Tony shares why opposites don't attract in the long run and why ultimately we like people who are more similar to us. PLUS Nate Bagley, relationship researcher and host of the Growth Marriage podcast, comes on to talk about his incredible Relationship Mastery Pack Get thousands of dollars in relationship tools for one special Black Friday price featuring Tony's brand new parenting course: 3 Keys to Positive Parenting - Bring the Positivity without Messing Up Your Kids Even if You're Not Sure Where to Start! Go to to sign up for thousands of dollars worth of relationship tools for less than the cost of one therapy session.

In today's episode, Tony refers to the article "Do Opposites Really Attract?" by Clifford Lazarus Ph.D. and "Why Do We Like People Who Are Similar to Us?" by Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D.

With the continuing "sheltering" rules spreading across the country, PLEASE do not think 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 mental health a priority, offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

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

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[00:00:01] Here is a law that you may not be aware of in the state of California, only the person who is on the registration of a car can have a new key made for said car if you have lost all of your keys. So it was with that new information that I found myself barreling down Interstate five this past Friday night on my way to Southern California to spend some time with one of my daughters. And it was on this trip that my daughter and I, while sharing some wonderful fruit and waffles at a quaint Long Beach breakfast restaurant, were waiting for the locksmith to arrive. And while we were waiting for the locksmith to arrive, we were contemplating life and friendships and how complicated the wonderful and frustrating that relationships could be in general. What I'm going to go into detail today is on why relationships can be so complicated and what is it that we don't know that would surely help us with determining not only our potential love relationships, but our our friendships in general. We're going to talk about that and so much more coming up on today's episode of the virtual couch.

[00:01:02] The. Come on in. Take a seat.

[00:01:19] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode 295 of the virtual couch. I will be up front with you before we get to the heart of today's episode. I am going to digress. I'm going to bring on a friend of mine and I would say friend of the podcast. He is a marriage researcher. His name is Nate Bagley. Because Nate reached out to me with a pretty incredible deal a couple of weeks ago, and it is. It is something that I can't pass up of making you aware of. So without any further ado, let me interrupt this episode with a quick interview of Nate Bagley and we're recording. There's no countdown. Nate Bagley, how are you doing?

[00:01:54] Great. How are you, Tony?

[00:01:55] Good. It's good to see you again. I we've only talked to each other for real two or three times, but yet I feel like such a connection, and I like to think of myself as a very energetic person. I feel like you've got me beat hands down and

[00:02:07] Oh, I don't know, man, we're

[00:02:09] Texting each other yesterday, and all of a sudden I want to create ten more courses. I want to solve all the problems, and then I just because within just a couple of texts, all of a sudden I've got somebody on the I've got my web guy on the line and we're going to change the world. So I don't know how you do it. Is that like your superpower just making things happen?

[00:02:27] I do like to make things happen that that's a pretty good explanation of my superpower.

[00:02:32] Yeah, OK. I enjoy it. It's contagious and I love you, Tony. Got it. Yeah, I just in context, I was flying into Utah a couple of weeks ago, and I think I just texted you or maybe just said, Hey, you're because you weren't. You're not in Utah anymore. We'll talk about that. But I was going to speak, and I just said something about always trade messages with Kurt Franklin and we were talking about you. And so then you just said, I think, or no, did you reach out to me now? I feel like I don't

[00:02:56] Know, right? We ended up talking somehow.

[00:02:58] We did. And Nate said, Hey, do you want to be a part of a Black Friday sale? And I just thought I didn't know that these were things for people that create courses and stuff. So I was all in because of Nate's doing it. It's going to be big. And so. What is your what is your Black Friday sale? How did this idea originate and what are we doing? What are we doing on Black Friday?

[00:03:16] Yeah, I just know whenever you're in a relationship with anybody, whether it's with your partner or with your kids, or with your parents or your siblings, your friends, coworkers, you eventually going to run into a hiccup, a problem, a speed bump. There's going to be something that that challenges your relationship and maybe gets in the way of you having the connection that you want. And if you ignore those problems, nothing really gets better and the bad things typically get worse. And so I've been thinking about what are some ways that I could help more people get access to the solutions that they need access to. And I was like, Come on, man, you know, so many Nate knows so many experts like Tony and other amazing therapists and thought leaders in the relationship space. And I thought, why don't we all come together for one weekend black over Black Friday to Cyber Monday and contribute a course or a product or a resource that could help people solve their relationship problems and then sell it all together? That huge package of like a collaborative bundle for one insanely low price. And we I talked about it with people like you and everybody seemed to be on board. They were excited about this idea of coming together to create what we're calling it, the Relationship Mastery PAC. And it's just a whole bunch of incredible resources that you can get for the price of what you would typically pay for one resource. And so that's what I'm excited about is we've got people who are coming in to help you break generational bonds that we've got people coming in that will help you break generational cycles. We've got people, we've got experts talking about perfectionism and co-dependence. You're talking about parenting. We've got rebuilding trust. We've got so many different topics that are being covered that will help people in all aspects of their life.

[00:05:05] And so this is what's funny. If I go back to what your superpower is, when you said, do you want to be a part of it? And again, just being super honest and vulnerable and all those fun therapist's words, I felt like if I don't do this, I'm missing out because Nate is going to find a lot of people and I really like talking about parenting and I've got this new course. And so I thought, this is absolutely perfect. And then I love how you're saying and I know it's going to sound sales pitch to my audience, but it's insanely cheap. And when you even shared that I even thought again, it's well, Nate's doing it. So this must make sense when you have, there's what, 10, 15 different courses that are part of this package. I'm on board. This is going to be really exciting. You're talking about trust. What's your course about? I feel like I still haven't had you on my podcast to talk about things that you're really passionate about. You know, yeah,

[00:05:50] When they will make that happen. Yeah, exactly. You know, I don't think I understood trust when I first got married and I thought of, you know, if my partner was hurting then and I didn't mean to hurt her, or maybe I had done something by accident or I didn't have negative intentions, then why should I apologize? Maybe, maybe you should just be less sensitive. And then I realized talking to my wife, so my wife is a nurse and people in the medical profession, they take this Hippocratic Oath do no harm. And if you're in if you're a doctor and you're in the room of a patient and that patient is suffering with some sort of disease or injury and you have the means to help them, you help them. And I'm like, Man, why is why don't we treat our partner the same way in marriage? Why if we have the tools to heal them, to take away their pain? Why wouldn't we do that? Why do we have to be prideful about that? So the product I'm offering is called the trust workshop. It's a five day workshop where I walk people through the steps they need to take to heal the emotional, emotional wounds that they've inflicted on their partner throughout their relationship and recreate trust.

[00:06:54] I love it. I do. And I was going to make the joke of when you said, Hey, how about don't be so sensitive? How does that go over? Never quite worked very poorly.

[00:07:02] It doesn't never work. When you say

[00:07:03] Something doesn't, it doesn't end. And what I really appreciated with you was even just in the text where I was saying, I'm putting together this parenting course. You jumped right in and hit all the right questions and asked me, OK, what are you doing with parenting and what's going to be different about it? And because I really feel I don't know if this has been your experience, you have how many kids do you have? Just one, OK, one kid, were you and your wife? Did you talk a lot about before the birth of your child or did you just make assumptions that you had?

[00:07:27] There's a lot of assumptions that we're on the same page with stuff, and we've already bumped into little things

[00:07:33] Like what comes to mind? What are some of the biggest challenges you find?

[00:07:36] Ok. So our daughter just turned one, and this is probably one of the most tense. It's not like a conflict, but it's just a it's a hard thing that we're managing. So our daughter just turned one. We moved to Costa Rica and we wanted to give her swimming lessons before we got here so that she would be comfortable in the water. And maybe, heaven forbid, she fall into the pool or the ocean. She had some skills to at least like bob up and wouldn't sink to the bottom and panic. So my wife put her in swimming lessons and it was really high anxiety for me to watch this little girl who doesn't even didn't even know how to walk yet get tossed into the pool and learn to swim. And there were moments where I like. I had severe pushback because I, my protective instincts were kicking in and I wanted to get my daughter out of the pool and maybe she wasn't ready, and maybe we shouldn't be practicing with her in this way. And my wife was a lot had a much higher tolerance for anxiety. It was like, No, it's going to be fine. She's going to be safe. And anyway, that was like a it was an emotional tension that we had to manage and it was something that was good for our daughter. But we there have been moments where we didn't necessarily agree on how to make those swimming lessons happen.

[00:08:46] Yeah. So I love that and I'm curious, are you much of a swimmer yourself? Do you come from a, you

[00:08:51] Know, I'm not a very good swimmer.

[00:08:53] I am you. And it's funny because I have Alison Carlson, who was my brother know my son in law's sister. I've had her on my podcast and I watch her stories on Instagram. And they're doing that where the babies float and they swim, and I can't watch it. And so I didn't know we would talk about this. But this is this gives me anxiety as well. Yeah, my my wife is saying, Man, I wish we had this when we were, when our kids were little, we would have, you know, thrown them all in the pool, and I feel like I don't think we would have. But then I realized I can't swim as an adult male. But I love that example because in the parenting course I'm putting together, I like having a parenting model or paradigm to work from. But I also feel like we don't do enough of talking about what our experiences are that lead up to our ideas about parenting. And so your example is so good because if you had been born in the water, then this might be a completely different conversation.

[00:09:40] Yeah, yep.

[00:09:41] Yeah, totally. Rica picture everyone has a beachfront house. Is this true?

[00:09:46] Not everybody, but we. We live about a three minute walk from the beach, which is really nice.

[00:09:52] Ok, so how are you doing with your water and are you out there swimming in the ocean every day? Or is this give you anxiety?

[00:09:58] I feel like I should change my name to Bob, really, because I bob in the water. I just I go out to about shoulder level and catch the waves. Yeah, yeah.

[00:10:09] Hey, Nate, we are. So we are truly similar creatures

[00:10:12] There because I feel as long as my feet can touch the ground, I'm pretty. I'm pretty comfortable.

[00:10:15] Absolutely. Hey, can I ask you? And so first of all, before I even move on from that, so your relationship master pack, I'm going to have the link in my bio. I'm going to be talking about it every chance I can. It really is an insane amount of tools that you put together and people like myself that are just saying, if Nate's a part of it, let's do this. So the price is it's crazy how low that is. Any other final thoughts on that of the

[00:10:39] I mean, the last thing I would say is Black Friday is typically the day that people spend on things. And I just think that it would be great this year if we all decided we were going to invest in our relationships in ourselves. And I don't think there's any greater investment. I don't think there's any greater way to spend your money, and I don't think there's any way that I've seen where you can get more bang for your buck than this thing. That's ultimately what I wanted people to do is see Black Friday as an opportunity to invest in what matters and not just in Christmas presents and little deals that they see online for the flat screen TV or whatever. That stuff's fine and great, but nothing will make you happier than having an awesome relationship, and if we can help contribute to that. I think that's a win for all of us involved.

[00:11:21] I love it and I love that. You had said earlier, too, that if people don't do something about it, it's not only does it not get better, but a lot of times it gets worse because we get to beat ourselves up about why have I not done something more about this? And in my world, we talk about experiential avoidance a lot, which is just that kicking the can down the road, it'll all be better later when it'll be better when the kids are older or when we get a better job, we make more money and then we get there and find out, Oh, that was not the case.

[00:11:45] Hey, our problems followed us.

[00:11:47] How about that? They did. They did, right? Ok, great transition. So follow the links in my I'll have the links in the show notes. I'll have it on my bio. All those wonderful things and I can't wait. So if you got do you got a couple more minutes? Nate? Yeah, tell me about this move to Costa Rica. How long ago was this? Did you start thinking about this? What was that like to move to a completely different country? I want to hear it all.

[00:12:06] It's been nuts, man. We yeah. So my wife was pregnant and a front line nurse during the whole COVID explosion a while back, and it really took a lot out of her. She was really, I think, emotionally and physically burned out. Postpartum has been it was really hard for her. And so get to this point where, you know, I'm running my own business, I'm trying to take care of our baby. When she's at work, she's exhausted, she's tired, I'm exhausted, I'm tired. And we finally just had this honest conversation that, hey, things are not working the way I think we would like them to if we were to take an honest assessment of our relationship and our life right now. I don't think that this is very sustainable. And she agreed and we said, Well, what can we change? And I I had a honest. I want to give major props to my wife for being mature enough to hear this in the way that I meant it. I told her, I think you're giving the best of you to your work and our baby and I are getting what's left. And she started crying and she's like, I think you're right. Wow. I think you're right. I think I'm giving my energy and my time and my attention to solving all these issues and taking care of all these people at work and. And then I come home and I got nothing left and I just recover and then I go back to work again. And she's like, That's not the kind of mom I want to be.

[00:13:31] It's not the kind of wife I want to be. And I said, Well, what do we need to change to help you feel better about that situation? And she said, Well, maybe I'll quit my job and I said, Great, if you quit your job, we're not tied to our to Utah where we lived. What do you want to do? And do you want to leave? Do you want to stay? And she's like, What if we just explored some ideas? I say, great. We really enjoyed vacationing to Costa Rica a couple a couple months before that. And we both speak fluent Spanish. And so we just put some feelers out there to see if we could find a place to live. And within two weeks with barely trying, we found a place to live that was right by the beach. We had found our friends magically showed up on our doorstep, saying that they needed a place to live. They were getting kicked out of their house, their landlord was ending their contract. And we're like, Do you want to live in our house? And it's like all these, all these things were just falling magically into place and we decided, Hey, why not? We don't have any reason not to take this risk and go on this adventure. And so in a span of about two to three months, we packed up all of our stuff, plane tickets and moved out of our place and flew down here. And now here we are.

[00:14:35] Wow. And it all started, and I so appreciate the love to have your wife and you're one to talk about this at some point, but that those difficult conversations, I often say, were so afraid of contention that we avoid the tension altogether that

[00:14:48] Now I'm looking out my bedroom window at monkeys swinging in the trees. Literally.

[00:14:51] Ok. And I'm looking out at a parking lot and the field and a freeway.

[00:14:56] Yeah, but you live in, you live in California, so you got the sunshine in the nice weather.

[00:15:00] This is true, but no monkeys, though that's got to be that's a literal monkey snake.

[00:15:04] What was

[00:15:04] That? Literal monkeys?

[00:15:06] Little monkeys? Yeah, we wake up every morning. Howler monkeys. It's OK. What do they do? 6:30 in the morning we hear. Oh, and I'm like, Oh, there's the monkeys.

[00:15:17] Oh, so that that conversation did that take a lot of preparation for you to present that to your wife? That conversation?

[00:15:25] Honestly, it just came up laying in bed one night. She was just laying there kind of miserable and sad, and I always had no idea what to how to comfort her. And it just came to my mind like, Hey, let's just. Are you OK to have an honest conversation? And she's like, OK. And then we just started talking. It just happened.

[00:15:41] So no, I love it. I know we traded some texts at one point about I did an episode or a differentiation and just really talking about how we get away from that enmeshment and codependency, trying to be interdependent and differentiated. And I feel like when we can get to that place, we can look at any conversation more with this curiosity and not of condemnation or criticism or or that sort of thing. So do you feel like that was that moment where, hey, I'm having my experience and yeah, I want to hear hers?

[00:16:07] That's exactly right. Yeah, I had just thought about it enough. Realize this isn't this isn't really working for me, at least for a short period of time, I can handle that type of stress and that that dynamic, but the stress is mounting. My wife's mental, emotional and physical health was not great, and neither was mine. And I figured if we ignore it, like I said at the beginning of our talk, if I ignore it, nothing's really going to change. But if I take some initiative and share how I'm feeling and get curious about how she's feeling and where she's at, maybe we can come to a solution. And then three months later, we're on the beach getting a tan. So the solution,

[00:16:45] We're looking at monkeys that worked. So I think what it's saying is if you too want to be on the beach with a tan looking at monkeys start start to lean into these uncomfortable conversations.

[00:16:54] It's more doable than you think it is.

[00:16:56] And that's why we say it's like it seems so scary. But there's a person named Terrance McKenna, and he says that it's like jumping out into the great abyss and realizing there's a featherbed. And I think too often we're just so afraid of that abyss and that that there will be nothing there.

[00:17:09] And I think the thing that keeps us from jumping is the safety of the plane. Yeah. You know, you live this life in this little compartment, and it's the way that everybody else in that compartment is living their life and you're attached to the way that you eat and the things that you own and the neighbors that you have and the routines that you enjoy. And we had to sacrifice all that. People are like, Oh, are you just rich? And you know, it's like, No, we're not rich at all. But we're not. We're not as attached to our possessions and our home and our neighborhood and our routines as other people typically are.

[00:17:46] So was that a process of becoming less attached to those things? Or do you feel like by nature the two of you are are more not about those?

[00:17:55] I think we're a little more we. Well, I tend to be more adventurous and I think I put some pressure. Angelyne is amazing at saying yes to my crazy ideas. Wow. So I think I have that. Maybe that's a little bit more innate in me, but also, I don't know. I just I think in my early 20s, I decided that I didn't want to live a boring life. Yeah, OK. And I took a couple risks to do some big projects, and it panned out great. And I was like, Wow, when you take risks like sometimes failure is the failure of taking the risk is even better than not taking the risk at all.

[00:18:35] I love that and I really feel like that is the case. And we so we want we want to just know that everything's going to be comfortable and safe and I can understand that. But that's still our good old childhood stuff we bring forth into into adulthood. No, I love that I do OK. I was wanting to just promote the thing, and now I want to interview you and your wife. So I'm going to leave it right that as a teaser. So I would maybe have you

[00:18:54] And we'd love to come back, Tony, anytime.

[00:18:55] Ok, let's do it, and let's talk about what that took to have that difficult conversation. And then I would love to have a shot of you with the monkeys. I think we got a lot to talk about. So thank you so much for the invitation to. Yeah.

[00:19:07] Thanks for. Thank you for the invitation. Yeah.

[00:19:10] And link in the bio. And again, I would love for people to take my parenting course, but there is so much more here. That's incredible. And I was particularly drawn to your course on trust because that's something that it would be just phenomenal for people to have, as well as all the other things as part of that. Nick Bagley, thanks for taking the time.

[00:19:26] My pleasure.

[00:19:27] Ok, well, we'll see you soon. Ok, so honestly, go check out the link in the show notes and be prepared for me to share this link. Like nobody's business. Because, as you can tell, and I could talk to Nate for days, what a nice guy. But as you can tell, the business or the lineup of experts that Nate is put together is phenomenal, and the topics cover all kinds of things that will help you in your relationship. And I can't wait to dig deeper and have you go into your parenting and learn more about parenting and getting on the same page with your spouse and parenting. So let's get back to today's episode. So the main body of where we're going to go today is from an article entitled Why Do We Like People Who Are Similar to US? By Gwendolyn Seidman, and she's a Ph.D. from the articles from Psychology Today. But before I even get to that one, I found another article by Dr. Clifford Lazarus called Do Opposites Really Attract? Because I think that's one of the first things that people ask me often is do, don't, but don't opposites attract, which I think is a wonderful question, and I do believe it's one of those pop psychology myths that I often hear brought up in my office or in my marriage course, for example, magnetic marriage. We're talking about polarity and we're talking about building this. If you were just two completely similar people that then would things be a little bit more boring? And so I think that I have been one to send almost mixed messages myself.

[00:20:45] So I want to be able to lay in that plane today that we're going to find out very quickly here that that opposites do not. In fact, they may attract out in science, but in relationships. You really do want to find some similarities. But then the similarities is where things may end in a sense, because we do want some similarities, but then we want to recognize that we do have our own unique experiences that we're bringing into a relationship. So that's really. The gist of where I want to go today, because I think it can be confusing that it's exciting when we learn more about someone and we may feel like, OK, that person is my complete opposite, so I want to spend more time with them. And that might be an initial draw or euphoria or give you the nice little dopamine bump, but ultimately it helps to have some similarities with someone. But then what do we do with those similarities? Do we still feel like we have the tools to be able to speak our mind and still have our own experiences? So we're going to cover that, but before I get there? This is from the article by Clifford Lazarus called Do Opposites Really Attract? He said it's an incontrovertible fact that opposites attract. Then there's a pause. And he said, if we're talking about electromagnetic Valeant's and charges such as those found in atoms and magnets.

[00:21:57] But in the macroscopic animate world of intimate relationships, nothing could be further from the truth. And I think that right there that you feel that just feel we want that, that excitement and that energy around completely opposite people, but then that works in science. But he said if there is an attraction between two very different people, it will be unlikely to stand the test of time because compatibility and genuine long term intimacy are usually based on similarities, not differences based on similarities, not differences. It doesn't mean that that's imperative or that's the only way that this will work. So he said, consider a basic friendship. Who are your friends and how fundamentally similar versus different are they from you? He said it's unlikely that a super progressive, liberal, nature loving vegetarian will be best friends with the staunch conservative climate change denying recreational hunter and trapper. And he said even more superficial differences, like preferring hiking and tennis to golf and fishing can be a social chasm that is hard to bridge. And he said, based on decades of personal experience that he has helping to stress couples, and I will throw to that as well. Thousand well, well over a thousand couples later and 15, 16 years of sitting with people in therapy sessions. I will agree with him. But he said also a great deal of corroborating anecdotal information from his colleagues and then sound research evidence and eat references.

[00:23:14] A 2012 article by Gottman and Silver, which talks about why people do stay in relationships or what makes relationships last. He said here are the major zones of compatibility that can help predict if a marriage or a loving relationship will last. He said the first one is a world view. The second one is basic activities that they do together. The third one is sexual relationship and the fourth one is this fundamental temperament. So that's a completely separate podcast that I would like to do at some point, but I just wanted to address that. Do opposites really attract again? And the electromagnetic valence world? Yes, but in relationships, we need something more to sustain the relationship. So back to story time, I remember my wife's grandparents, Charles and Mary and Marshall. What a classy couple. And I remember talking with Grandpa Charles before he passed, and I think it was when we were up at Grandma Marion's funeral, and my wife and I were were fairly newly wed. We were in her early 20s and we were visiting him in Issaquah, Washington. I believe it was, and I was asking him a secret to a long, wonderful marriage that he had had with his wife. And he said to me that he and his wife spent a lot of time together. And so often you hear this concept of where you go, you have your own things and then you make sure you take care of your own things.

[00:24:25] But I like that. He said that they spent a lot of time together and I have taken that to heart and my wife and I spend a lot of time together. So whether it's going on long bike rides or exercising together or simply just running errands together, we spend time together and there's so much there. I could put a whole podcast episode together there because I don't want that to feel like I am giving in and just spending time with her so that she will like me. It's not about the external validation. And please, if you did not hear my episode last week, I got so much good feedback and I really feel pretty passionate about the concept of external feedback. Are you spending time with someone because you genuinely care and you are curious and you want to know more about them and you want to experience their situations or the things that they are interested in, and you want to do that so that you can learn, learn more about them. Or are you spending time with them so that you can pout and then say, OK, I checked the box now, will you come spend time with me so that you can so I can get my needs met? Because that is the opposite vibe that we want in a relationship. You really want to be OK with self validation so that you can enter into your partner's world with genuine curiosity.

[00:25:28] My wife loves and it's funny because we've gone through periods, which I think is so normal where I remember at one point we watched a whole lot of cooking shows cooking network. But then we went through travel shows and tiny house shows and beach hunt bargain fronts and these things that I liked being with her. But I looked at those with genuine curiosity. More of the Hey, tell me, tell me more about what you like about these shows, and I may not have liked them. So then all of a sudden I'm finding the human interest element. I can't lie is a therapist that constantly diagnosing everybody in a very loving, progressive, safe way. But watching the interactions between the people on Cupcake Wars, where she may be looking at these are amazing cupcakes. And then we're having a shared experience talking about, I wonder what he thinks. I wonder what that interaction is about, where she's saying, I wonder how they make the. I came in pull names of ingredients or something. Those cupcakes look the way they do. So you're having a shared experience and you're not trying to break down the other person's view of why they like something you're approaching it with. Truly, tell me more curiosity. So fast forward, and Wendy and I recently celebrated our 31st anniversary, which still blows me away to this day. Thirty one years, we were married when I was 20 and she was 19.

[00:26:35] And while the therapist in me wants to say, of course, your experience will be your experience, and that could work wonderfully for people. We got lucky. That was very, very young. I say so openly now. And it is my very strong opinion that I wish that there was more of a time period that could elapse before people got married. I worry that people get married too quickly because of that euphoria, because of that dopamine bump of the new love when we're presenting ourselves in our very best ways. And we're assuming that, well, once there is intimacy or once there's the ring on the finger or once we have kids or once we get real jobs, or then everything will get better, when in reality, it would be wonderful to be able to explore who you are as a person and understand who they are as a person before making that commitment, but again, another podcast for another day. But so I know that this next part may not sound clinically sound, but I honestly am married to the kindest, nicest person that I've ever met in my entire life. And so that is wild to me, and I know that I simply got lucky. Here's the part that is not scientific jargon or proof, but I really do. I call it the crapshoot theory, and that is not a clinically sound theory, but we had no idea that we would share so many interests and views when we were that young that would then carry on some 30 plus years later.

[00:27:46] So now, of course, we don't agree on everything. And if you follow my podcast really over the last year or two in particular, I have learned and shared so much more about differentiation and about acceptance and commitment therapy, about you showing up as you. You're the only version of you that's ever walked the face of the Earth and that we go into relationships and we are we're enmeshed and we're codependent because that's the way we show up wanting to get our needs met. And we want people to like us because coming from childhood, coming from adolescence, teenager hood that we still have this belief that if someone has different thoughts, beliefs or opinions and they're completely different than ours, that then they if they find out what we really think or believe that they will leave us and we will be abandoned and ultimately abandonment to our brains equals death. So we're constantly doing this push and pull of trying to figure out how to show up in a relationship so that we will get our needs met and so that our partner will not think that we are absolutely insane and run away and leave us. So that's our factory default settings. So then people become enmeshed and codependent. And then as you go through life and you have different experiences, you start to realize there are certain things you care about, certain things you love, certain things that frustrate you.

[00:28:53] But when we express those things often, then if they come as a shock to our spouse or partner, they will often say, I didn't know you felt that way. To which our our poor little still inner child wounding brains view as criticism. And when we feel like we're criticized, we immediately worry that that criticism is going to go into shame that this person is going to think I'm a horrible person or a bad husband or a bad father. So when we view things as criticism and not as curiosity, then we when we feel this criticism coming on, then we go into this protecting our ego stance and the way how do we protect their ego? We may withdraw. We may get angry, we may get sad. We may just give in. We made a statement. You're right. Going going into almost like this victim mode. Or we might guess light. We might say that's the most insane thing I've ever heard. Like, I can't even believe you really think that. But all that comes from the same place to protecting our ego where as adults, now we need to learn how to self validate. We need to learn how to stand and earn our calm, confident, energetic self and know that it's OK to like and believe the things that we like and believe and then show up into a relationship. Not saying, Do you like me because of the things that I like? Instead of just saying, Hey, here's the things I like.

[00:30:05] What do you think? And then having these adult mature conversations, that's one of the things I've been going on so much about over the last two years or so is figuring out this, this interdependent, differentiated version of ourselves instead of this enmeshed version. And so it is OK to have these differing views. In fact, you are literally just two people that are having your own experiences in a relationship. And so as soon as you can recognize that, then the relationship can really up its game because we're two people trying to go through life and figure out things together together. Figuring out things together does not mean that we have to have the exact same opinions on anything. And I have to tell you what was interesting last night, Preston Quagmire and I had week two of our magnetic marriage coaching call, and this round, I have to tell you is and I say this, I feel like this is what people do where I was and say, this is my favorite round. Although if you were in either the first two rounds, you were awesome as well. And if you did not sign up for the magnetic marriage course, honestly, please still contact me and get set up for the next one that we will run at the beginning of the next year because it's such an incredible experience. But in this coaching call, there was some.

[00:31:11] They were so kind, we were talking about the the basis of the four pillars of a connected conversation, which is are the fundamentals of this course, and we were talking about that. It is OK to be aware that you do not need to seek external validation from your spouse, that you need to learn how to get internal validation. Validate yourself, be calm, confident with the things that you care about and then show up with that confident stance in your relationship. And when you are not seeking external validation, then you are really coming at conversations with true curiosity. I gave this example of a week or two ago of going on a run. I'll make it so brief because you can go listen to this and I think last week's episode, but I went on a run. I had had this meniscus trouble for a couple of years. I didn't know if I would. This is not something. It's not as dramatic as I'm making it sound. I didn't know if I would ever run again. I knew I was running. I didn't think I would be able to start bumping up distances or getting some speed again. But I had a nice, longish fast run and as I came in the door and my wife said, How was you run? I said it was awesome. It really was. And I found myself wanting to let her know that I just ran the fastest I've run in two years, but I realized and I just took a pause and I realized that, OK, I felt great about that run.

[00:32:31] I can't believe I'm getting back to this place. While it's not running 125 miles in the course of twenty four hours or a 50k or 100k or any of those. But I really did go through this period where I thought I might not be running much at all again because of this meniscus injury from basketball, no doubt not even from running. But then I thought, I feel great. And so if I had put it out there to her in that very moment that I ran faster than I have in a long time. There were so many things that I was. She had a potential to get quote wrong that if she would have said, Oh, how much faster was it than your fastest? Well, in reality, it was like two seconds faster than my fastest. But I was just excited about it. So if she would have said that in that moment, I realized if I would have been seeking that external validation from her, I wanted her to validate something in me that I wasn't even quite sure how I wanted it validated. So then there were a lot of ways that she would have not been able to validate what I wanted her to validate. So if she would have said how much faster, I could have been deflated and said, I don't know, it's like two seconds faster, is that the point you now? Now I feel like she must not care about me, or she doesn't appreciate me the way that I want her to, but instead know I felt awesome about the run self validation.

[00:33:40] So then when I shared with her a couple of days later, this experience of not going to her for the external validation, then we were able to have a shared experience. Then I was able to share with her, Hey, check out my thought process around the run and what it was like and what how I had to dig deep. And then it wouldn't have mattered what she said. If it would have been, well, how much faster was it? And I would have said two seconds. Can you believe that? And now we can talk about that with curiosity because I wasn't seeking that external validation. So the reason I bring that up is that I really do feel like as we are starting to realize the way that the the messages that we get in relationships that are not the correct way to really build a truly magnetic marriage are a very solid relationship. I realize now where was I going with that? It was in this call last night. We were talking about this external validation and people were saying, But I want to please my spouse. I want to please my wife and I appreciate that so much. But wanting to please them also then puts a lot of expectation on them that if they aren't happy, then that I've done something wrong, and now I need them to give me a checklist of what I can do to make them happy.

[00:34:45] So it's just the wrong dynamic. We need to seek that happiness and that validation internally and raise our baselines up and then have these shared experiences together so we can look at these experiences with real curiosity and real connection and not feel like then playing this constant game of what do I say here and how do I show up? And am I making them mad? Or why did they say that they just made me mad? It sounds exhausting. So let's get to this article today that I think is going to help a little bit with that. So my daughter and I are talking about this conversation of why do we like the people we like? And so I find this Gwendolyn Seidman article and she the name of the article really is why do why do we like people who are similar to us? And so I'm going to read this and we're going to react. I guess it's another one of these experiences that I really enjoy. And she says that research examines why we prefer people who are similar to us. So she said it's not surprising that we tend to like people who are similar to us, and she notes and has a link to a large body of research that's starting to confirm that.

[00:35:41] But the reasons why we like people who are like us can be complex. She said that first, there is a difference between actually having a lot in common with somebody called actual similarity. Just remember that one and then believing that we have a lot in common, which is perceived similarity. So already we have actual similarity and perceived similarity, and these two kinds of similarity are related, but they are not the same thing. She said that you may think that you have a lot in common with somebody, but you might be mistaken or you might initially assume that you have a lot in common. With the person that you really don't know much about. Only to find out that you are not actually on the same wavelength once you get to know each other. Or you may assume that you have a lot in common with somebody because you like them. There are also a lot of different reasons why we might like people who are similar to us, but we may actually be anticipating that somebody who has a lot in common with us will like us more. Or maybe we just find it more fun to hang out with somebody that shares our interests. And so there's a lot in that paragraph there when we even look at the concept of actual similarity and perceived similarity because actual similarity is just it's a thing.

[00:36:41] If I go talk with somebody, I just had a client who I had no idea liked basketball as much as he did, and I really do enjoy basketball. I just do. I enjoy watching my son play, but I really enjoy the professional game I love. There's just so much I like about it, but it harkens back to. That was a happy place for me growing up playing a lot of basketball I literally had in my garage, growing up at home, a full court nerf hoop with wooden back boards that I would just run up and down the court for hours and hours. Every morning, every day, every night with my know, my CD player playing music. And so that was just this place that I went to just escape. And we're talking as a kid and it was a happy place. So I know that basketball means so much to me, and it may not mean that exactly that to somebody else. But we were having this shared experience and it was an actual similarity. There are other people who a person might wear, let's say, an NBA jersey into my office. I've had that happen on occasion, and then I will have a perceived similarity. I will believe that they must be on the same page. But then when you start to talk to them and then they really don't know as much, and then oftentimes we will almost feel this disappointment or letdown that somebody isn't on the same page, not realizing that there's a reason there are so many different things that go into the makeup of what we like or why we like it.

[00:37:49] So I love that concept initially of actual similarity and perceived similarity. And I think the perceived similarity piece makes a lot of sense in the concept of we we want connection, we want a community, we want a group or a people. And so when we are starting to perceive similarity, we're really wanting to know that there are people that think similarly to us because if we do and I feel like this is in our DNA, that then we know that we are part of a tribe. And if we know that we're part of a tribe, then we know that we are going to be OK. We're not going to be abandoned. We're not going to be left out on our own so that we can be eaten up or devoured by the wolves or the saber toothed tigers that our brain is still programed to worry about. So she said, the less information we have about a person, here's where things get really interesting. The less information we have about a person, the more actual similarity affects liking. So the less that we know about somebody, the more that the actual similarity affects liking. So in studies where people just read about a stranger and they don't actually meet them. Finding out that they have a lot in common with the stranger greatly boost their liking because they have nothing else upon which to base their impression.

[00:38:54] This, according to Gwendolyn. So in studies where people and just to clarify that one, so if we're reading about somebody and we're reading that, they're actual things that they identify with. If I'm reading a book autobiography about someone and they are to talk about their childhood and what basketball meant to them, then I am going to. That's an actual similar thing that we have in common. So that is going to boost my liking of this just not fictional, but person that I don't know. But she said that in studies where people actually meet strangers with whom they had more or less in common actual similarity affected liking, but not as much as in studies where people never met the stranger. So it's the concept where in longer term situations where people have more of a chance to really get to know somebody like friendships and romantic relationships, actual similarity has no effect. Only perceived similarity does. This is where it gets so interesting. So as you said in part, this is because in long term relationships, people have already filtered out dissimilar people who they don't like. You won't be friends or date somebody you dislike due to having nothing in common. And that's where over time, we will most likely have weeded out people that we really don't find an actual similarity. So once that we are with someone now, we want to have perceived similarities.

[00:40:04] We want to we want them to like us and we want to like them. So we want to be on the same page. But then this is where I feel like we really don't have the tools or sometimes the emotional maturity. That sounds like a judgmental statement, but it's not that we don't necessarily have the tools to be able to say, Wow, we actually even view this thing like in basketball. I wish I had a better example at the top of my head, but let's stay parenting today. I talked with Nate about this parenting course that I'm putting together now. It's a whole new. It's a new parenting course where we're going a lot deeper than the free Coresight offered over the last couple of years. But in parenting, we can have we may have this perceived similarities that that we really assume that we're on the same page, but we really don't have the tools at times to communicate why we think differently about even something like parenting, when in reality, we come to the table with completely different expectations of parenting based on the way that we were parented. We've spent just constantly a lot of amount of time growing up, probably thinking about the kind of parent we want to be and not even knowing that there might be a different parenting model. And so as we get into these relationships. And again, I love how Gwendolyn shows that actual similarity doesn't have the effect the perceived similarity does, because now we're playing this push and pull a game of, we want to believe that our partner has a lot in common with us.

[00:41:21] We perceive that there are a lot of similarities here without actually communicating about them. And this is where I want. If you're listening to this and I hope that this isn't too confusing, but if you're listening to this and you are in a relationship, then I'm not saying, Oh my gosh, pull the ripcord. If you feel like you aren't on the same page with things, because if you're in a relationship, most likely you've already have some similarities. But now I would love for you to just take a look and see, are you perceiving that your you and your spouse are on the same page? Because if that perception is there and then you really haven't communicated about the differences or the nuances, take parenting again. For example, if you haven't had the conversations or you haven't been able to have the tools around how to say, OK, here's what I feel like is the way that we should parent. What do you think? And because we don't want to look at that as I'm seeking external validation, if I say to my spouse, I'm a really big positive parenting. And if I say and if they say, Oh, really like, that's interesting. And then we feel criticized now we're going to withdraw, maybe we're even going to go on the attack.

[00:42:19] But if our spouse grew up in a home where they had more of an authoritative parent, and so they felt like that was helpful the way that they grew up. Now let's have a conversation because the truth is we're going to probably find somewhere to meet with those experiences where if I feel like I've been more of this positive parent and consequences are hard and difficult, and they've been more of this authoritative and you start with the consequences, that's a starting place. And so if we've had these perceived similarities now, let's really talk about what those similarities really are and what the differences are in our parenting styles. And then let's start to communicate so we can come up with a unified front. So she said that and all these types of studies perceive similarity had a large effect on liking. So it's more important to think you have a lot in common with someone than it is to actually have a lot in common. Now the buck doesn't stop there, then we need to learn how to communicate about it. So she said that researchers have proposed several different reasons why similarity might increase liking, and these reasons were examined in a study by Adam Hampton, Amanda Boyd and Susan Sprecher, just published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. So there are these five different areas, and we're going to go through these pretty quickly.

[00:43:26] Consensual validation So she said meeting people who share attributes makes us feel more confident in our own attitudes about the world. Meaning that if you love jazz music, meeting a fellow jazz lover shows that loving jazz is OK and maybe even a virtue. I have a client that I love working with, and he he likes anime. He really does. And so he was in a clothing store at some point in a very attractive girl came up, saw that he was wearing an anime T-shirt. And she said, I like anime. I like that show and I loved it. You know, he has a lot of awareness. And so he came said, Check this out the fact that she acknowledged anime. I was wearing an anime T-shirt. She was beautiful. He's like, it does. It makes you feel like, Hey, this is OK. Even though he was already going out into the world wearing this anime T-shirt, kind of putting that out there. But now we do. We want that consensual validation is what the researcher called calls it. There's also cognitive evaluation, so this explanation focuses on how we form impressions of other people by generalizing from the information that we have. So we learn that a person has something in common with us, and that makes us feel positively about that person because we feel positively about ourselves. So when we then assume that the other person like us has other positive characteristics, and so if we I run into this often where if I meet someone at a race because I used to do so many races and I would do these trail runs on Saturday mornings, bright and early, I had this zero effect of family theory, so we would get a bunch of us up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and go do 20 30 miles on the trails.

[00:44:50] And you just started to assume that everybody that was there at that point that we generalizing this information we have. So if everyone is there and they are there early and they're trying to get home before their kids wake up, that we must all be on the same page. So it's almost this again, cognitive evaluation that that that because we are in this group of people and we're having this shared experience that we must have these similar values or goals. So we generalize that these people must believe the same thing. And I remember at one point learning that someone they were there and they didn't have kids and they had never been married and they were older. And. And it's funny because and I realize now how invalidating this was, but at some point I was on, when you're running, you would get, you're in a group. But every now and again going down a trail or something, you would find yourself running more or less with one person or a couple of people. And I had shared with him that when he's telling me more about a story and I just wish I could take this one back, but I just said, Well, what are you doing here then? If you don't have kids and that sort of thing? And because look at that, I made this cognitive evaluation instead of saying, Hey, tell me about what your life is like, tell me about because it turns out that he likes get up early, like taking care of that for the day, and then he likes doing a lot of projects and and just going and meeting with friends and connecting with people.

[00:45:59] So it didn't have to be that you must have young children here that you do not want to impact with your long runs because you feel selfish. Or it could be a variety of things of why somebody shows up in a situation. The third thing? The third part of different reasons why similarity might increase liking is the certainty of being like, she said. We assume that someone who has a lot in common with us is more likely to like us and in turn we are more likely to like people if we think they like us. And that can sound so simplistic. But it's real that the certainty of being liked we so desperately want connection and and this is again, as we mature into adulthood, we want to be able to self validate, but we have to recognize our factory settings or that we want to be liked because we feel like if we're liked, then we matter.

[00:46:44] And if we matter, then we will survive. So we are going to find ourselves often with people that we have more of a certainty of being liked. Think about people maybe in your church group or just people that are just hold these real similar interests that we're going to. We're going to congregate around them primarily because more of the certainty of being liked. But I hope that what you're seeing is that just because we have that certainty of being liked or that assumption that we have things in common doesn't necessarily mean that that's the case. And I think we're starting to set the table that we need this awareness because if we go into let's again go with our church congregation and we feel like there's this perceived similarities. And I think in a church congregation, you could say there's actual similarities because we may have similar beliefs, but then even the belief system that we have can be nuanced and we may still all be playing this game of we're all here, so we have a perceived similarity. But do we actually have things in common? And if that's the case now we're more around people that we hope are going to like us. This is more of the certainty of being liked. But if we start to then find ourselves and have our own thoughts, opinions and beliefs, then we can start to feel like instead of being able to still interact with our church congregation and feel like it's OK to have different thoughts and beliefs, we start to sometimes feel like, Oh my gosh, I everything I knew is no longer valid because I thought that we were all on the same page.

[00:47:59] I thought we all had the same belief system, but in reality, we learned that life is more nuanced than that. It's not as black or white. The fourth one, she said, fun and enjoyable interactions. And this is again going back to these the research around different reasons why similarity might increase liking. It's just more fun to hang out with someone when you have a lot in common, so that one goes and challenges that opposites attract. So that was number four. It's fun and enjoyable interactions. As simple as that sounds that we enjoy hanging out with somebody when we have a lot in common, I guess hosted a podcast a couple of weeks ago, and it's an old friend of mine named Jim, and it's called the Sad Dads Club. And it's such a fun podcast. It is completely different than the virtual couch. I joked at one point that, Oh, I don't know if fans of the virtual couch would really enjoy whatever the topic was that we were talking about, but fun and enjoyable interactions. I think that's the third time I've guest hosted on their their podcast, and they have one hundred and sixty episodes and they theirs is live and there's a lot of cameras.

[00:48:59] And so it's on YouTube and on audio, but it was just fun. It's really fun and we joke and I did go into full therapist mode on a couple of things, but it was just exciting. And we're talking about hobbies and guy things and and things. I don't even know how to do fix things and that sort of stuff, but it was just a fun and enjoyable interaction. And then the last number five of these. Different reasons why similarity might increase liking based on this research is, Oh, I lost my place, here we go, self, oh boy. Ok, here we go. Self expansion opportunity So according to self expansion theory, one benefit of relationships is that we can gain new knowledge and experiences by spending time with somebody else. So when you can go into something and again, I'm going to overuse the word curiosity because it's a wonderful word. But when you go into something with true curiosity, then one of the benefits of this relationship is you can gain knowledge and experience by spending time with somebody else. When you go in there thinking that you're supposed to know everything and then you get defensive, if they say, Oh, do you know much about whatever this is fixing a car? And if I say I absolutely know nothing, but I love your experience, I love that your expertize. So I want to learn. Tell me more.

[00:50:05] Or and that's one of the things maybe I enjoy about being a therapist is people coming in and the therapist doesn't say, Here's what you need to do. But I love having knowledge and can help people uncover and figure out a lot of the things that they may be struggling with. Addiction, my path back group, my pornography recovery group, that meeting people where they're at and realizing that we have these voids in life, I feel like people aren't as connected in their parenting or their marriage or their faith or their career or their health. And so as you start to help people figure those things out that they realize they don't have as much of a desire to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, I appreciate when somebody comes into me and they say, I want a magic pill or a magic bullet or magic words that will cause me to just feel better instantly and just be able to validate that man. That would be amazing, wouldn't it? But but here is knowledge and experience that I have. So when we spend time together, then I love to share that experience with you and I would love to when I get in an environment, somebody that knows things, I don't know. Why would I don't? There's no way I would know these things that I don't know. So that self expansion opportunity that a lot of times we like the people that we like because we can learn more from them, but that that one's hard.

[00:51:13] And I know that she didn't put these in necessarily in an order or a hierarchy, but I feel like that one self expansion opportunity, putting that in fifth place in this research that that one is one of the more difficult ones because that one takes humility and takes us being able to show up with just complete curiosity and being able to say, Yeah, I don't know. I don't know anything about that. Even if somebody says, you don't know, I don't. So she said even though a dissimilar person would be more likely to actually provide new knowledge and experience, research has shown that people who are more likely to see self expansion opportunities when interacting with somebody who is somewhat similar rather than dissimilar to them, then that can be much easier. So we're still working off of this concept that we really do have this actual similarity and this perceived similarity in the role that that can play in the way we connect with people. So let me give a couple of these studies because I always think this is fun and then we'll wrap things up for today. But she said in their study, Hampton and colleagues examined how well each of these five reasons could explain links between similarity and liking in situations involving both actual and perceived similarity. And the study, one hundred and seventy four undergraduate students interacted with each other in pairs. So before meeting, the students didn't know anything about each other.

[00:52:21] The students then completed a questionnaire about their likes and their interests. She said the example was reality show or sitcom, and then their personality example, sloppy or neat or neat freak, and I think they had more questions than just that. The researchers gave them a bogus version of that same questionnaire supposedly completed by their interaction partner. The answers were rigged to be either highly similar or dissimilar to the participants own answers. So again, every one of the one hundred and seventy four undergrad students took this these questionnaires. But then when they would give you when you had your questionnaire and then they would give you the questionnaire of the person that you were interacting with now one on one. Some of the groups were given the actual questionnaire and then others were given a bogus version of the same questionnaire that was supposedly completed by the partner that they were about to interact with. So after viewing the bogus information, participants rated how similarly similarly, they thought the person was to them. Again, this is that perceived similarity, and they rated how much they liked that person. So they have this complete bogus set of data, and they were saying how similar I am to this person based on the bogus data and therefore how much I liked them. And then the two participants had the chance to meet and then get acquainted. And then once they actually got to know each other, they again rated perceived similarity in liking.

[00:53:34] So that makes sense. It's a cool study because you get this this form that says this is what that person is like and it's a bogus form. So then you base your do I like them based on the bogus form, then you get to meet them and interact with them, and now you're going to go back and fill out another questionnaire that says, Do I like them? So the key to the study, both before and after interacting with each other, the participants answered several questions designed to measure these five different reasons for liking the consensual validation, saying that my future interaction partner will probably support my attitudes and ideas, and my future interaction partner will likely be validating that as they will help convince me that I am correct in how I approach life and that cognitive evaluation that second one, the question might be something like my future interaction partner is probably well respected. And then the third one, the certainty of being liked, the question was something around. I think my future interaction partner will like me. And then the fourth one, the fun and enjoyment. An example there was my future partner and I will probably laugh during our interaction period. And then the fifth one self expansion opportunity was an example of that. One was interacting with my future partner would likely open the door to new experiences. So first, they found that people generally like their interaction partner more, both before and after the interaction if they were led to believe that their partner was similar to them.

[00:54:46] So again, there's that perception of similarity. However, the effects of perceived similarity were stronger than the effects of the experimental manipulation of the bogus information. So with that, bogus information actually having no effect on liking the person after the interaction, and she says that this makes sense because any assumption of similarity based on false information then had no connection to the reality of actually interacting with that person. So we can have this perceived similarity. But then when we actually interact with somebody that that's where we really get to know somebody and it just shows how important it is to truly get out and engage with somebody and meet with somebody and interact with somebody. So that's the perceptions of similarity based on the real interaction wiped out any effect of the bogus similarity information. So the more we can go and do and hang out with people, the more we really are going to build that connection. And this is no knock on people that don't have access to people. We just went through a worldwide pandemic. People were shut in. But the more that we can really interact with people, the more we can really trust our gut or our senses and understand if we feel like there is a connection there. And then she said the consensual validation helped explain why people who perceived a greater similarity like their partners more after the interaction, but not before.

[00:55:56] And she said this is presumably feeling validated, requires more of a chance to connect with somebody who shares your values and preferences, rather than just this vague notion that you might have something in common. And so this certainty of being liked by the partner helped to explain why people like similar partners more both before and after the interaction, expecting to enjoy the interaction also help to explain why people like similar partners more before the interaction with that partner and then the actual enjoyment of the interaction also explained why people like similar partners more after they interacted. So the results also suggest that these feelings of enjoyment were were by far the strongest factor and overrode the effects of either the consensual validation or the certainty of being liked. So the researchers pointed out this might be especially true among a sample of young college students than for older adults. And other factors might be because they were they were grad students. They were they were having a shared experience. In a nutshell, I know that last part might have gotten a little bit out in the weeds. A little bit confusing, but what Gwendolyn is saying is that this entire study helps us understand why similarity can foster liking when people first meet. But it doesn't shed much light on why a perceived similarity is important in longer term relationships. She said it's likely that in long term relationships, factors beyond fun and enjoyment can contribute to the positive effects of similarity.

[00:57:08] For example, romantic partners who are similar to each other have fewer conflicts and married couples with similar educational attainment or that are similar in age or that are less likely to divorce. Now, that doesn't mean that if there's an age gap or an education gap, that then that people are doomed. But that's just what the study start to show more of a connection with. Bottom line it is important for you to find your people. We all want to find this people, this tribe. But then when we get in among our people, our tribe, or we find these people with these similar ideals or similar goals or values, hang on to that word. Similar, it doesn't mean that they have to be exact. It doesn't have to. It doesn't mean that if somebody doesn't exactly like the things you do, that anything is wrong, if anything. What we're starting to learn here is that the similarity is what brings us together. But now with that similarity, now let's foster some real connected conversations and find out. We may have these similarities, but what are the differences that we bring to the table and out of those differences? Those differences are not there to make someone feel less than. But they're more to help us now start to really drive a connection so we can find out more about somebody.

[00:58:17] And when we find out more about somebody that doesn't invalidate our own experiences, and if we feel like we're being criticized when somebody talks about their experience, then just be able to check in with yourself and know that man. That's normal for me to start to feel like if this person has different experiences than me, that my brain wants to immediately go to this this little kid version of then they must not like me. No, it's not. That's not what the case is. You are you. They are them. And the quicker that you can then say, Tell me more and let's find out. Let's find out more about each other. That's where the connection really occurs. It's not from the enmeshment, it's not from the codependency, but it's from learning who you are and helping someone. All I was say helping someone discover who they are, but they need to find who they are. You find who you are. And now you have these shared experiences with curiosity. And yeah, they're going to be a little tension. There's a potential for invalidation, but that's the part that where we can really have some growth. Thanks for hanging out today. Thanks for if you made it all the way to this episode through the end of this episode. I appreciate it. Once again, I forgot to mention my sponsor,, but I think I gave enough things at the beginning. But if you are looking for help, go to virtual Cavs get 10 months off. Your first months of services, and

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Occam's razor is the theory that given a choice between two hypotheses, the one involving fewer assumptions should be preferred. So why do we unconsciously and often unnecessarily complicate things that we desperately want to get right, like parenting? Tony takes a look at how understanding Occam's razor in the context of parenting gives us the permission to do what so many of us are trying to do in a variety of our kids! Tony refers to Tania Lombrozo, Ph.D.'s article "Choosing the Best Explanation Is Elementary, My Dear Watson" from Psychology Today. subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at and follow The Virtual Couch on Instagram

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----- TRANSCRIPT -----

[00:00:00] Every now and again, I have a confession to make, I get caught going down a rabbit hole of videos on YouTube and I was never much of a YouTube guy until just a couple of years ago. But now that I'm just sucked into that, that doggone algorithm has got me. So when I want to zone out, I love watching Dog fail videos and I joke about it. But it's true. And as a matter of fact, almost nightly, I put my camera on slowmo and I toss a dog treat to my Australian shepherd Kobie, simply because he try so hard to catch the treat, bless his little heart, but more often than not, he misses it. We're talking biting air and then I send that video to a family group chat. Nobody ever responds. I think they're kind of tired of it by now, but I love it. And as a matter of fact, they'll probably try to have one of those videos up on my virtual couch Instagram account by the time this episode airs. But apparently that algorithm, with that in mind tells me that people who typically like Dogville videos like myself, also like videos of kids getting caught red handed and denying what they're doing is a prime example is maybe a kid gets caught with chocolate all over their mouth or their hands, but they insist that they did not eat the brownie or the cookie.

[00:01:02] And I love that stuff. It makes me laugh every time my kids all know that one of my favorite shows of all time is America's Funniest Home Videos, because I just I laugh. I love those those videos. But what was funny when one was a kid, unfortunately, often still occurs into adulthood. So I work with people who have theoretical chocolate on their faces in a session and their spouse knows it, yet the offending spouse still denies it. And that's a podcast for another day, maybe an updated one on gaslighting, as I've discovered some very fascinating information on gaslighting as a childhood defense mechanism. And from that standpoint, it makes sense that it's often carried into adulthood. But I digress. I've also started a couple of notes on potential podcast episodes of wanting to talk about a term called Occam's Razor. And maybe you've heard maybe you've heard of Occam's Razor. If you haven't, Occam's razor is a principle borrowed from philosophy. And simply put, let's just say that there are two possible explanations for something. The explanation that requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct. So let's go back to that little adorable kid with Brownie all over their face when they are confronted with whether or not they ate the brownie.

[00:02:12] And let me add even that maybe one brownie is now missing from the pan. We have two options of what's happened, one following along with them that they do not know what happened to that brownie. They certainly didn't need it. Somebody else must have eaten it. And if you show them the chocolate on their face, well, of course, that was already there. Maybe it was there from earlier in the day. They have no idea how it got there. Somebody might have even put it on their face or they have chocolate on their face and one brownie is missing again. Occam's razor would say that when confronted with two possible explanations for something, the explanation that requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct. The kid eat the brownie. So another way that it's often framed is by saying that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation. But today I want to apply that principle to parenting, and I have some very strong opinions that have been brewing over the last few months or even years that I've struggled to put into words. But today is that day so well. Many of today's parents, including me, grew up in more of an era framed of clichés such as sink or swim.

[00:03:13] Throw a kid into the deep end of the pool, push the bird out of the nest, rub a little dirt on it. All the while watching what so many of us struggle to see is you hear the older people these days talk about a very entitled generation of youth growing up today. And I feel like trying to find that balance of, quote, tough love versus love. Love isn't really as difficult as one might think. And the key may lie in this philosophical principle. First, given a name by the English Franciscan Friar William of Ockham sometime in the thirteen hundreds, and he coined that term from his preference for simplicity in defending the idea of divine miracles. So are we making things too hard at times, or are we trying to get puzzle pieces out of a box of somebody else's puzzle and an attempt to make sense of our own puzzle when in reality maybe we're trying to work too complex of a puzzle in the first place and maybe the answer is right in front of our eyes. Maybe it's a far easier puzzle than we even anticipated. Maybe only has like nine pieces and they're all big. Well, we're going to dig deep into Occam's razor and parenting and so much more coming up on today's episode.

[00:04:24] Two hundred and sixty three and the virtual couch host, Tony

[00:04:28] Overmanning, a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified mind, will have a coach, writer, speaker, husband, author, father of four and ultramarathon runner, creator of The Path Back, which is an online pornography recovery program that's helping people put pornography in the rearview mirrors. And instead of turning to that as a coping mechanism, they're living these lives of purpose and passion, excitement based on their values. And so if you want to find out more about that, go to One of the most exciting things I've been talking about week after week is this. These group calls that we do every week and the group calls the group is growing its strength base. It's powerful and and it's really work for finding great results. So, again, go to if you're interested to find out more about that. And let's get to today's episode. I'm going to start with an article from Psychology Today that had some pretty interesting research. And I love it, especially when research has to do with four and five year olds. So this article is by Dr. Tanya Lumbroso and it's titled Choosing the Best Explanation Is Elementary, My Dear Watson. So the article talks about are we looking or are we trying to break things down as more of a Sherlock Holmes by deductive reasoning and doing a lot of research and breaking down the evidence or by Occam's Razor. So as I mentioned in the opening with Occam's Razor, do you choose the explanation best supported by evidence or the one that is satisfyingly simple and tiny says that recent findings suggest that even four and five year olds show a remarkable capacity to evaluate and choose between explanations, taking both the evidence and simplicity into account.

[00:06:00] So short of catching a culprit chocolate handed, as we talked about in the opening, which explanation would you believe? So William of Ockham, who's well-known Razor, suggests that we choose the simpler explanation. That's because research finds that these four and five year old children are surprisingly savvy reasoners when it comes to choosing between competing explanations or navigating a middle course between what maybe Sherlock Holmes would try to break down the likely probability of something happening or Occam's simplicity. So in research conducted at UC Berkeley and MIT, Dr Elizabeth Bar Bonewits and Tania Lombroso asked four and five year old children to explain why a toy lit up and spun around. So children were first taught that blocks of different colors could be placed in a toys activator to generate different effects. So a red block made the toy light up. A green block made the toy spin and a blue block like a potential chocolate thief generated both observed effects. So it provided a simpler explanation for both the toys actions. So again, they're they're asked to explain why toy lights up and spins around. So the red block makes the toy light up, a green block makes the toy spin and a blue block does both effects.

[00:07:16] And the researchers were simply going to put a block in the toys actuator kind of made up. Right. So here's where it gets tricky. So children were also shown that there were different numbers of each kind of block. So for some children, red and green blocks were only a little more common than the blue box. And one example, there were three red and three green blocks for one blue block for other children. Red and green blocks were far more common than blue blocks, 18 red, 18 green and one blue. And in this last case, here's where homes in action would disagree with probability. Pointing to the conjunction of a red block and a green block is the best explanation. But simplicity still pointing to the blue block. So children responses revealed a surprising sophistication. So while there was an overall preference for the simpler explanation, with the majority of children explaining why the toy lit up and spun around by appeal to a single blue block, this preference was drastically reduced. Excuse me when the blue block was very rare and when the majority of children now appealing to the conjunction of a red block and a green block. In other words, children went with simplicity when there wasn't strong evidence for an alternative. But as evidence accumulated, they followed its lead. So what does that say? Simply put, if there were a lot of red blocks and a lot of green blocks and only one blue block, now all of a sudden the kids said, well, it's probably the red block or the blue block or red block or the green block, even though the blue block was the simplest answer.

[00:08:41] But if there were just a couple of red blocks, a couple of green blocks and one blue block, then they said, well, it's obviously got to be the blue block. That's what makes this toy light up and spin. So the more evidence that is put out there, the more we tend to then try to figure out things based on the evidence versus the simplest answer that it's the blue block. So I thought that was kind of interesting. Was she she finishes her study that says, what about adults and what exactly makes one explanation simpler than another, is taking simplicity into account the right thing to do, or is it simply a sign of human error? And so this episode actually started as I was being asked a lot of questions about my parenting style. At first I thought that the person that was asking my wife and I these questions was insinuating that we did a pretty crummy job as parents. And there were a lot of questions that honestly had me feeling this strong need to defend myself or defend my parenting ability. Because when we simply shared the broad strokes of our parenting style, which is the nurtured hard approach, which is what my parenting positively in the most not so positive times, my free parenting course, you can get on my website what it's about.

[00:09:45] It's based off of the nurtured heart approach, which I again feel is a game changing technique or parenting style. But it sounds at times like we're pretty permissive with our parenting because they're nurtured. Hard approach really does rely on you are no longer the punisher you don't react to when they're pushing your buttons. You absolutely try to build in her wealth by praising and praising, realistically or praising genuinely, not just throwing out good jobs. And then the kids know the consequences. The stand, the three of nurturing approach is these consequences that they have helped come up with. So no longer are you the this arbitrary ruler and you are delivering punishments and then also still trying to seek connection. But you're the one that is they now trying to build their inner wealth. And they know when they break a certain rule that this is the punishment that they actually helped come up with. So it's pretty fascinating. But so when you take yourself out of the role of Punisher, then it can't appear as if you are being somewhat permissive as a parent. But if someone doesn't understand the nature of our parenting approach, that's just their view from the outside. But so, again, of course, answering what do you do when your kid comes home late from curfew, anything short of grounding them or taking their phone away or their car is going to sound like you're letting them walk all over you.

[00:11:02] But I feel like that's missing so much of the point. What we're really talking about is what is your goal in parenting? And I'm guessing that it is to try your best to prepare your child to enter the adult world and the best position to succeed. But let me just stop right there. I want to define succeeding. Succeeding by whose standards? So let's say a parent grew up poor and they worked hard to put themselves in a position where they no longer had to worry about money. And not that they're set for life necessarily, but they have a good job. They have retirement money in the bank. So now they want their kid to have that same financial security. They want their kid to work just as hard as they did to get to that place where they're at. However, in their pursuit of financial security, where they often out of the home or out of the home more than they would have liked for a very good reason of trying to provide their family with the financial security that they didn't have. So if so, their own children may not have grown up with that deep inner drive for financial security because they didn't grow up in the eyes of those who had money or maybe if they wanted that new pair of the latest school issues and their parent was so happy to be able to provide those shoes for them, they didn't that the kid didn't sit there at night staring up at the ceiling, dreaming or being becoming obsessive they could do to get themselves out of their current financial situation.

[00:12:13] So maybe their kid has more of this value of wanting to be more connected or spend more time with their kids. So the pursuit of, say, a medical degree, a law degree or something, it might take them out of the home, but provide financial safety might not be as important to them as it was to their parent. So often I feel like we as parents spend so much time trying to convince our kids of what we believe that they should believe is important. And that can be incredibly frustrating as a parent because our kids are literally wired to push back. And if we think that something's important, often our kids either take a hard stance and say they don't care at all. And actually, let me give you a real situation that occurred in my office not very long ago. So parent and teacher in the office parent is practically begging the teen to try harder in school and they go on and on about the importance of school and how the parent getting their education was so incredibly life changing for them. And meanwhile, the teen literally sat as far away on the couch as humanly possible from the parent.

[00:13:08] And they refuted everything that the parent said. And to the teen school was ridiculous. And for every example that the parent gave of somebody that went to school and succeeded, the teen already had an example at the ready of somebody that had dropped out of school and succeeded. So you can see where this is going. Maybe you've had this experience before and neither of them was going to get anywhere in the conversation. Why? Well, first up, one of my very favorite concepts, psychological reactance or the instant negative reaction of being told what to do. The reactance was was thick in the room. I felt that it was tangible. But next up, both people just wanted to be heard. Both the parent and and the teen wanted to be heard. They wanted to be able to have the other person listen and sincerely listen with curiosity. And they didn't want their arguments to be refuted. Neither one of them did. So they're both trying desperately to break down the other person's reality or poke holes in what they're saying. And guess what? Neither of them are going to get much of anything out of that conversation. They're not even listening to each other, because not only is that psychological reactions happening, but there are literal physiological things happening in the brain. I mean, when we feel like we're not heard, when we feel like we have to defend ourselves, our heart rate elevates, our cortisol levels raise, and we literally shut down the area of our brain that is thinking logically.

[00:14:19] And we get into this fight or flight mode. That's that's why you can be talking with your with your spouse or with your teen. And they can just be throwing out things that that you really feel confident that they don't really believe. But what they're doing is they know the right buttons to push to get you angry, because if you guys can stay in this argument or if they can get angry, then then they can leave the argument. They don't have to really look at the they don't have to look at what is there. They're kind of thinking about or what they're dealing with, because when you're just engaged in this argument, you're not really even addressing the core issues. So when a kid doesn't want to go to school and if they can get you angry and push all the buttons and tell you why they don't think school is important, even if they really do think it's important or if they think that it's more important than they let on, they don't have to explore that. They don't have to dig deep and say maybe I don't think school is important because I struggle reading or because I'm bullied in class or something like that, because if they can get you to get angry and push your buttons and what you explode, well, then that's what the arguments about.

[00:15:18] It's about the why don't you listen to me? It's about why don't you respect me? It's not about, hey, tell me what tell me what your experience is. Tell me why you don't think school is as important and that can be so important just to be heard. And too often we want to solve something right in that moment. But I'm telling you, we have to really think of it as the long game. Parenting is a long game. There's no doubt about it. The goal, I feel like, is connection. And instead, we often want to be right as a parent. We just want them to understand. We just want them to listen. We want them to tell us, OK, fine, I think you're right, but we need to shift that paradigm, the goal is not to be right, the goal is connection or the goal is to to listen, to understand them, to be curious about our teenager. So I'm going off on a tangent here. But let me kind of get back to where I was going with the Occam's Razor. So back to see this or William of Ockham in Ockham's Razor. So they are desperately parents are often desperately trying to build a complicated case of why the other person is wrong or why they're right by way of this person or that person or trying to find times where one or the other person said this or that or contradicted themselves as if they will find the right situation or the right word or phrase or experience that will all of a sudden cause the other person to say, oh, hold up.

[00:16:33] You just said some something that unlocked something in my brain. I now realize that you're absolutely right about everything. And I should think and feel and do what you're telling me to, because I'm afraid to tell you that is not going to happen. As a matter of fact, if the parent or the kid all of a sudden says, now you're right, it's a great point, that's typically when they've dropped the rope with a tug of war of the argument. And they realize that by agreeing they can at least get out of the argument. So I really believe that by following these principles of Occam's razor, we can drop the desire of building the complicated case to try and convince our teen that they're wrong. And instead, what I believe is the less complicated path, the simpler route, the simpler explanation is to default to the relationship. It's default to love the genuine curiosity to questions before making comments. It is far easier and I believe more productive, far more connected when we shift our goals from trying to come up with an argument to prove somebody wrong to a goal of connection. And here's the example that really brought this idea from one simply kicking around somewhere inside of my head to a more solid, tangible idea and.

[00:17:37] I apologize, I'm going to do this very quickly, I do this every time I almost forget about this. Let me do the world's fastest ad for You can probably fast forward 15, 30 seconds if you need to. But if you're thinking about talking with a licensed therapist, a licensed professional counselor, look no further than virtual couch. You'll get 10 percent off your first months of service. The intake, the assessment process is easy. You can be speaking with a therapist in less than 48 hours via text or video or email or whatever works for you. Over a million people have done it. You deserve to deal with your own stuff, to put it behind you, to deal with it, to raise your emotional baseline. So check out virtual couch. OK, thank you. Back to the show. So I even remember where I was driving with my wife and and I was telling her in general terms about a father that was telling me that they have to do the tough love thing with their adult son, who had come back to live with the parents to finish up school. And the father had said that he needed to make things difficult. He needed to let the son know the cost of the real world. He needed to stop enabling the son, because if he didn't, the son might end up living forever in their basement. And that is where the light bulb kind of came on for me.

[00:18:39] In my opinion, that truly is trying to overly complicate things, because now the dad was working off of his experiences of what success was to him, what he felt like he needed in order for him to succeed. But he wasn't listening to his son and he hadn't taken the time to even hear him to really understand what his experience was like. Was he struggling in school? Was he struggling to even know what to do for a career? Did he feel like he was stuck, like he had headed down the wrong path in college, did even want to be in college? Was he pursuing a career because he felt like if he didn't pursue that career, that his parents would not like him? Good old abandonment, attachment issues that talked about on so many episodes. So I believe that the point isn't that if I don't kick him out and make him grow up, that he may eventually be living in my basement. Now, I believe that the kid needs to know that they absolutely can't live in the basement as long as they need, because with that secure attachment, with that knowledge of the parent is there for them that they care about them, they have their back, they love them, then then they will know that they can try and they can go out and explore and do and possibly fail. But they know that they have somewhere to land, somewhere to process, explore and to figure out what's next.

[00:19:41] They know that they have the secure attachment where they can come back home. And the parent is not going to say, are you kidding me? But the parents can say, all right, how was it? How was school or what was the job like or like? Tell me tell me what you're thinking. Tell me about your fears, your hopes or your dreams. Because with that type of a relationship, when you default into that relationship of love and not trying to solve or fix or teach a lesson, then that is where I feel like things people can push off from. That's what I feel like success really comes from. And I 100 percent I understand that your mileage may vary. These things take time. It takes time to actually create these patterns. So it's obviously going to take time to change them. And so I understand that they're going to people listening right now. They're saying you don't even know what you're talking about. I can't get my son or daughter to do anything. It's been years. But if the pattern is consistent, doesn't that speak volumes in and of itself? If you've tried over and over and over through the years to motivate by saying, have you done anything today or when are you going to stop playing those games? When are you going to when you can find a job? Why don't you go do something different? What if, you know it has that worked up to this point? And if it has, great.

[00:20:47] But if it hasn't, then I feel like this approach, Occam's razor, the default to love, the default, the curiosity to default to. Hey, tell me what's going on in your life. Tell me what's going on in your your head, your brain. That that is often the it's I guess it's not that necessarily always the easier path, but I think it's the more productive path. So is your goal I mean, before I go to that, I feel like, you know, you may already really know deep inside you might not be happy with the way that your current interactions go. What what what progress they they yield or don't yield. And so you're met with that reactants, you're met with the reactions, you're met with the anger. So I know that people that are going to listen to this episode are I want you to listen and think, OK, maybe I do need to take a look at doing something different. Maybe I do need to try out this. I'm going to do I'm going to default the love. I'm going to default to understanding. I'm going to try to be very present and listen and not try to react and not try to correct and not try to fix. Because is your goal to be right or is your goal to have a relationship? Is your goal to let your kid know that you are here for them regardless of the path they take? Or is it to let them know that you believe that you know what they need to do? And if they do not agree, then they're wrong and then you may not support them, because remember, we are all just a product of our environments.

[00:22:07] As I tried to lay out earlier in this episode that just because you if you are a parent who worked hard to put your family in a position of financial security, then know that you probably did that because of the experiences you had growing up. And so therefore, your kids experiences are not going to be the same. But often you're going to want to impress on them the importance of financial stability or security or the importance of the, you know, the nine to five job or whatever it was that you really felt like helped you. When in reality, because of what you have set up or provided for them, their experience is most likely not going to be the same as yours. So defaulting to questions and curiosity and love, I believe, is Occam's razor. It is it is the easier path or the more productive path, because, again, we are all just products of our environment. I say it all the time. I'll try to do it a little bit differently this time. But it's it is our birth order.

[00:23:02] It's our DNA. It's the way we were raised. It's our friend groups. It's our teachers schools that we happen to go to, the friends who happen to move on or away from our block, the girlfriend whose parents relocated to move, leaving us feeling abandoned, the teacher that maybe got fired and let the kids wondering what happened. It's people who have unfortunately been through things like physical abuse or emotional abuse or sexual abuse. The divorce, the parents or the parents who stayed in an unhealthy marriage for the sake of the kids get the kids then didn't end up seeing real love or sacrifice or togetherness, modeled it. It is all so complicated. So I understand when parents want to control their kids because they think that that is the best way to help their kids. And I get that. And I understand and bless your heart for wanting the best for your kids. But in reality, what if Occam's razor is right? What if the option with less complications is the best option? What if loving our kids or hearing them or having a sincere desire to hear them is the best option? Because I've been doing this for a long time now. I have kids. My kids are getting older. I'm not claiming any kind of I've had it all figured out, but I really believe that to hear them is to help heal them. And I feel like the more curious we are with our kids, the more they're going to feel like they can open up to us.

[00:24:12] And we can absolutely have our own thoughts, feelings and opinions, objections. But oftentimes I want to say, can you just make room for them? Can you use the acceptance and commitment therapy principle of expansion and just make room for those reactions? And you're watching the video. I'm holding my hand up to my right because just hold him over here, hold those objections and reactions over here. You can do that and just seek to understand, ask questions before making comments, because being a parent is not about us. And that is a really difficult thing that we as parents often can can really wrap our heads around that as much as it feels like it's about us and that because it is our our job to nurture them, to guide them, but it's to guide them. You know, it's not about us. Parenting is about our kids and about setting them up for success, but setting them up for their success, not our success, but their success. We mean well, we're trying to guide them. But I believe that they first need to know that they are loved. And one of the best ways to convey this is to let them know you hear them. Are you want to hear them or you care about them. You know, you want them to come to you with problems and questions and have them know that you want to hear what they have to say, that every conversation isn't necessarily going to turn into a why didn't you do this, you know, fix it or a judgment statement or that the conversations aren't always going to turn into a life lesson.

[00:25:26] I want to try I love to encourage you to try something this week. My wife and I are doing this in our lives right now as well. It really is focusing on the long game. You know, if you're asking your kid how your day was, don't use that as an opportunity to. OK, well, hey, sounds good, champ. Did you follow up with your teacher? Did your homework done? Did you follow did you do this did you do this to do this? Because our kids are so smart. They really are. They know that. All right. They really don't want to hear how my day was. I'm going to tell them fine. And now I'm going to get ready to defend why I didn't talk to Mr. Johnson about the make up work or why he didn't do my homework or that sort of thing. I was talking to somebody recently. And I mean, I think for the most part, our kids know when they're not doing their homework. I think a better question is to say, hey, is there anything I can do to help, you know, or or if they if you are going to have a conversation about homework or school or that sort of things like tell me more, what's that like? And resist that urge to say, you know what I did when I was your age? Because right there now they've tuned out.

[00:26:18] They really have. And I would imagine a lot of you did the same when you were younger as well. I want to read I got the book Grit, it is an amazing book, Grit, as a book by Angela Duckworth. And there's just a part that I've thought about often, and I think I included this on an earlier episode maybe two years ago. And it's about Jeff Bezos and love him or don't necessarily love him. Whatever you wherever you land on that. He's a founder, CEO of Amazon, and I think often the world's most richest or wealthiest man. But let me just read from Grit, and this is a couple of pages, and it's just fascinating to me. I've thought about this so much. The Angela Duckworth writes in the book, "Jeff unusual, unusually interest filled childhood has a lot to do with this unusually curious mother, Jackie. Jeff came into the world two weeks after Jackie turned 17 years old. So she told me I didn't have a lot of preconceived notions about what I was supposed to do. She remembers being deeply intrigued by Jeff and his younger brother and sister. Jackie said. I was just so curious about these little creatures and who they were and what they were going to do.

[00:27:17] I paid attention to what interested each one. They were all different and I follow their lead. I felt it was my responsibility to let them do deep dives into what they enjoyed. For instance, that three multiple times asleep in a big bed, Jack explained that eventually he would speak and he would sleep in a big bed, but not yet. But then one day she walked into his room and found him screwdriver in hand, disassembling his crib. But Jackie didn't scold him. Instead, she sat on the floor and helped Jeff sleep. She helped him and Jeff sleep in a big bed that night. By middle school, he was inventing all sorts of mechanical contraptions, including an alarm on his bedroom door that made a loud buzzing sound. So whenever one of his siblings trespassed across the threshold, we made so many trips to Radio Shack, Jackie said, laughing. Sometimes we go back four times in a day because we needed another component. Once he took string and he tied all the handles of the kitchen cupboards together. And then when you open one, all of them popped open. I tried to picture myself in these situations. This is, I think we're saying to try to picture not freaking out. Oh, no, this is Jackie. I tried to imagine. No, this is Angela Duckworth. She said, I tried to picture myself in these situations. I tried to picture not freaking out. I tried to imagine doing what Jackie did, which was to notice that her oldest son was blooming into a world class problem solver and then merely nurture that interest.

[00:28:27] My moniker at the house was Captain of Chaos, Jackie told me. And that's because just about every just about anything that you wanted to do would be acceptable in some fashion. Jackie remembers that when Jeff decided to build an infinity cube, essentially a motorized set of mirrors that reflected one another's images back and forth ad infinitum, she was sitting on the sidewalk with a friend. Jeff comes up to tell us and he's telling us all about the science behind it. And I listen and I nod my head and ask a question every once in a while. And after he walked away, my friend asked if I understood everything. And I said, "it's not important that I understand everything. It's important that I listen".- Jackie Bezos By high school. Jeff turned the family garage into a laboratory for venting and experimentation when one day he got a call from Jeff's high school saying he was skipping classes after lunch. When he got home, she asked him where he'd been going in the afternoons, and Jeff told her he'd found a local professor who was letting him experiment with airplane wings and friction and drag. And he said, I got it. Now let's see if we can negotiate a legal way to do that. And then in college, Jeff majored in computer science and electrical engineering and after graduating, applied his programing skills to the Management of Investment Fund.

[00:29:26] Several years later, he built an Internet bookstore named after the world's longest river, Amazon. And I guess the rest is history. But what I love about that story is when when Jackie talked about that, she said her job was to just understand, be curious about these little creatures and who they were and what they were going to do. She said, I paid attention to each one. They were all different. I followed their lead. I felt it was my responsibility to let them do deep dives into what they enjoyed. And as simple as that sounds, it's also complicatedly beautiful is what they've enjoyed. And because we've already got the attachment, abandonment things that come up by a human nature that our kids do want to please us, even if they are getting angry with us and pushing our buttons, that a lot of the the reasons that they even react that way is often because they don't feel like they can be heard. They feel like the only time that they really get our attention is when they react or when they act out. So if we can shift that paradigm to be one of more of curiosity and tell me more, then I feel like that really can start to help them nurture and nurture them and help them find their interests. And ultimately, that is going to be where they push off from.

[00:30:33] So if we can get them in a spot where they can really we can nurture these interests and help them understand and try different things, then I feel like they are going to feel that secure attachment to us. And I feel like if we really focus on the relationship, if we focus on love, if we really default to what requires the maybe the least amount of explanations, if we go back down this Occam's razor path, that that is the more productive path that is the obvious answer is to love them, not to try to overly complicatedly. Think of ways that we can prove to them that they need to understand this or they need to believe in something else or that they are wrong because that that is that is that's all kinds of emotional calories burnt when according to Outcomes Razor, maybe the easiest thing we could do is love them. So I could say so much more, but I want to end it with that. So there's my goal for you this week. Play The long game. seek first to understand, ask questions before comments, use the four pillars of a connected conversation that I've developed, assume the good intentions when they say something, even if that they're not doing their homework, that it isn't that they're trying to hurt you or they're trying to make you mad, that it's there's a reason why. And it might feel like they're overwhelmed.

[00:31:42] They might feel they might be having troubles. They might not even really care as much about school. They might have friend relationship issues going on. And then the second pillar is don't you can't just say you're wrong. That's that's a bunch of garbage. I don't believe you, even if you don't believe them. Because then the third pillar is questions for comments, then now's your opportunity to ask them and to know that right now, if you're trying to change the dynamic in the relationship, most likely they are going to push back because they if they can push your buttons and if you can react, then they don't have to have this conversation. They don't have to get open and vulnerable. They don't have to deal with their own stuff. So play the long game shift to the goal. Is the relationship not to be right and for them to be heard. And the more that you do that, I do promise you that over time you're going to see a pretty big shift. And the more that somebody feels like they can be heard and understood and they feel like they are in a safe environment, the less of that reactance or pushback or reaction you're going to get and that's where you really going to start to see the relationship develop and you're going to see that you do truly get to help them. You help you help guide them along their path. So there's my goal to you. I hope that you will all have an amazing week and I will see you

[00:32:50] Next time on a virtual couch.

Empathy has become a big buzzword over the past few years, and, chances are you’ve wondered if your spouse, your kids, or your boss lacks empathy altogether? Or are you the one you’re worried about? In this special bonus episode, Tony combines a 2-part episode on empathy from 2018 into one and covers 10 evidence-based methods for teaching, modeling, and nurturing empathy.

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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.

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----- TRANSCRIPT -----

EP 258 BONUS Empathy -2021-04-09
[00:00:08] A bonus episode of The Virtual Couch, I am your host, as per usual, Tony Overbay, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist and I am going to try to make this one of the world's quickest beginnings, because I have a two part bonus episode that I have combined into one where we are going to talk about empathy. No doubt it's a it's been a big buzzword over the past few years. Chances are you've wondered if your spouse or kids or maybe your boss or your extended family lack empathy altogether. Or are you the one you're worried about? Have you have you had people say to you, I don't feel like you're very empathetic? And do you know what the difference is between empathy and sympathy? Because there's a big difference. I'm telling you. Now, if that if you had any of those thoughts or questions, then you've come to the right place, because in in this two part episode, I'm looking at three components of empathy. What really breaks down the definition of empathy? And I'm going to cover 10 evidence based methods for teaching, modeling and nurturing empathy. So we're going to do that and and plenty more coming up on the virtual couch. But I will I will promise to make this the quickest intro possible and just say that if you've been listening to the podcast the last few weeks, you'll know that my magnetic marriage course is about to launch round two and the first round was just incredibly wonderful and powerful. So please head over to Tony Overbay, dotcom slash magnetic and sign out the sign out, sign up, sign up.

[00:01:31] Don't sign out. And you'll find out more about when the launch of the second round is because it's coming up in a week or two. And I, of course, would always encourage anyone to head over to a virtual couch on Instagram or Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist on Facebook, as well as check out My online community for helping people overcome turning to pornography as a coping mechanism is growing and growing. And one of the largest components of that is a Wednesday evening call Zoome call. That has just been incredible, especially over the last few weeks. And if you take the path back, course, you get access to this online community, the call. And if you're interested in even just taking a peek, shoot me an email, go to Tony Overbay Dotcom and you can send me an email saying you'd like to find out more about even the group calls and and talk about group calls. I mentioned this on several podcasts, but I also have a community and online community for women that are dealing with are going through relationships, breakups, divorces, are involved in relationships with emotionally abusive men or maybe people that they feel that there is a component of narcissism in there. And if that is the case, email me as well and I can give you more information about that. All right, let's get to it. Today's two parts actually in one bonus episode on components of empathy and 10 evidence based methods for teaching, modeling and nurturing empathy.

[00:03:04] Come on in, take a seat.

[00:03:11] And I've got a two part episode today, and I promise that it will not go too long because I didn't even print up the second half of my notes because I have so much good stuff to get to. If you already read in the title, we're talking about empathy today and empathy. What is it? It is a buzzword, a hot topic in my work. I am asked time and time again in emails and sessions and honestly by people I meet who will listen to a podcast or two, or when someone finds out what I do for a living, they the topic is so hot right now that the the question is often can you teach empathy or how can my spouse or my child or my teen learn to be more empathetic? So let me just be bold. Whether I'm working with a teenager or an adult, I see this in all areas. It's kind of this it's phrasing about this. Can you just help them understand why I need them to do this thing or why I need them to change? And again, here's a very bold, overarching, generalized statement. So I know that there are exceptions, but for the most part, parents, spouses, teachers, what I hear them all saying, in essence, is, can you help me tell that person, the person in my life, that they need to do what I say because they know better than them.

[00:04:17] So here's the deal. You might you might not, in my humble opinion, maybe it's somewhere in between, because the one thing that is lacking in true empathy or understanding, it is truly it's understanding what's going on in the mind of and the life of your spouse, your teen, your child. And until you have a better idea, until you can truly relate better to them. And it's more than just kind of putting yourself in their shoes, which we're going to get to today. But until you can truly relate to them, better understand where they're coming from and why convincing them to do what you want them to do is going to be an uphill battle. And it's not always the best thing. And you don't even realize is that once you truly do understand where they're coming from. And trust me, if you just said in your mind, OK, but I do know what they need to do because I already know where they're coming from are you know what they're going to say? You don't whenever those assumptions are made. And I hear that's one of the common themes, whether I'm doing couples work, whether I'm doing individual work. It's just that, you know, I mean, I know he already knows that, you know, they'll say that or so whenever you're making an assumption and I won't even go into the whole what happens if you're making an assumption and assume and all that kind of stuff.

[00:05:18] But if you're making an assumption, there is a lot of things there that you do not know. OK, so back to the days, I guess, and going to be a two parter. Didn't even print the notes for the last thing I want to cover today, because I know it will be long, so I want to go into teaching it. But the evidence base tips for fostering empathy in children. And the article that I kind of pulled this from and I'll link to this on the show notes it's from parenting science, dotcom. It's it's from a Gwinn Dwar PhD and it is about teaching empathy. She says it might sound strange if you think of empathy as an innate fixed trait, a talent that some people are born with and others lack, because I think a lot of us do feel that way of that. Either someone has empathy or they don't. But empathy is not an all or nothing proposition. It isn't something that unfolds automatically in every situation, and it isn't even a single ability or skill. And I am going to go into so much data research here that Gwinn Duaa. So a lot of the things that I'm going to pull from or from this parenting science article, but she has it so well researched, so well noted. So I'm going to throw out some a lot of when I when I refer to a study, if you don't mind, I'll just throw the last names out and then the year of the study.

[00:06:25] And if you go follow the links on the notes to this parenting science article, then she has all of these references there, too. But so here's where I want to work from. It's the CD. And Coull in 2014 argue that the word empathy has become a catch all term for three discrete, distinct processes. And this is why I like this empathy. They have it boiled down to three things. One is emotional sharing, which occurs when we experience feelings of distress as a result of observing distress and another individual so emotional sharing. So one component of empathy is, you know, almost when you hear about the concept of someone being an empath, where they experience the feelings of distress by watching someone else experience distress as well, there's empathetic concern, which is the motivation to care for individuals who are vulnerable, so empathetic, concerned. So it's like, I want to do something. I want, you know, when people feel like I see people in need, I want to do something. There's feeling what they feel. There's feeling like I want to do something when I see someone who is feeling a certain way. And then here's the one that I think we typically think of when we think of empathy, it's perspective taking the ability to consciously put oneself in the mind of another individual and imagine what that person is thinking or feeling.

[00:07:35] So I think we often think in terms of empathy, we forget those first two, the emotional sharing and the empathetic concern, and we just jump right to the perspective, taking the ability to consciously put oneself in the mind of another individual and imagine that that's what they are thinking. So when we speak about somebody being very empathetic, we're probably guilty as as as Gwen Dwar says, of mixing up all three of these. So in some individuals are going to score high and all of these areas and others might not really have any of these skills across the board. And we talked about some of those in some of the the Christina Hendricks episode on. Narcissism and personality disorders are the gaslighting and but it's common for people to experience a little bit of these three areas of empathy in varying degrees, and they can even change over time. For instance, says that many young children show high levels of emotional sharing and they demonstrate strong but limited evidence of empathetic concern. But then they'll struggle with perspective taking. You know, it's hard to kind of my wife and I right now at our church volunteer in the nursery. And so it's hard to kind of show perspective taking to someone who is very small and tiny when you're saying, hey, how do you think that made them feel when you took their toy? You know, that kid doesn't care.

[00:08:43] He's got the toy right. So it's hard for him to kind of understand that perspective thinking now as as kids get older, their perspective taking skills improve. But it's primarily when we provide them with opportunities to practice so they'll learn social norms about when and how to show empathetic concern. You know, they'll understand that when someone is suffering or someone is sad, the social norms almost teach you how to show that empathetic concern of that man. I feel bad because that person is feeling bad. They also will learn about their own emotional responses. So so these experiences can lead to enhanced empathy or the reverse. Children may learn to show more responsiveness in caring or less. So it really depends on the content of their lessons. Here's what to wear where Gwinn said that Gwen, as if I know her Ph.D.. I want to call her doctor door. So Doctor said where they taught empathy, that empathy often requires an open mind and an effort to learn how differently others experience that the world did. They learn to shut out unpleasant feelings by retreating from people in distress. This is a big one. We're going to talk about this one here in a minute. Or do they learn how to control their personal reactions so they can respond with sympathy and help? Did they learn practical, concrete actions to take when someone is in trouble? So what do you do when you see someone who is suffering or someone who is sad? I mean, were they taught by a parent or a caretaker that, hey, don't look over there, that person's really sad.

[00:10:01] We just need to keep moving or where they learned, you know, where they just kind of learn to, hey, what do you think that person's going through? Or they learn to even just take over and talk to the person, go give the person a hug, give the person a sandwich, whatever they were taught. And we start to see how that comes into play with teaching empathy. So did they learn practical, concrete actions to take when somebody is in trouble? Did they learn that empathy is to be reserved for a select few or for individuals from every walk of life? Right. Is this one of those things of where if you're in a area that you're not very comfortable with and you see someone who is suffering or someone who is sad, or you learn that, hey, we don't really know everything that's going on here, so keep it moving. So empathy isn't something that you either have or it's not something that you lack and isn't something that develops automatically without input from the environment. So she says there are different facets and degrees of empathy and the way we socialize our children matter.

[00:10:47] So I'm going to hit five out of these. She has ten tips to teaching empathy. And again, there's some amazing studies that we're going to cover today. So she says teaching empathy. Tip number one, provide children with the support they need to develop strong self-regulation skills. What does that mean? Feeling someone else's pain is unpleasant. So it shouldn't surprise us if a child's first impulse is to shrink away. When they say see, when they see someone in pain, they're going to pull away, they're going to come to their caretaker. So children are more likely to overcome this impulse when they feel secure and have strong self-regulation skills. So, for instance, when children have a secure attachment, when they have these attachment relationships with their caregivers, they know they can count on their caregiver for emotional and physical support and so that these children are more likely to sympathize and offer help to people in distress. So what does that look like when your child sees someone else who is suffering and they come to you? If you are there for them, if you put the you know, if you give them the hey, don't worry about it. Don't don't worry about that person, then what is that teaching that's kind of teaching them to not feel that emotional connection towards someone who is is suffering or struggling. In addition, children who are better at regulating their negative emotions tend to show greater empathetic concern for others.

[00:11:55] That's from a study by Last Name song in twenty seventeen. So therefore, we can foster empathy by being what Dr. Dwar says, emotion coaches. What that means is acknowledging rather than dismissing our child's negative feelings. And let me just jump up here and say that what I'm saying, child, in this situation, it can be your your child, your teen, it can be your spouse. I mean, and this is that that no fixing in judgment statement. This is that more. Tell me more about what's going on for you kind of statement that I've covered in other podcasts. So not to dismiss negative feelings, engage in conversation about the causes and effects of emotions. It also means helping kids find constructive ways to handle their bad moods. Not any of the hey, don't worry about that. That's not your problem, because what does that say? That says I see your emotion, I see your response, and I don't want to hear about it because it's not valid emotion. Coach, remember that you can be that be there. Don't dismiss, acknowledge the negative feelings and engage in conversation about the causes and effects of emotions. Tell me what's going on in your life, child, the teen spouse. So while emotion Koshy emotion coaching is help kids of all ages, there's a study by Johnson et al. So that means Johnson and pals. Twenty seventeen.

[00:13:07] It says, younger children who struggle with negative. May benefit the most. In addition, there's evidence that young children develop better perspective taking skills when we talk to them about mental states like beliefs, desires and goals. So if you have a toddler, it isn't too early to start thinking about your role as one of these emotion coaches. And one experiment is kind of this where stuff gets really interesting. Loopt and in 2016, parents were encouraged to increase their coaching efforts and when so, they produced immediate positive effects. Preschoolers showed improvements in their ability to handle frustration. So and that in that scenario, they were encouraged to just talk more about what's going on with the child. Even a toddler not told the don't worry about it. Hey, stop crying. Or even just the good old distraction model. No, they kind of doubled down on. Hey, tell me what's going on there for you. What do you what do you see? What are you feeling? What are you thinking? OK, I love this second one. Teaching empathy, tip number two, CS everyday opportunities to model and induce sympathetic feelings for other people. If you observe someone in distress, real life TV a book Dr. Dwyer says talk to your child about how that person must feel, not even about what's going on for you, about how that person must feel. There's a study by Pizarro and Solovki in 2002 that says even a very brief conversation can have an effect.

[00:14:21] For example, in an experiment on Dutch schoolchildren ages eight to 13 years old, gelee Sariska and her colleagues presented kids with some hypothetical scenarios about school. Here's what they said. They said that your classmates turned to stay late and clean up the classroom, but she wants to go home as soon as possible because her mother is quite ill. So she asks you, would you help her? So would you do it? Would you help her? In one scenario, the students were told to imagine that the girl was one of their friends. In another scenario, they were told the girl was not one of their friends and that distinction mattered. Children expressed less willingness to help when the girl was not depicted as a friend. But here's where things got kind of interesting. The results changed when researchers added an extra step to the procedure. Instead of immediately asking children if they would help, the experimenters first ask them to think about the girl and rate how sad or upset she was likely to be again in the scenario that she had to stay late to clean up. But she needed in her core she wanted to get home because her mom was quite ill. So even just to go over that information again, that extra step of how do you think the girl would rate her on how sad or upset she was likely to be after rating emotions, then the children showed no bias in favor of the friend.

[00:15:28] They were equally likely to say they would help the girl, whether she was a friend or not. So that extra reminder was enough to change the children's judgments. So I think the significance there is that we're normally or we're initially going to say, well, what's what's in it for me? Almost as that person, my friend, is that person, not my friend. But then once we even take the time to just say, hey, that girl, how sad do you think that she is right now for what she's going through and in children then when they recognize me, I bet she's kind of sad, then they're more likely to help. So in the grand scheme of things, what does that teaching is teaching someone to step back and kind of assess the situation and a little bit of it's throwing out some of that perspective, taking to see what must that be like. Right. There's some emotional sharing there when when they see or experience the feelings of distress by observing distress in another individual. And then there's that pathetic concern, which is that motivation to care for somebody who is vulnerable in distress. And then finally, that perspective taking. So in that study, you almost see, instead of someone who has a little bit of the emotional sharing where they see that someone's going through a hard time, but they lack that that necessarily that empathetic concern or perspective taking.

[00:16:35] So teaching empathy, tip number three, helping kids discover what they have in common with other people. I found this one fascinating to adults tend to feel greater empathy for an individual when they perceive the individual to be similar to them. They also find it easier to empathize with someone who is familiar. So research suggests that children also have similar biases. And if you step back and think about this as an adult, a lot of times this is the thing where if you if someone is going through something hard at your work and your work tends to rally and saying you want I like to think in that term of community or tribe, someone in your church, someone in your work, someone in your neighborhood, when you feel that they are similar to them, you find it easier to empathize. So as a result, one of the best ways to encourage empathy is to make children conscious of what they have in common with others. And this one goes into the concept of getting out and meeting people from different backgrounds and learning about what life is like in different places. So conversations are helpful. But this is what is this is what's fascinating. It's worth. Remember that kids are heavily influenced. And this is a doctor said by what we actually do unless by what we say.

[00:17:33] And how many times do we are we aware of that when someone is saying, here's what you need to do, but then you don't see them back that up? Right. A lot of us tend to go with that word of a hypocrite. So, you know, it's more of and as a parent, I think oftentimes we want to make sure that we're modeling that behavior, that we want our kids to do it. If we're saying you need to be kind as we are being mean to other people and any kind of goes back to that classic, someone is yelling at their kid, don't you yell, you know, it's what's the what are you modeling? So decades of research indicate that one of the biggest predictors of racial prejudice, for example, and a failure to empathize with members of other groups is having little or no contact with. Who aren't like you and studies also suggest that schools boost empathy in students when they foster multiculturalism in an inclusive, warm attitude, that it fosters cultural diversity. A couple of studies, Lee and Chang in this two thousand nine, 2011. This enhanced empathy is linked with increased happiness and scholastic achievement. So there there is enough research to back up the fact that when kids are exposed to more multicultural, different environments, different places, then that leads to increased happiness and scholastic achievement, because they do start to see how they can connect with others and what they do have more in common, not more of an isolation view, which then leads to maybe a less a lack of empathy, teaching empathy, tip number for foster cognitive empathy through literature and roleplaying y feeling someone else's pain isn't the entire story.

[00:18:58] So when we hear the word empathy, a lot of people do focus on that concept of emotional sharing. Again, that's which occurs when we experience feelings of distress as a result of observing stress in another individual. But that comes with a cost. As we as noted kind of in that introduction, emotion sharing can make us want to back away, especially when we encounter someone in pain or distress. And even if we resist this impulse to back away, our own emotions can distract us from accurately judging what a victim really needs. So just having this this affective empathy isn't enough to be good helpers. We also need to have cognitive empathy, the ability to take another person's perspective, that perspective taking and imagine what actions might make that person feel better. The process is more dispassionate and cerebral and less stressful and often leads to more accurate judgments. So let's get to a study first in brain scan studies, individuals who score high in this cognitive empathy tend to experience less stress reactivity when they witness distress and others, and they're actually better at responding in helpful ways now. So how do we foster this? Cognitive empathy? Fictional stories and real life narratives offer excellent opportunities for teaching empathy and sharpening a child's perspective, taking skills.

[00:20:08] So what a character think. What do they believe, where they want, how they feel, and how do we do it? When we actively discuss these questions, kids can learn a lot about the way other people's minds work. That's according to a study by Dun Dun in early 2000 2001. And one experimental study, though, here. Here we go. One hundred and ten school age kids were enrolled in a reading program. Now some students were randomly assigned to engage in conversations about the emotional content of the stories they read. Others were asked only to produce drawings about the stories. So after two months, the kids in the conversation group, the ones that were talking about the emotional content of the stories, showed greater advances in emotion, comprehension, theory of mind and empathy. And the positive outcomes remain stable for six months or more. That's according to a study or NOGI in 2014. Other research suggests that role playing is useful. And man, I am a terrible role player in grad school. We often in role playing and even in my office at times I will try some role playing and I will say that it works a lot of times where I might say, OK, let's kind of put you through the paces in this. How would you communicate with your spouse or your kid, that sort of thing.

[00:21:15] But in an elaborate role playing trial, researchers asked young, healthy medical students to simulate the difficulties of old age. For example, students were goggles covered with transparent tape to simulate the effects of cataracts, and they were heavy rubber gloves to experience poor motor control. After the experiment, the student showed greater empathy toward the elderly. That's according to a study by Vaki and 2006. OK, let's cover one more today. Teaching empathy. Tip number five fostering cognitive empathy through compassion training. sounds exciting, right? Literature and role playing can provide children with insights into other minds and other perspectives. But what about those feelings of personal distress? When we kind of feel it in our bones, when we feel bad, when we feel sad for somebody else, how do we how do we keep that type of empathy from overwhelming us? Research suggests that certain meditation practices, mindfulness, mindfulness meditation and compassion meditation may be helpful. And this brought up something for me as a therapist. There are often times where I deal with heavy things, whether I'm dealing with divorce, whether I'm dealing with suicide. And there's just a lot of things that sometimes I think when people say, man, that must be hard or do you take that home with you? And every now and again, when I step back and think, man, I really don't do much, I'll even think, what's wrong with me? You know, am I am I robot? Am I a psychopath? What's going on here? But but, you know, sometimes I just feel so blessed or fortunate with the training or maybe some of the things that have kind of led me to the point of where I am today, that I didn't even necessarily realize that in all of this mindfulness meditation that I learned early in my practice that that is kind of been helpful along the way.

[00:22:50] And I'll kind of get to that a little bit more for examples and studies of compassion training. Let me talk about that participants. What they do is they visualize their own past suffering and they relate it to feelings of warmth and care. So what that can mean at times, and it really is that kind of concept of gratitude we talked about a little bit before Thanksgiving, but. In a little bit of a different way, so sometimes there really is that just when you're kind of overwhelmed, when you have these feelings of personal distress, when you've kind of heard what's going on with someone else, that at times it's important to kind of sit back and just be grateful for what you do have and trying to. And that's why I think it's really important to and I've been doing this more of trying to keep a little bit of a keep some thoughts down every night of what I am truly grateful for that when you can kind of start from that place, what you're grateful for.

[00:23:40] And then at that point, you can even look at some of your own and what they're talking about. This Klimek study from 12 14, then visualize some of your own past sufferings, but then relate it to feelings of warmth and care. What I believe is that then when you kind of relate it to OK, but here are some things that are good. Here are some things that I'm grateful for. And they say that to maintain this focus, sometimes people repeat phrases like, may I be sheltered by compassion or may I be safe or may I be free from the suffering? I think if you are a spiritual person, this is where prayer comes into play. And I'm a big proponent of prayer where at this point then, you know, you can you truly are grateful and thankful for even the challenges that you have and just being grateful to be watched over, guided that sort of thing and feel like that kind of fits into this fits into this compassion, compassion training. So a little bit more here, though. Participants then repeat this exercise, but with other individuals as the targets for compassion. So can I have compassion on others? May I be able to help others? May be a tool in in the hands of healing others.

[00:24:42] They start to imagine a close loved one and then maybe they extend their compassionate wishes to a series of others. A neutral person, a difficult person, humanity in general. Again, if you are maybe more of a spiritual person, you can even see you maybe see some of those things in there where it really is starting to pray for others, even a difficult person, humanity in general, that it does kind of get you out of your own world, your own head, and kind of it just nurtures that compassion. So for adults, a single day of training has been enough to yield differences in brain activity and behavior. A study done by Lederberg in 2011 showed that compared with individuals who received some type of memory training, individuals training and compassion were more likely to help a stranger during the course of a game. So I love that. So even just kind of nurturing this compassion, this prayer, this compassion training that that even doing that will will actually help you develop this empathy. So also, compared with participants trained in effective empathy, they showed less activity. And parts of the brain associated with second hand pain and distress have brain regions linked with reward. Love and affiliation remained active. So the more of this compassion training, that one does less activity in the parts of second hand pain and distress. Now, I think that's key. We're not trying to remove the the empathy piece, but that part that makes people feel bad and causes them to withdraw.

[00:26:01] So I think here's where the here's where this kind of makes more sense. Similar techniques have been used successfully for adolescents and they can be adapted for younger individuals, for preschoolers. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison developed and tested a 12 week classroom program called the Kindness Curriculum. The twenty fifteen, I believe, was the study. Among other things, it features group lessons and attention to emotions in the self and others, practical brainstorming sessions for helping others in exercises and showing gratitude. A randomized controlled study found the program to be effective for teaching empathy and preschool social skills. The researchers responsible for the kind of curriculum they are making that available to the public for free. So if you Google that or try to have a link for that, you can find out what that 12 week curriculum was. But I think the key there is that what what people are doing is as where they as they are able to kind of be more sit there with their emotions and then be able to turn those outward or turn those toward things that they are grateful for or having compassion toward others, then you're able to kind of sit there a little bit more with those feelings and emotions so that when you are presented with these situations of distress from another, instead of withdrawing, you lean in a little bit more.

[00:27:07] You maybe have a little bit more of that empathy. So what did we learn today? Learned that empathy is in fact extremely important. We've learned that there are three different components to empathy, emotional sharing, which again, that occurs when we experience feelings of distress as a result of observing distress in another individual empathetic concern, which is a second component of empathy, which is the motivation to care for individuals who are vulnerable and distressed. And the final one is perspective taking, which is the ability to consciously put oneself in the mind of another individual and imagine what that person is thinking or feeling to me. I think that's the one that most people think of when they think of when they typically think of empathy. So while empathy has become more of a catch, all that that it is not only it does there are different components, empathy, but that also we can do something about empathy. So I covered five of these these tips today and I'm going to cover more in the future. But just a quick summary of the five. Number one, provide children with the support they need to develop strong self-regulation skills. This is that concept that while feeling someone's pain can be unpleasant, we really need to be more emotion coaches and acknowledging rather than dismissing someone's negative feelings, again, I don't think that just applies to children, but teens and even their spouses as well.

[00:28:17] Empathy, tip number two, sees everyday opportunities to model and induce sympathetic feelings for other people. And this is that one that had the Dutch school age children that had you think more a little bit about what the girl was going through, who needed to stay late at school. And once you kind of understood or rated her about how sad she was, then people were willing to help, whether it was their friend or not, teaching empathy. Tip number three was helping people discover what they have in common with other people kind of stepping outside of your comfort zone a little bit. Number four is fostering cognitive empathy through literature and role playing fictional stories. Real life narratives are excellent opportunities for teaching empathy and sharpening a child's perspective, taking skills. What are the characters think, what they believe, what they want, how they feel. And this was that study that had people in a reading program and some were assigned to randomly engage in conversations about the emotional content. Others just drew pictures about the stories. And after two months, the kids in the conversation group showed greater advances in emotion, comprehension, theory of mind, empathy and the positive outcomes remain stable for quite some time. And teaching of the tip number five, compassion training. So whether that is a mindfulness meditation, compassion, meditation, whether it's prayer, whatever that is, that you can continue to foster that concept of empathy.

[00:29:31] Hey, I hope you're enjoying this bonus episode on teaching your kids empathy and never in the history of podcasts. If I had a better, more natural place to insert an ad than between the first five, teaching your kids empathy concepts and the next five, they're coming up. So let me talk about class virtual couch. Of course, you can fast forward through this, if you would, like. I often do on the ads myself. I can't I can't lie. But if you are looking at getting therapy for yourself, if you're trying to encourage a loved one, someone in your family to get therapy, if they're afraid to go into the therapist's office, let me recommend virtual couch. First of all, you get 10 percent off your first month services. They do have a sliding scale. They have scholarships. They have the ability to connect with a therapist within 24 to 48 hours, which is pretty phenomenal in this day and age. And as a therapist myself, of course, I recommend that everybody give therapy a try because we're all hanging on to things that would be helpful to process or the things in our life that we maybe thought we would achieve by now or things we desperately want to achieve so that we won't live a life full of regrets.

[00:30:30] So if you are noticing that your anxiety or your depression is becoming a bit more after what we've had in the last year, the political elections, the the uncertainty of when the world will go back to quote, normal, that was with air quotes then the longer it's left untreated, the worse at times things can get, because when you just leave them kicking around in your head, they don't typically end up in. And they lived happily ever after, after, happily ever after. You know, I was going with that. So you do yourself those around you, your spouse, your kids, you owe it to you to give therapy to try. So if you're nervous about finding the right fit or bumping into somebody in a therapy waiting room, then go to a virtual couch dot. No, no, no. Go to virtual couch and take a look at the world of online therapy. Try what now? Over a million people have done and go today such a virtual couch with the help that you need or maybe didn't even know that you truly needed. What are you waiting for? All right. Let's get back to this episode on empathy, teaching kids empathy, how to model empathy, all things empathy. Coming up. Part two right now.

[00:31:30] So great feedback from part one. So I wanted to get to this part two ASAP and initially plan and wait in a couple of weeks, but I just got a lot of good feedback from it. So let me answer the most asked question that I received over the past week. Here it is. Is it true that women are more empathetic than men? And I really I had to do a little bit of digging here because I would have just reactively said yes. But here's what I discovered. The question, what about sex, male or female or females more empathetic. So folk wisdom argues that women are more empathetic than men and studies generally confirm. And this is what I thought was interesting, that females report more feelings of empathy. But that might be explained by, you know, you could call it cultural training or in societies where men are expected to be the strong, silent type rub a little dirt in it. The Lone Ranger, John Wayne, stoic, that sort of thing. You know, they are they're reluctant to acknowledge their feelings with regard to empathy. So this notion is supported by recent neurological research and a study that presented adults with emotional imagery, including pictures of people in pain when reported feeling more empathy. But the activity in their brains, that's what I thought was fascinating, as measured by an EEG related to it, did not reveal evidence of differences in cognitive empathy. That was from a study by growing in 2012.

[00:32:41] Another study presented kids ranging from ages four to seventeen with animated clips depicting people getting hurt again. The females reported more feelings of empathy. But when researchers looked at physiological signs like pupil dilation and cerebral blood flow, there were no differences between boys and girls. That's from one by a researcher named Michala Julka in 2013. So I think it's kind of it's a little bit too much of a generalization to just say that that girls are. More empathetic than males, and in fact, it kind of digs a little bit deeper to just that social stigma that we put out there that boys are not supposed to show for show their feelings or that men are not supposed to. So there are plenty of the one of the articles I've said. They're plenty called women the world, plenty of warm men. If boys do demonstrate less empathy or empathetic concern for others, this is actually a reason to help them develop their communication skills, not to give up. So it really does say something about helping men and boys be OK with expressing emotion and expressing empathy. So there you go, that if you go look at pupil dilation, cerebral blood flow and even the electrical activity of the brain, men are empathetic. Sorry, guys can out of you. They're a little bit right. I also ran to when I was studying, when I was looking up that I found a pretty interesting article that said, are we morally stupid, morally precocious or something in between? First of all, I is funny with my kids in the home.

[00:34:05] Stupid was a bad word. It was the S word. So that even feels funny to say. But the author, George Eliot, muses that we're all born morally stupid, unable to see others except through the lens of our own interest and standards, which is part of that concept we were talking about last week of empathy, early psychological theories of moral and cognitive development. Dawson's claim, according to Jean PJI children are supremely self-interested or egocentric until about seven years old, and moral rules are slowly acquired through interactions with peers. And I want to do it. I want to do a whole podcast on this next guy, Lawrence Kohlberg, who believe that moral development proceeded through six stages. And the stages are fascinating. But I'm just going to cover a little bit in briefly hear from the young child's focus on the avoidance of punishment, which was kind of one of those early stages to the idealized adult's adherence to universal principles. And the article that I found here is said, Yet two year old Jeremy's animated concern for the welfare of a stranger seems to contradict these claims that we are all inherently morally stupid creatures. So you can see a very young child show that they have a moral compass. So in the 21st century, as it turns out, we don't need to speculate on these matters.

[00:35:11] Scientific studies have provided a startling view of the infant mind. So are we born morally as the article articles that stupid or the picture that is emerging that is far more complex and nuanced than even Eliot or P.J. or Kollberg or any of these psychologists dreamed? Here's the experiment in one series of experiments. Six month old infants. This is this blows my mind. We're shown video clips of a red disc straining to roll up the hill, a yellow square RAICES into view and pushes the circle up the hill. Here comes a blue triangle, it appears, and tries to push the circle back down to the bottom of the hill. The infants are then presented with a tray containing two toys, a yellow square or a blue triangle. Guess which ones the infants overwhelmingly chose to play with. Overwhelmingly a yellow square, the yellow square that had tried to help the red disc up the hill and not the blue triangle that tried to push the circle back down the hill. So six months old kind of blows me away, right? That that there's a little bit of a moral compass there. So kind of fascinating. OK, so back to the topic today, teaching empathy, evidence based tips for fostering empathy in children. And I'm going over again this study by Gwen Duaa, Ph.D.. And just really quickly, I wanted to kind of just jump over those.

[00:36:28] We talked about three different parts of empathy. And this is I guess this is one of those times to say if you have a listen to part one, I would strongly encourage you to do so before you go to part two. But you can jump right in here and hopefully this one will still make sense. But empathy isn't an all or nothing proposition. And there's a researcher's gene density. And Jason Carroll in 2014 did argue that the word empathy has become a catchall for three distinct processes. One is called emotional sharing, which occurs when we experience feelings of distress as a result of observing distress in another individual emotional sharing. So the concept of being an empathy, where you're feeling other people's pain, perhaps empathetic concern, which is the motivation to care for individuals who are vulnerable or distressed. When you see somebody in need, you just want to do whatever you can to take care of them. And then here's the one that we often think of perspective taking or the ability to consciously put oneself in the mind of another individual and imagine what that person is thinking or feeling. So when we talk in terms of everyday somebody being empathetic, I think that we are we are typically talking about this perspective taking. But in in reality, we've got those three components, emotional sharing, empathetic concern and perspective taking. OK, so let's get back to the tips of how to teach empathy, teaching empathy.

[00:37:40] Tip number six, help young children improve their face reading skills so it's hard to show empathy if you can't read face as well. So some children, preschoolers in particular, are at a disadvantage because they truly do misinterpret facial expressions. If you show them photographs of people modeling different emotions, whether it's happy or sad or angry or fear, surprise those sort of things that kids often misidentify what they see. And those difficulties can cause social problems. That's according to a study by Parker in 2013. So what do we do about this? There are evidence based tips on how to help children decipher nonverbal cues of emotion. So some of these are you can be a caregiver who talks insightful, gives insightful talk and conversations around emotion. Study suggests that children develop better. They call them, quote, mind reading skills, and we expose them to accurate, sensitive talk about thoughts and feelings. So you want to be able to to point out, if you see someone sad of identifying that, that would say that person sad. If someone is happy, you're identifying that that person is happy, what's that person going through? So it really is pointing out emotions. So you are helping the your child identify. Correct facial cues. Number two, this is pretty important to ask kids to consider the overall situation in context and then use that information to make sense of facial expressions. So we really shouldn't expect kids, especially little kids, to rely on facial cues alone so young kids can use their understanding of a situation to help them make sense of facial expressions.

[00:39:02] For example, they see somebody drop their ice cream, which is extremely sad that they can imagine how they would feel if this happened to them as well. Have you ever done that? If you ever kind of said, man, if you drop your ice cream buddy, how would you feel? It would seem to give you a sad right. And then his facial expressions are going to change as well. And it's just a matter of bringing awareness to a that's that that's what people look like when they're sad. So then you're kind of feeling you're joining that person in that situation. Talk with children not only about facial expressions, but also about other forms of body language. By the way, this is the third evidence based tip on how we help kids read faces, which is part of this, the piece on empathy, the number six tip talk with children, not only about facial expressions, but also about other forms of body language. So children are sensitive to much more than a person's facial expression. They also notice tone of voice. Boy, do they rate body posture gestures. When you're reading a story together or observing someone in real life help kids make connections between different kinds of nonverbal cues. And I think that's a fun one, too.

[00:39:54] I don't know if you're a I remember when I was reading stories to my kids, can't wait till I can do this with my grandkids, by the way. But really getting animated with the stories. I mean, you do you use up your body language, your facial expressions, tone of voice, and that's a good time to kind of really work that out. So if you're ever in there reading stories, your kids, you feel silly about it. Don't that's that's part of what you're teaching them. You're teaching them how to learn other forms of body language, which is ultimately teaching them empathy. And the fourth tip it gave here for extra practice, try playing emotion identification game. So this is interesting. Researchers have developed training programs that ask kids to practice categorizing the emotions depicted by facial expressions. For example, in one study, researchers gave typically developing elementary school students training in the identification and self production of visual cues. So after only six half hour sessions, children improve their ability to read emotions compared with those who did not have any practice. So how do we do that at home? There are some people that suggest things like emotion cards. You can also go through a magazine. Actually, the kids, not magazines, are these days. You can go through a magazine and you can point out facial expressions, that sort of thing. I remember a book that I used to read to my kids when they were younger, and it really was simply one of those, you know, is this person happy? Is this person said Sassen.

[00:41:00] Crying's this person excited. And it's funny. Those kind of books make more sense now. I think I like them at the time because, you know, it's just fun to hear your little kid maybe mispronounce some different, you know, and is it a boy or girl, you know, or that is that they have light hair, dark hair just to get there when they talk. But so those are ways that you can help your kids identify facial cues. And that is important, right? Teaching empathy, tip number seven. And along those lines show kids how to make a face while they try to imagine how somebody else feels. So suppose I tell you to make a sad face, go and do it right now with your feet on the treadmill, people are going to be a little bit concerned. But if you're driving along or just listening at home, if you make a sad face, just play-acting not really experiment show that simply going through the motions of making a facial expression can make us experience the associated emotion. So while researchers have asked people to imitate certain facial expressions, they have detected changes in brain activity, their characteristic of the corresponding emotion. So people also experience emotion, appropriate changes in heart rate, skin conductance and body temperature. That's from DeSean Jackson in 2004.

[00:42:01] So it actually seems likely that we can boost our empathetic powers by imitating the facial expressions of people that we want to empathize with. And I really feel like, you know, empathy comes in so many different forms or levels or different people or again, have kind of more of this in their factory settings than others. And you can almost watch some people when they are watching movie, their face gets sad or when they're observing someone, you know, watching somebody at church the other day when is giving a talk and somebody near to me. I mean, they just were so emotional as they watch the person up in the pulpit speaking. And you could tell that that person was just taking on those emotions. So, you know, kind of showing kids how to make a face while trying to imagine how somebody else feels that actually making the face again, happy, sad, excited changes some of the things that are going on in your brain to kind of mimic that as well. Teaching empathy, tip number eight, help children develop a sense of morality depends on internal self-control. And this what blows my mind kind of not on rewards or punishments. So kids are capable of being spontaneously helpful and sympathetic. But experimental studies have shown that kids can become less likely to help others if they're given material rewards for doing so. So kind of wild, right? So what the research goes on to say is that when you know that kids in essence want to help and when they know that they are only helping for a reward, that typically they aren't as likely to go back and help a second time.

[00:43:24] And and I know that they're you know, so then the question becomes, is it worth it to bribe or incentivize my kid to help? You know, that's where I go back to. It's almost that concept of harm reduction that I work with in the world of addiction and harm reduction. Just in a quick nutshell is if you have somebody doing a extremely, extremely bad behavior, whether it's some sort of addictive behavior. And I'll give you a really quick example. Right. So back to this concept of working with the concept of pornography addiction. Right. So if you're kind of looking for the triggers, if one of the triggers is complete boredom or sometimes I call it crime of opportunity, let's say for a teenage boy. And so that teenage boy is home alone and there's that trigger. And then there's the thought where he's going to go, start looking at pornography, that sort of thing. And then there's the action. The harm reduction model would say, OK, you know, in a perfect world, he's going to run out of the house. He's going to call a friend, he's going to do that, or you exercise mindfulness techniques, those kinds of things. But but you know what the harm reduction concept says is that or if he's going to play video games for an hour instead of looking at pornography, which is going to, you know, have a far more kind of consequences of negative consequences of working one's sexuality or, you know, kind of blasting out as dopamine receptor.

[00:44:32] So he's gonna want to go to more and more, you know, hardcore, those kind of things. Then playing video games is a considered harm reduction. So every now and again, I'll have a mom maybe text me later on after I've seen a teenager. So you really tell him that playing video games is not a bad thing. And it's like, well, you know, if the if his alternative is that he's he is being very open and honest about that, he is going to look at pornography for an hour then. Yeah. So and the harm reduction model, that's the way that works. So so this is that concept of reward and punishment. If you are incentivizing someone by paying them and they weren't going to do it at all, then, hey, I want them to help because they might get something out of helping. So incentivizing someone to help is not a negative thing with this study is talking about though, is that in you know, in the grand scheme of things, in the perfect world, hitting someone to be able to help because of their own internal reward system or their internal self-control, that that that is ultimately going to be more beneficial than paying somebody off.

[00:45:30] So, again, for instance, kids are more likely to internalize moral principles when their parents talk to them about how wrongdoing affects other people, which is inducing empathy. That's from Hofman Insult saying that was back in the 60s. So there's a link to an article. There's an article on parental style that kind of this parental pressure as a whole article that talked about the research that goes behind incentivizing versus not incentivizing. So I'll throw that on there, too. But, you know, in a pregnant I keep seeing the word in a perfect world, in a world, in a perfect world. But being able to have someone understand that you helping them is going to help that person live a better life or put themselves in a better position. I think I think in terms of a lot of service projects in the last couple of decades, I guess especially some with the kids when we do hygiene kits or you do and things like that for victims of floods or natural disasters. And when you're just getting in there and you're just you know, you get this assembly line go on and you've got all these donations from volunteers and you're putting these kids together and sending out to Third World countries or even people in your own backyard and you've got your kids is doing that because it feels good.

[00:46:30] And then and then kind of nurturing that rather than saying, hey, if you come to this, I'll give you 20 bucks. I think that's kind of where that's that's applying to. All right. Teaching empathy, tip number nine, educating kids about the failures of the imagination. I love this one. Let me kind of set this one up first. Recently, my wife and I attended a football game. It was at a local high school here, Oakmont High School in Roseville, California. My daughter was cheerleading. And so we were going to the football game to to watch her. So Summer's in California can be really hot. The evenings can be just perfect. They really can. But this was an unseasonably cold evening. Now I am bulb 20 different meanings in the opening of my podcast that talked about being an ultra runner. For some reason, many of the ultramarathons I do and our jackets as prizes, I have so many jackets. It's incredible. They should be donating some of those. I have more than pairs of gloves. Then I probably realize again, because of running early, running in the cold, that sort of thing. So I pretty much have the strict I don't like to be cold, so I'm not going to be cold policy. But we were not prepared for this particular night. I think all the other Friday nights leading up to this, it had been just unseasonably warm. And I'm even bringing a jacket.

[00:47:36] I'm in and I'm holding on to my jacket the entire time. But this particular night, I think it was back in September or maybe October, we were we were freezing cold and haven't even mentioned this. Part of this is a California thing or high school kids these days. But at the same game, we were so cold that we were going to walk to the car to get warm during halftime. And I'm talking I can see my car from the fence at this high school. And so just walk up. There's a couple of parents that are manning the gate and I say, hey, doing a stamp or anything on her hand because we're going around the car and just kind of warm up. And they said, oh, no, you don't need a stamp, there's no reentry. And they just did it so kindly. The. I said, I don't know what you mean, and they just said, well, once you go out, you come back in. And I was like, Well, my car's right there, we're freezing. I don't have a jacket. So I'm just going to go out out my car, come back in here. And the woman is so kind who said, yeah, you can't do that. And I thought at the time, 48 year old man, you know, I think I can just kind of trust that I'll go out there and sit in my car, warm up and come back.

[00:48:33] But we were told, no, you can't do it. So anyway, that was a bit of a tangent. But my point being, have you ever failed to prepare adequately for an outing because you didn't imagine how cold or how hungry or thirsty or tired you were going to be? This this is this is kind of fun. This is what researchers call the hot, cold empathy gap. And it appears to be a very universal problem. So when people are comfortable or calm or confident or satiated with their appetites, they forget what it's like to be in the grip of what the researchers call a hot state. They forget how desperate certain physical conditions are, like hunger or thirst or sleeplessness or pain can make one feel. And they underestimate the power of these emotional states. So this is kind of that concept of, you know, when you're sick, you often forget, you know, sometimes a year people say, I don't even remember what it was like to feel better. When I feel better, I am going to never take this for for granted again. I will appreciate every moment that I feel better. But so it's kind of that same same thing where when you are freezing cold, when I was freezing cold at that football game, it's like I can't even remember what it's like to be warm. I can't wait for it to be warm. Now, how does this apply in teaching empathy? The high caliber? The gap leads to mistakes in judgment and failures of empathy.

[00:49:45] So, you know, because it's like you see somebody in there freezing and that sort of thing. And if you're sitting there wearing your jacket, your meaning, your scarf, you're kind of thinking, jeez, you know what's wrong with them? You know, they're just a little cold. But if you think back to those times when you were that cold, that gives you that gives you more empathy, kind of understanding that hot, cold empathy. Yeah. So, for instance, we're talking with our children about something that's painful that they've experienced. You know, we can offer them examples of other people who have been through something similar. The I the idea is absolutely not to dismiss their feelings, but rather to acknowledge those feelings and help the child feel more connected with others. The key do a little bit empathy. Work yourself their first, ask them, you know, tell me more about how you were feeling at that time. What was it like? I mean, so if you're seeing somebody that's freezing cold, then that's the time. Hey there, champ. Do you remember a time when you were freezing or you remember that time that we were wherever we were out under the stars or we can't be forgot your jacket, how cold that was. You know, you were what you were doing. Remember how you or your teeth were chattering. And when they do, it's like, man, what do you guys feel like? And I'm telling you, sometimes that's when your own kids are going to say, I'm going to go get my jacket, you know, and that's that's a parenting win, right? Boy, this one popped in my head.

[00:50:49] Maybe this is a little too much information talking about that hot, cold empathy year long, long ago that was in a double decker bus in England, speaking my software days. And I don't think I've ever had to use the restroom so bad in my entire life. Again, I'm an adult. I'm a grown man. And I was to the point where it was so bad that I was kind of like, you know what, I'm sure grown men of you of wet themselves in the past as when the time where I was thinking, I probably I'm going to want to edit this. Right. But I'm not going to edit it. But I was like, they get oh my gosh, this is like insane. I mean, I am I am I am dying here. You know what happens if the bladder explodes? I mean, does my medical insurance carry over in England? I was going through all of this. And then finally we stop. And I remember it was near Harrods, a very big department store in England. And I just I get off the double decker bus. I don't think I was supposed to at that point, but I just thought, I don't care.

[00:51:40] I'll get a taxi, I'll do something, and I end up going to the restroom. And and I just remember to this day of how how bad that hurt. So so my whole point being, man, what you know, what do I do now? If we're going on a road trip, if my kids even so much as just a hint that they have to go to the restroom and my mind goes right back to that Herod's experience, I am not about to be that dad. That's like, you know, we're driving to Utah from California and you get one stop, kids. It's like, oh, no, we'll stop one hundred times if we have to get to the point now where my kids even, you know, I think they just assume they're like, Dad, do you have to go to the restroom? Like, I know what that means. I say, yep, absolutely. We'll find the next one, because that's that empathy, you know, that cold empathy gap. I can I can put myself back in that situation. And the last thing I want is one of my kids to just be dying for hours and have me just sitting up there, you know, listening to the radio or something like that and not stopping to go to the bathroom where they want to stuff the bathroom so so we can teach kids about the existence of the empathy. Yep. I love that concept and the ways that it can bias our judgment.

[00:52:44] So before we decide that somebody is being unreasonable, we should ask ourselves, have we forgotten what it's like to be in a situation? Have we forgotten what it's like to be completely starving or absolutely tired or to have to go to the bathroom so bad that you were willing to put yourself on the upstairs floor of a double decker bus driving around in England? So again, so that one of my kids has to go, we are pulling over and we are going because of that that hot, cold and bitter. Yep. I understand that. All right, let's talk about the tenth tip on teaching empathy, talk with your children about the mechanisms of moral disengagement. I thought this was kind of an interesting concept. In fact, I am going to pause here. I'm going to sneeze again. We'll be right back. We'll be right back after these. Said now the sneeze doesn't. It's gone. It's gone. There's a little bit of a sneeze, so you're going to put your podcast. So let's go back to TED, talk with children about the mechanisms of moral disengagement, the rationalizations that people use to justify callous or cruel acts. This one is deep. If you've taken any psychology class in high school, college, most likely you've heard of this research. Research has demonstrated that average, well-adjusted people can be persuaded to harm others or even torture them as long as they're provided with the right rationale.

[00:53:48] In a famous series of experiments developed by Stanley Milgram of Yale University, subjects were told that they were participating in a, quote, learning experiment that required them to administer painful electric shocks to another person. This back in nineteen sixty three. The experiment was a fake. It was a ruse that was made convincing with plausible props and an actor who pretended to be in pain. After the study, participants pressed the button. But the participants were fooled and urged on by an authoritative man in a white lab coat. They dutifully administered shocks to the screaming victim. And in fact, I think this stuff's on YouTube. I remember watching this and I've seen it a couple of times, but almost sixty five percent of the participants continued to press the button even after the victim had appeared to fall unconscious. So if you haven't seen the study, it's just it's mind blowing. So somebody here, someone in another room and the person the that is in there doing the study, the participant presses a button and then it gives the person an electric shock. And there's an authoritative figure saying, all right, go ahead and go and press it again. So sixty five percent of the participants continue to even press the button after the victim appeared to fall unconscious. The people were not psychopaths. They were ordinary people that were exposed to social pressure from a plausible authority figure. We throw a lab coat on the guy and said people are willing to kind of do things that are outside of their comfort zone.

[00:55:04] So with the right rationalizations, otherwise decent people get disengaged from their moral responses. And it's not just an adult phenomenon. There are some studies that show that kids can do it, too. So if we're really serious about teaching empathy, I think it's important. I'm not saying you take your five year old and show them that experiment, but I remember that one did that one that one set there are sunk in with me for a while where I thought you just being I love the fact that just being aware that that kind of a study exists is enough to kind of change the dynamic, meaning that I you know, I would like to think that I would have been one of those thirty five percent of the people that would not have pressed the button. But now, knowing that that that is where people can get to, if they do feel this authoritative figure is asking them to do something that is against their moral compass, that, that they will say no. And this goes back to, you know, I guess this is a nice way to maybe wrap this one up today, but really goes back to just being more authentic, which which is that there's a big soapboxes, feeling authentic. So feeling OK with what you feel is OK. So if you are one who does not want to put someone through screaming in another room as you press a button, that is that researchers telling you to do so, that you're going to not do it, that that you are going to step back and just say, OK, now that's not what I'm going to do.

[00:56:22] And if somebody saying, do you know that I'm telling you to or that you're really letting me down or whatever, it's like, I don't care. I'm being authentic. This is not who I am. I'm not someone who is going to inflict pain or torture or someone else. So and I think that's kind of the big takeaway from that teaching empathy. Tip number 10, which is from that Milgram study from the nineteen sixties. So so there you have it. If you go back to the first episode now this one, you got ten tips on teaching empathy. So I'm going to try to do this thing again that I really get some nice feedback from last time. Let's go over these. So what are the what are the tips? No one was are teaching empathy. Tip number six. And so number six from today. The first five were in episode one where it was it was help you help young children improve their face reading skills. So it really is learning how to read visual cues. So and that really does go back to talking about emotions, talks about body language.

[00:57:14] It talks about playing emotional ID games, talks about really amping up your storytelling while you're doing that, teaching kids how to make a face while they imagine how somebody else feels. Remember that when and it is that thing. I think you do hear some of the research. It shows when you smile, you know what happens in the brain lights up and that sort of thing. Same thing with friends, same thing with making a sad face that that it really does change. It detects changes in brain activity there, characteristic of those corresponding emotions. Number eight had to do with helping children to develop a sense of morality that depends on internal self-control, not rewards are punishments. I skipped an entire paragraph that I that I had highlighted here in my notes. It was talking about other research showing that kids are more likely to develop an internal sense of right and wrong if their parents use inductive discipline, an approach that emphasizes rational explanations and moral consequences, not arbitrary rules and heavy handed punishments. So this is the I was going all the way into that. The stuff about. A punishment, but for instance, kids are more likely to internalize moral principles when their parents talk to them about how wrongdoing affects other people, inducing those feelings of empathy, not just again, I like the I miss that whole concept of not just arbitrary rules and heavy handed punishments. When I have teenagers in my office, for example, I know that they're not perfect.

[00:58:25] I absolutely know that. I think I've said before that parents and teenagers to me and say fix them when in reality what we're really looking for is more modeling behavior by the parents. And a big component of that is not just these arbitrary rules that often teenagers tell me that, you know, they know that things are going to be taken away from them anyway. And they the their phone or driving privileges or whatever it is, is going to be taken away. And then it's going to be just held as some just arbitrary rule. They may get it back. They may not get it back. They'll get it back when they're, quote, doing better or when they finally are being nice. And those are arbitrary rules. So those arbitrary rules don't leave a lot of hope from the person being punished. I can I can tell you that from working with hundreds and hundreds of teenagers. So, you know, when you can kind of come up with those and say, I love that hard approach, when everybody's kind of sitting down together, when the waters are calm, you're coming up with some consequences that everyone's on board with. And there's a there's a time frame to them. They know exactly why they're getting the punishment or the consequence, and they know that there will be an end to it. And that way, you as a parent are not punished, but you actually are just enforcing something that has been agreed upon by everybody else.

[00:59:31] If you want more information on that, go go look up the podcast I've done on the nurturant approach and then teaching empathy. Tip number nine was educating kids about failures of the imagination. That is that hot, cold empathy gap. So, you know, we don't always prepare perfectly. And it's kind of good to put yourself back in those situations where you maybe were cold or hungry or tired or those sort of things as well. And number ten is it was that one about moral disengagement, that rationalizations that people make that keep them from being apathetic. All right. Hey, thank you so much for taking the time to learn these additional concepts of teaching empathy. And I know a lot of them were about teaching empathy to kids, but a lot of this, too, can be used with teenagers and spouses or I hope that it brings awareness to you as well, especially like that one that really rang true to me. Was that called cold empathy gap? Because we've all been in those situations where we have not been prepared and then we do just feel distress. And so then when we see someone else who is not prepared in a different situation, I'm sure is easy to kind of go into our own moral high horse or judgment. And there are times where we have been that person. So hopefully that will express some empathy as well.

[01:00:37] Ok, there you have it. All things you ever wanted to know about empathy, teaching, empathy, model empathy. I hope that those are some things that you can put into daily practice, because truly, empathy is one of those concepts that we we need to teach more, which we taught the class on empathy in school because it can be vulnerable, it can be scary, but it truly is one of the key fundamental principles of human connection, of human interaction. So make sure you go stop by Tony Overbay, dot com slash magnetic if you're interested in learning more about the upcoming release of round two of the magnetic marriage course. And I would also love it if you if you like this episode, feel free to share it or read it or review it anywhere where you get your podcasts. And I would, of course, love to to talk with you on Instagram, a virtual couch. Feel free to stop by there, send me a message, questions, that sort of thing as well. So have an amazing, wonderful day week. And taking us out, as usual, is the wonderful and talented Aurora Florence with one of my favorite songs of all time, not just

[01:01:36] Because it's at the end of my podcast, but it's wonderful.

Are you in need of a parenting upgrade? Even from the most well-intentioned parents, our kids can still walk away from key parenting moments feeling shame, feeling alone, and often, even as we’re trying to teach life lessons, we more often than not end up not only missing an opportunity to show our kids that we’re truly there for them, but we miss key chances to model empathy, ownership of our own behavior and even deeper concepts of compassion, and standing confidently on their own two feet. In today’s episode we attack parenting more from a “what not to do” by referencing Christine Hammond’s article “Shame Based Parenting, A Narcissists Specialty” Tony also breaks down the differences of sympathy, empathy, pity and compassion by discussing Dr. Neel Burton’s article “Sympathy vs. Empathy”
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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.
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Tony also mentioned his appearances this week on two podcasts, The Betrayed, The Addicted and The Expert with hosts Ashlyn and Coby, and Virtual Couch former guest Brannon Patrick where we discuss narcissism in detail and the challenges people face in relationships with narcissistic individuals and The Millennial Member Podcast hosted by Emily Ensign where we discuss the topic of pornography, what helps with recovery, and what doesn’t

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

[00:00:00] In 1909, psychologist Edward Tichnor translated the German word inFulham, which meant feeling into into English empathy, and little did Tichnor know that at that time. Maybe some one hundred and twelve years later, this little seven letter word would cause friends to get angry against friends. Nations would divide because of a lack of it. In my profession, marriages fail because one partner speaks it even in their very bones, while the other person literally doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. They aren't being mean. They're just telling it like it is, or the other person is just being too sensitive. And what happens when this word empathy is never modeled from childhood? Because one or both parents never had it modeled for them? Do they even understand the gravity of this simple word, empathy? So coming up on today's episode of The Virtual Couch, I'm going to talk about what a lack of empathy in parenting looks like, what it sounds like, and why, if you lack it, it is time that you learn it. Today, we're going to delve into the world of shame based parenting, and that may have been the way that you were raised, but might have in the way you were parented. But that doesn't mean that you have to continue the pattern, the data is in. It's pretty darn conclusive. As a matter of fact, the building inner wealth, not reacting to the negative.

[00:01:09] Building this wealth within your child doesn't mean that you have to learn the latest slang and shop at some trendy stores at the same stores as your kid as the mall. Although don't get me wrong, especially fathers out there, your wardrobe might indeed need a bit of sprucing up. I know mine. Mine certainly does. No positive parenting building in wealth. Rewarding and energizing success means moving from being the punisher to the guide. Gone are the days of your child wondering which version of dad or mom is going to walk in that door. Because from the view of the child, that is a lot of stress. That's a lot of mental energy and calories to burn. That's a lot of cortisol flowing through the body, stress levels going high, waiting to jump in to fight flight or freeze. It's a lot of teetering on the edge. And so it's no wonder our kids seem to often to be blown about by the winds of whomever will give them attention. And that role needs to be you parents. And it's time to get rid of the excuses. So buckle up and prepare yourselves for what could be a bit of a bumpy ride. If you identify with any of these upcoming parenting models or techniques, it's time for a change. And I know you have it in you, but it's going to take humility and honesty and letting go of some of the control that you may still be hanging onto from your own childhood experiences.

[00:02:14] So we are going to talk about that and so much more coming up on today's episode of The Virtual Couch. And today's episode of The Virtual Couch is brought to you by and sure 2020, it may finally be in our rearview mirrors for so many people. There is a lot of catching up to do, a lot of processing necessary, a lot of motivation needed. So you owe it to yourself, your family, your kids that we're going to talk about today, your pets, your future spouse, your future children, future you, whatever it is you need to tap into to get help, do what over a million people have done already. Visit and get 10 percent off your first one service. Answer a few questions and you'll find a therapist that fits your need, fits your preferences, whether you're looking for help in dealing with depression or anxiety, relationships, trauma, grief, OCD and more with counselors, licensed professional therapists. You get the same professionalism and quality you would expect from an office counselor, but with the ability to communicate when and how you want. So again, that's What are you waiting for, 10 percent off your first month services.

[00:03:13] Go give it a shot today. All right, hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 243 of the virtual couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. I'm a certified monville, have coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four and creator of The Path Back, which is an online pornography recovery program that is helping people put pornography as a coping mechanism in the rearview mirror once and for all. It's done in a strength based hold the shame, become the person you always want it to be kind of way. So if you're interested in taking a look at the path back, please head over to And there you can download a short ebook that describes five myths that people fall prey to when trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. Again, And go to There's a link to everything there. You can go check out things on the virtual couch where I have some wonderful people creating some amazing graphics. And I'm so grateful for for the team that is putting those things together and try to be more engaging. Got some fun Instagram stories coming up. And also, you're going to hear a lot of promotion around the magnetic marriage course. That is coming up soon. But I want to I want to get right past that. You can go find all that stuff. I want to get right to the content today. And as you can tell by the intro I want to talk about, I'm going to talk a little bit about empathy, which is one of my favorite subjects.

[00:04:23] But we're going to really get specifically into some examples of what shame based parenting is. And that is going to be based on a pretty amazing article off of Psych Central by a two time virtual couch podcast guest Christine Hammon, who works primarily in the world of narcissism. And so if you are hearing more and more about narcissism lately, I am, too. Sometimes I feel like that is that is what the world is kind of attuned to. And I know that that term may at times feel like it is overused. But there are a lot of characteristics. I think that one of the questions I get asked the most is somebody isn't grandiose. They don't think of themselves often when they when they're looking at someone in their family and they think when they hear narcissism, they think that they're just gazing into a mirror all of the time. And while that is one type of narcissist, there are some subtypes that are not as well known. There's a vulnerable narcissist, an inverted narcissist, covert and overt narcissist, sematic narcissist, a cerebral narcissist. So we've got all these subtypes, but some of the characteristics or qualities are very much the same. And that is this concept of kind of not kind of not owning up to your actions, not apologizing. Some of the phrase, my bad does not happen.

[00:05:35] I was talking with someone yesterday in my office who said, why is it so difficult for people to apologize and for people to just say, and I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to do that or I'm sorry that I'm sorry that that happened. I'm sorry that I wasn't thinking about that. And that caused you some grief. But for some reason, that is really difficult for so many people to do is apologize. And we'll get to that a little bit later. So before I even get to the shame based parenting, I wanted to just touch on an article. This is where I got that 1909 psychologist Edward Tichnor information from and that is it's purely titled Empathy versus Sympathy from Psychology Today. And it's by Neil Burton, who's an MD. He is a psychiatrist, philosopher and writer who lives and teaches in Oxford, England. So he goes on to talk about that Edward Tightener story, which is really the the the dawn of the word empathy. And empathy, as Neil refers to, can be defined as a person's ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person, a fictional character assassination being. And it involves first seeing someone else's situation from their perspective, and second, sharing their emotions, including, if any, of their distress. And so I go big on this concept. I am such a huge fan of empathy and trying to learn more and more about empathy. And there's a huge difference of empathy versus sympathy. And what I love about this article that Neil shares is we're often talking about empathy and he says it's often confused with pity, sympathy and compassion.

[00:07:00] So I want to break down those and then I want to get into this shame based parenting article by Christine Hamman. So empathy, he says, is often confused again with pity, sympathy and compassion, which are each reactions to the plight of others. Pity is a feeling of discomfort at the distress of one or more sentient beings and often has paternalistic or condescending overtones. And I really love the way that he framed that. So pity more has these paternalistic or condescending overtones. So implicit in this notion of pity, he says, is that the object does not deserve its plight or moreover, is unable to prevent or reverse or overturn it. So pity is less engaged than something like empathy or sympathy or compassion. So pity, as is Neil, refers as amounting to little more than a conscious acknowledgment that someone is going through something. And it really is more of this. I feel like this looking down upon or condescending view. I pity this person. So sympathy is this comes from the words fellow feeling or community of feeling. So sympathy is a rare feeling of care and concern for somebody, often somebody close, which is accompanied by a wish to see them better off or happier. So compared to pity, Neil says that sympathy implies a greater sense of shared similarities together. With a more profound personal engagement, however, sympathy, unlike empathy, does not involve shared perspective or shared emotions, and I love how this is one of my favorite things about this article.

[00:08:27] He calls out that while the facial expressions of sympathy do convey caring and concern, they don't necessarily convey a shared distress. So sympathy and empathy often lead to each other, but not always. For instance, it's possible to sympathize with things such as, he says, hedgehog's and lady birds, but not, strictly speaking, to empathize with them. And conversely, psychopaths with absolutely no sympathy for their victims can nonetheless make use of empathy to ensnare or torture them. They can they can play upon these these tools of empathy to get someone to fall prey to them. Sympathy should also be distinguished from benevolence, which is a much more detached and impartial attitude. And compassion or suffering alongside someone is more engaged with simple empathy and associated with an active desire to alleviate the suffering of its object. While empathy is I share your emotions with compassion, I not only share your emotions, but I also elevate them into a universal and transcending experience. He goes on to say that compassion, which builds upon empathy, is one of the main motivators of altruism. So one of the examples I give often whenever I get a chance to speak, I talk about this simple version of empathy versus empathy that I learned long ago, and that is you are walking down a road and there let's just say you look down and there is someone that is stuck in this deep pit and we're not talking to allegorical or metaphorical pit of despair, but I'm talking about a literal pit several feet down in the ground.

[00:09:46] Sympathy is looking upon him and really feeling sad for their situation and saying, I am so sorry you're in there. That breaks my heart. But I kind of got to go. I got some things to do. Where in empathy looks more like I see this person in this pit and I jump down in there with them and I say, oh my gosh, like, tell me what you're feeling or what's this like for you? Have you been in a pit before? Are you afraid of the dirt? You know, is it is it cold down here? You know, what are you tell me about this. What are what are you experiencing here? Give me the best opportunity that I can have to just feel and join you with these emotions so that you can have this shared experience that we are in this together and that I will do my best to understand what you're going through. And one of the key notes here with empathy, while again and this is where I was headed a minute ago, and yet I digress. But with empathy, that is the ultimate goal. I want to try and understand the plight of others. And I want to, if I can, as as Neil Burton talked about, I want to also get to this level of compassion.

[00:10:45] I want empathy with compassion, which is my ultimate goal. But in reality, can you truly have pure empathy for somebody and bless their hearts for trying? But the answer is no. Why? Because no one has actually been through that situation that that person is going through. Even if we're in that pit with that person, I'm in that pit with my own personal experiences. So in the world of acceptance and commitment therapy, we often talk about you are the only version of you with all of your nature and nurture, birth, order, DNA, abandonment, rejection, fear, hope, loss, grief, dreams. So therefore, even in that very pit, if I am in that pit with you, we are still having different experiences based on all the things we bring into that pit. I was speaking one time and I was grateful that the person participating or that I was able to lovingly pick on was a good sport. But I was talking with a lot of people that were in these leadership positions for a particular church training that I was asked to do. And it was people that were trying to reach out and help people within their congregation. And there was a person that raised his hand and he said, you know, what do you do? Because it can be really frustrating when you were trying to help someone and you know exactly what they're going through. But they they don't believe you or they don't want to take your advice.

[00:11:58] This was an older man, I'd say older than me, probably mid 50s. And so I took a took a chance and I said, tell me a little bit more about your situation. And you talked about having this opportunity to interact with this single mom of three young children. And he said, I know what she's going through. I've been there. I've had three young children before, and you can see where I'm going. Bless his heart, he wanted to say, I empathize. I know what you're going through. But in reality, was that more of sympathy? I mean, in a paternalistic way, it was that almost even more of pity. I think it was more in the vein of sympathy, but I said so, and again, thankfully, he was a good sport. But I said, so what was that like when you were a young single mom of three young children? And of course, people chuckled and he said, point well made. But so even when we're trying our best to have empathy, it still isn't the exact experience of that person's going through. So why am I setting the table with this as we're going to get to parenting? Because we want to say, look, champ, I've been there before. I've been 13. Now granted, in my situation, it was thirty seven years ago. Things are a little bit different. I had three channels of TV. We would ride a bike if I had to call somebody had to make sure that I can try to stretch the cord out of the room so my parents wouldn't hear.

[00:13:10] And so I don't know what it's like to be a 13 year old boy today. I have no idea what it's like, so from an empathetic standpoint, my job would be to say tell me what it's like being a 13 year old boy right now. What is that like with technology in your hand? What's that like when people don't even necessarily want to hang out as much as they want to just share Memes on their phones? And as much as I might want to say that I know what you're going through, I just this sets the stage for what we're talking about today. I really don't know what they're going through. They're 13. And if you listen to the last episode I did on how to parent today's teens, then I hope, matter of fact, stop right now and go back and listen, because I lay out some pretty crazy data that talks about exactly how quickly generations are changing along with technology. And we if you're anything over about thirty five, we're kind of being left in the dark a bit. That is not to sound doom and gloom or ominous, but to say it, we're in a better position now to say, tell me more about that. What's that like? That our own parents were our own parents really did, for the most part, basically know what we were going through with, you know, again, I like they always say that they're talking about records and we were talking about CDs.

[00:14:21] So those are still in the same ballpark. Now, I want to talk about CDs and we're now talking about streaming video and audio and having everything at your fingertips. No. One, if I tell my kids a story about buying a CD the day it comes out, and I think they will just find this fascinating and amazing, they don't and bless their hearts, they don't even have a concept of what I'm talking about. When my parents would talk about going and buying the new record, when it came out, I knew what that feeling was. But then I could sound a little bit cooler because we had CDs, we had this new technology. And yet then when I would go play a record at times on the record player downstairs and I was going to jump rope working out and I would hear the sound of the record, the needle along the vinyl, that that was amazing and that was incredible. Now, there's none of that. It is I want it right now. And as a matter of fact, I can have it. So I'm not trying to go into the kids these days already. But empathy versus sympathy, I feel like that. That's why I wanted to set the table with that. Let me go on and talk about. So he talked about compassion being more of a suffering alongside someone, again, more engaged than simple empathy.

[00:15:23] And it's associated with an active desire to alleviate the suffering of an object. So with empathy, again, this is this author of this article. His name's Neil with Empathy says I share your emotions with as we just went over trying your best to share those emotions and then compassion. I not only share your emotions, but also elevate them to a universal and transcending experience. Compassion, which builds on empathy is again a main motivator to altruism. So let's get into and again, that was from Neil Burton. And I'm grateful for that article. I have the link to that in the show notes. So let's get to this article about shame based parenting. It's from two time virtual couch guest Christine Hamman, who I interviewed about not only narcissism, but also borderline personality disorder. And I can put those links in the show notes as well. But Christine knows her stuff. And one of the reasons why I wanted to do this article is after I do this episode was after I released the episode last week about here's a guide to parenting teenagers these days. I got a lot of good feedback, but I also do a fair amount of work and bringing awareness to the concept of things like gaslighting or the concept of narcissistic personality traits or narcissistic personality disorder. When people feel like they are being made crazy making, when they feel like their reality is being questioned constantly or when their spouse is someone who they can.

[00:16:44] And if you are not in this situation, this is going to sound like a fairy tale. But I work regularly with people that say I literally have never heard my spouse apologize about anything or if it is an apology, it's an apology that goes something like this, I guess. I'm sorry, but you took it the wrong way. You made me do it anyway. Now that I think about it, I'm kind of angry. And I can't believe that you did the thing that you did that now makes me feel like I have to apologize. So even in that apology, there's gaslighting, gaslighting throughout the apology. So there are people that are in those type of situations. And then the feedback that I got from my my episode last week was a whole lot about those kind of parents, you know, those shame based parents who don't take ownership of what they've possibly done in a situation and how that works or what that looks like when they are interacting with their kids. When you when you are a parent and you're not modeling the I'm sorry are when you're not modeling my bad, how can we expect our kids to then have those traits or qualities at that moment or even moving forward? And I did a podcast not too long ago on the concept of accountability. Let me grab a drink. And in that podcast, it was fun, I had almost an aha moment while I was recording it, because in this accountability podcast I was reading an article at the time and the article gave an example of a mother showing up to pick up their daughter from high school.

[00:18:14] And the mother was two hours late. And if you are a parent and you have high school kids and there's probably I know I can think of times where I have been pretty late picking up one of my kids and they gave the example of the kid coming in the car. And the kid is frustrated. They've been sitting outside and they've been embarrassed and they feel like, you know, what's wrong with me? They feel like their parent has abandoned them. They haven't been able to get a hold of their parent, whatever the situation may be, as they watch their friends leave, as they try to feign confidence when there's really embarrassment there. But they get into the car and they say, I can't believe, where were you? Like, I can't believe you were so late. And the first response by the parent is, you don't talk to me like that. And so there's a lot to be said right there. So there is a lack of apology or lack of taking ownership. And then there is a I'm going to I'm going to diffuse or I'm going to, in essence, gaslight with anger. I'm going to I'm going to meet your anger with even more anger. And now I'm going to make you feel bad about it. I'm going to say you have no idea what my day was like.

[00:19:11] You know, when a parent says that, so when you have those kind of situations modeled and then we expect our kids to then own up to their mistakes, they are being trained to not own up to their mistakes, to kind of dig into their bunker. And this, too, shall pass weather the storm. You know, this is either that fight flight or freeze they're picking on either fight or sometimes it's freeze. They're not going to say a word. And then finally, you're done where as a parent in that same situation, if you if they come into that car and you say, I am so sorry, I'm running late, I should have prepared should have planned ahead, I should have reached out to somebody else. Talk about a way to diffuse and no, you are not a weak parent. Your kid isn't now going to walk all over you and say, holy cow, I can't count on you for anything. No, you're modeling empathy. You're showing them I care about you and I am sorry. So sometimes that simple concept of saying my bad I should have planned a little bit more ahead is going to show that kid a more of a solid example of what it means to be an adult or what it means to be responsible or take ownership for their own actions than anything else. You as the parent have that opportunity and that ability to model that type of parenting. So let's get to this shame based parenting.

[00:20:26] Christine Hammond shares a story of it's a pretty harrowing tale about some narcissistic abuse that happens to a young man, but it sets the stage for all this kind of jump to the end.

[00:20:41] But she's talking about the situation with the young man and she says his narcissistic father's early conditioning had unknowingly caused his shaming obsession. This is not an uncommon narcissistic behavior, but why does a narcissist do this?

[00:20:54] So usually when there's shame based parenting, if this is coming from a a narcissistic parent or a parent with narcissistic personality traits or tendencies, usually they harbor a deep rooted insecurity, which is masked by the narcissism that they can't tolerate exposing even in the slightest. So go back to that example where I'm saying, hey, own up to your mistakes and it's OK. As a matter of fact, you're doing your kids a favor by modeling that empathetic behavior. But I feel like this is where that narcissistic tendency or behavior can't tolerate exposing themselves even in the slightest. So in order to self protect, this leads a narcissistic, manipulative, manipulative shame others to maintain their superior status and to deflect any vulnerability. A narcissist is unwilling to feel their own shame and fear. So instead they divert it by purposely causing others to feel that same way. So in the case of this example, Christine Hammon said this. This person's father was targeting him to reinforce the father's own confidence. So to put an end to behavior like that, it's necessary to be aware, aware of the ways that a narcissistic parent shames their child. So if you are engaged in any of these parenting situations or techniques, I am not diagnosing you as a narcissist. In fact, I can't I can't do that professionally. And and this is the thing where I feel like the concept of narcissism gets thrown around in a very heavy way of you are a narcissist. But man, I will own up to having narcissistic traits or tendencies. I love to say to my wife, destines of narcissism. I recently had Jennifer Finless and Fife on my podcast. It was amazing episode. And we talked about anxious and attachment styles within a relationship.

[00:22:28] And then I also we answered a question by someone that listens to both of our podcast. And the question had to do with Jennifer saying, show up big in your marriage. If you're going to do it, go all in. But then this person learning a lot from the podcast that I do about narcissistic behavior and about gaslighting and about feeling like this. There's this crazy making. And the person said, hey, can the two of you talk about what that looks like together? And I love the fact that Jennifer really validated a lot of the things that I've said in the sense that in a sense, we. We all have these narcissistic traits or tendencies, and that's why I like to look at this on a spectrum.

[00:23:01] As a matter of fact, I was listening to an audio book not long ago and I was on a run and the author had this concept that he shared that I had to try and speak a text to myself through Siri in my headphones, which was more difficult than I thought because of my laborious breathing. But the concept that I shared in this text to myself was that gaslighting. It comes from a childhood defense mechanism. So if you think about that, that's kind of mind blowing. I processed it with a couple of clients the next day. And if you look at a 9 or 10 year old kid, maybe that's the sweet spot. They have a hard time owning up to any of their behavior. They may freeze by shutting down, crying or getting anger angry. They may have take flight literally run away or they may fight. And they're telling you, I didn't do that, you know, and they will sit there and on America's Funniest Home Videos, it's the cutest thing in the world where you have some kid with chocolate over their face and you're asking little kid, did you eat the bar of chocolate? And they're saying, no. I mean, that's that's this extent of not owning up to their behavior. So gaslighting is this childhood protection. It's this childhood defense mechanism. Unfortunately, that concept carries often into adulthood to the point where then people cannot say, yeah, the chocolate.

[00:24:14] Instead, it's like, are you kidding me? And any chocolate, they get chocolate over their face. So that's where and oftentimes when you are engaged in someone that is gaslighting, you are making you feel crazy when you know they have chocolate on their face that you feel like I feel like I'm arguing with a ten year old kid. And it's because that gaslighting principle comes forth as a childhood defense mechanism. I've talked about this in two of I swear, my last three or four podcast episodes. So please go back and listen. I know Episode 240 is one where I talked about it in more depth. But this author, Robert Glover, who laid out the childhood abandonment and attachment wounds in a way that just has made so much sense, I swear it has made its way into every therapy session since that time that I that I have with my clients where he talked about if we're talking about childhood development cycles, if you look at maybe five years and under when the the I like to say the wiring is being laid under the cement foundation of the brain, so to speak, that that model of attachment looks like this. You are a pink, squishy baby and you are your biggest fear is abandonment.

[00:25:18] If your needs aren't being met, as far as you know, it means death. Abandonment equals death. And you go from this point where you cry and when you cry, you get picked up and held. You get fed, you get your diaper changed to then slowly but surely being abandoned, as in all of us get abandoned, abandoned there means. No snacks before dinner. No, we're not going to Disneyland. You can't stay up past your bedtime. So is this ego centered kid, which is not a judgmental statement. It's just the thing. Then the more that things are not happening that you want to happen and you're looking at it from your five year old brain, not your 50 year old brain, not your 30 year old brain, but your 5 year old brain, you're thinking, what is going on? I just get all my needs met. I am the center of the universe. Do they not know? So that starts to lead to two things. One, good old toxic shame that this must be about me. This must be the people must not like me. And this is where you see the child children of divorce, for example, when they're younger, you know, you can tell them, hey, this isn't about you, champ. But at the time, they can really struggle with that and they can really feel like, wow, this, you know, if I would have done things different.

[00:26:22] I mean, we do that in all kinds of things, you know, that that principle of hindsight can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes we can look back in hindsight and say, oh, that makes sense. I was a kid at that time. My parents are going through their own struggles, so that wasn't on me. But then there are other times where we look back in hindsight and think, wow, I made that all about me, but but bless my heart, that's all I knew at the time. So that those those abandonment attachment principles move forward in that toxic shame. But then it also then leads to us trying to figure out how to get our needs met because all of a sudden we weren't getting our needs met. So this is where we start taking on who do I need to be? How do I need to show up in a particular situation? Almost like what mask do I need to wear in order to be accepted or loved so that I won't be abandoned, so my family won't leave me and my community won't leave me, my church won't leave me, my wife won't leave me. And all of those go against really figuring out who you are as a person.

[00:27:17] So this is getting me away from this shame based parenting. So let me let me kind of talk about this a little bit. Christine Hammond lays out these examples of this shame based parenting. The first one she talks about is historical revisionism. She says a narcissist will retell their child's story with shaming commentary favoring the parents purpose. This is frequently done in front of others as a way of discounting any success that the child might have accomplished. The narcissist will state that they are trying to keep their child humble for their own benefit, though in reality they're causing humiliation. And now those witnesses to the storytelling view the child in a light that is filtered by the parent giving the parent complete control over the situation. This one I've heard so many examples of this one.

[00:27:57] Where the narcissistic parent will remind the child of their absolute dependency on the parent, you know, the stories will be about childhood bike ride. So, you know, the child might remember, it is a thrilling day where they just finally figured out how to ride a bike. But the historical revisionist, narcissistic parent will retell the story as, no, you were you that wasn't that wasn't how it was. I mean, I'm glad you created this memory for yourself. But I was I was the one telling you, you got to figure this out. You got to hang in there. You know, if it hadn't been for me, you would never be riding a bike and you cried and you didn't want to do it anymore. And I kept telling you, you know, this is something you got to do. And so you can see that the the narcissistic or the insecure parent has a hard time even giving that five year old or six year old kid trying to figure out how to ride their bikes credit. So in a historical revisionist setting, does that build the child's inner wealth? No, it makes the child feel crazy. It makes the person is there remembering this story about their learning how to ride a bike.

[00:28:55] All of a sudden they think, wait a minute, I thought I had a whole different version of that. But I mean, this my my parent, I mean, that that must be the truth. And I think that's one of the hardest things about this shame based parenting model, is that it is there because of the parent's own insecurities. And so what is the harm in letting that child, no one probably have their correct memory of it? Is their memory of that was this glorious day where I finally learned how to ride a bike to then only be told that if it hadn't been for me, confidence breaking. That's the second one she talks about. She says a narcissistic parent uses private, detailed information to expose their child at the worst possible time. This is done to reduce the child while elevating the narcissist. The narcissist might even do this just before a major life event as a way of undermining any confidence their child might have obtained. And by breaking this the assertiveness, the child might have momentarily held the narcissist now back at the helm and once again capable of commanding the space.

[00:29:50] I have heard some horrific versions of this for things right before a wedding day, right before a birth of a child where this narcissistic parent can talk about. Man, you know, I hope you don't have a meltdown like you did before prom or I hope that you don't end up having cold feet like you did when you were thinking about getting married before. And and I mean, I hope you can start to recognize if you are the parent hearing this and this is hard to hear or you feel like, well, yeah, but I'm just being honest. No, you're you're elevating yourself to the role of hero. You know, we want you to stop being the hero, stop being the guru and move to the role of guide. That's where things become very empowering. As a parent, your job is to be there alongside your kid and to be able to help guide them from a situation. I remember in grad school, one of the first experiential exercises that I ever did with my sensei, Darlene Davis, as she had, she stood on one side of the room and then she had somebody else on the other side. There were desks and that sort of thing to to maneuver. And she said, OK, now move left, move right, come over here, do this, do that. And the person made their way across the room. But when they got across the room, what did they learned? They were able to praise their guru and say thank you for guiding me across the room. But she said and we were talking at that time about what the role of a therapist was, but that role of a therapist is to go over there and stand right beside the the person and look ahead and say, all right, the field is full of desks and all kinds of debris.

[00:31:14] What do you want to do? I'm right here beside you. Let's do this. And the person says, I think I want to try to climb over a desk. All right, let's talk about it. You know, tell me more. What do you have any fears around this? What are your previous experiences with desks? Was your family killed in a landslide of desks from a desk making factory? Then I can understand this this intensity or this anxiety or or you want to go under the desk around the desk. Do let me help you lift the desk and not just say, OK, pick up the desk now. Go over it, lift your foot. You know, our job is to be right there beside our kid and not in the shame base. You couldn't have done it without me. You know, get rid of that. That's from that's from your own childhood. That's your own stuff. Go work with your therapist on that. But your job is to say you've got this, you can do this. I'm going to build this inner wealth and confidence in you so that you can do more, not so that you will always need me and you must always rely on me, because that is not going to get anyone anywhere that is not going to build this inner wealth. It's not going to build confidence. And all it's going to cause is this unnecessary reliance and and your child's own insecurities as they move forward.

[00:32:18] So that all came off of confidence. Breaking, exaggerating, faults is a third one within a narcissistic mine. No one is perfect except for them who she says that one good narcissist are very good at identifying the faults of their children and even better at passive aggressively commenting on them. This is a way of putting their child in their place. So when confronted, they often say I was only joking or simply claim that their child can't take a joke. Writing it off is something that the child could not maturely handle, only highlights the dominating qualities of the parent ooh man. I love a good joke more than anything, and I remember early on recognizing that, but not at the fault of others. Not not to bring. Not the. To make someone feel worse or not to to bully someone, not to destroy their self-confidence, a joke is great. Nothing diffuses a situation more than humor. Nothing lighten the mood more than humor. Nothing. Nothing unifies more than humor. But humor is not there at the expense to be used at the expense of others. So exaggerating false can can again have this narcissistic parent just taking credit for everything or really breaking down that kid's reality, you know, talking about. Oh, no, no. You you know, you had no sense of humor when you were in high school. I mean, all your friends used to look over at me as the parent.

[00:33:33] Think she's does he think that's funny, you know, exaggerating these faults? And then if if the if the teenager then looks over at the parents really like that, I don't appreciate you saying that. They're like, I'm kidding. You need to learn how to take a joke. So exaggerating faults, not building in her wealth. The victim card. Oh, man. This one. This one. I got actually one of the amazing, wonderful email from someone that was listening to a particular episode where I was I think I was laying out the four pillars of a connected conversation, which are the big part of my marriage course. Number one, you've got to assume good intentions. Nobody wakes up and thinks I want to hurt my partner. Number two, you can't say you're wrong because once you tell somebody, if somebody opens up to you and you say you're wrong, I don't even believe that. What are they supposed to do with that? That's already devolved the conversation. Three, is ask questions before making comments. That is imperative, because the more questions you ask, the more you're going to learn and find out that you may not even be correct about your assumptions. But the fourth one, one of the biggest parts of these four pillars of a connected conversation is staying present, leaning in, being in that conversation, because the opposite of that is playing the role of victim of all of a sudden, if you've just heard, hey, like pillar one, if somebody says, I really feel like you haven't been there for me, number one, they didn't wake up and say, I know what I'll do.

[00:34:52] I'll wait till about two thirty in the afternoon. I'll drop this bombshell on them. And that's really mess him up. No, if somebody comes to you and says, I really feel like you haven't been there for me, assuming good intentions. Pillar one, pillar two. I can't say that's that's a bunch of garbage. I totally been there for you because then what do they do? OK, I'm sorry. I'm wrong. No, No. Two is I can't tell them the wrong number. Three, let me ask questions and not say, OK, I can't believe you're saying this, but but now tell me what you have to say. No questions before comments. Hey, tell me, help me see my blindspots. I wasn't aware of this. Tell me tell me what you mean by that. Tell me what you're seeing in my behavior. You can even do all three of those amazing pillars and then get to the fourth pillar of a connected conversation and then pull this victim card and all of a sudden say, well, I guess I'm a crummy parent or OK, you got me.

[00:35:35] I'm the world's worst, worse father and husband. So when when a narcissist goes to the victim card, what they all of a sudden did is, you know, I call them these narcissistic outs or when they can hang in there for so long, when they pull the victim card, now they want the person to go into rescue mode. They want the person that they just lit up to, then say, now you're a great you're a great parent. You're doing awesome. I shouldn't have brought it up or no, you're a great provider, husband. I shouldn't have said anything. You are there for me. I'm obviously confused, but all that does is this build up this this this wall where then you can't go and open up to if you're whether it's your kid trying to open up to you as a parent or whether it's a spouse that you can't go to your other spouse when you know where you feel like that other person is going to pull this victim card. So narcissists are amazingly talented, exasperating their child, and then using the poor reaction as justification for identifying themselves as the victim. You know, you don't understand what this is like. You don't understand the struggles I have. You don't understand how hard it is for me to go about my day.

[00:36:36] All of these are the victim card. So then you as the person that's trying to have a conversation or communication or relationship with that person, what do you even do? You are trying to dance on eggshells to this point where I don't feel like I can say a word, you know, if I want to talk about something that's gone on in my day. But I know that this is either going to be I'm either going to be Gaslit, I'm going to be told that it's not that way. I'm going to be told that. Oh, you don't even know. It's much worse for me, are you know, every single thing is going to be this this eventually lead to this victim role. Then you are eventually not even going to want to engage at all. So regardless, again, of how aggressively the narcissist inside of the child, an angry reaction to the provocation is viewed as shameful. So the child is conditioned to feel responsible, most often allows the narcissist to play the victim card and therefore they surrender control to them. There's another concept that Christine talks about called blame shifting. This one is fascinating, too. Whenever something goes wrong, the narcissist shifts all the blame to the child. So the child may only have made a minor mistake. But then that enables the narcissist to dump more than their fair share of responsibility onto him.

[00:37:42] This way, the narcissist takes advantage of the child's vulnerability. They escape accountability and they leave the child there to face the consequences. So the blame shifting is it's fascinating to watch. And again, I hear these examples constantly is this is a large. Portion of people that I'm working with are either people that are in relationships with narcissists or people that have broken out of some narcissistic trauma bond or people that are processing childhood wounding from maybe narcissistic parents. But the when when something does go wrong, that this is this is that part where the narcissist can't say, man, that's my bad, that that wasn't that wasn't cool. I shouldn't handle it that way. You know, it is shifting blame to the child. So then the the the blame shifting looks like this where then the narcissist says it goes back to this. I can't believe that you said that. Like you're not even willing to listen to me. I was just trying to help you. I was just trying to to to share something with you that that would help, you know, you're not even giving me a chance. And so that is that blame shifting now all of a sudden it's on it's on the child who was just trying to express themselves or talk about their experience.

[00:38:50] This one I don't see as often. But, man, when I do see it, I it just sounds maddening. And Christine calls it baby talk. She said in any narcissistic parent child relationship, the narcissist wants to be seen as the adult, regardless of how much their child might have aged.

[00:39:04] So to achieve this, they belittle and condescending ways, such as literally talking down to the child, calling their adult child immature, saying their adult child needs to grow up. The implication is that the narcissist is more mature and has developed beyond the level of a child. This is a tactic used by the parent to maintain superiority despite the status that their child has obtained. So when I do hear this, I've heard it often in relationships where it's the narcissistic spouse, maybe the narcissistic male to the to the wife, where they've said things like, I mean, I can do I can't even do the baby talk stuff. But where if the wife has been very frustrated and said, you know, you were never there for me, you never care for me. And then one that I heard recently was where the husband drops into the kitchen, do it where he's like you, never there for me, you know, kind of goes into this baby talk, making fun of the person literally, you know, using voices to make fun of another adult human being. Offensive play the narcissist will use personal attacks to put the child on the defense. Often the child will get so caught up in defending their name or their character that they miss the next attack. Look how defensive you are. You must have done something wrong. The narcissist will counter. Christine said this is a checkmate position because the child has nowhere to go.

[00:40:17] Defending themselves further only plays into the trap and attempting to avoid confrontation allows for proof of the narcissist argument. Boy, this part is frustrating. Cornering your opponent, the narcissist can ensure the outcome resolves in their favor. So this is one that I see more than more more than I care to. And when I talk about the five things that I encourage for people to break free from narcissistic relationships, one is the get your self care up, raise your emotional baseline. I've got multiple episodes on the concept of the emotional baseline, but it's about self care. It's about putting yourself in a position so that you can take on the world in a sense, and that does involve you. Taking care of yourself in self care is not selfish. Self care is absolutely necessary for putting you in a position to succeed. So no one is is raise your emotional baseline. Number two is get your Ph.D. in gaslighting. Know that when you are speaking a truth and all of a sudden you're being told one of these these shame based parenting tactics to then question your version of reality, a version that you are very confident of. They know that that is gaslighting. And I don't I don't have to question my own version of reality, which leads to number three, disengage from unproductive conversations. By now, you have a pretty good idea of where conversations are going when you're interacting with the narcissistic parent or a narcissistic spouse for that, for example, as well.

[00:41:42] And so the third one disengage from productive conversations, which leads to number four, learning how to set boundaries, learning how that if I can't even have a conversation, then the boundary is I'm not going to go try to have a conversation. I have too many good things in my life to focus on, to then put myself in a position where I am just going to be made to feel like a complete buffoon. I'm going to be told that I'm doing things wrong. I'm not going to feel like my opinions matter. So there we only we only have one time in this life. So it is it is to be used creating amazing and positive strength based experiences of building situations of success with your spouse and your family. So putting yourself in a position to then take upon this attack is something that can again be emotionally draining and it causes a ripple effect. You know, when you are stressed or don't want to even have to interact or engaged and then you go and interact, you're engaged and then are met with these these shame based parenting techniques, then you can see that this just becomes a giant energy drain. You may very well want to, and most likely because of your own childhood experiences, want that approval of that spouse, of that parent.

[00:42:51] But then if the if you've tried and tried and the effort to have that relationship be a positive, a fruitful one, one where you can feel validated and know that you're OK at some point, it's almost as if something had one client one time say, man, at some point something broke and they just said, I just realized I can't keep doing that. And then they said that their spouse actually responded to and said, OK, something didn't break, something healed where you felt like, OK, that's OK, you're a good person and you don't have to continue to put yourself in that position to be hurt in that way. Bless the narcissist heart. You really have tried your entire life to to repair, rebuild or or nurture that relationship. But at some point it has just taken its toll. So, you know, sometimes and I heard this one literally and literally twice last week and with different people where they talked about this moment where something broke. And then I was now able to, thanks to the comments of this other person, say or did something heal at that point? And sometimes with that healing, the person, you know, you can return to that relationship. But now with you've with different expectations, you know, if you want to return at all. It isn't that now I'm going to try to get in there and engage and make a point.

[00:44:08] Oh, my goodness. That leads to the fifth thing of when I'm talking about understanding or getting out of these relationships with the narcissist or a narcissistic trauma bond. So we've got the raise your emotional baseline self care we've got number two is get your Ph.D. in gaslighting. Number three is to disengage from productive conversations. Number four is to set boundaries. So you get out of these unproductive conversations by setting a boundary when the gaslighting occurs, when you're being told that you are a complete buffoon or an idiot, when it becomes incredibly emotional. And I'm not talking about positive emotion, but a emotion of being gaslight or told that you're wrong, that then you say, OK, hey, I think I'm going to take off now. And then the fifth one is recognize this one sounds it sounds dramatic. It sounds mean, but recognize that there is nothing that you can say or do that will cause them to have that aha moment or that epiphany that then all of a sudden magically changes their entire view of what the the parent child relationship is like or what the husband wife relationship is like because the nice kind person is going is trying to do that for years, decades where they're trying to if I say it this way, if I'm nice, if I engage, if I withdraw, if I get angry, if I get sad, if I get funny, if I say it in a haiku, if I sing it in a song, maybe now the person will say, oh my gosh, you're right.

[00:45:28] I didn't realize that that's what I was doing. But unfortunately, that's not the way it works. You know, I've talked about this in so many different episodes, but if you look at narcissism in general, it is this concept that every child and I've been talking about this a lot lately with these attachment and abandonment principles of of childhood. But every child, again, comes into the world as this egocentric, self-centered, little pink, squishy baby. No, no shame. No judgment. That's the way it is. And then with that secure attachment, with that that positive parenting, with that building inner wealth, then the child can move from self-centered to self-confident. But the problem is when that hasn't been modeled, when that the parent themselves can't own up to their own struggles or challenges, or when they are using the shame based parenting techniques, then that child often never goes from self-centered to self-confident because they stay in that gaslighting as a defense mechanism mode. They stay in that toxic shame of if if man, if my parent was telling me that I wasn't the person that I really thought I was, then I must not really know who I am, that I must be broken, that something I must be unlovable.

[00:46:39] Something must be wrong with me. That's that toxic shame. And the unfortunate part is you can't really do the work on figuring that out until you're out of that relationship or until you're out of that. Sometimes that that trauma bond or that feeling like you are not enough. So when you get outside of that now, you can look back on that and say, wow, that I'm OK. I have my own thoughts, feelings, emotions. I got my own strengths. And so when my own parent is trying to tell me that that's not my reality, that now I can recognize me and bless their heart, but that's that's their issue, because I have figured out who I am. You know, I have so many people that this is what I love about acceptance and commitment therapy, where they start to realize their own values, their own strengths, their own gifts. And they start to hear as soon as they even say, man, I do like this thing. Whatever this value is, I do want to be authentic. They hear this this, you know, sound in the back of their head. At times it says, oh, but do you though it could be pretty embarrassing, you know, are you sure that's how you feel? And that is part of this myth, OK, or am I good enough? Siren song that creeps back in from maybe this narcissistic, shame based parenting model.

[00:47:52] So what have we learned today? Oh, I missed one more. Oh, gosh, I missed two more talking above, I'll make these quick, instead of talking down toward the child, as is described in baby talk, the narcissist will instead talk over the child's knowledge level, even if the child is more intelligent than our sister talks in circles with an air of authority to force the child into an inferior position. This one is amazing. I have seen this one. I have seen this one in my office. I've seen this one out in the wild where someone will they will know their stuff. They will they will be an award winning psychologist. They will be an author. They will be a scientist. They will be a philosopher. They will be chemical engineer. I've seen so many of these. And then when they are expressing something that they know, they are told that that is that is not really the way it is, that that might be what it looks like in your office or that might be what it looks like to you. But, you know, the narcissist still has to force the child into an inferior position. So they will do physical posturing at times, even looking down on the other person or an embellishment of details to disguise the real point of shaming. the child, no matter their ability, still finds themselves unable to fend off the narcissist attacks. And in turn, the parent can often or always orchestrate a way to win. And then the the last one is comparing accomplishments. It doesn't matter what the child has accomplished, the narcissist will claim to have done it first or better or more efficiently. By outperforming the child, the narcissist can minimize the child's accomplishments in comparison to their own. This produces the I can never be good enough feeling in the child and solidifies the parent's authority and experience over them. And what can be really difficult about this one,

[00:49:20] I've seen this one far too often as well, is that the more that this happens again, this is that fifth rule that I talk about in trying to to break free from maybe this narcissistic enmeshment or trauma bond where the person you're constantly trying to say or think or find or do the thing that will cause that narcissist, whether it's the narcissistic spouse or the narcissistic parent, to have that aha moment or that epiphany. So the more that they tell you that that they were better than you were at that age, the more you try to come up with other examples of, OK, but what about this? And then it's, you know, again, it's this. Oh no, no, I, I actually taught you that or I was way better than that at you. I remember hearing a client once tell me that their their mom had insisted that she could run faster and jump higher than this client could at that point in their high school career. And at that point, this high school person was a very accomplished track star, multiple sport athlete, and just in this phenomenal shape. And he was telling me that he was out outside one time playing basketball.

[00:50:20] And I believe he was trying to show his parent first time he dunked a basketball and the mom, who is much smaller and and said, yeah, I could do that. And he was saying he said he told me, well, you could dunk a basketball. Like, there's only, you know, go look up on SportsCenter in the top ten dunk highlights of in the women's pro game, you know. Ah, there. That's only been in recent years. But you were dunking back in the sixties in high school Girls basketball? was like, yeah, yeah. I mean, I can get up over the rim and remember this person just thought, wow, I can't even win. You know, I can't even I can't even get in this moment. That is an amazing feat that you're doing, son. It was no, I think I was probably a little bit better than that than you were. So just to hear those things, it's fascinating. It really is. And so the one of the hard things, again, is that this is one of those things that at the time that does start to lead to this. What is wrong with me?

[00:51:12] Well, you know, as the kid and if you are engaged in any of these shame based parenting techniques, I would love for this to be a wake up call. There is nothing about this episode that I want someone to hear and think, how dare he say that I need to do these things differently? No, I want to say you don't know until you know. So now you know, and now that, you know, you can do something about it. And if you need help doing something about it, find somebody that can help you. One of the things that I think is the most amazing, incredible, vulnerable things that I get to work with is let's just take this example of where there's a parent that has all of a sudden said, wow, I realize maybe I haven't been doing this the way that I thought was the right way to do it. And that's what I love to say.

[00:51:53] Hey, you were you were trying your best based on the situations that you had. You didn't even have the knowledge that you needed to have. But there is knowledge out there and it starts with seek first to understand before being understood, ask questions before comments. And and that is the beginning. The road, it causes a tremendous amount of humility. I've had amazing examples. I was talking to a client last week who said that they had an opportunity to interact with one of their parents over the holiday break. And their their father said that, you know, he said that he recognized now a lot of the things that he had done, again, from a bless his heart standpoint, but that he wasn't very supportive. And in his the person in my office has said that it was one of the most tender and touching moments they had. And then they had a whole bunch of conversations about different things that they remember growing up in their childhood. So it's never too late. It really isn't. It's never too late to make changes to start to to nurture that inner wealth, whether it's with your young kids. If you're a young parent hearing this now, go take my free parenting course parenting positively in the not so positive of times, it's based on the nurtured heart approach, and that is an amazing evidence based model of parenting that takes you from being the Punisher to being the one that instills this inner wealth and confidence. And it does not mean that your kid gets to walk all over you or get away with everything. It's the opposite. It is not. It is so empowering to absolutely not engage with the negative and then and then reward and acknowledge the the good. And and it's not just some simple good job, champ. It's a hey, I love the way that you're playing with your sister because it shows me that you are a caring, kind person. And then there are there are limits there. There are there are consequences to actions.

[00:53:33] But there are things that you've come up with as a family. So no longer are you the Punisher. You're the one now that gets to say, oh, man, buddy, that's so I'm so sad that you now have this consequence that that you that you came up with when you broke this this rule that we had in the home. But I can't wait until you serve your punishment or do your time. That sounds pretty dramatic because then we can get out here and play and then I can build more inner wealth. So, hey, thanks for taking the time today. I hope that there were some things that you learned maybe about your own parenting or some things that you learned about your own childhood that you will be able to now say, all right, this is one of these hindsight principles that I'm OK and that these things that maybe happened when I was growing up, that that I am OK, that I can heal, that I can start to turn toward the things that I know are deep within me, that the strengths that I have, the values that I have and I can stand, the more I start to turn toward living a value based life and turning toward these value based activities. The more of this inner wealth I'll build within myself, the more my own emotional baseline will raise and the more I will put myself in a position to to raise the waters for everybody. And and because the days of trying to put someone down to elevate yourself, those need to be gone. We need to get to this point where we take this personal responsibility that's personal accountability, own up to our our roles and relationships. "My bad" is perfectly OK to say it's not weak. It's actually powerful. And that is going to lead you into this position where you can change lives and first of all, starts with your own. So thanks again for taking the time to listen. And I will see you next time on the virtual couch.


I had an amazing time on Rachel Nielson's podcast 3 in 30 Takeaways for Moms. We talked all about parenting, specifically how to find the positive even when it feels like nothing positive is happening! Rachel does a fantastic job boiling down a topic to, in this case, 4 takeaways in around 30 minutes. Search for "3 in 30 Takeaways for Mom" on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts or you can link directly to the episode here

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