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Dr. Shawn Horn (00:00):

How do I do it? How do I find my purpose, my passions? What if you could sit down with some of the wisest experts, everyday leaders, and inspirational people who could answer your deepest questions? That is what we do here on the Inspirational Living Podcast. We invite you to join us as we hold conversations, share wisdom, tips and tools to inspire you, ignite your passions and vision for your life, to awaken your sense of purpose and hope, and leave you inspired to design your best life. Join me your host, psychologist, Dr. Shawn Horn, as we take you on an inspirational, motivational, and educational journey so you can inspire by living an inspired life.

Dr. Shawn Horn (00:54):

You are not gonna wanna miss this show, and you're probably gonna share it with friends, family, and loved ones, because this, my friends, is core to healing toxic shame. We are talking about emotional sobriety. I first learned about emotional sobriety when I came across a YouTube video of Dr. Berger teaching about it. And as I dove deeper into the topic, reading books, learning more, I discovered that this is a critical component to transforming the way we relate to ourselves, the way we relate to the world, the way we manage our motions, the way we attend to them and more. It is really life changing. It changed not only myself as a person, but also the therapy that I do with others. It was a game changer, so much to say about that, but I can't get into all that right now. But what we are gonna get into is introducing what emotional sobriety is with our speaker today, Dr. Allen Berger.

Dr. Shawn Horn (01:58):

So before we begin, let me tell you a little bit more about him. Dr. Allen Berger is a public speaker and nationally recognized expert on the science of recovery. In fact, he is one of the most recognized thought leaders on the methods to practicing emotional sobriety. He's the author of six published books, co-host of the podcast. Start right here, conversations about what matters most, and facilitator of emotional sobriety meetings held virtually every Thursday. You'll find the link to his books, podcasts, and to the meetings here in the show notes. Now, if you do attend these meetings, you might see me there. I occasionally attend whenever I can because these meetings are gold. I find the conversations and the topics that are covered to be so valuable and a good reminder for us to help us get our mind into the right space to support the intentions we're setting for ourselves and our healing journey. So let's begin now in the topic of emotional sobriety with our guests. My friend Dr. Allen Berger.

Dr. Allen Berger (03:13):

Thank you for doing this today. I'm so excited to be with you. You know, like you said, our meeting was kind of happenstance. You know, you're kind of searching for things. I search for things all the time. We're two seekers. I do know that about us. I love your thirst for information that helps make sense of this experience we're having in life.

Dr. Shawn Horn (03:35):

Yes. Making the human experience one that we can understand and do masterfully. Yes. Yes. So, let's go ahead and dive in and tell us, I have so many questions for you. Tell us what is emotional sobriety?

Dr. Allen Berger (03:51):

Well, boy, I, like I said, I can give a whole day seminar on this. So let me see if I can capture it succinctly. So in, in this time that we have, um, I anticipated this, you know, you shared with me that you were gonna ask me this question. I think the best way to think about it, it's a philosophy. It's a way of looking at life that gives you a way of dealing with the experiences you're having that ensure that you're gonna grow from them. So, you know, you, you know, you are in, you do a lot of work with people that are traumatized as I do, especially a CA, that's all about trauma. There is a, you know, that whole movement started once we realized is that if you're a child of an alcoholic parent, that you're gonna have post-traumatic stress. I mean, there's just no if, ands or buts about it.

Dr. Allen Berger (04:42):

Well, the exciting thing that you and I have seen is we've done work with trauma victims, is that we now talk about post-traumatic growth. And it's not just about post-traumatic stress, but any experience, if it's digested properly, can help us grow into what we can be. And see, that's the great thing about the human spirit and emotional sobriety is, is kind of like putting on a certain pair of lenses that help you look at the experience you're having and see what you can do to meet that experience, to claim that experience. So that experience isn't claiming you. Hmm. It's changing our relationship to what's happening in our life, and for us to become the determining force in our happiness, in our joy, in our peace of mind, in our contentment. And so that's what emotional sobriety is about, is about finding that relationship to whatever is happening in our life, to our partner, to an event in our life, and being able to show up in that relationship in a way where we find the best in us to respond to whatever is happening instead of trying to control the situation.

Dr. Allen Berger (06:04):

So the big thing here is, you know, that I think that, that what I've learned as I've been doing this is life is gonna be what life is gonna be. It's, it's my job to figure out how best to cope with it instead of putting all these expectations. And I'm hoping that's what we're gonna have time to talk about. When I put these expectations on how life is supposed to be, and it doesn't go my way. I just find myself objecting. I find myself getting hung up in the problem. Boy, what happened? Why is this happening to me? You know, is God punishing me if, if I, sometimes I have that, that insane thought like God is up to say, well, he deserves to be punished. Now . Mm-Hmm. , you know, I get these crazy ideas in my head about what's happening. And that was all because I thought life had to be a certain way for me to be okay. Mm-Hmm. , when I let go of that expectation that life has to conform to my ideas and, and embrace the, the belief and the conviction that it's my job to deal with whatever task life is setting in front of me. That's what opened the doors to this freedom. Mm-Hmm.

Dr. Shawn Horn (07:14):

this is a really transformational concept for me on a personal level and a professional level when I came across this information that the solution is not outside. Yeah. That instead of living from the top down, where I'm only okay if that person does it right or the situation is right, if they comfort me, they validate me. Yeah. Instead, I need to take responsibility, do it for my, for myself. And this idea was a professional crisis for me. 'cause I found that so much of the therapy that we do is focused on the outside. If people validated you Yeah. If they have more empathic understanding and listening and, and we almost set people up to have more suffering as we spell out for them. That this is what you need and the world isn't doing that for you. And, and you poor thing. I mean, you're really suffering kind of thing.

Dr. Shawn Horn (08:08):

Yeah. And, and feeding this, this, uh, mindset that creates more of the problem. Yes. Yeah. So you said, you said something in one of your trainings that said, um, when people aren't sober, and correct me if I'm wrong, that when they get triggered emotionally, that they do one of three things they either attack, move towards Mm-Hmm. , they, um, move away with like, I'm out. I don't wanna be in this. Or they kind of, um, like stonewall the person. Yes. And that when you're emotionally sober, you remain present. Yes. And you use the triggers very instrumentally. So can you tell us about that idea?

Dr. Allen Berger (08:48):

Well, well, first of all, you're such a quick study . I mean, you are. So, you, you, you, you're, I I I, I relate to you a lot because when you get an idea that makes sense to you, you absorb it. It's like it goes into your cells. I can see that in you. And I love that about you because it's, it's, you really, I mean, and that's what happened to me with this stuff is when I got introduced to these ideas, it's like, wow, that makes sense. There was something wrong with that other, that other theory is that, that I got, had to get my validation from how this person was interacting with me. And, and now a lot of therapy tries to control that, doesn't it? Like you were pointing out and look, it's great. You and I love validation. It's great to be validated.

Dr. Allen Berger (09:32):

It's just when we turn it into a demand is where the problem comes in. Yes. If, if, you know what I mean? If, if I can just, if I can want that, and if you are able to give it to me, enjoy it, great. If you can't, and I get disappointed, that's okay. It's okay for me to be disappointed. And this is where what you were just talking about comes into play here. When I'm disappointed, it doesn't mean something's wrong. It's okay to be disappointed that rolling Stones have been singing to us for a long time. You can't always get what you want. And we're not listening , we are not listening to that song. Because if we embrace it, we know it's okay. It's okay for me to be disappointed. How am I gonna know if something's important to me, if I'm not disappointed when I don't get it?

Dr. Allen Berger (10:22):

Mm-Hmm. , you see, and we focus so much on the getting of it. We miss the other side of the equation, don't we? At times, if I don't get it, it's okay. It just means it's important. Doesn't mean that that defines me because you didn't validate me. Now it's my job to step back and like you said, add more self. How do I validate myself? Do I really need this person to tell me this is okay? Or is this something that now I need to step back and see if I can support myself and validate myself. There's a whole world of difference between other validation, which is great if we get it. But the foundation needs to be self validation.

Dr. Shawn Horn (11:03):

Mm-Hmm. . So your triggers are, are windows into yourself, your psyche to le to have a greater understanding of maybe what's been an unresolved wound Yes. From your past. Yes.

Dr. Allen Berger (11:18):

That's right. You

Dr. Shawn Horn (11:19):

Made that connection about, hi, your, uh, historical wounds and triggers.

Dr. Allen Berger (11:24):

Yes. Yes. Listen, a lot of what happened, so the Dr. Alexander Lowen, a father of bioenergetics here in the United States, which was the real first somatic therapy that we had in the United States. There's all kinds of great work being done on that now, right. With Dr. Peter Levine and, and a lot of other people. But what Lowen said, and it was, it was genius, he said, when in our childhood we experienced a trauma that either threatens our emotional security or our self-acceptance, then we are going to require our future, and we're gonna demand that our future reverses that experience of the past. Mm-Hmm. So, if in my childhood I wasn't safe, I'm gonna require my partner to make me feel safe. When I move my emotional center of gravity to my partner to make me feel safe, I lose a sense of the role that I need to play in, in, in defining and protecting my own psychological space.

Dr. Allen Berger (12:35):

It makes me dependent on you. And then I'm only okay if Shawn is nice to me, I'm only okay if Shawn shows empathy for me, et cetera, et cetera. So now I stick you in a box. You can't be human. Some days you might be able to do that, but there might be days when you're having a bad day. Mm-Hmm. , can't you have a bad day? Well, not according to my rules. You've gotta be what I want you to be. And see, this is where, when we now, when I bring my past into my present and now expect you to give me what I didn't get, I'm putting a trip on you that it's not your job. You know, you're not here to rescue me. You're not here to save me. You're my partner. You know, love does not mean that we rescue someone.

Dr. Allen Berger (13:21):

We support them. We can do that. But support is not rescuing. Support is standing into somebody's side as they do their work. It's not doing the work for 'em. Right. Yeah. You and I know that that's what we've, we've come to figure out. But that's where this stuff gets so exciting, because we get to discover these things. And that's what's great about trouble in a relationship, because the trouble in a relationship isn't saying something's wrong, it's just pointing to you what you need to pay attention to in order to take that next step in your growth.

Dr. Shawn Horn (13:52):

Yeah. It's kinda like an opportunity to bring up the things that we need to attend to that without the relationship, they remain un under the earth, so to speak. That's, but the relationship allows it to rise. So we can say, be open and curious. You talk about being curious Yes. About what comes

Dr. Allen Berger (14:11):

Up. Yes. Yes. So important, isn't it that curiosity, because Mm-Hmm. , this is that different mindset. It's like all of these, what people would call negative experiences that people wanna get rid of. I'm saying let's embrace them and, and see them as opportunities for greater intimacy, opportunities for greater growth, opportunities for a healthier connection if we,

Dr. Shawn Horn (14:34):

And even with ourself,

Dr. Allen Berger (14:35):

That's well right on ourself and others. Look, and by the way, when I changed that perspective, I'm starting to create a healthier view of the world for myself, right? Mm-Hmm. , instead of setting up all these windmills that I have to fight, Mm-Hmm. . Now I realize there's no fight. It's about what do I have to do to understand what my expectations and demands are on you and how to unhook you from them. Mm-Hmm. . And that's what these triggers are. Right? Whenever I'm upset, there's something wrong with me. It's not you, and this is a fault. This is a way of thinking that only comes with greater emotional maturity. Mm-Hmm. . Because see, if, if I'm not emotionally mature, then when something goes wrong, I look for who's to blame. Mm-Hmm. , whose fault is it? I'm going to either blame you or me.

Dr. Allen Berger (15:28):

Mm-Hmm. . And when I'm caught in that blame game, if I blame you, it's just gonna get you to be defensive with me. You know? Or feel bad about yourself. If I blame myself, I'm gonna just, you know, you heard in a Thursday night meeting, what did Tom Rutledge call it? Negative arrogance. You know, , you know, I'm, I'm the problem of everything in the world. . I mean, it's the opposite of, you know? Mm-Hmm. I'm, I'm this great person. So blame is irrelevant and Mm-Hmm. , it really is irrelevant in terms of us finding a better path in our life. And, you know, the way I like to to think of this is like, did you have a mother that when you spilt the milk in the kitchen, she walked in and said, all right, whos spilled the milk? Who created this problem? And everybody's like, oh my God, I'm in trouble now. Or did mom come in and say, oh, the milk gots spilled, let's get Arag and clean it up. Milk gets spilled every now and again. It's no big deal.

Dr. Shawn Horn (16:24):

Mm-Hmm. . That's shame-free parenting right there.

Dr. Allen Berger (16:27):

Oh, isn't that, yeah. I mean, I'm, lemme fix this, this, this mic stand is falling down. Hold on. There we go.

Dr. Shawn Horn (16:33):

You know what, what you're saying about demands is this, um, your concept of hidden expectations and unenforceable rules. Yes. That really was significant to me when I learned about that.

Dr. Allen Berger (16:46):

Tell us about that. It's very, it's true. And see some of these expectations we have, first of all, every one of us is gonna think our expectations are normal, because that's the water that we're living in. It's like two feet fish meet each other. Hey, did you know we're swimming? No , I didn't know. 'cause we're in the water all the time. This is what's normal for us. So it's that same thing for us. My expectations. That's what's normal. It seems like this is the way life is supposed to be. That's communicated through our family, that's communicated through our culture. In fact, our family, you know, communicates all these cultural ideas and, and standards and values and all these other things. So, uh, my expectations I think are normal. Of course. This is the way things are supposed to be. Mm-Hmm. , it was an incredible revelation for me when I saw, wait a minute, Alan, that's not the way things are supposed to be.

Dr. Allen Berger (17:42):

It's the way you think things are supposed to be. That doesn't mean that it's the rule . I mean, I thought I had the golden rule, right? Yeah. You should do things my way. Uh, that's not it. Maybe it doesn't work that way. And it was like, God, that was such a revelation for me. But that's what we're talking about. These things surface. All of a sudden you feel like, well, wait a minute. Why isn't my partner going along with this rule? How come they're not honoring this thing? And instead of faulting them and blaming them and saying, you're not a very good partner, what if we stood back and said, maybe the problem is the rule I have right now. Maybe this rule is unreasonable to put on someone. Mm-Hmm. . If I'm expecting, if you and I are, are in a relationship and I'm expecting you to not be human, and I'm expecting you to do everything that might meet my needs, is that really reality? Of course. It's not. When I start to think about it, I start to realize I've just treated you like an it, not as a person. Mm-Hmm. . I don't

Dr. Shawn Horn (18:50):

Like a parent,

Dr. Allen Berger (18:51):

Like a parent or some object that you're there to meet my needs. But that's not what a relationship is. If we're in a relationship, I want it to be good for you, and I want it to be good for me. It needs to accrue to both of our benefits, not just one or the other. Or else it's not a good relationship. Right. Who wants a deal like that? Right. .

Dr. Shawn Horn (19:11):

Right, right. What really was, um, impactful to me was the idea that when I'm getting triggered, it's alerting me that there is a hidden expectation that I'm not aware is there. And so it gives me opportunity to go, okay, what is this trigger about? Yeah. And then to go, what's my rule with this? Yes. And when you say that, when you have hidden expectations and unenforceable rules, you cannot love someone. That blew my mind. Yeah.

Dr. Allen Berger (19:41):

. Yeah. I

Dr. Shawn Horn (19:42):

Was like, that's not okay. Like, I need to change that .

Dr. Allen Berger (19:46):

No, it, it's so true though. And let's, let's kind of take, take people through that path. Yes. So when, when my dependency, my emotional dependency on thinking things ha the environment has to be a certain way for me to be okay. And we all start with that. That's not, that doesn't mean we're defective. We we're completely dependent on mom. When we're in the womb for everything. She provides us nourishment, warmth, safety. She gives us oxygen. When we're born, we have to start supporting ourselves. We do that by breathing. We have to take oxygen in and blow off the carbon dioxide. Right. We are in this exchange with our environment, but we have to participate with our environment to get what we need. If we don't, then we're put on a ventilator the rest of our life. And we're dependent on the ventilator. Mm-Hmm. . Well, that gives some kind of a life, but it's not a life that's gonna be very fulfilling.

Dr. Allen Berger (20:47):

I have to participate in supporting myself to get what I need from my environment. It starts from birth on. Now, where we get stuck emotionally is on this emotional dependency. I don't realize that I've gotta support myself. I still think somehow you've gotta do this for me. Somehow. I've got this idea. So then that turns into a set of claims and demands. I demand that, that you do this. Or I demand that life be like this. That claim and demand turns into an expectation. That expectation then I think crystallizes into this unenforceable rule. And the way my expectation shows up is the rule about what you should do, what I should do, what life should be like. Mm-Hmm. . That's where the rules come in. So if you're listening to the, to Shawn and I right now, if you say should to yourself, there's a rule underneath it. That's your rule. Listen to it. Don't treat that as this is the way it's supposed to be. Hear that when you're saying that as your rule about what life is, and start to be curious about that. 'cause that's how we find those hidden expectations. That's how we find these rules.

Dr. Shawn Horn (22:01):

Mm-Hmm. . And then because they broke the rule, then we're upset. And then we, if we're not, uh, grounded with an emotional center of gravity that comes with emotional sobriety, then we pull away. Yeah. We attack. That's right.

Dr. Allen Berger (22:14):

Right. That's right on Shawn. That's exactly, no. And you know, isn't it interesting too, 'cause you do a lot of this, the work you do, and, and I love that the vagal, uh, uh, what's the

Dr. Shawn Horn (22:24):

Polyvagal theory? Poly

Dr. Allen Berger (22:25):

Vagal theory. It's, it's based on the, on our biological response. Right. The biological response. Any creature is gonna have one of three responses. And we see this, it's across species. If we're stressed in a situation or threatened, we're going to either fight, right? It mobilizes us to fight. We're gonna run, that's the flight part. Or we're gonna freeze, fight, freeze. Right. Or, Mm-Hmm. or, uh, flee. Right. Those three things. Mm-Hmm. . Mm-Hmm. . Those things you described before. Right. Moving against Yeah. Is the fight response. Right. Yeah. That's where it is. Biologically. Now moving towards someone that is me freezing. I'm camouflaging myself and I'm trying to be what you want me to be. Mm-Hmm. . So that's the freeze. Moving away from the person is the flight. So these things all are rooted in our instinctual responses to threats. Mm-Hmm. . Mm-Hmm. , right? Yeah. And the, and the, yeah.

Dr. Shawn Horn (23:30):

Let me share with you a personal story. What happened when I learned this, I was home and I had injured my leg and couldn't walk. And I was doing telehealth all day, and I didn't eat all day. 'cause I wasn't doing my own good self care. And I went upstairs, it was dinner time, and my husband was sitting there, and I immediately looked at him and I knew he did not cook dinner. So this is where I got real manipulative. I knew he did not cook dinner. And I said, what's for dinner? And he goes, what? He didn't say, uh, we needed to dinner. And I said, well, I can't walk. I've been downstairs the whole time. And then he got up, said, well, I'll make dinner. I said, no, no, nevermind. And then I went into my room and I'm like, oh, wait a second.

Dr. Shawn Horn (24:13):

This is where Alan says you're triggered. That means I have a hidden expectation. Yeah. So I'm like, what's my expectation? Well, my expectation is that he would, uh, know that I was injured, couldn't make my food. Yeah. And he would be so attuned to that, that he would make my food for me. And I go, well, what's the rule? The rule is that if you love me, you're attuned to me like that. Yes. If you don't, then you're abandoning me and neglecting me. And then I said, well, he says that that comes from an a, uh, wound in my childhood that was unresolved. And I realized that I have this theme that I play out all the time of being abandoned. Like nobody's caring for me kind of thing. Right. So then I thought, gosh, all day he was busy doing other things that I had asked him to do.

Dr. Shawn Horn (25:01):

He did the yard, he cleaned up this stuff. I asked him to, I mean, he was doing the best husband duty that day. Yeah. And I didn't even acknowledge that. I went in and said, what's for dinner? And then I thought, okay, if I'm emotionally sober and taking care of myself, how would I handle this differently? I thought, well, I could have said in the morning, Hey, you know, I'm likely to be busy all day. Would you prepare food for us and dinner for us tonight? He would've been happy to have done that. So I went out to the kitchen and I said, honey, I go, I realize that I, um, was not being emotionally sober. Like I was putting these expectations and rules on you, and I'm really sorry. Next time if I want you to cook, I'll just tell you so I'm sorry honey. And he stopped in his tracks and turned around and went, wow. You just took that to a whole other level. ,

Dr. Allen Berger (25:52):

He loved it. Right? Yeah. They love Oh,

Dr. Shawn Horn (25:55):

But it was like a domino thing. Like, how can I stay grounded because I pulled away and went in my room? Yeah. But how can I stay grounded? And I found it interesting that as a provider, and, and someone's been doing this forever. Like you can't see the painting when you're inside the painting. It's a, to find those hidden expectations Yeah. Is so hard.

Dr. Allen Berger (26:17):

It comes, well, you stumbled on it. You got upset and you used your upset to lead you back to what was really going on. And, and that, that was, that was wonderful. What a great, what a great example of that, Shawn. And I can, and I can imagine what that meant to him. He said, oh my God, I'm not being criticized. She's appreciated me and she's owning this. I love this woman. I'm Yeah, yeah. You're my wife's forever

Dr. Shawn Horn (26:43):

. What was so interesting too is that he started vicariously doing similar stuff, you know, like taking more responsibility for his needs. And it was, it was, um, it's been fascinating to me and seeing that when you start to show up for yourself Yeah. And you start to work through your triggers by taking that responsibility to attend, then it, it does change the culture of the world around you in some way and for the positive. But that can't be the motivation because that's the motivation that that codependence. Right.

Dr. Allen Berger (27:16):

Well then it gets manipulative. You're right. But you're right. When you're doing it for the right reason. But it really brings back that po this point that, that I thought of when you were sharing that, is that when we have these wounds, if we don't take care of them, we transmit the, this unhealthy behavior. Right. We keep transmitting it because it's not transformed. Mm-Hmm. . But once we transform these things like you did in that moment, we also transmit that.

Dr. Shawn Horn (27:45):


Dr. Allen Berger (27:46):

And that's the great thing about this. Even Bill Wilson who really talked about this emotional sobriety in the context of recovery from alcoholism, said that when we begin to achieve emotional sobriety, so do the other people around us, because it's contagious. Just like the anxiety is contagious, just like bad behavior is contagious. Mm-Hmm. . So is this stuff, as soon as you start to turn it around, it creates this wonderful synergy in a relationship. Mm-Hmm. . And you start growing together. Yes. But not because you're demanding it, because you're creating the right atmosphere for it.

Dr. Shawn Horn (28:24):

Yeah. Yes. I hear so often parents will, like, kids fighting. They go, what did you do to your brother? What did you do to your sister? Right. So we're constantly, uh, given this message that the outside world has a the power. Yeah. They are my villain and they need to be my hero. Right on. And when you, you continue to do that, it repeats this wound. Yeah. And I realized in that moment, I thought, I'm not abandoned. I just keep staging life like I am. Yeah. And keep telling myself that I am, but no one's abandoning me. It's me abandoning me. You know?

Dr. Allen Berger (28:57):

Well, that's it. See how you showed up when you said that you participated in defining and protecting your psychological space? That's, that was the turnaround. That was the moment of emotional sobriety for you as soon as you did that. And like I said, I mean, people are saying that's an epic example. Perfect example, Shawn. I mean, the people that are listening are saying, that's incredible because that's going on every day in households across the United States today. Mm-Hmm. .

Dr. Shawn Horn (29:27):

And the hard part is when you do have challenging circumstances that you might not be able to change, you know, if they have a problematic marriage or something, and working through that, I think that can be very confusing to try to figure out what action is the most effective action in this situation.

Dr. Allen Berger (29:46):

Well, it's interesting that in the new book that's out and that you've read that the last chapter is about relationship and it's about how to have healthier relationships and how to apply these principles. And one of the principles I talk about is that when you turn to your partner for what you dearly need and desire, and it's not available, what do you do? And if you're emotionally sober, you appreciate what is, you grieve what isn't. And you appreciate what is, you share your disappointment. If I turned to you and said, God, I wanted to make love tonight. And you said, God, honey, I just, you know, I had a tough day and I'm just, my head's not in that space. Now if I'm unhealthy, I'm gonna say, see, there you go again. You're making work more important than me. You know, God, when am I gonna be as important as your patience?

Dr. Allen Berger (30:37):

That's my manipulating you to try to get me to do what I want you to do. Mm-Hmm. , if I turned to you when you said that, and I said, God, you know, I was really looking forward to, to being close, but you know, honey, I appreciate so much that you didn't lose yourself and that you told me your truth. 'cause I don't want you to give me something you don't wanna give me. Mm-Hmm. . So thanks for being honest. Then all of a sudden we're having sex . I mean, I mean, the guy says that to you, then you say, I love you. I mean, then it see, it changes the whole dynamic. So when we turn to our partner and we, we, we really turn to them for what we dearly want, and it's not available. We can be disappointed, but then we appreciate what is and there's always something to appreciate.

Dr. Shawn Horn (31:23):

Yes. And it frees you too, from the job of having to do mind reading and Yes. You know, read between the lines and what does that body language mean? What did that sigh mean? And it was so interesting, my husband, when I did that, that day, it was like the weight of the world came off his shoulders. And I thought, what was that like? Why did he have so much joy and peace afterwards? And I think it was this freedom found. Yeah. And I don't have to figure it out to get it right. Yeah. She'll take responsibility now to just say, straight up what she needs, not there it is. And I don't have to do that. And it was like, oh, like water to the soul for him. Yes.

Dr. Allen Berger (32:04):

So true. It was liberating for him is really, it was Right. He was liberated because he didn't have to live up to your expectations to be okay. And see, that's the real damage that this stuff does, is that when, when I put these expectations on you, I'm defining that the only way for you to be okay is to operate within the parameters I'm creating. Mm-Hmm. . And now if you cooperate with that, you lose yourself, then you're no longer present in the relationship. You're just trying to live within these restricted parameters that I've created by my expectations. And mm-Hmm. , so many of us think that that's our job in a relationship to cooperate with this nonsense. Mm-Hmm. . And, you know, you and I are talking now about things like cooperation with integrity. Mm-Hmm. , that's true. Cooperation. If you compromise yourself, that's not cooperation. That's a cheap form. A very cheap form of cooperation. We want people to cooperate with integrity. You know, Eric Fromm defined, mature love is union with that preservation of integrity. And that's what we're really looking for, is for two people to stand next to each other

Dr. Shawn Horn (33:27):

And an interdependent relationship. Yeah. Where they're helpful to each other. Yeah. This is all so, so good. I just appreciate you coming here and talking to my viewers about this concept because it really, I think, encompasses a lot of principles. We teach in therapy about living effectively, how to have boundaries, how to regulate your emotions, understand the purpose of emotions. I didn't understand that sobriety word. I thought that meant don't feel. Yes. You know? Yeah. Really, you feeling all emotions appropriately and remaining grounded in the midst of all emotions and circumstances. Yeah.

Dr. Allen Berger (34:06):

It's like we're having a healthier relationship with our emotions, aren't we? That's what we're really talking about. It. A healthier relationship. Do I got time to read something real quick and

Dr. Shawn Horn (34:16):

Oh yeah. We have time.

Dr. Allen Berger (34:18):

So one of my favorite books is The Prophet by Cahil Giran. It's an incredible book. He lived between 1883 and 1931, and he wrote this book in 1920s. It's just remarkable. But listen to what he says. You know, this is a fictional story about a prophet going to a land. And then there's a crowd around him asking him for different things. Like, tell us about pain. Tell us about love. Tell us about marriage. So this person asks, tell us about marriage. And this is what the prophet says. He says, you were born together and together you shall be forevermore, you shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days, I you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. So here's, that's the togetherness side. Now listen to the separateness side. 'cause this is the other part that's important in a relationship. But let there be spaces in your togetherness. And I love this. Great writer can write like this, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Dr. Shawn Horn (35:25):

Oh, so beautiful.

Dr. Allen Berger (35:27):

Let the winds of the heaven stance between you love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. It's such a great image, isn't it? It's so beautiful. Yeah. Fill each other's cup, but drink not from one cup. Fill each other's cup, but drink, not give one another your bread, but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous. But let each one of you be alone. I mean, what an image right then. Then the prophet goes on and says, even as the strings of elute are alone, though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. Give your hearts, but not into each other's. Keeping for the hand of life can contain your hearts. For only the hand of life can contain your hearts and stand together, yet not too near together for the pillars of the temple. Stand apart. And the oak tree and the Cyprus grow not in each other's shadow. Emotional dependency forces a togetherness. We lose the beauty of having a balance between togetherness and separateness in our relationships. Emotional dependency makes us think that it has to be this way for us to be okay when in reality we need to have both. Like Giron was saying, Mm-Hmm. , you know, let the winds of heaven dance between you, . I mean, it's like so beautiful.

Dr. Shawn Horn (37:07):

It feels so enriched. Yes. You know, that if two partners are doing that, how enriched the relationship can be

Dr. Allen Berger (37:14):

The profit by Kahil Giani. It's a wonderful, wonderful book.

Dr. Shawn Horn (37:20):

, every book that you suggest in your meetings, I'm like, on Amazon . Are you getting

Dr. Allen Berger (37:24):

It at Amazon? I I, I know I do. I do the same thing. I mean, if you, if you come into my garage, literally every wall is lined with bookcases, filled with books. Yes. I love, I love knowledge. I love reading. I love discovering. Yeah. And look, uh, all of these things I'm talking about in my new book, that's 12 essential insights for Emotional Sobriety. And so there's, there's a wealth as you read it. I, I share a lot of these great experiences I had in the office, but I also share my personal experiences. Mm-Hmm. But I share a lot of clinical examples of working with people and helping them find this way to hold onto themselves. Mm-Hmm. to discover their emotional center of gravity to realize their emotional dependence and how that can be woven together to help people live a better life.

Dr. Shawn Horn (38:14):

I like your sentence completion, uh, questions you have at the end of each chapter. Yes. Those are, it really helps people to do some self discovery work and and to get there in a, a really effective way.

Dr. Allen Berger (38:28):

Yes. Yes.

Dr. Shawn Horn (38:28):

So I had to stop highlighting the book. Oh, did you? basically every page is like yelling,

Dr. Allen Berger (38:34):

You know, I do that. I've got high, I run outta highlighters. I have to buy the big packet at Costco. I know, right? I buy those like 20 at a time and stuff like that. 'cause I use 'em so much.

Dr. Shawn Horn (38:44):

I find that this material is not, it's not utilized very much out there in the world. And especially in the world of mental health. I think there's a lot of tragic therapy going on. And so I found the resources that you have made available to be really, really helpful to internalize this concept. Why don't you tell the viewers what you have? You have Thursday night and you have other things.

Dr. Allen Berger (39:08):

So when Covid started, and it obviously had a big impact on all of our lives, I really sat and I said, you know, one of the things that I've, I've really tried to do in my life, in my own personal recovery is try to bring something of value when there's trouble and when there's suffering at this point. And I thought, wow, what a great opportunity, since we're all kind of isolated in this thing, is let's create something given that Zoom has created this opportunity for us that might bring a community of people together to start looking at this issue of emotional sobriety. So I started that meeting on Thursday night. It's open to anyone. You don't have to be affiliated with any 12 step group. It's called Emotional Sobriety Anonymous. The only requirement is you want to be there, , I mean, right. Mm-Hmm. , that kind of thing. So I started that. We had 20 people show up at the first meeting. Well last night we had what, 200?

Dr. Shawn Horn (40:08):

Oh, so many. You're like page, page, page

Dr. Allen Berger (40:11):

. Yeah. I mean, we had 200 people show up and it's, it's really starting to develop that critical mass. People are hearing this stuff. Mm-Hmm. They're saying, this is what's been missing in, in my life. This is what's been missing in my recovery. These are the things somebody wrote me on after they read 12 Smart Things to do when the booze and drugs are gone. Said, you introduced me to the Bill Wilson. I've been looking for, isn't that a great way to say it?

Dr. Shawn Horn (40:36):

Yes, that is. Yes. And I just wanna encourage people that they don't have to be in a recovery program to benefit from this material because really it's for everyone. That's right. The concept is that we struggle. When we struggle. We either numb ourselves out or we act out and to manage to regulate those emotions. And so in the 12 step community, they're addressing ways that people numb out or act out. But we all do that. We all do it, whether it's shopping, whether it's, uh, avoiding perfectionism, people pleasing, eating issues. All these things are ways that we distract ourselves, na out, act out, so forth. So this is equipping people with the mindset, tools and strategies to begin to do it differently. So we don't have to numb out, distract, act out, but we can be present in the life we're living one day at a time. This is why I wanted to bring it public, because I thought everyone needs to know this. I see shame as being the core to our emotional behavioral difficulties. Like people are setting this mental health and this struggle, like the root shame. Let's talk about it. Yeah. And I see that the solution, like the big umbrella solution is this emotional sobriety component.

Dr. Allen Berger (41:59):

I appreciate how you connect that Shawn, a lot. If you wanna learn about that Thursday night meeting, you can contact Shawn or me. My email address is a b PhD, so my initials ab, and then And I'll send you the Zoom link to it. Um, yes. I'll invite

Dr. Shawn Horn (42:19):

You have it on your website.

Dr. Allen Berger (42:20):

Yes. The other thing I do, you mentioned a couple of the other things. There is a podcast that we started on emotional sobriety, which we're gonna invite you to come in and be one of our guests here in the weeks to come and that you can find on Spotify or on Apple Podcast. And then Mm-Hmm, , I have that the Gestalt training program that mm-Hmm. occurs once a month. And that is open to anyone now that it's zoomed. We used to limit it to only 20 individuals. You know, now that, that we're in this zoom world and doing everything virtually and it meets once a month to train therapists with, from this kalt perspective, that I think really go it's hand in glove with this emotional sobriety stuff.

Dr. Shawn Horn (42:59):

Oh, very much so. Very much. And I've attended two and I absolutely breathe life into my, my work. I, I found it very rejuvenating and inspiring. So that was so great. And I have to say, you are so, so generous with your intellectual property on YouTube and your material. Like if people say, Hey, can I have this handout? You say, yes, feel free. Yeah. You know, credit, tell 'em that you got it from me, whatever. But, you know,

Dr. Allen Berger (43:27):

Open source it, I believe in open source it,

Dr. Shawn Horn (43:29):

Share that. Yes. And that's very generous. So there's so, so much I

Dr. Allen Berger (43:33):

Need, well, it touches people. I got a call from a woman yesterday, and this was so endearing. She called me and says, if you have time, please call me. She's, she grew up in Israel, you know, during the conflict, moved to the United States, and she's been coming to Thursday nights and she got on and she says, I just wanted to say something to you personally, so thank you for calling back. She goes, what you and everyone in that meeting is talking about is changing my life. She's 77 John, 70 seven's, you're changing, changing my life's. She goes,

Dr. Shawn Horn (44:06):

Never too late.

Dr. Allen Berger (44:07):

She goes, honey, I I can't do this stuff and order your book. Is there another way for me to get it? So this is what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna try to do this. I hope I'm gonna pull it off. I'm gonna get the book for her and I'm gonna go deliver it to her house personally.

Dr. Shawn Horn (44:22):


Dr. Allen Berger (44:23):

And I'm gonna go see her and I'm gonna try, I'll video it if I can, if she lets me. Oh my gosh. And I'll bring it because I mean, she was in tears when she was talking about the experiences. Wow. She lost almost her whole family in the Holocaust.

Dr. Shawn Horn (44:38):

Oh my

Dr. Allen Berger (44:38):

Word. And so when she was sitting there talking about her trauma to me on the phone and saying how this has opened up a whole path to new freedom from that trauma, I got goosebumps. And I started to cry too, Shawn.

Dr. Shawn Horn (44:51):

Oh, I bet,

Dr. Allen Berger (44:52):

I bet. I mean, that's what this stuff is. What's happening for people, you know? Yeah. They hear this stuff and like you said, it's like binging bing, bing, bing. Light bulbs start going off and you start going, my God, there is a way, there is a way to be in this world in the be okay. And it doesn't have to do with circumstances and situations. I say we get to a place where I am. Okay. Even if things don't go my way.

Dr. Shawn Horn (45:18):


Dr. Allen Berger (45:19):

Instead of that's amazing. Instead of, instead of, I'm okay if, right. I'm okay if this happens, if Susie Valinski kisses me in the third grade, I'd be okay if she did that. But no, this is emotional sobriety about I'm okay even if things don't turn out the way I want 'em to.

Dr. Shawn Horn (45:34):

Yes. Yeah. I'm finding that it really is just, uh, making such a significant impact in my clinical work and in personal life, professional life. I can't talk about it enough with everyone. So thank you so much.

Dr. Shawn Horn (45:51):

Thank you for joining us today. I hope this discussion was inspiring and uplifting to your journey. Please remember, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute a relationship with a licensed mental health professional. Also, make sure you rate this show share with those you know, and send us a shout out. Please message me with any topics you would like me to address or questions you have on social media at Dr. Shawn Horn or on my website. Thank you again, and may you find joy in the journey and be richly blessed.

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