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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

Transcript

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.

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