ERP 096: How Your Beliefs Can Destroy Your Relationship – Part Two [Transcript]
ERP 096: How Your Beliefs Can Destroy Your Relationship – Part Two
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Welcome to The Empowered Relationship Podcast, helping you turn relationship challenges into opportunities and setting you up for relationship success. Your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach who shares valuable tips, tools and resources for you to dramatically improve your relationship.
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Hi, thank you for joining today’s podcast episode. Today’s episode is titled “How Your Beliefs Can Destroy Your Relationship – Part II.” This is episode 96. Part I was 95; if you missed that, I encourage you to check it out. I feel like it gives a really good description about what’s happening when we get triggered, and particularly when we go into a place of seeing our partner almost as an enemy, when they used to be our everything, our person… So what happens, how we go from point A to point Z. I encourage you to check that out.
To bring focus to the conversation that’s happening on the Empowered Relationship Podcast, I have been enjoying naming the intention, naming the goal and the purpose of this show. Essentially, it’s to help educate, help provide tools, resources, tips and some guidance to navigate the complex terrain of intimacy. Even in our episode – what’s going on in the brain and the nervous system that most of us don’t know about, that highly influence how we’re able to show up when there’s tension, how we’re able to show up when there’s emotions that are sensitive and perhaps threatening, or we’re experiencing conflict.
Again, the goal is for us to bring some of this to light, to talk about what happens in a long-term relationship, a marriage, and the complexities around that, both inside of ourselves as a human being, and also within the dynamics of the relationship. My ultimate intention is to help you guys foster a healthy, lasting, happy relationship, that you can feel really good about and that you’re essentially co-creating with your partner. Again, that’s helping you feel equipped not only in the highs of expanding your capacity for intimacy and closeness and romance, but also helping you know how to build security, solidarity and trust despite some of the upsets, during the lows; how to weather those storms, how to be resilient.
If you haven’t already heard me say, I wanna just emphasize that I am with you on this path. I practice everything I talk about, and even when I’m reading or kind of reminding myself of certain principles or research, I’m thinking about my own relationship and I’m applying these principles to my own life, so there’s a handful of things that I’m very deeply already in the practice of, and there’s things that are helpful for me to be practicing.
So I am with you, and I wanna be humble in just how difficult this can be. I feel like it’s one of our greatest sources of learning and our opportunities for growth. I think there’s really no other place that’s going to show us a mirror and give us the curriculum for our evolving and our development than an intimate relationship. No other place is gonna trigger us, no other place is gonna reveal our sensitive spots, our pains, our hurts, our vulnerability, so that’s what gets me so passionate about this topic – it is rich and complex and deep, but it also promises so much potential and growth and development, and what we get to experience through showing up and through working these principles, who we become in the process. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.
I wanna take a moment to thank you, those of you who filled out the survey. I asked in the last two episodes if you’re a frequent listener or even if you’re a new listener, what you’re getting out of this show, what you’re liking, what you’re not liking, and I just appreciate those of you that took the time to do that. It really means a lot to me, and I got some really great feedback.
One thing that I was really grateful to get input around is that there is a little bit of an echo often in the recording. Last week I tested out a recording room and I think the sound was way better than it has been. It’s not an easy access for me… It’s so funny, if you guys could see my current setup right now. I have blankets over furniture, pillow, I have blankets on the floor… Because we have hardwood and there’s a lot of hard surfaces. I have the window shade, it’s like blackout accordion shades, I have that fully pulled up. It’s a little silly, but I hope that it sounds a little better in the interim, before I figure out a longer-term solution. So thank you, I appreciate that.
I also want to thank a listener who posted a review. It’s a five-star review and it’s titled “Listen to this podcast.” I love that title! I happen to know that this is a woman… She let me know she did this review. She writes:
“Doctor Higgins’ podcast helped provide me with an entirely new approach to a situation that had been wearing on me for months, and gave me the courage to make some positive decisions to change it. Her kindness in corresponding was more than I was expecting, and her perspective on relationships has been extremely refreshing in a sea of confusing dating advice from other podcasts. I highly recommend this podcast.”
Thank you, I appreciate the review. Again, it helps the show grow and it does really mean a lot to me personally. Thank you again. I know this takes time and a little bit of effort to hop on over to iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play and write a review, so I appreciate that tremendously. If you don’t know how to write a review and you would like to take a moment to do that, I wanna just remind you that you can get the links on my website. My website is DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast and you’ll find at the very top a brief description about this show, and then you’ll find a few links to iTunes, Stitcher… I’m not sure if Google Play is on there yet, but I’ll make a note to do that. You can just click on that, and it will direct you on how to write a review.
If you want more help, feel free to e-mail me. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to say hello to you and give you little pointers if you need some help with that.
To recap briefly here, the last podcast episode’s points are basically describing how we can go from anticipating the best or our partner and our relationship, to actually anticipating the worst, and really defending and protecting against our partner. Within that episode, I was describing to you the inner mechanisms that contribute to this protective stance, and it largely is just our evolutionary goal of surviving. In this very protective state we’re not wanting to get hurt, so when we’re feeling threatened, we go into that fight-or-flight or freeze response.
So really the goal here is how to work with that nervous system response when we feel threatened, and it’s largely about slowing down. I was even describing this as almost like the ability to disengage from whatever loop is happening that might just be escalating when everything in us might wanna fight, and just rebuttal or blowback… It is really difficult to restrain from that impulse and try to direct the focus on calming down, so that you can have greater clarity and assess the situation with more intelligence, discernment and wisdom.
We are not in any place to be discerning and wise and thoughtful when we’re in the reactive mode. It’s a knee-jerk response, there’s really little time to really assess the situation, even if you’re seeing things accurately. Often times we’re jumping to conclusions based on the little evidence that we have, and we conclude very quickly and we form a belief about that, which we’re gonna talk about today.
The process of slowing down – I talked about it – it’s almost like we are training ourselves to deactivate a bomb. The stakes are that high, and it’s that tricky; there’s all these little trip wires, there’s all these little moves that can feel like they can set something off. So not to scare you, but also to talk about how important it is to learn this ability to disengage and calm the nervous system. Also, I wanna just note here that in a podcast I’m giving you some tips and things to think about, I’m wanting to help give you some material that might feel like education, and just help you gain more knowledge and insight into your inner workings and your relationship workings.
I wanna be clear about the expectation here, I want to set this right – it’s not that you then go out and execute it seamlessly. Most of the time, this takes practice – lots and lots of practice, lots and lots of repetition, as well as some good support and guidance from a helping professional to really unpack this and get the steps down. As that phrase goes, “it’s hard to see the forest through the trees” – we often can’t see our own process because we’re in it, and it’s difficult to see the next step, so that’s why it’s really helpful to get a helping person that knows what they’re doing, to help guide you. You wanna be getting clear, effective guidance, you don’t wanna be doing a goose chase here.
I say that because I want you guys to not judge yourselves that “Oh, I do this and that’s bad, and it’s wrong, and I should be able to just flip the light switch and have it all figured out…” This takes practice; sometimes this takes years to really get good at, and have the insight and have the awareness. I mean, I don’t think it takes years to actually feel a shift, but to really get competent at it does take some effort – and not that it should be work and arduous, but that it’s an investment around what I’m trying to encourage you to get on the other side. You want the result, and we’re gonna look at a little bit more detail so you can kind of see this in action.
I’ll put a little plug here. If you’re interested in getting the support, getting the step-by-step guidance to work these principles in a container that really allows you to not only have the insight, but get the support to practice and to integrate, so that you can really see the transformational change in your life and in your relationship, I encourage you to be staying tuned; if you’re not on my list, get on my list, because in the next few weeks I’m gonna be sharing more details, as well as giving you some special freebies, and how to enroll, how to sign up for The Connected Couple – Your Map To Happy, Lasting Love. I look forward to sharing that with you.
Let’s transition into today’s topic. We’re gonna be addressing the importance of looking at our beliefs and our perception. I’m gonna give you some examples of how a negative belief can impact your relationship dynamics, and I’m also gonna give you an example of how working with your negative belief can benefit you and your relationship, and how you can kind of switch that around and reframe it.
As we turn our attention to the importance of our beliefs and how our beliefs impact our thinking, our feeling and also what we experience physiologically, in our body and in our nervous system, I wanna remind us all that what we’re looking at in this phase is when we’ve had a chance to calm down, get out of that fight-or-flight and really look at things a little more clearly. In psychology, we learn that the thinking, feeling and the somatic body all interact, they all affect each other; they’re interconnected.
For example, just the belief that I’m ugly – this belief is gonna impact our thinking. So if somebody is holding this belief of “I’m ugly”, they’re gonna probably have thoughts around “Nobody is gonna wanna marry me” or “Nobody is gonna wanna be in relationship with me. I’m not good enough.” Emotionally, there’s probably gonna be feelings of sadness, maybe feeling alone, feeling depressed – that’s the emotion. In my body, I would have bad posture. My shoulders would be rounded forward, I might be looking down, I might turn away from people, not wanting to be seen… My actions will also be — perhaps I don’t really take that much time to get ready. I might not do my hair or really care about the clothes that I’m wearing, to just feel good about myself and to present myself in a way that feels attractive.
I also probably won’t want to engage. I might not stand and seek to have conversations with people, really make myself available. The result of that would be most people probably wouldn’t wanna give me a lot of positive feedback, because they just don’t really have that much of a chance to. I’m not really giving anybody a chance to engage with me, unless they really, really go out of their way.
So this is one belief (“I’m ugly”) and how this affects the emotion, the body, my actions or behavior, and ultimately what I’m experiencing, the reality or the result of all of those things working together. Years ago in a psychology class I remember a professor putting a triangle on the whiteboard. This triangle represented different aspects of people, and he just labeled them in a simple form of “thinking”, “feeling” and “body” (thought, emotion and body). He was showing us that the places that it’s easier to create change is in the thought and in the body. It’s really difficult to change the emotional state, whether or not it’s helping someone along their process as a helping professional therapist, and it’s also really difficult just individually, if we’re trying to create change in our own life, to just wanna feel different. That’s a difficult thing to do. It’s just trying to force the emotion or bypass the emotion.
What he talked about is that two places of change are gonna occur most likely in the thought or in the body. If I give you a brief example of what this looks like, the thinking pattern would be looking at how to have a different thought, working with the belief and helping reframe that. I’m gonna show you some examples of how to do that.
But essentially the end goal – and this is where cognitive psychology techniques are really helpful – is to get to a belief that is more balanced. “I am ugly is a pretty absolute negative belief that probably doesn’t serve anyone.” A more balanced thought, which would come from a process – we don’t come up with this without doing some work here – would be “Okay, maybe I’m not the most physically attractive person in the room compared to society’s standards or criteria. However, there are many people who find me attractive and I do have many attractive qualities”, and then there’s evidence to support that, so that it really balances out.
There might be truth to “Okay, I’m not a size 2 and I’m not 5’7″ and I don’t have big, beautiful eyes and really symmetrical facial features and beautiful hair…” or whatever the modern criteria in mainstream America is… That I can look at who does find me attractive and that there are people that really value my physicality or aspects of my physicality, and that I have certain qualities that are attractive, that might not even be physical; there could be other things there to kind of really point to. What this does is it just really levels and reframes that negative “I’m ugly.” To hold that belief, there’s really little there to work with in a positive way.
The second point of change would be in the body. If I hold my shoulders up high and I walk with a sense of confidence and I hold my head up high and I breathe in an expansive way, and I calm my nervous system and I give people eye contact and I see some people responding to me favorably, that’s gonna create a source of change. Not only am I gonna feel different, but I’m gonna also create a different result. So there’s change happening there.
If you’ve listened to a few of my podcasts, I shared a story about me personally where I virtually did this. I was not feeling very attractive, and I held my shoulders up and I held my head up high, and the kind of change that that created in my life in that circumstance…
I also talked about a Ted talk – I can try to find it and put it in the show notes, and I’ll also look for that episode that I’m describing and I’ll put that in the show notes. The show notes can be found on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast, find the most recent episode there at the top. This is episode 96. You just click on that, scroll down to the bottom, see the section titled Mentioned, and you can find what I’m describing. So there’s this Ted talk that looked at these people that were wired up to all these measuring devices that measured their stress cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and their testosterone and things that helped them indicate confidence and indicated lack of confidence and self-esteem and all these things… And just the posture alone, within seconds, increased testosterone, decreased the stress hormone of cortisol. That would actually have that drastic of an impact, and then obviously people respond to us different, we start to feel different… It’s that same concept of “fake it till you make it”, or even smiling yoga – smiling if you’re feeling down and not having the best day; just actually putting on a smile, and smiling at people could actually change your emotional state over time. It’s that kind of feeling of lifting and expanding your posture and your expression – that’s the change agent.
So we can actually change our thoughts and work with our beliefs in a really constructive way, and we can also do that with our bodies. On today’s podcast we’re really looking at how to work with our beliefs.
When we go through a difficult time in life, all of us, we will try to create meaning. We will try to make sense of the situation and really try to understand it. However, if we’re in that fight-or-flight or freeze response or even in that protective stance, or maybe we’re not feeling that triggered but we’re still feeling pretty protective, pretty defensive and have that kind of anticipation of the worst, we’re letting our fear, our reactivity do the heavy lifting there; that’s running the show, because it’s gonna inform those negative beliefs. If we’re anticipating the worst, there’s a negative outlook happening there. And if there’s any pain or trauma or difficult situations in the past, that’s gonna be readily available.
If we’re feeling at all fearful or protective, we have some negative things to point to. We don’t want that to happen again, so that’s gonna be heavily informing our outlook. The risk here is that we will pathologize, which means basically view as abnormal or unhealthy, so we’ll view our partners in a very negative light, or we’ll view ourselves in a very negative light, or our relationships.
We’re gonna look at it a little bit more closely with some example, and we can see how this can color everything. I’m even thinking if I have two glasses of water; both glasses have filtered water that’s purified and super clean and ready to drink, and let’s say there’s a little drop of ink or food coloring that goes into one glass… Even just the smallest amount will color the whole liquid and water. It’s no longer clean and purified and ready to drink. This is similar for our beliefs and our thinking. If we’re in that negative mindset, we’re gonna be much more likely to have distorted thoughts or distorted thinking, and to have perceptions that are skewed.
Here are some examples of things we might say when we are in that protective stance. An example would be:
“If he would only communicate with me, we wouldn’t have any of these problems. He’s got issues, man…”
“If she would just control her anger, we would be fine. She’s the problem.”
“Maybe I’m not relationship material. I’m not meant to be with anyone. I’m not cut out for this.”
“Maybe we’re just never meant to be. Who are we kidding? This is a joke.”
That’s thinking negatively about our partner, thinking negatively about ourselves and thinking negatively about the relationship. Just even after saying these things I start to have this feeling internally… Like I was just saying, thoughts are really connected to the emotion. When I say all of those things, like “He’s the problem”, “She’s the one that’s got the issues”, “Maybe I’m not relationship material or maybe we’re just never meant to be”, like “Oh, gosh…” Emotionally, I feel “Ugh!” That doesn’t feel good.
Even just right there – I don’t believe any of those things, but just the mere fact of me verbalizing those, I feel an emotional response. It’s not heavy, but I can feel it. I don’t know if you can.
Okay, let’s work this through a little bit. Let’s work with the example of “If he would only communicate with me. He’s got issues.” The belief “He doesn’t know how to communicate” or “He can’t communicate” – the thinking there would be “He can’t give me what I need. Maybe this even goes a little bit further, right? “He doesn’t really wanna be close to me. I should have picked someone differently. He’s got problems, he’ll never change.” Those are some of the thoughts that someone might have based on that belief of “He doesn’t know how to communicate.”
The emotion there could be feeling hurt, feeling wronged, like “I didn’t sign up for this. This isn’t what I want. I’m not happy. Maybe I feel scared. I don’t know how this is gonna work. Perhaps I might feel sad, feel like I don’t have what I really need. I really long for the emotional closeness and intimacy, and he’s not available. He can’t do it. Or maybe I feel angry. That’s so messed up. What’s wrong with him!?” Feeling that sense of hopeless, sadness and fear. “I don’t know how this is gonna work. I’m at a loss…”
Those are some deep emotions, and the body, when I imagine feeling that, depending on if it goes to sadness or if it goes to anger, that could be different. The sadness would be, again, maybe that slumped posture, looking down, really not giving any eye contact, just feeling apathetic in your body, and slow and lifeless. Or perhaps the anger is just like the arms are crossed, the hands on the hip, the piercing eyes, or the fight-or-flight, really. That could be a body posture of that real defensive posture.
Okay, so the actions would be perhaps if I imagine feeling like he doesn’t know how to communicate, if I was maybe a little bit more in that kind of angry, frustrated place, I might ask him questions with a little bit of a tone of voice. I’m just like, I don’t even know why I’m putting the effort, but I’m gonna ask the question, whether or not it’s just like really no enthusiasm, no genuine interest, no curiosity, it’s just going through the motions. That might be the sad version.
The angry version would be like, underneath maybe I’m thinking “You’re so stupid” or “I don’t even know why I waste my time”, or something like that. That angry, irritated, resentful tone. Also, not expecting a quality response. Some of the questions, the way that they’re formed might be leading; I’m just answering my own question, because I just don’t think you’re gonna have anything to say.
So instead of an open-ended question, like “I’m interested in how that went for you. What was it like?”, it would be something like, “Oh, did your meeting go well?” Kind of like that yes/no, like I’m asking… It’s not a leading question, but it’s really not giving a lot of opportunity for a deeper response. Or even asking at inopportune times, like right before going to bed, or right before somebody’s getting ready to go do something and there’s really little space. It’s almost like this self-fulfilling prophecy.
The result of all this is just further disconnection. If I’m believing these things, if I’m feeling these things and I’m thinking these things, I’m not gonna feel connected. I’m probably gonna have more disagreements, misunderstandings, I’m probably gonna feel upset, have more conflict… And again, these negative patterns ensues. “I don’t know how we’re ever gonna get on the same page.” That’s all coming from the belief of “He can’t communicate.”
As we talked about in the last episode, the protective mechanism part of ourselves is extremely good at tracking and looking for any threat. Where this will show up is it’s gonna give a lot of evidence to support that negative belief. So if he can’t communicate, you’ll probably be looking at all the places that he didn’t share, that he didn’t really listen, and where he might have gotten annoyed or shut down, or got frustrated, or wanted to end the conversation and you’ll think about all the times you felt emotionally distant and disconnected; you were longing for communication and he wasn’t available. So all of that is gonna be coming to mind and reinforcing that belief.
Again, if I think about just the nervous system as far as the threat’s concerned, I feel scared; I might feel panicked, I might feel like I wanna push away, or even just work really hard to engage him, but probably not in a very skillful way. So this is extremely tricky, and this gets even more tricky when we’re not even aware of the belief that’s happening. We’re not even aware of how we’re feeling, and what we’re holding in our body, and we’re just reacting. All of this is happening beneath our awareness, so that’s why it’s really good to slow down and do inventory, or self-inquiry here.
I’m realizing for this episode I’m doing a little bit of an exercise here, if you will… I’m wanting you to have some tools around how to see this play out and how to work with this. I’m not sure if this is the best venue. I feel like I’m starting to see where there’s an edge or a boundary between a podcast episode and coaching in a program.
I know and I’ve said this before that a podcast episode is limited, and I do my best to give you tips and to provide you with some guidance that is essentially self-help. Yet, if I’m trying to walk you through a process, I think that’s better served for coaching or a program. It’s just limited in what I can actually provide for you. I’m gonna continue, but I’m just recognizing that that might be something for me to pay attention to in the future.
If you have any input on this, I would love to get your feedback. If you’re liking it or if you’re agreeing with me that this is better served for coaching or a program, I would love to hear from you. My e-mail is email@example.com.
One thing I wanna note – some of you may be feeling, “Well, what if he truly isn’t great at communicating?” There may be truth in what you’re experiencing, but what I’m really wanting you to focus on and pay attention to is your participation in the way that you’re viewing and looking at your beliefs and how that impacts your experience.
So let’s look at the same concern. I wanna give you a different belief and show you how that could impact the thinking emotion, body, actions and the result very differently. The belief could be “Communicating verbally isn’t as easy or natural for him as it is for me.” That could just be the belief. It’s obviously a different belief than “He can’t communicate.”
Working with that new belief or reframed belief of communicating verbally isn’t as easy or natural for him as it is for me. So the thinking there if I hold that belief, I get more curious. Some of my thoughts might be, “I wonder how he communicates. If he’s not super comfortable communicating verbally, what are the ways that he communicates? Or when he does really share with me, what are the circumstances of that? When he is more open, what’s going on? Is it something I’m doing, or is there something that’s happening for him? Is he more relaxed, or do we have more time? How do I get to know when he’s more receptive to verbal communication? Just wanting to know what works for him and what doesn’t work for him”, so those are some of my wonderings or thinking.
My emotion – I can just feel it as I’m talking about it… I’m interested, I’m curious; I believe that there is a way to communicate, I’m hopeful, I’m eager, but I’m also patient. I’m understanding that there’s a stylistic difference, but I’m also trusting that there’s a way that we can find each other; there is a way that we can meet each other, it’s just a matter of how do we connect there? Those are some of the emotions.
The body – I feel a little more engaged, alert, like there’s this almost forward, leaning in, perhaps giving good eye contact. I have open shoulders. I don’t feel threatened, I’m just more interested or perplexed. This is a dynamic – not a problem, but it’s like “Oh, this is something to work through.” If I believe there’s a solution, I’m more interested in working it.
If I’m holding this belief and I’m feeling these emotions, and in my body I feel this way, I’m more likely as far as my actions to initiate, to recognize, seek to understand, maybe try to help, I’m gonna have a more relaxed posture, a non-threatening posture where I might be more mindful and careful, but not in a walking on eggshells type of way; careful in the sense of like “I’m respecting… There’s some differences here and I don’t have it figured out and I want to understand. I wanna take it slow.”
One of the other things that I believe is happening here is I’m also accepting the reality that maybe he isn’t as comfortable verbally communicating as I am. I’m not trying to fight against that reality and make him be different. I’m more accepting, “Okay, how do we work with this?” Again, it’s that genuine, interest and curiosity.
If I imagine the result of this behavior, these feelings, these thoughts, I imagine progressively there will be more communication, better communication. There will be good will where they’ll wanna help each other. There’s a sense of working together, and I imagine an emotional feeling of feeling more connected, more understanding and more intimacy. If we contrast that to the result of the other belief, of feeling further disconnection, more disagreements, more misunderstandings, more conflict, more negative patterns – that’s like night and day difference.
Now, I don’t wanna put all the pressure on one person, and that it’s just their one belief that’s impacting the whole relationship. I’m just more pointing out how powerful our belief are and how many aspects are involved in that impact.
What’s happening here as far as the protective mechanism that’s looking for evidence – that’s a little more tempered. I’m more balanced in what kind of evidence I’m tracking. I might look for, again, if I’m thinking, “Oh, he does communicate, but let me see how he communicates. Oh, he communicates a little more non-verbally. Or how do I pick up on the way he does communicate or when it does work for him?” or “When I shared about my sister, he really listened.” My nervous system in this place is way more relaxed. I feel a sense of trust, I have a belief that he cares about me. It’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s just our style is different, and then I can look at the ways he does show he cares, and I can see his effort and see his intention.
I wanna give you one other example, and this actually comes from a listener’s question. The listener wrote to me, “What if my partner isn’t interested in or doesn’t have the faith in the process?”
Let’s work with that belief. Perhaps the belief would be “Working on the relationship or talking in therapy or coaching is stupid.” The belief would be “This is stupid.” Some of the thoughts or the thinking would be, “I’m not gonna get anything out of this. This would never work.” Some of the emotion might be “I’m annoyed, I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m resentful. I don’t wanna be doing this.” Perhaps the body posture would be arms are folded, muscles are tight; kind of that defensive, closed off, shut down and even constricted breathing.
The action would be maybe ready to leave, looking for an opportunity to get out of the conversation, disengage and avoid. Blame, or really not even listen and not really trying to understand. Again, the whole belief is like, “This is not worth it. This is stupid. I do not believe in this.” The result is probably very little progress. No positive outcome. Perhaps separation or divorce, because it’s like, if this isn’t working and working on doing it differently and improving it isn’t really gonna work either, then what hope is there? It really doesn’t set up for a lot of opportunity.
This is interesting, I actually worked with a couple for quite a while, and they had run into some situation that was pretty upsetting to the female partner in the relationship, and I remember her letting loose on him. She was yelling at him… And mind you, we had worked together for a while; I’d given them a lot of support… I think one of the things that they really liked about what I had to offer was I created safety, I helped them slow it down, I helped them look at situations where they had been triggered and unable to really communicate at all. So me giving them a safe container where they can start to begin to communicate and share a little bit more and try to understand each other.
Yet, she told me… She was like, “No, I believe what happened – he deserves to be yelled at.” And really truthfully, in most of my experiences with them, her upset and their difficulty or their conflict really had to do with misreading each other, or their fight-or-flight or freeze response, the way they interpreted each other and the meaning behind that, it was largely skewed based on their pain and their fear.
So she was basically telling me, “I don’t believe in the process we’ve been doing. I’m not working it, it’s all out the window”, and maybe it was just in the fact that she was so threatened that she couldn’t access any higher level of thinking or slowing it down to practice some of these principles. But I actually talked to her a few times individually after that, and there was this notion that I felt she was saying to me was, “I don’t believe in this.” So we essentially transitioned out of our work because they were just getting to a place where things were so volatile, so stressful that it was really difficult for them to make any headway. Also, I do think that if they’re not believing in the work, then I don’t want them to continue to pay me if they don’t believe in it.
The biggest impact is gonna come from what they do outside of session. I get to meet with them maybe once a week at most, and really the biggest change is gonna come from how they put it into action, implementing it. Because they’re with each other, they live with each other; they might see each other and have a gazillion interactions within a week, so the amount of tipping the scale is gonna come from their belief, their willingness to try new things and work the process. That comes from the belief that it’s worth it.
It’s just an interesting thing… I was actually a little surprised, yet it was really telling and helped me understand a little bit more about where she was coming from – either that she was that threatened, or just that there was some subtext to the work that we’d been doing.
So if we were to take that same concept, the same concern around working on the relationship and the belief was “I’m not sure, but I’m willing to try.” Then the thinking is, “Perhaps this is uncomfortable. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do, but I am gonna give it my best.” The emotional might be uncomfortable, maybe a little anxious, maybe even excited and hopeful, like “It could be a little different and that could be awesome.” Maybe scared or a little vulnerable, like “I’m gonna be revealing things and I’m a little nervous about what that’s gonna feel like.”
So if I imagine in my body, how my posture would be, I feel like I’d be a little on edge, I’d be maybe actively trying to stay calm, taking a few deep breaths… A little alert, maybe the posture is upright, watching [unintelligible 00:46:35.14]
The actions would be maybe actively keeping an open mind and really trying to listen and understand, but coming from this place of like “I’m open.” The result of that, if they have good guidance, would be they begin to build safety together, and they might be able to make progress, if both people are believing in the process and being willing to do the work, that there is some headway, some traction, putting one foot in front of the other, that then results in bigger change down the road.
So I’ve given you some examples here to see how this plays out. All the layers and all the aspects that our belief has an impact on, and how it actually could be contributing to a very different result in our relationship dynamic. So I say all this and I point this out to contrast a negative belief to a more balanced belief, or even a positive belief… But I try to keep it pretty neutral, not super positive, because I think that’s a little more realistic.
To get to a reframed belief does require a process, and it does involve slowing down, being willing to suspend judgment and belief to kind of assess some of these things I’m pointing out to you – my thinking, my feeling, what I’m feeling in my body, how I’m behaving and what is the result that is getting created here. Yes, my partner has responsibility for his or her part, yet if I look at the result of my belief and all the aspects of how that impacts me and my relationship – that’s important to consider, as I’m showing you.
Some of the questions which you can find on my show notes, if you’d like to reference… And again, my show notes can be found on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast and you can find them listed there. So it’s about looking at “Is what I’m thinking really true? What belief am I operating under here?” and maybe re-evaluating “How did I get to that belief? Is that really what’s going on? Is this partly informed by my old experience? Is it a lens that I’m seeing through my perception? Perhaps my fear, or worry, or protection?” And there’s a lot of questions that we can be in an inquiry of wondering of what’s getting activated there, what’s the belief, what’s operating.
If you’re interested in getting support in working these steps, being able to develop a practice that allows you to have this outcome of a more balanced belief that supports your dynamics in your interactions, feel free to reach out to me. I’m available for coaching and I also have this included in my upcoming program, my “Connected Couple: Your Map To Happy, Lasting Love” program. So stay tuned for that. If you have any questions or feedback, please reach out to me. Again, my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, I hope you take great care.
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