view, the field I work in, energy and information flow is something that happens between us as well as within us. So you can look at a field, which is energy and information flow patterns, flow is change, information is a pattern of energy with symbolic value.

Dan Siegel: Energy is this process that has CLIFF variables, another acronym that's contours, locations, intensities, frequencies and forms. And other aspects to it too, that you can look at how literally energy is being shared within a relationship. And then within us, we also have these energy and information of flow states. And these are the inner states, that Steve beautifully described in The Polyvagal Theory, that could activate the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve or the ventral branch. And you can also look at how not just the parasympathetic but the sympathetic system is involved, and to say it very... In an outline kind of way, when we're threatened, a system that Steve calls neuroception, that is constantly looking for, "Am I safe? Am I not safe? Am I safe? Am I not safe?" The neuroceptive monitoring process ascertains even without consciousness, "Right now, I am not safe. I am being threatened." And when it does that, it can go down one of two major pathways. One is an activating pathway that turns on the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. That's a branch that comes down from the head brain into the body.

Neil Sattin: And that's fight, flight, right?

Dan Siegel: That's fight, flight, freeze even. The freeze part is tightening up your muscles to figure out, "Should I fight or should I flee?" [chuckle] So it's like giving yourself temporary paralysis. It's a very activating system. I know in the past, everyone called that the third part of the system. But actually what Steve, and Pat Ogden and I did in a book I wrote called The Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology - we wanted make it clear for people that there's actually four Fs. That you have an activating freeze, which is sympathetic, but then that is like the accelerator, but the fourth F is fainting or feigning death, which is when you activate the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve, you shut down heart rate, you shut down blood pressure, and literally, if it's extreme enough, you faint. And there's all sorts of benefits to collapsing, because basically, carnivores don't eat dead meat. So that if they think you're dead, and you fainted, they'll throw you around but they won't eat you, and you'll survive. The other is the telephone booth phenomenon, whereas we don't have telephone booths for the most part anymore because if people heard of bad news on a telephone call, and you fainted but stayed sitting up, then it would be terrible for you. So, that's not good. So you want to, if you're not getting blood flow going to you and you're fainting, you want to be flat.

Neil Sattin: Oh, so if you're in a phone booth, keep the door open before... [chuckle]

Dan Siegel: Keep the door open for sure [chuckle] absolutely. So anyway, those are just funny little stories, but the bottom line is you have this parasympathetic, dorsal branch of the vagus nerve that shuts you down, collapses in the faint... A faint situation when you feel totally helpless, that's one response to threat. And the other three are activating, freezing up; thought, fleeing or fighting. So the bottom line, any of those three are all threat reactions either shutting down or activating you to temporarily paralyze yourself, or run or fight. And these states are not open to new learning. So, when you move from those reactive states of a threat, which you can induce in a workshop, let's say by saying no, or if you're a parent and you're constantly screaming no at your kid, you're always creating a No Brain state. So a Yes Brain state is when your neuroceptive system, that's Porges' term, is assessing, "Okay, I'm no longer threatened." And then turns on Steve's beautiful phrase of a social engagement system that then relaxes your muscles instead of getting ready for fight or getting ready to run or tighten you up or collapsing you.

Dan Siegel: You actually improve the way you're relaxing into what's going on. You're more receptive to what's happening. The bandwidth of sound that you can take in is much broader. You're open to engaging, not just with others but even with yourself, and you're ready to take risks and try out new things. And that's what learning depends on, and creativity depends on, and curiosity is nourished by this Yes Brain state. The Yes Brain state is the receptive, open, connecting state that we want to relate to our children and how we want to relate to our partners. And it's where optimal learning takes place. So as a parent, when you learn to feel the difference in yourself and in your partner and in your child of a Yes Brain versus a No Brain state, you learn to create that balance of a Yes Brain state. That's the balancing part. And the resilience of the BRIE acronym is you learn that when you're in a No Brain reactive state of either chaos or rigidity that tend to come with those states, you learn to help a person move from those reactive states of no, the No Brain, to the receptive state of a Yes Brain. And that's what resilience is - how you come back into this optimal receptive Yes Brain state.

Neil Sattin: So in an ideal world with our kids, one, how are we opening them up to this awareness of what's happening within them? And two, what is our task, when... 'Cause how many times have you witnessed or maybe experienced this yourself, where your child is going offline, [chuckle] they're getting really frustrated or whatever it is, and the impulse is to want to intervene right there and say, "You know, you shouldn't do that or you shouldn't hit your sister or whatever it is"? And what you've just explained is exactly why children aren't going to be receptive to anything that's trying to explain to them why they should or shouldn't be doing whatever it is they're doing in that moment. So how do we invite our children into this knowledge, and how do we show up as parents when we start to sense that our children's neuroception is telling them that they're not safe for whatever reason?

Dan Siegel: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Let's start with the first part of your question, which is just so clear and so elegant. The idea is as a parent to remember that there is no such thing as perfect parenting. There just isn't. And why in all my parenting books, I always put the ways I've goofed up as a parent and my kids are always dismayed.


Dan Siegel: In their terms, why am I sharing what a jerk I can be, [chuckle] 'cause I tell them, I want people to know, that no one does perfect parenting. Even if you're writing books on it, have your degrees in this area, you're board certified, blah, blah, blah. It doesn't matter. There's no such thing as perfect parenting. So we need to support each other on the journey, because when you've made a rupture to the direction you're trying to take, it's really important to make a repair. So that's the place to start. And you say, "Well, what's this whole rupture repair thing all about?" And so you start with this idea of a No Brain state. So, as you're saying Neil, if your child or an... You could translate everything we're saying, by the way, for a close friendship or a romance or anything. We're talking about the teaching part about it. That maybe a little different in parenting. But connecting it's the same fundamental issue. So when your child enters a No Brain state, fighting, fleeing, freezing, collapsing - they tend to go towards these rigid or chaotic states that can induce in you - as the parent - a similar state as you're present for them and attuned to them. That attunement is focusing on their internal world, you can begin to then resonate with that.

Dan Siegel: Now, if you've not taken the time to become more skillful at being self aware- and what self aware means is nothing fancy - it means, what's your body's state right now? Are you reactive - in a No Brain state? Or are you receptive in a Yes Brain state? That's the first question. And if you're in a No Brain state, there's no good parenting that can happen when you're in a No Brain state. So you need to use your own balance and resilience and get yourself back into a Yes Brain state no matter what your child's doing. Now that's a skill you can develop, and we teach you how to develop that in the book, which I can talk about in a moment. But in terms of directly connecting with your kid, you need to make sure you yourself are in a Yes Brain state first. Now, they keep on screaming or yelling or whatever they're doing in their reactive No Brain state, you need to realize that's going to start inducing frustration in you. If you're in public, it may induce a feeling of shame. You may start getting angry and frustrated, both with your kid and with yourself. And in that social situation, if it's public, you can start losing your temper, even though you don't want to. And even in private, you can feel like, "Wow. I'm at my wit's end. I can't do this anymore."

Dan Siegel: When you get to those kinds of places of No Brain reactivity in yourself, you need to take a break. And depending on the age of your kid, if your kid is not hurting herself, and can be left alone, you need to go for a walk, take a stretch, get a drink of water. You need to get yourself back into a Yes Brain state. So that's the first thing to say. A lot of our meltdowns in parenting, a lot of the ruptures that happen are when we ourselves are in a No Brain state, and we try to parent in that state. It is not possible. And what people tend to do is, they justify their behaviors, hitting their kids, squeezing their arm, cursing at them, demeaning them. And they say, my kid deserved it. And you see, and I've seen this even in my friends, this kind of rationalization, that what they've done in that No Brain state, which in that state felt right, and then they remember that they did it. They then, when they're out of that state, justify it. And it is the saddest thing, because it actually is not very helpful to their kid. And it's actually creating this prison for themselves as they continue to rationalize that what they've been doing and this pseudo-strategy for parenting that's coming from this reactivity is okay. They think somehow it's a sign of strength.

Neil Sattin: Can I ask you a quick question about that actually?

Dan Siegel: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Because I think, I hear from some parents this notion that "I can't let my child see that I'm uncertain". Or "I'm supposed to be providing safety for my child, so that's going to be setting harsh limits. And even if they're freaking out, it's like me being really clear and direct with them". And what I'm hearing from you suggests that maybe that's not entirely true. That there is a way to maintain a child's sense of safety and at the same time be a fallible human as well.

Dan Siegel: Well, let me ask you something and let me ask your listeners who have asked you those very important questions. When your child gets to be an adolescent and has learned from your role modeling, do you want them to be the kind of adolescent who does something at a party, and then says, "Well, for me to look like a strong friend to my friends, I've gotta say that what I did was absolutely right, even if what I did was actually wrong, and I can learn from it?"

Neil Sattin: Right. I'm guessing the answer is, no, I would want them to have an internal moral compass that helps them do what they really, truly think is right in a moment and not be ruled in that way by the need to not stand out or to... Yeah. Or just to be in a reactive place when they are making choices or not really even making choices.

Dan Siegel: So exactly. An internal moral compass, an internal compass is what you can role model for your child. So if, as happens to all of us, you get reactive and are reacting from a No Brain state rather than responding from a Yes Brain state. I'm emphasizing the term 'Reactivity' versus 'Responsivity.' When you're receptive in the Yes Brain state, you're able to respond in a flexible way. When you're reacting in a No Brain state, it's coming like a knee-jerk reflex. So we all can get into those No Brain states. If all your child is learning is that sometimes you're acting like a complete jerk and making no sense and then standing up for what you did in that jerk state you were in, then all they're learning is that you're kinda out of your mind.


Dan Siegel: Seriously. And they can't make sense of it. I'm serious about that. And in contrast, if you say, "Hey, what I did 10 minutes ago, what I did yesterday, what I did two hours ago... " Whenever you got yourself back into a Yes Brain state. "I just want to tell you, I think what I did was a mistake. I was really frustrated and I was coming from a... " And now you have the language for this. "I was coming from this No Brain state of reactivity, and any human being can do it, it's the way the brain works. So it may not be my fault but it is my responsibility to reconnect with you and say, 'I think what I did was wrong. And I'm going to really try to learn it. Let's try to understand from that experience.'" Now in all of that stuff, I didn't say, "You made me act like that, you stupid kid."

Dan Siegel: 'Cause any parent can do that, and most parents do do that, and that's not helpful. You're the adult. So our kids are learning to be in life by pushing on boundaries. And so coming back to the main thread of this question you're asking, it's so beautiful, is what you can do is learn yourself what a No Brain versus Yes Brain state feels like. Sense that in your child, so that you're role modeling for them, that you're a human being too. And if you pretend like you're not, you're just creating this... Literally, a delusion - a belief that's not consistent with reality. So if you try to pretend like you're not a human, unless you are in fact a cyborg robot.


Dan Siegel: But if you are a human being then you are a human being, so to pretend like you're not one doesn't make any sense. So goofing up and making a mistake is human and then making a repair of that mistake is heartful humanity. And so, what you want to do is be that full human being. So now what you're doing is you're role-modeling for your child that you're aware of these two states. Now you can very directly, and we do this in The Yes Brain book. We teach you how to understand that in yourself, and understanding your child, and even to teach you how to speak to your child about this, 'cause every child should know about their brain. So you say, "Look, what happened five minutes ago is really hard. I think you were in a No Brain state. You were reactive like that, and I understand why 'cause I got reactive too. We were both really tired, we were really hungry, and we were both frustrated. It was raining, we wanted to go to the zoo. And now we were stuck in the car, and you didn't want to put on your seatbelt. And I got frustrated and yelled at you, and then you said, you definitely wouldn't do it, so I forced... " You know, all the stuff that happens in parenting.


Dan Siegel: So you can tell the story of the experience with the framework that you understand people's behavior in a No Brain state is quite different from a Yes Brain state. So what you're doing in that communication is you're saying to your child, "Behavior is shaped by the mind beneath the behavior; and the mind is shaped, in part, by the state of mind you're in, which is created by either a No Brain or Yes Brain state. So when you're feeling reactive and not open to what's going on, all sorts of things can be said that can be harmful to others or even to self. And so recognizing that that was the state driving it allows you to move from this No Brain state of reactivity and learn the skills of how to move to a Yes Brain state of being receptive." And listen, the fun thing about this, I gotta say, and it was really beautiful to have Carol Dweck write an endorsement for the book 'cause Carol Dweck has done beautiful work in the mindset of what she calls a fixed versus growth mindset.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Dan Siegel: And in the fixed mindset it's like, "I am a fixed way and my behavior just shows it. Whether I succeed or not in a race or with friends at a party or with the way I perform on a test, that shows my innate talents that can't be changed." Whereas a growth mindset says, "Hey, I have these things I do." All those things I just described. "That come from my effort, and the skills I've learned, they come from disciplined ways of learning. So if I don't accomplish what I think I was going to accomplish in a race, or get the score I wanted to on a test, or have a successful outcome at a party where I didn't know many of the kids, I can use that as a disappointment for sure, okay, but then let that inspire me to learn the skills in a more disciplined way so I can try again." That's a growth mindset.

Dan Siegel: And what Carol Dweck beautifully wrote about was that these are skills, "The Yes Brain" approach are skills that parents can use. And they're also, by the way, the skills that are beneath "Grit" - Angela Duckworth's work - that allows you to see how a child can have this kind of perseverance in the face of challenge that requires a growth mindset that you can then see the strategies for building grit and a growth mindset.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so I'm wondering if we could just tackle something specific for a moment, because I'm imagining a situation that many parents have multiple times, which is being faced with their child in a state of frustration or disappointment. And you talk beautifully in "The Yes Brain" about this balance as a parent between being differentiated because you want your children to have their experience, but also staying linked to them and feeling with them. So that might be a great way. If you could illustrate, what would you do with a child who was feeling really disappointed about something? What's a way that you could approach that that would foster their own growth in developing some of this, I think that would be more like resiliency, which you talk about as expanding their ability to handle disappointments and stressful situations without going into the red zone of fight, flight, freeze?

Dan Siegel: Right, exactly, exactly. So if you take the four of those things, the BRIE components of balance, resilience, insight and empathy, let's do an example that illustrates all four...

Neil Sattin: Great.

Dan Siegel: With what you're inquiring about, about a frustrating experience. So let's take that example I gave you. You're going to the zoo and it starts to... You have pouring rain, so you can't go to the zoo. Your child, let's say seven, he was so excited about going to see the panda bears and now he can't, and it's really, really raining, so you've gotta have an alternative plan. And he is really angry, he won't put his seatbelt on the back seat, in his car-seat, and you're just frustrated beyond belief because you wanted to see the pandas too, and you're both hungry 'cause you were going to go have lunch in the zoo, or all these things. Okay.

Neil Sattin: Right, and now you're getting frustrated because your child is not putting their seatbelt on and not listening to you and not enabling you to move on to the next thing.

Dan Siegel: Exactly, exactly. And so you get out, you're getting wet, you're trying to reach over there and he's pushing on you 'cause he's in a fight mode, and you're trying to buckle that seat and then he hits you in the face. Whatever is going to happen, this can happen.

Neil Sattin: Right. Clearly, neither you nor I has ever experienced this before. [chuckle]

Dan Siegel: No, no, never. I'm talking about theoretical people. And so now he hits you in the face and so now you grab his arm, and now you're screaming, and he's crying and he's looking terrified of you because you look terrifying, and neither of you want to be doing this, but this is what's happening. [chuckle] This is Parenting 101. So it's really hard, it's the basics. Okay, so you take a break, you close the door so he doesn't get wet, you don't continue with what you're doing because you recognize you're really doing stuff that's not so good, and maybe you get the umbrella and go for the walk around the car, but you don't abandon him, maybe go sit in the front seat and say to him, "Joey, let's both take a couple minutes just to calm down, let's just focus on your breathing," and he's screaming, yelling, but you do not interact with him, but you're in the car. So you're not abandoning him, but you're getting yourself back into the Yes Brain state. We call it the green zone, green for go.

Dan Siegel: So once you're really in that green zone, you check in with yourself. How's my heart doing? How are my muscles doing? Is my jaw clenched? You look for, I call it SIFTing the mind. So the S is the sensations in your body we just went over, the I are any kind of images, so maybe you're seeing red and maybe you're really furious, and maybe you're thinking of images of how you've spoiled him because you take him to the zoo all the time or whatever. Feelings of frustration or anger. Thoughts. "God, I've done a terrible job. This is horrible," or, "This is what my father always did with me. I've made a big mistake in becoming my father." All these things. So you're SIFTing your mind.

Dan Siegel: And now, as you sift through this stuff, you're naming things so you can tame them, because what the studies show is that when you name an emotional state, you can actually regulate it. So this is the insight part of BRIE. And now you're going to do the E of BRIE, the empathy. You're going to say, "Well, of course he was frustrated." He entered a No Brain state 'cause he was hungry and tired; maybe he had a sleepover the night before at a friend's house or something. And you both didn't expect it to rain and he loves going to the zoo with you, so of course he's really disappointed. He's seven. He's not 47 like you are; he's seven.

Dan Siegel: Okay. So, now once you get yourself SIFTed through, you get back into the Yes Brain state. He's still kicking or whatever he's doing. So here's the move. You connect before you redirect, and what you're doing there is you're able to say to him, "I can understand why it would be so frustrating for you that we couldn't go to the zoo." And then you pause. Now, in that moment what you're doing is, instead of reacting to his reactivity by saying, "Stop yelling! Stop screaming! It's okay, blah, blah, blah," you're actually attuning to where he's at. I remember this with another acronym, PART. You're present for Joey, that's the P. You're attuning, this is the A, which means focusing attention on his inner world, not just his kicking legs and his screaming voice. You're attuning to his inner mental state. In this case, he's fighting back 'cause he's in the No Brain state. He's really mad and upset 'cause he's really disappointed, so he feels threatened because he didn't get to have his time with you, all these things. That's attuning.

Dan Siegel: Resonating is, you are being shaped by his internal state. Maybe initially it was too much and you've lost differentiation because you became him. Now you can resonate without over-identifying with him, and that's fine. You can feel that frustration. And the T of PART... So presence; attunement is focusing on the internal world; resonating is feeling, some of his feelings not becoming him. T is trust, and now trust is created, 'cause you say, "Joey, of course you were frustrated, of course it was so hard. I even understand why - it's not okay but - you hit me in the face, 'cause you were feeling so mad, because I didn't recognize how frustrated you were. I get that."

Dan Siegel: And then you just sit there. Now in that moment, what's happening to energy and information flow that's within you and within him, is you're becoming joined, because you're not judging his state, you're not trying to teach him a lesson, you're not trying to criticize him, you're just being with him. Instead of being alone, you two are now together. And if you look at the mathematics of that, basically two separate systems becoming joined, as differentiated and now linked, allow the whole system to do what's called "increased complexity." Basically it's becoming more integrated, and the thing that's really fantastic about that is it becomes more regulated.

Dan Siegel: So instead of being alone in his frustration and fear and fury, he's now joined with you, and in that joining things start to shift. And in that joining, he moves, little bit by little bit from No Brain reactivity to Yes Brain receptivity. And now, in the joining now, you can then problem-solve together. "We both got really in a No Brain way, didn't we?" "Yeah, we really did." He starts to cry, "But I really wanted to see the pandas." You go, "I know. I did too. Gosh! Oh, my God! I just realized there is a panda movie at the movie theatre. We can go to the movies, if we can get in 'cause maybe everyone is going, so we don't know we can - but why don't we go get some lunch first, see when the movie is playing and let's go to the movies." "Okay, dad, that's great."

Dan Siegel: And so what you've done there is so many things. You've taught him how he can go from reactivity to receptivity, so that's the resilience part. You've taught him how to feel the joy and the balance, that's the B part. You've taught him that when he's now joined with you and can reconnect and redirect his focus of attention. The insight is, you've taught him that you were aware you would become reactive. And you're teaching him to become aware of his own state by saying, "Yeah, I guess you were in that reactive state when you hit me. You didn't want to hurt me but you hit me." And then the E, the empathy part is, you're teaching him that you can look beyond the outwardly manifested behaviors, at the mind driving the behaviors.

Dan Siegel: And so often parents don't learn that skill, and yet it's a mindsight skill that's at the basis of... The way we teach an internal compass is, by ourselves, tuning into the internal experience of our child, and then the child learns to focus not only on the internal states of others but on their own internal state. So when we come back to that first question, Neil, would you want your adolescent to have an internal compass that drives their moral decisions? And you said yeah, the answer is yes. This is how you do it. You get them in touch with their internal state beyond just outwardly manifested behaviors. That's the key. Mindsight skill-building, is the basis of a Yes Brain strategy approach and being real. You are a real human being who is in the real position of being a parent.

Neil Sattin: Well, and I notice with my own son that the more that I show up that way, joining him first and then doing problem-solving, then I've just seen his whole emotional state really flourish and blossom just from adopting that approach more and more, and I've even... I was experimenting a little bit more aggressively while I was reading "The Yes Brain," and what I love about this work is that you illustrate it so clearly in the book, and it's not a very long book, it's a really easy read, and it's really practical and has very immediate effects in terms of the lightness, that I was perceiving anyway, in my own children.

Dan Siegel: Exactly. Well, this is the thing that's so incredibly rewarding for Tina and for myself is, we get together and we think, "Okay, where have our parents in our workshops been asking questions? And what could Tina and I do to try to articulate in a very simple way?" And believe me, it is hard to write a short book [chuckle] 'cause often I write long ones. So to really write in a short way for busy, tired parents, something that actually has immediate, practical things you can do and also a conceptual framework that we're trying to build in this library of books. We have "The Whole-Brain Child", "No-Drama Discipline" and the others down the pipe that parents can take in, and instead of them being just separate things, it builds this kind of mindsight approach to parenting.

Neil Sattin: Well, Dan, I really appreciate your work and Tina's work with this book, and I just have so many questions I could ask you but we've reached the top of the hour and I want to honor our time commitment that we made. For you listening, if you're interested in finding out more about Dan's work and mindsight, you can listen to episode 57 of the Relationship Alive podcast. You can also download the transcript and the action guide from this episode if you visit, and we will have a link to Dan Siegel's website, this book, his other books, so that you can get all the information that you need about Dan Siegel and his work. In the meantime, Dan, so much to talk about - so I hope we have the opportunity to chat again in the not too distant future, and thank you so much for joining us today.

Dan Siegel: Neil, thank you and thank you for all your wonderful work in bringing me this material for the world out into access for everyone.

Neil Sattin: It's my pleasure. You're most welcome!


Check out Dan Siegel's website

Read Dan’s latest book (with Tina Payne Bryson) The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Dan Siegel

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Jan 9, 2018

Does jealousy affect you in your relationship? Or has it impacted you in the past? One thing is for sure, jealousy has a destructive impact on any relationship, leaving both partners feeling unsafe and under attack. So - how do you know what's really going on when one of you is jealous? And how do you get to the other side, so that you can experience a relationship where you can experience the freedom to be yourself AND the safety of a secure partnership? Whether you're getting jealous, or on the receiving end of your partner's jealousy - this episode will lead you through the steps of discovering what's really going on - and how to reconnect in a healthy way.


Episode 47: How to Come Back into Balance When You're Triggered

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Jan 1, 2018

How do you separate fact from fiction when it comes to creating and sustaining sexual desire? In this episode of Relationship Alive, our special guest is Emily Nagoski, author of the New York Times bestseller "Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life." Her work has been cited by both John Gottman and Esther Perel as a must-read for understanding how desire works, and how to nurture a sexual connection over the long term with your partner. Emily Nagoski and I dispel some modern-day myths about sexuality, and then we reveal some of the new science to help you create more pleasure in your life. And, as Emily says, "Pleasure is the Measure!"


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. What if everything that you've been told about sex and desire was wrong? Or maybe not quite wrong, just missing really important bits of information that would help you understand the big picture. As it turns out, there's a lot that we've come to know through science about what turns us on and what turns us off. But this information is relatively new and hasn't quite made it out to the mainstream or the cover of Cosmo, at least not yet. How do you know if what you're experiencing is normal? And what can you do to discover more about who you are as a sexual being and to find more connection and sex in your relationship, without creating pressure on yourself or on your partner? Today's guest has many of the answers to these questions.

Neil Sattin: Her name is Doctor Emily Nagoski and she's the author of the New York Times bestseller "Come as You Are", which John Gottman says is the best book he's ever read on sexual desire and why some couples stop having sex. Esther Perel also refers to Emily's work. So, if John Gottman and Esther Perel, who, at the moment, come from different camps on the question of sexual desire, if they can agree on Emily Nagoski's work, then you know that she's done something truly magnificent. There's gonna be a lot to cover and, as usual, we will have a detailed transcript and action guide for this episode available to you at Or you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions to get your copy. Emily Nagoski, thank you so much for joining us today on Relationship Alive.

Emily Nagoski: I'm so excited to talk to you.

Neil Sattin: So let's start at the very beginning.

Emily Nagoski: Very good place to start.

Neil Sattin: Exactly. Where did this book come from for you? It's about desire and it's about understanding what makes us tick. And in particular, it's written for women and about women's sexuality, though there's so much relearning for men to do as well. And I'm wondering if you can just create our garden here for us for this conversation. Where did this book come from and why was it so important for you to write it?

Emily Nagoski: Sure. I'd been teaching sexuality in some form and some context, for at least 15 years when I started teaching a class called Women's Sexuality at Smith College. Smith is a women's college so I had a class of almost entirely women, 187 of them. And Smith students are not ordinary human beings. Smith alums include Gloria Steinem, and Betty Friedan, and Catharine MacKinnon, and my favorite, Julia Child. And so the very first day, I'm teaching the anatomy class, of course, I just start with the anatomy. And a student raises her hand and says, "Emily, what's the evolutionary origin of the hymen?" And 15 years I'd been a sex educator, I had never even wondered the answer to that question. So I knew it was gonna be an intense, interesting semester. And it really was. They pushed me really hard. I shoehorned in as much science as I could into this beginner level class. After a semester of really hard work, my last question on the final exam was just tell me one important thing you learned. It can be... Just take the question seriously, you can have your two points no matter what you say. Just tell me one important thing you learned after all this cutting edge science.

Emily Nagoski: And I thought they were gonna say the evolutionary theory, or attachment theory, or arousal non-concordance, or responsive desire, or any of these other things. And more than half of them, of 187 extraordinary students, more than half of them just wrote something like, "I'm normal. I learned that I'm normal. Just because I'm different from other women doesn't mean I'm broken. I can accept my sexuality as it is, and my partner's even when it's different from mine." I'm grading final exams with tears in my eyes thinking, I don't know what happened in my class, but I think it must have been something extraordinary and I wanna do it again, and I wanna do it on a much bigger scale. And that's the day that I decided to write "Come as You Are." And five years after that is when "Come as You Are" actually got published.

Neil Sattin: And I love these... There's so many quotes from your book, and one thing that I really enjoyed about reading "Come as You Are" is that literally every chapter revealed something new. So while it all builds on itself, at the same time, I felt like I was walking through a labyrinth and around every corner I found some amazing gem, which is just so exciting when you're reading a book. But this quote toward the end really was powerful for me. And all it is, is this, "The sexuality you have right now is it and it's beautiful, even especially, if it's not what you were taught it should be."

Emily Nagoski: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And that really hit me hard because I think so often we do get lost in thinking it's supposed to be some other way. And when we learn to tune in to what is actually happening in our bodies and accept that, and then use that as the springboard for what happens next, there's so much power in that moment.

Emily Nagoski: And in one way it's really obvious that the fastest, easiest way to shut down your sexual well-being is to judge and shame your own sexuality as it - is like is that gonna be a turn on in your brain? For you to hate what's happening in your sexuality, obviously not. But if you can release the judgement and shame and be like "Oh, look, here's my sexuality. Being what it is, doing what it does, I know that I've been given a sort of like phantom sexual self of what I'm told I should be, what I'm supposed to do, what it's supposed to be like, and I know I'm supposed to beat the shit out of myself until I meet that standard, but what if? What if just hypothetically I stopped beating the shit out of myself and just enjoyed my sexuality as it is?" It turns out our ability to stop demanding that our bodies be different and allowing them to be as they are, is maybe the single most powerful thing we can do to maximize our sexual well-being. Is it easy? Nope. But it's almost magical in it's power.

Neil Sattin: And this might be a good time to start with talking about the dual control system. This is something that probably most people don't know about in terms of how they think about their own sexual operating system. Can you speak a little bit to what is the dual control's mechanism and how does that affect whether we're into sex or not into sex, or feeling desirous and aroused or not feeling desirous and aroused?

Emily Nagoski: Yes, absolutely. This is the fundamental hardware between our ears in the way our sexuality functions. It's a model developed at the Kinsey Institute starting in the late '90s, early 2000s, by Erick Janssen and John Bancroft, and it basically posits that sexuality works the way every other system in our central nervous system works. Which is a dual control mechanism. If there's a dual control mechanism, how many parts are there?

Neil Sattin: Two.

Emily Nagoski: There's two parts. Exactly, right? The first one is the sexual accelerator. And if the first part's is the accelerator or the gas pedal, the second part must be?

Neil Sattin: The brakes.

Emily Nagoski: Brake. Exactly. The accelerator is the part most of us are already sort of familiar with... It notices everything in the environment that it codes as sexually relevant. This is all the things that you're seeing and smelling and tasting and hearing and, crucially, imagining, that your brain codes as a sexually relevant stimulus, and it sends that turn on signal that activates arousal and desire. But at the same time that that's functioning, there is also a brake that is noticing all the good reasons not to be turned on right now, everything you see and hear, smell, touch, taste, or, crucially, imagine, that your brain codes as a potential threat, a reason not to be sexually active right now. And it sends the turn off signal. So your level of arousal or desire at any given moment is this balance of how many ons are turned on and how many offs are turned off. Sexual well-being is maximized, that is to say, sexual pleasure in the moment is maximized, when you're turning on all the ons and all of the brakes are turned off. And when I was talking about self-criticism and contempt for your own sexuality being a turn off, obviously, if you're judging your own sexuality, is that hitting the accelerator? Almost certainly not. That's one of the very common things that hits the brakes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I think what is confusing is that it's common for us to idealize one and to completely ignore the other. Or, one thing that was really enlightening in reading about these, is that we come with our own set level for these things. So some of us could have an accelerator that's really sensitive and easy to turn on, whereas others may not. And that doesn't necessarily represent a problem that needs to be fixed. And same with the brakes. Maybe you could talk a little bit more about that and why that... Why that's so.

Emily Nagoski: Yeah, there, there are individual differences in the sensitivities of the brakes and the accelerator in each person's brain. As far as we can tell from the science so far, they seem to be pretty set. They're not as set as IQ, but we don't know of any specific interventions to change their sensitivity. Let's just assume they're like personality traits like introversion and extroversion, they are what they are. Most of us are heaped up around the middle. We're just sort of all about the same, but a handful of people, for example, will have really sensitive accelerators, and a person with a sensitive accelerator, vroom, right? That's a person who is easily activated, which can be great under the right circumstances and can be pretty dangerous under the wrong circumstances. If a person is experiencing a lot of negative effects, stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, repressed rage we've all got it, and they don't have good mechanisms in place for coping with that negative emotion - they may begin to use sex as an outlet, a way to avoid experiencing those negative emotions.

Emily Nagoski: And that's where sexual risk taking and sexual compulsivity can come into play, in those folks who have higher sensitivity accelerators. And on the other end of the spectrum, there's the folks, for example, who might have really sensitive brakes, where the least stray thought, stray fingernail, stray noise in the hallway can just shut everything right down. And those are the folks who struggle most with sexual dysfunction, desire disorders, desire differential in their relationship. For most of us though, it's not that our brakes are overly sensitive. It's that we have just a truck load of stuff hitting our brakes all the time and it's much more common. The usual party line about sexual issues is that, well, you should try adding more stuff to the gas pedal. Try role play, and lingerie, and toys, and porn, and fantasy, and all the things, and those are great and you should try them if you like them. Great. And most people when they're struggling with sexuality, it's not because there's too little stimulation to the accelerator, it's because there's too much stimulation to the brake, which is gonna be - some of it - is that self criticism and body shaming.

Emily Nagoski: For some people, it's a trauma history. For some people, it's straight up stress. 80 to 90% of people find that stress and other mood and anxiety issues negatively impact their sexual desire. For some people, it can actually increase it, but that's a different story. And relationship issues, of course are the major factor in things that hit the brakes.

Neil Sattin: What's a good way for someone listening right now to get a sense for themselves of what we're talking about and how it impacts them? Like how do I identify what my brakes are and what my accelerator items are?

Emily Nagoski: Yeah, most people have a good sense - if they just sit down and think about it... I'm interested in sex when these things are happening and I am not at all interested and don't experience pleasure under these circumstances. You can start in a general way with just lists, like what are the things that stress me out that prevent me from being interested in sex? What are the relationship issues that get me stuck so that when I get in bed with my partner, I'm not just getting in bed with my partner, I'm getting in bed with this laundry list of crap, that's just like gunking up the pipes, and you gonna clean out the pipes before you're gonna be interested in sex. Another concrete specific way rather than just generically...if you could think about one really awesome sexual experience you've had, doesn't have to be the best one you ever had, just like a really great sexual experience. Consider what the context was that might have been hitting the accelerator and keeping the brakes off. So what was your own mental and physical state? What were your partner's characteristics? What were your relationship characteristics? What was the setting? Was it in person? Was it in public? Was it over skype? Was it texting and photos?

Emily Nagoski: Was it in the closet at a stranger's house, at a party, against a wall of other people's coats? Or was it in your own bed with the door shut and the kids over at somebody else's house? What was the setting that worked? Other life circumstances is a really important factor. How stressed out and exhausted were you from work and impending nuclear holocaust? What was your overall stress level? And then my favorite relevant factor is that called ludic factors. Ludic related to the word ludicrous. It just means play, how curious and playful and fun could you be? What games were you playing with your partner that were really working for you? There's actually, if you go to my website, there's worksheets, the worksheets are in the book and you can also just download them for free, that walk you through these contexts. I recommend that you think through three great experiences and three not so great experiences, not three terrible sexual experiences just three like, "meh" kind of experiences and look for what wasn't working for you. And when you actually... It takes some time. But when you sit down and take the time to think through what contexts were really working for me. I don't know why that made that sound. Could you hear that?

Neil Sattin: No, what did you hear?

Emily Nagoski: Oh, sorry, my sister is texting me and the alert came on.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Emily Nagoski: Sorry.

Neil Sattin: That's okay.

Emily Nagoski: It distracted me. Let me go back. It takes a little time to sit and actually think through six different sexual experiences, but people really do have surprising insights. People who really feel like they know a lot about their own sexual functioning, when they sit down and think in this concrete, specific way, will notice things they never heard before. A friend of mine went through it and what she realized... She's in a long distance relationship, and when she actually did get together with her partner, what she noticed was that the expectation that, "Now that we're finally together, we should be having sex." That expectation, that sense of obligation, was absolutely the key to her shutting down her sexuality. And she only figured that out by thinking critically through the factors that were hitting the accelerators and hitting the brakes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And that's huge, you talk about that particular one like how you feel about whether you are or not having sex, or how you feel about whether or not you should want to have sex in this moment as being another really important factor in whether your accelerator's on and your brakes are out of the way, or your sexual car's coming to a screeching halt.


Neil Sattin: I'm curious to know from, yeah, from your perspective. One thing you just mentioned was the people who do have a really light touch accelerator and the danger for those people that sex could become a compulsion if it's that's easy for them to get turned on and to potentially use it as a way to mitigate and cope with the stress and things that are going on in their lives, and in my experience with my clients, and people I talk to, and in my own experience as well, sometimes that those people tend to find themselves in relationships with people who do not have as light touch of an accelerator, and in fact often have quite the opposite. I'm wondering what do you do, and I think part of this is maybe in what you were just talking about with that, the way that you think about whether you should or shouldn't be having sex, but what do you do to give someone hope who is in a situation - and you describe in your book one of the amalgamated characters, someone named Olivia, a woman who it's really easy for her to get into the mood to have sex and she's with a partner named Patrick for whom it's not so easy. And how do you give a couple in that situation Some hope around shifting that dynamic in a way that, that feels positive for both people?

Emily Nagoski: This actually touches on what has turned out to be one of the most important ideas in the book, which is the nature of desire itself, how desire is supposed to function in our bodies and our relationships. In the case of Olivia, who is the composite character with a sensitive accelerator, she represents about 15% of women who have pretty sensitive accelerators, it means that she also happens to be a person who, when she is stressed out, her interest in sex actually goes up, which is true for, again, about 10-20% of people. And there's not a gender differential on that one. And she's with a partner, as so many of these folks are, for whom the opposite is true. So if they're both stressed out at the same time, Patrick's interest in sex hits the floor and Olivia's hits the ceiling. And that's not in and of itself a problem, but if they start having opinions about which one of them is doing it wrong, that's when things can get really tricky. Because it's... If you don't have a judgement about who's right and who's wrong and you're just like, "Well, our brains are wired differently. That's how it is," And you can rationally negotiate a compromise, great.

Emily Nagoski: But if you start feeling bitter and resentful towards your partner for either being too demanding or too withholding, and you're judging and shaming yourself for wanting too much and being too much, or you're judging and shaming yourself for not wanting enough and not being enough, that's when things get really sticky, which is why the "You are Normal." Mantra comes back over and over the book, You are normal, nobody's doing it wrong. Both people are right and healthy and fine. The emotional weight that we attach to different experiences of sexual desire is just a social construct that we're laying on top of it. You get to feel again, totally normal about the way you're experiencing desire. And the practical solution is just to negotiate. What are we gonna do about the fact that I would like to have the sexy sexes and you are not interested in having the sexy sexes right now? How about we compromise in some way that works for both of us, where you stay with me and put your hand over my heart while I masturbate to orgasm? That way you don't have to do anything you're not into and I get to have the connection and the sexual release.

Emily Nagoski: How's that sound? If we can let go of our judgments of what sex is supposed to be and what desire is supposed to be, that's a perfectly reasonable compromise. That's a really helpful compromise. It's only not helpful compromise if you're like, "But it doesn't conform with my expectations about the aspirational culturally constructed ideal of what my sex life is supposed to be."

Neil Sattin: Right, right. And so this is great because I'm wondering if you can suggest a good way to notice that in oneself. How do I know whether what I want is culturally constructed, or what I actually want, and what would be really important to have on some level?

Emily Nagoski: Dude, I don't know.


Emily Nagoski: That's the million dollar question, right? I would say that the distinction we're thinking about here is not so much what I want, versus how I feel. The word that I use in the book, that comes from John Gottman's research is meta-emotions. There's how you feel. There's how your sexuality... And this is also language I came up with after I finished Come as You Are. I was traveling all around the country and I was talking to students all over, and a student raises her hand and says, "You say in the book, Emily, confidence and joy. Over and over, you use these words, confidence and joy. Can you tell us what you mean by confidence and joy?" And I was like, "No, I have no idea what those words actually mean." And I had to think about it for a long time. And I finally realized that confidence is knowing what is true, knowing that you have a sensitive accelerator and your partner doesn't, or you have a sensitive brake and your partner doesn't, knowing that the context that works for you is one that is really safe, and familiar, and calm, and quiet, whereas the context that works for your partner is one of novelty, and adventure, and risk.

Emily Nagoski: And okay, now you know what's true. Joy is the hard part, and that's loving what is true. Even, as I say in the book, when it is not what you were taught, it was supposed to be true. Even if it's not what you wish were true. Boy, would things be simple if two partners always all the time wanted the same level of sex. Desire differential is the most common reason why people seek sex therapy. Desire differential is also really universal. There is no such thing as two people whose desire tracks the same day-to-day.

Emily Nagoski: Sometimes you have a rough day and your partner doesn't, so you're not interested in sex and your partner is. Some days the opposite is true. There is no such thing as people with exactly the same desire all the time. Just being like, "Hey, that's cool." That's what's true. Fortunately, I also love my partner, and so, we're gonna work it out together. We're gonna have conversations that can be calm and loving and affectionate, because we understand what's true about ourselves, about our accelerator, about the context that work for us, and we love each other and the things that are true about our two different sexualities. There are no judgement, there's no shame, there's just accepting that we are two different people, and it's not just that people vary from each other, it's also that people change over time. When you're in a relationship that lasts over multiple years, you and your partner's sexualities are gonna change and they may not necessarily change along the same trajectories. Joy is loving what is true about both of your sexualities and the ways that they change, whether that feels comfortable and easy or not.

Neil Sattin: And this conversation, I appreciate that you brought up the requirement to as much as possible have it in a loving way, because those desire differentials can create a lot of stress. And as you just mentioned, for most people, no matter where they are in terms of brakes and accelerator, I think somewhere between 80% and 90% of people, that stress it's going to turn the brakes on.

Emily Nagoski: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Can you talk a little bit about this... How the stress that we're carrying around with us every day... What can we do about that? Why is it so important to do something about it, rather than just sweeping it under the rug or pretending it doesn't exist?

Emily Nagoski: Right.

Neil Sattin: And what's on the other side of doing something about it?

Emily Nagoski: There's a whole lot of telling ourselves not to, in a lot of aspects of our lives. We tell ourselves not to feel that way about sexuality. We try to force ourselves to feel a different way than we actually feel. We fight against the truth and reality, and we do that with our stress too. We tell ourselves that we're supposed to experience, "No, I don't need to be stressed out about that." You try to tell yourself, "Relax, just relax." When your partner, if you're stressed out and your partner is like, "Why can't you just relax? Just relax." Is that helpful? Does that help? Does that make things better?

Neil Sattin: No, right.

Emily Nagoski: No, it doesn't make things better, right? No, obviously. What has to happen is, instead of trying to just like not be stressed out, you have to move in the direction of the stress, sink down into it, and allow your body to experience it. Stress is a physiological process. It's like digestion. It has a beginning and a middle and an end. And if we don't interfere with it, our bodies will move through that entire cycle in a healthy, normal way that doesn't interfere with our lives. But as human beings with giant prefrontal cortexes and massively social tendencies to wanna control our emotions in order to make other people feel good, we tend to keep the brakes on, on our stress in the same way they keep our brakes on, on our sexuality. And so, we're walking around with all these activated stress response cycles, stress is the adrenaline, and the cortisol, and the hypervigilance, and the muscle tension, and the digestion changes, and the cardiovascular changes, and like your whole body, and your immune system is suppressed.

Emily Nagoski: Every body system is influenced by the fact that these stress response cycles have been activated. And if you just tell yourself not to feel it, those stress response cycles will stay spinning inside your body waiting to finish and they will wait forever. Most of us are walking around with decades worth of incomplete stress response cycles, just sitting like rocks somewhere in our body waiting for us to let them go. Fortunately, there's lots of research that tells us what the effective strategies are for completing the stress response cycle. For example, physical activity. This is the obvious one, because the stress response cycle is designed for us to survive threats like being chased by a lion. When you're being chased by a lion, what do you do?

Neil Sattin: Right, you get the hell out of there.

Emily Nagoski: You run. Yeah. Our bodies do not differentiate between stressors, so your body responds basically the same way to a lion as it does to your boss or to your partner shaming and guilting you about sex, right? It's basically the same physiological stress response. It turns out, dealing with the stress itself, the physiology in your body requires basically totally different things from dealing with the thing that caused the stress. There is the calm, rational planning and negotiating that you have to do with your partner and then there is the dealing with the physiological stress itself. Just because you've dealt with the stressor doesn't mean you've dealt with the stress. Physical activity is the single most important thing that you can do - when people tell you that physical activity is good for you, that's for real-sy, every day, 20 minutes if you possibly can, literally any form of physical activity, even if it's just like jumping up and down in your bedroom, any form of physical activity is helpful.

Emily Nagoski: We know that sleep is effective, creative self expression, writing and painting, music. We know that sleep is effective, did I say sleep already? Oh, and affection. So, calm, trusting, especially physical affection, but it doesn't have to be physical affection, it can just be the loving presence of another human is great. You know what's also great? The loving presence of a dog. You know what's also great? Loving presence of a God. If that's what makes sense for you. Whatever counts as a loving presence for you sitting and being with that presence helps to return your body to a state of calmness so that your body knows this is a safe place to live. I am safe right now. But it takes doing something for real, not just telling yourself.

Neil Sattin: Right. And if you're doing that over and over, especially finding a way to regulate with another with your partner, then that brings about its own level of healing in terms of your right brain coming back online and your ability to operate from the parts of your prefrontal cortex that...

Emily Nagoski: Right. To think critically, to be curious and creative, all of that comes back only when you have reduced the adrenaline and cortisol levels and reduce the threat level so that the creativity can expand instead of being so focused on just survival.

Neil Sattin: Exactly. Just for your reference listening, if you want to learn more about healing trauma and ways modalities that can help with that we did have Peter Levine on the show, the creator of Somatic Experiencing, that was episode 29. So it's something for you to bookmark and listen to later, and he'll be coming back on the show as well. But somatic experiencing is just one. There are all kinds of modalities if you wanna work with a practitioner to help you...

Emily Nagoski: Pat Ogden is another really key person in body based therapy. Pat Ogden and somatic... I forget what it's called. Pat Ogden is amazing and great, and does really, really good work around healing trauma through the body. What I love about body based strategies for dealing, not just with stress but with a trauma is that you don't ever have to have insight. You don't even necessarily have to think about whatever it is that caused the stress or the trauma. It's a different process. You can choose an insight process if you want to, but if you don't wanna go there, if you don't wanna think about it, sometimes you can release this shit from your body without ever having to think about the event that activated the stress. You can just deal with the stress itself without dealing with the event itself, especially if the event is in the past and there's nothing you can do about it now. Body based therapies are wonderfully gentle, indirect, tremendously effective strategy for helping to return your body to a safe state.

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm, big recommend from me as well.

Emily Nagoski: There's a chapter on stress and love, and the stress section is pretty much entirely based on the polyvagal theory and Peter Levine's work, somatic experiencing, and Pat Ogden's work in the body-based approach to stress.

Neil Sattin: Great. Yeah, and if you wanna learn more about the polyvagal theory, which Emily just mentioned, check out our episode with Steve Porges, which is episode number 34.

Emily Nagoski: And so you've just interviewed my entire shelf of reference books.


Neil Sattin: Basically. That's my goal, Emily. [chuckle] You shouldn't have sent me that photo of your bookshelf, and actually send me more 'cause I don't wanna run out of people. I'm curious if we can talk now about the... 'cause one of the concepts that you discussed that was so fascinating for me was how you broke apart the process of arousal and desire into these different systems in our brain, and there was the enjoying system, the expecting system, and the eagerness system. And I felt like taking it apart like that made it so much easier to understand in a way that's actually practical for people. Can we dive in and just give a little bit more information to our listeners about what I'm even talking about?

Emily Nagoski: Yeah. When you read sort of mainstream popular science journalism about brain science, they'll refer to this thing, the pleasure centers of the brain. And if they do that, it's a pretty good cue that they either don't know what they're talking about or they're simplifying it in a way that's really unhelpful, because it's not just the pleasure center of the brain. And calling it the pleasure center is like calling your vulva the vagina, like there's so much more to it, and if we ignore the other parts, we're ignoring some fundamental aspects of how the thing works. So if we break it down, yes, there's the pleasure part, which is just the part of your brain that responds to whether or not stuff feels good, and that's a little more complicated and we can talk about the ways that your brain responds differently to different stimuli as pleasurable or not depending on the context. Should we do that now? Or should I wait?

Neil Sattin: Sure. Yeah, let's...

Emily Nagoski: Okay.

Neil Sattin: And I'll bring us back.

Emily Nagoski: Yeah, the pleasure piece of it is slightly complicated because the nucleus accumbens shell in your brain has an affective keyboard. Everybody's asleep now, sorry.


Emily Nagoski: So the deal is, if you're in a sort of a neutral mental state and somebody tickles you, meh. If you're already in a fun, flirty, sexy, positive, playful, trusting state of mind and your certain special someone tickles you, that even if tickling is not your favorite, in principle, like that could feel fun and lead to other things happening, right? 'Cause your brain interprets that stimulation as something to be approached with curiosity and pleasure because you already feel safe, and trusting, and playful. But if you are pissed off at your partner and they tickle you, you wanna punch them in the face. It's exactly the same stimulation, right? The same tickling stimulation but the state of your mind is different, your brain state is different and so your brain interprets the sensation entirely different, not as something to be approached with curiosity and pleasure, but as a potential threat to be avoided or even attacked.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Emily Nagoski: And the only thing that is different is your state of mind, so pleasure is not simple. Pleasure is sensitive to the context in which you're experiencing it which is why hot and heavy early on in the relationship, you're in the middle of making dinner and your certain special someone comes over and starts kissing on your neck or whatever. And your knees kinda gets off and you're like, "Oh, that's cool." And things happen. 10 years later, you're trying to make dinner and you've got kids waiting for food and screaming at you and you got 10 years of accumulated frustrations in your relationship. Your certain special someone comes over and kisses on your neck then. You're like, "I'm trying to... Get away from me. What are you doing?" And again, it's exactly the same stimulation, but because the context is different, you experience that sensation in a totally different way, and that is a normal way for us to experience sensations.

Emily Nagoski: The problem is not the way we experience the sensation, the problem is that the context changed. And it's not that the context is broken, that's just life. There's always the solution, we don't have to change us in order to find a solution, we just notice what it is about the context that's hitting the brakes and making our brain interpret the sensation as something that makes you wanna smack the person in the face and change the context if you possibly can to something that makes you interpret this person's sensations as something pleasurable to be approached with curiosity. That's the pleasure component of it. The nucleus accumben shell, woohoo. The second part of this pleasure center is actually the desire part. Eagerness, I called it in the book. Kent Berridge, who's... Have you interviewed Kent Berridge?

Neil Sattin: Not yet, no.

Emily Nagoski: Oh my God, that's the next guy on my shelf.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Emily Nagoski: Kent Berridge or Morten Kringelbach.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Emily Nagoski: They're the two key authors on this batch of research that distinguishes between wanting and liking. We talked about what liking is and the ways that it's dependent on context. Wanting is moving toward, is the actual activation, the desire, approach piece of it, not just the liking of, like, "Woo!" Or "Gleh!" Right? The classic example, that I actually cut from the book, so this is a thing that you will not read in the book, just to differentiate between wanting and liking, in an experiment, they gave... I always imagine it as one of those beer hats where there's a bottle on one side and a bottle on the other side and straws going into your mouth, do you know what I mean?

Neil Sattin: Uh-huh.

Emily Nagoski: So they gave one of those to a rat, it's not really like that, but just imagine it's like that. And in one of the cans, there's sugar water, which is delicious to the rat, and in one of the cans with a straw going into the mouth, there's salt water with the salinity of ocean water. How does that taste?

Neil Sattin: Salty.

Emily Nagoski: Yeah, it's gross.


Emily Nagoski: It's just a really innately disgusting flavor, because it's a dangerous flavor, it will give you way too much sodium and make you sick. They teach the rat that certain bells are associated with the sugar water coming in. When they get the sugar bell, they get excited. "Yay, here comes the sugar." And when the salt bell comes on, they go, "Ah! - gaddigah - I don't want the salt." But then they give the rat a drug that reduces their salt level. Now, so this is an animal that has zero pleasurable experience with the salty water. It's gross, they don't like anything about it, but when you deplete their salt levels, they will go over to the salt bell and start pushing it and gnawing on it and trying... Be like, "Make this... " They want the salt desperately because you've depleted the... You have a sodium drive that makes you desperate for salts if you don't get it. If you don't have the right sodium levels, you can literally die. So their whole body is in this huge activated, "I want the salt." Though they have zero experience of liking the salt. Does that distinction make sense between wanting?

Emily Nagoski: So pleasure, liking is the pleasure part, enjoying. And then there's eagerness, there's desire, there's moving toward and they're overlapping certainly, but they are not identical and it is really important that we distinguish it. And then the third component of this mechanism that we usually just call the pleasure center is associative learning, is basically what it is. When I do PowerPoint presentations, I represent it with a drooling bulldog because of Pavlov's dogs. He trained them to drool with a ring of the bell, all you do is you put food in front of the dog, it automatically starts drooling and you ring a bell. Food, bell, drool. Food, bell, drool. And eventually, you just ring the bell and that's all it takes to get the dog to start drooling. Does that mean that the dog wants to eat the bell?

Neil Sattin: No, of course not.

Emily Nagoski: Does it mean... Right, of course not. Of course not. Does it mean that the dog finds the bell delicious?

Neil Sattin: No.

Emily Nagoski: Of course, not, right? It just means that the bell has been made food-relevant. It's associated with food stimuli. So it's now a food-relevant stimulus. Our genital response, blood flow and all the rest of that, is the associative learning component where if you're presented with a sexually relevant stimulus, you will get genital response. This is your activating, this is a sexually relevant accelerator response. It turns out there is a not very relevant overlap, there's not much of an overlap, between what counts as sexually relevant stimulus and what is actually liked, particularly in heterosexual women, so that a person's body can respond to sexually relevant stimulus... In the research, it's almost always different kinds of porn, sometimes it's visual porn, sometimes it's like they're being read an audiobook of an erotic story, sometimes they're even watching bonobo chimpanzees copulating, right? And women's genitals will respond to this, not as much as to the human porn, but significantly above baseline. If their genitals are responding, does that mean they find the bonobo sex like they really want to have sex with the bonobos? Does that mean they like monkey sex?

Neil Sattin: This is so important. This is like one of the things in your book that... Not about bonobos necessarily, but...


Neil Sattin: But this question of how does our genital response correlate to our actual desire, and this might be a great time to talk about non-concordance.

Emily Nagoski: Right. And for a lot of people the answer is, it doesn't - particularly for women. There's about a 50% overlap between genital response, and perceived arousal, or subjective arousal in cisgender men. And about a 10% concordance overlap between genital response, and subjective arousal in heterosexual woman. One of the pieces of research that's come out since Come As You Are was published, is the distinction that this arousal non-concordance appears to be a factor really just in straight women. We have no idea why there's a difference sexual orientation, why there's a difference in gender. It doesn't matter why there's a gender difference. We do have this tendency, like is anybody who's sitting here and thinking right now, "Really, there's that much of an overlap for guys, what's the matter with men? There must be... I mean, that's so strange that they have so much concordance between their genital response and their subjective desire. What's going on with that?" No, everybody automatically thinks, "Really, women have 10% overlap. That's really - what's wrong with women?!"

Emily Nagoski: That's the patriarchy, that's the androcentric model of sexual desire, arousal, and response that all of us got raised in, assuming that the way a man works is the way a woman is supposed to work. And the extent to which a woman differs from a man is the extent to which she is broken, and needs to be fixed. And that's just not true. When a person's genital response doesn't overlap with their perceived arousal, when their genitals are responding, and they're like, "Nope. Not doing it for me" - what that means is that they've been presented with a sexually relevant stimulus that they do not want or like, which we can only understand if we know that this pleasure center of the brain does have these three separate channels that interact, of sexual relevance, sexually pleasurable, and sexual desire. They're related to each other, but they don't necessarily overlap. And we live in a pretend... In a fucked up enough culture that we're presented with plenty of sexually relevant stimuli in contexts where we neither want nor like what is happening.

Neil Sattin: Right. And I would think that another way of looking at the statistic for men, the 50% concordance, is that men have the potential to be victimized by their sexual... By their genital arousal, basically.

Emily Nagoski: Yes. Yeah. This narrative shows up a lot in stories of sexual violence against people of every genital configuration. The typical model is a person with a vulva being sexually assaulted, and the perpetrator says, "Well, but you were wet. So obviously, you wanted it or liked it." I cannot tell you how many students have told me, "Oh my gosh, this explains that experience I had where I was like, "Eh, this isn't doing it for me," and my partner was like, "No, you're turned on. You're wet." As though a person's genital response tells us more about what they're experiencing than the person does. And the same thing happens when a person has a penis. If blood is flowing to their genitals, they've been taught that that's an indication of who they are. Like their whole identity is tied to that, and it certainly indicates that they must want or like what is happening. But no, it's a reflex. We would never tell someone, if they bit into a wormy old apple, "Well, your mouth watered when you bit into that wormy old apple, so you must have actually really wanted or liked it. We would never do that. When your doctor taps your patellar tendon and your knee kicks out, nobody is like, "But deep down though, you really wanted to kick your doctor." We don't make this assumption with any physiological reflex, except for genital response. And we do it no matter what a person's genitals are, and it perpetuates a lot of myths around sexual violence.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. In fact, I loved your rewrite of Fifty Shades of Grey.


Neil Sattin: Which I can quote here. In the next edition, Emily thinks that Grey should say to Ana instead of... 'Cause he, right, he spanks her, and she gets wet, is what basically...

Emily Nagoski: Yes. She consents to it. She doesn't want it. She doesn't like it. There is not a single word about pleasure. Her face hurts 'cause she's squirming so hard to get away. And then, Christian Grey, the spanker/hero/douche bag, puts his fingers in her vagina, finds that she is wet, and says to her, "Feel this, Anastasia. Your body is soaking just for me."

Neil Sattin: Right. "See how much your body likes this."

Emily Nagoski: "See how much your body likes this." Likes this. "See how much your body likes this, Anastasia."

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So, you're...

Emily Nagoski: And I wanted to say.

Neil Sattin: Yeah?

Emily Nagoski: I want the next person to say, "See how sexually relevant your body finds this. Which tells me very little about whether you want it or liked it."


Emily Nagoski: Did you want it, like it? No? Double crap! Double crap is a thing they say a lot in Fifty Shades Grey.


Emily Nagoski: Let me say that I am a romance reader. I read it with an open mind. It wasn't for me. I value a lot of things the Fifty Shades did for opening up a conversation about erotica and sexuality for women, and it also sold many millions of copies and perpetuated this myth that genital response... 'Cause here's the really bad thing about the book, about this particular aspect of it, is that even though she, in an email, goes on to describe the feeling of being debased, degraded, and abused, still, because he said, "Your genitals responded. Feel how much you like this." She believes him instead of believing what her own internal experience was telling her. 'Cause isn't that what we all get taught, is to believe other people's opinions about our bodies, what they are and what they should be, more than we trust and believe what our bodies are trying to tell us?

Neil Sattin: Yeah and that theme runs throughout your book, of learning how to shed the messages that you've been given and the ideas about how things should be, and learning to more deeply trust what comes out of you, what you know about yourself, and what does give you pleasure and what doesn't, and to bring that to the conversation.

Emily Nagoski: And I'm remembering the question you asked about how do we tell what's socially constructed and what's what you actually want and like. And sort of almost everything is socially constructed. Nobody is born with any innate sexually relevant stimuli other than just plain old genital sensations. Like nobody is born being turned on by cars, or high-heeled shoes, or smoking cigarettes, or power play. That's all learned from culture. That doesn't mean that it's not real for you and it's what you really do want, it just means that that is what you learned, it's what your culture taught you. And some of those things are just sexually relevant. Like your brain has been taught that those are sexually relevant stimuli. And some of them are things that, in the right context, really do give you gigantic pleasure, and you really do desire them in the right context, in one that facilitates pleasure. Somehow my go-to example of this has been if you fantasize about being cornered by five strangers who just want you sexually and so they take you.

Emily Nagoski: If you're alone, safe in your bed, masturbating to that fantasy, in reality, the context is you are 100% safe and in control of that. Whereas if, in reality, five strangers cornered you and wanted to have you sexually, that would be physically unsafe, your stress response would kick in, you would only want to get away, it wouldn't actually be sexy. And the difference is the context. You can, if you wanna create that fantasy for yourself, you can ask five friends to participate in the role play, and communicate really clearly about what everybody's limits are. But that's, again, a really different context from five actual strangers.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so it's important to revisit for a moment... When you were describing context at the beginning, you were talking about all the factors that shape context. It's not just like, "Oh, well, the context is the bedroom's messy and the kids are knocking at the door, so I'm gonna send the kids to Grandma's and clean the bedroom." There's more than just the physical context, there's all of that...

Emily Nagoski: Yeah. The stuff in the here and now tends to be the easy stuff to fix, the easy stuff to address. I heard someone joking at a romance writers' conference, "Characters in romance novels have sex when they're being chased and shot at by the Mafia, and I can't have sex if there's still a dish in the sink."


Emily Nagoski: That's the easy stuff. The difficult stuff is when what you're bringing to bed and bringing to the context is years of shame, or years of judgement and blame, or relationship conflict, or a trauma history, or body shame, or gendered roles and ideas about how sex is supposed to work and if it's not working that way then it's working wrong. Those are longer term projects. And most of them can be undone through simple, daily mindfulness practices. It does take time. In the same way that it took time to get you to this place, it takes time to shift you out of that place and into a different, more neutral, self-accepting, partner-accepting place. But noticing the gunk, as I call it, the gunk that gets in the pipes, and making a decision to consider the possibility that you could live without the gunk and maybe clean it out is the way to clear up the channel, so that when you get to bed, the context is not one that's bringing with it all of this historical shit.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Emily Nagoski: I've been swearing a lot.

Neil Sattin: You have!

Emily Nagoski: I don't know if that's okay. Sorry.

Neil Sattin: This is an explicit show. It's totally fine.

Emily Nagoski: Oh good.

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering if, before we go, since you just brought up mindfulness, if you could offer just a simple approach to how you've seen mindfulness work. What's something that someone can do that, over time, will effect that great kind of change?

Emily Nagoski: The simplest version is simply... So when you're in the process of a sexual experience, you will notice that maybe body-critical thoughts, or sexuality-critical thoughts, or partner-critical thoughts will enter your mind. You just notice them and are like, "Oh, hey! There's that critical thought. I'm gonna have that critical thought literally any other time that I want. For the moment, I'm gonna put it in the back, and I'm gonna return my attention to the pleasurable sensations happening in my body." And another critical thought will float through your mind, and you'll be like, "Oh, hey look! There's another critical thought. I'm just temporarily, I'm gonna put that in the back, and I'm gonna return my attention to the pleasurable sensations happening in my body." And with practice, over and over, we become really skilled at noticing those emotions before they dig deep, and even reducing the frequency and intensity with which they float into our minds. It makes a tremendous... There's a huge body of research. Another person for you to interview, Lori Brotto, does all this research on the impact of mindfulness on women's sexual well-being, especially women who are in recovery from gynecological cancers, and breast cancers, and other diseases, the impact it has on their relationships and their sexuality, and how to use mindfulness and sex education as a way to maximize sexual well-being in the recovery process.

Neil Sattin: Amazing. Amazing. And I loved how you brought that in your book as well, not only in how you just described, but also in talking about how important it is to see the ways that you do judge yourself and you're critical of yourself, and how all of those responses are turning your stress inward. You're creating more stress for yourself, which is putting the brakes on for yourself and gets you in that negative feedback loop. Versus...

Emily Nagoski: And it takes...

Neil Sattin: Being able to heal it through your mindfulness. Yeah? Go ahead.

Emily Nagoski: It requires the decision to prioritize turning off the brakes. You have to decide that it matters to you and to your relationship that you access your own sexual well-being. The couples who... What we learn in John Gottman's research is that the couples who sustain strong sexual connections over multiple decades are not couples who, hot and heavy, can't wait to stuff their tongue down each other's throat all the time. They are the couples who, one, have a strong foundation of friendship for their relationship, and two, prioritize sex. So they decide that it matters for their relationship that they set aside this half hour when they stop dealing with the kids, and work, and family, and friends, and Game of Thrones, and all of the other things that they could be paying attention to. They stop all that and they just pay attention to each other in this, frankly, pretty silly, fun way that humans do, because it matters for their relationship that they have that time to play, and touch, and connect. It's not the case for every couple that connecting in this way matters for their relationship, but the couples who sustain strong sexual connections, it's what they do. They make the decision that it matters that they cultivate sexual pleasure and curiosity.

Neil Sattin: Well, you're blessing us with a great way to end our conversation, while at the same time reminding me of all the things that we could have talked about. I just wanna say...

Emily Nagoski: We could talk about responsive desire, oh... [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, oh my goodness. Well...

Emily Nagoski: Read chapter seven. That's all. Just read chapter seven. They know enough for that to make sense now.

Neil Sattin: Do you have time to give a quick blip on that before we go?

Emily Nagoski: Okay, really quick. Yes.

Neil Sattin: Thank goodness.

Emily Nagoski: The standard party line about desire is that it's spontaneous. It just sort of comes out of the... You're walking down the street. You're eating lunch and... Erika Moen, who is the cartoonist who illustrated Come as You Are, she draws this as a lightning bolt to the genitals. Just kaboom! You just want the sexes. And so you go to your partner with, "I have a kaboom. Can I have the sex? Uh?" And your partner's like...


Emily Nagoski: So, that is, absolutely, one healthy, normal way to experience sexual desire, is to have it just be... Feel spontaneous and kinda out of the blue. And there is another, totally healthy, normal way to experience sexual desire, it's called responsive desire. See, spontaneous desire emerges in anticipation of pleasure. Responsive desire emerges in response to pleasure, bearing in mind that pleasure is sensitive to context and not simple. The way this works, there's really sort of two narratives of how it works. One is the sort of cuddle, snuggle narrative, where you're just sitting on the couch watching Netflix and your partner comes over and starts touching you, and your body's like, "Ah, that feels really nice."

Emily Nagoski: And your partner starts doing other, more interesting things, and you turn and maybe start kissing on your partner, and your brain receives all this stimulation, it's like, "Ah, that feels really nice." And you turn and do maybe some more things, and there's a hand that goes up a shirt, and your brain's like, "That's... You know what, how about the sexy times?" Right? It's kaboom that emerges in response to pleasure. The cuddle, snuggle model. And then there's the Liz Lemon, "Let's do this," model, Where you dump the toys in the toybox, it's 3:00 on Saturday afternoon, you'd said that you would. "You, me, and the red underwear, here we go. Let's just get in the bed and go."


Emily Nagoski: And you put your body in the bed, and you put your skin against your partner's skin, and you remember that you like this. You like this person. You enjoy these sensations. And you allow your body to remember that this is fun and good. That's responsive desire. And all three of those are 100% normal...

Neil Sattin: Normal.

Emily Nagoski: Healthy ways. Right? That's... Many people feel that if you have to set appointments, if you don't already crave it when you get in bed, then there's something wrong. Nope. That's how it works sometimes. Most people will experience all of these different kinds of desire in their life. Some people never experience spontaneous desire. Some people have no experience of responsive desire. What matters is that you just notice that there are differences, and there are changes, and they are all 100% normal. And you can maximize responsive desire. The main way to maximize responsive desire is not to judge or shame it, but simply allow it. You allow desire to emerge from pleasure. My three-word... It rhymes and everything, so you can remember it and tell your friends, is, "Pleasure is the measure." Pleasure is the measure of sexual well-being. It's not how much you crave it, it's not how often you do it, or where you do it, or what you do, or how many people, or even how many orgasms you have. It's whether or not you like the sex you are having.

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm.

Emily Nagoski: There's this sex therapist in New Jersey named Christine Hyde, who uses this party metaphor, she says to her clients, "If you're invited to a party by your best friend, of course you say yes 'cause it's your best friend and it's a party. But then as the date approaches, you start thinking, 'Ugh! There's gonna be all this traffic. We gotta find childcare. Do I really wanna put on pants on a Friday?'"


Emily Nagoski: But like, you go because you said you would and it's your best friend and it's a party and what happens? Most of the time you have a good time at the party. If you are having fun at the party, you are doing it right. Pleasure is the measure of sexual well-being.

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And just as a quick addendum because I love how you suggest this in your book and it's something we've talked about on the show before, sometimes in that context taking sex off the table or making it okay to... That this isn't leading to sex, this is just about exploring pleasure that can, I think... That's one of those things that takes the brakes off. Yeah.

Emily Nagoski: It reduces the performance demand. Yes. Absolutely.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So...

Emily Nagoski: I have actually started recommending that couples, when they... If they set an appointment, they set a date of like Saturday at 3:00, you and me, we're gonna do something, they set very firm limits on what they're allowed to do. Sometimes, it means not actually touching each other. Sometimes distance is... And this is the reason why I find both Esther Perel's model and John Gottman's model to be helpful, because people vary a lot in what works for them. Some people crave the closeness in order to facilitate desire and some people really long to have distance to have a bridge to cross to move toward their partner. People just have different strategies in the same way our brakes and gas are different. So figuring out what to do in that chunk of time that you set aside for you and your partner to do something or other that feels good, is gonna be different for you versus from everybody else that you know.

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm. Yeah. So take the time to get to know yourself and what you might actually want in that circumstance.

Emily Nagoski: Yeah. Right.

Neil Sattin: Oh, so many things, and yet we have run out of time. Emily Nagoski, it is so great to chat with you. I think your book, Come As You Are, is really required reading for people to just come to understand themselves as sexual beings in a totally new, actually based on science and not based on fable, way. And especially if you're a woman, especially if you're in a relationship with a woman, and even if you're a man and not in a relationship with a woman, there's just so much in here that I think will help you...

Neil Sattin: And non-binary people too.

Neil Sattin: Yes. And anyone, wherever you are on the spectrum, this will help you come to understand yourself and how that all works within you. I'm so appreciative of your contribution through writing the book. And if people wanna find out more about you, where can they find you on the interwebs?

Emily Nagoski: The main place to go is my website, which is just

Neil Sattin: Great. And we will have a link to that, along with a detailed show guide, if you visit, though I'm tempted to make it Pleasure is the Measure, but, or you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Emily Nagoski, thanks so much. Hope to have you back again sometime!

Emily Nagoski: Thank you so much!


Check out Emily Nagoski's website

Read Emily’s book Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that will Transform Your Sex Life Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Emily Nagoski

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out


Dec 26, 2017

We're all empathic. What this means is that you can catch emotions and states-of-being like a cold. But if you don't know that what you're feeling isn't actually yours, just something you caught from someone else, then you could be in trouble. Wouldn't it be nice to know, with as much certainty as possible, that your all-important feelings and beliefs actually come from within you, and represent your own truth - instead of just being something that you picked up along the way? In this episode we're going to talk about the science of empathy, as well as two quick, powerful ways to keep yourself clear.

Other episodes that I refer to:

34: Science of Safety - Stephen Porges

57: Mastering Mindfulness in Your Relationship - Dan Siegel

13: Resolve Conflict and Create Intimacy through Attunement - Keith Witt

29: How to Heal Your Triggers and Trauma - Peter Levine

116: Sex, Love, and Dating: From Addiction to Health - Alex Katehakis

16: Expanding Your View of What's Possible in Relationship - Gabrielli LaChiara

Sponsors: - a free, easy-to-use website that offers you the chance to create a custom wedding registry that represents YOU. Choose from over 500 brands and over 50,000 gifts and experiences, allow your guests to pitch in together on big gifts that will have an impact on your life, or to simply donate cash towards your honeymoon, house downpayment, etc. Zola is offering a $50 credit towards your registry if you visit and get your registry started. - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.



Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out


Dec 19, 2017

There are some fears that are inherent to being alive. They might be big, they might be small, but they definitely are there, within you. Two of these fears that are closely-related to each other are the fear of loneliness, and the fear of abandonment. How are they impacting you in your life? And how can you find your way through the fear, so that your decisions aren't impacted by it? In this week's episode, we are going to dive deep into the fears of being alone, and of abandonment, so that the path to the other side is clear. This episode also features a song I wrote awhile back (called - wait for it - "Loneliness"). You can hear the whole thing at the end of the episode.

Sending you light during this holiday season! 

Sponsors: - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.


Dec 12, 2017

Let’s get practical for a moment. You’ve heard about the importance of courage and vulnerability in taking your relationship to the next level. How do you do that in a way that actually makes you stronger? How do you truly overcome feeling like a victim - in your life and relationship? How can you literally become a “yes” to everything - the painful moments as well as the joyful moments - to create new levels of spark and connection in your relationship? In today’s episode, you’re going to learn a way of showing up that helps you face your fears and heal the patterns that no longer serve you, no matter what's going on in your relationship. Our guest is Jett Psaris, co-author of the book Undefended Love, and her work clearly illuminates the path to wholeness, healing, and deep authenticity - especially in relationship. I’ve been excited to speak with Jett Psaris ever since the beginning days of the Relationship Alive podcast - and it was well worth the wait. Plus as an added bonus, you’ll get to hear us sing the “Namaste” chant together at the end of our conversation!

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: - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.


Check out Jett Psaris's website

Read Jett’s book Undefended Love and check out her new book Hidden Blessings: Midlife Crisis As a Spiritual Awakening Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jett Psaris

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 your relationship to a totally new level where you actually transform, where you get past the things that hold you back, that keep you from shining your brightest? And that keep you from supporting your partner in doing the same? We've talked a lot on this show about how to evolve into a relationship that creates deep safety, and trust and respect, so that you can be fully in the moment with your partner. And yet, even then, some of us feel like, well, maybe there's something more or maybe there's like, "I'm disconnected from this place within me and I'm not quite sure how to get there. I've heard about relationship as a vehicle for transformation, and I could really use some help doing the transforming and knowing what that process is like."

Neil Sattin: Well, on today's show, we are going to dive deep into the black hole of transformation with Jett Psaris, who is one of the co-authors along with Marlena Lyons of the book, "Undefended Love". This book will truly open your eyes as to what is possible. Not only in partnership but also in how you reveal to yourself the ways that you are holding yourself back from being centered in your essence and operating from there. And also, how to bring that kind of clarity into your partnership and to see ways that you can stop defending yourself and instead be undefended, vulnerable, courageous and alive. So with that, we will dive right in. I do want to let you know that we will have a detailed transcript and an action guide for this episode, which you can get by visiting And you can always text the word "Passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions to also get a link to this show guide and all the other show guides from Relationship Alive.

Neil Sattin: Jett Psaris, so happy to have you here with me today on Relationship Alive.

Jett Psaris: And thank you so much for the invitation, I appreciate it. Looking forward to it.

Neil Sattin: Great. And it's my pleasure. And just so you know, listening, this is a conversation that actually started a couple of years ago because I knew very early on in the inception of this podcast that I was really hoping to have either Jett or Marlena here on the show to talk about "Undefended Love". So with a little patience and waiting for the timing to feel right, here we are.


Neil Sattin: I'm excited. And Jett, I'm wondering if we can start right out by talking about this concept of... We're talking about undefended love, but what is defended love? What is being defended and what are we defending ourselves from? Maybe that's a good place to dive in.

Jett Psaris: Yeah, in fact, yes it is. The reason we titled the book "Undefended Love", is really because most people, while they're aware of defensive behaviors and actions like reactions, getting angry, withdrawing, most people are aware that those are defensive but unaware that our entire perspective is born out of a defense. For example, if our orientation or role or sense of self that we adopted as a child was to be super competent, that itself is a defense against feeling not good enough. And so, while we can catch ourselves in defensive behaviors or being triggered or reactive, we seldom know that we're going through each moment of every day oriented around protecting ourselves from an experience we had as children that we could not endure. And so, I often point out that these roles that we play and ways of perspectives that we have taken on, they actually got us to this place in our lives. They helped us survive. But now, if we don't relinquish those roles, self-concepts, worldviews, and emotional coping mechanisms, we don't relinquish them - then it's a little bit like an acorn husk, if it doesn't give way, the seed possibility for who we can be, ourselves and in relationship, will never be realized. So undefended, undefended love, is the work of recognizing and dismantling those defense structures which will then dismantle, and the defensive reactions and behaviors will no longer be necessary. And I love the way you did this introduction, it was very subtle, but I want to point it out to listeners. The introduction that you gave, Neil, is you very subtly wove in that the starting place is with ourselves. The starting place is not getting the other to be different. The starting place is that relationship and love call us to a profound inner transformation. After which, we can relate to others in an undefended, or in a non-provisional way. So that's our starting point.

Neil Sattin: So many places that we can go from there. I'm curious... Well actually, maybe a good place to go from here is... A lot of people were asking me, "What can you tell me about 'Undefended Love'?" They were like, "What are you reading now for your upcoming interview?" And I was like, "Alright, well basically, when you're growing up, things happen that lead you to form erroneous conclusions about yourself which you call the cracked identity." And it's this sense, and it can be distilled often down to simple statements like, I'm not lovable, or, I'm not worthy, or I'm not valuable, or I'm always wrong. I think those identities, they're not things that are there all the time for us, but from that come our personalities. And one thing that I loved about what you wrote about was how you showed that the personality - things like being a really generous person - are actually there to help us avoid feeling the pain of this underlying cracked identity.

Jett Psaris: Exactly, right. Yeah, what you're speaking about here is there are two main layers to our identities, self-concepts or what we created in order to manage our childhood. And the one, the deepest one, the one that is the most gnarly are these self-concepts that are deficient. And it's very interesting to me that the way these are born. I'll give you an example, is, let's say that your dad comes home from work. He's had a rough day at work. You're five years old, you're just excited to see him. And so, you run up to him and he pushes you away, tells you to give him space, not now. And so, here you're wide open, your arms are out literally, you're reaching for the person you love the most in the world, and you experience a physical punch; it feels somatic when he says, "No, go away."

Jett Psaris: And so, then the child is left with a dilemma. How do I make my world make sense? And so, what they do is they actually do a kind of translation and say, "I must have been too much in that moment." And so, that's the birth of a self-concept as deficient. "I am too much." And then what they do is they create a compensation to manage themselves. "Since I'm too much, I need to control, contain, suppress, repress my natural emotions, exuberance, actions." And so now, we're beginning to build this self-concept of being restrained, that's the compensation. But that's built on top of, "I'm too much." And so, we do that basically... This is the most important part for me. We create that in order to maintain our relationship like this child in the example with his father. He wants to stay in a relationship with his father, so in order to not make the father wrong for his impatience and anger, the child makes himself wrong and says, "I'm too much."

Jett Psaris: And so, you see the impulse is to maintain the relationship. But the way we maintain that, psychologically, produces a self-concept that we just build on over, and over, and over again. And maybe later in the show, we'll talk about how we do that in partnership, how we maintain that entire mistake.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And with that, I thought another great example that you offer in the book is just because you might be listening and thinking, "Well I'm not shut down. I'm a really generous, giving person, full of exuberance. So this probably doesn't apply to me." So what would you say to that person?

Jett Psaris: Well, I think there is a case study in this book, I'm not sure if it's this one, or the next one, where a minister saw himself as... His self concept, he was generous, and probably everybody he knew would consider him to be generous except his wife actually. And so, I said, "Well, tell me what happens with your wife if your generosity isn't appreciated." And he said, "Well, actually, I get angry with her and I withdraw." And I said, "Uh. Well, essential generosity has no strings attached. So because you are committed and attached to being seen as a generous person, that's where we have the clue that that is something you developed, and that you are reinforcing because if it doesn't get reinforced from your wife, you actually separate; you sever the relationship, you punish her or you withdraw in some feelings of reactive hurt."

Jett Psaris: And so, that's where we begin to see that. We're not actually working purely with essential generosity here. But I want to hasten to mention that we cannot develop a concept of generosity unless we have that essential quality. So the truth is, he does have that essential quality and it's apparent if you sit with him for a number of minutes, you can see that he has that essential quality, but especially with his wife, it also has become a compensatory identity. That has become an obstacle in their relationship because he is more focused on being seen as generous than making authentic contact in a given moment. I just want to mention one more thing about this just coming to me, I'm sorry to interrupt you.

Neil Sattin: Sure. No, go ahead.

Jett Psaris: Is that the other thing about this is that when he is giving to his wife and she receives that, it's actually not enough. So there's a little backside here, it's a nuance, but he is more attached to a constant stream of validation, and if that stream is broken, then we begin to see the cracked identity underneath that compensation.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Can you chat a little about how that compensatory identity, so you'd think, "Okay, I'm great. I suffered under my parents. I became... I learned how to hold myself back a little bit", or "I learned how to be really generous." But at the same time, these compensatory strategies, they actually perpetuate that underlying belief as well.

Jett Psaris: That's exactly right. It's very rarely understood that if our emotional survival strategy is to seek approval, every time we seek approval, we reinforce our deficient identity as not good enough, or not smart enough, or not generous enough. So it's like we're putting coats and coats of paint on that deficient identity and we keep... It's a little bit like an addiction. We keep having to fill that hole, H-O-L-E of deficit. "I'm not good enough so I need to constantly hear from you and everyone around you that in fact I am." So it actually does the opposite. The approval just gets us by for that moment, but it never is going to fill that hole.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and so let's make the leap, at least in this moment that the way that we typically find ourselves in relationship is driven by some aspect of this personality, the compensatory strategy.

Jett Psaris: That's right. That's right. A good question and if we take this into a little bit more concrete example is, if you ask yourself, what experience am I trying to get in this moment with my partner, or what experience am I trying to avoid in this moment with my partner? Then you will begin to see the workings of the compensatory and the cracked identity, because authentic and essential interactions are never trying to get something and they're never trying to avoid something.

Neil Sattin: So yeah, so now I'm wondering, and you're probably wondering if you're listening, where we're headed with all of this 'cause alright, great, you've got this, I have these cracks in my identity and then my personality came up and there are things about it that are great and maybe there are things about it that are not so great. If I'm gonna be delaminating all of these coats of paint that Jett was just talking about, where do I get with that? What possibilities actually open up for me if I'm willing to go through this process?

Jett Psaris: Well, the one piece is that we through this process, we develop ourselves into a much larger, we become much larger. And I often use this example of, if you picture a glass of water next to a large pristine blue mountain lake, and where we start this journey really as that glass of water. So if you picture putting maybe a teaspoon of salt into that glass of water and drinking it up, you'll be repulsed. But that same teaspoon of water into that blue mountain lake, that water is just going to be as refreshing as it always was.

Jett Psaris: So life delivers us and also of course relationship on a daily basis, things that don't taste good. If we're that glass of water, we're gonna constantly be saying "no" to everything that comes toward us that we believe is going to produce discomfort and displeasure. But as we become that large, blue pristine mountain lake of our beings, all the things that come to us, they become absorbed and refreshed. And we actually become a source of nourishment and refreshment to everyone around us.

Jett Psaris: You can see this a little bit with people who have gone through cancer a number of times. The first time they get the diagnosis, they panic, usually reach for whatever treatment is offered, and go into kind of a trance state and just try to survive. The second time, well, they have their medical team together, they know what worked and didn't work. They move a lot more slowly, generally speaking. And they have the ability to recognize that life is continuing, and this recurrence has also come into their lives. But they have much more stamina and capacity to show up for what's happening.

Jett Psaris: And the third time, they'll come into my office, and then say, "Well, there's been a third recurrence, and I feel capable of taking the necessary steps, and I also want to talk about what's happening currently in my marriage." And so, the capacity to be with what life offers becomes larger and larger. We're less likely to feel resentment, we're less likely to feel collapse, we're less likely to feel emotionally defensive or reactive. We develop a general "yes" to everything, because we are so large and have already experienced our capacity to show up for life, that we're no longer afraid of life, as we are when we begin this journey.

Neil Sattin: So, as you peel back these layers, you get to reveal essential qualities about yourself that are larger, and deeper, and more constant, more resilient.

Jett Psaris: Yes. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And the capacity, also...

Neil Sattin: Go ahead.

Jett Psaris: Everyone knows what it feels like to have these essential qualities bubbling up in them. And I often use the example of the first time you fell in love. And if you can remember that, the first time you fell in love, a lot of us will focus on what the other person was like. But if you focus for a moment on what you felt like, that experience of yourself, when you first fell in love, that openness, that joy, that capacity, that willingness, that love and all of that, that's actually the destination of this journey. When we fall in love we glimpse that possibility for who we can be with another, and within ourselves we glimpse that possibility. And then, the hard work of realizing that possibility begins. And so, in short form, the answer to your question is, who you were when you first fell in love, the experience you had of yourself, that's actually the destination of this journey.

Neil Sattin: That would make sense. And it's making sense to me on this deep level of, right, of course, I've been summoned by this vision of potential. And then, I think often couples find themselves heeding the call, being summoned and then a year or two or 10 later, totally forgetting what called them into that relationship to begin with.

Jett Psaris: Right.

Neil Sattin: So what happens when we get stuck? And as I did mention in the intro, which you heard, Jett. A lot of what we've talked about on the show has been about creating safety in relationships, so that people really feel freedom to be vulnerable, to be courageous. And yet, I couldn't help but notice that further along in your book you talk about "REACT", and basically identifying all of these qualities of a safe container. And talking about, how maybe those are great to get you to one place, but then you have to find ways to shed those qualities.

Jett Psaris: Yeah, and you need a ratio of what I call closeness and intimacy. The closeness is the safe container you're talking about, that holding environment, where you feel like you can rest in the relationship. And the intimacy really is that transformative edge. So the hallmarks of a close relationship are things like reciprocity and the capacity to make and keep agreements. And those very same things that are capacities in a healthy, close relationship can also prevent intimacy. So for example, yes, while it is wonderful to have a relationship where both of you are doing the work. If you maintain, "I will if you will... "

Neil Sattin: I'm working with a couple right now who are very mired in "I will if you will", and that is not gonna move forward. We actually have to have a fidelity to our own unfolding. And assuming there is nothing violent or damaging going on in the relationship, we have to be willing to continue to unfold, and reveal, and tell the truth about what we are experiencing, and explore. We have to be willing to do that even if our partner is not willing to do that, otherwise there is a... What creeps in is an unhealthy dependency where we are requiring the other person to be a certain way in order for us to feel safe. When technically speaking, we don't really need another person to be a certain way in order for us to feel safe. Safety is found in that large lake of our being, or the ocean of our being, it is not found in a temporary ability to manipulate or coerce our partner to show up in a particular way. So we need a balance, we do need someone who is not chronically going to be attacking us but we also need the ability when we experience someone like our partner being critical, we have to have the ability to say, "Okay, what is true about the criticism that you are telling me about?" Instead of, "No, I'm not that way." "What's true about that?"

Jett Psaris: And also, "In the presence of your criticism, what essential quality or aspect of being do I lose access to?" And clearly, that would be curiosity. So in order to have a fidelity to our own unfolding, we have to say, "Okay, in this moment in the face of your criticism, I have lost access to my essential curiosity. And so now, what I want to do is I want to try to access that curiosity and apply it to your criticism," and then you'll notice that the whole relationship moment, the tension will soften because you're willing to listen to what your partner has said even if your partner has said it in a way that is not simple.

Neil Sattin: How do you avoid then, this becoming totally one sided in a relationship where one person is willing to do the work and where the other will happily dish out criticisms and ways of trying to control their partner to make life easy for themselves?

Jett Psaris: Well, the truth is you don't avoid that, you don't avoid anything in this approach. And what you do is you establish this fidelity to your own unfolding, and that's primary. And then, what actually happens is one of two things, you outgrow your partner and that becomes very evident and then the question is of whether I should leave or not really becomes moot, becomes obvious, or your partner sees who you're becoming and jumps on board. And I can tell you that happens more than... The latter happens more than the former. The experience they have of your openness, your clarity, your kindness, your skillful means, they begin to say, "I want to be more like that. I want to find that in myself. I want to join with you in this enterprise that you have initiated." And I can tell you when that happens, often the turn is quite dramatic, and then you have established a new chapter on your ground between you based in the shared value of being allies, intimate allies in this journey.

Jett Psaris: But it is true that there are those who resist and defend and say, "You know, I don't want to do this work." And then the person who is doing the work, they become stronger, clearer and then they have a choice. Do I want to stay with you and accept you 100% as you are? And then of course, they also have developed the abilities to set boundaries and the rest of that, or is this really no longer... Has this taken us where we could go together, and do I want to actually step outside of this relationship now and move forward on my own? And that's a scary place for people. But it's a lot scarier not to take the journey because if you don't take the journey that seed acorn of you will wither and die.

Neil Sattin: So journey or death? The choice is up to you.


Neil Sattin: And guess what, we all die anyway.

Jett Psaris: We all die anyway. It's a series of deaths. Of course, this is a totally transformational process, we get very good at dying psychologically and emotionally speaking, over and over again, that's we become part of the cycle of life, and that's why I think we all long for intimacy so much because it's so fresh, it's so new, it's so exciting, there's no longer, been there, done that, everything becomes sacred. And that's when I think life really becomes everything that we've read about.

Neil Sattin: So what does the process look like? And I think this would be good to complete our overview of what someone's gonna go through and then maybe we can offer some actual beginning steps for you, listening, so that you can get a sense of how to take this journey.

Jett Psaris: Yeah. Can I blend those two together?

Neil Sattin: Please.

Jett Psaris: Yeah. The first step, it's just non-negotiable. The first step is that your starting point is "Whatever is happening is about me, not about my partner." And I have to tell you that that can be an easy step for some, and a very, a very large leap for others. For a period of time, at least as an exploration, take on the task that this is about you and not about them. And later on, when you have done that thoroughly, you can examine what part is also about them, but initially you cannot do that. I ask my couples to go on a detox diet of not critiquing, complaining, evaluating, noticing, psychoanalyzing their partner. When you stop, even doing this verbally or in your mind, when you stop focusing your attention on your partner, you're left with having to explore, which is difficult, what is actually going on for you. So the first task is "This is about me, not about you."

Jett Psaris: The second one is to stop critiquing. Stop that outward flow and that is very important. The next task is to recognize that there's more to you in that moment than you think. So whatever you think is going on, there's a lot more going on than that. And so, your work is to inquire into the experience you're trying to get in that moment and the experience you're trying to avoid in that moment. Once you do that, it will bring you naturally down into whatever the contraction is that is keeping the self-concept in place. So I'll use an an example. So if you come in... Oh actually can I use you as an example?

Neil Sattin: Sure. Let's go for it.

Jett Psaris: Okay. [chuckle] Good. Can you give me an example of a reaction that is familiar to you, you have it with your wife, and it happens periodically? Or everyday?


Jett Psaris: Because a lot of these reactions they happen everyday.

Neil Sattin: Right. Well, this almost never happens but...

Jett Psaris: Okay.


Jett Psaris: Good.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, sure. Let's go with, I'm working and I'm working a lot and, I get a complaint from her that that I'm working too much and I haven't prioritized our connection enough.

Jett Psaris: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Let's say in that day even.

Jett Psaris: Yes. And let's say in that moment, you're not in your most conscious and spacious self who would probably say, "Oh, you know, I hear that you are wanting more time with me," right? So in our most conscious self that's what we would say. But let say that you're actually working really hard and you're trying to get somewhere, accomplish something, and so this interruption actually threatens what you're trying to accomplish. What's the first thing you experience was the reactive experience when she interrupts you with her complaint?

Neil Sattin: That she doesn't value what I'm doing.

Jett Psaris: Right. And how is that familiar for you?

Neil Sattin: Well, it's a pattern that certainly came up in other relationships that I had before. And I think it connects me... In this moment, I'm seeing my parents very clearly and thinking about how I had to justify my choices to them. Yeah, things that were interesting to me that I wanted to pursue that they didn't necessarily approve of. So, in those moments I would feel like they didn't value what I was doing. I had to do something different to get their approval.

Jett Psaris: Right. So in that moment when she has that complaint, it brings you back to an old area of sensitivity that who you are and the choices you make are not valuable. So, in that moment, you lose access to your intrinsic value which is your essential trait and you experience the part of you that wants to make his own choices, but also his choices in some way threaten the stream of goodwill and approval from the other, whoever that is, parents or your wife. And so in that moment, if you don't become reactive and push against her complaint, you don't value me with your own complaint, that's how we separate from each other. If you were to use her complaint as an invitation to drop back in your history to the young boy who had passions and desires that were disapproved of, what vulnerable experience would you have there? What was the vulnerable experience of that young boy?

Neil Sattin: He felt alone and self doubt comes up for me. Yeah, like maybe I... Yeah, a lot of uncertainty and confusion almost, like if I can't... I guess, I can't trust myself.

Jett Psaris: Yeah. So the self doubt comes up in order for you to maintain the relationship with your parents or your wife. But the vulnerable feeling that you're talking about is you feel lonely. You feel like they severed the relationship with you in that moment. You lost access to the common ground you once shared. And you also lost access to the feeling of passion that you were engaged with when you were in your own little world alone. And so, that's a moment of trauma. And if we can use your wife's complaint to bring you back to to that moment of trauma, and to just simply feel it, what you will find is there'll be a little unwinding, the contraction will soften, and there'll be more space to actually experience the real message that your wife is conveying which is, "I miss you."

Jett Psaris: It would be great if she could say that, but it's equally important that she can't because you need to develop the ability to stay in contact with yourself without defending against what she says, and to stay in contact with yourself and also it will bring you to deeper contact with her because she said, "You know, I hear what you're really saying is you miss me. And that is actually what I wanted in the beginning." And so, then the two of you can be allies, "You know, I hear that you miss me and actually now that you're saying that, you've kinda jogged me out of this addiction to my work. And let me just finish this up and let's spend some time together." Or you'll say, "I miss you too, but this is a priority for our family. And so can we kinda support me around completing this project, and then let's plan some extended time together so that we make sure that we're also nourishing the well of our relationship." So then you become resourced.

Neil Sattin: How helpful is it to, when going through that inquiry, to let my partner know that that's... Like to let them know what I'm going through or what I'm experiencing, what I'm seeing?

Jett Psaris: Well, if you have the emotional strength to reveal your process and there is a welcoming environment to do that, I would say do that. If it feels too risky, then I suggest that clients say to their partner, "Listen, something's just come up for me. I just feel triggered in this moment. It's not about you. I'm gonna spend the next hour to diving in into that and can we meet up at 3:00, so that I can reveal that to you and we can talk about it." It is very important to let your partner know that you're in process. And if you don't have the strength to reveal that process or that process needs some incubation time to protect its space. But you maintain the relationship with a promise to do your work and come back into discussion about what just transpired. That is very important.

Neil Sattin: And just to be clear, the process of diving in, there wasn't some magical mantra around the experience that I was having. It's more about simply being with that experience to get to the other side.

Jett Psaris: Yes. It's well said, first of all, I just want to also appreciate, I mean how many... Just to, this is a note to the listeners, how many podcasters you know who willing to enter the process personally, so a big thank you for that. It is about freshly meeting each experience with the knowledge of the patterns but the willingness to let this step outside those patterns. And so, there is a mix. You have a knowledge of familiar patterns which you are able to quickly identify. And that's very important, because patterns are always a result of the compensatory and cracked identity. But there's also the willingness to have a completely fresh insight and a completely new experience of that moment where you lay down the pattern, and maybe for the first time, come into contact with the original heart of the moment when you were disproved of, or not appreciated, or rejected.

Neil Sattin: So what are some ways that that could manifest? So that if you're going through this at home, you're probably wondering like, "All right, what could that look like for me if I'm willing to just be there? It sounds scary." I have to say, as I was reading your book, I was feeling mixes of elation like, "Wow, this is amazing." And I felt very viscerally the fear coming up of my parts responding to, "Ooh, that's gonna be scary when you do that [chuckle], or that could be frightening when you just rest in that with Chloe. Chloe's my wife. So yeah, it brings up a lot. And you call it the black hole, and I'm sure there's some good reason behind that.

Jett Psaris: [chuckle] Yeah. Well, the black hole is where we really drop into that core sensitivity, and it feels very uncomfortable. And it feels uncomfortable to the compensatory identity which has just failed at its mission to keep you out of that discomfort. That's the whole idea of the compensation is for you to actually maintain control, feel safe, and feel comfortable. And so, when you drop into these core sensitivities, most of us scramble quickly to get out of them. You know, that's okay too. What happens is, in my experience, we don't drop into the black hole in a way that is annihilating. It's a little bit more like a snake shedding its skin. When we're ready to drop into the black hole and reveal that piece that's needing our attention and healing, there really already is a substantial experience of ourselves ready to pick that... Pick something up to, in essence, rises up to carry the day. And so we're not gonna drop into the hole and go into a self-destruct. It will absolutely feel uncomfortable, and it feels uncomfortable every single time.

Jett Psaris: But what happens is, we develop the capacity of making that transition, and the rewards on the other side are... They're so positively reinforcing, because we get to have that experience of ourselves like when we first fell in love. And so, it is something that happens over time. It's very helpful if you have a therapist, or a spiritual guide, or close friend to do this work with, because it is helpful to have a kind and gentle holding environment. But over time, you just begin to look for the opportunities to fall into that place and recover the sense of self as infinitely loving, open, generous, kind. And so this work really builds on itself.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You talk about the, I think you call it the flip where your fear of not doing the work outweighs the fear of facing into those experiences that you were initially trying to avoid.

Jett Psaris: Yeah. I call it the flip. Other traditions call it the spiritual warrior. You develop the commitment to your own unfolding, and you place that over these passing discomforts. At that moment, you have shifted your center of gravity away from a protective, controlling, predictable sense of self and life into a more fluid, more surprising, definitely more spontaneous, and exciting way to be. It's a little bit like moving from the land which is predictable. We walk on land, it's predictable, and jumping into water, where there are all kinds of new, and interesting, and exciting, but also scary movements that occur, you're not in control anymore.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Chloe often... I've heard her recount this story of snorkeling in Bali. I think it was Bali. And being right at the edge of this drop-off from... It went from, I think, the coral reef down into who knows how many thousands of feet and just seeing the shadows lurking just below the light and how terrifying that was.

Jett Psaris: That's a wonderful experience. And I often use snorkeling, because most of us when where based in our self concepts, we're like looking at the surface of the water, and this work you're putting on some gear and you're dropping below the surface and there's an entirely new magical, beautiful world. And so, at some point, we long for our depths and for that magic, and mystery, and largeness, and relationship definitely is the sacred path to that experience.

Neil Sattin: I have to say, it was kind of funny to me thinking just now about how so much of our time can be spent trying to avoid conflict, and in that situation that I described with Chloe, we would probably make some agreements that would be around like, "Okay, on Mondays I only work until 6:00 PM," That sort of thing to avoid... Coming across that circumstance and what I hear you saying is, well that could be great and you get this magnificent opportunity by being in the discomfort of failing or where you're compensatory strategy is. The things that initially brought you together with that person because you complimented each other so well, where they start to fall apart.

Jett Psaris: Yeah, beautifully said. Basically, my way of saying that is, if you can make an agreement and keep the agreement, by all means go ahead and do that. When you make an agreement and you can't keep them, then you know that you have created false ground between you and that there's something deeper that's actually needing to be seen and addressed. And so, when the agreements fall apart which they will, if it's a repetitive deep issue, then you want to ask yourself, what does the agreement protect you from experiencing? And usually that will be as you said earlier discord, it protects you from experiencing that you're having a different experience than the other, and we want to protect ourselves from that.

Neil Sattin: Are there core agreements that you think are important in relationship?

Jett Psaris: I think, I encourage all couples to address that question, more kind of maybe in terms of core values which might cover the same area. So, some relationships have a core value of telling the truth as we know it, creating a receptive environment for the truth, becoming conscious of underlying motivations and behaviors, so it depends. It should be born of the specific couple not kind of universal, I think, core agreements, but doing the work of forging those core values in agreements is probably as or more important than when you come up with on your list. It's saying, this is how I want to be in life with you, and can we agree to that? And if that seems to change, can we speak about what's changing?

Neil Sattin: And it makes me curious to know, like those situations where an agreement is broken, and that could be something like, "I said I was gonna stop working at 5:00 and it turns out I planned an interview for 6:00." [chuckle] Or it could be something more that feels bigger like a betrayal, an emotional infidelity, an affair, something, I gambled all our money away, like those kinds of things. How do you apply... 'cause what I heard you saying earlier is to help someone realize, "Well, this isn't about the other person, this is about me." And how do you merge that in a situation where there's maybe some shock or trauma going on from an agreement having been violated?

Jett Psaris: Well, I'll been meeting with a couple tomorrow, where it's a man and a woman. And the man has apparently gambled away their life savings, and she feels deeply betrayed by that. But I have to say that her starting point in asking for the session is that she said, "I recognize that I contributed to the outcome I'm experiencing. I did not take an active role in finances because I was afraid. I knew all along that he had tendencies around gambling, and I didn't want to look at them. We have two children, I didn't want that as another issue to have to deal with." And so, right out of the gate, she's recognizing that this has to do with her. It doesn't mean she doesn't feel betrayed, because she has a pattern, as you talked about earlier, her father also gambled. And so, the narrative is very personal for her, but her starting point is one of taking personal responsibility for what occurred, and wanting to explore what occurred, instead of just making him into a rotten, horrible human being.

Jett Psaris: And so, that's the rigor of this and that can be very hard when we talk about gambling away one's life savings. It can be very hard when you talk about having an affair. These are the areas that hit us the most deeply in our psyches, and touch into the deepest of our sensitivities and traumas. And they're the ones that really provide generally the most transformation because they are touching so deeply. So again, the content of what's occurring is not as important as the commitment and the fidelity to unpacking... I love your phrase "delaminating," I'll have to use that. Delaminating these places that we have become hardened and separate from life.

Neil Sattin: So now, I'm listening to us and I'm driving in my car, and I'm thinking about this conversation that's touching down into the core of my essence, and I know it's there. What can I do in this moment to take a step in that direction of getting clear on where my work lies, and also maybe how to... Well, I understand you're saying, Jett, that it's not required, but how might I invite my partner into that with me?

Jett Psaris: Well, I think the best invitation is by example. And so, the strongest invitation is this is the way I want to approach what has just transpired between us. I want to look at how I became a part of this narrative with you and how it's familiar in my own life so that I can be more awake, and conscious, and resourced when things like this occur, and so that we together can create a digestive system that can digest what life brings to us. And so, I think that's kinda the answer to your second question. The first question is not quite so clear. If you just experienced a betrayal and you just found out about that, the first thing you're gonna experience is shock. And so, when we experience shock, that is something has come into our field that feels larger than what we can handle.

Jett Psaris: And so, the first thing we need to do is not scramble and to actually do the opposite which is very hard to do, which is stop and rest and wait until our warm animal body calms down. And we can walk, we can meditate, we can bathe in warm water, whatever helps us calm our animal body, which always is the one that bears the burden of these shocks. And when we begin to feel like we're coming out of the shock, then we begin by slowly wondering, what does this situation have to do with me? How is it familiar? And we begin to apply that essential curiosity and interest to what has transpired and recognize that the content of our lives is there to grow the context of our lives, our being, our openness, our resourcefulness, our genius, our capacity to love and care for ourselves and each other. The more we recognize that the content is there to rub us in a way, create a friction to enlarge that context, the more likely we are to use what happens between us, what arises within us, to actually do the work that I'm describing in undefended love.

Neil Sattin: And one quick addendum question to that. How do I stop from victimizing myself? I want to inquire, I don't want to blame myself.

Jett Psaris: You don't want to blame anyone.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jett Psaris: Because this isn't actually a problem. This is the way transformation occurs. The only way we can see what we can't see is by bumping into it and suffering the discomfort of it.


Jett Psaris: So, we don't want to become a victim, we don't want to identify as a victim, we don't want to victimize others, we want to join together. And it's all hands on deck, and do what's necessary to wake up and to use the weather of our lives, that's what I'm calling the content, the weather of our lives, to see that which the weather is happening in. So, if I have a feeling, I don't have to become anger, I'm just feeling angry; it's something that is occurring within me. I don't have to... If I have a thought, "This isn't right," that's just a thought. That thought is occurring within me, and there're gonna be thoughts, 60,000 according to Stanford, additional thoughts before the end of the day is up. And so, we become larger than these passing inconveniences or moments of disruption and confusion.

Neil Sattin: And then, you get to experience yourself as bigger than all of those things.

Jett Psaris: Yes. And more resilient and more skillful.

Neil Sattin: And more able to show up for love with your partner.

Jett Psaris: Exactly. Well, all those things is love really. We become love instead of being a consumer of love.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Then you embody it in what you do. We're not gonna have a chance to talk about it today, but I loved your discussion of needs versus desire versus wants versus desires, and how we progress through that to get to a place where we're actually good with how life is, which doesn't mean we don't desire things.

Jett Psaris: Right.

Neil Sattin: But we welcome it.

Jett Psaris: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: The big yes that you mentioned earlier in our conversation.

Jett Psaris: That's right.

Neil Sattin: Well, Jett Psaris, thank you so much for joining us today. It's been a pleasure. I could talk to you for another hour I'm sure, but your tree crew showed up.


Neil Sattin: And I'm just so delighted to have you here. Jett is, as we mentioned the co-author of "Undefended Love" along with her partner Marlena Lyons. And you can get links to her websites through the show guide for this episode. Again, you can visit, or text the word "Passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: Jett, is there anything else currently going on in your life or your world that you'd like to tell people about? Or if they want to find out more about you, where should they go?

Jett Psaris: Oh yeah, my website is And I just published a new book this year which I'm very excited about, "Hidden Blessings: Midlife Crisis As a Spiritual Awakening", that has won a couple of awards already. And for those in midlife, over the age of 40, that might me something if you like this approach, basically. It's an undefended approach to the midlife passage which I believe is arguably the most transformative passage of one's lifetime. So, do take a look at that, if this approach is of interest you.

Neil Sattin: Well, I definitely will, and I encourage you listening to do the same. And thank you so much for your time and wisdom today. And I look forward to speaking again at some point.

Jett Psaris: Thank you so much. I appreciate you and the work you're doing.

Neil Sattin: Thank you!

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Check out Jett Psaris's website

Read Jett’s book Undefended Love and check out her new book Hidden Blessings: Midlife Crisis As a Spiritual Awakening Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jett Psaris

Amazing intro/outro music (not including the Namaste chant) graciously provided courtesy of:

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Dec 6, 2017

How important is it to find the "right" partner? If you're inspired by thoughts of how amazing a relationship could be - but wondering what to do next - this episode is for you. Today, we talk about the most important ingredient for having a conscious, authentic, amazing relationship. It's something you can do whether or not you're in a relationship. And doing this gives you the power to create exactly the kind of relationship that you're looking for. 

I'm NOT saying that anyone could be right for you. But what I AM saying is that you have more control over your relationship destiny than you think - even if you're already in partnership. The thing is, though - it requires effort, and attention. You can't coast your way to an amazing relationship.  

This episode is a follow-up to last week's episode - "Crafting an Uncommon Bond and Soulshaping - with Jeff Brown" - and inspired by a conversation with a friend of mine about that episode.

Sponsors: - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.



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Nov 28, 2017

What do you do when you want to shift your relationship from the mundane towards something more transcendent? Is this something you could experience with just anyone? And if not, how do you know if your relationship has this potential? Also...what happens when the podcast guest starts interviewing the host?! In this week’s episode, we’re diving deep into the question of conscious relationship a bit differently, through a conversation with writer, seeker, and spiritual activist Jeff Brown.  Jeff is the author of the books Soulshaping and An Uncommon Bond, and director of the documentary Karmageddon: The Movie. His words and wisdom shine light on the journey of becoming more and more who we are meant to be, should we choose to follow that path. It’s not meant to be easy, but it is totally worth it - and in today’s episode of Relationship Alive we detail some of the important steps along the way.

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome, to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. On this show, over and over again, we've been talking about the topic of conscious relationship. What does it mean to evolve your relationship to some place new, some place different? How do you recognize the patterns that are just about unhealthy relating, things that you've inherited from the culture, from your parents, from your friends, from your karma and how do you identify those things and get to a place where you can move past them to unchartered territory - that's about coming together clearly with your partner and helping each other, heal, grow and have a mission in the world, that's maybe something you do together or maybe it's supporting each other in your separate missions, but in the end, wanting both you and your partner to shine more brightly in the world and to do that in a way that enhances your connection as opposed to growing you apart?

Neil Sattin: On today's show we are having a very special guest, Jeff Brown, who is the author of An Uncommon Bond which is a novel about conscious relationship. He's also the author of Soulshaping and he is followed by thousands and thousands of people on Facebook and elsewhere who tune in to the way that he writes and how it evokes new insight, new states of consciousness and it's a real pleasure to have him here with us today to talk about his book, to talk about conscious relationship and to talk about soul shaping and how we can craft our growth and development in a way that's generative for you and for the world around you as well. So thank you, Jeff Brown, for being here on Relationship Alive with us today.

Jeff Brown: My pleasure Neil. I'm also quite grateful for this amazing work you're doing in the world, trying to raise awareness of conscious relationship and really deepen into the dialogue. I think it's such an important step forward for all of us.

Neil Sattin: Thank you. Thank you, yeah, it's something I'm incredibly passionate about and it's always a pleasure to have, to be able to sit down with someone like you who also is equally passionate about, thinking about where we're going along with where we've been. So maybe we could start by just, I've already mentioned your books and, oh by the way, we will have a show guide for this episode so if you're interested in downloading that, you can visit or you can text the word 'PASSION' to the number 33444 and follow the instructions and we'll get that show guide to you. So, let's maybe just start with, what is soulshaping? Since that is at the core of your work.

Jeff Brown: Soulshaping was really, I mean, when I had begun to write my first book, I was just trying to make sense of my own experience and what ultimately made sense to me at that time was that, as I looked back on my life, it seemed that I had some internalized what James Hillman called the innate image or what I have come to call 'soul scriptures', that I had some encoded sacred purpose, that included key relational figures, particular callings to certain work in the world, certain archetypal transformations that I was here to go through as though I was somehow shaping my soul towards wholeness and as I looked at every stage of my life, there were a lot of seemingly insignificant experiences in moments but there were these very fundamentally relevant and significant moments, externally sourced but also often coming from within, that seemed to be pointing me in the direction of a particular encoded path that I was here to walk in order to move in the direction of a more inclusive and whole centered consciousness.

Neil Sattin: And so part of your work, I know you do soulshaping sessions with people as well, so you're writing about it and then you're also helping people discover that path for themselves?

Jeff Brown: I am but I defined it very broadly. I think what shifted for me when I began, is I was very focused on callings. The calling to write Soulshaping, your work in the world right now. You know, Oprah Winfrey has worked to bring that message, whatever that message is or was, to the world and what I've come to believe and understand and so much of my session work is focused on, is really dealing with the unresolved emotional material. Because for me, I grew most in my spirituality through the evolution of my emotional processes. For me, emotional maturation and spiritual maturation are synonymous. I don't distinguish the two, that's why I'm so deeply opposed to split off or dissociative views of spirituality, ideas of enlightenment that exist, independent of the emotional body, the unresolved ego, the story that is yet to be processed, because for me, this is where most of the transformation happened.

Jeff Brown: At the end of a deeper profound emotional process, I found that I was able to hold the space for the everything in a much more inclusive way. So soul shaping for me now is more than callings and archetypes. It's really, really about getting into that material that we hold individually and that we bring forward from the unresolved collective and doing the work that allows us to transform our individual and collective consciousness, so that we could move individually and collectively in the direction of a more inclusive or whole centered consciousness.

Neil Sattin: And that's one thing that I really appreciated in reading An Uncommon Bond and I think you even mentioned it in your own notes at the end. This need to bring spirit into your embodiment, and so much of what I talk about and what my partner Chloe and I work on in the world is, allowing your body to be included in that experience, not in a way that is dissociating from your body, but where your somatic experience is actually intrinsic and gives you such a wealth of information about what's happening with you on those more subtle levels. I like how you did that in your book, and emphasize that...

Jeff Brown: Well, I don't even understand how one has any experience of anything independent of the body. I think that all of that is just nonsensical for me. If I look back at the experience that inspired An Uncommon Bond that profound opening, all of it happened through my somatic structure. I felt as though I entered and opened and we opened together into some kind of a portal of experience, that seemed to transcend my embodied experience, but I'm not so sure that's true, I wasn't trained in the art of ecstasy, when ecstasy came my way, I didn't know how to hold it or contain it somatically and somehow imagined it was happening independent of my body.

Jeff Brown: But in fact, every single piece of that experience was happening through the body and the self hood, that was the container for the experience and I'm not so sure that we're going to get anywhere, particularly if we're trying to break through the patterns that obstruct our ability to actualize love between ourselves and others, if we don't go deep back into the somatic structure and work the selfhood and work the story and work what's held in the cellular structure, in order to transform it in the direction of being able to be more open and available and sustaining of love when it arises.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think for us, one thing that's been so profoundly transformative has been what happens in the quietness that, when Chloe and I are together, and I'm just speaking from my experience here, in the quietness and paying attention to what arises, what sensations arise, and even just speaking to those without labeling them, but just saying like, "Oh, this is where I'm experiencing some tension right now." or "I'm feeling this heat in this part of my body... " Those sorts of things end up becoming... The word that's popping into my head is transportational. They bring us somewhere to different levels of experience that wouldn't happen if you were focusing on the kind of intimacy that's just about getting each other excited and getting each other off.

Jeff Brown: Right.

Neil Sattin: I'm curious for you, the title of your novel is An Uncommon Bond and I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit more about what that even means, to have An Uncommon Bond?

Jeff Brown: I think we may have to rely on definition, it's a little bit lengthy but maybe the first part of it. I had an experience in '98 and I had no words for this experience but this experience changed my life and I was doing a masters at Saybrook. I was at Saybrook University in San Fransisco doing a Humanistic Psych degree, a masters and it just so happened that, right at the seeming end of that connection, Jeanne Achterberg, who had written about uncommon bonds and had co-defined the term, I believe with Donald Rothberg, I was doing an Uncommon Bond weekend and I was oblivious, I had no language for this profound experience and I was in a really profoundly confused place and walked in that room and suddenly felt like somebody understood what my experience was. Let me just read the first paragraph maybe of the definition.

Neil Sattin: That would be great.

Jeff Brown: Yeah, "Uncommon Bonds are love connections that are sourced in the transcendent and transpersonal realms. The couple feels destined to have met, their connection is sourced in grace. This often leads to an experience of parapsychological or paranormal events, such as synchronicity, soulendipities, and non-local communications that defy known laws of time and space. There's a knowing of pure recognition of the other, a feeling of being cut from same cloth, a sense of having occupied the same body in a previous life, or perhaps one soul residing in two bodies. The lovers experience a prayer of gratitude and a sigh of relief as though coming home after decades of wandering, a transpersonal energy dances within and between the couple, spiritual practice is important to them, since the relationship is often experienced as the premiere spiritual engagement, an outgrowth of a relationship with the absolute."

Jeff Brown: And then it goes on to say that, "The relationship polishes the rough diamond of the soul, for this reason, the relationship is sometimes dark, arduous, complex, accompanied by many dark nights of the soul. At the same time, there's a sense of the soul work could not happen in any other way than through the relationship, repeated dancing back and forth, no self, no disappearing wave to particle and back, characterizes the growing, changing, polishing and refining process."

Jeff Brown: It's the profound crack open in the presence of another who feels destined to have walked your way in this lifetime. Feels deeply familiar even if you don't believe in past lives, you have this experience and you're certain that they existed and at the same time, at this stage of human development, because of where we're at in terms of understanding the shadow, they are remarkably difficult to sustain and particularly if one or both people in the dynamic are not egoic-ly strong enough to hold to their center and the merging, usually the studies indicate, Jeanne's studies that usually they end up breaking up unless they encounter each other or re-encounter one another at a much older age.

Neil Sattin: Interesting.

Jeff Brown: It's just too much to hold. It's just too much to hold.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I think because, and this is why these kind of connections can sometimes just knock you on your ass, it's like it can... It takes you to that place where you have to recognize at some level, your dysfunction, as well as those transcendent states of, oh my God! I just met the most amazing person and they're... If it has all those feelings of reconnecting on a deep, mystical level.

Jeff Brown: And that's part of the problem. And what you said earlier was true, they knock you down to your ass. Basically, they pull you up and out and that may just be because we just don't know how we get to orient that experience or to have that experience in a way that's integrated with our humanness, right? We don't have that training and I just don't know if we're at that stage developmentally where we can hold all of that at one time, that's the work. That's the work of conscious relationship. To be able to bring together the... Something called the transcendant, if in fact there is any way to transcend and the imminent. And in my experience, that's exactly what happened. Was a transport of experience or what you call a transportational experience but the opening into the light, the light was so powerful and profound, it could not help but reveal the shadow. And of course, not only our shadow, we were walking into the collective shadow in that experience because you can't have one without the other. You can't have a spirituality that only allows you to have ecstatic experience without also having the portal open to the shadow, the emergence of the shadow.

Jeff Brown: So we entered into both of those places and then it just simply becomes a question of whether we're equipped, whether we're supported, whether we're capable and how toxic is our unresolved emotional material. Because if it's too toxic, if there's too much in the way of an abandonment wound, or a jealousy wound, or a betrayal wound, or whatever it is that you're carrying, it becomes almost impossible to sustain it because it just becomes too painful.

Neil Sattin: Now, we spoke a little bit before the interview officially started and I come down pretty strongly on the level of, not that everyone has to stay together, like if you find someone and you fall in love that somehow you're like, you have to be together for the rest of your lives, that's not where I am. However, I do feel like there's a journey of skill building and opening and healing that could actually bring most people to this transcendent place. That's just my belief and I'm curious to know where you come down on that in terms of, do all connections have the potential to be Uncommon Bonds versus not.

Jeff Brown: Yeah. I'm writing about this on an individual level in my current book. It is very similar to what people are doing individually, they're trying to pull up and out of the humanness in order to have some kind of an ecstatic or inclusive or unity consciousness experience. And then they find it's unsustainable when they try to come back into the world and they have to integrate with the world, and they have to confront their material. The unresolved material that they're actually carrying in their bodies.

Jeff Brown: I think that the problem is this, if I think of dynamics I've had that started really on a ground or pragmatic level, they didn't have that element of pull up and out. They didn't have what we might call a mystical aspect. Usually, there's not enough charge in the connection to want to go through that process or to believe that you're gonna land at a place where you're going to have an expansive experience together. So usually, it starts with something that pulls you up and out that feels like there's some profound joy potentially waiting for you, if you can do some work along the path.

Jeff Brown: But what I do believe, what does make sense to me is that something happens in the earth bound work, the relational work, the work that you're doing in your partnership, I'm sure, around the unresolved material that emerges, the social anxiety, the discomfort. All the levels of triggering that are happening in dynamics that have some charge to them. That if you can see that process through, and I don't think a lot of people have. We don't have a lot of love elders to talk to about this yet Neil, but I think that they do, that I have a feeling that they do integrate back into an experience of that ecstatic union in a way that feels more real to me, more sustainable for sure and may have a remarkably different tenure or resonance than the experience, for example, that I had in the initiating Uncommon Bond experience.

Jeff Brown: I'm stuck with this. I'm not exactly sure which way to go with... I can't really fully answer your question because I'm still trying to figure that out myself. But I do know for sure that if you don't come back and do the earth bound work and you don't weave all the threads together within you and break through all of the obstructions within you that, for sure the experience that you're having is unsustainable.

Neil Sattin: Can we get really practical for a moment and talk about what that process of resolving could look like for someone? And maybe even what's a step or two that someone could take after they listen to this episode of the podcast that would help them move along that journey.

Jeff Brown: Okay, so let's say you've met somebody and you've had this awakening, we'll call it an awakening experience with them. And you feel like you've entered into some portal that feels beautiful, delicious and at the same time feels vulnerable and terrifying, or something. Then I think, probably what you would begin to do if you wanted to sustain it and deepen it and grow through it without knowing necessarily if this is someone who'll be with you for life, you don't know that really yet, is you would begin to work probably somatically to uncover all of the levels of material that are getting in the way.

Jeff Brown: So for example, if you find yourself in that opening, suddenly feeling super triggered by the fact that this other person is presumably looking at other women, for example, and they may feel like they're just looking at them as they passed by them on the street, but a jealousy trigger might arise because now you have so very much to lose because your heart is so deeply opened. You have two choices, you either continue to sustain the reactivity that comes up rising in the trigger, or you decide you're going to work on your historical material. Past life aside, working on that, I don't know so much about that, but working somatically with a somatic-based psychotherapist, maybe a bioenergetic or core energetic or somatic experiencing therapist to really go deep into the caverns in the body to find out where the material is sourced, where it comes from and to try to work your way through to a more healed or transformed experience around it, so that when you re-engage in the connection and your partner happens to look at a woman walking down the street, you're not so triggered that you're going to obstruct the development of the connection.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So there's so much there in terms of being able to recognize that you have a trigger even happening and going through some sort of process to resolve whatever is stuck there that's causing the trigger. And with a jealousy trigger, it could be that there's something there, there's some reason that your safety radar is activated and that would be something to address in your coupleship.

Jeff Brown: And to determine whether or not it's based in reality, or whether it's based in your holdings, right?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Jeff Brown: The way I think of it more broadly is that if I think of my grandparents or my parents, they were organized relationally around a survivalist construct. They defined who they were by what put food on the table, and whatever roles or duties have been culturally conditioned into them, and the way that the system held that. Now, we're at the very beginning of this bridge crossing. And as a result of that, moving in the direction of authenticity as our orienting principle, that is we relate on the basis of who we really are, not on some basis of some role, duty, adaptation, disguise, or mask that allows us to get through a survivalist world. We're opening the door to a whole range of material that was really never been attended to by mostly anybody in historical terms. Certainly not in our family lineage, at least not most of us. This is the hardest time for everybody because it means if you're going to go on what we're calling a conscious relationship journey, which for me is an authentic relationship journey, you're going to confront a gigantic tsunami of unresolved material that you're holding and that's deep within the collective.

Jeff Brown: You need to be brave, you need to be patient, you need to be incredibly realistic. And a lot of people are not realistic, they're dealing with fire, they don't understand what that really means. It means it's gonna go on for years and years and probably always be part of your interface because we're the first path travelers crossing the bridge towards an authentic connection. And we're carrying an enormous amount of baggage with us.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm letting your words wash over me because... And I'm thinking about how our parents and grandparents, because they were oriented around survival, then that was an orienting principle that allowed them to brush things under the rug or to live in pain without resolving it.

Jeff Brown: They had a system. They had a system and a number of premises and beliefs that just allowed that to happen. "Don't look back." There's a million cliches that relate to that experience. They didn't expect anything different. They have no idea that anything else could even exist in that world and probably it wouldn't have been congruent with the way the world was organized. It's still really not. It takes a lot of time that we don't have to do this deeper work. And my concern is that people get an unrealistic vision of possibility for how quickly they're going to get there. I think that we need to understand we are doing the work of generations, we need to not be so damn hard on ourselves when we can't quite work a piece out, we need to allow ourselves to just step back and celebrate our little tiny victories 'cause in collective terms, they're humongous and not hold to some vision of possibility that's not sustainable or possible sociologically in one lifetime. That's not to be discourage us from doing the work, it's beautiful, it's beautiful work. But let's also be realistic about it.

Neil Sattin: I was like, and yet we're gonna try. And there's...

Jeff Brown: Absolutely.

Neil Sattin: And there's some tension in there too because the temptation would be to, now that you're not orienting around survival necessarily but you still have to maintain. So you still have to somehow survive...

Jeff Brown: We're still in a survivalist world Neil. We still have to adapt and mask and make a living and the whole culture economically is built around masking and branding and putting on a show and putting away your feelings and not throwing tantrums in the marketplace and all that stuff. It's mostly inauthentic. So that's hard stuff and then you gotta come back home to and wanna reconnect to the subtle realms, you wanna do conscious armoring, you wanna reach a stage where you go into the marketplace, you put on the armoring you have to, but you're conscious enough to know to come home and take it off. Not always that easy to take it off if you're trying to make a living and striving and grinding it out in the marketplace. And sometimes I know couples that get into this place where they're so impatient with each other because the partner comes home and they're saturated in the energy of the marketplace. Well, that's because we're just at the beginning of authenticity as a way of being and our social structures and economic structures aren't even built around any of this yet.

Jeff Brown: So we have to be realistic. Let me just say my experience... My initiating Uncommon Grounds experience taught me two things, two amazing things in all of that suffering and all that ecstasy. One is the possibilities that exist between two humans, in my view are so much more profound. I mean all this work that's been done around Wilber sketching models of consciousness with men sitting in meditation caves, I'm not interested in any of that. To me that is just patriarchal spirituality, it's safer, it's easier. I know why they focus there but to me it's the tiniest fragment of possibility compared to what's possible between two hearts. Because my experience was not only did we open to another portal, I felt as though there was a way in which if we could have kept going we could have actually co-created some aspect of this universe with love as the transformative device for that. It is... We're singing about love not knowing what the hell we're talking about, but we're moving in the right direction. I mean there's a reason why we're here and we feel love for one another. It is the direction to go. We're not just here together to keep each other company, we're here together to show each other God.

Jeff Brown: The other thing I learnt is how far we are for being able to sustain and deepen into that experience because of the stage we're at in the collective. Because the shadow is everywhere. Everyone is a trauma survivor if we compare their human experience to the realm of the most subtle humane vulnerable heart open possibility. So, we're going in the right direction, we got a real super long way to go and then we just have to decide if it's worth the energy that it's gonna take to get us some part of the way there.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think it's worth it. I totally think it's worth it.

Jeff Brown: You do, yeah, well, that's why you're doing this podcast. And I think it's worth it, and I also understand why some people who are carrying too much stuff or have too many practical challenges or don't have enough relational support because there is very little relational support out there for this kind of work, I can understand why they say, "Fuck it, it's not worth it. I'm just gonna have a more practical connection and put my energy somewhere else because the relational field is so challenging." It's all most people can do to manage and identify their own material. To put that two people in a room trying to do that and then weave the dynamic piece together and what comes up in the dynamic, it's extraordinary. Hard, brave, profound, terrifying work.

Neil Sattin: Something that I think is ironic, 'cause I'm just pondering like well, why... How did we even end up here in conscious relationship land? And I think that the irony at least as I'm seeing it right now is that, it's the the cultural idea that you can meet someone and they can be your your hero, you can have that love that lasts forever, that engages you in like the practical question of well, how is that really possible? And especially if you're not willing to settle for... Well, my grandparents were together forever but they never had a kind word to say about each other or that sort of thing. Or frequently had an unkind word to say, [chuckle] let's just say it that way. So it's diving into that question around what gets you to the long term that I think takes you out of the common way of experiencing relationship which we center around - like how much dopamine we get from it, how much exhilaration we feel, how romanced we are and it moves us because that in and of itself isn't sustainable. Its sustainable when you merge that with the kind of healing work that you're talking about that takes energy and attention and intention 'cause it doesn't just happen on its own.

Jeff Brown: Right.

Neil Sattin: I didn't mean to monologue there.


Jeff Brown: Oh it's no problem. I didn't wanna respond I think what you said was absolutely true.

Neil Sattin: So it gets me wondering then, if that's true, from your perspective, how would a partner bring attention to this, to... Like if you're in a relationship and you're caught in, like the first part of your book "An Uncommon Bond", I was frustrated, it was almost like how... Because it's portraying, this aspect of relationship and it... To me it almost felt like how there are all these songs on the radio that I can't even listen to anymore, that used to be themes for my life but now I just... I hear it and it just... I'm kinda like ugh, I don't wanna listen to that. So there's this question, if you know you're in that dynamic what's a pathway? What's a step in the right direction? Especially how do you bring that to your partnership?

Jeff Brown: Sorry, define that dynamic?

Neil Sattin: If you recognize like "Oh, We're just all over the map and we're getting triggered left and right and what we need to do is actually come to a recognition that what's required is attention and intention on our healing journey as well as our romantic journey. How do I bring that to a partner?

Jeff Brown: Well, that depends on the partner. Probably, gently at first but at some point probably very directly. There really isn't a choice. If you're not going to fall back to a survivalist framework for a dynamic. The term "conscious relationship" doesn't work for me 'cause consciousness is so bloody relative, you know? And it implies everybody before was unconscious and like "we're conscious". And I mean, compared to where we're gonna be in 300 years, we're also unconscious. So, I think of it as just getting authentic, an authentic form of relatedness, and I think that every couple decides how far they're gonna go in the direction of authenticity, of getting real with who they are and what lives below the surface and all the stuff that they see flying around in the dynamic and taking it seriously and understanding that it's real. Not looking at it through the lens of ungrounded spirituality which pretends that everything about the personality is unreal, but the ecstatic experience is real, well that's just ungrounded and nonsensical. And not moving in the direction of pragmatism, where you decide to just accept that's just the bullshit of life and you're gonna keep yelling and screaming and abuse each other and keep moving forward.

Jeff Brown: But every couple has to decide that, they have to have the conversation, somebody has to have the conversation, and we've all been part of that. I've been part of that conversation when I absolutely and utterly refuse to do the work. And I've been part of the conversation and the experience that initiated bond that then inspired Uncommon Bond, with somebody who absolutely refused to do the work. I had both experiences. At some point you just have to decide, you're either gonna break up, you're gonna embrace survivalism as a way of being, or you're gonna move in the direction of an immoral wakening, and authentic connection. Just initiate the conversation as gently as possible, it will often end up being a shouting match, because somebody very often, this was the experience with the Uncommon Bond studies. One partner wanted to really go forward and deepen into the shadow work and the other one absolutely and utterly refused to. It's rare to find two people who in a dynamic that is super charged and brings up the light in the shadow in really intense ways where both people are absolutely and utterly willing to do the work on the deepest deepest levels. I've encountered very few couples like that in my life.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's something where I certainly feel blessed when I realize that with my partnership.

Jeff Brown: If you got that, you're blessed. But it also means that you're gonna have a... In some ways a very hard path. A beautifully fulfilling path if you guys can see the process all the way through and not stop half way.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There are moments where it's really hard, and then there are moments where it's really beautiful.

Jeff Brown: You're doing the work for my Bubbe and Zeda. Of course it's hard. You're doing the work for everybody. Really, that has never been able to do that work, or even be aware of that, existence of that work. It's really amazingly remarkable, couples who do this work really need to just go out and have congratulatory dates and just give themselves a break when they can't quite get it right just because they're doing the work for everybody.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And there's something that's coming to me too around how the container of your relationship is so important too... And establishing that container is often one of the most challenging initial parts of a couple embracing this kind of journey together, is creating the safety that allows them to do that so that, when I look at my own experience, the things that are hard now are still hard but they're not hard in a way where I feel like everything is just gonna potentially fall apart like I did in those initial hard moments.

Jeff Brown: Because your container is solid.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, Exactly. But it took a lot of work to get there, to the solid container.

Jeff Brown: And what would you define as the key elements of that container?

Neil Sattin: Key elements of the container. One, well there are the prerequisites to the container, so first is developing your presence and by that I mean an embodied presence. Although I think there are times when a more dissociative mindfulness can be helpul, particularly when you feel your trigger coming up and you're right there with your partner. But for the most part it's the kind of presence that is about really being solidly in your body and knowing what is coming up when you're with your partner. So that's pre-requisite number one. And number two is establishing your communication, the kind of communication that's based on presence and that already has a backdrop of establishing safety. So you're shifting your communication paradigm where you recognize, okay, how we talk to each other about whatever is coming up for us. Like, our mission is to keep each other safe in that conversation. Not that we avoid things to keep each other safe but we bring things up in a context of safety. And if you get knocked off the rails, you figure out how to get back in line.

Jeff Brown: Got it. So it can be uncomfortable but not hurtful.

Neil Sattin: Exactly. Exactly. Or if you slip and you're hurtful you're like, "Woah! I fucked up. Sorry". Willingness to bring that into your awareness of how you communicate.

Jeff Brown: So the capacity for self reflection is very important in this process?

Neil Sattin: Exactly.

Jeff Brown: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Those two things along with a whole bunch of curiosity, I think get you to a place where you can start looking at the container. And that's both in terms of how you close your that means even seeing what your exits are in your relationship. The way that you put energy elsewhere or leave the relationship... Especially in the hard moments. And then on the flip side of container, it's like imbuing it with the beauty of your vision and what you want and what you crave and what you hope to embody together, or what you wanna amplify that you already have. It's a combination of those two things that I think get you to a place where now you can dive into harder work and that structure holds you.

Jeff Brown: And what do you feel... I know I'm turning this around on becoming the podcast questioner...but you have the wealth of experience in it. So how do you feel about the whole question of boundaries in terms of creating a safe container around monogamy versus polyamory. Can this work happen if one or both parties is engaged in the polyamorous lifestyle?

Neil Sattin: That's a great question. I think that it really depends on the couple. I have friends who are happily polyamorous. And I've had some clients who are happily polyamorous. But happily polyamorous also includes always being or, I shouldn't say always but very frequently being stimulated in the way that your partner being with someone else brings up your abandonment trauma or your need to be acknowledged or seen or... There are all kind of ways that that can still tap into your deep primal issues around safety. The question in the couple is, are you in agreement around it? And can you... If you're in agreement around what you're doing then you can have conversations that either restore your safety because something did jeopardize it in terms of being polyamorous.

Neil Sattin: Or you recognize like, "Oh, what I'm experiencing right now actually isn't about my partner at all. It's this deep issue that I've held within me that has no relationship to my partner except that they're stimulating it right now. And I'm gonna deal with that." That being said for myself and for a lot of people, the path of monogamy focuses energy in a way that I think is just... It's different. And I'm coming from a place too where I have two young kids and honestly, I can't imagine having the time to deal with all of that. I'm gonna do this conscious relationship thing but with more people in the mix. It seems on a practical level really challenging.

Jeff Brown: Yup.

Neil Sattin: And opening up to challenges. All the challenges around... And you brought up the word boundaries so maybe we re-visit that in a moment. But I think it introduces a set of challenges that create amazing growth. But that is not the growth that I personally choose.

Jeff Brown: Yup. I think it really depends on where you're wanting to go. And I think if you're wanting to go to the place of trying to explore and possibly develop the capacity to sustain the most profoundly inclusive kind of love experience. One that opens the portal to the everything, one that explores the portal to the everything, that it cannot happen in a polyamorous union. What I think they're exploring is more a preliminary stage work which for many of us is absolutely and utterly necessary. But I think because of the collective carry forward in terms of abandonment, betrayal and jealousy material, that you absolutely have to have a monogamous container if you're wanting to go all the way. Whether that'll be true in a thousand years, once we clear some of this debris, I don't know. Although I suspect it will be. I feel like what's happening in the poly-community is, apart from the whole self avoiding aspect of that for many of them, which is shrouded in all kinds of spiritual fancy talk. I just think they're not going to the same place because I don't believe humans can hold that portal open, that most profound deeply vulnerable portal open unless there's a monogamous container.

Neil Sattin: I think there's also a biological shift that is part of evolving a monogamous relationship. The way that the dopamine pathways in your body start to change where polyamory could potentially be counterproductive to that because... Well, here's where I come at it from. There are a lot of clients that I work with where their relationship has grown stale and what they long for, they think, is the rush of how it felt to meet and to be romanced and to have that huge sexual charge that I would say most people, not all but most people do experience in the beginning of relationship when they connect with someone. And they long for that and it's not there. And the challenge that I think... And so those people often come to me and say, "Do you think we should open up our marriage, so that we can get some more of that spark happening?".

Jeff Brown: No, they should enreal themselves and enreal their dynamic and go deeper and clear the debris so that when they connect sexually, they're actually present in a way that they never were able to be in the beginning.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so let's go there. Talk about enrealment.

Jeff Brown: That's my bias. Right? And I'm just writing a chapter about it in my new book and yeah, I just think that it's very easy to go to staleness and then go to spark, staleness, spark, staleness, spark. It's a life, right? It's a way of life but they need to at least have one experience of their lifetime of trying to go deeper into the shadow material together, clear the debris and develop a container or capacity, an experience of intimacy that's quite a bit different than the one that happens in the beginning when you don't really know one another. You don't know one another's shadow. For whatever reason we're transported to a place where we bypass that or crack through that or avoid that, whatever we're doing. But I think to move to the next place where you're actually deeply seeing of the other on every level. And if you're doing the work together loving them, devotionally, beautifully 'cause you have so much regard for the courage that they bring to the moment to moment experience of the connection doing that work, I think that the intimacy just starts to flow from a completely different place.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jeff Brown: But because there was no space to do that work and there's no modeling for doing that work and there are no love elders out there who can really support us in doing that work, we're at the beginning of that journey, it's easy to understand why they go back to spark because something's alive because the other spark, the spark I'm describing is the more sustainable depth-full integrated embodied woven spark that travels through us on every level. And to get there as you know, you have to do all the individual work to be able to be integrated and woven best between mind and body and all your aspects as an individual. It's so much work to get to that stage. You understand why they run away and go to spark again. But I think now we're having this conversation because we're at the beginning of trying to lay down the framework for how we go back to a different kind of spark while staying inside of the same union and beautiful but...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's a reason we're having this conversation and...

Jeff Brown: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: There's a reason you're listening to this conversation and I invite you, if you're listening and you're poly, from my perspective, I'm in no way gonna say, "Oh, you can't experience transcending conscious polyamorous relationship". I just invite you to examine the dynamics that are at work and see if that's what's happening or not.

Jeff Brown: Well you can have all kinds of extraordinary experiences. I mean, for a lot of people and it may be true for most of us at this stage of human development, not really individually prepared for the kind of work required by one monogamous connection. The poly's the path to gather information about who we are from various types of dynamics, to explore different portals, how different connections bring out different parts of us is beautiful, magnificent. Don't misunderstand me but if we're wanting to go all the way through to that uncommon bond experience sustainably, that's what I was saying, I don't think we can do it in that form. Can I ask you a question Neil?

Neil Sattin: Of course.

Jeff Brown: You mentioned earlier, you were talking about this idea that maybe what we need to do is do this groundwork, the shadow work, the working through the material work in order to have a more real experience or a more truly sustainable experience of say, great love. Right?

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Jeff Brown: When you ask that question, then I ask the question to myself, where does this sort of thing that just exists between two... 'Cause when I hear that I think well you can throw any two people into an elevator and if they both have the willingness to do the work, we're assuming that they can go to that place. And I'm not sure that's true because I do think there has to be something that exists between the two people. And I always ask myself, what is that thing that needs to exist between the two people? Because it can't just be any two people. At least it's my experience it can't be. And what I came up with when I was writing the Uncommon Bond was fascination or what you may call curiosity. That with some people you just have this intrinsic fascination about this. So let me read you a quote. I'm interested to hear what your experience of this is.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Jeff Brown: You can connect from all kinds of places. Energetic harmony, sexual alchemy, intellectual alignment, but they won't sustain love over a lifetime. You need a thread that goes deeper. That moves below and beyond the shifting sands of compatibility. That thread is fascination. A genuine fascination with someone's inner-world. With the way they organize reality, with the way they articulate their feelings, with the unfathomable and bottomless depths of their being. To hear their soul cry out to you again and again and to never lose interest in what it is trying to convey. If there is that, then there will still be love when the body sickens, when the sexuality fades, when the perfection projection is long shattered. If there is that, you will swim in love's waters until the very last breath. So that's from an Uncommon Bond. How do you feel about that? Does that feel true? Or do you feel as though sustaining fascination with another's inner-world for a life time is unrealistic?

Neil Sattin: Well I remember reading that and actually doing the translation... The way I translated that was curiosity. Or and now that I think about it even more, it's like, the word that comes to me is willingness... And part of that maybe involves the will because sometimes it is an act of will to bring yourself back and to remind yourself that there is a reason that I'm here. But what I also like about willing is that it implies for me, some vulnerability and openness. And that to me, leads to the curiosity. So it may be that and I'm just... This is just what's coming to me right here in this moment, I think it's true though especially that you'll do a different dance at different times. You're not gonna tango from now until the end of time although if you're Sue Johnson maybe you will do that cause she's really into the tango but I think that you are... There are moments where you are in your sexual realm together. There are moments where you're in your emotional realms, there are moments when you're in your intellectual realms, there are moments when all of those things intertwine and yes there are moments that will challenge us around illness, or if not... Between in you or in your partner, could be in a loved one or the way that what's unfolding in the world affects us.

Jeff Brown: You're right.

Neil Sattin: Things that require us to be called back to... Oh wow yeah there's something even deeper than that, that springs out for me and [chuckle] you know people who... You've been listening to this show for a while then you know I'm kind of a mystical guy so I'm really glad we're having this conversation Jeff, cause it allows me to go there.

Jeff Brown: But Neil, let me ask this.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jeff Brown: I guess what I'm asking is apart from the safe container, apart from my view that to go all the way to that most expansive thing monogamy is required, which many people won't agree with. I'm already ready to receive the emails of disagreement.


Jeff Brown: But... And that's fine, I'm open to that. But apart from all of those things that we put in place to hold it safe so we can do the work, whether it's in monogamy or in polyamory, whatever it is, does there have to be some fundamental spark or some soul essential feeling, forget love at first sight 'cause it doesn't have to happen in at moment but does something have to exist, some kind of energetic or soululer or karmic or cosmic charge that just some thing that pulls two people together that they feel like they're meant specifically to be doing this hard ass work together?

Neil Sattin: So, I think I missed your question initially, which was kind of like...

Jeff Brown: Not two people in an elevator...

Neil Sattin: Right, right.

Jeff Brown: Not just two people in an elevator, who make all these agreements but they don't have that thing or does that thing not really matter if you do this work with any other person, what about chemistry or what I call "karmistry" or "karmastry", I mean it's multi-languaging but what about that piece, where is that piece in all of it?

Neil Sattin: Yeah well then the question comes up for me like what led those two people to be in the elevator at the same time in that moment?


Jeff Brown: And my answer is one of them works on the 11th floor and one of them works on the 8th floor.


Jeff Brown: But anyway...

Neil Sattin: Exactly. What led to that and what led to that? That's where I get my mind blown on occasion when I think about how circumstances lead to where we exist...

Jeff Brown: But what about attraction, Neil? Clearly they're on the elevator... I'll go with you... They're on the elevator together for some reason, it was all destined, it was encoded, it was all... Fine. That doesn't mean they are supposed to be intimate partners. So where does attraction, where does...

Neil Sattin: Agreed.

Jeff Brown: The organic attraction fit into all of it? And where does attraction come from, in fact?

Neil Sattin: Yeah...

Jeff Brown: That's a whole other show, I'm sure.

Neil Sattin: It is, in fact I was just thinking, wow we just had our 100th episode with John Gottman and Sue Johnson. It was totally focused on attraction and even their take on attraction was just their take on attraction.

Jeff Brown: Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I... Okay so I harbor the thought that it's possible that if two random people on an elevator really opened their hearts that they might experience the attraction or the spark that I think is necessary for it to lead to this, to create the energy that sends two people off in this direction. They had one trajectory or they each had their own trajectory and it takes a little extra energy coming into the system to send their trajectories off in parallel or intertwined directions. So yeah, I think it's necessary and at the same time, there are people who are convinced that they've lost the spark with a partner and rediscover it. And how different is that from two people who just aren't open to the spark with each other but they could be? I'm not sure, I would love to do that study.


Jeff Brown: You have a powerful mind Mr. Sattin. These are all good questions. To me, the important thing is that we keep the inquiry open at this stage. I don't think most of us know much of anything, and I might include myself in that. But these are the right questions to ask, what is the basis for attraction? What are we moving from? Is it just societal conditioning? Is there something karmic and internal that really knows this is one of the beings we're here to encounter? And then the next question, is this somebody who we're supposed to do a short amount of work with or appear at a time as part of the journey, Or is this the person we're supposed to do decades and decades of work with? And how do we distinguish the two?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. How do we? Do you have a thought on that?

Jeff Brown: I have all kinds of thoughts on that but I don't have a definite answer. I do think there's something to be said for a knowing. And that we have to be careful, we have to have gone through enough in our own experiences to know the difference between sort of an immature knowing and one that's really a seasoned knowing, like an informed innocence rather than just a naïve innocence. And you do enough work and you've had enough experiences and you've learned enough lessons and been through enough disappointments that you do reach a stage where it's clear and clearer, where it's sustainable and where it just... For me, when I had the initiating Uncommon Bond experience, I couldn't imagine, it was unbearable to imagine that that was only there for a short period of time. Impossible.

Jeff Brown: I couldn't even hold that in my consciousness for more than it is, it was too painful. And it didn't make an ounce of sense to me because based on my experience, my limited experience with crack open love and my societal conditioning, if you had that kind of experience, of course you were supposed to marry and have children together. The only possibility that made any sense.

Jeff Brown: Now having been down the road a little longer and written a book about these processes, I can very safely and clearly say that I was absolutely not supposed to spend my life with her. No way. No how. Not possible, that's not what that was about. But you only know that by living.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And I love how you address that in the book too. The rush to... Like, "Okay, now it's marriage". And then it's babies and it's like there is something in us that wants to... I don't know what that is, I think you say, control, it's about controlling that experience to make it last.

Jeff Brown: Well, it is and it's also not being trained to know what to do with that amount of feeling so it wants to move somewhere, it wants to express itself in other forms and some people make the mistake of thinking that form has to be marriage and family life, which is not always true for every dynamic and...

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jeff Brown: Because when that feeling comes and you haven't had an experience, an uncommon bond experience, very few people have had that experience. It's all you can do to figure out where to send that energy because you're just not trained in the art of holding it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. There is one passage that I actually dog-eared here in my book that I wanted to read 'cause I think it speaks to what we're talking about, which is, may I?

Jeff Brown: Yeah, of course.

Neil Sattin: Quoting Jeff Brown. "You don't measure love in time, you measure love in transformation. Sometimes the longest connections yield very little growth while the briefest of encounters change everything". Maybe two people in an elevator, that's not in the book. "The heart doesn't wear a watch, it's timeless. It doesn't care how long you know someone, it doesn't care if you had a 40 year anniversary, if there is no juice in the connection. What the heart cares about is resonance. Resonance that opens it, resonance that enlivens it, resonance that calls it home and when it finds it, the transformation begins.

Jeff Brown: Somebody made that into a song, he had a singer sing that. I love the song version of that piece. And how do you feel about that piece?

Neil Sattin: I hate it. No, just kidding.

Jeff Brown: Yeah. I hate it a little too sometimes.


Neil Sattin: Well, it has that... There's the potential, right? Of just being, "Oh, you know, it was meant to be" or this is the silver lining talking. I'm just gonna say this... I had to grow from this and it was only meant to be, whatever. I spoke those words a lot when Chloe and I were going through our break up. Break ups, I should say 'cause it happened several times. I guess, this is what was meant to be and I guess this is what I was supposed to learn. But on a deeper level, the way that that speaks to me, is less about the time element of it and more about the resonance, the way that it brings our attention to how do we foster resonance. That's, I think, so key to the longevity of a connection, is your ability to foster it and I think that is through what we were talking about at the very beginning which is, how do you embrace your embodiment? How do you bring yourself right back into your body in the way that it and your partners bodies and experiences vibrate in resonance with each other and where they don't and how do you address that with each other?

Jeff Brown: And the absolute necessity of it. If you're just gonna do the transcendence bypass together, you're gonna be crashing down to earth pretty hard and harsh, right? You absolutely have to bring everything back into the body and we know what happens when we open the lines in the body, you don't have to do a bio energetic session with Al Lowen to know that it's gonna break everything up that's held within the container. This is the work right here and you're doing this work and this is the work that John Welwood's been writing about. Steven and Ondrea Levine have been writing about for years. Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks have been writing about for years, which is what we do when we come back down to earth. And how willing are we to do the work to get back into our bodies and deal with what lives inside of us?

Jeff Brown: At this stage of human development, resonance is... We need resonance in order to be... Feel the energy or the willingness or the hopefulness to go back into the shadow and do the work and hope that there is something in that connection that will still be there or even more deeply there later. But what we need more than anything are models and blueprints for what relational consciousness looks like and how we deepen it and how we sustain it and what has to be cleared through. This is the work of our lives and I'm fairly convinced that if we keep focusing on individual path, whether it's economically, as an economic accumulator or master of the economic realm or spiritually, individual practice and the meditation as road to God, that we are going to take ourselves farther and farther in the direction of the destroying this planet, 'cause we're not aware of anything horizontally outside of ourselves. And we're not going to know this realm of possibilities that exist between us. The profound realms of possibilities that exist between us, we have to develop blueprints for doing this shadow work and for knowing what embodied presence feels like and knowing how to hold to it and sustain it without running away from one each other in dynamics and that's the work right now that has to be developed.

Neil Sattin: One thing I loved about and An Uncommon Bond was how it transformed from something that was really frustrating me, into a healing journey and so much in the middle towards the end part of the book is about the healing path and how important that is.

Jeff Brown: Because Lowen had a choice - as did the author who was inspired to write the book. Either go back to armor and see the ending of the connection as more evidence of how impossible love is in this world and God knows we all have experiences that would fortify or support that belief or, and I remember the moment of my own experience when I had to decide, am I gonna walk away from this and close down and just stay shut down for good or am I gonna somehow find a way to walk right into that web of pain and try to find my way to love that experience forward in some other way in my life. And that's the moment of decision we make as individuals in a breakup and that's the moment of decision we make in a dynamic when the connection gets difficult.

Neil Sattin: And for you, where did you find the courage to make that choice?

Jeff Brown: It just didn't make sense to me, Neil. That... I guess I'm just not cynical enough or something. It just didn't make sense to me that this experience which seemed so... On so many levels, things happened that I didn't even put in the book that any normal person in the world would think that I'm insane to describe them, as true. Things happened that were radical. It's like we entered another realm and all kinds of things happened that never happen otherwise. And, it just didn't make sense to me that all of that could have happened just for me to spend my life suffering. There had to be some positive reason for this. And you know, I had beautiful grandparents who kept bringing me back to the light in my life, despite my difficult and challenging parents and they had something to do with that. I had enough of an experience with the light to know that there was some possibility that this was intended to take me to the light in a way that I could not possibly foresee in the heart of the darkness. I just believed it, I leaned towards that maybe 53% versus 47% in the other direction, that was enough.

Neil Sattin: The word that I didn't speak when I was mis-answering your question before was, there's a lot of faith and you could call it belief or you could call it faith but...

Jeff Brown: I had great faith. And I have great faith in humanity and I always, despite Donald Trump. I still have great faith in humanity.

Neil Sattin: Me too, me too. Jeff I'm wondering if you can just tell us a little bit about what you're working on now and how people can find you and find more out about you?

Jeff Brown: I'm writing, probably my last long book, a book about spirituality where I challenge through my own journey on grounded spiritualities, things that we've talked about a bit here and I make an effort to try to craft a model or a framework or more relational inclusive grounded framework going forward. So I'm hoping to have that book out in the Fall of '18. I'm continuing to publish other authors through Enrealment Press, you can see our books at We just published Andrew Harvey and Chris Saade's book "Evolutionary Love Relationships" which I think you would love.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. He was on the show to talk about it, actually.

Jeff Brown: Oh. He was. Okay, great. And I'm teaching at Soulshaping Institute. I'm gonna develop that quite a bit more after the book is done and they can find me at as my main website or on my fan page on Facebook.

Neil Sattin: Great. And I'm reminded too of your movie that you did which I haven't seen yet. I watched a few trailers and excerpts from it. It looks like it's fascinating. But it's about this question of spirituality and...

Jeff Brown: Yeah. And what is... It really, that is the question and it weaves the personal into it as the movie proceeds. It's a very intense watch. Definitely wear a tin foil hat while watching. But it does endeavor to speak to through the journey, this question of "What is real spirituality? Grounded spirituality? And what is dissociative spirituality?" I mean, that's really at the heart of the film.

Neil Sattin: Well, Jeff Brown, thank you so much for your time today and I feel like we could easily just talk for another hour which I'd love to do. But I know that you have commitments and I have commitments too. But that being said, I hope that we can chat again.

Jeff Brown: Great.

Neil Sattin: For the podcast. And if anything has come up for you listening, reach out. You can get in touch with Jeff through his website. You can always reach me, neilius, N-E-I-L-I-U-S, And if you want the show guide that summarizes this conversation and along with takeaways, you again can visit or text the word "Passion" to the number, 33444, follow the instructions and we'll get the show guide to you. Thanks again Jeff.

Jeff Brown: Thanks Neil

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Check out Jeff Brown's website

Read Jeff’s book An Uncommon Bond Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jeff Brown

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Nov 21, 2017

What are you projecting onto the world around you? How do you figure it out? And how can you use what you discover to grow, to live with MORE integrity? In this week's episode, I'm sharing with you a simple, powerful practice to get in touch with your strengths - and your weaknesses, through the way that you project these things onto the other people in your life. It may sound simple, but you can find deep healing, and disconnect from toxic patterns (and toxic people).

This week I also share some of my experience with using the service provided by, one of Relationship Alive's sponsors. Especially here in the holiday season I'm finding it useful to have an extra layer of support - simply being able to write to a therapist and have them get back to me, daily, has already been helpful for me! As a reminder, Talkspace is offering $30 off your first month if you use the coupon code "ALIVE."

Finally - it's Thanksgiving week here in the USA. I'm so grateful for your time and attention each week - and your feedback that helps make the podcast what it is!

Nov 14, 2017

Can you be addicted to love, or sex, and - if so - what does that mean? How does the way that your parents raised you - especially when you were really young - affect your sex life? How do you define your own version of healthy sex - so that you’re not just following along with what culture has handed you? And finally - how do you step away from the dopamine and novelty-seeking of dating - and, when you find someone, make the switch to a monogamous relationship? In today’s episode, we are speaking to one of the world’s experts on sex and neurobiology - and especially the treatment of Sex and Love Addiction - Dr. Alexandra Katehakis. Alex’s book, Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation, is a must-read for therapists looking to understand the latest on how to approach sex addiction treatment in therapy, and her work at the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles fosters a sex-positive approach to re-discovering sex in a way that’s right for you. Alex is also the author of Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot, Healthy Sex While In Recovery from Sex Addiction.

Noticing addictive behaviors: An addiction can be defined as something to which we have a strong predilection for and have little control over our actions in relation to the desire. We may find ourselves preoccupied in our thinking, and find that much of our time is spent either engaging in the addiction or in preparation for the experience of it. Furthermore, unlike other things which we strongly enjoy, an addiction has a certain secrecy and shame surrounding it. This is especially true when the behavior we are engaging in violates our own personal value system.

Love as an addiction: Love is an addictive process. This makes sense in evolutionary and biological terms as it ensures that we bind together with a mate in an intense enough way as to invest in procreating and raising a family. The profound longing and desire that can be involved in falling in love is not necessarily problematic, however thinking about love through the addiction model can help shed light on the pain of breakups, divorces, and endings.

Love withdrawal: How many times have you said, or heard a friend say, that it feels like a limb has been cut off when we lose someone. During endings many people experience the emotional and psychological distress as physical pain- as if their heart is actually breaking. This is true because the same neural pain centers in the brain involved in physical injury are involved in our attachments to others. While it can be very helpful to create boundaries with exes through such actions as blocking and/or deleting numbers, the pain can be visceral.

Changing our automatic patterning: People realize they are in the cycle of addiction when they find themselves doing things they do not want to do anymore and yet, can’t stop engaging in the behavior despite wanting to. It is important at this stage to understand that 1) you do have the capacity to change and 2) it will be a slow process. Changing our automatic patterning is not like turning a speed boat around, rather it is more like turning around a large barge. Neuroscience research validates that this shifting is possible through repeated behavior. The saying is that ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’, meaning that you must do something over and over again to build new neural pathways, and thus, new patterns. The more you engage in the new behavior the more tenacious the neural networks will become and the more integrated this way of being will feel- to the point that it will become the new automatic. As you focus increasingly on the new behavior, the old neural pathways associated with the negative addictions will begin to prune. This is the beauty of neuroplasticity- have some patience with it!

Attunement is essential in building secure attachment. The predilections for addictions of all kinds are often established in early childhood. This is true because, human beings, more than most animals, are nearly entirely dependent on their caregivers for survival. As we now understand from the research on attachment, the first few months of a child’s life are critical in setting up a healthy nervous system. It is the job of the caregiver to be an interactive regulator- giving opportunity for attunement and safe interactions so that the right brain can develop over the first 18 months. There are many ways that parents fail to attune to their child- the severity of the impact depends on frequency, intensity, and ability to make repairs. Depending on the type of engagement from parents children will develop a tendency towards high sympathetic arousal (fight or flight responses) or parasympathetic responses such as freezing, collapse, and dissociation. This dysregulation can then lead to a higher dependence on external supports- thus helping to explain how addictions often stem from an attempt by an individual to regulate affect.

Adaptive strategies for soothing. Early childhood experiences of attachment lay the groundwork and the wiring for lifelong relational patterns. Children who were not met with regulated and present caregivers inevitably find strategies in order to survive and often carry these patterns into adulthood when it comes to handling arousal state throughout their lifetime. Insecurely attached individuals either experience 1) a constantly seeking mentality and dependency on external soothing and/or 2) a high distrust that others will ever meet their needs.

Trapped by the ‘rescue fantasy’: If you had a parent who was dismissive, or avoidant, you likely learned at a young age that you had to manage yourself, by yourself. You may have resorted to creating a rescue fantasy in which someone came to rescue you from the chronic emptiness and loneliness you were experiencing. This may have been a coach, a teacher, a rockstar, a neighbor, or a fairy princess- someone outside of yourself and your family who had the power to alleviate your pain. This is a brilliant soothing strategy in childhood, however it becomes increasingly maladaptive in adulthood in that it creates unhealthy desires and harmful expectations in our relationships. In cultivating the ability to imagine the ideal caregiver, a child feeds their need for attunement, however adults who idealize their lovers as saviors tend to miss critical cues that allow them to assess whether the person they are attracted to is available, safe, and stable.

Need for reinforcing attachment: Only 54% of people in our culture today are securely attached- and this number is likely to shrink further as more families experience increasing stressors and there are fewer two person systems raising children. The fullness, high speed pace, and distraction of daily modern life is making it increasingly difficult for parents to insure they are able to provide their children with adequate attunement. Note that the majority of insecure attachments are not caused by outright abuse or neglect, but rather from an accumulation of misaligned and misattuned moments- microassaults that go without repair or acknowledgment.

Human beings need other human beings for regulation: One thing we know from the accumulating data is that people can develop a secure attachment in a love relationship. It is in our relationships where we a second chance to practice getting our needs met in healthy ways. With a present, grounded, and  growth oriented partner it is possible to become more securely attached, love more fully, and have deeper intimacy. That said, long term relationships are not flower fields! As many like to say, if you want to not have any issues then it is best to live alone! Relationships turn up the heat on our underlying issues and bring our habits, patterns, and old beliefs to the surface. While much of our healing, especially of childhood wounds, are our responsibility to mend and tend, this does not have to occur prior to entering a relationship. In fact, some aspects of deep healing depends on the relationship given that we need coregulation to repair. Be on the lookout for a partner who does not have a martyr complex, nor a need for you to be helpless so they can be the ‘fixer’. Look instead for someone who shares your values and is willing to stay present through the pain and discomfort of growing.

How do you switch from courtship into monogamy? We live in a culture that provides ample opportunity for novelty, and relies on a promise of more and better. This creates excitement, yet havoc in the dating world as there is a tendency to doubt what is in front of us in hopes for the newest and shiniest thing that may be waiting around the corner- or one more tinder swipe away. If you are interested in moving from dating into a longer term committed relationship, it is critical that you get clear with yourself about your values. Can you make a list of your top 3 non-negotiables? Example: education, spirituality, wants kids, doesn’t want kids, sense of humor… Get super clear with yourself. This clarity will help you to recognize when a person who fits these values shows up, and will help to ground you in the reality of the person in front of you, thus helping to alleviate the gnawing and often overwhelming urge to keep searching for some fantasy version of a partner.

What to do when you are jonesing… Dating apps, along with porn, offers a dopamine rush that is hard to compete with. When you begin to shift towards wanting to dive deeper into a relationship you may struggle with feeling a lack of this exciting surge. Learn to be fully present with your somatic experience- noticing what is happening for you, what you are craving, and in what ways this helps show you that you are dysregulated.  Own your internal experience, and then commit to being more present to your partner. Let the distractions and urges be reminders to yourself to come back to your present experience- there is a plethora of feel good hormones (including dopamine) that can be released when you connect in with your partner and spend time finding out who they are without making assumptions, and getting that juicy surge of oxytocin that comes with intimate connections.

Putting bodies, hearts, and souls together: We need each other to regulate. People know, at least technically, how to have sex- there has been enough emphasis on this throughout our culture- however they may not know how to have quality and truly connecting intimacy. We can put our bodies together, but are we capable of putting our hearts and souls together in a way that has meaning, promotes a sense of safety, while also being arousing and erotic? In order to move into a fuller experience of intimacy, we must learn to track ourselves and our partners. By paying close attention to our internal experiences we can learn to notice moments of dysregulation and from this becoming curious about the underlying need that is being somatically communicated. Once we notice this, we can name it to our partner and from this learn that we can in fact, get our needs met. The experience of getting a need met not only leads to healing, but also to an incredibly erotic, arousing, and passionate sense of deep connection!

Multidimensionality of healthy sex: Healthy sex requires a thorough investigation of who you are sexually at this moment in your life, what you like, and from this putting together a new roadmap for yourself. What is healthy for you right now is likely to be different not only from other people, but even from yourself at an earlier point in your life. Get raw and honest with yourself. What feels good? What kind of touch turns you on? In what ways is the sex you are engaging in a celebration of your sexual values, and in what ways is it not? Look at the multidimensionality of sex- the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual aspects. Tune into your arousal cycle, your current genital functioning, and any other physical cues that need to be paid attention to. Your sex life will not be fulfilling unless the sex practices you are engaging in aligns with your personal and sexual values.

Get support and go on a sexual diet. If you suspect yourself to be in an addictive cycle when it comes to love, sex, and/or dating apps be sure to reach out for support. Find a therapist, a sex therapist, and/or a support group in your area or online. Love and sex addictions are the result of attachment wounding and thus, are best healed in relationship. Seek out safe others. There may be a time in your healing process in which you may benefit from taking a break from your compulsive patterns (even consider celibacy) in order to gain perspective on your own urgings. This pulling away time is a raw state as you will feel the void of not having ‘that thing’ you are so accustomed to running towards for relief. In these times fellowship can be incredibly helpful- search out people to surround yourself with that know what you are going through. And remember- the brain is capable of rewiring towards healthier habits if you are able and committed to putting in the time and effort needed to refocus your attention and train your brain!

Sponsors: - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.


Check out the Center for Healthy Sex

Read Alex Katehakis’ newest book Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment

Find more about Allan Schore’s work here Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Alex Katehakis

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Nov 6, 2017

Does perfectionism get in the way in your relationship? How do you navigate the gap between how things are - and how you'd like them to be? What do you do if you find yourself being judgmental of your partner - or if they're judging you? In this week's episode, we talk about how to get related to the imperfection in your relationship in a way that will foster deep connection and compassion. Rather than getting lost in shame, and blame, discover a way to bring vibrancy to your relationship by getting clear, courageous, and vulnerable about who you truly are.

Also, in this episode we are starting a new series, featuring the music of talented, lesser-known musicians as a way of diving even more deeply into the experience of whatever we're talking about on the show. If you know an amazing song by a local, regional, or independent act that's relevant to the conversation about relationships, communication, dating, sex - etc. - let me know! If it feels right (and the musicians would like the exposure of being on the podcast), then I'd be delighted to feature them in an upcoming episode.

This episode features the song "Uncertifiable" by David Grant and the Reveals - from their new album "Because Tomorrow". 

David Grant and the Reveals on iTunes

David Grant and the Reveals on Bandcamp

David Grant and the Reveals - Because Tomorrow - on Spotify

Sponsors: - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.



Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

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Oct 31, 2017

If you’re going to seek help from a therapist (or coach), then how do you set yourself up for success? How do you find the right therapist? And how has the process of therapy evolved to achieve better and better results? To answer these questions and more, we have a return visit from Dr. Jeffrey Zeig, the Director of the Milton Erickson Foundation. Along with having been a student of Milton Erickson, and being an incredibly skilled therapist and trainer in his own right, Jeff is also the architect of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, which pulls together the top minds in the field of psychotherapy to discuss what’s working, what isn’t, and to collaborate on enhancing what’s possible through the art and science of psychotherapy. As a bonus, we also chat about how you can change your negative habits and addictions into positive habits and addictions! Our goal with today’s episode is to give you the best sense of how to get the most out of a decision to seek professional support for yourself and your relationship.

If you’re interested in hearing our first conversation together you can listen to that here:

Episode 102: How to Evolve Your Relationship - with Jeff Zeig

A little nudge: There is not any one of us that does not have a place in our inner world in which we struggle. We all have areas where we are remarkably competent, and other areas in which we are not functioning at our fullest capacity. We find ways to adapt, defend, and protect ourselves in order to manage despite our shadows- sometimes to our own detriment. A psychotherapist can offer intent attention and support as we learn to untangle our patterns and learn to function more adaptively. Our wounds occur in relationship, and therefore healing is often most effective when it is also relational. We heal when we feel the presence of another person- someone who is unconditionally supporting all of who we are. In this supportive atmosphere we begin to respond to little nudges and gentle pressures, and in discovering our own internal resources we can begin to move in the direction we are designed to go.

Finding the right fit: Due to the fact that healing in psychotherapy depends greatly on the therapeutic rapport between therapist and client, it is critical that you feel met. When you are searching around for a therapist, know that it may take a few tries. As you meet with potential therapists, ask yourself questions such as ‘is this someone I feel rapport with? Is this therapist working hard to understand me? Does this person have the tools that will help me? Do I feel safe in this person’s presence?’ Check in with your felt sense in their space- how does your body respond in their office? Remember that effectiveness of therapy has more to do with the relationship than with the specific techniques and interventions. Note that therapists are aware of this as well and that it is their responsibility as well as yours to assess fit- do not hesitate to share your experience with them as they are trained to help navigate referrals when it is not the right match.

Get the most from therapy: If you can get a very clear image of the outcome you want to see through therapy, the deeper and more effective your process will be. Ask yourself what you want to achieve, and then express this to your therapist. If you are feeling stuck in desperation and lack of clarity, speak this to your therapist as this can then become the first target area.  The time formulating your vision of change is invaluable to the healing process, and is medicine in and of itself as it awakens slumbering parts of our consciousness that actually know how to get us there.

See things from a different perspective- We are all the products/results of our habits of being. Nearly 90% of the habits we form are really good for us- the other 10% of our habits are ones that are maladaptive. A psychotherapist can help us see the ways in which our current approaches are not helping us get to where we are wanting to go. Once we see how our perspective can shift, we can begin to change our cognitions, behaviors, physiology, emotions, relationships, and perceptions in order to create new mental mechanisms.

Recycling addictions- from negative to positive: Addictions have a certain intensity of energy to them. We can harness the energy from old habits and direct it into the fuel that propels us into activities that give us more physical, spiritual, social, and emotional meaning to our lives. You might even be able to double up on your addictions! Can you combine an elliptical workout with learning something new? Can you cook and listen to an audiobook? When we can appreciate the underlying energy in our addictions, we can begin to resource it in ways that are beneficial and generative to our personal growth.

Moving into procedural memory: New habits take time to form- it is important to dedicate ourselves to building the muscles around our positive addictions to the point that they become integrated seamlessly into our lives. When, for example, we were learning to tie our shoes, we did it from working memory until, after enough practice, the entire activity moved into procedural memory. We want to dedicate ourselves to our new positive habits until they too enter procedural memory- where we don’t even have to ‘think’ about it.

A Brief history of Psychotherapy: The field of psychotherapy has exponentially expanded with a proliferation of perspectives since its establishment in the mid 1900’s. We can understand some of the different perspectives through the metaphor of a growing tree. Psychoanalysis (which was the basis of the psychotherapy field) asked why the tree was growing the way it was. This approach holds the belief that understanding the roots (the past) is sufficient for understanding the present.

From here, the field began to shift in response to American pragmatism and the advent of the behaviorist schools of thought, which posits that if you change where the sun is, the tree will shift. This approach places much less weight on understanding the why, and much more emphasis on the how. At the similar time the ecosystemic approaches took hold in which psychotherapy was about treating the ecosystem in order to change the tree.

Then the humanistic traditions began to develop modalities that were more about being present and admiring the tree. Now cognitive behavioral therapy is the most dominant approach (due to both effectiveness and popularity due to research and funding) which states that the tree will change depending on our cognitions. At the same time that CBT is dominating the field there are more and more experiential modalities available that help clients understand themselves from an inside out, and bottom up approach. The field continues to shift, expand, and develop with more about more data available about neurobiology.

Sponsors: - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.


To learn more about the work of Milton Erikson click here

Read more about Erikson’s work in Uncommon Therapy by Jay Haley

Check out Dr. Jeffrey Zeig’s website to find workshops for professionals

Find his video lectures on Youtube  Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Jeff Zeig

Learn more about Dr. Zeig’s new project on evocative language here

Go to this website to read about positive addictions

Read Dr. Zeig’s book Ten Commandments for Couples and read more on this website

And last, but certainly not least find, out more about the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference! Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Jeffrey Zeig

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Oct 24, 2017

When things get tough in your relationship, how do you get through it, to the other side - in a way that leaves you better than you were before? Whether it's an everyday conflict, or a true crisis - there's a way to find the healing that will keep you from repeating unhealthy patterns, and allow you to experience an even deeper intimacy with your partner. In this episode I explore, in practical terms, how to find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel. Just because you find your way into some darkness doesn't mean that things are over in your relationship. Instead, it might just be a temporary stop on the way to a destination where you find yourself more capable and healthy than ever before. Today we will cover the important ingredients that will help get you there.


Free Guide to my Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets. These communication secrets will help you build connection in challenging moments – and are helpful in relationship, as well as in your communication with friends, colleagues, and family.


This episode is sponsored, in part, by Talkspace makes it easy to find your perfect therapist at an affordable price – with over 1500 licensed therapists available for you. You’re able to message your therapist and hear back from them daily (text/audio/video), and you can also get live video sessions with your therapist. They also have couples counseling available! For more information, visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” to get $30 off your first month of online therapy.

Oct 18, 2017

Have you ever received an apology that didn’t quite cut it? That made things even worse? Plus, let’s face it - life can be messy. Despite your best intentions, it is nearly impossible to avoid causing harm or hurt every so often. So - when is an apology necessary? How do you apologize effectively? Isn’t “I’m sorry” enough? What are the key ingredients to be able to repair a relationship in a way that makes your connection stronger? And what is the place of forgiveness in all of this? In today’s episode, we’re chatting with Dr. Harriet Lerner, author of the bestselling The Dance of Anger. Her new book, Why Won’t You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts, is a direct, insightful guide on the art of the apology - with some surprising truths that can help you create healing when you need it most.  

If you’re interested in checking out our first episode together, here is a link to Episode 12 - How to Turn Your Anger into a Force for Good with Harriet Lerner.

It is never too late to apologize: The need to give and receive apologies is universal- we have hurt and will continue to unwillingly hurt others and be hurt by them. While we must all do all we can to treat those in our life with kindness, care, integrity, respect, and love, we will inevitably cause hurt. The goal then is to make a repair. It is never too late to apologize! It is appropriate to make an apology as soon as you become aware that you caused hurt- whether this is hours, days, weeks, or decades after the fact.

“I’m sorry”: ‘I’m sorry’ are some of the most important words we can gift each other. These words become the gateway into repair and healing. When we give another person our full apologies we offer them safety, soothing, and evidence that we care about their feelings and are capable of and ready to take responsibility for what we have or have not said or done.

Apologizing is a process that involves listening: Apologizing is much much more than offering the words ‘I am sorry’. While these words mark the beginning, it is a process that can sometimes feel like a long distance run. At the core of an honest and authentic apology is the ability to listen. We must be willing to sit with the hurt party’s anger and pain. We need to stay long enough to really grasp their injury, to validate their feelings, and to willingly offer to carry some of the pain that we may have caused. Be there until the hurt party trusts that you really get the wrongness, and that you are and will be reflecting on it.

Invite more: If you were the one who inflicted harm, be sure that you do not use the “I’m sorry” to shut the other person down, create closure, and avoid pain. Commit to the apology as an unfolding and evolving process, and find ways to frequently follow back around after the initial conversation. Create spaces and times for the hurt party to share more by going out of your way to check in and ask about how they are feeling in relation to the injury, even without their prompting. This reaching out shows your commitment to inviting any more processing that may be needed.  

Gift to the Self: A true heartfelt apology is as much a gift to the other as it is to ourselves. Our level of self-worth rests on our ability to see ourselves objectively and to see our behaviors against others with clear eyes and assume unequivocal responsibility for acting at another person's expense. As we offer our apology we are choosing maturity and integrity over self-protection, avoidance and fear.

Shame: Apologies are near impossible from a place of shame. A person needs to have a solid platform of self worth to stand on in order to not collapse into self-loathing. With the higher vantage point offered by self-esteem, we are capable of looking at our bad behavior and harmful actions and seeing them as mistakes that are part of a large, complex, and ever changing picture of who we are as human beings.

Calm down first: Authentic and effective apologies can only come from a regulated place. Be sure to take the time and the actions necessary to calm yourself down. Without tending to the dysregulation it is too easy to come from a defensive place in which you end up finding a way to make your “I’m sorry” include a hint of blaming, of vagueness, excuse making, and/or focus on the OTHER person’s ‘crime sheet’. So breathe, ground, center, and get clear with yourself that your motivation to apologize is coming from a place of good will and the genuine wish for a better relationship.

Good, and better apologies: Remember that apologizing is not a way to speed up the repair process as much as it is a slowing down to create the time and space needed to take full inventory of the hurt and the responsibility. A real apology means that you are available, and will continue to make yourself available, by keeping your heart open, and giving the gift of deep listening. A true apology involves caring about the relationship and the other person more than you care about your own self-image and protection. It involves an acceptance of responsibility for your part of the problem and a commitment to ongoing awareness and action related to the hurt.  

Get your BUT out of your apology: There are many ways we ineffectively apologize if we are not coming from a calm and caring place. We make excuses, we send mixed signals, we become passive aggressive… and most commonly we use the word ‘but’. ‘Buts’ have NO place in an apology! This signals a rationalization, an excuse, and a focus on the other person’s behaviors. While often our partner may have their own pieces to apologize for in an interaction, a true apology only focuses on our behaviors, and never on their feelings. For example, you might say “I’m sorry for correcting your stories in front of all of our friends at dinner”, vs. “I’m sorry you felt belittled but I was just trying clarify the details”. Take ownership of your part, find out how it impacted them, and begin to repair.

The art of asking for an apology: While we all long to hear “I’m sorry”, “I really get it” and “your feelings make total sense”, the difficult truth is that sometimes we have to wait a long time. Furthermore, there are certain apologies that we long for and deserve that we may never get. This does not mean we can’t ask for it. The best reason to bring up something painful that you really want someone to acknowledge is because you need and want to hear your own voice speaking the truth about what you really believe and what you know to be true. When and if you do speak up, keep it simple. Be direct, short, and say it with kindness instead of begging for their attention, or criticizing/blaming/shaming them into a sorry. The longer the word count the quicker they will vacate the premises! Share your truth and then invite them to consider your feelings and the effect their behavior had on the way you felt. Of course there will be longer conversations needed, but the initial confrontation will go better if you say it concisely.

Accepting an apology: As much as there is an art to apologizing, there is also an art to receiving an apology. Initially it is best if you receive with grace and openness. Here too there is no place for the ‘BUT…’s. Simply thank the other for their apology, and save the discussion for a later time. Remember that acceptance is different than forgiveness- an apology can lead to both deep forgiveness and to letting go and both paths are worthy. The important piece is that together, and separately, but parties are working towards freedom.

The myths of forgiveness: We live in a culture that is obsessed with forgiveness. There are many myths, including the misleading belief that you must forgive in order to move on and be whole. The truth is that there are many different pathways to finding peace. Forgiveness is not a universally healing emotion, especially not when it is forced or coerced. “You need to forgive” are the last words that a hurt party needs to hear and will inevitably leave them feeling alone, and betrayed all over again. It is no one else’s job to tell you that you have to forgive, or that you should. It is, however, your own responsibility to find ways to protect yourself from the pain you hold, the corrosive aspects of bitterness, and the hate that may be keeping you stuck. This may or may not require forgiveness, but it sure as hell does not require transcending the anger and pain. The hurt holds wisdom, information, and often a plan for what is needed going forward. Listen in and get creative with your self care knowing that there are MANY ways to heal!

Sponsors: - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.


Find out more about Harriet Lerner’s work, upcoming appearances, and follow her blog on her website

Read her newest book Why Won't You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts

Read her classic book The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships

Relisten to episode 12 with Harriet Lerner on the Dance of Anger Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Harriet Lerner

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Oct 10, 2017

Do you ever feel alone in challenging times? There's an art to weaving a web of support for yourself, so that the people in your life know how to show up for you. And so that the people showing up for you actually do it in a way that truly supports you - and helps you move towards a more positive, life-affirming way of being. In today's episode, we talk about how to ask for help, how NOT to ask for help - and how to figure out exactly what you're asking for. We also address how to answer when someone is asking you for support. You don't have to do it alone, and in today's episode, you will discover ways to strengthen your connections to get through the tough times - as well as to celebrate the great times.


Free Guide to my Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets. These communication secrets will help you build connection in challenging moments - and are helpful in relationship, as well as in your communication with friends, colleagues, and family.


This episode is sponsored, in part, by Talkspace makes it easy to find your perfect therapist at an affordable price - with over 1500 licensed therapists available for you. You're able to message your therapist and hear back from them daily (text/audio/video), and you can also get live video sessions with your therapist. They also have couples counseling available! For more information, visit and use the coupon code "ALIVE" to get $30 off your first month of online therapy.


Oct 4, 2017

How can you use the techniques of tantra in your everyday, busy life? How do you get off the “getting off” grid when it comes to sex, and find deeper, more satisfying connection with your partner? What is “relaxed entry” - and how can that revolutionize your sex life? In this episode, we receive a return visit from Diana Richardson, one of the world’s experts on tantra, and author of The Heart of Tantric Sex (among many other books on tantra). We talk about how to make tantra practical - along with a discussion of “relaxed entry” - which can revolutionize your sex life whether or not you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction. We talk about tantra in same-sex relationships, how to have sex without it being focused on “excitement” - and...much more!

If you’re interested in hearing my earlier episodes with Diana Richardson, please check out:

Episode 2 - Discover the Power of Slow Sex

Episode 10 - How to Get Off the Rollercoaster and Get Back to Love

Cultivate body perception: Our overarching cultural education teaches us to be mind oriented, and thus, detached from our bodies. We engage with our bodies mostly from a place of negativity- focusing mainly on feeling what isn’t working. When was the last time that you simply observed how you were sitting or standing? We must begin to engage our capacity to perceive our integrated selves through re-anchoring our awareness in our own bodies. Once we have some control of where our attention goes, we can then start to feel into our sensations and truly ask ourselves ‘what feels good to me? What might feel better?’. A relaxed body has the capacity to allow for an expansion of energy/life force/vitality- and this is the basis of tantra. In order to set this foundation start to tend to your inner awareness, checking in with your physical self several times throughout the day so that you can truly sense that you have a body and you can sense into where it is holding tension, where it is relaxed, where it needs some extra attention, etc.

Feeling on a cellular level: Paired with our detachment from our physical selves is also an addiction to excitement. Culturally we have this belief that sex requires the production of something. Most people are addicted to excitement and are often having sex that is so over stimulating that they undervalue the nuances and subtleties that could lead to greater pleasure, connection, and fulfilment. What if sex was less about building things up to climax through stimulation than it was about actually feeling what it is we are feeling? Tantric sensuality is founded on the concept that the greater our capacity to feel ourselves on a cellular level the greater our opportunity for deep pleasure is.

From sensation to sensitivity- Many of us have come into our sexuality believing 1) that climax is critical, 2) intensity equals satisfaction. The drive and strive for climax is mostly a mind-led directive, and can further disconnect us from our body intelligence. While intensity of sensation can feel great at times, the truth is that the more we rely on sensation in our sexual experiences, the less sensitive we become, and then the body will require more sensation to produce the same results. This overemphasis on stimulating sensation ends up decreasing our sensitivity. What is the difference? Sensation is extroverted and is situation-dependent whereas sensitivity is our intrinsic perspective on the feeling of our body at any given moment.

Slow shifts through continual reflection: In order to reorient ourselves back to our sensitivity we have to increasing our ability to be embodied. This training of our awareness back into body memory and knowing will not be quick - however the more you can incorporate this practice into daily life the sooner you will see yourself shift. Go inward and do a body scan while driving, cooking, talking, etc. Ask yourself “where am I holding unnecessary tension? How can I shift myself to promote more relaxation and softening?”. The more you can widen and soften your physical self the more access you will begin to gain into your more subtle internal experiences- those that become doorways into deeper sexual experiences.

Do more with your own body! Want more access to pleasure in your body? Start seeking activities that provide opportunities for you to experience the joy of being a being in a body! Book somatic experiencing sessions- massage, cranial sacral, floats, facials, and more. Find trusting professionals to help you connect to yourself through safe touch.

“Let’s put the bodies together and see what happens” Sexuality without shoulds is WAY better! What if masculinity were not tied to erection? What if you could silence the shoulds and be with what is, how it is, when it is… When you move away from a preconceived notion of what sex is supposed to be like or look like or feel like and move towards a perspective of ‘let’s put our bodies together and see what happens’ you enter into a playful, spontaneous, surprising, authentic and usually delightful and informative way of relating.

One way couples can practice entering this space is to begin exploring relaxed entry. This is when you use loads of lubrication to guide a non erect penis into the vagina with the intention of just moving around and allowing for sensitivity and exploration. Once the penis is entered without erection, you can rest and see what happens, or move around, but do not push - just enjoy the feeling(s). This is not only often very pleasurable for both in itself, but it is another way to tune more deeply into nuanced body awareness. Together allow yourselves to see how your parts awaken to each other, and let the process unfold in an organic way. Meanwhile, allow all the feelings - including the non-feelings! Often when you tune in you realize how much you have been missing by simply focusing on erection and climax.

Containing the energy: While orgasms are great- there are many different ways to get there. When we pump and contract and work to build up sensation we tend to discharge the energy. What happens when you don’t chase it? What happens when you bring curiosity, playfulness, and a surrendering to doing things differently? As you each get to know your bodies in more subtle and deeper ways you will learn to drive your attention to different places, and to actually choose to contain the sexual energy and charge and divert it into new places, and more places.

Bring awareness to yourself as you are making love and being with- If you only have 15-20 minutes available, dedicate this time to laying together and being together. Hold each other’s eye gaze. Land in your body. Allow your physical selves to just be in proximity and notice together what arises. This being-ness and then noticing and naming is what will help pave the way towards reclaiming your sensitivity.

Sponsors: - Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily - so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.


Learn more about Making Love retreats led by Diana Richardson here

Read Diana’ Richardson’s books including Slow Sex: The Path to Fulfilling and Sustainable Sexuality

Listen to Diana Richardson’s other episodes with Relationship Alive:

Episode 2:

Episode 10: Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Diana Richardson

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Sep 26, 2017

Is it normal to have conflict in your relationship? How do you know if what you're experiencing is OK - or a sign of doom? And, even more importantly - what do you do when conflict occurs to lead to an even deeper connection with your partner? In this episode, I cover what NOT to do when you dive into a fight with your partner - and what you CAN do to keep yourselves from heading into a downward spiral of disconnection. You'll also learn how to avoid the trap of just sweeping conflict under the rug - which is a good short-term solution, but over the long term will deepen the rifts between you and your partner. Yes, it's normal - but what you DO about it is what matters most!

Sep 19, 2017

Does it seem like the only time that things get intense in your relationship is when negative things happen? This kind of experience, repeated over time, can literally train your brain to be in a hyper-vigilant state when your partner is around. So how can you rewire your brain to experience your partner as intensely positive? And how do you switch from a pattern of complaining to a pattern of wish-granting with your partner? In today’s episode, Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt return to answer these important questions. We cover one particular exercise that you can do with your partner (that Chloe and I experienced in their Getting the Love You Want workshop at Kripalu) that they’ve never talked about in an interview! We also discuss tips from their new book, The Space Between, which offers a succinct explanation of how to apply the fundamental lessons from their work in your relationship.

Additionally, if you’re interested in hearing our first conversation together, you can do that here: Episode 22 - Essential Skills for Conscious Relationship with Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt

Positive Flooding: Positive flooding is a brain exercise that produces dramatic shifts in how partners relate to one another, especially when it comes to trust and safety. So often when we are desiring certain changes in our partner we come at them with criticism and complaint. What happens when instead we communicate from the parts of our brain that can appreciate our partner’s strengths and contributions? By acknowledging all that your partner is doing right it becomes increasingly safe to discuss more vulnerable and difficult topics. When we move ourselves into the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex- the region of the brain that houses curiosity and openness- we can create a sense of connection with our partner that is non judgemental and more collaborative. Given that energy follows intention, and that what we focus on becomes what we get, it is our responsibility to choose where we place our attention.


How to try positive flooding: While this is mostly an exercise done in workshops, you can give it a try at home! The entire exercise is only a few minutes long, and is broken down as follows:

Step 1: Place your partner in the center of a space, and circle around them as you speak

Step 2: Spend 1 minute commenting on all the features of your partner’s body that you appreciate (their hair, the curve of their nose, their bright eyes…). Speak with natural volume.

Step 3: Spend 1 minute identifying and expressing your appreciation for all of your partner’s traits that you find amazing (their warmth, their intelligence, their kindness, etc). Raise your voice as you do this to medium volume.

Step 4: Speak, in a really loud voice this time (nearly shouting), about behaviors and things that your partner has done that you really appreciate.

Step 5: After these three minutes are over stand in front of your partner and jump up and down exclaiming, in as loud a voice as you can, how much you love, appreciate, and value them. Yell “I can’t believe I am in a relationship with someone as amazing as you! I love you I love you I love you I love you!”

Step 6: End the exercise by standing and sharing a one minute long hug. Then switch.


Intensity without aggression: The Positive Flooding exercise is a way to rewire people’s nervous systems. There is a certain intensity to this practice as it has a lot of energy to it- and yet, it is all with positive intention. Throughout the exercise both people will likely have a sympathetic nervous system response in which their energy is elevated and their body may perceive threat. At the same time however, the body begins to register that the intensity is coming from love, and this, along with the hug at the end,  activates the parasympathetic response which helps to calm and re-regulate. In this way both people learn to respond, physiologically and psychologically, to intensity with appreciation versus apprehension, thus giving people a different embodied memory of intense energy.


Positive flooding in everyday life: Play around with positive flooding in everyday life by expressing something intensely positive to each other a sentence at a time throughout the day. The point is to direct intense positive and loving energy at your partner on a regular basis- because positive venting creates body memories that provide a sense of bonding, versus disconnection. The more you do this, the more you build up a storehouse of memories that reflect a positive quality.  As you increase the repertoire of positive memories you increase the memory base that helps inform the association of safety and love, versus danger and hurt and this way your partner will intrinsically tend towards feeling open versus on alert during your interactions.


Memory making: Ask yourself- what kind of memories do I want my partner to have of me? Once you have clarity on the quality of these memories, check in on if you are taking responsibility in your actions to make sure these memories are being created. In what ways are you being caring, and in what ways are you being careless in your relationship? We have the power, for better and for worse, to populate our partner’s memory system in such a way that their brain organizes and remembers us in certain ways. Knowing that the brain wires around experiences that have emotional intensity as these are the ones that trigger endorphin releases- what type of intensity are you allowing into your interactions, and is it aligned with what you ideally want?


Stay out of the lower brain. The lower brain is wired for impulse and it’s motto can be described as ‘my way or the highway’. If we are not able to regulate ourselves when we encounter triggers, we often lose neural contact with the upper brain- that part of our brain that houses wonder, curiosity, and the ability to think flexibly. Exercises such as positive flooding help us to train our brain to more quickly recover from intensity and to stay in a creative and open place even on the edge of a trigger. The more you exercise this ability to stay out of the limbic brain, the more able you are to stay connected to your partner even in difficult conversations.


Wish in disguise: Most, if not all, of our frustrations are truly just wishes in disguise. The frustration itself points to a need that was not met, and a desire for this need to be acknowledged and addressed. If you go directly to the frustration your partner will become defensive, however, the more you can learn to listen for the disguised wish, the more collaborative the process can become. Some couple’s first learn to do this in a very structured process based on the template of dialogue process of mirroring, validating, and empathizing. To start, identify the frustration/complaint, then change this into a wish. Once the underlying wish has been identified give your partner 3 behaviors which would respond to the wish. While frustrations usually have very limiting and specific focuses, wishes and needs are often able to be fulfilled in a myriad of ways- get creative! Giving your partner options allows them to feel some agency and capability in actually being able to give you what you need- something that many people struggle with as they have become shut down around their ability to give and support.


Heroes and Sheroes: Almost everyone in a relationship is longing to be a shero/hero in their partner’s life. Unfortunately the negativity and failed attempts due to poor communication beats them down and makes them feel unable, incapable, and therefore, unwilling to try. Trust that your partner truly does want to come through for you. They are ready to be invited in as a support and will welcome the opportunity you offer by sharing what you need and ways they might step up.


Sender Responsibility: For most of us, not being able to ask for what we want in our relationship is the greatest problem. As you begin to practice asking more for what you need/desire/want, remember that it is not as much what you say, but rather how you say it. As the ‘sender’ be responsible with your frustrations and remember to speak with a kind tone of voice, soft eyes, and respectful language. The more intention and love you put into HOW you speak, the greater the likelihood that your partner will get curious about what you are sharing and feel open to doing what is being asked of them.


Practice asking for what you need:  In order to build the ‘I deserve’ muscle, begin practicing asking for small things so that you can get better and better at asking for the bigger things. Find tiny requests you can make that do not have a strong emotional charge, and practice asking for these things with intention. This will help get you into the habit of turning your frustrations into wishes and opportunities for clearer communication. Furthermore doing so not only will mean that your partner will finally understand and have the chance to show up for you, but you will actually get what you need and want! Win-win.


Read their new book The Space Between

Read Getting The Love You Want

Learn more about their work and upcoming workshops on their website

Get the toolkit for Safe Conversations: How to Create and Sustain a Thriving Relationship Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Sep 13, 2017

What's an amazing source of energy for your relationship? The TRUTH! Are there moments when you're not telling the full truth? Or does it seem that your partner is holding back? If there's energy and vitality missing from your connection, it could be that there's not enough honesty in your relationship. Building on episode 105, where we talked about small changes that can make a big difference in your relationship, in this episode we're going to talk about how to make small shifts in the way you communicate that will help bring you back into balance with the truth. We'll also revisit some of the concepts from Episode 24 with Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson - on why lying happens in a relationship, and how to tell if you're actually encouraging your partner to lie to you! All in today's episode of Relationship Alive!

Sep 6, 2017

Are you a “nice guy” - or are you in a relationship with one? While there’s nothing wrong with being nice, it can create problems - especially when you’re so focused on pleasing others that you move further and further away from your true, authentic self. How do you reclaim masculinity without becoming a stereotype? How do you consider others, while still maintaining healthy boundaries? In this episode, we’re talking with Dr. Robert Glover, the author of No More Mr. Nice Guy, about how to find a healthy way to uncover your true self - and to bring your authenticity to your life and relationship.

Are you a Mr. Nice Guy? Do you find yourself frequently frustrated in your relationships or wondering why they just don’t seem to be working out? It could be that you are in fact, a Mr. Nice Guy. You may be holding onto an internalized belief that in order to get what you want in love and in life you have to hide or alter who you are. Nice Guys tend to 1) struggle to make their own needs a priority, 2) avoid conflict, 3) have difficulty setting boundaries, 4) have unsatisfying intimate relationships. Many of their actions and ways of relating are influenced by a need to protect themselves from possible rejection due to their foundational insecurity.

Connection to masculinity Some of this male insecurity is the result of a discomfort of how masculinity is defined and represented in our culture at large. Many men find themselves cutting themselves off from their masculinity in order to differentiate from the models they may have grown up with. In doing, these men end up rejecting masculinity in general as they are often without other role models to look toward for another way of being.

Here is the paradox Ironically, ‘nice guys’ are in general anything but nice. They spend so much of their energy avoiding conflict and trying to conform that they do not have real authenticity or integrity. In trying to please others, these men actually experience a lot of defeat. They do not ask for what they want, they do not take responsibility for getting their needs met, and they are not good at setting boundaries. In this avoidance, resentments can build up. Furthermore in avoiding disappointment and confrontation many ‘nice guys’ turn towards dishonesty and hiding.

Victim Pukes: In order to maintain this outer appearance of acceptance and patience, many feelings have to be ignored and shunned. Inevitably, however, these experiences accumulate in the psyche and resentment builds as more and more is held onto. This fuels passive aggression, and the release of anger in indirect ways such as criticism or hurtful humor. For many, they hold and hold and hold until something finally sets it over the edge and all that which has been stored comes spilling out in one big ungraceful release- also known as victim pukes.

Fill your own bucket- make your needs a priority: Want to become a man that other people want to be around? In order to live an authentic and integrated life, it is critical that you begin to make your needs your priority. The ability to ask yourself what you authentically want is a courageous and necessary process. Consciously choose and create a support network (groups, hobbies, meetups, doctors, therapists, friends, etc.) to help you work through the resistance and inaccurately internalized beliefs that somehow your needs are not important. This process is going to require you to face deep fears, and will inevitably be a long process with many layers to work through.

This is not about becoming a jerk: As you work through these layers you will be more and more capable of living with truth, passion, and direction. While turning towards your own needs may at first feel selfish, you will soon realize that you taking responsibility for yourself will, in fact, attract people to you and be excited to spend time with you! Not being a ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ is not about becoming a jerk, but rather, an integrated male.

Same-sex friendships: Developing healthy same-sex friendships will help you learn to relate to the parts of yourself that your friends embody, as well as to support you in the full breadth and richness of your own growth.

Toxic Shame: So many of, ‘nice guys’ especially, are carrying around an enormous amount of toxic shame. Much of this was internalized at a very young age through various messages and experiences in school, society, religious communities, and especially in our families. When we are young we are neurologically wired to be narcissistic in the sense that we interpret and believe that that which happens around us is our fault. How much of the insecurity you are holding onto is even yours? To begin unravelling shame share your experiences with safe others. While it is important to allow those in your community to be there to support you, you want to be sure you don’t turn your partner into your therapist! In tandem with this sharing, begin to challenge yourself to commit to telling the whole truth in situations. This will not only grow you into a more transparent and authentic version of yourself, it will also begin to build the confidence needed to shed your old stories.

Seesaw of growth: As you make these tectonic shifts in yourself it WILL change your relationships! If you are in a committed relationship, be patient and present with your partner- even if they are supportive of your changes, it may be scary for them as it is unknown. While there are many relationships which may not weather such a shift in the core foundational relational pattern (especially when your partner is also dependent on your being a ‘nice guy’), many relationships will flourish. As one partner grows it triggers a sense of anxiety in the other partner as they feel the impetus to develop so they do not lose the interest of their partner. This mutual, if not always in tandem, personal growth can become a powerful and incredibly positive reinforcing pattern.



Read Robert Glover’s book No More Mr. Nice Guy


Take classes and read more about Robert Glover’s work here  


Check out Robert Glover’s blog Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Robert Glover


Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook


Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Aug 29, 2017

How do you get from where you are now - to where you want to be? If you keep doing more of the same, then you're going to experience...more of the same. Sometimes, when you're trying to achieve different results, it does make sense to make BIG changes. However, in today's episode, we discover how to find the tiny places in your life where you can easily make a shift - the kind of shift that will ripple out into everything else. Once you identify these leverage points, you might find that the bigger changes...take care of themselves. 



Aug 22, 2017

Do you feel like there are some things that you just can’t ask for? How do you get what you truly need in relationship? And how do you navigate to true win/win solutions in a relationship where you and your partner feel excited by what you’ve created together, instead of feeling drained by compromise? In today’s episode, you’re going to learn a unique approach to getting your needs met, and getting your partner’s needs met. Instead of using a psychological approach, today’s guest, Max Rivers, is going to show you how to use the skills of mediation to breathe new life into your connection. In addition, through Max’s unique application of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (which he calls “Embodied Nonviolent Communication”), you’ll discover another secret ingredient to effective communication within your relationship. Max Rivers is a trained mediator who teaches these skills to couples in a series of six classes. His forthcoming new book, Tired of the Same Old Argument, makes his concepts easy to understand and put into practice. And, of course, I’m excited to introduce him to you!


Why mediation? For those of you who may be frustrated with traditional couple’s counseling, mediation may be a more efficient and effective intervention for you. In psychotherapy couples can sometimes get stuck in a pattern of judgement in which they over-diagnose their partner. Furthermore, it can be much faster to go straight for the present needs and building conflict skills than it is to explore the psychological phenomenon that brought the conflict about in the first place. Mediation focuses on creating win/win solutions in which both parties work towards resolution. Resolution occurs when everyone is able to identify and communicate their needs- so much so that their needs are satisfied.


What do we mean by needs? Needs are not behaviors, not wants, nor do they refer to other people. Needs instead are our deep truths and speak to the places where our existential satisfaction lies. Needs have certain qualities- they are always positive in their intention, life affirming, and they are the relative and definitive truth of the person they belong to. Needs are the junction box inside our body where our universal and incredibly personal truths live. Know that you are carrying this box of greater wisdom everywhere you go. When we are able to drop down out of story, under the judgements and the thinking, we can come to find a felt sensation of our knowing.


Into me you see: The word intimacy can be broken down into the sentence: into me you see. Intimacy is created when we let another person see deeply into our heart’s desire and we show curiosity and interest in seeing into them. Dropping into an embodied sense of our own truth and then sharing it creates an increased connection. This connection alone is nearly 90% of the solution to conflict resolution! As Max Rivers says: “any two people with open minds and open hearts can solve any problem that comes in front of them”.


What is alive in me right now? It may take some practice and learning to be able to find your own needs. It is not that it is hard, rather that it is a turning towards ourselves in moments we have become habituated to turn outward. Remember that our needs do not communicate to us through words but rather through our feelings that arise from bodily sensations. Go to the body to listen. It is not what you are thinking but what you are feeling that has potency and can become a portal to clearer awareness of your deeper needs in any given moment.


Judgements: We are all guilty of hurling insults, blames, and judgements at our partner in moments of disappointment, rage, hurt, and pain. Why do we do this? Most often it is a tragic attempt to have our unmet needs discovered. They are our way of trying to poke and pry and push our partner into discovering our needs, however, because they communicate with such violence and damage they leave us alone, distant, hurt and in conflict. Make a radical choice to trust and believe that every judgement either you or your partner hurls at one another is actually a statement of needs disguised in the opposite form. From this perspective, you can begin to learn to listen to a judgement and recognize it as having no information about the other, but rather a trail into what the speaker is needing. Listen for what is underneath and ask yourselves: what is the reverse of this judgment?


Going straight for the anger. Know that other people do not cause our feelings. Perhaps try repeating this to yourself several times and letting it soak in. It is futile and ultimately frustrating to keep ourselves and our partners stuck in the shame and blame game. We must take the time to go past our stories and our histories and get straight to what is present right now for us. And then it is our responsibility to communicate our needs. Anger is frustration plus time, and the best way to avoid increasing resentment and rage is to communicate clearly and often. Your anger is yours! The intensity of your anger does not implicate the limitations of your partner (as we so often assume) but rather implicates you for not taking the responsibility of communicating openly. To move away from anger it is critical that we continuously tend to our subtle body sensations in the present moment, and speak to these. And it is so worth it! Not only will you avoid resentment, but you will be giving your partner an opportunity to fulfill your needs and this gives THEM pleasure as well!


Forbidden needs: Many of our conflicts arise from a frustrated and often violent attempt to satisfy our needs. All of us are carrying an embodied experience of having needs that went unmet in our childhoods and our earlier relationships. When needs go unmet for an extended time we conclude that these needs are forbidden either because they are inherently bad, or because it means that something is wrong with us for having the desire, or that there is another reason that nobody wants to meet the need. Due to the forbidden nature of these particular needs we try our damn best to live as though we do not need these needs. Our psyche tries hard to help us shun these needs, however, in doing so we get into a bind in which we reverse the content of the needs and we communicate the opposite of the want. We say “you are so cold” when we want warmth. We say “you don’t give me any space” when we want closeness. And on and on.


Make a feeling guess: As a partner when we hear these intense judgements it is easy to react and attack. Remember that these defensive and often offensive remarks really are NOT about you! Try your best to duck below the judgement and attempt to get curious about what need is being spoken for. Without ego, attempt to guess the opposite! If your partner is telling you that you suck at washing the dishes, perhaps they are really needing you to either thank them for their efforts or show them support around the home in another way. Make it your goal in moments of conflict to turn towards your partner with empathy, curiosity, and presence. Use questions to go under the leaves to find the truffles- help them get out of the past and the future, out of the story and the judgements and into their body. This process of embodied non-violent communication allows you and your partner to efficiently (and lovingly) get to the core of what is most true for them- shedding light on information that is crucial for both of you.


Moving from conflict to connection: Moving from conflict to connection requires this sorting through judgements and content to get to the deeper truths. In order to do this we 1) must observe and notice what is happening in and around us, 2) see what it is we are feeling, 3) identify the underlying need, and 4) breathe into these feelings. Breathing into the sensations in our body helps enlarge them so that we may find what is alive in there- what is it that is being communicated to us? What do these needs want from us? Remember that there will be a time to share and express what you discover with your partner, but not before you listen yourself. We can become habituated in relationships to offload the responsibilities of our needs onto our partner and this is a setup for being disappointed. So listen first, and see what your needs are asking of you before turning to your partner.


Beginning the beneficial cycle: You’ll know you have defined a need as there is a palpable shift into a sensation of softness and relief- an ‘Ah...I’m home’ sighing sort of feeling. The quality of time and space may shift and there will be an increase of kindness, non judgement, and excited curiosity. There will be a shift away from blame, and the total trust that no one is doing anything wrong or bad. The judgements begin to turn into intimate connections, the vicious cycle begins to slow down until it stops and reverses into a beneficial cycle. As you share what is true about you in any given moment it gives your partner the freedom and safety to share what is true about them, which in turn will give you more safety, which then creates a positive reinforcing cycle. And who doesn’t want that?


The benefit versus the disappointment of difference: What if we were to believe that the core value of relationship is difference? The reason we want to be in relationship ultimately is because the ways our partner is different than us helps to match what is needed in us. Max Rivers states that “a love match is this amazing mathematical combination of our strengths matching up with their forbidden needs, and their strengths matching up with our forbidden needs”. How have you been perceiving and experiencing difference in your relationship? Take a moment and check in on the messages you have received and the stories you hold about difference. The louder cultural stance, at least here in the US, is that difference is both dangerous and bad. From this belief, difference becomes a source of unending conflict as we try to change the person we are with into ourselves as we believe this may make things easier. But just imagine if you succeeded! It would be a disaster not only because you need difference to bring polarity and energy to a relationship, but also if you both truly succeeded then you would have simply switched places! Conflict is almost always caused by misunderstood difference. As you begin to re-appreciate the benefits of the differences between you and your partner and begin to acknowledge how your strengths and needs match up, you begin to pave your way towards mutual satisfaction.


You need the needs of your partner: As we understand needs more deeply, and move away from a culturally stuck view of ‘having needs’ equating to ‘being needy’, we can begin to fall in love with the ways that our needs bring us intimacy. We are in fact hard wired to get pleasure and fulfillment from meeting our partner’s needs. We begin to feel that our differences are being honored and celebrated, and we grow in our confidence that what we bring to our relationship is deeply and critically supportive for our partner, and vice versa.


Slowing down is also a strategy: Many of us have been programmed and raised to try to figure our way out of conflict. We quickly jump to solutions in an attempt to feel helpful and to avoid discomfort. In this speeding through of the process, we can miss the listening is necessary to actually identify what it is that is needing “fixing”. Invite yourself to see slowing down as a strategy in and of itself. Once ALL of the needs are on the table, then the creative process of solution and strategy finding can happen successfully- and often times much more efficiently. Once we are in a place of clarity around the needs, we will find ourselves with many more options. This is true because needs are incredibly flexible, and there are often endless ways of meeting our needs. Strategizing can become an energizing and loving co-creative process. Two people with open hearts and open minds, even when presented with an incredibly complex set of needs, will have a huge capacity for creating answers and strategies. Be open to surprising yourselves and each other as you work together as a team!  


Listening them down to silence: So how DO you get all the needs on the table? The answer is simple, yet takes discipline, dedication, and practice: Invite your partner to share with you and be sure to listen openly and with excited curiosity. When they finish, reflect back what you heard, and ask “and what more?” Keep inviting them to share more until that sweet sigh of relief and release is felt by both of you- that sensation that yes, that is all.

Go to the breath to find what is alive in you. Here is a short meditation to help get into the body to listen lovingly to the truth and wisdom of your needs:

Take a few easy breaths. Moving deeper into your body. Notice what sensations are arising. Notice, without judgment, whatever it is you are experiencing right now. Observe what feels heavy or light, cool or warm. Is there a difference from one side of your body to the other? Is there a place of stuckness? And where is there movement? See if you can breath into those parts of your body and enlarge your experiencing of that space. Imagine that it has some deep desire for you. That it is positive in its intention and it knows precisely what it is you desire. Invite it to communicate in any ways it wants to. Does it have a message for you? What does it want  for you in this moment? And what is it asking of you so that you may have that? Add breath into your questions and see what arises.

If you discover something which feels true- take a risk and share it with your partner! Share it with the intention of your partner seeing what is true and alive in you. Imagine that they will be delighted to know and to learn this. Every bit of truth that they find out about you is more for them to love.


 Learn more about Max Rivers’ work with Teamwork Marriage Mediation where you can book sessions, watch videos, and read more!

Read Max Rivers’ new book Tired of Having the Same Old Argument?  (visit his website and click the “Buy the Book” link for the latest edition) Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Max Rivers.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Aug 15, 2017

How do you know if you're being codependent? What happens if, in the process of trying NOT to be codependent, you stop considering your partner? How do you find the balance? And what is the antidote for resentment in a relationship? In this week's episode of Relationship Alive with Neil Sattin, you'll discover the essential difference between being codependent and being considerate - and you'll learn how to find even more freedom AND connection with your partner. 

Aug 8, 2017

How do you grow into something new and greater with your partner? How do you foster feelings of love, passion and connection - no matter how long you’ve been together? How do you evolve beyond what you even know to be possible for yourself in relationship? This week we welcome Dr. Jeffrey Zeig to the Relationship Alive podcast. He has authored and/or co-authored more than twenty books on psychotherapy, and he is the architect of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, one of the most important conferences for therapeutic professionals. His work is on the cutting edge of helping us evolve what we know about what’s possible in the science of helping people change, as he is in a unique position to survey the entire landscape of what people are doing in the field of couples therapy.


Stages of Love: Love is a biological phenomenon that has three different stages, each with their own neurobiology. The first is the Stage of Attraction; this is when we discover someone who we feel drawn to. The next is the Stage of Attachment; this is a stage of luminance, which is marked with high sexual activity, an intense desire to find similarities, and a sense that you cannot get enough of each other. This stage then evolves into the Bonding stage in which we choose our partner as our mate. At this stage the neurochemicals secreted naturally drive down sexual desire. This decrease in dopamine rich sexual activity can become a crisis for couples who do not understand that there is a biological context influencing this change and instead create stories of lost connection or attraction.


Shakespeare was right- love is blind. In the luminance stage we are nearly incapable of seeing our partner for who they truly are. In fact, we see them through a distorted hormonally influenced haze-biologically donned rose colored glasses. It is not until we enter into the bonding phase that we begin to see our partners in a more realistic way. This inevitable change in perception can be jarring, and especially threatening if not understood through biology.


Discovering difference: As we settle into deeper relationship commitment the differences that provided such attractive polarity in the beginning can become sources of strain and strife. Too often relationships become like religious enclaves in which each person tries to convert their partner to do and be like them- more articulate, more organized, more emotive, and on and on… This can become a time of crisis with higher rates of alcoholism, workaholism, divorce, and affairs.


Allergic to each other’s strengths? If we are not careful, we can become allergic to our partner’s strengths. What were once your partner’s idiosyncratic characteristics that so attracted you to them can become irritating if you do not continually refresh your appreciation. When we focus our energy on trying to control or conform our partners to match our desires we misread difference as disaster, disappointment, and failure (on their part and ours). In healthy relationship differences are not dangerous, rather they are celebrated.


JFK reminds us to ask a different question:  How can you find your way back to appreciation of your own and your partner’s different strengths? Ask not what your partner can do for you, but what you can do for your relationship. In what ways can you step up? In what ways can you improve? Don’t target the other person and expect change from them. Instead of reaching over the fence and weeding their garden, weed your own garden and instead gaze over to their side to look for the flowers.  A loving stable relationship grows and thrives in an atmosphere of appreciation, rather than one of comparison and judgment.


TOPIAH:  Wait, what IS love? It is not just a concept based on internal characteristics (like passion, security, appreciating the other person, trying to make the other person feel comfortable...). Instead, love is an interaction pattern. It is not something that happens solely inside a person- it is something that happens amongst and between. We do not have words to accurately describe this interactional experience. How can we capture the essence of what occurs between two loving people? TOPIAH is an acronym that attempts to describe this experience- it stands for Taking Obvious Pleasure In Another’s Happiness. An upward spiral of energy and connection is created when you show your partner that you are happy with that which brings them happiness and meaning. Make this appreciation obvious!


Change the spotlight: Due to survival needs we have evolved to be neurobiologically wired to focus on the negative and on mismatching differences (finding what is wrong in a given situation). With this small amount of scientific understanding, along with the knowledge that we are capable of rewiring our brains, we can begin to train ourselves to cultivate the art of appreciation and awareness of the positive. Being intentional is not easy, nor always instinctual- it requires a degree of thoughtfulness and an ability and commitment to choosing what you place your spotlight of awareness on. Bring the spotlight to the present moment through a smile, a gesture, a hug, a sweet comment. So much of the time we are trying to DO things that make our partner happy, however simply the act of noticing that your partner is happy about something and shining a light on that is in and of itself a positive contribution to emotional connection and fulfillment.  


Little acts of kindness build insulation. John Gottman reminds us that we should strive for a 5:1 ratio of moments/experiences of connection and attunement to experiences of discord. Little acts of kindness in which we display thoughtfulness and responsiveness to our partner is like making deposits in the emotional bank account, or better yet, building insulation. Don’t miss opportunities for appreciation! You want to build enough insulation by virtue of taking pleasure in your partner’s happiness so that when the inevitable regrettable incident happens, the relationship does not crash.


Go from Yes, but…to Yes, and!  Another critical way to make deposits into the emotional bank account is to change your interaction style. Many relationships get stuck in a habit of differentiation and power dynamic that incorporates a pattern of awfulizing. If this is the case you will literally hear yourself and your partner responding to each other with “yes, but”. This dynamic leads to a downward spiral in which each person is left feeling depleted, disappointed, judged, unheard, and disconnected. Change to a “yes, and” response and watch what happens! The positive energy that is generated is palpable. Instead of discord and deadlock a couple will find themselves improvising, and mutually inspired.


Emotions are not communicated with words: When we really want to reach our partner on a deeper emotional level, we need to connect with their limbic system. Emotions are understood and communicated in HOW words are spoken, more than in WHAT is said. We need to tend to the paraverbal factors of using gestures, posture, proximity, tone, and tempo to communicate directly with each other’s limbic systems.


Evocative communication: When the intention is to share emotions then we have to use communication that is more conceptual, even if this means giving up some clarity. There are two forms of communication- that which is informative, and that which is evocative. When you want to move something from the land of knowing to the land of realizing, you must build a bridge using evocative language.  This is an art. We are storytelling creatures, and are moved through symbolism and metaphor. Find ways to incorporate metaphors and stories in your relationship in order to create doorways through which your partner may be invited into the inner landscape of your heart. This vulnerability builds closeness and deepens understanding of each other.  So… go inward and explore your own sense of meaning and then get creative with your words.



 Check out Dr. Jeffrey Zeig’s website for workshops for professionals

Find his video lectures on Youtube  Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Jeff Zeig

 Learn more about Dr. Zeig’s new project on evocative language here

 Go to this website to read about positive addictions

 Read Dr. Zeig’s book Ten Commandments for Couples and read more on this website

 And last, but certainly not least find, out more about the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference!

Aug 2, 2017

How do you know what you *really* want in relationship? And how can you help your partner truly understand what makes you tick - so that they can speak the language of love in ways that are meaningful for you? In this week's episode, we cover a way for you to not only help your partner show up for you - but also for you to discover hidden truths about what you truly desire. Learn how to create the first draft of your Love Map (as John Gottman calls it) - the User Manual for You.

Also don't forget to check out last week's episode, featuring both John Gottman and Sue Johnson on the topic of Attraction - how to sustain it, and how to revive it when it's gone.

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