May 15, 2020
Your Diagnonsense: How to Break the Avoidance Cycle & Set Your Own Relationship Goals
Therapist Todd Baratz joins Jess to discuss the costs and potential benefits of avoidance behaviours. He shares his thoughts on:
- The ways in which avoidance can be functional
- The stress and anxiety associated with sexual avoidance
- How to manage conflict avoidance
- The importance of conflict in relationships
- Specific strategies to break the avoidance cycle
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
Your Diagnonsense: How to Break the Avoidance Cycle & Set Your Own Relationship Goals
00:00:05 – 00:05:00
You’re listening to the sacs with Dr Jess podcast sacks and relationship advice you can use tonight. Hey Hey Jessica Rally here your friendly neighborhood sexologist and I’m here with psychotherapist todd. Barrett’s you’re in private practice in New York City you specialize in relationships and sex and I found you through your instagram page. So your instagram page is your diag- nonsense grand and it’s full of gems. I I really admire people who are able to sink convey these really meaningful messages with takeaways in such a short amount of taxed. There’s another therapist based in Austin Texas. Who’s able to do the same atom our from Moon Tower counseling? Soy follow the both of you so excited to talk to you because I’m always green grabbing your stuff saying Oh man I need to ask him about this so happy to have you here. You just came back from Mexico City I did. I’m happy to be here to We’ve been deeming here in there And it’s nice to finally meet you to be here with you to chat about this stuff so I’m super excited but yes just back from Mexico City Great City. Great Time what was the highlight. The highlight was definitely the food The food like literally everything I ate was so so effing good The pyramids are also super cool to Did you go and you have you been no. I’ve been to the Pyramids along the Mayan. It’s a it’s an hour trek outside the city. Yeah it’s an hour. Wasn’t that bad though. It went by pretty quick Especially because if you’re driving around an area that you don’t know it’s Kinda Nice to look at everything The tour was kind of a bit long so I’m not a person it’s like. Okay I’ve seen it like I’m done So it’s a little bit longer but still super cool. So is the other highlight. Well I think we’re on the same page. If the food was your highlight for sure. Mexico City is so good so good and you live in New York City. You live right down here in the meatpacking. So you’ve got everything at your fingertips and you still love Mexico City. Oh yeah totally. I mean the food and New York great to But it’s also like five times as expensive And I think I had a six dollar croissant this morning. Yeah it’s crazy which is like eight fifty Canadian. It’s crazy it’s just. Everything’s so expensive everywhere. Toronto’S EXPENSIVE TO TORONTO is but at least we you know as an American coming in. You’ve got currently like thirty three percent bump on the dollar so at least a croissants three bucks. It’s only like two fifty. I’m don’t get me on my mouth. Okay but her numbers but what is? Your thing is giving practical advice around relationships that is grounded in data research base. Psychologically sound and you recently posted about avoidance and. I want to talk a bit about what we do in our lives and specifically in relationships on around sex to practice avoidance. What the costs of this avoidance are and what we can do to this habit. So what do you mean? When you say avoidance doesn’t work will. I what I want to say is that you know. Nothing doesn’t work. That’s proper grammar but nothing doesn’t work all the time. So avoidance isn’t necessarily bad You know it’s not a bad thing if you want to avoid something once in a while you know go to town But it’s just you know when we do something behavior Thought feeling that comes purvey becomes pervasive and persistent and something. That’s really Disruptive to our relationships our life our day-to-day excellent. That’s when you kind of want to stop and say okay what’s going on. And that’s when I would say avoidance doesn’t work because they think especially now it’s so popular that we’re policing so much of our day to day experience that we can say this is bad. This is bad. That’s a red flag. You know it’s it’s it’s out of control so I think it’s just helpful to I start there and just to say that Avoidance isn’t bad thing that we should never do Sometimes it’s an asset sometimes. It’s the most helpful thing you can do like with body esteem or with some similar things where it is helpful to actually avoid some negative thoughts possible but When I’m what I’m talking about is more so relational sexual avoidance that ends up creating disconnection anxiety so stuff like that So you know if avoiding is not impacting your life and it’s helping you in some way You know think about it. Takes some time to reflect if it’s if it’s helping or hurting But so I think what we’re about to talk about is the type of avoidance that is particularly not helpful. So what do people avoid in relationships is it conversations vulnerability? Is it talking about sex? What are you seeing in your practice? well I think everybody has their own unique story with avoidance And we’re really talking about is relational conflict. I think Relational sexual conflict negotiating Differences compatibility etc and What I see most of the time is that people.
00:05:00 – 00:10:02
They really have a hard time being different. And whatever way we’re talking about whether it’s sexual or even like I want salmon tonight and chicken or Really a difficult time experiencing life in a different way from their partner And either feeling more alone or or shameful because of it And then having a really difficult time addressing some of those differences and negotiating them And so the result is some kind of paralysis And so then people just get stuck And you know I’m talking about myself here as well You Know I. It’s a challenge negotiating these differences. And I think avoidance is often people’s first stop along the Negotiation or conflict resolution. I don’t even like using words like conflict so technical sounds like ingred six where there was like the Marshall who took a conflict resolution. I I remember this. This young girl I went to school with. She became a conflict resolve over and she took a course in. Oh my goodness. She walked through the school yard in a construction vessel. Florescent with a big on it. Can you amount like? Oh Yeah we’re GONNA go to her to help us know she just got beat up. Solve my issues. So people are avoiding relational conflict. Do we avoid conflict in relationships. Well everybody has their again. They’re different reasons in their stories for it I don’t know if there’s like a universal reason but most of what I see Fear people are anxious about eliciting or having to confront or manage or deal. Whatever negative emotional relational sexual whatever experience End So avoidance is there to preserve protect com. Soothe US You know if we kind of put it to the side. It can at times as I was saying before. Be Helpful But so I think that’s part of the reason why people do it in terms of just like at the surface. This is why one engages in the behavior but I think you know if we want to kind of develop meaning and around the story about that. That’s a different story In terms of you know what About this person or couples History in their own earlier relationships family history there are political history. Their identities Blah Blah Blah Blah has contributed to the way that they expect out of relationships of their partners in themselves And that’s the specific story that I think is particularly challenging for folks so they might be afraid of conflict because they think conflict is always going to escalate into something toxic. They might be afraid of conflict because they never saw healthy conflict or they saw unhealthy conflict. And Not that. Every conflict has to be healthy at all times like listen. We can have all the tools to con to engage in conflict effectively. And it’s not like you and I use them all the time right. We’re just emotional human beings. I talk about this often. I fly off the handle. Sometimes and it’s. It’s a learned behavior that I have to be aware of in a more and more aware of it but it still happens so you might avoid conflict for other reasons. You might think that if we engage in conflict they’re gonNA leave me right. Picks them up or I like where you’re getting with the fear anxiety. I’m afraid that if I engage in conflict I’m going to need to dig a little deeper and admit to what I’m feeling right now. I’m feeling angry. But the anger could be underscored by executive. It could be underscored by insecurity by fear of abandonment. So as a therapist you can help people get to this for folks listening. How can they get to these deeper feelings on their own if they see that they are avoiding conflict? Well I’m therapists who unbiased. I would say go to. Therapist is like my answer to everything. But obviously it’s it’s much more complex. It’s not so simplistic so I think the first step is to just really recognize that. You’re actually avoiding when you’re avoiding You know I’m avoiding having the conversation with my partner We haven’t had sex in six months. And you know I’m really I’m afraid to bring it up etcetera and it’s I think that even just that can be really challenging for folks who to be angry. Yes angry or anxious or even just not even acknowledging it like you know. I went to a party and had a panic attack but I have no idea why. Meanwhile you know. There’s a huge disconnect in the relationship and they’re not having sex with there not being touched or cuddled or kissed or whatever in which ways that they want to be but they’re not able to connect the anxiety that they feel or the paralysis or whatever the emotional experiences to The the specific avoidance or disconnection that they are engaging in which I think is important to know is it is in part away to disconnect Which is also part of the story. that it can be really hard for us to reveal ourselves into connect when we’re experiencing some kind of disconnect and said avoidance of further way of disconnecting and so if you’re trying to get a little bit deeper on your own are there are there. I. You’re going to acknowledge that you’re avoiding. And then what? What questions can you ask yourself Also I always I.
00:10:02 – 00:15:02
I always go back to thinking about earlier. Experiences in the role that avoidance anxiety or safety all of those words play or played throughout our lives I existed in a very specific bubble where I’m constantly thinking about and engaging with Bringing the past to the present and creating parallels more meaning about it in order to move forward and live in the present But you know. And that’s both in my own life and in my practice work But you know what? I’ve become acutely aware of as the longer that I’ve practices that you know. Not Everybody has been in therapy and been learning how to unpack these things and so so. Many people don’t spend any time Connecting their early attachment experiences there early family experiences the oppression that they’ve faced based on their gender or sexual orientation or whatever it might be To the way in which their experiences experiencing the relationships today. So that’s where I would direct people You know what does this bring up for me? What is this reminiscent of? What can I connect this to etc? And that’s why with our pets because sometimes it can be hard to see things Because I don’t know who I think. I don’t know who it was described as but it’s like the streetlight effect when you’re looking for your keys. Only where there’s light When they could be it could be anywhere. And so there’s a lot of darkness and things that we are not aware of that. Specifically Avoidance does protect us from acknowledging that it can be really helpful to have somebody else. Say Oh did you look over there? It’s a little bit dark but there might be something particularly interesting and helpful for you to think about So again I would really encourage folks to reflect Reflect about their earlier experiences their family etc etc. What it was like for them to negotiate conflict What it was like for them to feel safe and what they had to do to feel safe what they had to do to live. I mean I could go on and on with US jet I. Those are all great questions to consider even before you go to a therapist. Could I like to write things down so I would probably write down what I’m feeling and take it into the therapist office? I’ve started with this this conversation. I love it when my clients come in and they’re like I’ve listed. I’m like this is great. Just great right because they pose to. I don’t nothing’s really on my mind. I wish nothing was on my mind there. Ninety two zero been in this mind right now and so if we if we start with those questions and you’re asking yourself you know what’s coming up. You might consider when I think of the most intense conflict I’ve ever experienced or observed what was what did it look like. How did I feel and then do you get it? The fear so if you’re avoiding conflict in your relationship. I think of the question you know. What is my greatest fear? What is the worst case scenario? That a maybe not acknowledging ’cause I I you know I deal with fear and anxiety and You mentioned paralysis so I do this in business being online. Of course you know people aren’t always happy with what I have to say There are some folks who kind of follow me around from platform to platform. Not Being not being supportive but somehow still following and wanting to kind of tear down and so every time I go to post specifically on facebook not instagram. Because I feel like I’m more myself on instagram but on facebook because it’s been there so long my profile and I think I have a lot of followers who come from. Tv shows. I used to do and so we don’t share the same values. We share some of the same values. But I’m fearful to post and fearful to post because I’m afraid people are going to try and tear me down or engage in conflict and I don’t always have the energy for conflict and so I- avoid posting right and so I’m avoiding putting stuff out there that I think is really important. That is important to my business but also just important you know messaging. I avoid it out of fear of having to engage in conflict. Now what I’ve learned is that I actually don’t have to engage great because these are not people know if somebody wants to fight with me I have the option to to block and people will say. Oh well you should engage with different perspectives. But you know what I spend a lot of emotional energy in my life. I don’t have to engage now if I were to avoid emotional engagement in my relationships with my partner with my parents with the people who are closest to me then I think I need to take a look in the mirror but I can’t engage with fifty thousand people right I. It is that and that’s one of the problems with with instagram or facebook is with being in. The public eye is in some ways. It’s a bit of a one way conversation right a one-way lecture and I don’t want it to be that I do WANNA engage but the volume of it makes it really challenging. Yeah well you bring a a helpful point which is that. This is an example of one. It’s not helpful. I mean when it is helpful to avoid you. Don’t need to engage with all of these people and in fact you know that’s not what you’re trying to do anyway But yeah. I’m sorry that happens. I mean that happens to me sometimes too. I mean it’s just it’s such a mind eff because it’s interesting how much it can impact you. You’ll end you. Don’t even know the person and you’re just like what the eff are they talking about like. I don’t understand you know an and immediately like I go. I go to the place which I imagine that you’re describing as well and then you have to sign Kinda Kinda yourself okay.
00:15:03 – 00:20:08
Done like that’s it meant for what the eff right and I don’t WanNa leave it on my wall when someone’s written something either offensive or hurtful but I also don’t I don’t WanNa leave it there because I think that sends the message for example that it’s okay to talk to me that way so we’ll give you an example. Use You as a therapist. So the other day posted a picture and it’s a picture of me angry because I was talking about. The message was about conflict in relationships and a couple of people one person in particular wrote something along the lines of Ye. I’m really turned on by this photo. at so you really really turn me on and I love that. You’re not wearing a lot of makeup. I don’t know why women think that they should wear so much makeup when men don’t even like it so there’s all these layers of first of all. You don’t have a right to tell me that you’re turned on by me. You have a right to be turned on but to me. That feels very sexualizing. Very object defying. It certainly wasn’t a sexy photo and even if it was a sexy photo that doesn’t mean that you get to engage sexually with me right you can be turned on all you want like if some of your Spank Bank. That’s your business but telling them is an act of its sexual engagement at sexual expression that I’m not consenting to then the second piece is like I give a shit about whether I wear too much makeup or not enough makeup and and know I think so interesting like Hetero folks like women think men want you to wear more. Make him look dude. I don’t even like men right. I’m not even like I can’t even tell you. I have male partner that I really am attracted to but it doesn’t happen for me often like it’s just not something. I’m into but you believe that must put on my makeup so that you will like my eyebrows or you will like my. This is like a straight man thing anyhow I thought of engaging because I think it becomes a teachable moment and then you know what I had a law going on in my life this week with my family and some really emotionally taxing conversations and transitions. I was going through and I said you know what I can engage with this guy. It’s a learning opportunity but I am not responsible for everybody’s learning and I just deleted the comment right and I think that you know there’s pressure to at as a supposed expert right and of course. I’m not an expert in everything I’m certainly not You know doing everything right but I just deleted it and I thought Oh. I hope that wasn’t a waste screen-grabbed it right and I don’t know if that person is listening but I’ll tell you I think the listeners of the podcast you know. Often this with a little more sophistication than maybe just everyone. Who’s on Instagram? But not okay for you to tell me that I turn you or make weak in the knees. It’s not how I want to be spoken to No I mentioned that was probably disturbing for you. I mean when you’re sexualize at a time by someone who’s a stranger at a time when you’re not worried when you haven’t really consented to it and they’re doing it on a public platform You know I’d imagine that stirs up a bunch of Shit has made it. Seems like it did I’m sorry that that he did that. That sounds should he thank you thank you and I? The here’s the thing you know. You’re showing support. I told my partner right away he shows support and I. I think I’m so lucky because I do get some of this little bits of harassment and I think some people wouldn’t see it as harassment because he’s not saying Nice tits baby or he’s not saying I want to put something inside you baby but the nuance of it almost makes it worse because not everybody sees it as harassment but I experience it as harassment and so when people don’t view it the way you view it it can even in small ways invalidate your feelings or make you question whether your feelings are valid. But what I have to say as lucky because I have a do. Have such a supportive community. My inner community. You know the people who are closest to me but also just externally. I’m really lucky with with podcast. Dinners with social media followers. How supportive they are. And so those folks who say these things are in the minority and I also know that if I posted something a whole bunch of folks would stand up for me and that’s kind of cool right now. I don’t want that because I don’t think that it would be useful to this person. I think they would just feel attacked. And I don’t think I have a feeling you know. Some people are really open to hearing. Hey that didn’t feel good for me and other people like hey bitch you’re stuck up. It’s a compliment. Well you know. It’s definitely problematic and it’s definitely Harassment When people are commenting on your body and the way that you look And this is something that you know. Particularly a lot of women. Women deal with Or or anybody but specifically women In terms of People just having comments about their bodies And feels awful. It feels awful. Yeah it’s it’s interesting because somebody can say you’re beautiful and it can feel good and someone can say beautiful and it doesn’t feel good and that’s a really callers level of appropriateness right You know when you’re posting information about conflict and relationships and someone saying you look really hot You know it’s it’s not necessarily appropriate And you know I think people just need to be more sensitive to the words that they use when they’re commenting on people’s bodies and appearances Particularly Women and An anybody but in general you know to really keep some of those Thoughts private as you were saying. You know it’s one thing to think it and it’s another thing to share it on a public platform Know about how the outcome is right.
00:20:08 – 00:25:01
So people can say. I intended it as a compliment. But if it’s not received as a compliment that it’s then it’s not a compliment. I see the measure of a compliment being the outcome. Did it feel good for the receiver cause great? It felt good for you. But it’s not my job to make you feel good and again I don’t i. I worry that people will be like. Oh I’ve written on Jessica’s post before saying you’re beautiful and I received many of those compliments is just the way this guy spoke to me about. How the makeup thing and like guys verse girls in stereotypes and I was going to say it’s kind of like you make my Dick hard. It’s not something I ever wanted. Corrine intention and impact. And that’s what you’re talking about is that doesn’t mean great. He had an intention what that was. Who knows what you don’t know but the impact was was not helpful. It was hurtful and the makeup thing of course like so nauseous. Well it’s also criticizing my other photos in which he perceives me as wearing more makeup right and then other people wrote like. Oh you look so nice natural Or like little makeup or whatever they said and they said it in kind of a nice way and it’s so there’s the other piece where I have relationships with folks online and I may not know them in person like you and I are meeting for the first time but there is a context of if we’ve engaged in many ways or in some ways in the past. I’m going to receive a message differently than if all you ever right. Is You look hot. The same person that repeatedly doesn’t I actually don’t remember And and again. I know that it’s difficult because people are thinking what we can’t even pay a compliment and I think that as you said it’s just about reflecting a little bit more slowly. Perhaps before we hit send. I’ve thought about that before I’ve thought about you know when a friend or somebody I don’t know as well looks fire on instagram. Likes Whoa you look so good but I do think about okay. Let me also read the post because if this person saying something really important to them maybe they don’t really wanNA compliment on the way they look and of course people are like well. Why’d you post pictures of yourself while the reality is it gains traction right Sometimes I don’t have an appropriate photo photos aren’t demand you can’t just grab a random photo off of Google and put it up and also I’m sort of feeling like I. I’m making excuses right so there’s a piece of me that worries you know that. I’m offending people right that I’m saying hey don’t ever say you’re beautiful. That’s not what I’m saying I’m saying just think about it a little bit. Yeah for sure I mean it’s one thing to us you were saying to say. I think we’re we’re talking about different things as you say. Someone’s beautiful that’s one thing but then if you start to bring into the way that they put themselves together the clothes that they’re wearing the makeup wearing or not the way they’re blah blah blah And then putting it under the guise of gender stereotypes and specifying that that’s just different And and raise comes into play as well when you think about how you know. We’re sexualize four features. That are seen as racialist so I took this conversation to me and you’re listening therapist. I know it’s I mean it’s it’s super important because this is where we are in. This is what’s happening and you know. I think that this is happening. And it’s important to talk about because I don’t think people realize sometimes And this guy probably doesn’t realize it either. Which isn’t to say that you know. It’s okay it’s not But it’s just this type of a conversation needs to be have more So people can develop a better awareness about how to engage. I’m when they do want to reach out if they are wanting to elicit a connection or some sort of a formation. ’cause that’s not affirming for you right and not accomplishing comes back to me that. I was avoiding like that day because of what happened in my household what had happened with family member. A BIG TRANSITION. We were experiencing. I didn’t feel like saying to him. Hey this doesn’t feel good for me when you say that I turn you. On and the language was a little harsher than that. I can’t remember what it was right now But maybe on another day I might have engaged said. Hey you know I appreciate your support appreciate you following and I want to let you know that when you tell me that you’re turned on by me. It makes me uncomfortable and leave that out there to let other people know as well and so this comes back to win avoidance can actually be helpful. Because I’m like I’m avoiding. I’m deleting I have to deal with this right now. And so if we try and determine when to use avoidance in a functional way and a normative way and when it becomes problematic how do we draw that line Well kind of liquidators saying before just in terms of if you notice that it becomes something that’s pervasive. That’s actually impacting your day to day The avoidance not the interaction. So not that this guy not that. He’s impacting because he did but more. So like if you were doing this and you couldn’t stop thinking about what you could have said Blah Blah Blah or. Maybe not even that I take the back anyway if it becomes pre.
00:25:01 – 00:30:12
Let me go back rewind if it comes pervasive and it starts creating some kind of anxiety You know I think it’s helpful to to think about particularly within the context of relationships that have an impact on your life. Maybe not necessarily with a stranger you know. I think that that’s just kind of like you know. Should you want to engage? Engage did do not don’t But as you were saying generally when they’re important things going on in our lives we’re not going to engage with things that aren’t as Important to us of course we have to filter and so where do I begin if you’re avoiding conflict in relationship or you’re inviting a difficult conversation. How do you break this habit of avoidance? Well it’s kind of like what I was saying. Before you know in pausing and reflecting and trying to create meaning and more of a connection to the story to your own personal story as opposed to. I need to have this conversation or do this one thing because Xyz and just kind of staying in this obsessive place where it becomes an obsessive crisis And so the focused on not being on the specific content of the obsessive place. But more. So what that means in the context of your entire life Developing awareness pausing awareness Create connection to meaning a story within your specific life and not have just yesterday and not just tomorrow Your entire life because we bring all ages with US everywhere we go And then taking tiny teeny tiny steps as whatever feels the safest to deal with it. Do you find. Do you find that because we have more ways to communicate today that people can break these cycles a little bit more easily like I was thinking. For example you’ll always hear therapists say things like Oh don’t resolve conflict over because it lacks tone and nuance and I contact and body language etcetera. But what if you are more comfortable writing something down opening a difficult conversation online with a partner? Is that something you’re seeing helps at all? Never I wouldn’t say never But what I would say is what I think what you were saying. Is You know because I think a lot of people and myself included like I could write my conflicts out in a second But as soon as I go to verbalize it as soon as it becomes a relational activity I can forget it. I can forget lose the words I wanted to say convey the meaning Blah Blah. So I do think that writing is an incredibly helpful thing to do. Specifically when it comes to avoidance of anything You know so to and this is I think if any of my clients will know that I make them write a lot of letters To their mother to their father to themselves to them self at ten twelve partner this you know etc And so I would say that if it is pervasive and it’s frustrating and you really do want to push through the avoidance after you’ve developed awareness and you have some meaning on your confident that meaning To then write a letter to the person or to yourself or whatever Addressing what avoiding and what it is that you particularly want to say and you can give it to the person Face to face or not face to face But I think text it opens. It’s a conversation You can’t just you versus a letter. Which is a letter. The right words but You know it’s a letter. It’s not necessarily like you’re waiting for someone to write you a letter back. Unless that’s the agreement she want to Agree to But yeah I don’t I don’t know if it’s helpful to resolve conflicts overtaxed unless it’s something that you and your partner have become really skilled at anything. That’s a challenge. Did not everybody is particularly skilled App NOT Sticking to their own story and now becoming defensive and not becoming blaming and not interpreting what your partner is saying is Whatever it is that they may or may not be saying so you know if you’re really skilled at some of that communication then sure you know But it’s rare that I like. We’ll see a couple on the be like we had the best conflict resolution to conflict or management of conflict by attacks on like never heard it but everybody’s having conflict through tech so. I don’t want to say it’s a bad thing. It was just say you know maybe instead and then sit and say read this letter and sit with each other because it’s slow it a jumping off ground. Yeah write a letter is slower. You’re not it’s not back and forth and back and forth and back with you. Don’t see the three little dots. You don’t even know that the writing that letter now I have. I have found that I’ve been able to express myself overtaxed and we have resolved conflict over taxes and know that we’re in the minority. You are your this is what you do and because we spend so much time apart that we text law. That doesn’t work most people and I think that’s another important message here is that you know if you’re the one in one hundred or one thousand and you know it works for you then use go turn right for sure. Now you mentioned defensiveness. Do you have any strategies for dealing with your own defensiveness? If you find you become defensive anyone’s ever key told you that your defensive. How do we break that down That’s a tough one. I think if you know it’s kind of the I mean I’m probably give the same process for everything but I mean if you don’t if you don’t realize that you’re being defensive you can’t really change that or challenge it And that’s actually one of the hardest things especially when I’m seeing a couple in.
00:30:12 – 00:35:07
They’re having a conflict on my couch and You know I stopped them. And I’m like okay. If you could rewind and do this again you know. How would you say it? And it’s in. The revision is still a defensive or blaming place So the first become aware of can you become aware of when you are blaming? I think that’s the other end of defensiveness And when when you’re blaming becoming defensive etc and that’s kind of the hardest part is just saying okay. I’m becoming defensive now. Well I think that we just need to give ourselves permission to be imperfect to be defensive to as as I said before. Admit when you’re being irrational irrational off off often awful? I’m irrational often because I’m emotional because I’m human because I’m I mean. Think about this shit. We do everyday. It’s crazy right and I am. You know I struggle sometimes just with the intensity of life so I love this high intensity life. I loved flying around. I love being a new city every day. I love working with New People every day. And then I need a big exhale and if I don’t take that X. Hail I notice I become really a little things frustrate me and I noticed the other day. I got mad at a piece of paper towel I was. I was trying to take some piece of hair off the floor in the bathroom and the paper towel wasn’t picking up. I’m like what the eff and my partner walked in and I didn’t know he was home and I was like. Oh well that was embarrassing. I just word a paper towel and it was a laugh at. Nbc Say Okay. You’re being ridiculous. This hair on the ground is going to be okay right. Even if it doesn’t pick up the hair it’s not the paper towels fault you will survive if there’s hair on your hair on your bathroom floor and you need a break. You need to not talk to people. You need to not do work. You need to not post on social. You need a break because you’ve been going so hard so sometimes you know being rational helps to recognize where I need to be and it doesn’t mean that immediately. I recognize my own irrational behavior. Sometimes it takes hours days even weeks and I’m and I’m just not perfect so I think it’s also it’s kind of helpful to give yourself permission. I mean we could say rational but like to be human emotional that you know sometimes it just you have to scream at the paper towel. Sometimes that just needs to happen and the important part is what you’re saying. You did what she laughed at your own chat Ms That angry and then it dissipated. Maybe we’re still angry but you were just to be able to laugh your shit which is really important and it took me a while how. `Bout you really took me a while. I’ve had kind of a week because of all this other stuff going on and I always think of course. Okay so what would a therapists say? Right they’d say you’re going through this transition you’ve been on the road. I WanNa know what’s going on what’s going exactly an would i. I actually tell you all right now but out of respect for the other people who are. I’m not going to but I wish I could because even talking on this podcast and talking to someone like you is is Cathartic. You know it’s A. It’s a therapeutic process. Even though it’s not therapy itself and relational connection which is which feels nice. It does it does and I think specifically folks who are listening on the podcast. Just send so much support even if even if they’re not messaging me all the time. I know that even if not every episode appeals even if not every piece of insight or advice is relevant. I know that folks are hopefully taking some value And when we think about you know getting defensive defensive to go back to it I often say that you know if let’s flip the script if your partner is defensive one way to deal with that defensiveness is to own your own. Shit. I so if you don’t want to engage in a topic like let’s say we haven’t had sex in six months and I come to you and say I want to talk about it. And you get defensive or you with trawl. I find that the most disarming thing I can do is say Ya so. I know this is happening this is I’m feeling and I also recognize that. This is my role in it rightly so if I can own the fact that I share responsibility for this it’s really disarming because oftentimes we’re defensive because we feel like it’s all our fault right and our partners coming to US oftentimes frustrated and so we’re not effective communicators warmer frustrated right generally speaking. I mean I’m not so if I can come out and say here’s the role I play. Here’s what I know I’ve been doing. I wish I had done this differently. I was thinking maybe I could do that. This differently in the future all of a sudden it can disarm person to be like. Oh you’re not perfect okay. I get that I’m not perfect to maybe there’s something I could do differently and be a little bit open and so that’s one way we can. I think help to support our partner in being defensive and then the second piece is just really giving ourselves permission to feel jealous to feel insecure to feel afraid and I love your formula. So you’re talking with all of these difficult feelings or behaviors. I you recognize it. And that can take a little bit of work and permission and then you relate it to your own story your own life and you kind of look at.
00:35:07 – 00:40:08
It doesn’t mean you have to explain every story from your childhood but maybe some of the really standout once From childhood from early relationships from observations and then you know. I wonder if you can think about like what is my ultimate fear here. Like what is what is what am I avoiding. Like what am I so afraid of experiencing and then maybe rather than figuring out how to overcome that you could even just think about. What’s the outcome I want? They would do. I wish would happen. And then you can fill in the blanks in between. Of course you’RE GONNA get more out of this. If you have a therapist to guide you along the way and I’m sure that part of your practice is training people to to be their own therapists right to give them the skills so that this process is not just you know not a surly linear because it goes in all directions but it becomes a natural part of the way you think and behave totally right in cognitive behavioral therapy. We do that where I’ve got an anxiety here is what I’m afraid of. Here’s the evidence for it. Here’s the evidence against it. Here’s a more realistic thought. So the first time. You do a worksheet for example if feels really awkward right. You can’t figure out what the evidence is. What the evidence against is but when you do this ten twenty thirty times all of a sudden it becomes ingrained in the way you function and generally speaking your anxiety is it just as it self hundred percent. Yeah and I’m glad you said ten twenty thirty Because it’s really a learning process. You can’t do it five times and then just be an expert I’M NOT SURE. That’s even a healthy aspiration So yes you have to do it over and over and over and over and over and over no screwing up you rightly so you might get really good at overcoming a specific anxiety whether it’s engaging in conflict or having sex with the lights on or talking about money is a trigger for a lot of people and it’s been a an issue in our relationship over the years you. I wish Brandon was here to talk to you but we’ve been together almost nineteen years. I think and now the way we talk about it is so different than five ten fifteen years ago and that’s only through practice and that’s only through screwing up and that’s only from through pissing each other off and feeling insecure at times and these different struggles and so if you avoid though that is the number one reinforcer frings -iety route right so the cost of always adding is that the fear becomes stronger. And that’s the opposite. I think feels counterintuitive. You think like if I’m afraid of this I shouldn’t do it. So how do we reframe if you have a fear or anxiety or worry about something? How do we convince ourselves that engaging with it in some way is going to help to assuage that concern Well This is what my third. My third says new things. He said that we think about things from the back to the front. Meaning that we think about you know I’ll do it when I’m ready that type of thing when you don’t feel ready until you actually do something So it’s the same thing. With avoidance we ended up in what you’re talking about as we end up eliciting the reaction trying to avoid which is usually one of two things. Either we lose yourself where we lose our partner. I don’t know if that was like EFTA. All these acronyms. Both some kind of therapy. Something that explained. Co couples work in terms of those fears. Which is you know obviously more but I like to sit fears either of losing the other person or losing ourselves So that’s emotionally focused therapy. Yes and so. I think we often think about things. in terms of In order to take action to we have to feel ready. We have to be ready to do it And so as I was saying. It’s it’s usually the other way around so from you. Know from the front to the back would be. I’LL DO X Y Z. And then after all feel ready And it’s rare that we feel comfortable doing something we’ve never done especially if we’re talking about something that’s relational and way there’s a risk of potentially losing our partner You know it’s going to feel uncomfortable. Just definitional it’s going to be painful. Even you might even have a conflict So you know I think I have to think about the goal is not to always have some kind of perfection and stability Is it sometimes conflict as necessary? And I think that’s why a lot of people do avoid relational is because as you were saying at the beginning today. Is that not? Everybody grew up in a place where conflict was allowed doable healthy safe etc So so yeah I mean so. I think the first thing is to recognize that it may not feel good and that doesn’t have to be the qualifier criteria of expressing herself or doing something. I was having this conversation a couple of seeing this morning. They were talking about sex and body esteem. Sorry I don’t feel ready to have sex because they don’t feel good about my body and this is a similar situation not always but similar in terms of sex off and makes us feel good about our bodies instead of we have to feel good about our bodies before we of sex and again not always. That’s not always the case. Don’t WanNA universalize anything But it’s just another example of the way in which we learn to think about protecting ourselves and avoiding something before we actually pursue something that we want so you know I think that the challenge is that what we have to unlearn relearn or unlearn and.
00:40:08 – 00:45:06
Then learn something different. That being that if I’m going to push through this it’s going to be uncomfortable. I may have to tolerate pain. I may have to tolerate anxiety but I’m already tolerating anyway And so the avoidance actually is going to end up eliciting. What it is that. I’m trying to avoid. That is losing my partner because you feel so alone isolated because you’re not sharing yourself Or losing yourself because you’re defining yourself based on whatever it is that you want that you’re not getting a not allowing yourself to feel empowered by expressing the desire need whatever so I’m losing my train of thought here. No I like that. You’re avoiding something like conflict or engaging in a conversation because you think it’s good for the relationship but in the end it costs you the relationship or it costs you fulfilment in the relationship because of course staying together is not the measure of healthy relationship. Just being together is not an accomplishment right. You WanNa feel good. You want to feel fulfilled. That doesn’t mean always feel good right. We we do have to do things that feel uncomfortable. And so yeah. I like all of this formula. I liked the front to back thinking it makes me think a little bit about in the sexual context of sexual desire people are like well. How do I get in the mood for sex? Will oftentimes you have to get yourself? Aroused first rate. You don’t nukes desire naturally spontaneously. Sometimes you’ve got to reach down and touch yourself. You’ve got to take your mind to think about Idris Elba. You GotTa Take Your your mind so you have to watch porn you have to read. You have to do something to get physically aroused before the subjective desire follows a linear expectation of. I will feel sexual desire if I’m a happy healthy relationship and I’m attracted to my partner is really unrealistic right. Just being attracted to your partner and having a nice relationship doesn’t necessarily lead to sexual desire spontaneously you have to cultivate that responsive desire and so that front to back thinking is is really. I think an interesting concept for emotional literacy and expression for engaging in conversations and for sex itself now I have to let you go but before you go. I wanted to talk really quickly about relationship goals because you really active on instagram. You have a really great profile. I learn a lot from you again. Check it out at Your Diagne Incense and you’ve talked about how relationship goals can ruin relationships and not having goals in relationships but the Hashtag of perfection and pressure and your therapist and even used struggle but this the pressure to have these perfect shiny relationships. What toll is this taking on real life relationships? Yeah I think my post Later today I don’t know something similar I think when it comes to relationships ourselves emotions the world everything like everything has become so intellectual on hyper analytical and so political it’s like which is you know yes the intellectual and the political and all that shit shapes our personal lives but The relationships are just definitely fundamentally About the sharing of affect so emotion Not Intellectual Not Hyper Analytical Again. Not Saying don’t ever be analytical or have relationship goals no do that but I think it’s just as important to know when to shut that off and to just be in your body and to connect and to have fun with your partner and not have to create resolution to every single. Conflict comes up And to be able to tolerate some of the disconnection that comes up because it will But so much on social media and a lot of media just in general Our general cultural understanding of relationships is so binary in terms of it’s either good or it’s bad there’s either red flag or it’s a good relationship. Birds toxic person or their narcissistic or something Blah Blah Blah this analytical shit And as a therapist. That’s very important to me being able to be analytical about myself relationships the world etc but what I’ve learned is that it’s also just as if not more important to be able to shut that stuff off Into develop your own set of values about what a relationship means to you and what love means to you and what effing means to you And what your body means to you etc etc because I think the more we internalize what our culture tells we should be experiencing relationships the further and further we we get from developing our own self definition and they also causes. I think a lot of shame for people especially in relationship. So you know I think. Take what you see and read with a grain of salt But make your own relationship goals. Don’t don’t have somebody tell you what you should experience relationships Like talking with this couple one wanted to. They said they wanted to make out was like. Is that what you want? And she’s like no actually. It’s not what I want You know just like don’t assume anything and don’t think that any sort of value that you internalize from instagram or social media or your friends is the way that you should be doing relationships experts even yeah or me or you know it you decide and I think that. That’s the most important part when it comes to avoidance or relationships or whatever is that you know it’s a really it’s a chance for you to compare yourself to get the information you need And then for you to define yourself your relationship based on whatever is congruent with your desires sexual on so it’s not a binary of this is good.
00:45:06 – 00:49:41
This is bad. It’s more about. Does this work for me. Does this feel good for me? Does it feel good for my partner and you talked about this before that. Oftentimes we see these burs memes around relationships like this is a red flag or this is what a filling relationship or if your partner really loves you the accept everything about you or you deserve to be treated like XYZ. It’s like Oh my God right and maybe you don’t even want to be treated that way. Maybe you find other ways that you are fulfilling for you and the the notion that your partner will accept everything about you. Guess what there are things about me. That actually shouldn’t have been accepted. And I’m glad that the people in my life not just my intimate partner but friends will call me out and helped me and not in a mean way right. Not In a maybe. I shouldn’t even say but in a way that’s really helpful to me right. Sometimes I say things and my friends are like yeah. That’s not okay and I need that right. You don’t have to accept every single thing about now at the core. I I don’t know I could be with someone who’s like well talk about sex for a living that’s dirty of course not there’s a big part of what I interested in. If can you imagine? I’m so lucky because I I realized I said I have so much support and people always ask like. How do you do this? How do you travel from day to day and I was just asking? Yeah it’s because I have so much support and I don’t know if I’ve talked about this on the podcast before but I get home and my mom was times have come over and filled up my fridge with groceries. If you’re she’s just the best if you’re only home forty eight hours. You don’t have time to two hours to the grocery store Or My neighbors sometimes will drop dinner books so sweet in my fridge and you know it’s reciprocal where like all drop them off. Green smoothies. Which is what I make or you know if their kids borrow my dresses and stuff like that. We have such a really nice community around me. I have a couple of friends right now. I feel really good about the friendships in my life and I don’t think I could have said that for most of my life so I’m learning. I’m really working on friendships. I don’t know that I’m always a great friend. Partly because I’m in your drop into the city for twenty four hours and at least twenty four of it has to be decompressing sitting on my couch not talking anyone. I’ve got lucky. I’m really lucky who I’ve friends. Who like except that about me and Aren’t resentful of me. Because I know that I have. They have nice lives too. But I know that my life is exciting. I know that it’s glamorous And they know that I work hard and that at that matters to me. Maybe that’s you know rudin capitalism but I don’t like the feeling of you know folks of course think that I’m just What you call it jet-setting and I’m like no jet setters carry a hatbox and do this for fun and not that. It isn’t fun but it’s work working. I love it I love it but he I’m just I have a lot of support and I think I’m just a little bit lucky that I built that I don’t know that it was purposeful but also we’ll take some credit because I think I treat people nicely right like I think that I try and give this was just an accident is a little bit of luck. There’s also like your entire person hood than like intellectual style. You know who you are. I would imagine play a role in the development of a relationship and community and a little luck right like I just have really nice neighbors right. I moved into a neighborhood that I never WANNA move from Columbia. My in a huge city to be living in this little tiny community a very diverse community which is like such a big thing for me. There are more people like me not just one type of person so. I think that I’ve talked about myself in the session. A call it a session more than more than usual and I really appreciate. I appreciate your time and your energy and your perspective I love your formula of recognizing a behavior relating it to your life story asking yourself some of those questions you mentioned about you know your childhood or your memories or your experiences or peak experiences or low experiences Really getting at you know the fear right. Where do we a little bit of afraid of and I love the front toback thinking? What’s the outcome? I’m looking for rather than trying to figure out what the strategies are first and we walk kind of backwards from there so I hope people will give that a try certainly know people will follow you. You are diagnosed since you have a private practice in New York City. So we’ll make sure we show those links and Do you do anything online? You Do Online coaching canceling. I do remote sessions amazing. So folks will be looking out for that as well. Thank you so much for being here. Your thank you for having me. I’m so glad to meet you. This conversation was fun. Your lovely Thank you thank you and thank you to you for listening. Thank you desire resorts for your ongoing support of this podcast? Much-appreciated folks wherever you’re at have a great one of the sex with Dr Jazz podcast improve your sex life improve your life.