Dr. Michael Twohig joins Tony to talk about his early involvement in the then “new kid on the psychology block,” acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Dr. Twohig shares his initial hesitation in embracing ACT and what eventually led him to pursue his Ph.D. in clinical psychology by working with Dr. Stephen Hayes, the founder of ACT. He discusses the differences in using ACT to treat OCD vs. the traditional CBT-based model, and they talk about using metaphor in ACT. Tony shares his experience of how learning ACT changed his therapy practice and his general outlook on life. They discuss the differences between using diffusion in ACT to make room for thoughts and feelings vs. responding to the body’s cues concerning treating trauma.
They talk about Dr. Twohig’s new online course on ACT and OCD https://praxiscet.com/virtualcouch and the challenges of marketing an online course. Finally, Tony challenges Dr. Twohig to a “try not to laugh” challenge.
Dr. Michael Twohig is a licensed psychologist, a professor at Utah State University, and one of the world’s most published scholars of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Dr. Twohig’s research focuses on using ACT across various clinical presentations emphasizing OCD and related disorders. He has published five books and more than 200 scholarly works and is the former President of the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science, the organization most associated with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy https://contextualscience.org/
You can find out more about Dr. Twohig via his Utah State University page https://cehs.usu.edu/scce/clinicians/twohig-michael or his private practice website https://junipermh.com/team/michael-twohig/
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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 https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ
Mike Twohig pt 1
Tony: Okay, I will start with the former, I mean, you were so kind to say, call me Mike, but, Dr. Michael Twohig, welcome to the Virtual Couch.
Mike: Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me.
Tony: Yeah. I have you on this pantheon of my big gets, so I don't know if you ever get that vibe or, I mean, I don't know.
How do you feel about that knowing that you are one of these world renowned active researchers?
Mike: I don't feel that way in the slightest. So it's, yeah, let me think. Do I ever bump into that? I don't know. I feel like sometimes grad students applying here give me that feeling because they're all excited.
But no, really in my real life I don't really bump into that. And then one of the things about being a faculty member is your life really is kind of between your office and your lab. So that's all you really bump into. So whenever someone's like, oh, I like your work. That is kind of cool because you know, you don't really get to bump into that very often.
Tony: Okay, well, I sing your praises often, and so I'm going to try to be very calm and very collected throughout this interview. So what I'm really curious about, and this one is going to be personal, I just want to know, and then hopefully listeners will enjoy it as well.
I learned CBT out of grad school and I did CBT for a few years and then when I learned act, it really was like the sky's parted and the heavens shown down. And then it's changed my life, my practice, and then most of my podcast is all talking about act.
And then I'm curious, what has your experience been with it? I mean, you studied under Steven Hayes and so I would love to just hear your story about that.
Mike: Yeah, thanks for asking that question because it’s, you know, I feel like I was really lucky, because I didn't plan this, it just, right. Like sometimes things just happen.
So I'll tell you the story. I hope the listeners aren't bored because it's kind of fun. I'm working at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee with a guy named Doug Woods, who's the best. And we're treating people with Trichotillomania and I remember saying to Doug, you know, I was getting a master's in behavior analysis and I said, Doug, we're doing a good job teaching people how to stop pulling their hair, but they have all this emotion and urges and like there's all this internal stuff and behavior therapy's not like we don't really have a strategy for it.
And he said, you should learn act. And it was interesting because this is like 1999. And I really liked Steve Hayes at the time because he wrote a lot of good behavior analysis theory on language and cognition and how private events work. So I knew of him as kind of like a researcher of behavior analysis. So the two of us in 1999 flew out to Reno and did an ACT workshop and back then they were like 24 hour workshops. Right. It was just ridiculously long and not many people. So we went and I remember being at it and not really enjoying it per se, because it was a little too much.
Because I was a behavior analyst and this [ACT] is like watching your emotions and sitting there and seeing your thoughts floating by. It was out of the world that I lived in. But when I was finished with the workshop, an interesting thing I took away is you can have whatever thoughts or feelings you have, and that's just fine.
And that was what 24 hours taught me. We came back and we integrated act and behavior therapy for the treatment of Trichotillomania. And it clicked really well. And I remember at one point, it clicked well for the clients, I remember at one point Doug Wood says, Mike, you don't know what a good idea this is.
And he's right because I was like 23 at the time. Right? Like, I didn't know that this was a pretty wise career move. So the next step would be, I applied to grad schools and I'm not that great a student. But when I applied to work with Steve, I had done an ACT project in 2001, not many people had done an ACT project. So that's how I got into grad school. And those years from 2002 to 2006 at UNR were super fun years because Steve had just stopped being department head so he had more time. And that's when ACT was in Time Magazine.
Yeah. And also if you look at like, when the study started coming out, that's when everything was happening. And it was super fun. I just felt like the whole time in the lab was really inspired. You know, we thought we were changing the world.
I never felt like I was at work ever. And then that was my world, behavior therapy and act and I guess it's always stayed that way. Yeah, it's kind of a weird thing because the only therapy I knew how to do was act. So most people I bump into learn traditional CBT then act.
So I had to learn how to do traditional cbt.
Tony: Okay. Which is funny because, I don't want to talk much at all in this episode, but I really would love, can I lay out what I say about my aha moment of CBT versus act? And I honestly, Mike, I want, I kind of want you to poke holes in it because now I realize I have confabulated this narrative where now I think I've got everything figured out, which obviously means I don't.
So I was a CBT therapist. I was an intern working for my church non-profit. And I had a guy that came in and he was, he had lost like half of his weight and he had social anxiety and I was trying to do the CBT skills of, okay, he walks into a room and everybody turns and looks at him and, and then he feels shame and he leaves and so in the old CBT world those are, that's automatic negative thoughts. That's stinking thinking. And so what are other reasons why they might be looking at you? They might think you look great. They might just turn when a door opens and you know, he would leave and say, yeah, right.
And then he would come back and then he would say, it did not work. You know, and again, start doing the, all right, what's wrong with me? This sounds like a good tool. And then we would come up with other things or other reasons. And I literally then went to an ACT workshop and for me, oh, and I say this often, he's the only version of him that's ever walked the face of the earth with his nature, nurture, birth order, dna, abandonment, rejection, all that.
And so that's how he feels. So I love what you're saying. Right. So then, of course he's going to think everybody's looking at him because he walked around as a 400 pound 12 year old where everybody did look at him. So if he didn't think that it would kind of be crazy, you know? So I started off by, okay, acceptance, that's how you feel.
And then we got into the values, and he had a value of connection and social connection. And so then whether they're looking at him or not, doesn't matter. It's not a productive thought, and he can bring that along with him. And so it was like a game changer. But then I realize now all of a sudden I go black and white, and now I think CBT is horrible and it's almost doing damage.
And because, you know, it says you're starting with your negative thoughts now just change them, you know, just to be happy. And then when I feel like, here's the part I make up, so this is where I want you to poke holes, please. So then the third part is and then if I say to somebody, Hey, how's that working for you, champ?
Then they say, okay, well I already started with broken thoughts and automatic negative thoughts. I can't just change them magically, but that must be my problem. So then I feel like they say, no, it's doing pretty good. And then they leave and just feel like I need to figure this out. And then they leave therapy and then I feel like then they look for the next self-help book or whatever.
And so I felt like ACT was so, I think I've almost demonized CBT, but then I know what act is, what do we call it the next, CBT? So please tell me I'm wrong. So can you explain that and then, and either validate the heck out of me or tell me I'm wrong.
Mike: I think you're on a great track because, you said, here's the part that I'd like you to, double check. The, how is that working for you. And that question, like when you said it, the light bulb, you know, that went off for me is what does that mean to him? When you say, how is that working for you and what do you mean?
When you say, how is that working for you. Because yeah, clients will usually go, how is that working? Am I feeling better? I'm doing air quotes. And an act therapist would say, how is that working for you? Meaning like, how is this working in your life? Are you going in the directions you want to go?
Tony: Yeah. And that's what I feel like was so good. I like your question because if I was saying, how was that working for you? And meanwhile I'm handed a population, and this is funny because I didn't even remember that it was you that I read an article about that helped me here too.
But I was working with people that were struggling with turning to pornography as an unhealthy coping mechanism. And the training I was getting at that time was a lot of, you know, seeing him, do some pushups, behavioral, and then I felt like, ooh, that one's not quite working. And then I think I read something that you did there about, was it mindfulness?
Yeah. And that was, that was also a game changer. And so then it was getting people to start to just take action on things that matter. And right now we're going to not worry about the unhealthy coping mechanism. You know, nothing's wrong with you, you're human. And the more they started doing things of value, then the more they started to feel better and the less they turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
And so then, yeah. So I think my, well, how's that working for you? I think, right. I then had, I think the part with trying to identify people's values was a real challenge, you know?
Mike: Yeah. I think the shift right there, you can say to a client or the two of you, you know, I don't know if this is a listener.
Actually, I told you, two of my friends said something about being mentioned on your podcast, and one is not a therapist and one is a therapist. So, okay. I'll say it for both people or both styles of people that we can work on altering how we feel, or we can work on altering how we live and we're whole human beings and whether you alter either one, it's going to affect all sorts of stuff. So if you change the way you live, you'll change the way you feel. If you could change the way you feel, you'll probably change the way you live. But from the kind of an act or behavior therapy model, we're going to lean on changing the way you live to affect, you know, without the goal of affecting how you feel but it will. So like this client, when he said it's not working. My question would be, well which one are we going to focus on? Are we going to focus on what you feel internally or how you're living? And I say this to clients a lot, that a lot of the things I really care about and a lot of things I work hard on don't feel good. You know, like parenting a team doesn't feel fun. But it's meaningful, it's important, but it's not like, ooh, you know, that was great. Or even the same thing like writing a paper, it's not the same as snowboarding, so like the feeling and the importance of it.
So yeah, it's orienting the client and you to what's meaningful.
Tony: Well, and what I like about that so much, Mike, is sometimes I think in my head that if a client almost “breaks act” where I think, oh, that was well played. Where if maybe they don't hold a value of, I don’t know, if they almost hold a value of, I know there isn't necessarily in the values list codependency, but I'll get people to say no, my core value is helping everybody else and putting myself second and, and I want to say, but no, that, that one's not cool. But then you know it’s what it feels like to be them. And so I like what you're saying to yeah, that change in behavior, or living by one's, yeah, because I feel like, I don't want to sound arrogant, but I feel like, okay, that is where that person's at right now.
But if I go back to that, how's it working for you? Then sometimes I feel like, oh, okay, they're trying to just adapt or cope with this thing that they don't enjoy.
Mike: Yeah, and I'll often, like that question, I'll be more precise. I'll say, how's that working to change these thoughts about your self image?
Or I'll say, how's that working to be part of the group?
Tony: Hey. Okay. So speaking of that too, and I know that this is going to feel like five minutes to me of talking with you. I really like the work you've done with ACT and ocd.
I had read Brain Lock I think when I was doing OCD work initially, and I feel now like maybe because I love act so much that I've almost had my own emotion and maturity, black and white, that oh that was bad, and this is good. But how does ACT and OCD stand out from traditional cognitive behavioral therapy?
Mike: So, and this fits with the conversation we were just having. Kind of the easiest way I've found to describe this is like, no matter your theoretical orientation for treating an anxiety disorder or OCD, I like to break it down to what is the outcome you're looking for. Like, how do you and your client agree things are better? What's the process of change? What is it you're trying to instill in the person that would help them be able to do these things? And then what are the techniques you use to instill that process of change? So in ACT, I think the main outcome that we're shooting for is that a person can live sort of a successful and meaningful life.
And I think for those who know ocd, what's missing from that, is any statement about what's happening internally. So I don't need the power or the frequency or the words in the obsession to be different. I just need the person to be able to effectively live when they show up. And then the process of change is psychological flexibility, which is being able to see thoughts as thoughts, emotions as emotions, sensations as sensations.
Allow them to be there and still move in the directions you want in life. Right. So again, nothing needs to change. We just need to not be overpowered by it. And then the techniques we use, what I tell my practicum students is, you know, we teach people how to be psychologically flexible until they kind of get it. And then we start practicing. And those can look like exposure exercises, but as you can imagine, the style is different. We're not watching intensity of internal experience. We're not watching habituation. It's more like, let's practice having what you have, and then we have our own style for doing exposure exercises.
Tony: And can you talk a little bit more about that too? Because I feel like the exposure for the sake of exposure to reduce anxiety and I, boy, I'm wanting to be so emotionally vulnerable here today as I realize, and maybe it's just I have created a narrative in my head of I've had clients that haven't had good experiences with just, okay, let's sit on a dirty floor because you don't like germs, you know?
Right. So can you explain the difference there in act?
Mike: Okay, there's a couple things. Why don't we start with, when I think about doing an exposure, I would like the exposure to have some tied values. And either that's, that's obvious. For someone with social phobia, we might go talk to people or send a message to someone we haven't, or practice giving a phone call to someone they like, like you can make it values based.
Sometimes it's harder, but then even in that moment, we're going to help the client see how it could be value based. So if we're dealing with a germ phobia or ocd, we might go manipulate a garbage can or go to a bathroom, and then, let's practice having this stuff so that when the real game shows up, you're good at it.
And I'll use a sports analogy of we're just practicing being good at having what you have. And I'll remind the person a lot like when's the situation when this might happen, when you're going to go on a date or go out to dinner or something, and these things are going to show up. I think what stands out to those who maybe do exposure work is I have never had a moment where I would go above and beyond or do those sort of extreme exposures, because I kind of struggle to figure out where those tie to values.
Our outcomes are just fine, but I don't have to lick a gas pump or, you know, like rub my food on the toilet. And I did that work, you know, because I worked in an OCD clinic at the University of British Columbia.
And it can work if the person can engage, it works very well, but they have to be able to engage. Right. So, yeah, I always said, and I'm not knocking that work's great work, right? If you have 10 people, two will do nothing, five will get better. And the other three, kind of putter along, it's like those five who can't do this, they can't get behind the exposure work.
Tony: Okay. You know, I give a story that I think, again, maybe I swing to the extremes, but I've often said, okay, if somebody just lets a spider crawl over you to reduce anxiety, that's ridiculous, it might cause you to disassociate. But if your grandpa leaves you a $2 million spider farm then maybe that might be, you know, a value of financial security for your children, then maybe I'm willing to sit with the spiders. I mean, so is it kind of, we need to find some value if we can?
Mike: I think a value gives meaning to the work. Going back to raising kids, I remember sitting and doing homework with my daughter just many years ago, and she's essentially crying and trying to get away from the table and like everything about it's terrible.
And then I'm being sweet and nice and as helpful as I can be because I can find a value in this that is meaningful to me to help this kid be a decent student so she can do the steps she needs to do and go on and do whatever she wants to do with her career. Like I could find a reason, but if I didn't like this kid or didn't care, some kid screaming at me, it would be hard to find motivation to stay there and be nice.
Tony: Yeah. That makes so much sense. And man, I just, I want to go on a tangent, but I'll get back to the ACT piece, but when you mention one of the things that also I feel like dramatically game changer for me were the concepts of, socially compliant goal and then experiential avoidance. And maybe can you, as an expert in this field kind of speak to how those show up?
Mike: Yeah. Rules, like when you said a socially compliant goal, rules are really interesting things. And this is a good point for a professional and non-professional that an interesting thing about humans is we decide the way the world works and then we follow that. And the truth is it's never fully accurate. Like it's always, it could be close to the way the world works or it could be totally far. But yeah, that's an interesting thing about human beings is that we'll make this rule about what we're supposed to do and then we'll just keep following it.
And lots of research has said it's really hard to help people do things differently. Like it's hard to create variability and behavior. If someone has a problem or like they have a way of living that's not really functional. Some of that is they've determined how it all works and they've been doing the exact same thing for 20, 30 years.
And part of the therapist's job is to create flexibility in different behavior patterns. And that is tricky. Now the experience of avoidance stuff is just that humans spend a lot of their time working to feel a certain way and I think that's in contrast with doing the things that are important to us.
So one of the lines I say is I think healthy, happy people are probably spending 80% of their day doing things that are important to them. I didn't say fun, I said important. And then people who are maybe less healthy are probably spending 80% of their day working hard to feel good.
And those are like the clients I see. If I say like, what was meaningful to you today? They don't have much. Their whole day was about dodging the anxiety and getting away from stuff that they're afraid of.
Tony: Yeah. I can launch into a whole thing there where I feel like with the amount of things that we can use for experiential avoidance. Phones, games, unlimited access to downloads of things. I do feel like that's so difficult for people that aren't aware of what is important to them and why I feel like that values work can even be more difficult and yet even more important. And I even, you know, I do a lot of couples therapy, Mike, and I find that I will not do the individual, I won't do the values exercise with the couple in there because boy, you watch even the way that, let's say a guy wants to express that he doesn't necessarily have a core value of honesty. Maybe more of compassion because he grew up in a home where there was brutal honesty and that was harmful. But then if his wife hears that that's not a value. So I feel like just that example, I feel like the dynamic of even trying to get to one's core values or what matters to them can be tricky because I think people are still worried that, I don’t know if you hear this often, but I know I shouldn't care. You know, or I know I'm supposed to care about, I don't know. Do you hear that in the work you do?
Mike: When I heard you talking about this, one of the things I was thinking about is with my clients, I worry less about having the right values just more like is your behavior about values? And then people get into like, well, I have so many things and I can't balance them all.
And to me that's more of that fusion and rule following that I'm supposed to do this right. And no, we're always wrong. You're always not living your values perfectly, but if you're at least living your values, that's pretty solid. And if you're too heavy in one area and too weak in another area, then you can work at it.
But I'll never, I'll never balance this out totally. It'll always be a little heavy on work. Yeah. It's just how it’s going to be.
Tony: Yeah. And I like what you're saying because I do find that if I'm kind of bringing somebody from a, they don't know what they don't know to now, they know but don't know how to, in essence. And I love that you bring that, cause I feel like, okay, we have to figure out your values. But then I find that then often, oh, I still need to work on my values, becomes a story their brain is fusing to. I went to a training with a lady about act and she said that at that point she tells a client, just walk outside and begin. I see an animal, I don't like animals. Okay. Well note that. I tried to talk to a stranger, which was fun. Maybe there's, you know, there's something there and I just love that concept.
Mike: Yeah. I think that's the rule stuff. If I'm going to do this, I need to do this right. Well, you'll never, you can't live right. It is going to be full of errors and mistakes and it's just like how it is being a person on the planet. I was giving a workshop and it's one of the moments it kind of stuck with me. This was a workshop just like a couple months ago, and I'm up there doing a role play and all my students are there and all these professionals are there and the role play is just like going really poorly and not really poorly, but you know, in the poorly category.
And it was in a weird way it was kind of nice. Because it was, that's how workshops will be, you'll be saying really fun, smart things at one point, and then you'll just be stinking and that's life. And I think in a way, it was like a good model for the group. Like yeah, well therapy will sometimes you'll like totally go into a dead end and you just have to walk back and go the other way.
Tony: Oh I love that. Okay. Over back to the OCD treatment plan, which I love, you've got a course and I want to promote that, in the notes as well. But, you do a lot of metaphors and I have to, again, it's so nice. I feel like you're now my therapist for this. I don't know why I felt this insecurity around dealing with all the metaphors in ACT at first because there's a part of me that felt like this person's paying me large amounts of money for me to tell stories. And now all of a sudden, once I embrace act metaphors, oh my gosh, they're so powerful. And so what has that been like for you? Do you like metaphors? How do you feel they fit in?
Mike: So what I think is okay, the idea of metaphors goes right back to our rule stuff. Like in act we like to teach experientially versus rules, because then people will originally follow what we said.
So we like to tell a story about it or use a personal example or use a client's life example and sometimes a metaphorical thing describes it better. Like just before I said, you know, I went the wrong way down the alley, and I had to realize, okay, wrong spot. And I had to back out that, that metaphors rich, because we've all felt that, you go down a trail and you're like, uh, this isn't right.
And then you have to like, literally, so there's knowledge that comes with our real life experience. So, I could say, your mind is picking on you like someone picked on you in grade school. It just has more meaning because people got picked on in grade school and they know what that was like and they can link the two.
And I think it's richer than me sort of lecturing on, you know, on what cognition is like. So I think that's the two parts. It's kind of rich and it's not so rule based, but you ask what it's like for me, I think at the beginning I had to use some from the book.
But then now it's just sort of my style and I've sort of also learned, I learned how to make metaphors that match the client's interests, but I've also learned how to use self-disclosure at that safe level. I've already talked about using my kids as examples and no one hears, oh my gosh, what a bad parent. You know? It's a metaphor that I think most people with kids can appreciate. And if you don't have kids, I think you can imagine.
Tony: Yeah, no, and it's funny, I don't think I've been doing this as long as you have, I'm at 17, 18 years. But I feel like even that concept of self-disclosure has been more embraced over the years that when I first started, that seemed like that was taboo, but I feel like it's more of that human experience. And I feel like act makes more room for that, I feel like, than my CBT days.
Mike: Well, yeah, it'd be weird to be like, oh my gosh, you have these negative thoughts about yourself. So strange.
Tony: Right, right. Hey, do you have a particular favorite of the metaphors though? I am curious, of course that's me wanting to say, because I do Mike.
Mike: What's funny, my students forever make fun of me that I lean towards sports ones. But that doesn't mean it's right. It's just like I can, I can find so many rich examples and actually we wrote a book and one of the editors was like, how about we take out just a handful of sports ones and we like mix in some other ideas. But with a client, I try to gauge what they're into. And then go that way.
Tony: I'm laughing because have you ever had those fail? I mean, because I don't know, in the past I felt like I would talk and maybe give one about gardening and halfway through I realize I have no idea what garden, you know, but maybe you plant something and I don't know. You know what I'm saying?
Mike: I do. I think there's a little skill in just assuming that things work under a natural order and this'll work. I like to have the client help me along. Your favorite, you said you had a favorite though.
Tony: You're very good, Mike. Because I was going to say, I love the one about you've fallen in a hole and you have a shovel. I love that one so much because I feel like I work with people that are determined to then, no, right. The shovel is an amazing tool by itself, and I am a hard worker. And so I love being able to say, and have clients say to me, and then I went and grabbed my shovel and I dug a little bit more. And then my favorite ever is the, and then somebody hands you the ladder and you try to deal with it. And so that one alone to me was the metaphor that then allowed me to embrace metaphors.
Tony: So do you maybe want to talk about your course a little bit. I mean, have you done courses? Have you done a lot of courses? Is that something you enjoy doing? Or what was that like?
Mike: Well, yeah, kind of a broader answer. . It's an interesting thing being a professor, because I really enjoy training my students how to do therapy and that includes act, but you know, professors, we're almost taught to not market.
So that's been like a weird thing because I feel like after all these years, I actually do know act pretty well and I kind of know how to teach people how to do it, but I have this like weird emotional reaction that happens when it's like, well, you know, come to my workshop or buy my book. And I've been able to let that go more and more in the sense that this work does good and people, like even if they're very good at therapy, we can get stagnant or stale and coming at things from another perspective can be really useful. ACT is getting big and people want to know, act is big, and people want to know how to do it. I'm really privileged to work at a university where they give me the time to sit and develop things. Like write a paper or writing a book. You know, like if you're a clinician, how do you find the time to write a book? And it's, it's really great that a university's like, that's why, that's what we want you to do. So something like this course, it took me a little bit to, it's an act for anxiety disorders and OCD.
It took me a little bit to sort of wrap my head around like, no, it's okay to create something that is going to get sold. And I think I had to find the value there, which is, I do think this works important and I've spent a lot of time understanding how to do this. And then I start feeling good about getting it out there. And it's a really high, high quality course. And that's another just, it's another great thing. I think it's worth what people have to put into it.
Tony: And why I'm so grateful for the way you just shared that, Mike, I have a lot of therapists that do listen and I feel like I have a fair amount of life coaches, and I feel like there's a battle between the therapist and life coach, and I talk about this from time to time.
The guy that helped me create my magnetic marriage course, which man, I'm right there with you. I feel like I have this stuff I want to share and I know it can help, right? But then I feel anxiety around promoting it. I feel like I'm being prideful and boastful. And so I will often set the frame up by saying I'm standing in my healthy ego, which nobody else knows what I mean by that, but it makes me feel better because you know, a healthy ego based on real experience and work and that sort of thing, but here's what I think is interesting and I want, I would love your opinion, so I bought courses by other research, Sue Johnson, and I bought Steven Hayes's course, and I've got your course. And then as I was creating a course, I was struggling with the guy that's helped me. He's a very successful life coach named Preston Pugmire, and he kept talking about selling the destination. And do you know this concept? Okay. It's this, I fought him for about a year on this and so, you know, he would say that, okay, if you look at a Delta Airlines commercial, they show the family in Hawaii, so they're selling the destination. This is what you want. But they offer a plane. And basically what he said is what I was saying, well, I've got these, what I call my four pillars of a connected conversation based off of emotionally focused therapy, and here's the nuts and bolts, and here's the emotional bid. And so I'm saying, hey, forget the destination. Let me show you how cool my plane is because I've got these really cool nuts and bolts. Right. And that's what I felt like and then I realized, and I love this, like the courses I've taken from somebody like Sue Johnson and I feel like, oh, as a clinician I'm buying the nuts and bolts.
I want to see how the rivets go into the seats and that sort of thing. And so I found that if I'm trying to get a client to get excited about a course like that, they sit through maybe one section of it and it's like, eh. Yeah. Right? And so it's like, I found, it's a weird balance to try to sell the destination and have this person that I trust help me create it say, nobody cares about your plane. And that's where I'm saying, okay, I need to stand out in my healthy ego as a clinician and say, I think it does matter, but I will try to work some of the destination in the coolest plane that you can get there, you know. So I love your honesty around that because I feel like a lot of the therapists I work with, the first course I ever put out was probably just showing how to make up a bolt, you know, that sort of thing.
Mike: Well that's a really nice point because it's real values consistent because it's like, I don't love writing every paper but while I'm writing them, I usually connect to like, well, this is really cool. I want people to read this. I want this to be out there. And same, I'm not trying to sell the course here, per se, but it's a neat sort of values analogy, that there's a lot, like, take trichotillomania and ocd, that the course is a non trick, but let's say you know, OCD and panic, if you knew how to treat those well, you will always be busy, you will always have a flow of people, which means there's that many people out there who are looking for therapists and my life, and I'm not knocking any therapists around me, my life is seeing people after they've seen other people. Because, and nothing against the person who worked with them before, sometimes clients need to be in a new spot, but hard panic cases, hard OCD cases, you probably do have to do the best of breed intervention, otherwise you're not going to get the movement. So yeah, that's a nice way of thinking about it. I'm not promising if you learn how to do act for anxiety disorders, you're going to win every time. But I do think this is where the data is today. Like this is well thought out, well researched, it's as good a bed as you can think of right now.
Tony: See, and I love that because I feel like that is healthy ego and healthy ego comes from our actual lived experience. And I had a whole career in the computer industry where I didn't realize, and I didn't enjoy it. It was not value based. I lived for the weekend, but then by the weekend I was so bummed from the week that I kind of didn't care. And I would say, well, next weekend or next, you know, that whole thing. And so I do, I appreciate what you're saying because I feel like from a healthy ego, it's more of like what we feel like inside and I am offering this, so I love that you just shared that because I think that'll resonate with so many people that are listening. And maybe, because I have to bring my insecurities and anxiety and fear of invalidation along with me, maybe, you know, while I put those things out there. So, no, I love that. So would you rather work with OCD than any, any other thing, or is it just something that you have found yourself really good at?
Mike: Okay. Interesting question. I started out working with Trichotillomania.
Tony: Which by the way, you've mentioned that I know some of my clients aren't going to know, but, so talk about that.
Mike: Yeah. So, it's a disorder where people pull their hair out and, if you're like, why? I'd say it's really self soothing. We call it egosyntonic. That's a very enjoyable behavior for people. And almost all my clients would say, you know, I would happily pull my hair and then if the next day I came back and all the hair had grown back, I would never be coming in because I enjoy doing it. Okay, but obviously they end up with bald patches and or huge hair loss, it can get pretty extreme and then one of the things that happens is as you pull a lot, the area you pull from starts kind of getting infected and stuff. So then it's almost like you need to pull, because it's like a little infected. So you pull out the hairs that are infected and it feels better.
So you get yourself caught in this trap. Wow. So where this ties into OCD is that was like one of the areas I started and then when I got to UNR to work with Steve, it was like, well, what's, what's the next step? It would be OCD. Like trick and OCD are what we call OCD and related disorders. So then I did my first studies on ACT for OCD, and what's slightly different is clients with OCD come in and they say, I hate this. My life is terrible. Please, please help me stop. And people with trick are like, uh, I know I should stop, but I don't really want to. So there's something about OCD clients that they really want it gone. And that's kind of enjoyable to have clients who are just on the same page as you from day one. I will, and I don't mean this to like pick on the clients, it is a little funny story, but I did an OCD trial followed by a marijuana dependence trial. And I have to, I have to tell you the difference in sort of clients like being on time and not canceling appointments. You know, it's another thing. My clients with ocd, it's kind of easy work. They're on time, they are ready to work and certainly there's hard times, so it's just, the other thing, if I can just kinda keep blabbing, the idea of sticky thoughts is really fun to me.
So when someone has a really horrible thought and they just feel trapped, I find it really fun disentangling it and helping them find a way to not get pushed around by that thought. And I have a sort of a unique style to myself where that stuff doesn't bother me. So, you know, clients can describe all sorts of stuff, and I like am a hundred percent, that's just a thought. You know what? Whatever this thing is. And, that's been really fun. And learning that skill has generalized to other areas because like really sticky thoughts show up in other disorders.
Tony: So what's an example, by the way, of a sticky thought? Tell the listeners.
Mike: Oh. You know, I'll admit I even got caught in it, like, oh, do I wanna share one. So you're from Utah, so do you have some knowledge of the local religion?
Tony: Oh, absolutely, yes.
Mike: Okay. So, one of the most predominant things in the local religion to Utah is like the importance of family and taking care of your family. So OCD is always going to attack what you care about most. So parents having thoughts about harming their kids is, I don't know, half of what I see. And, they come in and they're like, this is the worst. Like you can't get any worse than picturing seriously harming your own children. I can just hear that and be like, that's an obsession. Let me work with you on what we should do with that. And they're like, but I'm a horrible person. Deep down, I'm a horrible human being who needs to get off this planet? And I'm like, no, you have an obsession. We got it. We'll figure this out. Like, it's okay. And, when I hear someone say their obsession, like just nothing. Like I don't have an emotional reaction because I know it's an obsession.
Tony: Don't you feel like one of the, I love that, because I do talk about, one of my first episodes five, six years ago was on intrusive thought syndrome and at that time, right, I said, we all have them, just because you have them doesn't mean anything, doesn’t mean you're going to do them. And then, thought suppression doesn't work.
And at that time, I actually was speaking to a lot of relief society organizations and I don't know why I found it hilarious, but when I would open it up, I would say, I would kind of share that just for fun and say, how many of you thought about your driving? And man, I could just mm, right over into a tree and you would see the people like yeah, but I've never told anybody. And, I would tell a story about sharing this with my family, and we had a little yorkie at the time, and I was sharing this with one of my daughters. She's like, you ever think about just that you could snap her leg? And I'm like, I have thought that.
And then all of a sudden she's like, okay. And then we go all in on it. And my wife wasn't aware. And so then one night at the dinner table, we're talking about using a watermelon, melon baller. And one of my kids saying, you ever thought about like, that could just be an eyeball, you know, and I could see that, you know?
And my wife, I think she was not up to speed on the conversations, but, so I really like what you're sharing because I feel like being able to express it and having somebody just say, oh yeah. Or I have, or tell me more. There's some pretty cool research, right, that shows that, oh, the scary thing in my head and that person didn't react. Maybe it isn't scary, do you find that's the case?
Mike: Well, I'll just give, this is a really interesting one. When I worked at the University of British Columbia, they were finishing an intrusive thoughts trial. So they were just treating it like sometimes what people call where you have the obsession and then the compulsion is something you do in your head. You say a prayer, you try to squish the thought, you picture something else. And, it was interesting because the control condition actually got a lot better. I don't know what they did with a controlled condition, but it wasn't supposed to be that useful.
And how we hypothesized it at the end was no one had ever said to these people like, this is just an obsession. This isn’t you. And like half of them walked in and they were just assuming this was a police sting. Like people who wanted to murder or kill or you know, whatever the horrible obsession was and they just assumed they'd walk in and the cops would be there and we were like, no, this is an OCD clinic. You have OCD, welcome to our world. And for a ton of people just hearing like there's a category of people who have really rough thoughts and the truth is the reason they have such rough thoughts is when they first had the initial ones, they tried so hard not to have them that it went out of control. Whereas if you would've been like, that's weird, then it probably wouldn't have grown into anything. But if you tried really hard to get rid of it, yeah, then it just kept growing.
Tony: Well, what I like about that too is one of the things that I, in your treatment program or for OCD, is you and I wrote down a note on this that I like. Can you maybe talk about 95% of life when you don't want it, you can get rid of it. And then that other five, that's, that's good stuff. So I don’t know, can you kinda explain that?
Mike: Yes. Like in our life, this is you know, second session of therapy. In our life, if we don't like something, we can change it. If you need a haircut, you can get a haircut. If your room's dirty, you can clean it, your clothes look grubby, you can purchase new ones. So then, you know, as you grow up in life, you have thoughts or feelings you don't like, why wouldn't you try to get rid of them? Like everything else in life, if you don't like it, you could get rid of it.
And a lot of times our families are going to say, yeah, that's how it works. But, like right now, if I said, you know, don't think of a pineapple or a pineapple painted blue that someone wrote “you stink” on it.
Tony: Done, done and done.
Mike: Right. It doesn't work that way. But if I said, you know, don't touch your keyboard, everyone can do that. That's the difference between behaviors we do with our hands and our feet and attempting to control internal stuff, internal stuff doesn't work that way. And frankly, it might work the opposite way. And then one of the jokes I say in therapy a lot is, this is the reason I have a job. Like, if it worked, you wouldn't need me. But it actually goes backwards, so that's probably why you need me.
Tony: Well and I find that a lot of things that I feel like in the world of mental health are counterintuitive, which is, I guess I would say that often too, that thank goodness, or I would be out of work but then I know that's humor and sometimes we have to use humor and people, if it's heavy for them, that might sound right. And then, and I feel like that's maybe part of their avoidance is, well I can't, this guy's being silly, or I can't, I can't look at it a different way or somebody, he doesn't understand what it's like. And I don't know, I feel like what do you do with those kinds of situations.
Mike: Yeah, you don't understand what it's like. I mean, I don't get that as much. I know people get it with other disorders, and I will say from an ACT perspective, if I keep talking about that I have disturbing thoughts, I have frustrated thoughts, I feel overwhelmed. I don't feel good enough like that’s just part of being a human being.
I feel like it's probably nice for a client to see that, you know, my therapist who seems to have it together also doesn't feel smart enough and feels overwhelmed and feels annoyed. And like if he has it, then it may not be so weird that I have it. And I'll definitely stress in my work, it's way more what you do with it than what you have.
Tony: I like that. Yeah. Well, it's funny, the insecurities even, we had a technical glitch there, and we went silent for a while and oh, I was all in my head about, man, this is my one chance and I thought we were vibing and now Mike's never going to come back in and you know, and that whole thing.
And it's funny the way we do that and then I just had to notice that was the thought. You know, that was something. So really quick as well I like that part about trying to control, so we don't do that. I do have one, I have a hypothetical, not even a hypothetical, so I would love your take just as I view you like this world renowned act researcher and knows act so well. And I tell you one thing that my latest kind of aha is I've got somebody, so if I have somebody that is, let's say they're in a job and they don't like their job and I've done, I've had enough of the experiences where I can then maybe have somebody that they feel like they really can't do anything about it, we can work their values into their current job, and then, you know, they might insert a value of humor or a value of connection, or they might go learn other values of curiosity. And I've had some success with that. But then I've also had, you know, I do a lot of work with trauma and I don't if you're familiar with the book The Body Keeps the Score and it's amazing. And so over time, because our emotions are traveling faster than our logical brain.
And you know, that visceral reaction as our brain says, is it safe? And if it's safe, then what do I do with it? And so when people have felt unsafe, that emotional reaction can intensify and they're all up in their amygdala and that sort of thing. So then I'll have people that will be in situations where, in a work situation where, okay, but my blood pressure is rising and I'm starting to have different ailments and then, and in the trauma world we say, okay, that's your body trying to tell you something and we need to listen to it, and maybe that's not the right opportunity for you. And I've been doing so much of the act work where, oh, that's just, you know, these are stories your body, your brain's telling you. And so invite them to come along with you and insert your values.
And so I don't know if you have any thoughts, and I know I'm just springing this on you right now, but it's interesting because act works so well, and now I've had a couple of people that are like, man, I'm still trying to be present. I'm noticing, I'm meditating, I'm working, you know, but I am still, I am still having this visceral gut reaction. And, and so I feel like there's an interesting, I'm not sure which one to rely on, you know?
Mike: Mm. Well, you tell me if I heard your question right. That if it's like the person's trying to be there for something but it's hard because their internal stuff is so loud.
Tony: Yeah, well said.
Mike: And what I'd probably say to that client is, you know, we may have spent 20, 30 years conditioning this to be at this volume. And now that we are not giving it the attention it needs, it's going to scream pretty loud. And I'd say, what do we want? Do we want it quiet or do we want to be in life? Because I'm going to be honest, it's not going to get quiet until you stop caring it's there.
So if you're always trying to check how loud it is, it's like it knows to put out some noise. So it's like you really just have to shift the game and then, and then we'll see what will happen. Yeah. And it's interesting, the description you gave, maybe we're about the same age. I'm starting to get more and more clients who are like, where do I want my life to go? My career isn't quite what I'm hoping it would be.
Tony: And then I love that because and then when I'm putting out there on my podcast that yeah, I switched after 10 years and now I love everything I do and it's value based and passionate.
And then I'll feel like people will then say, well, yeah, but that was easy. You know? No, it was incredibly uncomfortable. But, I find that then those yeah buts, that's why I call them, the yeah buts from act where, okay, I'm going to take action on this value and then sit back and I'll listen to all the yeah buts. Because it's scary and I think that just people hearing that that's part of the human experience is pretty cool. Hey Mike, I am just grateful for your time. I really am. Thank you. I am going to be very honest and say that I have done something exactly one other time with an interview a few days ago. And I love humor and I feel like that is something that maybe you can identify with as well. Okay. So this is either going to be something I will delete and never use again. I would love to see if you cannot laugh and I'm going to read a couple of my funniest two line jokes ever.
Mike: Okay. Oh, I'm gonna be terrible at it. We'll try.
Tony: Okay. Let me find one, let me get one here. I've got a couple of them that I think are just hilarious to me and let's alright, so, Dr. Michael Twohig, world renowned ACT researcher, try not to laugh. Just say no to drugs. Well, if I'm talking to my drugs, I probably already said yes.
Oh, that's good. Okay, next. I thought I could get you on that one. Don't laugh yet because this one, I’m Scrolling through them, here it comes. I feel bad for the homeless guy, but I really feel bad for the homeless guy's dog because he must be thinking, man, this is the longest walk ever.
Mike: Okay, you try. I have like two banked jokes.
Tony: Okay. Well this is my second experience and the first person texted me yesterday and said, oh, I want to do it to you now. So, alright, now, this is the first ever experience.
Mike: So there's two fish in a tank. One says, I'll drive you man the guns.
Tony: I don’t even know what that means.
Mike: In a tank.
Tony: Oh, that's even better. I just thought it was complete nonsense. Okay. All right. Okay.
Mike: How does it go? What did the fish say that swam into the concrete wall?
Tony: Okay. Okay. Maybe I need to rethink this. I thought I'd be able to do that. Okay. Well done. Those are good enough. So, alright, Mike, thank you so much for coming on and I hope that I can have you on again in the not too distant future. Sneak preview. I meant to even bring this up earlier, I work on some with scrupulosity, which I think is kind of a whole other realm and I would love your thoughts on that. Maybe as just a sneak preview.
Mike: Well yeah and being two Utah based guys, we just skipped right over the pornography stuff.
Mike: Such an interesting,, yeah, I was like, oh, I want to tell you stories about that. Okay.
Tony: So maybe next time? Okay. Yeah, yeah, we'll do that. So, alright. What a pleasure. I really appreciate the time. This is everything I had hoped it would be and more, so I can't wait to talk to you again. Okay. Right. Thanks Mike.
Geoff Steurer, LMFT talks with Tony about how to rebuild trust in a relationship even after situations that couples believed they would a) never stand for in their marriage and b) believe healing was even possible, like infidelity and betrayal. Geoff is the host of the podcast "From Crisis to Connection" and co-author of the book, "Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity."
You can find Geoff at https://www.geoffsteurer.com or on Instagram: @geoffsteurer or Facebook: @geoffsteurerMFT
Sign up for Geoff's Trust Building Bootcamp by following this link https://www.geoffsteurer.com/a/18461/ZB9Pb8qW and enter VIRTUALCOUCH15 for 15% off the course.
Tony appeared on two episodes of Geoff's podcast "Protecting your marriage in a faith crisis (part 1) - Tony Overbay - Episode 93" https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/from-crisis-to-connection-with-geoff-steurer/id1290359940?i=1000522608518 and "Protecting your marriage in a faith crisis (part 2) - Tony Overbay - Episode 94" https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/from-crisis-to-connection-with-geoff-steurer/id1290359940?i=1000523235363
Sign up today to be the first to know when the next round of The Magnetic Marriage Course will launch http://tonyoverbay.com/magnetic
-------------------------- TRANSCRIPT ------------------------
[00:00:00] I have so many things I want to say, two stories to tell about about my guests today. People would ask me if I knew Jeff. I just feel like there was a nice instant connection. I was on just podcasts for not one, but two episodes because we were just vibing so well. So, Gestur, welcome to the virtual couch.
[00:00:18] Tony, my brother from another mother man just now.
[00:00:21] Right. I love this. I couldn't wait to do the joke, I think, on your podcast where I was saying when I was looking over your website, we are the same other than you are far more handsome, have a lot more hair. And then you've both written books about pornography, addiction and recovery. And we've got podcast, I guess. Oh, that's so crazy.
[00:00:39] Same thing. When I first started, it said people like, hey, Tony, I said, looking at your stuff. And I'm like, wait a second, we almost do the exact same thing. This is so dang cool. But some people might feel threatened by that.
[00:00:50] But that's what I was going to say. Fantast. Yeah, because I really think there's a cool thing there with the concept of scarcity mindset versus that growth or, you know, growth mindset, because we're both just we're both just trying to change the world.
[00:01:03] Right, Jeff? Absolutely. Absolutely. People are hurting, man.
[00:01:06] I was going to mention something that then someday this will seem dated. When I was waiting for us to begin. I was looking at my phone to see what the air quality is, to see if we're going to watch high school football tonight, because there are so many fires in the area that I met. And and I feel like anywhere I talk to someone, there's some sort of a natural disaster. How are things in Southern?
[00:01:24] Yeah, air quality stinks, as definitely have some. Yeah, we've got fires in California that are the smoke is wafting over here and yeah, it's tough. Yes, we have beautiful, clear blue skies here, but it's just hazy. So so we don't usually get that kind of weather over here except the fire season.
[00:01:38] But yeah. And it's it's unfortunate there's a fire season. Hey, help my listeners know a little bit more about you. Give me your background. Tell me tell me about you, Jeff.
[00:01:47] Totally. I bet I actually have celebrating 25 years of marriage on Monday. Oh, congratulations. My wife, Jody, thank you. Yeah. And so, yeah, we've got four kids, ages 22 to 12. And yeah, I went to BYU, studied to be a journalist, and then I ended up at Auburn University doing marriage and family therapy. And I've been in marriage.
[00:02:08] Ok, I got to stop you right there. Little did I know what I'm saying. We have all these things. So that was my initial major in college as well as journalism. So that is why did why did you change your major or why did you stop?
[00:02:19] I didn't change it. I, I graduated with a communications degree and the same same.
[00:02:24] I did not know this about you. Mine's mass communications.
[00:02:27] Yeah. Mass communications, communications studies from BYU. And and then my senior year, I my wife and I had been married just a few weeks. I just met Wally Goddard, maybe, who, you know, and he lived next door to them. And we ended up living with them for two years in their basement. And it was from that experience that I decided I wanted to be a marriage family therapist. We just talked about marriages and families and all kinds of parenting, about these fictitious kids we didn't have yet. Yeah, I figured I would start talking about parenting stuff. And it was just so dynamic and interesting. And I just thought I got to do this for a living. And this is nuts. People talk about this for a living. And so I ended up this was my senior year, so I ended up changing a few classes around and got what I needed. And I ended up getting accepted into Auburn and did my my master's degree in MFT over there, moved to Alabama. Oh, wow. So, yeah, so I've worked now as an empty since I've been doing therapy with people for twenty three, twenty two years.
[00:03:24] Wow. Ok, I have so many questions about that, but I do not know about either. First of all, I think I missed the opportunity for a joke of were you an amazing parent, the fictitious kids, much better than with the best.
[00:03:34] Oh, dang. My wife and I would have actual real arguments about fake children that didn't exist. Right. I think we would we would all of a sudden just start discovering kind of all the different things that we had opinions about that you don't know you have opinions about. Yeah. And it was just really funny, because some points we would stop each other and go like we don't even have children. Why are we even talking about this? Yeah, but it was the collision of our ideas, our values, our backgrounds. But yeah. So interesting those conversations.
[00:04:02] No, I love that, because it's funny. We have kids that are for kids, as well as 22 or 23 to 17 somewhere around there. I know I'm in the ballpark and things do get a lot different. And we were just commenting a few days ago about, boy, when we were young, we really did feel like this isn't so bad. We've got this whole parenting thing figured out. And I've had a couple of people in my office lately that have said, boy, I wish I could go back there and because it seems so much easier. And so, yeah,
[00:04:29] I have all the answers. Be so confident. I know.
[00:04:31] Yeah. And so go ahead. Oh, no, go ahead. No, I'm so sorry, Jeff. I've got ridiculous follow up questions. Another one that I have is I didn't realize you've been doing actively doing therapy for so long. And I'm always fascinated by people that come out and they are working as therapists in their early 20s without kids, without they're just now married. And what was that experience like for you? Did people respect you? Did they did they want somebody that had already been through the been through the ringer, so to.
[00:05:00] Well, I think the people that were brave enough to say something would say things to me like I'm old enough to be your mother or stuff like that, but I think overall, like I had really good training from Auburn, great supervisors, great professors. And then my first job out of grad school was at a rural mental health clinic in Arizona. And I worked there. I worked there for six years. And so that gave me you would just call like street smarts. Like I joke with so many different kinds of cases, cradle to grave, every issue under the sun, serious illness, marriages, parenting and child therapy, everything. And so my my skill set just it really accelerated during that time. It was I just I felt like at the time that everybody needs to come work in a place like this because it was good, exposed me to so many things. And it was there that I learned what I really wanted to do. But yeah, no, it was tough. Like I was trying to do therapy with teenagers, but I had a one year old or I was trying to work with these marriages that have been married 30 years and I've been married five years. And so, yes, now that I've been married 25 years, I'm forty seven years old. I've got all these over two decades of experience under my belt. My obviously, my confidence is a lot higher now in terms of my ability to not only my training and experience, but also just lived experience. I just am not rattled by as much. Yeah, I think a way to put a confidence that things are going to work out or there's there's figure ways to figure it out. We can get there from here. Right. Like there's just things we can do.
[00:06:28] I love that that confidence that things will work out. I love that, because that's going to play a lot into what we're talking about today with trust and boundaries. And let me stay on that being, too. How did you you talk about you started to find the population you wanted to work with. What was that experience like and how did you find the population?
[00:06:45] Yeah, so I was working. I was doing so much child therapy. I had to play therapy room, the puppets, the whole works. Wow. And I loved it. But then I noticed that I would go home and not want to play with my own kids because I was so played out, OK. And I thought, OK, this isn't good. My kids will eventually grow up. But I love this. Is it really my thing? And what I found myself doing was I was always wanting to meet with the parents. I wanted to get my hands on the marriage. I was like, let's go up to the headwaters man. Like these kids obviously may have their own issues and temperaments and challenges, but I knew that there was something systemically going on upstream that I wanted to get my hands on. And so I ended up doing a lot of marriage therapy and billing it under the child's name. Ok.
[00:07:30] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:07:31] Right. So it and so for that, just because I wanted those parents to get a better environment for themselves and their kids, and that's where I was like, OK, I need to do I need to work with marriages that I registered my business, moved to Utah and started my marriage therapy practice.
[00:07:47] If anybody was this is the first time they're they're hearing me the comment. I'm sure the quote would be, if they're following you over here to this podcast, they're going to say, all right, Tony, back off talking about yourself here. But I can't I had no idea about this part of your career. I started with kid therapy as well. Of course
[00:08:02] You did, Tony, because we have the same
[00:08:04] Is the same. And the whole reason I didn't I went away from it was surprisingly because I wanted to deal with the parents because I felt like I was just giving the kid coping skills.
[00:08:13] Exactly right.
[00:08:14] Oh, that's crazy, Jeff. That is. All right. So then you go to Utah and now you're doing more couples
[00:08:19] At that point. So when I moved to Utah in 2006, I was starting to I was starting to do some work in my agency in Arizona. I was starting to run into online pornography issues, sexuality issues. And this was in 2006. So the Internet had been high speed, Internet was in homes. Now, at this point in the early 2000s. And you were starting now to see like the tsunami of online sexual betrayals starting to come into our offices, at least in my office. And this was in a rural community where there's no dirty magazine stores or strip clubs or nothing. This was like rural conservative community. But people were just blown apart their marriages with all this stuff. And I was like, oh, wow, this is definitely a problem. And I need I don't know what to do. I had training in marriage therapy and some other stuff, but I just I didn't have I wasn't equipped. So I reached out and got some training from the LIFESTAR network, from Damrey Toddles and those guys. Yeah. And they ended up saying, hey, we'll give you the rights, if you will, or the territory for southern Utah. And I moved out there, moved out to St. George and opened up a sexual addiction treatment program that I ran for 15 years.
[00:09:25] Wow. And I recently sold it. And but I'm that I really cut my teeth working with this population here in St. George. And Mark Chamberlain brought me on as a coauthor for his book a few years later. Kevin Skinner, I just started really connecting with a lot of these great therapists and mentors here in Utah, these guys that were doing some really great cutting edge work at the time and are still still doing great work. And it just was I just fell into this community of professionals and friends that were working with these issues and helping a lot of couples. And they have just. Come in over the years, and we've just been able to help so many people with pornography issues, sexual betrayal and fidelity, and then really learned how to put these marriages back together. Especially as I worked and did my training and emotionally focused couples therapy back in 2009 with Sue Johnson and her team. And so I just I just have had the opportunity and have been so fortunate to get great training, great mentors, great thought leaders. And we've just been able to do a lot of good things with these couples that are just looking for help, you know?
[00:10:29] Yeah. And again, and I think I don't think I even stress this enough at the beginning of this show. I loved being on your podcast so much. And we talked about some people that are navigating a faith journey. And we and then we ended up landing a little bit around the F.T. principles or about my battler's of a conversation. But so I feel like that is so important to have that framework. But what I feel like I, I would love to hear your thoughts on, and I think you've got such good ideas here on. So, you know, let's say we've got this framework to communicate, but how do we how do we start rebuilding trust? And I feel like that is the biggest thing that you see, especially when those couples come in and they just feel like they are in such crisis. And I don't know. What's that like for you? Where do you go first? What do you do?
[00:11:14] Yeah, that's the biggest reason why I built my trust building course and spent so much of my I wanted to really focus in on this because so many couples would come in and they would have a church leader or a loved one or themselves. Just think we just need to work on our marriage. We need to go on more dates and they're bleeding out. There's been a major betrayal, there's been a discovery, there's been some major infidelity or something. And the couple just is trying to now put back the marriage. But it's like putting back together something that it's like the pieces don't even fit. It's so shattered. And so it's like you just the things don't line up. And the couples is in trauma, one or both of them. And it's just very overwhelming. So you can't just start by pushing the marriage in front and trying to work on the marriage. It's another sort of way I've talked about this, is that when there's been a secret or a discovery of a secret. It's there's a big crater blowing in the ground. And so the one betrayed partner drops to a different level than the person who's had the information, had the had the upper hand in a way.
[00:12:16] And it's really critical for marriage therapy to work for marriage enrichment and these things we like to talk about with strengthening marriages. There's an assumption that the couple is on level ground to one degree or another. Ok. And so there has to be you have to backfill that crater and you have to do things to get that love that that relationship, get that person down in the hole, back up to level ground, because there's been such a huge violation. There's been such a power imbalance, a huge shift in the dynamic, in the relationship. So that starts with telling the truth, knowing exactly what's going on, safety, making sure there's healthy boundaries, making sure that that there's deep accountability from the person who broke the trust that they're they're actively serving in a role of trying to help the relationship, help the wounded partner. It's trauma. This is not just, hey, I have a bunch of needs. You have needs. Let's work on our needs together. It's not like that early on when there's a very Fermat trail like this. So that's where I start caino.
[00:13:18] I love it. And I would love to we could break down each one of those. And I'd love to get your thoughts. The part about telling the truth and maybe I'd love to get your thoughts, too, on the whole concept of I always say No. One, when they're going to confess or right after they got caught, let's say either of those situations, they don't say, all right, let's just take a time out before we say anything, you know, dumb. And a lot of times, that's where and right now I'll just say, let's say that's the guy that is the betrayer. Just the we we both work with men or women that have done that. But then they just at times, yeah, they're going to just unload and then. And tell me if you also see at first where people come into your office and the guy has he really has wanted to now say, OK, here's what's happened. But he's still working from this place. And this is where my first pillar of assuming good intentions of that, I still don't want to devastate my wife. So I'm going to tell her some things. But I really would just assume conscious or subconscious, tell her just enough so that she will understand. But then I don't want to tell her more. You know what I mean by that?
[00:14:20] Oh, absolutely. And a lot in this case, a lot of guys will will believe that they're doing this for their wife. But the truth, I believe, is that they're doing it to manage their own shame, their own. Yeah. They're so overwhelmed because they can't handle the reality of their own story. And so basically, they're oftentimes going to give her the light version. They're going to spotlight just generally the behaviors that are either already been discovered or the ones that they think she can handle. Exactly. Yeah. But where that needs to go is that he needs to have some time with his own story first, because he's been lying to himself about it. And before he can ever really do a full inventory disclosure, whatever you want to call it, I call it a form of disclosure before he can do that. He's got to have some practice telling his story to a therapist, to if he's in a group, just 12 step group or church leader, he's got to have practice reducing his own shame and internal reactivity around that story before he can pass it over in full truth and humility to his wife.
[00:15:22] That's I love the way you put that. I mean, because. Yeah, that's a that's so good, because then when he's trying to share some things, there is that shame. And I feel like oftentimes then he will then he will pull back, which I feel like it causes the wife to just want to know more or and I'm sure you see this often, too. But OK, now wife is now been hit with this this trauma, this devastation, and now goes back and starts asking more questions. And so if he only gave a little bit of the information to begin with. Ok, now. Sure. All right. He'll tell a little bit more thinking, OK, she needs to know a little bit more. But now what? Are we training her brain? Is that OK? He obviously didn't tell me the truth. And the more I dig now, I'll get the truth. And then we're starting to create this unhealthy dynamic.
[00:16:06] Yeah. Oh, yeah. The flow of the information is going the wrong direction. It's coming it's being pulled out of him versus flowing out of him. And she needs to know that he'll bring her the truth. And so a lot of these guys, again, they're caught up in their own shame. And so that can come that can come out in different ways. They can withhold and say less information, which is what we're talking about. Right. They can even like fire hoser with all their shame and guilt and tell her way more stuff than she needs to know. There can be he he can sometimes collapse into a heap of shame and feel like such a victim and like an awful person in some ways, expect her to take care of him.
[00:16:47] Exactly. Yeah, a little bit of victim mode and want her to rest
[00:16:51] And be all kinds of different ways. This will show up. And so telling your story, you would think it would be just straightforward. Just tell the truth, man. It's not that simple because you're dealing with a lot of that reactivity and shame inside of them that they have to manage in a. Healthy way, otherwise, they're going to overwhelm their partner and it's going to delay the trust building.
[00:17:12] So, Jeff, it's funny. I always say that what I literally just said to you, that no one is going to say, let me hit pause, let me go meet with somebody before I even express or we try to do this. But people listen to my podcast. That may be on the verge of saying, all right, I need to deal with this. I do need to confess something to my spouse. So what do you say? Do you say go see the therapist first? You do give a do you go and confess and then say, but before we go any further, we really need to do this the right way? I don't know. I've never asked this question. You're an expert. I mean, what are your thoughts?
[00:17:45] Yeah. Yeah, that is so tricky because you know, what you're asking them to do essentially is schedule a trauma. Right? You're basically. I know.
[00:17:53] Ok, yeah.
[00:17:55] You're like, OK. So I guess a couple of scenarios. One scenarios where somebody comes into my office and by themself and they've never told their partner, they pulled me aside and say, hey, I'm basically sitting on this huge secret. I've never told my partner, will you work with us as a couple or what do I do that I can count on one hand the amount of times that has happened in my career? It's super rare. And it happened recently, happened probably a year ago. And I had a client come in and she had never told her husband anything about any of this. And so I, I did not I worked with her for about four or five weeks, and we worked on her story. I helped her prepare disclosure. And then I actually had her go do it with him out in the desert, like they took a drive. I had to do it out there because I sense that he would be safe the way she described. She felt comfortable doing it. And it went really well. He actually it worked out fine because I didn't want to double team with her and have him feel double team that these two people were going to basically just dump this reality on him. And I didn't have be with him at all. I didn't know him at all. Wow.
[00:19:00] Oh, that's a really unique, rare way to. Yeah. So if you're listening to this and you're sitting on a bunch of secrets and you've never told your partner, it's important to go meet with a therapist and figure out what your options are, because dumping it on your partner can can cause a ton of unintended trauma. Yeah, this guy there, healing has accelerated because she came in and when she disclosed to him, she was very prepared. I had her totally ready to talk about it from a place of humility. She had all the things worked out, which she'd written it all down. It was organized. There was no drama. It was just like heartfelt and humble. And it went better than it could have gone if she had just blown it up. Wow. So that's one example. But the most common one is where somebody comes into my office and there's already been I would say this is ninety nine percent of the time. Yeah. And I just made that number up. But that's basically what I see as the pattern is the couple comes in and there's already been some kind of a discovery. Either he's confessed or she's confessed something, or there's been a discovery, totally unintended. And what we're doing now is I'm having to make a case with them and say, look. Do you believe that this is everything again? Most of the time it's no, I don't trust them.
[00:20:15] I discovered this much. They've only told me this much. So what I'll do next is basically say then we're going to structure form disclosure. You just disappear the truth completely one time versus dragging this out. And you need to have practice city with your story and really learning how to get deep into your heart. I'll do this over the course of a couple of meetings, but the vision of it is basically, OK, we're going to have a redo on this and we're going to do it correctly. It's going to like that. You came in with your came in with your like your duct tape and baling wire version of trying to fix this thing up. We're going to take all that apart and we're going to put in some anchors and some bolts and we're going to really lock this thing down so that you don't ever have to go through this process again, because otherwise it just becomes like a limp in the marriage for the rest of their life. Do I really know everything? Were they fully honest? How do I know we want to get rid of that? And have there be a rock solid assurance that, OK, I know everything. Now we're working on current stuff, not past.
[00:21:15] That's brilliant. That is. So then if I go back to that concept of being truthful, of telling the truth. How scared do you see people of that? Or again, I feel like sometimes when people get this thing off their chest, they want to just go back to now. Can we just go back to the way we were?
[00:21:31] Yeah, it's awful. Yeah. Telling telling the truth is so scary, especially when you're up against. Losing that secure bond with the other person, right, innately we just are so we're just constantly on guard against losing that, and we just were defenseless. And so we'll do almost anything, including manipulate somebody with lies. Yeah, that's how strong our commitment to security is. A lot of people think, well, they're doing this because they they don't respect me or care about me or they hate me. And it's no it's because I don't want to lose you. But it's a terrible it's a terrible outcome. It's not OK. So, yeah, telling the truth is terrifying. But again, part of what good recovery looks like for a couple is learning how to tell the truth first about the big behaviors. And they get practice through that disclosure process, but then they learn how to tell the truth just about, let's say, how they're feeling or what they want. Absolutely. Or what they need. And those can feel like secrets. I don't dare tell them that I'm lonely. I don't dare tell them I want that I want to have more sexual intimacy. I don't dare tell them that that hurts my feelings. And so they start to learn and practice telling the truth so that if they can tell the truth about that stuff down the road, it's less likely they're going to end up having other secrets that are much more consequential.
[00:22:50] Absolutely. And I feel like and I say this so often, but I want this I want to hear more from you today. But we're so afraid of contention that we avoid tension altogether, but that tensions where the growth can happen and that and. But where are you now that we're so afraid of any tension? Because what if what if they leave? What if what if this is too much? And and I feel like all they're closer than they think to where that that really can be an amazing growth opportunity. We're different. We're different people. We are. And I feel like this is where we get this chance to now have a relationship where there's legitimate curiosity because we can be different instead of that fear of like, I don't know if I'm too different, you know, they might leave.
[00:23:27] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think it takes a while to get there. I know even just my own twenty five year marriage, like the kinds of questions I'm able to ask now and the kinds of security we have, I wouldn't have had that the first 5 or 10 years. There's no way. And so with couples that are coming out of a betrayal or coming, you know, trying to rebuild safety first, they have to they have to know that it's not going to keep happening and they have to know that their partner is in deep accountability and remorse. They've heard everything. And then and then that that intimacy, that curiosity that you're talking about, being able to tolerate differences and ask for what you need and really kind of embrace a lot of disowned feelings and wants and needs and desires all that. And that's just good material to work. It is the rest of your marriage. That's to me, that's the gold and that. Yeah. And the couples that that avoid that stuff or shove it down, ignore it or shame it or criticize it like that. Just to me, they're missing out on what marriage was designed for, because my individual growth as a man has skyrocketed because of feedback from my own wife about. Absolutely. That if it weren't working for her and I have to look at myself and what I'm bringing in, man, it's just like dynamic and rich.
[00:24:38] Yeah, OK. I want to get to some trust things. I want to throw a theory out as I'm saying this, I might end up have to edit it out because it might go against the very marriage course. I'm trying to pitch. But I've noticed that, you know, in my mind, it's the people that have had the most success in in even my marriage course are those that have they've been through some things. And I have this vision where I would love to teach every young couple to. We don't. How about we get to the point where we don't have to go through so much and we learn how to communicate and be vulnerable and deal with tension and we can be different and that sort of thing. But as I almost want to say is I beta tested some of these principles on on newlyweds. And you kind of oh, you know, you need to express this or the assumption of good intentions or or don't tell them they're wrong or or questions or comments. They're like not it's really not a big deal. And that's where I want to say, OK, but but it's things are eventually going to become a big deal. How about we go out and start talking about him now? And I'm finding that it's the old people don't know what they don't know. Right. Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. We had to solve that one. We had to figure out.
[00:25:43] Yeah, I think I think I think it's experiential. And I and I think that we have to. I don't know. I just think that. The longer I live, the longer I do this with clients of my own marriage, stuff like that, I just don't want people to be afraid of embracing as much as I don't want people to, like, be betrayed sexually or some of them. Sure. We're talking about something's going to go wrong, right. Somebody is going to there's something's going to go sideways. There's going to be some hurt somewhere. And I just want people to know what to do with that when it shows up, whatever that is. And because it's experiential, like like the gut level, like nervous system instinct, response. I have the love, the connection I have with my wife that's been forged out of a lot of trial, a lot of heartache, disappointments, misunderstandings, even some betrayals that have been really damaging around in our own relationship, things that we had to work through early on that that were just so hard. And I would never be able to probably get that gut level instinct in those those kind of that rock solid commitment and some of these things that I feel today without that and I don't know that we need to like engineer those conditions for it. They're just you put two people together. Stuffs going to happen, man.
[00:26:59] It is. It is. And if they've got the framework and they they they're going to get the. So can you talk to me? And again, full authenticity and as you say, full disclosure. That's in my head. I kept I kept saying when we were trade messages about today, I like Jeff. You're the I want to know I want to hear you talk boundaries. But then as I would go deep, dove more into the material that you provide. You have this trust boot camp, this trust workshop. So and then when we jumped on before we hit record, I was saying, do we talk about trust? We talk about boundaries. And what are your thoughts on differences, similarities? Where do we go from here?
[00:27:31] Oh, man. Boundaries are are a lot of people think of boundaries. Just as for the person that has been betrayed, like, oh, I need boundaries to protect myself from from being lied to or being taken advantage over being abused or whatever. And absolutely like that's that to me is sort of like the obvious boundary stuff. But if you think about people that break trust, they have serious problems with boundaries. They they they are a lot of times they're self neglecting. They're not they're not even paying attention to their own needs and desires and stuff. And so there's there's they're crossing lines there. That could be like not getting enough sleep or not eating correctly. Just physical maintenance stuff. Yeah. Or it could even be flirting or other boundaries around other people or poor digital habits or the list of boundaries can go on. That could be like not saying no to stuff or taking on too much or having terrible work habits or people pleasing. So so boundaries to me are just the framework of how to live a really emotionally and physically and emotionally and spiritually healthy, balanced life. I don't I don't think you can separate out boundaries from almost any discussion, because that's what keeps us upright. That's what keeps us healthy and functioning. And that's how I believe boundaries are. What bring us joy.
[00:28:42] Yeah. No, I love that. I really do. I talk with the Preston Pug Maya, who helped me create this course. And we talk about the concept of presence and radiance and the flowing river and the riverbank or the the artwork and the picture frame or and so in that concept of a boundary, that we do need something to kind of keep things what's the right way to put it. So I don't know. So something can be more igby more structure to it. I don't know. So it doesn't just go everywhere. Right. I might add that I was get.
[00:29:15] Yeah, I'm not I'm not sure exactly like in terms of are you asking like I
[00:29:19] Like the idea of personal boundaries, because I feel like when I am just kind of all over the place and at times where I've said, oh, well, that's just my 8D, as I just did right there, or this is just the way I vibe. But when there's more of that structure in terms of personal boundaries, with regard, like you say, at a time of self care, saying no to things, basically all the last four or five things you just listed that then I do feel a lot more productive. I feel more connected. And so I really like that idea of starting with the personal boundaries. I really like that.
[00:29:51] Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I just know that a lot of a lot of the heartache and pain when I've put it on other people, like, well, that person's not give me what I need or this whatever. I have to look very clearly and see, like, have I even asked for it? Have I ever have I even set any clear expectations? Am I managing even my schedule or my time or my business? Am I am I am I showing up in a boundary, healthy, clear way? And when I do, I find that most people adapt and adjust and things go pretty dang well. But but when I'm not boundary, when I'm just chaotic and all over the place, then and I just invite so much trouble into my life.
[00:30:30] Hey, can I ask a specific question and tell me your thoughts on this? I appreciate when you were saying a lot of times we think about the betrayed is the one that then needs to set the boundaries, which I totally agree. Yeah, but I have had those times, or even when you put the betrayal trauma structure in place where the person who who the betrayer will kind of be there for the I'm going to be present. I'm going to be here for you and I'm going to left language, maybe the attachment injury, apologies, and I'm going to show you that I'm not going to go anywhere. But then when it continues to go at times and I've been trying to work with people to set that boundary to say, man, I, I, I'm here, but I feel like we're starting to get into some really unhealthy territory or unproductive conversations. And I don't know. Do you have any thoughts on that, what that boundary looks like for the betrayer without it feeling like they're just running away from a conversation?
[00:31:24] Oh, yeah. Yeah, that's a really sensitive one. I do talk about this and of course, I get into it specifically around even like what if the betrayed starts becoming abusive? Yeah. Yeah. What if what if they strike me verbally abusive or physically abusive in some cases, which I've had people get their nose broken or I've had or people just really get aggressive because they're so hurt. So does does the betrayer have any right to say, hey, that doesn't work for me? Or is that just part of them taking it because. Right, because they broke trust. So they should just take whatever is given to them. I think that obviously an extreme examples are Padilla's legal things, like physical violence or stuff like that. Of course, they need to be able to set boundaries and protect themselves. But when it comes to that, that line of do I have any rights to express my needs? The thing is, is that I believe everybody everybody's feelings are valid. Everybody's needs are totally legitimate. It's a triage thing. It's basically being able to say, if you're deep in your accountability, if you're deep in your your honesty around the impact you've had and you're listening to your partner talk about how hurtful that may feel, like you're being abused. But the truth is, they may just be sharing a lot of like, truthful, hurtful things about the impact you've had on them. And and for you to bail out of that and say like, well, I'm not going to hear that.
[00:32:41] I'm not going to be talked to that way, that would damage more trust. That's a problem. Yeah. And on the other hand, if the betrayed partner is saying things like UAF and this and that, and I hate your guts and I don't want to be like if there might be again, it's like climate versus weather, like if there's an occasional lightning bolt of that, you probably ought to just take it and have some compassion. But if it's the climate, if it's like it's like you've now moved into this, like really tumultuous, verbally attacking kind of aggressive climate that's just like that every single day in and out, every conversation that it's important to to basically describe this. Ok, this is a pattern. This is this is actually destructive for the betrayed to be there, obviously, in so much distress. I can't let this continue anymore. And I'm not going to do it from a place of self-protection as much as I'm doing it from place of I'm protecting the relationship I'm protecting. I like it or him. I protect like this is just unhealthy. So I think if it's coming from a place of self-preservation, in my experience, that's generally coming from avoidance. But if it's coming from a place of this is toxic, this is really damaging, we're not getting anywhere that's that's going to land a little differently. So that makes
[00:33:55] Soga. Oh, yeah, it makes so much sense. And so so that's you say that's Covered in your in your in your workshop and your course. Yeah, I love it. I know. I'm grateful. I'm grateful that that that is there, because I think that will give and I like it. But when I was even reading about your course, I think sometimes people just want to know that there is hope or there is a plan. Oftentimes, I feel like that's enough. To keep somebody engaged in the process, and so I liked it, if anybody is hearing this and they are the betrayer that just to know that, OK, yeah, it's normal for them to feel at times this is too much. And I and I love the climate versus weather. I really do. That's so good. So how do people start, in your opinion? Again, I want people to take your course because I want them because it's now sound like I'm doing the sales pitch for you. But it goes into so much detail. And I want people to be able that this is such a big topic that I think it needs more than 15, 20 minute discussion on a podcast. But in that vein of giving people hope, what do you what do you tell people as far as how to start rebuilding trust?
[00:34:53] Well, the the first place so are we talking to the person who broke the trust where they can start or the.
[00:35:00] I think the couple I would love to know, because I think. Well, I don't know. You tell me, where do you go with that?
[00:35:06] Well, there's there's kind of two we talk about. There's three that there's that there's two individual recoveries. Yeah. And then there's this couple recovery. Yeah. The couple recovery clearly depends on it depends on how well those individual recoveries are going. So if you have one person who is working really hard, so a lot of times you'll have the betrayed who's super motivated because they're hurting so badly. So they're they're motivated and they're they're coming. They're working and working. And then the person who's been unfaithful or betrayed, the relationship is being dragged in like that. Dynamics in terms of where to start. It's going to be hard to do any marriage stuff there, so we're we're going to start is we're probably I'm probably going to start working on help if both people are coming in. I'm probably going to split them a little bit and work a lot with just creating some safety and some containment with the betrayed so that they can just get their emotional bearings and get some safety and get some clarity about what's happened to them, what they need. A lot of the times they're in trauma, they're dealing with physical stuff.
[00:36:06] Sometimes if there's sexual betrayal, we have to make sure that they're safe, even go get an STD test. You think it can get really hard to try and help people feel safe and with the person who broke the trust. Early on, I'm just in a lot of ways, it's sort of like it's kind of like the old 12 step thing. It's like even just helping them wake up to the fact that they even have a problem. Yeah. And that's that a lot of the times they may come in just wanting to get this over with. And so what I'm wanting to do is help them settle in to the journey, help them settle into the benefits of rebuilding this thing from the ground up. And that's going to come from honesty, transparency, accountability, caring about and really recognizing that they are a source of comfort to their partner if they'll do this work. They're so in touch to the fact that they're a source of pain, but they don't realize that they're actually a huge source of comfort if they'll if they'll do the work.
[00:37:03] No, I love it. I do. And I feel like that helps people understand it again. There is a plan or there can be this structures, which means there is hope. So I almost like they're realizing the more I'm asking these questions, that they are a bit ambiguous. I feel like I'm almost asking what The Huffington Post seven things to rebuild trust and you'll never believe. Number four for kind of a thing. But I don't know if you have that kind of advice that you even give people or if if they're in this kind of a situation, it's so much more than just that. Really?
[00:37:29] Yeah. Yeah. I do have an acronym that I use in the course quite a bit, which is ACT, which is stands for accountability, compassion and time. And and those those principles for the person who broke the trust are critical that that it all comes back down to if they want to be a safe person, if they want to be a trustworthy person, they have to learn to live in accountability, not be afraid of that. Ok, and that's and that's that's going to show up in lots of forms. And I tell people all the time, look, there's no expiration date on your accountability. It's not like you can be accountable for the first six months. And then after that, you can't say to your partner, hey, you can't bring this up anymore because of that. Right? It's now you're accountable. If I betrayed my what I remembered, I first was married to my wife, like we were married like two weeks. And I totally hurt her feelings. It involved like my ex girlfriend. I ran into her on campus, didn't introduce my wife. My wife was sitting right there feeling stupid. It just the whole thing was such a mess. And I was so immature. And to this day, sometimes it will come up as even as a joke and laugh about it with other people or tell stories.
[00:38:31] And I'll seriously get back in the car and say to my wife, like, I know we're joking about that, but like, seriously, I'm just so sorry that that happened. That's just like, no, no brand new wife should have to, like, feel so stupid and humiliated. I'm so sorry. I still feel really badly about that. And that accountability. Twenty five years later is so important. And then and then the compassion, of course, is just caring deeply about the impact you've had in your partner, and that that compassion shows up everywhere. It's like I care about your pain and I will make sure that I am the kind of person that will sooth that, tend to it. That's proximity, closeness, softness, kindness. Like I'm just going to be a source of comfort for you. And then the time thing is it's not only it's going to take a long time, but it's just multiple times that there's going to be repeated over and over and over again. It's it's going to be like, yes, we've had this conversation before and we'll we'll have it again. And this might feel like a broken record, but the repetition is going to help you start to experience me as a consistent, safe person.
[00:39:37] So that is so good. Yeah. No, I mean, it came up at that part I love because I feel like and I'm sure you hear this often, too, where or how many times are we gonna have to go through this? And it's as many as you need to. And I love what you said so that I can show them that that I can be there for them. I can be consistent. And I love when you see in the scenario, let's say it's the guy again where they look at it like, oh, no, I know what to do with this. I'm grateful that she's expressing this trigger or this hurt, because I know what to do with this and knowing that the wrong thing is the look, we've already talked about it. When are you getting it over? It's absolutely the wrong thing. And I think there is that fear of, well, what if this goes on forever? And that's where I want to say, OK, what if but if we're doing the work each time, then we're not going to we're maybe not going to need to worry about that. Right. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I love it. So the the acronym is wonderful. So that helps a lot, too. So any other thoughts there? I feel like I feel like I had an aha moment about five minutes ago where it really isn't just these cliches. It's it's being willing to get in there and do the work and admit the things that you don't know, because no one's been through this process until they've been through the process. And so going in there with humility and not going in there with trying to tell their their spouse how they're supposed to experience this trauma, pain.
[00:40:55] Yeah, and I, I tend to not be very good at like acronyms and breaking things down into steps in general, it's just not one of my strengths. So I don't I don't I don't think like that, but. I also don't I also think that this trust building process doesn't play well to that, like you were saying, I think that what I want them to do is to tune in and settle in, to settle into a journey of of being curious and understanding the way that they've impacted their partner. Because if you start get into steps of like, well, do you do this and this and this and that happens, it almost it almost kind of creates this environment where the person who like you're almost kind of creating like a finish line. And I want to say like this is not the goal, isn't to like get through it. The goal is to integrate this into your story and have this become something that draws you both closer together so that you feel like you've overcome something together. Yeah. And instead of just like we got past that, never talk about it again, I think you're missing a huge opportunity for deep intimacy. Long term, it takes years, though, for people to really get there. And I want them to settle in for the long journey.
[00:42:02] And I love the concept of settling in. I love that where when people say, well, OK, but if we're still doing this in a year and I often want to just stop them and say we're that's the wrong that's the entire wrong parallel work from. Right. It's like I hope that they still feel like they can come to me and bring something up in a year, because I want them to know that we can have these conversations, because that's going to mean we can have all kinds of conversations. And I feel like that's that part where people don't even understand what that relationship can look like because they didn't see it modeled maybe growing up. And they certainly haven't had to be this honest and accountable until this happen, which is going back to what I think you and I were talking about. I want to create something that is going to make this happen. But, boy, when we when we got this opportunity, it's kind of let's do this. I wanted to throw I want to random train of thought, but I do a lot of my podcast talking about marriage.
[00:42:52] And I've been talking so much lately about interdependent versus codependent then. And so we're interdependent. And we're and then when you're differentiated, where one person ends, the other begins. And and when we're breaking free from this enmeshment or this codependence, and as we become differentiated, it will come with some invalidation. And I think that's where that uncomfortable place is. And that's where I feel like and here's where I'm going with this, is I feel like what we're talking about is I will have people sometimes say, oh, wait a minute, if I might. If we're interdependent and we're differentiated, then that sure doesn't sound like a marriage. And that's what I'm saying. We don't even know what that looks like is that is safety and that's curiosity. And now we're going through the life one through our life, being able to say, hey, what do you think about that? And we're processing emotion as as a couple. And and that is just something that is beautiful. But people don't know what that even looks like until they're there. Do you know anything about that?
[00:43:43] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It reminds me that quote and I'll paraphrase it from Anthony DeMello, who basically said something like, We don't really love people. We love the idea of people. Right. We love the idea of what we think they should be. And that's that's that lack of differentiation. That's yeah. Basically, in my own marriage, like I like I can honestly say I did not love my wife. In a mature love when I first married her at age 22. Yeah. I love the idea of her. I love the idea of a wife and who I thought she was. But as I've gotten to know her, I've had to confront a lot of things that are very different than how I do things. And and and that challenge, if she were just to kind of like mold into the version of what I thought she should be, I'd be a very unhappy person. And I think she would, too. And so, yeah, the richness is in. To me, it's like endless curiosity, if you ever wonder, like a lot of couples, like we have nothing to talk about them all. Oh, but if you're both like really healthy individuals and you have things going on and opinions and thoughts and things that you're interested in exploring and preferences. Oh, that's given me all the material I need to talk about with my wife.
[00:44:52] More getta so good. And I feel like I love what you're saying because I feel like I thought we will hit thirty one years of marriage here in just a month or so. Awesome. And I and I but it's the last even few that the more of that there is that differentiation. My wife wife's dress a little bit more stylish. You might wear a little more jewelry or things that I know that in a less mature version of that I talk to guys all the time are like, well, geez, well, why are you wearing that? Versus, Oh, man, I love this. Tell me more like tell me, tell me. That's right. Oh, and and it breaks my heart to think if there was a part of her that felt like she can't be herself because of the fear of well, I don't know if Tony's going to like it or not. And that's that part where I feel like people don't even know what that looks like to say, oh, this is different, but tell me more or not. Well, this is different. What what's this all about? And it's a whole different energy
[00:45:38] Partner as an individual that exists. And I think we get married. I know I did. A lot of couples get married because of how that person makes you feel. Yeah, we we talk about it like oh, they're amazing because they make they make me feel so loved or me, me, me, me, me egocentric. But yeah, I think I think mature love is really about it's like we do with our kids. Like we don't want them to just be like carbon copies of us. We want to really get to know them and figure out what their journey is. And I just feel honored that my wife wants to take her journey with me.
[00:46:09] Oh, that's so good. That's so good.
[00:46:11] Yeah, chose me to have it with.
[00:46:13] No, thank you for the laugh. Now, like I know what our next topic will be. I'd love to go deep into the differences in marriage or differentiation next time with spouses or mature relationships. I could talk to you about that all day, too. I love that. I really do. I do. Ok, this is better than I even imagined. Jeff, so thank you so much. And then so awesome. It is. I want people to go take your course. So tell them where to go. That always sounds funny to me. Tell where to go, Jeff. Tell them tell me where to get your course. And then that you've been very kind to give them my my people, my people a code. So, yeah. Where do they go?
[00:46:45] Yeah, I might. I definitely want your your listeners to to access the course. And there's a 15 percent off coupon. Virtualcouch15. Thank you, Virtual Couch. Just put that in at check in and save you 15 percent on the course. But yeah, it's it's it's a it's a 12 week course. One lesson or one module per week. And there's like four or five, three or four lessons inside each module with videos and worksheets. And and then as part of the course, I offer a one year question answer live monthly webinar with me where you can get on it. That's good. And connect with me and and get additional support, because I know it takes longer than 12 weeks. I just do the lessons over 12 weeks. And then you can have a year to kind of work things out and get get support. But yeah, you can just go on my website, just your dot com if you don't know how to spell my name, which is really hard to spell. You can just go to from crisis to connection. That's another website and you'll see it on there under courses.
[00:47:38] What I'll have I'll have links to everything, too. And I really do mean it. The the I don't I don't know if you've gotten a lot of feedback, but I now point people who are struggling with faith. I mean, even talk about that. But that's what I loved talking with you about, that. We we covered stages of faith. We covered faith journeys. We covered as I've been pointing people that are coming to me for that to your podcast, because I just I appreciated your you've been answering all the questions. Amazing here. But you're you're an amazing interviewer as well. And you've been getting a lot of pretty darn amazing guests on your podcast as well. So I highly recommend that, too.
[00:48:10] Yeah. No, it's it's fun. I love podcasting.
[00:48:13] Yeah. So we will do it again soon.
[00:48:16] I look forward to it, man.
[00:48:17] And I cannot believe you did. Therapy. Communication brings the whole thing. Just I don't know what we'll find out next, but I can't wait. So. All right, Jeff, thank you so much for coming on.
[00:48:26] Hey, thanks, Tony.
Tony talks about the mental health and life lessons learned on a recent trip to Disneyland, including the brain’s fascination with anticipation vs. reward, the psychological importance of nostalgia, the “Coolidge Effect,”; how to “let go and play” (http://playtheory.org). Plus, Tony shares the application of his “4 Pillars of a Connected Conversation” with his wife during a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean. Tony also discusses mindfulness tips, how “kindness wins,” and the link between ADHD and “hangry.”
Head to tonyoverbay.com/magnetic to be the first to know the start date of Tony's next round of his "Magnetic Marriage" course.
Tony's FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to https://www.tonyoverbay.com/courses-2/ 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. https://amzn.to/38mauBo
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 https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.
You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program The Path Back by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com 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 https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ
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------------ TRASNSCRIPT ------------
[00:00:00] Today, we are going to talk about Disneyland, so even if you're not a Disneyland fan, I hope that you will sit back and enjoy a therapist take on the Magic Kingdom.
[00:00:26] Come on, take a seat.
[00:00:32] So a few weeks ago with my wife, my daughter MacKinley, my niece Taylor, we headed to Disneyland down in Southern California and a true confession. I did not go to Disneyland as a kid. And I don't want you to get out the violins or the sad music. But my first trip was with Wendy a couple of years after we were married, and she would go often as a kid. So she was so excited to share the magic of Disneyland with me. And it was wonderful. And we were married in the year nineteen ninety so long ago. So I have to believe that we went somewhere in that early to mid 90s. And so for anybody keeping score, California Adventure, the other theme park that is across the the, the little pathway there to Disneyland was first opened in 2001. So our first trip was classic Disneyland. I did a quick Google search and the rides consisted of the classics. There was, of course, a small world which literally did break down on us halfway through. And that song to this day still brings back memories as a nice way to put it. Of that first trip, there was Pirates of the Caribbean that was pre the addition of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow talking to you right before you made that ascent back to sea level, as well as so many other rides that were based off of the classic movies like Peter Pan and Cinderella and Dumbo and you name it.
[00:01:43] But this time around, we were pros. We had been dozens and dozens of times with our kids. And despite living in Northern California for a few years, we held season passes and we had made the drive down south whenever we had a free weekend and loaded up the kids and we were going to create good memories. Doggone on it. But this was one of the first times where I felt like there was absolutely zero kid related responsibilities here. McKinley as my kid. But she was I don't know, she's twenty twenty one, twenty two somewhere in that range and we could just go and be present. And in doing so, honestly, my therapist brain was on high alert of all the various correlations to the entire mental health world, the mental health process. So today, welcome to episode two hundred and seventy six. We're going to talk about those those things that the therapist picks up on while in Disneyland. So. Two hundred and seventy six episodes. Welcome to this episode of The Virtual Couch. I am your host. Tony Over became a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified mind will have a coach and writer and a speaker and a husband father for all those wonderful things. And I still would encourage you to go to Pathbackrecovery.com if you if you want to learn any any everything you want to know about putting pornography as a coping mechanism in the rearview mirror.
[00:02:54] And it can be done in a very strength based hold the shame, become the person you always wanted to be kind of way. But man episode two hundred and seventy six. I have to do a quick side note. I was at an event this weekend and I ran into someone, a woman named Robin Kopa. Robin had been a guest on my podcast, I think on Episode nineteen and it was so just fun to see her there. And we reminisced a little bit. Of course, I had my blockade of people. I had my handlers, my bodyguards. Now now that I have two hundred and seventy six episodes and as I had one of my assistants communicate with her, I wouldn't ever communicate directly with me. Man, OK, I'm trying to be funny right now, but I think what if somebody really does? Believe me, I had this whole bit in my head about, you know, that I was there with my with my hair plugs and my gold teeth and my all those things. I really wasn't that way. Was so good to see Robin. But she may just ask some questions about how the podcast is grown. And I do remember sitting with her literally on my couch on Episode nineteen to talk about parenting and recognizing in that moment, I wasn't really sure how to do an interview with two people in the same room and see if you could hear us.
[00:03:57] And I think if you go back on and listen to that episode, you don't really hear us very well. So it was so neat to just kind of reminisce with Robin about those early days of the podcast. And I'm so grateful for people who do listen to the episodes. And before we get to the topic today, of course, magnetic marriage course, I know I talk about it often, but it's because it's a phenomenal opportunity to teach you and a spouse new communication skills and ways to be more connected. And we'll give some examples even today of using the four pillars of a connected conversation, even when I was with my wife at Disneyland. But the next round of the magnetic marriage course is coming up. And you can go to Tony Overbay.com magnetic to find out more or just drop me an email through the website, through Tony Overbay.com and let me know if you're interested and I'll make sure that you are one of the first to know when the next round starts. And this is kind of fun. I'm heading to Utah later this week to film an episode of Family Rules with Brooke Walker. And I'll be talking about parenting. So if you don't follow me on Instagram, please do a virtual couch. And I'm going to try to film a lot of the behind the scenes stuff and I will keep you posted when that episode will air.
[00:05:02] I know it's for their season three and I'm not sure when season three debuts. So that's going to be fun. But let's get to the things that I learned at Disneyland. So I first want to start with this concept of anticipation and anticipation and the way that the the neuro neurotransmitter, the way that dopamine works in our brain. So do you have things in your life that you antispam? And I'm talking even if it's on a daily basis or if you anticipate date nights with a spouse or do you have small vacations and a weekend getaways, or do you have one big vacation that you're looking forward to that might even be months out? Or I remember when I used to do a lot of racing, ultra running, I, I typically had a race once a month. I would do 12 to 15 events a year. And I realized later that that was a way for me to always have something on the calendar, something to train toward, something to really look forward to. And a lot of that is we now have some pretty cool science around anticipation and dopamine in the way dopamine works with the reward center. So the person who put this best is James Clear. And in his fantastic book, Atomic Cabot's, he's talking about cravings. But the science is, I think, similar spot on. And I will relate this to Disneyland. He said. The cravings are the most underrated component of the habit loop because they have only recently been better understood.
[00:06:21] The strength and influence of cravings can best be demonstrated with a quick explanation of neurobiology. So he says that dopamine and I think we hear so much about the dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter in our reward experiencing pathway, and it was designed to evolutionarily encourage positive behaviors that help in survival. So that was the initial. That's why we have dopamine to encourage positive things to encourage. So dopamine plays into that reward center and we want to reward ourselves when we do good things. So that kind of makes sense. But he said only recently was it discovered that the largest dopamine spike in the brain occurs in anticipation of the reward, not actually while experiencing the reward. So put that in the context of when you are anticipating the reward, anticipating date night, anticipating going on vacation, anticipating the next race, anticipating whatever that you are anticipating, but that will actually spike or flood dopamine and dopamine is this chemical that not only is this feel good chemical, but it's also somebody like me with ADHD. When you take a medication, a stimulant, it is helping flood your brain with the dopamine that it's missing so that dopamine also helps you stay hyper focused and fixated on something. So it had been a while since we had been to Disneyland. So the anticipation factor really was on full alert. And we got there and we immediately made this beeline to California adventure.
[00:07:43] That was the tickets that we happen to have these parkop or tickets. We had to start in one park and then at one o'clock the floodgates would open and we could go back and forth these Park Hopper tickets. So we went to California Adventure. And my favorite ride is the one formerly known as Tower of Terror. But now it was Guardians of the Galaxy. So that was something that I had not experienced. And I again, I love everything about the ride that was Tower of Terror. So now I had this Guardians of the Galaxy experience to look forward to in a ride that I already knew the basics of. I was going to be going up in a tower and I was going to be drop in and lift it up and dropped repeatedly. And I love that. I love that feeling in my stomach. And so and I really enjoyed the movie Guardians of the Galaxy. So the anticipation was on high alert. So just waiting in line. My dopamine was flowing. I was like a little kid. I was so excited. I was locked in. And that ride did not disappoint for even a single second. It really didn't. And the lines were really short. We timed it just right as the world was kind of reopening post pandemic and we immediately went back and did it again. And that was the first time where I realized that the dopamine was definitely higher flowing and that anticipation of the unknown.
[00:08:58] And then we we experienced the ride, which was amazing and fantastic. But I could notice that even when we were in line again for that second ride, that it wasn't that now we were bored out of our gourds and we didn't want to do it anymore. But it definitely wasn't that same excitement. But here was what I thought was so amazing. And I was so aware of this for the rest of the trip that the dish every time we went in this, I feel like this further back, the clear's research. You have these opportunities in Disneyland to get your picture taken, which when I was a dad of younger kids, I found pretty annoying because then the kids always wanted the pictures and the pictures were very expensive. And then I would feel like a bad dad because I couldn't afford all the pictures, which, by the way, now I feel like my ATV is flown. But it was so fascinating to look at all these other angles of Disneyland. They had a then opportunity where you could buy all the pictures and one day for I think it was twenty dollars. And so I bought my wife, my daughter and my niece to tears and talking about what I've learned about the role of an actuary, because I've had clients now that have become actuaries for insurance companies or one that did for a large I think it was an online gambling establishment.
[00:10:09] But what an actuary does is they figure out the math, something I'm not very good at, but they figure out that math of what makes more sense to charge individually for the pictures or if you will, you get more money if you to say, OK, we can do fourteen ninety five a picture or we can say. Nineteen ninety nine, and then you get all the pictures you want in the day, so they had this photo pass nineteen ninety nine. So obviously the people at Disneyland are they're smart. They want to make a profit. So that must have been the financially better decision. And I was in so then we were going to get pictures taken all over the park and, and every ride so in every single ride. So yes we would then start to feel again. It wasn't that we were bored or were flat as we were waiting to go on the ride again. But I found myself and I'll give you a splash mountain as an example. The first time down that death defying drop when we're almost fallen out of the log, the pretend log to get the best picture we can as we're were plummeting to our death. That was exciting. So then the next time we go in, as we're waiting in line and even as we're just meandering on this water ride, this log flume, it did feel a little bit like I could almost fall asleep.
[00:11:19] But then when it was almost picture time, I remember at one point I was literally OK, guys, is go time because we will go over what picture are we going to do? I think we had a really funny one where, I don't know, my daughter Maggie holds her phone and it looks like we're taking a selfie. We're on this just steep decline and we're all kind of piling out to the left or the right posing for this photo. So that was a really fascinating experience to just see that, OK, that initial ride was amazing. But then we took an OK picture and then we proceeded to ride it several more times. This ride Splash Mountain over the next seventy two hours, always with the goal of taking a better, funnier picture so that dopamine would be obey until you got right up to the drop. And then it was go time and it was picture time and the excitement was solid. And so I found that same experience the first time we went on the ride of Indiana Jones. It was amazing. And we held on for Dear Life and we had fun. And then we went again with wondering what it would feel like if we just didn't ever hold on to anything with our hands at all. And that was thrilling and it was exciting every moment that dopamine was just flowing and we were thrown around like rag dolls, which was new and it was novel and it was exciting because our brains, they do want more and more and more.
[00:12:29] And not that I would anticipate that you were guessing that I would probably talk about anything to do with pornography and to talk about Disneyland, which there's I'm not putting a correlation there together. But I did think this was a fascinating time to talk about this concept called the Coolidge Effect. And so I did an episode on this a long time ago. But it's, again, talking about dopamine and tolerance. So our brain again, I just made the comment that our brain wants more and more. It wants new, it wants novel, and it wants exciting. And there was an article a few years ago by a Harvard scientist, Kevin Magennis, and he talked about the role of dopamine. And I thought he said that this is really fascinating to me. He shared that scientists have discovered and hang with me here. But if you place a male rat in a cage with a receptive female, they will mate. But once done, the male rat will not mate more times. Even if the female is still receptive, he loses all sexual interest. But if right after he finishes with the first female, you put a second receptor female in, he'll immediately begin and then a third and so on until he nearly dies.
[00:13:30] And that same effect has been found in every animal studied. And this is called the Coolidge effect. And there's a funny story of why it's called the Coolidge effect. And I'll let you go find the podcast I did on the Coolidge effect to hear more about that story. But so Kevin Margera said this explains why men use pornography, pornography as power comes from the way it tricks the man's lower brain. One of the drawbacks of this region is that it can't tell the difference between an image and reality. So pornography will often offer a man an unlimited number of seemingly willing females. And every time he sees the new partner with every click, it gives off a sex drive against. That means the lower brain, the Neanderthal part of the brain actually will eventually come to prefer pornography to the real partner. And so he says, think of the difference between playing chess and playing the latest video game. Even though chess isn't physical, it can't compete with the intensity of the video game in the brain over time. Prefers the video game and the reason it does is because of this chemical dopamine. So then what he talks about is that dopamine is also we talk about this. It's hyperfocus drug. It's also this drug of desire. And so when you see something desirable ah, as as James Claire talks about an atomic habits are when you find something desirable, when you anticipate something desirable, then the brain pours out dopamine.
[00:14:42] And so it says dopamine fixes our attention on that desirable object so gives you this power of concentration. So he says that when somebody clicks and sees this new pornographic image, the lower brain thinks that it's the real thing. So now all of a sudden, his brain says we must win over that willing female. So the first exposure to a new female who wasn't a potential mate wasn't something that happened to a lot of our ancestors, maybe only once in their lives that know it's this their brain was designed to find there are potential mate and pour out this dopamine winner over to a nice little dance, ruffle some feathers, whatever they do in the animal kingdom. And then we we get our mate and then we are good. So we're continually just gaming this. Permit system. And so when you look at it in terms of something like roller coasters or that sort of thing, it's pretty harmless. That can be really fun. But when it comes to someone that is searching out pornography as a coping mechanism, he said that if a person keeps up the dopamine screen by overstimulating himself with porn, then his brain will start to turn the volume way down. And the brain synapses don't like being overstimulated with dopamine. So they respond by down regulating some of the dopamine receptors, which means that those dopamine receptors, they withdraw. And and so then they they destroy that receptor within the neuron.
[00:15:58] So down regulation is how the brain then turns down that dopamine volume. And then once the dopamine binge is gone, it's left feeling this vacuum of silence so it feels depleted. So he says that's why pornography can cause this vicious cycle, that when someone who is prone to addiction, abuse, pornography, then they get overstimulated by dopamine. Their brain will destroy some of those dopamine receptors and that makes them feel depleted. So they go back to pornography. But now having fewer dopamine receptors, they will need to game the dopamine system. They start to find that they have to use pornography for longer or longer periods of time to have the same effect. And they may even have to start looking at more crazy, wilder things to try to get that same dopamine stimulation. So I've got a whole episode on that. And the good news is you can reveal those dopamine neural receptors by becoming able to turn away from pornography as a coping mechanism. But anyway, I digress. And I really didn't plan on going into that much detail. But I think that's such fascinating science, especially as we learn more about the role of dopamine. So dopamine in the anticipation of a roller coaster is fascinating. So I was the next thing that I learned in Disneyland, and this was so exciting. And I want to give a huge shout out to a podcast called The Happiness Playbook.
[00:17:18] My buddy Neal Hooper hosted and one of my good friends, Larry Florence, is the one who started it. And she runs an incredible nonprofit theater group in my area called Takeno Troupe. And they, Larry, came up a long time ago with something called Play Theory. And you can go to play theory big. And I would highly, highly recommend you go check out Play the and the Happiness Playbook podcast. But they have these four principles of play theory. And the second one is called Let Go and Play. And I had a daughter, my daughter, daughter and my daughter Sydney was in the Takeno Troop Theater Group years ago and was in a few plays. And I remember being introduced to this concept of play theory and I fell in love right away. And the second principle of play theory, and I don't think I've ever shared this, Larry, but I remember that so well that let go and play. And so I thought about that often while we were at Disneyland. I think about it often in a lot of things I do, especially when I'm out in public or I'm with my family or kids or somewhere we're just trying to be in the moment. But so let go and play on play theory dog. They say leave the ego at the door, have fun, leave your comfort zone. And with the phrase the kids, I'll send it, go all in.
[00:18:28] And nowhere do I do this more than on rides and being at Disneyland now, again, trying to be as present as possible, having just gone through this, what, year, year and a half of quarantine and committing man, I thought I did mindfulness before, but just having daily mindfulness practice over and over, it's now been years and years. But I had to double and triple down on my mindfulness practice over the last year and a half just to be able to stay present and stay afloat at times, emotionally, mentally. And so what what that looks like is let's scream, let's have an amazing time. And there were so many times where on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or on the water right in California Adventure or on Space Mountain, where and my wife is just all in with me that when we are on that ride, I let it go. I scream like a little kid. I throw my arms up in the air. I have the most fun and I want that to be infectious. I remember getting on the water right again. It's this eight people in this rounded tube and you're going to get soap. This is a California adventure and and just prepare to be soaked. And that's part of the fun. But we had four of us and four strangers that walked in, two groups of two and immediately and maybe some of you aren't going to like being on a ride with me, but I'm asking them, is this your first time on the ride? Are you excited? Are you worried about getting wet? And already these people that are kind of feeling like they were just going to kind of keep to themselves or starting to share with us a little bit more and then the anticipation, the dopamine starts flowing.
[00:19:56] And we are just in that moment and we are having an amazing time. And if somebody gets wet, we're screaming and oh, my gosh, and no, no. And try to move away from the water. And we just had the best time we let go and play. And how often can you check your ego at the door and let go and play? It's one of the most powerful things to show your kids. It's one of the most things that will cause you to feel the most alive if you're out there in public and you're so worried about what other people think about you, which let me tell you is. Normal, I feel like that is most people's default setting, and I know that it didn't help growing up a lot when I would tell my kids when they say, dad, that's embarrassing. And I would say, OK, well, if I see all these people tomorrow, then I'll apologize then. And I used to think I was pretty witty about that. But really, all you can do is be present for yourself, even in the with the fear of invalidation, that if somebody else saying, oh, jeez, you're embarrassing me, man, I am so sorry that that you are embarrassed, but I am going to go all in so that let go and play at Disneyland was one of the most amazing things that you could possibly do, because, you know, you only have one chance to make the most of every single moment of your life.
[00:21:01] So live it. And what I love about the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy is even then our brain will say, well, man, I haven't made the most of my life or maybe I haven't been as present or I haven't been able to let go and play. And that's OK. We'll note that, you know, your brain is constantly trying to orient itself by ruminating about the past. I wish I would have done more of this. I wish I would have known this earlier. I wish I would have been able to do these different things. And it's perfectly normal and human. And when you notice that you're having those thoughts or ruminations or looking back at the past, then just just note it just like me. Yeah, I wish I wish I did. I wish I would have had my ADHD diagnosis 15 years earlier. I would have been a whole lot more productive. OK, I'll note that. Or we then go when we fortuneteller, we get our crystal ball out. We say, and what if I'm what if I'm not present? What if I'm not able to accomplish the things that I really want to, then we'll just kind of acknowledge that then that would be hard.
[00:21:54] And I hope that's not the case. But I'm going to drop the rope of the tug of war on the past and the future and just worry about right now and not even worry. I'm going to be present. That is one of the best things that you can do. And I was going to save the best for last of the things that I learned at Disneyland. But I know how podcasts are consumed. I know that sometimes we do have the best of intentions and we get distracted and we don't come back to a podcast. So I'm going to be vulnerable and to be human, I'm going to be raw, to be authentic. And all the therapist words. And I want to talk about exchange that I had with my wife. And I got her clearance to share everything about this exchange, because if you are if you are in a relationship, if you're a couple, you are interacting with your with older parents or siblings or your kids or people in the workplace think you get the point if you are a human being. And I think there's some gold to be mined in this conversation. So I jotted down some notes. So forgive me if you're watching this on the YouTube channel and be reading a little bit here.
[00:22:54] So I really do enjoy a good nap. I feel like I don't I try to get the most out of every minute of every day. So when it is time downtime, my brain tends to say we're just going to shut off right now. So and there's something oddly satisfying to me about almost this repetition, repetitive tasks in order for me to provide an even better napping experience. It's almost as if my brain knows what's coming so I can actually relax some kind of setting the stage here that there are places that I nap Disneyland that are amazing, I can nap through now. It's a small world and it's just such a pleasant, pleasant nap with the repetitive nature of the song going on. Or I can nap like a champ in Pirates of the Caribbean. And the quick side note, when I was going to school, I started my college experience in Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. I was trying to play baseball there and we would leave. I was in this fraternity and we would walk the campus. And in the winter it was brutally cold. And at that time I also had a horrific comb over. I was losing my hair like nobody's business. I hadn't dealt with that yet, so man. And it would just cold and windy. And so I would if I could get into a building and then try to go take care of my flap of hair on the top of my head and be somewhat presentable.
[00:24:05] I wasn't going to go back out again. So even when I had gaps in the day hours, at times between classes, I would stay in a particular building. And there was one where I found this giant lecture hall and there was this two hour lecture, three days a week. I have no idea what the subject matter was, but I would just go in there and I would just settle down and I would take the greatest nap in the history of all naps three days a week, almost my entire freshman year. And it was this amazing experience because of just the repetitive nature of the droning of the professor. And it was just amazing. But anyway, Pirates', it can be my naptime. So we're on the right and here's where this is not going to be my best self, but again, I got to own this. So Wendy and I are in a row of seats by ourselves. I think we're in the second row. I believe my daughter, my daughter MacKinley and my niece Taylor in the front row and my wife just happens to be on her phone. We're starting to just float at the beginning. If you're familiar with the Pirates of the Caribbean, ride the restaurant, the Blue Bayou is to our right. And so we're not yet kind of engaging in the ride.
[00:25:02] And I don't I don't know what my wife is looking at. She's she's on her phone. And I just impulsively make this comment and I just say, hey, are you present? Make sure you present. And the second it came out of my mouth, I wish I could have taken it back. And I immediately apologized. And I I knew it wasn't necessarily the time, but I did not want to ruin that ride for her by what I had said. And so we worked through the four pillars of a connected conversation right there before we started getting into the the real meat of the ride. And so stay with me here, because there's some concepts of the magnetic marriage course I'm going to bring into here these four pillars of a connected conversation. And it was amazing. So either one of us could really jump into the framework if both of us were aware or both of us were committed to using these four pillars of a connected conversation. But even if one of us wasn't aware of the four pillars, you can you can still get to this framework. And let me explain. So I see her on her phone. So at that point, when I finally notice that I am being a complete weenie turd, you fill in the blank and that that was something that I wish I had not said then I can pillar no one, assume good intentions. So by that I mean that if I'm seeing her on her phone and it bothers me for some reason, we'll get to that, that then I can assume that she's not trying to do that to hurt me.
[00:26:22] And I know that can sound odd or maybe out of context, but stick with me here. So pillar number one, which is a game changer. I heard it two or three times yesterday in sessions of people talking about that. One is so it helps people stay more present. So assuming good intentions, she wasn't on her phone to try to hurt me. She didn't wake up in the morning and say, wait a second, the lights go down. I'm on Blue Bayou. I'm getting on that phone. I'm going to annoy the heck out of Tony. That's what I'm going to do. I mean, there's no chance that wasn't what was happening to number two. I can't say she's wrong or project the message that I don't believe her or that I think that she's wrong. And what that would mean in this context is that I can't then put off the vibe that that what she is doing is wrong, even if even if honestly, I feel like it is the third pillar is ask questions before making comments. And so, you know, I feel like you can you can assume the good intentions and you can not put off a message if I don't believe someone. But then if you just say, all right, but let me just kind of tell you my thoughts and then and then I want to hear what you have to say.
[00:27:15] So if I would have gone in there and just blasted her, so to speak, and told her all the reasons why, I think that that was not the right way to be enjoying Pirates of the Caribbean. But now I want to hear what her experience was, and that is the wrong way to do it. And I know I can go worst case scenario here, but I talk about it often. But I've literally had experiences before where someone like in that situation, me, for example, if I would just say, you know, I really think you should be more present. And I feel like what you're doing is going to the glare of your phone is going to bother people or whatever. And then if she were to say, hey, you know, my mom just texted me and one of my one of my siblings is sick, then I'm going to feel like, oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry. Do whatever you need to do. We need to have that attitude of you, do whatever you need to do because you're you you're a human. I think it was last week's episode I talked about the concept of control in a in an adult relationship, you can have control or you can have love, but I don't believe they can. Hopefully they're both evidently they both go together.
[00:28:08] So that questions before comments, you know, that's that I can say, hey, tell me more about what you're doing. And then my fourth pillar is to stay present. Don't go run into the bunker. You know, if I would have just even if I would have hung in the first three pillars, assume good intentions, not put off this vibe that she's wrong. And I would have asked questions, tell me more before making my own comments if they were even valid or necessary. But then the fourth pillar, if I would have said whatever doesn't matter, my opinion doesn't matter anyway. You're going to do whatever you're going to do. Then all of a sudden I've gone into victim mode and now I want her to come rescue me. I want her to say, no, no, no, I you're right. I shouldn't be doing that or that sort of thing. So you can see how unhealthy a conversation can be or how unproductive a conversation can be and all the various ways that it can venture off into this unproductive path or down this unproductive path. So in this scenario, I basically work through those pillars for her, so and then when when in that scenario, once I kind of felt like I had expressed myself or I felt heard and she didn't say, OK, you're being ridiculous or that sort of thing, then it was my turn to take accountability for what I had said.
[00:29:15] And that is where I realized it was more about me. And let me quickly circle back there is that she even said, OK, hey, all right, she's going to assume good intentions of me even saying that even though I was being a jerk, that assume good intentions. I wasn't trying to hurt her by saying, hey, pal, be more present. And then second pillar, she was so gracious and kind and didn't didn't say to me, you're ridiculous. Even though she probably felt like I was in pillar three. And she's asking me, hey, tell me tell me why that bothers you. Tell me more about that. And then her pillar for she stayed present. She didn't say, OK, I guess I won't do anything that I want to do because you don't want me to be on my phone. So we both felt heard. And when when we both felt hurt, when especially when I felt heard, man, it was my turn to take accountability and ownership for what I had said, because that was more about me. And here's the fascinating piece of this. This exchange is that had we been arguing or had she all of a sudden shut down or if I was going to force my I wanted her to understand that she needs to not be on the phone because of how I feel. Then all of a sudden, we're locked into what Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, calls these demon dialogs.
[00:30:26] And then we get into the tit for tat or people do the freeze and flee or the the pursuit and withdrawal. There's these these dances that we get into. And what's so unproductive about those dances is she could have easily said, OK, well, you do this. And I said, OK, well, but you do this. And that's the tit for tat. And what are we not talking about when we're into these demon dialogs? We're not talking about the core issue or the core emotions or feelings that are underneath why we express ourselves the way we do. So she stayed present and and she heard me. So again, I felt hurt and I had to take ownership and accountability. Please do not skip this step of taking ownership of what what meaning you put to something. So I realize this is more about me. I realized it was about the times where I feel like she may spend more time looking at her phone. Then what, like looking at me and adoring me? I mean, it's not exactly that, but maybe not being as present with me, maybe when when we are together. And so this is such a common thing that couples are dealing with. So I was able to share that with her, that it was my anxious attachment style, it was my neede attachment style that was underneath my comment to her. It was my way of wanting to say, hey, don't you care about me? But boy, did I do it in the wrong way.
[00:31:39] So she stayed present. She heard me, she validated me. And then she dropped trou knowledge on me and saying that she appreciated me taking ownership of my comment and my feelings because her immediate thought when I had just blurted that out and boy, you could see how we could have got into a tit for tat really easily. And then I probably I maybe maybe I wouldn't have taken ownership of my role in that conversation. But she said that my proclamation going into the pirates of wanting to nap through the ride, I didn't really sound like I wanted to be very present. Right. But I didn't see that. So then once I felt heard, once I took ownership, that that, hey, you can be on your phone, you can do whatever you want to do. You are a differentiated, interdependent individual. And and I care about you regardless. I care about you. You don't have to be a certain way for me to love you, that you I want you to be you and I want us to be able to have these conversations out of curiosity and from a tell me more about that standpoint, because that's when we get to the good stuff. And this is that's why I wanted to go in so much detail about this little exchange. I just talk more about it than we did on the ride.
[00:32:43] But you can see how being able to have a framework to have the conversation that we left that conversation and we both felt heard we both felt like we took ownership or accountability of our part and we felt like we could we could we could understand the good intentions behind why I said this really silly thing and why she why she does the things that she does. She does them because that's who she is and she's human. She has her own experiences, as do as do I. And so we can have more productive conversations. We have this framework that isn't about tit for tat or back and forth or anyone trying to control the other ones, saying here's what you need to do on this ride, that kind of thing. So speaking of pirates, that also brought up a really fascinating thing to me, and that's this concept of nostalgia. So when I talked earlier in the episode, I mentioned that I did not go to Disneyland growing up. And so and I again, I'll own this, I think this is anything that can keep the gasp, the loud gasp sound effect. But I did grow up going to a couple of theme parks, Dollywood in Tennessee and I think a Six Flags in Texas when I visited my cousins one time. And so I knew roller coasters and those are exciting to me. So when I went to Disneyland for the first time as an adult, I was a little bit disappointed and I didn't think I thought it was full of all these amazing rides.
[00:34:07] I didn't realize it was more about nostalgia. So then I did a little bit of digging for this episode, and I found an excellent podcast called Speaking of Psychology. And there's a Dr. Christine, I think it's Vojtko talked about the role of nostalgia in psychology. It's in their episode ninety three. And does nostalgia have a psychological purpose? And she was asked by the interviewer, and if that's so good, the interviewer, the interviewer said your research has shown that nostalgia can be a stabilizing force and it can comfort us during times of change and transition. Can you explain that a bit more? And so Dr. Bochco said, yeah, change whether it's good change or negative change, we know it's stressful and change can be very difficult to grasp because in some sense, at a very deep level, change threatens us. And so it can be a little frightening because we're not one hundred percent sure that we can control our environment. So change can feel scary. So one of the most important aspects, she said, of being a healthy human is being able to have a sense that you're in control of things and our brain wants control. And that's why I talked about last week, that we can have control or love in adult relationships. I wasn't saying that control was why it's crazy.
[00:35:12] Somebody wants control and that's how we're wired, because we feel like if we don't have control that then we are going to die. I mean, to oversimplify it. So Dr. Bychkov said when things start to change either very substantially, such as major events in a person's life, getting married, getting a divorce, a new career, going back to school, graduating from school, it can often be comforting to have a nostalgic feeling for the past. That reminds us that although we don't know what the future is going to bring, we do know who we have been and who we really are at our core, and that is part of what nostalgia can do, she said. Nostalgia can be a very comforting emotion. It also brings back it stimulates memories of the times when we were accepted or loved unconditionally. You start to see the psychological component of nostalgia that oftentimes if someone goes back to this place in Disneyland and they wear their their favorite shirt and they put on their Disney ears and you see a lot of people with that and they're just all Disney, because Disney oftentimes represents a time where they felt like they had more control or they had more safety or there was more love. And so I can understand where that nostalgia comes because that is such a powerfully confronting phenomenon if we scratch that one. Right. I'm trying to read Dr. Bosco's quote and watch that one all together.
[00:36:24] But Dr. Bochco says that is such a powerfully comforting phenomenon, knowing that there was a time in life when we didn't have to earn our love or we did not or we didn't deserve it because we earned a certain amount of money or we were successful to a certain point, or that's what gave us our our value, she said. Our parents, for example, or siblings or friends, simply love this unconditionally. And that is a wonderfully comforting feeling when we're undergoing any kind of turmoil in our personal lives. So when you are going through these difficult experiences or going through change events in life, oftentimes our brain wants to go back to nostalgia. And so if you are a heavily nostalgic person, then I would imagine you've got some very, very comforting memories of your past. And then I talked a little bit last week about this concept called relational frame theory, where we will then take an emotion or a feeling and then we'll combine that with that in the same frame as a place maybe like Disneyland or a smell like homemade cookies or a sound where if we go in here, water the ocean, for example, to me, what a relational frame of comfort to go to the ocean and hear those waves on the beach to the point of where it's a happy place. And thankfully, my wife's as well. And so when we will often say that I would love to retire at the beach and then I have someone else say to me, oh, you don't want that because of the sand and the wind and the this and the that, that's where I love to bless their heart.
[00:37:47] That's not their experience, you know. But but that is one that I can put in this relational frame of goodness, so to speak, of that it does bring comfort and it helps me feel maybe more in control with my surroundings. Mindfulness, I put in my notes here, mindfulness coming out the wazoo, and it didn't auto correct Watsu, so I think I probably spelled that right, that would be a zero. So we drove through the night to get the Disneyland. We arrived at our hotel around 3:00 a.m. We pulled up. I was driving and I went to the front desk and you can literally see the lights on the front desk. It's open. It's all windows. But nobody was there. So the doors locked. This has ring a bell. I ring that bell and Man did I ring that bell about 15 minutes solid. I ring that bell. And it was one of those where you could see a room connected to the front desk. So I rang and rang. I found myself getting frustrated and I can only imagine that person was asleep in their room. But as much as I would start to notice my stress level or noticed myself getting frustrated, I didn't give in to it.
[00:38:49] I didn't react to it. I mean, I would notice it, acknowledge it. And then I would turn back to literally being very present and pushing the button, ringing the bell, smiling at my family as they looked out of the car, kind of like, what's up? And so I just noticed it. I didn't react to it. Mindfulness, remember, mindfulness is not trying to stop a thought. I want to say this every chance I get. People often say, I've tried mindfulness, but I can't I can't clear my mind. Well, nobody can. I mean, not that I'm aware of. So the mindfulness practice. Let me be let me just go over this. There any chance I get I use the app called Headspace. I don't get anything for that. In the app Headspace. The practice goes as follows. Typically, it's a guided meditation. There's a wonderful British guy named Andy who then says, all right, welcome back, sit in your chair and then start to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Man, I feel calm just even saying that. And I just sat up in my chair, but breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, and that is starting to lower your heart rate because remember, the higher your heart rate is elevated, the more of the stress hormone cortisol starts to get secreted, created. And when your brain gets cortisol, it thinks something's about to go down.
[00:39:59] So it starts to shut down the the the prefrontal cortex or the limbic system. It starts to shut down the part of your brain where you you have you have rational thought and it starts to fire up that Neanderthal brain, that amygdala. So as you get more elevated, as your heart rate raises, then you are actually going into more of this fight flight or free state. So one of the first things you're training your brain to do is to come back to calm and lower the heart rate, lower the cortisol so you can tap into that part of your brain that can think logically, which will allow you to be more present. And then you're in the Headspace app than Andy will often just go quiet. And that's the time where my brain starts to think and think and think often even thinking I don't have time to even do this mindfulness exercise. And then at some point he will say, OK, hey, gently acknowledge you're thinking and then come back to the breath. Think about breathing and just in through the nose, out through the mouth, or think about your do a body scan, feel your back against the chair, your your butt on the seat, your legs on the floor, your feet on the floor. And because what you're not doing when you're thinking or focusing on your breath or focusing on a body scan or listening to the sounds around you or the smells or whatever you can focus on.
[00:41:14] So again, your brain isn't clear, but you're not thinking about the thought. You're not ruminating about the negative thought. You're not worrying about the future that can cause anxiety. You're not giving in to the compulsion that follows the obsession with obsessive compulsive disorder. You are bringing yourself back to present over and over again. And yes, oftentimes you as soon as you come, you are not being present. Your brain immediately can go back to where it was, what it was thinking, what it was doing, and oftentimes will say, see, it didn't work, but that's the way our brain works. Your training the brain to be able to bring it back to the present moment. So I, I really feel like there were so many opportunities to be mindful. Mindfulness in long lines. I remember being at this place called the Pizza Press one night and I don't know if I've seen a line that long, but we were we were hungry. We were hangry and and we had already exhausted other options on where to eat, how quickly we could get back to a hotel and get food, lines everywhere. So that was one of the most mindfulness challenges I think I've taken on. And it worked. We made it through. We got the pizza, we ate. And it was it was amazing. adrenalin. When I'm at this when I'm waiting for this, reading this buzzer for 15 minutes, finally I hear somebody say out of nowhere, can I help you? And I jumped and there it was.
[00:42:37] And this one is a really funny thing that I've learned just from my office experience here is that after every session, I typically have to go to the bathroom and stay hydrated. There's probably too much information there. But then when I come back, I often say if my door open to my clients to come on in, I've got a little fridge that can grab a drink, that sort of thing. And so I will often not have heard them and feel like I'm only in the bathroom for a little short amount of time. So I come back in and I've got a client sitting on the couch, even though that's what I want them to do, that oftentimes I jump and it's one of the funniest things because now it's like, OK, I almost can wait for it. Give it about 20, 30 seconds and here comes the adrenaline and you can literally feel it through your you feel through your veins. And it's fascinating. Really quick side note. If you've ever done cryotherapy, which is that get into negative ninety in the negative two hundred degree temperatures, it's something that a lot of athletes do for recovery. I usually save the cryotherapy for any race over 50 miles, but when I do cryotherapy, it's it's a similar thing. So you will go in this negative 90 degree room and walk around a little bit and then from there enter a negative, sometimes one hundred eighty or two hundred degree room.
[00:43:44] And boy, you have to keep walking around and then you come out of that room, your core body temperature is just cold and all of your blood has gone to to save your your your life. It sits around your heart and it's really working to keep you alive. And then the experiences that I've been on, then they put you on an exercise bike and just have you barely start pedaling and then you feel it's so wild you feel the blood go from your heart, out through your body to your extremities. And part of that, the belief is that that will help clear out some of the lactic acid or some of the things that will make you sore as the days progressed. And I have found that I feel like I'm sore not as long. But my only point is that that is the feeling that you get if you really can if you get a good scare by your kids or anything like that. And if you can tap into that just being present in that moment, you can literally feel the adrenaline rush through your body. So one of the most fascinating things, I love it. So adrenaline, just a couple more things and then we'll wrap this one up. I also put a note that kindness wins, even though I was frustrated, especially in this experience with this person that wasn't there at 4:00 in the morning, even though I was frustrated, he apparently had walked down the street to get coffee, didn't leave a sign that said he would be right back.
[00:44:55] You know, none of those things. And I could have let him know all of those things. But I have a personal value of kindness or compassion or non confrontation. So that's what I turned toward. So now, if somebody has a core value of justice or order, meaning that they are an absolute rule follower, then perhaps it would have been more in line with their core values to let that person know that it would have been more helpful for future people. That might be showing up at 4:00 a.m. while he's getting coffee to know that. You'll be right back. So please leave a sign. But this is what's kind of fascinating. So check this out. If I was telling somebody that has this value of order or justice, if I were telling them, oh, you shouldn't have done that, you shouldn't have told them those things, then they're going to think, OK, cool story. But that's that that's who I am. Just like if I have this value of kindness or compassion and somebody is telling me and I'm just giving this example, but I think you can maybe see where I'm going. Think of all the times or somebody like you don't need to do you tell that person that they need to do whatever and it's something that you would never say or never do, then guess what? You don't have to do it.
[00:45:55] I mean, that is that's where I talk again about control. I remember having this experience well before my therapy days. I remember being on a business trip with someone and they were the ones saying, hey, you need to call that waiter over and you need to tell him that he needs to do this. And I remember having this moment where I thought, no, you can I mean, if that's what your experience would be. And this person that I used to travel with on occasion, they started to get frustrated with me because they now knew that I was going to say, oh, yeah, I don't care about that. Or but if you would like to, then that would be fine. So I think that taps into that. If you are trying if you were trying to do something that is not in line with your core values, it's kind of falls into the ranks of what we call an act socially compliant goal. And you're doing it because you think you should or you're supposed to or you have to, and your motivation is going to be weak and ineffective because it goes against your sense of self or who you are as a person. So but if I'm tapping into my Value-Based Goal, is it the right thing to do? Well, is there a right thing to do? And that's why I bring up this example of I kindness.
[00:46:54] For me, that's a value, compassion, connection, humor, those things. So if I'm tapping into those, then, man, he scared me. That was funny. I'm going to tell him that he's saying, I'm sorry that I was I wasn't here. And I'm saying, hey, no problem. Now, now we're here. Now we're now we're having an experience. Now we're having a connection. How's your night been? You know, what time do you start? How often do you take a walk? And are there people often in my scenario or is this completely unexpected? So kindness. So in that scenario, I felt so. Much better walking away from that situation, even though it was frustrating, waiting for 15 minutes, I threw just a few random sampler notes here that I'll maybe just blast through. And these if you have questions or thoughts or think that they would make a better podcast or another podcast, shoot me an email. But I saw somewhere I put on here turow's and being angry, ADHD and angry. And I just saw in in a brief mention on a video that angry or being angry and hungry was a very strong symptom of ADHD. And I thought that was kind of fascinating because my family will make fun of me constantly that I am the nicest guy in the world until we placed our order for food.
[00:48:06] And then I just I get hangry. And now that I'm aware of it, I notice I am angry. I comment on the fact I'm hungry. I jokingly say I am going to not keep talking about being hungry while I try to stay present. So I thought that was interesting that sure enough, when when man what. I would get angry. Hungry that it was it was hard to not start to become a little bit angry. Sunk cost. If you're familiar with that concept. That's the old I've invested two million bucks in this project that is losing money repeatedly. But I'm going to put another million in because while I've already put two million in, you know, it's a sunk cost. That's a big dramatic example from the business world that I had a client that I worked with at one point, that that was what we were processing in a session. But I also talked with a good friend of mine that I used to travel to Japan with. He was a financial guy, Scott, and he would often talk about the concept of sunk cost and how we can even apply that to you. Pay for a meal. But now you're full and we often think we don't want to waste. But you've already paid for the meal. So at that point, it doesn't necessarily do one any good to continue to pile that food away because it's already been purchased.
[00:49:16] Or I think about that. If you are about to go on a trip to Disneyland, this might be the or any theme park or any vacation. And if you have not already laid out a budget and if you don't already have a value of boundaries or order or rules or those sort of things, then I feel like there needs to be some acceptance that, look, when you pay money for admission to a park, then, boy, try your it can still feel very frustrated. Can't believe I paid a hundred and something dollars to get in here, you know, and now we have a line and now we have this normal thoughts or human. But boy, those are incredible opportunities to come back to the present moment and just be present. The money has been spent, the present the food has been purchased to be present. If the planning wasn't done in advance to have cheaper food or snacks or that sort of thing, then the complaining of it is in a productive, workable thought be present. So I thought that was kind of fascinating. Real quick smile at the parent who you notice that seems overwhelmed. And I remember being that parent and my wife and I were handing out smiles for free on this trip. And you start to really recognize that. I mean, I remember being there with the kids in the stroller and somebody drops an ice cream and that sort of thing.
[00:50:25] And so sometimes a smile is all that they need. I just put a note on here. You'll dry off eventually. You know, again, talk about being present. I feel like it was that acceptance doesn't mean apathy, principal, that once I accepted the fact that I was going to get soaked on the ride, then once I accepted it, then I wasn't trying to contort my body and pulling things in my back to the point of where and then being angry. If I got wet, it was like be present, accept the fact that on the water ride I most likely will get wet and then enjoy the heck out of it. I'm not going to Swan dove into the water, but when I got wet, I got wet. Because you're going to dry. You really are. You'll dry eventually. And I talked to I wrote a note here about an experience in a line where I turned toward my value of knowledge. I noticed that we were getting a little bit worn out and there was a little bit of silence between the four of us in line. And the other three people in line were probably fine with it. But my anxious attachment style, which I want to take ownership of, was constantly saying if everybody isn't talking, they must be mad at me. How fascinating is that? Right. I'm a therapist. I'm a pro.
[00:51:27] Fifty one years old and very secure in my and myself. But the brain is going to do whatever the heck it wants at times and that good old, deeply rooted and anxious attachment style from childhood is saying their silence. Are they thinking I should be carrying the conversation? So in those moments I turned, I noticed that my anxious attachment style was fired up. And so then I just noticed it, acknowledged it, didn't try to push it away, didn't try to change that thought, didn't try to say don't think those things noticed it, and then just dropped the rope of the tug of war with the anxious attachment and then just pivoted toward a value of knowledge. And so I found myself continually Googling a ride and then just talking about fun facts about the ride. And a lot of times that we would be engaged in a pretty fun conversation. So turn toward your values when you are noticing the anxiety, the depression, the overthinking. And and I already covered this one. But, man, just give yourself permission to scream. Go big. Be present, have an amazing time, and on that note, have an amazing week. I appreciate you sticking with me this long. Those are the things that this therapist learned from his trip to Disneyland. And I would love if you have additional thoughts or questions or your experiences, comment wherever you're seeing this on a podcast app or on YouTube channel or shoot me a tweet. Email email@example.com. I'd love to hear your experiences and I'd love to talk about those at some point as well. All right, everybody, thanks for joining me.
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[00:54:58] Develop these tools don't explode.
Tony tackles the topic of pornography today in a completely strength-based, hold-the-shame, become the person you always wanted to be way. He addresses the age-old question of whether or not pornography addiction is even a diagnosable condition...and better yet, does that matter? Tony shares his views on “the voids” in one’s life that typically lead to the brain wanting to cope, or check-out, by viewing pornography. These voids include the lack of connection in marriage, in parenting, not feeling satisfied in your career, not feeling good about your health, and feeling disconnected with your concept of faith. Tony reads from his book, “He’s a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” available through the following links: https://amzn.to/33fk0U4 paperback https://amzn.to/38hRcx3 Kindle version https://amzn.to/2G30PDu Hardcover version
Please subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheVirtualCouchPodcast/ and sign up at http://tonyoverbay.comto learn more about Tony’s upcoming “Magnetic Marriage” program!
Tony's FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to http://tonyoverbay.com/courses/ 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.
This episode of The Virtual Couch is sponsored by http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch With the continuing “sheltering” rules that are spreading across the country PLEASE do not think that you can’t continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch 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 http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your own mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.
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. https://amzn.to/38mauBo
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 https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.
You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program The Path Back by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs, and podcasts.
Is Pornography Addiction Real - 2020-09-15
[00:00:00] Coming up on today's episode of The Virtual Couch, we're going into the world of compulsive behavior, specifically pornography or that word that must not be named. And I know for a lot of you, when you hear the topic, you're probably thinking hard pass. But stick around for a bit. And I promise you that we are going to learn something new today that will either help you or somebody that you put turning to pornography as a coping mechanism for I know you name it, stress, boredom, loneliness, anger behind them once and for all. That and so much more coming up on today's episode with the Virtual.
[00:00:39] Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 223, The Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people reclaim their lives from the harmful effects of pornography. If you are anybody that you know is ready to put turning to pornography as a coping mechanism behind them once and for all, and trust me, it can be done and a strength based, hold the shame, become the person you always wanted to be. We then turn to path back recovery dotcom, and there you will find a short ebook that describes five common mistakes that people make when turning to pornography as a coping mechanism or trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. How many times have I said that I just got it wrong, but I was trying to go off the cuff here, no script and that's what I get for that. So head over to Path Back Recovery.com and again, download that short e-book that describes here we go, five common mistakes that people make when trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. Ganpat back recovery dotcom. And you can find me on Instagram at Virtual Couch and on Facebook at Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist and stop by TonyOverbay. com, completely redone website.
[00:01:45] And you can sign up there to find out more information about actually a path back reboot that is coming up soon that I am so excited about and the magnetic marriage course that is getting close. I will have a lot of announcements coming up in the next probably one to two weeks about how you can find out more about that. But the quickest way is to go to TonyOverbay.com and sign up to find out more information about all kinds of things. And then there's all right there on the home page. Is the parenting positively in the not so positive of times? That is a free course. It's going to remain free. And I highly encourage you to go there. The feedback has been great. The a lot of people have taken the course and there's even starting to be some nice feedback within the course of things that have helped people along the way of parenting. So let's get to today's episode. And I'm going to be real.
[00:02:29] I have wasted over an hour this morning. I got into my office a little after 4:00 a.m. trying to get a podcast recorded before I started seeing clients today at six and I had the camera up. I was going to put this episode on YouTube, actually recorded about five or ten minutes and then realized that there were some parts that I wasn't recording and tried to go back in and suck some audio out of a video file and then started recording again.
[00:02:52] And at some point I just felt, you know what, I need to reboot, I need to restart. And so I'm doing this, that this episode is not up on YouTube as a video. But I always put the audio episodes up there as well. There are some people that like to consume their podcasts on YouTube, so you still can find it there on the virtual couch YouTube channel.
[00:03:08] But I wanted to talk about pornography today, and I have been I deal with it on a daily basis. This is still as far as the clients I see during a week, I see a healthy amount of couples. I also see a significant amount of women that are trying to get out of relationships with people who may be struggling with narcissistic personality disorder. So helping women recognize trauma bonds and able to break free from their little of anxiety, a little bit of depression. And then I still see a fair amount of clients each week that are trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. And the mode or model that I take is a very strength based approach. And it's one where when I was going on the road interviewing, doing some interviews for my book, he's a porn addict. Now, what an expert and a former addict. Answer your questions. I like to say that so far I am 0 for I think fourteen hundred people that I've helped in having shame be a component of recovery. And I just I want to just talk off the cuff today about pornography and compulsive sexual behavior. And so forgive me if I'm going to sound like I'm going all over the place, but I think it's significant to say that even a decade or more ago when I was starting to do this work, working with pornography and compulsive sexual behavior, that there really wasn't as much of a strength based model. There's still a little bit of a debate in the professional realm of a more of this medical model or this 12 step model, this addiction model versus a a more of a positive psychology strength based model. And I have been working with this strength based model for a very long time. And that is what gets results, in my opinion. And I can again say after doing this for almost 15 years and helping about 14 hundred individuals and then people that go through my path back online recovery program, then the strength based approach has been very effective.
[00:04:54] What does that mean by a strength based approach? I like to tell the story that when I got into counseling and I was working at a nonprofit, I was working with people that were struggling with. And let me just tackle this right out of the gate. I'm going to use the phrase pornography addiction and I'm going to talk about compulsive sexual behavior.
[00:05:12] And I might or I might just say struggles with pornography and why. So one of the first questions that I get truly is, is my husband an addict? And I'm going to pull some things out of my book a little bit today, which is sounds so pretentious. I know it does, but I really am proud of this book. With that I did with Joshua Shea, it's continued to sell copies for professionals, for the betrayed and for the the betrayer. And I think it just really answers so many good questions about pornography, addiction, compulsive sexual behavior. But so here's chapter one. The first question asked is, how do I know if he's actually an addict? And here's my comment on this. So when a client comes into my office to talk about her partner, who she thinks is an addict, so usually begin to list all the reasons that she's sure he's addicted to pornography, and then she'll ask me the question, how do I really know? And so at this point, I recognize that she's doubting herself and questioning her intuition. And this usually happens for one of two reasons. Either one, she thinks that she's not qualified to make that diagnosis or most commonly, she doesn't want it to be true. And so I'll hear the client's entire monologue about her partner's behavior, a behavior that led her into my office in the first place, only to hear her say, but I'm probably wrong. And what I feel like she's really thinking is, please tell me I'm wrong. And chances are she's not wrong. But there is help and there's hope. And so there are countless definitions of addiction and each with its own little nuances.
[00:06:35] But for the work that I do, I like the definition proposed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, which is ASTM.org and it state's addiction is characterized by the inability to consistently abstain impairment and behavioral control, craving, a diminished recognition of significant problems with one's behavior and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. So like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. And so without treatment or engagement and recovery activities, addiction is progressive and it can result in disability or, according to the ACM, even premature death, because we're probably talking there of drug overdose and that sort of thing. OK, but here we go, though. But to me, the exact defining of the word addiction is largely a matter of semantics. So if pornography is affecting your relationship negatively and you suspect that it's an issue that needs to be dealt with, the labeling of addiction or not, addiction becomes irrelevant. And if it's negatively affecting your marriage or your relationship or your family, it needs to be treated whatever you want to call it. So I have couples that come into my office and one is adamant that I label the other an addict, while the quote addict may be adamant that he or she need not be labeled. So we could spend the entire session worrying about labels and trying to define addiction. But that's just wasting crucial time that could be spent on repairing a relationship and overcoming the negative behaviors that brought them there to begin with. So this need to label or not label comes up in other areas of my practice as well in my dealing with clients who may or may not be, let's say, on the autism spectrum.
[00:08:10] Some come into my office and talk about not being good with social cues or having blind spots and the like and finding out that they are on the autism spectrum or being labeled autistic is a relief to them because it's finally an answer to explain their behavior. But others walk through the door and clearly exhibit classic signs of autistic behavior, yet repeatedly expressed that they do not want to be tested or evaluated for fear of being labeled because they're afraid that people will then treat them differently. So the labeling issue is a universal concern and the label doesn't change who you are. It doesn't change the behaviors exhibited and it doesn't change what needs to happen next on the path of dealing with the behavior. But if your behavior is causing problems in your relationship, whether or not you are clinically identified or labeled as an addict, then I feel that's when you need to seek professional help. So I just go off on that tangent because I will most likely use interchangeably the word pornography addiction or pornography, compulsive sexual behavior, or trying to rid yourself from pornography once and for all. And and I doubt that anyone is paying this much attention to my intro over the last three years. But I have shifted it from pornography addiction to trying to overcome turning to pornography as a coping mechanism, because I feel like that really is at the core. What most people are struggling with is this turning to pornography.
[00:09:23] It becomes this almost robotic or zombie like impulse and then it doesn't leave anybody feeling good after that. So they do want to put that behind them once and for all. So I hope that helps. But so back to when I started working in this nonprofit, I would get men that would come in to me and most of them were not honestly, they were not coming to me and saying, I am. I have a pornography addiction. Usually it's, hey, my wife wants me to come in or I got caught or my marriage is in trouble. There are some people that come in and say, I got to get this behind me. I really do. And part of that, I think, is the shame that even has to for someone to say I have a problem and that I want help with that. And that's a big reason why I did create the path back, because I wanted people to be able to address this regardless of if they are coming into a therapist's office or if they want to do that in the privacy of their own home. Because I feel like I do not meet with people who for the most part, say that they really enjoy looking at pornography and it makes them feel better after and it makes them feel more connected with their spouse. So I got men that were coming into my office and I recognize that the traditional training is a lot of behavioral modification.
[00:10:31] So when someone is feeling triggered, for example, or wanting to look at porn, then you're treating that. You're teaching them how to, I don't know, go run outside or do push ups or call a friend or that sort of thing. And so I found that most everyone coming in was almost looking for some silver bullet or some new thing that they've never heard before that would help them immediately get rid of pornography in their lives. But I identified quickly what I like to call this concept of voids. And so I found that I could teach behavioral modification all day and the person is going to do it at times or sometimes they're not. But what I really felt like was identifying that most people were turning to pornography as a coping mechanism wherever they felt these voids and identified five key voids. And one is when they don't feel connected with their partner. And that is why I dove into the world of emotionally focused therapy and did more couples work. The second one is when they don't feel like they are connected with their kids or as a parent or they're not being the parent that they always want to be. And that's what led me to my study with the nurtured heart approach, which is the at the foundation of my parenting positively course that you can go take for free right now, going tonyoverbay.com.
[00:11:41] Another one is people struggling with their faith. And so if you look on my podcast episodes, just go to my website and search for anything that has to do with faith journey, faith crisis or stages of faith. And I have episodes there where I talk about ways to really connect with your faith, where you aren't doing it just because you think that's what you're supposed to do, where you can really tap into your own values that are connected to your faith journey. So we've got the couples peace, the parenting, peace, the faith peace. And then I found that a lot of a lot of people aren't happy with their career. And I'm talking about whether it's their career. They always wanted to be, I don't know, an attorney, but they're an engineer or if somebody is a stay at home mom and they always wanted to have a career so it can go in any of those directions where if they don't feel connected or they don't feel passionate about what they're doing on a day to day basis, that can cause these voids and then wanting to turn the brain saying, OK, I want to check out I want to turn to pornography as just the just the like a little bump, a little dopamine rush.
[00:12:43] And then and then the fifth one/void is their health. And I feel like that's one where a lot of if we want to face it, most of us, I think, anticipated that we would be in pretty good shape when we were adults. But then the stress and life and incredibly tasty food comes into play. And it's really easy to turn to food as a coping mechanism as well. And so look at those five areas. And I don't want that to sound heavy. I want that to sound no pun intended after the food one, by the way. But I want that to sound like, oh, wow, that makes sense, that if we can get your marriage dialed in a little bit more of your relationship, if you're not married, if we can get your parenting dialed in. And of course, if you're if you're young and you don't have kids, then obviously that doesn't mean that we don't worry about that one. But your career, your faith and your health. And it's not that we ignore what to do when the temptation, the siren song of temptation hits. It's not that at all, but we address that. But we also go in and we talk about how to address these voids and how to get people dialed into more of a value based life.
[00:13:42] And and this is where I love acceptance and commitment therapy. So when someone's figuring out their unique set of values based on their life experiences, all of that nature, nurture, birth, order, DNA, abandonment, rejection, those sort of things, when someone figures out their value and then they're more likely to live this more purpose filled life when they're turning to their own value. I have a big value of authenticity. And that sounds clichéd. I know, but it's something I really didn't figure out until I was probably in my 40s, because up until that point, I really was a pretty big people pleaser. And so there were times where I would not speak my truth or my mind because number one, I felt like it would be abrasive or that it would be a negative thing. And number two, I just felt like I couldn't I felt like I needed to be so nice and that I couldn't be authentic and open. But once I recognized that value of authenticity, then I realized that, man, I feel so much more empowering to deal with that need to be authentic than it did to be a people pleaser and try to avoid conflict, because there's so much I could I could do whole episodes on those last two sentences that I said. But so treating the voids in someone that is struggling with pornography addiction is absolutely the way to go.
[00:15:00] Now, the problem is that people often say, OK, they've been caught or they want help. And so it is go and sin no more, never do it again. And the big problem with any kind of addictive behavior is that the person that is struggling with that addictive behavior has had so many go and sin no more moments in their own life so many times where this is the last time. And then when they have not necessarily dealt with these other areas of life and dealt with them over an extended period of time, then they find themselves falling again to the siren song of temptation and then beating themselves up and. Thinking what's wrong with me and often going on a bender and realize that when I talk to clients, sometimes they don't know what a binder is, a binder is just borrowed from the world of alcoholism. And it's where someone has a relapse with acting out with pornography. And then they just feel today shot. And if it's a friend on a Friday, they're like, there goes the weekend. And if it's the 16th of the month, they say there goes the month. And if it's August, they say there goes the year. And I'll work on this next on Monday or next month or I'll start on in January.
[00:16:07] And all of those are these experiential avoidance components where it's kicking that can down the road where, you know, absolutely to get control of an addiction or an addictive behavior. Let's not wait till Monday. That's just a story my brain is trying to tell me. Is that all right? We'll wait till Monday. Well, we need to deal with it right now, as a matter of fact. So I hope that makes sense when we talk about the concept of addiction in general and where I come up with these voids that we're trying to work on each one of those voids. And I think that does lead right into again, I'm going to read out of the book where the next question was, is there a difference between pornography addiction and sex addiction? And so I said similar to the answer to the first question, this one comes back the labels and whether or not they are relevant. So to be clear, until recently, there wasn't anything in either the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is called the DSM, or the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases, which is the ICD that talked about sexual addiction or pornography addiction. Now, recently, the WHO updated the ICD to include compulsive sexual behavior disorder, which is CSB D How about those four acronyms as a mental health condition?
[00:17:18] And so while this designation doesn't exactly meet the standard for addiction, it is definitely the strongest statement made by a body of experts in the field of sexual mental health. So I say, let me share a very 30,000 foot view of what's happening to the brain with doing pornography. So when a man and I'm going to say, man, it can be a woman as well. When a man is watching viewing pornography, when he watches porn, his brain releases the feel good drug dopamine. And there is some fascinating research and I've got some very early episodes that I realize now are almost three years old. So they're hard to find in the archives, but fascinating research around what is called the Coolidge effect. So the idea is that a male will mate with a receptive female once and then he can experience a period where he is not interested in mating. However, if you bring in another receptive female, he will then mate again and so on and so on until he, in essence, can no longer move almost to the point of death. So this phenomenon has been observed in many different species in the animal kingdom. So what's happening is that this, quote, lower brain or reactionary brain was designed to see a female who could possibly help the male bring forth kids to assist in tilling the land and harvesting food so his brain pours out dopamine in order for him to hyper focus on her, to do whatever it takes to convince her that he is her man.
[00:18:33] So what research now shows is that the lower brain can't differentiate between the real woman in front of him or the pictures and videos that it's seeing on a computer screen. So it will see another, "willing female" on the screen and pour out dopamine saying I got to get her to. But so now with this endless supply of willing females and you can probably see where I'm going here, the brain continues pouring out dopamine, basically creating this dopamine binge, which actually kills off many of the dopamine neural receptors of the brain. So this causes the brain to need to see more and do more to get that same rush as there aren't as many dopamine receptors there to receive that feel good drug. So the addict will start looking for more, sometimes shocking or twisted or taboo things to get the rush.
[00:19:18] And so sometimes this can lead to people experimenting with things that are outside their relationship or people outside of the relationship because they simply want that dopamine rush. And so typically there is a period of time before pornography, quote, addiction becomes a full blown sex addiction where the individual will begin to explore what it would take to actually find a partner to have sex with. It's like they become addicted almost to the hunt. The dopamine rush comes from that hunt or the exploration. So sex addicts aren't necessarily are not necessarily they are not looking for long term relationships. They just want a quick fix. And so I've had so many clients in my office explaining that the progression from just viewing pornography or even just images to then viewing pornography to exploring sites that will allow you to connect virtually with someone online and then ultimately finding ways to meet up with a real individual for the sole purpose of a sexual encounter. And again, this is that just trying to get that dopamine rush, whether it's only pornography or both pornography and sex, the outcome for the individual is the same that it's all about. It's all about satiating the evergrowing desire and obtaining the requisite dopamine rush that the user needs to feel satisfied. So much like the move from pictures and a magazine to videos or Internet pornography to strip clubs, to massage parlors, to meeting up with an actual partner, the addict is looking for the next rush of dopamine and keeps needing to push the bar higher in order to feel.
[00:20:38] Sexually gratified so with other types of addictions, you often hear the term gateway, so an example would be marijuana as the gateway drug to harder substances. But while your partner may not be there yet and may never get there, I have seen too many situations where pornography was the gateway for acting out sexually. So anecdotally speaking, I have never had a sex addict that hasn't been addicted to pornography. And I have also had clients with severe addictions to pornography that have never acted out sexually. And again, I realize that I'm using the term addiction, even though I already identified that we could even challenge that word addiction rather liberally. And I want to continue to read. I did not realize I would be reading so much from my book and I really would encourage you to get a copy, especially I know a lot of mental health professionals. Listen to the virtual couch tonight that is so flattering and it contact me for a discount on a copy or something, but or it's on Amazon. It was just on sale. But to get the book, the stuff that Josh Joshua Shay is addressed from the answering these questions from the addict perspective is phenomenal.
[00:21:42] And so we we get a question and we both answered it and we had no idea what the other person was saying. And I just really am grateful for the flow of the book. So let me there's a quote. There's a paragraph I want to get to here. And so the question the next one I wanted to address was, was he this way when we first got together? So my answer was, typically spouses ask this question because they want to know one of two things. Number one, how did I not see this until now? And number two, did I somehow drive him to this behavior? And I just say this. The first is a loaded question of how did I not see this until now? If you've been together for many years, there are so many ways that you're both different from each other in so many ways in which you have both changed over the years. And I'm not saying that is a bad thing. Is he the same person you fell in love with and married? Probably not 100 percent, but neither are you. And again, saying that in a very straight face, the hold the shame love you kind of way. And I can tell you, based on seeing hundreds of individuals and sitting with them collectively for thousands of hours, that this is not an addiction that pops up overnight.
[00:22:38] However, it is an addiction that is steeped in this is so key: guilt, shame, secrecy and isolation, all of which are developed over time as the addiction progresses. So if this addiction was there prior to when you met and were dating, then your partner probably hoped that the sex life that you would eventually share would be enough to take away any desire to view pornography. And unfortunately, unless addicts begin doing serious recovery work, simply getting into a monogamous relationship is often not enough to address the addiction. Now, again, I'm not trying to paint this just broad stroke, brush canvas, all these other art analogies. If you can tell that I'm not an artist, that is, if someone has struggled with this, then they are not. They will continue to do so in marriage. This is that thing where everybody's relationships are different, everybody's personal experiences that lead them to their relationship is different. And so, unfortunately, where I'm going with this is is the acting out sexually, whether in a committed relationship or a one night stand, won't satisfy the addictive nature of pornography. So if the person is actively trying to put this past them actively in recovery or and again, this is where it gets a little bit cloudy, but even if they're aware and trying to work with this, if they've admitted that there is an issue or problem, then we're on the right path. So I believe here's the paragraph I really wanted to get to. I believe that the addiction has very little to do with the spouse, although I can understand how difficult that might be for the spouse to accept.
[00:24:10] So this addiction began with the husband's early exposure to pornography, to him then becoming, quote, sexualized young, where the wiring of the brain began to view a lot of his life through a sexually charged lens and addiction. As I mentioned earlier, springs from this well of unmet needs and this lack of connection. So, again, he's most likely feeling disconnected from his work or his school or his health or his relationships and his faith and his brain is turning to pornography whenever he's not feeling good about himself or the situation. And so over time, turning to pornography has become habitual and instinctual. So sometimes I share with clients that no one typically picks up something like smoking in their 20s or 30s. And the concept is similar. With pornography, there is early exposure that leads to an addiction of turning to porn for stress relief or to numb out or to cope with problems. And by the time an addict is married, looking at pornography is how they may react to any and all of some of the above stressors. So and I'm not trying to paint this as a negative thing. I want to continue to have this conversation. And I want people to feel people that are hearing this. They're going to be men and women that are hearing this episode that I want them to recognize right now that you are OK, that you are normal, that early exposure to pornography is not your fault. No 10 year old or now the average age of first exposure is somewhere between 8 and 11. That is not something that that is that.
[00:25:35] I know you didn't wake up in the morning and say, I think I want to find some porn. It's something that has been put in your place to put in your way, it is something that whether it is by advertisers, whether it's too easy to access it on the computer, whether cousins or older brothers or dads or mom, I've heard every version of this that has left pornography up on the screen or people at school or showing things on phones or long gone is the day of IF a person sees, its WHEN, especially as youth. And so it is so important to have the conversations about not if I've seen pornography, but I would always bring up in our family nights. Hey guys, when's the last time you saw something pornographic and almost saying, how did they get that through? I would hear about people posting things on Pinterest or on Instagram or those sort of things. And I want you to know, parents that are listening to this, I just I plead with you to not have the reaction of an immediate. Oh, my gosh, give me your phone. Where's the hammer? Let me bust this up. You will never have that thing again because it is introducing this filth into the home, that sort of thing. We want to be able to have the conversations because your kids are going to be out in the real world, whether under your watch or down the road. And what we really want to do is give them these coping mechanisms. These tools or these safe places to be able to go to and talk to you about seeing pornography or if they have a hard time putting it behind them once and for all, or if in hearing this episode that you can help them feel their voids, that you can help them recognize that they are enough or they do have worth or you can find very productive activities for them to engage in.
[00:27:16] I've had people have their kids join individual sports. I've had them and somebody do competitive Pokémon. I've had people do chess. I've had people, do you name it, crocheting, artwork, teaching kids, tutoring kids, volunteering at an old folks home, learning to play music for the first time. Those are things that can be done to start to build this confidence and fill those voids and raise their emotional baseline up to a place where they can turn away from the siren song of pornography. So I hope that is something that is not as scary, but that I'm I want you to know that. Yeah, it's I wish it wasn't here. I really do. But we'll note that one of the first things in the book, The Road Less Traveled that I loved by him. Scott Peck says that life is difficult. And as soon as we recognize that life is difficult, the fact that life is difficult no longer really matters. Because once we've embraced that, OK, life is going to be difficult, then we can transcend the fact that life is going to be difficult. It no longer gets becomes a big giant wall in front of us.
[00:28:17] We know that's coming. That wall is coming. So now we're going to prepare for or going to run through the wall. We're going to climb the wall. We're going to go around the wall. Are we going to get some tools to break down the wall? Because the wall is going to be there. So we're going to run into that wall.
[00:28:30] We're going to run into those situations where our kids are going to have struggles or challenges with pornography. And we're going to look at that and say, hey, champ, thank you so much for telling me about this. Let's do this. What can I do to help? I'm we're on it. Not oh, my gosh. I was so afraid of this day. Now here it is. And what am I supposed to do? And I'm a horrible parent, because that's not the case. And there's a wonderful talk by a person named Dieter Utchdorf, and he talks about he's a pilot. He loves to tell stories about flying. And he talks about if you and I'm going to butcher this quote from the talk, but he talks about if you take off and then a plane is one degree off course, then over the span of, I don't know, hours or thousands of miles that you it will be so much further away from its intended destination. And so I liken that to early exposure to pornography. So when someone has seen pornography, let's say at 10 years old and I often give this example and I'm really thinking of one of my teachers, Mrs. Anderson, I don't know where she is these days, but I remember sitting in a class and I can remember the individual right now, real life example. I won't say his name, but I remember him saying basically, look at this Mrs. Andersen's figure, look at her shape. And I remember thinking, I can see Mrs. Andersen. She's annoying. I think she's got long hair.
[00:29:45] She's really mean. And I look back on that. And I learned later that he had he had definitely been exposed to pornography early. And so to him, Mrs. Anderson was a female that he saw, just like he saw the women that he saw on pornography. And I'm so old. That was probably a magazine that he saw, I don't know, maybe a filmstrip or something like that. But I look back on that now and it makes so much sense. So to me, Mrs. Anderson was an annoying teacher. To him, She was a sexualized being. And so that's what early exposure to pornography does. And that's where I feel like that now, where a few degrees off. And so at some point when someone then is exposed, then it's almost like the world changes a bit for them. And I don't want that to feel like, oh, my gosh, the world's changed. It's OK. That makes sense. And so now from that point forward, that person, that teenage boy, for example, who is a normal, teenage boy, he's going to have all those female hormones are coming, to procreate, replenish the earth, that's a built in part of a factory setting. And so then and seeing and having these sexual desires and that sort of thing, that it's almost OK that's been unlocked. It's been unlocked early. And so now that is going to frame a little bit of their experience to live a little bit, a lot of their experience from that day moving forward. I buried the lead in one of the reasons that I really wanted to talk about this, and I'll end with this story and I have so much more I would love to share on this, but I do want to try to keep these episodes somewhat short, short ish.
[00:31:10] But a couple of weeks ago, I was asked and I alluded or I talked briefly about this on an episode a couple of weeks ago, but I had been asked to come on a national radio show and talk about pornography in the pandemic. And the truth is that the use of pornography use has skyrocketed since people have been sheltering in place. And when people have been around their computers and they're bored and they have just too much time on their hands, because I really do believe the biggest trigger that leads to pornography use is not, oh, some guy sees a hot chick, that old cliche, it's boredom. It's I call them crimes of opportunity. It's where somebody nobody's home or they're by themselves. And there's the computer. And their brain is so used to saying, hey, I know what we can do. And then they turn to pornography. Then they feel bad. Then they say, I'm not going to do it again until the next time. And then they think, what's wrong with me? And it's just this continuing shame spiral. But I was asked to go on this national radio show and I really didn't know a lot about the host and turned out the way we traded some emails.
[00:32:10] And he was very complimentary. And on his own Facebook page, I said that I'm a friend of the show and he said, I'm a brilliant author, so I love that. I appreciate that. But when I went on and I totally I really I can understand where he was coming from, but he brought me on to talk about it, and then he just jumped right in and said, hey, I don't think pornography is a problem. And so I think that was supposed to rattle me. And then on my first time to that rodeo, not even my tenth time to that rodeo. And so I said, hey, that's fantastic. And if that's not something that you think is a problem or struggle with, then my I can't I'm not going to try to convince you of that. And I talked about the concept of psychological reactance, which is that instant negative reaction of being told what to do. So if someone doesn't feel like they have a problem or someone doesn't feel like something is a problem, me telling them that it's a problem is actually going to, you know, trigger this psychological reactance. The person is actually going to dig in a little bit deeper. And I disagree. And so I got a sense that was where the conversation was going. So I just said that if that if he didn't feel that it was a problem, then that's wonderful for him. And I said, but for the fourteen hundred or fifteen hundred people that I've worked with individually that have decided that they did not like pornography as a component in their relationship or that it was something that they were turning to far too often.
[00:33:26] So they weren't as productive as they could be at work or it made them less of feeling like a connected parent, then that's a problem. And I don't think he was prepared for that, because then he continued to say, I watch it with my wife. And I said, man, then you guys would not need my help. And that is fantastic. But for the people that I work with, the people that are turning to me that want to put that behind them, that feel like it, it has made them less present in their relationship than I can. I can help people with that. And and he was pretty funny at that point. And he said, I turned to cake. I think that with frosting is a coping mechanism. And I said that, my friend, I can help with that. If that is a coping mechanism you want to put behind you, then I can work with that. So I appreciated that. But it was really I really enjoyed getting on and talking about that. If someone is saying it is not a problem for them, then I will tell you it can be difficult to work with. So that's the hard part about if somebody is being told to get help, but they really don't feel like it's a big deal or they feel like they have it under control, then Number One, they're probably going to have a little bit of that psychological reactance.
[00:34:27] They're going to double down and say, well, it's not really a problem. Or and here's the part that I really wanted to end with. And I had a podcast I did for a group called Leading Saints, and it's talking to ecclesiastical leaders and I highly recommend it. It's called Taking Shame out of the bishop's office. And it's a way that when people are struggling with pornography, addiction or compulsive sexual behavior, they don't feel good about it. They don't. And I again, I know that's the case. And so when they come into my office, the last thing that is helpful is for me to say, man, do you know what this could turn into or do you know how bad this is? And we just have a tendency as humans that when a teenager or a spouse or somebody comes and confesses or gets caught, we don't say, hey, thank you so much for coming in or I appreciate you dealing with this because we've got this and I know that you're going to be able to make it through this. And that is the response we need. We need to be able to win again if our kids come to us honestly with any issue or problem, do some mindfulness work like crazy so that when they say, hey, I wrecked the car or I'm struggling with pornography addiction or I'm failing a class. That school that our reaction is, hey, I am so proud of you for coming to me.
[00:35:42] I really appreciate that that takes guts. And so we're going to figure this out. Let me know what I can do to help. Let me know if you need me to be an accountability, buddy. If you want some professional help when the world of the school, if you need a tutor, whatever you need. I am just so proud of you for coming to me. And we've got this because it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to go to somebody and say, I'm struggling with anything. So that's my ultimate goal when dealing with pornography. Is it a bad thing? And it objectifies women and it warps sexuality and it's it's a component and well over half of divorces. Now, according to I think it's the American Lawyers or Attorneys Association. Yes, all of those are true, but it's individuals that are struggling with this. And so we need to treat them like individuals as well. And if you're hearing this and you are struggling and you've tried to put this behind you and have been successful, it's not too late. And there are so many people that I've worked with that have spent a fair amount of time literally like coming into my office and saying I didn't do the homework or relapsed again or so. And it's as if they want me to say, Oh, man, yeah, you're like super broken. Go ahead. You can go and just act out like crazy. And yeah, I guess I couldn't help. No, it's not the way it works. It can be a little bit of a journey.
[00:36:57] It can take more time than one would anticipate, but that's just the way that it works. The old cliche of it is what it is. But just being aware and seeking help and trying to put distance between thought and action, those are the things that are going to get you back on this path back to that person that you always wanted to be or a person that you dreamed you could be. And that is somebody that isn't turning to compulsive sexual behavior as a coping mechanism. So I appreciate you taking the time to stay with me. If you have questions I would love to do, I'm going to start now. Here's a sneak preview of the new revamped Path Back program is I am going to be doing some Facebook lives. I am going to be doing some Q&A. I am going to be doing as part of the Path Back program, some weekly calls and answering questions and working with individuals. And so I would love your questions. You can send them through my website at Tony Overbay.com. Just go to the contact page and just send me any questions you have about pornography, compulsive sexual behavior, any of that. And I'll try to get to those on a future episode or a Facebook live. Those are going to be archived. And I'm just grateful for you spending this time with me. And I look forward to seeing you the next time on the virtual couch and have a wonderful, fantastic day.