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Reframing The Term “Shit Test”

Episode #786

Are you tired of feeling like your partner is constantly testing you?

Do you struggle to understand the underlying message behind their complaints?

In this enlightening conversation from the TPM show, hosts Doug Holt and master coach Mark Hainsworth delve into the transformative power of reframing “Shit Tests” as “Safety Tests” within relationships.

By shifting the perspective from perceived challenges to opportunities for connection, Mark shares valuable insights on how to recognize and respond to these emotional cues effectively.

In this episode, you’ll learn how to navigate moments of tension and conflict with grace and understanding.

By recognizing “Safety Tests” as a cry for connection and security, you’ll discover how to create a safe space for vulnerability and intimacy in your relationships.

Doug and Mark offer practical strategies for responding to these tests with empathy and compassion, fostering deeper connections and stronger bonds with your loved ones.

Hungry for more?

Head over to our BONUS page for special access to some of the deeper tactics and techniques we’ve developed at The Powerful Man.

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Mark Hainsworth 00:00

A friend of mine was into martial arts for many years and he says we don’t try and react to the punch, we roll with it. Use the opponent’s own energy to kill himself, basically. In the same way, with the safety test, the woman is looking for is it safe for the man to get into his vulnerability. In a way, he’s also got to be able to ask the same question. Are you in a place where you can hear me? When I open up, it might get messy. …she’ll feel the connection, she’ll feel the power. But does she have to get into her masculine in order to hold the space for the guy to drop into this feminine emotion.

Doug Holt 00:42

Hey, guys, welcome back to another episode of the TPM show. Once again, I’ve got Mark Hainsworth here, one of our master coaches. He’s here at the TPM Ranch. He is just finished leading a group of men through a very transformational, very deep process we call The Alpha Reset. It’s like putting the reset button onto your life, reclaiming the alpha, the man that you’ve always had. These men that came, they had graduated The Activation Method with relationships, and these guys have rekindled a lot of their marriages. So I’ve got a strong armed Mark here to come back and stay with us for, and talk about a subject we were talking off camera. Thanks again, Mark for sticking around.

Mark Hainsworth 01:19

Thanks, Doug.

Doug Holt 01:20

Yeah, well, one of the things we were talking about off camera was the languaging of a shit test and what it really is, and for guys that don’t know, if that’s okay, I’ll give a quick idea of what a shit test typically we talk about it. My definition would be a manufactured complaint, right, by a woman. So it’s not real, it’s a manufactured complaint in order to get a reaction of some [inaudible 00:01:47] in order to get there. And well, you had a really interesting thought, which I really enjoyed.

Mark Hainsworth 01:53

Yeah, we had a really interesting experience on the Reset. And it was one of the men who I knew very early on, had had an abandonment when he was young, and there’s been a lot of abandonment in his life. And he was seeing the world through the lens of I’m going to be abandoned. That was the way he was seeing the world. And he actually brought up this topic. He says now my wife gave me shit test, shit test, shit test. And I said okay, well let’s work with this. Give me an example. So he gave us an example of what she might say during a shit test. I said great. And then we ran a little piece of magic. We ran a little piece of magic.

And I got him to take off momentarily the lens of fear of abandonment, so I’m going to be abandoned, he took the lens off. He heard the same words from his wife. I said, now how are you hearing them differently? He says she’s asking for connection. I said, is she searching for safety? And he went, oh, my goodness. And suddenly he was able to go, I’ve never seen it like this before. Took off the lens momentarily. And he could see the request for connection. Please make it safe for me, let me know I’m safe. Let me know I’m safe. But the wording she was using could be interpreted both ways depending on how the message was landing. And what brought me to this next thought was calling this thing a shit test is something that — it’s like the woman, or naming it shit test is the woman is perceived as the person who’s generating the shit test.

Okay. So are we actually respecting the woman, our woman by saying, hey, are you giving me a shit test? When in actual fact, the underlying, although it’s manufactured, she’s testing safety. She’s not feeling safe. So in her own way, whatever it is, she’s testing for safety. If she was able to say, hey, I’m feeling unsafe right now. I want to check you’re a safe place for me to land so I can open up, get vulnerable, which leads to intimacy as we know, if there was that awareness, we could call it a safety test. And I’m wondering how we can assist men into hearing the shit test, what feels like a shit test and being able to take a breath and then go what’s the safety that’s being asked for here? For the men who are supported into going, recognize the shit test, take a breath, don’t respond yet and then go what is it that you need, ask the question back, what is it that you need right now to feel safe with me?

Doug Holt 05:16

I love this. I love the idea of reframing this to a safety test, and so many different levels. So as you know, my wife and your partner, they all coach women, so I’m sure you share things that come up. And whenever I mentioned a shit test, I can tell my wife’s visceral reaction to it. She hasn’t openly said anything about it, however, a safety test, I intuitively know that she would drop right into that conversation naturally. Right. Because there is something, there’s a charge to the term shit test.

Mark Hainsworth 05:50

There is a charge. And was really fascinated sometimes, if I have been working on a late call, I work this odd hour, in different time zones. And sometimes it gets to the end of my evening, I go in and make a cup of tea and just connect with Deb and say, and I might have a smile on my face and I might be –because she can tell that I’m sort of grappling with stuff. And I said one of the client says he’s been shit tested.

And she says, what is the shit test? And she says, why did women do this? This is a woman asking why women do it. And I said, I don’t know. I got curious. I guess I got curious about this because it’s this regular question. What is this? She didn’t understand it. She didn’t understand the languaging. And she said, I don’t get it. And I thought that’s such a valid point to make. And then it just, as it happened in The Alpha Reset, it’s a safety test. It’s a safety test. And if we could engage in the conversation, you know, we use the hidden motive. Okay. There’s something going on, wake up, hold space. What is it, you need to feel safe?

Doug Holt 06:52

Yeah, it’s interesting. So I did a masterclass on handling shit tests, like an Aikido master is what I titled it. And the thing that, you know as you’re coaching something, it’s always interesting to see the revelations other people are coming up with and points that they’re landing to. And one of the ones that — two, I’ll give two points here if I can. One was the guys realizing that sometimes the woman needs to understand that she’s safe by testing you to make sure she can’t knock you over, she can’t trigger you. Because if she can control your emotions, how the hell are you going to protect her from the guy down the street or whatever it may be? The example I think I use is the caveman. You know, back in the primitive days. She knows how strong or weak she is. And if she can topple you over, how the heck are you going to protect her?

Mark Hainsworth 07:44

Exactly, exactly. There’s something else that also in that place of testing for safety. If a man can hold a space for a woman to be vulnerable, so she feels safe, that fundamentally is about protection. It’s fundamentally about protection. And you know what I’m wondering, it’s interesting where this conversation — I wonder how many of our men are terrified of getting vulnerable in front of their wife, because if they seem to be vulnerable, the wife goes into the perpetrator. Because suddenly, it’s not safe for her. So she has to get strong to protect herself because the guy can’t do it. And it’s perceived as an attack by the guy in the relationship.

Doug Holt 08:35

I think I would guess a large percentage of that. And I would also guess that it’s a large percentage of men who have this fear that doesn’t exist. And what I mean by that is, a lot of the guys that I work with, especially in the one-on-one clients, when I get them to, I’ll use the word vulnerable, even though I gotta find a better word. When I get them to open up, right, into the areas that they’re uncomfortable with, with their wife, because they don’t want to be perceived as weak, right? They’ll assume that she’s going to now I’m open for attack. My shields are down, now I’m open for attack. Almost always the woman feels closer and feels that he’s more manly. I hear that all the time.

Mark Hainsworth 09:18

Oh really?

Doug Holt 09:19

Yeah, because women know, they know that guys have a shield up, you know, and they’re ready for defense. And when he lets his armor down, that’s when he’s the most powerful because he can handle the attacks, so to speak.

Mark Hainsworth 09:33

Yeah, absolutely.

Doug Holt 09:34

He doesn’t need the shields.

Mark Hainsworth 09:35

A friend of mine was into martial arts for many years, and he says we don’t push against the — I’ve never never done martial arts. He says, we don’t try and react to the punch. We roll with it.

Doug Holt 09:48

Yeah. absorb the energy.

Mark Hainsworth 09:51

Use the opponent’s own energy to kill himself, basically. So there’s that — in same way, with the safety test the woman is looking for is it safe? For the man to get into his vulnerability, in a way, he’s also got to be able to ask the same question. Are you in a place where you can hear me? And I’ll open up, it might get messy. And then suddenly, the woman’s going to go, hang on, I don’t know quite how to deal with this, because she’ll feel the connection, she’ll feel the power. But does she have to get into her masculine in order to hold the space for the guy to drop into his feminine emotional place?

Doug Holt 10:43

I don’t think so. I don’t think that happens as much. I think women do this more naturally than we do. I do think there are going to be some women out there who are uncomfortable with it. I also do think there are some women who, for whatever reason, right or wrong, are going to use that as a place to attack. But I think those are few and farther between. I think women intuitively, in my experience, and talking to women in particular, they see it as a sign of strength, and they’re dying for this to happen to be able to hold the space, they can naturally hold the space.

What I really liked about what you said Mark is, and this is what I tell the guys to do is, is pre-frame it. Like this could get messy. Like I don’t really frigging know what I’m doing here, but I want to share something with you. And I can tell you every time I’ve done that, I’ve just seen the women I’ve talked to just get to the edge of their seat, like finally, you finally are showing up, and they’re like dying for this. So I think most women, I think the man could perceive her as being a threat, but I think most women are intuitively holding that nurturing space, and are dying for it.

Mark Hainsworth 11:51

If they’re in the feminine.

Doug Holt 11:52

Yes, if they’re in their feminine. Which that’s another conversation, I guess altogether. But I think they can dip into it rather quickly. Because we see this a lot with guys, you know, we have a thing called the Clean Slate Method. And when men do the clean, they’re always scared, right, the guys are always nervous when we have them go through that process. And often, it’s received well, and if it’s not received well with a vulnerability, it’s usually because she’s overcome with so much hurt. And the one I hear a lot, and I don’t know about you is why now, after all these years. And what I translate that to, to the guys is what really she’s saying is, you’re now — my heart was wide open. I have now had to shut it to protect myself. And now you’re showing up. So I’m scared that if I now open my heart up again, you’re going to hurt me again. And so that’s the visceral reaction that they’re getting is her anger.

Mark Hainsworth 12:53

Absolutely. There’s also something else I think that happens with that Clean Slate process is that as the guys write the letter, they actually have to touch on their shame of the way — when they realize they weren’t showing up. They were hiding, they were protecting themselves, and this was unconscious, and I wasn’t aware of what I was carrying. It was a shame attached to that. Once I admit it, it’s like, well, what kind of man was I actually?

Doug Holt 13:20

Yeah, I had that same feeling.

Mark Hainsworth 13:23

Yeah, it’s really difficult to own that. And that’s why the Clean Slate letter process is really powerful for the men.

Doug Holt 13:29

Yeah, I agree. I remember when I was going through my own version of that process, and I really sold myself. And looking back, I knew I was lying to myself, if that makes sense. But at the time, I sold myself such a — it was a good sales pitch, that by being stoic, I was really being strong, right, by not reacting, when reality is I was scared of the other side of it.

Mark Hainsworth 13:53

Exactly, exactly.

Doug Holt 13:54

The other thing with these fitness tests that I want to touch on while we’re here and guys that are listening to this is have you ever seen the movie, Meet the Fockers? I think it’s Meet…

Mark Hainsworth 14:03

Yes, yes. It’s the couple going off to the in-laws or something, isn’t it? It’s [inaudible 00:14:10]

Doug Holt 14:11

Well, yeah, I think he is in that. Yeah, it’s Ben Stiller. There’s a scene and I don’t know which — they’ve done in several ones so I’m not sure I’m going to get the right one. But there’s a scene where they’re playing pool volleyball, volleyball in the pool. And they’re volleying it back and forth, the family’s having fun, and he keeps making mistakes. And so they’re giving him a hard time. And so the next time the ball comes over the net, he jumps up, Ben Stiller’s character and spikes the ball, you know, to the opponent, which happens to hit his wife right in the face. And that’s how I think guys handle safety tests. I like calling them safety tests; is the woman throws out an initiation for a safety test, and the guy doesn’t realize that he can use the Hidden Motives Technique and volley it back and forth, and that can lead to intimacy. Instead, he gets triggered and he comes up and tries to spiked the ball down. And that ends up with her reinforcing the fact that he’s a jerk, etc., etc. And that causes more problems than not.

Mark Hainsworth 15:10

And going back to the earlier topic, if the woman in the relationship is wearing a lens that my husband’s a jerk, it doesn’t matter what he does, the belief system will just filter out the stuff that makes him look like a jerk. So she’ll spot the spiked hit back rather than the hang on. I’m trying to understand you here.

Doug Holt 15:30

Yeah, I do think guys can volley it. I think that’s the magic trick, that’s where the Hidden Motives, to me, looking for an analogy. It’s like she’s hit the ball over the fence, it’s a safety test. Yeah. And if you lob it back to her, she’s going to hit it back again. And if you keep playing that, you can make it a fun game that leads to connection and intimacy. And you guys are both having sex and that’s a great thing. I think what most guys do, and I talked about this is they spiked the ball back because they want to hammer down that safety test. Or they throw the racket and walk off the court.

Mark Hainsworth 16:04

Yeah, you know, yeah.

Doug Holt 16:06

And they’re just like, they’re not going to play that game and which is also hiding internally, disconnecting, turning themselves off. And they could do that, any type of sedation, right? So porn, alcohol, drugs, video games, work, whatever they want to do, they hide out.

Mark Hainsworth 16:22

They hide out. And using the analogy of the volleyball game, when I’m working with the guys who say, you know, this hand grenade comes up, it’s not the volleyball, it’s the hand grenade comes over the wall, and look at it. And if you can just give yourself a couple of seconds to look at the hand grenade, pick it up and go, you forgot to take the pin out, and then put it down. I’ve got the grenade, the pins out, it’s safe. Tell me what’s going on.

Doug Holt 16:59

And that’s a great place for these guys to be and guys listening to this to be. And one of the things I keep saying over and over again because I think it’s so important is call out the obvious, right? So many people walk around, and don’t talk about the elephant in the room. But instead just go hey, there’s an elephant here. Let’s just talk about it because she knows, you know, then might as well talk about

Mark Hainsworth 17:21

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And there’s a lovely way that I learned is now when the trigger comes over the wall just go, ouch. If we just say ouch or eeh, that hurts, or I’m hurting, I can feel the energy in that, ouch, just create space for just a few seconds. You know? Your brother Brad, he said the five second rule, the five second rule, don’t respond for five seconds. And in that five seconds you can look down, look across, look down, pick up the hand grenade and go, got it.

Doug Holt 17:59

Yeah, that five seconds allows you to control your triggers.

Mark Hainsworth 18:04

As long as you control the triggers, but what I think I’ve also realized is if there’s no immediate backlash, there’s no immediate reaction, it allows five seconds for the partner to go what have I just thrown over that net? What have I just thrown over that wall? Silence is an amazing, amazingly powerful tool to use.

Doug Holt 18:25

I agree. I agree. I’ve taught a number of the guys, like in public, some of the guys will say yeah, my wife belittles me in public. I go just try this one thing. Next time she belittles you in a group, just look at her and go, are you okay? And all of a sudden she’s going to realize what she’s doing, and so will everybody else. They’ll realize what she’s doing and that’ll stop it, and it works every time. I’ve never had a guy come back and say nope, that didn’t work. Just simple, are you okay? And it turns it around because then the person starts looking inward. And they’re hurting, obviously. If she’s belittling you, she’s hurting inside. She’s crying and screaming out for safety, for connection, or whatever else it may be that she needs.

Mark Hainsworth 19:05

Yeah, there was a wonderful phrase, similar thing. Are you okay, there’s another way, it’s, what’s hurting you so much that you have to hurt me?

Doug Holt 19:11

I like that.

Mark Hainsworth 19:13

Yeah, what’s going on right now that’s difficult for you to hold so you lobbed it across at me?

Doug Holt 19:18

Yeah, I like it. I think we’ve successfully reframed the shit test to safety test. We better tell all the other coaches, because all of a sudden guys are going to come back… [crosstalk]

Mark Hainsworth 19:28

I’m sorry, new language lads.

Doug Holt 19:29

Yeah. You can use both either way. But I think it’s a really good idea for the guys listening to this to realize when they get a shit test, just to remind themselves, like as you said, this is really a cry for safety. It’s a safety test. Am I going to be able to handle this? And you can apply this to your children, you can apply this to a lot of people that are looking for that safety and that comfort. The men that listen to this are business leaders. So they may be getting these safety tests internally from their team, right. And it’s a good thing for them to listen to and understand and they can use the same tactics that they’re using in their marriage also with their team and with other people.

Mark Hainsworth 20:03

Exactly. It’s human connection. It happens in partnerships, it happens in all relationships.

Doug Holt 20:08

Absolutely. As always, Mark, I love our conversations. So thanks again for sticking around. I really appreciate it.

Mark Hainsworth 20:13

Thanks, Doug.

Doug Holt 20:14

Yeah, thank you. Gentlemen, I hope you got something from this. And always, as I say, in the moment of insight, take massive action. When you’re getting a safety test, I love Mark’s reframe of this, it’s really, really powerful. It’s something that I’m going to be using in my life, also with the men that we work with. When you get that safety test, that’s really someone just checking in, they’re checking in to make sure you’re safe. It also tells me that they respect you, right, because you wouldn’t do a safety test with somebody who didn’t respect you, and love you and care for you. So just take it as it is, smile, be lucky that you’re getting that test, and then go ahead and provide that space and that safety. Guys, have an amazing week. We’ll see you next time on the TPM show.


All right, guys, that’s a wrap for this episode. But as I always say in the moment of insight, take massive action. You see, there are two types of men that listen to a podcast like this, those that go on from one podcast or show to another just hoping things are going to change and realizing that they’re going to be in the same place month after month, year after year.

You see, I was this guy so I completely get it. You may just not be ready. But there’s also a second man, a second man that listens to a show just like this. And this is a guy who takes massive action so they can shorten the learning curve, compress time, and get RESULTS to be the WOLF. See, WOLF is an acronym for Wise, Open, Loving, and Fierce.

Now ask yourself, which one am I? And just be honest with yourself there. And there’s no judgment on my end. But if you’re ready to move from deactivated DEER mode, which is Defend, Excuse, Explain, and React to activated WOLF, Wise, Open, Loving and Fierce, then go over to thepowerfulman.com/grow. And go there now. In fact, I’ll make it super easy for you. I will even put the link right in the description here so you can just click it and go over there now to learn more. Guys, in the moment of insight, take massive action. Go from deactivated to activated, because like I said, life is too short for average and I’ll see you on the next episode!