Dr. Warren FarrellWomen Can't Hear What Men Don't Say

Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say


Part I
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.

Recommended Reading: 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.


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 www.warrenfarrell.com).

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."

Couples' Communication

In addition to conducting couples' communication workshops around the country, couples spend a weekend with me at my home-office in Mill Valley, CA. The process I have developed is best described in the first 87 pages of Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say. It is called "Cinematic Immersion," and is designed to help couples respond non-defensively to personal criticism, (even when the criticism is given badly).

The comments below are all unedited comments from couples with whom I have worked from 2008 to 2013:

"The workshop Dr. Farrell delivered was done with perfection! I know that is a strong word but how else would you describe taking away everything we need we needed in one short weekend! Thank you for boldly going where no-one else has before! As newlyweds we can now confidently use the tools we learned to nurture our marriage for the rest of our lives."

- Shannon Saathoff (2013)

"I use your Cinematic Immersion process prior to each of our weekly meetings. ...my marriage and the love I feel for Ron is so much deeper and stronger! The thing that I keep reflecting on is that Ron is willing to die for me. Knowing that makes it so easy to be willing to listen and hear Ron's criticism.

I also use your cinematic immersion for when I'm interacting with others. I am an assistant principal and many times I listen to angry parents and staff members. I now feel that I can listen less defensively. Yeah!

Last, I wanted to let you know that I requested to be reassigned to the classroom after two years as a school site administrator. After attending your workshop and feeling a deeper love for Ron and appreciation for him and my family, I want to be home more and just be more present and available to them. Our kids are in junior high and I don't want to miss more time with them than I already have.

I feel so happy, relieved and free! Thank you so much for your workshop! You helped me learn strategies to help me have a better relationship which saved my marriage and changed me as a person for the better.

I have recommended your workshop to others and I sincerely hope they attend. I wish Ron and I had attended your workshop 15 years ago!"

- Therese Brady

"Although we have been married for over 18 years, we were communicating in a random fashion, where sometimes it worked well, and sometimes it didn’t. Using the Cinematic Immersion Technique, we were able to move beyond our habitual patterns of discussing issues superficially or revisiting them without feeling respected to feeling loved, attentively listened to, and fully supported.

Thank you for providing such valuable insights and empowering us with a systematic approach to guide our interactions so that we can realize our dreams and continue to progress and grow in a loving relationship."

- Rebecca Linquist, Campbell, Ca.

"The weekend my wife and I spent at Dr. Farrell's home is priceless! I learned more about being a "man" in two days, than I have in my entire adult life. My big "take-aways" from this weekend are the "cinematic immersion technique" and "listening with loving eyes"... Wow, I am still working on perfecting these everyday, and what joy it is to see actual long-lasting positive change in my marriage.

Dr. Farrell is one of a kind! He is absolutely genuine and during our weekend together, made us feel like we were the only two people on Earth. It is still hard to believe he took two days of his schedule and devoted it to my wife's and my relationship. Dr. Farrell not only saved my marriage, but in many more ways has saved my life."

- Tony Fournier, Lt. Colonel, US Air Force, ColoradoSprings, CO

"My husband and I met with Dr. Farrell for a weekend at his home. While I was excited, I was also apprehensive. After all, we'd been in counseling for five years and participated in several "self awareness" seminars. It was amazing - the techniques Dr. Farrell teaches allows you to communicate openly, honestly, and without hesitation and to listen lovingly and without judgement. When you come from a place of love rather than judgement, the possibilities for your relationship are endless.

Our marriage is intact and significantly more fulfilling today because of the time we spent with Dr. Farrell. I thank him, my husband thanks him and my children than him - his help and expertise allowed us to become a happy, healthy and engaged family."

- Janene Fournier (Janene and her husband flew in from Georgia, prior to moving to Colorado Springs)

"Dear Dr. Farrell,

I wanted to thank you for helping my son, husband and I learn how to use your communication techniques. It was an amazingly satisfying and useful experience - one that has had a profound effect on our relationships to one another. My husband and I were somewhat familiar with the technique having attended one of your seminars. We found it very useful for our marriage we wanted to extend it to help communication with our teenaged son.

Before the session, I appreciated your instruction on how introduce the idea to my son so that he agreed to participate, despite initial reservations and resistance. Not many teenagers want to spend any portion of their weekend learning how to communicate with their parents! By framing it properly I was able to appeal to his own desire to have better relationships with us, (his parents,) and with his all important peers.

When we had the session, I was amazed at how succinctly you were able to explain to our son how to utilize the technique and what he would get out of it. I was further amazed at how you were able to orchestrate a structured dialog with the three of us, letting our son take the lead, thus empowering him and inviting him to partake fully. I was amazed even further at how articulate my son actually is and how quickly he was able recall and convey a past event which he was upset about. And I was amazed again at how you were able guide my husband to respond, using the technique, in a way that deepened all three of our understandings of that particular event and the misunderstandings and miscommunications that occurred around it.

At home, later that evening, when a small tension arose my son quickly implemented the technique - and successfully averted what, on any other night, would have devolved into a big family fight. We don't have to use the technique that often -- just knowing how to use it provides a safety net -- we know that when things go badly we can rely upon this structured communication to slow down the interactions and to allow each of us to be heard, and to hear fully. Knowing you have the skill makes needing to use it less necessary.

Our family life the last couple of weeks since the session have been greatly improved. We are all less angry, less frustrated and far more productive in our work and school life. I think we will enjoy having sessions occasionally to "tune up" our communications, when needed.

I know much of your work has centered around couple's communication. I wanted to encourage you to extend the practice to families, as much as possible. Especially blended families, and those with teenagers!

Thank you again, this was the best single thing we have done to improve our relationships. More effective than the family therapy we have done, and certainly complimentary to that process."

- A.G. (A.G. is a therapist; full info available upon request), San Francisco

"Thank you for your gifts, wisdom and essence, making Esalen a "once in a lifetime" for me. Not only are you a gift to mankind, but womankind too."

- Cathy Coleman, Bel Tiburon, Ca.

"I am a corporate coach at a large company. After I took the Couples Communication Workshop led by Warren Farrell, I was coaching two very intelligent managers who were having a major disconnect on an important project. The result could have been very harmful to the project and the career of at least one of the managers. I taught them to use Dr. Farrell's Cinematic Immersion process. Their relationship was so turned around that the manager said he was amazed at how something so relatively simple and that did not require a "personality change" could have had such a positive effect on their relationship and the progress of the project. He laughed, "It was almost like I was cheating!"

- David Jeffers, Raleigh, North Carolina

"Dear Warren,

After my wife Chantal and I took your Couples' Communication Seminar, as you know we got such extraordinary value from it that we took it a second time. Your workshop was the only thing that worked for us when nothing else had.

Your Cinematic Immersion technique and how you applied it got everyone to get beyond the often repetitious and superficial ways that most of us communicate, and not only put ourselves in the position of the person with whom we are communicating, but to feel the certainty of knowing that they have truly heard us. I've found your revolutionary approach to communication not only of amazing value to romantic couples, but also in my communication with friends and workplace colleagues.

On the global stage, if everyone could study and master your techniques of communication, we could end all war within our lifetimes. These are among your greatest gifts to the world, perhaps your greatest. I only wish they were better known and more widely practiced."

- Alan Bonsteel, M.D., San Francisco, CA.

"Before we got married, my husband and I had been single for most of our adult lives. While we both wanted to get married, the transition from a life of total independence to one of partnership was not an easy one for us. There were instances that we questioned our decision to move forward, and wondered at times, if we were a match. There were times that our attempts to work out our differences ended in heated arguments and a sense of hopelessness. We turned to Warren to help us work through our fears and challenges before our wedding.

The process that Warren teaches, helps you to put yourself in your partner’s shoes to better understand their story and not take things so personally. The techniques are not complicated but they certainly go against every impulse we have as human beings to “prove our point” and to be right. The process teaches you about acceptance, love, and creating a safe space to communicate - - the work that it takes to obtain real intimacy. We aren’t perfect at the process, nor do we ever expect to be, but the more we use it, the closer it brings us.

Warren is a very gifted facilitator that has the unique gift to help us understand both the male/female perspective, and how to connect on deeper levels. Without a doubt, our marriage has benefited from our work with Warren, and our communication skills keep getting better. He is a rare find and a true gift to couples that really want to embrace intimacy."

- C.S. (full info available upon request), San Diego

"My experience working with Warren has been life changing both personally and professionally. My boyfriend, Jeff and I were at the place where our relationship was either going to end or had to change but we did not know how to make it work or look different. With a single session Warren taught us skills that will for ever change our relationship and my life. Warren had such a way to make us feel safe enough to really be honest with each other and ourselves. I felt that because I was a professional life coach that I was a good listener but I soon discovered a whole new way to communicate, with my heart, and what a difference it made. Jeff and I are still together and enjoy a healthy relationship today. We find that when misunderstandings come up that what Warren taught us is still very useful and valuable and easy for us to use. Working with Warren was an amazing experience that I would recommend to any couple."

- Sherri Hughes, Raleigh, NC

"My girlfriend Sherri and I had hit a wall, you know - "that wall". Warren offered to have a session with us and I went along with it even though I was skeptical. I wondered, "How much can be accomplished in a one-time, single hour session?" Well the session was three hours long and my world has changed forever. It was/is simple - but profound and is described in detail in the first 80 pages or so in his book, Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say. Warren guided us and it was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced..safety, love, emotional connection, really being heard – oh my God. Now I get what all the fuss is about and I had no idea. My world has been all about fear, mistrust, and logic and boy was I missing the point. The concept that relating comes from the experience of emotional connection has come to light for me. How poignant it is to understand this and to realize I've been out of the loop my entire life – ouch. The astounding thing is that this can (conceptually) be replicated with anyone anywhere. My life will be forever changed. I am grateful."

- JS, Raleigh, NC