Show Transcript for Episode 273: Stop the Fight—How to Break the Negative Cycle

Listen to the episode here!

Laurie Watson 00:02
So g man, I want to talk about TEMPO, your acronym. Because I use this a lot with people, it really helps organize them, especially when a person is ready to see their own part in the cycle. And this is like, what am I doing that causes this thing to go awry. And it’s an organizing acronym to help them figure that out.

George Faller 00:29
If we’re going to use TEMPO, you got to say it right temple, you got to find the tempo, right? We got to have the energy in a TEMPO. But do it. We’re having fun with it. And yes, I think acronyms helpful if it helps break down a complex process in a simple way that people can hold on to.

Laurie Watson 00:47
So if you’re interested in your part, and you want to figure it out what you might be contributing. Here we go. Welcome to foreplay radio, couples in sex therapy. I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.

George Faller 01:01
And I’m George Faller, couples therapist,

Laurie Watson 01:04
and we are passionate about talking about sex and helping you develop a way to talk to each other.

George Faller 01:09
Our mission is to help our audience develop a healthier relationship to sex that integrates the mind, the heart and the body.

Laurie Watson 01:19
We got to say too, about our sponsors, Uberlube, Manscaped Oh, my god, yes. And Addyi, you know, I went to the FDA to get help get it approved. And we only take sponsors, with products that we really believe in, do something good. I mean, we are approached all the time with all kinds of products and stuff that we turn down. So we’re recommending things that we have recommended to patients that we’ve seen as a good product, a healthy product, something that we think will help you

George Faller 01:51
something that’s promoting healthy sex. Really, that’s, that’s our mission. And all these products are just trying to move the needle and get people more comfortable talking about sex and enjoying sex. So we really appreciate that partnership.

Laurie Watson 02:07
Gee, man, say it again. Tim

George Faller 02:10
Tebow tempo field tempo.

Laurie Watson 02:16
You know, it’s so obvious to see what our partner is doing, I totally get how my husband blows it and contributes to the negative cycle. But figuring out what I do, and analyzing that and then figuring out what I could be doing. I will say that EFT has organized that for me and your acronym, good stuff,

George Faller 02:39
but do a little bit of background on TEMPO. This was originally Magnus Arnold’s work on assembling the elements of an emotion. And this isn’t yours. This is not mine. This is this is me reconveyance arizer work that’s already been done. emotions of fast. And this whole tempo process takes less than a second. That’s why most people don’t understand before they know what they’re fighting. They. So this is how I try to break down a process to really, and it starts with the T, the T is a trigger, right? Something happens as a million words out there. But there’s certain things that were susceptible, that hit some kind of raw spot physiologically in us. So I might be sensitive to my wife’s criticism, right? Because as a guy who wants to get it right, and be told I’m doing a good job, when I hear messages, I’m not doing a good job. I’m sensitive to that. So that could set off this chain reaction within me. So the more specific you can identify these triggers, the more you can start to slow down this process. So if I just say, hey, me and my wife had a fight, I really don’t know what’s caused that fight. But if you start to kind of explore and try to get these triggers, you know, when I came home, my wife said you’re late again. Like that specific trigger. You’re late again. Did something to me. I didn’t get a big hug I didn’t get Did you have a hard day at work? I got you’re late again. You’re late again. Three words. And that said something off within me. Right.

Laurie Watson 04:24
CG man’s face right now? are you late? A lot coming home.

George Faller 04:30
Hey, listen, I don’t know. Why don’t you believe the house that he bought? Maybe this was the old right.

Laurie Watson 04:35
Okay, so yeah, cuz you’re always kind of a prompt person. Do you not let your wife know you’re gonna come home?

George Faller 04:43
Well, and your timetable. I had the best of intentions to be home early and sometimes life has a way of getting get out of you.

Laurie Watson 04:51
Oh, man.

George Faller 04:52
That is crazy. But even as you’ll notice in my face, right, that’s the E the emotion. What is the physiology logical response whenever there’s a trigger your body will communicate something. Okay? When I say that you’re late again, I can feel like it my chest this dislike weight this heaviness.

Laurie Watson 05:13
What? So your chest? Is that where you normally feel it is your chest, I have a feeling well, I’ve

George Faller 05:18
never gotten training in my life. I think most people don’t really name these places. But you know, just to for our listeners, if you can’t name something, that’s okay. If you keep practicing, you will. So yes, when I get a message that I’m doing something wrong, I feel a pressure on me. So it’s all my shoulders are on my chest. If I really sit with the feeling like oh, I’m gonna fail, I’m actually good, it will go into my stomach, like, there’ll be a bad feeling in my stomach could

Laurie Watson 05:48
shoulders, chest goes into your stomach, I’m gonna slow this down. Because I think it’s so important. I think what tiempo does is it teaches emotional intelligence. And this is something that the debrief that we’re doing right now with you, and what I do with my patients, and also what we can do with our children, it teaches them to integrate an experience with what they feel about it with what their body tells them about it with what they tell themselves about it, right, and then how they react. And so if we can understand all this, we have choices, this is the power of tempo is it slows down a process, we start to think instead of just react, and we can do something about it and what you just said, I feel that pressure in my shoulders, my chest, and eventually if I feel you know it long enough, or if I’m convinced my partner thinks I’m bad enough, it would move to your stomach. And one of the things that I’ve always felt is our body is faster in terms of giving us information about what we’re feeling than our mind can process. So just being triggered, like, Oh, my shoulders hurt my, my chest is feeling heavy. It’s like, I’m in conflict. Yeah, your body is so intelligent, and can help you if you start to become attuned to your body. And and I think this attunement helps us sexually in a huge way, because we are cut off so much from our bodies. And this, you know, we get also cut off from our erotic feelings and all that so that just this work emotionally will help you in every realm.

George Faller 07:32
Absolutely. And, you know, most therapy, or most people in conversations are focused in on fixing the problem. And the insight. And insight is often future focus, like what will we do next time, the beauty of the body? It’s in present moment, yeah, if you’re gonna listen to the pressure in your shoulders, you are live, right? where people have problems are in these emotional places. Right? That that comment, you’re late again, set off the dominoes inside of me. Right, the more that I could understand that trigger, and I could kind of ground to give myself a marker in my body on now working in present moment. Right, which is an amazing way of slowing things down and trying to create new outcomes to these triggers, which ultimately is what how we’re trying to replace a negative cycle with a positive cycle.

Laurie Watson 08:22
Okay, so now you’ve given us Intel, we know when your shoulders hurt, your chest feels heavy, something’s going on for you emotionally, then then what else do you What? What is what, whenever

George Faller 08:34
you are? Well, the ie the pressure is usually pressure for me. The sense that’s, that’s my body’s way of mobilized into a threat. So that comment, that trigger is registered in my amygdala is a threat. And my body mobilizes to face the threat here again. So speaking on us, that’s your nice, clean, and maintain amygdala maybe then your brain kicks in, it’s got to make sense of this whole thing. Okay. Like, what why? Why am I under threat from my partner? What is this pressure about? How do I make sense of it in my brain makes sense of that. As you know, I must have done something wrong. I’ve disappointed my partner. I did come home late. Right? I’m failing. That’s demanding. That’s the meaning that comes with that sentence.

Laurie Watson 09:31
So the M in tempo is what meaning are we making of it? What What do we tell ourselves about this relational trigger this relational scenario, and then you would tell yourself, okay, I’m, I’m failing. Not a good thing. Right?

George Faller 09:50
If I would listen to the pressure, if you would see I’m failing. But for most people, they go so fast past the trigger. They don’t identify They don’t identify the physiological response, the pressure in their shoulders, they don’t really go to the meaning, which is where the vulnerability is. And they go right to the P, which is the protection. What do I do with this threat? So for me, I’ve learned when there’s a threat, I want to move away from it. I don’t want to make it worse. So when I hear you’re late again, I just want to walk away and be like, you know, you’re so critical. I don’t even want to deal with you. Hmm.

Laurie Watson 10:31
So you want to withdraw, get away from it, get away from this, this thing that is making you feel bad about yourself hurting your body, making you feel like, Okay, I’m failing. I don’t want to feel that. And so for you, I just walk away and that walk away strategy helps you not blow up. Right? What back? So that would be smart. Yeah, let’s

George Faller 10:54
talk about this in more depth when we get back. Okay. Hey, Laurie, we COVID winding down, I’m hoping to travel again. So I just went on Uberlube.com, and ordered one of those little travel kits.

Laurie Watson 11:11
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George Faller 12:46
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Laurie Watson 12:54
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George Faller 13:01
So that protection for most people, it’s what we talk about a shift from, you notice the trigger the emotion and meaning making, that’s all about me, that’s all happened, what we call view of self protection tends to shift it towards focusing on our partner and blaming our partner for what just happened. After all, my wife said to me, you’re late again. So it’s her fault. And I just she can be too much, he can be too critical. And I don’t want to fight over it. So I’m just gonna walk away. So protection is what I do to deal with that threat. But it moves so fast. I don’t even really even notice those first three parts of it. Yeah, just notice I’m annoyed. And I’m walking away.

Laurie Watson 13:45
And I’d like to take just a minute to talk about protection. This is the survival instinct that maybe we lean toward that is most natural for us for a withdrawal or it might be walking away shutting down. For a pursuer. Typically, they’re going to try harder to get through. Right, they’re going to say, you know, ask more questions, they’re going to have that pushing energy.

George Faller 14:10
So yes, I mean, that is so important to honor these protective moves. People are not trying to hurt their partner. It’s just what they’re doing to protect themselves. Right, somebody who’s going away, has learned that space is their friend and just trying to turn down emotion somebody is pushing is just trying to get help with their anxiety trying to kind of connect and make things better. Right? Both of them have great reasons for that moves. But those two protective you put them together and we’ll do tempo with my wife in this example, just to see how they they form a negative cycle.

Laurie Watson 14:44
Okay, okay, good. Yeah. So then what’s the Oh, the Oh

George Faller 14:49
is really what we call organized and we want to empower our clients and therapists to to be able to put all these pieces together to reflect something that happened. Literally 1/10 of a second. So people can start seeing this process and start to have Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor who wrote the book, The Search for Meaning he talks about, there’s an event that happens. And then there’s our response to the event. And for most people, it’s not immediate, my wife says, You’re late again, boom, I’m walking out the door. And he said, but there is actually a space in between those two. And what we’re really trying to do is to stretch out that space, because it’s in that space that we have choice. Most people don’t have a choice that moves too fast. I hear that criticism, I go away. When you start using tempo, you start slowing down the process, you start to really have more of a choice. So the organization would be saying, George, what I hear you saying is when you come into the house, and the first thing you hear is, you’re late again, immediately, you feel a sense of pressure, and your shoulders and your chest. And your body makes sense of that, like, Oh, I screwed up, my wife’s disappointed with me. Right. And what you do is like, you don’t really want to talk about it. Because if you talk about is probably gonna lead to a fight, it’s gonna make things worse, you’ve had a long day, you just want to kind of check out so you walk away. And you’re walking away, not because you don’t care. It’s just it’s your way, what you’ve always done to protect yourself. That makes sense. My getting that right, George, right. So notice what I’ve just done, I’ve taken this really quick process, and I’ve assembled it, the elements of it in a more organized way. So I can empower George to start doing it differently.

Laurie Watson 16:37
I think that the Oh is also important for the couple. I mean, not just for us therapists. But I think people can begin to see how this fits together. And that’s the negative cycle when they see their part. These are the things I do. And I get down to my protective strategy. And I know that walking away is going to send a message over to my wife. And maybe she’s I’m a withdraw. So I walk away. That makes sense to me. But I know she’s a pursuer, and then she has a tempo, you know, a thing that she goes through. So I think the ultimate help for a couple is to begin to see it as kind of a looping pattern. Yeah. And that motivates us. Okay, if what I do with if what makes sense to me, triggers you? Is there something else that I can do in that space that Viktor Frankl is talking about? Yep. Do I have another choice? And I think these things are so automated, we don’t feel like we have a choice. We just feel like this is this is who I am, this is how I react. I am what I am. I love that, that defense, when when somebody tells me, you know, I can’t, I can’t control this. I just, I just feel it. I am who I am. But actually, what we’re trying to do is slow it down so that people do have choices about it.

George Faller 18:03
Right, and usually the first pass of TEMPO, the O, the organizing is trying to organize that person’s narrative, their side of the street, you need to understand your side first before you can expand and start seeing your partner. Let’s do TEMPO with Kathy. Okay. And then we’re gonna put the two together, right. That’s the ultimate goal of the organizing. Okay, so my wife. Yeah, you’re Kathy. Okay, so I come home late again. What’s your trigger?

Laurie Watson 18:33
So my trigger is you walk in through if I’m Kathy, is you walking through the door late when most of the time you get home at some certain time, and I make sure dinner is going to be on the table at 6:30. And you’re now at 6:50. And so I’m triggered because I have lots of things right? The kids are hungry. We’ve been waiting for you. The food is now not at its optimal temperature or whatever I wanted to please you I wanted to have dinner ready. I know you like that. And suddenly I feel disrespected. I’m trying to organize a damn household right? You know, you You did all this. So I’m triggered like, angry because you didn’t do what you said you were gonna do.

George Faller 19:27
Right? So let’s get really specific and we’re inviting our listeners to get as specific as possible. It’s the opening the door. You’re probably looking for something from me if I am going to come in and say Hey, babe, I am so sorry. You know, it’s so when you come in and you see the smile on my face, or me not talking to me not saying anything or it’s the lack of a response that probably sets this thing off when you there’s a lot of things

Laurie Watson 19:56
right you come in and your face tells me are you come in on the phone. Let’s say that you come in still preoccupied. like not even knowing that my dinner is getting called good. And you’re on the phone. It’s like, I get triggered. What I feel is mad. Like,

George Faller 20:19
show the trigger. Let’s just clear. really clear the trigger is you open it I open a door, you see that? I, I don’t even realize what’s going on. I don’t even know my impact on distracted. That’s what you’re seeing on my face. I’m on the phone, I am somewhere else. I am not noticing you are the impacts of that. That meal on the phone is to trigger then feel what in your body? what’s what’s the physiological response?

Laurie Watson 20:47
I feel it in the back of my head, like tears are starting my my back starts to feel really tense. You know, just like, you know, it’s just gripping me. Yep, in the back, my back.

George Faller 21:07
And how do you make sense of this? What’s the meaning? Oh, he

Laurie Watson 21:10
does. He does not even consider my world. He doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t consider my world what’s going on with the family that I’m trying to provide for him and manage for him. He didn’t care about me.

George Faller 21:27
I was gonna say the US but anyway. Right. So you have that meaning? So now what do you do with that?

Laurie Watson 21:35
Wait, I love that. Because I just triggered your cycle. Right? I love it.

George Faller 21:42
I love

Laurie Watson 21:46
that was good. George.

George Faller 21:49
processing on many levels here, Lord.

Laurie Watson 21:53
Indeed.

George Faller 21:55
So let’s, what what are you going to do with that you have this sense of he doesn’t care. You can feel you know that tension in your neck tears are welling up the trigger is the phone and he’s just distracted. And what do you do at all that?

Laurie Watson 22:12
I need to let him know, right? I need to wake him up. Like what the heck? You know, how in the world? Do you think we’re gonna manage our family? You know, for, you know, when when this keeps happening? So I want to say it’s like, you’re playing again. He doesn’t he doesn’t know. I mean, if he knew how hurtful This is to me, and maybe he’d do something different. So I want to wake him up. Yeah. And I All I’m saying is the obvious, right? All I’m saying is you’re late again. I probably think I say it like this honey. Can. I’m sure. That’s how it comes out of my head.

George Faller 22:58
Yeah. But again, look at the wisdom of that. It’s like if you would say nothing, he’s does not can even understand his impact. He’s going to continue to do it. You’re hoping that saying something, you’re gonna wake him up? Like, that’s not okay. Like, you got to understand this. You got to accept responsibility. That’s the only way it’s going to change. Otherwise, I’m going to live this every day and that’s not okay. So that fight response is trying to mobilize and motivate change. So again, the organization would be me saying so Laurie, what I hear you saying is, you know, George comes home and he’s on his phone and he’s not even noticed and he’s distracted. Immediately. your brains like you can feel a tension in your neck and tears welling up in your eyes and you make sense of it. Like he doesn’t care. I’ve done all of this work. And he doesn’t even notice it’s not

Laurie Watson 23:49
this beautiful home that I decorating me work so

George Faller 23:53
hot.

Laurie Watson 23:55
Exactly damn on.

George Faller 23:58
Your body immediately goes to that protection place at less than a second. I want to say you’re late again. Right, which is how he hears it not just your way of saying, let’s let’s this can happen. We got to do something different here. This isn’t working for me. Makes a lot of sense. Yeah. All right, we come back. Let’s put these two together. Okay.

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George Faller 24:27
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Laurie Watson 24:42
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George Faller 26:21
Alright, Laurie. So we’ve done TEMPO with George, we’ve done tempo for Laurie for Kathy, right start now we’re now we’re trying to do the ultimate organization is to put the two of them together, right to recognize how one person’s protection and the other person’s protections will never work.

26:40
Let’s do TEMPO internally, and then show the choice points of what we could do. Okay, so door opens, you’re on the phone.

George Faller 26:53
Well, let me pull back a second that would be going into the fix. But I just want to highlight how they feed each other. So George comes home, on the phone, because he’s trying to kind of knock something off of work. And immediately he hears from Kathy, you’re late again. Right? It sets off his tempo, which is the pressure in his shoulders, that makes sense that he’s he’s doing something wrong, he don’t want to make things worse, or he goes away, trying to de escalate the situation. him going away, it’s just going to pour fire on for Cathy because she’s said you’re late again, because she’s trying to get him to take responsibility to engage the talk to move towards right having him move away is a war the same. So if her body already mobilized to say, this is not okay, him walking away is doubly not okay. She’s gonna follow after him say what are you doing? I mean, how long are we supposed to play this game and you just can’t keep doing this. I mean, you still are responsible, you know, she’s turning up the heat because her body’s dealing with the threat that way. And the more she turns up the heat, the more the message, he’s getting it wrong, he wants to disengage, the more she feels like he doesn’t care the angry she gets. So her anger feeds his avoidance, his avoidance feeds her anger, we can see those two protective moves, her pushing his avoidance. So that’s really trying to help a couple see a bigger picture, to see how what they do make so much sense. I go away to reduce the emotional heat. But I don’t see what it’s doing a Cathy, once I start to see the bigger pitch, I start seeing my going away is never going to reduce the emotional heat for her. The flip side is she wants to push me to talk because she thinks that’s going to create good change. When she understands my emotional world. That’s only turning up to heat that doesn’t encourage me to engage. it discourages me to engage. Both of our moves don’t work for the other person. So that’s where we start to sit in it together like damn, yeah, we both lose from this, right? We both need to do something differently if we want to get over that negative feedback loop. So that’s where these choices come in. Laurie,

29:01
okay. I do feel suddenly that I need to defend Kathy.

George Faller 29:06
Go for it. You gotta women gotta stick together.

29:10
Cuz I know you’re beautiful, smokin, hot, intelligent, lovely wife. I’m not sure she’s chasing after you with a rolling pin.

George Faller 29:21
No, we need to.

29:23
We need to go back to Joe and Jane. So that we pour Kathy out of this.

George Faller 29:29
Yes.

29:31
Okay, so what can we do differently when we are triggered? That gives you know that we take advantage of this emotional intelligence that we get to slow it down. So

George Faller 29:44
if I’m good news, yes, it’s the same triggers over and over again. It’s the same emotions. It’s the same meaning it’s the same move so you get better better at talking about these things.

Laurie Watson 29:55
Okay, so if I’m Kathy and the door opens And I’m aware of my growing frustration, right? He’s late again. And I know that, me, my, my typical protective strategy, which is to push is going to push them away. And I’ve seen this scenario a bunch. So I don’t want to do that. I want to manage my level of frustration, I want to make an impact. But I want to kind of be low and slow about this, so that we can actually have a conversation, you know, at a different time. So first of all, I think, okay, my husband doesn’t do well, when he’s hungry. And just for the record, that is a truth out there. My husband does not do well, and he’s hungry. So I do not initiate conversation

George Faller 30:49
injuries or blood sugar drops. I agree.

Laurie Watson 30:53
Okay, so I want to say, I definitely want to look up and smile and say, Hey, baby, why don’t we sit down and eat and delay a little bit, even though for me, I have every right to be upset, I want to delay a little bit, get some food into him. And then after the kids have gone off to do the homework, I’m, I’m still observing that I still feel disrespected by this. And I do feel like it doesn’t create an orderly family pattern that the children were cranky, you know, because they got too hungry, dinner didn’t go all that well. But I know that if I attack, and I blame him versus staying with myself, and what I need, it’s going to go sideways. So what I really need here, when it comes down to it, and I, I tell people, you should start with the behavior request. First, you should ask for what you need first, and then in a minute later, process your feelings because it’s like throwing your partner a lifeline. Okay. Most of the time, the requests are small, and they have to be small and specific. And maybe my partner, you know, you would think I can do that. So I might say, Hey, baby, you know, if you’re going to be late, would you just mind sending me a little text? I mean, I can I will manage the kids so much better? I would probably give him a snack or something so that we don’t have what we had tonight? Would you be able to send me a text? I don’t care if you’re a half an hour late. I don’t care if you’re an hour late. You know, if you’re kind of more than 10 minutes late, it’s okay to send me a little text.

George Faller 32:39
What’s the good news about listening to the emotions, it tells you what you need? If the meaning you make is he don’t care, then you need to know that I care that what you experienced was important that I can see the impact. Right. So that’s really all you’re asking for. Can you see the impact of you being late? that sends me right. That’s the emotional at some point, you got to have that conversation. Right. Right. You will have I,

Laurie Watson 33:06
I agree with you, I think yes, yes, I want to have the vulnerable conversation. But I don’t think I can start there with you know, over these kinds of things. I think I have to give my partner the behavior that I want first, and then maybe once he says, Yes, I will do that. Then I can talk about you know, because when you walk through the door, I know it’s crazy. I know you’re working so hard for our family, and you’re doing everything you can to support us. And two, I know you’re looking forward to being home and being relaxed with us, I get all that. But when you walk through the door late, I’m telling myself something crazy, but I’m telling myself, I don’t matter to you, we don’t matter to you.

George Faller 33:52
There’s this is the complexity of taking something simple, and put it into practice, right couples are going to need lots of reps of trying to have these conversations with the beauty of tempo is it’s given us the material we need to have success in these conversations. Like I know, I got to be able to talk about that sense of failure, if I’m going to not need going away. If I could talk about that failure place. And it didn’t make things worse, I probably wouldn’t need to go away. You wouldn’t get so angry if you could talk about that feeling of not mattering in a way that you had success.

Laurie Watson 34:30
How are you? Right there? Did I do okay with you? When I was talking about it?

George Faller 34:36
Yeah, I mean I it’s it’s asking a lot of you to kind of hold all of that and try to frame it the right way and but you’ll give yourself a better chance for success. You know, if I come into that door, I know your trigger. I mean, I got to learn how to come into that door and and speak to you about what likely probably got hit if I came in say hey babe, I know where I’m late, I throw things off. You know, and I hate when that happens because you start going to a place that you think I don’t care, you know, it really had nothing to do with that I care so much I’ve worked, you know, like I could speak that I placed coming in, we avoid that whole fight. I don’t need to go away. You know, the good news is we have many times I have this conversation, maybe I don’t say anything, and then we have dinner and then, you know, then you initiate that conversation. Great. Maybe I could initiate that conversation. I can say, imagine we went the old way. Hey, you know, when you come in, I know you get frustrated when I’m late. And you know, a simple text could have stopped all of that. So I get that I’m working on it. But sometimes I just don’t get a chance because it’s like an emergency call. And when I get hit with, you know, you’re late, again, the negativity like it’s a bit discouraging, I don’t want to engage because it makes me feel like I just don’t even have the energy for to sit another conversation around this. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just like, now I’m letting you I’m taking a vulnerable risk. So again, we’re not going to have couples, listening, being able to figure all this out and fix it. But what tempo is doing, it’s gathering the elements to have new conversations. Okay.

Laurie Watson 36:10
I have hope, though, that we’re going to be able to help people do this on their own eventually.

George Faller 36:15
Absolutely. If you could just do tempo, both tempo for each other and then put it together, you’re going to start seeing clearly how you’re caught up in something that a negative cycle that makes both you lose, and the more that you can recognize that and start coming up with different protective moves that changes the whole game.

Laurie Watson 36:37
Thanks for listening.

George Faller 36:39
Keep it hot y’all.

Announcer 36:41
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