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Podcast Ep. #28: With Jayson Gaddis, Relationship Expert

In this episode

We'd heard about Jayson and The Relationship School a few times over the last year and were super excited to read his new book Getting to Zero: How to Work Through Conflict in Your High Stakes Relationships.

It's absolutely packed with strategies, tips, and practices that can help anyone repair relationships and achieve deep connection after conflict. If you have a high-stakes relationship in your life, whether it's your marriage with your kids, at work, or a friendship, then you'll absolutely want to tune in. 

So without further ado, here's our conversation with the wise and amazing Jayson Gaddis. 

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About our guest

Jayson Gaddis is Founder of The Relationship School, a relationship coach, a trainer of relationship coaches, and an author. He's helped thousands of couples work through some of their toughest issues and build deep and fulfilling lifelong relationships. 

Show notes

Transcript highlights

1:56 

Justin: Yeah, Jayson, so thank you so much for coming on the Yes Collective podcast. I have heard about you from different people over the past year as I've gotten to learn a little bit more about relationships. We might talk about authentic relating. Later, I discovered that about a year and a half ago, and so. I started to learn more about relationships. And then, yeah, we heard, we heard about you. We heard about the relationship school and then Getting to Zero just came out and I've loved it. And so I'm really thrilled to have you on the podcast. Thank you for making time. 

Jayson: Yeah. 

Justin: So my first question is, Jayson, were you always good at relationships? Is this just like a natural skill? You just were always connecting and repairing? 

Jayson: No, man. I was the opposite of quote “good at relationships.” What I did get good at was and it took me till probably high school and actually, more importantly, college when I got good socially. But that doesn't mean anything. It just means that I got good at playing the game of getting people to like me.

So that's not necessarily someone who's good at relationships, right? Yeah, but I before that and then after that, I just was really sensitive and emotional on the inside, but wore a mask and, you know, just a facade basically that said, yeah, I'll do whatever I can to fit in and be liked and make friends because I had so many negative, you know, bullying experiences, getting excluded, girls not liking me. 

And, you know, just so many challenges relationally. And then in a family where their awesome family, but they didn't value like these subtler parts of relationship where we can really acknowledge someone where we can see them or we can slow down. And if we hurt their feelings, we can like clean it up and make it better again. Like that, none of that was going on. 

Justin: None of that. I heard you say you were good at getting people to like you. I imagine that there's probably a common assumption that that is what relationships are about. Like, if I can just get this other person to like me, then I'm good at relationships. So what's wrong with that view? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's the, I think that operating fueling that kind of approach is usually insecurity, self-doubt, scarcity, not feeling like enough and not having the experience of enough experiences where you feel rejected, abandoned, ignored, whatever, that you feel like you have to be someone else to get relationship or to belong. 

This is a really common pattern that I think most everybody falls in, especially growing up in your family and in your peer culture is if our true self comes out sometimes we get squashed and we get made fun of or hurt or people look the other way. And so that only has to happen really once or twice for us to kind of go, ok, cool, I'm not going to do that again. 

Justin: Oh yeah.

Jayson: And I'm going to instead do whatever will, whatever socially favorable behaviors get me belonging and I call this difference is just the difference between our true self and our strategic self. And this actually creates an inner conflict that most of us deal with our whole life. 

Justin: So the strategic self is figuring out, how can I make this situation easy? How can I be accepted? How can I achieve attachment? And then the true self, now that you mentioned it, what is that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's kind of who we are when we feel most alive and free in ourselves. And it's also maybe who we are when we feel most ashamed because it's, you know, to risk being authentic, I think in our peer group growing up, especially our family, you know, the risks were high. Like, one of our biggest fears is that we're going to be left or dropped or totally rejected and outcast. 

And for some social mammals like us, that's not good. It's not good for our health and well-being. And so our true self is like who we are, like deep down inside that hopefully when you find an awesome family or an awesome partner and great close friends, you get to come out and really be yourself. 

Justin: Hmm. So that's what a real relationship is, when you can be authentic and also in connection at the same time.

Jayson: Yeah. And even if you're trying, what's funny is people get married really naively thinking it's just going to all work out and they don't understand the gravity of the situation that really, if they've been in a strategy their whole life and now they get married, as soon as the honeymoon stage wears off, their true self can't help but emerge, and a lot of their true self is kind of messy. It's ugly, it's uncomfortable, it's shameful, it's embarrassing. 

It's, you know, the part of us that leaves our socks on the floor that doesn't clean up after ourselves, or that is very OCD and controlling and, you know, super hyper-vigilant, it's whatever we are. And it's hard to hide in a marriage. It's hard to hide in a family. And I think that's good news because it brings all the truth out so that we can love and learn to love. 

Justin: Oh yeah. So it's like the way I’m imagining it here is, you know, before marriage, we can avoid a lot of our stuff. We can just find ways to move through life. And then in marriage, now we're kind of confronted with this like, ok, I have a true self and then this strategic self and how can I be my true self, also, in relationship with this other person, that's going to trigger a lot. 

That's going to bring up a lot. And then you add kids into the mix. And I imagine there's a whole other level of complexity and triggering and stuff that you can no longer avoid. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. You got it. Spoken like a parent. Yeah. Another view here, are kind of the more spiritual type, is that our kids represent our disowned parts, parts of ourselves that we haven't loved. And so your kids are going to trigger you a lot. And as is your partner, and that's not a problem if you have a growth mindset, if you don't and you just kind of are hoping for a copasetic quote, happy, normal, peaceful situation. You're going to be up shit creek because it's just no, it's just not how it works. 

Justin: Well, it's yeah, it's the desire for the happy copacetic situation. But then, you know, we just moved this last year from Orange County, California to Savannah. But in Orange County, there were a lot of hard-charging A-type families where the kids were kind of groomed to be this perfect representation of what the parent wants to be seen as. And so it's not just happy and copacetic, but can I get my child to perform in such a way to reflect on me? Yeah. 

Jayson: Exactly. You nailed it. I mean, that’s the other big thing of parenting is how many parents are basically just trying to put their values on their kids. And of course, we're all parents are going to instill, try to instill, quote good values into our kids because we want them to grow up to be good people and, you know, contributing members of society. 

But I think in that type of culture you're talking about and here in Boulder, Colorado, it's very similar where there's a lot of hard-chargers, people just in general just want to go for it. And they're very image-focused, they're very status-focused. 

So if their kids are not kind of winning and getting A's and doing all the things, then it looks bad on them, right? It reflects negatively on them. And I worked with a lot of these families in residential treatment many years ago. It's a mess.

Justin: Oh, wow. Yeah, right, right. And so they're also coming up against some disowned parts. And uh, what's happening there as well. 

Jayson: Oh yeah, yeah, exactly. 

Justin: I want to talk more about this stuff. This is the stuff that I love to really get into. But I guess I want to spend the time that we have really digging into conflict. So I got your book a month or two ago and I've absolutely loved it. It's called Getting to Zero. 

One of the first things that popped out to me is you wrote: “The crux of a good, strong, long-lasting relationship is not the absence of conflict, but the ability and willingness to work through it.”

And so what came up first like, ok, is it possible to have a deep relationship like a long-term relationship, like a marriage without conflict? Like is there some, some golden land over the next hill where our relationships won't have any conflict? Or is it inevitable? 

Jayson: Yeah, I think it's inevitable, and my parents did a pretty good job of, you know, they have conflict, but they would say that they don't have conflict. And I grew up thinking, oh, my parents don't fight. And all they were doing was putting it on the shelf and compartmentalizing it. 

Justin: Yes. Yeah. 

Jayson: And then, you know, having a glass of wine and going to bed and hoping it was better the next day. So a lot of people operate like that. And that's ok. That's certainly one way to do it. But you're not going to have a very deep relationship and you're not going to have a very fulfilling relationship. 

Justin: So it's inevitable or so conflict is inevitable. And then what we need to do is they learn how to manage it and learn or really learn how to repair it. That was where the game's at.

Jayson: That's where the game is out. You nailed it. Yeah, because I mean, the book Getting to Zero is how to, it’s basically a translation of that, is getting back to a good place. How do we get back to a good place after we've had a difference, a snag, a silence after we've had some kind of conflict? And that's the work. 

And couples who do that well and families who do that well create security in the system and security in the dyad. And you're actually becoming not only stronger together, you're becoming more resilient and it's actually safer because you're saying, yeah, that stuff, that's kind of negative and uncomfortable, that's welcome here, too. We're not going to put that away. 

That's actually part of being a family. That's part of being a married couple, is this uncomfortable stuff between us that doesn't always feel good. That's really normal. I just, you know, I'm here to normalize for people that when you feel upset with your partner or your kids and you raise your voice, that's normal. It's what are you going to do after to make sure that person feels safe again with you? 

Justin: Beautiful. So we can think about Getting to Zero as the opposite of being triggered at level 10. So, yeah, 10 would be you are out of your mind triggered and then zero is coming back to that safe, oh, you, you had the safe, secure scene and soothed place. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah, that's right. Yeah, yeah. When I settle my nervous system, my scared animal I call it, that's kind of activated inside because I'm a social mammal calms down, right? I kind of like, chill out and you, your tone of voice and how you look at me and how you talk to me, all can help me. 

Actually, you know, I talk about how do we regulate ourselves when we're upset and then how do we regulate our partner when they're upset? How do we just be there for people or kids when they're upset? That's also really valuable skills that we can learn, and most of us didn't…

Justin: Oh my god, that's been the whole key for me. I really kind of started getting serious around therapy and emotional healing about a year and a half ago, really at the start of the pandemic. 

And one of the things that just has been such a revelation for me is that my outer relationships are just a reflection of my inner relationships. And if I can learn how to be comfortable with my own discomfort, with my own inner tension, with my with everything happening inside, then I can show up for my kids and my partner when they're triggered or uncomfortable. And that's, I mean, that came at the right time. 

Well, we decided to move about a year ago, and the first time that I remember reflecting on this is my daughter was really upset about, well, at first she was excited to move and then when it finally hit her, she was really upset. And the way that I grew up is that, hey, you know, we have many different strategies. We can distract, like, Hey, look over here. We can bribe. And then if distraction and bribing don't work, then discipline. I don't want to hear it again. If I hear it again, then you know, we're going to take away whatever. 

And like, I was going, like I was about to go down those, like, you know, the first time I was about there and then it was like, Oh, wait, wait, wait, what if I allow for her discomfort the same way that I'm learning to allow for my own discomfort? And it was beautiful. I mean, was it like a really, really cool experience. 

Jayson: Yeah. Kids need that, right. They need that kind of room to be able to go get mad, sad, hurt, scared, whatever. And parents, you know, I grew up in a similar situation where it was like mostly it was just shut down. You know, what are you crying about? I'll give you something to cry about, like, get over it. Suck it up. Come on. 

And it was scary. So scary to start to feel again. But now it's freedom now, and my kids feel safe to feel stuff in the house. 

Justin: Yeah. I mean, what I realize is, of course, before the kids, it was me that I came across this saying early on in therapy, “what we resist persists” and it was like, oh, well, you know me resisting all of these uncomfortable feelings, all this stuff, it's not making it go away, man. And so then to think about this with my daughter and is like, oh, I can find ways to avoid or shut it down, as you said, but what we resist persists is that feeling isn’t going to go anywhere. And so…

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. And I, similarlyI in my 20s, I was emotionally unavailable. I was like the classic, emotionally unavailable male. So every woman I dated because when they would get emotions, emotional emotions, and have needs and stuff and feelings, it was very uncomfortable for me. 

So I would kind of shut them down by pushing them away because I didn't have that capacity. And when I finally got partnered with my wife and I was starting to work on myself, I saw that, oh, the work here is she's emotional. The more capacity I have to be emotional over here, right? The more I can hold space for her upset because otherwise, every woman I dated prior to my wife, I was sort of shutting them down because I was not ok with my own emotions. 

Justin: It all starts inside, right? 

Jayson: Pretty much. But here's the thing like, it's in a relationship that we are able to see that the mirror gets held up to what it is that we're not getting about ourselves. 

Justin: Oh man, yes, I love it. I love it. All right. So let's talk a little bit about real-life conflict. So you write that there are five basic conflicts that couples have. So we have the surface-level fights, the childhood projections, security fights, value differences, and resentments. 

First off, so I think these five will be easily, I think, understandable just from their names. The surface-level fights, everybody knows. Maybe if you could explain childhood projections and security fights. So what is a fight or that has to do with a childhood projection? What what does that look like? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, a lot of the fights do start with some sort of surface argument. Let's say you and I are partnered in and you just have like a look on your face, right? And it looks like a surface thing. And now I'm upset. And now we're kind of like arguing about something. And it just started with the look on your face, right? It's like, what the heck just happened here? 

Well, if we look deeper, we would see that this, I might be projecting. Let's say you have this look that you go flat and you kind of look away from me when we're in conflict. Well, I grew up with a mother who went flat and looked away under stress, and that scared me as a little kid. So when you do that, look, it's similar and it triggers that old memory in my body, in my heart, my feelings that I feel like I'm right back in my childhood home. So I project my mom onto you. 

So this is basic psychology 101, but it can be hard for people to grasp. But basically, you can, you know, I just ask the listener, any time you feel like you're in your family of origin with your current situation, chances are there's a projection going on somewhere. 

Justin: I wonder is, it seems to me that those would be connected to particularly intense feelings. So is it the case that the further up we get on the trigger scale, that the more likely we are to be in some childhood projection?

Jayson: That's a good question. I don't know that that's necessarily true, but it might be. I'd have to think about that. I think it's just going on all the time, whether we're sort of in it or not and how activated we are. You know, it is true, though, that the more triggered we are in, the higher up the number scale we go, the less cognitive functioning we have, the less, the more inaccurate our memory is. We're not going to remember like, oh, that's not what I said. This is exactly what I said. People get into that kind of dynamic. It's like, no, no one knows what was said. And this is why we wish we had a tape recorder because our memory is incredibly flawed when we're activated. 

Justin: So our thinking brain, our prefrontal cortex is starting to shut down a bit and our emotional brain or the limbic system is coming on, so this would naturally bring us back into a space of childhood attachments and/or attachment wounds. Would that be the case? 

Jayson: Yeah. And sometimes if we're talking about attachment that happened in the first couple of years of life. And sure, there was attachment bonding going on after that. But most of the big, like the most critical time, is in those first couple of years. 

So if we had a parent who was absent, we're drinking all the time, or neglectful or abusive man, we're going to have a pretty hard time in our adult relationships. So that's why these first couple of years as parents are so vital to create what I would call a secure attachment, and that's offering this experience of the child feeling safe, seen to support, and challenged. 

Justin: And so that is related to the security fights. Is that right? 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And so security fights can be the most common way people can understand this as if I'm in a relationship with you and you have one foot in one foot out because you have—and we could be married and you still might have one foot in one foot out and you're just not fully here. That creates insecurity in me. 

And so the security of our vibe together is naturally going to be insecure. So that's one way to think about it. Another way to think about it is you could be in a 10-year marriage. And if repairs are not happening after conflict, you're in an insecure relationship. Or if you have a partner who refuses to come to the table and own their part, both of you are in an insecure relationship guaranteed.

Justin: Alright. So we have these five basic conflict types. Is it the case that some couples fight about one of these more than others? Or are these relatively evenly distributed across fights and couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, it's an important question. I don't know, but I will say all couples are going to experience these off and on for the rest of their partnership. 

Justin: So even if one is more prominent, all five of these are going to come into your relationship. 

Jayson: Yeah. And if they're not dealt with, you're just compounding everything and making it all much harder to deal with. You know, I sometimes work with a couple or a student and they've just have never dealt, you know, they just shoved it under the rug for decades, and now it's like every little thing hurts and it's like, ok, well, where do we start? 

It's like, well, let's start right now with the one that just happened, but now we have to go back with you and your person and clean up every single one of them if you want to be a zero. I mean, you don't have to be because a lot of people can live at a five. 

It's shocking to me that, you know, we’re all living with so much stress. Like human beings are kind of resilient and maybe in a negative way, kind of resilient, that people will live in really shitty relationships and really horrible situations for a long time. You know, it's not good.

Justin: When they come to you finally, and they've been living like this for so long. What generally has been their big fear around fixing this? 

Jayson: Yeah, there's three primary reasons why a person like this would avoid, and it's biology, history, and discomfort. 

So biology is again, we don't want to be left out, cast out, kicked out of the dyad or the herd. We don't want to live alone, die alone, etcetera. That's really bad for us. So we will do anything to keep the connection, including betraying ourselves, our history as we've had. We grew up in a maybe a traumatic household or a household that just was silent and everybody went to their corners of the house and there was no quote, no conflict. But it was also like no connection, no nourishment. 

That's another reason is because the history shows up in the present. When we get in an argument, that's the projection stuff and then discomfort. A lot of people honestly just really don't like what they feel in their body, heart, and mind when they get in conflict, it's really don't feel good, so they avoid that. So they're avoiding, I think, for a lot of these reasons. 

And then the last one might be they have no idea how. Right? Because when do you learn?

Justin: Oh. Now that you explain it like that, it's actually it's a miracle that anybody gets help. Because that's a lot. 

Jayson: Yeah. And so we have a lot going against us here. We can successfully avoid this just fine, you know? 

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. 

Jayson: And we're not fulfilled.

Justin: No, no. Oh gosh. Alright. So before I leave the five basic types, I just want to repeat them again because I have one last question. So the surface-level fights, it's the childhood projections, it's the security fights and then value differences and resentments. Is there one of these that is the hardest kind to repair?

Jayson: Well, I think I'll say two things there because it's a really good question. Repair, if repair isn't happening in partnership and it's gone on for years, that's going to be pretty hard unless the non-repairing person gets motivated. So it's almost impossible unless both people decide one day, let's do it differently and let's apply ourselves and learn how. And then value differences like I've been, this has been coming up with COVID, which is families who didn't know that they had such a big difference around vaccines. 

And also, there's a pro-vaccine person and an anti-vaccine person married, and they have two kids who are now at the age where they could get a vaccine. And now they have to deal with, “Well, I want to vaccinate our kids.” “I don't want to vaccinate our kids.” That's really tough, really tough. Especially if there are so fundamentally bound to their belief system, it's going to be pretty hard to deal with that.

Justin: Have you seen these couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, I've only seen a couple and it's the work I realized I was pretty fast, I was like, ok, well, this is like going nowhere because they were just so in their position. It's like, wow, good luck. 

But the work at that point for me is, can you deeply understand each other's perspective more than you ever have and have compassion, and can you even open your heart to the way they see the world? And that’s very healing and couples that can do that, at the very least, they can not judge each other so intently and they can go, “I understand why you believe what you believe and I and it makes sense to me.” 

They can even validate the other person like that makes sense. Totally. And I do, I'm going to do it differently, and I appreciate and respect your choice with your body and what you want to do.

Justin: Oh, love it. Yeah, I just learned over the past couple of months working with a couple of relationship coaches on a different project validation like that, and my assumption on validation had been that it's to say, yes, I agree. 

You know, I'm like validating in my mind was, you know, I accept and agree with everything you just said. And I learned, no, it's actually saying, I understand what you're saying and it makes sense. And then listening until they feel fully understood was a super-powerful concept right on let's walk through conflict. 

Now, I can remember so many times of the past conflict, either with my kids, conflict with my partner. And you write a lot about the nervous system. So conflict. It's not just up in our heads or just, you know, in some, you know, conceptual idea space, it's actually happening in our bodies. And so I'm wondering if you can just unpack this a little bit. How conflict shows up in our bodies. 

Jayson: Yeah. So because we're social mammals, we have this thing Stephen Porges calls the social engagement system where we feel safe enough to engage socially, and we're always on the lookout as social mammals for something that is unsafe, dangerous, or life-threatening. 

And we're just scanning, not even consciously. We're just scanning, like you walk into a party or an airport or a hotel or something your social mammal, you're scared animal is just on the lookout for threats, and we're just wired this way more than we are to love and to connect actually. Apparently twice as we're wired, twice as much for threat, then for connection. 

So we're these sensory beings that are always on the lookout below, usually below our awareness. And so when we get into, let's say again, a look on the face, a tone of voice, a text that doesn't get returned back on time, that can send my nervous system into a place of activation where the sympathetic part of our nervous system starts to kick in and I, my heart rate starts to increase and I start to mobilize to protect myself in some way. 

Justin: So this is essentially the fight or flight response, and we would be experiencing similar physical reactions if, like a bear began to charge. 

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. So this is a system that, you know, 10,000 years ago was really good for us, and now it's still a good thing. We want it. We want our scared animal to come online when we need it to. But so often it's firing unnecessarily. 

You know, you could be on Instagram and something that could threaten, your old ex and they're the way they're partnered with someone else could just like, send you into a whole reaction that would be similar to if you were seeing a bear across the road or across the path in front of you. 

So that's what's challenging now is we're dealing with a very primitive system that fires fast and often is wrong. And then our job is like, how do we work with that? And this is where we disconnect from center, from zero. If zero is like the place of good connection, we feel connected to ourselves and the other person. The moment we get threatened, no matter how big or small, we move away from zero and we move, I don't call it fight, flight, freeze, although that's what it is, I call it posture, collapse, seek, void. We just do these things to protect ourselves. 

Justin: Yeah. So you write about those as the four-disc connectors. And so we have entered into conflict. We're now our bodies are mobilized into this fight or flight response, and we're mobilized into these four disc connectors. Yeah, so it's seek or avoid, posture or collapse, seek and avoid. I think that that's self-explanatory, I guess. But then the posture or collapse could. Could you unpack that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Think of a person who raises their voice who gets kind of big and moves toward someone else in a conflict. And I call it a porcupine. You start your quills, come out and you're really starting to posture and get big as a way to protect yourself. Some of us do that, and some of us do the opposite, which is to get small. And that's the collapsing like a hermit crab. We go inward. We shut down. We get really still in really quiet. 

Justin: I'm now seeing this picture. We are triggered, the body is activated and then we are in this seek or avoid, posture or collapse where we're mobilizing these four disc connectors. And then you write about the four connectors, a feeling emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported. So I mean, your book really is about how to get from the, you know, this mobilized four-disc connector space to this emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported space, getting from activated and then this posture, collapse to safe and soothe? 

Is this really about doing the inner work that we were referring to before about, you know, learning about one's childhood stuff, about projecting, learning how to be with internal discomfort? Is it really about doing this deep internal work and that tips and tricks really aren't going to get the job done? That's what was coming up for me. 

Jayson: Yeah, I mean, I'd say yes and, so if you want to get better at this conflict repair cycle and learn to come back quicker, learn to own your part quicker, learn to help the other person chill out more and so you can guys feel good again, which is zero. Then looking at yourself is going to be the accelerated path. Looking at your history, you know, some people are like, I had a great childhood. I don't know why my partner is so triggering. Well, that just means you don't remember. And it was so subtle that because the passage is always going to show up in the present, no matter what childhood you've had. 

So it's less about like I have to go and reevaluate my whole past. The good news, that's why I kind of the book and my motto is you don't really have to do a ton of that. It does help because it just makes you more self-aware and more agile under stress. So you know yourself, and then you can educate your person that, Hey, this is what I remember. I grew up in a family like this. Remember when I was a kid? This was really scary for me. So when you do this, it kind of hurts. It kind of sucks. 

So can you at least have some empathy over here and we can kind of educate each other about how sensitive we are and how what works for us and what doesn't work for us, that's only going to help. So the and part of, yes, inner work and this collaborative work together where we're really trying to understand each other. Like, wow, you, you are wired like this. This is so doesn't make sense to me. Can you help me understand even more? And if we can bring a genuine curiosity about each other's nervous system, about what works and doesn't work. Then again, we're starting to act like a team, and it's going to probably go better for us. 

 

 

36:20

Justin: So I'm attracted to this idea that you have in the book, the emotional discomfort threshold. And so going back to what we first started talking about, can I become more comfortable with all of the stuff going on inside, which then allows me to show up and be more comfortable with big, difficult emotions in my kids or my partner?

Jayson: Absolutely. 

Justin: What are some tools or some practices that increase our emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, great. So meditation is a huge one that worked for me many years ago, and I created just a very simple meditation, almost mindfulness exercise that anyone can do in under two minutes. And I call it the nestr meditation. 

Justin: Yeah, which is in the book. 

Jayson: Yeah, which is in the book. I can walk through super fast if you want me to. 

Justin: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure. 

Jayson: Cool. Yeah. So you just do it right now. It's probably the best way to teach and this is like a minute, two minutes. Let’s close our eyes or go inside. And so let's just say a trigger just happened and you've got a little bit of space from your partner or your kid and you're like, kind of heated. So just check in. And we're going to go down this acronym NESTR and we're going to label things. 

So N is number. So you just on a zero to ten scale, what is your number right now? So you just pick a number, I’m gonna say I'm a three, I'm a little upset, but I'm not above a five, so I can still think about this so I’m gonna be a three. Great. 

So now we move on to the next letter, which is E, emotion, so we label our emotional experience sad, mad, glad, afraid, scared, upset, triggered, you know, whatever it is, we just put a label on it. That's the emotion. 

And then Sensation is something that's actually going on in your body. Hot, cold, sweat, tingling, tension in my chest, a mild headache, sore knee. Those are all sensations. 

And then T is thoughts. What are you thinking about right now? Well, I'm thinking about my partner and why they did what they did and my part. And it's just confusing. So that could be what you're thinking about. 

And then R is resource. Where do you just feel good and ok in your experience? Could be your toe, could be your chest, your head. So where do you feel resourced? And just we just hang with that and then if we want, we can, you know, stay another couple of minutes and ride the waves of specifically, the sensation because that's where the discomfort is, and this allows us to increase our discomfort threshold.

Justin: Awesome. Wow. So going on this process two to three minutes, and then if I'm still activated, I then just stick with the sensations and I just ride these sensations.

Jayson: Ride the sensations and try to. And this is more slightly more advanced meditation. But if you can put your awareness or your attention instead of on the breath, like most meditation does, in and out through the nose or whatever. 

You actually put it on the most uncomfortable spot in your body. Yes, and you find out if it's going to kill you. And usually, you find out it's not. And it's just like a wave, like a surfer and you and you're kind of like a surfer and you're surfing, you're riding this wave until it starts to subside. And the vast majority of time, if you can stay with it, it will decrease and then you just increased your discomfort threshold.

Justin: Absolutely. I love this. I love this. Yeah, I developed an emotional mindfulness practice almost a year ago when I had I had worked for four years actually doing health behavior change stuff with mindfulness-based stress reduction. And I was finding at least working with parents and particularly with our work with childhood cancer parents, which is where the Yes Collective came out of, you know, the straight normal mindfulness stuff might help a little bit, but parents were having a hard time getting connected to it and sticking with it. 

And when I started to learn about these more emotion-focused practices, I was like, oh, this is where it's at. Like, can we just go straight to where we're being triggered and can we open up to it? Can we get more curious about it? Can we ask it questions? 

And this has been so impactful for me and that we're now using it with our childhood cancer nonprofit. And yeah, I mean, it's such a powerful practice as you said, you know, when you go towards your most difficult, painful emotion and you see it's not going to kill me. Yeah, yeah. 

Jayson: It's not going to kill me. It's going to be ok. And again, I can also, I can be that for my children, right? Like if I can handle my own emotional experience and regulate myself because I'm the external regulator for children so I can now hold the space or be present with their huge tantrums and upsets and tears and anger and whatever and not go into reactivity. 

Justin: Is there an aspect, one thing that I brought into this emotional processing meditation is physical expression, like after asking the questions of really getting to understand what is this triggering emotion, can we ask it to move through our bodies? Like how does it want to move, you know, as a stretch or a deep breath? What do you think about bringing some of that work into the emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. Why not? I think anything that's going to help you get back to zero and back in your center with you and the person or people you care most about. Great.

Justin:  Awesome. Alright. So I don't want to give away too much of the book. This is an amazing book for anybody who cares about relationships. And so the title of the book is or the subtitle refers to high-stake relationships. And so I'm assuming that these tools can be used in any relationship like at work or, you know, in any sort of context. 

But for me, they just felt so powerful and so important for partnerships and then the parent-child relationship as well. So I encourage listeners to check out this book and check out your work. But before we land this plane, I just have to ask about Listen Until they Feel Understood. So do you pronounce it LUFU?

Jayson: LUFU.

Justin: So this is the first time I heard about this I interpreted it as listening until I feel like I understood that. And I was like, oh I got,  like, that's easy. I understand everybody. And then it was like, No, no, no, no, no, no. Listen until they feel understood. Yeah. So can you say a few words? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the short story of how this got created for me was because I kept listening to my wife in a really stubborn way and she'd say, I don't feel understood. I'd say, well, I do understand you. I don't know what you're talking about. You just you. I repeat back, she's like, no, I don't feel understood, like, yes, I do, and so that went on for years and I was like, this is getting nowhere. 

So I said, ok, I'm going to put the lever actually with her, and I'm going to say, I'm not, I don't understand you until you let me know that you do feel understood by me. And that changed everything for me and us because I became a better listener that day and I was like, oh wow, I really now going to have to apply myself even more because a lot of the time she shuts me down is like, “No dude, you don't get it.” And I'm like, “ok, cool, let me try again,” or “I need some space and I'll come back and try again later” because I'm too upset.

Justin: Oh my god. Yeah. Like, I thought that my understanding was up to me and I spent almost my entire adult life in academia. So it was like, I decide when I like, I have understood this. I see how it is. And it's such a little I mean, it's a subtle twist, but it's a game-changer to say, no, no, no, it's not up to you. Like, it's not your understanding of this is up to this person to say “yes, now you got it. Yes, now as I feel understood.” 

Jayson: Yeah. So LUFU, is this thing we teach? And if anyone comes to our events or practices, it's like the practice. Like if you can, if you can get this just as if you skip every part of the book, but you get this and you actually do it for the rest of your life, your life will completely change and transform because you're going to be that person everybody wants to talk to because they all feel understood by you. 

Justin: I love it. So I have a few final questions here. So how is your thinking changed over the years? So how? Well, first, how long have you been a relationship expert? 

Jayson: I mean, I don't really call myself that. I say I'm a student and a teacher of relationships because I'm always learning. But I don't know, 10, 20 years. Yeah, 10, 15 years. 

Justin: So I'm imagining that, so there's a lot that has changed or you've come across different tools and skills or you've seen some things kind of work, but other things work even better. Are there a few things that stand out that you've learned along the way that you've changed or that have changed you? 

Jayson: Completely. I think our understanding of the brain and neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology is completely, I don't know, just blown up and secure attachment. So I'd say, let me say a couple of things just to make this practical. So one thing is when couples get triggered and go to different parts of the house and just say, “I'll handle myself, you handle yourself and let's come back when we're better.” 

That is a good skill for all couples to learn, but it's not the finish line. And so my wife and I tried that and did that for years, but we kept, it was inefficient and the timing was off, and it just something about it wasn't quite clicking. So we learned more interactive regulation. How do we stay in the room and help each other's nervous system because it's actually faster, it's more efficient, and we can get back to zero quicker. And so that that was a big development over the course of our marriage. We've been married 14 years now. So that was huge. 

Justin: Can I ask something about that real quick? I, you know, I've heard of this strategy of, you know, the cooling down and, you know, going to several parts of the house or taking a walk. And it has always struck me as like something just doesn't click for me. And what is coming up now is that it's a really good way of avoiding the most important thing. Whatever is coming up in this conflict. It seems like it's a good way to avoid it because then you can come back together. You're both calmer and you can start to kind of patch up the more surface-level stuff, but you don't have to deal with maybe something big that's underneath. 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And then let me just say another layer of this in the parenting space, which is, you know, the time out is the classic understandable move a lot of parents make when their kid is, you know, really upset. And the parents have said, “you need to go to your room.”

Justin: That's right.

Jayson: You know, and the problem with that approach now that we know about more about attachment science and the nervous system is when you teach a kid over and over to go deal with this by themselves, they learn that relationships are not reliable and that you can't get back to a good place with another person. You have to do that by yourself. So you're creating an adult who will one day not value relationships and will go to drugs and alcohol, their phones, screens, porn, you name it, to get regulated, to get back to a good place. 

And they will not rely on relationships. And that's a bummer. And I see those adults and I work with those people all the time, and they struggle because they grew up in families like this where it was go to your room. So there's something way more efficient and powerful about relying on relationships to get back to a good place. 

Justin: Oh wow, that. Yeah, that hits me, I certainly grew up in a household that used those strategies, and one of the things coming up is a sense of big emotions are unsafe. Just they're unsafe. They're going to get you sent to your room, they're going to get you, you know, ignored or they are going to cause a loss of attachment. So then in adulthood, big, big emotions are just, yeah, just crammed, crammed those things down there as much as you can and avoid them as much as possible. Because when they come up, you have no tools. You’re traveling now off the map. 

Jayson: Yeah. And then you're left to fend for yourself and you can't you're not thinking like, oh, I need to actually ask for help from my partner or rely on my partner even if they're triggering me. It doesn't even cross your mind because you're like, no, this is up to me. And again, it's not ideal from a partnership kind of perspective. 

Justin: Hmm. I love it. Yeah. I just think back to how lucky I am that I had been doing some of this work before we made this move because there are just a couple of really big emotional moments that I know I would’ve shut down like I know without a doubt, I would have found a way to shut them down and just to stick with them. 

And so now just having this conversation with you, I'm feeling into gratitude around my kids being safe with big emotions, you know, with just like and we are going to be here for them and we're going to talk about it. So I feel like you had a couple of other things that had changed for you. So there was this biology aspect.

Jayson: Again, secure attachment. I would say that it's what we now know is that if we can behave in a way that offers what I call relational needs to our children, for example, in an adult partner by giving them the feeling of they feel emotionally safe, they feel seen and known and understood by us, and they feel soothed, meaning we repair conflicts when they happen every time, not once in a while, but every time. 

And we support them and we challenge them because we believe them and we have boundaries, right? No, you don't get that cookie. It's 10 o’clock at night and you need to go to bed. No, you're going to school, even though you don't want to kind of boundaries. We're creating security and those kids, the research shows, and I didn't learn this in graduate school, but studying Dan Siegel and so many other people, we now know that kids who are securely attached in their home environments grow up and they're doing better in every area of life.

They're holding down jobs longer, they're getting jobs better, they're getting better grades, they’re getting into better colleges, they're having healthier adult relationships. The list goes on. Less addictions, less mental health problems, on and on and on. So that's exciting. I'm like, wow. I would think that would motivate the hell out of so many parents to go, “Whoa, I need to figure this out.”

Justin: Yeah, I know. And it's I mean, it's changing the world. You know, you as a parent are part of the solution. You are producing children who are going to be healthy, well-adjusted members of this world doing good things like it. Yeah, it's totally like it's even bigger than you. It's bigger than us. Was there one other thing?

Jayson: No. But I want to add one more thing, which is what secure attachment isn't. Because I live in Boulder and a lot of people think secure attachment is just holding your kid a long time or putting him in the ergo or co-sleeping with them. While that might look like secure attachment, that's often coming from an anxious parent who doesn't want to mess up their kids. So that's a very big difference like if you're like, oh, I don't want to mess up my kids, so I'm going to hold him all the time or every time they cry, and I give him something or any time they struggle. I'm going to like, rescue them and like, bail them out of their pain. 

And oh my gosh. And like, that's no, no, no, that's not remotely secure attachment. So I call that just over parenting and over attachment parenting. And it's not actually, it's going in the wrong direction, right? 

Justin: We did not evolve like that. Have you come across the book Hunt Gather Parent? 

Jayson: I've heard of it. I have not read it. Is it good? 

Justin: Oh, it's amazing. Yes, because she travels. Yeah, yeah. So she's an NPR science correspondent, and she has at the start of the book, I think a four-year-old, and she travels to Alaska, to Mexico, and Africa to visit indigenous communities to see how they parent there and its base, I mean, it is almost everything that we're doing in the modern world. Just do the opposite. 

Jayson: Yeah, it's probably pretty hands up. 

Justin: Oh my god, it's well…

Jayson: It sucks because like, that's the problem with, like all the research now is parents can get so bound up like that, they're going to just mess it, just do this terrible job, and so they over function, they just go into overdoing it mode. 

Justin: Oh man. So the final question, Jayson, is what is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth? 

Jayson: Hmm. Well, there's a couple of things. I'm always working on my psychology around expansion and like touching more lives and earning more money, and there's just ways in which I get tied up in knots. There are some times, so that's a layer. And then my wife and I, we just went through, you know, thanks to COVID pushing an issue to the surface, like it did for so many of married couples, we just got really honest about some of our repair and process and got more efficient. And just I feel like we just recently have kind of crossed through another cool threshold. 

So we've been working at it pretty hard on how do we do this even better? I love it for ourselves, for our kids. And yeah, so I feel like we're always working on something. 

Justin: Yeah, the work never stops. So we have three last questions we ask every guest, just rapid-fire. If you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say? 

Jayson: Become more self-aware. 

Justin: Become more self-aware. And what is the quote lately that has changed the way you think or feel?

Jayson: Maya Angelou's quote, she says something like “Have enough courage to trust love one more time, always one more time.” 

Justin: Beautiful, beautiful. And our final question, especially for parents whose kids are toddler age. You know it can be a grueling grind on days. So we like to end by celebrating things that we love about kids. So Jayson, what do you love about kids? 

Jayson: Oh, my God. Just about everything. I love kids’ imaginations, their creativity, their play, their joy, and their like zeal and curiosity for life. It's just so insatiable. It's unbelievably inspiring to me.

Justin: Yeah, it's inspiring and infectious. I love it. 

Jayson: Yeah.

Justin: Jayson, thank you so much for making time for us. We really appreciate it. We love to have you back sometime. Your wisdom and insights are just super powerful, super impactful. And so if people want to check out your work and follow you, you're on all the socials? 

Jayson: Yup. @JaysonGaddis. Jayson with a y. J-A-Y-S-O-N-G-A-D-D-I-S on Instagram, for example, and GettingtoZerobook.com is probably a fun way for anyone listening to go take a conflict quiz to see what your conflict style is. To find out more about the book if you're want to get to the first chapter, if you're not ready to buy it. That's probably the best place to check out that. And there's links there for our podcast, the Relationship School podcast, and so much more. 

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you, Jayson. I really appreciate this man.

Jayson: Yeah, thanks, just an honor to be here. 


Podcast Ep. #28: With Jayson Gaddis, Relationship Expert

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Podcast Ep. #28: With Jayson Gaddis, Relationship Expert

In this episode, we're joined by relationship expert Jayson Gaddis to get to the root of how conflicts with our loved ones can help create stronger, more authentic bonds.

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Reading time:

60 minutes

In this episode

We'd heard about Jayson and The Relationship School a few times over the last year and were super excited to read his new book Getting to Zero: How to Work Through Conflict in Your High Stakes Relationships.

It's absolutely packed with strategies, tips, and practices that can help anyone repair relationships and achieve deep connection after conflict. If you have a high-stakes relationship in your life, whether it's your marriage with your kids, at work, or a friendship, then you'll absolutely want to tune in. 

So without further ado, here's our conversation with the wise and amazing Jayson Gaddis. 

Listen here

About our guest

Jayson Gaddis is Founder of The Relationship School, a relationship coach, a trainer of relationship coaches, and an author. He's helped thousands of couples work through some of their toughest issues and build deep and fulfilling lifelong relationships. 

Show notes

In this episode

We'd heard about Jayson and The Relationship School a few times over the last year and were super excited to read his new book Getting to Zero: How to Work Through Conflict in Your High Stakes Relationships.

It's absolutely packed with strategies, tips, and practices that can help anyone repair relationships and achieve deep connection after conflict. If you have a high-stakes relationship in your life, whether it's your marriage with your kids, at work, or a friendship, then you'll absolutely want to tune in. 

So without further ado, here's our conversation with the wise and amazing Jayson Gaddis. 

Listen here

About our guest

Jayson Gaddis is Founder of The Relationship School, a relationship coach, a trainer of relationship coaches, and an author. He's helped thousands of couples work through some of their toughest issues and build deep and fulfilling lifelong relationships. 

Show notes

In this episode

We'd heard about Jayson and The Relationship School a few times over the last year and were super excited to read his new book Getting to Zero: How to Work Through Conflict in Your High Stakes Relationships.

It's absolutely packed with strategies, tips, and practices that can help anyone repair relationships and achieve deep connection after conflict. If you have a high-stakes relationship in your life, whether it's your marriage with your kids, at work, or a friendship, then you'll absolutely want to tune in. 

So without further ado, here's our conversation with the wise and amazing Jayson Gaddis. 

Listen here

About our guest

Jayson Gaddis is Founder of The Relationship School, a relationship coach, a trainer of relationship coaches, and an author. He's helped thousands of couples work through some of their toughest issues and build deep and fulfilling lifelong relationships. 

Show notes

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to the Yes Collective for more expert emotional wellness just for parents.

Transcript highlights

1:56 

Justin: Yeah, Jayson, so thank you so much for coming on the Yes Collective podcast. I have heard about you from different people over the past year as I've gotten to learn a little bit more about relationships. We might talk about authentic relating. Later, I discovered that about a year and a half ago, and so. I started to learn more about relationships. And then, yeah, we heard, we heard about you. We heard about the relationship school and then Getting to Zero just came out and I've loved it. And so I'm really thrilled to have you on the podcast. Thank you for making time. 

Jayson: Yeah. 

Justin: So my first question is, Jayson, were you always good at relationships? Is this just like a natural skill? You just were always connecting and repairing? 

Jayson: No, man. I was the opposite of quote “good at relationships.” What I did get good at was and it took me till probably high school and actually, more importantly, college when I got good socially. But that doesn't mean anything. It just means that I got good at playing the game of getting people to like me.

So that's not necessarily someone who's good at relationships, right? Yeah, but I before that and then after that, I just was really sensitive and emotional on the inside, but wore a mask and, you know, just a facade basically that said, yeah, I'll do whatever I can to fit in and be liked and make friends because I had so many negative, you know, bullying experiences, getting excluded, girls not liking me. 

And, you know, just so many challenges relationally. And then in a family where their awesome family, but they didn't value like these subtler parts of relationship where we can really acknowledge someone where we can see them or we can slow down. And if we hurt their feelings, we can like clean it up and make it better again. Like that, none of that was going on. 

Justin: None of that. I heard you say you were good at getting people to like you. I imagine that there's probably a common assumption that that is what relationships are about. Like, if I can just get this other person to like me, then I'm good at relationships. So what's wrong with that view? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's the, I think that operating fueling that kind of approach is usually insecurity, self-doubt, scarcity, not feeling like enough and not having the experience of enough experiences where you feel rejected, abandoned, ignored, whatever, that you feel like you have to be someone else to get relationship or to belong. 

This is a really common pattern that I think most everybody falls in, especially growing up in your family and in your peer culture is if our true self comes out sometimes we get squashed and we get made fun of or hurt or people look the other way. And so that only has to happen really once or twice for us to kind of go, ok, cool, I'm not going to do that again. 

Justin: Oh yeah.

Jayson: And I'm going to instead do whatever will, whatever socially favorable behaviors get me belonging and I call this difference is just the difference between our true self and our strategic self. And this actually creates an inner conflict that most of us deal with our whole life. 

Justin: So the strategic self is figuring out, how can I make this situation easy? How can I be accepted? How can I achieve attachment? And then the true self, now that you mentioned it, what is that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's kind of who we are when we feel most alive and free in ourselves. And it's also maybe who we are when we feel most ashamed because it's, you know, to risk being authentic, I think in our peer group growing up, especially our family, you know, the risks were high. Like, one of our biggest fears is that we're going to be left or dropped or totally rejected and outcast. 

And for some social mammals like us, that's not good. It's not good for our health and well-being. And so our true self is like who we are, like deep down inside that hopefully when you find an awesome family or an awesome partner and great close friends, you get to come out and really be yourself. 

Justin: Hmm. So that's what a real relationship is, when you can be authentic and also in connection at the same time.

Jayson: Yeah. And even if you're trying, what's funny is people get married really naively thinking it's just going to all work out and they don't understand the gravity of the situation that really, if they've been in a strategy their whole life and now they get married, as soon as the honeymoon stage wears off, their true self can't help but emerge, and a lot of their true self is kind of messy. It's ugly, it's uncomfortable, it's shameful, it's embarrassing. 

It's, you know, the part of us that leaves our socks on the floor that doesn't clean up after ourselves, or that is very OCD and controlling and, you know, super hyper-vigilant, it's whatever we are. And it's hard to hide in a marriage. It's hard to hide in a family. And I think that's good news because it brings all the truth out so that we can love and learn to love. 

Justin: Oh yeah. So it's like the way I’m imagining it here is, you know, before marriage, we can avoid a lot of our stuff. We can just find ways to move through life. And then in marriage, now we're kind of confronted with this like, ok, I have a true self and then this strategic self and how can I be my true self, also, in relationship with this other person, that's going to trigger a lot. 

That's going to bring up a lot. And then you add kids into the mix. And I imagine there's a whole other level of complexity and triggering and stuff that you can no longer avoid. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. You got it. Spoken like a parent. Yeah. Another view here, are kind of the more spiritual type, is that our kids represent our disowned parts, parts of ourselves that we haven't loved. And so your kids are going to trigger you a lot. And as is your partner, and that's not a problem if you have a growth mindset, if you don't and you just kind of are hoping for a copasetic quote, happy, normal, peaceful situation. You're going to be up shit creek because it's just no, it's just not how it works. 

Justin: Well, it's yeah, it's the desire for the happy copacetic situation. But then, you know, we just moved this last year from Orange County, California to Savannah. But in Orange County, there were a lot of hard-charging A-type families where the kids were kind of groomed to be this perfect representation of what the parent wants to be seen as. And so it's not just happy and copacetic, but can I get my child to perform in such a way to reflect on me? Yeah. 

Jayson: Exactly. You nailed it. I mean, that’s the other big thing of parenting is how many parents are basically just trying to put their values on their kids. And of course, we're all parents are going to instill, try to instill, quote good values into our kids because we want them to grow up to be good people and, you know, contributing members of society. 

But I think in that type of culture you're talking about and here in Boulder, Colorado, it's very similar where there's a lot of hard-chargers, people just in general just want to go for it. And they're very image-focused, they're very status-focused. 

So if their kids are not kind of winning and getting A's and doing all the things, then it looks bad on them, right? It reflects negatively on them. And I worked with a lot of these families in residential treatment many years ago. It's a mess.

Justin: Oh, wow. Yeah, right, right. And so they're also coming up against some disowned parts. And uh, what's happening there as well. 

Jayson: Oh yeah, yeah, exactly. 

Justin: I want to talk more about this stuff. This is the stuff that I love to really get into. But I guess I want to spend the time that we have really digging into conflict. So I got your book a month or two ago and I've absolutely loved it. It's called Getting to Zero. 

One of the first things that popped out to me is you wrote: “The crux of a good, strong, long-lasting relationship is not the absence of conflict, but the ability and willingness to work through it.”

And so what came up first like, ok, is it possible to have a deep relationship like a long-term relationship, like a marriage without conflict? Like is there some, some golden land over the next hill where our relationships won't have any conflict? Or is it inevitable? 

Jayson: Yeah, I think it's inevitable, and my parents did a pretty good job of, you know, they have conflict, but they would say that they don't have conflict. And I grew up thinking, oh, my parents don't fight. And all they were doing was putting it on the shelf and compartmentalizing it. 

Justin: Yes. Yeah. 

Jayson: And then, you know, having a glass of wine and going to bed and hoping it was better the next day. So a lot of people operate like that. And that's ok. That's certainly one way to do it. But you're not going to have a very deep relationship and you're not going to have a very fulfilling relationship. 

Justin: So it's inevitable or so conflict is inevitable. And then what we need to do is they learn how to manage it and learn or really learn how to repair it. That was where the game's at.

Jayson: That's where the game is out. You nailed it. Yeah, because I mean, the book Getting to Zero is how to, it’s basically a translation of that, is getting back to a good place. How do we get back to a good place after we've had a difference, a snag, a silence after we've had some kind of conflict? And that's the work. 

And couples who do that well and families who do that well create security in the system and security in the dyad. And you're actually becoming not only stronger together, you're becoming more resilient and it's actually safer because you're saying, yeah, that stuff, that's kind of negative and uncomfortable, that's welcome here, too. We're not going to put that away. 

That's actually part of being a family. That's part of being a married couple, is this uncomfortable stuff between us that doesn't always feel good. That's really normal. I just, you know, I'm here to normalize for people that when you feel upset with your partner or your kids and you raise your voice, that's normal. It's what are you going to do after to make sure that person feels safe again with you? 

Justin: Beautiful. So we can think about Getting to Zero as the opposite of being triggered at level 10. So, yeah, 10 would be you are out of your mind triggered and then zero is coming back to that safe, oh, you, you had the safe, secure scene and soothed place. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah, that's right. Yeah, yeah. When I settle my nervous system, my scared animal I call it, that's kind of activated inside because I'm a social mammal calms down, right? I kind of like, chill out and you, your tone of voice and how you look at me and how you talk to me, all can help me. 

Actually, you know, I talk about how do we regulate ourselves when we're upset and then how do we regulate our partner when they're upset? How do we just be there for people or kids when they're upset? That's also really valuable skills that we can learn, and most of us didn't…

Justin: Oh my god, that's been the whole key for me. I really kind of started getting serious around therapy and emotional healing about a year and a half ago, really at the start of the pandemic. 

And one of the things that just has been such a revelation for me is that my outer relationships are just a reflection of my inner relationships. And if I can learn how to be comfortable with my own discomfort, with my own inner tension, with my with everything happening inside, then I can show up for my kids and my partner when they're triggered or uncomfortable. And that's, I mean, that came at the right time. 

Well, we decided to move about a year ago, and the first time that I remember reflecting on this is my daughter was really upset about, well, at first she was excited to move and then when it finally hit her, she was really upset. And the way that I grew up is that, hey, you know, we have many different strategies. We can distract, like, Hey, look over here. We can bribe. And then if distraction and bribing don't work, then discipline. I don't want to hear it again. If I hear it again, then you know, we're going to take away whatever. 

And like, I was going, like I was about to go down those, like, you know, the first time I was about there and then it was like, Oh, wait, wait, wait, what if I allow for her discomfort the same way that I'm learning to allow for my own discomfort? And it was beautiful. I mean, was it like a really, really cool experience. 

Jayson: Yeah. Kids need that, right. They need that kind of room to be able to go get mad, sad, hurt, scared, whatever. And parents, you know, I grew up in a similar situation where it was like mostly it was just shut down. You know, what are you crying about? I'll give you something to cry about, like, get over it. Suck it up. Come on. 

And it was scary. So scary to start to feel again. But now it's freedom now, and my kids feel safe to feel stuff in the house. 

Justin: Yeah. I mean, what I realize is, of course, before the kids, it was me that I came across this saying early on in therapy, “what we resist persists” and it was like, oh, well, you know me resisting all of these uncomfortable feelings, all this stuff, it's not making it go away, man. And so then to think about this with my daughter and is like, oh, I can find ways to avoid or shut it down, as you said, but what we resist persists is that feeling isn’t going to go anywhere. And so…

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. And I, similarlyI in my 20s, I was emotionally unavailable. I was like the classic, emotionally unavailable male. So every woman I dated because when they would get emotions, emotional emotions, and have needs and stuff and feelings, it was very uncomfortable for me. 

So I would kind of shut them down by pushing them away because I didn't have that capacity. And when I finally got partnered with my wife and I was starting to work on myself, I saw that, oh, the work here is she's emotional. The more capacity I have to be emotional over here, right? The more I can hold space for her upset because otherwise, every woman I dated prior to my wife, I was sort of shutting them down because I was not ok with my own emotions. 

Justin: It all starts inside, right? 

Jayson: Pretty much. But here's the thing like, it's in a relationship that we are able to see that the mirror gets held up to what it is that we're not getting about ourselves. 

Justin: Oh man, yes, I love it. I love it. All right. So let's talk a little bit about real-life conflict. So you write that there are five basic conflicts that couples have. So we have the surface-level fights, the childhood projections, security fights, value differences, and resentments. 

First off, so I think these five will be easily, I think, understandable just from their names. The surface-level fights, everybody knows. Maybe if you could explain childhood projections and security fights. So what is a fight or that has to do with a childhood projection? What what does that look like? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, a lot of the fights do start with some sort of surface argument. Let's say you and I are partnered in and you just have like a look on your face, right? And it looks like a surface thing. And now I'm upset. And now we're kind of like arguing about something. And it just started with the look on your face, right? It's like, what the heck just happened here? 

Well, if we look deeper, we would see that this, I might be projecting. Let's say you have this look that you go flat and you kind of look away from me when we're in conflict. Well, I grew up with a mother who went flat and looked away under stress, and that scared me as a little kid. So when you do that, look, it's similar and it triggers that old memory in my body, in my heart, my feelings that I feel like I'm right back in my childhood home. So I project my mom onto you. 

So this is basic psychology 101, but it can be hard for people to grasp. But basically, you can, you know, I just ask the listener, any time you feel like you're in your family of origin with your current situation, chances are there's a projection going on somewhere. 

Justin: I wonder is, it seems to me that those would be connected to particularly intense feelings. So is it the case that the further up we get on the trigger scale, that the more likely we are to be in some childhood projection?

Jayson: That's a good question. I don't know that that's necessarily true, but it might be. I'd have to think about that. I think it's just going on all the time, whether we're sort of in it or not and how activated we are. You know, it is true, though, that the more triggered we are in, the higher up the number scale we go, the less cognitive functioning we have, the less, the more inaccurate our memory is. We're not going to remember like, oh, that's not what I said. This is exactly what I said. People get into that kind of dynamic. It's like, no, no one knows what was said. And this is why we wish we had a tape recorder because our memory is incredibly flawed when we're activated. 

Justin: So our thinking brain, our prefrontal cortex is starting to shut down a bit and our emotional brain or the limbic system is coming on, so this would naturally bring us back into a space of childhood attachments and/or attachment wounds. Would that be the case? 

Jayson: Yeah. And sometimes if we're talking about attachment that happened in the first couple of years of life. And sure, there was attachment bonding going on after that. But most of the big, like the most critical time, is in those first couple of years. 

So if we had a parent who was absent, we're drinking all the time, or neglectful or abusive man, we're going to have a pretty hard time in our adult relationships. So that's why these first couple of years as parents are so vital to create what I would call a secure attachment, and that's offering this experience of the child feeling safe, seen to support, and challenged. 

Justin: And so that is related to the security fights. Is that right? 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And so security fights can be the most common way people can understand this as if I'm in a relationship with you and you have one foot in one foot out because you have—and we could be married and you still might have one foot in one foot out and you're just not fully here. That creates insecurity in me. 

And so the security of our vibe together is naturally going to be insecure. So that's one way to think about it. Another way to think about it is you could be in a 10-year marriage. And if repairs are not happening after conflict, you're in an insecure relationship. Or if you have a partner who refuses to come to the table and own their part, both of you are in an insecure relationship guaranteed.

Justin: Alright. So we have these five basic conflict types. Is it the case that some couples fight about one of these more than others? Or are these relatively evenly distributed across fights and couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, it's an important question. I don't know, but I will say all couples are going to experience these off and on for the rest of their partnership. 

Justin: So even if one is more prominent, all five of these are going to come into your relationship. 

Jayson: Yeah. And if they're not dealt with, you're just compounding everything and making it all much harder to deal with. You know, I sometimes work with a couple or a student and they've just have never dealt, you know, they just shoved it under the rug for decades, and now it's like every little thing hurts and it's like, ok, well, where do we start? 

It's like, well, let's start right now with the one that just happened, but now we have to go back with you and your person and clean up every single one of them if you want to be a zero. I mean, you don't have to be because a lot of people can live at a five. 

It's shocking to me that, you know, we’re all living with so much stress. Like human beings are kind of resilient and maybe in a negative way, kind of resilient, that people will live in really shitty relationships and really horrible situations for a long time. You know, it's not good.

Justin: When they come to you finally, and they've been living like this for so long. What generally has been their big fear around fixing this? 

Jayson: Yeah, there's three primary reasons why a person like this would avoid, and it's biology, history, and discomfort. 

So biology is again, we don't want to be left out, cast out, kicked out of the dyad or the herd. We don't want to live alone, die alone, etcetera. That's really bad for us. So we will do anything to keep the connection, including betraying ourselves, our history as we've had. We grew up in a maybe a traumatic household or a household that just was silent and everybody went to their corners of the house and there was no quote, no conflict. But it was also like no connection, no nourishment. 

That's another reason is because the history shows up in the present. When we get in an argument, that's the projection stuff and then discomfort. A lot of people honestly just really don't like what they feel in their body, heart, and mind when they get in conflict, it's really don't feel good, so they avoid that. So they're avoiding, I think, for a lot of these reasons. 

And then the last one might be they have no idea how. Right? Because when do you learn?

Justin: Oh. Now that you explain it like that, it's actually it's a miracle that anybody gets help. Because that's a lot. 

Jayson: Yeah. And so we have a lot going against us here. We can successfully avoid this just fine, you know? 

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. 

Jayson: And we're not fulfilled.

Justin: No, no. Oh gosh. Alright. So before I leave the five basic types, I just want to repeat them again because I have one last question. So the surface-level fights, it's the childhood projections, it's the security fights and then value differences and resentments. Is there one of these that is the hardest kind to repair?

Jayson: Well, I think I'll say two things there because it's a really good question. Repair, if repair isn't happening in partnership and it's gone on for years, that's going to be pretty hard unless the non-repairing person gets motivated. So it's almost impossible unless both people decide one day, let's do it differently and let's apply ourselves and learn how. And then value differences like I've been, this has been coming up with COVID, which is families who didn't know that they had such a big difference around vaccines. 

And also, there's a pro-vaccine person and an anti-vaccine person married, and they have two kids who are now at the age where they could get a vaccine. And now they have to deal with, “Well, I want to vaccinate our kids.” “I don't want to vaccinate our kids.” That's really tough, really tough. Especially if there are so fundamentally bound to their belief system, it's going to be pretty hard to deal with that.

Justin: Have you seen these couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, I've only seen a couple and it's the work I realized I was pretty fast, I was like, ok, well, this is like going nowhere because they were just so in their position. It's like, wow, good luck. 

But the work at that point for me is, can you deeply understand each other's perspective more than you ever have and have compassion, and can you even open your heart to the way they see the world? And that’s very healing and couples that can do that, at the very least, they can not judge each other so intently and they can go, “I understand why you believe what you believe and I and it makes sense to me.” 

They can even validate the other person like that makes sense. Totally. And I do, I'm going to do it differently, and I appreciate and respect your choice with your body and what you want to do.

Justin: Oh, love it. Yeah, I just learned over the past couple of months working with a couple of relationship coaches on a different project validation like that, and my assumption on validation had been that it's to say, yes, I agree. 

You know, I'm like validating in my mind was, you know, I accept and agree with everything you just said. And I learned, no, it's actually saying, I understand what you're saying and it makes sense. And then listening until they feel fully understood was a super-powerful concept right on let's walk through conflict. 

Now, I can remember so many times of the past conflict, either with my kids, conflict with my partner. And you write a lot about the nervous system. So conflict. It's not just up in our heads or just, you know, in some, you know, conceptual idea space, it's actually happening in our bodies. And so I'm wondering if you can just unpack this a little bit. How conflict shows up in our bodies. 

Jayson: Yeah. So because we're social mammals, we have this thing Stephen Porges calls the social engagement system where we feel safe enough to engage socially, and we're always on the lookout as social mammals for something that is unsafe, dangerous, or life-threatening. 

And we're just scanning, not even consciously. We're just scanning, like you walk into a party or an airport or a hotel or something your social mammal, you're scared animal is just on the lookout for threats, and we're just wired this way more than we are to love and to connect actually. Apparently twice as we're wired, twice as much for threat, then for connection. 

So we're these sensory beings that are always on the lookout below, usually below our awareness. And so when we get into, let's say again, a look on the face, a tone of voice, a text that doesn't get returned back on time, that can send my nervous system into a place of activation where the sympathetic part of our nervous system starts to kick in and I, my heart rate starts to increase and I start to mobilize to protect myself in some way. 

Justin: So this is essentially the fight or flight response, and we would be experiencing similar physical reactions if, like a bear began to charge. 

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. So this is a system that, you know, 10,000 years ago was really good for us, and now it's still a good thing. We want it. We want our scared animal to come online when we need it to. But so often it's firing unnecessarily. 

You know, you could be on Instagram and something that could threaten, your old ex and they're the way they're partnered with someone else could just like, send you into a whole reaction that would be similar to if you were seeing a bear across the road or across the path in front of you. 

So that's what's challenging now is we're dealing with a very primitive system that fires fast and often is wrong. And then our job is like, how do we work with that? And this is where we disconnect from center, from zero. If zero is like the place of good connection, we feel connected to ourselves and the other person. The moment we get threatened, no matter how big or small, we move away from zero and we move, I don't call it fight, flight, freeze, although that's what it is, I call it posture, collapse, seek, void. We just do these things to protect ourselves. 

Justin: Yeah. So you write about those as the four-disc connectors. And so we have entered into conflict. We're now our bodies are mobilized into this fight or flight response, and we're mobilized into these four disc connectors. Yeah, so it's seek or avoid, posture or collapse, seek and avoid. I think that that's self-explanatory, I guess. But then the posture or collapse could. Could you unpack that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Think of a person who raises their voice who gets kind of big and moves toward someone else in a conflict. And I call it a porcupine. You start your quills, come out and you're really starting to posture and get big as a way to protect yourself. Some of us do that, and some of us do the opposite, which is to get small. And that's the collapsing like a hermit crab. We go inward. We shut down. We get really still in really quiet. 

Justin: I'm now seeing this picture. We are triggered, the body is activated and then we are in this seek or avoid, posture or collapse where we're mobilizing these four disc connectors. And then you write about the four connectors, a feeling emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported. So I mean, your book really is about how to get from the, you know, this mobilized four-disc connector space to this emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported space, getting from activated and then this posture, collapse to safe and soothe? 

Is this really about doing the inner work that we were referring to before about, you know, learning about one's childhood stuff, about projecting, learning how to be with internal discomfort? Is it really about doing this deep internal work and that tips and tricks really aren't going to get the job done? That's what was coming up for me. 

Jayson: Yeah, I mean, I'd say yes and, so if you want to get better at this conflict repair cycle and learn to come back quicker, learn to own your part quicker, learn to help the other person chill out more and so you can guys feel good again, which is zero. Then looking at yourself is going to be the accelerated path. Looking at your history, you know, some people are like, I had a great childhood. I don't know why my partner is so triggering. Well, that just means you don't remember. And it was so subtle that because the passage is always going to show up in the present, no matter what childhood you've had. 

So it's less about like I have to go and reevaluate my whole past. The good news, that's why I kind of the book and my motto is you don't really have to do a ton of that. It does help because it just makes you more self-aware and more agile under stress. So you know yourself, and then you can educate your person that, Hey, this is what I remember. I grew up in a family like this. Remember when I was a kid? This was really scary for me. So when you do this, it kind of hurts. It kind of sucks. 

So can you at least have some empathy over here and we can kind of educate each other about how sensitive we are and how what works for us and what doesn't work for us, that's only going to help. So the and part of, yes, inner work and this collaborative work together where we're really trying to understand each other. Like, wow, you, you are wired like this. This is so doesn't make sense to me. Can you help me understand even more? And if we can bring a genuine curiosity about each other's nervous system, about what works and doesn't work. Then again, we're starting to act like a team, and it's going to probably go better for us. 

 

 

36:20

Justin: So I'm attracted to this idea that you have in the book, the emotional discomfort threshold. And so going back to what we first started talking about, can I become more comfortable with all of the stuff going on inside, which then allows me to show up and be more comfortable with big, difficult emotions in my kids or my partner?

Jayson: Absolutely. 

Justin: What are some tools or some practices that increase our emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, great. So meditation is a huge one that worked for me many years ago, and I created just a very simple meditation, almost mindfulness exercise that anyone can do in under two minutes. And I call it the nestr meditation. 

Justin: Yeah, which is in the book. 

Jayson: Yeah, which is in the book. I can walk through super fast if you want me to. 

Justin: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure. 

Jayson: Cool. Yeah. So you just do it right now. It's probably the best way to teach and this is like a minute, two minutes. Let’s close our eyes or go inside. And so let's just say a trigger just happened and you've got a little bit of space from your partner or your kid and you're like, kind of heated. So just check in. And we're going to go down this acronym NESTR and we're going to label things. 

So N is number. So you just on a zero to ten scale, what is your number right now? So you just pick a number, I’m gonna say I'm a three, I'm a little upset, but I'm not above a five, so I can still think about this so I’m gonna be a three. Great. 

So now we move on to the next letter, which is E, emotion, so we label our emotional experience sad, mad, glad, afraid, scared, upset, triggered, you know, whatever it is, we just put a label on it. That's the emotion. 

And then Sensation is something that's actually going on in your body. Hot, cold, sweat, tingling, tension in my chest, a mild headache, sore knee. Those are all sensations. 

And then T is thoughts. What are you thinking about right now? Well, I'm thinking about my partner and why they did what they did and my part. And it's just confusing. So that could be what you're thinking about. 

And then R is resource. Where do you just feel good and ok in your experience? Could be your toe, could be your chest, your head. So where do you feel resourced? And just we just hang with that and then if we want, we can, you know, stay another couple of minutes and ride the waves of specifically, the sensation because that's where the discomfort is, and this allows us to increase our discomfort threshold.

Justin: Awesome. Wow. So going on this process two to three minutes, and then if I'm still activated, I then just stick with the sensations and I just ride these sensations.

Jayson: Ride the sensations and try to. And this is more slightly more advanced meditation. But if you can put your awareness or your attention instead of on the breath, like most meditation does, in and out through the nose or whatever. 

You actually put it on the most uncomfortable spot in your body. Yes, and you find out if it's going to kill you. And usually, you find out it's not. And it's just like a wave, like a surfer and you and you're kind of like a surfer and you're surfing, you're riding this wave until it starts to subside. And the vast majority of time, if you can stay with it, it will decrease and then you just increased your discomfort threshold.

Justin: Absolutely. I love this. I love this. Yeah, I developed an emotional mindfulness practice almost a year ago when I had I had worked for four years actually doing health behavior change stuff with mindfulness-based stress reduction. And I was finding at least working with parents and particularly with our work with childhood cancer parents, which is where the Yes Collective came out of, you know, the straight normal mindfulness stuff might help a little bit, but parents were having a hard time getting connected to it and sticking with it. 

And when I started to learn about these more emotion-focused practices, I was like, oh, this is where it's at. Like, can we just go straight to where we're being triggered and can we open up to it? Can we get more curious about it? Can we ask it questions? 

And this has been so impactful for me and that we're now using it with our childhood cancer nonprofit. And yeah, I mean, it's such a powerful practice as you said, you know, when you go towards your most difficult, painful emotion and you see it's not going to kill me. Yeah, yeah. 

Jayson: It's not going to kill me. It's going to be ok. And again, I can also, I can be that for my children, right? Like if I can handle my own emotional experience and regulate myself because I'm the external regulator for children so I can now hold the space or be present with their huge tantrums and upsets and tears and anger and whatever and not go into reactivity. 

Justin: Is there an aspect, one thing that I brought into this emotional processing meditation is physical expression, like after asking the questions of really getting to understand what is this triggering emotion, can we ask it to move through our bodies? Like how does it want to move, you know, as a stretch or a deep breath? What do you think about bringing some of that work into the emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. Why not? I think anything that's going to help you get back to zero and back in your center with you and the person or people you care most about. Great.

Justin:  Awesome. Alright. So I don't want to give away too much of the book. This is an amazing book for anybody who cares about relationships. And so the title of the book is or the subtitle refers to high-stake relationships. And so I'm assuming that these tools can be used in any relationship like at work or, you know, in any sort of context. 

But for me, they just felt so powerful and so important for partnerships and then the parent-child relationship as well. So I encourage listeners to check out this book and check out your work. But before we land this plane, I just have to ask about Listen Until they Feel Understood. So do you pronounce it LUFU?

Jayson: LUFU.

Justin: So this is the first time I heard about this I interpreted it as listening until I feel like I understood that. And I was like, oh I got,  like, that's easy. I understand everybody. And then it was like, No, no, no, no, no, no. Listen until they feel understood. Yeah. So can you say a few words? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the short story of how this got created for me was because I kept listening to my wife in a really stubborn way and she'd say, I don't feel understood. I'd say, well, I do understand you. I don't know what you're talking about. You just you. I repeat back, she's like, no, I don't feel understood, like, yes, I do, and so that went on for years and I was like, this is getting nowhere. 

So I said, ok, I'm going to put the lever actually with her, and I'm going to say, I'm not, I don't understand you until you let me know that you do feel understood by me. And that changed everything for me and us because I became a better listener that day and I was like, oh wow, I really now going to have to apply myself even more because a lot of the time she shuts me down is like, “No dude, you don't get it.” And I'm like, “ok, cool, let me try again,” or “I need some space and I'll come back and try again later” because I'm too upset.

Justin: Oh my god. Yeah. Like, I thought that my understanding was up to me and I spent almost my entire adult life in academia. So it was like, I decide when I like, I have understood this. I see how it is. And it's such a little I mean, it's a subtle twist, but it's a game-changer to say, no, no, no, it's not up to you. Like, it's not your understanding of this is up to this person to say “yes, now you got it. Yes, now as I feel understood.” 

Jayson: Yeah. So LUFU, is this thing we teach? And if anyone comes to our events or practices, it's like the practice. Like if you can, if you can get this just as if you skip every part of the book, but you get this and you actually do it for the rest of your life, your life will completely change and transform because you're going to be that person everybody wants to talk to because they all feel understood by you. 

Justin: I love it. So I have a few final questions here. So how is your thinking changed over the years? So how? Well, first, how long have you been a relationship expert? 

Jayson: I mean, I don't really call myself that. I say I'm a student and a teacher of relationships because I'm always learning. But I don't know, 10, 20 years. Yeah, 10, 15 years. 

Justin: So I'm imagining that, so there's a lot that has changed or you've come across different tools and skills or you've seen some things kind of work, but other things work even better. Are there a few things that stand out that you've learned along the way that you've changed or that have changed you? 

Jayson: Completely. I think our understanding of the brain and neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology is completely, I don't know, just blown up and secure attachment. So I'd say, let me say a couple of things just to make this practical. So one thing is when couples get triggered and go to different parts of the house and just say, “I'll handle myself, you handle yourself and let's come back when we're better.” 

That is a good skill for all couples to learn, but it's not the finish line. And so my wife and I tried that and did that for years, but we kept, it was inefficient and the timing was off, and it just something about it wasn't quite clicking. So we learned more interactive regulation. How do we stay in the room and help each other's nervous system because it's actually faster, it's more efficient, and we can get back to zero quicker. And so that that was a big development over the course of our marriage. We've been married 14 years now. So that was huge. 

Justin: Can I ask something about that real quick? I, you know, I've heard of this strategy of, you know, the cooling down and, you know, going to several parts of the house or taking a walk. And it has always struck me as like something just doesn't click for me. And what is coming up now is that it's a really good way of avoiding the most important thing. Whatever is coming up in this conflict. It seems like it's a good way to avoid it because then you can come back together. You're both calmer and you can start to kind of patch up the more surface-level stuff, but you don't have to deal with maybe something big that's underneath. 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And then let me just say another layer of this in the parenting space, which is, you know, the time out is the classic understandable move a lot of parents make when their kid is, you know, really upset. And the parents have said, “you need to go to your room.”

Justin: That's right.

Jayson: You know, and the problem with that approach now that we know about more about attachment science and the nervous system is when you teach a kid over and over to go deal with this by themselves, they learn that relationships are not reliable and that you can't get back to a good place with another person. You have to do that by yourself. So you're creating an adult who will one day not value relationships and will go to drugs and alcohol, their phones, screens, porn, you name it, to get regulated, to get back to a good place. 

And they will not rely on relationships. And that's a bummer. And I see those adults and I work with those people all the time, and they struggle because they grew up in families like this where it was go to your room. So there's something way more efficient and powerful about relying on relationships to get back to a good place. 

Justin: Oh wow, that. Yeah, that hits me, I certainly grew up in a household that used those strategies, and one of the things coming up is a sense of big emotions are unsafe. Just they're unsafe. They're going to get you sent to your room, they're going to get you, you know, ignored or they are going to cause a loss of attachment. So then in adulthood, big, big emotions are just, yeah, just crammed, crammed those things down there as much as you can and avoid them as much as possible. Because when they come up, you have no tools. You’re traveling now off the map. 

Jayson: Yeah. And then you're left to fend for yourself and you can't you're not thinking like, oh, I need to actually ask for help from my partner or rely on my partner even if they're triggering me. It doesn't even cross your mind because you're like, no, this is up to me. And again, it's not ideal from a partnership kind of perspective. 

Justin: Hmm. I love it. Yeah. I just think back to how lucky I am that I had been doing some of this work before we made this move because there are just a couple of really big emotional moments that I know I would’ve shut down like I know without a doubt, I would have found a way to shut them down and just to stick with them. 

And so now just having this conversation with you, I'm feeling into gratitude around my kids being safe with big emotions, you know, with just like and we are going to be here for them and we're going to talk about it. So I feel like you had a couple of other things that had changed for you. So there was this biology aspect.

Jayson: Again, secure attachment. I would say that it's what we now know is that if we can behave in a way that offers what I call relational needs to our children, for example, in an adult partner by giving them the feeling of they feel emotionally safe, they feel seen and known and understood by us, and they feel soothed, meaning we repair conflicts when they happen every time, not once in a while, but every time. 

And we support them and we challenge them because we believe them and we have boundaries, right? No, you don't get that cookie. It's 10 o’clock at night and you need to go to bed. No, you're going to school, even though you don't want to kind of boundaries. We're creating security and those kids, the research shows, and I didn't learn this in graduate school, but studying Dan Siegel and so many other people, we now know that kids who are securely attached in their home environments grow up and they're doing better in every area of life.

They're holding down jobs longer, they're getting jobs better, they're getting better grades, they’re getting into better colleges, they're having healthier adult relationships. The list goes on. Less addictions, less mental health problems, on and on and on. So that's exciting. I'm like, wow. I would think that would motivate the hell out of so many parents to go, “Whoa, I need to figure this out.”

Justin: Yeah, I know. And it's I mean, it's changing the world. You know, you as a parent are part of the solution. You are producing children who are going to be healthy, well-adjusted members of this world doing good things like it. Yeah, it's totally like it's even bigger than you. It's bigger than us. Was there one other thing?

Jayson: No. But I want to add one more thing, which is what secure attachment isn't. Because I live in Boulder and a lot of people think secure attachment is just holding your kid a long time or putting him in the ergo or co-sleeping with them. While that might look like secure attachment, that's often coming from an anxious parent who doesn't want to mess up their kids. So that's a very big difference like if you're like, oh, I don't want to mess up my kids, so I'm going to hold him all the time or every time they cry, and I give him something or any time they struggle. I'm going to like, rescue them and like, bail them out of their pain. 

And oh my gosh. And like, that's no, no, no, that's not remotely secure attachment. So I call that just over parenting and over attachment parenting. And it's not actually, it's going in the wrong direction, right? 

Justin: We did not evolve like that. Have you come across the book Hunt Gather Parent? 

Jayson: I've heard of it. I have not read it. Is it good? 

Justin: Oh, it's amazing. Yes, because she travels. Yeah, yeah. So she's an NPR science correspondent, and she has at the start of the book, I think a four-year-old, and she travels to Alaska, to Mexico, and Africa to visit indigenous communities to see how they parent there and its base, I mean, it is almost everything that we're doing in the modern world. Just do the opposite. 

Jayson: Yeah, it's probably pretty hands up. 

Justin: Oh my god, it's well…

Jayson: It sucks because like, that's the problem with, like all the research now is parents can get so bound up like that, they're going to just mess it, just do this terrible job, and so they over function, they just go into overdoing it mode. 

Justin: Oh man. So the final question, Jayson, is what is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth? 

Jayson: Hmm. Well, there's a couple of things. I'm always working on my psychology around expansion and like touching more lives and earning more money, and there's just ways in which I get tied up in knots. There are some times, so that's a layer. And then my wife and I, we just went through, you know, thanks to COVID pushing an issue to the surface, like it did for so many of married couples, we just got really honest about some of our repair and process and got more efficient. And just I feel like we just recently have kind of crossed through another cool threshold. 

So we've been working at it pretty hard on how do we do this even better? I love it for ourselves, for our kids. And yeah, so I feel like we're always working on something. 

Justin: Yeah, the work never stops. So we have three last questions we ask every guest, just rapid-fire. If you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say? 

Jayson: Become more self-aware. 

Justin: Become more self-aware. And what is the quote lately that has changed the way you think or feel?

Jayson: Maya Angelou's quote, she says something like “Have enough courage to trust love one more time, always one more time.” 

Justin: Beautiful, beautiful. And our final question, especially for parents whose kids are toddler age. You know it can be a grueling grind on days. So we like to end by celebrating things that we love about kids. So Jayson, what do you love about kids? 

Jayson: Oh, my God. Just about everything. I love kids’ imaginations, their creativity, their play, their joy, and their like zeal and curiosity for life. It's just so insatiable. It's unbelievably inspiring to me.

Justin: Yeah, it's inspiring and infectious. I love it. 

Jayson: Yeah.

Justin: Jayson, thank you so much for making time for us. We really appreciate it. We love to have you back sometime. Your wisdom and insights are just super powerful, super impactful. And so if people want to check out your work and follow you, you're on all the socials? 

Jayson: Yup. @JaysonGaddis. Jayson with a y. J-A-Y-S-O-N-G-A-D-D-I-S on Instagram, for example, and GettingtoZerobook.com is probably a fun way for anyone listening to go take a conflict quiz to see what your conflict style is. To find out more about the book if you're want to get to the first chapter, if you're not ready to buy it. That's probably the best place to check out that. And there's links there for our podcast, the Relationship School podcast, and so much more. 

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you, Jayson. I really appreciate this man.

Jayson: Yeah, thanks, just an honor to be here. 


Transcript highlights

1:56 

Justin: Yeah, Jayson, so thank you so much for coming on the Yes Collective podcast. I have heard about you from different people over the past year as I've gotten to learn a little bit more about relationships. We might talk about authentic relating. Later, I discovered that about a year and a half ago, and so. I started to learn more about relationships. And then, yeah, we heard, we heard about you. We heard about the relationship school and then Getting to Zero just came out and I've loved it. And so I'm really thrilled to have you on the podcast. Thank you for making time. 

Jayson: Yeah. 

Justin: So my first question is, Jayson, were you always good at relationships? Is this just like a natural skill? You just were always connecting and repairing? 

Jayson: No, man. I was the opposite of quote “good at relationships.” What I did get good at was and it took me till probably high school and actually, more importantly, college when I got good socially. But that doesn't mean anything. It just means that I got good at playing the game of getting people to like me.

So that's not necessarily someone who's good at relationships, right? Yeah, but I before that and then after that, I just was really sensitive and emotional on the inside, but wore a mask and, you know, just a facade basically that said, yeah, I'll do whatever I can to fit in and be liked and make friends because I had so many negative, you know, bullying experiences, getting excluded, girls not liking me. 

And, you know, just so many challenges relationally. And then in a family where their awesome family, but they didn't value like these subtler parts of relationship where we can really acknowledge someone where we can see them or we can slow down. And if we hurt their feelings, we can like clean it up and make it better again. Like that, none of that was going on. 

Justin: None of that. I heard you say you were good at getting people to like you. I imagine that there's probably a common assumption that that is what relationships are about. Like, if I can just get this other person to like me, then I'm good at relationships. So what's wrong with that view? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's the, I think that operating fueling that kind of approach is usually insecurity, self-doubt, scarcity, not feeling like enough and not having the experience of enough experiences where you feel rejected, abandoned, ignored, whatever, that you feel like you have to be someone else to get relationship or to belong. 

This is a really common pattern that I think most everybody falls in, especially growing up in your family and in your peer culture is if our true self comes out sometimes we get squashed and we get made fun of or hurt or people look the other way. And so that only has to happen really once or twice for us to kind of go, ok, cool, I'm not going to do that again. 

Justin: Oh yeah.

Jayson: And I'm going to instead do whatever will, whatever socially favorable behaviors get me belonging and I call this difference is just the difference between our true self and our strategic self. And this actually creates an inner conflict that most of us deal with our whole life. 

Justin: So the strategic self is figuring out, how can I make this situation easy? How can I be accepted? How can I achieve attachment? And then the true self, now that you mentioned it, what is that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's kind of who we are when we feel most alive and free in ourselves. And it's also maybe who we are when we feel most ashamed because it's, you know, to risk being authentic, I think in our peer group growing up, especially our family, you know, the risks were high. Like, one of our biggest fears is that we're going to be left or dropped or totally rejected and outcast. 

And for some social mammals like us, that's not good. It's not good for our health and well-being. And so our true self is like who we are, like deep down inside that hopefully when you find an awesome family or an awesome partner and great close friends, you get to come out and really be yourself. 

Justin: Hmm. So that's what a real relationship is, when you can be authentic and also in connection at the same time.

Jayson: Yeah. And even if you're trying, what's funny is people get married really naively thinking it's just going to all work out and they don't understand the gravity of the situation that really, if they've been in a strategy their whole life and now they get married, as soon as the honeymoon stage wears off, their true self can't help but emerge, and a lot of their true self is kind of messy. It's ugly, it's uncomfortable, it's shameful, it's embarrassing. 

It's, you know, the part of us that leaves our socks on the floor that doesn't clean up after ourselves, or that is very OCD and controlling and, you know, super hyper-vigilant, it's whatever we are. And it's hard to hide in a marriage. It's hard to hide in a family. And I think that's good news because it brings all the truth out so that we can love and learn to love. 

Justin: Oh yeah. So it's like the way I’m imagining it here is, you know, before marriage, we can avoid a lot of our stuff. We can just find ways to move through life. And then in marriage, now we're kind of confronted with this like, ok, I have a true self and then this strategic self and how can I be my true self, also, in relationship with this other person, that's going to trigger a lot. 

That's going to bring up a lot. And then you add kids into the mix. And I imagine there's a whole other level of complexity and triggering and stuff that you can no longer avoid. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. You got it. Spoken like a parent. Yeah. Another view here, are kind of the more spiritual type, is that our kids represent our disowned parts, parts of ourselves that we haven't loved. And so your kids are going to trigger you a lot. And as is your partner, and that's not a problem if you have a growth mindset, if you don't and you just kind of are hoping for a copasetic quote, happy, normal, peaceful situation. You're going to be up shit creek because it's just no, it's just not how it works. 

Justin: Well, it's yeah, it's the desire for the happy copacetic situation. But then, you know, we just moved this last year from Orange County, California to Savannah. But in Orange County, there were a lot of hard-charging A-type families where the kids were kind of groomed to be this perfect representation of what the parent wants to be seen as. And so it's not just happy and copacetic, but can I get my child to perform in such a way to reflect on me? Yeah. 

Jayson: Exactly. You nailed it. I mean, that’s the other big thing of parenting is how many parents are basically just trying to put their values on their kids. And of course, we're all parents are going to instill, try to instill, quote good values into our kids because we want them to grow up to be good people and, you know, contributing members of society. 

But I think in that type of culture you're talking about and here in Boulder, Colorado, it's very similar where there's a lot of hard-chargers, people just in general just want to go for it. And they're very image-focused, they're very status-focused. 

So if their kids are not kind of winning and getting A's and doing all the things, then it looks bad on them, right? It reflects negatively on them. And I worked with a lot of these families in residential treatment many years ago. It's a mess.

Justin: Oh, wow. Yeah, right, right. And so they're also coming up against some disowned parts. And uh, what's happening there as well. 

Jayson: Oh yeah, yeah, exactly. 

Justin: I want to talk more about this stuff. This is the stuff that I love to really get into. But I guess I want to spend the time that we have really digging into conflict. So I got your book a month or two ago and I've absolutely loved it. It's called Getting to Zero. 

One of the first things that popped out to me is you wrote: “The crux of a good, strong, long-lasting relationship is not the absence of conflict, but the ability and willingness to work through it.”

And so what came up first like, ok, is it possible to have a deep relationship like a long-term relationship, like a marriage without conflict? Like is there some, some golden land over the next hill where our relationships won't have any conflict? Or is it inevitable? 

Jayson: Yeah, I think it's inevitable, and my parents did a pretty good job of, you know, they have conflict, but they would say that they don't have conflict. And I grew up thinking, oh, my parents don't fight. And all they were doing was putting it on the shelf and compartmentalizing it. 

Justin: Yes. Yeah. 

Jayson: And then, you know, having a glass of wine and going to bed and hoping it was better the next day. So a lot of people operate like that. And that's ok. That's certainly one way to do it. But you're not going to have a very deep relationship and you're not going to have a very fulfilling relationship. 

Justin: So it's inevitable or so conflict is inevitable. And then what we need to do is they learn how to manage it and learn or really learn how to repair it. That was where the game's at.

Jayson: That's where the game is out. You nailed it. Yeah, because I mean, the book Getting to Zero is how to, it’s basically a translation of that, is getting back to a good place. How do we get back to a good place after we've had a difference, a snag, a silence after we've had some kind of conflict? And that's the work. 

And couples who do that well and families who do that well create security in the system and security in the dyad. And you're actually becoming not only stronger together, you're becoming more resilient and it's actually safer because you're saying, yeah, that stuff, that's kind of negative and uncomfortable, that's welcome here, too. We're not going to put that away. 

That's actually part of being a family. That's part of being a married couple, is this uncomfortable stuff between us that doesn't always feel good. That's really normal. I just, you know, I'm here to normalize for people that when you feel upset with your partner or your kids and you raise your voice, that's normal. It's what are you going to do after to make sure that person feels safe again with you? 

Justin: Beautiful. So we can think about Getting to Zero as the opposite of being triggered at level 10. So, yeah, 10 would be you are out of your mind triggered and then zero is coming back to that safe, oh, you, you had the safe, secure scene and soothed place. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah, that's right. Yeah, yeah. When I settle my nervous system, my scared animal I call it, that's kind of activated inside because I'm a social mammal calms down, right? I kind of like, chill out and you, your tone of voice and how you look at me and how you talk to me, all can help me. 

Actually, you know, I talk about how do we regulate ourselves when we're upset and then how do we regulate our partner when they're upset? How do we just be there for people or kids when they're upset? That's also really valuable skills that we can learn, and most of us didn't…

Justin: Oh my god, that's been the whole key for me. I really kind of started getting serious around therapy and emotional healing about a year and a half ago, really at the start of the pandemic. 

And one of the things that just has been such a revelation for me is that my outer relationships are just a reflection of my inner relationships. And if I can learn how to be comfortable with my own discomfort, with my own inner tension, with my with everything happening inside, then I can show up for my kids and my partner when they're triggered or uncomfortable. And that's, I mean, that came at the right time. 

Well, we decided to move about a year ago, and the first time that I remember reflecting on this is my daughter was really upset about, well, at first she was excited to move and then when it finally hit her, she was really upset. And the way that I grew up is that, hey, you know, we have many different strategies. We can distract, like, Hey, look over here. We can bribe. And then if distraction and bribing don't work, then discipline. I don't want to hear it again. If I hear it again, then you know, we're going to take away whatever. 

And like, I was going, like I was about to go down those, like, you know, the first time I was about there and then it was like, Oh, wait, wait, wait, what if I allow for her discomfort the same way that I'm learning to allow for my own discomfort? And it was beautiful. I mean, was it like a really, really cool experience. 

Jayson: Yeah. Kids need that, right. They need that kind of room to be able to go get mad, sad, hurt, scared, whatever. And parents, you know, I grew up in a similar situation where it was like mostly it was just shut down. You know, what are you crying about? I'll give you something to cry about, like, get over it. Suck it up. Come on. 

And it was scary. So scary to start to feel again. But now it's freedom now, and my kids feel safe to feel stuff in the house. 

Justin: Yeah. I mean, what I realize is, of course, before the kids, it was me that I came across this saying early on in therapy, “what we resist persists” and it was like, oh, well, you know me resisting all of these uncomfortable feelings, all this stuff, it's not making it go away, man. And so then to think about this with my daughter and is like, oh, I can find ways to avoid or shut it down, as you said, but what we resist persists is that feeling isn’t going to go anywhere. And so…

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. And I, similarlyI in my 20s, I was emotionally unavailable. I was like the classic, emotionally unavailable male. So every woman I dated because when they would get emotions, emotional emotions, and have needs and stuff and feelings, it was very uncomfortable for me. 

So I would kind of shut them down by pushing them away because I didn't have that capacity. And when I finally got partnered with my wife and I was starting to work on myself, I saw that, oh, the work here is she's emotional. The more capacity I have to be emotional over here, right? The more I can hold space for her upset because otherwise, every woman I dated prior to my wife, I was sort of shutting them down because I was not ok with my own emotions. 

Justin: It all starts inside, right? 

Jayson: Pretty much. But here's the thing like, it's in a relationship that we are able to see that the mirror gets held up to what it is that we're not getting about ourselves. 

Justin: Oh man, yes, I love it. I love it. All right. So let's talk a little bit about real-life conflict. So you write that there are five basic conflicts that couples have. So we have the surface-level fights, the childhood projections, security fights, value differences, and resentments. 

First off, so I think these five will be easily, I think, understandable just from their names. The surface-level fights, everybody knows. Maybe if you could explain childhood projections and security fights. So what is a fight or that has to do with a childhood projection? What what does that look like? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, a lot of the fights do start with some sort of surface argument. Let's say you and I are partnered in and you just have like a look on your face, right? And it looks like a surface thing. And now I'm upset. And now we're kind of like arguing about something. And it just started with the look on your face, right? It's like, what the heck just happened here? 

Well, if we look deeper, we would see that this, I might be projecting. Let's say you have this look that you go flat and you kind of look away from me when we're in conflict. Well, I grew up with a mother who went flat and looked away under stress, and that scared me as a little kid. So when you do that, look, it's similar and it triggers that old memory in my body, in my heart, my feelings that I feel like I'm right back in my childhood home. So I project my mom onto you. 

So this is basic psychology 101, but it can be hard for people to grasp. But basically, you can, you know, I just ask the listener, any time you feel like you're in your family of origin with your current situation, chances are there's a projection going on somewhere. 

Justin: I wonder is, it seems to me that those would be connected to particularly intense feelings. So is it the case that the further up we get on the trigger scale, that the more likely we are to be in some childhood projection?

Jayson: That's a good question. I don't know that that's necessarily true, but it might be. I'd have to think about that. I think it's just going on all the time, whether we're sort of in it or not and how activated we are. You know, it is true, though, that the more triggered we are in, the higher up the number scale we go, the less cognitive functioning we have, the less, the more inaccurate our memory is. We're not going to remember like, oh, that's not what I said. This is exactly what I said. People get into that kind of dynamic. It's like, no, no one knows what was said. And this is why we wish we had a tape recorder because our memory is incredibly flawed when we're activated. 

Justin: So our thinking brain, our prefrontal cortex is starting to shut down a bit and our emotional brain or the limbic system is coming on, so this would naturally bring us back into a space of childhood attachments and/or attachment wounds. Would that be the case? 

Jayson: Yeah. And sometimes if we're talking about attachment that happened in the first couple of years of life. And sure, there was attachment bonding going on after that. But most of the big, like the most critical time, is in those first couple of years. 

So if we had a parent who was absent, we're drinking all the time, or neglectful or abusive man, we're going to have a pretty hard time in our adult relationships. So that's why these first couple of years as parents are so vital to create what I would call a secure attachment, and that's offering this experience of the child feeling safe, seen to support, and challenged. 

Justin: And so that is related to the security fights. Is that right? 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And so security fights can be the most common way people can understand this as if I'm in a relationship with you and you have one foot in one foot out because you have—and we could be married and you still might have one foot in one foot out and you're just not fully here. That creates insecurity in me. 

And so the security of our vibe together is naturally going to be insecure. So that's one way to think about it. Another way to think about it is you could be in a 10-year marriage. And if repairs are not happening after conflict, you're in an insecure relationship. Or if you have a partner who refuses to come to the table and own their part, both of you are in an insecure relationship guaranteed.

Justin: Alright. So we have these five basic conflict types. Is it the case that some couples fight about one of these more than others? Or are these relatively evenly distributed across fights and couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, it's an important question. I don't know, but I will say all couples are going to experience these off and on for the rest of their partnership. 

Justin: So even if one is more prominent, all five of these are going to come into your relationship. 

Jayson: Yeah. And if they're not dealt with, you're just compounding everything and making it all much harder to deal with. You know, I sometimes work with a couple or a student and they've just have never dealt, you know, they just shoved it under the rug for decades, and now it's like every little thing hurts and it's like, ok, well, where do we start? 

It's like, well, let's start right now with the one that just happened, but now we have to go back with you and your person and clean up every single one of them if you want to be a zero. I mean, you don't have to be because a lot of people can live at a five. 

It's shocking to me that, you know, we’re all living with so much stress. Like human beings are kind of resilient and maybe in a negative way, kind of resilient, that people will live in really shitty relationships and really horrible situations for a long time. You know, it's not good.

Justin: When they come to you finally, and they've been living like this for so long. What generally has been their big fear around fixing this? 

Jayson: Yeah, there's three primary reasons why a person like this would avoid, and it's biology, history, and discomfort. 

So biology is again, we don't want to be left out, cast out, kicked out of the dyad or the herd. We don't want to live alone, die alone, etcetera. That's really bad for us. So we will do anything to keep the connection, including betraying ourselves, our history as we've had. We grew up in a maybe a traumatic household or a household that just was silent and everybody went to their corners of the house and there was no quote, no conflict. But it was also like no connection, no nourishment. 

That's another reason is because the history shows up in the present. When we get in an argument, that's the projection stuff and then discomfort. A lot of people honestly just really don't like what they feel in their body, heart, and mind when they get in conflict, it's really don't feel good, so they avoid that. So they're avoiding, I think, for a lot of these reasons. 

And then the last one might be they have no idea how. Right? Because when do you learn?

Justin: Oh. Now that you explain it like that, it's actually it's a miracle that anybody gets help. Because that's a lot. 

Jayson: Yeah. And so we have a lot going against us here. We can successfully avoid this just fine, you know? 

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. 

Jayson: And we're not fulfilled.

Justin: No, no. Oh gosh. Alright. So before I leave the five basic types, I just want to repeat them again because I have one last question. So the surface-level fights, it's the childhood projections, it's the security fights and then value differences and resentments. Is there one of these that is the hardest kind to repair?

Jayson: Well, I think I'll say two things there because it's a really good question. Repair, if repair isn't happening in partnership and it's gone on for years, that's going to be pretty hard unless the non-repairing person gets motivated. So it's almost impossible unless both people decide one day, let's do it differently and let's apply ourselves and learn how. And then value differences like I've been, this has been coming up with COVID, which is families who didn't know that they had such a big difference around vaccines. 

And also, there's a pro-vaccine person and an anti-vaccine person married, and they have two kids who are now at the age where they could get a vaccine. And now they have to deal with, “Well, I want to vaccinate our kids.” “I don't want to vaccinate our kids.” That's really tough, really tough. Especially if there are so fundamentally bound to their belief system, it's going to be pretty hard to deal with that.

Justin: Have you seen these couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, I've only seen a couple and it's the work I realized I was pretty fast, I was like, ok, well, this is like going nowhere because they were just so in their position. It's like, wow, good luck. 

But the work at that point for me is, can you deeply understand each other's perspective more than you ever have and have compassion, and can you even open your heart to the way they see the world? And that’s very healing and couples that can do that, at the very least, they can not judge each other so intently and they can go, “I understand why you believe what you believe and I and it makes sense to me.” 

They can even validate the other person like that makes sense. Totally. And I do, I'm going to do it differently, and I appreciate and respect your choice with your body and what you want to do.

Justin: Oh, love it. Yeah, I just learned over the past couple of months working with a couple of relationship coaches on a different project validation like that, and my assumption on validation had been that it's to say, yes, I agree. 

You know, I'm like validating in my mind was, you know, I accept and agree with everything you just said. And I learned, no, it's actually saying, I understand what you're saying and it makes sense. And then listening until they feel fully understood was a super-powerful concept right on let's walk through conflict. 

Now, I can remember so many times of the past conflict, either with my kids, conflict with my partner. And you write a lot about the nervous system. So conflict. It's not just up in our heads or just, you know, in some, you know, conceptual idea space, it's actually happening in our bodies. And so I'm wondering if you can just unpack this a little bit. How conflict shows up in our bodies. 

Jayson: Yeah. So because we're social mammals, we have this thing Stephen Porges calls the social engagement system where we feel safe enough to engage socially, and we're always on the lookout as social mammals for something that is unsafe, dangerous, or life-threatening. 

And we're just scanning, not even consciously. We're just scanning, like you walk into a party or an airport or a hotel or something your social mammal, you're scared animal is just on the lookout for threats, and we're just wired this way more than we are to love and to connect actually. Apparently twice as we're wired, twice as much for threat, then for connection. 

So we're these sensory beings that are always on the lookout below, usually below our awareness. And so when we get into, let's say again, a look on the face, a tone of voice, a text that doesn't get returned back on time, that can send my nervous system into a place of activation where the sympathetic part of our nervous system starts to kick in and I, my heart rate starts to increase and I start to mobilize to protect myself in some way. 

Justin: So this is essentially the fight or flight response, and we would be experiencing similar physical reactions if, like a bear began to charge. 

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. So this is a system that, you know, 10,000 years ago was really good for us, and now it's still a good thing. We want it. We want our scared animal to come online when we need it to. But so often it's firing unnecessarily. 

You know, you could be on Instagram and something that could threaten, your old ex and they're the way they're partnered with someone else could just like, send you into a whole reaction that would be similar to if you were seeing a bear across the road or across the path in front of you. 

So that's what's challenging now is we're dealing with a very primitive system that fires fast and often is wrong. And then our job is like, how do we work with that? And this is where we disconnect from center, from zero. If zero is like the place of good connection, we feel connected to ourselves and the other person. The moment we get threatened, no matter how big or small, we move away from zero and we move, I don't call it fight, flight, freeze, although that's what it is, I call it posture, collapse, seek, void. We just do these things to protect ourselves. 

Justin: Yeah. So you write about those as the four-disc connectors. And so we have entered into conflict. We're now our bodies are mobilized into this fight or flight response, and we're mobilized into these four disc connectors. Yeah, so it's seek or avoid, posture or collapse, seek and avoid. I think that that's self-explanatory, I guess. But then the posture or collapse could. Could you unpack that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Think of a person who raises their voice who gets kind of big and moves toward someone else in a conflict. And I call it a porcupine. You start your quills, come out and you're really starting to posture and get big as a way to protect yourself. Some of us do that, and some of us do the opposite, which is to get small. And that's the collapsing like a hermit crab. We go inward. We shut down. We get really still in really quiet. 

Justin: I'm now seeing this picture. We are triggered, the body is activated and then we are in this seek or avoid, posture or collapse where we're mobilizing these four disc connectors. And then you write about the four connectors, a feeling emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported. So I mean, your book really is about how to get from the, you know, this mobilized four-disc connector space to this emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported space, getting from activated and then this posture, collapse to safe and soothe? 

Is this really about doing the inner work that we were referring to before about, you know, learning about one's childhood stuff, about projecting, learning how to be with internal discomfort? Is it really about doing this deep internal work and that tips and tricks really aren't going to get the job done? That's what was coming up for me. 

Jayson: Yeah, I mean, I'd say yes and, so if you want to get better at this conflict repair cycle and learn to come back quicker, learn to own your part quicker, learn to help the other person chill out more and so you can guys feel good again, which is zero. Then looking at yourself is going to be the accelerated path. Looking at your history, you know, some people are like, I had a great childhood. I don't know why my partner is so triggering. Well, that just means you don't remember. And it was so subtle that because the passage is always going to show up in the present, no matter what childhood you've had. 

So it's less about like I have to go and reevaluate my whole past. The good news, that's why I kind of the book and my motto is you don't really have to do a ton of that. It does help because it just makes you more self-aware and more agile under stress. So you know yourself, and then you can educate your person that, Hey, this is what I remember. I grew up in a family like this. Remember when I was a kid? This was really scary for me. So when you do this, it kind of hurts. It kind of sucks. 

So can you at least have some empathy over here and we can kind of educate each other about how sensitive we are and how what works for us and what doesn't work for us, that's only going to help. So the and part of, yes, inner work and this collaborative work together where we're really trying to understand each other. Like, wow, you, you are wired like this. This is so doesn't make sense to me. Can you help me understand even more? And if we can bring a genuine curiosity about each other's nervous system, about what works and doesn't work. Then again, we're starting to act like a team, and it's going to probably go better for us. 

 

 

36:20

Justin: So I'm attracted to this idea that you have in the book, the emotional discomfort threshold. And so going back to what we first started talking about, can I become more comfortable with all of the stuff going on inside, which then allows me to show up and be more comfortable with big, difficult emotions in my kids or my partner?

Jayson: Absolutely. 

Justin: What are some tools or some practices that increase our emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, great. So meditation is a huge one that worked for me many years ago, and I created just a very simple meditation, almost mindfulness exercise that anyone can do in under two minutes. And I call it the nestr meditation. 

Justin: Yeah, which is in the book. 

Jayson: Yeah, which is in the book. I can walk through super fast if you want me to. 

Justin: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure. 

Jayson: Cool. Yeah. So you just do it right now. It's probably the best way to teach and this is like a minute, two minutes. Let’s close our eyes or go inside. And so let's just say a trigger just happened and you've got a little bit of space from your partner or your kid and you're like, kind of heated. So just check in. And we're going to go down this acronym NESTR and we're going to label things. 

So N is number. So you just on a zero to ten scale, what is your number right now? So you just pick a number, I’m gonna say I'm a three, I'm a little upset, but I'm not above a five, so I can still think about this so I’m gonna be a three. Great. 

So now we move on to the next letter, which is E, emotion, so we label our emotional experience sad, mad, glad, afraid, scared, upset, triggered, you know, whatever it is, we just put a label on it. That's the emotion. 

And then Sensation is something that's actually going on in your body. Hot, cold, sweat, tingling, tension in my chest, a mild headache, sore knee. Those are all sensations. 

And then T is thoughts. What are you thinking about right now? Well, I'm thinking about my partner and why they did what they did and my part. And it's just confusing. So that could be what you're thinking about. 

And then R is resource. Where do you just feel good and ok in your experience? Could be your toe, could be your chest, your head. So where do you feel resourced? And just we just hang with that and then if we want, we can, you know, stay another couple of minutes and ride the waves of specifically, the sensation because that's where the discomfort is, and this allows us to increase our discomfort threshold.

Justin: Awesome. Wow. So going on this process two to three minutes, and then if I'm still activated, I then just stick with the sensations and I just ride these sensations.

Jayson: Ride the sensations and try to. And this is more slightly more advanced meditation. But if you can put your awareness or your attention instead of on the breath, like most meditation does, in and out through the nose or whatever. 

You actually put it on the most uncomfortable spot in your body. Yes, and you find out if it's going to kill you. And usually, you find out it's not. And it's just like a wave, like a surfer and you and you're kind of like a surfer and you're surfing, you're riding this wave until it starts to subside. And the vast majority of time, if you can stay with it, it will decrease and then you just increased your discomfort threshold.

Justin: Absolutely. I love this. I love this. Yeah, I developed an emotional mindfulness practice almost a year ago when I had I had worked for four years actually doing health behavior change stuff with mindfulness-based stress reduction. And I was finding at least working with parents and particularly with our work with childhood cancer parents, which is where the Yes Collective came out of, you know, the straight normal mindfulness stuff might help a little bit, but parents were having a hard time getting connected to it and sticking with it. 

And when I started to learn about these more emotion-focused practices, I was like, oh, this is where it's at. Like, can we just go straight to where we're being triggered and can we open up to it? Can we get more curious about it? Can we ask it questions? 

And this has been so impactful for me and that we're now using it with our childhood cancer nonprofit. And yeah, I mean, it's such a powerful practice as you said, you know, when you go towards your most difficult, painful emotion and you see it's not going to kill me. Yeah, yeah. 

Jayson: It's not going to kill me. It's going to be ok. And again, I can also, I can be that for my children, right? Like if I can handle my own emotional experience and regulate myself because I'm the external regulator for children so I can now hold the space or be present with their huge tantrums and upsets and tears and anger and whatever and not go into reactivity. 

Justin: Is there an aspect, one thing that I brought into this emotional processing meditation is physical expression, like after asking the questions of really getting to understand what is this triggering emotion, can we ask it to move through our bodies? Like how does it want to move, you know, as a stretch or a deep breath? What do you think about bringing some of that work into the emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. Why not? I think anything that's going to help you get back to zero and back in your center with you and the person or people you care most about. Great.

Justin:  Awesome. Alright. So I don't want to give away too much of the book. This is an amazing book for anybody who cares about relationships. And so the title of the book is or the subtitle refers to high-stake relationships. And so I'm assuming that these tools can be used in any relationship like at work or, you know, in any sort of context. 

But for me, they just felt so powerful and so important for partnerships and then the parent-child relationship as well. So I encourage listeners to check out this book and check out your work. But before we land this plane, I just have to ask about Listen Until they Feel Understood. So do you pronounce it LUFU?

Jayson: LUFU.

Justin: So this is the first time I heard about this I interpreted it as listening until I feel like I understood that. And I was like, oh I got,  like, that's easy. I understand everybody. And then it was like, No, no, no, no, no, no. Listen until they feel understood. Yeah. So can you say a few words? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the short story of how this got created for me was because I kept listening to my wife in a really stubborn way and she'd say, I don't feel understood. I'd say, well, I do understand you. I don't know what you're talking about. You just you. I repeat back, she's like, no, I don't feel understood, like, yes, I do, and so that went on for years and I was like, this is getting nowhere. 

So I said, ok, I'm going to put the lever actually with her, and I'm going to say, I'm not, I don't understand you until you let me know that you do feel understood by me. And that changed everything for me and us because I became a better listener that day and I was like, oh wow, I really now going to have to apply myself even more because a lot of the time she shuts me down is like, “No dude, you don't get it.” And I'm like, “ok, cool, let me try again,” or “I need some space and I'll come back and try again later” because I'm too upset.

Justin: Oh my god. Yeah. Like, I thought that my understanding was up to me and I spent almost my entire adult life in academia. So it was like, I decide when I like, I have understood this. I see how it is. And it's such a little I mean, it's a subtle twist, but it's a game-changer to say, no, no, no, it's not up to you. Like, it's not your understanding of this is up to this person to say “yes, now you got it. Yes, now as I feel understood.” 

Jayson: Yeah. So LUFU, is this thing we teach? And if anyone comes to our events or practices, it's like the practice. Like if you can, if you can get this just as if you skip every part of the book, but you get this and you actually do it for the rest of your life, your life will completely change and transform because you're going to be that person everybody wants to talk to because they all feel understood by you. 

Justin: I love it. So I have a few final questions here. So how is your thinking changed over the years? So how? Well, first, how long have you been a relationship expert? 

Jayson: I mean, I don't really call myself that. I say I'm a student and a teacher of relationships because I'm always learning. But I don't know, 10, 20 years. Yeah, 10, 15 years. 

Justin: So I'm imagining that, so there's a lot that has changed or you've come across different tools and skills or you've seen some things kind of work, but other things work even better. Are there a few things that stand out that you've learned along the way that you've changed or that have changed you? 

Jayson: Completely. I think our understanding of the brain and neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology is completely, I don't know, just blown up and secure attachment. So I'd say, let me say a couple of things just to make this practical. So one thing is when couples get triggered and go to different parts of the house and just say, “I'll handle myself, you handle yourself and let's come back when we're better.” 

That is a good skill for all couples to learn, but it's not the finish line. And so my wife and I tried that and did that for years, but we kept, it was inefficient and the timing was off, and it just something about it wasn't quite clicking. So we learned more interactive regulation. How do we stay in the room and help each other's nervous system because it's actually faster, it's more efficient, and we can get back to zero quicker. And so that that was a big development over the course of our marriage. We've been married 14 years now. So that was huge. 

Justin: Can I ask something about that real quick? I, you know, I've heard of this strategy of, you know, the cooling down and, you know, going to several parts of the house or taking a walk. And it has always struck me as like something just doesn't click for me. And what is coming up now is that it's a really good way of avoiding the most important thing. Whatever is coming up in this conflict. It seems like it's a good way to avoid it because then you can come back together. You're both calmer and you can start to kind of patch up the more surface-level stuff, but you don't have to deal with maybe something big that's underneath. 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And then let me just say another layer of this in the parenting space, which is, you know, the time out is the classic understandable move a lot of parents make when their kid is, you know, really upset. And the parents have said, “you need to go to your room.”

Justin: That's right.

Jayson: You know, and the problem with that approach now that we know about more about attachment science and the nervous system is when you teach a kid over and over to go deal with this by themselves, they learn that relationships are not reliable and that you can't get back to a good place with another person. You have to do that by yourself. So you're creating an adult who will one day not value relationships and will go to drugs and alcohol, their phones, screens, porn, you name it, to get regulated, to get back to a good place. 

And they will not rely on relationships. And that's a bummer. And I see those adults and I work with those people all the time, and they struggle because they grew up in families like this where it was go to your room. So there's something way more efficient and powerful about relying on relationships to get back to a good place. 

Justin: Oh wow, that. Yeah, that hits me, I certainly grew up in a household that used those strategies, and one of the things coming up is a sense of big emotions are unsafe. Just they're unsafe. They're going to get you sent to your room, they're going to get you, you know, ignored or they are going to cause a loss of attachment. So then in adulthood, big, big emotions are just, yeah, just crammed, crammed those things down there as much as you can and avoid them as much as possible. Because when they come up, you have no tools. You’re traveling now off the map. 

Jayson: Yeah. And then you're left to fend for yourself and you can't you're not thinking like, oh, I need to actually ask for help from my partner or rely on my partner even if they're triggering me. It doesn't even cross your mind because you're like, no, this is up to me. And again, it's not ideal from a partnership kind of perspective. 

Justin: Hmm. I love it. Yeah. I just think back to how lucky I am that I had been doing some of this work before we made this move because there are just a couple of really big emotional moments that I know I would’ve shut down like I know without a doubt, I would have found a way to shut them down and just to stick with them. 

And so now just having this conversation with you, I'm feeling into gratitude around my kids being safe with big emotions, you know, with just like and we are going to be here for them and we're going to talk about it. So I feel like you had a couple of other things that had changed for you. So there was this biology aspect.

Jayson: Again, secure attachment. I would say that it's what we now know is that if we can behave in a way that offers what I call relational needs to our children, for example, in an adult partner by giving them the feeling of they feel emotionally safe, they feel seen and known and understood by us, and they feel soothed, meaning we repair conflicts when they happen every time, not once in a while, but every time. 

And we support them and we challenge them because we believe them and we have boundaries, right? No, you don't get that cookie. It's 10 o’clock at night and you need to go to bed. No, you're going to school, even though you don't want to kind of boundaries. We're creating security and those kids, the research shows, and I didn't learn this in graduate school, but studying Dan Siegel and so many other people, we now know that kids who are securely attached in their home environments grow up and they're doing better in every area of life.

They're holding down jobs longer, they're getting jobs better, they're getting better grades, they’re getting into better colleges, they're having healthier adult relationships. The list goes on. Less addictions, less mental health problems, on and on and on. So that's exciting. I'm like, wow. I would think that would motivate the hell out of so many parents to go, “Whoa, I need to figure this out.”

Justin: Yeah, I know. And it's I mean, it's changing the world. You know, you as a parent are part of the solution. You are producing children who are going to be healthy, well-adjusted members of this world doing good things like it. Yeah, it's totally like it's even bigger than you. It's bigger than us. Was there one other thing?

Jayson: No. But I want to add one more thing, which is what secure attachment isn't. Because I live in Boulder and a lot of people think secure attachment is just holding your kid a long time or putting him in the ergo or co-sleeping with them. While that might look like secure attachment, that's often coming from an anxious parent who doesn't want to mess up their kids. So that's a very big difference like if you're like, oh, I don't want to mess up my kids, so I'm going to hold him all the time or every time they cry, and I give him something or any time they struggle. I'm going to like, rescue them and like, bail them out of their pain. 

And oh my gosh. And like, that's no, no, no, that's not remotely secure attachment. So I call that just over parenting and over attachment parenting. And it's not actually, it's going in the wrong direction, right? 

Justin: We did not evolve like that. Have you come across the book Hunt Gather Parent? 

Jayson: I've heard of it. I have not read it. Is it good? 

Justin: Oh, it's amazing. Yes, because she travels. Yeah, yeah. So she's an NPR science correspondent, and she has at the start of the book, I think a four-year-old, and she travels to Alaska, to Mexico, and Africa to visit indigenous communities to see how they parent there and its base, I mean, it is almost everything that we're doing in the modern world. Just do the opposite. 

Jayson: Yeah, it's probably pretty hands up. 

Justin: Oh my god, it's well…

Jayson: It sucks because like, that's the problem with, like all the research now is parents can get so bound up like that, they're going to just mess it, just do this terrible job, and so they over function, they just go into overdoing it mode. 

Justin: Oh man. So the final question, Jayson, is what is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth? 

Jayson: Hmm. Well, there's a couple of things. I'm always working on my psychology around expansion and like touching more lives and earning more money, and there's just ways in which I get tied up in knots. There are some times, so that's a layer. And then my wife and I, we just went through, you know, thanks to COVID pushing an issue to the surface, like it did for so many of married couples, we just got really honest about some of our repair and process and got more efficient. And just I feel like we just recently have kind of crossed through another cool threshold. 

So we've been working at it pretty hard on how do we do this even better? I love it for ourselves, for our kids. And yeah, so I feel like we're always working on something. 

Justin: Yeah, the work never stops. So we have three last questions we ask every guest, just rapid-fire. If you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say? 

Jayson: Become more self-aware. 

Justin: Become more self-aware. And what is the quote lately that has changed the way you think or feel?

Jayson: Maya Angelou's quote, she says something like “Have enough courage to trust love one more time, always one more time.” 

Justin: Beautiful, beautiful. And our final question, especially for parents whose kids are toddler age. You know it can be a grueling grind on days. So we like to end by celebrating things that we love about kids. So Jayson, what do you love about kids? 

Jayson: Oh, my God. Just about everything. I love kids’ imaginations, their creativity, their play, their joy, and their like zeal and curiosity for life. It's just so insatiable. It's unbelievably inspiring to me.

Justin: Yeah, it's inspiring and infectious. I love it. 

Jayson: Yeah.

Justin: Jayson, thank you so much for making time for us. We really appreciate it. We love to have you back sometime. Your wisdom and insights are just super powerful, super impactful. And so if people want to check out your work and follow you, you're on all the socials? 

Jayson: Yup. @JaysonGaddis. Jayson with a y. J-A-Y-S-O-N-G-A-D-D-I-S on Instagram, for example, and GettingtoZerobook.com is probably a fun way for anyone listening to go take a conflict quiz to see what your conflict style is. To find out more about the book if you're want to get to the first chapter, if you're not ready to buy it. That's probably the best place to check out that. And there's links there for our podcast, the Relationship School podcast, and so much more. 

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you, Jayson. I really appreciate this man.

Jayson: Yeah, thanks, just an honor to be here. 


Transcript highlights

1:56 

Justin: Yeah, Jayson, so thank you so much for coming on the Yes Collective podcast. I have heard about you from different people over the past year as I've gotten to learn a little bit more about relationships. We might talk about authentic relating. Later, I discovered that about a year and a half ago, and so. I started to learn more about relationships. And then, yeah, we heard, we heard about you. We heard about the relationship school and then Getting to Zero just came out and I've loved it. And so I'm really thrilled to have you on the podcast. Thank you for making time. 

Jayson: Yeah. 

Justin: So my first question is, Jayson, were you always good at relationships? Is this just like a natural skill? You just were always connecting and repairing? 

Jayson: No, man. I was the opposite of quote “good at relationships.” What I did get good at was and it took me till probably high school and actually, more importantly, college when I got good socially. But that doesn't mean anything. It just means that I got good at playing the game of getting people to like me.

So that's not necessarily someone who's good at relationships, right? Yeah, but I before that and then after that, I just was really sensitive and emotional on the inside, but wore a mask and, you know, just a facade basically that said, yeah, I'll do whatever I can to fit in and be liked and make friends because I had so many negative, you know, bullying experiences, getting excluded, girls not liking me. 

And, you know, just so many challenges relationally. And then in a family where their awesome family, but they didn't value like these subtler parts of relationship where we can really acknowledge someone where we can see them or we can slow down. And if we hurt their feelings, we can like clean it up and make it better again. Like that, none of that was going on. 

Justin: None of that. I heard you say you were good at getting people to like you. I imagine that there's probably a common assumption that that is what relationships are about. Like, if I can just get this other person to like me, then I'm good at relationships. So what's wrong with that view? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's the, I think that operating fueling that kind of approach is usually insecurity, self-doubt, scarcity, not feeling like enough and not having the experience of enough experiences where you feel rejected, abandoned, ignored, whatever, that you feel like you have to be someone else to get relationship or to belong. 

This is a really common pattern that I think most everybody falls in, especially growing up in your family and in your peer culture is if our true self comes out sometimes we get squashed and we get made fun of or hurt or people look the other way. And so that only has to happen really once or twice for us to kind of go, ok, cool, I'm not going to do that again. 

Justin: Oh yeah.

Jayson: And I'm going to instead do whatever will, whatever socially favorable behaviors get me belonging and I call this difference is just the difference between our true self and our strategic self. And this actually creates an inner conflict that most of us deal with our whole life. 

Justin: So the strategic self is figuring out, how can I make this situation easy? How can I be accepted? How can I achieve attachment? And then the true self, now that you mentioned it, what is that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's kind of who we are when we feel most alive and free in ourselves. And it's also maybe who we are when we feel most ashamed because it's, you know, to risk being authentic, I think in our peer group growing up, especially our family, you know, the risks were high. Like, one of our biggest fears is that we're going to be left or dropped or totally rejected and outcast. 

And for some social mammals like us, that's not good. It's not good for our health and well-being. And so our true self is like who we are, like deep down inside that hopefully when you find an awesome family or an awesome partner and great close friends, you get to come out and really be yourself. 

Justin: Hmm. So that's what a real relationship is, when you can be authentic and also in connection at the same time.

Jayson: Yeah. And even if you're trying, what's funny is people get married really naively thinking it's just going to all work out and they don't understand the gravity of the situation that really, if they've been in a strategy their whole life and now they get married, as soon as the honeymoon stage wears off, their true self can't help but emerge, and a lot of their true self is kind of messy. It's ugly, it's uncomfortable, it's shameful, it's embarrassing. 

It's, you know, the part of us that leaves our socks on the floor that doesn't clean up after ourselves, or that is very OCD and controlling and, you know, super hyper-vigilant, it's whatever we are. And it's hard to hide in a marriage. It's hard to hide in a family. And I think that's good news because it brings all the truth out so that we can love and learn to love. 

Justin: Oh yeah. So it's like the way I’m imagining it here is, you know, before marriage, we can avoid a lot of our stuff. We can just find ways to move through life. And then in marriage, now we're kind of confronted with this like, ok, I have a true self and then this strategic self and how can I be my true self, also, in relationship with this other person, that's going to trigger a lot. 

That's going to bring up a lot. And then you add kids into the mix. And I imagine there's a whole other level of complexity and triggering and stuff that you can no longer avoid. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. You got it. Spoken like a parent. Yeah. Another view here, are kind of the more spiritual type, is that our kids represent our disowned parts, parts of ourselves that we haven't loved. And so your kids are going to trigger you a lot. And as is your partner, and that's not a problem if you have a growth mindset, if you don't and you just kind of are hoping for a copasetic quote, happy, normal, peaceful situation. You're going to be up shit creek because it's just no, it's just not how it works. 

Justin: Well, it's yeah, it's the desire for the happy copacetic situation. But then, you know, we just moved this last year from Orange County, California to Savannah. But in Orange County, there were a lot of hard-charging A-type families where the kids were kind of groomed to be this perfect representation of what the parent wants to be seen as. And so it's not just happy and copacetic, but can I get my child to perform in such a way to reflect on me? Yeah. 

Jayson: Exactly. You nailed it. I mean, that’s the other big thing of parenting is how many parents are basically just trying to put their values on their kids. And of course, we're all parents are going to instill, try to instill, quote good values into our kids because we want them to grow up to be good people and, you know, contributing members of society. 

But I think in that type of culture you're talking about and here in Boulder, Colorado, it's very similar where there's a lot of hard-chargers, people just in general just want to go for it. And they're very image-focused, they're very status-focused. 

So if their kids are not kind of winning and getting A's and doing all the things, then it looks bad on them, right? It reflects negatively on them. And I worked with a lot of these families in residential treatment many years ago. It's a mess.

Justin: Oh, wow. Yeah, right, right. And so they're also coming up against some disowned parts. And uh, what's happening there as well. 

Jayson: Oh yeah, yeah, exactly. 

Justin: I want to talk more about this stuff. This is the stuff that I love to really get into. But I guess I want to spend the time that we have really digging into conflict. So I got your book a month or two ago and I've absolutely loved it. It's called Getting to Zero. 

One of the first things that popped out to me is you wrote: “The crux of a good, strong, long-lasting relationship is not the absence of conflict, but the ability and willingness to work through it.”

And so what came up first like, ok, is it possible to have a deep relationship like a long-term relationship, like a marriage without conflict? Like is there some, some golden land over the next hill where our relationships won't have any conflict? Or is it inevitable? 

Jayson: Yeah, I think it's inevitable, and my parents did a pretty good job of, you know, they have conflict, but they would say that they don't have conflict. And I grew up thinking, oh, my parents don't fight. And all they were doing was putting it on the shelf and compartmentalizing it. 

Justin: Yes. Yeah. 

Jayson: And then, you know, having a glass of wine and going to bed and hoping it was better the next day. So a lot of people operate like that. And that's ok. That's certainly one way to do it. But you're not going to have a very deep relationship and you're not going to have a very fulfilling relationship. 

Justin: So it's inevitable or so conflict is inevitable. And then what we need to do is they learn how to manage it and learn or really learn how to repair it. That was where the game's at.

Jayson: That's where the game is out. You nailed it. Yeah, because I mean, the book Getting to Zero is how to, it’s basically a translation of that, is getting back to a good place. How do we get back to a good place after we've had a difference, a snag, a silence after we've had some kind of conflict? And that's the work. 

And couples who do that well and families who do that well create security in the system and security in the dyad. And you're actually becoming not only stronger together, you're becoming more resilient and it's actually safer because you're saying, yeah, that stuff, that's kind of negative and uncomfortable, that's welcome here, too. We're not going to put that away. 

That's actually part of being a family. That's part of being a married couple, is this uncomfortable stuff between us that doesn't always feel good. That's really normal. I just, you know, I'm here to normalize for people that when you feel upset with your partner or your kids and you raise your voice, that's normal. It's what are you going to do after to make sure that person feels safe again with you? 

Justin: Beautiful. So we can think about Getting to Zero as the opposite of being triggered at level 10. So, yeah, 10 would be you are out of your mind triggered and then zero is coming back to that safe, oh, you, you had the safe, secure scene and soothed place. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah, that's right. Yeah, yeah. When I settle my nervous system, my scared animal I call it, that's kind of activated inside because I'm a social mammal calms down, right? I kind of like, chill out and you, your tone of voice and how you look at me and how you talk to me, all can help me. 

Actually, you know, I talk about how do we regulate ourselves when we're upset and then how do we regulate our partner when they're upset? How do we just be there for people or kids when they're upset? That's also really valuable skills that we can learn, and most of us didn't…

Justin: Oh my god, that's been the whole key for me. I really kind of started getting serious around therapy and emotional healing about a year and a half ago, really at the start of the pandemic. 

And one of the things that just has been such a revelation for me is that my outer relationships are just a reflection of my inner relationships. And if I can learn how to be comfortable with my own discomfort, with my own inner tension, with my with everything happening inside, then I can show up for my kids and my partner when they're triggered or uncomfortable. And that's, I mean, that came at the right time. 

Well, we decided to move about a year ago, and the first time that I remember reflecting on this is my daughter was really upset about, well, at first she was excited to move and then when it finally hit her, she was really upset. And the way that I grew up is that, hey, you know, we have many different strategies. We can distract, like, Hey, look over here. We can bribe. And then if distraction and bribing don't work, then discipline. I don't want to hear it again. If I hear it again, then you know, we're going to take away whatever. 

And like, I was going, like I was about to go down those, like, you know, the first time I was about there and then it was like, Oh, wait, wait, wait, what if I allow for her discomfort the same way that I'm learning to allow for my own discomfort? And it was beautiful. I mean, was it like a really, really cool experience. 

Jayson: Yeah. Kids need that, right. They need that kind of room to be able to go get mad, sad, hurt, scared, whatever. And parents, you know, I grew up in a similar situation where it was like mostly it was just shut down. You know, what are you crying about? I'll give you something to cry about, like, get over it. Suck it up. Come on. 

And it was scary. So scary to start to feel again. But now it's freedom now, and my kids feel safe to feel stuff in the house. 

Justin: Yeah. I mean, what I realize is, of course, before the kids, it was me that I came across this saying early on in therapy, “what we resist persists” and it was like, oh, well, you know me resisting all of these uncomfortable feelings, all this stuff, it's not making it go away, man. And so then to think about this with my daughter and is like, oh, I can find ways to avoid or shut it down, as you said, but what we resist persists is that feeling isn’t going to go anywhere. And so…

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. And I, similarlyI in my 20s, I was emotionally unavailable. I was like the classic, emotionally unavailable male. So every woman I dated because when they would get emotions, emotional emotions, and have needs and stuff and feelings, it was very uncomfortable for me. 

So I would kind of shut them down by pushing them away because I didn't have that capacity. And when I finally got partnered with my wife and I was starting to work on myself, I saw that, oh, the work here is she's emotional. The more capacity I have to be emotional over here, right? The more I can hold space for her upset because otherwise, every woman I dated prior to my wife, I was sort of shutting them down because I was not ok with my own emotions. 

Justin: It all starts inside, right? 

Jayson: Pretty much. But here's the thing like, it's in a relationship that we are able to see that the mirror gets held up to what it is that we're not getting about ourselves. 

Justin: Oh man, yes, I love it. I love it. All right. So let's talk a little bit about real-life conflict. So you write that there are five basic conflicts that couples have. So we have the surface-level fights, the childhood projections, security fights, value differences, and resentments. 

First off, so I think these five will be easily, I think, understandable just from their names. The surface-level fights, everybody knows. Maybe if you could explain childhood projections and security fights. So what is a fight or that has to do with a childhood projection? What what does that look like? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, a lot of the fights do start with some sort of surface argument. Let's say you and I are partnered in and you just have like a look on your face, right? And it looks like a surface thing. And now I'm upset. And now we're kind of like arguing about something. And it just started with the look on your face, right? It's like, what the heck just happened here? 

Well, if we look deeper, we would see that this, I might be projecting. Let's say you have this look that you go flat and you kind of look away from me when we're in conflict. Well, I grew up with a mother who went flat and looked away under stress, and that scared me as a little kid. So when you do that, look, it's similar and it triggers that old memory in my body, in my heart, my feelings that I feel like I'm right back in my childhood home. So I project my mom onto you. 

So this is basic psychology 101, but it can be hard for people to grasp. But basically, you can, you know, I just ask the listener, any time you feel like you're in your family of origin with your current situation, chances are there's a projection going on somewhere. 

Justin: I wonder is, it seems to me that those would be connected to particularly intense feelings. So is it the case that the further up we get on the trigger scale, that the more likely we are to be in some childhood projection?

Jayson: That's a good question. I don't know that that's necessarily true, but it might be. I'd have to think about that. I think it's just going on all the time, whether we're sort of in it or not and how activated we are. You know, it is true, though, that the more triggered we are in, the higher up the number scale we go, the less cognitive functioning we have, the less, the more inaccurate our memory is. We're not going to remember like, oh, that's not what I said. This is exactly what I said. People get into that kind of dynamic. It's like, no, no one knows what was said. And this is why we wish we had a tape recorder because our memory is incredibly flawed when we're activated. 

Justin: So our thinking brain, our prefrontal cortex is starting to shut down a bit and our emotional brain or the limbic system is coming on, so this would naturally bring us back into a space of childhood attachments and/or attachment wounds. Would that be the case? 

Jayson: Yeah. And sometimes if we're talking about attachment that happened in the first couple of years of life. And sure, there was attachment bonding going on after that. But most of the big, like the most critical time, is in those first couple of years. 

So if we had a parent who was absent, we're drinking all the time, or neglectful or abusive man, we're going to have a pretty hard time in our adult relationships. So that's why these first couple of years as parents are so vital to create what I would call a secure attachment, and that's offering this experience of the child feeling safe, seen to support, and challenged. 

Justin: And so that is related to the security fights. Is that right? 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And so security fights can be the most common way people can understand this as if I'm in a relationship with you and you have one foot in one foot out because you have—and we could be married and you still might have one foot in one foot out and you're just not fully here. That creates insecurity in me. 

And so the security of our vibe together is naturally going to be insecure. So that's one way to think about it. Another way to think about it is you could be in a 10-year marriage. And if repairs are not happening after conflict, you're in an insecure relationship. Or if you have a partner who refuses to come to the table and own their part, both of you are in an insecure relationship guaranteed.

Justin: Alright. So we have these five basic conflict types. Is it the case that some couples fight about one of these more than others? Or are these relatively evenly distributed across fights and couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, it's an important question. I don't know, but I will say all couples are going to experience these off and on for the rest of their partnership. 

Justin: So even if one is more prominent, all five of these are going to come into your relationship. 

Jayson: Yeah. And if they're not dealt with, you're just compounding everything and making it all much harder to deal with. You know, I sometimes work with a couple or a student and they've just have never dealt, you know, they just shoved it under the rug for decades, and now it's like every little thing hurts and it's like, ok, well, where do we start? 

It's like, well, let's start right now with the one that just happened, but now we have to go back with you and your person and clean up every single one of them if you want to be a zero. I mean, you don't have to be because a lot of people can live at a five. 

It's shocking to me that, you know, we’re all living with so much stress. Like human beings are kind of resilient and maybe in a negative way, kind of resilient, that people will live in really shitty relationships and really horrible situations for a long time. You know, it's not good.

Justin: When they come to you finally, and they've been living like this for so long. What generally has been their big fear around fixing this? 

Jayson: Yeah, there's three primary reasons why a person like this would avoid, and it's biology, history, and discomfort. 

So biology is again, we don't want to be left out, cast out, kicked out of the dyad or the herd. We don't want to live alone, die alone, etcetera. That's really bad for us. So we will do anything to keep the connection, including betraying ourselves, our history as we've had. We grew up in a maybe a traumatic household or a household that just was silent and everybody went to their corners of the house and there was no quote, no conflict. But it was also like no connection, no nourishment. 

That's another reason is because the history shows up in the present. When we get in an argument, that's the projection stuff and then discomfort. A lot of people honestly just really don't like what they feel in their body, heart, and mind when they get in conflict, it's really don't feel good, so they avoid that. So they're avoiding, I think, for a lot of these reasons. 

And then the last one might be they have no idea how. Right? Because when do you learn?

Justin: Oh. Now that you explain it like that, it's actually it's a miracle that anybody gets help. Because that's a lot. 

Jayson: Yeah. And so we have a lot going against us here. We can successfully avoid this just fine, you know? 

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. 

Jayson: And we're not fulfilled.

Justin: No, no. Oh gosh. Alright. So before I leave the five basic types, I just want to repeat them again because I have one last question. So the surface-level fights, it's the childhood projections, it's the security fights and then value differences and resentments. Is there one of these that is the hardest kind to repair?

Jayson: Well, I think I'll say two things there because it's a really good question. Repair, if repair isn't happening in partnership and it's gone on for years, that's going to be pretty hard unless the non-repairing person gets motivated. So it's almost impossible unless both people decide one day, let's do it differently and let's apply ourselves and learn how. And then value differences like I've been, this has been coming up with COVID, which is families who didn't know that they had such a big difference around vaccines. 

And also, there's a pro-vaccine person and an anti-vaccine person married, and they have two kids who are now at the age where they could get a vaccine. And now they have to deal with, “Well, I want to vaccinate our kids.” “I don't want to vaccinate our kids.” That's really tough, really tough. Especially if there are so fundamentally bound to their belief system, it's going to be pretty hard to deal with that.

Justin: Have you seen these couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, I've only seen a couple and it's the work I realized I was pretty fast, I was like, ok, well, this is like going nowhere because they were just so in their position. It's like, wow, good luck. 

But the work at that point for me is, can you deeply understand each other's perspective more than you ever have and have compassion, and can you even open your heart to the way they see the world? And that’s very healing and couples that can do that, at the very least, they can not judge each other so intently and they can go, “I understand why you believe what you believe and I and it makes sense to me.” 

They can even validate the other person like that makes sense. Totally. And I do, I'm going to do it differently, and I appreciate and respect your choice with your body and what you want to do.

Justin: Oh, love it. Yeah, I just learned over the past couple of months working with a couple of relationship coaches on a different project validation like that, and my assumption on validation had been that it's to say, yes, I agree. 

You know, I'm like validating in my mind was, you know, I accept and agree with everything you just said. And I learned, no, it's actually saying, I understand what you're saying and it makes sense. And then listening until they feel fully understood was a super-powerful concept right on let's walk through conflict. 

Now, I can remember so many times of the past conflict, either with my kids, conflict with my partner. And you write a lot about the nervous system. So conflict. It's not just up in our heads or just, you know, in some, you know, conceptual idea space, it's actually happening in our bodies. And so I'm wondering if you can just unpack this a little bit. How conflict shows up in our bodies. 

Jayson: Yeah. So because we're social mammals, we have this thing Stephen Porges calls the social engagement system where we feel safe enough to engage socially, and we're always on the lookout as social mammals for something that is unsafe, dangerous, or life-threatening. 

And we're just scanning, not even consciously. We're just scanning, like you walk into a party or an airport or a hotel or something your social mammal, you're scared animal is just on the lookout for threats, and we're just wired this way more than we are to love and to connect actually. Apparently twice as we're wired, twice as much for threat, then for connection. 

So we're these sensory beings that are always on the lookout below, usually below our awareness. And so when we get into, let's say again, a look on the face, a tone of voice, a text that doesn't get returned back on time, that can send my nervous system into a place of activation where the sympathetic part of our nervous system starts to kick in and I, my heart rate starts to increase and I start to mobilize to protect myself in some way. 

Justin: So this is essentially the fight or flight response, and we would be experiencing similar physical reactions if, like a bear began to charge. 

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. So this is a system that, you know, 10,000 years ago was really good for us, and now it's still a good thing. We want it. We want our scared animal to come online when we need it to. But so often it's firing unnecessarily. 

You know, you could be on Instagram and something that could threaten, your old ex and they're the way they're partnered with someone else could just like, send you into a whole reaction that would be similar to if you were seeing a bear across the road or across the path in front of you. 

So that's what's challenging now is we're dealing with a very primitive system that fires fast and often is wrong. And then our job is like, how do we work with that? And this is where we disconnect from center, from zero. If zero is like the place of good connection, we feel connected to ourselves and the other person. The moment we get threatened, no matter how big or small, we move away from zero and we move, I don't call it fight, flight, freeze, although that's what it is, I call it posture, collapse, seek, void. We just do these things to protect ourselves. 

Justin: Yeah. So you write about those as the four-disc connectors. And so we have entered into conflict. We're now our bodies are mobilized into this fight or flight response, and we're mobilized into these four disc connectors. Yeah, so it's seek or avoid, posture or collapse, seek and avoid. I think that that's self-explanatory, I guess. But then the posture or collapse could. Could you unpack that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Think of a person who raises their voice who gets kind of big and moves toward someone else in a conflict. And I call it a porcupine. You start your quills, come out and you're really starting to posture and get big as a way to protect yourself. Some of us do that, and some of us do the opposite, which is to get small. And that's the collapsing like a hermit crab. We go inward. We shut down. We get really still in really quiet. 

Justin: I'm now seeing this picture. We are triggered, the body is activated and then we are in this seek or avoid, posture or collapse where we're mobilizing these four disc connectors. And then you write about the four connectors, a feeling emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported. So I mean, your book really is about how to get from the, you know, this mobilized four-disc connector space to this emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported space, getting from activated and then this posture, collapse to safe and soothe? 

Is this really about doing the inner work that we were referring to before about, you know, learning about one's childhood stuff, about projecting, learning how to be with internal discomfort? Is it really about doing this deep internal work and that tips and tricks really aren't going to get the job done? That's what was coming up for me. 

Jayson: Yeah, I mean, I'd say yes and, so if you want to get better at this conflict repair cycle and learn to come back quicker, learn to own your part quicker, learn to help the other person chill out more and so you can guys feel good again, which is zero. Then looking at yourself is going to be the accelerated path. Looking at your history, you know, some people are like, I had a great childhood. I don't know why my partner is so triggering. Well, that just means you don't remember. And it was so subtle that because the passage is always going to show up in the present, no matter what childhood you've had. 

So it's less about like I have to go and reevaluate my whole past. The good news, that's why I kind of the book and my motto is you don't really have to do a ton of that. It does help because it just makes you more self-aware and more agile under stress. So you know yourself, and then you can educate your person that, Hey, this is what I remember. I grew up in a family like this. Remember when I was a kid? This was really scary for me. So when you do this, it kind of hurts. It kind of sucks. 

So can you at least have some empathy over here and we can kind of educate each other about how sensitive we are and how what works for us and what doesn't work for us, that's only going to help. So the and part of, yes, inner work and this collaborative work together where we're really trying to understand each other. Like, wow, you, you are wired like this. This is so doesn't make sense to me. Can you help me understand even more? And if we can bring a genuine curiosity about each other's nervous system, about what works and doesn't work. Then again, we're starting to act like a team, and it's going to probably go better for us. 

 

 

36:20

Justin: So I'm attracted to this idea that you have in the book, the emotional discomfort threshold. And so going back to what we first started talking about, can I become more comfortable with all of the stuff going on inside, which then allows me to show up and be more comfortable with big, difficult emotions in my kids or my partner?

Jayson: Absolutely. 

Justin: What are some tools or some practices that increase our emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, great. So meditation is a huge one that worked for me many years ago, and I created just a very simple meditation, almost mindfulness exercise that anyone can do in under two minutes. And I call it the nestr meditation. 

Justin: Yeah, which is in the book. 

Jayson: Yeah, which is in the book. I can walk through super fast if you want me to. 

Justin: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure. 

Jayson: Cool. Yeah. So you just do it right now. It's probably the best way to teach and this is like a minute, two minutes. Let’s close our eyes or go inside. And so let's just say a trigger just happened and you've got a little bit of space from your partner or your kid and you're like, kind of heated. So just check in. And we're going to go down this acronym NESTR and we're going to label things. 

So N is number. So you just on a zero to ten scale, what is your number right now? So you just pick a number, I’m gonna say I'm a three, I'm a little upset, but I'm not above a five, so I can still think about this so I’m gonna be a three. Great. 

So now we move on to the next letter, which is E, emotion, so we label our emotional experience sad, mad, glad, afraid, scared, upset, triggered, you know, whatever it is, we just put a label on it. That's the emotion. 

And then Sensation is something that's actually going on in your body. Hot, cold, sweat, tingling, tension in my chest, a mild headache, sore knee. Those are all sensations. 

And then T is thoughts. What are you thinking about right now? Well, I'm thinking about my partner and why they did what they did and my part. And it's just confusing. So that could be what you're thinking about. 

And then R is resource. Where do you just feel good and ok in your experience? Could be your toe, could be your chest, your head. So where do you feel resourced? And just we just hang with that and then if we want, we can, you know, stay another couple of minutes and ride the waves of specifically, the sensation because that's where the discomfort is, and this allows us to increase our discomfort threshold.

Justin: Awesome. Wow. So going on this process two to three minutes, and then if I'm still activated, I then just stick with the sensations and I just ride these sensations.

Jayson: Ride the sensations and try to. And this is more slightly more advanced meditation. But if you can put your awareness or your attention instead of on the breath, like most meditation does, in and out through the nose or whatever. 

You actually put it on the most uncomfortable spot in your body. Yes, and you find out if it's going to kill you. And usually, you find out it's not. And it's just like a wave, like a surfer and you and you're kind of like a surfer and you're surfing, you're riding this wave until it starts to subside. And the vast majority of time, if you can stay with it, it will decrease and then you just increased your discomfort threshold.

Justin: Absolutely. I love this. I love this. Yeah, I developed an emotional mindfulness practice almost a year ago when I had I had worked for four years actually doing health behavior change stuff with mindfulness-based stress reduction. And I was finding at least working with parents and particularly with our work with childhood cancer parents, which is where the Yes Collective came out of, you know, the straight normal mindfulness stuff might help a little bit, but parents were having a hard time getting connected to it and sticking with it. 

And when I started to learn about these more emotion-focused practices, I was like, oh, this is where it's at. Like, can we just go straight to where we're being triggered and can we open up to it? Can we get more curious about it? Can we ask it questions? 

And this has been so impactful for me and that we're now using it with our childhood cancer nonprofit. And yeah, I mean, it's such a powerful practice as you said, you know, when you go towards your most difficult, painful emotion and you see it's not going to kill me. Yeah, yeah. 

Jayson: It's not going to kill me. It's going to be ok. And again, I can also, I can be that for my children, right? Like if I can handle my own emotional experience and regulate myself because I'm the external regulator for children so I can now hold the space or be present with their huge tantrums and upsets and tears and anger and whatever and not go into reactivity. 

Justin: Is there an aspect, one thing that I brought into this emotional processing meditation is physical expression, like after asking the questions of really getting to understand what is this triggering emotion, can we ask it to move through our bodies? Like how does it want to move, you know, as a stretch or a deep breath? What do you think about bringing some of that work into the emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. Why not? I think anything that's going to help you get back to zero and back in your center with you and the person or people you care most about. Great.

Justin:  Awesome. Alright. So I don't want to give away too much of the book. This is an amazing book for anybody who cares about relationships. And so the title of the book is or the subtitle refers to high-stake relationships. And so I'm assuming that these tools can be used in any relationship like at work or, you know, in any sort of context. 

But for me, they just felt so powerful and so important for partnerships and then the parent-child relationship as well. So I encourage listeners to check out this book and check out your work. But before we land this plane, I just have to ask about Listen Until they Feel Understood. So do you pronounce it LUFU?

Jayson: LUFU.

Justin: So this is the first time I heard about this I interpreted it as listening until I feel like I understood that. And I was like, oh I got,  like, that's easy. I understand everybody. And then it was like, No, no, no, no, no, no. Listen until they feel understood. Yeah. So can you say a few words? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the short story of how this got created for me was because I kept listening to my wife in a really stubborn way and she'd say, I don't feel understood. I'd say, well, I do understand you. I don't know what you're talking about. You just you. I repeat back, she's like, no, I don't feel understood, like, yes, I do, and so that went on for years and I was like, this is getting nowhere. 

So I said, ok, I'm going to put the lever actually with her, and I'm going to say, I'm not, I don't understand you until you let me know that you do feel understood by me. And that changed everything for me and us because I became a better listener that day and I was like, oh wow, I really now going to have to apply myself even more because a lot of the time she shuts me down is like, “No dude, you don't get it.” And I'm like, “ok, cool, let me try again,” or “I need some space and I'll come back and try again later” because I'm too upset.

Justin: Oh my god. Yeah. Like, I thought that my understanding was up to me and I spent almost my entire adult life in academia. So it was like, I decide when I like, I have understood this. I see how it is. And it's such a little I mean, it's a subtle twist, but it's a game-changer to say, no, no, no, it's not up to you. Like, it's not your understanding of this is up to this person to say “yes, now you got it. Yes, now as I feel understood.” 

Jayson: Yeah. So LUFU, is this thing we teach? And if anyone comes to our events or practices, it's like the practice. Like if you can, if you can get this just as if you skip every part of the book, but you get this and you actually do it for the rest of your life, your life will completely change and transform because you're going to be that person everybody wants to talk to because they all feel understood by you. 

Justin: I love it. So I have a few final questions here. So how is your thinking changed over the years? So how? Well, first, how long have you been a relationship expert? 

Jayson: I mean, I don't really call myself that. I say I'm a student and a teacher of relationships because I'm always learning. But I don't know, 10, 20 years. Yeah, 10, 15 years. 

Justin: So I'm imagining that, so there's a lot that has changed or you've come across different tools and skills or you've seen some things kind of work, but other things work even better. Are there a few things that stand out that you've learned along the way that you've changed or that have changed you? 

Jayson: Completely. I think our understanding of the brain and neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology is completely, I don't know, just blown up and secure attachment. So I'd say, let me say a couple of things just to make this practical. So one thing is when couples get triggered and go to different parts of the house and just say, “I'll handle myself, you handle yourself and let's come back when we're better.” 

That is a good skill for all couples to learn, but it's not the finish line. And so my wife and I tried that and did that for years, but we kept, it was inefficient and the timing was off, and it just something about it wasn't quite clicking. So we learned more interactive regulation. How do we stay in the room and help each other's nervous system because it's actually faster, it's more efficient, and we can get back to zero quicker. And so that that was a big development over the course of our marriage. We've been married 14 years now. So that was huge. 

Justin: Can I ask something about that real quick? I, you know, I've heard of this strategy of, you know, the cooling down and, you know, going to several parts of the house or taking a walk. And it has always struck me as like something just doesn't click for me. And what is coming up now is that it's a really good way of avoiding the most important thing. Whatever is coming up in this conflict. It seems like it's a good way to avoid it because then you can come back together. You're both calmer and you can start to kind of patch up the more surface-level stuff, but you don't have to deal with maybe something big that's underneath. 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And then let me just say another layer of this in the parenting space, which is, you know, the time out is the classic understandable move a lot of parents make when their kid is, you know, really upset. And the parents have said, “you need to go to your room.”

Justin: That's right.

Jayson: You know, and the problem with that approach now that we know about more about attachment science and the nervous system is when you teach a kid over and over to go deal with this by themselves, they learn that relationships are not reliable and that you can't get back to a good place with another person. You have to do that by yourself. So you're creating an adult who will one day not value relationships and will go to drugs and alcohol, their phones, screens, porn, you name it, to get regulated, to get back to a good place. 

And they will not rely on relationships. And that's a bummer. And I see those adults and I work with those people all the time, and they struggle because they grew up in families like this where it was go to your room. So there's something way more efficient and powerful about relying on relationships to get back to a good place. 

Justin: Oh wow, that. Yeah, that hits me, I certainly grew up in a household that used those strategies, and one of the things coming up is a sense of big emotions are unsafe. Just they're unsafe. They're going to get you sent to your room, they're going to get you, you know, ignored or they are going to cause a loss of attachment. So then in adulthood, big, big emotions are just, yeah, just crammed, crammed those things down there as much as you can and avoid them as much as possible. Because when they come up, you have no tools. You’re traveling now off the map. 

Jayson: Yeah. And then you're left to fend for yourself and you can't you're not thinking like, oh, I need to actually ask for help from my partner or rely on my partner even if they're triggering me. It doesn't even cross your mind because you're like, no, this is up to me. And again, it's not ideal from a partnership kind of perspective. 

Justin: Hmm. I love it. Yeah. I just think back to how lucky I am that I had been doing some of this work before we made this move because there are just a couple of really big emotional moments that I know I would’ve shut down like I know without a doubt, I would have found a way to shut them down and just to stick with them. 

And so now just having this conversation with you, I'm feeling into gratitude around my kids being safe with big emotions, you know, with just like and we are going to be here for them and we're going to talk about it. So I feel like you had a couple of other things that had changed for you. So there was this biology aspect.

Jayson: Again, secure attachment. I would say that it's what we now know is that if we can behave in a way that offers what I call relational needs to our children, for example, in an adult partner by giving them the feeling of they feel emotionally safe, they feel seen and known and understood by us, and they feel soothed, meaning we repair conflicts when they happen every time, not once in a while, but every time. 

And we support them and we challenge them because we believe them and we have boundaries, right? No, you don't get that cookie. It's 10 o’clock at night and you need to go to bed. No, you're going to school, even though you don't want to kind of boundaries. We're creating security and those kids, the research shows, and I didn't learn this in graduate school, but studying Dan Siegel and so many other people, we now know that kids who are securely attached in their home environments grow up and they're doing better in every area of life.

They're holding down jobs longer, they're getting jobs better, they're getting better grades, they’re getting into better colleges, they're having healthier adult relationships. The list goes on. Less addictions, less mental health problems, on and on and on. So that's exciting. I'm like, wow. I would think that would motivate the hell out of so many parents to go, “Whoa, I need to figure this out.”

Justin: Yeah, I know. And it's I mean, it's changing the world. You know, you as a parent are part of the solution. You are producing children who are going to be healthy, well-adjusted members of this world doing good things like it. Yeah, it's totally like it's even bigger than you. It's bigger than us. Was there one other thing?

Jayson: No. But I want to add one more thing, which is what secure attachment isn't. Because I live in Boulder and a lot of people think secure attachment is just holding your kid a long time or putting him in the ergo or co-sleeping with them. While that might look like secure attachment, that's often coming from an anxious parent who doesn't want to mess up their kids. So that's a very big difference like if you're like, oh, I don't want to mess up my kids, so I'm going to hold him all the time or every time they cry, and I give him something or any time they struggle. I'm going to like, rescue them and like, bail them out of their pain. 

And oh my gosh. And like, that's no, no, no, that's not remotely secure attachment. So I call that just over parenting and over attachment parenting. And it's not actually, it's going in the wrong direction, right? 

Justin: We did not evolve like that. Have you come across the book Hunt Gather Parent? 

Jayson: I've heard of it. I have not read it. Is it good? 

Justin: Oh, it's amazing. Yes, because she travels. Yeah, yeah. So she's an NPR science correspondent, and she has at the start of the book, I think a four-year-old, and she travels to Alaska, to Mexico, and Africa to visit indigenous communities to see how they parent there and its base, I mean, it is almost everything that we're doing in the modern world. Just do the opposite. 

Jayson: Yeah, it's probably pretty hands up. 

Justin: Oh my god, it's well…

Jayson: It sucks because like, that's the problem with, like all the research now is parents can get so bound up like that, they're going to just mess it, just do this terrible job, and so they over function, they just go into overdoing it mode. 

Justin: Oh man. So the final question, Jayson, is what is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth? 

Jayson: Hmm. Well, there's a couple of things. I'm always working on my psychology around expansion and like touching more lives and earning more money, and there's just ways in which I get tied up in knots. There are some times, so that's a layer. And then my wife and I, we just went through, you know, thanks to COVID pushing an issue to the surface, like it did for so many of married couples, we just got really honest about some of our repair and process and got more efficient. And just I feel like we just recently have kind of crossed through another cool threshold. 

So we've been working at it pretty hard on how do we do this even better? I love it for ourselves, for our kids. And yeah, so I feel like we're always working on something. 

Justin: Yeah, the work never stops. So we have three last questions we ask every guest, just rapid-fire. If you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say? 

Jayson: Become more self-aware. 

Justin: Become more self-aware. And what is the quote lately that has changed the way you think or feel?

Jayson: Maya Angelou's quote, she says something like “Have enough courage to trust love one more time, always one more time.” 

Justin: Beautiful, beautiful. And our final question, especially for parents whose kids are toddler age. You know it can be a grueling grind on days. So we like to end by celebrating things that we love about kids. So Jayson, what do you love about kids? 

Jayson: Oh, my God. Just about everything. I love kids’ imaginations, their creativity, their play, their joy, and their like zeal and curiosity for life. It's just so insatiable. It's unbelievably inspiring to me.

Justin: Yeah, it's inspiring and infectious. I love it. 

Jayson: Yeah.

Justin: Jayson, thank you so much for making time for us. We really appreciate it. We love to have you back sometime. Your wisdom and insights are just super powerful, super impactful. And so if people want to check out your work and follow you, you're on all the socials? 

Jayson: Yup. @JaysonGaddis. Jayson with a y. J-A-Y-S-O-N-G-A-D-D-I-S on Instagram, for example, and GettingtoZerobook.com is probably a fun way for anyone listening to go take a conflict quiz to see what your conflict style is. To find out more about the book if you're want to get to the first chapter, if you're not ready to buy it. That's probably the best place to check out that. And there's links there for our podcast, the Relationship School podcast, and so much more. 

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you, Jayson. I really appreciate this man.

Jayson: Yeah, thanks, just an honor to be here. 


Transcript highlights

1:56 

Justin: Yeah, Jayson, so thank you so much for coming on the Yes Collective podcast. I have heard about you from different people over the past year as I've gotten to learn a little bit more about relationships. We might talk about authentic relating. Later, I discovered that about a year and a half ago, and so. I started to learn more about relationships. And then, yeah, we heard, we heard about you. We heard about the relationship school and then Getting to Zero just came out and I've loved it. And so I'm really thrilled to have you on the podcast. Thank you for making time. 

Jayson: Yeah. 

Justin: So my first question is, Jayson, were you always good at relationships? Is this just like a natural skill? You just were always connecting and repairing? 

Jayson: No, man. I was the opposite of quote “good at relationships.” What I did get good at was and it took me till probably high school and actually, more importantly, college when I got good socially. But that doesn't mean anything. It just means that I got good at playing the game of getting people to like me.

So that's not necessarily someone who's good at relationships, right? Yeah, but I before that and then after that, I just was really sensitive and emotional on the inside, but wore a mask and, you know, just a facade basically that said, yeah, I'll do whatever I can to fit in and be liked and make friends because I had so many negative, you know, bullying experiences, getting excluded, girls not liking me. 

And, you know, just so many challenges relationally. And then in a family where their awesome family, but they didn't value like these subtler parts of relationship where we can really acknowledge someone where we can see them or we can slow down. And if we hurt their feelings, we can like clean it up and make it better again. Like that, none of that was going on. 

Justin: None of that. I heard you say you were good at getting people to like you. I imagine that there's probably a common assumption that that is what relationships are about. Like, if I can just get this other person to like me, then I'm good at relationships. So what's wrong with that view? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's the, I think that operating fueling that kind of approach is usually insecurity, self-doubt, scarcity, not feeling like enough and not having the experience of enough experiences where you feel rejected, abandoned, ignored, whatever, that you feel like you have to be someone else to get relationship or to belong. 

This is a really common pattern that I think most everybody falls in, especially growing up in your family and in your peer culture is if our true self comes out sometimes we get squashed and we get made fun of or hurt or people look the other way. And so that only has to happen really once or twice for us to kind of go, ok, cool, I'm not going to do that again. 

Justin: Oh yeah.

Jayson: And I'm going to instead do whatever will, whatever socially favorable behaviors get me belonging and I call this difference is just the difference between our true self and our strategic self. And this actually creates an inner conflict that most of us deal with our whole life. 

Justin: So the strategic self is figuring out, how can I make this situation easy? How can I be accepted? How can I achieve attachment? And then the true self, now that you mentioned it, what is that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, it's kind of who we are when we feel most alive and free in ourselves. And it's also maybe who we are when we feel most ashamed because it's, you know, to risk being authentic, I think in our peer group growing up, especially our family, you know, the risks were high. Like, one of our biggest fears is that we're going to be left or dropped or totally rejected and outcast. 

And for some social mammals like us, that's not good. It's not good for our health and well-being. And so our true self is like who we are, like deep down inside that hopefully when you find an awesome family or an awesome partner and great close friends, you get to come out and really be yourself. 

Justin: Hmm. So that's what a real relationship is, when you can be authentic and also in connection at the same time.

Jayson: Yeah. And even if you're trying, what's funny is people get married really naively thinking it's just going to all work out and they don't understand the gravity of the situation that really, if they've been in a strategy their whole life and now they get married, as soon as the honeymoon stage wears off, their true self can't help but emerge, and a lot of their true self is kind of messy. It's ugly, it's uncomfortable, it's shameful, it's embarrassing. 

It's, you know, the part of us that leaves our socks on the floor that doesn't clean up after ourselves, or that is very OCD and controlling and, you know, super hyper-vigilant, it's whatever we are. And it's hard to hide in a marriage. It's hard to hide in a family. And I think that's good news because it brings all the truth out so that we can love and learn to love. 

Justin: Oh yeah. So it's like the way I’m imagining it here is, you know, before marriage, we can avoid a lot of our stuff. We can just find ways to move through life. And then in marriage, now we're kind of confronted with this like, ok, I have a true self and then this strategic self and how can I be my true self, also, in relationship with this other person, that's going to trigger a lot. 

That's going to bring up a lot. And then you add kids into the mix. And I imagine there's a whole other level of complexity and triggering and stuff that you can no longer avoid. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. You got it. Spoken like a parent. Yeah. Another view here, are kind of the more spiritual type, is that our kids represent our disowned parts, parts of ourselves that we haven't loved. And so your kids are going to trigger you a lot. And as is your partner, and that's not a problem if you have a growth mindset, if you don't and you just kind of are hoping for a copasetic quote, happy, normal, peaceful situation. You're going to be up shit creek because it's just no, it's just not how it works. 

Justin: Well, it's yeah, it's the desire for the happy copacetic situation. But then, you know, we just moved this last year from Orange County, California to Savannah. But in Orange County, there were a lot of hard-charging A-type families where the kids were kind of groomed to be this perfect representation of what the parent wants to be seen as. And so it's not just happy and copacetic, but can I get my child to perform in such a way to reflect on me? Yeah. 

Jayson: Exactly. You nailed it. I mean, that’s the other big thing of parenting is how many parents are basically just trying to put their values on their kids. And of course, we're all parents are going to instill, try to instill, quote good values into our kids because we want them to grow up to be good people and, you know, contributing members of society. 

But I think in that type of culture you're talking about and here in Boulder, Colorado, it's very similar where there's a lot of hard-chargers, people just in general just want to go for it. And they're very image-focused, they're very status-focused. 

So if their kids are not kind of winning and getting A's and doing all the things, then it looks bad on them, right? It reflects negatively on them. And I worked with a lot of these families in residential treatment many years ago. It's a mess.

Justin: Oh, wow. Yeah, right, right. And so they're also coming up against some disowned parts. And uh, what's happening there as well. 

Jayson: Oh yeah, yeah, exactly. 

Justin: I want to talk more about this stuff. This is the stuff that I love to really get into. But I guess I want to spend the time that we have really digging into conflict. So I got your book a month or two ago and I've absolutely loved it. It's called Getting to Zero. 

One of the first things that popped out to me is you wrote: “The crux of a good, strong, long-lasting relationship is not the absence of conflict, but the ability and willingness to work through it.”

And so what came up first like, ok, is it possible to have a deep relationship like a long-term relationship, like a marriage without conflict? Like is there some, some golden land over the next hill where our relationships won't have any conflict? Or is it inevitable? 

Jayson: Yeah, I think it's inevitable, and my parents did a pretty good job of, you know, they have conflict, but they would say that they don't have conflict. And I grew up thinking, oh, my parents don't fight. And all they were doing was putting it on the shelf and compartmentalizing it. 

Justin: Yes. Yeah. 

Jayson: And then, you know, having a glass of wine and going to bed and hoping it was better the next day. So a lot of people operate like that. And that's ok. That's certainly one way to do it. But you're not going to have a very deep relationship and you're not going to have a very fulfilling relationship. 

Justin: So it's inevitable or so conflict is inevitable. And then what we need to do is they learn how to manage it and learn or really learn how to repair it. That was where the game's at.

Jayson: That's where the game is out. You nailed it. Yeah, because I mean, the book Getting to Zero is how to, it’s basically a translation of that, is getting back to a good place. How do we get back to a good place after we've had a difference, a snag, a silence after we've had some kind of conflict? And that's the work. 

And couples who do that well and families who do that well create security in the system and security in the dyad. And you're actually becoming not only stronger together, you're becoming more resilient and it's actually safer because you're saying, yeah, that stuff, that's kind of negative and uncomfortable, that's welcome here, too. We're not going to put that away. 

That's actually part of being a family. That's part of being a married couple, is this uncomfortable stuff between us that doesn't always feel good. That's really normal. I just, you know, I'm here to normalize for people that when you feel upset with your partner or your kids and you raise your voice, that's normal. It's what are you going to do after to make sure that person feels safe again with you? 

Justin: Beautiful. So we can think about Getting to Zero as the opposite of being triggered at level 10. So, yeah, 10 would be you are out of your mind triggered and then zero is coming back to that safe, oh, you, you had the safe, secure scene and soothed place. 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah, that's right. Yeah, yeah. When I settle my nervous system, my scared animal I call it, that's kind of activated inside because I'm a social mammal calms down, right? I kind of like, chill out and you, your tone of voice and how you look at me and how you talk to me, all can help me. 

Actually, you know, I talk about how do we regulate ourselves when we're upset and then how do we regulate our partner when they're upset? How do we just be there for people or kids when they're upset? That's also really valuable skills that we can learn, and most of us didn't…

Justin: Oh my god, that's been the whole key for me. I really kind of started getting serious around therapy and emotional healing about a year and a half ago, really at the start of the pandemic. 

And one of the things that just has been such a revelation for me is that my outer relationships are just a reflection of my inner relationships. And if I can learn how to be comfortable with my own discomfort, with my own inner tension, with my with everything happening inside, then I can show up for my kids and my partner when they're triggered or uncomfortable. And that's, I mean, that came at the right time. 

Well, we decided to move about a year ago, and the first time that I remember reflecting on this is my daughter was really upset about, well, at first she was excited to move and then when it finally hit her, she was really upset. And the way that I grew up is that, hey, you know, we have many different strategies. We can distract, like, Hey, look over here. We can bribe. And then if distraction and bribing don't work, then discipline. I don't want to hear it again. If I hear it again, then you know, we're going to take away whatever. 

And like, I was going, like I was about to go down those, like, you know, the first time I was about there and then it was like, Oh, wait, wait, wait, what if I allow for her discomfort the same way that I'm learning to allow for my own discomfort? And it was beautiful. I mean, was it like a really, really cool experience. 

Jayson: Yeah. Kids need that, right. They need that kind of room to be able to go get mad, sad, hurt, scared, whatever. And parents, you know, I grew up in a similar situation where it was like mostly it was just shut down. You know, what are you crying about? I'll give you something to cry about, like, get over it. Suck it up. Come on. 

And it was scary. So scary to start to feel again. But now it's freedom now, and my kids feel safe to feel stuff in the house. 

Justin: Yeah. I mean, what I realize is, of course, before the kids, it was me that I came across this saying early on in therapy, “what we resist persists” and it was like, oh, well, you know me resisting all of these uncomfortable feelings, all this stuff, it's not making it go away, man. And so then to think about this with my daughter and is like, oh, I can find ways to avoid or shut it down, as you said, but what we resist persists is that feeling isn’t going to go anywhere. And so…

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. And I, similarlyI in my 20s, I was emotionally unavailable. I was like the classic, emotionally unavailable male. So every woman I dated because when they would get emotions, emotional emotions, and have needs and stuff and feelings, it was very uncomfortable for me. 

So I would kind of shut them down by pushing them away because I didn't have that capacity. And when I finally got partnered with my wife and I was starting to work on myself, I saw that, oh, the work here is she's emotional. The more capacity I have to be emotional over here, right? The more I can hold space for her upset because otherwise, every woman I dated prior to my wife, I was sort of shutting them down because I was not ok with my own emotions. 

Justin: It all starts inside, right? 

Jayson: Pretty much. But here's the thing like, it's in a relationship that we are able to see that the mirror gets held up to what it is that we're not getting about ourselves. 

Justin: Oh man, yes, I love it. I love it. All right. So let's talk a little bit about real-life conflict. So you write that there are five basic conflicts that couples have. So we have the surface-level fights, the childhood projections, security fights, value differences, and resentments. 

First off, so I think these five will be easily, I think, understandable just from their names. The surface-level fights, everybody knows. Maybe if you could explain childhood projections and security fights. So what is a fight or that has to do with a childhood projection? What what does that look like? 

Jayson: Yeah. Well, a lot of the fights do start with some sort of surface argument. Let's say you and I are partnered in and you just have like a look on your face, right? And it looks like a surface thing. And now I'm upset. And now we're kind of like arguing about something. And it just started with the look on your face, right? It's like, what the heck just happened here? 

Well, if we look deeper, we would see that this, I might be projecting. Let's say you have this look that you go flat and you kind of look away from me when we're in conflict. Well, I grew up with a mother who went flat and looked away under stress, and that scared me as a little kid. So when you do that, look, it's similar and it triggers that old memory in my body, in my heart, my feelings that I feel like I'm right back in my childhood home. So I project my mom onto you. 

So this is basic psychology 101, but it can be hard for people to grasp. But basically, you can, you know, I just ask the listener, any time you feel like you're in your family of origin with your current situation, chances are there's a projection going on somewhere. 

Justin: I wonder is, it seems to me that those would be connected to particularly intense feelings. So is it the case that the further up we get on the trigger scale, that the more likely we are to be in some childhood projection?

Jayson: That's a good question. I don't know that that's necessarily true, but it might be. I'd have to think about that. I think it's just going on all the time, whether we're sort of in it or not and how activated we are. You know, it is true, though, that the more triggered we are in, the higher up the number scale we go, the less cognitive functioning we have, the less, the more inaccurate our memory is. We're not going to remember like, oh, that's not what I said. This is exactly what I said. People get into that kind of dynamic. It's like, no, no one knows what was said. And this is why we wish we had a tape recorder because our memory is incredibly flawed when we're activated. 

Justin: So our thinking brain, our prefrontal cortex is starting to shut down a bit and our emotional brain or the limbic system is coming on, so this would naturally bring us back into a space of childhood attachments and/or attachment wounds. Would that be the case? 

Jayson: Yeah. And sometimes if we're talking about attachment that happened in the first couple of years of life. And sure, there was attachment bonding going on after that. But most of the big, like the most critical time, is in those first couple of years. 

So if we had a parent who was absent, we're drinking all the time, or neglectful or abusive man, we're going to have a pretty hard time in our adult relationships. So that's why these first couple of years as parents are so vital to create what I would call a secure attachment, and that's offering this experience of the child feeling safe, seen to support, and challenged. 

Justin: And so that is related to the security fights. Is that right? 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And so security fights can be the most common way people can understand this as if I'm in a relationship with you and you have one foot in one foot out because you have—and we could be married and you still might have one foot in one foot out and you're just not fully here. That creates insecurity in me. 

And so the security of our vibe together is naturally going to be insecure. So that's one way to think about it. Another way to think about it is you could be in a 10-year marriage. And if repairs are not happening after conflict, you're in an insecure relationship. Or if you have a partner who refuses to come to the table and own their part, both of you are in an insecure relationship guaranteed.

Justin: Alright. So we have these five basic conflict types. Is it the case that some couples fight about one of these more than others? Or are these relatively evenly distributed across fights and couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, it's an important question. I don't know, but I will say all couples are going to experience these off and on for the rest of their partnership. 

Justin: So even if one is more prominent, all five of these are going to come into your relationship. 

Jayson: Yeah. And if they're not dealt with, you're just compounding everything and making it all much harder to deal with. You know, I sometimes work with a couple or a student and they've just have never dealt, you know, they just shoved it under the rug for decades, and now it's like every little thing hurts and it's like, ok, well, where do we start? 

It's like, well, let's start right now with the one that just happened, but now we have to go back with you and your person and clean up every single one of them if you want to be a zero. I mean, you don't have to be because a lot of people can live at a five. 

It's shocking to me that, you know, we’re all living with so much stress. Like human beings are kind of resilient and maybe in a negative way, kind of resilient, that people will live in really shitty relationships and really horrible situations for a long time. You know, it's not good.

Justin: When they come to you finally, and they've been living like this for so long. What generally has been their big fear around fixing this? 

Jayson: Yeah, there's three primary reasons why a person like this would avoid, and it's biology, history, and discomfort. 

So biology is again, we don't want to be left out, cast out, kicked out of the dyad or the herd. We don't want to live alone, die alone, etcetera. That's really bad for us. So we will do anything to keep the connection, including betraying ourselves, our history as we've had. We grew up in a maybe a traumatic household or a household that just was silent and everybody went to their corners of the house and there was no quote, no conflict. But it was also like no connection, no nourishment. 

That's another reason is because the history shows up in the present. When we get in an argument, that's the projection stuff and then discomfort. A lot of people honestly just really don't like what they feel in their body, heart, and mind when they get in conflict, it's really don't feel good, so they avoid that. So they're avoiding, I think, for a lot of these reasons. 

And then the last one might be they have no idea how. Right? Because when do you learn?

Justin: Oh. Now that you explain it like that, it's actually it's a miracle that anybody gets help. Because that's a lot. 

Jayson: Yeah. And so we have a lot going against us here. We can successfully avoid this just fine, you know? 

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. 

Jayson: And we're not fulfilled.

Justin: No, no. Oh gosh. Alright. So before I leave the five basic types, I just want to repeat them again because I have one last question. So the surface-level fights, it's the childhood projections, it's the security fights and then value differences and resentments. Is there one of these that is the hardest kind to repair?

Jayson: Well, I think I'll say two things there because it's a really good question. Repair, if repair isn't happening in partnership and it's gone on for years, that's going to be pretty hard unless the non-repairing person gets motivated. So it's almost impossible unless both people decide one day, let's do it differently and let's apply ourselves and learn how. And then value differences like I've been, this has been coming up with COVID, which is families who didn't know that they had such a big difference around vaccines. 

And also, there's a pro-vaccine person and an anti-vaccine person married, and they have two kids who are now at the age where they could get a vaccine. And now they have to deal with, “Well, I want to vaccinate our kids.” “I don't want to vaccinate our kids.” That's really tough, really tough. Especially if there are so fundamentally bound to their belief system, it's going to be pretty hard to deal with that.

Justin: Have you seen these couples? 

Jayson: Yeah, I've only seen a couple and it's the work I realized I was pretty fast, I was like, ok, well, this is like going nowhere because they were just so in their position. It's like, wow, good luck. 

But the work at that point for me is, can you deeply understand each other's perspective more than you ever have and have compassion, and can you even open your heart to the way they see the world? And that’s very healing and couples that can do that, at the very least, they can not judge each other so intently and they can go, “I understand why you believe what you believe and I and it makes sense to me.” 

They can even validate the other person like that makes sense. Totally. And I do, I'm going to do it differently, and I appreciate and respect your choice with your body and what you want to do.

Justin: Oh, love it. Yeah, I just learned over the past couple of months working with a couple of relationship coaches on a different project validation like that, and my assumption on validation had been that it's to say, yes, I agree. 

You know, I'm like validating in my mind was, you know, I accept and agree with everything you just said. And I learned, no, it's actually saying, I understand what you're saying and it makes sense. And then listening until they feel fully understood was a super-powerful concept right on let's walk through conflict. 

Now, I can remember so many times of the past conflict, either with my kids, conflict with my partner. And you write a lot about the nervous system. So conflict. It's not just up in our heads or just, you know, in some, you know, conceptual idea space, it's actually happening in our bodies. And so I'm wondering if you can just unpack this a little bit. How conflict shows up in our bodies. 

Jayson: Yeah. So because we're social mammals, we have this thing Stephen Porges calls the social engagement system where we feel safe enough to engage socially, and we're always on the lookout as social mammals for something that is unsafe, dangerous, or life-threatening. 

And we're just scanning, not even consciously. We're just scanning, like you walk into a party or an airport or a hotel or something your social mammal, you're scared animal is just on the lookout for threats, and we're just wired this way more than we are to love and to connect actually. Apparently twice as we're wired, twice as much for threat, then for connection. 

So we're these sensory beings that are always on the lookout below, usually below our awareness. And so when we get into, let's say again, a look on the face, a tone of voice, a text that doesn't get returned back on time, that can send my nervous system into a place of activation where the sympathetic part of our nervous system starts to kick in and I, my heart rate starts to increase and I start to mobilize to protect myself in some way. 

Justin: So this is essentially the fight or flight response, and we would be experiencing similar physical reactions if, like a bear began to charge. 

Jayson: Yeah, exactly. So this is a system that, you know, 10,000 years ago was really good for us, and now it's still a good thing. We want it. We want our scared animal to come online when we need it to. But so often it's firing unnecessarily. 

You know, you could be on Instagram and something that could threaten, your old ex and they're the way they're partnered with someone else could just like, send you into a whole reaction that would be similar to if you were seeing a bear across the road or across the path in front of you. 

So that's what's challenging now is we're dealing with a very primitive system that fires fast and often is wrong. And then our job is like, how do we work with that? And this is where we disconnect from center, from zero. If zero is like the place of good connection, we feel connected to ourselves and the other person. The moment we get threatened, no matter how big or small, we move away from zero and we move, I don't call it fight, flight, freeze, although that's what it is, I call it posture, collapse, seek, void. We just do these things to protect ourselves. 

Justin: Yeah. So you write about those as the four-disc connectors. And so we have entered into conflict. We're now our bodies are mobilized into this fight or flight response, and we're mobilized into these four disc connectors. Yeah, so it's seek or avoid, posture or collapse, seek and avoid. I think that that's self-explanatory, I guess. But then the posture or collapse could. Could you unpack that? 

Jayson: Yeah. Think of a person who raises their voice who gets kind of big and moves toward someone else in a conflict. And I call it a porcupine. You start your quills, come out and you're really starting to posture and get big as a way to protect yourself. Some of us do that, and some of us do the opposite, which is to get small. And that's the collapsing like a hermit crab. We go inward. We shut down. We get really still in really quiet. 

Justin: I'm now seeing this picture. We are triggered, the body is activated and then we are in this seek or avoid, posture or collapse where we're mobilizing these four disc connectors. And then you write about the four connectors, a feeling emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported. So I mean, your book really is about how to get from the, you know, this mobilized four-disc connector space to this emotionally safe, seen, soothed, and supported space, getting from activated and then this posture, collapse to safe and soothe? 

Is this really about doing the inner work that we were referring to before about, you know, learning about one's childhood stuff, about projecting, learning how to be with internal discomfort? Is it really about doing this deep internal work and that tips and tricks really aren't going to get the job done? That's what was coming up for me. 

Jayson: Yeah, I mean, I'd say yes and, so if you want to get better at this conflict repair cycle and learn to come back quicker, learn to own your part quicker, learn to help the other person chill out more and so you can guys feel good again, which is zero. Then looking at yourself is going to be the accelerated path. Looking at your history, you know, some people are like, I had a great childhood. I don't know why my partner is so triggering. Well, that just means you don't remember. And it was so subtle that because the passage is always going to show up in the present, no matter what childhood you've had. 

So it's less about like I have to go and reevaluate my whole past. The good news, that's why I kind of the book and my motto is you don't really have to do a ton of that. It does help because it just makes you more self-aware and more agile under stress. So you know yourself, and then you can educate your person that, Hey, this is what I remember. I grew up in a family like this. Remember when I was a kid? This was really scary for me. So when you do this, it kind of hurts. It kind of sucks. 

So can you at least have some empathy over here and we can kind of educate each other about how sensitive we are and how what works for us and what doesn't work for us, that's only going to help. So the and part of, yes, inner work and this collaborative work together where we're really trying to understand each other. Like, wow, you, you are wired like this. This is so doesn't make sense to me. Can you help me understand even more? And if we can bring a genuine curiosity about each other's nervous system, about what works and doesn't work. Then again, we're starting to act like a team, and it's going to probably go better for us. 

 

 

36:20

Justin: So I'm attracted to this idea that you have in the book, the emotional discomfort threshold. And so going back to what we first started talking about, can I become more comfortable with all of the stuff going on inside, which then allows me to show up and be more comfortable with big, difficult emotions in my kids or my partner?

Jayson: Absolutely. 

Justin: What are some tools or some practices that increase our emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, great. So meditation is a huge one that worked for me many years ago, and I created just a very simple meditation, almost mindfulness exercise that anyone can do in under two minutes. And I call it the nestr meditation. 

Justin: Yeah, which is in the book. 

Jayson: Yeah, which is in the book. I can walk through super fast if you want me to. 

Justin: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure. 

Jayson: Cool. Yeah. So you just do it right now. It's probably the best way to teach and this is like a minute, two minutes. Let’s close our eyes or go inside. And so let's just say a trigger just happened and you've got a little bit of space from your partner or your kid and you're like, kind of heated. So just check in. And we're going to go down this acronym NESTR and we're going to label things. 

So N is number. So you just on a zero to ten scale, what is your number right now? So you just pick a number, I’m gonna say I'm a three, I'm a little upset, but I'm not above a five, so I can still think about this so I’m gonna be a three. Great. 

So now we move on to the next letter, which is E, emotion, so we label our emotional experience sad, mad, glad, afraid, scared, upset, triggered, you know, whatever it is, we just put a label on it. That's the emotion. 

And then Sensation is something that's actually going on in your body. Hot, cold, sweat, tingling, tension in my chest, a mild headache, sore knee. Those are all sensations. 

And then T is thoughts. What are you thinking about right now? Well, I'm thinking about my partner and why they did what they did and my part. And it's just confusing. So that could be what you're thinking about. 

And then R is resource. Where do you just feel good and ok in your experience? Could be your toe, could be your chest, your head. So where do you feel resourced? And just we just hang with that and then if we want, we can, you know, stay another couple of minutes and ride the waves of specifically, the sensation because that's where the discomfort is, and this allows us to increase our discomfort threshold.

Justin: Awesome. Wow. So going on this process two to three minutes, and then if I'm still activated, I then just stick with the sensations and I just ride these sensations.

Jayson: Ride the sensations and try to. And this is more slightly more advanced meditation. But if you can put your awareness or your attention instead of on the breath, like most meditation does, in and out through the nose or whatever. 

You actually put it on the most uncomfortable spot in your body. Yes, and you find out if it's going to kill you. And usually, you find out it's not. And it's just like a wave, like a surfer and you and you're kind of like a surfer and you're surfing, you're riding this wave until it starts to subside. And the vast majority of time, if you can stay with it, it will decrease and then you just increased your discomfort threshold.

Justin: Absolutely. I love this. I love this. Yeah, I developed an emotional mindfulness practice almost a year ago when I had I had worked for four years actually doing health behavior change stuff with mindfulness-based stress reduction. And I was finding at least working with parents and particularly with our work with childhood cancer parents, which is where the Yes Collective came out of, you know, the straight normal mindfulness stuff might help a little bit, but parents were having a hard time getting connected to it and sticking with it. 

And when I started to learn about these more emotion-focused practices, I was like, oh, this is where it's at. Like, can we just go straight to where we're being triggered and can we open up to it? Can we get more curious about it? Can we ask it questions? 

And this has been so impactful for me and that we're now using it with our childhood cancer nonprofit. And yeah, I mean, it's such a powerful practice as you said, you know, when you go towards your most difficult, painful emotion and you see it's not going to kill me. Yeah, yeah. 

Jayson: It's not going to kill me. It's going to be ok. And again, I can also, I can be that for my children, right? Like if I can handle my own emotional experience and regulate myself because I'm the external regulator for children so I can now hold the space or be present with their huge tantrums and upsets and tears and anger and whatever and not go into reactivity. 

Justin: Is there an aspect, one thing that I brought into this emotional processing meditation is physical expression, like after asking the questions of really getting to understand what is this triggering emotion, can we ask it to move through our bodies? Like how does it want to move, you know, as a stretch or a deep breath? What do you think about bringing some of that work into the emotional discomfort threshold? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. Why not? I think anything that's going to help you get back to zero and back in your center with you and the person or people you care most about. Great.

Justin:  Awesome. Alright. So I don't want to give away too much of the book. This is an amazing book for anybody who cares about relationships. And so the title of the book is or the subtitle refers to high-stake relationships. And so I'm assuming that these tools can be used in any relationship like at work or, you know, in any sort of context. 

But for me, they just felt so powerful and so important for partnerships and then the parent-child relationship as well. So I encourage listeners to check out this book and check out your work. But before we land this plane, I just have to ask about Listen Until they Feel Understood. So do you pronounce it LUFU?

Jayson: LUFU.

Justin: So this is the first time I heard about this I interpreted it as listening until I feel like I understood that. And I was like, oh I got,  like, that's easy. I understand everybody. And then it was like, No, no, no, no, no, no. Listen until they feel understood. Yeah. So can you say a few words? 

Jayson: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the short story of how this got created for me was because I kept listening to my wife in a really stubborn way and she'd say, I don't feel understood. I'd say, well, I do understand you. I don't know what you're talking about. You just you. I repeat back, she's like, no, I don't feel understood, like, yes, I do, and so that went on for years and I was like, this is getting nowhere. 

So I said, ok, I'm going to put the lever actually with her, and I'm going to say, I'm not, I don't understand you until you let me know that you do feel understood by me. And that changed everything for me and us because I became a better listener that day and I was like, oh wow, I really now going to have to apply myself even more because a lot of the time she shuts me down is like, “No dude, you don't get it.” And I'm like, “ok, cool, let me try again,” or “I need some space and I'll come back and try again later” because I'm too upset.

Justin: Oh my god. Yeah. Like, I thought that my understanding was up to me and I spent almost my entire adult life in academia. So it was like, I decide when I like, I have understood this. I see how it is. And it's such a little I mean, it's a subtle twist, but it's a game-changer to say, no, no, no, it's not up to you. Like, it's not your understanding of this is up to this person to say “yes, now you got it. Yes, now as I feel understood.” 

Jayson: Yeah. So LUFU, is this thing we teach? And if anyone comes to our events or practices, it's like the practice. Like if you can, if you can get this just as if you skip every part of the book, but you get this and you actually do it for the rest of your life, your life will completely change and transform because you're going to be that person everybody wants to talk to because they all feel understood by you. 

Justin: I love it. So I have a few final questions here. So how is your thinking changed over the years? So how? Well, first, how long have you been a relationship expert? 

Jayson: I mean, I don't really call myself that. I say I'm a student and a teacher of relationships because I'm always learning. But I don't know, 10, 20 years. Yeah, 10, 15 years. 

Justin: So I'm imagining that, so there's a lot that has changed or you've come across different tools and skills or you've seen some things kind of work, but other things work even better. Are there a few things that stand out that you've learned along the way that you've changed or that have changed you? 

Jayson: Completely. I think our understanding of the brain and neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology is completely, I don't know, just blown up and secure attachment. So I'd say, let me say a couple of things just to make this practical. So one thing is when couples get triggered and go to different parts of the house and just say, “I'll handle myself, you handle yourself and let's come back when we're better.” 

That is a good skill for all couples to learn, but it's not the finish line. And so my wife and I tried that and did that for years, but we kept, it was inefficient and the timing was off, and it just something about it wasn't quite clicking. So we learned more interactive regulation. How do we stay in the room and help each other's nervous system because it's actually faster, it's more efficient, and we can get back to zero quicker. And so that that was a big development over the course of our marriage. We've been married 14 years now. So that was huge. 

Justin: Can I ask something about that real quick? I, you know, I've heard of this strategy of, you know, the cooling down and, you know, going to several parts of the house or taking a walk. And it has always struck me as like something just doesn't click for me. And what is coming up now is that it's a really good way of avoiding the most important thing. Whatever is coming up in this conflict. It seems like it's a good way to avoid it because then you can come back together. You're both calmer and you can start to kind of patch up the more surface-level stuff, but you don't have to deal with maybe something big that's underneath. 

Jayson: Yeah, that's right. And then let me just say another layer of this in the parenting space, which is, you know, the time out is the classic understandable move a lot of parents make when their kid is, you know, really upset. And the parents have said, “you need to go to your room.”

Justin: That's right.

Jayson: You know, and the problem with that approach now that we know about more about attachment science and the nervous system is when you teach a kid over and over to go deal with this by themselves, they learn that relationships are not reliable and that you can't get back to a good place with another person. You have to do that by yourself. So you're creating an adult who will one day not value relationships and will go to drugs and alcohol, their phones, screens, porn, you name it, to get regulated, to get back to a good place. 

And they will not rely on relationships. And that's a bummer. And I see those adults and I work with those people all the time, and they struggle because they grew up in families like this where it was go to your room. So there's something way more efficient and powerful about relying on relationships to get back to a good place. 

Justin: Oh wow, that. Yeah, that hits me, I certainly grew up in a household that used those strategies, and one of the things coming up is a sense of big emotions are unsafe. Just they're unsafe. They're going to get you sent to your room, they're going to get you, you know, ignored or they are going to cause a loss of attachment. So then in adulthood, big, big emotions are just, yeah, just crammed, crammed those things down there as much as you can and avoid them as much as possible. Because when they come up, you have no tools. You’re traveling now off the map. 

Jayson: Yeah. And then you're left to fend for yourself and you can't you're not thinking like, oh, I need to actually ask for help from my partner or rely on my partner even if they're triggering me. It doesn't even cross your mind because you're like, no, this is up to me. And again, it's not ideal from a partnership kind of perspective. 

Justin: Hmm. I love it. Yeah. I just think back to how lucky I am that I had been doing some of this work before we made this move because there are just a couple of really big emotional moments that I know I would’ve shut down like I know without a doubt, I would have found a way to shut them down and just to stick with them. 

And so now just having this conversation with you, I'm feeling into gratitude around my kids being safe with big emotions, you know, with just like and we are going to be here for them and we're going to talk about it. So I feel like you had a couple of other things that had changed for you. So there was this biology aspect.

Jayson: Again, secure attachment. I would say that it's what we now know is that if we can behave in a way that offers what I call relational needs to our children, for example, in an adult partner by giving them the feeling of they feel emotionally safe, they feel seen and known and understood by us, and they feel soothed, meaning we repair conflicts when they happen every time, not once in a while, but every time. 

And we support them and we challenge them because we believe them and we have boundaries, right? No, you don't get that cookie. It's 10 o’clock at night and you need to go to bed. No, you're going to school, even though you don't want to kind of boundaries. We're creating security and those kids, the research shows, and I didn't learn this in graduate school, but studying Dan Siegel and so many other people, we now know that kids who are securely attached in their home environments grow up and they're doing better in every area of life.

They're holding down jobs longer, they're getting jobs better, they're getting better grades, they’re getting into better colleges, they're having healthier adult relationships. The list goes on. Less addictions, less mental health problems, on and on and on. So that's exciting. I'm like, wow. I would think that would motivate the hell out of so many parents to go, “Whoa, I need to figure this out.”

Justin: Yeah, I know. And it's I mean, it's changing the world. You know, you as a parent are part of the solution. You are producing children who are going to be healthy, well-adjusted members of this world doing good things like it. Yeah, it's totally like it's even bigger than you. It's bigger than us. Was there one other thing?

Jayson: No. But I want to add one more thing, which is what secure attachment isn't. Because I live in Boulder and a lot of people think secure attachment is just holding your kid a long time or putting him in the ergo or co-sleeping with them. While that might look like secure attachment, that's often coming from an anxious parent who doesn't want to mess up their kids. So that's a very big difference like if you're like, oh, I don't want to mess up my kids, so I'm going to hold him all the time or every time they cry, and I give him something or any time they struggle. I'm going to like, rescue them and like, bail them out of their pain. 

And oh my gosh. And like, that's no, no, no, that's not remotely secure attachment. So I call that just over parenting and over attachment parenting. And it's not actually, it's going in the wrong direction, right? 

Justin: We did not evolve like that. Have you come across the book Hunt Gather Parent? 

Jayson: I've heard of it. I have not read it. Is it good? 

Justin: Oh, it's amazing. Yes, because she travels. Yeah, yeah. So she's an NPR science correspondent, and she has at the start of the book, I think a four-year-old, and she travels to Alaska, to Mexico, and Africa to visit indigenous communities to see how they parent there and its base, I mean, it is almost everything that we're doing in the modern world. Just do the opposite. 

Jayson: Yeah, it's probably pretty hands up. 

Justin: Oh my god, it's well…

Jayson: It sucks because like, that's the problem with, like all the research now is parents can get so bound up like that, they're going to just mess it, just do this terrible job, and so they over function, they just go into overdoing it mode. 

Justin: Oh man. So the final question, Jayson, is what is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth? 

Jayson: Hmm. Well, there's a couple of things. I'm always working on my psychology around expansion and like touching more lives and earning more money, and there's just ways in which I get tied up in knots. There are some times, so that's a layer. And then my wife and I, we just went through, you know, thanks to COVID pushing an issue to the surface, like it did for so many of married couples, we just got really honest about some of our repair and process and got more efficient. And just I feel like we just recently have kind of crossed through another cool threshold. 

So we've been working at it pretty hard on how do we do this even better? I love it for ourselves, for our kids. And yeah, so I feel like we're always working on something. 

Justin: Yeah, the work never stops. So we have three last questions we ask every guest, just rapid-fire. If you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say? 

Jayson: Become more self-aware. 

Justin: Become more self-aware. And what is the quote lately that has changed the way you think or feel?

Jayson: Maya Angelou's quote, she says something like “Have enough courage to trust love one more time, always one more time.” 

Justin: Beautiful, beautiful. And our final question, especially for parents whose kids are toddler age. You know it can be a grueling grind on days. So we like to end by celebrating things that we love about kids. So Jayson, what do you love about kids? 

Jayson: Oh, my God. Just about everything. I love kids’ imaginations, their creativity, their play, their joy, and their like zeal and curiosity for life. It's just so insatiable. It's unbelievably inspiring to me.

Justin: Yeah, it's inspiring and infectious. I love it. 

Jayson: Yeah.

Justin: Jayson, thank you so much for making time for us. We really appreciate it. We love to have you back sometime. Your wisdom and insights are just super powerful, super impactful. And so if people want to check out your work and follow you, you're on all the socials? 

Jayson: Yup. @JaysonGaddis. Jayson with a y. J-A-Y-S-O-N-G-A-D-D-I-S on Instagram, for example, and GettingtoZerobook.com is probably a fun way for anyone listening to go take a conflict quiz to see what your conflict style is. To find out more about the book if you're want to get to the first chapter, if you're not ready to buy it. That's probably the best place to check out that. And there's links there for our podcast, the Relationship School podcast, and so much more. 

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you, Jayson. I really appreciate this man.

Jayson: Yeah, thanks, just an honor to be here. 


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