Over the last several years my wife and I have begun a new journey in our life. That journey has involved a couple of elements: 1) Trying to incorporate more adventure into our marriage (i.e. trips, taking on challenges, etc.); 2) Working on ways to partner together in marriage. And last month we took another step closer in combining these two elements when we went away for a few days to WinShape Marriage to be trained as a leaders to lead their marriage adventures.
What is a marriage adventure? Imagine sailing on a catamaran in the BVI's for 8 days with 3 other couples, why you work on your marriage with daily activities and conversations, all while taking on daily adventures. This was something my wife and I were invited to participate in 3 years ago, and it was an experience that changed our life.
Or imagine leading couples through Machu Picchu in Peru, or leading couples on a contemplative pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, or working with other couples in orphanges in Guatemala?
Well today's guest is the one who oversees WinShape Marriage and all their adventures, and I was excited to have him on to talk about why the element of adventure is so important in marriages. Also, Matt has taken quite the trajectory to get to where he is today, working in some of the most paradigm shifting organizations in the field of marriage.
In this episode we discuss:
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One of the reasons many couples can't solve conflict in their relationship is because they often get stuck thinking that their argument is really about the topic at hand (i.e. money, sex, parenting, work, inlaws, etc.). And as long as they believe that, then they will stay perpetually stuck. What I've learned in my experience as a therapist is that the problem isn't about the topic, but rather the problem is the negative pattern of interaction that the couple has created over time in their relationship as they try to work through problems.
I'm obviously not the first to come to this conclusion, but this point has become more clear to me day by day in my work. I think that many of us counselors are guilty of sometimes just focusing on better communication techniques (which are super important), rather than helping a couple understand their underlying destructive pattern of interaction. My work in Restoration Therapy really helped me understand how guilty I was of this, and it helped provide me with a new framework to use in relationships with the Pain and Peace Cycle which I have talked about in many podcast episodes.
When a couple can become aware of and understand their destructive pattern of interaction (their Pain Cycle), and they can construct and practice a new positive pattern of interaction (their Peace Cycle), then they are ultimately able to create a safe connection, which will lead to the solving of issues if that was their primary goal (because sometimes the goal is just to connect).
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This is a very short podcast episode, but it's a really important one.
One of the most important tasks I have in the counseling room is to help people to discern between what their feelings and coping behaviors are. In fact, I spend a lot of time helping people understand their feelings, and what coping behaviors they often lead to. When a person understands this level of awareness, they are often able to do deeper work and gain not only the insight they desired, but achieve the transformational change they were seeking.
But one of the things I started to learn during my training under Terry Hargrave in Restoration Therapy, is that not only the feelings that I thought were feelings....were really feelings. For example, I always classified anxiety and anger and depression for example as feelings. You would find me saying things like "I'm feeling really anxious right now", or "I woke up feeling depressed today." And people I work with in my office would often say the same thing.
Terry Hargrave helped me really begin to understand that those things that I thought were feelings, were really coping behaviors. For example, I wasn't feeling anxious, I was becoming anxious (I was doing anxiety if you will), because underneath the surface I was feeling inadequate.
Now if someone comes into my office saying they feel anxious, or feel angry, or feel depressed for example, I will run with that for the time being as I'm trying to understand them. But my work as a therapist (especially if I'm going to be a therapist who can help them), is to really help them distinguish between feeling and action. I don't want to get caught chasing what I think is a feeling, and is really a coping behavior. Then I end up just focused on the behavior and trying to provide more tools for someone to work on that behavior. Instead, what I want to do is address the core underlying feelings of that behavior. When I can help someone do that, then I'm that much closer to really helping them get on the pathway to healing.
There are other coping behaviors often disguised as feelings, but I see anxiety and anger and depression come up the most.
So in this episode I took a little bit of time to talk about this, and why I think it's an important distinction. <
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I talk a lot about anxiety on this podcast. And sometimes anxiety can seem vague or too theoretical, unless one really has experienced. And even then, just talking about it can seem like an intellectual exercise.
But today I had a personal experience that really makes concrete what I mean when I talk about a good anxiety...the kind that is there in the midst of peace, and just reminds you of the quality of your relationships. In that case, that anxiety I believe is a gift...it's a reminder of what you have.
In this episode I share my experience of dropping my wife off at the Dallas Ft. Worth airport as she was flying to Rwanda. So check out this episode as I share about the anxiety that I experienced as I dropped her off and why I cherish it.
I have recently been thinking a lot about the intertwining of vocation and anxiety. What I mean by that is that it seems that part of the journey towards finding vocation is that anxiety is often along for the journey.
In my writing and speaking on anxiety, and in my work with clients, I talk a lot about listening to the voice of anxiety. I believe that anxiety speaks to our life and if we listen to it, it can help guide us along our life's journey. The problem is that we live in a culture that wants to bury and numb out anxiety as much as possible. And when we drown out anxiety, we can't hear how it is informing our life.
But there's also this other voice, and that is of vocation. Parker Palmer in his wonderful book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, talks about the Latin root of vocation, which is voce. It's literally a voice that is summoning you towards it.
And in this episode I want to explore how these two voices interact with each other and why that is important. I discuss:
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One of the most prevalent topics that I come across in my counseling and when I'm speaking, is the topic of technology and relationships. Specifically, the technology of the smart phone/iPad/computer...but usually the smart phone. And along with this technology there is typically a conversation around the online tools that are used with it...mostly, social media (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.). And the reason these topics come up so often is because so many people find themselves with an unhealthy relationship to their technological devices which often impact their relationships. I spend a lot of time helping couples navigate their technological devices and how it's impacted their relationships, and talking through how to put proper boundaries on it. But one area of life that I think can be the most challenging for people is trying to know how to parent kids in an age of the smart phone and social media. Not a week passes where I'm not working with a teenager who is struggling with pornography (and it's not just boys who are dealing with this), or a teenager who has sexted or shared some nude image via text to a person or a group of people. This is a huge issue and I think most parents believe this will never be a challenge they have to face...and then inevitably they are sitting across from me in my office with this challenge.
I really feel for not only parents, but kids growing up in a world with instant access to not only some amazing things, but some of the darkest things on the internet. And so knowing how to parent in these times can be confusing and overwhelming.
I have spent the last 22 years working with kids and their families in both the church and clinical setting, and from about 2003-2013 I would often do workshops and seminars, and speak at conferences on the role of technology in our lives. In fact, my first time to have something published in a book was in 2008 when I wrote a chapter on Facebook and Youth Ministry for the book, The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ. But probably my deepest understanding of the role of technology in our lives came when I met my good friend John Dyer. John is one of the most brilliant thinkers I know on technology, and especially from a theological/psychological/philosophical perspective, and we had the opportunity to team up and do some workshops together. So I owe a great debt to him, and you will hear about that in this episode. In this episode:
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A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media by Adam McClane
Covenant Eyes Safe Eyes (no longer available)
You can also check out Episode 24 of my podcast where I talk about, How Technology Shapes Us, Informs our Identity, and Some Boundaries We Can Implement As We Use It (also check out all the links in the show notes)
Wow! I can't believe I am already at Episode 100. I published my first episode back on March 24, 2015, with the goal of trying to get at least one episode published per week. With that in mind I was hoping to hit 100 episodes right around the two year mark, if not before. But, things don't always go as planned, and two years and five months later we come to 100.
I set out doing this podcast, not really knowing what I was doing, or where I was going to go with it. And it probably took me a good 55 episodes or so before I began to even feel like I was finding my voice.
So in this episode I talk about that journey we all take where we are trying to listen closely to what our next steps our. The Latin word for vocation literally means voice. That is, there is a voice that calls us, guides us, directs us..it speaks deeply to us and compels us towards our vocation, whether it be professionally, or a service, or a hobby. But it can be hard sometimes to hear that voice, and we often find ourselves waiting around, fearful to take the next steps unless they are clearly laid out for us. But what I am finding is that the most valuable things in life are rarely clearly laid out for us. Instead, we often take a step because we feel called to do so, and we wait to we are called to take the next step. It's that little (or maybe sometimes booming voice) that speaks to us and leads us, if we listen.
In this episode I explore some ways to listen more carefully to this vocation...this voice in our lives:
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Sometimes I have thoughts that I have been processing and I just want to explore out loud with others. In this case, the others is you. So in this episode I explore what it looks like to wrestle with taking the next step in your life, and how you discern what the next step is. Though this could be the case for many things, I mainly look at the next step in terms of work, vocation, hobby, etc, rather than relationships for example.
In my counseling practice in Plano, TX I work with a lot of individuals and couples and families who are trying to do this very thing...explore their next steps. So in this episode I lay out a tentative, in the process...working framework of:
Check out this episode and let me know what you think.
A couple of weeks ago, my colleagues and I at Thriiive Practices did a lecture for the Meadow's lecture series on emotional regulation.
What is emotional regulation? It's essentially one's ability to control or manage their automatic, reactive responses to an emotional trigger, and instead, respond accordingly (and in a healthy manner). That is my definition of sorts, though I say it a lot of different ways. My mentor Terry Hargrave in my training for Restoration Therapy said at one point to our training group, "emotional regulation is the name of the game." And it is. As you look at the mounting research on the brain, especially through fMRI scans and other data, we find that one's ability to emotionally regulate themselves is the key to healthy relationships. If you want a more thorough definition, read this.
In this episode I talk about what emotional regulation is and why it's so important.
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I read a lot of books, but I don't consider myself the best book reviewer. Even though I read with pen in hand and underline and take notes throughout my books, I'm not great at writing about the details. But what sticks out to me are those big ideas in a book...the ones that you can't stop thinking about. The ones that cause paradigm shifts within. Those I obsessively think about, and figure out ways to practice them in my own personal life, and in the work of my clients in my therapy practice.
Over the last two years, four books have stood out in my mind like no other because of some lasting ideas that have created big change for me. Some of these books are fairly new (like this year) and others are a few years old. But their thoughts are ones that I have been writing and speaking about a lot the last 18 months. And I have found ways to implement the ideas into multiple areas of my life (parenting, marriage, running, therapy practice, etc.).
So I want to mention these 4 books to you and the big ideas that are sticking in my brain and impacting my life. And then I will also mention two other books that have stuck with me, but if you have to read only 4...then I'm sticking with the original four I'm discussing.
Book 1: Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance by Angela Duckworth --This book was absolutely amazing. But there is one thing I keep coming back to time and time again. In the book Duckworth talks about the importance of deliberate practice and flow. The takeaway for me is that we can never reach a flow state, or become great at what we do unless we deliberately practice over and over and over again. This has absolutely changed how I work with clients. Even though I always gave them things to practice, I'm now convinced more than ever that change doesn't occur without this practice. Michael Jordan doesn't reach that flow state in a playoff game unless he deliberately practied 10,000's of hours. Michael Phelps never reaches that flow state unless he swam lap after lap after lap, and visualized himself swimming every stroke of a race before racing. Couples don't change negative patterns of behavior (pain cycle) and create new ones (peace cycle) without deliberate practice. But when they do, the flow is beautiful to watch in a relationship. She writes, "First, deliberate practice is a behavior, and flow is an experience."
Book 2: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown --This book was also amazing. I had already been listening to The Minimalists podcast and been exploring this idea. I have always been attracted to minimalism and it's aesthetic, but he takes the understanding of essentialism and brings it into real practical, real world examples that I could employ. A lot of things stood out to me, but I loved this quote, "Remember that if you don't prioritize your life someone else will.” I started realizing that if I didn't take control of my life and prioritize what was important, I would never accomplish the big goals in my life. And prioritizing helped me really come back to the essentials and what I wanted to do in my marriage, parenting and work.
Book 3: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport --I only read this book back in March or so, but it has already changed a lot of how I work and how I think about work. His recommended experiments with social media abstinence already produced higher levels of focus and output in my life, and it has helped increase my enjoyment in life and my connection with other people. Newport makes a compelling case for the future of work will be dependent on those who are able to stay focused, cut out distractions and work at a very deep level. Those who can't do this will find it ever increasingly hard to find work. He writes, “If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.” Newport also gets a lot into the brain science behind distraction and deep work, and it resonates deeply with the work I do with Restoration Therapy. This is just one of those books you read and you keep saying "wow....wow", and it lead to a a lot of conviction that created healthy change.
Book 4: Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness --I just finished this book in June while on vacation. What I loved about this book the most is that I felt it was a culmination of the three books above, but they take it a step further. They get into the importance of deliberate practice and flow, and they talk about why it's important to become an essentialist, and they talk about the brain science...but then they put it all into a real practical framework that you can start practicing yourself. Their chapter and tool to help you develop a personal purpose statement is worth the book alone. This book just brought everything home to me in a very powerful way. I highly recommend this book.
The corresponding themes that these books contain, and what resonates so powerfully for me in my own life and my therapeutic work is this:
And all these things are crucial in counseling and therapy, and in creating change and getting to transformation.
I talk about two other books in this podcast episode as well, but I don't write about above are:
The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A Leadership Fable? About Restoring Sanity to the Most Important Organization in Your Life by Patrick Lencioni. I read this book back in 2010 and have written and talked about it extensively, and even recorded a podcast episode on it last year. I love the book, but I feel that the purpose stuff in Peak Performance is easier for people to complete than in this book. But I love this book and highly recommend.
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why? by Laurence Gonzalez. This is a great book filled with stories of survival and tragedy. Gonzalez dives in real deep to how our brain works in survival/panic/conflict situations, and why the ability to remain calm (emotionally regulate) means everything often to who survives. This book just reiterated even more the work of emotional self-regulation in therapy work, but is attached in the context of wilderness stories. It's a great read.
One of the things that I hear as a counselor a lot, typically near the end of an intake session with a client, is the question, "How is this going to look?" The question can be asked in a variety of ways, but what is implicit is usually either some form of anxiety over the next steps, or just a general curiosity about what people are signing up for when they enter into counseling.
Counseling can vary greatly from counselor to counselor, and with that, there can be a variety of varied expectations then that people going through counseling have. Some people have been to a lot of counseling and all their experiences are different, while some people have still not been to counseling, and wonder what that experience will look like.
Something I have tried to do a lot more in the last 4-5 years of my private practice is properly set expectations with clients when they come into see me for the first time. Whether they ask the question first, or I initiate the conversation, I usually try to walk clients through a general "roadmap" or "pathway" of what counseling might look like. I let them know that things can always change, and this is only a first session, but here is what I think will work best based on what you are telling me, the goals you have, and the experience that I bring to our sessions. I also always follow up with every client via email after the first session (usually within a few hours, but rarely longer than 24 hours later). In that email I talk about our first session, what I heard, the goals that I think they have, the issues we could explore together. And in that email I lay out a big overview of the counseling process, listing the significant pieces, as well as narrowing down on the next steps. And I usually always attach some type of "hoomework" in that initial email so that client's can begin engaging in the process.
Based on all my experience as a therapist both pastorally and clinically, as well as my experience in training and sitting across from a therapist in my own counseling, here is what I find to be most helpful in terms of a "roadmap" for counseling. Now of course, I hope to continue to grow and learn as a therapist, so these thoughts are only a point in time, but I think most of the framework will always exist for me, with tweaks along the way.
First, I think it's important that the therapist helps the client engage in some type of work in and out of session that involves the work of insight, which is simply, the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing. This type of work can be done in a lot of ways, but for me it usually involves work around one's family of origin issues (i.e. family genogram, etc.), as well as walking through someone's personal stories and experience.
Second, I do the work of helping a person take that insight, and I help them identify and create their Pain Cycle. This Pain Cycle is often referred to by other names, but in the work I do with Restoration Therapy, that is what it is called. It's essentially the process of helping one identify their negative pattern of behavior by helping them locate their core feelings and the coping behaviors that flow from them. This is often us in our most primal, reactive state. When you think of fight or flight, and the amygdala getting triggered, this is the pattern that comes up. Though not all of our reactive states are negative, a lot of them are in relational conflict, which is what I work a lot with both in my work with individuals and couples. If I frame it from a faith perspective, this is the old self at work that Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:22.
Third, I do the work of helping a person take their insight, and I help them identify and create their Peace Cycle. The Peace Cycle is also referred to by other names in other theories, but in Restoration Therapy this is what we refer to it as. The Peace Cycle is ourselves when we are emotionally regulated. Think about what you are like when you are living in your truth, or think of yourself in a centered and grounded state. When you are in this place, what actions flow from that. This is you in your Peace Cycle. Again, if I frame this in a faith perspective, this is the new self at work that Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:23. The Pain and Peace Cycle is part of the work of insight, and the Peace Cycle is the step that helps up a person move from emotional dysregulation to emotional regulation.
Fourth, as we are doing the work of insight and the Pain and Peace Cycle (because though I'm laying things out in a linear fashion...therapy, or growth itself is not always linear. I find that all these steps are engaged consecutively in the therapeutic process), I help clients find ways to practice the insight that they have. What I believe is that you can have all the insight in the world, but if you don't practice it in some way, you don't change. You don't get transformation. In the Restoration Therapy model I use the 4 steps to help clients practice: 1) Say what you feel; 2) Say what you normally do; 3) Say your truth; 4) Say what you will do differently (your action) and do it. This is one way that I help clients practice. I literally map out their Pain and Peace Cycle on my whiteboard in almost every session to some degree. I also draw up their cycles and steps on a large poster sheet that I ask them to take home and hang up in their closet so that they see it everyday and start to not only become more aware of it, but practice it. There are lots of other ways to have people practice insight from a variety of tools to experimental exercises. Regardless of what tools I give them to practice, I believe practice is essential.
Fifth, we come to transformation. I believe transformation is the culmination of taking one's insight and putting it into practice. And though we could think of transformation as the ultimate goal, it's really just the beginning. Once someone experiences transformation in one area of their life, then they often become excited to seek transformation in other areas of their life as well. So if there is a visual roadmap I give to clients and that I work from...in short it is something like this.
Insight + Pain Cycle + Peace Cycle + Practice = Transformation.
There are lot of details and nuances in these steps, but this is what I have found to be most helpful. So if you come work with me in my private practice in Plano, Texas, you will most likely hear me talk about something like this.
Whether you come in for marriage counseling or individual counseling around anxiety and depression, I will probably lay out some roadmap for you that looks like this.
Check out this podcast to find out more about this process. In this episode I discuss:
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
This past May I had the opportunity to speak at Pepperdine University for the annual Bible Lecture's series. It's primarily a gathering of a combo of lay and professional ministry leaders, and as this event I was able to talk to them about one of my favorite topics...anxiety.
Anxiety is a huge issue both in and out of the church, and in fact, Walter Brueggemann has stated that it's the primary pathology in our culture that church leaders must deal with (see the excerpt starting at the 41:50 minute mark); I also believe anxiety to be one of the primary issues that our culture struggles with, and it can especially become toxic in a church culture where an extra stigma is attached to it.
In this lecture I walked the audience through several main points to better help them not only understand anxiety, but how to help them reframe it in a positive light, and what tools they can use, and steps they can take, to work with people who have anxiety. In this lecture I:
If you are someone who has struggled with anxiety yourself, or know someone who does, and you want to be of help...then check out this episode.
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Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to share with the ReEngage Ministry at Hope Fellowship the topic of forgiveness. It's such an important topic not only in all of our lives, but especially in the context of marriage where one's ability to forgive becomes an essential practice. In fact, forgiveness is the only topic that ReEngage covers on two different weeks.
In going into this talk I wanted to do something different on the topic of forgiveness. I have given other forgiveness talks in the past, but I know that when it comes to speaking to an audience they are probably more likely to remember the talk if it is embedded in an image and a story. So to do this, I reflected on Rembrandt's famous painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. I did this by reflecting on the story of the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke 15:11-32, and by looking at Henri Nouwen's famous book on the topic, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.
In this podcast I reflect on:
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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to a group of employees for Marriott Hotels here in the local Dallas area. It was a great opportunity to help others understand how to have healthy relationships in and out of the work place by beginning to take care of themselves.
So in this podcast episode I share what I shared with them:
Resources Mentioned in Episode 93
I have shared in previous episodes that the journey through Lent has been one of the most helpful things I have done for my faith. And as we finished Lent this last week, culminating in Easter yesterday, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the next steps.
As we work on embracing and experiencing the resurrected and new life that Easter represents, what are our next steps?
One of the things I have been thinking about is how do we enter into this new season with open hands, full of expectation about receiving. The reality is that we often enter into a new season with fists clenched, holding on tightly to things in our lives....security, comfort, power, possessions, etc.
And I am reminded that after Jesus appears post-resurrection in the gospel of John, chapter 21, there is this beautiful and powerful scene picking up in vs. 18. Jesus is reinstating Peter and basically communicates to him that he (Peter) used to have the freedom and power to do what he wanted to do, but a time is coming when he will be led where he doesn't want to go.
That passage is a reminder to me that we often go through life dictating life by our own terms, and Lent and Easter is a reminder that the way forward is a way of letting go, and being led to places we wouldn't normally go. In that process we let go of power and control and a million other things.
If I'm honest with myself, I have probably only really intentionally prayed this prayer a couple of times in my life because it's a scary prayer, and the results though helpful in terms of my growth and relationships, haven't come about without pain.
So I'm hesitant to let to and open up my hands to receive what may be next.
I encourage you to think about this in your own life.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
We live in a culture that continually inundates us with noise. That noise comes in all kinds of forms. Advertising, entertainment, technology, etc. Sometimes we are passive observers of it as we have little control over what billboards are placed in front of us as we drive down the road. Other times we are active consumers, spending inordinate amount of times on our phones playing games and engaging on social media. Regardless, the reality is that we live in a noisy culture.
And living in a noisy culture gives many of us little time to reflect about our inner lives. Some of us may like it that way, choosing to bury and keep buries painful feelings and events. While others like to try and reflect, but find it a constant challenge.
I think one of the beautiful things about Lent is that it gives us an intentionally created space where we can be in silence. There is a period of time on the calendar where we can engage in practices that foster our inner life...Lent allows us to do this.
If we are to become healthy people, who grow from our experiences, we have to be able to create space to allow the things in our lives that are buried to find the light of day. Silence allows those things to be stirred up and come towards the surface. And if we can pay attention to these things, then we can learn more about who we are, strengths and weaknesses, and become people who can grow in the process.
In this episode I reflect on the importance of this silence and some practical tips to make it happen.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
This week's episode is somewhat of a continuation of Episode 89 where I reflected on the role of Lent in helping us process pain and suffering, and as a time to work through trauma. That is, Lent is a period of remembering that is important for us if we are to work through our suffering.
In this week's episode I discuss some ways that communities can create a safe space during Lent to process pain and suffering. In this episode I discuss:
I have been thinking a lot about the Lent season, which is appropriate since Ash Wednesday was yesterday. Here is what I posted on Facebook last night:
Over the next 40+ days I am going to take some time to reflect on some of the things I am exploring around Lent, trauma and remembering. I hope you will join me on this journey.
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This last weekend I led a class on fostering intimacy in marriage to a group of premarital couples. I love doing this work, but intimacy can be a complicated issue. When we think of intimacy in our culture we often think of sex, or at least physical intimacy to say the least.
But the reality is there are varying kinds of intimacy that are important that a couple take an intentional stance on fostering in their relationship if it is going to be healthy.
So in this episode:
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I have been wanting to talk on the topic of grief and loss for quite a while. I was going to wait to do an episode with my father since that has been a big part of his professional life as a pastor and hospice chaplain. But in light of some recent events in our local community the last week, I thought I would go ahead and post some thoughts on this topic.
This is a topic near to my heart as I have had to spend a large part of my life working through grief over the death of my mom when I was 11 years old. And in my experience unresolved, or should I say, grief that hasn't been processed (because what is resolved grief anyways) can come back to create problems in other areas of our life.
In this episode:
Resources Mentioned in Episode
If I had to take a guess, I would guess that at least 50-60% of every couple that I work with is in my office because of an affair. Affairs come in varied forms from the physical to the emotional and everything in between. And affairs don't discriminate based on gender, race, or age. In fact, it's often the person or couple that you expect least likely to have to deal with an affair, is the couple dealing with the affair.
My experience is that most everyone goes into marriage with the intention to stay faithful in the relationship, so it will often come to a surprise to a spouse, or the couple's friends when words gets out that an affair has taken place.
In this episode I share my experience in working with couples as they navigate the affair recovery process. And because one of my specialties is marriage counseling, it's not surprising then that a lot of the couples I work with are dealing with affairs.
I think there are some general principles as one begins to work to recover and heal from an affair, but the process can often be chaotic, and each couple needs different things. So in this episode I try and distill some of the most common steps I take with couples.
In this episode you will:
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
One of the things that I have come to believe through my work with clients, and through my own personal work, is that insight alone is usually not enough to create change. That insight has to be coupled with practice, and lots of it to create the change, and ultimately the transformation we desire. We could also say the same if we flipped it in reverse. Practice alone, without any insight, will also not create change.
I have been greatly influenced by this idea through a couple of key writings. One is the work of my mentor and friend Dr. Terry Hargrave out of Fuller Theological Seminary, his book Restoration Therapy: Understanding and Guiding Healing in Marriage and Family Therapy, along with my training with him, has been transformative in my life. His model of the Pain and Peace Cycle, alone with four very practical steps has been a game changer in my life and the life of many.
I have also really been influenced by the work of Angela Duckworth, and more specifically, her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. In her book she delineates between deliberate practice and flow, and talks about how flow comes out of deliberate practice.
What I have experienced through the Restoration Therapy model is that the more individuals, couples, etc, practice their Pain and Peace Cycles, they can often get to flow states where it feels very natural, and habitual. But that transformational experience is only experienced because of the combination of insight and practice. Without both, flow and change isn't experienced.
While the pathways from the amygdala to the neocortex are stronger and faster than the ones going the other way, some ability may remain for the neocortex to do the following: First, to recognize that there is an emotional response underway. Second, to read reality and perceive circumstances correctly. Third, to override or modulate the automatic reaction if it is an inappropriate one; and fourth, to select a correct course of action. (location 876-886/Kindle)
He then goes on to write:
When you learn something complex, such as flying, snowboarding, or playing tennis or golf, at first you must think through each move. That is called explicit learning, and it’s stored in explicit memory, the kind you can talk about, the kind that allows you to remember a recipe for lasagna. But as you gain more experience, you begin to do the task less consciously. You develop flow, touch, timing— a feel for it. It becomes second nature, a thing of beauty. That’s known as implicit learning. The two neurological systems of explicit and implicit learning are quite separate. Implicit memories are unconscious. Implicit learning is like a natural smile: It comes by way of a different neural pathway from the one that carries explicit memory. (location 896/Kindle)
After I read this I thought to myself, this are the steps Restoration Therapy model of the Pain and Peace Cycle. And he's talking about deliberate practice and flow states.
Why is all of this important? Because whether we are talking about life and death situations like in Deep Survival, or conflict in relationships like in Restoration Therapy, or athletic and artistic performance in Grit....they are all about a certain level of awareness (insight) that requires us to practice, and it's in doing so that we create change and make better decisions, and move closer to transformational flow.
In this episode:
So I am not one to talk much about politics...at least online. There are several reasons for this. 1) I feel a bit naive on the subject matter and not as fluent in political knowledge and conversation as I would like to be. 2) I've rarely seen political discussion online lead to anything positive. So for the most part I work on improving my family, my neighborhood, and the communities around me by having face to face conversations (about all kinds of things), and working to affect change where I am able.
And I've noticed that ranting on FB about something does little to affect change.
And I think there is a reason for this.
This is the subject of this podcast. How emotional regulation (lack thereof usually), anxiety, and boundaries (usually violations of) lead to a toxic environment for political discourse. And in this I will just try and speak from my own knowledge of family and organization systems, and the lens that I view things from as a marriage and family therapist. And I think this has relevancy because we are all engaged in systems, and online political discourse is a relational system where the same principles apply. And I know I have a certain view point because of my own background and experience, but I try to stick to the published work out there on this topic (which of course has it's own viewpoints). That the reality...we all have viewpoints. But at the end of the day, I believe that if we can become aware of our biases and pain points, and emotionally self-regulate ourselves enough, we are actually capable of creating a safe environment that leads to action and change. Otherwise, all we are doing is slinging mud at each other.
I start this podcast with a quote from the Jewish Rabbi and Marriage and Family Therapist Edwin Friedman, who wrote:
"Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them"
In this episode I explore:
In Failure of Nerve, Friedman writes:
....Precisely because our technologically advanced society constantly keeps us in often-simultaneous touch with one another it may be more difficult today not to become caught up in the surrounding systemic anxiety. Ironically, the very advances in technology that mark our era tend to intensify the 'herding instinct' characteristic of an anxious society. This kind of enmeshment inhibits further the kind of individuation that is the essential precondition for bold leadership and imaginitive thinking....My thesis here is that the climate of contemporary America has become so chronically anxious that our society has gone into an emotional regression that is toxic to well-defined leadership....Emotional regression, therefore, is more of a 'going down' than a 'going back'; it is devolution rather than evolution....At the same time that a society is 'pro-gressing' technologically it can be 're-gressing' emotionally....When a society (or an institution) is in a state of emotional regression, it will put its technological advances to the service of its regression so that the more it advances on one level the more it regresses on another.... (pp. 52-55)
I decided to take about a 6 week break from the podcast to focus on my work and family as we entered into a very busy holiday season. It was good to take a break from the podcast as I focused on the New Year ahead.
I'm not sure what the podcast will look like in 2017, but I do know there will be one. I would really love to move to more of a guest format, but it's pretty challenging to line up all the details between myself and a guest when I spend most of my week in sessions with clients. But my favorite podcasts that I listen to myself, and my favorite episodes of my podcast, are the ones where the host talks with a guest.
So in 2017 expect to hear more guests on my podcast, and it's possible I may move from the 3-4 episodes a month format I've been doing, to maybe just 2 a month. Whatever I can do to maintain high quality is what I will be doing.
That being said, the beginning of a New Year gives me an opportunity to think through and reflect on the past year, as well as think about the goals for this coming year.
In this episode I:
One of the most common questions I get is about what marriage book I might recommend. That is a tough question in some ways because there are so many books out there, and every person responds to a certain book differently. So it's hard to be too prescriptive on this topic.
But I can tell you there are about 7 books that I recommend a lot, and have been recommending for a long time. And the reason I recommend these books is because they have not only transformed my life and marriage, but they are the books that couples consistently report as being the most helpful and life-transforming for them.
So in this episode I briefly talk about these 7 books. Each book is pretty different from each other. Some are Christian and faith based in their approach, while others don't come with any faith perspective. Some are pretty prescriptive in their approach, listing out steps and tools to use in your marriage, while others take a more philosophical and theological approach, but it's up to the reader to figure out how and if that applies to their marriage. Some talk about sex (one in pretty specific and graphic ways), while others don't even mention it. Some are more academic, while others are an easy read.
So check out these books and see what may most apply and be helpful to you.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson -- Great read by the founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Her seven conversations provide great insight and direction for couples working on their connection.
Restoration Therapy: Understanding and Guiding Healing in Marriage and Family Therapy by Terry D. Hargrave and Franz Pfitzer -- This is perhaps my favorite book on marriage because it is the therapy model founded by my mentor and friend Dr. Hargrave. It's the model that I use in therapy with my clients and what I teach in churches and organizations. More of a technical read for therapists and practitioners, though helpful for couples who do want to dive into the theory. I talk with Dr. Hargrave about his model here, and discuss it's concepts here, here, here, here and here.
5 Days to a New Marriage by Terry D. Hargrave and Shawn Stoever -- this is the book that was written by the developers of the 4-day marriage intensives at The Hideaway Experience where I was on staff for four years. It's a simple, awesome read that walks couples through was is essentially Terry Hargrave's Restoration Therapy model.
Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch -- This book was probably one of the biggest life changing books for me individually, and in my marriage. It introduced me to the concept of self-differentiation in marriage, and it's ideas on anxiety and self-soothing are some of the most helpful concepts I use with couples. Schnarch is also a sex therapist, so this book will be the most graphic of the selection in terms of it's content.
The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A Leadership Fable About Restoring Sanity to the Most Important Organization in Your Life by Patrick Lencioni -- though this is not a "marriage" book per se, it is super helpful in marriages. My wife have worked through this book and it has been marriage transforming for us. I have written about this here, and did a podcast about it here.
The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle by Mike Mason -- This was really one of the first books that I read on marriage. I read it in seminary when I wasn't even dating anyone, and yet, it is a book I keep coming back to time and time again. One of the things I like about it the best is that it is not a marriage book with how to's or step by step instructions. It's more of a poetic and theological look at marriage.
Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy, More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary L. Thomas -- One of the premises about this book that I think is so helpful is the concept that marriage is a refining process that is more about making us holy than happy. That is a tough sell in today's culture.