ERP 323: One Of The Most Important Relationship Skills – Being Relational — An Interview With Terry Real

By Posted in - Podcast June 6th, 2022 0 Comments

It’s amazing how couples can function as two distinct individuals in a relationship. Maintaining your own identity while encouraging your partner’s interests and personal goals is gold. On the other hand, individual independence can be toxic too. It can make you feel like you’re competing with your spouse, getting into a power struggle, and everything else that comes from these two individual perspectives.

In this episode, Terry Real encourages us to consider the consequences of approaching a relationship from a toxic individualism perspective and how critical it is to shift to a relational mindset as he shares some actionable steps from his new book, Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship.

Terry Real is an internationally recognized family therapist, speaker, and author. He founded the Relational Life Institute, offering workshops for couples, individuals, and parents, along with a professional training program for clinicians to learn his Relational Life Therapy methodology. He is the bestselling author of I Don’t Want to Talk About It, How Can I Get Through to You?, and The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work.

In this Episode

9:18 The inspiration behind the book, Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship.

12:42 What is toxic individualism and how does it affect relationships?

20:14 How to make the transition from automatic response to conscious communication?

23:52 How to empower your relationship.

46:00 Key takeaways.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Stop pointing fingers and start working together as a pair.
  • Always remember that the person you’re talking to is someone you care about and that the reason you’re talking is to make things better for both of you.
  • Do not say or do anything rashly. Take a break, and if necessary, go for a walk until your head is clear.
  • Be willing to take the first step towards repair.
  • Embrace and guide your inner child to healing.
  • Surround yourself with people who will support the relationship as a whole, not just you as an individual.

Mentioned

Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

How Can I Get Through to You? Closing the Intimacy Gap Between Men and Women (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Connect with Terry Real

Websites: terryreal.comrelationallife.com

Facebook: facebook.com/TerryRealRLI

YouTube: youtube.com/user/TerryRealRLI/feed

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Terry, thank you so much for joining us. It’s such an honor and a privilege to have you on the show. 

Oh, thank you, Jessica. It’s great to be here.

You are in good company with people in the realm of relationship and couples work and you’re one of the front runners in the voice and leadership around this field. One of the things that you’ve been so great at in offering is around trauma as well as relationship principles and grandiosity. It’s just such a great gift to have you on the show. Again, I know you were on the show once before so it’s a privilege to have you back. I know that you have an upcoming book that we’re going to be talking a little bit more about. 

Yes, I do. 

Yes. Yes. Can you share the title of the book?

The book is called Us. Us: Getting Past You & Me To Build A More Loving Relationship. It’s out June seventh, Goop rang the bells in this publishing.

Nice. 

I’m really thrilled. Yeah. 

What was the vision? What was the interest in really wanting to create this book?

Okay. so, here’s my history really quick. Back in the 90s, I wrote the first book ever written about male depression. I’m very proud of my role in putting down depression on the map. It had been considered a woman’s disease, but there are an estimated six million depressed men in America at any point. So, the book did really well. 

Say the name of the book. 

Oh, that book is called I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression. It’s really about gender. It’s about what we do to boys in our cultures. The way we turn boys into men to this day is through disconnection. We disconnect them from their hearts, from their vulnerabilities, from others. 

Free Boy in Blue Jacket Holding White Printer Paper Stock Photo

“The cost of disconnection in boyhood is disconnection as a man.”

What I say in the book is the cost of disconnection in boyhood is disconnection as a man. A lot of depression goes unrecognized. A lot of the issues we see as typically male in our culture—drinking, violence, womanizing are really fueled by an unacknowledged depression. 

That unacknowledged depression is really a form of PTSD because of the trauma of what lands on little boys in our culture under the name of patriarchy. I talk about patriarchy in my new book. I’ve been writing about patriarchy for 30 years.

I heard a professional in the field really reference some of what you’re referring to as gender abuse. Would you even endorse that?

Yes. Well, what we do under patriarchy is we take a whole human being. I call this the Great Divide. We split them down the middle, and we say all of these characters to the left, we’re going to call feminine. And all these characters to the right, we’re going to call masculine. And after 50 years of feminism, girls still get punished for crossing into boyland but I’ll tell you whoa to the boy who crosses over the girland. 

The response is really violent. [by other kids 11:35]. The way we impose this by for kids corralling all of us into half of us is through emotional violence. And for boys, sometimes physical violence. So, really it was traumatic to suppress. While we’re on boys and men, what it means to be a strong man traditionally is to be invulnerable. The more invulnerable you are, the more manly you are. The more vulnerable you are, the more girly you are. 

And what’s happening in heterosexual couples across the West is that empowered women are insisting on levels of emotional vulnerability and connection from men that we’ve socialized out of them as boys. Little boys are every bit as emotional as little girls until three, four or five years old. And then boom, it drops on them. Studies show they’re still feeling as much but they know better than to show it.

Yes.

Three, four, or five years old.

I’ve even come across the research that that empathy channels and what’s happening in the brain are equal. It’s just the verbalization is very different. And just because what you’re referring to there’s been so much socialization about hiding that or withholding that or containing that.

Free Boy in Blue and Green Zip-up Hooded Windbreaker Stock Photo

“Before our sons have learned to read, they’ve already read the code of masculinity.”

Well, little boys know better. They know to keep their mouth shut. One of the things I wrote in that book is, before our sons have learned to read, they’ve already read the code of masculinity. It’s terrible. So, that was that first book is about what happens to boys and what happens to man and how it screws up relationships. 

I began to get calls from around the country saying, “Can you help us?” It was almost always women calling. I used to refer them. And then, the light dawn. And I said, “Look, if you’re crazy enough and you have the money, come to Boston where I practice.” And what evolved was a two-day relational intervention. 

At the end of our two days together, me and the two of you, you’re on track of getting a divorce. This is the last stop. I noticed two things about this intervention. One, it was enormously successful, I have to say. You don’t have to believe me, but it’s true. 

Two, I broke every rule that I have learned as a couple’s therapist. I was already teaching couple’s therapy. So, rather than rearrange what was effective, I began to rearrange the field. I created a school of relational therapy called RLT, or Relational Life Therapy. 

For the professionals listening, we have a two-year training track. Come on in. We have a rich school of training. We train thousands of therapists around the world really at this point. And so, I began to work more with couples. One of the things that I felt in these divisive times is that individualism is killing us. 

I took aim in this book of what I call toxic individualism and what it does to our relationships. One chapter is about the history of individualism at the present. It’s not a natural thing. It’s not like the sky is blue. The idea of individualism is a product of a couple of rich White men in the Enlightenment period. 

The essence of individualism is I stand apart from nature. That’s what it means to be an individual. It fuses with patriarchy in that I’m not only apart from nature, I dominate nature. I’m above it and in control of it. That’s true. If the nature we’re dominating our partners, our kids, our bodies are going to lose 10 pounds. Our minds have to be more positive. We realize what are called power over model. This dominance model is killing us. 

I’m really proud of the book because I start with neurobiology. I started with what goes on in our brain. I move on to couples and love relationships. That’s the bulk of the book. But then I fade out to issues like patriarchy, gender, sexism, racism, our relationship to the planet, our relationship to spirit, because this idea that we are an individual in control of life, and nature is a delusion with incredibly difficult consequences in our everyday life with one another. So, if I can guess on for a few more minutes.

Well, I just want to say that what you’re describing in the separateness and the other, and the toxicity of that and what that leads to and the damage, it’s just profound. And when we’re talking about couplehood, anytime we are seeing someone as an adversary or not an ally and the other, we’re in this power over or the one up one down, it’s incredibly threatening, and then what we can do with the dehumanizing or the othering is quite, like you said, scary. Yes. Thank you. I just wanted to say that.

Well, I mean, ask Ukrainians if they like being classed as others. I mean, you can’t kill somebody and be empathically connected to them at the same time. You have to dehumanize them in order to do violence to them. The act of dehumanizing them is already doing violence to them, but we do it to each other. And we do it to ourselves. 

I talked about neurobiology, and there’s a lot of neurobiology in the book. The autonomic nervous system in each of us scans our bodies four times a second. Am I safe? Am I safe? Am I safe? Am I safe? If the answer is yes, I’m safe. We stay in what I call the wise adult part of us, prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that develops all the way up to 26 years old, the last part of the brain to develop. Mature, present, here and now, thoughtful, able to make smart choices. 

If the answer is no, I’m not safe, I’m in danger, boom, we go into an automatic response, fight, flight, or fix. It’s totally knee jerk. It’s totally compelling. And you do the same damn thing you’ve done the last eight million times that you get triggered. You do what you do. 

I call this the adaptive child part of us. There’s the wise adult prefrontal cortex, and the adaptive child subcortical limbic system. The adaptive child part of you is the you that you created as a kid’s version of an adult that got you through that crazy family where you are in the middle.

I teach my students always be respectful of the exquisite intelligence of the adaptive child. But the adaptive child part of you is about survival. It’s about me, me, me. It’s about win-lose, zero sum. You have lost the wisdom of remembering that you’re in a relationship and you’re a team.

Or haven’t known it ever.

Well, maybe you haven’t. Maybe your whole life has been a struggle. But from a relational perspective, the answer to the question who’s right and who’s wrong is who cares. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how are you and I as a pair is going to work this issue out in a way that’s going to work for both of us? 

Free Man and Woman Sitting Inside a Train Stock Photo

“From a relational perspective, the answer to the question of who’s right and who’s wrong is who cares. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how are you and I as a pair is going to work this issue out in a way that’s going to work for both of us?”

And when we get triggered, which has everything to do with our trauma and our history. When we get triggered, we move from what I call “us” consciousness to “you and me” consciousness. Suddenly, it’s a big power struggle. One of us wins. One of us loses and you’re the adversary. When we’re in that part of our brain, all bets are off.

 I went around the country for years doing a workshop on relationship skills. Here’s my favorite slide from that workshop. Other workshops teach you skills. We deal with the part of you that won’t use them.

Ah, yeah, that’s so perfect, because how many people can probably who are listening resonate with how much they’ve listened to, watch, read about relationship principles, and all of that insight, all of that understanding when that prefrontal cortex is offline. 

Offline! 

It’s no use! We can’t access it.

All bets are off. So, the art, and that’s what the whole book is about is how to shift in those heated moments from these automatic responses to something that gives you choice, something that can be cool and learned. Instead of, “I hate the way you talk to me.” You take a breath. You access this more mature part of your brain, and you say, “Honey, I want to hear what you have to say. Could you tone it down, so I could listen to you?” 

That’s a shift out of you versus me to us. And that shift in those heated moments can be cultivated. They can be grown and strengthened. And that’s the way out of the mess you’re in with your partner.

You know, Terry, as you’re describing this, there’s part of me that wants to slow down and just kind of acknowledge some of what you’re naming. I’ll do that in a second. But I also want to just say what you’re really inviting people into in this “us” consciousness feels as though it’s fabric or this connectivity that we become aware of that allows us to be held by something that connects us, right? That connectivity, and that “us” consciousness that we are connected. And that awareness of it that we’re going to operate and treat that very differently than we would from I am me, you’re you, and I have to look out for mine, or I got to get mine type of thing. 

Me, me, me, mine. Yeah. 

And then, can I just say real quickly? I’m also really aware that as we are talking about couplehood, we’re also living in a world that is constantly reinforcing whether or not it’s our career, or what’s happening globally, or whatever it is. There’s so much that’s enforcing this, and we might even feel armored from the day of feeling like we have to negotiate this one up one down all the time. And to switch gears. We might not even recognize how pervasive we are in this, you and me. And this is why I think you do so much to help identify the patriarchal one up in the hierarchy and the damage that that does.

Yes, I call it the great lie. The great lie that Western civilization runs on is the delusion that a human being could be essentially superior or essentially inferior to another human being. You can be a better tennis player. You can be a better therapist. You can be a better speaker. You can be a more moral person, but you are not essentially. 

That’s the essence of democracy, one person one vote. One of the things that distinguishes my work from a lot of others is I don’t just work with the one down of shame. But I also work with the one up of superiority and grandiosity, you have to do both. 

One of the things I say is, you cannot love from the one up superior position, you cannot love from the one down inferior position. Love demands democracy. You have to be equal. That’s what self-esteem is. Self-esteem is I’m no better or worse than the guy in the left or right of me. I can’t be. That’s just a delusion. 

Free Photography of Man Wearing White T-shirt Kissing a Woman While Holding Bicycle on River Dock during Sunset Stock Photo

“Love demands democracy. You have to be equal. Our relationships are our biosphere. We live inside of them, not above them.”

Coming out of that delusion, what we come into is the wisdom of relationships. And you’re right. It’s a larger force than either you or me. One of the things I say, Jessica, is our relationships are our biosphere. We live inside of them, not above them. 

I can pollute my biosphere over here with a temper tantrum, but I’ll breathe in that pollution over here with my partner’s withdrawal or coldness. There’s no escape. I’m not outside. I’m in it with it. I call this ecological humility versus the grandiosity of I’m in control and I am in charge of everything.

And I can insulate myself even if I allow you to hurt me or I hurt you that I’m actually not going to be impacted by that. You’re saying there’s a very direct experience that is affecting the whole of the couplehood. 

The relational answer, for example, if one of you wins and the other one loses, you both lose. And that’s not some pie in the sky. You both lose because the loser will make the winner pay for it. There is no escape. The minute you frame it as a power struggle, “Oh, I’m giving in to Jessica that so and so.” You’re done. 

You take care of the biosphere because the biosphere will take care of you. It’s not about either of you as an individual. It’s about the power of the relationship. Happy house, happy spouse. These big burly guys, you know, they say to me. “Why should I work so hard to please my wife?” I look at them and I go, “Well, dummy, you live with them. Let’s start with that.”

And you know what, when you say that, I want to just query that for a moment because it sounds like in the past, sometimes that feels like an archaic kind of phrase, if you will just kind of consciousness of like, just pleasing like giving over, giving over, giving over. But what you’re saying something about the health of the whole, that if I’m contributing to the health of the whole, that that’s going to have benefit and reward that I’m going to experience and that we can have some synergy in the care, in the regard that we’re offering one another. That starts to be more reciprocal. 

It’s all reciprocal. I mean, I do think about pleasing my wife. I love her and I want her to be pleased. But it’s more like I want to take care of my relationship because it takes care of me. I’m not sacrificing to Belinda. I’m sacrificing to my marriage because my marriage gives it back to me. I don’t talk about altruism. I talk about short-term greed and enlightened self-interest. It’s in your interest to make this relationship work because you were in it.

Yes. That’s not in direct conflict, if I might add, if there was something that had great value for you or meaning for you that you would suppress that to just [unclear 27:23], right?

This is not about a combination. It’s important that women in particular hear this because women have sacrificed the “I” to the “Us”. You have to have an “I” but it lives in a context. But you have to have the “I”. But you know what, a lot of women, when they do move into the “I”, they forget about it. They move from over accommodating to really like Katie bar, you know, I am a woman. Hear me roar. I call that individual empowerment. I was weak. Now, I’m strong. Go screw yourself. 

And it’s still in some sense, a different version of power over maybe. 

Exactly. This is shifting from one side to the other side. I want a revolution. And so, I talked to people particularly women, about what I call soft power, or loving power, which is I want to be fully empowered. This is what I want from you. And now, listen to this. “Honey, what can I give you to help me give it to me?” Who says that? Let me empower you to come through for me because we’re a team. So no, the “I” is essential but the “I” is embedded in the “Us.” It’s not either/or. It’s both.

Yeah. So, we don’t need to abandon ourselves to be relational. But what you’re saying with this soft power is that we’re in contact and connected to the self and in relationship with the other so we can co-create.

Yes! It’s like saying, you know, not that you ever would because you’re a sweetheart. But, “Jessica, when you call me a fat pig, I want you to know, psychologically that sent me to the other side of the room. I want to be close to you, honey. Would you do us both a favor and apologize for that? So, I can come back and be close to you the way I want to?” Who the hell sounds like that? They have to be bought. What it is, is the art of cherishing yourself, standing up for yourself and cherishing your partner and the relationship, both in the same breath. Can I tell you a story that illustrates that? 

Yes, please. 

The true story. Young heterosexual couple. It was totally stereotypical. She wanted sex none of the time. He wanted sex all the time. They come to me. And like any good couples’ therapists, I get them off of the issue on to what it mean. What does sex mean? 

And like a lot of guys, unfortunately, this young man filtered almost all of his emotional needs for sex. Man, did she liked them? She found them desirable. The relationship was okay. She felt close. Okay. so, we surface all those. Absolute true story. Come back in two weeks, all smiles, I got a knock. Really? Yep. Okay, there’s a story here. What’s the story? 

Two days after they walked out of the session, he comes bounding up to her and want sex. And rather than scoot to the other side of the room, which is her normal MO, she walks over to him and gives him a big fat kiss. Looks him in the eye, puts her arms around him and says the following, “Honey, the first thing I want you to know is I think you are really hot. You are so cool. You’re so handsome. You’re such a sexy guy. You’re a big-hearted guy. I feel connected to you. I feel like you treat me well. Oh, by the way, I don’t want to have sex tonight. Anyway, I love you to pieces.” 

And after five minutes of this, to his own amazement, the guy looked around and went. “Okay.” And that was it. Because she was so cherishing of him while saying no that the no went down without a fuss. That’s what I’m teaching people in this book, how to love your partner to death and be utterly assertive in the same breath. 

Under patriarchy, we don’t get taught that. Under patriarchy, you can either be connected or you can be powerful, but you can’t be both at the same time. Moving into loving power moves us beyond toxic individuals and patriarchy is a new model for how to be in the world.

Yes. And if I may surmise, it almost even sounds as though even though she was loving him, it possibly was in service of a need that he has. So, when we get into this win-win and we understand those deeper layers, we can be in service of those deeper needs for one another that is this caring, that is this loving that satiates on a deeper level than just whatever appears the content that we’re fighting for. Would you agree?

Yeah, because the deepest thing that we all long for is connection. I go into the neurobiology of that too. We human beings are designed to be intimate. We’re pack animals. There’s no such thing as a free-standing individual. We co-regulate each other’s nervous systems all day long. We’re born to be in connection. 

One of the things I say over and over again is only that connection that will make us happy. I work with men, a very high-powered men who live their whole lives out of this adaptive child part, thinking it’s the wise adult. And the culture at large because it’s narcissistic, patriarchal, and individualistic, rewards the adaptive children in us. 

So, they’re great successes in the world. They’re miserable at home. And they’re miserable between their ears. And I teach them about the difference between what I call gratification and relational joy. Gratification is a short term hit of pleasure, great, you know, pretty [gal smells 33:25], terrific. You are killing in the stock market, great. Short term pleasure, fine, [in this place 33:31]. 

Relational joy is a deeper down pleasure that’s just about being there, being connected. A lot of the men that I work with have no idea what relational joy is. I have to awaken it in them but that is the pearl of great price. That’s the thing that’s going to satisfy. 

I had one of these captains of industry 40 billion bucks, he is worth. $40 billion. He was only in his 50s. He had never had joy in his life. Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, achieve, achieve, achieve. Get, get, get, grandiosity, grandiosity, bigger, bigger, more and more. I said, “Listen. Can you roll through your Rolodex and find one moment anywhere in your life where you let go of all of that and you just had joy in the moment? 

He said, “Yeah, when I’m playing with my kids on the floor. I have joy.” I go, “That’s it. That’s relational joy.” And honest to God it’s true story. He didn’t call me for a month. When he did, he said, “My life was completely different.” He said, “I’m spending time with my wife. I’m spending time with my kids. I’m actually turning my acquaintances into friends and opening up my heart. For the first time in my life, I am feeling real joy.” That is what we’re looking for. That’s what we’re designed for. 

Yes. And this harkens back, Terry, to the big lie. Right? When we maybe encounter the early stages of adulthood, and we have this notion of how to be successful, how to achieve between the ears a sense of inner happiness and well-being and also relationally, this sense of relational health, that if we achieve, achieve, achieve, then we’re going to pass this imaginary threshold, and it will be then bestowed upon us. And you’re really helping recognize the paradigm shift. It’s huge.

Yeah, I don’t mind achieving. I don’t mind any of these things. They’re all great. Go for it. I’m an achiever, but it’s not the heart of it. The heart of it is love. I’m sorry to tell you. The heart of it is being embedded in a web of relationships and connection that is cherishing of you and caring of you. And that allows you to be caring of the people around you. That’s the gift. That’s the only thing that’s going to satisfy. 

What happens is, in these relationships, when we get triggered, when our old wounds get stimulated, we lose the cherishing, and it becomes adversarial. It’s me versus you, and you’re the enemy. And shifting out of that into our prefrontal cortex, our wise adult, is something I call remembering up. That simple. Remember that the person you’re speaking to is someone you love. And the reason why you’re speaking is to make things better for both of you. 

If you’re not in that place, take a break. I’m a big fan of breaks. Take a walk around the block. Get yourself centered back in that adult, and then talk to your partner until you’re centered, and you have your head on straight that nothing is going to work for you.

Thank you for saying that. I resonate with that so strongly. I know for myself, the version of that, that I practiced earlier on was do I want to be right, right now? Or am I looking to feel a sense of understanding? It was surprising to me how many times I was wanting to be right. And so, I needed to back off or slow things down. So, that’s a good kind of question for me, or was a good question for me to work with. 

The question that I feel like you’re answering, because a moment ago, you know, earlier on, I was saying, “Oh, I want to slow this down.” Because you talk about how often we’re not even conscious of how strongly the adaptive child is operating our lives or how we’re in those tendencies. And that the consciousness and the awareness of recognizing, like you said, the wisdom, and the intelligence of that earlier on in one’s environment, and how perhaps limiting and maladaptive it currently is in the moment. And being awake to that is profound, right? 

I love in the book; you offer this very simple. It’s like two spectrums almost. One, it’s like a cross or a T where you have the horizontal line, and the vertical line. The horizontal line represents, perhaps we were neglected or abandoned on one side, and the other side is we were intruded upon or controlled. And then the vertical line represents where we disempowered, where we shamed, blamed, scolded, or where we falsely up lifted in a position that was inappropriate. 

It was. Yeah. 

And so, I think it can be incredibly enlightening for one to identify their adaptive strategies. I also love that you talk about we might react to what we got, right? If we were controlled, we might want to be a little bit more avoidant or turned walled off. Or if we didn’t get a lot of that attention, and that attunement that we might be a little bit more of the pursuer actually, like do the opposite. And also, that we might internalize the modeling of the parent that we identified with. 

So, there’s so much here. But it also sounds like, Terry, you’re saying, it might not even be necessary to unpack all of that. It’s definitely worth the investment and the understanding because there’s so much to be gleaned around. Oh, are we in that reactive state? Is our nervous system reliving? Are we feeling threatened? Are we using those old strategies? Can I recognize what’s happening there for that healing? 

But it sounds like just that very question of in a moment of conflict with a significant other if we just even ask, are we serving? Are we in the interest of our love or do I remember love here and my desire to have connection with my significant other? That in and of itself, would you say is enough to start to shift something?

Free Photo of Two Men Lying Down Stock Photo

“The first step toward repair is having the willingness to want to repair.”

My friend, a German [mystic, Mr. Thomas 40:12] has this saying, to observe is to have choice. One of the things I say is the first step toward repair is having the willingness to want to repair. Versus I talked about five losing strategies that our adapted child runs on. Being right, controlling our partner, unbridled self-expression (let me tell you just how miserable I am), retaliation (I will hurt you the way you hurt me), and withdrawal (I’m shutting down). 

The book is a lot about shake hands with your adaptive child. Get to know that part of you, and identify what your knee jerk responses are, and then you can move beyond them. I’ll tell you what. Can I tell you a story? 

Please. 

Okay. This is one of the stories that I opened the book with. I often tell this story. It’s a true story. Guy on the brink of divorce, chronic liar, lied about everything. He was the kind of guy I would say the sky is blue, and he will go, “Aquamarine.” He wouldn’t give me nothing. So, I have a saying, “Show me the thumbprint and I’ll tell you about the thumb.” This is his adaptation. This guy is a blackbelt innovation. Okay. What was he adapting to? Who was he evading? 

So, I asked him a question, if you don’t think relation sounds brilliant. But it’s common sense. I say to him, “Who tried to control you growing up?” His father, a military man. How he ate, how he stood, his dress, his friends, his course, and everything. 

I say to him, “How did you deal with this overly controlling father?” He looks at me with his big grin on his face. And he says, “I lied.” Brilliant! Just what you needed to do to get by. But as you said, I have a saying. “Adaptive then, maladaptive now.” 

You’re not that four-year-old boy and your wife is not your father. We got to get over this. So, they come in two weeks later, and they’re all smiles. And they say we’re done. And I say, “Okay, tell me the story.” Absolutely true. The wife sent him off to the grocery store to get 12 things. In classic form, he comes back with 11. She says, “Where’s the pumping nickel?” 

And he says, “Every muscle and nerve in my body was screaming, to say they were out of it. And on this day, in this one moment, I took a breath, I found my courage. I looked my wife in the eye. And I said I forgot.” She burst into tears and said, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for 25 years.” That’s what we’re about. That’s what I want to teach my readers to be able to do.

I love that story. It also seems to resonate with one of the real key takeaways that I feel in what we’re talking about is I heard you say in the book, let the bad thing happen. It just viscerally just feel so applicable that when our whole nervous system feels those alarm bells, and every part of me wants to go to the like strategy of safety that we’ve known that we’ve done 8,000,000 times. And if we can challenge that and choose have that observation, and let the bad thing happen, right? It’s really challenging all of that neural pathway of creating a new opportunity and really confronting that fear. And that possibly, we get to see something else. “Oh, my wife didn’t scold me, or she just burst into tears and was so grateful and loved me for being honest.” That’s not the fear that drove the line.

Right. And neurobiologically we call that memory reconsolidation. Your expectation that you’re going to get screamed at is your implicit memory, and then the corrective experiences when you don’t get screamed at. And what that does, literally, is it opens up your neural pathway. It lays down new tracks in your brain, which can become a new view when they’re repeated over and over again, that is how people transform.

I would also add in combination to the connection that is experienced in that moment and how rewarding that is that that helps motivate. So, not only do we challenge the old trauma and relational traumas, and those old pathways, neural pathways and we’re having a new experience and it liberates that. I said it offers this new territory to experience but also, we’re feeling that connection with our significant other than one that matters so much that that it’s like you said what it’s about. 

Free Woman Kissing Another Woman While Stock Photo

“Relational life therapy is known, I’m pleased to say, for producing profound change quickly. Permanent, profound transformation. I’m not about behavioral change. I want a personality transplant. I want a different human being.”

That’s what it’s about. Relational life therapy is known, I’m pleased to say, for producing profound change quickly. Permanent, profound transformation. I’m not about behavioral change. I want a personality transplant. I want a different human being. And the reason why it’s so quickly effective is because what we’re all trained to do, all RLT therapists, is sort of shift a person into the Jetstream of relational connection. Once they’re there, that connection is so great. It’s such a better way to live that they just want more and more and more and more and change happens very quickly.

Yes. Okay, Terry, I know we’re winding down. Is there anything you want to say that you haven’t touched on that you would like to touch on in the keys or supports of shifting into more of this “us” consciousness?

Your way that you can find more courage is to embrace your own inner children, both the adaptive child part of you, and the even younger, wounded child part of you. I literally do inner child work with people. I have them put their little boys and little girls in chairs and say to them, “Listen, honey, I’m here now. You’re not alone. It was overwhelming back then that you were alone. Now, I got you.” 

And no matter how you do it, breathing into the vulnerable parts of you and saying, “Listen, it’s okay. That is what will allow you the freedom and the courage to move into this new consciousness. You don’t have to do it alone.” And a therapist and a coach, get pals who support your relationality. So many of our friends and therapists are like individual. “Oh, I wouldn’t put up with that if I was you.” No, no, that’s not what you want. 

You want pals that say, “You did a good job. You could have done the same old, same old and you took a breath and did something different. Good for you, man. Congratulations!” You want people around you who will support the relationship and not just you as an individual, that you don’t have to do this alone. Get help.

Wonderful. And you have many ways in which you’re offering help. Let’s pivot towards what would you like to invite people to do as they grow interest in what you’re sharing today?

Well, certainly I want everyone to buy the book, US: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship. I’d love everybody to come to my website. It’s just my name, Terry with a T like Thomas. T-e-r-r-y R-e-a-l. TerryReal.com. We’ve got an incredible tool there. Do you know that grid, that cross we’re talking about? You can identify where you are on that cross, and where your partner is on that. One down, one up. Boundary list. It’s very useful information. You can do that. We have all sorts of resources. So, come to the website, TerryReal.com. Sign up for our newsletters and emails. I’m really pleased to say that this June and July, I will be launching the first ever online US Workshop for individuals and couples who want to do a dive and really learn how to do this.

And that information will be delivered on if they sign up for your newsletter, or how would they come to know that?

Come to my website and join our database and you’ll be getting emails about it.

Lovely. And then what about a couple that perhaps wants to do an intensive. You have trained many professionals. Can you speak to that a little?

Yeah. We have 200 certified professionals around the US and Europe. We have about 3000 in the pipeline, and more and more coming every day. So, there are people trained in my method. I have a few slots, but I’m incredibly hard to get into and ludicrously expensive. If you come to my website, we can hook you up with an RLT therapist, and we’d love to do that.

Wonderful. Well, there’s so much there and I’ll make sure to have these links easily accessible in today’s show notes, the book US, your website. It sounds like there’s so much more so I’ll make sure to do my best to put any links to your social media and all of those things as well.

Super. I really appreciate it.

All right, Terry, thank you so much for sharing your incredibly valuable time with us here.

You are a total joy. I love your energy. It’s great to be a guest with you. Keep up the good work that you’re doing. I really appreciate it.

Thank you. Likewise. 

Signing Off

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching