ERP 376: How To Process Your Emotions For Greater Clarity & Connection — An Interview with Dr. Glenn & Phyllis Hill

By Posted in - Podcast June 13th, 2023 0 Comments

In today’s fast-paced and overwhelming world, it’s no surprise that emotions often become a tangled web, hindering our ability to authentically connect with ourselves and others. With a staggering 90% of people never receiving regular counseling or therapy, the need for accessible tools that can reach a wider audience becomes paramount.

Join us in this thought-provoking episode as we delve into the vital topic of processing emotions for greater clarity and connection. This conversation uncovers the common obstacles individuals face when attempting to navigate their emotions effectively. More importantly, we explore an innovative approach to emotional processing that aims to bridge this gap, allowing individuals to tap into their innate capacity for connection.

Don’t miss out—tune in and unlock the keys to processing emotions for a more fulfilling and connected existence.

Dr. Glenn and Phyllis Hill spent the first 30 years of marriage living disconnected. Dr. Glenn was so determined to find out what went wrong that he went back to school and became a Marriage and Family Therapist and a Clinical Sexologist. It wasn’t until he dug deep into emotional regulation that he discovered the source of their disconnect. From there, Dr. Glenn & Phyllis created The Connection Codes which is a framework to help couples connect emotionally and physically using their 4-minute tool.

In this Episode

5:10 The journey to unveiling The Connection Codes Framework.

12:07 The power of vulnerability: Unveiling deeper layers of understanding.

17:22 Glenn and Phyllis’ individual journeys within their relationship.

22:06 The importance of emotional breakthroughs.

26:40 The birth of the Core Motion Wheel and its transformative impact.

34:48 The breakthrough: Reversing disconnection to foster connection.

37:53 Real-life application and global impact of emotional tools.

44:37 The importance of processing emotions for regulation and well-being.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Start by practicing mindfulness and self-awareness to recognize and acknowledge your emotions as they arise.
  • Create a safe and non-judgmental space for yourself to fully experience and express your emotions without suppressing or avoiding them.
  • Develop a regular journaling practice to reflect on your emotions, identify patterns, and gain clarity on their underlying causes.
  • Explore different emotional processing techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or body-oriented practices like yoga or dance, to help release tension and promote emotional flow.
  • Seek support from a trusted friend, family member, or therapist who can provide a listening ear and offer guidance in navigating and understanding your emotions.
  • Challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that may contribute to emotional blockages or disconnection, and replace them with more positive and empowering perspectives.
  • Cultivate curiosity and willingness to explore and learn from your emotions, recognizing that they hold valuable insights and opportunities for personal growth.
  • Remember that emotional processing is an ongoing journey, so be patient and gentle with yourself as you navigate and integrate your emotions for greater clarity and connection.

Mentioned

Reclaiming ME (mini-course)

Authentically YOU (course)

Type Of Relationship Support (survey)

Connect with Dr. Glenn & Phyllis Hill

Websites: connectioncodes.co/empowered

Podcast: podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/connection-codes/id1613594520 (*Apple podcast)

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

Glenn and Phyllis, thank you for joining us today.

Oh, thank you for having us. We’re so excited to be in this space with you and to meet your audience, and just to join our audiences together. That’s really exciting. 

Yeah, wonderful! Well, I’ve gotten a chance to just touch base with you before starting the recording here. It sounds like you both have a personal journey with the topic. Not only are you supporting couples in the way of connection, it also sounds like a bulk of your work is looking at how one is able to process their emotion and the importance of that. So we’re going to be talking about that today. 

For people that are just now getting to know you or want to get to know you a little bit better, it sounds like you both have a way in which you came into this. Are you open to sharing your story a little bit about what got you into this?

Oh, absolutely. So a little bit of backstory, we’ve been married forty years. Met as teenagers, and went into marriage thinking we had all the right tools and all the things put together that would give us great success. Very quickly, we learned we did not have the tools, and really spent so much of our early married life wounding each other and not understanding each other and going through life thinking there is only a right way, and so one of us is going to be right and the other one is going to be wrong. It caused lots of fights. I did not have much of a voice early on, because that’s kind of how I was raised, to be quiet. Yet, I could not quite figure out this whole why I’m always wrong, and Glenn was pretty strong in how he felt about things. So it was just a lot of friction, a lot of conflict, a lot of pain, and yet believing in the institution of marriage. Believing that, do people have to fight? Like, do we have to be at odds all the time trying to find out who’s right and who’s wrong? 

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“We learned over the decades of being married that we were fighting over logistics. Everything was about the logistics of the situation.”

A big moment in our life centered around a dishwasher. That particular day, Glenn had unloaded the dishwasher, and I said to him, “Thank you for unloading the dishwasher.” In our relationship, when I thanked him for things, he rarely, if ever, said, “You’re welcome.” He would have some kind of snarky response when I would thank him for something. I kind of learned to either go, “Man, could you not just say you’re welcome!” I would say that, which that never worked; that just led to a big fight. Or I would just walk out of the room, just silently going whatever. Well, this particular time, even though it had happened many times before, this particular time, I turned to him and I said, “What do you hear me say when I say Thank you for unloading the dishwasher?”

Yeah, and you have to understand this has happened literally thousands of times. So we’re not talking about this was the first time, the third time, the 10th time. Literally thousands of interactions like that, and what we were missing is that well, first of all, I happened to live with one of the most productive people on the planet; she happens to live with one of the lesser productive people on the planet. I’m fun to have around, but I struggle getting things done. So when she was saying “Thanks for unloading the dishwasher,” I’m literally thinking she’s making fun of me, that she’s demeaning me. She’s like, “Oh my gosh, it’s a miracle. Glenn did something! Call the Internet, throw some confetti, give him a plaque. Glenn did something on this date, June the 13th.” So it was overwhelming for me. So my response would be something like, “Well, it’s not like it’s the only thing I’ve done today. It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve ever unloaded the dishwasher.” 

So this poor girl, again, because this has happened so many, many, many times, would be like, “What? Where did that come from?” Again, over time eventually, and we’re talking for 20 years, this sort of pattern. Then at some point, she just, for whatever reason. It’s important that, number one, Phyllis was not wrong to say Thanks for unloading the dishwasher. Number two, she would have been completely appropriate just to roll her eyes and walk out of the room and be like, “Oh my gosh, this guy, he’s impossible to live with,” which was true, and that’s what had happened between us so many times. 

In that moment, and I always say, I’m the educated one, Phyllis is the smart one; she’s the one that actually figures things out that matter. She just somehow thought to go, “Well, what happens there for you, what do you hear me say?” I remember saying to her, “I hear you say what you said.” I didn’t use the B word, but I thought it. Again, she could’ve flipped me a finger, walked out the room, and that would have been appropriate. Instead, she said, “Yeah, but what’s the message that you hear from me?” Then I told her. 

Again, this was 20 years into our relationship. So I’m a slow kid, it took a long time. But I was able to tell her that, and her eyes got bigger and bigger. Because I’m telling her three paragraphs of pain that I’m experiencing, and of course, she’s realizing: “Oh my gosh! So this has happened for him, not once, not twice, not ten times, hundreds of woundings. Not because she’s to blame, but that’s just what’s happening for Glenn.” Then as she absorbed that, she said, “Oh, that’s the reason you don’t say You’re welcome. Because I’ve just insulted you, I’ve just humiliated you, and I’m thinking you’re going to go, you’re welcome. That doesn’t make any sense, based on what Glenn is experiencing.” So that was huge.

That’s a huge pivotal moment to have that reveal, and your willingness. Well, first of all, the question, “Just what’s happening here? Help me with how you’re hearing this, what’s going on that I cannot see?” Then your willingness, Glenn, to really reveal on a deeper level, some of what was happening, and the vulnerability there, and even have the awareness. I mean, I get that there’s 20 years of iteration of this.

It only took me 20 years.

But still, usually there’s a lot of protectiveness, and usually some things that get built and kind of scabs, if you will, that kind of layer, layer, layer. So it can be hard to reveal in a more vulnerable way. 

Well, it’s almost like, when you’re not, in a sense, speaking the same language, when words don’t mean the same. Again, we did believe for so long that the logistics were what mattered. It’s almost like you walk in and you go, “Well, the reason I’m so angry is because of the shoes that are on the floor.” But you’re fighting over shoes that are on the floor. So then there’s this idea of, “Your cleanliness needs to be the same as my cleanliness, and then we will live happily ever after.” But when you work for decades trying to perfect the logistics, and you’re still missing each other, that’s where, for us, we started digging deeper. That dishwasher moment of just me asking the simple questions, “What do you hear me say, and then what’s happening for you,” became a question that I started using more and more in our relationship, where I would say something and his reaction didn’t make sense to me. So then I would say, “Babe, what do you hear me say, and what is happening for you?” So that changed, because no longer are we, in a sense, fighting over the logistics. Because you could have made the dishwasher the logistics, almost to the point of “Don’t you ever unload, because I’ve decided we fight after you unload the dishwasher.” So you could have made the dishwasher the logistic and been like, “You know what, from now on, never again unload that dishwasher.” 

But it’s like, in that moment, there was a realization: there’s something else going on here. There’s something in the words that are being said. So that was a big one for us, and it continued to open that door of me understanding what he was so often hearing, words that sometimes were never even spoken. 

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“There were times when he reacted to me in ways where you’re like, “There must be someone else in this room talking, but I’m the only one in this room”.

So it opened up some really, really good conversation. I think that Glenn started being more and more vulnerable with what he was hearing, and I was making safe space for what he was hearing, without judgment, without horrible comments of “Well, aren’t you weird! Or I never said that,” and to argue it. I just kind of made space for it. 

I know we’re kind of jumping all around. But I’m just saying, there’s a whole lot of backstory to our early years of marriage and the pain that was there. But that was the pivotal one. Then during about that time, I realized, or I felt very strongly that Glenn should get back to school. The direction in the life that he was going in, was not bringing life to him. 

Not very much money either. 

Well, that’s true, too. But he was miserable. I mean, not having money, if you’d have been content and happy and joyful in the work you were doing, that would have been different. So for him to go back to school, he was such a people person, and he was always pouring into people. We were very hospitable, and we’d have people over, and Glenn could sit and talk to people for hours. It was never my gift. I could fix the meal, and I could clean up from the meal. But don’t ask me to sit too long. Yet, I would observe Glenn, and he would just pour into people. So it was so clear to me. It was like, you should go back to school. Now this is later in life, he was approaching 50. But it was like, you’re not in the right space; what you do every day for a living is not the right space. 

So I told him, I said, “I’ve never supported us financially, but I can do this. I know I can do this. I will do that, while you go to school, I’ll figure out how to do that.” So in our life, we made such big changes at that point. He went back to school full-time, and then he got his Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy, and immediately was like, I’m going to open a private practice, which is not how most people start. Most people, when they get out of college, they go work with someone. But he was already almost 50. So it was like, sure. And financially now, I was handling all of that. 

And she was really, really good at it. 

So I’m like, “Whatever you want to do, babe, that’s great. Do that.”

Let’s pause really quickly, because I want to pivot towards Glenn and your journey with this. Because this is so much a part of what is your process and your journey together. I also want to ask Phyllis, as you were prompting some of these questions, and even witnessing Glenn and his sense of fulfillment and his vocation, and really inviting or wondering about direction and the courage for both of you to lean into that. I want to ask, with just starting to look at some of these logistical interactions, were you also asking yourself some of these questions around, well, what’s going on for me? Because it sounded like you were both participating in this dance together. Were you also turning that towards yourself around, what’s happening for me, or what am I hearing? 

Dr. Higgins, you’re really good.

No, Dr. Higgins. No, I was not doing that. No, I didn’t do it at that time. I don’t think either of us ever thought, at that moment in our life, to do that. I was trying to understand him, and I was trying to understand how my words that everyone else ever heard. Because we were smart enough that when we got stuck in cycles of conflict and we weren’t getting anywhere, that we’d go get help. But it was always sitting down and going through the logistics, and when we sat down with other people and went through the logistics of whatever we were stuck in, we would leave there, and I was always right and he was always wrong. So it was like everyone understood my words, but Glenn was not understanding my words. My words were, for him, weapons. My words were painful to him. Just like the simple thing of saying Thank you for unloading the dishwasher, everyone else would go, “Yeah, that’s what, in the American language, you say when you have gratitude. You say Thank you.” So it was like, I began to see, “Okay, he doesn’t hear the words that everyone else hears. He hears accusations, and he hears complaints, and he hears meanness in my words of Thank you.” 

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“That was so huge for me to slow down and to go, what’s happening for you? It became a way for me to understand him and for him to be able to express what he was hearing me say. So our conflicts went way, way down.”

Right, it’s an entry point into the journey. Can I get Glenn in on this? You could probably tell me everything, and I love you’re so eloquent and articulate. Also, Glenn, I would love to get your voice here, just to pause really quickly.

Well, I mean, your question was just brilliant. It’s really just the last three or four or five years that Phyllis has started realizing that she’s a person too, that she not only has a voice but needs to have a voice, because she has needs. She was always so functional. I personally deal with a decent number of psychological disorders, one of which is obsessive compulsive disorder. So every minute of every day was at least 10 feet from a crisis for me. So Phyllis had experienced so much with me, she’s always trying to stay 10 feet ahead of me thinking, “Oh my gosh, what’s the next crisis that’s going to happen any minute now?”

Anxiety, everyday stress.

Things like, she would do laundry, I would come home and redo the laundry, because she didn’t do it right. Of course, after we had babies, she’s thinking, I’m just glad I got some laundry done today. I’m like, “Yeah, but see, you didn’t do it right. The towels weren’t folded correctly, and they’re not stacked up in a perfectly vertical line.” I’m just experiencing that “Well, of course, that’s the way you’d want it to be. The towels should be folded identically. Duh, that’s real obvious!” I was far ruder than I ever should have been with her. Of course, we married very young, she was 19, I was 20, and she didn’t know. She’s like, “Oh, I didn’t know there was a right and a wrong way to do laundry, I didn’t know there was a right and a wrong way to stack up the dishes; you want to make sure the spoons and the drawer are all perfectly balanced.” Phyllis is thinking, “We have clean dishes, it’s a good day. Maybe just that we’re all alive, and the dishes are clean.” 

Again, I can’t emphasize how many thousands and thousands of times, we, but this poor girl experienced that. So she’s just thinking, if I can just somehow stay 10 feet ahead of him, maybe we’ll have some reasonable semblance of sanity today. 

Hence the focus on the logistics. But when it starts to pivot towards the emotion, it started to be a real breakthrough, and you seemed to really lean into that.

Well, again, after only a couple of decades, yeah. We were just clueless, we had no idea. Every time we would sit with someone, they would discuss logistics. I don’t want to say 100%, but 100 of the time, Phyllis’s logistics made sense and mine didn’t. So I would leave feeling unheard and unseen, which would actually make it worse for us. So Phyllis is thinking, “Well, we just talked to these people, and they helped us process through this.” But on the drive home, I’m worse off than before. But Phyllis thought that, well, that settles it. I can remember so many times with past counselors, telling my story, and it never made sense to them. So I was completely discarded and dismissed, and I felt completely unseen and unheard. So it would actually make it worse, not better. I don’t know if that answered your question.

No, absolutely. I’m really struck, Phyllis, by your attunement to really reach him, recognizing that there were some different languages being spoken and how it was being interpreted, and really reaching him and really calling to have more of that connection on a deeper level. I hear you, Glenn, you’re saying it took a long time. But some people never really want to turn towards this, so the courage. What was it like for you, Glenn, when Phyllis was inviting potentially going back to school, you seem to have such a gift with people and give so much? But what was that like for you?

She had been hinting at that for a number of years, and I was just so flooded with fear. Because I’m thinking, again, we had married young, had babies young, they required food. It’s a weird thing about kids, so how will you feed them? They want more food in just a few hours, it’s bizarre. So I’m just thinking, I have to keep producing, and again, we weren’t wealthy. Just so you know, that was actually the phrase. When I say all the benchmarks in our life were Phyllis’s instigation. I mean, she’s the one that figured it out. One day, she said to me, she goes, “Babe, as hard as you work, we should be rich, and we’re not rich. So we got to do something different.” Well, I was terrified! Like, we’ll be homeless in three weeks or two months. She goes, “No, I will build a business and I will make this work.” I mean, she had worked for a paycheck, but she had never worked full-time and supported a family. So I’m like, “Oh my gosh, we’re going to die, we’re going to die.” 

I was just flooded with fear, and I mean, this woman just stuns me. Again, she didn’t just make it. I was actually kind of annoyed after a while because she made so much money, and she worked hard, but seemingly easily. Because I was a contractor and I worked in construction for many years, and I wore myself out. I literally would work 15 or 16-hour days, and we would bear really make it. Phyllis, and again, she worked hard, I don’t want to belittle that, but it was just stunning. Because she starts building this business, and I’m like, where is all this money coming from, what is happening here? This is not this easy thing. Literally her first year, she just blasted it out of the ballpark, and every year, year over year over year, it just increased. I’m just like, what the heck! I didn’t know that that was possible. So anyway, she’s just so gifted at that. So I’m just like, oh okay, well. 

So I started back in school. I love academics. I would go to school full-time all the time if I could, because it’s just part of me, even though I grump and complain when I’m in school. But I’m just loving it, and getting to pursue the field that has my passion already anyway, trying to figure out this marriage thing. Our relationship had become far less volatile, but we still weren’t connecting deeply; there was still pain every day, and I just couldn’t believe it had to be that way. I don’t have very many skills. But something within me is like, this marriage thing can’t be this difficult, it doesn’t make sense. Because 24 hours before our wedding, we were excited about happily ever after. 48 hours after our wedding, we’re just like, “Dang, this is not what we had signed up for!”

I think we can all relate to that. The person that we love so, so dearly, and then all of a sudden, we’re feeling such threat or such protection or such anger or frustration. It’s like, well, how did I get here? It’s such a contrast, as you’re describing.

Yeah, so true.

I feel like I could spend the whole time hearing about your story. But, Glenn, do you want to finish? Because I think it sounds like you really got in touch with how to process emotions in a really profound way.

Well, but another big one was how it affected me. So Glenn was back in school, actually finished school, started his private practice, working with all these married couples, and then going and getting his doctorate at the same time. I had built a business, and it was going really well. This particular year is when the first quarter, it quadrupled, like the business came to me that strong that fast, which of course was very stressful, because I had to hire more people super-fast and get them trained and get them out there. At the same time, my mom was dying. I was super close to my mom, and she was not in the same state that we live in. So I was having to fly back and forth between Tennessee and Texas. At some point in all of that, my body just shut down. I stopped sleeping, and you can’t do that for very many days before everything else starts to fall apart, and it was terrifying for me. 

That is when Glenn turned his focus from what he was learning and using with his clients, to turning towards me. This is this when he proposed the idea that I needed to process this emotion. But see, I had always said he has all the emotion; I don’t do emotion, I don’t have to do emotion. You can opt out of emotion, is what I really believed. So he presented to me that actually, I have a region in my brain that houses these emotions, and then they happen to you, and you’ve got to tune in. So all of a sudden, that whole sentence what’s happening for you, was now turned to me for me to go, what is happening with me? Early on, he would say, it seems, not that you should conjecture someone else’s experience, but he would say it seems you’re sad. I would go, “I don’t have time to be sad, I’m not doing sad.” He then would go, “But babe, if it’s firing in your brain, and you’re not letting it out, it is shutting down your body.” Then fear was another one. and he proposed he said I’m not supposed to you know, not supposed to conjecture, Someone else’s experience. But I believe you’re experiencing fear. I just said, “I’m not afraid of anything, what are you talking about?” I would get really agitated, and I’d be like, “I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m not afraid of public speaking. I’m not afraid of running my company. What are you talking about?” Well, then he of course would slow down with me. 

Then when I realized, “Okay, I’m defining fear incorrectly, I need to get curious about what is happening for me and in my brain.” So then I learned and figured out, “Oh my word, I have a fear of failure of this whole situation every day!” I wake up to a phone that is blown up, and I have fear that I’m not going to be fast enough in solving all the problems for the day to go well for my teams. I had lots of people working for me back then, lots of clients and lots of employees. It was like, “Oh, I am drowning in fear. I just didn’t even recognize it, and then I’m trying to push that away.” I don’t want to process my mom’s death, I don’t want to process that. But I was panicking, because my body wasn’t cooperating. 

So then as soon as I opened myself up to what he was saying, and I just got curious with myself, and I said, what is happening with me? Then he taught me the eight core emotions, the five regions of the brain. It changed everything instantly for me. It was like, crazy, crazy! My body went right back to just being regulated, my nervous system calmed down. It was such a drastic change. It changed the way I ran my business, the way I started every morning with my crews. That’s the simplicity of even what we have. 

We have a tool called The Core Emotion Wheel, which is a simple round tool. It can be on paper, we have different ways of having it; we have magnets and things like that. But it’s like this visual that has all eight core emotions on it, and you just look at it and you go, what’s happening with me? You just go, what is happening with me in the joy region of my brain, which is the pleasure region? So it was each of these, and in doing that every day, multiple times a day, it was like I could feel it releasing itself out of me. Of course, Glenn was using it with his clients, and it became that tool that was changing people’s lives everywhere. To go, “Oh, I can show up in this, I can use this.” We call it this Two-Minute Tool; you use it, and it takes about two minutes to go through each one. For us, it started changing even how we could so quickly process what was happening in the situation that we were involved in?

Yeah, because I didn’t start out. I mean, I had an agenda, I wanted to figure this out. But I didn’t know what the figuring out was. So the more and more I observed interactions, and then started reading endlessly as much as I could read, I realized, these couples that are sitting in my office are not disconnecting. Well, they are disconnecting. But they’re not disconnecting over the logistics, they’re actually disconnecting over the emotion that’s under the logistics.

Yes, they’re using the logistics to describe in hopes that that person will understand the emotion.

Yeah. So then I just started reading endlessly, and again, not for a weekend, but for literally about two years, then started researching and then researching other people’s research. I can remember the step by step by step, because whenever I realized that: Oh my gosh, this is just brain chemistry. 

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“Traditionally, over the millennia, we said it’s the heart. It’s actually not, it’s just the brain. Emotions fire in the brain, and they occur throughout the body. There are five neural regions, that’s just the human condition.”

Part of what lights us about the Connection Codes is, it’s based on the human condition. It’s not a theory, or a philosophy, or a neat idea that we came up with around a campfire. It’s just the science of it, that this is what fires in Glenn’s brain, this is what fires in Phyllis’s brain. It’s true for everybody, therefore, we can apply it to everybody. So the five neural regions, which cover the eight core emotions, it’s just true. Then again, it was endless, as far as all the layers and the nuances of it. 

Then we learned that actually humans connect through emotions. They can fight for 45 minutes about logistics, and then I ask them, “So let me get that, what happens for you when she says that?” He starts tearing up, and he says, I felt hurt by it. Then she turns to him. Again, initially, I don’t know nothing. I’m just like, I’m clueless. I just want to strangle myself, because it’s not working, this is not getting us where we want to be. Also, so many other things I researched, but less than 10% of the population has the resources to regularly visit a clinician. That means we’re missing 90% of the population, so this is not a good setup. I mean, people just don’t have the money or the time. It doesn’t matter if we have the greatest clinician in the world. If people can’t afford to see that individual, we’re not really achieving what we want to achieve societally.

Yes. My understanding is, through neuroception, even before we start using language in an attempt to reach our person, or get understanding and be seen around our emotional experience, the facial expressions, the tone of the voice, the nonverbals, it’s being registered in nanoseconds. That neuroception we’re picking up, that’s how we’re getting a lot of information very, very quickly from the people that we’re closest to or the people we’re around. So this has a lot of implications of what’s experienced in the body, how we experience relationship, how we might orient. Would you like to describe the eight core emotions based on your tool, is this helpful to really flesh out a bit?

Again, a lot of that is just science, the five neural regions: anger, disgust, pleasure, pain, and fear. Again, that’s just true for everybody. Every human on the planet is breathing oxygen, nobody’s breathing ice cream. You don’t get to pick, what am I going to breathe today? I want to grow up to be the type of person that breathes ice cream. Well, sorry, you don’t get that option. So this is just brain chemistry. We divide the emotional pain region into hurt, sadness, and loneliness, because they look so different on a brain scan, and then the disgust region we divide into guilt and shame. Guilt is typically over an action. The brain scan looks identical, but the body language, facial expression, behavior, pretty distinguishable between the two. Although a lot of times, people can’t tell the difference. They say I feel guilt and shame about that, they don’t know if it’s guilt or shame, and it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is how they are processing through it. 

So again, I spent two and a half years just observing, just researching. I was pretty discouraged and just disappointed that all of this studying and all of this schooling I had done isn’t really accomplishing what I thought it was going to. I just started observing, and I’m like, I’m just going to watch people. I remember the day I came home, and Phyllis is busy with her business, and I talk too much anyway, so she’s just hearing me gibber-gabber endlessly. I remember the day I came home, and I said, “Babe, I think I’ve found it!” Again, I did that, I was always sharing something. But I said, I think I figured out what causes humans to disconnect relationally. Again, I’m the educated one, she’s the smart one, so she actually figures things out. She goes, well, wait, if that’s what causes them to disconnect, what if we reverse it? Is that what causes people to connect? I was like, uh, that was my next point. Because I thought it was amazing, we figured it out so we can walk around and tell people, you’re doomed and you’re doomed, and well, you’re going to be okay. Of course, Phyllis was like, well, that doesn’t really help that much.

Yeah, the application and how we use it.

How we actually help them to connect, because that’s what everybody wants. That’s the reason we married is because we wanted to live and connect. So then we just start seeing it and realizing that: Oh okay, if we reverse this, this causes people to connect. It’s just science, and then I’m just blown away by this. I’m like, are you kidding me, this is doable? Because it just seemed like such a big mystery, nobody knows, and we’re just winging it and guessing and trying; you’re throwing stuff up on the wall, hoping it sticks. 

Right, we’re protesting and doing all the things to be seen, but we’re not actually really connected to the deeper, more fundamental core emotions. One of the things that I love about what you’re both describing is, not only is it accessing something really important that’s really effective and helping people connect, but also the speed of which, when we can identify the emotion, it cuts through perhaps hours and hours or years and years or decades and decades.

Yeah. When we started seeing that, well, Glenn was seeing it with his clients, but then I was experiencing it with us. Then I was also taking the same things, and we have four children, we have 10 grandchildren. So then I was seeing how this was connecting me deeper with my kids, and also connecting me deeper with our grandchildren. It’s interesting. I mean, so many of these tools definitely grew out of our story, of the research that Glenn did, but then just real life, everyday life. Even our daughter, we co-wrote a book, and she was a part of that project. She’s our oldest daughter, she has five children; her number six is on the way. But she started taking these and using them with her kids, unbeknownst to us. Then she’d be like, “Oh my word! Dad, I did this with,” and she’d name the child.

Which initially, I was like, no, that’s a horrible idea. I just missed all the applications, and then Phyllis and our daughter are just like, no, this is human. I’m like, what, I had no idea.

It’s not just marriage tools, and it has just expanded for us so much. And what’s incredible too, what we’re teaching, what we’re doing is spreading throughout the world, because it is so easy to translate it. It is not blocked by different cultures or by different languages. It’s like, we’re all built the same way. All people on this planet have a region in their brain that houses emotion. Yet, so many of us are not taught anything about emotion growing up, so we don’t have emotional intelligence. But when you get a simple tool, and you use it no matter what country it is, and you see people connecting for the first time, and people send us videos which we love, in different parts of the world, using the tool, and you can see by the body language, how people are doing this simple two-minute tool with each other, and it changes the whole atmosphere of the room. It changes the atmosphere to the point where you go, wow, can’t even understand the language you’re speaking, but we see it through the body language of the people who are sharing with each other at that level. 

Then there’s other tools that we partner. 

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“We also have learned the power of what we call The Uhm, which is just an audible response. It’s so important that when you’re telling me, when you’re talking to me, that I’m audibly responding to you, not just blankly staring at you.”

You mentioned that actually just a minute ago about how we read each other’s body language, and so much can get missed in that, and we kind of interpret things. If you’re just staring at me, then I think you’re not getting it, A. B, you’re mad at me. Or C, I’m doing something wrong. But if you are just like what you’re doing right now you are, you’re uhm-ing me, I guess that’d be another way of saying it, then I know you’re on the page with me, you’re understanding my words. So that was huge for us. The still face experiment carried out in the 70s, we show that video when we teach all this material, because so many people are so moved by that video. Because you see the mother and child relationship, and when the mother goes still face, the child cannot take it. That, for us, we call that, even in our relationship it played out with just, I would give him a still face because I would just shut down, because I didn’t answer the questions he was asking me, so my body would just shut down. Well, that brought us even more pain, that didn’t work, me just staring blankly. 

So learning these simple tools like, I need to show up and audibly respond to you, so that you know I’m listening. and then I’m going to make space for what you’re experiencing. So when you share that I’ve hurt you, I’m just going to make space. I’m not going to try to justify myself, I’m not going to try to explain myself, and I’m not going to try to correct you. Like, “No, no, no, you got that wrong. I didn’t really hurt you.” No, no, no, just make space for what people are going through. 

Then the next one is just a simple way of saying, I think I’ve missed it. It’s an acknowledgement. It’s not an acknowledgement I’ve done something wrong. It’s an acknowledgement, “I think, with you, I just missed that. Can we have a redo? Like, what’s happening for you?” It’s these simple tools that everyone can learn, and how to just interact with each other in a way that works so powerfully. Glenn is the science guy in our relationship, always doing the research. So he was the Why guy, always asking me, now why do you think that, now why did you do that? Well, we learned that that Why disconnected us. Like, Why indicts you; I always felt indicted, like I had to prove my point. Where when you say to someone What’s happening, that’s like an invitation. I’m inviting you into your own experience. So that’s another one of the tools that we teach. Don’t say Why, say What happens. With kids, you see that. It’s beautiful with kids, when you, instead of walking in and going why didn’t you do your homework, you go, “Hey buddy, what’s happening with your homework?” It’s such a different response.

Exactly, it makes so much more room to be able to share the experience. I think one of the things you’re also speaking to, with this ability to interact with another with emotion and cultivate more connection, is perhaps even making visible, in the story that you talked about with the dishwasher early in your marriage together. Not early in your marriage together, but many years ago. That it wasn’t visible to you that Glenn was having this whole shame, embarrassment, humiliation experience. So to be able to inquire about that, so profound. 

Before we really distill this, you’re giving us some process here around how to process emotion. I have a question around that. But also, you’re talking about the impact on the body. One of the things I know about in neuropsychology, you often will hear, you’ve got to name it to tame it. So when we can identify the emotion, that helps us start to regulate, and sometimes that has a calming effect of the intensity, it reduces the intensity. Can you speak a little bit more about the physiology around how the body responds?

Yeah, and some of our research early on was with children just to observe how they handled it. We’re coded, again, from birth. And we’re faith-based, we think there is a God designer somewhere. But whatever. If there is no God, it’s still the same result about the human condition. So we’re coded, we’re hardwired to process as it happens in the moment. A 12-month-old never hesitates, never waits, and parents know this. Three o’clock in the morning, the child wakes up and experiences something, they will let you know, and they never watch and go, “You know what? It’s 3am, I’m going to let mom sleep in until 7, and then I’ll let her know that I felt fear at 3.” They don’t do that. They’re not designed to do that. They express exactly in the moment. Well, there’s no birthday where that changes. Now that you’re five, or eight, or 12, or 15, or 20, now you need to just stop experiencing what you’re experiencing and you need to shut up about it. Well, that doesn’t make any sense. So we’re coded the exact same way today as we were when we were first born. 

So we’re just trying to get people to catch up with themselves and be able to convey it to the other. Again, initially just for their own sake, because we need that, and that’s part of the research, which sounds like you’re pretty darn up to speed with all that, just all the effect that it has on your body and on your psyche if you don’t process through what’s happening with you. 

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“Babies, if you watch them, they won’t even go to sleep at night until their psyche is cleared out, until their limbic system is cleared. Well, they’re designed to do that.”

They’re not doing that because they’re so dang smart and they had a New Year’s resolution: From now on, I’m never going to go to sleep until. No, they just do it automatically, and then somewhere along the way, we get lost in that. Now adults are going to sleep and their limbic systems are flooded, then they’re crushed by all this unprocessed emotion, and they wake up tired more than when they went to sleep. You’ll hear people say, “Oh my gosh, I’m exhausted!” It’s like, wait, you just slept for nine hours. Yeah, but their psyche was not at rest the whole time. So this is how it adds up, builds up. Of course, for Phyllis, eventually she stopped sleeping, and it was just so devastating for her. 

Well, for me, realizing the effect that it has on the psyche. I mentioned before, I deal with a number of psychological disorders personally. So when my psyche would get disordered, not because I needed to be in an institution, but because my psyche is disordered, now I know what to do with that. I know how to process through the emotion that is knocking my psyche, of course because of my dysregulated nervous system, which I’m not voting for. I’m not trying to experience that, that’s just what’s happening for me.

I’m so glad you’re connecting the idea of dysregulation and how being able to process emotion heavily influences our regulation. I’m getting a sense with the both of you that we could spend hours and hours. I know that you teach, and I know you do so, so much. Is there anything you want to say about what you do to help people connect? I mean, we’re talking about the importance of individually using this tool to help regulate, we’re also talking about how to find each other, cultivate more connection, being able to access in a really efficient way, these emotions to break free and breakthrough to really find each other and really connect.

Well, that was part of my desire in developing all this was that, again, as the research showed that, well, about 90% of people are never going to regularly get help with counseling, therapy, whatever. So if, in fact, we’re going to reach the population, and we’re going to reach the masses, we have to develop something that number one is simple, and number two, because of that is implementable. I’m certified in all sorts of various things. But again, people have to come back to me to get help. Well, most people don’t have the resources to do that. So The Connection Codes are so incredibly simple, again, because they’re based on the human condition. This is what’s already inside of you, it just got lost; we’re just going to reactivate it. We don’t have to teach you a new language, you don’t have to memorize the periodic table. This is actually already inside of you, we’re just going to help you reactivate it so that you can actually be functional.

We’ve talked a lot today with you just about this one tool, which we do have a masterclass, we have a book, and we have our own podcast, we talk about this a lot. But when we’re talking to a new audience, it’s super powerful to go, so there’s something we could actually learn and implement today without having to see a new therapist or go to a new retreat or whatever. It’s like, yes, it is that incredible. The other thing I super love is it’s a tool, whether you are an individual, whether you are in a partnership, whether you have a family, it works. It works for individuals, and then it just enhances if you have people in your life, if you have a partner or if you have children. That’s the cool thing too, is that it’s a tool that you can take and immediately do at the dinner table tonight. It’s not something you have to be certified in. It’s not something you have to go to school to learn. Sure, you can do a deeper dive. If you are interested in understanding the brain more, or understanding the science behind it, or understanding all the research, absolutely, we have that for you to learn, or your listeners. 

But for us, it’s just being able to get simple tools out there where you can immediately see a change, a shift in your body. Like, when you release, when you say these emotions and connect them to yourself, so it’s like what is happening with me, and slow yourself down, that’s huge for me. I struggle with slowing down. So the question alone, what’s happening, and doing that two-minute exercise causes me to slow down in my day, multiple times and go: Okay, what is happening? Then I can physically feel the release, because I’m not storing it. Tension, you think about all these things where you hold your body in tension when you’re experiencing a heightened emotion. So again, that’s more of the research and the science. But it’s like, so this tool keeps me regulated. So when I use this, I’m tuning into myself, I’m slowing myself down. 

So if you’re listening today, we didn’t talk about this ahead of time, but if your listeners go to ConnectionCodes.co/EmpoweredRelationship, they will get the free download of this tool; they can print it off, they can then get a video. It’ll come with a video of us teaching that particular tool, and it will give the kind of the rules to the tool, so they’ll know how to use it effectively. Then if this leads your listeners to want to perhaps do one of our masterclasses, if they just put in the code Empowered, they’ll automatically get 20% off of the different masterclasses that we have.

Well, thank you. That’s a huge gift.

I just have to say this, because it’s just so funny for us. First of all, we’re so passionate about this, because we’re living it. We are startled! Because we remember the pain, we remember the ongoing disconnect; not for a day, a weekend, a week, a month, a year, literally for decades. We remember that. I adored her and I wanted to be with her, but I couldn’t stand being with her. She wanted to be partner with me, and she was overwhelmed every time I would walk in the room. So we remember that incredible agonizing pain. Now, we’re stunned that this is even possible. We, number one, virtually never disconnect. I mean, literally, we can count them. It’s three or four times a year, which we used to have three or four disconnects before breakfast every day. And our tense moments, we process through in 30 seconds or less. I would not have thought that was possible. If you had said that to me 25 years ago, I’d be like, “You’re not funny, that’s a bad joke.” Because I knew that conflicts take three hours minimum, usually three weeks. Now to process it through in 25 seconds, I’m startled! To this day, we look at each other like, “Is that what happened, we just did that? That’s really how that works?”

Then the other thing that lights me up, and also terrifies me, is people around the world, they will discover the Connection Codes, read the book, do the masterclass, whatever, and then four weeks later be like, Oh, we’re teaching a class on this at our church. I’m like, excuse me! I worked on this for three decades, and you’ve been introduced to it three weeks ago, and now you’re doing it. But it’s true, it’s that simple. There’s lots of layers and nuances, and we’re continually learning and evolving and developing and growing. But that actually, yeah, people are teaching classes on it after they discovered it three or four weeks ago, which again, terrifies me a little bit. But I just love it. I’m like: Oh my gosh, this is amazing that it’s that implementable, it’s that simple, that doable.

Well, it sounds like it speaks to not only the intention of really wanting to have this be very distilled and very accessible, and also to have a huge impact and a wide reach, to be able to reach people who maybe don’t have this much resource or ability to engage more support. But it also speaks to the real humanity of how we’re wired. You’ve spoken about how this cuts through some of the modern ideas of how we are high-level functioning adults, it really brings us into remembering around how we’re really wired for connection, and really helping give great tool and assistance for that. So thank you. 

So just to, again, point people to the right place in that, can you say the website where you want people to go for the book and for the masterclass?

So it’s ConnectionCodes.co is the website. Connection Codes is our podcast. If you go to Amazon, the book is called “The Connection Codes.” So yeah, it’s pretty easy to find. But ConnectionCodes.co/EmpoweredRelationship, where they can get the free download and the free video. Then if they do want to purchase anything, if they use the code Empowered, that will give them 20% off. 

Sounds wonderful! Again, thank you so, so much. Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your precious, valuable time with us here on the Empowered Relationship Podcast. 

Love it. Thank you, Jessica.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching