Category: Relationships

Terry Gaspard: Successful Committed Relationships—Wh...

Terry Gaspard is a licensed couples therapist, college professor, and the coauthor of Daughters of Divorce. She has teamed with Sounds True to publish The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Terry about the sometimes surprising factors that go into a healthy long-term relationship. Citing years of experience counseling couples, Terry explains that physical chemistry is less important to the life span of a relationship than you might think. Tami and Terry explore how to healthily navigate relationship conflict and the steps you can take to ensure open communication of emotional needs. They talk about healing after a relationship ends and how to evaluate whether you’re ready to enter another long-term partnership. Finally, Terry and Tami discuss the stress of being a stepparent and the resilience needed to weather fresh relationship challenges. (64 minutes)

3 Ways to Deepen Gratitude This Holiday Season

3 Ways to Deepen Gratitude This Holiday Season

It is true that misery cannot simultaneously exist alongside gratitude and that, despite ourselves, we are constantly being given more than we give. To prove that point, try this simple, elegant practice and see for yourself. Please note: If you resist doing this exercise, consider that you are doing so because you, like most human beings, prefer to believe that you give more than you receive. If you find you’re wrong, what will happen to your resentment or other feelings of disappointment?

Naikan Inventory List

Take a few full size notebook paper and draw three columns. At the top of column #1, write “What he/she/they gave to me.” At the top of column #2, write “What I gave to him/her/them.” At the top of column #3, write “The trouble I caused him/her/them. Exhaust each column with your list of SPECIFIC items before moving onto the next. The timeline to consider is the last 3 months. The use of “always” or “usually” should be avoided. Be precise.

Write three letters of gratitude

You should have enough evidence to write three separate letters of appreciation to your partner. Be sure to make each different, using alternate words expressing thanks to your partner. You can give your partner this letter (or card), or you can simply keep it to yourself. Your choice. The exercise was for you anyway.

Write three letters of apology

You should have enough evidence from your list to apologize for putting your partner out. Make each letter unique by saying “I’m sorry” in different ways. Again, you can give this to your partner or simply keep it private. Either way, the exercise does its magic. If you were honest and thorough, you might have noticed that column #2 was shorter than columns 1 & 3. We are selfish creatures; always aware of what we’re not getting and how our partners cause us grief.

I hope this exercise has helped deepen your gratitude during this holiday season!


Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, is a clinician and author who integrates neuroscience, attachment theory, and current therapies. He directs training programs throughout North America and globally. He is the author of We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring LoveWired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship.


The community here at Sounds True wishes you a lovely holiday season! We are happy to collaborate with some of our Sounds True authors to offer you wisdom and practices as we move into this time together; please enjoy this blog series for your holiday season. 

To help encourage you and your loved ones to explore new possibilities this holiday season, we’re offering 40% off nearly all of our programs, books, and courses sitewide. May you find the wisdom to light your way. Use promo code HOLIDAY10 and receive an additional 10% off your order.



Elaine Aron: Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

Dr. Elaine Aron is a clinical depth psychologist and the author of the seminal 1997 book The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. With Sounds True, she has published the new audio learning program The Highly Sensitive Person’s Complete Learning Program: Essential Insights and Tools for Navigating Your Work, Relationships, and Life. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Aron about what it means to be a highly sensitive person and recent research into the phenomenon. They consider whether the trait is genetic or adaptive, as well as the various ways sensitive behaviors manifest in day-to-day life. They also discuss how best to approach romantic relationships with highly sensitive people and the possible social advantages of sensitivity. Finally, Dr. Aron shares the connection between extreme sensitivity and intuition, as well as attitudes necessary for embracing the entirety of your unique, sensitive self.(50 minutes)

Christian Conte: Healing Conflict: Listen, Validate, a...

Christian Conte, PhD, is a mental health specialist and leading authority on anger management. With Sounds True, Christian has published Walking Through Anger: A New Design for Confronting Conflict in an Emotionally Charged World. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon talks with Christian about his Yield Theory of emotional management, focusing on the process of “listen, validate, explore options.” Christian explains the events that led to his interest in anger management, as well as the origins of Yield Theory. He emphasizes the importance of meeting others where they are, giving them the opportunity to drain anger’s charge from their limbic system. Christian and Tami discuss why it’s necessary to cultivate humility and how Yield Theory might be applied to our currently divisive culture. Finally, they speak on “the cartoon world” that angry responses often create, as well as the importance of watching what we add to our minds.(63 minutes)

Helping Someone with a Disorganized Attachment Style

Helping Someone with a Disorganized Attachment Style Header ImageYou may not identify with the disorganized adaptation yourself, but perhaps people close to you live with this attachment style.

Clearly, this is not intended to serve as an end-all guide to helping these people (or anyone else, for that matter), but if you want to promote safety and secure relating in others, I highly recommend trying out the following habits. And if you’re a person of the disorganized style, I hope you’ll feel empowered to request the following practices from people you love:

Communicate simply and clearly.

As I illustrated at the beginning of this chapter, people with disorganized attachment often grew up in households with confusing mixed messages. For this reason, it’s important to be as clear and direct as possible in your speech, especially when it comes to instructions or directions, or when your partner or child seems stuck in indecision or confusion. This occurs most profoundly in the freeze state, when people can have trouble finding the right words, responding at all, or even forming basic thoughts. When this occurs, giving the disorganized person as few options as possible is the best idea. Even in a less-charged state, they might have trouble choosing where to go to dinner among a number of favorite restaurants, and under stress, it’s best to reduce any options down to two or three, max. Remember also to describe and explain things to children using age-appropriate concepts and language.

Be mindful of your tone of voice.

How we use our voice—especially the prosody, or tone of voice—communicates safety or danger to others. A melodic voice that employs fluid modulation and intonation fosters a sense of safety, whereas a monotone or robotic voice comes across as cold, uncaring, and in some cases, threatening. We often use a more musical tone of voice with babies and animals, our voice going up and down with affection in an exaggerated, singsong way. I’m not suggesting going around using the same type of voice with adults, but modulating your tone will certainly help when you’re speaking with others.

Think about how people’s voices change when they’re angry or feel endangered; that’s an evolutionary cue to the community that something’s wrong. When danger occurs, we are biologically and evolutionarily designed to shift our tone to alert the tribe. Women’s voices tend to become high-pitched and shrill, while men lower their tone and get louder, producing a booming voice. It immediately signals to other people that there is danger, that they should stop what they are doing and prepare to defend themselves. But when our voice does this under stress during a discussion or conflict with our partner—a relatively safe person (hopefully) whom we love—it can easily trigger their threat response, shifting them toward fighting or wanting to escape. So if you’re interested in reconciliation and a positive result for your relationship, it will benefit you to be mindful of how you use your voice. Practicing a calming, soothing, and well-modulated voice will reduce a sense of threat in your partner when you are trying to work out intimacy issues or relationship concerns. Shrill or booming, threat-stimulating voices will trigger our amygdala, or reptilian brain, that’s engaged in promoting survival responses, making our partner appear as an enemy rather than as our beloved.

Practice safe touch.

Using touch in a way that’s loving and conscious of another person’s boundaries also creates a feeling of safety. Physical touch amplifies anything we might be expressing verbally. In Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, Patti Wood says that we communicate regulation through regulated touch. That is, when we are regulated in our own body, we can convey physiological regulation even with a handshake. The key is to be centered and grounded in your own nervous system—within your own range of resiliency—before you employ touch in this way. Wood asserts that a simple, regulated handshake can offer more regulation than three hours of affirming, empowered conversation. Safe touch may help you and your partner regulate each other. Be mindful, however, that if your dysregulation is severe, it might be too much to touch another without dysregulating them. The chemistry or energy of your skin on theirs is communicated in a tangible way, so keep in mind the importance of taking time to establish your own regulation first if you can manage it. Think about how regulating hugs are when the other person is calm, loving, and safe. I’m not talking about those quick, pat-you-on-the-back kind of hugs, but the ones that involve bellies touching one another in a full-contact embrace. Try it with someone you feel close to. You can feel each other’s bodies regulating from this type of contact.

One technique I often use with clients is to begin by simply sitting next to the person. I feel what that’s like for a bit—getting a sense of their energy, so to speak—and allow them to get used to me. I ask if it is okay to place one of my palms near their back, between their shoulder blades, starting in their energy feld about three or four inches away from their skin, checking in with them to see how they’re doing. If that goes well, and they agree, I gently put my hand on their body and find the right amount of pressure—too much or too little can make a big difference. I also ask them to let me know where the best spot on their back is, and I shift my hand in response. By doing so, I am adjusting my contact in attunement with their request, so they have the experience of having their needs met as I convey safety, presence, and care. For ongoing support, we can teach our partners or family members to do this, too.

Look at others (and use facial expressions) with kindness.

How we use our face when we express ourself can also communicate a sense of safety to our partner. The eyes are of particular importance. Take the idea of what I call “the beam gleam.” It’s a soft, safe gaze you see between couples that display secure attachment. It involves a lot of eye contact, of course, but also a look that expresses appreciation, love, and a sense that the other person is special. As I mentioned, it’s important to invite this type of connection only when the person is available for it and not when they are dealing with shame, signaled by gaze aversion. Often their shame needs to be processed a bit before you can establish a nourishing connection with an attachment gaze. These nonverbal messages of connection and kindness really do trigger other people’s safety responses. Think about the difference in your partner’s face when they’re angry (scowling, tense) and when they’re happy to be with you (smiling, eyes wide and bright). People read your gaze and facial expressions all the time, even if they’re not conscious of it.

This is an excerpt from The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships by Diane Poole Heller, PhD.

Diane Poole Heller head shotPower of Attachment Book CoverDiane Poole Heller, Ph.D., is an established expert in the field of Child and Adult Attachment Theory and Models, trauma resolution, and integrative healing techniques. Diane developed her own signature series on Adult Attachment called DARe (Dynamic Attachment Re-patterning experience) also known as SATe (Somatic Attachment Training experience). Dr. Heller began her work with Dr. Peter Levine, founder of SETI (Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute) in 1989. As Senior Faculty for SETI, she taught Somatic Experiencing® trauma work internationally for over 25 years. As a dynamic speaker and teacher, Diane has been featured at prestigious international events and conferences. She is the author of numerous articles in the field.

Buy your copy of The Power of Attachment at your favorite bookseller!

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Helping Someone with a Disorganized Attachment Style Pinterest

Tracing the Roots of Your Attachment Style

Tracing the Roots of Your Attachment Style Header Image

Let’s face it: life is sometimes quite hard. It doesn’t matter who you are; all of us inevitably bump into challenges and hardships that are beyond our control. If you’re on this planet long enough, you’re going to be hit with some form of misattunement or loss or abuse or divorce or disease or a car accident or an environmental disaster or war or who knows what. Sometimes these events are so overwhelming that we don’t even have the capacity to react or respond to them. You can’t stop these things from happening; they’re just part of what it means to be human. And to make matters even trickier, epigenetic studies now suggest that—in a manner of speaking—we may inherit the struggles of our ancestors. In one way or another, we’re affected by everything that our grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on went through and suffered from. But we’re also the products of their resiliency. Throughout time and our evolution as a species, people have been experiencing hardships and doing their best to endure and survive them.

So, life is hard, and it isn’t your fault. That’s just the way it is, which means that you can stop blaming yourself as if you alone are responsible. There are countless ways for any of us to end up experiencing trauma, and most of them have nothing to do with how we live our life or what kind of person we are. That’s the bad news.

But there’s good news, too.

We can do something about it.

We’re all born with an amazing capacity to survive, heal, and thrive, which is precisely the reason we’ve made it this far to begin with. It’s what we’re built for.

Before we go on, I want to be clear about what I mean when I say the word trauma. Without getting too technical, trauma is what results from experiencing an event over which you have little control; sometimes—as in the case with major accidents—you don’t even have time to brace yourself for the impact. These events overwhelm your ability to function normally, and this can make you lose trust in your feelings, thoughts, and even your body. In this way, trauma is a form of tremendous fear, loss of control, and profound helplessness.

I’ve also started thinking of trauma in terms of connection. The theme of broken connection has come up in my work repeatedly over the years: broken connection to our body; broken connection to our sense of self; broken connection to others, especially those we love; broken connection to feeling centered or grounded on the planet; broken connection to God, Source, Life Force, well-being, or however we might describe or relate to our inherent sense of spirituality, open-hearted awareness, and beingness. This theme has been so prominent in my work that broken connection and trauma have become almost synonymous to me.

When trauma hits us or we’ve experienced a lot of relational wounding, we can feel like we’re utterly disconnected—like we’re a tiny little me who’s isolated and all alone, as if we’re in our own little bubble floating around in a sea of distress, cut off from everyone and everything. I think it’s our work to pop that imaginary bubble, or at least to build bridges that connect us to others we care about. Unresolved trauma, in my opinion, has led to a nationwide epidemic of loneliness and hurt. And it isn’t just in our country. The evidence of this type of pain worldwide is readily available any time you turn on the news. That’s not the whole story, fortunately. We can heal and change. All of us are capable of healing and repairing these severed connections: to ourself, other people, the planet, and whatever it is that holds it all together.

But we can’t do it alone.

First of all, we not capable of healing in isolation. We need other people. Stan Tatkin, clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and developer of A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) along with his wife, Tracey Boldemann-Tatkin, says that we are hurt in relationship and we heal in relationship. The presence of those close to us makes a difference even in the most dire circumstances. Just to mention one study among thousands, a hospital in Illinois recently demonstrated that coma patients recovered more quickly when they were able to hear the voices of their family members.

Like it or not, we’re all on this crazy and amazing human journey together.

We can never be completely safe, but we can move toward relative safety in life and in our relationships. We will never have our needs met perfectly, and we will never be (nor have) the perfect parent. Thankfully, that’s not required for deep and lasting healing. As we grow out of our wounded self and become a more securely attached, resilient being, we can foster the same process in others, becoming intimacy initiators and connection coaches for our families, friends, and the larger world.

Let’s take a look at both sides of our parents’ behavior. Each of us is a work in progress, and I’m sure your parents had some unfinished business along with their more admirable qualities. You may find this exercise helpful in taking a deeper look into what was problematic and painful as well as the gifts your family bestowed. So often our memories of difficult times overshadow the benefits we may have gained, so this exercise is aimed at helping us see more of the whole picture—to acknowledge and grieve wounds as well as celebrate wisdom gained. Of course, often we gain wisdom and compassion from healing our wounds as well.


EXERCISE: Perfectly Imperfect


Part One—What Was Missing or Hurtful?

You may want to start this exercise by making a list of the shortcomings or failings of each of your parents—those circumstances or behaviors that had the most negative influence on you as a child. What happened is significant, and how you internalized it is even more so. Sometimes it’s easier to recount our parents’ negative attributes than it is to remember any of their positive ones, especially for those of us with an ambivalent or disorganized attachment style. Our negative experiences may overshadow the everyday neutral or basically good experiences we may have had until we regain a sense of them after healing many early wounds. People with the avoidant attachment style tend to see their histories as mostly fine, until feelings of longing resurface and they realize what they missed relationally.

Part Two—What Was Beneficial or Supportive?

My mother was a tough teacher. She lived with unresolved emotional distress, but she was also fun-loving and generous. Despite sometimes being a less-than-ideal parent, she had her own ways of expressing her love to me with special celebrations, generous gift-giving, helping me with projects close to my heart, and shopping for fun bargains we called “treasure hunting.” My father was similarly complex: he was out of touch with his emotional self and gone a lot for his work, yet he was able to convey his love quietly in a steadfast way through providing for the family, locking the doors at night, fixing my bike, teaching me to water ski, and grilling great food for picnics. He also had the core value of volunteerism that survives in our family to this day. Both of my parents did the best they could under the circumstances, and together they taught us important core values.

Try looking at each of your parents through the lens of how they may have shown you their love. Write down all the ways you have learned important lessons, skills, and insights from your most important caregivers. It can help to describe your mother and father on their best days. As best you can, give them the benefit of the doubt and consider that they were doing the very best they could with whatever level of unresolved trauma or attachment injury they lived with, as well as with whatever resources, education, and healing strategies they had available to them at that time. See if you can detect their deep care amid their imperfections and harming behaviors, no matter how murky or inarticulate they were in expressing that love for you. What do you find?

This is an excerpt from The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships by Diane Poole Heller, PhD.


Diane Poole Heller head shotDiane Poole Heller, Ph.D., is an established expert in the field of Child and Adult Attachment Theory and Models, trauma resolution, and integrative healing techniques. Diane developed her own signature series on Adult Attachment called DARe (Dynamic Attachment Re-patterning experience) also known as SATe (Somatic Attachment Training experience). Dr. Heller began her work with Dr. Peter Levine, founder of SETI (Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute) in 1989. As Senior Faculty for SETI, she taught Somatic Experiencing® trauma work internationally for over 25 years. As a dynamic speaker and teacher, Diane has been featured at prestigious international events and conferences. She is the author of numerous articles in the field.

Her book Crash Course, on auto accident trauma resolution, is used worldwide as a resource for healing a variety of overwhelming life events. Her film, Surviving Columbine, produced with Cherokee Studios, aired on CNN and supported community healing in the aftermath of the school shootings. Sounds True recently published Dr. Heller’s audiobook Healing Your Attachment Wounds: How to Create Deep and Lasting Relationships, and her book, The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships.

As a developer of DARe and president of Trauma Solutions, a psychotherapy training organization, Dr. Heller supports the helping community through an array of specialized topics. She maintains a limited private practice in Louisville, Colorado.


Power of Attachment Book Cover

Buy your copy of The Power of Attachment at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound