Alexa (Overbay) Lovell survived a near-fatal accident a little over one year ago. She dives into the details of what the past year has been like, including recovery setbacks, unrealistic expectations, continued frustrations, the reality of potential addiction to pain medications, what the future looks like regarding having children, and much more. 

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at

Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorder Course is Open! Visit Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorders; Dr. Michael Twohig will teach you the industry-standard treatment used by anxiety-treatment experts around the world. Through 6 modules of clear instruction and clinical demonstrations, you will learn how to create opportunities for clients to practice psychological flexibility in the presence of anxiety. 

After completing the course material, you'll have a new, highly effective anxiety treatment tool that can be used with every anxiety-related disorder, from OCD to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder.

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App.

Go to to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage. 

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting And visit and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here

Did you know that more than 40 percent of everything you do is habitual? Are you addicted to your phone or social media? Or are you simply responding to a well-worn neurological cue/reward pattern? Tony discusses the latest in habit research from the article "How to Conquer Your Primitive Brain" by Adam Piore.

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at

Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorder Course is Open! Visit Inside ACT for Anxiety Disorders, Dr. Michael Twohig will teach you the industry-standard treatment used by anxiety-treatment experts worldwide. Through 6 modules of clear instruction and clinical demonstrations, you will learn how to create opportunities for clients to practice psychological flexibility in the presence of anxiety. 

After completing the course material, you'll have a new, highly effective anxiety treatment tool that can be used with every anxiety-related disorder, from OCD to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder.

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App.

Go to to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage. 

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting And visit and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here

Virtual Couch Episode 363 Transcript

Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 363 of the Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, ultra marathon runner, and creator of the Path Back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people reclaim their lives from turning to pornography or any unhealthy coping mechanism. So go to Find out more about that. Or you can actually go now to Tony Overbay underscore LMFT on Instagram, link in the bio and there's a link tree that has everything you need to know, latest podcast episodes, how to sign up for my newsletter and also that link tree is going to be in the show notes. So we're just trying to make things easy, but I really would recommend that you go sign up for the newsletter and you'll find out so much exciting stuff that is coming soon to earbuds or monitors near you. So I'm going to jump in. Oh, one thing, this is a really cool thing. I had the, I want to say world renowned and he really is, Michael Twohig on at the end of last year, he's done so much research in the world of acceptance and commitment therapy. And that episode was one of my favorites and I still take quotes from that almost on a daily basis in my practice. 

And he had an ACT for OCD and anxiety online course that it launched and it was there for a little bit. It was taken away, but there is a relaunch of that. And I will have the link in the show notes on how you can get access to that course. If you have a pen or a pencil, I guess that sounds kind of old school, you know, then stop your horse and buggy and scroll this down with some charcoal on a tablet. Or you can just jot it down in the notes on your phone, or it'll be in the show notes. But the direct link is HTTP colon slash slash man, I sound like I am coming right to you from the year 2003. But it's Praxisce, which is And you'll find that ACT for anxiety disorders course, and it's, it really is amazing. I was able to take it myself when Michael was coming on the show. And ACT is just, it's phenomenal. I cannot say enough about what it can do to really help you realize that you have all the tools you need right there built within you. And it's a matter of unhooking from these the thought a thought is a thought and just unhooking from the ones that are not really serving you much of a purpose and getting away from those socially compliant goals of what you think you're supposed to do to make everybody else happy around you. I find out what your true values are and then just start living, living a life of value based goals and actions. And yeah, you have the ups and downs, the bumps, the bruises, but as you start to really live a more value based purpose filled life, it is phenomenal. It is. And you get away from that, what is wrong with me? I must be broken. I'm a human. The very first version of me that's ever been on the planet. And when you really unhook from those unproductive thoughts and really figure out what makes you tick. 

And not need everybody else to tell you how you're supposed to think or feel. Again, I cannot even describe how amazing that is. That is acceptance and commitment therapy in this ACT for anxiety disorders workshop is amazing. It really is. So go click on the link in the show notes and get there. But today we're going to talk about something I just love. I really do. And I was sent an article about, I guess it's two or three days ago and just asked if I had comments on it and I love getting those emails. And so I hadn't planned on talking about conquering our primitive brain or talking about habits at all today, but then I thought there was a pretty funny spin on it. As somebody sent this to me, I guess I had made a joke at some point. That you wait till about the third week of January, and then you can pick up exercise equipment for cheap when people have moved away from their new year's resolutions. And I let that slide. I really thought about doing something funny about a month ago, talking about how your, how are your new year's resolutions working, not in a guilt or shame based way, but just being able to have some acceptance. And then was that really a goal that you felt passionate about? Or was it something you thought you were supposed to do? But then I was sent this article and it's from Newsweek and it says “How to conquer your primitive brain.” And it's that subheading that I think is so fascinating and why I really wanted to talk about it. I'm gonna read a lot from this article today and I'm gonna make some comments based on my own experiences. 

But this subheading says “More than 40% of everything we do from washing dishes to spreading misinformation is habitual.” Science has some ideas about how to do better. And this is by a gentleman named Adam Piore. I could have mispronounced that. And the article is really neat. Has some great illustrations. It's so neat. I really did not realize that I sound like someone's great-grandfather talking at times, it's really swell. This thing is it really is. Trust me. But there's a lot here that I feel like plays on a lot of the things that I've talked about from Charles Duhigg's book, The Power of Habit. As well as James Clear's book The Power of Habit, and I want to tell a quick story that I told them on a Waking Up to Narcissism podcast a few days ago that I just want to set the stage because I say a lot of things. I feel very passionate about it. 

I am standing in what I like to refer to as a healthy ego and healthy ego is based on real life experience or the things that we know. And part of being able to stand in your healthy ego is recognizing that you don't know what you don't know. So as simple as that may sound. And when we're a little bit more emotionally immature brain, we often feel like we have to have an opinion on everything and anything. And then if we have a good idea about how something may work, then we often subconsciously go big and then we start to confabulate or create a narrative or a story that backs up how I feel like things probably are. So now over in that world of narcissism, narcissistic confabulation can be incredibly abusive because to the narcissist who is incredibly emotionally immature when you look at that comes from deep childhood abandonment and attachment wounds or neglect that then the concepts around confabulation or changing a narrative to fit what that emotionally immature person needs it to be in that very moment is a survival technique. And that's why gaslighting, if you really are around somebody that you are opening up to, and then all of a sudden they turn what you're talking about. And they make you feel crazy about that. That is true what gaslighting is in a nutshell. That if it's somebody that is incredibly emotionally immature or narcissistic and they are confabulating the narrative, it means in their brain. Well, it can't be that way. If you said, hey, you kind of hurt my feelings. If the gaslighting comes across, then in return, really well, you hurt my feelings all the time. As a matter of fact, I'm glad we're talking about feelings because I don't think you pay attention to mine at all. And as a matter of fact, the more I think about it, I really, I mean, you claim to be this person that is so emotional and empathic, but yet I don't feel like you ever validate my feelings. So here's this person that had just opened up and said, hey, that kind of hurt my feelings. And before, when the conversation is done, the person who had expressed that and all of a sudden feels like, oh my gosh, I didn't even know that I hurt this person's feelings so bad. And in the world of confabulation to that emotionally immature narcissistic person, they have had to create that narrative. And it happens in just a millisecond because it's a survival mechanism from their childhood, if they took ownership or accountability of something, first of all, they didn't see that modeled, which is part of the problem. But if they did, they would get in trouble. And if you get in trouble as a little kid and you don't have a secure, attached relationship with your parent, then you feel like, man, this might, I might get in trouble and they're going to kick me out of the house because we're thinking with little kid brain. 

And so that narcissism or gaslighting becomes a childhood defense mechanism. Now, the reason I talk about this is that concept of a confabulated memory or changing the memory is just an amazing, fascinating thing because as I talk about what I know today about habits and things that I talk so passionately about on the podcast, I now recognize that I could have confabulated many of the stories or the data that I've just come to rely on. What I love now is being able to check in with an article like this one today. And to see him where the latest in science, a habit science is. And so this might just be a moment for me, but I'm going to be really open and honest. If there are things that go against or contradict the things that I've always believed to be the case and because the more you're aware of this concept around confabulation, I think it's a really great way to self confront but we create, we habitualize, there's so many things that we don't even recognize. I hope that as you even go throughout your day after hearing this episode, that you may notice or give yourself a benefit of the doubt of maybe, maybe I don't remember it exactly the way that I thought. And if somebody is saying to you, oh, I know exactly what happened then that, that may be the case, but then I will give them grace as well and say, well, maybe, maybe not. But I love their passion. So back to this article, more than 40% of everything we do from washing dishes to spreading misinformation is habitual. 

Adam says, “Science has some ideas about how to do better.” So he says that most people associate bad habits with the kind of activities that wind up on a list of new year's resolutions, eating and drinking too much, spending too much time on their smartphone and avoiding the gym. But he said that bad habits are often more than just these little personal issues that we have and he talks about the neural machinery of habit formation. Which I love now, we're talking about how the brain works is also the root cause of many of the worst collective behaviors. Texting while driving. I haven't even thought about how that slowly becomes habitualized. That then that's something that we just start to feel comfortable with. When I think it first came out, texting, there was a thought of, I will never drive and text. I honestly remember having my Blackberry, I guess the theme of today is Tony's an old man. But I remember having my Blackberry and getting the first text plan that had, I think 200 texts in a month. And I thought this was crazy. Like I'll never go through 200. I mean now, boy, if you look at how many times you text throughout a day or a week or a month, it is a lot more than 200, maybe throw an extra zero, maybe even two onto there, but texting while driving, gossiping about coworkers, littering, mansplaining, he says farting silently in public, making a racist or unfair assumptions about strangers, even spreading the kind of misinformation online that some experts warn is threatening our democracy. He said that those are things that are actually beginning to become habitualized. The more that we look at the science of how the brain works, he says that many people who are aware of bad habits and recognize them to be potentially harmful, blame themselves for being weak or lacking the willpower needed to resist them. 

But over the last few years, scientists have used advanced imaging technologies. So we can literally look inside the brain as habits are being formed. And then, these experts can even map out the habit formation all the way to the very structures in the brain structures that I love, how he says were formed so long ago in the blacksmith evolution. So we're talking about the blacksmith, the iron that was pounded in our brain in essence in the Smithy of evolution that humans share with other mammals. So research suggests that habits, which operate below conscious awareness usually cannot be tamed simply by resolving to resist them. And I love that concept so much. So just telling yourself not to do it, if anything, your brain is going to say, I will do it more. So I have to realize, first of all, I have to be aware of something that I'm not even aware of. He gives some examples where he says, okay, so again, research suggests that habits which operate below the conscious awareness can't be tamed just by saying I'm not going to do them or trying to resist them. Because he says, by the time you realize you're munching on a bag of potato chips, picking your nose, fighting with someone on Facebook, or veering into oncoming traffic while texting, it's too late. So, he says, if we want to change our habits, research suggests we need to understand how they work and we need to anticipate the cues that trigger them. And find ways to break our habit cycle before it starts. So taming a bad habit requires a lot of planning. And I love this concept. We need to reverse engineer the chain of behavior that precedes them. And then either remove the queue that sets us off altogether, or take the time to build new habits that will replace them. 

And one of the key things involves acknowledging that much of what we do is habitual and not the result of our own decision-making. And that setting goals in a way that drives new behavior patterns. Let me talk about that. So in my Path Back recovery program, and I work with a lot of people that have struggled with unhealthy coping mechanisms. And I know that I talk so often about pornography, but it could be turning to your phone. It could be turning to food, work, or even exercise as a form of habitualizing something that we just, we begin to have this habit cycle and I say in my program, there's a trigger, there's a thought, and there's an action. And one of the go-to examples that I'd like to talk about is working with someone who was struggling with turning to pornography as an unhealthy coping mechanism. It was amplifying up his objectification of women. And caused him to be less present with his intimate relationship with his wife and we had identified that there was a two hour gap after he took kids to school and his wife went to work before he had to go into the office. So in those two hours, there were times and days where he would go and work out at the gym. There were times where he would try to get things done at home. But over the course of time, that two hour block became the trigger of when he could look at pornography. And so this was something that he wanted to move away from because he felt like he was wasting time. And again, dulling out the dopamine neuro blasting, his dopamine neuro receptors, and just, he had all these reasons of course, why he wanted to get away from looking at pornography. But then he would feel like it just continued to happen. And over time, as he even drove home, his brain was saying, well, we got, we got time. And I often say that one of the biggest triggers is what I call the crime of opportunity, or just being able to do something. If the bag of chips is in the pantry, that is a trigger that is a crime of opportunity. If you have to go buy a bag of chips at the store, there's a lot of opportunities for you to not. You can come back to the present moment or turn back around or stop wherever you were heading mentally, or even literally physically in your car. 

But if the chips are in the pantry or if no one is at home and you know that the coast is clear. Over time that becomes the trigger. And so the trigger leads to the thought in this scenario, the person says I could act out, I could look at pornography. And then there's the behavior. Or the action. So we got the trigger, the thought and the action. That is the habit cycle. And so we can look at this a few different ways. Number one, ultimately we want to be able to put distance between thought and action. So if the triggers there he's at home alone and he has the thought, well, that's a thought. And I can breathe through the thought I can bring the thought of wanting to look at porn with me while I do other productive things, but that is an advanced level skill and advanced level mindfulness skill. Where at first, often what we have to do is I like what they say. Here we go back to that, we have to reverse engineer. And then we have to recognize that oh, okay I need to not be at home. So on the days where I go to the gym and then I even shower at the gym and go to work, nothing. I don't look at porn, but on the days where I go to the gym, go home, then my brain says, oh, remember home, what we can do. So you can reverse engineer and in this one and what is so fascinating about this example is that I believe there's also, if I go back to that whole path of enlightenment where he wasn't aware of what he wasn't aware of. Then he was aware. Okay. That is my trigger, but then he still didn't do it, he didn't take action as often as he would like, and that's a hard place to be because he would start to get angry and frustrated with themselves and say that he's broken and what's wrong with him. And so eventually though you go from, I didn't know what I didn't know to now. I know, but I don't really do what I need to do. As much as I would like to, then I do what I need to do and what I've set out to do more than I don't. So that would be where now I recognize this is my trigger and there is my thought that I want to act out, but now I take action. I put that space or I leave the house. 

And then eventually it's just what you become. And you become someone who is aware of all kinds of thoughts and you entertain many of them, but you still take action on the things that matter. But in reverse engineering in this scenario, the person eventually found himself just going straight into the office or he would go to the gym and shower there. So we have to be aware of that habit cycle. But what I thought was really interesting too, though, is that I was talking with someone not very long ago and I'll change some of the details because this one, I really like this as well. 

This person was really struggling if they would, if they were struggling with a particular unhealthy coping mechanism when they would leave work. And so in that timeframe, they were now aware that is what I need to just get home. That's what I need to do. But then there were times where they didn't and they would still struggle with that unhealthy coping mechanism. So as we broke down the game film, we said to this, let's say this was a female. And we said, okay, she could reach out to a friend. She could call, she could have somebody talk with her on the way home. And that's where she said, okay, I know I don't need to do that. I'm aware now, but then it continued to happen. As we continued to reverse engineer that entire habit cycle, she was able to recognize that it was when there were these particular things happening at work that were overly stressful, where she felt like there was a lack of guidance and direction. And then she would start to feel stressed and then on the way home, then she would just feel like, okay, I can't handle this. And so it sounds like one of these Disney endings, but in that scenario, we were able to reverse engineer what led to this trigger and the thought and the action to the point where she was able to speak up to someone at her place of work and they were able to change some things over time that helped her. But wherever we are, if we have to reverse engineer all the way to, when I walk in my office, I already am triggered because I don't like what I do when my brain starts to think of. I can't wait to tune out with an unhealthy coping mechanism. Then we really need to take a look at even the workplace itself. 

So reverse engineering becomes such an important part of changing that habit, but Adam, back to the article, he says still, it's not easy to break a habit. And he said, nature has made sure of it. And that's what habits are. An essential tool of survival. Without them, the simple task of everyday life would overwhelm us. And he said, Americans spend an average of 43% of each day engaged in tasks that are largely unconscious, that it becomes so automatic that we're able to think and talk about other things while we're doing them. According to research by Wendy Wood, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California. And I think what's really interesting is right now, as I am talking and recording this podcast, I have this forearm grip strength thing that sits on my desk. And I did not even notice that I was picking it up and I don't even know how long I've had it. But I already can imagine I've switched hands and I'm using this strength device just because it's there. It's more of like an ADHD, fidget cube, but gives you a little bit of strength in a sense. But as I'm reading that, I realized that was completely unconscious. I don't even remember where it was on my desk. I don't remember picking it up. And I can tell by the, I guess the pump in my forearms, that, that has been, I've been doing it for awhile. And I've been recording this podcast for a little while. 

So it could have even been right from the start. Habits are a unique kind of a learning system. They're unconscious. So we don't have access to them. And the way that we have access to other decisions, Wendy Wood says, and she said, I think that's been overlooked in the popular press and that gets people into trouble. And again, why I love it. I really enjoyed this article. And here's another reason is because that sentence alone, that I think has been overlooked in the popular press and that gets people into trouble. What has been overlooked is that habits are happening at an unconscious level. So we may not even have access to them the way we have access to other decisions. 

So I go right back to my favorite therapeutic modality, ACT. Where instead of saying, oh man. What is wrong with me? I can't stop doing this thing that I don't want to do. We now say, oh, check it out when this happens. Here's how I react. That's interesting because I can look at that with curiosity. But when I'm beating myself up. I'm still coming from this incredibly. I feel like, emotionally immature way to think I'm going to change is to get mad at myself and then maybe I'll change, but that's not a way to lasting change. I can control my behavior a little bit, that concept of white knuckling through something, but that is not going to lead to a sustained view of change. So understanding habits and learning how to gain some control over them creates possibilities, he says, for making the world a better place, we could all be healthier, happier, less distracted. And he says to hear Wendy Wood tell it, we might even be able to improve the state of our democracy habit hackers. So he says one demonstration of how the neural machinery of habit formation can work against us and how difficult it is to control is the phenomenon of new year's resolutions. So here we are, it's almost the end of February. And he did say it. He says last year, an estimated 40% of Americans resolved to change bad habits starting on January 1st. By the end of the month, roughly one third had already given up. And four fifths will eventually fail, says Katy Milkman, a professor of the Wharton school and author of the book How to change the science of getting from where you are to where you want to be. And what's more, technology has become a potent tool of exploitation in this. Oh, this one gets me, but he says that technology's become a potent tool of exploitation in our consumer culture because of social media, social media companies would use have become so successful at hacking the primitive unconscious parts of your brain involved in habit formation. That much of the world's population is now habituated to checking in with Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, and their smartphones multiple times a day. 

And I have to tell you, this is one of those things that can just come out of nowhere. I have my daughter Sydney, co-host of Murder On the Couch, soon to be released, has been uploading a lot of video content that I've been creating on Tik Tok. And I have told myself that I will look at Tik Tok on occasion. But it can just suck up hours of your time. The algorithm is, I want to say, so fascinating, but It's addictive. It really is. And now that I have videos on Tik Tok, I told myself, yeah, we'll put them up there. It doesn't really matter. I just like creating content. Maybe it can help some people. And one of them I think is pushing a million views. And so I went from this place of thinking, I don't care to, oh, really? I better go check that out. And so the more I look at that, now I'm commenting or answering some of the comments and people are being hilarious and fun and I'm glad that it's resonating. And then while I'm there, then when you open up Tik Tok, then all of a sudden, I'm watching the videos and I'm scrolling through. And before you know it, I've got my whole feed full of little kids saying hilarious, funny things. People breaking out into spontaneous dance and animals that are doing hilarious things. And now I can't get enough of that stuff. And now I go there, my brain just tricks me into saying, well, just go see if there's any comments that you can answer on one of these Tik Toks. And I even found myself joking the other day, joking. I promise you, joking, but saying to myself, I mean, it's been three or four days since I had a viral video. You know, what's going on here as I'm scrolling through Tik Tok and then forget if you pause on an advertisement. I think I finally stopped getting advertisements for men's soap from the holidays where I made the mistake of looking. And I think I probably fell asleep with one of the articles, the ads for soap, just playing over and over again. 

But that algorithm is just so conditioned to then hit on that subconscious and now we're going back and we're looking and we just feel like we have to now be aware or mindful of not looking. Back to Wendy Wood, she says social media sites are set up to form habits and they do it so effectively that people are responding to cues on social media often without thinking. And again, it says Wood, author of the book, Good habits, bad habits, the science of making positive changes stick, she said they aren't thinking about the consequences of what they're doing. As a matter of fact, they're really not thinking at all. And one of those consequences, Adam says, is the rapid spread of falsehoods through social media networks. So now misinformation has been attributed to growing partisan bias, tribalism, polarization, and other factors. But the true mechanism, says Wood, may in fact be habit, the mindless sharing of sensationalistic fake news automatically often without considering the impact of what we're doing. That's the premise of Wood's new research. She and her colleagues found that habits are highly predictive of whether a user of social media will post misinformation more so than whether or not the poster agrees with it, or even believes that to be true. And they published this work in January and the proceedings of the national academy of sciences. So in four studies, colleagues presented a series of 16 news headlines, some of which were false to thousands of volunteers and offered them the opportunity to share the headlines on social media. The authors assessed partisanship, critical thinking, and the strength of the social media sharing habits. By analyzing past sharing on Facebook and whether they're sharing behaviors seem consistent with automaticity. So in the process of being automatic. So on Facebook, the act of sharing information is reinforced and becomes habitual because users get recognition from others for doing so. Here we go. Now it is that thing where we just crave validation, we still build our sense of self off of external validation, where we need to be able to find what matters to us and not rely on that validation from other people. 

But then she and I think this is so true. She said, once this reward based learning system has formed a habit, the authors conclude then information sharing is automatically activated by cues on the platform without users considering critical response outcomes. So when something becomes habituated, then now it just happens. And there are certain cues that happen on the subconscious. And now you just lean into that habit. Misinformation, she says, is one symptom of a far larger problem intentionally or not. Smartphones seem to be optimized for habit formation, offering a cue in the form of a notification, followed by a reward in the form of an email or message offering a social contact for giving it attention. And many of us are now controlled by them. Many people automatically reach for our phones the minute they wake up or shortly thereafter, and then they check them for email or news. 

So Wood says, you know, it's common these days to attribute these behaviors to addiction, but she said that is inaccurate. She said the habit system is so much broader than that. She said it doesn't require a craving. The habits are a very common learning system that they're not necessarily addictions. She said we couldn't get through our day without habits. So I love the breakdown of that. Something becomes more habitual because I just did a podcast interview on unashamed and unafraid about pornography. And I loved it. I loved those guys. It was so much fun. But right out of the gate, they just hit me with the, so do you feel like, pornography is pornography addiction, and I said, man, I'm gonna meet somebody where they're at, but I feel like if it's an unhealthy coping mechanism or somebody, someone wants to get away from. Then whatever, if they feel like, okay, calling it a habit helps them feel like there's hope. Or if they feel like calling it a habit makes them feel like a less of a person then whatever, whatever works. I just want to help somebody move away from this unhealthy coping mechanism. And I don't feel like I've ever put it as well as obviously these, these wonderful studies. 

But it becomes a habit. That is that it is the habit cycle. Whether we want to call it addiction or we call it, I mean, why this habit, but things are happening based on these cues. And then from that queue, we do things unconsciously. And if you’re like me, you like to nerd out a little bit about the neuroscience of things like habit making, then this next part of the article is pretty incredible. They reference 19 or no, I'm sorry. They referenced an 1890 article. “The principles of psychology.” Where someone named William James introduced the idea that is still at the heart of how habits are formed. So we're talking 130 years later, but it's the study of habits that says that once a habit is formed, a single cue, an idea, or a perception can serve as an unconscious command that kicks off this basically an automated chain of associated movements, which takes place outside of your awareness. Again, this was 1890 when William James wrote about this. So the brain groups multiple complex actions together into a single habit that can be performed automatically. James observed, for example, many people have had the experience of driving home from work and pulling into the driveway without consciously paying attention. And later they don't even remember driving home at all because their thoughts were elsewhere. 

And that's a thing. Now that psychologists call it's storing multiple actions or ideas or thoughts into a single mental file folder in memory. Which they call now chunking. But in this article Adam talks about how the brain can not only perform these complex tasks without our conscious awareness. But it can also learn unconsciously to remember new information. So for example, if you are just walking home from the store, or what is or associated with a weather pattern. And these are things that are just happening at an unconscious level, but you still react to them. But here's where I start talking about the basal ganglia and I purposely held back on even reading more about this because here's where I feel like that concept of what I thought that I knew. And so here's my take or what I like to say about the basal ganglia, which is called the habit center of the brain. It's this little walnut sized part of the brain where when things become habitualized, they're moved into the basal ganglia. And here's the parts where I realized that I think I've put some pieces together that I assume are correct. And that is in the world of acceptance and commitment therapy that we operate from a point of view of the brain as a don't get killed device. And that the brain works in essence off of this fallacy, that it has a finite amount of electrical activity. So as everything it wants to habitualize things, because it will take less effort, less electrical activity. And if you use less electrical activity, then you will live forever, thinks the brain, and the brain in essence is again, a don't get killed device that wants to do whatever it can to live. 

So in that scenario, the more we habitualize things, the more they go into this basal ganglia. And I think that those are the things that happen underneath consciousness, the things that we don't even really have to think about. So with that said, let's talk about what this article talks about with the latest in the brain science of habits. So they say that advances in neuroimaging and other neuroscience techniques have in recent years allowed scientists to watch the way this unique form of human learning operates in the brain in real time with increasing resolution. And then they've also mapped out the process with increasing precision to different parts of the brain structure. So explicit memories, which are the ones that we consciously make, are stored in the seahorse shaped part of the brain known as the hippocampus. But humans are also capable of implicit learning or implicit memory, which is what I quote from the Buddha brain, which is built off of the slow residue of lived experience or what it feels like to be you. And in this article, they say that the brain structures responsible for storing implicit memory, these types of memories and associations reside deep in the primitive center of the brain adjacent to the hippocampus known as the basal ganglia. So our old friend basal ganglia is back. So they go on to say the basal ganglia is the part of the brain that allows us to chew food, brush your teeth without thinking, and ride a bike. That it's also the instinctual quick thinking part of the brain that allows us to make snap judgements in response to sensory perceptions that signal danger. It's also what makes the hair stand up on the back of the neck or a seasoned soldier who unconsciously associates the sudden quiet in a Vietnamese jungle with enemy soldiers about the spring and ambush. And enables a soldier to dive for cover without being consciously aware of the impending ambush. 

So it's a survival tool that evolution has given not only to humans but other animals as well. And this is where I remember one time hearing that things like squirrels and fish are all basal ganglia, that there is no other part of the brain. So they are just acting instinctively at all times. So the basal ganglia is also part of the brain where established habits reside, neuroscientists have observed. That it's activating when animals and human subjects engage in these habitual behaviors. So they say that although fully formed habits are unconscious, conscious thought is initially involved when we form new ones. So you have to be conscious of doing something in order to then habitualize it. Most people, for instance, don't think about how to ride a bike, but they remember where they were when they first learned. And the reason many of us associate habitual actions with conscious thought is because often we remember making the choice at some point in the past to perform an action. So then we put that we associate the choice of when we decided to, when we were riding a bike. That is this conscious thought of that as we were very intentional about that. So then brain imaging studies in recent years have consistently shown that conscious executive control systems of the brain located in the prefrontal cortex are often active in the first stage of habit formation when we perform a new task. So the conscious thought is there when we perform something new. So when we focus the spotlight of our conscious attention on learning to ride a bike or typing in a new locker combination at the gym or area, these areas of the brain become involved in conscious thought intentionally. 

There's this intentionality and complex reasoning. They're all active. And this is according to a person named Elliot Berkman, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon who co-directs the center for translational neuroscience. So then for a habit to take root, not only are we consciously aware of our actions, but then those actions also usually bring a reward. So if you see a bag of potato chips, there's the cue. And you start shoveling them in your mouth. There's the action. And you get this flavor explosion going on and all the pleasure centers of the brain activating. There's the reward. Or then if a headline pops up on your newsfeed, which they refer to as the queue, you repost a new story on Facebook. There's the action. And receive a flood of positive comments, likes and re-shares from long lost friends. There's the reward. So in this first stage of habit formation. And then in the second stage, when we repeat the action, this is what Birkman calls consistent reinforcement. The experience of reward causes our brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine in the basal ganglia. Now all my friends are together. Dopamine, the basal ganglia. So the dopamine kicks off a chemical cascade in the brain that causes the basal ganglia to forge new connections between neurons that over time form into the brain circuitry required to automate a habit. I think that's so laid out beautifully. So there is conscious thought when there's that cue and then you take action and then you get the reward and then that is all then solidifying in that basal ganglia when that reward hits and you get that dopamine bump. And so then the brain says, I like it. Let's keep doing this. 

So then once a habit is fully formed the services of the conscious executive control areas of the brain, they aren't even needed. This stuff's happening now under the surface. So now we can, they say that we're free to direct our limited attention to new things. They say things like the plot of a new TV show we're watching or as we eat the potato chips. So at this point, all the brain structures, the neurological structures involved in the habit shift to what's called this sensory motor loop, which includes the different parts of the brain, the basal ganglia, the areas of the cortex involved in motor control. So what you're doing with your hands, your, your face, your all these. So anytime the neurons are associated with a cue or activated, an example begins with the sight of that bag of potato chips. Or the appearance of a bold face news story on a Facebook feed. They trigger the firing of the neurons involved in the chain of action that bring about the desired reward and that is happening. Deep in our subconscious then, Berkman says the basal ganglia they're well-positioned to form habits because they're connected to the reward regions. But they are also intimately connected with the areas of the brain involved in motor control. So what do you do? This is my take on it then. So then what you do. That's the motor control area of the brain tied with the reward. So if we do things that bring a reward, then that becomes ritualized. He said, if you wanted to have a brain circuit that basically said, oh, this behavior just earned me a reward. Then it is perfect. It's ideally located and that's essentially what the basal ganglia does. So neuroscientists are still characterizing the exact locations of the phenomenon zooming and with increasing precision and resolution on how brain activity in the basal ganglia changes as habits take root. 

They had a paper that they published in March, this behavioral neurologist or neuroscientist Ingo Willem, and his team at the Netherlands Institute of neuroscience precisely tracked the location and the release of dopamine in the basal ganglia during different stages of habit formation in the brains of rats. So it might be someday possible to develop drugs that help in breaking pathological habit loops associated with addiction and things like obsessive compulsive disorder. That's what he told Newsweek. So in his lab, Berkman's been studying personal values. And this is where I think that the ACT stuff kicks in a little bit. But the way personal values and abstract thought might be used to help change habits such as smoking or bad eating by developing techniques that keep personal values. And large concrete goals at the front of the mine. So they remain as salient and powerful as the unconscious cues that activate bad habits. So he says, for instance, if you have a goal like climbing Mount Everest, and the goal feels tangible and salient, he says, then you have a better chance of noticing when you're triggered to say light up a cigarette. The goal in other words, helps break the habit cycle. And that's what I, you know, when I look at things like for the heart or the height of my ultra running career, when I think I did, I'm running a dozen, maybe half a dozen or more races, a year of distances of over 30 or 50 miles. That the training schedule was constant. And I feel like that reward was there almost on a daily basis, not just from the daily exercise, but also thinking about completing one of these ultra marathons, because that gave me the most amazing euphoric dump of dopamine at the finish line. And then even the fatigue or the next few days, the soreness, it was all this odd reward system that made me feel like I'm alive and this is a purpose and values. So I love that description that they give of that if the goal does feel salient. 

And that's where I feel like it's working with a value. If I had a value of fitness, which goes deep in my what it feels like to be me based on me wanting to be around and live and enjoy my kids and maybe seeing some of the people in my family, extended family that have had health concerns, so those are all those things that are part of what my implicit memory is or what it feels like to be me. But he says for run of the mill habits, we don't have to wait for a pill or even Berkman's new techniques. Wood, Berkman, Milkman, a whole host of others who study the phenomenon habits have had plenty of advice that has already been proven to work. So they say that basically to change a habit, the first thing you need to do is rethink your assumptions. So in the lab, they found that not only people tend to overestimate their ability to make decisions, but also they're resistant to the idea that they're operating out of a habit. And that's what I found in my office. There are some people that when they recognize that, oh, this is just a reaction that it's empowering. And there are other people that say, wait, this is a reaction you're telling me that I don't have control. And then they don't look at that as with acceptance of oh, okay. So if I don't, now I need to reverse engineer this habit cycle. And how far back can I go to then start to change the whole process? So in one study, they found habitual coffee drinkers consistently recognized that their coffee drinking was a product of both habit and fatigue. But they consistently overestimated the role of fatigue and conscious decision-making in their choices. What caused them to drink the beverage? They found that habit played a far greater role than the subjects reported. So they may have been associated with fatigue, but in essence, they just were drinking coffee a lot of times because they drank coffee and that's what they do. So people tend to interpret their habits as decisions that they've made, even when we can demonstrate that they're acting automatically on a habit, Wood said. So we found that people are a little resistant to that message. 

And she just said, we all want to believe that we're in control of our behavior because most of our habits work for us. So then we tend to believe our habits are what we would have done if we were making decisions. But then with habits, they're not. That's why we often tell ourselves that if we could only rely on willpower, maybe we can just resist reaching for a cigarette or a cookie, or we would read a book rather than watch TV, but we mistakenly believe that habits or actions we consciously watch unfold in real time. And he hears the meat of this whole thing. I mean, that's if we can accept the fact that this is a reaction to cues that have given us a dopamine reward. Then we can start to recognize that, okay, thank you brain for doing what you thought was best for me, but now I actually have to consciously do something else in order to then change this whole neurological process. So in fact, what it says would often be that by the time we realize we're smoking a cigarette or eating that cookie or watching TV it's too late. Because we've already unconsciously fallen into a well established habit loop and then we've acted. So the most direct and effective way to change a habit, what our use is not to change or police your conscious thoughts, but to change your environment and then attack the cues that set off the habit in the first place.

If you don't have a cue again, if you don't have that bag of chips, if you don't have that opportunity, then you won't set off an unconscious habit sequence. So they, he said, take one common example: many of us by now have developed the habit of mindlessly picking up our mobile phones and checking our emails or texts. So the queue is often an obvious one. We see our phone or we hear a ping or we reach for it without thinking. And the next thing we know, we are doom scrolling. I did a podcast on that long ago. So Wood recommends the next time you're on vacation, placing the phone where you don't see it. You'd be surprised at how easy it will be to avoid checking your phone without those simple cues. If you're dubious, that might be because many popular habit books, Wood notes, conflate habits with addictions erroneously, suggesting that the absence of a phone will elicit a craving. But that is usually not the case. We don't need to check the phone. Or even necessarily want to, particularly when we're on vacation, Wood noted. We simply have trained ourselves to do so when presented with the queue. So that simple idea that we can break habits by controlling cues has wide, they go on to talk about wide public policy implications. Wood and collaborators suggest that it can help solve the problem of habitual sharing of misinformation on social media platforms. And they went on to talk about a study where Wood and the collaborators looked at thousands of active Facebook users, and they gave study participants a questionnaire that assessed the frequency of sharing and the amount of thought put into sharing. 

And those associate, those with weak habits who put the most thought into sharing were almost four times more discerning about what they shared, then those acted more habitually. So the people that just acted habitually just in essence, shared whatever they felt was the queue. It is a headline. So the strongly habitual shares those in the top 15% of active posters in the study were responsible for 37% of the false headlines shared in the study. So when presented with false headlines, those with a strong habit for sharing posted 26% of them. While those with weak habits only shared about 3%. So notably those with strong habits, shared news that challenged their political beliefs as much as they shared news that backed them up. So to change this behavior on a mass scale, Wood and her colleagues argue the social media companies will need to tweak the visual cues associated with news items to reduce automatic sharing and at present the standard manner of presentation, photo source, and headline was sharing response. There's an arrow right underneath. It says, here's how you share. Is designed to promote sharing. And then another recommended change is the way Facebook rewards sharing. Wood talked about the algorithm that determines where content is displayed and user feeds often places the most liked content at the top. Instead Wood suggests that the unverified news content should be deprioritized until it can be approved by moderators. And I know that that can set off a whole argument in itself of who are the moderators and what's their agenda. But I just like looking at this from the neuroscience of how things work. 

How things are habitualized. So in addition, content that seems to be generating disproportionately high rates of engagement from strongly habitual users. Those most likely to share an article, say without reading it, should receive extra verification. Facebook has said that apparently that has already prioritized original reporting from high quality news sources and its feeds. So providing some kind of reward or incentive for users to share accurate information might slowly change that habit. And then I think it's really interesting too. She went on to talk about from this article or from her studies, another option would be to disrupt habitual news sharing by adding new buttons to go alongside the share and like buttons. Such as fact check or skip. So this disruption or changing up the queue would cause some habitual users to stop and maybe just put a pause, which is a big part. I mentioned earlier in my addiction recovery program. So if you've got the trigger, the thought and the action, and really you're trying to find a way to put distance between that thought and action. So you can change cues, which disrupt habits, Wood says. You can also put people through a different learning experience. So they develop different habits oriented more towards sharing accurate information. So I really highly recommend this article. I'll have the link, obviously in the show notes, but I hope that you were, I hope that you saw why I felt like this was so important. 

That even the concepts around things like addiction could be challenged in certain situations. That some things are more just acting on a cue or things that have been habitualized that are working out of our unconscious or subconscious mind. And so just having the ability to address. To be aware that I might just be responding and then I can go back and reverse engineer to really get to that habit. And full transparency, I used the descript editing software that I love. It's what I used to talk so much about. That will let you take out the uhs and the ums and edit audio or video podcasts as if you were editing a word document. I cut out a big chunk and I'm going to put that next, because I realize this is me just going off on a little bit of a curious tangent about social media, about self confrontation, about being authentic. So I just put that here toward the end. So for the next seven or eight minutes, let me take you on my train of thought about some things that I've learned in engaging more with social media over the last few weeks. So if this is the end of your destination, if you want to hear more than hang, hang on there, we've got another seven, eight minutes. But if that is something that doesn't interest you, then I just appreciate you being here. 

And please continue to send your questions and comments and thoughts and spread this episode around if you feel like you can help somebody else. And if you are up for what I would almost call some bonus material or just some thoughts, ramblings of me then hang on because we're going to get to that right now. As I go back to talking about something like the videos that I've been putting out on Tik Tok, I think this could apply to Instagram reels or YouTube shorts. I would feel safe saying that most of the audience that listens to my podcast is fairly active on social media. Not even meaning that they post, but they probably have Instagram accounts and they look at the Instagram and Instagram reels and maybe they are, they find themselves down the rabbit hole of Tik Tok often or Facebook. And as a therapist in this space, I feel grateful for the success of the podcast, but I haven't poured as much resources or time into social media. And I am now thanks to the, my, the yeah yeah agency that's helping me. And, I have a daughter that's helping me put things on Tik Tok. And there's two things I think are really interesting from a place of self confrontation. One is, I didn't even realize that I was doing the acceptance and commitment therapy principle where I was saying, well, if I had time and I put more things out there that I'm sure that it would go well or it, that it would my audience would grow just like these other people, that their audiences are big, these other therapists or maybe coaches that are in the social media platforms. 

But I would say, yeah, but I don't have enough time. I've got a full practice. I've got multiple podcasts. I'm working on another book. I've got a family. So man, if I only had time, so then when I finally hired the Yeah Yeah agency and I have my daughter help me more, what is fascinating is now I am engaging more. And so then I recognized, oh, there was a real fear that if I actually do this, what if it just played to crickets and you can see maybe where the layers of needy were, it needing invalid wasn't needing validation. Was it a fear of invalidation? A fear of failure of an imposter syndrome. So many things that were there. So then as I start to put the content out there more with people that know what to do with that content. There was, I found myself not wanting to look at my social media even more. Because I think of that fear of failure or the imposter syndrome. And then as things started to progress and more followers are starting to come on board and some of the videos and the reels and some of the Tik Tok videos are hitting the numbers that I think I had hoped that they would, but I was afraid that they wouldn't. 

I realize it doesn't matter. And here's where I go with that next is I think that I tried to do this a few years ago. I worry that I really still would have been chasing the likes or chasing the number of new followers and not just trying to put out authentic content and do that just from a place of, I hope that this can help. Not from a place of, I hope people like me and I hope that people will follow me. And I hope that people will share my stories or reels or Tik Toks. And here's where I go with that next, you'll see certain people go from not a lot of followers and then all of a sudden they have a lot of followers. And then it's almost as if you watch this I don't, I don't know if it's an evolution of where the larger they get, the more people comment on posts and there are going to be a percentage of people that are going to say not the nicest of things. And then I can only imagine that the people that find themselves in those spots, all of a sudden if you know, you hear, don't look at your comments, don't look at the comments that people say, but then we're human beings. So it's hard not to do that. And then when you see the negative comments, it's hard to not either go to this place of a man, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Maybe that one person is right and those 99 other people are wrong. And that is interesting. That's one of those cognitive distortions. There are cognitive distortions, there's all or nothing thinking, black or white thinking. There's also a one that we don't talk about enough where you can receive 99 positive comments and one negative comment. And then we assume that that one negative comment is the one that's true. The other 99 people are just saying that because they have to, they're just being nice. 

They don't really know who I am, but the one person, they must be, they must know what they're talking about. And so if somebody is trying to, and this is where I go back to the be someone that they're not, but they're doing it because they simply want validation, external validation, and they are just trying to find a thing that will get people to say, man, you're the best or here's these extra views. That's where I worry that if people are attacking whatever someone is putting out there on social media. That's where the person that is putting the data out on social media, I believe is the most vulnerable because there, they may not even recognize that they don't completely feel a connection with whatever the material is that they're putting out. 

Here's the example. So on Tik Tok, I have been putting out things that I talk about on the podcast. Everything from the expectation effect to the man and a whole metaphor that we're using the wrong tool in certain situations to the drop the tug of war and the rope, a tug of war rope in your fight against the anxiety monster. And telling therapy stories and things that a narcissist would never say. And all of these things that I just, I love and I feel like I can speak from the heart. I can speak off the tip of my tongue. And so one of the videos, for example, the one that's pushing a million views. There’s almost a thousand comments and I would say 90, 85, 90% of them are positive. And it's, so it is validating for people to say the things, nice things about therapy and maybe this helps or what they identify with. But that leaves a hundred to 150 others that are not as nice and kind. And so that's the part where I realize now, if I am commenting on posts, then commenting on the posts, it's really easy to, did it say thank you? And to try to be witty and fun in the comments. But the people that are absolutely trying to get a rise or poke the, poke, the bear, so to speak. Now I look at that and it's like, oh man, that's that makes me sad that they feel like that makes them feel good. Or it gives them that dopamine bump to be able to try to take down somebody that they don't know who is putting out content in the hopes of helping people. 

But I recognize it doesn't affect me. It doesn't bother me. It really is coming from a place of oh, that would be hard if they felt like this video, if it resonated in the exact opposite way as it was intended. And so I'll bless them, but that doesn't mean I want to say oh, yeah, you're wrong. Because then I feel like, oh, now that person is just wanting to engage. And I feel like that almost goes back to this attachment wound, that person is almost saying, hey, I think you're dumb. And then, you know, do you see me? Because if I engage now all of a sudden, yeah. See that guy is super dumb because he doesn't even get how dumb he is and look at how he's interacting with me. And so I just, I really feel that goes back to this concept around authenticity. And that the more you are operating from a place of authenticity, you are working within what is called your healthy ego and healthy ego again is built off of real life experiences. And when you have a healthier ego, and I love talking about people with healthy ego Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, mother Teresa, Martin Luther king. And these people that just feel so confident in who they are and their cause that then that healthy ego is more of this thing that is it's internal. You cannot, you may be able to dent the outside. But you're not going to affect who that person is at their core, because they have had to get to a place through real life experience to get to the place where they are expressing things that they feel confident about, because those are the things that matter to them. They're not trying to just simply say things to get attention or to get validation. I just think that's so fascinating. I think I've watched a handful of people that I have known or been aware of that have had a bit of a, maybe even a meteoric rise in the social media world. And then you can almost feel a negative vibe take over on certain occasions where I think that they are responding to the haters, to the critics, that sort of thing. And I feel like that is coming from a place of them feeling like, how dare you attack my ego. When, if you are coming from a place of healthy ego, then all bless their heart, that they don't see the message that I'm trying to put off. So I just thought that was really interesting. Okay. I am back in real time. If you have hung on there this long, man, I probably should send you something. Thank you for joining me today. I appreciate all the support and taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented, the also on Tik  Tok, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's wonderful”. Have a great week. And we will see you next week on the Virtual Couch

Author Dana Killion joins Tony to discuss her memoir “Where the Shadows Dance,” available for pre-order at Dana’s story is born of a life in turmoil and her husband’s addiction, a situation where the only way through was to write it. And as she wrote, the themes of her personal trauma became clear and loud. They screamed for attention because they are the themes of many women, not just women with an addict in their life, but women who have been silent and have set aside their truth for the benefit of another. Women who are ready to find the strength and solace Dana has found through her reinvention. Tony and Dana discuss similarities in Dana’s story with those of the women and men who find themselves in relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic people in their lives and how vital the need for self-care and listening to one's instincts can literally be life-saving. 

Dana Killion is the author of several fiction books in the mystery/thriller/suspense category, including the Andrea Kellner series “Lies in High Places” “The Last Lie” and her latest offering, her memoir “Where the Shadows Dance” which can be pre-ordered on Amazon at

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App.

Go to to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage. 

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting And visit and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here


Tony: Dana Killian, welcome to, and as I was sharing with you before, probably the Virtual Couch, Waking Up to Narcissism, I have a true crime meets therapy podcast, and I feel like your story's so good, I think that, welcome, welcome to the Virtual Couch Network. Let's put it that way.

Dana: Thank you so much. I'm thrilled to be here. 

Tony: Yeah, it's nice to have you and my audience will know that I really like to just kind of go back and forth, but I actually wrote questions because I just feel like your story is so fascinating and there's something that I actually heard in another interview that you gave where you talked about you were journaling in addition to therapy. So there's a part of me that wants to just ease into your story but, as a therapist, I applaud you for journaling, and I'm curious, what was that process like and how did it differ from how you write fiction novels as well?

Dana: I do. Yeah. Journaling was something I wasn't immediately drawn to. I had a therapist suggest it and my first reaction was horror.

Tony: Tell me why. What, what came up for you? 

Dana: I was still at that place, at that point of the fear of being discovered, my internal thoughts. I was still in the marriage at this point. I was still going through a great deal of pain and I wasn't ready to share. And I felt that journal would be discovered. And so it was a scary thing for me, but later on, I was in a different place. I was in a place of such emptiness that therapy was fine, but it really wasn't getting loosened up, all the stuff that kind of comes up in between the things that you can't cover in an hour, the things that were just really, for me, lots and lots of questioning. So I found a journal and I just started downloading and I, and I don't have any other way to, to frame it other than downloading questions, pain, how I'm feeling, without any purpose other than to get it out of my head and out of my heart. 

Tony: No, I love that. To get it out of your head, I often find that people are so afraid of, and you can have all kinds of yeah, buts. The yeah, but it will get discovered or yeah, but it will just go darker or, yeah, but it will make me feel worse. And it sounds like you had those thoughts as well. 

Dana: Once I actually started journaling, I was really excited to do it. Okay. It felt like I'd found a release and I was less afraid of discovery at that point. There'd been a lot of other conversations and I knew that at that point I needed to worry about myself and I needed to worry about finding a way to deal with the pain and the emptiness that was inside me and the journaling was something I was thrilled to do. 

Tony: And did that happen pretty quickly after you started the process or did that take a little time? Okay. I love that. I'm going to cut this clip and then send it to every client that I have, everyone I will have in the future, so I appreciate you sharing that. You talked about that you needed to think more about or do that for yourself. And maybe that might be a nice transition into, I would love to just hear your story because, part of the, where I felt like this would fit in the narcissism world or emotional immature world, I often identify this, there's an author, Ross Rosenberg that calls it the human magnet syndrome, where there's a pathologically kind person who then is with an emotionally immature, narcissistic person. And then it forms this human magnet where you've got the kind person continually caretaking, buffering, you know, looking for it. And I'm curious, Dana, and maybe let's just let you tell your story, but I just wanted you to know that's what a lot of my listeners are probably, coming at that from their own experiences being that pathologically kind or caretaker that has felt in this human magnet. So I'm curious if that was a similar feeling that you had. 

Dana: Well, so the, the quick version of my story is I was in a 25 year marriage to a very high functioning alcoholic. And he eventually went into inpatient treatment and did get sober. At that point, he had had therapy, but not rehab. But while he was at rehab, I then learned another part of our story that I hadn't known. He had been living a secret life, a life of other women throughout our marriage. An unknown number. This is kind of where the journaling process comes in. As I was trying to deal with the why's of all of that because he had gotten sober, he'd gotten sober for me, and now I've got this new hurt, this new problem, this new crushing blow to deal with. And journaling became a bigger part of my life at that point. And through the journaling, yes, I write fiction, so through the journaling, I began to see that I did have, and that writing that story, at least for me, was a good way to gain perspective on what had happened in my life. Because as you and all your listeners know, when you are in the middle of trauma and pain, you can't see the big picture, you can't step away from it. And there was so much in that stage of questioning myself and questioning him what has been real in my life. And the journaling gave me that opportunity to see that I had a story there, but I didn't know that was a story that I needed to write, but writing a book is not the same as publishing a book. That's how I incrementally got into this process. So I decided to write, and I wrote that awful dirty first draft, as we call it. And it was garbage and it was full of all this protective language. I tried to still, I tried to tell the story, I tried to use distancing language. I used every trick in the book to not face the reality of, and not to not say it all.

Tony: And Dana, at that point, did you feel, was it a, I didn't know what I didn't know, or I wasn't willing to confront, or were you aware that I am doing this because I don't want to get that close.

Dana: I was not aware that I was doing it until after that draft was done and I read it and went, oh no, this is not working. I can't do this if I am not as real and raw and honest as I can be. I mean, I can write it, but it's just therapy for me. I'm gonna do something else with this and I had to make that decision, the only way that it made any sense or had any value to me in the long run and to other people in the near term, was that I had to find a way to be as vulnerable and raw and human and full of flaws and embarrassment as I could, and I had to tell it from the truth. 

Tony: I'm probably just making assumptions, but as a fiction writer I often assume that someone who writes fiction, there's a lot of their story or truth in those characters, or is that the case with your regular books and then was there a point where you thought about turning this story into a fictional story?

Dana: Those are really good questions. Yes. In my fiction, they're small parts of me, and interestingly enough, there's small parts of me that I wish I had; I could make my character a little more confident, a little bolder, a little more persistent than I was because some of this, a lot of the the most difficult parts of the drinking stage were happening as I was writing these books. So my real life inched in, but I couldn't admit to that. It's not a hundred percent representation, but small parts of who I was and who I wanted to be came in. Did I ever think about fictionalizing my personal story? Not for a second. 

Tony: Okay. Oh, I love that. what you said a minute ago where even though this story is gonna be raw and vulnerable and full of flaws and you will most likely be open to others saying, well, why didn't you and I don't know if you've already had that reaction. 

Dana: I've had, one of the things that, again, you know very well is that there's so much silence around an issue that we feel guilt and we feel remorse and shame. And we're just trying to be silent to protect ourselves and to protect others. And so as I've begun to talk about this book, you know, and I was no different. I was very silent about what was going on, but as I was beginning to share parts of my story with people who knew me, the thing I heard is I wish I had known, I could have helped you, I could have done something for you. But by that time that comes along, there's so much silence. The story is too big, you don't know how to break it down. It's almost better, easier for me to say, here, just read my book, you know? 

Tony: I bet. Okay. So what I'm hearing Dana say is everyone that has gone through, but I mean, it really would, the journaling process alone, if you looked at it, if someday it would become a book, whatever it would take, I think to get that written out I think is such a good message.

Dana: It's immensely freeing. And that was, that was a wonderful surprise to me and as I've spoken to people who have been in difficult situations and who say, gosh, I've thought about writing a book, I just say, write it. You don't have to publish it. Take it in little steps. Get that stuff out of you, gain perspective.

Tony: How many years into your marriage was that moment where you found out about the second life?

Dana: We were 20 years in.

Tony: And then you stayed at another five, is that how long? 

Dana: Yeah. There were, we made two attempts at divorce. Okay, of this is devastating information in marriage and, yeah. I was a mess. I was in shock. I was curled up in a ball on the floor for a year at least. And there was an eventual attempt at divorce, but there was still so much love between us, which sounds bizarre, even as I'm saying it about myself, but there was, and we hadn't played out all of that love. We hadn't played out all of the work that he had done in getting sober to try to keep me in his life.

Tony: Well, and I would love to talk about that. And I feel like I do, I hear you with that. And I think a lot of the people on the, I mentioned off air that I have this private women's Facebook group for women in relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic, and I say, fill in the blank. It can be a spouse, it can be an adult child, it can be a parent, and there's that, just dance, the trauma bond, that there are good times and so we wanna look at those. So when you say we tried to divorce in that world of emotional immaturity or narcissism, when somebody gets to the point where they say, I'm done, you know, I feel like, man, none of us like to sit with that discomfort. And so we want that relief. And sometimes all it takes, I notice, is a partner to say, hey, I get it and I'm gonna change. And now that makes that person feel better. And then the person who is fed up feels relief. And I'm curious, was that playing out as well? 

Dana: Absolutely. I think that when you've had a partner for so many years, and the most important thing, the thing that makes you safest is to be in his arms. How do you walk away or it's difficult to walk away. You love this person for a reason. And part of being in an addictive relationship is that you do understand you're forced to understand the compartmentalization that addicts are masters at. And so they put their drinking in a box over on the side and the whole of who they are is not the booze, it’s the bad behavior.

Tony: So of course you're gonna look for that, but here's this good, and would that, when I talk about the pathologically kind, I feel like it's in, in one's nature to want to just not focus on the negative but in you and be the cheerleader and you can do this and I see you. And would you, were you that role at all in the marriage? 

Dana: I had part of that role. Certainly. I think, I think we all do. Again, this is, this is someone we love. And we know the reasons we love them and we also have this sense of responsibility that if I leave, he's going to die. You know? At its bottom line, we have, we take on some responsibility, but what we don't see is, if we stay, we are dying, we're dying emotionally. And it is this dance until one of you breaks. It’s the question of who’s gonna break first.

Tony: Amen. It is, and I talk often about the, there's a book about trauma, I dunno if you're familiar. It's called The Body Keeps the Score by Vessel VanDerKolk. And that's where I feel like when the person who is losing their sense of self continues to go back in and say, we can do this. Eventually their body says we can't, so well, let's give you some anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, hypertension, let's throw some, you know, chronic pain in there and whatever that takes. But the person says, man, I,  but I love this person or we can make this work. So did you ever feel physical symptoms like that? 

Dana: Absolutely. I had moments where I was passing out, I was losing my hair. I had thyroid problems. Yeah, absolutely. You cannot be in a long-term chronic stress situation and not have physical effects. 

Tony: No, and I really do believe you, you know, I like to say the brain is a don't get killed device, so it's trying to say, this is not okay, this is not working. But I like when you mention, I mean, it's, again like is the wrong word at times. But as a therapist that wants people to feel heard and seen, that when you talked about that compartmentalization, just last night I ran a men's group for addiction and we really have been focusing lately on, in that moment when the person says, I will never do it again, again, it relieves that discomfort, their partner also is so grateful to hear that, so everybody feels good, but then they will never do it again until they do it again. Because once they get outta that discomfort, then that's where the work needs to occur. And I feel like that's the, but the person feels good now I'm not, I'm not gonna do it again. And then if the spouse says, okay, but what are you gonna do about it? Then all of a sudden, they're caretaking or they're, like they're overstepping their bounds. Would you have those moments where, I don't wanna say demand, but really ask him for recovery or what was that like?

Dana: Well, for us, there were just, there were kind of two stages. There was what was happening when I thought our only problem was the alcohol. And there was never a, I will never drink again conversation. It was, I will go to therapy, I'm gonna, I commit to doing this. Let me do this on my own. If I can't make this work, I will do rehab. And that continued, and he was honoring his promises. And of course there's always, oh, there it goes again. And the drinking becomes secret. And we reached a point where he only went into rehab when I said, you have a choice. You can have me or you can have vodka. That's when he went to rehab and he did get sober. So then our second stage was more, I will never hurt you again. And that was the sexual behavior. But there were lots of other, I had more guardrails I guess, around that behavior. I was far more cautious. I was far more distrustful. I had a private investigator ready, I had a postnup, I had all of these things in place and every time I erupted in any kind of fear, jealousy, concern, outrage, whatever it was, he behaved exactly as he should have. He was humble, he was contrite, he was empathetic. There was a shift in him once he got sober and that, and booze wasn't controlling his brain. He could then see some of these other behaviors. So I was still in the back and forth. What do I believe? What do I trust? What do I want? For that five year period of why am I doing this? You know? What kind of woman stays with a man who has been a serial cheater? Who was part of it and part of my own self-analysis and professional analysis too. 

Tony: Well, and I so appreciate your vulnerability here because I know it's gonna speak to so many people that are going through things like this, and they go to the, what's wrong with me? And then, I often just say, man, we don't know what we don't know. And then we find out, but we don't know what to do about it. And then we eventually do more than we don't, and then finally we become, and I know that sounds maybe a little bit out there, but that process I feel can take as long as it takes yet another cliche. But do you feel like there was a certain point where something just turned or clicked or you had made a decision, or was that more of just this gradual shading of lived experience?

Dana: Well, as I said, we made two attempts at divorce. And the first attempt, I think the way I sum it up most succinctly is there was just simply too much love. We had not played out enough of who are you after? Is there something that we can, you know, salvage isn't quite the right word, but is there something that can be made anew? Is there anything there worth? So it was a cautious stage. And I went through a great deal of time, of having second thoughts, packing a bag, moving out for a few days. It was, it was torture. But every single time, he did exactly what I would've hoped, he had become a different kind of man, a different kind of husband to me in that stage. I'm still in this place of questioning myself. And the big impetus for me to really see how empty I had become was when covid hit. There was nothing else in our lives to distract us. We simply were forced to be with each other. No diversion and to look at, I had to look at the relationship and my own life and my own self in a very different way without anything else in the way. And that's when I realized that although I think I want this relationship to find a path forward. I was never gonna get back to that place where I had adored this man. I know he's doing everything that he can to try to keep me in his life. He's doing everything I could have asked of him as a husband at that point.

Tony: Okay, yeah. 

Dana: But I was utterly empty. I opened my book with a scene where I'm standing from a 13th floor window looking out on Lake Michigan, wondering what it would feel like to stand on the edge of the water and just slip in. I wouldn't have done it. I wasn't dead. I wasn't suicidal. But to even have those thoughts because you're just so empty. You're desperate to feel something. That was what was the shift and the switch in me that said, this isn't the future I want. I want something better. I need something better for me. I still love this man. I don't love him the way I did. And we have played out everything we could play out in trying to save, protect, rebuild, however you wanna call it. A relationship that was largely wonderful. 

Tony: So Dana, I love that story because that really is, that is at the end of the day, trusting your gut and doing something that is, is scary and difficult because it would've been easier to just say, okay, I guess I'll remain numb, but at least he's trying. No, I'm grateful to hear that because I feel like a lot of the people I work with are in, they're in some really unhealthy relationships and feel same flatness or apathetic state, but then feel like, well, I guess that's just my lot in life and the people that have the courage, I think, and that's maybe a strong word, but to go through with the, what you went through, I think, you know, how are you now what do you, I guess, what advice would you give to somebody in that scenario?

Dana: Well, that's part of why I wrote this book. Because I felt that one, I need personally, I needed to heal. And speaking about everything I'd experienced would help me heal. But publishing a book would help other people who have been in the situation. Sometimes we need someone else. We need to see it through someone else's eyes in a very personal way to understand that it's okay to take a little step. I have spoken to a lot of women who have had addictive relationships, and the one thing every single one of them says to me is, I regret my silence, for as long as I was silent. We do it to protect our families. We do it for very good reasons, but ultimately that silence destroys us. Yeah. So my advice to anybody when you are, whether you're still in the relationship and trying to figure out if you should stay or you are out of the relationship and still dealing with the guilt and the regret is start first with how do I give up my silence? Who can I talk to? And it, you know, a therapist is great, but a therapist is not the same as facing your sister. And having her look at you with pity and horror and you did what? What I found as I've spoken to people, people close to me who did not know, they feel bad that they didn't know. 

They feel bad that they couldn't help me, and they are, for whatever judgment I thought might have been there in their eyes, it's not there. It was just me projecting it. That was me protecting myself. We cannot love another human being if we do not love ourselves. We can't have a decent relationship with anyone if we don't love ourselves first. And this for me, is part of going back to that place. I have to love myself. I have to be healthy myself. I have to be emotionally strong myself, and then the rest of the world will follow. And coming to the understanding that my husband's bad behavior, his drinking and his sexual behavior, were not about me. They were a hole inside of him that he was trying to fill. And he filled it in terrible ways. And his hole was, he did not believe he deserved to be loved. He didn't deserve my love. And then he just acted it out. He played it out. He made it true. And there's some comfort for me in understanding that.

Tony: Can I ask you a quick question? I love what you said about, because I think we are so afraid that if we share with people that we will be judged or there will be a lot of negative comments made. And I will say that to the narcissism or emotionally immature group, I've done a couple of episodes on what are called Switzerland friends. And what that is is when someone does open up to someone and they say, well, there's two sides in every story, or I'm sure that and that's where we talk about, if that is someone, then that isn't someone that maybe is the safest person to share with. But when you find someone that is gonna say, tell me more, or I wish I would've known or I could have helped. Did you run into any of those Switzerland type friends? 

Dana: I didn't personally. But there are, I understand where some of that came from. As I've spoken to other women, particularly when it comes, my husband was a very high functioning alcoholic. And like a lot of high, high functioning alcoholics, very smart, very successful, very charismatic. And so this is not the image that the world sees of him. And so as we began to tell close friends, they kind of minimized the drinking. They minimized it as, that's not the guy I see. Can't you just stop it? It really must not be as big of a deal as you make it out to be.

Tony: Yeah. And that's where I like what you're saying. But at some point, you know what you know, and I love that message. I have a couple of things from your book that I want to talk about, and so that reminds me of one, if I'm gonna go not in the order, but Where the Shadows Dance a memoir, I've read a lot of it and I have to tell you, Dana, a lot of times when I do the interviews, I wanna just do a quick skim, but it's a really good read and I think I'm just seeing so many things that parallel this magnet syndrome, people that are trying to get out of these unhealthy, emotionally immature, narcissistic relationships. But when you just said, when people would say, that's not the person I see. There's a, let me pull this up. Toward the end, you have a, I should have marked the chapter, but it was where you were going to see your dad about your mystery boyfriend. And I just, I love that. So I did, I wrote this down where, you know, he said, I must have a boyfriend. Your elderly father, he was unable to comprehend the divorce even years after the incidents that caused it. 

And then the quote you said, your father has concocted the only explanation that seems logical to him. I'm running off with another man. And I would love to hear what that was like. And then your sister reacted and said, dad, you know what he did.And then, and again, bless your dad's heart because I feel like this is what people, you know, we don't, none of us like to sit with discomfort. So I like when you said he concocted the only explanation that I often say, oh, we create a narrative to, you know, fit our view. But then, your dad said, yeah, but that was a while ago. I just, I don't understand. So, yeah, what was that like? And I mean, that whole dynamic, because it sounds like, you know, you were there taking care of your dad. What an admirable thing.

Dana: Yeah. It was at a stage that my father was very elderly, needing a lot of physical help. He was a man of the, you know, the John Wayne era. You don’t talk about your feelings. And this idea that I must be running off for another man. And this, to give some context, was after, you know, the real divorce and I was leaving and not only did I leave my marriage, but I moved cross country to Tucson. And he just was dumbfounded, but he couldn't say any of it to me. He could only say it to my sister because again, men of that era don't know how to discuss emotions and if I can't explain it to him in about two seconds, two, maybe two minutes. It just didn't mean anything to him. So he was just grasping for straws.

Tony: Well, and I sense that in the book, which I, that's why I just, I really feel like it's the story so well told, because I talk about this concept, this nonviolent communication where we make an observation and a judgment in an instant to try to make sense of the world. And so I think that is such a good explanation of that. And I almost feel like that's one of those tests of where you're at as an individual. If it can be a, bless his heart. You know, he was trying to make sense of that. Is that, and I felt that that was the case.

Dana: That's exactly. Exactly. At that point in his life, you know, he's an elderly man. He's set in his ways. I was not going to be able to convince him of anything. 

Tony: Well then I loved that. I feel like that must have been, was that nice to see your sister? You know, how do you know? But, you don't understand. So I felt like you got to see your sister care and your dad, bless his heart, and you know, I think I'm good and I mean, that's what I was imagining.

Dana: Yes, that's, that was exactly it. It was at a point in time that all of the hard decisions had been made. There was still a great deal of healing to happen in my heart. But yeah, a lot of the family expectation and the dynamic of who's gonna judge me and my family, what can I say, what can't I say? I had already shed that. I was firm in my convictions of what I was doing, and I didn't really need them to understand.

Tony: That's powerful right there, Dana. I mean that, and that's, I think when I work with people and whatever that shift occurs or when that happens, that it's, you know, again, I, and I say that's adorable. Like that concern they show and they look really angry and those are a lot of words. And so, but I'm good, thank you. You know, and I just, I sensed that in your book. Kind of going outta order, there was another part, chapter 19 and there were a couple things here, your 25th anniversary passes and I love how you said, okay. At first I'm okay, and as a therapist, I'm so fascinated by some people they say, oh my gosh, this date is gonna hang forever. And other people will get past the date and they think, well, it wasn't so bad. And I love that yours, I'm reading it. At first it was like, hey, that wasn't so bad. And then, 4:18 in the morning, So, and I, and I do have a quote from you that I really thought was good. But what was that like? I mean, what do you remember? 

Dana: I do remember that. I remember that very well. It was at a stage where I was caretaking for my father. I'm in this limbo stage where we are processing the divorce. I'm caring for my father. I'm in northern Wisconsin. I don't want to be there. I don't have a home. I don't know what my life and my future are gonna be. And I was back in this place of caring for another man who needed help, who was frail, and helpless and here I am repeating myself and my father also had started drinking at that point in his life in an unhealthy way. So it was a stage where I'm trying to sort through lots of complex emotions on my end, also feeling kind of frozen and stuck on where I couldn't move forward in my life yet. And so my emotions were really, a lot of rollercoaster, not stuck in the pain moments, largely. So I'm balancing out excitement for what could be and then, damn it, I'm dragged back into the past. And like anybody who's in some kind of traumatic, stressful situation, sleep can be elusive. And to wake up, four o'clock in the morning and go, here I am. Here I am. And if you, if you remember from that moment, I just, okay. I grabbed my computer and I just started downloading all the garbage that was in my head.

Tony: Again, I'm implying all these powerful therapeutic principles on you, whether you know it or not. And so that's why I love the I'm okay, now I'm not. And then I do, I say constantly when we ruminate and beat ourselves up and what's wrong with me, you know, we're looking for this certainty we won't find. So then I always say, you know, yeah, those are noted and now do, and you did. And you did, there's a quote that I really liked and you said, they say that time heals all wounds, does it heal or simply blunt the pain, the ache, instead of becoming a constant road that we no longer distinguish from the other roars, or roar, constant roar, that we no longer distinguish from the other roars assaulting our bodies and mines, I can't answer that. Not tonight, not on this day. Again, so well said. And I'm curious now, and I, you know, I have my answer that you need to say. I'm kidding, but you know, now, did that time, did it just simply blunt the pain or did time, what did time do for you? 

Dana: I think what time did was give me distance and perspective. Time itself, I don't think changes everything. Anything. If you stay stuck in your pain and your trauma, people do that. They do. I didn't know how I was going to remove that pain. But I was, I knew early on that I was committed to not letting my husband's behavior destroy me. And time for me was, it gave me a tool. It was just part of the tool. I couldn't do it alone. Speaking, writing, giving myself perspective, not only on myself, but his behavior, his addiction, his compartmentalization. It all had to work together and so time kind of helps things marinate. 

Tony: Oh, that's good. I like that. And, I want to now of course, jokingly say that was the correct answer, you know, that you, you did that correct, because I'm asked that question about time and how long, and then I unfortunately say as long as it takes and you're right where you need to be. And, but I know that can be helped when people are actively doing and then people say, do what? Well, kind of anything at first other than ruminating and thinking and so I just, I feel like your book, whether you know it or not, Dana, I mean it just laid that process out so well, and I think that it does often take longer than when people would like for it to take, but then when they're, they're through it, then it had to take as long as it takes. And I don't know if that was your experience as well. 

Dana: I think that's one of the reasons that I've, or a conclusion I've come to as I sat with the attempt at divorce number one, finally doing it, number two, so we had this, we had this five year period of being in the middle. And to be honest, I think there was a lot of healing that was going on inside of me, although inside the marriage. A healing that led to divorce. And that processing was, I think, essential. Had we divorced at our first attempt, I don't know that I would've been as healthy about it. I would've, I would've been a mess still emotionally, I would've sat with that anger longer than I did. 

Tony: That right there. I mean, that's where I will maybe go back in and edit me asking a question that sounded really smart. I'm kidding. I won't because that answer so sums up in my work as a therapist if someone wants to say, well, just tell me what I need to do and what do you think would be best? And, oh, don't hand me that power because then it will give you the opportunity that let's say, yeah. Well, I mean, I've seen that this is most 90 whatever percent of the time it won't work and you'll be happier out. But I'm not gonna say that because then if the person says, okay, because then they'll get out. And now if they don't feel good, the first thing they can do is say, well, the therapist said that it wasn't gonna work. What was I supposed to do? And I feel like what you just said there about that healing comes in that, there's a book that refers to it as the messy middle and I think that healing has to come, I mean, obviously within, but that might be within the marriage. And that is difficult because you're around the person that you're frustrated by, but you want to then talk about the frustration with the person.

Dana: Yeah, there is, and I certainly had a therapist who said, are you sure you wanna stay in this marriage?

Tony: Okay, yeah. 

Dana: And I intellectually knew I needed to leave, but emotionally I wasn't ready to do it. And so, yeah, I think this whole issue of time and how we beat ourselves up, the part to remember for all of us is that this is not linear. There is not one thing, and we will do like the addict does one step forward, two steps backwards. We'll reverse it and we'll get two steps forward and one step back. And this is normal and this is okay. As long as there's some progress and some change, what won't work is not to hold onto the pain and to that awful place where you regret and you can't even talk about it. And I'm already running into women who like, I wanna give this book to my friend because she's there and she won't even go near it. She can't even acknowledge that this was part of her life. Those are not people that are in healthy places. And it's so sad.

Tony: And when you were talking before, when we talk about your, that opening scene and you're looking and thinking about being on the edge of the water, or I have people that will say, hey, I'm not suicidal, but I call it the, but if a meteor hits me, that's not a bad thing, you know, theory where it's that again, the I think the brain is an absolute don't get kill device. So it is gonna do anything it can to get your attention. And so when people don't open up about things, keep things in their head, then they, I feel like, you know, unfortunately people start to get to this place of feeling everything from suicidal thoughts and ideations and especially not being willing to open up about that because that is a shame filled process as well. So I just, I think your message is really gonna resonate and I feel like hearing it from people that have been through it, I don't know what, you know, I think it really speeds up the healing process for those in it. And as a therapist I can say all the right words and people feel heard and understood, but when somebody has gone through it like you have, I feel like that just that, that it does, it speeds up the healing.

So I'm, I really, I really appreciate you coming on and your book was really, I mean, I really like it a lot. I'm a huge audio book guy, so I've already got your fiction books and they're all, can I ask a couple of just nerdy author questions? Okay. So, okay and I'll talk about some of this stuff in the intro too, but, okay, your books are, it's a Andrea Kellner series, so Lies and High Places, The Last Lie, Lies of Men. Tell me about the, tell me about your interest in lying, Dana. Tell me about the honestly, sell those fiction books because I love audiobooks and I listen constantly, so I'm excited to listen to those.

Dana: And the memoir's gonna be in audio as well. I'm working on that now. So I was starting to write the fiction as the heaviness, the worst part of my husband's drinking was happening. And I was starting to find out what was going on, what had been going on in his life. I made the decision to start writing before I knew the truth and for me, writing mystery, what I enjoy is the psychological part, the puzzle. The why, the how. I can't wait. Who's doing it? You know? I'm not into the blood and gore part. I want the psychological, behind the scenes what motivates people and kind of the short answer to the lies is in those books, my character, Andrea, she could uncover lies that I wasn't uncovering in my real life. 

Tony: Okay, now, now I have to listen. 

Dana: And lying is at the core of all of these crimes.

Tony: Okay. Well that's exciting. Okay. Can I get you to, uh, I have a new true crime meets therapy podcast coming out in a couple of weeks, Murder on the Couch, I would love to maybe have you come on there and let's break down one of your books. I think that would be a lot of fun. All right, Dana, what a, what a pleasure. I really appreciate you coming on and I think this is gonna resonate with the overall mental health audience of the Virtual Couch and then the Waking Up to Narcissism. I think it's just gonna speak volumes to people that are experiencing that. So thank you. And I'll have all this in the show notes, but where can people find you? 

Dana: I am, I have book pages for everything. There are links to purchase. It's available, the book is available for pre-order right now, and it will be available anywhere you like to buy books. 

Tony: Okay, and I read some of your online journal as well, and I mean, you've got a lot on your website and you are a very good writer. So I highly encourage people to go check that out. All right, Dana, I hope we will get to talk again. Thanks a lot. 

Geoff Steurer, LMFT talks with Tony about how to rebuild trust in a relationship even after situations that couples believed they would a) never stand for in their marriage and b) believe healing was even possible, like infidelity and betrayal. Geoff is the host of the podcast "From Crisis to Connection" and co-author of the book, "Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity."

You can find Geoff at or on Instagram: @geoffsteurer or Facebook: @geoffsteurerMFT


Sign up for Geoff's Trust Building Bootcamp by following this link and enter VIRTUALCOUCH15 for 15% off the course.


Tony appeared on two episodes of Geoff's podcast "Protecting your marriage in a faith crisis (part 1) - Tony Overbay - Episode 93" and "Protecting your marriage in a faith crisis (part 2) - Tony Overbay - Episode 94"


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-------------------------- TRANSCRIPT ------------------------

[00:00:00] I have so many things I want to say, two stories to tell about about my guests today. People would ask me if I knew Jeff. I just feel like there was a nice instant connection. I was on just podcasts for not one, but two episodes because we were just vibing so well. So, Gestur, welcome to the virtual couch.

[00:00:18] Tony, my brother from another mother man just now.

[00:00:21] Right. I love this. I couldn't wait to do the joke, I think, on your podcast where I was saying when I was looking over your website, we are the same other than you are far more handsome, have a lot more hair. And then you've both written books about pornography, addiction and recovery. And we've got podcast, I guess. Oh, that's so crazy.

[00:00:39] Same thing. When I first started, it said people like, hey, Tony, I said, looking at your stuff. And I'm like, wait a second, we almost do the exact same thing. This is so dang cool. But some people might feel threatened by that.

[00:00:50] But that's what I was going to say. Fantast. Yeah, because I really think there's a cool thing there with the concept of scarcity mindset versus that growth or, you know, growth mindset, because we're both just we're both just trying to change the world.

[00:01:03] Right, Jeff? Absolutely. Absolutely. People are hurting, man.

[00:01:06] I was going to mention something that then someday this will seem dated. When I was waiting for us to begin. I was looking at my phone to see what the air quality is, to see if we're going to watch high school football tonight, because there are so many fires in the area that I met. And and I feel like anywhere I talk to someone, there's some sort of a natural disaster. How are things in Southern?

[00:01:24] Yeah, air quality stinks, as definitely have some. Yeah, we've got fires in California that are the smoke is wafting over here and yeah, it's tough. Yes, we have beautiful, clear blue skies here, but it's just hazy. So so we don't usually get that kind of weather over here except the fire season.

[00:01:38] But yeah. And it's it's unfortunate there's a fire season. Hey, help my listeners know a little bit more about you. Give me your background. Tell me tell me about you, Jeff.

[00:01:47] Totally. I bet I actually have celebrating 25 years of marriage on Monday. Oh, congratulations. My wife, Jody, thank you. Yeah. And so, yeah, we've got four kids, ages 22 to 12. And yeah, I went to BYU, studied to be a journalist, and then I ended up at Auburn University doing marriage and family therapy. And I've been in marriage.

[00:02:08] Ok, I got to stop you right there. Little did I know what I'm saying. We have all these things. So that was my initial major in college as well as journalism. So that is why did why did you change your major or why did you stop?

[00:02:19] I didn't change it. I, I graduated with a communications degree and the same same.

[00:02:24] I did not know this about you. Mine's mass communications.

[00:02:27] Yeah. Mass communications, communications studies from BYU. And and then my senior year, I my wife and I had been married just a few weeks. I just met Wally Goddard, maybe, who, you know, and he lived next door to them. And we ended up living with them for two years in their basement. And it was from that experience that I decided I wanted to be a marriage family therapist. We just talked about marriages and families and all kinds of parenting, about these fictitious kids we didn't have yet. Yeah, I figured I would start talking about parenting stuff. And it was just so dynamic and interesting. And I just thought I got to do this for a living. And this is nuts. People talk about this for a living. And so I ended up this was my senior year, so I ended up changing a few classes around and got what I needed. And I ended up getting accepted into Auburn and did my my master's degree in MFT over there, moved to Alabama. Oh, wow. So, yeah, so I've worked now as an empty since I've been doing therapy with people for twenty three, twenty two years.

[00:03:24] Wow. Ok, I have so many questions about that, but I do not know about either. First of all, I think I missed the opportunity for a joke of were you an amazing parent, the fictitious kids, much better than with the best.

[00:03:34] Oh, dang. My wife and I would have actual real arguments about fake children that didn't exist. Right. I think we would we would all of a sudden just start discovering kind of all the different things that we had opinions about that you don't know you have opinions about. Yeah. And it was just really funny, because some points we would stop each other and go like we don't even have children. Why are we even talking about this? Yeah, but it was the collision of our ideas, our values, our backgrounds. But yeah. So interesting those conversations.

[00:04:02] No, I love that, because it's funny. We have kids that are for kids, as well as 22 or 23 to 17 somewhere around there. I know I'm in the ballpark and things do get a lot different. And we were just commenting a few days ago about, boy, when we were young, we really did feel like this isn't so bad. We've got this whole parenting thing figured out. And I've had a couple of people in my office lately that have said, boy, I wish I could go back there and because it seems so much easier. And so, yeah,

[00:04:29] I have all the answers. Be so confident. I know.

[00:04:31] Yeah. And so go ahead. Oh, no, go ahead. No, I'm so sorry, Jeff. I've got ridiculous follow up questions. Another one that I have is I didn't realize you've been doing actively doing therapy for so long. And I'm always fascinated by people that come out and they are working as therapists in their early 20s without kids, without they're just now married. And what was that experience like for you? Did people respect you? Did they did they want somebody that had already been through the been through the ringer, so to.

[00:05:00] Well, I think the people that were brave enough to say something would say things to me like I'm old enough to be your mother or stuff like that, but I think overall, like I had really good training from Auburn, great supervisors, great professors. And then my first job out of grad school was at a rural mental health clinic in Arizona. And I worked there. I worked there for six years. And so that gave me you would just call like street smarts. Like I joke with so many different kinds of cases, cradle to grave, every issue under the sun, serious illness, marriages, parenting and child therapy, everything. And so my my skill set just it really accelerated during that time. It was I just I felt like at the time that everybody needs to come work in a place like this because it was good, exposed me to so many things. And it was there that I learned what I really wanted to do. But yeah, no, it was tough. Like I was trying to do therapy with teenagers, but I had a one year old or I was trying to work with these marriages that have been married 30 years and I've been married five years. And so, yes, now that I've been married 25 years, I'm forty seven years old. I've got all these over two decades of experience under my belt. My obviously, my confidence is a lot higher now in terms of my ability to not only my training and experience, but also just lived experience. I just am not rattled by as much. Yeah, I think a way to put a confidence that things are going to work out or there's there's figure ways to figure it out. We can get there from here. Right. Like there's just things we can do.

[00:06:28] I love that that confidence that things will work out. I love that, because that's going to play a lot into what we're talking about today with trust and boundaries. And let me stay on that being, too. How did you you talk about you started to find the population you wanted to work with. What was that experience like and how did you find the population?

[00:06:45] Yeah, so I was working. I was doing so much child therapy. I had to play therapy room, the puppets, the whole works. Wow. And I loved it. But then I noticed that I would go home and not want to play with my own kids because I was so played out, OK. And I thought, OK, this isn't good. My kids will eventually grow up. But I love this. Is it really my thing? And what I found myself doing was I was always wanting to meet with the parents. I wanted to get my hands on the marriage. I was like, let's go up to the headwaters man. Like these kids obviously may have their own issues and temperaments and challenges, but I knew that there was something systemically going on upstream that I wanted to get my hands on. And so I ended up doing a lot of marriage therapy and billing it under the child's name. Ok.

[00:07:30] Yeah. Yeah.

[00:07:31] Right. So it and so for that, just because I wanted those parents to get a better environment for themselves and their kids, and that's where I was like, OK, I need to do I need to work with marriages that I registered my business, moved to Utah and started my marriage therapy practice.

[00:07:47] If anybody was this is the first time they're they're hearing me the comment. I'm sure the quote would be, if they're following you over here to this podcast, they're going to say, all right, Tony, back off talking about yourself here. But I can't I had no idea about this part of your career. I started with kid therapy as well. Of course

[00:08:02] You did, Tony, because we have the same

[00:08:04] Is the same. And the whole reason I didn't I went away from it was surprisingly because I wanted to deal with the parents because I felt like I was just giving the kid coping skills.

[00:08:13] Exactly right.

[00:08:14] Oh, that's crazy, Jeff. That is. All right. So then you go to Utah and now you're doing more couples

[00:08:19] At that point. So when I moved to Utah in 2006, I was starting to I was starting to do some work in my agency in Arizona. I was starting to run into online pornography issues, sexuality issues. And this was in 2006. So the Internet had been high speed, Internet was in homes. Now, at this point in the early 2000s. And you were starting now to see like the tsunami of online sexual betrayals starting to come into our offices, at least in my office. And this was in a rural community where there's no dirty magazine stores or strip clubs or nothing. This was like rural conservative community. But people were just blown apart their marriages with all this stuff. And I was like, oh, wow, this is definitely a problem. And I need I don't know what to do. I had training in marriage therapy and some other stuff, but I just I didn't have I wasn't equipped. So I reached out and got some training from the LIFESTAR network, from Damrey Toddles and those guys. Yeah. And they ended up saying, hey, we'll give you the rights, if you will, or the territory for southern Utah. And I moved out there, moved out to St. George and opened up a sexual addiction treatment program that I ran for 15 years.

[00:09:25] Wow. And I recently sold it. And but I'm that I really cut my teeth working with this population here in St. George. And Mark Chamberlain brought me on as a coauthor for his book a few years later. Kevin Skinner, I just started really connecting with a lot of these great therapists and mentors here in Utah, these guys that were doing some really great cutting edge work at the time and are still still doing great work. And it just was I just fell into this community of professionals and friends that were working with these issues and helping a lot of couples. And they have just. Come in over the years, and we've just been able to help so many people with pornography issues, sexual betrayal and fidelity, and then really learned how to put these marriages back together. Especially as I worked and did my training and emotionally focused couples therapy back in 2009 with Sue Johnson and her team. And so I just I just have had the opportunity and have been so fortunate to get great training, great mentors, great thought leaders. And we've just been able to do a lot of good things with these couples that are just looking for help, you know?

[00:10:29] Yeah. And again, and I think I don't think I even stress this enough at the beginning of this show. I loved being on your podcast so much. And we talked about some people that are navigating a faith journey. And we and then we ended up landing a little bit around the F.T. principles or about my battler's of a conversation. But so I feel like that is so important to have that framework. But what I feel like I, I would love to hear your thoughts on, and I think you've got such good ideas here on. So, you know, let's say we've got this framework to communicate, but how do we how do we start rebuilding trust? And I feel like that is the biggest thing that you see, especially when those couples come in and they just feel like they are in such crisis. And I don't know. What's that like for you? Where do you go first? What do you do?

[00:11:14] Yeah, that's the biggest reason why I built my trust building course and spent so much of my I wanted to really focus in on this because so many couples would come in and they would have a church leader or a loved one or themselves. Just think we just need to work on our marriage. We need to go on more dates and they're bleeding out. There's been a major betrayal, there's been a discovery, there's been some major infidelity or something. And the couple just is trying to now put back the marriage. But it's like putting back together something that it's like the pieces don't even fit. It's so shattered. And so it's like you just the things don't line up. And the couples is in trauma, one or both of them. And it's just very overwhelming. So you can't just start by pushing the marriage in front and trying to work on the marriage. It's another sort of way I've talked about this, is that when there's been a secret or a discovery of a secret. It's there's a big crater blowing in the ground. And so the one betrayed partner drops to a different level than the person who's had the information, had the had the upper hand in a way.

[00:12:16] And it's really critical for marriage therapy to work for marriage enrichment and these things we like to talk about with strengthening marriages. There's an assumption that the couple is on level ground to one degree or another. Ok. And so there has to be you have to backfill that crater and you have to do things to get that love that that relationship, get that person down in the hole, back up to level ground, because there's been such a huge violation. There's been such a power imbalance, a huge shift in the dynamic, in the relationship. So that starts with telling the truth, knowing exactly what's going on, safety, making sure there's healthy boundaries, making sure that that there's deep accountability from the person who broke the trust that they're they're actively serving in a role of trying to help the relationship, help the wounded partner. It's trauma. This is not just, hey, I have a bunch of needs. You have needs. Let's work on our needs together. It's not like that early on when there's a very Fermat trail like this. So that's where I start caino.

[00:13:18] I love it. And I would love to we could break down each one of those. And I'd love to get your thoughts. The part about telling the truth and maybe I'd love to get your thoughts, too, on the whole concept of I always say No. One, when they're going to confess or right after they got caught, let's say either of those situations, they don't say, all right, let's just take a time out before we say anything, you know, dumb. And a lot of times, that's where and right now I'll just say, let's say that's the guy that is the betrayer. Just the we we both work with men or women that have done that. But then they just at times, yeah, they're going to just unload and then. And tell me if you also see at first where people come into your office and the guy has he really has wanted to now say, OK, here's what's happened. But he's still working from this place. And this is where my first pillar of assuming good intentions of that, I still don't want to devastate my wife. So I'm going to tell her some things. But I really would just assume conscious or subconscious, tell her just enough so that she will understand. But then I don't want to tell her more. You know what I mean by that?

[00:14:20] Oh, absolutely. And a lot in this case, a lot of guys will will believe that they're doing this for their wife. But the truth, I believe, is that they're doing it to manage their own shame, their own. Yeah. They're so overwhelmed because they can't handle the reality of their own story. And so basically, they're oftentimes going to give her the light version. They're going to spotlight just generally the behaviors that are either already been discovered or the ones that they think she can handle. Exactly. Yeah. But where that needs to go is that he needs to have some time with his own story first, because he's been lying to himself about it. And before he can ever really do a full inventory disclosure, whatever you want to call it, I call it a form of disclosure before he can do that. He's got to have some practice telling his story to a therapist, to if he's in a group, just 12 step group or church leader, he's got to have practice reducing his own shame and internal reactivity around that story before he can pass it over in full truth and humility to his wife.

[00:15:22] That's I love the way you put that. I mean, because. Yeah, that's a that's so good, because then when he's trying to share some things, there is that shame. And I feel like oftentimes then he will then he will pull back, which I feel like it causes the wife to just want to know more or and I'm sure you see this often, too. But OK, now wife is now been hit with this this trauma, this devastation, and now goes back and starts asking more questions. And so if he only gave a little bit of the information to begin with. Ok, now. Sure. All right. He'll tell a little bit more thinking, OK, she needs to know a little bit more. But now what? Are we training her brain? Is that OK? He obviously didn't tell me the truth. And the more I dig now, I'll get the truth. And then we're starting to create this unhealthy dynamic.

[00:16:06] Yeah. Oh, yeah. The flow of the information is going the wrong direction. It's coming it's being pulled out of him versus flowing out of him. And she needs to know that he'll bring her the truth. And so a lot of these guys, again, they're caught up in their own shame. And so that can come that can come out in different ways. They can withhold and say less information, which is what we're talking about. Right. They can even like fire hoser with all their shame and guilt and tell her way more stuff than she needs to know. There can be he he can sometimes collapse into a heap of shame and feel like such a victim and like an awful person in some ways, expect her to take care of him.

[00:16:47] Exactly. Yeah, a little bit of victim mode and want her to rest

[00:16:51] And be all kinds of different ways. This will show up. And so telling your story, you would think it would be just straightforward. Just tell the truth, man. It's not that simple because you're dealing with a lot of that reactivity and shame inside of them that they have to manage in a. Healthy way, otherwise, they're going to overwhelm their partner and it's going to delay the trust building.

[00:17:12] So, Jeff, it's funny. I always say that what I literally just said to you, that no one is going to say, let me hit pause, let me go meet with somebody before I even express or we try to do this. But people listen to my podcast. That may be on the verge of saying, all right, I need to deal with this. I do need to confess something to my spouse. So what do you say? Do you say go see the therapist first? You do give a do you go and confess and then say, but before we go any further, we really need to do this the right way? I don't know. I've never asked this question. You're an expert. I mean, what are your thoughts?

[00:17:45] Yeah. Yeah, that is so tricky because you know, what you're asking them to do essentially is schedule a trauma. Right? You're basically. I know.

[00:17:53] Ok, yeah.

[00:17:55] You're like, OK. So I guess a couple of scenarios. One scenarios where somebody comes into my office and by themself and they've never told their partner, they pulled me aside and say, hey, I'm basically sitting on this huge secret. I've never told my partner, will you work with us as a couple or what do I do that I can count on one hand the amount of times that has happened in my career? It's super rare. And it happened recently, happened probably a year ago. And I had a client come in and she had never told her husband anything about any of this. And so I, I did not I worked with her for about four or five weeks, and we worked on her story. I helped her prepare disclosure. And then I actually had her go do it with him out in the desert, like they took a drive. I had to do it out there because I sense that he would be safe the way she described. She felt comfortable doing it. And it went really well. He actually it worked out fine because I didn't want to double team with her and have him feel double team that these two people were going to basically just dump this reality on him. And I didn't have be with him at all. I didn't know him at all. Wow.

[00:19:00] Oh, that's a really unique, rare way to. Yeah. So if you're listening to this and you're sitting on a bunch of secrets and you've never told your partner, it's important to go meet with a therapist and figure out what your options are, because dumping it on your partner can can cause a ton of unintended trauma. Yeah, this guy there, healing has accelerated because she came in and when she disclosed to him, she was very prepared. I had her totally ready to talk about it from a place of humility. She had all the things worked out, which she'd written it all down. It was organized. There was no drama. It was just like heartfelt and humble. And it went better than it could have gone if she had just blown it up. Wow. So that's one example. But the most common one is where somebody comes into my office and there's already been I would say this is ninety nine percent of the time. Yeah. And I just made that number up. But that's basically what I see as the pattern is the couple comes in and there's already been some kind of a discovery. Either he's confessed or she's confessed something, or there's been a discovery, totally unintended. And what we're doing now is I'm having to make a case with them and say, look. Do you believe that this is everything again? Most of the time it's no, I don't trust them.

[00:20:15] I discovered this much. They've only told me this much. So what I'll do next is basically say then we're going to structure form disclosure. You just disappear the truth completely one time versus dragging this out. And you need to have practice city with your story and really learning how to get deep into your heart. I'll do this over the course of a couple of meetings, but the vision of it is basically, OK, we're going to have a redo on this and we're going to do it correctly. It's going to like that. You came in with your came in with your like your duct tape and baling wire version of trying to fix this thing up. We're going to take all that apart and we're going to put in some anchors and some bolts and we're going to really lock this thing down so that you don't ever have to go through this process again, because otherwise it just becomes like a limp in the marriage for the rest of their life. Do I really know everything? Were they fully honest? How do I know we want to get rid of that? And have there be a rock solid assurance that, OK, I know everything. Now we're working on current stuff, not past.

[00:21:15] That's brilliant. That is. So then if I go back to that concept of being truthful, of telling the truth. How scared do you see people of that? Or again, I feel like sometimes when people get this thing off their chest, they want to just go back to now. Can we just go back to the way we were?

[00:21:31] Yeah, it's awful. Yeah. Telling telling the truth is so scary, especially when you're up against. Losing that secure bond with the other person, right, innately we just are so we're just constantly on guard against losing that, and we just were defenseless. And so we'll do almost anything, including manipulate somebody with lies. Yeah, that's how strong our commitment to security is. A lot of people think, well, they're doing this because they they don't respect me or care about me or they hate me. And it's no it's because I don't want to lose you. But it's a terrible it's a terrible outcome. It's not OK. So, yeah, telling the truth is terrifying. But again, part of what good recovery looks like for a couple is learning how to tell the truth first about the big behaviors. And they get practice through that disclosure process, but then they learn how to tell the truth just about, let's say, how they're feeling or what they want. Absolutely. Or what they need. And those can feel like secrets. I don't dare tell them that I'm lonely. I don't dare tell them I want that I want to have more sexual intimacy. I don't dare tell them that that hurts my feelings. And so they start to learn and practice telling the truth so that if they can tell the truth about that stuff down the road, it's less likely they're going to end up having other secrets that are much more consequential.

[00:22:50] Absolutely. And I feel like and I say this so often, but I want this I want to hear more from you today. But we're so afraid of contention that we avoid tension altogether, but that tensions where the growth can happen and that and. But where are you now that we're so afraid of any tension? Because what if what if they leave? What if what if this is too much? And and I feel like all they're closer than they think to where that that really can be an amazing growth opportunity. We're different. We're different people. We are. And I feel like this is where we get this chance to now have a relationship where there's legitimate curiosity because we can be different instead of that fear of like, I don't know if I'm too different, you know, they might leave.

[00:23:27] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think it takes a while to get there. I know even just my own twenty five year marriage, like the kinds of questions I'm able to ask now and the kinds of security we have, I wouldn't have had that the first 5 or 10 years. There's no way. And so with couples that are coming out of a betrayal or coming, you know, trying to rebuild safety first, they have to they have to know that it's not going to keep happening and they have to know that their partner is in deep accountability and remorse. They've heard everything. And then and then that that intimacy, that curiosity that you're talking about, being able to tolerate differences and ask for what you need and really kind of embrace a lot of disowned feelings and wants and needs and desires all that. And that's just good material to work. It is the rest of your marriage. That's to me, that's the gold and that. Yeah. And the couples that that avoid that stuff or shove it down, ignore it or shame it or criticize it like that. Just to me, they're missing out on what marriage was designed for, because my individual growth as a man has skyrocketed because of feedback from my own wife about. Absolutely. That if it weren't working for her and I have to look at myself and what I'm bringing in, man, it's just like dynamic and rich.

[00:24:38] Yeah, OK. I want to get to some trust things. I want to throw a theory out as I'm saying this, I might end up have to edit it out because it might go against the very marriage course. I'm trying to pitch. But I've noticed that, you know, in my mind, it's the people that have had the most success in in even my marriage course are those that have they've been through some things. And I have this vision where I would love to teach every young couple to. We don't. How about we get to the point where we don't have to go through so much and we learn how to communicate and be vulnerable and deal with tension and we can be different and that sort of thing. But as I almost want to say is I beta tested some of these principles on on newlyweds. And you kind of oh, you know, you need to express this or the assumption of good intentions or or don't tell them they're wrong or or questions or comments. They're like not it's really not a big deal. And that's where I want to say, OK, but but it's things are eventually going to become a big deal. How about we go out and start talking about him now? And I'm finding that it's the old people don't know what they don't know. Right. Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. We had to solve that one. We had to figure out.

[00:25:43] Yeah, I think I think I think it's experiential. And I and I think that we have to. I don't know. I just think that. The longer I live, the longer I do this with clients of my own marriage, stuff like that, I just don't want people to be afraid of embracing as much as I don't want people to, like, be betrayed sexually or some of them. Sure. We're talking about something's going to go wrong, right. Somebody is going to there's something's going to go sideways. There's going to be some hurt somewhere. And I just want people to know what to do with that when it shows up, whatever that is. And because it's experiential, like like the gut level, like nervous system instinct, response. I have the love, the connection I have with my wife that's been forged out of a lot of trial, a lot of heartache, disappointments, misunderstandings, even some betrayals that have been really damaging around in our own relationship, things that we had to work through early on that that were just so hard. And I would never be able to probably get that gut level instinct in those those kind of that rock solid commitment and some of these things that I feel today without that and I don't know that we need to like engineer those conditions for it. They're just you put two people together. Stuffs going to happen, man.

[00:26:59] It is. It is. And if they've got the framework and they they they're going to get the. So can you talk to me? And again, full authenticity and as you say, full disclosure. That's in my head. I kept I kept saying when we were trade messages about today, I like Jeff. You're the I want to know I want to hear you talk boundaries. But then as I would go deep, dove more into the material that you provide. You have this trust boot camp, this trust workshop. So and then when we jumped on before we hit record, I was saying, do we talk about trust? We talk about boundaries. And what are your thoughts on differences, similarities? Where do we go from here?

[00:27:31] Oh, man. Boundaries are are a lot of people think of boundaries. Just as for the person that has been betrayed, like, oh, I need boundaries to protect myself from from being lied to or being taken advantage over being abused or whatever. And absolutely like that's that to me is sort of like the obvious boundary stuff. But if you think about people that break trust, they have serious problems with boundaries. They they they are a lot of times they're self neglecting. They're not they're not even paying attention to their own needs and desires and stuff. And so there's there's they're crossing lines there. That could be like not getting enough sleep or not eating correctly. Just physical maintenance stuff. Yeah. Or it could even be flirting or other boundaries around other people or poor digital habits or the list of boundaries can go on. That could be like not saying no to stuff or taking on too much or having terrible work habits or people pleasing. So so boundaries to me are just the framework of how to live a really emotionally and physically and emotionally and spiritually healthy, balanced life. I don't I don't think you can separate out boundaries from almost any discussion, because that's what keeps us upright. That's what keeps us healthy and functioning. And that's how I believe boundaries are. What bring us joy.

[00:28:42] Yeah. No, I love that. I really do. I talk with the Preston Pug Maya, who helped me create this course. And we talk about the concept of presence and radiance and the flowing river and the riverbank or the the artwork and the picture frame or and so in that concept of a boundary, that we do need something to kind of keep things what's the right way to put it. So I don't know. So something can be more igby more structure to it. I don't know. So it doesn't just go everywhere. Right. I might add that I was get.

[00:29:15] Yeah, I'm not I'm not sure exactly like in terms of are you asking like I

[00:29:19] Like the idea of personal boundaries, because I feel like when I am just kind of all over the place and at times where I've said, oh, well, that's just my 8D, as I just did right there, or this is just the way I vibe. But when there's more of that structure in terms of personal boundaries, with regard, like you say, at a time of self care, saying no to things, basically all the last four or five things you just listed that then I do feel a lot more productive. I feel more connected. And so I really like that idea of starting with the personal boundaries. I really like that.

[00:29:51] Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I just know that a lot of a lot of the heartache and pain when I've put it on other people, like, well, that person's not give me what I need or this whatever. I have to look very clearly and see, like, have I even asked for it? Have I ever have I even set any clear expectations? Am I managing even my schedule or my time or my business? Am I am I am I showing up in a boundary, healthy, clear way? And when I do, I find that most people adapt and adjust and things go pretty dang well. But but when I'm not boundary, when I'm just chaotic and all over the place, then and I just invite so much trouble into my life.

[00:30:30] Hey, can I ask a specific question and tell me your thoughts on this? I appreciate when you were saying a lot of times we think about the betrayed is the one that then needs to set the boundaries, which I totally agree. Yeah, but I have had those times, or even when you put the betrayal trauma structure in place where the person who who the betrayer will kind of be there for the I'm going to be present. I'm going to be here for you and I'm going to left language, maybe the attachment injury, apologies, and I'm going to show you that I'm not going to go anywhere. But then when it continues to go at times and I've been trying to work with people to set that boundary to say, man, I, I, I'm here, but I feel like we're starting to get into some really unhealthy territory or unproductive conversations. And I don't know. Do you have any thoughts on that, what that boundary looks like for the betrayer without it feeling like they're just running away from a conversation?

[00:31:24] Oh, yeah. Yeah, that's a really sensitive one. I do talk about this and of course, I get into it specifically around even like what if the betrayed starts becoming abusive? Yeah. Yeah. What if what if they strike me verbally abusive or physically abusive in some cases, which I've had people get their nose broken or I've had or people just really get aggressive because they're so hurt. So does does the betrayer have any right to say, hey, that doesn't work for me? Or is that just part of them taking it because. Right, because they broke trust. So they should just take whatever is given to them. I think that obviously an extreme examples are Padilla's legal things, like physical violence or stuff like that. Of course, they need to be able to set boundaries and protect themselves. But when it comes to that, that line of do I have any rights to express my needs? The thing is, is that I believe everybody everybody's feelings are valid. Everybody's needs are totally legitimate. It's a triage thing. It's basically being able to say, if you're deep in your accountability, if you're deep in your your honesty around the impact you've had and you're listening to your partner talk about how hurtful that may feel, like you're being abused. But the truth is, they may just be sharing a lot of like, truthful, hurtful things about the impact you've had on them. And and for you to bail out of that and say like, well, I'm not going to hear that.

[00:32:41] I'm not going to be talked to that way, that would damage more trust. That's a problem. Yeah. And on the other hand, if the betrayed partner is saying things like UAF and this and that, and I hate your guts and I don't want to be like if there might be again, it's like climate versus weather, like if there's an occasional lightning bolt of that, you probably ought to just take it and have some compassion. But if it's the climate, if it's like it's like you've now moved into this, like really tumultuous, verbally attacking kind of aggressive climate that's just like that every single day in and out, every conversation that it's important to to basically describe this. Ok, this is a pattern. This is this is actually destructive for the betrayed to be there, obviously, in so much distress. I can't let this continue anymore. And I'm not going to do it from a place of self-protection as much as I'm doing it from place of I'm protecting the relationship I'm protecting. I like it or him. I protect like this is just unhealthy. So I think if it's coming from a place of self-preservation, in my experience, that's generally coming from avoidance. But if it's coming from a place of this is toxic, this is really damaging, we're not getting anywhere that's that's going to land a little differently. So that makes

[00:33:55] Soga. Oh, yeah, it makes so much sense. And so so that's you say that's Covered in your in your in your workshop and your course. Yeah, I love it. I know. I'm grateful. I'm grateful that that that is there, because I think that will give and I like it. But when I was even reading about your course, I think sometimes people just want to know that there is hope or there is a plan. Oftentimes, I feel like that's enough. To keep somebody engaged in the process, and so I liked it, if anybody is hearing this and they are the betrayer that just to know that, OK, yeah, it's normal for them to feel at times this is too much. And I and I love the climate versus weather. I really do. That's so good. So how do people start, in your opinion? Again, I want people to take your course because I want them because it's now sound like I'm doing the sales pitch for you. But it goes into so much detail. And I want people to be able that this is such a big topic that I think it needs more than 15, 20 minute discussion on a podcast. But in that vein of giving people hope, what do you what do you tell people as far as how to start rebuilding trust?

[00:34:53] Well, the the first place so are we talking to the person who broke the trust where they can start or the.

[00:35:00] I think the couple I would love to know, because I think. Well, I don't know. You tell me, where do you go with that?

[00:35:06] Well, there's there's kind of two we talk about. There's three that there's that there's two individual recoveries. Yeah. And then there's this couple recovery. Yeah. The couple recovery clearly depends on it depends on how well those individual recoveries are going. So if you have one person who is working really hard, so a lot of times you'll have the betrayed who's super motivated because they're hurting so badly. So they're they're motivated and they're they're coming. They're working and working. And then the person who's been unfaithful or betrayed, the relationship is being dragged in like that. Dynamics in terms of where to start. It's going to be hard to do any marriage stuff there, so we're we're going to start is we're probably I'm probably going to start working on help if both people are coming in. I'm probably going to split them a little bit and work a lot with just creating some safety and some containment with the betrayed so that they can just get their emotional bearings and get some safety and get some clarity about what's happened to them, what they need. A lot of the times they're in trauma, they're dealing with physical stuff.

[00:36:06] Sometimes if there's sexual betrayal, we have to make sure that they're safe, even go get an STD test. You think it can get really hard to try and help people feel safe and with the person who broke the trust. Early on, I'm just in a lot of ways, it's sort of like it's kind of like the old 12 step thing. It's like even just helping them wake up to the fact that they even have a problem. Yeah. And that's that a lot of the times they may come in just wanting to get this over with. And so what I'm wanting to do is help them settle in to the journey, help them settle into the benefits of rebuilding this thing from the ground up. And that's going to come from honesty, transparency, accountability, caring about and really recognizing that they are a source of comfort to their partner if they'll do this work. They're so in touch to the fact that they're a source of pain, but they don't realize that they're actually a huge source of comfort if they'll if they'll do the work.

[00:37:03] No, I love it. I do. And I feel like that helps people understand it again. There is a plan or there can be this structures, which means there is hope. So I almost like they're realizing the more I'm asking these questions, that they are a bit ambiguous. I feel like I'm almost asking what The Huffington Post seven things to rebuild trust and you'll never believe. Number four for kind of a thing. But I don't know if you have that kind of advice that you even give people or if if they're in this kind of a situation, it's so much more than just that. Really?

[00:37:29] Yeah. Yeah. I do have an acronym that I use in the course quite a bit, which is ACT, which is stands for accountability, compassion and time. And and those those principles for the person who broke the trust are critical that that it all comes back down to if they want to be a safe person, if they want to be a trustworthy person, they have to learn to live in accountability, not be afraid of that. Ok, and that's and that's that's going to show up in lots of forms. And I tell people all the time, look, there's no expiration date on your accountability. It's not like you can be accountable for the first six months. And then after that, you can't say to your partner, hey, you can't bring this up anymore because of that. Right? It's now you're accountable. If I betrayed my what I remembered, I first was married to my wife, like we were married like two weeks. And I totally hurt her feelings. It involved like my ex girlfriend. I ran into her on campus, didn't introduce my wife. My wife was sitting right there feeling stupid. It just the whole thing was such a mess. And I was so immature. And to this day, sometimes it will come up as even as a joke and laugh about it with other people or tell stories.

[00:38:31] And I'll seriously get back in the car and say to my wife, like, I know we're joking about that, but like, seriously, I'm just so sorry that that happened. That's just like, no, no brand new wife should have to, like, feel so stupid and humiliated. I'm so sorry. I still feel really badly about that. And that accountability. Twenty five years later is so important. And then and then the compassion, of course, is just caring deeply about the impact you've had in your partner, and that that compassion shows up everywhere. It's like I care about your pain and I will make sure that I am the kind of person that will sooth that, tend to it. That's proximity, closeness, softness, kindness. Like I'm just going to be a source of comfort for you. And then the time thing is it's not only it's going to take a long time, but it's just multiple times that there's going to be repeated over and over and over again. It's it's going to be like, yes, we've had this conversation before and we'll we'll have it again. And this might feel like a broken record, but the repetition is going to help you start to experience me as a consistent, safe person.

[00:39:37] So that is so good. Yeah. No, I mean, it came up at that part I love because I feel like and I'm sure you hear this often, too, where or how many times are we gonna have to go through this? And it's as many as you need to. And I love what you said so that I can show them that that I can be there for them. I can be consistent. And I love when you see in the scenario, let's say it's the guy again where they look at it like, oh, no, I know what to do with this. I'm grateful that she's expressing this trigger or this hurt, because I know what to do with this and knowing that the wrong thing is the look, we've already talked about it. When are you getting it over? It's absolutely the wrong thing. And I think there is that fear of, well, what if this goes on forever? And that's where I want to say, OK, what if but if we're doing the work each time, then we're not going to we're maybe not going to need to worry about that. Right. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I love it. So the the acronym is wonderful. So that helps a lot, too. So any other thoughts there? I feel like I feel like I had an aha moment about five minutes ago where it really isn't just these cliches. It's it's being willing to get in there and do the work and admit the things that you don't know, because no one's been through this process until they've been through the process. And so going in there with humility and not going in there with trying to tell their their spouse how they're supposed to experience this trauma, pain.

[00:40:55] Yeah, and I, I tend to not be very good at like acronyms and breaking things down into steps in general, it's just not one of my strengths. So I don't I don't I don't think like that, but. I also don't I also think that this trust building process doesn't play well to that, like you were saying, I think that what I want them to do is to tune in and settle in, to settle into a journey of of being curious and understanding the way that they've impacted their partner. Because if you start get into steps of like, well, do you do this and this and this and that happens, it almost it almost kind of creates this environment where the person who like you're almost kind of creating like a finish line. And I want to say like this is not the goal, isn't to like get through it. The goal is to integrate this into your story and have this become something that draws you both closer together so that you feel like you've overcome something together. Yeah. And instead of just like we got past that, never talk about it again, I think you're missing a huge opportunity for deep intimacy. Long term, it takes years, though, for people to really get there. And I want them to settle in for the long journey.

[00:42:02] And I love the concept of settling in. I love that where when people say, well, OK, but if we're still doing this in a year and I often want to just stop them and say we're that's the wrong that's the entire wrong parallel work from. Right. It's like I hope that they still feel like they can come to me and bring something up in a year, because I want them to know that we can have these conversations, because that's going to mean we can have all kinds of conversations. And I feel like that's that part where people don't even understand what that relationship can look like because they didn't see it modeled maybe growing up. And they certainly haven't had to be this honest and accountable until this happen, which is going back to what I think you and I were talking about. I want to create something that is going to make this happen. But, boy, when we when we got this opportunity, it's kind of let's do this. I wanted to throw I want to random train of thought, but I do a lot of my podcast talking about marriage.

[00:42:52] And I've been talking so much lately about interdependent versus codependent then. And so we're interdependent. And we're and then when you're differentiated, where one person ends, the other begins. And and when we're breaking free from this enmeshment or this codependence, and as we become differentiated, it will come with some invalidation. And I think that's where that uncomfortable place is. And that's where I feel like and here's where I'm going with this, is I feel like what we're talking about is I will have people sometimes say, oh, wait a minute, if I might. If we're interdependent and we're differentiated, then that sure doesn't sound like a marriage. And that's what I'm saying. We don't even know what that looks like is that is safety and that's curiosity. And now we're going through the life one through our life, being able to say, hey, what do you think about that? And we're processing emotion as as a couple. And and that is just something that is beautiful. But people don't know what that even looks like until they're there. Do you know anything about that?

[00:43:43] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It reminds me that quote and I'll paraphrase it from Anthony DeMello, who basically said something like, We don't really love people. We love the idea of people. Right. We love the idea of what we think they should be. And that's that's that lack of differentiation. That's yeah. Basically, in my own marriage, like I like I can honestly say I did not love my wife. In a mature love when I first married her at age 22. Yeah. I love the idea of her. I love the idea of a wife and who I thought she was. But as I've gotten to know her, I've had to confront a lot of things that are very different than how I do things. And and and that challenge, if she were just to kind of like mold into the version of what I thought she should be, I'd be a very unhappy person. And I think she would, too. And so, yeah, the richness is in. To me, it's like endless curiosity, if you ever wonder, like a lot of couples, like we have nothing to talk about them all. Oh, but if you're both like really healthy individuals and you have things going on and opinions and thoughts and things that you're interested in exploring and preferences. Oh, that's given me all the material I need to talk about with my wife.

[00:44:52] More getta so good. And I feel like I love what you're saying because I feel like I thought we will hit thirty one years of marriage here in just a month or so. Awesome. And I and I but it's the last even few that the more of that there is that differentiation. My wife wife's dress a little bit more stylish. You might wear a little more jewelry or things that I know that in a less mature version of that I talk to guys all the time are like, well, geez, well, why are you wearing that? Versus, Oh, man, I love this. Tell me more like tell me, tell me. That's right. Oh, and and it breaks my heart to think if there was a part of her that felt like she can't be herself because of the fear of well, I don't know if Tony's going to like it or not. And that's that part where I feel like people don't even know what that looks like to say, oh, this is different, but tell me more or not. Well, this is different. What what's this all about? And it's a whole different energy

[00:45:38] Partner as an individual that exists. And I think we get married. I know I did. A lot of couples get married because of how that person makes you feel. Yeah, we we talk about it like oh, they're amazing because they make they make me feel so loved or me, me, me, me, me egocentric. But yeah, I think I think mature love is really about it's like we do with our kids. Like we don't want them to just be like carbon copies of us. We want to really get to know them and figure out what their journey is. And I just feel honored that my wife wants to take her journey with me.

[00:46:09] Oh, that's so good. That's so good.

[00:46:11] Yeah, chose me to have it with.

[00:46:13] No, thank you for the laugh. Now, like I know what our next topic will be. I'd love to go deep into the differences in marriage or differentiation next time with spouses or mature relationships. I could talk to you about that all day, too. I love that. I really do. I do. Ok, this is better than I even imagined. Jeff, so thank you so much. And then so awesome. It is. I want people to go take your course. So tell them where to go. That always sounds funny to me. Tell where to go, Jeff. Tell them tell me where to get your course. And then that you've been very kind to give them my my people, my people a code. So, yeah. Where do they go?

[00:46:45] Yeah, I might. I definitely want your your listeners to to access the course. And there's a 15 percent off coupon. Virtualcouch15. Thank you, Virtual Couch. Just put that in at check in and save you 15 percent on the course. But yeah, it's it's it's a it's a 12 week course. One lesson or one module per week. And there's like four or five, three or four lessons inside each module with videos and worksheets. And and then as part of the course, I offer a one year question answer live monthly webinar with me where you can get on it. That's good. And connect with me and and get additional support, because I know it takes longer than 12 weeks. I just do the lessons over 12 weeks. And then you can have a year to kind of work things out and get get support. But yeah, you can just go on my website, just your dot com if you don't know how to spell my name, which is really hard to spell. You can just go to from crisis to connection. That's another website and you'll see it on there under courses.

[00:47:38] What I'll have I'll have links to everything, too. And I really do mean it. The the I don't I don't know if you've gotten a lot of feedback, but I now point people who are struggling with faith. I mean, even talk about that. But that's what I loved talking with you about, that. We we covered stages of faith. We covered faith journeys. We covered as I've been pointing people that are coming to me for that to your podcast, because I just I appreciated your you've been answering all the questions. Amazing here. But you're you're an amazing interviewer as well. And you've been getting a lot of pretty darn amazing guests on your podcast as well. So I highly recommend that, too.

[00:48:10] Yeah. No, it's it's fun. I love podcasting.

[00:48:13] Yeah. So we will do it again soon.

[00:48:16] I look forward to it, man.

[00:48:17] And I cannot believe you did. Therapy. Communication brings the whole thing. Just I don't know what we'll find out next, but I can't wait. So. All right, Jeff, thank you so much for coming on.

[00:48:26] Hey, thanks, Tony.

Tony talks about processing betrayal trauma with Brannon Patrick. Brannon Patrick is an expert in the field of Betrayal Trauma, and he plays the role of "the Expert" in the popular podcast "The Betrayed, The Addict and The Expert." His podcast follows the recovery journey of Ashlynn and Coby, a couple who have been able to move forward as a result of the pain of betrayal and addiction. Brannon has developed several group systems and programs for addiction recovery. He has specialized training as a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) which has helped him learn how to treat sexual addiction and betrayal trauma. Brannon is also trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Brannon is the co-clinical director and owner of TherapyUTAH and he has developed several programs to help individuals, and couples, heal from betrayal, as well as addiction.

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Tony's FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.

Tony's new best-selling book "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" is now available on Kindle.

Tony Overbay, is the co-author of "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" now available on Amazon The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program The Path Back by visiting And visit and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs, and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript click here

---------- TRANSCRIPT ----------

[00:00:00] Hey, everybody, welcome to a very special bonus episode of The Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist. And the very quick reason why you're seeing this bonus episode is it really did kind of come out of nowhere. And it's because I'm a couples therapist, a marriage therapist, and at any given time, I'm working with several couples or individuals who are working through betrayal or the concepts of betrayal, trauma or a recently discovered addiction or infidelity, you know, acting out sexually outside of a marriage. But often when I get this new couple or a new person and they come into my office and they open up about what they're going through, they they often feel so alone. You know, they feel broken. They feel ashamed. They feel embarrassed. If it's the spouse, the the betrayed, they can feel so angry and blindsided and like their entire world has been just ripped out in underneath their legs, then they are trying to make sense of things. Sometimes they go back and look through their entire marriage and they wonder if if anything has been true. You know, they feel these intense feelings of shame or feeling like they are less than or and all of these are such normal feelings and addictions that people are going through. And on this side, excuse me, of the person that is, is the world safer, the betrayer, they're they're really excuse me. There is a deep need to try and control the situation. I mean, psychologically speaking, that is something that we we do a little bit as humans as we want to maintain control.

[00:01:26] We're so afraid that if we don't have control that that, again, our entire world is going to fall apart. And and on that note, I mean, how does it feel when you're under somebody else's control and it doesn't feel good? And this is the thing I talk about often, the concept of reactance where, you know, it's really the desire to do the opposite of something that's been prescribed to us by others or something that we're told that we're supposed to do or should do. Yeah, nobody likes to be shown on. For example, if you attempt to control your spouse's diet, you might be met with a, you know, increase the consumption of unhealthy food just to spite you. And and I was reading and putting some pieces together for a future podcast about control. But really coming up on this concept, this is why in adult relationships, you can either have control over others or you can you can have love, but not both. And in love. It is such a fundamental need, this desire to connect, this desire to love. It's such a fundamental need to us that. So then being overly controlling isn't isn't good. I mean, there's there's not really anything that we can pull from that that is going to be healthier, productive, yet we continue to do it so often. So anyway, back to this bonus episode. So I just I often refer to this episode and it's now been a couple of years since I did this episode with and Patrick on the trail trauma. And and I thought it just needed a little bit of a refresh and needed to get it back up into the list of the podcast so that I can refer to it a little easier.

[00:02:49] But the podcast, BRANOM Patrick is a pretty amazing therapist. He's a good friend. He's the host of the podcast The Betrayed, the Addicted and the Expert, which has done so much good for so many people. If you happen to be a listener of that podcast, you'll know that they've they've been through some pretty big things recently. The couple, Ashley and Kobe. And I'm mentioning this because you'll hear of the podcast and those names mentioned, I think, in the beginning when Brandon and I are are given out his background. But they they've gone through a lot similar fact that went to their show notes. And here's here's what they had shared in a recent episode. They said that when we started this journey, we had no idea where it would lead. And although we've never taken a stand as to what should happen with a relationship after infidelity, they were striving to keep theirs together. And they've done years of this podcast. And they said today's announcement was incredibly difficult, highly concerning for you, our audience. And we feel it was time to open up with a most intimate challenge that they've reached a place to share. Finally, they say that they still believe in the principles they've taught in the podcast. But on this recent episode they had led Kobie had led by saying that he has decided to, quote, uncouple from Ashlynn.

[00:03:55] So I just want to put that out there because I will mention the podcast with Brandyn. And it is about betrayal, trauma. And it just shows you that that, you know, relationships can go in a lot of different directions. But the the concepts, the principles that Brandon and I talk about in this episode of how to work through or handle betrayal, trauma and how to truly try to use all of these things to be for your good to be able to say, OK, that's almost like some acceptance of here's what we're here's where we're at. Here's what we're dealing with. And it doesn't work to tell somebody to not worry about it or just get over it or, you know, the person who often is the one that discloses or who opens up. They may feel a sense of relief of being able to get that off their chest. But you've got an entirely you've got a different person. You've got another person that is part of this equation. And they're the ones that are now dealing with some of these intense feelings, these feelings of betrayal. And you'll hear and hear we talk about how betrayal, trauma really does have a lot of similarities of PTSD. You know, this complex post-traumatic stress disorder, there's triggers. There's. They are staying very much in their midbrain and their amygdala and reacting to the fight or flight response, so we're going to cover all of that today. And I feel like that's the main reason I wanted to do this bonus episode. And so just kind of get right to it.

[00:05:27] His name is Brandon Patrick. He is the host of the very popular podcast that betrayed the addicted and the expert, and he does play the role of the expert on the podcast, along with Ashlynn and Coby. And I have been I've had many, many clients. That is no exaggeration. Ask me if I was familiar with their podcast and I go into a little bit of this with Brandon, but I first did the thing where I was a little bit jealous. I was like, hey, I've got a podcast to you know, we sit right in front of me and realize that it's not all about me. And their podcast is incredible because it is on the subject of betrayal, trauma. And speaking of these, Instagram Q&A is one of those that I get often is can you please do an episode on betrayal trauma? I have done some certification, some training in the world of betrayal, trauma, but it's not something that I am doing well, I really am doing every day. But but it's not something that I'm doing eight clients a day. And so they do enjoy working with betrayal, trauma. I feel like a pretty knowledgeable in the world of betrayal, trauma, but I really wanted to bring someone that is an expert in betrayal, trauma on to talk about this. And that expert is Brandon Patrick. So he is a dynamic leader in the betrayal, trauma, addiction recovery community. And he has some online programs. And he's also the co clinical director and owner of Therapy Utah. And in his bio, he talks about this and he says that he's treated almost every kind of addiction in every setting. And he started by working on an inpatient psychiatric unit, spent years gaining experience in an intensive outpatient setting. And so he's received a lot of specialized training in addiction, recovery and betrayal, trauma, recovery.

[00:06:54] And so I really do feel like you are going to enjoy this interview. It's dealing with a heavy subject material, the concept of betrayal, trauma. But but Brandon is just a is a really easy to talk to person. That's why I said I got a new best friend. Now, he and I turned the mix on a little early this morning. We recorded it pretty early and it was twenty minutes later. We were still talking. And I realized, man, I got to start recording because I had a client coming up a little bit later. So I feel like we we could have talked for days and I can't wait to have him on again. But he's also developed a lot of groups and programs for addiction recovery. He does have specialized training as a certified sexual addiction therapist assistant. And and he also is trained in MDR, which is eye movement desensitization, desensitize, easy for you to say, desensitization and reprocessing, and as well as dialectical behavioral therapy, DBT and cognitive behavioral therapy. And those are significant. I would love to get him on and talk about MDR, DBT. Those are both very important therapeutic modalities for different things that come up in therapy. But today we are going to talk about betrayal, trauma and and we talk about this at the end. But if we didn't answer your questions or if you have questions from the podcast, please send them to And I would love to use those to have a chance to get them back on the podcast, and I highly recommend visiting it. Go listen to their podcast. He is the expert on the betrayed, the addicted and the expert. All right.

[00:08:15] Without any further ado, let's get to my interview with Brendan Patrick.

[00:08:25] So, yeah, I will

[00:08:26] Just send incredibly nice things about you, by the way. So I would love to give a little bit. First of all, you're in Utah, correct?

[00:08:32] Yeah, yeah. I'm in Highland

[00:08:35] Highland, so I grew up there. Did you did you go up there? High school?

[00:08:38] I grew up in Sugarhouse.

[00:08:41] So a high school. Do you go to

[00:08:42] High school,

[00:08:43] Highland? All right. I was an alcoholic.

[00:08:45] Oh, really nice. Yeah.

[00:08:47] But I think I'm probably old enough to be your dad, so I don't know if that's.

[00:08:49] I doubt it.

[00:08:52] So I would love to get in. First of all, I'm a big fan of your podcasts and and I feel like it's one of those things where I kept having people ask me if I had heard about your podcast to the point of where at first I was little bit annoyed. I was saying I would be like, hey, I got a podcast too. And I'm like, OK, fine, I'll listen to the Brands podcast then. It's OK. I'm hooked now. So podcast is a betrayed the expert. How long have you done the podcast and how did you what led to that.

[00:09:16] We've done that for two and a half years. It was really interesting how it started. I met Ashley and Coby. They were just starting off in their recovery journey. They had done a video that went viral about their story. They're just really open. And I had been treating betrayal, trauma for a while, maybe eight years. By then. I had worked under people. I had worked so many different places. I knew what worked and what didn't work. I could see it working with Ashton and Kobe. And I just thought, man, we need to come together and I can bring my expertize and talk about recovery and what really works for healing for a couple through them, they can share their story. So people will connect to that, really relate to it. And we we didn't know what we were doing. We had a little snowball mike on an island. We started that way. And really we didn't need fancy technology and stuff. The story held its own. And yeah, we just we hear things like, you know, your podcast has been one of the most instrumental things for our recovery.

[00:10:17] And I like what you say, too, when you're talking about you saw their video and you did you recognize things that they weren't doing that would really help in their recovery?

[00:10:25] Yeah. So it's interesting when I talk to ASIMCO because I'm not their therapist, OK, which I think is a good thing. I'm actually really good friends with their therapist. But as we talked, I could tell early on they were learning stuff from what I was saying as well. OK, it just goes to show recoveries. It's not a thing where you arrive one day. They were further along than a lot of couples. They were out of the crisis mode. They were moving forward in terms of connection and intimacy. Yeah, they still have some work to go and yeah, they'll always have work to go. And yeah, they were learning a lot from me and we can recapture that on the podcast. You guys talk

[00:11:05] About you talk about difficult subjects too. And I'm really curious. I want to get to the betrayal trauma part. But is that hard or do you guys have planning meetings of OK, do we want to touch this one or is anything off limits or are you excited about the difficult topics

[00:11:17] The week we want, the difficult topics we gravitate toward, that we really try hard not to plan too much. And the reason is because because we're all about authenticity and vulnerability and so we don't have it scripted out. It really is a conversation. We throw a topic out there and we just break it down. And yeah, there's some interesting topics that we hit and we've gotten some backlash. What? Yeah, let's talk about there's a I think there's a battle within the battle when it comes to betrayal. Trauma. If I can give you just a little history, please do. That'll be great. So there is so when I first started treating this years ago, it was this codependency model, the Coatex, the. And it really felt blamey toward the spouse. Bahbah Steffen's came out with her book, You're Sexually Addicted Spouse, which was really important. And then just a way it started happening of we're not going to call it codependency. That's not what it is. It is betrayal, trauma. And I really appreciated that because it took the blame away from the spouse. But there's another side to it and it's gone to this place. But there's betrayal, trauma, and then there's this abusive, horrible monster addict. And know, Tony, I've been called a man hater and I've been called somebody who doesn't sympathize with the betrayed. And I'm neither I think we can have compassion for both sides. And so when Ashton and Kobe talk action, Kobe and I talk about things like we did an episode about what do you attract to your life, like the law of attraction.

[00:12:55] Yeah. And we got a lot of backlash about that one because they're like and we were talking about the betrayal and we're saying we want you to self reflect, to really look at how is how have you attracted certain things into your life. And we're not blaming, but what we do want is to empower them to really move forward with the power that they have and not just stay stuck in a victim place of I've been hurt. I've been betrayed. That that. Pain is real, that the hurt is real, the betrayal is real, but and this is it's like I was running a group and this woman I'd worked with for a long time and I had a lot of rapport with her. And then she said, well, am I just supposed to forgive my husband? I said, you could. And I realized forgiveness isn't something I throw out there, like, so quickly. Yeah, I said you could. That's up to you. And she said, oh, he did all these things to me. And I'm just expected to forgive him. And I said, look, I'm not telling you what you should or shouldn't do, but if you want more peace and happiness and you want to move forward, then that's up to you and that's your responsibility to figure out how to forgive him. And there are some. There are some therapists, there's some platforms out there that really drive home, stay the victim if you're betrayed and consider him a monster as the addict and doesn't help a couple move forward through.

[00:14:28] I did. I don't go on often. I did the things I did his Instagram post on positive regard toward your spouse. And I was just I was quoting Brene Brown and saying, look, the life you blessed the most when you have positive regard toward other people is your own. And I got all of these. It was interesting because on my Instagram, I have a lot of people who follow me because of betrayal, trauma. And I have a lot of people who follow me just because they like the relationship stuff that I do, the the people who don't have the betrayal, trauma, they thought, that's awesome. Yeah, I appreciate that positive regard to the people who have been indoctrinated. And I'm not saying everybody with betrayal, trauma indoctrinated with he's just a monster. I hated that post and they said that's really dangerous for you to to say to have positive regard toward my spouse. And my response to that was I'm not going to back down. Positive regard toward your spouse is a good thing. It doesn't mean that you don't have boundaries with him. It doesn't mean that you're at risk of getting hurt more. So, yes, you can approach your recovery and recovery with your relationship from a place of compassion for yourself. First and foremost, have your own boundaries and then for your partner. And that's what actually works for healing for a couple.

[00:15:49] So because you don't like when people the betrayed and that example, you feel like the fear is that if I then give him positive regard or I say, OK, I forgive you, what I hear often is then the betrayed feels like, OK, so now he's off the hook and he will go back to doing whatever he was doing. And all of this was for nothing. And it doesn't matter anymore. Do you hear

[00:16:09] That it comes down to the the fundamentals of real recovery, which it because. Absolutely, Tony, what you just said is the fear. If I if I don't control this through my anger and I fear here, then I'm worried that I'm going to get hurt again. Yeah. And the thing is, I get this question like, how do I know what when he's in recovery? And I just say, you know it, if you let him off the hook, he still needs to man up and work his own recovery. He still needs to create that trust with you and your anger and your fear in no way is driving that recovery. Let me drive. That recovery is his internal motivation for change. And that's what will get him into solid recovery. And when you know that that's there, then you can really back off of that that anger and that fear, that anger, that fear. It's interesting, Tony, because I don't want to say you shouldn't have it, because I what I do want to say from anyone who's been betrayed is having is totally normal and valid and and anybody would have those feelings. But what I hope is that whoever is listening can understand is having it is something you need to process and work through and learn from and solidify your own self so that you can become stronger. It's not something that that works to to turn into force for his recovery. Yeah.

[00:17:43] Oh, it's so good. And I do feel like I don't want to I want to hear your I wanna hear you more. I don't want to. I feel like I want to echo but I feel like I often say that. And I'm a big fan of acceptance and commitment therapy. And that acceptance part is the all of the situations in your life that brought you to that moment, caused you to feel the way you feel. And if you didn't feel that way, then there would be something off. And so perfectly OK to feel that way.

[00:18:04] Absolutely. I always say don't shoot on your feelings. Every emotion is valid. Every single emotion that any person has ever had in this universe is valid because it's real to them. And so absolutely, if and the first stages of recovery for somebody who's been betrayed, if they've been isolated and alone and those feelings are really important that somebody says we get it and it's OK that you feel that way.

[00:18:33] Where do you I like where you're going with the kind of talk more about what do you do when you go fundamentals of betrayal, trauma, or when you have somebody that comes in for the first time, or are there some things that somebody is going to be listening right now? They've heard the term. They aren't doing anything about it. What do you say?

[00:18:47] Yeah, so first thing is what I just said is to let them know that what they're feeling is OK, validated and validation comes through empathy from the therapist part. It also comes through education when you educate them and they're like, oh my gosh, that's us. That's me. That's yes, yeah. Education, empathy also validation comes from. Support from other people, so things like group. I'm a huge believer in group, especially for the betrayed and the addicted, but both that's the first thing. So through that education, then we start to really outline what real recovery is. And what's interesting, Tony, is most people come in and they think he's acting out pornography and masturbation or he's had an affair or whatever it is, and that behavior needs to stop. So we need to stop that behavior and we dig in and there's symptoms like acting out everywhere, but there's roots to that. There's real problems there. And the women who decide to work their own recovery, they go through a process of self discovery and change and healing unlike any other. And what they realize is that his addiction really has propelled them. And it's a huge blessing in their life. They learn how to. Rework their relationship with God. They learn how to really know who they are, have healthy boundaries, learn how to be authentic, learn how to deal with conflict, they learn how to be empowered in doing what they want to do with their life and be more honest. And why do they learn all this? Because he had an addiction, because the best way that they can protect themselves is by being as healthy as they possibly can be. And so, Cindy, I'm sorry, that was my daughter.

[00:20:48] So when I feel like that's that part where and I've said this in the with couples therapy as well a lot, where you can't wait almost to get to that point where no one ever wants something like betrayal, trauma to be in their marriage. But then at the end, it is almost hard to say, man, are you in a better spot now?

[00:21:06] Yeah. And you know what? It doesn't require both people working recovery for that to happen. Some of my divorced women say that very thing. It led them to their work, led them to their divorce, but their divorce was a result of them getting healthy. And it's awesome when both people work their recovery and they're both equally committed to their own individual recovery. And then the relationship just thrives. The intimacy becomes so much more than it ever was because they're both so getting so healthy.

[00:21:39] Before we get too far off of the support, too, can I just ask you your theory? Are your opinion on. Because I love when people they find a group and they get their individual help. But I do refer to I call the peanut gallery. I mean, do you find that a lot of they go to a friend and then the friends are giving this? Here's what you need to do kind of advice. What do you see that and what do you do with that?

[00:21:58] Yeah, so there's a difference between good support and bad support. And one of the main differences is this is bad support will feed and fuel a victim mentality and and they'll fuel they'll encourage you to stay stuck and but still supportive because it feels so validating and you get me and he sucks and these horrible and I'm just stuck and this is awful and good support will totally empathize. Hear you out and reflect back your emotions, explore them with you, allow you to feel what you're feeling. But good support will also be honest with you and push you and hold you accountable and care about you moving forward. And so some groups you go to can be really detrimental if they feel that victim mentality. Some groups can be really awesome if they if they are honest with you and will push you to move forward. So, yeah, that definitely exists. The peanut gallery thing. Absolutely.

[00:22:59] So do you find that most of the people that you work with are people where the the addict is willing to be a part of the treatment? Or do you find that you're seeing a lot of people where the addict is a you can go get help? But I told you I'm not going to do it anymore.

[00:23:14] I'd say just off the top of my head. I'd say about 70 percent, the addict is willing to engage in treatment as well. Now, there's a difference between I guess let's talk about willingness. Sometimes that's compliance and that's really destructive to the relationship. OK, what that is, is I'll go because you want me to go. I'm only here for you. My heart's not in this. I'm just trying to avoid you leaving me. So I'll go as compared to I'm going because I like I'm into this, I'm healing. This is I'm proactive in my own recovery and I'd say maybe 50 percent. But it goes both ways. I have some couples I work with where he's totally engaged and she's resistant and she doesn't want to move forward, which sounds crazy, but it's just such hard work and there's a lot to face. And and so she's caught up in fear and blame and she doesn't want to work moving forward. So I see both sides of it.

[00:24:14] Yeah. You feel like in those scenarios, that one you just described, when she feel when there comes the disclosure, the day, the moment where she finds out there's such that shock that it's that, look, this isn't my problem. This is your problem. Why would I need to do anything about it? You run into that.

[00:24:29] Oh, absolutely. And there's there's some truth to that. But it's one of those things. If somebody took a sledgehammer to my leg like they did, that they need to fix that. But now I'm now I'm stuck with a shattered leg. And so I'm going to need to do some rehab on that leg. But, yes, I hear I hear that all the time. I also when I run but trail trauma groups for the first time, sometimes women will come in really eager and ready to go, like, yes, I'm ready for this. A lot of times I'll come in and before I even say a word, they'll start crying or be really emotional. And it's like, oh, my gosh, I can't believe that I'm here. I can't believe this is what our marriage has come to. And so it's that they want to stay in hiding because it's a hard thing to face and tell them whether they're like it. Good for you. It took so much courage for you to come today, and then I make it safe for them there. But absolutely, it's hard. It's hard for them to engage sometimes.

[00:25:30] Do you think that some of the fears are around? They don't want to hear that their spouse try to blame them, maybe the addict or they don't want to hear that they were I don't know, whatever is going to come out. I am saying you are missing signals or I felt you were withdrawn or that you feel like that could be a problem.

[00:25:46] Well, sometimes, Tony, the truth is a lot of the women have been to therapists or church leaders or really do push back the blame onto them. Yeah, they don't want to hear that anymore. They're told that they haven't had sex enough or they've been there like that. That's the last thing I need from a professional or somebody who I don't trust help. And so why would I go get help?

[00:26:08] I'm going to isolate, isolate that audio clip. That one has got to be played over and over because I feel like nothing is more detrimental than having someone come into my office. And you do sense that hesitation and you find out that they have sat with a bishop or someone that said, well,

[00:26:21] Well, what what was your

[00:26:22] Role and or how long? How many how often were you having sex? Or and it just as a part where I want to pause the session, go

[00:26:30] That or story. It was like two weeks after D-Day. This bishop was talking to this couple and he turns to her and he says, hey, have you forgiven him? Two weeks, two weeks. There's no. And he says, well, then I'm going to need your temple recommend for her. For her, that's an extreme right. But stuff like that. Come on. And yeah, they're a little reticent to come in and have somebody tell them what is and tell them it's.

[00:26:59] I feel like that's that speaks to and I love that people are going to hear this and that they're going to resonate. They're going to say, OK, I don't know. He told me he's not going to do it anymore. I'm probably OK. I'm listening to a couple of podcasts and I'm good. But what do you say to them? And I totally want to meet the client where they're at. Don't get me wrong. Absolutely. But what do you say to the people listening right now? They kind of feel like, OK, good advice. Noted, but but I think I'm OK.

[00:27:20] Right? Well, and again, if that's where you're at, that's where you're at. And at least you're listening to this and. Yes, but such a crucial part of recovery is connection, OK? And it's just so powerful when when you can connect with other people who are in your similar situation. And I think the reason why it's so powerful is because it takes so much resiliency and vulnerability to go out and do that. You get a benefit from it. And so connection and education are really important. And so you can get your education behind the curtain, so to speak. Yeah, connection. You got to put yourself out there a little bit. And so I would highly encourage that. Yes, you do. You do go to a group, you meet with a therapist, you find a mentor or a sponsor, somebody that that you can talk openly with about where you're at.

[00:28:11] So, again, somebody that knows what is not somebody that says, no, I'm sure I can figure it out or I'll Google it or.

[00:28:17] Absolutely. Somebody who really understands the trail from

[00:28:20] Yeah, and now I feel bad cause I feel like we're about to jump now. I have a I don't know, I have a zillion questions. So are you OK if we call this the all over the map section?

[00:28:28] Ok, good.

[00:28:29] So a couple of things. You said it and I don't even I was going to frame this with here's a hard question, but it's random, so I don't even have to. These are lay offs for you, I'm sure. But do you have advice for for D-Day, for disclosure and where and I'll frame it very quickly with I will have people that will they get caught or they finally decide, OK, I'm going to tell my spouse that I'm addicted or I've had an affair. And they may be Googling and it just says, hey, tell them everything. And so then then they go in and. Right. I'm going to be open about everything. And then it just causes this concept of staggered disclosure. The guy feels so relieved that he confessed or give advice. What do you say about that disclosure?

[00:29:06] A couple of things. So there's a difference between day and and like a formal disclosure. Yes.

[00:29:13] Ok, what about that?

[00:29:14] So day is when it just busts open, she finds something. It's like I was meeting with recently. I met with somebody and they found condoms in the backseat of his truck. And it just led to this conversation, to that boom. All of a sudden her whole world was different. Right. That's a formal disclosure is when you sit down and you lay things on the table and it's a chance to just flush it all out. And so if I were in the position of having a big thing to tell my spouse and knowing that it needs to be disclosed, this might sound a little weird, but I would go to a therapist first. I get some guidance, talk through some things. The way you disclose is really important and you can do so much damage to the foundation and the trust in your marriage, not because of the act. Now, the act itself did damage. Yes, yes. But the way that you come out with it and this is staggered disclosure, this trickle out effect, justifying it, rationalizing it, minimizing it in any way, it creates this thing where she feels like, well, thanks for telling me, but now I just don't know what I don't know.

[00:30:22] Absolutely. So I'm going to ask a lot of questions and I'm going to think about it. I'm going ask more questions. And and then if you weren't consistent with your story, then you must be lying. And now how do I trust you on anything?

[00:30:31] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, exactly. And the thing is, is the natural thinking, I think, for most people is this I'm going to tell her enough. So she thinks I'm being honest, but not too much because it's too uncomfortable. Yeah. And this is really tricky. And this is why working with the therapist is important, because the other side of it is telling her every last detail is also not good. And so. Well, are you telling me there's a difference between telling her what is what happened, what you can say? Yeah, I've looked at pornography five days a week for the last two years. That's one thing going and saying. I've looked at pornography with this type of woman and this size in this hair color and now you're just planting so many triggers in her head. I've had an affair is different. Then I met with this woman at this restaurant and we ate this meal. And now you're just planting triggers in her head. So don't avoid scary hard things, but also don't overdo it and plant a bunch of triggers in her head. Is that that makes sense?

[00:31:44] Yeah, it does. And I love it. And it's funny that you say so that I want to and I would love to spend some time on triggers and the whole kind of PTSD symptoms. And that's why. But I met with somebody recently who it was a guy who was struggling with marriage and thinking of divorce and that sort of thing. And then that one, of course, I say go meet with the divorce attorney and get all of your data and have questions and get everything together before you present. This is I want the divorce or so what you're saying. We need to get that in our field of going meet with a therapist and have a list of questions and have your game plan. And it's not for me because I want to manipulate her or I want but it's I care about her and I want to do this. Right.

[00:32:25] Absolutely. I love that. The thing is, it's not to manipulate her. It's for you to to gather information because you care about her.

[00:32:34] Yeah, because I like what you're saying. It can come from a great place when a guy finally said, OK, fine, I'll tell her everything. But and this is what I love about your podcast, because you guys talk about this stuff real. And I do find at times that I'm kind of still on the you know, well, I want to have people come to these conclusions and things on their own. And I don't want them to feel like I'm shooting on them or. But what I love what you're talking about is I'll go. The one I hear often is objectification, for example. So if a guy is just dumping everything I like where you're saying there's these specific triggers and that he's planted it, then I'll hear a woman say, wait, have you ever looked at my friend and thought about her? And then he's like, OK, I just Googled. I got to be super honest. Yes, I have, you know. What have you ever looked at this girl and this one? And then it's like now she is living in a. World of triggers, and he felt like he was doing the right thing, right? Don't you ever get those?

[00:33:23] Well, Tony, here's the thing that I this is a hard topic. Yes. When I when I meet with the couple, there's a couple. She would flip through Facebook and pull up pictures of their friends and say she's attractive. Right. You see attractive. Right. And so you came in to me and said, be honest with her. And so she goes in. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so she goes out in their small town and sees all these women. And and so then he's like, well, that didn't work. And so she does it again and he's. No, no. And so she comes in, it's like he's lying to me. And I said to him, let's be honest with her. And he looked at me like, what are you talking about? Be honest with her. And he's like, well, I have I tell her if they're attractive and what he's not honest with her because the reality is when she's triggered like that. Yes. His honest truth is, honey, I'm not comfortable with this right now. This doesn't work for me. I'm happy to be honest with you. But if you could go talk to Branon or if if we could work through this before we go down the list of attractive women on Facebook. Right. That's that's what I want to do. So it's a boundary for him. And now it might look to her like, no, you're just avoiding this. Then you're just and in a way it's true. But if he can own it and step into it and say, look, I care about us, I care about our safety, this isn't something that's healthy for us right now instead of being way too compliant. Yes. Way to avoidant and lying about it. He's not going to create safety that way.

[00:34:55] I love that because now I throw my couples hat on and we're really trying to that's one of those where I say, OK, we got to trust the process a little bit. We got to secure the connection, the old cliche. We got to work on the roots and then the leaves maybe aren't going to feel as triggering or as heavy. But right now, if we're just picking out those, it's going to be yeah, it's not going to be pretty. So you're up that connection and then it's kind of I then maybe. Yeah, she's cute. And then the wife told me not. I thought you you're nuts. But we're not having that conversation at the beginning.

[00:35:21] Absolutely. Yes. It's the example I always give is my wife made this dish and it was like she spent all day making it was like she puts it in front of me and I eat it. And she's like, how is it? What am I supposed to do, Tony?

[00:35:37] It was a great misbranded, whatever it was, even if it was tuna fish casserole. Oh, man, that was good.

[00:35:42] Yeah, right. And the truth is. So I tell her something like this. Like, hon, like I so appreciate your hard work. I love you. Thank you. It's not my favorite. I wouldn't I probably wouldn't put it on the menu. And she's a little disappointed. But for me to maintain trust in my relationship with her, I need to be able to tolerate her disappointment and have the strength enough. To be honest with her, I can still be kind and loving. And so then when she makes dinner the next day, it's and it's good and I'm like, heck, yeah, this is amazing. She knows. I mean it. Yes, it's the same, it's the same thing between a couple. Right. For him to be able to be authentic and honest about who he is and know who he is. That's what we'll build trust in the relationship brand.

[00:36:28] I'm very open about my ad on my podcast. What was that? What was that dish? I'm dyin

[00:36:33] Here. It was chickpea curry.

[00:36:35] Oh, I do like a good curry.

[00:36:36] Yeah, but it was vegetarian. Just I don't know like coconut in it and.

[00:36:43] Ok, all right. Well I love that though because even and again, back to couples mode. I'm a huge emotionally focused therapy and EMT fan and we do want to be able to share our truths. And I one of those underlying principles is it's OK to have a differing opinion. And our goal is not to destroy the other person's reality.

[00:37:00] It's one of the old like when I was trained, I was trained a lot under some people where I learned a lot of what not to do. One of the things that I learned was at the beginning of recovery, the addict doesn't have a leg to stand on. He needs to shut up and he needs to comply and he needs to not have boundaries. There couldn't be anything further from the truth. Does the addict need boundaries? Absolutely not just for him and his recovery and understanding who he is, but also to rebuild the trust in the relationship. Not being boundary for him is not being honest. And the last thing she needs is for him not to be honest. And so it's not just hunkering down and just like trying to do everything you possibly can to make her happy. The thing that's going to make her happy is when she feels integrity there from you and strength there. Right.

[00:37:54] And I feel like that's where the individual work becomes so important. I always when I'm working with men, for example, I do that right. I hear you and I want to hear your truths. But where does that come from? And is it being worked through a manipulation filter if a guy is being really, really honest? I love that. I love to tell the story of how a long day and driving home and feeling down and realizing halfway home that, OK, what's my goal here with this feeling down? And it's wow, I want to come. And everybody go, oh, man, dad, you work so hard, and I was like, I don't want that. I want to bust the door, open everybody dad's home and I'm pumped. Am I being manipulative, lovingly manipulative, unaware, manipulative.

[00:38:29] Right. Well, and that's what's so tricky with addiction is denial, drama, manipulation. It's so automatic and run so deep that a lot of times if you've been if you've been stuck in your addiction for so long, you don't really know your truth. Exactly. Those through this denial thing. And and it's hard to trust it. And that's where a good support system can really help, is to bounce things off of of a buddy in recovery or a good therapist who can be like really feels manipulative. Yeah, right. Who are you really what really is your value, your truth here with this thing.

[00:39:07] Ok, can you do you mind talking triggers and talk about how you feel. What is a trigger. Do you do you encourage this one. We'll say the woman is the better way to express triggers. What is the addict is supposed to do with triggers? This is the part I feel that can get tricky and I know what I feel is the right thing. But you are the expert literally. It says it on your podcast. So this I'm excited about this.

[00:39:28] Right. So triggers are just anything that triggers your midbrain, your survival response, your SO triggers that emotion, triggers a behavior to react. So it can be a smell. It can be you see something, an event, something happens and you go into your emotional mind, you're ready to to do something, fight flight or freeze. And so with betrayal, trauma, it's trauma. They have trauma triggers and things that aren't really based in reality can end up triggering them like crazy. It's like my buddy in Hawaii blasting off a bunch of fireworks and he went in and just stuck his head under a pillow and was shaking. And the he's a combat veteran who was on the front lines. And so it makes total sense. But if you look at it, it doesn't make much sense. We're just firing off some fireworks. He has that trauma response because of his life experiences. So he's going into a survival mode with betrayal, trauma. Trauma is real. So if you get home five minutes late from work and she's freaking out, it makes total sense that she is OK. I love her. And her triggers are one of the best opportunities for the addict. But if he can see it, is that. Yes, because usually he'll take it personally or he'll be really uncomfortable with it when when she's triggered. If you can hold space for her, if you can be an asset for her to process through those emotions, if she wants you to, when you become somebody who connects to her in her scariest moments, not somebody who adds on to her scariest moments, it's an opportunity. I mean,

[00:41:10] It is a opportunity to connect. And that's I love what you're saying that I want God. I can't imagine how hard that would be for a guy. But to. Right. I want the woman to say, all right, I drove by the store or I saw this girl or I smelled the smell and I was triggered. I because I want the guy to turn to and say thank you.

[00:41:25] Yeah. Tell me about it. I want to I want to know how you feel and who you are. And there's little tricks and techniques. You probably won't get into those today, but things that he can do to help her process that trigger. But first and foremost, he takes his own shame, resiliency that triggers usually probably about him, like, why are you a cheater? Why did you do this to me? Why? I was wondering if you're going to hurt me again, are you? And for him to say, no, I'm not. No, not. Or for him not to say when are you going to get over this, but for him to just be like, oh, my gosh, you're freaked out right now and I want to hear your pain. I had a good buddy of mine, actually, an old client, good buddy of mine. His wife woke up three in the morning and he was on his phone at the end of the bed. And she's triggered I mean, duh, I think that and his history is acting out on his phone with pornography. And so she's telling him like, hey, like, what are you doing? And she freaks out. And the old him would have been like, oh my gosh, I've been sober for two years. What's wrong with you? Can't you believe? And he just stopped and thought, oh my gosh, I can't imagine with what you've been through waking up in the middle of the night and seeing on the phone like this. Yeah. She's like, I bet you're freaked out right now. And that's you're not in your head, Tony. That's and that's what you're looking for, is to get them to nod their head. Oh, yeah. You get me. Yeah. You understand me. And I'm OK to to feel this trigger. And that's what will kill the trigger. Absolutely. If in that moment he says you're crazy or just get over it or that's not what I was doing, it'll amp that trigger up. Right.

[00:43:08] Go to the more. And I always feel like that. The left, Sujan says is attachment injury apology. You've really those right. And it's that man I'm sorry I put you. A spot where you feel that way when you see me at the end of the bed and I'm sorry for the times that I'm not even aware of, that you probably go to that place and wonder and sit with that, which I know can be so uncomfortable.

[00:43:28] Yes, absolutely. So the relationship has a lot of opportunity to heal because of the pain and because of the wounds. And it's a silver lining, I think, that God gave to help repair things. When what I'm saying is when there's a lot of pain, there's a lot of fear, there's a lot of emotion, which means there's a lot of opportunity for connection like that. Yeah. And if the addict can see it that way and and learn how to step into that with her, then they'll start to strengthen their bond. And it's a beautiful thing.

[00:44:00] But I had I had a client share a quote with me and I'm drawing a blank right. The second on the author. But the end of the quote says, Jumping through the abyss and finding out on the other end there's a featherbed. And I feel like.

[00:44:11] That's right. That is the concept. Yes. Yeah. But Tony takes the opposite of what an addict has done his entire life, which OK, which is avoid vulnerability. Right. Is to learn how to isolate and disconnect and go into denial. And so it takes learning how to do the opposite of that. That will really help her, will help the relationship and help him strengthen his own recovery.

[00:44:35] Brad, do you recommend that women in this scenario express triggers as often as they can, or do you feel like hang on to those or.

[00:44:44] Yeah, I, I do think expressing triggers is a good thing. I would encourage a support system for her. So I might call a sponsor a group member and just say, hey, I got to surrender something over. And that sponsor might say, yeah, you're really standing in it. The facts are just this. Let's just stick with the facts. Let's surrender it over to me and you're good. And as long as she's good, great. But every last little trigger I I've worked with a couple where they go out in public and they can even go out in public because it's trigger, trigger, trigger, trigger, trigger. Right now I'm not saying she shouldn't have those triggers, but she needs to have some tools and work through those triggers outside of him sometimes because she's always turning to him to say, you're good, you're safe, you're OK. Then her safety completely depends on him, which is nice.

[00:45:35] Yeah. And I like where you go back with that, where the importance of the individual work as well as I do feel like if individual work's being done and the point of the triggers is to this opportunity for connection. And then I feel like when she gets to the point where she knows if I bring a trigger to him, I know now he is going to be there for me. He's going to own this. So maybe now it's time for me to do a little mindfulness or work through this.

[00:45:57] Exactly. Exactly. It's interesting because sometimes the men that I work with or the the addicts that I work with, they're like, when when is she going to do her own work? And and what's interesting is when they've done their own work and they focus on them and they learn how to empathize, the light reflects back on her where she's oh my gosh, he's there for me. He's honest with me. He's empathetic. This is my stuff. Now, I got to figure this out, right? Yeah. Yeah, OK, we

[00:46:23] Can talk all day and I feel so bad, I feel bad that I have this this so this time for sure. But I think in the perfect world though, it's perfect to say, man, if there are questions that we didn't answer today, first, I would love to send them my way and I would love to see if we could do another episode at some point in the near future. I'd love to, but even more so. Go to your podcast, because I almost guarantee that if you go to your podcast, you guys are probably covered because I would love to talk about things like intimacy and talking about sex and all of those kind of things. And I know you have episodes on there about.

[00:46:51] Yeah, yeah. Like like you said, we don't avoid the hard topics, which is we just we just finished sex. Temba So we talk about sex all during sex. Temba OK, and yeah. Check us out the betrayed, the addicted and the expert. Yeah.

[00:47:07] Or I say my new my new best friend brand is the expert. You play the role, the expert, which is an absolute pleasure to talk with you. I love that we talk about authenticity and stuff. The reason I don't have as much time as I had wanted to is because when we got on when we started talking to each other before the recording, I know it was it's nice to talk to you and I feel like we could have talked for days. Well, I get that same sense on your podcast, and I think it's very relatable. It's conversational. And so my jealousy has now been replaced with admiration. And so, I mean, I highly recommend that people go check that out. And I would love to have you again on in the not too distant future.

[00:47:37] Awesome. Thanks, Tony, and

[00:47:39] Thank you so much. I'm going to stop here, but I.

Nate Christensen, APCC, joins Tony to discuss attachment styles and how they relate to addiction, and how attachment shows up in marriage. Out of the various attachment styles, what does it look like when an anxious attachment style meets up with an avoidant attachment style in relationships where trust has been broken? If you are interested in working with Nate you can contact him through the contact form on Tony's website Tony and Nate are also facilitating Tony's pornography recovery program The Path Back, find out more at

This episode of The Virtual Couch is sponsored by With the continuing “sheltering” rules that are spreading across the country PLEASE do not think that you can’t continue or begin therapy now. can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your own mental health a priority, offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

Tony's FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.

Tony's new best-selling book "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" is now available on Kindle.

Tony Overbay, is the co-author of "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" now available on Amazon The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.

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---------- TRANSCRIPT ----------

[00:00:00] Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 270 of The Virtual Couch, I am your host, Tony Overbay, and today, prepare to go to school. You're going to learn a lot today, and I have no doubt about that. And my associate, my friend, my colleague, Nate Christianson, back on live because a few weeks ago I reran an episode that Nate did on giving his Ten Commandments of dealing with depression. And that went absolutely fantastic. But in this episode, Nate was back in the studio and as I shared in that best of Nate is my new associate and associates. All were formerly known as interns. And he and I talk very briefly about that in the beginning. But an intern or an associate in a therapy and counseling world is basically somebody who has received their master's degree in counseling. They've been seeing clients as part of their practicum or is their coursework. And now they're able to work out in the private practice setting or in a clinic or a nonprofit. But they have a clinical supervisor that they can turn to to discuss clients and cases and get advice or support those kinds of things. So I am Nate's clinical supervisor. So if you're looking for help and you like the cut of Nate's jib, it just just for fun. I love a good turn of phrase. And I use that one from time to time. The cut of one's jib fun fact that is a nautical reference. In the 17th century, the shape of the jib sail was often what I identified a boat's nationality. So hence whether it was hostile or friendly. If you saw the Jolly Roger or the skull and crossbones coming at you in the middle of the ocean, well, most likely you'd report to the captain that, in fact, you did not like the cut of that ship's jib.

[00:01:26] But anyway, that term was being used figuratively by and I think it was like the 1400's to express a like or a dislike for somebody. But I like the coordinates, a jib. So if you like what Nate is offering, you can contact him through the contact form on my website, Tony Overbay Dotcom to see about working with him. And we do reference my online pornography recovery course, the path back a couple of times in this episode. So if you are interested in more, you can head over to to learn more about that. And before you hear the music come in, if you're struggling to find a counselor or therapist in your area, but you're ready to get help processing or dealing with challenges in your life, then please do go to virtual couch for 10 percent off your first month services of online counseling. intake process is really easy and they will have you speaking with or emailing with or texting with or zooming with a therapist who can help you with a variety of challenges from anxiety and depression, those sort of things that you might be struggling with. And if you don't feel like you're connecting with your therapist, makes the process of switching a therapist very simple. So you owe it to yourself to at the very least, give counseling a try. And if doing it online is the way to make it happen for you, then by all means go to virtual couch today. So let's get to this episode on talking about attachments and and addictions, betrayal, trauma, all of those things with Nate Kristiansen.

[00:03:03] So, Nate, we're back.

[00:03:07] Yes, how are you doing?

[00:03:08] I'm doing great. I'm seriously giddy and excited. We are sitting beside each other and we are recording a podcast again. I ran the one of the best of episodes on the Ten Commandments of Depression. Right. And you get people that are saying they heard you on the virtual couch and you better say yes right now.

[00:03:24] I think just people that I'm related to. OK.

[00:03:26] All right. In there, they say, man, you don't need that Tony guy. You need to venture out on your own. That guy's a boat anchor. They say they know they love you. But I was really excited. And you are now officially your title is

[00:03:38] Associate Professional Clinical Counselor, which sounds

[00:03:41] Really cool.

[00:03:43] It's probably sounds cooler than

[00:03:46] Nate is working. And I don't know why I was telling Nate before. Why do I feel like I don't want to date is working for me? I don't like any of that. But the way the process works is when you are an associate professional clinical counselor, you must have a clinical supervisor. Yes. And that happens to be me. That's correct. Yeah. So Nate is in an office right beside mine, which I'm just giddy about, and I get to work with Nate. We get to see each other on a daily basis. And then the theory is that what every ten clients you see in a week, I get to talk with you for an hour. Right now it is well.

[00:04:19] So we'll have the we have our normal supervision and then you have additional hours based on how many clients I see. So the more clients I get, the more we get to see each other.

[00:04:29] So I'm very excited, which now it sounds like I'm telling to this shameless plug. Natus is open for business. Yes. So if you're in our area, are actually doing telehealth or that sort of thing, please reach out through Tony Overbay dot com. The contact is funny. I didn't even say or contact me directly, but it sounds like I would like all the control and I will filter through what gets the name, but I'm not really saying that. So I don't know if you do have contact information right now or just get me through my website or anything.

[00:04:52] So I did set up the email. It's just a Gmail. Nate Kristiansen counseling at Gmail dot com.

[00:04:58] Are there like five hundred ways to spell Kristiansen?

[00:05:00] Surely there are soldiers. So what's your RISC?

[00:05:04] And this seems like a pretty standard one

[00:05:08] Could be sure people still do so many different ways that I'm not even sure

[00:05:12] It's so neat. And I wanted to get together again and I want to get to the content, but I feel like I could go on and on. But Nate has joined me on my calls, the weekly group calls, and I love that group call. And so you've been on there for a couple of weeks now. And so because Nate has some background experience we're going to talk about today on the podcast, and then he's also there because there was a time to go to my son's basketball game. Nate took over, which is really nice. And and Nate's interested in working with the population of men who are women that are struggling with addictions, compulsive sexual behavior, impulse control disorder, that sort of thing. So it's been really nice to have not only Nate here, but also with a lot of the skills that you bring to the table. So we want to talk about

[00:05:54] That today, right? Yes. What are we talking about? Well, I guess a quick intro. So I'm this is like a second career for me. Probably third, actually, but I'm in my early forties, so this isn't where I started in life. But it's kind of where I've ended up. I've struggled with, like my own mental health issues for a long time. So I was really interested in mental health. It's kind of that stereotype that every therapist has their own problems are working out, and that's why they're in the field.

[00:06:18] Do it's funny, I would hear that. And I was like, not me. I just I just feel a love of this draw. I think it was two, three years. And I'm like, oh, that was exactly one hundred percent. Yeah.

[00:06:28] Eventually you'll find some skills in the closet, you know,

[00:06:32] Where there were quite a few.

[00:06:34] Yeah. So anyway, I recently completed my coursework at Northwestern University and thank you, Tony, for accepting me as an associate. I'm super excited to learn under somebody that really knows the ins and outs of the areas that I'm hoping to work with people in.

[00:06:50] And if you've heard Nate on previous episodes, Nate, now we've had a nice friendship, a good relationship, and we would win. I would I would talk to Nate. I mean, we get right into the the thick of the psychological theories and those sort of things. And that's why when you were in college or in getting your graduate degree where I had you on a couple of those podcast episodes, and I feel like you are very comfortable with this. And so when you talk about it being a second or third career, does this feel different already?

[00:07:17] Yeah, it does, because any career job that you do, you come in usually with kind of a low knowledge base. And so you're learning as you go. And in grad school, you do a lot of work with people in a clinical setting before you graduate, but then you have the personal experience layer. And so I have issues. I was diagnosed in my early 20s with anxiety disorder, also with depressive disorder. I think the most accurate term now in the DSM is major depressive disorder, and that's something that's been on and off. The anxiety feels like it's always there. So it's more of a management thing. And then actually, just a few years ago, I went down the road to the Aymond Clinic down in the. Bay Area, and because they're still having some questions, what's going on, and so they had me take a bunch of assessments and did a brain scan and congratulations, you have ADHD. Welcome to the club. Yes, thank you. Very excited to be in.

[00:08:13] And it's funny I forget that you have been to the Aymond Clinic because I talk about that constantly. I mean, that brain scan technology is fascinating to me. And I love the fact that you came away from that with the brand new and exciting diagnosis, because it was what led me down my own path was working with a client that got a brain scan and he showed the scan. And this Dr. Amena there had circled an area of the brain and said, basically, there's your ADHD. And I thought, that is fascinating. And then I thought about eight other things at the same time.

[00:08:42] Yeah, yeah. So that's my. Well, and I guess the other issue that we will talk more about is I've struggle with addiction. And so thankfully things are really come together for me in the last couple of years have been able to really move past these addictions and experience sobriety for the first time in 20 plus years. And my mental health is is finally in a really solid place. And and so that's why I'm excited to be here and do this. It's definitely something that I'm I know you're passionate about. I feel really passionate about.

[00:09:15] And I feel like that's the thing where I was going there, too, of does this feel different now? And it's one of those I didn't realize what I didn't realize in my previous career in computer software that it felt more like I'm checking a box and I'm just doing a thing. And now this is where, man, I love it and I can't wait to work with clients and come to work. And if you are struggling with any of the things that needs talking about and are thinking about seeing a therapist, I really would love for you to keep your eyes and ears open or mind open, as you hear, because I feel like one of the things that we talk about often is you need to have a good fit with your therapist. And and I find that a lot of people that will resonate with something, maybe for the first time they're hearing it on a podcast. And I really want people that are listening to take that as a cue to reach out and maybe get some help. And if it's Nate or whoever it is, yeah, let's deep dove into where we go in today.

[00:10:06] Yeah. So I brought in some material which was actually my capstone project and my capstone project was on attachment theory and how attachment theory intersects with the idea of addiction. And I was particularly looking at compulsive sexual behavior. I don't know how much you've talked to on your podcast. Within the clinical world, there's a lot of debate going on about whether or not sexual behavior should be classified as an addiction, as OK.

[00:10:33] Yes. And it's funny when you go first, because I do a little bit with this and it's interesting and we continue to make it about myself. But when I even started the virtual couch, it was the talk about my path back pornography recovery program. And but then I realized quickly I didn't want to be pigeonholed into just talking about it. But I've swung so far to the other side that I don't talk about it enough. So, yeah, so talk about that. Is it an addiction

[00:10:55] Or so I don't know, getting into my own past and my own issues. I've had multiple like truly what are considered addictions and conquering those were a big challenge. But I can tell you, looking specifically at pornography that felt every bit the addiction that any of the other addictions do. And I understand that from a clinical setting, especially for sex therapists, they want to keep that window open. A lot of what I read when I was putting together my paper was they weren't ready to say it was an addiction. And it almost sounds like when you read differing opinions that different people in that same field could feel very different about it, depending on who you talk to.

[00:11:39] Yeah, and I totally agree. And I have. So where I've gone with this is and I've even been very clear about now calling my pet back program a pornography recovery program instead of a pornography addiction program. But I want to meet my client wherever they're at. So some people feel like that label of addiction is really heavy and it's shaming and which can even make things worse. But I also found people that they say, no, I need to know that this is a thing in order for me to feel like I can get help for it. But lately I've been talking a lot about the concept of impulse and compulsion. And just simply, when you look at compulsive sexual behavior or impulse control disorder, that in a nutshell, a compulsion is premeditated and then an impulse is not. And so I'll talk often about you can especially with things like turn into pornography as a coping mechanism that people can get the compulsion maybe under control, so to speak, and then they can still find themselves the acronym Hault, hungry, angry, lonely, tired and maybe fall prey to an impulse and then act out, relapse, have a set back and then beat themselves up. And sometimes I feel like the brain's just waiting for that so it can jump back on and say, OK, can we start doing this again, can we get the dopamine fix and that sort of thing. But what I love is that your paper and you though, really dig deeper and look at the attachment piece to that. Yes. OK, so that's why I'm excited to talk about that, because, again, the. Recovery programs or or those sort of things are wonderful, but I really do believe that if you want to if you want to get to the core of this, this is very good. A really good counselor therapist is going to be worth their weight in gold because it's it's not just about when I feel triggered. I do some push ups or I sing a song or that sort of thing. We've got to figure out what are some of those unmet needs.

[00:13:17] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I totally agree with that. And that's I think one of the pieces I really like about the path back is it gives you like a clear direction of things that you can not only explore within yourself the self awareness piece, but also the tasks that you can do in order to. They're obviously based on values and things like that to get you towards going towards the direction that you really want to be in. I'm going to commit the cardinal sin right now and quote something that I can't that I don't know who said it. I found it when I was writing my paper and I lost it and I couldn't find it again. But I know what they said. It was in a research paper and it was beautiful. And they said and because of what I was doing at that point, as I was researching how attachment relates to addiction generally, not necessarily just compulsive sexual behavior, but just addiction generally. And what this researcher said was people don't have an addiction problem. They have an attachment problem. And I thought, holy cow, OK, there's so much here. What am I going? I was just getting into that rabbit hole. So I don't know if you have any thoughts about that, if you would, in your.

[00:14:20] Oh, OK. So that is awesome. I wanted to quickly I wanted to say I said that. Oh. But I've been through I mean I really do that but but I feel like that so and this is not supposed to be an ad for the path back I promise. But I can make it an app for my book. And I feel like this is the part where I really feel like when I started working in this area that it was more about the behavioral mechanisms to overcome turning to pornography. So it was. So when you have a thought, you just need to do this or you just need to do this. And I was trained a little bit in that and then I felt that is just not holding water. And so I what I call these five voids that when people feel like they aren't connected in their parenting or their marriage or their faith or their health or their career, that then they turn to a coping mechanism. So like pornography. So then I feel like then when you start looking at how to become a better parent or a better in your relationship or your career, then all of a sudden at the core of those is attachment, which is right of how do I show up to get my needs met? And then we get some nice abandonment side issues there. And I love everything about what you're talking about, but back to you.

[00:15:29] Yeah, I know. So attachment is super fascinating. There's a few different ways to view attachment. I divide divided. It is simply as possible. There are different terms that people use. So when I broke attachment up, I had secure attachment, which is the positive attachment that we want everyone to experience. So you hopefully had a good childhood with parents that were attentive, that help you help meet your needs, that maybe denied you some things that you shouldn't need, because also a part of attachment is understanding boundaries and differentiation, which is the idea that this is where I start and and where you begin. So we're not overlapping too much. Then we get into the other parts of attachment, which this is where problems start to come up. One is defined, are known as anxious attachment, one is known as avoiding attachment, and the other is sometimes called avoidant, anxious, anxious, avoidant or mixed attachment as some combination of the the two. And what we tend to see is people with each of these attachment styles often have similar experiences at some point in their life and often when they're young. So the program that Northwestern I went through was psychodynamic. And what that means is we're highly focused on what happens in early childhood experiences. I know you're really big to act and I love act.

[00:16:46] But what's funny, though, you say this is it is funny because I remember. Yeah. And I do love act and bring yourself back to present and those sort of things and turn to values. But those are all determined by your childhood experience. Right. And I remember I was going to come out and be the therapist that was going to just deal with the present until you literally start working with clients. And then it's OK. We got to go back to the past.

[00:17:05] Yeah. And to me, act is like the if you're going to make the Disney movie, it's frozen because it's a let it go. You have an emotion show up and then you just kind of let it go. But there's some beauty to that because even in work as a psychodynamic therapist, when you're working with someone and they're stuck in something about their past, they can't change and they also can't let it go. They're not able to progress.

[00:17:28] And that's a very good point, because I do feel like and I think my wife has brought great awareness to me where I do maybe because I love ACT so much and I've seen it change people's lives, that then where I'm saying, oh, it's normal to have that thought or feeling or emotion. And that's cool. Right? So now just make room for it, acknowledge it, don't fused to it. Move toward Value-Based Goal, in essence, let it go. And I do feel like people are like, yeah. And then like but what if I can't. Right. And so now here comes back to attachment psychodynamic going to figure this out.

[00:17:58] Ok, so with attachment theory, I really identify strongly with anxious attachments, so anxious attachments come typically when a young person doesn't have consistency from their primary caregivers. And by consistency, what I mean because no parent is perfect. Right. So what you have is you have parents that are maybe with one hand loving you and with another hand maybe acting violent towards you. So what you end up having is they don't know if they're coming or going with their parent. Now, that's not to say that parents always have to be perfect, but parents that are better at apologizing when they do something wrong, that are better at changing and allowing children to see them change, parents that are better at acknowledging their faults. Those seem to help with those kind of attachment wounds. Parents that are this is your fault. I'm only doing this because of you. And then five minutes later, they're loving on them like it never happened. It never gets brought up. Sometimes that's really what we're talking about. We're talking more of

[00:18:59] A lay down on the couch while you do this, because I've always identified as anxious attachment as well. And then I feel like when that shows up into adulthood, it really I love how you said it's like I really don't know if I'm coming or going or where I stand. And so then if I feel like my wife is if something's off, then I'm like, it must be me, right.

[00:19:16] Right. So we internalize things. Sometimes what you see is a pattern with people with anxious attachment. And this is not always true. But if you think of attachment, a spectrum on one end, someone being highly anxiously attached on the other one, some. So not being actually attached at all, the closer you get to the end of the spectrum where someone is highly anxiously attached, you tend to see more and more people with a low self-image and you tend to see people that are seeking they have more of a positive or hopeful worldview, hopeful that the world can help the help tell them they're OK.

[00:19:48] Ok, so can you see the tears in my eyes, as you say this, are they typically about five foot eight bald the set? I mean,

[00:19:55] I'm six foot ball anywhere between there. OK, yeah. So that's typically what we'd see from people that are anxiously attached, shifting over to people that have more of an avoidant attachment. Typically what you see with people that are buoyantly attached is they would come from childhood homes where they didn't they were neglected. They weren't necessarily given much attention. And sometimes they're very independent, but they really struggle with incorporating emotion because no one really train them. They never really learn. They never really saw or maybe they just saw at a distance. And when they get older, they struggle to know what to do with any kind of emotion. If you look again on the spectrum example, someone that's very far to the to that attachment of being avoidant versus the other side being not very avoidant, someone that's very, very avoidant in their attachment might resemble someone that you could classify as a narcissist. OK, they really struggle to hear when anyone offers any kind of criticism, even if it's constructive and positive, they have a difficult time taking responsibility. They tend to just do their own thing and feel like they're fine. They have more of a positive, like maybe even over accounting for for what they actually are. Or really a grandiose perhaps. Yes. Yes. So a really high positive sense of self. And they tend to view the world in a negative way. So they're like everything that's wrong in the world is outside of me.

[00:21:21] I'm good. And I can give you a perfect example of this. Hopefully my wife will forgive me this because she was telling me the story. So she has someone that that that's that's been in her life for a long time. And this person did something that she didn't love. And so she sent them an email and let them know, hey, this is what happened. And I don't think this is trying to smooth the situation out, share how she felt while also getting to see the person was willing to maybe change. So it didn't happen again in the future. And the person's response to her was, I don't make mistakes, boy. So she was like, OK, that person just shut the conversation down. And they're not even willing to consider the fact that they may have done something and maybe not even intentionally, but they did something that was problematic for someone else. The sad part when you get into these highly emotionally attached people is because they have such a hard time with self-awareness, because they struggle with that emotional component of feeling there's something wrong with them. Like that's that's their strategy. Yeah. I'm not going to allow anything to tell in the world to tell me there's anything wrong with me. They really have a difficult time improving themselves in certain areas because they just don't feel like there's anything wrong.

[00:22:34] So they take no accountability. And what's fascinating, so I talk about gaslighting often, and I read once that gaslighting is a childhood defense mechanism in childhood. If I admit that anything is wrong, then I may be booted out of my home. There's abandonment and abandonment equals death, and so I will. And so when that pattern has always, literally always been there of I'm not going to I'm not going to admit to anything, then I learned stall, I learned to turn it back around and somebody learn to get overly emotional so that I can get out of a situation, I learned to control it with anger, but anything other than take responsibility. Right. So I appreciate. Yeah.

[00:23:09] So anyway, and then the mixed attachment style is people who vacillate between the avoiding peace and the anxious peace. Generally speaking, those are considered relatively rare, like five to 10 percent of the population. And it's the hardest to try and treat. But those are all areas that relate to compulsive sexual behavior. People with anxious attachment are more likely to engage in sexual behavior with multiple partners because they're constantly worried that somebody is going to drop off. So they got plenty in their back pocket. People that are avoidant are more likely to engage in paid sex or in pornography. They want control of the relationship. And then obviously people that are mixed are going back and forth. So it may not look like obviously one or the other. It might be all of the above that they're engaging in. So that takes us back to the compulsive sexual behavior piece. So my paper, which and this is where it becomes a very tough sell. My paper was if someone is in a relationship and they are discovered. What then does do both parties do if they want to try and continue the relationship, because what you have is you have a broken attachment already in one party. Then you now have a damaged attachment and betrayal, trauma in the other party that just discovered this. So how do you fix that? Yeah. So I'll I'll throw this at you real quick. What do you do in this kind of a situation?

[00:24:38] And so this is where I have I go back to those identifying those voids and then in this scenario. So someone is definitely going to not feel connected in their marriage. Yes. And so I don't know if you did you you didn't in your program. There wasn't a lot of couples.

[00:24:53] No. So clinical counselors are more specific to individuals. So I can actually see couples because I'm working under a marriage and family therapist. You and you can give me supervision on that. But if I were to not take additional coursework and not get enough hours under you and get licensed as a clinical counselor, state of California will not allow me to see couples. OK, so there are some restrictions if I want to do that and I have to go on

[00:25:17] And I and it's funny because I know we were talking earlier, I wasn't necessarily aware of that. But I even feel it's funny because I feel like the couples therapy training that I received even as a marriage and family therapist and just being authentic and real and stuff, I felt like it was more of just this reflective listening kind of a piece. And the reason I say that is because I feel like bringing reflective listening into this betrayal, trauma, anxious attachment issue. And I didn't know early on in my career at the time is not fun. That's right. Because it's really saying, OK, what do you hear this person saying? All right, can you reflect that back when you hear this person saying, I feel like you would sit back and say so, is that how you fix that? And so I in part of my own work, I found E.F.T. emotionally focused therapy, which is no surprise based on attachment, and it is a framework. So when you're saying, OK, throw it back and what do I do with it? It's so important. I feel like they have a framework because the people are the anxious attachment once the once the validation of the therapist as well. Right. And then the avoidant attachment is probably feeling like there's I can't trust anybody. And I've heard that before. I can't even trust this therapist. And so sometimes that can they can really hunker down in their bunker. And then the anxious attachment now naturally is going to try to go and rescue, but then also then feel like this lack of validation when that person isn't responding. Right. And then the therapist is sitting there saying, OK, I'm not the referee. And so this framework of EFT is beautiful and I talk often. That's the basis of my magnetic marriage course and with these four pillars of a conversation. And so I feel like it's imperative that you find a a framework to operate from because you it's almost like you have to get people back on to the goal of being heard not to resolve. And then you will watch attachment and abandonment wounds come up like crazy.

[00:27:04] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the other thing that I thought was important with this is it's important for couples to understand their partners attachment style, because if you have someone that's say avoidant and they're trying to work on that by the worst thing you can do is constantly chase them, that's going to push them further away. So you have to find a way where you're able to give them space, but you're still connecting regularly. If someone is anxiously attached by, the worst thing you can do is give them tons of space. Absolutely. Because they're just going to feel more and more like you have to understand, like from an anxious attachment standpoint, if someone is giving you space, what they're communicating to you is they don't want to be around

[00:27:42] You, which then that's where. So I had had an episode that I think I just reran it recently with Jennifer Finless. And before where I threw out that, I really felt like I had cracked some code. And in finding a pattern of a lot of the men I was working with had that anxious attachment style. And then add to that maybe a nice love language of words, of affirmation and physical touch. And a lot of the women then I was I felt like men identifying that there's a lot of avoidant attachment and then a lot of love, language of quality time and acts of service. And then I felt like a lot of that led to is a guy feeling like seeing his wife withdrawn and then wanting to go pursue. And then when she doesn't respond, he's saying, OK, are you are we good? And if she's saying, yeah, we're fine. And then ten minutes later, she's not jumping up and down and telling him he's awesome and wanting to have sex with him, then he's saying, are you sure? Is this me or are we sure you OK? And then I and then here comes I believe in that middle is exactly what you're saying, psychological reactance of that instant negative reaction to being told what to do. So I feel like the guy is basically saying, look, validate me. Right? And I feel like that is what drives that avoidant attachment even further away. And then they are both just so far away from each other. And then I feel like, OK, now they're in their bunkers and who is going to come out first? And I do wonder and I'm having a little bit of an aha moment thanks to you right now. So then would it be safe to say that anxious attachment when given that space, then that's where that maybe that impulsive behavior may kick in?

[00:29:05] Yes. And so this is the fascinating thing about pornography. Covenant Eyes, who produces some software to help people, has a pretty big white paper. And I was reviewing it. Not long ago, and they talked about one of the one of the struggles with people that that compulsively use pornography is what they're viewing is someone in the vast majority of cases that is always available for sex. Yeah. And then they start to be like, well, why can't I have that? Well, you now have an unrealistic expectation because you've conditioned yourself over who knows how many years of pornography or whatever it may be into believing that that is what a relationship is when it's not.

[00:29:43] Yeah, and it's so funny they say that because I, I have a lot of the men that I do work with, when you really start to do a bit of an assessment around the type of pornography, the viewing, that then they almost get emotional or there's a soft side of them says, man, I just know I'm watching. I'm look at it. It's really about the connection or about the desire or about the. And so to them, I think that speaks to what you're saying, where they're feeling like this is all I need. If I just had this, I'd be fine.

[00:30:08] Well, and there's a whole nother set of issues behind if I just had this line, because every time people get what they want and they discover that they're not,

[00:30:16] If I only had a six pack, I had the cool car, if I had the hair plugs, that was great.

[00:30:21] Well, that's the beauty of the human condition, which is we're never really satisfied unless we train ourselves to be satisfied. Which takes a lot of work. Yeah. And so for me, this was all fascinating. And the reason, again, going back to the reason why this all started was was the reason I was able to finally kick this was I met my now wife and she was so open and she was understanding and she was nonjudgmental. And it got to me to a place where all of a sudden I didn't need this other stuff anymore because I had a real person. There was a woman whose paper I quoted a few times. Her name was Annabel who Ugalde and her dissertation in two thousand nineteen, I think it was was on what she called competing attachments. And Sue Johnson, who pioneered EFT, was a big part of her putting together. And what she what she described is in life, we have a lot of different things. We attach to we attach to people, we attach to addictions. We attach to hobbies. We might attach to video. I mean, we're attaching to all sorts of things. And what her whole premise was, is, are we giving the time to the most important attachments? Are we willing to acknowledge what attachments mean the most to us and then give them the appropriate time? Because we might say my most important attachment is my wife and then go spend five hours playing video games? Yes, well, that's you're saying one thing, but you're doing another. What can we do to bring awareness to what you're saying is your actual value and then get you to that place where you're actually behaving that way?

[00:31:54] When I really like about that is you're almost then asking your spouse to validate a version of you that you believe is accurate, right? That they don't. And I've got to quote by this is by they would start from passionate marriage, I would say, and invariably poorly differentiated people hold on to a part of themselves that constructed the distorted self portrait. So they demand that their partner understand them, in part because they really don't understand themselves and they feel understood, except that invalidated when their partner sees them the way they picture themselves. And then he says their partners refusal to see them the way that they want to be seen is upsetting. But the problem isn't a failure to communicate. Their spouse can't understand them the way they demand because they view their own behavior and the details of their life differently than their partner does. And then that discrepancy challenges there an accurate picture of themselves, which they have a difficulty maintaining to begin with. And Alison, I think that can lead to that feeling of not feeling attached.

[00:32:43] Right. And I love that because that also goes back again to that piece, though little mentioned is a big part of your path back program, which is increasing self awareness. Yeah. Like you're saying, or you believe one thing about yourself, but are you actually doing the things to support that belief? Yeah. And so my paper really ended in the admission that the person some people would call it the resolute spouse, the person that has been faithful and has done everything that they could do to support the marriage. Obviously no one's perfect, but tried to be there. Then discovers this betrayal and they have their own now damage their own attachment damage. Now what you have is somebody who was probably already damaged within their attachment, more than likely because of childhood experiences. Now you have someone that's damaged in their primary relationship because of that person and like you mentioned before, with who's going to come out of the foxhole first. Yeah, now we have this game of chicken where it's like who's in my in my thought process being the former addict, like, you're the one that's you caused the problem.

[00:33:46] You're right. But at the same time, you still have other damage. That's not your spouse's fault. And I don't know who you want to blame that on. Maybe your parents fault, maybe your own fault, maybe there's enough blame to go around for everybody here. But the spouse is left picking up the pieces. And how fair is that? You can imagine how that person feels like I didn't create this mess, but I'm now in the middle of it. So that's ultimately why I I felt like this was an interesting path to go down, because I wanted to try and see if someone's like, you know what, I didn't create this mess, but I want to try and do what I can to fix this. How can we do that? And attachment made the most sense working on attachment for me when people have damage in their relationship due to compulsive sexual behavior, I'm a big believer that they really need some kind of couples instruction or therapy because they have to relearn some of these attachment styles or reestablish that secure attachment that's so important to overall healthy living.

[00:34:46] And I wonder, tell me if you had this experience in grad school of when you would say, here's my treatment plan for there are some fictitious person or a couple that it was like, OK, each one of the individuals needs therapy, they need couples therapy, they need the therapy with their animal, they need therapy, and then they get in the real world. That's why that's expensive and time consuming. Yes, but to your point, which I really like, is as a couples therapist and as someone who works with individuals struggling with compulsive behaviors, man, in a perfect world, you really do need both because you have to figure out your own attachment wounds to be able to show up and then not to have those often play out in a couple's therapy setting. Now, I feel like a good couples therapist can be very aware of that. And that's why, again, I feel like a framework is so important. But I really like what you said about the person who lets the betrayer will say in the scenario that then the betrayed all of a sudden does say, wait, I this isn't about me. Even if there is there was some attachment wound issues they weren't even aware of, because then I feel like sometimes the betrayer will say, well, technically there's a little bit that I think it is, but they're not if they say that at that point is not going to go well.

[00:35:51] Right. So I feel like that's some of the things that need to be navigated in a couples therapy setting. But that was the where I was going. So I got a little distracted there. But so that's the point where I feel like at times I love what you said about the guy coming out of his foxhole. The anxious attachment person in the betrayed wants to say, hey, I need you to feel how bad this hurts for me. And so you got the anxious attachment person saying, OK, I'm going to try this because I did it. You're right. And I want to repair this attachment because I'm an anxious attachment to begin with. But now when they just start feeling that anger is what you just said right there, not now their own attachment wounds, where now they just want to go disappear again, which now you've got the person with the void, an attachment. It's all fine. Leave. Oh, man. What do you do?

[00:36:36] So obviously there's no one answer that works for.

[00:36:39] I was I was kind of going through that. You're like always looking at me, mouth ametov like crosses next to me. Right. Because I feel like I do know I really feel like it is what I love about so funny. A shameless plug of my magnetic marriage course because it's it's going so well because you have to have a framework in the goal at first is to be heard. Yeah. It's not to resolve. And I feel like that is so hard because people want to just let me get really angry at you and you take it and then you apologize and then they almost feel like then we'll be OK. But now all of a sudden with this kind of awareness, now there's these triggers that pop up and now people want to go back and say, well, wait a minute, you said this. And now I feel like I have to go back and look at our entire marriage and have to go make sense of everything. And the anxious attachment is saying, OK, I need to answer all these questions. I need to make sense of things. But they're there. I think this is an answer. And then. Well, that that doesn't go along with what you said before. And now you just you're in the weeds with even more trauma. Right?

[00:37:32] Right. I guess if someone was like, what's the cheapest way you could, you could do this. If you had to do therapy with somebody, I'd say probably the couples should get therapy. Absolutely. There's support groups for both the both partners that could could go, too. And that's probably reasonable for some people in a perfect world. Like you say, everybody get therapy,

[00:37:53] Get lots of therapy. Cost is no option. Time is open. Yeah, yeah. But I feel like we're making fun of that. But I feel like it's almost like saying we acknowledge the fact that I hope that people that are hearing this probably found themselves in some portion of whether it's what their attachment style was or when they do try to show up to say, OK, I want to work on this. And and then when they're met with. The anger, which is I understand, but then they're going to want to go back into the foxhole and say, you know what, I'll come out when you're when you can be more calm. It's like you want me to be calm. You should've never done this thing right. And that's what I feel like. And you need

[00:38:28] Structure. Yeah. And that comes from the training that you get with the professional because they're going to tell you you can be angry all you want. If you show him that anger, you're more likely, it's more likely that he will go and do that again. Now, that's not your fault. He is responsible for his actions. Yes, but what is it? What is the goal? And I think, again, we're getting back to. Making a value based goals and then deciding what actions will get us to that point.

[00:38:54] and and maybe I know we're going to wrap up here, but maybe I'll throw a cliche or two out here. But they are so true is that I feel like it is really important to get some ground under your tires before you do make big decisions, especially when this happens, because it's exactly what you're talking about. Those attachment wounds come out and they come out strong. And so it's like this immediate. You betray me. Let me just go and make this incredibly difficult for you. So you'll just go and get the heck out. Yeah, right. And then to the anxious attachment at times it's look, I want to do this, but you need to be nice. But there so it gets so complicated. So I'm always a big fan of saying, all right, let's go get help, try to not make any big decisions until you can really get something, some help in place and know that. And I didn't. Do you have a Disney movie for what psychodynamic is? Because I would say I have no idea because I like to let it go. And that's really funny. It is. But I feel like it is. Once you get the tools, the structure, the framework in place, it's absolutely like you said, it's absolutely of course you're going to feel angry.

[00:39:57] If you didn't, that would be crazy. And of course, the person who did the betrayal is going to feel sad and going to feel hopeless and going to feel like abandonment and all those things. If you if you didn't, that would be crazy. Right. But then it's learning what to do with that, learning how to even invite those feelings to come along with you to therapy and then make room expansion, make room for them and then get into a good framework with the goal for a little while, being able to just to be able to express yourself and to be heard. And that is my podcast. I have to do this. But so then plug in the magnetic marriage course, because I've got these four pillars I really feel are gold. They're based off of EFT. The first one is to assume good intentions. It sounds overly simplistic, but if the partner has been betrayed, is saying, I am so angry, I don't know if I can stay in this relationship. That's a hard one to say. I have to assume good intentions, but I have to understand that right then that's the only way they feel like they can get some control back or they can feel heard.

[00:40:48] And that second pillar, you can't say you can't put the message you're wrong if that betrayer says, well, that's ridiculous. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that. No, that's how they feel. You can't put out that message. They're wrong. And then pillar three, ask questions before you make comments, before you say, well, look, I need you to calm down and then I'll be willing to listen. It's OK. Tell me. Tell me more. Tell me, tell me what you're feeling and help me see my blindspots. And then that pillar four is and then that person cannot go into their bunker. They can't assume good intentions, not say the other person's wrong, ask questions. But then the piller for is they can't say, OK, I guess I'll just I guess I'll never have an opinion again. I never have a voice because they're going into victim mode now, wanting that person to come rescue them. Well, get off my soapbox. I like the OK, but we have so much more to record. This feels so good. Yeah, there's a lot here. The boys are back. Yeah, right. Little sneak preview for anybody who's been here who is still listening. And I hope that lots of people are talking about like your podcast.

[00:41:43] Ok, yeah. So my wife is actually in a program to become a marriage and family therapist and I have just incredible respect for her, especially after what she helped me go through. And so our intention is to start a podcast and hopefully drop our first episode next week or maybe the week after. And that'll be something that'll apparently be

[00:42:04] On the virtual couch network versus podcast network. You you heard it here, folks, but that. Yeah, that one. I've got a new podcast about waking up the narcissism. I've got a podcast based off of the path back that's coming up that you're going to be a part of. Yeah, I don't know if I had mentioned that to you. You did, but and then if anybody did really feel like they are they like what they're hearing. And I don't mean that to sound like such a sales pitch, but man, I'm so excited to have Nate here and in his 40s, got some road under your tires, been through a lot of career changes, relationships, talking about addiction and has put this all together. Then your shingle is up, you're open for business, so reach out through me. And if I don't want to take you, then I'll send you over to Nate, OK? Thank you so much for coming on. Yeah. And just was it really does feel good to be back. And man, you sounded smart two years ago when we recorded, but I'm a little bit intimidated now.

[00:42:54] Oh stop. OK, I appreciate everything.

[00:42:56] All right. OK. Hey, we'll see you next time on the virtual couch

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