The Getting Real practices help us free ourselves from the fears and limited thinking of the ego-mind, so we can meet each new moment with our open, authentic, loving presence.

Where Do Your Communications Come From?

In any given moment, we are communicating from either the higher brain or the survival brain…or some combination of the two. I believe it is very important to know “where you’re coming from” as you communicate and listen to others. I hope the following insights help. These insights are from my new book, From Triggered to Tranquil.

What Brain Science Has to Offer

Over the past 30 or so years brain science has given us new ways to understand what goes on in our nervous systems when we are triggered. In the amygdala area of the mid-brain there is what brain scientists call the survival alarm system. This part of our brain is always on alert—scanning for threats to our safety or well-being. In primitive times, this little area was scanning for dangers to our physical survival (like lions and tigers), but now this same part of the brain scans mainly for threats to our sense of emotional safety or connection with those we love or depend on. So, a sharp tone of voice or an unfriendly facial expression can trigger that part of the brain into what we call one of the 3 F’s—fight, flight, or freeze.

So, how do I know if I am coming from my higher brain or my survival brain? The short answer is: if I am feeling calm, generous, friendly, forgiving, empathetic, if I can listen to a viewpoint that differs from my own, then I am in the higher brain zone. If I feel tense, guarded, upset, or resistant to something or someone, then I am probably in the survival zone. In the survival zone, my focus of attention becomes narrowed—I may feel like getting away, or getting the other person to shut up, or I may numb myself.

Of course, the point of knowing the early warning signs that I’m in survival mode is so I can recognize when I am coming from my lower, more primitive brain, and do some of the practices I teach in the book (From Triggered to Tranquil) to regain access to my higher brain capacities. The higher brain makes much better long-term decisions. So, we want to be coming from there most of the time—unless there really is a tiger in the room!

Life as an Awareness Practice

The longer answer to the question, “How do I know if I am coming from my higher brain or my survival brain?” is: I first get the concept that there is a difference between these two states, and then I get curious and aware about noticing my inner state—as an ongoing awareness practice. Some of us just go through life on automatic. Such people do not have the capacity to self-observe, so for some people, they are pretty much at the mercy of their emotions and impulses.

Those of us who are on a path to know ourselves can learn to observe our bodily and emotional states. We can notice body sensations—like tight chest, difficulty breathing or impulses like the impulse to run away or punch something. We can be on the alert for signs of emotional upset—like a mental story that I am being abandoned when my husband says he’s going on a business trip. When I guide someone to do “trigger-work,” we begin with recalling a recent triggering event—like someone criticizing or blaming you—and remembering—how did my body feel?…..were there emotions?….were there thoughts like “this is unfair” or “this means I’m flawed or not good enough?” Then I ask the person to recall their actual behavior in that triggering situation—did you do anything visible, or did you shut down or clam up?  Did you criticize this person or defend yourself? Or maybe you froze and can’t remember what happened or what you did.

Catching and Halting Reactivity

This inquiry helps you recognize what sorts of experiences tend to trigger you, how to notice what happens inside when you get triggered, and how to observe your own reactivity. This helps you learn to notice and be on the alert when any of these things are present—a sharp voice tone, a tendency to get defensive. By observing these things, you are building your capacity to catch and halt trigger reactions before things go too far, and to self-regulate and self-soothe, or ask for co-regulation in order to quiet the primitive part of the brain and allow the higher, more evolved part of the brain to get back online.

P.S. Get Your Copy Now
The new  book will be out Aug 31, but you can pre-order it now from any bookseller. Here is a link to some reviews of the book and ordering information:

Upcoming Events

Getting Real: The Power of Conscious Communication  

A weekend in-person workshop with Susan Campbell May 7-8, 2022  10am-5pm both days (yes, 2022. I am only doing one in-person workshop per year now)

Cost: $350

“You can only be as honest as you are self-aware.”

GETTING REAL teaches 10 truth skills that make you a more present, aware, spontaneous, authentic communicator. Most people have fears and insecurities which interfere with being fully present and honest. These insecurities can be healed. If you learn to put your attention on your here-now experience, rather than trying to control the outcome of your communications, you discover the real source of personal power, love, and inner security.

In this workshop, you will learn how to:

•   communicate with presence, authenticity, and spontaneity (even when you feel fear about it)

•   be aware of how you impact others

•   clear the air and keep it clear

•   repair rifts in trust and connection after a misunderstanding

•   keep your present relationships free of accumulated unfinished business

•   come back to being present after your fear-buttons have gotten pushed

•   communicate from the deepest parts of yourself—so you can be truly heard and accepted

•   notice and free yourself of all the ways you “go on automatic” as you communicate or listen

•   replace these “control patterns” with honest, spontaneous self-expression

•   recognize all the various disguises that mask the “need to control”

•   ask for what you want without being controlling

•   say “no” or mark your boundaries with compassion and sensitivity

•   embrace and value the silences in human communication

•   heal past trauma and unprocessed pain

•   communicate about difficult topics in ways that foster deep intimacy and trust

The workshop is intended for people who want to join with like-minded others to explore honesty as a spiritual awareness practice, getting to the essential self that is beyond conditioned fears, beliefs, and control patterns. Emphasis will be on developing communication skills and relationship practices that you can take home and integrate into your daily life.

Cost: $350

Time/date: May 7-8, 2022 (Sat-Sun), 10am-5pm both days

Location: Sebastopol, CA, one hour north of San Francisco (directions to follow registration)

REGISTER NOW: Call Susan’s landline, (707) 829-3646 or email:

Led by: Psychologist Susan Campbell has worked as a relationship coach for over 50 years. A former professor at the University of Massachusetts, she is author of 11 books on relationships and communication. Her website is

Coach Training Webinar: Helping Clients  Work with Trigger Reactions and Control Patterns (via Zoom)

 A 6-week webinar for new and experienced coaches with Susan Campbell, Ph.D., author of GETTING REAL and other titles, using Zoom

Time: 6  consecutive Thursdays, beginning Thursday, September 16, 2021, noon-1:30 pm Pacific time (3-4:30 pm Eastern time), and ending October 21.

Cost: $300 (visa, paypal, transferwise, and mastercard accepted)

To register or get more info, call or email Susan’s landline at (707) 829-3646 or

You will learn and practice how to help clients learn to use Susan’s getting real truth skills and trigger work skills. Specifically, you will learn how to:

-create a safe container that welcomes emotional pain as a portal to discovering one’s lost or disowned parts;

-help clients develop their ability to be with emotional discomfort in a way that fosters healing trigger sensitivities and trauma

-work skillfully with resistance

-work skillfully with your most challenging clients

-teach exercises that stretch clients’ capacity for self-compassion

–teach practices that help clients heal unfinished emotional business

–teach practices that help clients develop their capacity for inner witnessing

-use your own authentic feelings and responses in helpful ways—thus, refining yourself as an instrument for positive change

You will be given homework assignments to practice with a homework partner on a separate call during the week.  This will require an additional hour per week of your time.

All calls will be recorded and archived on the web, so you can re-listen to calls or hear a call if you have to miss a session.

Honesty Salon in Webinar Format 

Beginning September 15, I will offer a six-session Honesty Salon in webinar format (zoom). It is scheduled for 6 consecutive Wednesdays, noon-1:15 pm Pacific time, and ending October 20.

Cost is $200 for the 6 sessions. An Honesty Salon is a small group experience where we practice the 10 Truth Skills with one another, sharing whatever arises in the present moment. We use a set of simple communication guidelines that assist us in un-hooking from identification with mind chatter and being innocently open to whatever arises.

Between sessions, participants will have the option of meeting in dyads or triads to de-brief and do practice exercises. All sessions will be recorded and archived on a private page, so if you miss a session, the recording will be available to you.

To register or get more information, email me at  If you are interested in this offering, and the announced  time is not convenient, I may be able to change the time.  So please contact me about that at the email address above.

Free Mini-Workshop on From Triggered to Tranquil at The Stoa

I will be offering a free, zoom-based mini-workshop at the exciting and stimulating internet platform called The Stoa on Tuesday, August 31, at 3-4pm Pacific time, 6-7pm Eastern. That’s the launch date for my new book, From Triggered to Tranquil, so we’re billing it as a book launch PARTY! Please come celebrate with me….wearing your favorite party hat, if you’re in that kind of mood. Here is the blurb from The Stoa website:

Susan will introduce her new book, From Triggered to Tranquil, which shows readers how to do “inner work” when they get emotionally upset, reactive, or shut down. She will describe the 5 steps of trigger work and then guide participants in some exercises from the book—exercises that teach you how to catch and calm trigger reactions so you can get back to being present and resourceful. Doing these exercises will help you heal your fear of emotional discomfort and allow you to handle situations you used to avoid.

Here is an excerpt from the book: “Your trigger reactions can be the doorway to understanding and embodying a much bigger life process that I like to call whole-making. As I see it, life itself is about whole-making —integrating the various parts of a system into increasingly interrelated wholes. Our trigger reactions help us see aspects of ourselves that we may be unaware of. As we explore these reactions, we discover parts of ourselves that have been denied, abandoned, or repressed. This is the realm of the human unconscious that psychologists call our shadow. As we enter through this portal, we encounter forgotten hurts and disappointments, unmet childhood needs, protective personality habits that we adopted to keep us safe, beliefs that help us make sense of things we don’t understand, and ideas about ourselves and others that feed the insecure ego’s need to be knowledgeable, good, or right. Discovering and learning to accept these lost parts helps us actualize more of our unique human potential. As we embrace and welcome these parts, we become more whole.”

Pre-registration is required for this free program. To register, visit:

The 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live Authentically

Here is a summary of the 10 truth skills detailed in the book, Getting Real. For those of you familiar with my latest book, Five-Minute Relationship Repair, you may see that that entire book is about truth skill #6, Taking Back Projections. This is such a complex and often difficult-to-master truth skill. So I thought it deserved a whole book. 

Now here’s the list:

1. Experiencing what is  You have a felt body-based sense of your present feelings and sensations. You can notice and not identify with your judgments, projections, and interpretations.

2. Being transparent  You can disclose to others what you are feeling, sensing, imagining, or saying to yourself—with the simple aim of “knowing and being known,” free of the need to explain or defend.

3. Knowing your intent  You can consciously reflect on the intent of your communication. Is it to relate or to control? Are you revealing yourself in the interest of transparency or are you managing and strategizing in order to avoid discomfort?

4. Asserting what you want and don’t want  You can express a desire clearly and impactfully, without expecting to get everything you ask for. You mark boundaries when you need to.

5. Thriving on feedback  You are open and curious about others’ impressions and reactions to you.  This is different from being dependent on others’ reactions.

6. Taking back projections  You know how to learn from situations where your buttons or “favorite fears” get triggered. You can differentiate your fear-stories from what really happened.

7. Revising an earlier statement  You can re-visit an interaction if your feelings change or if you discover later that you have mis-spoken or were on automatic. You can say, “If I had it to do over….”

8. Holding differences  You can hear and empathize with someone else’s feeling or viewpoint while at the same time holding a different feeling or viewpoint. You can “be with” the tension of holding both in your awareness at once.

9. Sharing mixed emotions  You can communicate your multiple feelings about an issue or situation, e.g. You may wish to clear the air with someone while also fearing that your words might feel hurtful to the other.

10. Embracing silence  You can allow some space after you have spoken. You do not fill in the space with explanation or justification. You can experience the nonverbal emanations in the silences during a conversation.  You can tolerate uncertainty, ambiguity, not knowing.

Practicing these skills brings you to a deep and abiding sense of serenity, presence, and compassion. These three words that describe the qualities that we begin to embody when we practice Getting Real.

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