Paul Sunderland Recovery and the Couple Relationship - Part 4

This is part 3 in a video where Paul Sunderland talks about how recovery effects relationships. This talk is a must watch for anyone who has ever been in a relationship with an addict. It provides helpful advice and incite as well as explaining the dynamics of relationships and addiction.

For the next of previous part please click on the links below the video.

Paul Sunderland Recovery and the Couple Relationship - Part 3

Paul Sunderland Recovery and the Couple Relationship - Part 5


{slider=Transcript - Part 4}

And actually culturally we would speak about it in a slightly different way. So I am really quite keen on this definition that codependency is an addiction to security. I think that it puts into perspective. At its most active state codependency is about victimhood. Codependency is about explaining my own bad feelings through your behavior. Codependency is about raising my game by focusing on you. So some of it is quite subtle. So that is quite subtle because certainly when you start getting into care-taking behavior.

The writer's [Opetica Lerner] who is someone that you might know. She was saying to me that if you open the door for anyone who lives in Minnesota you were accused of being codependent in the 1980's. I guess there were a whole lot of people just being bloody rude to each other in the case someone said they were codependent.

Caretaking behavior very often is not taking care of the other person is it. It is taking care of our anxiety by taking care of the other person. It's really important because I meet a lot of persons who think they are Mother Teresa or whatever the male version is. Actually, it is really quite important to say to these people actually I'm sure you have a big heart and it’s great. It is nice and the way that you come into my office and you'll always ask me how my week has been is quite nice you know. Even though it is your session and not mine. But what I want to suggest to you is that actually what you're doing is managing your own anxiety. You are trying to put me at ease to manage your own anxiety so let's not mistake it. For taking care of anyone other than yourself.

I don't mean that in some selfish way. That's because you have anxiety and that is what we need to be here to do. To think about what it is that raises your anxiety. What happened that raised your anxiety so high that you actually need to focus on others. You lose self by focusing on feeling secure in the codependent relationship.

So what do we have? What we have is the understanding that relationships are difficult. Do you know that in all of surveys 90% of people will say they have ended the relationship with somebody who was in love with them. In return over 90% of people that they have had a relationship ended by someone who they were really in love with. So we know that no one gets out alive. This is about hurting others and being hurt. So we need to know, we need to be realistic about this. It is about hurting and being hurt.

There are real phases to all of this. There is an ideal phase that once we found our mate though all of these different ways that we perceive. There is something that happens in the brain that really focuses us and makes us feel pretty 'high'. It makes us really focus only on one person. We need to hold in mind actually that is going to stop around the three year to four year time point. For many people it happens before. Others would get stuck in that phase. It will stop and actually we will get into the ordeal phase. I think that people really need to know that the two hardest things that we do as human beings in which we have no training for is having children and having a relationship.

Do you know what I think that if we would actually get training I don't think it will make any difference. I think it is quite nice and one of the reasons that I wanted to do this talk is that I felt like we should just normalize some of this for people. Don't be ashamed. So many people are just ashamed that they got into a muddle. They got into conflict and marital difficulties. We try and talk a lot about our muddle for clients. We talk about "gosh it sounds like you got into a really muddle.” Do you know I think that word describes it very good. It takes away this sort of feeling that what is happening is unique.

I tell you, when a couple comes into the room do you know what they really want to know? Whose fault is it? “Is it my fault or is it theirs?” That is what they want to know. It is so important that we have some compassion. You have got to a muddle. How can you not have gotten into a muddle? You're recovering from addiction. Especially how could you not? You've negotiated your way through all these chemicals in the ideal phase. All the merging that reminded you what you did not get and what you so wanted. How could you not be having a difficult time? Everybody does. The statistics that I've given you are really important to illustrate that.

The way forward with all of this. I think it's great to talk about all those self-help books were you get to the final page and you have had the problem described very clearly. It is like what are we going to do? It seems like the problem is even worse. So what can we do? Actually there is a bunch of stuff that we can do. We need to know that were going to go through difficulties. We really do. You know there's no protection against the life-cycle. This stuff is just going to happen. I think that some people in the recovery programs they work as is if this will actually be somehow like “somehow I’ll find a perfect cure”.

Is close to that because actually faith is an important part in recovery. To have faith that actually all will be okay. They will survive all of this. It's really important thing.

Time: 5:00

Now let's just talk about some of things we can do. Okay first of all we do need to know ourselves. It's rather obvious but you know if your primary relationship is with an addictive substance or process you don't really know yourself. What you know is how to score it, stay high and keep the whole thing flourishing. That is what you really know. Constantly people in recovery talk about-I'm sure that you know this .I’m sure you have seen them or have been them. They come into the room and they do not even know what type of clothes they like to wear or the music they like to listen to. This is such a loss of self.

I think people need the psycho-education that I've rather hoped that I've been giving out today. I’d like to see more of it. That is why I want to donate this lecture because I think people just need to hear about this. I think it is relevant. I think it is relevant to the beginning of recovery. That is even the case if you are not in the relationship. Somebody just needs to flag up so that at some point in the future when experiencing difficulties they will think that all this is quite normal. I think that is really important. We need to think about that muddle. All of that psycho-education.

We need to be able to notice signs of distressed couples. Now recovery is all about noticing. That is because in active addiction it is all about not noticing. One of the first recovery skills is noticing. The most commonly asked question in a treatment program is how do you feel? Is not because the counselor cannot think of anything else to say. That might be the case but mostly it is because it is really important that we start to actually connect up to how we feel and get used to talking about it. That is because often it's a really new thing.

So starting to do what people in 12 step programs call an inventory. That is starting to notice. Notice these John Gottman signs of distress. Notice that “Am I just being very critical? Am I talking about you or am I saying I feel?”  These “I” statements a really important. This is a big difference. If my wife says to me, "actually I feel a bit of abandonment when you go off to London for a few days, go to a stage and deliver a lecture at Life Works. I'm left alone with all the kids". It actually makes some sense. If she angrily says "oh you always are going away…grr". Do you know there is no space for anything like that. These “I” statements are better than “you” statements. That is really important.

We need to understand this projection, by which I mean we need to understand that actually the difficulties that we get into in our adult relationships might well be resonating with difficulties that we go into in our childhood. We need to understand that actually when we are talking about him or her, we might also be talking about mom or dad. We also might be talking about other relationships that we had. It is really important because if we do have some combination of here and now problems with there and then problems we are going to be pretty overwhelmed. We need to understand projection.

We also need to understand that for some people. You get a lot of people that say “Oh, I married my father. There is no hope.” They will also say “she is just like my mother”. Actually I think that we choose each other quite wisely. I think we really do. It actually brings up our stuff. David Schnarch wrote a book called passionate marriage you may know it. He said that the couple relationship is a people growing machine. We learn so much about ourselves in the couple relationship. It is usually more than we want to know. It is usually more about the other person than they want to know. We really do.

So we need to understand the things that resonate for us. We need to understand that this is coming from deep down. This is limbic. This is coming from the thought that I'm going to be abandoned. It is coming from the area of our brain that kicks nanoseconds before the frontal cortex. You know the feeling that she wants to stay in and wash her hair so she doesn't love me anymore, there might be someone else. That is coming from the limbic system of the brain. The feeling of being abandoned kicks in nanoseconds before actually the thought that "don't people wash their hair? Isn't this sort of reasonable?”

Time: 10:00

That catastrophic thinking comes because people have had a catastrophe in the past. It's really important that we grasp that. So for many people in recovery they are in two minds. They are in a limbic mind and in a frontal context mind. It’s always the case that the limbic system will kick in first. I will tell you why. It is because it is the limbic system. When the man eating tiger enters the room, I always give this example, it is the limbic system says “let’s scarper” before the frontal cortex says “nice stripes.”

That is what keeps us alive. That is why we are on the top of the food chain. We need to understand this stuff. This is difficult. We don’t just have one brain. There is a big mistake in thinking that. There is an awful lot going on in there. A lot of it is in conflict.

We need to I think hold in mind this concept of separateness. How difficult it is to be a separate person if you have had sub optimal parenting. You have to really strive for it. To act in your best interest is really difficult. Yet we need to hold in mind that nobody will find this attractive if we can't be a separate person. Yet that goes against the limbic belief that “I will be abandoned and die if I can't be separate.” So it is a real conflict.

Again this is where fellowship is so important. To hear other people say that and being around other people. To open up and say this is how I feel. It is really important.

That is actually the next thing I'm going to say which is I think of course the people who are sharing and seeking fellowship is really important in recovery. That is around all of this sort of stuff. Do you know that there is a recovering couples anonymous? There is only two meetings in the UK. I don't know why they aren’t more but I have the same thing with debtors anonymous. Why isn't debtors anonymous more massive? It is probably the slowest growing fellowship. Something is going wrong there. It ought to be the biggest thing. You can't really explain these things.

It is probably due to shame and disclosure. It's really important to be sharing with others. You know that we get ill in relationships. We also get well in relationships. It's sort of follows. You don't get well on your own by just reading a book to try work it all out. People try to do that don't they? They usually end up addicted to self-help books that are all half read books.

I was thinking that if I had my act together I would write one and then I would tell you that you could buy it afterward. I suspect that most of the people that make their money. It's true that most of those books are not ever read. It's just the pleasure of having it in hand. Anyway when I get my act together and write a book will you please buy it? I'll be very grateful. Maybe I will write something about this if you think it makes any sense in the end.

I do consider the advantages of therapy when things are difficult. You know what, I would really encourage you to seriously consider couple therapy. It is the hardest thing that you can do to expose your couple relationship. It really is. You do not know what the other person is going to say about you. And couple group therapy, that is a really big. It's incredibly powerful. That is because exposing your couple relationship to another couple and you are also watching another couple. So is also all the advantages of fellowship thinking and group therapy. The normalizing and the sense of universality. To know that you're not the only one. And also an indication of "gosh we don't do it like they do it".

You know I think that's really important I suspect the issues for peoples who limbic systems are so in conflict with these early wounds the real loss of self. The therapies that actually work more specifically on the limbic system are really help. The EMDR which is the eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It is a big mouthful but you can Google it.

The tapping or the emotional freedom technique. I'm incredibly skeptical about this. But all the time I read the clinical evidence it is really good. It bothers me that is good because somehow I just don't like the idea that tapping can work. It goes against something in me. But you know some of those things work. We do equine assisted therapy. It is very useful in a couple relationships. Horses are so good. They are experts in reading body language. You probably would know that they are preyed upon. Horses spend a lot of time watching to see what is going to happen. That is in case the mountain lion attacks and picks one of them out from the herd.

To do it with a couple is great because you see how they do a task together. It is so revealing and far more than putting a couple in two chairs facing each or however they are going to be on the sofa in the therapy room.{/slider}


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