Tony welcomes Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife back to The Virtual Couch for the 5th time! They discuss a variety of topics, including ADHD, the challenge of helping couples envision a version of a relationship they haven't seen modeled or experienced, narcissism and emotional immaturity, and how to help a spouse "lean in" when they see their partner begin to show up differently in a relationship where the spouse had previously felt unseen. They explore Emotionally Focused Therapy, the differentiation models of couples therapy, and the role of self-confrontation not only for their clients but also in their own lives and relationships.
Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. She focuses primarily on teaching couples and individuals how to strengthen their relationships, overcome relational and sexual roadblocks, and increase their capacity for intimacy, love, and sexual expression. You can learn more about Jennifer at https://www.finlayson-fife.com/, where she offers online courses and her subscription-based podcast “Room For Two.”
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Virtual Couch Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Transcript
Tony: Are you okay if I'm very, if we're very vulnerable about the fact that you were admitting that you aren't quite sure what we're talking about today? Okay. No, that's good. So, welcome Jennifer. I think this is maybe your fifth time on the couch. The Virtual Couch. So welcome back. I wonder as well, and I was even gonna, when I was thinking about the things, I would just love to know if you have thoughts on, and you may not, but ADHD in relationships. And I'm very open about my adhd. And that's taken me down this path of where I wonder if having 900 tabs open does anything as far as the bandwidth of a podcast. I dunno. Do you, do you have much experience with ADHD in relationships in coaching or therapy?
Jennifer: Yeah, actually because everybody in my family has a little bit.
Jennifer: Although, I don't know if I think of myself as an expert on it though. Certainly a topic I'd be happy to talk about.
Tony: I just started doing a little bit of research on it because I notice it more, the more that I do a little parallel processing and understanding what mine looks like in my relationship because there's rejection sensitivity and there's impulsivity in some of those things that can play a role. So, all right. Maybe that's our sixth episode, I think. I think it will be good.
Jennifer: Yeah. A lot of ADHD people marry someone who's more organized and you know, or more creative, innovative people are, they're that sort of expansive and then they kind of marry someone. That's the structure. And so then there's that tension that can get played out even though they both kind of wanted a little bit of what the other had, but it can play out in conflict
Tony: Because first of all, my first thought was, okay, I have seen this organization my wife has and it does look fascinating. I mean, but there was a book by Hallowell and Ratey called “ADHD 2.0” that I now refer to as scripture. It's really, it's incredible. But there's one part where I will say this and then we can move on. But they lay out this concept where apparently, non-ADHD people, there’s almost these switches where when they're doing, their thinking switch is also. And when the ADHD person is doing their thinking switch is still going thinking, thinking a hundred percent. And that one, so then when I see something more novel, then I'm gonna go do that. And then when somebody says, well, why don't you finish it? And that one resonated to me so much because, well, of course I'm gonna go do something else if it's really cool. But then if my wife's saying, well, why don't you finish what you were doing, then I don't have a good answer for that. Well, because I didn't, because something else. But then being aware of that's been nice because then I have to build in that pause.
Jennifer: Yeah it's an interesting concept. I, you know, anyway, I'll say this and then we can move on to what we hired. I have a sister-in-law, we used to work together back when I was working for my brother's company. The two of us were working for him in the summer between school semesters and so on. And she's just one of these people that's organized, on top of things, she just, she just has a good, and so we would be doing parallel things, the exact same thing, which was lots of just clerical, like stamping and organizing and she was just so much faster at it than me. And I'd be like, just trying so hard to keep up and I would have to make my mind stay on the activity because my mind would go to other things, which is a part of who I am, right? I was, my mind was always like figuring out ideas and things, but it would slow me down. And so I'd be like, what is the matter with me? Why is she able to be so efficient? So on task at all times? It's just not really the way my brain works.
Tony: Yeah. But I like it because that would kind of speak to even almost this spectrum concept because if you know you're a little bit off and if I'm just, I need to make jokes, I need to go get water, I need to find something else to do and come back, I'll do, and then they also, my family are much more.
Jennifer: I look like the organized one.
Tony: You do? Okay. How fun is that right?
Jennifer: Well I just look like the one who's more on task anyway. And so anyway, it's interesting because I love a lot of people that are not particularly orderly in their way of thinking and doing things. There's a lot of gifts that come with it, and then things that are there. My son right now is on his way, flying here, but he forgot his wallet, didn’t remember his passport. I don't wanna talk about him, but it's a little bit like, wow. You know, that's not easy. So, yeah.
Tony: That's great. Okay. Well, okay, I think we even started with this too, was I love your honesty about not being 100% sure what we were gonna talk about today. And then I love it because I had emailed Christie a month ago and said, I want to talk about this. And I kind of forgot about that, which maybe is part of this ADHD thing we're talking about. And so then I felt like, oh, I need to let her know. So I sent some stuff over this morning. So I do have some thoughts, but staying on this note a little bit too, I feel like maybe that the way that ADHD does show up is it does bring a lot of discomfort and I really have had to recognize and lately I'm on this kick on the Virtual Couch talking about what we do with our discomfort and, so I think that at times I want to then quickly turn to get that dopamine hit of novelty instead of sitting with feelings of discomfort. And then I'm watching that in my couple's situations. Some, even if they're using a really healthy framework to communicate, it's still gonna be uncomfortable. And then I feel like an ADHD person is really, really good at distracting or saying, but you don't understand to get outta that discomfort because by nature that's what we do. Because if we're doing something and that thinking switch keeps coming up, we're used to following that. So, I don’t know.
Jennifer: Yeah. Can I just give another idea about that? Human beings are always wrestling with anxiety and our ability to stay present and be living life within the reality of life. So that's a human challenge. People that are more impulsive or ADHD are gonna bounce quickly to a new idea. They bounce away, perhaps. And they move into activity. But you know, somebody who's more organized or routinized may well handle it by moving into routine, by moving into, so that it's not necessarily more that ADHD people are less able to be present. So what I mean is that the mind is organizing and managing stress in the ways that it knows how. But the other thing I would say is some people are very, very anxious and are really struggling with self-regulation, and it looks more like ADHD than it is. And so there may be an ADHD element there, but it might be more of an anxiety response getting handled through distraction through, high, what's the word? Frenetic energy. But that's more about anxiety.
Tony: It can be. Well, okay. And while I'm just talking, I'm giving some theories here, but the book also has a great chapter on medication, this “ADHD 2.0”. And it does say that the ADHD medication when administered properly is far more, I don't know, efficacious than other medications. And it says that how it can, it's the only thing that can change somebody's life within an hour. But then if the wrong person takes it and I think if somebody with anxiety takes it, it amps that anxiety. And so I will have people tell me, oh, I'm ADHD as well. But they say, but every time I take medication I just get really jittery or anxious. And when I took medication I felt hope. I mean it is all of the sudden everything came into place. That's a good diagnostic.
Jennifer: Yeah. Right. It’s the primary factor. Anxiety. Also, ADHD really shows prior to age 12, when it's really just adhd. So it's a fundamental feature. So this same son, you know, it's my child on the autism spectrum, that was a co-occurring reality. And yes, when he started taking it, it's like his whole life changed. It was, you know, I became an addict to his medication because when he was taking it, he was able to self-regulate. He was much more capable socially. He was kinder to his sibling, like it just helped him get a handle on something and he didn't, we sometimes wanted to give him medication holidays because we worried a little bit about a younger person taking medication. He never wanted to take them. He's like, everybody gets upset with me when I'm not taking it. And you know, his ability to be social would go up. So it was a definite indicator that, I mean, maybe he felt some anxiety because of adhd, but yes, that was not the primary issue.
Tony: No, I love that too because, man, look, we're now the, I'm gonna get to be able to put ADHD in the title with you and I'm so excited. No, I'm giddy about it, Jennifer. I am. But I had this situation where after I was, I had been on my medication and I didn't get my diagnosis till 46, so a few years ago. And, a year or two year into it, I'm supposed to go get a urine test to show that I'm, I don't know that that's what you do after a year, but I was so killing it at work and everything, and clients and writing a book and the podcast, and I didn't wanna take the time and finally they were gonna cut me off. And this is a funny thing I've learned since, is that there's two time frames with adhd. It's either now or later. So I was gonna do it later, and then later became now when they were gonna cut off my supply. Yeah. But, I think the story is, this relieved my anxiety. I would take it in the morning while I went and did the urine test later in the day. And then I get the call maybe a day or two later and they said, we need you to come in. And I thought, oh no, they found, I must have some sort of something I'm gonna die from in my urine. And I went in there and she said, hey, so why is there no methyl phenyl date? The ADHD medication, Ritalin, why is that not in your urine? And I didn't understand, and I was, I don't know I just, I take it and then I realized, I said, oh, wait a minute, you, so you think I'm selling it to middle school kids? Because it wasn't in the urine. And then, and so then I said, oh no, the last time I took it, I think it was maybe one o'clock that afternoon. And then, and I have the immediate release. So then I had metabolized it cause I drink a lot of water and yeah. And actually that made me feel good because it was something that was outta my system by the evening. And at that point I felt like, okay, you know, this is, this is really helpful.
Jennifer: Yeah, it's great.
Tony: But adhd, my go-to is I make jokes about everything internally. So when I really did say you think I'm selling it to middle school kids, and that was not funny to say to a psychiatrist apparently, because they didn't enjoy that joke at all. And I thought it was hilarious. But you know, you live and you learn a little bit, you know? So one thing that I was curious to get your take on, so I would love to know what you either tell people or what your idea of the ideal relationship is. And the tiny bit of backstory is that when I talk to people, and I think I'm so clever when I say, I laid out from the womb till the wedding. And I just said that to Christie and I said, man, I'm trademarking that because I'd never put it that way before. But like, then I can talk about abandonment and attachment issues in our childhood and then we show up in relationships and we're trying to figure out how do I show up so that this person will like me because I don't want to be alone. And then I always say we then we're enmeshed and codependent and then we go through life and we have experiences and. Say, this is how I feel, and this is how I feel. And if we're immature, then we jump back into enmeshment like, oh, I can't believe you think that. And then we're afraid of abandonment, so we jump back in. And so then I'm trying to tell people, all right, the goal is differentiated and interdependent and there's gonna be invalidation and all those things. But then at that point, I realize I sound like the, like a peanuts adult character, where I think, think that people are like, wa wa what are you talking about? And I don't know why it took me so long, Jennifer. Maybe it's because I felt like I was getting validation by people nodding their heads and, oh, I want that. But then I realized, oh, they don't even know what I'm talking about. And so do you, how do you, or do you lay out the, here's where we're headed?
Jennifer: I do a little bit, sometimes through role play or role modeling. What differentiate sounds like, and people can recognize it almost immediately as mature dealing with an issue, but not reactive or punitive or manipulative, but like anchored and centered. And so, you know, I do think it's sometimes the quickest way to give people a picture of it. But it's very conceptual for a lot of people. That there's something, this is really like, what I actually think is that this is something you feel your way towards. It's something you live your way towards, and then when you put language to it, it sounds interdependent and self-regulated. You use those words, but it's very hard to describe in words, especially because most people do not experience it. And so you're trying to use language that we don't have a lot of in our culture, in society. Because most of us are pretty immature, and so most of us are living pretty reactively in our relationships, so we know those words well, and so it, it's like trying to give people a sense of something to reach towards. And sometimes the best way to do it actually is to help people see what they're actually doing that is undermining the friendship because if they can stop doing it, what happens is their brain then has to be at a higher level. If they won't allow themselves to do the indulgent behavior, that's how people start to feel what more mature feels like.
Like if I'm not gonna manipulate my wife, but I really would like to have sex with her, maybe I need to just be more honest. But that feels scary. But yes, if I'm not gonna be manipulative and deceptive and I do really desire a sexual relationship, then maybe I need to tolerate the exposure of speaking more honestly. Well then they start to, well, you know, it doesn't mean that the partner's just gonna be like, oh, thank you so much for being honest. They may push in the opposite direction to get you back, but people start to feel better when they're functioning at a higher level. They start to acknowledge that something there feels more solid, more respect worthy. And at a minimum they start to respect themselves more. And you know, they're actually more of a force to be reckoned with in their marriage than when they were in their more petulant or reactive state. So I like your question because it's often like, how do you show people what we're talking about? But I find the most helpful thing is to help people see what they're doing and how it's interfering with their own goals.
Tony: Yeah. Right. Okay. And I like what you're saying, and it's funny because I wanted to make the joke and now that we've established adhd, I wanted to say at some point people are listening right now and hearing the wa wa wa from both of us, that's fine. Because that is okay. But I also feel like, and then if someone, when you hit on that discomfort for someone, if I'm gonna go back to the ADHD or the rejection sensitivity is, man, do you watch that? Do you see that person? Not necessarily just an ADHD person, but, shut down. Or do you see that person try to queue up their yeah, buts? I mean, when are you watching that happen as well?
Jennifer: Give me a little more of an example.
Tony: So, I feel like I love everything you're saying. And then I'm, I think maybe this is the part where now having been doing couples therapy for so long, I start thinking, I don't want to call it cynically, but the worst case scenario of what happens with that, so when I get people into that place of where, no, it's okay and you're gonna feel uncomfortable and let me show you what, what that looks like, that then when that person now is met with having to really express themselves, that I just, I watch that reactivity or I watch that, that hesitancy or hesitation and then I think that can be a hard thing to get somebody to move through.
Jennifer: It is, it is hard, but I would say when I'm being my most helpful, I'm not trying to get people to do it. I'm trying to help people see how they're capitulating to their fear, how they're, how they're moving into a guarded or deceptive position, and it becomes their own courage or their own unhappiness with themselves that pushes them into a clearer position. Now, the person on the other side may then get reactive or may want to push away from it, but then I would go to that person and help them see how they're handling themselves in the face. You know, you say you wanna know your partner, but then when he starts to talk straight to you, you punish him for that. So I'm just helping them see what they're doing, because we're so good at lying to ourselves. All of us, we're good at telling ourselves the story that we like about ourselves. Not the one that accounts most data. And so when someone is speaking honestly to you, or when a therapist or coach is being helpful, they're showing you something that you tend to stay blind to and giving you your mind the opportunity to deal with that truth better. And that's what helps people get stronger is their minds accommodate more truth about themselves.
Tony: I love your Room For Two podcasts. I do. I listen to that often, and then I find myself becoming a little, pulling some Jennifer cards out in my own sessions. Of course, I take credit for them, you know, a lot. And, even my, I always say it but I feel like that it's no scarcity mentality in mental health is what I tell, what I tell myself at least. But I, but I think you've said some things, like at one point, I think you've said something like, we put a version of ourselves out and we say, hey, validate this. And then the person is saying but what if I can't? Then it's, how dare you? But so I really like having that opportunity to say, okay, well this is some information and, yeah, it's an opportunity to self confront, but that doesn't mean the person absolutely has to. And I find that, yeah, when you frame it in a certain way, I feel like then it's almost a welcoming opportunity. Okay, I'll take a look at that. And maybe, and that does seem to go well, more than it doesn't. Maybe it's just because people are secretly we want to, we want to grow, we want to be better, but that's, it is scary.
Jennifer: Yeah. The psyche, it is scary. And I, you know, the psyche is pushing us to be whole. It is pushing us. I like that to accommodate more truth, but we then also have our reactive mind that's afraid of it. We're afraid to go to our shadow work, afraid to go to the dark parts of ourselves or the parts of ourselves that we haven't yet accommodated. And so when our spouse is the messenger, which they often are because they see us better than we see ourselves. You know, we try to take them down rather than deal with our darker selves. And that's marriage. I mean, that's really what marriage is. So often the healthier a couple is, the less pressure it takes to accommodate more truth. The more willing they are to look at themselves and how they're impacting their partner and do something about it. Not to make the partner happy, but to be a better self in relationship to their partner.
Tony: Okay, can I ask you too, Jennifer? I do feel like I don't know if we touched on this maybe the last time we spoke, but, how we become therapists and we don't think we're doing it to fix ourselves within, maybe along the way we realize, I mean, I love that opportunity to self confront and I have found, and maybe even recently where I think I wanted more interaction with my son and he's 19, and so then he threw out this offer to go play golf and I immediately reacted with a pause. And I, thank goodness, I did a little, I was able to get a do-over and was very present. But, you know, my wife then I had a good conversation about it and I loved it because she was able to say, hey, here's what that looked like. And I feel like, yeah, when you practice this and there's safety and we're not gonna be perfect at it, I was really grateful that she was able to point out a couple of things that, you know, I, and I wanted to immediately defend my ego and say, oh no, I, you know, I've read this book and masculine in the relationship, and I asked for a do-over and I was back, and that's a good thing. And I was like saying, oh, that sounds good to alleviate my discomfort. But instead, let me hear what it was like. And she had a few extra details that I think really helped with everything from body language to tone that I wasn't even aware of or I didn't want to think. Are you finding yourself doing the same thing in your own relationship or, because I imagine a lot of people feel like, well you, you must already have all this stuff down pat.
Jennifer: Well, let's see. I'm just thinking about your example. I'm trying to, I don't know if I completely followed what you're saying, but I think I know what you're saying, which is that you were getting feedback from your wife that was elucidating or showing you something like she could track your mind better than you could track your mind. Okay. Yeah, and she's saying like, you were making this gesture and you were doing this, and that's a hundred percent true. Like spouses can track our minds, kids can track our minds, like my teenager was making fun of me because he's imitating me and my false modesty about something like somebody complimented me and then afterwards he's like, oh yeah, no, it's nothing. You know? And the way he's doing it, you know, is like using my words and it's super embarrassing. He's totally, he's saying, I see you, mom. You're not that modest. You know, you love it. So, but yeah, so our, our kids, our spouses see us, but you're asking about my own marriage, how does it go? Like do you have a more specific question?
Tony: Yeah, I do actually. So I mean, have you had those opportunities that are things that you weren't necessarily aware of? And I'll tell you a more vulnerable one for me was my wife, she was sharing with me this concept around sometimes the kids aren't 100% sure or she isn't, of which version of me that she was gonna get. And thankfully I was in, I was looking for this feedback. We were talking about some things that I was sharing with her about as a couple's therapist and she said, yeah, sometimes you come in and you are really excited and happy. And in essence, I felt like she was saying, I'm making it rain, throwing out dollar bills, you know, that sort of thing. And other times I might, I might come in and I would say, man, I just feel like everybody, I'm just a paycheck and everybody's taken advantage of me. But I was so grateful to be able to say, okay, let me take a look at that and is there truth in that? And there really was. And then I was able to step back and recognize the days where I, maybe there's something else going on and then I'm coming in and I'm bringing that into the home, and I didn't like that, so I dunno. Do you have some of those?
Jennifer: Well, yeah. No, I mean, I'm trying to think of examples, but absolutely. I mean, I guess I would say that's the thing that's been, that I'm probably the most grateful for about my husband is that he really is a kind soul, like the way that people will describe him is very kind and, not nice necessarily, do you know what I mean? He's not a nice guy. He really is a kind person and he is willing to be inconvenienced to help other people. So that is really who he is, but he's also a very honest person. So he's quite loyal and I actually think he sees me through a bit of a rose colored lens a lot of the time, which I like. I'll take it. But on the other hand, he is honest and he will be honest with me and he'll say what he really thinks and he's not saying it usually to get me to think something. He's just willing to reveal his own mind. And I guess while he can get upset sometimes or be mad, I don't have the feeling like he's trying to hurt me or trying to, that's not the agenda there. And so that's extremely helpful. It doesn't mean that when he gives me, you know, says things that are truthful that I'm, you know, I'm often like, ah, you know, I often will react with, at first, like, you know, no, you're wrong. And defensively, but the thing is he makes himself highly credible because he doesn't have an agenda to hurt me or take me down or even prove his mind to me. Most of the time it's usually about just, this is what I think, or this is what I see, or this is what I see you do.
And so that's harder to do, I do care about being honest with myself. And I care about being fair to him. I don't mean to say that I'm always being honest with myself and always being fair. Of course. Right? But I do value those things and so it matters to me to deal with what he's saying. But he also really does make it easier, which I'm really grateful for because if he were meaner about it or whatever, I could justify not looking at it, if he were more defensive or had his own kind of insecurities playing out in that, even if he was saying exactly what's true about me, it would make it easier to justify not seeing myself. And so, yeah. And you know, it goes both ways. I'll give my honest thoughts about things. You know, I do think it's why we get along is because there is a basic sense of honesty, and that makes the marriage feel freer. Well, I like what you said, couples are trying to manage each other a lot that they feel, you know, I was working with a couple yesterday and the sex is just always awkward and the interactions are often awkward, but that's because they are always pretending they really struggle to be honest. And so there's a lot of manipulation and management. When I say manipulative, I don't mean dark, mean manipulative. I mean masking, managing what's said, managing what's shown, and rather than I would like to have sex, it's more like, do you wanna have sex or what do you have in mind for tonight or whatever. And there's just this kind of constant masking of minds. So it always, there's always pretending. And then whenever you're pretending with someone, it's super awkward. There's no real intimacy. And a lot of couples do a lot of pretending because they don't tolerate more honesty in themselves or in their partner or their spouse punishes a lot if they speak honestly. So they've learned to not do it. But there's, you know, that people claim to love the truth, but the truth is hard. The truth is challenging. The truth pushes us to grow up. And like you said, we want it, but we avoid it. Yung said something like, the information we most need is hiding in the places we least want to look. And that's the kind of the realities about ourselves that scare us because they push us into growth. But yeah, if we avoid them, then they really do run our lives.
Tony: I agree. And I like that because the more I think we talk about the sitting with the uncomfortable feelings and, tell me if you agree and you don't have to agree with this at all, but I feel like we are so unused to doing that, that it isn't as scary as we think it is once we practice it. There's a researcher named, well researcher, writer, Terrence McKenna of olden days. And he used to say, “it's like jumping out into the great abyss and finding out it's a feather bed”. And I love that example because I feel like when we can sit through some of that discomfort and then I love what you're saying, find then all of a sudden, well, I do, I, when you say the psyche is pushed that way, I want growth and now I'm excited about it.
Jennifer: I think the psyche, I mean, Yung talks about this a lot and you know, that we're striving for wholeness, that that's what our minds are trying to do, or you know, that our dreams are trying, is the psyche trying to reveal aspects of our lives ourselves are tending to not wanna deal with. And so it's kind of the psyche pushing towards wholeness. But we have another part of our brain that wants stasis, that wants control, that wants, it's the ego, right? And the ego, we need the ego, but the ego can be the enemy sometimes because the ego loves control. And yet we have so very little control. And the more we cling, the less and less control we actually have. And so we've got two pressures, but there's certainly one that's pushing us towards growth. Like, you know, a lot of times when the body is in reaction, I had a client who always was having pain and rashing and all these things, and she would blame her body like, my body's turned against me, my body doesn't want me to be happy. My body's working against me. But this, you know, she started working with a doctor that did this, was also a therapist in working with a lot of these kinds of meanings, and as she started to pay attention to her body, she saw that her body was trying to help her. Her body would go into a physical reaction when there was something going on in her relationships that was working against the best in her.
And so once she stopped blaming her body and understanding her body wanted her to thrive, well, then it really changed it because first of all, it allowed her to address things that were going on in her life. It allowed her to stop being in a combative relationship with her body that's really trying to sustain. And also allowed her to address things and change things, so her body reacts less, way less now, and even when it does, she sees it as a gift to pay attention to what's happening in our relationships.
Tony: Oh, that, I mean, the body keeps the score, the Bessel van der Kolk. And I have to tell you as well, I don't ever get a chance to do this, but, I've had a couple of people that have reached out to me and said that you've said nice things, referred people if I'm working in the world of emotional immaturity or narcissism or that sort of thing. And I think that that's really come up a lot there where, if I'm helping people, you know, I've got these tenants where you know, no one wants to say my partner is narcissistic, so I feel like I meet people where they're at. Because if they read material that talks about narcissism, it says don't finish the paragraph, leave. And no one, no one's gonna do that because they don't even know what that means or what that looks like. And so, yeah, so I say raise your baseline. That's self-care. Get your PhD in gaslighting. Get out of unproductive conversations, set boundaries and know that boundary is a challenge to the emotionally immature. And then I talk about, you know, nothing you will do will cause them to have this aha moment or epiphany that they have to come up with that on their own. And I feel like that one's the hardest one for people to break. And I feel like their body ends up being the thing that is the thing that I feel like they eventually realize that every time I try to go back in and try to make sense of explain, care take, you know, then they start to feel panic attacks or headaches or memory is a challenge. And so I like what you're saying because I mean, that is, yeah, I feel like that's the final straw of helping somebody recognize maybe that they aren't safe in the relationship when their body is trying to say, I'm trying everything. I'm trying anxiety, I'm trying depression. Don't make me give you a heart attack. And, that's what I think can happen.
Jennifer: Exactly. Whenever we're trying to control what we don't have control over, especially another, a partner that won't self-confront, you know, that illusion is often hard to let go of because you want the control, the fantasy that if you say the right thing, do the right thing, whatever, they're gonna space themselves, they're gonna become a kinder person or whatever. And often, you know, the body is in reaction to that, but also giving up that project is the only chance that something will shift.
Tony: Yeah. So, okay. This did actually lead to, I think what I initially reached out, to ask Christie to bring up was when I do get a guy into therapy, and I was even gonna tell you a funny thing when we were gonna jump on and then I forgot, but I was just talking with my intern, my associate, Nate Christensen, and he's a big brain guy, but he said he just was reading that therapy was initially, someone was saying that therapy was initially for women and that's why it's all about feelings. That was Freud's, I guess, goal. And that, you know, some men, he worked with a lot of women. And that men need to do things differently. And so that's why, and then he went into this thing about suppression and that it's about aggression and that men can feel close even when there is stress or aggression. And then how that can, and I thought that was an interesting thing. I thought that was really fascinating. But where I was going with that was, so I get a lot of men that come to me, I think because, I dunno, maybe it's as simple as I'm a guy, I don't know. But then when I can get a guy to feel heard and understood, maybe do a little self confrontation, I find that there are times where, I have examples, where the wife has said this is what I want. I want this guy who will hear me and open up and stay present. And now I, you know, on occasion I can get a guy to that place and then it's as if the wife now starts to push more buttons. And when I did some betrayal trauma training with Dr. Skinner, Kevin Skinner, a long time ago, he would talk about, you know, okay, that they're testing for safety or things may go well and a couple of years down the road, you know, she may say, I don't, I don't even know if this is, if I should have come back and, and if the guy says, man, thank you for sharing. I'm here. It keeps her amygdala calm, and still testing. But I found that, I'm curious if you see or what your thoughts are on that. If I do have this guy show up differently and the wife has said, this is all I've ever wanted, but now that more buttons are pressed and I will have a guy, all of a sudden I'll say, well, wait a minute. Now, is she the narcissist or is she the emotionally immature? And I wanted to say, okay, I hear you, but let's slow down a little, but it's, I don't know if that's just her body, can a change happen too fast? What do you think?
Jennifer: Well, I, you know, so a couple things. I tend, when I'm working with people, to not just think, okay, let's say that you have a narcissistic, I mean, there's a lot that I would even say about that because that's…
Tony: Yes. Let's just say like somebody that is emotionally immature.
Jennifer: Who's been emotionally immature has tended to dominate situations. And take too much. And let's say that, that there's the, let's just put it in the, this form that the woman is the one who's been kind of burned by that. And she is exhausted by it and he's starting to self confront and change. The way I tend to talk to the person in the woman's position in this example is that your goal isn't just to trust your partner and your goal isn't just to wait until they have become safe. I'm not, I don't really think in that frame so much. The goal is if you're gonna choose this person, they need to grow into somebody who's more capable of handling themselves while they know you, that they need to learn how to be a self without dominating or taking too much and that matters. But you also, wife, have been operating in a marriage in which you are an over functioner. It doesn't look like it from what I'm saying, but for the person in a relationship with a narcissist, the person is over-functioning. They're trying to make things right. They're trying to manage that guy's ego. They're trying to keep him happy, give him the sex that will keep him. And so they're doing all these things in the fantasy that if they do everything, he will be okay and they will be okay. And so she has to also grow out of that. And let's just say the guy really does start to self confront and really is dealing with him. There's a certain amount of testing you, you know, are you really legit? Are you really there for me?
But what is also, and I'm not saying this is always the case for me, it means I've gotta discern what, what's happening here? Is this guy really not as developed as he's saying, and she can track it. Or is it that she wants the too little, too late position because then she doesn't have to. Because something that's, that's trying to solve the husband all the time in this case, you know, doing everything to make that person okay, is also intimacy avoidant, even though it doesn't look like it. They want to be needed. They want to be the solution. They want to be the one that the guy needs in a sense. And so that's, that's a need-based frame, not an intimacy. Somebody that thinks they have to follow all over themselves to prove themselves to the narcissistic guy. Doesn't have a solid sense of self. Isn't clear that being knowledgeable is a safe thing for anyone, right? So part of the reason they chose this guy is because they don't have to be that known by him when he's the only party, when he's the only show in town in his mind. So if he's growing out of that, that's a very different thing than she wants to actually be. Now a lot of us talk about, I don't feel seen, don't feel well. I don't know that many people that actually wanna be seen. They just want the good parts to be seen, you know?
Jennifer: A lot of times people are complaining about that.
Tony: Let me just, I have to tell you, Jennifer, as you were saying this, and this is actually, this is so good because I could talk about this, for the light, then went through your blinds and shown, and it was just you. All of a sudden, you, the sky's parted, heaven smiled upon you and then you, you gave the world this gift. Exactly right?
Jennifer: Yeah totally, that’s what it was. So, her ability to actually be knowable, right? How many of us really want our partner to look into our soul? Unmitigated, right. Flaws and all. I mean, you know, that takes some real, that's scary. Courage. Scary. Yeah. And so, it's often like, I still don't trust you. I still don't trust you. Is a way of getting away from that anxiety, all of that. And you know, and there may be things going on on his side, but you don't want to keep his growth from, it doesn't have to be, he must be fully grown up before you deal with yourself. She also needs to be dealing with her own over-functioning and her need to be needed and her anxiety about her.
Tony: That is so good. And I feel like this is where, and I would, I mean, there is real, incredibly emotionally immature, or strong narcissistic trait and tendency, people that are still looking for the buttons pressed and the way to manipulate. So I do, you know, and I know I work a lot with that population. And that can be really difficult. But I like what you're saying because I do feel at some point, because if it really isn't the narcissist, I would imagine, in this scenario we're talking about a wife who then grew up not necessarily seeing the boundaries modeled or secure attachment in childhood. So she didn't know how to say no or that sort of thing. And so maybe that has led to that. And so I know that can be hard, but I love what you're saying because I think this is where it's hard for me because I want to at times just say, not to, hey, give him a chance. I like this concept of, I call it, introducing positive tension. So now let's, let's have a chance to really use the tools. I've got these four pillars of a connected conversation based off of emotionally focused therapy, and that's where I feel like, we no longer have to have the guy to say, no, I get it now. And she says, oh, okay. Now I want her to say, well, tell me more. What, what do you get? What do you understand? What is different now? Because I find that the real emotionally immature says it. I mean, I get, I'm telling you I get it. And that's where I feel like you'll find quickly how, if the guy is really self confronting or, or able to sit with that.
Jennifer: Yeah. Okay. Something to say about it. It's not just, you know, like sometimes, well then I went and I apologize. What did you apologize for? What exactly? Like if it's deep, if it's true, self confrontation, there's something there. I can see that I do this to you. Something that I tend to say with people is that, you know, we're all kind, we're all narcissistic. I mean, in a sense we all start out very self preoccupied. Even if we are somebody who is always nice and can never let anybody be disappointed. It's about managing our ego needs. And so there is a self-centric element to it. And as we are willing to self confront no other people's experience of us, know ourselves in relationship, we're able to grow out of our egocentrism. So narcissistic people are often ego-centric in a particular way. But I try to make a distinction with people narcissistic and narcissistically impaired. Narcissistically impaired person is a person that is not going to yield. They're not gonna change. They aren't able or willing to actually self confront. They may give all the verbiage and know how to make it look like it, but they're not actually in any kind of self confrontation in the wee hours of the night. And that's very different from somebody who's inclined to go one up, to look honestly at themselves and to start dealing with who they are.
That's a person. You don't have to be perfect to trust that person. You just have to be with someone who's willing and able to do that, and it matters to them to be a decent human. If it only matters to you when you're trying to convince your narcissistic partner that they should be a decent person, that's not gonna go. No, if they want to be a decent person and you can tell it and they're willing to deal with themselves and you see them doing it, you know that's a good person to be challenged with and to be addressing your half of that dynamic with not, because you gotta wait for them to be perfect because you can see that they do wanna grow and they wanna be better and they're willing to be honest. Even if it takes some work sometimes, they're willing to grow. That's trustworthy, the people that get entrenched and stay there and won't, won't be challenged. Well, it's not a good choice to be in a relationship.
Tony: And and I don't know if I gave you credit for this last time we spoke, but when we spoke a couple of times ago and we were talking about narcissism, you had mentioned everybody's a little narcissistic. And at that time I remember feeling a little bit like, well, well, no, I mean, I don't think, I think I framed the question wrong. You’re absolutely right. And then in, so I've got the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast, which is now as big as the Virtual Couch, and in that one I was very intentional about nine or 10 episodes in, I had an episode called, wait, am I the narcissist? And I really did lay out the narcissistic personality disorders, maybe two or 3% of the population. But if you start with, we're all emotionally immature, and that's where I give you a little nod, you know, then we can work from there. And I have found that it is a much better place to operate from. And I feel like the people I work with are willing to say, okay, I can take a look at emotional immaturity, but narcissism, I think it just carries so much. It's out in the zeitgeist so much, a lot of negativity out. Everybody’s ex is a narcissist. You know what I mean? That is a fact, I've been told on TikTok, as a matter of fact. That makes me laugh. So in that part, I appreciate that too. And, okay, if you have a couple more minutes, there is now that I feel like, boy, I feel like we've covered all these fun things today. As a, from a therapist standpoint, I would love your thoughts on another thing, and maybe I'm wanting you to validate me or compliment my fragile ego. So there are some of the, there are some groups that I'm a part of and I love, and a lot of them quote you, which is amazing and wonderful. And there will be something that we brought up where someone will talk, you know, the crucible method versus EFT, for example.
And then people will get pretty, pretty discouraged about it. And I have a copy and paste available now where I say, as an EFT therapist and a thousand couples later or whatever, and I've tried to make it into these four pillars of a connected conversation. Preston Pugmire, who I know you know, helped me create this course. And so that was him helping coach these tangible steps and I love it so much. And so then I feel like then I'm all on board with differentiation and cleaning up your side of the street and not looking for that external validation. But I find my copy and paste says that, that is amazing. But I feel like sometimes what I'm reading is somebody says, this is all I can do is take care of me, and if my partner doesn't show up, then this is not a viable relationship. And so I've been saying, well, I feel like the EFT, emotionally focused therapy, my four pillars, that's the conduit to communication to then maybe help get to that place of differentiation or, but I would love to know your thoughts. Like do you have just the overall thoughts on the EFT versus the crucible method or those two things?
Jennifer: I mean, I do, I do, I don't tend to like to get into that, well, I'm, I'm happy to answer it, but I'm just saying I don't tend to like to get in the conversation because I don't feel like I understand EFT enough. And I don't, I'm happy to give you some ideas though, but just like sometimes I will critique sex addiction programs. I've learned I don't wanna do that because some are very on point and very valuable. So it, so what I do sometimes is I say, if a program is teaching you this idea, I think it's dangerous. If a program is teaching you this idea, I think it's dangerous. So it's more like that, if it's teaching you this, it will be helpful in my view. But I think the fundamentals, so first of all, Adam Miller, and these were both people that happened to be in my ward and Hardy, I can't remember his first name right now. They wrote, they co-authored, they were Northwestern students and they co-authored a paper about really laying out the tenets of EFT and differentiation theory and kind of arguing. So, it was very, it's very well written and well done and worth reading, did I say Adam Miller? I mean Adam Fisher. Adam Fisher and Nathan Hardy, so that's worth reading. What I would say in my rudimentary understanding is the question of locus of control or where is the center of change in these models as they were originally understood.
Now how practitioners use them, it may be very different. Maybe EFT has shifted since its sort of initial idea, but that's what I think is the core issue is in the EFT model. It's that we attached, which we are, we attach at an early age, and then we have attachment styles, which all, which I agree with. But the idea of the model is often that change happens through the marriage by the partner being the attachment object that was needed, right? So validating feelings, reflecting back, communicating in a certain way. And so the change, the locus of control is in the partner.
Tony: I see what you're saying.
Jennifer: Okay. Now, I don't know. You know, somebody might say, no, no, you don't get it, and I may not get it. So I'm, I'm not here to say like, I get it and I know. I'm just saying that's my view from the first time I read about it. Where in differentiation theory, one attaches no question. And we attach and we do things in a certain way. And not only do we attach, but we also, so we, not only do we wanna be in relationship to others, we also wanna be in relationship to our, and, but the locus of change is within the self. Now this is not to say that people don't affect our sense of self. They deeply do. They're very, very entangled with other people, but what the change agent is, is helping people see how they are in relationship to others and how they're trying to have a self in relationship to others. And the ways that that effort is creating trouble in their relationships to others and themselves. And in that awakening to change, to change their behavior in relationships. So the locus of control is within the self, it's in the self-regulation. And so it's just a different, it's helping people see more. Truthfully, the problem I have with, if it's in your partners, like you both have a half empty tank of gas and you're looking for the other one to fill it up, right? Because people, your spouse doesn't have it to give usually right now. I don't mean to say your spouse doesn't affect you and when they grow, it does positively impact you.
But a lot of times we're trying to show forth love, make our spouse feel loved, give them security, and while it can help a little, I think that it's still got the focus in the wrong place. Now, I don't know if this is how EFT therapy runs or how it is at this, but to the degree that that's the model operating in any therapy, like Imago therapy, I think is almost a hundred percent that. And so to the degree that it's doing that, I think it's only minimally effectual. And there can, there can be things that are beneficial about a conversation style. I'm just gonna sit and validate what I can. I'm not saying that as a tool, there can't be some value in that for helping people to settle down, not react and just listen. But I think as a kind of fundamental model of change, I think it has some limitations.
Tony: No, Jennifer, I do love that. And there's a part of me that feels like, okay, I don't want to now throw my 2 cents in, but then I realize, oh wait, we're on my podcast. And my people, my people, that sounds very egotistical, but your listeners are, you know, I talk about my four pillars all the time, and I actually feel very validated by that because I do feel like, I look at and I think you're actually right where I may not even know where EFT, I think I've slowly morphed my own version of EFT into this. I mean, a lot of, you know, it's like, yeah, right. And so I feel like the model that I use. It really is almost as simple as someone expresses something to their partner and their partner then immediately that has a meaning to them. And they can be, they can take offense. They can. So I, you know, my first pillar is assuming good intentions or there's a reason why somebody says what they do. And I feel like it's core is because that's the way that they express themselves or that's the way that they feel like they have to show up in order to be heard. And then I, you know, my second one is, you can't tell that person they're wrong or I disagree. Even if you think they're wrong and you disagree because any of these are gonna take the conversation out into the weeds. And then my third pillar is, okay, I'm gonna ask questions before I make comments. Well, tell me what that means for you. Help me understand. And that's where that discomfort kicks in and some empathy.
And then I, and then my fourth one, I say stay present. And you can't go into a victim mentality. If you follow those first three pillars and then say, okay, no, you're right. I guess I'm a horrible piece of garbage No. To rescue me. Right. And so I do feel like I like what you're saying because I feel like I'm trying to use it as a communication tool to stay present so that then we can self because I feel like it's too easy for the emotionally mature to take any conversation out into the weeds. Then they never get to accountability or self confrontation. But I think as you're expressing that, why I feel validated is because I actually think I have taken that off on a little bit of my own path. And so yeah, when I, when I come in and say, oh, I hear people that talk about the differentiation model and then because I validate it and I feel like maybe they're waiting for me to say, that's dumb, you know, EFT is it? And I love, I love your concept about the locus of change because I think you're right and maybe we're both wrong, but we're both right as well and that sure feels good.
Jennifer: Yeah and I do think communication models, for example, can be very helpful for just giving people tools. Something to kind of anchor their anxiety to as they're walking through a difficult conversation, in online, the Strengthening Your Relationship course, I do the same thing. I'm giving them a communication model that is as anchored as I can make it in their own integrity. And self confrontation. Before they even open their app, you know that they are dealing with themselves. First, rather than trying to get their self, their spouse to buy into a view that's not even true. However, one can do that model. So what that's, your model would work very well if it's two people who are really trying to deal honestly with themselves, be fair. And that model can just help them manage themselves through, so it can really be helpful. But what I think is that people can also use models whether yours or mine to not deal with themselves, you know what I mean? Like they can go through the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.
Tony: Absolutely, I say they weaponize the tool. And what's interesting then is in the, again, I found myself working with a lot of emotionally immature or narcissistic traits people and surprise, because I have a podcast that has narcissism in the name, so I'm not, I'm not shocked by that, but I feel like even the having a framework has allowed people to then see that the emotionally immature person can't play in the sand. That they're so special that when they tell me how crazy their wife is, even, I will put away my beloved four pillars, and now we will join in triangulation and let her know how bad she is. And, and I feel like that's what you end up seeing kind of back to what we were saying earlier versus the person saying, oh my gosh, I didn't know what I didn't know. Here's a tool, let's use it. And then I do. I feel like that's the part and then the, and then it's, our brains love that.
Jennifer: I mean, we all do that. Just start using the words differentiation and self regulation. You sound like you're really, you know, I know. I love ideas too. I'd much rather talk about ideas than actually go through the horrors of self confrontation. I mean, who wants to do that?
Jennifer: Right. So it's easy to talk about ideas. Christ talked about this. We love the letter of the law. Spirit of the law is much.
Tony: Yeah, it is. Yes. Yeah. I love it, man, Jennifer. Okay. Thank you. This was so funny because when we look back on today's interview, it was, it was kind of, it was, it was everything, which to me that felt so satisfying and very good for this interview. So thank you so much for meeting me. What a joy. And I just looked down. I can't even, I feel like it's been 30 minutes and so thank you and I would love to have you on it. I'll do the research now on ADHD and relationships and then, man, I would love to have you back on and talk about that too.
Jennifer: Sure. That would be fun.
Tony: Okay. That'd be good. All right. Thanks so much. It's always good to see you. Thanks. Bye-bye.