The Self Connection Podcast E4: What is Support ? (Part 2)

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Today Sharon and Tim continue their conversation about “What is support”  They explore the nature of support particularly within an intimate relationship like marriage and the challenges that involves.  

Here is a note that Tim wrote in reflecting on their first conversation:

There are roles we go into when we are giving support or receiving it.

Whenever we are in the role of supporter or supported, we need clear expectations and boundaries to ensure the contact is safe, healthy and constructive.

There need to be certain parameters met by the one receiving the support that empowers them to receive supportive energy. The receiver is not just a passive recipient of support; mere passive reception of anything would disempower them.

Supporter and supported must engage in a dynamic dialogical process interweaving a sharing and turn-taking of giving and receiving of energy, attention, and goodwill.

While the supporter is clearly tasked with listening, attuning, validating, the supported must help the supporter, at various times, course correcting in their understanding by risking sharing something of themselves that corrects, adjusts, or shifts the narrative that is unfolding as it relates to the experience the supported is sharing.

The supported cannot remain absolutely distrustful of the person offering support and expect to receive anything. The best a supportive person can do is knock, and create a warm welcoming and hospitable context in themselves and in the space between with which to engage. There can be no forcing in the reception of support.

The best a supportive person can do is offer relief of unnecessary suffering. (Ex, the difference between anxiety and fear, or the belief “no one will ever love me” to “I didn’t receive the love I needed from my parents”.) The supported is left with moving through the realistic pain and tragedy of loss, grief, sadness, anguish that is there.  The supportive one offering a context of acceptance and compassion acts as a midwife for the transformation of painful experiences. These experiences give rise to new growth, insights, and personality transformations that the supported can begin to access and realize having been in a holding space, an interpersonal womb of sorts, that inspire reconnection to life in the face of despair.

Show notes:

0:47  When receiving support, it possible to experience resistance from receiving it for fear of taking up too much space or feeling shame about the challenges one is facing.  We talk about the legacies of barriers that get in the way of connection. These can be thought of as “family rules” like “always be strong and never show weakness” “Don’t show others your feelings”

1:50 We explore the question “How do we provide support with people in our family who we feel have hurt us or that we have hurt?”

3:15  Sharon talks about the analogy of hula-hoops and how this relates to how each individual is responsible for their own hula-hoop, their emotional pain. Sharon critics therapy models that focus on the importance of couples providing empathy for each other without the balance of self-support.   People can get stuck in their defences that they are not available to provide support. At least one individual in the couple needs to soften and transition from blame/defence to a more grounded state of congruence before support and connection can occur.

6:00 Sharon talks about the power of receiving support from the third party. The therapist with couples creates space to look and connect to deeper energies of compassion, empathy and patience.

7:25 We talk about congruence and how important it is in an intimate relationship to be able to say to your partner whether or not you are available to give support and why or why not. The challenge in intimate relationships is the necessity of simultaneously holding space for oneself while also holding some space for the other.

8:37 Sharon shares a story of self-support and her grandson demonstrating this. In his struggle with his cousin, he asked for “private time” to get grounded and settled before reconnecting.

Tim shares that the children also received the supportive, validating and attuned connection with Sharon which helped them navigate that situation. The supportive context provides a safe space for difficulties to come up openly and to be dealt with intelligently.

15:00 Sharon shares her wisdom that we can be more supportive if we can see underneath the reactivity (e.g., blaming stance) to the experience of pain the other is likely having.  “What’s the pain behind this defence?” that helps her move beyond the defensive mode and personalizing.

Sharon talks about some gender differences; namely, that women have a tendency to placate and men blame.

The challenge is...

For men, it’s helping them feel the sadness, scared, loss and hurt underneath the anger.

For women, it’s helping them feel their anger without going to blame and resentment.

The challenge is helping people communicate their experiences (feelings and thoughts) from a place of ownership, directness, specificity and clarity rather than of blame. Instead of “You make me feel.....”, to simply “I feel sad and angry because when I come home and the dishes are always piled up my expectations to receive help from you on this task isn’t being met.”  

17:00 Sharon talks about how distant our meaning can be from the words we use to express our feelings and needs.  She describes how important it is to ensure that your words communicate the depth of your experience rather than assuming that your words have made the message clear to your partner.  This empowers and places responsibility with the one needing support to be as clear as they can be instead of hoping that their partner can know and mindread without clarity of communication. The one providing support can be empowered by being able to ‘check out’ the message and asking questions to clarify.  “When you said X, did you mean Y?”, “Have I got this right?” The exploration and curiosity are all ways of expressing compassion, care and support.

18:24  Virginia helped people differentiate between what is said, that is the words and tone heard and seen and the meaning and the interpretations that are created by the receiver of the message and how words and tone don’t perfectly manifest the thoughts and feelings of the one initiating the message. When people function from their assumptions and interpretations, it is easy to lose connection and to fail to provide support because the two people are not working with a shared meaning.

20:15  Putting out energy of trust and goodwill (as opposed to making negative conclusions)  is an active choice that people in intimate relationships can make to transform the energy between them and to provide support in the face of difficulties including conflict. Tim describes this as “Wishing for the best in the other person.” That the best character possible that inside the potential of that person could come out.  Another way of describing it is how encouraging and motivating it can be when we have people who see us for who we really are and believe us.

21:30 Around the theme of support, it is important to clarify roles and expectations. Who is the supporter and who is the supported?  What does the one being supported really need? Can the supportive give this?

Post Show notes:

We don’t cause the emotional states of others. We cause the event which leads to the pain. We can be responsible for the event and demonstrate understanding and support to the feelings the other is having but we can not take responsibility for creating emotions in someone else because to do so would be to disempower the other and to overstep our boundaries.

We can own our reactions and response to things including our emotions, for hypothetical example, while fear may be a reasonable response to a person perpetrating abuse, I never want the perpetrator to own my emotional response in the present. I want to take that back and even though I can’t change my emotional response of the past, I can have empathy and understanding towards it now. I can acknowledge the wisdom of such a response...and now in the present moment, I can clarify when I want that fear response or not and make conscious choices about how I behave.

Support of the third party and The importance of community.

The importance of family, support from friends, siblings, work colleagues, and parents and grandparents. To help us step outside of ourselves.

We put so much emphasis on our partners to be the be all end all, that it’s just too much. We need to enrich and expand our social connections so it is a community of support. And we can benefit from the wisdom of a larger group.

Sharon describes the children playing in fantasy for 2 hours after this incident. Play is the energy you transition into from supportive context.  Play is the optimal state of learning. Support first which means a respectful, accepting, safe context, which Sharon helped facilitate.

21:30 Around the theme of support, it is important to clarify roles and expectations. Who is the supporter and who is the supported?  What does the one being supported really need? Can the supportive give this?


Being grounded


Being present

Holding the space


Responsible for asking

Responsible for giving feedback

To be their own choicemaker

The Self-Connection Podcast: Episode Three What is support?

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Sharon and Tim explore a large and important question, “What is support?” In the context of family, couples, and in relationships generally. People seem to have a deep longing to be seen and understood. When this is missing a tremendous pain and sense of loss can occur. We also explore the theme of forgiveness in intimate relationships.

We will continue to explore this questions over a series of conversation. This is part 1.

Show notes:

0:00 we introduce the topic as a question, “What is support?” and we will try to answer it based our understanding and learnings from the universal wisdom from Virginia Satir

0:58 the meditation starts

3:49 Our conversation begins. Sharon shares Jean McClendon’s phrase, “Everything is better with support”  Sharon shares that being support is offering an energy of awe and acceptance.

6:41 We talk about “holding the space” and what this means.

-Being truly grounded so you can be there for the other person, and trusting that there is a healing possibility.

-People coming into a healing space are often terrified of being stuck in a negative experience.

9:42 offering support can be acting as a guide. Encouraging someone to move through an experiential landscape. To go someplace they have never been before.

Sometimes it can be scary for the sake of the pain that might be faced and the loss of what is familiar.

A supportive can normalize the journey that a person is going through when they are in pain.

11:43  We discuss Sue Johnson’s idea that one of the things people long for most is that someone could be there for them.

“There is a difference between the pain of blame and the pain of recognition “ Virginia said. People can get stuck int he pain of blame.

13:00 we talk about parenting. Sharon talks about acknowledging shoulds with clients as a way of helping them experience acknowledgement. She shares a case of someone stuck in the pain of blame and giving her a supportive space to grieve and feel the loss, before moving her to acceptance.  Often helping people own their expectations and letting go of a should of the past and accepting what happened can be healing and freeing. In other words, helping people orient themselves positive and constructively between the past, present and future is a way of being supportive. This movement needs to include understanding, empathy, and realism.

17:00 we talk about acknowledge as a step in the process of change in being supportive. Support is reflecting back that you are understanding and seeing what the other person is experiencing.  “You need to feel that someone else feels you” Sharon eloquently summarizes.

20:30 when we fixate on the should, we get caught up in toxic patterns of blame, contempt, stone walling (See Gottman’s 4 Horseman of the apocalypse)  In order to get out of stuck patterns, we need to be able to soften our shoulds and resentments. A supportive listener can help with this.

21:50 Sharon shares about the life of Alexander Wilson who had 4 marriages which were all a secret to each wife.  The wife through a process of forgivenss that includes first understanding which leads to compassion.

26:00 the importance of having a cohesive story for healing and health. Support is in helping people tell their stories and to make meaning of their experience.

27:30 Sharon shares her perspective that somethings are unforgiveable and that she never pressures people that they should forgive. Tim shares two levels of forgiveness with which he works with people. One is forgiveness for the individual and letting go and the second having to do with forgiving and healing and continuing a relationship.

The Self-Connection Podcast: Episode two

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A fun and joyful conversation between Sharon and Tim as they continue exploring the richness of Virginia Satir’s work. We discuss the difference between Self-esteem and Self-connection.

0:00 We talk about what self-connection means and how this differs from self-esteem. We discuss what Satir meant by self-esteem. The Self is an energy that has intrinsic worth and this was the place that Virginia connected to and that helped healing and growth take place in individuals and families. Virginia would talk about ‘Wholeness’ and she would help people connect to that wholeness by letting go of feeling and thinking patterns that blocked connection.

4:37 Tim leads a self-connection meditation

9:12 We continue our conversation. We begin by reviewing Sharon’s personal experiences with Virginia’s work. Sharon talked about how powerful the experiences Satir facilitated that help her experience herself in new ways that changed her life. Sharon describes that for the first time she “had to look at herself in-depth” and the belief was that this inner work beyond conceptual knowledge was what made healing within and between possible.

Sharon shares that she continues to grow in her exploration of Virginia’s work.

12:00 We read an exerpt from Barbara Jo Brothers’ Book “Well Being Writ Large” which includes Virginia’s response to what she felt her main contribution to psychotherapy was. Virginia mentions hope (the ability to experience new possibilities), that a therapist needs to be a whole person, and humor/lightness.

13:30 Tim shares his appreciation for Virginia’s emphasis on being life-affirming and on focusing on growth. Virginia would reframe symptoms as part of life and help move and transform stuck experiences towards new possibilities.

15:46 Sharon emphases the challenge of transcending the stuck places of cognitions in order to connect with the worthiness of Self. The experiential parts of therapy are powerful because they help people come into contact with the life, the spirit, that resides inside of them.

17:30 Love as a verb and self-compassion can become shoulds. What could be healing and empowering is realizing our worthiness as a beginning and not trying to add to that to earn it or to become worthy.

20:40 Sharon talks about Virginia’s seed model and how seeds come with the essence of what the seed will become. Virginia worked with people with a sense of awe of that person and this connection at the level of Self and of worthiness creates the context of healing and growth.

23:00 “What is essential is invisible to the eye” Mr. Rogers talked and emphasized knowing and connecting to the core self.

24:00 Consciousness is the ability to become aware of self, other, context and then to begin to shape, influence and create your experience through the choices you can make. Virginia would often encourage becoming your own ‘choicemaker’ or ‘decisionmaker’.

25:30 When we are in touch with our Self, our life energy, our perceptual landscape expands. Sharon shares about how she was able to see the beautiful mountains that surrounded the training center on the last day of her training with Satir.

27:00 We discuss congruence as the free flow of energy/information within a person and between people and the environment.

27:37 Hope is the connection to positive emotions that we can shape things, face difficulties, and express what I am experiencing and we can learn together.

28:50 “Everyday is a choice to be open or rigid” Sharon shares. Tim shares the expression of that fluidity in his work with movement in our sedentary cultures.

29:45 The connection between Virginia’s work and attachment theory/research. The parent-child relationship becomes a mode of being with life and with the unknown.

The Self-connection Podcast: An introduction to Virginia Satir Episode One

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Two unlikely people came together to collaborate on a podcast for persons interested in learning more about how the teachings of Virginia Satir could help them cope with the stresses of their lives. Over time, however, they realized that they had so much to share that they wanted to expand their work that could reach more people. This podcast is the result. They are currently collaborating on a book inspired by Virginia Satir's teaches and also hoping to update and expand her work tentatively titled, "A Journey Towards Wholeness" The two people who came together are Sharon Loeschen, a psychotherapist, teacher, author and elder who studied with Virginia and lives in Long Beach, California, US, and, Tim Sitt, a young psychotherapist and a writer who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Although their life experiences and situations are very different, they have both experienced the transformation that can come with helping people connect with their inner resources and the resultant flow of energy that brings forth creativity and productivity.

In this conversation, Sharon and Tim have a conversation about Sharon's connection with Virginia Satir and the impact her work had on her life both personally and professionally. We begin each podcast with a meditation which you can incorporate into your own practice or skip and get to the conversation at 8:47 Today Sharon leads us in a meditation.

Show notes:

0:00 Sharon leads us in a meditation to get grounded and self connected.

8:47 Introductions to Sharon and Tim

12:00 Sharon gives a summary of who Virginia Satir was and her work

Virginia was not focused on pathology but on how to connect to the self-worth of each individual in the family system and to move towards growth. She focused on enhancing communication between family members which enhanced self-esteem.

17:15 Sharon’s personal reflections on Virginia Satir’s work and what stood out about her work

Virginia worked experientially and did live demonstrations of therapy with families.

Working experientially means engaging with oneself and with others not just cognitively but with the whole self including senses, feelings, muscles, thoughts, touch, beliefs, communication to name a few forms.

Sharon describes an exercise Virginia did called “With whom am I having the pleasure of meeting?” where people will sit together and become aware of their projections without talking but simply feelign and noticing.

25:00 Sharon reflects on the impact Satir’s work had on her life.  She did a few 30 day intensives with 90 participants. She described it as 24/7 therapy.

Sharon describes ‘weaving’ as a way Virginia taught. Sharon and Tim relate this idea of weaving to the concept of thinking systemically. Systemic meaning looking and appreciating the innumerable ways an event is created by multiple factors. (A+B+C+D+E ... = event). Virginia would talk about appreciating the whole context and taking into account as much of what is a part of the whole and treating each part as a whole.

29:15  Discussion of “what are systems?”. Sharon relates her experiences being in the process community for 30 days as an opportunity to challenge old family rules and to take risks expressing herself and freeing herself from old patterns which were embedded in the family system she grew up in. Some of those rules she overcame were not feeling her feelings and not voicing them.