Jun 13, 2022
Last week you heard part ! of our work witt Zeina, a young professional woman struggling with a conflict with her mom. Zeina feels like her mother is too critical of her, and she finds the criticisms devastating. In today's podcast, you will hear my co therapist, Dr. Jill Levitt, and I, doing Forced Empathy with Zeina, and you will hear the exciting conclusion of the session. I am including the entiere show notes from last week, in case you have not yet reviewed them.
Show notes from last week commence here.
Today Dr. Jill Levitt and I do live work with Zeina Halim who has been experiencing some intense negative feelings because of her mother’s criticisms of her. Zeina is a member of my weekly training group at Stanford and has appeared on the podcast on several previous occasions (Please provide numbers plus link to podcast page on website.)
Zeina is one of our small group leaders in our Tuesday training group. She works with teens and adults in-person in her office in Menlo Park and also provides tele-health sessions for clients living anywhere in California.
Dr. Jill Levitt is the co-leader of my Tuesday training group at Stanford and will be my co-therapist today. We hope for some more of the “magic” that frequently appears when we do therapy together. Today’s podcast will illustrate a number of teaching points, including these:
And yet, many of us stubbornly refuse to use the Five Secrets with family, friends and loved ones. Why do we fight against the very tools that would rapidly bring us peace, love and joy? And what can we do about our own internal “resistance”?
We approach the “inner battle” with the familiar Daily Mood Log, that helps you pinpoint the distorted messages you are giving yourself. You will see that those messages—the way you talk to yourself when you’re upset—are loaded with distortions; such as All-or-Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralizations, Mental Filtering, Discounting the Positive, Mind-Reading, Labeling, Should Statements and Hidden Should Statements, Emotional Reasoning, Other-Blame, and more.In today’s session, we do battle with Zeina’s distorted thoughts with the Externalization of Voices, arguably one of the most powerful psychotherapy tools ever created.
Self-acceptance is always about grasping a gigantic paradox—and that’s why I’ve always called it the Acceptance Paradox, which states: Accepting yourself as you are, warts and all, is actually the greatest change a human being can make.
Can you see why this is a paradox? It’s because the very moment you accept yourself, everything about you and your world will appear to change. Now here’s another acceptance paradox we will explore today. The very moment when you accept another person exactly as she or he is, that person will suddenly change.
Of course, that is the exact opposite of what we usually do when we desperately keep trying to “change” them, a strategy that actually forces them to be the very monster you are trying so hard to destroy. By the way, do you know what the plural form of paradox is, when you combine Self- and Other-Acceptance? The plural form is called the Acceptance Paradise.
At the end of the session, you will see the answers to these questions. And if you’re a therapist, that kind of powerful and precise information will allow you to grow and learn as a therapist, especially if you approach the information with humility and respect for yourself and your patients.
There is almost no limit to the evolution of your therapist skills if you use the T = Testing model I have developed. There is almost no chance for personal growth if you do not use these or similar assessment tools.
However, the price of growth is steep. You have to be willing to see your own failures and errors at every session with every patient, and this will often be painful. But this is the pain that can lead to your own personal transformation along with the blossoming of your own superb therapy skills.
Today, in Part 1 of the Zeina session, you will hear the T = Testing and E = Empathy parts of the session. Next week, in Part 2, you will hear the very brief A = Assessment of Resistance, which really only included the “Miracle Cure Question: ”What, really, are you, Zeina, hoping for in tonight’s session?” You will also hear the amazing M = Methods portion, which will start with Forced Empathy, followed by Externalization of Voices and Five Secrets Practice, along with the final T = Testing and homework assignments for Zeina following the session.
Rhonda, Jill, Zeina and I hope you enjoy the podcasts and learn a great deal from them. And we all want to thank you, Zeina for your courageous and brilliant work, sharing your inner self so openly and generously. I believe that sessions like the one our fans will witness today and next week have the potential to provide hope and healing to people around the world, not only today, but for decades to come. At least, that is my hope!
I also want to thank you, Jill, for your extraordinary teaching and clinical skills, and for your brilliance and warmth.
Thank you for tuning in!
Rhonda, Zeina, and David
Here is a follow-up note from Zeina
Hello David, Jill, and the Tuesday group,
Boy, do I have an update for you all! So, at first, I struggled, and I was very worried to have to potentially send an update to the group that may have been disappointing.
On Saturday, I saw my mom, and I shared with her the insights that I had in our session. She was appreciative, but I didn't feel very connected to her. I had talked with her about this while she and I were on a walk, and I wondered if maybe walking while talking was taking away some of the intimacy or connection that might have happened if we had been looking at each other while talking.
I also noticed that while I was externally behaving somewhat better if my mom criticized me, internally, I still hadn't progressed very far. I would still feel very distant from her; and I still wasn't doing the five secrets.
Today, on Sunday, I saw my mom again. While she did not criticize me, we still got into a little bit of an argument.
I was a bit angry, but as I let myself cool off, I noticed myself feeling incredibly sad inside--like a sadness that had been building and building over the past few weeks. I tried to talk with my mom about it, but she resisted at first.
We had a project that we were working on together today and she thought it would be better if we talked on another day and got back to our project; I insisted, however, and asked that we please talk today. I did not realize it at the time, but I think I had some major hidden emotion stuff happening with my mom (more on this later, perhaps some hidden sadness that was masquerading as anger).
I shared with her that I had felt incredibly sad and genuinely worried about our relationship. I recently moved in order to live closer to her and see her more often, but I had noticed that almost every time she came over to visit me at my new place, we would get into an argument at least once.
I shared that these arguments had really been weighing on me and worrying me. I also told her that I noticed that we would get into arguments when we were at my place, but not as much when I visited her at her place, maybe because I am so particular about how I like things to be at my place.
She, then, said in a very gentle and loving way, "I think ‘particular’ about your space is the operative word here."
I realized that she was totally right, and I was so pleasantly surprised by how gentle and loving she was when she said it.
Feeling encouraged by how the conversation was going, I shared more and said that I had noticed that I had become more sensitive around our arguments lately and that I was feeling very disconnected from her, and I didn't know how to get reconnected with her. I also shared that I had been feeling lonely in my life in general lately and made a guess that maybe my loneliness was making me expect more from our relationship.
Additionally, I also guessed that I might be feeling more drained emotionally because I am doing more hours of therapy per week than I have ever done in my life, and maybe I had yet to find the right balance of how to recreate and regenerate my energy in my off-hours.
I shed many tears all throughout this whole conversation. I checked in with myself and noticed that I was feeling more connected to my mom, but there felt like there was still more, particularly about my loneliness.
This next paragraph might seem like a major tangent, but hang in there!--I promise it is all connected :)
Then, I switched gears a little bit to share with her a different conversation and insight I had had in the past week or so about my recent feelings of loneliness. I had been having a conversation with my very dear friend, James, about how I had been feeling lonely, but was not feeling as drawn to connecting with most of my girlfriends, but only really drawn to my guy friends.
Initially, I thought it was a male-female difference, but then I noticed that I was feeling drawn to my new friend Leigh Harrington, who is female. I realized that maybe the difference had more to do with the fact that almost all my male friends and Leigh were quite funny and playful people, whereas most of my girlfriends were more serious people.
As for myself, I tend to be a more serious person and am not as funny or playful as many people. I realized that I was relying on other people for my laughter, playfulness and fun, rather than learning how to create that myself.
Having just done some flirting training with Matthew May earlier that week, I saw that humor, like flirting, can be a learned skill and might have more to do with a willingness to take risks than an innate quality that people either have or don't have.
I was feeling excited that I could learn to be funnier and flirtier and create more laughter in my life, instead of relying on other funny people for this.
I shared all of this with my mom. She then went on to make a further connection that really blew me away. She said, "I bet if you start to be funnier and create more laughter for yourself and others, you will also start to feel less lonely." It felt so true!
The times I feel most connected to people are when I am laughing with them. THIS is the kind of relationship and connection with my mom that I had been missing lately--when I share deeply with her and, because she knows me so well, she is able to further my insight and understanding of myself and help me to grow.
I feel so connected to her now. I realize now that I think part of my resistance to using the 5 secrets with my mom was maybe a hidden emotion component--I had these deep feelings and worries about our relationship; I was confused if moving closer to her had actually helped our relationship or if it was harming it, and I was genuinely missing these kinds of deep, connecting conversations with her, which we had not had in a while.
My mom has been hanging out at my place all day today and now I notice myself being easily loving and patient with her and my being "particular" about my things and my space has vanished--at least temporarily!
There are a lot of take-aways for me from this whole thing, but one of the biggest ones is that I think I was trying to do five secrets without really fully going into my "I feel" statements as much as I needed to--I feel statements are often the secret that I neglect the most as a person and as a therapist.
So, to connect to what we are doing this week in class, I think I would make a guess that when I ignore the five secret that I need to do the most and struggle with, it can hamper my ability to do the rest of the five secrets effectively and genuinely.
I could write a lot more about all of this, but I think I will stop here for now. I hope this wasn't too confusing as I know I touched on a lot of different things. Thank you all for your time and attention. I'm open to comments or questions.
Here is a reply to Zeina from one of the Stanford Tuesday group members
Gosh! Zeina, this is beautiful and so straight from the heart. Takes immense courage to do a deep dive in exploring oneself. I have been marveling at how meticulously you‘ve sifted through and worked towards addressing the different dimensions of the relationship between you and your mum. You are also an amazing raconteur, you’ve brought out the subtle nuances so beautifully!
Your mail took me on an emotional roller coaster ride. It was such a compelling read and had me as a captive co-traveler, holding my breath, and crossing my fingers!
I loved your insights on the “I feel”. Reading that was a personal breakthrough for me, where my relationship with my mum is concerned. That’s exactly what is missing in our relationship too … whoaaaaa! I just don’t share my feelings with her! I love how you were able to do that though, because I can feel this huge wave of resistance engulfing me, despite my insight. I know I’m not yet ready to take the next step! Funny, how tough it can be to be vulnerable before one’s own mom!
More power to you Zeina for ‘daring greatly’ and taking the next step after the Tuesday class. Also, for keeping us posted and for sharing with us in such a detailed manner, and in the process, helping us all learn and grow. Deep regards for your mum as well. She comes across as a tenacious mother of a tenacious daughter … if I may say so.
Here is a second follow-up from Zeina.
Hello David, Jill and Tuesday group,
I just wanted to send another update as my relationship with my mom has continued to evolve in quite beautiful and magical ways since I sent this last email. It seems to me that maybe she has stopped criticizing me entirely--I'm not quite sure. Maybe I need to pay more attention. Perhaps if she does criticize me, she does it in a gentler way or maybe I am less sensitive to it. All I know is that she has been wonderfully supportive of me in these past few weeks and we have not gotten into a single argument. Our relationship suddenly seems easy in a way that I have never experienced before. I am so profoundly grateful. I know that we will probably relapse at some point and this may not last forever, but, now I know this is possible. Now, I know my way back here. I have always wanted a relationship like this with my mother, and I always thought it wasn't possible because of who she was as a person. Little did I know that to have the mother I always wanted, I needed to do the changing. I knew that the 5 secrets were powerful, but I had thought that their power was more confined to a single interaction or the moment when you use them. I don't know that I have been especially good at practicing the 5 secrets with my mom lately, yet the effect seems to keep lasting and lasting. I am truly speechless at the profound transformation that has happened. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I would love any responses!
Here is some of the feedback from the training group in the section, “What did you like the best about today’s training session?”
Loved Jill's internal solution as well as the forced empathy option along with the option of working on the good reasons not to do the 5 secrets. Jill was on a roll with her empathy ... "feels like you're walking on eggshells and don't know what will hurt her." I also liked Jill's disclosure about the times she gets critical with her boys are times when she is most concerned about them. Also liked Jill highlighting how Zeina practicing the Five Secrets was not working at a point because she was not using enough feeling empathy unlike as when doing the Forced Empathy