Right Distance Right Depth

I needed to hear this tonight!! So glad I found this. Thank you!!

Also, that’s a lot of horse :poop: @Rick.


I also really like the client idea for bosses and jobs with hierarchy. You can fire them and they can fire you. You told me this in past sessions and it is starting to hit home. So good.


Yeah…I find that such an important realization…so empowering and freeing.


“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” - Maya Angelou

I remember a relationship coaching asserting (quite forcefully!) that if on a first date someone shows disrespect to someone “below” them, RUN!

Get that Right Distance to be quite distant indeed.

It’s true that with people where we’ve invested a lot mutually in the relationship, I believe that even after only a month or so, we can see many examples of how they respect others – and themselves – or not. A disrespectful moment or particular situation then is an “outlier” data point in determining who they are now.

Of course, I also believe that people do change. Some people as they age, for example, become even more generous even if they “have less” than they did years before.

Others become more miserly and contracted, less generous even with those they care about.

Data points I believe have a their own kind of expiration date. That’s the Right Depth part. Someone who deepens in their respect and safety and generosity with us might not always and every time feel generous and connected. That’s okay.

Chronic change matters, especially where safety, respect, and freedom are affected.


This is me reasoning ‘out loud’… putting on my logic and reasoning hat (as much as I am able):

1)People change.

2)People don’t change.

How do I navigate those two ‘truths’? Which one of those two ‘truisms’ do I invest in most? I’ve seen the consequences attendant with investing fully in one or the other and neither of those are appealing to me.

So perhaps the argument is setup to fail. It’s a logical fallacy. The argument (a choice of either #1 or #2) asserts that the forces of consequence resides in ‘people’…that ‘people’ will do what they will (ie. change or don’t change) and I am at the mercy of either one of those outcomes. In other words no where in that argument am I mentioned as a force of influence in either of those categories. This is a huge logical error it would seem to me as I am a dynamic force in both those categories as much as ‘people’ and ‘change’ are stated to be active components. I’m the ‘silent partner’ in those two statements and as it turns out I’m the majority shareholder…I have the ‘controlling interest’.

But that needs to be recognized and acknowledged by me first in order for it to be useful. And then the greatest tool in my arsenal for navigating those two extremes is ‘Right Distance/Right Depth’ I would say. What RD/RD recognizes is that these two categories are situational…they are contextual. Those two categories can, at any moment, describe a single individual rather than a category of individuals. We don’t need to invest beforehand into either one of them as being ‘the truth’. We can navigate and negotiate each moment as it fits our own values and needs.

Okay, I’m done thinking out loud…


I appreciate you pointing out the binary black/white nature of the quote, and that it doesn’t reflect the reality that we do influence each other.

Perhaps the quote strikes me because I see – engaging primarily with people who have had trauma in their past relationships, often going back to childhood – that a lot of the challenge in Right Distance Right Depth arises from a core desperate need to prove something, or to resolve a past trauma within an in-the-now abusive or at least unhealthy relationship.

Right Distance Right Depth in healthy application allows for the step back without necessarily needing to run. It acknowledges the individual and their fluctuations in closeness while also preserving our own sanity and well-being not being too close too deep with those who trigger us constantly and who are not reliable agents in the We-Space we share.


I wasn’t commenting specifically on the quote you included but in a more general manner on how people so often resort to a binary way of thinking. It seems reflexive. And boy is that ever prevalent at the moment in society…well, at least on FaceTube it sure is!!

Some of it can be attributed to people being in primitive brain but I think a significant amount is just not having access to ‘thinking skills’ to navigate complex ideas. It’s very disheartening that more people aren’t invested in or capable of nuanced thinking. It really is taking an emotional toll on me I have to admit. I’ve unfollowed (not ‘unfriended’) a whole bunch of friends because I get way too activated by the ‘either/or’ style of memes and thinking. And when I ask reasonable questions I’m attacked!! For asking questions…lol…it’s absurd. And most if not all of these people would declare themselves to be pro-science…and what is the fundamental activity of science? Asking questions…and seeking answers. How is that not transparent and obvious to these folks. Okay, rant over. So RD/RD is very much a skill and a template I’m employing at this time and I thank you for that. It’s a beautiful concept that puts control (as much as is possible at least) in the hands and heart of the user and does so with compassion and understanding rather than finger pointing and accusation. An incredibly useful ‘Concept For Thriving’!


This resonates. There is a lot of growth for me when I don’t have to resort to running away. There is often more for me there if I can calm myself and be confident. More healing.


Notes from a recent individual session with @Rick that relate to this chain.

when someone is that reactive to our love… the right distance, the right depth… is to be – not cutting them off, unless they are attacking.


I realized today that I share the concept of “Right Distance Right Depth” with almost all of my clients these days… it’s so helpful and resonant for so many people!

I appreciate this concept because it invites us to contemplate and more clearly articulate what many of us have tried navigating semi-consciously for years… often with much confusion and uncertainty, especially when our desired RD/RD with someone changes over time. Bringing this idea into conscious awareness helps us clarify when the depth or distance we desire with someone changes.

Being more conscious of this concept allows us to notice how our own needs, values, and priorities shift over time, and clues us in to why a certain Depth or Distance may feel right for us at a given time (possibly different than at other times), based on our own emotional resources, nervous system regulation capacity, susceptibilities, priorities, and bandwidth.

And: it’s OK to have it change!

Challenges tend to arise most when we’re not clear about or don’t communicate our RD/RD well with the relevant people in a timely fashion.

To be able to communicate it well, usually we first have to feel sufficiently clear within ourselves — which may not mean knowing exactly why or for how long we need increased distance or reduced depth with someone… It could just mean acknowledging that some aspect isn’t working well for us in the current dynamic, and knowing we need to Pause, tune in, discern what feels right and true for us at the moment, and experiment a bit… and continue to adjust as needed. (The pandemic has given us so many new opportunities to practice this!)

Also, when RD/RD isn’t quite aligned for me, I get easily exhausted, overwhelmed, irritable, etc. Sometimes those are the most obvious signs that some aspect of Depth or Distance needs to be adjusted! At least until I’m more Resourced…

I’ve found it helpful sometimes to think of concentric circles of intimacy, noticing what I want to feel in relationship with myself and those closest to me first, and then extending outward from there… especially when resources of time and emotional energy feel precious and less abundant… which is why my bandwidth for online interactions is so narrow, since having a second baby! My innermost circle is far more important to tend to with the resources I have available, which often means that there’s not much depth available for anyone beyond the second circle out! (Except when I engage enough to notice that some of those interactions with those “farther out” are in fact quite nourishing!)

I also love this quote from Prentis Hemphill:

“Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.”

For me, that means not just “loving” us both (in the usual sense), but also staying conscious of and honoring our needs, and being sure I’m feeling sufficiently well-nourished for/in/by our interactions… and hoping the other person is, too!


Mmmm… Yes.

There’s the stress-resource aspect, indeed. You also bring forth the nourishment aspect of Right Distance Right Depth.

There are times when I want more closeness and depth with you, as your partner. And times when I want to rely on how solid we are to have more distance and engagement with something that is really needed for me – like a solo Morning Mile.

I so appreciate that in our dynamic Right Distancing Right Depthing there’s a generosity and willingness to sense and feel and even ask for what’s most Right for us mutually in the moment. To let that evolve and shift and change. Love us! Love this kind of lifestyle, too.


I’m finding myself contemplating that RD/RD within a ‘We Space’ is, naturally, much different than RD/RD within a ‘Me/Them Space’. That, of course, seems like an obvious thing. And I’m wondering how often I create a ‘Me/Them Space’ by declaring a particular RD/RD that actually may not be serving me (or ‘them’ or ‘us’) best. It feels to me like there’s a sort of dynamic feedback loop involved. A shift in RD/RD can shift us into or out of ‘We Space’ or different degrees of intimacy within ‘We Space’. So, how do I know if I’m creating a ‘Me/Them Space’ or avoiding a ‘We Space’ by my insistence on a certain RD/RD? I see the benefit of a ‘Powerful Pause’ to invite ‘Clarity’.

It’s been obvious to me for some years now that an intimate ‘We Space’ is often a very threatening thing to me…and how for many years I used alcohol to soften that boundary and shift my sense of RD/RD to being more capable of navigating comfortably in ‘We Space’ a little bit more. And then later I would not only suffer an alcohol hangover but also a ‘Vulnerability Hangover’. I can see how that was born out of my early life within my family. The feeling of ‘We Space’ was very uncertain and often lonely for me which kept me in ‘Me/Them Space’ a lot of the time. So coming within proximity of ‘We Space’ can be a strong invitation to step into ‘Primitive Brain’ reactions…deep feelings of uncertainty and danger…and the response is to set a RD/RD based on those Primitive Brain evaluations. In fact, if I understand correctly what ‘We Space’ means I would say that when in that state of mind I’m not actually capable of being in ‘We Space’ at all but am keeping myself in ‘Me/Them Space’ because that’s where I perceive safety to be.



I am finally understanding RD/RD more! And with several people too. For instance I have a long time friend of over 30 years and I am exploring how much RD/RD I want with this person. I tried to explain something to her and she took it as blame and would not communicate about it, preferring to just push it away. To her it sounded like I was blaming and maybe I was without realizing it. We did not chat for awhile until she decided she likes me but does not like the blaming. I tried to suggest we discuss and communicate but she would hear none of it. So at the moment she cannot decide if she wants to use messenger anymore and now she’s emailing. I’m on pause and reflecting. What do I want? How can I get the we space more comfortable? How much RD/RD do I want anymore? I don’t know and that is ok for now or maybe forever. I don’t know. She triggered me and I triggered her. She has no interest in growing. I have to and WANT to! :thinking: :upside_down_face:


Seems like there’s a lot of “are the ways you are triggered and then co-regulate compatible with the ways I do?” going on for so many of us right now!

There’s someone I really care about but when they are triggered or connect strongly to a past trauma where I was involved seem to need a lot of processing. And yes, I am all in favor of processing! I did some processing around my eye just last night and today!

And… what are our limits? What do we very intimately “have time and energy and heart for” in our life right now?

Aho! Yes.


I’ve been struggling with RD/RD with a long time friend who is also an alcoholic. He can be a real asshat when he’s had too much to drink, and at one time he promised not to drink around me anymore. That lasted two weeks because he can’t NOT drink.

Last time I saw him, I asked him to leave for an hour because there was a Circle call, and when he came back 90 minutes later (he’d gone to the bar down the street) he was slurring.

He proceeded to pick a minor argument with me, which was irritating, but mostly I realized I don’t like him when he’s drinking.


That he’s a diminished version of himself AND how disconnected and lonely I feel when he numbs out and he’s there but not there.

I’m currently not contacting him to ask him to get together, but I’m not sure where to go from here because he’s not going to stop drinking.

I also can’t imagine tossing a 7 year friendship, but I don’t feel good around him anymore when he’s drinking, which is most every time I see him.


Here’s some thoughts that come to mind for me.

RD/RD doesn’t have to be a constant with each individual. You don’t have to ‘set it and forget it’…(in most cases)…so “tossing a 7 year friendship” would be a ‘set it and forget it’ sort of response. Is it possible that RD/RD with the sober version of your friend can be very different from the ‘altered’ version of him. And that can even be a discussion with him I suppose.


What a challenging situation, @gibbysan – I’ve been there. It’s a common topic in private sessions as well.

With some alcoholics, we can be honest. “When you’re sober, the person you are is someone I can enjoy being with. When you are not sober, we really do not connect and relate in ways that are a YES for me. Are there times of the day and week where you really are sober and can gladly stay that was for an hour or two we might enjoy time together?”

It’s honest. It’s a Better Boundary in my opinion. It says the sober version we have a friendship with. The drunk version we do not.

I’ve said this to people who microdose psychedelics in a way that impacts my capacity to connect to them – even if it might help them feel more connected to me!

People need to cope, and sometimes that means drugs, alcohol, or other behaviors that RD/RD for us means more distance less depth. RD/RD also can mean very selective filters on when, where, how we connect.

I have a longtime close friend who went through a cocaine and heroin addiction. I’ve not been in contact, have some pretty core time and healing milestones I’d want to see before spending time even over Zoom together. There’s still… love and friendship. RD/RD does not preclude having even mutual love and respect for someone’s challenging journey even as we set physical and soberness boundaries.

(How the other parties react to our boundaries and distance we don’t control and can be… a challenge.)


There’s so much practical wisdom in what you’ve written Rick…

I come from an alcoholic family and have friends who are alcoholics and drug addicted. It’s confusing to love a person under those circumstances.


I believe that when I am in my primitive brain, I am a different “person” than when I am embodied, grounded, and present. Which do people I love… love?

Pretty sure if I was predominantly in my primitive brain, most people who currently choose to be close to me would need more distance – even a LOT of distance.

If I drank a lot I doubt my partner would be with me. Hell, I don’t think I could be with myself!!! I’d be a different person – my Dad was multiple people depending on the we-space and his biochemistry. :frowning_face:


Hi Rick …so much good sense in what you have written. I also have flexible boundaries…more like what Glen said …that today’s ‘no I can’t help you/ be with you today’ can become a yes tomorrow…