Welcome to couples coaching, my name is Lynn Armstrong, I work as a relationship facilitator, and integrative coach. I am a professional member of the ANLP. (The Association For Neuro Linguistic Programming).
I work with couples and singles who want to create and sustain loving and meaningful connection with their partners and other people. If a couple are experiencing conflict in their relationship, it means something new is struggling to come forward!
With the right relational tools, we can transform conflict into a deep and meaningful connection!
When our relationships are going well, life feels easier, we feel more secure in ourselves and with life in general.The opposite is also true.. when our relationships are a source of stress and conflict, our emotional and physical health are affected. Stress hormones that are circulating in our bloodstream are a contributing factor to many illnesses.
If we want healthy loving relationships, we have to be willing to talk and listen in a different way…
We need a structure that keeps our communication safe for both partners.The safe communication dialogue is a way of talking and listening that allows for both partners to be truly seen and heard by each other.
Safe communication is created when we use this structured way of talking and listening. Here are 3 of the main elements of safe communication.
1.Listening without judgement (mirroring)
2. Validation (being able to validate the other persons point of view without judgement)
3.Empathising ( Getting a sense of what the other person may be feeling, and communicating that)
Safe communication means we have a zero tolerance on negativity, we learn to turn our complaints into requests.
I offer sessions by telephone, video call and in person. Do get in touch if you would like more information or to book a session. Sessions are 60 mins for couples and individuals. Email email@example.com
One of the key causes of conflict and hurt feelings in our intimate relationships is the bringing of childhood emotional experiences into the relationship, without the awareness of when this is happening. Each one of us is influenced by our early interactions with our caregivers, this shows up in the conflict we have with our partner in our adult relationships.
In childhood, and into our teens, painful emotions get ‘stored’ in our emotional brain, this is the storehouse of emotional memories that were too painful for us to fully process at the time they were created. These emotional memories oftenget triggered in the present, by an innocent comment or action made by our partner. We then blame our partner for our hurt or angry feelings, believing that our partner is the cause of our pain, in reality, they are the trigger for the pain that is already stored in our emotional brain, this pain is often linked to painful childhood experiences that we have unconsciously buried.(these emotional memories are so well hidden that we are not aware of them until they get triggered)
How can we tell if the past is interfering with the present? If we have a recurring argument or situation with our partner that doesn’t get resolvedsatisfactorily, this can be a sign that the underlying issue is connected to the past.
We may feel as though we are done with the past, but the past may not be done with us. This is why it is so important to use the 3 step safe communication dialogue when talking and listening with our partner. The 3 steps are:
Validating our partners experience
Empathising with our partners feelings
When we are in a relationship, we seek to make the relationship a place of safety for both ourselves and our partner. It is impossible to feel safe in a relationship marked by blame and judgement.
One of the key blocks to being able to talk and listen to each other calmly is when one or both partners are defensive. Emotional defences fall into 5 categories. (for more info on defences please see Ingerberg Bosch and her system called PRI) There are videos on YouTube and her book ‘Past Reality Integration’ is a great place to start.
When an emotional defence is activated, we react to our partner from our childhood consciousness and childhood defences. This causes conflict when we are not aware that this has happened. We usually find it much easier to see how our partner isn’t measuring up, but find it harder to see how our own style of communication is causing our partner pain.
Resentment, blame, judgement and critiscm may feel completely justified when we feel that our partner is hurting us in some way (though this is usually unintentional), however none of these emotional states are useful or healthy in bringing about positive change.
Critiscms that we have about our partner often hide unmet needs for attention, love or support, we can learn how to ask for what we would like in a respectful calm way. When we feel tempted to justify our continuing anger, we stay stuck.
Couples begin to progress beyond conflict when they recognise how our childhood wounds can affect the relationship in the present, when we hurt our partner with negativity, we trigger early childhood pain also, this is why things can get so destructive. The safe communication dialogue helps us to be a safe place for each other, and become passionate friends.
We all know how it feels to feel ‘stuck’ in a negative state such as…
These kinds of emotional states can seem hard to get out of, so what is the key to freeing ourselves from them?
The key to freeing ourselves from a negative state, lies in reconnecting to our true identity.
We are born into this world as pure awareness. We take in information from our environment, and create a concept of the world and a concept of self.
These concepts become habituated, our repetitive emotional states seem to be a part of who we are, but they are only concepts.
To free ourselves from a negative state, we have to return to our original nature, which is pure awareness.
We are not our mind, we are not our emotions, thoughts or behaviours. Our true identity is as pureawareness of our experience.To free ourselves from an unwanted emotional state we can follow these steps.
Notice an unwanted emotional state you are experiencing
Say to yourself, “I am the pure awareness of (insert feeling or thought)
Say to yourself, I am not the feeling, my true identity is as the awareness of the feeling or thought.
Practise this skill of being aware throughout your day
The more we practise the conscious skill of being the awareness of our inner and outer experience the more we are connecting to our true identity. This skill also helps us to disidentify from negative states such as anxiety or depression, and other self defeating emotional states.
Many couples get off to a great start, they are in love, or at least there is a strong attraction, and then, after a period of time, things start to change. There’s more arguments, the romance seems to have faded,… the couple feel more like cell mates than soul mates…. If things get really bad they may even decide to separate or divorce. Some couples who stay together, live parallel lives, they are no longer a couple, just two people living miserably under the same roof.
What Went Wrong?
The information that couples need to know, is that the disillusionment phase happens to most if not all couples. All relationships hit the phase called the power struggle. This phase is marked by conflict. The couples who make it out to the other side of this phase are those who have learned relational technology
What Is Relational Technology?
Its a way of talking and listening to each other consciously, this means learning how to be present to your partner. A lot of the time when our partner is talking, we are more involved with our own defensive reactions than with really listening to our partner. This is why we need a structured process to help us stay present to our partners communication.
When we learn how to use relational technology in our relationship, we heal the past, and help each other grow and thrive.
We have to debunk the cultural myth that conflict is a sign that your with the wrong person, conflict means that growth is trying to happen!
(We do not advocate anyone staying in an abusive situation)
When conflict creeps into a relationship, both partners can feel at a loss as to how to get back to the love and romance they started out with. The good news is that it is entirely possible to rekindle the love we had in the beginning, and to build it into something even greater.
There are 3 phases of every intimate partnership.
Phase 1. Romantic love, usually a strong attraction, the couple feel compatible.
Phase 2. The power struggle, marked by conflict. The couple may begin to doubt their compatibility, (it is at this crucial point that a couple need the safe communication dialogue process)
What is the ‘safe communication dialogue’?……It is a 3 part process that gives structure to our conversations, making our communication safe for both partners.
Phase 3. Real love, the couple have now become passionate friends, conflict is now transformed into effective communication the majority of the time.
A couple can overcome any difficulty, when they learn relational technology.
When a couple learn how to communicate in a safe way, it makes it possible for change to happen. We can not only recapture the romantic love we had in the beginning, but also build it into a passionate friendship.
Conflict is a sign that something new is trying tocome forward, we just need the right relational tools to navigate it.
For more information on couples coaching and counselling, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel.Lynn on 07944921130
Online coaching and in person appointments in Leeds
We all want to feel independent, to be able to deal with things in an effective way. Occasionally we may need outside support, but once we become adults, we want to be able to support ourselves the majority of the time.
We all have inner resources to draw upon, such as our wisdom, knowledge, and experience. Sometimes however when we need to draw on our inner resources, we make a costly mistake…
To illustrate what this mistake is, imagine this scenario….
You are sat on your sofa after work, feeling really tired, your also really thirsty, your whole body is aching, and even though you are thirsty, you end up falling asleep without getting a drink.. In your dream you see yourself feeling very thirsty, you see a water fountain, and you go and get a cool refreshing drink of water, in the dream your thirst is quenched.
Did the fact that you dreamt about having a drink of water actually quench your thirst in reality?
We could refer to the imaginary drinking of the water in the dream as a ‘false resource’.
When you wake up, you discover that you are still really thirsty, so, you head to the fridge and pour yourself a cool glass of water, you drink it and are satisfied.
This scenario illustrates the mistake we can make when we try to deal with life from our inner resources.
As we have already acknowledged, we all have inner strengths to draw from. We also have the ability to visualise new possibilities. All of these are useful and productive.We also have practical emotional patterns that can serve us, such as being able to stay calm during a challenging time. All of the above are ‘real resources’.
There are other false resources that we may find ourselves using, and these will not yield positive results. For instance..
If we find ourselves overcome with anxiety, and then we believe everything the feeling of anxiety is telling us, we will not make good decisions, and we may start to catastrophise. Anxiety is only ever legitimate if there is a real physical threat to our wellbeing. So undue anxiety would be classed as a false resource.
On the other hand, if we draw on past experiences where we have handled things well, and it resulted in us achieving our goals, then this can be a real resource for us.
We have to be judicious in the way we choose inner resources. As we have seen, we have both positive and negative resources within us.
Examples of false resources.
Examples of real resources
In our scenario, we can see that drinking from a water fountain in a dream will not quench our thirst in reality. Just as using false resources to solve challenges will not bring us the resultswewant to achieve.
For more information email email@example.com
We all know the long term costs to our health and self esteem if we have a pattern of emotional eating, this term refers to eating for reasons other than hunger.
To begin the process of stopping a pattern of emotional eating, we first need to notice what preceeds the desire to eat.
Make a list of your triggers to eat (other than hunger), ie feeling stressed, overwhelmed, lonely, bored, irritated,etc. Also make a list of any rewards, such as eating to feel comforted, distracted, loved, cared for, for example.
Once you have your list, you now have valuable information as to why you engage in emotional eating.
Emotional eating is a conditioned response to a trigger or to seeking a reward. Here is an example from a lady I worked with who engaged in emotional eating, this pattern had led to weight gain and self esteem issues.
Lynn “So what is the behaviour you want to stop?”
Sandy.“I want to stop eating chocolate and cake most evenings, because I’m overweight, and feel generally unwell”.
Lynn.” Ok, so what preceeds the eating?, are you aware of what the triggers are?”
Sandy.“Its usually when I feel bored, and I want a distraction”.
Lynn.“Ok, so feeling bored is the trigger, and eating provides a temporary pleasurable distraction from feeling bored, is that right?”
Sandy.“Yes, that’s it”, but afterwards I feel awful, I feel guilty and weak willed”.
Lynn.“So you recognise that in the moment it may give you a temporary distraction, but long term you know it’s not a solution?”
Sandy.“Yes, that’s it, but it has felt like a compulsion to eat”.
Lynn.“Yes, that’s because it has become a conditioned response when you feel bored. Can you remember when you first began the pattern of eating cake etc when you were bored?”
Sandy. “When I was young, I grew up in a really quiet village where there were no kids my age, I can remember stealing cookies or cake to take to my room at night, I think I was just sooo bored and lonely, it provided a bit of excitement!”
Lynn.” So you can see back then that cookies were providing a distraction from the boredom that you felt, albeit temporarily. Then each time you felt bored, it would trigger the desire to eat cake or cookies.So in other words you became conditioned to associate eating cake or cookies as a distraction from boredom”?
Sandy. “Yes, I can see how unconsciously I created that link between avoiding boredom and eating cookies.”
Lynn.” Yes, so eating cookies was a means of getting something, it wasnt the cookies you really wanted, what was it?”
Sandy.“I wanted relief from the horrible boredom I felt, but cookies were the only thing I had to hand at the time”.
Lynn. Yes, cookies were a means to an end, not an end in themselves, it was wanting to avoid boredom that you really wanted, not the cookies. The cookies just happen to be there, and temporarily allowed you a distraction from boredom. What else do you think you could have done as a child to avoid boredom?
Sandy.“I would have loved to sing as a child, but I was so shy and my parents didnt really encourage it, I would sing secretly outside sometimes to myself”.
Lynn. “Yes, if you just take a deep breath, and imagine you are that young girl again, see yourself feeling that familiar feeling of boredom, only this time instead of reaching for the cookies or cake, your mum comes to you and says, “come on Sandy” let’s sing a song together”, you both start singing a happy song and your feeling great! What song are you singing?..
Sandy. “We are singing somewhere over the rainbow”,…(Sandy was now smiling, eyes closed)
Lynn.“Yes, and now see yourself at different times, knowing that a feeling of boredom is your cue to start singing! and you can sing anytime you want to you notice how good it feels! you know that it was never the cookies or cake you wanted, it was an end to the boredom you wanted! And now you have it ..now you have found something that ends the boredom, something that is really good for you!, really be there and feel what that feels like, to sing and feel good!
Sandy. “Wow!, that felt really emotional.”
Lynn. So now, you have this information that you didnt have before, you now realise you really do have a healthy enjoyable way of relieving boredom, and that there never was a link between eating and getting rid of boredom, it was just that you were not aware of other choices back then, you tried to meet your needs in the best way you knew how.
Sandy. Yes it does feel different, I feel like I really want to start singing lessons!
Lynn. Great! You can use this timeline method anytime you want to make a change, just like we have used it today.
Sandy had a few other conditioned responses to eating which we worked on over a number of weeks, she was quite quickly able to break the pattern of emotional eating.
To decondition emotional eating we have to firstly notice our triggers and rewards.
When a person traces back to the origin of the conditioned response, as in the case above, they can break the pattern, but only when they see that the link they made was arbitrary, in other words, it was a link created by them! ..and if other things had been available, such as being encouraged to sing for instance, then the singing may well have become the conditioned response toboredom instead of eating.
The term ‘Emotional Eating’ refers to when we use food for reasons other than hunger. We might get the urge to eat certain foods because of emotional triggers such as boredom, loneliness or anxiety.
The other kind of emotional eating is when we eat to get a feeling of reward. Such as wanted to feel comforted, secure or loved.
The problems associated with emotional eating include weight gain ill health, and low self esteem, in our next blog, we will be discussing how to break the cycle of emotional eating, by first recognising the triggers and rewards.
We all know that when our relationships are going well, everything else in life works better too. The opposite is also true, when our relationships are marked by misunderstanding and conflict, it has a knock on effect in other areas of our lives.
The ‘safe communication dialogue’ is a structured way of having a conversation, it is widely used in every kind of setting, from business, to schools, families and couples.
The safe communication dialogue is part of a relational technologythat promotes connection and understanding between people.
The dialogue process eradicates conflict and allows each person to feel really seen, heard and respected..
The diagram below illustrates how the quality of our communication with other people is affected by which brain state we are in.
The ‘safe communication dialogue’ keeps us in our upper brain (brain states 1 and 2) when we are talking and listening to others. The dialogue process prevents us beingtriggered into an unhelpful emotional response such as anger or anxiety. These negative emotional states come from the lower brain areas(3-5)
The safe communication dialogue helps us to create win wins , rather than competing about who is right and who’s wrong!
The dialogue process teaches us how to self regulate our emotional reactions.
For more information please contact us at couplescounselling. family
The brain has 5 different ‘states’ ranging from 1-5. Brain states 1-2 are stress free, it is here where we feel all those natural feel good feelings, endorphins oxytocin and dopamine are readily available. This idyllic picture changes however when the brain perceives a stressor, at this point our brain state descends (3-5).
In brain states 3-5 our system produces the hormones of stress, cortisol, adrenaline etc, this then changes our perception, we feel like we are under threat.
The emotional brain (brain states 3-5) is the storehouse of past emotional experiences that are not fully processed. These emotional experiences get ‘triggered’ in the present, and cause problems in our relationships.
When we are in brain states 3-5 our reactions become more unconscious and primitive.This is the brain area of survival. This is also where our emotional defence system gets activated.
Problems arise with our partner when our emotional reactions to them are dominated by the lower emotional brain.
Our perception of our partner changes when we are in our lower brain. We become reactionary and defensive.
What we need are the conscious tools of change, we need a different way of communicating with each other, a way that will bring us back up into our higher brain( neocortex) brain states 1 and 2. The higher brain can create win wins, and can see the bigger picture.
The structure of the safe communication dialogue keeps us in our higher brain, and keeps our communication safe.
The safe communication dialogue includes:
Listening reflectively, validating your partners experience, showing empathy..
We have to become very aware of our emotional responses to our partner. Many of our emotional responses are more to do with our own emotional history, rather than to do with the reality of our partners prescence in our lives.
It can be surprising for some couples when they realise just how much of their emotional history is sabotaging their present relationship.
The safe communication dialogue creates safety and trust in the relationship, allowing both people to feel truly seen and heard.
For more information or to make an appointment, you can use the contact page on this website, firstname.lastname@example.org
Couples usually start out with a very positive beginning, then somewhere down the road conflict starts to creep in.
The myth in our culture is that if your relationship is marked by conflict, then this must be a sign that you are with the wrong person.
This belief about conflict is very prevalent, hence the 50 % divorce rate. From my experience as a coach and safe communication facilitator, conflict is a sign that growth is trying to happen!, and not a sign we should give up on the relationship. The safe communication dialogue is a way of communicating with your partner that creates safety in the relationship.
(If the relationship has become abusive, then of course we should take appropriate steps to keep ourselves safe)
Safe communicationdialogue is a structured process that involves 3 main steps.1.Mirroring what our partner says.2. Validating their experience. 3.Empathising with their experience.
When we listen to our partner in this way, it creates safety and trust.