Episode 006: Help! Marital Counseling & Art Therapy
Episode 006: Help! Marital Counseling & Art Therapy with special guest Erika Curtis
Have you considered marital counseling/therapy before, during, or after your divorce? Erica Curtis, board certified art therapist & licensed marriage & family therapist shares the many options available to you.
Leanne: 00:00:07 Welcome to episode six. We are back for episode six. More than five, less than seven. I am your host Leanne Linsky. And I’m the boyfriend. You are. So, uh, our topic today. What is our topic today? Our topic today is I’m gonna, I’m gonna. I’m gonna. What is our topic today? Our topic today is counseling therapy, that kind of stuff. That’s exactly what it is. Marital counseling, counseling slash therapy. And I’m slashing that. No, only reason I am is because in my mind I think of because that’s what I want to do and I’m embarrassed because I think in some cases not everybody goes to marital counseling at the time it’s happening and maybe they need therapy later or maybe they’re in therapy. And this is where some other revelations come about. I don’t know, I’m putting it all in one lump thing, but it’s probably best to call it marital accounts.
The Boyfriend: 00:01:20 So I’m guessing since you’ve been through two with these things called marriage you’ve been. Yes,
Leanne: 00:01:25 yes I have. Um, I actually went to marital counseling slash therapy before. Nope. Um, before my first husband and I separated and divorced and after my second divorce I went back to the same counselor in fact.
The Boyfriend: 00:01:44 So you went to the same counselor for both of your falling apart marriages?
Leanne: 00:01:50 I did and I figured why not go back to the person who already knows my story and I can save myself some time and money and I don’t waste all that time filling her in. How’d that work out for you? Here I am. I didn’t get married again yet. So.
The Boyfriend: 00:02:06 Well you did get divorced. Isn’t the whole point of therapy is to stop a divorce?
Leanne: 00:02:10 Well, I think so. I mean I think it’s to go and figure out what it is you want to do.
The Boyfriend: 00:02:15 It’s probably said a little better from someone who has some experience,
Leanne: 00:02:19 you know. I mean I know initially when I went, the first time my husband and I went together, my ex husband and I, we went together. Of course we went to two sessions together and then in the middle of the second session he left. So that kind of made my sessions sessions, which ultimately was the end, the beginning of the wall. I don’t want to say it’s a beginning, but it was definitely the end and a later he told me that he did come back and knocked on the door, but nobody answered because we were finishing the session. So we never heard of knocking. So I don’t know. That is fact.
The Boyfriend: 00:02:59 Sure. Now just imagine if the door opened, maybe that would’ve changed things for you. I bet it would have changed a whole lot. Yeah, absolutely. So what kind of therapy was it? Was it like just talking questions and answers kind of therapy or
Leanne: 00:03:13 it was. Well, you know, first I think she listened to both of us and why we thought we were there. And I remember one thing in particular that she had given us an assignment and after the first session and we each had to go home and we supposed to do it separately, which we did and it was about writing down a list of our wants and needs. But each of us wanted from a relationship and what we absolutely needed from our relationship.
The Boyfriend: 00:03:39 You did activities though,
Leanne: 00:03:42 so we talked through the session to answer the first question. Yes, we did talk and she talks back, you know, like not like talk back Sassy and talk back. But she talked to us and ask us question. It wasn’t a matter of like us laying on the couch staring at the ceiling, talking and then her just nodding her head and writing stuff down. That wasn’t what it was at all. But basically she would take turns with us. We were both in the same room at the same time, um, and kind of ask questions to get a feel about where we were. And she ended up sending us home with a homework assignment and the next week we came in and it was time to reveal what we had learned. And clearly we had very different things on our list, which was mind blowing for me. But it didn’t turn out so well. So the second time I went back to her, when I went back to her,
The Boyfriend: 00:04:32 she used the same techniques. The second time,
Leanne: 00:04:36 uh, no because I didn’t go back to her and tell after my divorce, my second divorce
The Boyfriend: 00:04:44 when you were going through to your first divorce, but then you went as a solo person after your second? Correct. Okay. So what did she do for you then?
Leanne: 00:04:53 She, she, first of all, thank me for coming back. She was surprised. I don’t think that it ever happened before from conifer reaction. Um, but she wanted to know of course why always there. And I told her, I said I, I felt that
The Boyfriend: 00:05:11 to more of a talking session for you to get it out then.
Leanne: 00:05:15 Yeah. Yeah. It’s none of your business. Five is there. It was more of a talking session. Uh, you know, where I would talk, she would ask me questions, I would talk, she would ask me more questions and you know, it’s interesting because it’s not just a matter for asking me questions and me answering them. She also had her input in would, it was more of a conversation,
The Boyfriend: 00:05:41 but that works well for a woman. So I’m thinking if I went to therapy, especially if there’s a relationship there, b, I’m not much of a talker, I don’t. There’s gotTa be other ways or other techniques that they could help with a men or even some introverted people having a. typically women are more of a talkative express your emotions, a kind of gender than a male gender. Right?
Leanne: 00:06:05 Everything. So, I mean, there would have to be in, actually, from what I understand, I’ve heard, um, so I don’t know statistics on this, but I’ve heard that women are more likely to go to counseling then men are somewhere, I think I’ve heard.
The Boyfriend: 00:06:19 Oh, I can believe that because we don’t, we’re, we’re solvers. We’re, we are the persons that solve problems. Why go to someone else to talk about our feelings when we just want to solve the problem. So guys aren’t built that way, at least from our, our mindset.
Leanne: 00:06:34 Uh, yeah, to generalize. I mean, I’m, I’m sure there are exceptions to every rule. Like I’m sure there’s some woman that would never go and there are some guys who would love to go and do. But um, but yeah, I, I think that I kind of say I say marital counseling, but I in my mind I have to believe that a lot of people don’t necessarily go right during that time, but maybe later on they go and seek therapy so they seek it as an individual. Like how can I better myself or get over this trauma?
The Boyfriend: 00:07:06 Well, yeah, but that’s if you were, yeah, if you are traumatized by the relationship, but there are counseling, marriage counseling, marriage therapy, if you want to call it that can be beneficial for couples to try to save their relationship has been, there’s been data to show that.
Leanne: 00:07:22 Absolutely. I think so. And I think it probably comes down to willingness if a, if a couple is willing to, uh, show up and go to a counselor together, obviously there’s hope
The Boyfriend: 00:07:37 showing up, but also participating, being, being, being part of it,
Leanne: 00:07:41 being part of it. And we’re willing to do the work. Yeah. Because not only are you going to have to show up, you obviously, I know not every counselor gives you homework. Maybe. I don’t know. I only speak from my own experience, but yeah, you have to go home and apply what you’re learning in that session.
The Boyfriend: 00:07:57 So what’d you learn about from this week’s, this week’s guest?
Leanne: 00:08:01 Oh my gosh. I learned a lot. There’s actually a lot of methods to marital counseling or relationship counseling in general and things that I had, some I had never even heard of. How about you?
The Boyfriend: 00:08:12 Uh, this, most of them I have never heard of, but again, I’ve never been in relationship counseling before, uh, but the techniques as she discusses seemed to be very, a couple centric and ways to try to bring couples together and understand each other, not just through talking but through actions. Also a. and I found that fascinating. So
Leanne: 00:08:35 I did too. And I, you know, I just want to add one more thing before we move on to our guests and wouldn’t it be cool if they actually had classes in school on how to be in relationships because why wait until something goes wrong. I grew up
The Boyfriend: 00:08:48 Catholic and they said, that’s bad. You don’t want to know that. So tell us about our guest this week.
Leanne: 00:08:56 So our guests this week, she is wonderful. Her name is Erica Curtis. She is a board certified art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist with a private practice in San Juan Capistrano, California. Also, I should add that Erica has appeared in over 50 articles, books and interviews including PBS, Boston, Globe l, USA Today, woman’s world, cosmo life factory, Ho, and more so impressive. Very impressive. And I really enjoyed this interview a lot. So without further ado,
Leanne: 00:09:29 let’s do
Erika Curtis: 00:09:51 little more doom and gloom please.
Leanne: 00:09:54 Right. Well, we are here with Erika Curtis. So welcome. Thank you. I get to be here. It’s great to have you here. And I’m glad that you found us and figured out some secret passage. Yeah, not too bad. Secret recording studio today. So. Awesome. So we’ve all met. We were just sitting here talking and um, go ahead and fill us in a little bit on your background.
Erika Curtis: 00:10:16 Sure. Yeah. So I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and I’m a board certified art therapist. Uh, I have a private practice in San Juan Capistrano, or I work with families, couples, kids, teens, adults, um, you name it. Uh, and uh, I also teach, uh, teach for Ucla Arts and healing. I used to teach at Loyola marymount university’s Department of marriage and family therapy with a specialization in art therapy. Um, and um, rest of the time I’m with my husband of 11 years, 12 years. He’s gonna kill me that I remember how many years has been, but that’s how good it’s been. And we have three kids, seven, four, and almost one years old.
Leanne: 00:11:02 Awesome. So because he’s good. Yep. I enjoy being busy. So I was curious because I had read about the event you were doing at the Museum of broken relationships and the art of transformation and that kind of fascinated me because I’ve obviously been through marital counseling before and everything being married and divorced, but I had this, this is kind of a new concept for me and I was like, hmm, what do you do? And that people could come into that lecture that you did and bring an object of something from a relationship and transform it so that they don’t have the same, I’m guessing, same feelings or same association with that object anymore. And is this part of like what you regularly do when you work with people or. Well, this was interesting
Erika Curtis: 00:11:49 proposition or proposal, if you will, no pun. Or suppose I had intended when the museum contacted me, they just said, hey, would you come and do a workshop? And I said sure. And then had to think about who would be attending a workshop at the Museum of broken relationships. Um, so I started there and uh, and as I really started thinking about it and what the museum is really about in terms of housing artifacts from broken relationships, I thought, well, let’s work with that. Um, because what I do with whoever comes into see me, whatever issues they’re working with, we start with what, what are the problems are, what are the concerns, what are the goals? And then using different means to work with that. And, and art being one of them, one of many things that, um, that we do. But thinking about the art as it helps people to have a different experience.
Erika Curtis: 00:12:44 When you just talk, you mentioned being in couples counseling before and when you talk, you’re really only accessing one part of your experience. Um, because words are associated with the logical, rational part of our brain. We’re really only tapping into a very small portion of our brain and a small portion of our experience therefore, um, but if you start thinking about, um, the emotional part of our experience, the emotional brain or even how we hold memories in our bodies and then we need to start looking outside of just talking and look to a more active experiences, sensory experiences, um, and when it comes to broken relationships, we all have artifacts from those relationships that hold a lot of emotional charge. So that’s how I was inspired. I thought, let’s do something with that and let’s transform these objects to give people a different experience of not only the objects but of themselves as well.
New Speaker: 00:13:37 Interesting. And so I was thinking, boy, if I had known about that, what would I brought? And I’m like, could you bring up, could you bring the actual person with you? That’s probably why the relationship ended because you couldn’t transform them probably. Yeah, probably the reason most don’t know what it’s like. What was the, what was the most interesting thing that someone ended up bringing to?
Erika Curtis: 00:14:02 Uh, well, the, the one that caught my eye was uh, a large, um, I didn’t know what it was actually, but she took it out of her bag and it was a big piece of wood with barbed wire,
New Speaker: 00:14:15 like a weapon. It could have been used as one. I bet you actually wanted to use it as a one. Oh my God.
Erika Curtis: 00:14:23 It was actually not a, not from turned out was not from an intimate. Well, not a romantic relationship.
New Speaker: 00:14:32 Prevent anything from happening. What’s that on your headboard? We’ll talk about that later.
Erika Curtis: 00:14:40 No, but it was actually a relationship she had with her neighbor and it signified this sort of wall that had been built literally and figuratively, between she and her neighbor. So it was a piece of a fence that used be there. So, so that was. Yeah. So that certainly caught, caught my eye not only for the barb wire ness of it. Um, but for how massive it was and it was interesting because she actually emailed me later and she told me what a transformative experience it was for her. She says she hung the resulting piece, she wrapped it in blue twine and it ended up looking like a butterfly when it was done or like a cocoon, like a cocoon of sorts a. and she said that she actually ended up paying up outside next to the wall. Uh, and that, uh, you know, she was able to look at it in a really different way and really transformed her feelings about it.
Erika Curtis: 00:15:30 Wow. Yeah, that’s pretty interesting. I would probably be like, oh, where’s this going to class with a barbed wire would thing malaria. But that’s pretty fascinating. That. So, um, what it was, was there anything else that Kinda stuck out? Yeah, well, I mean, part of the process. I mean, just to kind of dial it back a little bit. It wasn’t just people came in, pulled something out of their purse and wrapped it up with blue twine and they felt much better about it. You know, there was quite a quite a few steps that we took and one of them was was just a first look at the object and, and, and this is something that people can even play around with that home if they just get an object and just to look at it and just to first connect with the fact that objects have meaning because we imbue them with meaning because we give them meaning, right?
Erika Curtis: 00:16:14 That an object itself doesn’t have emotional meaning. We give it that emotional meaning and we give it an emotional meaning for really good reason and that reason is because in a positive way, when we give objects in our lives, emotional meaning, it helps us to remember those times. It helps us to feel more connected with those people and that’s really healthy and really good until it’s not and not good anymore. And those are the points that we need to start saying, yes, is this serving me anymore? And if it’s not serving you anymore because the relationship is broken or, or past is it prevent preventing me from moving forward? Right? So that was the first thing that we spent some time reflecting on in one of the things I am, well the woman with the big piece of wood and the bar, she couldn’t really do this very well, but I invited people to hold their objects and then just let go of them physically open their hand and just see what that felt like physically and then to hold it really tight and then just to release it again and to look at the object itself as an object and to understand that they gave it a story.
Erika Curtis: 00:17:18 So then what we did is we went through a writing activity and I invited people to think about what the meaning was or what the story was that they told themselves about the object. And then in addition to that, what the story was about letting it go. So for example, sometimes people and people listening to this right now might start nodding their head, oh yeah, it sounds like May, um, you know, if I let it go, it means it wasn’t important in the first place, right? If I let it go, I might forget, and sometimes I might forget to never get together with a jerk like that again. It’s going to remind me to not make the same mistake, right? And if somehow I let go of this object or let go of the meaning in, inside the object for that I attribute to this object, then maybe I’ll mess up again.
Erika Curtis: 00:18:06 Right? And so as getting underneath that meaning piece that people attribute to these objects. So once we went through that process, then what I invited them to do was to think of a hope or a wish for themselves. For some people it was, um, a simple goodbye. Just the words goodbye. For other people it was, may I let go of the past. So I may be open to what is coming in my future, right? So people came up with a wish or an intention, wrote it down on piece of paper, cut it out, and then they actually wrapped that intention into or attached it to the object. So it wasn’t just a process of mummifying the objects and burying it good and dead, but it was actually this process of giving it new life with an intention for the future.
New Speaker: 00:18:54 Right. Because your exercise, it sounds like I find a lot of releasing for me comes in writing and writing things out. I spent a lot of time journaling and writing things. Um, I mean I do comedy, I write jokes. All my jokes are based off relationship experience and I find it to be. I don’t, I don’t intentionally set out like, oh this, you know, when I started doing comedy I wasn’t like, this is going to be helpful. It’s just that was what resonated with me and that’s what I did. But I’ve found through that process over the years that now I look forward to sitting down and writing a just stream of consciousness and things like that about what things mean and stuff. So when you said to write about objects, I’m like, Ooh, because I brought an object today, but I wouldn’t have thought that, that, you know, when I saw what you were doing, I’m like, oh, I didn’t think I’m going to be writing about it or anything like that. But that makes so much sense. Does that really taps into a whole different place?
Erika Curtis: 00:19:51 Absolutely. And so then when you come to transforming the object and the reason why I had people, what I did was I had people wrap the objects, we had glittery pipe cleaners and yard and the string and you know, whatever else the museum found in the bottom of their desk drawers and rubber bands and paper clips and things like that. Um, but I wanted it like that. So people could do it at home if they want to do one woman actually. So I’m going to go home and do this with every. I can’t imagine what it was like what?
Erika Curtis: 00:20:20 But yeah, doing the writing exercise first. It sort of set the intention for the process of wrapping so that you’re not, not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but you’re not saying they’re wrapping a garden garden, but that, but that there is sort of like a, Oh, this is, this is what this is about for me, this is the meaning and what is, what is this like, you know, and what would it be like to say goodbye and how could that, you know, it sort of sets of place to set your mind as you’re going through that. It’s like a meditative process is rhythmic and it’s repetitive. The wrapping of it, I did the rapping too because I thought, you know, maybe not everybody would want to, you know, cut up their object yet. Or um, take a hammer to my suggestion. Transform that I’m bringing humor.
Erika Curtis: 00:21:10 Yeah. Yeah. So, so not everybody wants to or is ready to dispose of or you know, Noodley the object. They’re not ready to let it go. But by transforming it or rapping it, one woman, she put it really nicely. She said, I feel like it’s safe to hold onto this now. And she said, and I feel like I could hold onto it until I’m ready to let it go. And it just took on a different quality for her. She had used a red ribbon and read sparkly pipe cleaners and it almost looked like little present afterwards, the way that she had wrapped it up. Uh, so she said yeah, it was, it was safer for her to hold onto it because she wasn’t ready to let it go and she wouldn’t have been able to rip it up. And that’s not where she was at. So it’s a little bit of a kinder process for. Yeah.
New Speaker: 00:22:00 I’m sitting here thinking, I’m like, you know, it was funny years ago. And uh, my cousin, one of my cousins had gone through a divorce and she came to visit and she had a lot of. She had died, a lot of different jewelry and stuff over the years that her husband had given her as a gift. And um, she had rings and necklaces and bracelets and things like that. And then when she came back she was like, I want to show you my divorce jewelry. And she had everything melted down and redesigned into a whole new set of jewelry, which I was like, wow, she transformed all of this memory and in past into something completely new to start a new chapter in my life. And I thought that was a really positive way to take something like that instead of just, you know, to take it to a pawn shop or give it away or throw it out or.
Erika Curtis: 00:22:49 Absolutely. Absolutely. Because what it sounds like, what she did also in that process was she changed the meaning behind it and she made it. She made it. I’m like fresh soil almost as like what’s coming to my mind, you know, like the fire burns down and you have fresh soil to plant something new to grow from it because. Yeah, because you can get rid of objects. But the question is, is you know, what’s the meaning? Again, it gets down to what it feels like to you, what the meaning is behind it. How, how have you taken something from the experience and transformed it. Yeah, absolutely.
New Speaker: 00:23:25 [inaudible], my divorce was in the nineties, it was 99 and so it was so long ago and it was years before I finally opened a wedding album again, or looked at old photos, just simple things like that. And I had moved across the country and several times and you know, I had this box of, of photos that I hadn’t gone through and it had all these things in it and it took me probably it was a huge box. It took me probably an entire month of laying out all of these photos across my apartment and putting them in chronological order because my other photos were mixed in with all of these relationship photos, these marriage photos. And it took a good month for me to get through it because there would be days where I’d only go through a couple and I just have to cry or I’d have to, you know, be like, oh, that was a really good memory. Or that was that. But then at the end I got to a point where I’m like, all right, this has got. I’m done now. And then, uh, I only kept the few that really because I was torn. I’m like, I really don’t want to keep all of these because they don’t serve me anymore, but I want to keep the ones that remind me of the good things that came out from this and the really solid memories and the rest, I basically kind of took a big pan in my
Leanne: 00:24:39 kitchen, burned, just kind of had this little ceremony. You transform them in a big way and it kind of wasn’t working out that well because I think I set off the smoke alarm a few times, so I finally decided I would just read over it and stuff like that. So I had several ways of doing this picture. And you and your kitchen with the fireplace in the shredder over here. And the smoke alarm going off, going off. And then, I don’t know, maybe an act somewhere. Big Hedge clippers topping up the other ones. It was really hard to cut through all those things. But in wedding album, the actual book, the album are very hard to burn. So I don’t recommend that big chunk in your pots and pans will be ruined, but, but it took forever and it was years before I had gone through it and it wasn’t like I was sitting there constantly thinking about it. It was just one of those things like I was like, what do you do with it? You get rid of it. I mean, what else am I going to do? Well, and I think you bring up a good, a good
Erika Curtis: 00:25:32 point, you know, one, there’s no right or wrong answer. There’s no right or wrong way, you know, burning, chopping, shredding or, or, or wrapping twine around it or stick it in the bottom of your drawer or the back of your closet until you’re ready to, to, you know, do something with it because it’s really about your own process. And sometimes people just have to hunker down for a while and just get through and is not the time to be going through photo albums or deciding what you’re going to do with your barbed wire or your wedding dress or your ring or the gifts or the whatever. It’s just not the time yet for some people, and that’s okay. One of the most painful things we do to ourselves is when we judge our own experience, when we add judgment to the pain. So this is too hard.
Erika Curtis: 00:26:28 I can’t let this go, oh, I can’t believe I can’t let it go. Right? And then we had this level of suffering to whatever, you know, it’s already painful. Why judge ourselves for our process? So if it’s not the time to let go of something, if it’s not the time to go through, it doesn’t matter what your are saying. I can’t believe you still have that. When are you going to get rid of? I can’t believe you know, why don’t you get rid of those things. Just throw them out because it’s so good for you. And the fact is, is that our system, our bodies do things to protect ourselves, right? We are, we are self protective creatures. We want to be safe, right? We do. And so if you’re not quote unquote dealing with something yet, maybe it’s because it’s not time to deal with it yet and you’ve just got to keep it together so that you can get through the day, the week, the year, and then at the time that you’re, you know, maybe ready to write, you can challenge yourself a little bit, you know, maybe it’s still a little uncomfortable.
Erika Curtis: 00:27:23 And that’s okay. Right? Because it’s a change and change is uncomfortable and that’s when you can start looking at, okay, what would it be like just to look at it and just start there. Right. And take baby steps if you need to, if it’s too much, if you’re going through boxes of photos, you know, that’s, um, that could be a lot. And so you take a little bit at a time, there’s no wrong or right way. And it’s interesting too because once I found that once I’m ready, I’m ready. And at first I was like, Oh, this is a nice ceremonial thing. And then I was like, it’s all about efficiency. And that’s when I got the shredder started changing it up. But you’re right, it’s, it takes, you know, I felt like it hadn’t crossed my mind to go through that stuff and I was like, what am I doing?
Erika Curtis: 00:28:07 I paid to move this stuff like so many times now narrative it. Well, and that’s interesting point too, because sometimes, you know, it’s almost like the air that we breathe and we don’t even realize we’re breathing toxic air. We’re carting around boxes of old memorabilia or artifacts from past relationships, uh, and we don’t even realize that we may be breathing toxic air. Um, and, and that it’s time to at least stop and look at it and say, what is it about these objects that I need to hold onto them? What is it about them and to go through that process. And then what is it about letting go of them that’s so difficult. What am I, what story have I created? What am I telling myself? Because it’s just a story. It’s just a story, you know, that’s all it is and we believe or our thoughts, but we’re not our thoughts and we’re not our stories.
Erika Curtis: 00:28:59 Right? And we can renegotiate our stories if we want. Yeah. So true. So true. And it’s interesting because, you know, I talk about in my standup, I talk about relationships and stuff all the time and whatnot, and you know, after a year performing it everywhere, I was kind of like, all right, I’m ready to write the next thing, but I don’t know what that is yet. So I’m fascinating hearing what you’re doing with the art is that it’s true. It changes so much by especially being able to tell my story. It’s so different telling it now than it was when it was fresh. And over the years I look back at what I’ve learned from those experiences and that’s changed as I’ve gotten older and I’ve gone other experiences
New Speaker: 00:29:42 as well. I have a whole different perspective on my marriage than I did, you know, 20 years ago. Yep.
Erika Curtis: 00:29:49 Absolutely. Yeah. I tell people it’s like when you have a, when you have a big emotional experience, like the rupture of a relationship, a really close relationship especially, um, but doesn’t even have to be a close relationship. It can be somebody giving you a dirty look and that can create an emotional, you know, upset for somebody. I’m legitimately, um, but what happens is the brain has to digest it and the body has to digest that, right? So there’s this big emotional charge and sometimes the brain just, it’s too much. It’s like you just ate a big Wad of gum and your stomach can’t digest that, gone. And so I tell people, it’s like having gum stuck in your brain, you know, and it holds that emotional charge and it can hold and the stories around it and the memories and the visual and the sensory and everything, and it’s all stuck to this big wad of emotional gum that’s sitting in your brain and your brain just can’t digest it.
Erika Curtis: 00:30:37 Right? And it takes time and it takes working with it. And, and it takes, um, transforming objects or talking to people about it or I’m having new experiences that you related to. It takes crying. Sometimes it takes letting the emotion out. It’s a big loss and we don’t really think about it as that, but we have to grieve. We have to go through the grieving process of losing a relationship. The person is not dead. Some times you might wish they were done, but, but you do have to grieve for it. And that involves denial and anger and sadness and more denial and more anger and more sadness. But that is the process of digestion, of, of emotional digestion to allow the brain to break this up and finally stored away like a memory, just like you would remember what you ate for breakfast, but for a long time it just has all this emotional charge around it and it can take, uh, take some working through to get that all done tested
New Speaker: 00:31:42 for sure. And when you do, when you work with couples or individuals, even after a divorce or end of a relationship like that. So I know from our conversation before, like this, a art of transformation with these objects, do you usually talk to people about that or do you have other ways of incorporating art into helping them work through that? What? Like what are those things?
Erika Curtis: 00:32:06 Absolutely. So again, it depends on what the person’s coming in with and where they’re at and what they’re needing. In high conflict couples, you asked about couples coming in, they’re in high conflict and maybe you know, coming in because they’re wondering if they should divorce or, or not. Um, sometimes just writing or drawing will break their pattern of communication because, you know, we get in these, these cycles of, you know, I say this, then you say it’s like we’re reading a script almost. Right? And the argument is a script. Like I say this, now you got your line. Now I say my line and you know, that’s not true. You never listened to me. Okay, now you say you never listen to me. Okay, now you said it. And then I say what dance, right? It’s the same thing. And so by saying, okay, wait, stop, show me what that looks.
Erika Curtis: 00:32:52 Show me. For example, I have one couple and I just said, how close do you feel? How close do you want to be? Just show me on a piece of paper, right? And so right there we just interrupted the cycle. Got Them to stop shouting at each other and reflect for a minute and this way. Also they were able to both communicate something simultaneously so they weren’t. It wasn’t about I’m saying something, are you going to respond? But they both got it out there on the piece of paper, how close do we feel? Do I feel how close do we want to be? And then we were able to look at them and compare them and talk about them. Oh isn’t that interesting? You feel a little bit closer than he feels, but you both sort of have the same goal. It looks like you actually both want to be about the same closeness to each other. That’s. So we’re working towards the same thing. So finding common ground through just a simple visual representation. Like that is one example of something that I might do a is inviting someone to bring an object like barbed wire and wood and good thing like please don’t say they brought in barbed wire.
Erika Curtis: 00:34:00 So depending on, you know, a lot of times it’s very spontaneous and it just depends and it’s just, sometimes it’s just breaking them out of there their habits and getting them to, to look at each other a little bit differently and look at their own needs and their own feelings in the moment. Um, sometimes it’s just coming to a place of compassion and sometimes that’s difficult when we’re arguing. Um, but again, breaking the cycle and, and stopping and just like kind of like parallel play, you know, if you think about kids, if you have little kids, you know, playing next to each other, they don’t really play with each other yet, you know, when they’re really little and we don’t really talk or think about this much, but sometimes adults need to go back to parallel play. You know, it was like we were playing in the sandbox next to joey and you’re not really, you know, maybe you throw sand at them once in a while and we keep this and low, you know, and then they go, go back and.
Erika Curtis: 00:34:52 But they’re, they’re actually very aware of each other. This, that process of parallel play is really important to our social and emotional development because we’re learning how to be in the company of other people were paying attention to what they’re doing. We’re very well where, what they’re doing it at the same time we are, but we’re not quite interacting and sometimes you have to, and not in an infant tile way, you know, take an adult back there. But we actually do need to get back to that place when we are so entrenched in anger and resentment. Um, and, and really hurt is usually we’re both parties are coming from as a sense of my needs are not being met here and I feel really hurt about it. We need to go back to that place of let’s be next to each other and be alongside each other rather than interact with each other because that, that, that, that pattern is to I’m dense with the anger and the resentment that we need to kind of take a step out. So giving an art activity for example, I’m allowing them to interact on paper. Even I’m being playful together. Sometimes just introducing play back into a relationship of having one person draw and have the other person chased them around the paper with the markers.
New Speaker: 00:36:03 I’m just doing what we’re doing tomorrow. He’s going to be like, no, Leanne not doing, they’re going to be doing some coloring tomorrow. So it just really
Erika Curtis: 00:36:16 depends on the couple and where they’re at. But there’s all kinds of ways. Yeah, that we use art to it. Again, it’s just really about taking a different perspective, interrupting the pattern that’s there and connecting them to a more compassionate place and more self reflective place. Um, so that they can then re enter the conversation from a place of feelings and needs
New Speaker: 00:36:38 and not from what you did or didn’t do. Do you, do you find that that’s. I mean that’s so all I totally understand where that’s coming from because I think back into times when you’re in a relationship or I’ve been in a relationship and it’s like the focus changes because you’re coming from a fear based place place instead of just being there and being present and letting them do their thing. Me Do my thing, but I also am thinking about this and it’s interesting because after I’ve gone through a divorce or breakup or something, I find that’s where I start to get very active again and doing more physical things, whether it’s increasing the Times I go to the gym or taking a another acting class or performing more, doing stuff like that and I feel like finding those outlets always ended up helping tremendously rather than staying at home and rehashing the thing over and over and spinning out of control, but being active and finding another way. Whether even when I was a kid, if I were to get really stressed or something. This is sound so horrible and ocd, but if I become very stressed or or worried about stuff,
New Speaker: 00:37:47 I wrap all your objects in your house. Wrap everything in plastic? No, nobody. I would rearrange my room. That was my childhood. I would rearrange my room. I would clean my room, reorganizing,
New Speaker: 00:38:03 take everything out and Redo my room all the time. So every couple of months I have a whole new room layout and everything and do a whole cleaning and I would do that a lot and I find I’ve found that when I got older I would do that. The same thing I’d go on, I’d get physical and it would just be like a mindless activity that I could do and get creative with. In redirect my. Yeah, you
Erika Curtis: 00:38:28 think about the reorganizing. I don’t really know much about funkshway but that’s kind of what comes to my mind too. It’s like your environment is a of your inner self, right? And how you can transform your environment to transform yourself and vice versa. And so what I liked about that is that sort of like that creative outlet that there’s something that you can do a distraction one, right? And there’s something very legitimate about engaging in activities that are going to distract you from just rehashing, like you said, rehashing and rehashing because there, there is value in, in thinking about and analyzing to a degree, but it can also become sort of harming to ourselves when we go over it. What did I do wrong with he do wrong, or what did she do wrong or, you know, going over and over and over that, um, without containment around it can be very unsettling, right to the whole system.
Erika Curtis: 00:39:21 One thing that I sometimes recommend people do, and again, it’s not, it’s not art per se, but sort of a writing activity is what are all the things that you wish that you would have been doing in the last five years or all the things that you would like to be doing that you said that you were too busy to do. What are all the things that you’ve been too busy to do? You write those things down and you pick something on the list and you go and you do it right. I wish I had been working out more, taking more acting classes, taking an art class. I’m going to the beach more often. Uh, you know, whatever it is, just write a list of what are the things I’m too busy to do in my life? Well, now you’re not too busy. Go and do them. Right? Because what it is is those are unfilled needs again, and if we’re talking about not having certain needs met in a relationship and not that the relationship needed to meet these needs per se, but just this idea of filling yourself, right and, and kind of reinvesting in yourself and in your health because those are all very healthy, what we would call coping mechanisms or coping strategies. Yeah, absolutely. That’s
New Speaker: 00:40:29 actually what I did. Um, after my second divorce is I went, I remember just crying one night. I’m like, I can’t believe I did this again. And I was like, wait a minute, I’m going to do. I started thinking about, well, we didn’t do this and we didn’t do that. I’m like, I’m going to do all of those things that I’ve been wanting to do for the past couple of years and I haven’t done. And I’ve made a list. And I went and I booked a flight to Europe and then I booked plans here and went and travel. And so I made it a point of saying yes to all the invitations that I was currently saying no to why I was in a relationship and I just started doing all those things and if it was, if I thought every day I’m going to try something completely different and out in my realm, I started trying new foods. I didn’t even eat seafood for like the longest time in my life until, until after the you’re shaking your head. No, I eat everything. Then you went to therapy and you know, just to like, you know what, I’m going to start doing all of these things. I’m going to start taking more chances. I’m going to start putting myself out there. I’m in a, I’m don’t want to do the same thing over and over and again. And that’s what I ended up doing. So it does make. It, did, it made a huge difference.
Erika Curtis: 00:41:39 Yeah. It reminds me of one of the phrases that we use at the workshop, which was, um, I paraphrase, but something to do with may I be open to the life that is waiting for me.
New Speaker: 00:41:49 Hm? Yeah,
Erika Curtis: 00:41:51 yeah. And, and how are you going to create that life?
New Speaker: 00:41:54 Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, it’s, you know, and I kinda, you know too, it’s funny cause I find that when that happened and I made that list and I was so gung Ho and ready to do stuff, but as I’ve gotten older and things, you know, like let’s say you go through another relationship or something like that and then after that one I find them like, where was, where’s the girl that was like, yeah, I’m going to go do all these things. I’m like, no, I’m going to watch lifetime for woman and I’m going to take a nap.
Erika Curtis: 00:42:21 I think that’s a great point too because your listeners, I know there’s going to be listeners out there who are saying, Oh, why? Why can’t I be like Leanne and jump on an airplane and go to Europe? And I, I wish I was that person. I wish I was. And, and that again, that’s that judging self, right? That’s that judging self that pop up and says, hi, I’m here to help you. Um, you know, unfortunately feel bad about yourself though. But, but we, we, we sometimes think that we have to motivate ourselves by criticizing, right? That, that somehow, if we’re not critical of ourselves, we’re not going to change, we’re not going to move forward. Um, and, and so we, we say to ourselves, oh, I wished that I, I had, you know, rearranged all my furniture and then flown off to Europe. Why can’t I be that woman or that man?
Erika Curtis: 00:43:09 Um, but again, there’s no, there’s no right or wrong except that we do want to pay attention to when we start doing unhealthy habits. And a little bit of Veggie now eating a pint of ice cream, watching daytime television is fine. A lot of it, Eh, you know, we might start asking ourselves, is this really in my best interest? Is this really healthy? Is this really the life that I want to be leading? And if the answer is no, but it’s too hard to stop or to change, then that’s when we want to say, okay, who can I reach out to? Is it friends? Is it a therapist? Is it, um, you know, somebody in the community that I connect with a because I want, I want to have a different life,
New Speaker: 00:43:51 right? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And that is, it’s so true. It’s kind of weird because as, as you know, a lot of people have only been married and divorced once and I happened to have gone through that twice and I remember after my first one I, I, I handled things much differently than I did the second time. And then of course now that was a long time ago and then as I’ve gone through other relationships, you know, in my later years it changes, it changes. I mean now I’m in living in a different state, I’m doing different things. I have a different career and that or I feel differently, you know. Um, and so it’s interesting because I’m like, what, how come when I went through that I was so ready to do this and then this happens. I’m so ready not to do that. But I also realize it’s kind of like what you said, I have to reach out to other people or I have to tap into, well, what else is going on that I feel this way? And I know a friend of mine will say, you know, well, okay, so you feel bad. Well give yourself 20 minutes and move, you know, and then, and that set a timer and you know, and I kind of think of this sometimes. I was like, well, okay, so I want to throw my tantrum and things aren’t going my way today. I’ll set my timer for 20 minutes and then when I’m done I was like, time to get back. You know, I’ll let, I’ll give myself, I’ll honor this and then kind of move on.
Erika Curtis: 00:45:16 Yeah. That reminds me of a couple strategies that, um, that actually comes out of trauma work. Um, but again, you know, ending a relationship for a lot of people as a trauma is you do it enough. It was almost a trauma or a career, I’m not sure what. But the idea of coming back, you know, then people might say, well then how do I come back? Okay, so I, I, you know, can be in my feelings and feel bad and getting, you know, and all these things. And that’s important to actually is really important to feel the feelings to work through them and process them. And then you need to come back. And how do you come back? People go, okay, great, how do I come back? And there’s some actually really simple strategies that you can use. Um, we call them grounding techniques. Um, and one of them is to pick a color.
Erika Curtis: 00:46:02 Okay. And again, it’s not making art, but it’s art space because it’s visual. Um, and, and is working with colors or shapes and I like to pick ’em hard colors like pink for example, if there’s not a lot, well I don’t know about your house. Maybe pink all over place, but there’s not a lot of pink note or like if I’m out for a walk or a jog or something like that, you know, and I’ll just pick pink and you don’t need to be going through anything emotional do this. It’s just a good practice to get out of your head and get more grounded in the present. And so you start looking for pink objects. Pink Flower, pink flower paying bank, a brick pinkish brick wall. Pink car. Hmm. Interesting. Right? And so you just look for that and as you’re doing that or you look for circles.
Erika Curtis: 00:46:49 Okay. Circle wheels. Circle Bicycle wheel circle. I’m not on the wheel five year. I can’t think of anything else as a circle that you might say. I know. I’m trying to think of what else is circled fun. I’m not. But you look for something, you pick a color, you pick a shape and you look for it and you name it and as you do that, your brain is focused on something in the present. And so it’s not wandering, right? It’s not going to. The future is not going to, the past is just in the present and, and one of my, one of one of the women that I work with, I remember her saying we did this activity and we’re actually doing a phone session and she was walking. So I said, okay, do this, pick a color, put green, green, green bushes green, you not flowers, green grass, green leaves.
Erika Curtis: 00:47:35 And after I said, what was that like for you? She said, yeah, I noticed that my mind stopped wandering so much. And I said, what else did you notice? And she said, I felt like I could do it. I felt like it was something I could do, you know, because you can start to feel like a capable and competent, not good enough, you know, all these other added things that we start to fill. And so for her it was just sort of the simple like, I could do that, I can do that. And it was actually a really positive experience for her. Um, I have gotten some feedback from clients that have said like, okay, that was all well and good, but I got bored and I ran out of pink things and, and I’m sitting at my cubicle at work and, and now I’m thinking about her again or I’m thinking about him again.
Erika Curtis: 00:48:23 Um, so what do I do next? And I said, well, you can also just focus on the activity that you’re doing. So if you’re washing dishes for example, or you’re brushing your teeth, it literally a step by step. It’s my, it’s mindfulness. It’s a mindfulness method, what we call it, a mindfulness meditation, bringing, bringing ourselves back to the president. Absolutely. By naming it, by naming it, opening the cabinet, taking out the toothpaste, taking out the tooth, brush toothbrush, squeezing the tube. Um, and it sounds kind of. I Dunno, does it sound weird? No, not really. Okay, great. Done. This, I, wherever my feet right now. Yes. Where are my feet right now? What am I doing? What am I touching? Yup. Yup. Like a walking meditation. Just noticing even like the sensory. Taking your shoes off. Oh my goodness. Who takes their shoes off and walks outside anymore? Like nobody, right? Yeah. My kids, they’re always barefoot because you bring your shoes. No, always bring your shoes right there. Walking through parking lots, jumping over glass.
Erika Curtis: 00:49:20 I’m like, thinking of going barefoot in New York, I didn’t even like wearing sandals. It was like I have to wash my feet. Yeah, but connecting with that. That’s a grounding experience. Just take your shoes off, go outside and just walk. You know you have to walk far as walk back and forth. Walk in a circle, but it’s noticing what the sensation is on the bottom of your feet and then your mind will wander and then you notice it and you owe wandering mind and then you bring it back and then your mind will wander. Oh, wandering mind and then bring it back. Right. Grounded the president. What does it feel like or stepping? Stepping, stepping, stepping over and over. Like a mantra. So same old, right? It’s. It is. It is. It is actually a type of meditation practice. Walking Meditation. My four year old, what she tells me, what she does is she taps her head, she taps her head, she says, Mommy, I just have to do this, and she taps her head with her index finger and she goes and the thoughts that I don’t want anymore, just they just fall out.
Erika Curtis: 00:50:21 That’s what she did. She came up with that herself. I don’t know if it actually works, but I don’t know. Maybe maybe people can try that at home. You can write into Leanne and tell her if it works. Tapping here. It makes me think of that guy who does the, what is it? EFL tapping, eft. Emotional freedom technique. Yeah. It’s almost like tapping positive affirmations in your head. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you know, that actually, I don’t know if this is, you know, something of, of, of further interest, but as well, plug emdr actually gives you bring up emotional freedom technique and emdr is very different, but it involves tapping and it’s something that a lot of people don’t know about and it’s actually something that’s incredibly, um. Oh no, it’s different. So it’s incredibly effective. It was actually a, it’s actually used a lot with veterans and I’m in Va’s and uh, it was originally designed for individuals with Ptsd and there’s a lot of research.
Erika Curtis: 00:51:21 It’s eye movement desensitization and reprocessing e, m, e d, r a and it’s something that I started doing, um, after, uh, I first heard about it and thought that sounds amazing. I’m going to wait until there’s more research behind that and years later, just more and more and more positive outcomes coming out. So I thought, alright, alright, I’m going to go check this out. So I won, got trained on it and see amazing results, um, in using emdr. So I bring it up because if, if any of your listeners have sort of tried everything and they’re still stuck with that emotional gum stuck in their brain, emdr may be a really good option for them. And essentially what it does is what they, what they hypothesize, they don’t know exactly why or how this works, but the people in the emdr community also say, but we also don’t know exactly how or why medicine works, but it seems to for some people or for a lot of people for various reasons, um, but essentially what it does is either through tapping on either side of the body, I’m holding tappers that buzz right, left, right, left, right, left or through eye movements.
Erika Curtis: 00:52:32 So it’s tracking the therapist fingers or a baton back and forth. So you’re crossing the midline. Uh, what it does is it activates the different hemispheres of the brain back and forth. And specifically what they believe is happening is that it’s tapping into the brain’s natural mechanism that we go through during rem sleep when we are processing and digesting information from the day. So when we’re in rem sleep, right, the eyes are bouncing back and forth, they’re going back and forth. Our brain is processing all of the content information, emotional experiences from the day it saying, k, keep this store that moved this over here, make room over there, store that over here. Right? So it’s processing and digesting and storing the information when you have that, that, that digested memory stuck in your brain. What we can do with Emdr is pull up the memory, right? Specifically targeted access. That same rem sleep mechanism, except for you’re wide awake, you’re not sleeping and you’re not hypnotized either. Um, and, and facilitate that same process and what people find is that the memory starts to lose its emotional charge and it actually starts to break up sometimes for people. It gets a little fuzzy and suddenly they feel like it happened. It was just a memory. So it’s a pretty remarkable, um, approach. Um, that isn’t for everybody, but for people for whom it does work, uh, there’s some pretty outstanding results.
New Speaker: 00:54:03 That’s really cool. There’s a, there’s kind of, I’m finding that there’s endless, endless options to overcome or cope or to work through, um, hurts whether physical or emotional and stuff. And it’s just kind of fascinating to me because you’re right, it’s not just always about talking through them, it’s not because you’re only, you’re just using one part of, it’s more the logical part rather than all the feeling and stuff that’s associated with it. And I, I feel like that’s probably why it takes, maybe I’m wrong, but maybe that’s why it takes most of us so long to get through it because you have, we have to work through it in so many different ways and, and not just by talking, but by dealing, by coping, by physical action, by transforming feelings and all of that
Erika Curtis: 00:54:57 stuff. Yeah. Well that. And that goes back to what you were saying in terms of, you know, getting physically active when you said, you know, I go and start doing more acting in more gym time and you know, there was actually a lot of research also that supports moving your body to shift your, your brain. Um, and not just in terms of brain chemistry, you know, feeling, you know, like the happy chemicals get released when we exercise and all that. But actually, you know, being able to mobilize your body can help shift emotional material and the brain. Um, and depending on, I mean, some, there’s some researchers that suggest it’s because, you know, if there is, if we go through a trauma, if we want to call it a trauma, a traumatic experience or upsetting experience, um, you know, there’s, there’s so much that goes on in our bodies also.
Erika Curtis: 00:55:49 It’s not just, isn’t not when you’re yelling at your partner or being yelled at by your partner if you’re in high conflict and maybe it’s not high conflict, maybe it’s more subtle than that, you know, maybe it’s just silence and just cut off. Um, but your body is responding to that. All your heart rate goes up. You hold your breath and you know, the number of times I remind people like, breathe, breathe. No, really, I really actually want, you know, really actually, I really want you to take a breath right now because they’re holding, they’re holding the muscle tension. And if you think about ourselves as, as animals, right? Fight, flight, freeze responses, we go into that when we’re in relationship with people. Also, so if we’re feeling threatened, you mentioned fear earlier and I think you’re absolutely right that there is a lot of, um, behind the anger, the resentment, there’s fear, it really gets down to fear, I think, on the parts of both parties.
Erika Curtis: 00:56:42 So if you think about going into a fear state or a fear response, your body’s going, I’m about to be eaten by a tiger, right? Or there’s the poison berries or whatever it is. I got a fight I got to run or I’ve got to play dead, right? And so, depending on what your own personal, and it’s not a choice, it’s not like we choose the response. We all have sort of a neat way of reacting. Yep. I’m in situations like this. Some of us are, our fight flight response is to fight back and so we get bigger and stronger and louder and throw bigger things, right? Um, for other people it’s to flee. And so, um, for example, I might see a couple where the woman is really, I’m angry or, or loud or accusatory, and the partner gets quieter and quieter and quieter and quieter.
Erika Curtis: 00:57:35 Right? And whether it’s, you know, female, female relationship or male, female relationship, but you know, one person gets really loud and the other person gets much quieter, right? So it’s a flee response or even a freeze response, right? Sometimes they’ll just freeze or dissociate completely check out and it’s like, and all I want is for you to respond to me, you know, and the person gets angrier and angrier because they just want to shake the person and get them to respond. Well, the person’s response is self protective and it’s to curl up in a ball and play dead until the, the, the threat is gone. Right? And so we have these natural ways of responding in situations like that.
New Speaker: 00:58:12 Yeah. But thinking, talking about fear, it makes me think of that book, the gift of fear by Gavin de Becker. It was Gavin de Becker is a, I want to say that name. And he was the, one of the prosecuting witnesses on the Oj case and he became an expert witness years and years before that, I guess because he came from an abusive family. His mom drank and did drugs and if I recall correctly, and he learned at a young age when people threats were real and when they weren’t real, as a matter of, of survival for himself, and later in later in life, he went and studied this and he became an expert witness and he is called in for like assassination attempts and stuff like that to study to see if these are real threats. Um, but what I remember in this book and what you’re saying is that we often times we’re animals at our.
New Speaker: 00:59:07 I mean, we’re animals and we oftentimes forget that we’re animals and we use logic to explain everything and to justify our feelings rather than recognize that it’s a gift. Like feeling that that flight or fight. I’m like, what do I do now? Oftentimes we ignore that or try to justify it or judge ourselves before we use that gift and how we react to something and get ourselves into some horrible situations and relationships or even with complete strangers. But um, and it’s interesting because when I think of, and I hadn’t thought about this really until now when you’re talking about,
Speaker 7: 00:59:50 um,
New Speaker: 00:59:51 when people come in and, and are, are in conflict in a relationship, because before I would always think of this as like, Oh, you’re on the street and someone approaches you, should you be scared or not? And we’re like, no, it’s fine and I’m going to be cool. But it’s the same thing. I think when we’re in a relationship and we have an argument or conflict, this fear sets in and I think at times I don’t recognize like, oh, it’s a fear of being in conflict and instead I tried to, you know, we try, we try to justify our actions or throw the focus back on them and react in a certain way instead of stepping back and go, why do I feel this way? Where is this coming from? And being more self aware of.
Erika Curtis: 01:00:34 And that’s kind of the hallmark of, of couples counseling I think is, is looking at yourself. Right? And, and I mean, not to be cliche, but like making the audio statements instead of the year statements and stuff, but, but, but that aside, I mean really, again, I’ve mentioned a couple times, you know, connecting with the compassion, the self compassion and the compassion for your partner and when you understand that this isn’t always true, but typically to make a generalization, but you know, typically I’m one person in the party has a fear of loss. So loss of the relationship, loss of love, loss of security, right? Which can sometimes be, you know, worries about money or things like that or worries that they’re not loved enough. Um, and the other person often has some sort of fear around not being a good enough provider. And what happens is one fear triggers the other fear, right? So one person is afraid that, uh, I’m not, I’m not, I’m afraid of, I’m afraid we don’t have enough money. I’m afraid that we end. It doesn’t usually sound like this is usually.
New Speaker: 01:01:46 Well, you, you know, like you never know. Right? So like for example, somebody comes home from work over here laughing.
Erika Curtis: 01:01:56 So you’re at home and you know, one person’s been at home and making dinner or whatever, and the other person comes home for work and um, you know, what’s for dinner, honey, you know, sort of the classic like leave it to beaver or whatever, right? The what’s for dinner and, and I’m the partner who was at home says, I’m,
New Speaker: 01:02:14 what about hello? You don’t even say hello. You don’t even know that, right? I had been working all day at home and I’m in that role.
Erika Curtis: 01:02:22 Whatever it is. Okay. Alright. So translation. Okay. I’m not feeling loved and appreciated. Okay. Translation, I’m afraid of losing, right? I’m afraid of not having love, appreciation, connection. Right? And meanwhile this person saying, you know, why don’t you just say hello to me, you know, you never, you always write those absolutes. And the person who’s just gotten home, first of all, they’re probably going, oh my God,
New Speaker: 01:02:52 just step into, get me Outta here. I just wanted some dinner dinner. It wasn’t even about that. Right? But at the same time, now
Erika Curtis: 01:03:03 that person’s insecurities about not being a good enough provider have just gotten triggered right? Like, Oh, I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough. Everything I do is wrong. Everything. I can’t even walk in the door and say as simple thing without her or without him. Um, and so when you, when you dig deeper, there’s this, that, there’s that fear of, of, and, and what happens is we turn towards our own needs, our own hurt and what it triggers in us rather than going, oh, she’s feeling like, or he’s feeling like I don’t love honey, of course I love you. Right? But we don’t do that. Instead we get caught up in our own insecurities and our own fears and then we fight or flee or play dead, right? Because that’s our instinctual response. And then that triggers in the other person their fight or flight or freeze response. Yeah. So yeah, it’s just, it’s stopping and pausing and saying, what is my feeling? What is my need and how has it been and what is my partner’s feeling and what is my partners? It’s an interpreting it what I think is a great read, his nonviolent communication. Uh, it’s a book
New Speaker: 01:04:12 that sounds like a good one. It’s phenomenal actually
Erika Curtis: 01:04:17 has been used in anything from, um, couples counseling to peace negotiations between countries. I mean, this is really, um, a sort of a recipe for communication for the workplace. Yes. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Um, and, and like I said, it’s been used in all kinds of, you know, facilitating conversations between opposite gangs. I’m facilitating, I’m contracts between different parties who have different needs and so that’s where this comes from. His nonviolent communication. You can, you can take a look at the book. It’s not my book, it’s a great book though, um, and uh, and it kinda walks you through that process of identifying feelings and needs. And then, and then the last piece of it is a request. So with your partner then making the request, would you mind, um, whatever, like would you mind when you come home come and me a hug before you asked me what’s for dinner, right?
Erika Curtis: 01:05:19 Because that’s getting to your knee. Gosh, when you came in and you said what’s for dinner? I felt unseen. I felt unappreciated. Right, right. It’s not a, you did that and how could you write? But it’s just checking in with yourself. What was that about? Oh man, did I have to overreact there? Right. Um, how was I feeling? I felt unseen. I felt like my needs are being unmet. What were my knees, my knees were to, to, to know that my partner appreciated seeing me and was happy to see me. That was just a basic need. Right. Okay. So what’s the requests then? The request is in the future. Could, could we say hi
New Speaker: 01:05:55 before, before. What’s for dinner? I just silly example.
Erika Curtis: 01:06:01 You get the picture right? And then vice versa. Connecting with the other person’s feelings needs. Okay. What was my partner? Because it’s not all about me. Um, because that’s not a relationship, right? It’s about us. So what was my partner? Yeah,
New Speaker: 01:06:16 my partner was hungry. My partner came home and had a long day at work. Legitimate, right? Feeling hungry, right? Well we’re the needs the needs were to eat and, and maybe my partner even thought, well, once we sit down then we’ll
Erika Curtis: 01:06:35 sit down and relax and eat and talk. Right. Um, and so then stepping in, stepping back yourself and saying, yeah, okay, I don’t have to get so worked up about that, you know, I don’t have to get so worked up, you know, I have to say my husband, one time he said to me, this was probably back when we were dating and he said sometimes you just talk and talk and talk, and I stopped listening to what you’re saying and I just listened to the sound of your voice and I just think she has a beautiful, yeah
New Speaker: 01:07:06 voice and I couldn’t even get mad at him. I couldn’t even get mad because it has such a sweet punchline to it. But it’s a good example too of, you know, my needs and my husband’s name, you know, we are different if you’re in a heterosexual relationship. Right. And even in a homosexual relationship, in some situations, you know, the, the differences
Erika Curtis: 01:07:28 can be great in terms of just basic communication styles, basic needs, um, you know, I need to talk more than my husband needs to talk and more than he would like to,
New Speaker: 01:07:40 to listen
Erika Curtis: 01:07:43 and I have to respect that. And he likewise has to respect my needs. And so it was not that my way is better. This is another piece too, for, for um, people out there who are not talkers in terms of traditional therapy, traditional talk therapy approaches. It very much heavily favors people who are talkers and process through talk and not everybody does, you know, some people process through doing, through, through physical touch, through shared activities, through nonverbal ways of interacting. And communication isn’t everything I tell people you have to connect before you can communicate. Right? And we talked a lot about communicating. Communicate is really important and usually communicating means talking and usually talking favors the female in a heterosexual relationship, right? Um, and, and not so much the other partner. And so we’ve almost kind of skewed things to say this is the right way to do it. Um, and it can leave men in particular feeling very inadequate and in the process of learning how to, um, uh, connect and communicate and relationship. Because if you go to couple’s counseling and as a, as a talk based therapist, you’re going to be talking. And that’s not always the best way for everybody.
New Speaker: 01:09:13 So on the barbed wire in the wood comes in.
Erika Curtis: 01:09:17 Yeah. So, so connecting, understanding your different, your different styles of communication and connecting also because connection before communicating, I mean whoever responds well to honey, can we talk? Oh,
New Speaker: 01:09:29 I mean that’s like, right data scientist. Can we talk? That’s not like. Oh, police. Yes. Can we talk first of all? Oh, I’m in trouble, right? Oh, something’s bad. So connecting before talking really, really important, you know, Ta and connect
Erika Curtis: 01:09:46 can even be a hand on the shoulder or hand on the knee or something that connects you to the other person, you know, depending on their style of connection. Um, but we leave that piece out a lot. We focus on communication and when we focus on communication, we focus on talking,
New Speaker: 01:10:02 uh, and we’ve left out a huge portion of relationships and interaction,
Erika Curtis: 01:10:07 which are all these other ways that we can connect with our partners and then communicate if something does need to be talked about. But you can’t talk before you connect or else it’s just a recipe for disaster. And there is a psycho therapist, sex therapist, um, Dr Barch who says p couples are, I’m going to get it wrong now, but it’s wonderful the way he does it, um, marriages but committed couples so it doesn’t have to be a marriage, but committed couples are people growing machines. That’s what he says. It’s a people growing machine and,
New Speaker: 01:10:41 and essentially just means that you’re not going to be challenged by any other relationship except for a relationship with your own children, but you’re not going to be challenged in any other relationship
Erika Curtis: 01:10:51 to grow and to become a better human being than you will in a committed relationship. And, and, and I think it’s true, I think is true. And the problem is that the problem, the situation is that people say, this doesn’t feel good, this doesn’t feel right. This must be the wrong person. And then there’s then split so they can find the right person. Right? Um, and, and sometimes it really isn’t the right person for, for many different reasons, right? Um, but other times, and a good portion of the time, I would say that it doesn’t have to do with it being the wrong person to the right person. We all have conflicts, right? It’s just part of being in a relationship. It’s a normal part of being in relationship. And what happens is people go, oh, conflict, that must mean this is the wrong person, right?
Erika Curtis: 01:11:44 Because my way is the right way and I’m going to find somebody else who does it the right way. Like I do it right. Rather than using it as an opportunity to grow. And, and more often than not, and this is why I’m in the job that I’m in. I wouldn’t be a marriage and family therapist if I didn’t wholeheartedly believed this. A lot of times relationships can be saved and worked through. Um, if both people are willing to bring themselves to the table and say, I am going to let this experience grow me and grow us. Then when I tell people, because people will say, well, how do you know when it really is time to end the relationship? And I was like, well, if you both show up, right, if, if not just show up to session, but if you show up in yourself, right, if you show up in the relationship, you know, and, and you really use this as an opportunity to look at yourself and grow as a human being, right? Then that person, when that person is here, they will know whether or not the relationship is something to continue, right when that person shows up because you’ll be able to look at your partner and say, is my partner showing up to, is the person, is that better them showing up? And if the better use are both coming to the table and growing individually and growing as a couple, well then you just go on your blissful way until another conflict that arises and then you go through the same process again. Right? That sounds awesome.
Erika Curtis: 01:13:12 But if you show up and you say, I, I really looked at my stuff and I’m really stepping up my game here as a human being. You know what? I’m stepping up my game as a person here being a better person. Um, and my partner is not in. That kind of ties into what we started talking about it at the beginning of this is it’s almost taking yourself looking inward and reflecting on I am the object. What is it about this object I can create? What am I learning from this rewrap me. Yup. And kind of looking at myself in a different way. Yeah. Yeah. What are the stories I tell myself absolutely. What are the stories I tell myself about my objects, but what are the stories I tell myself about my relationship? What are the stories I tell myself about me? Right? We all have these narratives and we just take it for granted that this is the truth and they’re just stories that we tell ourselves about who we are. Right? Absolutely. And so it’s looking at and those narratives, those stories that we tell ourselves and rewriting them.
New Speaker: 01:14:15 Yeah. And I kind of, I, I’m, I think that’s just awesome. And I love the conversation that we’ve had tonight and, and everything that we’ve talked about, this has been fantastic. I really seriously, the way you work with the art and kind of talk about how that really affects and especially being someone who does comedy in is an actor and doing those things like this, this podcast in itself is a nother way of finding my story, finding and through other people and talking through others, experiencing experience and also helping those of those people that are out there listening as to what is your story and you’re not alone and how are other people working is it’s a whole transformation in it. I think it’s ongoing.
Erika Curtis: 01:14:59 Yeah. Yeah. Always. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because even taking the story and transformed me into comedy and finding the humor in it. I mean that’s a transformative process also. Right? So yeah. How do you change those pieces? Thank you so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and being here and reaching out to your listeners and um, yeah, like you said, it’s, it’s, it’s, it is so normal to have upset and relationship. It is so normal. It is so normal. Um, and you know, what you do with that is, is really up to you. But like you said, there’s lots of options out there. Um, lots of options and lots of hope and the hope doesn’t necessarily have to mean one thing or another. It doesn’t have to mean hope to stay in the relationship. It can just be hope for yourself. Right. But finding what that hope is. Um, like I said before, so you can, you can embrace what’s waiting for. You absolutely know this is, this is great and it’s so helpful. Yeah. Great. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for having me.