Emotional, psychological hurt lodges in the deep recesses of our unconscious memory. Traumatic hurt of the type visited upon us by chronic insults to the quality of our security, both as children and as adults, lodges in places in our brain which cognitive behavioral therapy can not affect. To heal these traumas one must feel a visceral, body-centered healing of chronic or hot-spot traumas that cause anxiety, depression, or PTSD. This “felt” sense of healing can come from the array of emotion focused experiential therapies now challenging the long-held beliefs of mainstream cognitive approaches.
Besel van der Kolk, one of the world’s leading experts on the treatment of trauma, including PTSD, writes, “Trauma has nothing whatsoever to do with cognition. It has to do with your body being reset to interpret the world as a dangerous place. That reset begins in the deep recesses of the brain with its most primitive structures, regions that,” he says, “no cognitive therapy can access. It’s not something you can talk yourself out of.”
Not talking our couple clients out of their distress lies at the heart of Emotionally Focused Therapy. Dr. Susan Johnson the primary creator of EFT for couples offers, “experience is much more powerful than explanation,” when healing the distress of a disconnected relationship.
As EFT therapists we are constantly seeking to weave together a family systems understanding or our clients with a felt emotional experience of their relationship. In hurtful distress much of the primary core of our couple’s emotional experience masked by basic anxieties, depression, chronic trauma, or abusive or neglect sustained in childhood is extremely difficult to rationalize their way our of. Cognitive approaches fall short in their attempt to heal emotional blockages.
In the pain, both emotional and physical, of human disconnection we either go on the hunt for connection or hide from being hunted. This hunting analogy in many ways hold true. In our efforts to feel safe or to remove ourselves from a painful hurt we can lash out at our parters. “You are never there for me.” Or we can duck and cover. “If you only would calm down, I might listen to you.” Emotion overides logic. Attempts to reason our way out often end up in hopeless looping arguments.
To end these looping cycles EFT slowly makes safe what was once too fearful to face. Through careful emotion coaching, reflection, conjecture, and enactment, EFT therapists create a safe space to share what was once too hurtful or unknown to be shared. With much empathy and care we re-shape hurtful dis-connective patterns into new patterns of connection and bonding. Once hidden, primary feelings of hurt, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, shame, fear and pain are unveiled and shared through live experience in session. The ability to feel heard, affirmed and validated by a partner that was once attacking or hiding creates moments of positive change in our couples. Having a felt change experience in session makes for a powerful bodily knowledge that becomes accessible to our couples in their daily lives.
For more information on how EFT can help heal your relationship please see visit:
or consider attending Hold Me Tight Seattle, an Emotionally Focused Couples Workshop