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Relationships Episode 18


· 45:56


[00:00:00] Mark Steadman: Merry Christmas Anya.

[00:00:01] Anya: Merry Christmas Mark.

[00:00:05] Mark Steadman: Welcome to the A to Z of Happiness with Anya Pearse and me Mark Steadman. Join us as we unpack the science of happiness, one letter at a time. This week it's R for relationships.

[00:00:19] I didn't have much else. It's just the fact that, uh, by the time this episode goes out it is Christmas. Uh, and so what better time than to discuss relationships, I guess.

[00:00:30] Anya: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it Connects to the, a couple of episodes that we've done already. Really, you know, the one on L for love and also, you know, B for belonging. 'cause relationships are the, the fabric of life. These are the, the threads that connect us. And you know, when I've been talking to people who are unfamiliar with positive psychology which I've done my masters in, I often turn to, yeah, no, I did, I did.

[00:00:57] Well, look, look, it took me four years of, of bitching and learning and going, should studying a Happiness make me so fricking unhappy. But it got, I got there in the end.

[00:01:08] Mark Steadman: but you did Get to get those sweet four letters. After your name,

[00:01:11] Anya: I did, I did. It shows that I am, I wouldn't say a trained professional, but, uh, enough of

[00:01:18] Mark Steadman: play one on

[00:01:18] Anya: I do indeed. Well, that's what counts.

[00:01:20] But yeah, kind of like this whole thing of, you know, the positive psychology, Christopher Peterson described it as saying, I know I can sum up the, the whole field in just three words. Other people matter. And I always think of, you know, Brene Brown's book, the Gifted Imperfection, where she talks about, you know, how we are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong when those needs are not met.

[00:01:51] We do not function as we were meant to. We break, we fall apart, we numb, we ache, we hurt others, we get sick. And, you know, relationships, positive relationships are part of like numerous Happiness models, you know, but I guess the, the easiest one for all of us to get our heads around is the Perma Model by Martin Seligman.

[00:02:13] You know, so positive emotions, engagement, relationships, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment and, and. While obviously, you know, you can make an anagram with those letters to say various things to me, there's something significant about having that R in the middle. You know, it's probably, probably just by chance, but having that as like the core pillar of Happiness, because if you think about almost the opposite of having good relationships, loneliness.

[00:02:47] You know, that, that, that feeling of, you know, not having enough companionship in our lives, you know, there's a, having a mismatch between the kind of relationships we long for and the kind that we're experiencing. You know, that kind of brings into sharp relief why relationships are so important to all of us.

[00:03:09] There's like a ridiculous amount of research that shows how. You know, loneliness and social isolation have real penalties in our lives. You know, they can, you know, harm communities be damaging. It's been damaging to our mental and physical health, you know, increasingly the chance of early death by 26%.

[00:03:33] You know, it's this idea of people who are lonely younger. aNd have lower quality of living before that point. You know, if you think about how challenging it can be, you know, to on your own, to go through struggles, you know, I, I, I went through a few things this, you know, in, in the last 12 months that were really.

[00:04:01] heartbreaking at times for me and really pushed me to my limits. And if it hadn't have been for the relationships that I could, I could fall back on the relationships that I could fall into and be caught to be held. You know, I, I, you know, yeah, I probably would still be here, but at a much less lesser self.

[00:04:26] You know, it really brings home, you know, how powerfully affected we are by the people who we have in our lives, and how strong those bonds are, and how well we feel We can be vulnerable. We can reach out and we can then catch others and, you know, and just a few, you know, just a few. Weeks ago before this was recorded, you know, the World Health Organization actually declared loneliness as a global public health concern.

[00:04:55] You know, launching an international commission on loneliness. And so this is why, you know, I wanna talk about relationships in, in relationship to Happiness, is because are wired for this. It is something that our biology requires. You know, loneliness is like a, is like hunger or thirst. It's a, it's a signal, just a signal from the body that we need something and there is more and more research suggesting that it is harder and harder for us to cultivate.

[00:05:31] Mark Steadman: Gosh. Well, what I like about this podcast is it's never just, here's a list of things and here are some definitions but we try and take a practical approach here and, uh, try and have, you know, some things to, if not, uh, directly do, then at least think about. So, um, in, in that vein you have as usual three prompts for us.

[00:05:53] Anya: I do. I do. And if any of this, uh, tickles your fancy, do go to the show notes of this because they are chock full of links and additional resources. 'cause uh, you know, one of the things which, know, personally important to me about this particular topic is the fact that I do experience a lot of social isolation myself, and I do experience a lot of loneliness myself.

[00:06:19] And there was tremendous amount of shame. I feel in, in our society about expressing to someone that I'm lonely. That we are lonely, and so,

[00:06:32] Mark Steadman: 'cause it, it can feel like a reflection on you, I guess. And that loneliness is something because I, you know, maybe that's the, the. The old monkey brain

[00:06:45] Anya: Hmm.

[00:06:45] Mark Steadman: that equates banishment with death, you know? And if we are lonely, it's 'cause we've been, we've been banished, which, which means we've done something wrong.

[00:06:54] Um, When often that's just, it is just circumstance.

[00:06:58] Anya: is. It is. And you know, and there are particular times and transitions in our lives when, you know, that will happen, you know, becoming ill, you know, moving to a new place and having a new job. You know, relationship changes, you know, there are these little moments and. It can be challenging to move outta those, outta those transitional periods and actually find community, find others with whom you can share your full self, you know, which it takes me to the first prompt about, you know, what is your relationship to relationships?

[00:07:32] know, because. I think there is an assumption that everyone, everyone wants a relationship or to be in relationship with others. But of course, you know, what is it in Nick Hornby's whatever Nick Hornby's films, books says, you know, this guy is told, you know, no man is an island and the Hindu plie.

[00:07:50] Yes, I am. I'm freaking Iha. You know, about a boy that was the bomb. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So having, you know, an awareness of the kind of relationships that we want and our relationships to relationships generally is really useful when thinking about this subject.

[00:08:10] You know, and, you know, the classic thing is just to think about, you know, attachment styles.

[00:08:18] I've mentioned them so many times during this podcast, you know, so I won't go into them too deeply. But, you know, there are lots of different online resources out there. Um, There's one in the show notes, which has got, I think it's the attachment project, which has got tests and information and worksheets, and it's like, fill your boots.

[00:08:39] It's like, it's ridiculous. But it is based on the work from John boldly from the 1950s and suggests that, you know, the way that we relate to our ca caregivers in childhood can set a tone, shall we say. Let's, let's not say it's set in stone, but set a tone for how we expect to experience others. You know, and having these expectations and these these needs set up.

[00:09:10] And so, you know, we can, one of the dangers of looking into any of these things and typing ourselves is think is going, oh my goodness. Either, you know, oh, this. is a box to keep me in or, oh, I don't fit in it quite and that, so do I really belong here? These are styles, these are very general things and we, it's a great attachment quiz.

[00:09:37] I forget which one it is now. It actually has you in a, in a graph so you can, it's measures how much of each one of these you have. I love, kinda like Stan Takin, uh, author of Wire for Dating and Ride for Love. You know, he says he's mostly secure, but there are times when if he's feeling low energy under-resourced, you know, he will become more, more anxiously attached.

[00:10:05] She's one of the stars, which I'll talk about in a second. And so, you know, we can evolve our style. I think this is the thing, you know. Good circumstances, bad circumstances, being in a relationship with someone who is more stable, doing work on ourselves. You know, these are things, it's not everything.

[00:10:26] Everything is still to play for. so if you hear something or you, you know right now, and then you dive into it a bit further and feel doomed, you are not, you're not. There is plasticity. There is the ability to grow and to change. Yeah, you know, there were four main attachment styles and I'll briefly go through them and just, you know, listen and think, you know, does this sound vaguely like me or not?

[00:10:53] You know, the first one is anxious, also known as preoccupied. And if you have this attachment style, there is this fear of being abandoned. You know, we, when we are anxious, we tend to think of ourselves as being kind of a little bit inferior. To be honest. And so we, we might talk about our better halves and there'd be like a tiny grain of truth in that.

[00:11:18] And so, you know, we can be very alert to threats. We might need additional assurances and reassurances of someone's fidelity, someone's care, someone's attention, you know, because there's this thing of I am not enough for you. Therefore you're going to leave me. and I think that when we are, again, I think it must be another Nick Hornby, uh, book, high Fidelity.

[00:11:46] He talks about a relationship with someone in the film. She's played by Catherine C. Jones, just to give you an idea of how, how of, of like, you know, punching and saying that, you know, spent that whole two year relationship not feeling like he was standing on. A window ledge, barely able to breathe in case he fell off

[00:12:09] Mark Steadman: Mm-Hmm mm-Hmm.

[00:12:12] Anya: Yeah. You know, it's, it's that thing of, I always think like the, one of those, like this is probably not technically true, but some of the, the best relationships of quote unquote best relationships are like, both parties thinks that they've, they've, they're punching and feel really

[00:12:27] Mark Steadman: yeah, yeah.

[00:12:28] Anya: like

[00:12:28] Mark Steadman: a very sort of 200% kind of vibe where, you know, where both is bringing, uh, a hundred percent self-doubt, and then it just winds up as this lovely 200% thing of just like, no, I can't leave you. I need you. Yeah, but I need you. Well, oh

[00:12:45] Anya: But, but like, just seeing kind of like, you know, the best qualities in the other person and having the other person see them in you.

[00:12:51] Mark Steadman: I quite, I also quite like the, the healthy sort of conversation of two people, you know, a couple meeting, another couple and, and you know, the, the bloke saying, well, of course I'm punching above my weight. And the, and the woman going, yeah, he is, but also I know what his appeal is and you know, the things, the things he has, uh, you know, float, float, my particular boat.

[00:13:13] So, yeah, you know.

[00:13:14] Anya: Yeah. But a, a mutual appreciation. I think that's what we're looking for.

[00:13:19] Mark Steadman: That's what we want.

[00:13:20] Anya: Yeah. And so, you know, this is, and, and, and you know, with the someone who is anxious or preoccupied, there is this real. Drive towards a relationship if that, if you're the opposite, you're probably avoidant. Also known as dismissive.

[00:13:36] Mark Steadman: yeah.

[00:13:37] Anya: You know, joking about that character. Played by Hugh Grant in, in the Nick Hornby's film about a boy who's saying he's a bi aha being an island not needing anyone. This tends to be the flip and the reverse, you know? People who are avoidant or dismissive tend to think of themselves quite highly, and other people are.

[00:13:57] Frankly a little bit inferior. So why would they want to have a relationship with them when they can be so self-contained and they can get everything done on their own? And what tends to happen very interestingly, is you get a lot of people who are anxious in relationship with people who are avoidant because it, it's basically confirms their worldviews.

[00:14:24] Mark Steadman: Yeah.

[00:14:25] Anya: You know, an anxious person with someone who's avoidant is like, see, look, I knew that, that my needs are never going to be met. And the avoidant person is going, see, I told you people are needy.

[00:14:37] Mark Steadman: Interestingly, uh, I got, uh, massive air quotes here diagnosed by, probably a quack, as having anxious avoidant, uh, an anxious avoidant personality disorder which is not a thing, and it's not an attachment style because the two things, as I discovered later are kind of quite opposite. So you can't, you, you know, you, you can't be, uh, have, have this sort of negative self view, but a positive view of others.

[00:15:10] And then on the other hand, feel self-sufficient and has have a positive view of self and a negative view of others, almost as if I paid a lot of money for a con person to give me a faulty diagnosis.

[00:15:23] Anya: Almost, almost, you know, I mean, and there is something, and this is, it actually is quite rare. There is something called disorganized. Attachment style, which is, you know, fearful, avoidant. And so this is someone who wants intimacy but is also very scared of it because of course, to be intimate and close to someone requires vulnerability.

[00:15:46] Mark Steadman: mm-Hmm.

[00:15:47] Anya: It requires us to open up and allow ourselves to be known and to be disappointed and, you know, for the other person to be disappointed. You know, and it can be very difficult if you are, you know, have this disorganized attachment style because there's a lot of push and pull and you know, it's very difficult to have a relationship if you don't fundamentally trust other people,

[00:16:12] Mark Steadman: And I think that that word or the the implication or the, or whatever, but the meaning behind the word trust. Think is is interesting and my, my interpretation of that, and you can, you know, let me know how spurious this might be, is it's not necessarily about trusting them in the same way that you might trust in like a business relationship.

[00:16:34] It might just be, I don't trust you, I don't trust when you say you value me or when you say you. Yeah, you know, you, you think highly of me or whatever. I don't trust that

[00:16:47] because I can't, you know, I find that difficult to believe in myself. So that's obviously, you know, that can't be true. Uh, and I guess then there can also be the thing of trust in terms of, I. What could then lead to jealousy or, you know, what can lead to, can't believe that person's talking to that, that other person. They're obviously flirting and it's like, no, they're just having a conversation. You know, the, the, your other half is not looking for an exit. Just because they happen to have a even a lightly flirtatious conversation with a, you know, with, with someone at the bar.

[00:17:18] It's like, that's not what's happening here. What's happening here is you don't trust, that person perhaps. I dunno, that's just what, what sort of comes to mind for me?

[00:17:24] Anya: Yeah. Yeah, and I think, you know, that's touching into the anxious and preoccupied style because particularly preoccupation with, you know, can I trust this person? You know, there is this thing of. I think this is, this is a subtle difference. And, and you know, this is my interpretation, you know, when with the anxious, uh, and Occu preoccupied style, you know, it's, you know, I don't trust you to not abandon me.

[00:17:52] Whereas was with, uh, the disorganized, it is, you know, I don't really trust you to not hurt me. It actually fear of being hurt. And so, yes, all of these things are, you know, having anxiety about these things because at the fundamental level. There's a sense that I cannot cope with what might happen next.

[00:18:12] You know, this can be, and this can translate interestingly in the, the, I've just been reading this morning about how, you know, if you are disorganized or fearful avoidant, you can actually have trouble regulating emotions, you know, because I think, uh, oh, what's his name? Uh,

[00:18:28] Mark Steadman: get on with it. Tell me who that bloody person's name is.

[00:18:34] Anya: I, I, I, it, it's, it, it's, it's something, it might be Dr.

[00:18:37] Mark Steadman: Sorry.

[00:18:37] Anya: Brown. But he basically, I'll, I'll, I'll have to double check because I, I didn't research this before coming here. It's just come to me. But he talks about how like fundamental, actually attachment style is in progress in psychotherapy and in, uh, stopping addictions.

[00:18:56] Mark Steadman: mm-Hmm.

[00:18:57] Anya: Actually having that safe place to land is where we're gonna go with, with the last one, which is secure, where we feel just generally content with ourselves,

[00:19:05] Mark Steadman: This is how Roscoe quite obviously feels because he's inches from me. And when I yelled which, you know, I don't yell directly into the microphone, but I yelled away from it and kind of into his face as a way of, you know, if that weren't clear dear, listen now as a way of demonstrating what might perhaps be an unstable relationship with one's own emotions. Um, That was what that was to, to, that was a little platelet for you. But Rosco just. Like he just sat here and he is just like, okay. Like absolutely he is. So, and this, this is quite interesting because Bailey, his, his sister is very, very much an anxious cat, uh, and not very trusting. Whereas Roscoe, I kind of wish he was a little bit more fearful.

[00:19:48] He's a little bit, maybe a bit too secure, if I'm honest.

[00:19:52] Anya: You said this before because you said kind of like, dude, you know, I, you know, like the.

[00:19:57] Mark Steadman: I'm huge. I'm huge. I'm loud. Yeah. But you know, I could, but I could squish him, you know? Yes. He's a very big boy. But I could squish, I could pop his little head off and he should be, he should have some kind of sense that that might happen.

[00:20:13] Just a teeny tiny sense. So if I yell at him, he should run away, but he just sits here and he is like, I know you don't mean it.

[00:20:20] Anya: Yeah. Well that was the thing

[00:20:22] Mark Steadman: He's absolutely got my number.

[00:20:23] Anya: Yeah, absolutely. He knew that you didn't mean it. Therefore, why? Why race? The energy of getting up and moving when he's comfortable. You

[00:20:32] Mark Steadman: a secure attachment style if ever I saw one.

[00:20:35] Anya: it's patterning an umbilical cord. This rate.

[00:20:38] Mark Steadman: There is some codependence here. Anyway, moving on.

[00:20:41] Anya: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so actually this takes us to the next prompt, and I think that you can answer this with Roscoe very easily. You know, are you spending enough time with those you love?

[00:20:52] Mark Steadman: You asked me on a good day, uh, versus a bad day. There's been, there's been times this year where I've felt like that hasn't, you know, necessarily been the case. But yeah, and that's, I mean, that's, that is a question that God, you know, it can go into all sorts of things because when my dad was ill last year, uh, and he was back home from the hospital, one of the.

[00:21:17] Things I remember is, and it's, you know, moved on a little bit since then, but for, for quite a long time, any invitation to, you know, Sunday dinner or whatever it was always met with a, with a yes. I was never going to be too busy to, you know, to, to make the time because you just, you know, that's just, yeah.

[00:21:37] You, you, you don't, you just, you don't wanna be too busy for, for that kind of thing. And, uh, yeah.

[00:21:42] Anya: Yeah. Yeah. You know, and certainly, you know, this is the thing, you know, there's an exercise that uh, Robert Waldinger and Mark Schultz offer in their book, you know, the Good Life, less Good, the Good Life Lessons from the world's longest study on Happiness, uh, in which they basically say, you know, the frequency and quality of our contact with other people are two major predictors of Happiness.

[00:22:03] You know, about how, you know. One of the ideas is to just sit down and, and write down a list of your closest friends and relatives. You know, the people who you think of. You know, when I say those words, and then being a little bit kind of intentional about this actually, because I think, you know, it's quite rare sometimes for us to think, oh, how, you know, do, do, am I cultivating these relationships?

[00:22:30] Am I. How do I feel about them even? And so, you know, drawing across axes and then on one on one plane, you know, we are talking about whether you the frequency versus infrequency, you're seeing them and then you know, the other axes talking about, you know, one end energizing the other. And depleting and actually plotting them in this, in this box, in this square in these quadrants.

[00:22:57] That's the one I'm looking for in these

[00:22:59] Mark Steadman: Yeah.

[00:23:00] Anya: really. You know? And then, you know, being aware that these are very subjective terms, it can feel a little bit, judgmental perhaps to look at this through this lens, but it's just a way of bringing it into our conscious awareness. You know?

[00:23:16] Are there people where you get a real sense of connection and belonging with them, and you feel better after spending time with them? Or are there people where you maybe feel a little bit more demoralized, you know, and then that's okay. You know, no relationship is all unicorns and rainbows,

[00:23:33] Mark Steadman: no indeed.

[00:23:35] Anya: you know? But.

[00:23:35] Mark Steadman: And I'm sure we, we all have that person in our lives, or I think many of us do anyway. Who, who feels like the, you know, that's the person you have to be there for who, which is, which is fine in of itself, but isn't capable. Of acknowledging that they might want to be there for someone else at some time.

[00:23:56] You know, to a point where just becomes, you know, I, I think I've been lucky and I hope I'm not that person in, in other people's lives, but I, I've seen it in people close to me where they've had that person in their life. The person who, the only time they contact them is when they've.

[00:24:16] There's been, you know, a relationship breakup or some other issue and they need that person to, to talk them round. It's never do you wanna come and have a beer and a pizza and watch a film. It's always this awful thing's happened. I need to come round and we need to talk about it for three hours. Um, And I think. Just, yeah, being aware of that, and I guess us using this sort of friendship, Eisenhower Matrix as a way of, um, understanding where you can best use your own energy and what you've got time for. You know, the next time that person rings up, you can, I guess think about like, how much energy have I actually got?

[00:24:50] Have I, you know, have I got enough bars? Or are they gonna deplete them tonight? You know?

[00:24:55] Anya: Yeah, yeah. Which again, take, you know, perfectly to the, the episode we released a couple of weeks ago on n for no, actually, you know, the three questions, do they need help? Do they need my help? What level of help am I comfortable offering them,

[00:25:09] cause I think this is the thing, you know, when, you know, we're looking at like, the negative side of this, of, of the people who, with whom we have relationships that are not at the, in the shape of the way, at the level that we would most ideally want.

[00:25:23] I'm being so diplomatic. But, but but also like there's gonna be some people who maybe you don't see that frequently, but who really energize you. And just thinking, you know, one of the things, you know, that your story about your dad made me think of is one of the other exercises, uh, Waldinger and Schultz suggest is actually just sitting down and working out, realistically.

[00:25:46] How much time do you spend with this person per year, and how many years can you expect to do that? I think there's an expectation we te and until they talk about this in the book, we tend to think that, oh, I'm really busy now, but later on I'll make time to,

[00:26:05] Mark Steadman: Yep.

[00:26:06] Anya: and it's a fallacy.

[00:26:08] Mark Steadman: Yep.

[00:26:09] Anya: You know, I have had, so, you know, a number of people who disappeared in my life, you know, due to, to illness, to other circumstances, to suicide.

[00:26:20] You know, you don't know how long you, you don't really know how long you have with someone.

[00:26:26] Mark Steadman: No.

[00:26:27] Anya: And so, you know, if there is someone who. Mu mutually brighten up your life. You know, you don't wanna be like, I just got a horrible feeling though, you know, have, have having these people in this little sector, like really energizing and then like they do one of these, these Eisenhower matrixes and you are like in like a draining world, you know?

[00:26:46] Hopefully it's like

[00:26:47] Mark Steadman: You do not wanna be the vampire,

[00:26:49] Anya: Yeah, yeah. Well I think they talk about it, don't they? The idea now, do you want to, are you a radiator or a drain?

[00:26:55] Mark Steadman: Yes. I only heard that term recently.

[00:26:59] Anya: Oh wow. Yeah, it's, it's, it's, it's a good one. And, you know, I always would, I think we're gonna probably do s for self-compassion next time. So, so, so, sorry, uh, listener my dear. Roscoe is trying to get at the mic and say something climbing up. Mark at the moment, their relationship. I'm like, I'm getting so distracted watching their relationship right now.

[00:27:21] It is a thing of beauty and joy and I'm jealous as all get out.

[00:27:25] Mark Steadman: It's only, it's only dysfunctional in as much as it interrupts my work.

[00:27:29] Anya: Yeah, that's the

[00:27:30] Mark Steadman: Apart from that, I'm, I'm delighted with the relationship.

[00:27:34] Anya: you're gonna have to post a photo of Roscoe with this episode, please, so people can understand why he is such an amazingly distracting creature of, of love and, and, and warmth and care

[00:27:46] Mark Steadman: He is the main character of so many podcasts now. It's ridiculous

[00:27:50] Anya: and rightly so, frankly, rightly so.

[00:27:53] Mark Steadman: Back anyway. He can't listen. You know, he, he can't, he can't hog the mug the whole time. We have to talk about relationships.

[00:27:58] Anya: We do, we do. so, okay. Well, we've got, we've got this matrix now, the Eisenhower Matrix, as you beautifully put it on these relationships and, you know, there're gonna be some people who, we have a more challenging relationship with, but we need to be in relationship with them or. Perhaps there are people whose, you know, are in that magic quadrant, you know, where they do energize us and we do see them frequently, and we actually want to amplify that and make it even better.

[00:28:28] And so prompt three is, you know, how can you strengthen your existing relationships? And I'm gonna. Taking on a whistle stop tour of three different things to to, to temp, to entice you to, uh, bring you to, to the show notes, to, to click on a link and poke further. And they are active, constructive responding.

[00:28:51] A CR they are this idea of, you know, the magic ratio, you know, bids for connection. And then this idea of cultivating something called psychological flexibility. And so I would imagine that the people who energize you, when you spend time with them, when you tell them not just about bad stuff, but good stuff as well, they respond in a way which is.

[00:29:20] Engaged, which asks questions. They're excited. You know, this is like one of the interesting things is we often think about, you know, good communication being about, oh, you know, if someone tells me a bad thing, I must be empathetic. I must do active listening. My face must convey the epitome of compassion and, and understanding. But also, but it's also, but the thing is, and I, I do wonder this, you know, this research doesn't come from the uk but I do think that there is this thing in that over here in our society where if someone tells us some good news, we kind of like want to poo poo it,

[00:29:57] Mark Steadman: there's a, there's a, sort of a tall poppy syndrome. And, uh, yeah, don't get your hopes up. Is, is I think that's something we, we discussed, uh, a couple of weeks ago, uh, is also a thing. Because yes, the idea that, uh, that something good might just, might just happen and doesn't have to have a caveat seems yeah, perhaps endemic to a country where it drains a lot,

[00:30:20] Anya: Yeah,

[00:30:20] Mark Steadman: know? Don't go outside with a, with with your shorts. 'cause it's only going to rain.

[00:30:26] Anya: exactly. But.

[00:30:26] Mark Steadman: make a force.

[00:30:27] Anya: Well, it's, you know, we, we, we live in a, in a country which has four seasons, possibly in an hour, uh, due to climate change. And so, but yeah, having this ability to respond to someone, you know, someone's positive information, their good news in a way, which can amplify their good feelings. This is something which is like active, which is engaged and also constructive, you know, builds on the other person's experience.

[00:30:54] You know, the kind of like the, the clue is in the title, active, constructive, responding,

[00:30:59] Mark Steadman: Yeah.

[00:31:00] Anya: you know, because we can so easily sabotage the other person's Happiness accident, you know, by being, you know, kind of delayed or quite quiet, which is being quite passive. Or pointing out as you say, the potential problems right away, you know, which is like, actively destructive or then, you know, being passively destructive, which in which we turn the conversation to ourselves, you know, rather than being enthusiastic.

[00:31:33] You know, I think I mentioned in one of the recent ones must have been even the last, last week's episode, this idea of, you know, tell me more about that.

[00:31:42] You know, what's important to you about that? You know, actually helping the speaker to find more good stuff. 'cause all of this helps them to savor the experience of Happiness and to amplify it.

[00:31:59] And because we have this ability to co-regulate each other, we, you know, emotions are contagious. We can then build this beautiful cycle between the two of us, you know, um, rather than being, bringing someone down, we can amplify. And so, you know, being constructive and active, even though involves being, you know, making eye contact and being authentic and asking how you feel about something.

[00:32:27] And I think this is something which it sounds really basic. Actually being happy when someone shares good news with you might be news to

[00:32:37] Mark Steadman: make a difference, doesn't it

[00:32:38] Anya: it does remarkable that,

[00:32:41] Mark Steadman: Yeah.

[00:32:42] Anya: because this is the thing, it kind of takes us into the next thing, which is like, you know, the bits of connection and the magic ratio. I won't go into it too much now, but you know, the John Gottman thing of. Seeing a husband turn to his wife and go, did you just see the little bird that's that's, that's landed on the tree out there?

[00:33:01] That's a bid for connection. You know, he's turning to his wife and saying, you know, share this moment with me. There's a, a piece, which I, I've thought of, and I'll pop in the show notes, which had a girl, I think she's on TikTok or something, saying this is her relationship test. You know, she will, when she's on a date, she will spot something and she will ask the guy, oh, do you see this?

[00:33:24] And actually just see how he responds. And actually having this thing of someone who turns towards you in those moments. Because then you then share that moment together, which strengthens your emotional bond.

[00:33:39] Mark Steadman: What is, the alternative then? You know what I mean? It, so, I, you know, maybe we need to, to get a particular situation together here, but I'm sort of trying to think how you don't do that. I.

[00:33:53] Anya: See, this is why you are a squishy, wonderful ball of human and darling. Because like some people, because 'cause there's a level of attunement there to the other person. Whereas if someone is preoccupied with their own thoughts, if they, uh, don't particularly want to be in that environment or be with that person,

[00:34:16] you know, we're going back to the a CR thing of being, you know, either passively destructive.

[00:34:24] Which, you know, might be, you know, just, you know, focusing inwards and ignoring the speaker or like say, oh, so what, you know,

[00:34:34] Mark Steadman: Mm-Hmm.

[00:34:36] Anya: you know, or, you know, even being kind of like, you know, bloody birds, you know, keep crapping on my car or whatever. You know, it's, there are so many ways for people to be, you know, actively or passively destructive in, you know, or even just saying, oh, you know, oh, great. And then just like not making any kind of, um, effort

[00:34:59] Mark Steadman: Yeah, so I think, I think, yeah, the, the, the, the key part of this scenario is, is that ability for you to not only just say, yes, I see them. That's not the point. It's, it's trying to get to. If you, if you don't necessarily understand straight away why the, you know, why those particular birds were picked out, it's, it's possibly a yes.

[00:35:22] Having the, I don't wanna say wherewithal, but sort of trying to understand that yes, you know, there might not be too particularly exciting birds, but as you say, it is, it is sort of, here's something, you know, here's, here's very much a bid for connection. Here's something I'm asking you to share in with me.

[00:35:40] Um. And just understanding that that might be enough and that, you know, or, you know, look at that, look at that dude's trousers. Those look at those ridiculous trousers this guy's got. And you know, your job at that point is to go, oh my word, they are ridiculous. And then, and then in the old, old sort of improv style, it's maybe try and find something to build on that.

[00:36:01] Try and find a yes and.

[00:36:03] Because I think the point of this scenario, it's not simply going, yes, they are weird anyway. Uh, as I was saying, you know, it's, it's to go, yeah, they are weird and they're turned up at the heel really oddly, or, and they really don't match his sweater. You know, it's, it's, I guess it's, it's trying to, trying to build it that way.

[00:36:22] Anya: Because what you're doing then as well, 'cause you're making it like an in joke between the two of you. You are making a little world that is exclusive to the two of you that like no one else might even understand. If you explained it to the why, like you're like, sta falling about laughing in the middle of the high street.

[00:36:38] You know, some poor guys walked off feeling like, oh, since someone's looking at me, I can't why?

[00:36:42] Mark Steadman: You'd be at a

[00:36:43] Dinner party with, with some old friends, and then suddenly you'll turn to, to your other half and just go stripe your drows and you'll both

[00:36:48] Anya: yeah.

[00:36:49] Mark Steadman: about laughing for, you know, seemingly

[00:36:51] Anya: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And it's these things which kind of almost create, I think, for me, a sense of belonging to each other.

[00:36:59] Mark Steadman: Yes.

[00:37:00] Anya: You know, it's, it's these, it's these little flares, but it's also kind of like a magic ratio of these things as well, because we often think that. For every negative interaction we have with, with our partner or those we are in relationship with, like doing a positive interaction will counterbalance that, oh no, no, no.

[00:37:20] You need to do five positive interactions to balance out one negative one.

[00:37:26] Mark Steadman: Woof.

[00:37:26] Anya: Yeah. 'cause like there's the whole thing, you know, got Dr. Gottman and Robert Levison. Did this analysis, watching people like couples just for 15 minutes, you know, asking to solve a conflict in their relationship. And then, then they followed them up.

[00:37:41] Nine years later, they were able to pinpoint with 90% accuracy, which couples got divorced because they could see from the ratio of the positive to negative interactions just in that, in that piece.

[00:37:58] Mark Steadman: I've some amends to make.

[00:38:01] Anya: It's, it, it's, it's, it's a horrifying number,

[00:38:04] right?

[00:38:04] Mark Steadman: it just.

[00:38:05] Anya: Because this is, this is why I'm like mentioning it because again, we think it's like one-to-one, but if you like, put yourself in the other shoes, you know, we mentioned about trust earlier on being like little, maybe like little pebbles.

[00:38:16] It's the little things. And then when something happens, which drops that jar. You, you basically need to get a new one and start putting all the pebbles back into it. You know, it's not like here's a fresh jar, you know? Or put like one big, one big rock inside it or whatever won't fit, won't get through the neck.

[00:38:34] It's gotta be all these little things that kind of like create this. And I think, you know what can help us physically and more practically do this is developing the last thing I'm gonna mention. Psychological flexibility. Now this is something, one of the things I love. To, uh, encourage people to cultivate.

[00:38:52] It comes from primarily this term acceptance and commitment training, which is a way of being in touch with our present experience and taking actions that are aligned with our values. And, you know, there's a piece, there's a, there was a Meta-analysis done a couple of years ago. Of 174 separate studies with almost 44,000 participants.

[00:39:19] Now these, these are big numbers for a study. know, this is, this is not small fry and this idea that, you know, looking into what are the keys to good relationships between couples and within families. 'cause, you know. There's all these different dynamics going on and this idea of, you know, of being flexible, of being able to have contact with the present moment, know that we're not our thoughts, we're not trying to push away experiences, and we're not trying to grasp onto and defend ourself with particularly, you know, particular beliefs or, or, or thoughts or feelings.

[00:40:01] The fact that through all these studies now looking at interpersonal relationships, romantic relationships, family dynamics, several things kind of jump out. One is that being psychologically flexible, you know, being able to, you know, in parenting, have le you know, a lower use of harsh or negative parenting strategies.

[00:40:25] Being able to adapt more being able to have more cohesion in the family meant that there were stronger connections, more rewarding family and relationship dynamics, and so being able to tether ourselves and being able to, I think the major thing in all of this is to be present to oneself and to the other person simultaneously, which takes flexibility. 'cause so many times there's, there's a quote, you know, talking about polyvagal theory. I believe that's when we can all take a drink now

[00:41:02] Mark Steadman: mm-Hmm. Bingo.

[00:41:03] Anya: bingo. Is that, you know, one of the things they say is trauma replaces patterns of connection with patterns of protection.

[00:41:11] When we are inflexible, we tend to be defensive. We tend to not want to change our point of view, not to see another person's point of view, um, to have limited sense of personal agency or growth. Whereas if we are flexible, we can take on new information without us feeling that we are wrong. We can have thinking that might tell us that things are bad and then actually go, oh, okay.

[00:41:43] I'm just noticing that I'm thinking these things right now. Being able to have some spaciousness and choicefulness, you know, we can be in situations where, the, the word being, you know, the word triggered is used so often now, and I'm guilty of that myself, to be honest, you know. But there are situations which can. lead to behaviors and thinking, which are antithetical to who to our hearts, decide for who we want to be in the world, And through being able to cultivate this ability to just relax our grip a little bit, take a breath. Remember who we want to be in this moment that can then guide us towards behaviors which are aligned with that, you know, and thinking, which is self-compassionate or understanding can allow for other perspectives.

[00:42:37] You know, the PEMA children think of, you know, what else is true and just being able to. Move towards this, you know, can amplify a sense of emotional supportiveness, reduces, uh, conflict, allows us to feel, you know, in, in a romantic relationship, greater sexual satisfaction even. Because, you know, imagine that, you know, you're with someone and you suggest something and they, you know, and, and the response is very inflexible.

[00:43:09] There's a so huge amount of shame that can come up when we feel that judged by another person. But if someone can just be with themselves and go, Ooh, you know, I'm not sure about that, but let's talk about it.

[00:43:23] Mark Steadman: Mm-Hmm.

[00:43:25] Anya: You

[00:43:25] Mark Steadman: I'm not sure we have enough oil.

[00:43:27] Anya: plus, I don't think Argos still supplies the paddling pools.

[00:43:29] Mark Steadman: I had use for those two Anya batteries.

[00:43:33] Anya: so there's this whole thing where we can, recognize that. There is choicefulness in all of this, in how we engage with others. You know, I've been talking about, yes, we might have natural tendencies towards fearing abandonment, or fearing being engulfed by another. We might look at our lives and our schedule and go, you know, I've not got time for.

[00:44:01] going for coffee with someone or seeing my auntie over Christmas or whatever. And we may be in relationships where we go, you know, I don't even know how to talk to this person anymore. And I hope that, you know, at the end of this, you know, if you've been listening to the, to this part so far, God love you.

[00:44:19] Mark Steadman: You made it.

[00:44:20] Anya: you made it. I know. I'm just looking now how long this might be. Um. We do have let's take it about down to bra tacks. You know, as I said right at the beginning, we are wired to love and be loved. We are wired to be in relationship with each other. Our nervous systems are designed to be in contact for relationship.

[00:44:39] We are a social species, and so what I would love after all of this is for you to. Play, explore, see what options, what flexibility You can cultivate, experiment. You know, some of this is gonna land, some of this is not. Some of this is gonna work out. Some of this is not just give it a poke, make it your own. But most of all, as my closing thought, please, who could you reach out to after listening to this?

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Creators and Guests

Anya Pearse
Anya Pearse
Intuitive adviser, facilitator, and positive psychology practitioner.
Mark Steadman
Mark Steadman
Coach helping digital creatives with big feelings


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