EP 19: Allow Yourself To Be Vulnerable

In this Hope4Med episode, we have a conversation with Deborah Rosasco, who shares her journey from firefighter EMT to discovering a passion for coaching to help others improve their lives. We discuss what it means to allow yourself to be vulnerable, acknowledge your needs and then create closeness in the important relationships in your life.

Connect with our guest, Deborah Rosasco
Website: https://www.willingcouples.com/

[00:00:00] Dr. JB: Ever wish for a safe place to have conversations that need to be had? A place where you could say the things that need to be said? Well, welcome to Hope4Med.

[00:00:15] Welcome back to the Hope4Med podcast with me, Dr. JB, as your host. Today’s featured guest is Deborah Rosasco, she is a former 13-year firefighter EMT and the first woman to be hired by Southern California Fire Department. She has since turned into a relationship coach and individual life coach. Welcome, Deborah Rosasco.

[00:00:41] Deborah Rosasco: Hello, Dr. JB, thank you so much for inviting me, and I also want to really thank you for all that you’re doing to help people in the healthcare profession. Your podcasts are amazing, I’ve listened to several of them. Thank you.

[00:00:55] Dr. JB: Well, thank you! I’m so happy to hear that. So, Ms. Rosasco, let’s start from the beginning. I love hearing people’s stories. So tell me a little bit more about yourself and what made you decide to become a firefighter EMT.

[00:01:14] Deborah Rosasco: Okay, Dr. JB, thanks for asking that question. I guess, where I’ll start is when my real career began, because I was one of those late bloomers, if you will. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was actually kind of frustrated with the type, the types of work that I was doing up until about the age of 28. And that’s when I left my home state of Ohio, got married, and moved to Southern California. So it was, it felt like a great opportunity to start over or to start anew, or to really find what my passion was. And I always knew I wanted to be in a helping profession. I just missed the boat earlier on in life to make those moves towards either being a therapist or a teacher, a nurse, something like that. So with my new husband here in Southern California, he saw an ad that they were recruiting, actively recruiting women firefighters onto the San Diego City Fire Department, so that, that began the journey. I went to a meeting where they talked about the fire service and about the opportunities and it just fit me to the T. I was very physically fit, very active, did a lot of running and road races and triathalon, things like that. And the huge opportunity to help people, it was just really up my alley. I couldn’t imagine anything better. It fits my personality of being active, it fits that idealism that I had to help people and not only help individually, but to be on a team, a team with a unified goal for helping people in the community, saving property, and then challenging myself physically as well. So that got me on the road to looking into what it would take to become a firefighter.

[00:03:14] Dr. JB: Awesome. And so what was that experience like for you?

[00:03:20] Deborah Rosasco: Well, just even the challenge of getting hired was pretty huge. There are so many applicants, sometimes thousands for a particular department, all told, I believe it took me around three years of doing various things in order to get hired. And some of the things that you do is volunteer on, on fire departments, volunteer fire departments, if they’ll take you on. I took classes to become a certified EMT, and then in volunteering as an EMT on an ambulance rig, whatever you can do to increase your knowledge for fire science work, I’m sorry, not for fire science work, but to become a firefighter and that does include an A.S. in fire science. So I was taking classes as well towards, towards that degree. The process in itself was also stressful I will say, because being a woman back in, and this was a long time ago, this was, I was hired in 1987, so started looking into it and doing the things that I could do to increase my knowledge and my education in about 1984. So although there were women on the biggest department in my area, which is San Diego City, there were other departments that had no women and there were many times people weren’t open to the idea. So it was challenging, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes discouraging, but I was pretty tough cookie, so I just kept rolling along, moving towards what I really felt I would be good at or, or moving towards how I knew I could contribute.

[00:05:02] Dr. JB: So in 1984 was when your husband saw that ad, and despite that ad and the fact that they were actively recruiting females to be in the fire department, it took three years?

[00:05:16] Deborah Rosasco: That’s right. And you know, for some people would take much, much longer, so I was actually maybe one of the luckier ones. Some people try for years and years, they never get hired of course, because there are hundreds and sometimes thousands, depending on the department, applying. So it was quite challenging and some discouragement along the way, but again, being goal-oriented at the time, I just kept forging forward.

[00:05:46] Dr. JB: Was that the case just to be a member of the fire department or was that also to become a paramedic at that time, that it took several years?

[00:05:56] Deborah Rosasco: Oh, good question. Back then, some of the departments were still, did not have their own paramedics. You had to be an EMT to either get hired, or you could be on the job and get your EMT while you were working on some departments, but most departments wouldn’t consider hiring you if you weren’t already an EMT, because then they, they wanted to put you to work right away. At the very least, while they were training you for the fire suppression work, you could still be on the rig and go out on all the medical emergencies as long as you had your EMT certification. So, that was of utmost important. Some departments, it was important to be a paramedic, but most departments still had contracts with outside companies that we ran in partnership with. So you didn’t necessarily, and in the particular department that I was hired on, didn’t even have paramedics for many, many years, even after I was gone. They still contracted with a company.

[00:06:59] Dr. JB: Got it. Got it. Man, so three years later you were hired. And so when you were volunteering for the fire department, did you have another job on the side, like volunteer means you don’t get paid at all?

[00:07:15] Deborah Rosasco: Exactly. Being new to Southern California, I was still just doing odd jobs, trying to, and going to school at the same time, taking some fire science courses and doing some odd jobs, really looking to get that final job that I wanted, which was the fire service. I had my heart set on it. Now, after I got my EMT certification, I did work for a short period of time. One of the local hospitals was hiring EMTs, believe it or not, to work almost like a nursing assistant. So I worked on respiratory care floor for short period of time, only about three months because I actually did get hired while I was working at that hospital. So you could actually have other jobs and volunteer. You, you could put in as many hours as you wanted to, as far as the volunteer on, on departments, that would take on a volunteer, but of course, the more, the better. It’s going to look better for you. Not only look better for you, but give you a lot more experience that you could report and talk about once you went through the hiring process and were interviewed. You could, you can definitely hold a job and still do volunteering on your days off.

[00:08:32] Dr. JB: Got it. And did you volunteer at the department that you wanted to get hired at or anywhere that would accept you?

[00:08:40] Deborah Rosasco: At the time, the department that I got hired on was not taking on any, they would call them reserves at the time or volunteers. So I had to– that was the other challenge– to find departments in San Diego County that would take on volunteers. And I did find one, there were a few, like two or three at the time and depending on if they were full, cause they would only take on so many volunteers at one particular time, so that was a little challenging to find one that would, and eventually I did find one that I could do some volunteering with.

[00:09:17] Dr. JB: All right. So, so we’re back to three years later, now you are officially hired and you are a firefighter. What was that like?

[00:09:29] Deborah Rosasco: Well, first of all, it was like a dream come true. I mean, I still, when you just asked that question, I got a feeling. So the feeling came back how, I mean, it really brought up a lot of feelings for me just now. Just, I was just, it felt so complete. It felt like I had met the challenge. I, I was going to do work finally that I felt was meaningful and would utilize some of the skills that I had, I was excited about the EMT work, I was excited about it all. It just felt very exciting. And of course, there was that fear in there. In fact, it just brought back a memory of, even prior to getting hired and looking at my first EMT book, let’s say, and they were very graphic back in the day. I don’t know that they are as graphic these days, but I mean, we saw everything that you see, Dr. JB, on probably a daily basis, but, you know, avulsions and lacerations and burns. And so there was that little bit of fear too. How will I handle these emergencies, not knowing what we’ll come up against once we get on scene? So I had that trepidation. I also had the trepidation of being the first woman, of course, that was a huge, I was excited about that, but also it was a huge, “hmm, how’s this going to go?” How will I be accepted? What kind of challenges will I face because of this? So it was just the myriad of feelings, excitement, and a little bit of fear. Of course I would be missing the point if I didn’t say there was that fear in there as well.

[00:11:09] Dr. JB: Yeah, you had volunteered for three years. So during that time period, when you were volunteering, what kind of experience were you exposed to and how was that different than when you actually got hired?

[00:11:20] Deborah Rosasco: Well, yes, during those three years of trying to get hired, I wouldn’t say that I volunteered a lot. That was only part of what I was doing. So I would volunteer when I could, which that actually was more minimal for me, that’s just one of the things you’re asked to do or it is advised to do, and I did as much of that as I could, but I was also mainly taking courses at the local college that you could get your fire science degree in and, and working, just living life. And then I would go and take interviews, getting on the fire services is a three-pronged process. You normally start with, it usually starts with the written exam or the physical agility test, one of those to start first. So sometimes it’s the physical first, then the written exam. Then, there’s an oral board that you sit in front of. So, it’s kind of an intense process. So there were some departments I was applying on, so that was with, within that three year period that just doing those various things. When I actually volunteered, I didn’t come across– that particular department I volunteered on, and again, I didn’t volunteer a lot– I don’t remember any very intense medicals at that time. They seemed more routine the nights that I was on and we didn’t have any fires, which was interesting. Just depends what day you’re there, what happens, how many calls that engine goes out on. So I wasn’t exposed to the intensity of the medicals that I was once I got hired on my department because there was, the particular department I was hired on, had a high level of crime and gang shootings and lots of accidents on the freeways, so it was a bit different.

[00:13:10] Dr. JB: Okay. So I completely understand your apprehension with starting. And so how long did you work there?

[00:13:18] Deborah Rosasco: I worked 12 plus years and before getting hired there, I worked one season as a wild land firefighter, and that was a stepping stone as well. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to work municipal or wild land. So working wild land proved to me that I did want to work municipal, city fire department. Number one, I really was interested in the medical part of it. And on many wild land fire positions, depending on the jurisdiction that you’re in, there’s– you may not go on any medicals or very, very few. Whereas if you’re a city firefighter, that’s probably 80% of what you’re going to do is medicals and maybe the other 20-30% fires and other types of calls. So yeah, 12, 12 plus years on that particular city department.

[00:14:12] Dr. JB: Okay. And you were the only woman?

[00:14:15] Deborah Rosasco: Only one for 12 years.

[00:14:17] Dr. JB: For the entire time of your stay?

[00:14:20] Deborah Rosasco: Yes.

[00:14:22] Dr. JB: Okay, and so, talk with me more about your experiences being the sole female on your unit.

[00:14:31] Deborah Rosasco: Yeah. Hmm, well, there was definitely a loneliness about it. Now the larger department that was near my department did have women on it at the time, I think out of about 800 firefighters or 700 firefighters, there were like 35. So it’s still a very low number, but there were times I could communicate with some of the gals on that department, which would be helpful, but being on my department, being the only woman, the experience was very, very stressful, extremely stressful. Not only, I mean, as, as any woman being the first timer or the only one in any occupation, they’re going to experience something similar that as I did, and this being a very physical job, you’re going to add that element of always needing to measure up. Of course that’s important, but more eyes on you than you would like sometimes. So there was that added stress of not only learning the job very well and being on probation for a year and also trying to acclimate and be empathetic to– I mean, it was just something different for the guys too. And I always took that into consideration. This is new territory for all of us. I think that was helpful that I could see it through their eyes. I think that did help our relationships, but it didn’t always make it that much easier for me, I don’t think. And one of the, one of the toughest things I believe is the way that– and I’ll be stereotypic in my language here because this is, this is just a generality– but the way that women might talk about an incident afterwards versus the way like how guys might talk about it with one another. I think women, and again, I’m just being general about this, women might talk about it in more of a vulnerable way so we could express more our feelings about it. Yet in the environment, this is a paramilitary environment, being in the fire service, that wasn’t always that acceptable to be as vulnerable about how you felt. And some of the guys were, I, I’ll say that. So again, I felt a little, maybe not able to express myself fully that way as well.

[00:16:52] Dr. JB: And can you tell my listener more, what you mean by paramilitary?

[00:16:57] Deborah Rosasco: Paramilitary care. Yeah, well, the structure is based on ranks, a firefighter, captain, engineer, battalion chief. You move through the ranks if you are promoted and each rank has its duties. And, you know, the firefighter has particular duties, the engineer drives the fire engine and has particular duties, the captain is the boss on scene, and then a battalion chief would be the overall boss, if you will, on a bigger scene. So that’s the ranking system and a lot of the language is military language, flank, attack, strategy, scene assessments, all the language is a military, you know, setting up, it’s like you’re setting up for war and, and the fire is your enemy.

[00:17:47] Dr. JB: And so did you find that a lot of the people that you work with did have a military background, or not really?

[00:17:54] Deborah Rosasco: Yeah, that was relatively common. And I can think back, oh, there were a few guys that I worked with that did have some extensive military background. Years and years ago, I don’t know how it is today, but years and years ago, fire departments would actually actively look for people who had been in the military to hire them. And in fact, if they went through the hiring process, sometimes they were given extra points to get hired because they had some military experience, and it kind of makes sense. And people who work for the Navy are often, or I think all Navy personnel now have to be trained as firefighters, onboard ship firefighters, in case of fire breaks out on ship. So you could see why them coming to an interview they might do well because they have some firefighting experience and they know the language or they know some terms or some of the equipment. So, it was kind of common to have military personnel in the fire service.

[00:18:55] Dr. JB: I know that you mentioned some differences between the how females and males may experience different traumatic events or process different traumatic events in the fire department. When you were a firefighter and you had these traumatic situations that you responded to, what were some resources available to you to help process?

[00:19:20] Deborah Rosasco: Hmm. Well, you know, I will say there was some comfort in the fact that when we went on scene, we went as a team. Now it will be, might be one fire engine on a particular scene, let’s say an accident, and so you would have three to four people that experienced the same thing with you. Now, the benefit in that is we lived together 24 hours at a time, of course, at the fire station and that’s kind of separates us from other medical personnel, or even police officers, because we could then go back to the station and sit around the table, or later that evening at dinner or the next morning at breakfast, have a conversation about it. So that, that could be comforting sometimes depending on who your teammates were that particular day, just what their personality was like. If they were the type that just wanted to sort of brush it under the rug completely, not talk about it, then that could, that could influence your experience as well. But sometimes it was comforting to have people who just experienced that same thing with you. Unlike other health care professionals who go home to people who haven’t experienced it, or can’t visualize it, don’t know anything about it, so that was available to us. We did have an EAP program, employee assistance program. I don’t believe I ever used it, but there were resources there for counseling, and you could also, we got health insurance through our, you know, as an employee so you could always go to therapy, or therapist, to talk about things, but I don’t remember anything else that really targeted. Now, the interesting thing is that anytime we would have a fire, we would debrief those. I mean, we would hold a meeting and go over what went well, what didn’t go well. How was the communication? How could we improve? And we didn’t do that so much for medical, it’s very few of those. And now that I’m saying that, it would have been more helpful to debrief some of those. I do remember debriefing maybe one or two that we felt the medical could have gone a lot better and it was a dangerous situation. The scene wasn’t really secured. The police were on scene, but yet they really didn’t have it secure, but they’re asking us to come in. I do recall that one, but not a lot of resources that I can remember other than the ones I just mentioned.

[00:21:52] Dr. JB: You mentioned that there was always opportunities to have conversations around the table about what you guys had experienced, be it with dinner or breakfast or whatnot. Did you find that the personalities in the fire department were pretty open to having frank, honest conversations about their emotions around certain events?

[00:22:13] Deborah Rosasco: Well, you know, Dr. JB, there was such a mix. There was such a mix. Yeah, so I, I could say yes and no to that. I think because it is a paramilitary environment, you’re trained to be how soldiers are trained to be. You don’t want to show too much vulnerability because you may have to be the one that has to make the attack, whether the attack is, unfortunately in war it’s another person, very unfortunate, or in the fire service, you’re attacking the fire. So there is that culture of buck up, be tough, don’t be a wuss, something like that, you know? But yet there were very sensitive people as well. I’m very sensitive. So I, I think I experienced both.

[00:23:08] Dr. JB: And so after 12 years of doing this work, you decided to transition out?

[00:23:14] Deborah Rosasco: Right. Yeah, I decided to leave for a number of reasons. I would say that it was very wearing on me. It was very wearing on me over time to continue to be the only woman. It’s very interesting being in an environment where you are the, the one and the only and when there’s no one there of your particular gender. For me, I mean, this was a bit personal, but for me, I, it’s almost like a began to lose some of my own femininity or, or to honor, that’s what it was, I was losing the ability to honor what was feminine, sad to say, and just creating more of my own tough shell. So I, I really wasn’t comfortable in my shell with who I was. That was part of it that I was noticing more and more. That people would often say, “oh, you’re so strong.” Everybody I would meet, I mean, even if they knew I was a firefighter or not, “oh, you’re so strong, you’re so… we can see this about you and that.” And inside of me, I was saying, yeah, I am very strong, I’m a tough person, and I am so vulnerable inside. You know, I was like, I was crying out a bit for that to be seen as well. So that was part of it on, on a personal note about me. And then, I also wasn’t feeling utilized as much in the fire service anymore. I was growing, I was changing. Often when we went out on medical, I felt a loss when we would hand our patient over to the paramedics and the paramedics would drive them off to the hospital. Or sometimes load the patient into the ambulance and I would drive the ambulance to the hospital, but wheel them into the emergency room and then leave. And I mean, we could check with the paramedics as we did about certain patients and they, when they were around the station and had time, they would fill us in, but I really was having a need for more involvement sometimes. I mean, even on scene, I would see that, oh, this person just needs something more emotionally right now or they need more support. I could see it, I could feel it. And we didn’t have that. You’re scooping them up and hauling away, and I, it felt, it didn’t feel complete for me. It just didn’t anymore. And that was another reason why I knew it was time to leave and recreate myself into new work.

[00:25:45] Dr. JB: And so what was this new work?

[00:25:47] Deborah Rosasco: Well, when I first left the fire service, I did some massage therapy for awhile. I, I realized the beautiful exchange of energy that came about by comforting someone physically. How much physical touch is needed, how much it communicates to another person, and how much I would receive when I would get a massage. And shortly into the massage work, I was seeing some, wondering about the mind-body connection, wondering why and how so many people came with certain stresses in certain parts of their body. Or sometimes they would have a family member, like a mother and then their daughter come and they had stress in the same part of their body, and I just became fascinated about that. So I went into studying hypnotherapy and became a certified master hypnotherapist, and that work took me into the realm of our subconscious mind. And mainly I focused on emotional release work, inner child work, that seemed to be most of the work I did. Of course, there were people who came for weight loss and non-smoking, things like that, but most of the work seemed to be going back into our lives, into traumatic situations and releasing some of that past trauma, if you will, and then comforting that part of ourselves, the inner child part of ourself that lives on with us even today. That’s part of our vulnerability today, even comes up in relationships with another person. So a lot of that work was exploring that and also exploring the different facets of us. We have the victim inside of us. We have the inner, we have the, the judge, the orphan, the lover, the supporter, all of these different parts of ourselves. That was the hypnotherapy work that I did.

[00:27:50] Eventually, I, you just, you just change. I began to change throughout my work and as I evolved, I wanted to evolve into different work. I didn’t really want to so much work with people with their eyes closed anymore. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do as much of the emotional release work. It was, it’s, it’s a lot to take on when people are in their emotional work. They’re re-experiencing it right then, and it would be pretty tough for me to be there with them in so much pain. So much pain, so much crying. It was like their injury just happened yesterday, whereas some of these injuries have been many, many years ago. So I transitioned into life coaching where perhaps there’s not as much emotional release. There is some, but it’s more working with things that are happening today. Although we always revisit some childhood and look at patterns there, how are those patterns affecting people today? How did those affect your relationships? And I found my love for life coaching and couples coaching in particular.

[00:28:58] Dr. JB: You know, I think one of the things that’s really interesting about what you’ve been saying is just how in tune you were with your feelings and reflective, and the first time that really became apparent was when you were in the fire department and you were saying how people were commenting about how strong you were exteriorly, but inside you’re like, no, I’m so vulnerable and essentially getting in touch with your own needs and your own wants. How did you do that? Can you, can you speak with my a little bit more of like how did you accomplish that?

[00:29:39] Deborah Rosasco: You know, thank you for that observation that you made. Gosh, that’s a good question. How did I do it? Well, I mean, I’m a very feeling person, that’s, it’s an advantage. It’s one of my strengths, but it also can be a painful place to live sometimes when you’re so emotionally in tune not only to your own, but to those of people around you. So, I don’t know, I believe it just came naturally on one hand, but the other hand was that I became more attuned when I realized how my behavior, how my personality, how I was either not evolving, or holding myself in, or holding myself down, how that was also affecting the people around me. So, that’s when I became even more aware. I mean, I’m living in my own head, I know what’s going on with me, I’m living in my own body, but yet also being aware, noticing how when I was super stressed or when I was unfulfilled or emotionally overwhelmed, that bleeds over into all your other relationships. And I’m not sure if that answered your question.

[00:30:53] Dr. JB: Well, I think that just provided further example of how attuned you are, because then you said I’m not only attuned to myself, but I’m in tune to other people. But continuing along that path, when you’re talking about relationships, you’re talking about both professional and personal relationships, correct?

[00:31:17] Deborah Rosasco: Yeah, absolutely, all relationships. Yes.

[00:31:21] Dr. JB: So what you’re saying is this stressful traumatic event that I experienced at my workplace doesn’t just stay at my workplace?

[00:31:30] Deborah Rosasco: Oh, exactly. Yeah, no. Yeah, you bring it home with you. At the time, I was married to a wonderful man. He would listen and he was very present, I could tell he was very present. As I look back, there were things I needed from the conversation that perhaps he didn’t know how to do, such as ask me some open-ended questions and help me to maybe express a little more, which most people don’t know how to do that. But it definitely came home with me, not only the traumas, but the toughness that I had to had to uphold while I was on the job. I brought that toughness home with me, and sometimes that’s not so conducive to your relationship, your intimate relationships.

[00:32:20] Dr. JB: I think one of the things that several healthcare professionals probably struggle with is just knowing what can you say versus what can’t you say and what is too much. And sometimes we think, oh, this is, this is too heavy of a burden for my loved one so I’m not going to share with them, I’m going to keep it inside and I’ll just figure it out on my own. Is that a healthy thing to do?

[00:32:48] Deborah Rosasco: Well, such a good question. And I imagine you experienced that a lot, you’re probably quite bombarded in an emergency room. Yeah, you say, is it a healthy thing? I think each scenario is different. It depends on your partnership. It depends on the person. I don’t believe there’s a one size fits all. It’s going to depend on so many things. What kind of openness do you share in your partnership? How much time do you dedicate to that, to sharing what’s going on in your life outside of the relationship? So it would be, I would say it really depends, but ultimately is it healthy to hold it in? I don’t think it is. I think that you need more than your, definitely I think you need more than your significant other, your partner, because you don’t want to rely exclusively on them or too heavily on them. To have more of an extended way of expressing, and there’s a variety of ways, I mean, journaling, I used to, I used to journal that was helpful. You know, we each have our own individual way. I say sometimes to people, well, you know, dancing is just such a great way to release stress and they would say, “oh, that stresses me out.” So it’s not, it’s not one thing for each person. Whereas, you know, dancing would be a great release from, for me, other people might be self-conscious about it and that wouldn’t work for them. So I just believe each of us has to find our way about, about how we can express the things. Some people do artwork, some people collage, walk in nature. There’s just, it’s dependent on your environment as well.

[00:34:29] Dr. JB: How or when are you supposed to ask your partner for support?

[00:34:34] Deborah Rosasco: How and when exactly. What I would start with, and I had to own up to this with my own self recently, to first of all, acknowledge to yourself what’s going on. I was trying to fool myself.

[00:34:52] Dr. JB: That’s true. That’s true. And there’s only so much fooling you could, you could try, but it catches up to you because you keep seeing that reflection in that mirror.

[00:35:03] Deborah Rosasco: So true. I was trying to fool myself and until one day walking, this was, this was about a month ago, I had to own up and say, you are in overwhelm. And when I acknowledged that to myself, that was so great. It was, so it was, it was a relief, because I was avoiding that.

[00:35:27] Dr. JB: It is. Yep. It just takes a load off of your shoulder just by just acknowledging it. Just, just saying, you know what, this is what’s happening.

[00:35:36] Deborah Rosasco: Right. Because there I was back in that old environment of me, and an old environment or the current environment I’m sure, of healthcare professionals. Oh, I’m just going to tough it out. This is my job. I’m supposed to be this way. I’m supposed to tough it out and I’m supposed to be strong. And so we go back to that pattern, I mean, I sometimes go back to my old pattern, but until I said, oh, yep, you know, own up to this. So back to your question, recognizing where we are, being real with ourselves and getting past the fear of acknowledging to ourselves that this is where I’m at right now. So I think that’s a start. And then the way that I would say to ask your partner for support is first of all, after you’re clear with yourself, kind of know what it is you want from your partner. And I’d say also it can be more beneficial to give your partner a little bit of a heads up. Not always, but I find that it’s, it’s helpful just to– so sometimes we have something on our mind and we, it feels urgent to us of course, and we want to express it or talk about it right then, but for communication to go really well, sometimes it’s best to like give them a little warning. Like, “Hey hun,” or “Hey dear, really got something I want to talk with you about it, can we have that conversation a little bit later today? How about three o’clock, or what would work for you?” So now your partner is already anticipating you have something pressing or something important you want to speak with them about and they can get their mind wrapped around it. They can put their focus on the fact that you need them. So I would, I would always suggest that, to give them a little heads up. Not that you’re always going to do that, but from time to time. And then, when you’re having the conversation, be as clear as you can about what you want and you need. And I know that you can’t always be that clear, when we’re in overwhelm, when there’s so much going on, you may not know what you need from your partner, and if that’s your truth, express that. I really don’t know what I need from you right now, I just need to talk. I need to, I need to express to you the stresses that I’m experiencing. And, and I would even start there and say, I’m really not looking for you to solve this or give me any suggestions, I just really need to be heard right now. So I would even starting with that. So many times we start with what’s going on with us and the, the other person will chime in right away with advice or suggestions, and they’re really just trying to be helpful. But if we can preface it in the beginning by saying that we really don’t want a solution right now, it can, it can be helpful. And you also asked when and how often?

[00:38:23] Dr. JB: Not necessarily how often, we could ask you to answer that question how often, but really how and when to ask your partner for support. But tagging onto something that we mentioned before, and I really want to stress that, is it’s hard to ask for support when you do not acknowledge to yourself that something is not okay. You know, that’s, that’s the first step. You have to come clean to yourself. You have to be able to try to process or just realize that things are just not okay to yourself first, before you can reach out for support or help from anyone else.

[00:39:09] Deborah Rosasco: Absolutely. I think that’s imperative. And how can you get any of your needs met when you don’t even acknowledge that you have a need? You may not, you may not know exactly what you need. I believe that it’s helpful if we can, if we can get clearer before we talk to our significant other when we’re asking for their support and to be as specific as possible, if we can be specific. If we can’t, perhaps the conversation in itself will be enough to relieve the pressure, the anxiety, or the, the disillusionment that we’re experiencing for the time being. But if we can be specific and ask for something from them, then that could be helpful because often we may be talking to our loved one and say, oh, I really need your support, I’m really overwhelmed, and they have no idea what to do. They don’t really know. And so they need a little empathy sometimes as well, because when we’re stressed out, it is affecting the relationship and sometimes even offering them a bit of empathy and just a bit, just a bit, to say, hey, I know this is really tough on you too and you may not know what to do, and how can we work on this together?

[00:40:24] Dr. JB: And the other thing is that this isn’t just like the one and only conversation, right? It’s a starting point. You could revisit the same conversation over and over again as you get more clarity and more clarity, but it’s a continuous process. It’s not just a one-time and done.

[00:40:39] Deborah Rosasco: Absolutely. And in the couples work that I do, I’ve studied with the Gottman Institute, they have come up with some great, just great suggestions. And one of them is called the stress reducing conversation, and you could call it anything, but it really is a, a recipe really for keeping couples close together and being that soft place to land for one another. And it’s the, the idea or the suggestion is to spend 40 minutes a day, 20 minutes each, find 20 minutes for each of you to talk about something that is stressing you out. Don’t talk about the relationship, something else. It might be your work in the healthcare profession or their work as a teacher, who knows, but whatever those stresses are. And the procedure is just to let one person talk at a time, just simply have the other person be present to you, showing genuine interest and knowing that this is solidarity between the two of us, it’s you and me against the world. You’d never want to tell your partner that they shouldn’t feel a certain way, you just simply support, support, support and ask lots of open-ended questions about what’s most important to you about this? What’s the worst thing that you think could happen? What’s this like for you? You know, all sorts of open-ended questions until the, the speaker is completely finished, and give it like 20 minutes, completely finished while you’re showing genuine interest, asking open-ended questions. Now at the very end of this conversation, it’s maybe okay then for the other person to ask if you need any suggestions from them or you could ask them for suggestions or maybe some advice, then perhaps at the end. But not during, and then you just, you just change sides. Now, the other person goes through the same process of simply talking about something and it doesn’t have to be always about stress. The recommendation is to maybe there’s one thing in there that you’d like to talk about that you’re really looking forward to that the other person could explore with you. Yet, primarily we want to find a place to release our stress and not just to release the stress. This creates a lot of closeness between you and your partner, when you feel completely listened to and now you know more about their world. Not just what’s going on in their world, but how they’re feeling about their world, the world that your partner doesn’t know all that much about, and an opportunity for empathy for the other person. And it’s, it’s really rewarding and it really creates an outlet and builds closeness.

[00:43:36] Dr. JB: Creating a love map.

[00:43:37] Deborah Rosasco: Yes. Yeah. Love maps, knowing the other person’s world.

[00:43:42] Dr. JB: So this process is something you said we should do. How frequently, daily?

[00:43:47] Deborah Rosasco: The recommendation is daily. It really is. And you know, most people would probably say that they won’t find the time for it or some people start, some couples will start off with this and like a lot of things in life, we get out of practice, but just, just like our relationships, we want them to be the best they can be. We’re not looking for perfection, life does get in the way sometimes of spending this quality time. But when you really think about 40 minutes a day, I mean, you could set a timer if you like, okay, 20 minutes, tell me about these experiences you’ve been having or a particular experience that’s been stressful for you. And again, while the other person continually just offers you empathy and also asks you questions. So you’re often solving it for yourself many times just by having the other person be present to you.

[00:44:39] Dr. JB: So by doing this on a daily basis, would this be like relying too heavily on your partner for the support?

[00:44:46] Deborah Rosasco: Again, great question. You know, I go back again to it depends, it depends– I would love it to not be too much for any relationship, 20 minutes a day, but again, it might depend on your relationship. Yet, if you think about it, if you’re sharing for 20 minutes with your partner, and then they, remember you switched sides, and now they’re sharing 20 minutes, I don’t think that it’s imbalanced really. I don’t think it would be too heavy for your partner, they’re getting that outlet too. Not only are they tuning into your world, and the idea is to be closer to you and know what’s happening, you are also hearing more about their world, being able to offer them more empathy, understanding closeness and compassion. So I don’t, in, in a perfect world, I would think that’s not relying too heavily, but as couples, you have to see what’s going to work for you.

[00:45:48] Dr. JB: And is that the only thing you need, is just carving out 40 minutes to be able to offload some of the stressors?

[00:45:56] Deborah Rosasco: Oh, no, I don’t think so at all. No, I just think that’s, that’s just part of it. That’s just part of your support system. If you’re talking about, are you talking about just relieving stress in general or building a stronger relationship?

[00:46:13] Dr. JB: I think I’m talking about a combination of both. but I think relieving stress in general. I think that going back to an earlier question is, when you come home from a hard day, right, and you’ve seen so much, and you said in terms of myself in my day-to-day as an emergency medicine physician. Yes. I see a ton and quite frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to talk about my job when I come home. I’ve had my codes, I’ve had these tough conversations, I’ve had patients die, and the last thing I really want to do is talk about what happened at work.

[00:46:52] Deborah Rosasco: Okay. That’s a good point. That’s another, that’s why it does depend on one relationship and what’s going on in life. There may be times, do you feel that there are times where that would be helpful and you have?

[00:47:06] Dr. JB: Oh, yes. I think it’s the immediacy of it all, especially if it was a particularly stressful day, the last thing I want to do is to continue and bring that stress home. I just want to leave it behind for a little bit and then refocus on something different that’s not work-related. And of course I’ll circle back around to work, but probably not immediately.

[00:47:27] Deborah Rosasco: Absolutely. That makes great, great sense. Sure, sure. Yeah. And I do recall, since you’re saying that, that there were times, yeah, I absolutely didn’t want to talk about an incident, not then, maybe later, or maybe a couple of days later, I was still processing it. So yeah, you’re absolutely right. So in, just when we’re talking about building love maps or reducing stress in a relationship, that’s just one of the tools. And perhaps you would have a conversation about something else that would be stress-relieving for you. Maybe it wouldn’t be about work, but just to have a connection with your partner that would actually take your mind away from what you just experienced. You could use it that way as well.

[00:48:12] Dr. JB: Yeah. I think, in general, it’s just creating space, intentionally creating space to be able to have that moment, that time of closeness, because if you don’t intentionally do that, the day will get away from you and then you won’t have that time. And before you know it, it’s days, it’s weeks ,it’s months, and you, you wouldn’t have had carved out that time for you guys to really connect on the daily.

[00:48:36] Deborah Rosasco: So true. I mean, and, and that is, if you don’t want to talk about the stress of the day because it’s making it even more stressful, then you could use this time to talk about something that you’re really looking forward to, that you’ve been thinking about doing, taking a new class or, and just simply talk about that for your 20 minutes, but primarily just, you want to just bring to the forefront that if you can have your partner be that soft place to fall from time to time by relieving some stress, that would be of help.

[00:49:14] Dr. JB: Very, very helpful, and improve the closeness of your relationship because for a lot of healthcare professionals, we find that our, our personal relationships oftentimes are really strained or can be strained, and we can lose touch with people that we were close to before entering this profession. And so, it’s important to really keep an eye on those personal relationships outside of work and allotting time to strengthen those.

[00:49:51] Deborah Rosasco: Absolutely. I mean, there’s the stresses that you experience at work in the healthcare profession, it can manifest in so many ways. It could just, it could express itself in anger and you’re not even aware of where that’s coming from, or you bring that anger home with you. You didn’t even know that what you were experiencing at work was going to manifest as anger. So, yeah, I agree. Good point.

[00:50:16] Dr. JB: And one last question is, in terms of the couples therapy, I assume both of the partners need to engage?

[00:50:27] Deborah Rosasco: Good question. You know, you can have the best intentions of creating a wonderful relationship and of course, by making shifts in your own perspective and your own behavior, thought patterns, and habits, yes, it can make some positive changes within the relationship, but ultimately yes. You can find yourself in a drought as well if you’re the only one making all of the changes, so ultimately yes. That’s why I call it willing couples, is because you, you, if you’re not willing, it’s going to be a tough road. So ultimately both people. And I, I always start with talking with the couple together first, then we meet separately, and then we come back together again. And during that time, I’m asking a lot of specific questions to really see the strengths, the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities in the relationship and not jumping in right away with, with help. I think that’s a mistake sometimes to talk with couples briefly and because couples come pretty, pretty stressed and people want, like in the emergency room, they want help right now. And I know it, it does involve them having a bit of patience to wait for some intervention, but that’s the way I’ve chosen to do it now over the years. It’s because you might move too quickly before you really observe, and you’re giving the antidote, you’re giving the prescription too quickly. So I like to observe people together. And during the time together, even have them have a conflict conversation while I’m with them. That tells me a lot. Something in their relationship that has been stressful to them, something they haven’t been able to solve, and then I watch and observe how they interact with each other. What are the pluses? What are the minuses of how they communicate? They meet again separately, then come back together, and I have more of a, an evaluation now, more observations to give them some tools to work with.

[00:52:32] Dr. JB: Yeah, and it’s true because every person is unique, every relationship is unique, and so that technique actually is, is very smart.

[00:52:42] Deborah Rosasco: Thank you. I think it works very well, and I didn’t always do it that way and I really can look back and see that this is much more productive now. And again, I have to really coach my clients into giving them some hope that we’re not going to jump in right away and they want to look to me to solve something. And really, I’m just going to give them tools to solve it with each other, not even solve, but manage many times, manage the conflicts, but not only manage conflict, build these love maps and, and build some admiration again for one another and some positivity and trust and commitment.

[00:53:21] Dr. JB: So, Ms. Rosasco, if my listener wanted to get in touch with you, how can they do so?

[00:53:28] Deborah Rosasco: Well, thank you, I think the, the easiest way might be my website, which is willingcouples.com, there’s ways on the website to get in touch with me,

[00:53:41] Dr. JB: when we talk about health care professionals and relationships and strengthening relationships, do you have any words of advice for them in terms of any additional things that they can engage in to really strengthen those personal relationships with others?

[00:54:02] Deborah Rosasco: Hmm, well, sort of what we talked about earlier, being aware of, as aware as you can be about what’s going on with yourself and having, admitting it to yourself, and then having people in your life that you can trust and you can talk with, it might be your, your partner or friends, I mean, and you’ve got to kind of use your wisdom with who to talk with sometimes. Sometimes other people unknowingly don’t help. They don’t mean to not help, but the way that they respond to you or try to fix it for you may not be helpful. And you can always pay for a professional, pay for a therapist, pay for coach, I say that’s a paid friend. Keeping your life in as relative balance as you can. I know we talk about balance a lot and it’s hard to keep life in complete balance, but recognizing what you need and asking for what you need. Just those are the things I can think of right now,

[00:55:00] Dr. JB: Recognizing what you need and asking for what you need is a sign of allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

[00:55:09] Deborah Rosasco: Yeah, it really is. And I don’t think we’ve, we’ve really known how to ask for what we need because we’re not even sure sometimes, and so we express ourselves in frustration and we often talk about things that we don’t want or things that we’re unhappy with. And I understand that there’s a time for that to be expressed. Yet, if we can, if we can get a little clearer on what our feelings have been and what some of those needs are and, and have a variety of ways of getting those needs met, as we talked about earlier, not relying too heavily on one area of our life, but having more of a variety. And not just people, but could be nature, it could be jumping in the ocean, if you have one nearby you. Cycling, journaling, writing, having a variety of things to turn to when you’re in need.

[00:56:03] Dr. JB: And allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I think allowing yourself to be vulnerable allows for the creation of closeness in relationships.

[00:56:11] Deborah Rosasco: That, that’s so true. And it does get tough in the profession, the healthcare profession. I mean, I’m not in the healthcare profession and I was, I was an EMT only, but I kind of know the environment and you’re supposed to be the one that everybody goes to. And again, everybody goes to you and you tough it up and you take a lot on yourself. But yes, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and allowing yourself to feel the feelings that you’re feeling and having that trusted friend or partner to, to express those things to.

[00:56:44] Dr. JB: Yeah. Who says a doc can’t rap? D O C T O R J B. The greatest doctor to ever touch the mic. The greatest podcast ever broadcasted or prerecorded. Come learn some. Each one, teach one. I’m done.


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