Is Your Conflict Style Dooming Your Relationships?- with Psychotherapist Susie Kamen
Dr. Tari and Susie Kamen, Imago Therapist and Life Coach, discuss how to do conflict in a way that brings you closer to your partner, vs creating disconnection. We also discuss how to speak so your partner can hear you and the 4 characteristics of conflict, that if are present in your relationship, predict divorce or dissolution.
Susie Kamen is a psychotherapist and a certified life coach. She is an an Imago therapist and author of growth gifts a to Z, which will be released in the fall of 2021.
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Is Your Conflict Style Dooming Your Relationships?- with Psychotherapist Susie Kamen
Dr. Tari: Welcome to Dear Dater, the podcast for people who want to change their disappointing relationship patterns and finally access the love they deserve. My name is Dr. Tari Mack, and I’m a psychologist and celebrity love coach. My journey has been one from disconnection and loneliness to love and miracles. And I want this podcast to give you the tools and awareness to help you create and access the love you want in your own life. What we yearn for is meant for us. So if you yearn for love, you’re meant to have it. When we change, our relationships change. I’m so glad you’re here.
I’m really excited to have my guest today, Susie Kamen on our episode. Susie Kamen is a psychotherapist and a certified life coach. She is an Imago therapist, which we’ll talk about what that means. And she’s an author of growth gifts a to Z, which we’ll be launching in the fall of 2021. Welcome Susie.
Susie Kamen: Thank you.
Dr. Tari: And today we’re going to be talking about how to do conflict, how to communicate consciously, how not to make certain mistakes that can really damage our relationships. And I just. I’m so excited to have this conversation, because I feel like we’ve never been taught how to do conflict in a way that will help our relationships and bring us closer as opposed to the opposite. So before we get there, can you tell us a little bit about your own story and what brings you into this space? Why you’re so passionate about it?
Susie Kamen: Absolutely. I grew up in an environment that created a lot of trauma and wounding. And I think the gift in that really led me to be a therapist as something I wanted to be early on, either that, or as we talked, either Oprah wasn’t around, she wasn’t around then. And something like that though, and really driven for connection.
Because I didn’t have it. And so in my personal life and my professional life, one of the gifts that I brought from my wounding is that ability to be a safe place and a nonjudgmental place for people in my life and for my clients. And so I think that’s what drove me there. Not understanding what was going on for me.
And I think a lot of therapists, not all, start in the field, right, to try to make sense of your own life. And I remember actually in grad school, someone saying you’re not all of you will end up finishing because a lot of you might be here to figure out you swear on your podcast?
Dr. Tari: Yes.
Susie Kamen: Okay. I don’t need you, but I always just did swipe. You’re here to figure out your own shit. And you might find out that this isn’t exactly what you want. And I truly believe that. I say this sometimes, I know it sounds super cliche. I was born to do this work. And so it’s something I feel it’s such a sacred gift and journey that I have to be in people’s lives this way.
So I hope that answers the question.
Dr. Tari: Absolutely.
Susie Kamen: Sufficiently for now.
Dr. Tari: Yeah, I think, yeah, I can resonate with that, that story and that journey so much right. Feeling born to do this. Yep. I think our journeys often. You know, show us what our gifts are, the struggle. Yeah.
Susie Kamen: Yeah. And I didn’t always, you know, I don’t, I, for sure, on my personal growth journey, I also think I rolled out on the self-help field, you know, read my first self-help book, you know, as far back as I can remember, I didn’t always view things that way. It’s just something that’s evolved. And then I help people do as well to see the gift from your trauma or your wounding.
Dr. Tari: Such beautiful work. So. Let’s talk specifically about Imago. Right. Tell us what Imago therapy is, what are the basic tenets? And then we’ll, we’ll kind of get into conflict and communication and how couples can use that to their advantage.
Susie Kamen: It’s a great segue. So Imago literally in Latin means Image and Imago has been around for about 30 years. They just had their 30th anniversary and the release of their re-release of I’m Getting the Love You Want, which was their original book. They actually credit Oprah to a lot of her spreading the word and then becoming known in the way that they were.
So Imago means image and Latin, and it’s based on theory at the foundational level that we are unconsciously drawn to an image and the people in particular intimate partners that we pack, that they have the feeling of familiarity that is both comprised of the negative and positive attributes from childhood. So then when you are drawn to that person, You then pick them. And after the romantic phase wears off the growth potential to heal. If you have a partner willing to do the work, is transformation because you will pick someone, even though you liked attributes early, become a point of contention when the romantic phase wears off.
So then what we do in the office is help people understand that conflict is growth, trying to happen and learn how to communicate differently in ways that couples are never taught. And I do want to preface this by saying. That even though the potential for healing as a couple and individually is available, I do not believe that that means you’re supposed to be with whoever you’re with. Even if you have someone willing to do the work. I just want to say that because I think it’s important. I do think that potential exists though, for PS. And if you have kids and even if you don’t actually. Doing the work anyway, even if you end up not staying together, I think makes for a more humane way of being.
Dr. Tari: Yes. Oh my gosh. So much in there that you said that I want to follow up on. So you said conflict is growth trying to happen. So circle that for us. Tell us more.
Susie Kamen: Perfect. Like that so much, how you phrase that. So the idea is, is that conflict is bad. And if I’m at odds with you, there must be something wrong. I picked the wrong partner and you may have.
In instances where you also may not have, if you understand that conflict is an opportunity for growth, if you could become more equipped to see conflict differently, the point of otherness is where there’s a lot of focus, so you’ll want you to be more like me now and the things I thought I liked about you. And I, for example, I perceived you as so supportive. And kind and not opinionated when we first met in the romantic phase, when that wears off, I want you to take more initiative, you never challenged me on anything. Why don’t you take charge? So it becomes almost like a flip and when you can learn how to communicate that desire, that frustration differently so that the person can hear you. There’s an opportunity for growth for both people.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. Wow. The other thing you said was, even though that potential is there for two people, even if both people are willing to do the work, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re you’re with the right person.
Susie Kamen: Correct.
Dr. Tari: Same on the house.
Susie Kamen: Well, because I think the idea, you know, this idea of like therapy, shaming, or spiritual shaming, unintentionally by people is, you know, if you go to therapy and you have to willing people that if you do the work, then what did we do wrong? Well, you still will be better humans for the work. You just may not be the right person. People change as you know, I mean, this is your field, your language, and who you pick at 20, you might not grow in the same way at 30 or 40 in similar ways of compatibility. I do think therapy though. I still recommend it because it’s just more humane. How you know that conscious uncoupling.
Dr. Tari: Yes.
Susie Kamen: Idea. Yeah. Hard to get people to do.
Dr. Tari: I know. And don’t you think therapy, the healing religious helps you align with your true self, your highest self. So whether or not the relationship continues, you’re going out into the world and you’re existing in your highest form.
Susie Kamen: 100%. And if you think at all that, you’re not going to pick the same after, do the work, because you probably will. That Imago, that draw, It’s still innate in us, right?
Dr. Tari: Yeah.
Susie Kamen: So doing the work anyway, to understand yourself better and learn how to communicate more effectively and to listen more effectively will benefit you no matter what.
Dr. Tari: Yes. Oh my gosh. Yeah. So the first part of this is really about, I always talk about unconscious attraction, which is so much a part of Imago, right? As you heal and you do your own work, your attraction can shift and you don’t have to repeat those same patterns and have those same frustrations and triggers in your relationships. But then the other piece you keep talking about, is how to communicate and the communication piece, which, oh my God, I don’t understand why we were never taught this in school.
Susie Kamen: Literally, if I had more time, I would want to teach a course out of this in college or high school. Because. So what I tell everyone, I start every session is this Dan Siegel model that gets credit called flipping your lid. And this is your brain, and this is reactivity. And this is your mental. I start every session this way, the way I see it, when you are offline up here, this is where most couples communicate from. And nothing affective happens here. So what Imago teaches is that intentional dialogue helps you manage reactivity to speak from here. So there’s a lot of what I do is that up over time, the foundational pieces of that dialogue process.
Dr. Tari: Yes, managing reactivity. Oh my goodness. If we could hit everybody, this skill, the world would be a much different.
Susie Kamen: It really would. And I don’t see, I don’t think your partner is your enemy and I don’t think your reactivity is the enemy. It’s not knowing how to manage it.
Dr. Tari: Yes.
Susie Kamen: And this is what I think is the problem.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. So, so what is reactivity and, and what should we be aiming for instead? What do you teach people how to do
Susie Kamen: A great question, to know that if you have reactivity, that’s a sign that your brain and your nervous system is doing what it’s supposed to. So to, to view it differently, the problem is, is when your amygdala activates your nervous system, that something’s up and you’re defensive, you know, the pastors come out, it’s doing its job. The problem is, is because we’re all wounded. Some of us more than others, it will alert you to something that isn’t necessarily true. Right? A perceived criticism from your partner. A frustration feels dangerous when it’s a frustration or uncomfortable at best. And if you want to communicate whatever it is, no most people can not hear you. Manage reactivity calm your nervous system so that you are back online and you have greater access to not having your frustrations in front of you.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. So what are some of those skills? When I always say, you know, when you’re being triggered emotionally, because you go from zero to 60, like
Susie Kamen: Exactly.
Dr. Tari: You know, in a matter of milliseconds. So what can we do? Because that is the worst time to try to communicate. Right?
Susie Kamen: A hundred percent. So two things from the get-go is start to really identify where are the places you lose your center the most, and annoyance is different than going from zero to 60. Like you said, so start identifying them. When you feel, you have to repeat yourself, when you feel unimportant, when you feel criticized, like identifying your own. First of all, and then the guidelines actually recommend, when does your heart rate start going up and breathing, slowing down and getting your heart rate lower.
And sometimes it’s hard to catch, like you said, it’s very quick that moment where you’re just, you’re, you’re flipping your lid and they’re gone. So that those are the beginning things to identify what happens to your physically breathing and then committing to not talking in that state.
Dr. Tari: So important, so important. So what can we do instead if we’re aware, I flipped my lid. I’m feeling really reactive right now. What, what can we do?
Susie Kamen: So that’s a great question. So you do what you can to lower your heart rate, right? Take a time out, breathe, get centered, whatever, you know, endless tools for people. And then the very first question that we teach couples is, is this a good time to talk?
So let’s say it was you and I, so I would say, you know, is this a good time to talk? What I’d like to talk about is what happened at dinner last night, and then you, your goal for you to be present for me is can you be present? Do you think you are capable of managing what might come up for you to hear me? And you either say yes to me, or what we teach people, as you commit to thank you for asking I could be ready by five o’clock and then two people show up willing to do things differently in a calm state, better than at the time of when they’re pissed off.
And so that’s the very foundation. So in a nutshell, that’s it. And then one of the tools is mirroring. So if I’m speaking to you, About what happened Friday, you start mirroring me. Most people are not taught how to do that. We’re taught, you talk, I talk. We play tennis, right? So when we slow down, Imago is also considered the slower way to get you where you want to go cause it’s hard. I, my temperament, when I got trained, it took a lot for me to manage it to slow down and mirror and mirroring mimics meditation.
Dr. Tari: Hmm.
Susie Kamen: It calms your nervous system. So if you’re mirroring me, you actually are activating something different instead of you still have thought to, let’s say, I said to you, I felt hurt when I experienced you as dismissive at dinner. Even if you’re thinking, no, I wasn’t. That’s not how it happened. Those are thoughts. That’s we’re not looking for the absence of thought. We’re asking you not to say that.
Dr. Tari: Yes.
Susie Kamen: Right?
Dr. Tari: And what you say is simply what you just heard. Right. That’s mirroring.
Susie Kamen: What I’m hearing you say is that you felt, I was just, so when you’re curious about someone else’s perspective, we increase the chances of connection. It’s hard though. It’s hard to not give into that thought. That’s not what happened. No. And you know, in Imago we teach people, pay attention to your facial. Like I could be shaking my head and mirroring you. That’s not going to help you feel safe with.
Dr. Tari: Right. Oh my gosh. I mean, I’ve done this so many times with couples in my office. Just like you have, and like you have to coach the person who is the receiver or the listener, right?
Susie Kamen: That’s actually what you’re called, you’re the receiver and one person’s the sender wants the receiver.
Dr. Tari: So the receiver’s job is just to listen for understanding and to mirror back. And then there’s some other things, but it’s so hard to manage your own reactivity because the person in that receiving seat wants to say, well, that’s not what I meant and they don’t understand that we could have experienced something completely differently. And both perspectives can be completely true.
Susie Kamen: We speak the exact same language. Exactly. The center also has responsibility. So what I want you to hear me, I have to manage my tone. Right. And I want to send it as my perspective. I experienced you, not you work because our job is to protect ourselves. Right. That’s what your amygdala does. So if I say you did, you’re going to think. No, I didn’t. If I say. That was my experience. That was my perspective. This is how I perceived you. A very defended person, sharing that for a friend it’s me. It can be a lot of us. It does lessen the chance of that when we hear it differently.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. So as the sender, as the person sharing their experience or their feeling, we use I-statements and I know this is so cliche. Right. But be clear for my audience? How do you use I statements when you’re trying to share your experience or your feelings with your partner?
Susie Kamen: Our responsibility is tolerant body language, and my perspective, what went on for me, it’s even less of an I. For me at this point, it’s my experience. What went on for me when I thought that happened. I felt you were on your phone a lot and what went on for me and what I mean by that as you’re deepening your own experience, what went on for me? The story I made off, like I coach people with stem sentences they’re called so that I will potentially land more about trying, helping you understand me versus you perceiving me as critical. And even if you, your job as the receiver is to manage that going on.
Dr. Tari: Yes. I mean, when couples come into my office and you know, I’m speaking from personal experience too, we, we usually want to make the other person wrong. We want to tell them what they did wrong and how they can do it better. So they don’t make us feel a certain way. And so much of the work that I think both of us do is helping people understand that our feelings are not somebody else’s responsibility. Right?
Susie Kamen: Yes. I believe what you say matters. Actually coach people to not say when that happened, you made me feel when that happened, what went on for me, right. Just not even assigning blame, you know? And then when it allows this for the other person to hear you, it creates safety. That’s what we try to do in the space between two people in session and in restoring safety, we’re increasing the chance for someone else to be accountable and less dependent.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. Yes. So in this work in this Imago work, it sounds like each person is taking responsibility for their part in a dynamic they’re part in an experience. And speaking from that place or hearing from that play, hearing your partner’s perspective or experience.
Susie Kamen: Exactly. The sender speaks to be understood and the receiver listens to understand, and then you switch that’s part of what the session is often is, then you switch and then you would share with me, for example, you know, thank you for sharing. And there’s lots of steps to it. You know, rearing validation, empathy, and then we would switch. And then you would share only what I brought up as the initiator of the dialogue, what went on for you. And then I now become the receipt. And you become the sender so I can hear your perspective.
Dr. Tari: Yeah.
Susie Kamen: And
we don’t stack, and I wasn’t familiar with this phrase at one point kitchen sink it, we stick to one topic at a time and, couples sometimes come into therapy and you want to talk about this and you also pissed me off about that and we don’t do that. So it is a slower process that helps focus on one frustration at a time and gives you the opportunity to manage a reactivity more effectively than stacking.
Dr. Tari: Yes. I’m really practice, those skills of listening, of speaking from a place of ownership, holding space, giving validation, giving empathy. So you’ve mentioned the last stages of this exercise is empathy, validation.
Susie Kamen: Validation and empathy validation, you know, is that I can hear you. And if I’ve listened carefully to you, you make sense. That makes sense that you felt I was dismissive. I was on my phone a lot. And validation, a lot of people think that if I validate you, then I agree with.
Dr. Tari: That I’m wrong or that.
Susie Kamen: Exactly. And it’s not and it’s so connecting to say, you know, I really listened to you and, even though I don’t really, I didn’t perceive myself that way, if you thought I did, though, that makes sense that you felt that way. It really does.
Dr. Tari: Yes. So validating someone’s experience or feelings does not necessarily mean you agree with them, or you had the same experience.
Susie Kamen: Exactly. And often people don’t, I mean, often people do the safety allows people to be more accountable and, but you don’t have to, and a lot of us didn’t get that growing up validation. Right. That makes sense that you feel that way. And, as opposed to don’t feel that way. So it allows Imago. The theory is it can’t change your childhood, it can heal parts of your childhood unfinished business.
Dr. Tari: So, yeah. Yes. And what about empathy? The last stage of that.
Susie Kamen: Empathy actually I can imagine you feel having listened to what you said. I can imagine you feel it. It’s really beautiful watching someone in my office, really listening and having put all the process together and get to that part and having called you. I can imagine you feel rejected. And dismissed, do those bits and the stretch that that person did for things that were not spoken by the other person to really, what did that feel like to be in your shoes if that’s what you thought happened?
Dr. Tari: Yeah. So validation is that makes sense to me and empathy is that must’ve made you feel, I feel
Susie Kamen: Well, I can imagine.
Dr. Tari: I could imagine. Yes.
Susie Kamen: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. So important. So. You mentioned Gottman earlier. And one of the things that I wish again, I could just give to the whole world with some of the research he did, which I know you’re very familiar with, the four horsemen. Right. Can you talk a little bit about that and what, and I can help too, but tell us about the four horsemen.
Susie Kamen: So my understanding, so I’m John and Julie Gottman, the founders of Guttman therapy. They’re huge researchers. And what the research showed over the years is happy couples reportedly happy, observed by them. Happy can fight. You can, you can fight. Conflict is how you fight. Right. So they have a little bit different language instead of, is this a good time to talk? They say a soft start. So some of it’s very similar to Imago, just a little bit of a different languaging and the four horsemen, or would they have seen that if you keep those out, your likelihood of being happy for the long haul is greatly increased. And the four horsemen are stonewalling, completely unwilling to talk. Defensiveness is no, I didn’t. Criticism is a little different than what some people think criticism is. You always, you’re never these global assertions and contempt, which is a complete obliteration of someone’s character, which is an obvious one. Some of the other ones aren’t this obvious. They’re a little more subtle.
Dr. Tari: And contempt can also be like mocking and sarcasm tasks, ridiculing.
Susie Kamen: Yeah. Almost probably borderline abusive verbally. It doesn’t have to be that extreme. Um, just being cutting. Yeah. And so if you can fight and keep those things on it. You can be happy. I’m not advocating for it. It’s just, it is true though.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. And they actually said, I think that the four horsemen predicted divorce and like 80% rain, right? Like 85%.
Susie Kamen: One hundred percent. Yeah. That if that’s present, then that is a good predictor of divorce.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. I talk a lot about defensiveness because I think that is just, oh my gosh, it’s such a connection killer. And for me, and what I teach is it’s such a red flag, like early in dating, right? If you, when an awkward moment comes up, when your first conflict comes up, if that other person is defensive and is refusing to hear you or try to understand. That’s a big deal.
Susie Kamen: It’s a huge flag. Yeah. I completely agree with you. I think by nature, we’re defended beings, so I’d give someone a second or two, not a third, fourth, fifth, six date, because of your capacity to manage because to me, that’s reactivity.
Dr. Tari: Yeah.
Susie Kamen: And so if someone is reactive and then can get it together and step rapidly into hearing you, if you can’t though that’s a red flag.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. And I agree. I think if somebody is defensive, which would sound like what you said, like, well, that doesn’t make sense, or I didn’t do that. Or, they’re minimizing, which I think is very close to defensiveness. Like, well, that’s not a big deal. Why do you feel that way? If you have good boundaries and communication and you can say, you know what, it’s important for you to be able to hear my experience or my feelings, if then they can backtrack if you’re setting boundaries and they can respond to that. That’s great. But if they can’t, again, that is not something you want to sign up for.
Susie Kamen: Cause it is a criteria to help people when they’re dating. Right. Cause you want someone who is willing to pause, like, okay, give me a minute. Yes. Because reactivity, like I said, the way I assess it, isn’t the issue it’s talking in that place. And then what you’re saying, are you too defensive too often to do what it takes to manage it, to hear what your partner is saying.
Dr. Tari: Right. Or even to look at yourself, kind of like what you’re saying, like, oh, okay. Yeah. I need to calm down. I’m taking this personally. I’m not present here. So important.
Susie Kamen: I’m a very reactive person. In Imago we talk about hailstorms and turtles. Hailstorms get big. And turtles constrict. And they’re the same, I mean, they’re just, they’re patterns of reactivity and you can do both. And so I don’t deny in my own relationship that I’m reactive. I just know that when I talk from there, it’s not connecting. Right. And so I either get it together or I apologize and say, here’s what was going on. So I can be heard and not critical.
Dr. Tari: Yes. And like you’ve probably heard the rupture and repair, we’re not going to be perfect. Right. So sometimes we might be reactive, but the best we can do then is just to own it. Apologize and try to repair that moment.
Susie Kamen: 100% couples therapy, regardless of your model that you work from, is to repair rupture safety, right? People don’t come to our offices to tell us how great they’re doing on the front end. Hopefully something that they can get to. And what I tell couples is if you, and this is another Gottman piece that if you come to therapy, thinking that your landlines won’t be activated. You know, I’m not your therapist. My goal for you is that you understand how to do things differently, have a different paradigm of how you see it and that you derail less often. And you get back on track more rapidly. The Gottman’s say that I think it’s 69% of what couples fight about doesn’t really go away. You just want to learn how to navigate the territory differently. Yes. Oh, I love that.
Dr. Tari: And I think a lot of couples, or a lot of people try to avoid conflict altogether. And you’re not going to be able to have deep, loving connections with people if you’re not willing to get awkward and get messy and have conflict because people are going to push your buttons when you get close to them.
Susie Kamen: Well, exactly. And you want, you know, we paid people that are going to push our buttons. That’s the irony of it. So to not learn how to do that in a way that. Promotes that deep connection to safety that I can share that with you. My feelings on that are held in safety, that you can manage yourself to provide the safety and vice versa. Yeah, exactly how you said it.
Dr. Tari: Yeah. And I think what you said in the beginning that conflict is growth, trying to happen. That relationships can be such a vehicle for change, for growth, for expansion. Sometimes they can’t, if it’s not that kind of relationship or a healthy relationship or the right relationship, but that’s kind of the point of relationships, right. Our relationships will show us kinda like, where our fears are, where our triggers are, where wounds are and that’s okay. We just have to work through it.
Susie Kamen: I think it is beyond. Okay. And I think it’s what happens. Right. You know, that phrase, you remind me, you’re just like my mom. You’re just like my dad. If we’re drawn to people like that, then it is so unlikely. That you are going to be triggered in your we’re mostly triggered in our most intimate relationships. I had the type of childhood. When I do these workshops and I talk about landmines, I have a lot, I lose my center more than others. We’re mostly that reactive in our most intimate relationships. So you want to pick someone that is willing to do the work with you, even as, like we’ve said, you don’t end up with them.
Dr. Tari: Totally. Yeah. Like for me, I know one of my triggers is when I feel someone is kind of pulling away or withdrawing and they don’t communicate with me. So I’ve had to, I mean, my whole life has been a journey towards self connection and love and healing, but it’s important for me to be with people that can hold safe space and I’m, if I’m feeling anxious or insecure, I can, you know, I can self-soothe that. I can also talk about it if I need to, and they can hold space for that.
Susie Kamen: Exactly. So what I imagine happens for you and thank you for sharing that is if you didn’t use this word very mindful that you didn’t. So if you’ll let me know if this resonates for you. So when you feel someone is pulling away, that I imagine creates reactivity in you. And so your work is to manage that so that you can be heard in that fearful state for you and doing your own work also, and then having a partner. Who can hold space for that, whether they intentionally or unintentionally pulled away to create safety for you to not feel as abandoned and for both of you to do the work. Does that make sense?
Dr. Tari: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Susie Kamen: Yeah. Yeah. The one thing I tell couples too, and I imagine that you’ve had this experience. I think sometimes when couples go to therapy, the new model is, is this a good time to talk? And they want to talk about everything. A lot of couples work is an inside job. It’s new managing my wounding, my abandonment issues, my critical inner child stop. It’s managing that because the goal is not is this a good time to talk when I’d like to talk about. I think my stuff is managed. It’s like you share whatever you have done on your own individually to work on healing some of that,
Dr. Tari: So important. Yeah. I think because younger me would bring all of my own stuff into the relationship. I’d try to work it out in the relationship. I thought it was a problem of the relationship when really it was stuff I needed to heal and look at for myself. And so that distinction, I think for people is really important. Sometimes we can be in a relationship and we feel out of alignment, we feel reactive. We feel off, it could be because of something happening in the relationship, it could also be with something happening within you or in your relationship with yourself. So really again, that self knowledge piece is so important.
Susie Kamen: 100% important. And if you take it full circle to the idea of Imago, if you go back to the original meaning of image, we probably picked someone to elicit that in us, which I will look at my clients and say, right, like who would want to do that? Except when I stopped reacting from my wounded child and I manage that, I stopped polluting with the story of myself that’s abandoned and rejected. So when even the management of my reactivity helps not by that as much.
Dr. Tari: Yes.
Susie Kamen: We would need another podcast on that part alone, like reclaiming our loss parts. Right. That’s another part of Imago.
Dr. Tari: Yes. I always talk about growing up, like you have to grow up. So you’re coming from your adult self versus your child self.
Susie Kamen: Exactly. Exactly. And reactivity is coming from your wounded child.
Dr. Tari: Yes. Yes. Wow.
Susie Kamen: Yeah. You wouldn’t put two seven-year-olds equipped to deal with a relationship to work it out. So you want to manage that so your adult self can come through a more managed version of you.
Dr. Tari: Yes. That’s why I think the work that you do is so important because you’re literally giving people skills and tools that they haven’t had. To manage to use when they feel reactive, when they feel defensive and they feel abandoned, you know, whatever it is that comes up for us. These are tools that we can practice and that couple’s dialogue you’re talking about it, it takes a lot of practice.
Susie Kamen: Yes, it does. And a lot of times people only practice in therapy, so that’s better than never. Right. And I know, even for me mirroring, I wish I would have come across it so much sooner. And like I said, I’ve been on the self-help journey, as long as I can remember. For me mirroring they’ll help me not personalize everything. All of these tools you can use everywhere in your life. Mirroring you know, we’re not only reactive in our intimate relationships. It just seems to be heightened there. You know, the fear of loss of love and whatnot. So mirroring helped me in countless areas of my life, you know. And Imago also has a parenting book giving the love that heals, you know, the same foundational tools are applicable there. And at work, it was stranger someone’s pissed off at you. In line, wherever you shop and mirroring, managing our reactivity, it just makes for a more humane world.
Dr. Tari: Yes. And you’d mentioned taking things personally. I think that’s such a big, that’s something we do as humans. So when our partner shares, you know, I felt really sad last night when that happened, we take it personally.
And I always tell people just because your partner has a feeling about you. Or an experience of you? It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong. And if we know that, then we’re more able to just hold space to hear about that feeling or experience. But it’s just.
Susie Kamen: Yes, it’s so hard to do, right. It’s so hard to do. And yet the tools help it become easier. And then you get to step into accountability. It’s hard to be accountable when we’re defensive.
Dr. Tari: Yeah, this, this word accountability. It’s like when I work with people, I have them make a list of the qualities they want in a person and nobody puts accountability on there. So I put it on there for them. So what is accountability and why is it important?
Susie Kamen: Wait. I love that. You notice that though. They don’t put that on there.
Dr. Tari: No, nobody even thinks about it.
Susie Kamen: So fascinating to me. Right. I always go back to accountability. That’s critical.
Dr. Tari: Yeah.
Susie Kamen: A lot of people didn’t get that growing up, you’re wrong, you did this, a lot of parents are taught how to be accountable or apologetic after something happens. So you can feel like you live in a crazy town, your feelings aren’t valid, your culture is fine. So it really affects people sometimes at a really young age and in relationships to be with someone, when you’re dating and when it doesn’t matter, what, even in friendships to be able to say, I screwed up and I can see where that hurt you and having someone admit it. If people recognize that you are still a good human and probably even, I would venture to say a better one, when you can be accountable, you’re a fuller version of you, of your imperfection is such a gift to you and the person you’re being accountable to. It’s terrifying to be accountable because we have an idea that if I’m wrong, I’m bad.
Dr. Tari: Right. Right. That’s I think a very core belief for a lot of people, but the truth is we are going to screw up. We are going to unintentionally hurt people. We are going to make mistakes and it’s such an easier way to live when we can just look at ourselves and say, yeah, I guess I screwed up there. I’m sorry. You know, and, and look at our part and dynamics because as you know, every dynamic is co-created, every single dynamic and every single relationship we have. And the only power we have is looking at ourselves because that’s the only thing we can change. We can’t change anybody else. We can’t get our partner to, to feel or do or be different. We can only change our part.
Susie Kamen: So we can change our part and how we express our part.
Dr. Tari: Yes. I’m glad we ended on that idea of accountability, because it’s also something you want to look for in anybody that you’re dating and potentially investing your time in and your heart in, right.
Susie Kamen: Especially for people to people dating. Right? You didn’t call, people that got ghosted or, being accountable, I know I said I was going to call you. And I got tied up with my kids and I imagine that didn’t feel good, even if you don’t get every layer of that. I did say I was going to call and I apologize.
Dr. Tari: Yeah, just own it.
Susie Kamen: Own it. It is so healing to own your shit. It just is. And own your stuff. if you look for a place of a win-win accountability is a win-win always.
Dr. Tari: I agree.
Susie Kamen: So are you sure we can’t get you to become an Imago therapist? Like literally? No, you, you speak it’s like innate in you.
Dr. Tari: Yeah, it is. It is. I mean, I’m definitely out of work and I think it’s important. But no, I don’t want to become an Imago therapist. I’ll leave it to you, the expert.
Susie Kamen: And I like also the kind of spiritual component that you bring like that is more evolved. And that is part of Imago based on this evolved idea, the spiritual concept that we’re all connected in, that we’re all seeking connection and there’s a better way to create.
Dr. Tari: Wow. And the thing I love about, I think Imago the most is you just said it, that we are all wired for connection. It’s the very thing we all crave. But yet we, because we don’t have these tools and these skills and this awareness, we push it away. When we get the most scared or we feel abandoned or angry, and we want to be heard, if we don’t know how to communicate, we keep ourselves from being heard. We push people away, instead of inviting them in.
Susie Kamen: Unintentionally. We actually ironically create the very thing we don’t want.
Dr. Tari: Yes. Yes. So what would you say? I don’t want to end this conversation, but we have to.
Susie Kamen: And I know I’m like let’s do another hour. Yeah.
Dr. Tari: What would you say to my listeners? If you wanted to leave them with something about conflict, about communication.
Susie Kamen: To know that your wounding and your reactivity is not the problem, nor is your partner’s. To really understand why communicating differently will yield you a different outcome and, finding an Imago therapist, any therapist, couples therapy. I think that’s a good place to end. I think there still remains a stigma for couples therapy. And if couples knew that you’re expected to have the romantic phase end, and that that’s where the conflict grows. And that if you could see that as an opportunity instead of a problem, being married or in a relationship is one of the only licenses that you don’t need to take a task for. You are not prepared for, and there’s no renewal, right? There’s no sticker on your car for your oil change. And you’re expected to be in this relationship where all the research shows being in a happy relationship affects your health. It affects how you show up at work and all of this. And we’re not taught that anywhere. And even if you’re married by your clergy, you are not taught. Because why would you be right? I had, today’s a really happy day for you. And please know that in somewhere about 12 months you probably are going to be pretty unhappy with each other potentially, and go to therapy, go to therapy now.
Dr. Tari: If people would go to therapy before all the shit hits the fan, they would be so much better.
Susie Kamen: If you’re dating, go, if you’re dating, talk about it sooner. I just wish couples would know go sooner is a gift you give yourself. And I wish the stigma was maybe we’re on our way. I hope so.
Dr. Tari: I hope so, too. So Susie, how can people work with you? How can they find you online?
Susie Kamen: Thank you. I have a website. It’s susiekamen.com. I’ve been a therapist for over 30 years. That’s crazy to say. So my website is not interactive. So my Instagram account if you want to DM me, it’s Susiekamen. Those are the two ways to find me. And thank you for the work you do and how you show up here and everywhere else I’ve seen you. And the contribution you make and how safe you make it for people. Yeah. Big fan.
Dr. Tari: Thank you, Susie. I’m a big fan of you, too. And thank you so much.
Susie Kamen: Until our paths cross again and thank you to your listeners.
Dr. Tari: Thanks for tuning into Dear Dater. This is Dr. Tari reminding you that if you want love, it’s meant for you.