ERP 378: How To Cultivate Personal & Relational Well-Being — An Interview With Dr. Kalen Hammann

By Posted in - Podcast June 27th, 2023 0 Comments

Cultivating personal and relational well-being can be a challenging task, especially when faced with negative communication patterns and misunderstandings. However, it is essential for individuals to prioritize their innate mental health and create a bond of love and connection with their partners.

In this episode, Dr. Kalen Hammann and Dr. Jessica Higgins delve into the intricate challenges that couples face while building and sustaining lasting intimacy. They provide valuable insights into transforming negative communication patterns into connected communication. They also shed light on the different phases of therapy, the significance of building positive energy, and the importance of recognizing fear and learning to calm down through relaxation techniques.

After getting a Ph.D. in Social Psychology, working as a psychotherapist, and teaching business executives in over 50 Fortune 500 companies on five continents how to get along better, Dr. Kalen Hammann discovered that NONE of that helped him save his own marriage! He’s here to tell us what HAS helped him and his wife and now is helping other couples get off the Road to Divorce and find their way to “Happily Ever After.”

In this Episode

05:43 From corporate America to intimate relationships: Journey of personal and professional growth.

09:09 Finding hope in the Modello approach: A story of overcoming marriage problems.

12:58 Roger Mills’ success story in improving Florida’s housing project.

19:02 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Our positive qualities obscured by negative emotions.

24:26 A guide to cultivating personal and relational well-being.

26:01 Settling the conflict and finding insights: A mindful approach to disagreements.

33:26 The power of Long exhales: Calming the nervous system and cultivating inner peace.

35:59 Building positive energy: Turning towards bids and small actions in relationships.

39:55 Recognizing our fear: Understanding the root cause of negative emotions.

46:41 Rediscovering love: Finding your way back to love and happily ever after.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Recognize communication patterns that harm relationships such as criticism and defensiveness, and shift them to connected communication.
  • Separate during arguments and wait until both parties have regained love for each other before continuing the conversation.
  • Approach conversations with open curiosity and unconditional acceptance to become a better listener.
  • Look for and turn towards bids for attention to build positive energy in relationships.
  • Recognize when fear arises and understand that it comes from within the individual rather than external factors.
  • Encourage people to look for their innate mental health and dismiss what is getting in the way to have insights that serve them well.

Mentioned

Date Your Mate: How to Save Your Marriage from “The Blahs” and Live Happily Ever After (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Modello: A Story of Hope for the Inner City and Beyond: An Inside-Out Model of Prevention and Resiliency in Action (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Connect with Dr. Kalen Hammann

Websites: lessfightingmoreloving.com

Calendly: TalkWithKalen.com

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

Kalen, thank you so much for joining us today.

Oh, it’s my pleasure. 

Yeah. I was excited to see your bio and your topic come through in your background in social psychology. I remember, I took several social psychology classes in undergrad, and then had even contemplated getting my degree in sociology? I think it’s a different perspective when looking at groups and the cultural influences and how we are impacted by that. I just appreciate your perspective here as we pivot towards talking about intimate relationship. But is there anything you want people to know about you, where you’re coming from and your perspective?

Well, I spent a lot of time essentially in the human potential movement, focusing on personal and professional growth. It was such a good mix to be in a field professionally, academically, that was focused. As you say, it was a combination of psychology: what happens inside people, and sociology: what happens between people, and how are people different in different social contexts. I was always interested, when I finished my degree, I was writing my first bio, and what I said was that I wanted to help build organizations that brought out the best in people. Since then, I’ve worked a lot in corporate America, helping people get along better all around the world. More and more, I’ve been drawn to intimate relationships. First, I found that doing executive coaching with teams of CEOs and their close people was a whole lot like doing family therapy. I got more and more interested in working with couples, particularly when my own relationship with my wife, finally after a year, started to clean up and get to be really wonderful. Because I felt like, now I have something unique to actually offer.

Well, again, I appreciate more of this wider scope. In some ways, we can look at maybe even using more of a systems perspective, that when we’re looking at an organization or a team, or even the functioning of executives, and even partnership and relationship, a marriage or a long-term partnership, that there’s two people, as we talk about monogamy, that are co-creating an ecosystem, if you will. 

Yeah, exactly. I remember when I was in a training program in family therapy, one of the things that really struck me was that some of the therapists said they always made sure to have any pets that were part of the family in the room, because the pets reflected the family system. 

Wow, I’ve never heard that! I love that. I can so appreciate that.

It’s just astonishing how everybody gets affected by the system that we’re in, and the system that we’re creating together.

Yes. So how did, as you talk about your relationship, if you’re willing to share, your marriage began to improve or clean up? What were you noticing that was supporting that progress? 

Well, it took a long time, it took years. Because before I learned some things that was actually helpful, I tried everything that I had tried with my clients and everything that I had learned in grad school, and none of it was any use at all. I would use the communication techniques that I thought made sense, and my wife would say, stop trying to be my therapist! So I was really stuck. 

Our marriage was a lot like what I have found seems to be seems to be true for a lot of my clients, that it started out absolutely wonderful, absolutely magical. It was magical for about the first year; we just adored each other, and it was beautiful. But then we started having some problems, around the time our daughter was born, which is not uncommon. More and more, we found ourselves fighting, and everything both of us tried to do to deal with that just seemed to make it worse. Then we kind of stopped fighting mostly and got more distant instead, which I think a lot of couples do. Some walk on eggshells in the beginning because they grew up in families where there was a lot of fighting, and they don’t want to have that in their marriage. Other people will have a big huge fight, and then they get so freaked out that they never want to have that happen again. So then they get distant from each other. 

For us, it was a more slow process, where we just got more and more distant. Things would get nice, and really nice for a while, and then things would get worse. During one of the worst times, my wife Carrie told me she was leaving. I screamed, and I said no! We talked, and she decided to stay, and things were noticeably better for a while. Then gradually, it slid downward again, until finally she said she was leaving again. This time, somehow, I got more present when she said that. It was quite quick that she decided, well, we’ll give it another shot. 

Right about then, I came across a book called Modello, written by a guy named Jack Pransky. It’s called An Inside-Out Model of Prevention and Resiliency in Action. It’s called A Story of Hope for the Inner City and Beyond, and I was interested because of my social psychology background. But what I found early in the book was a description of a bunch of couples. There were two psychologists who were looking into a new approach that seemed to be helpful to people, and Jack Pransky interviewed them, and then followed up to find out what they had learned and what good it had done them. Here’s what he wrote. “The couples seemed super healthy. The epitome of all, not his own research, this is Roger Mills, was trying to discover about what worked and what didn’t work. In his extensive professional research to find what worked, Roger had never seen this level of mental health and people.” It was true for George Pransky also. He was actually a couples’ therapist, but his own marriage was really in trouble, and he said the same thing. “These people were at ease, confident, assertive, calm, sure of themselves, genuinely loving, caring, considerate, respectful, unassuming. The couple seemed truly in love, but not clingy or phony. They were great with their kids who were well-behaved and respectful.” 

When I read that, I’ve got to tell you, Jessica, something in my heart just opened. It’s like, oh my God, there’s something here that’s really different! I read the rest of the book, and what the rest of the book was about was how Roger Mills had gone into a housing project in Florida, Modello, which was a real horror scene with lots of drugs and shootings, and kids running around out of school, and families with a lot of abuse, and all kinds of horrible things, a lot of drinking of course, and drugs. As he encouraged people to become aware of a few simple things, everything began changing. The book talks about how over time, over a couple of years, people started getting along with their spouses, and getting along with their kids; the kids got back in school. The people in the housing project drove the drug dealers out, so they were no longer there. It was amazing, I had never run into anything like that in social psychology in grad school. 

As I read about that, Jack also talked about some of the things that the people were learning. The main thing that was important, that I had not run into elsewhere, was the notion that nobody’s broken, that all of us have within us what he called innate mental health. 

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“All of us are healthy down there somewhere, but it gets obscured, that’s all.”

As people were encouraged to look for that, and to dismiss rather than trying to work on what was getting in the way, which is what I had been doing with my wife, trying to work on it all. Just plain ignoring it and looking deeper, I began to have insights about what was really going on that served them really well. You asked what was helpful. That was what was helpful. It wasn’t a lot of specific things to do. It was, look for some insights, and I started having some insights. 

So this is not only personal, but also, it sounds like it has greatly informed your approach in working with others. Is that right?

Tremendously, yeah. Up until then, I thought that as a counselor and a therapist, what I mainly had to offer were my really good ideas, and my new perspectives, and my techniques. And what I found was a whole different level for me of listening to my clients, of really being with them. I began to have my true north, what I was orienting toward: the feeling of connection. If I wasn’t really feeling connected with somebody, doesn’t matter how much valuable information I was trying to give them, it wasn’t going to go anywhere. That was what I had been trying to do with my wife. And when there is a real feeling of connection, which seems to come about, it’s like, so how do you do that? For me, it has to do with curiosity, just open curiosity; what’s the person that I’m talking with really experiencing? Just that! Everybody says be a better listener, and everybody thinks they’re a fantastic listener. I certainly did. My wife would say you’re not hearing me, and I would repeat back verbatim what she had said. So obviously, I was hearing her, I’m embarrassed to say. As I began to simply just get curious, which I guess means open, which I guess means unconditionally accepting of whatever, wherever she was, she relaxed. She said, oh! She said something, I’ve got to tell you, I start tearing up when I think of it. She said, I never thought you could change like this. 

Kalen, this is incredibly profound, as you describe the quality of connecting with this level of presencing, curiosity, and holding space. In my experience, I don’t know if this is tying in to what you’re describing, that if I’m listening more deeply, not rushing to any type of solution or wanting to get my turn to speak, if I’m really in a position of listening. Because, on an aside, myself included, I don’t think as humans, particularly with all of our conditioning, that we’re very skilled at getting to the deeper vulnerability and leading with that. Typically, we have a story, we have a protest, or all the things that we want to describe in the interest of feeling seen and heard. But perhaps, we’re not leading with why it matters, why it’s significant, and the deeper layers. So in my experience, I’m curious what you would say, that if I’m dropping into a deeper level of presencing, listening, curiosity. It’s almost like I don’t bite on the first share. I’m interested, and I want to know more, and if I’m curious, there’s a deepening. So the person that’s sharing, when the listener is in that deep listening place, they’re going to share way more than they would initially.

Yeah, absolutely. Well, that’s just been happening in our conversation. I think back, it’s like you were quiet for quite a while, and then you started asking what you were genuinely curious about, and I said some things I didn’t know I was going to say. So I got to a vulnerable place, too. 

What seems to obscure our innate well-being is all of the more surface stuff we’ve got going on in our heads, like you were saying the story and such; the story about each other, the story about ourselves. Which often has a lot of insecurity in it, and a lot of misunderstanding in it. One of the insights I had is that we’re all Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And what I mean by that is, you know the story of Dr. Jekyll who is a fine and always responsible person, and a normal human being. Then Mr. Hyde, who seemed to be the dark side of him. Well, it seems as though, at our best, all of us are all the things that we want to be; we’re loving and kind, and considerate, and thoughtful, and present, and all the stuff that we try to be, we don’t have to try. The thing is, when we’re Mr. Hyde, that’s all obscured. It’s almost not available to us. So my wife would say, I don’t know what happened. All my clients say, “I don’t know what happened. Everything was so great, and then this other person showed up, and I thought maybe I had made a mistake. I thought I had misunderstood who he/she really was. I thought he was really this. I thought you were a real jerk.” It’s simpler than that. It’s like, all of the good stuff that people fell in love with doesn’t go away. It wasn’t a mistake, they really did see it. But there’s something else obscuring it temporarily. 

Yeah, and we are human. The way I tend to frame what interferes with this, or when we’re Mr. Hyde, is protection. We’re feeling threatened. We’re feeling triggered something or activated something, or feeling some level of, as you mentioned, insecurity. It’s natural to want to protect. It’s healthy to protect, if we’re going to talk about the need.

Absolutely. 

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“When we jump into the ways that we learned to protect when we were little kids, they may have been needed then, or at least it was the best we could do. But it doesn’t really fit now.”

Yeah. You’re giving us so much even right here right now, and I just am really appreciating how quickly you’re distilling some really key direction in the landscape of intimacy, when there can be a lot of moving parts. And when we can get this core and this clear.

It makes a real difference, doesn’t it? 

Yeah. My sense is that it streamlines. So much falls away, the story, all the facts, or laying it out in a particular way so somebody could feel the understanding. And when there’s this contact, so much more is available, and it allows for this connection. It’s not as though, I will say, I think everyone’s intention, if they’re resonating, and I’ll again include myself in this, when I want to convey a story or my perception in the interest of feeling heard, my intention is not to get us off track and distract us. My intention is to create connection. But what you’re offering is something that allows us to go in a deeper level that does streamline or is more efficient in this type of connecting and contact. Would you agree?

Yeah, I think so. I really like on your website, that what you offer people is something that says: Hey, there’s an alternative to criticism. When you want something, there’s an alternative way besides complaining and criticizing, to ask for it. Because of course, that helps people. As people read that and apply it and try to do it, they learn that the way they’ve been trying to ask for what they wanted has been, as you said, triggering insecurity in the other person, who gets busy defending themselves against the complaint instead of touching their own natural desire to help make each other happy.

Precisely. How do you encourage and support people to connect with this inside themselves? Also, it sounds like you’re really attending, I’m in full agreement, that it’s not only the self work. It’s also the human-to-human interacting work, how we hold space. I’m curious if you can speak to how do you make more room. You’ve given us one insight here, is as a listener, staying attuned and being curious and really holding that space? What about the person that wants to share, or is raising their hand and wants attention around something? Is there something you can speak to around how to connect with that innate health?

What a wonderful question! What I found, Jessica, is that, as I work with people, there seem to be three phases that we go through. One of them is informed by, I guess, my background. It kind of starts, in a way, at a superficial level. It starts at the level of behavior, what can I do. Because people want to know what to do. One of the early insights that I had, that made a difference with Carrie, my wife, was that sometimes we’re off-track in our conversation, heading down what I call the death spiral. And sometimes we’re heading the other way. The insight was, I could notice the difference. Even when we’re in it, I could notice the difference. I couldn’t necessarily do a lot about it, but I could notice it. Something came into my head that I had heard in another context, that became a talisman for me. It was, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. So when we would get in a kerfuffle together, I would always try to get us out of it by trying to repeat back what she had said, so she would know she was hurt, and all that kind of stuff. It just made it worse. And what she had always tried to do that I didn’t ever learn from was to say, I can’t talk to you when you’re like this. Then she’d leave and slammed the door. Well, the way she did it wasn’t too graceful, but the idea was good. 

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“If we’re not doing anything that’s doing anything useful, we need to separate for a little bit till we calm down, till we naturally get back in touch with our well-being.”

It’s what I learned in Modello. So in Modello, they would tell people who were arguing with each other, as you said, each one wanting to be heard by the other, who had no place to hear them because they were Mr. Hyde. They would say, just separate, just go someplace else. Then the last thing they said was really interesting. Don’t come back until you love them again. Because Roger knew something that mostly people don’t know, which is that you don’t have to do positive thinking to try to change how you’re thinking when you’re Mr. Hyde. In fact, you can’t. My favorite metaphor is a snow globe. It’s like, what gets in the way of seeing our innate mental health is all the snow we have in our heads when we’re, as you said, insecure. And when there’s a lot of snow flying around in the snow globe, you can’t see what’s inside the snow globe. All you see is the snow. So what happens if you try to fix the snow? It’s just shaking the globe some more. You’re making more snow. Oh, now I’m insecure about negative thinking, and I have to think positive. But what happens in a snowglobe that makes it possible for you to see what’s inside again? 

All of us have had the experience of going to bed at night really upset about something, and maybe we couldn’t sleep because we were all worried about something at work or in a relationship or wherever. But finally, we got to sleep. Then we woke up the next morning, and all of a sudden, it didn’t seem like such a big problem anymore. In fact, sometimes we had trouble figuring out what the problem had been. Nothing had changed in the external world. What happened? What happened was, the snow settled. Because we also have innate mental health. That’s what I meant when I said nobody needs fixing. We all have that natural tendency, if left alone, to settle into our better self. There’s not a lot of support in the culture for doing that. There are techniques. Well, meditate, or become mindful is helpful because you notice what’s going on. But when people make it into techniques, a meditative state is what you’re looking for, where there’s not as much going on in your head. But the technique of meditation only works for some people. It drove my daughter crazy. I told her about that, and she tried to meditate. But when she meditated, she was constantly thinking: “I’m not doing this right, why am I wasting my time like this, this isn’t working at all.” She just got more snow in her head, trying to meditate. 

So to circle back around, what I understood, finally, was that Carrie was on track. When we are going down the tubes together, it’s a good idea to simply stop. That’s what we’ve come to, is to just close our mouths, just stop, which is hard. You want to say that one last thing so it can be heard. But there’s nobody there to hear it. Once you see that, insightfully, not just have as an idea, but see it. This is something else that I realized. 

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“An insight isn’t just another better idea. An insight is a sight from within; it’s seeing something about reality that you didn’t see before. As soon as you see something about reality, you naturally do what’s appropriate. You don’t have to have a technique to apply it.”

So if I see, if I notice, my wife just isn’t there to hear me right now, and I have some confidence that she may be later, it just makes sense to say: “Hey, this isn’t working. I need a break.” I need a break. Not there’s something wrong with you, I need a break. And we separate. And when we come back together, my goodness, we can talk again!

Well, I’m resonating with what you’re describing and the wisdom. I can feel the shift in me recognizing what you’re describing when I’m more activated, when I feel like nothing circumstantially has changed, but I love the person. Or if in this case, I’m talking about my romantic significant relationship with my husband, and I’m very wanting to turn towards him, and the generosity, the goodwill, the warmth that I’m going to bring to that engagement or that interaction is so much different than I would have been in that more triggered activated state. And I’m aware that this is easier to do, I’ll just use myself, because what I’m going to start talking about here is for people who maybe feel a certain level of anxiety and don’t trust the pause. Are you going to still be there? Are we going to come back to this? Do you still want to work this out? Or the uncertainty. Additionally, how to regulate and feel that sense of stillness in that calming, that perhaps, whatever the experience has been in life, that that maybe hasn’t been super-regulating or soothing to take that time, to just find that inner stillness and health? I’m not saying it’s not there. I’m just saying it can be activating to have that disconnect.

Absolutely. Well, there is a technique that I find useful and that I often mention to my clients, reading from Andrew Wiles’ work. He was talking about how one of the ways to say to your nervous system, that all things, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, things are fine. A way you can tell your body that is to take a long and an even longer exhale. 

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“If you breathe in to a count of four, and out to a count of eight, and you do that three or four times, just that is a way of easily moving towards self-regulation, as you put it.”

There’s a lot of other stuff you can do; you can go for a walk. If you ask yourself, hey, what would help me be a little more peaceful right now, your brain can’t help answering a question you ask it. So if you just ask it, hey, what could help me be a little more peaceful right now? First of all, it takes your attention off of what you’re triggered about. But second, you’ll get an answer. Maybe it’s hit my partner, in which case, you probably will dismiss it. Or maybe it’s go for a walk, or maybe it’s take a nap, or maybe it’s meditate, or maybe it’s read something that’s meaningful to me, or maybe it’s write in my journal. It may be different every time.

Yes, and it’s tapping into that innate health intelligence.

Yeah, exactly. It’s looking for your own wisdom, which is always there.

Yeah. For me, I can say that even when you’re describing the self-reassurance, or anything that we can access, that allows us to know relationally that we’re loved, we’re cared for, we’re safe, and all those things. That whether or not it’s this relationship withstanding, that there is that sense of goodness relationally, and that consistency. So to be able to feel a felt sense of that, and I think there’s lots of ways we can access that.

Yeah. So what I discovered is, in this first phase with people, the first thing is simply to stop the bleeding, just to stop. There’s a wonderful proverb. It’s variously attributed, but I think it may be Italian. “No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, you can always turn around.” And what I found, and what seems to be helpful with clients, is not just to stop and wait until you feel better, to come back. But also, at other times, and at those times, to be thinking about, well, what could I do that would build positive energy? And to do those things. 

John Gottman is a family therapist who has done some wonderful research, and one of the pieces of research I was most impressed with was when he would bring in couples to a special apartment that he had set up with video cameras and all that kind of stuff. Have them just spend a day as though it’s a Sunday, or maybe it would be a Sunday, and just spend the way you would normally spend a Sunday. They would have a meal together, or whatever they would do. There was a nice lake outside, so it’s a pretty view. Then he videotaped them. He found there was a huge difference between couples who made it and couples who ended up getting divorced, which caught my attention. He said, what it was, was how they would respond when their partner did something that he called a bid, which is like a bid for attention, which he found in other research. The partner would say: Hey, this is really neat what I’m reading. Or they’d say, what kind of bird is that, looking out the window? Or they’d say, would you pass me a cup of water? Gottman said that people could do one of three things. They could turn against the bid. Can’t you see I’m reading? They could ignore the bid. Or they could turn toward the bid. Oh, let me see, I’m not sure what kind of bird it is. Or he said, if they even just grunted, huh! That is turning toward the bid. He found That couples that made it turned toward bids something like 70 or 80% of the time. Not all the time, but a lot. And the couples who didn’t make it turned toward bids maybe 30% of the time. Not never, but a lot less. 

So that’s one of the things I share with my clients. If you want to make positive energy, just be aware of bids and turn toward them. Of course, there’s thousands of other things that people think of that they can do that’ll bring positive energy. But that’s the first phase: stop the bleeding and start putting some positive in. It’s one of the things people can do without a lot of internal insight or anything, although as you say, the more they do it and find out that it’s working, the more they begin to relax and have some internal confidence that maybe something can happen. That’s around the time that we start moving into the second phase where we’re talking about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Okay. So if there’s an ability to stay engaged in the process, trust the process. you’re saying there’s a second phase in your description. I would love to hear.

Yeah. That’s where we start talking about Mr. Hyde and recognizing Mr. Hyde, and recognizing that he’s just scared, it’s not a big deal, he’ll calm down when he relaxes a little bit. But there’s something deeper there that I think is really valuable, which is, what’s he scared of? Mostly people think it’s some long-buried childhood trauma, but I don’t. I think he’s scared because he doesn’t understand teddy bears. That’s the metaphor that my clients like a lot. Just about all of us either had a teddy bear or knows that knows somebody who had a teddy bear that they were really crazy about.

So if there’s a child who doesn’t just have a teddy bear, but who just loves the teddy bear, so how do they feel when they’ve got the teddy bear? They feel peaceful and calm and safe and all that kind of stuff. How do they feel if, heaven forbid, their parents leave the teddy bear somewhere? Arghhh! When I’m giving talks, I’ll do that, and then I’ll say, have you ever seen a parent who drove 10 miles back to get the teddy bear? The last talk I gave, somebody said, yeah, I did that! Yeah, why? Because without the teddy bear, that kid is completely freaked out. Well, where does the child thinks the feelings are coming from? Of course they think they’re coming from the teddy bear, and they think when they have those horrible feelings, they’re suffering from a teddy bear deficiency. But as adults, we know better. We know that if you open up a teddy bear, which I don’t recommend doing with a child around, he’ll freak out. But if you open up a teddy bear, what you’ll find inside the teddy bear is stuffing. You won’t find any little transmitters able to transmit feelings to a child, which is my silly way of saying, we know that the feelings come from inside the child. The feelings are always inside the child. 

As adults, we think it’s kind of cute. Ah, well, the child thinks it’s a teddy bear. Maybe we get even a little bit sad, it’s too bad he has to outgrow it. Except, mostly we don’t outgrow it. Mostly we go on having the same misunderstanding, except we go on to adult teddy bears, like my car. Don’t think your car is a teddy bear? How do you feel if somebody crashes into your car? How did you feel when you first got that wonderful car? Oh, just like a teddy bear! Yeah, absolutely. How about our job? Oh, if I could just get rid of that horrible boss, I wouldn’t have to hate going to work every day. Oh, if I could just get a job that was the right job for me, then I could really feel good and enjoy myself. Or your significant other. In the middle of being triggered, our assumption is, unless our partner understands us, we can’t feel those good feelings. So it’s really important, they have to understand! Well, when we were a little kid, and we could have died if our parents didn’t understand our needs, maybe we needed that. But we’re not little kids anymore, and even then, the feelings came from inside us.

Well, you’re giving us so much here to work with. As you’re describing, if we can hold some self-regulation, hold onto ourselves, self-soothe even, and find that inner stillness, that inner peace and well-being, trusting that relationship and connection will come if we’re trusting the process, and hopefully, co-creating with our significant other. If circumstances don’t allow that, that that is still available. I think both are really important to be in a connected place. 

As you described, I love just some of the analogies here with the snow globe, and also going down the wrong road, and being in the interest of creating connection and being in contact with our own innate health, as well as being curious and interested in the other’s innate health. What might be going on here that they’re needing? Maybe they’re not even speaking to it, but being interested in what’s got them fueled up here, what’s got them juiced up, and recognizing if we’re off-track, the loving thing might be for us to reconvene when we’re in a place of more of that goodwill, or we’re wanting to lean in, and just how we’re supporting the quality and nurturing of our bond through interacting on smaller ways even. It’s not these big grand gestures that keep relationships alive. It’s how we’re caring for and maintaining and nurturing the house that does. Typically, for my own physical health, I want to make sure I’m getting good sleep, I like to move my body, I like to eat healthy food. That’s not something that I do once, it’s a practice. Similarly, for the contact and a connection, to make that and prioritize that, and through how we’re doing it. 

You’re giving us a lot of insight around how to do that, and how to direct our focus and our attention. Is that right?

You are a wonderful listener, Jessica. Absolutely!

Thank you, wonderful. Well, I’m interested, is there any other example that you want to share around what this looks like in practice? Or even revisiting the book? When did you read that, if you don’t mind sharing?

Let me just look at the book. I guess it came out in 1998, so it was around 2000.

Wow, nice!

Yeah. Well, there is one thing I’d like to say. It’s that most people misunderstand what I’m in love with you means. I got this from Ram Das, who said, Love is the natural state that always surrounds us.” At a deep spiritual level, we’re swimming in love, we’re living in love. And when we’ve got all that snow in our heads, to add the way I think about it, we just don’t notice it. Well, once in a while, we get together with somebody and we get quiet enough and we get safe enough and we get open enough, that we feel that, and we say I’m in love with you. But we think it’s coming from our partner, because our partner is so wonderful. Well, it’s true, our partner is wonderful. But what we’re really saying is, I am in this place called love, with you. And what’s available, what I’m finding with myself and my clients is available, is we can find our way back to love, more and more by doing all the things you were talking about. 

One thing more. The way I think about it is, enjoying playing hide and seek. I talk about getting to happily ever after, and I think that’s absolutely possible, but not the way people think about it. If you’re looking for endless, permanent, all the time bliss, I don’t think that’s in the cards for the way human beings are structured in this reality. However, I do think sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t. That’s part of the deal. Sometimes we are Dr. Jekyll. Sometimes we get insecure, and we’re Mr. Hyde. That’s going to go on happening. But as we become more and more aware of that, we get less and less freaked out by being freaked out.

And resistant or judging it.

Yeah, and more and more patient. Okay, this too will pass. And more and more ready for those wonderful moments where we find each other again. And what that means, Jessica, I love this, and I think there’s such a potential for relationships. As people will see this more and more, it’s not just like we get to fall in love with each other once and then we’re there forever. We get to fall in love with each other again, and again, and again.

Yes, and I would add, even in deeper and more profound ways that this isn’t just an up and down and up and down in the same scope. It’s like, we are growing and expanding. Just as we breathe, we don’t always just inhale, inhale, inhale; we’re inhaling, and we’re exhaling. It’s this expanding and contracting, and that’s how we typically grow. So the contact can be more rich as we grow and evolve, and not only personally, but relationally. So thank you for giving us that to really work with that. Enjoying the game of hide and seek, I love that. 

Yeah. It’s like, I encourage people first to look outward, what’s going on, and we can take action to stop the bad stuff and start more good stuff. Then look inward, and we’re seeing Mr. Hyde or Dr. Jekyll, and noticing our innate well-being. Then looking deeper, as you said, for connection. 

Free A Couple Kissing on the Bed  Stock Photo

“When we’re connected with each other, we’re simultaneously connected with our own deeper self, and with life itself. Because that’s the way connection works. Connection goes down into, who knows, the mystery, and comes back up inside the other person.”

The love that is, as you mentioned.

Yeah, we picked that up along the way.

Well, Kalen, how do people get in touch with you and what you’re offering? What would you like to invite people into?

Oh, thanks. Well, anybody who wants to email me, I would love to chat. It’s just [email protected]. Because that’s also my schedule, if people just want to schedule a talk, TalkwithKalen.com. So [email protected]. Also, if people would like to read something that I wrote briefly about that first step of how do you turn the death spiral around, I wrote something called: Less Fighting, More Loving. By a strange coincidence, they can get it at LessFightingMoreLoving.com. Again, that’s a free download, and it also invites them to a webinar if they’re interested to talk some more. So those are good ways.

So if someone were to contact you with questions, are you supporting people by coaching or teaching or leading workshops? Or is it just to give people the support via email?

Well, mostly these days, I’m working with couples one-to-one by Zoom; in-person, but by Zoom with people all over the world. I’m just getting ready to start doing some working with groups of couples or individuals. That’s something else that I’ve discovered. I came across somebody named Laura Doyle, who has been teaching women how they can save their marriages by themselves, even without their partner’s active cooperation, which I thought was a really cool idea. She’s taught 150,000 women how to do that. It seemed to me, since I had just done the same thing as a man, that you don’t have to be a woman to do this. So I’m exploring that also. So if someone is in a relationship where they have the sense that their partner might not be ready to actively cooperate, but they’d still like to move toward a better relationship, I’d be eager to do that kind of coaching with them as well. That’s man or woman.

Wonderful. That’s contacting you at the email that you mentioned?

Yeah, [email protected]

Okay, I’ll make sure to have both of those links for the download and how to get out of the death spiral, as well as your email and how people can contact you, on today’s show notes. You also wrote a book, I understand.

That’s true. I wrote a book about some other positive things that you can do to add to a relationship, and a little bit about the amygdala hijack, which is another way to talk about Mr. Hyde. It’s called Date Your Mate. They can get it at Amazon.com. Date Your Mate: How to Save Your Marriage from The Blahs and Live Happily Ever After.

Wonderful. It sounds like you have such great opportunities to engage with this material and be in the practice and get support. Thank you so much for everything you’ve shared with us here today.

Oh, it’s been absolutely a delight! I really appreciate how deeply you hear and how present you are.

Thank you. 

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching