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Shifting From Me vs You to Us Consciousness with Terry Real
Episode 4310th June 2022 • Connectfulness Practice • Connectfulness Rebecca Wong
00:00:00 00:55:51

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Patriarchy, supremacy, and toxic individualism are cultural values that really are at the root of so many social and political problems we face today.  Systemic change can seem overwhelming, if not nearly impossible.  But changing the power structure within our most intimate relationships?  That’s something we can definitely do–starting today.  How?  By shifting from Me vs. You consciousness to Us consciousness and learning to act from our wise adult rather than our adaptive child as we work through hard things with our partners. When we do this, we spark a cultural butterfly effect that ripples outward into the world.  As this episode’s guest, Terry Real, says, “We may not be able to bring peace to Ukraine for example, but we can bring peace to our living rooms and our bedrooms. And why don't we start with where we live?”

Terry Real is the creator of Relational Life Therapy and author of the forthcoming book, Us.  Tune in as Terry shares his insight on speaking to your immature, adaptive child parts vs. speaking to your wise adult parts, key differences in how boys and girls are conditioned to be in relationship and how to relearn what was taught out of us as children, the harm that patriarchy and individualism cause us in relationships and how relationships can upend them, masculinity and the current state of our country, the power in changing the choices we make in relationship in order to get more of what we want (rather than pointing the finger at our partners), plus a relational skill assignment to try in your relationship right now.

Note: This podcast episode was recorded in February 2022, before certain current events in the U.S. took place, such as the massacres in Buffalo, NY, Uvalde, TX, the Depp/Heard trial, and news leaked from Supreme Court of the decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, all of which have roots in supremacy, patriarchy and toxic individualism.  Any omissions of such events in this conversation are not intentional, though we hope the correlations between these events and the issues discussed in this episode come through and further underscore the need for this work at every level from the most intimate to the collective.


RESOURCES:

Learn more about Terry Real and his work at TerryReal.com.  You can order Terry Real’s new book, Us, here.

If you enjoyed this episode and want to dive in deeper, consider joining one of Rebecca’s online offerings to deepen your relational skills and expand your Self care. Learn more at connectfulness.com/offerings

Also, please check out the WHY DOES MY PARTNER short form weekly podcast.

This podcast is not a substitute for counseling with a licensed provider.

Mentioned in this episode:

WDMP Integrating Heart+Mind

WDMP Integrating Heart+Mind

Transcripts

Rebecca Wong:

All right. Welcome back everybody. We are here today with a really special guest. We're here with Terry Real, who is one of my teachers and mentors. And I just noticed my whole body just started to shake, because I started to introduce you Terry. So you just wrote this beautiful new book called Us. And I love where this takes your work. I love the direction of this.

Terry Real:

Thank you.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. I feel like it's a whole evolution. It's all of the work that you've been teaching for decades that is now offered in another way.

Terry Real:

Thank you. I really do feel that it's the culmination of my 30 plus year career as a therapist, writer, teacher. It really does feel like it's all come together.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. I feel that when I read it.

Terry Real:

Thank you.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. And I'm hopeful that everybody who listens to this will pick up a copy and will read it. It feels like it's a life changing type of book, maybe culture changing type of book.

Terry Real:

Thank you. I hope so. It's ambitious.

Rebecca Wong:

It is ambitious, But what I love about it is that you're taking us on a journey as we read this book of looking at ourselves, but also of the culture that we live inside of. And the effect that culture has on us and how, when we make shifts in our most intimate relationships and shifts in ourself, how that can really exponentially make bigger shifts culturally too.

Terry Real:

Yeah. Rebecca, I say we may not be able to bring peace to Ukraine for example, but we can bring peace to our living rooms and our bedrooms. And why don't we start with where we live?

Rebecca Wong:

Which brings me right to one of the quotes in the first part of your book. And you say, "Here, you'll learn how to reconnect first to yourself, your feelings, your needs, your desires, because great relationships start with your relationship to yourself. And then you'll learn the skills of a sophisticated and practical relationship technology designed to teach you how to get more of what you want in relationships with others. That's such a beautiful explanation of what this is all about. I find so often the people I work with don't get that when they're not in touch and reconnected with themself, that's a huge part of the issue.

Terry Real:

Yeah. It is. And I think that's particularly true for women or it's true for both sexes in different ways, but of course, 50 years of feminism and feminist psychology has shown us. And there's a lot of black and white research starting with Carol Gillon back in the '80s that women tend to over accommodate, lose their voice, not allow themselves to be fully in touch with their wants and their needs and their desires for fear of what kind of response they're going to get. And also because a good woman shouldn't be so selfish. A good woman should serve the needs of others. So being in touch with your voice is really critical. And what's interesting to me though, is traditionally under patriarchy. And as you've heard me say a million times, patriarchy is the water we swim in and we're the fish.

Terry Real:

Patriarchy and the culture of toxic individualism that I go into a lot in the book. Anyway, within that framework, men don't have voice in their relationships, either. A good woman shouldn't speak up for herself because a good woman shouldn't have any needs. She should serve the needs of others. A good man doesn't speak up for himself because what needs? What are you talking about? Men don't have any needs. Men are stoic pieces of wood. So one of the things I say is that under patriarchy men have two emotions that are allowable, anger, and lust. And other than that's really about it. So in order to be relational, women have to move into voice and men have to move into their hearts and both men and women and non-binary folks all have to move beyond patriarchy and the culture of individualism.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. It's so interesting. I find that in my own marriage, that being able to speak up for what we want and need for what we feel is like, it's the ongoing crux of our marriage. It's the ongoing learning edge of what's happening between us. And the more I speak up, the more I realize that maybe I'm even taking some air out of the room for my husband and so there's this, I don't want to take away space from him. And there's this dance that we're constantly learning and it's that constant learning. I think that's the work.

Terry Real:

I think that is the work, being relational, which is what... The name of my therapy is relational life therapy. The name of the Institute is Relational Life Institute. I'm about teaching people how to live relational lives. And what it means to be relational is that you are responding to what's in front of your face

Rebecca Wong:

Moment by moment, day by day.

Terry Real:

Moment by moment, day by day. And people say that relationships take work, but very rarely does anybody tell you what the work is. And one of the things I say in the book, Us and in my work is that work of relationships isn't even day by day, it's moment by moment in this moment right now, what am I going to choose? Am I going to go with my mature self and speak up? For example, even though I'm afraid, or am I going to go with an immature part of me that's too frightened to speak or an immature part of me that when she does speaks, barks. And where am I at in myself?

Terry Real:

One of the things, the first questions that I ask when I'm sitting with somebody is not what are the external stressors because good couples can handle stress. And it's not even what I taught you and others, the dance, the more she pursues, the more he distances. That's really important, but that's not the most. The most important question is this one, which part of you am I speaking to? Am I speaking to the here and now untriggered, prefrontal cortex, wise adult part of you, or am I speaking to some flooded, immature trauma saturated part of you that comes out of your past and your adaptation to it?

Rebecca Wong:

This is huge.

Terry Real:

Yeah.

Rebecca Wong:

And I think this is like, if we could all learn all of us, everybody who's listening, who knows somebody who also can learn this. If we could all learn that when we can start observing what part of us we're acting from, reacting from, listening to things from, when we can start observing which part of us is present, that's where everything can change.

Terry Real:

Everything can change. And just the act of observing puts you in the wise adult self. The act of observing fires up the most mature part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex by definition, because that's the part of you that can observe. And my pal, the German mystic Thomas Hubl has a lovely saying, "To observe is to have choice." Because you're in the part of you that can stop and think and make a choice as opposed to what I call you and me consciousness, as opposed to us consciousness, the adaptive child, part of us, which is knee jerk, automatic, you do the same damn thing you did when you were a kid, you've been doing it for 30, 40 years and it just comes over you and you act it out.

Rebecca Wong:

You say in the book, you say this thing, I've heard you talk about it before, too, but I'm wondering if you can talk about it a little bit more right now. You say that most of us don't reenact the experience of trauma itself, we relive it.

Terry Real:

Well, actually, the quote is, "You don't really remember trauma when you relive it."

Rebecca Wong:

That's it.

Terry Real:

The vet who hears a car backfire and spins around like he's in combat is not walking down thinking, I'm in main street, remembering combat. He's flooded with being viscerally. His body is saying we're back. And you were yelled at by your dad as a little girl. And now your husband yells at you and you're not thinking, Gee, this reminds me of when I was five and I was being yelled at. Your body, I call it whoosh. Your body just goes through a wave of either, however you reacted to that, you either felt shame and blamed yourself and you want to go make yourself small and high, or you're a fighter and you fight back and you wind up screaming. Whatever the adaptation is, is what gets triggered in our personal relationships. And most of us, certainly most of the couples I see have lived most of their lives out of these adaptive child parts, thinking that those are adults and they're not. They're a kid version of what an adult looks like.

Rebecca Wong:

Right. I'm fortunate. I get to co-facilitate your boot camps. And we recently taught one. Is it okay if I share a little story with you?

Terry Real:

Sure.

Rebecca Wong:

So I recently co-facilitated a bootcamp, a day or two later, my husband and I got into a fight. Love how that happens, right. And so-

Terry Real:

I was teaching all these people how to love each other. And I have to put up with your bullshit.

Rebecca Wong:

A little bit like that, but a little bit different. And so we get into this fight and the essence of the fight boils down to, he didn't feel that I supported him. And he got really reactive about not feeling supported. And so I went into all my skills. I thought I was doing them all right. This is the good part of the story. And I'm listening. And I'm really understanding. I spend like a good amount of time, really just being in a listener mode and listening and understanding him, reflecting it back to him, acknowledging what I can doing all of my skills.

Terry Real:

Yeah. Good skill.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. Really good. Wait, like a good amount of time. Sometime the next day, bring up some direct requests and bring them out there to him and say, "Hey, listen, here's just a few things that would really help me." And he wasn't able to meet me right there in that moment. And I went right into my whoosh because I went into, but my timeline, this is like my old stuff. And it was a huge learning moment for me around feeling inside of me, the difference between being able to tolerate his, I can't meet you there right now because I need to learn that you can also meet me here first. And what I learned about myself in that moment, and this is critical for me is that I became my mother. I became my parents in that moment. I was re-acting something that I lived through as a child.

Terry Real:

What was it? But do you mind naming it?

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. It's totally okay. It was like the pressure of this is my schedule. I need this now. And so, I went right into that place of, I need this here now. And when he couldn't give me that my world's collapsed. But it just, it collapsed until I was able to observe it and see it and sit with it. And I have some wonderful friends through this line of work and I was able to hold myself and bring myself back and it didn't take so long to bring myself back. Really didn't take so long. But I really attribute it not taking me long to the work and to living this work, to being trained in this work, to understanding it and to being able to shift into that observer.

Terry Real:

Yes. Us consciousness, I call it. The part of the brain that can recognize that you're in a relationship. My language for this, Rebecca is remembering love. Remembering what the person you're speaking to is not an adversary, but there's someone you love. And the reason why you're speaking is to make things better. And what that means is, if you can remember that, then you're in your adult sel.f and that triggered, I need it, I need it now. I'm behaving like that five year old girl, I'm behaving just like I saw my mom behaved with my dad or whatever it was. That's the adaptive child part of you.And what you did, that was so gorgeous is you got triggered. You had the whoosh, you were taken over by your automatic response. And then you took a break, you reached out for support from friends, you righted yourself. You got recentered. And then you were able to go back into the fray with your husband. And I'm sure it was better.

Rebecca Wong:

My gosh. I can't even begin to tell you how much better it got. Because we were able to then talk about it and name it and really acknowledge it and grow from it. It's beautiful.

Terry Real:

So there's a word for that. It's called health.

Rebecca Wong:

I love that. I have to say though, the work of moving into Us consciousness is freaking hard because it means you also have to look at and reckon with parts of yourself that you might be struggling with.

Terry Real:

Yes. That's true. You're in the picture. And it's so easy to look at our partners and just blame them. I say that in one of the chapters that most of the people who see me are what I call essentialists. My partner just is essentially blah, blah. And whatever your negative imagery is. Can I tell you a story? Yeah.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. I'd love to.

Terry Real:

I tell this story in the book, it's a true story. A guy comes to me, very funny guy. I grew to really get fond of him, but he was pretty much a diamond in the rough. And I ask him, as you know, I begin most sessions with, what would you like if this were to be a great success, what would you get? Without hesitation, he says, "Me, I want to get laid. If I could get laid, then this therapy would be successful." And I brilliantly deduce, she's not having the sex life with his wife that he would. What's wrong? Why aren't you? She's just cold. She's frigid and she doesn't like sex and her whole family's cold and she's just a cold person. Okay. I bring in Harry's wife and I say, "Okay, Mrs. Harry, tell me about your sex life."

Terry Real:

She goes, what sex life? We don't have one. I go, well, why not? And she goes, well, why would I want one? The guy's a lousy lover. He's had premature ejaculation for 20 years. He won't do anything to fix it. He won't talk to me about it. He won't take care of any my needs. And every time I try and bring it up, he just gets mad at me and storms off. Now who wants him? I bring back Harry, this is my favorite part. And I say to Harry, "Harry, I've got great news for you. And the news of course is you and your partner are connected." This is an ecology. A system, you have something to say about this.

Terry Real:

Our relationship to relationships in this culture is passive. You get what you get and then you complain about it. And Us is all about empowering people to be proactive. To shape what they get with requests and with the move they make on their side of the Seesaw to kick out different responses from their partner. This is called working on your relationship. So get off your ass, stop focusing on what's wrong with them and ask yourself some questions about how you might handle yourself differently in order to get more of what you're wanting.

Rebecca Wong:

It's kind of mind blowing though. Learning this stuff that in order to get more of what I want out of my relationship, I have to focus on me. There's something about that, that I think is like a huge paradigm shift, at least for how we think inside of American culture.

Terry Real:

Yeah. Right. Because it's all about them, them, and what miserable people they are. And when we leave ourselves out of the equation. But simple example, your husband comes home. Your husband wants a romantic night. He comes on Thursday with a bouquet flowers, a babysitter in tow, and tickets to a show. That goes that way. He comes on Friday night, this place is in the shit hole. What have you been doing all day? And where's supper? Which of those two nights do you think is going to wind up in romance?

Rebecca Wong:

Thursday.

Terry Real:

Hello? You have something to say about how you respond.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. It's like it's this ecology piece. We all live inside of this biosphere. And if we're polluting that air, if we're kind of breathing out that toxic energy, then that's what we're going to be breathing back in. We're living inside of it too. We're breathing that air.

Terry Real:

That's it. That's the wisdom. I call that moving from the patriarchal hubris to ecological humility and wisdom.

Rebecca Wong:

Say that again, Terry.

Terry Real:

We're moving from patriarchal hubris, overweening pride to ecological wisdom to ecological humility

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead. Well, I just wanted to say this feels like the power over or under versus power with.

Terry Real:

That's exactly right.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. That you teach so much of it. This is the really shifting that power stance.

Terry Real:

Yeah. That's right. Because the essence of patriarchal culture and I go into this in the book and BCL, the essence of in the toxic culture of individualism is that individualism teaches us that we stand apart from nature. That's what it means to be an individual. I'm an individual I'm distinct from everything else. That's what it means. I'm apart from nature and patriarchy teaches us we're not just apart from nature we dominate nature. God gave Adam dominion over all the things that walk and crawl and fly over this earth. Really bad idea. And when we wake up to ecological wisdom, we realize, as you just said, our relationship is our biosphere. We're not above it, we're in it. We breathe it. And you can choose to pollute your biosphere with a temper tantrum or a demand over here. But you'll breathe in that pollution and your partner's response over there.

Terry Real:

You're not separate from each other. You're late, you're in the same atmosphere. And so it's not about when you move into you and me consciousness. When you lose us consciousness, you lose the relationship. And it becomes all about me, me, and survival. When you move into that, you're facing an adversary and one of you wins and the other one loses. It's all deluded. That's nonsense. The reality is that you're a team work like a team. For example, through relational or ecological, answer to the question who's right and who's wrong is, who cares? What matters is, how are we going to get through this issue in a way that's going to work for both of us? We love each other. We're a team. How are we going to? It's like the difference between saying, I want sex. I need more sex. I need more sex in my marriage and saying, "Honey, we both deserve a nice sex life. What do we need to do to get this jump started? What's-

Rebecca Wong:

So hugely different demanding versus we both deserve.

Terry Real:

Me, me, versus us.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. Terry, what this is making me think about is that in our relationships, we're really creating this space. I think you call it the mysticism of marriage. Where we are healing together. As we grow healthier, like in the example I gave of my husband and I we're growing in those moments. We don't grow from moments that there is no discord. We grow in the moments where there's discord. There's a rupture. We repair that rupture and we have learned more about ourselves and each other through that repair.

Terry Real:

Yeah. Intimacy is, I got this from the infant observational researcher Ed Tronick. And it is a pillar of my work. That intimacy is an endless dance of harmony, disharmony and repair. And what Tronick is very good about is, in our culture, we think that trust comes from unbroken harmony. And the reality is trust comes from the whole cycle. It comes from messing up painful, messy transactions that lead back to one another. And to, I'm sorry, I hurt you, honey. I'm sorry. I hurt you too. You know what, in the future, I'm going to try and do it that way.

Terry Real:

If you would, I would really appreciate that. And then if you really want an A plus, how could I support you in making that change? Well, you could be less critical and more appreciative. Great. I'll do that. The relational golden rule, the $10,000 question is what do you need from me in order to help you change for me in the ways that I want? What do you need from me in order to deliver what I'm asking for? How can I be at your service as you try to please me? Who says that without training?

Rebecca Wong:

Gosh, without training, I haven't met that person yet. They might be out there. They're happy unicorn, but I haven't met them yet. But what I'm thinking of is to get to the place where you can ask that question. It takes a sturdiness and a willingness to really be able to look at, okay, wait, they're going to ask me to do something that's going to be, or in order, let's say it again. I'm trying to put this together. Okay. So in order to be able to ask that question of my partner, I need to have a certain clarity of what I'm asking for. And I have to be able to do my boundary work on my side of the street. If I'm overstepping and asking for more than they're able to deliver, I'm going to be met with grief and I'm going to have to be able to hold that grief. I'm going to have to be able to meet myself there.

Terry Real:

Well, it does help to do some thinking and ask yourself whether what you're asking for is proportionate and reasonable. But I wouldn't hold back. If you want it, go for it and let your partner give as much or as little as they want to and can.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. And there's a vulnerability in there on both the asker and the person who's being asked. There's vulnerability in both sides.

Terry Real:

Yes. And one of the things people don't get is that it is vulnerable to assert yourself. It's vulnerable to put yourself out there and ask. And this is a woman's thing. A lot of women, I talk with them about working on their relationships in these ways. And I get something like, God, that's so much work. Why do I have to help him learn how to do the dishes. This is what I call working with the guy you have instead of the one you deserve. Why do you have to work that hard? Why do you have to put out your needs and teach whoever you're with what pleases you? Because you want them to come through for you. Is it fair? No, it's not fair. I grant you that. Women in general have to work harder in relationships than many men, because men are coming from further behind.

Rebecca Wong:

You think so?

Terry Real:

I do. In our call, well, it's changing with the age. Younger men are better, but by and large, we raise women and girls to be more relationally sensitive into what more firm relationships than we raise boys and men. The way we turn boys into men is precisely by knocking them out of relationship, out of connection to themselves and to others. And we wonder why they're having so much difficulty pleasing their partner.

Rebecca Wong:

I guess I just feel that we do it to women too, but in different ways. One of the ways we do it to women is that to be assertive, to ask for what you need and want is kind of like trained out of us in many ways. It's not something that we teach our little people growing up to be adults. And I think it was when I was reading Bonnie Batons work. Terry, I was reading about it and one of the things that really struck me in that work is when she was talking about how, when we're babies, we're kind of born meeting the world, being able to ask directly for what we need and want. And then over time as we grow and our needs aren't met, that ability to make those direct requests diminishes. And so we grow into these adults who don't know how to ask for what we need and want, which is a huge part of being able to be relational, being able to ask for what you need and want.

Terry Real:

you need and want [inaudible:

Rebecca Wong:

A huge part of it. Yeah.

Terry Real:

Yeah. And if you read the feminist psychology, it operates differently in the two sexes and these are generalities, but nevertheless, women lose the capacity to directly assert themselves at the age of adolescence 12, 13, 14. They fall prey to what the great Carol Gilligan has called The Tyranny of the Nice and Kind. They learn to over accommodate. They learn to back off and go along to get along. Boys are knocked out of relationship at three, four, five years old.

Rebecca Wong:

That early?

Terry Real:

Yeah. Before our boys have learned to read, they already have read the code. They know better. Judy Chu has done research. Three, four, five year old boys are already less expressive emotionally than girls. They feel their feelings, but they already know better than to express them. And the punishment that a girl gets for crossing over into boy land, particularly after almost a half a century of feminism can be bad. Depends. But the punishment that a boy moving over to girl land faces is truly violent, truly reprehensible.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. So this makes me think about a whole population of people in between the male, female kind of binary where they're growing up. Maybe there's a lot more people now growing up in a more non-binary framework, a more non-binary world. And so it makes me think of what are, it's really interesting. I'm raising two preteens and hearing even just like their knowledge and their awareness of them and their peers learning about gender and exploring are they binary? Are they non-binary. All of those pieces and who is identifying as how. I feel like it's changing. And then also it's not. We could look around and we see laws coming out in different states that are trying to politicize people's genders. And so I feel like there's some kind of shift happening in terms of culturally how we're thinking about raising our young.

Terry Real:

Yeah. I think that the whole issue. One of the things I wrote about in Us is that masculinity currently is at war with itself. Yeah. There are two versions of masculinity, one progressive and one very conservative and there at war with each other. With the governor of Texas, just labeled support for transgendered kids as child abuse. And it's just war. And I think that the fate of our humanity depends on how this is going to play out. I really do.

Rebecca Wong:

I agree with you. I deeply agree with you. And here's the thing I love this work so much because I think it gives us a way of seeing relationships ourselves in the world, raising our kiddos, the whole gamut. I think it ripples. And my hope is that we can, that relational life therapy that RLT, that Us consciousness, that all of the stuff that you teach can become a language that more and more people can learn. Because I think it's in learning this language that we can make shifts.

Terry Real:

Yeah. Because the language is a new map. And the map is moving out of win, lose zero sum what I call you and me consciousness and moving into the unity. The biosphere, the whole, remembering what you're about, remembering that you know, I'll say to somebody, "Look, I want you to answer less defensively and I want you to be compassionate to your partner's experience." And they say to me, "Why would I want to do that?" And I say, "Well, first of all, you love them. And second of all, if you can't get there, are you ready? You have to live with them dummy." Happy spouse, happy house as they say. So I don't think about win, lose, or I don't even think about altruism. I think about enlightened self interest. It's in my interest to keep Belinda happy because I live with her. Hello, wake up. It's not that I'm being such a good guy to her. It's that I'm taking care of our biosphere. And that's being a good guy to me too.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. And I think this is the part, you ask a question in your book, you say, how can we reconcile individualism with the collective good? And I think this is kind of hitting on that a little bit. The other piece that you talk about is a piece about, privileged, what was it? Privileged obliviousness?

Terry Real:

Privilege obliviousness. Yeah.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. And I find this, I can't help, but think about it on so many different layers when I read about this. Do you want to talk a little bit about privileged obliviousness? I can't even say the word privileged.

Terry Real:

Yeah.

Rebecca Wong:

Take it off my tongue.

Terry Real:

It's a big one for guys. And it's actually not my phrase as my friend, Jeffrey curse. Privileged obliviousness is the guy who walks in steps over the pile of stinking diapers gives his wife a kiss and says, hi, hun, how are you? And it's like, I'd be a lot better if you took out the diapers we're both standing in. Hello. And women perennially in my office. I don't know how it is for you, but in my we'll say, yeah, if I tell the guy, "Look, I want you to grab a bag, walk over to the living room, clean up the diapers and throw them out. He'll do them. But if I rely on the guy to notice that the diapers that they're needing to be done, I could have a very long wait on my hands.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. And that's where we need to speak up.

Terry Real:

That's where you need to speak up. It's like, what is fueling that guy's obliviousness is over a thousand years of male privilege. A man have not been in charge of domestic lives for over a thousand years. And we just don't think about it. I don't care that you're working just as hard as me and making one and a half times my salary. You're the one that's going to notice the diapers. I'm the guy. What's in the bridge?

Rebecca Wong:

What I hear a lot is, when I speak up, my partner will do the things, but why do I have to keep making the lists?

Terry Real:

Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. And so, I work with guys around being more initiated around shifting their consciousness so that they're more partners. But on the other hand, this has been going on for a thousand years. And by and large men will have a harder time noticing than women will. And partly you fight the good fight and partly you shrug your shoulders and tell the guy what to do. And if he's a nice guy, he'll do it. He puts up with being told what to do. And you put up with having to tell.

Rebecca Wong:

That's a nice way to say it, Terry.

Terry Real:

It's not either/or, it's both/and.

Rebecca Wong:

It's the both/and in there that both sides, it's not, that one is harder or easier than the other it's that both require a sort of vulnerability and humility.

Terry Real:

Yeah. My son just got engaged to a girl who is a classic new England sort of Brahman, high WASP, and he's not. We grew up in blue collar Jewish. And so he's a mess, he's a prince. And I asked how she dealt with his messiness and they both cracked up. She didn't say a word. Early on in their living together, they were living together for five years. She never said one word of criticism about his mess. All she would do is take snapshots of the dirty underpants on the floor or the socks on the fridge and email it to him. It took him about two months to figure out what was going on and he shaped up. Let me go through that move. Should she in the best of all possible worlds? Should she have to do that work of letting him know? No, but again, this is what I call dealing with the guy you've got instead of the one you deserve. Roll up your sleeve and deal with the person that you're dealing with.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. And so can we come back, can I circle us back in this last bit of the interview, just to kind of like what points you might have for folks who want to get better at this side of the work, at doing the work on their side of the street, at not pointing their finger at their partner, at looking at themselves, at being in that observational space. There's so much that can help us move into that more observational mindset. Knowing about it is super important, but experiencing how to get there.

Terry Real:

Well, and that's what the whole book's about. You can cultivate moving from your, I call it whoosh, the wave that comes over you fight, flight or fix and understanding your automatic responses, getting to know your adaptive child, meaning your own adaptive child with compassion. Don't be hard. Don't meet harshness with harshness, meet harshness with loving firmness.

Rebecca Wong:

Right. And that even goes towards yourself.

Terry Real:

Yeah. And working with the immature parts of you, rather than either having attitude about them or running from them or denying them or trying to control them. But at the end of the day, the immature parts of you are not the ones that are going to drive the bus, you are. And one of the things I say, I know you've heard me say it, Rebecca. When an inner child kicks up, you put them on your lap. You put your arms around them, you hear out what they have to say, you love them up and you take their sticky hands off the steering wheel. You're in the backseat. I'm dealing with my partner, not you.

Rebecca Wong:

I think it's so important to remember that part of our work when we're dealing with those inner parts, when we're dealing with those sticky fingered, adaptive child, wounded child parts is that our job is to be present with them in a way that offers them guidance, offers them nurturing, but also sets limits.

Terry Real:

Yeah. You are not going to act out on my partner. One of my 8 million sayings is maturity comes when we deal with our inner children and don't foist them off on our partners to deal with.

Rebecca Wong:

It's my favorite. And it's partly my favorite because I'm realizing that's the work right there. When we deal with our inner children and we don't foist them off on our partners, that could take a lifetime to actually learn how to do.

Terry Real:

Yeah. But the beauty is that it can be cultivated.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. And that every inch makes a difference.

Terry Real:

Every inch makes a difference. And every time you take a breath and in this moment, choose something more mature, relational, loving, functional. Maybe it's the stand down. Maybe it's the stand up, whatever the moment is that needs, every time you do that, you are building strong relational muscles and they get stronger as you practice.

Rebecca Wong:

That's right. One of my favorite quotes from the book is this, you may not be able to directly control your partner, but you may be able to influence your interaction with your partner by changing your own behavior. That is so empowering. Terry.

Terry Real:

Yeah. The example I give is a huge guy on one end of a Seesaw haggling, every passer by who walks by going, "Could you please help me get that skinny, broad down from there?" And the poor guy has tried everything under the sun to convince her to come down and she's just up there on her perch. And it takes either a book like Us or a weekend workshop or a therapist to sort of tap this guy on the shoulder, go, "Hey, listen, if you go up, she'll come down. Try changing your position and see what happens." Can I give you an example of that?

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. Please do.

Terry Real:

And this is very gendered. I give this example to a lot of men. So we had a house in Martha's Vineyard and a little house we worked for forever. Now the kids are little we're on vacation in Martha's vineyards. And I get a babysitter arrange for that, heroic me, and Belinda and I are out at a nice romantic dinner and I'm ready for romantic evening. And we're sitting at dinner and after the first glass of wine, or even half a glass Belinda starts going on about, she's worried about Alexander. And she's really mad at Justin. And this teacher gave her a hard time. And this girlfriend is giving her grief and I'm sitting there and I'm steamed. It's like, man this is the romantic evening. This is a beautiful thing. What are you? And I start counting her. Well, don't worry about that. Well. By about the fourth counter, she gets mad. Then I get mad and then we're both mad and we escalate.

Terry Real:

And that's how that goes. This happens four times. I'm not a quick learner. On the fifth time, I say to myself, you're a couple's therapists. Now you're not going to do this again. Try something different. So this time, number five, we're sitting at dinner and Belinda starts going on about the tensions that she's dealing with. Her worries, her fights, her concerns, her this is an and that, and instead of getting mad that she's taking me away from my romantic idyllic evening, I roll with it. I'm sorry, that feels bad. Tell me more about it. And what did she do? And sure enough, maybe 15, 20 minutes go by. Belinda has herself a little cry, dabs her eyes. The true story comes out all smiles and says, "That feels great. Let's have a lovely evening." And we do. And it has nothing to do with Belinda. It has everything to do with my changing my behavior on my side of the seesaw. That's what working on a relationship looks like.

Rebecca Wong:

Yeah. It is huge Terry. This bit about being able to be there and roll with it, rolling with like, as you say, let the bad thing happen.

Terry Real:

Yes. And maybe your new move is rolling with it instead of trying to control it or reacting, maybe your move is not rolling with it and standing up for yourself and doing something different. There's no rule book that says, this is the thing that you need to do. What you need to do is move into whatever feels uncomfortable and vulnerable to you. And for some of us being open and truly vulnerable feels vulnerable. And for others of us standing up and speaking for yourself, you're vulnerable. But it's what does this biosphere need from me right now?

Rebecca Wong:

And so in order to get there, I just want to kind of bring this home for our listeners. The more we can observe ourself and see, this is how I tend to show up. This is what my whoosh looks like. I go into fight, flight, fix. This is kind of what in RLT, we call it like a core negative image. This is the way that things tend to play out in our relationship. And this is the stance I tend to take to do something different than that. To move into a place of vulnerability and do something different. That tends to be the thing that gets you out.

Terry Real:

Yeah. Dance. If you do something different, something different can happen. Here's a simple tool that your listeners can take on with them. When you're feeling emotional and you want to share your emotion with your partner, as an exercise for the next month. I'd like everybody listening to do that. Instead of your usual go-to emotion, I want you to, instead of going there first, go there last. And instead of your usual go-to emotion, I want you to go underneath that to other emotions.

Rebecca Wong:

So if your usual emotion is anger, go under it to something that may be like sadness. If your usual emotion is fear, go under it to something else that might be strength. Yeah.

Terry Real:

I have a saying, "I want the mighty to melt. I want the weak to stand up. So if your usual emotion, if you're more of an accommodator and you usually lead with small, frightened, I hope you're not offended by this, but find your strength. Get pissed off, find your power, get big. If your usual emotion is indignant and how dare you, come down. I want the mighty to melt. I want the weak to stand up. Whatever your usual lead-in is, take a breath, go under that to a different emotion. Lead with that and see what that does to the pattern.

Rebecca Wong:

I love that, Terry.

Terry Real:

Thank you.

Rebecca Wong:

Thank you. I'm going to let folks kind of sit with that. I think that's a really good place for us to land today.

Terry Real:

Beautiful.

Rebecca Wong:

Thank you so much for joining us. I'm so excited for this book to be released into the world.

Terry Real:

Thank you. I'm very proud of it. And I really do think it has the power to change people's lives if they read it and do some of the things that are suggested in it.

Rebecca Wong:

I agree with you.