ERP 429: How To Reprogram Core Wounds For Better Living & Loving — An Interview With Thais Gibson

By Posted in - Podcast June 18th, 2024 0 Comments

At the core of many relationship struggles lie deeply ingrained wounds from our past, shaping how we perceive ourselves and interact with others. These wounds, often formed in childhood, can manifest as insecurities, fears, and maladaptive coping mechanisms in adult relationships.

As an example, individuals with deep-seated abandonment wounds struggle to trust or embrace intimacy, resulting in clinginess or avoidance behaviors. Similarly, those with worthiness wounds may constantly seek validation or struggle to assert their needs confidently. These patterns sow seeds of conflict, communication breakdowns, and emotional distance, impeding intimacy and connection.

In this episode, we delve into how understanding and addressing these core wounds can transform relationship dynamics. By exploring the origins of these wounds and their manifestations in adult relationships, we uncover actionable strategies for healing and growth. Through this insightful conversation, listeners gain valuable tools to navigate their own core wounds and foster healthier, more fulfilling connections.

Thais Gibson is a counselor and co-founder of The Personal Development School, with a Ph.D., and over 13 certifications in modalities, such as CBT, NLP, somatic experiencing, internal family systems, and shadow work. She is an expert in attachment theory and her research is extending the frontier of psychology with her modern Gibson Integrated Attachment Theory™, and she is the author of Learning Love: Build the Best Relationships of Your Life Using Integrated Attachment.

In this episode

6:53 Tyese Gibson’s journey through adversity and addiction to transformation.

12:12 The importance of addressing deeper emotional layers and primary attachment needs to achieve lasting change.

22:32 Reprogramming the subconscious for better relationships.

27:03 Thais explains her integrative approach to attachment therapy, which combines multiple modalities.

41:36 The power of inner work in relationship dynamics.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Identify and understand the core emotional wounds that impact your behavior and relational dynamics.
  • Develop self-soothing and emotional regulation strategies to manage your emotional responses effectively.
  • Enhance communication skills by expressing needs clearly and respectfully to your partner.
  • Define and maintain boundaries that safeguard your emotional well-being.
  • Consistently practice new behaviors and thought patterns to create lasting neural pathways.
  • Learn how different attachment styles influence your reactions and work on becoming securely attached.
  • Regularly engage in deep self-reflection to uncover and address underlying emotional triggers and vulnerabilities.
  • Utilize hypnotherapy to access and reprogram subconscious patterns and core wounds.

Mentioned

Learning Love: Learning Love: Build the Best Relationships of Your Life Using Integrated Attachment Theory (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Connect with Thais Gibson

Website: university.personaldevelopmentschool.com

Facebook: facebook.com/ThePersonalDevelopmentSchool

YouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCHQ4lSaKRap5HyrpitrTOhQ/videos

Instagram: instagram.com/thepersonaldevelopmentschool

Podcast: podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/personal-development-school/id1478580185

TikTok: tiktok.com/@thaisgibson?_t=8n6kvwtOLP0&_r=1

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

Thais, thank you for joining us. It’s a pleasure to have you.

Thank you so much for having me, I’m excited to be here with you. 

Yeah. We’re going to be looking at a topic that is possibly familiar to listeners, as this is something that’s very near and dear to my heart, and the attachment theory. You have a different way of really looking at it through the integrated attachment theory. So we’re going to talk about that and how to incorporate that for healthier relationships. 

For people who are just getting to know you, what would you like to share with people around where you’re coming from around this topic, and maybe even what got you interested in doing this work and helping people in this way?

Let’s make a very long story fairly short. I, first of all, definitely grew up in a childhood where there was a lot of chaos. So a lot of big arguments, walking on eggshells, never know when there’s going to be a big chaotic moment at home. I definitely was parentified quite young. For anybody who doesn’t know what that means, essentially there’s different types of parentification, but I was emotionally parentified. Sort of playing the emotional caretaker role in my family: for my younger sister, for my mother, and also for my father. So after a big argument, I would go check on one, they would maybe sometimes cry or be emotional, go check on the other, go check on my sister. There was a lot of growing up young and growing up quickly. I think part of that, of course, is stressful, but part of it also made me really interested in human behavior and human dynamics, from a very young age. I cherished the depth of the human experience. So I was always really interested in everything to do with people psychology. 

But honestly, the really big change for me took place when I had knee surgery. I went on to play soccer in university and got a soccer scholarship. But in my Scouting year, I had knee surgery, and pretty much immediately got addicted to opiates. I didn’t realize the depth of how bad that was, went through pretty much a six-year or a six-and-a-half-year stint of almost daily opioid use and really, really struggling. Somewhere towards year four-and-a-half, I had somebody in a psych class say to me: Yeah, your conscious mind can outwell or overpower your subconscious mind. For anybody who’s ever had the experience of trying desperately to stop doing something that you actually cannot let go of, to me that was this breakthrough moment of understanding: Oh, so my conscious mind is the one saying “I’m going to get clean. I’m going to get sober. I’m going to go to my A meeting, done A meeting.” And my subconscious and unconscious mind obviously have ulterior motives. 

So I got really interested in unpacking what that was. My first big certification I did while I was still in school was actually in hypnotherapy, and trying to understand the mechanisms of how we are affected at a deeper subconscious level. Also, a lot of what I was learning at the time in school was very conscious-based. It was like: Oh, let’s talk about insight, let’s gain awareness into things. That’s amazing. But your subconscious and unconscious mind collectively are responsible for 95–97% of our beliefs, our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions, and your conscious mind is 3–5%. So we can gain conscious insight. 

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“If we don’t really apply things in a way that speaks in the language of the subconscious mind and actually rewires the subconscious mind, we can become really limited in our ability to create true and lasting transformation.”

So for me, learning that was really a way out of this tormenting cycle of addiction that I was in. This is definitely not me recommending this. But for me as a person, although I very much think that there’s tremendous power in rehab, I tried an inpatient program, I tried an outpatient program, I wasn’t getting the results I needed. I also wasn’t investing the way that I needed, to set the record straight there. But looking back, it was like: Oh, well, if I was in a position where I could understand this earlier, it would have helped me so much. Really understanding what was going on for me at a personal level, what wounds I was carrying, what were the issues that were causing me to need to numb something emotionally. By unpacking that and working through that, that was ultimately what got me into a space of my sobriety journey, and also a space where I had my appendix out a couple of years ago and had to have painkillers. I took them for a day and they sat in my cupboard somewhere, I don’t even know where they ended up. It wasn’t something where it’s a fight or a struggle, it’s something that does not affect me as a person. So I think that when we can really dig into the roots of things, we can see deeper transformation.

Thank you—like you said, there’s a much longer story to this—and to try to give some summary, but some real insight into what were some of the pivotal things for you, both in this struggle, and also in the learning. It sounds like it has a lot to do with really getting in touch with the deeper layers, the deeper core emotions, primary attachment needs, and where there has been maybe injury or parts that were not in the forefront or aware of, in IFS language, the exile part or the shadow work. So part of what you’re really describing is, while you might have been in these programs, and I’m sure there was some value, your level of engagement or investment was perhaps blocked or limited by what you were actually able to access inside yourself. So with a deeper dive of that inner experience of those deeper layers, then that’s when you were able to re-pattern and you were able to really have more integration and really evolve and transform some of these patterns. Is that what I’m hearing?

Absolutely. I think something that was interesting to me is I never, from the beginning, loved the dynamics of hypnotherapy. I always found it somewhat strange when I started seeing clients at first, that you come in and you help somebody go through this process, and you take them through, and they don’t really have much control over what’s happening. They do in a sense, because somebody has to be willing to be open to be hypnotized and things like that. But they walk away being like: “That helps so much, and I have no idea what happened or how to replicate that.” 

So to me, it was like, well, once you understand the mechanics of how our subconscious mind really gets programmed, we can leverage the understanding of that and teach people how to recondition or reprogram these aspects of self, whether it’s our core wounds. Because there’s a lot of really powerful information, like cognitive behavioral therapy goes into core wounds and questioning our thoughts. But to me, a lot of that was reactive. Like, once I’m triggered, I do that work, and it helps me equilibrate or self-soothe. But how do we stop those things from coming back to begin with? Well, we can actually recondition those core wounds that we’re carrying. 

So I really got interested in leveraging out principles of hypnosis for reconditioning a lot of these aspects of self that are things that plague us, and they show up in our internal dialogue. They show up in these different parts of ourselves that try to protect us, and often come from first having these core wounds and imprints to begin with. So we can really pluck them out like a weed at its root, to recondition. 

So a lot of my own journey, as I was learning and going to school, and I got really obsessed with psychology and the mind, taking all these different certifications and getting all these different points of view on how to move through things. My first few years of my journey was just for me, I didn’t even think about a career or a play. It was like, I want to learn so I can make sure I never have to suffer like that again. 

So really digging in, there were a few core things I focused on. One was reprogramming core wounds, so very much these core ideas we have. Things like: I’m disrespected, I’m unlovable, I’ll always be abandoned, I’ll be betrayed, I’m unworthy. We all have these big core wounds that we carry, particularly insecure attachment styles. By reprogramming those things, it really shifts our internal dialogue. Because if we have this big core wound, just for simplicity’s sake, that I’m not good enough, well, these belief patterns create patterns of thought. So throughout the day, we’ll start to think things like: “I’m not interesting enough. I’m not funny enough. I’m not this or that enough.” All the thought patterns that would spring off of that belief, I’m not good enough. Then that affects how we feel, because how do we feel when we’re thinking those thoughts, and then that affects our neurochemistry. Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist, proved back in 2008, that all of the decisions we make are based on our emotional state. 

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“If we’re not in control of our beliefs, we’re not in control of our thoughts, emotions, or really, actions that are stemming as coping mechanisms to deal with that belief.”

Like, maybe we feel afraid of abandonment, so we cling. Or maybe we feel afraid of betrayal, so we push away. But all of these things have roots in these core wounds. 

So for my own journey, a lot of core wound reprogramming was extremely powerful. Then there were some other things that I really dug into; learning my needs, learning to meet them myself and the mechanism for self-soothing, learning emotional regulation, communication and boundaries. So those were some big focus areas, and that ultimately ended up being things that I focused on with clients. Then when I revisited attachment styles later on, I realized: Oh wow, all of these core features that we can actually recondition at the subconscious level of mind, they actually fit really neatly into these attachment style categories. 

So if you’re an anxiously attached person, you’re going to have specific core wounds, like abandonment, exclusion, being disliked, rejected, alone. And you’re going to have specific needs for certainty, reassurance, things that are different from a dismissive, avoidant, or a fearful avoidant, or a securely attached person. And you’re going to have specific patterns of how you try to emotionally regulate, like through activating strategies. And you’re going to have different patterns of how you tend to communicate, and a different relationship to boundaries. Each attachment style I circled back to later on had very unique patterning for how they go about all these different features that I was first focused on just healing within myself. So I was able to then replicate a lot of these things back out in client practice. 

Yeah. I will say, having done my dissertation on conscious intimate relationship, it was a meta-analysis, and studying about all these various different ways to support healthy relating. I included the attachment research in my dissertation. But in my work clinically and professionally, it wasn’t till I was really working with the attachment system, because it is such a working model and lives with us. I think the research and the theory is cradle to grave, it’s always a part of us. As you were saying, both the thinking, the feeling, the somatic physiological state, and also how we perceive relationally, it’s so much informing the dynamic and the relational dynamic and the moves we make. So I just appreciate what you’re describing and the power, both in yourself, and also what you’ve been able to merge and integrate with the work of the hypnosis. Also just how that really correlates so closely, and you can see the map of change and how that fits with these categories of attachment style, and the assistance. 

It sounds like it’s another way to help people, and I have a question around this. But it sounds like it’s a way to really help people access these core places to have some scaffolding and some orientation, to be able to create change in their life as it relates to these different levels, but from primarily the origin. Because if we’re not in touch with the origins of these core places, then we can do a lot of work, a lot of strategy, and a lot of preparation and plan. But as you said, that will easily get overridden if we’re not addressing the underneath core origin parts. Is that right?

100%, that’s so beautifully said. We can have all of the insight, I’ll share just one example for listeners that there’s these major factors. You were talking about the core wounds, the needs, the emotional regulation and nervous system regulation, the boundaries, the communication patterns, and really the behaviors. So we have these core parts. But if you look at the boundaries, for example, you can see an anxious attachment style, and they may say: “Oh my goodness, I realize, my conscious mind realizes I’ve been boundaryless my whole life, and that that’s creating resentment in relationships. I’m feeling unseen and unheard, because I never share my truth with people through my yeses and noes, authentically, through my boundaries.” They can have all this insight and these breakthroughs in their aha moments. But if they have a core wound that says: “If I set a boundary, I’m going to get abandoned.” They can understand what the boundary is in real-time. They can know: “Here we are again, and my coworker is about to violate my boundaries. I know what to say, and I’ve planned what to say.” But at the end of the day, we’re making most of these decisions from an emotionally charged place because of pre-existing subconscious wounds. 

So we can have all of the insight. But unless we re-pattern or reprogram the core wound or belief that I will be abandoned if I set a boundary, or somebody is going to think I’m a bad person if I set a boundary, the “I am bad” core wound, then we’ll probably see that person repeat that behavior no matter how much insight they have. There’s other workarounds. We can do exposure work around things, things of that nature. But a lot of those things engage the subconscious mind in the process, through repetition and emotion. 

So to your point, what you were saying was just, we can have all of this intention and all of these motives. But unless we’re really targeting the root of where these things happen, we can easily feel very stuck on these push-pulls of like, I know that are but why do I keep repeating this pattern? That’s where we can really target more of that aspect.

Yeah. Well, and part of what we’re describing is things in bigger themes, and I know each individual has their own experience. I have personally experienced in having my own traumas to work through, my own personal journey, that being able to do this work and being able to slow it down and hold those emotional places, it’s difficult to do the work, and also how transformative it is. I think there are places to access the deeper layers. There’s windows or trailheads, if you will. 

I think what you’re describing is, if there’s a real direct, efficient way of working with the core wounding or piece here, then it puts into place, and it has a little bit more of the scaffolding or the efficiency to look at how to have this be expressed, or how to support these different layers, when there is that working with the origin. So maybe in some ways, I’m saying it’s possible to do it by having awareness, it could feel like a longer route or a harder route. I wonder if that’s what you’re saying. Because I don’t think it’s impossible, I do see a lot of people creating really great change when they put awareness and they access parts of themselves and they hold it differently, and then they take steps and there’s iteration of that. I do see progress. But I also really appreciate that we are very savvy, our protective parts are very strong, and so it can feel like a push-pull sometimes. Or like you said, sometimes the protective parts win and we don’t make any progress. What would you say here?

Yeah, I love that, and it’s a beautiful question to really clarify. So if we look at how programming happens, like if you look at things from a neuroplasticity point of view, we are not fixed forever. So that’s the first of rule, and you see this in how attachment styles are developed. We can have somebody be fully securely attached, go through a bad divorce at eight years old, and maybe they become anxiously attached after that if one parent is out of the picture a lot more. So we get rewired all the time. But the basic factors that are creating rewiring are: repetition, emotion, and imagery. Repetition and emotion fires and wires, and imagery is really a very big part of the language of the subconscious mind. 

So to your point, there’s absolutely trailheads. A lot of people are going about subconscious reprogramming without realizing it. So let’s say somebody sets the intention, I’m going to get better with boundaries, and let’s say they have the emotional awareness in that moment, especially if they have a very regulated nervous system and they’re doing that work. Well, how do you get your nervous system regulated? Usually, it’s a daily habit of meditation, and the repetition and emotion of a new daily habit is having a reprogramming effect. 

So if we get our nervous system regulated, now we have more conscious space between being able to observe and witness our own subconscious autopilot reactions that we would naturally feedback into that conscious awareness space. Around just calling again, if we’re anxiously attached. Or lashing out and pushing somebody away with our harsh words, if we’re fearful avoidant. Or stonewalling and icing out, if we’re dismissive avoidant. Those things would naturally do. If we have the awareness and we have the regulated nervous system, we do have this extra entry point, this space around just preventing that automatic compulsive subconscious reaction.

Like, I didn’t say things I didn’t intend. 

Yeah, exactly. So we have this space around it, and that space around it is what you said. It is the trailhead, it is that open window into getting in there and doing something different. And when we do something different, it creates a different emotional response. If we repetitively have the trailheads, and we repetitively show up to enter into them, we are actually leveraging principles of reprogramming, which are: the repetition, emotion, and obviously, there’s the images of actually what’s happening in front of us. So if we do react differently, like let’s say we choose to be vulnerable rather than to be angry, and we say vulnerably what’s hurting us, and then it feels good after, we’re like: “Wow, that actually felt really good, that made me feel way better. Oh, I feel the relief!” That’s a lot of the emotion, which makes our subconscious mind very impressionable, and we get very much imprinted. If I keep practicing vulnerability, and I keep having that conscious awareness of my subconscious patterns, we are, in essence, reprogramming through basically a form of exposure work, where we’re doing something different incrementally over time.

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“People can absolutely have these acute transformative experiences through awareness first, as long as they follow up the awareness with actual action. And what can make it the most efficient is that we can at least be mindful that the action has to be as repetitive as possible, to really pattern in these new sets of neural pathways.”

So that we have totally new outcomes, and it becomes the new part of ourselves. Rather than something we have to always make sure we enter the trailheads for.

Having reminders, and the post-it notes, and the books and the podcast and all the information, that is helpful to a point. But until we get into this experiential, because in my sense, it’s the lived and felt experience. Especially when we talk about relationship, having the relational dynamic shift and having that lived experience is so changing. It can be reparative or corrective. Even the research is helping us understand, we can have an earned secure attachment; we can develop more secure functioning and relating. So thank you for speaking to that, I really appreciate what you’re speaking to.

Yeah, it’s beautiful. It’s just a beautiful topic of discussion. I’m so glad you brought that up, for sure.

So if we go back to what you’re describing, the integrated attachment work that you’re doing, it sounds like it’s incorporating the hypnotherapy. Is that part of it?

Yes. So basically, it’s incorporating a bunch of different things. So essentially, there’s six major branches that can be reverse-engineered, of what makes somebody securely attached versus insecurely attached. So the first thing is, we know, securely attached individuals have less attachment trauma, whether it’s small t trauma or big T trauma, and they have less core wounds as a result. 

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“So how our core wounds really develop is, we have an experience we can’t properly emotionally process, so we feel like we need to protect ourselves from it, and we do this by giving it meaning.”

We’re wired to work this way at a subconscious level. Because if you were to walk into a forest tomorrow and see a bear and run away from the bear, and then you have to walk through that same route of the forest the next day. You walk back through the forest next day, and you don’t remember the beautiful tree next to the bear and what the flowers looked like. You remember the bear’s teeth. So we’re actually wired to hang on to negative things and be more easily imprinted by them, and how that ends up working is we give something meaning. So critical parents, I must not be good enough. Parents who are unavailable, I must not be worthy of love, or something’s wrong with me that I can’t get my emotional needs met. So we give unprocessed information meaning, and then we tend to store that meaning as a part of our identity. So we truly believe we are these things. It’s not we experienced these things. No, I am the one that’s not good enough or unlovable, or I am the one who will always be abandoned. So because securely attached individuals have less of this, because they have less of this actual trauma, they have less core wounds. 

So the first big part, and we can actually talk about tools for how to reprogram really efficiently, basically leveraging from principles of hypnotherapy at that point. But the first piece actually comes more so from cognitive behavioral therapy, understanding our core wounds and where they come from and how they impact us. But then we apply principles of hypnotherapy and reconditioning, so that it’s not just CBT mind work, but we’re actually getting into the depths of the subconscious mind. Because there’s not one person who wakes up and says: “I’m going to consciously choose to tell myself I’m not good enough all day.” They’re subconscious problems, they have to be dealt with at the subconscious level. Again, to your point, they can be dealt with in other ways. But there’s a very efficient way of cutting right through. So reprogramming core wounds. 

Can I chime in really quickly? I want to hear the second and all the things you have to say. It just sounds as though, especially when we look at the early development, developmentally, children are going to internalize, especially when their environment or their caregivers can’t respond to them, as you’re speaking to these relational either small t’s or big T’s. But that the identity and what gets developed through the repetition of that early life’s upbringing, that’s a lot of moments a lot of time. But the ego and the development, the brain at that stage, it’s going to be very forming to who they are in this multifaceted way, especially as we’re talking about attachment in the working model. So is that right?

Absolutely. I think to second that as well and support what you said even further, it’s like, when we’re children, we’re producing mostly alpha and beta brainwaves. But we don’t have a lot of beta brainwaves by comparison just yet. If you look at what is necessary for somebody to be in a state of hypnosis, they need to be producing a lot of alpha brainwaves. So children, really up until the age of eight, are in a hyper suggestible state. They’re almost in a light state of trance or hypnosis, and part of it is why we get imprinted so quickly. It impacts our ability to learn and take in information, just really sponge everything up. But it also makes us highly impressionable. So we have a lot of challenges during that experience. Yes, we can rewire things at any time later on. But there’s going to be that extra foundation that’s built as children, because we’re so impressionable, suggestible, and because children do exactly what you said, which is personalize everything. So there’s that huge element of it. 

So the core wound part is a huge part of healing. When we can recondition these core wounds, we can actually really move the needle on not taking things so personally, not jumping to conclusions. If we have an abandonment wound, we always assume somebody is going to abandon us in a way. If we have a betrayal wound, we jump to like: Oh my gosh, they’re being disloyal in some way! The mind goes crazy, or head spins. If we have a defective core wound as a dismissive avoidant, we feel like: Oh my gosh, they’re really shaming me, when maybe they’re just asking for a need to be met. So we really personalize things around these core wounds. Honestly, I like to think of our core wounds, the most respect, because there’s nobody who asked for these. They’re kind of like our relationship baggage. They’re the things that we got hurt with before, and we’re carrying into the next and next and next relationships. So reprogramming that goes a very long way. 

The second part is our needs. So securely attached individuals, if you look at how they’re formed in childhood, a lot of the research determines that we have a lot of approach-oriented behaviors from caregivers. So we have a lot of that when a child cries or expresses emotion, the caregiver comes, and they are present, they attempt to soothe. Basically, you’re giving this child the modeling and programming that my emotions are safe to express, it’s safe to rely on and trust other people, and my needs are worthy of being met. So this child grows up with a greater sense of self-confidence, a greater awareness of needs, and honestly, a greater sense of healthy entitlement that: Hey, I should be able to express my needs to a partner. If you look at all three insecurely attached styles, they do not have that kind of programming. They have variations of that in different ways. But they definitely don’t have a lot of security around: “It’s safe to express my needs, I’m worthy of my needs being met, and I can rely on other people.” So they don’t really do a lot of expressing their needs. 

Anxious preoccupieds are very big people-pleasers. They meet everybody else’s needs; they get afraid to express their own or else they think they’ll be a burden in some form or be abandoned. Fearful avoidants often don’t feel worthy of having their needs met. They tend to over-give and under-receive, and even sabotage receiving at times. Dismissive avoidants tend to feel like, I don’t have needs from anyone else. Because all of their modeling was basically demonstrating the opposite. 

So part of our next stage of really reconditioning from insecure to securely attached is, we have to learn our own needs. Now, really interestingly enough, and I’m sure you’ve maybe seen some of this in your experiences, but I’d love to hear. 

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“Interestingly enough, until we learn to meet our own needs, we’ll often still reject them from other people. It’s because we have this subconscious comfort zone of familiarity.”

Our subconscious says, well, what’s familiar is safe, and that’s where we’re more likely to survive. So we’ll actually tend to reject. Consciously, we can say, I want somebody to be more encouraging or compliment me more often. But then when somebody comes along and does that, if our comfort zone in the relationship to self, if all of our internal dialogue is self-critical, or the vast majority of it, and we’re in a position where we’re not really ever validating ourselves, somebody comes along and validates us. At first, we feel good. But it’s almost like there’s a hole in our bucket. It feels good, oh my gosh! Then we’re like, did they mean it? Are they always going to feel this way? So we reject, we deny, or we push it away accidentally. Because it’s not familiar to us, and our subconscious, which is really running the show, will reject it. 

So part of healing our needs is we have to learn to build a relationship to our needs ourselves, get good at making sure we’re meeting those needs too so we don’t have a hole in our bucket, and then that prepares us and primes us to actually be able to then go communicate and receive these needs from others. Have you seen that in your work as well?

Well, I’m really grateful that you’re speaking to this. Because I think often people get a little confused, and I don’t know if this is shifting. But it seems as though there have been two camps. There’s people who might reference Sue Johnson’s work, the EFT, and a lot of that messaging is creating secure functioning in the relationship bond. I think it gets grossly misperceived. I just interviewed, I don’t know if you know, Frank Anderson, he works a lot with Dick Schwartz and the Internal Family Systems. But he’s like, you don’t want to farm out your relationship work or your personal work or your individual work to your partner. You’re not looking to depend on them, or they’re the ones that are now responsible. So I think oftentimes, people are hearing some of this languaging of, we need to create secure functioning, we need to create security emotionally in our relationship and how you’re responding to me. But they are focused on their partner, rather than getting some stability in their own place. 

I love the work of, I don’t know if you remember, he’s now since passed, but David Schnarch and his differentiation work in relationship. Anyway, so much of what he’s describing is helping gain maturity, tolerating some discomfort, and learning how to self-validate, self-soothe. So what you’re describing, I think, is a distinction that I think is confusing for a lot of people, because it’s a both. I think what you’re describing is, if we can have some place of being connected to the core wound and the needs, then we can be in greater contact. Then we have an ability and a choice to show more vulnerably to our significant other, but from a place of connection and a place of making contact. 

So it’s both. But I think sometimes people get confused about like: Oh, I gotta love myself before I can have relationship, it’s an inner game thing, which I think there’s truth to. But it’s like, we live in relationship, and that is also very much true. So I think people somehow criticize the people that are emphasizing and sometimes might judge the other, but they’re both incredibly important. 

So the model, as we go through these six pillars that I was saying, I use an acronym CNE-BCB. So it’s like, our core wounds, our needs, and then our emotional regulation. That’s actually about relationship to self. I reprogram my core wounds. I learn what my needs are and how to meet them. Then I’m able to emotionally regulate, aka self-soothe, and then do some nervous system work in there to regulate. Once I’ve done that, I am now primed. To be very specific, I don’t mean that you have to do this work only first and you can’t be in a relationship at the same time. But you want to put a little more emphasis on that side first, because then my subconscious is willing to receive. 

Then the next three pillars, after I reprogram my core wounds, learn to meet my needs, and do some nervous system work. For anybody who’s like, what does that mean? Nervous system being like, we do meditation or breath work or a daily habit or practice, to get more into parasympathetic and spend more time there. Rather than sympathetic, which is our fight and flight mode, or even freeze and fawn mode. So we get more into a regulated space, and we feel safer being connected to ourselves in our body. 

So now we have all these pillars built in relationship to self. Now, if you look at what interdependency is, it’s not codependency. It’s not: “I’m going to farm out my needs, and you’re going to find out your needs. And we’re never going to have a relationship to self, we’re just going to only exclusively rely on each other.” But what’s also not good is counter-dependency, which is I constantly make sure nobody really relies on me, and I don’t really rely on anybody else nor do I feel safe to. Those are the polarities that will bring us into dysfunction. Interdependency requires a healthy relationship to both sides. 

So we do that self-relationship work first of CNE, and then what BCB is: it’s our boundaries, our communication, and our behaviors. It’s through really making sure that we learn to have healthy boundaries with others that we can communicate our needs to others in healthy ways, and that we can communicate effectively. Because communicating well doesn’t mean: “Hey, this is my need, you better meet it!” It means that there’s some points, we could even talk about it, but how to communicate effectively to get heard. And that then I work on changing my coping behaviors around others. So instead of deactivating or activating, I actually know how to just express my needs in a more direct way, so I don’t have to rely on these coping mechanisms or behaviors that may have strong downsides. 

So as we go through that first part, we then actually practice using tools to recondition our relationship to our boundaries, our relationship to how we communicate, and that will shift our behaviors. When you look at interdependency, the way I like to simplify it or think of it as is, I’m a master of both. This is the goal. I’m a master of being able to meet my own needs and work through my own triggers or recondition them, so that I can self-soothe, I can emotionally regulate. And I feel just as competent at going to somebody in my life, that I love and that I trust and that I can rely on, and going to them for soothing and saying: “Hey, I need ABC today, because this is how I’m feeling.” So when we have mastery of both sides, that’s where we really get into secure connection. Because somebody won’t be available 24/7, and if they’re not available for some reason, because they’re going through a hard time, that’s okay. I can withstand that, because I can lean on myself, or I can go communicate to other people in my life. Because I’m embodied in that, I can bring my expression of needs anywhere, and I build healthy trusting relationships. At the same time, it feels nice to rely on people, it feels healthy, and it’s a beautiful thing to have that kind of interdependent connections. So really, we’re looking at both sides, and that’s the framework that really targets the full spectrum of it.

Yeah, I love that you’re able to speak to this and really give some acronym to make this easily identifiable and actionable. Because it is a whole system, and they do work really well together. They’re always working together, I guess is what I’ll say, and how we can be in a place of skillfulness and mindfulness, and potentially mastery at some level, then that’s where we can get into this more secure relating, both with ourselves and another. It’s incredibly powerful.

I wonder if you want to say anything. Because the other thing that I’m aware of as we’re talking, if I go back to the question around how we are able to be in touch with our needs and our way of regulating our nervous system. I was trying to remember the sequence of what you were sharing. That that’s the inner work, and then how it relates to relationship. Because in my experience, I’ve been unconsciously relating and all these things are running amok, and likely people’s strategies dance with another person strategy. So it’s almost like there’s a dynamic where both people are not super-conscious, but they’re taking action. But it’s not necessarily from these deeper places, so it’s a lot of unconscious messiness. 

Then I also have experienced where I’ve had more consciousness and intention, and I wasn’t nearly in a place of mastery, but I was aware enough to be in practice, and committed enough that relationship was activating. So to your point, we don’t have to have this all figured out before we are in relationship. The relationship material can be curriculum, we can use it as an opportunity to do the work you’re describing, that then helps do some of this corrective repair, both again, in how we are with ourselves, and also how we relate to another. 

Because I have found if people have a level of history together, sometimes their dance, like I just met with a couple this morning, and we’re just entering into the work. He was describing his patterns, and she was describing her patterns, and we’re talking about how it feels really good and how we can sabotage or not receive. So there’s certain parts that she’s basically left years ago, parts of herself that are more vulnerable, and she’s the overfunctioner, the over-doer, and she’s left it way back and lost touch with it. He’s been busy trying to help with her over-functioning. Like, if we can just get these things done, then you’ll be more available, you’ll be more relaxed. So it’s almost like a couple dynamics, sometimes they’re at odds. But sometimes their patterns are, one is trying to serve the other’s strategy that they’re projecting as like, this is what needs to happen for us to be in a place of connection. So the other one has bought in, and now they’re in a bind, because they’re working really hard, but it’s never enough.

I know there’s lots of strategies in how couples attract each other. But all this to say, I think when people’s patterns are running, that it can be really difficult to know which way is up and which way is down, and how to orient. Like you said, it’s operating much of how we’re functioning, both in thinking and behaving and relating. So it’s quite powerful.

I love everything you just said, and I totally agree. I like to use the CNE-BCB framework for this in a sense. So each person, when they become more aware of their core wounds and learn what their needs are, there generally tends to actually be specific needs of each style. So you’ll see generally, for anybody who’s not as familiar, anxiously attached individuals tend to trend towards needing validation, reassurance, certainty to be a priority, to feel special, wanted. Those are big AT needs. 

Our dismissive avoidants tend to want a lot of, yes, freedom and autonomy, but they actually tend to really need support, empathy, harmony. They want small acknowledgments and appreciations, that’s very reassuring for them. Because they tend to feel like a fish out of water with doing relationship exchanges. So when somebody does acknowledge what they’re doing or how they’re showing up, they feel this deep sense of this validation and need being met. So they tend to want a lot of those things, and acceptance is probably their biggest need. 

Then our fearful avoidants or disorganized style, they tend to be very much in a space of needing depth, growth in the relationship. They tend to need novelty and exploration, they tend to need actually a sense of safety and trust. That’s part of how they’re going to become secure with finding relationships like that, but also building that in relationship to self. 

So each one has different needs, give or take, that are bigger priorities. And when we can reprogram our core wounds, and we can know our needs, we get more emotionally regulated. And when we do some nervous system regulation, that does really, really well. But then we also have the pertinent information to take to our partners to say, this is the wound. Because I feel not good enough, I overwork. Or because I feel unlovable, I over-give and under-receive. So we can start seeing, as we’re doing that work on those core wounds, which can really build into those root causes, and we’re doing reconditioning work on them, we can also share this information with our partner. That gives us the boundaries and the communication piece. We can share: “This is what I need when I’m feeling like this, or these are my needs when I’m in those vulnerable spaces.” That gets us actually openly practicing vulnerability, because we’re sharing the core wounds and the needs. 

So now our partner has greater insight. To your point, which is such a beautiful point, the partner is like, let’s restructure your schedule, and then you’ll be not overdoing it. It’s like, we’re trying to solve the surface level things, but they’re actually much deeper challenges that we’re facing. 

Free Man and Woman at the Beach Stock Photo

“By going into those core wounds at the root and the needs at the root, we can actually get into a more vulnerable space, get in touch with the underlying reasons we are doing those things. Then we get our partners in relationships talking about the right things that can actually move the needle.”

Yes, because what I’m feeling as you’re describing both, and just this example, it’s insatiable. We think it’s going to solve, but it’s insatiable. To the greater point, couples might have a lot of love, they might have a lot of areas where things are going well. But then there’s this great limitation in these ways that they’re coping, and their protective strategies are functioning to a certain extent. But what you’re describing in the interdependence, and the more vulnerable, the deeper connection, and the ability to have more mastery, both with self and other, that’s the elevation. That’s the place that we get to live more freely, be in greater contact, have greater intimacy and trust and security. So that’s what we’re talking about, right?

Exactly. It’s so funny, I always think of this example. I always share this example, I’ve been doing this for 10 years probably. But I had this couple, and they were one of my first couples I have ever worked with. I started off just working with individuals one-on-one. They came into my office and they were sitting down. She was like, her hands were shaking, because she was so mad that her husband leaves the laundry on the floor. I was like, her hands are shaking. I remember being like, oh my goodness, really noticing this. As she got really angry, you could just see him cower and become kind of childlike, and you saw him just get very hurt by her anger. It sounds like she was like an abusive person when I say this, she wasn’t. She was like a very, overall, good partner. They had an overall good relationship. But you could just tell, in this particular case, they were both so triggered. 

So I’m sitting there and I’m watching this, and I’m going like, there’s no way that he’s this sad, and she’s this mad about clothing on a floor. There’s no way! So I asked her, which is a tool to pull up core wounds. I said, well, what do you make it mean when the clothes are on the floor? She’s like, I’m disrespected, and all of the hard work I’m putting into the relationship is going completely unseen and unnoticed. Then I asked him, and what do you make it mean when she gets angry? Because that was his trigger, when she gets mad. He’s like, well, I’m doing my best. I’m working endless hours and trying to be the provider in the family, I’m doing so much, and I almost feel unloved and like she doesn’t care about my side and how I am showing up. 

So you have these two people, exactly to your point. They’re trying to say, let’s move the clothes off the floor! They’re talking about the clothes on the floor, this practical surface thing. For some people, it’s the dishes or the gas tank or the text message or whatever. But it’s actually about those underlying core wounds that are activated. It’s that I feel disrespected, and she had these big disrespect wounds from her father. He feels unloved, and he had these big unloved wounds from both his mother and father. So they’re trying to solve for feeling disrespected and unloved by talking about clothes on the floor, it’s futile. It reminds me so much of what you said in that example. He’s like, let’s reorganize your schedule, and then we can have time for the relationship. It’s like, yeah, but there’s a reason that’s much deeper than that. It’s not reorganizing her schedule, and we have to get to those parts. That’s the vulnerability that we need in ourselves, but that also deepens that connection and awareness in the relationship.

Thank you so much for everything you’re describing, and giving people just some organization around all of this that can feel so immense when dealing with all the experience internally, and then relationally, and how things get off-track. How can people get in touch with what you’re providing and offering and teaching?

Yeah, thank you. I just want to say, I really enjoyed our conversation.

Oh, me too! 

Yeah. So I am at Personal Development School – Thais Gibson on YouTube, and I put almost daily content out there. Then, PersonalDevelopmentSchool.com, we have a free attachment style quiz. Then I actually do cohorts of running integrated attachment theory programs, so people can actually become certified in this whole model. So that’s all at PersonalDevelopmentSchool.com if you want to learn more.

Wonderful! Then for people that are wanting to implement some of this, do you have a directory? Or how do people engage with the work if they go to Personal Development School?

There’s a membership. So people can come in, they can join as a member. I’ve actually written a lot. I’ve written 65 courses over the past five and a half years or six years. They came from pre-existing work for seven years before that, so it’s not as crazy as it sounds. But I have over 65 courses, and we actually have a whole bunch of counselors, coaches, facilitators that are in there, including myself. We have a daily webinar event to ask questions. So as you’re doing your coursework, you’ve got extra support. And we have daily peer support groups. So we have smaller groups where you can actually practice your communication tools, or practice your boundary communication, all these different things to really implement and have that practicum part of doing this work and seeing that repetitive transformation to engage the subconscious mind. 

Yes, that’s really where I think we have the greatest learning is through experience. So it’s nice that you have that feature, and then additionally, all the coaching that you offer in the program. That can be found on your website as well?

Yes, it’s there. 

Awesome. I’ll make sure to have the link, and to your social media and YouTube. Thank you again for being here.

Thank you so much for having me. It was so nice to speak with you.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching