Communication in Relationships – Part 2 of 3

Video transcript by Youtube:   Hello my name is Keith Cross. I’m the owner and clinical director at the Prescott Relationship Center. I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and wanted to talk to you today about different types of communication and how we can often how we can often result in disconnection around how it is that we’re communicating. What I’m going to use for the structure of today’s discussion is the section of our marriage seminar about communication. I’ve got that on PowerPoint so we’ll move over to that screen so we can go through that and let’s just dive right in here.  So what we need to remember at the very fundamental level and we’re talking about communication here is that disconnection from a loved one code my brains as life-or-death and there’s all kinds of MRI and cat scans that they’ve done looking at exactly what that but that disconnection from a loved one looks like and to be honest many of our couples who come in describe that disconnection in life-or-death terms such as you know I’m suffocating or you know I’m so alone I feel like you know I’m in the desert you know and I’m about to lose my life so it’s a it’s an understandable situation when again when somehow someway we can’t get connected and stay connected that that it really does code in our brains in a very in some ways traumatic way all too often couples end up in what we call demon dialogues this is a term used in the hold me tight book written by sue Johnson lots of data to back up what she’s talking about in this book so I’d highly recommend picking it up it’s called hold me tight seven conversations for the lifetime of love by Sue Johnson but these demon dialogues are the defensive postures we take in conversations when we feel disconnected we’re going to talk about the different types of diamond dialogues later but all too often we typically most couples individuals within the couple wealth will lean towards one way or the other either turning up attachment feelings by aggressively reaching for your partner sometimes using anger sometimes using criticism or well let me rephrase it before I go there all too often someone in this boat will describe the their approach towards communication almost uh well even if we’re gonna argue I’d rather argue than to ignore that there’s an issue going on if we’re not talking about it it’s not going to get resolved it’s not going to be helpful for us so again even if we’re gonna argue I’d rather argue than not talk at all whereas the other person in relationship often and not always might turn down their attachment feelings by withdrawing either shutting down or becoming quiet and this is somebody who will typically use statements such as if there’s even a possibility that we might argue that I’d rather not even discuss anything at all and oftentimes that that that sort of protection can feel like rejection from that other person who’s really wanting that that time and that that connection through communication again even if it means arguing when we see this we missed the real feelings of fear and sadness and we’ll talk a little more about that in a minute so when we get stuck in these Diamond dialogues and we like to use the term dance because we oftentimes can predict fairly well once we’ve been with somebody for some time exactly what that back-and-forth is actually going to look like all too often again we can predict two three steps down the way you know if I say this and I’m pretty sure my partner will say that and then I’ll respond this way and then my partner will say that so it’s um it’s it is in many ways a dance a very predictable dance but what we don’t understand when we’re in those places where were where were maybe in that criticism and withdraw that I talked about in the previous slide is ultimately what is the nature of love what is it that we’re needing in them in the moment how it is that we actually impact our partner even if it feels like we’re not having any impact at all and then the very understandable confusing and assertive signals we often send in many cases and I go through this a lot with the couples who come in all too often the ways that we’re engaging with our partner are the same the same behaviors that are actually increasing the behavior we don’t want in our partner if we tend to be the ones who say hey you know if we got to argue we got to argue about it for not talking or we’re not making anything better oftentimes that behavior can have the impact of reinforcing that withdrawing behavior and the other person as well as that other person who tends to withdraw or tends to shut down unintentionally is actually reinforcing the other person to pursue to push to in many ways do whatever they can to get that person’s attention so oftentimes we do send mixed signals there and it only again it ends up reinforcing that dance moments of disconnection are inevitable it happens even in healthy relationships the softer signals get lost what our ultimate longer line needs are get lost and the more secure the couples are they can see the back and forth they can see the game and that’s what we really emphasize in our in our seminars is what is the game what does that look like for you so you can see it name it and then back out of it so you don’t continue down that negative path so a few of the different demon dialogues there there’s these negative spirals the more you blank the more I blank the more you push the more I’d pull the more you withdraw the more I criticize it and it does definitely spin us around and in a downward spiral and then this fight or flee ultimately fight or flee response its way back and the mammalian part of our brain takes over and it’s almost impossible to recover at that point but ultimately it’s painful and it’s distancing to both people that the demon dialogues are this dance that you get into is the enemy of secure connection partners need to stand together against them help each other seed them and slow them down but we what we really emphasize in our counseling sessions and when we’re in our seminars is to see this dance as this outside almost being that that you get to has a team fight against as a team work to keep yourselves from falling into it that thing that we get into that negative spiral that downward spiral and it’s great when couples can be in the even in starting to fall into that and then be able to pull away and say wait a minute no let’s not go down that road we got to reset if risk if reach risk respond isn’t happening meaning if you’re not able to be vulnerable take that step not criticize not withdraw and approach the person in a caring compassionate vulnerable way oftentimes this results in the habitual coping strategies such as angry blaming or withdraw and then the thing to remember is that we these ways that we oftentimes respond are often learned in early relationships with our caregivers with our parents and with likely many of our early romantic relationships as well we can’t ignore that our past as a very understandable impact on our future and our present in our future so what kind of human dialogues do you have so what we’re wanting to do here is stop that spiral of insecurity the pain of disconnection the reactive anger dismissing or distancing and create some basic safety beginning of a secure base we’re gonna talk about how to see the game not the ball because all too often we can focus on content we get focused on the toilet seat being left up we get stuck on not calling and checking in not taking care of why whatever you know I left you know you didn’t take care of right oftentimes that’s the ball and then we get focused on that ball and we miss the fact that there are other underlying issues underneath that and we don’t see the game or an instance in another way we don’t see the dance we only see the last step so we want to change the level of the emotional music and then frame the dances of problem has framed the dance for or that downward spiral that cycle that interactional cycle were in as the problem and the enemy not your partner so three of the types of demon dialogues we talked about or find the bad guy I’m sure we’ve all fell into this at one time or another but where each person’s worth of accuses and blames the other person again we’re focused on who did something wrong and pointing and blaming the protest polka where there’s a combination of oftentimes like I mentioned before one person who’s maybe controlling criticizing complaining whereas another person tends to again not always avoiding defending or stonewalling and then finally there’s the freezing me where both people are for the most part withdrawn and there’s a sense of sort of hopelessness and helplessness in the relationship and although at times we can’t often fall into one of the other of these there really is most often one of these demon dialogues that that most couples fall into and to be honest the protest polka happens to be the one that that most couples end up walking into the really into our office needing help with but find the bad guy in many cases we’re searching for a start to the circle or the start to the interactions we define the other person in the room and in the relationship and absolutes using always and never I’m sure you we’ve all done it you know you never there when I need you or your they’re always doing something else whatever it might be by the way why and you I often tell my couples are the two bad words and relationships are there’s not too many is where you can use those two words especially in the same sentence and have a positive outcome and if you think about it why can’t you why don’t you oftentimes that puts this is a very understandable place of defensiveness so it doesn’t typically get us anywhere the main emotion for again and find the bad guy seems to be anger both people often feel trapped but there’s a dead end there’s no winners and then we get stuck down this Content tube that’s what I was talking about before as far as focusing more on the content the ball the step not the dance not the game not the bigger picture the more you attack the more dangerous you appear the more I watch my back the harder I hit back the more you attack sometimes that’s what it looks like another demon dialog the protest polka so this is again for many couples this is the dominant dialog in many cases it is deadly for relationships because it gets into that downward spiral and unless you’re able to pull back see the picture of the big picture and address it it’s likely only going to get deeper this is ultimately all about attachment and what are in disconnection oftentimes it’s about our need for that closeness in connection but we often can’t identify what’s underneath that sort of content level that that we’re focused on we’re missing the underlying needs there is an attachment agenda underneath the statements the conversations that are going on off often all too often emotions and our needs are hidden many times there’s these ambiguous question messages where it’s you know find then get away from me but you really actually want closeness or when you’re maybe criticizing that often results in pushing that person away it oftentimes needs it oftentimes the message under that you really want to send is I need closeness I need connection or I need reassurance here for me and it can very much be endless driven by our primal survivor a code of attachment and often times results in high-octane emotions and it’s really important all too often the person who is pushing who’s criticizing appears to be the one who has all the emotions that then that the person who’s pulling away or stepping back or withdrawing is emotionless but that’s not the case in many cases actually that person is so flooded with emotion is so overwhelmed with emotion they don’t even know what to say or what to do so in some ways that withdrawing behavior as a way to sort of just sort of manage that because they don’t know what else to do with it but it’s important to remember that that person who’s pulling back is not doing it because they don’t care they’re not doing it because they don’t have any feelings it’s oftentimes because they’re overwhelmed feelings so what that spiral dance can look like is the more disconnected or dismissed I feel the more I complained demand get critical and pursue you and that’s important to remember because all too often the more you complain demand and get critical it doesn’t appear that you’re wanting closeness in connection if anything it might actually push that other person away but in many cases if this happens to be you to remember that what’s underneath that is that you are feeling disconnected or dismissed or unimportant and that you need that reassurance you need that connection you need that closeness likewise the more dangerous that I appear the more you move away defend shut down and shut me out so it’s important to remember how again we impact the other person in that process and it’s important to remember to hear in this process there’s no one person that we can really point our finger at and say it’s this is your fault this is your issue if you wouldn’t do this and I wouldn’t do that we try and use this analogy I’ve just you know that the causation is circular that you both have engaged and likely unintentionally reinforced this evolving diamond dialogue over a long period of time and that’s what has ultimately led you to the place you are now but as long as we’re doing to find the bad guy it’s your fault if you wouldn’t do that it’s just not going to get January so here’s some other examples of what pursuers and what cars might say so pursue might say I’m dying here I’m shut out my feelings don’t matter it’s lonelier than living alone I’m by myself dismissed get no response I’m hammering on his door I yelled to get a response any response it’s like we’re roommates I don’t even matter to him or her what dryers often say on the flip side I never get it right oftentimes what dryers feel awfully overly criticized and that they can’t do anything right I can’t please I give up I space out it’s best to avoid a fight try to keep things calm I’m failing here paralyzed there’s no point go behind my wall I’ll go I’ll build a wall and I’ll go behind it and try to fix it doesn’t work so I numb out and so safe emotional engagement is the only solution to this problem and that’s not exactly an easy thing to do especially if you’ve had this history in the relationship where you are unable to really get your needs both identified as well as communicated to your partner so reaching out and being vulnerable and sharing hey this is what’s actually underneath that’s I’m sad I’m lonely I’m disconnected I miss you is pretty risky because the other person might criticize or they might walk away so it’s understandable and then there’s also the freeze and flee demon dialog where both people are withdrawing there’s no risk the dance grinds to a halt there’s little to no real interaction at all often the aftermath of chronic protests polka in many cases this means there’s that person who’s usually pursuing and criticizing has just gotten burned out trying to trying to engage those hopelessness there’s no sex there’s no touch it’s like they’re strangers it’s been described as icy emptiness and depressing and it is very much a prelude to detachment it’s a scary place to end up being and the spiral dance the more I hold back and shut out my own feelings the more careful in this didn’t you become the more distant you are the more I go into my shell and chill out so what is your demon dialogue how is it that you tend to approach communication when the tension starts to rise at any one point whatever might be going on in the relationship at the time do you tend to engage to push to in some cases criticize or do you tend to pull away pull back protect and if you will what’s your default option you may move what did you learn from past love relationships all too often we’re again we’re coming back to some of those old whether they’re from our family of origin or from our previous romantic relationships were we’re moving from a place that we’ve learned maybe I’ve learned that boy if I say anything I’m going to get hammered so no way Jose I’m not I’m not even gonna go there I’m going to shut down I’m going to stop this as soon as fast as I can I got us you know if that means I respond with you know whatever or yesteryear or let’s talk about it tomorrow whatever I have to do to stop it now I’m gonna stop it because again I learned early on if I say anything bad things are going to happen or on the flip side I learned and I’ve heard this from many of my clients I learned in my family of origin if I didn’t speak up then I wasn’t going to be heard at all and so I learned early on I have to speak up and I have to speak loud and sometimes I get heard sometimes I don’t but I have to be loud and I have to be assertive or my needs won’t get that so all too often that’s what we walk into our romantic relationships with and then depending on where our partner is things evolve and in many cases it can grow and build to a place of pain and sadness and then also how do you pull your partner into this spiral maybe trigger the primal panic and him or her again remember how is it that it’s possible than how you’re engaging or not how that might have an impact on your partner to either push or pull them away but it definitely regardless of your of your approach it’s going to have an impact on how that spiral continues so we have to remember that again that how we’re engaging will have a direct impact on our relationship and how we’re engaging so I hope this has been helpful for you and we’ll get another video out soon about sort of what to do about this what’s the next step how do you actually change its how do you reverse that negative spiral. So I hope this has been helpful for you and if you have any questions I would be happy to chat with you just give us a call to impress your relationship centered there are three of us they’re all marriage and family therapists and we use this model that we’re talking about that emphasizes the underlying attachment deeper needs that we want or need in a relationship the questioned relationships on earth is located just off the downtown square you provide a comfortable and professional space where we work with individuals couples and families to build and heal relationships we do it by utilizing evidence-based practices so you can be certain you’ll get the most effective assistance with your concerns all of our staff are licensed and experienced marriage and family therapists who are skilled of building a safe and healing environment when working with our clients if you have not yet visited our website you can learn more about the counseling specialties we offer the staff at the press cute relationship center our relationship retreat dates course our blog and you can even schedule an appointment online let us know if you have any questions and thank you for watching.