I started to read a book on my reading list called Hold me Tight by Dr Sue Johnson. This book was recommended by Wesley Anne Little during her interview with Chris Do back in October 2019. A couples therapy book isn’t something I’d naturally pick up and flick through but I’m glad to have been introduced to it. It’s fascinating and powerful and kind of scary in its exactness.
Firstly the book is written by Dr Sue Johnston who has spent decades dedicated to helping couples successfully build and maintain loving relationships. In the early 1980’s she developed a programme called ‘emotionally focused couples therapy’ or EFT which formed after she noticed that even though couples would make progress in their therapy sessions, it was easy to fall back into old routines.
What she discovered is that the emotional bonds that children have with their parents/carers are a primitive and essential survival measure and not a sign of weakness and dependency that we should grow out of as adults. If we understand that the loving and safe connection between partners (or very close relationships) has been wired into us by millions of years of evolution then its no wonder the most powerful emotions we experience thrive in our most precious relationships.
“The drama of love is all about this hunger for safe emotional connection, a survival imperative we experience from cradle to the grave. Loving connection is the only safety nature ever offers us.”
Are you there for me? Do I matter to you? Will you come when I need you, when I call? When we are unsure of the answers to such questions in our close relationships we start to feel disconnected, we move into fight or flight mode. We either blame and get aggressive looking for a response (even if it's a bad one!) or close down and try not to care. The worst thing is once the ‘blame - distance loop’ starts, it feeds off its own energy leaving partners feeling more and more isolated... There is good news though!
Once Dr Sue made couples aware of the “Demon Dialogue” they get caught in she has been able to teach couples to step back and slow down - what is the underlying “protest against disconnection”. In most cases couples start to hear each other and can start to provide a reassuring answer to the question ‘Are you there for me?’
Understanding that the need to feel safe and secure is hardwired into us is a pretty powerful piece of knowledge for any relationship. I’m not even halfway through the book, and to be honest it felt a little out of my league but the act of trying to articulate myself here has helped my understanding. A bit.
Let’s really listen to each other all the time!