The following is an excerpt taken from an interview with Dr. Dicken and Coizie Bettinger for a book on relationships and the 3 Principles that I’m writing with Chris Heath.
Dicken was a practicing psychologist in Vermont when he learned of the Principles. He and his family moved to LaConner, WA to work with a group of therapists whose mission was to share the Principles with others.
At the time we started learning the Principles, we began to understand that our thinking creates our moods. This was immediately helpful in our family because the kids were around ten and fourteen when we became aware of this. It was something they could relate to and understand. We came up with this sort of rule for the family that we wouldn’t talk about problems or issues or hard things when any of us was in a low mood. Our children loved to catch us in low moods and then not want to talk about whatever it was, which was very effective because our parenting improved as a result. We didn’t deal with problems in low moods. We would just wait it out until we felt better and that was good for Dicken and me.
We just flat out refused to talk about things while in low moods. It was a big discovery that it’s normal for the quality of our thinking to go up and down (which is what moods are) instead of believing that what we think when we are in a low mood means something significant or it means something that has to be talked about in the relationship. And so when we began to see low mood thinking as normal and that you didn’t really have to pay attention to that thinking and it would pass pretty quickly, boy did that make things easier in all of our relationships. We didn’t feel compelled to have to talk about things when we were upset. And we didn’t think it was necessary to do that in order to have a better relationship. We didn’t take each other’s low moods so personally so it became more and more just a natural fit and a normal cycle and nothing to really be concerned about. Feelings no longer were statements about the relationship. They just became indicators of the quality of thought that was coming through. That was huge. It made a big difference. It seemed to take the pressure off. I think before that we took each other’s low mood thinking personally and thought we had to figure it out. If Dicken got into a low mood and he seemed pretty serious, I would sometimes think that meant something about me; that he was mad at me or unhappy with me. So I thought that we needed to discuss it. And unfortunately we would. (Laughter)
To this day it is just such a relief not to feel like there are issues and problems and things that we need to talk about. We just know that in a better mood, when better thinking starts coming through it either won’t be a problem or it will look different or there will be a solution that comes to mind. It is just so easy. We definitely started to have much more trust in our own wisdom and in leaving things alone until our heads cleared. Then we were in a space that was very easy to see our way through any difficulties or problems or challenges. It relieved the pressure of having to work so hard to figure out what didn’t seem right. We both gained much deeper trust in our own capacity for common sense and wise thinking and that we could trust our thinking when we were in good feelings but not at all when we were in bad feelings. This was so helpful. It paid off to just wait until the wise thinking showed up rather than work so hard when it wasn’t available.
There was one really good example of that which I will never forget. It was when we were making the decision to leave Vermont to move out here to La Conner, WA. When we first started thinking about moving our son had two more years of high school, so we thought he could come out here to finish high school. But we weren’t ready to move until he had only one more year left and of course he was adamant that he wasn’t going to go. So we started to have conversations about it and immediately one or two or all three of us would just start having upset thinking, and we would get scared, or I would cry. It seemed like we didn’t know what to do or what could possibly be the solution. So when we started trying to figure out how we were going to work this out we all agreed that we would only talk about it when we were all in pretty good states of mind. And if any of us got upset while we were talking, we would stop. And we knew that at some point we would come to agreement. We trusted that would happen. But it wouldn’t happen if we were upset and having a hard time talking about it, so we started and stopped the conversation several different times over the next weeks. And then one time, one of us got a different idea. A totally new thought that none of us had even considered, a whole new option for what we could do. This new thought was so different, which was for Dicken to go out to Wasington by himself and I would stay back with Ben until he finished his last year of high school. It made so much sense to all of us immediately. It was a big relief and it felt so right that we just trusted it. Immediately we began to put our energy into thinking about what we could do to make it the absolute best year that our family ever had. We all began to become creative and to brainstorm and come up with new ideas for how to do that and it ended up creating a remarkable growth-filled year for all of us. I don’t think we would have gotten there if we had used our old way of thinking that would have forced a decision that would have been really difficult for somebody. Most likely we would have forced our son to come out here.
I don’t know what it would have been, we had different options but that is just one example of how, by learning the Principles we began to trust in our own wisdom. We learned that the answers would be there when we were in a good state of thinking as opposed to when we were anxiety-ridden. Our understanding of the Principles allowed us to trust our wisdom.
After my very first training in the Principles, I made this remarkable discovery that at any moment when I just stopped working on getting somewhere in order to develop or to achieve my well-being, the most incredible experience happened. I naturally began to feel and think better which is what I was looking for in the first place, and I didn’t have to work at it. I already had it, just naturally built in. This notion that I already had perfect well-being inside and I didn’t have to develop it, was a huge change for me. So as I worked less on myself and had less thinking on my mind I began to become more lighthearted and more present and more available and my kids noticed it and it sure made things so much easier for Coizie and me. We got closer and closer without even trying. So I learned that intimacy was not a function of working. You can’t work your way to intimacy. It was a given that when my personal thinking would quiet down I would feel warmth and a connection and closeness to whoever was around me. I couldn’t believe it was that easy. I couldn’t believe that if I got out of my own way I would feel close and connected to people around me.
Coizie and I started having so much fun. We would allow our thinking to quiet down and then we would feel warm and connected and so close. We would just enjoy sharing quiet time together. We started seeing how easy it was to connect on a much deeper level. We couldn’t believe that we discovered something so simple that could immediately help us be warmer and more loving as parents, as well as warm, loving and intimate in our marriage. What a beautiful thing to discover and then be able to share with clients and see them have the same results very quickly. To see this happen over and over again was just unbelievable to me. It was like a dream come true.
I changed from being preoccupied and resorting to my old pattern of withdrawing. I would withdraw into myself and I would turn to my books and techniques to escape inner tension. I still experience inner tension sometimes, but it doesn’t mean anything anymore and it wakes me up to the fact of thought and I fall out of that thinking easily and quickly. I now realize that pure consciousness is an underlying space inside that is always there. I experience this space as welcoming and warm and loving and wise. It is my home base. For me to know that this home base is always right there inside, not just in me, but in everybody; in my family, my friends, my clients and even in strangers, has been powerful. For me to see and know with certainly that beauty is in everybody, allows me to know that even when my kids or wife are having a difficult time and struggling, inside they are already perfectly ok. This is so helpful.
To be really patient with the fact that we all get caught up at times in our own thinking is good to realize. The thoughts seem real to us and we get stuck. Realizing that allows us to look past it. This really helped us when our kids were teenagers and now with grandchildren, it does as well. We’re sharing with them about thinking and feeling; where our feelings really come from.
It just takes one person to begin to live it in a family, a relationship, or even an organization. Dicken was the first to learn about the Principles, but it was contagious in our family. You could see it spreading from one person to another to another and then we would each reinforce the other, just by the way we were living from this understanding. You know, right now our son’s girlfriend is learning this from Dicken and that is just so neat to think that she is deepening her love for our son. And to see her becoming more satisfied and at ease with herself is just so great!
Please have a look at Dicken’s website for more information: