212: Implicit Psychotherapy and Couples with Dr. Abi Blakeslee

Welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch! This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

In this episode, we’re talking implicit psychotherapy and couples with Dr. Abi Blakeslee. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots, and watch it on YouTube – follow and leave a 5-star review.

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The Couples Therapist Couch 212: Implicit Psychotherapy and Couples with Dr. Abi Blakeslee

Learn more about the Couples Therapy 101 course: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/

Learn more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new

In this episode, Shane talks with Dr. Abi Blakeslee about implicit psychotherapy and couples. Abi is the founder of Implicit Psychotherapy and senior faculty at Somatic Experiencing International. Hear how to help people find deeper healing, how implicit memory works, how somatic experiencing fits with implicit memories, how childhood trauma impacts relationships years later, and how small changes can make a big impact over time.

This episode covers everything from implicit psychotherapy to somatic experiencing. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What is Abi's background?
  • How do you get clients to recognize their feelings?
  • What are the different types of implicit memories?
  • How do implicit memories influence our lives?
  • What impact do these memories have on our nervous system?
  • How does somatic experiencing play into implicit psychotherapy?
  • What is implicit psychotherapy?
  • How do associative memories work?

To learn more about Abi, visit:



You can also listen to Abi on Episode 169 of The Couples Therapist Couch.

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below: 



 Show Notes


What is The Couples Therapist Couch?

This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Many of the episodes are interviews with leaders in the field of Relationships. The show is meant to help Therapists and Coaches learn how to help people to deepen their connection, but in the process it explores what is most needed for each of us to love, heal, and grow. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

Learn more about the Couples Therapy 101 course: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 0:00
But if each partner just makes slight shifts, each time we do it slightly differently each time, then the larger pattern can really change over a longer time.

Intro VO 0:13
Welcome to The Couples Therapist Couch, the podcast for couples therapists, marriage counselors and relationship coaches to explore the practice of couples therapy. And now your host, Shane Birkel.

Shane Birkel 0:29
Everybody welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch. This is Shane Birkel. And this is the podcast that's all about the practice of couples therapy. Thank you so much for tuning in. I'm a licensed therapist. And I tried to bring on experts in the world of couples therapy in order to give you a foundational education about how to do the work. And this week I brought on Dr. Abi Blakeslee, who's the founder of implicit psychotherapy, and she's a senior faculty at Somatic Experiencing International. So we talked to all about implicit memory developmental trauma, which I think is just so important, you know, the things that we go through, as children impact us and influence our decisions, even as adults and influence our feelings and behaviors. And the way that we are in relationships, it's really important that we have a foundational understanding of that so we can help the people we work with as much as possible. And before we get to the interview, I just want to ask you, if you have found any value in this podcast, if you could leave a rating or review, I'd really appreciate that and spread the word to other people you think that this podcast would be helpful for? So without further introduction, here's the interview with Dr. Abi Blakeslee. Everyone welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch. I'm Shane Birkel. And today I'm speaking with Dr. Abi Blakeslee, founder of implicit psychotherapy, and senior faculty at Somatic Experiencing International. Hey, Abi, welcome to the show!

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 2:02
Thank you. It's good to be back.

Shane Birkel 2:04
Yeah, it's good to see you again, I forgot to look which the episode number of the abbey was on the show previously. So if you enjoy our conversation today, definitely go back and check out that conversation that we had before. And today we're going to be talking about somatic experiencing, and implicit psychotherapy, and how we can use that in couples therapy as well. But before we get to that, why don't you tell everyone a little bit more about yourself?

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 2:29
Yeah, well, I'm really passionate about being involved in the field of healing. As I know, anyone who's taking time to listen to a podcast with their free time is as well. And connecting to community like yourselves is something that I find to be really restorative and wonderful. So I am an educator and a trainer, I have a masters and a PhD, I do a lot of research as well. So I'm really curious about different ways that we can start having people interact differently with themselves foundationally. You know, we are amazing beings. At any given moment, we have our thoughts about who we think we are, we have our laundry list of all the things that we're doing, or I was just sharing with Shane, I'm really fulfilled in my life right now. But there's a lot going on, right? So I often have that, you know, what's next, and, you know, anticipating a moment, meeting a moment. And then we also have all of these things that are going down underneath the surface happening at your breathing, your heart rate, your temperature regulation, your nervous system responses, your emotional predictions, whether they're accurate or not. And we have all of these places within us that we tend not to pay attention to. So I get really curious about those places we tend not to pay attention to. And can we utilize that to help people find deeper healing? And also relational capacity? Right? We're talking about couples. I work a lot with couples work with families, but much of these autonomic or automatic responses run the show, without our conscious awareness. This is why people get stuck in relational ruts, right? They can't think their way through it. They're smart, but they can't change their behavior or their pattern or their attachment. So I would say you asked me about myself, I'm a curious person. And I want to know more about myself and I want to know more about others and, and different ways to help people and relationships really get to a place where people are feeling connected and fulfilled and really, in their essential self See?

Shane Birkel 5:01
Yeah, that's great. And I forget exactly the way you said it. But can you say more about the way that people aren't aware of certain aspects of themselves that you help them pay more attention to?

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 5:15
Yeah. So this goes into the new project that I'm working on is called implicit psychotherapy. So if you head onto my website, you'll see more information. And, you know, people say, Oh, you're forming your new your new brand of therapy. And I say, it really is many ways and approach. My original dissertation research now quite a long time ago, was on implicit memory, which is non consciously encoded memory, means you don't pay attention to it in order to learn it. And there are many branches of implicit memory that you will never be able to sense or feel or interact with. It's things like how you perceive words are, are upside down or right side up. Right, you can't feel that you perceive it. So there's perceptual aspects of implicit memory of how we learn, and how we see the world that we'll never be able to interact with. But there are many branches. Another

Shane Birkel 6:15
example. Sorry.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 6:16
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So there are other examples are things like word lists. So if you have somebody who has amnesia, a lot of the studies are done with people who have amnesia, and you have a T, so you show them a blank a T, okay. And then you say, Okay, you're going to fill in this letter. And earlier, they were given a list that said, ba T, was one of the, one of the words. And then they show them the list again, and they say, now you can choose between B, and C. And then they always choose B. So something that they were exposed to perceptually is something that they're drawn to choosing again. So there was learning in a perceptual channel. But they don't remember that they learned it, they don't remember that they saw that their working memory doesn't include that. So I could give lots of other examples sort of similar to that. But there's a deep, deep research pocket, if you're interested, you can look at graphing factors, original work and knowing how, which is how is the implicit and knowing that which is more the explicit, I can talk more about that later. But knowing about things, being able to describe what that is, knowing how and knowing that are different. And they saw these different memory processes, and they started to look at them very specifically and conduct lots and lots of different neuroscience experiments.

Shane Birkel 8:01
So would you say that oftentimes, as adults, we're making all these decisions about our life, and we think that we're in control of what's going on. But oftentimes, there's all these implicit memories that are sort of influencing the direction that we're going and the choices that we're making? Absolutely.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 8:18
And if I even take it a step further, is that you know, from the internal world, so your interoception conscious awareness of bodily sensation from your emotional world, right? These are things that we have learned responses from our environment, from our relationships. And we're constantly making predictions about what's happening in our outer environment. And our brain constructs that, and often constructs it based on the thing that we learned from the past. So you know, we have people like Robert Sapolsky, that say, there really is no free will, your brain has in your body have already figured out what your response is going to be well, before it's made a prediction, and then it's sort of projecting this behavior that you think you're in control of, but it made a decision much before your rational brain, or your attention to who you think you are. made this, right, this said this, this thing to your partner, or took an action. And so these predictions that we have based on memory, I could call them autonomic predictions as well, if we start to really get down into some of the core of that. We're figuring out what's safe. What's dangerous. What has mortal life threat, but it's more nuanced. Who do I approach? How do I approach them? In what way do I approach them? Who do I avoid? Why do I avoid them? In what way do I avoid them? And these all of these sort of relational split second moments that we're having with people, you're assessing somebody walks into the room, how tall? Are they? Do they look like somebody that I know? You know? How old are they? What kind of autonomic responses based on the information your culture, right? Different cultures might respond to an old person walking into the room. Right here, we have less respect for elders. In other cultures, an older person would walk into the room, and there would be immediately this feeling of, you know, respect and welcoming and curiosity. Right. So these are also projected out into the environment immediately, and then we act upon them. But a lot of that's been pre arranged. So what I get curious about, especially in the implicit is how do we actually spend time to, to be in that original response, where they're encoded, and then allow time for them to change into a new response. And then to have people act on that new response with you as the therapist or with you with within the couple. So that when they're acting on the new response, they both have a new response internally, they have a different response externally. The next time in the predictive sequence that comes along, they have a new learning, they're gonna go back to retrieve and there's something different that's there. So it's this idea of this implicit learning, new autonomic predictions, and really reworking this in within the frame of the couple. So that they're doing things differently, they're moving differently in relationship to one another, they're regulating and their nervous systems differently in relationship to one another. And hopefully, as they regulate, and they feel different, they're learning how to express congruent emotion with one another as well, to also both offer and to receive. It's, you know, that that the feeling of receiving, or the feeling of offering even that in our earliest, earliest attachment, especially when there's trauma, right, sometimes receiving can be dangerous or paired to danger or offering. You know, your true feelings can also feel dangerous. So I know we're tiptoeing into that that trauma word that you mentioned, Shane, that a lot of people want to learn about. But yeah, those are those are some different examples. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 12:36
that's great. And just for the just for laying the foundation here. We're talking a lot about the implicit memories. Can you define sort of somatic experiencing as well? And how that fits in with these implicit memories that we're talking about? Absolutely.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 12:56
So I'm senior faculty, for Somatic Experiencing International. It's a wildly popular somatic psychological approach to working with trauma. I also think it's a wonderful approach of working with resilience. Because you that's really our ultimate goal, right? When we work with trauma, people say, Well, how can you do that, you know, Dr. Abi, is a will. It's like the phoenix rising from the ashes. It's hard work, but it's worth it. And you know, you see this transformative process. So Dr. Peter Levine had this question, which is, why are wild animals not traumatized? Why are they not walking around with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Because if they were they would be lunch, right? If they immediately went into freeze at any signs of possible danger, instead of responding by feeling fleeing, or, or fighting, or whatever the moment called for? Or if they were freezing all the time, they couldn't mate. Right? So what is it about a human brain that's very different from a wild animal? And one of the theories is that our wonderful thinking rational neocortex, gets away gets a takes over I should say, and gets in the way of these more autonomic, automatic, survival based instinctual responses that we have, where our bodies know how to release, heightened physiological states of survival. So many of you know, you know, polyvagal theory, you could map this into depth, Dana's polyvagal ladder, Steven Porges and Peter Levine have been long term collaborators. In fact, it was Peter who called Steven Porges. Initially, it said hey, I have this whole psychological theory that fits into your, your anatomical model, and then they they started talking and you know, much of modern people only legal theory and application was born. Peter talks a lot about and we talk a lot about heightened states when there's real or perceived threat, we mobilize into protection. So you might go into a higher state, you could vocalize right, you could try some kind of social response, stop, go away. Right, you might move into some appeasement strategies that could be attached cry, you know, there's a lot of different we see many of these in relationships, right, some of these attempts at survival strategies that people did as adaptations when they were children. But now they're doing them again. But it's, it's outdated. Right? It's not, it's not, it's not helping their their current relationship. And then we have active fight, right, or active flight, anything that moves you away from the threat. Or we have a passive defensive response, which would be the freeze response. There's two elements of that there's a rigid freeze, immobility with high sympathetic arousal, which is excitation, right energy. And there is also a collapsed freeze. That was more of the dorsal vagal. It's a thaliana ptosis. Animals do it, it's feign death, hoping the predator will will pass or they'll buy some time. And they go into this limp state, no wind in the sails. And we see that human beings do this, too. I imagine for many listeners, do you think oh, yeah, yeah, I've heard all of this. But it wasn't people didn't hear about this 20 years ago, it's a relatively new way or frame of seeing things that that thank goodness, has gained more and more popularity and I credit somatic experiencing as being one of the, you know, the the central kinds of therapeutic approaches that has really started to validate this kind of approach that helps so many people, it's often the missing piece. Because if you're, if you're stuck in, in a, you know, dorsal vagal, shutdown, collapse, and you start to say, look at your partner's eyes and see the love that they feel for you. And the physiology is saying, I'm dead, I'm dead, stay dead, not safe, stay dead. It's not going to work. And that's where a lot of our psychodynamic, or some of our relational strategies were, even in polyvagal theory where it jumps a bit quickly to the ventral, like, let's socially engage, that will heal all that in some of these survival states, the physiology does not care that you're there. Or sometimes it does. But much of the time, it needs to release from that deep autonomic state shaking, trembling, tingling, heat, vibration, physical movements, that that begin to complete, thwarted, threat, you know, threat cycle responses, so people might push things away, or, or, you know, stand up or gently, they don't run out of the room, but they gently might move their body as if they're running. And as they do that, this excess charge in their system starts to decrease. And then you know what happens? They look at you. But they, they don't look at you, like, help me, they look at you like, Oh, you're here, we're here together. Because they can finally access Somebody's here. So this is another wonderful we call it like almost like a threat response cycle model. Although Somatic Experiencing also works beautifully with with attachment. And it fits right in with implicit psychotherapy, because all of those responses are going to be more in the associative memory. associative memory isn't one of those branches of implicit memory has all of those threat response cycle movements, it also has all of those attachment pairings what's safe was dangerous. And it has the motor associative memory, which is more around specifically a freeze response.

Shane Birkel 19:14
So what's the difference? You know, if I am experiencing something dangerous, like there's a fire in the building, and I have an emotional response that, you know, is a message to me to take action about the situation? versus you know, I had a lot of experiences growing up with, you know, in my family that were difficult, and now I'm perceiving something in my partner that feels like oh my gosh, this is scary because this reminds me of something traumatic, or someone doing something hurtful to me, and I'm having a strong emotional response that is based on something from my history. You know, that's not happening in the present necessarily. Yeah.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 20:06
So this would be, you know, if there's an imminent threat. And in the example of the fire, we're talking about, you know, your biological system taking over and protecting, protecting you whether their loved ones, maybe you'd protect your property, grab your laptop, or whatever it is, or you get your pets out, or maybe you just have to, you have to run out of the house immediately, there's no time, you know, we need we need our lower brain to be taking care of us in that way. And many of the time our rational thought flies out the window, right? We, we protect ourselves before we even know, sometimes we have a little bit more time to make some what, you know, some rational or irrational decisions. So that's like an imminent moment, when we look at the description that you just brought in around developmental trauma, right, or childhood trauma, we could think about attachment patterns as well. Let me say this quickly. And I'll I'll loop back around to this question. But the younger you are, the more you're learning through your implicit memory. So we don't have explicit memory, which is more of autobiographical memory, places you in the context of episodic memory, sort of is where you are in time, semantic memory, you can talk about it. So you can tell your history within a within a line, it starts here, I was born here, and then we moved here. And then my relationships were, were challenging, and I have a memory of being, you know, on the stairs and right. So that's it's an episodic, autobiographical, word oriented memory, okay? Whereas the younger you are, you're learning all these movement patterns, right? So even just sitting up right now, we're remembering how to sit up. I'm remembering how to speak. But I'm not remembering that I'm remembering to do that. Right, I'm not having to tell myself over and over. Now, some people who have strokes or things, right, they have to try to remember how to move their arm. And they think about it, and they practice it. And they do it until hopefully, you know, they have some more capacity to do it again, they have to relearn it. But these young kinds of also emotional memories, what's safe? What's dangerous? Do I Do I freeze? When somebody raises their voice? Do I freeze? When somebody or dissociate? When somebody raises their voice? Do I arch away? Right? Or do I? Do I twist or turn? Or do I get combative? Right? Do I start defending and trying to get in there and protect myself and protect my loved ones. So we have all these different responses. Now fight tends not to be as much where young, really young kids will go, especially when there's trauma right within the home. Because you have to you biologically need to connect to your attachment figures in order to care for you. So when there's dysregulation that there's two, it can get very scrambling, I would call it right. I know, that's not the technical term. But it you know, there's a lot of different impulses at different times, I need to attach, but I need to flee. I need to I need to fight, but I also need to attach. And so we see that there can be especially when we do you know couples work, these ancient responses, and it does help. There's a couple of things that really help. So going back to what you mentioned. And Shane, I just, you know, I feel touched thing is you share that, you know that you had those difficult experiences. And here you are as a couples therapist, right. So, you know, often our research is our research, you know, and that we find that, you know, let's say that there's a couple and they're having an argument, I'm going to make some I'm going to kind of pull on some different I'll pull up a conglomerate, a couple for us right now. Let's say it's a male and female heterosexual couple. And one, the male is white, a female is Vietnamese American. And they're having a lot of arguments, because she's been not sleeping well. She's agitated a lot. And she seems to what he says hyper controlling and micromanaging what he's doing and what he's not doing. He's tended to be more and more shut down. He's withdrawing from the relationship. They have two young kids three and five year olds. He's starting to stay out later from work, come back, less emotionally involved, she tends to feel a bit overwhelmed asking him to do things, and he'll get even more withdrawn. He's starting to watch more Netflix, he's drinking a couple extra beers at night. And so this is entrenching some of the challenges that they have. So let's say they come to you. And their goals are to have better communication, more connection and more understanding. So those are good goals, and they want to keep their marriage together and be good parents. So you're starting to get a sense of them, I think one of the first things that I would do, and this comes from a lot of, you know, somatic or body oriented approaches, is try to find one or two things that help them individually to what we call regulate. So she needs to down regulate, right, she needs to decrease the high autonomic arousal of the anxiety, he needs to up regulate. He's more and more dorsal, right, he's getting wiser, more and more frozen, he's more and more collapse, you shut down. So I'm probably going to look for something like with her, she could put her hand on her chest, she could sense down in her legs, she could look around the office, she might I might give her a couple of body exercises that help her to just notice a decrease in tension, or a decrease in stress. I might even say, I really want to acknowledge that you came here. How was it to feel that you have support them? She could take that and she might have the feeling in her sensory awareness. I feel a little more relaxed, I feel heavier, it feels good. How do you know you feel good. And it's to some degree also teaching many people if they have the capacity for interoception conscious awareness of bodily sensation. I'll say what sensations tell you that? Do you feel warmer? Do you feel slower? We often want the words that are more regulatory than the stress oriented words, because most people can feel when they feel tight and anxious. And so we want her to know though, when you do feel anxious, what is the actual feeling or sensation of anxiety in your face, your throat, your chest, your arms, your belly, your legs, is scratchy is tingly is hot, right? And as you stay with it, does it increase, decrease or stay the same? Or as you feel your legs or as you put your hand on your chest? Whatever it is, ah, I feel more settled with the actual feeling of feeling more settled. Now with him, I probably talk with him about something exciting. I might, maybe he's got some really bright Nike shoes on or something I'll say those are awesome shoes. Where do you get them? And what do you like about them? Something that's kind of more upregulating. I like the colors. Yeah, those are really you know, those are really bright colors. They almost look like a firework. Take some time you like the colors. And just notice how bright they are. And see if you have any kind of associated even move your feet a little bit, move your spine a little bit, look at your shoes. So anything that tells you that you like that, that that's enjoyable for you. So I'd be looking for something upward and less downward, if that makes sense. Okay, so here we go. We've got these autonomic responses sort of based on where they are primarily.

And then I'm just going to start to observe how they interact with one another. So I might say, tell me a little bit about what your goals are. Right? What are your hopes? What are your dreams? I do want to ask this question. If things were to be different, you know, things were to be better. How would you imagine they would be better between you? Right? And she would say, well, he would listen to me and he would care and he would respond. And he says, you know, she wouldn't pick up me so much. She wouldn't be so worried all the time. Because it makes me it makes me feel crazy. Right? Our life is good. So, so I'd say okay, well, there's there's two pieces here. One, how do you know you would feel how would you feel differently in your body? What are the sensations as you think about not being picked on so much or right or you're feeling like you who actually would listen to you. If he listened to you? What would happen in your face, your throat, your chest, your belly, your arms, your legs, was the quality of the thing that you're seeking that's internal. This to some degree starts to unhook it also that from the necessity to always get it from the outside. Because if they can begin to access it more from the inside, sometimes there will be interventions where They're doing something more internally, in order to change the way they're approaching one another, or give themselves a moment to speak from a different place. And so that's the sort of the beginning of some of that work. So then I'm going to be also watching their movement patterns. Let's say that he's really slumped down. And she's really forward like intense, you know, she's got the daggers in the eyes, like, you know, you need to come home from work and help me, I'm exhausted. Okay, so there we go, we've got a pattern, and he's just slumped down, he's feeling overwhelmed. So you could say something like, I'm wondering, you could sit, she could sit back, soften around her spine, maybe pull her vision behind her eyes. Notice how she's longing to have him there. out of a sense of the camaraderie and the love that they share, and that knowing how good it can be when they're tending to their kids. And as she sits back, and just says, I miss you, I miss you. And then notice what happens for him. So you can take something very similarly, you change some of the posture of the, or the directionality, or the autonomic intensity. And then you watch to see if he goes, Wow, that feels different. Right? Then he, he feels different as heart he starts to reach towards he sits up. And I say, as he sits up and looks at you and says that's different. What do you sense in your body? He hears me, ah, go we got the goal. And as he hears you, what do you sense in your body? What emotion is there? She said, Well, I feel good. Could you tell him that? When you set up, and you move towards me, it feels good. So the other thing is to catch these moments, there's it's an autonomic, automatic kind of moment. Give them a statement, that's relational. And try to keep building over and over and over again, these repairs, these possibilities, these openings. Now in childhood trauma, let's say that if we talk with her, we've done some of the we continue to do some of this work, I'm not going to talk about his his history that would be important to get into. But she says, Well, you know, I'm, I'm Vietnamese American. And I feel very close to my culture. But I don't have a lot of Vietnamese in our community. And though I talked to a lot of my family members, and, you know, when I was growing up, we came here when I was four, when I was growing up, there really was never enough. We were we grew up in poverty. My parents were working all the time, they were struggling, I really admired them for that hard work that they did. But there was just a lot of the time where we wouldn't have food, where, you know, I had to take myself to school with my took started taking care of my younger siblings. It wasn't until, you know, I went into, I actually was the first person to go to college and my family. And we have a very strong worth work ethic. And it wasn't until you know, I started working. And then I met my husband where I actually have more financial security. But I'm always waiting for the next shoe to drop. And the other day, I was thinking about how I had forgot my kids snacks. And their lunch. And I had a panic attack. Because it wasn't, and I'd say oh, that's so you know, that's, that's interesting. Why do you think you had the panic attack? You see, well, now that I'm really thinking about it, it was because I would go for days without food. They never go for days without food. But it was that feeling like if I didn't put their snack there that they were going to starve. Like who is going to feed them? I said, so you feel all of this anxiety? And and just take a moment, do you think some of this anxiety is something that's fueling some of your anxiety at home, you know, or that it's that it contributes to that? This feeling like at any time, the other shoe will drop and you can see, you know, as your husband is trying to manage things that he's he is getting more and more overwhelmed and somewhat distance. I imagine that that adds to a lot of the anxiety to she goes Yeah. So then I do some work with her in front of her husband, I would have him sense his body come into his leg so that he's not dissociated. Or he's not angry. You want the other partner to be receptive and present, like that's their job you need you'd stay in your body, saying your emotions or just stay connected in whatever way and sometimes I'll do To say keep wiggling your feet, keep wiggling your wrists, put your hand on your chest when you need to move when you need to. And sometimes if I see them going away, I'll say, hey, come back, or regulate here. And then I go back into doing some work. And we do some inner child work with that, that young part of her that was lacking, and that was suffering. However, imagine the child, what would she say? What would she do? Would there be collective and transgenerational pieces about offering resources or images to ancestors? What's her felt sense in her body as she offers herself some of that that connection? Or looking at her future self? What does that younger self see? And then what are the sensations that go with that? And hopefully, some decrease in that high autonomic arousal, you could say, you know, look at your children, and look at this inner child, what's the same what's different? You know, have a really in the sense and feel into that. So you start to unpack that. And at some point, I would say to him, how are you feeling? You know, seeing this, this work and understanding that some of that anxiety that you sense as control is coming from this really little place that didn't have this little, you know, it's an implicit memory of a younger part that didn't have enough to eat? And what are you sensing? And so usually, usually not always, there's empathic attunement. If I sense there's not empathic attunement, I won't ask at that time. Because there's little one needs that the most of the time there'll be some kind of softening. And so you say the next time that that you know that if she starts to feel like that, that she's a bit frantic, or she's trying to control, right, what looks like trying to control, but she's getting more constricted, she's getting more concerned about your day to day, I'm wondering what it would be like to just imagine this little child sitting next to her. And then as you see them sitting together, what do you notice in your body? Is there a way that you might receive her worry? And hopefully, she's softened a little bit around that too. She can also feel that inner child and maybe have some kinds of ways to be differently. So when she goes, Oh, yeah, I'm doing that to thing. Okay, I can sit back and I say, what's the most important three things that I need to say? I'd like this, I'd like this, I'd like this. Can you receive that? Or let's slow down, like we learned in therapy. So I this is a very long winded way to mention about those childhood traumas, do work, and then come back and bring it back into the relational, you know, the the relational possibilities to create more of that giving and the receiving and I call it the rhythm of relating. Rhythm of relating and developmental trauma impedes that it doesn't give the partner the chance to actually be who they are, because they're already being projected on. Yeah.

Shane Birkel 38:09
Well, I love the idea that you're sort of doing individual work with each partner, that they are processing some of that trauma, maybe with their partner, just as a witness. And that, you know, they are learning to regulate their own nervous system as they approach their partner then, so that the relational dynamic feels safer, it's not as dependent on something from the other person going perfectly. It's more that they're taking ownership of their own healing. And they feel safer to approach their partner and I imagine that can snowball in a really positive direction.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 38:56
Yeah, you know, another thing I just want to mention, is you can imagine this, this, this couple again, and I might say to him, are you feeling protective over her? Yes, I say stand up. Right. If you were to say something to protect the child or viewer to do something, what motion would you make, and she might actually stand shoulder to shoulder and so he's defending, right? He's physically feeling this sort of, you know, whether it's push away or to stand up and say, you know, don't treat her that way or, you know, she needs love or she needs connection. And so it also removes this, that he he actually can be the competent protector. In some ways. This is an introduction that's coming out in their relational dynamic she keeps to keep me safe, keep me safe, keep me safe. She's trying to protect his inner child towards him. So sometimes he can complete that with her and she softens and feel safer. And then he feels that he can be An advocate. And he has more energy, right? Because remember, he's the one that was more shut down, this is an active response. Right? So that also sometimes when you can get the the partner and it doesn't have to be male, female I mean, you know, or any gender non binary, right you can it's any any relationship, but you have this feeling of deep connection and protection. And then they can remember that this person isn't attacking me, they're trying to protect their inner child and I feel protective over that part, too. So how do I feel protective and to say, we're on the same, we're actually on the same side here. And they mobilize together to work at some kind of the pattern, or the problem or to shift an internal and an external. But it really does come a lot of the time. It skips over just okay, do this new behavior over and over and over again, you've got to feel differently. I talked about the felt shift in the felt sense of the felt self. There's a felt shift, it's a change in the felt self, this deep feeling of who you are, and how you regulate and what you're your autonomic prediction cycles, and all of the implicit memory and the new learning in that goes right into this felt self of who am I? And how am I going to be operating from who I am and relating, and then we begin to do that and more and more ways that the really take this imminent moment, the moment rather than working from past adaptation, we're working more in the moment of receiving what's actually occurring. So we have more flexible options, I guess, ultimately, many of these approaches are around, well, let's have flexible options. You, you know, you, your partner says something that's really irritating, you want to be able to say that's irritating, right? And or that hurts? Or sometimes they go Hmm, why did that hurt so much? Ah, I see, there's some other response that's in there, or maybe both, that hurt, and there's some other response in there. But we begin to kind of work very more deeply, in a sense of, no, this goes back to knowing yourself on these lower levels, and interacting with the changing of that inner landscape, then coming into the feeling and the knowing of where you are, and then offering something from that place. And we need each partner, we would know with attachment, right? You can only change it a little bit at a time. It's not something that changes overnight. So it took a long time to grow. It takes a long time to unlearn. Or I would say it takes a long time to have new learning patterns. But if each partner just makes slight shifts, each time we do it slightly differently each time, then the larger pattern can really change over a longer time. And I see that over and over with the couples that I work with, and in my own my own relationship with my husband, like, wow, you know, we have the same ancient argument. And we do it differently. And every time I just celebrate, like, oh, yeah, so we did it differently. Maybe it was a slight amount differently. But that's really good, good progress. And we're not stuck in the same patterns that we were, you know, 20 years ago.

Shane Birkel 43:28
Yeah, that's great. It's so validating for couples to see it that way. So that it feels like, you know, this small progress over time is a big deal. You know, and I think that the more they feel the safety, the more they have that ability to be flexible, like you were talking about and be more present in their adult self to feel the possibilities and the you know, safety and then feeling relaxed in the, in the present in the relationship.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 44:01
It's good work, and I'm really passionate about it. I encourage any listener who's here who wants to know more, whether it's implicit psychotherapy or somatic experiencing their sense. sensorimotor psychotherapy is brilliant work. We have things like body dynamics, integral somatic psychology, is wonderful marine Gallagher's doing some kind of ifs, well, some more somatic parts work, but things that bring embodiment and new learning into the environment is it to me that the statement is the healing happens in the here and now? How do we rehearse things? How do we do them differently? How do we shift that inner to outer and that you have many, many tools to be able to do that?

Shane Birkel 44:56
Yeah, this is great. Thank you so much, Abi, what website can people find out more about you and what you have going on?

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 45:03
Yeah, so you can go into AbiBlakeslee.com. Or if you want to specifically learn about the implicit psychotherapy, I also have ImplicitPsychotherapy.com. But all the information at AbiBlakeslee is a bit broader. I have research articles on there are other podcasts and webinars. I think Shane ours is tagged on there, too.

Shane Birkel 45:30
Oh, great.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 45:31
I'm sure people can find it here. But you can also, you know, scroll through, whether it's relationships, but I work with all different kinds of traumas, I have things like on secondary trauma and natural disasters and medical trauma, and you name it trauma. But these these approaches are really effective. And as you can hear, I'm passionate about them and excited to be here.

Shane Birkel 45:53
Yeah, this is so helpful. Thank you so much. Yeah, I learned a lot, both times that I've talked to you. And I just, you know, it feels like there's a world of possibility here when you start working with people in this way. You know, I wish we had more time. I just want to keep asking you more questions about it. But I'm so grateful for, for you coming on and sharing about all of this with us.

Dr. Abi Blakeslee 46:19
My pleasure. Thanks for having. Thanks, everybody. Keep up the good work out there.

Shane Birkel 46:24
All right. Thank you so much, everybody. So grateful for you. Dr. Blakeslee, thank you so much for coming on the show. Definitely go everybody go to CouplesTherapistCouch.com. You can find out more about this episode and all the other resources available there for couples therapists. Just so grateful for you all as I said at the beginning of the show, it's really helpful for other people to be able to find the show other people who are a good fit for listening who want to learn more about practicing couples therapy, that you leave a rating or review because then people who are similar to you can be recommended the show so that's just a great way to get the word out about this. So grateful for all of you. Also, you can join the Couples Therapist Couch Facebook group, that's a great place to connect with other people and continue the conversation from the episode. So thank you so much, everybody. This is Shane Birkel, and this is The Couples Therapist Couch. Bye, everybody!

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