Figs and Teale share a session digging into a recurring negative cycle triggered by waiting and discuss the difference between vulnerable or "Primary" feelings and "Secondary" blaming reactions and how even the littlest of things can have a big impact.
Figs and Teale share a session digging into a recurring negative cycle triggered by waiting and discuss the difference between vulnerable or "Primary" feelings and "Secondary" blaming reactions and how even the littlest of things can have a big impact.
01:06 Chit-chat, "This couples counseling thing is really good for us."
02:10 Introduction to session — The hurt behind the negative cycle
04:33 Teale's example: The Pursuer / Relentless Lover's perspective
05:56 The Withdrawer / Reluctant Lover's perspective
06:39 Negative infinity loop
07:14 Understanding "Primary" and "Secondary"
09:30 Finding the primary within Teale's example
10:51 Session begins — "We can get in a cycle"
10:59 Habits: Figs gives himself extra time, Teale fits in as much as she can
11:56 Top of cycle: Figs feels let down when by Teale's style of task/time management
13:13 Teale describes becoming defensive, pissed off in turn
14:54 Teale describes how she eventually shifts into placating Figs
16:57 Figs feels like he's overly sensitive — exploring waiting and overwhelm
18:56 Top of the cycle recap: Figs feels alone and blames Teale, Teale defends herself
19:21 The deeper rounds: Figs feels self-protective
20:28 "Legit" Statistic: Teale initiates repair 99.99% of the time
20:46 Relationship shift: "Teale will tell me all the possible things I will do to make things better and how none of them will work."
21:53 Figs feels even more trapped
22:54 Going to Alaska: Figs is inclined to stay in disconnection because of feelings of unworthiness
24:39 Teale feels frustrated and alone when Figs pulls away
26:48 Figs feels he gets in trouble when he thinks he's "the good one" and says so, but Teale is so far above Figs when she's the good one he doesn't know where to go
27:36 Teale's vulnerable / connected moment during yesterday's conflict
29:45 Teale feels she's pulling from a depleted well to be able to repair
31:53 Teale has a story inside of, "All men have hurt me"
33:02 Seeing her side of the dance — when she has a part of it and when she doesn't
34:00 Connecting with each other in a Primary way, Figs is in and above the process
35:36 Session ends — Studying their own negative interactionary cycle, Primary and Secondary
36:52 Being in the process vs the solution
38:30 It's gonna be messy, and that's okay
40:02 Summarizing the cycle
42:58 Figs' takeaway: Even little things touch big feelings inside
45:42 Goodbyes — keep fighting the good fight!
If you or someone you love are struggling in your relationship, visit empathi.com for quizzes, courses, and consultations.
Figs: Welcome back, listeners. Thank you so much for tuning back into our episode, "Hurry Up and Wait." And you'll learn a little bit, as you listen, why we called it that. And you know, I have to say, it takes a lot to admit when I was wrong, but you were right, this couples counseling thing is really good for us. I'm really enjoying it.
Figs: Yeah, I know I was really resistant, but thank you for making me do it.
Teale: You're welcome. I'm so excited. And like, the first time that we tried to do couples therapy, I remember you telling the therapist like, "Look, lady from the outset, it's going to be every two weeks, okay? We don't have time to go every week. Like all you other therapists want us to go." Which, by the way, if you're doing therapy with Figs and I, we want you to come every week,
Teale: Sometimes twice?
Figs: No, I was very resistant, but it really, really is great.
Teale: But yeah, but you haven't said that yet. You haven't been like, "Let's do every two weeks." And so I'm just like, "Fingers crossed."
Figs: Yeah, no, I'm enjoying it. No, I have to say I like it very much. Now, here's the thing, we're gonna share with you a big clip, a big part of our second session, the part that we learned the most about ourselves, got to witness ourselves. And so I thought maybe we'll just give you a little bit of detail about why we decided to share — it's around 25 minutes of an hour session we decided to share with you. And so the first thing is, look, for all couples, we all get into what we refer to as negative interactionary cycles. And we do a deeper dive in our second episode all about cycles, but basically, the simple way of understanding what that means is — if you love someone, if they're with someone that's really important to you, that means when you experience them as not being there for you in a particular way, or not meeting you in a way that you long for them to meet you, then it's going to hurt inside. Even if, "hurt" is not a word in your vocabulary, right?
Figs: You're hurting because their presence, their love, their attention, them hearing you, seeing you — whatever it is you have a sensitivity to, it just really matters. So you hurt. And then when you hurt, you're gonna protest that hurt, right? So there's an internal vulnerable experience, then there's an actual reaction you have. And that reaction, even though it makes logical sense that you would react the way you do, it actually results in hurting your partner, because you are extremely important to them, too. And I know sometimes people don't really believe that they're really important to their partner, but, does your partner have a reaction? Do they shut down? Do they get angry with you? Do they defend themselves? Right, did they minimize your feelings? I'm telling you, if they do any of those things, the only reason human beings do any of those types of behaviors is because they are hurting inside. Now I feel weird saying the word, "hurting." Do I even say– how do you say that word?
Teale: Oh, the actual word I thought you were like, "I don't actually feel hurt."
Figs: No, no, no.
Teale: "Hurting, hurting."
Figs: Now it seems weird. I've used it so many times.
Teale: It's like you're herding. Herding sheep.
Figs: Not herding sheep.
Teale: Not herding cats.
Figs: But yeah you have a vulnerable experience inside. So look–
Figs: Go on.
Teale: Can I just add to that?
Figs: Yeah, yeah.
Teale: Because I think you know, sometimes I use a super simple example when I'm doing my intake calls with clients, or I'm just talking to whoever, how to explain this. It's kind of like, you know, that one person can orient more in, "Am I really important to you? Do you really care? Are you in this with me? Are we a team?" Right? And so sometimes, you know, Figs and I will refer to that as the emotional pursuer or the relentless lover, right? But that pursuer will kind of– you know, say their partner will be five minutes late for like a date. And they'll say, "You know, why are you always five minutes late?" Like, you know, that's what you're going to deliver. You're pissed off, you're frustrated, you're disappointed your partner's five minutes late. But the thing that's actually happening on the inside is, "Oh, my God, I was actually really worried about you. And I didn't feel totally considered. Like, if you had left with enough time, you would have been here." Right? But there's something in our evolutionary biology that creates a difference. Like I'm not going to say how I was really scared. "I felt anxious. I didn't feel prioritized, and it really touched a really painful part of me." We're not going to say that we're going to say, "Why the hell are you five minutes late all the friggin time." Right? So that's that one way of relating. And then your partner– I'm just illustrating what you're saying–
Figs: Yeah, very good.
Teale: –with an example, the partner, instead of saying like, "Oh, man, I'm really tried to be here. I ran to that train. And literally, babe, I like, grabbed the door and I almost got in, but I didn't get in. I really tried. I'm so sorry." They're gonna say, "Are you freaking kidding me? Five minutes late? Like at least I got here. It's never enough for you, you're always disappointed in me." Instead of saying, "Oh man, I really tried. It sucks to see that you're disappointed. I ran here, I'm breathless." Right? So then we're gonna react like, "Are you freaking kidding me?" And that lands for that original partner like, "See, you're not here. You're not in this with me." Right? And I'm gonna say again, "Oh, of course you're gonna say that." Right? So you just notice it's like that infinity loop of negative cycle, right? That vulnerable experience. But we show that reactivity.
Figs: Exactly. And that's what happens, right? When people get in cycles, they're feeling actually vulnerable inside, whether they know it themselves or not, but they're reacting and the way they react hurts a partner, and whether that partner knows it or not, then they react, and we get stuck. And so in this segment, from our therapy session, we actually get to explore and understand better our own cycle as it actually happens in real time in the session. So a couple of terms we use that I think would be really good to explain. We refer a lot during the segment to "primary" and "secondary." And so just to be clear what that means, the primary is just like shorthand for your vulnerable feelings. So anytime you're having a vulnerable experience, you're in what we refer to as, "primary emotion." And a really important way to understand the difference between primary and secondary — "Secondary" is when you're in a reactive emotion — is, secondary emotions have a, "Because of you." A kind of a frustrated or annoyed or angry, "Because of you," at the end. So this is really important, because a lot of times people think they are in primary. And it's kind of confusing, because on one hand, they are. They're having vulnerable feelings. But there's still quite a bit of, "Because of you."
Figs: So it doesn't actually land on the other person as primary. So when we say someone's in primary, they're only in their vulnerable experience. Like, "I'm feeling really sad." So they're describing themselves, and there's no negative, "Because of you." In fact, there's actually a window where there's a positive, "Because of you." "I'm actually really sad and feeling lonely. If there was a because of you, because you are so important to me." Right? So that's where we want to get them to just primary, we've separated out. We've honored the secondary, the reactive part, so we get to that vulnerable primary emotion and then this opportunity to talk about why I'm actually hurting because you mean so much to me. So anyway, so hopefully that helps you understand.
Teale: I like the way you describe that.
Figs: Why thank you.
Teale: I just, I mean, every time I hear you describe it, I'm just like– I mean, I know this stuff, but it just like, [grunt] just I can feel it in my gut, as you're saying it. And just speaking of gut, I'm from Hawaii originally and so I think a lot of times — and it's been kind of weird with Zoom because you can't see what I'm doing with my body — but I'll be talking about primary to apply it and I'll be touching my tummy. I'll be like, "It's [grunting] down here!" And the reason I referenced Hawaii is because we talk about the spirit kind of in the gut, in the tummy. And then that secondary is going to be kind of up in the head. But you know, wherever it happens in your body, try to pay attention to that piece. But just relating it really quick to the example that I gave, right, primary would be, "Oh, my God, I was actually really scared and there is a part that didn't feel prioritized. Not because of you, but because I can just get scared when I'm in a restaurant by myself, I just remember maybe, you know, waiting in my past. And just I can feel kind of lonely and insecure out in public, and I just have some of my stuff come up. I missed you and didn't feel totally important. And it's not because of you, it's all the times I haven't felt important in my life. The times I haven't felt a team in my life." Right? It's not blaming those other people but it's just connecting with, ah, just the story of the sadness. Right?" And then that secondary is, "Why the hell are you five minutes late?" Right? So we were kind of describing primary and secondary when we're talking about the cycle. And then we got to really describe the terms just now, so.
Teale: That'll be handy for you guys as you're looking at this 25 minute segment of our juicy therapy session.
Figs: Absolutely. Thank you sweetie. So let's do it, let's cut over to us in actual couples counselling. I hope you learn a little bit like we did.
Figs: Thank you.
10:51 Session Begins
Figs: But then, of course, we can get in a cycle because–
Therapist: So you're in that spiral together pushing the bad feeling off on the other a little bit.
Figs: A little bit, yeah, because let's say like — and, you know, we all have our stuff — Teale, — which is an amazing part of you, but it also has another side — like Teale will really fit in 10 things in an afternoon. Whereas if I have an afternoon, I'm like, "I'm going to do this one thing. Oh my god, I hope I can do it and I hope I'm not going to have to use the restroom in time and I won't be able to find one, so I better give myself an hour on each side of it to make sure it can get done.
Figs: Whereas Teale will think, "I can actually do 10 things now." Which means she will arrive home — like, let's say, you know, this was in the middle of the afternoon and Teale was out — she will arrive home 30 seconds before this thing and I'd be like, "Figs! Get to the car, get the kids!"
Figs: "Start making the water!" Like it's just really over–
Therapist: Like she's in a session or something, right?
Figs: It's just an overwhelming transition.
Figs: Now, in and of itself I think it's great that she maximizes every moment of the day. But I somehow would– I let myself... "Let myself." Just, the truth of the matter is I feel really let down by her when that happens. Like I don't think it's necessarily even rational, let's say, that I should feel let down by her like that. But if she doesn't arrive with 10 or 15 minutes where we can have this smooth transition with the kids, like I feel like really not heard and not considered. And then of course I'm very judgmental. Like, you know, it either comes out explicitly or it leaks out. But I'm, "Pssht. You've been a bad wife again." [Laughing] Right?
Therapist: Like when Teale's not considering you in that way, those little ways, it adds to your grumpiness, right?
Figs: Yeah, exactly. I'm very sensitive to feeling not considered.
Teale: Yeah. And that seems like that's like one piece, but then there's like other pieces like with signing the tax forms. So it's like, yeah, I guess it's all this–
Figs: I feel like I'm alone with stuff. I can't rely on you. Which obviously, you do so much. Like, you know, you can't rely on me. But there's just– again, I just have these feelings sometimes that I can't rely on you.
Therapist: And the feelings are the feelings. I mean, she may have 10 things that are actually helping you in the end.
Figs: Exactly, yeah.
Teale: So it's like, that seems to be– like it starts there, and then I'm like, defensive. I'm like, "Are you fucking kidding me? Like, I just shopped and now I'm going into like, three hours of sessions and now you've got food for the evening. And the kids have, you know, been exercised." So I'm like, I'm just like, "Are you fucking kidding me?" Like, that's the type of energy that I'm giving back to Figs. I'm not like, "Aw." And like Figs, you know, he's helped me with this before because you like he's let me know about timing. And, you know, there's just like, some trauma around, you know, just being–
Teale: Waiting, and not knowing what's gonna happen. So like I get this. And I, you know, I've just got some bad habits and I'm not sure– I actually don't know how to break them. I don't know how to make a shift here. And so that's where I noticed it happens.
Teale: Like then you'll be really pissed off with me. I'll be really defensive with you. And I'll feel really bad or just being really my story like, "He's not appreciating me, Doesn't see what I just did. He's being like a stickler for like, this thing."
Therapist: I was tracking, Teale, that you said something about– you're kind of pissed off a little bit. Like, "Are you kidding me? You're complaining now and I'm doing all this shit?" I don't know–
Therapist: That was maybe another piece of it.
Therapist: Is that true?
Teale: Yeah, I mean, I think in the moment I'm pissed off. But like, I think how it feels right now is, I feel bad about myself and I feel like I just have this like feeling of wanting to– I usually would placate Figs and just be like, "Okay, you're right. I'm going to like–" I'd just be like, "I'm going to work on this." And I think the reality is that maybe there's a part, like, the only part that breaks through kind of this sense of like, "I'm right, and the way that I do my life. It is the right way and I don't know how to fucking change it," is the part where it's like, "This really hurts Figs and he has a history around this." So again, just knowing about his experiences, the only thing that helps me shift out of a very kind of stubborn– and I just want to be really honest in this process. I don't know if I always will be but I think I just notice that I can placate you to get you off my ass and that I really can just feel like the way I do it is the right way for me and I just want you to kind of leave me.
Therapist: So you placate him with sweetness?
Teale: Or just like, "I'll work on that." I think originally I'm defensive, and then eventually I'm kind of placating, but I don't really take it seriously and create change. And that's why this keeps happening again and again. And so yeah.
Therapist: And then wonder if the pissed off-ness is a clue to some kind of not accepting what Figs' asking for.
Teale: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think it also touches all the parts that are really real. Like, "I did this because you couldn't go shopping" and it's like all real stuff, but I feel really crappy in those moments. Like really not seen.
Figs: Right, yeah.
Teale: But I just feel like there's a way– I just didn't know how to change. I don't know how to do this.
Figs: Right. Well, I appreciate that. Because I feel the same way right? In those moments. I feel I'm overly sensitive. It's not that big a deal. Like it's not in and of itself– like, obviously it is because there's these emotional hurt places inside me or whatever, like attachment wounds that get touched. But in and of itself, if you arrive five minutes before a session, it's not that big a deal. Like you know, it used to be like if Teale was 10 minutes late from coming back from her session, she'd be back 10 minutes later and I'd be alone with the baby, like I'd be really hurt, right? Like I'd be really really hurt. And that's just because during that 10 minutes I'd be really really overwhelmed. Like being in that not knowing, "Are you coming? When are you coming?"
Therapist: Not feeling as comfortable with the baby.
Figs: Yeah, not feeling as comfortable with the baby and then also just feel like– you know, I'm the son of an alcoholic, going to bed at night, being anxious waiting to hear the door open before I could sleep, right? Like being in daycare and waiting for my parents to come home. Like, you know, being sent to my grandparents for weeks not knowing when I can come home. There's a lot of waiting.
Figs: Like this is the terri– like I'm overly sensitive. It's not necessarily like, "fair." I am overly sensitive to, "You said you'd be here now and now there's this gap between it."
Therapist: And even if it's a small gap.
Figs: And even if it's– well, because now it's an attachment thing, right? Like it's not necessarily the time itself, tt's the attachment expectation and significance, right?
Therapist: Yeah, I get it.
Figs: At the top of our cycle, at the top of our fights, I'm the one that's feeling alone and not considered and likely to be blamey–
Figs: –and critical.
Teale: This is a good point, what you're doing right now it's good.
Figs: And the top of the– at the very tip, those early rounds of us fighting, Teale is the one like, "I'm not bad!" Like she's gonna defend herself or, "Hmm, there's nothing here." Right?
Figs: But that transitions–
Figs: The deeper rounds it transition where I'm the one that feels terrible and disappears into unworthiness.
Teale: Yes. This is a really good thing to share with him because it starts to go into our–
Figs: Yeah, because, you know, I always say we're good couples therapists because we're both fuckin' wounded on, you know, both extremes. Right?
Therapist: When you talk about, "tops" are you talking about, "secondary" and, "primary?"
Figs: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, like our fights start because I'm wounded around feeling abandoned, not considered. And then I'm critical and secondary and then Teale feels bad about herself and feels rejected in the primary part and then she's likely to be defensive. But then that shifts, as the disconnection gets bigger, I'm the one that feels I'm a terrible per– I'm more likely to be stuck in, "I'm terrible and bad and unworthy and you're better off without me."
Teale: So it reverses.
Figs: We reverse.
Teale: But what happens there? Like what's the transition point? Because this is– I mean, this was like another piece this week is a lot of times Figs can get in trouble because I initiate repairs between us a lot.
Therapist: Uh huh.
Teale: Like 99.9% of the time.
Figs: [Laughing] You're funny.
Teale: Yeah, no, that's like a legit statistic.
Figs: [Laughing] Okay. Audited, researched.
Teale: You're defensive about this.
Figs: No, well, look– well, you know, It's an interesting one. Here, I feel things have shifted between us. You know, one of the problems, I don't know if you have this yourself, with being therapists, I usually don't feel this as true that people say, "Oh my god, you guys know so much. It must be terrible when you fight." This particular aspect of us being therapists, I think let's say we're in a fight and I've said something that hurt Teale, Teale will tell me all possible things I will do to make things better and how none of them are going to work. She's like, "You know what, in 30 minutes from now, you're going to come and you're going to apologize." Like, it's literally like I feel– like Teale wants me to initiate repair. But then she tells me, these are all the ways you're probably going to try and initiate repair, and none of them will work.
Teale: First of all, that is more recent.
Figs: No, it is more recent, but it has shifted now that– I feel even more trapped.
Teale: I get it. I get it.
Figs: I don't know what to do. Now I literally don't know how to initiate.
Therapist: I understand.
Teale: You're noticing, probably, that our negative cycle has now reversed and shifted now. Because now I'm like, "You don't you don't repair." So you're feeling criticized and I'm feeling like you're not there. And you're feeling like, "And here all the ways." And here's just such a pursuer thing I do, which is like, "And now you're going to like apologize." And here are the ways that you feel powerless around me.
Therapist: So she takes the power back.
Figs: Well, that's what it feels like. I don't think that's what you're doing intentionally.
Teale: That is true.
Teale: I am not.
Figs: But yeah so I do think it's a more I think — when I say, "dangerous" it's relative, it's not like our relationship is under threat. It is a definitely even more maladaptive development for our cycle, just because, like it's easier for me to hang out in disconnection for longer. You know, it doesn't feel good but, you know, I'll watch a movie. I'll read a book.
Therapist: I'm a little confused about that because you talk about feeling alone a lot and I just got the idea that you didn't hang out very well.
Figs: Well, that's the top part. That's the like initial rounds. The deeper rounds, the way I often describe it is, I have already left for Alaska. I'm going to leave civilization. I'm gonna get a job bagging groceries at a grocery store in some tiny Fishing Village. I'm going to read novels, because I'm so unworthy of being part of the human race. And I'll dig in, I'll settle in there. And it's painful. But my impulse is not to come out of that, my impulse is to go deeper.
Therapist: But it's a place of suffering for you.
Figs: Yeah. Oh, no. It's a place of suffering.
Therapist: it's a result of your experience of Teale taking the power in some way or pulling away or criticizing you or what?
Figs: Well, no, that place is actually a result of, you know, like I've really hurt Teale, Teale let me know I was terrible, I was bad, I hurt her, and since I've hurt her I've continued to be bad. There's nothing you could do that could stop being bad, and look at you right now, what you're doing, this is even bad. And so I'm like, "Dude, I agree with you."
Therapist: And don't even consider an apology, that's not going to be enough.
Figs: Exactly. And so what it looks like is, "I don't care," is actually, what's happening inside me is, "Like I literally agree with you 1,000%. I should go move to Alaska now." Right?
Teale: And of course like that is not what I am saying.
Therapist: What does happen for you, Teale, what are you feeling when he goes to these places? What's it like hearing him right now talking about Alaska, how far he goes?
Teale: I mean, it's just frustrating for me like I feel like–
Teale: Yeah, I feel incredibly alone in that place. And you know– don't throw your beeswax at me. [Laughing]
Figs: We use beeswax.
Therapist: Okay. [Laughing]
Figs: I dropped mine in her lap.
Telae: It's okay.
Figs: Yeah, go ahead.
Therapist: He's trying to make up.
Teale: Yeah, I know.
Figs: Exactly, it was no mistake.
Teale: He has no idea how to do it with his words so he does it with his beeswax. [Laughing]
Figs: Great. Thank you.
Teale: Yeah, anyway, it's just frustrating. I guess I just feel like I'm better at apologizing and like taking responsibility and that it takes him for fucking ever. And I'm like, there half an hour. It's like two in the morning. I want to be watching TV and I'm like explaining. And I'm just like– But what's apparent is that Figs is feeling really bad about himself, but it's just like, all this shit is piled on top. He keeps giving me all this shit. And I'm just like…
Therapist: It's hard to apologize when you when you know that a wave of shame is going to come blasting up inside of you. is that what you experience, Figs?
Figs: Well, it just feels hopeless. It doesn't feel like there's a way out. And my impulse is to stay disconnected when there's no good way out.
Teale: And I think you're right. Like, I'm really angry and I'm really an asshole. I'm kind of like manipulative like here, you know, I'm just like, I just feel like there's not even words to just, I'm just doing this, [Pointing aggressively] "Fucking come on!"
Figs: Well look, just because you're being so good at acknowledging, like, this is the like–
Teale: Uh oh.
Figs: Well no, look, we getting in trouble when I think I'm the good one and I tell you you're bad. But when you think you're the good one,
Figs: Like I just feel like there's nowhere for me to go.
Therapist: The good one or the right one.
Figs: The right one. Like when you're like, "I'm an amazing repair right now…"
Figs: I mean, no, and I get it's a double edged sword because you are initiating. So it's a tough one. But there's some way in which you're initiating with that energy of like, "I am so good."
Teale: I know, I really feel good. I really feel like I'm fuckin–
Figs: Yeah so it's a little bit of a Prisoner's Dilemma or something, you know. I just get trapped.
Teale: I tried something yesterday that I don't think you saw because we were too escalated when the glass dropped. I tried to look at your face.
Figs: You did, you did a good job.
Teale: Did you see what I did with my face?
Figs: You were empathic.
Teale: Well, I was like this, I was like [pouting].
Figs: Yeah, you were kind of imploring please things and let's not have that big of a fight about this.
Figs: Yeah, but you were imploring vulnerably, I did see that. And it actually really helped.
Teale: Did it?
Teale: Well that's good.
Figs: I mean, I'm not gonna acknowledge it helped in the moment. You know, that would be too much.
Teale: Where I was going with that is that we're talking about how critical I can be, self-righteous.
Figs: Yeah you weren't critical in that moment. That was really good, you actually– but by the way, let's be clear, you are definitely much better. You even did it right now like earlier where you were like, "No, but Figs can you see we reversed roles?" And you are quicker to be able to see what's happening between us and name it. Now, yeah, you're a little self righteous about it, which sucks, but–
[Teale and Therapist laughing]
Figs: I'm half kidding. But you are much better. Like you are much better.
Therapist: Got to have a little jab.
Figs: Yeah no, no. You're definitely quicker than I am, when we're activated, to being open to not being activated. I look, I go from 0 to 100, I go from zero to overwhelmed and panicked, or, you know, big reaction or being shut down. Like I'm, you know, like pretty– So yeah, you're definitely much better at, "Hey, can you see what's happening? Come on, we don't have to do this." Which I really appreciate 99% of the time, and then there's the time when you're like, where you're literally saying, like, "Oh my god, I see this and you don't and I don't appreciate it."
Teale: Yeah, I just, I mean, I think the scary thing for me is I feel like I pull from a well that is so depleted, to be able to do that. Like, I'm pulling it out of my ass. Like, I don't have this part that sends. I just, I'm like, so desperate, and I just don't even have–
Teale: And so I get more angry, but I just, I'm worried that it's gonna like, run out for me. And I'm not like threatening the relationship. I just think that's why I'm here, is because I want to let you know how important it is for me to not feel like I'm on my own in those moments. And I get it. I'm an asshole. And I'm glad to hear that, you know, that I did something that was successful. I want to get more in touch with things like that. And I also just feel like it's important to be authentic and myself and just say I feel really depleted.
Therapist: Sometimes that needs to be a boundary or a plea for compassion, at least. Right?
Teale: Yeah, because I'm worried about what will happen. I have some bad behaviors from past relationship and I'm not threatening this relationship at all, I'm so committed, but I go into like a– my depleted place is a dangerous place for me. And I all I want is to be in relationship with Figs and be connected and I just want to learn other ways to do this. Obviously, I'm not doing it right.
Therapist: Is it the depleted part of you that triggers the kind of critic or the kind of pissed off part and those kind of related– Like all of a sudden the pissed off part sets a boundary, "That's it. I've done enough, my wells dry. At least in this moment."
Teale: Yeah, I think there's something there. I think like, you know, I just have this story, I have a lot of hurt. And I have a lot of hurt from, not just from Figs, but from– and I hate that this is my perspective, but I can kind of do this shit, I can be like, "All men have hurt me," you know. And I think that there's like the child inside that just says like, "Please help me like, please, please don't make me be the adult." It just, I can just feel so lonely and abandoned in that place. And I don't know how to reach from that place and have him like, come close to me. And I just keep doing it this other way.
Therapist: What's happening right now, Teale just let yourself feel that.
Teale: [Crying] I just feel all the hurt from my past.
Therapist: Yeah, yeah.
Teale: And I just hate that it keeps happening. And I'm trying to see my inside of the dance. And I mean, I think it's different now. Like I'm a grown up and I can see that I'm part of it. And sometimes I haven't had a part in it and it's not been fair for me.
Therapist: I guess that's what you said last time, it would be good for you to get more in touch with, maybe through this process, of when you have a part in it and when you don't by knowing the part you have in it more clearly.
Teale: Yeah, I mean, it helps me to just talk about it because I think I can be so like, "This is happening to me," I just can be so self righteous about it. And so I think hearing about how it feels when I'm really on the attack and how powerless you can feel and you know, I think it just goes so fast between us.
Figs: Yeah, exactly. It just happens very quickly.
Therapist: Really quick.
Figs: Yeah. Love you sweetie.
Therapist: What's it like to feel this together right now just to be in touch with this, It feels like primary for you.
Figs: Right. And what's great about doing it like this right now, which might feel terrible is I really empathize and love that part of you that's really hurting and feels alone and, you know, feels so wounded. And I get kind of excited because I'm not we're activated and triggered or you know, defensive right now, like seeing the way that part of you is merged with the resentful part about it. Like you know what I mean? How like, they were entangled.
Therapist: Yeah the well and the pissed off part.
Fig: Yeah, being able to see it in this context — like, 'cause it's safe with you here and talking about it like this and not like getting into my own stuff — like, there is a part that it's exciting. I feel bad. Like, I feel like I noticed myself smiling when you were going from, "I'm so hurt! And I fuckin hate it."
Figs: Like seeing the transition, it's exciting as someone that likes to understand what's happening. So I guess that like there's two parts to me, one is I really empathize with Teale, you know, and like that's in the process. And this, I feel almost a little guilty, there's a part of me that's "above the process," getting excited like, "It's really cool to see this from a place of not being triggered or activated."
Therapist: Not being in it.
35:36 Session Ends
Teale: Great! So how was it for you to rewatch right now?
Figs: It was really fascinating again. I always pick up so much you know, that I learn about myself, about you, and about us watching.
Figs: So, you know, the main thing again was, I love that we were really working our negative interactionary cycle and going through each part of the process of where one of us as in primary is hurting the down inside. And then seeing the reaction that we have and how it puts our partner in their hurt place and then they have a reaction. It was great, just to, instead of just working as we do as therapists with other people's cycles, you know, like actually studying our own, and you know, with great detail, it was really helpful.
Figs: Yeah, it's amazing just how easy it is to hear something differently than it's intended. What was it like for you to watch?
Teale: It was good, it was really clarifying. Like, we've watched it a couple times, and listened to it a couple times and I like how we have fun and yes, we reference, and you can see that dance with the primary and the secondary. And I also just noticed something about this that I think is an important piece for our listeners out there. Is this piece around being, "in the process," that you know, a lot of clients that come in, wanna know, like, what the hell do we do, then? What do I do to make that different? So what we do a great job of and our wonderful, amazing therapist also helps us stay in this place, is the process as opposed to the solution.
Teale: And so, you know, you see I pick up a little thing, there's something I did with my face at one point in our conflict and I'm like, "Oh I'm glad to hear that." So like, "Oh, that would be something I could do next time." But we're not like, "Okay, I'll do that next time. And then maybe you'll do this," like, we're just like, immersed in the process.
Figs: Yeah, no that's a really good point. I think without naming it, it would be easy to miss. So I'm really happy, Teale, you said that. What we're trying to do is deeply understand the process we get into. And the idea here is that when you can feel your own feelings better, your partner can feel their feelings better, and you can actually come to an empathic experience together, that will result in change. We want to have that empathic experience and empathy towards self, towards the other person, towards both of us together as one unit. Then change will happen almost — and like this is a huge leap of faith for people — we don't actually have to work that hard on change if we have those empathic experiences. So throughout the session, that's what we're working on is actually just being in the process, where I could really understand you, and you could understand me and see why this is happening with each other. But we're also not just sitting above it, we're actually in it.
Figs: And so this is the hard part. This is what's so hard for couples is like, you got to be in it to study us.
Figs: So let it be, it's going to be messy for a little bit before it gets better.
Figs: And that's okay.
Figs: We don't want to avoid the messy places where I'm hurting, and I'm pissed at you and now you feel it's unfair and now you're not talking to me, like we actually need to study those moments, like dare to be in that process so we can get to know what really happens, and who are the really lovable, little vulnerable ones inside of us that we couldn't see when we were fighting so we could be there for them.
Teale: Yeah, I'm kind of like, as you're talking, thinking of it kind of like, winding down into this place. Like you can see, you can hear for the first you know, like most of the clip that we played, we're kind of in this like — not banter, like we're getting stuff done, we're understanding cognitively, we're mapping things out — and then, you know, eventually it's done enough that I'm like, primed, and I start to go into this place of like, all the times I've been hurt.
Teale: You know, and that little kid place, exactly like you're saying.
Figs: Exactly. Yeah, it's interesting how like, yeah, like it's so easy to minimize things like someone comes home five minutes late, and it's not that big of a deal. And on the surface it's not a big deal. But here's what I took, like as a quick summary from the session: you know, because of my childhood and my wounding, like being left waiting is really vulnerable, right? It's a vulnerable, anxious experience. And when I refer to, "There's an attachment wound," it's because you're so important and you are the one that I was waiting for. Now I feel hurt and you're the one that did it to me." And then I'm reactive with you. I'm like, "Why were you late!" But then like, as you refer to because you have been on the receiving end of like, quote unquote, men, like primary men in your life being mean to you or angry with you, your little girl inside of you gets really hurt. And then you're going to, you know, react.
Teale: Defend and protect, yeah.
Figs: Defend and protect. Which eventually we — and this is where like, I think about that as the title disciple the early rounds of our negative cycles — and then at some point, I get that you're really hurt and upset with me and then I end up feeling really bad about myself. And that's when I go to Alaska. That's when I'm really a bad person, I've hurt my wife's feelings, and I don't see a way out, so I'm going to go away.
Figs: So that's my secondary behavior. I'm actually feeling terrible about myself, but my behavior is I actually shut down and pull away. Which, how's that land for you when I go away?
Teale: Yeah, it's like, devastating.
Figs: Yeah, yeah, right. Because now it's like, "Here it is, again, like the person I hoped would love me and I wanted to not be mean. But I hope they'd actually love me and be here with me but now they've gone away." So it's like the worst. Like, "Someone being mean to me sucks, but someone going away completely? Well, that's not the answer." So you're gonna be more hurt. And then of course, I see it and then I feel even worse, right.
Figs: And now I definitely need to stay in Alaska.
Figs: So that's what we refer to, the bottom of our cycle, meaning the later, end rounds of our cycle, you know, I am the one that's feeling bad about myself and shutting down. Whereas in the early rounds, I'm actually looking at you and saying, "You did it wrong."
Figs: And in the early rounds, you're defending and pulling away.
Figs: Placating is a form of pulling away, really. But in the later rounds, you're the one that's like, "Where are you, Figs? Why aren't you here?" And it lands as criticism.
Figs: So that's when we refer to, we have a complicated cycle, we don't just stay, both of us, in our respective camps. We're switching from camp to camp with each other.
Teale: So just with that, just because everyone's different, you know, most people have some of each wound, and so, what's one thing that you think our listeners could really pull from this and kind of examine in their own selves and each other that they would have kind of learned or take away from this?
Figs: Yeah, well what I hope that you learn or take away from this it is look, even little things, it makes sense that it touches big feelings inside.
Figs: Someone's five minutes late. Look, you're right, it doesn't mean that much in the scheme of things, however, there's a little one inside that's actually, "This is scary for me," and, "Why would someone who loved me not be here," right?
Figs: And then for you it's like, "Hey, look, the fact that you were frustrated I was 5 minutes late," "Oh it makes sense," but no, it makes sense that the little one inside, what they experience, "[Gasp] It's happening again."
Figs: "Like the male figure in my life is angry at me and I got really hurt and scared when this happened," right?
Figs: "Please don't make me have to be the grown up," right? It totally makes sense. It seems like a tiny thing, but it touches the deepest, biggest feelings. So, when you get in a fight with each other — and we hear it all the time with couples, "Oh my god you wouldn't believe what we fought about," — we do believe it. It makes sense that you have big, hurt places and disconnections with each other about what seem like tiny little things.
Teale: Right, the dishwasher, the cup of coffee.
Teale: How you strap the kid in the stroller. Really, it can be anything. So, I think sometimes people minimize it, say, "Oh it's so lame," but we're saying, 'Hey, it's drenched in an emotionally bonded significant experience for you. So you better talk about every single thing." No, just kidding. It's pick your battles, people, but this stuff is really, really significant.
Figs: Yeah and the big takeaway from that for me is, why I would say that, is then, look, learn to turn towards yourself with love and empathy and compassion. Like, you know, if you're listening going, "Oh my god, why is Figs such a sensitive one for Teale being 5 minutes late," look, honestly I think you missed the point. There is someone that's really hurt inside me. And that someone that's really hurt inside me deserves my own love, your love,
Figs: And all the listeners' love!
Teale: Yeah, so be gentle with yourselves.
Figs: And the same for you.
Figs: Right, and so that's what we want you to be able to do, to turn towards yourself and your partner, that instead of judging yourself, "I should be less sensitive," or, "I'm gonna make my partner less sensitive," no. You gotta stop that shit. I want you to start turning toward yourself with love and empathy and compassion. You deserve it. Your partner deserves it. Let's start lovin' the vulnerable parts of each other up.
Figs: And so it is. [Laughing]
Teale: And so it is. Keep go fightin' the good fight, people!
Figs: Okay, great.
Teale: Yeah. Let's say goodbye for now.
Figs: Yeah let's say goodbye for now and– it is activating watching.
Teale: Is it?
Figs: I feel all those feelings watching and, you know, talking about those places inside. But listen. Thank you so much for listening and we're looking forward to sharing our third session with you. Which I think is actually one of my favorites so far.
Teale: Oh yeah. You're gonna get to watch a big, big clip of our therapy. Because the whole part is so important.
Figs: Yeah, it was really good.
Figs: Yeah. Looking forward to talking to you next time. Cheers.
Teale: Alright, check ya later.