This is the first of a series of articles on the key tools used in couples therapy.
They are the approach I use, based on an emotion-focused lens of relationship repairing. Sue Johnson, in her book “Hold Me Tight”, outlines seven vital conversations to be had when we are attempting to build and/or rebuild relationship. In my view, relationship is a continuous choice to determine the right actions that will take care of each other, which is ‘the relationship’. We are always building and rebuilding.
“Relational Love is the urge and continuous effort for another person’s happiness and well being. It is an art requiring effort and dedication.” – The Forgotten Art of Love, Armin A Zadeh.
As you read on, reflect on your thoughts and responses. These will hold a clue for you toward your attitude you bring to your relationship. A common response is “what about me?”, and if this is where it stays, it can end in an escalating competitive conversation about who has the higher degree in victimhood or terminal disconnection.
Key Conversation Number One: Recognising the ‘demon dialogues’
“You cant shape it unless you understand it.” – Sue Johnson
Sue Johnson refers to couples interactions as a dance. We WILL tread on each other’s feet sometimes! We will get stuck! It’s the emotional music that defines the dance and it can move fast so we miss the pivotel moments of where it went wrong and emotionally PANIC! The reason we panic is interesting. According to neuroscience of relationship we create a particular pathway supporting our need to look after relationships that we depend upon and when this is under threat we move into panic. So, we need to know where we went wrong so we can learn the right steps for the dance to get back into the flow of things.
What are the key moments?
The key moments can be found in feelings and thoughts that come as a result of being vulnerable. The words or actions that have touched either partner in such a way to have them feel rejected or abandoned or feeling unloved or inadequate or not heard… it can be a plethora of emotional responses that either fire you up to defend or attack and keep going or have you shut down and running away…the combination of these responses is unique to every couple but this is the stuff we need to know to understand the demon dialogues.
This is what couples therapy can offer the couple . A process to uncover your signature demon dialogues.
How do we keep making headway when we are in a state of panic?
When we are telling ourselves we have been here before and feel like it’s hopeless.
Somebody has to ask the million dollar question!!
What’s happening here to us?
Someone need to make the call to stop whats happening. “I need to ask you and you me… what did I say to make you so angry/shut down on me?”
This is difficult to do when the emotional button has been pressed. How do we develop a habit of recognising the need to stop and come back to the million dollar question?
This is where the therapist can give you some skills to get better at recognising the signals of reactivity and self sooth enough for you to respond with care and rationality.
The next key conversation coming up is “revisiting the raw spots”.
Couples therapy is available on location in Caringbah or online.