Here is part two of one of my favorite interviews! You can learn more about Deanna at https://reviveyourmidlifemarriage.com
Deanna Bryant I mean, you feel your pain, obviously. But then you step back and look at it. And kind of, once you feel the emotion, step out of it, evaluate it, and come to terms with it. So it’s not controlling you. Would you say that’s true?
Sondra Yeah, that’s true, you definitely have to let it go. Because when you’re in the grips of that physical tension, you have to let it go. Otherwise, everything you do is just going to be some sort of strategy to try and release that tension. Rather than just releasing it, you can just let it move through you. And, the other thing about it, there’s a slightly different switch to it is that not only can you not let it control you, you can use it to become more loving, more compassionate. If you really are willing to go underneath what was there. Let me give you an example of one. I don’t know if I wrote about it, but when I went to India, my partner that I was in Vietnam with, would get very angry at me, and it was really difficult for me to tolerate that anger. I would do everything I could to have him not be angry at me. I was working harder because we worked together on this nonprofit. And I was just bending myself into a pretzel to do everything he wouldn’t be angry at me. If he wasn’t angry with me, then he would love me. I had all that stuff going on in my head. And there was some process in India, where I was able to get under that upset. And under that, you know, dislike and hate and anger with it him and see that I had it in myself. And it was not rejecting him in anger, it was like me being upset about anger in general. And when I could see that, it was like, Oh, my gosh, like a huge veil has been lifted off of me. Because then I could see myself with the times when I was angry and what might be underneath that. And the compassion that I could have for others, when they’re angry, just went through the roof, because now I look at anger, not as something to be avoided, but as something to help work somebody through to see what’s under, not in a, you shouldn’t be angry. It’s just one type of the hot potato handling. I’m gonna blame you, I’m gonna yell at you. It’s like, Hey, this is an opportunity. So it’s, it’s more than just not letting the hurt control you. It’s turning that hurt around into being able to nourish you and your journey to see who you really want to be.
Deanna Bryant So let’s backtrack here, just for a minute. I know that in in chapters five through 17, you cover 13 ways we deal with these hot potatoes. And obviously, we don’t have time to go into all of those. But can you say explain maybe two of those 13 ways of how we deal with these hot potatoes?
They’re really easy. Okay, my personal favorite is sweeping it under the rug. Like,” Oh, no, I’m fine. You know, everything is fine. No, that’s fine. You know, it’s big deal.” Right? You can hear it in my voice, it’s that I’m not gonna look at it. I’m not gonna let anyone else look at it. And I’m just gonna sweep it under the rug until it gets so many hot potatoes that I’m up to my eyeballs in hot potatoes and I explode. And that’s pretty much how I ended every relationship that I’d ever had. I would just let things build up and build up and build up and build up and pretty soon I’m like, I’m I can’t take it anymore. I thought it was awful. And it would start with something tiny. But I never addressed those tiny things, which is why it’s always fun to work with people just starting out new relationships, because those first little things that happen are actually really important. You don’t wait to get the big things. Start with those tiny things. So that’s sweeping it under the rug. The other is blame which would be trying to take that tension and throw it at somebody else. Like you want to get it out of your body and you want to find whose responsibile- it is whoever’s you think might be responsible or whoever’s the nearest to you. The next one is self blame. Which is a tricky one because people some people will say, “Well, you know, I don’t I don’t want to blame other people I have to look at and blame myself.” Now. Sometimes you might use the word blame to mean responsible but if you’re using self blame with that energy of there’s something wrong with me- kind of like when I smashed my forehead with my hand. There was energy there like I was actually physically directing energy and mentally directing energy at myself. And I caught myself because like, Oh my gosh, I look just like the picture of the person with the hot potato blaming myself. So those are three that I really, like to talk about. But, that self blame one, it’s like we don’t want to blame someone else. And we can’t just push it under the rug. So if we blame ourselves. At least the energy is going in some direction. But the problem is, the only time we’re really connected is when we have cooled our hot potatoes -when we don’t have any that are burning around us. And if you’re blaming yourself, you’ve basically disconnected from the other person because you’re not there anymore. You’re not worthy, you’re not able to be that other side of the connection. And so self blame, I guess, was one for me, sweeping under the rug, and self blame or I really found that I used a lot blame. I used tocovertly blame people, but internally where it really didn’t matter. I told myself, like I can say all these nasty things to you, as long as I say it in my head. It doesn’t matter.
Deanna Bryant Oh my gosh, that was me because I could sweep things under the rug. But the thoughts I was having were vicious.
Sondra Yes, yes. Oh my gosh, what we do to ourselves. So those are probably my three favorites. There’s also running and hiding. That metaphor of a hot potato is there some things that we wouldn’t think of as being a way to not dissolve hurt. And one of them is that idea of daydreaming, which is I’m going to hold on to this hot potato and I’m going to suffer through it because someday we’re going to get married or someday we’re going the kids are going to be grown or someday, we will retire and you’re sitting there burning your hand with this hot potato. You’re actually causing causing stress to your body because you’re holding on to it. It’s being stored somewhere in your body. It really is. So pushing it off to saying, well, 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, or even if it’s only a week from now, that’s how long you’re going to be sitting there allowing yourself to burn up. And it’s also not really a true vision. It’s hard to visualize when like think about it. If you’re sitting there in pain, and you picture holding on to hot potatoes in your hands, you’re not going to be really clear about what your future should look like, except I don’t want to hurt, I don’t want to hurt, you don’t want to hurt. So your your future isn’t as beautiful as it could be. If you could just let the pain go through you- drop the hot potatoes onto the ground, pick them up, maybe wash them off and eat them when they’re cool. But our ability to visualize a beautiful future is really impeded by this idea that the future is going to get rid of the potatoes for us. like something’s gonna happen and it it’ll go away eventually. Or if I if I just get here, then everything will be okay.
Deanna Bryant Exactly. Now you talk about dealing with other people’s hot potatoes. So in a marriage or, or any relationship, what is the best way in a relationship to handle other people’s hot potatoes?
Sondra So you have an Ouch, and you have a way of handling that hot potato, whether it’s sweeping it under the rug, whether it’s self blame, whether it’s daydreaming, whatever it is. You have your own way of handling that pain, that is not dissolving it. We all kind of have our favorite hot potatoes handling that don’t dissolve it. And another person might have one that isn’t your favorite. So somebody who blames, they’re having pain iexactly the same. It’s just that their outlet is different. And too many times when someone’s blaming or when someone’s daydreaming, or when somebody is wanting or hiding or whatever it is they do, rather than seeing the pain underneath, we’re judging the way that they handled it and we’re saying “You shouldn’t be yelling.” “You shouldn’t have thrown that plate on the ground.” “You shouldn’t be staying in your room for three days. All these things that we’re blaming people because they don’t handle their pain the same way we do. So that would be one thing. Just realize that whatever, whenever you see somebody having a hot potato, it’s the same sort of pain underneath. And then the next thing is to not get triggered yourself. Because you get triggered based on how they’re handling it. Now you’ve got two people that are triggered. And that’s not going to go anywhere. So you have to be in a state yourself first, where you are connected. People will say, “Oh, well, you know, my husband. “He’s the one who created the disconnection.” No, you can still be connected to somebody who’s suffering. That’s what compassion is. When you decide that you’re going to judge them, and you withdraw, now you’ve disconnected. Right? And that’s all it really matters-our feeling of connection or disconnection. So number number two is stay connected. And then just provide the space. I mean, there’s definitely processes that we can do. There’s ways that you can help a person through it. But it’s kind of great to just be there and listen. We have this thing we call happy hours. It’s a bunch of women that get together various times during the week, and we go over just with each other. “What was your high for the week? What was your low for the week? What’s your heart’s desire or support that you need?” And we answer one of the 36 questions to fall in love. And it’s so interesting, the stories. We’ve been doing this for about a year, but the women will say, “Wow! This is the first time I really get practice to not try and fix something. Like, I never realized that when someone’s upset, you don’t need to fix it. You just need to let them be okay to express what they’re feeling. And giving that gift to another person of just giving them space to say,”Yeah, this is what’s going on gets rid of so mch of the tension in one’s body. And then if they’re interested or willing, you can say, “Hey, do you want to look deeper? But sometimes people don’t. It’s particularly hard with spouses. I think one of the great things is for women to have other women that they can connect with because I’m starting this new phrase: It takes a group of very connected women who are willing to allow people to be and feel without judging anybody, even their friend or their friend’s husband, to keep a good marriage.
Deanna Bryant There’s something about that makes me think – you remember when we were talking about not having a safe place to feel our emotions and so it shuts us down? I think that goes into a marriage as well. When we are looking at the feelings of our spouse and placing judgment, we’re putting ourselves in a one up position. I’m better than you because I don’t do that. That’s not the right way to handle it. So we create a place for our spouse that is unsafe. And then they don’t want to share anymore. And there’s that loss of connection. So I love that idea of creating safety and not being judgmental. I think that’s so key.
Sondra Yeah, yeah, really,
It really is. It’s a gift that we can give others. It’s not our job, but it’s a gift. And marriage is all about giving and is being present and being connected. I think one of the things that I’ve seen through this is, just that feeling of connection. When you really start being willing to look at your feelings, the feelings that feel good, and the feelings that don’t feel good. You notice or at least I’ve noticed that, there is this feeling of connection and what it feels like and it’s this little kind of vibration that’s between us and almost like, like an energy on our bodies in a bubble that goes around us and it’s not like I’m seeing auras or anything, but that’s just kind of how it feels to me when we’re together and connected and for me, it doesn’t require anything. You know, a lot of people say, “Oh, you and Richard- you guys must just really talk about everything and work things out. I’m like, No, not really. We just really enjoy being with each other. And if I’m upset I work it out on my own. And if I try and support him the best I can, or he handles it with his friends… we’re not each other’s therapists.
Deanna Bryant And when you’re expecting your spouse to fix you, or you’re expecting to fix your spouse that becomes codependency.
Sondra Because then if you don’t fix them, then you’re not good enough. You aren’t a very good fixer. And if he can’t fix you, then he’s not a very good fixer. And, awe don’t like to be fixed anyway. Because really, there’s nothing wrong with us. So why are you trying to fix me? Going all the way back to my friend, Linda Shea and seeing her and her husband of 34 years looking like newlyweds. Like when you’re in love, when you first have that in love feeling like nobody’s trying to fix anybody. You’re just connected, and you’re talking about nothing. And it’s fun. Right? You know, it’s just whatever it is. And how do you keep that? And for me, the trick is just learning how to deal with the disconnection that we create. Not trying to figure out how to love because I think that’s putting the attention on the wrong place. Because we are love.
Deanna Bryant Well, we cannot end this conversation without coming to that place where you talk about how we can cool these hot potatoes. I know you have mentioned that you’ve got to let these things go. So what can we do to cool these hot potatoes so we’re not holding them on our hands, burning our hands.
Sondra Yeah, there’s something you would want to do before you cool it. And it’s really recognizing that there’s a choice, which is why in the book, you know, I really go over why there’s a great reason to blame people. I talked about the awesome reasons you would want to blame somebody or the good parts of daydreaming or the self blame event. So you have to first be willing to look at the fact thqt there was something useful about this at one point or you thought there was and it made sense. So you can’t just just go “Oh, you have to let go of it,” because that’s like now you’re blaming yourself for not having let go the blame that you had for yourself. And it’s a spiral. So, first take a look at there was a good reason. There’s all these good reasons to hold on to something. And there’s good reasons to let go and make a decision. Looking at all the aspects looking at what you give up what you get, and then decide, okay, good. I want to let it go. The next step is if somebody wants to cool it down, I use some guided meditations, which anyone who gets the book walks you through it, and you have access online to to these meditations. It actually can be as simple as breathing into where you’re feeling it in your body. What happens is, if you don’t address the ouch when it happens and say Ouch, and let it or whatever your word is. If you don’t handle it in the moment, it’ll stick somewhere in your body. So if you just want to take a look at breathing in- breathing in life and love and oxygen into that part of your body where you stored the hurt, and let it start dissolving it and using whatever visualizations work for you. Or simply just visualize breathing oxygen into it. Oxygen of life goes in. Then exhale out the tension because in essence what it is it’s tension you’re holding in your body. And do that until you feel better. You can go deeper with guided meditation, but if you just want to breathe, breathe in oxygen, exhale tension that’ll take you 90% of the way there.
Deanna Bryant Because that’s that is a way that we actually calm our bodies is through that breath, that intentional breath. Just feel the breath. It just naturally de escalates us, doesn’t it?
Sondra Yeah, absolutely. And if you can, you know do that exercise while you have this potato in mind because you know if you put it away, it won’t be available to breathe into. Find it where is it- where is it in your body and then breathe into it. It it like I said, it’s something you can do simply and easily get you 90% of the way there I like it. It’s fun, but it’s, it’s maybe 10% more than what you can do just breathing in and out. And that’ll cool it. And then the next question is you start wanting to look deeper and look what’s under it.
Deanna Bryant What do you think are some of those things that are underneath those hot potatoesin relationships?
I think one of the biggest things is look at expectations. I’m a big fan of expectations, because I wouldn’t put my money in the bank if I didn’t expect I would get it out. So I’m not anti expectation. But one of the things that can happen is that we know how we act. And we know how we think we should act. So we have these two things happening with us every single day. We’re watching ourselves respond, and how we behave and and what we say and what we think. We also have this ideal woman in our mind, which is who we compare ourselves to. I should have worn a different dress, right. So we have two voices in our head. The voice of the narrator that’s narrating what’s happening, and then the narrator of what we should be doing, always telling us how things should be. And then we try and put that same narration on another person. And in marriages, between men and women, we’re putting a narration on a person who is very, very different from us, just biologically speaking. So our expectation that they’re going to behave the same means that we’re going to be getting our feelings hurt, or we’re going to be feeling disrespected or upset or annoyed or disappointed all the time, because we think they should act like us.
You know, when we set ourselves up for those expectations, and they’re not met, I see this happen a lot, All these resentments build up because I’m not getting what I want. You’re not doing what I think you should be doing. And so we get in this point of resentment, and we become disillusioned and the disconnection grows wider and wider.
Sondra Right. So the other the other approach is to look at Okay, you know, I expected my husband to get me a birthday present that was well wrapped. Exactly. Not in a plastic bag from Christmas. Because for me, I love wrapping presents. And, and I will spend as much time wrapping a present and making the present look as pretty as possible. I don’t know. I think pretty presents are pretty. And they’re fun. And it’s showing somebody the meaning behind- that I love you. I want you to appreciate how much care I put into giving you this present. So that’s kind of like my meaning under it. And that’s just me. So you get in a relationship with somebody who they don’t have that meaning to all wrapped present. And it can look like oh my god, he doesn’t care about me, this was an afterthought. You know, this is not really an important gift because it was important gift, he would have wrapped it. Or at least he would have gone and paid someone to wrap it because they sometimes do that if I’m really in a hurry, but really, he should have just spent all the time to pick out exactly the right bow- exactly the right wrapping paper. So you could present it to me in the way that I would present it to somebody. And if you really look at that tension that you get, like why am I expecting something that’s not reality? Like how many guys do I know that are going to go out and get special wrapping paper and wrap something? Right? I don’t know any. look at that expectation I have and just kind of laugh at it. Like That is so funny. And then take a look at Okay, so I’ve got this meaning that when I wrap something that means something to somebody, you know, maybe it doesn’t maybe I’m spending all my time wrapping these presents and that meaning is not getting sorted out.
Deanna Bryant We’ve come to the end of our time, and I want to tell the audience that we have not covered, even a 10th of this book and all of the wonderful things that Sondra has put in here. I think you’ll see yourself, you’ll see your spouse. And you’ll also be taught ways to manage this inevitable pain- these ouch moments in your life. How can they find this book?
Sondra The book is available on Amazon. So you can get it on Amazon or you can go to my website, which will direct you to whatever I currently have available, because I’m going to be coming out with an audio version of it soon. So probably the best thing for anybody who’s interested in more about anything- what I’m doing is on my website, sondraharmon.com- where you can find out about my books, my new upcoming book, you can sign up for my weekly love letter, which is where I talk about whatever I’m interested about that week. And as it relates to kind of what’s going on in my life because I do love to give stories to as examples. Like this week, I was talking about the Floyd Mayweather fight. I happen to have consulted one of his girlfriends and Logan Paul lives in our community in Puerto Rico. So if you want to just keep up with me, you can also sign up for my my love letter there.
Deanna Bryant Sondra, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to come on the podcast and give back to other women what you have learned at that. Coming to that crossroads. Learning and researching, putting it into practice and then giving it back paying it forward. I really appreciate that.
Sondra You are so welcome. And you’re right. It is just paying it back because I had a woman who mentored me every day for a year. And she made such a difference in my life.
Deanna Bryant We all need good mentors, don’t we? Absolutely. Well, thank you again, Sondra.