It is day four of my intensive training conference in Emotionally Focused Therapy, one of the most successful types of therapy for couples according to outcome studies. I’m excited about what I’ve learned and how I can bring this powerful way of being with a couple into my therapy practice. But my head is also swimming right now with all the information presented and how to process it all. For me, the ultimate goal of all couple’s therapy is to help people connect with each other. It makes sense to me there is something within us biologically that seeks connection with a significant other. It begins in childhood as a parent-child bond. Human babies, being particularly vulnerable when born, need to be taken care of physically and emotionally to stay alive. So we are all born to bond for our own survival. I also can see how this need to connect with another wouldn’t just disappear as we get older. So how do so many people sabotage the connection in their most important relationship?
One of the things that appeals to me about EFT is the focus on the negative cycles people get caught up in which prevent them from feeling connected. There isn’t a need to point out who is right or who is wrong, who is the “good one” and who is the “bad one”. It is not even important to pin down who started the negative cycle. Once the cycle is in place, it takes on a life of its own and robs the couple of intimacy and safety in their relationship. For example, she may be angry because she feels a distance from him so she goes after him about how he spends his time. Then he feels attacked and feels he can’t make her happy so he withdraws from her. His withdrawal triggers her to become more angry and critical of him for not being there for her. So he withdraws more. Whether her angry pursuit or his hostile withdrawal “started first” is irrelevant, the cycle becomes more set as time goes on and a gulf opens up between them.
Life would be easier if people recognized the negative cycles they perpetuate. Instead, it presents as: “He’s always watching TV instead of spending time with me”, “She is always nagging me”, “He never wants to talk about anything”, “I can never do anything right in her eyes”, “He doesn’t do anything around the house”, “She doesn’t appreciate anything I do”, etc. Both begin to feel alone in the relationship and start to cut-off emotionally from the other, blaming the other for causing all of the problems. My hope for couples is they are able to start looking under the negative cycle they are stuck in to the true emotions hidden underneath. The truth is that the only reason our significant other can have such an impact on us in the first place is because of the depth of feelings we have for them. Being able to get to the heart of the matter is much easier said than done, though. As my training over the past four days sinks in, I hope to provide couples with the opportunity to do just that.