Tony shares 4 of his top takeaways from another year of podcasting, including a quick review of his 4 Pillars of a Connected Conversation, how important it is to differentiate from others, and why you have to go through challenges in life to realize that you need additional tools.
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Speaker1: [00:00:05] The. Come on in, take a seat.
Speaker2: [00:00:22] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode three hundred and one of the virtual couch. This is the the end of the year recap extravaganza, a.k.a., though what did we learn this year episode? And I wish I could say that this is something that I've done each and every year, but I have not. But I would love to start this tradition. Why not? On year five of the podcast start a new annual tradition. So today I am going to share with you my and I want to jokingly throw a robotic sound that says Insert no here takeaways from another year of podcasting, because I'm not really sure how many of these takeaways I'm going to go with today. I've written down a list of things that I want to talk about, and we'll see how many we get to, and I hope the episode won't get too long. But I wanted to start with a huge takeaway that I've talked about for more than just this past year, but things have really, really honed in with those four pillars of a connected conversation. And in in talking about the four pillars, I've now been asked to give talks about the four pillars to businesses or religious leaders in congregations, to parenting groups because people really resonate with these four pillars and they really don't come naturally. So just if you've heard any of the episodes that I've done on four pillars of a connected conversation, they come from emotionally focused therapy.
Speaker2: [00:01:32] They have a background in emotionally focused therapy, and I realize that there are people that have on a couple of the YouTube videos I put out have commented that that they don't they aren't necessarily exactly in line with emotionally focused therapy, that sort of thing. And that is no problem because these are some pillars of connected conversation that I feel like I've developed in 15 plus years in the chair and working with over a thousand couples and really trying to see what works. And I had the emotionally focused therapy routes, and I would talk often about just the concepts around EFT and giving out emotional bids and that we really want to know that our partner is there for us, that we can count on them, that they have our back, that they love us. And then when I started working with my buddy Preston Pug Meyer as we were working on creating the magnetic marriage course, and Preston was pretty instrumental in helping me then have these tangible pillars of a connected conversation that we could then refer to often when we were doing the group coaching or I use those in my office all the time. So the first pillar again is assuming good intentions, and this one is so important. And let me just go back and say that these four pillars of a connected conversation, they started as a way to help married couples communicate more effectively.
Speaker2: [00:02:40] But as I shared in this intro, I've been able to use this as in the world of parenting or in the world of business or in religion. But there are some rules that I find are pretty fascinating. I gave a talk about the four pillars of a connected conversation to a congregation one Sunday evening, and someone came up to me afterward and it was wonderful. I had worked with their parents and they even said, Hey, my parents have told me about these four pillars. As a matter of fact, they they say that they remember two out of the four, and I appreciated that common, but I really did feel like not that the people were missing the boat, but the pillars. It's important to understand that they are not a la carte principles. One cannot pick and choose which of the four pillars that they're willing to commit to and which ones they might disagree with. Because these are the foundational principles of having a connected conversation, I really feel like this is a framework to be able to have a connected conversation, a productive conversation with anybody. And so when conversations break down, I feel like you can turn back to one of these four pillars, and you will no doubt be able to identify where one or both of you broke one of the pillars, which led to a breakdown in the conversation. And again, the foundational principle here.
Speaker2: [00:03:43] The paradigm shift that's fascinating is, and I think it's difficult to conceptualize initially, but the goal is to be heard and not to find a resolution because our brains are trained to want to resolve and to fix. So it is a little bit uncomfortable to leave a conversation feeling unresolved, but it is in that attempt at compromise or resolution that eventually puts couples out into the weeds where they're arguing into this fight or flight mode or into these defensive stances or retreating back to their bunkers. So going into the four pillars, it is so important to note that one of the very core foundational rules is starting from a place of of curiosity and wanting to hear more about the other person's experience. So the first pillar is assuming good intentions that nobody wakes up and thinks that they want to hurt their partner. And if we even add a caveat to that, so assuming good intentions or if you need to, there's a reason why people do the things that they do, why they show up the way that they do. So you don't have to get defensive or go into your emotional bunker to protect yourself. Even if you have a hard time believing that there are good intentions behind a message that your spouse or that somebody else is giving you. And right now, if we commit to these principles, these four pillars immediately right now out of the gate is not the time to voice those concerns because it's going to immediately derail the conversation.
Speaker2: [00:04:57] If your spouse comes to you and they are angry or if they're withdrawn, that you need to make that assumption that they feel like that is the way they had to show up to present their message that if they didn't do it with anger or if they didn't just withdraw that they would never be heard like, that's the only way that they feel like they are heard or understood. So if your spouse? Is withdrawn, then assume in assuming good intentions that they feel like showing up in this withdrawn nature is the only way that they will be noticed or that ultimately they'll be seen in the relationship. So that assuming of good intentions is very important. The second pillar is don't send the message of your wrong or I don't believe you, even if you think that they are wrong or you don't believe them. And that message is really sent immediately when you contradict somebody's statement or feeling. And examples may look like saying, Well, that doesn't make sense or I'm not doing that or I didn't say that, or I already know what you're going to say or I've already answered this or that didn't happen, or that's not the way I remember it. And the not sending the message of you're wrong or I don't believe you is really more of a little bit of a mind, a mindset.
Speaker2: [00:05:56] So it's more of this shift in your own mind of, I'm going to assume good intentions as they are expressing something to me that I'm not going to immediately contradict them. So your partner may come at you in a state of fear or insecurity and say something like, I don't even think I can pass this test or I'm afraid I can't give a good talk in front of people. And even though you feel like you're being encouraging, you can even convey the message of your wrong by saying positive things like, Hey, you can do it or you can do hard things, or I've been in your exact situation, and here's how I handled it. And so that second pillar of not sending the message of your wrong or I don't believe you follow is just so perfectly after that assumption of good intentions. And then the third pillar and this one is so key is ask questions before making comments. And I feel like the job for both people is to listen and to ask questions. But remember, the goal of this connected conversation using these four pillars is to be heard and not to resolve, and it's going to feel counterintuitive. But this is absolutely a trust the process concept. Stephen Covey, a wonderful author, says seek first to understand and then be understood. And that's what we're that's the vibe we're looking for with this ask questions before making comments that this is an opportunity for you to explore and learn about your spouse.
Speaker2: [00:07:00] What makes them tick? How do they arrive at their conclusions? And this is where you'll learn to go on. My favorite phrase go on their train of thought. And one of the most difficult things when you are asking questions before making comments is you will find yourself wanting to be just responsive. You're going to find yourself being immediately triggered at times of wanting to contradict or wanting to. That's where that challenge of as they express themselves, of wanting to then say, Well, wait, that isn't the way it went. But remember that the goal is to have a connected conversation. The goal is to be heard, and this is not the natural way that we communicate. So it is going to take patience to be able to sit back and say, Tell me more about that. Take me on your train of thought. So this is where you need to practice your active listening skills and use these empathetic statements of that would be hard. Or tell me more. I didn't realize you felt that way, or how long have you felt that way and avoid these landmine phrases where they might just seem reflexive at that point in the relationship? And then the fourth pillar is staying present and leaning in. It is not going into what I often refer to as a victim mentality or victim mode.
Speaker2: [00:08:00] So leaning into the conversation, lean into vulnerability. Don't go into your bunker, don't retreat, especially when the conversation gets uncomfortable. Because I often say we are so afraid that a conversation will turn to contention that we avoid tension altogether. And so that is one of the biggest challenges of pillar four. So you may. And let me just walk you through a really simple yet very regular example where if we're going to say that the wife in this situation says that, hey, I don't feel like you are there for me when you come home from work, and this is one that I've had this variation several times in my office. And so if the guy now is going to be the listener, the wife is the speaker and they're in my office. We're going to start right out with assuming good intentions that she's not saying this to hurt you, that she feels like this is the way she needs to express yourself in order to have a conversation. So even if he feels like he is going to showing up for you boot camp and that he has been working very hard to show up for her, which spoiler alert in this example I'm about to give, that is absolutely the fact that if he immediately says, OK, that's ridiculous, he's violated Pillar two. So or if he says, OK, but you don't understand, or let me just tell you first what I've been going through and then I'll hear you, then he's violating pillar three.
Speaker2: [00:09:06] We need to ask questions before making comments. And the way that people will often violate Pillar four is they may they may assume the good intentions and pillar one. They may not tell the person that they disagree. And in pillar two, they might even ask some questions. Ok? Tell me more about that. Help me see my blind spots. What does that look like for you? And then we're having we're having a connected conversation. But then pillar four, then that's where they may then say, OK, well, I guess it doesn't matter what my experience is, or I'll just keep going to work and bring home a paycheck. So when we go into that victim mode in Pillar four, then we want our spouse to rescue us and come and say, No, no, no, you're amazing. You're great. I shouldn't have said that. So once the person in this scenario, once the wife felt heard where she said, I feel like you, you haven't been here for me, especially when you get home from work. And then he says, OK, I'm assuming good intentions. I'm not going to tell her she's wrong, and he's going to say, help me understand what that looks like. The questions before comments and this example, she walks him through that he gets home, he grabs a kid, he runs out to the backyard and she's still left there taking care of dinner or with the baby or that sort of thing.
Speaker2: [00:10:09] And so then he stays present with pillar four. He doesn't go into his bunker and say, OK, just tell me what I'm so. To do and some passive aggressive way. So once she felt heard and then he was able to use nice empathy, statements of that would be really hard. I appreciate you sharing that. Then he gets to now he becomes the speaker and she becomes the listener. Now she is going to do the same things assuming good intentions can't say you're wrong or I don't believe you and ask questions and she's going to stay present and in this perfectly laid out scenario. But I think it really speaks to how these conversations can go, where he says, I so appreciate you sharing that because if you kept that inside, then I can understand where that would have started to build resentment. So thank you. But then he said, I felt like we've had conversations in the past where you have been overwhelmed and when I come home, if I immediately go in and go to the bathroom or go change that you've been waiting all day for relief or help, and then I am nowhere to be found. So he said, I have been working intentionally and specifically on coming home and with a smile, grabbing a kid, grabbing the dog, going in the backyard and so that you can get the things done that you need to.
Speaker2: [00:11:09] And so at that point, it was beautiful because this one scenario she was able to say, I didn't realize you were even aware and OK, I really appreciate that. And and she joked and said, Can you take the baby? And which was fine. But I loved the fact that then when they had this, the goal is to be heard and they both felt heard and understood that it is so much more of a connected conversation. And in that scenario, and again, I'm giving you a rainbow unicorn skies parted. They found a pot of gold in the backyard scenario, but in this one, then I loved it because then the quote fight became him saying, Hey, but you, I will. I can take all the kids, I can take over dinner, I can do whatever. And then, because she feels so hurt and understood, she's saying, No, I really appreciate it. And if you do need to go change your clothes real quick or whatever, you can do that. So now that people felt heard and understood and they weren't in their defensive bunkers, they stayed present and then they were again, the argument or the fight was more about What can I do for you? And it's beautiful. And the thing that is so significant about those four pillars is it's not just that we didn't that we were heard, but we didn't argue and we didn't fight.
Speaker2: [00:12:13] Not that everybody's going to have their disagreements. But when you stick to this framework and when this framework becomes the way that you process any and all situations in your marriage, and I really do mean any, where do you want to eat tonight or I don't know, what do you think about this outfit that I'm wearing or those kind of things, which again, that can be a charged topic. But when you just eat and sleep and breathe these four pillars, which is absolutely possible that then you really do want to go to your spouse and communicate or when you do feel like something has gone wrong in the conversation. But I have to assume good intentions and not trying to hurt me. And then I can say, Hey, tell me more about that, that you have such confidence in the communication itself that then you are you're starting to lean in more to even the difficult conversations. And I feel like as a marriage therapist, often people come into my office and even when I teach these four pillars, they want to immediately go to the high charge topics. They want to go to sex, politics, religion, finances and parenting. But we need to establish a framework where we are good at using these four pillars of a connected conversation so that when we get to the higher charged topics that we have these skills and that we can use those more effectively.
Speaker2: [00:13:15] So there's the big takeaway of what have we learned this year was. It's just been a really, really solid year of four pillars, and the four pillars are the basis of a precedent of my magnetic marriage course. We ran three rounds of that this year. Each one of them sold out quickly and they change lives. So we're going to be kicking that up again in January. And you can reach out to me if you're interested to find out more about that. But it's been phenomenal because that is the basis of the marriage course. So let's get to the second big takeaway of the year, which is the concept of differentiation. Oh, my goodness, I talked about this incessantly for quite a while and I've got my hands out. And because differentiation, as my associate or intern, Nate talked about on an episode that we were on together, where he said, very simply, differentiation is where one person ends and the other begins. So the reason I talk about having my hands out is that if you're listening, don't do this while you're driving, if you're riding a bike or that sort of thing. But if you just put your hands together classroom together, then this is where I talk about and I'm going to use an all or nothing statement. But for the most part, I feel like it's fairly true that when we get into relationships, whether it's with our with a spouse or a significant other, whether it's with your kids, whether it's with your religious leader, whether it's with your church and whether it's with your work, that we start out enmeshed in codependent.
Speaker2: [00:14:26] And I, this is another one where some people have on my YouTube channel have said you're using those enmeshed and codependent phrases flippantly. And that is a fair point, which is ironic because it is absolutely what we're talking about and differentiation is that I want everyone has their own thoughts and opinions and feelings, and so I want to have those conversations, but stick with me here. So I'm oversimplifying the fact that we come into relationships as these with our own attachment wounds and our own abandonment wounds, meaning that when we come from birth and we are these little egocentric kids that then move forward into relationships that we really don't have a sense of other people's struggles or suffer suffering when we're kids. And so we really do feel like everything revolves around us. So if we're not having our needs met, then it's because we are broken or unlovable or is something that we did when in reality. Christmas, we just got off a Christmas and there are kids around the world that didn't get the toys or presents that they wanted to, and they aren't aware of financial struggles. They aren't aware of job losses during COVID and they aren't aware of those type of things or bills that have come due or any of those type of things.
Speaker2: [00:15:29] So if they didn't get the present they wanted, then they immediately go to this. I must not have been deserving of that present or something must be wrong with me or must be broken or my parents must not care about me. So that's what abandonment looks like as we move forward. So even as we get into our adult relationships, if someone isn't meeting my needs, especially if I'm expressing them, then we feel like I must not matter or something's wrong with me. And then the attachment piece is that as we grow into adulthood, especially through adolescence, we're trying to get those needs met because if we don't get our needs met, then we will feel abandoned and abandonment equals death. I mean, that's one of our factory settings. So we are trying to figure out how to show up to get those needs met. Do I need to be the peacemaker? Do I need to be the comedian? Do I need to be the straight-A student? Do I need to be the star athlete? What can I do to get people to like me? Because if they like me, then our programing says they will not leave. And if they don't leave, then that means I matter and I exist. It gets a little bit deep there, but I hope you can see where I'm going with that.
Speaker2: [00:16:23] So we bring these attachment and abandonment wounds into our adult relationships. So then when we find a potential mate, then we're doing this dance of, OK, I don't want to. I don't want them to think I'm weird. I don't want to tick them off, and I don't want to be out there with my if I have, I don't know, kind of off these big, grandiose thoughts or dreams or visions or a conspiracy theory or whatever it looks like. So we're trying to feel each other out. Well, what do you think? I don't know. What do you think instead of really being our true selves or our authentic selves, which part of that is that when we're young, we don't even we haven't really developed necessarily a true sense of self or what really matters to us. So you can see there's so many variables at play that then we get into these relationships and we don't feel like maybe we're being ourselves. And then when we do start to say, actually, this is what I think or this is how I feel, if our spouse or if our parents, or if our religious leader, or if our boss says, really, that's what you think. A lot of times we freak out, we get scared and then we'll say, Oh, no, no, no, that's not actually what I think. I didn't mean that. I mean, can you believe I said that it's totally wrong thing to say, because that's one of these attachment wounds where we feel like, Oh man, if I don't say the right thing, then I am not going to be liked.
Speaker2: [00:17:28] But as we get a little bit older and we start to have more life experience, we start to realize what are the things that really do matter to us and what we really do start to have more of our own thoughts and opinions and feelings, and it's harder to pretend to not care about the things that we really care about. So if we're in a relationship and we are now enmeshed and codependent, then as we start to then differentiate again where one person ends and the other begins that as we start to separate or pull away with our own thoughts and feelings from someone, then that can often leave this other person feeling like, Oh my gosh, you must not care about me. Here comes that abandonment piece. And so I often say that as people do start to become interdependent instead of codependent, and as they start to realize that you are too autonomous individuals in a relationship, and that's a good thing, then in the middle of that differentiation, there's often this feeling of invalidation or fear or worry. And so we're so afraid of that abandonment, peace kicking in or that all of a sudden we won't matter, or no one will love us that we often find ourselves jumping back into these unhealthy attachment or codependent patterns.
Speaker2: [00:18:31] So differentiation where one person ends and the other begins and one of the hard things can be if only one of you is on this journey of self-discovery and the more that you realize, Oh no, it's OK, it's OK that I have my own thoughts, feelings and opinions because I am the only version of me, and you have your thoughts, feelings and opinions because you're the only version of you. But if only one of you is doing that work, then it can really put a feeling of invalidation in between the two people in a relationship. And I've yet to see this. I gave a kind of a funny example. I think it was a funny example where I was speaking a little while ago and my wife, who just is the cutest and kindest person in the world as as she is maturing or growing. We're getting old. We're in our fifties now and she's wearing cute things and jewelry and this sort of thing. And it's funny because I could realize that you go back 10, 15, 20 years and I could have realized in my own insecurities that if she was starting to find her own sense of style or fashion or that sort of thing that I could see where someone would then feel like, Oh my gosh, she's never worn those things before. That must mean that she is going to leave.
Speaker2: [00:19:30] That must mean that she is doing that for someone else when in reality, no, she's really stepping into her own sense of self just as I want to find my own sense of self. And then if we are in this relationship together and we recognize we're too interdependent, autonomous differentiated people, then we're going through life with these two unique takes on the world. And so now as we approach things and we can communicate them together, now we've got to edified one plus one is three. And now when we're looking at the situation saying, Hey, tell me what you think about that and we don't feel like we are that it means that something is wrong with us if another person has a different opinion. I hope you can start to see that that is a type of a relationship that we don't even know what that looks like, because that's not it's not the. Normal or natural way that we progress in relationships, you have to do the work to start to become interdependent, to start to become differentiated, but man, it is work that really does pay off. So two autonomous people with different experiences, yeah, there's going to be some feeling of invalidation there in the middle until we really learn how to communicate more effectively, which does go back to the huge takeaway number one, which is with the four pillars of a connected conversation.
Speaker2: [00:20:36] So those four pillars are what can actually facilitate this concept of differentiation. And then once you do feel like, Man, I can be myself and my spouse can be his or herself. And we are still feeling connected, and now we feel like we can take on the world with these two unique, different views of the world. It is just an absolutely exciting in a new way to connect. Before we get to my third big takeaway of what have we learned this year, let me just throw a quick plug in again for a betterhelp.com. If you are interested in looking for help therapy, looking for a licensed therapist, a licensed professional clinical counselor, somebody to start, start talking about things, start figuring things out about yourself and your own life. Whether you have anxiety or depression or OCD or you are in a difficult relationship or you want parenting help and you're just not quite sure where to turn or if you've tried to look around you, it's hard to get into a good therapist right now. The truth is, the pandemic for mental health has has really brought people out to seek help. And so go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch. You'll get 10 percent off your first month's costs of finding help for yourself. You owe it to yourself to be the best version of you that you can be, and I cannot stress enough the intake, the filling out of the papers and the forms.
Speaker2: [00:21:50] They really do match you with somebody that is licensed, that is in your state, that practices the type of therapy that you are looking for, whether it is acceptance and commitment therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, or whatever that looks like. And the coolest part is if you don't really vibe or jive with your therapist, it's a really easy process to switch and to try somebody else. And that is absolutely fine and normal and OK, because you really do want to find a connection with your therapist. So try Betterhelp.com virtual couch. You get 10 percent off and they do. They're aware of people that are struggling financially. They have financial aid available. And so if you have a lot of different excuses in your head about, you don't want to, you're not quite sure where to go. You don't want to bump into somebody in the waiting room. You're not sure if you can afford it. Invite all of those concerns to come along with you while you go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch and just go to that point. See what happens from there? Because again, there's there's nothing quite like starting to figure things out. It's empowering. It really is. Ok, let's get to the third thing that we have learned this year. So I did an episode with Jeff Steuer, who is a betrayal trauma expert, and it was on. He hosts the podcast called From Crisis to Connection and he had me come on his show, and we did a two part episode and talking about helping couples navigate things like a faith crisis if one of the people in the relationship is struggling with their faith.
Speaker2: [00:23:05] If the couple started out the relationship and they felt like they were on the same page, there's a lot of times where people feel like it's unfair that my spouse is changing. Or this isn't what we signed up for in the beginning of our marriage, and that's all fair, but it's also part of the human experience. So Jeff had me on his podcast to talk about fouler stages of faith, which I am very passionate about. If you haven't heard any of the episodes I've done on that, please take a look and find those in the back catalog. And honestly, two. If you are interested, shoot me an email through my website through Tony over Bakam and I've done a couple of mental health trainings. I did a worldwide mental health training on the topic was called was it called faith crisis, mental spirit, faith crisis, spiritual abuse, mental health and evolving conversation. And I've got that tucked away on my YouTube channel and I can send you that link if you are interested in. That's where I talk about kind of everything. Acceptance and commitment therapy meets Fowler. Stages of faith meets the four pillars of a connected conversation, and I would be more than happy to share that with you if you are interested.
Speaker2: [00:24:02] So just reach out to me and I'm happy to share that. But with Jeff, he came on and we did do a betrayal trauma episode and there was a part on there where I really just I've thought about this so much, and we talked about the fact that people, no one wakes up. If we go back to that pillar one that I talk about, nobody wakes up and thinks I'm going to have an affair, I'm going to be unfaithful or I'm going to start to really withdraw or pull away from my marriage. That isn't why people sign up to get married in the first place. So if that is happening, there's something going on in the relationship. So as therapists, we often get people in our office where there has been things like infidelity and or just a complete emotional withdrawal. And that is often then what brings someone into counseling into our offices. Jeff and I were talking about this, and then at that point then we can help if they are willing and able. We have tools and we can help, and we've got experience and years of examples of people that have come in even because of things that they never, ever thought would happen in their marriage. And then they they really embrace the new tools. And then it is the wildest thing where down the road a few months, people say, I can't believe what we had to go through to get here.
Speaker2: [00:25:08] I would never wish that upon anyone. But had we not gone through that, then we would not have known that we needed help. And then we would have not sought the tools, and so my my there's a big, long way to say that the third one is I really wrote down on my notes you can't pre package a trauma, meaning that you don't know what you don't know until you know it. And so something like in the world of betrayal, trauma, then you have this opportunity to discover how to communicate more effectively or the person who was perhaps the betrayer is one who can now dig deep and see what were they missing in the relationship and what were they? Did they not have the tools to communicate more effectively? So while I have people come into my office and they are just so low and down and can't believe that this is where their marriage is or their life is, this is where that that principle of acceptance that, yeah, it does stink. It absolutely does. There's nothing we can do to change what has brought us up to this point. So acceptance doesn't mean apathy. It doesn't mean that, well, this is the way I'm doomed for the rest of my life that I will always be. This is the way our marriage is going to look, and we'll never be able to communicate.
Speaker2: [00:26:06] And I can't believe that this is where we're at. So once we accept that fact now, we can start to move forward and we can start to look at using new tools. And that's where I often find, again, you can't prepackaged a trauma. Let me just give you an example. I go and speak about these four pillars of a connected conversation a lot. I speak about them a lot now and again, whether it's in a business environment, whether it's in a parenting situation, whether it's talking to new couples, or whether it's talking to people that have been married for a while. And if they are not seeking me out, if they are not absolutely just looking for tools because something isn't working in the relationship, it is pretty fascinating to watch them say, no, that's those. That's some good advice. I'll keep that in my back pocket. And every now and again, somebody might say, what were those four pillars again? And they may try to implore one or two or maybe even three of the pillars. But then when their marriage is at a point where it may not be salvageable, they feel like that's the case now. They desperately look for a tool and they will do whatever they can to embrace the tool. And there's a part of me that just so desperately wants people to embrace the tools so far ahead of needing the tool.
Speaker2: [00:27:11] Because then you will most likely never get to that point where you are just you are looking for anything to help you make sense of a situation in my my again, the betrayal trauma example is one of the biggest ones because I could teach people to communicate more effectively. And if they had those tools to communicate more effectively than I think it's fair to say that some of those the betrayal piece may not enter into a relationship if they're able to effectively communicate their needs and wants and not do so in a way where then they they express themselves and then their partner is absolutely offended and then says, I can't believe you even brought that up, or I can't believe you said that. And so then the person that brought that up then now feels even worse. And so then they they vow to never bring up uncomfortable things again. Where if I had somebody just if if we taught four pillars school system in high school, I'm just throwing that out there hypothetically. And so we went into relationships knowing that it's OK, know we want to be emotionally mature and we're not afraid of things escalating to contention. And we're OK with tension because we have tools to be able to communicate what a different world this would be. But I also realize that everyone has had different experiences in their life, and one of the other things that hits me often in my office is when I'm trying to preach these four pillars to a couple that just comes into my office.
Speaker2: [00:28:23] I realize that they aren't even hearing me. They may hear the concept of four pillars that might be what initially caused them to reach out to me because it would be great to communicate that way. But in their minds, that's not what we're here to talk about. We're here to talk about what my spouse did and what they need to understand and what they need to realize. And so often the therapeutic process takes quite a bit longer than one thinks because you don't know what you don't know. And I cannot tell you how often people come into my office and they really are coming in with this energy of, in essence, just I can be brutal, be blunt with me. I can take it. I want I want brutal honesty and just tell me what I need to do. And if you even start to say, OK, we need to just embrace these four pillars, even on low charge topics, and you need to take up a daily mindfulness practice and you at that point, you're watching the eyes gloss over and somebody to say, OK, this guy doesn't get it. They don't understand how angry I am. They don't understand what my spouse has done. And so you really do have to put in that time and build that rapport because as much as we think, no, give me the truth, then as soon as we start to talk about these tools, somebody in my position that is sat in front of thousands of people now thousand couples, plus it's I really do want to say, OK, I would love to hand you a shortcut, but unfortunately you have to do the work.
Speaker2: [00:29:39] You have to get to the point where you realize that you're coming in here and repeating, Don't you understand what my spouse did or sure? Mindfulness are breathing great, but you don't understand what I'm going through when in reality, when you're going to a professional that has that works in this this area, we do understand and maybe we don't understand perfectly, but we we do have tools and we can help. And so unfortunately, people have to go through this process when people tell me or ask me, how long does it take to get through something like betrayal, trauma? Or how long does it take to break out of an emotionally abusive, narcissistic traits and tendencies and relationship? I hate the clichéd answer that I feel like I must give, and it is it will take as long as it takes because you are the only version of you that has ever gone through this the way that you have. So for some people, it might be six months. For some, it might be two years.
Speaker2: [00:30:27] But the good news is, is that you're on that path, you're on that path of growth or discovery. So that third one was you can't pre package a trauma. And I wish again, it's almost like the concept of a vaccination. I'm not trying to be all political or I know that some a big thing in the today in the climate. But if you could just give a little bit of trauma that gave you just enough that now you needed to go seek out the help, that would be beautiful. But if you give, if there is, somebody has a little bit of trauma, then typically they don't feel like they they need to go overboard with these, this rigid framework that some therapists is pitching. This is one of those reasons why I don't know how many of you have had the upper or had the experience where you buy a book and it gives you the little dopamine bump and then you don't read the book or you read the first chapter of the book and then you think, OK, that didn't work. So I got to find another book or in this day and age, you buy an online course. I have done that. I've bought courses where I've gone on a good sales page, and by the end I'm like, That's me, they're reading my mind. I want to feel better. And so I buy this course and then I don't really do anything about the course.
Speaker2: [00:31:23] But when I bought the course, I felt pretty good about it. I felt like I was taking action, and that kind of leads to my fourth thing. And I think it will probably make this into a two part episode and I'm going to share my fourth. What have we learned this year? Because this one might take me a little while because this is I'm just going to ramble a little bit because this one is so powerful to me. So I'm going to just say number four is how unique you really are and meaning that literally again, I go back to the act principle of you are the only version of you that has ever walked the face of the Earth. Now, do not touch that dial because I'm going to go a lot deeper. Let me step back and talk about I've referred to a book called On Being Certain and On Being Certain, in essence, is saying that we really do question is there certainty we so crave certainty in our brain that let me go back to this betrayal, trauma example, and I'm just going to speak from the heart here. I've worked with so many spouses. I'm going to just take the gender stereotype. The wife has been cheated on and the husband has been the cheater or the the affair or the betrayer. And so in that scenario, the husband often has because whether they've been caught or they've confessed, but they've given a little bit of data of what's happened and absolutely that pillar one of assuming good intentions.
Speaker2: [00:32:33] Or there's a reason for why they've done what they're doing, especially when they're starting to give this information. They give just enough to help them feel like they are sharing and they don't want to tell everything because they go to this place of shame. And there's also a component where they don't want to their wife to hear all the gory details, and they don't want their wife to go to this extremely negative place, so they give her a little bit of information. But then at that point, now she is, I think, Jeff Steuer talked about in our episode. Now she is just it's like a landmine gone off and she has to now she's trying to backfill this crater that's been left and wants to know, wants to know the details, wants to know all the specifics. And so the more that she digs in and the more she finds inconsistencies in his story, then the more it just feeds her. What he's not telling me, he's hiding things. They call it a staggered disclosure. So then he shares a little bit more, and in his mind, he's saying, OK, if I'm going to stick to my guns right here, this is what I'm going to share. But then now at some point, she's really just overthinking this and thinking this, thinking this and thinking and thinking and asking more questions.
Speaker2: [00:33:36] And so then he gives a little bit more information, and it just perpetuates this pretty negative cycle. But then again, it's the first time that either of them have gone through this process. And so often it's not as if somebody then takes a pause, goes and meets with a therapist, and then opens up to their spouse about betrayal or an affair, infidelity, that sort of thing. So in that scenario, if I can work with a couple and we then teach these four pillars of a connected conversation and we really try our best to start putting those questions, the the wife is going into question mode that we're going to. We're going to lovingly kick that can down the road a little bit very intentionally while we learn to communicate. Because if we don't have those skills or tools to communicate, then we're not going to be able to make sense of the questions, all the questions that she has. She is trying to make sense. She's trying to find certainty, her brain says. If I can just ask enough questions and I can get the answers, then this will make sense to me. So now let me step in again with this fourth piece of how unique you really are of this desire for certainty that all of a sudden this wife is trying to process things through her lens.
Speaker2: [00:34:40] She wants to make sense of why he did what he did through her lens, and that is bless her heart. That is a losing battle because she wants to know how to make sense of things that are not going to make sense to her because, quite frankly, they're hard to make sense of for the guy in the scenario who did the betrayal. Because again, nobody wakes up at the beginning of the day in a marriage and says, I'm going to have an affair. So there's a piece where it's an acceptance of this is where we're at and now what are we going to do with this information not trying to dismiss what has happened to the person who's been? But my point is that she wants certainty and her brain has told her there is such thing as certainty because she's and this is a simplistic example, but the brain says, OK, I know that two plus two is four that feels certain or I know that snow is cold or I know that the stove is hot. So yeah, no, I know what certainty is. But then we try to apply that same concept of wanting to find certainty into the world of complex human emotion and the fact that everyone is experiencing things in a different way. And that concept of certainty flies out the window. So as the more that we are trying to seek certainty, the more frustrating that can be when it comes to complex human interaction and emotion.
Speaker2: [00:35:53] So this is why I say back in that the four pillars that to be heard is really the goal. To be heard is to begin to be healed. And so that when people start to realize how to communicate in a mature, effective way and using this framework of the four pillars of a connected conversation that it does feel, it doesn't feel as satisfactory to not have resolution. But the concept or the goal of resolution in a conversation is often this seeking certainty. It's trying to find this almost this businesslike or contractual way that we both have this win win situation. But I really question whether or not that can happen when you're really talking about complex human emotion, especially with things that that are not going to make sense to one or both of the parties involved. So how unique you really are the on being certain. Now let me let me sidestep and say that when I talked about that concept or that book of being certain, I also referenced a study that talked about a person being hooked up to a functional MRI, a functional brain scan, and they were put in front of a machine that had a left and a right button and the person the test subject was said to start pressing the buttons, press it left or right, and the fMRI showed that the brain activity started to light up within.
Speaker2: [00:37:09] It was up to seven seconds before the person even lifted their hand. And so there's a free existential crisis that comes along with this concept of the person said that, OK, do you even we have this narrative of that? We we make a decision and then we enact it that we think and then we do. And this book of on being certain in this research study really starts to point out that we're more reactionary than we than we really think that in reality, we have been through life as us, as the unique version of us. Then we've got our three billion neurons that we're bringing into any given moment, and we've got these two thousand different things happening within our brain at any given moment. And so more or less we react, we react to a situation and then we quickly our brain tries to make sense or tries to find certainty of why we reacted. So it creates this narrative. And so that's the part where people can say, OK, then what's the point? Am I just am I piloting this human meat suit? Or do I really have control or choice? And that's a wonderful question. So I just would like to throw out there that this research, this book, that it talks more about the fact that we are reactionary creatures. But then what that means is so once we react and then we try to make sense of why we reacted that what we're doing is we're really just digging in these deep rooted neural pathways of trying to think our way out of a thinking problem that we're trying to figure out why.
Speaker2: [00:38:31] Why did we do what we did and why did my spouse do what they did? And so it's almost as if our brain tricks us into thinking, if I can figure this out, then I'm going to be satisfied. But the more that we try to figure it out, the more that we try to think, the more that we try to find certainty in a situation, the more frustrating it can be because our brain can come up with so many different variables of why something if we have not been able to get out of bed for a couple of days and we just start ruminating about why what is wrong with me? Why can't I get out of bed? Could it be this? Could it be that that in essence, the more that we're trying to figure out why we can't get out of bed, the more likely we are to stay in bed trying to figure out why we can't get out of bed. And so this book, this research study starts to talk about the concept of instead of thinking, we need to do. So when I notice that I am thinking, then that's when I can take action that I can start to do.
Speaker2: [00:39:20] And this ties in with the acceptance and commitment therapy lingo that I talk about so often that we need to do, and ideally we do something of value. This is where we find out what our values are and as we set value based goals, go back and listen to episode three hundred where Neal, Hooper and I talked about this. It was just last week. But as you figure out what really matters to you and you start to take action now, we're starting to head down this path of more of a purpose driven life or a sense of purpose. So when you notice that you are thinking, then at that point, then just notice it. I notice, I'm thinking, I notice, I'm trying to solve things. I notice that I'm feeling, and you don't try to stop the thought. You don't try to push the thought out of the way you acknowledge it. And then you drop the rope of the tug of war, of trying to figure out the reason or figure out certainty. And you then take action on something that matters. The example is a real simple one is if you have a value of connection. And you notice that you are starting, you catch yourself, you notice at some point that you are feeling down and you are ruminating and wondering what is wrong with you and what's happening in my life.
Speaker2: [00:40:22] Then at that point, just notice and give yourself some grace. And then if you have a value based goal of connection, grab your phone. Just scroll down to the bottom, a little bit of your text app and then just reach out to somebody, anybody and just say, Hey, how are you doing? Thinking about you? Because that is literally taking action on a value of yours, a value based goal. And then that is going to start changing these deeply rutted neuro pathways of trying to figure things out. One of the things I want to go big on in twenty twenty two is that I really feel passionate about and I all my virtual couch episodes for the life. For the most part, most, all of them. I hope you've noticed I try to throw some evidence based research model and then I like to give my impressions or my clinical experience around that. But I really am starting to have some strong thoughts, impressions on some direction that I really want to go and especially in twenty twenty two. And I feel like one of the big reasons why we struggle so hard with depression, with anxiety, even though we're talking about mental health, more and more is, I'm pretty convinced that we're handling it in not the best way. So there's three things that I think we do that are so funny. I'm watching my words. I want to say that it's wrong, but I feel like that's such a dramatic word.
Speaker2: [00:41:31] So I feel like there's a better way. And here are three things I think are a challenge of the way that we think about mental health and the way we even talk about our own thoughts. The first one is that when we say, OK, what's wrong with me? Why am I thinking this? Why am I thinking about these negative thoughts? Or why am I thinking these bad thoughts about myself or someone else that the first thing we need to do is not do that? What's wrong with me? We just need to notice. Check it out. I am thinking this is what I'm thinking because what's wrong with me? Story has been perpetuated far too long. That is that I believe that's that struggle with the cognitive behavioral therapy model where we talk about your stinking thinking or your automatic negative thoughts. And again, it's looking at this mechanistic view of the brain as if something's wrong or broken, and you need to just replace this part and then it will generate this different output. And I know that that can work in certain situations. But for me. Game Changer is a therapist, and in my own personal life was the acceptance of the fact that I think and feel and do the things that I do because I am me. And so if we start with that acceptance, there's the first thing that I think we can knock off the list of things I think lead to more of this anxiety or depression or these existential crisis or these kicking the can down the road moment.
Speaker2: [00:42:38] There's nothing wrong. I just am thinking or feeling the things that I'm thinking or feeling. So there's an acceptance there. The second thing that I think we do incorrectly is then we tell ourselves, Well, don't think that and this one is a layup from a mental health standpoint. If you tell yourself not to think something, we have built in deep, deep psychological reactants that it is there for a purpose. It is there so that we do not get dominated by an alpha male or corrupt society. So when someone tells us you need to do this, our immediate response is No, I don't. I will do the opposite even when we're telling ourselves that. So don't think of chocolate cake with sprinkles. My brain is literally thinking of chocolate cake with sprinkles, right? This very second, and it's quite a lovely, decadent cake, if I might add. So the first thing is, though, what's wrong with me for thinking this? Nothing. You are thinking it? Check it out. Notice it. The second thing is, stop thinking this. How adorable. That's not going to work. That suppression doesn't work. And then the third piece to this puzzle is that then when we say, OK, instead of thinking a now, I need to think B, then I even feel like that's a challenge in the way that we handle things because we still have to think about a to then think about B the easiest.
Speaker2: [00:43:48] I think example there is I gave an episode during this year about three powerful metaphors and acceptance and commitment therapy, and one of them was the numbers metaphor. And just in a nutshell, that one says that if I was, if I found you and on the street or wherever it was and I tap you on the shoulder, I say, Hey, I'm going to give you three numbers. And if you remember them in a 10 years from now, then I'll give you a million dollars. Those numbers are one to three. And so the person says, OK, that sounds great. And then if I say, you know what, actually, I want to make it more fair for you. So I want you to choose the numbers so you can choose three numbers just as long as they're not one, two and three. The person then says, OK, I've thought of the numbers, and then then I would say something to the effect of, All right. How do you know that you pick the right numbers? And then the person says, Well, it's four or five and six, and I know it's the right numbers because it's not one, two and three. So then even when when now we're trying to come up with this new thought that they have these new numbers that they even chose, that they still had to think of one, two and three to get to those new numbers of four or five and six.
Speaker2: [00:44:47] So if you put that into the situation of the real world, if the thought of one two three, if when I think that I am a bad person and nobody likes me and then I'm supposed to then just say, Well, that's an automatic negative thought. Whenever you think that think instead of that, no, actually, people do like me and I'm going to be OK. Then you still have to find yourself with. I feel bad about myself, and nobody likes me to then get to the, well, wait. No, actually, maybe somebody does. So now we're creating this almost this dependance on the one, two and three to get to four or five and six and let me share an experience with you, and I thought this was beautiful. I was talking with the client a few weeks ago and I've been working with her and I just she is. She's an amazing client, been through a whole lot and we were almost done with the session. And she said, Hey, I just I got to bring something up to you. She was being so nice and talking about really enjoying the podcast and that sort of thing. And she said, I really do think the positive affirmations are a positive thing and that they're a good thing.
Speaker2: [00:45:39] And she's like, I hope that's OK. She's so kind. And and I realized and I said, Thank you so much for sharing that, and I want you to know there's no part of me that feels like they are just an absolute negative thing. But I know I've done a couple of episodes where I talk about the concept of positive affirmations, and this is more numbers theory this one two three to get to four or five and six. What I mean by that is acceptance and commitment. Therapy has some pretty fascinating data that says that when when we just tell ourselves to wake up every day and say, Hey, I'm a good person, I'm good enough and people like me. It does sound like a good thing. How could that be a bad thing? But the problem is, if then you don't necessarily believe that yourself, and then you go throughout the day and you have these experiences where you have contrary thoughts, feelings or experiences that are happening that cause you to then really do feel like people aren't reaching out to you or they're not responding back to you. And then so you feel like, man, people really don't like me, but then you're trying to convince yourself or tell yourself every morning that they really do, and that that's I'm going to keep giving myself this positive message again. It even feels awkward having talking about it on this episode.
Speaker2: [00:46:43] But here's the key. The key is that positive affirmations work when you are giving yourself positive affirmations that are in align with the things that really matter and are of value to you. So if you say that, Hey, I am a good, I'm a good husband, I am a good father or I am a dedicated employee or I am, I value spirituality or I'm a spiritual creature. I'm a spiritual being or I am a positive person. And those are things that are of value to you or matter to you or really resonate with you. So it's the same thing where even a positive affirmation needs to be a value based, positive affirmation. So when you read something in a book that says, Hey, here's these five things that you need to say to yourself every day. If you're just checking a box and saying these five things that you really don't, that that don't resonate with you, that aren't things that really matter to you, then what you're doing is in essence saying, OK, when I feel bad, those numbers one, two and three. Now I'm going to say four or five and six. And so it just is not it doesn't resonate. And so then when we feel bad about ourselves later in the day because life happens now, we can even beat ourselves up more because we say, Wait, I was I was giving myself these positive affirmations this morning, and that was supposed to help me feel better.
Speaker2: [00:47:51] And now I feel worse. So if you are though, if you are, if you have a positive affirmation in the morning that you are going to take action on things that matter, that you are going to lean into authenticity, if that's a positive affirmation, then when you are met with a situation where you are feeling down, but you can turn to that value of authenticity and you're going to be yourself in that situation, then that is where you can start to really find a different version of happiness, where it's a purpose driven life version of happiness. The example and I give the authenticity one because so often when people say, Well, what do you think about that? And if we are afraid to be authentic? But yet authenticity is one of our core values, then we may say, Oh yeah, I don't really, I don't really care or I agree with you. Even if you are not, you don't agree with what the person has said, but you have this value of just being authentic. Then you're going to go home that night and probably feel a little bit less than because you didn't live according to your value. So if that positive affirmation every morning is that I am going to be more authentic, you are an authentic human being. You are going to live by your values and goals.
Speaker2: [00:48:56] Then when you find yourself in a situation and somebody says, What do you think about that and you start to feel uncomfortable, but you realize, man, I've been seeing I've been singing my my own praises about that. I am an authentic being. I am an authentic creature and I'm going to take action on the things that matter. If that's the positive affirmation, then at that point we're going to feel that tension. But we're going to say, Well, actually, this is what I think. And then we may feel that tension and and it may go well. The person might say, Oh, OK, I didn't know that or thanks for sharing that, and it may not go well, but the point is, at the end of the day, you're going to feel a much more sense of peace or sense of self when you really lean into something that really matters to you or something of value. So that was a very long way for me to say that if a positive affirmation is working for you, then by no means feel like you need to change that just because of something I've said on a podcast. But if you're one who then tells yourself these daily affirmations and then you beat yourself up by the end of the day because you couldn't maintain that throughout the day, then I think it's something to take a look at and see if that's a positive affirmation that you feel like you're doing, in essence, as a socially compliant goal, something you're doing because you think you're supposed to because your therapist has told you to or because of book that you read, said or a video you watched on YouTube or on TikTok says these five affirmations say them every morning and you'll be happy.
Speaker2: [00:50:10] Then I want you to step back and take a look at. Say, OK, I like the concept of starting the day with a positive affirmation, but it needs to be something that matters to me because I am again the only version of me. All right, this went a lot longer than I had anticipated, and we're going to turn this into a two part episode because coming up next week or it'll actually be two weeks, I think have an interview with somebody next week. I've got some other big takeaways from the year narcissism versus emotional immaturity, the need for external validation, an honorable mention of talking more about accountability. So we're going to get to that and so much more coming up on the next next version. Part two of the what have we learned this year coming up in a couple of weeks on the virtual couch and then taking us out as per usual? And I'm so grateful because this song is just amazing and it's in my head all the time, but wonderful, the talented Aurora Florence with its wonderful.
Speaker1: [00:50:57] We'll see you next time from the virtual of the pressures of the daily grind. It's wonderful, and plastic waste and rubber ghost are floating past the midnight hour. They push aside the things that matter most
[00:51:13] To the world. Out of three.
Speaker1: [00:51:53] News of discount
[00:51:54] Price, a million opportunity, a chance is yours to take or lose, it's one.
Speaker1: [00:52:04] Funds are always on the back burner until the opportune time is pushed
[00:52:12] To go further, shut up. It goes. And some on my clean. To be.
Speaker1: [00:52:53] Develop distance, don't explode and allow the understanding through to heal the legs and heart, you broke the paint.
[00:53:03] Oh, the sheep, oh, girls just might implode.
Speaker1: [00:53:08] My mental strengths
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