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. 

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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. 

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Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

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. 

Alexa (Overbay) Lovell survived a near-fatal accident a little over one year ago. She dives into the details of what the past year has been like, including recovery setbacks, unrealistic expectations, continued frustrations, the reality of potential addiction to pain medications, what the future looks like regarding having children, and much more. 

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

Zlatko "Z" Bijelic is an entrepreneur, podcaster, app developer, dog dad, former college soccer player, and foodie. He has now journaled daily for over a year and is also a highly sought-after business coach and consultant. Simply put, while Z may appear like somebody who easily takes's life's lemons and makes them into lemonade, he has been through some really high ups, and really down downs in his life, but he continues to take what life gives him and uses it to change and innovate. 

You can learn more about Z at www.twitter.com/zbijelic

www.linkedin.com/in/zbijelic www.zlatkobijelic.com

And please sign up for Zlatko's newsletter at https://zlatkobijelic.com/newsletter

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

Tony welcomes Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife back to The Virtual Couch for the 5th time! They discuss a variety of topics, including ADHD, the challenge of helping couples envision a version of a relationship they haven't seen modeled or experienced, narcissism and emotional immaturity, and how to help a spouse "lean in" when they see their partner begin to show up differently in a relationship where the spouse had previously felt unseen. They explore Emotionally Focused Therapy, the differentiation models of couples therapy, and the role of self-confrontation not only for their clients but also in their own lives and relationships. 

Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. She focuses primarily on teaching couples and individuals how to strengthen their relationships, overcome relational and sexual roadblocks, and increase their capacity for intimacy, love, and sexual expression. You can learn more about Jennifer at https://www.finlayson-fife.com/, where she offers online courses and her subscription-based podcast “Room For Two.” 

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. Check out a trailer for the podcast here https://youtu.be/s7K8dqJ0uD0 and 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 Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Transcript

Tony: Are you okay if I'm very, if we're very vulnerable about the fact that you were admitting that you aren't quite sure what we're talking about today? Okay. No, that's good. So, welcome Jennifer. I think this is maybe your fifth time on the couch. The Virtual Couch. So welcome back. I wonder as well, and I was even gonna, when I was thinking about the things, I would just love to know if you have thoughts on, and you may not, but ADHD in relationships. And I'm very open about my adhd. And that's taken me down this path of where I wonder if having 900 tabs open does anything as far as the bandwidth of a podcast. I dunno. Do you, do you have much experience with ADHD in relationships in coaching or therapy?

Jennifer: Yeah, actually because everybody in my family has a little bit. 

Tony: Okay. 

Jennifer: Although, I don't know if I think of myself as an expert on it though. Certainly a topic I'd be happy to talk about.

Tony: I just started doing a little bit of research on it because I notice it more, the more that I do a little parallel processing and understanding what mine looks like in my relationship because there's rejection sensitivity and there's impulsivity in some of those things that can play a role. So, all right. Maybe that's our sixth episode, I think. I think it will be good. 

Jennifer: Yeah. A lot of ADHD people marry someone who's more organized and you know, or more creative, innovative people are, they're that sort of expansive and then they kind of marry someone. That's the structure. And so then there's that tension that can get played out even though they both kind of wanted a little bit of what the other had, but it can play out in conflict

Tony: Because first of all, my first thought was, okay, I have seen this organization my wife has and it does look fascinating. I mean, but there was a book by Hallowell and Ratey called “ADHD 2.0” that I now refer to as scripture. It's really, it's incredible. But there's one part where I will say this and then we can move on. But they lay out this concept where apparently, non-ADHD people, there’s almost these switches where when they're doing, their thinking switch is also. And when the ADHD person is doing their thinking switch is still going thinking, thinking a hundred percent. And that one, so then when I see something more novel, then I'm gonna go do that. And then when somebody says, well, why don't you finish it? And that one resonated to me so much because, well, of course I'm gonna go do something else if it's really cool. But then if my wife's saying, well, why don't you finish what you were doing, then I don't have a good answer for that. Well, because I didn't, because something else. But then being aware of that's been nice because then I have to build in that pause.

Jennifer: Yeah it's an interesting concept. I, you know, anyway, I'll say this and then we can move on to what we hired. I have a sister-in-law, we used to work together back when I was working for my brother's company. The two of us were working for him in the summer between school semesters and so on. And she's just one of these people that's organized, on top of things,  she just, she just has a good, and so we would be doing parallel things, the exact same thing, which was lots of just clerical, like stamping and organizing and she was just so much faster at it than me. And I'd be like, just trying so hard to keep up and I would have to make my mind stay on the activity because my mind would go to other things, which is a part of who I am, right? I was, my mind was always like figuring out ideas and things, but it would slow me down. And so I'd be like, what is the matter with me? Why is she able to be so efficient? So on task at all times? It's just not really the way my brain works. 

Tony: Yeah. But I like it because that would kind of speak to even almost this spectrum concept because if you know you're a little bit off and if I'm just, I need to make jokes, I need to go get water, I need to find something else to do and come back, I'll do, and then they also, my family are much more.

Jennifer: I look like the organized one.

Tony: You do? Okay. How fun is that right? 

Jennifer: Well I just look like the one who's more on task anyway. And so anyway, it's interesting because I love a lot of people that are not particularly orderly in their way of thinking and doing things. There's a lot of gifts that come with it, and then things that are there. My son right now is on his way, flying here, but he forgot his wallet, didn’t remember his passport. I don't wanna talk about him, but it's a little bit like, wow. You know, that's not easy. So, yeah. 

Tony: That's great. Okay. Well, okay, I think we even started with this too, was I love your honesty about not being 100% sure what we were gonna talk about today. And then I love it because I had emailed Christie a month ago and said, I want to talk about this. And I kind of forgot about that, which maybe is part of this ADHD thing we're talking about. And so then I felt like, oh, I need to let her know. So I sent some stuff over this morning. So I do have some thoughts, but staying on this note a little bit too, I feel like maybe that the way that ADHD does show up is it does bring a lot of discomfort and I really have had to recognize and lately I'm on this kick on the Virtual Couch talking about what we do with our discomfort and, so I think that at times I want to then quickly turn to get that dopamine hit of novelty instead of sitting with feelings of discomfort. And then I'm watching that in my couple's situations. Some, even if they're using a really healthy framework to communicate, it's still gonna be uncomfortable. And then I feel like an ADHD person is really, really good at distracting or saying, but you don't understand to get outta that discomfort because by nature that's what we do. Because if we're doing something and that thinking switch keeps coming up, we're used to following that. So, I don’t know. 

Jennifer: Yeah. Can I just give another idea about that? Human beings are always wrestling with anxiety and our ability to stay present and be living life within the reality of life. So that's a human challenge. People that are more impulsive or ADHD are gonna bounce quickly to a new idea. They bounce away, perhaps. And they move into activity. But you know, somebody who's more organized or routinized may well handle it by moving into routine, by moving into, so that it's not necessarily more that ADHD people are less able to be present. So what I mean is that the mind is organizing and managing stress in the ways that it knows how. But the other thing I would say is some people are very, very anxious and are really struggling with self-regulation, and it looks more like ADHD than it is. And so there may be an ADHD element there, but it might be more of an anxiety response getting handled through distraction through, high, what's the word? Frenetic energy. But that's more about anxiety.

Tony:  It can be. Well, okay. And while I'm just talking, I'm giving some theories here, but the book also has a great chapter on medication, this “ADHD 2.0”. And it does say that the ADHD medication when administered properly is far more, I don't know, efficacious than other medications. And it says that how it can, it's the only thing that can change somebody's life within an hour. But then if the wrong person takes it and I think if somebody with anxiety takes it, it amps that anxiety. And so I will have people tell me, oh, I'm ADHD as well. But they say, but every time I take medication I just get really jittery or anxious. And when I took medication I felt hope. I mean it is all of the sudden everything came into place. That's a good diagnostic. 

Jennifer: Yeah. Right. It’s the primary factor. Anxiety. Also, ADHD really shows prior to age 12, when it's really just adhd. So it's a fundamental feature. So this same son, you know, it's my child on the autism spectrum, that was a co-occurring reality. And yes, when he started taking it, it's like his whole life changed. It was, you know, I became an addict to his medication because when he was taking it, he was able to self-regulate. He was much more capable socially. He was kinder to his sibling, like it just helped him get a handle on something and he didn't, we sometimes wanted to give him medication holidays because we worried a little bit about a younger person taking medication. He never wanted to take them. He's like, everybody gets upset with me when I'm not taking it. And you know, his ability to be social would go up. So it was a definite indicator that, I mean, maybe he felt some anxiety because of adhd, but yes, that was not the primary issue. 

Tony: No, I love that too because, man, look, we're now the, I'm gonna get to be able to put ADHD in the title with you and I'm so excited. No, I'm giddy about it, Jennifer. I am. But I had this situation where after I was, I had been on my medication and I didn't get my diagnosis till 46, so a few years ago. And, a year or two year into it, I'm supposed to go get a urine test to show that I'm, I don't know that that's what you do after a year, but I was so killing it at work and everything, and clients and writing a book and the podcast, and I didn't wanna take the time and finally they were gonna cut me off. And this is a funny thing I've learned since, is that there's two time frames with adhd. It's either now or later. So I was gonna do it later, and then later became now when they were gonna cut off my supply. Yeah. But, I think the story is, this relieved my anxiety. I would take it in the morning while I went and did the urine test later in the day. And then I get the call maybe a day or two later and they said, we need you to come in. And I thought, oh no, they found, I must have some sort of something I'm gonna die from in my urine. And I went in there and she said, hey, so why is there no methyl phenyl date? The ADHD medication, Ritalin, why is that not in your urine? And I didn't understand, and I was, I don't know I just, I take it and then I realized, I said, oh, wait a minute, you, so you think I'm selling it to middle school kids? Because it wasn't in the urine. And then, and so then I said, oh no, the last time I took it, I think it was maybe one o'clock that afternoon. And then, and I have the immediate release. So then I had metabolized it cause I drink a lot of water and yeah. And actually that made me feel good because it was something that was outta my system by the evening. And at that point I felt like, okay, you know, this is, this is really helpful. 

Jennifer: Yeah, it's great. 

Tony: But adhd, my go-to is I make jokes about everything internally. So when I really did say you think I'm selling it to middle school kids, and that was not funny to say to a psychiatrist apparently, because they didn't enjoy that joke at all. And I thought it was hilarious. But you know, you live and you learn a little bit, you know? So one thing that I was curious to get your take on, so I would love to know what you either tell people or what your idea of the ideal relationship is. And the tiny bit of backstory is that when I talk to people, and I think I'm so clever when I say, I laid out from the womb till the wedding. And I just said that to Christie and I said, man, I'm trademarking that because I'd never put it that way before. But like, then I can talk about abandonment and attachment issues in our childhood and then we show up in relationships and we're trying to figure out how do I show up so that this person will like me because I don't want to be alone. And then I always say we then we're enmeshed and codependent and then we go through life and we have experiences and. Say, this is how I feel, and this is how I feel. And if we're immature, then we jump back into enmeshment like, oh, I can't believe you think that. And then we're afraid of abandonment, so we jump back in. And so then I'm trying to tell people, all right, the goal is differentiated and interdependent and there's gonna be invalidation and all those things. But then at that point, I realize I sound like the, like a peanuts adult character, where I think, think that people are like, wa wa what are you talking about? And I don't know why it took me so long, Jennifer. Maybe it's because I felt like I was getting validation by people nodding their heads and, oh, I want that. But then I realized, oh, they don't even know what I'm talking about. And so do you, how do you, or do you lay out the, here's where we're headed?

Jennifer: I do a little bit, sometimes through role play or role modeling. What differentiate sounds like, and people can recognize it almost immediately as mature dealing with an issue, but not reactive or punitive or manipulative, but like anchored and centered. And so, you know, I do think it's sometimes the quickest way to give people a picture of it. But it's very conceptual for a lot of people. That there's something, this is really like, what I actually think is that this is something you feel your way towards. It's something you live your way towards, and then when you put language to it, it sounds interdependent and self-regulated. You use those words, but it's very hard to describe in words, especially because most people do not experience it. And so you're trying to use language that we don't have a lot of in our culture, in society. Because most of us are pretty immature, and so most of us are living pretty reactively in our relationships, so we know those words well, and so it, it's like trying to give people a sense of something to reach towards. And sometimes the best way to do it actually is to help people see what they're actually doing that is undermining the friendship because if they can stop doing it, what happens is their brain then has to be at a higher level. If they won't allow themselves to do the indulgent behavior, that's how people start to feel what more mature feels like.

Like if I'm not gonna manipulate my wife, but I really would like to have sex with her, maybe I need to just be more honest. But that feels scary. But yes, if I'm not gonna be manipulative and deceptive and I do really desire a sexual relationship, then maybe I need to tolerate the exposure of speaking more honestly. Well then they start to, well, you know, it doesn't mean that the partner's just gonna be like, oh, thank you so much for being honest. They may push in the opposite direction to get you back, but people start to feel better when they're functioning at a higher level. They start to acknowledge that something there feels more solid, more respect worthy. And at a minimum they start to respect themselves more. And you know, they're actually more of a force to be reckoned with in their marriage than when they were in their more petulant or reactive state. So I like your question because it's often like, how do you show people what we're talking about? But I find the most helpful thing is to help people see what they're doing and how it's interfering with their own goals.

Tony: Yeah. Right. Okay. And I like what you're saying, and it's funny because I wanted to make the joke and now that we've established adhd, I wanted to say at some point people are listening right now and hearing the wa wa wa from both of us, that's fine. Because that is okay. But I also feel like, and then if someone, when you hit on that discomfort for someone, if I'm gonna go back to the ADHD or the rejection sensitivity is, man, do you watch that? Do you see that person? Not necessarily just an ADHD person, but, shut down. Or do you see that person try to queue up their yeah, buts?  I mean, when are you watching that happen as well?

Jennifer: Give me a little more of an example. 

Tony: So, I feel like I love everything you're saying. And then I'm, I think maybe this is the part where now having been doing couples therapy for so long, I start thinking, I don't want to call it cynically, but the worst case scenario of what happens with that, so when I get people into that place of where, no, it's okay and you're gonna feel uncomfortable and let me show you what, what that looks like, that then when that person now is met with having to really express themselves, that I just, I watch that reactivity or I watch that, that hesitancy or hesitation and then I think that can be a hard thing to get somebody to move through.

Jennifer: It is, it is hard, but I would say when I'm being my most helpful, I'm not trying to get people to do it. I'm trying to help people see how they're capitulating to their fear, how they're, how they're moving into a guarded or deceptive position, and it becomes their own courage or their own unhappiness with themselves that pushes them into a clearer position. Now, the person on the other side may then get reactive or may want to push away from it, but then I would go to that person and help them see how they're handling themselves in the face. You know, you say you wanna know your partner, but then when he starts to talk straight to you, you punish him for that. So I'm just helping them see what they're doing, because we're so good at lying to ourselves. All of us, we're good at telling ourselves the story that we like about ourselves. Not the one that accounts most data. And so when someone is speaking honestly to you, or when a therapist or coach is being helpful, they're showing you something that you tend to stay blind to and giving you your mind the opportunity to deal with that truth better. And that's what helps people get stronger is their minds accommodate more truth about themselves.

Tony: I love your Room For Two podcasts. I do. I listen to that often, and then I find myself becoming a little, pulling some Jennifer cards out in my own sessions. Of course, I take credit for them, you know, a lot. And, even my, I always say it but I feel like that it's no scarcity mentality in mental health is what I tell, what I tell myself at least. But I, but I think you've said some things, like at one point, I think you've said something like, we put a version of ourselves out and we say, hey, validate this. And then the person is saying but what if I can't? Then it's, how dare you? But so I really like having that opportunity to say, okay, well this is some information and, yeah, it's an opportunity to self confront, but that doesn't mean the person absolutely has to. And I find that, yeah, when you frame it in a certain way, I feel like then it's almost a welcoming opportunity. Okay, I'll take a look at that. And maybe, and that does seem to go well, more than it doesn't. Maybe it's just because people are secretly we want to, we want to grow, we want to be better, but that's, it is scary. 

Jennifer: Yeah. The psyche, it is scary. And I, you know, the psyche is pushing us to be whole. It is pushing us. I like that to accommodate more truth, but we then also have our reactive mind that's afraid of it. We're afraid to go to our shadow work, afraid to go to the dark parts of ourselves or the parts of ourselves that we haven't yet accommodated. And so when our spouse is the messenger, which they often are because they see us better than we see ourselves. You know, we try to take them down rather than deal with our darker selves. And that's marriage. I mean, that's really what marriage is. So often the healthier a couple is, the less pressure it takes to accommodate more truth. The more willing they are to look at themselves and how they're impacting their partner and do something about it. Not to make the partner happy, but to be a better self in relationship to their partner.

Tony: Okay, can I ask you too, Jennifer? I do feel like I don't know if we touched on this maybe the last time we spoke, but, how we become therapists and we don't think we're doing it to fix ourselves within, maybe along the way we realize, I mean, I love that opportunity to self confront and I have found, and maybe even recently where I think I wanted more interaction with my son and he's 19, and so then he threw out this offer to go play golf and I immediately reacted with a pause. And I, thank goodness, I did a little, I was able to get a do-over and was very present. But, you know, my wife then I had a good conversation about it and I loved it because she was able to say, hey, here's what that looked like. And I feel like, yeah, when you practice this and there's safety and we're not gonna be perfect at it, I was really grateful that she was able to point out a couple of things that, you know, I, and I wanted to immediately defend my ego and say, oh no, I, you know, I've read this book and masculine in the relationship, and I asked for a do-over and I was back, and that's a good thing. And I was like saying, oh, that sounds good to alleviate my discomfort. But instead, let me hear what it was like. And she had a few extra details that I think really helped with everything from body language to tone that I wasn't even aware of or I didn't want to think. Are you finding yourself doing the same thing in your own relationship or, because I imagine a lot of people feel like, well you, you must already have all this stuff down pat. 

Jennifer: Well, let's see. I'm just thinking about your example. I'm trying to, I don't know if I completely followed what you're saying, but I think I know what you're saying, which is that you were getting feedback from your wife that was elucidating or showing you something like she could track your mind better than you could track your mind. Okay. Yeah, and she's saying like, you were making this gesture and you were doing this, and that's a hundred percent true. Like spouses can track our minds, kids can track our minds, like my teenager was making fun of me because he's imitating me and my false modesty about something like somebody complimented me and then afterwards he's like, oh yeah, no, it's nothing. You know? And the way he's doing it, you know, is like using my words and it's super embarrassing. He's totally, he's saying, I see you, mom. You're not that modest. You know, you love it. So, but yeah, so our, our kids, our spouses see us, but you're asking about my own marriage, how does it go? Like do you have a more specific question? 

Tony: Yeah, I do actually. So I mean, have you had those opportunities that are things that you weren't necessarily aware of? And I'll tell you a more vulnerable one for me was my wife, she was sharing with me this concept around sometimes the kids aren't 100% sure or she isn't, of which version of me that she was gonna get. And thankfully I was in, I was looking for this feedback. We were talking about some things that I was sharing with her about as a couple's therapist and she said, yeah, sometimes you come in and you are really excited and happy. And in essence, I felt like she was saying, I'm making it rain, throwing out dollar bills, you know, that sort of thing. And other times I might, I might come in and I would say, man, I just feel like everybody, I'm just a paycheck and everybody's taken advantage of me. But I was so grateful to be able to say, okay, let me take a look at that and is there truth in that? And there really was. And then I was able to step back and recognize the days where I, maybe there's something else going on and then I'm coming in and I'm bringing that into the home, and I didn't like that, so I dunno. Do you have some of those? 

Jennifer: Well, yeah. No, I mean, I'm trying to think of examples, but absolutely. I mean, I guess I would say that's the thing that's been, that I'm probably the most grateful for about my husband is that he really is a kind soul, like the way that people will describe him is very kind and, not nice necessarily, do you know what I mean? He's not a nice guy. He really is a kind person and he is willing to be inconvenienced to help other people. So that is really who he is, but he's also a very honest person. So he's quite loyal and I actually think he sees me through a bit of a rose colored lens a lot of the time, which I like. I'll take it. But on the other hand, he is honest and he will be honest with me and he'll say what he really thinks and he's not saying it usually to get me to think something. He's just willing to reveal his own mind. And I guess while he can get upset sometimes or be mad, I don't have the feeling like he's trying to hurt me or trying to, that's not the agenda there. And so that's extremely helpful. It doesn't mean that when he gives me, you know, says things that are truthful that I'm, you know, I'm often like, ah, you know, I often will react with, at first, like, you know, no, you're wrong. And defensively, but the thing is he makes himself highly credible because he doesn't have an agenda to hurt me or take me down or even prove his mind to me. Most of the time it's usually about just, this is what I think, or this is what I see, or this is what I see you do.

And so that's harder to do, I do care about being honest with myself. And I care about being fair to him. I don't mean to say that I'm always being honest with myself and always being fair. Of course. Right? But I do value those things and so it matters to me to deal with what he's saying. But he also really does make it easier, which I'm really grateful for because if he were meaner about it or whatever, I could justify not looking at it, if he were more defensive or had his own kind of insecurities playing out in that, even if he was saying exactly what's true about me, it would make it easier to justify not seeing myself. And so, yeah. And you know, it goes both ways. I'll give my honest thoughts about things. You know, I do think it's why we get along is because there is a basic sense of honesty, and that makes the marriage feel freer. Well, I like what you said, couples are trying to manage each other a lot that they feel, you know, I was working with a couple yesterday and the sex is just always awkward and the interactions are often awkward, but that's because they are always pretending they really struggle to be honest. And so there's a lot of manipulation and management. When I say manipulative, I don't mean dark, mean manipulative. I mean masking, managing what's said, managing what's shown, and rather than I would like to have sex, it's more like, do you wanna have sex or what do you have in mind for tonight or whatever. And there's just this kind of constant masking of minds. So it always, there's always pretending. And then whenever you're pretending with someone, it's super awkward. There's no real intimacy. And a lot of couples do a lot of pretending because they don't tolerate more honesty in themselves or in their partner or their spouse punishes a lot if they speak honestly. So they've learned to not do it. But there's, you know, that people claim to love the truth, but the truth is hard. The truth is challenging. The truth pushes us to grow up. And like you said, we want it, but we avoid it. Yung said something like, the information we most need is hiding in the places we least want to look. And that's the kind of the realities about ourselves that scare us because they push us into growth. But yeah, if we avoid them, then they really do run our lives.

Tony: I agree. And I like that because the more I think we talk about the sitting with the uncomfortable feelings and, tell me if you agree and you don't have to agree with this at all, but I feel like we are so unused to doing that, that it isn't as scary as we think it is once we practice it. There's a researcher named, well researcher, writer, Terrence McKenna of olden days. And he used to say, “it's like jumping out into the great abyss and finding out it's a feather bed”. And I love that example because I feel like when we can sit through some of that discomfort and then I love what you're saying, find then all of a sudden, well, I do, I, when you say the psyche is pushed that way, I want growth and now I'm excited about it. 

Jennifer: I think the psyche, I mean, Yung talks about this a lot and you know, that we're striving for wholeness, that that's what our minds are trying to do, or you know, that our dreams are trying, is the psyche trying to reveal aspects of our lives ourselves are tending to not wanna deal with. And so it's kind of the psyche pushing towards wholeness. But we have another part of our brain that wants stasis, that wants control, that wants, it's the ego, right? And the ego, we need the ego, but the ego can be the enemy sometimes because the ego loves control. And yet we have so very little control. And the more we cling, the less and less control we actually have. And so we've got two pressures, but there's certainly one that's pushing us towards growth. Like, you know, a lot of times when the body is in reaction, I had a client who always was having pain and rashing and all these things, and she would blame her body like, my body's turned against me, my body doesn't want me to be happy. My body's working against me. But this, you know, she started working with a doctor that did this, was also a therapist in working with a lot of these kinds of meanings, and as she started to pay attention to her body, she saw that her body was trying to help her. Her body would go into a physical reaction when there was something going on in her relationships that was working against the best in her.

And so once she stopped blaming her body and understanding her body wanted her to thrive, well, then it really changed it because first of all, it allowed her to address things that were going on in her life. It allowed her to stop being in a combative relationship with her body that's really trying to sustain. And also allowed her to address things and change things, so her body reacts less, way less now, and even when it does, she sees it as a gift to pay attention to what's happening in our relationships. 

Tony: Oh, that, I mean, the body keeps the score, the Bessel van der Kolk. And I have to tell you as well, I don't ever get a chance to do this, but, I've had a couple of people that have reached out to me and said that you've said nice things, referred people if I'm working in the world of emotional immaturity or narcissism or that sort of thing. And I think that that's really come up a lot there where, if I'm helping people, you know, I've got these tenants where you know, no one wants to say  my partner is narcissistic, so I feel like I meet people where they're at. Because if they read material that talks about narcissism, it says don't finish the paragraph, leave. And no one, no one's gonna do that because they don't even know what that means or what that looks like. And so, yeah, so I say raise your baseline. That's self-care. Get your PhD in gaslighting. Get out of unproductive conversations, set boundaries and know that boundary is a challenge to the emotionally immature. And then I talk about, you know, nothing you will do will cause them to have this aha moment or epiphany that they have to come up with that on their own. And I feel like that one's the hardest one for people to break. And I feel like their body ends up being the thing that is the thing that I feel like they eventually realize that every time I try to go back in and try to make sense of explain, care take, you know, then they start to feel panic attacks or headaches or memory is a challenge. And so I like what you're saying because I mean, that is, yeah, I feel like that's the final straw of helping somebody recognize maybe that they aren't safe in the relationship when their body is trying to say, I'm trying everything. I'm trying anxiety, I'm trying depression. Don't make me give you a heart attack. And, that's what I think can happen.

Jennifer: Exactly. Whenever we're trying to control what we don't have control over, especially another, a partner that won't self-confront, you know, that illusion is often hard to let go of because you want the control, the fantasy that if you say the right thing, do the right thing, whatever, they're gonna space themselves, they're gonna become a kinder person or whatever. And often, you know, the body is in reaction to that, but also giving up that project is the only chance that something will shift. 

Tony: Yeah. So, okay. This did actually lead to, I think what I initially reached out, to ask Christie to bring up was when I do get a guy into therapy, and I was even gonna tell you a funny thing when we were gonna jump on and then I forgot, but I was just talking with my intern, my associate, Nate Christensen, and he's a big brain guy, but he said he just was reading that therapy was initially, someone was saying that therapy was initially for women and that's why it's all about feelings. That was Freud's, I guess, goal. And that, you know, some men, he worked with a lot of women. And that men need to do things differently. And so that's why, and then he went into this thing about suppression and that it's about aggression and that men can feel close even when there is stress or aggression. And then how that can, and I thought that was an interesting thing. I thought that was really fascinating. But where I was going with that was, so I get a lot of men that come to me, I think because, I dunno, maybe it's as simple as I'm a guy, I don't know. But then when I can get a guy to feel heard and understood, maybe do a little self confrontation, I find that there are times where, I have examples, where the wife has said this is what I want. I want this guy who will hear me and open up and stay present. And now I, you know, on occasion I can get a guy to that place and then it's as if the wife now starts to push more buttons. And when I did some betrayal trauma training with Dr. Skinner, Kevin Skinner, a long time ago, he would talk about, you know, okay, that they're testing for safety or things may go well and a couple of years down the road, you know, she may say, I don't, I don't even know if this is, if I should have come back and, and if the guy says, man, thank you for sharing. I'm here. It keeps her amygdala calm, and still testing. But I found that, I'm curious if you see or what your thoughts are on that. If I do have this guy show up differently and the wife has said, this is all I've ever wanted, but now that more buttons are pressed and I will have a guy, all of a sudden I'll say, well, wait a minute. Now, is she the narcissist or is she the emotionally immature? And I wanted to say, okay, I hear you, but let's slow down a little, but it's, I don't know if that's just her body, can a change happen too fast? What do you think? 

Jennifer: Well, I, you know, so a couple things. I tend, when I'm working with people, to not just think, okay, let's say that you have a narcissistic, I mean, there's a lot that I would even say about that because that's…

Tony: Yes. Let's just say like somebody that is emotionally immature.

Jennifer: Who's been emotionally immature has tended to dominate situations. And take too much. And let's say that, that there's the, let's just put it in the, this form that the woman is the one who's been kind of burned by that. And she is exhausted by it and he's starting to self confront and change. The way I tend to talk to the person in the woman's position in this example is that your goal isn't just to trust your partner and your goal isn't just to wait until they have become safe. I'm not, I don't really think in that frame so much. The goal is if you're gonna choose this person, they need to grow into somebody who's more capable of handling themselves while they know you, that they need to learn how to be a self without dominating or taking too much and that matters. But you also, wife, have been operating in a marriage in which you are an over functioner. It doesn't look like it from what I'm saying, but for the person in a relationship with a narcissist, the person is over-functioning. They're trying to make things right. They're trying to manage that guy's ego. They're trying to keep him happy, give him the sex that will keep him. And so they're doing all these things in the fantasy that if they do everything, he will be okay and they will be okay. And so she has to also grow out of that. And let's just say the guy really does start to self confront and really is dealing with him. There's a certain amount of testing you, you know, are you really legit? Are you really there for me? 

But what is also, and I'm not saying this is always the case for me, it means I've gotta discern what, what's happening here? Is this guy really not as developed as he's saying, and she can track it. Or is it that she wants the too little, too late position because then she doesn't have to. Because something that's, that's trying to solve the husband all the time in this case, you know, doing everything to make that person okay, is also intimacy avoidant, even though it doesn't look like it. They want to be needed. They want to be the solution. They want to be the one that the guy needs in a sense. And so that's, that's a need-based frame, not an intimacy. Somebody that thinks they have to follow all over themselves to prove themselves to the narcissistic guy. Doesn't have a solid sense of self. Isn't clear that being knowledgeable is a safe thing for anyone, right? So part of the reason they chose this guy is because they don't have to be that known by him when he's the only party, when he's the only show in town in his mind. So if he's growing out of that, that's a very different thing than she wants to actually be. Now a lot of us talk about, I don't feel seen, don't feel well. I don't know that many people that actually wanna be seen. They just want the good parts to be seen, you know? 

Tony: Yes. 

Jennifer: A lot of times people are complaining about that.

Tony: Let me just, I have to tell you, Jennifer, as you were saying this, and this is actually, this is so good because I could talk about this, for the light, then went through your blinds and shown, and it was just you. All of a sudden, you, the sky's parted, heaven smiled upon you and then you, you gave the world this gift. Exactly right? 

Jennifer: Yeah totally, that’s what it was. So, her ability to actually be knowable, right? How many of us really want our partner to look into our soul? Unmitigated, right. Flaws and all. I mean, you know, that takes some real, that's scary. Courage. Scary. Yeah. And so, it's often like, I still don't trust you. I still don't trust you. Is a way of getting away from that anxiety, all of that. And you know, and there may be things going on on his side, but you don't want to keep his growth from, it doesn't have to be, he must be fully grown up before you deal with yourself. She also needs to be dealing with her own over-functioning and her need to be needed and her anxiety about her.

Tony: That is so good. And I feel like this is where, and I would, I mean, there is real, incredibly emotionally immature, or strong narcissistic trait and tendency, people that are still looking for the buttons pressed and the way to manipulate. So I do, you know, and I know I work a lot with that population. And that can be really difficult. But I like what you're saying because I do feel at some point, because if it really isn't the narcissist, I would imagine, in this scenario we're talking about a wife who then grew up not necessarily seeing the boundaries modeled or secure attachment in childhood. So she didn't know how to say no or that sort of thing. And so maybe that has led to that. And so I know that can be hard, but I love what you're saying because I think this is where it's hard for me because I want to at times just say, not to, hey, give him a chance. I like this concept of, I call it, introducing positive tension. So now let's, let's have a chance to really use the tools. I've got these four pillars of a connected conversation based off of emotionally focused therapy, and that's where I feel like, we no longer have to have the guy to say, no, I get it now. And she says, oh, okay. Now I want her to say, well, tell me more. What, what do you get? What do you understand? What is different now? Because I find that the real emotionally immature says it. I mean, I get, I'm telling you I get it. And that's where I feel like you'll find quickly how, if the guy is really self confronting or, or able to sit with that.

Jennifer: Yeah. Okay. Something to say about it. It's not just, you know, like sometimes, well then I went and I apologize. What did you apologize for? What exactly? Like if it's deep, if it's true, self confrontation, there's something there. I can see that I do this to you. Something that I tend to say with people is that, you know, we're all kind, we're all narcissistic. I mean, in a sense we all start out very self preoccupied. Even if we are somebody who is always nice and can never let anybody be disappointed. It's about managing our ego needs. And so there is a self-centric element to it. And as we are willing to self confront no other people's experience of us, know ourselves in relationship, we're able to grow out of our egocentrism. So narcissistic people are often ego-centric in a particular way. But I try to make a distinction with people narcissistic and narcissistically impaired. Narcissistically impaired person is a person that is not going to yield. They're not gonna change. They aren't able or willing to actually self confront. They may give all the verbiage and know how to make it look like it, but they're not actually in any kind of self confrontation in the wee hours of the night. And that's very different from somebody who's inclined to go one up, to look honestly at themselves and to start dealing with who they are.

That's a person. You don't have to be perfect to trust that person. You just have to be with someone who's willing and able to do that, and it matters to them to be a decent human. If it only matters to you when you're trying to convince your narcissistic partner that they should be a decent person, that's not gonna go. No, if they want to be a decent person and you can tell it and they're willing to deal with themselves and you see them doing it, you know that's a good person to be challenged with and to be addressing your half of that dynamic with not, because you gotta wait for them to be perfect because you can see that they do wanna grow and they wanna be better and they're willing to be honest. Even if it takes some work sometimes, they're willing to grow. That's trustworthy, the people that get entrenched and stay there and won't, won't be challenged. Well, it's not a good choice to be in a relationship.

Tony: And and I don't know if I gave you credit for this last time we spoke, but when we spoke a couple of times ago and we were talking about narcissism, you had mentioned everybody's a little narcissistic. And at that time I remember feeling a little bit like, well, well, no, I mean, I don't think, I think I framed the question wrong. You’re absolutely right. And then in, so I've got the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast, which is now as big as the Virtual Couch, and in that one I was very intentional about nine or 10 episodes in, I had an episode called, wait, am I the narcissist? And I really did lay out the narcissistic personality disorders, maybe two or 3% of the population. But if you start with, we're all emotionally immature, and that's where I give you a little nod, you know, then we can work from there. And I have found that it is a much better place to operate from. And I feel like the people I work with are willing to say, okay, I can take a look at emotional immaturity, but narcissism, I think it just carries so much. It's out in the zeitgeist so much, a lot of negativity out. Everybody’s ex is a narcissist.  You know what I mean? That is a fact, I've been told on TikTok, as a matter of fact. That makes me laugh. So in that part, I appreciate that too. And, okay, if you have a couple more minutes, there is now that I feel like, boy, I feel like we've covered all these fun things today. As a, from a therapist standpoint, I would love your thoughts on another thing, and maybe I'm wanting you to validate me or compliment my fragile ego. So there are some of the, there are some groups that I'm a part of and I love, and a lot of them quote you, which is amazing and wonderful. And there will be something that we brought up where someone will talk, you know, the crucible method versus EFT, for example.

And then people will get pretty, pretty discouraged about it. And I have a copy and paste available now where I say, as an EFT therapist and a thousand couples later or whatever, and I've tried to make it into these four pillars of a connected conversation. Preston Pugmire, who I know you know, helped me create this course. And so that was him helping coach these tangible steps and I love it so much. And so then I feel like then I'm all on board with differentiation and cleaning up your side of the street and not looking for that external validation. But I find my copy and paste says that, that is amazing. But I feel like sometimes what I'm reading is somebody says, this is all I can do is take care of me, and if my partner doesn't show up, then this is not a viable relationship. And so I've been saying, well, I feel like the EFT, emotionally focused therapy, my four pillars, that's the conduit to communication to then maybe help get to that place of differentiation or, but I would love to know your thoughts. Like do you have just the overall thoughts on the EFT versus the crucible method or those two things?

Jennifer: I mean, I do, I do, I don't tend to like to get into that, well, I'm, I'm happy to answer it, but I'm just saying I don't tend to like to get in the conversation because I don't feel like I understand EFT enough. And I don't, I'm happy to give you some ideas though, but just like sometimes I will critique sex addiction programs. I've learned I don't wanna do that because some are very on point and very valuable. So it, so what I do sometimes is I say, if a program is teaching you this idea, I think it's dangerous. If a program is teaching you this idea, I think it's dangerous. So it's more like that, if it's teaching you this, it will be helpful in my view. But I think the fundamentals, so first of all, Adam Miller, and these were both people that happened to be in my ward and Hardy, I can't remember his first name right now. They wrote, they co-authored, they were Northwestern students and they co-authored a paper about really laying out the tenets of EFT and differentiation theory and kind of arguing. So, it was very, it's very well written and well done and worth reading, did I say Adam Miller? I mean Adam Fisher. Adam Fisher and Nathan Hardy, so that's worth reading. What I would say in my rudimentary understanding is the question of locus of control or where is the center of change in these models as they were originally understood.

Now how practitioners use them, it may be very different. Maybe EFT has shifted since its sort of initial idea, but that's what I think is the core issue is in the EFT model. It's that we attached, which we are, we attach at an early age, and then we have attachment styles, which all, which I agree with. But the idea of the model is often that change happens through the marriage by the partner being the attachment object that was needed, right? So validating feelings, reflecting back, communicating in a certain way. And so the change, the locus of control is in the partner. 

Tony: I see what you're saying.

Jennifer: Okay. Now, I don't know. You know, somebody might say, no, no, you don't get it, and I may not get it. So I'm, I'm not here to say like, I get it and I know. I'm just saying that's my view from the first time I read about it. Where in differentiation theory, one attaches no question. And we attach and we do things in a certain way. And not only do we attach, but we also, so we, not only do we wanna be in relationship to others, we also wanna be in relationship to our, and, but the locus of change is within the self. Now this is not to say that people don't affect our sense of self. They deeply do. They're very, very entangled with other people, but what the change agent is, is helping people see how they are in relationship to others and how they're trying to have a self in relationship to others. And the ways that that effort is creating trouble in their relationships to others and themselves. And in that awakening to change, to change their behavior in relationships. So the locus of control is within the self, it's in the self-regulation. And so it's just a different, it's helping people see more. Truthfully, the problem I have with, if it's in your partners, like you both have a half empty tank of gas and you're looking for the other one to fill it up, right? Because people, your spouse doesn't have it to give usually right now. I don't mean to say your spouse doesn't affect you and when they grow, it does positively impact you. 

But a lot of times we're trying to show forth love, make our spouse feel loved, give them security, and while it can help a little, I think that it's still got the focus in the wrong place. Now, I don't know if this is how EFT therapy runs or how it is at this, but to the degree that that's the model operating in any therapy, like Imago therapy, I think is almost a hundred percent that. And so to the degree that it's doing that, I think it's only minimally effectual. And there can, there can be things that are beneficial about a conversation style. I'm just gonna sit and validate what I can. I'm not saying that as a tool, there can't be some value in that for helping people to settle down, not react and just listen. But I think as a kind of fundamental model of change, I think it has some limitations.

Tony: No, Jennifer, I do love that. And there's a part of me that feels like, okay, I don't want to now throw my 2 cents in, but then I realize, oh wait, we're on my podcast. And my people, my people, that sounds very egotistical, but your listeners are, you know, I talk about my four pillars all the time, and I actually feel very validated by that because I do feel like, I look at and I think you're actually right where I may not even know where EFT, I think I've slowly morphed my own version of EFT into this. I mean, a lot of, you know, it's like, yeah, right. And so I feel like the model that I use. It really is almost as simple as someone expresses something to their partner and their partner then immediately that has a meaning to them. And they can be, they can take offense. They can. So I, you know, my first pillar is assuming good intentions or there's a reason why somebody says what they do. And I feel like it's core is because that's the way that they express themselves or that's the way that they feel like they have to show up in order to be heard. And then I, you know, my second one is, you can't tell that person they're wrong or I disagree. Even if you think they're wrong and you disagree because any of these are gonna take the conversation out into the weeds. And then my third pillar is, okay, I'm gonna ask questions before I make comments. Well, tell me what that means for you. Help me understand. And that's where that discomfort kicks in and some empathy. 

And then I, and then my fourth one, I say stay present. And you can't go into a victim mentality. If you follow those first three pillars and then say, okay, no, you're right. I guess I'm a horrible piece of garbage No. To rescue me. Right. And so I do feel like I like what you're saying because I feel like I'm trying to use it as a communication tool to stay present so that then we can self because I feel like it's too easy for the emotionally mature to take any conversation out into the weeds. Then they never get to accountability or self confrontation. But I think as you're expressing that, why I feel validated is because I actually think I have taken that off on a little bit of my own path. And so yeah, when I, when I come in and say, oh, I hear people that talk about the differentiation model and then because I validate it and I feel like maybe they're waiting for me to say, that's dumb, you know, EFT is it? And I love, I love your concept about the locus of change because I think you're right and maybe we're both wrong, but we're both right as well and that sure feels good.

Jennifer: Yeah and I do think communication models, for example, can be very helpful for just giving people tools. Something to kind of anchor their anxiety to as they're walking through a difficult conversation, in online, the Strengthening Your Relationship course, I do the same thing. I'm giving them a communication model that is as anchored as I can make it in their own integrity. And self confrontation. Before they even open their app, you know that they are dealing with themselves. First, rather than trying to get their self, their spouse to buy into a view that's not even true. However, one can do that model. So what that's, your model would work very well if it's two people who are really trying to deal honestly with themselves, be fair. And that model can just help them manage themselves through, so it can really be helpful. But what I think is that people can also use models whether yours or mine to not deal with themselves, you know what I mean? Like they can go through the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.

Tony: Absolutely, I say they weaponize the tool. And what's interesting then is in the, again, I found myself working with a lot of emotionally immature or narcissistic traits people and surprise, because I have a podcast that has narcissism in the name, so I'm not, I'm not shocked by that, but I feel like even the having a framework has allowed people to then see that the emotionally immature person can't play in the sand. That they're so special that when they tell me how crazy their wife is, even, I will put away my beloved four pillars, and now we will join in triangulation and let her know how bad she is. And, and I feel like that's what you end up seeing kind of back to what we were saying earlier versus the person saying, oh my gosh, I didn't know what I didn't know. Here's a tool, let's use it. And then I do. I feel like that's the part and then the, and then it's, our brains love that. 

Jennifer: I mean, we all do that. Just start using the words differentiation and self regulation. You sound like you're really, you know, I know. I love ideas too. I'd much rather talk about ideas than actually go through the horrors of self confrontation. I mean, who wants to do that?

Tony: Yeah.

Jennifer: Right. So it's easy to talk about ideas. Christ talked about this. We love the letter of the law. Spirit of the law is much. 

Tony: Yeah, it is. Yes. Yeah. I love it, man, Jennifer. Okay. Thank you. This was so funny because when we look back on today's interview, it was, it was kind of, it was, it was everything, which to me that felt so satisfying and very good for this interview. So thank you so much for meeting me. What a joy. And I just looked down. I can't even, I feel like it's been 30 minutes and so thank you and I would love to have you on it. I'll do the research now on ADHD and relationships and then, man, I would love to have you back on and talk about that too.

Jennifer: Sure. That would be fun. 

Tony: Okay. That'd be good. All right. Thanks so much. It's always good to see you. Thanks. Bye-bye. 

Does smiling make you happier? Can you truly predict the long-term success of an adult based on their love, or lack thereof, of marshmallows in their youth? Is depression always linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain? Tony takes a look at 8 popular psychology studies and concepts and shares the latest research on whether or not the findings of the past still hold true. Tony references the article: "Pop psychology: Eight myths that are probably wrong, or at least wildly overly simplistic" by Christian Jarrett https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/pop-psychology-eight-myths-that-are-probably-wrong-or-at-least-wildly-overly-simplistic/

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

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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

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Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ


​​Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 364 of the Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of Waking Up to Narcissism, both the free episode and now the premium question and answer episode. So go check those out wherever you get your podcasts. And today I want to dive right into a topic. You can go look at the show notes here. There's going to be a link tree link that will take you to all things. It will take you to sign up for my newsletter, which is still the best way to get ahold of all the information of all the exciting, new things that are coming out. Access to my marriage workshop, access to the new release of a marriage course that is coming soon. And as well as the latest episodes of podcasts and that sort of thing, you can go to tonyoverbay.com and find that out, sign up for the newsletter, or you can do it in the show notes here. So I think that would be a great way to do that as well. And also follow me on Instagram at Tony Overbay underscore LMFT. Find me on Tik Tok, find me on Facebook, putting out a lot of content there. 

But have you heard? Have you heard that smiling makes you happy? And I am one who enjoys smiling and enjoys happiness. So this has always been something that I have very much enjoyed and I have talked about. But one of the things I also love in, I mean, love with a very deep passion is debunking pop psychology myths. Now why? Because if smiling will make you feel happier and it makes you feel happier, then why on earth would I want to take on this psychology study and then now call it a debunked myth? Only because I feel like what we're going to get to throughout today, I'm going to debunk several pop psychology myths that are coming from a really cool article on a website called sciencefocused.com. But I really feel like when a study comes out and it is in alignment with what you do or how you feel or how you see yourself, 

then it is one of the greatest studies that you've ever run into. For example, smiling will make me feel happier. But when it is a study that then goes against who you are or makes you even feel like, wow, I am not even normal enough to fall into line with this study. Take for example, the marshmallow test where the kids were given these two marshmallows or one marshmallow and told if this kid can just stare at this thing endlessly for hours upon end, and then someone, a random stranger comes back in the room. He says, okay, champ you did it. Here's two marshmallows. 

Now you can see that I have a very, very big bias toward even how that experiment played out. Because it really didn't happen that way. And we'll talk about how it did happen in just a little bit. But I have had some of the most frustrating moments of my life, where I think, okay. I am a failed individual. As I sit there in a career of my choice, feeling very connected with my wife and children, and really finding a sense of purpose, but I impulsively and I kind of literally just did this. My son made rice crispy treats last night with chocolate chips in them. So I just devoured a huge one. So that's ironic because I had devoured that instead of, I guess I could have waited and maybe had two more when I got home. But that impulse, that impulsivity at times then I will tell myself, oh, don't forget you're a bad person because you would have been the little kid that just ate the marshmallow and then walked out of there and not gotten two marshmallows later. And when they would have followed up with me, then apparently I'm not happy. Even though I have to remind myself that I'm pretty happy right now in my life. So when the result of the test doesn't really fit your narrative, then you get to go back to the old, what is wrong with me story? And I will insist on nothing. You are a human being, the only version of you going through life for the very first time at this point in your life. So I do find that often we like to find those studies that really make us feel better and they validate us. And we like to then beat ourselves up for the studies that don't really fit our narrative. 

So let's start with this marshmallow test. And before I do that, let me just tell you this article again, this is from sciencefocused.com. It's called “Pop Psychology, eight myths that are probably wrong, or at least wildly, overly simplistic” by Christian Jarrett. And this was published back in 2020. So you may have heard this first one. This is that children with more willpower are more successful in later life. So in the 1960s, the American psychologist, Walter Michelle, began a series of iconic experiments that involved challenging several dozen young children to sit alone with a marshmallow for around 15 minutes and resist eating it. Their reward, if they waited, was to eat the first marshmallow plus another. So famously the researchers then caught up with the same kids in the 1980s and nineties. And by that time they were adults. And they found those who have been successful at this delayed gratification task had subsequently done better in life in terms of exam results and avoiding getting into trouble. The results appear to suggest that if we could teach kids to have stronger willpower, then their lives would benefit. Now I am going to have a hard time not turning to humor on today's podcast. And one of those is I am not a fan of marshmallows, quite frankly. So I think I probably would have done quite well avoiding a marshmallow and yet, I'm very impulsive in other things in other areas of my life. So I would have delayed this gratification. They would have given me the two marshmallows, I guess maybe I would have eaten them. It depends on if I had had breakfast that morning. 

And then at that point, and if I'm now I'm viewed as whatever the definition of successful is then see that delayed gratification works. But if you would have put, I don't know, a couple of chocolate chips there or a cookie, I'm eating that first one. I don't think that there would have been a way on earth as a child that I could have sat there and stared at a cookie for 15 minutes, maybe a snickerdoodle, maybe an oatmeal cookie with raisins, but you give me a nice chocolate chip cookie, heaven forbid it's warm. And I am going to eat that and forget the delayed gratification. So in 2018, psychologists at York University and the University of California, Irvine conducted the first replication attempt of the marshmallow study, which is interesting because I think this one has been, I've heard this used a lot and to think that it went from the sixties, seventies, and then we wait until 2018 for somebody to replicate it. But the psychologists at New York University, University of California, Irvine replicated but this time they used data from hundreds of children. And then unlike in the original research, Tyler Watson, his colleagues also controlled for a host of social and situational variables, such as parental education background and how responsive parents are to their kids. And so the team found the correlation between the delay of gratification and later success. And in this case into adolescence was far weaker than the original research reported. So moreover, the correlations to this delayed gratification became statistically non-significant when the researchers factored in different social and family variables. 

So, I don't know how many times people have heard that study about delayed gratification and felt like if they have to, if they can sit with something and then delay that, then they will be more successful in life. And I think this is one where there are just so many variables. There's a friend of mine and I think this is really hilarious, he and I were talking about this one. So it was probably a year or two ago. And he said, you know, what it feels like to be me is I will eat that marshmallow now and I have now grown to the point in business and in his life where he is confident that I know where to find the marshmallows. And I really resonated with that because I feel like it's more of a, once you are acting in alignment with what you're doing, the things that really matter to you, you feel like a real sense of purpose and you are acting upon value based goals in your life. And you aren't spending a lot of emotional calories trying to defend what it is that you want to do, or someone else that is close to you in a relationship is breaking down your reality. Then I feel like, yeah, you are going to find all the marshmallows that you want, and you may on your journey to find marshmallows all of a sudden find again, cookies or grapes or whatever that looks like. But that's where I love busting a good pop psychology myth. Now, if delayed gratification in that concept of being able to sit with that discomfort of staring at a marshmallow or whatever that looks like becomes empowering to you, then by all means lean into that. 

But I feel like the theme that we're going to have throughout this podcast today is if you're saying, I didn't, that wasn't the case for me. What's wrong with me? I'm going to go back to nothing. You're a human being and all of this is just good data to take in to try to understand you a little bit more. So the second one, let me jump into one, it is one that I think a lot of people are familiar with as well. And this is that Stanford prison experiment. So this is the concept around power corrupts. So does evil reside within us or are we corrupted by our circumstances? So in 1971, the Stanford University psychologist, Philip Zimbardo sought to demonstrate the potential power of situations and social roles to corrupt individuals' morality. So anticipating this scenario is drummed up by reality TV decades later. This is where I do appreciate the humor in the article. And Christian Jarrett writing this article. But he says that this is, yeah again, anticipating scenarios drummed up by reality TV decades later. Zimbardo and colleagues created a mock prison and they recruited 12 male college students to play the role of guards and 12 to play the role of prisoners. So the idea was to study their interactions for two weeks. But what has been known as the Stanford prison experiment had to be aborted just six days in because the levels of cruelty that were perpetrated by the guards upon the prisoners were horrific, including forcing them to clean toilets with their bare hands. To Zimbardo the shocking lesson was clear that powerful situations can overwhelm our individuality. Turning good people bad. And so his interpretation chimed in with these ideas about the roots of evil. And apparently he was saying that this helped to explain atrocities in the past and the future. And what's fascinating as Zimbardo would later invoke this research while testifying in defense of one of the US guards accused of cruelty toward prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003, in 2004. But over the years, Bartow's study was subject to a lot of criticism and re-interpretation.

In 2002, there was a team of British social psychologists, Alex Haslam and Steven Riker. And then they conducted a similar experiment called the BBC prison study and in their version, the prisoners actually united and over through the guards, showing that the events of the Stanford experiment were not an end all be all, that they were far from inevitable and then footage also emerged that was an embargo in the role of the prison superintendent. And so what he may have been doing was instructing guards on how to behave, which seemed to undermine the spontaneity of the events that unfolded. So the belief was that these guards just all the sudden had this group think, and then they reacted in a way that they were then inflicting this punishment onto the prisoners, but there is some curiosity or belief that maybe Zimbardo then in this role, prison superintendent and in instructing his guards and how to behave that it did undermine the entire experiment in a sense. I mean, I guess in theory, the prisoners or the guards could have rebelled against Zimbardo, but he was definitely acting in a way that would influence those prison guards. 

And then more recently an audio recording was uncovered that reveal one is embargoed collaborators and the role of a prison warden. And that he was persuading one of the guards to treat the prisoners more cruelly, including telling him that if he did a good enough job, that the experiment could lead to a real life prison reform. So now all of a sudden you've got this incentive telling this person that is acting as a prison guard that maybe the work that was being done there could really have a real impact on the real life prison system. So then I can only imagine if this person is looking for that validation, that they may be going big on trying to amp up their role. Critics like Haslam say that the recording shows that the Stanford study was no more than a form of live theater than a science experiment. And then Zimbardo and his defenders counter that whether the guard's sadism was inevitable or not, the study's message holds. Then in the wrong circumstances, otherwise normal people are capable of extreme cruelty. And I can understand that because I would like to think that if I was asked to be one of those prison guards, knowing that this is a simulation, that there's no way that I would go against the, yeah, I wouldn't be cruel, but then I wonder if all of the people going into their thought the same thing and I would love to maybe follow up and do some research around what was that like for those prison guards or the prisoners years later. Because I would imagine in this day and age, we could find some data about that too. 

So, there's another one that I think is so interesting. This one's about smiling. And, I have heard this one so often. And I didn't actually realize what the test was that they used. So the myth. I hate to call it now because it sounds great that smiling will make you feel happier. And I am a smiling person and I enjoy being happy. So these two seem to go along with me like peas and carrots. I need a new, what goes along really well. Ben and Jerry. But the roots of this idea, date back to Darwinians facial feedback hypothesis, where he proposes that the outward expression of emotion can then in turn affect our feelings. So if we're smiling, we're going to feel happier, if we’re frowning, we're going to feel more sad. So then this 19th century philosopher, psychologist, William James, then he proposed a similar idea and that is that it's the physical changes. For example, it is associated with fear that then leads you to feel afraid and not the other way around. Not that you all of a sudden feel afraid. And then you have these physical changes. So theories inspired, what would you consider a modern classic of pop psychology published in 1988. So researchers led by psychologists. Fritz and Strock asked volunteers to watch cartoons while holding a pen between their teeth. Thus forcing a smile. Or with the pen held between their lips, forcing a frown. 

And if you are not driving right now, grab a pen and try this. It is kind of interesting. I couldn't help, but to do it myself. So hold a pen between your teeth and yet you are smiling and you hold a pen between your lips and it makes you frown. So the smilers found the cartoons funnier, and I feel like I desperately want to find out what the cartoons were because I don't care if I'm frowning or smiling. If it's a cartoon that I don't really like, then I can't imagine that would make me happy. But they suggested that the mere act of grinning then could have a positive effect on feelings. So this result in later variations soon led self-help authors to propose that you could simply smile your way to greater happiness. But one might make the argument then that you can smile your way to greater happiness. If you were watching a cartoon that makes you smile, and you're also, you have a pencil in your mouth between your teeth, so that you are forced to smile. But then in 2016, there were 17 separate research labs and they recruited nearly 2000 participants in an attempt to replicate the cartoon study and the findings were inconsistent across the labs. So when they were all pulled together, the result was a negative smilers were no more amused than frowners. Now, again, who knows what cartoon they watched in 2016, because there were a lot of them now that I don't think would be very funny at all, but it might be premature. Then they say to write off the facial feedback theory. Because Strock pointed out the modern replications videoed the participants. 

So these new ones from 2016 on, they videoed the participants. And maybe at this point, in this day and age, we're so used to being videotaped. That's not even a thing, right, videoed wouldn't affect you at all. But he said he actually would interview the people. He was in the room. So that might have interfered with the results, maybe making participants self-conscious. So if they knew that this person was in the same room as them, then that might lead them to do more of the smiling and then self-report that then no, I feel way happier. And then this one's kind of interesting to also other research findings, such as those involving Botox patients that are consistent with this facial feedback hypothesis that Botox treatment interferes with facial expressions. And those who've had, it seemed to experience emotions differently from other volunteers. So that one's kind of interesting too. I really talk about self confrontation. I have done one or two episodes on oxytocin, the cuddle hormone. And I really, if I'm again, self confrontation. I worry it's a nice way to put it that I had this episode years ago, I probably would've just skipped this one because it would have made me uncomfortable to then have to self-confront and say, oh, what if my episodes about oxytocin are incorrect? Because one of the pop psychology myths that is being busted, oxytocin as the cuddle hormone. So he goes on to state that, especially around Valentine's day, the popular media gets excited about oxytocin, often referring to it as the love hormone. And he said, it's absolutely true that this chemical is released in the brain. When women give birth and they breastfeed, but also when people cuddle and they have sex, hint the media nickname. 

But there were studies conducted in the early two thousands that suggested that sniffing oxytocin, sounds like a great name for an alternative band, made people more trusting, generous, and better at empathizing with others. So sniffing oxytocin, people were more trusting, generous, and better at empathy. But then subsequently the molecule has been mooted as this breakthrough intervention for various conditions from autism, all the way to schizophrenia. And Christian says if it sounds too good to be true, that's because it is because now more recent research has questioned those early findings on the chemical effects of both failing to replicate them and painting a more nuanced picture. For instance, he says, while oxytocin might increase feelings of bonding with friends and family, they actually can sharpen dislike for outsiders. And it can even heighten aggression and those with violent tendencies. So in short, oxytocin is certainly an intriguing chemical, but is far more than just the cuddle hormone. So that's where I feel like, okay, I've got the data. I need to say that it still can be considered a cuddle hormone. But in different situations, man, it can be different things. Here's one that I have stumbled upon a time or two, and I have thought about talking about, but I haven't. 

And this is that we all have a preferred learning style. When people say I'm more of a visual learner, I'm more of an auditory learner, he says, do you find it easier to learn by reading an article or listening to a podcast, like this one? Maybe you prefer images over text. Survey suggests that most of us believe that we have a preferred learning style, be that visual, auditory, kinetic, which means learning by doing or something else. But a majority of teachers believe that as well. So in the education system, he says, in fact, the whole industry has been built up around finding ways to measure people's learning styles and then guide teachers on how to teach those different styles. But this is probably the most striking example of where folk wisdom, he says, clashes with psychological science time and time again. So there have been multiple carefully controlled studies that have failed to find evidence that support learning styles approach. So he said that most studies in this area follow a similar format, volunteers report their preferred learning style, because I would tell you right now, I think I'm an auditory learner, because I like podcasts and I listened to books, but I don't know if I retain as much information as I do if I actually am watching or looking at things visually learning. So he says that most studies in this area follow a similar format. So then the volunteers report their preferred learning style. And then some of them are presented with material and they're favored modality while others are not. And then a test then ensues, nearly every study has found that those who learn via their preferred style do not perform any better than a comparison group, not taught to their preference. 

So that just means if I identify that I'm an auditory learner. And then somebody else beside me identifies that they are a visual learner. And then we go in and we do a test and I am given auditory material and they are not given visual material, then one would think that I would score quite a bit higher on whatever the test is, then the person that was not given their preferred learning style, but the data is saying no. So again, nearly every study has found that those who learn via their preferred style do not perform any better than a comparison group, not taught to their preference. And he said, what's more, participants rarely show much insight into their supposed best learning style. Their performance is often better and their non favored methods in which I could absolutely see that happening for me that as I say, no, I'm an auditory learner that I can only imagine that if I was given something to view or read that I could definitely see in certain situations that that would be the way that I would retain more information or learn more. There's a few more. Let me tackle, firstborns are natural leaders. There's one line here that I think makes this whole one just gel and resonate because I've done a podcast on birth order and I'd reached out to my kids and I talked to each one of them before the episode. This was a couple of years ago and they just backed up, it seemed like exactly what the article I found that was talking about birth order said, but then I wonder how much of that is the expectation effect. I was just making the narrative bit, the one that I was about to record. 

But, so he says, what do Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Boris Johnson have in common? How about Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk? Well, they are all the eldest among their siblings, providing anecdotal evidence to back up the popular idea that firstborns have distinct personalities that help them become leaders. And then this rationale has a logical appeal. After all, the eldest child enjoys the undivided attention of their parents for a time. After which they get to boss their younger siblings around. So that would kind of make sense. But then, however, this pop psychology theory, the evidence doesn't really support it. In 2015, when psychologists carefully analyzed the personality traits of hundreds of thousands of people, that's a lot of people, and then correlated them with the people's birth order position and their family. No clear association was found. And then a subsequent Swedish study did find that firstborns were more likely to end up in leadership roles. But the correlation was really weak. Then the belief is if there is a link. Then it probably has more to do with the opportunity than aptitude. Such as being the one chosen to take over the family business. That was the line that I thought really resonated and hit home. 

Okay. We have just a couple more and I will save one for the end. If I had to say that one was a little more controversial than any, we'll save that till the end, but let's talk about crowds. So the pop psychology myth would be that crowds make people mindless and violent. Although I think at the beginning of the article, Christian said eight myths that are probably wrong, or at least wildly, overly simplistic. Because I think this one is one that I can imagine there would definitely be some truth to, depending on the situation. But he says media accounts of riots often imply that a mob mentality has taken over and such reports reflect the commonly held belief that when large groups of people get together, people lose their individual morality and run amuck with the herd. And then similarly newspaper reports of disasters often describe crowds as if they are mindless with talk of stampedes and blind panic. But the reality set, according to many contemporary social psychologists is that there is a logic and purpose to much crowd behavior. That violence is far from inevitable. When large groups assemble, just look at the restraint shown on American civil rights marches in the 1960s. But he said, even in the case of writers, while they may often be violent and destructive, they usually have a shared purpose and a clear sense of identity. During the English riots of 2011, for example, the damage was mainly at large targets seen as symbolizing inequality. Such as high end shops. And also it wasn't the case that anyone who saw the riots on television or encountered them in the street was sucked zombie-like into the mob, rather was in neighborhoods where there was already a strong sense of disenfranchisement. That people were far more likely to join in. And then he said, it's a similar story for crowds and emergencies. Analysis of real life events, such as the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 and the overcrowding at a Brighton beach concert in 2002, suggest that blind panic is rare and that people will often stop to help one another. 

In essence, this altruistic behavior is maybe due to a sense of togetherness that's forged as groups of strangers go through a common experience. I do believe that we do have this desire to connect through shared experiences. And so often again, I think there's the outliers where there's a group of, I don't know. Now I feel like I can say anything here and be offensive, whether it's a group of old women that are knitting or it's a group of punk rockers, who am I to judge? That there, the belief is that every now and again, there could be an outlier and they're going to all of a sudden be throwing their knitting needles or are beating each other up in a mosh pit. But in essence, most of the time people are having a shared experience. And so that actually can be a positive thing. So last but not least is one that I think could be a little more controversial, which is that depression is due to a chemical imbalance. So I found this one really interesting. So again, I'm just going to present this data. He says the most commonly used antidepressant drugs increase the availability in the brain of a chemical called serotonin. So he says whatever the rights and wrongs of antidepressants cause, he says, some credit the drugs for saving their lives. While some critics fear the overmedicalization of emotional problems can have some lasting effects because of the complex roots of the issues. He said their rising use has fed the notion that depression is caused by some kind of a chemical imbalance in the brain that requires correction. 

And again, this is just one, this in this article, he says the reality is that most psychiatrists believed that the chemical imbalance idea is an oversimplification. So I want to be very clear in saying that I know people close to me that antidepressants, I believe, really have saved lives. So it is absolutely beneficial for some and then, but I like that he's saying, okay, perhaps it's an oversimplification because he said part of the issue is that it's based on flawed logic. Just because these drugs increase serotonin levels, it doesn't mean that a lack of serotonin is the cause of depression. And they gave a similar, another analogy of your headache is not caused by a lack of paracetamol. So beyond that post-mortem research has failed to show that people with depression have lower levels of serotonin and studies that have artificially lowered people's serotonin levels have not induced depression. So he says that the truth is that there isn't necessarily a psychiatrist or neuroscientist who could honestly say what the healthy or correct level of brain chemicals should be. And that's where I appreciate that maybe this is just oversimplified because for some, I know that it absolutely helps them. And for others, they feel like it hasn't necessarily helped. He said many mental health campaigners have embraced the chemical imbalance idea, believing that it will help to reduce the stigma by showing that depression has a clear physical cause, but then he went on to say, sadly, if anything, biological explanations of the mental illness seem to have increased some of the stigma, perhaps, because they cause people to perceive mental health conditions as being more fundamental to the sufferer and therefore more difficult to treat. 

So I really feel like that one could be nuanced quite a bit. And I do believe it's probably oversimplified because I know that antidepressants have really worked for people, but I think it's safe to say that there are some people that have not had success with an antidepressant, but I think it's fascinating to see the way that they talked about it isn't necessarily that people have a lower level of serotonin, but then increasing the serotonin for some people can help as one of my clients said long ago, keep their thoughts from going into the basement and the basement is where things can be a little bit scary. And I feel like maybe this is a place where I can put absolutely, I do not have data that goes behind this, but I was at an interview last night and the person was talking about my concept around raising your emotional baseline or self care. And I said, this is one of the places where when I first started as a therapist, I felt that I was almost going to be this, I don't want to say anti-medication therapist, but I was gonna lean to the side of people maybe don't need as much medication as they have or given. But then one of the very first clients I ever worked with was a guy going through a divorce from an emotionally immature, now I know as a narcissistic or borderline personality disordered woman. And in that scenario, he became very suicidal. And his antidepressant, he said is the one, he's the one who coined that term about my elevator doesn't go all the way to the basement. And the basement is where the scary things reside. So the antidepressant absolutely kept him out of the basement to the point where he could then reach the tools that he needed to get through from a day-to-day basis. 

And I sometimes feel that if people are unmedicated, but they are feeling so down that they can't even access the tools, that medication is a great way to bump your baseline up. So maybe you can then reach the tools, use the tools, start to have confidence in the tools so that if you ever decide that you want to not be on the medication anymore, or maybe a lower dose, then you can anticipate a, perhaps a slight decrease in your emotional baseline. But in the grand scheme of things, though, you now have access to the tools that will help you get yourself back to a better place. So speaking of a better place, I think we are at a place where we are done, but I appreciate you taking the time today to hang out with me and talk about busting, pop psychology myths. This really is one of my favorite things to do. I know that I will fit in there any time that it takes more than 21 days to create a habit or the myths around anger. And so I really do enjoy these. I hope you enjoyed this as well. And if you think this will resonate with anybody, feel free to forward this their way. And I appreciate all the support and I will see you next time on the Virtual Couch.

"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.

"If you feel safe and loved, your brain becomes specialized in exploration, play, and cooperation; if you are frightened and unwanted, it specializes in managing feelings of fear and abandonment," says Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score (https://amzn.to/3QtMBPG). In today's episode, Tony explores what unresolved trauma can look like in adult relationships and what steps can be taken to overcome trauma and rewire the brain for connection. Tony completes the long-awaited part 2 of his review of "The Body Keeps the Score." You can find part 1 at https://www.tonyoverbay.com/how-trauma-impacts-us-all-the-body-keeps-the-score-review-pt1/ 

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: So let me take you back to the summer of 1988. Yes. The year that I graduated high school. The top movies, and I had to look these up, “Who framed Roger Rabbit?”, “Coming to America”, “Crocodile Dundee”. Not part one, no, we're talking part two. “Big”, “Willow”, “Diehard”. And music, George Michael topped the charts with “Faith”, INXS with “Need You Tonight” and Rick Astley was never gonna give you up.

So I was a high school senior. I was growing up in Sandy, Utah, and we had a very late winter and the high school baseball season was gonna consist of probably about a dozen games. So much different than where I live now in California where the baseball season can last all year long. So I was actually looking forward to summer leagues and I had been talking to a couple of college scouts and I was really hoping to be able to play somewhere in college.

And then we head out on a senior trip to St. George where I ended up getting run over by a 20 foot dual prop ski boat and cut up both of my legs and that in essence put a little bit of an end to my baseball hopes and dreams. And then on July 31st, 1988, one of my very best friends, Trent Curl, along with his brother Toby, and Trent's girlfriend, Lisa Warren, who actually had been my eighth grade crush and Toby's best friend Jeremy were killed tragically when their car drifted into oncoming traffic on the way back home from a trip to Jackson Hole. Then a couple of years later, I remember vividly receiving a call from my dad that my brother had passed away. I had just turned 21, so that would've made him 24. And now fast forward to just two or three years ago, my daughter, McKinley, my wife, Wendy, and I were preparing to run a half marathon and we were listening to music and I was playing some Jackson Five. Now don't judge, but this is when little Michael is going all in on who's loving you, which reminded me of another version of that song by Terrence Trent D'arby. Now, Trent, my aforementioned best friend who unfortunately had passed away and my best friend Grant and I wore out this CD of Terrence Trent D'arby, I think it was called, “Introducing the Hard Line” and Terrence's version of “Who's Loving You” came on, and I just started bawling. I couldn't stop and it was out of nowhere. And here we are preparing to run this race and I feel like I'm gonna get dehydrated from the amount of tears that are flowing from my eyes. And it was visceral. It was this gut reaction, and again, it just hit me so hard and out of nowhere. And I pictured my friend Trent, the only one of us with rhythm, singing and dancing to that song.

And then just a few weeks ago, my son, his girlfriend, my wife and I were driving back from Vallejo, California. Where my son's college basketball team had played a game and we passed a sign for Mayor Island. Now it's a naval base and it's where my brother died over 30 years ago. And at the time of his passing, I didn't even know where Mayor Island was. But in 1993 when we moved to California, I didn't even realize that I would be an hour and change from where he died. And so each and every time that we drive to the Bay Area, to San Francisco, to the beach, every time we drive through that area and I pass that sign that says Mayor Island, I'm just hit with these memories of my brother. Or even more recently, just a week ago with my family in town for Christmas, we drove up to the scene of an accident. And I immediately just panic and terror just overcame me. And I had my daughter McKinley with me, and I immediately just asked her if she could pull up find my phone and make sure where all the kids were, because that just brought such a horrific feeling and thought of my daughter Alex, and the ordeal that she went through almost a year ago, and the accident that she is going to be recovering from for the rest of her life.

So today we're gonna talk about trauma. And we're gonna be using Bessel van der Kolk's book, The Body Keeps the Score as our guide because as you can see in each one of these situations, the body really does keep the score and it holds on to certain feelings, thoughts, memories, and emotions, and they can come up out of nowhere. So today in keeping The Body Keeps the Score as our guide, I wanna share some information that I think will help you start to recognize how trauma shows up in your life, and maybe more importantly, as well as what to do. So we're gonna talk about that and so much more coming up on today's episode of the Virtual Couch.

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 356 of the Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast as well, which I would encourage you to go listen to this week. You're probably gonna get this Virtual Couch episode on a Wednesday, and my plan on Friday is to release an episode with an amazing woman named Ashley Boyson and she has a very popular Instagram account called The Moments We Stand and I feel like for some reason, I want to say spoiler alert, but I feel like in this day and age, a quick search, a Google search on anybody can find out what the story would be, but she tells a pretty harrowing story of feeling like everything in her life was going perfectly. Five kids, a dream home, her husband's an attorney, and just things had seemed off, but she had been overlooking a lot of red flags. And in the episode we talk about turning red flags yellow. But eventually she learns to find out that he was murdered. And I will leave it there, but it's just not even what you would probably think there and it's one of the first guests, I think when I was doing a little bit of digging before the episode where I could have watched the Dateline NBC of her, or I think maybe the true crime report or the forensic files. But she's an amazing woman with an amazing story and is really doing some great work and helping others go through tragedy and go through trauma.

And that leads a little bit into what we're talking about today. We are talking about trauma and before we jump to the episode, then please just sign up for my newsletter. I think I'm just going down that path. Just go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for the newsletter and you will not get inundated with information. As a matter of fact, I just haven't put one out for a little while. There's a goal to be more consistent with that, but there's just a lot coming here in 2023. There are a few new podcasts. There's still the magnetic marriage subscription based podcast where you're gonna hear real coaching. There's a revamp, an upgrade to the magnetic marriage course that is coming. And now the course is different from the workshop. If you go to tonyoverbay.com/workshop, there's a $19, everything you didn't know, you didn't know about your marriage and how we show up in marriages and relationships. And that is still available. Again, that's $19 money back guarantee. And that's at tonyoverbay.com/workshop. And I still have the Path Back Pornography Recovery Program and there's actually a discount going for the month of January on that, but act fast. And my social media team, the Amazing Yeah Yeah agency has put some things together there and you can find that on my Instagram account, which is Tonyoverbay, underscore LMFT. And you can also go to Tony Overbay Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist on Facebook. And I'm there on LinkedIn and other places like that as well. So just go find those things and you'll see a lot more content and information about the things that are coming. The most exciting thing though, is a True Crime podcast that I've done with one of my daughters, and it's one of my daughters that has not been on the show. And she's amazing. She's hilarious, and she is a true crime fan. And so she has brought in a very big case from the past. There's a Netflix documentary made of it, and we're gonna talk about that for a few episodes. We've already got those filmed where she's gonna bring the facts of the crime, and I'm gonna talk as much therapy and psychology as I can, and we plan on doing this on a regular basis. So if you go to tonyoverbay.com and sign up for the newsletter, you're gonna find out a lot more about that when those things come out.

So today I want to get to trauma and I'm going to refer to a document and now I look back on this and I did an episode a part one episode on The Body Keeps the Score and it was back in episode, oh, I had the notes, but it was in the 200 and twenties I think. So we're at 356 now. So we're talking a couple of years ago is when I did this and I did something that I do on occasion where I finished that episode, I got through a little bit of the notes that I had on The Body Keeps the Score, and then I looked back at the transcript and I said, okay, we're gonna do a part two, probably a part three, maybe even a part four. Stay tuned. So here we are two years later. Let's get to part two.

But, I also want to share that the notes that I'm referring to, and I believe I shared this back two years ago. I found an amazing, just an amazing book review of The Body Keeps the Score. So I listened to the audio book and it really is, it's a game changer. I know that gets used an awful lot, but the book, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is, I feel like a little bit of the bible of trauma in a sense. And this is someone's notes, 10 pages worth of single space notes. And they have just made this available on the internet, but I could not find who created this 10 page document of notes and so I'm gonna refer to that and all credit goes to this unnamed person, but I wanna read the summary that they did and then we're gonna jump down into more of where we left off in that part one.

So I'm gonna jump down into just really getting into more of the, what do we do about trauma? But here's what the person said about their book club notes on The Body Keeps the Score. They said, “My top takeaways from The Body Keeps the Score is that there are many different types of trauma that a person can and most likely will experience during their life, from childhood abuse and or emotional neglect, to an auto accident, war, a terrorist attack, or sudden death of a loved one. Much of trauma is a normal, albeit, uncomfortable neurological response to a dangerous situation, and so once a person experiences a trauma on a subconscious level, their brain, again, on a subconscious level, begins to not only organize their worldview, but also create actions around their response to those traumas in an attempt to keep them safe. So this can lead to a lot of problematic behaviors if the person is trying to numb out or escape from remembering what happened. Or it can lead them to feeling crazy because we are unable to numb out and feel stuck in a state of being hyper aroused, such as feeling chronically anxious or on edge or chronically hyper-vigilant about people and places and things.”

And that might not even seem like it's related to our trauma. So if you are someone that just runs more anxious in general, or somebody that is more depressed than normal or usual. These are things that I feel like, especially as a therapist, that it can be really good to go in and talk through, because a lot of times these things can just be responses to trauma. And trauma, and I love how this person lays that out, that it can be everything from the things that we often think of, childhood abuse, but it can also be emotional neglect. It can also be accidents, car accidents. But that part about emotional neglect, and this is something that I talk so much about on this podcast, is I really feel like we can bless all of our parents' hearts, but I just feel like it's almost impossible to get that right, meaning parenting, because, and I overuse this very simplistic example, but if a seven year old kid asked for a pony for their birthday and they don't get the pony, they don't say, yeah, that was a pretty big stretch because we live in an apartment and there's no room for a pony. The seven year old said, I would like a pony, please. And so in their mind, they have concocted some version of a reality where who knows, maybe they're gonna keep the pony in the bathroom, or maybe they'll just take it out for walks. I mean, people have dogs. Why not a pony? But they've created some sort of narrative that is gonna make sense. So then when they're not given that pony, then they don't just say, yeah, I understand that didn't make a lot of sense. Maybe we don't have the financial means for a pony. And where will we put a pony? In their mind they think, oh, my parents don't like me because I asked for a pony and I didn't get it. Now that's again, oversimplified, but when we really look at the concepts around what abandonment feels like as a kid, it's that we come out of the womb and we utter a small whimper and everyone jumps to attention and takes care of us. And so that's our factory setting. And that's the way that we survive, is that we express our needs and then when we're young, people meet our needs. And as we get older and we start to just go through life, everybody isn't jumping up and down to meet our needs. So then we make these pretty big demands or requests and people don't respond.

Then we can start to feel like what's wrong with me? And we have this default programming of shame because it must be because people don't love me, that I didn't get the pony for my seventh birthday, or that I don't get to eat candy corn for every meal. I mean, it is corn. The word corn is there, so what's the big deal? And so trying to make sense of things when we're a kid, when we don't even know what is going on, in essence, can lead to those deeper feelings of abandonment, which then leads on into that world of attachment. And attachment is what do I have to do to get my needs met? Do I have to be incredibly hilarious and funny? Do I have to be the athlete that gets everyone to notice me? Do I need to be the one who just keeps the peace in the home, or do I need to be the one that always gets bad grades and so everybody puts their attention on me? So there's so many different roles that we almost slide into in order to get our needs met, and we wanna get those needs met because we feel like if we don't get those needs met, we're gonna die.

And so emotional neglect can also feel like trauma. So now all of a sudden we come into our adult years, and if we were that person that was in charge of managing everybody else's emotions, and that was the way that we got our needs met, or that's the way we were noticed or seen, or the way that we felt validated, then we can bring that into our adult relationships. And all of a sudden when everybody is just doing their own thing comes the feeling of trauma or what it can feel like to be, you can be, nobody cares about me, or I'm unlovable. And I feel like if you go back through these Virtual Couch archives in a sense, there's so much that I feel like we've discussed over the last year or two about different things from everything from attachment styles, I mean, look at that concept around an anxious attachment. Here's somebody that, as a kid said, oh, I want love. I really desperately want love. But if their parent, and again, this is a, bless their parent's heart. If their parent is saying, hey, not right now, champ, I got a lot going on. Or, you know, this TV show's about to start, or, I'll get to you later tomorrow. Or, hey, actually you're fine. Don't worry about it. If things aren't really as big of a deal as you think they are, then when the kid is saying, hey, I need connection. I need to know that I matter. And then, again, even when they're doing their best is saying, hey, not right now. But then if the parent all of a sudden is feeling down, sad, and says, man, I really want to feel like I'm a good parent, and they go to their kid and say, hey, come give mom or dad a hug, or, you know, I love you. Right? Or do you see all these things that we're doing for you? So then when the kid maybe isn't necessarily looking for somebody to be there for them, but the parents saying, I'm ready. Come over here, gimme a hug. So we almost have this mixed view of attachment. So now all of a sudden we get into our adult relationships and we say, the only thing I want in life is to be loved. And then someone focuses that bright spotlight of love or attention onto us, and all of a sudden, we feel like, I don't really know how to do this. I mean, this is what I want. And so now we're looking for that external validation and we're telling the person that we've desperately wanted to love us. Well, not that way, maybe do it a different way. 

So we bring all of these traumas, and that may sound like a big word, but for today we're gonna use trauma a lot. But we bring those traumas into our adult relationship. And that's why I feel like this book, The Body Keeps the Score, just hits on so many different levels because then, again, we're talking about everything from childhood abuse, and we can have sexual abuse, physical abuse, but we're also getting into that emotional neglect. And I feel like that is more probably common of a form of trauma that I see in my office than the physical or the sexual abuse. So the author of this paper again says, “We begin to organize on a subconscious level, things into our worldview, and we create actions around our responses to these traumas and in an attempt to keep us safe, but it can lead to a lot of problematic behaviors if we're trying to numb out or not remember what happened. We can feel crazy because we're unable to numb out and we feel stuck in the state of being hyper aroused, feeling chronically anxious, on edge, hyper-vigilant. And we may not even recognize that these are things that are related to trauma,” and they say, “while there is a lot of emotional and physical pain associated with trauma, we can overcome it.”

There's the big takeaway that we're gonna get to today, and this is why this book is so incredible because it gives solutions on how to overcome it. And I feel like as so many things with mental health, the exact opposite of what we're probably doing the most of right now, such as running away from our feelings, thoughts, and, emotions and dealing with them later are feeling like they aren't as big of a deal as we think they are, not the greatest idea for dealing with or processing trauma. So I'm gonna give you some tips on how to deal with that today. So they go on to say that, yeah, “So while there's a lot of emotional and physical pain associated with trauma, we can overcome it. This is done by understanding that what we are experiencing is largely neurological and that we aren't crazy or somehow beyond help. That once we bring awareness to our feelings and our actions and we see them as more of a defense mechanism than something that makes logical sense, then we can start to regain control of our brain, our body, and our life.” So when you start to just look at this, and I love it, it's an acceptance and commitment therapy model of check this out, look at how I'm behaving, that's interesting. So based on these situations, these circumstances that I'm going through at this very moment in time, here's how I react. Because when you can take yourself out of that moment, see yourself in the context of that moment, then we can start to look at, what is the trauma maybe that has led to that response in that moment?

So, the person said, “The big gift in trauma is self-awareness, but it's a gift that we have to work hard at unwrapping,” but then they say, “but boy, is it worth it.” So they go on to say that they hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, and my notes are below. So thank you person who created all of these notes, and if you want a quick recap on the first part of the book, then I do, I highly recommend that you go check out episode 220 something or 200 and something. I'll put a note, I'll put a link to the episode in the show notes. But that's the first part of this episode on trauma. 

So where I'm gonna jump in is we left off on the other episode talking about trauma being misdiagnosed and mistreated and talking about the diagnostic criteria for trauma, so I'm gonna jump into this person's notes right after that trauma is largely neurological, so that's what we talked about a little bit in the opening. So when people are really upset, they often feel like they are losing their mind. Now in technical terms, they're experiencing the loss of their executive functioning. You might hear this from time to time, this loss of executive functioning, because that's a big part of other things such as Asperger's or some of these disorders. And the loss of executive functioning is, in essence the loss of being able to, that executive functioning area is the area where we make sense of things. It's often called our rational brain, our logical brain. So, the brain on trauma. The limbic brain and the visual cortex show increased activation and the speech center shows markedly decreased activation. So the more intense that our emotions are, it activates that amygdala, our fight or flight part of our brain. And so then our rational, our cognitive brain, and I love how Bessel van der Kolk says that our rational cognitive part of the brain is the youngest part of our brain, and it only occupies about 30% of your skull. And its primary concerns with the world outside of us are understanding how things and people work and figuring out how to accomplish goals, manage our time, and then sequence our actions. And I love how he says that's the youngest part of our brain, so intense emotion and this, hyperactivated amygdala, the fight or flight response, now that's the old guard, the OG, that's been there forever, that's there to protect us. So it's this newer part of the brain is the one that says, okay, I think we're safe now, what do you wanna do? And so Bessel van der Kolk says, “The brain is built from the bottom up. So the most primitive part, also known as the reptilian brain, is located in the brainstem just above the place where our spinal cord enters the skull.” And that reptilian part of the brain is responsible for hunger and thirst, pain, breathing, pretty important, ridding the body of toxins, meaning urinating, defecating, poo poo, pee pee jokes. Uh, anybody as a dad that's getting older. The brainstem, the hypothalamus, which sits directly above it, controls the energy levels of the body. 

So again, we've got this very base version of the brain that is eat, drink, pain, react, emote, breathe, poop, pee. And from there we get right above that, the hypothalamus that controls the energy level of the body and it coordinates the endocrine and immune systems and keeps the internal balance that we know as homeostasis. So we go right up from the reptilian brain and we've got the limbic system, or they call it the mammal brain. This is the seed of emotions. This is the monitor of danger, the judge of what is pleasurable or scary, the arbiter of what is or is not important for survival purposes. So the limbic system is shaped in response to experience. So the more that you do, the more that you think and feel, that shapes the limbic system. Again, this mammal brain, so that in partnership with the, you know, as an infant, your own genetic makeup and your inborn temperament, those are what starts to shape what it feels like to be you. So, this limbic system, so that's when I talk about nature and nurture, birth order, DNA abandonment, rejection. Now we're talking limbic system. And so whatever happens to a baby contributes to the emotional and perceptual map of the world that it's developing and that its brain creates. This is where he says, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Also known as neuroplasticity. And that's not something that's just set in concrete at birth or at age three, or five, or 12, or 19 or 25.

We've got more and more data that say that the neurons that fire together, wire together, throughout your life. So now if you feel safe, you feel loved, then your brain becomes specialized in exploration, play, cooperation. But if you're frightened, if you feel unwanted, then it specializes in managing feelings of fear and abandonment. So in the book, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk says, “The emotional brain equals the reptilian brain and limbic system.” So the emotional brain is at the heart of the central nervous system, and its key task is the lookout for your welfare. If it detects danger or there's any special opportunity that you need to be aware of, it alerts you by releasing a little dose of hormones, and the result is a visceral gut sensation, ranging from feeling a little bit queasy to the grip of panic in your chest, and it will interfere with whatever your mind is currently focused on, and it'll get you moving physically and mentally in a different direction. So now, well-functioning frontal lobes are crucial for a harmonious relationship with our fellow human beings. So without flexible, active frontal lobes, people become creatures of habit and their relationships start to become superficial and routine. And then he talks about invention, innovation, discovery, and wonder. They're all lacking when you are just trying to survive. And I see this so often. If I go into the people that are in emotionally abusive relationships and I talk about it, I like to call it, it's a waste of emotional calories and emotional energy when somebody is continually just trying to manage their feelings and emotions and regulate their safety when they're in a relationship with a significant other. Where when people feel safe, then they are free to explore, to play, to be cooperative, and when that is the what it feels like to be you on the inside, then you're more open to invention, innovation, discovery, and wonder. But when you are in this, I have to protect myself, then we never get to those things and it never becomes a, you are the best version of you. So, those frontal lobes, let me go over that quickly. Bessel van der Kolk says, “Our frontal lobes can also, but not always, stop us from doing things that will embarrass us or hurt others. We don't have to eat every time we're hungry or blow up every time we're angry or kiss anybody who arouses our desires,” but he says that, “it is exactly on that edge between impulse and acceptable behavior where most of our troubles begin.” So the more intense that visceral or sensory input from the emotional brain, the less capacity that the rational brain has to put a damper on it. So if you think about that, if you are one who falls prey to impulse on a regular basis, if you can start to see where I'm going here, you can start to relate that to trauma.

And I'm not saying, okay, now, you know, oh my gosh, we gotta dig in there and rewire your entire brain. But sometimes just being aware that, oh, I am a bit impulsive and I get right between that edge of impulse and acceptable behavior. And that is where my trouble begins. And so that visceral or emotional brain, if it is very impulsive, that most likely that's there to protect me for some reason. All of a sudden I feel like I have to impulsively act on something, or maybe I'll never get another chance to do that again, or that's the only time that I feel this sense of adrenaline or rush. So just being aware of that often is part of this road to recovery. So he says, “Past trauma and the ongoing threat perception system of the brain, it affects people's current reactions.”

So this amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain makes no distinction between past and present, once it's triggered, even if the trigger isn't the same as the original trauma, then your brain is still gonna say, oh, I'm triggered. And it's not trying to say, yeah, but this one doesn't seem as real. So in the book he talks about the challenges, not so much learning to accept the terrible things that have happened, but learning how to gain mastery over one's internal sensations and emotions. Sensing the feelings and the emotions, naming the feelings and the emotions, and identifying what's going on inside of you is really the first step to recovery. And let me talk a little bit about the amygdala and then I'll get away from the brain here and we'll talk more about, I wanna hit a little bit on this concept of mirror neurons, but the amygdala's really important. It's important that our amygdala is working correctly. Bessel van der Kolk says “It's like a smoke detector for danger, we don't want to get caught unaware by a raging fire, but we also don't want to get into a frenzy every time we smell smoke.” So we need to be able to detect whether somebody is getting upset with us. But if the amygdala goes into overdrive, then we may become chronically scared that people hate us or that we feel like they are out to get us.

So our amygdala means well, but if that panic button is stuck on, then that can be something that we're gonna need to work through. And so therapy, and I love that Bessel van der Kolk talks about this, “Therapy only works if a person is grounded in the present moment,” you know he says, can feel their butt on the chair, see the light coming through the window and feel calm and safe. So, “being anchored in the present while revisiting the trauma, that's what opens up the possibility of deeply knowing that the terrible events belong to the past.” And this is one of the most powerful things about talk therapy. And I know that this is so powerful. I see it on a daily basis that when somebody can sit there and they are grounded and they are able to talk and express these feelings and emotions and tell these stories from the past or even things that are going on in the present, or their fears of the future and they can talk about those and express those in a way that is safe and have somebody there that is not trying to tell them, well, why didn't you do this? Or you should do this instead. But when somebody is really there and saying, and then what happened? And tell me what that was like, and how did you feel? That all of a sudden we're grounded, we're anchored in that moment, and we're able to express something scary and we feel safe. And that's starting to rewire or change the neuropathways of the brain. So again, therapy works when somebody's grounded, they're in that present moment. So being anchored while revisiting trauma opens that possibility of deeply knowing that the terrible events belong to the past. If a person's in a flashback or they don't feel calm or safe, if they start to feel defensive or aggressive, and feel unsafe or not believed, then therapy doesn't work and at best it can make a person almost re-traumatized. And that's the part where if, and I'm not trying to say that as a knock on therapist, but I'm trying to say that as a bless the heart of your friends, that if we start to open up about trauma to those and you do not feel believed and you do not feel safe, then again, not only does it not work as a way to help heal, but it can make you almost feel re-traumatized because there's somebody that doesn't believe you.

So I said I would move away from the brain after the amygdala, but Bessel van der Kolk has a great way to talk about the thalamus. “So our thalamus is like a cook. It takes information from all the senses, and then it blends it with our autobiographical memory. So breakdown of the thalamus explains why traumas are primarily remembered not as a story with a beginning, middle, or end, but as isolated sensory imprints, images, sounds, physical sensations that are accompanied by intense emotion, usually terror and helplessness.” And so in the book, the Buddha Brain, the author talks about the mechanisms of memory. And the way that memory works is such an interesting thing where we conjure up an image and then we fill in all the gaps. And it's a more productive use of neural real estate, I believe, the author Rick Hansen said. But that's where we start getting into this concept of confabulated memory, where every time that we recall a memory, then we're gonna fill in the gaps with different details. And then when we put that memory away, now that's the new confabulated memory. So in normal circumstances, Bessel van der Kolk says the thalamus also acts as a filter or a gatekeeper. So he says, “This makes it the central component of attention, concentration, and new learning, all of which are compromised by trauma.” So people that have PTSD have their floodgates wide open, they lack a filter, and they're on constant sensory overload. So in order to cope, they try to shut themselves down and they develop tunnel vision and hyperfocus. And if they can't shut down naturally, they may enlist drugs or alcohol to block out the world. And the tragedy is that the price of closing down includes filtering out sources of pleasure and joy as well. It's as if the brain has to do all or nothing thing, because it's so fearful or afraid of trauma. And Bessel van der Kolk talks about mirror neurons. This is a really interesting concept that there's a belief that these mirror neurons could be the key to all kinds of things in the future. Mirror neurons explain empathy, imitation synchrony in the development of language. “Mirror neurons,” he says, “are like neural wifi. We pick up not only another person's movement, but their emotional state and intentions as well.” So when people are in sync with each other, they tend to stand or sit in similar ways. Their voices take on the same rhythms, but mirror neurons also make us more vulnerable to others' negativity, so that we respond to their anger with fury or we're dragged down by their depression. And because trauma almost invariably involves not being seen or not being mirrored and not being taken into account, then treatment for trauma needs to reactivate the capacity to safely mirror and be mirrored by others, but also to resist being hijacked by others' negative emotions. And he talks about two ways to implement change.

So now we're talking top down or bottom up. “So structures in the emotional brain decide what we perceive as dangerous or safe. There are two ways of changing the threat detection system from the top down,” which he says, “is through modulating messages from the medial prefrontal cortex.” What does that mean? Mindfulness, meditation, yoga. So from the top down, being able to just have that pause and bring in information in a much more calm way. Or he says, “From the bottom up through the reptilian brain, through breathing, through movement, and through touch, which helps recalibrate your autonomic nervous system.” And he goes into a lot of detail about the autonomic nervous system as well as the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic, I'll talk about those two because people have really clever things that they remember with the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

So the sympathetic nervous system acts as the body's accelerator. It includes the fight or flight or what Darwin referred to as the escape or avoidant behavior. Functions with the use of emotions. The parasympathetic or PNS works against emotions and it promotes self-preservation. So functions like digestion, wound healing, exhaling, that helps to calm us down. So, you know, inhaling helps to activate adrenaline. Exhaling helps us to calm down. So you can access your whole, you know, the sympathetic and parasympathetic are part of this autonomic nervous system, and you can access those through breathing, movement, touch. I mean, breathing is one of the few body functions under, it's underneath both conscious and autonomic control. There's a neuroscientist named Paul McClain. He compares the relationship between the rational brain and the emotional brain to that between more or less of a competent rider and his unruly horse. “So as long as the weather is calm and the path is smooth, the rider can feel like they are in excellent control. But then unexpected sounds or threats from other animals can make the horse bolt. So then forcing the writer to hold on for dear life.” So likewise, when people feel like their survival is at stake, or they're seized by rages, longings, fear, sexual desires, they stop listening to the voice of reason. And it makes little sense to argue with them.

 Sometimes this is that, I think I did an episode long ago on the passenger and the rider, and so it's that same thing. So the rider can be in excellent control. You know, the rider is that rational brain. And then the emotional brain is the animal that is being ridden. And then if that animal is spooked, so to speak, that emotional brain, then it can just take off. And that rational brain is literally hanging on there for dear life. So a person who has been in anger management classes, for example, maybe seven or eight times, might extol the virtue of the technique by saying they are great, they work terrific, but then they find out, as long as you're not really angry.

When our emotional and rational brains are in conflict, for example, when we're enraged with somebody that we love or frightened by somebody that we depend on, or we lust after somebody who is off limits, then a tug of war ensues and it gives us a visceral experience. Our gut, our heart, our lungs, they will lead to both physical discomfort and psychological misery. And then the next component that he talks about is adrenaline. So insults and injuries are remembered, the best because the adrenaline that we secrete to defend against potential threats helps us to engrave those incidents into our minds. So how crazy is that? So even if the content of the remark fades, our dislike for the person who made it usually persists. So that adrenaline is a pretty neat thing except for when it's not. So when, when that adrenaline is flowing, you know, and it's there to defend us against potential threats, it's saying, hey, don't forget this guy. And so now you all of a sudden almost have this anchored memory that I don't know if I'd like that person very much. So then when something reminds traumatized people of the past, their right brain reacts as if the traumatic event were happening in the present. But because their left brain isn't really working well at that moment, they may not be aware that they are re-experiencing and reenacting the past.

Because to them, they're furious, they're terrified, they're enraged, they're ashamed, they're frozen. And after that emotional storm passes, then they might look for something or somebody to blame it on. Well, look at what you made me do, and if we're honest, I think most of us have blamed others for our behavior from time to time. But hopefully once we cool down, hopefully we can admit mistakes. But trauma absolutely interferes with this kind of awareness, and that's what I talk often about over in the world of emotional immaturity or narcissism, that it really is, it's a response to childhood trauma where somebody is left without a real sense of self needing external validation and lowered empathy because that trauma interferes with our awareness, people don't experience trauma in the same way. So not everybody experiences trauma in the same way. Some are on hyper alert, some go numb and have decreased activation, blank stares, absent minds. Those are the outward manifestation of the freeze function and so much of how we react to trauma, which survival mode we go into as adults, is how we learn to react to trauma as children. If we numb out as kids, we might numb out as adults, and if we went into fix it mode as kids, or if we had to get our needs met, we had to go juggle or clean the house, we might do that stuff when we're older as well. But after trauma, then many people are either hypervigilant or they're numb. So if they're hypervigilant, then they can't enjoy the ordinary pleasures that life has to offer. And if they're numb, then they have trouble absorbing new experiences, or they may not be alert to signs of real danger. And what Bessel van der Kolk talks about is when that amygdala, what he calls malfunctions, “People no longer run when they should be trying to escape, or they no longer fight back when they should be defending themselves.”

So it can be really challenging to help people deactivate these defense mechanisms that once ensured their survival. So the key about working with trauma is it's not about stopping a behavior like yelling, it's about deactivating a defense mechanism that leads to that yelling. So, to sum this up really quick, it says four main points to know about trauma. “People are patients, but their participants and their healing, and they need to restore their autonomy. Victims of trauma continue to be there instead of here.” So when somebody is in their trauma response, they're there, not here and we need to get them back to here. And you can only be fully in charge of your life if you acknowledge the reality of your body and you're aware of all of its visceral dimensions. And then he also says that “People who suffer from flashbacks,” and I think the vast majority of us do in some form or fashion, maybe that sounds like a dramatic concept, but it's not, “often consciously or unconsciously organize their lives around trying to protect against them.” And this is where I feel like the concepts around we're trying to manage our own anxiety and we do that often through the control of others or trying to control our own environment where in reality when all we're trying to do is control ourselves or others, the truth is there's a lot of disorder or there's a lack of control in the world, and that's where acceptance can come in.

And acceptance can be scary, especially when our body is trying to protect itself by gaining control. So again, they organize their lives, trying to protect themselves. They might work out trying to be strong enough to fend off an attacker or numb themselves with drugs to try to cultivate an illusionary sense of control in highly dangerous situations like bungee jumping and skydiving. Fighting unseen dangers is exhausting and it leaves people fatigued and depressed and weary. And so if the elements of trauma are replayed over and over, then the accompanying stress hormones engrave those memories even more deeply. Again, the neurons that fire together wire together, and all of a sudden then ordinary day-to-day events become less and less compelling. Not being able to deeply take in what's going on around you, it can make it impossible to feel alive. And it becomes really difficult to feel the joy as well as the aggravation of ordinary life. It can be harder to concentrate on the tasks that are in front of you if you're not feeling fully alive in the present. You know? And when you're not, Vessel van der Kolk says, “Not being fully alive in the present, it keeps you more firmly imprisoned in your past.” So there's a lot of different responses to trauma. It can be everything from frantic to collapse. It can be focused, it can depend on your level of danger, but he says that angry people live in angry bodies. That the body of trauma victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. And one of the best ways to do that really is to begin by describing physical sensations that are beneath those emotions. The pressure, the heat, the muscular tension, the tingling, the caving in, the feeling hollow. And then work on identifying sensations that are associated with relaxing or pleasure. You know, part of the job as a therapist is to help people become more aware of literally their breathing, their gestures, their movements, paying attention to subtle shifts in your body, such as tightness in your chest or gnawing in your belly, or especially when you talk about negative events that sometimes people claim, well, no, that those things aren't a big deal. The most natural way for human beings to calm themselves when they're upset is by clinging to another person. But this is hard if the person was physically or sexually violated, because they often then are terrified of bodily conduct.

He talks about the power of hitting rock bottom. I think about this often that rock bottom truly is this principle of hindsight. But he says, “Therapy often starts due to some inexplicable or problematic behavior. Not sleeping or eating, fear of others, partner cheating, jumping into the fix of the problem is not the solution. It takes time and patience to allow the reality behind these symptoms to reveal themselves.” So you can't just jump in there and fix something in a session or two, but starting to be aware and knowing that I think I want to get some help is a huge step. And he says, “Many traumatized people find themselves chronically out of sync with the people around them and many find comfort in groups where they can talk about what happened to them with others who have gone through things that are similar.” This often helps alleviate this sense of isolation, but usually at the price of having to deny their individual difference or isolating oneself into a narrowly defined victim group can promote a view of others as irrelevant or at best dangerous.

Which eventually only leads to further alienation. So a lot of times people then stay away from these groups or people that have had similar experiences because their brain tells them stories like, well, I just don't wanna get in there and just complain all the time. And I feel like that's an adorable story that your brain is telling you to keep you away from the unknown, when in reality that unknown is what can heal you. If relationships with people don't help, relationships with other mammals can, animal therapy, it's very real. But talking through things is really important. Sigmund Freud saw or thought that the lack of verbal memory is central and trauma, and that if a person does not remember that he is likely to act it out. I thought that was such a deep thought. Freud said he reproduces it, not as a memory, but as an action. He repeats it without knowing, of course, that he's repeating it. And in the end we understand that this is his way of remembering. As early as 1893, there was a study called The Talking Cure, Freud's and Brewer, the individual hysterical symptoms immediately and permanently disappeared when we had succeeded in bringing clearly to light the memory of the event by which it was provoked. So when the patient had described what that event was in the greatest possible detail and had put that affect into words. So there needs to be, this was a quote from that study. “There needs to be an energetic reaction to traumatic events. And if there isn't, the affect remains attached to the memory and cannot be discharged.” Tears and acts of revenge are how most people discharge their trauma. So if people don't consciously remember, they react. So if you've been hurt, you need to acknowledge and learn how to name what happened to you. 

I'm gonna wrap this up with a couple more things real quick here. In 2002, Dr. Spencer Eth interviewed 225 people who had escaped the Twin Towers. And when asked what had helped them recover the most, the survivors credited acupuncture, massage, yoga, and EMDR, in that order. And massage was particularly helpful among rescue workers. So the survey suggested that most helpful interventions focused on relieving the physical burdens generated by trauma. So trauma makes people feel like either somebody else or like nobody. And people often lose their ability to speak. And in order to overcome trauma, you need to help get back in touch with your body and with yourself because our sense of ourselves is anchored in a vital connection with our bodies. We do not truly know ourselves until we can feel and interpret our physical sensations. And we need to be able to register and act on these sensations to navigate safely throughout life. So if you are unaware of what your body needs, you can't take care of it. If you don't feel hunger, you can't nourish yourself. If you mistake anxiety for hunger, you may eat too much. And if you can't feel when you are full, you'll keep eating. So this is why cultivating this sensory awareness is such a critical aspect of trauma recovery. Traumatized people need to learn that they can tolerate their sensations, that they can befriend these inner experiences and they can cultivate new action patterns. And that's done through everything from talk therapy to yoga, to, as you mentioned, everything from massage and emdr.

But moving forward into healing, no one can treat away abuse or rape, molestation, or any other horrendous event and what has happened can't be undone, and that's not said in a negative way, but what can be dealt with are the imprints of the trauma on the body, the mind, and the soul, so that crushing sensation in your chest that you may label as anxiety or depression, the fear of losing control, always being on alert for danger or rejection, the self-loathing, the nightmares, the flashbacks, maybe the fog that keeps you from staying on task or fully engaging in what you’re doing. Or being unable to fully open your heart to another human being. Trauma robs you of the feeling that you are in charge of yourself. So the challenge of recovery is to reestablish ownership of your body and your mind, and to feel what you feel without becoming overwhelmed or enraged or ashamed or collapsed. So for most people, there's four things. Finding a way to become calm and focused. Learning to maintain that calm in response to images or thoughts, sounds or physical sensations that remind you of your past, or finding a way to be fully alive in the present and engage with the people around you and not having to keep secrets from yourself, including secrets about the ways that you've managed to survive.

And one of the key things of doing this is finding yourself around safe people and also finding out things that matter to you. It goes back to are you acting in accordance, in alignment with your values or are you living a life full of socially compliant goals or doing things that you feel like you're supposed to do or you'll let other people down? Because that feeling that I may let someone else down can absolutely be tied back to some childhood trauma because you're responsible for you and the best way to find out who you are is to start to take action on things that matter to you and see where that takes you. So, welcome to the world of trauma recovery.

If you have questions, thoughts, or any other things that maybe we can address in future episodes, then send me a note contact@tonyoverbay.com or through my website or comment on the post that will go up about this on my social media feeds on Instagram. I would love to get your opinions because trauma can absolutely be overcome, but the exact thing that we often are afraid of, of talking about it and I hope you heard that part where needing to be able to talk about it with people that do feel safe, can absolutely help you move through and pass trauma, and be able to invite it to come along with you while you start to take action on things that matter. And then you really start to find yourself and live this more purposeful, intentional, value-based life. And that's an amazing place to be, rather than wasting all of your time in emotional calories and energy trying to manage your emotions, manage your anxiety, or control your environment. All right, send me your questions and we'll see you next time and taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented Aurora Florence with her song, “It's Wonderful”. We'll see you next week and have an amazing time. See you next week on the virtual Couch.

Tony shares 8 mental health lessons learned from a Christmas spent at Disneyland. 1) You’ll never really know something until you experience it. 2) Churros provide an immediate but temporary dopamine dump. 3) How to come back to the present moment, over and over again. 4) How easy it can be to find yourself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms when triggered suddenly. 5) What it looks like to turn to a value-based activity or goal when feeling down, flat, off, or all of the above. 6) Radical acceptance, or the ability to accept situations outside of your control without judgment, reduces suffering. (from “What is Radical Acceptance https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-radical-acceptance-5120614) 7) Psychological flexibility, or “holding our thoughts and emotions a bit more lightly, and acting on longer-term values and goals rather than short term impulses, thoughts, and feelings” can lead to a greater sense of purpose and a stronger connection with the present moment (from “What is Psychological Flexibility https://workingwithact.com/what-is-act/what-is-psychological-flexibility/) and 8) From Virtual Couch guest Mike Rucker, author of “The Fun Habit,” https://amzn.to/3ClRTXG doing things, or “encoding richer experiences,” starts to light you up because you are creating an internal “tapestry of really cool stuff,” in your brain rather than simply passing time. 

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


Tony: Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 355 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. Mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, and creator of the Path back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people turn into the amazing people that they were meant to be. But let's get to today's episode. First up, just sign up for my newsletter. Go to tonyoverbay.com. Plain and simple because so many things are coming now in 2023. New version of the Magnetic Marriage course is coming soon. If you're still interested in a discount on my Path Back Pornography Recovery Course, new year, new you, then email me through my website and The Magnetic Marriage Podcast is imminent, a true crime meets the Virtual Couch Podcast with one of my daughters is launching soon. The magnetic marriage workshop, which is different from the full fledged course, 90 minutes of what you didn't know that you didn't even know is still available for $19 at tonyoverbay.com/workshop. So, so many things, but let's get to today's episode.

So I am not sure what title I eventually went with, but the working title was, “It's the psychology of the churro, eight mental health lessons learned over Christmas break at Disneyland”. So, surprise. We went to Disneyland for Christmas as in literally on Christmas Day, and this is something that we have never done, and my wife essentially sold it as a bit of a bucket list item. Let's try it. Maybe it will be insanely crowded. Maybe nobody goes on Christmas. It might rain, it might be too cold. But let's jump right in. Psychology rule number one, you'll never really know until you, till you go. So spread that out in a broader sense. And how often in our lives do we just wonder and wonder and ruminate and ask other people what they think, what their opinion is? All the while that the answer lies in the doing. So curious what Disneyland would be like at Christmas. Well, there's really only one good way to know, let's go. And while we're talking about Disneyland, let's talk about churros, the psychology of the churro. Now, in episode 276, I had to go look that one up on the Virtual Couch, which was recorded about a year and a half ago. I talked about what I learned on my summer vacation on a trip no less than to Disneyland. And at that time I went with my daughter McKinley, my niece, Taylor, and my wife Wendy, and we traveled to the Magic Kingdom to celebrate. At that time it was Taylor's graduation from college. And McKinley's graduation from cosmetology school.

And in that episode I spent quite a bit of time talking about dopamine, the wonderful feel good, hyper-focused chemical in our brain, and how the true dopamine bump in our brain occurs in the anticipation of an event, which is so beautifully laid out in James Clear's book, Atomic Habits. And we had our dopamine neurotransmitters transmitting and anticipating that trip as well as throughout the trip as we moved from one ride to another. And I highly recommend you go back and listen to that if you're curious to learn everything you wanted to know about dopamine, because we talk about a lot of things. One fascinating thing there was the concept of the Coolidge effect, which is something where the more that you do this repetitive task, the more that you need to amp up that repetitive task in order to still have those dopamine neurotransmitters transmitting. And so that's especially true in the world of people who turn to pornography as an unhealthy coping mechanism. And why the more that they do that, the more and more they need to turn to, I don’t know, crazier or more extreme things to get that dopamine bump. But I digress. We were talking about so much, as I lamented, in episode 276 that I never attended Disneyland as a child. My first trip was after I was married and my wife couldn't believe that I had never been. So we went a few times before we had kids, but I had also never had a churro until, I don't even think I ate them at Disneyland, but I didn't have a churro until probably in my thirties. So, fast forward 20 years later now in my early fifties, and I've eaten my weight in churros many, many times. And one of the real treats of Disneyland are the churros. And just in case you're like most Americans, the Disneyland churro experience is not the game of chance that is the Costco churro or the churro from the random Mexican restaurant that you may stumble upon, where you're literally gambling on whether or not the churro is good, period.

And then even if it tastes good, is it fresh and is it hot? Oh no. The Disneyland churro cart will no doubt be lining, I think, the gold paved streets of heaven with never too long of a weight and the perfect freshness and heat, and we're not talking just cinnamon, over the holidays, the Disney churro carts feature, and I'm sure I'm missing a few of the following flavors of a churro. And yeah, I did have to google this. Berries and cream, blueberry, green apple. Now, I personally tried one called the Caliente churro that was covered in cinnamon red hot candy sprinkles, but there was also the cinnamon sugar galaxy churro where you're essentially, I think, eating cinnamon and sugar glitter. And I actually meant to follow up and ask about a couple of people in our party that had them if you noticed that glitter a day or so later, if you know what I mean. But anyway, there was a mango churro and a s'mores churro, and one called the bride churro, which was my personal favorite, other than just your original churro, but the bride churro was covered heavily in a bouquet of vanilla and sugar, according to the internet pires, where psychology lesson number two enters the story. So back to that dopamine, the I don’t know, the doggone but wonderful dopamine. So I was very aware during this. Of how, when I found myself with any of the following triggers, tired, feeling like a flat affect, bored, frustrated, angry, lonely, and I'm sure several others, my brain literally did think churro or a time or two a thought, beignet. But churro, yes, a churro would make me feel good. Or walking past a churro cart that was a layup. My brain would say, well, we have to get a churro. And I noticed in particular one, or I don’t know, seven or eight times where I was already incredibly full. But the trigger of the churro card alone signaled to my brain that we need churro almost in that Neanderthal speak, “must have churro”. And then I could remind myself that I had already eaten a meal or I'd already had a churro or two earlier in the day. And my brain thought, oh, okay. How cute. You know, two can play this game, so let's go. So then it would come up with all the “yeah, buts”.

Well, yeah. You're only at Disneyland every couple of years. Or what if a zombie apocalypse occurs in Disneyland and their churro carts are destroyed? And so you better have all the churros now, or it's the end of the year and you might want to dough up a little bit. So when you start the new diet and exercise regime come January one, then those transformation pictures and videos will be even greater if you put down an even two dozen churros over the next three days, so not to mention all the aforementioned flavors of churro, my brain telling me that, well, you don't want to miss out on the blueberry churro or the green apple churro. Or the fact that my watch showed that we walked well over 10 miles on day one, and so therefore, I deserve these churros, and on and on and on. So, my point being that our brains are really, really clever, especially when it comes to wanting their fix, or their high, and after a churro or two, I really didn't notice how my brain thought often about wanting one, especially whenever I was feeling flat or down or any of those other triggers that I mentioned earlier, which led to psychology lesson number three, which I'll just call being present or being in the moment. And this was a really important one that I was so aware of when I was aware of it during the trip. I once attended a mindfulness training and I remember the instructor challenged us all to go home and mindfully eat a piece of fruit. And what does that look like? Well, he said spend at least 15 minutes appreciating, savoring, taking in every sight and bite and sound and taste of whatever that fruit was. And I did try it with an apple and I lasted a few minutes, and it was a pretty good experience before I think I probably became distracted, but I've thought about that exercise often and I understand the point to being in that moment and appreciating every bite.

So I did try that a couple of times with the churro. And I would take in the smell and I would feel the heat radiating through the piece of wax paper used as a holder. And I would notice the granules of cinnamon and sugar. And then I would thank the universe for them, and I would bite down and I would hear this crunch through the perfect mix of solid and soft, maybe savoring the flavor and then I feel like at times, and I'm sure I'm probably going to humor here, I would enter almost some sort of sugar themed dissociative fugue state, where I would then almost in essence come to with noticing, I don't know, I'm gnawing on my finger or cinnamon and sugars all over my face like a child, and my family probably phones out filming my coming to from this, I don't know, sugar coma, wondering where I was, you know, until I could realize, okay, I'm in line. I can smell the rubber of the poncho draped over me as we're waiting in line for Splash Mountain. But my true point there is that it is fascinating that you can even bring yourself into the moment, the present moment, being mindful, all those wonderful therapeutic things that we talk about with mindfulness, and appreciating and doing. But then you can do that until you don't. And what I simply mean by that is one of these things that I love talking about the most from the book Buddha Brain, and I'll own that I have now completely butchered the author Rick Hansen's concept. But he's in essence talking about these four steps to enlightenment or four paths of awakening or something to that effect where I've boiled it down in my own brain to, you basically didn't know what you didn't know.

So before I even knew about mindfulness, I'm just, I'm just there. I'm just inhaling churros and I'm just trying to chase happiness or whatever that looks like. Then you start becoming aware, so you kind of know the things that you didn't know before. But that's a really difficult place to be at times, because I know, but then I don't always do. So I might have been in that moment recognizing, man, this is a moment, and I was noticing that I was feeling down or flat, and I come back to the present moment and let's say that I'm savoring that churro until all of a sudden I realize I'm not. So I went from not being aware of what I wasn't even aware of to now I'm aware I'm going to be in that moment until all of a sudden, I'm not.

And that isn't me doing anything wrong or bad. It just kind of is. And that's a tough place to be because there's a lot of things in our lives that we start to become aware of. But then we're not good at doing, you know, we might not be good at bringing ourself back into the present moment. We might want to stop yelling at our kids, and then we may be able to do that often, but we're not perfect at it. So then we beat ourselves up about, well, now that I know, and why did I still yell and what's wrong with me? But nothing, you're a human being and now you're aware. So that second phase or path of enlightenment or awakening is that we went from not knowing what we didn't know to now I know, and I do, sometimes, whatever this new thing is, and then that moves slowly but surely into the third step or path of awakening or enlightenment, where now you do whatever it is more than you don't. So now maybe you're not yelling at your kids very often at all, or maybe I'm almost finishing that churro and being so present and in the moment and eventually you just become. That is what it feels like to be you. You just do, now all of a sudden you are this calmer person around your kids, or you are a person that really is in that moment and savors and appreciates the entire churro. So that just being present and being in the moment is something that does need practice and to give yourself a tremendous amount of grace as you start to work on this path of awareness or enlightenment or as you start to make your way further down the churro.

But I really do recommend the exercise of trying to be incredibly present while you eat or drink, because that's just a good way to practice being present, being in the moment, or mindfulness in just your everyday life. But while we're on the churro, I would say that that would also lead to psychology lesson four, which is turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to again, get that dopamine bump. Now if I go back to just part of the work that I do, I love couples therapy. I love helping people working through a faith deconstruction or journey. And I also work with a lot of people that struggle with turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as pornography, hence the Path Back Pornography Recovery Program. But I know when I was promoting my book, He's a Porn Addict, Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict to Answer Your Questions with Josh Shea, that at that time I had counted up and I had worked with well over 1500 individuals who have come to me wanting to be more present in their lives, wanting to be better marriage partners, better parents, improve their health, wanting to understand their relationship with the divine and their desires of a more fulfilling career. Now, they don't come to me expressing those things. They come to me because they want to stop turning to things like pornography, that it is absolutely zapping their motivation, their drive. They find themselves wasting a tremendous amount of time, which only causes them to beat themselves up even more.

And when it comes to things like pornography, it also probably can warp or dull their sex drive or make them have a more difficult time being present with their spouse, their mate, but, so that's what people come to me for, but you can replace, again, pornography with turning to their phones or gambling or food or work or even things like exercise or YouTube or TikTok. But when it comes to turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, that's where, I learned a long time ago, what I call these five voids. So I go back to when I said, people are coming to me wanting to be better marriage partners, better parents, improve their health, understand their relationship with the divine, desires of a more fulfilling career. Those five voids that I like to help people with when they turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms are becoming a better marriage partner or just a better partner in their relationships or becoming a better parent, or that could even be a better friend or finding something that really motivates or matters to them with regard to a career or if they feel, you know, for lack of a better word, stuck in a career. How can you work your values into your current career? Or working on your relationship with God or the divine or your faith. If you feel like that is not a place that brings you strength or joy, then, these are all things that will lead or cause someone to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. And that fifth void is your health as well. So, there's an acronym in the world of unhealthy coping mechanisms or addiction called halt, where if you are hungry, if you're angry, if you're lonely, if you're tired, that those are times when you have to watch out cause your guard's down, and you may then turn to these unhealthy coping mechanisms. So if you can shore up parenting or marriage or faith or health or your career, then that siren song of the coping mechanism is not gonna scream at you as loud, which is a pretty nice transition into psychology lesson five, which I just call turning toward value-based activities. So, long lines at Disneyland. That was no surprise. Now, they weren't horrible. I think part of it was going in, and anticipating and accepting the fact that yeah, there were going to be some long lines. And so that was okay. That part was all right because there was already an expectation or an anticipation that would be the case.

Now, that does not cause everyone to just be happy and motivated and hyper presents for the two hours in the wait for this new Star Wars ride, which is pretty darn amazing. And I was a Star Wars guy however many years ago that the first three came out, which makes me sound so old. And over time have probably not kept up on all the different Star Wars vehicles and then the entire franchise in Star Wars Canon. But in that Star Wars line, there were nine of us. And it was over two hours, the wait. And I felt like that was probably the test, the verbal exam, the experiential exam on mindfulness and being present at Disneyland. I think it was day two. And so we were already getting pretty tired and this is where I go back to that when you are aware of what matters to you, let's just go with the, it's easier to state it as when you're in touch or in alignment with your values. So I have absolutely a certainty that my values are a couple of them. Authenticity. I need to be authentic. I can't just do something to try to make somebody else happy. And I have a strong value of curiosity, adventure, fitness, and knowledge. And so the curiosity and the knowledge are things that I return to.

So, I could tell the mood everybody was starting to just get a little bit flat. People are getting on their phones. We're not communicating as much when we've been in this line for a while. And at that moment when you notice, you know, I notice that I'm starting to feel flat. I notice I'm starting to feel a little bit of anxiety around wanting to make sure that everybody's having a wonderful time, and so here's where I go big on there's three things I think that we typically do that are probably not the best when we find ourselves in those situations. The first one is to say, what's wrong with me? Again, nothing. You are a human being. You're the only version of you and check it out. That's how you think and feel at that very moment. First time I had ever been in that line on the second day of Disneyland on that day with nine people at hour number whatever of the day. And also experiencing temporary closures of the ride and trying to figure out if we should leave the line or not leave the line and managing a lot of people, helping people manage their expectations. So that is how I felt. And those were my feelings, and that was how I was showing up. So check that out. The second thing that I think we do along those lines, that is not the best is then when we, okay, so we don't do the, what's wrong with me, and then I feel like the next one's a layup where we also can't tell ourselves, well, don't think that. Because again, don't think of a pineapple right now. Don't think of a green polar bear holding a yellow umbrella, riding a unicycle because most likely your brain is following along with me because of that good old psychological reactance or that instant negative reaction being told what to do. Our brain is just hardwired. It's a defense mechanism at that point. It's a survival skill. And so I can't say, “what's wrong with me?”, because nothing, I'm a human. I have emotions and feelings and I can't say “don't think that” because I will think about it even more. And then the third thing I think is kind of tricky as well, is we will tell ourselves, okay, instead of that, just think something else is think, man, I'm so grateful to be here. And that can work for a minute, until it doesn't. Until then, all of a sudden I feel the pain in my feet and I feel the, I was going to say the lightness of my wallet and all these things where I can start to then notice that I am starting to feel flat or down or fill in the blank. So that's where I feel like the best thing that one can do is recognize and acknowledge that I am starting to feel flat. Check that out. I'm noticing that I'm starting to withdraw, to retreat, to feel flat. And then what is the story? My brain's telling me that people aren't having a good time or that I need to do something to make sure that everybody's happy, or these sorts of things. So those are stories my brain's telling me. Those are fascinating. I can make room for those. But then the key is then in that moment turning to a value-based activity. So a value-based activity of curiosity or of knowledge, I still have this in the cache of my browser. 15 random facts about Disneyland. And so at that point, now I'm turning to this value of curiosity and knowledge and then just sharing some facts.

And it led to some fun conversations. If I scroll through this, Mickey Mouse's name, did you know that Mickey Mouse was not the original choice of his name originally? He was to be named Mortimer. But later, it was turned into Mickey Mouse. California Adventure, which I love, I love that place, was a parking lot formerly. That one doesn't really make me think, oh my goodness, that sort of thing. There's a statue of Walt Disney on Main Street and it's seven inches taller than Walt himself was. Now it doesn't tell why, but as a person that is not towering over others. As I am not, I can see myself bumping that statue up a little bit. I might have gone a solid foot taller. And then, this website, which is actually called Everythingmom.com, but it also says the original design was supposed to have him with an ice cream in his hand, but that was rejected. And rumor has it that his hand is in the air and a celebratory “look, Mickey, at what we created.” You know what was almost Mortimer. Main Street. I thought this was interesting. The buildings along Main Street USA are built to create the effect of a longer street when entering the park and a shorter street when going back to your car. And then there were just a few others, the millionth guest of Disneyland was actually achieved within a month of the park opening, and there's a light in the window above the fire station and the apartment on Main Street. That's the apartment that Walt Disney would stay in. And that light and the apartment represented him working hard. He said he always wanted his employees to know that he was working just as hard as them. So since Walt Disney's death, it's been kept on 24/7 as a reminder of Walt Disney's dedication and hard work. And mustaches, Walt Disney did not allow his male employees to have mustaches. And then one more, one more of these fun facts, because we would see a lot of these different wishing wells, and they had money in them. They had dollar bills in them, they had coins, and we were continually playing the game of how much? And so in everythingmom.com, she says, did you know this random Disney fact with all the money that is thrown into the ponds and wishing wells, Walt decided very early on to always donate it to charity. And she says, could you imagine how much money is donated? Rumor is that every time It’s a Small World shuts down for refurbishment, they clean it out and it totals over a hundred thousand dollars each time. That's a lot of money, so turning to this value of curiosity, this value of knowledge, and then that will bring you more into the present moment.

Now, the reason why I want to share this is because what I thought was really fascinating, and I think this is such a valuable lesson, is that as soon as we would almost go through a list like that, and then you would notice that people were kind of done maybe talking. It wasn't like then I was locked in and the rest of the day everything was amazing and great and wonderful. No, our brain will default back to the “yeah, buts”, or I'm noticing my feet again are hurting or my wallet is light, or whatever that is. And I want to just normalize that because a lot of times I feel like people will bring themselves into that moment, be mindful, turn to a value-based activity, and then they will do that, be more engaged in the moment. And then when they stop doing that, then they will say, see, that didn't work. And quite frankly, it's the opposite. That did work because for that entire period of time we had a shared. And now we had some fun facts and we will probably remember some of those things at a later date and be able to share those with others but we had a moment there instead of just feeling down or feeling flat.

And I'll get to this in a little bit, I've got a quote from a former guest of mine that was on a few weeks ago, Mike Rucker, that I think will speak to this. So, that turning toward value-based activities. Another one that I thought was really fascinating was we played this game “Heads Up” and if you're familiar with that, you download this app on your phone and it's basically like charades. And we did that one, two or three times, and that was one where I can turn to my value of curiosity and look up fun facts at any point on any day. And that is just very fun. That is one of the things I really enjoy. But I don't always enjoy playing charades in a line where there are a million people around because my, “yeah, buts” in my brain will say, yeah, but it's going to be embarrassing. Or, yeah, but what if we hold up the line, and so on. But anytime I felt like anybody started to play this game, this heads up, then all of us were engaged and it was as if we all played a round of it and then it just felt like, okay, we're good. And then another 30 minutes would go by and then we would do that again. So I felt like by alternating between just some fun facts, some random things we were talking about, and then playing this game, that we made it through that line. And now I want to say we live to tell about it. But when I think about that experience in the line, I now think about playing heads up. I think about these fun facts with Disney, and I think about just having that experience rather than just sitting there and feeling bad and worrying and ruminating and getting angry. Which is almost what our brain will do by default. So it does take intentional effort to bring yourself into that present moment, turn toward those value-based activities. But I promise you that by doing that, whenever you can, I was going to make it sound pretty negative, do that over and over and over again, but eventually that becomes part of your implicit memory or what it feels like to be you, because that is based on this residue of lived experience, and it takes time. But the more that you are bringing yourself back into that moment, and taking action on things that matter, that it really does start to move this needle of what it feels like to be you as somebody who does, who does the things that they do, because you're aware and because you bring yourself back into this present moment over and over again, and that starts to feel like more confident, and more of a sense of connection and a sense of purpose, and just being connected with others and in the moment. So let me blast through a couple of others here. Psychology lesson six, and this is one that I want to spend more time on in the not too distant future, and this is the concept of radical acceptance.

So I noticed a lot of this opportunity to practice radical acceptance while we were at the park. And the reason is that the definition of radical acceptance is, I'm going to pull up a Verywellmind.com article, but radical acceptance is based on the notion that suffering comes not directly from pain, but from one's attachment to the pain. And it has its roots in Buddhism and the psychological paradigm by a gentleman named Carl Rogers that acceptance is the first step toward change. Radical acceptance. We often feel like if we accept the fact that maybe we are a bit powerless when we are walking through these large crowds that we feel like if we accept it, then that means that it is going to be horrible and I might as well just shut down and sit on the side of the road and wait for everybody to go by. And I'll engage again later that night. But I will say over and over again, acceptance does not mean apathy. So radical acceptance can be defined really as the ability to accept situations that are outside of your control without judging them, which in turn reduces the suffering that's caused by those situations.

So rather than being attached to the fact that, okay, there is a huge crowd here and everybody's going to bump into me, which I feel like was a theme often for a lot of people at Disneyland, and then letting them get frustrated or angry because people were going to stop in front of you. People were going to shift directions. People are going to talk loud, people are going to do a lot of different things there. I felt like it was an ultimate practice of radical acceptance. Again, that accepting situations that are completely outside of my control, it's outside of my control, whether or not somebody stops short in front of me and then decides that they are going to sneeze or cough or talk loudly to somebody beside them. Now I can get frustrated or angry, but to me that doesn't really feel very productive. It's a normal human emotion. I can notice that. But I need to accept those situations that are outside of my control without judgment, and that reduces the suffering that's caused by them. So at that point then, if I go back to this article from verywellmind.com, again, rather than being attached to a painful past, radical acceptance suggests that non-attachment is the key to overcoming suffering. So, non-attachment does not mean not feeling emotion. But it refers to the intention of not allowing pain to turn into suffering. So there was pain and frustration there by the crowds, by people stopping constantly, by people changing direction, by people bumping into each other, bumping into me. I mean, that can be frustrating, but it also means radical acceptance means watching your thoughts and feelings, and then just identifying when you're allowing yourself to feel worse than is necessary.

So instead I could be in that moment and notice and actually, bless the hearts of those people that were stopping short because I know that's something that I've done as well. Or I know that there are times where I have spoken up or yelled to get someone's attention in my party, and I'm sure someone was annoyed or I scared someone or surprised someone. So that lack of judgment is that important part of radical acceptance. And that doesn't even mean that I approve of this situation or that I love the fact that everybody stops in front of me and bumps into me. But instead it involves accepting reality for what it is and not getting caught up in an emotional reaction to that reality. So noticing that I have these thoughts, I have these feelings and noticing that I can have an emotional reaction but not getting caught up in it and not letting that consume me. So that's that concept of radical acceptance. And I feel like radical acceptance has a best friend and that best friend is psychological flexibility. And this is one that I've done an episode or two on because this is a real key part of acceptance and commitment therapy. And this is from a website called Workingwithact.com. Psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human based on what that situation affords changing or persisting in behavior and the service of chosen values. So psychological flexibility is more along the lines of what I'm talking about happening in that Star Wars line of contacting that present moment as a conscious human being based on what the situation affords, and then changing the behavior in service of chosen values. So, the author of this article says, so that means in everyday language, this means holding our own thoughts and emotions a bit more and acting on longer term values and goals rather than short-term impulses and thoughts and feelings. And then they say, why? Well, it's because thoughts and emotions tend to be unreliable indicators of long-term value because we have little control. And this is what I think is so key. Again, I think and feel the way I do because I'm a human being and I'm in that situation, and that's how I think and feel.

So we actually have little control over those immediate thoughts and emotions and they will tend to ebb and flow sometimes dramatically in just a moment's notice. And if we trust our thoughts and emotions and act based on them, we can often overlook more important sustained patterns of action, which bring true meaning and vitality and richness to our lives. So if we just say, man, I'm frustrated and angry, and now I take action on being frustrated and angry, then I can get caught up in being frustrated and being angry. But if I notice that I'm frustrated and I notice that I'm angry, those are emotions, of course, I'm going to feel that way. I'm part of the human condition, part of the human experience. But now I'm going to notice them, and now I'm going to take action on things that matter. There are these researchers, Cashtin and Roterberg. They define psychological flexibility as the measure of how a person, number one, adapts to fluctuating situational demands. And number two, reconfigures mental resources. Number three, shifts perspective. And then number four, balances, competing desires, needs, life domains. So then instead of focusing on specific content with a person, the definition of psychological flexibility has to incorporate repeated transactions between people and their environmental contexts. What that means is that it's continuing to adapt to the situations in front of you when what they mean by reconfiguring mental resources is just taking action on something that matters, shifting your perspective, and then starting to put into place your values. You're these competing desires, needs, life domains. I have a value of connection with others. I have a value of curiosity. I'm going to have feelings and thoughts. It's part of being a human. That's okay. But I'm going to take action based on the things that really matter to me, and that is being psychologically flexible at any given moment. So when you can really start to do more of that, and that starts to become the air that you breathe or what it feels like to be you, then when you find yourself in a moment of frustration, then you have this radical acceptance and you have this psychological flexibility, and those things just happen.

The event that you might be caught up in is happening. Check that out. It is, but now I'm going to feel like I have a little more control over that situation because I can now be aware of how I'm thinking and feeling, and that's perfectly okay. And I'm actually going to be able to take action on things that matter, even if it's just within my own brain. That's better than me just sitting in this reactionary state and then feeling like I am absolutely overwhelmed and that I have no control over the situation. Psychology Lesson eight, and we'll wrap this up. This is where I mentioned earlier I had a guest, Mike Rucker. He was on, he's the author of The Fun Habit, and I pulled the transcript because I want to read a quote that he said. He said, “Time is this really rubbery thing.” He said, “It becomes interesting where you don't realize you're wasting time,” he said, “because when you're in those moments that aren't really encoding new memories, they just fly.” He said, “It's not flow by any sense, but when we reminisce back on them, they kind of get condensed as one memory.”

So when we're just, and this is me now interjecting, when we're just thinking and just being, and not taking action on things that matter, it's almost like that just becomes part of this just gray area of our memory. We just remember Christmas, period. But then if we are doing things, he says, “So when we actualize them in a really strange manner where he said, where you think we're kind of led to through cognitive error that, oh, I'm just passing time.” But he said, well, when you start to encode richer experiences, those are the things that start to light you up because now you have a whole tapestry of really cool stuff.  He says, “The fact that we now know that the brain is a predictive engine. It's a predictive machine more than a cause and effect machine.” He said that allows us to make better predictions. “Like, I know I'm going to have fun, so I want to do the thing, whatever that thing is , that will allow me this chance to have fun.” And he says, rather, we want that prediction. I think that as I form these memories and encode these richer experiences, that more than likely I'm going to have a good time. I'm going to have fun. But he said, “Rather than the prediction machine of our brain predicting that, well, it probably won't be that great, so I'm just not going to do it.” Because then that becomes condensed into just this one memory, this just gray area and so we just feel like we just passed time instead of just creating this whole tapestry of really cool things that we do in our lives, because over time that's what it's going to feel like to be you. 

Okay. Taking us out per usual is the wonderful, the talented, the also on TikTok, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's Wonderful”. Have an amazing week and we'll see you next time on the Virtual Couch.

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