Figs and Teale share a clip of their first session with a couples therapist. Witness how the ways they miss each other escalates into hurt and blame and then ultimately resolves through the therapist's intervention, then learn how you can navigate out of negative cycles in your relationship.
Figs and Teale share a clip of their first session with a couples therapist. Witness how the ways they miss each other escalates into hurt and blame and then ultimately resolves through the therapist's intervention, then learn how you can navigate out of negative cycles in your relationship.
01:00 Introduction to Figs and Teale
04:04 What's in a name: "Come Here To Me"
08:20 Why this podcast: Witnesses
9:45 Special tip of the episode: Follow the process
13:24 Session begins — Figs feels alone with life's difficulties and like he's a failure
17:26 Turning point: Conflict and hurt (Teale is hurt by Figs' description of her, protests, Figs feels hurt and protests in kind)
20:46 Figs is prompted to reflect back his understanding of Teale's hurt
22:19 Teale feels shame around missing the place Figs was coming from because of her own insecurities
22:33 Moment of humor and connectedness: Figs sees Teale shift into feeling bad about herself
23:21 Figs considers himself to be a difficult person
23:47 Session ends — It's so easy to miss each other
25:59 The snake in the grass: humans focus on the perceived threat
29:02 Walking through the cycle
32:46 Turning point: interventions and empathy
33:35 Blaming is not being vulnerable
36:33 Seeing past the mess to the possibility of repair
If you or someone you love are struggling in your relationship, visit empathi.com for quizzes, courses, and consultations.
Figs: Welcome to our podcast, Come Here To Me. We are a couple, Figs–
Figs: My wife Teale, yeah, thank you. And we're also couples therapists! How fun. [Laughing]
Teale: It is fun.
Figs: It is fun, I know. But like it's always funny people go, “How do you survive as couples therapists also in relationship with each other?” Right?
Teale: I know. It's compelling.
Figs: It is compelling. But I think sometimes people are horrified. They, like, think we know so much we could hold it against each other.
Teale: They just think we're really weird. And we are, we're here to tell you this is how weird we are.
Figs: Exactly. We're a couple, married, parents. And we also work as couples therapists, right?
Figs: So it's pretty awesome. Now, we're very excited about this new podcast because here's what we're going to do: I don't know if it's ever really been done before. We’re in couples therapy.
Teale: We are.
Figs: Right, thanks to you primarily putting me in a headlock and making me do it.
Figs: So we're in couples therapy, and we're recording our own personal couples therapy sessions and we're going to share clips from our couples therapy sessions with you — both in audio for you actual podcast listeners, but then we're also going to release videos of the podcast recordings and the actual clips from the therapy. Now, one really important note, we basically pick out what we think are the juiciest, most important parts of each session we do. We're not going to cherry pick, "That session, I didn't like how my hair looked."
Teale: [Laughing] Your hair is always so flowing,
Figs: Right, for the listeners I am, I am bald.
Figs: Just, you know, so–
Teale: But my hair legit is flowing.
Figs: Your hair is just always magnificent.
Teale: It is.
Figs: Yes, so– but anyway, look, this episode, the first episode, we actually have a relatively small clip from our therapy session because we thought, like, the juiciest part of the session was short.
Teale: Short but sweet
Figs: Right. But there are other sessions to come, other of our therapy sessions and podcast episodes, where I think we're gonna share pretty much the whole therapy session because we start off into it and we transform over the whole session into somewhere else.
Teale: That's true. I like that. I like the way you're saying that. And it is, it's a transformation. You know, we start off in, you know, hot and bothered conflict, and by the end we're making out, kind of inappropriately.
Figs: Yeah, which for those of you who watch the video, like you can turn the visuals off if watching us make out with each other is disturbing.
Teale: [Laughing] That is. It's disturbing me thinking about it.
Figs: When we record ourselves making out, like, you know, the camera above our bed–
Figs: I get– I get disturbed.
Teale: Wow. This has been so much information.
Figs: Was that too far?
Teale: This is a fantasy. That's something to work towards. Hey, I have a question.
Figs: Go ahead.
Teale: Can you tell us a little bit about the name of this? Just because I love the name, “Come Here To Me.”
Figs: Yeah, so we went round and round and round for quite a while trying to decide on the name. And the reason I came up with this name “Come Here To Me” is it's an Irish expression that people in Ireland use a lot just to try and get someone's attention. And I use it in therapy sessions. And with you in these two different ways. The first one is when I'm talking to someone and I feel like I need to get their attention. Right? And so in couples therapy when a couple of whether they're fighting with each other, or one person is starting to get overwhelmed and totally immersed or engrossed in their own experience in a way that I actually need to help them come out a little bit? Whether that's because they've gone down into the unbearable well of aloneness of shame, or whether that's they're getting escalated into anger. They've lost control of it.
Teale: They're getting cray cray.
Figs: They're starting to get outside their window of tolerance that they can stay present to their own experience. I will actually say to someone, “Come here to me”. Which basically means, “Look at me for a second. Come over here.”
Figs: Right? To actually try and get them to focus on me. And, you know, it's an interesting thing, being a foreigner. Some of these colloquial expressions are kind of disarming. If I was in Ireland doing couples therapy, and I said, “Come here to me,” like, the couple would probably ignore me.
Figs: You know what I mean?
Figs: It's just a normal expression. But, like, sometimes you say this expression — they're words that people know but they're not familiar with it being used in this context — it's a little, “I'm sorry, excuse me?” The second place that I use the expression, “Come here to me,” for me, it's actually a very touching place, right? And it kind of is the core moment of what is beautiful and possible with a couple, and that's when we have transitioned from being in a fight with each other– when a couple has transitioned from being in a fight with each other, and they actually feel empathy for each other. In that empathic moment there is the possibility of a loving repair.
Figs: And, what I do often when I'm describing that moment to a couple or when I describe you and I having an argument, and we get to that empathic moment where, “Now I understand I was hurting and that's why I was not talking to you. And I understand the reason you seem critical of me: because you are hurting.” That moment where we empathize with each other, and we're starting to connect with each other, I will say to you, “Did you get hurt, Teale? You come here to me.”
Teale: And there's a great moment like that, that you'll see in our first clip, right?
Teale: I love this phrase. And I've got a third way–
Teale: –that I was kind of excited by this. This was one of the first terms Figs said to me [laughing] when we met at Esalen in Big Sur, which is a, you know–
Teale: –hot springs retreat center. And we'll save the story for another day, more detailed way that we came together. But I was just, like, “Who is this person telling me, 'Come here to me?' Like what the actual eff?”
Figs: Did I say that to you? That’s funny.
Teale: Yeah, I was like, you know, there's also like, a sexual–
Figs: That's just–
Teale: [Laughing] aspect.
Figs: That's just– filthy mind.
Teale: "Who would think that?" Well, in the moment. Believe me, my filthy mind was thinking lots of things.
Teale: Was yours?
Figs: Not immediately. But maybe five seconds later. It takes a little longer. The expression means a lot to us. And I think it can illustrate a lot of different really important points of the process of couples being able to connect with each other. One, helping them get out of their own stuff when they're really escalated. And then, two, as an expression that can actually help them connect with each other. And then there's a third one, which can help them in the boudoir,
Figs: –it sounds like.
Teale: Oh, that's so surprising.
Teale: Okay, good. Well, I love that. And I love that there's going to be a moment like that coming up in our first clip. I want to share a little bit about what is going to be in this particular podcast, and just our podcast in general. Like Figs and I, couples therapists, we have just the same problems as you. And we've just got important ways of kind of coming home to one another. We also felt like, “Gosh, it would really help us to rewatch these sessions." Because, you know, sometimes we need help just processing our feelings and having repetition. The other part was like, we're like, “Damn, this might be helpful for other people.”
Teale: "It might be helpful for our clients, or for our friends and family, or maybe listeners in other places, too, right?"
Figs: Yeah, exactly. So, I mean, here's kind of the idea with couples counseling is — like in general — that it's very hard to see yourself, because I'm embedded in my experience, you're embedded in your experience. So it's very hard to see the system that we're co-creating with each other without having someone be the witness position for both of us. And that's what a therapist does, right? And that, like, even for us where this is what we do for a living, this is our area of expertise, that is so invaluable.
Figs: So then the next level of that is why don't we actually share us being witnessed and someone helping us to process our feelings? Because, you know, what is the number one valuable thing that we provide people? Yes, we have communication skills and information about how to have a better relationship. But by far, the most valuable part is actually helping a couple and individual and couples be in their emotional process.
Teale: I'm glad you're saying this, because it leads me to my special tip of the episode that we kind of get from this session. And it's gonna sound sort of vague because it is but it's just this reliance on process. So often we can be like, “Well, how can I do this differently next time?”
Teale: Or, you know, "What's the plan," or, "What's the skill I learned?" Here's the perspective that we're wanting to just sort of infuse in your own contemplation of your relationship and to maybe notice in ours is: following the process.
Figs: Yeah. Don't worry so much about making sure you never fight with each other; working out how to communicate well. Can you notice what you're feeling, allow yourself to have those feelings, go to a place that's messy with them, trusting that if you can continue to explore with each other, you'll end in a more connected place than if you manage to avoid ever being hurt? A lot of times what people do, the kind of second place prize in the relationship is you just manage to control your feelings and never feel stuff like, “Oh, they didn't come home. Ha ha ha. I'm just gonna take a deep breath and another swig of whiskey and I won't have to feel this."
Figs: "Isn’t it great we didn’t fight?” Well, look, yes, maybe it's great that you're no longer burning passports and slashing tires when someone doesn’t come home, right? But, there is an even better way, which is I could actually notice, you know, "I'm actually really hurt and I am upset with you." And then the other person, like, "I feel really bad. Like, it's awful to be a disappointment to you. And I am now gonna shut down." Like your ability to go into those places, process them, and then end up loving and caring for those hurt places and each other, that's what I really hope we're going to be able to show the listeners us do throughout these recordings of our therapy sessions. We are going to model actually real live emotional processing between us. And we're not trying to make sure that you never get triggered, or that I never say something that hurts your feelings. We're trying to deeply understand ourselves and each other so we can get, "Oh, so that's what happened!" and so that gives us a lot more empathy and compassion for each other. I hope that's not going to be unbelievably, intensely boring.
But I do think it's by far the most important thing that people need in their own relationship.
Teale: Yeah. Amen. I think that sums it up really beautifully, sweetie, and I'm excited to, you know, share clips of this. It's pretty vulnerable. Like, you know, you see Figs ugly crying, and he's still hot while he's doing it. But, you know.
Figs: You see me ugly crying.
Figs: My ugly crying is like, there might be one little–
Teale: And I'm, like, capturing it with like, my little bowl.
Figs: Exactly. One tear a year. So let's watch it.
Teale: I'd love it. Let's watch it. I mean, I'm kind of scared, but–
Teale: I am excited, too.
Figs: I know, yeah. This first one, we picked out this short part that we thought really captures something important.
Figs: I find life is really, really hard. I have to work really, really hard to try and make money. I have to work really, really hard to make everything happen. And then I feel really alone with everything. And I often feel defeated because I'm running so hard, but we really just keep standing still. Whether it's financially or, like– There's just unending issues and problems. And with that stuff, I feel alone with it. Now, I don't think it's neces– you know, a lot of that is on me that I hold things that tightly and I take it so personally, you know, if I'm not succeeding. But then like, yeah, like obviously you do a lot– Teale does a lot of, like, stuff with the kids more than I do. You know, I get overwhelmed much quicker than she does with the kids. Like I always say, like, "When Teale’s with the kids she enriches their lives, when I'm with the kids, I keep them alive."
Figs: But yeah, so that's what I would just describe of myself. And so, obviously, we'll get into tough spots with each other when, at times, I feel really alone with us trying to move towards our goals. You know, in terms of financially, lifestyle, what it is we want to happen. And whenever I feel alone with that, I feel bad about myself. It's a cocktail of I feel like I am failing. I am a failure. I feel pretty depressed. And then, of course, I look at Teale and I feel like she's not really with me, right? Because Teale, you know, she's painting a painting or she's like looking after the kids. Right, which is great. Like it's an amazing quality that I want more of…
Teale: Well, I would just like to say, I don't paint paintings–
Figs: No, I know, but I mean like you're just able to be present and happy in the moment. That was more figuratively. Although she is an amazing artist. But so–
Therapist: That was a compliment that she was painting a painting, right?
Figs: Exactly. It was a compliment, that she's able to be present and enjoy the moment and be creative. Whereas I get weighed down by my own expectations, my own anxiety about succeeding, making sure everything happens.
Therapist: And your experience, when you said, “I keep them alive," the kids–
Therapist: You're alone within this– as this force of, whatever, financial driving and–
Therapist: –not that Teale’s not doing it too, but you feel alone. And when you say, "Keeping them alive," like supporting, giving them a supportive financial environment, making things happen.
Figs: Well, what I meant by that is literally when I spend time with them, I get overwhelmed with them and the amount they need from me. And I'm more likely that we, you know, I let them watch a show or we read books and they lie on top of me than I'm leading a creative art project.
Therapist: Right, right.
Figs: Like, I'm more likely to be more passive with them. So like they stay alive, but Teale, they are more likely to have learned some new skill or have painted some new multimodality, art project or something, right?
Therapist: She might be more actively engaged than in your experience with them.
Therapist. And you might be cuddling around with them or laying around.
Figs: Exactly. But yeah, and look, I mean, this is where we have competency gaps, right? Like Teale is much more competent with the kids and–
Teale: And I would also like to say in the house, like I'm constantly–
Figs: Yeah, sweetie, absolutely.
Teale: No, but I just– I mean, that's an important piece. Like I don't want to just be “Oh, I'm competent with the kids.” I'm competently running our whole house.
Figs: No, I know, Exactly. You're competent running our whole house. Um. I don't know about you, by the way, have you found that the session so far is about talking about all the things I'm shit at?
Teale: No, but–
Figs: But then I mentioned one thing right now,
Teale: Well no, but what's–
Figs: –that now it's like you're gonna have to like stand up for yourself?
Teale: I have been feeling defensive for like five minutes.
Figs: Like telling me what was triggering?
Therapist: What’s going on?
Teale: I just I feel like– [crying] like the fact that I'm like– you're even talking right now like I'm not contributing with work as though I'm this person who paints paintings with our kids like that that's like my big thing and that's fucking bullshit. Like, I've been hearing for five minutes that I'm not competent. So when I'm saying, "I clean the house, I run the house, I fucking shop I see so many clients a week," I want to be seen for those things and not this fucking art teacher for our kids.
Figs: Well, I'm sorry that that's the way it landed. It makes sense. But that's certainly not at all what I thought I was saying. I was actually saying that I am crap, but I am not very good at doing stuff. And I personally get overwhelmed and feel like I'm failing and can feel alone. Didn't mean it as an actual indication–
Therapist: So can, can we just can we take a break and just hear from Teale’s emotions? You know, I get, Figs, that you didn't intend this. I just want to hear how this landed with her a little more. I think that was one thing I was picking up on when I asked if the painting was a criticism and you said absolutely not, it was a compliment. So I do want to know because this points to a pattern for you, Teale, of not not feeling recognized in some way or to tell me.
Teale: Yeah, like that's exactly what I feel like happens, is the things that I'm doing, the clients I'm seeing, the supervising that I'm doing, the getting the food the, like, the constant, constant fucking cleaning my house is like some inferior part of our life. But I want to be able to hold both. I just– when you said I'm feeling so criticised and this is all about you feeling like the bad guy, I just wanted to clarify that that's not how I feel right now. I feel, like, bad about myself. And I feel like, I wish I had another hour in the day and I wish I had another arm, I wish I could– And I do, like not collapsing into– I do so much that is a part of what's happening. But I also, like, what I said in my stated goal for myself is to be able to keep moving towards engaging with parts of the business that I feel are very overwhelming for me and I don't think I do a good job and I do think I collapse.
Teale: You know, like that's why I thought it was so important last night, just our conversation. I feel really excited about that.
Teale: So I'm just saying that sometimes that can happen.
Therapist: Figs, do you– just so she — I mean, I don't want to be tedious — but if you can sort of just sort of paraphrase what she said just so you understand how she was impacted. Not that you did anything wrong, but—
Figs; Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s fine. So it just sounded like I was saying that your contribution to our life is less important or less valued than the stuff I do. What you do in the house, what you do with the kids. And you also see clients, and you supervise, and you do so many things. And it can seem like I'm just disappointed or not happy with it, or critical of it. And, obvious–
Therapist: Maybe not even aware of it.
Figs: Not even aware of it. And I could see, like, you would feel really sad and hurt. And it's not fair because we just don't have any more time to do any more. And that you're not just an art teacher. Yeah. I don't know. Did I get it, or?
Teale: Yeah, that's great.
Therapist: Yeah. So, do you have a little space to hear Figs talk about his intention and his feelings? I mean, my understanding was that he was going into a monologue about his — what should I say — his angst, or some of how he gets spun out inside himself. And...
Teale: And I feel bad, I wasn't able to, like be present with what he was saying, because I had my own thing come up. And that's my own insecurities.
Figs: That’s okay.
Therapist: Yeah, well, that's important that this came up and, and maybe you can ask him, maybe you can tell him what you did here.
Therapist: What are you laughing about?
Teale: He's, like, making fun of me for crying.
Figs: I’m not making fun of you! I said it's okay. I didn’t mean it like– I wasn't making fun of you for crying. I was seeing you now, like, just starting to move into, “Now I feel bad about myself.”
Teale: I'm just saying I can get now that I just had like a tender moment. And I'm glad I got to express that. And I feel like I can collect that there's also you talking about how you feel really bad about yourself.
Figs: Right. Yeah, yeah, I mean, I totally get why I would have hurt you. And it's good, I'm glad that you shared it. And I really thought I was primarily trying to describe how I just think I'm a difficult person to be with. I just think I am difficult. I can feel really bad about myself and collapse in it, and I can be really critical, and I feel alone. Like, I'm pretty difficult in all directions. So that's what I thought I was describing.
Figs: That was, that was fun.
Teale: [Laughing] What's it like for you, you know, rewatching right now? Now we've got to see it a couple times. It's so different for me every time and I kind of get more layers. What do you think, what’s that like?
Figs: Yeah, I think it is fascinating just to see– I just love how easy it is to kind of miss each other.
Figs: Like, you know, like, it just makes perfect sense that here I was thinking I was talking about myself and this colorful description I use, thinking it was kind of, like, you know, "You're so amazing and creative," it totally makes sense that that would hurt. Like I was just saying “Oh, Teale just does fun stuff. She doesn't do anything serious like painting paintings.” Right? And I see how literally, there was nothing else. Like it was interesting, it just seemed like once that comment was out there like–
Figs: Now when I look at you like you were gone, right? Like you weren't with me.
Teale: Yeah, you could see my face or you could– I mean, you can't really hear my voice yet, until you obviously stepped on the landmine.
Teale: Yeah, I mean, I think it's just interesting, right? Like, I guess I watch it and I'm like, "Dang, like, he was saying all these other things." But now I've processed the moment. And I think one of the things I just really, really appreciate about you is the way, you know, he asked, “Can you say back what she said?” And how already that's starting to de-escalate me so much. Just that you really hear me and you're saying from the beginning– I feel like folks at home are going to be like, “Uh… my partner can't do that.” And so it's going to be a little bit like, “Oh, you know, how are you able to do that? How were you able to paraphrase back like actually listen to these parts and so quickly get the repair?” Because we repaired really quickly. I think partly because you like heard me and you got it and then you know–
Teale: I was crying and then I was, you know, kind of going back into secondary shame.
Figs: Yeah, well look. thank you. But I think again, like, obviously, being a couples therapist, I have an advantage here that I have been a witness to these situations, you know, thousands upon thousands of times, right? No exaggeration.
Figs: Where one person is saying something. And like, you know, let's say I said, like, "Oh, it's sunny, and there are butterflies," and like, "There's a warm breeze and you're in the field of lovely long, swaying grass." And then I say, "And there's a snake in the field," Right? It makes sense to me that the other person, the only piece of information they're going to focus on now–
Figs and Teale: Is the snake.
Figs: Again, our ancestors that did not focus on the snake– and when I say our ancestors, like, there are no people alive today whose distant ancestors did not focus on the snake.
Teale: Right, it’s evolutionary biology.
Figs: Exactly. So I get it, even though me as a human being in a moment where I think I'm talking about one thing and you're like “You–” like, I rationally get why even if I thought there was nothing I was saying threatening that when you reflect back to me that, “Look, the thing you said about painting was the snake in the grass for me”.
Figs: "Nothing else makes sense. Like there's no– I don't care how warm it is today. I don't care how lovely the swaying grass is. I don’t care about the bees and the butterflies. You think I'm just an art teacher, I'm not a teacher!” Right?
Teale: By the way, no offense to– like, art teachers are incredible.
Teale: And they do, you know, as much or more than what we do. I'm just saying, like, in this household, I'm wearing many hats, and I want to be appreciated for it. But the reason why this was so tender is because this is our first friggin' therapy session. And this has been– it's a feeling that I have, and I can see as I rewatch, I'm like, “Oh man, the shame of feeling so stretched and yet so not enough." There's so much that I leave undone, right? Just the never folded pile of clothes on that couch or something. And that super bill that's always looming in the background for me or the ways that you can feel alone. Like I'm intimately and constantly in touch with my shortcomings. And so I care so much how you see me.
Teale: I just want you see me as like, you know, this shining light that's so competent and yet I feel pretty bad about myself a lot of the times. And then, you know, you say one thing where I feel minimized, and all my shame just comes out.
Teale: And it becomes about, "You do this to me. You don't see me.” But this is just a part– and you know, I think what we see in the secondary shame moment is really like, like I said, I'm collecting this moment and being like, “Oh, you're feeling bad about yourself, I couldn't see it. You feel this way, too?” That's so bonding for us, you know?
Figs: You know, what I think might be good is just– here's the way I kind of frame — and you please, like, if you see it differently, let me know — as I was talking, I thought I was talking about myself. I said something that hurt your feelings, right?
Figs: The reference to, you're gonna paint a picture.
Figs: That really hard, it felt like I was devaluing and not seeing you as really worthy and contributing, and so it really hurt. And then you were stuck in the hurt and upset with me–
Figs: –as I kept talking.
Figs: And then eventually you told me.
Figs; Right, you basically let it know like, “I am not just an art teacher!” So like even though you're hurting, right, like it was mixed with, “You did this to me."
Teale: Yeah, yeah.
Figs: And so then I actually hurt.
Figs: Like, I actually felt, “ This is unfair!” [Mimicking baby cry] Right?
Figs: And I don't want to mock my own hurt. But it hurt, because like it just felt like, “God, I was talking about me and I'm in trouble again.” So it actually hurt. But then what actually happened, I appreciate you giving me credit, but I contributed to the cycle because I told you it wasn't my intention, right–
Figs: I actually defended myself, I tried to explain myself, “Well, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.” Which you know, I'm always trying to tell people “intentions-smention. Impact is more important than intention." But in that moment, I wasn't able to attend to the impact I had on you–
Figs: –because I was hurt and you were hurt at the exact same moment. We're in an impossible situation. So I defended and explained myself. And then, again, I thought that our therapist did a really good job at helping us get back to, "What was the impact? Can you let Teale know you understand how you hurt her and that it’s valid that she was impacted?" So that change got us out of an ongoing cycle, because you then could hear, right?
Figs: You could then hear, like, “Oh, Figs actually heard me and he does think I’m valid to be hurting.” So that was the flip.
Teale: Yeah, that’s really important how you're saying that. And that's something that our listeners and watchers will notice over time is that what we're doing is kind of making a note of what's happening vulnerably. Like, "Inside, Teale was feeling shame and feeling not appreciated and seen in her entirety." And did I share that, did I say, “Oh, I'm listening to you and actually feeling really bad about myself. And like maybe you don't see me in this positive light, this thing's happening.” No. I said, “Um, actually, I'd like to clarify, blah, blah, blah." You know, I don't know exactly what I said. But the energy was like [grunts].
Figs: "I do a lot."
Teale: "I do a lot." And then, boom! So touching a vulnerable piece for Figs where he feels like, “Wait a minute, I was talking about myself. And now you're upset with me?”
Figs: Well, but the vulnerable– like, I felt like I'm in trouble again, I'm bad.
Teale: And then you criticize me back. You said, “Excuse me? Do you think that we've been talking– haven't we been talking this whole time about how I've been feelin' like crap?”
Figs: The first thing I did is I actually blamed you. You're right, I was remembering I was defensive. But the very first thing I did is I attacked you back.
Figs: I said, “Yeah, the first thing I say you're going to get all upset?”
Figs: "Miss Sensitive Pants."
Teale: Yeah, exactly. And, and this is part of the complexity that Figs and I have because of our own childhood and our own complications, you'll see him– that's a bit of a mixed bag in terms of how attachment shows up there. I feel criticized back and then I start to explain. So I start to kind of say, “Ah, this is actually what's going on." And you know, hurt and angry and all that stuff. And so, yeah, our therapists got to slow us down. You said it back to me and so I actually think me picking up on, “Hey, when you said it back, I just, I was so touched.” You had a moment to actually convince yourself, “oh–"
Teale: "This is what was happening.” Like it was a really effective intervention in that moment.
Figs: Yeah and it was effective just to slow down and just focus again on the validity of the impact I had on you. And I think this is a really important thing. It's not like the other part may had gone away, that I wasn't hurt, but I was able to put that on the shelf and just focus on the impact I had on you and validate you. And then, of course, this flip happened, right? Where you start to feel bad about yourself for being sensitive, for getting your feelings hurt.
Teale: Right. I was like, “Man, I missed the whole thing”. And there was something there that happened — when you saw me start to go into the tears that second time, you started to smile. Like that seemed to really kind of melt the ice. That icicle heart.
Figs: Yeah. Well, again, this is the good thing/bad thing about being a therapist or a couples therapist is, I just saw you flip from, “I'm not seen and understood. And I'm gonna tell you about it!” Even though it was mixed with tears.
Figs: And this is what's confusing. Sometimes people can say, “I am in my primary, my vulnerable emotions, but it's mixed with, "And you did it to me!"
Figs: So it's not really very vulnerable, even though you're crying.
Teale: It's dangerous for the other person.
Figs: Exactly. It’s confusing. Because like, “But I am vulnerable!” Yeah, not when you're saying, “I'm vulnerable and you did it to me!” is not actually vulnerable.
Figs: Please make a note of that. But the reason I was laughing was because I just saw you– Like we all have multiple people inside of us and I saw you go from, "[Mimicking upset child's voice] I'm not seen and heard and I'm hurting and I'm angry at you,” to then all of a sudden, you're still feeling vulnerable, but you're actually, "[Mimicking upset child's voice] I feel really bad about myself," right? And it's literally like a separate person inside.
Figs: And so when I started laughing, it was kind of recognition, “Oh my God, Teale, you're on such a journey." You're literally like on a trip, right? Of shifting from one hurt part or one reactive part to another hurt part.
Figs: And then a different reaction, where now you're starting to put yourself down.
Figs: And that's when I reached out I was like, “Oh my God, take it easy in yourself.”
Figs: Like I'm laughing like, “Dude, like chill out. Like, you're being so hard on yourself. Take it easy.”
Teale: Yeah, that was a great moment. I like rewatching that and just as our listeners will learn, we use humor, you know, to really infuse moments with our clients and also with ourselves. [Stage whispering] Figs is super funny.
Figs: Why thank you.
Teale: And sometimes we're gonna do this deep psychological work and sometimes we're just going to be able to find some levity and that really was a big piece of medicine there for us.
Figs: Yeah, it was really good. Look, it's so great to be able to see your own cycle play out. You felt like I didn't really value you. It hurt your feelings. You let me know I was bad. Like saying you don't contribute. Pft! And that hurt my feelings. I attacked you. I was defensive. You're even more hurt, right? We could have kept going in that.
Teale: We could.
Figs: Our therapist slowed us down, got me to reflect the impact, and how it does make sense. That actually helps you feel less that I didn't understand. But then it slipped you into a different part of like, “Now I feel bad that I didn't get it. You were talking about yourself.” And then you started being mean to yourself, which again, that's softened me towards you even more.
Figs: Because then I'm like, “Oh, Teale, please, [laughing] please don't beat yourself up right now. It's okay.”
Figs: Right? I know, we were then able to have a bonded connected moment. Right?
Figs: But I don't know if you noticed, that was really messy. Like, I'm now describing it very simply. But in the moment, like, I was unable to see all that was happening. Like, and it wasn't a smooth direct path to get to this place where, "Okay, we just had a fight. It was really bad. Everything is okay now. And we're back connected." It's always messy. And it always for some period of time feels like there's no way out of this.
Figs: And, so again, because of our experience, it's a little easier for us to trust going into these moments that are so difficult and so disconnected and distressing, that we can trust we'll get out of it.
Teale: Yeah, yeah. And you know, that's not to say, you people at home, or wherever you're at, on your jog, in the car, you know, you can't do this, if you're not a therapist. It's just, you know, this is something that you'll hear Figs and I talked about a lot is this idea of, "The magic is in the repair." And eventually there's a shift where we start to go to, “Man, that was messy. I don't even fully get it. But I can see now a little bit through the rain that you were hurting, and that you were reactive." And I can kind of collect for myself, "Man, I actually was hurting.”
Teale: That means– first of all, everyone, that’s the first part, right? Noticing what's happening in my darn self.
Teale: Right. "Man, I was critical. And I missed something. And I think I was actually just hurting." So just noticing, “Can we express that as soon as possible?” That's that "Magic is in the repair," piece that, you know, we'll talk more about.
Figs: Yeah. Thank you very much everyone for just being with us and, like, sharing some of our own couples therapy journey and hearing some of the way we organize and make sense of what it was we were feeling and why we said and did what we did.
Figs: And again, the beauty of this — this is what obviously we hope you're going to be able to do in your own relationship — understanding yourself, being curious and having a better understanding of your significant other. But then this third perspective is the key, and that is this perspective, the bird's eye view of seeing the entire scene. So hopefully as you see us go through this process of understanding yourself, each other, and then what we co-create together, it'll help you in your relationship be able to do the same. And have the relationship you and your partner deserve. Thank you so much for listening!
Teale: Thank you all. I love that you're a witness and I love that maybe a couple of these little tidbits and my follies and Figs’ follies can help you in your own relationship with yourself or your best friend or your partner. And yeah, we'll see you next time.
Figs: Yeah, I hope you'll tune in and listen to us, episode two.
Teale: Yay, okay.
Figs: Cheers, bye.