ERP 417: Why Every Couple Needs A Couple Mission Statement — An Interview With Dr. Heather Browne

By Posted in - Podcast March 26th, 2024 0 Comments

Many individuals and families encounter a common challenge: the struggle to harmonize their values, aspirations, and objectives. This issue is compounded by the inherent differences in perspectives, priorities, and communication styles within these relationships. When aspirations clash and priorities diverge, it often leads to misunderstandings that escalate into tensions and conflicts. Maintaining harmony becomes a daunting task without a clear understanding of each other’s goals and values, leaving couples and families adrift in a sea of discord.

In this episode, we delve into practical strategies for crafting a shared mission statement—a tool designed to align individuals and unite them in pursuit of common objectives. Through insightful discussions and actionable steps, listeners will discover how to identify core values, engage in constructive dialogue, and cultivate deeper understanding and connection with their partners and loved ones. Join us as we explore the power of intentional communication in fostering stronger, more harmonious relationships.

Dr. Heather Browne, PsyD, LMFT, helps people recognize the power of communication, one of the most important skills we possess. However, often, we fail to consider our understanding, approach, and belief, and consequently, miss out on our potential. No two individuals perceive reality in the same way, despite our belief in shared understanding. Harnessing this revolutionary awareness has enabled her to transform communication within oneself and other types of relationships.

In this Episode

04:45 Dr. Heather Browne’s journey of healing and growth.

08:57 The significance of self-awareness and conscientiousness in personal growth, particularly in identifying areas of consistency and growth.

12:38 The transformative power of a mission statement.

20:28 The importance of understanding and accommodating differences in stress responses and soothing methods within a relationship.

23:57 Tailoring relationship goals to individual values.

29:12 Navigating irreconcilable differences in relationships through effective communication and collaboration.

40:19 Nurturing self-discovery and inner alignment.

51:54 The importance of crafting and regularly revisiting a mission statement for individuals, couples, and families as a tool for fostering connection and guiding communication.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Reflect on personal values and desires to identify what matters most in life.
  • Engage in open and honest conversations with partners or family members to explore shared values and goals.
  • Practice active listening and empathy to foster understanding and connection during discussions.
  • Create a mission statement together that reflects collective aspirations and priorities.
  • Display the mission statement prominently in the home as a constant reminder.
  • Schedule regular sessions to revisit and revise the mission statement as needed, with options ranging from weekly to monthly.
  • Embrace vulnerability and authenticity to cultivate deeper connections and mutual respect in relationships.

Mentioned

How to Feel Less Lonely, Create Meaningful Connections and Love | Heather Browne | TEDxMountRubidoux (YouTube link) (video)

Speaking with the Heart: Transforming Your Relationship and Communication with Compassion and Connection (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

ERP 355: The Importance of Creating a Shared Reality in Relationship — An Interview with Dr. Heather Browne

ERP 372: How to Work Together in Relationship for a Strong, Secure Connection — An Interview with Dr. Stan Tatkin

ERP 389: Understanding Our Stress Language as Well as Our Partner’s Stress Language for Better Living & Loving — An Interview with Chantal Donnelly

Connect with Dr. Heather Browne

Websites: drheatherbrowne.com

Facebook: facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086978599835&mibextid=LQQJ4d

YouTube: youtube.com/@dr.heatherbrowne

Instagram: instagram.com/dr.heatherbrowne

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drheatherbrowne

TikTok: tiktok.com/@heathermbrowne

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

Heather, thank you so much for being here. I’m excited to have you back. I know you’ve been on the show once before, many months. I’ll make sure to put the link to that on today’s show notes. But welcome.

I am so honored to be back. Thank you so much. 

Yeah. I know you have a book that you’re going to be sharing a little bit more with us about towards the end of the show, we might reference, and today’s topic and discussion. We’re going to be talking about couple’s mission statements and the importance of that. 

Before we turn towards that, I know you shared a little bit about yourself. I’m just curious if there’s anything you want to share for people who are just getting to know you here, or even a little bit of as something new with you that you want people to know.

I guess the biggest piece is, I’ve been a psychotherapist for 27 years. I work largely with couples and with communication and intimacy and connection, also quite a bit with grief and loss. I’m a widow myself, and I have two adult amazing children. It’s been a fun and busy year, with a TEDx, and the book, and doing lots of podcasts. So it ties into the idea of the mission statement. Because when you’re in a big growth year, it’s important that you’re being honoring, what that is for yourself and what that is for your practice. So I think it ties in really well.

It does. Even as you’re describing, it feels a bit of entering in some GPS coordinates. Now I know we can’t always control what the outcome is. But having that clear intention is really important as to what we’re creating, because it gives us focus, and then it also can help us look at what’s not it and what’s it. So it really helps us orient or gives us guiding support, would you agree?

100%. And when you’re bringing in two people, or maybe a family, there’s a lot of trajectories going on. So having a clear idea of where overall are we going is important. I know, in my own life, I can easily get off if I’m spending too much time in one area. Then I think: Oh my gosh, I haven’t worked out this week. So if you’ve got four or five people all doing their own thing, it’s kind of easy to sink a little bit in some of the important areas if we’re not aware of where we’re going. 

Yeah, thank you for acknowledging that. I find for myself, there are areas where I’m very consistent, and then there are other areas that are growth areas or growing edges for myself. If I’m not aware or conscientious about those growth steps, left to my default, I might delay or punt, or time flies and here I am; I’m still in the same pattern or looping of not actually in that growth trajectory. To your point, as a couple, some of these things are not easy. Some of the relational principles or even dynamics ask us to grow and are challenging, so the human tendency is to sometimes delay on those things. So I’m curious what you might say there.

Absolutely. The place we see it so much is with families who either are both career-driven, or very child-centered, and then they’ll say: “You know, we don’t really have any time for us. We’re not really connecting. We’re more like roommates.” Then you’ve all heard the saying: woke up one day, and I didn’t know who was in the bed next to me. To me, that means you’re not on a mission statement together. You’re going through life, and that’s beautiful in its own right. 

Free 2 Women Sitting on Bed Stock Photo
“If you’re not going through life connected to what’s most important to you, what’s most important to your partner, what’s most important to your whole family, it’s easy to have everyone in it, but not really interrelating.”

So having a mission statement, having a check-in. We used to do a monthly check-in, when my husband was alive and my kids were alive. And we’d say: Okay, so let’s go through the places. Physically, how are we doing? Emotionally, how are we doing. Financially, how are we doing? Spiritually? Socially? So we’d look at the places and evaluate: You know, we didn’t do much this month this way. So then we’d make certain that next month we lay it in, and then that way, you don’t get too far off. But I don’t think families do that. I don’t think even individuals do that. So at the end of the year, you look at the year and you say: “Oh my gosh, I’ve gained 15 pounds, and I’m $20,000 in debt. How did that happen?” So there’s little counts and balances that you need to be aware of as you go through the month, just to help yourself out and to help your family. 

Well, a year look is important. But as you’re saying, if we’re not keeping closer connection, we’re likely going to run into areas that we didn’t plan on or foresee, but maybe not be in alignment with what is really true or are important. 

Well, when you think of the areas that are difficult for you, or challenging for you, or you’re not yet doing, it’s because you’re not yet used to it. It’s not something that comes naturally. I’m going to enjoy nature every single day, so easy for me. I love nature. So I have a beautiful yard and I enjoy it. Go into the gym, that’s something that I have to intentionally make certain I do. Because that’s not a place that I’m going to naturally go. I’d rather go for a walk. I’d rather go for a swim. So if I need to go to the gym, I have to lay it in. I’m not going to end up in the parking lot of the gym, ever, without thinking about it. So there’s the places of recognizing: This is a place I want to grow. This isn’t a place I’m going to go to naturally. So how do I help myself help myself?

Yes, there’s some support, some scaffolding? So let’s slow down, if you will. How would you define? Or if we can get more specific around what a mission statement is, what would that entail? 

Well, if you think about a business, a mission statement speaks into: what is the integrity of the business, what is the purpose of the business, what are they trying to achieve, what do they represent, what do they stand for? When we think about our own life, we actually know those things. But most of us don’t speak into it, so it keeps it a little nebulous. Like, I want to be a nice person. Oh, beautiful. How am I going to do that? So if you add layers to it, like these are the ways we’re going to do it, it just makes it a little bit easier to fulfill it. Within a couple, there’s a lot of things. You came together because that person changed the way you felt about life, changed the way you experienced yourself in the world, being connected to them, and clearly there’s goals and dreams that you have that support each other. That is so beautiful. So if you start that when you’re fresh-faced and excited and delighted and passionate, it’s such a beautiful time to say, who do we choose to be as a couple, and what do we want to represent? Most of us don’t take time with that. Then there’s that place of if you have that. In my house, we printed it out, and we had it up. So when we’d have a tough day, I’d go read it. Like, “I’m not doing that. I’m not being respectful. Certainly not honoring. Not even listening. I don’t even like you right now. I don’t like me right now.”

So it gave me a place to really be self-reflective. I’m not the kind of person to then say to my late husband, you need to go look at our mission statement because you’re not doing it. But my viewpoint would be, and I’d go to him and I’d say: “You know, babe, I just read our mission statement. I failed today.” He’d just say come here, and he’d say, me too! So you can use it at this beautiful way to encourage each other to love each other more, and to become why you really wanted to be together. We come together a lot of times idyllically. But you can help yourselves create that by going back to that. Are you really holding to those tentacles that you’ve put up that you want so much, those tenets that you want so much; respect, honor, passion, compassion, helping the world?

Yes, definitely. One of the things that I’m hearing, as you’re describing this, that there’s the keeping in forefront, one’s and both partners’ higher intentions, higher self almost. As humans, when things are stressful, or there’s low bandwidth, or you name it, we can regress and not be our most generous selves. So to have something that’s visible, it sounds like a real strong encouragement to have. It’s something that you can reference that will be a continual reflective tool, as well as maybe some accountability. Not to, again, I like your differentiating between calling the whistle on your partner and trying to manage them, versus just really looking at how. Because we get into these states that are so emotionally driven, and it’s easy to remember, you mentioned grief. So if I’m grieving, it’s easy to remember all the other times that I’ve had loss or grieving other times. Or if I’m upset with my partner and I don’t like my partner, all the times that I have been irritated or haven’t liked them. So we easily forget, too, around the bigger picture and the bigger focus. So it sounds like there’s a lot of reasons why this can be so helpful.

Well, and when you go with all that you’ve just said, so powerfully and so importantly, a mission statement wants to make change. Think about that. 

Free Man and Woman Sitting Inside a Train Stock Photo
“It’s fascinating to me that as couples, we come together, we talk about how amazing and how great we’re going to be. I encourage everyone to sit down and say, how are we going to be great together when life is crap, when something is going wrong?”

When someone’s lost a job, when someone crashed the car, when someone has to go to the hospital, when someone’s mother is making a mock, when our child is doing things they shouldn’t be doing, how do we stand together then? Because I don’t think we talk about it. If you’re choosing to say I’m going to do life with you, Dear Lord, there’s a whole lot of challenges in doing life. So how are we together when times are bad? And most of us do not know how to do that. 

So one of the things I always talk to couples about, when they’re coming to me and working on their relationship, is what do you need, what do you want when you need support, when you need soothing, when you’re angry, when you’re frustrated, when you’re scared? Is there anything you want from your partner? Or what is it that you want from yourself? We speak into that, and I help them massage it out, because most people don’t know. If you know that, then let’s say you’re going through a situation in your marriage that is scary, then I know that when you’re scared, you want a whole bunch of hugs. Well, guess what? Mission statement: we’ll hold each other and support each other through tough times. What does that look like for both of us? But now there’s tangible things to it, instead of keeping this in this “love me forever, sure I will” lovely, but nebulous state. If you would talk to each other about what you need when times are bad or tough, then your partner knows how to help you support yourself as you’re going through what you’re going through. That’s vital. 

Free Man in Black Crew Neck T-shirt Sitting Beside Woman in Black T-shirt Stock Photo
“We know how to be happy. We know how to be turned on. We’re really good at that. But we don’t necessarily know how to do the tough times in a relationship, and those are what break us. The happy times don’t break us, it’s the tough times that do.”

That’s what you get away from the mission statement of who you really are as a couple at all times, not just when life is lovely.

Yeah. I know you mentioned a couple times the more aspirational which can feel nebulous, and oftentimes, when we enter into some commitment or proclamation, whether or not it’s a marriage ceremony, a partnership ceremony, that these are really beautiful, but tend to be less actionable or less specific. So the mission statement sounds as though it speaks to the importance, the purpose, and the value. That perhaps in that, as you just said, as an example, when things are difficult, we hold each other. That there’s a way to maybe have an extractive, specific, actionable steps. Like, what does this actually look like? Can we put this into practical skill building, so we have a little bit of a template and a roadmap? Because, again, humans tend to be a little bit more in their own space, and hence be a little bit more egocentric. Even when we love our partner and we want to show up for them, sometimes we have to really think about it and understand, because we don’t operate the same. They maybe have a different stress language, or need different ways of soothing, so to really be supportive in that. Do you recommend having this be really fleshed out, so it is actionable?

Yeah, absolutely. Look, if you do a business mission statement, you’re going to do that. You’re not going to say we’re going to help the world in feeding our community, and then not have some idea how you’re going to do it. So the same thing would go toward relationship, absolutely, and then that’s helpful. If we’re going to hold each other in tough times, and then I know that means you actually like to be held, or you like your hand held, or you like texts, or you like your space and you want me just to pull back and let this be a safe container for you, then I know what to do. Because what happens when we get into tough times, our partner often says: what can I do, what you want? And we’re flooded; we’re overwhelmed. We’re like, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. But to have that conversation, not in crisis. I work with anxiety quite a bit, and that’s a huge thing. In the anxious moment, especially if it’s a frenetic energy, the person doesn’t know how to ground; they don’t know how to center. They’re spinning out. So to say to them what do you want, they have no clue! But if you’ve talked about it before, and you’ve gone through some exercises for anxiety, it might be that I’m going to hug you. It might be that I put my hand on your heart and I put your hand on your back and hold firmly. It might be that I do a grounding exercise, holding your feet down to the earth. If you’ve done these things in other times, you know what works, and so in that moment. Like, I knew with my kids what to do; one child you would just embrace and held, and the other one you did not touch. It was important to know. How can I respect you with what you need in these times that are hard for you? So to me, those are all conversations to have as you come together. Let me help you when it’s rough. Let me help you when you really need a partner.

These questions might be even new questions. You’re speaking about the more anxious one, there’s also the one that might be a little bit more shut down and more in that freeze place, and thus in that more flooded space can’t also articulate what would be soothing and comforting. So to have these continual conversations, and even being able to revisit. Like, how did that feel? Or did this hit the mark, and are we evolving this? So people change too, and they can grow into something else. 

So I want to just stay with the mission statement a little longer here. Do you have other examples of what a mission statement could sound like, for people who are maybe less accustom or less familiar with making this more specific, just to give people something to work with?

Absolutely. It doesn’t have to be lofty. Not everyone has that desire. So it can be very concrete to the things that are important to you. Let’s say you’re in a relationship. We want to be fiscally responsible, so that we’re able to do travel, to enjoy our life where we live. We want to be compassionate and caring in our communications with each other. We want to remember to have fun and enjoy our life process. We want to be healthy in the thought processes that we have for ourselves. It can be very, very concrete. It doesn’t need to be in any way humanitarian, if you will. It can be completely centered on what do we really want? We want to have a great sex life, and so we’re going to be exploring different things. Every year, we’ll try some new experience or workshop or read other books. But it gets into how are we going to be our best together, how are we going to do these things. When you have that, just as a great reminder of what brought you together, and then how are you going to do this. If I want to have a great sex life with my partner, then some things need to be different than if I’m not thinking about that; my thought process is going to be different. If I’m thinking I’m with a partner who wants to have an exciting sex life, my head changes immediately. If that’s not as important, and it’s more important to be fiscally responsible, okay, now I’ve gone to a whole another place. So it helps you kind of gear where are you in your heart. You can be both. You can be sexually explorative, and also financially responsible. But there’s places where you need to kind of know that. Because otherwise, you can get really off. A lot of couples struggle with that, especially financially, where one person wants to explore and travel and have a great life and give people beautiful presents and have this gorgeous home, and the other person says we can’t live this way and ever retire. So it helps you find, well, where do we support both of us in this? Because both of our dreams are important.

I think that is very helpful, not only in the example, also helping couples really look at how to give voice to both people’s values and what’s important. Because in personalities, sometimes one can be a little bit more vocal than the other, or that one is a little bit more assertive or dominant in their ability to ask for what they need or want. So if we put that on repetition, it starts to give more weight to one’s preferences, and I think this is really a great exercise.

In my book, on that, which is when you’re on completely different polls, New York and Hawaii for a vacation, how do you figure it out? There’s steps that you can take. Because the challenge is, we’re right for us. So if I want to have an amazing life of travel and fun and beauty, all that stuff feels so good to me. If you say we need to be financially wise because we need to be able to retire, how do those come together? Now, there’s ways to do it. But it’s important that you’re looking at both. If the financially responsible one says: No, no, no, we can’t travel, we can’t travel, we can’t travel, because, because, because…” This person is just hurting inside, and the part of their spark in the life is going out. Yet, this person, if they’re getting all that they want, this person is scared to death, because they’re thinking: “Oh my God, I’m going to have to work when I’m 90, and I don’t want to work when I’m 90.” 

So it’s important for us to be able to hear our partner’s needs and desires, and they say, how do we do this together? If you start with where you’re similar, and then find how do you keep moving in, it’s much, much easier than starting with where you’re opposed. You have to be financially responsible, I want to travel. It doesn’t really work. I want to be able to travel, but I know we need to be financially responsible. So how do we budget for a certain amount? Can we cut back, so we’ve got a certain amount that we can use for travel? Okay, now you’re opening the door for the conversation. So there’s some really simple things that you can do to start the conversation in a way that can be successful, or at least more successful, for both people. We tend to not do that. “I want to travel. You’re a cheapskate. Pisses me off!” “Where do you think money comes in, from the ethers? You were spoiled, and your parents gave you everything!” We don’t do it well. So there’s ways to help yourself support your truth, but also be respectful of your partner, to get to a place of agreement.

I want to mention one thing. I know you have much more to offer. But is there anything, since we’re talking about having to straddle these really pronounced differences? I mean, this is what the Gottman’s talk about as potentially irreconcilable differences, that they will be perpetual, they will never resolve. But how we do it, how we talk about it, how we problem-solve, how we work together is really essential in learning how to get through these challenges. Is there anything you want to mention around how to make this an easier conversation?

Starting with the place that I always tell my couples is, if you are committed to making it work, or even if you’re just committed to trying to make it work, say that first. “You are so important to me, and I love you so much. I’m hoping you can be happy with me, and I’m hoping that we can figure out a way to balance our dreams together in a way that works. Yours are important, and mine are important. So I really want to work with you on this, I really do. I also need to be aware that we might decide, we’re too different. I don’t want that. I’m not going to fight you on this, because you get to have your choices as I do. I really want to work together and see if we can figure this out together. I bet there’s some things that we can come up with to make this work.” 

I used to say to my kids when they were younger, help me get to Yes. Because they want to do something, and it was possible, but there were some places where I didn’t have the information that I needed to have. So they just helped me get to Yes. I think that’s a really key place. If I want to be with you, and you really want to travel, and I really need to be financially responsible because I grew up and it was tight and I’m scared of the future, a perfect place for me was, I made a budget. I made a budget to start saving four years before my daughter graduated from high school, to have enough money when she graduated from high school, to go to Europe. Now in my head, I’m thinking: Dear Lord, four years ahead of time starting to put money we did for a trip? I did, because that was the way it worked for us. Then when the trip came, it didn’t hurt at all, because it was completely paid for, and that was amazing. That’s a simple example. Like, how do you make it work where it doesn’t throw one way completely off, but also can create it? Hopefully, it won’t take most listeners for years of budgeting for something, but it might. If it does, it does, and then you hold true to that. You know, that money went into the account every single month, and nothing touched it, so it would be there.

Yes, I love that. Also, even if it is a long time frame before the goal is achieved, that there’s a leaning in and supporting one another and working together. So it’s showing up for the other around what that means. I really appreciate what you’re describing. Because so often, it’s easy to complain or criticize the other, because it feels threatening. Like, oh, you’re different, or you’re perhaps going to take away from the value of what I need and want. So it’s easy that that could be an approach.

That is so key, you’re going to take away from me. I’d love to stay here for a moment if we can. Think about that, what does that mean? That means I’ve already decided that I am to have this, yikes! Have you? Clearly not. Because your viewpoint is, I’m not taking away anything. I didn’t agree to a trip to Hawaii, who decided that? How do you get to decide where our money is going to go? So this is the part that’s amazing in life, but also in coupledom. If you haven’t completely agreed to something with your partner, you haven’t agreed to it. It might be a hope, but it’s really important that you recognize: “Okay, I have a hope. I really want to go to Europe when our daughter graduates. How do we make this happen? I know, I know, I know it’s not laid in there. But what can we do? Do I need to get a second job? Can I make presents for the next five years, so we’re not paying for presents? Can we not buy bottled water? Like, what do we do?” But we tend, and this is where we argue so much with our partner. 

Free Man Embracing Another Man from Behind Stock Photo
“We tend to think our partner is keeping us from the life that we want to have. But our partner might not have signed on for that.”

This is another reason why the mission statement is so important, because you’re going to find out some of these things. These are just important questions before you step into a committed relationship. How are you going to raise your children? In spirituality, that becomes a huge problem for a lot of families. So there’s a lot of things that we assume are going to happen, and you need to check with your partner, are they onboard? If they’re not, how can you work it out, if it is healthy for the relationship, for you to be able to have this dream that you have? Maybe they’re not a part of it. Maybe they hate travel, so you travel with your best friend, and there’s funds that are created for that. So there’s ways to work with your partner. But when we feel like our partner is keeping us from something that is our right, we want to explore that a lot. If they are changing their mind on something that they’ve agreed to, super important to have a conversation to talk about that. Why is this now different? How has this now changed? You agreed to that, so I’m frustrated and I’m hurt and I’m mad. What can we do? That happens when someone crashes a car, and all of a sudden, you have to cover with $10,000 or $20,000. But otherwise, if it isn’t something they’ve agreed to, you want to clean that up.

I think what you’re helping people recognize is, at the beginning of these conversations, if they can open up a little bit more space around: “I really, really want this, or this is a need, or this is a real preference.” Growing up, my mother would sometimes ask me, I was very clear on things I wanted, and I was tempted to try to get her to say yes, like help me get to a yes. But she found me very persuasive. But also, I knew what her issues were, so I could kind of speak to them. But she would ask me, on a scale from one to 10, 10 being the highest of importance, how much does this mean to you? I would really be honest, and sometimes it wasn’t a thing and I just was caught up in the moment. Other times, it did really mean something. So what I hear you suggesting is, if people can recognize this isn’t already agreed upon. If you have clarity, and this is a real thing, it’s a nine or a 10, or even is a real strong need, something has changed around that, and can we have a conversation about that?

Agreements are hugely important, and we largely stay in expectation.

Yes, agreed. So to be clear about the language that we’re using, and to also identify clearly how we’re approaching. Because in this unit, in this system of the family, where everyone has consideration, and there’s love, it’s not only the individual, but it’s the members in the family that also are valuable. So it’s keeping that in mind. So I really appreciate your helping people be cognizant about that, and also some of the things you already suggested around how to get to yes. 

One of the things that I also think is helpful, that people don’t always get in touch with, they get more attached to why the idea is good, rather than what it means to them. So sometimes getting in touch with: how come this matters, how come this is significant, what it would mean to me, that can bring us into a little bit more connection to the heart of it, and then there’s maybe other avenues to get that met. So I think this all sets the stage for more collaboration, which I think is what you’re really kind of recommending here.

That was your mom’s question: one to 10 this for me, love. Because she was trying to get to how significant is this for you. If you said, well, a four. She’s going to say, baby! But if you say, mom, it’s nine! She’s going to know for you that was vital, and that is important. It’s a great, great question that your mom had. 

It’s not always clear and visible, even in relationship, what is higher ranking and maybe what’s lower ranking; we can have guesses. But it’s surprising to me, even couples who have been together for many, many, many years, still could improve, where that conversation and that visibility, that could be dialed in a little bit more.

It’s a beautiful place to really honor and respect and love someone. The reason I’m a therapist was my mom was a paranoid schizophrenic, and she killed herself when I was 16. So there’s a couple of memories that are really important to me, and one is merry go rounds. I have some beautiful memories of merry go rounds. So my kids knew as children, if we’d go somewhere and there was a merry go round, we didn’t necessarily need to ride it, but I needed to watch it. If we’re going to the zoo, we’re going to see giraffes. Just for my mom, that’s important. And I found those things with my children, like what were the places that touched their heart the most? I did that with my partner. So what did my kids do? Glorious! Like, they’ve bought me so many giraffe things. I have this beautiful wood carved giraffe, it’s glorious, that’s in my living room. I have this darling horse on a little, I don’t even want to call it, it’s a little box that has a giraffe on top. But they’ve done things, because they know it’s tender to my heart and it brings me to a place I really love. Knowing those things, and that comes in those moments of someone asking for something. 

Yes, and it’s potent. If we’re going to put effort and intention and love and care into showing up, I think we are better served when we can really show up for the parts that matter most, rather than all the other stuff that maybe doesn’t rank as high.

Mission statement. Once again, brings it right back to the mission statement; what matters most and why. That’s so important.

Heather, I know we’re talking about people who are a little bit more clear on what matters to them and how to have these conversations. Can we say anything for the people that are drawing blanks, or perhaps don’t really know what they want or what’s most important?

I had a person yesterday for the first time in my office, and she really was not sure what she enjoyed. I thought: Oh, this is going to be interesting. She was feeling like she should know. So we sat there for a while. I’m like: Okay, well, if you had a couple of hours, and you didn’t have to work, and you didn’t have to do anything at the house, what would you do? It took her a while to come up with something, because she kind of lives not really here quite a bit; she just drifts quite a bit, or she gets caught up in social media or TV and gets lost. But the more we spent some time, things started to come up for her. So there’s the place of, well, what touches your heart, what excites you, what lifts you up? What experiences do you find are exhilarating or fun, or changing you up? Basically something that takes you to an energy of either peace, calm, comfort, or raised. You want to think about those things, because that guides you toward you either living in your very mindful, at peace, calm state, which is, I think, so important for all of us to know. Then also, our alive, excited, passionate state, which I think is also really important to know. 

They don’t have to be big platitudes. Like, I like to have flowers in my house. I absolutely like having flowers in my house. So guess what? I have orchids that I grow, because they last a really long time. Flowers in my house, that’s an important thing to me. To somebody else, they’d say, well, that’s silly. Not to me. So for the person who’s not really sure, just to spend a little time. When I have free time, what do I want to do? Who do I want to be with? Where do I want to go? Where do I tap into my emotional center? If it’s somebody who isn’t quite as cognitive, and they don’t live in the mind space. Therapists live in the mind space a lot, so we know that. But sometimes it’s more so in the body. So where do you feel free? Where do you feel energized? Where do you feel like you could just leap and jump? For some people, it’s more in an auditory sense. Music, wind, hearing things, sounds. So you want to make certain that you’re helping yourself in whatever way you know you connect most to your energetic. Our world leans toward words. 

Free A Couple Having a Misunderstanding Stock Photo
“Part of the reason we have such a hard time with communication is we lean toward words, and we miss out so much on the feeling; we miss out so much on the heart. Because we’re relying just on words, and they fall flat. Because words are created to describe a feeling, an emotion. They’re just a description.”

Love means so many different things, and we know that. Like we say, I can’t put it to words, what are we saying? Oh, feel my heart, feel my heart! So wherever you are aware that your heart feels full, your heart feels light, that would be something to say this is important to me. It might be sitting in your bed wrapped up in a warm blanket, you might go that’s important to do that.

Yes, following the cues of the body, the nervous system, the feeling state, the senses. One of the things you were saying even that people perhaps can get very preoccupied in daily living, whether or not it’s the children or career, and not intending to be disconnected, but reach a point where they feel disconnected. This particular client, it sounds as though they have a way of being sometimes, it probably is protective or something, being adrift, but really inviting that pause, that real awareness, so we can listen to the cues of all these different ways of accessing information. This is a beginning. Typically, I imagine you would agree, that once we start listening, we get more information, and we can follow those breadcrumbs or follow that to then continue to understand more. Would you agree?

Absolutely. I remember early, early on in my exploring who the heck was Heather, because I didn’t know growing up. My life was really spent around, just keep mom alive. So when I was off on my own at 17, I really didn’t know who I was. I remember I was in therapy. I remember looking out the window, and I remember looking at this beautiful tree, and I said to my therapist, I think this is going to sound strange. He said, okay. I said, I don’t know how to be. He said: Oh, please, sure more. I said, I know how to do, and I’m good at it. I don’t live at the pace that my body wants to live.

He said, we’re just going to sit here. So we did. The longer I sat there, I thought: No, I do know this place, but I hardly ever go here. You know, the whole ultradian rhythms. So he said, five minutes a day, you’re going to sit and be with yourself. Inside or outside, I do not care. No sound, unless it’s natural. I’m like, and? He goes, and… I remember thinking this is going to be torture. I thought, well, I’m going to just sit looking at nature. It was glorious!

So giving yourself that place to be with you. The more you do that, the easier it is to be with others. The more you do that, the things that we get so caught up on so much of the time just aren’t that important. Because you’re at peace, and when you’re at peace, it’s like: “Okay, please go ahead of me. So glad there’s room. Go, be lovely! I hope the day goes better for you.” You just don’t choose to engage in an energetic that doesn’t serve you, and there’s no need to push against it. You just simply let yourself stay in your place. There’s a beautiful truth that so many of us in the world go into the environment to find ourselves. What do you think of me? Do you love me? Am I okay? Do I have value? Will I fit in? I’m 60. So the older I am, the more I’ve realized, okay, that’s kind of part of life. But I don’t want to live that way. I want to be me here, and then I step into an environment. I’m like: “Hey, want to welcome me? Yes? No?” So it’s not where I’m in reaction to what’s around me, it’s that I bring me. And what’s been really lovely is most people are absolutely fine with that, and they actually enjoy that. And when they don’t, then I know very quickly, this isn’t where I am to be. 

I had something that happened right after I had left home. So I was just 18, and I was in New York. I was six foot one, and I was standing on a street corner. There were three or four German or Russian men around me, and they’re all like six-four, six-five, and I looked up for like the first time in like five years, and I went: Oh, I’m small! Then this giant man stepped off the street corner and I became the Amazon again. But my brain went: Eh, hold on, Heather! I went: Oh wow, this is fascinating. I didn’t change. I was six foot one before they stood by me. I was six foot one as they did. I was six foot one as they laughed. But my belief of myself changed because of my environment. I am not small. For three seconds, I was small-er. I knew I had just stumbled upon or been given, thank you, a beautiful truth. 

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“We’re at jeopardy of losing our truth of ourselves if we rely on the outside environment to define it for us. Not even to be aware of it, but to define it for us.”

If I was in a room with supermodels, I am for sure the least attractive person in the room. 100%, no question. If they said who’s the ugliest, everyone would point to me. But I don’t think I’m ugly. But depending upon your environment, it changes the perspective of it. So knowing that is vital. This is your experience of me, it’s not mine. And when you think about it, when you don’t have that integration, what is that saying? You don’t see me in the way that I want to be seen. Okay, so do I either work with you to see if you can see me differently? Or do I say, you know what, you don’t see me in a way that I really like, I don’t think I want to play with you.

There’s choice there. If we can come bring this back to the clarity about what’s important, one of the things I’m feeling. Thank you for sharing your personal stories, I’m touched by, I don’t know how to be and just the encouragement to be. One of the things that I feel as it relates to this topic is, all the noise can fall away, and we can get so much clearer when we can be and get that felt sense and that contact. That that can be the information that helps bring that integrity, that authenticity, and that alignment, that then the mission statement serves. Because if we think about society, or family, or all the expectations, and we craft our mission statement, it’s just another doing perhaps.

I love what you just said, that is so exactly where my spirit lies. I love what you said, because it is just so supportive of that. So thank you for that clarity, that’s beautiful. 

Well, that’s what I was feeling as you were talking. So I appreciate you really just inviting this connection to self and how to begin to access this for one that maybe isn’t in the practice of it. 

Well, I know we’re winding down our time. I just want to clarify, it sounds like we have an opportunity for ourselves and in relationship and in family, to workshop a mission statement. Also, when we arrive at a workable mission statement, that it’s revisable, and that we can revisit it, and that we’re continually in touch with it and in contact with it. So that it’s not something that lives somewhere hidden and we revisit it once a year if that. It’s something that’s a part of our lives. So you had mentioned in your family, you’d do it once a month. But it can depend on the couple and the family and what the needs are, that revisiting it could be weekly. It could be more frequent if one is getting a practice going. Sometimes getting a practice going requires a little bit more repetition. 

We had it in our house. It was up in our house. So we together as a family read it once a month. But you could read it every single day, numerous times a day, if you wanted to.

Yeah. Well, Heather, talk to us about your book. I’m imagining your book helps people workshop this. Can you say a little bit more?

I’d love to. So my book is Speaking with the Heart: Transforming Your Relationship and Communication with Compassion and Connection, which of course is all the things we’ve talked about today. With working with couples for so long, I’ve seen that we don’t really know how to communicate well, and I don’t think we’ve really been taught how to do that. There’s a lot of things that I kept sharing and I kept sharing and I kept sharing, and I thought: My Goodness, I need to get this out there! There’s ways to come to a person more respectfully. There’s ways to take care of yourself more respectfully. There’s ways to step into an important communication. There’s so many things that we are to cover: finances, sex, and family, and anxiety, and budget, and intimacy, and children, and fear, and hopes, and love languages, and attachment theories. There’s so many aspects to doing life together, that when you have kind of a blueprint for some things to ask, or to explore together, to help you as you step into those places, I just find it really valuable. 

I know I Google when I need to figure something out and I look what people have done. So I basically have taken those places that seem most paramount in relationship, and also the huge communication piece of what’s the best way to start a conversation, and how do you pace with your partner? So if someone starts to become emotional or upset or flooded, that you take care of that? How do you bring in structure? How do you bring in support? 

So that’s what I’ve done in my book, and it’s my heart. Almost every chapter has an exercise. So what I did is, I spoke my book, because I wanted it to feel like I was there on the journey with my readers. So I’ll have them go do an exercise and I’ll say: Okay, how’d that go? Let’s talk about it. Where was it tough? So to me, it’s a living book, instead of just: “Read it, now go do it, and hope that went well for you.” That was why the publisher loved it. He said, you keep walking with them through this. I’m like, well, that’s the key. It’s on Amazon. It’s on Barnes and Noble. It’s on my website. So if people have questions about it, feel free to reach out. I’d be honored to answer any questions that you have. 

Wonderful! I will make sure to have the links to the book, to your website. Thank you, Heather, for sharing with us today, and all that you’re doing to share your heart and help guide people in these difficult conversations, and helping them do it with more love and care and helping foster more connection.

Thank you for having me. You are such a gracious, kind, compassionate woman, and I just so enjoy speaking up with you and being with you. So it is an honor. So thank you, I’d love to come again sometime.

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching