With so many different potential approaches to helping your relationship, how do you choose the one that’s right for you? And how do you make sense of them all together? John and Julie Gottman, Sue Johnson, Esther Perel, David Schnarch, Stan Tatkin, Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, Terry Real – they’re all describing different ways of getting the same thing – a loving, thriving, passionate relationship. Today we’re going to tackle how it all fits together, so you’re better prepared to steer your own relation-ship. To help us integrate in a way that makes it practical and clear, we’ve invited Dr. Keith Witt back to the show. Keith Witt is an integral psychologist, which gives him a unique perspective in making sense of all these roads that lead to Rome. His most recent book, Loving Completely, details his approach to bringing all of the essential parts of you to your relationship. Along with having written 7 other books, Keith has conducted more than 55,000 therapy sessions with his clients! If you’ve been wondering how to make sense of it all, this episode is for you!
Also, please check out our first three episodes with Keith Witt – Episode 158: Loving Completely, Episode 80: Bring Your Shadow into the Light and Episode 13: Resolve Conflict and Create Intimacy through Attunement.
As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!
Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are – thank you!), this week’s episode has two great sponsors, each with a special offer for you.
For a unique gift to discover meaningful stories from the life of someone important to you, visit Storyworth.com/ALIVE for $20 off a subscription. Share the memories with your family, and preserve them in a beautiful hardbound book. It’s a perfect Mother’s Day gift!
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Check out Keith Witt’s website
Read Keith Witt’s new book: Loving Completely: A Five Star Practice for Creating Great Relationships
Check out Keith Witt’s other books as well!
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Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner’s Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE)
Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters – Check them Out
Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. And if you can hear it in my voice, I’m particularly excited for today’s conversation. Of course, we’ve had so many different viewpoints represented here on Relationship Alive because there are so many roads that lead to Rome, the Rome of romance and romantic partnership, and how we sustain loving, thriving, monogamous relationships, and it’s not always that one road works for any one person. And this has come up several times in the show, this question of, well, “so and so says their way is the way and they sound so convincing when you’re talking to them, Neil, so what do I do when it doesn’t work?” And this happens sometimes.
Neil Sattin: So, if you’ve tuned in for a while then you know that the reason that I have all these different voices on the show is because I really believe strongly that it’s whatever works that’s important. And I suppose for myself I might put some boundaries around that; what I’d be comfortable with or where I’d feel a little edgy or stretching, but for the most part, I think that it’s up to you to really get informed about what’s possible and then make choices that really align with you or maybe stretch you in a direction that feels like a light way to be stretched. At the same time, they all form part of this big puzzle that makes sense. And so, I wanted to have a conversation today about how we integrate as much as possible the way that we think about all of these different methodologies so you can see how they all fit together, they don’t exclude each other, for the most part. They actually all find a place in the big picture of how we make relationships, what we want them to be. And as much as some of the people on my show might want you to think otherwise, this is my personal belief.
Neil Sattin: And so to have this conversation, I’ve invited one of my favorite guests to have here on the show who also happens to be someone who’s very good at integrating all these different approaches. His name is Keith Witt. He has been here before to talk about his books, “Loving Completely”, “Shadow Light”, “The Attuned Family”; and he is an integral psychologist among other things. And so the integral perspective, I think will help us understand how all of these different pieces fit together in a way that actually does make a coherent whole, it makes sense. So, Keith, thank you so much for joining us today on Relationship Alive.
Keith Witt: I am always happy to be on your show and it’s one of the pleasures of my life, our conversations.
Neil Sattin: Awesome, well, the feeling is mutual. I do want to say before we dive in deep that we’ll have a transcript of this episode. If you’re interested in downloading it, you may want to read it a few times, you can visit neilsattin.com/integrate ’cause we’re going to be integrating everything today. Or, as always, you can text the word “PASSION” to the number 33444, follow the instructions and you’ll be able to download the transcript to today’s episode. So, Keith, let’s start with maybe where you orient in terms of this conversation. And before we got started, you were talking about this sense of, as we talk about all these different schools of thought, we’re really talking about the founders of modern relationship theory. So, where do you put yourself and how do you make sense of where you are in this conversation about how we’re tying all of these things together?
Keith Witt: Well, first of all, being a founder is a peculiar thing. I’ve developed various systems, all of them interrelated generally, under the integral umbrella. And integral has worked for me greatly. [chuckle] The reason why integral has worked for me greatly is the integral is a meta theory, not a theory. And so, I had actually generated systems and written some books about systems before I encountered integral. But then the integral, looking at the world through the objective and the subjective, the individual and the collective; looking at the world through types of people, states of consciousness, through people being at different developmental levels, including therapists, I realized that when you put any system into that, including the systems I developed, it expanded. And it made me just fascinated with the commonalities that affective systems, particularly of relationships and of love because I think everything’s relationships is.
Keith Witt: And so, one of the things that’s different for me and other founders is that, even though I’ve… If you look at my eight books, there’s essentially seven different systems interrelated of doing psychotherapy and of doing couples work. I’m not particularly invested in any of them. Those systems are useful, they’re coherent, they have a lot of technical and theoretical interconnections with everybody else and with the research. But I agree with exactly what you said. Ultimately, when a couple or an individual wants to love better, they come in, it’s the goodness of fit with the therapist and it’s how effectively they move forward, and there’s an alchemical experience that happens with that, that can only be described in the intersubjectivity of the session. And meta research on psychotherapy has shown this again and again, and one of my favorite meta-analyses, which they took lots of studies and put them together, they found out a couple of very fascinating things. One, therapy helps people, okay? That’s good news for everybody.
Neil Sattin: Good to know.
Keith Witt: The second thing that the variance of change was explained by 40% in this meta-analysis, 40% of the variance of change was client variables; how resilient they were, what kind of social networks they had, what kind of resources they had; 30% of the variance of positive change was the relationship, what was the solidity of the intersubjectivity of the alliance between the clients and the therapist; 15% was placebo effect. If you go to somebody, give them a bunch of money and they expect to change, you’re going to change.
Keith Witt: In fact, that’s something that has completely confused the field when it comes to the whole psychotropic thing. Probably 30% or 40% of the effect of most antidepressants is placebo effect, 8%-12% is probably the drug. Okay, so 15% placebo effect, 15% method of treatment. Okay, well, method of treatment 15% is significant. In poker, 7% is skill and the good poker player always wins but that 15% isn’t as big as the client variables and it isn’t as big as that 30% of the alliance. And so, I’m aware of that and so I hold my systems lightly, even though I love them. And so, I look at the other systems and I look at my relationships with the other systems, and I get a lot out of all of them. But also, I noticed that as we moved through the fields, our own little blind spots tend to affect how we absorb systems, how we enact systems, and how we integrate them. And I find that interesting because every time I find a blind spot, that’s an opportunity to wake up. And this is where our conversation went when we were talking about this. So, how do they fit together? Well, as it turns out, even though they look very different from the outside, most of them fit together quite well in terms of the constructs that the various therapists bring to bear with couples and individuals for that matter and what they have to do in a session to help people move forward.
Keith Witt: So, that’s pretty much it. My Loving Completely approach is approach that I love a lot, and you can check it out in my book, “Loving Completely”. And my book, “Waking Up” that was the first book that I wrote after I had my integral awakening, is one of the first texts on integrally-informed psychotherapy, and it has sections in it around integrally informed sex therapy and marriage counselling. And I’m quite proud of that, and I think that works a lot, but are those more effective than Gottman’s approach. Schnarch’s approach, or Perel’s approach, or Tatkin’s approach? I don’t think so. I think pretty much you have a good therapist, who’s enacting their system and is attuned to their clients, they’re going to do pretty well. And this goes for me, all the way back to my doctoral research. I was always interested in this, and so my doctoral research was I took three different kinds of systems and researched them in terms of how much they enhanced the health of clients. Talking plus touching, talking without touching, and touching without talking. And I found that the people got better equally, which led me to conclude that in psychotherapy, people have a natural healing style.
Keith Witt: And what you want to do is you want to identify it and enhance it and let it and help it grow as you grow throughout a lifetime. And I think that’s probably the best way to go, as a psychotherapist and as a marriage counselor, and certainly when I train people and supervise people, that’s my perspective. What’s your natural healing style? How can we help you expand that and grow within that natural healing style? And that natural healing style has to involve, not just your style expanding, but you expanding. If we don’t grow as individuals, we’re limited as clinicians.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, that’s… I really appreciate your saying that and it’s making me think about that problem of when someone comes to me and says, “I tried. I found an EFT therapist and that didn’t work, or I found a Gottman therapist and that didn’t work.” I wonder sometimes if that might be, because the particular therapist isn’t necessarily 100% aligned in terms of their healing style, which you just mentioned, with the system that they’ve learned. It may be that they believe 150% in the effectiveness of that system, but if it doesn’t tap into their own natural alignment and integrity and how they create resonance with their clients, then I could see it falling flat at times.
Keith Witt: Oh yeah. Before, let me see, probably 2000, I’ve been doing this since I first started studying therapy in 1965. I mean, I’ve been studying bazillion systems. And so for me, until I was around 50, every time they discovered a new system, I go, “Oh, damn.” Because I knew that I was going to get disintegrated. I was going to learn this system and it was going to disrupt my understanding of the psychotherapeutic universe. I would have to climb into this system and enact it until I could actually enact the system naturally, I could answer questions from the system. And I knew that it would re-organize my understanding of the universe, and it was a lot of work. So, every time I found a good system, I go, “Oh Jesus, not another one.” And then I would study it and I would… Sometimes for years, and it was always difficult in the beginning because it would destabilize, and that’s very much how development goes on any developmental line. You expand into the current world view, and something comes and causes that world view to not quite be enough, and so the old one disintegrates and you go through that period of disintegration before you re-integrate into a more complex system. And I kept hoping that it would be the end of it. I’d finally get a system that was so great that I wouldn’t have to have go through that experience.
Keith Witt: And then after I was 50 and studied integral and wrote about integral, I realized that I was enjoying the process now, that when someone came up with a new idea, like EMDR that it actually was… EMDR is wonderful in certain situations dealing with trauma. And so that was great when as soon as I identified it as a great system, I saw a research that persuaded me, I dived in and I had a lot of fun learning and acting EMDR until I could bring it into my repertoire of theoretical and practical understanding. Now, what did that reflect? That reflected my consciousness changing.
Keith Witt: I shifted from being more egocentric in my understanding to being more open, so my unconscious was actually aware. Keith, there will be great systems that will happen and when they arrive, they’ll help you grow and be a better therapist, they’re wonderful. And so, my subjective reaction to them shifted from, “Oh, no,” to “Oh, boy.” And this is how you notice that you grow. You don’t notice that you grow particularly because you have a new idea, you notice that you grow because you have a different natural reaction to something that you had a different reaction to before. And it’s very difficult to notice a shift of world views from the inside. It’s easier for other people to give you feedback about it until you get to a certain level of development in the integral, we call that the “second tier” and then it’s just easier to see that kind of stuff. And so that’s been my experience with this over the decades. That’s my current experience with it.
Neil Sattin: Great, yeah. And just to give you listening, a full sense of what I’m bringing to this conversation, I mentioned in the introduction that a lot of this is about you finding tools that work for you. I also have another bias that comes from my position of being able to talk to so many of the founders of relationship theories, which is… And it comes from my upbringing I think, which is this kind of like, “can’t we all just get along” mentality. In an ideal world I’d be having this conversation, Keith, you would probably still be there and we would have everyone on a stage as a panel, but the express purpose of that conversation would be like, “Let’s figure out how we can all work together.” And my understanding is that, that’s been challenging in the field to bring everyone together like that, but that’s another thing that… My own agenda that I bring to this conversation is, I want everyone to get along and to commit to the overall betterment of how effective we can be in our lives or as therapists or coaches, or people who help others. It’s really important to me.
Keith Witt: Well, Amen.
Neil Sattin: And some other things that you were mentioning made me think immediately of John Gottman. And I can’t remember if he mentioned this actually in our first interview, if it was part of what I recorded or if it was just part of my conversation with him. But he talks about how important it is for him to know when he’s wrong. He keeps a very detailed record of all the ideas that he’s ever had and I think he might have said that he’s wrong more than half the time.
Keith Witt: Yes, he says that. More than half of his hypothesis have been proved false. [chuckle]
Neil Sattin: Right, right. And so for him, this is one of the things that he stakes his claim around is that, he’s distilled a body of work that statistically has been shown to work more than 50% of the time I think, in fact it’s like 86 or something percent of the time. And that being said, he’s also… What I love about that statement is one, his embrace of the willingness to be wrong, which is so important at any level of relationship, relationship to an idea, relationship to your spouse, so I really appreciate that. And also it seems to be his major critique of people who would use other systems that maybe haven’t been empirically proven to be effective because what if you put it under a scientific scrutiny and found that it only worked 10% of the time, like your best placebo on its, without; or sorry, your best drug without the placebo effect. So, that’s where it gets confusing for people I think, because they’re like, “Well, if my local shaman hasn’t undergone scientific study, what do I do with the fact that it’s actually been really helpful for me? Versus going to my Gottman-certified therapist?
Keith Witt: John Gottman is the only founder that I know of whose psychotherapeutic approach and theoretical approach literally arose out of his research. That’s not true for any of the rest of us. Everybody else was doing stuff that worked really well for them in certain situations and they saw how things fit together, and then they fitted it together with other stuff that they found out and created a structure. That’s not a bad thing. That’s how theories historically have arisen, in my opinion, except for say, physics. And John Gottman started out as a mathematician.
Keith Witt: I went to a three-day workshop with him and Julie, and at the very end, I went up to him, I said, “You know, John, I’ve done a lot of this stuff, okay? And your system has the most amount of good stuff and the least amount of bullshit than any other system that I’ve seen.” And he laughed because he got it. Another thing that endeared me to him, and I gotta say I am biased towards John Gottman, I love that guy, I think he and Julie are great.
Keith Witt: In a conference where everybody’s talking about how their system is the best, he went up on stage and says, “You know, I think about my treatment’s failures.” And I thought, “God, John, thank you.” I think about my treatment failures too, what the fuck. What can I do different. What’s the new stuff? He is a researcher. Now, I use a lot of his research to validate my approach, I’ve changed things that I’ve done in response to some of his research. I’ve changed some of my understandings in response to some of his research. Why? He’s just the best and most comprehensive couples researcher around. In terms of my approach, almost every psychotherapist and all couples counselors to a certain extent through psychoeducation, you’re basically teaching people about themselves and about how relationships work.
Keith Witt: The nice thing about Gottman’s approach is that he didn’t really, in most of his work, he didn’t really have confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is what most founders bring to their research, if they do research. Okay, well, if you’re doing research to show that your system is great, that’s confirmation bias. Now, human beings, when they develop, when they develop from fundamentalist, which is I’m going to enact the EFT system or the crucible system exactly how it’s supposed to be, and I’m not going to really think about whether it’s working or not, that’s a fundamentalist system. I’m going with the structure, but because it’s the structure.
Keith Witt: When you go to a more rational system, a rational system is, “Well, I want to cross-validate things and see how they work, and if they work better, I’ll shift into a new system.” In between that conformist and that rational system, there’s an in-between stage. Susanne Cook-Greuter and Beena Sharma who studied developmental stages, they call it the 3-4 stage ’cause 3 is conformist and 4 is rational; they called it the 3-4 stage. In that stage, people experience themselves as open to input, but actually they have confirmation bias, they’re looking for data that support their preconceived notions and they very much resist change.
Keith Witt: You know, back in the ’90s, I went to a David Schnarch workshop. And so, David Schnarch was all about differentiation, a concept he obviously lifted from Murray Bowen and never gives him any credit for, which pissed off Dan Siegel enough in the conference so Dan Siegel called him out on it. It was one of those little conference snafus that happen, it fascinated everybody. So I went up to Schnarch, I said, “You know, I think there is a more fundamental construct than differentiation.” He said, “What?” I said, “I think it’s health.” He said, “That’s too broad.” Now, maybe he’s right. Maybe my orientation towards what’s healthy and not healthy is a too broad concept. But his immediate reaction was dismissal. He didn’t want to consider that there might be a more fundamental organizing principle than his, okay? There was confirmation bias. Now, he’s a good counterpoint, to me, to John Gottman. John Gottman doesn’t like people making assertions without doing research, but I don’t care, I still love John Gottman.
Keith Witt: David Schnarch spent minutes on stage during that workshop warning people to not use his stuff ’cause it’s all trademarked and I found him arrogant and narcissistic, and to this day, irritating. Now, what is that? Both of them have their own critiques. Why do I find myself really liking John Gottman and irritated with Schnarch? Even more importantly, whenever you get irritated with someone, there’s a tendency to dismiss what’s great about their system. And this is what is beautiful about integral, integral says, “Everybody gets to be right, nobody gets to be right all the time.” And Schnarch’s concept of differentiation and holding on to yourself and the whole crucible approach to couples is a really good approach. Okay, that is very effective, particularly with some couples where they keep trying to move out of the container and you keep them in the container until something pops, and out of that pop come something new. And sometimes that newness is a new discovery of love for each other. Now, Esther Perel does a similar thing, but she’s more of a practical romantic. I see Schnarch and Susan Johnson as more practical moralistic, in that they seem to literally have moral disgust for other people who disagree with them. [chuckle]
Keith Witt: I go, “Okay.” [chuckle] Maybe that’s what irritates me about them. Like Susan Johnson says, “If you do your work, you have to be slow and soft.” Okay, well, that works for her with couples. But you know, as people might have noticed so far in our conversation, I’m not a particularly slow and soft guy, okay? So, my natural healing style, sure, I can get really gentle with people, and I actually was critiqued by Gestalt therapists in the ’70s by being too nice to my clients. “You’re too nice to your clients, Keith.” “Oh, I’m sorry. Just because Fritz [Perls] is an asshole doesn’t mean I have to be an asshole when I do therapy.”
Keith Witt: And so, sorry, Susan, slow and soft is not my natural style, okay? It’s alright. Now, does that make me less effective than her with a couple? Probably with some couples, I don’t know.
Neil Sattin: Right, and it would probably make you less effective if you were implementing her system.
Keith Witt: Yes, that’s exactly right. And when you learn a system, it’s good to implement it. Now, even though I love John and Julie, John and Julie, when they talk about implementing their systems, they use a lot of their research tools. They give people like questionnaires, they give them cards and stuff, and they have their structured things that they recommend people doing. I’m sorry, I don’t like doing that stuff.
Keith Witt: My clients don’t like doing stuff like that, but even if my clients liked it, I don’t like doing it. If you go to a risk management workshop, they give you a five-page thing your clients are supposed to sign about all the horrible things that they can report you for and that the therapy does and doesn’t do. I’m sorry, I don’t do a five-page thing. We all have our different styles. Now, that being said, I just love that guy, love him, and every time he gets a new thing out… I studied his last book from the beginning to end several times, and except for the math, just found it utterly fascinating. And I see him as a practical scientific guy. He is a true scientist. John Gottman will change an opinion on a dime if you give him persuasive data. And that’s just not true for many people.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, so, since you’ve brought up David Schnarch, and unfortunately, he hasn’t been on my show yet, so we haven’t had the benefit of being able to hear from him directly. I still… I reach out to him every so often and I’m hoping that one of these days he will. That being said, it’s funny. I have my own bias when someone doesn’t want to be on my show. [chuckle] I’m like, “Well, what’s your problem?” What you just mentioned about your experience with him, that seems in some respects, to make sense given that he’s staked his claim on differentiation, that that’s where he’s coming from, differentiation being that sense of holding on to you and your sense of who you are no matter what someone else is throwing at you. And so in preparation for this conversation, I really dove into his passionate marriage work, which is sort of the lay person’s approach to crucible therapy, which is what he calls his work in the therapeutic realm. And I found myself really appreciating it, in fact, and it got me irritated because even… I was listening to this one recording of him and he said something that was dismissive of attachment theory and…
Keith Witt: Yes.
Neil Sattin: And I love what attachment theory brings to the conversation about relationships, both how you come to understand your own dysfunction in a relationship or how you come to understand the function of the dyad, what that does for you. And concepts of safety and how that enables you to differentiate. I love that, and it kind of bridges into Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson’s developmental model too, which we can talk about in a little bit. But that all being said, when I heard him talking about the importance of knowing who you are, and at the same time being able to remove your distortions of who you are. And he talks about part of crucible being that your partner being there, that’s a great way for you to learn where you actually aren’t who you think you are, just as one example. Or you get to, through self-reflection, see some of the dysfunction in who you are, and actually work towards growth and improvement. But when he talks about differentiation, he talks about some things that I think are key. You talk about, not only holding on to who you are, but also your ability to self-soothe, so to take responsibility for yourself when you’re triggered. How many times have we talked about that on the show? He talks about getting over your reactivity, so taking responsibility for not freaking out at your partner when they trigger you.
Neil Sattin: Again, so important, and fits right in. And then, he talks about, and I love this concept, the idea… And this is a place where I feel like he’s kind of unique, and you can correct me if I’m wrong here, Keith, ’cause you have a broader perspective, perhaps, than I do. But he talks about… He names his approach as a non-pathological approach. In other words, if things are going wrong, then nothing is wrong. It’s like, that’s what you would come to expect. And that part of what he holds as an ideal in a relationship is the ability to hold onto yourself, to self-soothe, to not get reactive with your partner, and to hold the container of a relationship when things get uncomfortable. And that does seem so important, being able to grow with your partner. If you’re so focused on fixing things and one of you capitulating to the other, it’s not that there’s never a place for compromise, but it’s like, I think, and so many couples rush to that, they overlook the actual growth potential that happens in truly experiencing themselves as separate individuals with different ideas about how to live and how to be in the world, or how to be with each other.
Keith Witt: It’s a wonderful approach. It’s a wonderful understanding. I like it. And I use those concepts and those understandings, and have, ever since I learned the system. That the system has great efficacy, practically speaking. Now, that being said… So let’s just expand. Okay, so it’s great to say it’s a non-pathological system. Okay, fine. And basically, effective therapists operate from that perspective. Here’s two people, they want to change, they want to grow. That power of a human consciousness wanting to change and wanting to grow is so robust that there’s a lot of details of self-regulation and moderation and holding on to yourself and understanding. But there’s that basic core of power, of human consciousness wanting to grow. That’s true, and psychopathology has existence. If somebody has a personality disorder, there’s no couples approach that is going… In my experience, maybe I’m wrong, because I’ve been doing my own work. My lab is my practice. I’ve done 65,000 therapy sessions. And so, I take stuff into my lab, so to speak. So psychopathology has existence. Sometimes you need to go into that to help people grow. You have tell somebody, like, “You have a distorted view of the world,” and need to have some individual work to deal with that, or, “You are so overwhelmed by your trauma history that you have to go resolve that trauma before you can experience sexuality and intimacy with your partner comfortably.”
Keith Witt: That needs to be normalized and there’s a subtle bias. In integral, we would call that a pluralistic bias or a green bias, to treat everybody like they’re the same. This is what causes David Deida to dismiss psychotherapy in general. Now, that’s an interesting thing. I’m a psychotherapist, I teach psychotherapy, I write about psychotherapy, I’ve generated systems, I’m a founder of systems, I go to David Deida workshops. He generally puts down psychotherapy as being kind of a pluralistic, limp-wristed, egalitarian, second stage, you know, wimps, so to speak. And I still love the guy, okay?
Keith Witt: Okay, so why is that? Probably part of it is because I see him as a kindred spirit, as a fellow warrior. But when you and I were talking about this earlier, but part of it is I probably have more projections with people like David Schnarch or Susan Johnson, like that moralistic… Maybe there’s a part of me that has moral disgust that I don’t like and I project onto them. I do that a little with Dan Siegel. I love Dan Siegel’s work, I’ve studied his books, I’ve listened to his lectures endlessly, I’ve enjoyed his lectures. And every once in a while though on stage, he starts complaining about how somebody treated him badly or how somebody doesn’t understand him or he had to push back, and I just find that icky. I go, “Dan, don’t say stuff like that. That makes the rest of the cool stuff that you talk about. You know, you’re a brilliant man, and you’ve changed everybody. Your book, The Developing Mind, was my foundation of neurobiology, interpersonal neurobiology.”
Keith Witt: Alan Schwartz is similar. He says everybody bow to evidence-based treatment. He’s irritated with this American Psychological Association privileging the research of, particularly, cognitive behavioral therapy, I suspect because cognitive behavioral therapists and the labs around the country get a lot of money and other people don’t. So there’s a lot of personality that comes through and yet all these systems have wonderful things about them. So, Schnarch is more practical moralistic in that sense. Esther Perel is more practical romantic, she’s practical. All the good therapists are practical. You’re with a couple, we’re going to help ’em move forward and understand them individually and as a couple, and we have a vision of good relating that’s for effective therapists is similar. But she has basically a romantic approach. You have your own way of understanding yourself, and of love, and I support that as a therapist. And you have your understanding of what you want with this relationship and I support what you want. And your partner is similarly. And we deal with that and from an accepting standpoint and a practical standpoint, how can we move forward?
Keith Witt: You feel enlivened by your secret affair that devastated your partner, I understand how you feel enlivened by that. I understand the draw of that. I understand your resentment at your partner for not being more cooperative and creating better love, the partner is outraged that you did this. Well, I understand your outrage. I understand your desire to love better. It’s a very romantic approach, but it fits very well with all the scientific approaches, the moralistic approaches, with even David Deida’s mythological approach. David Deida is basically a practical mythological approach. He draws from the wisdom, traditions of masculine and feminine. He used to teach the Shiva and Shakti scale, just brought it out of the Eastern traditions. And yeah, it’s practical. This is how we can help you understand yourself, understand your partner, and understand how you enhance the polarity to have the intimacy and safety and love and the passion that you want. And if you get down to it in the psychotherapy session, if you watch any of us doing a session with people, you’d see very similar constructs that we’re applying and you’d see very similar interventions.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, it’s so funny I was listening to the first season of Esther Perel’s podcast that she put out with Audible. I think it’s called Where Do We Begin? Or something like that. And one of the sessions I was like, this might as well be Harville Hendrix that I’m listening to, just in terms of how she was showing up for that couple and talking about safety and the way they were constructing their communication and it was like right out of his getting the love you want workshop practically. So that was fascinating for me and I think worth noting because if you’re just a bystander and you’re like, say, listening to the Relationship Alive podcast, you can be so persuaded by one person’s viewpoint or the other. And in fact, I find myself, like you were mentioning earlier, Keith, persuaded over and over and over again.
Keith Witt: Yes.
Neil Sattin: Because everyone’s system has so much merit to it, that you might lose sight of where they both offer you something important. Sue Johnson and David Schnarch, it’s interesting that you’ve paired them together because, obviously, they’re in some ways they would see themselves as being in opposition to each other.
Keith Witt: Yes.
Neil Sattin: And yet, how many times have I seen with clients how important creating safety is to them, taking a stand for who they are? And vice versa, if they’re all about the safety and they never take a risk by being who they are, I’ve seen that be problematic too. So, it’s like everyone is reacting to the… What’s the word? The distorted, the extended version, like if you go way too far into differentiation, that’s not going to be a relationship. If you go way too far into creating safety or your couple bubble, like Stan calls it, Stan Tatkin, then you might lose the edge or the eroticism, which is what Esther would hone in on. You’ve lost your sense of the other person as other, you’re too safe.
Neil Sattin: So, it’s so interesting because even in just this past three sentences or so, you’ve heard me jump from one to the other to the other trying to show you, like, “Yeah, they all actually feed into each other.” If you’re really, really stuck, like a lot of people are, I think that’s why Esther’s TED Talk took off because so many people are stuck. I think she writes in “The State of Affairs” that sexless marriage is one of the top Google searches or something like that.
Keith Witt: Yes.
Neil Sattin: So, if you’re in a sexless marriage, then when someone starts talking about how you feel too safe and you’ve come to not think of your partner as someone else. And so here are some ways to get you back to a more erotic, playful space with your partner, then you’re going to listen and that’s going to make sense to you. But it wouldn’t make sense to you if you had no safety in your container and your partner was constantly texting other people and flirting with the waiters and waitresses at the restaurants, and if you were in a totally unsafe world, then that’s not going to be a place where Esther’s work might, or at least what you might initially think she’s getting at. But again, this is just her TED Talk, you hear her in a session and she’s talking about creating safety within a couple.
Keith Witt: Exactly. That practically speaking, everybody comes from constructs that involve relational patterns, a developmental orientation, that people are influenced by unconscious influences and trauma programming. Everybody has a vision of happy relating for every couple they work with. No effective couples counselor doesn’t do that. We all, if we have a couple, we immediately start having a vision of how they could be getting along better with each other. And all couples counselors are informed by the psychological and psychotherapeutic traditions, therapeutic relationship attunement, and that kind of stuff.
Keith Witt: Now, when you look at it, for me, the breakdown between Schnarch dissing attachment theory and Susan Johnson saying, “I have the only couples therapy. We never had a theory before me.” Okay? Well, look, if you say to a bunch of founders who have their own theories, “You never had a good theory of couples until me,” everybody’s going to get pissed off. So, Susan Johnson says that, I go, “Susan, you’ve got a good system, you got a good theory. You don’t have to piss us all off by saying that. You can say, ‘I got a couples thing that I prefer to yours.'” And so, John Gottman will go up in a workshop and say, “Well, we have our theory.” You know he’s speaking directly to that.
Keith Witt: Now, that being said, Esther Perel and Schnarch make a point that a lot of other couples people miss, they go, “Look, sexuality is a big deal and it’s been neglected by the field,” and they’re right about that. That was true. In the ’70s, therapists wouldn’t even ask their couples about sex, it just drove me crazy. I did a lot of sex therapy training in the ’70s because I realized that to be effective with couples, I need to be really good at helping them have better sex, and integrated that into my work and have ever since. And David Deida’s stuff has been priceless around that stuff.
Keith Witt: And so, the field has grown to that. And to their credit, once again, John Gottman and Julie, they have their system of expanding the conversation about sexuality and the behaviors about sexuality because they’ve demonstrated from their research that it’s not enough to just down-regulate conflict with a couple, you have to up-regulate good times. And as I make… The point that I make in my Loving Completely approach, a marriage is a friendship, a love affair and a capacity to heal injuries and ruptures. That love affair is a big deal. That first star, this erotic polarity between me and my partner, gets more space in my book than any of the other stars. Why? If that love affair isn’t happening then there’s a lot of problems that arise out of that, and that’s that sexless marriage statistics that Esther mentions in her book. I wrote a book called “A Hundred Reasons to Not Have a Secret Affair”, I couldn’t find a publisher for it. And I read “State of Affairs” and I said, “Well, I like this a lot better than my book.”
Keith Witt: And really I think that’s a really good book about affairs and you can just feel that practical romantic orientation on her part.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and when you say romantic, let’s just… Can you get more clear on what that means, just so we get you there?
Keith Witt: Esther has… Now, this is just my reading of her, okay? And I’ve never talked to her. I hope I do some day. There’s this sense for her about love. There’s a mystery, a cross-cultural mystery about love, that there’s love is, I want to be loved, I want to love and I want to do it in a way that works for me. And if it’s not happening, I’m suffering and I want to make it happen. And if it’s not happening and I’m suffering, I need to take that suffering into the world and into my own development, into my relationship and make love happen. And there’s a certain mysterious quality about it. And yes, there’s things that interfere with it like lies and abuse and all that other stuff. And to a certain extent, because she works an awful lot with infidelity and that kind of stuff, you can see our practices shape our theoretical understanding. There’s that sense of, if we open that up, then love will happen. Now hopefully, it happens with us as a couple, but if it doesn’t, okay. It didn’t happen. Love, the relationship just because it ends wasn’t unsuccessful, we lose each other, we move on and we find love some place else.
Keith Witt: Okay, to me, this is very romantic. This is a subjective love-based, romance-based orientation towards eroticism and sexuality. And it’s very effective because that’s how in terms of the neurobiology of bonding, yes, we go from our various arousal systems, into attraction, into distracting attraction, into romantic infatuation, into intimate bonding, into life stages. Now, what I think Esther misses, because she doesn’t seem to be as interested in the science, is that it’s an apples and oranges comparison that early attraction, distracting attraction, romantic infatuation, sexual drives, with the sexual drives that exist in intimate bonding, okay.
Keith Witt: In intimate bonding, I have discovered or it’s been my experience, to go into those romantic infatuation circuits, it’s very, very intricate and detailed and it’s not nearly as easy as finding a new person that you don’t know. And so you can’t compare, “Well, it’s very hard to develop romance and passion with my husband, but really easy with my lover.” Well, of course it is. We’re wired to have that be the case. That’s not the point. The point is that… And now we’re getting into an integral understanding of evolution of consciousness. As we expand our consciousness, as we get more world-centric and more compassionate and less bullshit, our relationships are more demanding. And so it’s very, very difficult. I haven’t found relationships where people have the depth of connection that they want, knowing each other and accepting each other and loving each other deeply, that they have that and that that container, which is powerful but fragile, can tolerate one of them going out and falling in love with another person. And also, that container suffers if they don’t do what they need to do to take care of their love affair. They have a love affair that they believe in that they’re sustaining with each other.
Keith Witt: So, why is that fragile? Well, because it requires an awful lot of attention and knowledge and understanding and self-regulation. Why is it great? Because there’s deeper intimacy available in that container than in previous containers over the last 10,000 years and it’s more demanding. If you have a very, very primitive… Say you have a relationship that’s pure conformist. We’re getting married, we’re going to have kids, we’re going to do what the Bible says or the Koran says. In those cultures, women stop having sex with their partner when they stop being of childbirth age, in general. Fascinating study. They just go at that point, they go, “Well, I’m not going to do it anymore.” A lot, not always, but a fair amount. Why is that? Because there isn’t a developmental layer of intimacy that they and their husband are working for, because they’re in a system where he’s in charge. She has to do what he says. I say “yes” to sex, until I can’t have kids anymore and then I can say “no” if I want.
Keith Witt: And if we don’t have a certain level of intimacy and a commitment to depth, why would we be interested? He would be going after youth and beauty and maybe I’ll have an affair or maybe I won’t. It just depends. If you’re going in, but if you both have the sense of equal depth, if you both are post formal operational, if you both want to sustain your friendship and your love affair and expand it and expand each other, well, then that requires a different kind of inner subjectivity. So these are very complicated forces that are operating on all of us. Now, they’re explicit in integral psychotherapy because we always look at lines and levels, and probably, you’re going to tell me about Ellyn Bader, probably in their developmental model, because developmental models notice that people’s worldviews change, and that relationships, demands of relationship, change as we go into different developmental levels.
Keith Witt: The other ones, the effective ones, unconsciously adjust for different people’s worldviews, but sometimes don’t consciously do it, because it’s not visible to them, consciously, but unconsciously, in the session, they get a feel for it and they attune to it. Just like if you’re an effective therapist… Stan Tatkin has practically nothing about sexuality in his system, but I’ll bet if people come in to his system suffering from not being sexual, he climbs in, understands their experience from the inside, finds out where they’re turning each other and on and off, and helps them find the kind of safety that they need to move into eroticism.
Keith Witt: And eroticism’s very central, because it’s like the canary in the coal mine. Everything else has to be going pretty well for you to be good lovers with your partner. It’s very rare, as a couples counselor, for people to come in saying, “Yeah, we’re both fulfilled, sexually. We enjoy sex, we have sex regularly, and we want a divorce.” That actually happens once in a great while, but that’s like one in 100. Usually, when people come in and say, “Sex is great,” there’s a solidity to their relationship, and they’re coming in to talk about other kinds of issues; money issues, sometimes… Often child issues and parental issues, sometimes physical issues, that kind of stuff.
Neil Sattin: Okay, so… Yeah, there are several different directions that I feel myself being pulled, and…
Keith Witt: Great.
Neil Sattin: I think where I’m going to go right now is on this practical level, because I want this to all be practical, and we’re talking about all these systems as practical systems. I think I heard Schnarch say that… And I don’t think this is an actual statistic, I think he was just making a point, which was, in a good relationship, sex makes up about 10% of what you think about and care about, but if the sex is bad… No, if the sex is good, then it’s about 10% what you think about and care about. If the sex is bad, it’s 90%, or non-existent. And so, I’m thinking about that in light of what you just said and wondering, okay, for people listening who are in this place where they’re like, “Okay, well, I’m not connecting with my partner erotically. Should I be going to a sex therapist? Should I be going to an EFT therapist to work on my safety? Should I be… ” I could feel… I can feel confusion there, around, what do you do, practically? ‘Cause so many people might see like, “Oh, you’re not having sex? Well, then, let’s talk about sex.” Others might say, “You’re not having sex? Well, that’s a symptom of so many other things going on in your relationship, so let’s talk about the other things, and we’ll talk about sex later.”
Keith Witt: Well, first of all, go to a good couples therapist who understands eroticism. It doesn’t matter what system they’re operating in, if they’re a good therapist, a good couples therapist, experienced and know how to attune, and have the things that I mentioned, those qualities, and understand eroticism. One of the reasons that Schnarch says that is that, in general, human consciousness goes where the pain is. We have a half-dozen sex drives, we don’t just have one, we have lots of them. And so, if one of those sex drives is activated in a negative way, say jealousy, that’s a lot of pain. Say frustration… Frustrated… This happens a lot with guys after the first baby is born. A baby is born. Okay, their wife kinda gets over the birth, and he finds her utterly adorable and desirable. Yeah, this is adorable and she’s in love with his kid, she’s full of love, “We’re sharing this thing,” and he wants to have sex. She’s in love with the kid, she’s got follicle-stimulating hormone up the wazoo, her desire is down, biochemically. If she doesn’t have a commitment to re-establishing their love affair, then he’s in pain.
Keith Witt: And so, what does he do? He makes jokes about it, and there’s all these bazillion jokes about men wanting more sex, mothers with small children, and guys… Women don’t want to have sex. And these are hostile jokes and these separate people. And, in general, three years after the birth of the first baby, according to the Gottmans’ research, 70% of couples are doing worse. But what if you teach them about affection and eroticism and sensuality and say, “You need to sustain this after the birth of the first child. You need to both be onboard with it.” Well, if you teach them that, then three years later, 70% of them are saying, “Yeah, we’re actually better as lovers.” Now, you need… In my experience, that’s useful information for me to have, as a couples therapist.
Keith Witt: And it’s useful for me to know the parameters of that. Just like it’s useful for me to know about psychopathology. You know, if somebody has some kind of trauma thing or a personality disorder or some kind of debilitating or God knows, you know, bipolar. That kind of stuff. That has to be addressed. That really has existence. You go to a therapist that has a general understanding, and is good with sexuality in general. I don’t know if I’d want to go to any couples therapist who didn’t understand the principles of sexuality, and the sex drives, and the stages of sexual bonding, whether I was working on sex or not. It’s such a central part of the life stages of a relationship, you know. You don’t just have one marriage, you have many marriages. And there’s different demands at each developmental level of marriage. And you want to be true to those demands and help each other with them, and good couples therapists all do that. Whether they do it consciously or unconsciously doesn’t really matter, you know. They do it. Because, they’re inside the universe of these couples helping them grow. And they discover these blocks, and they have their own orientation to help people through them, and help people into deep inter-subjective, into love with each other.
Keith Witt: And so, that’s… All good couples therapists can attune. They all interrupt people all the time. ‘Cause you gotta interrupt toxic patterns, and they all have some sense of what a positive pattern is. You know, all couples therapists suspend their ego in service of their clients. If you have too much ego in the session, you lose your capacity to help people. All good couples therapists are willing to share their clients’ pain. All good couples therapists tell vivid enough stories, have vivid enough metaphors that they register, they land with people. They’re bringing their best selves into the work, so that’s… If you took anybody from any system and saw them work, and they were effective, you’d see that in my opinion and so, that’s their natural healing style. And, you know, you keep expanding that and after a while… And what breaks my heart about this is since people resist change, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of natural healing styles in existence being embodied by great practitioners, that we’ll never find out about. Because, you know, there’s a resistance in the field to new systems. And these people don’t have as much… I don’t advocate much for any of my systems.
Keith Witt: As a founder, I haven’t like pushed to make one of my systems famous. Okay, well, that means a lot of people haven’t encountered a bunch of my systems. Okay. Well, that’s kind of a weakness in my approach as the founder, really. Because if I want to make an impact, I should go out and beat drums about my systems and I don’t. I go, “Well, yeah, I like my systems but the other ones are great too. Use the one that… Study the ones that turn you on. Turn that and have that enhanced and expand your natural healing style.” What lights me up is people doing that. And if they want to use my system, if they like it, of course, I get a little ego rush from that, sure. That’s great. [chuckle] Everybody likes to be told they’re great, you know. [chuckle]
Neil Sattin: You’re great, Keith.
Keith Witt: Yeah, there you go.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and…
Keith Witt: Well, I’m actually a little embarrassed, but you know, I often do if my clients compliment me extravagantly, I’ll get embarrassed. Partly because of the transference stuff, you know. Okay, so people go through stages, and partly because, I’m uncomfortable with my ego. I don’t want it to show up in my session. Anyway.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. And I’m thinking of something you said earlier about systems that maybe do or don’t actually handle mental health all that well. That there’s, you know, a lot of these systems work well in the context of someone isn’t suffering with major depression, or borderline personality disorder and that made me think of certain modalities that are helpful with that. Like in particular, what came to mind was Internal Family Systems, Dick Schwartz’s system, and…
Keith Witt: I love that.
Neil Sattin: And there’s been an evolution of that intimacy from the inside out which is basically applying Internal Family Systems to couples therapy.
Keith Witt: Yes.
Neil Sattin: And that Toni Herbine-Blank, she’s been here on the show to talk about that. This is something that I feel particularly connected to, is this question of how we, in a relationship, actually show up for each other to help heal. ‘Cause I don’t think that there are many people in our world that have escaped some form of trauma or another. I think we all have like places where we’re wounded or where we don’t want to go. We’re talking about all of these systems in many ways from the perspective of going and seeking help, which I definitely encourage you to do. It’s a good idea to go and, as Keith was talking about a little while ago, to have that outside perspective until you’re really good at getting outside perspective on your own.
Neil Sattin: But that being said, I like those modalities because the more conscious I think you get of how you heal from trauma, so I’m thinking of, yes, Internal Family Systems, somatic experiencing, the things that really enable you to identify what’s happening within you, both your body awareness and how you attune to your body, but also what Dick talks about in Internal Family Systems, literally identifying the different personalities in you who are competing and at war, he calls them parts.
Keith Witt: Yes.
Neil Sattin: And then you can bring those dialogues into your conversations with your partner. Then I think there is a lot of potential through that, through co-regulation to actually heal with each other. But I don’t know about any studies that show that that’s going to be curative if your partner has depression, for instance, but I do have a pretty strong belief that that’s going to help you show up in that relationship in a way where you’re still feeling connected and you’re in integrity.
Keith Witt: There are studies that show that it is curative to expand into your intimate relationship, your family relationships, and your social relationships to be curative with depression, just like there are many studies, overwhelmingly, that show that exercise is a better anti-depressant than any drug. So, that’s all true. And your central point, I think, is huge, and that central point is when a couple has mobilized to, one, have compassionate self-observation of both their healthy and unhealthy sides. In my Shadow Light book, I talk about growing your shadow, and that our unconsciousness is constantly giving us constructive and destructive messages, and that we have resistances, defenses against being aware of them, and to the extent that we do that, we have problems with ourselves and in relationships with other people. Because, let’s face it, the more intimate you are with yourself, which is having compassionate awareness and acceptance of yourself and self-regulation, the more able you are to be intimate with other people. So, that’s just how it works, ask any therapist, any couples therapist.
Keith Witt: And Dick Schwartz’s approach is wonderful in that, one, he develops… You’ll notice there’s always a compassionate witness observing these inner parts, okay? Just like meditation increases the capacity of the compassionate self-observation, the witness, as we say in the wisdom traditions, so do these systems that look at these inner parts. Because if I’m looking at inner parts, who’s looking? The compassionate witness is looking, and awareness regulates. So, as I’m looking at these parts and I’m identifying the constructive and destructive ones, already I am unconsciously up-regulating the constructive ones, down-regulating the destructive ones. Okay, that’s a great language, and it’s nonjudgmental, but it’s very, very powerful. Now, say you do that with your partner. Instead of taking offense when your partner says something nasty, you go, “Wow, that was that nasty sub-personality.” And you go, “Whoa, that was kind of nasty.” And they go, “Ooh, that was my nasty self, I’m sorry.” Now, at that point, the nasty self isn’t in charge. The compassionate witness is in charge regulating the nasty self and now bonding with that partner, and they are collaborating to help shape each other to be their best selves.
Keith Witt: When you get to that point with a couple that are doing that with their friendship, their love affair, and their capacity to repair injuries, that’s a self-sustaining system that creates the great relationships. And you see the great relationships, you see that, it’s called the Michelangelo Effect, it’s been studied, and people, they end up talking more like each other, and looking more like each other. But even more, they get up… Long-term couples will tend to get happier with each other because they’re receiving influence to be better. And it takes a lot of courage and a lot of openness to receive influence, and a lot of self-regulatory capacity, and that always runs from some kind of compassionate witness, and all the systems encourage that. They all have their different names for it, but if you don’t have that, then you’re kind of left with raw behaviorism. And if you do have that, which most of us do, or formal operational or post-formal operational.
Keith Witt: Having that compassionate witness be more robust gives us more options, response flexibility and interpersonal neurobiology, they would say. And response flexibility isn’t random. I want to choose the healthy responses, which support love and support health and I want to say no to the unhealthy ones. But I have to be aware of them, I have to be able to regulate them. That’s where Allan Schore comes with regulation theory, that’s where Harville Hendrix. His systems basically force people to self-regulate because they can’t go into their fight patterns ’cause he’s given them different patterns to do.
Keith Witt: And so, probably the power of this system is as much by not allowing people to do their hostile patterns as it is giving them new patterns, and I think that’s true for Dick Schwartz too in Internal Family Systems, and it’s especially useful in trauma because we get overwhelmed with trauma. So, anything that causes us to observe trauma without being overwhelmed, whether it’s somatic re-experiencing, EMDR, Internal Family Systems, all those things are drawing from the same well in terms of helping us be aware and regulate and then attach and then connect, love other people and be loved by other people. These are the things that the affective systems have in common. Like, practical mythological, somebody might do better if they see themselves at a particular stage of the Hero’s Journey. Great, I love the Hero’s Journey, I’m all over that, I’ve been studying it all my life and practising it.
Keith Witt: Somebody might do great in seeing, “Well, I have this destructive… An Internal Family Systems thing. One of my firemen is just driving me crazy by giving me all these impulses to regulate myself in unhealthy ways.” You go, “Oh, yeah.” But he wants that fireman and he wants to feel better and what’s a healthy way to feel better? Oh, now, I’m going to these other selves. Okay, these deeper ones. Oh, and here’s this injured self that just really never felt good and still doesn’t. Oh, well, we need to love that self until it begins to feel like a legitimate person who’s in pain. When that begins to happen, say a childhood injury, most people hate that little kid who was abused, if you had early abuse. Once you start loving that kid who was abused, feeling the pain but loving him, saying, “Hey, look, it wasn’t your fault they molested you or beat you up,” things change, there’s more freedom of motion and you can love better.
Neil Sattin: Right. And this goes straight to the strengths of a system like EFT, and that’s based around attachment and why it’s so important to recognize the bonding, the safety, the ways that you are trying to regulate your safety in relationship. And if you’re not conscious of that, how the ways you do it are probably going to be jeopardizing, ultimately, the safety of your relationship, even though, ironically, you’re trying to keep yourself safe in those moments.
Keith Witt: Yes, and now here’s the paradox of the whole attachment stuff. The attachment theory just kind of blew the lid off of the developmental orientation. People have been resisting psychoanalytics… The cognitive behaviorists, the cognitive therapists have been resisting for decades the psychoanalysts’ assertion that infancy and early childhood really matter. Well, attachment theory showed that it really does, that we do get set up for secure and insecure attachment, and that there’s elements of that that go all the way to the adult attachment industry that the researchers in Berkeley, I forget their name… Mary Main came up with. Yes.
Keith Witt: Now, there’s a little switch here because that attachment has to do with mother/infant attachment. Okay, now, we go on to couples and then we gotta add that sexual component. Adding that sexual component to secure attachment is tricky. I really don’t want to be having to be secure with my wife exactly the way I was secure with my mom. I want to have elements of that, but there’s not a lot of eroticism there, or hopefully there isn’t, and if there is, there’s more problems, that would be more complicated. And so now we have to add that erotic component. Now that erotic component has a lot of other elements in it. It has adventure, it has transgression, it has change, it has whoever we discovered we are from a gender standpoint or whoever we discover we are in terms of our own kinks, whatever our culture told us about our sexuality, whether it’s good or it’s bad.
Keith Witt: People discover their sexuality, and if they’re lucky, the culture says, “Oh, that’s fine sexuality.” Say you discover you’re a heterosexual guy who likes the missionary position. Wow! You know, when you’re married. Boy, you’re in good shape, you can feel like a virtuous person. Say you discover that you’re a transgender person who likes falling in love with the opposite sex, but likes to have fun sex with the same sex, it can go one direction or another, and really like being tied up and mildly humiliated before somebody fucks you. Okay, well, you’re not going to get a lot of cultural support, at least from most of the cultures that I was raised in for that. So you’re raised in endogenous shame that now you gotta deal with that fucking stuff. This is where Esther Perel’s romantic approach is really good. The romantic approach says love triumphs. Love trumps culture, and so if a culture tells somebody that they’re wrong, Esther is really good at saying, “Yeah, well, your culture does not understand how you love. And how you love is how you love, and I love that, and I support you.” People feel liberated by that.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Exactly.
Keith Witt: Yeah. Well, that’s pretty great, and if you’re a student of integral psychology, you recognize that when you get to an integral level of consciousness, an integral level of consciousness has a felt sense of appreciation from multiple points of view, and a diminished fear of death and of other things, okay? A felt sense of appreciation for multiple points of view, that means I have a felt sense of appreciation for however I am wired and how my partner is wired. And now we don’t have a moral problem in finding our love affair, we have a practical problem, you know, more practical… All these things are practical. Practically, how do we create eroticism, erotic polarity, given who we are? It’s not like either one of us is more or less morally correct. It’s we are who we are, and now, where’s the opportunity for movement and growth and passion? And good therapists go there.
Keith Witt: Whether they’re at an integral altitude or not in their regular life, most good therapists are at an integral level during their work. If I observe their work and I track that around the characteristics of second tier functioning, most effective therapists are at that level when they’re doing psychotherapy. They have felt appreciation for multiple points of view, they have diminished fear of everything, they have a profound sense of being able to shift the power dynamics to the growth hierarchies and the dominator hierarchies in the direction of greater love. They have a developmental orientation that intuitively tells them what’s healthier and less healthy, and what’s more love and less love, they’re guided by that.
Keith Witt: And that’s not just rational at all, that’s rational plus intuition, plus something else. Now, you can do that something else directly by doing contemplative work and having your own understanding of the infinite, or you can do it unconsciously. But basically, good therapists are a channel from something larger than themselves into the session through their systems and their personality. And when that channel’s there, magic happens, often. And if you don’t have that channel, you suffer as a therapist. And if you continue at it, you’ll find it, and that’s that natural healing style. But when you get there, it’s connected to something way larger than yourself.
Keith Witt: Now if I talk with John Gottman about this, because you can’t observe this and measure it and study it and do a questionnaire about it, you go, “We should leave religion out of psychotherapy.” In fact, I saw him do that once when they were talking about mindfulness. And so anytime he sees any kind of existential system coming into science, he gets uncomfortable. But it’s not that he doesn’t do that and he and Julie don’t do that, they bring a sense of the sacred and sense of a sacred mission to every single class that they teach and session that they do. But in a way, they can’t acknowledge it because they have to kinda anchor themselves… At least John can’t, because he has to anchor himself, and you know… “Well, really, what I’m doing is I’m coming from my research.” Yeah, John, you are, but there’s something larger than you coming through you when you’re teaching this stuff. I can see it, I can feel it, because I have no problem with it.
Keith Witt: I personally do not feel limited by everything has to be validated by social research and science. There are some things that you can only discover from the left quadrants. And that’s from phenomenology. Phenomenology is real, but you have to develop the contemplative instruments to perceive things, you have to… And once you have those instruments, then you can perceive things like a channel into the other world. It’s as visible as a blood cell is on a microscope. But you have to develop the instrument. That instrument is contemplative work in your own spirituality and your own development as a human being.
Neil Sattin: Wow. This makes me think of a system that we haven’t chatted about here yet. And it ties in a little bit to attachment theory, and also kind of feeds into bio-hacking. And I’m pretty sure that I talked with you privately about the book, “Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow”, when we were talking about…
Neil Sattin: Karezza. And I’m thinking about the way that fostering what they call “bonding behaviors”, behaviors that are oxytocin-producing, which is all about our pair bonding, all about our attachment, and diving into those behaviors allow you to experience a form of transcendence which feels very contemplative in terms of one’s sexual connection with their partner. And now, we’re talking about sexual development in a way that isn’t entirely about eroticism, but that… And they talk about it in that book because their theory is that… And I’m saying “they”, but it’s Marnia Robinson who wrote the book…
Keith Witt: That’s right.
Neil Sattin: Is that it’s the chase for erotic polarity and the dopamine cycle that actually causes habituation to your partner and escalates the demise, potentially, of your relationship and your attraction to your partner, whereas if you’re focusing on things that promote oxytocin and bonding, that might… Sue Johnson, I haven’t talked to her about Marnia’s book, but I could see her liking it from the perspective of like, “Oh yeah, it’s all about attachment and fostering safety.” Well now, you’re able to do something that’s also sustainable, because we don’t develop a tolerance for levels of oxytocin and vasopressin in our systems.
Keith Witt: So first of all, I laughed because you mentioned that book to me and I went, “Okay, so this is one of those situations where here’s a system.” So I thought, “Okay, well, I’ll check it out.” So I went online, read the first couple chapters, and oh, really? And so I bought the book and I’ve read it. Now, no offense to Marnia. I think that this system is really, really powerful, and I think it’s powerful not just for the reasons that she mentioned, I think it’s powerful for other reasons. It’s not just oxytocin that is increased by practicing karezza. You also increase vasopressin in men, which is a male bonding hormone. Also, you increase testosterone. Going into sexual arousal and not resolving it into orgasm, keeping it into that state increases the levels of testosterone, which increase levels of erotic urgency. Okay, that’s another thing.
Keith Witt: Also, if you look at all the the practices, including the tantric practices, you’ll see that the first levels of most practices involve renunciation. Any time that a human being takes one of the drives and does renunciation with it, it puts them into kind of a stark connection with their own material that they have to then wrestle with. And if you do it with a partner, together, you two are now engaged in a shared tantric practice. That shared tantric practice of we are now monitoring our levels of connection and love and passion too, because when you do karezza, you go to a certain level and you don’t want to get too high or too low. But you’re at a level of a erotic charge and a level of bonding, and you kinda stay there, that’s why you don’t have orgasms.
Keith Witt: Now, personally, renunciation is not my favorite, as everybody can probably tell from my tone of voice, of practicing. I love orgasms, and so the way that I manage that in my life is I have frequent sex and frequent orgasms. Now, that keeps me attached to my wife. Why? Well, the habituation part of eroticism and so on doesn’t just run off of erotic habituation. When you enter the intimate bonding stage of relationship, you have the depth of connection with your partner where you recapitulate your family of origin levels of intimacy, that’s when the more primitive and the older and deeper defenses come out. Those defenses were designed to protect you and to separate you from people that were acting badly. And they happen to happen in intimate bonding and they separate couples.
Keith Witt: Couples that work through, reach through those defenses into pleasurable contact of all sorts, that’s another way of keeping that sense of special connection alive. Doesn’t have to do with eroticism necessarily, it has to do with walking into the room and seeing your partner and smiling, and feeling the pleasure of your smile and their smile. It has to do with passing her and stroking her head, and her feeling the pleasure of that stroke. Couples that consciously practice those particular kinds of techniques, those couples are upping their oxytocin levels on a regular basis. You turn those kinds of practices into habits, then you habitually are increasing oxytocin level. You turn adjusting anger into regulating it into deeper contact, which is what you do when you’re working with wounding, so you start out separated by anger and then you become connected by resolving it into love for each other, that actually plays on those same cords. Because habituation happens in many ways, not just one or two ways.
Keith Witt: Now, the karezza stuff works really well. It keeps you charged with your partner, and the people that do that kind of stuff report the same kinds of benefits that people who consistently practice any of the tantric techniques. And I think if you’re wired for that and you and your partner like that, go for it. It’s the same way, I was talking to a guy recently, and I said… His girlfriend wanted sex more frequently than him, and he was doing his best, I said, “Well, what gets her off?” He says, “Well, she likes Fifty Shades of Grey.” I said, “Oh, constraints. Restraints.” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Well, how do you feel about it?” “Well, it’s okay. Now, it doesn’t really turn me on, it doesn’t turn me off.” I said, “Well, good experiment, go get some restraints and play with them after you guys get turned on.” If you’re going to do something new, get turned on first because you get more disinhibited when you’re aroused. And so, say they do that, okay? Well, then, he’s brought that element in that has kept the eroticism alive, because those restraints might be a fetish. I hate DSM. DSM pathologizes fetishes. Every time I find a fetish with a couple and it doesn’t completely turn off the partner, I go, “Oh boy.”
Neil Sattin: And just to be clear, DSM, you’re talking about the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, right? I want to just remove that from BDSM, which is what you’re also sort of talking about in the moment.
Keith Witt: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The DSM, otherwise known as “the book of woe”…
Keith Witt: Has a bazillion things that are human problems, and then has a diagnosis for them. And some of those are quite useful and some of them are not useful and some of them are bullshit. And everybody in the field has a lot of hostility towards the DSM, but we have to use it because it’s a common language. So a fetish is a problem if it interferes with individual relational health, and it’s an asset if it can bring eroticism. But my point about it is, to me, the karezza practices fall within that, and you can see, karezza started in the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. And so, to me, what karezza ushered in was the egalitarian marriage between two educated people wanting to maintain a certain kind of special inter-subjectivity that was deeper than the people around them. And this was a sexual way of doing it.
Keith Witt: But to be able to do that, you do have to be educated, you do have to be self-aware, you do have to have capacities for self-regulation, you do have to be consciously sexual and have a conscious sexual practice that goes somewhat against cultural constraints, at least in the first part of the 20th century. Now, all those things that I just said are things that make relationships way better that don’t have to do with not having an orgasm or maintaining a certain level of connection, but have to do with… Everything to do with intimacy, inter-subjectivity, and the development of consciousness and the co-development of inter-subjective consciousness.
Neil Sattin: So I’m appreciating that just like every other system that we’ve talked about, even karezza is a model that it’s there for you to try and to see how that affects you. Does it have a positive impact or a negative impact? If you take karezza to an extreme and then you happen to have an orgasm, you might feel shame around that. Well, it’s stopped helping you at that point, right?
Neil Sattin: So everything in its place, to everything its season. And that being said, it’s a helpful seasoning to have.
Keith Witt: Back in 19… What was it? ’79, I was studying with a Daoist priest and martial artist. I was learning a very intense kind of explosive form of somatic therapy called simple linking therapy, and I became his apprentice, and I studied martial arts and healing with him. It was just one of those archetypal things. So in the end, at the very end… So I’d studied hard, I became his number one guy. And in the end, there was this yoga called the yoga of the five dragons, and to get to five dragons you get one dragon every week, and you can’t have an orgasm for five weeks. And not only that, because he wanted to make it hard for me, I had to go down to his fighting class in San Diego and I had to fight every guy in that class. It was just one of those martial arts movies things. At the end I was all covered with blood, right? So they had this circle, and they brought this poor, young fucker in, “Come fight Keith.” He looked at me and he burst into tears. [laughter]
Neil Sattin: Oh my God.
Keith Witt: So then the teacher got in this ring with me and I had to fight, finesse fighting the teacher, so I didn’t get killed and I could get out of there. Anyway, that five weeks of not having an orgasm when I was 30 years old was a fucking nightmare for me. Now, I can’t remember what effects it had on my relationship with Becky at the time. Becky is way more flexible than me around sex. We were intimate, we were supportive and so on. And it was really useful for me, I remember those five weeks with gratitude because I had to discover new things about myself within that context and about us. And so I can really see karezza being something if a couple practices it, you’re going to go deeper into your love and your eroticism with each other, whether you do it for a month or for a lifetime. And that kind of shared practice bonds people. It’s kind of like both of you becoming yoga enthusiasts or both of you really loving meditation together, only this has those shared erotic elements that you don’t do with other people. That makes couples special. And that special form of eroticism I think makes you stronger with your partner. And if you like it, you do it. But if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to do it. Now maybe I’m just saying that because it’d be great for me to do it and I don’t want to give up my orgasms. I don’t know, I can’t say, Neil.
Neil Sattin: Well, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to about it who have literally had that, “You’re not taking my orgasms away from me,” kind of response.
Keith Witt: How dare you!
Neil Sattin: And I think that that’s one of the reasons why it’s so important, not that it necessarily become a lifelong practice, but particularly because of those habitual ways that we think about our sexual selves and that we’re driven to orgasm, I think that it’s helpful to really peel that back a little bit. And as an adult, as a mature adult, to take some perspective on how you even learned to be a sexual being and to re-experience yourself to some degree. And if you’re not having orgasms and you’re someone who’s been orgasm-motivated, then that’s going to give you a totally new way of understanding how you’re even relating to your partner. And it definitely gives you a much broader vocabulary in bed if suddenly you’re like, “Well, I’m not being driven to orgasm, so what the hell am I going to do? I gotta figure this out.” So I think it’s also a very useful vehicle to just waking up other parts of you that then, yeah, why not, integrate it all. But integrate it from having that new perspective where you’re not just being run by the need, and so many people do express that as a need; I’m not sure that it is a need, but the need for orgasms.
Keith Witt: It’s a drive. So first of all, it’s a drive. So with the drives, we don’t deny… Denying the drives screws us up. Integrating the drives into a larger consciousness makes us bigger people. The great thing about karezza is that when you’re pushing towards orgasm, it’s more individualistic. If you do karezza you’re always in the intersubjectivity with your partner. Couples that are able to do that, “Yeah, I make love and I have orgasms or I don’t have orgasms, or whatever,” some people don’t care to have orgasms during lovemaking, but I like the connection and I maintain the connection. It’s frankly way, way easier, if you’re doing karezza, to maintain that inter-subjective connection, to feel it, to feel that as the primary mover of your eroticism. It’s not getting off that’s the primary mover, it’s that.
Keith Witt: And so it’s a beautiful system for that. And so, is it a good thing to try? Sure, it’s a good thing to try. If you and your partner feel like there’s more love and passion if you do it, is it a good thing to continue? Sure, it’s a good thing to continue. Is it alarming when you’ve been acting out on a drive, to go to orgasm, and somebody says, “No, you can’t act out on the drive, you gotta suppress your drive.” People get all defensive and rather than examine their defensiveness, we’ll try to find some reason why you’re wrong.
Keith Witt: Well, in integral you go, “How is this right? How does it fit in to the larger framework of the infinite variation of consciousness?” But still, that still predictably goes through certain stages, and has a directionality. Well, if something’s creating more love and more connection and more of an erotic specialness with you and your partner, it’s going to be a good thing, in my opinion, if you both feel that. Now, if one person is denying themselves and doing it for you and being pissed off about it secretly, that’s co-dependent. And as we all know, being counter-dependent, pretending you don’t need people sucks. That’s differentiation, pathological differentiation. Being codependent sucks, which is, serving somebody in a way that denies yourself or supports your pathology. Being interdependent, where you two are appropriately connecting in ways that support your individual development and your collective development, that’s the gold standard for human beings. And so, we want everything that we can to support interdependence around our friendship, our love affair, and our capacity to heal ruptures.
Keith Witt: Those three things are central to all the systems, and the karezza fits into it, it fits into it quite beautifully, in my opinion, and, particularly, a pro-sexual system in the beginning of the 20th century, end of 19th century. Remember, Christianity is not pro-sexual. These people were really going against the culture. The minute today, when you go to a… If you go to a fundamentalist church, and you got a pastor saying, “Yeah, I want everybody to have sex every day, for the next year… Month,” which happens, this is Christianity, progressive Christianity, moving towards being a more pro-sexual system, and I think that’s necessary, and it… And beautiful, and that’s the development of that particular tradition, in my opinion.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, it’s… I love how it’s become another one of our many paths to Rome. And I also like how you put that into the integral context. I think that’s helpful, for me, and, probably, for everyone listening, because we can talk about integral, and we haven’t even… And you mentioned at the very top that it’s a meta system, so it’s a way of seeing systems.
Keith Witt: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: So I think it’s helpful to understand that evolution, that that’s maybe the bias, and it happens to be a bias that I appreciate, of looking at things from an integral perspective.
Keith Witt: Mm-hmm. Well, yeah. The downside of it is that I can’t really… I can’t go out and say, “Hey, buy my Loving Completely book, do my Loving Completely system and you’ll be a much better couple’s therapist, then you will be better than the other people.” I don’t know. You take my book, and you read it, and you apply it to your life, or you apply it to your practice. It’ll probably enhance your life and your practice. As a therapist, will it make you better than other good therapists? Well, it’ll make you a better therapist. Will it make you better than other people? I don’t know. No. If somebody else is doing a really good work out of their system, and they’re getting results, they’re doing fine. And if they try to kind of shape themselves into Keith’s understanding, bringing integral and neurobiology in the stages of bonding, and telling jokes and whatever it is I do, opening up a channel into the other world and letting that flood into the session, which is what I do in most of my sessions. If you go, “I’m going to try to do that instead of what I, naturally, want to do,” it’s probably going to screw you up.
Keith Witt: Now, if you’re really excited by that, you go, “Yeah, I want to try that, put myself in that shape.” Absolutely do it, and then what you’ll end up discovering is your own version of that. And people end up having, I just need to say, whether they do it consciously or unconsciously, good therapists, really, are bringing in something larger than themselves into the container of the session. And just because I can see that and other people can’t, sometimes, doesn’t mean that it’s not always there with people that are doing healing work. I might not, personally, think it’s better to be aware of it so it’s easier to regulate it up if you’re aware of it, but that’s not necessary. Consciousness of it is necessary, but the presence of it does make the work more sacred and more beautiful, in my opinion. And in integral, those are your three validity standards. What’s true objectively, what’s beautiful aesthetically, and what feels good, either subjectively and morally. The beautiful, good and true.
Neil Sattin: So I’m wondering, and this might be our last question for today, because I feel like we’ve covered so much territory and, hopefully, this has been helpful for you listening, to get so many different perspectives. And hopefully, if we’ve pissed anyone off, Sue, John, David, Stan, if you guys are listening. [chuckle]
Keith Witt: Sorry, you guys, really sorry if I irritated you. I’m just trying to be a truth-teller here. I love your systems.
Neil Sattin: If we’ve pissed you off, hopefully, it’s in a good way. Hopefully, you’ll see that this is all meant to be just in service of taking this all to a place where it’s really benefiting the most people possible. And that brings me to my last question for you, and this is… I’m just curious to hear your answer, do you think that we’ll get to a point where the last book on how to have a good relationship will have been written, and people will just be like, “You know what? We’re just going to… This is the book, and there’s no [chuckle] other, no… ” Some people might say, “That’s the Bible.” But do you think that we’ll get to that place where it’s just going to be like, “You know what? Indisputably, this is the book, this kinda covers it.” And it manages to encompass the light, the dark, the this, the that, the breadth of the spectrum, and it’s all there.
Keith Witt: [chuckle] Well, so… The short answer to that is, no.
Keith Witt: That book is not going to be written. “Loving Completely” is my eighth book, and I’m working on a book on trauma now. And that book on trauma, those nine books together are cosmology that’s an accurate reflection of how I understand the universe, how I understand people in love and psychopathology and healing and how to move forward developmentally in the world, and support the evolution of consciousness. Okay. So that’s Keith’s system. It’s integrally informed, but still it’s got my personality and my psychology, and my bias is all over it. So that’s going to be true for everybody. Also, we grow through stages. We grow through an ego-centric, which is age-appropriate to little kids and to ethnocentric, where we’re conformists to other standards. They don’t have to make sense, which is normal for grade schoolers, to rational at teenage, which we can do critical analysis, but we’re attracted to merit-based hierarchies. The pluralistic, which you see a lot in college where there’s people who are egalitarian and multi-cultural, to integral where you’re looking at everything in authority and goes in a flex-flow standard. You notice how growth hierarchies and dominator hierarchies and chose growth hierarchies.
Keith Witt: Okay, so every one of those world views responds differently to different teaching about love. When I write, I try to write to all of those world views, but each one of them is listening differently, because we all look at different worlds. And the world views don’t stop. They don’t stop at integral. You go from integral to a level of connecting where you want to connect with like-minded others that serves the world. You and I are doing that now. That’s the next level after integral. There’s another level after that where there’s a constant relationship with spirit in whatever you do. And then there’s another level after that. Now, the more… The higher you go, the fewer people meet you there. But if someone understands that territory and writes a book about it, it’s just one of the pleasures of the world to run into that book and go, “Oh, my God.” This is what Ken Wilber’s stuff did to me. There was a part of my consciousness that was bursting to grow and wasn’t finding a map to grow until I found the integral map, the meta-theory, and then bam. It literally transformed my consciousness. I’m a different person in many ways. I see a different world, and I’ve progressively seen different worlds.
Keith Witt: And so, what’s going to happen more and more, particularly now that there’s this explosion of knowledge, is people will write their books from their systems to whoever it is they’re talking to. And I’m focusing more on people that are rational and post-rational, but the fundamentalist get stuff out of my book and ego-centric people can. But I’m not writing it to an ego-centric audience. If I was, I would write a book about the warrior in the “Man of Wisdom.” When I have ego-centric guys in here, I challenge them to be a warrior of integrity, moving towards “Man of Wisdom.” Red, ego-centric power God types guys like that. If I have an ego-centric feminine person, I challenge her to be the embodiment of whatever her concept of the feminine design, moving towards “Woman of Wisdom.” Those work very well in my experience with ego-centric world views, but they don’t work very well with ethno-centric world views, and so on. And so as we expand and we understand, there are all these world views, all these ways of experiencing the world are valid and that they do develop progressively. You don’t skip levels when you grow on a developmental line. And then each one of them is available for different kinds of input.
Keith Witt: Terri O’Fallon up north does this. She says that, “You have to inhabit certain kinds of states before you can make it to the next developmental level.” And those states involves understanding, but they also involve a visceral experience of certain things. If you don’t have a visceral experience of, say, the infinite, you can’t get to a particular developmental level on your psychosocial line, or your self-line. If you don’t have an experience of world-centricism, of all people being connected, all of us being brothers and sisters, you can’t really get to a world-centric world view. You have to have that experience. It’s a felt experience. So the books all speak to the different stages and the different developmental levels, and different systems. And so, well we’ll keep on writing books and we’ll keep on coming up with new systems and we’ll keep on interfacing it with technology, like neuro-feedback or therapeutic systems, like somatic re-experiencing, EMDR and so on. And we’ll keep on refining our understanding of development on what’s going on neurobiologically in the different developmental stages, but also, not just individually ’cause we grow up in a relationship, what’s going on relationally when you shift from infant to toddler to young kid to sexually aware? Neil, one of… Just a final bee in my bonnet.
Keith Witt: I have worked with families. I tell families, “Talk about… Control what your kids see. Control images. Screens, whatever, but talk to them about everything.” Couples are like, “I don’t want to talk to my kid about sex until, they’re what, 14 or something, or 11 or… ” No. Talk to them about sex when they’re two or three. “I don’t want to talk about violence to my kid because I don’t want him to… ” Talk to them about violence when they can talk. Talk to them about everything. And then… But control the images. You don’t want them to have traumatic images, but you want them to have a global understanding of how the world works and how they work, because they’re sexual beings. They have impulses to violence. How are they going to understand their sexuality, their impulse to violence, their selfishness and so on, unless you can see it, normalize it and help them understand it within the context of development and the cultures that they’re in.
Keith Witt: Talk to them about everything. And from an accepting standpoint, and a standpoint of, “In our family, we focus on everybody developing.” And mom and dad a developing just like the kids are developing. Those are the families that seem to do the best, in my opinion, and those are the couples that do the best. It’s not like we ever get there. We’re always working at loving each other better. I’m going to be working on loving Becky better until one of us dies, or until my brain dissolves or whatever the hell. Okay, so why? Because that commitment, lets me know, I want to make it work now, but I’m always… My job is to make it work a little bit better, because that grows me and it grows her and there’s something sacred about that.
Keith Witt: I’m not just doing it because it makes me happier and I’m not just doing it ’cause it makes us happier. I’m doing it because I think it makes the world a better place. It makes me a better therapist. Those are the reasons… I’m doing it for world-centric reasons as well as egocentric reasons, because development is including the transcendent. You never lose ego-centricism but you do get world-centricism or even life-centricism. I’m doing this, so hopefully people will stop this great “Die off” that we’re doing now and start saving the planet. I think that contributing to the evolution of consciousness is contributing to solving those problems and so, that’s my attempt to do it. That’s a motivation system that runs me, as well as the other ones. And that’s true for all of us.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. It’s certainly true for me as well, with the podcast and this work. As I hear you talk about all those different levels of how we’re contributing. I’m right there with you, that’s… I’ve sat back and thought about it a lot, recently. Having celebrated the three-year anniversary of the podcast just a month ago or so, and I was just kinda like, “Why am I doing this?” And then, it’s interesting, right?
Keith Witt: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Because some of those reasons are personal like, “Yeah, this is Neil Sattin wanting to make his mark on the world.” And then… Then I’m able to step back from that and say, “Yeah, and I want to make a mark on the world, I want to make this world a better place and I want to make it a better place for my kids, for you listening, for future generations, for… ” Hopefully there are… There’s a long future ahead of us, as a planet. And then, even potentially, when aliens finally do make contact with us, or we with them, then hopefully we’re in a better position to do that in a way that’s actually constructive. That’s the first time I’ve spoken those words, so… [chuckle] I wouldn’t have told you, I’m going to have to interview Whitley Strieber now. I’m going to have to get him on the… On this show.
Keith Witt: Well, that’s why I love talking with you, why you enjoy talking with me. We share these motivation systems, Neil, and other people that talk to us and share them, they’ll… We know each other when we relate.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Keith Witt: We feel that and you know what, it’s… There’s something… This is the evolutionary impulse coming through us. It feels sacred. It’s something that is in the fabric of the universe to evolve to greater complexity and with human beings, greater complexity is deeper consciousness, more compassion and more love. More care for more. More for all. It’s just we feel it. We feel it in each other and we feel it in ourselves and we want to help other people feel it because it’s such a great thing.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I feel in this moment the presence of everyone listening who’s here and is hopefully nodding their head at this moment, like, “Yeah, that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m listening, and that’s why I want to be a part of this conversation too.”
Keith Witt: Yeah. God bless all of us and thank you for listening.
Neil Sattin: Yes.
Keith Witt: Thank you for sharing this with us and for growing and for contributing your development and your consciousness to all of us. Thank you.
Neil Sattin: Keith is there and obviously, we’ve recommended your books highly here. Is there a particular Ken Wilber book that you think is a good starting place for people whose interest is peaked by our conversation and who isn’t already integrally informed?
Keith Witt: I think the best place to start would be to get the “Kosmic Consciousness” audio tapes that Ken did with Tami Simon, It Sounds True, because once you hear those tapes, 12 of them, and listening to those more consistently than anything else, has lit people up in terms of their understanding, what this understanding of the universe. As Ken, Ken has called himself a “mapmaker.” And it’s not the mapmakers don’t discover, don’t create the territory. They draw maps that help us explore the territory. So you do that… That would be the first thing I’d recommend, get the Sounds True “Kosmic Consciousness,” K-O-S-M-I-C Consciousness.
Keith Witt: Now, after that I recommend “Integral Spirituality.” “Integral Spirituality” is a wonderful book. The first time I met Ken was when I was on a podcast with him talking about one of those chapters. And he and I have since become friends and he’s written blogs for my books since… Like blogs for my books and stuff. And we’ve interviewed… Done various interviews with each other, but that’s when I first met him. And that “integral Spirituality” book, if you’ve… Particularly, if you’ve heard “Kosmic Consciousness” it really takes you deeper into the cosmology. At a particular point, you just understand the universe in a different way and particularly, how consciousness exists in the universe and particularly, human consciousness that changes you. In that sense, it’s a psychoactive system. You learn the system and you embody it and you’re by definition, a different person. You have a larger perspective. Now, it doesn’t solve all your problems and turn wine into water, water into wine or anything but…
Keith Witt: I don’t want to over promise you.
Neil Sattin: Dang. [laughter]
Keith Witt: I know, that would be great but it doesn’t do that. As far as I know, maybe it’s somebody else has turned water into wine. But that being said, that’s what I’d recommend. “Kosmic Consciousness” first and then if I was advising, do the “integral Spirituality.” Now, any of his books are utterly fascinating. I haven’t read all of them, but the ones I’ve read every single one of them has been great, because he knows that territory and describes it in ways that are surprisingly wonderful and very… To me, very applicable that’s why I wrote “Waking Up.” His stuff, to me at that point, hadn’t been adequately applied to psychotherapy and, “Well, I’ll do that.” [chuckle] I was at a conference, he said the books haven’t been written, I went home and wrote book.
Keith Witt: I dreamt about that material everyday for over in a year and then I would wake up and I’d write a 400-page book and I’d wrote… So I wrote a 400 page book and then send it to a couple of the integral people and said, “Hey, what do you think?” And they didn’t even remember who I was. It was one of those real bizarre things, but that led me into the system and into meeting people and into my other books and so on. I find it enormously useful in understanding psychotherapy and everything else. And parenting for instance, and integrally understanding of parenting in my opinion, makes you a hugely better parent because it makes the interiors of your child and the world views of your child way, way more visible. And gives you direction about how to guide your child to more fully occupy their current world view, and then give them little hints about going to the next one because you can’t skip world views, you have to go from one to the other. It helps you with sexuality, it helps you with your physical health, it helps you in your interface with culture, it helps you in your work.
Neil Sattin: Keith, Keith, you’re getting into water into wine territory here.
Keith Witt: Okay, I’m sorry. Sorry about that. Getting a little evangelical here, hallelujah brothers and sisters. I’m not that, it’s not for everybody. If you don’t like integral that’s fine, you can grow. You can transcend. I have no problem. I love you just as much if you hate integral. No problem. Just saying, just ’cause I love it. It’s like karezza and you, just ’cause you love it doesn’t mean everybody has to.
Neil Sattin: That’s right, that’s right. Well, Keith, it is always a pleasure to have you here on the show. I love your spirit, your wisdom and your willingness to go there despite how it might irritate people, not that we had that much of that here. And as you mentioned, it’s just always great to connect with you for the podcast. So thank you so much for your time and enthusiasm today.
Keith Witt: Well, thank you for having me on again. I had really a lot of fun.