THE CINEMATIC IMMERSION METHOD” OF COUPLES’ COMMUNICATION: THE SEVEN MINDSETS THAT CREATE THE ART AND DISCIPLINE OF LOVE
by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.
For the principles behind “cinematic immersion,”
see Warren Farrell,Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say
Falling in love is natural; sustaining love is unnatural. Which is why sustaining love requires both an art and discipline: The art of love. And the discipline of love.
Why? Once we fall in love, we fear losing it. Criticism signals to us the possible loss. The Achilles’ heel of all human beings is the inability to handle personal criticism from a loved one, especially when given badly. (Of course, any criticism from a loved one is perceived as given badly!) Biologically, we are programmed to experience criticism as coming from a potential enemy, so historically it was functional to “get up our defenses.” Or to kill the criticizer before the criticizer kills us. That doesn’t make it easy for our partner to communicate with us.
That’s why sustaining love requires both an art and discipline.
The art and discipline of love require taking two offensives. The first offensive is the art and discipline of appreciating our partner. The second offensive is the art and discipline in the practice of the “Cinematic Immersion Method.”
The Cinematic Immersion Method involves the practice of “Seven Mindsets” –the discipline of transforming our biological response of feeling defensive (as a response to personal criticism) into feeling loved. Since we cannot change our biology, we have to create different associations that, when practiced together, allow us to avoid the triggers that usually lead us to being defensive. Those seven associations combine to allow us to do a “work-around” to our natural biological response of defensiveness.
I find I cannot teach the basics of “Cinematic Immersion” effectively in less than ten hours. On the one hand, since I’ve never known anyone to put “Cinematic Immersion” into practice from just reading about it, I conduct weekend Couples’ Communication Retreats at places such as Esalen. On the other hand, I get so many requests to “give me an idea” of what it is, that this is an attempt to, well, at least “give an idea” of “Cinematic Immersion.”
I’ll start with the easy stuff: the discipline and art of appreciating.
The discipline of appreciating includes training our eye to find the most specific positive things our partner does. For example, instead of saying, “I think you’re the best mom/dad,” you find something specific, such as, “I appreciate how, when Kristin asked you, ‘what’s four divided by two?’ you didn’t give her the answer, but taught her how to find her own answer.” The more specific the appreciation, the more our partner feels “seen.”
The art of appreciating is about how we share our more specific observations. Just as we might appreciate God for our food in a prayer prior to dinner, we share these specific appreciations of each other during dinner. Or we experiment with putting post-its on pillows or in refrigerators; giving appreciations via voicemail, email messages, etc. This part of appreciating is, then, a creative art.
Appreciating is done throughout the week. It is the incentive to be in the relationship. It is the reservoir of good will. It makes criticisms easier to handle.
But the most important way to “handle criticism” is to create a state of mind that is not our natural state–since our natural state is defensive. It requires creating a state of mind that is altered. As with yoga, the practice involves keeping many parts of our mind simultaneously engaged. It requires seven mindsets.
Cinematic Immersion’s Seven Mindsets is the focus of the December, 2009 Article of the Month. In the meantime, some of the underlying philosophy behind Cinematic Immersion is available in Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say. The reactions of people who have tried it is at www.warrenfarrell.com. And the next time it is practiced in your neck of the woods is available at www.warrenfarrell.com.
Warren Farrell, Ph.D.
Warren Farrell, Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, pp 1-84
Recommended Place to Learn Cinematic Immersion:
At a weekend retreat at Esalen in Big Sur. See Warren Farrell, “Couples’ Communication.”