A golden poison frog contains enough toxin to kill 10 men. But when it’s raised in captivity, it’s harmless.

The frog’s poison comes from eating insects that ingest toxic plants. In captivity, the frogs are fed a diet that does not include these toxic bugs. Humans prevent this animal from being so dangerous by simply keeping them from their usual prey. Similarly, relationships often lose their sweetness with time, yet we can prevent this by avoiding a common element that slowly poisons them. This element is called occurrings.

What are occurrings and how do they make good relationships go sour?

Occurrings are meanings we make up in the moment about unwanted events. If your wife or husband, leaves clothes on the floor, and you have the thought “They don’t care enough about me” that’s an occurring. If your partner is grumpy one day and you think “They don’t respect me” that’s an occurring. There’s nothing wrong with having these thoughts in and of themselves.

But when we believe our occurrings are the truth they cause problems in our relationships

If our partner, leaves a pile of dishes and we think “They are inconsiderate” it will affect how we deal with that situation. We might ask them to clean up but do so with an edge in our voices when a request without rancor might be better.

When we aren’t under the influence of an occurring when we make a request or try to discuss an issue, we are able to speak with a calm and assertive manner, if that’s required, which makes it easier for others to hear us. Of course, that’s far easier said than done. When we are in the grip of strong emotions, it’s hard to communicate effectively.

Fortunately, we have a tool that allows you to have the calm energy you need to respond to many relationship challenges.

It’s called the Lefkoe Occurring Process. It involves four steps.

First, notice you’re having an emotion.
Second, notice the event about which you are having the emotion.
Third, notice the meaning (occurring) you are giving to the event.
Fourth, make a clear distinction between the occurring and the events.

When you follow all four steps, you’ll often notice that the occurring dissolves and the feelings are reduced, changed, or go away.

Sam’s wife was to pick up the kids from daycare after school. Sam got a call during a meeting from the daycare saying she was late and that he would need to pick up his daughter before they closed. Sam felt angry. He had the occurring “She’s creating problems!”

He dissolved this occurring by noticing that from the phone call, he can’t tell why she was late. In the past, he would have been fuming for hours and unable to focus for the rest of the meeting. But because he dissolved his occurring he was able to stay present and speak to his wife calmly about what happened.

Jane’s husband said he would do the dishes last night but the next morning the dishes are still in the sink. She has the occurring “He’s not reliable” and “He’s being irresponsible.” As a result of having these occurrings, she felt annoyed.

When she went through the four steps, she realized those occurrings were in her mind, not the events. Shen then wrote “The annoyance went away and then I remembered that he has followed through many times in the past but didn’t this time. Later, that day he did the do the dishes too. So technically, he did follow through, just later than I expected.”

But how did this process affect my relationship with my husband. Morty?

Like any couple, we had our issues. Money was ours. Morty always thought about what was possible and spent money based on that, and I was the more conservative one wanting to make sure we saved enough. Many times I made him worry about how he wanted to spend money, he’d get upset, and we argued.

After Morty learned to dissolve meaning using the four steps, we started arguing less. Eventually, we stopped arguing altogether. It was a miracle. He just dissolved any meaning he gave anything I did. Not only did our love deepen but the conversations we had about money were easier. By the time Morty passed, the arguments were a distant memory.

 If I don’t have these bad feelings, will I just let myself be taken advantage of?

That’s an understandable concern. I get the image of a person feeling so calm and relaxed about every perceived slight or transgression that they let their partner use them as a doormat.

Fortunately, when people use the Lefkoe Occurring Process consistently, then often find themselves better able to express hurt feelings and disappointments. They no longer feel that they can’t ask for what they want or say what they feel. Often they report that people are finally getting them for the first time in years.

This happens because once they dissolve meaning, their values and intentions become clearer. It’s like their souls were dirty windows which are now clean. They can see what they want and need in full color and as a result, can express their needs with greater clarity.


  • Occurrings are meanings we give to unwanted events. They interfere with relationships because they often lead us to deal ineffectively with issues that arise.
  • We can dissolve these occurrings using the Lefkoe Occurring Process.
  • If there’s a worry that dissolving these feelings will make you a doormat, remember that usually, it makes people more calmly assertive.

When our students in the Lefkoe Occurring Course get into the habit of dissolving occurrings, they often report that other people are more helpful. When we create a less judgmental frame of mind, many issues, and arguments that poison relationships are neutralized. So think of one small action a person you care about has done which annoys you. Then try dissolving any meaning you give to that. It’s the first step in creating more harmony in your life.

Shelly Lefkoe is co-founder and President of the Lefkoe Institute, and the founder and Parenting the Lefkoeway. She has personally worked with thousands of individuals from around the world. Using The Lefkoe Method she has helped these people eliminate issues as serious as eating disorders, phobias and depression as well as everyday problems like procrastination, shyness, fear of public speaking and the inability to form healthy relationships. Shelly is a speaker, workshop leader, and author of Parenting the Lefkoe Way.

To learn more about Shelly, visit www.mortylefkoe.com.