To show up as our best selves in any relationship, we must know how to calm ourselves down when emotions become overwhelming. Many of us have been taught that it is the responsibility of our partner to help calm us when in reality, it is our own.
In this episode, we’ll go in deep as to why learning how to self-soothe ultimately is the greatest gift you can give yourself as you navigate infidelity or any other challenge. When we don’t give someone else responsibility for how we feel, we get to decide how to feel, know how to take care of ourselves, and how to deal with the discomfort of personal growth.
Listen to understand areas where you can increase your ability to self-soothe and why it matters so much.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast,
episode number 79, Self-Soothing.
Hello and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast where courageous
women learn, not only to heal from their spouses’ betrayal, but to become
the boldest truest, most decisive, and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know, there’s more freedom than the life you’re currently
living but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place.
Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks
off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how I’m your host,
Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hi, friends. How are you all doing? I am hoping that my baby girl takes her
nap right now. I’m hoping she stays asleep while I get this recorded. She’s
not a great napper so far. She’s pretty good at nighttime, but not a great
napper during the day. So we’re working on that. Anyway, I want to start
off this episode by going over a little bit what we’ve talked about in the
last couple weeks because this episode and the next one all kind of go
together towards the episode that I did about holding onto yourself. Okay?
I want to ask if you’ve been practicing holding onto yourself. I have been.
I’ve been practicing it. I’ve been trying to get stronger in my ability to
stay with myself, and it feels really amazing, actually. One thing that
I’ve been trying to do that I want to give to you is when I feel an urge to
respond in a certain way to something somebody says or does, I check in
with myself of what age do I feel when I want to respond in that way?
If I feel like 13 or even younger, it’s a good indication that I am letting
go of myself. It’s a good indication that I’m not operating from my highest
self, and there might be things in there to listen to in ourselves, to
learn from, that are maybe unhealed, but not a great way to respond from.
Not a great way to have a conversation if you are feeling really young,
right? Because when we’re trying to change our lives and show up in a
really strong way, we want to show up as adults. That’s working from that
highest part of our brain, right? Our prefrontal cortex. Okay?
The other episode I did was high desire, low desire. I hope that you all
found that helpful, and then today, we are going to be talking about
self-soothing. Now, this episode ties into the one I’m going to be doing
next week on self-confrontation. I’m doing it in that order because we need
to know how to self-sooth before we step into the work of
self-confrontation. We need to know how to stay with ourselves. It’s just
going deeper on staying with yourself. We need to know how to do that.
So that’s what I’m going to be talking about today, and then next week is
all about confronting ourselves, and I know that it sounds scary, and it is
not for the faint of heart and many, many people never do. For many people,
they make everything other people’s fault, but that’s not we’re doing here.
Right? And so that’s what we’ll be diving into. But today is all about
self-soothing. So basically, what self soothing is exactly what it sounds
like. It’s the ability to calm yourself.
David Schnarch, the therapist you hear me talk about a lot says that it is
modulating your own anxiety and not taking on your partners or anyone
else’s. The more partners can regulate their own anxiety and hold onto
themselves, the more stable their relationship becomes and the less they
have to control each other. So as you know, I had a baby recently, right?
She’s now three-months-old. She’s delightful. Oh, how I love her.
She’s so, so sweet, and it’s really remarkable to see that she’s only
three-months-old and she already has grown in her capacity to self-sooth.
She already can. If she’s starting to want to suck on something, she has
found her hands and she’ll suck on her hands. She makes cute sounds when
she’s kind of bored and just will listen to her voice. She likes to listen
to herself. She will kind of talk to herself. If she’s dozing off, I can
always tell when she’s talking to herself to fall asleep because it’s in a
certain kind of way, and it’s adorable.
This is self-soothing. At three-months-old, she’s learning how to
self-sooth, and I’m not talking about that cry it out type methodology of
letting your kid cry out, letting them self-sooth. That’s not what I’m
talking about. I’m talking about naturally letting nature work and learning
how to use the built-in things that she already has to calm herself. It’s
really cool to see. So when do I need to self-sooth? to Schnarch says
whenever something challenges our identity, worldview, and relationship.
Now, part of why infidelity can be so difficult is because it challenges
all of those things, our identity, our worldview and our relationship. All
of them. Okay? Our identity. First of all, it challenges our identity
because we thought that things were one way and they are not. A Lot of
white infidelity hurts so bad and is so hard is because there are things,
maybe, that we didn’t want to see about ourselves, about our relationship
that now, suddenly, we have to look at. It can be really tough, right?
We can think that things are a certain way in our relationship, and
suddenly, we find out that they’re not. Our worldview can be different
because we have ideas about what spouses should and shouldn’t do, and if
spouses can do this, then what else? What else can happen? What else am I
wrong about? Right? And certainly, our relationship is challenged within
infidelity. Ultimately, whether you stay or leave, growing in your
self-soothing capacity will help you become more differentiated.
Now, if you want to reminder of what that means, go back to episode 69.
Okay? Differentiation is, basically, you establishing yourself as an
individual with your own ideas, with your own preferences, with your own
likes and dislikes instead of seeing ourselves in reference to what other
people think we are or should be. Okay? Schnarch says that only extreme
circumstances are sufficient to provoke the personal metamorphosis that is
part and parcel of differentiation. That is the gift of infidelity. Okay?
It rocks our world so much and gives us an opportunity to grow into the
person we want to be very intentionally rather than just getting by. So
what happens when we lack the skill of self-soothing? An example I thought
of is of toddlers. What if there’s a toddler that needs so much soothing to
get them down to sleep? The toddler that needs 10 books, five songs, water,
another several books, it’s exhausting. It’s so exhausting, and at the
time, it may seem loving.
It may seem like, “But look at me. This kid needs me.” It may seems loving.
But in the end, it’s actually really draining on that relationship, not
just on the parent. It’s draining on the relationship because the parent is
exhausted and has less to give to the child and the child is not learning
how to self-sooth, and sometimes, we act like toddlers on our
relationships. We might want so much validation and insurance… Excuse me.
Assurance, not insurance.
We might need so much soothing from somebody other than ourselves. We might
need constant reminders that we’re loved, that we’re cared for, and it can
exhaust our marriage. Now, we usually do this to shield ourselves from our
own intense anxiety and insecurity. Okay? But it still leaves us feeling
very dependent on that person and putting a lot of strain on the marriage
system. Just like that relationship with the toddler and the parent. It
puts strain on that relationship.
So to be clear, it is appropriate and healthy at times to ask for help from
your spouse to reduce anxiety, normal appropriate. But depending too much
on this so you don’t have to do the essential work of learning to
self-sooth puts too much of a strain on the marriage. It adds stress to the
marriage rather than relieving it. So on really hard stress-producing
things happen like a death, a move, a new job, a remodel, some really big
difficulty with the child, et cetera, the relationship is already strained.
So there isn’t a whole lot of flexibility. The marriage is already sapped
of its resources.
So when you add on those stresses and the person who is giving you all of
the things that you’re asking for, like giving you so much soothing to calm
your anxiety, if something really stressful comes up that is sapping them
of their ability to do it, where does that leave you, right? Now, that
leaves you in a spot where you might feel completely dependent on them, and
not getting what you think that you need from them, and in a pretty bad
spot, right? So now you know, I hope, the importance of self soothing.
Now, what are some symptoms of a relationship where there isn’t a lot of
self-soothing going on? Here’s one. Fighting. With fighting, what happens
is the anxieties get too high in each individual, and it spills over into
exchanges with the partner. Now, all marriages go through times that try
how well you handle your own anxiety. All marriages do this. Marriage is
quite the grounds to grow. Okay? All marriages are given an opportunity to
grow in this way.
Now, remember this. Our lower brains are like reptile brains. So when that
higher brain is offline and we’re operating from our lower brain, it’s the
reptile brain. So when we start operating from this place, which is
basically what we’re doing when we’re completely flooded with anxiety or
another strong, strong emotion, and can’t get ourselves back down, can’t
self-sooth, the reptile brain has taken over, and what a reptile brain
wants to do is protect itself at all costs.
So it makes sense that fighting is what happens in that space, becoming
combative, becoming defensive, right? It’s just the reptile brain taking
over. It’s not actually helping though, right? Okay. So how do you
self-sooth? Number one, stop seeing yourself as wounded. I’m going to say
it again. Stop seeing yourself as wounded. You have just been taught some
faulty programming. Okay? You’re not wounded. You’ve just maybe been given
some faulty programming.
For example, all the time, you hear in couples therapy and things like that
about the importance of mirroring back what your partner’s saying to you
and the importance of validation and validating your partner, and I do
think that there’s space for that. But when we’re not taught how to
validate ourselves, it still is a dependent relationship. We’re still
dependent on that person to validate us. Okay? That creates a sense of self
that is very dependent on outside sources rather than a solid sense of who
you are. Okay?
So if you’ve been taught some of those things that are very prevalent
still, right? They’re everywhere. It can create, in you, this thought or
this belief that our partners are responsible for helping us to soothe, and
if they’re not doing it, then there’s something wrong. We humans are much,
much more resilient than we think we are. We are so resilient. Every single
thing that you’ve ever heard me teach on here, every single thing, even if
it was hard to hear, it is an awareness tool.
It is not an excuse to not learn how to self-sooth, and it’s not meant to
be used to beat yourself up, and it doesn’t give us a reason to go around
this work, right? It’s not an excuse to get us not doing this work. So for
example, attachment theory. That’s an episode I did a long time ago. Let’s
say that your attachment style is avoidant. Okay? And you know about
yourself. If you notice yourself in relationships running away when things
get hot, you could say, “Well, that’s just my avoidant self coming out. I’m
just wounded. I’m just broken. I’m avoidant.”
No, it’s information to know that that is your go-to. It’s just good to
know. Okay? It’s an awareness tool, but you can overcome that. Okay? You
can go, “Yeah. This is my go-to, and I’m learning to show up in a different
way for myself. I’m not going to run away from this. I’m going to feel this
discomfort and sit here in it.” Okay? It’s that wounded thought process
that says, “I’m just broken. I have to run away.” Okay?
You’re not broken, my friends. You’ve just been taught some faulty
programming. We really are created to be resilient. If you think about the
people that you look up to most, I bet you, they all had hard things
happen, every one of them, and they learned how to overcome them. They
persevered. We are made to be resilient. You are made to be resilient. You
are not wounded. You are not broken. Okay?
Number two, normalize your experience. Our brain wants to catastrophize
everything. Make it all horrible. Make it all bad. “I’m the only one.”
Okay? So for example, if you are feeling out of touch or out of sync with
your partner, not in tune, the infidelity has happened. You’re working on
it for… This is just an example of what could happen. Okay? You’re
working on it, but you’re feeling out of touch. You’re feeling like you’re
offline. Okay? With your partner, out of sync.
Your brain is going to freak out and tell you that this is a problem, and
that it’s not going to work. Clearly, this is not going to work. Some very
dramatic conclusion. Okay? I want you to remember that those times that you
are not quite in sync actually are a gift. You know why? Because they give
you time to get to know yourself and what soothes. You get to find out what
calms you. One of the things I want you to practice is just thinking,
“We’re out of sync right now, and it’s okay.”
Instead of spending time worrying about what’s wrong with your spouse, and
what are they thinking, why is he being distant, maybe he wants to leave, I
want you to get back in your own head and use it as an opportunity to grow.
Let them take care of themselves. Let them parent themselves. Okay? Let
them be the adult and take care of their own brain. You take care of you.
Use it as a time to grow yourself and you can trust that you will come back
Number three, understand that whatever your partner’s behavior or his own
lack of change has nothing to do with you and has everything to do with his
level of maturity and growth. You can show up really strong and they can
back off. They can hide. They can do whatever they’re going to do. Okay?
Depending on how much they’re willing to grow, how much they’re willing to
self-confront, how much they’re willing to learn to self-sooth. Okay?
If you want to be the strongest player towards change, you’ve got try to
keep that higher brain online. Okay? So practice breathing. Practice deep
breaths that slow your mind. See this, again, as an opportunity to become
less dependent on a certain response from him. Try to keep yourself with
yourself and not worrying about what he’s doing. He’s going to do what he’s
going to do. Okay? And you get to do what you do. Trust that it’s about
him. Not about you.
Number four, Dr. Schnarch says this. If you can’t regulate your emotion,
control your behavior. Okay? There will be times where your emotion will
feel really intense. Normal. Okay? When you have those times where you
can’t quite regulate your emotion, try to control your behavior. Here’s
why. Because it’s too easy to let our emotions take over and say things we
didn’t want to say, say things we didn’t mean to say, and actually make
life a lot harder for ourselves than it needs to be, make new things to
In that moment, even if you feel a really strong emotion, try to keep some
kind of perspective about how saying this thing you feel that you probably
shouldn’t say may end up hurting, may end up not being worth it for you.
Okay? If it’s still something that you need to say, that’s really
important, you’ll still feel like you need to say it when your emotion is
not super high. It’ll still be there and available to you.
Number five, give yourself permission to break contact. Step away until you
feel more calm. Now, when you are expressing this, let’s say, that you’re
in the middle of a conversation and you start to feel that super strong
emotion come, whatever it is, and you feel like you’re kind of losing
yourself a little bit, give yourself permission to step away. Now, make it
clear though that this is for your own self-repair and not withdrawing.
This is not doing the thing where we just disappear. Okay? We’re not trying
to punish. We are not stonewalling. This is for self-repair, and so
communicate that. You can communicate a time to reconnect and this
demonstrates good intent to your partner. Okay? While separated, take
really good care of yourself. Do the things that help you to calm.
Exercise, eat really healthy food, work out. I already said exercise, huh?
Get together with friends that help you feel good, that are uplifting to
you. Whatever is that helps you to calm, do those things. Okay?
Now, I want to remind you that self-soothing does not involve binging on
food or Netflix, or regressing emotionally, or bad-mouthing our partners.
Okay? Those are not things that are going to help you to be calm and go
back to that conversation able to really stay with yourself. Okay? Number
six, trust the process. Trust that you are in the messy middle, and it’s
going to be bit messy and clumsy, and it’s okay.
The work of learning how to self-sooth sets you up for being able to
powerfully self-confront, and as you’ll learn in next week’s episode,
self-confronting is how you will ultimately get exactly what you want. If
we can identify what we’re doing that is contributing to our own pain,
guess who gets to solve for it? We do. We give away, too often, our ability
to change our own circumstances if we don’t learn how to do this
self-confronting. Okay? Can’t wait to dive into that with you.
But, ultimately, self-soothing is vital to growing relationships. It’s
vital for growing up relationships, maturing past where you are into a more
mature relationship. It’s really, really important. I also want to point
out that self-soothing is a lifelong pursuit. We are not ever going to
arrive one day and say, “I am perfect at self-soothing.” It just won’t
happen because we’re flawed, because sometimes we will have circumstances
present themselves to us that we will not feel prepared for, and then we
have an opportunity to grow some more. It’s really a beautiful thing even
if we don’t love it when we’re in it, right? We’re always being given
invitations to grow. Okay. That is-self soothing.
I hope that you learned something from this today. I want you to go
practice it. Find the ways that you can self-sooth. Okay? I’m doing the
same work. I’m continuing to grow in my own way of learning how to
self-sooth, learning how to tolerate discomfort, learning how to bring
myself down instead of giving that responsibility to somebody else, and you
know what I really love? The person that is showing up. She’s really
strong. She’s really powerful. So are you. So are you. Okay?
So much love to you, and I will see you next week, and we’re going to talk
about self-confronting. One more quick thing is, very soon, I’m going to be
sharing all the things that you need to know about joining my group program
that is coming out. It’s going to start in April, and I have a limited
amount of spots, and I can’t wait to get that rolling. If you want more
information about that, go get on my email list. Just go to
andreagiles.com, and there’s an offer in there where you can get on my
You’ll get a freebie, a free offering that I give, and you’ll also get on
my email list, which will inform you all the things you need to know about
my group coaching, which is going to be awesome. It’s going to be really
good. Okay, my friends, take care. I will see you next time. All right,
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
episodes, and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly
email. You can subscribe at andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. Again,
it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.