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The spirituality of the couple therapist / couple coach Terry Real, and why I like him. Become your own coach!

I "am" a couples coach and I am not. Actually, I have professional training, also by Terry Real, but I do not officially practice for money or on a significant scale. I also "am" a certified hypnotist without practicing it, so I am no hypnotist either.

Picture of Terry Real

Instead, these acquired skills expand my relationships as I learn more and more from them as much as they learn from me. I think I have a pretty good view of what's going on around me. I also know most of my past sins, also some of the ongoing ones. I don't claim to know them all, or to always act on my knowledge in time.

And occasionally someone even listens to my infinite wisdom. But I think that's optional ("no attachment to outcome").

So, if a friend choses to stay in a terrible relationship for the next 5 years - who am I to tell them what they should do?

My highly recommended DIY strategy: become your own therapist / coach

I am not an unconditional fan of couples therapy. It can make things worse or be a waste of money. It's an unfortunate research finding that 50% of couples end up divorced or separated anyway. And it's hard to prove that couples therapy was the reason the others stayed together.

So, instead of relying on, paying and then blaming others, I decided to take my future into my own hands for a fraction of the cost. I got a couples therapy/coaching education.

Another aspect for my motivation: some years ago, through a series of Ayahuasca ceremonies, I had suddenly had a huge increase of empathy skills, and I wanted to build some formal skills around those.

Why did I choose Terry Real?

A few years ago, I happened to hear about Terry Real, a rather famous US couples coach and therapist. I based my decision on a hunch and maybe on age. He is 5 years older than me.

As I told someone , I really cannot accept the wisdom of a 45 year old who most likely has between zero and two children (me: four) and whose maximum length of a relationship may be only a few years (me: all in all about 50). That's how we men are. Always competitive.

I might even have the urge to give them marriage advice, e.g. how to have a good erotic life for the next 20-30 years of their marriage. And that would confuse roles.

Jaiya Ma - the Erotic Blueprints

To make this useful for readers: my advice would consist of two parts. First, find a partner with the same "Erotic Blueprint" or take this course. If it's too late for that, as usual, it's even more important to know about those Blueprints. Yes, I also took a class on these with Jaiya Ma (of Netflix fame) when she was not so famous and psychedelically enlightened.

Ester Perel - Mating in captivity

Also, keep a healthy distance from your partner. Love can kill sex. The distance part is my Ester Perel thinking ("Mating in Captivity"). She is a friend of Terry Real's and often uses his terminology.

Stan Tatkin - Fear your partner

Stan Tatkin is also in that camp. I liked when he said "fear your partner". That's because you can never be sure of them if you consistently treat them badly. No unconditional love - that is reserved for animals and children (Terry Real) . People in spiritual communities are usually abhorred by this thought. Unconditional compassion yes, unconditional love no, I then say.

Why was my choice of Terry Real perfect for me?

My hunch turned out to be good self-advice.

  • For a start, the training was online. So, I could subscribe from Germany.

  • Second, I could subscribe without preconditions, such as having any prior formal certificate, training, or other kinds of documented evidence for working in that area. That´s good because I studied sociology, and then worked in IT for thirty-plus years. Also I had been totally oblivious of proper relationship skills (despite my marriage) for way too long.

  • Third: the training was affordable and low-risk. There are levels, and I could chose how deep to go.

  • Fourth: there´s a huge range of experienced therapists in his associated learning group. One notices fast that therapists are people too. As Terry Real says repeatedly: a therapist is someone who needs 30 hours therapy per week.

  • Fifth, as part of the 5 Level 1 modules, one can participate in a regular FB-based group with 3 additional Q&A sessions per week that build on the basic skills taught in the training modules. In these sessions, Terry Real or one of his co-trainers will speak for 20-30 minutes on a specific topic (e.g., "How to Deal with Grandiose Women," or "How to Deal with Shut-Down Men," to take two popular topics). Then there is a 30 minute Q&A. I have done about 100 of these.

  • Sixth: Terry Real wants to make all his knowledge as widely available as possible, rather than to the privileged few.

  • Seventh: Terry Real considers his approach to be "spiritual" although he does not make a point of until asked. He has 50 years of meditation experience as a Buddhist, and says that his therapy career was jump-started through psychedelics. Both statements resonated with me. However: I did not know all of this until way into his training.

So, here, I just want to focus on how Terry Real defines his "spirituality" as a therapist. All of the following are his own words or only slightly modified from an improvised reply on one of the Q&A calls.

What is the spirituality of Terry Real´s "Relational Life Therapy"?

Terry defined it as state of consciousness, type of experience, and spiritual "features" (my term).

State of consciousness

  • Contact with something large, ubiquitous, alive (or,  large living, loving). Some people say spirit, others say god.

  • Expanded consciousness of your own mind.

  • Reduced borders between you and I  (separation is error). No existential separation.

In fact, based on my experience, this sounds like a psychedelic non-dual experience.


  • Spiritual experience  = being in a flow state - very Buddhist way of "being with"

  • Being in the "functional adult "(this is a special term of him, as opposed to the reactive child).

14 ways  in which RLT is spiritual

Then, Terry went on to improvise how the spirituality of RLT works in practice.

 in the "functional adult" with self-compassion is intrinsically spiritual

The state of intimacy is a spiritual state. It is the conjunction of love and truth. It is the experience of being seen AND loved. This is healing.

We are relational with our clients.   We build a true human relation.

 We synchonise our nervous system to that of our clients  This is energetic, visceral  co-regulation. "We know what they know, we feel what they feel".

We give energy to our client. We create a  parental holding environment in that sweet spot between mother and infant. It is an energetic dance, and umbilical chord from chest to chest.

We scan for and we engage the best part of our clients. We call forth their inner angels.   We engage with their functional adult, and then that part of them will show up  ("If you treat someone as he ought to be he will become who he ought to be" - Goethe).   We do not pathologise our client.  We do not believe that our clients are fragile. 

We wake people up.  We create the miracle of someone changing permanently because they had a shift in consciousness. Once they see, it's hard to unsee.   This is a sudden second-order shift in consciousness. This is a spiritual experience.

We reconnect our clients to themselves.  We enable empathy, compassion, and speaking up for themselves.

We call forth new our clients´s latent capacities. We teach them vulnerability,  compassion, and empathy. We elevate the developmental level of our clients

We teach and encourage relational mindfulness.  Relational mindfulness is the relational skeleton. It is a second-order consciousness beyond kneejerk reactions towards something that is free. Freedom from our own unconscious responses.  That IS the "earth skill" - the skill that all other skills come from.

We teach and even create from scratch self-esteem in our clients. Joining through the truth is relational self-esteem.  Divide the person from the behavior. Have a  cool eye on the person´s destructive behavior.  "You should feel bad about bad behavior".  But not so bad that it becomes an attack on the person. We model self-esteem by modelling it.

We speak with relational wisdom. No patriarchal perspective.  Multifactorial ecological relational. Understanding world from multidimensional perspective. No hubris. We correct for hubris that is essential patriarchy.  

We walk the talk.  We are in this with you. It is for us, not for you. We love ourself with the same humble respect.  We are not above you. We are all doing our best.  We don´t impose ourselfves on them. 

We teach in practice detachment from outcome.  At the micro level, sentence by sentence,  and at macro level for out outcome of therapy. We never get into fights with people. We dont get into control struggle.  We just tell our truth. Its your life, not mine.  What do I know? "Maybe the best thing for you  is to blow up your family". 

More advice: how to stay fresh and wise

Question:  How do have enough empathy and freshness all day long?   Answer: Just sit there, feel whatever the truth is and speak whatever the truth is.  Attachment to outcome is an empathy killer.

Question:  Am I wise enough?  Terry´s answer:  my technique is "rolling through my Rolodex of Terrys" and finding the part of me that is pretty much like my client. If I can access that I can pretty much tell what you would say and do, because I would say and do that".  Start with the assumption that there is a part of you that reflects the client.   Trust your intuition.  Also if you begin to not like the client.  Speak the truth.

Empathy techniques Q&A

Question: what if I am not in my flow state?    Answer:  Is my ego getting into it? Trigger, outcome, my attitude.   We have to go through periods of "coldness" eg of we don´t like the process.

Question:  How do you maintain your stamina?  Answer: Let that energy nourish your soul.  Flow state is refreshing.  No attachment to outcome. Point by point, sentence by sentence.  A "Zen not-caringnesss" that protects me from being drained.  Crash:  when the work is finished. Like an artist.  Like a wave.  It´s like a dance. Forward, beackward. Think less about the energy going from you to them, instead back and forth.

More quotes

  • It's easy to be spiritual when you are on the pillow

  • Be spiritual when your partner is screaming at you; be spiritual when you are feeling abandoned; be spiritual when you are in the dark night of your relationship and you feel that your relationship is a big mistake and you feel that you are trapped

  • Three kinds of "first consciousness": fight, flight, fixing (not "fight flight freeze"). This may need a separate post!.

  • Definition of "being spiritual": reaching for the prefrontal cortex when you are in the woosh; reaching for a different part of your brain. "You reach for a part that can stop and breathe and be deliberate". 


A thought on...

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