Episode 35: Getting Real: Truths to Live an Authentic Life with Susan Campbell
In this Interview Susan Campbell, an expert relationship coach and author of “Getting Real: Ten Truth Skills you need to live an authentic life”, and “Saying What’s Real” shares her journey of awakening into her own truth following a divorce from a co-dependent relationship. She explains the importance of honesty as an awareness practice and as a way to keep relationships alive. She dives into the unconscious control patterns that keep us from truly connecting. She also expresses the importance of self-investigation through the dark parts of our psyche - to explore all feelings and sensations. In addition, Campbell talks about how to bring more consciousness and awareness into each moment so that we can have more equanimity and a better connection to others and ourselves.
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Man: This interview was recorded at the One Taste Center in San Francisco on October 2nd, 2007.
Marcie Prohofsky: Hello and welcome to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews”. My name is Marcie Prohofsky and I'm here with Susan Campbell tonight. She is a relationship coach and an author of nine books and she is a kindred spirit actually to what we're doing here at One Taste worth discovering. She really supports relationship as practice. We are going to be talking about her honesty salons and her relationship coaching and hope she’ll speak to us a bit about which books are the places to start in the investigation of what she's up to.
Marcie Prohofsky: This is the book “Getting Real” by Susan Campbell and the tagline is “Ten truth skills you need to live an authentic life.”
So first of all, I'm curious, how did you get in to this work?
Susan Campbell: Gee, I think I got into the focus on getting real which is the honesty in relationships as an awareness practice. I got into that after my 50th birthday when I did an assessment of my life. I've always been interested in building trust and relationship as a path, but I really focused on honesty, the ruthless absolute heartful honestly after age 50. I got myself out of a marriage where I wasn't able to be 100% honest. I was afraid of the guy. I was afraid of his anger so I suppressed a lot of my own truth. I was very in love with him but it was a co-dependent relationship. So I got out of that and I really reassessed my life and that was 16 years ago and I said, “My life’s going to be about honesty and helping other people learn from my mistakes.”
Marcie Prohofsky: Wow! So how has your life changed?
Susan Campbell: Oh, it's amazing! I've made this commitment to just speak whatever is true for me but--I call it staying your own side of the net--I just talk about my feelings, thoughts, and impressions. I've just made that my practice and I usually do it by agreement with other willing practice partners and I've surrounded myself with friends, clients, and people in my groups who are all my practice partners. You can't always just do it with everybody.
Marcie Prohofsky: Not honesty.
Susan Campbell: Yes, not when you do it as intensely as I do it like sharing your judgments. Not because your judgments are significant or real but just so you shine a light on and see where they come from. Like in my groups, I say, “If you feel a judgment coming up, what's the feeling underneath the judgment?” I told you over dinner that I learned about this from [xx]. Well, I'd actually judged my husband and my father, all these boys. I judged my husband for his anger, for popping off at small things, as a cover for my fear of anger. I did the same thing with my father when I was a little kid. I became one of those smart little kids who judges, assesses, and analyzes instead of feeling.
Marcie Prohofsky: I'm having [xx] back home.
Susan Campbell: So how judgments and those kinds of things, if you look underneath them, they can be a pathway into the subconscious into the part of you that needs healing. So for me, one of the big parts is fear somebody’s anger so I became a nice girl and a smart girl. I've been in my own recovery program since I started this “Getting Real” work…
Marcie Prohofsky: Yes, I know.
Susan Campbell: …which is examining what I call the “control patterns” that we all adapt. The control patterns to avoid feeling like judging is a control pattern and saying, “He should be different” rather than “I'm feeling afraid.”
Marcie Prohofsky: What are some of the other controlling patterns?
Susan Campbell: Other control patterns are--a very common one in the dating world and meeting new people--is asking a lot of questions, asking “Are you monogamous? How did your last relationship end?” Now these are not bad questions to ask but people ask a lot of questions as a cover for sharing their own feelings of vulnerability and fear that they're going to get hurt, fear that I'm going to get hurt or abandon is coming up. So I started asking a bunch of questions to kind of nail and categorize this guy. So I call that a control pattern.
There are so many different kinds of control patterns. The most common one is pleasing, being a people pleaser. We think of control freaks as people who say, “You got to do this or I'm out of here.” But there are plenty of control freaks who don’t act controlling, they just say everything that the other person wants to hear so they don’t get a bad reaction.
Marcie Prohofsky: Because you're talking and seeing pictures of people who are like, “That’s this person and that’s this person.”
Susan Campbell: Yes.
Marcie Prohofsky: “And that’s me.”
Susan Campbell: Well, we've all been conditioned to avoid pain, to avoid uncomfortable feelings so we've learned these strategies for avoiding. Mine was judging and being smart and other people’s being pleasing. Some people do take up a lot of space and they're the typical control freaks.
Marcie Prohofsky: Typical sort of…
Susan Campbell: Typical meaning the kind that you think of like, “My boss is a micromanager, always saying do it this way, do it that way.” That’s a control pattern also to cover their own anxiety.
Marcie Prohofsky: That’s like I've done right or...
Susan Campbell: I have a partner now and into my partner and I do nag him. Nagging is a control pattern. I nag him about his health and what's underneath that is I'm afraid that…
Marcie Prohofsky: You’ll lose him.
Susan Campbell: …I'm going to lose him and that I'll lose his fun vital self if he doesn’t eat better and sleep better because I like the juice. At 66, we're so juicy.
Marcie Prohofsky: Really?!
Susan Campbell: Yes, and I worry though. So from my own worry, I start telling him what to do. I made a joke with him the other day that says, “Charles, I know I shouldn’t nag so much but you're really hard to control. [laughs] I wouldn’t nag so much if you weren’t so hard to control.” So we got a good laugh out of that.
Marcie Prohofsky: His response was?
Susan Campbell: He laughed. It was cathartic.
Marcie Prohofsky: So you're 66, is that right? And you're in a relationship. Besides the honesty, do you feel it really keeps it alive?
Susan Campbell: Well, the honesty has gotten me to a place where I completely love myself and everyone. Here's how that has worked. It's been a process of when I've been in a relationship--you know, I've had numerous partners since I broke up with my husband--and I look at when my buttons get pushed, when my abandonment fears come up or when I'm feeling the person’s probably criticizing me. So those are buttons, and my practice is--this is the honesty practice—feel whatever you're feeling and follow it. It usually takes me into a dark little place in my subconscious where I'm afraid to feel something maybe because it was too painful to feel as a child.
But I'm big now and so I let myself go there and just feeling it, it heals and each, you know, my partner that I have, mirrors another part of my dark subconscious like it brings up other different fears. When I've honestly looked at and talked about, sometimes interpersonal relating is part of it. It's like saying, “I'm getting a button pushed” or “I'm angry” or “I'm having a judgment.” Anything you say in the spirit of self-discovery is different, it has a flavor of “We're practicing, we're contributing to each other’s evolution and I'm not saying my judgment in order to put you down. I'm saying my judgment in order to shine light on it.” OK, so that’s the practice.
When I see these dark parts of myself, it's like loving more and more of myself. So I'm explaining to you how I got to be such a happy person. OK? And love my partner even though he's imperfect and love myself even though I'm imperfect. It's through the process of shining light on all the different dark areas through relationship. You, guys, do this. You're being mirrored…
Marcie Prohofsky: All the time.
Susan Campbell: …via intimate partners and surrounding myself with a community of people who are intensely curious about our shadows sides. So when something new comes up like, “Oh, I pushed for my own way and I didn’t care about the other person.” Things that maybe you're not entirely proud of about yourself. Every time one of those comes up, I'm kind of excited to see something new that I didn’t know or see it again that I hadn’t fully integrated.
In that process of following the button-pushing feelings down to the source into the soft, tender feeling that’s under there. As I said, it's like learning more parts of myself, and when I learned them, I love them. It's just when you see him and accept him that’s another word for love. So that’s what sort of pops me into a state of like nothing can really ruffle me that bad. I'm really am there most of the time.
Marcie Prohofsky: What do you mean nothing can ruffle you really that bad?
Susan Campbell: Nothing can really ruffle me, nothing can interrupt my equanimity.
Marcie Prohofsky: Do you mean like you've just started to discover all sorts of concepts.
Susan Campbell: Yes, it's like how it happens is you're in a real state of love after you do this practice long enough. You're in a state of just acceptance of everything that is. The best way I can figure out how it happened was through shining light on different parts of my unconscious and having them all talk to each other.
Marcie Prohofsky: I'm curious, so if somebody’s beginning this investigation on their own and they may not know how to go deep. Usually, there's a layer and then there's something under that and there's something under that. What are some questions that people can ask to start to get that muscle built for that investigation?
Susan Campbell: Yes. First, you have to have the intent to discover more about yourself rather than about to be right and that’s a really tough one to overcome. But people can have that intent and still the need to be right creeps in, so let's put that aside. So you have some kind of positive intent of discovering the truth about yourself. Then the next question is what am I feeling? What am I experiencing in this moment?
Marcie Prohofsky: Here at One Taste, what we explore is the sensation. Like I'm feeling a tightness in my stomach. Is that what you mean?
Susan Campbell: I mean both. Sensations and emotions.
Marcie Prohofsky: OK, both.
Susan Campbell: But sensations are very important, that’s the basis of feelings and sensations don’t have a big value judgment on them, so that’s what's good about that.
Marcie Prohofsky: Right. Exactly.
Susan Campbell: How about this pleasure in pain? I mean, those do sort of have a value judgments but emotional pain, I have learned to not shy away from through this practice. So what do you feeling? What are you sensing? Where is that in your body? And then another one is, if you're just willing to stay with that, what's coming up in terms of images? Sometimes, to be an image, it will come a memory or you'll feel something and you want shake and move with it. Then you need to give it more breath. So just following the feeling wherever it takes you, the feelings/sensation.
Marcie Prohofsky: We'll take a break for a couple of minutes and then we'll resume. I'm curious a bit about your workshops and your books. So my name is Marcie Prohofsky, thank you for joining us. We're going to take a little pause and then we'll be back here with Susan Campbell to resume our conversation.
Marcie Prohofsky: Welcome back to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews”. We're resuming our conversation with Susan Campbell tonight. So you'd suggest that people get up and do physical movements to get [xx].
Susan Campbell: Sometimes, whatever it takes to get them into it if they're feeling like--they might say, “I just want to protect myself right now.” So maybe I'll guide them into a pasture that’s self-protective. What often happens when people stay with the feelings and sensations. Besides them moving and getting bigger and going bigger and more manageable and so forth, besides that is early memories can come up. You must have seen that in what goes on here, too.
People will have a reminder, like if my boyfriend is really angry at me, I'll fill my fear and then I'll remember the time when my father hit me or something like that. Then I'll stay with that feeling and the mixture of feelings and comfort myself. So that’s usually where it goes, it goes to some early trauma. Physical trauma recovery theory is putting out a lot of research that says, “To heal all trauma, you dip in in small homeopathic doses back to your memory of the original trauma.” If that was a car accident or something like a war or something, if you're being shot at. Whatever it is, you dip back into it little by little. What I'm discovering is sort of a parallel thing with emotional trauma, relationships dip you back in little bits to your original trauma!
Marcie Prohofsky: At least in little bits.
Susan Campbell: Sometimes it's more intense than you can handle but not really more intense than you can handle. It's just more intense than is comfortable. So it's a trauma recovery process in some sense. So it allows you to let go of your self-protective stuff that you developed as a child, not the smart little kid thing or the judgmental person or whatever, people please her Mommy’s little good girl. Instead, just be present to whatever is appropriate in the moment. That can be love or that can be, “No, I don’t want to talk to you right now.” But if it's “I don’t want to talk to you right now” or “No, I don’t want you to touch me right now”, it isn’t a defensive thing because you're in your own flow.
Marcie Prohofsky: I'm curious what you think about anger, expressing anger in a relationships?
Susan Campbell: I think it's a good thing when it's there. I don’t think anger is any big deal but I think you need to talk specifically about what you're angry about. Very often, when you have to say specifically what triggered you anger, people can do it. They say a generalization like, “You never listen to me.”
Marcie Prohofsky: That’s not true.
Susan Campbell: It's not a true statement. I teach these things called The Ten Truth Scales, and generalization is never the truth. You have to speak about what actually happened. “When you walked out of the room when I was talking, I felt angry.” Then, when I have to be specific like that and they shine light on it, a lot of times, they see that the anger is not just about that thing. They're carrying it [xx] with other thing.
Marcie Prohofsky: So that’s actually one of those opportunities for them to stop and do that digging process we're talking.
Susan Campbell: Yes, yes. Often the button’s gotten pushed.
Marcie Prohofsky: Yes.
Susan Campbell: So anger’s a gateway to what's real but the anger itself is no big deal. It's just the starting point.
Marcie Prohofsky: How are you with anger now?
Susan Campbell: I'm OK with anger now. Totally, since my divorce, I've had boyfriends. I had one for six years and we're very close. He was even angrier than my ex-husband and I was fine with it. I didn’t get scare anymore because I've done some work to take care of myself. Now, my boyfriend and I don’t have a lot of anger with each other, just a little now and then. But this guy was like a true test and so the boyfriend. I welcome anger, I can stay present to it and I listen. If I'm scared, that’s fine but it's not that big a deal. I'm not definitely afraid of it, I'm usually really interested. I'm usually able to like really pay attention to the other person and inquire and speak about whatever I'm feeling.
Marcie Prohofsky: Great. Freedom.
Susan Campbell: Yes. Yes, it is because that was my biggest thing, fear of a man’s anger for 50 years!
Marcie Prohofsky: Oh! Hee haw! I'm curious, you do something called honesty salons, what is that?
Susan Campbell: It's a circle of people who meet regularly usually for three hours at a time and they're facilitated via “Getting Real” coach. I train other people to do “Getting Real” coaching. We work with a set of communication guidelines that help us just stay present like, “What are you feeling? What are you thinking? What's your self-talk? What's your judgment?” You share this, it's kind of a social meditation. In meditation, you watch your mind chatter and you just let it go. Well, the social meditation, you speak it out loud what your feelings are, but they don’t have to be significant. You don’t try to make a point or be right or be significant. You just say, “Right now, I realize that I wasn't listening to what Marcie just said.” You can just say it out loud. It's not like a support group or a conversation.
Marcie Prohofsky: The format is people in a circle, so one at a time saying…
Susan Campbell: Yes, but there's no going around, it's just whoever feels something. Well, we do a check in with you all. The main question is “What do you want here tonight?” So I'm very big on helping people be clear about what they want.
Marcie Prohofsky: Oh, that’s a big one.
Susan Campbell: Yes, it is.
Marcie Prohofsky: That’s huge if they don’t know.
Susan Campbell: Most people don’t know how to connect with what they want. Basically, a lot of times though, after their speaking for a while, they realize, “I just wanted some attention.” That’s great, you just say that. “I want some attention right now” or “I want people to agree with me.” They get more simple in their wants. But that’s getting off to the want part. So we have a check in ritual and then we read these Communication Guidelines, it's like one page--things like “Connect with the other person before you start opening your mouth to speak.” Because some people just start talking and they haven’t like to drop in to feeling their own energetic presence, connecting eye contact. So I suggest eye contact before you speak to somebody. Or, if you're talking to the whole group, still, connect. So that’s one of the guidelines.
Another one I mentioned earlier is if you notice yourself judging somebody, go ahead and confess your judgment without trying to be right. But look at the feeling that might be under the judgment.
Marcie Prohofsky: You must get some juicies.
Susan Campbell: It's liberating. People think, “Oh, no! Judgment, my worst social fear is that people who are judging me.” Then when people go around and say their judgment, sometimes there's a person who’ll just do that though, pick two or three people and they’ll just say on them, “This is my judgment to you and this is my judgment to you.” People are laughing because it's so freeing to speak things that are supposedly taboo and to see that nobody dies. [laughs].
Marcie Prohofsky: Yes, nobody.
Susan Campbell: Nobody runs out of the room.
Marcie Prohofsky: Yes, or stuck in the alley on the way out or something.
Susan Campbell: Yes. One of our grievance is you stay until you agree upon ending time so people can't run away. We also have a “no hitting” rule but I do encourage people to express anger, displeasure, anything that’s scary to express that you're really feeling. So what that does for people is they step into the unknown, they don’t know how this is going to be received. But because of the ground rules, we all agree to do that and people come to trust their ability to handle unknown consequences. Whenever you say a risky thing, you don’t know how people are going to take it and people sometimes don’t like it. You survive and it helps you trust yourself.
Marcie Prohofsky: So if somebody’s going to express something that they're angry about, are they expressing it, in general, to the room? Are they expressing it like “Would you be my mother, [xx] as my mother and I would express anger that I have to her?”
Susan Campbell: Sometimes it would go to some past thing but usually, it's right in the here and now.
Marcie Prohofsky: So currently, like “I'm angry at you, Susan, for xyz.”
Susan Campbell: Yes, “I'm angry at you for coming in 10 minutes late to the group.” Then, what I coach the other side to do is, “Hearing you say that, I feel.” That’s a good practice.
Marcie Prohofsky: That was not my first instinct if I'm going to respond, I can tell you that much.
Susan Campbell: Most people would want to defend themselves!
Marcie Prohofsky: Yes, yes!
Susan Campbell: You know, “Caught up in traffic” or they want to explain, defend, which is a control pattern.
Marcie Prohofsky: So what is the response?
Susan Campbell: “Hearing you say that, I feel.”
Marcie Prohofsky: “Hearing you say that, I feel.”
Susan Campbell: Yes. I've one book on the Ten Truth Scales and I have another book on the “Seven Statements Necessary for Relationship’s Success”. The first chapter of that book is the statement, “Hearing you say that, I feel.” I think that’s one of the most important statements. It's just a touchy and to remind you to get present before you react like “What am I feeling?” And sensation is part of feeling [xx].
Marcie Prohofsky: And then it slips around out of that, “When you say that, you make me feel” which is not the case, you're not making me feel anything.
Susan Campbell: Yes, we don’t have to say, “You make me feel” but we will say, “I feel.”
Marcie Prohofsky: Exactly, yes.
Susan Campbell: And it is different. Nobody makes anybody feel anything but people slips sometimes and they say that and then we correct them because that’s in the guidelines. What we do is anybody who believes that somebody else is not following the guidelines, we raise our hand. So if you're talking and you're just jabbering about something that doesn’t feel present to the rest of the people in the room, might be three or four people while you're talking are going to raise their hands.
Marcie Prohofsky: You [xx] adjustment.
Susan Campbell: Then the person looks around and maybe says, “Why did you raise your hand?” or they’d just go, “Gee, I was going on and on and on about something and what I'm really experiencing right now is this want or this fear.” So we basically, it's what do you feel, what do you want, what are you thinking? But you identify your thinking from an observer place by saying, “My self-talk is or right now, I'm saying to myself.” So people reveal their mind chatter using that device because that helps you not identify with the mind chatter but kind of be an observer of your mind chatter, so you say, “My self-talk is.”
Marcie Prohofsky: I'm curious if someone were to want to dive into the work, what are some avenues? You've got your nine books and wondering which to…
Susan Campbell: By reading “Getting Real” and then if you're in a relationship or interested in being in a relationship, I would suggest you read “Truth in Dating” and then read “Saying What’s Real” and that’s the basic written curriculum. There are then workshops that I do and people can look at my website, SusanCampbell.com. I do workshops here, I do them in Los Angeles.
Marcie Prohofsky: What about the honesty salons?
Susan Campbell: The honesty salons are ongoing. I do one in Sausalito once a month and I do one in [xx] once a month. There are others, they have them around the world.
Marcie Prohofsky: All that you started?
Susan Campbell: Yes! Well, people that I trained now do them. There's one in Australia, there's one in Germany.
Marcie Prohofsky: That’s incredible. So how would somebody find those salons?
Susan Campbell: Contact me and I would say there's one in Grassvalley, California. There's one in Sacramento. There's one in San Diego, and so forth, yes.
Marcie Prohofsky: So, SusanCampbell…
Susan Campbell: SusanCampbell.com. That’s right, Campbell like the soup.
Marcie Prohofsky: OK. I want to thank you so much. It's great to know that people can tap into this work all around the world, super.
Susan Campbell: Yes. It's like what you, guys, are doing. Those are movements here. I call it the honesty movement or the truth-telling movement. There is a movement.
Marcie Prohofsky: There definitely is a movement.
Susan Campbell: And we’re part of it.
Marcie Prohofsky: Both part of it. Yehey! Thank you so much for being here tonight, appreciate it.
So thank you for tuning in. My name is Marcie Prohofsky and this is “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews.” You can find them online at www.PersonalLifeMedia.com and you can also find more information about One Taste at OneTaste.us. You can also find more information about the honesty salons and Susan Campbell at her website which is www.SusanCampbell.com.
Thanks a lot, we'll see you later.
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