The Magic Trigger-Shift

by Jami and Marla Keller

Are you tired of having the same fight over and over again with your spouse or significant other? It’s exhausting and will eventually lead to discontent and disconnect in your coupleship. There is one thing you can do to win every argument… Really. And it works no matter who you feel conflict with including parents, siblings, children, coworkers, etc. if it can be done with no agenda or manipulation.

We must warn you that once you know this secret you will be responsible for doing your best to take care of your side of the street (emotionally) or there will be (continued?) lost sleep, hurt, and frustration. Consider yourself warned, and if you’re still reading this, you’re ready!

The First Agreement for a Successful Coupleship

Your feelings and perceptions are real and only you are responsible for caring healthfully for them. This means that your partner’s feelings and perceptions are real and only they are responsible for them.

Seems simple doesn’t it? It’s not because, well, life…

(Marla) I have to admit, sheepishly, that I  h a t e d—I mean, despised—this agreement when we were taught it back in the late-90’s. Jami had shot an arrow into the depths of my soul (or maybe he just bumped one that was already there) and I was red-hot ANGRY and HE was responsible for my anger, darn it! As you can see through the lens of the first agreement, I was dead wrong, and in this poisonous state, I was lashing out at Jami in rage and blaming him instead of taking responsibility for my feelings and experience. It would have been the end of our relationship if I hadn’t gotten a firm grasp on this very important concept—only I am responsible for how I feel. Whoa. That’s hard stuff.

Why isn’t it simple, you ask? Because everyone has blind spots about how they really feel (yep, even you) whether that’s due to stuffing their emotions or not being allowed to feel as a little one. Did you ever hear, “Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about” or “Big boys don’t cry” or the seemingly innocuous “Relax, you’re fine”? Perfect words to shut down your ability to feel your emotions and express them healthfully. Here is a quick test to see if you are present to your current feelings: In ten seconds can you name three feelings you are feeling right now? And for those of you who are experts at stuffing your feelings remember “good,” “bad,” “fine,” “okay,” and “so-so” don’t count. Did you know that understanding where those feelings come from is vital for your health both emotional and physical? Studies show “[w]hen the mind thwarts the flow of emotions because they are too overwhelming or too conflicting, it puts stress on the mind and the body, creating psychological distress and symptoms. Emotional stress, like that from blocked emotions, has not only been linked to mental illness, but also to physical problems like heart disease, intestinal problems, headaches, insomnia and autoimmune disorders.” Yikes!

This is why we developed the Feeling Wheel 5.0.

Even if you are one of the rare people that can name three distinct and deep feelings within ten seconds, it is much harder to do when you are in conflict and already solidly triggered into your preferred mode of feeling can be very complicated and keep you from being your best. Being aware of your current feelings and taking personal responsibility for them allows your partner to have their feelings and be responsible for their them. (Marla) Jami and I have been practicing these tools for a while now, but I still make crap up about how he’s feeling. We used to end up in a heated argument, or “loud discussion” as my parents called it, but now we’re able to stay on our side of the street most of the time (unless someone’s being stubborn…like me. Ughhh). And it goes like this: I feel distance from Jami and I make-up that he is upset with me. I ask him, “Are you okay? I am feeling distant and I make-up that you are frustrated with me.” At least ninety-nine percent of the time he responds, “Oh, shoot, no I’m not upset with you. I am feeling ___________.” (His usual responses are that he’s tired, he’s concentrating, or he’s not feeling well.) Boom. Knock-down-drag-out avoided.

Magic. It takes practice (a lot!) and you can make significant improvements in your coupleship if only you practice feeling your emotions, but it’s incredibly helpful if your love is onboard with taking responsibility for their emotions as well. You cannot force them to, but you can start practicing it yourself and see what happens. Your best step forward is to write in your private calendar what you are feeling three times a day. It can be helpful to attach those feelings to a person or situation. That’s it! Pretty simple, huh?! This first step is not only valuable for stopping the crazy in your coupleship it is also how you find your core values (we’ll have that blog for you in two weeks). Now go out and conquer the world, or at least your emotions. You’ve got this!

Next week check back for our blog on Dirty Fighting and how to stop it.

Blindsided by Anxiety

by Jami and Marla Keller, Cofounders

(Jami) When Marla asked me the other day, “When do you feel anxiety, and what is your reaction to it?” my first response was, “I don’t.”

As Mark Twain so aptly put it, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

How can you not feel anxious in our world today even if you avoid the news (which, btw, is one of the biggest contributors to your anxiety)? Everyone is so tense these days. Just as an example, even in our usually friendly town, Marla pulled up a few feet when she thought the light had changed entering the empty crosswalk by a few feet (nothing dangerous as she is the safest driver in our family) and stopped.  Suddenly this guy three lanes away started yelling at her and he kept it up through the next two lights calling her names. At one point he threatened violence and we considered the idea that he was going to get out of his work truck. What was very clear is that he seriously needed some anger management tools. It was a bit unsettling.

We can all feel it–the overwhelm, choked, controlled and fearful feelings– about things that are completely out of our control. Your anxiety may be a trait inherited and/or learned from early on in your life or it may be a temporary state of being due to trauma, heartbreak, betrayal, or any loss. (Marla) I thought up until more recently that my experience with anxiety was circumstantial due to Jami’s infidelity (you can read more about this HERE) more than it was a trait. Denial much??? Yep, when I look at my family of origin I see worry everywhere I look. In fact, one of my siblings just had a heart attack and it’s being connected directly to stress (a simple word that diminishes what it really is– worry and anxiety). I was born this way and my over-achieving, perfectionistic, approval-seeking self just figured out how to stuff it and use, well, over-achieving, perfectionism, and approval. Imagine what this did to me when Jami didn’t “approve of me” or when my response to his infidelity was, “Obviously I’m not enough…” Lies, all lies. What did I do with this? I reached out to our relationship mentor and consultant for help. Whether it’s a trait for you or a state of being because of circumstances it is important that you take some time and talk to someone about it (if you haven’t already).

The world can be a bit scary these days.

According to our Google search anxiety is an “[i]ntense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur.” (Jami) I began to realize that anxiety was a big part of my life… And obviously, I was being blindsided by it. I called it something else, and even got treatment in 1999 for what I called my adrenaline addiction. High-risk sports and behavior were my numbing “drugs of choice,” and as you can imagine, not so good for family life.

It nearly killed me.

And I am not alone. The suicide rates have increased dramatically since 2008 with one source citing that it has the rate for teen girls raising by 300%. It is up in all age groups by as much as 30% and among women it has increased by 50% during this same timeframe. According to senior science reporter at Business Insider, Hilary Brueck, “Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for all Americans from 10 to 34 years old.” What happened in 2008? The first iPhone came out. There is precious little information available about how smartphones impact since the one study funded by the U.S. government was suddenly defunded when the initial results revealed more danger than expected. The only country continuing to do research currently is Australia. Whether it is a combination of social media and screen time radiation and light effect, or just taking time away from real human contact the evidence is overwhelming. We do know definitively that the research shows social media use increases depression and loneliness.

Natalie Rasgon, a psychiatry and gynecology professor who directs the Stanford Center for Neuroscience in Women’s Health, addresses the numbing of anxiety symptoms that happens due to medicating the physical symptoms as opposed to taking care of the core issues saying, “A lot of people who have depression and anxiety experience physical symptoms. Rather than understanding their mental health, they get medication to treat the symptoms.” Medicating by itself is not the answer.

Anxiety, like all emotions, is a series of constructs. We all “make up” what is okay to feel and express by the signals we get from our parents and peers. The methods and habits that get ingrained in our heart and mind are, crazily, completely developed and set by the time we are seven years old. These methods and habits we call modes are changeable but we must consciously and consistently focus on what is actually happening and how our old habits are not serving our current situation.

The shift in how humans have lived and interacted over the last eighty years has been so significant it is difficult to understand. In 1940, and all of known history before that time, people lived primarily in an agrarian culture. That meant that people grew up in a close community of families, and between 75 and 150 people knew who you were, who your parents were, and what job you had. If you did a bad job they told you, or your parents. Talk about immediate accountability!

Fast forward 80 years. How many people in your life can even do that now? Most everyone we ask responds with a big, fat “zero!” The isolation and in our culture is crushing our souls and heightening our anxiety.

Let that sink in. The way we live today is not sustainable, and we can see the evidence of that socially, economically and ecologically.

Anxiety and depression are overwhelming and the opioid epidemic and suicide rates are more than enough evidence, and there is more. Just take real stock of what you have been feeling recently. How tired are you? How much stress do you have compared to say, two years ago? How many people do you feel supported by? Who knows that you have had dark thoughts recently?

After coaching individuals and couples for more than twenty-one years we noticed that nearly all of our clients were experiencing adrenal fatigue symptoms. So did our research and we found hair testing at a lab for biochemistry which gives more accurate results than blood work for how our bodies are performing. The results: EVERYONE WE HAVE TESTED HAS SIGNIFICANT FATIGUE AND IMBALANCE BETWEEN THE ADRENAL GLANDS AND THYROID FUNCTION. To be clear many of our clients make an appointment with us because they are experiencing stress so this is not a scientific example. But the ease of balancing your biochemistry combined with the emotional tools we teach to change your modes of emotional operation is a powerful combination that will change the very DNA that is affecting your behavior. It’s all fixable within a relatively short time period of time! (Our coaching packages are six weeks to six months depending on the desired outcome.) By the use of our coaching, consultation and mentoring the physical symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression drop significantly, most often within three weeks!

The problem is we are blinded by how our brains work. We can not see better alternatives than watching our screens for eight to ten hours a day, avoiding people in any real connection, and eating poorly.

We can not make enough changes alone. We have to have help to see the blind spots in our own thinking and how we feel. We have been using a process that completely transforms the fundamental thinking and feeling so that you can take charge of how you process the stress that is inevitable in the world we live in. Don’t make the same mistake I (Jami) made thinking that I was immune to stress. What was really happening is that I was stuffing it down into my core, letting it rot there. It is time to start with yourself and learn to really forgive so that you can start building a close community of support that will allow you to give and receive the support we all need! Start by making a free appointment with us either in person here in Boise or online with video chat. Whether you decide to work with us or not we will give you a couple of free tools that will start you on your journey. Every single client that we have worked with that dives head-first into the work significantly reduces their depression and anxiety and learns how to manage their stress in the best ways possible.

Coping With the Heartbreak of Mass Shootings

By Jami and Marla Keller

We have been feeling heartbroken over the tragic news of the recent mass shootings that brought 2019’s total in the United States to two hundred and fifty fatal events. It is overwhelming, these traumatic shootings that are now part of our society. The question is, “what can we do?” First and foremost we must feel this pain. We have been practicing this feeling stuff for over twenty-five years and yet we still have difficulty sorting out our feelings of such devastating and unnecessary trauma It is shocking, frustrating, and confusing. How do we stop this?

The Director of the FBI testified in Congress recently that there have been more than 100 arrests over the last year as they look at domestic terrorism. He also stated there are two profiles: 1) Jihadists motivated by Muslim extremists and 2) domestic white men that are motivated by racist hate. And yet the problem persists and most often it is online groups promoting violence on racial lines. We are up against the lowest form of superiority (insecurity in disguise) and ignorance.

It seems likely that this is an outgrowth of the suicide rates that have increased by nearly thirty percent in all age groups since 2008. Can you guess what significant event that happened in 2008? It was the year the first iPhone came out. It could very well be a coincidence but it is clear that our society has become more disconnected, whatever the reason. What we experience in our practice is that this disconnect is creating more anxiety and depression nationwide. In the extreme, this anxiety and depression look to be leaning more and more towards suicidal violence.
How to respond? First, we must forgive the pain and hurt we all suffer at the hands of the misguided and suicidal actions of these fearful and isolated men. Forgiveness requires that we feel the hurt and pain of what is lost, stolen, broken and/or neglected. Then, and only then, we must choose to forgive, and forgiveness is always a choice before it is a feeling.

The answer is community. This practice of forgiveness allows us the energy and motivation to connect with those around us. Then, as a group, we must learn to identify the isolated and hurting people in our local environment. Forgiveness also allows our intuition to grow into awareness when something isn’t right. It also has the side benefit of decreasing stress, and if we all have decreased stress the world can’t help but become a better place.

Our communal next steps will become evident as the natural path of community will be stronger connections and awareness. We must learn to feel and forgive before any other measures will provide any real results. Forgiveness is never “done.” It is an ongoing process and as each of us move in this direction our capacity to connect with the depressed, passively suicidal, potentially violent people becomes more natural. In this way, we can prevent more violence and destruction.

We are devastated. These disasters are shattering so many lives and shocking communities across the nation. And we are using our tools to create connected communities because one thing we know well is that we can do more if we band together. Join us, and together we can make a difference.