The “Cinematic Immersion Method”

Part II
Warren Farrell, Ph.D.

For the principles behind “cinematic immersion,”

see Warren Farrell,Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say

The dilemma of almost every intimate relationship is that, on the one hand, no long-term intimate relationship blossoms without each partner being able to express tough-to-hear feelings without “walking on eggshells.” And, on the other hand, almost no one can hear criticism from a loved one without becoming defensive–thus increasing everyone’s feeling that it isn’t safe to express our true selves.

Therefore, a way of hearing our partner without being in a defensive mindset is needed. That requires setting aside time to meditate our selves into an altered mindset. The best alternative mindset I have been able to develop is one I call “Cinematic Immersion.”

“Cinematic Immersion” introduces “Seven Mindsets” that, taken together, create an altered state in which we can experience hearing our partner’s toughest-to-hear feelings as love rather than as an attack.

The “Seven Mindsets.” The most important of the “Seven Mindsets” is the first, the “Love Guarantee.” The meditation that allows for the “Love Guarantee” to feel real is “The more I fully understand my partner, the more she or he will feel loved by me; therefore, the more she or he will feel love for me.”

It takes considerable discipline before the first “Love Guarantee” mindset feels genuine. It is rare to do this from just reading about it. (Which is why I conduct the “Couples’ Communication Retreats” at Esalen. ) Once the “Love Guarantee” mindset feels genuine, the final six mindsets can become part of the training. These seven mindsets constitute the Cinematic Immersion Method.

The final six mindsets can also be practiced as “meditations.” They are perhaps most-easily triggered by the mnemonic CAEPAE. CAEPAE stands for:

C: Cinema. In the cinema, I can tell myself, “It’s only a movie.” In the cinema, I don’t argue with the actors’ stories. In the cinema, I immerse myself in the actors’ stories.

A: Attach/Detach. I attach to my partner’s story. I detach from defenses (e.g., of self-listening, or self-talk). And I detach from ego (e.g., “I can’t love someone who thinks that about me.”)
E: Entertain. I entertain or fascinate myself with my partner’s story.

P: Puzzle. I am a detective searching for every piece of my partner’s puzzle until I see my partner’s picture. To get every piece, I will keep drawing my partner out until she or he is thinking thoughts they didn’t even know they were thinking.

A: Alone Power. I know that in the middle of an argument, if I stop to understand the person I am arguing with in this way, that will change everything. I have the power, by myself, to change the way the person I am arguing with feels about me.

E: Eye contact. I can give supportive eye contact that is genuine when I know the outcome is feeling loved. Being fully immersed in the “Love Guarantee” (“The more I listen to my partner, the more she or he will feel loved by me; therefore, the more she or he will feel love for me.”) allows me to know that.

The meditation is a requisite for two essentials: keeping emotionally open and emotionally safe. Without it, being emotionally open makes us emotionally vulnerable–or unsafe. Therefore, always practice two safety mechanisms:

First, whenever you can hear your mind rehearsing your defenses, say “Hold” –as in “hold all criticism.” Get a commitment from your partner to treat “Hold” as sacred. “Hold” is your key to feeling emotionally safe.

Second, once either of you says “Hold” it is that person’s responsibility to tell her or his partner when you are re-immersed with all seven mindsets of the Cinematic Immersion.

It is always the responsibility of the person listening to signal to our partner when we are ready–when we’re immersed in all seven mindsets.

To recall CAEPAE as the mnemonic or acronym for Cinematic Immersion, recall the CP as Cinema Pictures, and the AE as Arts and Entertainment. From there you’ll recall CAEPAE (hopefully!).

As you are exercising “Cinematic Immersion,” do not respond to your partner, or answer any question your partner poses. Say nothing–only give supportive eye contact– until your partner volunteers she or he is finished. Then, you say:

“What I heard you say was…” and share what you heard your partner say. Do not expect yourself to remember everything. It makes no difference how much or little you remember, because you’ll be asking your partner if you missed anything, (and your partner will be happy to repeat what you’ve missed!)

When you’re finished, you ask:

“Did I distort anything?” Even if you feel you got it right, keep working on it until your partner agrees. Then, ask…

“Did I miss anything?” Then, Even if you feel you covered that, repeat it until your partner feels you heard it and did not distort its intent. Then, ask…

“Is there anything new you’d like to add?”

A mnemonic for recalling this sequence is DMA (Distort; Miss; Add).

Only when your partner says she or feels completely understood, you respond with your version of what your partner shared, and your partner goes through all the above until you say you feel your response was completely understood.

Only when that is complete, do you bring up what is bothering you, and all of the above is repeated.

No one gets this without considerable coaching and practice. Even then, just as even an experienced computer user will “strike out,” so will even an experienced user of Cinematic Immersion.

The “three strikes” that are most common: First, failing to practice–to have a “caring and sharing evening” at least once per week. Second, saying “I’m ready to listen” without being engaged in the Cinematic Immersion via the Seven Mindsets. Third, not using “Hold” when defensive thoughts are creeping in.

An additional benefit of practicing Cinematic Immersion’s “Seven Mindsets” at least once per week is that it ultimately becomes realistic to make the rest of the week a “Conflict Free Zone.” This is done via a method to be shared in Part III (the January 2010 Article of the Month on

Warren Farrell, Ph.D.
Recommended Reading:
Warren Farrell, Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, pp. 1-81
Recommended Place to Learn Cinematic Immersion:
At a weekend retreat at Esalen in Big Sur, California. See Warren Farrell, “Couples’ Communication.”