Ferne Kotlyar

Let’s shake things up a little bit! In this episode of the Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, we not only have a special guest, but this time, the roles are reversed!

I’d like to introduce my daughter Ferne to you, as well as this new space called Fridays with Ferne, where she will be bringing a case to the table each episode and asking ME the tough questions. We’ll discuss the case and I’ll offer some coaching direction.

We launch our first Fridays with Ferne with the case of Emma, a young girl who was in a long-term toxic relationship, and a year and a half later she’s still negatively affected by it. She goes to a therapist who tells her to write a letter to her ex detailing everything she has left to say.

Should she send the letter? Let’s find out!

Have you ever been in a toxic relationship? Is something else causing trouble? Share your story! If there's a challenge you'd like to discuss here on the podcast or privately, please reach out to me at:


Episode Transcript

Kim Ades: [00:00:05]
Hello, hello. This is Kim Ades from Frame of Mind Coaching and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast, where we typically welcome guests from all over the world to get coached live and in person.

Today, we have a special episode. It's an extraordinary episode because I have an extremely special guest to join me today. Actually, she's my daughter. Her name is Ferne Kotlyar and she's here to do a little bit of a reversal in the process. She will be asking me some questions, presenting me some cases, and we're going to be talking about those together. So join us in the conversation.

Ferne, welcome!

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:47]
Thank you so much! Thanks for having me. I'm so excited.

Kim Ades: [00:00:50]
I'm very happy to have you here because I think you and I have historically had the best conversations, so let's do it today.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:59]
Great! I'm so excited. So, I'm going to present you a case that has happened. I changed some of the details, but it is a true story. So, I'm just gonna dive right into it.

Essentially, there's this girl. 19, young, impressionable. She just started her second year of university. Let's call her Emma. So Emma is very studious, she's driven, she's hardworking, she's a bit of a perfectionist. So really, really wants to do well in school. And if she doesn't, she gets a bit disappointed in herself, but she works super hard.

Most of the time she's studying. She hangs out with friends, has a great time, but she spends a lot of time hitting those books. At the beginning of her second year, she meets this guy, we'll call him John. He's tall, handsome, charming. He's 22, just finished his undergrad and just started working his first full-time job. He's making, you know, a fair bit of money.

John takes an interest in Emma and they start dating. You know, their relationship is fine at the beginning and it starts to turn pretty toxic pretty quickly. John is not nice to Emma. He-- they take a shower together and he tells her that she doesn't look good, that she needs to lose weight.

When they're doing any sort of thing together, it's always a competition and John always needs to show off. He's unsupportive and doesn't ever give her any sort of compliments or any sort of validation in anything she's doing, thinking, or just kind of... anything about her.

And, for me, the worst part is sometimes she doesn't want to have sex with him, and he says that the reason someone has sex is for their partner, for the pleasure of their partner, not for themselves. And over the course of their relationship, this, her first real relationship, she doesn't really know what it's supposed to be. So, you know, maybe that's normal.

She comes from a place where sex is common, but not super talked about. It's a little bit taboo. And this is the nature of their relationship. She doesn't really talk about it because she thinks that that's kind of how it's supposed to be. So they date for two years until finally they break up.

A year and a half later, she goes to a therapist. The therapist says, "write a letter as though you were talking to him and tell him, or... don't tell him, just write down all the things you have left to say to him. Write it down, put it on paper, you know, get down".

So she does it. She writes this letter, tells him all the reasons why he was a terrible person, all the reasons why she's so much better without him, all these things. She writes it down, brings it to the therapist. Now the therapist says "you can send the letter if you want". The question now is, does she send the letter?

Kim Ades: [00:03:52]
Wow. Okay. Can I ask you a few questions? And you may or may not have the answers.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:03:58]

Kim Ades: [00:03:59]
So go back. And so, when she's in the shower and he's telling her she doesn't look good, what does she say? How does she react? Do we have that information?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:04:09]
Not specifically, but she kind of shies away and doesn't internalize it till later.

Kim Ades: [00:04:16]

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:04:17]
Doesn't directly... Like, react to him.

Kim Ades: [00:04:20]
Okay. And when he tells her sex is for the pleasure of your partner, what does she do? Does she have sex, even if she doesn't want to? What does she do?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:04:29]
She has sex just to pleasure him, but takes no pleasure in it herself.

Kim Ades: [00:04:34]
She takes no pleasure in herself. And what was the final reason for the breakup? Like, what was the blow out? How did it come to an end?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:04:42]
I don't know.

Kim Ades: [00:04:43]
We don't know. Okay. So the question is... what was the question again? She goes to a therapist. The therapist says, write all this stuff down, and then now that you have it down, you can send it to the guy.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:04:55]
If you want. Yeah. Does she send the letter?

Kim Ades: [00:04:58]
Okay. I mean, I don't want to bash the therapist, but I think that writing a letter to him in the first place, probably wasn't the best move.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:05:08]
Why not?

Kim Ades: [00:05:09]
Why not? Because what she's doing is she's still giving him a huge amount of importance, value, weight in her life. Right? So she's writing a letter to him. The focus is still him. So... Right? So what are we doing? We're literally giving him all of our focus, our attention. We're making him important. We're making him still have a hold over her. And that's not very valuable.

What we really need to do is we need to say, "okay, let's look at that 19 year old girl who was in this relationship. Who was she at the time? What was she going through?" And from my perspective, the letter needs to be not to the guy because the guy who cares, he's not a good guy. Let's forget about him.

She needs to write a letter to herself to say, "Hey, I forgive you for permitting that stuff. I forgive you for being in a relationship where you didn't speak up. And I know who you were, I understand who you were and that's what you needed at the time. And here's who you are now".

And so the letter really needs to be from her to herself. Her younger self and her present self. The focus needs to be on her. Well, it could be a letter that continues, right? So part A is to her past self, part B as to her present self. Because what we really want her to do is put down this experience and she's not putting it down. Right?

She's still holding onto it. It still has a huge amount of hold over her. And this letter is really giving herself permission to put it down, to say, "it's okay. It was in the past. Just 'cause he said, you weren't, let's say attractive, doesn't make it so".

And so the idea is not to give him the letter or to talk to him. The idea is to allow her to have a conversation with herself.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:07:05]
So when she's written this letter, I mean, we're at the stage where she already wrote the letter. What does she do with it? What's the next step?

Kim Ades: [00:07:15]
Again, to me, like, what is sending it to him do? It wakes everything up. And what does it do for her? It puts her in a state where she says, "gee, I wonder how he's going to respond". And it gives him back the power in her mind. And so we don't need that. We don't care how he's going to respond. He's no longer important.

We don't need to give him that focus of attention, that huge amount of power. We don't need to do that anymore. So sending the letter doesn't achieve any particular goal. And really the question is what is the goal here? The goal for us, as coaches in this situation, is to help her let it go. Help her put it down, help her look in the mirror and see a beautiful, awesome, intelligent, capable, driven human being, and help her define what kind of relationship she does want.

And so what we want to do is say this relationship wasn't ideal. Let's use that as our contrast. Let's understand what wasn't good with this relationship, so we can increase our clarity about what we would rather have. And let's focus on what we want instead of all the bad things that just happened.

Because when we're writing this letter to him, and when we're thinking about sending it to him, we're focused on all the things that we don't want. We're focused on all the reasons that it wasn't good and that does not help us move on.

It's a fallacy to think that there's closure in this exercise. There is no closure. In fact, sending him the letter completely undoes any possibility of closure. It leaves it open again. It-- right? So what she says is, "gee, I wonder if he got the letter. I wonder if he read the letter. I wonder why he didn't respond".

And then if he does respond, now she's evaluating whether that response was good enough. Right? And if it was good now maybe it stirs up all kinds of emotions and maybe now she wants to get back together with him. Why do we need that? We don't.

What we need to do is help her gain clarity over why, as a 19 year old, she accepted that and help her gain clarity about who she is and how amazing she is and what kind of relationship she wants in the future. So the experience in writing something actually needs to be between her and herself and absolutely nothing to do with this guy.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:09:42]
Interesting. And so, I heard you mentioned the word contrast, use it as contrast to help her move forward. Can you speak more-- a little more about that?

Kim Ades: [00:09:51]
So what is contrast? It's literally, like, if you see a white sheet, there's no contrast. If all of the world around us is white, we see nothing in that world. When something appears that has a different color, maybe it's black, and that blackness allows us to see what's in front of us.

And so contrast is a very useful idea in terms of being able to really clarify what's in front of us. In her case, she had a huge jolt of contrast. And very often when we talk about contrast or talking about experiences that aren't ideal, that are negative in scope, that's contrast.

That contrast allows us to see what's there and allows us to then turn our attention, if we have the mental muscle to do so, to turn our attention to what we would rather have, to what we want instead. So when we get a very bad experience that helps us understand, "wow. That was really bad. I don't want a guy who speaks poorly about me. What I really want is a guy who thinks of me highly, who treats me well, who sees my beauty".

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:11:10]
And so do you need contrast in your life? Do you need these negative experiences in your life in order to experience the good?

Kim Ades: [00:11:16]
We don't need negative experiences to experience the good, but negative experiences help us appreciate the good and negative experiences, depending on who we are, sometimes when we have a negative experience, we dwell on that negative experience far longer than we should. Right?

And so the question is what is a negative experience for? My job is to help people build up their emotional resilience. And one of the ways we do that is by looking at a negative experience and understanding what it did-- like, how it served a person.

And the way we do that is by examining that experience and identifying the contrast, identifying it as contrast to help us figure out what we would rather have. And that helps us build direction, build a focus. It allows us to turn our attention towards what we want as opposed to what we don't want.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:12:13]
Hmm. Interesting. So--

Kim Ades: [00:12:17]

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:12:19]

Kim Ades: [00:12:20]
Continue, if you have more questions...

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:12:22]
No, I was just going to say then that this negative experiences in life aren't necessarily a bad thing, that we use them to make things better in life.

Kim Ades: [00:12:32]
Well, what we have discovered, what I've discovered over the course of my career is that people who have a high, high, high degree of emotional resilience have two things.

Number one is, as we are human, we all have negative experiences. Those people with a high degree of emotional resilience, get back up when they're pushed down. So when you have an adversity, when you have a negative experience, we experience it as a blow. Okay, fine.

Those people with high emotional resilience recover quickly. They get back up quickly from an adversity, but they do one more thing, in addition to that. They leverage the adversity somehow. They turn it into an advantage. They turn it into part of their key success factor. So they take that experience and they run with it.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:13:23]
Can you give me an example?

Kim Ades: [00:13:25]
I'll give you a silly example. Okay? And this was a long time ago. I was going to a trade show in New Orleans. Years and years ago. It was my first ever trade show with my last company, past company. We shipped off our trade show booth to this big event. We were gonna, you know, make a splash. It was a beautiful booth. We get to New Orleans, the booth doesn't show up.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:13:54]
Oh no!

Kim Ades: [00:13:56]
Right? Terrible! We're about to set up our booth and, you know, really make an impact on this particular audience, and what happens? Our booth doesn't show up. So that's a moment of adversity, right? Bad experience. So what do we do? We have a bunch of choices. We say, "well, we don't have a booth. We can't have a booth. Like, okay, we'll just walk the trade show and we won't go to the trade show booth. We won't set that up". That's an option.

Another option is to say "okay, that bad thing just happened. How do I turn it into an advantage?" And so what did we do? We went to the pharmacy, we got some Bristol board and we wrote a sign. We said, "FedEx lost our booth, so now we're forced to give you 50% off". And people wanted to know "what are you giving us 50% off from?"

And so we had a lineup and we literally sold our product on the trade show floor. We made a splash because our booth looked awful. It looked different. Right? But that's called leveraging the adversity, turning it into an advantage somehow. And many people aren't wired to do that.

So how do you become wired to leverage adversity? You say what's the opportunity here? What is this doing for me? How does this inform me?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:15:21]
Interesting. Really using it to your advantage there.

Kim Ades: [00:15:24]

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:15:25] Love it. So if you were to give this young girl Emma, one last piece of advice, what would you say?

Kim Ades: [00:15:35]
I would say Emma, this guy doesn't deserve your time, your attention, your writing, your focus, your anything. Pick up a piece of paper and a pen or a journal, start writing to yourself. And answer the following question.

Knowing who you are now, go back and talk to your 19 year old self and give her a whole bunch of love. Tell her it's okay. Tell her that at that age and at that time she experienced something and that she has the strength to carry on the strength to actually be okay and continue on with better, healthier relationships. That would be my first piece of advice.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:16:21]
There's a second?

Kim Ades: [00:16:23]
The second is that we would take some time to really identify the kinds of relationship she really wants and help her understand that she truly deserves them. Because there's probably something in there where she wonders whether or not she deserves better. We'd have to do some work on that.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:16:42]
Love it.

Kim Ades: [00:16:44]
Ferne, thank you so much for this awesome conversation! I hope that--

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:16:49]
Thank you!

Kim Ades: [00:16:50]
I hope that you took something away from it, but I also hope that our audience did. For those of you who are listening, if you have a case that you want to share with me, please reach out to me.

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

And if you want to get coached live and in person on the podcast, please reach out to me as well.

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

Please give us some feedback on this particular episode. We'd love to hear how we did. Mother and daughter, the dynamic duo.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:17:22]
Ferne, thank you for being on the podcast with me. I loved your case.

Kim Ades: [00:17:27]
Thanks for having me. I loved it too.

linkedin icon