Tony covers items 11 through 14 of his ever-growing list of “Everything I Know,” aka all of the things he’s learned from the therapist’s chair. In today’s episode he covers: If you’re going to say yes to someone, then say yes enthusiastically...don’t play the martyr, “well, I guess you can go with your friend, but I’m not happy about it!” Playing the martyr does nothing to improve the relationship, but it definitely pushes those around us away! Learn to “drop the rope of the tug-of-war with unproductive people, thoughts, and even stories that your own brain is telling you. One of the most powerful ways to disengage from unproductive thoughts, conversations, and people is to simply step back and say, “huh, I’ll have to give that some thought?” Wish others well, it’s that simple...while we mourn with those who mourn, we can also rejoice with those who are rejoicing! And finally, things aren’t typically as bad as you think...go to the party, drop something off at your neighbors...Tony goes in depth with his understanding of how the brain simply wants to relax and expend as little energy as possible in hopes of living forever...bless your brains little, pink, squishy heart!
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Below is the machine-generated transcript of this episode, please forgive any errors.
[00:00:05] Hey, everybody, thank you for joining me on Episode 219 of the Virtual Couch, I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father for ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back and online pornography recovery program that is helping people reclaim their lives from the harmful effects of pornography. If you or anyone that you know is trying to put pornography behind you once and for all and trust me, it can be done in a strength based hold the shame, become the person you always wanted to be way, then please join me at Path Back Recovery Dotcom. And there you will find a short ebook that describes five common mistakes that people make when trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. Again, that's path back recovery. Dotcom and I am doing this kind of life one of the first times, again, trying to to record things, put things on my YouTube channel so you can go there and subscribe. And this was, I think, one of the first times that I've tried to have this music playing in the background. Usually that comes in post-production, as [00:01:00] they say. So head over to YouTube, look for the virtual couch. I'll have a link to that in the show, notes and subscribe. There would be grateful.
[00:01:07] And speaking of subscribing to things, you can go to a brand new release of my website, Tony Overbay.com, and you can sign up there to find out a lot more about a magnetic marriage program that is coming soon. And I really am excited about it. I'm proud of it. I really am. I think that Preston Pugmire, a friend of mine who is helping me develop this course, I heard somebody else saying this the other day and I feel like Doug on cliches, but we've cracked the code, you know, on how to communicate in a marriage. So, again, go to Tony Overbay.com. You can sign up to find out more there. That's coming very, very soon. And you can also follow me on Instagram at Virtual Couch, as well as on Facebook. Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist. And let's get to today's show. I have been having a blast in covering these things that I know. And this somewhat manifesto came from a lot of different things. I just sat down one day and just blasted [00:02:00] out. I really thought there would just be a handful of things that I really wanted to talk about. And the more I put this time and energy and effort into this list, the more it grew and the more I realized, man, these are things that I'm very passionate about and that have come about in, you know, I don't know, fifteen, almost fifteen years of doing therapy. So today I'm covering something that I like them all. I really do. But today I want to start with and they have numbers on them, but they're in no particular order. Actually, I cut and pasted just to make sure that I covered some of the things I really wanted to cover today. So I was about to say No eighteen. But today we're covering 1815, seventeen, maybe a little twenty. And I am going to try to also keep this one nice and tight around thirty minutes. That's been kind of fun to do as well. So today's item, it doesn't matter to you.
[00:02:48] The next item on the list is if you're going to say yes, then say yes enthusiastically. Don't play the role of the martyr. And I really frame this primarily. This comes [00:03:00] from a parenting technique where I learned that with my wife and she and I have talked about this so many times that if we're going to say yes to one of our kids about something, then don't give it the I guess, you know, acting all disappointed and down, because what a mixed message that can send. But that sends this message of I'm going to let you do this, but I'm really disappointed in you. And just think about that. And I think about these things where I think this is why it must be a blast to be a grandparent, because I know I didn't handle this well when I was a young father. And so I think when I have a grandkid that this is almost like the redo. So and we try to do this much better now. But the example I could think of is, is let's say that you're going to have your own life when your kids spend the night at a I don't know, we live next door to our cousins forever. So if they were going to spend the night at their cousins and we were not sure on the fence or rather than just say, no, I don't think that's a good idea, or if we thought, yeah, I guess it's fine, that's the way we would deliver [00:04:00] this message of.
[00:04:00] Well, I guess I mean, yeah, sure. And then what does the kid do with that? Oftentimes are like, well, no, I mean, I don't have to. And you're like, no, no, no, it's fine. I said, yeah, I mean, go ahead. And I just think about those mixed messages. So if you know that you're going to say yes about something, if you're going to let your your kid borrow the car, you're going to let them go to great America for the weekend. You're going to let them go to the beach with the friend, then say, yeah, you bet. And I hope you have fun, because ultimately what we want is to create that relationship not just with our kids, with our spouses, with our friends, where they can come to us. Let's say that our kid gets I don't know, they get in trouble while they're down there. And instead of them feeling like, oh, jeez, I can't reach out and tell my parents that I got in trouble because they're going to say, I told you so. I really didn't think that you should go anyway. Well, if you didn't think they should go, then tell them, hey, I really don't think it's a good idea to go. So again, if you're going to say yes, then say yes and be enthusiastic about it.
[00:04:56] Be supportive about it. If you're saying if you're hesitating, I mean, it's OK [00:05:00] to say, you know, yeah, I think it's a great idea. I don't know if I have some. Reservations, but I can't quite put my finger on them. I mean, I think that's fair, too, but just try not to play that martyr role where I guess I guess you know, that whole thing. All right. This next one is one that I. I really. Am overusing this phrase, but I love it, I really do. So what I wrote was drop the rope of the tug of war with unproductive people, thoughts, stories that are brains telling us, because most of the time, the best thing that you can do when somebody is being negative around you or when somebody is what I like to say, shooting all over you. You should do this. You should do that because nobody likes to be should on. But when someone is doing that, one of the best things to do what this what this concept of dropping the rope of the tug of war means is if somebody is saying, you know, you should really think think about doing a podcast about a very intense political things. You know, in the past, what I would do is I found myself, you know, [00:06:00] that's really not my audience. And that's something that I don't really feel passionate about myself. And so because what does that do? You know, typically the person is like, well, I mean, you've got this got this this platform now.
[00:06:09] And I think you should really do this and this where I have learned that one of the best ways to interact with people like that is to say I. And so I have to give that a thought. If just drop the rope with the tug of war, you know, and I find that there are there have been a lot of people in my life that are giving me wonderful advice based on their experiences. So, you know, someone that maybe hasn't been a therapist, who doesn't run a podcast, who hasn't written a self-help book or these sort of things, that's telling me all the things that I should do and why I should do them. And I found myself burning a lot of mental calories and trying to, you know, tell the person why that's a bad idea or why they don't understand. When I realized that one of the most powerful ways to interact with someone who bless their heart means well with what they're sharing again [00:07:00] is to say, huh, that is that is not a bad idea. So I have I have a story. And this is one that long, long ago I had I had a business partner in a completely different industry that and I thought this would be interesting story to tell the person had we were we were meeting with a group of investors and we had we had put some money into this company as well.
[00:07:22] And it was a company that I really enjoyed I really thought would do extremely well. And I didn't know the industry. And so I learned so many lessons in that in that industry with this company. But my business partner one day said, are you willing to put your house on the line or are you willing to put your house back up if if we needed to to to secure more funding or that sort of thing. And this person was much older and kids out of the home and and I wasn't they had kids in the home. And this was I was still I think I was seeing clients part time. And I thought and I said I said, oh, no, no, that's that's a very scary thing. And I have my young kids and family to think of. And [00:08:00] this person said, really, like, I can't believe you wouldn't put your house on the line for this this opportunity that we have. You know, that that and I remember just we had just these arguments about about why that would have been important and those sort of things. And I remember I would just talk about burning mental calories. I remember waking up mornings to go on my runs and instead of being able to just settle into a nice audio book, which is one of the things I love to do or listen to a favorite podcast, I would just ruminate and just go over and over all the things that I need to tell this person to help them understand why that's not that, that that that isn't going to work for me.
[00:08:36] And then they need to understand what I'm going through and all of these things. And and then fast forward a little little while down the road. We're meeting with some investors. And I remember one of the investors, they ended up not investing in the company, but they said, are you guys willing to make a personal guarantee, let's say put your house on the line for for this company? And I always remember, oh, my gosh, here comes the moment of truth. I'm going to have to say I'm out. You know, I feel like a little shark, a shark tank moment [00:09:00] where it's like because of the necessity to put my house on the line. I'm sorry, but I'm out. But I remember my business partner. One of the first things he said was, oh, no, no, no, no, we wouldn't do that. You know, we have families to feed in this sort of thing. And I remember thinking, looking over at him kind of in the meeting and going, do you do you know how long I have just ruminated about all the things that I needed to tell you about why this is not a good idea and how many times that we've had these conversations that they just didn't go well.
[00:09:28] And and then we were actually on the same page. And I remember from that day moving forward, I remember when he would bring up some other things that I felt were just things that I didn't really agree with necessarily. I might go in there and state my opinion. But I remember one of the most powerful things I could do was drop the rope of the tug of war and that argument, that unproductive argument and just say, yeah, I have to give that a thought. And that was it. And I remember thinking, wow, that is some power to be able to just say, I don't know what to think about that or, oh, I could understand where you're coming from or [00:10:00] tell me more about that. But I don't know. I'll have to see how to get back to you on that and how often that is just diffused a situation where in the past there would have been a lot of back and forth. I think about that concept I think I shared in The Last Things I Know episode the besides about psychological reactance, which again is that instant negative reaction of being told what to do and how it is just so innate with us within us. It's such a reaction, a negative reaction.
[00:10:26] So when somebody says, well, you really need to do this, one of the first things we do is we go, no, I don't I really don't need to do that. And I feel like one of the best ways maybe to work with this psychological reactance is truly just to say I think of that some thought. Yeah, I don't know. I haven't really thought about that much. So, again, dropping the rope of the tug of war with unproductive people, thoughts, stories, our brains telling us even if our own brain is telling us these stories, you know, I love acceptance and commitment therapy. One of the challenges with acceptance and commitment therapy are not the challenges with the model, but the way our brain works is we'll get this nice little dopamine spike. You know, we'll get this. [00:11:00] I like given the example of you're sitting in a crowd, somebody tells a story about running a marathon, for example, and you go, all right, I want to run a marathon. And your brain literally squirts a little bit of dopamine to the feel good center. And you go, yeah, but then the brain goes, I don't know, man. It's kind of scary. You know, we might get hurt. We don't really have a training plan. We don't have a race in mind. And so even being able to drop the rope of the tug of war with your own brain and saying, yeah, we don't really have a we don't have a race plan right now.
[00:11:28] Good point. We'll get back to that. So I thought that was kind of fascinating. OK, the next the next thing that I know is wishing well upon others, even when you might not entirely mean it, even when it's a hard thing for you to do, to wish well upon someone else. And here's where I'm going with this one, is that we're all just trying our best. We're all on this big old blue earth and just trying our best. We're having all of these experiences and life. We're having ups and downs, victories and defeats. And I'm [00:12:00] sure that there are times where you have wanted to share things with those around you or those who you love. And when you share something, they've maybe acted pretty indifferent about it. And what does that feel like? It doesn't feel very good. Most of the time I would I would venture to guess or if somebody, you know, really just acts kind of blasé about something. So celebrate. One of my things that I love is to celebrate with those who choose to include you in their celebration. I think there's I think there's some scripture out there somewhere that says something about mourning with those who mourn and and it might even say celebrate or rejoice with those who rejoice. But if it doesn't, I think that that would be a wonderful thing where where this is the case, that I think it's important to rejoice with those who are rejoicing or to share in those moments or help people feel good about good things in their lives.
[00:12:48] Because, I mean, especially now, heaven knows, we all need things to celebrate. We want some victories, some some wins under our belt. And so creating a shared experience with somebody [00:13:00] who chooses to let you into their world. I mean, people are excited to share, so be excited with them. We've all been in those positions where we wanted people to be excited for us as well. So I remember one of the first times I was listening to a podcast and I was actually talking about mindfulness and meditation and that sort of thing. And one of the concepts that it threw out there was this just being grateful, you know, being grateful for the things that are happening in your world. And and it was a particularly warm day, which right now we're going through an insane heat wave. I think it was 111 yesterday, which probably people in other parts of the world, maybe even down in Arizona or something, or saying, you know, 111, that's a nice, cool day. But for where I am, that was very, very warm. But so I'm listening to this podcast. I'm walking around this this area, it was near an office that I used to work at, and it was a particularly warm day.
[00:13:47] And I was listening to this person talk about just being grateful, being grateful for the things that are happening around you. And I remember a breeze came out of nowhere at that moment and cooled the sweat on my forehead, my giant forehead. [00:14:00] And I just was so grateful for that breeze. And then one of the next concepts that talked about was truly wishing well for others. And I remember walking around a corner and there were some people that in this warm day were doing some landscaping. And I just, you know, I said hi, as I normally like to do, and and I just wish them well in my head. I just thought, man, I hope that they just make that place look like a million dollars, whatever their goal is in that landscaping. I hope that that's something that they can pull off. And it just felt good. It did so wishing well upon others. And that reminds me of a very, very quick story, not even a story. It's more of a concept. And that is I think we all know the one upas in our lives, you know, to always have something better to to add, you know, and sometimes that makes us feel a little bit dismissed. So that might just be my challenge. This is a this is not one of the things I know, although I probably could have worked it in there as well, is don't be the one up.
[00:14:52] Or if somebody comes to you and shares a success, that that isn't a challenge. You know, they didn't just throw the gauntlet down and say, top that old man or [00:15:00] old woman or young man or young woman, whatever the case may be, they you know, it's not that they said I just had a success in my life. See if you can top that one. And instead, you know, that's a moment to say, oh, my gosh, that's incredible. Or are you kidding me? Like what what went into that success? Or tell me more about that or how long I've been working toward whatever it is that you're sharing with me. But it's not a time to say, oh, yeah, my my uncles, brothers cousin actually did that better and faster. And there you go. Do something with that. I mean, that doesn't ever feel quite the quite good. That one doesn't quite land where we I think we want it to. All right. Let's get to the next one. This one is. Most things aren't as bad as you think they'll be, and I think that this is this one can be really this can be a game changer. And let me let me explain. So whether this is going to a I don't know what company Christmas party or stopping by a friend's house to drop something off to somebody in need.
[00:15:56] So many of us really just default [00:16:00] to this path of least resistance. And and I feel like often we're met with this. We can either stay at home and watch TV or we can go put ourselves out there with this potential that things might not be comfortable or I don't know, I sometimes really and I know I do this myself, so it's hard to even wrap my head around sometimes why I don't want to go and do certain things, because it really is just this concept of the path of least resistance, which led me to think about something that, again, another one of these game changers, so such a long series of events that led to me having an opportunity to work with some people that are so much smarter than me and me getting to be as part of, we'll call them treatment teams with some people who are are doing some pretty incredible things. And and I remember here was the way that there was a neurologist, the doctor, who laid something out to me that happened to work alongside when I was reading this book called The Power of Habit by [00:17:00] Charles Duhigg, which I have a podcast episode about long, long ago. But game changer for me here. Here's what the way here's the way this doctor described the way the brain works. He said that the brain and I'm putting in the bliss, it's squishy pink heart.
[00:17:16] Is this this device, this don't get killed device that thinks that it has a finite amount of energy. And I feel like that's a very important thing to kind of just sit with for a moment, that if the brain thinks that I have to conserve my electrical activity, then that that this is going to make a lot of sense where I go next with this. So it believes as this finite amount of electrical activity, which is why it's constantly trying to save itself from doing too much. And again, this is kind of as I learned this concept, I was also reading this book, The Power of Habit, where the author, Charles Duhigg talks about the basal ganglia. There's a fun thing to say. And the basal ganglia, as I understand, is this tiny walnut [00:18:00] sized part of the brain that sits on top of the brainstem that some people like to call the habit Seigner. And again, I'm going to continually probably say the way it was explained to me, because I am no neurologist. I am someone that is not steeped in the ways of neuroscience. But this made so much sense to me. So what what I was told is that the basal ganglia, if we look at that as the habit center of the brain, that when the brain gets used to some sort of activity or even a thought process, then when the brain says, OK, we're doing this, this is what we do.
[00:18:32] Let's look at like tying your shoes, for example, or backing out of the driveway. Then your brain takes that activity and it moves it into this basal ganglia, this habit center. And things that come from the basal ganglia require far less electrical activity. Then the processing, the ordinary processing power of just trying to think of things in the moment or on the fly. So if something becomes habitual, then your brain can file it away in this habit center. And then when [00:19:00] it goes to recall, it takes very little electrical activity. So your brain wants to create habits. It wants to put things in this basal ganglia for better or worse was the way this was described to me. So even things like addiction, I work with a lot of people that struggle with addiction and so addiction can truly become this this habitual pattern. So when I'm working with people that struggle with pornography addiction or compulsive sexual behavior, for example, that there's often there's a trigger and then there's a thought and then there's an action. So the trigger might truly be, I call them crimes of opportunity. It's boredom and opportunity. Someone is just sitting there and all of a sudden they're bored and nobody's home. So they think the brain says, oh, I know what we do now. We we look for pornography, you know where this is, where we act out.
[00:19:49] So the brain just thinks that it's doing this systematic pattern. And so if we kind of think of it that way, then the brain trying to just, you know, conserve energy, then [00:20:00] it's no wonder that we often go toward path of least resistance because it's our brains, again, bless its heart, it's our brains way of saying if I can get us to not do much, I think we have a better chance at living forever. And but we know that that is a blessed brain, our brains, heart moment, and that instead what we're doing is not living as rich and fulfilling of a life. So if we have an opportunity to go provide some service for someone and or we can sit there and watch another episode of something on Netflix, our brain already knows the Netflix version. It's like, no, we just kind of sit here this. Is what we do when we get home, we sit here and we watch one show after the other, and as a matter of fact, we've even got this this habitual pattern where we even think about getting up and doing something and then we don't. And then we're going to do it tomorrow. And we thought that so many times that our brain thinks, well, that's what we do. That's the file that away in the basal ganglia. And so what we need to do is that's where we need to think our brain. [00:21:00]
[00:21:00] Thank you, brain. That's a great idea. The next episode of whatever the series we're watching does sound quite intriguing, but I am going to diffuse from that thought and I'm going to go and do this service activity or I'm going to go have a human connection or a a connected experience with someone. And what we can actually do is over time, that can actually be the new neural pathway. That can be the part of what we file into this basal ganglia or our habit center. So I thought that was really fascinating, though, that the brain basically wants to try to chill and do little, if no new things because it thinks that's the way it's going to live forever. There was a psychologist named Reuben Gur, and this is one of the things whenever I go speak, I like to throw some fun facts about the differences between men and women. And I remember this one very well. I think he was University of Pennsylvania, but he said that a man's brain and resting state, it's only operating on, I believe, about 10 percent electrical activity. So when [00:22:00] you say to a guy, if if the spouse says to the man, hey, honey, what are you thinking? And he says nothing. He is literally almost thinking nothing. His brain is saying when we sit on the couch and stare at screen, we go dark.
[00:22:15] We don't think anything, you know, it is that is the habit part of the brain. That's that's what we've dug into the basal ganglia thabit center. Now, if he has been trained well, if he's one of my clients, he will then turn to her and say, what are you thinking? And then she'll maybe most likely say, I'm thinking about, you know, I didn't get this done. And the kids have this going on tomorrow. And I and I really need to look into this. And my my mom is telling me this and I need to take care of her and I need. And so he said in the same quote, resting state that the wife's brain is maybe more operating along the lines of it's operating at 70 percent electrical activity. So so that was one of those differences and possibly the way the brain of most men and women work. But I thought even more fascinating was that when [00:23:00] the guy's brain is in arresting state, that it's pretty much checked out. So so, you know, we have to do more to kind of even combat at times our brains natural inclination to just want to relax. And that does remind me there. I think it was in the book Power of Habit. It might have been just doing a little bit of research on this, but talking about basal ganglia, things like a squirrel and a fish, their entire brain is a basal ganglia that that all they are is just reactionary.
[00:23:30] So, you know, they form a habit of eluding predators and that's all that their brain knows how to do. So, all right. I believe that we have gone close to half an hour, if not even crossed the half an hour line. So I think I'm going to wrap it up. But what did we learn today? We learned that if you are going to say yes, then say yes enthusiastically. I do not play the role of the martyr. And we've learned how to drop the rope of the tug of war with unproductive thoughts or stories or even people where [00:24:00] they can tell us, hey, why don't you do this? And we can say, huh, that's a good idea. I'll have to think about that or I haven't thought of that before. Let me let me do a little more thinking on that and also the concept of just wishing well upon others, even if that can be difficult for you, that I guess it's don't try to pop anybody else's balloon or rain on their parade or any of those kind of examples. And last but not least, a lot of things aren't as bad as you think that they'll be. So go and do the things that maybe you haven't done, and I promise you that you're going to have a much better experience. OK, thank you so much for joining me.
[00:24:35] Playing us out, as per usual, is the wonderful, talented Aurora Florence with. It's wonderful. And I will see you next time on the virtual couch.