True or false? You only use 10 percent of your brain? Albert Einstein was a lousy student, and look how he turned out! Positive affirmations will lead you to self-love and happiness. To get the answers, you'll need to listen to this episode, but (spoiler alert) we are often building meaning and judging ourselves based on stories that aren't true and, in some cases, cause us to feel deep shame and fear. Tony talks about how certain myths around fear stunt our growth and what we can do to resolve our fears and doubts. Tony references "The Confidence Gap" https://amzn.to/3AuBPlb by Russ Harris for this episode. 

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

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

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

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ

Let's talk about S to the E-X, aka "intimacy." Dan Purcell, host of the "Get Your Marriage On" podcast as well as the "Intimately Us" app https://r.intimately.us/tonyoverbay joins Tony to talk about the mission that he, along with his wife Emily, share of strengthening marriages by helping them deepen their connection through both physical and emotional intimacy. They are the creator of the popular "Intimately Us" app that has been downloaded over 300,000 times. They host romantic retreat getaways for couples and host the "Get Your Marriage On! Podcast and coach couples on how to have a great sex life and deeper intimacy. 

You can find out more about Dan and Emily at http://getyourmarriageon.com or on Instagram https://instagram.com/getyourmarriageon/

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

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

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

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ

Virtual Couch- Dan Purcell Transcript

Tony: Okay, Dan, welcome to the Virtual Couch. How are you? 

Dan: Thank you. So happy to be here, Tony. 

Tony: Okay, so this is the part where I told Dan we got on and I said, Dan, don't say a word. Because I just want to just capture this pure gold because I really enjoyed being on your podcast. I felt like we had a real fun interaction and I feel like we covered three hours in about 45 minutes, so I'm gonna link that in show notes, but then I sat there thinking about that and I thought, man, I forgot that I'm the one that I think the first time we were supposed to record, I got a notification. I was on my way to Disneyland a couple days before Christmas and I felt horrible calling that off. And then I think last week, I think the morning of, I realized I had someone else in your spot. It's bad. It makes me sound like I'm completely disorganized, but so you've been so patient, and I really appreciate that. So here we are. 

Dan:And you've had a death in the family too?

Tony: That’s right. Okay, man, yeah my mother-in-law. And what an amazing woman. So you're right. So I'm just grateful that we are here and we're talking. So there's my first just thank you so much, but okay. Here's the funny part to me, Dan, and I'm gonna take you on my train of thought, I'm gonna do all this. I'm gonna be emotionally immature. I'm gonna talk about healthy ego. I'll make it really quick, but I realize that, you know, I'm a marriage therapist. I've been doing it for 17, 18 years. When I put your episode out here, I think it'll be pushing close to 370 episodes of the Virtual Couch. And I realize what we're probably gonna talk about today, one of your areas of expertise. As a couple's therapist, I talk about every day, multiple times a day, but I haven't really talked about it much on the podcast, which is really funny. And it's not like I'm afraid of talking about sex or intimacy or anything. So I really don't have a good reason why. I mean, I don't, I literally talk about it for hours every day for 15 years, and so I don't know, and I was thinking about that because you and I talked on yours about self confrontation and sitting with uncomfortable feelings and, you know, I'm not uncomfortable with it.

Again, haven't done this for a long time. And all I kept thinking about was, there's a part of me that still thinks that for some reason, moms are listening to the Virtual Couch in the minivan and the kids are back there, you know, listening along. But I don't think so, because I got one email about five years ago of somebody saying that. So, but I think that was probably the one person that was listening to it in the minivan. So there's that part of me that still feels like, oh, the kids are present. We can't talk about s e x, you know, so that's all I could come up with. So, I'm excited to see where we go today. So there's self confrontation, number one, and then self confrontation number two is, I'm really gonna check my ego because I want, you're the guest and I want to hear everything that you have to offer, and I kind of think that early on. This is why I love what we talked about in your podcast, and I still recommend my listeners to go, listen. We talked a lot about that self confrontation and differentiation and not needing your spouse to validate you. And I really worry, thank goodness, I don't like to hear myself talk, so I'm not gonna go back and listen, but I would imagine early on in my interviews, I wanted to make sure that the people knew I knew what I'm talking about. You know, because I'm a therapist and so this is, I'm also gonna sit with the perhaps potential uncomfortable feelings of wanting you to know that I'm smart too, Dan. So I'm, I am not gonna, I want to hear your story. I want you to go, I'm not gonna, I'm gonna try not to say, you know what, I think about that, Dan, because I want to know what you think about the things we're gonna talk about. So if you're okay with that, I really would love for you to do a lot of the driving and let's, I just want to kind of hear your story, how you got where you are and what you like talking about and working with and I don't know. How's that sound? 

Dan: Sounds great. Sounds great. Okay. Let's see, so my wife and I have been married over 19 years. And we met each other in eighth grade, so we've known each other for a really long time.

Tony: Were there breakups along the way or was it love at first sight?

Dan: It's not that romantic. We were just in the same group of friends. We went on a few dance dates together, but I was really shy and she was popular, so there wasn't a chance back then.

Tony: Just trying to stay in her orbit, so to speak, in a sense. Is that what the goal was? Okay. Right. 

Dan: But we never dated seriously in high school. I served a mission and had a fantastic experience.

Tony: Where'd you go?

Dan: I served in Japan.

Tony: This is about the only phrase I used to travel. Look at me. I'm already like let me tell you about my experiences in Japan, Dan. No, that's fascinating because I do, I used to go there when I was in my computer career, and I love, I loved everything about Japan. Did you enjoy your time there out of curiosity? 

Dan: Yes. Yeah. In fact, I was born in Japan, so I lived there for, yeah, I went up through second grade in Japan. So, I already knew Japanese. They kicked me outta the MTC early, so I got more time than my peers in Japan. It was really good.  

Tony: Where? 

Dan: I served in Hokkaido, which is the most northern island.

Tony: Okay. Oh, wow. That's quite a, that's a different experience than Tokyo I would imagine. 

Dan: It’s like the Montana of Japan. Really cold.

Tony: So, outta curiosity, do you still use your Japanese skills or the language skills at this point? 

Dan: So my dad served his mission in Japan, so he speaks Japanese. My younger brother served in Japan too, so we speak Japanese and we grew up there. So as a family, yeah, within our family, we can speak Japanese to each other. And it comes really in handy when we're out in public. We don't want others around us to know what we're talking about.

Tony: Oh, I think that, and that's actually where I was going with it, I think that would just be so amazing and fun to be able to do that. Okay. Last quick Japanese point. I love the food. And there was a thing there called shabu shabu. Are you familiar with that? 

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. They're really thin sliced beef.

Tony: Yeah. You just drag around in boiling water and then it's pretty, pretty amazing. Yeah. So, I don't know, like what was your favorite, what were your favorite foods? Or what, what's your favorite Japanese food? 

Dan: I don’t know. Uh, if I had to pick one, it'd be street ramen. And the ramen shops not like the ramen here. No, it's on a class of its own. I miss that, especially when it's wintertime.

Tony: Okay this is fun. We will get to, for those listening, we are gonna get to an incredible topic, but I enjoy here we are being in the moment. And, boy, I love that when you can connect and if I throw my, now I'll throw my therapy hat because don't forget, Dan, I want you to know I'm a therapist, but now Dan and I are having a shared experience and now we will always remember this and, and it will be amazing and wonderful. Very quickly on that, the ramen to me, like the, the why that's significant is, I probably was there 10 times before I tried sushi. I didn't like sushi at all, so then I would just devour ramen everywhere I went until I finally did try the sushi. And now, you know, 25 years later and I've loved it ever since but yes, nothing like Japanese Ramen.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. In fact, that reminds me of his story. I didn't like the idea of eating anything raw, like sashimi or la sushi. And, I didn't like sushi either because to me rice should be hot and steamy. Not cold and sweet. And vinegar, like the sushi rice usually is. And I served in a very cold part of Japan, and one particular day we had no appointments, so we were just outside all day snow up to our waist just knocking on door after door. No one's letting us in. And it was just a really miserable day. It was cloudy. We're just frozen. But we had one appointment at 8:30 at night at the very tail end and it was really on the outskirts of town, we had a hard time finding them, they lived at the top of this hill and so it was like we're slipping on the ice and snow, you know, giving it to their house and the very modest home. They don't have a traditional western door. They had the eastern sliding door sliding. Okay. We opened that, came inside and guess what they had served us for dinner? Sashimi and sushi. The raw stuff, right? And I was so hungry. I was so tired. And after being rejected all day long, to have someone go through this, it's expensive. It's an expensive meal. They're really putting out to have the missionaries come over. And, I couldn't turn 'em down. Anyway, that was the best sushi and sashimi I ever had. And from that point forward, I didn't have a problem with it because I love it, you know? In that moment it was meaningful.

Tony: Yeah, again, being very present there. And, were you a fan ever since? Was that, did that sell you or was that just an isolated experience based off of all the things that led up to that moment?

Dan: From that point forward, I didn't have a problem with it. I love it. Well if I can do it there, I can do it there. And I think that's like a principle that we can really build on for our conversation today, because it's like faith. We need to try things. We need to do an experiment on things, but we also need to do things with a willing heart. So my wife and I both come from really good families, but sex wasn't talked about much at all in our homes. And if it was, it was either about biological reproduction or the thou shall not talk, but not a lot of conversation about how to build a great and exciting sex because no one really ever talked about it. We kind of inherited some anxieties about it. I remember our wedding night, we were so excited to be together and to have this new experience together, but I didn't know, I kind of had an idea what was supposed to happen because all the lyrics to all the love songs say, you know, you make love all night. And so we make love for the first time. And my body, you know, doesn't last all night long.

Tony: I think Hall Oates has a song, “did it in a minute”. Maybe that's more applicable, right? 

Dan: Probably. Yeah. 

Tony: But I love what you're saying though and you're right. It does tie into your sashimi and sushi experience. I mean, you absolutely in that sense don't know what you don't know until you know it. Knowledge can be such a hindsight principle because you wouldn't have even known the right questions to ask heading into your wedding night because you weren't modeled a way to talk about it. And now back into that role of marriage therapist, I do most of the conversations when we finally start talking about sex are, well, tell me what that was like growing up. Tell me what certain things meant. What are expectations? And, it is just a conversation that gets really immediately awkward and full of a lot of judgment and a lot of assumptions and then a lot of shame. So how'd you navigate from there? 

Dan: Not very well because I had a hard time reconciling spirituality and sexuality. Like spiritual people aren't sexual, yet I have sexual desires. And so that for constant combat and like kind of the running story in my head was like, sex is all about the quote unquote the natural man because I really didn't understand then what natural man really meant. I thought it meant any natural desires. So, I tried to suppress my sexuality, sexual desires, like here's an example, maybe two weeks after I was married, sex is so new, I'm excited about it and I have all these questions and I'm at BYU Idaho at the time and I go to the library and I get the courage to search something about sex or something. And I found a textbook on human sexuality and thought if this library has such a book, I'm sure it'd be a helpful resource for me. So I write down the call number. I go to that section of the library and I don't want anyone to know that I'm there becauseI don't want anyone, so like make sure no one's like looking at me as I take that book off the shelf, I tuck it under my arm and to my bad luck, it was like a woman at the checkout, like scanning, checking out my book. I didn't make any eye contact with her. Like, I don't want you to know I'm getting this book. I put it in my backpack. And anyway, later on, like that night, I open, I flip open the book. I'm just leafing through the pages. And I see an illustration of a couple having sex, like in the 69 position or something like that, just a drawing. And I freaked out like, oh no, this is pornography. I'm not supposed to be looking at this. So I shut the book and I promptly returned the book, never to get any answers to my questions, because I thought I shouldn't be looking.

Tony: And look, and look at that right there, Dan. Even like you're going into some, I'm a very old man and I worked in the video store industry, 30 years ago. And it, and it's as if you were going into that, behind that back wall where all the R-rated and pornography movies were, and your trench coat with your hat pulled down. And yes, all you're trying to do is learn, learn about this natural thing that occurs with couples. I mean, so that, and then the fact that you're going to a, literally a clinical textbook for it, and then you even see the things and then feel like I did something wrong. There's so much there.

Dan: Yes. I felt like I did something wrong. Right? So, my wife and I have always, I guess you could say, a really good marriage. Like we have a great emotional connection. We know how to play together. We're good. We have prioritized date nights throughout our marriage. Like we've been comfortable talking about a lot of things. Fast forward 13 years, so 13 years into my marriage, I am having a conversation with a friend and he opens up to me about his sex. He starts telling me some of the things he and his wife are doing in bed. And I'm like, really good people do those things? And he is, and he has a very vibrant and creative sex life. I guess you could call it. I had more bed curiosity. It's like, oh, no, no. Wait, tell me more. Tell me more. No, no, no. Don't tell me, but tell me a little more. I was so fascinated that here's a good man that enjoys sex with his wife, and they're very creative and the reason why he was telling me these things wasn't to brag or anything like that, it was, he was trying to tell me that ever since he and his wife really started working on their sexual relationship, their bond, became a lot stronger. They're better friends. They communicate better, they parent together better. Like there's all these benefits he's experienced in his life when he's really put the effort into making sex great for him and his wife. And he had something that I did not have. I could notice that. And yeah, so this was kind of my moment where I'm like, well, maybe all along I've been wrong. Maybe there is more to sex. Maybe there's a lot of goodness in sex that I've just been dismissing because of the way I've been thinking. So it really forced me to really confront my thoughts about it.

Tony: Tell me about that too. I mean, when you think that is there, okay, you may start to feel like, yeah, maybe I am. But is that still something that is scary to try to bring to your wife? Were you nervous for that? 

Dan: Yeah. So I go home that night, say, hey Emily, you'd never guess what kind of conversation I had today. Now part of the conversation with my friend is he told me that I think in his marriage, his wife is the one who has the higher desire for sex. So, okay. She basically told him that he's not a good enough lover at the time and he needs to figure things out because she's not satisfied or whatever. And which he took very personally at first, he didn't like hearing that from her, but since, like, I made an effort to make it great for her and then it's great for him that that's kind of how the story evolved. So I'm really self-conscious now with my wife, like, am I a good enough lover? Are you enjoying our time together? And our model, I guess our model of what sex looks like or what it was supposed to look like up until then was in the dark 10 minutes missionary position, and you're done.

Yeah, just that, that's kind of a quote unquote, avoiding anything unnatural and not knowing what that was, what that meant, and just being modeled that that was probably the way we do things. And so my mind's blown like, no, there's other ways to do this. So now my wife and I are having this conversation about us and our sex life, and we probably had the most vulnerable conversation about sex in our marriage to that point in our marriage. Then we were up to like 2:00 AM talking that night about us and what we think about this. What do you think about this? Is this okay? How do we know if this is okay? This is so different from our experience. There seems to be more here than we're experiencing. 

Tony: I appreciate that because I feel like people will have these, like when you said the most vulnerable conversation and I won't go into, you know, I love my four pillars and there needs to have, I think a framework is ideal, but I do feel like at times when we get vulnerable, it is more of a, do you feel like you were coming from this place of curiosity and then just, you know, this collaboration versus, you know, why don't you, or you know, do you feel like it was a different vibe in the conversation altogether?

Dan: Yeah. But we're both, I was really scared talking about these things because we haven't, we didn't talk about these things ever. And there's a lot of judgment involved. A lot of self judgment. What does she think about me? Like, does she think I'm gonna be some, like, you know, sex maniac or something? Like there's, there's a lot of that self-judgment too. You're really going into that conversation. What will she think if I really tell her my experience of what I think?

Tony: Well, and I think this is why it is so important to talk about this as a couple's therapist, I always talk about this as one of those, I call them a high charge topic, and then I almost feel bad because that puts such pressure on having the conversation but I really do feel like having a good foundational principle of a connection and having a way to communicate is necessary so that it doesn't happen, like what you're saying because I think we're all gonna worry that, okay, if I really say this, she's gonna think that I am a deviant and then she's gonna wanna leave. And I think it hits at that core attachment wound of, you know, will you still care about me? Do you love me? And so that's where I feel like I even like when you're saying, you know, guess what conversation I had? And we still almost wanna put it out there, testing the waters. I mean, almost like worried that if she says, you better not have talked to one of your friends about sex, you know, because then, then we would probably go, no, no. It wasn't that. Of course it wasn't. We're still wanting to, you know, lean into that. But I appreciate what you're saying though, because we're going into it already worried. And I think that's that part where we're all a little bit enmeshed in codependent to a point, but then have these different experiences in life. And then, but when we start talking about them, there's that fear. If I say the wrong thing, you know, it's just all or nothing, they're gone. They'll leave me. Which is not, not the case.

Dan: But there is a reason why we haven't talked about it to that point. 

Tony: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Right.

Dan: So we went through it from there. We push, like courage, courage forward, onward. 

Tony: And do you feel like Dan, at that moment, do you feel like there were, I don't know if you had to rate your assumptions around what her beliefs were, were you close to the mark or did you learn a lot that you weren't aware of? Or what was that like? 

Dan: I would say, that's a both and, or yes and no. Like, yeah. I live with her. I know her. I've known her for a long, long time, so I know pretty much how she's gonna respond to things yet, I was blown away at her compassion and her openness and understanding. I didn't expect that much. Like that she held space for me to kind of explore this with her, you know, during that conversation. And likewise, I wanted to hold space for her to explore her thoughts because we really haven't put a lot of brain power to really, you know, examine this topic of our marriage. Because we always thought this is a topic of marriage.You don't examine, you kind of let it be. 

Tony: I love your answer because it's the yes, and because I really do feel like this is where we observe and we judge in the same motion with our spouse. So, and that's where I feel like even the concepts around, oh man, can you believe that so and so, you know, whatever, that they do this in their life or, and we're, we're kind of making that, that bid to our partner of what do you think? Because if you really get angry about this, then I'm, then I know, or then we observe things where, you know, I've had some really good sessions with people where maybe a wife has started to open up about why she may feel shut down at certain times during sex. And where the guy has then said, no, I know, I know that that's because of this. And she, and then she's saying, I, no, I, it's, you know, might date back to previous relationship or some childhood trauma. And so I, I like what you're saying because I think we, over time, even if we think, oh no, I know my spouse. No, we know what we're observing and we know the judgments that we make, but we're, and then we do that long enough and now we even just assume. And even when they try to open up to us often, I think we say, no, no, no. I know, I know you, you can be honest with me when I mean, they're trying, you know, so I love what you're saying there. So then, what was that process like? From there you have that vulnerable conversation and then the next day, did you feel an emotional hangover or did you feel excitement or what was that?

Dan: I guess excitement because that conversation didn't end then. Right? For the next two weeks. We're up late every night talking about things and what do you think about things like that? So, we both concluded we needed more information and being kind of scared to even Google our sex questions, we thought maybe a book would be helpful. So we did Google, like a Christian author like sex book. And found one, it came in the mail. We read a little bit together that night. She fell asleep, because you know, she's tired and I think I stayed at 4:00 AM and I binge read and finished it in one night. It was awesome. 

Tony: Like you had the permission now to read that kind of thing. Getting rid of those BYU Idaho library days at that very moment. 

Dan: Yeah and the vibe of this particular book was like, perfect for what I needed at that time because it was basically giving me permission that sex is a good and helpful and wholesome and amazing thing which is very different than the narrative I have been giving myself. It was something to be tolerated, not something to be very embraced and celebrated. So that's what I needed at that time.

Tony: So where do things go from there? So now a couple of weeks and you're still talking, you're reading books and then you know, then what happens? 

Dan: Right, I should also mention, I had a lot of questions about what's okay and not okay. I think a lot of people have that. So, do you know Jeff Stewart?

Tony: Jeff and I have had our Home and Away podcast as well. And what's funny that you're talking about this too, I have him coming up soon to talk about consent in relationships, and, you know, in my world a lot when I'm working with clients, I don't know and we can maybe get to this in a minute, but I find that people do fall into these particular patterns or ruts in sex whether it's talking about things like duty sex or whether the guy is going to, I mean, I had a guy put it so well, and I'm sorry. Now I am going on a tangent, but Jeff is, is such a good person to talk about this with, but the concepts around consent, where if a wife is saying, I don't necessarily feel like doing a certain thing, but then the guy is saying, okay, but I can, I can get you to orgasm, for example, and then he feels like, see, that was worth it. But the wife said, I don't want to, to begin with, and then, I've had that conversation so many times where the guy feels like, no, but I got us, I mean, a guy said recently and I appreciate it. He said, no, I got us to the promised land, you know? And she said, no, you, you know, you didn't respect my boundaries. And then, and so often I will have a guy say, but you, you had an orgasm. And that's where I have a classic line of, okay, well yeah, if you're asking if the 20,000 nerve endings and her vagina responded to stimulation, then yes. But was she a part of that? No, not mentally. And so anyway, Jeff's gonna come on and talk more about that concept of consent. You know, because consent sounds like things and dating or that sort of thing. But, I think in the marital relationship that's important. 

Dan: So Jeff and I live in the same neighborhood. So we see each other at church. And, I really respect Jeff and I figured of all the people to help me understand where's the line of like, what's, okay, not okay. Like, yeah, he'd be it. So I say, Jeff, can we go to lunch? And he's like, sure, we'll go to lunch. So we're at Chick-fil-A and I get all my courage and I ask them all my questions. And so we're talking about everything in explicit detail. And I feel so sorry for the family sitting next to us.

Tony: Sending the kids into the ball pit though. Like voluntarily, right? 

Dan: But this is my chance. And he was so encouraging. He was so like, he was so amazing yeah, this stuff is fantastic. Keep like, he was encouraging, like, keep going. This is good, you'll figure this out. So I guess we just started progressing a little more. And then within a few months, I'd say within two months, our sex life went from good to, I guess it wasn't bad, but we didn't know any better, right? To like amazing. Like we started experiencing a lot of change, a lot of excitement and vibrancy and, and then all the things my friend talked about, our bond being stronger. We were communicating. If we could talk about that, we can talk about anything. So our level of communication just deepened and all of a sudden the sky was bluer, the grass was greener. I'm performing better at work. Like I'm whistling. There's like the pep in my step. Like there's so much in life that was like, so much better when our sex life just became amazing. Those twitter painted feelings I had early on in our relationship all came flooding back in full force. And, we're flirting with each other all the time. Just the level of, in our relationship just went up like an order because of the vibrancy of what we're experiencing together. 

Tony: And then, and so I'm curious too, do you feel like, were there still these experiences where there were, you know, not tonight? Or did you feel like it was, if somebody was saying that this was something that you wanted to do, then okay, we're doing this. I mean, was there any of the letdown, not even letdown, that's the wrong way to frame it. But do you know what I mean though? Because it sounds like right now when you're saying, okay, it was just this euphoric high. And I think a lot of couples that I work with will often feel that, because we finally talked about the elephant in the room. But then it's, but we still don't really necessarily talk about when maybe the euphoria dips a bit. It doesn't mean that, okay, now we're gonna go all the way back to where we were and, and how to find that area in the middle, the gray or that, that kind of thing.

Dan: Yeah, so I am still very immature and have a lot of growing to do. So yes, we've experienced all of those things and I'm still growing in all those areas. However, I gotta say, I think growth and progression happens. Not, it's not so linear, right? Our growth isn't so linear. Like we have growth spurts where you grow, grow, grow, and then you hit a limit, and then you kind of stay at that plateau for a while, or it might feel like you digress for a little bit and then something else happens and then you have another growth spurt, so you hit your next limit and you progress for a while. That's been my experience and I think that's an experience for a lot of couples. So, yeah, I like that there was like, we're on this high for a while. Feels like the honeymoon again. And the honeymoon phase kind of, you know, wears off a little bit. But then, we don't stay there for a very long time. We want to keep growing and progressing and so you kind of go there. And in all of that, because we're at a different level, the challenges that we now have in our marriage are gonna look very different at that level than they were at the lower level. So yeah, things are better in some ways, but we have different new challenges so things feel worse sometimes because the challenges look different. So, yeah, we're always leveling up because there's always another level I think.

Tony: Do you start to identify patterns of when things start to maybe flatten out. I mean, is there, I dunno, the seasonal things, work related things, kid related things. I mean, do you start to identify things that then you can bring awareness to foster that growth in a sense?

Dan: Okay, yes. So as far as patterns go, well, there's life and life happens. Like my, my daughter, my 16 year old daughter's in a, just finished, she was in a production. She had a, anyway, it means late nights. And I'm driving her there to play practice and picking her up late at night. And it kind of disrupted our, my wife and I, our mojo and how we spend our evenings together. So yeah, things like that do happen. Life happens.

Tony: And do you feel like you guys were communicating about that in real time or was that something where you would then all of a sudden feel like, okay, something's off and, and then we go back and review the game film?

Dan: I guess. We go into it knowing that, all right, okay, daughters play practice. This means this is gonna happen. So, yeah, part of my personal growth is I've, I guess, learning how to self soothe a lot better around things like this. And that's a skill I don't think people teach enough, learning how to like, calm the heck down around things when they don't go exactly the way you had hoped to go and just being okay with that.

Tony: What and what's that look like? And I think this is some of the stuff we talked about on your podcast which I so appreciate and maybe that's a good context and I hope it doesn't feel like I was trying to set you up for an answer or anything, but I like what you're saying because I feel like in the perfect world, we know and we can say, okay, what are things gonna look like while our daughters at play practice? One of us can be driving. We may be tired, we may need to communicate more. Or I find the couples that in the middle of it, they recognize something's off and then they're able to communicate about it, assuming the good intentions. And so now we recognize, okay, oh, this is what's happening. Can we adjust? And I worry that too often it's the, now we realize we are just off and then we start trying to take a look at what happened and, you know, and now in hindsight I've built like that hindsight piece is pretty important. And I worry at times that couples, you know, they don't want to quote, dredge up the past or, you know, well that's, but I really feel like you can analyze that data if you have a nice framework and look at it at a place of, okay, that happened. You know, what was my role? And so that's where I was going by I like what you're saying about this self soothing too, because what does that look like? What have you learned? 

Dan: I've got a few thoughts on this, and I'm not saying I'm always, you know, really good at this, but I'm getting better and better at it. The first thought I have is, you know the old story about the Indian chief teaching his son that there are two wolves. One has a death instinct, one has a life instinct. Well, which one wins? The one you feed, right? And it happens on a microscopic level in our marriages. Like it's this idea of are things a year from now gonna be worse between us or things between us are gonna be better a year between us a year from now. So it's, I guess, kinda like an optimism versus a pessimistic outlook. And it might sound silly to say, but when you feed the wolf that says things are gonna be worse, you know, a year from now because this or that? It does manifest itself in the way you relate to each other because you tend to withdraw a little more or justify your resentments or there's, because you're like, well, we're already heading down this path. And that's the wolf you're feeding. But there's also the other wolf you can feed. Now it could be a lot worse, but if things can be worse, I think that means things could be better. So I'm going to do those things, that advocate for or fight for something better. There's also, entropy is at stake. I mean, it is a very powerful force in any relationship.

Tony: Yeah, talk about that. The marital entropy. If you just leave things as they are, do they deteriorate? Is that the concept?

Dan: Yeah. So it is a constant uphill thing, so it's exhausting sometimes, but it is a fight. Prioritize each other. It's a fight to make sure we're connecting. It's a fight to make space for both of us to express what we need or what we want out of our relationship together. Those are forces to fight against. 

Tony: I love the, I haven't thought about the wolf you feed in a long time, because I do feel like there's so much there where you know what you seek, you will find, if you want to find the ways that your spouse is, is not there for you the way you would like, you are gonna find that, you know, if you're gonna find the ways that you can show up different, you will find that. And I like what you're saying, I haven't put that in the context of that wolf you feed analogy because I really do like that a lot because if I want to find my part in something, I'll find it. If I wanna find her part in something, I'll find it. And then I really feel like, if I'm gonna look for the part, what she's doing, then I have to acknowledge the fact that I am basically saying that I'm not at fault. I mean this isn't, this isn't a me issue. And, I would rather have somebody start with a, oh it's, it's a me issue because I only really know what I'm doing.

Dan: Another tactic that helps me is paying attention to the story I'm telling myself and I play the game two truths and a lie. So often it's like, we'll never, you know, X, Y, Z, or she'll never want this, or whatever. And so, then I kind of build this story in my head. I keep telling myself the story over and over. She's never gonna want to do X in bed with me or whatever it might be, right? We'll never achieve this or whatever. And sometimes the story we tell ourselves has a lot of truth, but there's a little bit of a lie embedded in it. Okay, so identifying what about it? The story I'm telling myself what's true and what really isn't that completely true. We like to self deceive ourselves in a way. We like to set up a story that makes us feel better or superior, or we're the ones in the right, they're in the wrong or whatever. But identifying really, that's not completely true. I mean, it's a little bit of a stretch in this area. As not me, but identifying, that's tricky. So one tool that I've helped that helps me with that is I type up a dialogue so this takes time. So you gotta be willing to set aside some quiet time. I open up a Google doc and I will type up like the dialogue of the last conflict we've had around, or a conflict I anticipate we're having, I say this, she says this, then I'm gonna say this, and if I say this, I think this is how she's gonna respond, or this is how she does respond. So I kind of type up this dialogue, and that practice of typing up this dialogue helps me at least on paper, kind of take a step back and say, I can see here where I'm a little bit, I'm a little, I like for me, my tendencies to take the superior stance. Like, okay, I'm more evolved than you. I know what's going on.

And you don't like that, that doesn't create a marriage where, where we're equals, right? Because I'm condescending. So I know this, these tendencies. I mean, I can like, after the dialogue's like. Or another one I tend to do is play the victim really well. We're good at that. It's your fault on the way like this, I have no choice in this matter. And then as I go through dialogue, I can go, wait a minute, I'm playing the victim here. And the victim pattern for me is always the, I don't have a choice. When in reality I remind myself I always have a choice. What are my options? Even if they're all crappy options, what's the least crappy option of all my options I can still make? And when I look for those things, then it's all on me again. I kind of keep the focus on me. This is the step I need to take for me in this, in light of these things. 

Tony: I like it. And I think, again, back to the things that we talked about on your, on your show, all of those options may cause discomfort and we are not huge fans of discomfort and rather than feel uncomfortable, it's easier to pull that victim card or that it'll never work card. Or why would I even bring it up card? Because then I can still stay in that victim mentality and I don't have to be uncomfortable. And now I get to tell a story to myself. About something that she's unaware of the task, something she's failed at and she didn't even know she was taking the test. So, I mean, that's a, that's a lot, right? I like what you're saying too, when you lay the narrative out, I do not journal. I love giving journaling homework. I'm not saying it as if I think I would never do it. I wish I journaled and I haven't aired his episode yet, but he's been writing every day for a year now, and he wasn't a journal writer at all. And we were just talking about that concept of laying things out, when you put things out linearly, it almost does it, it declutters from your mind. And I love that you just put another piece to that puzzle together and then you could identify, oh, when I lay it out that way, I take, I try to take that one up and I think if things are just in our heads and that we got all kinds of stories going, I wonder that might be harder to see that that's the pattern, do you think? 

Dan: Yes. But I do also admit there's also times when I've typed it out and I still can't see it. And that's the next stage I go in and get help. So I have friends, I'm in a great group of other men that I can trust with some of these things and they're willing to look at my dialogue or whatever it is, help identify things, right. I believe in marriage coaching. I have a marriage coach that I have that I go to and helps me see things when I have trouble seeing it myself. And because I think we still will always have blind spots. There's only so much.

Tony: Absolutely. We can see. And I like the group. I wouldn't say I really like a group like that because, you know, if we're in our own echo chamber, that's one thing. And then if we're wanting someone to be gentle with us, you know, bring gentle awareness. And sometimes I do feel like we need that, you need a little, little, little taste of reality there. And so I think that they, the more real that somebody can be, because you can still have, you still have the option to disagree with them, but you'll never have that option if you don't have somebody willing to confront you with what they notice. And I think that plays into it, we put out a version of ourselves to the world and we say, hey everybody, validate this guy right here. And then if people really don't feel like, okay, but that's not the version I see, I'll try. And then if somebody is being insincere and trying to validate the version of you that you think you are, then you pick up on that. And then you say, okay, you don't even care about me. And I feel like that's the position we put our spouses in or our friends in at times of, you know, then we get to play the victim as well. So I love having a group that you can go to with that. When I was starting on your journey, and we only have a few more minutes and I didn't even, tell us what you do and you offer and how you help people. I mean, you've got an amazing podcast, you've got a big following on Instagram. What are all the things you do and how do you help people? 

Dan: So the first thing I did after our, I guess you call it our marriage renaissance, the rebirth. We're like, this is so amazing. I wish more people knew about this. I'm an app developer, I'm from a software development background, myself and my wife created a bedroom game app. I'm also really creative and being really creative in the bedroom sounds great to me. So we made a collection of bedroom games we put on the app store. And it took off because I think we hit an underserved market. It's not craft, it's not raunchy. It's not, it's full of really good information and it's fun, but in the process of marketing that app, I connected with that author of that book that I stayed up really late reading, I connected with her and I connected with other authors and other bloggers and Instagrammers and podcasters. Like, wow, these are the people that I admire and learn a lot from and say, hey, I have this app. Would you like to share it with your audience? And they check it out and say, yeah, we love it too. Of course we'll share it. So I kind of developed these relationships with others in this like conservative Christian sex positive community, which I didn't know existed. 

Tony: I was gonna make a joke there, Dan. Like, yeah, you found all 20 of them, you know, but I'm joking.

Dan: There's probably 2000 of them, but, right. No, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. Exactly, so one thing led to another and then a year after, so this is in 2018, my wife and I had this hair-brained idea to put on a marriage conference. We are both kind of introverted, right? We have no idea what this is like, but like we have the anti pornography conference in St. George which is a real downer. If you ever go to it, you walk away feeling scared for your life. You want to cut, you know, the internet, right? It's not an upbeat event. And then we have the family history conference. But we don't have anything like marriage enrichment. So we're like, let's do it, let's do it. And 550 people came to our first conference.

Tony: It was when I saw on your website that you have the couples retreats and that sort of thing. And you know, I've been doing this forever in my podcast and I even thought, oh, I would be, I would, that would be very difficult to put one of those together. What if no one comes? I went into all those stories and I can't imagine what it's like to have 500 people. That's amazing. 

Dan: Yeah. So it was way better, and that's the day I got the shot in the arm. Like I think I found my calling in life Love. I love it, I love it. Love helping couples have a great sex life. That's, that's it. So ever since then I've continued to develop apps. I have about five apps on the app store. The main one is intimately us and the second one is just between. And we've put on marriage retreats, we've switched from the conference format to a retreat format to do those annually. My next retreat's coming up in three weeks, so I'm really excited for that. 

Tony: Well, I will get this out quickly then. What's the date of the retreat? 

Dan: It's sold out.

Tony: Okay. All right. But that's exciting.

Dan: They sell out within a few weeks when we announce our retreat. So get on our waiting list if you want. Okay, that sounds good, then I really wanted to help other couples, kind of like what you do, Tony. So I've gone through a lot of training on how to coach other couples. And coach on sexuality. I'm a pretty good student. I can hit the books and I can, anyway, so I have a handful of clients that I coach and I launched a program called Next Level, and it was something that I wish I had. It's a low barrier to entry. It's a low cost, but group coaching program for couples that wanna take their intimacy to the next level. And it's myself and another trained marriage coach in there, and we have weekly meetings. We have a private podcast, kinda like what you have the marriage matters. Is that what it is?

Tony: Magnetic marriage. Oh, you're fine. 

Dan: Yeah. Where as you subscribe, you can listen to other couples being coached anonymously. We've kind of created this kind of community and that's called Next Level and that's growing pretty big.

Tony: This is exciting. We'll have to have you back on again too. But I did a podcast recently where it was all about therapy versus coaching, and I talked a lot about, there's a, I did, I wasn't aware that and I'm kind of joking here, but that there was this therapist versus coach vibe that I wasn't aware I was supposed to have, because I really appreciate coaches and I know that, I think that as I often kind of joke about the fact that I think a coach is necessary to say, okay, here are the next steps. Here's what's worked for me. Here's what I feel like will help. And then I'm, you know, then I feel like the therapist is almost right there beside the couple, and then if and when those things work until they don't, or the challenges they have with continuing on whatever that the program is. They bought the book, they bought the course that they maybe didn't finish, you know, then, then here comes the therapist to say, all right, let's figure that out because I feel like, you know, it's a nice balance of both because I've bought courses and got the dopamine hit and done a couple the modules and then thought, man, okay, I'll do, I'll do something later, you know, and then I thought, what's wrong with me? And I paid the money and why did I fizzle out? And then I've had to put my therapist brain on and have some good acceptance. And anyway, I really love what you're doing and I feel like a perfect balance of coaching and therapy is probably a nice mix. A little bit of chocolate meets peanut butter kind of.

Dan: I like that. Chocolate and peanut butter. That's a good idea. The way I look at it too is therapists are licensed and trained for treating that mental illness too. And there's I, or something that like with dealing with trauma or those really, really specific trainings that I don't touch, but if it's about overcoming differences in sexual desire, I can totally coach you through that. Or if it's about I need more creativity in the bedroom. Or help us where we have this dynamic where it's the pursuer distance or dynamic, I can help you with all those common patterns that a lot of couples struggle with. I can help you with many of those. And that's, and people do come and their marriages are changed for the better as a result of this. They're learning new habits and new tools that help them, you know? Like what we talked about today, for example, self soothing, if that's what they need, or if it's learning how to have those difficult conversations that need to happen. And how to have those are all things that I think couples benefit from things like this.

Tony: So I love it. I do. And then, so then if we kinda wrap up where we started there, I honestly, part of what I was excited, because I really liked your vibe when I was on your show and I know that even as we were talking, I know as the therapist and whatever, 1300 couples later, my default at times is to already anticipate the yeah, buts that are happening. But then, you know, the people need to try to understand the things they don't understand and maybe those yeah, buts won't be as strong and that big fear of the unknown that's there. A lot of times I almost feel like as a therapist, I'm trying to walk us gently to discover the unknown. And I feel like sometimes maybe the services you offer saying, hey, here it is. And it works. And I know it works and it's exciting. And then as people, you know that they didn't know that, and so they start moving toward that a little quicker. And then just know that, you can have a good therapist there if that trauma response does come up. Or if you start doing the, okay, everybody else seems to agree, what's wrong with me? Maybe that's then where the work kicks in. So, I love, I love what you're doing, that's awesome. So I'll, I'll put links to everything. I love that. The next retreat you've got is sold out, so get on, get on your waiting list, listen to your podcast and then, we should do this again.

Dan: Yeah. Let's do, let's do, I do, I guess I can announce. We will be having a virtual marriage retreat on June 9th of this year. June 9th is International love making day because it's six nine on a calendar. Get it, and it's also a Friday. And so we're gonna have a two day virtual love making retreat so you and your spouse are, it's up to you to get your own hotel or kick the kids outta the house for the weekend or whatever. And then, we have sessions where we're meeting with you and giving you very specific ideas to help you explore your own eroticism in your own marriage. So you have a very wonderful love making retreat that weekend for the two of you.

Tony: Perfect. All right. Dan, what a, what a joy. Thanks for coming, we'll talk to you again soon and I'll have all the notes that we can put in the show notes and we'll try to get this out pretty quick because I think there's a lot of good stuff here. So thanks for coming on, and thanks for having me on your show. That was a blast. 

Dan: Thanks. My pleasure. 

Tony: Okay. All right. We'll talk again soon. Thanks so much. 

Today’s show notes have been generated by ChatGPT-4 based on the transcript of the episode: Tony takes a deep dive into understanding and distinguishing between three complex behavioral patterns - Nice Guy/Girl Syndrome, Emotional Immaturity, and Narcissism. 

Tony kicks off the discussion with a comprehensive analysis of Nice Guy/Girl Syndrome. He defines the syndrome, deciphers its impact on relationships, and shares practical strategies to overcome it. He draws on his vast professional experience to provide examples, demonstrating how it manifests in everyday life and highlighting the detrimental cycle it can trigger if not addressed.

Moving forward, Tony navigates us through the intricate world of Emotional Immaturity. He elucidates the signs of emotional immaturity, its roots in childhood experiences, and how it can stifle personal growth and sabotage relationships. Moreover, Tony explores how emotional immaturity differs from other behavior patterns, creating a clearer picture of this often misunderstood condition.

The third segment of the episode is dedicated to a robust discussion on Narcissism. Tony breaks down the classic narcissistic traits and explains the critical differences between Narcissistic Personality Disorder and self-centered behaviors. With his unique therapeutic approach, he offers insight into how to cope if you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist.

For the second half of the episode, Tony enters the lively arena of a private women's Facebook group, addressing a burning question - is the change in an emotionally immature husband real, or only temporary? To answer this, Tony explains the difference between genuine change and manipulation, providing actionable advice for those grappling with such doubts in their relationships. He highlights key indicators of authentic personal growth, empowering listeners to discern between genuine transformation and superficial change.

Join Tony for this enlightening episode as he distills complex psychological concepts into digestible insights and practical advice. Whether you're trying to better understand yourself, navigate your relationship, or support a loved one, this episode offers invaluable guidance. Don't miss this opportunity to deepen your understanding of these common but often misunderstood behavioral patterns.

Use the following code to purchase the 2023 Sex Summit for only $35 featuring Tony's presentation: Relationship Tools You Don't Know You Need - Tips and Tools Born From 15 Years of Practice w/1500 Couples. https://thedatingdivas.myshopify.com/discount/TONY23?redirect=%2Fproducts%2Fsex-seminar-2023

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Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

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


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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ

Childhood abandonment and neglect issues can manifest in seemingly unrelated ways in adulthood. In this episode, Tony helps you identify how they show up and how you can help your kids become more emotionally intelligent and resilient. Tony's muse today is an article by Jonice Webb, a licensed psychologist and author of two books, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect https://amzn.to/3GewB03 and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships with Your Partner, Your Parents, and Your Children https://amzn.to/3m9fw0B He discusses the impact of emotional abandonment and neglect on your children and yourself. Why Emotional Neglect Can Feel Like Abandonment by Jonice Webb Ph.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/childhood-emotional-neglect/202303/why-emotional-neglect-can-feel-like-abandonment

Tony also references the article "Attachment Woes Between Anxious and Avoidant Partners" by Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/202008/attachment-woes-between-anxious-and-avoidant-partners

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

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

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

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ

Transcript Ep370 Childhood Neglect

Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 370 of the Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. And just go to the show notes, sign up for my newsletter, plain and simple, my wonderful social media agency, the yeah yeah agency continues to knock it out of the park with posts and reels. And this past week we got out a newsletter that features a little bit of everything. So please go follow me on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn and TikTok. We're getting content out there in hopes of helping people. And I welcome your feedback and your questions and your show ideas. And if you're interested in having me come speak or you name it, just reach out at contact@tonyoverbay.com. So let's go on a little bit of a train of thought that leads to today's topic, which I am very excited to talk about because it has to do with everything from being a parent to parenting, to how to teach your kids empathy and emotional resilience, to even maybe doing a little bit of healing that inner child. 

So from time to time, I'll be interviewed by somebody as part of a psychological evaluation or a profile for a client or a client that I've been working with for things like, I don't know everything from child custody arrangements that sort of thing. And I don't actually do the psych evaluations. That's reserved for the likes of a clinical psychologist. And so my role in these evaluations is pretty minor. I'm just typically interviewed and asked my thoughts on some things that it's not typically about, well, it isn't about the kids. It's about the parents and maybe some of the observations that I will see. But on occasion, I also get the opportunity to read the evaluations and they're pretty fascinating. And something that will stand out is the way that the parents will show up in these evaluations. And my goal is never to throw shade or try to shame anybody listening. This is just my observation. 

And as I've been talking a little bit in the, as of late about observation and judgment of Marshall Rosenberg's concepts around nonviolent communication, I'm going to take ownership. That I will observe something, a behavior. And it's pretty natural to make a judgment, but I'm trying to recognize more and more that that is just my judgment of something that I'm observing. So I may see the way that a parent interacts with a kid in line at Walmart and just make that judgment of, oh man, they must be very frustrated or they must not be a very good parent. And then I have to catch myself and say, okay, or I'm observing a parent that appears to be frustrated. And I don't really have context about that at all. Back to these observations, but in these psych evaluations and I'm reading these, it's almost like you'll learn that you're having this incredibly important test, maybe as a parent, one that is going to not only be there's like a written portion, which might be truly a personality test or a profile. But then you also learned that you are going to have an oral portion where you're going to be quizzed by somebody that you find out happens to be an expert at their craft. And there can be some pressure in this interview as well. And you only have a few days to study and you're not even sure what to study. And this particular class has been one that is forged more by participation. So, not only are you not sure what to study, but you're not even sure how to show up with this evaluator. Actually, let me see if this example will work. I'm going to just kind of spitball this one. 

So in this world of examples, let me take you back to the height of my ultra running career. I was putting in a lot of miles. I was doing at the very least about a marathon distance, 20 to 25, 26 miles on a Saturday, and then running throughout the week. And that would be every Saturday and every week. And I was running a race of 32 miles or more, or a 50K once a month with a couple of 50 mile races peppered in there, trying to get in 100K or a 62 mile race, at least one of those. And then I liked having a hundred miler on the calendar every year as well, something in the summer. And I was also running around the track for 24 hours in my town to raise money for local schools. And that was every spring. So on occasion, then, I would run into somebody and they would also claim to be a runner, which is great. But on more than one occasion, I would have somebody come up to me and they would just start telling me what it is like being an ultra runner and almost as if they're wanting validation for the amount that they run, which it wasn't a contest or a competition per se. 

But they would just start telling me the things that I'm sure that we were on the same page about and instead of being more curious because I remember one time in particular, this person was just talking to me a little bit about what we both knew about how the body works when you run long distances. And it was pretty obvious that this person didn't know what they didn't know that they didn't have their own body science down to the amount of calories that they needed to ingest hourly, to offset how many calories their gut could actually take in and process without spilling their contents while fingering the amount of salt tablets necessary to balance the need for electrolytes and knowing what propensity they had to basically sweat, I'm a heavy sweater, versus just water. So you don't experience the fatal condition of hyponatremia. Even better examples: on one occasion, somebody wanted to go on a run with me. They also claimed to be an ultra runner. They later went on to an essence, challenge me to a 50 mile run, even though they had not run since high school. 

And so they, I can only imagine, that they Googled something maybe a day or two before we were going to go out on this long run with a group of other ultra runners. And they must've seen something about vitamins or nutrition in their water. So right before the run, they popped a multivitamin in the bottom of their store-bought water bottle. Just one water bottle while the rest of us there, we had our handheld water bottles or our Camelbak hydration systems along with our gels and our salt tabs and glide to rub on certain parts and pieces of the body that would chafe as you ran for hours. As well as SPF. And these, even these things at the time called Gators that covered your shoes because you're going to be running on the trails and they covered your shoelaces. So you didn't get pokey stickery things in your socks or shoelaces as you ran. So this guy ended up chafed to the point of seeing those two round circles of blood in the front of their shirt. They are, their nipples are rubbed raw. And they were sunburned and they ended up having blisters on their feet from the thick cotton socks and not the type of socks that were made for ultra running. And they were cramping from dehydration and that men's centra multivitamin was still solid as could be in the bottom of that water bottle that he clutched in a death grip as we neared the halfway point of our run, which was an out and back. So thankfully that was at a particular town that we had run to. 

He still had so far to go. So we ended up calling it quits halfway and had somebody come pick them up. But my point is you can't cram for the test or the long run. Or the parenting evaluation. If you haven't already done the work and reading an evaluation or two in my day, it's clear when one parent just shows up with the kids and has things that they normally have with them and the kids do the things they essentially normally do with that parent. And then if a parent has been less involved and I'm not talking about one of the parents, so it works and the other parent doesn't. Because even if you're gone and you work, there are still ways to be intentional about building your relationship and a bond with your kids so that you have a more genuine, authentic relationship with them. So in those reports, it's almost as if the parent who cannot cram for this test. Thanks. Well, what would a, what would a good dad or a good mom do when they're going to be in front of an evaluator so that they look their best? So that evaluator will think the best of the parent. So they go out and they buy coloring books and they buy these fruit snacks and they give them to the kids during the evaluation. And then the kid says out loud why did you get me a coloring book for a five-year-old when I'm eight? Or they say, they hold up the fruit snacks and say, what are these? And then the parent is saying, oh, you know, to the evaluator, you love fruit snacks, kids, and then they look awkwardly at the evaluator saying, you know kids, they're just so nervous around strangers. 

Not knowing what they don't know, not knowing that when their spouse was viewed, interacting with the kids and the evaluator, a couple of days earlier, the son's waving a foot-long beef stick around, like it's a lightsaber and the parent just looks over at the evaluator and said, give them a second to defeat the evil emperor reserve before he eats that bad boy in five bites. No, not four, not six but five. So hopefully you see my point. I want to help you start learning how to create that attachment, that bond with your kids. Not so that you can be more prepared so you eventually go through divorce and you'll know the right beef stick to bring to the psych evaluation, but so that you won't feel like you're ever in a position to be cramming for this parenting evaluation of life. And what comes with that, thank goodness, is an actual relationship with your kids and they start to develop more emotional resilience, or they might even learn concepts around empathy. And you're starting to learn some things yourself, maybe starting to even heal that inner child wound of your own. 

So my muse today is an article. It's a pretty short read, but it's a really good article. By Jonice Webb, who is a licensed psychologist and author of two books: “Overcome your childhood, emotional neglect”, and “Running on empty: Transform your relationships with your partner, your parents, and your children.” And I have a link to both of those in the show notes. And I'm familiar with them. I can be honest and say that I have not read them. I do not own them. But I have been told that these are wonderful books when it comes to talking about ways to heal the emotional neglect or abandonment from your childhood. And this is an article, this is from Psychology Today and I will be reading and commenting on this is why emotional neglect can feel like abandonment. So prior to getting into the meat of the article, she has some key points. She says emotional abandonment can happen silently. And it's not always easy to see because it's something that's happening internally to the child. But ultimately childhood emotional neglect teaches you as a child not only to abandon your emotions, but also abandoning yourself. And she says that many emotionally abandoned adults describe feeling alone or flawed or different from others. And as I'm getting more into helping people through trauma, it is pretty fascinating to see that you can have somebody start to feel where they feel their emotions, this tightness in their chest, or this just churning in their stomach. 

And if you really stop and say, okay, when have you felt that before, often you will recognize that man, I had that feeling when I was a kid and you work through what that memory was about in childhood and you'll find out that, oh, wow. Yeah, my body has been again, my body's been keeping that score my entire life. And so now I ignored that feeling as a child, that gut tummy twisting feeling when I didn't feel like I was heard or seen, or when I felt like I had to be less than, or play small. And now here I am in my adult relationships and oh yeah, that one's familiar. Because it's something that hasn't been worked through. And I know it's not as simple as then just having this aha moment where you say, oh, okay. So I didn't have the support I needed as a kid. And so my body is telling me, hey, this is still an issue. So if I'm seeing that come up in my adult relationship. What an opportunity to work through that. So self confront and then be able to realize, oh, okay. Those feelings made me feel unsafe when I was a kid. But I'm actually an adult now. So if I can get myself into this present moment and know that it's okay to have my own feelings of my emotions, we'll let the healing begin. So Jonice gives an example about abandonment and I really like this. 

She says a rundown building or an old car on the side of the road or a father who hasn't seen his child in years. These are the things that typically come to mind when we think of the word abandonment, but emotional abandonment is very different because it's not noticeable like a rundown building. She said to understand what emotional abandonment feels like. We have to first talk about the inner workings of emotional neglect. So childhood emotional neglect is far more common than you might think. And it happens when parents fail to respond enough to their child's emotional needs. And this is where I just so want right now, if you are a parent and you're thinking, oh, this one doesn't feel very good. This is why I say that we all don't know what we don't know. So rule number one for me is please give yourself grace. Because we don't know what we don't know. And so then how could you possibly know what you don't know? You know? And when you don't know what you don't know, the next thing that you can do from there to grow is now you start to find out things that you didn't know, and that feels uncomfortable. And we are so conditioned to get rid of that discomfort. I don't want to think about this. So I need to hurry up and create a quick narrative of that. No, I don't, this isn't happening in my family. Or well certainly my kids don't feel that way or, well, my parents were good and nice and everybody liked them. So they couldn't have been bad parents. 

And that's where I'm not talking about bad or good or anything like that. Right now we're just talking about, hey, let's get this information out there and let's start to think about it. And then as we think about things and we start to become more aware, we can start to take action on things. So she said that even though it happens in a real simple way, it's not very simple to see. Childhood emotional neglect goes easily undetected. So an outsider might see a kid living in a nice home attending a nice school. Maybe they dress nice. Their parents look the part. But what they don't see is an emotional void creeping through every encounter and experience that a child might have with their parents are all add their caregivers or their teachers or their, anybody that they're interacting with. So she said, even though your emotions may be invisible, they are no less important than your basic needs for food and shelter. In fact, emotional connection is a basic human need. Everybody requires this to thrive in the world. And children need enough emotional response and emotional validation and emotional education to grow into adults. And I like where she goes next. She says that emotions are the biological essence of who you are. Your emotions send you important messages about what to do, when to do it, and why they engage you. They motivate you, they connect you and they guide you to live your life aligned with who you are. And what you value. 

And I think one of the biggest challenges in my opinion is that we form these emotions based off of these experiences that we have in our childhood. And I like the concepts in acceptance and commitment therapy that are saying in essence, things just happen. So you could be really, really good parents. And your child is having their own experience. And it isn't just based on the things that you say or do, although that plays such a major role. But they're also, this is where I go into, it's their birth order. It's their own DNA, their genetic makeup. It's the places that you live. It's the sounds that they hear, it's the people that they interact with. It's the friends that they have. It's the school that they go to. So much goes into making you who you are. Again, that concept around implicit memory or what it feels like to be you is based off of the slow residue of lived experience. And those lived experiences are happening every second that you are alive. And so they are making an imprint on what it feels like to be you. So these emotions, especially as a kid, are there to guide us, but so often we stuff those emotions and we're teaching ourselves that I can't express my emotions. And as a matter of fact, I need to start managing the emotions of other people. 

So if I'm a kid and I grew up in a little bit of a chaotic home or one, or both of my parents are really struggling with their own mental health or financial issues or, you know, faith journeys or crises or job loss and any of these things, then they're putting out an energy or a vibe in the air. And so when a kid is wanting to play, explore and to grow. And to just be, oftentimes that might be, for lack of a better word, it might come across as somewhat annoying to a parent that is going through something in that moment. And so instead of turning to that kid and saying, man, here's my chance to give them the external validation they need so that they know that I'm a safe, secure place. The parent might not be aware of what they're not aware of and they might be withdrawn or shut down. And then the kid comes to them and says, in essence, do you see me? And if the parent says, hey, not right now, champ. Then it's, it's not a stretch to think that the kid may start to feel small or less than, or like, okay, well, I need to figure out when am I allowed to show my emotion and when am I not? Or this is the part where sometimes if we, as parents, think that we're doing the right thing. We could actually be telling our kids that, hey, suppress that emotion of yours. Why don't you? So if a kid is angry or frustrated about something at work, if a kid is frustrated about something that they've experienced at school, they come home and they're angry and the parent just says, man, not right now. I've got enough on my plate. So, you know, you need to, you just need to get over it. Or you need to think of others, or you need to realize that that anger is going to get you nowhere and you just need to, you just need to not worry about things. 

So many of those things that we say somewhat impulsively when we're not as aware as we need to be, are basically communicating to a kid, hey stuff those emotions. And again, those emotions are there naturally as a guide. So then if we grow up and we're stuffing those emotions and we're questioning those emotions and we're trying to figure out how to manage other people's emotions, then it can lead to things like not being able to set boundaries or not being able to just stand up for oneself. And we find ourselves often just caught up in these emotionally immature relationships, because we don't feel like we can be ourselves or we don't want to make anybody else uncomfortable. So back to the article from Jonice, she said, and again, I'll repeat this, emotions are the biological essence of who you are and they send you important messages about what to do when to do it. And why. So she said, when you experience emotional neglect as a child, you are kept in the dark from this rich and engaging emotional world. You incorrectly learn that your feelings aren't important. So let's start even looking at you in the present day as an adult. Then, have you experienced this emotional neglect, whether it's in your childhood or whether it's in your relationship right now? Because if so, and if you are trying to manage your spouse's emotions or your, the person that has to just control the environment, you're missing out on what she says is this rich and engaging emotional world when you can really embrace your emotions, listen to your body, let your body not just keep the score. But trust your gut. Let your body guide. 

Then what it starts to feel like to be you as somebody who takes action on things that matter, because you start to figure out what matters because you are the only version of you. So what matters to you is actually what matters to you? So she says ultimately, childhood emotional neglect teaches you to not only abandon your emotions. But also abandon yourself. She said three emotional needs of every child and adult. First an emotional response, and I love this one and the nurtured heart approach, my parenting approach of choice. I feel like this is the concept they call active recognition. If one of my kids walks in the room, it’s as simple as saying Jake, you know, or say, hey, what's up Mac, Alex, what's going on? And because you're literally just sending this message of I see you. And that leads to an even deeper emotional response, because if all of a sudden you don't even acknowledge your kid, but then you out of the blue say, hey, I noticed she got quiet. Are you sad? All of a sudden, it feels like, oh, I'm being interrogated. The spotlight's on me. Hey, why do you care, old man? You know, you don't even know I exist half the time. So that act of recognition, that emotional response, I see you as so important to get to that point where, hey, I noticed you got quiet right now. What's going on? Tell me more. Are you sad? 

Because you're trying to start to develop this secure attachment with your kid where they really can open up. Or feel safe enough to share, because again, we so often as parents say, hey, you know, you can come and talk to me about anything, because that feels good for me to say that boy that alleviates my discomfort. I'm already filling out my application for dad of the year after that one. But if they show up late for curfew or they get caught stealing something or they get a ticket or they're smoking pot or something like that, then they want to talk to you about it. And you're like, oh, really. Are you not disappointed? I am. So what a mixed message I just sent there. You know, hopefully now we're ripping up my dad of the year application. Being able to say or provide that secure attachment and that emotional safety starts with that emotional response. I see you. I see you're disappointed, man, I can see that you're angry right now. Jonice says it's crucial that parents notice what their child is feeling and communicating it to them. 

This teaches a child that their emotions are important and that other people see them and notice them. Responding to a child's emotions sends the message that their feelings are real and they deserve attention. And this sets a precedent for how your child responds to their own feelings in the future. Now I want to take a quick side note here and talk about what we do with our discomfort. So when our kids are sad or when our kids are angry or frustrated, even if we are not experiencing some traumatic event at that moment, we often, though, want to get rid of our own discomfort. We might not even be aware that it's discomfort by saying something very motivational. Hey, bud, you know what. Things are gonna happen in your life and you just need to learn how to deal with them. While that may sound like solid advice, what we're saying is, hey bud, stuff those emotions and feelings down and only come to me when you're saying things that make me feel better, when you're saying things that make me go, that's my boy. Instead of things that, where you say, oh, man, tell me more about that. 

So that leads to number two. She says, this is again, I'm emotional. Three emotional needs of every child and adult emotional validation. Saying things like that makes so much sense that you're sad, I can see that. And I'm here for you while you're feeling this. Or man, I would feel disappointed too. Of course you're feeling disappointed. It's a bummer when things don't work out the way that we want them to. Now did you hear that? I didn't. Didn't say, but you just need to know. No, that's it. That is a bummer. Or I can, I feel like I can, I hear you. I feel like I can understand why you're angry. Um, tell me more about that. And boy, yeah, that doesn't sound very fair that that happened to you. And that doesn't mean that now queue up my old high school story of where things weren't fair for me either. Because this is a moment that we're not going to make it about us. We're going to sit there with that discomfort and sit in that pain. And that emotion and those big emotions with our kids, I'm here with you. I'm here beside you. And it may feel just natural to say, let me guide you out of this. And there might be a time for that after the person feels heard and understood. Jonice has said that children need to know that their feelings make sense and that they're valid. Again, a kid gets their sense of self from external validation. Not from being told what to do, how to think and what your experience was. So they need to know that their, they exist that their emotions are valid. So when you affirm a child's emotional experience, let them know that what they're experiencing makes some sense. It's understandable. I can understand. And this is a little bit, I get that. 

This is a little contrary to when I talk about adults and emotional relationships where we may say, I know exactly what you're going through and you don't, and it can feel very invalidating when you're starting to teach a kid emotional validation and that their feelings matter. Then that's when we, where we are going to be a little bit more of a guide in that sense and say, man, I hear you. And that makes a lot of sense. I appreciate your sharing that. And so that would be hard. So again, she says, when you affirm a child's emotional experience, you let them know that what they're experiencing is understandable to others. Because she says, since emotions are the deepest, most personal expression of who a child is validating their emotions confirms that they are there to guide and that you are there to guide them. And they should be listened to. So they'll let the third thing, the third need she talks about is that emotional education. You know, you seem sad. I can tell by that look on your face. So let's talk. Because I want to understand what's going on. And who knows you might even feel better after talking this out. Or saying things like, I know you had your hopes up and it can be really disappointing when things don't work out our way or work out the way that you want them to. So it makes sense. It's okay to feel this way right now. And, you know, I feel like these hard feelings will pass. But boy, you got to give it some time. 

Or I know you're angry. I would be angry if that happened to me too. And here's where we can start to do with that emotional education. You know, I feel like anger often gives us energy to take action when something isn't right. Let's talk more about your anger, what your anger feels like. And I don't know, what do you want to do, take me on your train of thought. Let me understand. What do you feel like doing when you're angry? Jonice says that children are not born understanding emotions and how they work. I would add to that. I don't feel like many adults really understand their own emotions either. So she said just like going to school and learning about anatomy or history, for example, we also need to learn about emotions. And she says, well, the school system can be a great way to increase the child's emotional knowledge. The best place for learning about emotional resiliency is in your own home. From the people that the kids interact with on a day-to-day basis, their best models and teachers, their parents. I threw in my notes that just referencing an article attachment was between anxious and avoidant partners by Darlene Lancer, this is a Virtual Couch episode I did quite a while ago. 

And it might seem like I'm just cramming this in there. But I think that if we just keep in mind what if we are telling our kids to stuff their emotions, how that can show up later in life. I'm gonna read a couple paragraphs from this, Attachment woes between anxious and avoidant partners. Darlene said that attachment theory is determined that the pursuer has an anxious attachment style. And that the more emotionally unavailable partner, which maybe we would call the withdrawer, has an avoidance style and research suggests that these styles and intimacy problems originate in the relationship between the mother and infant. Babies and toddlers are dependent on their mothers, empathy and regard for their needs and emotions in order to sense themselves or to feel whole. Now I would, of course, add that a dad plays a role in this too. But to an infant or toddler, physical or emotional abandonment, whether through neglect and this is what I appreciate about this article, illness, divorce, or death threatens its existence because of its co because of its dependency on the mother for validation and development of wholeness. So later as an adult being separated in intimate relationships, that experience is a painful reminder of this earlier loss in childhood. 

Darlene said that if the mother is ill or depressed or lacks wholeness, and self-esteem, then there are often no boundaries between her and her child. So rather than responding to her child, she projects and sees the child only as an extension of herself. And as an object to meet her own needs and feelings. And let me say that as a person who works in the world of emotional immaturity and narcissistic traits and tendencies, all the way up to full blown narcissistic personality disorder. I'm going to add, I feel very strongly that the dad is playing quite a role in this as well, because that line, if the rather than responding to the child, if the emotional immature male then projects and sees the child as an extension of himself, or as an object to meet his own needs and feelings, then the kid can't value themselves as a separate self. The child's boundaries are violated and their autonomy, their feelings, their thoughts, their body, or disrespected. So consequently, the child does not develop a healthy sense of self and instead, he or she discovers that love and approval. Come with meeting the mother or I'll add the father's needs. And they tune into the parents' responses and expectations. Again, trying to manage the emotions of a parent. That's not fair for the kids. 

This also leads to shame and codependency because the child learns to please or perform or rebel. But in any case, gradually tunes out their own thoughts and their needs and their feelings. So then later, intimacy, emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, verbal intimacy. Any of those may threaten that adult sense of autonomy or identity, and they may feel invaded or engulfed, controlled, shamed, rejected. So the person might feel both abandoned if his or her feelings and needs are not being responded to. But at the same time and engulfed by the needs of his or her partner. That's the part I thought was so deep where we can grow up saying no, of course I want to be heard. Of course I want to be seen and known, and I want people to be curious about me. But if we didn't have that relationship with our parents growing up, all of a sudden, our partner does turn their eyes toward us and starts to become very curious. It can feel overwhelming. Darlene said in codependent relationships where there aren't two separate, but whole people coming together. This is where I love saying that we are trying to become two interdependent, differentiated people with our own styles and our own experiences. And now we can come together in a way of being curious about each other's experience, but that isn't an all or nothing either, or right or wrong sense. It's two people that have their own experiences in life. Because again, she says in codependent relationships where there aren't two separate whole people coming together, true intimacy is not possible because of the fear of non-existence. And disillusion is so strong. 

So back to Jonice, she comments in her article talking about emotional abandonment. So how exactly does childhood emotional neglect feel like abandonment? She said the many folks who have experienced childhood emotional neglect say, but I had everything as a kid and they described having things like a home and food desk and school supplies. But the, and even the latest toys or perhaps a bike and eventually a car to drive. So their physical needs were met and they might've been met well, and this world of emotional immaturity or narcissism, I find out so often why physical things and in particular money holds such value. You know, if you leave you'll, you know, you'll never have another truck like this, so you won't have a home like this or you won't be able to afford the life that you want. Because to that person growing up, those physical needs were met. So those physical needs sometimes are in the same frame as love. So to the emotionally immature person, that's how they then start to communicate I love you by providing the gifts, the money, the physical things. I find myself doing this as I wake up to my own emotional immaturity, where, when I am just feeling like, oh my gosh, I just love these kids so much. I might even express it, but I still find myself going into my wallet almost to say, here's what love looks like. 

So Jonice said, though, did your parents meet your emotional needs that they teach you how to identify, name, respond to, validate, and express your emotion. Emotions talked about many times the emotionally neglected people that described their physical needs as being well met, have trouble remembering deep and meaningful memories from their childhood. They describe feeling alone or different from others as adults, even if they had positive childhood experiences. So parents may be fine at fulfilling the physical needs of their children, but sometimes without even knowing it. They may fail to fulfill the emotional needs that are necessary for life. Let me go through this quickly. She talks about why emotional neglect can feel like abandonment. She said, number one, lack of response, children, experience their emotions in an unfiltered raw, and sometimes overwhelming sort of way. And that's because they are new to developing their relationships with their feelings. They don't understand what their feelings are there to tell them. Or what they want or what they need, and that those are essential tools for life. So when parents don't respond to the emotions enough, their lack of response can start to feel like abandonment. The kid starts to put themselves out there over and over again. And then if the parent is just inconsistent in the way they show up, or if they show up at all, then as a kid, you're left feeling alone and confused, and you don't really have this chance to develop a healthy relationship with your emotions because you're not sure if they're okay to have or not. The second thing she says is lack of validation. The children need their experiences normalized. When your child grows bigger, they receive confirmation from others around them. All your kids are getting so big. Pretty soon, you'll be a big girl in middle school. So this child then understands, oh, it's okay to grow. That's to be expected. I loved Jonice’s example here. But parents don't communicate to their children that their feelings are normal and okay. Then it might be okay to grow in size, but it's not okay to express your feelings and emotions. So then the children start to assume that their feelings don't make sense. And I hear that every day in my practice where people will say, I don't know if that makes any sense. I don't know how to express this. 

I don't know if this makes any sense at all. If you're understanding what I'm saying. And that's where I just often will say, oh, hey, don't invalidate yourself. This is how you feel. This is the way you were expressing it. Often the kids without validation, just hold this belief that their feelings are bad. Or perhaps that you're bad, we're having the feelings and that sets you up to feel inferior to others, in comes shame, that I am a bad person. The last thing she says is lack of emotional education. And I feel like this is the thing that we just don't do well at all, but it's because I don't think we know what we don't know. She said children aren't born with emotional knowledge. They need help. They need help understanding where their feelings come from and what they mean, how to identify them and their bodies, where they are in their bodies, how to interpret and express them to others. So without education and guidance from parents, they aren't equipped with emotional intelligence. Again, I go back to, I don't think most parents have emotional intelligence. So emotional intelligence, emotional intelligence is something that can help you build healthy relationships with yourself and others and adulthood. The world of emotions to the emotionally neglected feels foreign and absolutely unsafe. So we may try to get her emotions out there in little bits and pieces. 

But especially if you're in an emotionally immature relationship, when somebody responds with even just a furrow of their brow or a sigh or an eye roll. Oh, you know, I'm not going to express that it looks apparently like that's wrong. So she says, what do you do from here? If you're identifying with childhood emotional neglect and you recognize these feelings of emotional abandonment, you are absolutely not alone. And this is where she's saying it. And as a therapist, I will say it. Recovery is possible. Get help. Go talk to somebody that can help you sort through these things. Start paying attention to your feelings when you listen, you'll soon hear that you're feeling, send you messages from your deepest self messages that are incredibly useful. And oftentimes when we're trying to just express those as an adult, and they come out of nowhere and our partner is not somebody that we necessarily feel safe with. And if they say, whoa, I did that that's crazy. I never knew you felt that way. Then we don't know. We, I want somebody to say, oh, well, you've just said, that feels crazy, but that feels crazy to you. I'm expressing my emotions. So, yeah, I do feel this way. So remembering these messages, these emotions, these feelings, they inform you about your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses, your ability to make decisions, what you want, need, what makes you happy or what hurts you? And that is how you feel. And that is okay. So when somebody else says, you know, you don't actually think that way, you don't really mean that because I know you better than you know yourself. 

Let's say it's a load of crap. I don't know if that's a psychological term or not. That is not helpful. We'll put it that way. So even though it might be scary when you turn your focus inward to your emotional world, your feelings of abandonment will diminish. You'll no longer need to ignore or discredit yourself. When Jonice says, when you choose your feelings, you choose yourself and you won't regret it. So I hope something resonated here and that this wasn't leaving you feeling like I'm a horrible parent or person because give yourself grace again, we don't know what we don't know. And the only thing that you do not, the only thing sounds so dramatic. But something powerful that you can do is start to be aware, even if you don't feel like you know how to take action yet and validate your kids and say, tell me more and sit with that discomfort. You're aware and don't I hope you won't look at that as, man. I don't know what I'm not doing. I'm not being consistent because we go from, we don't know what we don't know to now we know, but we don't really do a lot about it. That's normal. And eventually we do more about it than we don't do. And finally, we just become, we become this better person. We become somebody who expresses our emotions. We become somebody that can sit with their own discomfort and validate what's going on in our children's lives. And sometimes people even have to get out of unhealthy relationships in order to be able to breathe and to be able to express themselves and feel like it's okay to be them. 

And that's okay. Because this is your life. This is your world. This is your experience. And as we get out of these enmeshed codependent relationships, that's part of the emotional maturation process. That's part of, I feel like why we're here on earth to grow and learn and become, and do, and be, and let our light so shine so that others around us won't feel small, but they'll also have the, they feel like they have the right, I guess, to be able to express themselves as well, we have that opportunity to model that to people around us, if we can find that from within ourselves. 

Have an amazing week. Let me know if you have questions, thoughts. I'm grateful as always for those who are continuing to listen, however many, seven years later. Taking us out per usual, and this is so, so appropriate for today. The wonderful, the talented, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's wonderful” because man, when you start to tap into all this stuff, it really can be pretty wonderful. Have a great week. We'll see you next week on the Virtual Couch. 

Tony gives a "state of the union" address on working with people struggling with turning to pornography as a coping mechanism. He then interviews Chandler Rogers, CEO of Relay, an app that helps people stay connected and accountable on their recovery journey. Relay makes it easy to connect with a shame-free support group, an essential tool helping access recovery tools. 

Chandler personally overcame a struggle with compulsive pornography use and then used his experience to give back to others by creating a group-based recovery app called Relay for people seeking freedom from unwanted sexual behavior. He built what he wished he had during his healing journey - tools to manage recovery goals, an SOS button to reach out when feeling triggered, and a system for accountability with peers, all in a private safe space.

Learn more about Relay and try a recovery group for free today: https://bit.ly/virtualcouch-relay

Find all the latest links to podcasts, courses, Tony's newsletter, and more at https://linktr.ee/virtualcouch

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

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

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ

Chandler Rogers Relay Transcript

Tony: Chandler Rogers, welcome to the Virtual Couch. How are you doing?

Chandler: Great. Happy to be here. Thanks, Tony.

Tony: Yeah, and Chandler and I were talking off the air. That's the official term, right? Like what the kids call it. And I, and the platform I'm using right now, which I'm not talking about openly just yet, because I had one bad experience, but other than that it's been amazing and Chandler has been a part of one experience where it didn't go so well. So, there's a part of me that is gun shy. We're gonna probably spin some gold and then the file's gonna be corrupt. 

Chandler: Let's pray for some good luck today.

Tony: There you go. Let's just go for it. So Chandler, I think it's kind of funny, the way that you and I met was through the co-founder of the company that you work with named, Jace. And then Jace, talking about the way back machine, I think is like a nephew or something. To some friends of mine from high school, and I'm a very old man. So when they reached out to me and said, hey, we want to put you in contact with our nephew, honestly, I'm so used to people saying, because he needs therapy, right? And so then I half read the message and I think that's why I didn't get back quick because you know, I thought, oh, bless his heart, I don't know if I can help, but man, once I started reading why we're talking, it's kinda exciting. So maybe, why don't you tell my listeners, why are we talking, what are you guys, what are you doing?

Chandler: Yeah, so, you know, struggling with pornography was something that was always kind of a theme for me growing up, and one of the big lessons that is key to my story is realizing that not only was I not alone, but it is so much more effective to work through this not alone, to band together with other people who are in the same boat and to find a strong support system. We can talk, you know, more about this later in the episode, but Jace and I served, you know, in the same mission together for the LDS church. We went to New York City, we were out there and actually a big part of what we spent time doing those two years was helping a lot of people overcoming various addictions. And so it resonated with me a lot with my personal story and he and I came back to school and we were both in a coding class together, and I basically pitched him on the idea, like, let's build an app. And everyone was building kind of these random things that like no one was gonna use whatever people were building. It was just a project. But I was like, hey, what if we build something that actually could be meaningful? 

And then built something actually totally not related to addiction. So we were like, maybe it would be, maybe it'd be cool to have an app that makes it easier for long distance family members. So kids that have gone off to college or moved outta the house, or even extended family, like grandparents. What if there's a platform better than other social media that was tailored towards families, helping them stay connected. And I think it was an interesting idea, but just didn't really get any, you know, traction to it, but I continued to think about some of the pain points and things that I had experienced and talked to a lot of friends who had experienced with overcoming pornography and continued to come back to a few themes. And we just realized we wanted to try to help make a difference, particularly in making it easier for people to find a good support system. That's what we ended up doing. 

Tony: How long does it take to, this is kind of cool, how long did it take to build?

Chandler: Yeah. So we were total noobs at the beginning. We had no idea what we were doing. We were not like these engineering wizards going into this. Okay, I won't say we're engineering wizards now, you know, hopefully the users on the app don't know that, but no, it probably took us six months to get the first version out there, so it wasn't terribly long. But we learned a ton along the way. Tons of fun from a learning perspective, but meaningful at the same time because we were trying to actually get something that worked and actually worked really well into people's hands. 

Tony: So was this the classic, this was the project that you were doing for school and then you end up getting a bad grade, but go on to make millions of dollars? I mean, are you starting with that? 

Chandler: Well, the end of the story still has yet to be written. So millions of dollars, definitely not, you know, haven't paid ourselves anything from it yet, but, it quickly transitioned from just a project to, we were graduating and we had other job offers, like Jace was gonna go to Apple and do much cooler things there, probably. But, you know, we had started to actually see some really good signs of traction. And we had launched the app like six months before we graduated, and I think we had five or 600 paying users on the product that were interacting in these small, tight-knit teams. And they were getting, you know, results.Like we weren't necessarily, you know, nailing every aspect of it. And the way we look at it is like, we wanna continue to improve this thing for years, so it's not done, but we were really excited about what we were seeing so far, and we realized that we care a lot about helping people more than going and, you know, working for big tech companies. And so we decided this is what we wanna do. And so we didn't show up to our other jobs and instead we're doing this now full-time. 

Tony: Okay. And so then the, and it's funny, full transparency, I didn't read the material initially and then I had a client where he was looking for something from an accountability standpoint, and then I was trying to sound really cool and I said, oh, I think I've got like a really cool, brand new thing that nobody knows about. And then I, and then when I started reading about it, then I really did feel like I could see how interesting or important this could be in the world of addiction, because the connection is so important. And I feel like I've facilitated 12 step groups forever. You know, I've worked with, I don't know, I think 1500 plus individuals trying to overcome pornography or other unhealthy coping mechanisms. And I feel like there's that part where the one-on-one concept of an accountability partner sounds great, but then I find that, man, it's one of those things where it sounds good until it doesn't, until they can't get ahold of somebody until they feel like the person's gonna, you know, they're just checking a box until they feel like they're bothering somebody. Or, I mean, so is that kind of some of the things that you guys ran into? Or why you created it?

Chandler: I remember from my story growing up, like I, you know, for many years thought, you know, let's try to do this on my own. Right? And so this is even a step before what you're talking about and quickly realize, I think that it just, A, sucks to try to get through this alone, it's really miserable. And then B, I just realized that it wasn't very effective. Like they, there's a, I think things about trying to work through a personal challenge like this and, and even other, you know, challenges not pornography, I think human beings I don't believe are designed to just navigate these personal trials alone.I think even like between us and God, like from a faith perspective, I think God wants us to leverage each other and work together. We're placed on this world together for a reason, I believe, but yeah, I think, you know, when I started adding just my bishop, my church leader as my one accountability person, just my therapist at another point in time, or just my wife, you know, in our marriage. None of those setups worked very well, and all of them actually were really tough for me personally because I had an existing relationship with them. So for me, the shame factor was magnified. Because I was like, yeah, it was, it was either kind of checking the box or there was a little bit of extra barrier to be honest, just because I hated letting them down and I felt like I was letting myself down when I let them down. 

Because I think what I struggle with internally really with this challenge growing up was like, from the outside, people saw Chandler Rogers as this kid who was like doing well in a lot of things and did well at school and sports and like, and career stuff, right? And, at least I thought like no one would know the side of me and think that I'm the same person. So I struggle with this concept of self-worth, but I think a lot of people can struggle with this and still be a good person, still be a good follower of God, husband, like whatever it is, career professional. And, I think I had this light bulb moment as I realized I needed to expand my support system. Like at the same time I realized that it's not how many days in a row that I haven't looked at pornography that defines how solid of a person I am. We're all struggling with really difficult things and it's okay to be working through compulsive behavior and it's okay to need a wider support system to help them through it.

Tony: So tell me about how, I mean, I really am curious, I was joking with you beforehand of okay, I really wanna hear your story, I won't get into the nitty gritty of the product, but I really like this a lot because I do feel like, I always talk about, you know, you got your trigger. And with porn, I think it's more, it's typically, I call it crimes of opportunity. Somebody's bored or they just can, and so then, you know, you have the thought I could do this, and then the action, and I always say it's putting distance between thought and action. So I feel like that's where this could really come in handy of just to try to make a connection period that it isn't, hey, I'm struggling or, so what does it look like? What do you do? What's your group look like? How do you reach out to people within the app?

Chandler: Yeah, totally. So when I come into the app, the first thing that it will help me do is get matched with four to eight other people that are in the same boat as me working through the same thing in a way that's not scary and awkward. So it's not me having to go to my roommates or my buddies from work and having to open up. But these are people who are actively working towards the same goal. So I go through a little questionnaire and it helps first, find a team for me. Or if I'm already with an existing group, we have a lot of people in the app that are meeting, you know, Wednesday nights and they're using the app with their existing group because they realize, and this was my experience with the 12 step group or other programs that our group based the other six days of the week, we largely did not leverage that group and it was super dumb on us.

Tony: No, I think, and I think this would be amazing because the group, I do have my Path Back men's group is just growing and I feel like we all dig each other so much, but then people talk about, they look forward to yeah, the one hour on Wednesday and then there's this just, exactly.

Chandler: Yeah. It's like unsurprisingly, you know, WhatsApp and GroupMe weren't built to help recovery groups stay connected and accountable in an effective way. You know, they're good chat, you know, messaging platforms, but so, so this theme of like, what, what really is, it's more than a group chat. There is the group chat component, but once I'm in the group, we actually, on the connection component, we try to help make it easier for you to stay connected with your, whether it's like more than just that Wednesday night group or if it's a group that you're, you know, not meeting with live, we just help facilitate connections. So for example, we have some guided conversation prompts that will get auto generated or, or we'll help people select meaningful conversation prompts that we've worked with other clinicians to help, you know, generate different ways in which we can help people go deeper and form connection that's not just based around guys talking about how are you doing with porn today, but actually like what we were talking about, like, more substance than that. And also focusing on, you know, higher up the chain, I think on what's helpful. 

But then what's really helpful, I think a lot of people have found about the app is this red flag feature. So a lot of people, I remember we'd come to group and we'd be like, hey, I had a setback or relapse this week. The guys are like, why didn't you reach out in the group chat? And I'm like, I have no idea. And so we tested this out early on and we didn't actually think this would be the thing people loved about the app, but it's really simple. It's literally just this button that's a flag that you press with one tap instead of having to type out a message and say, hey, I'm not doing well, or I'm feeling tempted right now. It can send a notification and it just lets the group, it doesn't even have to be like that you're tempted right now, we're trying to help train the emotional awareness piece like you were talking about, like I'm feeling bored. And I'm feeling stressed or anxious or whatever it is. That'd be a red flag. And then what's really cool is people want to respond to the red flags. So people I think are just as excited about how do I give support through Relay and not just get support. And I think that's helped a lot of people too, as we're trying to reduce the friction so that, you know, I can turn outwards a little easier than having to, you know, go through my phone and text people and ask how they're doing. There's a little bit more visibility in the app there. And so there are kind of like these daily check-ins too that I can schedule and customize that are more emotional oriented to help me understand that I am feeling bored in the first place so that I can raise the red flag and even if I don't raise that red flag, we have kind of some transparency and we're still maintaining user privacy and making it so it is, it is your personal journey, but for example, let's say, Tony, that I log this morning that I'm feeling stressed or tired cause I didn't get good sleep and you're in my group, you could actually come in and see, even if I didn't throw that red flag, that I was feeling stressed and tired and you could reach out to me and be there for me.

Tony: So could you even say, hey, what's the, what's up with the sleep? I mean, is it literally like, you can see, it looks like Chandler slept three and a half hours? 

Chandler: Not that level of detail. Just like it's kinda logging, I'm feeling tired, I'm feeling bored. And usually, that's sparking conversations like, hey man, you've been putting that you've been feeling bored every day for the last few days you know, do you, do you have anything meaningful going on with work right now? Getting engaged in these different areas of your life. It's helping draw that awareness for people. The other component, kind of on the flip side of the coin is maybe you already have some things that you are trying to work on. So I am trying to spend, you know, time journaling every day to help me, you know, be more aware or I'm trying to exercise to be engaged in that area, my physical health, users can track that in the app. It's not just logging your sobriety with pornography, it's tracking those types of things. And then we're helping also surface that as a group so they can hold each other accountable on those types of things. And I can say, hey man, like how's your exercise going? I know you've been wanting to get more engaged in that area. 

Tony: So okay, I'm thinking through this from the therapist lens of, we need, you know, I tell people all the time, all right, we need to go from not needing external validation to validating yourself internally, but then the reality is we still want, we sometimes want the attaboys, the kudos, and I feel like this is the challenge when somebody's accountability partner is their spouse or their bishop or somebody like that of where, I don't know it, sometimes it can almost seem pretty clingy or needy to then say, hey, I'm, you know, I'm exercising, you know, and I know that if the spouse is having a struggle or if they feel like if I don't give him praise and then he acts out, then he's gonna turn it on me, or, so I like this concept of we got a group of people and maybe it's a little easier to say to a group of guys, hey, I need some, I need some attaboys today. Because I feel like if you got a bunch of guys that want the words of affirmation as a way to connect that they're probably more willing to give it in other than a spouse that's saying, okay, if I don't respond or I respond the wrong way, for some reason, you know, maybe in the past it's been turned around and put on that spouse because you know, I think I see that all as a therapist.

Chandler: It can be super hard. I think, you know, tons of therapists that I've talked to have all sorts of thoughts about why the spouse is kind of the primary accountability is hard for both people. And so I think spouses actually have loved Relay, maybe even more than the dudes themselves, because they're like, okay, because I remember my wife asking me early on, she was like, so you've been open and like went to groups and stuff. She's like, you have all these people in your phone as contacts that you could be working more proactively with staying accountable to just connecting with more. But it sounds like I'm like your only accountability partner. Like I was being open with her, you know, what she wanted. And we talked about what was gonna work for us, but she kind of nudged me and she was like, why are you not like, I need it to not just be me essentially. And I think that's been really helpful for a lot of spouses.

Tony: It's funny too, part of when I started my group and no, I mean, 12 step groups work for so many people. They've been around for such a long time. But the part with the no crosstalk, and I understand that that's protecting people from the, you know, the grizzled sea captain in the corner that's saying, you don't get a kid, you know, or that kind of thing. But I feel like I kind of want some crosstalk from time to time with people. What's working for you? What's not working for you? And I even feel like in my, in my men's group, I've got some stuff I want to share. We've got some questions or prompts. And so I even feel like at times there's not enough of that, tell me about a victory or tell me what's working for you. So I'd imagine this would probably give a way to facilitate more of that too. 

Chandler: Yeah. Maybe we're a little rebellious, it is more of the latter and not kind of the traditional avoiding crosstalk. But I mean, those are things that for me personally and as I've talked to tons of other guys, I think they feel kind of energized having that. And I don't think it's absolutely, it's not a silver bullet, right? Like it's not, you know, it's not something someone's gonna say as a brilliant idea of what's working for them. That's probably gonna change the game for me, but I think having that environment can be really helpful. 

Tony: No, I like what you're saying because I do, one of my go-to lines is when somebody comes in and they've worked with other people in the past and I will often just say, hey, are you expecting that I've got some magic pill or secret phrase that once you learn and this thing's gonna be easier. And I've been talking a lot lately too, Chandler, about, I feel like it's, I've been calling it an individualized customized treatment program for each individual because I feel like my path back program is gold and if people adhere to it, then it's gonna change their whole life. But, I know that everybody's got their own stuff they bring to the table. And so anyway, I'm now, I feel like I'm now singing your praises, I just like that idea of a connection with a small group or even a larger group of people. I like the idea of hitting a red flag instead of even saying I'm struggling. And then I like the idea that you can have a variety of ways to respond because I like, and so I'll have clients from time to time. I'll say, you can text me, I might end up just sending you a meme or something. And I dunno, so can you guys do that within the app? 

Chandler: That’s been one of our most requested features, Tony. I didn't realize that the memes were gonna be a huge part of it, but they were like, hey, we need to send these gifs, however you pronounce it, right? We're working on that right now actually.

Tony: Okay, so then do you guys have, and not that you have to have data or results or it shows that it helps you know this much more, or do you have that kind of data behind this as well? 

Chandler: One of the things that we've actually been tracking that we are interested in is people's perception of how they feel like things are trending because we can't see and they're logging, you know, if they are logging it, there's sobriety data, right? Like how are the results going from an outcome perspective? And then we can see, which I think is even a little more interesting, how are people doing at those input type goals and systems and habits? Like I'm tracking my exercise, my sleep, my journal, spiritual habits, whatever it is, but we're asking people in a weekly reflection how they feel about the level of connection with their group because really one of the main outcomes we want is to help people feel more connected. And then we're asking them how they feel, do they feel like things are getting better, staying the same or getting worse? And 79% of our users report feeling like things are getting better within the first month of using the app. So that's kinda the main, you know, data we've found so far. And it's still early. Like we launched this thing a year ago but we're really excited and one of the things that I believe in to keep improving the results there is I want our users to talk to me. And so I make my phone number and my email very available because I just want to understand what people find really effective in the app and what they wish was different. And that's how people are like, yeah, I wanna send memes. And we're like, okay, we can go add that. 

Tony: I noticed on the website too, Johann Hari, I dig, yeah, that, so that Ted talk, I mean the connection's the opposite of addiction. So is that a lot of what this, the whole concept is based off of? 

Chandler: Yeah. And it, I would say too, like that that talk was one of the things that really connected the dots for me. And he really just talks about a few studies that they'd done. Even with substance abuse, so not just pornography addiction, they found that connection.

Tony: The rat amusement park, isn't it? Do you know that one off the top of your head, Chandler? I was just telling this in one of the groups. 

Chandler: I’ll try to summarize this so I may butcher it. 

Tony: I literally just had somebody text it to me a couple days ago, so no, let's talk about this before we wrap up.

Chandler: So I believe what happened, they had these rats in a cage, right? And I can't remember what the substance was. It was essentially they laced the water with…

Tony: They said it was cocaine, I believe it was. Is that what it was? 

Chandler: Yeah, that sounds right. So they laced the water with cocaine and of course, essentially they found the rats wanted the cocaine water but the thing was that these rats were alone. They were individually contained like in their own cages. And then they set up the second test essentially with the rats together. So they had companionship, they had other rats with them. And what they found is actually that they stopped choosing the cocaine water and then said they essentially were choosing socialization and connection. And they reviewed the study multiple times and concluded there was something about connection that helped. I don't know if it is, you know, scientifically rewiring or just helping the healing process of overcoming compulsive behavior, and so that, you know, whether or not that's kind of a, I don't know, like a really clear cut principle or how that actually applies or what exactly that means for it to work. I don't know. But generally I think about the principle connection, helping and actually being central to the healing process. Not just trying to figure out, how do I stop a behavior? How do I get more meaningfully connected in my life and in my relationships and I think even connected with the things that I'm doing in a good way. Like you were talking about, whether it's my work or my family or other things.

Tony: Well, I was gonna say before, and that was before we jumped on, I told Chandler, and I think most of the people that listen to my podcast, if I tell them I don't do enough, I don't talk enough about this, but, yeah, I say that turning to porn is a coping mechanism when you don't feel connected in your marriage or your parenting, your health, your faith or your career in a nutshell. And I pulled up this study and I do, I love it. He says, Rat Park. They don't drink the drugged water. It was everything the rat could want food and other rats to befriend and colored things, shiny things. And then both water bottles are there, one with water and one with the drugged water, and they don't drink the drugged water.They hardly used it. None of them overdosed and so he talked about how addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment. And so I just, I think that's so fascinating because I often say even when people accept the fact that they can maybe drink the water or they can turn to porn, they would rather make a connection or do something that is of value because then they feel a greater sense of purpose. I like that a lot. Okay. So where do people find you? Where do we go? 

Chandler: It's join relay.app.

Tony: Join relay.app. So, okay. Chandler, anything else that you want to share? I mean, I just, first of all, can I ask you, can you tell if you or Jace are the better coder? I mean, is that, is that a thing?

Chandler: Well, I'll give that title to Jace for sure. He has a lot more of it these days than I do. I've, you know, I stepped away from doing that a ton. Jace is great.

Tony: I was gonna say real quick, I just remembered, any on the streets of New York stories? I mean, did you guys have to get scrappy or throw it down at all, or did you get really good at, I dunno, what'd you see there?

Chandler: Man. I love New York. We didn't see too many sketchy things. I don't have that many funny stories. Some kind of wild things that just, you'd expect to see, you know, people peeing in random places and stuff like that. But Jace and I, I remember, we had a really fun day together out in the Hamptons, like the end of Long Island. So it's not probably what you're thinking of with like the city. We did both spend some time there, but yeah, I remember even when I met Jace that like, I don't know, we just clicked really well together and we were both just really passionate about trying to help the people out there, and I think we, we were both Spanish speaking, and so we saw a lot of people who were very isolated. So it again ties back to this theme of connection. We're trying to work through all sorts of personal challenges and just like realized how important, I guess that theme was as we were out there in New York together. So, no, no crazy stories. I kind of wanted more, I remember leaving being like, I hope, like I get shot at, but I live like that would be cool.

Tony: And do you miss any of the food?  

Chandler: Yeah. I was telling my wife I'd love to move back there for the food.

Tony: What do you miss in particular? What was your favorite food? 

Chandler: I mean, the Dominican food is really good. Just all, all of that, all of their types of food is really good. I also love Pupusa from El Salvador. It's hard to describe. They're like these little tortillas, filled with beans and meat and cheese, but it's a little thicker, like, okay. Anyways, it's super good. You're in California, right? You should go, they definitely have them there.

Tony: Oh, I'm sure they do. Okay. No, that sounds good, alright, Chandler Rogers, thank you for coming on the Virtual Couch, I look forward to seeing you maybe in the app and we can share a meme or two. 

Chandler: For sure. Let's do it. Thanks, Tony. 

Tony: Okay. All right. Thanks Chandler. 

"Regret is a common feeling that has both negative and positive effects," Sian Ferguson from the article "How to Move Past Regret." https://psychcentral.com/blog/a-powerful-exercise-for-moving-past-regret Tony talks about regret and rumination's roles in keeping people stuck in a trauma bond with a narcissist. 

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

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


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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ

Tony dissects a couple's potentially destructive conversation, examining discomfort and anxiety's role in our relationships. He also talks about the challenges of relying on memory when attempting to have difficult conversations.  

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ


Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 362 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of Waking Up to Narcissism, as well as the soon to be released Murder on the Couch. So if you go to the notes wherever you're listening to this podcast, there will be a link to a YouTube preview of that podcast. It is coming soon. I am, I'm ecstatic about it. I've done that with my daughter Sydney and it is true crime meets therapy and it is just, I can't wait. We've got six episodes recorded and we are gonna be recording more and there's just a lot that is gonna happen with the Murder on the Couch podcast. But, I wanna get to today's topic and therefore, while you are in those show notes, there is gonna be a link. It's a link tree link that will then, if you click on that, it will take you to the latest episodes of any of the podcasts that I'm doing. It will take you to the Magnetic Marriage Workshop. It will take you to a way to sign up for my mailing list. So I think that's the easiest way to find out what's going on, or you can go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for my newsletter there or go to Instagram, Tony Overbay underscore LMFT, or go find me on TikTok. I am having a blast on TikTok.

My daughter Sydney is managing that TikTok account and uploading videos and I'm doing one or two a day and it's just a way to just share therapy tips and I'm answering therapy questions, telling therapy stories, and it's just been a real fun engagement on TikTok. So here's why I'm excited about today's episode. When I first started the Virtual Couch, and again, this is episode 362, so I put one out a week with a few bonus episodes here and there. I am not good at math, but I think it's been six or seven years now, but I envision every few episodes having an episode where I just kind of went on my train of thought and just talked about the things that I was seeing in my office or in therapy in general. And then I got rolling with the podcast and I would have a guest, or I really felt a strong desire to talk about an evidence-based model that I was using, or I would refer to an article often and talk about a therapy concept and say, hey, here's the data on it. And I realize now that that was a part of me that just desperately didn't want it to sound like I was just giving my opinion, which, five or six years ago, that was really important for me to say, hey, look, I have the credentials and I'm talking about evidence-based things. I'm adding my opinion to them and therefore I think that this is something you will benefit from. And I've realized over the years that they're just things that I really feel confident and passionate about that are all based off of these nice evidence-based models, but also based off of sitting in my therapy chair for over 15 years. And just then, if you can tell from the way that I put this podcast out, that there are just so many topics that I really do just get so excited about. 

I absolutely love my job and everything about therapy. And you do start seeing things from individual therapy that blend into couples therapy. And when I'm talking about things like addiction or people who turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that I often talk about when I really felt like I had a way to help people that were struggling with turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. I identified these voids in their life. You know, I felt like they turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms if they didn't feel a connection in their marriage, their relationship, or if they didn't really have a framework to operate from as how to be a parent or if they were struggling with their spirituality or faith, or if they didn't really find joy in their job or if they just didn't feel good about their health. And then as I went and attacked or found ways to work with each one of those things, then the desire to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms lessened. But in the meantime, you start to see how all of these things play together. When it comes to one's mental health, then add to that finding acceptance and commitment therapy about seven or eight years into my practice and that was an absolute game changer for me personally and also for my practice. So that's a way to say that everything that I wanna share today is really just coming from a place of, let me take you on my train of thought. And I'm not 100% sure which direction we'll go, but today we're gonna talk a little bit about marriage, and we're gonna talk about four pillars of a connected conversation, but I'm also gonna talk a lot about the concept around we have such a hard time sitting with discomfort or uncomfortable feelings, and what do we do with that? So if someone expresses something to us and we feel uncomfortable, that is often when we then either control the conversation with anger, or maybe we go into a victim mentality or we withdraw.

But a lot of those are just ways that we're trying to deal with our anxiety or those uncomfortable feelings because we don't like feeling uncomfortable. So whether we turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms when we just don't feel good about ourselves, but in relationships, I feel like so often when somebody says something or they suggest something or they say, you know, here's how I feel, or you don't really understand what you're doing does to me, that then we feel uncomfortable and then we have to manage that discomfort or manage that anxiety by either explaining that that person is maybe even to the point of gaslighting, or we have to then withdraw and say, no, you're right, you're right. I'll just stop doing that. I'll just stop being who I am. Or we just sometimes shut down altogether and then the other person eventually just feels like, okay, well I guess we'll change the subject. So there's so many ways that we just try to manage this discomfort. So I wanna talk about that today, but I think I've, to me, it's a funny way to ease into this. So, talk about train of thought. I often have people that will ask about homework and long ago, as a new therapist, I felt like every session needed to end with some homework, but then I remember when, you know, the more that I would give out homework and the more I would follow up on the homework, and it seemed like more often than not, see, I want to say all the time, every time, never. But more often than not, people wouldn't necessarily follow through on the homework. And then I felt like we had to spend a few minutes talking about the reason why they weren't able to do their homework.

And it was, I felt like the person was coming in, they felt bad and they almost were making excuses. I can even remember certain situations or people where I felt like we both knew you maybe had a busy week or you even forgot, but instead of saying that, then the person would, I feel like, would just make some excuses and then they would even feel bad. And we'd have an awkward moment in the therapy session. And I know that if a therapist listening to this, or maybe even somebody that's done a lot of their own mental health work, would say, well, Tony, that's your opportunity to confront that person, which it is, unless it isn't. Because people are in these different places when it comes to where they are in therapy. So then I found and then clung to some data that I found a long time ago that talked about that more often than not, a client won't do homework. And so, if you want to give out homework, then give it out with the expectation that, hey, this is just some additional information that could help. And if you get a chance to do this homework, then I would love for you to, and then we'll talk about it. But, I found myself more often than not, not assigning homework and then having the person come back in and then if they ever do say, hey, I really would like some homework, I now am to the point where I feel like, oh, absolutely, I will give this homework to you.

And then again, more often than not, the person doesn't do the homework. And then we can normalize that. And then maybe we can get into the, hey, when you asked for the homework, did you feel like in that moment, oh, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna change my life, or did you feel like in that moment that you wanted to please me as the therapist and say, I feel such strong motivation to change that I will do anything this week? But then knowing that when you leave that room, that now life is gonna life all over you and you may not have a chance to do the homework. So that is, that is a tangent, but it's gonna get us where we need to go today. So I did a little Googling and I was gonna find that article that talked about not doing homework. And instead, I found a psychologist named David McFee. And I just loved the point where someone had asked the question, can I ask my therapist to stop making me do homework? And then David Mcfee said, “making you?”, he said, “I'm trying to imagine how that happens”. He said, it's a new one for me. I guess the question is, if you choose not to do homework, what would the therapist do to you? He said therapy is supposed to be a collaboration between two adults based on unconditional positive regard, one for the other. The commitment to the client's progress. It's not seventh grade geography. And he says, I believe in certain types of homework, but never assigned, always negotiated. And of course, the client has the final say. So I really liked that. I don't know who David Mcfee is. He's a clinical psychologist that says he's a therapist for kids and adults. But I really like his answer there because I feel like this is something where if I want to offer up the homework and someone says, well, let's talk about it, that it is this negotiation. It's never assigned. And then the client has the final say, and then even if they then find themselves not doing it, then they can come back and we'll talk about it. Because if the person continually feels like they're letting the therapist down, then I worry that that client will stop coming to therapy. So here's where I'm going with that.

I had a session a few weeks ago that reminded me of a, what I think is a funny homework story. And so in the vein of full confidentiality, a lot of the details have been changed, but I really feel like stories are what can really convey a message. So the story or the principle that I am gonna talk about is absolutely true. So a couple came in a few weeks ago. The wife had let me know that the husband really likes homework. That he really enjoys homework, wants to do homework, and at this point I wasn't gonna give them the he does until he doesn't speech. So I gave them some homework. And the homework is based off of a module that my friend Preston Pugmire and I created for our Magnetic Marriage course. Not the workshop, but the course and the homework is, it has a lot of questions that ask you, it's everything from really, it is trying to figure out or understand your spouse's favorite foods and colors and places to go and what they really enjoy on their ideal day and their dream vacation. And while that may sound at times cliched, I really, I was gonna say, I guarantee you, but I feel strongly that those are things that sometimes we assume we know about our spouse, but I think it's very good to go back and explore those things and do those with absolute curiosity, no judgment. I don't want the other spouse to say, really, you don't know what my favorite food is, but, so I think that can be a really fun exploration. And in our module, there are some questions and I have the module, the questions up right now. There's one that says things I would like you to do for me. Now, this is on a page that says everything from favorite things to do with my free time, type of gifts. I do enjoy receiving my favorite gift that you have ever given me, a gift that would mean a lot to me, and then here it says “things I would like you to do for me”. So just keep that in context or put that over on the side so I go back to a year or two ago where I had a couple that had come in and Preston had finished this module, and then I would oftentimes take the modules, some of the homework, and then I would introduce those into my on the ground boots, on the ground therapy sessions.

And it was a way to almost field test these principles and concepts. And Preston does an amazing job putting together a lot of the course materials. And so I had a couple at that point that said we would like homework. And so I said, absolutely. Let me give you this. And so then I gave them this homework and I glanced, I'd given a cursory glance over this module, and I felt like, well, this is a great exercise, and I had actually handed it out to a couple of other people who had not done it and that was the part where I, so I didn't have any necessarily any feedback from the homework. And so then this couple came in and then they said, hey, we really have some difficult conversations that we need to have today. And I thought, wow, okay. This is, I'm glad they're here. And I'm grateful to be a couple's therapist. And I had laid out, we had already had a few sessions under our belt around the four pillars of a connected conversation. We had talked about what we'll talk about even more today, sitting with some discomfort. I felt like that this is gonna be a pretty big reveal. We might even be talking about some betrayal, some infidelity, maybe there's some real dishonesty.

And so this is gonna be a difficult conversation. And so I said, okay, let's jump in. Who wants to go first? And the husband at that point said, well, I have to be honest, I'm really struggling with one of the questions in the homework, and he said, I'm curious if you could even take a guess. And it was at this point that I realized I had not read all the way through the homework. And so I just thought, oh my gosh, what is this question that the homework says? So at that moment, I have this time to self confront as a therapist, as a human being, and to either take ownership and accountability and say you know what, actually, I don't have a clue because I never read all the way through the homework, and risk the feeling of invalidation from these people that were paying me to help them with their marriage. And so I remember that was one of these moments where I'm grateful for the fact that I know there maybe have been times in the past where I could have pulled a therapeutic Jedi mind trick and said, well, you know what, tell me what you're feeling. I mean, this is about you. What is the question that you're struggling with? Let's kind of go there, but I felt like this was a time to truly model the things that I preach around authenticity and sitting with discomfort and the potential invalidation. So in that scenario, I was able to say, I am going to be honest. If you are not talking about a difficult conversation around my favorite food to eat or my favorite holiday, then I'm, I'm not really sure because I haven't read through the homework page. And in that moment, the couple was great and they just said, oh, okay. Where I know that there could be some that would say, oh, you haven't read the homework, which I would've had to say I again, I haven't. So let's talk about it. But in this scenario, here's what I thought was really interesting. The question, and I'll read it again, is “things I would like you to do for me” and the couple, and this is where I love the concepts around confabulated memory.

So we remember something, we hear something and we remember it the way we remember it. And then we almost lock it in how we remember it. It's called the mechanisms of memory. Every time we bring that memory back out, then we fill in the details with things that maybe even are happening in the moment, the feelings we have. And so then we put that memory back away, and then now it carries even more significance to whatever, however we've built that memory. Let me give you a very funny example, and this has happened a couple of weeks ago, and I know the person would have no problem if they, they would know that this is me talking about this scenario. I had someone that said, they texted me and said, I'm gonna be about five minutes late, and this person has said that they're gonna be five minutes late before and been two minutes late, and then has let me know that they have maybe pushed the speed limit a little bit. So I sit down at my desk and the door is open and I'm working on something, and they come in at six minutes after the hour. So then I jokingly say, hey, you're late from being on time, of being late, thinking I'm being hilarious. And then he says, oh no, I said that I would be 10 minutes late. And I said, ah, touche, you said five minutes late. And we both pull up our phones and what he actually said is, I'm gonna be a few minutes late.

And we both just sat there and actually made a pretty big deal about the fact that that had happened 10 minutes earlier and we both were convinced, I was convinced that I could picture as if I had a photographic memory, his texting, I will be five minutes late. Because then I built a complete narrative around, oh, when he says five minutes late, he's probably gonna be here a little bit early. I'm gonna make that joke that, hey, did you go too fast? And then he's sitting there thinking I said 10 minutes late. And then I showed up five, four minutes early. So I'm gonna tell him hilariously again that I sped and neither one of us was correct. And we sat there and it just gave us an opportunity to talk about the concepts around that and how in that moment, and it was a peaceful exchange and there wasn't anything intense or big emotions on the line, and yet we were both absolutely incorrect about what we saw on the text, but we were both convinced. I know that if I had taken a polygraph test at that moment that oh, absolutely, it said five minutes. He said, I will be five minutes late and he did not. So what I think is so fascinating about that is when we get to my four pillars, that is why I feel such a, I mean, I love all four pillars, as if they were my four children themselves. But that second pillar, again, first pillar, assuming good intentions, there's a reason why somebody is saying what they're saying, doing what they're doing, feeling what they're feeling, and that nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks I want to hurt my spouse.

And that pillar two is, and I cannot say you're wrong or I disagree with you, even if I think they're wrong or if I disagree with them. Pillar three would then be questions before comments. And pillar four is I'm gonna stay present and I'm not gonna go into a victim mentality and then want the other person to rescue me. And so I feel like that is such a good example of my pillar two, where when he said no, I said 10 minutes. I knew he was wrong. Now it turns out technically he was wrong, but so was I. But in pillar two, I really did wanna say, no, that's crazy. You're wrong. But instead, and I'm grateful that I feel that the four pillars become the air that I breathe, which I would love if that was the entire world was breathing the air of the four pillars of a connected conversation. But in this scenario, so then when he said, oh no, I said 10, then I said, oh, man, okay. That's so funny. I thought it said five because that's a much better way than to say no, you, you said five. Like, that's crazy. I can't even believe that you think that. So at that point then, my pillar three of questions before comments was almost implied. So we both pulled out our phones and, and then we just, we had a good laugh. And it was funny because I do feel like this person had a move toward not staying present in pillar four, almost wanting to say, oh, sorry. You know, as if he had done something wrong by simply thinking what he thought and believing what he believed.

And then we had, so there probably was a moment of tension, and that's, again, we're so afraid of contention, that we avoid tension altogether. And then that tension is where the growth occurred. So back to the story though, of the couple, and the things I would like you to do for me, the reason why I went down that confabulated memory and the four pillars for that scenario is because the wife in the scenario said, well, you know, it's the question that says, tell me three things that you in essence don't like about me. And I, and that's where I thought, oh my gosh, I don't, not only have I not read the homework, but really we, we say that in there? And so I'm trying to pull up the page on my iPad. And then, the husband said, I, you know, I don't, I don't think it actually says that, but I think that's maybe where we went with it. And then I was grateful for the work that they were doing because then they both kind of said, okay, yeah, maybe there's a disagreement there, but, so I just, I want to go on that, just sit with that for a second and just when you are convinced that your spouse said something, then just think of how often is the case that you do find out that, oh, it really wasn't the, something wasn't the way that you remember it because I feel like that is gonna allow you to have more grace and compassion on yourself as well as keep us in the conversation. If I know that if the person says, well, you said you were gonna pick me up at three, that I'm, I am open to that possibility, I may think that I absolutely said three, but if that is what they are stating, then oh, that would be hard if they feel like I said three, if I really didn't say that I was coming at three, and again, this is why the goal of the four pillars is to be heard, it isn't going to always work to resolution. The goal is to feel safe in our conversations so that we can get even a place of accountability. So back to the story in the scenario, the wife then had said that the husband said, what I'm struggling with is I feel attacked by what she shared. And he had said at that moment that he said, you know, I really couldn't even come up with anything that I would like for her to change or as the question actually says, things that I would like you to do for me. But they both were looking at it from things you would like for me to change. He had, his wife didn't share and she said, well, I mentioned that I really struggle with him just eating and leaving his dishes all over the house, even paper plates and wherever he eats it just really, she said, it really bothers me and I wish he would change that. And so you could watch him get tense and feel like he wants to go into defense mode. And so what I was so grateful for, again, in that moment of, first of all, I don't believe that's what the question said, and in essence it didn't say that.

But now I had to meet the couple where they were, and I wasn't gonna say, oh no, you guys got it all wrong. That isn't what the question says. Because that was what they were, that was what they were working with. So meeting them where they were at, then I still was able to say, okay, let's look at what the purpose of this exercise can be. So what it can be is when somebody says things I would like for you to do, for me, even in a scenario where let's say that it is the things that I would like for you to change. So now for that husband, if he is now going to step into the four pillars and assume good intentions, or there's a reason why his wife says that, I would, I would love for you to not, let's just kind of go specific, eat in the bedroom. And so then if he would say, okay, yeah, I feel attacked. You know, I'm noticing I feel attacked. I'm noticing I believe that she is judging me and I feel shame. So those are all things that he is feeling because she has shared her opinion. So in that scenario, again, if I can keep him in a four pillar framework, then he is gonna assume that there's some good intentions or there's a reason why she's expressing that.

And then that pillar two, I can't tell her I don't do that, or, that's ridiculous. Really, that's what you're worried about? So that pillar two again, is more of a mindset, which leads us into pillar three questions before comments. So at that point then I played the role of him in a little bit of a role play, and just said, okay, hey, thank you for sharing that and help me, help me understand, tell me more. Why is that something that is difficult? And I feel like there are probably some people that are listening right now that are saying, well, that seems obvious. Well, we are not going with anything that seems obvious. The ways to a connected conversation are to be able to just, I want to have the conversation because I want to hear my spouse and I want to hear, I want her to go on her train of thought. So in this scenario, it was beautiful because when I said, okay, tell me more, then she was able to say, I grew up in a very, very clean home, and she said, there are so many things that I don't like about the way that I grew up, but she said, I notice that that is something that brings me some calm or some peace. So when I see the mess that he leaves in his room, then I immediately feel, I notice that I'm feeling more just anxious. Here's what I talked about earlier. What a great opportunity if we can actually stay in a framework to have a connected conversation, to be able to look at all the variables here. So first of all, I love that she was able to say, when I see that food left upstairs, I notice these things about me. So this isn't a direct attack toward him, but if we can get to this framework of a healthy conversation, now we're looking at this as, hey, check this out, you know, we're married. Now I have an opportunity to then look at these things that are happening for me. So now I have an opportunity to self confront. And say, what is that about me that feels anxious? Or What is that about me that feels less anxiety when things are clean because that is not everybody's situation. So in that scenario, then she went on to even say that she had visited a cousin at one point that had an incredibly messy apartment, and that at one point she saw a trail of ants that were going from, I forget, she said one place to the other. And so she just said, when I see food, when I see clutter, I get anxious and then I worry. I worry about insects and I worry about insects, and I can't imagine living in a home where that's happening. And so again, this is her experience, and if anyone listening right now says, well, she just needs to not worry about it. She just needs to get over it. Now we're using Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication, that tenant where if you are hearing that, and now in essence you're making an observation that she is assuming that then that food is gonna lead to ants and that's gonna be uncomfortable.

And so that's you making an observation and a judgment that she just needs to not do that. She just needs to relax. She needs to realize that that isn't probably gonna happen. No. Now if you're the listener thinking that now that becomes a you issue because you don't really even know her entire experience. So what is it about you that hears her saying that she gets anxious or she worries that causes you to feel like, well, I just, she just needs to not worry about it. That's the stuff that I really start to just absolutely love about mental health, about relationships, about how all these pieces come together. So back to the scenario, she then shared that this, so this was all about these ants. It was about the clutter. It was about feeling anxious when she saw that happening. We had to really keep him very, very present because that's where somebody in his shoes could violate my pillar four very easily and just say, okay, just tell me wherever I can eat and what I can do and when I can do it. Like, that's fine, you know, and that's where somebody will go into this victim mentality because that is wanting, in essence, the woman in the scenario to say, no, you know what? I shouldn't have brought it up. It actually, don't even, don't even worry about it. But that's where if we can't have these conversations then, then they're slowly but surely going to build, I believe, some resentment.

And that's the sort of thing that happens over the course of 10, 15, 20 years where then a couple just doesn't feel a connection. Then they come into therapy and now we're processing things around leaving food in a room or, I mentioned these concepts like a situation at a Taco Bell drive-through for 45 minutes and the couple feels like, I can't believe we're talking about this, but it's not about the Taco Bell drive-through, and it's not about leaving food up in the bedroom. It's more about what this brings up for you. Why does this make you feel anxious? And then when your partner hears what that experience is like for you, then he now has this opportunity to self confront. Is that something that he has no problem with leaving the food wherever he goes. And this is what was a beautiful moment here. So she then felt, heard and understood that it causes her anxiety. She goes on this train of thought to these insects and living in squalor and all these things. And then, once he said I so appreciate that and I can understand why that would be hard and that would be difficult. Now we turn to him and say, okay, you are now the speaker. She's the listener. Four pillars still are at play. So then he said, so I also grew up in a home where he said it was incredibly controlling and there were just chore after chore after chore. And I never felt like there was an end to them, but yet I was always told there would be an end and he said, I have noticed that now that I am an adult and I, and when he said he lived on his own, that he basically did live in this squalor or pigsty, and he said it, it almost brought him an odd comfort because he felt like, hey, this is my pigsty. This is my squalor, and that therefore I do feel comfortable.

But he said if he could just sit with that though, that he knew that that wasn't something that he wanted for the rest of his life, but he worried now when we were talking about it because he had been that way for so long, it had been a few years that he said, now he almost felt like this is just something that he wasn't even exactly aware of because it didn't cause him any discomfort or anxiety. And that's where I go back to the book Buddha Brain where the author Rick Hansen, when he is talking about implicit memory, you know, he says again, “much as your body is built from the foods you eat, your brain is built from the experiences you have” and that flow of experience gradually sculptures your most of that shaping of your mind forever remains unconscious. This is what's called implicit memory, and he says it includes your expectations, your models of relationships, your emotional tendencies, your general outlook, and that implicit memory establishes the interior landscape of your mind or what it feels like to be you based on the slow accumulating residue of lived experience.

So what I love about that concept of implicit memory is it was such a good example of this person who had gone from basically absolute control needing to clean everything and feeling like it was never gonna be enough, so what was the point to then living on his own and saying, oh, I am not worrying about cleaning anything. So it went literally from that all or nothing, black or white view, but then he did that long enough that what it felt like to be him or his implicit memory was, I don't even really think about it anymore because I've let myself go to that place that it just, who cares if something's clean or if it's not clean and I'll clean it if I need to. So, because of this homework that I didn't know that was assigned, that they interpreted slightly incorrect to begin with. And then we had this four pillared conversation around something that really felt uncomfortable. There was tremendous growth because what does that look like then, then it isn't that, you know, the guy said, okay, so yeah, I'll never do that again.

But then that was an amazing moment too, so, okay. What's gonna happen when he doesn't think about it because this is more of his implicit memory or what it feels like to be him? Then at that point, will he beat himself up? Will he then say, man, I told her I would never do it again, and now I'm doing it again. And that's where I worry at times that then people will hide things because they don't feel like they can go to their spouse and say, okay, check this out. We just had this therapy conversation and we both, I can understand where you're coming from more, I really feel like this is something that I want to change or something I do want to do for you because I want that for myself as well. And then I didn't, because that is where we go to that, that Sue Johnson quote of, “we're designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human.” Because if he then felt this guilt or shame to the point where then he just says, I can't bring this up. I just gotta figure this out, and hope that she doesn't notice, then that is still gonna put him back into this place of isolation and shame and what's wrong with me? And unfortunately what's wrong with me is what often leads to people that want to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms or they want to isolate or not say, hey, check this out. Let me take you on my train of thought. We had this therapy conversation three days in a row. Now I've still left food all over the place, you know, had this interesting, because then we can explore even more, you know?

And later with that person, we were able to poke around concepts around maybe even if there were some ADHD tendencies. If there was some in that moment where he really did say, I'll just come pick this up later, but first I'm gonna do this other thing. And then I love the concepts in ADHD have driven to distraction, where then at that point, he's on the eighth project and now he's so far away from just cleaning up dishes or his clutter, that it is completely outta sight outta mind. So in that scenario, that's where I feel like there were so many things that came true, so many things that came into play of just being open and honest about, you know, the discomfort that we feel. And I feel like from moving forward with that couple, there were some pretty amazing moments in future sessions where we would even be able to check in and say, okay, when somebody is saying, hey, let me take you on my train of thought. Let's just say, you know, I feel like it would be nice for you to spend more time with the kids. And then we could turn to the husband and say, okay, let's check in. What are you feeling? And he would say, I'm feeling uncomfortable. I really am. I'm feeling discomfort. I feel it in my chest. Feel my heart start to raise a little bit. My heart rate starts to elevate. And when I feel that I'm noticing that I really want, I want to just get rid of it and then I would say, how, how do you wanna get rid of it?

And he said, honestly, I want to get angry. I want to say, fine. Just tell me what you think I should do. Or I want to point out, well here's times where you aren't doing your best with the kids. And so I just feel like you can really see that, that sitting with that discomfort, it's just so uncomfortable that we want to get rid of it at any cost. And unfortunately, the way that we get rid of it is typically through unhealthy means. We typically turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, anger, gaslighting, withdrawal, victim mindset instead of sitting with the discomfort and learning these concepts of being more emotionally mature and knowing that it's not gonna kill me. This is the part that I want to go so big on in the coming weeks and months as I talk more about really throwing the four pillars out there and wanting them to just be on the tip of people's tongues or starting to again, be the air that they breathe, is that if we can start to look at our relationships once we can get out of clutter of the back and forth of the tit for tat of the pursue, withdrawal of the freeze and flea. We can learn that there are tools that will allow us to stay present in the moment, assuming that my partner is not out to get me. And then not just shooting them down and saying, that's ridiculous. You didn't say that. You don't know what you're talking about. And then once we can master those concepts, now we're starting to lean forward a little bit and now we're saying, tell me more. And then that still is gonna bring with it some discomfort because I'm gonna hear things about their experience that will make me feel uncomfortable because I'm going to internalize those and my immediate response is gonna be to think that they are attacking me, or they're saying that something is fundamentally wrong with me because they are unhappy.

Then for me to stay present in that fourth pillar and just hold this frame and just say, thank you so much for sharing that, and I appreciate that, and that sounds hard or I'm grateful that you shared that. And yeah, it's uncomfortable for me, but I'm a mature human being, or I'm becoming more mature and I can sit with this discomfort because if I can take a breath in through the nose, out through the mouth, lower my cortisol, my stress hormone, kind of come out of this fight or flight response. Now all of a sudden, I'm changing an entire dynamic as a human being in a relationship as a parent that I'm now showing that I can sit through someone else's experience and I can be there and I can stay grounded and I can say, thank you so much for sharing. Now I'm gonna self confront and I'm gonna take a look and say, okay, is there some truth in that? And if there is truth in that, is that something I want to because ultimately what that concept of differentiation is, again, where one person ends and the other begins, and there's invalidation in the middle. But if I can have a relationship with someone and I can maintain that we both have our own experiences, then a differentiated relationship is that they can offer me some data and since I care about this person, I'll take that data and then I'll use it and I'll do a little self confrontation.

And is this something that I agree with or I'm aware of or that I really wanna work on and I might not be able to make that decision at that moment. I might have to say, man, I appreciate you sharing that, and that's something I really need to take a look at or internalize and see if that's something that I want to do some work on myself now, I hope, because, and I'm jumping way too far ahead, but I like this concept that we are putting out a version of ourselves and I'm, if you're watching this on YouTube, I got my hand up because this is my ball. Ball up your fist and this is you and you're holding it out to your partner and you're saying, this is who I am now. Validate this person. I am a nice, kind person who is always compassionate and wonderful. And we're saying to our spouse or our kids, right? Kids, right, wife, right husband? But if that is not the experience that they feel, then we're asking them to do something that goes completely against who they are. And we'll feel that and then we will feel offended that will you pause, you don't think I'm the most amazing individual that you've ever met in the face of the earth, but if they say, man, I appreciate you sharing that, and I can understand that, that there are so many times where I do feel like you were this most amazing person but there are also times where I worry that we're not quite sure which version of dad we're gonna get. And this is a very real example that I think I've shared on my Waking Up to Narcissism podcast. But I remember when I was sharing some of this with my wife one of the first times, and I really appreciated her saying, well, you know, sometimes we're not quite sure which version of you is walking in the front door.

That is not the version of me that I put out and say validate my version, I'm always on, always fun, it's amazing, but this is a person I care about. And so I had to, in real time, assume good intentions. She's not trying to hurt me. I can't say you're wrong. And at that point it was, tell me more. And she said, there are times where if I'm feeling, you can tell if I feel like I'm on top of the world, that I come in and it's almost, you know, that I picture, I know that my wife wouldn't think this same way, that I'm coming in there and throwing out a hundred dollars bills, everybody making it rain, I think as the kids say, probably not. And just saying, everything's great, everything is awesome. Let's go to dinner, spend all the money, find arcades, buy things, let's do everything. Everything is great. But then there might be a day where, let's say that I have paid bills or I have forgotten to do something, or it's been some tough client cases during the day. And I come home and I'm a little bit more down and all of a sudden the kids are, oh, dad's home. Make it rain, you know, get the butterfly net out to catch all the a hundred dollars bills. So not true, by the way. And then, and then I'm like, oh man, hey guys. Like, geez, I'm not a bank. You know, all of a sudden I had to self confront and say, is there truth? Because I don't believe that she would just be saying this to hurt me. And I remember feeling like there's some truth there. Yeah, there is. Because, and I started to realize my own emotional immaturity at times might be to walk in the front door and want people to then come say, dad, what's up? Oh, I don't know how you do it. You're the man. 

But then other times I come in and they're like, dad, you're the man and that's unfair to put that on somebody else to hold my fragile ego and then be the ones to manage it. Because if I'm looking for that kind of external validation to make me feel good, then I'm not even quite sure at that moment what it is that's gonna make me feel good. So then it's basically okay family, give it your best shot, and if it doesn't work, then I'm gonna be mad at you because I still don't feel. No, I have to know that this is a me issue and I need to be able to process and deal with the things that I'm dealing with, and then come home and just be and be my most authentic self. Now, does that mean I can't have feelings and emotions? No, absolutely not. Of course I can but I can be honest with my feelings and honest with my emotions and try to remain more consistent as a human being, and then be able to process those things, whether it's with my spouse or maybe it's with a therapist, where I can recognize that sometimes that self confrontation can be done but eventually that is one of the, one of the watershed moments of, I feel like my own journey of becoming more emotionally mature. Because I still remember that and that was years ago. And so now I'm aware that if I have had an off day that I can share that with my wife and say, but man, I'm noticing that I'm feeling that way and absolutely, I feel all those feelings. And what I'm actually gonna do is invite those to come along with me while I am, as present as I can be with my kids or with things, activities, so that I can train my brain over time that there is gonna be good and bad and that I can remain more emotionally consistent. And show up in a way that isn't seeking someone else to manage my emotions because I'm getting quite good at it myself.

So, we'll leave it there, but I feel like some of the things I would like to talk about the next time that I do one of these, let me take you on my train of thought episodes would be, we'll sit with it, we'll talk a little bit more about that concept around self confrontation. And so maybe my challenge to you, the homework that I would love for you to do and report back. If you can't hear, there's a little bit of sarcasm in my voice, but I really do feel like just being aware of some of the things that we talked about today can be very helpful. In Rick Hansen's, the Buddha Brain, he has a part of the book that I have now taken and made my own and confabulated and changed altogether. I know it's based on what are the things he talks about, which is even, it's the path of awakening, the path of enlightenment, it might not even be but the concept in essence that I love, that I gathered from that book is that we go from being unaware of what we're unaware of. We don't know what we don't know. Now all of a sudden we are more aware. Now we know, but we don't really do the new thing that we wanna do very often, and that is a, that's a rough place to be on this second stage or second goal or second level of your path of enlightenment or awakening. I should probably put some IP around this because in that moment sometimes we feel like, I wish I didn't even know. Or, okay, now that I know, why am I not doing well? It's because you're human and it takes time. And unfortunately things take a lot longer than we want them to take. 

The third level path rung on enlightenment or accountability. Now I know I'm having fun with that myself, but it may be frustrating to the listener. But on the third piece of this path of enlightenment is now I know and I do more than I used to. So now I'm aware of the things I'm aware of. I'm aware that, yeah, there I do struggle with sitting with discomfort. But now, more often than not, I'm able to stay present and I'm able to conjure up the four pillars of a connected conversation. And I'm able to come out of that and feel like I survived. Not only did I survive, but I have more of a connection with the person that I'm communicating with than I care about. And then eventually that fourth level of enlightenment or on the path of enlightenment is I just am. So I go from, I didn't know what I didn't know to, now I know, but I don't really do much about it, to then I know, and I do things about whatever it is more often than I don't. And then finally I just am and I become, and that is an amazing place to be and it does take more time than we would like, but the journey is, is so worth it because that is what will start to bring you far more emotional maturity, which I believe also leads to more of a healthy ego and confidence, which allows you to show up better for those for yourself, and then for those that you are around. And then the more that you are able to embrace your healthy ego, your God-given talents and abilities, get away from socially compliant goals, or the things that you think you're supposed to do, or else you're gonna let somebody else down. And then just be able to step into that what it feels like to be you. That implicit memory, which is based on the residue of lived experience and that lived experience is you knowing how to sit with discomfort and knowing I'm gonna be okay.

And knowing I don't know what I don't know, which is ultimately gonna lead to you being very confident in the things you do know, which is gonna start to build your self-confidence and it will allow those around you to even breathe a little easier because they know that you know the things you're gonna take ownership of the things you don't, and that's gonna be a pretty incredible way to live and to show that to the people that are around you that you care about. So if you have questions, thoughts, please get them back to me through the social media channels or email me and we'll do more of these versions of, let me take you on my train of thought.

So, taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented, also on TikTok, Aurora Florence with her song “It's Wonderful”. We'll see you next week on the Virtual Couch.

Virtual Couch favorite and Tony's daughter, McKinley "Mackie" Overbay, joins the podcast to talk about some big changes happening in her life and how she has been able to do difficult, scary things despite having "all of the emotions." You can follow Mackie on Instagram @beautybymackie and mention the Virtual Couch Podcast for $10 off any service with Mackie. 

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

Subscribe to Tony's latest podcast, "Waking Up to Narcissism Q&A - Premium Podcast," on the Apple Podcast App. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/waking-up-to-narcissism-q-a/id1667287384

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ

New Mackie/Tony Transcript

Mackie: I'm sweaty already. 

Tony: Nervous and sweaty. And what's the Eminem lines? What? You only get one shot. Don't you know that one? You're nervous and sweaty. Mom, spaghetti. What about mom's spaghetti? Mom's spaghetti. But at some point he looks calm and ready. Doesn't he throw up mom's spaghetti at some time?

Mackie: Yeah, that's what it is. There's vomit on his sweater already. 

Tony: Okay. Do you feel like throwing up mom’s spaghetti? 

Mackie: No, I didn't have any spaghetti.

Tony: But you're just a little nervous sometimes. But you know what? That is okay to have emotions, speaking of that McKinley Overbay, welcome to the Virtual Couch.

Mackie: Thank you, Tony. 

Tony: This is so funny. When you guys call me my name, can I just tell you that? 

Mackie: I think it's so funny and so I do it every chance I can.

Tony: Thank you. Does it sound different if I call you McKinley versus Mackie? 

Mackie: Yeah, my brain kind of shuts off.

Tony: Well, same when you call me Tony. Okay. McKinley, are you ready for your record fifth time on the Virtual Couch? Hey, so to sound a little bit dramatic though, I think I had almost called this an emergency podcast recording, but that does sound too dramatic. But you are doing some life things, big, changing things, is that correct? Do you not like the phrase, I used to think this was hilarious, but now I think it was years and years ago, because somebody last week mentioned that they didn't like this phrase at all, but adulting. Are you tired of that one?

Mackie: Not tired of it. It is kind of silly, but it's also, how else do you describe it? 

Tony: Okay. Because I think this is the point. An adulting moment is that, don't you think? 

Mackie: Yeah. Yeah. I don't think there's any other way to describe it. 

Tony: Okay. Because Mackie, what are you doing?

Mackie: Adulting, being a full grown adult.

Tony: By opening your own salon. Your own suite. Okay, well, we'll get to that too. And so the dramatic part, and I tried to tamper that down a bit, was, I was gonna say the last time we recorded, you were venturing out and going and doing hard things. You graduated cosmetology school and that's a whole amazing episode in itself because we talked about how you had felt, even though we were the most supportive parents in the entire world, oh yeah. Ok. I dunno how I like that. But that you even felt like you still needed to do some college and we were saying, hey, go find your passion and then you graduate cosmetology school. You move out to Utah from Idaho and you go to work with somebody that had a pretty established salon and that was scary. And you had all the fears of what if you don't know what you're doing and what if nobody shows up, and what if you don't make any money? And all of those things. And now what are the new fears in starting your own suite or your own salon? 

Mackie: I mean, it kind of goes back to a lot of the same things. Which is funny, but in a different way. Because like, I’m still scared that I won't have clients or I won't be successful or, blah, blah, blah. But I have a little bit more experience now, and I know a little bit more and I know what I'm doing now. So that's good. 

Tony: I love that. That's why I think it is fascinating that you have similar thoughts. But they are, they're similar, yet different, because this last, I guess it's been about a year and a half where you've been working at Ivory, you've been working with and I only know, I always joke about knowing her Instagram name first and foremost, which was Meg Brown Balayage. But that isn't, I don't think Balayage is an official part of her name, is that right?

Mackie: Not that I'm aware of.

Tony: Okay. But you had an amazing experience there. Maybe talk about the last year and a half. What's that been like? 

Mackie: It's been, I mean, it's been great. It was definitely scary and I was pushed outta my comfort zone a lot. Then the last little bit, I feel like I was at the point where everything was good and I was comfortable, and I was just ready for the next thing, the next scary thing. 

Tony: Well, and Meg's been good about saying that, and I love this because I have an intern and the things where if you're doing it right, you want your intern to launch and grow and be successful. And so this was always the plan I would imagine. 

Mackie: Yeah. Ivory was supposed to be a stepping stone into my career. And so then I just recently then took that career leap. Yeah, that spooky leap. 

Tony: Very spooky, very scary. Hey, tell me if this even applies, but I often say “you don't know what you don't know”. Because you, how could you have known, what in hindsight, looking back over the last year and a half, are there things that you didn't even know, that you didn't know, that you learned that would be helpful to share with somebody else, or that are just some interesting things that you didn't anticipate about working with Meg and working in the industry in general?

Mackie: Yeah. I mean, I'm sure there are a million, but like, yeah, on the spot, nothing super specific comes to mind. But in general, that concept that you don't know what you don't know, I think it, I was just thrown into that so heavily because I realized going into this industry and everything, I knew nothing at the beginning, I knew nothing and I seriously said like the first week I was working with Meg full-time in an actual salon, I learned more than I had the last year and a half of being in school. Like just being thrown into the real experience and actually doing it. And so I feel like it is just one of those scary things where, and I was, I would imagine this applies to other careers too, where it's like you just have to do it. Even though it's scary and knowing that as you keep going, you'll continue to learn more and you'll become more comfortable and you can lean into it and it'll be a good thing. But I definitely, yeah, I didn't know anything about the industry, and I think that's normal for certain things. The best way to learn is to just do it.

Tony: It really is. Because even as you're about to go into this new experience, and maybe I'm jumping too far ahead and we can go back, but all the things you had to learn with setting up your business and insurance and business expenses, a business name, all those things, you've just had to figure it out.

Mackie: Lots of things that, again, I just didn't know and there's still, I literally saw a TikTok today of someone who had just opened up a suite like I did, and she was like, okay, number one thing you have to do, get an accountant right off the bat. And I was just sitting there going, I don't have one. And then immediately going into panic mode, adding that to my list and being like, okay, there's another thing I have to pay for and another thing I have to deal with and so it is just that, yeah, just trying to figure out all the things and learning without becoming discouraged and getting too afraid or giving up, you know, which is scary, but again, all those are, the best way to do it.

Tony: I think anticipating now or having the emotional maturity to know that, how could I have known that? And so don't beat myself up about it, and then just be open to whatever that new experience is. 

Mackie: Just add it to the list and be like, I've done all these other things. I can do that one too. But yeah, lots of scary business things and I'm just like a silly little girl and I don't, I don't know anything. 

Tony: But yet, you do Mackie. 

Mackie: But I'm learning.

Tony: Hey I love the story too where you, when you told Meg that you were ready to venture out on your own, because I think this so well illustrates how we can have all these emotions and feelings, even to the point of letting those feelings out, if you know what I'm saying, and then still be able to go through with a scary thing. So tell us that story, 

Mackie: That's such a fun story. No, it's funny, I just, I was a little anxious and I was a little nervous to talk to my boss and so I went to work that morning and I just threw up a little bit because I was scared. Just quick, you know, whatever. No big deal. Did that, went back, gave my boss a quick call. I was like, you know, I think I need to talk to you before something worse happens. So that was, yeah, that was intense. But you know what? I did it and it was okay, and I only threw up the one.

Tony: Which is amazing. Yeah. And, when your mother, we will call her Wendy now that we're using all the formal names, when she was telling me the story about it, I think that day I had said, hey did you hear from Mac? Did she end up telling Megan? And Wendy said, yeah, she did. And she was so nervous she threw up. And I, it's funny because immediately I'm already thinking, oh man. And then that means she didn't tell her and I feel so bad, I think I'm probably pulling up my phone to send you a text. Or, hey, how are you? And then she said, and then she told her and Meg was amazing and it was awesome. And that happened.

Mackie: Nothing to be afraid of. But I think that's a whole thing in itself about life right there.

Tony: It really is. 

Mackie: You just kinda have to do the things and it usually ends up okay. 

Tony: And I love that because I feel like that's been a process for you to acknowledge that, okay, here's the anxiety and I can feel it and I can get frustrated with it. But then it seems like very much very often you then still follow through with whatever you feel like you need to. Has that been a hard thing?

Mackie: Yeah. It's a hard thing and it's something that I deal with every single day, like with my anxiety. That just, every time I have to do anything really, it's like I feel that anxiety and I panic and I think I'm gonna die, or, something horrible is gonna happen. It's gonna be the end of the world. And then so far up to this point, which is something you like to rub in my face all the time, nothing bad has happened. I always say with my anxiety, I say things like, I think I'm gonna throw up or I'm gonna pass out. And you always go, okay, but have you ever? 

Tony: I say it really nice though, right? 

Mackie: Yeah. You really do. You say it's so nice. No, but you really because I'll say, I think I'm gonna pass out. And then you go, have you ever passed out from your anxiety? And then I go, no, and then you just roast me.

Tony: Okay. Very well. Okay. This is funny though. I think that you were telling me maybe it was a psychiatrist or something at one point that had even talked about, okay, in heaven forbid, if you do pass out your body is basically saying, hey, I can't, you're freaking me out, so I just need to breathe, so I'm gonna tap you out for a little while so I can just be on my own.

Mackie: It's one of the most comforting things I think with anxiety. For anyone out there that's super anxious, worst case you pass out, your body does a quick little reset and people even say passing out's kind of euphoric and you just kind of, you know, whatever. And then you come too and you're breathing normal again and everything's fine. 

Tony: Okay. Here's the one that I sound, here's where I probably don't sound as sensitive, Mackie. I think when you'll say things like, I don't feel like I can breathe. I think sometimes I think I'm hilarious when I say, hey, you've been good at it your whole life. I'm telling you right now.

Mackie: You say that to me all the time and I feel like I'm dying in those moments. And then you say that to me and I'm so mad. But you're right.

Tony: Oh, that makes me laugh so much. Now, I'm, now I feel like I'm almost trying to pull things out of you, but I think when we were talking about this just offhand one time, there was also a concept that you had mentioned that had to do with a particular time frame of seconds that were not 15 seconds, but? 

Mackie: Not 25 seconds.

Tony: That's it. No, but 20 seconds. Yes, Mackie. Oh, what was that about? Tell me what you were telling me about the 20 second thing. Because this one, I really have thought about this a lot. 

Mackie: Yeah. This is one thing that's always stuck with me also in terms of anxiety, but I think when we were initially talking about it, it was in terms of when I decided to sign for my suite and go through with it and just decide to quit my job and do this big scary thing is like I do this thing and it's, it's, you looked it up. It's from a, a dumb movie or something, 

Tony: Hey, this is the best. Wait real quick, this story. So it's 20 seconds of insane courage. And then Alex, I was talking to her about it and she said that, yes, she didn't even, I think, realize it was from a movie. I found the movie, it's, “We Bought a Zoo”.

Mackie: I didn't know that either. 

Tony: Yeah, but she said apparently it was Alex and her friends. Well, and it was this legendary or urban legend example of some people that were spying on a kid that had went up to a doorstep situation to kiss a girl. And apparently he didn't kiss her. But then walking away, he just said something like, 20 seconds of insane courage, you know? And then that was then made fun of, I think, for a while. But yeah, it's from the movie. “We Bought a Zoo”. And I don't really know the context there, but tell me what it means to you. 

Mackie: I just think I do this in terms, whether it's job interviews or dates or making big scary decisions, or like whatever it is, it's just the concept that you can do, I mean, you can do anything for 20 seconds, like anything in the whole world you can do for 20 seconds and you'll be just fine. But also just the fact of like those big decisions and those, the big scary part, like the, at the height of my anxious moments, usually if I can just get through the initial whatever it is, I end up being fine. Usually it's more 10, 15 minutes realistically. But it's just the concept that, like for example, if I'm going on a date, it's just getting out the door. Because it's the, when I'm in my apartment, I'm freaking out and I'm like, I can't breathe. And I'm like, I can't go. I'm gonna die, like all this stuff. But then I get out the door, I realize, oh, you're okay. Like you're actually fine. And then the date's usually fine and it's whatever. So it's just that concept of you just you just have to kind of shut your brain off, just for a second, do the thing and then feel the other things later. But in a nice, positive way. Because I feel like it can kind of sound dumb because in terms of, I'm like, yeah, I signed this year lease for my suite and I just shut my brain off to do it. That makes it sound kind of dumb. But if you look at it in a different way, then it's like, okay, instead of leaning into the fears and the anxiety of taking the leap to do this big, scary independent career thing, it's like I didn’t even let myself even think about the scary things. And I had done research prior, I had, you know, crunched the numbers and done it's, you know, yeah. Knew it was a, it would be a good thing. I knew what my budget was, I knew all the good things, but then in that moment just had to say, okay, we're not even gonna think about failing or any of the potential scary things and just going to say, yeah, I'll do it. I'll sign it. Give me the paper. And then you just sign it. And then after. I like called Wendy and I was like, I was like, was that stupid? 

Tony: At that point you want, all you want is validation at that point, right? So at that point it's like, it is not stupid, it’s wonderful. 

Mackie: You don't tell me stupid. But no, and then she reassured me like, no, you knew your numbers, you knew what you could take. Like you knew what you were capable of signing for it. So everything's good and this is what you want and whatever. But all goes back to that, just sometimes you just have to be strong and courageous and have no anxiety for 20 seconds and then you can go back to feeling all your scary feelings. 

Tony: I love it. I can frame that from a psychology standpoint. You know, my favorite acceptance and commitment therapy, there's a researcher I had on Michael Twohig that said, “Happy healthy people spend 80% of their time doing things that are important, not things that are fun necessarily, but things that are important.” And then it was the unhealthy, unhappy people spend 80% of their time, in essence, trying to just seek joyous activities or avoid discomfort. And so, you did things that were important to you and then you can sit back and I say watch the “Yeah, Buts”. The yeah, but what if it doesn't work? And yeah, but it's scary and yeah, but I've never done it before. And all those may be true, but those are not productive thoughts when you're gathering up those 20 seconds of insane courage to do something that you already know matters to you. This is the direction I wanna go. 

Mackie: You know it's a good thing. And it's like you just, it just comes down to like, okay. 

Tony: Yeah, so like if I were to do 20 seconds, if I did 20 seconds of insane courage to eat a ghost pepper Mackie, because you know how my heat meter is, that would be the dumbest thing that I could ever do in my whole life. That or a warhead. 

Mackie: Exactly. So there are things I mean, you can add a million things you maybe shouldn't just, I don't know, get a tattoo in 20 seconds, or there's things that maybe think about it for at least, at least like 10 minutes.

Tony: Okay, is that what it is? 

Mackie: I don’t know the real rules, but you know, that's right. Not everything's gonna be 20 seconds. 

Tony: But as long as it says pa and not ma, or I love pa, then that's okay. 

Mackie: No, as long as you don't forget to think things through. Have plans a little bit, but just also don't let the whole point just, don't let the scary, anxious stuff take over.

Tony: I love it. You mentioned plans. Can we talk about this is one that I feel like will be, I'm so convinced that this, I know I am leading the witness, I am confirmation biasing, I am doing all these things. And so I want you to tell me “back off, old man”, or “it's not that easy”, or those sorts of things. And you may know where I'm going here next, but, so here's that part where, you know, plans, this wasn't your initial plan as a somewhere between 21 and 24 year old human being that you are right now. But I almost feel like who wants to go first? Do you wanna talk about what your plan was or do you want me to tell everybody why I was right? And then you agree with me? Which one? No, you tell me about where you kind of anticipated things at this point? 

Mackie: I really, and I mean, I can blame you and Wendy for part of this because you guys got married when you were 10, and like so did and so did all my friends and whatever.

Tony: Oh that's loud. Sorry for Alex editing the video, that probably just blew her eardrums out. Okay, we were not 10.

Mackie: Whatever you basically were, you might as well have been. You round it up, it's the same thing. But anyways, I just genuinely thought I'd be married by now, which I know is so young and I know it's kind of silly to be like, I am young and that's silly, but full, complete honesty. I really did think that I would, I would be one of those people that went off to college and in my first couple of semesters, meet somebody and then stop going to college and then just got to go be a mom. 

Tony: So get your MRS degree. Am I right? Lemme get that joke in there. That one used to make me laugh is that one's super offensive. 

Mackie: But no, I really did just, and I was like, I thought that was the dream and that was exactly what I wanted. And then all of a sudden I was 20 and I still wasn't married and then I was 21 and then I was 22, and now I'm 23 and I'm not even close. Not even, you know, not even, yeah. Nothing. Nothing coming up. So anyways, so I just thought I'd be married and get to be a mom because that is really what I want.

Tony: And you will be amazing. You'll be amazing at that.

Mackie: It'll be, it's slightly my calling in life to be a mom, I'd say. But sometimes life doesn't always go the way that you planned, well, it never does basically. Never you know, whatever. Yeah. All the things you plan. So that has not been the way that my life is gone, and I always just thought I'd be a mom and then I could do like hair or something with the beauty industry, like kind of on the side, like out of my house or something where it was just, I could choose a day or two here and there and do something that I knew I could be passionate about, but I never thought that I would have to, or I never saw myself being an entrepreneur, like a career woman or a boss lady, or, you know, anything like that. And I just didn't really have any interest in it. And I didn't, I just figured like, oh, I won't need to do that. It just won't be a thing. And then, naturally my life has not gone exactly how I planned it out in my head when I was like 14 or whatever. And I've had to then make this shift of still keeping my goals and my dreams, but then also healthily leaning into something that I know I'm passionate about. Which is all the hair stuff and the beauty industry. And I don't know, it's, yeah, it's been a weird thing, but it's been strange. The best thing that could happen, in a weird way, which is, this is kind of where it starts to become where you're right and whatever. 

Tony: Wait, wait, hold on, hold on. 

Mackie: No, I didn’t say anything.

Tony: I think I heard. I think it cut out. What'd you say? 

Mackie: No, nothing. 

Tony: Oh, I will, I will replay that clip over and over.

Mackie: Whatever. Whatever. But it is the thing that I've learned so much about myself and I've had this opportunity to learn more about who I am, who I want to be, what I want out of life, what I can offer to others, just so many things that I wouldn't have necessarily had the opportunity had my life gone the way that initially thought it would.

Tony: And can I go on a little soapbox rant here for a second? Because I feel like this is where, and it's so interesting because had you gotten married at 10 or 11, like your mother and I, which by the way, I think I was 19, almost 20, and she was 18, almost 19. So very much older than 10. But it was interesting because well, we thought we, you know, we thought we were so old and this is where anybody listening that is already married or young, of course, I'm not saying, wait, you need to break up right now. That's silly, right? Because for some people it works and it's great. But I do, I honestly, and I will speak about this with such passion, but I feel like as a marriage therapist, 1300 couples into this thing, that no one, no, absolutely no one knows what they don't know about relationships. They don't have the tools to communicate effectively. And I do, I call it the crapshoot theory. And your mom and I got lucky that we happen to just like a lot of the similar things and things seem fairly easy. And so then, you know, it isn't until later in your relationship where all of a sudden you start to deal with difficult things and you like each other so it's a little bit easier to work through. So it ends up being okay, but yeah, if there's a lot, yeah. But I'm convinced that, you know, it should be 25 or 30 or something and this is where I know it's gonna sound like I'm saying it just because you're my daughter, but I would say this to anybody, but when people are spending their 19, 20, 21 trying to figure out who they need to be in order to try to keep a relationship or get a relationship that they're not learning who they are.

And so, you have slowly but surely been finding out who you are as you learn to do the things that you like to do and you're really good at. Because I know we haven't even talked about all the opportunities you have to basically be a therapist in a chair. I wanna talk about that and we were talking about when we were kind of doing a little pre-interview, but the stuff where I want to ask you in a minute about why you like doing things like color and just getting to see the change in people. And there are so many things I had no idea that really was behind what you're doing. That I feel like that raises your emotional, emotional baseline really and so you are this different person now and I feel like you're putting yourself now, you're a stronger, more confident person that will now show up in a relationship versus trying to figure out who do I need to be?

Mackie: Well, I, no, I just think because it wasn't, it was something I knew I could be passionate about, but I don't even think I knew, like I didn't, I didn't know what I didn't know. And I didn't realize that that was even, I didn't know what that even meant because I'd hear people say, you gotta find something you're passionate about and whatever. And at the time I'm like, well, I like makeup. And so in my head I was like, I could be passionate about that. I could like it, but I didn't know what that would feel like and what that would look like and how incredible it is to actually be passionate about something and to yeah, get to do it every single day and live like that. And then, yeah, as I'm young and I'm learning and I'm growing and I'm finding out more about myself, it's like I'm able to do that through this thing that I'm passionate about, if that makes any sense. And it's just this kind of unreal experience when I step back and look at it because it is, this is my job. All these amazing things are happening, but it's my job. 

Tony: Tell me about, like, you were telling cool stories about when I was asking about what do you like about the things you do now? And of course I literally sometimes think back to when I used to get my haircut, which was literally 20 years ago and it's, you know, you're doing all kinds of color and extensions and you're spending hours with people, and so talk about that. What are you seeing and doing and what is that part where now you feel like, oh man, I love this. What all is that? 

Mackie: Yeah, I mean, there's, there's so much to it because I think initially it was just, I just didn't know what went into it. Like, you know, in school and everything. I was just like, okay, I don't really get what I'm doing here, but there's so many sides to doing hair that I don’t think people even realize, just from a technical standpoint, there's science to it, and there's like all this, color wheel and canceling things, and there's pH balances and there's like just all this stuff that you don't really think about that factors into it. So you're doing all this like science.

Tony: Because one could do damage, right? I mean, you could damage, do some damage. 

Mackie: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. Like fry people's hair off. There's scary things that can happen. So it's like you're doing all this scientific, but then it's also this really artistic creative outlet and I've always been someone who's been fairly artistic throughout my life. That's always been kind of an outlet of mine. 

Tony: Well, can I pause right there, Mac? I don't like, I hate to feel like, I feel like I'm talking over you, but it's like that's the part I didn't even understand the depth of that because I mean, the things like the way you blend things and the looks and then the somebody's head shaped and all the stuff you were telling me about. And I go back to you know, you, you taught yourself music, you taught yourself piano and how to sing and you draw and I mean, poetry, all those things that you've just done that I never realized that creativity or that creative outlet could then be expressed in somebody's whole countenance and appearance. That blows my mind when you talk about that. 

Mackie: Right. And like, same with the makeup and all that. So it's this thing that I've always been low key really passionate about in my life. I've been able to make a career out of it because there is this artistic side and I do just get to zone out and do this thing that I love and I get to channel that creativity. Which is just so fun. But then I'm also doing this technical scientific stuff, which is also fun in a nerdy way. So that's cool. But then on top of all of, I guess two things, I get to make these connections with people that I don't think you, obviously there's a million careers that you get to make connections with people, but there's something different about this career that, and the connections that can be made because it is this kind of vulnerable one-on-one setting, which is kind of weird, but then it's casual. It's so casual and it's so, I mean, people open up and people are just themselves. And again, it's just vulnerable and it's, and so it's like I get to really connect with people in ways that I didn't think would ever happen. I never really thought going into it, like I didn't think about the conversations that I would have and the things I would learn about people or any of that stuff. It never crossed my mind. And then it's all day, every day I'm spending hours with individuals and I get to see them for exactly who they are, and I get to love them and I get to know them and I get to know all this stuff. And so that's a whole amazing thing in itself. So I listen a lot and there is an aspect of it that sometimes feels a little therapy-like, obviously an amateur and it's mediocre therapy that I'd be giving.

Tony: People just wanna be heard though, man, they wanna be heard and they're in this position of vulnerability. I'm not sitting there also holding someone's potential look in my hands as well as you are. So that’s powerful.

Mackie: And so it is just, there's this different side of it there that is just amazing though. And I think it's like you just become friends with everyone you get to interact with. And it's just a positive space. And I don't know, there's just something about it and about those connections that again, I just didn't think would be a part of this career. I thought I'd just be slapping color on people's hair and sending them on their way and like, yeah, none of this personal connection part. And then there's also just this, you get to see, I mean, there's always a big reveal at the end, right? 

Tony: And I never thought about this. What is that like? 

Mackie: Because like I put in hours of work and I've done all this science and art and all this stuff, and then I get to see it come to life. And then I also get to see people's reaction to my hard work, which is fun. It's always fun to feel validated about your own work. But it's also just this cool thing where I do get to see people's confidence shift, or I get to see people kind of feel like themselves again, or just all these little things. Maybe to someone, no offense with no hair, wouldn't really understand. 

Tony: I wish I had it, Mackie. I think that could be fun. A different look.

Mackie: Where it's like, because some people, their hair doesn't mean a whole lot to them, but other people it's, it's really important and it is this really special moment for them and it's their self-care time and it's their time that they get to just take for themselves. The thing I feel like I say the most is anytime anyone apologizes if they're busy or on their phone or I'm always like, it's your time. You do whatever you want. And if they wanna be silent the whole time, they get to be silent. If we just wanna turn up the music, we turn up the music if they wanna talk, like it's, yeah, it's whatever they need. And I get to be the person who advocates that. And I don't know, it's just really special, which I noticed. Some people, they're probably just like, it's just hair. Even people that get their hair done, to some of them, they're just like, it's hair, it's just an appointment, whatever. But there are those really just amazing moments within it and it is just something that I feel like I've got, I've come to be so much more passionate about than I even thought was possible.

Tony: Yeah. No, I love everything about you. No, that was so good, Mac. And I feel like if anybody is listening right now, maybe this is the sneak, sneak sneak preview too. We've been talking about even creating a tiny little workshop around the therapy of the hair chair and that sort of thing. And Mackie and I are at some point we're, we've got some we're laying out the bones of a little course that we wanna put together because I think about that, even what you were talking about there is even if somebody says, I want you, I want your people to be able to, even if they don't necessarily think it's exactly what they want, what an opportunity, because I think this is times where sometimes people don't even really know what they want or what they like, and they are almost probably saying, okay, make me beautiful and probably, I don't know, 90% of the time you do, and that other 10%, then what a time for them to say, okay, yeah, I really didn't even know. So what is it I like about this or don't like about this? And so, in the world of therapy, a lot of times when people say, I don't even know what I want to do, and that's even just a story their brain will hook them to, because in reality, then start doing. And now we'll figure out, okay, I like that. I don't like that. And I was thinking about that with hair. I mean, even if somebody is like, okay, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go in and self care and I'm gonna do something with my hair. And then I want them to be able to be honest and say, okay, I like some of this. And maybe not all of this because at least now, now they're starting to think. So I think that's, I don't know if I'm even making sense there to a professional.

Mackie: No, you totally are. And yeah, I love my clients that will just be honest with me. You know, they can, and we can have those kinds of tough conversations, kind of a, I didn't like this, but I like this, or we want this and I didn't, you know, whatever. And it's like you do kind of have those conversations which are uncomfortable at times, but good for me in terms of I get to grow.

Tony: I love that, honestly. And this is where, I feel like it's almost like everybody now that the mental health stigma is lessening that your therapist becomes part of your, I don't know, your life and I wanna think your hairstylist or cosmetologist does as well. And that then because they get to know you so well, that then they can say, man, yeah, I don't know what it is about this one that I, I like this or not this or, and feel safe enough. I mean, then that's where I start getting all therapist about it, where you feel safe that you can be open and vulnerable with another human being, because that's where we're so afraid of contention that I think people won't even, won't even bring something up. They'll just go somewhere else. Well, it'll be better over here with somebody else, but in reality, tension is where it’s like, no, we can talk about it. Yeah, talk's, that's a big boy principle right there. That really is. So that's where I feel like, oh, Mackie, you just wait. You've got all the tools and we're gonna solve the world's problems. And I'll take the therapy angle. You got the hair angle, we'll meet in, somewhere in the middle. So with that said and I really appreciate that too, the science part, the creativity part, but you're also nervous and this is a brand new opportunity and so this is where it will sound like the world's biggest commercial and I kind of don't care because I want people to go and see you. So how do they find you at this point? Is that scary? Like how do you get the word out? What do you do? 

Mackie: Yeah. That it's all like social media these days, which I don't know how to do that. Yeah. But no, I just, I have an Instagram. It's Beauty by Mackie.And I'll link all these things under the booking. Or you can message me, whatever. But that's how to find me.

Tony: Okay. And then your place, and I like this too, tell me if this is too much, but you, this is the stuff I've been proud as a father to watch you create the environment that you want to create because you have a very specific, what, a vision of what your salon, your suite will feel like or be. What is that?  

Mackie: My favorite place in the whole world is my bed. That is just where I feel safest. It's whatever. Yes. I know. Crazy. So I just really want that to translate to my suite and my space, and I want it to just be cozy and safe. Like those are kinda my two initial words that I was like, okay, cozy and safe and just really like a safe haven. Like a little, what my bedroom feels like to me. I want that space, and I want it to be a space that clients coming in just to come into and put everything else aside and just get whatever they need out of it. Whether that's, again, sitting in silence and just having a minute to themselves, or talking about all the crazy things in the world, or talking about the heavy things or whatever. It's like I just, I want it to be cozy and safe, and I wanna be able to be whatever they need me to be in that moment to get them what they need and let it just be this good positive thing in their life. Even if it's just this one small thing, a couple hours every, however long I just, yeah. Cozy and safe.

Tony: I forgot also, you are doing different certifications and hollow needle piercing, which sounded scary. And I remember the first time that you called home after that and you said there was real blood involved and things like that, not in a scary way. 

Mackie: No, no. But there was blood. Yeah, so I did get certified in piercings and I plan on getting certified in other things I think later on. But it's just a, it's another fun little thing and it's fun for me to do cause it's like a weird little adrenaline rush to be the piercer. But then it's also, again, just this other, it's just another thing for people to come in and be like, oh, I wanna get a piercing and it's this fun thing for them. And it's like another way to express themselves or have a fun little thing that's just for them. And just another fun thing. 

Tony: When you were at home and maybe doing some of those things, very very safe and very clean, of course. But I loved nothing more than slow motion videoing the person's as the needle went through their ear. And every, I promise, every single time though it was there, the anticipation was so scary. But then it seems like the thing happened and that it was routinely met with a, oh, is that, was that it? And I think that was hilarious. I got to the point where I thought that was really funny to see. So I don't know. I can't imagine what that feels like for you. 

Mackie: It's funny, but that just went full circle back to what we were talking about at the beginning. Things seem really scary at first. And then you do it. And it's not that bad. 

Tony: I feel like that should be a mic drop moment and we just end. That's true. Interesting. Hey, so, but I do also okay. I just have to be very transparent and we had a, I thought, a hilarious conversation when we were talking before, and I was saying, okay, Mackie, you were as gracious to say that if somebody mentions the podcast, you're gonna do what? $10 off. Yeah. Which I think is great. And then I said Mac, oh I think the Virtual Couch wants to pay for the first person who comes and does like a full whatever they need to do, let the Virtual Couch pay for it. And, if I remember correctly, and I don't know if you start it with old man, when's, when's the last time you got your haircut? And I said 2003. And it was by George the barber and literally rest in peace. What a great guy he was. And he was kind and he would, he would move his scissors above my head. I know he wasn't cutting anything and kind of just move his hands through it a little bit. And I thought, oh, bless his heart, he's making me get my $12 worth. And so then I realized that's probably not what we're talking about here. 

Mackie: It has been 20 years since you got that haircut.

Tony: And it was a comb over haircut. Like, it wasn't a haircut, it was like a hair. I don't even know. I don't even, I can't even come up with something funny. Yeah, just a little messing around up there. A little bit silly. Yeah I don't, I know it can be a very expensive process, so then I, but I still told Mackie the first person who does a bigger thing there, I would love to take half of it as a Virtual Couch discount. Where are you located? 

Mackie: I'm located in Orem, Utah. That would help, Utah County for anyone. 

Tony: I love the concepts around trivia. And so the first Virtual Couch client to go to Mackie and then get something done, then we wanna document that on social media and that will forever be in the archives. So somebody there can reach out to you as well. And then it has to be somebody that you've never seen and they want, they, they've reached out cause they heard you on the podcast. I think that sounds fun too. Yeah. Okay. I'm impressed. I really am not just as your father but also as the fact that, holy cow, for some of the things that you've come on in the past and we talked about depression, we talked about some anxiety, we talked about fear and scary things and a lot of people, when I go look at those episodes, and I'm not just saying this because you're here and you're my daughter but I mean, I think I was sharing them with you. I mean, a couple, one or two of them are definitely in the top 20 of all time downloads, one's in the top 10, and that people really have resonated with your honesty and your vulnerability. And so here you are doing scary things and doing things that you didn't anticipate doing at this point in your life. And you're being so honest about not saying, oh yeah, anxiety gone, done. Don't even see it around anymore. Potentially even worse. 

Mackie: No, it’s terrible.

Tony: But then still be able to do these things. 

Mackie: You do it scared. Do it scared and that's okay. 

Tony: Proud, proud of you. Love you. What an impressive human being. This is exciting stuff. Thank you. So, I can't wait. We'll have you back on in a little while and just see how things are going. Sounds good. 

You can't run marathons after 50! You can't change your career after you've invested so much time and energy into it! Dads don't get all up in their feelings! Says who? Our pasts, our brains, our lack of understanding, that's who! Tony explores the psychology of limiting beliefs and how the stories we learn in our youth can heavily influence how we live life...until we realize we have an unlimited amount of possibility in front of us once we lose the limiting beliefs. 

Tony references the article How to Change Self-Limiting Beliefs According to Psychology by Nicole Celestine, Ph.D. https://positivepsychology.com/false-beliefs/

If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs. 

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ


So I recently turned 53, and I have never really been one who cares much about age as a number. No offense to my dad, but when he turned 50, to me at that time, I think I was in my late twenties. Well, 50 was really old, but here I sit at 53 and I feel good. I feel pretty amazing. And a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I completed a half marathon, as I shared a couple episodes ago. It was a really good experience. But one of the most fascinating parts of that half-marathon experience happened actually about eight weeks before the race. So let me take you back a few years. There's a website called ultrasignup.com where you can view the results of your ultra-marathons or races over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

So the last few race results for me, read, the Havalina hundred miler, which was in Arizona. Then the Western States hundred miler, which happened to be the third time that I had run that race from Lake Tahoe down to Auburn, California. Then a random 50k in Sacramento. Then the Tahoe Rim Trail hundred Miler, which was the second time I had run that race, followed by the Quad Dipsea race in the Bay Area in California. And if you're not familiar with the Dipsea trail, it is a 7.1 mile, incredibly hilly, stair filled race from Mill Valley, California down to Stinson Beach. It's beautiful and it's hard. And every year I used to do the Quad Dipsea, or 28.4 miles, so down and back and down and back and again, incredibly hard and wonderful and beautiful.

And then I broke a rib or two and I separated the ribs from the cartilage. And if you've ever done that, that hurt so bad. I did that playing basketball. So I was out for several months and I was on my way to returning to a hundred miles, and I did a hundred K in Julian, California. That was absolutely difficult and wonderful and beautiful.

And shortly after that, again, playing basketball, I tore my meniscus and I tried to run through it, the old just ignore it and hopefully it'll go away. And I got to the point that I couldn't even bend my knee or move, and I did that for almost a year where I just would, it would get a little bit better. I would try again, and it didn't go away. And I literally put on over 20 pounds. And so then I eventually received an MRI where I was told that my meniscus was shredded and that I could remove it and I would be able to run, but maybe not as much of the distance. But the surgeon recommended that I start by losing weight and I was so offended.

I said, how dare you? I'm an ultra marathon runner, and then I proceeded to do elliptical machines and not much else. And then I actually put on about another five pounds over the next several months. So another year passed and I thought, it's time, I am losing my mind. I am a runner and I need to go ahead and accept that I need to remove the meniscus and I needed to accept that I need to remove the meniscus. So I consulted the doctor who said, well, does it hurt as bad now that you've lost the weight? How dare he? Number two. But it was self confrontation time, and I had in fact not lost any of the weight. So, accountability. What was I pretending not to know, that I did not really want to put forth the effort to lose weight. I preferred simply waiting until my knee felt better and then running all the weight off, and that was not happening. So I did this thing called “eating right” and “portion control''. And yes, I'm making air quotes and I eventually lost weight and lo and behold, my knee started feeling better. Turns out that those people who know what they're doing actually know what they're doing.

So I then spent the last two years just running and working out, but I was capped at about four or five miles, and so I felt like I couldn't really muster up much more than that. And it really wasn't a knee issue. It was more of a, I guess, a me issue. But I really felt like four or five mile long runs were going to be the limit. And honestly, I was really grateful for that because I remember being at a time where I thought if I could just run again even two or three miles, I was gonna be okay. But internally, I really did just miss that. Being able to run and run and run distances and listen to audio, audiobooks and podcasts, and that was just something that I had done.

That was what it felt like to be me for well over 20 years of my adult life. Now in come's my wife who has completed many triathlons herself, a few marathons, even an Iron Man, and she was starting to run more and more and she suggested that we sign up for a half marathon, and just in a couple of months. So I thought that absolutely sounded crazy.

I was no longer a distance runner. I was coming to a place of acceptance. My longest run over the past two years had been six miles, and honestly, it had wiped me out, but I wanted to run the half marathon or 13.1 miles, especially with her. So we looked up a training program. We laid everything out on the calendar and we did long Saturday runs that went six miles, then eight, then 10, then 12. And then on race day we took care of 13 miles in what was my wife's personal record or pr. And in the weeks that have followed, I've maintained longer Saturday runs of eight to 10 miles, and we have a 10 mile trail run scheduled on New Year's Day. And now, if I'm being honest, I start looking ahead to the goals that I've always had of being the grandpa who still runs ultra-marathons. So why tell this story? Not for validation, I promise, but because today we're going to talk about something that I really have had a low key fascination with, and that's the concept of limiting beliefs. Now you hear a lot about them in the world of motivational speaking and maybe life coaching, but I had not worked with them much in the field of psychology.

So I had been poking around the internet until I found a resource that I thought truly summed up the concept of limiting beliefs, where they come from, and of course, more importantly, what do you do with them? Because I clearly had bought into the limiting belief that five or six miles was my max, and had I stuck with that limiting belief, then eventually over time, my implicit memories or what it feels like to be me, would become somebody who, because of this knee trouble, was limited to five or six miles, but simply because my wife happened to want to run a half marathon, within a couple of weeks I unlocked something from the way back machine and managed to find as I have returned to running shape, that the only limit I personally had was one that was self-imposed, one that was between my ears. Now, this isn't to say that somebody with true physical limitations is simply not thinking about things the right way, because I know that that's not the point.

But are there areas where perhaps your own limited beliefs are in fact holding you back from achieving the things in life that you would like to pursue? So I would imagine to some extent with some real self-reflection, that that answer is probably yes.

So today we're really going to dig in and explore the ins and outs of limiting beliefs so that, and so much more coming up on today's episode of the Virtual Couch.

Hey everybody, welcome to episode 350 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, hopefully soon to be ultra-marathon runner once again, and a creator of the “Path Back”, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people reclaim their lives from turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like pornography.

And I'm going to get through the business side of this so fast because we've got a lot to talk about today when it comes to limiting beliefs. So I mentioned in a previous episode that I am offering a discount through the month of December to the Path Back program. So just reach out to me contact@tonyoverbay.com or go through my website and I will respond and we'll hand you that discount and then get ready, the Magnetic Marriage Podcast is coming soon and you can still reach out if you want to be coached info@tonyoverbay.com or go to sign up for my newsletter at tonyoverbay.com and you will be one of the first to know. And I just can't say enough about the episodes that have been recorded already and just coaching and working with these couples. And so if you've never been to couples counseling, if you've never seen couples coaching or heard couples coaching in action, then I think that this could really be eye opening and help you understand the things that you don't know, that you don't know about what your relationship could look like. On that note, you can still go to tonyoverbay.com/workshop, and there's a $19 hour and a half workshop that gives you some ideas of some of the things that I really feel like can help somebody in their marriage right away, and then follow me on social media.

The Yeah Yeah agency, my social media team, they are doing incredible things with reels and with just the content in general. So I'm trying to share as much in essence, free content to just advice, marriage advice, and we're gonna be doing a lot more with some live, some q and a. So please follow me on social media, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Facebook. And I mentioned earlier in the intro, my birthday, and I was going to, and I did not end up doing this, but I was going to just ask, all right birthday present, provide this free content for the last six, seven years. And so if you happen to be somebody that hasn't rated or reviewed the podcast, wherever you are listening I would love that if you don't mind because that does help feed the algorithms and wherever you are listening, or even go to the Virtual Couch YouTube channel and maybe subscribe there. And that does get the podcast in front of more people. So let's get to today's topic. How to change self-limiting beliefs according to psychology. So this is by an article on positivepsychology.com and it is by PhD, Dr. Nicole Celestine. And many of the things that we will work from are her words from this article. 

She says, “How many times have you written yourself off or passed up opportunities due to beliefs like these, I'm too old to do that. There's no way I'm qualified to apply for this job or I can't talk to him, he's out of my league.” So whether you're questioning your credentials when applying for a job or balking at the chance to strike up a conversation with somebody who may be, I don’t know, attractive, your apprehension might be highlighting something about your self beliefs.

So she says, “False and self-limiting beliefs can stifle progress toward achieving goals or prevent us from living out our ideal lives,” and the core, she says, thankfully, a core component of many psychological treatments, including one of my favorites, acceptance and commitment therapy does involve helping us to recognize and undo these unhelpful beliefs so that we can start living life more to its fullest.

So in this article, we're going to talk about the different origins of false or self-limiting belief. And then she mentions a couple of different therapeutic treatment options. I'm going to talk about some of what she shares and then I'm going to throw my own spin or take on a lot of what I feel like is even going deeper into how to work with these self-limiting beliefs.

So, Nicole says there's no universally agreed upon definition of false or self-limiting beliefs, but there are a lot of examples in the press and then she references a study in 2018 that self limiting beliefs are assumptions or perceptions that you've got about yourself and about the way the world works. And these assumptions are self-limiting because in some way they are holding you back from achieving what you are capable of. 

So in 2012, Boden and Colleagues noted that these beliefs have the potential to be central to one's identity, negatively biased, inaccurate, and rigid. So when you take them together, we consider these false or limiting beliefs to be negative, potentially difficult to change, and then somehow preventing us from achieving our goals or being as happy as we could be.

If we just start from that place that we have these thoughts, do we have these stories that we've made up about how the world works or we have these stories made up about what a 50 year old person can do or what somebody in my position can expect from reaching out to others for connection or what kind of job somebody that is in my shoes can get.

So when we start right there, then that becomes part of our identity, central to our identity. And so if we are trying to move away from this story or these limiting, self-limiting beliefs then we're going to be fighting the path of least resistance because it's going to seem like we're doing something that doesn't seem natural because it's not the story that we have told ourselves for our entire lives. So she said, “A good first step to understanding where and how false beliefs develop is by taking a look at them through a systematic framework.” And one such framework that is commonly employed throughout psychology and sociology is Rokeach, which was from 1968, but their hierarchical system of beliefs, according to this framework, an individual's inventory of beliefs can be structured according to five levels, depending on their importance and the most central forms of belief referred to as type A beliefs are those that we consider unchallengeable. These are just absolute common sense. For instance, it's the average person knows and will not question who their family members are or where they live. So I know who my kids are, I know who my wife is. So that is a type A belief. It might seem silly, but we're trying to set up a framework and I think it'll make sense when we get down to the next one, the type B beliefs. But if we start with type A beliefs that are, again, unchallengeable, common sense, in contrast, type E beliefs, which then are furthest down the pecking order or the most peripheral belief. Then those are largely matters of taste or opinion that are not strongly tied to the rest of your belief system. So they're also more likely to be subject to change. So she says, “Examples of such type E beliefs include your preferred brand of toilet paper or whether or not you enjoy broccoli.”

And what I think is really interesting is, even right there, I talk so much about the world of emotional immaturity or narcissistic traits and tendencies, or do you want control or love in an adult relationship? And so what I do think, we'll just get a note for later, maybe we'll throw this over on the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast at some point, but it's fascinating because even those type E beliefs, if you are incredibly emotionally immature or if you need control to feel like you have a sense of purpose, then you probably are saying, but I do know what the correct brand of toilet paper is because obviously it's 2-ply and it's Charmin. That's a fact.

But in reality, if you can't even agree that there are possibilities of these peripheral beliefs that are different from yours, and we're talking about the world of emotional immaturity. So let's talk about then what are type B and type C beliefs. So type B, Rokeach said primitive type B beliefs, “Type B beliefs, sometimes known as primitive beliefs or core beliefs, are typically core beliefs about ourselves that others' opinions can neither confirm, nor deny, so these beliefs often characterize our self-image and our self-esteem. They may also lie below the level of our awareness, and unconsciously they dictate our decision making.”

So the examples of such beliefs are, I am a funny person, nobody likes me, I am capable of overcoming challenges or I deserve the bad things that happen to me. And beliefs like these primitive, these type B beliefs, these are particularly vulnerable to being shaped during our early development and primarily by messages that we receive from our parents and our caregivers about our self worth, our potential, and our deservingness of unconditional love. And importantly, researchers believe that because type B beliefs tend to constitute these global judgments about who we are and what we're capable of achieving, then they can start to trickle down to affect our beliefs relevant to different situations that we might be facing. For example, they give the example of, imagine a single woman they named her Haley, who is considering approaching an attractive man in a bar. So Haley often expresses how badly she wishes to meet a romantic partner, so her friends are by her side, they're eagerly encouraging her to walk over and introduce herself. Haley, however, is hesitant. And she expresses concern that her appearance doesn't compare to the other women in the bar. Her friends are incredulous. They assure her that she looks beautiful and amazing, but still Haley cannot shake the feeling that she will be rejected based on her looks. So unbeknownst to Haley, there is a primitive, or type B belief, underlying her present belief that her looks are not up to par, because growing up her parents would often make comparisons between her and her sister.

So in their comparisons, often made in the presence of friends and family, Haley was always told she's the brains and her sister was the beauty. So while these comparisons were never intended to even be malicious, they shaped Haley's beliefs about her self image leading to her current predicament and the self-limiting belief that she is not attractive enough to approach the person in the bar.

That's an example of how the messages that are reinforced to us as children may shape our beliefs. But it's not hard to imagine how insecure attachments, or the experience of neglect or abuse during childhood, that may have these long lasting, or Nicole says “devastating effects” on our primitive beliefs.

So these effects, they may subsequently drive a host of false and self-limiting beliefs in various situations. Additionally, because these primitive type B beliefs are so central to our belief, second only to beliefs about our name and where we live. Again, those are those type A beliefs. Then they can be incredibly challenging to surface and shake without professional or psychological support. So let me stick around here in these type B beliefs because I think that it's really funny if we go back to the examples they give of, I am a funny person. So if I was continually validated as a kid for cracking jokes and making fun of things, then I may grow up feeling like I am a pretty funny person. And so then what do I want? I want people to validate this version of me that I feel is part of my core sense of self. My core self image is I'm hilarious. So if people then are not seeing me as funny or not seeing me as hilarious, then what am I going to do? I'm going to beat myself up. I'm going to feel like what's wrong with me?

So here's what one of the challenges is, let's say that I really do feel like part of my self image or my self-esteem is that I am funny because I was told that I was funny. Maybe I was the funny one when a sibling of mine was the smart one and another one was the handsome one, but I was the funny one. Now, let's say that I show up in the world, and quite frankly, I'm not very funny. So then if people are not laughing and they don't think that I'm hilarious and that is part of my self image and that's how I derive my self-esteem, then you can see how I have no psychological flexibility. I am funny, and if you don't think I'm funny, then again, something's wrong with me because that's the message I've been told my entire life.

I'm hilarious. I'm funny. So that would be part of this type B belief or self-limiting belief. I may say, okay, I would really like to be smart. I would really like to study. I would like to go to med school, but I'm the funny one. And I guess I can go in there and crack a few jokes, see how I do. But that's where we operate from our core sense of self. And man, she gives the example that breaks my heart of the, if we start with the, nobody likes me, or the I deserve the bad things that happen to me, that's where we start from. That's where we are operating from. I remember on a podcast that I had with Sam Tillmans quite a while ago, Sam said, “The strongest force in the human personality is to act in alignment with how you see yourself.”

So however you identify yourself, you're going to find a way back to your home base. If you believe, if you have this core self-image or self-belief that you are not enough or that nobody likes you, you may get to a point where you're on a roll and all of a sudden you find that you are finding a connection with others, but you will eventually find your way back in alignment with how you see yourself. If that type B, if that core belief, that self-limiting belief is that nobody likes me or I deserve the bad things that happen to me or I'm not enough, then even when you're starting to gain some traction, when you let your foot off the gas, that path of least resistance goes back to that view of self, which is those negative, those self-limiting beliefs. I feel like it's so important to even recognize that those are just stories that my brain is telling me, and those stories happened and they developed in childhood. Let's talk now about what Rokeach says are authority or type C beliefs.

So according to this framework, type C beliefs, which are somewhat more peripheral than type B beliefs, can also trickle down to produce false and self-limiting beliefs. So type C beliefs are referred to as authority beliefs. So these are the beliefs that we accept based on their having come from a trusted authority. So examples of such authorities include scholars, business leaders, religious leaders, religious figures, people in the community, or even publications such as newspapers. So this is where we deal with the constant they, they said, who said they did? It's in print, I read it, the internet, or my religious leader told me. And they're in a position of authority or my parent, and so one would hope that the authority figures we choose can be trusted to provide us with accurate information that will serve us well in life. However, we need only turn to those around us to know that that's not the case. Nicole gives the example of, “Can you think of a friend or family member who was invested in a get rich quick scheme more because it was touted by a charismatic guru, or perhaps they cling to what you believe to be an outdated belief that they learned at school or at church.”

So these are examples of authority beliefs, and again, while more malleable than these primitive beliefs, they may trickle down to affect our beliefs in more day to day situations. So we rejoin Haley at the bar and she may now see this attractive person and she may think, I cannot go approach that person because I learned in maybe my church class or maybe I've seen on TV some show that talks about how a woman does not approach a man at a bar. That's just not the way it works. So that could be one of these type C beliefs or a type B beliefs, one of these more primitive beliefs might just be the fact that if her parents have drilled into her, hey, you're the smart one. You're the smart one. So the smart person is not necessarily gonna want to go put themselves out there. They need to sit back and wait for a man to approach them because you're not as attractive as your sister. So we start to get these limiting beliefs and unfortunately what could happen is that in that scenario, she may miss out on the love of her life because she's hesitant, because she may express concerns about her appearance, that it doesn't compare to other women in the bar. Her friends, again, they're telling her, you look amazing. But she is so afraid based on these self-limiting beliefs to put herself out there. And to her it just makes perfect sense. So she's not even open to somebody suggesting a different opinion because she's working with her core self-limiting beliefs. And again, I know this is a little bit of a silly example, but as pointed out in this article to understand the extent to which authority figures can negatively influence. Take a look at the harrowing experiences of cult survivors and their journeys of struggling to detach from harmful belief systems that have dictated to them for many, many years of their lives.

So now with a better understanding of these false or these self limiting beliefs, then there are some different therapeutic options. And so there's a couple of them that I'm not very familiar with. I'll quickly go through one called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, or R E B T. And that's been around since the fifties. And it's been targeted specifically helping people identify these negative or rational thought patterns that affect their behaviors. And I think it's worth noting because the R E B T, at the foundation of it, is what's known as this ABC model.

So using the ABC model you can track where these limiting beliefs come from. So they give another example. So they say, “Tom recently submitted a report for his boss to review. Then the following day he receives a report back via email and he notices his boss has written a lot of comments and made a lot of changes. So before looking at the feedback closely, Tom feels sad and worthless and experiences negative thoughts about his capabilities relative to his colleagues.” And in reality the feedback the adjustments made to Tom's report may honestly have a, they might be a combination of some useful, some constructive suggestions for improving his work as well as compliments. But he has no idea because these self-limiting beliefs are just so ingrained that he sees any feedback on a report and he starts to shut down. So he has prematurely succumbed to these false beliefs about his abilities without even taking a look at what has been written on the paper.

And I know, I run into that one a lot, honestly, with something as simple as the mail, man, when I get mail and if it says something, state of California franchise Tax Board or whatever, oh my goodness. I go right to that place of, sometimes when I open them up they say hey here's your annual privacy notice.

But I get that thing and I think, oh my gosh, something. It's horrible. I'm a horrible person. So let me just go through this ABC model from this REBT, abc, R E B T R E S P E C T. You had to have been thinking that, right? But rational emotive behavior therapy, R E B T. So this ABC model, so using this example from Tom's experience of receiving his report, A in the abc, A is the activating event that triggers the negative thoughts.

So in this example, the activating event was Tom receiving feedback from his boss, period. Not reading it, but just receiving the feedback. B, then becomes this false or irrational belief. There's the B that is formed following the activating events. So in this example, Tom's potentially false belief is that he is ineffective at his job.

And then C is the consequence that flows from the irrational thoughts. So in this example, the consequence is Tom's experience of sadness, worthlessness, and effectiveness. And the reason I think that they go with this abc, it's just this just immediately abc this linear situation where there's an activating event, then there is a false or rational belief that occurs. And then the consequence is Tom shuts down. So it's not very hard to see how we can become the authors. And I love this quote that she uses, “The authors of our own misery. When activating events trigger false or self-limiting beliefs unnecessarily.”

And I know it can be scary to then step outside of this because this is the story that we've told ourselves that when I get some paper that has feedback on it, that it's going to be negative and that is just at my core. So it takes a lot of work to be even aware of that, to then be able to move past these self-limiting beliefs. I'll tell you as a therapist this is where I started looking at the concepts of acceptance and commitment therapy. So I feel like we can say, hey, that's just an automatic negative thought. That's just your stinking thinking. And instead of thinking, okay, that might have some negative feedback, you need to look at it like, or it might say, hey, that's a job well done. And that might feel good in the moment, but then the next time that you're handed a paper that has marking all over it, it's going to be hard for you not to just have this visceral or gut reaction. So I like starting with a place of acceptance. So when you have that immediate belief, I like understanding that it's this self-limiting belief that it comes, this primitive, this core belief is coming from our childhood. It's coming from experiences that we had, our childhood programming. So we're going to accept. So when I get a paper, let's say that I grew up in every single paper that I ever got, said, great job. A hundred percent, 105%. You're so smart. Top of the class. Then if I get something back, I'm going to say, oh yeah, there's marking on this paper.

And I could be sitting right beside somebody that every time that they got papers back, it was marked up so much with the corrections that they, the teacher would run out of ink and would have to jump onto a second pen just to mark that thing up. So when they would get the paper back, their immediate thought is, oh gosh, I'm gonna get fired. You know what's wrong with me? So two people can have these completely different experiences based on these internal beliefs or the stories that their brain is telling them to try to make sense of a situation. So what I think is next is let's talk about neuroplasticity and the fact that we often feel like, well, those are my self-limiting beliefs, and I am over the age of, fill in the blank, 5, 12, 25, whatever the latest version of your brain is all set and cement. Because that's actually not true data. We're now learning more and more about the neuroplasticity of the brain. I had Mike Twohig on last week who is, what an interview, that episode is done just phenomenally well. So if you have not listened to last week's episode with Dr. Mike Twohig, it is honestly incredible, and I took some quotes out of the transcript.

So we were talking about neuroplasticity, and so Mike's talking about the concepts around acceptance and commitment therapy. So he says, I will 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 things. So if you change the way you live, you will start to change the way you feel. And if you could change the way you feel, you'll probably change the way you live. So in ACT, he says that with the clients he works with, this 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 he said, I say this to clients a lot, that there are a lot of things that I really care about and a lot of things that I work hard on that don't feel good. He said, for example, “Parenting a teen doesn't feel fun, but it's meaningful. It's important, but it's not like, oh my gosh, that's great all the time.”

Or he said even the same thing like writing a paper, it's not the same as snowboarding. So he said, but I like the feeling and the importance of it. So he said rules, and this is what I think is so important and what I think makes so much sense here when we're talking about these limiting beliefs. He said rules, like when you, we were talking about socially compliant goals. And again, in acceptance and commitment therapy, a socially compliant goal is something that you feel like you have to do or you'll let somebody else down. So a socially compliant goal. And he said, socially compliant goals and rules are really interesting things. And he said, this is a good point for a professional or a non-professional. And he said an interesting thing about humans is that we decide the way the world works. And I think this is what we're talking about these self-limiting beliefs. He said, “We decide the way the world works and then we follow that. And the truth is,” he said, “It's never fully accurate.” He said, “It's close to the way that the world works or it could be totally far off.” But he said the interesting thing about human beings is that they will make this rule about what we are supposed to do. And now we're identifying that those rules could have been formed in childhood, they could have been informed by authority figures, and then we just keep following it. And he said, and a lot of research has said it can be really hard to help people do things differently. He said it's hard to create variability and it's hard to change behavior. So if somebody has a problem, for example, that they have a way of living that isn't very functional, he said some of that is that they've determined that this is how it works and this is the way that they have been acting. And they've been doing the same thing for maybe 20 or 30 years. So part of the job as a therapist, Mike talked about, is to create flexibility in these different behavior patterns.

And that can be tricky because then we get into this experience of avoidance and he said, humans work so much, they spend a lot of time working to feel a certain way. And he said, and that's what I think is in contrast with doing things that are important. And I love this, Mike said that one of the lines that he likes to say is, he said, “I think healthy, happy people are probably spending 80% of their day doing things that are important to them.” He said, “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 so he said, he often says to his clients what was meaningful for you? And a lot of times they don't have a lot. They said their day was all about dodging anxiety and getting away from things that they're afraid of. So I want to turn to the book. It's “ADHD 2.0” . It's by Dr. Hollowell and Ratey. And this one has been an incredible book, whether you have ADHD or not, if you do, or somebody in your life has it, please read this. And I'm going to pull from a concept, a couple of pages where he is talking about, the authors are talking about the brain.

So he says, “For example, it is because of epigenetics that you may have been born with genes that predispose you to depression, but because of loving parents and a nurturing school system, those genes never get expressed.” I love this idea of getting expressed. He said, “You may go through life never suffering from depression, even though you carry the genes that might have led you there. Now, on the other hand, if you had unloving parents and if you never received nurturing and positive connections, or worse, if you suffered trauma and abuse, then you also inherited the genes that predispose you to depression or other pathology. And now those genes are far more likely to get expressed. So regardless of the trait or the condition, the disorder, the disease, nature versus nurture always comes down to.” What a concept. So we're already looking at these self-limiting beliefs. We're already looking at the way that they've developed from our childhood, and these become stories that we tell ourselves, this is the way we make sense of the world, and we just do it over and over again.

And so we have these different traits, but based on these belief systems that we have, some of these things are going to be expressed and some might not. But again, regardless of the trait, the condition, the disorder, the disease, nature versus nurture always comes down to both. Good nurture can dramatically reduce the influence of bad nature or bad genes.

But he said, “Unfortunately, the result is also true. Bad nurture, like cold or distant parents, ongoing conflict, or outright trauma while growing up can suppress good nature or good genes. So the science of epigenetics has helped prove that the brain's wondrous ability to change over the course of your lifetime.” not up until you're 12 or 18 or 25, but up until your lifetime, so called neuroplasticity, this is one of the major discoveries in neuroscience in the past generation. So people used to believe that the brain was more or less set by a certain age, and he even said, “Let's say 30.” And after that your dye was cast, the brain was set. But it this, he says, “This fixed brain notion begat a host of home spun cliches and conventional wisdom to the effect that you simply cannot teach an old dog or even a middle aged dog, new tricks. That from the age 30,” he says, “the leopard does not change at spots that you are who you are and you better get used to it because no amount of therapy or life experience or other magic can make a significant dent in the architecture of your brain or your personality, except by changing it for the worst through disease or stroke, cancer, poisons, alcohol, drugs, or dementia. But that is wrong.” It's absolutely wrong. It. Dr. Hallowell and Ratey say very confidently, “As with much homespun wisdom regarding the mind,” so I'm going to say pop psychology cliches, you name it, “we now know different.” So thanks to the work of many neuroscientists, we know that what you do, who you love, where you live, what you eat, how much you move, what kind of stress you experience, if you have a pet, whether you laugh a lot, and all those and a zillion more bits of experience, constantly change who you are in subtle ways.

Your brain responds to all of these cues in turn, so most people don't realize what fantastically great news this is, he says, “We can change who we are and where we're headed. It's not easy, but it can be done and it can be done at any age. You are never too old to find a new life, a new love, or a better day. Our brains present us with the opportunity day in and day out. We just have to unwrap this gift.” And again, talking about ADHD in particular, he says, the science of the last 30 years also explains in the least part, the tension and the contradictions that lie at the core of things like adhd, I mean, explains what's going on in the brain that leads to creativity, entrepreneurialism and dynamism, but also at the same time, irrational, brooding, worrying, ruminating or falling prey to self-destructive addictions and compulsions.

So our brain is just this incredible, magical, wonderful, neuroplastic thing that we can continue to develop, we can continue to change, but it does take time. And I think that's the part where people don't want that to happen. So I think it's so important to recognize these self-limiting beliefs and know that these are just stories that our brain is telling us and it's ways that our brain is trying to make sense of things, make sense of, I wanted to say, make sense of things that don't make sense, but the sense is what you make of it.

And I'll finish this up with one more quote that I think is really powerful, and I've read this one on a couple of different things. Rick Hansen, in the book “Buddha Brain” says, again, “Much as your body is built from the foods you eat, your mind is built from the experiences that you have. So the flow of experience gradually sculpts your brain thus shaping your mind, and some of the results can be explicitly recalled like this is what I did last summer, or this is how I felt when I was in love. And then most of the shaping of your mind remains forever unconscious. And this is called implicit memory, and it includes your expectations, your models of relationships, your emotional tendencies, your general outlook. Implicit memory establishes the interior landscape of your mind or what it feels like to be you based on the slow accumulating residue of lived experience.” That's the part that doesn't sound so exciting, that it is the slow accumulating residue of lived experience that changes the interior landscape of your mind or what you feel like, what it feels like to be you.

But he goes on to say, “Here's the problem, your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences.” He likes to say that the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. So consequently, even when positive experiences outnumber the negative ones, the pile of negative implicit memories grows faster. And then the background feeling of what it feels like to be you starts to be undeservedly glum and pessimistic. The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences when they happen because they happen, but it's to foster positive experiences, in particular take them in so they start to become a permanent part of what it feels like to be you.

So put all these pieces together. You have these self-limiting beliefs. Often they are negative beliefs. I had this limited belief, and it may seem insignificant or inconsequential, but it was important to me that I had spent 20, 25 years with what it felt like to be me with somebody that just ran and ran and ran and solved problems, and figured things out, and listened to audiobooks and just felt, and was, a runner.

And then I get hurt and I spend this time and I'm working hard to shift the interior landscape of what it feels like to be me. And even coming to the point of acceptance that I may never quite be the runner that I was and was starting to just settle in with that, but oh my goodness, just even doing this simple half marathon just uncorked something back to what it feels like to be me. And I recognize now that is just an amazing way that the brain works. That just having somebody else challenge one of these limiting self-beliefs, allowed me to just challenge it myself and say man, what if I just pushed through and then it wasn't as scary as I thought it was.

So I think the challenge might be, I would love for you to take a look at what those limiting beliefs are. If you had a parent that worked the same job forever, then maybe you feel like if I wanted to change careers, that wouldn't work. Or if you grew up in a home where the dad didn't, wasn't vulnerable, didn't show emotion, didn't get up and play with the kids, then that might be a belief that you have or a story that your brain is just hooked to that that's not what you do. Or if you grew up in a home, again, I'm going all in on the men as a guy myself, where you didn't express emotion, you didn't tell your wife you love her, you didn't try to be spontaneous or plan date nights, or if you didn't see taken ownership or accountability of things modeled, if you didn't see empathy modeled, well, then that can make sense is why you feel like that isn't the way the world works. But it's just a limiting belief. Do you want growth? Do you want change? It can be scary, but just like this experience with this half marathon, it didn't take a whole lot to break through that ceiling of limiting self belief.

And at this point now, I literally feel like that whole sky's the limit. So I hope that you can maybe just challenge your own limited beliefs. What are those stories that you feel are the stories that this is just the way the world works and even just the beginning, the starting down this process of neuroplasticity or changing that interior landscape of your mind or what it feels like to be you?

It really does just start simply by just being aware, starting to think, starting to dream, starting to just envision what change could look like. And then slowly but surely you'll start to look for more and more areas where you can change and then what that can feel like to be you can be a completely different version of even the person that you were earlier today.

I'd love to hear your feedback, questions, and comments. Head over onto social media and you can comment on whatever the post is that goes up with this. And thank you so much for spending time here on the Virtual Couch. Don't forget to check out Waking Up to Narcissism. That one again, not just all about, this is a narcissist, but we talk a lot about emotional immaturity, how to become more emotionally mature, how to unhook from unproductive conversations and relationships. And there's just a whole lot more that is coming out and I'm grateful for the support of all those who continue to tune in. Taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented, the also now on TikTok, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's wonderful”.

Have an amazing week and we will see you next time on the Virtual Couch

Tony is the interviewee on Michaela Renee Johnson's "Be You Find Happy" podcast. From the show notes on Michaela's episode, "Ha, got your attention. If you're asking yourself that you're probably not, but you might be in a relationship with someone who is "less emotionally mature." It seems narcissism is on the rise but is it? More and more people are waking up to toxic relationships no doubt and leaving one of these relationships in the words of Doctor Ramani is like "hugging a porcupine, you've got to do it carefully."

In this episode, you'll get to meet Tony Overbay, a marriage and family therapist who helps couples and families who are Waking Up To Narcissism (podcast) and the Virtual Couch (podcast). You'll walk away with insights and tangible tips on how to move forward in this."

If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs. 

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

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting 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=bSWcEQ


#1- “When a healthy, emotionally mature person like you in this scenario is now able to do, and be, and grow, and flourish, guess who now can also give their kid a secure attachment and external validation? It's the healthy parent.” -Tony

#2- “It's really interesting to see how people think they're doing something for the kids, or they think they're doing something for the right reasons. And maybe that's the necessary reason, but there's always another option.” -Michaela

#3- “I've come to realize when people do extract themselves out of these relationships, they flourish. You're talking about that loss of sense of self, and it's after you deal with the loss of time, right? Because that's a big thing. And sense of self, that's a big thing. Then you start to see them doing amazing things that were probably hopes and dreams that they'd had for years that they didn't allow themselves space to do at all. Or, they weren't allowed space because they were threatened or you know, et cetera.”  -Michaela

#4- “It's normal to find this codependency and this enmeshment. But then when we start going through life and we start having jobs, and kids, and opportunities, and loss, and growth, now all of a sudden, of course two people are going to start to have two different experiences. And so in an emotionally mature relationship, they're going to both be able to express them and explore those emotions. That is going to be where growth will occur.” -Tony

#5- “‘What is the intention?’ It's a question that I have to ask myself frequently while migrating through various different relationships because I feel like sometimes it's this interesting juxtaposition of trying to allow myself the freedom of expression and feeling that I'm having, and not gaslighting my own emotions.” -Michaela 

#6- “I spent 12 years of my life fixing myself to fit into a mold that was never good enough. That was my story. And I allowed it. Why? And then I think, okay, in what ways do I need to ‘unself’ help, but in what ways do I need to continue to self-help to grow from this experience?” -Michaela 

#7- “I feel like we can all take ownership of ways or places that we’re emotionally immature. And that's what I love about the highly sensitive person or the empath who finds themselves in this trauma bond or this, they call it,  human magnet syndrome with a narcissist or a severely emotionally immature person. The nice person almost inevitably thinks, wait a minute, am I the narcissist? My number one rule is no. Because you literally asked yourself the question which means you're not.” -Tony

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